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God's Temporal Judgment Against Sin

Revelation 8-11

Jim Davis

God rules on earth and his temporal discipline for the Christian's sin is real. He will see to it that we will reap the recompense of our error. However God’s temporal judgment is designed to bring us to repentance. Hebrews 12 reveals the discipline of the Lord toward his children. "Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:10-11 NIV) God's discipline is for the purpose of teaching us a righteous way of life.

God's temporal chastising judgment for the world is just as real. There have been numerous times when God just turned the world over to her own wicked schemes. When God does this, he does it to bring the world to repentance. The apostle Paul speaks of this type of judgment in the first chapter of Romans. "In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion." (Romans 1:27 NIV)

It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of God to be judged. "For we know him who said, 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' and again, 'The Lord will judge his people.' It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Hebrews 10:30-31 NIV) No book of the Bible gives a more descriptive understanding of the temporal judgment of God upon humankind for their sins than John's Revelation.

The worse type of discipline is for God to give us over to our own depraved minds, for there is nothing worse than suffering at the hands of your own evil ways. The first century world was experiencing this type of judgment from God. I believe that God's temporal judgment for our sins is just as real today.

As much as I appreciate God's grace, I realize that grace involves judgment for my sins. God certainly would be unjust if he made no effort to save us from our evil ways through his temporal judgment for our sins. Imagine living in a world described in the following verses:

Romans 1:28-32
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (NIV)

Think about the direction our world is going in light of these verses. We may think only of God's final judgment for our sins when Christ comes to judge at the end of the world. However, the Bible speaks of God's temporal judgment against sin.

This is the major emphasis of these chapters of Revelation we are going to studying this morning. John has revealed Christ's judgment against the unfaithful in the seven churches of Asia, and now he turns his attention to the judgment of the world.

I believe the judgment spoken of in these chapters (8-11) was God's temporal judgment against a world, which was seeking to destroy God's children. First century Christians were being prepared for the massacre of Christians shortly after the turn of the first century. Remember they were being prepared for what was to shortly come to pass. (1:3)

God's Temporal Judgment Against Sin

The first scene in Revelation reveals Christ's presence among his people (1-3). The second scene in Revelation reveals Christ on his throne in charge of the destiny of the saints (4-8:5). The third scene in Revelation reveals Christ's spiritual rule on earth (8-11) as the earth is judged for her sins. Christ rule continues as the seven trumpets of God's judgment are blown.

The thing that throws most of us off in apocalyptic literature is that spiritual conflict is described in cataclysmic terms. In reality spiritual warfare is cataclysmic because it shakes the very foundation of our universe. The fall of Lucifer is described in cataclysmic proportions.

Isaiah 14:12-17
"How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.' Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit. "Those who see you will gaze at you, and consider you, saying: 'Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, Who made the world as a wilderness and destroyed its cities, who did not open the house of his prisoners?' (NKJ)

The cataclysmic destruction of the world will be realized in the final day.

2 Peter 3:9-12
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. (NIV)

When we begin to look through historical records for the literal fulfillment of the cataclysmic events described in Revelation we easily lose sight of the essence of the message. We may even spend all our time trying to figure out when these things will happen in the future. However, the important thing to remember is that God was judging the world for its sin as the world persecuted Christians. The world experiences the ongoing temporal judgment of God for its sin. God is not sitting idly by in heaven biding his time. He is busy at this very moment judging sin.

Of course, there is a final judgment, and historically God's temporal judgment has been experienced, but there is also an ongoing temporal judgment for sin. As John writes to first century Christians, the message is that God is judging the earth for her sins. This leaves us with the understanding that God continues to judge the world for her sins.

