Sun, May 28, 2000

The Seventh Seal: Revelation 8:1-5

Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.

THE SEVENTH SEAL

REVELATION 8:1-5

Orville Mitchell Sr. tells the following true story:

Probably everyone of us has at some time or another wondered how our prayers are being answered, but I recall one about which there is no doubt.

Once in the middle of the night I awoke in the most terrible moment of a very realistic dream. I was driving a car and I had just struck a child. The effect upon me was so real and terrible that I climbed out of bed, got down on my knees and asked my Father in heaven not to let that thing happen to me. Then it was though the burden was taken from me, sleep was restored, and not another thought was given to the matter until noon the next day.

Now five of us were in a car. I was at the wheel, and we were moving out Worth Street around 25 miles per hour. Suddenly an urge to immediately stop came upon me with no apparent reason, and this we did quite abruptly.

When the other four passengers picked themselves off the dashboard and the back of the front seat, and all five of us tried to figure out why this abrupt stop was necessary, we were amazed to see a child dressed only in a diaper emerge between parked automobiles and waddle out into the street immediately in front of us.

Next a mother came charging out of the house, bounding over the curb and out into the street. She angrily grabbed up the child, and without much more than a glance in our direction retreated into the house.

To whom, do you suppose, has the Lord demonstrated His love in this remarkable answer to prayer? The little tot probably will never hear that his life was spared. The mother was so angry with herself for letting the child escape from the house that it is quite likely she never breathed one "Thank you" to the Lord.

The other four occupants of the car, having heard the events leading up to the sudden stop, have asked me to tell the story on an occasion or two. But to me, who would have suffered most had the Lord not intervened, to me it has meant the most. All I can say in gratitude will confirm that the Psalmist was right when he said, "Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee."

- Orville Mitchell, Sr.

As we get into Revelation chapter 8, that is the focus as the seventh seal is opened, God answering the prayers of the saints. So lets read through this section of Scripture and then see what the Lord has for us this morning. (Read Revelation 8:1-5).

As we look at the things that are happening in this world, we see things spinning out of control. Man has hardened his heart towards God and is thus manifesting the fruit of that broken relationship. Paul tells Timothy of the stressful times that will come upon man in the last days because of their rebellion against God.

In II Timothy chapter 3 we read beginning in verse 1, "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power..." II Timothy 3:1-5.

Those statements not only sum-up the attitudes and actions of this nation, but the men, women and children throughout the world. We see people lacking self-control. On the expressway in Chicago several years ago a man cut off another man which caused one of them to pull out a gun and shoot at the vehicle. The victim of this gun shot was not the other driver but an innocent child sitting in the back seat of the van. This child recovered from her injuries but is now blind in one eye. NO SELF-CONTROL!

A few years back we witnessed the death of two children by their own mother. At first she said they were kidnaped and a country wide search was put into action. But after several days the truth came out. She had killed her two children by placing them in a car and seat belting them in. And as they were asleep she drove the car into the lake, killing both children. They had drowned being strapped into their car. The reason she did this was because the man she was dating wanted the relationship to stop because he didn’t feel he was mature enough to raise these two children. Thus, their mother killed them so she could enjoy the pleasure of this man, or so she thought. We have come to a world that IS IN LOVE WITH SELF, IN LOVE WITH PLEASURE AT ANY COST!

Back on May 26th of this year, on the last day of School in Florida, "A 13-year-old student sent home from school for throwing water balloons on the last day of classes returned Friday and fatally shot a teacher with a semi-automatic pistol..." WE ARE SEEING A DISRESPECT FOR THOSE IN AUTHORITY AND A DISOBEDIENCE NOT ONLY TOWARDS PARENTS, BUT TO THOSE WHO ARE IN AUTHORITY!

Yes, we are living in stressful times which will only grow more and more intense as we move closer to the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! And we may wonder why God has not judged this evil world sooner? How long can He wait? Just look at all this evil that is running rampant in this world!

God’s longsuffering is great and He is waiting for the fulness of our iniquities to run its coarse. For our rebellion against Him to be complete. Remember what God said to Abraham back in Genesis 15:16, "...for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete." God gave them 400 years to repent, and they did not. Thus, the time had come for God’s patience to be replaced with His judgment against this people.

The same is true today. God is patient and longsuffering, but we shall soon see His righteous judgment being poured out on a Christ rejecting world. Paul said in Romans 2:5-6,

"But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring upfor yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds."

We saw God’s judgment begin as the Lamb took the scroll or the title deed of the earth and He began to open or loose its seals. With the opening of each seal came judgment from God upon the earth-dwellers. We saw false peace and security followed by wars, famine, diseases, death, and cataclysmic events in the heavens and upon the earth. The judgment has begun!

