Newell: Romans, Revelation
And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.Chapter 9: God’s Last Prophets: The Two Witnesses: Their Tremendous Task
And there was given me a reed like unto a rod; and one said, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. And the court which is without the temple leave without, and measure it not; for it hath been given unto the nations: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
The moment the words “the temple of God” are used, we know ourselves to be on Jewish ground. During the present dispensation Stephen definitely testifies that “the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands”; while Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 and Ephesians 2:1-22, and Peter likewise (1 Peter 2:5), that The Church is at present the temple or sanctuary of God; none other being recognized on earth.
We are reminded also in the opening of Revelation 11:1-19 that the only temple of Israel recognized by God is in their own land, in their appointed city Jerusalem. We must go thither for the interpretation of the remarkable passage which is now before us.
In accordance with this, let us conceive the Jews back in their land, and having built a temple unto their God, and that there are “worshippers” discerned by God, though not yet publicly recognized by Him. The “altar” is that for sacrifice, not for prayer.
This whole eleventh chapter of The Revelation is anticipative in character. Matters are set before us that must later on in Revelation find their delineation in detail. Other Scriptures, especially in the Old Testament, have abundantly prophesied a restoration or returning of the Jews to their land in unbelief, with not only a racial, but a national consciousness; and the construction of a temple such as John is told to measure here. The interpretation of The Revelation reasonably demands familiarity with God’s prior words. Such passages as Zephaniah 2:1-2; Isaiah 66:1-4; Isaiah 28:14-22 indicate what will be the moral and spiritual character of those who “gather themselves together” as a nation in the last days. [There are several distinct goings into the land of Canaan by Israel: first, under Joshua; second, under Zerubbabel and Joshua the High Priest (see Ezra); third, under permission of the Gentiles, “before the decree bring forth … the day of Jehovah’s anger come upon you” (Zephaniah 2:2). This returning we see before our eyes today, especially since the Balfour declaration of 1917. This movement will proceed until Jerusalem becomes, as we find it in Revelation 11:1-19, a “great city,” and Palestine, through human methods of irrigation and development has become prominent, especially financially so, among the nations. This will be the situation when the majority of Israel make their “covenant with death,” the treaty with the “Prince” of Daniel 9:27, and Isaiah 28:14-15. Having rejected Christ, the Jews will accept Antichrist (John 5:43). This situation will end, as we know, in Jerusalem being compassed by all nations to cut them off (Zechariah 14:1-21, Psalm 83:1-18, etc). It will be then that “the overflowing scourge shall pass through and tread them down” (Isaiah 28:1-29). The most of the Jewish nation will be slain. Fourth, that returning to Palestine described by the Lord when He says He will “set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, that shall remain, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea” (Isaiah 11:11). It is prophesied in other passages that Israel and Judah shall be one nation at last, without enmity as to God’s sovereign election of Judah as the royal tribe, and David’s seed as the royal house.
Christians, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”!
But that does not involve the Jews’ participation in the present movement (number three above). For Jews to gather back to Palestine now is to go back to a fearful program!]
In accordance with Israel’s “temple of God” being again recognized, the Gentiles immediately take their place without: so we read in Revelation 11:2,
And the court, which is without the temple leave without, and measure it not; for it hath been given to the nations: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. Now some may ask, “Are not the Gentiles at present treading down Jerusalem?” Certainly, according to Luke 21:24, Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. But take care! Jerusalem is not here in Luke called “the holy city.” On the contrary, our Lord left the temple in Matthew 23:38, with the words, “Your house is left unto you desolate.” Today, no one spot on earth is recognized as holy above another: “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek.”
But the Church age having ended (Revelation 4:1), and God having sent certain preliminary judgments (Revelation 6:1-17; Revelation 8:1-13; Revelation 9:1-21), with the result that men simply harden themselves against Him (Revelation 9:20-21), He now proceeds to final things. And in order to bring on “Jacob’s trouble,” He must recognize that nation upon whose blessing the whole world waits, namely, Israel (Romans 11:15; Deuteronomy 32:8); but whose terrible chastening must come before they become “a praise in the earth.”
We see, therefore, that the Gentiles in Revelation 11:2 have the “without” place, being subordinate to the national acceptance and restoration of Israel.
