THE REVELATION OF CHRIST
Lesson Number 22
THE SEVENTH TRUMPET #4
"Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever! And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth. Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail." (Revelation 11:15-19, NKJV)
Jesus is showing John what "must shortly take place" (1:1, NASB). This is language addressed to faith, and is not to be judged according to the perspective of flesh. If it is not for us to "know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power" (Acts 1:7), you may rest assured "times and seasons" will never the the emphasis of revelation.
This by no means suggests "times and seasons" are not important, or that they are never mentioned in Scripture. We must not, however, allow them to dominate our perspective of God's Word. WHAT God does consistently takes the precedence over WHEN He does it. Thus, WHAT was accomplished in Christ's death is emphasized, rather than WHEN His indispensable death occurred.
Some teach that this language ("must shortly take place") confirms the events of this book all occurred in the first Century, or "shortly" after they were written. The view taints the entire Word of God, robbing men of the power of comfort, and disarming them concerning jeopardous times to come. If everything in this remarkable book was fulfilled in the first century, the following events have already taken place.
If "shortly" means "right away"
The "great day" of Christ's "wrath" has come (6:13-17).
A vast number of "all the house of Israel" have been sealed (7:4-8).
Saints have "come out of great tribulation," and are no more subject to the stresses of this world (7:15-17).
The "time of the dead" has come, when they were judged (11:18).
The wicked are being tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb (14:10-11).
The devil has been cast into the lake of fire, together with the beast and the false prophet (20:10).
All of the dead, including those in the sea, have been raised (20:12-14).
The final judgment has taken place (20:11-15).
The new heaven and new earth have already come (21:1).
The people of God, His holy city, have already been glorified (21:2-3).
All tears have been wiped away (21:4).
The people of God now see His face, and there is no more curse (22:3-5).
Jesus has come and rewarded every person according to their work (22:12).
It takes an unusually productive imagination to conclude these things have already taken place. Aside from the position being untrue, it is utterly absurd, betraying a level of spiritual ignorance that is inexcusable.
Not An Historical Chronology
This book is not an historical chronology, although it does contain historical information, as well as some chronology. Suffering saints, however, cannot be comforted by history. It takes more than a chronological recitation of coming or past events to enable the persecuted ones to be faithful until the end. History, however intriguing it may be, has no power-no spiritual power.
A Heavenly Perspective
We are seeing the key events of this world from the heavenly perspective-i.e., as they relate to the fulfillment God's "eternal purpose." John had to "come up higher" to perceive it, and so do we! Satanic initiatives are unfolded, as well as Divine interpositions. The idea conveyed in the word "shortly," is that things will move along according to Divine intent, with no delay. Thus Satan will be "bruised" under the saint's feet "shortly" (Rom 16:20). Faith can take hold of a word like this!
Thus the book of Revelation has had comforting power throughout the centuries, since Jesus ascended into heaven. As the redeemed have looked at things that are "unseen," time, with its challenges, no longer seems so lengthy. The greatest duration is now assigned to the blessing, not the curse.
As confirmed in Abraham, faith views the temporary order as incidental, looking forward to the fulfillment of God's promise. Thus it is written, "By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb 11:9-10). From the perspective of faith, the "city" for which he looked was to appear "shortly," even though, from an earthly perspective, many years have passed. That is why Abraham "looked" for it. Faith brought the blessing close to him.
Among other things, this book is written to confirm to the saints their faith is not in vain. The things for which they hope will surely come. The wicked will surely fall. Their enemies will surely be judged. They themselves will surely possess the Kingdom. The faithful Creator beholds them with a sensitive eye, and will not allow their enemies to ultimately triumph.
Too, throughout history, the condition of the church has been a source of vexation to the righteous. The corruption of the Gospel and the institutionalization of Christianity have been as devastating to the work of God as Imperial Rome and the aggression of idolatrous heathenism. The section we are currently examining brings special consolation to those oppressed by the propagation of false approaches to God.
A Brief Review
The seven seals dealt with the history of the world from the standpoint of the church. The calamities of the world were seen as impotent against the people of God. They came through every test, every fire, every opposition. The seals ended with a period of silence, as the faithful entered into their rest.
The trumpets are unveiling history with the world and its governments in mind. The demise of bureaucracies is seen as a judgment from heaven because of their rejection of the reign of the conquering Lamb, and their opposition of the saints. Whereas the church passes through history to enter into eternal rest, its enemies will confront the loss of everything they valued, and stand trembling before the judgment seat of Christ. The Lord sustains His people in trouble. However, he visits the sins of the wicked upon them-even now. There are consequences to sin!
Faith is never vain, and unbelief is always vain! Involvement in the work of the Lord is never pointless, and opposition of the work is always pointless! Jesus never really loses, and Satan never really wins! The people of God can live triumphantly with a grasp of these things!
THE SOUNDING OF THE SEVENTH TRUMPET
"Then the seventh angel sounded . . . " There has been a lengthy interlude between the beginning of the sounding of the sixth trumpet (9:13) until the sounding of the seventh (11:15). What we have had between the sounding of the sixth and seventh trumpets is significant, though brief. We have been given a glimpse of Satan's ultimate strategy-to defile the approach to God! This was allowed by God in order that those who are approved might be made manifest, or revealed. As it is written, "For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you" (1 Cor 11:19). Those who live in the holiest place are not deceived by this scheme.
What we are reading perfectly accords with the remainder of Scripture-particularly the Apostolic writings. They wrote of a falling away-a defection from the faith from within the church (2 Thess 2:3; 1 Tim 4:1-2; 2 Tim 3:1-9; 4:3-4; 2 Pet 2:1-2). The apostasy is seen in the prophesying of the witnesses in sackcloth. The spiritual animosity created by the departure from the truth is seen in the slaying of the two witnesses. When an allegiance to the truth is reduced, the effectiveness of Satan is increased. When men do not draw from the well of the water of life, they will confront influences from "the bottomless pit."
Now the seventh angel sounds the seventh trumpet. The time has come! We are entering into the last phase of the second cycle of the vision given to John. Remember, we are seeing the fulfillment of the purpose of God. The seventh trumpet was scheduled to sound! It was written in the book held and opened by the conquering Lamb. Satan could not stop the trumpet from sounding! Neither opposition nor a deterioration of a love for the truth can stop the purpose of God from being brought to fulfillment. The only question is whether or not individuals are willingly involved in that purpose.
Loud Voices in Heaven
"And there were loud voices in. heaven . . . " As the seventh seal is opened, there is not silence in heaven, as with the seventh seal. Rather, there are "voices" - "loud voices!" We have heard these voices before. In the fourth chapter, they proceeded "out of the throne" (4:5). In the eighth chapter, they were heard when fiery judgments were hurled to the earth (8:5). Twice they are heard in the eleventh chapter (11:15,19). They will be heard again in the sixteenth chapter, when the seventh vial is poured out into the earth (16:18).
Those uttering the voices are not precisely identified. We do not know if they are angels, the four living creatures, or the twenty-four elders who are mentioned next. It is enough to know this is heaven's response, where there is absolute unanimity.
