Sermon: The Kingdom Of This World Will Become The Kingdom Of Christ: Revelation 11:15-19

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 2 

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’ I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2, ESV).

Sermon Text: Revelation 11:15-19

“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.’ And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, 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. 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.’ 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” (Revelation 11:15–19, ESV).

Introduction

I wrote a little poem to summarize this passage. It goes like this:

The book of Revelation has done it again.
It has taken us to the time of the end.

When the first six trumpets did resound,
they revealed how things would be in the hear and the now.

But when the seventh trumpet by us was heard,
it showed how things will be after Christ’s return.

And what a marvelous sight to behold!
All things belong to Christ, his people are safely home!

While the angels and saints rejoice on that day,
the wicked do wish they could run away.

For it is then the wrath of the Lamb will come.
The nations raged! But now is the time for the dead to be judged.

Then the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of Christ.
No more sin, nor suffering, even death will be silenced!

Oh Christian, take comfort in these God inspired words.
May they move you to have Christ as Lord, today, and until he returns.

As I began to prepare for this sermon it dawned on me that you might have forgotten that we were still in the trumpet cycle.

Thumb back to Revelation 8:6. It is here that the trumpet cycle begins. We read, “Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them” (Revelation 8:6, ESV). The first trumpet was blown in 8:7; the second in 8:8; the third in 8:10; an the fourth in 8:12. And then in 8:13 we read these words: “Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, ‘Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!” (Revelation 8:13, ESV). Here we were warned that the remaining three trumpets – trumpets five, six, and seven, would be particularly significant and filled with “woe”, or sorrow, for the earth dweller, which is one of the ways that the book of Revelation refers to those not in Christ. It was in 9:1 that the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and it was in 9:13 that the sixth angel blew his. With each of these trumpet blasts something was revealed to us concerning the judgments of God that would be poured out upon the ungodly throughout the church age.

Then we came to the interlude of chapters 10 and 11. Five sermons were devoted to these two chapters. Also, there were three other sermons delivered by other preachers in that time. So about two months have passed since you have heard anything about the trumpet cycle.

Remember that the interlude, particularly chapter 11, gave attention to the question, how will it be for the people of God as they live upon the earth in the midst of a wicked world upon which the judgments of God are being poured out? And the answer given was that though the people of God be trampled under foot, God will ultimately protect, preserve, and vindicate his faithful witnesses.

And remember that near to the end of chapter 11 we were given a glimpse of the beginning of the end when Christ returns to rescue his intensely persecuted bride and to judge the wicked. 11:12:  “Then they [the two witnesses] heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here!’ And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven” (Revelation 11:12–13, ESV). Here we have a description of something that will happen when the Lord returns: his bride will be rescued through rapture, and those found assaulting his bride will take it in the teeth.

Friends, notice that with the sounding of the seventh trumpet here in verse 15 the scene shifts geographically from earth to heaven, and also temporally from the moment of Christ’s returns to a description of the state of affairs brought about by his return.

The relationship between 11:12-13 and 11:15-19 can be compared to the relationship between the story of the allied troops storming the beaches at Normandy and the account of their taking Normandy. Really it is one event accomplished in two stages. So it will be with the return of Christ. It will be one event with many stages. 11:12-13 describes Christ’s return to rescue his severely persecuted church on earth. 11:15-19 describes the occupation of the kingdom of Christ.

The important thing to notice is that the seventh trumpet takes us to other side of Christ’s return and to a time beyond the age in which we now live. Notice five things that will happen on that day the day.

The Kingdom Of The World Will Become The Kingdom Of Christ

One, notice that it is on that day the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of Christ.

Look at verse 15. When the seventh angel blew his trumpet “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’” (Revelation 11:15, ESV).

Something very significant will happen on that day. The kingdom of this world  – those kingdoms which oppose the rule of Christ and seek to establish their own rule independent of him – will be no more. Only the kingdom of our Lord and of Christ will remain. Everything will belong to him. Everyone will worship and serve him. On that day he will begin to rule without challenge or rival.

Now it is true that our Lord reigns supreme even now. He is sovereign over all things. He is Lord Most High. No one and no thing is able to thwart his purposes. But according to his infinite wisdom he has decreed that for a time there exist a kingdom that is rival to his – a kingdom of darkness – a kingdom, not of heaven, but of the earth. This he has permitted according to his wisdom in order to bring about his ultimate purposes.

Also, it is also true that the kingdom of heaven has already broken in upon us. It arrived with Spirit wrought power at the first coming of Christ. “Behold the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”, was the proclamation of John the Baptist and of Christ himself. Indeed, when Christ rose from the dead he rose in power and ascended to the right hand of the Father where he rules and reigns over his kingdom even now with all authority having been given unto him.

And so the current situation is this: The kingdom of Christ has begun. It has broken in upon us. It has intruded into human history. We feel power of it. Indeed, we are in it, if we are in Christ by the Spirit, confessing him as Lord. But we know that the kingdom is not here in its full and consummate glory. Why? Because there still exists a rival kingdom in the world today! Many stubbornly refuse to bow the knee to Christ. Many do not confess him as Lord. Many are the citizens of the kingdom of this world who oppose Christ’s rule, submitting instead to the rule of another king. So as you can see there are two kingdoms present in the world today. There is the kingdom of the world, which is the kingdom of darkness, who has the evil one for a king. And there is the kingdom of heaven, also called the kingdom of God and of his Christ. These two are opposed to one another. All who live upon the earth are in fact in one kingdom or another. Either Christ is your king, or the evil one is. Christ said, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30, ESV). And listen to the way that Paul describes our salvation in Colossians 1:13. He describes it as having been “delivered… from the domain of darkness and transferred… to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13, ESV). This is, in part, what it means to be saved. It is to be delivered from one domain, or kingdom, to another – from the domain of darkness to the domain of Christ. Those who do not have Jesus as Lord believe themselves to be free – independent from any outside rule. They are badly mistaken. For the scriptures teach that you are either a bondservant of Christ or that you are in bondage to another. Satan is cruel taskmaster, my friends. He is liar and a deceiver. His end is death and destruction. He is bent on taking as many with him as possible.

But here is the thing to recognize. There are two kingdoms present in the world today. The kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of darkness. Christ’s kingdom is here. It is present wherever the church is. It is present wherever men and woman are found who have Christ as Lord. But it is not here in its full and final form. This is why as citizens of this inaugurated kingdom we are taught to pray for its consummation, saying, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9–10, ESV).

