To my faithful readers: My apologies for taking so long to produce a new post. I have been hampered by sickness and by computer problems.
Abbreviation: NIVSB: New International Version Study Bible
The following analysis is of Revelation 11:15-19. This is a description of the events of the last, or seventh trumpet. The trumpets begin in 8:6. After the events of the sixth trumpet, there is an interlude that begins in 10:1 and continues to 11:13. Verse 11:14 makes a brief comment that two woes have passed and the third is coming. These woes were announced in 8:13 just before the fifth trumpet. So, the implication is that the fifth, sixth, and seventh trumpets are also the three woes.
Ladd points out that no woe comes with the 7th trumpet. That woe “really consists of the seven bowls of 16:1-21.” He points out the literary parallelism in the book. There are six seals (with specific content) followed by an interlude. Then there follows the 7th seal which has no content. Next there are six trumpets with specific content, then the seventh trumpet with no content. Thus, the seventh seal is fulfilled in the first six trumpets, and the seventh trumpet is fulfilled in the seven bowls. (For another viewpoint, contrast this with the “seven last signs” of Morris.) (160)
11:15. This verse is the basis for the “Hallelujah Chorus,” one of the most familiar of all the songs from Handel’s Messiah. It is one of those “goose bumps” moments to hear the magnificent music supporting the magnificent words. I don’t want to go through a Christmas season without hearing it at least once. Think of what John heard! Voices shouting: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” Think of an apostle of the first century. I’m guessing his annual income corresponded to a lower middle-class income of today. His clothes were ordinary. He had no office, no secretary (oh, maybe a volunteer who served as an “amanuensis”). Wherever he looked there were Roman soldiers. Now he was banished to a little island because he preached the message of Jesus. Some people he knew had been killed for the gospel, including Peter, about 25 years before, as well as his own brother. The church had spread around the Mediterranean, but its people amounted to a tiny fraction of the Roman Empire. He knew that God, the creator of the universe, was the author of redemption through Jesus. He knew that the man he had spent three and a half years with had risen from the dead. He knew these things, but a lot of people did not know them. For them Caesar was lord and god, and he had the army to back him up. Now, John sees the seventh angel and hears him blast his trumpet. He hears the voices declaring that all the world is now subject to God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Rist believes that 11:15-19 is a duplication with variations of 4:8-11. (450) This is a stretch. Both contain praises and both mention the 24 elders. There is very little else that is duplicated in the two passages.
The Greek does not include the second “kingdom.” A literal translation of the sentence would be: “The kingdom of the world has become that of our Lord and His Christ.” All the versions I consulted supply the second “kingdom.” The original makes us think more seriously about what is being said.
- The “kingdom of the world” is led by Satan. (Matthew 4:8-9, I John 5:19) It is a kingdom filled with darkness. (Ephesians 6:12) It is motivated by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride in the means of making a living (often stated as “pride of life.”) (I John 2:15-17) It is inhabited by people who are sold under sin, living in accordance with the flesh and unable to please God. (Romans 8:5-8) This world and its desires pass away. (I John 2:17)
- Rist believes that John understood the “kingdom of world” is “the rule of Satan, exemplified by the Roman Empire.” (450)
- This kingdom has been transferred to God and Jesus.
- Under new ownership and management, it will now reflect the character of the owner and manager. All that Jesus said about the Kingdom of God—its ethics, its power, its hope, its joy—are now found in what was the “kingdom of the world.”
