John Sees Destruction
To put what John saw in context, he begins by describing the epochs or “seals” led by a prophet. This helps the reader to understand that what he is about to describe occurs in the seventh seal which prepares the world for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Very briefly, the first epoch is described as a man on a white horse. One interpretation is that this prophet is Enoch. The second epoch is described as a man on a red horse. This prophet is Noah. The third epoch is described as a man on a black horse. This prophet is Abraham. Next, a pale horse symbolizes Moses’ epoch. Then the martyrs are mentioned referring to the epoch when Jesus Christ walked among men. Lastly, the sixth seal is a day of preparation when people of all the tribes of Israel are gathered and arrayed in white robes. The gathering of Israel is an oft-mentioned theme in the Old Testament. The seventh seal begins with destruction in preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ. The first six epochs are described in Rev 6-7 and Zech 6:1-8 gives additional insight.
First I want to summarize briefly what John saw happening in the seventh seal. He saw seven angels orchestrate the powers of heaven and earth to cause disasters that would humble all people and call them to repentance. After this first set of disasters, a separation occurs. Zion, or the believers gather in opposition to Babylon or the remaining unrighteous unbelievers. Amidst the believers a special rescue force of 144,000 is prepared. They help believers gather to safety. A second set of seven angels orchestrates a second wave of disasters. This time, the disasters target Babylon who represents all those who chose not to gather to safety. The power of the global government of Babylon is described. A last call goes out for any remaining “people” who may not be believers but who want to gather to safety. A group of ten kings topple the global government of Babylon but many people remain who do not repent. Jesus Christ, riding a white horse, and accompanied by a heavenly army captures the False Prophet and fights the final battle with Babylon. With the forces of evil in a state of impotence due to the strength of believers to resist all temptations, the the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ commences. A few events happen on Earth after the Millennium, most notably the Battle of Gog and Magog, after which the Earth is renewed and receives a state of glory suitable to be the habitation of and location of the throne of Jesus Christ. This is a summary of Rev 8-22.
The Revelation gives a lot of information on the descriptive characteristics and actions of Babylon so that it will be recognized for what it is. The Revelation does not describe proprietary information on the divine rescue plan of God to protect and promote Zion or the believers while all the destruction is going on. Wouldn’t God want people to recognize Zion and get to safety? He does plan to save Zion but he isn’t telling his plan of action because that would allow others to thwart it. Believers have been taught all through the Bible how to listen and recognize his voice and in this time their ability to do that will be a matter of life and death. However, death as an outcome is not necessarily bad for believers because if they die in Christ they will be ok.
So, with that summary, lets go into detail on the first set of disasters found in Revelation 8-10. These disasters may have a physical and a spiritual fulfillment. I cannot interpret these words, but I can summarize what is found there and you can ponder it.
First Disaster: hail, fire mingled with blood and a third part of trees and green grass is burnt up. I found that Isaiah mentioned grass being burnt in Isa 40:5-8. He said all flesh is grass. So if this were physically fulfilled as written trees and grass would burn. If it were spiritually fulfilled maybe the burning is like a refiner’s fire which is mentioned multiple times in the Bible.
Second Disaster: a great mountain burning with fire and a third part of sea creatures and ships die. I think that only a volcano would burn with fire but a volcano would be a physical fulfillment. One other reference to a volcano is in Isa 34:9. The idea of a third may have something to do with purification as referenced in Numbers 19:12. It’s mentioned in the first, second and third, fourth and sixth disasters. I don’t know if it is literal. One other Old Testament prophet spoke of a destruction by thirds in Ezekiel 5:2.
Third Disaster: a great star turns all the water bitter via Wormwood/Artemisia. There are a few references to Wormwood in scripture but the one that struck me was in Lamentations 3:18-20 where the bitter water was such a potent reminder of God’s power that just the memory of it humbled the prophet.
Fourth Disaster: a third part of the sun, moon and stars was darkened. This idea is repeated in many Last Days prophecies. If it were fulfilled physically there would be darkness covering the daylight. I have thought about this prophecy and my personal interpretation is more symbolic. I think the sun is like first world countries, the moon like second world countries and the stars are all the other countries. I think this verse could be fulfilled by an economic disaster that shuts down trade in many but not all countries.
Fifth Disaster: a star falls and a key is given to the “bottomless pit” or heaven. In this disaster a creature like a locust torments men for five months. A physical fulfillment would be actual locusts infesting the land. A spiritual fulfillment might be that tanks reminiscent of locusts cause destruction through warfare.
Sixth Disaster: four angels are loosed to kill a third part of men by fire, smoke and brimstone. I don’t know how this will be fulfilled but Isaiah used the idea of brimstone to talk about a day of vengeance in Isa 34. When I see the word brimstone used in scripture I usually think of nuclear bombs but that is my own interpretation.
Seventh Disaster: this "Mystery" disaster is divided into three “woes.” The first woe is that two witnesses will prophesy for 3.5 years. They will be killed and their bodies lie in the streets until they are spontaneously resurrected. The second woe is a great earthquake. The third woe is lightening, thunder, an earthquake and great hail.
What is the reason for these disasters and the second set of disasters John saw? When I read The Revelation, I see that they are followed by a call to separate from Babylon. The disasters motivate people to put aside their pride and unite against evil. The disasters motivate people to repent of sins they would otherwise not acknowledge. There will always be some who won’t repent. Jeremiah says that dishonesty before God is one of the biggest reasons people will be destroyed. They won’t acknowledge their sins, or the effects of their sins on others and they “hold fast to deceit and refuse to return.” Jer 8:5
Read The Revelation: Part 1
or The Revelation: Part 2
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Did you know that there are 1,700 seed banks in the world to preserve seed in case of widespread disaster? LINK
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Image credit: The Pale Horse by Gustave Dore - Flickr/Waiting For the Word