Hebrews 10:12-13 sums it up: “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (Hebrews 10:12–13, ESV). This one verse says it all. Christ began to reign over his kingdom upon his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of God. But while he rules there he is also waiting there. Waiting until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.

This is the thing that Revelation 11:15 describes. It is describes the day when the enemies of Christ will be made a footstool for his feet. On that day the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. All will be Christ’s kingdom. No rival power will remain. This is why

Notice that this is not the half-baked earthly, and sin prone millennial kingdom of the dispensational pre-millennialists, but it is the full and final kingdom of our Lord. Our God and his Christ are Lord over all in this kingdom, and the text says that “he shall reign [in this kingdom] forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15, ESV).  It is a myth that Christ will in the future establish some new, earthly, and sin prone kingdom that will come to end after 1,000 years being brought to and end by a great rebellion (second fall, I guess). That view is unbiblical and it come from a misreading of the scriptures. In particular it arises when men assume that the book of Revelation is mainly about our future, that it is to be interpreted literally whenever possible (whenever the want), and that the order of the book of Revelation corresponds to the order of events in human history. I’ve shown that all three of these assumptions are false in past sermons. Know that it is this flawed method of interpretation that produces pre-millennialism.

The coming of the Christ was promised in the Old Covenant. He was born when the fullness of time had come. He lived, died, and was buried, and on the third day he rose from the grave, the New Covenant being ratified in his blood. He ascended to the right hand of God where he rules and reigns, all authority having been given unto him in heaven and on earth. We his people in this world, members of the New Covenant, citizens of his kingdom, enduring difficulty, and awaiting his return. When he returns everything will be his kingdom forever and ever. It is the final state.

Revelation 11:15 describes the beginning of Christ’s eternal kingdom. This is a description of the new heavens and the new earth where all is placed fully under the authority of Christ, with no rival, for on that day his enemies will be fully and finally judged .

The praise that is heard from the lips of the angels confirms it. Verse 16: “And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, 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” (Revelation 11:16–17, ESV). On that day the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.

The Dead Will Be Judged

Two, notice that it is on that day that the dead will be judged.

Look at verse 18: “The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged…” (Revelation 11:18a, ESV).

Surely the phrase “the nations raged” is meant to remind us of Psalm 2. The prophesies of Psalm 2 will be filled most fully when on the day when Christ returns.

Indeed in this present evil age “the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us’” (Psalm 2:2–3, ESV). And even now “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision” (Psalm 2:4, ESV). And indeed the Lord has already “set [his] King on Zion, [his] holy hill” (Psalm 2:6, ESV). This has happened in the heavenly places (read Revelation and Hebrews). But Revelation 11:15ff. is showing us something of the day on which “the nations [will become the]… heritage [of the Christ], and the ends of the earth [his] possession. [He] shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:7–9, ESV). Therefore, the peoples of the earth are appropriately warned concerning that day. The Psalm says,  “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:10–12, ESV).

Psalm 2 warns of the final judgment and urges men and women to live accordingly, taking refuge in Christ. When John in Revelation 11:18, says, “the nations raged”, he is summoning Psalm 2, as if to say, these two texts are talking about the same event, they are both about the final judgment.

In Revelation 11 the final judgment is mentioned only briefly. In Revelation 20:11-13 we find a more detailed description of the final judgment. John writes,

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:11–13, ESV).

What Revelation 20:11-13 describes in some detail, Revelation 11:18 mentions only in passing.

For now simply notice that the beginning of Christ’s consummate reign and the day of judgment coincide. It will be on that day, when the Lord returns and begins to reign, that the dead will be judged according to what they had done.

Those Who Belong To Christ Will Be Rewarded

Three, notice it is on that day that those who belong to Christ will be rewarded.

Verse 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…” (Revelation 11:18, ESV).

Did you know that Christians will be judged too?

They will not be judged in the same way that those not in Christ are judged. They will not stand before the great white throne of Revelation 20 to be judged according to what they had done. That judgment can only lead to damnation, for who could possibly stand though that judgment. No, the one trusting in Christ has their sins covered by Christ’s blood. He paid for their sins, and he has given them his righteousness. You, if you are trusting in Christ, will not be amongst the dead who are raised to stand before the great white throne to be judged there for you will already be alive in Christ. Your name is in the book of life!

Indeed, we should be comforted by the fact that we will not have to stand before the great white throne to judged unto damnation. Indeed we should rejoice that we will not be judged concerning whether we will go to eternal life or eternal death based upon what we have done in this life – none will stand! But I do believe that we should talk more about the judgment of Christians unto rewards. For it is a kind of judgment, isn’t it? For how can you possibly reward someone without making a judgment concerning their work?

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that we will in any way contribute to our salvation. I am not saying that our obedience in this life will have anything to do with our eternal destiny. All of that comes down to the question, are you trusting in yourself or in Christ, in his righteousness, or your own?

But I am desiring to make this point: Christians will give an account. We will stand before God our Father and give an account for the deeds done in the flesh. This will be a Fatherly judgment, not unto condemnation (for there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), but a judgment unto rewards, or the lack therefore.

This seems to be what Paul had in mind when he wrote these words to Corinthians:

“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:10–15, ESV).

Friends, do not be one of these. Do not be the Christian who, though his faith be sincere and saving faith, his life be devoted to kings of little eternal value. Brothers and sisters, “do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19–20, ESV).

The Destroyers Of The Earth Will Be Destroyed

Four, notice that it is on that day that destroyers of the earth will be destroyed.

Look at the last line part of verse 18: “…and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” (Revelation 11:18, ESV).

Who are the “destroyers of the earth”? When we take into consideration the way that this phrase is used in the prophets, especially in Jeremiah and Daniel, and when we take into consideration what is depicted in the rest of the book of Revelation, we must come to the conclusion that the “destroyers of the earth” are the dragon, the beast, the false prophet and the harlot along with all of the men and women who follow them and do their bidding, but particularly the wicked kingdoms of this world. On that day God will destroy the destroyers. God’s wrath we be poured out upon those who lead astray the people and now are destroyed themselves.

The People Of God Will Enjoy The Fulness Of His Presence Forevermore 

Five, notice that it is on that day that the people of God will enjoy the fulness of his presence forevermore.

Look at verse 19: “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” (Revelation 11:19, ESV).

The temple symbolizes God’s presence with his people. The ark of the covenant also symbolizes God’s presence with his people, particularly his covenantal faithfulness. This vision concludes with John seeing the temple opened before him and the ark of the covenant revealed. The meaning is clear. God is with his people now, and his presence will be enjoyed in a most immediate way on that last day.

