As NT Wright and other biblical scholars note, this section of Revelation is intentionally reminiscent of the plagues on Egypt during the time of Moses (see Exodus 1-20). Both passages indicate that God’s judgment comes in increments with pauses for human repentance. The 10 plagues in Egypt came one at a time. In Revelation 8, judgment comes to 1/3 of the earth. This does two things. First, it shows that God is serious about impending judgment. Second, it gives those with ears to hear and eyes to see a warning to turn away from sin and turn toward God. This is a merciful destruction. It actually points to the graciousness of God. In 2 Peter 3:9, we read these words: “Instead he [the Lord] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” These plagues, then, are holy warnings. These warnings speak of worse things to come (as we will see). There is still time, however, to turn from self-centered life to a God-centered life. This is God’s desire. He takes no pleasure in the punishment of the wicked. In His mercy, God sends holy warnings. The warning is that what you are doing does not please the Lord. If you continue doing what doesn’t please the Lord, you will end up in a place you do not desire – total destruction.
Have you ever had a holy warning from the Lord? I have. One that I remember clearly was a couple of years after I became a Christian. One of my friends left me his Corvette Stingray, 440 with headers, to use while he was away. I had a liking for hot cars and speeding before I became a Christian. I had gotten several tickets in my youth. This liking for high velocity got the best of me. I took the car out on several occasions and pushed the petal to the metal. While I was doing this, a gentle, soft, quite voice spoke to me, “Slow down. What you are doing is careless. You could get a ticket.” Do you know that gentle, soft, quite voice in your head? Have you ever been doing something and felt it was a warning of things to come? Well, I brushed the voice off and continued for days to burn up the streets. A strong conviction, however, blanketed my conscious during this time. One of my friends had asked me to share my testimony at his youth group. I agreed. I told him that I would drive. We got in the car and pulled out onto the street. The speed limit was 25 mph. Within a few blocks, we were going 90 mph! Then, dread and panic hit my senses as I saw in my rearview mirror the blue and red lights of a police car. To make a long story short, I ended up in a place I did not want to be – Jackson Country jail! Ouch! How I wish I had listened to that gentle, soft, quite voice. It was a warning of things to come. But I didn’t. I have free will. I blew off that voice and did what I wanted. God, in His mercy, was trying to reason with me. He was giving me a holy warning. I didn’t listen. I suffered the consequences (I had to pay a huge fine). God, in His mercy, gives us warnings. We can choose to heed the warning or do what we want. Lesson learned: Obeying God’s voice brings redemption and salvation; refusing to obey God’s voice ended with me in a place I didn’t want to be.