Revelation 8:6-11:18: The Seven Trumpets

 

Introduction Part 1

Biblical Context of the Seven Trumpets

In the death and resurrection of Christ, evil was defeated. After the resurrection, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and earth was given to me” (Matthew 28:18) and a new creation was born.

 

Then, after Christ’s ascension, the church was created and empowered for a global mission with the arrival and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The church’s mission? To worship God and do God’s will on earth as it is done in heaven. In other words, the church is to be the symbol and sign of the new creation Christ inaugurated.

 

But carrying out that mission in the idolatrous Roman Empire carries great risk. With the idolatries of controlling power and greed, injustice reigns. The old creation appears to be in control. That reality raises a pressing question for those who suffer under Roman oppression. In his vison of heaven, John hears the souls of those who have suffered at the hands of Rome. They have died and now cry out their pressing question. John writes,

9I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given; 10they cried out with a loud voice, ‘Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?’ (Rev 6:9-10)

 

It’s the same question those suffering under oppression ask in every generation: How long will this injustice last? When will it be held accountable? When will it be stopped? The Seven Trumpet section answers this question. In the answer, we see God’s great love for the world – both the human and non-human creation. We will also see the church’s strategic calling in the face of oppression and injustice.

 

Time Frame: Revelation’s Primary Focus

As we see in chapters 2 and 3, Revelation is addressing the injustices of the first century Roman Empire. In chapters 21 and 22, Revelation affirms that the new creation Christ created through his death and resurrection will be fully realized on earth at the end time. But the primary focus of Revelation is the span of time between Christ’s resurrection and the completion of the new creation. So, it’s not at all surprising that Revelation puts the important question, “How long?” on the table.

 

This period of time is symbolized as 3 ½ years. As we learned, time in Revelation is never literal time as we understand it. Numbers are always symbolic in apocalyptic writing. 3 ½ is half of 7. 7 represents “completeness,” so 3 ½ represents “incomplete.”  And we see this incomplete time described in three ways, each of which highlights incompleteness. These ways are as follows:

  • 42 months—in the ancient world a month was 30 days (11:2; 13:5)
  • 1,260 days—42 months times 30 days/month is 1,260 days. (11:3; 12:6)
  • A time, times, and a half time (one year, a pair of years, and ½ year equals 3 ½ years; (12:4); is taken from Daniel 7:25; 12:7. In the ancient world a year was 360 days (360 x 3.5 = 1,260).

In Revelation, the same length of time (3 ½ years) is linked to four different visions: the measured temple (Rev 11:1-2), the two witnesses (11:3-13), the woman and the dragon (12:1-17), and the beast from the sea (13:1-10).  Linking these four visions to the same length of time suggests that we are looking both at the same time frameand the same issues from different camera angles. 

 

Misreading the Seven Trumpets

Many people have misread the Seven Trumpet section of Revelation. They have read it as a prediction of how God, in anger, will destroy the world. They link the disasters described in these chapters to current events. They identify current events they assume are “predicted” in Revelation. Then on the basis of their assumptions, they predict that the end, the destruction of the world, is coming soon. But it’s hard to understand how the prediction of events two thousand years later would actually benefit the first century church.

 

Introduction Part 2: John’s Amazing Skills as a Narrator

Narrative Links: Weaving the Narrative Together

We are in the longest section of the book of Revelation extending from 6:1 to 19:10. In chapters 6 through 16, we see three series of sevens:  seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls. How does John link this long section together?

 

Each of these series is linked to the vision in Revelation 4 of God on the throne of heaven. The link is the phrase that describes what emanates from the throne in Revelation 4:5, namely, “lightning and rumblings and thunder.” This is a phrase used in the Hebrew scriptures (e.g. Exodus 19:16-19) to indicate a theophany, in other words, the presence of God.

 

At the end of each of the series of sevens, this phrase is repeated and expanded in the following ways:

In Heaven Revelation 4:5 “lightning and rumblings and thunder” 
After the seals Revelation 8:5 “thunder, rumblings, lightning and an earthquake”
After the trumpets Revelation 11:9 “lightning, rumblings, thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail”
After the bowls Revelation 16:18-21 lightning, rumblings, thunder, violent earthquake. . . huge hailstones”

This phrase serves two purposes:

  1. It indicates that God is present throughout this time span from Christ’s ascension to his second coming. Regardless of how things appear on the ground, God is present guiding his creation to the destiny he has indicated since the Garden of Eden.
  2. The arc of God’s work in this time span is the same as God’s work in the Exodus. God is freeing both human and nonhuman creation from the oppressive injustice of empire.

Narrative Perspectives: Different Camera Angles of the Same Time Frame

As we move through this long section, it is important to state that the seven seals, trumpets and bowls series are not linearthey are not a sequential story that unfolds over time. Each of these series of seven is looking at the same time frame, namely, the time from the resurrection of Christ until the his second coming. What we are seeing is, as it were, different camera angles on this same span of time. The three cycles give us different perspectives on what is happening. These different perspectives are a treasure—a resource given to empower the church living in the oppression of empire.