This is a depiction of heaven's perception of, and involvement in, the workings of God in the earth. Those who imagine things are running without Divine intervention are simply wrong. Equally true, those in close proximity to God become involved in His workings. The closer they are to Him, the more instant and fervent is their response. Throughout Scripture, the lack of response reveals a lack of involvement, whether in matters of initial obedience, or in participation in the work of the Lord.
Heavenly personalities do not lift their voices in response to the working of men, but to the working of their Lord. While men continue to be impressed with the achievements of their peers, heaven is impressed with the working of the Lord. There is a keen interest in Divine activity among the hosts of heaven. To the degree we have been joined to that host, there is a keen interest among us also. And, make no mistake about it, in Christ Jesus we HAVE been joined to them (Heb 12:22-24).
Enemies Made His Footstool
" . . . saying, The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ . . . " At last, the determined objective has come to pass! When Jesus sat down at the right hand of God, the Father said, "Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool" (Psa 110:1; Lk 20:42-43; Heb 1:3). These "enemies" are precisely defined in Scripture. In one of His parables, the Lord Jesus said of them, "But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them" (Lk 19:27, NKJV).
That condition-not wanting King Jesus to reign over, or govern, the individual-makes one an "enemy" of God and Christ. All such people will be subdued, and made to bow the knee before Christ and confess He is Lord (Rom 14:11). God the Father has pledged this will happen, and it shall! In the meantime, their rebellion has no effect whatsoever upon the Lord Jesus. He continues to rule "in the midst" of His enemies, bringing the purpose of God to fruition (Psa 110:2).
These are the kingdoms Satan offered to Jesus in the wilderness temptation (Matt 4:8-9; Lk 4:5-8). Showing them and their glory to Jesus "in a moment of time" (Lk 4:5), the Tempter offered them to the Son. In that temptation (and it WAS a temptation), the devil affirmed these kingdoms had been given to him. He also said he could give them to whoever he desired (Lk 4:6). The Lord Jesus did not contest that claim. However, they have only been given to our adversary for a time. Jesus will soon take them back, as it were!
Man's Wrath and God's Power
When man's wrath rises in opposition to the reigning Christ, that very wrath is made to praise God. At the point that ceases to occur, human wrath and indignation is restrained, or brought to a grinding halt. Thus it is written, "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain" (Psa 76:10). A graphic statement of this very principle is found in Psalm 46:6. "The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted."
For that matter, the very text we are reviewing is a declaration of this truth. The enemies of Christ rose up against Him, persecuting His people and denying His truth. In all of that, God's people overcame the enemy, thereby bringing praise to God. When the purposes of God were served, however, the wrath of men was forthrightly subdued by Divine judgment! It is still true, "The deceived and the deceiver are His. He leads counselors away plundered, And makes fools of the judges" (Job 12:16-17), NKJV). The knowledge of this brings great comfort to suffering saints!
Thus, the reign of the Lord Jesus is seen in a twofold sense. The support and protection of His people. The government and ultimate subduing of their enemies. The kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ particularly have to do with the latter.
Jesus Is Ruling Now
Even now, the Lord Jesus is the "Governor among the nations" (Psa 22:28), ruling over them with unquestionable authority. Not only has "all power in heaven and in earth" been given to Him (Matt 28:18; 1 Pet 3:22), He is presently using that power. We are not to read this passage supposing Jesus is not now ruling precisely and effectively.
We must never look at the rulers of this world as though they conducted their affairs independently of the government of God. It is still true, "O LORD God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?" (2 Chron 20:6). And again, "O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth" (Isa 37:16). This is the "government" that is presently on the shoulder of Jesus (Isa 9:6-7). Our text speaks of the time when it will become evident.
His Rule Will Become Apparent
The kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and Christ is the same as Christ's enemies becoming His footstool. It speaks of an apparent subjugation- when the. Rule of the Lord Jesus will become obvious to all. To put it another way, when the impotence of earthly powers to effectively oppose the Lord and His Christ will become prominent and plain.
God is going to "show" Jesus in all of His glory, and every eye will see it. As it is written, "which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Tim 6:15, NKJV). At that time, there will be universal acknowledgment of the supremacy of Christ Jesus. For some, it will be unto condemnation. For others, it will be the confirmation of salvation. There will be no earthly kingdoms then, for they shall all be dissolved, as they fall beneath the mighty weight of the "mountain" of the kingdom of Christ. This will be the fulfillment of the dream given to Nebuchadnezzar, and interpreted by Daniel (Dan 2:35-45).
A Secondary View
There is yet another way in which Christ's rule becomes apparent. It is secondary to the ultimate revelation, which will occur at His second coming. This occurs when men own Jesus as their King in this world-particularly when they do so on a large scale. The prophets spoke of a time when this would take place. While students of Scripture are divided on their understanding of these prophecies, it is imperative that they be united in the acknowledgment of their truth. There will come a time when "the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea" (Isa 11:9; Hab 2:14). That is a preliminary fulfillment of the kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ.
The prophets also spoke of a time when "all nations" would voluntarily "flow" to the place of the Lord's presence and blessing (Isa 2:2). Paul elaborated on this time, associating it with the spiritual awakening of Israel. "But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!" (Rom 11:12, NIV). And again, "For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" (Rom 11:15, KJV).
In this effectual spread of the Gospel, the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ. In this instance, the kingdoms surrender willingly. In the case of the coming of the Lord, they will be forced to confess the King against their will.
The relationship of the Son to the Father, or of Christ to God, is not commonly expounded. Some have chosen to distort the truth by affirming there is only one Person in the Godhead, performing three different roles-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, this is not the case at all. "The Christ," or the "Anointed" and sanctioned One, belongs to God. He is "HIS Christ." This is another way of saying the purpose belongs to God, and the fulfillment of it is in the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One appointed and anointed to execute the will of God. To acknowledge Christ is to acknowledge God, and to reject Christ is to reject God. Thus it is written, "Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son" (1 John 2:22). Again it is written, "Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also" (1 John 2:23, NKJV).
The Lord Jesus is reigning, and will continue to do so until all of His enemies have been openly subjugated to Him and acknowledge Him! There is no way this will fail to be fulfilled. As it is written, "For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet" (1 Cor 15:25). The ultimate accomplishment of this will take place when Jesus appears in all of His glory, destroying His foes with the breath of His mouth (2 Thess 2:8). Preliminary to that, an unprecedented spread of the Gospel will occur in which the kingdoms of this world will cease to hold people within their grip, as they embrace the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Solitary King
" . . . and He shall reign forever and ever!" In history, it appears as though there are multiple kingdoms and numerous kings-but that is only the way it looks. In reality, there is only One King-the Lord Jesus Christ, Who has been "crowned with glory and honor." His Kingdom is the only enduring one. By Divine determination, all others are destined for extinction!
Here, in this time, God has been gracious in allowing us to participate in His Kingdom before its ultimate revelation. In salvation, we are "translated," or conveyed, "into the kingdom of His dear Son" (Col 1:13). Some versions use the word "transferred" rather than "translate" or "convey." For some, that is too impersonal. God has, as it were, escorted us into Christ's Kingdom. While it involves a legal transaction, it is intensely personal and experiential. It is "of (or by) God" that we are "in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor 1:30). We have become part of something that will never end!
