Heaven and Earth: Revelation 4-8

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Today’s reading: Revelation 4-8.

Because Jesus is a Lion-like Lamb and a Lamb-like Lion, he has the right to bring the world to an end for the glory of his name and the good of his people. – John Piper

The Revelation swings back and forth through space and time like a cosmic pendulum. Now in heaven, now on earth. Now in the present, now in the future. God’s rule over all these events is the most important lesson for the churches.

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Revelation 5:11-12

In heaven

  • A holy God. God sits on his throne, in a scene that is both present and future, surrounded by elders, angels, and heavenly creatures. No matter what happens, He is in control and waits to receive his saints.
  • The worthy lamb. Who can open the sealed scroll? Who holds the property deed to the world? Who has the authority to dictate what will happen on earth? Only King Jesus, the lion of Judah and the lamb of God.

On earth

  • The four horsemen. The opening of the scroll sets terrible events in motion. The white horse, conquering the world, is most likely the Antichrist. The red horse brings war, the black horse famine, and the pale horse death. These are the birth pangs of the end times as described by Jesus in Matthew 24.

Between heaven and earth

  • The cosmic disturbance. The darkened sun, blood-red moon, and falling stars are further events from Jesus’ description of the end-times, leading to his second coming.

In heaven

  • The multitude from every group of people. These are the saved, the redeemed, those bought by the blood of the lamb. Where are they? In heaven. Where did they come from? From out of the Great Tribulation. Did they arrive before, during, or after the tribulation? Christians disagree, but Jesus says the angels will gather his elect after the cosmic disturbance (Matthew 24). Paul says it will not happen before the man of lawlessness, the Antichrist, is revealed.

On earth

  • The trumpet judgments. With the church removed from the world, God begins to pour out the full measure of his wrath upon the unbelieving world. One third of the earth’s resources are destroyed. Yet the cry from heaven is “Woe, woe, woe” because even greater judgments are coming.

God is going to invade this earth in force. But what’s the good of saying you’re on his side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else, something it never entered your head to conceive comes crashing in. Something so beautiful to us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left. This time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love, or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down, when it’s become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realize it or not. Now, today, in this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever; we must take it or leave it. – C. S. Lewis

The wars and famines predicted in the second and third seals are not unfamiliar events in the history of the world, but never before since the time of Noah has a judgment so devastating been consummated as to destroy one-fourth of the earth’s population at one stroke. – Walvoord

It seems best to say that the seals, trumpets, and bowls that will be described later are not strictly sequential events. Chronologically, the trumpets do not follow the seals and the bowls do not follow the trumpets. The first six seals are “a summary of the judgments distributed over the whole book; a brief summary of what will occur in ‘the day of the Lord,’ up the time of His actual Apocalypse or Unveiling in chapter 19.” (Bullinger) That span begins with the revelation of the Antichrist (the first seal) and it concludes with the revealing of the face of Him who sits on the throne (the seventh seal). – David Guzik

image by slworking2 on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0

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5 thoughts on “Heaven and Earth: Revelation 4-8

  1. It seems best to say that the seals, trumpets, and bowls that will be described later are not strictly sequential events. Chronologically, the trumpets do not follow the seals and the bowls do not follow the trumpets.

    That’s an interesting line of argument – can you expand on it more? The framing of the book always seemed to suggest they were chronological to me – with the last judgment in each sequence kicking off the next.

    (It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference here-and-now either way, of course, but…)

    • Guzik is saying that all these judgments seem to end up at the same place, at the Day of the Lord. However, the trumpet judgments do seem to follow the seal judments according to Revelation 8. They all have an earthquake, though, something else that might link them.

  2. From Thomas Merton’s private journal, March 19, 1958:

    Yesterday, in Louisville, at the corner of 4th and Walnut, suddenly realized that I loved all the people and that none of them were, or, could be totally alien to me. As if waking from a dream — the dream of separateness, of the “special” vocation to be different. My vocation does not really make me different from the rest of men or put me is a special category except artificially, juridically. I am still a member of the human race — and what more glorious destiny is there for man, since the Word was made flesh and became, too, a member of the Human Race!
    Thank God! Thank God! I am only another member of the human race, like all the rest of them. I have the immense joy of being a man! As if the sorrows of our condition could really matter, once we begin to realize who and what we are — as if we could ever begin to realize it on earth.

    Then we read this:

    And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Revelation 5:8

    When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” Revelation 6:9-10

    And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God. Revelation 8:3-4

    Could it be that we are truly all connected, unified by the One that made us all? That there is only an illusion called death that separates us from the saints in heaven? And that at times God has shown us glimpses of the connection, Moses and Elijah appearing with Christ at the transfiguration, the two witnesses of Revelation 11:3, Samuel appearing to Saul, and the saints who rose from the dead in Jerusalem following the Crucifixion. Is this illusory separation why Paul can cry out, “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?”

    How can we grasp this multitude, this seemingly infinite mass of generation upon generation of those in heaven, and those on earth? How can our minds fathom an infinity of endless praise and adoration?

    Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.” Revelation 19:6

    Our prayers rise on billowing wisps of priestly incense. The saints gaze down in a look of both love and yearning for justice. The veil that lies between us seems very thin indeed.

    • I’m thinking of those Egyptian Christians recently martyred by ISIS, and their grieving but faithful families, as I read your comments. We are connected in spirit.

  3. Pingback: Bible Daily Devotional – Heaven and Earth: Revelation 4-8 | ChristianBlessings

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