 

Narrative Location: Alternates between Heaven and Earth—A Spiral Effect

As you read through this section, observe whether John’s focus is heaven or earth. You’ll see that John is moving the narrative back and forth between the two. Craig Koester illustrates this movement as a spiral where events in heaven are the top of the spiral and events on earth are at the bottom. Here is the spiral image in his book:[1]

 

HEAVEN

EARTH

 

Why is John spiraling back and forth? As Koester observes, John is using both heaven and earth to reinforce the same message. What is that message? Trust God. Koester writes:

With increasing intensity the visions at the bottom of the spiral threaten the reader’ssense of security by confronting them with horsemen that represent conquest, violence, hardship, and death; by portents in heaven, earth, and sea; and by seemingly insuperable adversaries who oppose those who worship God and Christ. Nevertheless, each time the clamor of conflict becomes unbearable, listeners are transported into the presence of God, the Lamb, and the heavenly chorus. These visions appear at the top of the spiral. Threatening visions and assuring visions function differently, but they serve the same end, which is that listeners might continue to trust in God and remain faithful to God. Revelation is designed to unmask false sources of security while beckoning readers to join the heavenly host in singing praises to God and the Lamb [italic-by das].[2]

 

Narrative Pace: Alternates Between Rapid Events and Pause

The pace of the events described in 8:6-9:21 is breath-taking. The events of any one verse are overwhelming! Each verse is a fire-hose of earth-shattering events. And this fast pace continues verse after verse in John’s description of the first six trumpets. Then, in 10:1-11:14, before the last trumpet sounds, the action stops! Why? This stop in the action would have been shocking when Revelation was read aloud in its entirety in worship.

 

John is using pauses to make a point. He’s saying to the church, “This is what I want you to focus on.” And what is that? We are to focus on what John draws our attention to when the fast paced action stops.

 

Let’s go back to the Seven Seals. We saw this same stop in the action after the sixth seal. The entire chapter of Revelation 7 is a pause in the action. What is John’s focus in that pause? In spite of their suffering, the church, a countless multitude from every nation, is protected by God and the Lamb.

 

What is John’s focus in the Seven Trumpets? In the narrative pause in chapters 10 and 11, John focuses our attention on what is most important for the church as we live through such events in our world. What is most important is our call to be prophetic witnesses for Christ in word and deed.

 

Notice that Revelation is not a message about removing the church from God’s battle with evil. In both the Seven Seals and the Seven Trumpets, John is highlighting the church’s vitally important role. And that role is to be witnesses for Christ by enacting justice. We are to be the hands and feet of Christ. We are to discern and embody the life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit. As we will see, God will use the church’s witness as he removes evil from the world he created.

 

Introduction Part 3: An Overview of the Seven Trumpets

Why Trumpets?

Of course, the trumpet in the ancient world predates the trumpets we see in bands and orchestras today. The trumpet in the ancient world is the shofar made from a ram’s horn. As the loudest sound a human could make, it captured people’s attention.

 

In the Old Testament, the trumpet is used to sound the alarm of God’s coming judgment (see Joel 2:1). When God’s people cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land, they immediately are confronted by the fortified city of Jericho (Joshua 6:2-21). At God’s command, the army marches around the city wall each day for six days. The priests follow. They carry the Ark of the Covenant and sound the trumpets. On the seventh day, they circle the city seven times, sound the trumpets and shout. Then the walls of Jericho come crashing down.

 

Parallels with the Plagues in Egypt: Injustice Creates Chaos in Human and Nonhuman Creation

Revelation is such a strange book to our ears. It’s so different from 95% of the rest of the New Testament. We assume John created it out of nowhere. But we’ve seen over and over that the vast majority of the content of Revelation is rooted in the Old Testament. We see it again in this trumpet section. Notice the similarities between the plagues in Egypt and the sounding of the trumpets:

Trumpet Plague Parallel in Egypt
1st – 8:7 hail, fire

7th plague – hail, fire

2nd – 8:8-9 blood

1st plague – blood

3rd – 8:10-11 bitter water no parallel
4th – 8:12 darkness

9th plague – darkness

5th – 9:1-11 locusts            8th plague – locusts
6th – 9:13-21 army no parallel
7th – 11:15-19 storm no parallel

What might these parallels be telling us? Recall that Pharaoh enslaved the people of Israel and when they complained, he initiated genocide against them by ordering the killing of boy babies.  Through Moses, God told Pharaoh to set the slaves free. Not surprisingly, Pharaoh refused to surrender free labor – the economic engine of his country. After Pharaoh refused to end his addiction to slavery, the plagues fell upon Egypt. God created humankind and the nonhuman environment. Both are connected to God, the Creator, and therefore to each other—designed to coexist in a world that reflects God’s justice. As we see repeatedly in the Bible and in our world today, when humans perpetrate injustice, the nonhuman world is violated. 

 

God’s Judgment Manifests Itself in Moral Order: Actions Have Consequences

God created people to image, that is, reflect who God is. As they do that, the Garden of Eden will experience the very care of its Creator. But rather than listening to God, Adam and Eve follow the prompting of the Serpent.

 

Another way of saying this is that God created the universe to have moral order. “Moral order” is not about morality. Moral order means that God has set up the world in such a way that actions, whether just or unjust, have consequences. Adam and Eve’s willful act violates each of them and their marriage. But their act of injustice—consuming the fruit God forbid them to eat, violates themselves, their marriage and creation itself. They each experience shame, they blame one another, and the earth turns hard. Weeds grow and childbirth is a labor. This theme of moral order extends from Genesis to Revelation.

 

When humans perpetrate injustice toward other humans, the non-human creation is violated too. Cain kills his brother, Abel. Innocent blood is shed and spilled on the ground. God responds, “Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:11-12). In killing his innocent brother, Cain’s act of injustice violated the ground such a way that it will no longer produce crops for Cain, a tiller of the ground.

 

When God creates a covenant with Israel, creating a community of justice and shalom in contrast to Pharaoh’s Egypt, God tells the freed slaves, “You shall keep all my statues and all my ordinances, and observe them, so that the land to which I bring you to settle in may not vomit you out” (Leviticus 20:22). God calls for the people he created to act with justice and compassion toward one another, toward the vulnerable powerless (refugees, widows and orphans), and toward God’s non-human creation (Exodus 20:1-22:19).

