After Moses led the people of Israel out of their slavery to the Egyptian empire, through the Red Sea to the shore on the other side; after he sealed them as “holy to the LORD” and counted them; after he made a set of silver trumpets to help coordinate their movements; then he led them into the wilderness toward their promised homeland, following their God, who went before them in the form of a gigantic fiery pillar of cloud — a cloud that protected them from the fierce heat of the sun during the days, and gave them light in the darkness throughout the nights.
But most of that generation did not arrive at their destination. One by one, as they were tested by the tribulations of the journey, they began to look back with longing at their lives of slavery in Egypt. They turned aside to other gods. They left the protection of the cloud, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
And so it was the next generation of Israel that came to stand on the banks of the Jordan river, on the eastern border of their promised homeland. But by that point Moses was pretty old. So he retired, anointing a man named Joshua as his successor to lead the people into their new land.
But instead of a retirement speech, Moses sang a song for his people. And we actually read some portions of Moses’ retirement song together today in our worship: during our Call to Worship, our Prayer of Confession, and our Promise of Forgiveness. So we already know how it goes:
Really, Moses’ retirement song was a prophecy for the generations to come. The previous generation had been tested by poverty in the wilderness, and many had failed by turning to other gods for deliverance. The next generations would be tested by prosperity in their homeland — and many of them would fail by turning aside to other gods for leisure and entertainment.
“And so,” Moses says, speaking for God directly, “then a fire will be kindled by my wrath. It will devour the earth and its harvests and set afire the foundations of the mountains. I will send foreign armies to invade them. I will send famine, and deadly pandemics. I will send wild beasts and poisonous snakes among them.”
“But,” Moses says, “the LORD will vindicate his people and relent concerning his servants when he sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free.” Because, by that point, they will have exhausted every other option. Every other god they have turned to for salvation will have betrayed them, leaving them with no other choice but to return to the God who first redeemed them from slavery.
And so, near the end of Moses’ song, God makes this promise: “I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear: as surely as I live forever, when I see your strength is gone, then I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me.”
Well, over the next 1000 years or so the process played out exactly as Moses prophesied: having tested his people with poverty in the desert, God tested his people with prosperity in their homeland. He blessed them richly, just as he had promised he would! And, sure enough, after a generation or two of that, the people decided they did not need God anymore.
And so, just as God had promised, the nation experienced invasions and famines and deadly pandemics. Their earthly prosperity continued, but their spiritual condition got worse and worse as they refused to repent.
And it was in the middle of this prosperity that God appeared to a man named Ezekiel in the form of a figure made of fire and lightning and glowing metal surrounded by a rainbow, and called Ezekiel to warn the nation once again about the danger they were in. But Ezekiel was told, right from the start, that the people were too stubborn to listen. He was told that he would live his life surrounded by scorpions! — that his preaching would not lead most of his generation to repentance.
Why bother to send him then? Because the generations to follow would need to be able to look back and say, “Yeah, God’s judgement upon us was fair: he did warn us again and again, we just refused to listen.”
And then God gave Ezekiel a scroll, and on both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe. And God said, “Son of man, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.”
“So I ate it,” Ezekiel says, “and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.” But then he says, “the Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the LORD on me.”
Well, Ezekiel’s ministry also played out exactly as prophesied. And some years later, after the nation of Israel had once again been reduced to slavery and poverty under the rule a foreign empire, a prophet in exile named Daniel began to pray and ask God, “How long until you finally redeem us like you promised?”
So God also appeared to him, in the form of a figure made of fire and lightning and glowing metal, and he read some selections from the Book of Truth, a scroll which contained God’s plans for future redemption and judgement.
But even after the reading, Daniel still wanted to know how long this process would take. And so the fiery figure lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and Daniel says, “I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, ‘It will be for a time, times, and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.’”
In essence, God simply repeated what he had already said through Moses’ retirement song: “When I see your strength is gone and no one is left, then I will move in final judgement and redemption.”
And Daniel says: I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?”
