Revelation 10 – Part 1

“I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.” Revelation 10:1

Christian author John Eldredge notes three truths that surface in every good story, including God’s true story of creation and redemption: Things are not what they seem. This is a world at war. We have a crucial role to play.” 1

The book of Revelation depicts a captivating drama in which we can recognize each of the three parts of a great story. First, things are not what they seem. Although we live in the physical realm, an invisible world also exists, which influences our everyday lives. This spiritual world will become increasingly more “visible” in the future. Second, this is a world at war. Since Satan’s successful temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), the conflict has continued. Not only has it infected human history; it also will one day immerse the whole world in deception and destruction. This all leads us to the third element in the book of Revelation: We have a crucial role to play. This battlefield is no place for distant spectators. Our participation as members of God’s redeemed people is essential. 2

Like an intense thriller movie on TV, the book of Revelation has many intense scenes involving God’s defeat of evil leading to the ultimate victory of Christ and His people. Even as victors in Christ, we can be overwhelmed with the severity of God’s judgments in this book. And just as we look forward to commercial breaks amidst the intense scenes in a thriller movie to process what we have seen and prepare for what is next, so God provides interludes in the book of Revelation that give us an opportunity to pause and process what we have just seen and prepare for what is coming.

The first interlude between the sixth and seventh seals revealed God will save two groups of people during the first half of the Tribulation: The 144,000 Israelites alive on the earth (7:1-8), and a great multitude of people from all nations who will die during that time and be taken to heaven (7:9-17). In Revelation 10, a second interlude interrupts the sequence between the sixth and seventh trumpets. 3 The focus shifts, temporarily, from the outpouring of God’s wrath on unbelieving earth dwellers, to the consolation and encouragement of believers. 4

John records, “I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.” (Revelation 10:1). In contrast to the demonic assault of the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments (9:1-21), John sees a powerful angel of God appear. Some suggest that this “mighty angel” is Jesus Christ. 5 But the evidence for his being simply “another” (Greek: allon = another of the same kind) “mighty angel” is more persuasive(cf. 10:5-6). 6

The appearance of this “mighty angel” makes the previous wicked angels look plain in comparison. This angel is “clothed with a cloud” because of his heavenly origin and his role as God’s messenger bearing a message of judgment (cf. 1:7; 14:14-16; Matthew 24:30; 26:24; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27). 7 “A rainbow was on his head,” signifying God’s faithfulness and mercy (cf. Genesis 9:12-17). Even amid God’s severe judgments, He will show mercy on those who believe the gospel (cf. Hebrews 8:12; Ephesians 2:4-5). 8 The angel’s “face was like the sun,” reflecting God’s glory, and “his feet like pillars of fire” is reminiscentof the pillar of fire manifested by God to protect and guide His people as they fled out of Egypt (Exodus 13:21; 14:19-24).  

2 He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, 3 and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices.” (Revelation 10:2-3). This mighty angel “had a little book” or scroll “open in his hand.” The “little book” in the angel’s hand may be different from the scroll that Jesus Christ unrolled (cf. 5:1; 6:1). In contrast with the seven-sealed scroll (biblion) in the hand of the Lamb (5:1), John used a different, and rare, Greek word to describe this “little book” (biblaridion). The tense of the Greek verb translated “open” (ēneōgmenon) is perfect passive, and indicates that someone had already opened it, and it was already unrolled in his hand. It probably represents a new revelation from God (10:2a; cf. Ezekiel 2:9—3:3; Jeremiah 15:15-17). 9 The fact that this angel stood with one foot “on the sea” and one foot “on the land,” suggests that his authority and message apply to the whole world (10:2b).

Next the mighty angel “cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars” to overpower his prey (10:3a). The angel’s “loud voice” indicates that God is about to overpower His enemies. Following the loud voice, John hears the “seven thunders” utter their voices, which symbolize God’s voice (10:3b; cf. Job 37:2-5; 40:9; Psalm 29:1-9; John 12:28-29). Psalm 29 makes this very evident as it contains a seven-fold manifestation of God’s voice in relation to thunder (“The God of glory thunders… The voice of the Lord is powerful… full of majesty… shakes the wilderness…”, etc. – Psalm 29:1-9). What John seems to be saying in Revelation 10 is that God’s promise to bring judgment on sinful humankind will be brought to pass by His unlimited power. Thunder warns people that a violent storm is coming soon. 10

“Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.’” (Revelation 10:4). John was not allowed to write down the judgments which “the seven thunders” (God) revealed which means there are some judgments that would take place during the Tribulation that are not revealed in the Bible (cf. Deuteronomy 29:29).

5 The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his right hand to heaven 6 and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer. 7 but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.” (Revelation 10:5-7). The fact that “the angel” whom John saw took an oath (“raised up his right hand to heaven”) and “swore by” God as the eternal Creator (“Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven… the earth… the sea”) seems to confirm that he (the angel himself) is not God. Lifting the right hand toward God was and is a customary gesture when making a solemn oath (10:5-6a; cf. Genesis 14:22; Deuteronomy 32:40; Daniel 12:7). The little book must have been in the angel’s left hand. 11

Appealing to God as the eternal Creator (“by Him who lives forever ever and ever, who created heaven…the earth…the sea”) answers evolutionary speculation as to the origin of the earth. 12 As Creator God He has the power to bring to pass whatever He wants when He wants to emphasize the certainty “that there should be” no more delay in carrying out God’s plans (“the mystery of God”) which “He declared to His servants the prophets” (10:5b-7) concerning “the kingdoms of this world” becoming “the kingdoms of our Lord” Jesus Christ (11:15).   