 

We need to see the link between human injustice and ecological brokenness. But it is important to see that God is not punishing with that judgment. Judgement happens because of moral order, not because God has an anger problem. God does not lash out at Pharaoh in a fit of anger. The plagues are God’s judgment, part of the moral order of creation. The plagues hold Pharaoh accountable for injustice andprovide a motivation for Pharaoh to repent, that is, to stop oppressing the Hebrews and start acting in ways that build justice and shalom. After each plague, God gives Pharaoh an opportunity to repent. Pharaoh never does.

 

And that reality, namely, the link between human injustice and ecological brokenness, is an important theme in the seven trumpets.

 

In the seven trumpets, the parallelism with the plagues shows us that the trumpets demonstrate moral order and God’s judgment in the same way. The plagues are calling for repentance. They sound the  message that ultimately, in the world God created and over which God and the Lamb rule, there is no future in exploiting and oppressing others. Pharaoh, Rome, and all empires who oppress the powerless will experience God’s judgment.

 

Plagues Will Not Change Society

As we will see, the plagues described in this section link to events in Roman history that first century Christians would have recognized. However, the disaster described in the trumpet section goes far beyond what actually happened. Why? What is John saying?

 

Moral order is real. Actions have consequences. God judges oppression. The purpose of God’s judgement is that people who oppress would repent. John is giving us a parable. He’s saying that even IF God were to multiply judgement, there would never be a point at which the oppression would stop. Plagues will not end oppression.

 

After the horrors of the first six trumpets, we read this:

20The rest of humankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands or give up worshipping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk. 21And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their fornication or their thefts (Rev 9:20-21).

 

Then, we think we are about to hear the final trumpet sound. Instead, we read this!

10And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. 2He held a little scroll open in his hand. Setting his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, 3he gave a great shout, like a lion roaring. And when he shouted, the seven thunders sounded (Rev 10:1-3).

 

Now, we are fully prepared for a seventh trumpet when God will annihilate the world. But, we’re in for a big surprise. “A voice from heaven” (10:4), presumably God or Christ’s, seals, that is, silences the seven thunders. God will now highlight his primary strategy for this time between the ascension and second coming of Christ. As we will see, God’s plan is implemented through the witness of the church. It is a witness that is to be directed to “many peoples and nations and languages and kings” (Rev 10:11). Notice that John names 4 categories. Remember that 4 is the symbol for the entire world.

 

The end comes, symbolically, with an earthquake and this time, all who survive “gave glory to the God of heaven” (Rev 11:13). In other words, all the nations of the world respond to the witness of the church.

 

The seventh angel blows the trumpet. What happens? The destruction of the world? No, there is a great celebration in heaven because,

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever. (Rev 11:15)

 

The prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” is fulfilled.

 

Obviously, there is much more to come in the Book of Revelation. We need to remember that we are looking at the same time frame through different camera angles. But what we see so dramatically in the Seven Trumpets is the answer to the question of the martyrs in heaven, “How long?” The answer given is: God does not want to destroy this world. God loves this world and wants to redeem this world. But that redeeming work won’t happen through the consequences inherent in moral order. Redeeming the world hinges on the witness of the church. At the end of our study, let’s reflect on what that witness looks like.

 

Six of the Seven Trumpets

Revelation 8:6-9:21

6 Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets made ready to blow them.

 

7 The first angel blew his trumpet, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were hurled to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.

 

8 The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea. 9A third of the sea became blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

 

10 The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 11The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many died from the water, because it was made bitter.

 

12 The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light was darkened; a third of the day was kept from shining, and likewise the night.

 

13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew in mid-heaven, ‘Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!’

 

9:1And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit; 2he opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.3Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given authority like the authority of scorpions of the earth. 4They were told not to damage the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5They were allowed to torture them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torture was like the torture of a scorpion when it stings someone. 6And in those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them.

 

7 In appearance the locusts were like horses equipped for battle. On their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, 8their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; 9they had scales like iron breastplates, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. 10They have tails like scorpions, with stings, and in their tails is their power to harm people for five months. 11They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.

 

12 The first woe has passed. There are still two woes to come.

 

13 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, 14saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ 15So the four angels were released, who had been held ready for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, to kill a third of humankind. 16The number of the troops of cavalry was two hundred million; I heard their number. 17And this was how I saw the horses in my vision: the riders wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur; the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. 18By these three plagues a third of humankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. 19For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they inflict harm.

 

20 The rest of humankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands or give up worshipping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk. 21And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their fornication or their thefts

 

1st Trumpet: Hail and fire mixed with blood are hurled to the earth

Consequences: 1/3 of the earth burned up

                        1/3 of the trees burned up

                        All green grass burned up

 

What was happening in Rome: Over and over, Rome (not to mention other oppressive powers like Pharaoh) has shed the blood of the innocents (6:10). Now blood mixed with fire falls from heaven. Burning buildings, cities, trees, and crops was a Roman war strategy. In the Old Testament, God forbids the people of Israel to destroy fruit trees outside the cities they attack (Deut 20:19-20). Defeated people are still to have a source of food and a means of economic support.

 

This trumpet focuses the church’s attention on a destructive Roman practice that makes food for people and animals scarce. 

 

2nd Trumpet: Mountain burning with fire and thrown into the sea

Consequences: 1/3 of the sea become blood

                        1/3 of the sea creatures die

                        1/3 of ships destroyed

 

What was happening in Rome: People in John’s world were familiar with volcanoes (Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE destroying Pompeii and Herculaneum). With this trumpet, a burning mountain is thrown into the sea. As a result, one-third of the fish are killed and one-third of the ships are destroyed. Rome’s economy is built on exploitive trade on the Mediterranean Sea (as we’ll see in Rev 18). Ships bring wealth from all corners of the known world. Fish are a primary source of food. The second trumpet dismantles Rome’s economy. This trumpet draws the church’s attention to the fact that trusting Rome for economic security and abundant food is misplaced trust.

