The prophet Zephaniah wrote about the Day of the Lord with images that fit what we will read from Revelation in chapter 8.
The great day of the Lord is near,
near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter;
the warrior cries aloud there.
That day will be a day of wrath,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
A day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the lofty battlements. (Zephaniah 1:14-16)
Zephaniah presents a picture of events before the Day of the Lord that is consistent with other prophesies that include Jesus’ message to his disciples.
The vision given to John in Revelation continues this important warning. He wrote about the breaking of the seventh seal.
When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour (Revelation 8.1).
Earlier chapters in Revelation speak of loud shouts, angelic praise, and plenty of activity. What is about to take place is so important that all of heaven stops and remains silent.
Should not events like this cause us to pause and reflect on God’s character and his purposes for our lives?
Angels of the Presence
God instructed Joshua to lead the people of God to march around the mighty city of Jericho with seven priests who were tasked to blow trumpets when they faced it (see Joshua 6).
Before plagues are about to strike the earth, God orders seven angels with trumpets to declare the coming disasters.
And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them (Revelation 8.2).
The angels stand before God and offer themselves for service. The trumpets announce the day of God’s wrath.
Prayers of the Saints
Do you wonder if your prayers make a difference? The next verses should change your mind on that topic.
Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne (Revelation 8.3).
The angel is a heavenly priest who takes the prayers of the saints and offers them to God. The prayers of the saints are similar to those offered by the priests in the Temple.
Whether we receive an immediate response to our prayers or not, we can be assured that God uses them in his overall plan.
The smoke of the incense rises to God and signals God’s acceptance of our requests.
And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel (Revelation 8.4).
The image of sacrifice and prayer reveals an essential characteristic of prayer. Prayer is frequently connected with love.
If we love God and his plans, we will pray about them. If we love other people, we will pray for them.
The good news is that God receives and acts on our prayers.
God’s Plans and Purposes
What is more important than human happiness and well-being? No doubt, God cares for the happiness of his creation.
However, more important than human happiness is the achievement of God’s plans. When we pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done,” we are asking for God to enforce his kingdom and will in the face of all opposition.
For this reason, the prayers of the saints are not about human welfare, but about God’s purposes. Their prayers play an important part in God’s judgment on the earth.
Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake (Revelation 8.5).
The First Trumpet
What follows in John’s vision are the trumpet events. They introduce the tribulation. In the trumpet judgments, the church is not in view. Wicked humans are the focus of the plagues.
These plagues are directed against a world that is hostile to God.
Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets made ready to blow them.
The first angel blew his trumpet, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were hurled to the earth, and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up (Revelation 8.6-7).
Why would God bring these events to the world? The plagues in Egypt before the Exodus is instructive.
“You are still exalting yourself against my people by not letting them go.
“Tomorrow at this time I will cause the heaviest hail to fall that has ever fallen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. (Exodus 9.17-18).
When we put our self-interest above that of other people, we do the same to God. When human will refuses to recognize the ultimate authority of God, something must be done.
Think of it this way. Many would agree that the best life possible is one where we love God and other people fully.
Suppose we love ourselves and use other people for our selfish desires. In our exaltation of self we have failed to achieve the best God has for us. We also have injured others.
Peter is right. God is “not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3.9).
That being true, as many of my AA friends know, God will help us reach “rock bottom,” so we will allow him to transform our lives.
The tribulation is a time when people who have exalted themselves have an opportunity to repent and give God and people the love they are due.
The first plague affected the land and the second plague the sea.
The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea.
A third of the sea became blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed (Revelation 8.8-9).
Just as in the first trumpet plague, the second one has an image of the troubles brought upon the Egyptians before the Exodus (see Exodus 7.20-21).
Not only did God set his people free in Egypt, but he also reduced the Egyptian gods to nothing in the process.
Paul informs us that the goal of history is, “for [Jesus to] reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15.25).
The troubles on earth are ways God frees humans from bondage to sin and self. They are also part of the process God uses to defeat the world’s system and the devil.
The trumpet events in Revelation introduce the tribulation. While they are directed against a world that is hostile to God, they also offer an opportunity for people to repent and give God and people the love they are due.
Ultimately, God’s goal is to defeat the world’s system and the devil and to bring about His kingdom on earth.
Let us continue to pray and live in a way that aligns with His purposes.
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube today. It is on the Bob Spradling channel.