CHAPTERS 8, 9, 10, AND 11 OF THE REVELATION
(Notes Compiled by F. M. Perry.)
A Part of Division I, The Conflict on Earth (continued).
Section 3, Chapters 8-11, The Seven Trumpets of Judgment.
An Overall View.
Now that it is clear from the first seven chapters of Revelation that God's elect people will triumph in the end, the next group of visions, the Seven Trumpets of Judgement, address the judgements of God against the unsaved. This next section appears to be in answer to the souls beneath the altar who cried, "How long, O Lord, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who on those who dwell in the earth?" (Rev. 6:9).
The answer in this next section of the Revelation is that God is not delaying His execution of justice. The vision says that God is bringing about judgements here and now. God is taking action characteristic of His mercy. He is using partial judgements to warn mankind before it is too late. These judgements of the trumpets are not the final judgement except to a few, but are judgements of warning to the many wicked remaining alive. These judgements are represented by the happenings described after the sounding of each of the seven trumpets.
These trumpets of judgement seem to illustrate many series of happenings, calamities that will occur again and again throughout the Christian age. The visions of judgements do not symbolize specific, single, one only events, but they refer to woes that may be seen any day of any year during the entire age in various parts of the earth. Hence this series of visions of the trumpets is synchronous with the visions of the last section concerning the seals. That is, during the same period of history represented by the seals, the events represented by the trumpets are occurring also.
The trumpets of judgement seem to be calamities to befall the wicked in order to punish them for their opposition to the cause of Christ. They are not ordinary events like the events described in the visions of the seals. They are described as supernatural, although we may not see them as supernatural. The represent the direct intervention of God in the progress of the natural order of creation.
By means of these judgements, God is not only punishing some of the ungodly, He is calling the ungodly who still live unto repentance. These judgements issue warnings. It was understood in John's time that the purpose of trumpets was to warn. Later in the next section of the Revelation visions of "bowls" actually pour out final judgements.
The trumpets of judgement are shown tempered with mercy. Only a third part of certain things are involved. The remaining two thirds of each thing is spared in the visions. The mercy of God toward the wicked is shown to be greater than His judgement of them.
These trumpets of judgement affect the various parts of the earth and the universe around the earth. Not only the land, the sea, and the rivers of water are affected, but also the sun, the moon, and the stars are affected. So it becomes clear that nowhere on earth or in space is there safety for the wicked.
There is a certain order in the visions of the seven trumpets. The first four trumpets showed harm and warning to the wicked in their natural environment through calamities to the land, the sea, the rivers, and the sky. The last three trumpets described calamities which fell directly on the wicked people themselves and brought spiritual anguish to them. For instance, after the fifth trumpet, locusts came forth from the bottomless pit to torment the wicked for five months. The torment was limited. It was for five months only, not forever. It served as a warning. Similarly the plagues of the sixth trumpet were limited and served as a warning.
After the judgement of the sixth trumpet, in chapter 10, a separate vision occurred for John to insert before the seventh trumpet. It seems to illustrate the fact that the word of God will be preached throughout the world at the same time as the trumpets of partial judgements are brought upon mankind. Not only are the wicked warned, but God extends His mercy continuously through the preaching of His word. The way of repentance and new life is made known so that the wicked may be saved. The truth is also revealed that whenever and wherever God's word is preached and rejected, judgements follow.
Through all this Christians will experience bitterness of life as they live also amid these partial judgements. Christians may even be harmed physically as the Bible reveals the Apostles and other followers of the Lord were harmed. But Christians will experience the sweetness of the gospel and should not be discouraged by the fact that all the wicked do not repent.
In the beginning of Chapter 11 John records another vision which he was instructed to insert between the sixth and seventh trumpets. This separate vision seems to give a description again of the entire Christian age, but this time in terms of the "bitter" and the "sweet" of the gospel mentioned in chapter 10. It describes the "bitter" experiences which the true church must endure when it preaches the "sweet"gospel of salvation, just as the Lord experienced the "bitter" when He proclaimed the "sweet." John was told to measure the church in order to separate it from the world. In the vision Satan came out of the abyss and apparently "killed" the "two witnesses," the church of God and the word of God, who were proclaiming the gospel. But all was not as it seemed. The "two witnesses" were brought to life again. The assurance given to Christians by this vision is that every time during the Christian age that it appears that the "two witnesses," the church and the word of God, have been "killed," they will always rise again. The word of God endures forever, and the church cannot be prevailed against even by the gates of hell.
Finally, in chapter 11, after visions to assure Christians that the preaching of God's word by the church can never be stopped, the seventh trumpet is ready to sound introducing the final judgement. But again, as in the previous section, the final judgement is not described but only introduced. It is stated simply that the time came for the dead to be judged. It is left to later visions in the Revelation to describe the final judgement in more detail.
Thus, the third section of the Revelation ends and chapter 12 starts a fourth section which again displays the history of the Christian age using different symbols and from a different viewpoint.
A. Chapter 8, The Sounding of the First Four Trumpets.
"(2) And I saw the seven angels who stand before God; and seven trumpets were given to them. (3) And another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, that he might add it to the prayers of the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. (4) And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand. (5) And the angel took the censer; and he filled it with the fire of the altar and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake. (6) And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them. (7) And the first sounded and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. (8) And the second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood; (9) and a third of the creatures, which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed. (10) And the third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters; (11) and the name of the star is called Wormwood; and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter. (12) And the fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were smitten, so that a third of them might be darkened and the day might not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way. (13) And I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in mid-heaven, saying with a loud voice, 'Woe, woe, woe, to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpets of the three angels who are about to sound.'" NASV.
We have already discussed verse 1 of chapter 8. It was a part of the previous vision of the seven seals.
In verse 2, John saw seven angels who stood before the throne of God. Each angel was given a trumpet.
In verse 3, before the seven angels had begun to sound their trumpets, another angel came and stood at the altar which was before the throne of God, holding a golden censer. A censer is a container which can hold hot, live coals of fire. Incense can be placed on the hot coals to cause a sweet smelling smoke to rise. The verse says much incense was placed given to the angel that he might "add it" to all the prayers of the saints. We note that the incense does not belong to the angel. It was "given to" the angel. A commentator suggests that the incense added to the prayers of the saints might represent the Savior's intercession in heaven for the redeemed. The prayers of the redeemed are made fully acceptable to God only because they are "incensed" by Christ before they reach God. In any case, this vision shows that the prayers of God's people enter into the purpose of God in the forthcoming judgements.