The Judgment of the Seven Trumpets

Revelation 8:1-5
When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. (NIV)

The first four trumpets are a prelude to God's judgment upon the inhabitants of the earth. In apocalyptic language thunder, rumblings, flashes of light, and earthquakes portray the awesome judgment of God. Today, when someone is struck by lightening, we call it an act of God. I certainly believe this is wrong, but I believe that it points out our tendency to see natural disasters as an act of God. Some may very well be the actions of God to bring the world to repentance. Many have discovered that it is easier to pray believing prayers when you are in a foxhole, storm cellar, or hunkering down in some safe haven waiting for the hurricane to blow over, or maybe you are sitting on top of your house waiting for the flood waters to recede. Times like these make it easier to recognize God’s presence. It is always hard to convince us that these things aren’t an act of God.

Therefore, it shouldn’t sound strange to us when God uses this type of figurative language to describe his temporal judgment of our world. As the first four trumpets of the apocalypse sound a foreboding judgment is revealed. Imagine a chilling silence in heaven just before we see a third of the earth burned up as hail mixed with blood is hurled upon the earth (8:6-7). Then we see a huge mountain thrown into the sea turning the sea to blood (8:8). As the third trumpet is sounded we see a star fall into a third of the rivers one earth, which resulted in poisoning the water and killing many (8:10-11). The fourth trumpet sounded and the sun was struck and a third of the moon and a third of the stars ceased to give light (8:12).

 As scary as this seems the worst was yet to come. This is only a prelude to what is to come as God's judgment comes upon the inhabitants of the earth.

Revelation 8:13
As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair 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!" (NIV)

As the fifth trumpet sounded we see an Abyss open from which smoke ascends to the heavens darkening the sun. In the smoke we locusts ascend up from the Abyss that had tails like scorpions. They are given power to torture those who did not have the seal of God upon their foreheads. They were not allowed to kill them, but only torture them. The locusts had a king over them named Apollyon, which means destroying angel. There is little doubt but what this is Satan. (9:1-11) The sixth trumpet reveals the release of four angels that were given power to kill a third of mankind.

The purpose of the woes of the trumpet blasts was to bring God's judgement upon the inhabitants of the earth to bring them to repentance. The following verses confirm this view.

Revelation 9:20-21
The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping 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. (NIV)

John makes it obvious that God's judgment is directed toward those who do not have the seal of God upon their foreheads. "They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads." (Revelation 9:4 NIV) He left no illusions as to the essential purpose of God's actions. When you understand the essence of this message the application becomes viable and meaningful in each succeeding generation.

It is impossible for me to look around in the world and explain what God is doing. I see evil and I see good; I can’t explain it, but I realize that in the midst of it all God is working to bring the world to repentance. His temporal judgment is for the purpose of bringing the world to Christ.

The beautiful thing about understanding the message in this way is that it allows the Christian to get on with life. In the midst of this judgment, I realize that I have the seal of the living God upon my life. He is in control. I don't have to worry about what God is going to do in the future; God is going to protect me. He has placed his seal of protection upon my life. I don't have to worry about getting even with my enemies. God will judge them; of course, it will be for the purpose of salvaging their lives.

God's Bitter Sweet Judgment (10:1-11)

In chapter 10 an angel is portrayed standing with one foot on the sea and one foot on the land with a scroll in his hand. The angel swore an oath from God that the mystery of God would be accomplished without further delay.

John was commanded to take the scroll in the angel's hand and eat it. When John ate the scroll, it was sweet to the taste, but it soured his stomach. This is reminiscent of Ezekiel's experience. (Ezekiel 2:8-3:14) When Ezekiel ate and digested the message God gave him, he found it to be a message of compassion, but also a message explaining the bitterness of God's judgment upon Israel. It was a message of warning because of their sin. John is experiencing the same thing as he digests the message given to him to proclaim in the first century of our Lord.

John portrays those preaching the message of salvation wearing sackcloth and ashes. To the ancients, this was a sign of mourning. The message of God's salvation for the Christian is a great message, but the message of God's judgment of sin is also a bitter message to deliver. There is a real sadness about God's judgment for it tells of the punishment of sinners. Today, the church finds it easier to preach on grace than judgment. Nevertheless, God's judgment is real. We can be sure of one thing; our sins will find us out.

