Tag Archives: Trumpets

Revelation 11 – Two witnesses

Some chapters in Revelation can get very technical as we attempt to make meaning of all of the images.  This is one of those chapters.  So if you feel like I am not covering everything then you might want to check out Jim McGuiggan’s book on Revelation which we are using as a resource for the blog or ask me a follow up question in the comments (which we always encourage you to do).

There will be a number of times in the coming chapters that you will notice a time reference expressed as 42 months or 1260 days or 3 1/2 years or time, times and a half a time.  These are all the same time reference.  Remember again that in apocalyptic literature we should assume that everything is symbolic unless we have a reason to believe it is literal.  Here are some of the occasions when this time reference will be used:

  1. Revelation 13:5 – It is the period of the beast’s authority.
  2. Revelation 11:2 – It is the period of the Holy City being trodden under foot.
  3. Revelation 11:3 – It is the period during which the witnesses prophesy.
  4. Revelation 12:6, 14 – It is the period the Woman is nourished in the wilderness.
  5. Daniel 7:25 – It is the period the “little horn” persecutes the saints.

Based on these occurrences, this time reference should indicate a period of time when the church is going to be persecuted, and yet protected.  However, it is not referencing a length of time, but rather the state of affairs during that period of time.  Even though they will be victimized and go through a period of suffering, God remains in control and watches over them.  They will ultimately be victorious.  Additionally, there is some thought that 3 1/2 is also a “broken 7” which would indicate incompleteness or something partial or temporary.  It is a Biblical way of reminding Christians in suffering that “This too shall pass.”

Revelation 11 then talks about the measuring of the Temple.  It’s important to know that the part of the Temple that is measured is the inner sanctuary and not the entire building.  Also, the Gentile court that is referenced is the same court where Jesus overturned the money changers tables because of their lack of concern for God’s Temple and also the Gentiles who worshiped there.  As such, this discussion of the measuring of the Temple only makes sense when read figuratively (no surprise) and understood to mean that those who truly worship God (the Church) will be protected and that those who do not are in danger of judgment.  The holy is separated from the profane.

Then, once the time of persecution of the saints begins (the 42 months), we read of the two witnesses who wear sack cloth and continue to prophesy to all the people of the earth throughout the period of persecution (1260 days).  They are the two olive trees and two lampstands.  This is a reference to Zechariah 4, where the two olive trees represent Zerubbabel, the civil and political leader at the time, and Joshua, the religious and priestly leader at that time.  In Revelation, these two witness then represent the church and Christians who we know are a royal priesthood.  We are reading here about Christians who refused to be cowed by suffering or persecution but who continue to proclaim the Gospel to the world.  We are told that Satan will attack them and kill them, but that their bodies will not remain dead.  God’s breath of life will enter them, they will stand on their own feet and the world will be terrified of them as they go to live with God.  What great comfort and power this would give to people who were undergoing persecution, that they could continue to boldly proclaim the Gospel in the face of suffering, knowing that even death could not hold them down.  God would restore their life and give them the victory when it looked like all was lost.

The remainder of the chapter is given to the blowing of the seventh trumpet.  As this trumpet is sounded, the time for partial judgments and warnings has ended.  The seventh trumpet contains the seven bowls and the seven bowls are filled with God’s wrath which will now be fully poured out upon the earth.  And yet, this pouring out of wrath is met, not with horror, but with the thanksgiving and praise of the twenty-four elders surrounding the throne of God.  This judgment is part of God putting things back the way they belong.  Those who were faithful will be rewarded.  Those who were opposing God will be punished.  Things are made right and those who have been waiting for God’s rightness to be restored to the earth celebrate.  What other response could there be to God’s fixing of things?

But the fixing will take some work.  And it won’t be easy.  It will be messy.  But God is in control and He’s going to do the hard messy work of it all while his people praise Him.

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Posted by on June 13, 2013 in Revelation


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Revelation 9 – Crime is Punishment

As the seven trumpets continue sounding, we now have the two woes being poured out upon the earth.  Chapter 9 begins with a description of a falling star that was given the key to the Abyss and who released sun-blotting smoke and locusts upon the earth.  While the first four trumpets were from God and from above, this one comes from the depths, from the Abyss.  McGuiggan says that the fallen star with power over the Abyss is Satan, and the imagery fits as monsters emerge from the depths to attack people.  They are not allowed to harm the 144,000 who have been sealed and they are to torture those who are not faithful for five months.  