And God basically says, “…sorry, Daniel, you are not going to fully understand this yet. And neither will the generations that follow you. So write down what you have heard here from the Book of Truth, sign it, seal it, certify it, and then trust me when I tell you that, when the time of the end begins, I will give my people the insights they need to know what is going on.”
Well, now, here we are in the Book of Revelation. And if you have been journeying with us over the last few weeks, then you know that John believes the time of the end has already begun, that it actually began the day Jesus was carried away in a cloud to enter his Father’s throne-room and receive his inheritance in the form of a scroll with writing on both sides.
That scroll had seven seals on it, and as Jesus began breaking the seals, four deadly horsemen were released upon the earth, and four destructive winds, followed by four fiery judgements and four river angels with their demonic armies: all previews and warnings of the final Judgements that must fall upon every nation that insists on worshiping the gods of the heavens above or the abyss below.
So by this point in the Book of Revelation, it is obvious that we are now living through the time of the end, the last great tribulation of God’s people as we journey through the wilderness to our eternal home. And as far back as Chapter 6 we were already starting to ask the question, “How long is this journey going to take?”
And back there, in Chapter 6, the answer was for us “to wait a little longer, until the full number of our fellow servants have been killed.”
And our response at that time was, “He he he he…you know, it sounds like he just said Judgement Day will not come until every single Christian on earth has been killed! — but that cannot be what he means, amirite?”
And our optimism was reinforced last week when we saw how God is already making a distinction between his people and the inhabitants of the earth: no matter what kind of monstrous, devouring, stinging demonic creatures come crawling up out of the Abyss, they cannot touch us! They cannot harm us! No matter how great our tribulations may become on this earth, they are nothing compared to the torments of those who have refused to be sealed by the blood of Christ.
And that was Good News, you have to admit!
So, at this point in the book, six trumpets have been sounded. There is only one more left to go: the seventh trumpet. Which, if it is anything like the seventh seal, should bring about the final, cleansing, destruction of the earth — thus making way for a new creation!
So let’s read on and see what the seventh trumpet brings about:
 Then, John says, I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars.
But this angel is not carrying a trumpet. Instead:
 He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land,  and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke.  And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.”
Okay. Ummm: this is a bit unexpected. Where is the angel with the seventh trumpet? Who is this angel with an open scroll? Why does he stand with one foot on the sea and one on the land? What are these “seven thunders”, and why is John not allowed to reveal them to us?
Let’s look at these questions one by one: where is the angel with the seventh trumpet?
Well, let’s see…when we look back at the cycle of the seven seals, we remember that there was an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals. And this break was signalled by another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God, saying, “Wait! Wait, wait, wait, do not release any judgements until we’ve finished sealing God’s people!”
And now John sees another angel coming from somewhere, having something in his possession.
It seems the arrival of this angel is also a signal for us to expect another interlude — this time between the sixth and seventh trumpets. So the angel with the seventh trumpet is probably going to show up after this interlude is over.
Okay. But who is this angel, then?
Well, when we look back at Daniel’s and Ezekiel’s visions it becomes pretty clear who this angel must be: who else, in the Old Testament, shows up looking like a fiery figure robed in clouds and rainbows, speaking with a voice like thunder? Only the Ancient of Days! or the one like a Son of Man, who is destined to rule over all the earth.
This mighty angel — this mighty “messenger” of God — must be the Son of Man, Jesus Christ himself. And the last time we saw Jesus, back at the beginning of Chapter 8, he had just finished opening the last seal on the scroll of his inheritance. So it makes sense for him to be carrying an open scroll in his hand now!
Okay then. But why does he stand with one foot on the sea and one on the land?
Well, since this is the Son of Man who is destined to rule over all the earth, then it makes sense for him to stand with one foot upon the land because that is exactly what ancient kings used to do to declare their victory over the lands they had just conquered: they would stand on it. It also makes sense for Jesus to stand with one foot upon the sea: because the sea is connected to the Abyss that lies under the earth, and we know from the Book of Daniel that the Son of Man is also destined to conquer the demonic beasts that rise up out of the sea.
