Discussion Guide for Revelation 8-9
The theme of judgement continues in Revelation 8 and 9. This awful visitation of death and destruction is popularly what the world thinks of first as the Apocalypse (the Greek form of Revelation).
The 1950’s movie, The Seventh Seal, gets rave reviews from many film buffs (myself included). This Swedish Cold War era film depicts the black plague of the Middle Ages as the type of cataclysm described when the seventh seal is opened in Revelation.
The plot of the movie involves a knight returning from the carnage of the Crusades to find rampant disease being inflicted on his homeland by personified character named Death. He famously challenges Death to a game of chess, determined to outwit him to save himself and his loved ones.
The bubonic plague wiped out about one third of the population of Europe during some of its worst outbreaks. It’s no wonder that this type of historical event draws attention to the judgments described in Revelation 8-9.
Disease, war, and environmental catastrophe on this scale have happened before and will happen again. This is what makes the seventh seal such a terrifying part of the book of Revelation. It represents just one aspect of God’s judgment of sin on the earth, particularly the sin of idolatry that led them to murder God’s children.
The silence that precedes the unleashing of this judgment builds suspense and indicates something awful is about to occur. Every great Western movie has this scene of silence before the big shootout.
If you want to drive yourself positively bonkers try to figure out what each of the trumpets refers to that might exist in the world of 2017. This is an impossible task.
We need to make sure the actual message of Revelation is the one we are receiving. John is giving us every indication he can use to say that the judgment of God is brutal, horrifying, and imminent.
Everything that sustains quality of life on the earth is being attacked. For an ancient agrarian culture, there was nothing as swift and terrifying as an army of locusts coming to devour the crops they needed to live on for the next year. And these are locusts on steroids. They will not only cause hunger, but will inflict so much pain that people wish they could die.
When I hear Biblical phrases about people wishing to die I immediately think about the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain which leads people to commit suicide. We should in no way ascribe to a theology that says suicide is an unpardonable sin that automatically sends people to hell. But, I believe many of the factors that go into suicide give us a glimpse of what hell must feel like.
These locusts are hellish creatures under the command of the king of hell, Apollyon.
It’s interesting and encouraging that the worst hell has to offer can only affect those whom God has permitted. The sealed saints of God cannot be harmed by hell. Jesus has already promised in the Gospels that the gates of hell cannot prevail against his church.
The worst aspect of hell is the pure, unmitigated wrath that does not make anyone want to repent. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man asks Abraham if he can warn his brothers to repent of their ways so that they do not end up in hell.
The response he gets is shocking. “Even if someone rises from the dead they will not repent.” (Luke 16:31)
The lesson to be learned is that repentance is a gift of God and should be accepted today. If a person is not convinced by the Word of God and the resurrection of Christ that he should repent of his sins and trust God for salvation, then hell itself will have no redeeming effect.
- What do you find to be the most terrifying parts of Revelation 8-9? Why?
- Does this passage give you greater understanding of the ways that sin leads to death on the earth?
- Do you think hell exists in some aspects of life today?
- Do you think that things will get worse before Jesus sets them straight?
- How is this passage a call to repentance?
- How is this passage an encouragement to the saints?
- Do you have someone close who you may believe is in danger of the fury of hell being unleashed?
- What about that person’s life concerns you so much?
- How can you pray for that person and lovingly give him/her God’s call to repent today?