If you want clarity in the midst of a global pandemic, read Revelation eight and nine! What a sobering passage of scripture. For most of us, the initial response is to try and envision the creature described in the fifth trumpet that so terribly afflicts humanity that they wish to die yet are unable to. What a frightful creature John sketches in Rev. 9:7-11. Such a portrait could potentially create more cause for worry or fear. But spending time trying to identify the next murder hornet would be misspent in light of the broader realities of the Trumpet judgments. The utter unleashing of the destruction is so stunning that the courtroom of heaven was silent for a half hour in anticipation of these trumpets sounding. Maybe John would have us respond with such silence as we consider the realities of such a future.
What should we focus on? To say that God will judge humanity is true but not nearly enough. God is displaying! God is challenging! God is humbling! God is decimating all pretense of humanity’s independence. These judgments share in purpose one of the goals of the Egyptian plagues in the book of Exodus. God demonstrated his supremacy over all rival gods. Today one archenemy of God’s glory is rank humanism. The notion that we can, through human behavior or by human ingenuity, sustain life on this planet is foundational to many in the “save mother earth” movement and drives support for the “Green New Deal”. When God unleashes these consecutive judgments, humanity should truly recognize they are out of their league, shouldn’t they? They should surely forsake their pride, independence, and sinful lifestyles and acknowledge God as supreme! But that does not happen (9:20-21)! As in Egypt when Pharaoh’s heart was hardened against God, these judgements clarify the depravity of all mankind and the empty claims of human autonomy.
As I write these words, our nation is electing a new president in the midst of a global pandemic. One side condemns the other that they didn’t do enough to mitigate Covid deaths, and touts cloth masks as the answer. The other side trumpets their effort to create a vaccine in less than a year as proof they are in control and that we are turning the corner. What we hear are the expected responses from people duped by humanism. The idea that we can control our environment, our fate, or determine our destiny. What hubris! Christians would be well served to have such notions ruined by this text. To place hope in government, science, or medicine may well contribute to what James calls doublemindedness (James 1:8). While practicing stewardship as mandated in Genesis 1:28, we should hope only in the creator, sustainer and judge of all mankind. Christians should see the Covid-19 pandemic as a mere shot across the bow compared to the blow the trumpet judgments will deliver. The death rate described in Revelation 9 is one in three (Rev. 9:18) compared to the current global death rate of less than .016% due to the Covid virus. The global devastation that is coming is beyond comprehension.
Revelation 8 & 9 demonstrates the stubbornness of human rebellion and displays God’s righteous terror. It offers no mention of hope. There is no warning. There is no final call to repentance, and there is no relenting from God. But today we have hope. Just as the message Jonah delivered to Nineveh spurred that great city to abandon their false gods and to worship the one true God, so the message of Jesus Christ can strip men of pride and autonomy and cause them to cry out in submission to him for salvation. We must not live afraid of what is depicted in the trumpet judgments. We must live by faith in Christ and in the fear of God…a God who so jealously guards his glory that He will so viciously judge rebellion.