 

3rd Trumpet: A great star with the name, Wormwood, fell on a third of the rivers and on springs of water

Consequences: 1/3 of the water become bitter

                        Many people die because of the bitter water

 

What is happening in Rome:  A great star falls from the sky and one-third of the rivers and springs—the sources of fresh water—become bitter and poisonous.  As a result, many people die. Another ancient war strategy is to defeat a city by cutting it off from or poisoning its water supply. This, in fact, is exactly what happens to Rome. Christopher Woodward writes, “In 400, Rome was a city of 800,000 people glittering with 3,785 statues of gold, marble and bronze. Its encircling walls were 10 miles in length with 376 towers, vaulted by 19 aqueducts carrying fresh spring-water to 1,212 drinking fountains and 926 public baths…. In the sixth century… the population fell to 30,000, clustered in poverty beside the River Tiber, now that the aqueducts had been destroyed and the drinking fountains were dry…. Four-fifths of the vast area enclosed by the old fortified walls of Rome became a wasteland scattered with ruins, vineyards and farms.”[3] This trumpet reminds the church that true security does come from impressive Roman technology and engineering.

 

4th Trumpet: 1/3 of the sun, moon and stars are struck

Consequences: 1/3 of the light, day, and night is darkened

 

What is happening in Rome:  This trumpet may point to clouds of smoke from the fires of prolonged war. Like a forest fire, the smoke of war fills the sky and blocks out sun, moon and stars (the beginning of the movie, “Gladiator,” provides an example). Roman victories are impressive. They generate prestige and profits. This trumpet highlights how Roman love of power and war destroy people and the environment.

 

5th Trumpet: A star falls from heaven; the shaft to the bottomless pit is opened

Consequences: Smoke rises from the pit bringing locusts of war. For five months, people, but not vegetation, are destroyed

 

Koester observes,

Now danger comes from yet another direction, from beneath the earth itself…. Now smoke comes up from the shaft of the bottomless pit to engulf the world in its fumes (9:1-2). The text has a surreal quality that makes it impossible to situate in time and space—one would be hard-pressed to locate the shaft of the bottomless pit on a map.[4]

 

What is the 5th trumpet section about?  Koester says,

A number of the congregations seemed inclined to compromise their Christian commitments to identify more fully with the pagan world around them in the hope of avoiding negative judgments against them by others in society. The trumpets challenge such tendencies by showing a reversed picture…. The text shows that those who hope to secure themselves by assimilating into the pagan culture are deceiving themselves.

 

Revelation depicts life under two forms of rule. The vision of the heavenly throne room in Revelation 4-5 showed a rightly ordered universe, in which creatures offered praise to their Creator and to the Lamb, who are worthy of power. But in Revelation 9, grotesque figures create a demonic parody of the created order, showing what conditions are like under the lordship of the king of the underworld, whose names, Abaddon and Apollyon, mean, Destruction and Destroyer…. The winged beings that accompany the Destroyer have a hideous collage of traits: lions’ teeth protrude from human faces, while in front their chests are plated with iron and in back they have tails like scorpions. Where the elders in the heavenly throne room casts their crowns before God as they raised a harmonious song of praise (4:10-11), the demonic locusts continue to wear crowns on their heads as they raise a pounding and clanking roar, like chariots going into battle.[5]

 

James Papandrea believes that the locusts in this passage are symbols of the Roman legions that destroyed Jerusalem in 70 CE. He writes:

The war that began in the year 66 came to a standstill in 70 when the Roman legions surrounded the walls of Jerusalem. In Revelation 9 (the fifth trumpet), John describes the Roman legions in apocalyptic terms as a swarm of locusts; and in chapter 6 (the black and pale horses) John describes the effects of the siege on the city: famine and disease…. These locusts are described in military terms, with human faces, with horses ready for battle, with golden crowns and hair like women (Roman helmets) and iron breastplates (Roman shields). They sound like chariots and have the ability to sting like scorpions, but unlike actual locusts, they were not to consume the grass or other vegetation. It is clear that the image of the swarming locusts representsthe Roman legions and their marching orders come (indirectly) from the devil himself, whose name is “Destruction.” Their orders are to hurt but not kill for five months. This is almost exactly the length of time of the historical siege of Jerusalem, before the city fell. During this time, the people of Jerusalem would suffer from hunger and disease, but the killing would be delayed until the breech of the city’s walls.[6] 

 

Revelation is helping the church of yesterday and today discern where actions come from and where they lead. Injustice, oppression, greed, and violating others do not come from God. These actions (as portrayed in the many apocalyptic movies today) come from a force that embodies destruction. They ultimately lead to the destruction of people and the planet. The church has a huge stake in discerning and speaking for justice and shalom. Being witnesses is not simply a matter of fitting in and being accepted by society. 

 

6th Trumpet: Four bound angels released along with 200 million cavalry

Consequences: 1/3 of humankind are killed

                        Those who are survive do not repent (9:20-21)

 

With the sounding of the sixth trumpet, we assume, since there are seven trumpets and not twenty, that the “final judgment” is drawing near. In Revelation 7:1-3, the angels standing at the four corners of the earth are told to hold back. Now with the sixth trumpet (9:15), the four angels “who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year” are released. God’s judgment escalates. With earlier judgments, one-third of the land, sea, rivers and sky are destroyed. Now one-third of humanity is slaughtered. 

 

This destruction originates at the great river Euphrates (9:14). Why the Euphrates? In the Old Testament, this area is most commonly identified as the area where evil comes from. Assyria conquered and permanently destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Babylon defeated the Southern Kingdom of Judah, leveled Jerusalem, and carried its people away to live in exile as slaves.