Tony Evans writes, With the rapid pace at which descriptions of judgment have proceeded thus far, it may seem surprising that God’s messenger would say there has been a delay! Yet what has been delayed to this point is the full and final outpouring of God’s wrath. Through the judgment of the seven seals (6:1-17; 8:1-5) and the first six trumpets (8:6–9:21), God has been restraining his final judgment to allow continued opportunity for repentance. As Peter put it, the delay is not slowness but patience: ‘The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance’ (2 Pet 3:9).” 13

“When the seventh angel will blow his trumpet in 11:15, it will mark a shift to the end of the tribulation, when the seven bowls of God’s wrath will be poured out on the earth (16:1-21). At that point, the narrative truly will begin rushing toward the return of Jesus to set up His throne on earth. It might seem puzzling that John would announce a rush to the second coming when there are still twelve chapters remaining in Revelation. However, some of those chapters will rehash from a different perspective events already described. Thus far, God has revealed events to come. Beginning in chapter 11, He will focus on personalities involved in those events. These include the two witnesses, the Antichrist, and the false prophet.” 14

Walvoord explains that “the mystery of God” declared to the prophets is not a “reference…  to hidden truth but to the fulfillment of many Old Testament passages which refer to the glorious return of the Son of God and the establishment of His kingdom of righteousness and peace on the earth. While God’s purposes are not necessarily revealed in current events where Satan is allowed power and manifestation, the time will come when Satan no longer will be in power and the predictions of the Old Testament prophets will be fulfilled. Then all will know the Lord and the truth about Him (Jeremiah 31:34). Here again is evidence that the seventh trumpet introduces the seven bowl judgments of God’s wrath described in Revelation 16.” 15

Remember when the martyred Tribulation believers cried out, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10)? The mighty angel of Revelation 10 loudly announces that God’s response to their prayers will soon come to an end without delay. 16

It is easy for us to avenge the wrongs that have been done to us and to those close to us. Throughout history Christians have endured intense persecution and suffering. The mighty angel reminds us that God will not delay His full and final judgment of rebellious humanity to avenge the wrongs done to His people. Instead of taking vengeance into our own hands, we are to release it to God so He can make things right in His time and way.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us understanding of Your prophetic Word. Thank You for this interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpet judgments expressing Your grace and mercy to those who have yet to believe in Christ for His gift of salvation. The fact that You have delayed the full and final outpouring of Your wrath upon rebellious earth-dwellers shows that You are not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance, that is, change their minds about whatever is keeping them from believing in Jesus, and then believe in Him so they can enter His future kingdom on earth. Every day that passes by is another expression of Your grace which gives underserving sinners on earth another opportunity to get right with You through faith in Jesus Christ. Father, thank You for Your patience toward us, Your sinful children. Please grant us abundant grace to proclaim Your gospel message to a lost world that is perishing without Jesus Christ. Please rescue the unsaved from the horrific judgments that will come upon the earth in the future and from their ultimate judgment in the lake of fire. Forgive us our sins and help us to forgive others, knowing that vengeance belongs to You. In Jesus’ mighty name, we pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 203-204 cites John Eldredge, Waking the Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive (Nashville: Nelson, 2003), pp. 26-34.

2. Adapted from Swindoll, pg. 204.

3. The last two paragraphs are adapted from Ibid.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 118.

5. Ibid., cites William W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, Scripture Press, 1989), pg. 597 and Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. The New International Greek Testament Commentary series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and Carlisle, England: Paternoster Press, 1999), pg. 522.

6. Ibid.

7. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1534; Constable, pg. 119.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1534.

9. Constable, pg. 119.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1535.

11. Constable, pg. 120.

12. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

13. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2391.

14. Ibid.

15. Walvoord, pg. 164.

16. Swindoll, pg. 206.

Revelation 9 – Part 2

“But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.” Revelation 9:20

When you hear the word “idolatry,” what images come to your mind? You may picture people bowing before gold, silver, or bronze statues representing gods or goddesses. Or perhaps you think of grotesque wooden or stone gargoyle-like figures often excavated by archaeologists. Some of you may associate idolatry with offering incense at the graves of dead ancestors or bowing down before their bones or ashes. Although some cultures and religions around the world observe such practices, that does not mean we are off the hook if we do not participate in these customs. 1

The truth is all of us are guilty of idolatry. Think about this depiction of idolatry in our society:

Idolatry in our society is not so obvious but is just as real as it was in John’s day. By definition idolatry is turning an earthly thing into a god and worshiping it rather than the God of creation. Whatever we place ahead of God in our lives is our idol. Therefore, the modern world is replete with idols: money, possessions, power, pleasure, sex, success, fame, drugs. These are all tools of Satan, and there are countless stories in which these very things have tortured and killed those who pursue them. We must warn people of the cosmic powers in control of this secular world and call them to God.” 2

If you are still not convinced that you are guilty of idolatry, let me ask you a question or two. Where do you turn when you are anxious, hurting, lonely, stressed, or even wanting to celebrate? Some people look to alcohol, anger, cell phones, drugs, fame, fantasy, food, a hobby, material possessions, money, pornography, a romantic relationship, a shopping spree, sports, or their work to avoid unwanted feelings, memories, or thoughts or to celebrate an accomplishment. When we turn to these people or things instead of to God, we are practicing idolatry.

If we pursue these idols long enough and hard enough, they can harden our hearts and lead us to reject God. Rejecting God will lead to an ungodly lifestyle (Romans 1:18-32) which will either lead to discipline from a loving heavenly Father, if we are His children (Hebrews 12:5-11), or to wrath from a righteous divine Judge, if we are unbelievers (Revelation 9:13-21). 3

The book of Revelation records the coming wrath of God upon unsaved humanity because of their rejection of God and their practice of idolatry. As God’s judgments increase in severity, we might expect people to soften toward God and repent. But that is not the case. As God’s judgments increase in intensity throughout the book of Revelation, so does the rebellion of humankind.

Following the fifth trumpet judgment which unleashed across the face of the earth an army of demonic locusts from the abyss to torment people with a sting like that of a scorpion’s (9:1-12), the apostle John records the sixth trumpet judgment (9:13-21). 13 Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, 14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ 15 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind.” (Revelation 9:13-15). When “the sixth angel” blew his trumpet, John “heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar” (9:13). We saw earlier that the prayers of the saints were mingled with incense and ascended to God at this altar (cf. Revelation 8:3-4). Since this altar is associated with the prayers of God’s people, the voice from the altar may represent the next trumpet judgment that comes because of these prayers. 4

The voice told “the sixth angel” to “release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates” (9:14). These four angelic creaturesmust be fallen angels because God’s angels are not bound (cf. Revelation 20:1-3; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). Scripture does not say when or why God bound these angels, but it would seem He restricted them as punishment. Perhaps He put them in prison when Satan rebelled against Him. 5

It is very significant that the scene of this judgment is “at the great river Euphrates” which flows through the heart of the Middle East. Both the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers originate in modern-day Turkey. The Euphrates snakes through Syria, flows straight through the center of Iraq, and then joins the Tigris before emptying into the Persian Gulf.” 6 Much of the book of Revelation revolves around the nation of Israel and its surrounding nations.