Jesus is simply declaring his lordship over Earth and Abyss and all they contain.
Okay. But what are these “seven thunders” then, and why is John not allowed to reveal them to us?
Well, John says that these are “the seven thunders”, as if he is referring to something in particular.
But when we look back through the Old Testament, we do not find any references to “seven thunders”.
However, the first time in the bible that a voice speaks like thunder is at Mount Sinai, when God first spoke to his people. And much later, King David wrote Psalm 29 as a hymn of praise to God’s thunderous voice, and he uses this distinct phrase, “The voice of the LORD…” seven times.
And Jewish pastors who came after David, when they preached sermons on Psalm 29, would connect it back to Israel’s experience at Mount Sinai: they believed that when God first spoke to his people he did so in seven thunders — seven being the symbolic number for perfection and completion. In their minds, God’s Word is perfect, so of course it would be revealed in some kind of pattern of seven!
”The seven thunders“ symbolize some kind of perfect communication from God…apparently too perfect for us to understand yet. Just like the Book of Truth that Daniel was told to seal up in faith that later generations would understand it, so also John is now told to seal up these seven thunders — no doubt in faith that, someday, God will give his people the ability to understand them.
Okay. So what happens next?
 Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven.  And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it.
Now this is very familiar, isn’t it!
Back at the end of Moses’ retirement song, God lifted his hand to heaven and swore by himself, “As surely as I live forever,” and then he went on to talk about how his final judgment and redemption would begin after he sees the strength of his people is gone.
And again, at the end of Daniel’s visions, when he asked, “How long?” the fiery figure lifted both hands to heaven and swore “by him who lives forever,” and then he also went on to talk about how God’s final judgement and redemption would begin after the power of the holy people has been finally broken.
Well, here we have been asking, “How long?” And now we have just seen a heavenly being raise his hand to heaven and swear by him who lives forever. So we already know, even before he speaks, that he is going to be talking about God’s final judgement and redemption and when it will begin.
Sure enough, what does he say next?
“There will be no more delay!  But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”
Okay! So when he says, “There will be no more delay,” he is basically saying what we have already realized: the first six trumpets have already been sounded, and now only one remains: the seventh trumpet, which will finally accomplish the mystery of God.
So this is an answer to our question, really. We want to know “When will all this come to an end,” and the answer is: when the seventh trumpet is sounded.
But what is this “mystery” that will be accomplished?
Well, looking back, we remember how Daniel also asked, “How long is this process going to take?” and God answered him by saying: “It will be for a time, times, and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.”
But Daniel did not understand that answer, so God told him to seal it up and set it aside for future generations. And that is when God’s answer to Daniel became a “mystery announced to the prophets.”
Well, now we have just learned that, during the days leading up to the seventh trumpet, this particular “mystery will be accomplished.”
Basically, in the last days leading up to the seventh trumpet, the power of the holy people will be finally broken. It will be during the days leading up to the seventh trumpet that God will see that the strength of his people is gone and that no one is left, slave or free. And, according to what he has announced to his servants the prophets, then and only then will the seventh trumpet sound. At that point, God will descend to take vengeance on those who hate him — while at the same time something mysterious is going to happen.
So it looks like we were right about one thing: the sounding of the seventh trumpet will be just like the opening of the seventh seal: it will bring about the final, cleansing, destruction of the earth — thus making way for a new creation.
Which strongly suggests that the seventh trumpet will be the last trumpet — perhaps the same “last trumpet” that the Apostle Paul mentions in a couple of his letters?
Perhaps. Make sure to keep on coming back and we will find out together!
In the meantime, however, we are also remembering God’s promise to Daniel that, during the time of the end, he would give his people the insights they need to understand this mystery. And since this is now the time of the end, and since we are God’s people, well…here we are: waiting for this mystery to be revealed! Waiting to understand why exactly the power of God’s people has to be broken before the last trumpet can be sounded.
Let’s keep going and hope some answers start showing up:
 Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”
 So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’ ”  I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.  Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.”
