THE BOOK OF REVELATION
THE CHURCH'S TRIUMPH THROUGH CHRIST
Sermon #33 - The Seventh Seal - The Prelude to the Seven Trumpets
INTRODUCTION - We begin a new chapter of Revelation this morning, with a new seal on the scroll to be broken. With the first six seals broken, everything is set in place of the judgment of Jerusalem. Christ is the one breaking the seals, bringing forth the blessings and curses of His New Covenant. The first century church would recognize the events of the first six seals, realizing that it is Christ who is behind them. The first four seals mark the wars and devastations of the first century. The fifth seal spoke about the martyrs of that day. Finally, the sixth seal insured the protection of the church before the coming Great Tribulation against apostate Israel. All of this is first century history, as Revelation becomes a book of encouragement and hope for the church under persecution. When the seventh seal is broken, a new progression takes place. Seven angels come forth and they will carry out the judgment of Christ upon Jerusalem. With the breaking of the seventh seal -
1) THERE IS ABSOLUTE SILENCE IN HEAVEN - Revelation 8:1 - Up to this point, the book has been full of noise, the noise of worship. Cherubim and angels have been singing. The praise of God's people sounds like "many waters" roaring. Now everything is suspended in heavenly awe. Why?
A) SOMETHING INCREDIBLY MOMENTOUS IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN - Everything has been leading up to this point. Everything is ready for the judgment of apostate Israel. The Jews of Christ's day will meet their doom in the overthrow of Jerusalem. Due to this event, all of heaven pauses in holy silence. It is like the silence before a great tidal wave, or a destructive storm.
B) THE SILENCE IS DUE TO THE ACTIVITY OF GOD AND CHRIST - As the Father and Son prepare for battle, judgment is to be trembled at. The fear of the Lord is present and heaven is suspended in this awe. So, the Scriptures describe this silence before the Lord: "Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for He is aroused from His holy habitation!" (Zechariah 2:13; see also Habbakuk 2:20 and Psalm 46:10). When God is aroused, no one dares to say a word! His presence in judgment will cause all men to be silent before Him as He goes forth to battle.
C) THE SILENCE IS DUE TO THE CHURCH'S ANTICIPATION OF THE WORK OF GOD AND CHRIST - The first century church has been praying. They have been going through great trial and tribulation. Many have lost their lives in the persecutions. Will God forsake His people? Will He leave their blood unavenged? Will the Lord not come forth against His enemies? With the breaking of the seventh seal, the early church would see that Christ would not be mocked by the apostate Jews. Thus, in silent hope, the church looks expectantly at the coming judgment and vengeance.
D) IT IS A SILENCE WHICH IS BROKEN BY THE PRAYERS OF THE SAINTS - It should fascinate us to realize, as we go further in the text, that the next noise we hear will be God and Christ's wrath being poured on the earth through the intercession of the saints! As the church has prayed, so God will act, and the resulting actions are "noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake," judgment brought about through Christian prayer.
2) THE SEVEN ANGELS AND THE SEVEN TRUMPETS - Revelation 8:2 - Seven angels is a favorite theme of John's and the number along with the angels bring a unity to the entire book. There are seven angels over the seven churches (chapters 2-3), seven seals (chapters 4-8), seven angels with trumpets (chapters 8-14) and seven angels with seven bowls of wrath (chapters 15-22). Trumpets were used for a variety of reasons in the Old Testament. They were blown to bring the people of God together, to move them on their journeys, to sound an alarm in time of war, to celebrate sacred days and feasts, to bring in the new year, and to crown kings. A significant event in the life of Israel was the taking of the city of Jericho. Seven priests blew seven trumpets as they walked around that city seven times (Joshua 6:4). God once used trumpets to bring down this pagan city. Now, with seven trumpets blown by heavenly messengers, He will bring down His own city of Jerusalem.