- Morris points out that the “kingdom of the world” is singular—“a secular power.” Ladd states that behind all the kingdoms there is a “singular source of authority.” This will be manifested by the Antichrist in the last days. (161)
- Morris states that the past tense is used to indicate the event is certain. (153)
He will reign forever. Rist calls this announcement “the main outline of Revelation…the apocalyptic hope of the author…” He points out the similarity to Daniel 7:27, which predicts that all kingdoms will be handed over to God’s people and that God will rule over an everlasting kingdom. (Rist, 450) Ladd agrees that “central theme” of Revelation is “the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.” He elaborates by saying that the process “involves the wresting of authority from all hostile powers” and the God and His Christ exercising their power. He says the establishment of the Kingdom does not “distinguish between the millennial reign of Christ and God’s reign in the age to come.” He says Paul gives two periods: “ the messianic reign of the exalted Lord between His resurrection-ascension and the end…and  the consummation when He turns the Kingdom over to God the Father. (I Cor. 15:24-28)” (161) He calls this announcement of the Kingdom “proleptic” [anticipatory]. “The same proleptic announcement of the establishing of God’s reign occurs again in 12:10; 19:6, 16.” (162)
The reference to “He” (the One who reigns forever) is probably to “our Lord” (that is, God the Father), but it could be to “His Christ.” In Revelation 21:22-23:5, there are 6 references to God or the Lamb, or both. In four of those mentions, God and the Lamb are mentioned together as having the same office and function. They are both the Temple of the city; they are both the light of the city; they both occupy the throne (two mentions). In two additional cases, they are mentioned separately. The Book of Life is mentioned as belonging to the Lamb. And God is mentioned as the light source without mentioning the Lamb. My point is that it obvious that the Lamb and God are working hand-in-hand in this picture of (what I believe is) eternity. Thus, it is not of crucial significance who “He” refers to in 11:15. In I Corinthians 15:28 we have a description of the final situation:
When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
Here it is stated that the Son will take a subordinate place in the eternal Kingdom. However, this does not mean that the Son will disappear from the scene. Colossians 1:19 and 2:9 give us vivid statements of the deity of Jesus:
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…(Colossians 1:19)
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily…(Colossians 2:9)
Note that verse 1:19 is in the aorist indicative, a past tense, and verse 2:9 is in the present, a continuous present tense. The first describes the redemptive work of Christ, which began with His incarnation. The second describes the present condition of Christ, who is the treasury of wisdom (verse 2:3), not the human wisdom that sought to deceive the Colossians. So, Christ, who was with God at the beginning (John 1:1-5), will be forever the fullness of God, reigning with the Father. I think that I Corinthians 15:28 is telling us that there will be a shift in emphasis, if you will. In the present order and in the cataclysmic last days, Jesus the Christ will be pre-eminent. In the final order of things, the Father will be pre-eminent. However, the Lamb will ever have His place. So, it is likely we should take the “He” of Revelation 11:15 as God the Father, who shall reign forever and ever. The announcement of the transfer of the kingdom of the world into God’s hands is made by “loud voices.” One would assume that an angel or angels makes the announcement. Morris states that the voices are “plainly” “the heavenly host.” (152-153)
11:16. Now, the twenty-four elders respond. These elders were first mentioned in 4:4. There is debate about the nature of the elders. I have discussed that issue elsewhere. I believe that they are angelic beings. Whatever their nature might be, they are persons of high position, occupying thrones in the very presence of God. At the announcement of the transfer of the kingdom of the world, the elders immediately worship God in a body position (on their faces) of humility, obedience, adoration, and subordination.
Metzger: It “startles us” that there are no dire events, but, instead, rejoicing. See Ladd’s comments in the introduction above.
11:17. I observe that in passages that depict worship in heaven the worship has verbal content that is deep and rich. (See, for example, Revelation 4:11, 5:9-10, and 5:12.) In the present passage, although I have labeled it as “worship,” it is a thanksgiving. The body position of the elders denotes worship, but they give thanks. It seems to me that thanks and praise—or worship—are very similar. Worship evaluates God and praise describes His glory. Thanksgiving announces God’s accomplishments with gratitude.
It might be argued that humans would be more likely to give thanks to God for His actions than angels, for humans are the direct recipients of the benefits of those actions. This would be an argument for the human nature of the elders. However, the angels are depicted consistently as being in harmony with God’s redemptive purposes. For example, see Isaiah 6, in which Isaiah had a vision of the Lord and the angels attending Him. The angels praise God’s holiness and the fact that the earth is filled with God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3). They also participate in the cleansing and atoning of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:6-7) and are present as God calls Isaiah into a prophetic ministry (entire chapter of Isaiah 6). See also John’s conversation with an angel in Revelation 22:8-9. The angel describes himself as “a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book.” The angels are not recipients of God’s redemptive work, but they joyfully serve God in His redemptive work. (See Luke 2:8-14.) So, the praise and thanksgiving that is expressed by the elders do not preclude their being angelic beings.