This trumpet turns many things upside down.  First of all, a plague of locusts (as was seen in Egypt in Exodus 10) would completely destroy plants, crops, trees, and the land while not doing significant harm to people.  However, when the trumpet sounds, these locust-like-monsters torture people while not harming and plant or tree.  Additionally, this situation is exactly the reverse of Luke 10:18-20 where Jesus tells the disciples that he saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven and that he (Jesus) has given the disciples authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome the power of the enemy.  In this woe-filled trumpet, a star falls from heaven and the locusts with scorpion attacks are given power and authority.  Things have gone wrong because of the sinfulness of mankind.  After the five months of locust attacks, the sixth trumpet sounds and four angels were released to kill 1/3 of mankind.

The imagery of judgment is violent and extreme, and yet it remains partial.  After the sixth trumpet is sounded and great violent death comes to 1/3 of mankind, the book will now stop to evaluate whether or not mankind has learned its lesson.  Will they heed the warnings of the trumpets and repent?  Unfortunately they do not.  Those who survived the plagues did not repent but continued in their sin.

There is an important principle that has some connection to this passage.  In Romans 1:24-28 we are told that God punished the Gentile world by “giving them up” to their own sinful desires. Proverbs 14:34 says that entire nations can be brought down by moral depravity.  In this sense, the crime is the punishment.  When we choose sin over God, the greatest punishment that can often be given to us is to be allowed to choose sin over God.  This would be similar to a parent whose child is about to do something wrong or dangerous, who after warning the child to not do that thing, then decides to step back and allow the child to learn from their own mistakes.  Sometimes when we choose sin, God’s punishment is to let us sin.  He turns us over to our own desires.  For nations, this often results in entire generations or cultures being given over to moral depravity and corruption.  It would be difficult to study the fall of the Roman Empire without recognizing the impact that moral depravity had on that once powerful society.  Today, we must recognize that a loss of morality can have be a punishment in and of itself on both ourselves and our society.  (This idea is developed fully in N.T. Wright’s book Simply Christian.)

Is it possible that there are times in our lives that if it were a book, the author could step back as Revelation does at the end of chapter 9 and say, “And yet they did not learn from their mistakes.  They did not repent.  They continued in their sin and foolishness.”

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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Revelation


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Revelation 8 – Trumpets of Woe

Now that we have received the comfort from the sealing of the righteous in chapter 7 we are going to get back to the business of judging in chapter 8.

Hopefully you remember from earlier that there are seven seals that are opened to reveal judgments on the earth, especially those who oppose God and his people.  Behind the seventh seal are seven trumpets and in the seventh trumpet are the seven bowls.  These seals, trumpets, and bowls take up most of the remainder of Revelation.  So, in essence, the seals and what they reveal makes up most of the book.

Beware evil bears! The day of judgment is at hand!

As the trumpets begin to sound, they indicate a great number of trials being brought upon the earth.  The echoes of the 10 Plagues in Egypt can be heard throughout this passage.  Waters turned to blood, hail, destruction of crops, death, the sun and stars darkened.  And yet, each trumpet brings destruction to only 1/3 of whatever is affected.  It’s a partial judgment.  Why are partial judgment and not a full destruction?  These trumpets are warning blasts.  They will ideally provide a wake up call to anybody opposing God and provide them an opportunity to change sides before a greater judgment comes.  In this way, the judgment of God is in its own way a type of grace in that its intent to is get people’s attention and bring them to repentance.  This idea is there in Exodus during the plagues as well.  Several times we are told that God performed those great signs and wonders so that Israel might know that God is God and that the world might know that only God is God.  While it seems that God is pouring out his wrath on Egypt (in Exodus) and Rome (in Revelation), there is a strong implication that part of the reason is to bring about the world’s awareness that God is God.

I have known people in my own life who have been awakened to their own need for repentance and a change in their life by tough times.  Will it work in Revelation?  I guess we will find out tomorrow.  Spoiler alert: It’s not likely.

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Posted by on June 10, 2013 in Revelation


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