3) THE INTERCESSORY AND IMPRECATORY PRAYERS OF THE SAINTS - It is really the prayers of the saints which are the focal point of the unleashing of God's wrath. The judgment of God through the seven trumpets should be understood as it relates to the prayers of the first century church.
A) THE PRAYERS OF THE SAINTS ARE MIXED WITH HEAVENLY INCENSE BEFORE GOD RECEIVES THEM - The action of the angel in verses 3 and 4 tells us that the prayers of the saints must be aided or permeated by incense before they are acceptable to God. This might very well be a picture of the intercessions of Christ, mixed with the prayers of His people, thus making them acceptable in God's presence. Certainly any of our offerings whether prayer or worship, must be made acceptable through the Lord Jesus Christ (I Peter 2:5). Only then will they be received by God. The prayers are represented as burning incense, burned and its smoke rising up into the air, rising into the presence of God.
B) GOD HEARS THE PRAYERS OF HIS PERSECUTED PEOPLE - The picture would be a great comfort to the early church. They were continually crying to God in their trials and persecutions. God saw their sufferings and heard their cries, thus, He is moved to action by this distress. He will never leave the church to perish. So we should derive great hope for ourselves in times of distress for the Lord does not sleep, nor does He forget us, but always hears the Christ-sanctified prayers of His troubled people.
C) WHAT ARE THE PRAYERS OF THE FIRST CENTURY CHURCH? - What were they asking for? Why does God respond to these prayers with wrath and judgment upon the church's enemies? We have a good idea of the prayers of the church when we read Revelation 6:9-11. As the martyrs cry out for vengeance, they are asking God to vindicate His holiness and truth upon those who spilled the blood of the people of God. This would certainly reflect the prayers of the early church saints, and it also is the reason why God reacts to these prayers with judgment upon Israel.
There is great irony in this entire passage. In Jerusalem, in the first century, you would have found apostate Israel thinking they were worshipping God in the Temple, offering up sacrifice and burning incense to the Lord. Yet Christ has made a point of showing that Jerusalem and the Temple are finished, the true Temple is the people of God, and the true prayers are those offered by His saints. As you read verse 5, you realize that it is the prayers of the saints which have inaugurated Jerusalem's fall. The true incense of Christian prayer, burned in the heavenly sanctuary, is what will bring Christ's wrath against the old Temple, and the false incense and worship of apostate Israel.
4) HOW TO PRAY FOR RIGHTEOUS VENGEANCE - It is one of the promises of Scripture that God will avenge His people. We sing of this in Psalms and it is part of the prayers of God's people (Luke 18:7). How, then, are we to do this properly, without resorting to unrighteous anger?
A) THE EARLY CHURCH PRAYED AGAINST APOSTATE ISRAEL - In their pride, apostate Israel thought they were God's people. Thus, they persecuted the church. Yet the church, in her cries of suffering to God brought condemnation on fallen Israel. So, when we cry out under unjust persecution, God will avenge His people.
B) WE PRAY FOR VENGEANCE WHEN WE ASK FOR THE CHURCH TO BE RENEWED - So much of the church today has fallen into worldliness. The enemies of God have entered the holy sanctuary and it is through our prayers that God will destroy them.
C) WE PRAY FOR VENGEANCE WHEN WE ASK CHRIST TO CONQUER HIS WORLD - The world belongs to the Lord. When we pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," we are calling upon God to subdue the rebellious hearts of men. The world is filled with darkness. We may not see any converts in our gospel preaching. Thus, we are to pray to God, to break hardened hearts and destroy the strongholds of Satan.
D) WE PRAY FOR VENGEANCE WHEN WE PRAY AGAINST OUR OWN SINS - We cry out, asking God to fight our own wills and desires, so that we might be subdued and holy.
E) WE PRAY FOR VENGEANCE WHEN SINNERS PRAY FOR SALVATION - If you are not a Christian, pray that Christ may save you, and by this, realize that your heart will come into a great battle with the Lord. He must come and subdue you, overthrow you, yet pray for this, and you will know the grace and mercy of the Lord.