There is a popular saying: “Its not over till the fat lady sings”. This is an expression based on the perception of Grand Opera, where a stereotypically overweight soprano finishes the with the curtain falling. We will keep using it until the ACLU picks up a defamation suit on behalf of the “Metropolitan Opera Company female employees union” and then we will all stand corrected, no doubt. For the moment, this saying has become a well worn staple expression used by sports announcers and racing fans alike. The idea is clear: It isn’t over until it is over. Don’t quit too soon. Don’t give up when there is more to see.
The problem is, there is a time to give up. There is a time to realize that the path I have been traveling is… well, simply WRONG. When judgment falls like rain on our lives – and we can clearly see it – the sound of the fat lady isn’t far off. Sometimes surrender is the best option… and always up against God it is the best option! Today we won’t hear the fat lady, but we will listen to the blasts of the “Septet of Sadness” – as God brings the curtain slowly down on human history.
Key Principle: The longer I hold on to things that don’t please God the harder it is to release those things – even when it is obvious that I truly need to!
God takes no delight in the judgment of mankind, nor of you and I as individuals. The volume of messages of judgment in the Bible are a testament to the grace of God – He wants us to CHANGE before we face the judgment we have created in our mutiny against His rightful place at the throne of our lives.
So, why don’t we just CHANGE? Well, it isn’t that simple. Like Samson in a dungeon after he played with the power God put within him, we need to realize that sin BINDS. There he stood, tied to two pillars in the Philistine temple. Not only was he bound, but his eyes were put out… because sin blinds. It is that blindness that we encounter in Revelation 8 and 9. This time it isn’t a believer that is blind and bound, but a rebellious planet.
Silence in Heaven
The church is gone now, there is no retaining influence of her statements of morality from bygone days. The Spirit’s use of God’s people is finished. This is a time for the reapers… the angels. They are set loose to push like a second wave into a work that began in the record of Revelation 6. They are reapers – and they aren’t charged with making nice and showing mercy. There were many days for that – just like today – when a man or woman could have chosen to soften and kneel to Jesus… rather than hardening and excusing themselves from response to His gentle call. The stage was all set, and all went quiet and the MAESTRO of Magnificence took His rightly place on the platform to begin direction of another terrible wave of judgment…the room was quiet as He arranged all things for the coming performance.
Revelation 8:1 When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
Why silence in Heaven? Silence seems to be the appropriate response to Divine judgment.
- Psalm 76:8-9 the psalmist wrote, 8 “You caused judgment to be heard from heaven; The earth feared and was still. 9 When God arose to judgment, to save all the humble of the earth..”
- Habakkuk 2:20 declared, 20 “But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.”
- Zephaniah 1:7 declares: 7 “Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is near, for the LORD has prepared a sacrifice, he has (chosen) consecrated His guests.”
- Zechariah 2:13 commands 13 “Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD; for He is aroused from His holy habitation”.
Why silence? The silence in Heaven comes from the acknowledgment of GOD’S ABSOLUTE RIGHT to execute judgment. All arguments are stopped. All petitions are stilled. This is not a day for debate or an argument… this is the appointed day for the dispatching of the reapers and the playing of the trumpets of judgment.
The Septet Sets Up
Listen to the words of the text, as we hear the players of the “Septet of Sadness” from Heaven taking their places and getting set up to play:
Revelation 8:3 Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. 5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake. 6 And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them.
We do not know the identity of this “other angel” in verse three, but no matter. The emphasis is not on his IDENTITY – but on his PURPOSE. The angel was given the incense associated with the smell of prayers in the Hebrew worship of Tabernacle and Temple – and was to mix that incense with the prayers of God’s people already rising from the altar.
What prayers were they?
- These were the prayer of missionaries that wept over the lost of their place, as they were deceived by the wicked one and committed horrid acts at the evil ones bequest.
- These are the prayers of the parents who cried out in searing pain as their children were ripped from their arms and slaughtered because the family followed Jesus.
- These were the prayers for Satan and his minions to be destroyed – and for evil to be trampled by the One who is GREATER within us.
- These were the martyrs prayers for sin to be defeated and their deaths to be avenged.
