When everything is urgent, nothing is urgent. When every priority is the top priority, there are, in reality, no top priorities. Management theory is awash in theories about how to “create a sense of urgency.” Mantras such as “establish and outcome-focused culture” and “secure stakeholder input and buy-in to the strategy” add zest and sparkle to a middle-management PowerPoint, but are simply manipulation in the eyes of the managed.
When a group has a diversity of core values, it will struggle with a shared sense of urgency. It may pull together as ‘co-belligerents’ from time to time, but this is only an illusory alliance. Despite appearances, everyone has their own agenda. And nothing reveals this like a disaster. Adversity tests conviction to shared core values. Without shared core values, each person’s sense of urgency is reduced to ‘every man for himself.’ Everyone has a different top priority – himself.
This is often vividly portrayed in disaster films. Doomed airplanes and ships, calamitous meteor strikes, and pandemics show men at their worst, fighting to survive at the expense of others. We like to think we would act differently, but would we? And what if the disaster was even more dramatic – the end of the world as we know it — cataclysmic divine judgement that afflicts mankind, body, soul, and spirit.
The Book of Revelation is often avoided, because its scenes of unrelenting, divine judgment poured out on the world are terrifying. Its imagery is intense and unnerving. While it declares victory for the Lamb and vindication of believers, the trajectory is described as a Great Tribulation. It affirms what we read in Acts 14:22 that we enter the kingdom of God “through many tribulations.” As we read through the Apocalypse is our thought for ourselves, alone? Is our sense of urgency for our survival? Does this prophecy awaken in us a sense of fear and suspicion toward the unbelieving world?
As Jesus opens the Seven Seals, we see the unfolding effects a fallen world where men, given over to their sin, suffer war, bloodshed, famine, injustice, and persecution. Everyone is affected. Believers and unbelievers alike. The only difference is that believers endure, because they have hope. They pass through the valley of the shadow by drawing close to the shepherd, not by fleeing from him. For Christians, the scroll of God’s Unfolding Purpose tells a difficult, but gracious story. And while this story brings comfort in adversity, it should evoke something else as well.
When the Seventh Seal is opened in Revelation 8, there is silence in heaven. The constant praise which fills every vision of heaven thus far, now falls silent as the “wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18) Nothing interrupts a party like a tragedy. Judgement against the unbelieving world begins to unfold.
The seals and trumpets are not sequential, but share the same frame of history. Yet they do so from a different perspective. There are similarities in the cycles. The first four in each series are directed against earth, sea, and heavens, while the fifth and sixth are in the spiritual realm. But there are important differences as well. The seals speak of the natural consequences of sin, while the trumpets are very clearly, acts of God. Also, the seals effect all mankind, believer and unbeliever alike, while the trumpets, particularly the final ‘woes,’ are directed only toward those who do not have the seal of the Living God.
The physical suffering of unbelievers is great, but the woes of the fifth and sixth trumpet in Revelation 9 speak of unrelenting spiritual horror. Those not sealed by the Living God through grace, are subject to pain that even death cannot take away. And while there is a note of vindication at the righteous justice of God, this passage is given to the church – a church described as a lampstand to the world – to grasp a sense of urgency. Urgency to speak the gospel to every creature under heaven. Without the gospel the horrors of these woes await our neighbors, families, coworkers, and those we meet every day.
It is easy to read this passage with satisfaction as the enemies of Christ receive justice from God’s hand. But does the justice of God awaken our sorrow for the lost? All mankind deserves God’s justice and will, indeed, receive it unless they find grace in Christ. Does the horror of this thought ignite a sense of urgency? Those you love, those you serve, those who serve you, who are not sealed through faith in Christ, will fall under these horrific judgements. They will seek for death and not find it. And when it comes, it will not be relief or release, but intensification of pain. But the Lord Jesus has the keys to Death and Hades. And he gives these gospel keys to his church.
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”MATTHEW 16:19
Do you have a sense of urgency regarding the lost? Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. As his people, is that not our purpose as well? When you read of these judgements are you relieved for your own deliverance or sorry for those who will find no relief? Should it not be both? God has given us this word for comfort, but also to make us uncomfortable with the condition of the lost. Join us this week as we examine Revelation 9 and reflect on our own sense of urgency.
We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm, outside on The Pavilion at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube. For the Order of Service, click here.