Next we notice the Gentile’s blindness, malignity and satanic inspiration in the words, “shall they tread under foot.” When Jewish times come on with God, a Gentile has no business in Jerusalem whatever, unless he comes as a humble worshipper of the God of Israel and in His prescribed way! Jerusalem is the city of the great King, and while it is at present unrecognized by God, yet the very expression, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down,” shows the abhorrence of God for the gross, hideous un-cleanness, godlessness and blindness of the Gentile. Read the account in Ezekiel’s last nine chapters of the millennial Jerusalem, or Zechariah’s closing verses, “In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, Holy unto Jehovah; and the pots in Jehovah’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holy unto Jehovah of hosts: … and in that day there shall be no more a Canaanite [The word “Canaanite” means “trafficker.” Thank God, the day will shortly come when one land will be entirely free from commercialism and “business”!] in the house of Jehovah of hosts!”
We must now notice the expression “forty-two months.” This we see is exactly equivalent to three years and a half, as it also Isaiah to 1260 days. This exact expression “forty-two months” is also used concerning the duration of the blasphemy and power of the wild beast of Revelation 13:5.
We should be familiar with the great prophecy (which is indeed the secret of God’s arrangements with Israel) in the ninth of Daniel, the seventy sevens. We know that one “seven” of years remains yet in the future, to pass upon Israel in their land and in their city, before the great six-fold eternal blessing of Daniel 9:24 comes to that nation. This time is spoken of in Daniel 12:7 as a “time, times (dual) and a half”-or three and one-half. This will be the time according to this Scripture when the Gentiles will conclude their “breaking in pieces the power of the holy people.”
It becomes important to consider carefully these two time-measures in Revelation 11:1-19, the forty-two months of verse 2 and the 1260 days of Revelation 11:3. Of course, these two periods are equal in duration, but the question is whether they cover the same span or are successive. However, before we can consider this question intelligently, we should read further on in our chapter.
And I will give unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two, hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two candlesticks, standing before the Lord of the earth. And if any man desireth to hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies; and if any man shall desire to hurt them, in this manner must he be killed. These have the power to shut the heaven, that it rain not during the days of their prophecy; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they shall desire.
Here we have the most astonishing task ever committed to men-God’s last two great prophets, His “witnesses,” before the earth is given over to Satan and to Antichrist.
Let it be at once observed, though it may not be pleasing, that the question is not who these witnesses are. If that had been important here, God would plainly have told us. Some would make them Enoch and Elijah; some Moses and Elijah. We know indeed that Elijah is coming before the great and terrible day of the Lord, from Malachi 4:1-6, and from our Lord’s words to the disciples descending from the transfiguration mount; but this at present should not occupy our vision, but on the contrary, the fearful realities before our eyes! Let us be concerned here with God’s words, not with our surmises.
Suddenly, in the “great city,” Jerusalem, now called according to Revelation 11:8, “spiritually … Sodom and Egypt,” two divinely sent messengers appear. Iniquity, pleasure-seeking, godlessness is rampant-what could the words “Sodom and Egypt” stand for, otherwise? The Jews, with untold millions of money will have built up a city where, according to verse 9, “peoples and tribes and tongues and nations” like very Babylon, are present. Yet those Jews will have built a temple in the name of Jehovah their God, although not really knowing Him,-and the majority of the nation will be ready to make a covenant with Antichrist!
The fact that today, in the midst of utter godlessness, Jewish synagogues as well as “Christian” cathedrals keep springing up, surely signifies that the building of a temple of God in a city that is spiritually called “Sodom and Egypt” is a possibility. The Lord Jesus even acknowledges the temple that old reprobate Herod, the Edomite, the Esau-man, had built (or so enlarged as practically to build), as His “Father’s house,” at the beginning of His ministry, and “My house” at the end; only finally He leaves it “desolate” in Matthew 23:1-39 when they had rejected Him officially.
In the midst of the gross darkness that is covering the earth and the peoples, before Jehovah has risen upon Israel (Isaiah 60:2), there is this temple; and doubtless to it will these two witnesses be sent, just as the Lord Jesus preached in the temple, and the apostles after Him, even Paul, did likewise,-though it was “desolate,” as regards God’s presence in it.
The newspapers and radios will one day be crowded full of this news: “Two prophets appear in Jerusalem clothed like Elijah of old in sackcloth and crying out that judgment is at hand!”
Day after day the excitement will increase as these witnesses give their testimony. And what will that testimony be?
