Revelation Lesson 20: The Calm Before the Next Storm :: By Sean Gooding

Revelation Chapter 8:1-11

“When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

“And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.

“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. Then 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.  And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. 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. 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.”

There are many, some of my dearest friends, that believe the rapture takes place here. They believe that they will venture into the first part of the Tribulation, about 3.5 years; and then, just as the ‘Great Wrath’ of God begins, here as they open the 7th seal, then the Rapture begins and God turns up the heat on the rest of the world. The scriptures do not bear this out.

Enoch was taken before the Flood, and Lot was removed before the judgment on Sodom; and specifically, the angels told him, Lot, that they could not do anything until he was gone. But the most telling part of the account is the conversation between God and Abraham before the judgment even begins. It is recorded for us in Genesis 18:22-25,

“Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. And Abraham came near and said, ‘Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’”

Abraham asks two rhetorical questions in his conversation with the Lord, ‘Would you destroy the righteous with the wicked?’ and ‘Shall not the Judge of the earth do right?’ These are rhetorical questions, because the answers are very clear in the scriptures; and God cannot violate His word. The righteous have passed from wrath, from death to life and from foe to friend.

We would not treat our own children this way, so much more then will the Judge of the earth do right. And, to prove the point, Abraham got God down to 10 righteous souls being enough to save the city (Genesis 18:32). God could only find 4 willing to leave: Lot, his wife, and his two daughters. He rescued these before any judgment fell on the cities; and Lot actually saved the city of Zoar by finding refuge there (Genesis 19:21-22). The angel tells him that they would do nothing until he was safe.

The Bible tells us that we are “not appointed to wrath,” whether it be the little wrath (whatever that is in God’s power) or ‘big’ wrath.

1 Thessalonians 5: 9 “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I don’t know about you, but the seven seals seem a lot like wrath to me: the death, the destruction, and the suffering are all huge. This may seem like I am rehashing, but it is important to know where we are so that we can properly assess the scriptures and apply them properly.

Silence in Heaven, Revelation 8:1

These 30 minutes will seem like an eternity. Heaven is not a quiet place. There is activity always – angels singing and moving, cherubim worshipping, God decreeing, and on and on – just the hustle and bustle of running the Universe. But when the 7th seal is opened, there is silence, maybe for the first time in eternity, in Heaven. This was the calm before the storm.

From the last chapter and then the opening verses of this one, we are in Heaven seeing things there, not really aware of what is happening on earth. But now we are about to return to the chaos on earth. Seven trumpets are handed to seven angels, and they begin to signal one wave of destruction after another.

The Trumpet was a very important tool to a city. It signaled impending danger, it could call an assembly, and it could be used in celebration. It was very important for the Trumpeter to be skilled and to know what he was doing. The wrong blast from a trumpet could cause fear when there was supposed to be celebration, or vice-versa. We, the redeemed, and especially we preachers, are called ‘watchmen’ in the scriptures. We are to sound the trumpet of the Lord’s wrath, the Lord’s soon return to judge this earth, and sadly, we are not doing a good job.

There is so little preaching on the Lord’s return, so little warning about the impending judgment – first, of us, His children, and then of the whole world. Hell is HOT! Yet there is so little warning of it. We do not want to upset people and think they respond better to ‘good news.’ The GOOD NEWS, also called the GOSPEL, is that Hell is real; but we who have Jesus living in us don’t go there. There can be no real appreciation of Heaven until the reality of Hell sinks in and the price that was paid to redeem us is realized. We cannot truly appreciate Grace without a real vision of Hell and an understanding that without His grace we would be there forever and ever.

The Prayers of the Saints, Revelation 8:2-5

One angel takes a golden censer and takes incense and offers it with the prayers of the saints on the altar in Heaven.

I am just about to finish reading through the Pentateuch for the fifth time in the last 4 years; one cannot go long into the book of Exodus without the things of the Tabernacle being mentioned. In Exodus 27:3, we find that the tools of the Tabernacle are made of brass. These tools, censers, are used to move hot coals from the brazen altar to the altar of incense to ignite the incense twice a day at the morning and evening sacrifice. The Tabernacle and the Temple are simply earthly models of the things in heaven.

We are told that the angel in verse 3 was given a golden censer, and then he stood by the altar. Yes, an altar in Heaven right in front of the Throne of God. He is about to ignite the fire there with incense and the prayers of the saints. We are told further that the smoke of the incense is right before God. In Revelation 5:8, we see that the incense is the “prayers of the saints.”

