LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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FIRST TRUMPET

 

 

The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. Revelation 8:7.

 

Those of us living under the seventh seal need to be reminded of what it took for the church to go out conquering and to conquer in the beginning of the Gospel Dispensation.

Most of us living today have either a dim recollection or no recollection at all of what a conquering church is. Yes, we have seen some good times for the church; some growth here; some growth there; but for the most part we have seen the visible church declining and getting smaller. While there are some exceptions, the visible church around the world is being bullied by secularism and false religion into silence or subservience to the cultures in which it exists. Some among us are so idealistic about the church that we refuse to see the obvious and applaud the shrinking church in whatever form they experience it as a beautiful and glorious thing.

Christ will return for a glorious church, His church, but we are far from being that church whether we call ourselves the Church of God or some other name.

This first trumpet is a wakeup call to all that call themselves Christians and even more to those that call themselves the Church of God. Something is missing: We might have sound doctrine, we might reach our hands in fellowship to every blood-washed one, but where is the power of God?

In the opening days of the history of the church there was power in the preaching, teaching, and lives of the church that produced results. On the Day of Pentecost in response to the sermon Peter preached, the people were so moved that they were cut to the heart and cried out to the Apostles: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) That day 3000 souls were added to the church. Following that day, we read that “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) The power of the gospel and the presence of the Holy Spirit so motivated the church, so enlarged the number of the saved and the number of congregations that we read in Acts 9:31 that they walked “in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.”

Has the gospel changed? Has the Holy Spirit changed? No. What then has changed? Apparently in this seventh seal we are not walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. If we really were, would we not also be multiplied as was the early church?

 

The Events Under the First Trumpet

 

Two things follow the sounding of the first trumpet. The first was hail and fire mingled with blood immediately follow the sounding of this trumpet. The second thing is a response to hail, fire, and blood: a third part of the trees were burned up and all green grass was burned up.

Before we can understand the response, we must understand the hail, fire, and blood. This is nothing other than Holy Spirit empowered preaching of the gospel. This is not just the preacher preaching louder or stamping his feet or jumping and carrying on to get people’s attention or to emphasize what he is saying. This is preaching and teaching that is submissive to the Holy Spirit as it was on the Day of Pentecost.

We see a picture of the hail in Psalm 105:32 “He gave them hail for rain, and flaming fire in their land.” The Psalmist is referring to one of the plagues God sent to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egyptian slavery. Ephesians 5:25–27 tells us the importance of water to the life of the church: “Christ . . . loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” The water that cleanses the church is none other than the word of God. Christ applies the word of God to the people so that spot, wrinkles and any such thing related to sin is removed and the people are holy—thereby the church is holy. Rain is water that falls from the heavens, and the hail of the first trumpet is the word of God that comes to us firm and strong enough to beat down all the tolerance and indifference we have allowed and invited into our midst that has grieved away the Holy Spirit.

As the angel sounds out the hail from his trumpet, of necessity the fire of God must follow the sound and uncompromising preaching of the word of God. As we have seen in our study of the Revelation up to this point, fire represents the presence of God. Under the seventh seal we need a real Day of Pentecost to fall on the church.

Let’s refresh our minds on the Day of Pentecost from Acts 2:1–4, “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” From this we can see plainly that the Holy Spirit is represented by fire, but the power of the first trumpet is not just the presence of the Holy Spirit but, as on the Day of Pentecost, it is the necessary filling of the Holy Spirit—they were ALL filled with the Holy Spirit.

This trumpet also mingles blood with the hail and the fire. Being that the hail is the solid word of God and the fire is the presence of the Holy Spirit, it stands to reason that the blood intermingled with them is the blood of Christ. That is to say that the object of Holy Spirit anointed preaching is only the truth of the gospel—what it actually took for God to redeem mankind. To understand the importance of the blood, we have only to look back to the Exodus of God’s people from their slavery in Egypt. On the night of the Passover, families killed young lambs and put some of the blood on the doorposts and lintels of their houses. That blood was their deliverance; God promised in Exodus 12:13, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Jesus is the Lamb of God and 1 Corinthians 5:7 identifies Him as our Passover, “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” Matthew Henry explains this for us:

 

We should die with our Saviour to sin, be planted into the likeness of his death by mortifying sin, and into the likeness of his resurrection by rising again to newness of life, and that internal and external. We must have new hearts and new lives. . . . The sacrifice of our Redeemer is the strongest argument . . . for purity and sincerity. How sincere a regard did he show to our welfare, in dying for us!