One translation of the first part of the verse would be: “We thank you Lord, the almighty God…” “Almighty” is an adjective in the “attributive” position—that position which most adjectives are in. In the phrase “the good boy,” “good” is an attributive adjective modifying “boy.” So, “almighty” is not a name for God (though it can be), but is a descriptor.
The next set of clauses give information about God’s past and present. The “is” is the present participle of the verb “to be.” The present tense is continuous, so God is ever “being” in the present. He also “was.” The “was” is the imperfect tense, which is past continuous: He “was being in the past.” So, the timeline of God’s existence is continuous.
The information to this point is descriptive of God: He is the Lord, the Almighty God, who has continuously existed. But now the reason for the thanksgiving is expressed. The elders thank God because He has exercised His power. The verbs are in two tenses. He “has taken” His power. This is perfect, which expresses a past action that results in a present state or condition. That is, at some time in the past, God took His power and that created results that affected the past and are still affecting the present (from the viewpoint of the scene). The second verb (“reigned,” in aorist) is a consequence of the first verb. So, God has taken His great power and this allowed Him to reign. Morris states that “God has decisively dethroned evil and entered on His reign.” (153) In a sense, this description begins a “flashback” to explain verse 15, in which the transfer of the kingdom of the world to God is announced. That began when God began to exercise His power. This enabled Him to reign. The consequences of that are described in verse 11:18.
In commenting on verses 11:16-17, Ladd observes that, though authority belongs to God, He has allowed Satan and those he inspires to have power and authority. God, at the consummation, has taken back His authority as He enters His triumphant reign. Jesus has sat on the throne since His ascension, but this is an “intermediary reign.” The 24 elders are celebrating the “visible establishment of God’s reign over all hostile powers.” This is possible because of the “present heavenly reign of Christ.” (162)
11:18. Notice that the scene of action is the earth. Though the trumpet is blown in heaven and the elders have thrones in heaven and though God sits on the throne in heaven, the concern is with the earth. The kingdom of the world has been transferred to God (verse 11:15). Now, the focus is on the nations of the world. We can infer that God’s taking His power and beginning to reign (verse 11:17) is something that takes place on earth. No longer is God the One who sits on the throne, but God is actively intruding into the affairs of people.
“The nations raged.” There are three Psalms that one thinks of as one reads this verse: Psalm 2, 46, and 110. The translations vary in use of words such as “rage.” But generally, the message is that the nations are angry, rebellious, and in foment. The following is a brief summary of each of these Psalms:
Psalm 2: The nations are described as in rebellion against God. God’s response is to set His king in position in Zion (Jerusalem). The kings of the earth are warned to serve this king or the Lord will destroy them. The King on Zion is blended with the Son: the kings are urged to “kiss the Son.”
Psalm 46: God is described as the refuge from the worst of disasters. The city of God is a place where God dwells and a place that He protects. The nations may rage, but the people of God are secure. God’s works include desolations and also the end of war. We are to be still and know that He is God and that He will be exalted among the nations.
Psalm 110: There are two Lords in this Psalm. The first says to the second: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” Though the second Lord (Messiah) has enemies, His people will be loyal to Him. The Lord declares the Messiah, who is a conquering King, also is to be a priest after the order of Melchizedek. The Lord will be victorious on “day of his wrath.” He will devastate His enemies and judge the earth.
So, in Revelation 11:18, the “nations raged” and the Lord God responded with wrath. (See Psalm 110.) Morris declares that God’s wrath is the “fitting reaction to the conduct of the nations.” (153) When God’s wrath came, it brought about the “time” for three actions of God:
- The judgment of the dead: The nations raged, but God is the judge of all the earth. God will have the final say in individuals’ lives, whether they be common people or kings. But more than this is being said. In direct response to the rage of the nations, God will put an end to the present order of existence and wrap things up. This mention of the judgment is a signal that the consummation of all things is at hand.