Again, this is very familiar: this is exactly how God called Ezekiel to be a prophet.
And looking back, we remember that the scroll Ezekiel was called to eat and then preach was written on both sides with words of lament and mourning and woe, and how, for Ezekiel, there was sweetness at first, followed by bitterness and anger.
But how is this supposed to explain the mystery of God to us?
Well, let’s put all the pieces together:
Daniel wrote down some selections from the Book of Truth, some of which contained a mystery that would remain sealed up until the time of the end.
Several centuries later — as we measure time on earth — Jesus rose from the dead and returned to his Father’s presence, having proven himself worthy to inherit the Book of Truth, break the seals, and reveal the mystery of God. As soon as he took that scroll from his Father’s hand and started opening the seals, the time of the end began, and we saw him break the last seal at the beginning of Chapter 8.
Here, in this chapter — in answer to our questions, “How long?” and “When?” and “What is this mystery that Daniel could not understand?” — here Jesus has descended, with the open Book of Truth in his hand, and he has given it to John, who has eaten it, and has been told to prophesy again.
Now, to be clear, John has not eaten the entire Book of Truth, there are still some mysteries too great for us — like the seven thunders that were just sealed up, for instance. Remember, this is a little scroll: this is a digest of the great Book of Truth. Like Daniel, John has only received some selections from the Book of Truth.
The big difference, however, is that now John understands what Daniel did not. Why? Is this because John is just smarter than Daniel or something? No. John simply lives after Jesus’ death and resurrection. He lives during the time of the end, after the sacrificed Lamb has opened the seals and revealed the mystery.
Basically: John now contains the mystery from the Book of Truth. He contains the answers to the questions we have been asking. And he has just been commanded to answer our questions, and explain the mystery to many peoples, nations, languages and kings.
So: come back next week…!
That is annoying, in’t it?
Ever since Chapter 6 we have been asking, “How long until all this ends?” And we have been bothered by the answer: “This will all come to an end after the full number of your fellow servants has been killed.” We have been wondering if this answer really means what it seems to mean.
And our passage here today has basically confirmed that: yes, it means pretty much what it seems to mean. In fact, our passage here today has basically confirmed that God actually said something like this several times in the Old Testament: “When I see your strength is gone and there is no one left, then I will bring final judgement and redemption…When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, then it will be over.”
And all this has basically confirmed that Moses’ retirement song was not just a prophecy for God’s Old Testament people, it was also a prophecy for God’s New Testament people: for us. Just like ancient Israel was, the first generations of the Church are tested by poverty, and many fail by turning back to other gods for deliverance. Later generations are tested by prosperity, and many fail by turning aside to other gods for leisure and entertainment. And in the end comes the great push-back, the great rebellion, the great fall back down to a point where our strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free. That is the prophecy; that is the pattern Jesus’ Church is living through even now.
And that is the mystery, isn’t it! Just like Daniel, we hear but we do not understand: why does it have to happen like this? Why not a long slow steady growth from poverty to prosperity and then…eternal victory? Wouldn’t that be a better plan! Why does there have to be this terrible fall back down into poverty and powerlessness before the end? And what is that going to look like, exactly? Does this really mean that Judgement Day will not come until every single Christian on earth has been killed?
…and it is annoying to be told to wait a little while longer for our explanation!
But what choice do we have? I do not want to torment you with a seven hour long sermon! Our brains can only handle so much before we need time to go away and process and absorb, so…that is what we are going to do: we are going to set this mystery aside and wait for it to be revealed and explained and accomplished at the proper time.
Okay. But in the meantime, while we wait rather impatiently for this mystery to be explained…to be honest this really feels quite a lot like bad news, doesn’t it? To be honest, this really feels like it cancels out the Good News of last week!
Last week we learned that, no matter how great our tribulations may be in this life, they are nothing compared to the torments of those who have rejected Jesus. We learned that God has made a great distinction between his children and those who refuse to be his children: we are destined for deliverance, tyrants are destined for defeat. And knowing this helps give us the courage to face whatever tribulations may come!