1. They will say that the Lord Jesus Christ, who has been rejected, is the “Lord of all the earth.” They will say (as said Elijah of old, in sudden apparition, at the court of Ahab), “As Jehovah, the God of Israel, liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” We see from the last phrase of Revelation 11:18, that they are addressing those that “destroy the earth.”[“God is resuming again His place as Lord over the earth. The two witnesses render testimony to this Lordship-to the Lord over the earth; not to the Father, nor to the heavenly glory, nor to the Lord of Heaven” (Darby). It should be remembered that God had committed rule upon earth to Israel; they having wholly failed. He gave it to Nebuchadnezzar and the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles should be fulfilled. We are reading in Revelation 11:1-19 of the ending of Gentile times and the transferring again of the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). Israel must pass through the time of Jacob’s trouble, through The Great Tribulation; and the Son of David, who is now waiting at God’s right hand, must come to make Israel’s title and tenure good. It is a dreadful crisis which we are studying. Man, under Satan, has in every sphere of his being denied, and will to every possible limit, deny, God’s lordship of this earth. As concerning Christ, man has said, “This is the heir, come, let us kill him, and take his inheritance.” Men say in their hearts, “There is no God”; for they desire none. The absolute antipathy of this world for God-oh, it is wholly awful!]
2. They testify unsparingly of human wickedness to men’s very faces. You have probably never heard a preacher that told you to your face just how bad you were. I hope you have, but I doubt it. These witnesses will tell to the teeth of a horrid godlessness which is ready to worship the Devil, just what they are before God!
3. They will testify of the character of the judgments just past (chapters 6, 8 and 9) as having been directly from God, and warn of coming judgments infinitely more terrible. So did every prophet, and so will they.
4. They will decry the blasphemous claims the wild beast will shortly be making (chapter 13), that man is to be deified! They will denounce all the goodness of man as a lie!
5. They will testify that Jerusalem, although the holy city in God’s purposes, is spiritually “Sodom and Egypt,” and will announce coming judgments upon the city and people. They will tell the Jews that they “killed the Lord Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 2:15-16), and that He will yet be the King over all the earth.
Now such witnessing as this brings out men’s wickedness. People fairly rave to destroy these witnesses! Many evidently attempt it, just as two presumptuous bands approached Elijah in 2 Kings 1:1-18 to their destruction.
Divine authority of such character and world-wide extent as was never committed to men, is given these witnesses. Elijah indeed shut heaven to the whole earth for three years and six months so that it rained not. But now if any even desire to hurt these witnesses-“fire proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies.” Not only do they also shut heaven that it rain not during the days of their prophecy, but, like Moses, they turn the water into blood! They smite the earth with every plague as often as they shall desire.
We emphasize the view that not the identity of these witnesses, but the character and history of their testimony is what the Spirit of God brings out here. [It would be well to reflect, for example, regarding Enoch, that he trusted God’s Word that he would not see death. So he will not, we are sure, see that Word fail!]
Let us reflect upon the awful gap between this world and God, despite the “religious” forms we see about us. There is utter hatred of all that is really of God, and it is daily increasing. Hath not Judaism slain its thousands, and Romanism its tens of thousands, of God’s witnesses? Finally will be sent these two-the last prophets earth shall have from God!
And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that cometh up out of the abyss shall make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. And from among the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations do men look upon their dead bodies three days and a half, and suffer not their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. And they that dwell on the earth rejoice over them, and make merry; and they shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwell on the earth.
Let us note first of all that these witnesses will finish their testimony. Every one of God’s witnesses, every believer, is “immortal until his work is done.” No servants of God ever encountered such fearful opposition and utter odds as they, yet they finish their testimony. Satan can do nothing without divine permission.
Next we read words that transport us over into chapter 13 and into 17-of the Wild-beast [Greek, therion. This word is first used in Mark 1:13, when our Lord was with the “wild beasts” in the wilderness. Its meaning in Revelation may be seen from Revelation 6:8. The word indicates a beast of prey, of rapacity, of cunning, of unreasoning violence, acting according to its own cruel nature. It is God’s word for the last two great enemies of mankind as seen in chapter 13, and mentioned in Revelation 11:7 in anticipation.] that cometh out of the abyss.
This awful being, the last head of the Roman Empire revived, and Satan’s very counterpart of the risen Christ, will be given power at last over these mighty witnesses of God, to “make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them.”
Thus, before the eyes of deluded humanity, who have chosen falsehood, will be enacted a scene of apparent, complete victory of Satan’s Christ over God’s holy prophets.
As our Lord said, “It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.” It will be in the very city where, as we read in verse 8, “their Lord was crucified,” that these two mightiest of all God’s messengers among the sons of men will be ignominiously slain. (Their Lord also seemed in this same city to pass under utter eclipse- yea, and did so-when He died at the hands of sinful men.)
