Only five verses this week — but WOW!
“When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven…”
We saw in Revelation 7:1 that angels hold back the final judgment, so that the saints can be sealed. Now we see they even hold back their own praise, so that the prayers of the saints can be heard by God.
We’re again going to see the similarity between the judgment in Exodus and the judgment in Revelation. With both, God is concerned about the suffering of His own and brings plagues. Plagues harden the hearts of unbelievers and refine believers.
History repeats, for the God of the ancient Hebrews is the God of us. This is a quote from Alec Motyer, who explains how the believers in Exodus might have described their salvation. We could say the same, word for word:
We were in a foreign land, in bondage, under the sentence of death. But our mediator—the one who stands between us and God—came to us with the promise of deliverance. We trusted in the promises of God, took shelter under the blood of the lamb, and he led us out. Now we are on the way to the Promised Land. We are not there yet, of course, but we have the law to guide us, and through blood sacrifice, we also have his presence in our midst. So he will stay with us until we get to our true country, our everlasting home.
I’ve always loved what God told Moses, and this is very relevant to this passage in Revelation:
I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
This is the story of all saints as well. We have been, are being, and will be rescued from Satan. Right now we are traveling through the wilderness, through a time of tribulation, but God will bring judgment on those who persecute us, including Satan, and then bring us into the promised land. The prayers going up to God in Revelation seem to be the cries of deceased saints. But I don’t think it is a big leap to say that God also cares about our prayers, and certainly, other scriptures confirm this.
Our “crying out” matters. He cares about our suffering.
In “Gentle and Lowly” Dane Ortland writes: “He hates with righteous hatred all that plagues you. In your grief, He is grieved. In your distress, He is distressed.”
This year has been a wonderful year for me for I have seen God answer my most fervent prayer, that He would kindle a passion for Him in the hearts of my children who seemed to lack it. I have always felt Sally has been stalked by Satan, and I also know my daughters Anne and Beth suffered so in their childhood orphanages. So I have been crying out for their release. G. K. Beale and David Campbell ask in their combined commentary: “Are our prayers directed toward obtaining benefit for ourselves or glory for God?” I know my prayers for my daughters have been that they will be released from Satan’s treacheries and bonds, and that is for God’s glory. This is important for me to see, for often God does not answer my prayers that are truly just for my own benefit and comfort.
Though it has taken time, this year, to my amazement, God came running and has rekindled passion in two of my children.
Yet despite His faithfulness, I’m still a bit like the believers in Acts 12 who, though they had been earnestly praying for Peter’s prison release, still, couldn’t believe it when Rhoda told them Peter was at the door.
Another important application which Dr. Campbell mentioned to me in an e-mail is that we need to be praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters. I confess I have prayed much more for my own children. Why? Because I love them so. So I think a wise prayer is to ask God to give you a burden for a particular people group. He has given me a burden for the Christians in North Korea — I’ve read more books than I can count that have stirred my cold heart. I’m now praying at least daily for them. When I asked our own Sharon why she was praying more last week, she said it is because of all the suffering brothers and sisters around the world. Help us to care and intercede, Lord!
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
- When you think about answered prayers in your life, what does it teach you?
Monday: Scriptural Context
There are strong parallels, as we will see as we continue this study, between the plagues of Egypt and the judgments of Revelation. There are other parallels too, which will be helpful to keep in mind.
3. Read Exodus 3:7-10 and summarize God’s main message to Moses.
4. In Exodus 7:5, what was God’s main purpose for the plagues?
5. What other purposes did God have for the plagues according to Exodus 10:1-2?
6. And what purpose did He have for delivering the Israelites according to Exodus 14:4?
In both Exodus and in Revelation we see God asking for His glory. In the shorter Westminister Cathechism, the answer to “What is the chief end of man” is: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, [a] and to enjoy him forever.”
7. Why is it important to make the goal of our lives to glorify God? (Take time with this.) And, how are you doing this?
Tuesday: The Seventh Seal
8. Read Revelation 8:1-5 aloud and share anything that stands out to you.
9. Compare Revelation 8:4-5 with Exodus 19:18-19. What similarity do you see and what might this mean?
10. Read Dr. Campbell’s opening paragraph under the seventh seal and answer:
A. What is the content of the seventh seal?
B. God told the prophet Habakkuk He was going to execute judgment both on Israel and then on the nations who He used to refine them. What does Habakkuk tell the people in Habakkuk 2:20 and how is this similar to Revelation 8:1? What do you learn from this?
C. What else stands out to you from this paragraph by Campbell?
D. I see a common thread with Job, Habakkuk, and here again in Revelation with the response to the judgment of God being silence. Why, do you think?
11. Read Campbell’s second paragraph and share what you learn about the meaning of:
B. “Half an hour”
C. The timing of judgment
D. What application do you see for yourself in the above?
Wednesday: The Different Views
In the Historist and Futurist views, the belief is that the four judgments occur chronologically, one after another, at the end of time. In the Idealist view, these various judgments (horses, seals, trumpets, bowls) are like the four different perspectives of the gospels which occurred at the same time. As you know, Dr. Campbell takes the Idealist view, and believes these judgments all occur simultaneously from the ascent of Christ to His return, though heightening in intensity at the very end. This is not a matter of salvation, and we must give grace and also pray to discern the truth.
12. Read Revelation 8:2-4 again. What does John see?
13. Read Dr. Campbell’s third paragraph beginning with “John sees further detail.”
A. What does the incense represent according to Campbell and what is his support?
B. Why does he think these are the prayers of the deceased saints?
C. What scriptural support does Campbell offer for these various judgments being parallel rather than consecutive chronological judgments?
D. Do you agree or disagree and why?
14. Read the following paragraph by Campbell and share his main point.
15. Read the rest of the section and find the comfort for believers and anything else that stands out.
Thursday/Friday Optional Kevin de Young Sermon or Shorter Meditation by the Kellers
Click below and find the Kevin de Young sermon on Revelation 8:1-5. (It’s at the end)
Or, this under 10 minute piece by Tim and Kathy Keller is actually on Psalm 150, but goes with this week’s theme on the prayers of the saints:
16. Share your comments or notes from the above sermon.
17. What is your take-a-way and why?