For those in Christ Jesus, the kingdoms of this world have already given way to the Kingdom of our Lord and His Christ. Our primary citizenship is now in heaven, from whence we look for our Savior (Phil 3:20-21). Praise the Lord!
A HEAVENLY RESPONSET
he Worship of God
"And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God . . . " This is the heavenly response to the demise of worldly kingdoms. It refers to the public subjugation of all of Christ's enemies. What, in this case, appears to be catastrophe on the earth, is seen as the occasion for praise in heaven. This is because everything is seen within the framework of God Himself, and the execution of His purpose through Christ Jesus. It is important that we see this, because we have been called to the same vision-the same perspective.
There are three essential things to observe here. First, WHO worshiped God. Second, WHERE they were when they worshiped God. Third, HOW they worshiped.
These are willing and perceptive worshipers, which are the only kind recognized in heaven. They are identified as "the twenty four elders," to whom we have already been introduced (4:4,10; 5:8,14). These personalities have participated in the revelation to John, both in executing the purpose of God, and in responding to His working (5:5,6,11; 7:11,13).
These are exalted heavenly personages, being identified with the redeemed. In fact, some of their praise includes a recognition of their own redemption (Rev 5:9-10). At the very least, these personalities speak for all of the redeemed, ascribing praise to God for the subduing of the kingdoms of this world. They speak from a lofty and clearly insightful view, setting the tone for our own response when the kingdoms of this world crumble.
Where they worshiped
These are not occupying the low ground of carnality, and consequently their view is not that of the world. They praise God as they sit before Him, and are upon their thrones. That is, they are fully aware of God, and are occupying their stewardship. Their's is the response of kings- reigning with Christ. This is not the rejoinder of the spiritually blind, or the slothful and indolent!
How they worshiped
Behold this sanctified group! They "fell upon their faces and worshiped God." Once before they were found in this posture (Rev 7:11). It is a mark of humility produced by spiritual insight. Glory, with all of its advantages, will not free us from humility! Before the Lord, the prone position is always right! It is only before created beings that we rise to our feet from that position (Rev 19:10; 22:9). The light of God's glory subdues every created one, be it angel or man!
What They Say
The worship of God involves more than posture! Although there are times when men have simply bowed speechless before the Lord Ex 4:31; 12:27; 1 Chron 29:20; 2 Chron 29:29; Neh 8:6), there have been times when insightful words were also spoken. In fact, the more aware the people were of the Person and purpose of God, the more apt they were to speak when they worshiped (Gen 24:48; Ex 34:8-9; 2 Chron 7:3). During Christ's earthly ministry, people often worshiped Him SAYING something (Matt 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25).
There Is A Point
There is a point to mentioning this. Worship with insightful words is a heavenly manner, and is greatly to be coveted. Too many of God's people have never had their tongues loosened to praise the Lord! One of the marks of the New Covenant was prophesied by Isaiah. "Also the heart of the rash will understand knowledge, And the tongue of the stammerers will be ready to speak plainly" (Isa 32:4).
The Words of the Elders
" . . . saying: We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come . . . " For what do they give thanks? In a sense, it is impersonal. Although they themselves had been "redeemed," they did not thank God for a personal experience. Their minds were so enraptured with the Lord, they were able to rejoice in a work not immediately associated with them. They gloried in His "might." They praised Him for His being-"Who IS." They gave thanks for His past workings-"Who WAS!" They were thankful He was going to be revealed more fully-"Who is to COME!"
Many a soul has never risen that high! They are not able to give thanks for Who God is, what He as done, and what He will do. Their world is too small, too restricted. If they cannot see God in their present circumstance, their lips become sealed, as though God had gone to sleep, or ceased to work. But such is not the case with the twenty-four elders. Their persons have been joined with God's Person, and He now consumes their vision.
We are being introduced to the heavenly manner, and we do well to give heed to what we see. Self-serving, man-exalting religion is a bane, and is to be shunned with great zeal. To this very day, the most powerful preaching and the most invigorating insight finds focus in "the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:11).
Those who suppose God has ceased to intervene in the affairs of men do well to rethink the matter. All of the finely spun theology notwithstanding, God has forced Himself into the affairs of men against their wills. It happened in the flood, and again at Babel. It happened in Egypt, and again in the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar! God gave Canaan to Israel against the will of seven larger nations that occupied the land (Deut 7:1; Acts 13;19)! He wrested the kingdom from Saul, and gave it to David (1 Sam 18:12; Acts 13:22). He thrust Belshazzar from the Chaldean kingdom by violent death, and gave it to sixty-two year old Darius (Dan 5:1-30). Herod was instantly deposed by death when he took to much glory for himself (Acts 12:21-23).
There simply is too much in God's Word on this matter to question it. It is still true, "But God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another" (Psa 75:7). No wonder we are admonished, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24).
This is the very perception that stimulates the thanksgiving of the twenty-four elders! " . . . Because You have taken Your great power. . . " Notice the strength of their words! "You have TAKEN Your great power . . . " The word used here ("taken") is one denoting a violent act! The Lord SEIZED, or snatched the power. He took it by force, overpowering those who had misused it!
What a perspective we have here! Pharaoh had power, and God took it! Nebuchadnezzar had power, and God took it! Belshazzar had power, and God took it! Darius had power, and God took it! Herod had power, and God took it! Nero had power, and God took it! Hitler had power, and God took it!
History provides repeated occasions where God wrested the power of despots from them, taking it to Himself. He did it when he wanted to, and none could "stay His hand, or say What doest Thou?" (Dan 4:35). Such historical occasions were examples of what will be done to all of Christ's foes. Their demise will be public, and it will be thorough!
All Power Is From God
The Lord is praised because He took HIS great power and reigned! Little wonder it is written, "For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God" (Rom 13:1). High sounding arguments may be presented in an attempt to reject this affirmation, but it remains true, and will eventually be acknowledged by all!
Although wicked men appear to have seized their power on their own, this is not the case. Their power was given to them for the accomplishment of Divine objectives! Pharaoh is a case in point. Of Him God declared, "But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth" (Ex 9:16; Rom 9:17). When Pharaoh used his power to oppose God and afflict His people, God took it back, drowning him and his armies in the sea through which His people were delivered (Ex 14:18,28).
Promotion Comes from God
The Word of God is clear on this matter. Men are not vaulted into political prominence by mere vote, or shrewd and ruthless tactics. "For exaltation comes neither from the east Nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another" (Psa 75:6-7). God's people do well to remember this, not allowing themselves to be caught up in political wrangling. While we do not condone wicked men in high places, nor cast our vote for them, we are not distraught at their corruptness. Their power came from God, and in due time, He will take it back!
The ultimate example of this is seen in the "old serpent" himself. He too has been given power-but only in the area of "darkness" (Lk 22:53; Acts 26:18; Eph 6:12; Col 1:13). When the purpose of God is completed, however, Satan will be instantly and effectively stripped of his power. Jesus will take it back, and consign him to the lake of fire.
