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Fast Forward to the End (Revelation 11:15-19)

March 29, 2015 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Happy Ever After (Revelation)

Topic: Revelation Passage: Revelation 11:15–11:19

Happy Ever After

Fast Forward to the End
Revelation 11:15-19
(One Lord: So Great a Salvation)
March 29, 2015

 

I. Seventh Seal, Seventh Trumpet

As we begin our time in God's word this morning, I want you think about we've seen so far in the main vision of the Revelation: one scroll with seven seals was opened, which subsequently revealed seven trumpets.

Now, in our study thus far, we have listened to the sounding of six of those trumpets. What happened when those trumpets were blown? Well, beginning in chapter 8, verse 6, we saw the beginning of the very thing the scroll represented. If the scroll truly does represent God's plan for bringing ultimate justice to the world, then these trumpets represented the beginning of God's judgments.

But as we “followed the fractions”, we realized that these judgments were partial judgments. They were indeed judgments on a rebellious world, but they were also warnings. And yet, from natural disasters to wars to demonic oppression, just as Revelation describes, the majority of men and women have not been humbled by these 'trumpet judgments'.

The only hope for such a world was to be found in the testimony of God's two witnesses, a symbol for the church. As both the interlude in chapter 7 and the interlude in chapters 10 and 11 reveal, this is not only the church sealed and safe, it is also the church sent.

But as the angel told John, the little scroll he was to eat would be both sweet and bitter. And as we went on to see, that “tale of two witness” did describe the church proclaiming the life-giving word of God and ultimately being vindicated, but there was terrible resistance, suffering, and judgment in between.

So coming out of this second interlude, this morning we arrive at the sounding of the seventh trumpet. Now before we read about what happens at this point, I'd like to go back and read about what took place when the seventh seal was opened. Look with me at 8:1-5. We read...

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. [2] Then 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 with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, [4] and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. [5] Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:1-5)

Now keep that in mind as listen to the sounding of the final trumpet.

 

II. The Passage: “The Kingdom of Our Lord” (11:15-19)

That sounding is found in verses 15-19 of chapter 11. Now don't forget where we left off last time. The final sentence of the last section is a transitional sentence that moves us out of the contents of the little scroll and back into the trumpet progression from chapters 8 and 9. Look at verse 14 again....The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come. (11:14) You may remember that the first woe described an intense level of demonic oppression, and the second woe pointed to the terror and devastation caused by war.

 

A. The Kingdom Comes (11:15)

So with all that in mind, brace yourself for the sounding of the seventh trumpet. Verse 15...

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

Whoa, wait a minute. That's it? This is the seventh trumpet? This is the third woe? Where are the strange creatures? Where is the fire from heaven? What's going on here?

In one sense, based on what came before, this is not what we expected to read about. Instead of a shower of devastation there is a shout of acclamation. Instead of silence in heaven, as there was at the opening of the seventh seal, here there is “loud voice”. But think about what we've already been told about the seventh trumpet. Look back at 10:5-7. Remember what the “mighty angel” told us there...

And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven [6] and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, [7] but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.

Notice that phrase in 10:7, “in the days of the trumpet call”. As we see here, the sounding of the seventh trumpet represents a period of time in which God's plan of ultimate justice would be fulfilled or finished. Now, if we fast forward to chapter 15, we find there a continuation of what we've already seen; we find in 15:1 the very thing we would expect to find right here in 11:15. John writes in Revelation 15:1...

Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.

So the word “finished” here is the same word we saw in 10:7 where the angel spoke of the “mystery of God [being] fulfilled”. What am I saying? I'm saying that like the seventh seal represented and led to the implementation of God's decree of ultimate justice, the seventh trumpet eventually leads to the final phase of God's wrath, represented by the seven plagues or bowls.

But before we get to those seven plagues, we hear this amazing declaration from heaven, a declaration which points us back to Daniel chapter 7. Listen to the vision Daniel described:

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. [14] And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14)

Isn't that what we see here in Revelation 11:15? The kingdom of the world becomes the kingdom of God. Wonderfully, God's loving and life-giving reign over the earth is restored.

 

B. The Elders Worship (11:16-18)

And few understand the significance of this better than the twenty-four elders who sit in the presence of God. Look at verses 16-18 tell us about their response to the acclamation of verse 15. We read in verse 16...

And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, [17] saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.[18] The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”

You may recall that these elders are a symbolic representation of God's people in heaven. Just as there were twelve tribes of Israel, and then twelve Apostles of Christ, so we have here twenty-four elders who sit (not “stand”, which would be normal OT language...who “sit”), at rest in the presence of God.

Now we haven't heard from the elders since 5:8 where they praised the Lamb after He took the scroll from the right hand of God. So we have a connected praise here. In chapter 5 the elders worshiped in light of the scroll's implementation. Here, they shout again, this time in light of the scroll's full realization.

Notice how these elders give us a summary of the details of the establishment of God's reign: the nations raged in rebellion, God's wrath came, the dead were judged, the people of God rewarded, and the wicked destroyed.