Notice that John also saw “flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail” (Revelation 11:19, ESV). This scene appears repeatedly in the book of Revelation whenever the final judgment is in view. God will be comfort his people with his presence on that day, but he will judge his enemies.

Remember the Jericho story that stands behind the image of the seven trumpets? For seven days the people of Israel were to march around Jericho and seven priests were to blow seven trumpets and the walls of the city would fall flat and the city conquered. Here I simply wish to remind you of the central place the ark of the covenant played in that event. It was forever in the midst of God’s people – a comfort to them as a symbol of his presence and covenantal faithfulness, and a threat to the enemies of God.

Application

Let us take some time to apply these truths before we conclude.

The first point application is theological. I wonder if your eschatology is biblically sound. Does your view of the end square with what this passage teaches? I’m afraid that many in our day hold to a view that cannot square with it. Theirs are the infinitely complex charts that insert gaps of time in between the many things that are to happen on that last day. The scriptures teach that the last day will be a full day. On that day the Lord will return to raise the dead in Christ and to rescue through rapture those who are alive on earth enduring persecution. On that day the Lord will pour out his wrath upon the persecutors living upon the earth. On that day the dead will be raised and judged, and those in Christ will be rewarded. On that day the destroyers of the earth will be destroyed, On that day the kingdom of the earth will become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ. On tat day all will be come temple. The last day will be a full day. The pre-tribulational pre-millennialists are wrong to take these individual events and to spread them out over 1,007 years. Theirs is an umbilical system thrust upon the text of scripture, and often found crammed into the gaps. I’m urging you to abandon it if you have not already and to adopt instead the Amillennial position which I am in the process of the describing to you.

Secondly, in light of the final judgment I ask, have you taken refuge in Christ? On that last day you will stand clothed either in your own garb, or in the garb of Christ. Your garb and mine is filthy and sin stained. Christ’s garb is radiant white. Be clothed in his righteousness, friends. Repent and believe upon him. Confess him as Lord. Be washed by his blood.

Thirdly, I wonder if all of this teaching concerning the time of the end is having an effect upon the kind of person you are. The Apostle Peter had some things to say about the time of the end, and Peter also expected his teaching to have an effect upon his audience. He said, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness?” (2 Peter 3:11, ESV).

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Revelation 11:15-19, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: The Kingdom Of This World Will Become The Kingdom Of Christ: Revelation 11:15-19

Sermon: Christ’s Witnesses – Faithful, Persecuted, Vindicated (Part 2): Revelation 11:3-14

Sermon Text: Revelation 11:3-14

“‘And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.’ These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come” (Revelation 11:3–14, ESV).

Introduction

I should remind you that there are three truths that need to be drawn from the text that we are considering today. I will again state all three, just as I did last Sunday,  but then we will return to consider points two and three in detail. Points one was considered thoroughly last Sunday in part one of this sermon.

The first point was this: we must recognize that the job of the church, as we live in this present evil age, is to witness. We are to witness, or testify to the world, concerning Christ, his life, death and resurrection.We are to witness, or testify to the world, concerning the good news that in Christ, through faith in him, there is the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. And we are to witness, or testify to the world, concerning Christ, that he will indeed return, this time not to accomplish salvation, but to rescue those who belong to him and to judge those who do not from amongst the living and the dead. The job of the church is to witness.

The second point is this: the church ought to expect unrelenting, and ever increasing opposition from the unbelieving world. The world – those not given to the Son by the Father – will hate the testimony that they hear from the Christian witnesses. It will be an irritant to them, and they will respond with varying degrees of hostility. That is, unless the Holy Spirit is at work within them, drawing them to repentance. The church ought to expect opposition as she testifies concerning Christ.

Thirdly, recognize that though the church on earth be trampled even to the point of death, she will in the end be preserved, rescued, and vindicated, and the wicked judged.

Notice that these three points can be made only if we understand the “two witness” of verse three, who are called the “two olive trees” and the “two lampstands” in verse 4, to symbolize the church as she fulfills her mission to testify concerning Christ in the world. To make the three points that I have made the witnesses must be understood as symbolizing the church.

Last Sunday I tried to convince you that this is the proper interpretation. I tried to demonstrate that the pre-millennial, pre-tribulational interpretation – the one that so many of us grew up with – the one that says this text will be fulfilled only when two literal individual witness appear sometime in our future – is incorrect. And I also labored to demonstrate that understanding the two witness as symbolic of the church witnessing throughout the church age is perfectly in step with the rest of the book of Revelation, the clear teaching of the New Testament, and also the Old.

I am convinced that the two witnesses of verse 3 symbolize Christ’s church as she is faithful to witness, and I hope that I succeeded in convincing you. Honestly, if I did not succeed – if you still hold to that pre-millennial, pre-tribulational, dispensational interpretation – the three points that I have made will seem quite out of place and rather inappropriate to you. You might agree, that these three statements, when considered by themselves, are true statements. But you would not link these propositions up with this text. Instead you would have three different points to draw out of this text. They would go something like this: One, In the future two witnesses will appear. Two, in the future those two witnesses will be persecuted even unto death. And three, in the future those two witnesses will be raised from the dead and vindicated by God. What all of that has to do with you and me today, I am not sure. According to the pre-tribulational view we won’t even be here to see it, for all Christians, they say, will be raptured secretly (though the scriptures never speak of a secret rapture) before these two individuals arrive on the scene. It’s no wonder that I had little desire to preach through the book of Revelation when I understood it according to that pre-tribulational, pre-millennial scheme. Not only did the book make little sense to me, it also seemed to be of little value to the people of God yesterday and today. Of what use was it except to encourage the saints towrads idle speculation concerning the future, which was something Christ explicitly warned against.

But I have come to believe, and hope this is true of you as well, that the book is not only about the future, but that it was given for the church yesterday and today so that all who have ever read it are “Blessed… [to read] aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed… [to] hear, and [to] keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3, ESV).

The church of 100 a.d. is represented here in this text. The church of 1,000 a.d. is represented here in this text. And so too is the church of 2,017. Her mission is the same no mater the year. She is to witness concerning Christ! She is to testify to the world concerning sin, the threat of judgment, and the promise of sins forgiven through faith in Jesus the Christ. Christ gave her this charge through his Apostles, when he said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, ESV).

The Job Of The Church Is To Witness

Friends, please recognize that the book of Revelation was written with this purpose in mind: to strengthen the church’s witness in the world. The book reveals what it reveals, not just so that something concerning the future might be revealed, but in order to strengthen the church in her witnessing role. The objective of the book of Revelation is to make the church more faithful to Christ – to encourage her to walk in this world with Jesus as Lord. From the beginning the aim of the book has been to strengthen the church’s witness.