But now we find out that, actually, we are destined for the worst tribulation of all! — a tribulation that will actually break the power of the holy people before the end?! That does not sound like deliverance, that sounds like defeat! That does not sound like any distinction at all!
So what is going on here? Is this really the message contained in the Book of Truth? Is this really the message Jesus wants John to preach? If so, then no wonder it turned his stomach sour! To be honest, my stomach is also feeling a bit sour…
But if this is really the message, then why did the Book of Truth taste sweet at first?
There must be something more going on in this passage. There must be some kind of Good News here…
Let’s go back and take another look:
So, last week, Chapter 9 ended in the smoking ruins of an empire consumed by darkness and spiritual famine, devoured by the same gods and monsters it had tried to appease and redirect against its enemies. And in the last sentences of that chapter we saw the darkness continuing to spread throughout the earth, the plague of scorpion-locusts with their deceptive faces and their tormenting stings: we saw how the nations surrounding that empire took no warning at all from its collapse, but simply pressed on down the very same road.
Now, this week, during an interlude — a break away from the dark history of the six trumpet judgements — we have just seen Jesus himself descend and lay claim to the entire earth by standing with one foot on the land and one on the sea. In other words: the earth is now officially “under new management”! — the old government has fallen, its demonic king captured and bound and thrown down from the high places. The war is over! And we heard Jesus announce: “There will be no more delay!” Six trumpets have already been sounded, only one more remains — and then the mystery of God will be finally accomplished.
Okay. That is Good News! Basically: the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
But here’s the thing: if the war is over, if the earth is the Lord’s, why are we still destined for tribulation?
Well, when we compare this announcement of victory with the history contained in the six trumpet judgements, it becomes clear that the nations of the earth do not all get the announcement at once. Some nations have no idea that the opposition has won, that the old government has been removed. Some nations do know, but they are committed to rebellion against the new government: they preferred the old one, because it gave them the kinds of enslaving benefits they liked.
Yes, the war is over: the might of the enemy’s army has been broken and scattered, the rebellious king captured and bound. Jesus has officially laid claim to the entire earth — but he still needs to settle his newly conquered territories. Announcements need to be posted throughout the nations: “Under New Managment”. New laws need to be passed to replace the old ones, a new justice system established to displace all the old corrupted ones. The fleeing remnants of the enemy’s army will need to be hunted down and destroyed, element by element, before the earth can be brought into perfect order.
That is a lot of work! But just like great kings everywhere, Jesus is not going to do this work all by himself: that is why he has ten thousand times ten thousand angels, and ten thousand times ten thousand other faithful servants…servants like John.
And that is why this interlude did not end with Jesus’ official announcement of victory. It went on to include John’s official commissioning to act as Jesus’ ambassador, to start preaching the truth about many peoples, nations, languages and kings: letting the inhabitants of the world know that, whatever their status was under the old regime…everything has changed now. If you were a king…you are not anymore. If you were a slave…you are not anymore.
So that is also Good News!
But what does this have to do with us, and with the reality that we are still, apparently, destined for tribulation?
Well, next week it is going to become very clear that John’s calling is our calling also: we are all ambassadors. We are all like settlers, travelling through the wilderness of the world, digging wells, setting up homes, churches, sanctuaries from which the pure living water of God’s Word can flow outward and bring life to the nations: the Good News of the change in government, new light in the midst of darkness.
And that is a wonderfully sweet calling, isn’t it? Because who does not welcome the sight of a lush garden in the midst of famine? Who does welcome true justice and order after tyranny and corruption and chaos? Who does not welcome the sunrise after the loneliness of a long sleepless night?
Well…this is the bitter part of our calling: many people are not going to welcome these things.
Because, as we learned last week, this is a world crawling with creatures from the abyss, locusts that foul every water source, that devour every growing thing, scorpions that deceive and enslave. The wilderness we are crossing is not empty: it is full of spiritually dehydrated nations, and it is full of creatures that are committed to making sure those nations stay that way. These creatures hate the garden of God, they hate the way Jesus’ new government transforms their deadly habitat into a place flowing with life, they do their best to turn their human slaves against us — and this is why we are still destined for tribulation in this world, even though we are the bearers of Good News.
