Hopefully you remember how last week we looked at how the two witnesses were killed by the Antichrist, but how they were resurrected after three and a half days, and how they returned to Heaven. And in the grand scheme of the book of Revelation, we had been poised in the middle of the sixth and seventh trumpets for about a month. Remember, the sixth trumpet was the army of 200,000,000 horsemen that will kill 1/3 of the earth’s population. And as far as the timeline of events goes, it would appear that we have now crossed into the second half of the seven-year period known as the Tribulation. So to see what happens next in the epic story of history’s final days, I invite you to turn in your Bibles to Revelation chapter eleven, and we’ll be reading verses fifteen through nineteen. Again, Revelation 11:15-19.
“And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in Heaven saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever.’ And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, ‘We give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.’ And the temple of God was open in Heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.”
All right, several important things to notice about this short little passage. The first thing you need to notice is that this is what known as the seventh trumpet. And while the text doesn’t say it, it would seem that this trumpet is also what’s known as the “third woe.” The fifth trumpet was the first woe, and the sixth trumpet was the second woe. So it would make sense that this trumpet is the third and final woe. But if you’ll notice, when the trumpet blows, there are no demonic locusts released. There are no legions of horsemen set loose to wreak havoc. Instead, when the trumpet blows, voices from Heaven cries out. And notice what it is these great voices say. “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever.” And something I want to point out about this translation is that while some of our Bibles have the word “kingdoms” plural, the Greek language has the word “kingdom” singular. So it should read, “The kingdom of this world becomes the kingdom of our Lord.” Can anyone tell me how this might make more sense, knowing what we know about the Antichrist? That’s right, the entire world will be brought under the rule of one man, so the whole world will be one kingdom.
After the voices from heaven cry out, notice what the twenty-four elders say in verses seventeen and eighteen. “Saying, ‘We give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.’” Wow, what a great prayer! Maybe we should make this into a song or something? In these two verses, the twenty-four elders praise God for three very specific things.
The first thing they praise God for is His eternality. They praise the God who was, and is, and is to come. The idea here is the same thing we talked about from Hebrews seven on Sunday. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are absolutely eternal. They have no beginning, and they have no ending.
The second thing they praise God for is His victory. Notice what it says in the second half of verse seventeen. The Bible says that God has taken His great power, and He has reigned. What is so amazing about this is that the elders are speaking about a victory that does not happen until the end of the book of Revelation; and yet, they are speaking about the victory in the past tense! How does that make sense? I am confident that what we have here is the elders exhibiting an absolute faith in God. They are so sure that God is going to win the victory, that they praise Him saying that the victory has already been won.
And notice in verse eighteen, the elders praise God for His justice. They praise God that He is going to reward His saints and His prophets. And I love what it says about God’s reward. The Bible says that God is going to reward both the small Christians and the great Christians. Aren’t you so glad that God is not going to forget the small Christians? In the grand scheme of things, Josh Provow is not going to go down as being one of “the greats.” And yet, I have a sure promise from the book of Revelation that God has not forgotton about little old me. Praise God!
But when we’re talking about God’s justice, we’re not only talking about His justice towards Christians. Verse eighteen also says that God’s wrath has come upon the nations, and the dead will be judged. The end of the verse says that God will destroy those who destroy the earth. Isn’t it fascinating that the elders are praising God both for His rewarding the saints and destroying the sinners? It’s not often that we praise God for punishing sinners, and yet that’s exactly what the elders do! But it’s not that the elders find some sort of joy from seeing others suffer. No, they find joy from seeing God’s perfect nature at work. By extension, we should not find joy from seeing lost people die without Christ. It should break our hearts. But at the same time, we should rejoice knowing that God is just, both to the sinner and the saint.
So remember, the elders praised God for His eternality, His victory, and His justice. The final verse of the chapter describes the amazing scene in Heaven after the elders finish their praise. Look at what this verse says. “And the temple of God was open in Heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.” In this verse, we get a rare glimpse into Heaven itself. In Heaven, we see the doors of the temple opened, and as we peer into the temple, we see the Ark of the Covenant. Remember, the ark was something built by the Israelites and placed in the tabernacle, and later placed in the temple built by Solomon. The Ark of the Covenant was the piece of furniture in the holy of holies, and it is where the very glory of God came down into the temple. But at some point in Israel’s history, the temple was raided by enemies, and the ark was carried away. Today, we have no idea where the ark is. But, while I could be wrong, it seems as if the ark is now in Heaven. So my guess is that we will never find the Ark of the Covenant, because God relocated it to His heavenly temple.
Next, the Bible says that there were lightnings, and voices, and thunder, and an earthquake, and a great hailstorm. This is probably what will be seen as the third woe. Because it falls in the same category as the demon locust and the 200,000,000 horsemen, I think we can safely say that this will be a huge storm, and a huge earthquake. And yet, as terrifying as this appears, I am convinced that this event will not harm the followers of Christ. I mean, this judgment comes immediately after the elders finish praising God for His punishment of the wicked, and His rewarding of the saints. I could be wrong, but it doesn’t make much sense to me that right after God is praised for His rewarding the saints, He destroys them in an earthquake. No, I believe that this judgment is strictly reserved for the rebels of God.
And that, church, is the end of Revelation chapter eleven. This seventh trumpet is one of the most mysterious in the entire book, because we know so few details about it. But I think that God did that on purpose. Because, in this instance, the focus is not on the judgment, but on the God who sent the judgment. Notice that the judgment only gets one verse, but four verses are dedicated to praising God. That is not a coincidence. So as we study the book of Revelation, I hope that our minds don’t get too bogged down by the signs and the wonders that will happen. Because in truth, the real wonder is not the earthquake and the hail, but the God who is eternal, victorious, and just. I pray that we will always keep that in crystal-clear focus.
Let’s take a moment to praise God, just as the twenty four elders will one day.
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