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A World of Woes [6-12-22]

Last week, the opening of the seventh seal set up the ominous seven trumpets. That's where we're at today. Verses six through thirteen describe the outbreaks unleashed with the first four trumpets. As we'll see, the first four trumpet blasts usher in a series of natural disasters. These four affect, in order, earth, salt water, fresh water, and sky. As we look at these plagues, here's something you might want to remember:


Here, now, is the wonderful horribleness of Revelation 8:6-13:

Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.

The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon 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.

The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and 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.

The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing 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 people died from the water, because it had been made bitter.

The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night.

Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”

If you remember from verse 1, after the seventh seal is opened, there is

complete silence in heaven. It is a dramatic pause before what is about to happen. The silence is now interrupted by a trumpet blast. What's about to happen are frightening, terrifying, foreboding judgments. Silence is broken in a big way.

As the judgments begin to unfold, I want to take you back to the end of chapter six. As the first six seals are opened, bad things get progressively worse so that, in verse 15, unrepentant people think they can hide themselves from the wrath of God. And then they cry out, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" That question, "Who can stand?" is now answered in a graphic and violent way.

While there is some restraint of the wrath and containment of the damage done - remember what I asked you to remember earlier - the situation for the unrepentant goes from bad to worse. Or, as I like to say, it gets worser.

What now unfolds are literal, physical judgments on the earth. In the Bible,

the pouring out of fire is always a sign that judgment is about to break out. After the first trumpet, among other things, fire is thrown upon the earth. But as bad as this is going to be…and we cannot emphasize this enough… the purpose is to lead people to repentance.

So a third of the earth is burned up, as are a third of the trees and all green grass. This is not good. Bad results to follow. Can you imagine a world where a third of the trees are burned up? A third of the forests… gone. And the language used for "green grass," encompasses all kinds of vegetation, including grass and things that sprout and spore. So what are the grazing animals going to do? How will bees and butterflies survive? These kinds of things keep our food chain going strong. But without them, what?

Think, also, about the loss of watershed and raw material for shelter for the surviving people and animals. No wonder the unrepentant cried out, "Who can stand?"

A third of everything is scorched. And this judgment is just. Who would question God's righteous wrath for human sin? As Paul says in Romans 1:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Already, with the first trumpet, we are seeing a lot of death and destruction. And any recoiling we might have against all that death and destruction plays right into a major point John makes.

The death and destruction is because people commit cosmic treason against God's holiness. He is full of mercy and grace, yet people insist on going their own way. Paul makes that point throughout Romans. What matters most isn't when or where or how people die. It's whether when someone dies they accepted the Lordship of Jesus Christ over their lives or rejected it. That is what matters most, because it matters for eternity. It means either eternally in the presence of God or eternally separated from God. And so, as one commentator puts it, "the idea that life on earth is so infinitely precious that the death which robs us of it must be the ultimate tragedy is precisely the idolatry that John is trying here to combat." {Caird}

This first warning is meant to lead people to repentance.

But human nature being what it is, there is no repentance. So the next trumpet brings disaster to a third of all things salty.

The first trumpet dealt with land. The second, with saltwater. God is judging another point when rebellious people have rejected giving God the glory and honor and praise for His provision. We can go on and on about the blessings of the sea and still not exhaust the list. Food. And at least half of the earth's oxygen comes from the ocean. Plus shipping, for getting essential cargo from one place to another. And in a moment, boom, one-

third of it gone.

Again, remember…the purpose is to warn and to lead to repentance.

The third trumpet is also about water, but this time, it's fresh water. In the original Greek, an asteros megas falls from the heavens. This is absolutely devastating. Who can survive without fresh water? In the pantheon of survival needs, fresh water ranks second. On average, we can survive three minutes without oxygen, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Fascinating that, while we are so dependent upon water, how many people reject its Creator.

By this third trumpet we gain Biblical clarity on the wickedness of human nature. As these calamities progress, hearts continue to harden. People still won't repent. If by this third trumpet people still will not turn to God, how can you say anything but that their hearts are indeed hard?

I remember what happened after the attacks of September 11. I mean,

people poured into churches and other religious institutions. But it wasn't

long before things returned to normal. For many Americans, it was less repentance and a longing for God than a need for temporary shelter from a passing storm.

The name of the star, translated as "Wormwood," is from the Greek word apsinthos. Do you hear it? That's where we get the word from the uber-strong liquor, absinthe. In its strongest form, "Wormwood" is a deadly poison. As a side note, C.S. Lewis named one of his devils in The Screwtape Letters "Wormwood." The waters run with deadly poison.

We can't help but think here about an encounter Jesus had with a woman at a well in John 4:

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

What an amazing contrast we have here. Those who cling to their wickedness and rebellion drink from deadly water. But those who cling to Jesus Christ have living water.

Finally, the fourth trumpet. We can understand how, thousands of years ago, primitive people probably freaked out when there was a solar eclipse. Perhaps that fearful panic contributed to the cult of human sacrifice that was practiced in some ancient civilizations.

We've dealt with land, salt water, fresh water, and now we look up. It's not a bird…it's not a plane…but it's some sort of super-blackout. The absolute darkness would be more terrifying than an eclipse of any kind. Can you imagine the additional devastation from total darkness for one-third of

daylight hours? What vegetation that survived the earlier disasters are now

stressed beyond belief. But remember, these four trumpets of wrath are temporary. They are saying to unbelievers…remember those who cried out who can be saved…they are a warning designed to lead to repentance. Here's one last thing you might want to write down:


That's where we're going to end. We will pick things up with verse 13:

Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”

If you are not a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, things are definitely going to get worse. The eagle's cry is bad news for unrepentant sinners. But for followers of Christ, this story is designed to comfort and strengthen us. As Jesus promises in Luke 21:25-28:

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Let's pray:

Heavenly Father, we thank You that You have broken down our resistance to the forgiveness we have been offered in Jesus Christ. There is no judgment for those who are in Christ. We thank You that we can look forward to the coming day of judgment without fear. And we pray that You make that a reality to every heart in rebellion against Your grace and mercy. Like us, may they flee to Christ. We thank You for the free gift of salvation. In Jesus' name. Amen.

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