Verse 4 says that the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the saints went up before God out of the angel's hand. By that we know that the prayers were heard by God. God answered the prayers by immediately directing the angel to respond.
Verse 5 says that the angel took fire from the altar and threw it down to earth. This seems to be the symbolism of the judgements to come. And there is evidence that the judgements will be influenced by the prayers of the saints. James Burton Coffman says that the most powerful influence on earth is that of prayer; and there are no significant events of earth that do not sustain a relationship to Christian prayers, whether observable by people or not.
In verse 6 the seven angels with the seven trumpets prepare to sound their trumpets. After each sounding judgements were carried out on the earth.
The judgements seen by John in the vision of chapters 8 and 9 do not have to be identified with any particular events or times. Their fulfillment is multiple and continuous. In other word, there are many fulfillments throughout history. Not only are there countless natural disasters occurring almost every day somewhere on earth, there are horrible wars occurring frequently where it seems that the bottomless pit has been opened and the heavens darkened by the swarm of evil things that issue from it.
These visions prompt us to connect all such disasters with the will of God. When Adam and his progeny, mankind, were cast out of the Garden of Eden, the Lord cursed the ground for Adam's sake. That is, the Lord cursed the ground for the good of Adam and his progeny. It was something that Adam needed to bring about his salvation. So, as mankind today lives on an earth inherited from Adam, the Lord curses the ground of that earth for mankind's sake. Perhaps that is why the Lord sends natural disasters upon the earth. The great floods, earthquakes, drouths, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters are for the purpose of bringing people to repentance so they can be saved. Obviously, in the visions these disasters are depicted symbolically, not literally, as the trumpets sound.
In verses 7 - 12, the first four trumpets were sounded and the judgements given briefly. The last three trumpets were sounded in chapters 9 and 11, and the judgements were described in more detail.
James Burton Coffman suggests that the first four trumpets which affect the earth, the salt water, the fresh water, and the air are the perpetual equivalent of God's curse upon the earth for Adam's sake. Whatever affects earth, of course, affects mankind. God does not intend for the sinful race of mankind to find any earthly situation altogether cozy and comfortable.
However, all these disasters to come upon the earth are limited. Only a minor part of the earth is affected by such things. Some have called the Book of Revelation a book of doom. But it is the opposite of that. It is the book that reveals the Lord's limitation and restraint from the doom which was already bound to come when man rebelled against his Creator. The principle, that God causes all things, bad as well as good, to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose, was just as true in the time of Adam as it has been since. (Romans 8:28).
In verses 8 and 9 the judgement was upon the sea and it was so terrible and of such magnitude that we cannot even imagine any single event that might be like it. Perhaps it is not to be taken literally. Yet surely it indicates great disasters in and on the sea. James Burton Coffman gives as an example the case of the great Spanish Armada which was lost because of a storm at sea in the year 1588. The Armada was going out to conquer England. Because of the storm, England was saved and thereafter celebrated the date of the disaster as a day of thanksgiving. Then in the year 1883 the great volcano Krakatoa in Indonesia literally exploded and was cast into the sea. Tidal waves were estimated to have destroyed a million lives in places as much as a thousand miles from the scene. John's visions were not foretelling these specific disasters, but, perhaps, these were the types of disasters the visions revealed.
In verse 10 and 11 the judgement was upon the rivers and springs of fresh water. The great star, Wormwood, that fell from heaven made the waters bitter and even made many people die who came in contact with the water. People of the world, throughout history, always have made their habitations beside the rivers and the springs. The rivers give transportation and the springs give drinking water. But in this vision a third of the waters was made bitter. Perhaps the destructive floods that pollute many rivers every year are examples of this judgement. People never seem to learn how to keep from being trapped and killed by floods. Concerning the bitter water, James Burton Coffman suggests, when people tire of drinking earth's bitter waters, they may turn to Christ who is able to make bitter waters sweet.
In verse 12, the judgement was upon the sun, moon, and stars. This judgement is symbolic, for a darkening of one third of the sun would still leave two thirds shining. The symbolism possibly refers to God's intervention in the atmospheric, stratospheric, and ionospheric area of the earth. The moon affects the tides. The sun and the changing sunspots affect the climate and the ionospheric radio propagation properties of the earth. So it could refer to such disasters as violent weather, radical changes of climate, the blanking out of radio communication, increased intensity of ultra-violet rays, and other things which cause harm to people.
In verse 13 John saw and heard an eagle flying in mid-heaven crying, "Woe, woe, woe." This undoubtedly was intended as an ominous sign. The eagle is a bird of prey, and even the shadow of an eagle is so ominous to small animals on the ground that they run and hide. This eagle with his "Woe, woe, woe," foreshadows three judgements to come in chapter 9 that will be worse than the first four already mentioned. We have noted that the first four trumpets announced judgements upon the world of nature, and they affected people only indirectly. Now in the next three trumpets, or the three woes, the judgements are sent directly upon people.
B. Chapter 9, Two of the Three Woes, or the Fifth and Sixth Trumpets Revealed.
"(1) And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key to the bottomless pit was given to him. (2) And he opened the bottomless pit; and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. (3) And out of the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth; and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. (4) And they were told that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. (5) And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. (6) And in those days men will seek death and will nor find it; and they will long to die and death flees from them. (7) And the appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads, as it were, crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. (8) And they had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. (9) And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. (10) And they have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months. (11) They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he has the name Apollyon. (12) The first woe is past; behold, two woes are still coming after these things. (13) And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, (14) one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet; 'Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.' (15) And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they might kill a third of mankind. (16) And the number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. (17) And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them; the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the heads of the horses are like heads of lions; and 0out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone. (18) A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone, which proceeded out of their mouths. (19) For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads; and with them they do harm. (20) And the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; (21) and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts. NASV.
