In each and every age, throughout the generations, there have been those who have turned their face away from God and set their own course. They’ve forsaken the one true God and worshipped the gods they created for themselves. They’ve chosen to live life with no reverence for God, no regard for His ways or His will, and no concern for anything other than what they wanted in life. This has happened in every age, throughout the generations, and it is still happening in our day, but not without notice my friends. God is omniscient—He knows everything about everything. If He knows when a sparrow falls to the ground then He certainly knows when we turn our hearts away from His purposes for our lives.
In a day gone by there was a king in Babylon named Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon from 602-562 B.C. He served as a general under his father and was a brilliant strategist before he inherited the throne of his father. His victory over the Egyptian forces at Carchemish in 605 B.C. brought about the complete conquest of Palestine. The Babylonians had many gods, but they refused to worship the one true and living God. Nebuchadnezzar was impressed with his newspaper clippings. Instead of giving glory to God, Nebuchadnezzar became arrogant and proud of what he had accomplished. God sent a warning, by way of the prophet Daniel, to try and correct Nebuchadnezzar’s thinking, but we read in Daniel 4 that Nebuchadnezzar didn’t heed the warning. Daniel tells us, beginning in verse 29.
29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.” 33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. 34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” 36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. (Daniel 4:29-37 NIV)
One year after Daniel had warned Nebuchadnezzar, God got Nebuchadnezzar’s attention by humbling him. The mighty king was reduced to grazing in the fields like a common cow. To Nebuchadnezzar’s credit, he learned a valuable lesson. In the midst of his humiliation he came to his senses and lifted his eyes to the true King. Nebuchadnezzar said, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” I guess He is!
You would think that those who followed after Nebuchadnezzar would have learned the lesson without having to face the “Day of the Lord,” the judgment of God, but this is not the case. I could fill volume after volume with illustrations of those who have acted in arrogance like Nebuchadnezzar.
I told you a couple of weeks ago about Voltaire, the famous French writer and atheist who wrote, “Fifty years from now the world will hear no more of the Bible.” The same year that he wrote those words the first copy of Voltaire’s book was selling for eight cents a copy and the British Museum paid $500,000 for one Greek New Testament manuscript. Fifty years later The Geneva Bible Society bought Voltaire’s house and used his own printing press to print Bibles!
Many believe that Friedrich Nietzsche was the most influential thinker of his day. Nietzsche was an angry atheist who took every possible opportunity to mock God and people of faith. He was most famous for his statement that “God is dead.” Some also believe that it was Nietzsche’s ideas that formulated Adolf Hitler’s passion for creating a “super race.” Hitler wanted to exterminate all of the inferior, weak, human beings and create a super race of humanity. You can see how Hitler may have been inspired by what Nietzsche wrote in his book, The Genealogy of Morals (III 14):
The sick are the great danger of man, not the evil, not the ‘beasts of prey.’ They who are from the outset botched, oppressed, broken those are they, the weakest are they, who most undermine the life beneath the feet of man, who instill the most dangerous venom and skepticism into our trust in life, in man, in ourselves…Here teem the worms of revenge and vindictiveness; here the air reeks of things secret and unmentionable; here is ever spun the net of the most malignant conspiracy – the conspiracy of the sufferers against the sound and the victorious; here is the sight of the victorious hated.
Nietzsche’s “super man,” his disdain for the weak and afflicted, would take an odd twist when on the morning of January 3, 1889, while in Turin, Nietzsche experienced a mental breakdown which caused him to go insane and left him an invalid for the rest of his life. Some believe that Nietzsche lost his mind because of the syphillis he had contracted while he was in college, but whether or not this is true, Friedrich Nietzsche joined the congregation of those he had despised earlier in life. This great writer and thinker was reduced to insanity. Unable to care for himself, he was institutionalized in Basel, then in Jena, before finally he lived out his days in an insane asylum with his mother taking care of him until he died in August of 1900.
We cannot thumb our nose at God, mock His majesty, snicker at His sovereignty, and deny His divine purposes for our lives and all of human history with no consequences. Nietzsche is dead, but God is on His throne.
As we turn to our lesson for today we need to remember these great lessons from times past my friends. As we study Revelation 8-9 today we will see that the trumpets of judgment are sounding, but there are those who will not listen—they refuse to learn. Before we look at the 7 trumpet judgments I want us to notice something about each of the judgments that appears in this section of God’s Word. Turn with me to Revelation 8:2-3 and let’s read together.