“The four angels bound at the Euphrates may be the spiritual powers of wickedness that stand behind four nations that will oppose God and His people during the coming Tribulation. Today the nations directly associated with the Euphrates River are Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. We can’t be sure what nations will exist in the future, but it may be that political borders before or during the Tribulation will change… Their power to influence the world may be limited today, but during the Tribulation the divine restraints will be lifted.” 7

The release of these four angels to execute this judgment will take place in God’s time for a specific “hour and day and month and year” (9:15). Notice that even the judgments directed by Satan are carried out under God’s authority.For over a period of thirteen months these angels will “kill a third of mankind.” 

The fourth seal (Revelation 6:7-8) resulted in a fourth of the earth’s people being killed. Here a third of the remainder were put to death. These two judgments alone, disregarding all intervening judgments, would account for the death of half the earth’s population. This fact is to be taken literally as it confirms the statement by Daniel (Daniel 12:1) and the words of Christ (Matthew 24:21) that the Great Tribulation will be without precedent and would end in the death of all mankind if it were not stopped by His second coming (Matt. 24:22).” 8

“Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them.” (Revelation 9:16). These four angels would lead an “army” of “horsemen” numbering “two hundred million.” Some Bible students think these “horsemen” refer to a massive human army with modern-day weaponry. 9 But I believe these “horsemen” probably refer to the same demons associated with the fifth trumpet judgment (9:1-11). Hitchcock shares five reasons why this army is to be identified as an army of demons:

“First, the unleashing of this army is the sixth trumpet judgment. The fifth trumpet judgment is clearly a demonic invasion of earth, and the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments go together since they are the first two of three terrors’ (Revelation 8:13).

“Second, fallen angels lead this armada just like they do in the fifth trumpet judgment. Thus, since the leaders are four demons, it makes sense that the troops they are leading are also demons (Revelation 9:15).

“Third, the fearsome description in Revelation 9:17-19 fits supernatural beings much better than modern warfare.

“Fourth, there are other examples in Scripture of supernatural armies of cavalry. Horses of fire swept Elijah up to heaven (2 Kings 2:11). Horses and chariots of fire protected Elisha at Dothan (2 Kings 6:13-17). Heavenly horses and horsemen from the celestial realm introduce the reign of Christ (Revelation 19:14). The Lord Himself will return riding on a white horse (Revelation 19:11). It seems logical that Satan would parody the coming of the Kingdom with his own infernal cavalry.

“Fifth, the weapons—fire, brimstone, and smoke—are always supernatural weapons in the Bible, and Revelation associates them with hell four times (14:10-11; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8).” 10

This massive demonic army will serve again as instruments of judgment. As with the fifth trumpet, the agents of judgment here are described in terms of horses (cf. 9:7). 11 The combined Allied and Axis forces, at their peak in World War II, totaled about 70 million. 12 An angelic army of 200,000,000 demons is not hard to imagine. 13

The apostle John’s description of this demonic army is just as symbolic as his description of locusts in 9:7-10. Hence, the various elements described here are designed to portray the activity of the army, rather than depict how it will appear. 14

17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone. 18 By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed—by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths.” (Revelation 9:17-18). The horses and riders were covered with humanly indestructible red, blue (“hyacinth”), and yellow “breastplates; and the heads of the horses” were like “lions” – fierce and destructive. John declares that “out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone” which describes the extremely destructive nature of their attacks against people. The locusts of verse 10 could only inflict pain, but these demonic creatures have the power to kill, so that they destroy “one third of mankind.” 15

“Fire,” “smoke,” and “brimstone” are natural elements that God used to bring judgment in the past during similar situations (cf. Genesis 19:24, 28). So, the Lord may use them again, or they may represent other agents of destruction. “Plagues” are reminiscent of the plagues in Egypt (Exodus 7:14ff; cf. Revelation 9:20; 11:6; 13:3, 12, 14; 15:1, 6, 8; 16:9, 21; 18:4, 8; 21:9; 22:18). The repetition of the definite article “the” in the Greek text (tou) denotes that these are three distinct plagues. Together they will cause the largest death toll in human history so far (cf. 9:15). 16

“For their power is in their mouth and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they do harm.” (Revelation 9:19). This added description of the horses’ “power” being “in their mouth and in their tails” supports the conclusion that they represent demonic instruments of divine judgment other than natural horses. Some interpreters have suggested they represent modern weapons that shoot both forward and backward like missiles. The locusts had the “power” to hurt people “like scorpions” with “their tails” (9:10), but these horses have “power” to “kill… like serpents” with their “mouths and . . . tails,” which is even worse (cf. 9:15). 17

Catastrophic images may fill our minds as we try to imagine the chaos, confusion, grief, and overwhelming shock that will sweep across the earth at that time. What humans have experienced in natural disasters, military strikes, and terrorist attacks will be completely forgotten in light of these unprecedented events. Considering that a fourth of mankind will be killed during the fourth seal judgment (6:7-8) and another third will be lost to this massive army in the sixth trumpet judgment (9:13-19), we can estimate that over half of the world’s population will be eradicated and sent to meet their Creator and Judge by that time. 18 Nevertheless, many people will survive this blitzkrieg. What will happen to those who live through this onslaught? Will they look to their Maker and repent or change their mind so they can believe in the coming King and enter His coming kingdom on earth (cf. Mark 1:15; John 3:5-16)?

John writes, 20 But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. 21 And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.” (Revelation 9:20-21). These three severe judgments (fire, smoke, brimstone) which resulted in the death of over half of the human population (6:8; 9:15) will not move the remaining unbelievers to “repent of the works of their hands” involving the worship of “idols” and “demons” who were responsible for their sufferings under the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments (9:20). Nor did these remaining unbelievers “repent of their murders or their sorceries.” The Greek word translated “sorceries” (pharmakon) implies the use of drugs. “The English word ‘pharmacy’ comes from it. The Greek word can refer to poisons, amulets, charms, magic spells, witchcraft, or any other object or practice that makes someone susceptible to sin (cf. Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-12; 1 Samuel 28:7; Acts 8:9; 13:8; 19:13-15), and thus could be included as a form of idolatry.” 19

“Stupefying and hallucinatory drugs have been associated with sorcery and witchcraft for ages, yielding to their users’ strange visions and hallucinations, which they could interpret as oracles for the guidance of their clients. Also, they divested their users of the control of their own minds, making them easily available for possession and control by evil spirits.” 20

