Revelation 9: 7-21
The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails with stings, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer).
The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.
The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the four horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number.
The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulphur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulphur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulphur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.
The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshipping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood – idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.
So we have these 7 angels blowing 7 trumpets, and each time they do, it releases a judgement of God upon His enemies.
I don’t have time to go into each one, but these aren't the sort of verses we read to our children before they go to sleep at night. You don’t see fridge magnets with Revelation 8 and 9 on them. It’s the stuff of nightmares.
As the trumpets are blown we see hail and fire, chaos and destruction, pollution and pestilence, darkness and death. Then in chapter 9 we get these 2 images of locusts side by side. I think the first image represents the demonic being released, basically all hell breaking loose, and they afflict and assault those who aren’t sealed by God’s Spirit. The second image, I think, represents a physical army in the first century known as the Parthians who were just across the River Euphrates from the Roman Empire. They posed the greatest threat to Rome’s power, they were the only group that Rome were afraid of. And so God may use them in judgement against those persecuting His people.
So what are we to make of all these judgments? Is God just angry and throwing a fit of rage? Is He intent on just getting revenge on wicked people?
No. Judgement is never an end in itself. The Book of Revelation is not primarily about, nor does not finish with, judgement. It is about God putting things right, God restoring His creation which has been marred and devastated by sin, God acting with perfect justice, mercy and love with ultimate good always as the end result.
Again, we need to always remember that these symbols and images in Revelation aren’t literal – they mean something beyond themselves. There will not be literal angels blowing trumpets and giant locusts with long hair. It’s symbolic trying to tell us something deeper.
So what about these 7 trumpets. What do trumpets mean when we see them in scripture?
“…he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people…”
“Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head.”
Trumpets are a warning. When a trumpet blasts it is designed to do one thing – get people’s attention. Listen up, watch out. Something major is about to happen. It’s a call to action, a time to respond.
Basically these 7 judgements preceded by 7 trumpets are God’s warning signs to the human race. It’s God shouting at them to get their attention – stop going the way you’re going, turn around, repent, you’re running towards a cliff edge but there’s still time.
Imagine right now the fire alarm goes off here in church. It’s a warning. There’s a fire. Get out. But we all just sit here. We’re fine. Then someone comes in from next door and says – there’s a fire – you all need to get out. But still, we like where we are, we’re comfortable, it’s probably a false alarm. So we don’t act. Then someone else comes in and shouts – we’re all going to burn if we don’t get out. But we cover our ears because they’re becoming a nuisance.
Meanwhile the fire is getting hotter, the flames are getting more fierce. Eventually people come in and start to drag us out of the building. We fight against them. Physically resist them. They punch us back to get us to submit, but we fight back still, we will do things the way we want. Eventually we burn to death.
Were those shouting at us and warning us being unloving? Are they acting with anger against us? Is it their fault when we burn?
Of course not! They are actually being the most loving they can be, giving us warning after warning, but by our own rebellion and resistance we refuse to listen. God’s will is for all to repent. All to turn around. All to realise that they need to get ready for His coming.
And He will ultimately do whatever it takes. Even if that means that people go through suffering and pain.
CS Lewis says this:
“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Is God trying to get your attention right now?Is there something He’s telling you to do? Are you hearing Him? Are you listening? Are you obeying? Or are you ignoring?
God will do whatever it takes to get our attention. Not to punish us, but because He loves us and is seeking to draw us to Himself. That’s what these trumpets are about – warning signs, alarms saying: Stop, danger ahead, take action now. It’s God’s method of shock and awe – shock people into listening. Unfortunately, even after all these warnings, people didn’t listen:
Hearts are so hard, rebellion is so deep, people are so set on going their own way and resisting God – that even after every warning, they will not repent. You’d think God would just give up and let them all burn in Hell. But He’s too gracious, too loving, too compassionate. People need to hear the truth, the need their eyes opened, they need to turn from sin. That’s where His people come in. The church. That’s where you and I come in.