Verse 1 spoke of "a star from heaven which had fallen to earth." This star had a personality. It was referred to as "him." The "key" was given to "him," and in verse 2 "he" opens the "abyss," also called the "bottomless pit." The only "fallen star" in the entire Bible in the sense of this passage was Satan, the devil himself. Isaiah likened the king of Babylon to Satan. Isaiah spoke of Satan when he said, "How you have fallen from heaven, O Lucifer (or, O star of the morning), son of the dawn." (Isaiah 14:22). There is also a revealing passage in Luke where Jesus spoke of Satan. He said to the seventy disciples He had sent out on a mission, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." (Luke 10:17-20)
Jesus spoke of His own knowledge of Satan having fallen from heaven. And He spoke of the power of Satan being like serpents and scorpions. And now in Revelation 9 the locusts released by Satan sting like serpents and scorpions. Jesus referred to them all as being "spirits." That is, Satan, the demons, and the so-called serpents and scorpions are all "spirits." The similarities between the two passages, one in Revelation and one in Luke, are striking.
Then the locusts that look like horses (in verse 7), and the horses with heads like lions and tails like serpents (in verse 17) were evil spirits. How should we picture evil spirits? We do not know how to picture any kind of spirits, We can not see or sense in any material way the spirits of God's spiritual realm. We would have a hard time drawing a representation or describing them. But Christ gave John a vision in glorious, wide-screen, three dimensional technicolor, with sound and smell of the smoke, and feel of the heat of the fire and brimstone. And by means of this vision, Christ said that this is how evil spirits are. And they have been loosed upon the earth!
Notice in verse 1 that the "key was given" to Satan. The key was the power to release the evil spirits. Satan did not, of himself, have this power. It had to be ":given" to him. Satan has no power to do anything except that which God allows or gives to him. The first thing we note after the fifth trumpet was sounded was that Satan was given a part in God's judgement of wicked people. God uses even the work of Satan as a punishment and as a warning for the wicked. It is primarily a warning that they should repent, as made clear at the end of chapter 9.
Whatever and wherever the "abyss," or "bottomless pit," is, it is the consigned abode of Satan and his demons. Jesus once encountered a legion of demons who had entered into a man. When the demons recognized Jesus, they entreated him not to command them to depart into the ":abyss." (Luke 8:31). The "abyss" also appears later in chapters 17 and 20 of Revelation. Satan eventually is to be sealed into the "abyss," but he is not sealed in it as yet in the vision of chapter 9. Satan's evil spirits can be released from the abyss during the Christian age to bring the described woes upon evil people.
Now we can see again that there is far more in and around us in this world than just material and fleshly things. There are all kinds of spirits. God allows the king of the evil spirits, Satan, and all his demons to try to influence the thoughts of people to entice them to sin just as Satan tried to influence Jesus. Wicked people who rebel against God in the last analysis are inspired by demons. Back of all the wicked lifestyles are the vain thoughts of people who have been influenced by Satan. They have had chances to choose God's truth and righteousness, but they have exchanged God's truths for Satan's lies.
In verses 2 and 3 Satan opened the abyss and "locusts" came forth. The locusts were symbolic of evil spirits being loosed upon the earth. Of all the plagues described in the Old Testament, none were more terrible than that of the locusts which came upon Egypt in the time of Moses. But in this vision of Revelation chapter 9 these symbolic locusts are more terrible than ordinary locusts. They do not destroy vegetation, or even harm it, as ordinary locusts do. In verse 4 we notice that these locusts harm people, the people who have not been sealed by God. Now, we see that people who reject God and, therefore, are not sealed (as in chapter 7 the angel of God sealed Christians on their foreheads), are given over to be hurt by symbolic locusts. Verse 5 says, however, the locusts were not allowed to kill anyone, and their torment of people was limited to five months only. God is actually in control of them and places limitations on what they can do.
In verse 6 the wicked men who seek death illustrate the final result of sin in this life. A life of sin is going to be intolerable in the end. God's marvelous plan is that men will realize that their own sin has brought on the intolerable plague, and they may repent. If they will repent and become Christians, then they will be symbolically sealed on their foreheads, and the symbolic locusts will not dare to touch them anymore. But, apparently, many people, in the course of their willfully wicked lives, seer their consciences to the extent that they cannot hear the call of their merciful Savior, and they only long to die.
In verse 7 - 10 the locusts are further described. No one simple description can represent the wicked spiritual beings of Satan. They have many aspects. They are shown as horses prepared for battle; with crowns on their heads "like gold" (not real gold) to portray "victory." (But they are not victorious. It is a lie!) They have faces like human beings bent only upon destruction. They have hair as of women, teeth as of lions, breastplates of iron that appear invincible, and they make their wings sound like the noise of horses and chariots in battle. Finally, they have a very hurtful, but not fatal, sting. Thus is pictured the powers of darkness in the souls of the wicked during this present age.
In verse 11 we see that the king of the locusts is "the angel of the abyss," whose name in two languages (Hebrew and Greek) is "Destroyer." Satan may "disguise himself as an angel of light" (2nd Cor. 11:14), but actually he is a "destroyer."
With verses 12 and 14 the sixth trumpet sounded and the second woe began. The verses that follow in chapter 9 present the climax of God's partial judgements during the Christian age. Beyond this lies only the seventh trumpet which ushers in the final judgement.
This sixth trumpet, or this second woe, appears to be a companion and complement of the first woe of locusts. The great feature of this second woe is two hundred million cruel horsemen. But the first woe has already made us see in the locusts the beginning of these horsemen.
It is likely a mistake to try to identify these visions with only certain specific events in history. There are likely many, many valid examples of what is prophesied in these woes. Surely the locusts are still swarming and the evil horsemen are still doing their thing on earth today.
We must remember, however, that the Revelation was written to help the Christians of John's day to face the rigors of the actual evil world in which they lived. We must not try to make interpretations which deny that. Similarly, the Revelation can help Christians who live today for our world is not unlike that of the first century in the ambient wickedness that tries men's souls. Notice that these woes describe conditions in the world which do not become progressively better and better. They describe conditions which become steadily worse and worse until the final judgement. Evil teaching will set off the rampaging of two hundred million diabolical horsemen. Even then the Revelation does not give us hope that a great many people will repent. Many, if not most, will not repent. No matter what awful judgements fall upon the rebellious, by and large they will not renounce their wickedness. The Bible indicates that a remnant will be saved.
These representations of things that are actually scheduled to happen are not only serious warnings against wickedness, they are also important for Christians to know. This is the world in which Christians must live and speak out the gospel of Christ. There is no other world in which to live, a world that, as a whole, steadily becomes worse and worse. Can we possibly believe, in the light of the Bible, that the world will get better and better? No! But in the midst of this wicked world there are many more people who will and must be saved. God commissions Christians to reach out and "snatch them" from the disaster that can engulf them. Apparently, for that very reason the world has been spared final destruction until up to now.
