What does Revelation 8: 1-13 mean to us now?

 

These judgments seem to come against the Roman Empire, as the word meanings and Jewish metaphors suggest those found in Jesus’ “Olivet Discourse” in Matthew 24, and thus may have already occurred. However, that does not mean the final accumulation and sentence of God’s judgment has occurred; we are still waiting for that. These themes seem to repeat themselves throughout the history of the Church and society. However, a final buildup and its fruition still is to occur before Jesus comes back. 

These seven angels stand before God and His Throne. They have His approval and empowerment to carry out His plan. You are in His plan! Remember, as faithful Christians who are sealed, we have His approval. We may still face these persecutions and tribulations, but the difference is we have His love that turns a sentence of judgment and death into martyrdom for His glory. This passage attests to the fact that we must be dependant on God, and not bow to lethargy in our spiritual formation. This is the mark of a mature Christian. This is not a time to be lazy, to rationalize our situation, seek sympathy from others, or think He does not care, that we are useless. When we face darkness in our lives, it is a time to shape up and seek Christ as Lord.  We must be discerning, courageous, hopeful, and proactive in our faith. Be obedient and trusting, regardless of your situation, and remember you are His special child whom He has sealed. Keep in mind that God wants to rescue His people from those who are hostile to Him, and who want to oppress, control, or persecute us. 

Questions to Ponder: 

  1. When these events come to pass (if they have not already), what do you think they will look like? How will these events send shock and awe to the average person?
  1. Why does it seem that a characteristic of God’s judgment is He does not do it all at once, rather He is slow and uses order? Do you think that He is slow to give time for His grace to work and people to seek forgiveness, even when they do not seek Him?
  1. God is patient, but He is ready at any time to unleash these sentences. How do you feel about this? Are you ready?
  1. Do you think this passage is literal? If so how will this be played out? If you think this is symbolic, how do you think it will play out? How do people’s idolatrous motivations and misguided followings influence His judgment?
  1. What do you need to do to take seriously that God is in control? Because of His grace, He only allows a fraction of His judgments. How can you have more confidence in Christ to deliver you out of your tough situations?

© 2006 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org

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The Four Main Views of Revelation 8: 1-13

 

The Preterist view: They see this passage as the result of and further explanation from the first four seals being opened. The setting, as they see it, is that of the Jewish wars with Rome and the destruction of Israel as a nation in 66-70 A.D. and the resulting disasters, as these are the “Last Days” of the commonwealth of Judaism that has come to be a “Babylon” of evil (Deut. 29:18; Jer. 9:15). The trees and grass represent the remnant of Jews who are left after 70AD. These plagues do not come against the Church, as we are saved from God’s wrath (Rom. 2:7-9; 1 Thess. 5:9). The mountains are symbolic of the government of Israel as God’s mountain falling (Ex. 15:17; Matt. 21:21). The “sea” represents the Gentiles and the “land” represents Israel. The Romans slaughtered the Galileans and tossed their bodies into the Sea of Tiberius. Wormwood refers to the decaying bodies left by the Romans and how they tainted the waters. The sun, moon, and stars refer to the fall of a series of Roman Emperors in the first century; others say it is the fall of the Herod dynasty and the Jewish Priests who had the power. The “woes” refer to the warnings of more Roman devastation, which the early church saw, and left Jerusalem, saving themselves before its destruction, where perhaps a million people were killed. 

The Futurist view: They see this passage as literal. This camp is greatly divided over the meaning of this passage, seeking newspaper interpretation rather than word meanings or looking to the Old Testament. Some of the more “credible” theories are that the trumpets are the final, drastic judgments of God. The trees and grass represent the fall of the western nations and God’s divine wrath upon us by His attacks on water and aquaculture. Some see this as nuclear war and the resulting ”fallout.” Some see the mountains falling into the sea as literal, much like an asteroid. Others see it as symbolic for everything that is popular falling. Some see it is the Gentile nations at war led by the antichrist, or God destroying the false church led by false teachers. Others see this as the destruction of the Catholic Church. Wormwood is seen as the Pope or Antichrist. The “great star” is seen as the political leaders who are apostate, or a comet from space hitting the earth. In the eighties, this group saw the Soviet Union as Wormwood; others said it was Reagan because each of his names had six letters. The sun, moon, and stars refer to the diminishing of spirituality during the tribulation (2 Thess. 2:11-12). Others see this as literal such as eclipses and astronomical phenomena. Some say it is the result of nuclear fallout. They associate all kinds of ideas to the eagle, and see the “woes” as inferring that they are warnings and not necessarily judgments, which is a contradiction to their other theories. Or they could be demonic woes to their coming judgment, or a warning of the coming three judgments (which makes more sense.) Their view would be better off if they weaned themselves from their misguided conjectures, and concentrated on reading their Bible more! 