“As difficult as it is to believe, most people living during this awful time of judgment will become even more hardened against God. They will stubbornly hold onto their demon worship and idolatry (9:20). They will refuse to repent from murder, sorcery, immorality, and theft (9:21). In short, the survivors of the first several judgments will close their ears to God’s message of mercy and grace, choosing instead to accept the wrath that will continue to increase in severity.” 21

The anti-God movement in America today is a harbinger of this tragic reality. It used to be that atheists were quiet about their beliefs, whispering here and there. Now, though, atheists and worshipers of false gods are becoming bolder. As Romans 1:21-25 explains, when people possess ample evidence of God’s activity but fail to honor or give thanks to him, He gives them over to the just consequences of their actions. Those consequences come in the form of passive wrath during the church age, in which God’s hand of restraint and protection are removed. But during the tribulation period, His wrath will be active. You can get a lot of stuff without God—money, popularity, notoriety. However, your soul will starve without him, and eventually you will face the Lord’s judgment.” 22

The horrific trumpet judgments which will take place during the last half of the Tribulation period are intended by God to bring unsaved people to repentance so they can get right with God through faith in Jesus Christ. But by that time most of the people living on the earth will be so hardened by sin that they will not turn to the Lord in repentance even though they know their repentance would stop God’s judgments from falling upon them (8:6-9:21).

Today many people know what it takes to escape eternity in the lake of fire – believing in Jesus for everlasting life – but because they love their sin more than the Savior, they refuse to believe in Christ. They would rather enjoy a life of sinful pleasures and then suffer for eternity separated from the One who loved them so much He was willing to die for them so they might live forever with Him in His heaven.

As Christians, we can love our sin so much we refuse to turn from it even though we know it would stop God’s painful discipline in our lives (James 1:14-16). Idolatry is not limited to the end times. It is a twenty-first century challenge that all of us face. What idols are enshrined in our own lives? Is there anyone or anything in our lives that is wooing us away from single-minded devotion to the one true God? Remember that some of these things may not be sinful in themselves; however, if they drive a wedge between us and our righteous Redeemer, they become destructive to our spiritual growth. 22

Take time today to go to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to show you anything or anyone that is taking God’s rightful place in your life. Ask your heavenly Father to forgive you and help you break free from their hold on your life.

Prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, thank You for this incredible revelation concerning the sixth trumpet judgment that will take place in the last half of the Tribulation period. More shocking than the terrible slaughter of a third of humankind by this demonic army of 200 million horsemen is the hardening of hearts among the people who survive such an onslaught. This makes my heart shudder knowing that their repentance would stop Your judgments from falling upon them. Likewise, many people today know that believing in Christ alone for eternal life would rescue them from an eternity in the lake of fire yet they refuse to believe in Him because they love their sin more than the Savior who died for them so they could have eternal life the moment they believe in Him. O, Father God, please soften peoples’ hearts today so they can escape these horrific judgments in the future. For those of us who are Your children, please help our hearts to be sensitive to Yours. Show us if there is anyone or anything in our lives that is taking Your rightful place. Forgive us for turning to idols instead of to You. Please enable us to break free from their hold on our lives so we may live the lives You created us to live for Your glory. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.   

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 192.

2. Ibid., pg. 192 cites Grant R. Osborne, Revelation Verse by Verse, Osborne New Testament Commentaries (Bellingham WA: Lexham Press, 2016), pg. 388.

3. Swindoll, pg. 193.

4. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1533.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 114.

6. Swindoll, pp. 193-194.

7. Ibid., pg. 195.

8. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

9. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 355 cites Ray C. Stedman, God’s Final Word: Understanding Revelation (Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1991), pp. 194-195.

10. Ibid., pg. 356.

11. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2389.

12. Constable, pp. 115-116 cites The World Almanac, 1971, Edited by L. H. Long (New York: Newspaper Enterprise Association, 1970), pg. 355.

13. Constable, pg. 116, says to “recall J. R. R. Tolkien’s army of Orcs in The Lord of the Rings.”

14. Vacendak, pg. 1533.

15. Ibid.

16. Constable, pg. 116.

17. Ibid.

18. Swindoll, pg. 197.

19. Constable, pg. 117.  

20. Ibid., pp. 117-118 cites Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, Reprint ed. (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 174.

21. Swindoll, pp. 197-198.

22. Evans, pg. 2390.

23. Ibid., pg. 200.

Revelation 8 – Part 3

“And I looked, and I heard an eagle flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!’” Revelation 8:13

In Revelation 7:3, God allowed a pause in His judgments long enough for the 144,000 Israelites to be marked for divine protection. In that vision, the earth, the sea, and the trees could not be affected by judgment until God’s servants were sealed. However, as we arrive at the seven trumpet judgments beginning in chapter 8, that temporary restraint of God’s wrath is removed. The first four trumpets sound in rapid staccato blasts, taking up only six verses. In contrast, the events surrounding the fifth through seventh trumpet judgments will extend from chapter 9 to chapter 11. The first four trumpet blasts will affect the earth’s ecosystem and atmosphere, drastically altering living conditions on the planet. The latter judgments will involve spiritual warfare that affects people directly.” 1

After recording about half an hour of silence in heaven and the giving of seven trumpets to seven angels (8:1-6), the apostle John now records the trumpet judgments proceeding out of the seventh seal. The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.” (Revelation 8:7). “The first angel” blowing the first trumpet, resulted in “hail and fire… mingled with blood” of those injured or killed as fiery hail was “thrown to the earth” destroying “a third of the trees” and “all green grass” with fire (8:7). This first trumpet judgment depicts a firestorm that dwarfs even the most gigantic contemporary wildfires. While wildfires in the western United States, for example, burn tens of thousands of acres, this firestorm will affect a third of the planet.” 2

This will no doubt decimate crops and forests, filling the air with smoke and ash. Though this first judgment is not directly aimed at human beings, it will indirectly affect food supplies, the global economy, and health on a massive scale.” 3

There are two explanations of how “all the green grass” is burned up here, but later in Revelation 9:4, “we read that grass exists: First, the grass will have grown again, because some time elapses between these two references. Second, it may only be the ‘green grass’ that perishes now, and what is dormant and brown in 8:7 will be green when the events of 9:4 transpire. These trumpet and bowl judgments appear to be as literal as the plagues on Egypt were. There are many parallels with the Egyptian plagues.” 4

