Justice Announced

The need for justice, and thus for judgment to bring about justice, is a very well known and documented issue within the Bible. No sooner had Moses brought the Israelites from Egypt then they were queuing up for him to settle disputes between them. Yet as scripture progresses we see the emphasis move away from the belief that matters can be sorted out locally and towards the notion that there will be final justice at some point in the future. As the New Testament progress we find the belief honed yet further into the belief that there will be some particular point in time at which justice is dispensed. In Revelation 8 we will see this Judgment being announced and the unpalatable effect on the earth dwellers at the time.

The Noaic covenant declared that if a man shed blood then by man's hand should his blood be shed. This is an important edict: not simply because of the mandate for capital punishment but because of the wider mandate for human government. Man as a society was responsible for ensuring that individuals within it behaved in a fair and decent manner.

As the Old Testament progresses we find a system develop, started by Moses at the instigation of his father-in-law whereby, senior men handle small matters with the larger matters being escalated to the nominated ruler of the time. By the time Palestine is settled with find that the rulers and leaders of the people are designated as judges. We find too that at least in the case of Deborah she had a place where she sat to judge. In the story of Ruth from a similar era we discover that the elders at the gate of a town were capable of administrating at least in more amicable civil matters.

Whilst human judgment is always going to be prone to error we find a more sinister development too. In 2 Sam 15 we find Absalom sympathizing with each individual coming for judgment and thereby stealing the hearts of the men of Israel. Put simply; if judgment is associated with leadership then it becomes possible to strive for leadership by claiming that you would be favorable as a judge. This is politics, which is about as far from truth as you can reasonably get.

It is interesting to note that Solomon was considered one of the wisest judges ever; yet it was him that declared that young men should rejoice and do whatsoever they please but that they should be aware that one day God would bring them to judgment[1]. Daniel[2] is much more explicit in that he shows that the judgment will happen after the resurrection and that it will not simply be a 'sliding scale'. There is to be a separating out between those deemed good and those that are bad.

In the New Testament the Lord develops the theme more fully. He informs us that judgment will be viewed as one day[3]. I don't think this requires a period of 24 hours but it does suggest it will be one concerted, focused, contiguous period. He also shows that the examination will be interrogative and detailed[4]. We are told the Son will be the judge[5] and that the resurrection is proof that it will happen[6].

The closing glory unveiled by the New Testament is that the believer will not go through the judgment[7] and that we may therefore approach the day with confidence[8]. 2 Pe 3:7 then announces a period of waiting by saying that everything is kept in store awaiting the judgment of ungodly men.

And thus we wait, and continue waiting and the ungodly scoff at the thought of the Lord's return[9] and even believers struggle to keep their Lord's return ahead of them. Yet it is coming; and when it comes it will be duly announced.

In the Old Testament there was a well-known method of announcement; the horn or trumpet. Moses had two silver ones used to announce the decamp. The priests used them to announce the start of the year, the year of jubilee and the feast of the trumpets and other special festivals and events.

However; I believe that key to our discussion trumpets were used to announce war. The best example is given in Joshua 6 when the priests had seven trumpets as we have here. It is suggestive too that in the Joshua passage there are 6 days when the walls are circled once, then on the seventh day there are seven cycles before the horns are finally blown and the walls fall. This form of telescoping is very similar to the six trumpets which sound followed by the seventh trumpet which consists of the seven vials which is followed by Christ winning the war.

So in summary I think we have in Revelation 8 a picture of Heaven declaring war upon the earth. Note that this is really just the declaration; we get various parts of the earth damaged but we don't see any loss of human life. However we are given a glimpse of how unpleasant life is becoming for the earth dweller.

The third trumpet that announces a star that gets labeled wormwood gives this. At first the earth dwellers will be pleased; having received a direct impact under the second trumpet there will be relief that this one appears to be missing. But then they will notice that their drinking water is becoming very unpleasant. They label it 'wormwood' which is the plant described as Artemisia absinthium by botanists. Absinthion literally means 'undrinkable'. The Bible uses the word not simply to denote the bitter taste but also typically of bitterness, sorrow, injustice and oppression.

The pictorial strength of Wormwood has led some commentators to suggest that this whole episode can be viewed symbolically and that the falling star is a great world ruler that causes bitterness. However 'wormwood' does not require this. It is indicative of something that is unpalatable, or more accurately unpottable, and that is exactly what you could get from a comet with toxic chemicals burning up in the atmosphere.

Thus we see that the judgment will come and that even the opening phases of it will cause bitterness physically and emotionally. How thankful we should be that the Lord Jesus died and took our judgment upon himself that we should be spared the suffering we are to witness as we progress through this book.


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