After the parenthesis of chapter 7 when God sealed the 144,000 Jewish evangelists and out of that we saw a innumerable number of people come to the Lord, we pick back up with the seventh seal judgment, which takes place some time after the mid-point of the tribulation period. So let’s look closer at these verses here in Revelation chapter 8 and see what the Lord has for us.

REVELATION 8

VERSE 1

As this seventh seal is opened, silence in heaven breaks out for about a half an hour. Keep in mind that heaven was bursting forth in the worship of God, but now there is an eerie silence, kind of a calm before the storm of God’s judgment is poured out.

Let me share with you a couple of verses that we can look at to help explain what this silence is all about. First, in Zephaniah 1:7 we read "Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD; for the day of the LORD is at hand, for the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; he has invited His guests." There is a silence in awe of the holocaust of divine fury that is going to be poured out.

Also, in Zechariah 2:13 we read "Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for He is aroused from His holy habitation!As this seal is opened, the Lord is preparing to step out onto the scene to set-up His kingdom, and the heavens wait in eager anticipation for this event. It is like the unveiling of a work of art. As the covering is about to be lifted, silence fills the crowd of people, and that, in a sense, is what we are seeing here in heaven!

And you will see that this silence is in direct response to the prayers that come before the throne of God as He is about to act upon those requests. We will look at this as we get to verses 3 and 4 in a few minutes.

VERSE 2

The seven trumpets that are about to sound most likely will be blown towards the end of the tribulation period, sometime after the first 3½ years of the tribulation period. And as we get to these trumpet judgments, we will see the first 4 deal with judgments that are focused upon the earth and the last 3 judgments are focused upon man.

Now in the Old Testament we see trumpets that are used to call an assembly together, Numbers 10:2. To sound the alarm for war, Numbers 10:9. They were used for religious feasts, Numbers 10:10. They were used to announce news, I Samuel 13:3. They were used to announce a new king, I Kings 1:34, 39. They were used in worship, I Chronicles 16:6, 42. Also, to announce the Day of the LORD, Zephaniah 1:14-16.

But in the New Testament, we see two primary uses for trumpets. The first is to call the church home, we call it the rapture of the church. We see that in I Corinthians chapter 15 where we read"Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed– in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, andthe dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." I Corinthians 15:51-52.

Also, in I Thessalonians chapter 4 we read, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words." I Thessalonians 4:16-18. And so this trumpet blast is the calling home of the church or the rapture of the church.

The other trumpet blast is seen in judgment and is found in Revelation 8:6-7, which says,

"So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. The firstangel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up."And the judgments continue on with each blast of the trumpet.

And those that will sound these alarms will be seven angels or ministering spirits which are sent out by God. (Hebrews 1:14). They are used by God to send forth His judgment upon a Christ rejecting world.

VERSES 3-4

The altar of incense stood before the holy place in the temple. It stood in front of the veil between the table of show bread and the seven branch oil burning lamp. And the incense was burned and offered to God before the first and after the last sacrifices of the day. To burn this incense the priest was to take the hot, fiery coals from the brazen altar, the place where the sacrifices were offered, and bring them to the holy place, to the altar of incense.

In Psalm 141:2 we are told "Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." And so we see the offering of incense related to our prayers ascending to the throne of God.

And keep in mind that the tabernacle was a picture or a type of heaven. Each portion of it speaks of an aspect of the work of Jesus for all man. The show bread represented Jesus as the bread of life. The seven branch oil burning lamp is a picture of Jesus being the light of the world. And you can go on-and-on and see different pictures of Christ in the tabernacle. It is as Hebrews 9:24 says, "For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us."

Think about this picture of prayer that God is painting for us here in Revelation chapter 8. Our prayers are like incense, sweet smelling, pleasing to God. Our prayers, in a sense, smell good to God. When we pray it is like God taking a deep breath in, and going AHHHH! Isn’t that great! Also, I want you to notice something that is very important, a picture of where the type and the reality come together.

The altar of sacrifice was located outside of the holy place, and thus, the coals from this altar must first be appropriated by the priest and then taken to the altar of incense where they ignite the incense as a sweet smelling aroma before God.

Now, for us, our Lord was crucified outside of the city, and He must be appropriated into our lives, He must become our Lord and Savior, before our prayers can be ignited and ascend before God. It is then they are accepted and acted upon, otherwise God is not under any obligation to act upon the prayers of those that are not His children. It is just as Jesus said in John 14:12-14,"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it."

