The Seventh Trumpet (Rev. 11:15-19)
The Church needs vision to survive. But, that needs clarification. I’m not referring to a catchy slogan that summarizes the church’s objectives. Many churches use a Vision Statement to define their purpose and how they will reach the culture. They quote Proverbs 29:18 “Without vision, the people perish!” Church planting strategists suggest coming up with a simple slogan that defines our goal and guides our mission. If we ignore this critical step, they warn that our church will collapse.
Fear not! Our website contains both a Vision and Mission Statement. But, outside of our new members class, I rarely refer to it. I find the emphasis upon slogans a bit tiresome. The Church is not a business trying to get noticed with buzzword tag lines.
That being said, Revelation is all about vision! It is about a prolonged and multifaceted vision that was given to John to be written down and passed on to the Church. Vision indeed sustains us through life’s greatest trials, but the kind of vision that Proverbs has in mind is “prophetic vision” (Prov. 29:18)! And the lasting impact of prophetic vision is encouragement.
Visions of God’s judgment have been interrupted with visions of God’s glory in heaven (Rev. 4-5, 7:9-17). In our passage this morning, once again, we come to the intersection of both concepts. The final judgment of God is depicted along with the accompanying praise that fills heaven and earth.
This is the third woe that was warned about in 8:13 and was imminent in 11:14. The fifth, sixth, and seventh trumpets were marked out as especially devastating. And yet, the “voices in heaven” along with the twenty-four elders proclaim praise to God for the judgment depicted in this seventh trumpet.
Revelation is continually pointing us to the benefits we have in Christ and the victory that he has secured. There is an assumption that tribulation and sin will hinder our enjoyment of God’s blessings in this life. That is not because God is reluctant to bless us, but because we are reluctant to trust and obey. All of this points us to a vision of a future hope where sin and corruption are removed. But that future hope is meant to encourage us now. It is meant to have an impact upon how we live today.
The benefits that will accompany Christ’s future return sustain our present hope and mission.
Read Rev. 11:15-19
This passage opens with the vision of…
A Savior Who Reigns (15-17)
The seventh trumpet is blown to signify that the Lord has returned to establish his kingdom on earth (15). These words of praise have been beautifully imagined by the Hallelujah chorus in Handel’s Messiah. There is a hint here of the renewal of all things which is further described as the New Heavens and New Earth (21:1-8). However, the New Testament generally portrays the Kingdom of God, not in terms of a domain, but of the exercise of dominion.
The trumpet sounds and loud voices celebrate the reign of our Lord and Christ. The twenty-four elders fall on their faces and worship God (16). They give thanks to him “who is and who was” (17). This is a truncated version of the threefold description of God as “him who is and who was and who is to come” (1:4, 8; 4:8). Notice what is missing is the last phrase “who is to come”. The reference to his future coming is eliminated, because that is what is taking place during the seventh trumpet.
At his first coming, Jesus conquered sin, bearing its penalty in his death on the cross for all who place their faith in him. The exaltation or dominion of Christ began upon his resurrection, when he defeated death. But, sin and death have continued to corrupt this world. This passage foresees Christ reigning without any opposition. The Roman Emperor may demand that his people refer to him as “the Almighty”, but God alone is the sovereign ruler.
It is important that we recognize the significance of Christ’s eternal reign. He will establish his kingdom on a renewed earth. It is this world that the Lord takes complete ownership of, eradicating all remaining corruption. There is no suggestion of a future rebellion beyond Christ’s return as Dispensationalists teach.
Rather, upon Christ’s return, all believers receive their glorified bodies so that they might reign with Christ for all eternity. In the New Heavens and New Earth we will experience the world in all of its righteous glory. As we live with our Great Prophet, Christ will continue to reveal more of himself and the glory of his kingdom. As we walk with our eternal High Priest, we will never tire of learning more about the sacrifice that satisfied divine justice.
These benefits have already become ours, but as long as we remain in this body of flesh, in the midst of a corrupt world, we will long for the day when our faith becomes sight.
Whenever we pray “Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” we are praying that the reign of Christ might be more and more appreciated on earth. But that implies that those who are in opposition to his reign will be defeated. Spiritual warfare is not eternal. God’s people will enter into their final rest when every last enemy is defeated. If you reject Christ’s reign now, he will reject you for all eternity.