 

This same geographical area was the greatest threat to the Roman Empire when Revelation was written. The mounted Parthian archers attacked the eastern outposts of the Roman Empire. People in the seven churches in Asia would have been acutely aware of this threat. Just like the Parthians, the armies called forth with the sounding of the sixth trumpet are mounted on horses. But John’s vision makes the threat of the Parthian armies look trivial. 

 

Like all of John’s visions, this vision (that’s the word he uses in 9:17) is filled with symbolism. We don’t fear the riders; we fear the horses. The horses have heads that look like lion heads. Fire, smoke and sulfur spew out of their mouths. These are the plagues that kill their victims. The colors of the fire (red), smoke (dark blue), and sulfur (yellow) are symbolized on the breastplates of the riders. The horses’ tails are like serpents with heads. In other words, their power to kill comes from “the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan” (12:9). 

 

Who or what are these demonic horses?  Obviously, demons are spirits. In order to kill, they need to become embodied. So how do demons of the ancient serpent become embodied and kill one-third of the people on earth? 

 

We find our clue in Jesus’ words to the people who were “ready to kill” him (John 8:37). Jesus tells them, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). 

 

The fire, smoke and sulfur that spew out of the horses are lies that people have come to believe and act upon. As a result of lies, law and order crumbles. Millions of people are killed.As you reflect on the last hundred years?, what lies/idolatries have led to the deaths of millions of people? In his book, 935 Lies, Charles Lewis explores the ways that lies by government and corporations led the United States into the Viet Nam and Iraq wars.

 

A Call to Repent – Revelation 9:20-21

The six trumpets are NOT a literal prediction of future events. Koester observes:

After the sixth seal is opened, the sun becomes black, the moon becomes like blood, the stars fall, and the sky vanishes, which seems like a decisive end to the heavenly bodies (6:12-17). Similarly, John clearly says that ‘all the green grass’ is burned up in 8:7, yet in 9:4 the grass is apparently back again, because the demonic locusts plague is told not to harm it. The peculiar way that the heavenly lights vanish then reappear and the grass suffers destruction only to return so that it can be protected is an important part of Revelation’s manner of communication. These inconsistences disrupt attempts to take the vision as a linear sequence of events that will unfold in a neat step-by-step fashion at some point in the future…. [Emphasis fgs] The visions in Revelation 8-9 do not convey information that allows readers to discern how soon the end of time will come, but they do issue warnings that are designed to bring repentance.[7]

 

However, as we see in Revelation 9:20-21, people do not repent:

20 The rest of humankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands or give up worshipping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk. 21And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their fornication or their thefts.

 

Howard-Brook writes, “The outward worship of ‘the works of their hands’ expresses the religious legitimation of the acts (i.e. idolatry) of empire (cf. Isaiah 17:8; Jeremiah 1:16; 25:6-7; Micah 5:13; also Psalm 115:3-9). Each of the four actions is shown to be a basic component of how all empires work. 

  • ‘Murder’ names the violence against enemies by which empire maintains ‘peace.’
  • ‘Sorceries’ are imperial illusions and propaganda by which people become confused about what’s real.
  • ‘Fornication’ represents the unholy ‘intercourse’ between the Roman elite and the local elite (cf. Rev. 18:9).
  • ‘Theft’ unmasks empire’s economic exploitation of the provinces (cf. 18:11-19). All of this is presented as ‘holy’ through the imperial cult and the worship of local deities in support of Rome’s authority.”[8]

In another book, Howard-Book writes regarding this passage:

The specific list of sins here is a catalogue of the vices of Rome in particular, and of empire in general. The plagues are clearly directed at getting those who support the imperial program to ‘repent,’ to turn away from the imperial and local cults, which support the violence and exploitation …, and to turn toward God. Thus the plagues are the direct work of ‘the destroyer,’ but are intended to fulfill a divine purpose of leading people away from evil and back to God…. And, perhaps surprisingly, the plagues are unsuccessful in accomplishing their mission![9]

 

Tragically, those who remain alive still do not repent because they believe the lies of idolatry embodied by the Roman Empire. Like all who worship idols, they “cannot see or hear or walk” (9:20) and so do not turn toward, worship and serve God. They are invested in and possessed by the lies they worship.

 

Do we see examples of this dynamic happening in the United States? Do we see the church defending the idolatries of empire?

 

As we see in the Book of Revelation, the purpose of the church is to worship God and the Lamb of God from whom all creation derives its existence and to whom all creation is accountable. The church’s purpose is also to be witnesses who, in their perspectives, desires, words and actions, accurately reflect God and the Lamb. But when the church does the opposite, when the church worships the nation and blesses the nation’s idolatries, it actively works against the very reason for its existence. The impact is horrific on society as a whole, on people’s view of who God is, and on the people society excludes and oppresses. In every age and in every nation, Revelation calls the church to repent. This is exactly what the Book of Revelation is saying to the first century church and the church in every age and place.

 

Interlude – The Mighty Angel and the Little Scroll – Revelation 10

 

Revelation 10:1-3a

10:1And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. 2He held a little scroll open in his hand. Setting his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, 3he gave a great shout, like a lion roaring.

 

The Mighty Angel

Mighty angels appear at strategic points in John’s narrative (5:2, 10:6, 18:21). Looking at this angel, John sees signs that link the mighty angel to the Exodus story. In that story, the cloud and the pillars of fire led the people of Israel from slavery to the Promised Land (Exodus 13:21-22). There are also symbols of the presence of both God and Christ. The rainbow over the angel’s head reminds us of the rainbow around God’s throne (4:3). With a face “like the sun,” the mighty angel is linked to John’s vision of the exalted Christ (1:16). In other words, God and Christ have sent the mighty angel to guide the church, the new Israel, on a new Exodus. The scroll the angel holds reveals the way out of the oppression of this world to the new promised land described in chapters 21 and 22.

