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Announcing God's Plagues (2)

Revelation 8:10-13
The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water – the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter. The fourth angel sounded 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 turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night. As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in mid-air call out in a loud voice: 'Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!' (NIVUK)

Two trumpets have already been sounded in heaven (Revelation 8:6-9). Like heralds in a royal court, the trumpets are the command for the unleashing of God's wrath on a rebellious world. The first trumpet signalled a huge eruption of the earth belching out its contents into the sky and searing the earth as it fell, burning everything in its path. The second was a massive disruption of the sea. Through them, a third of the earth was consumed, a third of the sea lost its living creatures, and a third of the ships transporting the world's cargo, making a living by fishing or cruising for pleasure, were lost.

This third episode of judgement appeared to come from outside of the world. Its description is unlike anything we have known but not dissimilar to the predictions of scientists who talk about the inevitability of a gigantic asteroid impact on the earth which, they think, could eliminate life on the planet. Or it could be the effect of nuclear warfare. The text says that a third of the water sources were contaminated – like when the Nile was turned to blood (Exodus 7:20-21) - but through drinking the water of this apocalyptic judgement, many people would die.

The fourth trumpet announces darkness, like the plague in Egypt (Exodus 10:21-23). The imagery is difficult to grasp. Some cosmic event is identified affecting the light from the sun and the moon, but darkness would only cover a third of the planet. That would be bad enough, but another voice calls out to the people on earth that the next set of divine actions would be far worse. In all there are seven trumpets, but the last one is to give glory to God in heaven. There are therefore six announcements of escalating doom, for humanity to hear and experience.

Why does God plan such terrible experiences for the end of time? Romans 2:4-5 says, "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realising that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed." You might imagine that when these natural, cosmic or even nuclear events take place, people will realise their vulnerability and throw themselves on God's mercy. But when people believe that they are in charge of their own destiny and refuse to submit to God, their hearts become harder – proving that they are very much opposed to their Creator (Romans 1:18-21). And God compounds that hardness (Romans 9:18). So, as Hebrews 3:13 says, "… encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today', so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." This is important because the church will be shaken and there will be some who do not stand firm to the end (Matthew 10:22). We must be prepared to stand firm in Christ.

God of kindness and wrath. Thank You for revealing Yourself to me, that I have come to trust Jesus as my Saviour and be sheltered in Him whatever may happen. Forgive me for the times I am proud and arrogantly assume that I have the right to chart my own course through life. Please give me a soft and submissive heart to hear and obey Your commands, so that I may be prepared to stand in Christ through everything. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams