We are now well into what I call the meat and potatoes of the Book of Revelation. And to understand what’s going on here in chapter 8, it’s helpful if we zoom out a bit and get a “big picture” view of what’s going on throughout Revelation.
So first, in Chapter 5, we see the Lamb who was slain declared “worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and praise.” (Rev. 5:12) This is a vision of what Jesus’ ascension looks like from a heavenly perspective. Remember, from an earthly perspective, it looks like Jesus has just left the building. He’s gone. The book of Acts opens with this scene of the disciples standing there—staring up into the sky—watching until Jesus disappears. God has to send two angels to tell them, “Hey guys, knock it off.” (Acts 1:9-11) But Revelation 5 shows us the ascension from a heavenly perspective. From an earthly perspective, it looks like Jesus has left. But from a heavenly perspective, it looks like Jesus is ruling and reigning over everything. His power and authority over the earth—and especially over all who rejected him—is now the main focus of what’s to come.
And so from chapter 6 to chapter 16—we see Christ executing his authority over the earth and the people who dwell upon it. And it can be a little overwhelming to process. So I’ve made you a little graphic to help you remember how chapters 6-16 are organized. So let me walk you through it.
First, what are we seeing in these chapters, well we’re seeing Christ’s reign over human history from his crucifixion, resurrection, ascension (Cross) all the way to his second coming in judgement (scales). This is all being shown to us from 3 different angles. Think of camera angles when you’re watching a game. The first angle is represented by the opening of seven seals on a scroll. The second angle is represented by the blowing of seven trumpets. And the third angle is represented by pouring out the contents of seven bowls upon the earth. From each of these three angles, we get heavenly view of how Christ is ruling and reigning over human history for the good of his church—even when it looks like—from our vantage point—like he’s disappeared from view.
And so that brings us back to our text this morning—Revelation 8. The seals on the scroll have all been opened—and now we’re about to see Christ’s rule and reign from a fresh perspective. After a brief silence that builds our anticipation for what’s coming, the trumpets start blowing. And Christ begins judging the world for its idolatry. Notice that the trumpets signal the destruction of all the things that men use to worship false gods. The first trumpet brings a judgment against the earth. The second against the world’s economic system. The third against false teaching. (Jer. 23:15) And the fourth against the very heavens themselves. The message is clear: “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth” and who bow to idols made of wood—who worship money—who listen to lying prophets—and who call upon the sun, moon, and stars for comfort. “Woe” is a word of warning—a message to the people of the earth to repent of their idolatry and worship Christ—the true living and reigning King—who is coming soon to judge all the living and the dead.