Remember that in the very first verse John refers to himself as a witness: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness [μαρτυρέω] to the word of God and to the testimony [μαρτυρία] of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw” (Revelation 1:1–2, ESV).

And remember that in 1:4-5 Christ himself is referred to as the faithful witness: “John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace… from Jesus Christ the faithful witness [μάρτυς], the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth…” (Revelation 1:4–5, ESV).

In 1:9 John informs us that he had been imprisoned on the island of Patmos because of his witness: “I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony [μαρτυρία] of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9, ESV).

In 2:13 a man by the name of Antipas who was a member of the church in Pergamum was commended by Christ for being a faithful witness, even to the point of death. Christ spoke to the church in Pergamum saying, “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness [μάρτυς], who was killed among you, where Satan dwells” (Revelation 2:13, ESV).

And then in the letter to Laodicea Christ is again called the faithful witness. In 3:14 we read, “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness [μάρτυς], the beginning of God’s creation” (Revelation 3:14, ESV).

And do not forget the vision that John saw when the the fifth seal was broken. “When [Christ] opened the fifth seal, [John] saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness [μαρτυρία] they had borne” (Revelation 6:9, ESV).

We should also remember the way that the churches were symbolized at the beginning of the book of Revelation. They were symbolized by seven golden lampstands. What is the function of a lamp except to shine forth light in the darkness? The churches are symbolized by lampstands to indicate that this too is the function of the church, to shine as Christ’s witnesses in the midst of a dark world. Christ spoke to his followers saying,

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14–16, ESV).

The churches were symbolized by lamp stands to make this point: the job of the church is to witness, to shine forth as light in the darkness.

And how many of the seven churches were found faithful? Two were found faithful. Perhaps this is another reason for there there being two witnesses in Revelation 11:3. Perhaps the two witnesses, who are also called two lampstands, are intended to remind us of the two churches out of the seven who were found faithful in their witness to the world.

I’m trying to draw your attention to the fact that the book of Revelation says to the church over and over again, and in a diversity of ways, be faithful unto Christ in this world. Do not compromise. Do not succumb to the temptation. Do not be overrun by false teaching. And do not bend to persecution. Worship God alone through Christ, and testify – witness – concerning the life that is found in him.

Friends, this is our mission. We are to testify concerning Christ in all we do. This applies to us as individual Christ followers. It also applies to us corporately. We are individually and together to testify concerning Christ, his life, death, and resurrection. We are to testify that in him, through faith in him, is found the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God.

The Church Ought To Expect Opposition From The Unbelieving World

The second truth that must be drawn from this text is that the church ought to expect unrelenting, and ever increasing opposition from the unbelieving world as she witnesses.

By “unrelenting” I do not mean to say that every Christian will constantly experience persecution. Clearly that is not the case. Nor do I mean that every local congregation church will constantly experience persecution. God, in his mercy, does give peace to his church from time to time and from place to place. By “unrelenting” I mean that the church will be constantly opposed, in one way or anther, by the evil one and those who serve him.

Indeed, that is the picture that is painted here in Revelation 11:4-6. The whole scene is that of conflict between the witnessing church and the unbelieving world. “And if anyone would harm them” the text says “fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed” (Revelation 11:5, ESV).

The language used here is meant to remind us of the ministry of Moses and Elijah. These two men knew what it was like to testify concerning the salvation of God and to be opposed by the unbelieving world at every turn. Just like Moses and Elijah, the church too will “have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire” (Revelation 11:6, ESV).

God will furnish his people with all that they need to stand in the face of opposition. More than that God has given the church authority and has promised to be with her so that she be used by God as an instrument of judgment upon the ungodly. This is true even if the church seem very weak and the world very strong.

Think of Moses standing before Pharaoh as God’s witness. There is Pharaoh with the wealth and power of mighty nation standing behind him. And there is Moses, a poor shepherd, standing before him with only Arron at his side. When viewed only from a natural perspective we would have to say, “Moses doesn’t stand a chance! He will surely fall!” But Moses stood. It was through him that a kind of salvation was achieved for God’s people. Why? Because, viewed from the supernatural and Biblical perspective, the power and favor of God was with him. So it is for Christ’s witnessing church. She will be opposed by the powers of this world, but she will stand.

Think of Elijah standing before the powerful and wicked king Ahab. “Now Elijah…said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word”(1 Kings 17:1–2, ESV). Viewed from a natural and worldly perspective we would have to say, “Elijah doesn’t stand a chance! He will surely fall!” But Elijah stood. And why did he stand? Because he stood before the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives and act for the glory of his name and the good of his people.

Wherever we find the people of God testifying to the glory of God and of Christ we will find the people of God opposed. That opposition will manifest itself differently, but mark my word, there will be opposition one kind or another. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matthew 10:24–25, ESV).

When I say the church ought to expect “ever increasing” opposition I do not mean that Christians will face more and more opposition universally with every passing year, but that generally the trajectory will be towards more conflict between the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of Christ.

If someone were to ask me the question, “will things get better or worse as human history progresses and the end draws near?” I would say “yes”. Yes, things will get better in that Christ’s kingdom will advance just has he promised it would. But “no” I do not expect to see the transformation of culture leading to some sort of peaceful relationship between the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of Christ. The postmillennialists hope for something like this. The Neo-Calvinists (or the Neo-Kuyperians) hope for something like this. They expect to see this world transformed for the good, in one way or another, before Christ returns. I can’t find any evidence for this in the pages of holy scripture. What I see is an unrelenting and ever increasing opposition from the unbelieving world against Christ and his church. On this point I actually think the pre-millennialists have it right.

This passage seems to portray that very thing. In verse 7 we read, “And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified” (Revelation 11:7–8, ESV).

When will this intense period of persecution take place? It will happen when “they” the witnesses who symbolize the church, “have finished their testimony”. When will the church be done with her testimony? At the end of time.

Jesus put it this way in Matthew 24:14:“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony [μαρτύριον] to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14, ESV)

Who will be persecuted? Not two individuals, but the whole church.

And who will persecute? The texts tells us that it will be “the beast that rises from the bottomless pit [who] will make war on them and conquer them and kill them.”

This is interesting because we have not been introduced to this beast yet. The book of Revelation will eventually come to focus upon him, but here we have only a preview. He will be formerly introduced in 13:1. His destruction will be portrayed in 19:19.

Take note of this, friends. This passage that we are now considering is setting us up to understand all that follows in the book of Revelation. Here the witnesses, who represent the church, are persecuted by people, but who is behind it all? In reality the persecution experienced by the church on earth and at the hands of lawless men is inspired by forces in the spiritual realm. It is the dragon, who will be introduced to us in chapter 12, who motivates it all. And the dragon uses three powers – the beast, the false prophet, and the harlot. These four will be introduced one by one starting in chapter 12, and then judged by God, one by one, and in reverse order beginning in chapter 17. Here in chapter 11 we are given an earthly perspective of the church. She is likened to the courtyard of the temple left exposed to the trampling of the nations. She is likened to two witnesses conquered and killed, “their dead bodies [lying] in the street”. But chapters 12 through 19 will show us something of the evil forces that lie behind every particular instance of opposition and persecution experienced by the church in this world.

Where will this persecution take place? The text says it will happen in “the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified” (Revelation 11:8, ESV). Take note of the word “symbolically” which can also be translated “spiritually”. It would incorrect to say that this persecution will be isolated to one particular geographical city. Instead we have reference being made to four cities, and we are explicitly told to understand them symbolically, or spiritually. The four cities are these – Babylon (Babylon is called “the great city” many times later in Revelation),  Sodom, Egypt, and Jerusalem (which was the city where the Lord was crucified). What do these cities all have in common? They are all locations that had become notorious for their sinfulness and their ill treatment of the people of God. These cities symbolize earthly, sinful, and persecuting world powers. The saints who read this letter in 90 a.d. would have undoubtably thought of Rome.

It is important, I think, to see that this “great city” symbolizes everything that stands in opposition to the “holy city” that was mentioned at the end of verse 2. What we have, then, are two cities – the “holy city”, which symbolizes the church and the kingdom of God, and “the great city”, also called Babylon, Sodom, Egypt, and Jerusalem. These two cities exist in this world and are diametrically opposed to one another. The “great city” persecutes the “holy city”. The “holy city” will be trampled underfoot. The two witnesses will be killed and left to lie in the streets of “the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.”

The point is this, “the church ought to expect unrelenting, and ever increasing opposition from the unbelieving world as she witnesses.” Brothers and sisters, this is not our home.

The Church Will Be Preserved And Vindicated, And The Wicked Judged

Lastly, recognize that though the church on earth be trampled even to the point of death, she will in the end be preserved, rescued, and vindicated, and the wicked judged.

Verses 9-13 provide us with a glimpse of the resurrection of the just when the Lord returns and also of the beginning of the judgment of the wicked.

Look at verses 9-10:

“For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 11:9–10, ESV).

This “three and a half days” symbolizes a period of particularly intense persecution that will come upon God’s people immediately preceding the end of time.

Look at verse 11: “But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them” (Revelation 11:11, ESV). Here we have a reference to the resurrection of the dead. It is the same event that Paul spoke of in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 saying,

“For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:15–16, ESV).

Revelation has already shown us that to die in Christ is really to live. “When [Christ] opened the fifth seal, [John] saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne” (Revelation 6:9, ESV). Here that glorious truth is portrayed, that to “be away from the body… [is to be] at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8, ESV) in the soul. But here in 11:11 we have a picture, not of the souls of deceased saints alive in heaven, but of the resurrection of the body. “But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.”It is at the resurrection that the church will be most completely vindicated before her enemies.

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, ESV).

And notice that it is then, at the second coming of Christ, and at the resurrection, that the final judgment will begin.

Look at verse 13: “And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven” (Revelation 11:13, ESV).

I am not saying that this is the final judgment, only that it is here that the final judgment begins. Here we have a description of what will happen to the wicked who are alive on the earth when the Lord returns. The Lord will return to rescue his bride who will be in tremendous peril, and he will begin to pour out his wrath upon the his enemies.

Revelation will give us many other perspectives on the final judgment in the chapters that follow. Here is but one perspective. When Christ returns he will rescue his bride, and he will judge his enemies. Those who are not killed will be “terrified and give glory to the God of heaven.” This text does not say that they will repent and be saved, for then it will be too late! It only says that they will be “terrified and give glory to the God of heaven.” Indeed Paul has said that in the end, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10–11, ESV). This is what Revelation 11:13 portrays: the return of Christ, the resurrection of the just, and the beginning of the judgments of God poured out upon the wicked.

Application

Brothers and sisters, let us take just a moment to apply this text before we conclude.

One, I think it is right for us to give thanks to God for the peace we enjoy in this world. It is unusual.

Two, I think it would be good for us to recognize that though we are not currently experiencing overt persecution we are not without opposition.

Three, if we are without opposition I think we should ask ourselves, “am I being a witnesses?” One way to avoid opposition is to compromise in our witness. I am not saying that we should stir up trouble. But if we are faithful to Christ in this world, opposition of one kind or another will likely come. Many churches have compromised in our day. Many Christians have compromised.

Four, it is good for us to think about eschatology. Eschatology (the study of last things) is so important because it sets our trajectory. What we think about the end determines how we go about living today. Two questions come to mind: Do you believe in the resurrection? Do you believe in the final judgment?

Five, proclaim Christ. Testify concerning him in word and in deed.

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Revelation 11:3-14, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: Christ’s Witnesses – Faithful, Persecuted, Vindicated (Part 2): Revelation 11:3-14

Sermon: Christ’s Witnesses – Faithful, Persecuted, Vindicated (Part 1): Revelation 11:3-14

Old Testament Reading: Zechariah 4

“And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, ‘What do you see?’ I said, ‘I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.’ And I said to the angel who talked with me, ‘What are these, my lord?’ Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ I said, ‘No, my lord.’ Then he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’ Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. ‘These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.’ Then I said to him, ‘What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?’ And a second time I answered and said to him, ‘What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?’ He said to me, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ I said, ‘No, my lord.’ Then he said, ‘These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth’” (Zechariah 4, ESV).

Sermon Text: Revelation 11:3-14

“‘And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.’ These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come” (Revelation 11:3–14, ESV).

Introduction

Let us remember where we are in the book of Revelation. We are still considering the second of two interludes found in this book.

The first interlude is in Revelation chapter 7. There we experienced a break in the action as the seal cycle was interrupted by the vision of the sealing of the 144,000 and also the vision of a great multi-ethnic multitude worshiping God in heaven. These visions are inserted between the opening of the sixth and sevenths seals.

