Serious floods and storms are being blamed on climate change or global warming. The evidence that the earth is warming now seems to be quite strong. Records show that average temperatures were rising through most of the twentieth century.
However, the cause of this rise in temperature is more difficult to ascertain. Many scientists argue that the warming is the result of human activity. They identify carbon emissions from motor vehicles and industrial activity as the cause. Others claim that the temperature change is part of the normal warming and cooling that always occurs on planet earth.
Getting an answer from science will be extremely difficult. The global weather system is incredibly complex. Scientists build computer models that attempt to represent the weather system, but these models by definition must be simplifications of reality.
I do not understand these global weather models, but I am familiar with the computer models developed by economists to represent a national economy. Economists face the same problems as meteorologists. The economic behaviour of people and businesses is so complex that it cannot be fully represented in a computer model. Numerous simplifying assumptions have to be applied to make the model simple enough for a computer can handle.
The consequence of this simplification is that the results produced by an economic model are largely determined by the assumptions chosen. A different set of assumptions will produce a different set of results. This means that the economist determines the results that there computer model produces. This is not very satisfactory for reaching the truth about the effectiveness of economic systems.
Different assumptions are the main reason why economists frequently disagree with each other. They reach different conclusions by starting from a different place. This is also the reason why the predictions of economists are so often wrong. A factor that that is left out, or incorrectly specified in the model, can have a greater effect than expected, causing many predictions based on the model to be incorrect.
The scientists attempting to model the global weather system face exactly the same problem. The results predicted by their computers will vary according to the assumptions built into their models. The global weather system is far more complex that even the most complex economy, so their task is even harder. Most people understand that the predictions of economists are usually wrong. We also know that the weather forecast is often wrong. We should apply the same level of caution to the global predictions of the meteorologists.
Measuring the change in global temperatures is difficult enough. Determining the cause of these changes is virtually impossible. Deciding what actions would reverse the change in temperature is almost impossible for limited human capability.
God is the creator of the earth and the weather system. He designed a weather system that is sufficiently robust to accomplish his purposes on the earth. The belief that mankind can destroy what God has created is quite arrogant. So if global warming has occurred, I am more inclined to believe that this is part of God's purpose than just the unexpected result of human activities. Rather than searching through the bowels of computer programs, we should dig into God's word to find the answers.
My search for references to climate change and global warming brought me to Revelation 7:1-3.
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: "Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God."
The images in this passage were probably familiar to John's listeners, but they are not part of our modern language. The "corners of the earth" is an expression describing the entire earth. The modern equivalent of the four corners is the word "global"
The four winds are a description of the "weather system". Therefore the four winds from the corners of the earth represent the "global weather system". John was describing changes in the global weather system. The actions of the four angels will bring about change that harms the land, the sea and the trees. A change in global weather patterns would bring about such far reaching effect.
The four angels have evil intent, but they are not fullly free. They cannot act until they are released by another angel, the one carrying the seal of God. This is important. Four evil angels are no match for one of God's angels. Although these evil angels will eventually accomplish the harm they have been sent to do, they cannot act until God allows them to move. God is still in control and he will use what they intended for harm to accomplish his purposes. We should not fear these four angels, because God will turn their harm into good for his people.
John's vision describes global climate change that will harm the earth, the trees and the sea.
Trumpets and Angels
The four angels are described more fully in Revelation 8:2-6
And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.
Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.
This passage also contrasts the enormous difference in power between the angel of God and the angels of evil. John saw seven angels that would bring terrible troubles to the earth. The first four of these angels are those with power to bring the global climate change described in the previous chapter. However, none of these angels can act until they are released by the angel with the golden censor. God is always in control. Even evil angels cannot act without his permission.
We also see the authority of the saints. God's angel contains a bowl of incense that represents the prayers of the saints. This angel can only act when the prayers of God's people are complete. It is like all our prayers for the coming Kingdom of God are poured into a large bowl. They do not get presented to God until this bowl is full.
When the prayers of the saints are complete, the angel fills the censor with fire from the altar and throws fire down upon the earth. Fire is a symbol of judgment. The prayers of the saints release the angel who releases judgement upon the earth. Fire also symbolises heat. The fire being released on the earth is a warning that excessive heat will be released on the earth. God's angel releases the angels that bring global warming.
Angels and Trumpets
The seven angels are holding trumpets. For the world, trumpets are a warning of judgment. Amos said that the trumpet would sound when disaster was coming (Amos 3:6). The angels will sound the trumpet when evil has increased upon the earth. This disobedience leads to disasters and troubles. As the trumpets are sounded judgement is released on the earth. Prophetic warnings turn disasters into judgments. (I am not aware of any modern prophet prophesying global warning).
For God's people, trumpets are a call to action. During the Exodus, Moses used two silver trumpets to call the community together and when the camp marched out. After the Exodus, trumpets were used to call God's people to action (Num 10:8,9). The trumpets of the seven angels are not a signal of trouble for God's people, but a call for us to rise up and do his will.
Each of the trumpets affects a different part of the creation. When the first angel sounds the trumpet, the trees and grass are affected.
The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up (Rev 8:7).
This is not literal. Hail and fire are destructive. Blood symbolises death. This vision is a picture of events that bring destruction and harm to trees and the grass. Much of the vegetation on the earth is ruined by excessive heat and drought.
The harm is limited to one third, so the destruction is not total. God is merciful and does not let us experience all that we deserve. Even in the worst judgment, he sets limits, and though he humbles, he does not totally destroy.
Seas and Oceans
The second trumpet affects the sea.
The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed (Rev 8:8,9).
Something as large as a mountain signifies a really huge impact. This "something" is ablaze which suggests heat. This could be the impact of global climate change causing many fish to die. I am not sure of the significance of the ships being destroyed. It could refer to the fishing industry being severely damaged, or to ships being destroyed by more frequent severe storms.
Rivers and Springs
When the third trumpets sounds the rivers and springs will be affected.
The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water- the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter (Rev 8:10,11).
A blazing star falls from the sky onto the rivers and springs. This problem, like the weather, came out of the atmosphere. Blazing like a torch suggests excessive heat, which points to global warming. This change from the atmosphere causes much of the water on earth to be undrinkable.
Governments and Councils
The fourth trumpet affects the sun, the moon and the stars.
The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night (Rev 8:12).
This is another change from the atmosphere. However John is not referring to a literal darkening of the sun, moon and stars. For the Old Testament prophets, the heavenly bodies represent kings and political rulers. The sun and moon being darkened symbolised the collapse of a king or emperor. One example is in Ezekiel 32:7,
When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light.
Ezekiel is speaking about the defeat of Egypt by Babylon. His words give a graphic description of the collapse of Egypt before a greater power. They were not fulfilled literally, but in a prophetic sense they were fulfilled.
The fourth trumpet is a warning that global warming will cause enormous problems for political rulers. Some kings and governments will collapse under stresses that overwhelm them. All the stars will be turned to darkness at the same time. This suggests that all the local government will also be seriously affected by global climate change. City, county and regional councils will struggle to deal with the problems caused by changes in global weather patterns. National and local politicians who have been elected because they promised to solve all problems will prove to be powerless.
The first four trumpets in Revelation 8 parallel the four angels with power to harm the land in sea described in Revelation 7. Together they describe the catastrophic effect of global climate change. The next important question is when these things happen.
We need to be clear about one issue. Global warming is not a sign of the second coming. The book of revelation is not a book of signs for the second coming. The book is a description of the rise and fall human kingdoms and the advance of the Kingdom of God. A key step towards the Kingdom of God is the Calling of the Jews. This is the next major event in human history. The release of the four angels is a sign that the Calling of the Jews is near. It is not a sign of the second coming.
There are two indications of when these things will take place. Firstly, the seven trumpets are listed after the seven seals. The two series of events are not necessarily sequential. The seven trumpets may start before the seven seals are complete, but the trumpets cannot not start sounding before at least some of the seven seals have been opened.
I believe that we have already seen the first two of the seven seals opened: Islamic revival and ethnic wars. We may be close to the third seal: economic crisis. As we progress through the seven seals, the first of the seven trumpets will sound. This indicates that the time for angels of global climate change is getting close.
Sealing of Israel
The second indication of the timing of the four angels that affect global weather patterns is in Rev 7:3.
Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.
This is a clear promise that God will not allow these things to happen until he has sealed the foreheads of the servants of God. Conversely the sealing of the servants is a sign that dramatic climate change is close, so we need to understand the meaning of this event.
John was told the identity and number of the servants who were sealed.
Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,John saw 12,000 people from each of the twelve tribes of Israel being sealed by the angel. The number 12,000 should not be taken literally. Twelve is a number symbolising Israel. One thousand is number symbolising completeness. The sealing of the 144,000 points to a time when all the children of Israel Return to peace with God through faith in Jesus, as prophesied by Paul.
from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,
from the tribe of Gad 12,000 (Rev 7:4-8).
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved (Rom 11:25,26).
God will pour out his Spirit on the earth and most of the people of Israel will come to salvation. This will bring great blessing to the earth.
A seal marks ownership and protects the contents. Sealing of the children of Israel does not mean that they immediately come to faith in Jesus. It just means that God has put a wall of protection around them, so that they will not come to harm. The sealing means that the Holy Sprit is at work in their lives. It also means that he has begun to draw them to Jesus.
A person can only be sealed if they are a live. This means that the descendents of Israel who will come to faith in Jesus will be living on earth before the time when the four angels of global warming begin to strike the earth.
Israel in this text is not just the nation of Israel, as it exists today. The Jews living in modern Israel are mostly descendants of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, who made up the southern Kingdom that emerged after Israel was split between Solomon's two sons. Jeroboam ruled the northern half of the Kingdom and Rehoboam ruled the southern half of the Kingdom called Judah (1 Kings 12).
The people of the Northern Kingdom were sent into exile by the king of Assyria. They were replaced by people from Assyria and never returned to their home in Israel (1 Kings 17:23,24). The people of the southern kingdom were exiled to Babylon many years later. However, they returned to the promised land in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. The Jews living in Israel today are mostly descendents of the people who returned from exile in Babylon. However, because records have been lost over time, they are not able to trace their genealogies Back to those who returned from Babylon.
The consequence of these events is that many descendents of the other tribes of Israel are scattered throughout the earth, not even knowing that they are descendents of Israel. Some of these live in the Middle East, but many are in other parts of the world. When God pours out his Spirit on all of Israel, these people will come to faith in Christ. Many will want to Return to Israel when that happens. A remnant may already have come to know him.
Recently something strange has happened all over the world. A few Christians have become really passionate about the nation of Israel. Some are almost obsessive about this issue. I believe that many of these people are actually descendents of one of the twelve tribes of Israel, without knowing it. They have already been sealed by the holy angel, who is sealing the 144,000. The stirring up or their love for Israel is the consequence and proof of this sealing.
If this interpretation is correct, then the angel holding the seal of God has already gone forward into the earth (Rev 7:3). I am not sure if he has completed marking all of those from the twelve tribes of Israel who will come to faith in Jesus. He could have completed the task, even if most of those who have been sealed do not understand it. This means that the time for releasing the four angels with power to harm the earth might be close, or already have arrived. The global climate change that John warned about may have already begun.
Who is Responsible?
I have shown that global climate change was prophesied in the book of Revelation. This will lead some readers to conclude that they are not responsible and do not need to worry about the problem. However, the fact that global climate change fits with of God's purposes on earth does not absolve us for from responsibility. The opposite is true. The book of Revelation describes global climate change as a judgment upon human action. Climate change is not part of God's perfect plan; it is his response to irresponsible human behaviour on earth
God created mankind to be steward over this earth, after saying:
Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth (Gen 1:28).
Humans are responsible for everything that goes wrong on this earth, so we are responsible for global climate change. We have either caused it directly by our behaviour on earth, or God has to allow it as a judgment to turn us Back to his ways. Either way we are responsible.
I am not certain of the direct cause of global warming. It might be our cars, it might be volcanoes, or changing weather patterns, or it might be the work of the evil one. It does not really matter which. God gave us responsibility for the earth, so we are responsible for what happens here.
When God brings judgment on human action, he generally does not need to initiate the judgement. Usually the judgment is just the natural outworking of wrong choices and actions. The reality is that when we reject God's way, things go wrong. I suspect that global climate change is the natural consequence of human disobedience to God.
Caused by Disobedience
What human disobedience causes God to allow a judgment that does so much harm to the earth? The events described in Revelation are caused by three main sins. Firstly, the church is lukewarm and lacking in zeal (Rev 2,3). This translates into a variety of false religions and idolatry. Secondly, human rebellion manifests itself through enormous growth in political power. The people of the world reject the kingdom of God and choose to build the kingdom of man. The kingdom of man eventually morphs into a world empire.
The third area of disobedience that brings the judgment described in Revelation is a lifestyle that uses the earth that God placed in our care as a tool for human pleasure. God gave us dominion over the earth, so we could work with him to establish and expand his kingdom throughout this earth. Instead of accepting this challenge, we have used the earth for human plans and pleasure.
The events described in the book of Revelation happen during a time when consumerism is rampant and global trade is important to sustain it. Here is a paraphrase of parts of Revelation 18.