2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. 3Another 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. (Revelation 8:2-3 NIV)
The angels were given the seven trumpets that would announce each of the seven judgments of God. Who gave the angels the trumpets? That’s right, God handed them out. Now turn with me to Revelation 9 and let’s read verses 1-5 concerning the fifth trumpet plague.
1 The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. 2 When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. 3 And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. 4 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. 5 They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. (Revelation 9:1-5 NIV)
In this section of Scripture we see a “star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss.” When the Abyss was open out came locusts who “were given power” and 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.” They couldn’t kill people, but they could torture them for five months. Where did this originate. Who gave the “star” the key? Who set the parameters for what they could and couldn’t do? It was God. God gave the key. God gave the power. God set the boundaries. God is sovereign my friends. He holds all power and He is the conductor of the orchestra of history. Now turn with me to Revelation 9:13-15 and let’s read about the sixth trumpet judgment of God.
13 The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. 14 It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15 And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. (Revelation 9:13-15 NIV)
Once again let’s ask the question, “Who?” Who gave the order for the four angels to be released? You are so sharp! You are right again if you said, “God did.” The reason I wanted to take the time to point these things out for us is because there have been so many things said about the seven trumpet judgments of God that I believe is so far from what is intended. The judgments come on those who have turned away from God to worship their own power, the gods created by their own hands.
When we come to Revelation 8:2 we begin the second cycle of the heavenly visions found in Revelation. The second cycle includes seven angels with seven trumpets and it runs from Revelation 8:2 all the way to Revelation 11:19. Bruce Waltke writes about the seven cycles of visions found in Revelation.
Seven cycles of highly symbolic visions of the present and future challenges and blessings are described to encourage believers to be faithful to Christ while undergoing suffering and to warn against turning away from Christ. (Bruce Waltke, Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, pg. 2055)
These visions are given to encourage believers, you and me, to be faithful to our Lord and Savior in the midst of suffering. Will we suffer? Of course we will go through hard times. Why should that knock us back on our heels when the One we follow suffered all kinds of humiliation, persecution, and eventually death on a cross? We will go through hard times, but the visions of Revelation are given to us to reassure us that God is on His throne, that our suffering is not forever, and that we have a destiny that far outweighs our trials.
When we examine each of the seven trumpet plagues we can see that the first five trumpet plagues are very similar to four of the plagues that God brought upon the Egyptians when he delivered His people from Pharaoh’s oppressive grip. Let me give you the parallels to the first five trumpet plagues.
1st Trumpet (Revelation 8:7) 7th Egyptian Plague (Exodus 9:22-25)
2nd and 3rd Trumpets (Revelation 8:8-11) 1st Egyptian Plague (Exodus 7:20-25)
4th Trumpet (Revelation 8:12) 9th Egyptian Plague (Exodus 10:21-23)
5th Trumpet (Revelation 9:1-11) 8th Egyptian Plague (Exodus 10:12-15)
Let’s read Revelation 8:7-13 and see what happens when each of the first four trumpets are sounded.
7 The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. 8 The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, 9 a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. 10 The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water– 11 the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter. 12 The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night. 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!” (Revelation 8:7-13 NIV)
There are two common denominators that we find in each of the trumpet plagues: First, God is behind each of the plagues. Second, before the plagues ever transpire there is a blast from a trumpet. The trumpet sounds and then the plague unfolds. What significance do trumpets play, not only in this section of God’s Word, but throughout God’s Word? Well, let’s see if we can find out.
The word that is used here in Revelation 8 is the Greek word, “sa,lpigx” (sal’-pinx). The word has only one meaning, “trumpet.” This word is found 12 times in the Greek New Testament and 10 of those times are in the book of Revelation.
Trumpets are found throughout the Old Testament and there are three primary Hebrews words that are translated, “trumpet.” The most frequently used Hebrew word is the word, “rp’Av” (sho-far’), which means, “horn” or “ram’s horn.” The word appears 72 times in the Old Testament. The ram’s horn was used primarily in two ways: to call people to worship and to announce the judgment of God in various ways. When God was preparing to give His people the Ten Commandments, He called His people to come before Him at Mt. Sinai. We read in Exodus 19:16-19,
16On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, 19and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. (Exodus 19:16-19 NIV)
The trumpet or ram’s horn played an important part in the fall of Jericho. The victory of God’s people was also the judgment of God upon those in Jericho who had turned away from God. If you will remember God called Joshua and the Israelites to march around the city and blow the trumpet once a day for six days. On the seventh day the city would be conquered. Let’s read together from Joshua 6:12-16.
12Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. 13The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the LORD and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the LORD, while the trumpets kept sounding. 14So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days. 15On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. 16The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! (Joshua 6:12-16 NIV)
The trumpets announced the victory and the judgment of Almighty God. This is a common theme that we see whenever we hear the trumpets sound. One of the most important Scriptures that we find to show us the importance and role of trumpets in the plan of Almighty God is found in Jeremiah 6. God’s people in Judah had turned away from their God; they had lost their reverence and love for the Lord, and were living life however they wanted to live it. Things were so bad that even the priests had turned away from God and were preaching touchy-feely, feel-good sermons to the people. I told you earlier, we can turn away from God and think we are getting away with it, but our turning away does not go without notice. Let’s read what happened beginning in Jeremiah 6:1.
1 “Flee for safety, people of Benjamin! Flee from Jerusalem! Sound the trumpet in Tekoa! Raise the signal over Beth Hakkerem! For disaster looms out of the north, even terrible destruction. 2 I will destroy the Daughter of Zion, so beautiful and delicate. 3 Shepherds with their flocks will come against her; they will pitch their tents around her, each tending his own portion.” 4 “Prepare for battle against her! Arise, let us attack at noon! But, alas, the daylight is fading, and the shadows of evening grow long. 5 So arise, let us attack at night and destroy her fortresses!” 6This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Cut down the trees and build siege ramps against Jerusalem. This city must be punished; it is filled with oppression. 7 As a well pours out its water, so she pours out her wickedness. Violence and destruction resound in her; her sickness and wounds are ever before me. 8 Take warning, O Jerusalem, or I will turn away from you and make your land desolate so no one can live in it.” 9This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Let them glean the remnant of Israel as thoroughly as a vine; pass your hand over the branches again, like one gathering grapes.” 10 To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it. 11 But I am full of the wrath of the LORD, and I cannot hold it in. “Pour it out on the children in the street and on the young men gathered together; both husband and wife will be caught in it, and the old, those weighed down with years. 12 Their houses will be turned over to others, together with their fields and their wives, when I stretch out my hand against those who live in the land,” declares the LORD. 13 “From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. 14 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. 15 Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,” says the LORD. 16This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ 17 I appointed watchmen over you and said, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But you said, ‘We will not listen.’ (Jeremiah 6:1 – 17 NIV)
I’ve noticed something in studying about the sounding of the trumpet of God this past week. Those who hear the trumpet sound are called to respond. The sounding of the trumpet signals that the judgment of God is on the way. What will we do? Will we simply continue to live like we have always lived or will we stop what we are doing and listen to what God has to say? The judgment of God comes because people will not listen. When we hear the trumpets sound we are to stop everything we are doing and pay attention to what God is saying to us. The trumpet of God has sounded in the past and make no mistake about it, the day is coming when the trumpet will sound for the last time, but don’t become so enamored with the coming of the last trumpet blast that you fail to hear the trumpet sounding today. The sound of the trumpet is going out this very morning. You say, “I don’t hear anything.” Then you are not listening my friends. The sound of the trumpet is not always a literal trumpet blast, but it is the Word of God calling us to repentance, calling us to wake up, calling us to hear what the Lord is saying. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. Turn with me to Isaiah 58 and let’s read together.
1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins. 2 For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. 3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. 4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? 6“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:1-7 NIV)
“Raise your voice like a trumpet…” The Word of the Lord is a trumpet calling us to repentance this morning, but who has ears to hear? You know what interesting about the seven trumpet plagues of Revelation? There is chaos and mayhem in every sentence. Death and destruction unfold. Yet, we read in Revelation 9:20-21.
20 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. 21 Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts. (Revelation 9:20-21 NIV)
“They still did not repent.” What a tragic reality. Is there anyone with ears to hear this morning? You have heard the Word of God, the trumpets are sounding, but will you leave this sanctuary and return to life as you’ve always known it? Will you walk away from the call of God? Will we learn from those who have gone before us who heard the trumpet sound and yet disregarded its warning? Can we not learn from Nebuchadnezzar? Will we turn a blind eye to the lives, and lessons learned, from those like Nietzsche, Hitler, and others who disregarded the warnings that came before their destruction? Will someone here this morning who has heard the trumpet sound come and turn away from their sin and turn back to God? Won’t you come?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
March 26, 2006