Revelation 8: The eagle of woes
In the book Storm Warning, the late Dr. Billy Graham writes about a group of people having a “hurricane party” before Hurricane Camille.
Graham says the winds were strong and howling outside the classy Richelieu Apartments in Pass Christian, Mississippi when Police Chief Jerry Peralta approached the group. It was nighttime, and the apartments were only 250 feet from the surf and directly in line with the coming storm. Camille was a category five storm, packing winds of 175 miles per hour and a storm surge of 24 feet. Peralta was there to warn them to clear out before the storm could arrive. But no one was listening.
One man came outside his apartment on the second-floor balcony, carelessly waving at Peralta with a drink in his hand. The profoundly concerned Police Chief desperately tried to persuade him and the others who joined him on the balcony to leave. When that didn’t work, he ordered them to vacate the premises and get to safety. Still, they just laughed. One man yelled, “This is my land; if you want me off it, you’ll have to arrest me.”
Peralta didn’t have the authority to arrest anyone in this case. Nevertheless, while they laughed at him, he wrote down the names of everyone at the party and their next of kin. They were warned, but they were foolish and would not flee the coming tempest.
When Hurricane Camille hit, the storm killed 143 people along Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Because of the catastrophic flooding that occurred from the storm, 153 additional people in Nelson County, Virginia, perished. The wrath of Camille injured 8,931 people, destroyed 5,562 homes,13,915 homes sustained significant damage, and industry and businesses would suffer more than 10 billion dollars worth of loss by today’s standards.
Graham wrote, “News reports later showed that the worst damage came at the little settlement of motels, go-go bars, and gambling houses known as Pass Christian, Mississippi, where some twenty people were killed at a hurricane party in the Richelieu Apartments. Nothing was left of that three-story structure but the foundation. The only survivor was a five-year-old boy found clinging to a mattress the following day.”
Graham adds, “Were they ignorant of the dangers? Could they have been overconfident? Did they let their egos and pride influence their decision? We’ll never know.”
What we can know, however, is they were warned — Police Chief Peralta implored them to leave, and when they wouldn’t listen, he even harshly ordered them to leave. Still, the choice was their own, and they chose foolishly.
In Revelation Chapter 8, Christ breaks the seventh seal of the scroll, which He alone is worthy to open. Each broken seal reveals God’s final actions in dealing with a defiant world. When the seventh seal is broken, four angels with trumpets blow to announce the unmatched cataclysmic destruction of the planet and the worldwide altering of human government.
The blowing of these trumpets and the following events warn people to repent. These warnings are to a world stiff-necked, hardened, stubborn, exceedingly foolish, and will not bend the knee to their rightful Sovereign. They will not have Christ to rule over them. They will not be reconciled with their Maker.
Still, God reaches out to them with warning after warning after warning after warning. God is like this. Through his prophet Ezekiel, the Lord told sinful and obstinate Israel in their day, “As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die?” (Ezekiel 33:11). The heart of the Lord is to save.
Life is so short compared to eternity. Nothing in life is more important than preparing for where one will spend eternity. Think of the many ways God influences and directs people to make peace with him. Drawing from something the late W. Herschel Ford wrote in one of his many Simple Sermons Series, here are some ways:
- He gives us the Bible. The Bible, the Word of God, is easily accessible to most people. There are Bibles almost everywhere today. The Bible tells of God’s grace and mercy in Christ, in both the Old and New Testaments.
- He gives us the Church. In most towns and cities, there is a church with a faithful witness by God’s people, telling of his redeeming purposes through Jesus Christ and showing his love.
- He gives us the Gospel on radio, television, websites, social media, print, etc. Through these mediums, the message of Christ and God’s earnest desire for people to be saved abound.
- He gives us a conscience. Though not a perfect witness, our consciences point out our many sins. Our consciences, often afflicted with guilt, remind us that we are broken and need a spiritual transformation.