Now comes the real revelation of the heart of man: glee, horrid, insane, inhuman, hellish, ghoulish glee! There is actual delight at the death of God’s witnesses- utter unbounded delight! Newspapers have whole front pages of jubilation. Excursions are run into Jerusalem to see the unburied corpses of these prophets of God: peoples, tribes, tongues and nations look upon their bodies three days and a half, and suffer not their corpses [The singular number of ptoma is used first, to emphasize their condition,-“their wreck,” as a German commentator puts it; but the plural afterwards when their individual bodies are distinguished.] to be laid in a tomb.
These two witnesses, for 1260 days, in utter self-denial, clothed in the sackcloth of humiliation, lamentation, prayer, mourning and warning, had cried out on God’s behalf. Now the tables are turned, and “they that dwell on the earth rejoice over them, and make merry”! A regular Christmastime-of-Hell ensues: “They shall send gifts one to another.” (Do not believe for a moment, that the gift-giving of the world at the present “Christmas-tide” has the least thing to do with divine grace!)
Notice now the rush to Satan’s banner (the Beast), the moment he is allowed to kill God’s witnesses. There is no moral or spiritual restraint left-no qualm of conscience! You must learn to believe the worst about humanity, or join the Devil’s theology finally!
Now comes a change:
And after the three days and a half the breath of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them that beheld them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they went up into heaven in the cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
Like their Lord in suffering and shame, they are now made like Him in resurrection and exaltation. They go up to heaven in the cloud and (what was not true of Christ), their enemies behold them! Great fear has already fallen upon them that beheld them, with the breath of life from God in them, and standing upon their feet. Now that utter denial of heaven, which has even now begun to spread over the earth, and will increase to awful proportions in those days, is itself denied by the mounting up to heaven, in the sight of men, of these two witnesses! Christ’s resurrection comforted those who “saw him after he was risen”; the resurrection and ascension to heaven of these witnesses will verily terrify their foes! And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell; and there were killed in the earthquake seven thousand names of men; and the rest were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. Four things follow in that very hour:
1. A great earthquake: God “shakes like a hut” this whole guilty earth, as He did at the time our Lord Jesus was slain by men, in the same city, Jerusalem.
2. One-tenth of this “great” rebuilt Jerusalem falls. There is yet to come, under the seventh bowl of wrath (Revelation 16:18-20), the greatest earthquake that has ever been. Be it noted here however, that earthquakes are one of God’s judgments (Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:11). Five distinct ones are mentioned in The Revelation. Men have forgotten to fear the God who declares in Isaiah 2:20-21, “Men shall cast away their idols … go into the caverns of the rocks, and into the clefts of the ragged rocks, from before the terror of Jehovah, and from the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake mightily the earth.” What does the modern scientist know about earthquakes, after all his “investigation”? In the last great earthquake of Revelation 16:1-21, the cities of the Gentiles will fall. But do they believe it as they build their skyscrapers today?
3. Seven thousand are killed. When Elijah thought himself alone, God spoke of a remnant of seven thousand whom He had preserved. Here, however, matters are reversed. There is judgment-seven thousand are killed. We cannot avoid the belief that the number is significant. When Moses avenged the holiness of God upon the worshippers of the golden calf and the breaking of the law-three thousand were killed. When Peter preached the first sermon under grace-three thousand were saved. The form of expression in Revelation 11:1-19 is peculiar in the Greek: “names of men seven thousand.” Many have believed that this indicates prominent men. Seiss remarks, “They would not allow burial of the slain witnesses, and now they themselves are buried alive in the ruins of their own houses, and in hell forever.”
4. There is a general fright and a giving glory to the God of heaven. Let us notice at once that this is the only record of any public, human regard of God on earth, between the Church days in chapters 2 and 3, and the coming of Christ in the Day of Wrath and the setting up of the Millennium in 19. This is awfully significant! Notice further, that here in chapter 11, there is no ground to believe that it was a general, gracious operation. “There was the general effect of unrepentant religion-but the testimony not received-for that would have broken their wills. Fear acted on them externally to honor God formally, but only as One in heaven.” Again another writer calls attention to the demons confessing Christ’s deity, standing aghast at His approaching judgments, but showing not an element of change in their character: “When men have sinned their day of gracious visitation away; fighting, killing and glorying in the destruction of God’s prophets, they are not likely to be suddenly transformed into saints by the constraints and terrors of the day of doom, although obliged to confess that it is the invincible God of heaven that is dealing with them.”
The second Woe is past; behold the third Woe cometh quickly.
Thus ends the second Woe, an awful time indeed! Men smitten by every plague at the hands of two of their fellow men, whom they could not help but know were God’s own, direct witnesses. So we read, “the third Woe cometh quickly.”
This will be the handing over of all men to Satan, according to 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 -“because they received not … the truth.” It will be the awful story of Revelation 13:1-18 -which we must duly and solemnly study.
Meanwhile it may be well to resume the question of whether the forty-two months and 1260 days of this chapter run concurrently or are consecutive.
Let us observe that if the Beast kills the two witnesses at the end of the forty-two months of his career, it would be just at the time of our Lord’s second coming; for we read in Matthew 24:29-30 :
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
But here in Revelation 11:1-19 instead of the awful advent of the Lord from heaven “immediately” after the killing of these witnesses, we read of a hideous celebration of their death by the nations and tribes of earth. True, after three and one-half days, these witnesses are raised and taken back to heaven, but there is no hint that the advent of the Lord takes place “immediately” as Matthew 24:1-51 calls for, if this 1260 days be the last half of Daniel’s seventieth week.
We do not find either, in the account of the fearful history of the Beast in Revelation 13:1-18, which continues for “forty-two months,” any account of, or any place for, the prophesying of these two witnesses. For forty-two months “a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies” is given to the Beast to blaspheme God, His name, His tabernacle and them that dwell in heaven. Also “to make war with the saints, and to overcome them”; and to have “authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation. And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him”-save the elect (Revelation 13:5-8). Furthermore, the godly Israelites of those days were distinctly warned by the Lord to flee “the abomination that maketh desolate” (the person and image of the Beast in the temple of God).
The impression I feel very strongly from Revelation 11:7 is that it is at the beginning of the Beast’s successful blasphemous career, that he kills these two witnesses.
From the object of the prophesying of these two witnesses, we see also that there must be a preparatory work done in the heart of the Israelite of those days. The extent of Israel’s present blindness and alienation from Jehovah, and of her utter worldliness and commercialistic idolatry, is too vast and awful to be measured by us.
That these two witnesses have a ministry of judgment on the whole earth and to apostate Israel, as apostate, we see at once, but we must remember also two things: First, that they are the “two olive trees” which supply the oil of the Spirit by God’s grace and providence to that wretched, but true Israel, which really is the remnant. See Zechariah 4:2-3; Zechariah 4:6; Zechariah 4:11-14 (R. V.)-a wonderful passage! Second, that these two witnesses are “candle-sticks” as well as “olive trees” (Revelation 11:4). The Church will have gone to heaven. No one on earth yet has faith, although many have been sealed as the Lord’s. Luke 18:8 puts a question which must be answered in the negative: “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” After the Church is gone, the earth waits Israel’s conversion. We read in Isaiah 60:2 :
“For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples; but Jehovah will arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And nations shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.”
Now Israel will not themselves be converted until they see the “sign of the Son of man (that is, Himself) in heaven” according to Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 13:1.
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look unto me whom they have pierced. … In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.”
So that, all things considered, I am compelled to believe that the two witnesses will prophesy during the first half of Daniel’s seventieth week. Their witnessing will lay the foundation of the fear of Jehovah in the remnant (although Jehovah will not be known, nor reveal Himself, until the end of the week, as the One “whom they have pierced”).
The Days of the Voice of the Seventh Angel
And the seventh angel sounded; and there followed great voices in heaven, and they said, The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
And the four and twenty elders, who sit before God on their thrones, fell upon their faces and worshipped God, saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who art and who wast; because thou hast taken thy great power, and didst reign.
And the nations were wroth, and thy wrath came, and the time of the dead to be judged, and the time to give their reward to thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear thy name, the small and the great: and to destroy them that destroy the earth.
Although this passage seems so simple and plain, yet for three reasons we should mark it closely.
1. It marks a crisis in God’s dealings which must be fully understood and remembered as we proceed in this great book.
2. It gives God’s own outline of the events that follow, so that we know the things He Himself emphasizes.
3. Preliminary meditation upon these themes (especially divine wrath, the rage of the nations and the “taking” by God of His own great power), will clear our minds in these days of Satanic fog, to understand the delineation in the succeeding chapters of the matters given in outline in our passage.
Our lesson extends to “the destroying of them that are destroying the earth,” therefore it includes the overthrow of the Beast and his armies at the end of chapter 19 and the destruction of Gog and Magog at the end of the Millennium in chapter 20; and, inasmuch as it covers the time of the dead to be judged, spans the great white throne judgment itself. The seventh angel’s trumpet therefore, brings us to the portals of the New Creation-to chapter 21.