The people glorified themselves and lived luxuriously. The merchants of the earth became rich through the abundance of their comfort. They produced consumer goods that you would not dream about: gold and silver, designer jewellery, stylish clothing, delicate and delicious foods, fashionable furniture, trendy electronics, opulent cars, magnificent SUVs, air travel, exclusive holidays, Some merchants even trafficked in human lives.
People are dressed in the latest fashions and adorned with the finest jewellery. They dine in delicate and delectable luxury.
This passage is a good description of life in our part of the world over the past century. This lifestyle was not part of God's plan, but is the outworking of life without him.
Materialism and consumerism are the sins that bring the judgment of global climate change to the earth. In a sense the meteorologists are right in saying that human lifestyles have had a negative effect on the world that God has entrusted to us. Their only mistake is in not tracing this behaviour Back to rejection of God.
Live for Now
When people turn away from God, they start to live for the present. Without God, the eternal dimension to life disappears and people focus on what they can get now. This is one reason why the modern world is so obsessed with consuming more and more stuff. Paul made this clear when writing about life after death.
If the dead are not raised,
"Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die" (1 Cor 15:32).
Putting it another way, if there is no God, the future is uncertain, so we might as well party now. The modern world understand Paul's message very well. It has got on with eating and drinking and consuming as if there were no tomorrow. To sustain these high levels of consumption, we have used up more than half of the oil in the world in less than a century. Very little thought has been given to leaving an inheritance to our children.
Christians Joined the Party
Consumerism is a natural response for those who have no God. The strange thing is that Christians have joined the party with almost as much zeal. In terms of possessions and consumer behaviour, Christians in the west are almost indistinguishable from those who have no faith in God. Maybe this is partly the consequence of the lukewarmness described towards the beginning of the book of Revelation
I suspect that a "Jesus-is coming-at-any-moment theology" has also sucked Christians into a negative attitude to this earth. We have become so obsessed with heaven and escape from this world, that we have forgotten that God might have a longer term purpose for this earth. As we have lost the vision for the Kingdom of God, we have also forgotten our responsibility to be stewards of God's earth.
What Must We Do
Well, there is one thing we must not do. Looking to governments to solve the eliminate climate change is a mistake. The will have a good go at building a tower of Babel, but will fail in their objectives. A core purpose of the book of Revelation is to condemn the increasing the power of the state. Therefore, trusting government organisations or international organisations to deal with global climate change is just swapping one sin for another.
The biblical response to judgment is repentance. The Christian response to a warning of judgement should be a change of lifestyle. If we have joined in the binge of consumption that has swept the western world, we need to change to a simpler lifestyle. In every aspect of the way we live, we should start acting as good stewards of the earth that God has entrusted to us. That will change many of the decisions we make about what we use and consume.
For example, Christians have debated the issue of what vehicle Jesus would drive. This is the wrong question. We should be asking what will advance the Kingdom of God. "Do I need a motor vehicle to advance the kingdom of God?" "Do I need and SUV to advance the Kingdom of God or to steward the part of the earth for which I am responsible" "Do I need a V8 grunter to advance the Kingdom of God.
I can't say how other people need to change their lifestyle. I do know that the Holy Spirit is constantly showing me how I need to change the way I live.
In the end, it does not matter whether our materialism is the physical cause of global warming or not. It is still idolatry, and is the spiritual cause, so we need to repent .
Change is Inevitable
The message of the book or Revelation is that God is going to bring to an end the lifestyle based on materialism and consumerism. The rulers of the earth will weep and mourn as they watch the life of luxury disappear.
The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more (Rev 18:11).
God's judgment will destroy the consumer lifestyle that has been so popular in many parts of the world. People will have no choice, but will be forced into a simpler lifestyle.
Forced change is always unpleasant. In a crisis, authority flows to those who are prepared. Christians, who change their lifestyle now in response to the leading of the Holy Sprit, will be better placed to cope and lead, when the whole world is being forced to change.
The best way to prepare for global climate change is to learn to live the lifestyle described by Paul.
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (Phil 4:11,12).
If we can learn to be content in a world that is obsessed with plenty, we will continue to be content in a world that is being forced into a different lifestyle.
When Christian historians look back on the sixty years following the end of the Second World War, they will see that time as a wasted opportunity for the Kingdom of God. They will see a time of relative peace when travel round the world was never easier. The power of communications was immense. Christians had more vastly more wealth than at any time in history. I suspect that they will look back and see this as an opportunity that was frittered away by Christians. The greatest opportunity that has ever existed for the advance of the kingdom of God became a time when the gospel slipped backwards.