 

The angel carries “a little scroll open in his hand.” In 5:1, we see a large scroll in heaven that contains God’s destiny for the world. Only the slaughtered Lamb has the power to carry out that destiny. The angel brings a “little scroll” from heaven to earth. It is already open. As we will see in verses 8-11, the little scroll gives responsibilities to John and the church for carrying out those purposes, namely, God’s new Exodus mission.

 

The description of the angel standing with one foot on the sea and one foot on the land is repeated three times (10:2, 5,8). This imagereminds us of how John repudiates the images of the Roman Empire. In our first Revelation Book Club meeting, we saw the relief (below) of the Emperor Augustus from the Sebasteion—a temple complex located Aphrodisias, a city near the cities of the seven churches. In this relief, Augustus is nude which in the Greco-Roman world was a godlike symbol of male power. Land (on the left) and sea (on the right) are female indicating (in Roman society) their subservience. Land produces a cornucopia of abundance for Rome. Sea holds a rudder held by Augustus symbolizing his control over the seas. The cape surrounding Augustus’ head is a symbol of night and day. What is the propaganda in this image that Rome wants people see? Augustus, that is Rome, is the supreme ruler who both controls and harvests profits from all the resources of the earth. But Revelation counters that Roman propaganda. The angel is affirming that God is in control and, like God did through Moses, is acting to remove the abusive power so characteristic of empires.

 

[10]

 

Revelation 10:3b-4

3bAnd when he shouted, the seven thunders sounded. 4And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.”

 

The Sealing of the Seven Thunders

After the horrific destruction described in the first six trumpets, the seven thunders appear to be the transition to a seventh trumpet which will announce God’s destruction of the world. But abruptly, the voice from heaven, presumably God or Christ, prevents any more destruction. We are shocked. We immediately wonder what could possibly come next.

 

Revelation 10:5-7

5Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and the land raised his right hand to heaven  6and swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it: “There will be no more delay, 7but in the days when the seventh angel is to blow his trumpet, the mystery of God will be fulfilled, as he announced to his servants the prophets.”

 

The Angel’s Oath

In the story of creation, God establishes the Garden of Eden. In that beautiful paradise, God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening breeze. Heaven and earth were joined. Creation was a place that exemplified the justice, shalom and beauty that reflects who God is. But with the serpent, idolatry, sin and injustice invaded and violated God’s intent.

 

When we move to the Gospels, we see Christ bringing the kingdom of heaven near (Matthew 4:17). In his words and actions, Jesus, the Son of God, embodies the justice, shalom and beauty of heaven on earth.

 

With his death and resurrection, Christ triumphs over evil and establishes a new creation in the midst of the idolatry, sin and injustice. At some future point, God will finalize this new creation by removing evil “as announced to his servants the prophets” (10:7), and as also announced in the Gospels and Epistles. Paul powerfully describes God freeing creation from evil in Romans 8:18-30 and I Corinthians 15. The “mystery of God” (10:7) is how and when God will do this.

 

The “mighty angel” (introduced in 10:1) raises his right hand to heaven and swears an oath by him who lives forever. (10:5-6). The angel swears that when the seventh angel blows the seventh trumpet, the time of waiting will be over. The mystery will be fulfilled. There will be no more delay. The powers that destroy the earth will be defeated. God’s kingdom will be fully established.

 

Revelation 10:8-11

8Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” 9So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, “Take it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.” 10So I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. 11 Then they said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”

 

John Eats the Little Scroll

John hears the voice from heaven telling him to take the open scroll from the mighty angel. John does. The angel tells him to take and eat the scroll. In other words, John must embody what God is calling him to do.

 

Eating God’s word places John directly in line with the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel. They too were commissioned into prophetic ministry by eating God’s word (Jer 1:9; 15:6; Ezek 2:8-3:3). The scroll containing the mystery of God is both sweet and bitter. It is sweet because it is about the complete arrival of the kingdom of God. It is bitter because it requires both the witness and the suffering of the church. As Koester explains,

The Christian community will learn that the scroll is sweet because of its message of salvation, but it is bitter because God’s purposes will be accomplished in part through the suffering and witness of his people.… The next vision pictures faithful worshipers being besieged and two witnesses suffering martyrdom (11:1-10). God’s kingdom will come… but the way of redemption entails the suffering of the faithful.[11]

 

Revelation 11:1-2

11:1Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Come and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, 2but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample over the holy city for forty-two months.”

 

Measuring the Temple

Why is John told to measure the temple? In the Old Testament, to “measure” is a metaphor meaning, “to protect” (e.g. Zechariah 1:16-17). Koester further explains,

Measuring will define the place where true worship takes place and show that it is protected… The idea of protection fits a common social pattern in antiquity, when temples and altars were places of asylum… John’s being told to measure the temple and altar means he is to mark out a sphere of asylum for those who worship there.[12]

 

What temple is John to measure? There is little doubt that by the time John’s Apocalypse is being read in the seven churches the Romans have destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. We remember that before his crucifixion, Christ said,

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”20The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking of the temple of his body (John 2:19-21).