Moses was told his people would be tested to the last of their strength before the end. Ezekiel was told he would live his life surrounded by scorpions, and that most of his generation would not listen to him. Daniel was told to seal up his book because only those who are wise would understand it, and only during the time of the end anyway — while the rest of the world would go here and there to increase knowledge.
Basically, God was telling his prophets that during the time of the end, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea — while at the same time the earth will be filled with a great spiritual famine of God’s Word.
And when we look back over the six trumpet judgements, we realize that this is exactly what they have been describing. Sure, the trumpets began with ecological, political, and social famines — but they ended in a widespread spiritual famine as the citizens of that unnamed empire refused to repent of their false worship, refused to acknowledge that the earth is the Lord’s.
Now, the six trumpet judgements are not describing a total famine, not yet: they only strike one third of the earth at a time, moving from empire to empire as each empire tries to lift itself up above the stars of God and gets thrown back down. In fact, it was really during the Old Testament that the earth experienced almost total spiritual famine, because God’s Word only existed in one small nation on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, leaving the rest of the nations in darkness.
But now, during this age, during this time of the end when the living water of the Word is God is actually flooding the earth with life — this is the age of the worst spiritual famines of all, because this is also the age upon which the great spreading plagues of locust and flame have been loosed. The light of God’s Word is shining more and more brightly upon the earth with every passing generation, but the ironic side-effect is this: the brighter the stars shine in the night sky, the deeper the darkness becomes in comparison.
What we are discovering here, friends, is that the time of the end was always going to be an age of extremes: the darkness growing darker even as the light becomes brighter. And this is why our calling is so painfully bitter-sweet: because the more widely God’s Word bears fruit among the enslaved nations, the more widespread the spiritual famine also becomes in consequence, as the scorpions of the wilderness torment what remains of their enslaved nations into ever more desperate rebellion against the gardens of God growing in their midst. And apparently there is going to be a day when the last living well will be filled with sand, the last stars swept from the heavens, the earth plunged into complete darkness. And apparently we are going to bring this final great tribulation upon ourselves — and upon the earth! — by preaching, by digging the wells in the first place…!
Oh, how much suffering we could avoid if we would just keep quiet like the nations of the world want us to!
But how can we keep quiet, now that we have tasted the sweetness of Christ in our midst? How can we turn a deaf ear to the nations all around us, crying out from the torments of their thirst? Surely we must extend the cup of Christ’s compassion into the darkness! Surely we must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings — no matter how bitter our knowledge that most will reject it in their blindness and hate us for even making the offer…
What a mystery this is! that by sowing seeds of life in the wilderness we must, in the end, raise up a harvest of death for ourselves. We hear, but we do not understand.
Still, God willing, all will be made clear to us in the coming weeks as we continue to read this Book of Revelation aloud together in our worship.
In closing, now, a summary:
The first six seals revealed to us the tormented history of the earth from Jesus’ time until the end. Then — before the seventh seal brought history to a close — there was an interlude that revealed to us the blessed history of God’s people, sealed and safe from Jesus’ time until the end.
In the same way, now, the first six trumpets have revealed to us the tormented history of empires from Jesus’ time until the end. But before the seventh trumpet brings this history to a close, we have encountered another interlude. This interlude, like the first, is also designed to reveal to us the blessed history of God’s people from Jesus’ time until the end. But it is also clear that this interlude is a little more nuanced than the first one. Yes, we are sealed. Yes, we are safe. But not in every way at every time. Our destiny on this earth is not one of endless prosperity and bliss. And so, as John is going to point out later in his book: This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.
So let’s remember this as we part today: yes, there is tribulation still ahead; our exodus through the wilderness is not yet over; but no matter what happens to us, good or bad, all we have to do is look up to see that this is our Saviour who goes before us in cloud and fire: a cloud that shades us from the fierce heat of the days to come, a fire that will one day consume all that remains of the darkness.