Judgment and the (New) Creation

The first entry in this series can be found here.
The previous entry can be found here.

It’s been way too long since i did one of these posts.

The previous one was posted April 7, 2020, only three and a half weeks after we were first told that it would take two weeks to flatten the curve. So much has changed in my life since that day, but the fact of the matter remains:

Jesus Reigns!

His blood saves. His blood renews. His blood redeems.

If you’ve never trusted Him before, i pray that you read this post until the end and come to trust in Him. And if you have trusted Him before, i pray that reading this post might encourage you to strengthen your trust in Him (especially in this most weird time in which we are living).

(I’d usually use this time to come up with some creative, clever tie-in to the passage under discussion, but today i just want to jump right in.)

John writes as follows in Revelation 8:7-12,

The first ⌊angel⌋ blew his trumpet, and hail and fire, mixed with blood, were hurled to the earth. So a third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.  The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain ablaze with fire was hurled into the sea. So 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, blazing like a torch, fell from heaven. It fell on a third of the rivers and springs of water.  The name of the star is Wormwood, and a third of the waters became wormwood. So, many of the people died from the waters, because they had been made bitter.  The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day was without light, and the night as well.

Today’s passage could easily be twisted to refer to current events. Fire, disease spread by water, and darkness. However, as i have repeatedly emphasized throughout our time in Revelation, this book is not a roadmap for the times as much as it is an unveiling of Jesus Christ.

Sure, we have a genre of movies, TV shows, and books around these days known as apocalyptic, which is usually synonymous with destruction, disease, and death, but that is not at all what John means in Revelation. The book’s title is in 1:1, and literally says:

Ἀποκάλυψις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ
“[The] Apocalypse of Jesus Christ.”

The foremost Greek Lexicon gives the following, primary, definition for “Apocalypse”:

making fully known, revelation, disclosure

William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 112.

The entry goes on to say that for Revelation 1:1, it refers to “revelations of a particular kind, through visions . . . of the author.”

However, what are the vision’s primary goal?

It tells us in 1:1. It is the Revelation–the apocalypse, the “making fully known,” or unveiling–of Jesus Christ. At the end of the day, the most important thing to be learned from the book of Revelation is not the identity of the antiChrist or the timeline of the end of the world. The most important thing to be learned is: Who is Jesus Christ and how is He sovereign over world history?

As such, let’s see how Jesus is revealed in Revelation 8:7-12.

When it comes to understanding any of these trumpet judgments, it is important to remember what preceded these verses: In verses 3-4, we saw that the prayers of the saints were offered to God before this judgment takes place. As such, it is sensible to understand these judgments as God’s answer to the prayers of His people.

John describes the first trumpet in verse 7.

The first ⌊angel⌋ blew his trumpet, and hail and fire, mixed with blood, were hurled to the earth. So a third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.

What we see in the first trumpet judgment is that the earth is judged. More specifically–the dry ground is judged. The earth, the trees, and the grass are burned. This is very interesting.

In Genesis 1:9-13, Moses describes the third day of creation. This is the day in which dry ground appeared. Not only did dry ground appear, but so did the plants and the trees. As such, what we see in the first trumpet is judgment on the earth. (No people are said to suffer here, so the focus is on the created order.)

Note, as well, that in this section it constantly refers to a third. The seal judgments (especially the fourth one) referred to a fourth. This seems to indicate that the closer we get to the return of Jesus Christ, the more serious and visible the judgment of God will be.

John describes the second trumpet in verses 8-9.

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

What we see in the second trumpet judgment is that the sea is judged. Again, we must turn to Genesis.

In Genesis 1:6-8, Moses describes the second day of creation, when God separated the sky from the sea. In Genesis 1:20-23, Moses described the fifth day of creation, when God created the sea creatures and birds. As such, what we see in the second trumpet judgment is judgment against the sea and the things in the sea. (Again, no people are explicitly said to suffer here, so the focus is still on the created order.)

John describes the third trumpet in verses 10-11.

The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from heaven. It fell on a third of the rivers and springs of water.  The name of the star is Wormwood, and a third of the waters became wormwood. So, many of the people died from the waters, because they had been made bitter.

At this point, the people start to suffer. We should note that this can’t be understood literally, because how could one meteor fall on a third of all the rivers in the world and not utterly destroy the world? And the Left Behind answer doesn’t help either: The government blows it up with a missile and pieces fall on a third of all rivers and lakes. I’m sorry. There’s something more going on here, but i have no clarity on what it might be at this time. I just know it cannot be understood literally.

Also worth noting is that God’s people aren’t explicitly protected from this plague. When we get to the fifth and sixth trumpets we will see God protecting His people, but here, they suffer lack of clean drinking water, just like everyone else. We need to be careful what we wish for as Christians, because we just might end up getting more than we bargained for. (Remember, these trumpet judgments are a result of the prayers of the saints [cf. 6:9-11; the fifth seal].)

John describes the fourth trumpet in verse 12.

The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day was without light, and the night as well.

What we see in the fourth trumpet judgment is that the heavens are judged. And yet again, we must turn to Genesis.

In Genesis 1:14-19, Moses describes the fourth day of creation, when God created the heavenly bodies. This judgment–like the first two trumpets–is against the created order, not people. As such, through the first four trumpets we see the earth, the sea, and the sky experience the judgment of God.

In the midst of this judgment, we see that people are suffering from terrible living conditions and lack of clean water. As such, as people see God strike creation–in any of the multitude of ways He can and has throughout time (including COVID-19), they should be led to turn toward Jesus, especially as they are getting sick and dying themselves. But, as it stands, we don’t see anything of the sort. In fact, by the end of the sixth trumpet, we learn that people just harden themselves more and more against God’s grace, bringing further judgment on themselves.

Don’t fight against God any longer! Let’s be a repentant generation! Not a generation that continues in hardness of heart and rampant sin and wickedness!

Jesus died on the cross for sinners like us. He did. He died for idolaters, murderers, the sexually immoral–no matter your preference–liars, thieves, and worse. He took the wrath of God so we wouldn’t have to.

There’s a fascinating verse in Romans 8:

For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility —not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it —in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now.

Romans 8:19–22

“Set free from the bondage.” This is a synonym for “redeemed.”

How was redemption achieved?

By the blood of Jesus.

I skipped over two little phrases in the first two trumpets. Blood was hurled to the earth, and “a third of the sea became blood.” There’s really no logical explanation for this event

Unless…

It’s a symbolic, figurative way to show that the created order was redeemed. The created order is judged, but in the midst of that judgment is a reminder of future redemption. Christ’s blood redeems humanity and the created order. This is a precursor to the final, ultimate redemption of the world we see in Revelation 21:1.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed.

Revelation does not teach that spiritual is better than physical. It teaches that the physical has been marred by sin, but that God is in the restoration business. We will not sit on clouds playing harps all day for eternity. God will restore the earth, removing sin finally and completely, and we will enjoy a physical eternity with God and each other in perfect peace and love.

I long for this day!

Do you?

If so, place your faith in Him today! He died on the cross, shedding His blood for the redemption of all those who place their faith in Him. And according to Romans 8, that includes creation.

Don’t let the created order trust God better than a rational human being!

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Solus Christus
Sola Scriptura

Thanks for reading.

The next entry can be found here.

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