 

Then, after Christ’s resurrection and ascension, and the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost, the church was born. A few years later, Paul writes to the church in Corinth and tells them,

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

 

In his Apocalypse, John continues this theme. He writes that each person in the church is “a pillar in the temple of my God” (Rev 3:12). Koester elaborates, “A temple with human pillars is a community, whose members are considered priests (1:6; 5:10).”[13]

 

Why is John to measure the church at worship but not the court outside the temple? The outer court is the church in the world—the church in mission. So in worship, the church is protected. But what kind of protection is this? It’s not the kind of physical protection we think of when we think of the concept of sanctuary, i.e. a place of refuge and safety. The protection in this temple is protection from the lies, propaganda and seductions of the Beast (the Empire) and the one who gives the Beast it’s power, namely, the Dragon (i.e. Satan, 13:2, 13, 14). Bauckham explains:

(John) is distinguishing the inner, hidden reality of the church as a kingdom of priests (cf. 5:10) who worship God in his presence from the outward experience of the church as it is exposed to persecution by the kingdom of the nations. The church will be kept safe in its hidden spiritual reality, while suffering persecution and martyrdom.[14]

 

Revelation 11:3-14

3And I will grant my two witnesses authority to prophesy for one thousand two hundred and sixty days, wearing sackcloth. 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5And if anyone wants to harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes; anyone who wants to harm them must be killed in this manner. 6They have authority to shut the sky, so that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have authority over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.

 

7 When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that is prophetically called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9For three and a half days members of the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb; 10and the inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and celebrate and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to the inhabitants of the earth.

 

11 But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and those who saw them were terrified. 12Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here!’ And they went up to heaven in a cloud while their enemies watched them. 13At that moment there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. 14 The second woe has passed. The third woe is coming very soon.

 

The Two Witnesses

John introduces us to two witnesses who prophesy. As we see in the prophets and in Revelation, to “prophesy” is to speak truth to power, be advocates for the oppressed and stand against idolatry. There are two witnesses because the Torah requires two witnesses to establish that any testimony is truthful (Deut 19:15).

 

As lampstands (Rev 11:4) they represent the role of the church as a whole (Rev 1:12,20). Olive trees provide oil for lampstands. Two olive trees mean that in spite of hostile threats, the church’s witness will not stop. Like so much of the imagery in Revelation, the images of the olive trees and lampstands are drawn from the prophets Zechariah:

The angel who talked with me came again, and wakened me, as one is wakened from sleep. He said to me, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it; there are seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And by it there are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” (Zechariah 4:1-3)

 

The witnesses are wearing sackcloth, not armor. They are grieved at the way empire violates people and causes chaos. Sackcloth is a symbol of mourning (Gen 37:34) and a call to repent. The grieving over injustice, speaking truth to power, and the call to repent comes out of their mouths as fire.

 

The church’s witness follows the footsteps of the great prophets, Elijah and Moses. Elijah shut the sky causing draught (I Kings 17:1). Moses turned the Nile into blood (Exod 7:14-21). But this powerful witness is vulnerable. Opposition rises. The source of the opposition is the beast from the bottomless pit whom will be described in chapter 13:1-10. The beast makes war against, conquers and kills the two witnesses. The “inhabitants of the earth,” “the peoples and tribes and languages and nations” (Rev 11:9), i.e. the entire world gloats, celebrates and exchanges presents because the prophets will no longer torment them (Rev 11:10).

 

The bodies of the dead witnesses “lie in the street of the great city that is prophetically called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified” (Rev 11:8). The phrase, “the great city,” occurs eight times in Revelation (11:8; 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21). In each of the other occurrences, the city is identified as Babylon. In Revelation 11:8 the great city is identified as Sodom and Egypt. Sodom is a symbol of using power to violate powerless innocents (Genesis 19:1-25). Egypt is a symbol of racism, oppression and using genocide to destroy powerless refugees (Exodus 5:1-21). James Resseguie summarizes:

In short, the great city is the antithesis of the other symbolic city of the Apocalypse, the new Jerusalem. It is the city of this work that opposes God… Babylon and the new Jerusalem represent the two opposing points of view of the book. Babylon is the symbolic city of oppression and alienation where the beast reigns, God is mocked, and followers of the beast celebrate the triumph of evil over good. The new Jerusalem is the place of harmony, order, and peace where God and the Lamb reign.[15]

 

In verse 11, we see a length of time described again as three and a half. But this time it’s three and a half days, not years. But we remind ourselves that in Revelation, numbers are symbols, not length of time. Whether it’s days or years, three and a half is a broken seven. As we have seen, it symbolizes the time between the inauguration of the kingdom of God with Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension and the establishing of heaven on earth—the completion of the kingdom of God. The prophet Habakkuk foretold the establishing of heaven on earth when he said,

The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (2:14)

 

Resseguie describes what this broken seven means for the church, writing, “The broken seven describes the essential character of the church in the in-between times. It is an authoritative and powerful voice within society, but it is also beaten down, trodden upon, and killed.”[16]

 

When the in-between time is completed, Christ’s witnesses are resurrected (Rev 11:11) in full public view. We are told twice how the inhabitants of the earth react when the people they murdered, “stood on their feet” (11:11):

  • those who saw them were terrified (11:11)
  • the rest were terrified (11:13)

 

The terrified people then hear a loud voice from heaven say, “Come up here!” and they see their enemies ascend into heaven in a cloud (11:12).

 

“At that moment” (11:13), there is a horrific earthquake. Of the 70,000 who live in the city, 7,000 are killed. We see again the symbolic use of numbers. 70,000 is 7 x 10 x 1,000. In other words, the city represents the complete population of the world.

 

As Resseguie writes, “The shaking of the earth corresponds to the spiritual shaking that awakens those who dwell in the symbolic city.”[17] What is this spiritual shaking that opens everyone’s heart to God? We are not told. Clearly, since this is Revelation, the earthquake is not literal.

 

And what does it mean to give glory to God (11:13)? It means to honor God for who God is. In other words, it means to honor God as God, recognize God as the source of justice and compassion, and commit oneself to faithfully live out that justice and compassion in daily life.