- He gives us the prayers and witness of Christian friends and loved ones. Most people who don’t know Christ have known someone who has lived a real Christian life in front of them at one time or another. Many have a family member who, for years, has earnestly been praying for them to come to know Christ personally.
- He gives us sickness, sorrow, and trouble to bring us to himself. All illness, suffering, and troubles in life are not because of sin. But sometimes, the Lord uses these to show us our need for him. It is, most unfortunately, the only way he can get our attention.
- He gives us the Holy Spirit. Before Christ returned to the Father in heaven, he said that he would send the Holy Spirit who “will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and the coming judgment” (John 16:8). The Spirit of God woos and warns of our need to make things right with God before it’s too late.
God is so good to give us these aids to help us find the way. When we live in sin, ignoring Him, running from him, and rebelling against him, He still extends his offer of mercy. One has to crash through these many “safety signs” to ultimately plunge over the precipice and into Hell.
After the four angels have blown their trumpets, there once again seems to be a pause, albeit a brief one. Then the apostle John writes that he sees one solitary eagle in the zenith of the sky, warning people of three more trumpets with forthcoming measures of inexplicable doom. He writes:
“Then I looked, and I heard a single eagle crying loudly as it flew through the air, ‘Terror, terror, terror to all who belong to this world because of what will happen when the last three angels blow their trumpets’” (Revelation 8:13).
In discussing the conversion experience with a fellow preacher, he shared something that has stayed with me through the years. He said, “Sometimes God only needs a pop gun to move certain people his way; with others, he has to use an elephant gun.” In the end times, it appears evil is so entrenched God has to use the guns of an Iowa-Class Battleship, figuratively speaking.
“Terror, terror, terror,” says the Eagle, God’s harbinger of judgment. Some translations taken from the oldest manuscripts refer to this supernatural entity as an “angel” crying out, “woe, woe, woe.”
Dr. Henry Morris, in The Revelation Record, asserts:
“Maybe both texts are correct — he is both angel and eagle. The four mighty cherubim, the ‘living creatures’ of Revelation 4, are indeed high in the angelic hierarchy, even ranking above the archangels, in all probability (Satan himself had been the highest of all cherubim before his fall). The fourth of these is said to have an appearance ‘like a flying eagle’ (Revelation 4:7). It may be that this mighty angelic cherub is the ‘eagle flying’ through the midst of heaven with the warning message of three woes. Whether angel or cherub or eagle, of course, it is the unique form and substance of the warning that arrests the attention of the earth as its inhabitants fearfully await the sound of the next trumpet.”
There is one final truth that may be drawn from this incredible passage. Revelation 8:13 says the eagle’s ominous words of alert are to “all who belong to this world.”
There are only two types of people: the earthbound and the Heaven-bound. The earthbound are those who have invested all of their life in this present world without considering the need to prepare for the next.
Jesus once told a parable about a farmer who became very wealthy. As he cheerfully looked at his bumper crop, he didn’t see God’s hand in the matter; he only saw himself and opportunities to build bigger barns to hold his many possessions. This silly man invested his whole life in the things of this world. But suddenly and unexpectedly, God said to him, “You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?” (Luke 12:20). This farmer had achieved remarkable success. Still, he was a failure with God and went out into eternity unprepared to meet him.
In his excellent book, Eternity, Joseph Stowell says most people “are consumed with the tyranny of the temporal, and both the character and power of a life with an eternal focus are traded for the ordinary.” Indeed, and what a bad trade it is!
“Terror, terror, terror,” warns the Eagle of God, flying high in the mid-day sun. God’s wrath is about to be poured out on the earthbound. The matter is most urgent.
Flee the wrath of God while you can! You’ve been warned over and again! Surrender to your rightful Sovereign, who loves you so much he gave his unique Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for your many sins (John 3:16).
Turn to Christ in repentance and faith now! A horrid hell storm is on its way!
Rev. Mark H. Creech is Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. He was a pastor for twenty years before taking this position, having served five different Southern Baptist churches in North Carolina and one Independent Baptist in upstate New York.