 

The sounding of the first trumpet reminds us that the early church went forth conquering and to conquer because they preached the solid word of God under the power of the Holy Spirit declaring salvation from sin as a present reality and blessing of God’s grace through the blood of Jesus Christ.

 

Holy Spirit Anointing

 

The trumpet also reminds us of how effective the Holy Spirit anointed early church was: “And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.”

We are told that this gospel was thrown to the earth. From our study of the sixth seal we learned that the earth represents those that are grieved by the presence of Christ; those that do not keep God’s commandments; and those to whom the Holy Spirit offers salvation. The earth of the Revelation is an element of mankind that is not among the redeemed; it is those that are not saved from sin.

This first trumpet reminds us of the commission Jesus gave to His church in Mark 16:16, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

Most of the world rejects the gospel but we are to recall that “a third of the trees were burned up and all green grass was burned up” under the Holy Spirit empowered preaching of the gospel. While things being burned up suggests some kind of destruction, the destruction under the preaching of the gospel is a good thing and something of which we need much more in our day.

First, one-third of the trees are burned up. In our study of the sixth seal we learned that trees are plants that live on the earth. They have life but are deeply attached to the earth so that they represent people that are unstable and vulnerable in spiritual matters. There is always a population of mankind that is in the valley of decision and these are the people who were moved by the Holy Spirit anointed preaching of God’s word in the early days of the church. These are the people that can be moved by the gospel in our day.

The fraction one-third indicates the population that was moved by the gospel. Religiously, the human race can be divided into thirds: One third being Jews as it was so in the work of the early church. One third being pagan. Pagan can mean any religion or lack of religion that does not acknowledge the One true God. And one third Christian. This is the one-third affected by the preaching of the gospel. As the gospel was preached, many Jews and pagans found all their good works were burned up and were moved into the kingdom of God. The Apostle Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 3:11–15,

 

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

 

Christ is the only foundation for true faith that brings one into a right relationship with God. The gospel reveals that our human good works cannot redeem us from sin; the gospel burns these up and leaves us hanging over the pit of hell. In turn, the gospel also teaches us that repentance and faith in Christ with being born of the Holy Spirit are the only means by which we are saved from sin.

While the gospel reduces our good works and self-sufficiency to ashes, Isaiah tells us the gospel is given “To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 40:3) The gospel makes us a new creation, the planting of the Lord that He may be glorified. Isaiah also prophesied in 40:5–8,

 

“The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” The voice said, “Cry out!” And he said, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”

 

As the redeemed we “worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3) We are not left to live a worthless religion that keeps us in sin, we have the blessing of sin destroyed out of our lives and the privilege of being filled with the Holy Spirit so that we can live successfully for God.

 

The WHY

 

The sounding of the first trumpet is to remind us of our heritage as the church build by Christ and the victory over sin and the world we enjoy under the reality of the gospel. The trumpets give us the WHY. Why was the early church successful in going forth conquering and to conquer? There are two reasons:

Under the first seal we saw the glorious church pictured as the white horse with the rider having a crown and a bow. The early church accepted Christ as its head and leader and all were committed to Him, even to death, to preach and live the gospel under any and all circumstances. Today, the church must let Christ be the head and leader of His church. He knows who the enemy is and He will give us the wisdom to recognize the enemy and fight the battle in the way that leads to righteousness. He knows every soul He is trying to reach with the gospel and He will direct us to reach them specifically. And He knows the tactics He wants to employ as He leads us conquering and to conquer.

The second reason is seen in the letter to the church at Ephesus. This church loved the Word of God and fought for it relentlessly. This church also knew who was the enemy and tested them to expose their false professions of religion.

Today we must shake off the silence and inactivity that clings to the church like dust. We must renew our allegiance to Jesus, not just as our personal Savior, but also as our leader. We must be committed to follow Him and be active in what He gives us to do to help the church to conquer. We must have a passion for the word of God that motivates every aspect of our lives. We must let the Holy Spirit put the word of God in our mouths and allow Him to let the hail, fire, and blood be evident in testimonies, our interactions with other trees that need burned up, and in the teaching of our congregation. And we must continue to send prayers up to the censer in the hand of Jesus, our High Priest.

But, let us not fall into the pitfall that ensnared the church at Ephesus. They loved the battle so much that it replaced their love for Jesus. Always remember: “God is love.” (1 John 4:16)

 

By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:17–19, NASB)