Rev. Mark H. Creech
These are times of significant anxiety. Every day tens of thousands of people feel like something bad is about to happen. This free-floating worry is vague and uncertain, and it troubles them deeply.
PsychReel, a group which is made up of psychologists and other mental health professionals, says:
Feeling something bad is going to happen is particularly common in the current times because of the instability around us, in the face of political upheaval and social issues, as well as the biggest healthcare crisis we have seen in our lifetime in the pandemic.
This feeling is not completely unjustified in the face of all the uncertainty, and given that something bad keeps happening daily these days, most people might think their feeling of something bad isn’t even that far off base, but if it is keeping you wired and worried all the time, it is not helpful, and you should do something about it.
One example of this is something now referred to in the mental health field as “Rapture Anxiety.” Another name for this so-called mental and emotional disorder is “Religious Trauma Syndrome.” It’s a new area of study that suggests preaching on the Second Coming of Christ and explaining that the Lord could come at any moment psychologically traumatizes people.
There is a woman who calls me on the telephone whenever some incident occurs she thinks might be related to the end times. With a fretful tone, she asks me: “Do you think this has anything to do with Christ’s coming again?” The prospect of Christ’s return and the frightening affairs which precede it have her stomach tied in knots. She knows she isn’t in right relationship with God. She knows if the Lord comes soon, she won’t be ready.
There is, however, a previous member of my staff who grew up a child of missionaries in Africa. As a youngster, one day, he listened to a reading from Revelation about the future Apocalypse of God’s judgment. He was horrified. His parents then explained God’s offer of grace in Christ, and he gave his heart to the Lord. Today, he often talks about the Lord’s return with exuberance. He’s looking forward to it with joy. He’s at complete peace because he trusts in what Jesus did on the Cross to save him from that terrible day.
What’s the difference between these two people? It’s simple: one did something about his fears, and the other hasn’t.
In Revelation chapter 8, the Lord Jesus breaks the seventh seal of the scroll. The time frame is the second half of the Tribulation period, which some scholars call “The Great Tribulation.”
When the seventh seal is opened, there is silence in heaven for a space of a half-hour. The prayers of the Tribulation saints ascend to God from the altar. God releases his wrath with thunder, lightning, and an earthquake based on these prayers.
Amid these activities, seven angels are given seven trumpets. In the Bible, trumpets represent great movements of God – interventions in human history. It’s an alarm in the spiritual realm to make ready – to prepare. For example:
Joel 2:1 reads, “Sound the trumpet in Jerusalem! Raise the alarm on my holy mountain! Let everyone tremble in fear because the day of the LORD is upon us.”
Zephaniah 1:16 says, “That terrible day of the Lord is near. Swiftly it comes—a day of bitter tears, a day when even strong men will cry out. It will be a day when the Lord’s anger is poured out—a day of terrible distress and anguish, a day of ruin and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, a day of trumpet calls and battle cries.”
Jesus said in Matthew 24:31, “And he [God] will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world[—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.”
Some great Bible teachers say that the trumpets in Revelation and what they announce coming on the earth should be understood as symbolic. Others say they should be taken literally.
John Phillips, in his book Exploring Revelation, surveys both possibilities.
Concerning the first trumpet blown, the Scripture says:
“The first angel blew his trumpet, and hail and fire mixed with blood were thrown down on the earth. One-third of the earth was set on fire, one-third of the trees were burned, and all the green grass was burned” (Revelation 8:7).
Phillips writes of this first trumpet:
This can be interpreted symbolically or literally, or the interpretation might include both symbolic and literal elements. Looked upon as a literal occurrence, an ecological disaster without parallel in historic times is described. The planet is denuded of a third of its trees and all of its grass…Modern warfare now includes the deliberate defoliating of large areas of forest to deprive the enemy of cover. A literal fulfillment of this judgment is certainly credible…On the other hand, the verse can just as easily be symbolic. In this case, the grass would represent the masses of mankind, and the trees would represent prominent leaders and rulers (Psalm 103:15; Judges 9:7-15; Daniel 4:4-27). What is symbolized thus is a major upheaval among the nations which results in the downfall of many people in high places and a mass depopulation of the globe.
