Sunday, 1 May 2011

Before the last trumpet sounds...

We looked today at the vision of the 7 Trumpets in Revelation chapters 8 & 9. The last time we heard 7 trumpets in Scripture, they were in the hands of 7 priests when, led by Joshua, they marched around the city of Jericho for 7 days, then 7 times on the 7th day, sounding their trumpets and bringing about the downfall of Jericho leaving the way open for the passage of the people of God into the Promised Land. Undoubtedly this memory was in John’s mind as he saw this vision.
In language reminiscent of another key moment in Israel’s history, the Exodus, the trumpets announced the tragedies and demonically inspired torments that inflict people on the earth in these last days. How true the symptoms ring with what we so often witness around us: ‘...their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them..... They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people ... They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, (meaning ‘destruction’) and in Greek he is called Apollyon (meaning ‘destroyer’) Rev ch 9.
Don’t we see the handiwork of the destroyer, satan, at work in our day, shattering dreams, dashing hopes and tormenting people’s minds so that they even contemplate ending their own lives?

It is against this backdrop that we read in chapter 10 of an important interlude, a pause before the sounding of the last trumpet. It is a pause that is motivated by God’s grace. Here in these last, urgent days, a message of hope is held forth in the form a small open book. For me there can be no doubt that this speaks of the Gospel which, as John ‘eats it’, is a sweet as honey, but leaves a bitter taste in his stomach as he is burdened with an evangelist’s calling to share its content with an often unreceptive world.

This interlude develops further with attention now on the church, God’s temple and dwelling place, which is measured as a sign of God’s protection - he knows all who are his! Then, in the imagery of the Two Witnesses, the church is commissioned and given authority to go two by two in the spirit and power akin to that of Moses and Elijah and preach & prophesy this message of God’s grace to the nations!

We live in days of God’s grace when whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. These are Gospel days, urgent days, when, in the midst of turbulent times God is not silent but is speaking not only through creation, and through the trials of life, but supremely through the Gospel - the Good News of Jesus. And it the church, you and I who have been entrusted and empowered to declare it and make Jesus known!
There is a limit to the number of these days of God’s grace (1260, see below!!). One day the 7th and last trumpet will sound, announcing both the end of the Gospel age and the arrival of King Jesus!

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt 28:19-20


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Additional note:
The 1260 days in ch11v3 is the same as the 42 months in ch11v2 and the 42 months in ch13v5, and is the time that satan is allowed to threaten & oppose the church. It is also the same as the period of time through which God promises to nourish the church: ‘for a time, and times, and half a time. ch12v14 (2.5 years).
Personally, I do not think that the number of 42 weeks is literal but figurative for the period of tribulation repeatedly prophesied by Daniel (7v25, 9v27, 12v7, 11-12). This is half of 7 years, which suggests a period cut short by half. It is these last days.