Proclaiming the message of God's temporal judgment on a sinful world is not always joyous, for Christians must suffer the resulting trials. Isaiah preached for fifty years, but Israel did not respond and eventually he was beheaded for his proclamation of the message. Jeremiah wept as he proclaimed God's judgment upon Israel. He was also taken captive to Egypt when God's judgment came. Daniel as a young man was taken to Babylon to be brainwashed as God judged his people for their sin. He spent his entire life as a foreigner in Babylonian captivity. The judgment of God upon Israel for her sins affected the lives of the faithful. God's judgment upon Rome for her sins also created fiery trials for the Christians to endure.

The reason God will have to wipe away all tears in the final judgment is because it will be a terrible day for the lost. Christians will be weeping over those who are lost.

The sweet thing about God's judgment of this world is that it will enable Christians to do what God has called them to do. John is told that the mystery of God will be accomplished (9:7) Then John is told to proclaim the message to the world (9:11). Then John is told to measure the temple and he is assured that the temple will not be destroyed by the onslaught of the enemy. The protection of the temple no doubt portrays the protection of the true Israel of God, which today is made up of faithful Christians (10:1-2). John says the messengers of the gospel will be able to shut up the sky, to turn water to blood and to bring plagues upon the earth. This simply means that God will give Christians power to accomplish his purpose with their lives. God's cause will stand and his prophets will be allowed to finish their assigned tasks.

The physical realities of what God has done in the past are the greatest indicators of what God is doing for us in the spiritual realm. We can recall the plagues of Egypt  realizing that God is doing the same for us in the spiritual realm today.

There is a bitter part about it all. God's protection doesn't guarantee those being judged will respond to the message. Also, God's protection doesn't mean that we will escape the fiery trials caused by God's judgment. Those refusing a message often seek to destroy the messenger. In John's vision the beast from the Abyss turns his wrath upon the messengers and they die. Of course, this is not before they accomplish God's assigned task.

As the world gazes upon the bodies of the messengers lying in the street they celebrate. However, the celebration only lasts until the martyrs are resurrected and taken to heaven (11:7-12). It was then that the judgment of God came. The earth quaked and a tenth of the people of the city died. It was then that the survivors gave glory to God.

This reminds us of the darkness, the earthquake and the resurrection of the dead in Jerusalem when Christ died on the cross. (Matthew 27:45-53) Although, that particular event is not what John is speaking of.

I can only think of the fall of the Rome as she persecuted Christians. Rome has been judged, but Christ and his followers live on. After the fall of Rome, Christianity flourished as God resurrected his cause to a new height. The world truly belongs to Christ and his followers. The bittersweet experiences of life tend to confuse us, but Christ is in control and his purposes will be accomplished.

As the seventh trumpet is blown, the message of the seven trumpets is summarized for us.

Revelation 11:15-19
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever." And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: "We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great-- and for destroying those who destroy the earth." Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. (NIV)

No matter what you believe about the scenes the seven trumpets reveal there is no doubt that the scenes portray Christ's rule on earth and God’s temporal judgment upon the world’s sinfulness. We may not understand the specifics of each scene as they relate to specific events in history, but we know the scenes portray God's temporal judgment upon mankind for their sins.

Conclusion:

Do you have the seal of the living God upon your life?
Do you rule with Christ in his priestly kingdom?

Revelation 1:5-6
Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father-- to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (NIV)

If Satan rules your life, he only seeks to destroy you. In these chapters we have seen what happens when God turns us over to the complete rule of Satan. It is the demon from the Abyss of hell that turns upon those following demons like himself to destroy them. This portrays for us the self-destructive ways of Satan. Satan is out to make a mess out of our lives and our world. He is out to destroy your soul.
 
 
 
 

 

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