Also, in Hebrews 4:14-16 we are told "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne ofgrace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." We can come boldly before God because of what Christ has done in our lives, cleansed us from our sin, He has reconciled us to God. Therefore, we can speak to God, pour out what is upon our heart to Him and He will listen to our hearts cry because we have been adopted into His family, we are His children.

And God does answer prayer, and I believe that most if not all of us can attest to that fact. We recently saw how God can answer prayer as one of our members was being tested for cancer, and the doctors were leaning towards the results coming back positive, that this was going to be cancer. And so he went in for the testing, as many prayers were being offered up for him, and when the results came in the doctors were surprised. No cancer and there was not even any pre-cancer cells to be found! God does answer prayer!

But here in Revelation we are told that the angel brings those prayers before God. Why has God placed these prayers on the side? Why has God not acted upon these prayers? It does seem strange, almost out of character, not like the nature of God we read of in the Scriptures.

God has not placed them on the side or forgotten about them. He has just not acted upon these prayers as yet, but He is about to. What are these prayers all about then? Remember in Matthew chapter 6, Jesus is showing us how to pray and He says "...our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:9-10.

All those prayers that Christians have prayed in regards to God’s kingdom being set-up here on this earth are about to be fulfilled. And remember John said "...the prayers of all thesaints..."will come before the Lord and He will act upon them. All those prayers for righteousness to reign on this earth are about to come to pass. As we see silence in heaven, all of a sudden we hear the prayers of the saints ascend before the ears of God. It is almost as if God is saying "Quiet, My children are calling to me!" You see, God does listen intently to our prayers and now we will see Him act upon this one - the establishment of God’s kingdom here on this earth!

VERSE 5

Here we see the release of these prayers. Man has rebelled against God long enough. And now we see those prayers cast down in judgment against the earth and its inhabitants with "...noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake."

Of this portion of Scripture, H. B. Swete says, "The prayers of the saints return to the earth in wrath." Torrance puts it this way when he says, "That means that more potent, more powerful than all the dark and mighty powers let loose in the world, more powerful than anything else, is the power of prayer set ablaze by the fire of God cast upon the earth."

And it is interesting to note that the fire that is cast down upon the earth comes from the altar of sacrifice, that same fire where the Lamb was offered, His blood poured out and that same fire that had brought sweet smelling incense before the Lord. But, if you are not touched by the refining fire of God, you will be touched by the fire of God in the form of judgment. Each person will be touched by the fire of God in one way or the other, but it is your choice to either accept Christ and His gift of life, or to reject Him and be judged for it.

Now this is not what I have to say, but it is what God has said. In John 3:16-18 we see Jesus speak this very thing, and He is very clear to what He means. We read "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is notcondemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

Again, Jesus makes this same point in Matthew 21:44, when he says "And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder." You can humble yourself before God, broken in spirit by the realization you are lost in your sins and the only way to rectify that problem is to receive Christ into your life. If you refuse Christ, then the Rock, Jesus Christ, will crush you into powder, judgment will come upon you. Thus, you will either have faith, or unbelief, one leads to life, the other to death, the choice is yours!

Now as God acts upon these prayers we will see judgments come forth in the form of trumpet blasts which usher in devastating events. Next time we are going to see 1/3 of the vegetation destroyed, 1/3 of the oceans destroyed, 1/3 of the fresh water supply destroyed and 1/3 of the sun destroyed! Don’t ever think that your prayers are not heard, even the ones that are calling for God to judge the wicked and establish His kingdom here on the earth, because God does hear, He does listen and in His time He will act as we will see next time. More judgment is coming!

For those of you who may be struggling this morning, wondering if God does answer prayer, He does! It may not be the way we think He should, it may not be in our time, but His time and according to His will. You see, if you are a child of God, He hears your prayers. It is as John said "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him." I John 5:14-15.

You see, prayer is never to change the will of God, but to have our will conform to His will. We don’t change God, He changes us! And folks, you wouldn’t want it any other way because He knows what is best for each of us. It is as James 5:16 says, "...The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."

If you are not a child of God, if Jesus is not Lord and Savior of your life, then God is not under any obligation to answer your prayers. The one He will answer though, 100% of the time, is the one asking Him to be Lord and Savior of your life, the forgiving of your sin. He will answer that and then you will be adopted into the family of God, you are one of His children! And thus, you can pray to Him, speak to Him, and He will hear and act upon your prayers!

It is as Paul said in Hebrews 10:31, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Why? "For our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12:29. Again, God will either refine or destroy you in His judgment, but each life will be touched by the fire of God in one way or the other! I pray that His refining touch will come upon your life instead of the fires of His judgment!

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