The function of the first interlude is clear.  The visions introduced by the breaking of each of the seals have primarily to do with the judgements of God poured out upon the earth. The question left hanging is, “what about God’s people? Will they succumb to God’s wrath? Will they be caught up in and swept away by God’s partial and perpetual judgments as he pours them out upon the earth?”  The interlude of chapter 7 answers that question by focusing in upon the church and portraying them, first of all, as a holy people numbered for battle and sealed by God, and then as a “great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” worshipping (Revelation 7:9, ESV). The seal cycle depicts the judgments of God poured out. The interlude of chapter 7 depicts the people of God protected, preserved on earth, and then brought safely home.

The second interlude is found inserted in between the  sixth and seventh trumpets. In chapter 10 John is recommissioned as a prophet and in chapter 11 we encounter a vision that mirrors the vision of chapter 7. The chapters are not identical – they each have a slightly different message to communicate – but they are very similar.

If we were to set them side by side we would see that both the interlude of chapter 7 and the interlude of chapter 11 focus in upon the church. Both answer the question, what about the people of God? Will they be caught up in the judgments of God poured out upon the earth (as portrayed in the breaking of the seals) and upon the wicked (as portrayed in the sounding of the trumpets)? The answer in both interludes is essentially the same: Though God’s people will indeed suffer tribulation as they sojourn in this world, God will preserve them in the midst of it and will bring them safely home.

In the interlude of chapter 7 the people of God are sealed while on earth – possessed and preserved by him – and then seen worshipping comfortably and securely, having been brought safely to their heavenly home.

In the interlude of chapter 11the people of God are measured. They worship at the heavenly temple that is at once perfectly secure and yet vulnerable as those who worship there sojourn upon the earth in this age where “the court outside the temple… [is left unmeasured and is] given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months” (Revelation 11:2, ESV).  Those who worship God through faith in Christ worship at the heavenly temple and are measured by God, possessed and preserved by him. They will suffer tribulation in the world, no doubt, but by the end of this glorious vision those faithful to Christ are seen to be vindicated and brought safely home.

So, both the seal cycle and the trumpet cycle depict God’s judgments, and both interludes – the one in chapter 7 and the one in chapter 11 – depict the preservation of God’s people in the midst of tribulation.

There are three points that need to be drawn from the text that we are considering today. I will state all three, but then we will return to consider only point one in detail; points two and three we will return to next week.

First of all, we must recognize that the job of the church, as we live in this present evil age, is to witness. We are to witness, or testify to the world, concerning Christ, his life, death and resurrection.We are to witness, or testify to the world, concerning the good news that in Christ, through faith in him, there is found the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. And we are to witness, or testify to the world, concerning Christ, that he will indeed return, this time not to accomplish salvation, but to rescue those who belong to him and to judge those who do not from amongst the living and the dead. The job of the church is to witness.

Secondly, see that the church ought to expect unrelenting, and ever increasing opposition from the unbelieving world. The world – those not given to the Son by the Father – will hate the testimony that they hear from the Christian witnesses. It will be an irritant to them, and they will respond with varying degrees of hostility. That is, unless the Holy Spirit is at work within them, drawing them to repentance. The church ought to expect opposition as she witnesses.

Thirdly, recognize that though the church on earth be trampled even to the point of death, she will in the end be preserved, rescued and vindicated, and the wicked judged.

This is the message communicated in this wonderful passage. Let us consider the first point more closely today.

The Job Of The Church Is To Witness

Brothers and sisters, consider that the job of the church is to witness concerning Christ.

Revelation 11:3 says, “And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth” (Revelation 11:3, ESV).

Notice a few things about this verse:

First of all, notice that this declaration is being made by God and that it is closely connected to what has just been said concerning the measuring of the temple, the alter and those who worship there, and the leaving of the courtyard exposed to the trampling of the nations. Verse 3 goes with verses 1 and 2 – that is my point.

The question that we might ask after we have considered verses 1 and 2 is, why would God leave the temple courtyard and the holy city, which symbolizes the Christ bride, his church, as she lives in this in this world, exposed? The answer is, so that the church would witness to the world concerning Christ.The close connection between verses 1 and 2 and verse 3 makes it clear.

Jesus said to his disciples before his ascension, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, ESV).

A witness is one who testifies in legal matters. A witness provides evidence. A witness says, “this is what I saw.” The Apostles of Christ were able to witness concerning Jesus’ life, death, burial and resurrection because they saw it.

Listen to how the Apostle John begins his epistle, 1 John. He says,

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify [μαρτυρέω, the verb form of the noun μάρτυς found in Acts 1:8 and Revelation 11:3] to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1–3, ESV)

John is saying that as an Apostle of Christ – as an eyewitness to his life, death, and resurrection – he is able to witness or give testimony concerning Christ. You and I as Christians today are witnesses to Christ only so long as we are faithful to say what the Apostles, who were eyewitnesses, have said. The church witnesses concerning Christ only so long as she is faithful to build upon the foundational witness of the Apostles and prophets, Christ being the cornerstone.

Secondly, notice that these witness are said to have authority. “And I will grant authority to my two witnesses”, the text says. When the church testifies she does so with authority. She has authority, not because it resides within her automatically, but only so long as she testifies to the truth.

Thirdly, notice that there are two witnesses. “And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth”, the text says.

The hyper-literalistic, futuristic, dispensationalist, being driven by their erroneous presuppositions and their faulty method of interpretation, believes that this verse will be fulfilled in the future when two individuals will appear to witness for a literal three and a half years immediately preceding the end of time.

According to the futuristic interpretation it will be these two, and these two only, who will experience all that is said in the passage concerning them. These two individuals will in the future serve as witnesses. These two will be persecuted. These two will be instruments of judgment. These two will be killed. And these two will be raised to life and caught up into heaven.

By the way, what do those who hold to this position say when asked, how will it be that when these two witnesses, who you say are literately two individuals, are killed, their corpses left in the street for three and a half days, as verse 9 describes to us, that people all over the world will rejoice as they gaze upon their dead bodies? What is the popular answer to that question today? It is the one made popular by Tim LaHaye, the author of the, more-fictional-than-you-know, Left Behind Series. His view is that people the world over will see these two witnesses slain on television.

I bring this up only to highlight just how much the futurist interpretation divorces the book of Revelation from it’s original context, making much of the book to be all but meaningless to it’s original recipients, not to mention all who lived prior to the days of television or the invention of modern weaponry, etc.

In other words, if the futurists are correct then all who read this text prior to the 1920’s would have been utterly puzzled, thinking to themselves, “how could it be that the ‘peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and… those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 11:9–10, ESV).

It is far better to see that these two witnesses represent the church as she fulfills her role as witness.