Now to be clear, God has always and will always reign as King of the universe. That's never changed, and it never can change. As we've already pointed out, what is in view here is the “kingdom of the world”. In chapter 12 we will learn more about the current ruler of this world who will soon be ousted.

There's more we could say about these verses, but before we move on, I want you to see that God is no longer described here as He was in 1:8, as the One “who is and who was and who is to come”. Here in verse 17 He is simply the One “who is and who was”. In light of what is envisioned here, there is no need to say “who is to come”. He has come, and He's begun to reign.

 

C. The Ark Appears (11:19)

But just as we saw in chapter 8, after the opening of the seventh seal, once again the focus turns to God's heavenly temple. Look at how this is described in the final verse of chapter 11:

Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

You may recall that the ark of the covenant was the container that God, through Moses, commanded the Israelites to build, not only as a repository for the tablets of the Ten Commandments, but also as they place where God, within the Temple, would meet with them and where they would make atonement each year for the sins of the people.

So here, John is seeing right into the Most Holy Place of the heavenly Temple. And just as the ark represented God's presence and fellowship with God in the earthly temple, the one that had been destroyed two decades before John's vision, so now this symbolic imagery of a heavenly temple is meant to confirm those same thing, to confirm what has just been announced: God has come. The king is present in a new way.

And as we've talked about before, the lightning, the rumblings, the thunder, the earthquake, and now this heavy hail, all of it is just OT shorthand for saying the Almighty God has come in power.

 

III. Fast Forwarding in Faith

So looking back over these verses, one of the most surprising things about this passage is not simply that we do not find the kind of judgment, the kind of woe we might have expected, but that instead, the Revelation seems to unexpectedly 'fast forward'. Did you notice how everything is in the past tense here? It doesn't say “The kingdom of the world [WILL] become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ”. The elders don't cry out, “you WILL take your great power and [begin] to reign...[someday].” Everything is depicted as if it's already happened.

So why? Why is this what find here at the sounding of the seventh trumpet? Well, I think it's helpful if go back to Foothold #2 of our “Five Firm Footholds” of interpretation: Foothold #2: Revelation was Given to Seven Real Churches. And if we put ourselves in the sandals of those first readers, I think we might have a better sense of why the seventh trumpet reveals what it reveals. Remember, when the elders speak of the nations having raged, many of those seven churches understood what that looked like. They were beginning to see and feel, in pronounced ways, the world's opposition to God.

Therefore Revelation is the revelation they needed in that it does not simply talk about the nations raging, but also God's wrath coming. And as we shall see from the rest of the book, it also goes on to describe those other elements in verse 18: judgment, reward, punishment.

But here, at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, I believe the vision seems to fast forward for a couple of reasons:

First, I believe God wanted those churches, as well as all of us this morning, to understand the significance of what had happened and what was happening in terms of the establishment of His kingdom.

Their struggle, their endurance, the fight against compromise, the blood of the martyrs, the political unrest, the instability to come, all of it was leading to a glorious end. All of it mattered. God was working out His plan, and they needed to be reminded of that, even right here in the middle of the vision. But also...

Second, I believe God wanted those churches, and He wants all of us, to understand the certainty of what will happen in terms of the establishment of His kingdom.

The loud voice that thunders in the heaven can speak in the past tense about the establishment of God's kingdom because it is as good as done. There is no stopping it. There is no slowing it down. There is no derailing it. It cannot be frustrated. It cannot be sabotaged. It cannot be undone or undermined. No matter what forces rise up in opposition, no matter how bad things seem to get, no matter how much God's people suffer and her enemies seem to succeed, the “kingdom of this world [will] become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ”!

Isn't this the very thing our Lord Jesus taught us to pray for on a daily basis? “[May] your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) And the answer to that prayer is a guarantee. Why? Because God is God and because Jesus already secured the victory through His death and resurrection. We'll talk more about that when we dig into the next chapter.

But this morning, my challenge to you and to myself is this: follow this format! As your day, as your week progresses, as life unfolds all around you, as the narrative of your your story plays itself out, let the seventh trumpet sound. Let its blast break in and interrupt your flow.

As you battle temptation, as you struggle with illness, as you experience tension in your marriage or in your workplace, as you wrestle with you finances and your children, as serve and bless those in your circle, as you strain to hear God's voice, as you labor in prayer, as your heart breaks over the consequences of sin all around you, as you become too enamored with the kingdom of this world, remember the sound of this trumpet. Remember the significance of what is happening around you and the certain of what will happen.

“Father, I'm scared...but I know, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” “Father, I'm tired...but I know...” “Father, I'm drifting...but I know...”

And when God brings a vision of this amazing conclusion into your heart, when you can and see and taste how good it is and will be, then, yes, keep praying as Jesus taught you. But also, follow the lead of these elders, and fall down and worship. If we don't keep the end in sight when we run, we will stumble in the race.

May God, through his Christ, through the power of His Spirit, help us to live each day as servants of the kingdom come. And may we encourage each other in both the significance and certainty of what is to come. Brothers and sisters, keep fast forwarding to the end.

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