Not only did the Lord's Christ take His power back, it is added, "and reigned." Are we to conclude from this that He was not reigning before? Indeed not! It is written, "For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet" (1 Cor 15:25). He will not reign when His enemies are subdued, but "UNTIL" they are vanquished.
If this were not the case, His enemies would triumph over His people. Remember, the primary reason for the current reign of Jesus is "bringing many sons to glory" (Heb 2:10). Their salvation, nurture and guidance are the purpose for rule. In that process, He subdues the malicious intentions of His enemies, not allowing them to negate His great salvation. But, when all of the children are in, the purpose of God fulfilled, and all that the words of the holy prophets accomplished, He will take His power unto Himself, dashing His enemies in pieces like a potter's vessel (Psa 2:9).
The phrase "and reigned" does not signify the commencement of His government, but its continuance. It is a comparative statement: i.e., the kingdoms of this world have been thrown down, yet Your kingdom continues uninterrupted. Remember, of His kingdom it is written, "Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end" (Isa 9:7).
The thanksgiving is offered because of the apparency of these things. The kingdom of Christ will openly triumph in the earth, just as it has in you personally. He will be publically displayed and vindicated. Although His enemies appear to have triumphed over Him, all will see the real King over all the earth. The day of that revelation has been appointed, and will surely come. Satan and his hosts dread it, but saints anticipate it!
DISPLEASURE AMONG THE NATIONS
"The nations were angry . . . " Our attention is now turned to the nations. Their real character is made known, however civilized and advanced they may have appeared among men. This is the raging of which the Psalmist spoke. "Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, 'Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.' He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The LORD shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure: Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel'" (Psa 2:1-9).
The Depravity of the Nations
Throughout history, "the nations" have consistently opposed God. If, for a while, they appeared to be peaceable, they finally came out openly against the Lord and His Christ. They rebelled against the Israelites in Canaan. They opposed the servants of God, the prophets. They even crucified the Lord of glory (Acts 4:25-26). In their rebellion against the Lord, they martyred the Apostles, and killed the saints. Our text brings us to the conclusion of the rebellion, as well as to the revelation of the King.
These nations were governed by "the kings of the earth" (Psa 76:12; 110:5). They are the "nations" out of which the Lord brought His people in an exercise of Sovereignty and grace (Acts 10:35; Rev 5:9).
They WERE Angry
Our text does not say the nations ARE angry, but that they "WERE" angry. This is not an insignificant distinction. The point is NOT that the nations were angry when Christ took His great power and reigned, but that He took it when they were in their most volatile state. The Psalmist states the case well for us. They were "angry" because of the restraining power of the King of glory. They were frustrated in their attempts to do all they desired.
Their anger was fueled by the consistent condemnation of their ways by the messengers and Messenger of the Lord. The presence of the Lord and His people constituted "bonds" and "cords" of restraint to His enemies. They could not get rid of the truth!
Too, the nations were "angry" because they were constantly reminded of a superior order-a higher Government! They also could not make the people of God bow to their gods or their ways. They "WERE angry."
The nations could not stop the Law from being given, or the holy Prophets from prophesying. They could not frustrate the ministry of John the Baptist, nor abort the birth of Messiah. They could not stop Him from growing up, ministering, dying, rising from the dead, or ascending into heaven. Strengthened by hell, and fortified with all of the corruption of the bottomless pit, they were still confronted with their sin and the proclamation of a great Gospel. They "WERE angry."
A hostility exists between the nations and God that transcends anything we dare to imagine. Sin has reduced them to enemies. Divine confrontation causes anger to spring up in them, with all of its defilements.
Wrath Is Come
" . . . and Your wrath has come." When the "wrath of the Lamb" comes, the kingdoms of this world fall-instantly! The wrath of the Lamb is justified because of the wickedness of the nations, their refusal to bow to Him, and their persecution of His people. That very wrath has been "stored" up during a period of longsuffering. Time did not diminish the wrath, but rather increased it. "The wrath of God" is mentioned ten times in Scripture (Psa 78:31; John 3:36; Rom 1:18; Eph 5:6; Col 3:6; Rev 14:10,19; 15:1,7). Once we read of "the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev 6:16). The "day of wrath" is mentioned four times (Job 21:30; Prov 11:4; Zeph 1:15; Rom 2:5). Thirty-one times we read of "His wrath," and thirteen times of "the wrath of the Lord." Job 21:20 mentions "the wrath of the Almighty," and Revelation 19:15 "the wrath of Almighty God." Twenty times God refers to "my wrath." It is called "great wrath" (2 Kgs 23:26; Zech 7:12), and "fierce wrath" (Ex 32:12; 2 Chron 28:11). There is simply too much about this aspect of the Divine nature for us to ignore it!
Not A Popular Message
We live in a day when it is not fashionable to speak of the wrath of the "Lord God Almighty." It simply does not fit into the nominal Christian agenda. However, this is a message Jesus wants the church to know. There is a "day of wrath" on the Divine agenda (Job 21;30; Rom 2:5). It is a day when the indignation of God will break forth without restraint against everything and everyone contrary to Himself. The Spirit reminds us this "wrath" will come upon "the children of disobedience" (Eph 5:6; Col 3:6). Salvation, from this perspective, is actually deliverance "from the wrath to come" (1 Thess 1:10).
The Day of Christ
This is "the day of Christ" from the world's perspective (Phil 1:6,10; 1 Cor 1:8; 2 Pet 3:10). It is the time when He will be unveiled in all of His splendor, to the complete consternation of His enemies. The thorough demise of all earthly kingdoms will occur when the Kingdom of Christ (His people) is unveiled in all of its glory. As it is written, " . . . when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe . . . " (2 Thess 1:7-10).
When the ultimate blessing is bestowed on the saints, the ultimate curse will be experienced by the ungodly! When salvation is experienced in its fulness by the people of God, unmixed wrath will be experienced by the children of the wicked one.
In our text, this day is particularly associated with the "kingdoms of this world." There are at least four reasons for this. Theirs is an organized conspiracy. Theirs is a studied, or contemplated, rebellion. Theirs is an intelligently pursued opposition, over an extended period, and with great diligence. Theirs is an influential insurgence, even causing many to cast off the faith. Over time, the "kingdoms of this world" have proved their opposition to Christ! Governments have only found acceptance with God when they have renounced the course of this world. Such governments have been few and far between, and short-lived when they occurred.
All through the "day of salvation," this "wrath" has been subdued, as the goodness of God leads men to repentance (Rom 2:4). But this time has a scheduled end! "The time of the dead" will conclude this day, inducting the day of wrath for sinners
.THE TIME OF THE DEAD
"And the time of the dead, that they should be judged." For those in the world, death ends it all. The lament of Solomon has been taken up by all who remain ignorant of "life and immortality," which have now been brought to light (2 Tim 1:10). "As it happens to the fool, It also happens to me, And why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, This also is vanity. For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever, Since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come. And how does a wise man die? As the fool! Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind" (Eccl 2:15-17). Suffice it to say, this is not the highest view of death!
