Responding to God’s Wrath (Revelation 8:1–11:19)

When the glorified Jesus appeared to the imprisoned John, he told him, “write down what I’m about to show you and pass it on to my people” (ch. 1). In this message, after some pointed words to the churches in the present age (chs. 2–3), Christ turns his attention to the future (chs. 4–22). He takes the apostle into the heavenly throne-room, giving him a glimpse of the Father’s awesomeness, the Son’s faithfulness, and their all-together worthiness to be worshiped and trusted (chs. 4–5).

The Lamb then starts opening the book containing God’s perfect plan for the resolution and redemption of all things, unleashing a storm of wrath (chs. 6–7), one that continues to grow in intensity. In fact, the seventh seal unleashes seven trumpets of judgement, each more dramatic, demonic, and emphatic than the last (chs. 8–11). And as they sound, John records the reactions of those who witness and experience their chaos. And it’s in their responses to judgement that God’s people today can find encouragement, conviction, and comfort.


Last week, in our study of Revelation, we read of Jesus Christ opening the book containing God’s perfect plan for the resolution of all things, breaking its seven seals one-by-one. That perfect plan begins with a storm of wrath: oppression, violence, famine, death, and cataclysm. 

This week, that storm continues to grow. The final seal is broken, unleashing seven trumpets of judgement, each more dramatic and demonic than the last. And as these trumpets sound, John records the reactions of those who witness and experience them. And it’s in those responses to judgement that we are going to be offered encouragement, conviction, and comfort today.


Turn to Revelation 8. We’re looking at a big chunk of text this morning but focusing on the two main themes of wrath and the responses to that wrath, beginning with the former: the escalating wrath of God.

[8:1–4] Silence can be unnerving and powerful. It took me a few Sundays to get used to, and appreciate, the brief time of silence we share here when observing the Lord’s Table. In a place where there’s typically movement and commentary, the stillness is emphatic. Heaven is a place of constant worship. For it to go silent here is foreboding. 

The seven trumpets are handed out, but before one blast is heard, the prayers of God’s people are brought before the throne, a sweet-smelling offering to God. I’ve got to think that some of these prayers are those of the martyrs in [6:10]. Almost as an answer to those prayers, [8:5–6]. Brothers and sisters, our prayers are heard by our God, smell good to our God, and are responded to by our God. It will true for saints in this future storm and it’s true for saints today.

Now the trumpets begin blasting and God’s wrath starts growing. [8:7–12] Destruction and death, all coming from the heavens. Fiery hail, a burning mountain, a great star, and compromised light sources all descending from above, burning up vegetation, bloodying the sea, poisoning drinking water, and plunging earth into unnatural darkness. 

And while these first four trumpets are terrible, the next three are said to be even worse. [8:13–9:1] Angels are called stars in the OT (Job 38:7; Dan 8:10; Jdg 5:29), and this heavenly angel is given authority—a key—to open the abyss, a prison for fallen angels (Rev 20:7). Before Jesus sent the legion of demons into a herd of pigs, [Luke 8:31].

[9:2–12] We know that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Eph 6:12) and that, even now, there is an invisible war raging around us. Trumpet five seems to make the invisible visible. A demonic army is unleashed onto the earth. John struggles to describe what they will look like but not what they will do: they’ll torture to the point that people will want the relief of a death but can’t find it.

[9:13–19] Four specific fallen angels are released from their bonds and, with them, will come a massive army. Whether this is an army of demons or humans or demon-possessed humans, we’re not told. Just that it’s huge, destructive, and murderous. While 25% of the earth died in the fourth seal (7:8), 33% of those remaining are now killed.

One author says this: “You wake up in a cold sweat from a terrifying nightmare about some bizarre creature or terrible accident from which you couldn’t escape. What a relief to find that it was just a bad dream! But at some point in the future of this fallen world, the nightmarish scenario will be devastatingly real” (Fanning, Revelation, 306).

This is chaos and, yet, God’s in control. The Lamb will break the seal (8:1), the trumpets will be given out (8:2), the fallen angels were prepared (9:15), the demons will be told what they can and cannot do, who they can and cannot kill, and for how long they can work (9:4–5). The wrath is terrible but providential.

God’s in control of its power, its progress, and its proclamation. [10:1–7] At this point of the storm, its end, the return of Christ, and restoration of all that was lost in Eden is near. The strong angel swears an oath to God, “there will be delay no longer.” It’s close!

Some details of how it’s going to end were “seal[ed] up” (v. 4), others are about to be uncovered as “the mystery of God is finished” (v. 7). Many details have already been revealed “as [God] preached to his servants the prophets” (v. 7). God’s in control of the tribulation and its proclamation. He told humanity this was going to happen, he’s telling you and I through John, and, in the tribulation he’ll proclaim it again.

[10:8–11] Like Ezekiel and building atop the OT prophets like Ezekiel, John is told to consume God’s word so as to declare God’s word, sweet in deliverance, bitter in judgement. God sent his prophets, his people, and his Son. Now he’s sending John and, as we keep reading, he’ll send others into the future storm.

[11:1–2] Notice the focus on Israel—temple, altar, holy city. God’s using tribulation to bring them back to himself like he’s done so often in their history. [11:3–6] Three-and-a-half years of mourning and prophesying by two protected and empowered messengers of God, proclaiming God’s word and propagating God’s wrath.

It’s a terrible scene: God’s just wrath growing, spreading, and consuming in spite of his constant warnings to sinful humanity of what they deserve and what they will experience—hail and fire, oceans of blood, poisoned water, cosmic darkness, hoards of sadistic demons, and massive, diabolical armies. 