The reasons for understanding the text in this way are numerous. I’ll briefly mention a few.

One, we should understand the two witness to symbolize the church because of the length of time that they are said to minister, namely 1,260 days.

I mentioned last week that this same period of time reappears in the book of Revelation over and over again, but stated in different terms. The time span is three and a half years.  It is referred to as 42 months (which is 12 months times 3.5 years) in 11:2 and also in 13:5-7. In both of these passages the emphasis is upon the people of God being trampled or assaulted. The same time period is referred to as 1,260 days here in 11:3 and also in 12:14-17 (1,260 days is 3.5 years times 360 days, which his is one year according to the calendar in use when Revelation was written – 360 days times 3.5 years equals 1,260 days). The emphasis in both of these texts is the protection of the church in the face of her advisories. Also, the language from Daniel 7 of a “time, times, and a half of time”, or three and one half years, is found in Revelation 12:7.

In each instance the time designation, be it 42 months, 1,260 days, or a time, times, and half a time, stands for the church age when the people of God will be both protected and preserved spiritually by God while being pursued and persecuted by the enemies of God.

This is what the period of time of three and a half years came to sand for. It symbolizes trouble for the people of God, particularly the temple of God. The number is rooted in Daniel 7, but it finds its significance historically in the three and a half year assault of the people of God and the temple of God at the hands of Antiochus Epiphanes from 167 to 164 B.C. – he attacked for three and a half years.  Even more recent was the Romans siege against Jerusalem leading to the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. That all lasted three and one half years. And we have not mentioned the earthy ministry of Jesus, who was the eternal Son of God who tabernacled with us. His ministry lasted three and a half years. He, the true temple, was assaulted and, in the end, desecrated by lawless men. With all of these things, and more, in the background is it not hard to see that the time frame of three and a half years symbolizes a time of tribulation for the people of God, particularly the temple of God.

And who are the people of God under the New Covenant? The dispensationalists so misinterpret scripture that some of them will even say, “ethnic Jews!”. But the right answer according to New Testament is that it is all who have faith in Christ, Jew and Gentile alike, who are the people of God. They are the true children of Abraham, not according to their fleshly birth, but according to the their new birth in the Spirit.

And where is the temple. It is “neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem” (John 4:21) “for we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16, ESV).

This period of time refers, then, not to a literal 1,260 days or a literal 42 months, but to the time between the first and second coming of Christ – a time marked by tribulation for the people of God as they sojourn on earth. A time marked by tribulation for the temple of God, namely the body of Christ, the church. This becomes especially clear in Revelation chapter 12, I think.

So if it is true that 42 months, or 1,260 days symbolizes the church age – that is, the time between Christ’s first and second comings – and if it is true that this is the time in which these two witnesses minister, then they cannot be two literal persons (unless we believe them to be almost 2,000 years old today), but they must represent something else – some other entity that has existed for the last 2,000 years, will continue to exist until the Lord returns, and has witnessing to the world concerning Christ as it’s mission. What do these two witnesses symbolize? They symbolize the church as she witnesses concerning Christ.

There are many other reasons to think that these two witnesses are not to be taken literally, but as symbolic of the church. I will briefly mention a few more for the sake of time.

Two, Notice that the witnesses are called “two lampstands”. What do lampstands symbolize in the book of Revelation? The church!

Three, these witnesses are said to torment the whole world, the end result being that the whole world sees and rejoices over their death. It is hard to understand, especially from the 90A.D perspective, how two individual people could possibly have such an effect upon all who dwell on the earth from every tongue, tribe, and nation. But it is not hard to understand how this could be of true of the church universal. Indeed her mission was and is to “go and make disciples of all nation”. Indeed, this is the mission that she has and will continue to accomplish. And we know that as she accomplishes her mission she makes some friends – they are called the elect of God – but she makes many enemies as she testifies concerning Christ.

Four, the oppression of the two witnesses in this passage mirrors the assault of the woman and her offspring by the evil one in chapter 12. We will eventially come to this passage. For now consider verse 15 of chapter 12 where the offspring of the woman are identified as being “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony [μαρτυρία] of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17, ESV). It is the church, and not only two individual witnesses, that is oppressed for these 1,260 days.

Five, notice that while the witnesses are clearly plural, they are in this passage also referred to in singular terms. This comes through more in the Greek than in the English, but I find it fascinating and worth mentioning. There are two witnesses, but in verse 5 we read, “And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes” (Revelation 11:5, ESV). “Them” is plural, referring to the two witnesses, but “mouth” is singular. You would expect the number to match. You would expect the text to say, “fire pours from their mouths”. The oddity is meant to grab our attention, I think, to help the reader understand that these two really stand for one thing, the church. The church speaks with one mouth as she testifies concerning Christ. The same thing happens in verses 7-9, but it is hidden behind an unfortunate English translation. the text says, “And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified” (Revelation 11:7–8, ESV). In fact, in the Greek the word translated “bodies” is singular. The beast conquers and kills them (plural), and their body (singular) will lie in the street. Again, you would expect the plural (so much so that our English translations feel compelled to provide it), but in the Greek you get the singular, perhaps in order to indicate that the two really stand for one thing, the church as she witnesses.

More reasons could be provided for viewing the two witness, not as referring to two literal persons, but to the whole church as she witnesses to Christ throughout the church age. For the sake of time we must be content with these five.

But why two witnesses? Why not one or seven?

There are many reasons. The main one is this: According to the scriptures if a testimony to be received as trustworthy and true in a court of law, two or more witness are required. The principle is repeated throughout the Bible, but the first mention of it is found in Deuteronomy 19:15, which says,  “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15, ESV).

Notice that these two witnesses have authority. The are said to stand before the “Lord of the earth”. Not only do they witnesses concerning the good news that life is found in Jesus’ name, but also concerning the guilt of sin.

These witnesses are two in number because they are like Moses and Elijah who announced and pronounced judgments upon the idolatrous world in their day.  Verse 5:

“If anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire” (Revelation 11:5–6, ESV).

Clearly this is intended to bring to mind the ministry of Moses and the prophet Elijah.

Elijah shut the sky so that not rain would fall in 1 Kings 17. It was through the ministry of Elijah that fire came down from heaven to consume the idolatrous in 2 Kings 1. Similarly, here the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet:  “Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts: ‘Because you have spoken this word, behold, I am making my words in your mouth a fire, and this people wood, and the fire shall consume them” (Jeremiah 5:14, ESV). The church is to witness or testify concerning Christ and concerning sin just as the prophets did. The church is to call men and women to repentance. The church is to warn of judgment and to hold forth Christ. This was the ministry go Elijah and the prophets, and it is our top.