“The OT prophets understood that the miracles of Egypt were to be repeated in the future (e.g., Isaiah 10:22-25; 11:12-16; 30:30; Jeremiah 16:14-15; 23:7-8; Ezekiel 38:22; Micah 7:15) . . . At several points the prophet Amos uses God’s miraculous work of deliverance from Egypt as a reference point for the way He will deal with His people in the future (cf. Amos 2:10; 4:10; 8:8-9; 9:5-7).” 5

Following the first trumpet blast, 8 the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. 9 And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.” (Revelation 8:8-9). This second trumpet judgment involves a giant meteorite (or asteroid) being thrown into the sea, causing “a third of the sea” to turn to “blood.” The description of water turning to “blood” is reminiscent of the divine judgment of God on Egypt through Moses that is described in Exodus 7:17-19. 6This judgment results in “a third” of the marine life in the oceans being killed and “a third of the ships were destroyed” by a huge tidal wave from the meteorite’s impact.  The loss of human life will be enormous since a large portion of the world’s population lives on the continental coasts. 7 

Those who depend on ocean life for food would suffer hunger and hardship on an unprecedented scale. The destruction of seafaring vessels would cause disruption in global trade as well as a crisis of security when the navies of world powers are significantly reduced.” 8

As if these first two judgments on land and sea were not enough to humble the world before God, the third trumpet judgment will bring another severe blow. 10 Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 11 The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.” (Revelation 8:10-11). This “great star” that “fell from heaven, burning like a torch” is probably a comet. It will poison “a third of the” earth’s fresh water supplies (“rivers… springs of water”) and “many men” would die “from the water.”

The word, “wormwood” (Apsinthos), refers to “a plant of the genus ‘Artemisia,’ proverbially bitter to the taste, yielding a dark green oil.” 9 Wormwood is “similar to the sagebrush… bitter, aromatic herb . . . with clusters of small, greenish yellow flowers that grows in desert regions and often symbolizes the bitterness of life.” 10 Many people will die from this severely contaminated water that has become bitter like wormwood. 11 Either they drink the water because they are unaware of its contamination or out of desperate dehydration, they consume the water and die. 12

As the first three trumpet judgments strike the vegetation, the oceans, and the bodies of fresh water, people might turn their attentions with hope to the skies. 13 Hence, the fourth trumpet judgment: “Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.” (Revelation 8:12). When the fourth trumpet sounded, “a third of the sun …moon and…stars…were darkened” so that there was no light for four hours during “the day” and for four hours during “the night.” God may simply darken “the sun… moon… and… stars” supernaturally as He did in Egypt prior to the Exodus (cf. Exodus 10:21-23), or there may be an atmospheric phenomenon that causes an eclipse, blocking the light for four hours during the day and four hours during the night. Or it may simply refer to the light earth receives from the sun, moon, and stars being dimmed by one-third because of the atmospheric damage and smoke from the previous two trumpet judgments. 14 This means that normal cycles of daylight and darkness will be thrown off, perhaps somewhat like an Alaskan winter, whose lingering darkness has physical, emotional, and psychological effects. 15

Such a reduction in light or sunlight hours, and consequently a catastrophic drop in temperature, would have a devastating effect on the earth.” 16

Places in the area hit hardest by these plagues will have already lost power and deteriorated into desperation and despair. Add natural darkness to this situation and the result would be anarchy and chaos. Rioting, looting, and crime would exacerbate the horrors experienced around the globe.

“The judgments announced by the first four trumpets are so shocking and severe that our natural tendency is to doubt their literal meaning. Of course, Revelation uses numerous symbols to communicate the future, but these symbols always point to real events. When we’re tempted to water down this language, soften its severity, or over-spiritualize the interpretations, we must remember Christ’s ominous words: ‘For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will (Matthew 24:21)… The judgments described in Revelation 8 will be so dreadful that no amount of government aid, relief efforts, or advanced preparation will be able to bring recovery.” 17

Then John writes, “And I looked, and I heard an eagle flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!’” (Revelation 8:13). John looked and “heard an eagle” 18 which is a far-seeing bird of prey, “flying through the” sky warning “the inhabitants of the earth” to beware of the three remaining trumpet blasts. The eagle sees far ahead of what human eyes can see. While the first four trumpet judgments targeted earth’s environment, …the next three judgments will target earth’s inhabitants (cf. 9:10, 18; 11:18).” 19

This warning “has a twofold purpose. First, it suggests the remaining judgments will be harsh. That is because they are intended to purify and reclaim the earth. Second, it underscores the graciousness of God in offering an opportunity for humanity to repent before judgment falls. God the Father, like an earthly parent, takes two approaches with people—one of grace and another of wrath (cf. Rom 11:22). During the church age, he generally exhibits grace and mercy. He also exhibits a form of passive wrath by allowing people and nations to face the destructive consequences of their actions.

“Romans 1 is a prime example of this, depicting idolatrous people whom ‘God delivered . . . over to degrading passions’ (1:26)—that is, to homosexual passions. As recipients of this passive divine wrath, they ‘received in their own persons the appropriate penalty of their error’ (1:27). As Paul explains, ‘Because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a corrupt mind so that they do what is not right’ (1:28). When the tribulation begins, though, this passive form of God’s wrath that merely declines to hold back the just dessert of human actions will yield to more active wrath. God’s wrath will rain down as it did on Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Gen 19:23-29).” 20

In conclusion, it is important for us to understand that God’s severe judgments do have a holy purpose behind them. Even when we face God’s most harsh discipline, He wants us to surrender to Him and release our wills as we embrace His perfect plan. It may be tempting to shake our fists toward heaven and doubt the goodness of God during pain and suffering. But God is looking for us to humble ourselves during harsh times. It would be wise for us to work through a biblical perspective on suffering before the catastrophe strikes instead of panicking to think through this issue amid the chaos and confusion. 21

God uses various trials and suffering to help Christians grow and mature (James 1:2-5). If believers are not living the way God wants them to live, the Lord will use harsh times to discipline them and produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness” in their lives (Hebrews 12:11).

The Lord can also use turbulent times to get the world’s attention. Have you noticed that after disasters like fires, typhoons, or earthquakes, people are much more sensitive to God? Many hearts are more open to spiritual things. I have noticed this during the global pandemic. I am seeing an increase in responsiveness to the gospel during this age of COVID. God often uses tragedy to draw our attention away from ourselves or the world to Him.  

We also learn from these verses that God will not stop His judgments until He has fulfilled His plans. Even though the first four trumpet judgments will bring widespread death, devastation, and destruction, God will bring even more severe and excruciating trumpet judgments after them to bring the world to submission.

