Reading for Wednesday, Nov 21: Revelation 8
With the opening of the final seal, we see vivid descriptions of God’s judgment. Silence in heaven precedes the opening of this final seal (v1), which is appropriate (see Zeph. 1:7 and Zech. 2:13). But prior to this final image, John will remind us once again of something he alluded to in chapter 5: the prayers of the church matter. In fact, they matter greatly. In John’s vision, an angel emerges with incense and the prayers of the saints. This angel offers these prayers on the golden altar before the throne and they rise before God. God’s judgment that follows is presumably in response to these prayers, the prayers of the saints accumulated in the golden bowls of 5:8, but also the prayers of the martyrs who have assembled before the throne, asking God, “How long before you will judge and avenge our blood?” (6:10).
Here’s the takeaway: when the church prays, God hears. These prayers have an effect; they cause things to happen here on earth. Through our worship and prayer, we participate in the worship of heaven. But that worship intersects the present sphere. We may not always be delivered from historical troubles; in fact, many more have been martyred since John penned these words for our encouragement. But the ultimate reality is that God hears our cry and He promises to act in due time to make things right. We stand in a long line of believers who have cried out to God for deliverance (Exodus 2:23-24; Exodus 3:7; Habakkuk 1:2-4; Matthew 27:46). But we should be buoyed in our prayer life, knowing that God in heaven hears and responds in His sovereign wisdom.
The Exodus story is important to keep in mind here as we read of the trumpets being blown in judgment. Here we will see hail and fire (8:7; Exod. 9:23-25); the sea becoming blood (8:8-9; Exod. 7:20); darkness (8:12; Exod. 10:21); and locust (9:1-12; Exod. 10:12). This is helpful for our understanding. We can see these trumpet blasts as more than simply “judgment”; we can see them as the Israelites would have understood the Exodus — as God’s act of liberation. Even these trumpet blasts can be seen as good news…because the ultimate Exodus is about to occur!