Revelation 8:13 announced that three woes would fall on those who live on the earth. The fifth trumpet followed. Now in Revelation 9:12 we learn that the first woe has "gone away"--it is now past. Since a similar announcement occurs in Revelation 11:14, after the sixth trumpet, it seems clear that the three woes of Revelation 8:13 are the fifth, sixth, and seventh trumpets.
I received a major reality check about 15 years ago when I heard a particular preacher for the first time. He had an incredible impact on me. Whenever he spoke, my heart would burn within me. It was as if he could read my soul. But he was neither a prophet nor a mind reader, a point he made extremely clear. He was just an ordinary Christian speaking from the heart. And yet his words had prophetic power.
What was it that made his preaching so powerful? Ninety percent of his illustrations came from his own personal experience. And when he did speak from his own experience, he almost always talked about his failures and not his successes. That led me to think about my own sermons. When I gave illustrations from my own life, I always talked about my successes and almost never about my failures. It was a total reality check. I came to realize that I was using the pulpit to polish my image.
The church I serve also received a major check some time ago. Trying to understand better how to reach the lost, we learned that Hispanic congregations in southern California were doubling in numbers every three years or so. Assuming that they must be doing something the rest of us weren't, we wanted to apply those strategies to the broader situation in the United States. But investigation revealed a startling discovery. During a 10-year period not a single third-or fourth-generation (in America) Hispanic was baptized. Growth was there, but only immigrants and their children were baptized. It was clear that the success among Hispanics was not transferable to the mainstream situation in the United States.
Each part of the Bible is useful for teaching (2 Tim. 3:16), but different passages apply to different circumstances. Passages such as the fifth and sixth trumpets do not particularly comfort the bereaved or encourage the lonely. But they are quite useful for shaking people out of their complacency. These trumpets provide a reality check. They summon us to face the illusions that relative prosperity can bring. We can all benefit from a reality check.
Lord, I find that I fall so easily into the trap of complacency. Although I prefer for life to be peaceful, I need a serious reality check every so often. When it comes, give me the courage to learn and not to resist.