In proclaiming God's word, we must stand as did the prophets of old, and warn of the impending doom. It is revealed in God's word that this doom is a part of God's plan for His self-willed creation. The church is the light of the world and the church is made up of Christians. As we will see in chapter 11, Christians who make up; the church stand as one witness, alongside the word of God as the other witness, before the whole wicked world. The prophets of old were often called traitors to their nations because they foretold God's judgements upon their own rebellious people. The world of pour time will likely label Christians as traitors because Christians preach the judgements of the Revelation upon the world instead of joining the world in its humanistic efforts to evolve themselves to a higher plane. Satan tries to convince people that utopia is available to them without God. Significantly, the Revelation here on the visions of the seven trumpets does not foretell any wholesale conversion of people to God, Jews or Gentiles. It tells of no restoration of fleshly Israel; it tells of no millennial utopia! No! It says, finally, "They repented not."
In verse 13 the sixth angel sounded and John heard a voice which came from the golden altar before the throne of God. This was a voice of authority. The altar was associated in chapter 8 with the prayers of Christians, and in chapter 6 the souls of slain saints were said to be resting beneath that altar so that their prayers could be heard by God. The voice of authority coming from that altar would seem to show that the prayers of God's people are an important factor in the events of the trumpets.
In verse 14 the voice John heard commanded that the four angels who were bound at the great river Euphrates be released. These four angels symbolize the control of the hordes of incredible monsters that are released with the sounding of the sixth trumpet. This seems to be a fulfillment of God's prophecy that He made to Adam and Eve, "In they day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." (Genesis 2:17). The four angels who were loosed in John's vision had been restrained for a long time. They seem to represent the judgement upon Adam and Eve for their rebellion, a judgement that was not executed at once, but a judgement that was not cancelled. God has warned that He will exercise His wrath. But He has not let His wrath interfere with His mercy and His willingness to redeem mankind. His wrath has always been deferred until people have a chance to choose redemption.
In verse 15 we note that the hour, day, month, and year (in other words, the precise exact time) of the loosing of this woe was known by God. God has a plan and a time schedule for all things; and at exact moments in that plan they will be executed. Human beings obviously do not know God's timetable, but God does.
The four angels were released "so that they might kill a third of mankind." The limitation should be stressed. If Satan were completely free to work his wicked will, the entire population of the world would be utterly and ruthlessly destroyed. A restraint has been placed on Satan in this vision.
In verses 16 - 18 John saw evil spirit armies on their field of battle. There were so many horsemen he was unable to count them; he had to hear their number: two hundred million! This surely is a symbolic number meaning a very, very large host. It is clear that the men on horses and the horses themselves had but one purpose and that was to destroy. In order to illustrate the harmonious cooperation of the horsemen and the horses, the horsemen were said to have breastplates whose color resembled fire, smoke and brimstone, while the horses were said to belch forth from their mouths fire, smoke and brimstone. They were not ordinary horses but seem to symbolize all kinds of war machines run by men. Behind men and their war machines are the evil spirits of Satan. In the vision they kill a third of mankind.
Verse 19 indicates the true nature of false doctrines and false views which are adopted by men contrary to God's revealed will. James Burton Coffman suggests that the false views of mankind are not merely innocent and harmless aberrations, but deadly and destructive errors that issue falsely in a vast orgy of bloodshed and death. There are no innocent false doctrines. Coffman says further that evil propaganda is clearly suggested by the phrase "the power of the horses is in their mouths." It is the flood of wicked, irresponsible, inflammatory, deceitful, and violence-oriented rhetoric of all kinds of Pied Pipers screaming for men to follow them which is evident here. His evil mouth is the ruination of man. These visions show that demons still speak with the voices of the men they inhabit.
In verses 29 and 21 God's love for mankind, even in such terrible judgements as these, is seen in the mention of redemption. God does not desire the destruction of men but He desires their repentance. It is God's purpose that some may find in these terrifying disasters the incentive and the occasion of their repentance and turning to God. The purpose of the Revelation is that God may not lose a single one whom He may save.
Note that in verses 20 and 21 of chapter 9 there are enumerated the things of which impenitent people are guilty. They worship demons and idols of gold. Someone may say that there are few if any people today who actually worship idols. But this is not true. The same old gods of gold, wine, power, fame, sex, self, and sensuality are still very much in business. They are still worshiped by men who reject God and walk after their own desires.
Also in verse 21 the enumeration of lawless deeds such as murders, sorceries, immorality, and thefts are a symbolic enumeration of violations of all God's laws, not only the ten commandment Law of the Israelites, but of God's laws in general from the beginning of mankind on earth. Romans 8:2 calls these laws "the law of sin and death." If the law is broken, it is sin. The judgement for breaking the law is death. So "the law of sin and death" was not abolished with the fleshly death of Jesus Christ. The law still brings spiritual death to those people who do not repent and turn to Christ. Remember that Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. (Matthew 5:17).
Thank God, this law, including the Law of Moses and the law written in the hearts of Gentiles, was fulfilled in that it was "nailed to the cross" of the Lord. That means that if people will repent and turn to Christ they do not have to be judged by the law any more for God's mercy is available to all people. But not all people seek for God's mercy, and, as a result of their unbelief, they are still under law. If they do not "go to the cross" on which the law is nailed, they are still under law.
Here in chapter 9 of the Revelation, in this vision of the history of the Christian age, the law of God is very much in effect. God did not design law and give it to mankind in order for that law, by itself, to save mankind. God designed law primarily to bring people to Christ, but, failing that, to bring on the judgement of the law which is death. Now in the visions of the six trumpets of judgements God is warning and carrying out judgements of impenitent law breakers who die in their impenitence. The seventh trumpet of the final judgement is seen symbolically in the vision of chapter 11. It has not yet occurred in actual world history. How long will God refrain from having the seventh trumpet sounded? The Revelation warns that the time is fixed when God's patience will end. That time is not revealed but it is fixed. Therefore the Spirit and the Bride say "come," now, while there is still time.