The Idealist view: They see this passage as series of happenings and calamites that will occur again and again throughout Church history. Most in this camp do not see it as pertaining to a specific period. The trumpets are synchronous with the “seals” of the previous passages. They see these plagues as attacking the foundations of life support, water, and crops as natural calamities so we do not take things for granted. Some in this camp see these as attacks against the Church; others see them as God’s wrath against the wickedness of the world as reminiscent of the Egyptian plagues. Some see these as literal; others as symbolic. The mountains are images from Babylon’s fall and the punishment of wickedness (Jer. 51:25-42). Others see it as a volcano and the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD. Wormwood is seen as the effects of natural disasters or God’s judgment. The “great star” is seen as punishment from God and its severity; others see this as idol worship that pollutes the mind and faith (Jer. 2:13-23). The sun, moon, and stars refer to the fall of Rome. Others see those as the doom of the ungodly who look to astrology and idols as their guide and or God’s control over the universe (Isa. 13:10; Luke 21:28). Others see “one-third” as a warning and not a final, determined judgment. The “woes” refer that the worst is still to come. 

The Historicist view: They see this passage as four great blows to the Western Roman Empire, first in 408-410, and then in 476 A D. Hail and fire are symbols of God’s judgment reminiscent of the Egyptian plagues. The trees and grass represent the results of war and bloodshed and the consequential calamites to His Church. The fraction of one-third represents Rome that occupied one—third of the known earth then. The “mountains” are a symbol of strength or seats of power. Many see this as the fall of Rome by the Goths and primarily the Vandals in 428-468 AD who destroyed their ships and commerce. The “great star” is seen as the invasion of the Huns in 440 AD against Rome where thy killed over 300,000. Others see this as evil politicians and heretics such as Pelagius, who corrupted the Church. Wormwood is seen as false teachings affecting the Church. The sun, moon, and stars refer to the Roman political firmament in 476-479 A.D. during the last of the Roman Emperors. Others see this as events that affect the Church. The “woes” suggest that a turning point is about to happen, from the Roman Empire to the Dark Ages or Gothic period, in three waves, a Turkish invasion, the Saracens conquest, and then the French Revolution.

Exegetical look into Revelation 8: 1-13

 