Here it’s important to remind ourselves who’s on the throne. Is the Lamb worthy to open the book and to break its seals? Can we trust God to know how to deal with evil, how to establish justice, how to bring people to himself, how to lay the foundations for a new heaven and earth? Can we trust him in times of wrath? The Bible screams, “Yes!” and invites us to join that cry.

There are some subjects that seem to resist neutrality; topics on which everyone has an opinion. Abortion and affirmative action, gun control and capital punishment, artificial intelligence and immigration. Few people were indifferent to COVID lockdowns. These are realities that generate emotional responses. 


I think we can add divine wrath to that list. It’s hard to be neutral on the judgement of the wicked. Everyone’s going to have a reaction. And we should. In fact, we see three responses to God’s wrath in this passage, three responses that we’re called to consider ourselves.

First, there’s the response of hardening; increased callousness and rebellion. In this future tribulation, people know it’s God sending judgement. In fact, we saw last week in the sixth seal. [6:16–17]

There are no atheists at this point in human history. That is a luxury of ignorance today that will not always be afforded people. And, at the end of Revelation 9, after six world-shaking trumpets, you’d think people would soften to the idea that they aren’t all-powerful, that they’re guilty, and that they need deliverance. But, no. [9:20–21]

Their rebellion is so set, their hearts are so hard, their unbelief so intrenched, their idolatry so fierce, their self-love so deep, their pride so strong, and their hatred of God so pronounced that even wrath as seen and experienced in this time will not shake them to repentance.

This hardening is seen further in their reaction to the two empowered and prophesying witnesses. [11:7–10] In Jerusalem, now nicknamed Sodom and Egypt because of its evil and coming judgement, the corpses of God’s messengers are danced around like a campfire, with people exchanging gifts like it’s Christmas. 

This is one response to God’s wrath: hardening. It’s a doubling-down on rebellion against a God who has made himself known. While we’re not currently in the Great Tribulation, some of us have met people like this. Some of us have been people like this. Some of us probably are people like this. Today you have been shown God’s character and, in your pride, are responding, “I don’t like it.” You’re hardening your heart. And the Bible describes you clearly. [Rom 1:18–23] Don’t harden yourself to truth; to the best news ever—a God that loves you and has provided you with salvation if you would only trust him.

Thankfully, it’s not the only option. The second possible response is acknowledging. Interestingly, in our passage, it’s the same group. [11:11–14] Look how terrible things have to get for these people to rightly fear God and give him the glory he’s due. They see who God is, they see what he has done, and they bend the knee. The acknowledge that, yes, there is a powerful God. Yes, we’re we’re frail, rebellious sinners who can neither comprehend the height of his holiness nor the depths of their depravity.

There’s a chance you’re hearing my voice right now and you are teetering between these two choices: hardening and acknowledging. You’ve heard what God has said is coming and your trying to decide what to do about it. You can reject it and him and remain under the wrath you deserve or you can humble yourself, soften your heart, acknowledge the God who made you, loves you, and has been reaching out to you all your life.

Now, the choice between hardening and acknowledging applies to Christians as well. The author of Hebrews warns us about this. [Heb 3:12–13] The danger is there. Trials and tribulations happen in our lives; doubts and concerns, stresses and sins, pressures and fatigue. All of that can lead to hardness in the believer, evil unbelieving hearts that do not remove us from salvation but do remove us from the blessing of walking in the light. 

What’s the remedy? Repent and seek the encouragement of the body of Christ. Do it today! Encourage one another. Spur one another on. Tell one another of the goodness of God, his trustworthiness, his holiness, his awesomeness. Gather together to sing of his worthiness even when you aren’t sure (especially then!). Don’t harden yourself. Stay soft-hearted. Acknowledge him. Celebrate him. Worship him.

Now, there’s one more response in this passage, and its the apex response. We’re confronted with the reality of God’s wrath—now and in the future—and we can respond with hardening, acknowledging, and, finally, with anticipating

As God’s wrath increases, those of us who are not destined for wrath but who have been delivered by God’s grace through faith in God’s Son, our anticipation for Christ’s return can also increase. As judgement grows, so can our longing for its certain and glorious conclusion, when the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend. Even so, it is well with my soul.

This growing anticipation is seen throughout these chapters, starting with a heavenly silence in 8:1, bursting with longing. The prayers of the saints are pleading with God to bring about his justice, peace, and liberty, perfectly and finally. The strong angel in chapter 10 swears that the time is short, no more delay, and he sends John out again to prophecy to many peoples and nations and tongues and kings. Everyone needs to hear that the end is close! Anticipation!

Finally, we come to the seventh and final trumpet. We’ll see in later weeks that this blast contains more judgement but that, ultimately it pulls all the way up to the return of Jesus, something that is previewed at the end of chapter 11. 

[11:15–19] The eternal kingdom of Christ, the messianic reign predicted, promised, and detailed in the OT, will finally arrive, conquering and replacing all earthly kingdoms, perfectly judging the wicked and perfectly rewarding the righteous. 

Christ Jesus, the serpent-crushing, covenant-fulfilling, sin-atoning, humanity-saving, God-displaying King is coming. And when we are confronted with pictures and warnings of God’s wrath and judgement, his necessary and merciful response to a sin-stained world, it can and should fuel our anticipation for a time when it will no longer be needed. [Phil 3:20–21]

Brothers and sisters, are you waiting with eagerness? God’s wrath is very real, both today and with amazing intensity in the future. We can respond with hardening, acknowledging, or, best of all, with anticipating.

One theologian with whom I have several significant disagreements, writes an amazingly agreeable and important reminder that I share with you now I we close: “There are many and considerable disagreements among Christians on the subject of biblical eschatology but none of them is of sufficient urgency or importance that we who trust and treasure Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour cannot unite in our common cry: Even so, come Lord Jesus” (Sam Storms, Kingdom Come, 559)! Amen. 


Josiah Boyd

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