Solomon's view of death is not the Gospel outlook! Those in Christ Jesus do NOT view death as did Solomon. His wisdom did not extend as far as our faith. For those in Christ Jesus, "to die is gain" (Phil 1:21). While the thought of death was foreboding to Solomon, it was gloriously refreshing to Paul. "For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better" (Phil 1:23).
The Dead Still Exist
"The dead" are neither non-existent nor unconscious! Death cannot separate us from the experience of God's love in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:35-39). While it is an "enemy" (1 Cor 15:26), it still belongs to us (1 Cor 3:22). Moses (who died), and Elijah (who was translated) were both conscious and involved in God's will long after they left this world (Matt 17:3; Lk 9:30-31). Jesus spoke of Abraham, after his death, having obtained knowledge unavailable to him when he was in the world. He also referred to one who was being comforted after he died, and another who was in torment (Lk 16:25-31). In this very book, John saw "the souls of them that were slain for the word of God," and they were conscious and perceptive-even of affairs upon the earth (Rev 6:9). The dead, indeed, have not ceased to be!
A Vast Multitude
Now, our text turns to this vast multitude of departed persons-"the dead." They ranged in age from Methuselah, who lived for 969 years (Gen 5:27), to infants slain when yet newborn (Matt 2:16-18). Both good and evil are among them, righteous and unrighteous, saved and lost. The enemies of God and the sons of God are found in this amalgamation of spirits.
While they have been apparently laid to rest, and have not been openly active, their time now comes! They will be summoned from "the land of the enemy" (Jer 31;16). The mighty voice of Jesus will call them forth! As it is written, "the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:28-29). It will be their day, their time-"the time of the dead."
Those who look for novel doctrines in the book of the Revelation do well to behold the fundamental doctrines declared therein! We are witnessing the resurrection and the consequent day of judgment.
Cain will face Abel! Pilate will behold those whose blood he mingled with their sacrifices. Herod will again encounter John the Baptist. The Jewish council will again confront Stephen! Nero will see Peter and Paul! Hitler will come face-to-face with the Jews whose death he ordered! This is a time "appointed," in which the world will be judged in righteousness (Psa 9:8; Acts 17:31).
Everyone Will Be There
The "dead" will all stand before the Lord of glory! They will all be summoned to appear. As it is written, "And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works" (Rev 20:12-13).
As for the wicked, within the framework of earthly government, they had judged the prophets, the Lord Jesus, His holy Apostles, and His saints. They had counted them unworthy to live, opposing them with unholy delight. They had determined the Gospel was unworthy of proclamation, and thus opposed it and those who brought it. But now they all stand before the One with Whom they have to do! Their protecting kingdoms have all fallen, and they have been utterly stripped of their seeming power. It is "the time of the dead."
At this time, the world will be judged by the very ones it opposed, for the "saints will judge the world" (1 Cor 6:2). They will "reign with Christ" in the execution of Divine judgment. It is "the time of the dead." How the saints need to hear of this time, lest they despair when opposed, maligned, and even persecuted! It is a message for suffering saints! In the crucible of opposition and testing, they need to hear about their future!THE TIME OF RECOMPENSE "And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great."
At "the time of the dead," those who have lived in the world's rejection, often hounded from pillar to post by the ungodly, will come into their own! Those who have counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, and have received persecution from the world, will come into a time of Divine recognition. What a time it will be! The Lord Jesus WILL reward His servants! The prophets and the saints are included. Everyone who obtained the fear of the Lord will be duly recognized and rewarded. The "small (notice, they are mentioned first) and the great" are all included.
Although you do not hear much these days about Divine "rewards," they are prominent in the Word. God appeals to us through offering rewards. In fact, all of His "exceeding great and precious promises" contain the pledge of reward. The "reward" factor is what makes the promises PROMISES-otherwise, they are simply impersonal predictions.
Do not remove from me the idea of rewards! This is what compels the believer to "labor for the meat . . . which endures to everlasting life" (John 6:27). Jesus spoke of a "great reward in heaven" to those who were persecuted for righteousness sake (Matt 5:12). He also promised a "reward" that would be "open," or public (Matt 6:4,6,18). Even the most minute ministration to His disciples receives this commitment: "verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward" (Matt 10:42).
A Personal Reward
A personal reward is promised, as distinguished from a group recompense: "and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor" (1 Cor 3:8). It is my persuasion that many professed believers have never spent time pondering this aspect of the Kingdom. Their most noble consideration of the coming glory is when we are finally all together, and participate in a blessed state. That IS involved, of course, but spiritual consistency requires more extensive consideration than that!
When the prophets, saints, and those who fear the Lord are rewarded, the promise will be fulfilled, "then shall every man have praise of God" (1 Cor 4:5). Faith sees this up ahead, and engages the forces of darkness now. It lays hold of the promise, and drives the individual possessing faith into joyful involvement in the good will of God.
The effectiveness of considering what lies ahead for the faithful is seen in our Lord Jesus. "Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:2).
Lest someone imagine this to be irrelevant to the good fight of faith, I would remind you that it is written as an incentive for us. "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; Who for the joy . . . " (Heb 12:1-2a).
God's "servants the prophets" were an unappreciated group in the world. Most of them were loners, or mavericks, laboring without the benefit of surrounding brethren. They were largely rejected-even killed-because of their word. Wicked Jezebel was noted for killing God's "servants the prophets" (2 Kgs 9:7). They were sent "early" to the transgressing people of God, summoning them back to the Lord (Jer 7:25; 25:4; 26:5; 29:19; 35:15; 44:4; Zech 1;6). But they were not received.
Although the blood of the prophets was shed, and they were largely forgotten, Jesus reminded His generation they were NOT forgotten by God. "I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,' that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation" (Lk 11:49-51).
The vindication of the prophets was partially fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem, when the holy city was given over to the Gentiles. But they have not yet been fully exonerated. The world judged the prophets unworthy of life. "The time of the dead" will find the tables reversed. The assembled universe will see the prophets exalted and rewarded - held out as unequaled among their peers.
Here is a more general classification. All prophets are saints, but all saints are not prophets. "The saints" are the rank and file of God's people-the holy ones. They have received righteousness from God, having it "imputed" to them (Rom 4:11.22-24). But that is not all! They have also lived it out, fighting the good fight of faith, and "doing righteousness" (1 John 2:29; 3:7).
The world opposed the saints because of their holiness. Like Noah, they "condemned the world" in their obedience and godly living (Heb 11:7). Although they were "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world" (Matt 5:13,14), they were not so recognized in the world. Politicians, entertainers, and athletes received more recognition than they! But it was not so in heaven! Their very names are written in heaven (Lk 10:20; Heb 12:23), and they will be acknowledged, honored, and rewarded! For them, "the time of the dead" will be a time of blessing and great joy!
Those Who Fear Your Name
These are not a different class of people, but a different aspect of the people. All prophets and saints fear the name of the Lord. To "fear the name of the Lord" is to revere His Person. It is to draw back from any tendency to disobey or reproach Him. Even if confronted with death, the person fearing the name of the Lord will not denounce or renounce Him!