  • Seven trumpets indicates the pronouncement of God’s voice by the angels, who present His judgment, monitored by His grace. These are not to be feared by Christians. They are the answers to the prayers of the saints. His decisive judgment is answering them by His complete victory; His final victory is at hand (see previous study; Rev. chaps. 7-8).
  • Sound them. This “sounds off” the warnings that proclaim that a sequence of devastating plagues from the will of God is about to take place.
  • Hail and fire mixed with blood. This shows that God’s judgments are slowly and powerfully unveiled just as they were in Egypt (Ex. 7:14-24; 9:13-25; Job 38:22-23; Psalm 18:13; 78:48; 105:32; Ezek. 38:22).
  • A third of the earth indicates that God is in control and allows only a fraction by His grace. This also sets God up in a position that suggests He may not have completed His final punishment yet. 
  • Huge mountain, all ablaze… great star, blazing. “Mountains,” in Scripture, mean kingdoms (Isa. 2:2; Zech. 4”7; Psalm 46:2; Jer. 51:25). This wording is typical of apocalyptic literature such as “Sibylline Oracles” (a collections of 4,000 verses, supposed prophecies by Hellenistic Jews in Alexandria in the second century B.C.). These are hyperbole metaphors, meaning they are plagues from God and not man, and that will affect our daily life such as our water supply; people will die from dehydration (Jer. 51:25-42).
  • Sea turned into blood. This term is indicative to the first plague in Egypt (Ex. 7:20-21). It means the ultimate destiny of mankind as being judged and the preparation for the Second Coming and or the Last Judgment. This is called “eschatological;” it is from God and His judgment, not the pollution from man’s industrial machine. Volcanic upheavals can also produce this effect from God’s direction, see Revelation chap 6 notes (Isa. 15:9; 2 Pet. 3:10-12; Rev. 6:13; 9:1).
  • Wormwood. This refers to an herb (Artemisia absinthium, of the family Asteraceae) that is not poisonous but has a harsh, sour taste, and was used as an insect repellent. This was a metaphor for suffering, disaster, mourning, and idolatry. This may mean plagues will strike the earth’s drinking water supplies (Deut. 29:18; Ex. 15:25; Prov. 5:3-4; Jer. 8:14; 9:15; 23:15; Lam. 3:19; Rev. 3:15-16).
  • Turned dark. Like the other plagues, this one parallels the ninth one of Egypt (Ex. 10:22-23). “Darkness” means foreboding judgment that first invokes fear, and then a response for repentance. It is associated with “End Times” by other apocalyptic literature (Rev. 6:12-13).
  • Woe/terror is reminiscent of an O.T. prophetic oracle, such those of Jeremiah and Amos, giving further warning as more is to come. In fact, there are three more  “trumpet plagues,” each one a “woe” or a stern warning (Amos. 5:18-6:1; Rev. 6:10; 9:12; 10:1-11:14).
  • Inhabitants of the earth refers to wicked people who refuse to repent or acknowledge God as Lord. This is not referring to those who are righteous and “sealed” (Rev. 9:4).

Revelation 8:1-13

Introduction 

The First Four Trumpets  

Now they are ready; the seven angels stand at the cusp of unleashing God’s sentence, His decree of judgment by pestilence and other nasty endeavors. They are given to a world that refuses to see Him as Lord and refuses to seek forgiveness for their doings. God has no choice other than to protect His faithful, and do as He must. Thus it begins, as the first angel blows his trumpet, a mighty blast that will send shock and awe to the entity of creation on earth as hail, fire, and blood are sent as weapons against man’s environment. The second angel blows his trumpet, striking with great burnings as mountains are cast into a sea that has turned to blood. The third angel blows his trumpet, and more great burnings accrue as stars fall into the rivers of earth. The fourth angel blows his trumpet and the sun, moon, and stars become dark and eerie. Then, one—third of earth’s land, sea, and water is sentenced and perhaps reduced to ashes; people die in these devastations. However, as each of these judgments escalates and the resulting intensity grows, God’s grace remains the main, strong core as He spares over two-thirds. Then an eagle cries out saying, “terror and woe to all who endure such calamities,” as the fifth angel gets ready to blow his trumpet against man’s achievements. 

It is interesting to note that this passage parallels the ten plagues in Exodus, adjusted to seven trumpets or waves. God is attacking idolatrous motivations and followings with natural calamities, just as He did with Egypt. It seems a characteristic of God’s judgment not to do it all at once; rather He uses an order that is slow, giving time for His grace to work and people to see His forgiveness, even when they do not seek Him (Ex. John 2:11). The succession, systematic order, and number of these plagues are not an issue or even important; rather, its purpose is to show God’s patience, even though He is ready at any time to unleash the plagues. The plagues also seek to distinguish between those who are deserving and wicked and those who are spared and are righteous in His sight, just as He did in Egypt (Ex. 9:4-6; 10:22-23; 11:1-14; Rom. 8:18-25). 

Why does the world refuse to see Christ as Lord and why do so many people refuse to seek forgiveness for their doings, even Christians? Do you believe that God has no choice other than to protect His faithful and do as He must to pass judgment?

What does Revelation 7: 1-8 mean to us now?