Swindoll writes, In our own lives, we can choose to heed the warnings of God’s Word, or we can harden our hearts. Either way, God will eventually work out His plan, which is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Have you been resisting a plan that God has impressed upon you? Stop! Instead, ask the Lord to soften the stubbornness of your heart toward His purposes and to conform you to His will. Only when God’s purpose is accomplished will you receive His peace and experience a reprieve.” 22

Prayer: Holy Father, we are overwhelmed to think of the devastation that will come to the earth during the first four trumpet judgments beginning in the middle of the Tribulation. These are not symbolic representations of tragedies that have already taken place in history. These are literal worldwide judgments that will take place in the future to prepare the inhabitants of the earth for Christ’s Second Coming to earth. Some of us may be very uncomfortable with these judgments, wondering how a God of love could administer such harsh punishments. Yet, we see Your love and mercy expressed to us by the fact that You are warning us ahead of time of such terrible calamities. You have given us the opportunity to get right with You through faith in Jesus Christ so we can escape via the Rapture this future Tribulation period consisting of worldwide judgments unlike the world has ever seen before. Forgive us, O Lord, for resisting Your plan for our lives. Please soften our hearts so we are willing to embrace Your plan and experience the joy and peace You want Your children to have. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 178.

2. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2386. 

3. Swindoll, pg. 178.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 107.

5. Ibid., cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8—22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 16.

6. Swindoll, pg. 179.

7. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1529.

8. Swindoll, pg. 179.

9. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 161.

10. Swindoll, pg. 180 cites J. D. Douglas and Merrill C. Tenney, eds., The New International Dictionary of the Bible, s.v. “Plants: Wormwood,” pg. 806.  

11. Evans, pg. 2386.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1529.

13. Swindoll, pg. 180.

14. Ibid., pp. 1529-1530.  

15. Evans, pg. 2387.

16. Constable, pg. 109.

17. Swindoll, pg. 180.

18. The Majority of Greek manuscripts have “eagle” (aetou) instead of “angel” (angelou) in this verse.

19. Vacendak, pg. 1530.

20. Evans, pg. 2387.

21. Adapted from Swindoll, pg. 182.

22. Ibid.

Revelation 8 – Part 1

“When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” Revelation 8:1 

After describing the security of Jewish and Gentile believers from the Tribulation period between the breaking of the sixth and seventh seal judgments, the chronological progression resumes with the Lamb opening the seventh seal. “When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” (Revelation 8:1).  When the Lamb of God “opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour,” as everyone gathered around the throne waiting to see what the Lord would do next. This silence in heaven represents the calm before the storm of God’s terrible judgments (cf. Zephaniah 1:7, 15, 17), much like the calm before a tornado or typhoon strikes.

Prior to a storm, people frantically prepare for what is coming. If it is a hurricane or typhoon approaching, they may board up their windows and lock their doors and sit in the living room watching TV reports of the storm’s path. Some may get in their cars and drive miles away beyond the reach of the storm. They may fervently pray the storm will be redirected away from their home.

While we may all experience natural disasters on earth such as earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, mudslides, tornadoes, floods, and fires, none of these experiences will compare to the severity of God’s judgments on the earth during the last half of the Tribulation period on earth. Any tragedy we experience in life now, can only be a foreshadowing of much worse calamities to come in the future global Tribulation.

Chuck Swindoll writes, How can a righteous Redeemer snare the attention of a wicked world? Christian apologist C. S. Lewis approached that question this way: ‘Anyone who has watched gluttons shoveling down the most exquisite foods as if they did not know what they were eating, will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.’” 1

As the world moves rapidly toward end times, the hardness of unbelieving hearts among the unsaved will increase greatly. When that happens, God will intensify His judgments on the earth to capture the world’s attention for His redemptive purpose. 2

God is providing this thirty minutes of silence in heaven to give people on earth during the Tribulation period an opportunity to prepare for the coming trumpet judgments which will be worse than the seal judgments. The provision of such a pause underscores God’s mercy. Its brevity highlights the need to repent quickly as opportunity remains.” 3

What about you? Think about your own life. Has God ever used calamities, disasters, suffering, or trials to get your attention? Would you have heard God’s message without those experiences?  

God has revealed these coming trumpet judgments to us now to make us more open to Him and His message of mercy and grace. God desires that none should perish in the lake of fire but that all would repent or change their minds about whatever is keeping them from believing in the coming King, Jesus Christ, and believe in Him so He can forgive their sins and give them eternal life so they may enter His Kingdom on earth (Matthew 18:3; Mark 1:15; John 3:5, 15-16; Acts 10:43; 2 Peter 3:9) following the Tribulation period (Revelation 20:4-6). Entrance into Christ’s earthly Kingdom is based on faith alone in Christ alone Who died for our sins on the cross and rose from the dead. Don’t delay your decision to receive Christ’s gift of eternal life. He loves you and wants you to be in His Kingdom on earth. 

In Revelation 7:3 the angel says not to “harm the earth, the sea, or the trees” until God’s servants, the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, are sealed. This is now complete, and silence is in order because God’s wrath, as represented by the seven trumpets, 4 will soon fall upon the earth beginning at the middle of the Tribulation period.

Keep in mind that there had been tremendous praise and worship expressing enormous volumes of adoration before the throne of God in heaven in John’s previous vision (Revelation 7:9-12). But as soon as the Lamb broke the seventh seal there was absolute “silence” in heaven in anticipation of the severity of God’s coming trumpet judgments on the earth. Every creature in heaven was reduced to “open-mouthed silence” before the throne of God. 5

In our fast-paced society filled with various noises, we don’t often have times of silence. In fact, we can be very uncomfortable with noiseless pauses. How often are we silent before God? Do we prefer loud expressions of worship to God in place of silent moments of reflection in His presence?

As believers in Jesus, we can have problems determining our priorities if we are not taking time to be still before God and hear His voice. Look at the order of determining priorities in Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” According to this verse we need to “be still” to know that God is God. If we are not taking time to be still before God, we are not going to know God as intimately.

Do you take time to be still enough to hear God? Are you willing to be silent before the Lord? Some of us may not know God intimately because we are too busy or have too much noise in our lives to hear His voice. Notice the order of this verse:

a. I must “be still” enough to hear God.

b. I will be able to “know…God” and what He wants me to do.

c. God will be “exalted among the nations” as His vision is carried out.