However, when you know Christ as your reigning Savior, you also know him as…
A Judge Who Rewards (18)
This is a reference to the last judgment when unbelievers will stand before the Lord and receive the just penalty for their sins and believers will be rewarded for their good works. Those servants who fear his name will be rewarded. Both the small and the great will be rewarded (Psa. 115:13). On the other hand, the nations who raged (Psa. 2:1) and destroyed the earth will receive God’s wrath.
This truth is the great equalizer. One reason that we can endure suffering now is the knowledge that every wrong will be made right at the great judgment. We might feel like the perpetual underdogs in this life. Christians living in California are intimately aware of being outnumbered in almost every sphere of society. It is understandable to have the sense that the one with all the power and control is not God, but his enemy. That will not be the case on the day of judgment. All opposition will be wiped out. Not one square inch of this world will remain opposed to God’s purposes.
Believers long for complete justice to be served. But, there is something else that motivates us to anticipate this day. And that is the fact that our Great Judge will reward us for our loyal service. This does not mean that we have earned God’s favor, or merited salvation in any way. We are saved by grace, through faith in Christ alone. But, one of God’s purposes in this final judgment is “for rewarding”. The reward is not salvation, but commendation for good works done in response to the grace we have received.
Believers build upon the foundation that has been laid by Jesus Christ. Works that are accomplished by the grace of God and survive the test of fire will be rewarded (1 Cor. 3:10-15; cf. 2 Tim. 4:7-8).
Augustine The Lord, he says, will award me a crown, being a just judge…But with the reward you do nothing; with the work, you don’t act alone. The crown simply comes to you from him; the work on the other hand comes from you, but only with him helping…To Paul fighting the good fight, completing the course, keeping the faith, he paid back good things. But for what good things? For ones he himself had given. Or wasn’t it by his gift that you were able to fight the good fight?…The only things of yours that we know were prepared for you by yourself are evil. So when God crowns your merits, he is not crowning anything but his own gifts.
This verse places rewards in the context of judgment. It begins with God’s wrath being poured out upon the nations who raged, and it ends with destruction of “the destroyers of the earth”. Reward is bracketed by judgment. One of our greatest rewards is the vindication of the saints as their persecutors are condemned. God will fully and finally answer the prayer of the martyrs on that day (6:9-11). In the meantime, all saints can join in their prayers with confidence that our mission will indeed bear fruit.
The reign of Christ is accompanied by the reward of his saints, which indicates that we worship…
A God Who Receives (19)
You will recall that we heard about God’s heavenly temple at the beginning of this chapter. John was told to measure the temple along with it’s altar and all of the people who worship there (Rev. 11:1-2). Now, the chapter concludes with another reference to God’s temple. The time of the persecution has ended and the temple is opened.
Those who have been reconciled to God through Jesus, will be able to see the ark of the covenant with its attending glory. This concept is expanded later on, where the temple has become synonymous with “the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev. 21:3, 22). On the day of judgment God will receive unhindered praise for his glory from all of his covenant children.
If the temple represents God’s presence, then the ark of the covenant represents the white-hot center of God’s holiness. None but the high priest ever had the privilege of seeing it, and he did only once-a-year. It was protected within the Most Holy Place behind a thick curtain. All unauthorized intruders into that place would immediately perish.
Even transporting the ark involved precise instructions. Do you remember what happened to Uzzah as he took hold of the ark when the oxen stumbled (2 Sam. 6:5-7)? Had they been following God’s clear direction, they would have known the severity of their crime (Num. 4:1-15).
Now, through the opened temple, the ark is visible. The glory of God’s holiness is on display. And, just as we have seen several times (4:5; 8:5), the description resorts to lightning, thunder, an earthquake, and “heavy hail” is added. This is the description that accompanies God whenever he appears in judgment.
Even as God is receiving his servants to himself, he is casting out those who do not belong. Those who have been marked by rebellion against God will perish at the sight of his glory.
Are you prepared to face that day? Do you know that you have access into the very presence of God? It will be terrifying for those who come before the throne of God having bypassed the grace that was held out to them in his Son.
2 Cor. 5:20-21 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The vision of this passage reveals attributes of our Lord that build us up. The fact that we have…
- A Savior Who Reigns emboldens his citizens, while warning anyone who stands in opposition.
- A Judge Who Rewards reinforces our need to be aligned with him and his priorities.
- A God Who Receives us into his glory will increase our confidence in his protective authority over us.
The benefits that will accompany Christ’s future return sustain our present hope and mission.