Background Scripture: Revelation 8: 6-13
Focus Passage: "For then there shall be great distress [tribulation] unequaled from the beginning of the world until now -- and never to be equaled again." (Matt. 24:21 NIV)
I must confess at the outset here that, as I sit down at my computer to write this week's e-votion, my mind is swirling with a host of thoughts. Some of these thoughts have to do with things I have gleaned from my own reading of the scripture above, others from learned men who have written about the book of Revelation and still others have to do with things I have learned from my brothers and sisters on Sunday morning when we meet together. Therefore, rather than an attempt at a cohesive expository devotion on this week's scripture, you will find it to be a disparate, yet (hopefully) interconnected series of thoughts on the subject.
1. There it is...right before the final"Hallelujah" in the "Hallelujah Chorus" of Handel's Messiah...a great and poignant, seemingly interminable pause. In fact, in the version I have linked here, the pause lasts only about three seconds. But, do you suppose George Frederic Handel was thinking of the 30 minute pause in heaven that we spoke of last week when he wrote this? I think he was since a careful reading of thelyrics of his masterpiece will reveal that Handel was deeply into the entire Bible when he composed "Messiah" and that many of the lyrics from the Hallelujah Chorus are from the book of Revelation including 4:11,5: 9-10, and 7: 11-12 among others. This fact was pointed out to us in class last week by Annette and I am thankful to her for doing so. If you find that your day is in need of a lift, click on thefirst link above and spend 4 minutes and 22 seconds in pure unadulterated worship.
2. Come on..admit it! You were not overly surprised that the sun came up this morning. In fact, you could say you took for granted that it would occur. That is because God is the author of nature, the created world, and the laws of physics and He holds all things together (Col. 1:17). When men and women make laws, they are supposed to live under them. It has been said that, in a just society, no one is above the law. To the extent that this is true, I believe that it is an explicit or a tacit recognition that God is the supreme lawgiver. However, unlike the laws of men, God is definitely above the laws of science, nature, chemistry, biology, and physics...or just about any discipline you can name...and He can suspend them at His will. This was pointed out to us quite well last Sunday morning by David L.
You see, the biblical worldview is not in conflict with science; rather it is in conflict with any worldview that starts without a Creator. Quite often in a reading of Revelation we will come across physical phenomena that are unusual and remarkable to the natural mind which causes some to dismiss them with impunity. But, the same God that could defy gravity by walking on the water, defy chemistry by turning water into wine, defy meteorology by making it rain burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah, or defy astronomy to make the sun stand still in the heavens for Joshua (Josh. 10:13), can make these events we are about to study come about as well.
3. There is an ongoing debate by those who call themselves biblical expositors about whether the judgments we will read about this coming week in Revelation 8 (background scripture) are literal or symbolic. In my humble opinion, this is much ado about nothing. They are quite obviously both. The best way to discover this is in connection with the plagues of Egypt (Exod. 7-11). When Moses waved his rod over the Nile, this was symbolic. When the Nile turned to blood, this was quite literal and literal fish died a literal death. When Aaron put out his rod and smote the dust of the ground, that was symbolic. However, when lice appeared, believe me, they were quite literal.
Why should what we are about to read be anything different? When the angels perform their act of blowing their respective trumpets, that is symbolic. However, what happens on earth will be a literal and physical cataclysm of God's judgment.
Perhaps an example from our present day will serve to underscore this point. The terrible scourge of abortion has been rocking this land for hundreds of years and at an accelerated rate since 1973. The destruction of millions of unborn children is quite literal yet it is also symbolic of the hardness of our hearts and not much different from the quite literal act of the children of Israel throwing their children into the furnace of Molech. In both cases, it is a testament to our increasing indulgence in the idolatry of self-centeredness.
Yes, as Jesus so plainly told his disciples in Matthew 24, terrible times are coming on the earth for those who are not "in Christ" (Romans 8:1). However, we can take comfort in two very literal facts: 1) As the body of Christ, we will not be here for this terrible time and 2) We still have the privilege and opportunity to reduce the population of those who will endure it even if by only one. Therefore, we should work while it is still day(John 9:4) because twilight is upon us.
Keep and Defend the Faith,