C. Chapter 10, The Vision of the Open Book Which John Was Told to Eat.
"(1) And I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire; (2) and he had in his hand a little book which was open. And he placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land; (3) and he cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars; and when her had cried out, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices. (4) And when the seven peals of thunder had spoken, I was about to write; and I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken, and do not write them.' (5) And the angel which I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his right hand to heaven, , (6) And swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there shall be delay no longer, (7) but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets. (8) And the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again speaking to me, and saying, 'Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land.' (9) And I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, 'Take it, and eat it, and it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.' (10) And I took the little book out of the angel's hand and ate it, and it was in my mouth sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. (11) And they said to me, 'You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.' NASV.
In chapter 10 there is a new vision which does not tell of events pertaining to the seven trumpets but seems to rake the reader aside to something else that would happen during the Christian age. In most of the preceding chapters John was taken up to heaven to see things in heaven or things on earth from a heavenly vantage point. But in this vision of chapter 10, John is apparently back on earth looking up into heaven for he saw a strong angel coming down out of heaven. It seems to be a vision which the Lord wanted John and his readers to see before He showed the vision of the seventh trumpet. Chapter 10 is a sort of an interlude between the sixth and the seventh trumpets.
The important thing in this vision is the "little book which was open." James Burton Coffman suggests that this "little book" is symbolic of the New Testament. He says, "Of all the books ever heard of in the history of the world, there is only one small book continuing to remain open in spite of the most vigorous efforts of Satan and his angels to close it. And there is only one small book deserving to receive the supernatural guardianship of one of God's most mighty and glorious angels. It is God's word in the New Testament."
Our Lord Jesus Christ made great promises concerning the New Testament while He was in the flesh on earth. This vision of chapter 10 appears to be a vision of these promises being carried out during the Christian age. Here are some of the promises made by Jesus.
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away." (Matt. 14:35).
"And the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations; and then shall the end come." (Matt. 24:14).
"The word I spoke, is what will judge him at the last day." (John 12:498i).
"Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem." (Luke 24:47).
This vision lets the reader know that, while God is carrying out the partial judgements of the six trumpets, His word is available and being preached to the whole world.
Verse 2 introduces the principle theme of the chapter, "the little book which was open." The angels feet being one upon the sea and one upon the land seems to indicate that in the message of the vision concerns the whole earth.
Verse 3 presents the thought that the message must be heard by all, for the angel's voice is loud as if a lion roared. The message of the angel; is so important that seven peals of thunder reverberate throughout the world. This represents the impact of God's word upon the world. Mighty consequences follow the preaching of the word of God.
In verse 4 John was told not to write what was revealed by the voices of the seven thunders. Apparently, it is forbidden for readers to know. That should be the end of speculation about it. God has kept back some things from mankind. Let people beware of adding to or taking away from "the words of the prophecy of this book." (Rev. 21: 18-19).
In verse 5 the angel "lifted up his right hand to heaven," indicating that some great truth of universal significance was about to be announced. In verse 6 the great truth is "that there shall be delay no longer." In the King James version the language is "there shall be time no longer" and this is, perhaps, the best translation. The Greek word in use here is CRONOS which literally means "time." Six trumpets have already sounded and one would expect the next, the seventh trumpet, to sound without delay. This statement about time follows after what was revealed in the last two verses of chapter 9, that is, that many of mankind will not repent during the sounding of the six trumpets of judgement. What is then announced by the angel of chapter 10 verse 6 is that "there shall be time no longer," that is, if the six trumpets of judgement are ignored there is no more opportunity to repent, time has ceased to exist, or time has run out. As one commentator put it, "Sorry, the ball game is over, time has run out."
In verse 7 John wrote that when the seventh angel sounds, that is, when the final judgement comes, the mystery of God is finished. This mystery has to do with the gospel of salvation, for the next phrase of verse 7 says, "as He preached to His servants the prophets." God's servants the prophets, mentioned here, includes not only the specific prophets named in the Old and New Testaments, but very likely includes all the Christians God has given "the little book which was open," and whom He has commissioned to preach the gospel to every creature.
In verse 8 John himself became a part of the scene he was viewing. John was commanded, "Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel." The book is repeatedly said to be open. Surely this is significant. God's word has been and is open and available during all of the Christian age. It is preached by God's servants. It is printed and distributed. Although there are many efforts to ban God's word, it's ban is not effective. Some people in the world who can't get printed copies of the Bible, copy portions of it down by hand as it is read over short wave radio. However, for one to gain knowledge and understanding of God's word, one must "Go, take" the little open book as John was commanded to do.
Verse 9 emphasizes the fact that john had to "take" the book for himself, for when John suggested that the angel "give" him the book, the angel said again, "Take it." This symbolizes the profound truth that the word of God must be taken by every person for himself. Some other person cannot "give" to any person the knowledge and understanding of the word of God that the person must exercise himself to acquire.
In addition to taking the little book, John was told to eat it. Surely the eating of the book symbolizes the mastering of the contents, digesting and assimilating in his mind the contents o0f the book. The angel; told John, "It will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey." And John ate it and that is what happened.
What is the meaning of the sweet and bitter aspects of this book? The gospel of God's word is symbolically sweet as honey to the taste. It is completely satisfying if one assimilates it; if one obeys it. It is exactly what is needed to satisfy spiritual hunger. It brings joyful release to one's conscience. It is sweet in these respects and continues to remain sweet. A bitterness comes, but it is not the word itself turning sour. Neither is it the internal effect of the word itself on one's mind and conscience. But the bitterness comes as an external effect caused by the fact that we must continue to live and serve God in a bitter place, in this wicked world. Surely the bitterness refers to the suffering, persecution, and bearing of one's own cross which is ever the portion of those who serve the Lord in His church. Satan and his angels try to make Christians think that it is the gospel itself which is bitter. But, in truth, the gospel does not cause the bitterness. Satan and his angels cause it.
See what Satan did to our Lord when He lived in the flesh on earth! Our Lord brought the sweet gospel, but has anyone ever suffered more? Satan was allowed to use the cross, a cruel and evil instrument of death, to temporarily take the life of our Savior. But when Satan did that, he defeated himself. He pronounced his own doom, as God had arranged. Satan is allowed to use his instrument of death against Christians today as well. He is allowed to temporarily take the fleshly life of each of us. Perhaps this is the cross that Christians must bear when they "eat the word."
In verse 11, John being part of the vision himself, was told to prophesy again. That is, he was told to continue being God's spokesman, to continue to preach the gospel of the little book which is open. This was a symbolic vision and this time John was one of the symbols. It is not only John himself who will continue to sound out the word of God, but he is symbolic of all the apostles and inspired writers of the little book, and by extension, of all who make up the church of God throughout the Christian age.
The vision of chapter 10 was placed between the visions of the sixth and seventh trumpets as a sort of parenthetical vision. Now in the first 13 verses of chapter 11 there is another parenthetical vision of what the church must endure during the Christian age as a witness before the world for the Lord.. And then in the last verses of chapter 11 the sounding of the seventh trumpet occurs and the final judgement is introduced.
D. Chapter 11, Verses 1-13, The Persecution of the Two Witnesses.
"(1) And there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, 'Rise and measure the Temple of God, and the altar, and those who worship in it. (2) 'And leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread underfoot the holy city for forty-two months. (3) 'And I will grant authority to My two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.' (4) These are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands that stand before the Lord of the earth. (5) And if anyone desires to harm them, fire proceeds out of their mouth and devours their enemies; and if anyone would desire to harm them, in this manner he must be killed. (6) These have the power to shut up the sky, in order that rain might not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they desire. (7) And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them. (8) And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. (9) And those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. (10) And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. (11) And after the three and a half days the breath of life from God came into them; and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were beholding them. (12) And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, 'Come up here.' And they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies beheld them. (13) And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; and seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven." NASV.
Verse 1 tells of a "measuring rod like a staff" being given to John with which to measure. The "measuring rod" was probably a cane of a certain length, 10 to 15 feet, that was actually used to measure distances in those days. Such measuring rods are still in use today. But in this case the rod was to be used symbolically to measure the characteristics of people who worship in the "temple." In this Christian age can the measuring rod be other than the word of God? The word of God, the New Testament, the "little book" of the last vision, determines who is in the church and who is outside its bounds. The measuring was to be in the symbolic temple of God. That temple which once stood in Jerusalem is used figuratively to represent in the New Testament the Lord's church (1st Cor 3) and each individual member of the Lord's church (1st Cor. 6). When John was told to take the word of God and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and those who worship in it, he was called upon to measure the church and its individual members. The reason for the measuring was not to seek to find Christians wanting, but to protect and preserve them from destruction by the world. They are safeguarded while the judgements are inflicted upon the wicked world. To be sure, true Christians will suffer but they will never perish; they are protected against eternal doom.
The measuring by the word of God seems to have the same purpose and effect as the symbolic sealing of the 144,000 in chapter 7. The sealing in chapter 7 was done by an angel using the seal of God on members of the church. The church was symbolized by the 12 tribes of Israel. In chapter 11 is another vision of the same thing, from a different viewpoint, using different symbols. In chapter 11 the measuring is by the word of God upon the church symbolized by the Temple in Jerusalem. In this later vision the word of God in the "little book" is stressed. Not only are Christians indwelt by the Holy Spirit when they are sealed, (chapter 7), they must be indwelt by the word of God as well when they are measured (chapter 11).
In verse 2 John was told to "leave out," that is, "do not measure," the court which was outside the Temple in Jerusalem. The old Temple building itself housed the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. The outer court (outside the Temple building) was open to Gentiles of all nations. So the leaving out of the court from the measuring seems to mean to reject it from protection. It was not sacred. It was profane. It was given to the nations, or to the Gentiles, who were symbolic of the wicked world.
Verse 2 also said that the nations, or Gentiles, would tread under foot the Holy City for 42 months. This reminds us of the prophecy of Jesus Himself when He said, Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." (Luke 21:24). James Burton Coffman suggests that the "times of the Gentiles" mentioned by Jesus is the entire Christian dispensation, and that is what was used as symbolism here in the vision of chapter 11. The symbols, or types, used are the Gentiles treading under foot the streets of the Holy City for 42 months.. And the anti-types, or reality, corresponding to the symbols are the false Christians who will "tread" the church for the entire period of the Christian dispensation.
But the vision here in chapter 11 did not specifically name Jerusalem as the symbol in mind. In Luke, Christ spoke of the literal city of Jerusalem as the place where Gentiles would tread until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. In the first century time of Christ in the flesh the city of Jerusalem was anything but a "holy" city. Christ spoke in Luke of the Gentile occupation of Jerusalem, not anymore a holy city at that time. This actually happened in first century history. In Rev. chapter 11, Christ spoke to John of a truly "holy" city with a truly "holy" temple like the church of God as the holy city. And the nations treading in the holy city likely refers to the invasion of the church by those who are not true Christians, but those who pervert Christianity. The measuring will occur in the church itself to separate false Christians from the true Christians. The true church will be protected. The false church with false Christians will be allowed to go on in their way for a symbolic 42 months, the whole period of the Christian dispensation.
The meaning of the "42 months" period mentioned in verse 2, the "1260 day" period of verse 3, and the "3 ½ days" period of verse 9 have been subjected to much speculation. Obviously, "1260 days" equals to "42 months", or "3 ½" years. Yet the number "3 ½" is stated as "days." Also, the number 3 ½ is exactly half of the perfect number 7. How do these facts relate to the meaning of this vision? I do not know. All one can say is that the periods appear to be symbolic. The 42 months period or its numerical equivalent in years or days appear again and again in Revelation. Of what are they symbolic? James Burton Coffman suggests that in every case the same time is meant and it is symbolic of the gospel age.
In verse 3 of chapter 11 "two witnesses" were mentioned. James Burton Coffman says, "The identity of these two witnesses appears to be, definitely and undeniably, God's word personified and God's church personified, these two witnesses indeed being the only two witnesses of God throughout the whole Christian age since the ascension of Jesus Christ our Lord. The 1260 days that the two witnesses will prophecy is the same as the 42 months that the nations will tread the holy city, the entire Christian age."
In verse 3 the two witnesses are said to be clothed in sackcloth during the entire period. It is suggested that the sight of mankind in general rejecting their only hope, rejecting their Savior Jesus Christ, during the age of the two witnesses, is enough to cause them to cloth themselves symbolically in sackcloth as they go about prophesying.
Verse 4 says that the two witnesses also could be represented by "two olive trees and two lamp stands." The olive trees are likely a reference to the readers knowledge of the Old Testament book of Zechariah. In Zechariah's vision olive trees symbolized the word of God. Thus, in Rev. 11 verse 4 one of the two witnesses, the word of God is also referred to as two olive trees. In Rev. 1, lamp stands symbolized churches. Thus, in Rev. 11 verse 4 the other of the two witnesses is symbolized also by two lamp stands. What do we have then? John saw two witnesses. One of the witnesses was further likened to two lamp stands. This witness is the Lord's faithful church, made up of faithful local congregations. The other witness is likened to two olive trees. This witness is the word of God.
