By Luke Johnson | October 20, 2015
Remember your church
Read your church’s letter together to remember what Jesus said to your church.
- Ephesus (Rev 2:1-7)
- Smyrna (Rev 2:8-11)
- Pergamum (Rev 2:12-17)
- Thyatira (Rev 2:18-29)
- Philadelphia (Rev 3:7-13)
- Sardis (Rev 2:1-6)
- Laodicea (Rev 3:14-21)
Does your family have a story that gets told over and over again? Something that shows the funniness of your family or of someone in your family? Tell it in 30 seconds!
The Old Testament is like a ‘family storybook’ for Israel. Some stories get told over and over, and some stories are more important than others. As we read from Revelation, see if you can recognize the ‘family stories’ laying underneath John’s visions.
READ Revelation 8 and 9
Lots going on here! What stood out to you? (Anything weird, cool, scary, surprising, inspiring, etc.?)
Do you recognize any of the images from other parts of the Bible?
Can you hear John’s Old Testament connections?
Give these OT passages a quick read and see if you can detect John’s use of them in Rev 8-9:
- Joshua 6:2-6 (trumpets announcing God’s judgment)
- Exodus 7:20-21 (water into blood)
- Exodus 8:22 and 9:26 (Israel protected, like the ‘sealed servants’ in Revelation)
- Exodus 15:22-25 (bitter water made good again)
- Genesis 1:14-19 (God made the heavens; in Rev 8:12ff the heavens come apart and fall down)
- Joel 2:1-5, 10-11 (locusts on ‘the great and terrible day of the LORD’)
Do you notice any similarities between these stories?
God shows he’s The-One-in-Charge. In Genesis God creates the universe just by speaking.
In Joel, the wall of Jericho, and in the Exodus, God judges and saves. Israel’s enemies are destroyed (along with faithless Israelites who ignore God’s warnings), and the faithful who remain are brought through safely to a new life with God.
All of these stories were really important to Israel. Why do you think John would describe his visions by using language and images from these stories? What is he trying to tell us by connecting the events in Revelation to these stories?
God is in control, then and now. God’s work in the past is our firmest hope for the future. John wants his 7 churches to know that nothing has changed: Just like he squashed powerful Egypt to free his people from slavery, and just like he shook down the walls of the intimidating city of Jericho, God’s people can trust that God is at work now, too. Bad things are happening all around the 7 churches, but John’s message is: “God is at work! This is all part of his ‘WAKE UP AND LISTEN!’ campaign.”
Our place in God’s work: a hoping, praying people
If St. John showed up at youth group tonight, how do you think he’d invite us to be involved with God’s work? (What do God’s people do in Rev 8-9? Look at Rev 8:1-5.)
They pray! They pray, and then God acts. God is sovereign -- that means he has the authority and the power to act as he pleases without anyone’s permission. But God chooses to make our prayers part of how he unrolls his plans in the world. The prayers of God’s people shape history because God hears our prayers.
Look at Rev 8:1-5 again: What happens when the 7th seal is opened? (Silence in heaven for half an hour. Even the 4 creatures around the throne and all the angels stop shouting their praises to God.)
How does heaven spend this quiet time? (Look at 8:3-4 -- it’s time to collect all the prayers of God’s people.)
What do the angels do with the people’s prayers? (Look at 8:5)
The angel takes the people’s prayers (which are in the “censer”), fills it with fire from the altar (‘fire’ is often a symbol of God’s Spirit), and then throws it on the earth! So, God listens to the prayers of his people, powers those prayers with his own Spirit, and then unleashes his plans in the world. The prayer of God’s people is the trigger in Rev 8-9 that causes everything else to happen. God invites our involvement in his plans. We are a part of his work.
Praying for Today
What are some things that need our prayer today?
What bad governments do we need to ask God to change?
What downtrodden people do we need to ask God to help?
What evils at work in the world do we need to ask God to crush?
What evils at work inside of us do we need to ask God to conquer?
God takes our prayers seriously. So let’s remember to pray!