Take time today to be still before the Lord. Set aside your electronic devices and grab your Bible, a notebook, and a pen. Find a quiet place to meet with the Lord for about thirty minutes or whatever length of time you are led to do this. Take some deep breaths and detach from the world and all its distractions. Invite the Lord to speak to you through His Word as you open your Bible and begin reading. Write down what the Holy Spirit impresses upon you and then pray it back to God. He loves to hear His Word given back to Him by His children. Get to know God and capture His vision for a world that desperately needs the Savior.

Prayer: Lord God, thank You for reminding us today of the importance of being silent before You. In this vision, John sees the Lamb of God, the exalted Lord Jesus Christ, take the seventh seal after a time of thunderous praise and worship around the throne of God in heaven. But suddenly every creature in heaven became silent for about thirty minutes in anticipation of the severity of the coming trumpet judgments. We confess that it is difficult for us to slow down and be silent before You. It is much easier for us to try to avoid our unwanted feelings, thoughts, or memories with lots of noise in our lives. Help us to respond to difficulties and pain in our lives by leaning into You, Father. May we take time to be still before You so we can know You more intimately and receive a fresh vision from You which includes Your exaltation among all the nations of the world. Just as You will use the severity of the trumpet judgments to get the world’s attention during the future Tribulation period, please use this recorded vision to get peoples’ attention today. Open their hearts and minds to Your message of grace and forgiveness through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ so they can be a part of Your coming Kingdom on earth after the Tribulation. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 175 cites C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, Paper Back ed. (New York: Macmillan; 1962, reprint 1986), pg. 93.

2. Ibid., pg. 175.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2385.

4. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1528.

5. Swindoll, pg. 177.

Revelation 6 – Part 3

15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’” Revelation 6:15-16

The first four seal-judgments involving four horsemen depicted utter destruction of the world in general from the Lamb in heaven (6:1-8). These first four seals are “the beginning” (Matthew 24:8) of a series of judgments that take during the first half of the seven-year Tribulation period. They will be followed by a period of persecution (6:9-11), after which the earth-shattering judgments of the sixth seal will take place (6:12-17). This is exactly what the Lord Jesus predicted in His Olivet Discourse:

1. Wars, famines, pestilences (Matthew 24:6-8).

2. Persecutions (Matthew 24:9-14a).

3. Then the end will come (Matthew 24:14b). 1

In anticipation of this persecution, John writes, “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.” (Revelation 6:9). When Jesus “opened the fifth seal,” John “saw under the altar” in heaven “the souls of” believers “who had been slain for” their commitment to “the word of God and for the testimony which they held” during the reign of the World Ruler or Beast of Revelation (cf. Revelation 13:1-7; Matthew 24:9-22). This verse makes it clear that people will be saved during the Tribulation period, but many of them will be martyred. More will be said of these martyrs in Revelation 7.  2

“Some Amillennialists believe these martyrs are all Christians who die for their faith during the entire Church Age, which, according to their view, are all the believers who will have died from Christ’s ascension to His Second Coming.” 3  “Preterists view these people as Christians who died in the first century of the church’s history.” 4

But in the context of Revelation 6:9, a literal understanding places these martyrs in the future Tribulation period. Since the church is already pictured in heaven as represented by the twenty-four elders (Revelation 4-5), these people in verse 9 must be those who died after the Rapture, since all Christians living at the time of the Rapture will experience bodily resurrection and go directly into Jesus Christ’s presence to escape the coming wrath of the coming Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 4:15-17). The people John describes in verse 9 are those who come to faith in Christ after the Rapture (cf. Matthew 24:9; Luke 21:12). They had become believers during the first half of the Tribulation through the preaching of the Two Witnesses (Revelation 11:1-10), and then had suffered martyrdom for their faith. John saw their “souls” in heaven, not their resurrected bodies, because God had not resurrected them yet. The resurrection of Tribulation saints will not occur until the end of that seven-year period of judgments on the earth (cf. Revelation 20:4). 5

“Obviously, then, people will come to faith in Jesus following the rapture because believers of the church age all will have been removed from earth. Notably, this is the first seal in which God’s judgment comes in response to the cries of people.” 6

In the last three-and-a-half years, as the Beast assumes worldwide authority (cf. 13:3), he will set out to rid the world of the witnesses of Christ who are spreading out all over the earth to share the gospel and will succeed in killing multitudes (cf. Matt 24:9, 14; Rev 12:17).” 7

These martyred Tribulation saints Cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” (Revelation 6:10). These believers “cried with a loud voice” asking the Lord Who is “holy and true,” how long they would have to wait until He would “judge” their murderers.

Compare the prayers of Jesus (Luke 23:34) and Stephen (Acts 7:60), in which they asked God to be merciful to their murderers, with the prayers of these Tribulation martyrs.  The difference is that, for the martyrs’ murderers, the time of God’s longsuffering had now ended, and He had begun to pour out His wrath on rebellious humanity. 8

“This plea to God for justice and vengeance finds its roots in the Old Testament imprecatory psalms—prayers calling God to take His stand against the enemies of righteousness. Psalm 94:1-5 provides a perfect example of this sentiment.

“O LORD, God of vengeance,

God of vengeance, shine forth!

Rise up, O Judge of the earth,

Render recompense to the proud.

How long shall the wicked, O LORD,

 How long shall the wicked exult?

They pour forth words,

they speak arrogantly.

All who do wickedness vaunt themselves.

They crush Your people, O LORD,

And afflict Your heritage.

“This prayer for judgment and vindication acknowledges several important theological truths. God is a God of justice, holiness, and truth who will keep His promises of salvation for His people and retribution against His enemies. But the psalmist, like the saints under the altar in Revelation 6, acknowledges that such vengeance is a strictly divine prerogative. Paul exhorted the Romans, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay’” (Rom. 12:19, quoting Deut. 32:35). Though the martyred saints will have to wait a little longer while their fellow Tribulation martyrs join them (Rev. 6:11), the Lord will keep His promise to avenge the murder of His saints (2 Thes. 1:6-8). In fact, the sixth seal portrays the fulfillment of this promise of vengeance against the enemies of God’s people.” 9

One important question about the fifth seal is, how will the deaths of believers be a judgment for the world? Remember, the seals are divine judgments. The death of God’s people brings judgment in two ways. First, the removal of God’s people, the salt and light of the world, will allow darkness and corruption to overrun the earth unchecked. It will be a case of the blind leading the blind. Second, as the enemies of God murder His people, they are unknowingly heaping more judgment upon themselves. Also, God will answer these martyrs’ prayers for vindication when He pours out His wrath on His enemies.” 10

Next John writes, “Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” (Revelation 6:11). Each martyr was given “a white robe” and told to “rest a little while longer until” the full number of martyrs “was completed.”

