As we come to the final post in our trip (both meanings intended) through Revelation 4-11, we get to the seventh trumpet. Finally. (The sixth was way back in chapter 9.) In the interim, the church has been commissioned with a message, persecuted for preaching it, left for dead, and then raised back to life through the power of Jesus’ own resurrection. Now, all that’s left is the final trumpet.
I don’t want to get too deep into arguments about the chronology of Revelation. Some would say that this is simply the half-way point, and that the seventh trumpet ushers in more destruction, including another set of seven (the seven bowls). I think it’s more likely that we’ve reached “The End,” and that chapter 12 starts afresh with a new set of visions which are just a different way of looking at the same stuff. The more famous “End” in chapters 20-22 deals with the destruction of opposing forces and the New Heaven and New Earth. Here, in chapter 11, the focus is on the vindication of Jesus as Messiah.
Rev 11:15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
This is a pretty strong hint that we’re at “The End,” as the Lord’s Prayer has finally been fully answered: that your kingdom might come on earth as it is in heaven.
Rev 11:16-18 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small—and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”
There are some Old Testament references in the elders’ song to do with God’s reign through his chosen king. The most obvious is Psalm 2, which was a coronation psalm for David:Ps 2:1-6 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”
The time for “raging” is over. (That was the 1980s.) God has installed his anointed one (his Messiah) to rule over the world and subdue the nations’ rebellion. Which is pretty much what has happened over the past few chapters.
Rev 11:19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.
We see the temple. And we see inside the temple. And we see the ark of the covenant. The Germans didn’t get to it after all. But the significant thing is that we can see it. It implies that the veil is no longer in the way – it must have been ripped at some point…
So what’s this scene been about?
This – in my view – is the end of the part in Revelation that has focused on the nation of Israel and their rejection of Jesus as God’s Messiah. (Rome and the idolatry of emperor worship dominates the second half.) We saw hints in the letters to the seven churches (the “synagogue of satan” references) that Jewish persecution was an issue in some places. The judgements in chapter 6 were eerily similar to Jesus’ predictions (see Matthew 24) of what would happen in the lead-up to the destruction of Jerusalem – particularly if you translate the word “earth” (NIV) as “land.” And the mistreatment of the two witnesses (chapter 11) seemed to happen in the city of Jerusalem. (The mass repentance mentioned in 11:13 may well refer to Jewish repentance through the witness of the church.)
But now, at the end of this whole series of visions, God has vindicated his Messiah, and brought in his kingdom. The Messiah reigns, just like was promised in the Hebrew Scriptures. The nations are subdued by God’s chosen king, just like was foreshadowed in the rule of David. The Old Testament prophets and Christian martyrs are vindicated and rewarded, and those who persecuted them are destroyed.
And Jesus is vindicated. No longer is the temple a place in Jerusalem. Because Jesus did away with the need for that – the veil to the inner shrine was torn at his death. (And the Romans then finished the job a generation later.) Jesus himself is the temple – the place where God dwells among his people – and he has ascended into heaven. So the final vision of this half of Revelation depicts the temple in heaven, the veil gone, and God’s presence (the ark) there for all to see. The Messiah who was crucified by the temple establishment has now re-established the temple away from Jerusalem. Christ is victorious, and his enemies have been defeated.
To think about
As we come to the end of our journey through Revelation 4-11, what lessons have stood out to you?
Much of the application hasn’t been “this is what I should do“, but rather “this is how the world looks through God’s eyes” (which I think is more foundational). So how have you learned to see the world through God’s eyes, and what difference has it made to the way you think, feel, and act?