The early church walked, or lived out their lives, "in the fear of the Lord" (Acts 9:31). They conducted themselves with a dominating consideration of the Lord. The world did not honor them for this, or recognize the value of such a perspective. But the saints found such "fear" to be "clean" and purifying (Psa 19:9). Those possessing this indispensable quality are repulsed by sin and drawn by righteousness. They have seen enough of God to want more, and have seen enough of the world to deny it a prominent place in their hearts.
Now, their time comes-"the time of the dead." God will honor them for fearing Him, and will do it publically. They shall have a reward from Him because they "feared His name." Among other things, we see that fearing the Lord is more than an obligation. Fulfilling obligation, while essential, is not the basis of our reward. Jesus once said, "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do" (Luke 17:0). Those then, who are said to "fear the name of the Lord" did so willingly. They chose to do this because of their knowledge of the Lord. To put it another way, their faith produced their fear of the name of the Lord.
Reward! Reward! Reward!
It is coming! It is coming! It is coming! The "time of the dead" and the dispensing of "great reward" is on the way. Like Moses, you can mold your life around the coming reward, even though, from the view of time, it may be far from you. It is said of faithful Moses, he "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward" (Heb 11:24-26).
The contemplation of "the reward" was a more powerful incentive to Moses than a mere sense of obligation. It was stronger than any temptation to fear the wrath of the king. Considering "the reward" still has a powerful and effective influence upon the faithful. It is ever true, "But glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile" (Rom 2:10). It is possible-yea, necessary-that you "that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ" (Col 3:24).
Alas, there is not enough said of the coming reward to the saints of our time. Sometimes men even speak derisively of the coming reward, glibly referring to "pie in the sky bye and bye." Some have even dared to emphasize blessing in this world above that which is to come, thereby betraying their fundamental ignorance of the situation. But no one filled with the Spirit speaks in such a manner-only those dominated by the flesh.
Attaining the Resurrection
Receiving reward at "the time of the dead" is elsewhere referred to as "attaining unto the resurrection of the dead" (Phil 3:11). "Attaining" the resurrection is appropriating the benefits that will be dispensed at that time. Technically, all will be raised from the dead, but all will not "attain" unto it.
The word Paul uses for "attaining to the resurrection of the dead" is (kat-an-tah'-so), and means come to, reach, arrive at, as finishing a journey, or arriving at a goal. What a blessed view of the spiritual life!
The resurrection of the dead is thus considered as a goal, or objective, of life! We do not live for this time, or for the flesh, or for the lusts of the flesh. We live for the resurrection of the dead! We do so because of the blessings associated with that time. There will be public exoneration, reward, and recognition! How we must hold "the time of the dead" before the people, reminding them of the real reason for living!
Confessing his own anticipation of the resurrection, Paul affirmed before his enemies, "concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!" (Acts 23:6; 24:15,21; 26:6-8). The near-total absence of this type of confession among the churches only confirms how far they have drifted from Christ!
The wicked also will be called into account for their misdeeds. The manner in which reference to them is made is most intriguing. "And should destroy those who destroy the earth." This is unusually strong language! The word "destroy" means to utterly decay, rot, and perish. Here, the demise of the entire earth is said to be caused by the wicked-in particular, those who have rejected Christ, opposing and persecuting His people!
Scripture affirms that creation has been "subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope" (Rom 8:20, NKJV). Death-even in creation-entered because of man's sin (Rom 5:12). But note, the destruction of the world is not said to be caused by Adam (as in Romans 5), or by mankind in general. Here, the whole responsibility is laid at the feet of the godless! We know this is the case, because God is going to "destroy" them-something that will not occur to the godly. Those who will be destroyed are identified as "those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess 1:8-9).
Why Only the Godless?
Why is the responsibility for the destruction of the earth charged only to the godless? Do not all men share in this responsibility? From one point of view, this is true-but it is not the ultimate viewpoint. Salvation extricates us from this classification. We have not only been delivered from sin, the power of darkness, and death itself, we have also been delivered from the guilt of destroying the earth. Now, by the grace of God, we are among "the sons of God." Nature itself is awaiting our manifestation, for then it will be delivered from its current "bondage of corruption" (Rom 8:19-21).
Sowing and Reaping
We cannot leave this section without observing that it is a declaration of the law of sowing and reaping. Reaping what we sow is an inviolable rule of the Christ's kingdom. "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart" (Gal 6:7-10). Believers are motivated by their understanding of this law, or principle. They know their investment in eternity will pay large dividends. They also know investing in the flesh and temporal things will bring corruption and judgment!
Later in the Revelation, we will again read of this principle. "He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints" (Rev 13:10). Right now, in this time, men are either accruing heavenly rewards or Divine wrath! An awesome consideration, indeed, and one which, it is increasingly obvious, is not generally known or accepted.
Paul appealed to this principle when dealing with a collection for poor saints. "But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Cor 9:6). It is not possible to successfully ignore the Divinely appointed law of sowing and reaping. Not only will we reap the same substance, so to speak, we have sown, it will be reaped in exponential proportions. Whether righteous or unrighteous, what we invest in now is what we will receive in "the time of the dead." If we have been attentive to the Lord, He will be attentive to us. If we have ignored and denied Him, He will also ignore and deny us. For those who live by faith, that opens a lot of possibilities! Now is the time to invest in eternity! That investment will bring rich dividends!
THE REAL THINGS ARE REVEALED
We have witnessed the demise of the nations, as they are ground to powder. All through this book, we have seen the inferiority of earthly kingdoms. In their most powerful and seemingly glorious condition, they are still destined for destruction. Before giving our allegiance to them, it is well to consider their end. In my judgment, it is not on the part of wisdom to devote our lives wholly to governmental enterprises. Whether Joseph, Moses, or Daniel, godly men in high stations of earthly government have always kept their focus on God, His Word, and His purpose.
The Temple of God Opened
"Then the temple of God was opened in heaven . . . " This temple has always existed! During the day of salvation, it is the place where Jesus rules, making constant intercession for the saints. Earlier, Jesus referred to this "temple" as the ultimate residence of the people of God. "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God . . . " (Rev 3:12). The ages to come, we are told, will find the saints serving God "day and night in His temple" (Rev 7:15). This is the place from which an angel will come, to summon the Lord to reap the earth (Rev 14:15-17).
The Place of Rule
"The temple of God" is the place of Divine rule. Both blessings are judgments come from this "temple." Divine intercession is made there, and messengers are dispatched from there. Elsewhere, it is called "the temple of heaven, from the throne" (Rev 16:17).
From the dawn of creation, this "temple" has not been visible to mankind-especially after the fall. The administration of "Law," contained projections of this "temple" in types and shadows, but the "temple" itself remained unseen and inaccessible to men. During "the day of salvation" and the "acceptable year of the Lord" (the present day of grace-2 Cor 6:2; Lk 4:19), this "temple" remains hidden. Mortal eyes cannot pierce the realm of the unseen!