We need to notice at once that the voices in heaven, and the twenty-four elders, celebrate the great events both in realization and in anticipation: in realization, because, at the seventh angel’s sounding, God’s whole administrative attitude changes, from hidden, to openly exercised, authority; in anticipation, because the actual subjugation of the enemies is yet to be accomplished.
The “great voices in heaven” said, “The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ.”
Note the word kingdom here, not “kingdoms,” as in the King James Version.
The verse means that the whole dominion of the world has, at the sounding of the seventh angel, become God’s in actuality; that is, in the exercise of the power He always has had. Hitherto, in the divine program, it has not been fitting to pull the lever releasing the resistless flood of kingly energy. The sealed book was given to Christ in chapter 5 with the acclamation of the universe. The succeeding chapters (6-9), showed certain visitations of divine displeasure, but God’s Christ remained in heaven, the souls under the altar are commanded to wait. Men, meanwhile, repented not. Then the angel of chapter 10 most solemnly announces that “in the days of the voice of the seventh angel” God will finish His mystery and will reveal all His authority, according to all that the prophets foretold.
When for example, Israel compassed the walls of Jericho, blowing warning ram’s horns each day, there was a moment on the seventh day, when they had compassed the city the seventh time, that there came a long blast from the ram’s horn, and God said “shout,” and the walls fell flat. This may serve as an illustration of God’s ways, both in judgment and in training His people.
Until the sounding of the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15), what all heaven with holy eagerness had long looked forward to, had not been done-the taking of His great power by the blessed and only Potentate.
And now hear in exultant acclamation: “The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ: and he shall reign unto the ages of the ages”!
We all have seen the celebration of a successful political party after an election. The “campaign” is over; the stress and struggle, the, at times apparently, doubtful issue; the intense devotion to the candidate for office; and now the battle is won, jubilation fills the air! Relief in victory and hope of the future, fill men’s very hearts!
So, when at last “delay” is over, and the long, long ages of conflict between light and darkness are about to end, heaven with great voices of utter delight bursts forth into celebration!
We do not well, unless we also enter into the very spirit of this rejoicing. Our Lord taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.” All the hosts of heaven are waiting today the sounding of this seventh trumpet, with an eagerness of desire and a holy consuming longing we can hardly imagine. In utter, absolute devotedness to their God and to His blessed government and purposes, they have served through these ages since rebellion began in heaven, with jealous hope, every day, every hour, every moment, looking for the coming of the day when God will take over the government of this rebellious earth-take it over in power; Take His Great Power and Reign. The prophetic account of that glad day is given us, that we may join by faith in the scene that shall “soon come to pass,” and may rejoice with those that shall rejoice, in that blessed consummation!
Notice, first, that the elders, themselves already crowned, cannot therewith be content till God takes His great power, and exercises it. Rapture and worship then thrill them!
Again, they address God in His full revealed name as “Adonai-Elohim-Shaddai, who art and who wast,” no longer adding, “who is to come”! This act of taking His great power and reigning, has ended the long night of mystery, where, amid great trials, faith held fast to “who art to come.” Now it is in manifestation, heaven has stepped into a new stage of blessing! Our God, who is and who was, is reigning at last! He has taken His great power.
Once again, note that the words “didst reign,” show how definite, in the view of these elders, is that act of God by which He lays aside all obscure providential government to assume His royal prerogatives. The construction is remarkable: “Thou hast taken thy great power, and didst reign.”
Let us now study humbly the five-fold results of God’s “taking” His power.
1. “The nations were wroth.” The anger of earth at heaven’s beginning royal interruption is unbounded. It is a great subject of prophecy-”why do the nations rage?” (Psalm 2:1-12; Psalm 83:1-18; Joel 3:9-13; Zechariah 14:2-4).
The hatred of fallen man against divine control began with Cain, in Genesis 4:1-26. Though a murderer, he utterly resented Jehovah’s interference. Saul pursues David, God’s elect king, like a partridge in the mountains. Absalom will be a patricide, ere he will submit. Ahab and Jezebel hunt Elijah in every kingdom on earth, once the prophet takes control of the elements! Why did Israel slay the prophets of the Lord? Only because they asserted Jehovah’s authority! Nebuchadnezzar is full of fury against Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, if they dare disobey his blasphemous decree. Haman would have not only Mordecai, but all the Jews, killed, to appease his wounded vanity: for Mordecai “bowed not down.”
The Jews spit in the face of the Lord Jesus saying, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” When it reaches Nero’s ears that Paul preaches “another king, one Jesus,” he must have him back to a second imprisonment at Rome and cut off his head. Look at the bloodstained path over which the martyr-saints have come, who dared claim rights for God and His Son in this world! Today men will tolerate a preacher if he lets them alone. They can even patronize a preacher who does not touch their wills. Religion is decent, but surrender to God is intolerable to the nations of this world.