 

Remember, the context is also about worship and church leadership. Jesus is the ONE who is qualified and able to judge and, by his grace, to give us a reprieve. It is amazing of all the convoluted theories on this number that ignore Jewish customs, apocalyptic metaphors, and of course, the context and Old Testament that tell us the meaning. Many commentators see this passage as just pertaining to actual Jewish tribes or a group of Jewish believers who convert during the period of tribulation.

We are not told exactly who and what these 144,000 are. Possibly, it is because it is not important, as the reason and purpose of pointing to Christ and showing us opportunities to get our priorities in line with His are far greater. We can either honor His name by living lives worthy to be in Him, or we can reject His offer of salvation and reconciliation and do as we want; and we can “want” ourselves all the way from judgment to hell. The bottom line meaning is that God keeps His promises to individuals and to people groups, as He here confirms.

The point of this passage tells us that God is at work even when all seems lost¾and then it gets even worse! God is still there, even in tribulations, no matter how short or great His love and grace are carrying us through it! The purpose that John has in mind, and what God calls us to in the context of this passage, is the obvious: Beware! Judgment is coming! And now, here is some grace. Here is a quiet time so you can assess where your priorities and direction in life will be, but there is not much time.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. How would you feel if you were going through the worst calamities you have ever faced, and suddenly you got a reprieve? How do you think Christians would react if in the midst of dire tribulations there came a heavenly shout of “WAIT?” How would the rest of the world react? What about you?
  1. Why do the ungodly continue to live as they see fit, ignoring God, and enjoying the sins of the world? How will they feel when the faithful receive their seal and place in the Kingdom from our Lord?
  1. Can you trust God in how He judges? How are you impatient when things do not go your way? How can you more fully understand His grace, and trust in His love?
  1. What can you do to trust Him more and not have need to fear these events that one day will come about in their fruition?
  1. What kind of a respite do you think you need from Christ? What are you going to do about it? Do you need a quiet time so you can assess where your priorities and direction in life should and will be? How can you do this? When will you do this?

 © 2006 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries http://www.intothyword.org

The Four Main Views of Revelation 7: 1-8

 

The Preterist view: They see this passage as happening during the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and God as minimizing the evil to the Church during the carnage. Accordingly, to early church historians, all the Christians escaped, many to “Pella,” and no one was killed. God identified His faithful, provided for them, and they escaped harm before the fall of Jerusalem. A similar occurrence happened in 586 B.C. when the Romans invaded, and the faithful Jews were protected, which was predicted by Ezekiel in chapter nine. God “marked” His people and protected them as He did at the Passover with the blood on the doorposts (Mal. 3:2; Eph. 1:13). They see the 144,000 as God’s faithful Jews, who acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and are saved, even though most of the other Jews were apostate and the reason for the conquest and judgment by way of the Romans. Others see the 144,000 as the actual faithful Jews who escaped the fall of Jerusalem.

The Futurist view: They see this passage as literal, as four literal Angels and four literal corners, even though the earth is a sphere. Some see this as four “quarters” or sections of the earth. They also derive from this passage that Angels are in control of the elements and nature. They also see this passage as not a reprieve but an extra narrative of what is going on during the opening of the sixth seal, since they believe there are no Christians present as they all have been raptured before this period. Their debates center on whether people can be saved after the rapture or not. Others in this camp see the first part of this passage as just a stylistic interlude as with chapter 10. They see the 144,000 as a select number of Jews who are faithful and receive salvation during the tribulation, and have no bearing on the Church. They see the “sealing” as God preserving those Jews who evangelize and bring Israel to repentance (Zech. 12; Matt. 24:14; Rom. 11:26-32). Dan is not mentioned as they see the antichrist coming from Dan (Gen. 49:17; Jer. 8:16).  Some who are “post—tribulationists” see God protecting His faithful during the Tribulation.

The Idealist view: They see the “winds” in the passage as symbolic for the four horsemen in the previous chapter, and site Zechariah 6:5. Others see this taking place before the opening of the seals, and still others see it as God’s grace protecting His faithful. They see the 144,000 as symbolic of the camp groupings during the Exodus (Num. 31:4-5). They also see no distinction between Jews and Christians. They see God protecting the Church during His judgments, but they will still suffer the results of the wars and catastrophes.