Faith Accesses the Temple Now
In Christ, an acute awareness of this "temple" is developed by faith. We are even urged to come into the inmost part of the temple, the "holiest by the blood of Jesus" (Heb 10:19). That is, after all, where Jesus Himself has entered (Heb 9:12,24). Faith makes us more conscious of the heavenly "temple" than the most exalted places of this world.
An Appointed Time
There is coming an appointed time when "the temple of God" will be "opened in heaven" - a time when the Source and environment of all things will be revealed to all personalities. For some, it will be the pinnacle of blessing. For others, it will be the consummate curse. Those who have lived in fellowship with "the temple of God" will leap for joy. Those who have denied and resisted it will weep and lament. In Christ, we are now being oriented to behold that opening with joy.
Saints will behold the place from which they were nourished! They will see the realm where intercession was faithfully made for them. They will witness the place where atonement was made, the One Who made the atonement, and the One with Whom the atonement was made.
The wicked will see the One they have rejected. They will behold the realm they spurned, and the power they denied. "The Temple of God" will be thrown open to their utter consternation, as the earth for which they lived passes away.
Now, to the degree we see heavenly things, the earth is seen as it really is. That vision is what enables the saints to overcome the world, refusing to be absorbed into its fashion.
Only to the degree that the earth ceases to dominate our vision do we see heavenly things clearly. As long as this world is prominent, heaven is hidden! This accounts for the remarkable ignorance of the things of God that exists in the contemporary church. The earth dominates its vision, and thus the things of God cannot be seen. It is the same condition that is described in John 12:39. "Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them."
Two conditions can be seen in this situation. First, the choice to ignore the Lord's Christ put the truth beyond their reach. Second, their choice was ratified by God making it irreversible. We do not know when this circumstance occurs, nor is it necessary for us to know. It is enough to be persuaded that if the "the things that are unseen" (2 Cor 4:17-18) do not dominate us now, they will condemn us when they are revealed.
When the "temple of God is opened in heaven," it will not be strange or offensive to the saved. Even though we have not yet seen into it, and do not have a full understanding of it, a certain sensitivity to, and preference for, the "the temple of God" is developed in salvation.
One of the unspeakable benefits of "walking in the light," "living by faith," and "looking unto Jesus" is the results that will be experienced in the great and notable day of the Lord. When the glory of God and the things of God are unveiled, they will bring joy to the heart of the redeemed. Life in Christ has acquainted them with these things. In Him we develop a fondness and preference for them. It is possible to live your life in earnest expectation of the temple opening!
The Ark of His Testament
" . . . and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple." At once the imagery of the tabernacle and Solomonic temple come to mind. Moses, you will recall, was given a "copy and shadow of heavenly things" in the tabernacle. Within the "Most Holy" (Ex 26:23; Heb 9:12,25) or "Holiest of all" (Heb 9:3,8) a single piece of furniture was placed-the ark of the covenant. This was an elaborate piece-perhaps the most elaborate of all. It was made of acacia wood, and overlaid with pure gold within and without (Ex 25:10-11).
A cover was placed upon it made of pure gold, called "a mercy seat." Two cherubim were positioned at the "two ends of the mercy seat." The cherubim had outstretched wings that covered the mercy seat. They "faced each other," and were to be "toward the mercy seat." This elaborate "mercy seat," with the cherubim, was to be made of a single beaten piece of gold (Ex 25:17-21).
A Place of Communication
It was there, over the mercy seat, that God promised, "I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel" (Ex 25:22). It was a place of communication!
A Place of Atonement
The blood of the sin offering was also sprinkled on the mercy seat, as well as before it (Lev 16:14), signifying an atonement for the people.
Inside the Ark
Significant items were also placed within the ark of the covenant. Of this ark, the Spirit witnesses, "in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant" (Heb 9:4; Ex 16:33-34; Num 17:10; Ex 25:16,21). In these articles, we find Divine provision (the manna), Divine direction (Aaron's rod), and Divine commitment (the tables of the covenant).
Maintained in Secret
Only the High priest was ever allowed to see this ark, and only once a year, when he made atonement (Ex 16:34; 30:10; Heb 9:7). Even then, the ark was never opened, allowing the High Priest to look into it.
A Source of Blessing
It was a sacred piece of furniture, depicting the very Presence and blessing of the Lord. When Israel entered Canaan, the priests who carried the ark stood in the middle of the Jordan River, on dry ground, allowing the entire nation to walk through Jordan on dry land as long as they stood there with the ark (Josh 3:17).
A Source of Cursing
On one occasion, after the Philistines had captured and returned the ark of the covenant to Israel, the men of Beth-shemesh dared to look into it. Of that event it is written, "And He struck down some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck down of all the people, 50,070 men . . . " (1 Sam 6:19).
The New Testament
Notice with what care the record of this vision is stated: "and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple" (NKJV). The New Covenant is HIS covenant, and it is maintained in HIS temple! It is not the result of man's accomplishment, and it is not maintained by human activity.
The same God who kept and blessed the Jews had kept and blessed the church-those in Christ Jesus. Even during the oppression of the saints, when the Word of God was largely rejected, the Lord had been mindful of His people! While the governments of this world rejected them, the Kingdom of heaven accepted and blessed them.
God Did Not Forget!
Not once did God forget His covenant in Christ Jesus! It was never overlooked or placed into the background! Now, after the smoke of the battleground has cleared--after the tribulation of His people has ceased-after the earth has been shaken down to its foundation, what do we see? God's covenant of blessing! Still the Law was written in the hearts of His people and remained in their minds! Their sins were still forgiven, and they were still accepted. God was still identified with the saints, and the saints remained identified with Him. The ark of the covenant was seen in heaven, a token of Divine acceptance and faithfulness!
The Impotence of Our Enemies
Earth's general opposition could not remove the blessing and acceptance of the Lord. The edicts of earth's corrupt governments could not void the covenant, or cause a wedge to be driven between God and His people. The experiences of poverty and extreme inconvenience could not shut heaven to the saints, or take the law of God out of their hearts and minds. Even spiritual Babylon, with all of its religious corruption, could not void the New Covenant! When the Temple of God was opened in heaven, there was the ark of the covenant, in tact, and undamaged!
The Faithfulness of God
This is nothing less than a depiction of the faithfulness of God. It is ever true, "You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You" (Psa 9:10). His faithfulness not only reaches into the heavens (Psa 36:5), it is experienced upon earth (1 Cor 10;13). Our very call into the fellowship of Christ Jesus was prompted by God's faithfulness (1 Cor 1:9). The stability of the saints in this world is owing to the faithfulness of God (1 Thess 5:23-24). Throughout the ages, those who have suffered according to the will of God have committed the keeping of their souls to Him, "as unto a faithful Creator" (1 Pet 4:19). All of that, and more, is involved in seeing the ark of the covenant in God's temple.
As soon as the temple of God was opened, the ark of the covenant was seen! That means there was no veil! What was declared in the Gospel is confirmed in the vision-free access to God was opened when Jesus made an end of sin.