 

Resseguie goes on to observe,

A tenth or a tithe of the city is destroyed and 7,000 people are killed. Nine-tenths of the in habitants are spared destruction, with the surviving majority responding with terror and giving “glory to the God of heaven” (11:13). John’s scene is a surprising reversal of Old Testament judgments in which nine-tenths are destroyed and one-tenth or a tithe is spared (Isa 6:13; Amos 5:3).[18]

 

John is not teaching us arithmetic here. In this symbolism John is saying that the end of history will be more stunningly gracious than the Hebrew prophets imagined. I would add: also more stunningly gracious than the apocalyptic view of popular culture today!

 

But the main point here is this: God’s judgment, that is, the accountability (we’ve called it “moral order”) God built into creation does not motivate people to repent. In the final analysis, what motivates people to repent is the witness of the church. Resseguie writes,

The church accomplishes what judgments alone were unable to accomplish. Where the plagues are ineffectual in moving humankind in the right direction, the testimony of faithful believers is effectual. As Richard Bauckham notes, judgments by themselves are ineffective in bringing about repentance because they ‘do not convey God’s gracious willingness to forgive those who repent.’[19]

 

Then the angel blows the seventh trumpet.

 

The Seventh Trumpet: Revelation 11:15-18

15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”

 

16 Then the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshipped God, 17singing,
“We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty,
   who are and who were,
for you have taken your great power
   and begun to reign. 
18 The nations raged,
   but your wrath has come,
   and the time for judging the dead,
for rewarding your servants, the prophets
   and saints and all who fear your name,
   both small and great,
and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

 

Reflection

After all the inhabitants of the earth give glory to God (11:14), the seventh angel blows his trumpet. Then loud voices in heaven announce,

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”

 

Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of God on earth (Matt 4:17) and in his death and resurrection, defeated the powers of evil (Matt 28:18). At this point in Revelation, with everyoneacknowledging the glory of God (as I described above), the kingdom has arrived as never before on earth. But clearly, there is more to come.

 

John, master narrator, uses verse 18 as a transition describing what lies ahead in the second half of Revelation. God will judge the dead and reward his servants. God will also destroy those who destroy the earth. The Greek word for “earth” occurs 82 times in Revelation. While it is used in a variety of ways, John’s focus is clear here. God will remove the powers that destroy God’s creation whether it’s the planet or the people. God’s purpose in creation was to make a cosmos that reflects who God is: an ordered, just, shalom filled place where all, human and non-human, are blessed. These verses make clear that God will bring his original purpose to reality. God will not destroy the world. God will free the world from the destroyers. As Mark Stephens writes:

Within Revelation, the act of destroying/corrupting the earth is regarded as a significant sin (11:18; 19:2). That fact alone suggests the foundational importance of God’s [purposes in creation] as a frame of reference against which God’s judgement is measured out. And it also suggests the implausibility of Revelation adopting an eschatological scenario in which the final actions within the drama involved God himself becoming a “destroyer of the earth.”[20]

 

In the next section of Revelation, who does John identify as those “who destroy the earth”? As we will see, they are:

  1. Satan, also called the Dragon, “that ancient serpent,” the Destroyer;
  2. the beast of the land;
  3. the false prophet, also called, the beast of the sea;
  4. Babylon

Conclusion: The Church’s Witness

The powerful message in this section of Revelation is this: As the church lives in the midst of the idolatries of this world, it is called to give prophetic witness for the kingdom of God.

 

For the first century church in the Roman Empire, that meant coming to understand the difference between the reign or rule of God and the reign or rule of Caesar. Then the church is to give witness for the reign of Christ by refusing to participate in the Roman imperial cult. That was not easy to do. As we have seen, the imperial cult was seductively layered in all parts of Roman society. The imperial cult worships the emperor as a god and affirms the values, priorities and practices of Rome.

 

But the values, priorities and practices of Rome are toxic. Tacitus is a first century Roman senator and historian. His father-in-law, Agricola, was the key Roman general in the conquest of Britain. At the end of the first century, Tacitus writes a book, Agricola, about the impact of the conquest of Britain on the native Briton people. Tacitus’ perspective highlights why it is so vitally important for the church to stand against Rome’s idolatrous practices. Reflecting of the essence of the Roman Empire, Tacitus writes,

They have plundered the world, stripping naked the land in their hunger… they are driven by greed, if their enemy be rich; by ambition, if poor… They ravage, they slaughter, they seize by false pretenses, and all of this they hail as the construction of empire. And when in their wake nothing remains but a desert, they call that peace.[21]

 

What about today? How is the church being called to be witnesses in our communities, nation and world?

 

The Rev. Fran Gardner-Smith and The Rev. Dr. David Smith

 

ENDNOTES

[1]Craig R. Koester,Revelation and the End of All Things Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001, 39.

[2]Ibid, 39-40.

[3]Christopher Woodward, In Ruins: A Journey through History, Art and Literature, London: Vintage, 2002, 6-7.

[4]Koester, 98

[5]Koester, 99-100.

[6]James Papandrea, The Wedding of the Lamb, Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2011, 117.

[7]Koester, 97.

[8]Wes Howard-Brook, Come Out, My People!  God’s Call out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond, Maryknoll: Orbis Books,2010, 468-469.

[9]Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther, Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now, Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1999, 144-145.

[10]https://holylandphotos.wordpress.com/2016/07/14/travel-tip-7b-worshiping-the-roman-emperor/

[11]Craig R. Koester Revelation New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014, 483.

[12]Koester, Revelation, 483-4.

[13]Ibid., 484-5.

[14]Richard Bauckham The Climax of Prophecy, London: T&T Clark, 1993, 272.

[15]James L. Resseguie, The Revelation of John: A Narrative Commentary Baker Academic, 2009, 164.

[16]Ibid., 165.

[17]Ibid., 165.

[18]Ibid., 166.

[19]Ibid., 166.

[20]Mark B. Stephens, Annihilation or Renewal? Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2011, 199.

[21]https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/2936846.Tacitus

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