- The rewarding of His servants: Not only is there judgment, but there is also reward. God not only responds negatively to the sins of people. God also recognizes people for their faith in Jesus and for their faithful walk.
- The destruction of the destroyers of the earth: This is somewhat a duplication of what is implied in the “wrath” of God. Specifically, there is a response to the “destroyers.” No doubt environmentalists would be gratified by this statement. However, though the sins of being careless toward the environment—destruction of the quality of air, water, soil, and living things, such as the rain forests—may be implied by this phrase, I think it is referring to those who destroy the quality of human life. We could name not only those who destroy the material environment, but also those who destroy the social environment. This would include those who exploit women in sex slavery, who prey on the physically weak with violence, who create fear through terrorism, who perpetrate wars, who prey on poor people with harsh working conditions, who disrupt the economy through their own greed, and who through thousands of other acts make life on earth miserable for so many. The response of God is to destroy them.
Ladd summarizes these actions by stating that God’s wrath, in response to the raging nations, is necessary to establish His “gracious rule. (162) The coming of the Kingdom brings about the raising of the dead and judgment to determine who will enter the eternal Kingdom. (163) Rist relates “the nations raged” to 20:8-9, “their final onslaught.” They could not “withstand God’s wrath.” All that is described in these verses “is a preview…” The author of Revelation believes the events are so certain and near that he uses the past tense. Revelation is an “amplification” of the “two liturgical songs” in 11:15-18. (450-451)
11:19. The next event is that the Temple of God in heaven is opened. The chapter opens with the measuring of the “Temple” (11:1). The implication is that the Temple of verse 11:1 is on earth, whereas the Temple of 11:19 is in heaven. Cosmology, geography, and geometry in Revelation can be pretty confusing. Some of the questions that I would ask of this mention of the Temple are the following:
- What is the relationship of this Temple to the vision of heaven in chapters 4 and 5? In that vision, John saw a throne and the One who sits on that throne. He saw the various angelic beings who worship before that throne. He also saw the Lamb, who also is on the throne. Is this Temple at some distance from this throne?
- This Temple was opened, implying that it had been a closed building. This adds to the first question: how does this building relate to the rest of heaven?
- We think of the Temple of the Old Testament as the place where God meets with people. Yet this Temple is in heaven, so it does not seem to be a place where God meets with people.
- There are mentions of an altar in heaven—in Revelation 6:9, 8:3-5, 9:13, 11:1, 14:18, and 16:7. Is this altar in front of the Temple in heaven (as the altar of sacrifice was in front of the earthly Temple)? Or is it within the Temple as the altar of incense was within the earthly Temple?
We can reflect on Old Testament passages concerning the Temple and the Tabernacle. Moses was instructed by God in how to make the Tabernacle and all of its furnishings (Exodus 25). God gave Moses patterns to follow (Exodus 25:9 and 40; Hebrews 8:5). In fact this Tabernacle and the later Temple are said to be copies of what is in heaven (Hebrews 8:5). Then it seems that we can infer that the Temple or sanctuary in heaven that was opened is that Temple that served as a pattern for Moses to follow in building the Tabernacle. (See commentators statements below regarding the heavenly Ark as the pattern for the earthly Ark.)
In Hebrews 9:11-12 we learn that Christ, as the Great High Priest, “through the greater and more perfect tent [tabernacle] (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)… entered once for all into the holy places…by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” This achievement of Christ is contrasted with the discussion of the Old Testament Tabernacle and its rites. This discussion is in Hebrews 9:1-10. The following are highlights:
- The two sections of the Tabernacle, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place (or Holy of Holies) are described in Hebrews 9:1-5. Though ESV translates these as “sections,” they are called “tents” in Greek. Thus, the two rooms were thought of as separate tents.
- The activity in the Holy Place takes place “regularly.” (9:6) However, the high priest only enters the Most Holy Place once a year and “not without taking blood.” (9:7)
- “By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section [literally, “tent”] is still standing” (9:8).