There really is no separation between God and His people! The promise of God is made available in Christ Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant! Heavenly sustenance, fellowship, and blessing are now within the grasp of the saints. Their opponents do not believe it, and this antagonizes them. Some of the saints themselves have difficulty accepting this truth. Yet, when it is all ended, the temple of God will be opened, and the universe will see that what the Gospel proclaimed was true to the most exacting detail!
What we have here is the assurance that the work of Christ will stand the tests of life in this world. It stands the test of time. It holds up the saints in persecution. Deprivation could not rob the saints of covenantal blessing. Warfare could not thrust the blessing from them. The success of the Gospel and man's attempt to corrupt it were also impotent to separate the saints from the love of God. The ark of the testament remained in heaven, depicting free and constant access to the blessing
THE FINAL DISRUPTION
"And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail." This is language characterizing the conclusion of all things. That conclusion will come by Divine intervention-an abrupt intrusion into the affairs of men. Whatever men may think about the free will of man, or his innovation, he is impotent-utterly impotent-when the Lord raises His omnipotent hand! When God calls for an end of time, the supposed ingenuity of man will not be able to extend time for one nano-second!
The book of Revelation has carefully portrayed the Lord and His Christ as invincible, and man as impotent. It is God's purpose that will be brought to completion, not man's! It the the government of Christ that will dominate, not the governments of men! God's people will be the triumphant ones, not those who opposed them!
It is essential that the Gospel be preached with this perspective. The people of God must not be taught as though everything depended upon them, or as though their enemies were invincible. God will prevail! The government of Jesus will dominate! The purpose of God will be accomplished! Those who live by faith will triumph! All of these are vividly portrayed in Revelation. They are also declared throughout the writings of the Apostles and Prophets.
A humanistic theology, i.e., one which exalts human capability, is a damnable one. This includes popular approaches to Scripture like linguistics, hermeneutics, higher criticism, contextual considerations, historical backgrounds, etc. While none of these things are of themselves sinful, they do tend to overstate man's ability, and push Divinity into the background-more in a supporting role.
The book of revelation, however, presents quite a different picture. In it, the purposes of men are overthrown- violently and decisively. Their objectives are utterly frustrated, and they are reduced to begging and lamentation at the intrusion of the Almighty. They cannot rid themselves of God or His people, but God can rid Himself and His people of them!
"Lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail," speak of Divine intrusion that cannot be avoided, resisted, or nullified. It represents something the wicked do NOT want, yet which they cannot stop. As lightning breaks through the course of nature, so the working of God breaks through history, finally bringing it to a swift and decisive end. As thunderings shatter the silence, drawing attention to Divine power, so Divine interventions burst through the activities of time. As an earthquake unexpectedly shakes the very foundations of the earth, so the arm of the Lord will be thrust into time, revealing the weakness of all that is made, and the impregnability of His counsel. Just as great hail falls suddenly from heaven, with certain destruction, so the Lord will bring a conclusion to the affairs of men, destroying their devices.
This is a view of God that is imperative! At any time, our troubles may end! At any time, we may be delivered! At any time, the wicked may fall, never to rise again!
The Free Will of Man
At this point, a word about this over-used term is in order. The free will of man is a theological term developed by men, and used to buttress their view of things. It is never used in Scripture in the manner commonly used by theologians. While I do not want to strain at a gnat, so to speak, it is essential that we think in a godly manner.
The term "freewill" (a single word) is used 17 times in the KJV, 18 times in the NKJV, 23 times in the NASB, 24 times in the RSV, and 22 times in the NIV. ALL of the references are in the writings of Moses (Exodus through Deuteronomy). ALL of them have to do with offerings ("freewill offerings" or "freewill offering"). The KJV uses "willing offering" in some places. The prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus, nor the Apostles ever used this expression in reference to salvation-never!
This does not mean man is not free to choose the Lord - it does mean the matter is not simplistic. It is God Who is Sovereign, not man! The Word of God does speak of those who "could not believe" (John 12:39), and others whose hearts were "hardened" by God (Ex 7:13). God "hardened the spirit" of Sihon, and "made his heart obstinate" (Deut 2:30). He also "poured out the spirit of deep sleep" upon some, even closing their eyes (Isa 29:10; Rom 11:8). The Spirit testifies of those to whom God sent "strong delusion, that they should believe a lie" (2 Thess 2:9-12).
However free men may imagine their will to be, they are not at liberty to resist God with impunity! Those who are continually reproved, yet remain obstinate, "shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (Prov 29:1) - free will or not! When Pharaoh hardened his heart, God confirmed his choice by making it irreversible!
It is ever true, "whosoever will may come" (Rev 22:17). However, those who desire to do something else, not coming to the feast prepared by God, will pay the price. Their desires will not prevail!
The Connection with Our Text
It might appear this has little to do with our text-but that is not the case. In the seven trumpets, we have seen the will of man clashing with the will of God. God's people have been opposed. God's truth has been denied. All of this has been an expression of the human will. But it has all been in vain! The Lamb still conquered, with the kingdoms of this world becoming His own. The truth still remained, sanctifying and strengthening all who embraced it. The presence of God's people could not be reversed, though men sought to do so with bloody persecution. The devil (who also has a will) could not triumph over the Lamb, the truth, or His saints.
When the time comes for the end of all things, a Divine intrusion will bring about "the end": i.e., "Lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail." Even though the wicked join hand in hand, the intrusion cannot be averted. God is Almighty, not man! His purpose is sure, not that of man!
As our faith takes hold of these things, we will surely triumph! That is why they have been written-to assure our hearts our labor is not in vain in the Lord. Our enemies cannot triumph! Their cause cannot ultimately flourish. The saints will not always be the seeming "tail." The time is appointed when they will become "the head" (Deut 28:13).
The Lamb is obscure to the unbeliever now, but that will not always be the case! A day is appointed when He will come again, and "every eye shall see Him," even those who hate and oppose Him (Rev 1:7). The covenant of God is not apparent to unbelievers now, but someday the temple of God will be opened, and the covenant they have despised will become evident, to their condemnation. As the prophet would say, "For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry" (Hab 2:3). Look for the lightning and listen for the thunder! The end of the world will be the beginning of glory for us! So hold on! Fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life!
The seven trumpets have revealed the judgment of God against the enemies of God, and the sure triumph of His Christ. They were sounded in answer to the plea of those who lost their lives because they spoke for Christ (Rev 6:10). The Living God shaped history around the requests of His martyrs, because they lived in fellowship with Him. They embraced His Son, and followed Him wherever He led-even to the death.
To the world, it looked as though they had been forgotten. But in heaven, their names had been inscribed on the Lord's palms, and He was ever mindful of them (Isa 49:16). They were supported in the furnace of affliction, heard as they cried under the altar, and revealed as His people in the glory.
It is not vain to serve the Lord-it is not pointless, in any sense! Suffering saints must not faint, though weak. When they are opposed, maligned, and persecuted, they must lift up their heads and continue the race.
The Holy Spirit sounds the clarion call, "Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees" (Heb 12:12). You have every reason to do so! The Lord has shown us the end of all things. He has revealed the destiny of our enemies. He has made known His heart concerning His people. They will be fully vindicated! Their cause will ultimately triumph! Hold on! Hold on!