Concerning the second trumpet blast, verses 8 and 9 of Revelation 8 read:
“Then the second angel blew his trumpet, and a great mountain of fire was thrown into the sea. One-third of the water in the sea became blood, one-third of all things living in the sea died, and one-third of all the ships on the sea were destroyed.”
Phillips says of the second trumpet:
Is this a literal or a symbolic event? Ships are literal enough, but casting a mountain into the sea has to be symbolic. The sea in Scripture is a well-known symbol of godless mankind (Isaiah 57:20). A mountain is frequently used to symbolize a great nation. Babylon, for example, is called a destroying mountain (Jeremiah 51:25), and the Lord’s coming worldwide empire is likened to a mountain (Daniel 2:35). The mountain mentioned here in the Apocalypse is a volcano, a burning mountain…In 1939, the hour came, and the Nazi volcano erupted. Burning and blazing with a fierce energy for war, it was cast into the sea of nations. For six long years, the sea’ boiled and foamed as it sought to extinguish the fires which burned in the heart of that terrible mountain. It is a picture of what is to come.
Concerning the third trumpet that sounded, the Bible tells us:
“Then the third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from the sky, burning like a torch. It fell on one-third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star was Bitterness [Wormwood]. It made one-third of the water bitter, and many people died from drinking the bitter water” (Revelation 8:10-11).
Phillips calls this section the trumpet of the “banished star.” He says:
If this is taken literally, then a third ecological disaster is depicted. The trees, the grass, the sea have all been devastated; now, the rivers and fountains are spoiled. But a disaster affecting the water supply of mankind hardly seems a sufficient explanation of what happens under this trumpet. The events described must probably be taken symbolically, even though interpreters have varied widely in seeking to identify the fallen star. Simon Magus; Atilla, ‘the scourge of God’; Muhammad; and even the Jewish historian Josephus have been suggested. Some have identified the fallen star with the Antichrist. Others identify the star as Satan.
Concerning the loud noise from the fourth trumpet, the Holy writ says:
“Then the fourth angel blew his trumpet, and one-third of the sun was struck, and one-third of the moon, and one-third of the stars, and they became dark. And one-third of the day was dark, and also one-third of the night” (Revelation 8:12).”
Here Phillips contends:
This verse is probably to be taken symbolically. The sun, the moon, and the stars are well-established symbols in the Bible for ruling authorities. Under this trumpet, the old order is broken up. The establishment is swept away as convulsions break out everywhere. The church has gone; restraints have been removed, and Satan is on earth, black rage boiling in his heart. The stage is now set for the final plunge into midnight darkness for mankind. All the traditional guiding lights are gone.
Commentator John Phillips covers both ends of the spectrum – the literal interpretation and the symbolic. Still, both possibilities are disturbing.
Can such extraordinary worldwide cataclysmic events in the blowing of these four trumpets literally happen? The answer is yes! The proof? Check out the plagues recorded in Exodus chapters 7 through 12 and discover the many details in common with the four trumpets in Revelation chapter 8. The similarities are striking. In other words, similar things have already happened, and they can happen again.
Moreover, it should be remembered that if something terrible is represented in a symbol, the reality is always worse.
Not long ago, there were many television news stories about the wildfires raging across the country. The fire on the T.V. was just a picture of the real thing. It was only a symbol if you will. However, the real thing is worse than all of the images of it in the world.
What lies ahead of those who ignore and reject God’s sovereignty is inconceivably foreboding.
Some misguided mental health experts argue this kind of teaching precipitates “Rapture Anxiety” or “Religious Traumatic Syndrome.”
It is scary, no doubt. Nevertheless, God has told us in advance that these things will happen so we can prepare. There is a shelter to which any person may hide from the wrath to come, and that shelter is Jesus Christ.
Where my soul may safely hide
While the storms of life are raging
And the billows roll o’er the tide.
Oh, soul, thou who now art weary,
To the Rock do come for rest,
Come to Him who only can cheer thee,
To the dear loving Savior’s breast.
Do something about your fears and the disquiet of your soul. Repent of your sins and trust Christ as your Savior and Lord.© Rev. Mark H. Creech
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.