- They were not prayers for REVENGE… they were prayers for RIGHT. They were agonized cries for Christ to come and save people from the maddening spiral of darkness. These were offered by those who held fast to their faith during trials and tribulations, persecutions and pummelings.
- Anyone who has ever cried out to God in the face of EVIL, anyone who has ever stood alone for Jesus and suffered from the hands of scoffers – their prayer was added to the mix.
Thought it does not say who gave the angel the incense, the verb didomi – translated “was given” – is often used in Revelation to refer to something given by God (as in 6:2,4, 8, 11).
The First Trumpet Solo: Grass and Trees Burned
The time had now come. The silence was about to be broken. The judgment was unleashed anew. Revelation 8:7 The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
The trumpet was truly one of the most significant musical instruments in Scripture. Among the Hebrews, trumpets summoned the people (Num 10:2) called them to war (Num 10:9), announced the commencement of religious feasts (Num 10:10) and on occasion announced news (1 Samuel 13:3). They played the anthem of kings (1 Kings 1:34,39), and were used in the worship of God (1 Chronicles 16:6, 42). Paul reminded us that a trumpet will announce the calling of the Church to God’s prepared banquet hall (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). Here the trumpet is associated with the judgment of God on man. The first trumpet left one third of earth burned and desolate from something that fell from the sky. Whether it came direct from Heaven, or was fired by some men on another at the behest of Heaven’s stirring is not known. What is known is that in the wake of this judgment, much of earth is scortched by the destruction.
The Second Trumpet Solo: Salt water
With the earth smoldering, the second trumpeter plays a new solo part. From Heaven comes the direction for a great volcano to spew into the sea a great flow of sulfur, pyroclastic materials and magma from within the earth’s crust. Revelation 8:8 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, 9 and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed.
The sea was polluted with the flow, and one third of the water of the sea was completely contaminated – with both vessels and marine life destroyed. The LIVING SEAS become the open sore of the ailing earth passing away slowly in judgment. The earth is bleeding out its inner juices and collapsing living systems in the stench and death of its flow.
The Third Trumpet Solo: Wormwood in Fresh water
The fresh water was apparently unaffected by the volcanic flow, but the next trumpeter poisoned that as well. Revelation 8:10 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 waters. 11 The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.
The embittering of the water was like that of Marah when Moses brought the people there, or like Jericho, when God fouled the water to put an endorsement stamp on Elisha. In those cases, God’s man healed the ailing water. In this case, no relief is found. A thirds of the earth’s fresh water is destroyed and people NAME the cause from the Heavens as WORMWOOD. It came from above and polluted fresh water – and that is all we know about it from the text.
The Fourth Trumpet Solo: Darkness
In rapid succession, another soloist comes to the fore. Revelation 8:12 says: “The fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were struck, so that a third of them would be darkened and the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way.”
Darkness. The disruption of the atmospheric heavens by a world that seems to be coming apart at the seams. They barely had time to organize the food efforts to send to the places where the earth was scorched – and a volcano caused catastrophic deaths at sea. Before they could mount a rescue of those another volley from the heavens wiped out fresh water on many places of the earth. Starving, thirsty, angry and alone… many people looked to heaven and saw no mercy… no compassion. They missed all those stories. Heaven didn’t seem to care for them anymore. The God of Creation seemed to forsake them completely…and now they lay in pain with darkness. Nights of darkness. Days when the sun did not shine… they couldn’t take much more. Just when they thought it couldn’t get any worse… Revelation 8:13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!” If you will excuse the poor grammar – This is the sound of YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET!
The Fifth Trumpet Solo: The locust swarm
Revelation 9 unfolds the story of two more trumpet solos of judgment. Truly, during the tribulation period, hell has a holiday. On one particular day you see it more clearly than any other… it is the day when the earth opens up and pressing out from within it are the hoards of warriors of filth. Revelation 9:1 Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him. 2 He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. 3 Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4 They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. 6 And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them. 7 The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. 8 They had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. 9 They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. 10 They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months. 11 They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon. 12The first woe is past; behold, two woes are still coming after these things.
Smart people had enough… they just wanted to die. This was too hard. Darkness, hunger, thirst and the stench of death had all happened before – but this day brought a couple of months of something NEW – a demonic hoard of wounding warriors. Smart people just said, “LET ME DIE!” Unfortunately, then – as now – death isn’t a pleasant negotiator.