Now, in our lesson, when God ends all this time of long-suffering, and steps out, claiming in power that obedience to Him upon earth that is due Him from all His creatures, humanity will be found a hotbed of rebellion. It will be like striking a vast hornet’s nest!
Do you know that it is a public scandal in this universe-the history of this world? Men have so long been let alone, or visited by only occasional displays of divine power, that there is “no fear of God before their eyes.” Look today at Russia, the anti-God nation. But the denial of God in Russia is but a hint of what all nations will shortly display, as we shall find in Revelation 13:1-18. When man’s long carnival and carousal of selfishness is confronted by a will that is resistless, so that nations must bow to it or be stricken off the earth-then shall we see the events that lead to “the war of the great day of God, the Almighty”; and to the thousand years of iron-rod rule so lightly called “the Millennium,” even by unconverted people today. It will be a time when this earth will obey the will of another than themselves!
2. “And thy wrath came.”
God’s wrath has been postponed so long that men deny altogether a God capable of anger and vengeance. Paul disposes of this in one searching question: “Is God unrighteous who visiteth with wrath? Be it not! for then how shall God judge the world?” (Romans 3:5-6). God is Love; but God also is Light; and He hates sin with all the infinite eternal abhorrence of His infinitely holy being and nature! And He has already “appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). “Unto them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish.” [Note the fearful progress in these words: wrath-stored up but possibly appeasable; indignation-more personal, at sin persisted in; tribulation-the attack, finally, upon the impenitent, of poured-forth fury; anguish-the eternal, terrible effect!]
Perhaps the truest test of a doctrine, next to the reason why Christ shed His blood (and directly connected therewith), is, does it set forth a God capable of hatred of sin as sin (not merely for its disastrous effects upon creatures), and capable of visiting personal and eternal wrath upon those who choose sin as their way, who “loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil”?
We speak of this, because we must get ready, now, if we are to go on with The Revelation, to hear and believe the facts regarding the wrath of God. The “God” of Modernism, Universalism, Russellism, Spiritism, Christian Science, in short, the “God” the world dreams of, does not exist. The “god of this age” is Satan. He has blinded the minds of them that believe not. Men are in a fool’s paradise who prate of the God of the Bible not being such a one as will punish sin! Wrath is indeed waiting, in this day of grace, but “Thy wrath came” will shortly be fulfilled.
3. “And the time of the dead to be judged.”
The “coming” of divine wrath involves that measuring out to each (unsaved) creature, that recompense due, in view of light had, and attitude and deeds. This is called judgment. Only the unbelieving will be judged, as we see in John 5:24, R. V., and John 3:18. Thus only the lost are in view in the words, “the time of the dead to be judged.” For the sin question, for believers, was brought up at the cross of Calvary; and a judgment day was held there, with all the infinite demands of God’s justice against sin fully allowed, and fully and forever met! He “shall appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for him, unto salvation.”
“Payment God will not twice demand-
First, at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
And then again at mine!”
4. “And the time to give their reward.”
This seventh trumpet ushers in the glad day of rewards!
“To thy servants the prophets.” The prophets are first; and do we wonder? The prophets of God were first in time, and peculiar in duty and suffering.
The word “prophet” means, one who speaks for another (Exodus 4:15-16 illustrates it). These Old Testament men of God gave out God’s message to their fellows at all and any cost! Only read such experiences as fell to the lot of Elijah, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hosea and Amos [Read, if you would walk with a prophet, Jeremiah 1:4-10 -his commission; his sorrow over sinning Israel in Jeremiah 4:19-22; Jeremiah 8:18-22; Jeremiah 9:1; Jeremiah 9:2; Jeremiah 9:10; and the whole book of Lamentations; his terrible loneliness, Jeremiah 15:10; Jeremiah 20:7-8; his burden to speak his God’s message despite all, Jeremiah 20:9; Jeremiah 10:19-22; his persecution and suffering, 38:1-13. Hath not God all these things in His heart marvelously to repay? The prophets are peculiarly dear-all of them, to their God. All heaven values and remembers them, though earth hated and killed them. Blessed coming day-wait for it!] Shall they not be rewarded? They shall, and first.