With this background, then, the announcement is made, as it is quoted above from Hebrews 9:11-12. Considering then that in verse 9:11-12, Christ is said to have gone “through” the heavenly tent to the “holy places.” The “tent” would compare to the “first tent” or Holy Place of the Old Testament Tabernacle. The “holy places” corresponds to the “second tent” or Most Holy Place.
Returning to Revelation 11:19, we understand that the Temple of this verse is the “holy places” of Hebrews 9:12. We cannot be too concerned about how this corresponds to the rest of heaven. We should keep in mind that Revelation is not concerned to give us an exact picture of heaven, but, rather, to give us a picture of God’s relationship to people. When Christ entered into the “holy places,” He entered into the very presence of God. The Temple is opened to reveal the Ark of the Covenant. This is the heavenly Ark. We need to reflect on both the earthly, Old Testament Ark and heavenly Ark.
Rist and other commentators refer to the Jewish belief that the Ark had been hidden and that it would be revealed someday. (451) Morris notes that the last record of it is when Josiah told the Levites to put it into the Temple. (II Chronicles 35:3) (154) (NIVSB thinks that it had been removed to hide it from the evil kings Manasseh and Amon.) Jeremiah looked to the Messianic age (3:15-16) when the Ark will be obsolete. In light of this obsolescence, Morris says it is “curious” that a legend grew up that Jeremiah hid the Ark. “But the legend betokens an interest in the ark which we see also in the present passage.” (Morris, 154) Ladd states that the OT Ark was either taken by Shishak of Egypt (I Kings 14:25) or destroyed along with the Temple by the Babylonians. He refers to a legend that Jeremiah hid it on Mount Sinai and to a tradition that it would be restored when Messiah comes. (164)
So, what is this Ark of the Covenant? Is it simply the exact same as the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant? I infer that the heavenly Ark is the reality of which the ark of the wilderness tabernacle was a copy and a shadow (Hebrews 8:5). So, Rist says this Ark is “the heavenly archetype” (See also Morris, 154.). It symbolized God’s protection. He calls this vision a “theophany.” (451) (It does not quite fit the usual understanding of a theophany.)
Morris believes the vision of the heavenly Ark indicates the way into God’s presence “is open wide…” He cites Hebrew 10:19. “The covenant is eternal. God has worked out His purpose throughout history and now at the climax the symbol of His covenant faithfulness is publicly disclosed.” (154) Note that Morris does not distinguish Old and New Covenants.
Ladd mentions the rending of the Temple veil and explains its meaning to be “that now because of the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial rites in the death of Jesus, the presence of God was no longer limited to Israel but is open to all men (see Heb. 9:8; 10:20).” I do not quite agree with that assessment. I think the rending of the veil is a declaration of the “new and living way” into God’s presence (Hebrews 10:20) without reference to Israel or Gentiles. The fact is that the curtain or veil walled off Israel from God’s presence as much as it did Gentiles. Ladd goes on to observe that the new way to God is “a spiritual fact, not yet a visible reality.” Thus, the description in Revelation 11:19 is given as a “symbolic representation of the opening up of the presence of God in the eschatological consummation.” He refers to Revelation 21:3 (where it is stated that God dwells with people in the consummation) as the fulfillment of this. He maintains that 11:19 is a “proleptic vision.” His proof is that, in the vision of 11:19, the Temple is still in heaven. In the consummation there will be no need of a Temple. (163) He understands the vision of the Ark to symbolize that God will fulfill all of the covenant promises in the consummation. (164)
In fact, we are taught throughout the New Testament that a New Covenant is in place. See the following: Luke 22:20, I Corinthians 11:25, II Corinthians 3:6, Hebrews 8:8, 8:13, 9:15, 12:24. All of these are based on the prediction of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31ff. Is it reasonable to believe that this Ark in Revelation is a symbol of that New Covenant? I believe so. It strikes me that the commentators’ attention to the opening of the Temple may be misplaced. The Temple is opened in order to see the Ark. The emphasis is really on the Ark. I think this vision is a statement of the completion of the New Covenant by the Second Coming.
