When we get to the trumpets (Revelation 8:2–11:19), interpreters offer starkly different choices. There is a fork in the road — a time to choose. One option commands wide scholarly support. The other option has less support and is the road less traveled. But as it says in Robert Frost’s poem,
Dr Tonstad - Thank you for tackling the task of explaining your perception of the meanings of the visions of Revelation.
While I find the presentation of the varying interpretations to cause nearly as much confusion as they alleviate, I do find your interpretations much more in line with my perception of God. Especially that his overriding attribute is Love and not Sovereignty, Justice or even Mercy.
I’m certain I will not be arguing with others (or for or against others) over these visions. I will though be basing my experience of these events (if they are future & I am alive) solidly on my relationship with Jesus, the Savior, whenever and however the actuality occurs.
What parent would bring down hideous suffering as retribution … Even earthly parents “punish” as a learning experience; not as some sadistic payback for no good reason. This is also why we shouldn’t accept the idea that the “lost” will go through degrees of suffering, depending on the enormity of their sins. That’s just a small step from an everburning hell fire.
Thank you so very much for this article Sigve that adds to the evidence-base for a soundly reasoned (Isa 1:18; Acts 17:2), revised conceptualisation of the nature and character of God.
If God is actually the final destroyer that He is so widely promoted to be, then Jesus essentially can be validly accused of not being 100% truthful in His statement in Jn 10:10 where He attributes God as being exclusively associated with abundant life (zoe) and the thief (Satan) as being exclusively associated with stealing, killing and destroying (reinforced by Rev 9:11).
Peter and John both appear to have understood Jesus/God’s nature when they both declared that God does not want any to “perish” (2 Pet 3:9; Jn 3:16). To die as a consequence of perishing is very different than to dies as a consequence of someone having destroyed you.
Saul (erroneously) believed in a punishing God. But, after his conversion and re-examination of everything he had believed in during the ensuing years, Paul also understood Jesus/God when he said that the “wages” of sin is death (Rom 6:23) - rather than saying the penalty or the punishment.
Then too, if God actually is motivated by offence and retribution, then His ways are not in fact any higher than our ways - contrary to Isa 55:9.
It is so nice to find others also walking the road less travelled for no other reason than to glorify God’s name and share genuinely good news with others.
May the truth of the nature and character of God be seen for what it is - pure self-renouncing (Agape) love.
And may we be willing to cope with any cognitive/spiritual dissonance we may encounter in the process by searching out the truth like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) rather than outright rejecting it as per our unfortunate default tendency as humans.
One must be well grounded in the Gospel according to John before one attempts to understand Revelation. Thank you for your scholarship of assurance. Paul only alludes to the cosmic struggle. But no man struggled more but successfully.
The greatest advice I ever received was from the lady in her Testimony to Ministers, p.110. “Young men should search the scriptures for themselves…No man (or woman) should be relied upon to think for us. No matter who he (she) is, or in what position he may be placed, we are not to look upon any man as a criterion for us.” I view Revelation of Jesus Christ as a lesson for me. Now for any evangelist, General Conference ecclesiastical authority to tell me how I should interpret the symbols.
Thanks for sharing this perspective. I’ve been reading “Revelation DIY” and have been enjoying those insights also, but this adds extra richness to my understanding.
And it has brought up the topic of retribution/hell/justice. My son cannot understand why God brings everyone to life only to kill them. I believe that God brings everyone to life so that the universe will see that God DOESN’T kill anyone.
When Jesus said “He who believes has eternal life” He placed everyone’s destiny squarely in their own hands. Everyone outside the holy city will know that they could have been inside if they had accepted God’s gift. Not only that but they will have no grace to cover their diseased souls from themselves, and no defense against the guilt and shame that result from doing evil. They will condemn themselves. The presence of “Jesus and the holy angels” will be excruciating to those who love darkness. Eventually, after exhausting their denial and excuses each will accept their loss as being on their own heads and each will come to the point of asking God to end their torment by stopping the flow of life from Him. Those who are more hardened will take longer to reach that point and will suffer longer but it won’t be a punishment God inflicts.