God loves our prayers. Jesus prayed often. Paul prayed without ceasing. Prayer is the incense in heaven. A sweet-smelling aroma before the Lord. I do not appreciate prayer like I should; and I fear that many, if not most, Christians do not either. We get lost in the ‘manmade and self-made’ world, and we forget that without the Lord we can do nothing.

Prayer has many facets: worship, praise, asking, pleading and waiting. It is built on confidence in the One to whom we are praying. Why pray if you do not believe that God can help and do for you? For many of us, prayer becomes a formality; it is what we do at 6 a.m. We pray. Just like we shave, we shower, and we eat breakfast, it is just another thing to be done and get into the day.

But, true prayer is the definition of intimacy between us and God. Prayer is essential to the Christian life. God wants us to talk to Him.

I have a little six-year-old, and she can talk and talk forever; sometimes it can get tedious. But most often she just wants to tell me about her day, she wants to know stuff, tell me stuff and have that interaction. In the process I get to teach her stuff, show her things and help her to understand why and how we do things. This is kind of what happens with us as we pray to the Lord. We talk and talk, and then He talks back via His word and through our day, and we realize that God is real. He is listening and He answers us. We have a real conversation with Him.

Well, we are told here in Revelation that our prayers are ever before Him, and they are the incense in heaven, a sweet-smelling aroma. Yes, we have a model prayer given to us in the New Testament, and we can follow that format if we choose or we can simply talk to the Lord just like my little one talks to me.

We need to remember the saints, the Christians around us, remember the sick, the lost, and the hurting; we need to be thankful for His grace, His mercy, His provisions, His protection, and His general kindness. We can transcend borders with prayer. We can pray for people thousands of miles away, and yet it is as if we are there.

God answers our prayers in His time, in His way and for His glory.

Prayer teaches us patience, contentment and gratitude. Prayer reminds us that we cannot, and so we need the Lord to do for us, in us, through us and by us. Prayer reminds us that we are limited and He is not. Prayer reminds us that we are finite and God is eternal. Prayer reminds us that God is faithful all the time. Prayer is truly the only power we have as Christians. Sadly, too many of us forgo this power for other things. I will admit that I am guilty of this as well. We should fall asleep talking to the Lord and awake talking to Him. This is the kind of intimacy that we need in and with the Lord.

Trumpets of Trouble, Revelation 8:7-11

We will look at the first three of the seven trumpets today.

God announces the return to the proceedings on earth with thunder and lightning. If there was a bit of a reprieve on earth, they are being warned that trouble is about to begin. They must have had some time for recovery because there is vegetation and things for God to destroy again. He begins with the trees and the grass. One third of all the vegetation is destroyed, and then God hits the seas and the fresh water. One third of the seas become blood, and one third of all the sea creatures die. One third of all the ships are destroyed, and then He hits the fresh water; one third of all the fresh water becomes deadly, and many people die.

God uses heavenly bodies to do the destruction: one, a great mountain burning with fire, most likely a meteor; and then He uses a ‘great star’ to do more damage. The first one in the sea would have caused an immense tidal wave hitting the coasts of just about every land mass around it. If we simply use the immediate area where Patmos is located, then we can see that Asia Minor, parts of the Middle East, parts of Northern Africa and then parts of Europe would be hit by the tidal wave. The loss of life would be great, and the loss of land and equipment would be great.

A star named Wormwood hits the fresh waters and does some serious destruction. Here in Canada, we have 2 of the largest freshwater lakes in the world: Lake Superior and Lake Huron, but 20% of the world’s fresh water is in Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia. There are gigantic rivers all over the world from South America to Australia. There are numerous and impressive rivers that affect millions of people. One third of these will be rendered dangerous and deadly to mankind.

The wrath of God is serious. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of God (Hebrews 10:31). The world has called into question the person and power of God. But God is showing them who is the King of the World. Sadly, we have just touched the surface of what the destruction will be like. From here on out, God will bring the earth to its knees groveling before Him.

We have a ringside seat to see the majesty of our God. Thank God for His Son, His sacrifice, His Holy Spirit and His loving kindness that has brought us to life and placed us so that we are no longer enemies of God, but His children and under His protection. I leave you with these comforting words in 1 John 3:1,

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore, the world knowest us not, because it knew him not.”