Finally in verse 4 John was told to write that the two witnesses "stand before the Lord of the earth." The "Lord of the earth," or "god of the earth" apparently refers to Satan, for in the context of this vision, evil forces of this world were trying to harm the two witnesses. And it was the evil part of the world, not the faithful part, which needed to receive the gospel message from the two witnesses. The two witnesses stood delivering the gospel message before the world during the entire Christian age, even in the face of persecution. This vision shows the two witnesses are, in reality, indestructible.
In verse 5 the vision showed fire proceeding out of the mouths of the two witnesses killing anyone who tried to harm them. This "fire" from the mouths of the two witnesses can be explained in the light of God's word. Any effort to harm God's word or God's children is sin against God. The wages of sin is death to the sinner. God's word judges sinners and the judgement is spiritual death. The sinner may, in the patience of God, continue to live on earth able to rejoice and make merry in a fleshly sense, but in truth, he is killed. His doom is sealed and it will be carried out at the final judgement if he does not repent.
Verse 6 speaks of the power the two witnesses had to bring plagues upon the earth, as some of the Old Testament prophets were given power to bring plagues. Of course, it was actually the power of God, not the power of the prophets, that brought about the plagues. The prophets were simply God's humble spokesmen. In a way symbolized by the Old Testament plagues, the church and God's word are used by God to affect people of the evil world today, to bring them to repentance through partial judgements, or to judge them and spiritually kill them if they do not repent. The judgements of the trumpets likely are examples of the plagues spoken of here in verse 5. They are brought about by the power of God through the two witnesses.
Verse 7 speaks of "when they (the two witnesses) have finished their testimony." Does this refer to the very end of the gospel age when all proclamation of the gospel has been completed? No. Not likely. The verse says, "When they have finished their testimony the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them." That beast, undoubtedly Satan, has been coming up out of the abyss waging war on God's witnesses ever since the time of the Garden of Eden. He killed the word of God, which was the witness to Adam and Eve, and he has bee killing the word of God ever since. The "finishing of their testimony" refers to the two witnesses' actions over and over again all through the Christian age. Whenever God's word is preached in its fullness to people, the testimony, in a sense, is finished. The people accept it or reject it. The testimony to each generation of people on earth must be finished during that generation's span of life on earth. The testimony must be repeated and finished with each new generation.
James Burton Coffman suggests that the church of modern times in America is seemingly at ease and free from persecution merely because Satan has no cause for worry regarding its witness of the whole word of God. Many of the churches of today have been killed effectively as witnesses but don't know it.
In verses 8, 9, and 10 John saw a vision of the dead bodies of the two witnesses lying in the broad street of the great city with people from all over the world viewing the bodies for three and one half days and not allowing the bodies to be buried. Moreover, all these people from all over the world were rejoicing and making merry because the two witnesses could no longer torment them. This cannot describe a literal event. There is something here far more important than a literal interpretation would imply.
First of all, it is fairly easy to see the symbolism of "the great city." As said before, it is not representative of literal Jerusalem. In terms of the world, Jerusalem has never been a great city. During most of the past Christian age is was little more than a village. The ":great city" was referred to as "Sodom," which was symbolic of corruption, and also as "Egypt" which had tyrannical rulers who enslaved God's people. It was referred to also as the city where their Lord was crucified, which, of course, brings Jerusalem to mind as a symbol. But this is the character of all the world's "great cities." Therefore, "the great city" of verse 8 is symbolic of all the world's great cities. It is symbolic of mankind in organized communities and opposed to God. It is man's civilization utterly alien to the will of God. (Examples: Hindu India, Sikh India, Buddhist Thailand and Japan, the Islamic world of over a billion people, and the great city of false Christianity, and many others.)
In verse 8 John gave us a picture of the two witnesses, the word of God and the church, lying dead in the midst of mankind's communities, yet no one will bury them. James Burton Coffman's comments bring the picture to us. "The bodily presence of dead churches on the principle avenues of all the earth's cities is attested by their impressive buildings which are the principle adornment of many streets. Their physical attractiveness explains why the dead are thus permitted to remain unburied for all men to see. In other word, the spectacle of the dead church is more pleasing to many of mankind than the sight of true, living, functioning churches."
The fact that Revelation says that men from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations were there to look at the dead bodies indicates that this is no isolated event either in time or geographically. It is a worldwide, age wide phenomenon.
Why do all these people look upon these dead bodies? James Burton Coffman's words are again helpful. They look upon these dead bodies "because unspiritual and apostate Christians take pleasure in the contemplation of the dead bodies of what was once true and living faith. Long after churches have denied the Lord's holy religion by the rejection of its essential doctrine, and after men have made 'their church' as worldly, unbelieving, and as apostate as possible, do they bury it? No indeed! It becomes a favorite rendezvous of scoffing unbelievers. Indeed, the dead churches are so attractive to many people they are given favored locations on the principle streets of the cities, given preference in the hearts of men, when they ought to be buried. Their preachers and commentators, who indicate by every word they speak that they do not believe the Bible to be God's word, have "killed" it of any significance for those who are deceived by them. But they do not bury it, or allow it to be buried. Certainly not. They continue to devote their lives to writing and talking about it."
A commentator, Lenski, brought out this amazing truth, "Those who spurn the word of God never actually get rid of it. The wicked cannot let it alone. Their rejoicing over its silence keeps them busy."
The three and one half days mentioned in the vision was symbolic, of course. It seems to be a period simply much shorter than the 1260 days of the entire dispensation. The number 3 and ½ is exactly half of the perfect number seven. Therefore it can be said to be an incomplete number. The fact that the incomplete number 3 and ½ is used here to represent the time the bodies lay in the street until they came back to life may mean that the triumph of evil is always incomplete, never complete, never a true and final victory. As the number 3 and ½ is incomplete, so the apparent victory of the world over the two witnesses is incomplete.