Most commentators worth their salt believe that this was Matthew’s compilation of Jesus’s teaching, not one literal sermon. The sermon on the plain in Luke reflects the same. Many of the same teachings put together as representative of Jesus’s teaching from Luke’s perspective. Both accounts were written at least 30-40 years later. Luke’s by research, as he said.
So much is at stake that I will push the point a step further. A theology of retribution fails to do justice to the cosmic problem that is the concern of Revelation. It collapses the action in the trumpet sequence into single agency: God is the acting subject . “All proceeds ultimately from the sovereign hand of the one God” (Boring). If this scenario is incorrect — and widely off target, as I believe it to be — we risk sending the bills for the world’s horrors to the wrong address.<<
There is a time when it is a theology of retribution and a time when it isn’t. Sometimes evil does just fight against evil because it is evil. This is likely the scene of these three woes. These are seemingly more human, demonic and naturalistic. The “sealed are spared.”
The 7th Trumpet judgment to come comes from Gods Throne… I suggest satan is not there. Yes, what Boring said seems true. God ultimately allows or causes things that come to pass. So, I guess you could say He is guilty for both allowing (we would complain if He didn’t offer “free will” and we complain when He doesn’t) and causing, it seems.
Were the judgments and deaths David/psalmist speaks of from God or the Devil in Ps.97 & 136? How about the Egyptian plagues?
Those of us who hold to the fact God will repay, do so, not because we love violence but because he has said he would and considers that part of His righteous judgment. Rom.2:5
Historicists have overlooked the unremitting advancement from the first partition in the sanctuary, representing the observance of the tamid or “daily” intercession and depicted in the scenes of Revelation 1 and the seven churches (the seven candlesticks), into the second, the holy of holies in the scene of Revelation 8, representing the “yearly” or yoma intercession, synchronizing the Hebraic festivals with Revelation 1 through Revelation 11. The historicists’ oversight exemplifies the persistent impeding of this progress towards the holy of holies in these scenes, conflicting with the promise of but “a little season” to the souls of the sixth seal, until the yoma intercession, the day of atonement, when a final remnant will be martyred for Christ, depicted in the trumpets. Historicists’ rendering of the first seal as the first-century church hardly agrees with “a little season!”
Historicists have also overlooked that the souls of the sixth seal petition for retribution because of the torment by the horsemen of the previous seals, which are easily resolved as the horsemen and locust army of Joel 2:4 that traditional Hebraic scholars vindicate as the judgment illustrated by Rosha Hashana, heralded by the trumpet of Revelation 4:1. Contemporary historicists concede that Christ’s manifestation before the “Ancient of days” in Revelation 5 parallels his manifestation in Daniel 7:13, which represents the seventh-month festivals of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. As exemplified by the seven churches, Christ’s voice symbolizes the trumpets that herald the new moons (days of darkness) of the seven months between the spring and autumnal festivals and Rosh Hashana. Again, the petitions by the souls of the sixth seal are answered in the sanctuary scene in Revelation 8 that leads to the end of the torment of those who are sealed in chapter 7 by the horsemen/locusts, conveyed in the fifth trumpet (Revelation 9:7), which supports the unremitting advancement from the first partition to the second, synchronizing the Hebraic feasts with Revelation 1 through Revelation 11.
This synchronization and revelation vindicate that the first horseman was fulfilled by Protestant missionary imperialism at the time of the Laodicean church, Daniel’s “time of the end” and “cleansing of the sanctuary.” I’ve documented much of this in a book that exposes the exploitation of the true church by apostate Protestantism, Babylon, that fulfills the denunciation that Babylon is “drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus,” and this is the source of the torment of the souls in the sixth seal. Protestant missionary imperialism led to the wars for the resources of the world, the first attempt at globalism (the red horseman), the ending of their churches’ intercession in commerce (the black horse), and the famines and death that followed by their attempts at globalism (the pale horseman).