The Historicist view: They see this passage as a pause of His judgments as God protects His faithful before the angels continue their destructive mission. Others have said this refers to God protecting the Seven Churches from invaders; still others see this as the period of Constantine when Christianity became accepted, and peace and prosperity reigned for the Church until the Barbarians took over Rome and the Church fell to the Dark Ages. The general idea is that God cares, has a plan, is in control, is concerned for His faithful, and will protect us. They see the 144,000 as symbolic for the entire professing Church, as “God’s Israel.”  Others see this as Constantine’s conversion; others see it as God protecting the seven churches from the invaders. Some see this as a select number of Jews who are faithful and who receive election in Christ.

Exegetical look into Revelation 7: 4-8

 

  • The number refers to those who are the real, authentic followers of Christ, the righteous who are covered by Christ’s righteousness and thus “saved” from God’s wrath. (Rev. 2:9; 3:9; 21:2, 14). This also may allude to Israel’s restoration as a nation, which occurred in 1948, but this is highly speculative and not supported in the context of the passage. The problem is that passages such as 2 Chron. 36:21, Jer. 24:1-7; 29:10; 32:44; Ezek. 20:34; 36:33-35; 37:15-28; Dan. 9:2; Hosea 3:4-5; Amos 9:14-15; Micah 7:8-11; and Zech. 12:6-8 are read into this passage. These Old Testament passages speak of Israel being restored after the Babylonian captivity, but not necessarily as a nation thousands of years hence.
  • Sealed means that those who are faithful, who accept Christ as Lord and Savior, and who are claimed as His will be protected. The image here is like important documents in ancient times that were folded or rolled, tied with a string, and then wax or clay placed on the seam, and impressed with a signet ring (Rev. 9:4; 14:1; 22:4). Jesus seals us for protection showing that He cares, is in charge, and has ownership over us. His ownership means He possesses us¾not Satan, not the world, and not even our fallen nature and sin. His possession of our soul and life is our great comfort and relief (Gen. 4:15; Ex. 8:28; 9:4; 11:7; 11:18; Isa. 44:5; Rev. 5:6; 9:4; 14:1)! 
  • 144,000 is a symbol, meaning that the numbers are beyond counting or unfathomable to man (Rev. 1:1; 2:20; 22:6). This denotes how Israel returned from the Babylonian captivity to inherit the land (Ezek. 48). This also alludes to us, the Church, who are the inheritors (Rom. 11:1-36; Rev.12). 
  • 12,000. Twelve, like most numbers in Revelation, is not an actual number nor is 12,000 or 144,000; rather it refers to “fullness.” Twelve is also found, in various Jewish sects and in the Dead Sea Scrolls, to mean “the people of God.” Then the “12” is magnified as to 12 multiplied by 12 to mean complete fullness or God’s bountiful provisions and blessings. This is a symbolic Jewish metaphor for being “servants of God,” just as the key phrase previous to this symbolizes. This also means that He is the Provider. The debate over the numbers centers on whether they represent the entirety of saved souls or just those who just are “restored” Jews. Nonetheless, the term “servants of our God” makes it more understandable (Ezek. 9; Matt. 10:30; Rev. 9:4; 14:1-5; 21:8; 22:15).
  • All/Every Tribe. The term, “tribes,” is used for the sake of illustration rather than actually referring that only some will be saved. Rather, it means that God, in His fullness, selects whom He selects for His purpose¾Jews and Gentiles alike. (Ezek. 9:4; Eph. 2:11-22; Rev. 9:4; 14:1).
  • Joseph is listed twice as his sons, “Manasseh and Ephraim.” Levi is omitted as the priestly tribe without land inheritance rights. Joseph has two for His faithfulness while Dan is excluded from the list, perhaps because of their rebellious nature to God and idolatry as well as an Early Church tradition foretelling that the “antichrist” was to come from that tribe. Judah may be listed first before the first-born Reuben, because Christ the Messiah came from the tribe of Judah. The sequence of the tribes has no significance as they are often listed in various ways, depending on who is listing them (Gen. 37:21; Judg. 18:30; 1 Kings 12:29; Ezek. 48:1; John 6:70).