“And to the saints.” Probably all the saints of God are here included. The rapture of the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:1-18) occurs, we believe, at Revelation 4:1. We know that Paul, Moses, David and Abraham are all looking to a “day” of rewards. That day has not come yet, though they have been eagerly awaiting it for centuries. Rewards are connected with the kingdom, as Paul shows in 2 Timothy 4:18. We know “the day of Christ” is connected with the rapture; “the day of the Lord” with The Revelation. But let us reflect that the seventh angel sounds at least three and one-half years before the revelation of Christ with His saints, as in Revelation 19:11-16. The seventh angel sounds before The Great Tribulation, into which the Church does not go. But we feel that God, dealing as He does according to works in the matter of rewards and only by grace in the matter of salvation, justly postpones giving these rewards unto this time-giving the prophets precedence, then all those called “saints” (as having separating light and privilege); and then,
“And to them that fear thy name, the small and the great.” Here are those (like the “righteous” ones of Matthew 25:37-39), who did not have much light, but yet “feared the Lord.”
It is a comfort to the heart, here, also, to find the “small” named before the “great”: (contrast the judgment of Revelation 20:12, where the order is natural, not gracious).
5. “And to destroy them that destroy the earth.”
The seventh angel’s trumpet does not say that all these things have been brought to pass; nor (as do the prophets) merely that they shall come to pass; but, as Alford says, “the hour is come for it all to take place.”
Man, since the Fall, has been a destroyer of God’s earth. “Destruction and misery are in their ways.” It is said there were nine Troys; Homer’s Troy is the second, built on the ruins of the first!
Also, man has appropriated all those inventions of “science” which he can to selfishness, and especially to war. The time will strike to stop all this. The destroyers shall be destroyed. “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea”-that is, resistlessly!
The Heavenly Temple and Ark: The Faithful God.
And there was opened the temple of God that is in heaven; and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant; and there followed lightnings, and voices, and thunders, and an earthquake, and great hail.
This passage, if simply believed, becomes a key to seven chapters,- Revelation 10:1-11; Revelation 11:1-19; Revelation 12:1-17; Revelation 13:1-18; Revelation 14:1-20; Revelation 15:1-8; Revelation 16:1-21.
1. There is a literal temple in heaven. The one on earth was a pattern of the things in heaven (Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:22). [Moses made a pattern of the things in the heavens-“the heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:24). If there were no sanctuary, no ark, literally, in heaven, of what did Moses make a pattern? And what mean such words as Revelation 11:19 : “There was opened the temple of God that is in heaven”? That there will be no temple in the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21:22) is just as much to be expected as that there will be a temple, or formal worship, for others than the Bride, (the wife of the Lamb). “And there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant.” If these are “symbolical,” symbolical of what? I have sometimes been asked “What became of the ark of the covenant when the temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar? It surely must be preserved somewhere.” Human thoughts are surely not God’s thoughts, for He distinctly tells us (Jeremiah 3:16) that in the future kingdom the ark shall not be remembered nor come into mind. Of course, the Apocrypha must have Jeremiah running and hiding that ark! (2Ma 2:1; 2Ma 2:8). Why is it that the very folks who thus inquire beyond what is written, concerning the temple of old, are filled with doubt concerning what plainly is written of the temple in heaven?]
2. The real “ark of his covenant” which declares His purposes and His faithfulness, is there.
3. This ark’s pattern was given to Israel, not to the Church: the Church does not have to do with earthly temple-worship, nor with those governmental affairs of earth with which God has connected Israel.
4. The ark of Israel’s temple disappeared (for it was all typical of things to come); but when God begins again to deal with Israel and those governmental affairs with which Israel is bound up, the real ark appears in the opened temple on high.
5. The ark of old was the place of God’s dwelling, in the Holy of Holies, with His people. But here we see the ark connected with the putting forth of judgment, - lightnings, thunders, an earthquake. For God had said to Moses, when He renewed His covenant with Israel, after the great breach, of the calf-worship, that He would do thus: “Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people (Israel) I will do marvels, such as have not been wrought in all the earth, nor in any nation … for it is a terrible thing that I do with thee.” “In the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them” (Exodus 34:10; Exodus 32:34). God is here in this part of The Revelation, showing that He mill do as He has said: therefore is His temple in heaven opened, and the ark-symbol of His covenant-keeping, seen.
6. This judgment-action of God will involve all the earth: for Israel are to be established as God’s elect royal nation,-but punished first. And all nations will be brought up against Jerusalem to battle, at Armageddon.
7. Therefore, Revelation 11:19; Revelation 15:5-8 become luminous: God is acting in judgment, from His temple in heaven, and according to His covenanted arrangements, to restore the Kingdom to Israel, albeit by means so severe as to be bitter, indeed, for the Seer, who loved his nation, to know.
But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.
And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.
And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.
And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.