Monday, September 27, 2021

44. The Revelation: The Seventh Trumpet - Plan for Judgement and Promise of Communion (Rev. 11:18-19)



"...and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth." (Rev. 11:18b)

The coming of God’s wrath is so certain that it can be spoken of as if it had already happened. Those who think that a loving God will not pour out His wrath on them cling to a false and dangerous hope. That God will one day judge unbelievers is a recurring theme of Scripture (Isaiah 24:17–23; 30:27–33; Ezekiel 38–39). The sounding of the seventh trumpet marks the fulfillment of the great judgment event that the prophets foresaw and saints of all ages have longed for (cf. Psalms 3:7; 7:6; 35:1–8; 44:26). It will be the time when God pours out His wrath on His enemies.

Not only will the seventh trumpet signal the outpouring of God’s wrath on earth, it will also indicate that “the time has come for the dead to be judged.” “Time” translates a Greek word that refers to a season, era, occasion, or event. The establishing of Christ’s kingdom will be a fitting time for the dead to be judged. The great white throne judgment (20:11–15) is not in view in this passage, since that judgment explicitly involves only unbelievers. It is best to see the reference to judgment here as a general reference to all future judgments. The elders in their song make no attempt to separate the different phases of judgment as they are separated in the closing chapters of Revelation. They simply sing of future judgments as though they were one event, in the same way that other Scriptures do not distinguish future judgments from each other (John 5:25, 28–29; Acts 17:31; 24:21).

The judgment will be the time for God to reward His “bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear His name, the small and the great.” Though the power to serve God in a way worthy of reward is a gift of God’s grace, still believers are encouraged to work in view of those promised rewards. In 22:12 Jesus declared, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Corinthians 3:8). The reward promised believers is that they will inherit the kingdom, in both its millennial (Matthew 25:34–40; Mark 10:29–31) and eternal (Revelation 21:7) phases. Believers are also promised crowns, including the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8), the crown of life (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10), and the crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4).

The phrase “Your bond-servants the prophets” encompasses all who have proclaimed God’s truth throughout redemptive history, from Moses to the two witnesses (11:3–13). Scripture frequently designates prophets as the Lord’s servants (e.g., 2 Kings 9:7; Ezra 9:11; Jeremiah 7:25; Ezekiel 38:17). The time has come for them to receive “a prophet’s reward” (Matthew 10:41). All those faithful men who stood for God in dark days and against opposition will then find their work revealed and rewarded.

Another group to be rewarded is the saints, further defined as those “who fear Your name” (cf. Psalm 34:9; Luke 1:50). “Saints” is a common biblical description for the redeemed in both the Old and New Testaments (5:8; 8:3–4; Psalm 16:3; Daniel 7:18; Matthew 27:52; Acts 9:13; 26:10; Romans 1:7; 8:27). All of God’s saints, “the small and the great,” will receive rewards.

The judgment will also “destroy those who destroy the earth.” That is not a reference to those who pollute the environment, but to those who pollute the earth with their sin. That includes all unbelievers, especially in the context of Revelation of the false economic and religious system called Babylon (18:2), Antichrist and his followers, and Satan himself. The apostle Paul wrote that the “mystery of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:7) is already at work in the church age, but during the tribulation period it will reach its pinnacle of destructive activity, shredding the very fabric of society in every evil way.

Given stewardship and dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28), humans instead fell into sin and throughout their history have continually corrupted the earth (Romans 8:19–21). When that corrupting reaches its apex, God will destroy the earth and create a new one (21:1).


"And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm." (Rev. 11:19)

Bound up in the seventh trumpet is the promise to believers of unbroken fellowship with God forever. That fellowship is symbolized by the imagery of verse 19. The opening of “the temple of God which is in heaven” (the place where His presence dwells; chapters 4, 5) revealed the ark of His covenant. The ark symbolizes that the covenant God has promised to men is now available in its fullness. In the midst of the fury of His judgment on unbelievers, God throws open the Holy of Holies (where the ark was located; Exodus 26:33–34; 2 Chronicles 5:7) and draws believers into His presence. That would have been unthinkable in the Old Testament temple, when only the high priest entered the Holy of Holies once a year (Hebrews 9:7).

The ark symbolizes God’s communion with the redeemed because it was there that blood sacrifices were offered to atone for men’s sins (Leviticus 16:2–16; Hebrews 9:3–7). Also, it was from above the ark that God spoke to Moses (Numbers 7:89). The ark of the covenant is called in Scripture the ark of testimony (Exodus 25:22), the ark of God (1 Samuel 3:3), and the ark of God’s strength (Psalm 132:8). Inside it was “a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant” (Hebrews 9:4). All that symbolized that God would supply His people, was sovereign over His people, gave His law to His people, and entered into an eternal, saving covenant with His people.

Along with the ark in the heavenly temple there were “flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm.” Similar events are associated with God’s majestic, glorious heavenly throne in 4:5. In 8:5 and 16:17–18 they are associated with judgment. Heaven is the source of vengeance on unbelievers, as well as covenant blessings for the redeemed.

The message of the seventh trumpet is that Jesus Christ is the sovereign King. He will one day take the rule of the earth away from Satan and human rulers. When He returns, He will bring covenant blessings to the redeemed, but eternal judgment to those who reject Him.

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