These Tribulation martyrs are reminded that even though God’s justice is delayed at times, it always comes. God misses nothing and eventually He will bring complete justice in response to every wrong committed. 11

The sixth seal will provide God’s answer to the cries of these Tribulation martyrs. “I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.” (Revelation 6:12). After Jesus “opened the sixth seal” John saw a “great earthquake” occur as the Beast and his armies gather to make war against Christ (cf. Revelation 19:19). 12 This earthquake resulted in “the sun” becoming “black as sackcloth of hair,” which is likely because of volcanoes erupting and discharging ash that blocks the sunlight. 13  In addition, “the moon” will become red “like blood” (6:12a).

Next, John observes, 13 And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. 14 Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.” (Revelation 6:13-14). Meteor-like “stars of heaven” will fall “to the earth” and “the sky” will recede “as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island” will be moved “out of its place” perhaps due to the great earthquake and meteorites (6:13-14). The universe will seem to be imploding before the eyes of all who dwell on the earth. 14

All kinds of people all over the world without Jesus will panic and seek to protect themselves instead of turning to the Lord for mercy and deliverance. 15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’” (Revelation 6:15-16). Without Jesus as their Savior, they would rather have “the mountains and rocks” fall on them and kill them than face “the wrath of the Lamb.” This indicates that the unbelieving people’s perception of God (“Him who sits on the throne”), and the “wrath of the Lamb,” in heaven, will be far more terrifying to them than the physical consequences of this judgment. Whereas the martyrs cry, “Avenge us!” (6:10), these unbelievers cry, “Hide us!” 15

“What sinners dread most is not death but having to stand before a holy and righteous God.” 16

Those who refuse to trust in Jesus during this unprecedented time of worldwide suffering will say, “For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:17). “The splitting of the sky and shaking of the earth that is occurring is so unprecedented that the followers of the Beast clearly recognize their guilt and culpability before God and His Son. They have not one ounce of hope.” 16

This sixth seal “reveals the horror of unbelievers who must face the full wrath of God and His appointed Judge, Jesus Christ. The absolute panic experienced  by these wicked people doesn’t grip them because God is unjust, but because they know He will give them exactly what they deserve!” 17

Oh, my dear friends, as you read this portion of the Word of God, please understand that this is not some science fiction novel or symbolic description of various troubles that have already taken place on earth. This is a literal description of an unprecedented time of worldwide suffering that will take place in the future on earth. Everyone on earth at that time will not only know it is God’s judgment, but they will act like it by seeking death to escape from God’s wrath. You do not have to go through this terrible period of unprecedented suffering. God has provided a way of escape.

Jesus Christ said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24).  Have you heard Jesus’ promise of eternal life?Do you believe or trust Him alone for eternal life?

If you heard and believed Jesus’ promise, Christ guarantees that you now have everlasting life which is a forever personal relationship with the true God (John 17:3) which can never be lost (John 6:37; 10:28-29). If you could lose eternal life, Jesus just told a lie in John 5:24. Jesus is qualified to give you eternal life because He is God (John 1:1; I John 5:20) and He paid for this free gift (Romans 6:23b) when He died on the Cross for all of our sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-8).

Jesus promises that you “shall not come into judgment.” You will not be judged for your sins because you have everlasting life. You have complete forgiveness (Colossians 2:13-14). You are now God’s child forever (John 1:12). You are completely covered by His love without a single fault (Ephesians 1:4; cf. Romans 8:31-34).

You have “passed from death into life.” You never have to be afraid of dying because you now have everlasting life which means you will live with Jesus forever in His Father’s house in heaven (cf. Matthew 6:9; John 14:1-3; Revelation 21-22) after you die or are raptured from the earth (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:21-23; I Thessalonians 4:15-17), whichever takes place first.

Those who refuse to believe in Jesus for eternal life are promised not to “see life, but the wrath of God abides on” them both now (John 3:36), during the Tribulation on earth if they are alive then (Revelation 6), and in the lake of fire for eternity (Revelation 20:15).   

The Bible promises to remove believers in Jesus from the earth to live with Him in heaven forever in the third heaven or Paradise before this great outpouring of God’s wrath takes place on the earth (2 Corinthians 12:1-4; I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-18). Knowing this should comfort and encourage us to live for Christ until we see Him face to face (I Thessalonians 5:6-11).

As believers in Jesus, it is important for us to have Christ’s love for those who are lost, who will one day face this horrific future on earth and do what we can to tell the good news of the gospel of grace to those in need of Christ’s salvation and eternal life. Let us speak of the joy that could be theirs through faith alone in Jesus and His atoning sacrifice and warn of the wrath to come and the eternal suffering that awaits those who refuse to believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God for His gift of everlasting life. 18

Prayer: Holy and true God, thank You for revealing the horrific judgments which will take place in the future during the seven-year Tribulation on earth. Because You are holy, You cannot let any sin go unpunished. Millions of believers throughout history have suffered and died at the hands of Your enemies. Your message today underscores that You will severely repay those who have persecuted Your people. Thank You also for reminding us that those who believe in Jesus for eternal life are not appointed to this coming wrath on earth. Our future is free from Your wrath. Please give us Your heart for the lost so we may boldly and lovingly warn them of Your wrath to come on the earth and in eternity, so they may believe in Jesus for His gift of eternal life and forgiveness of all their sins and escape Your wrath to come. In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1523. 

2. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 89 cites as an example Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and Carlisle, England: Paternoster Press, 1999) pg. 39.

4. Ibid., cites as an example Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John 2nd ed., (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907), pg. 92.

5. Ibid.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2382.

7. Vacendak, pp. 1523-1524.

8. Constable, pg. 89.

9. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 153-154.

10. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 284.

11. Evans, pg. 2382.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1524.

13. Evans, pg 2382.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1524.

15. Constable, pg. 91.

16. Ibid., cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1—7: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 456; cf. Swete, pg. 94.

17. Swindoll, pg.  154. 

18. Adapted from Elizabeth Haworth’s daily verse entitled, “What Does Revelation 6:8 Mean?” at knowing-jesus.com.