The Sixth Trumpet Solo: Angels of death
With all the tragedy and sadness – we are not finished with the bombardment of God on the evil one that stole away His Creation. Revelation 9:13 Then the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, 14 one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15 And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they would kill a third of mankind. 16 The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. 17 And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone. 18A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths. 19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm.
A mighty army was released… and people were slaughtered – one third of the earth. People perished in mass numbers. If this were today, one third of what was left on the earth after the seal judgments would be about another 1.75 million people. Again, all of China and all of the US population together – another round of judgment and endless another pile of bodies.
OK, you say… I get it. Things are really, really bad. People are dying and those who are left are wishing they could join the dead. They keep going, but they are almost broken. That is a fine assumption… but if you look more closely, you will be amazed at the RESILIENCY OF STUBBORNESS and the depth of DEPRAVITY in man: Revelation 9:20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; 21 and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.
Are you kidding me?
They can’t see that it is pointless to cling to EVIL? How can that be? It is because of one truth: The longer I hold on to things that don’t please God the harder it is to release those things – even when it is obvious that I truly need to!
He was a miserable old man. Anyone who knew him could tell you that he was nasty. His hair was thin but unkempt. His breath smelled of strong garlic. His clothing was tattered, and had the distinct odor of moth balls. His teeth were rotting in his head. His face was angry, and the lines of bitterness were etched deeply in his brow. His fingernails were long and yellow. He barked orders at people and literally sounded like an insane babbler. He was one of America’s richest men, but jealousy, anger, suspicion and a course lifestyle had robbed him of any joy. He lay dying, and a very well known preacher came to visit, unsolicited. The preacher told him that God loved him, and that God was ready to welcome him with open arms into His Kingdom –with only the simple request coming from his heart, past his lips. He needed only to ask, and he could receive…. But the man scoffed, and had the preacher removed. He had lived his life on his terms… and he would die on his terms. As he left the preacher only said these words…”That is fine, but on whose terms will you face judgment?”
The Seventh Trumpet Solo: A New Tune is Playing!
In order to finish the seven trumpets, we must skip some verses that we will see in a later study. We have to move all the way to Revelation 11, where the last trumpet player played until a choir responded in a thunderous chorus. This member did not play a brash sound of judgment, nor the sultry sound of the blues… this member of the Septet played a tune that is unlike all the others… It was a worship chorus… and it drew voices into an incredible crescendo of praise! Revelation 11:15 Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. 18 “And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.” 19 And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm.
You see, it doesn’t have to end badly. WE POSSESS RIGHT NOW WITHIN OUR GRASP – A CHANCE TO CHANGE! Those who surrender to God’s power and purpose on earth see His GRACE in this life and will see His GLORY in the next. You don’t have to face judgment over sin – for Jesus took that for any who will trust in Him alone!
Jesus knows that you cannot be GOOD ENOUGH to enter Heaven. The Bible says “there is no one righteous, not even one.” Even if you are a GOOD man or woman – you are not RIGHTEOUS a man or woman – because that standard is set in perfection. The Bible says two things that make the nicest of us pause: First, in Romans 3:23 “..for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”…and second in Romans 6:23: “…the wages of sin is death..”
People may be GOOD, but that isn’t enough for a perfect God – they need to be RIGHT BEFORE GOD. The Word says that righteousness comes only through a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Paul shared it in Philippians 3:7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11i n order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
If there is another way to Heaven, Jesus was wrong when He said: John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. Luke was wrong when he wrote and Peter was wrong when he spoke the message in Acts 4: 12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
The way to Heaven, according to the Bible is very simple, but very difficult. It is simple – because we need not work for it to be acceptable to God. In fact, listen to the Scripture in Romans 10:8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, …the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
Why, then do I say it is DIFFICULT? Because we don’t like to surrender! We want to run our own lives, choose our own friends, make our own schedules, spend our own money and have our own entertainments. Any attempt to get us to yield these things will be met with resistance. The problem is this: the longer I hold on to things that don’t please God the harder it is to release those things – even when it is obvious that I truly need to!