In verse 11 God brought the two witnesses back to life again. Satan cannot actually get rid of the witnesses. Sure, he "kills" them again and again throughout the age, but they always rise again. The "killing" never really occurs. It only appears so. The breath of eternal life from God, the Holy Spirit, has been poured out on all flesh and is always available during the Christian dispensation. The resurgence of the word of God after every "killing" of it is the most consistently recurring phenomenon of human history, as is also the constantly appearing rebirth of the church after every period of decline and apostasy.
In verse 12 the taking up to heaven of the two witnesses was the granting of ultimate life eternal to the witnesses at the time of the final judgement. Finally, as represented by the vision, the world had what it desired; it was rid of the two witnesses. The church, God's saints, were removed from earth and taken up to heaven. At the same time God's word was removed from the earth. The time of salvation was finished. And a great truth became apparent to the people seen in the vision. That truth was that God allows people ultimately to have what they choose! If people insist on being free from the so-called torment of the word of God and the church, they will eventually be free of it.
This vision is consistent with all the other Biblical accounts of Christ's second coming and the judgement. The church ascended to heaven in the sight of the wicked who, at least momentarily, remained on earth. The wicked were not shown as cast into the lake of fire until a later vision in the Book of Revelation. This vision reveals that they witnessed the salvation of the righteous. Note that there was no so-called "rapture" of the church. There was no great triumph by an anti-Christ. There was no glorious millennium of universal peace and happiness on earth. And there was no question in the vision that the final judgement was there.
This vision in chapter 11 of the disastrous events attending the onset of the final judgement is much like that in the vision of chapter 6. The vision of 1/10th of the great city falling in an earthquake is symbolic of such disasters in all the great cities of the earth. This symbolic 1/10th is perhaps God's tithe of all the great earthly cities. Their collapse will be attended by enormous casualties, symbolized by the 7,000 persons that were said to be killed in the vision.
The rest of the people who were not killed were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. These people were watching from the time of God's removal of the two witnesses. They saw the resurrection of the dead and the taking up to heaven of God's word and God's church. Then they had to realize that it was too late to repent and be saved. The vision did not even hint that they repented. They simply and finally recognized the truth. They were like the rich man described by Jesus in Luke 16 who, after fleshly death, found his soul in Hades in a place of torment. He recognized too late the mercy of God but he wanted his brothers still in the flesh to be warned that they should take advantage of God's mercy. But for the rich man himself, he knew it was too late.
E. Chapter 11, Verses 14-19, The Seventh Angel Sounds the Seventh Trumpet.
"(14) The second woe is past; behold the third woe is coming quickly. (15) And the seventh angel sounded; and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.' (16) And the twenty four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, (17) saying, 'We give Thee thanks, O Lord God,. the Almighty, who art and who wast, because Thou hast taken Thy great power and hast begun to reign. (18) 'And the nations were enraged, and Thy wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to give their reward to Thy bond-servants the prophets and the saints and to those who fear Thy name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.' (19) And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm." NASV.
In verses 15 through 19 the seventh angel sounded his trumpet and the final judgement came. The final judgement had already been announced. It was the final sentencing of the wicked which had yet to be described. And it was not described here either, but merely introduced.
Loud voices in heaven were heard saying, "the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ." Did this mean that Christ had just then been crowned King of His kingdom. No. He had been King since the start of the Christian age. What did the statement mean? There are at least two possible answers to this question.
1. Christ's kingdom, of which He has been King all during the gospel age, was the church existing on earth, "the kingdom of this world." After the church was taken into heaven, Christ's kingdom of this world became both the kingdom of His Father and Himself. As was foretold in Paul's writings, Christ would have to deliver up His kingdom to the God and Father (1st Cor. 15:24).
2. Another possible meaning is this. Throughout the Christian age the wicked have not been subject to Christ. They have been allowed their own choice, that is, the choice to rebel. Finally, as the seventh trumpet was about to sound, the wicked world realized the truth and recognized God and His Son. So it was then that the "kingdom of this world," Satan's kingdom, was taken away from Satan and became a part of Christ's kingdom. Of course, Satan's "kingdom of this world" was not obedient to Christ. But Satan's kingdom was conquered and all Christ's enemies were put under His feet. In the vision the entire kingdom, including the church and "the kingdom of this world," was handed over to the Father for joint reign from then on of both the Father and the Son. The vision did not indicate that the kingdom of this world, originally Satan's kingdom, was converted, but it indicated it was put under Christ's feet as His conquered enemy. Christ began to reign at the time of His ascension into heaven just after He had died and had been raised from the dead. Paul says He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. (1st Cor. 15:25). In this vision of the seventh trumpet this has occurred, has it not? The vision indicates that the end has come and Christ has delivered up the kingdom to God, the Father, not just a kingdom of saints with an active opposition, but a kingdom with no opposition left! He had abolished then all earthly rule and authority and power as Paul foretold. (1st Cor. 15:24). Christ's obedient kingdom was delivered to the Father for heavenly reward. Christ's disobedient kingdom, now conquered, was delivered to the Father for judgement. So at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, Christ reigned not only over His faithful subjects, but also over all His enemies. The enemies no longer had the choice to rebel against Christ.
In verse 17 the words of the twenty-four elders as they worshiped God were revealed. They spoke of the God "Who is" and "Who was," and they conspicuously omitted "Who is to come." The usual latter phrase, "Who is to come" was omitted because in this vision He has come already! The elders thanked God that He "didst reign" ( past tense). In this vision the reign began a long time ago and continued throughout the Christian age. The NASV translation says in place of "didst reign," that He "hast begun to reign." However the NASV translation does not mean that the reign started with the final judgement. The NASV has a footnote which says that the words "didst reign" could be substituted for "hast begun to reign." The meaning is, "because Thou hast already begun to reign long ago."
In verse 18 the twenty-four elders are saying, "And the nations were enraged, and Thy wrath came, and the time came for the dead to judged, an the time to give their reward to Thy bond-servants, ... and to destroy those who destroy the earth." This was a recounting of a judgement that was already past. So again in the Revelation, the judgement was mentioned but not described in detail. The details of the judgement are left for later visions.
Finally in verse 19 the Old Testament temple and the Ark of the Covenant are shown as symbols. In the old literal temple in Jerusalem the Most Holy Place was always closed and no one could see into it where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. But in this vision the temple and the Ark of the Covenant are in heaven and all is open. The great truths symbolized by the temple and the Ark of the Covenant were open to view. God in heaven has open and perfect fellowship with His people.
The final judgement of mankind is over in this vision. A new vision is next as the Book of Revelation continues.