What comes to mind when you think of the end of the world?
Do you think of chaos?
Do you think of death?
Do you think of randomness?
When i think of the end of the world, i often think of things like the zombie apocalypse (thanks to The Walking Dead), or now: COVID-19.
What i often don’t think about is what our passage today describes. Jesus is in control of the end of the world. Isn’t that a beautiful truth?
It means–among other things–that COVID-19 isn’t the end of the world. And if it does end up being the end of the world, it will only be because God uses it for that purpose. And if it is, it means that everyone who is supposed to believe in Jesus will have trusted Christ before the end comes.
These are glorious, encouraging, hopeful truths.
John writes as follows in Revelation 8:1-6,
When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand in the presence of God; seven trumpets were given to them. Another angel, with a gold incense burner, came and stood at the altar. He was given a large amount of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the gold altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up in the presence of God from the angel’s hand. The angel took the incense burner, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it to the earth; there were rumblings of thunder, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.
In Revelation 7, John saw a vision of the entirety of God’s elect being saved. This chapter occurred between Revelation 6 and 8 because before the end of history will be here, all of God’s people will be saved. Now in Revelation 8, Jesus opens the seventh seal (cf. 5:8-9; 6:1) and ushers in the end of human history, as delineated by seven angels of judgment. But before we get to those angels, we must understand the seventh seal.
John starts by describing what he hears in verse 1.
When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
John heard nothing. There is a twofold meaning of this silence.
First, John notes the silence because of what we see in verses 3-5. The prayers of the saints are part of God’s plan to patiently wait to close up the earth’s chronology. This ties in beautifully with what Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:9 about God patiently waiting for all of the elect to be saved before bringing His promised judgment. When we pray for our loved ones to be saved, God hears these prayers. The end has not yet arrived because God is still saving His people through the preaching of the Gospel. This encourages us to pray that they would believe, trusting that God is even sovereignly controlling our prayers to guide history to His appointed end.
Second, John notes the silence because judgment follows this silence. Before 8:1, praise was rampant. The angels and the saints were praising God for who He is and for all He has done. God’s judgment is no light matter, and we must contemplate it with humility. It should not be viewed with joy and excitement. Even though 8:4-5 shows that the saints were partly praying for judgment, when judgment is unleashed, it should make us pause. Hebrews 10:31 tells us that God’s judgment is a terrifying thing. We must not make light of God’s judgment. This is why there is silence for half an hour.
John continues by describing what he sees in verses 2-6. First, John sees that Christ is in sovereign control of everything that happens on earth in verses 2 and 6.
Then I saw the seven angels who stand in the presence of God; seven trumpets were given to them. . . . And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.
The opening of the seventh seal leads to the trumpet judgments. These are terrifying judgments that are described (with a few other visions in-between) until Revelation 11:19. The trumpets describe the end of human history (cf. 11:19 and 16:17-21). The trumpets are blown by seven angels. Seven depicts completeness of judgment, and trumpets represent the announcement of judgment.
We must pay attention to these announcements, lest these judgments take us unawares.
Because the trumpets come out of the seals, all seven trumpets are included in the seventh seal. In John’s vision, the angels only wait for God’s permission to blow their trumpets. (It is a certainty that we have not yet experienced the seventh trumpet, 11:15-19, but for trumpets 1-6, our discussions on the relevant passages will determine if we have experienced those yet or not.) The only thing keeping the seventh trumpet (at least) from blowing, is that God has yet to give that angel permission to blow its trumpet.
Second, John sees that our prayers are intimately included in Christ’s sovereign actions in verses 3-5.
Another angel, with a gold incense burner, came and stood at the altar. He was given a large amount of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the gold altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up in the presence of God from the angel’s hand. The angel took the incense burner, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it to the earth; there were rumblings of thunder, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.
God’s plan is not yet concluded. The angels blow their trumpets when God gives them permission. And until then, we wait patiently, longing for Jesus’ return (cf. 22:20-21). But while we wait, we should be praying. We should be praying that God would bring people to faith and repentance. We should be praying that we live lives that glorify God on earth. We should be praying that God avenges Himself on the wicked.
Yes, you heard me right. I said that. The book of Psalms is clear that the prayers of the saints are incense burned in the presence of God as a soothing aroma (cf. Psalm 141:2). Many other psalms show psalmists praying for the destruction of the wicked (cf. Psalm 5:10). When the angel hurls the incense burner to earth, it is a picture of the prayers of the saints coming to pass on the earth (especially the Holy Spirit inspired prayers in the book of Psalms).
God doesn’t ignore our prayers. He hears us. In His mind-shatteringly-wonderful sovereignty, He has decreed to orchestrate history in line with the prayers of His people. Our prayers don’t just stop at the ceiling. God hears us. And He acts. The end of the world will be an answer to the prayers of God’s people.
But when it comes to the end of the world, i hope that you are on the right side. Every time we see lightning, hear thunder, or feel an earthquake, we should remember that the world has an expiration date, and we don’t know when that might be. Every time we see, hear, or feel one of those, we need to thank God for the “thirty minutes” of silence that He is allowing us to experience before the end.
But if you never have before–trust Jesus with your life.
He died on the cross, taking the judgment Himself for our sins that deserved God’s wrath. If you trust Him, then He paid for your sins, and you will be eternally spiritually safe through any earthly calamity. If you refuse to trust Him, then all you have to look forward to is wrath and judgment from God, as described throughout the book of Revelation.
Trust Jesus today!
In this with you.
Soli Deo Gloria
Thanks for reading.
The next entry can be found here.