When the Temple of Heaven is opened and the Ark is revealed, there is a set of dramatic and cataclysmic natural phenomena—lightning, voices (ESV: “rumblings”), thunder, an earthquake, and hail. When the Lord met the people at Mount Sinai, there were similar phenomena. It terrified the people. (See Exodus 19-20.)
This set of phenomena is a regular occurrence in Revelation. The following are the occurrences:
- 4:5—John sees the throne of God and the phenomena come out of the throne.
- 8:5—The seventh seal is broken, and an angel throws coals from the altar onto the earth. This brings about the phenomena on earth.
- 11:19—The seventh trumpet sounds. The announcement of the coming of the Kingdom is made. The Temple is opened, and the Ark is revealed. Then, the phenomena take place.
- 16:18—The seventh bowl of wrath is poured out into the air (each of the bowls is poured upon a particular thing). A voice announces “It is done!” Then the phenomena take place.
To me, what is implied in these passages is the awesome presence of God. Rist calls these events the “usual phenomena” and says they were a sign of God’s coming display of power. (451) Morris declares that the revelation of the Ark as a symbol of God’s faithfulness, so the celestial phenomena are not surprising. (154) Ladd believes these phenomena express the “majesty and power” of the “divine presence.” (164) We are so used to going to church and “getting through” a service and no one gets hurt. In fact, if anyone gets too excited or if preaching gets too powerful or worship becomes too close to the real thing, then there is going to be trouble in that church. We have become so acclimated to a tame God and a tame religion that we cannot handle the reality of the living God. If we were to see the reality of the New Covenant—a new and living way into the very presence of God, mediated by the reality of the Holy Spirit—we would surely faint. It strikes me that these phenomena signal certain things:
- They first come from the throne. We are reminded of God’s great rule over all things.
- The connection between heaven and earth is observed: coals are poured out on the earth, the Ark of the Covenant between God and people is seen, etc.
- The Kingdom is announced, and the phenomena reverberate.
- The completion of God’s wrath is announced.
Although the phenomena begin in heaven, they come to earth. They are the signal that God is entering into the affairs of people and is going to bring about full redemption.
CONSIDERATION OF CHRONOLOGY
Revelation 11:15-19 completes the series of seven trumpets. There are two possible assumptions about how this passage fits into the chronology of Revelation. One is that all of the book is in chronological order. This means that chapter 12 and 13 will describe events that follow the events of chapter 11. This necessitates that the announcement of the transfer of the Kingdom is “proleptic,” anticipatory of later events. (Other interpretations might be possible, but this seems the most reasonable.)
Ladd agrees with this understanding. He points out that no woe came with the 7th trumpet. That woe “really consists of the seven bowls of 16:1-21.” He points out the literary parallelism in the book. There are six seals (with specific content) followed by an interlude. Then there follows the 7th seal with no content. Next there are six trumpets with specific content, then the seventh trumpet with no content. Thus, the seventh seal is fulfilled in the six trumpets, and the seventh trumpet is fulfilled in the seven bowls. (160) Morris draws a similar conclusion. He says we expected the “climactic judgment” with the 7th seal, but there was silence and then the 7 trumpets. We still “kept in suspense” with 7th trumpet. Just as the 7 seals led to 7 trumpets, the 7th trumpet leads into “the seven significant signs” (in chapters 12-14). (152)
The other assumption would be that this passage concludes the set of events that lead to the transfer of the Kingdom. Metzler observes that this passage has “all the appearance of the end of the age…” (71) However, one must deal the fact that we are only half way through the book. One explanation is that much of the second half of the book covers the same time period but from a different perspective. Metzler explains that the “author will now go back to an earlier stage and repeat some of the teachings that he had previously set before the reader.” The sequence in Revelation “does not allow us to turn the book…into an almanac or time chart of the last days.” (71) In the parlance of prophecy students, we could say that chapter 11 concludes a description of the Tribulation period—the seven year period before the Second Coming of Christ. This means that the events of the following chapters will cover the same time period, but from a different perspective. This is the viewpoint of Pentecost (187-188).
A more complete statement of Pentecost’s view is that the seven seals describe the first 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation period and the seven trumpets describe the second 3 1/2 years. I have stated my agreement with that view in previous articles, but I am coming to a different conclusion. I believe that the book of Revelation goes over similar time periods several times. I propose the following:
- The seven seals (6:1-8:5) parallel somewhat the outline of Jesus’ predictions in Matthew 24. They cover the entire church age up the Second Coming, which is anticipated in the sixth seal (6:12-17) and the interlude (7:1-17) and represented symbolically by the phenomena in the seventh seal (8:1-5).
- The seven trumpets (8:6-11:19) cover at least part of the Tribulation period, perhaps the latter part, and end with the Second Coming. The interlude describes conditions and events of the Tribulation period (10:1-14).
- Chapter 12 covers a wide range of time from the rebellion of Satan, through the birth of Christ, possibly to the beginning of the Tribulation period (13:1).
- Chapter 13 describes some of the events of the Tribulation period.
- Chapter 14 includes material relevant to the Tribulation period (14:6-13) and anticipates the Second Coming (14:14-20).
- The seven bowls (15:1-21) cover events of the Tribulation period, possibly at the end of that period. The sixth bowl anticipates Armageddon and the Second Coming (16:12-16). The seventh bowl probably represents the Second Coming (16:17-21).
- Chapters 17-18 and the first part of chapter 19 cover the destruction of Babylon, but first back up in time to describe Babylon’s role in the Tribulation period (chapter 17).
- The latter part of chapter 19 (19:11-21) describes the Second Coming explicitly.
- The material that starts with 20:1 seems to follow a sequence that culminates in the eternal Kingdom of God.
So, it seems that the “run up” to the Second Coming is covered again and again in various series, such as the seals and trumpets and bowls, and other material that is not arranged as neatly. One needs to keep in mind that the Second Coming is the end point in all the material from chapter 6 through chapter 19, but that end point is approached several times. In addition, one should keep in mind the Tribulation period, or Seventieth Week of Daniel as a framework for at least some of the material. It is a mistake to try to impose a chronological sequence from chapter 6 through 19. One should look for clues as to where any particular passage is in the chronology of the Tribulation period as the Second Coming is approached.
A couple of examples will illustrate this principle of interpretation.
- The fifth seal (6:9-11) seems to anticipate the Tribulation period, or least the latter part of it, since additional martyrs are anticipated (6:11). The sixth seal (6:12-17) seems to be very close to the end of the Tribulation period, since the “great day” of the wrath of God is anticipated (6:17).
- The two witnesses (11:3-12) seem to minister within the Tribulation period, since they are killed by the Antichrist/Beast (11:7).
- The two harvests (14:14-20) seem to describe the Second Coming. The first harvest is the harvest of the righteous, perhaps through the Resurrection/Rapture, and the second harvest is the harvest of wrath through the destruction of Christ’s enemies as detailed in 19:11-21.
- It is obvious that the description of the role of Babylon in the Tribulation period (chapter 17) parallels material in chapter 13. Chapter 13 focuses on the Antichrist/Beast and the false prophet, whereas chapter 17 focuses on Babylon.
If one simply assumes a chronological depiction of events through all of these chapters, I think a very confused interpretation will be the outcome. As I have said, the various passages provide clues, in most cases, about where on the timeline one can place the events being described.
With this in mind, I believe that the announcement of the coming of the Kingdom in 11:15 is a conclusion of the Tribulation period that has been at least partially described in the first six trumpets. The third woe is implied by the announcement of the coming of the wrath of God in 11:18 and perhaps also by the mention of the phenomena in 11:19. It is true that many details are yet to be fleshed out in the succeeding chapters. The significance of this conclusion has more to do with how one understands the chronological position of the material before 11:15. Thus, I think one should understand the events of the sixth trumpet judgment, in 9:13-21, to be late in the Tribulation period. One should also understand the death of the two witnesses (11:7) to be very close to the end of the Tribulation period. Then, with the sounding of the seventh trumpet, the Second Coming takes place.
Now, chapter 12 will begin a section that fills in many details and gives much background that helps us understand the last days more clearly.
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