And the church is like Moses. These witnesses are said to “have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire” (Revelation 11:6, ESV). Certainly this is to remind us of Moses and the plagues which led to the Exodus of Israel.

The church is to testify to the world concerning the the glory of God and of Christ. She is to preach Christ from the law and the prophets.

These witnesses are also two in number because they are the two “olive trees” of Zechariah 4. Clearly this is a reference to the Zechariah 4 passage that I read at the beginning of the sermon. There Zechariah saw a vision of “a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”

A careful consideration of that text reveals that the two olive trees symbolize the Lord’s anointed ones (probably Zerubbabel, the governor, who was descended from David, and Joshua, the high priest). These have the task of rebuilding the temple of God. The promise is that these anointed one will be fully empowered by the Spirit of God to accomplish the task. The lamps will, through them, have a never ending supply of oil. The meaning of the passage is this: the temple will be rebuilt because God will supply for their every need. It will be accomplished, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6, ESV).

What is the meaning here in Revelation 11? The church will have all that she needs to fulfill her witnessing task. As she fulfills it, the temple of God will be built up stone upon stone until the Lord return.

There may be others reasons for the witnesses being two in number, but these are central. Two witness are required to establish a case. The two witnesses correspond to and carry on the ministry of Moses and Elijah and she preached Christ from the law and prophets. And just as the Lord promised Israel that he would, by the power of the Spirit, provide for the rebuilding of the Old Covenant temple through his two olive trees, so too will he provide for the building up of the New Covenant temple, the church, through the outpouring of his Spirit.

Conclusion

How is your witness?

Witnessing involves more than the proclamation of the gospel.

It involves holy living.

At home as you witness to those in your household.

In the community as you interact with Christians and non-Christians.

In the church.

It involves living a life marked by love for God, dependence upon him, and thankfulness to him.

We witness as we gather for corporate worship.

We gather on the Lord’s Day to give glory to God. People take notice of this.

We must completely shed that old superficial American evangelical thought that we go to church on Sunday when it is convenient for us and when we feel like it as if it were mainly about us.

Friends, we are to gather together on the Lord’s Day, which is the Christian Sabbath, in obedience to the fourth commandment, to give worship to God. Is that not what happened at the temple? Why did the people gather there? To be encouraged primarily? No, they came to worship. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Indeed we are encouraged when we come to worship. Indeed that is one of our objective: the building up of the body of Christ, the encouragement of the Christian. But it falls under the prime objective of giving gory to God.

When you gather for worship you are testifying to all that God is worthy of our worship and that we must come to him through Jesus the Christ. To neglect it is to communicate to all who see that God is unworthy and that Christ is of little significance.

We witness by maintaining unity with one another.

Repent and extend forgiveness.

Labor to maintain unity.

“I therefore… urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1–3, ESV)

Witnessing does not happen unless the gospel is proclaimed.

We must testify from the scriptures concerning sin.

We must testify from the scriptures concerning Christ – his life, death, and resurrection.

Having testified we must call men and women to faith and repentance, and to baptism within Christ’s church.

How is your witness?

How is our witness?

 

 

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Revelation 11:3-14, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: Christ’s Witnesses – Faithful, Persecuted, Vindicated (Part 1): Revelation 11:3-14

Sermon: The Temple of God Measured (Part 2): Revelation 11:1-2

New Testament Reading: Hebrews 9:1–15; 23–28

“Now even the first covenant [that is, the Old Covenant] had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant… [Hebrews 9:23] Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:1–15; 23–28, ESV).

Sermon Text: Revelation 11:1-2

“Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months’” (Revelation 11:1–2, ESV).

Introduction

In the previous sermon that I preached on Revelation 11:1-2 the majority of the time was devoted to proving that it is best to take the word “temple” in verse 1 to be a reference, not to a future rebuilt brick and mortal temple in the earthly city of Jerusalem, but to the heavenly temple and all who worship God the Father there through faith in Jesus the Christ in Spirit and in truth.

To put it differently, the measured temple of Revelation 11:1-2 refers to the church of God, purchased by Christ’s blood, and filled with the Holy Spirit, as she worships, not at the earthly Old Covenant temple of stone, which was a copy of the heavenly realities, but at the heavenly temple itself, “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Hebrews 9:24, ESV).

Remember the case that I made. This interpretation is the one that is in step with the overall message of the book of Revelation. This interpretation is the one that is in step with the way that the Apostles of Christ spoke of the temple – “For we are the temple of the living God”, Paul said (2 Corinthians 6:16, ESV). This interpretation is the one that is in step with the way that Christ himself spoke of the temple. The eternal Word of God, the second person of the Trinity  “tabernacled” amongst us in the incarnation. Christ claimed to be the temple. He declared the earthly, Old Covenant,  brick and mortar temple to be desolate. And he promised to send the Spirit to fill, not the earthly temple, but his people after his ascension to the Father. I also demonstrated that this interpretation – the one that takes “temple” in Revelation 11:1 to refer to the church – is in step with all that the Old Testament has to say about the temple. For the earthly tabernacle, which later became the temple, was never about the structure itself, but rather God’s presence dwelling in the midst of his people, whom he had redeemed for himself. The Old Testament prophesies concerning a future temple clearly refer to one that is far superior to the earthy temple of the Old Covenant both in regard to its scope and the purity of the worship offered within (Ezekiel 40-48). When we read the New Testament it becomes clear that these Old Testament prophesies, types, and shadows all pointed to the Christ and to the temple of the new heavens and the new earth, of which Revelation 21:22 says, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Revelation 21:22, ESV).

When John, in Revelation 11:1, “was given a measuring rod like a staff, and… was told, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there” (Revelation 11:1, ESV), he was to mark off, not a physical and earthly structure, but a heavenly and spiritual one. People were to be measured. It was “those who worship there” at the temple of God and the alter who were to be measured.

“Temple” In The Book Of Revelation

So where is this temple that measured? Let’s look more closely at the book of Revelation today to give a more precise answer to that question.

The Greek word for temple (ναός) appears sixteen times in the book of Revelation. Twelve times it is translated “temple”; four times it is translated “sanctuary” in the English Standard Version (ESV). Let’s look at these verses together.

Turn back to Revelation 3:12. To the Christians in the church at Philadelphia Christ said,  “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name” (Revelation 3:12, ESV). Is this temple physical and earthly? No, it is clearly heavenly and spiritual, for it has Christians as it’s pillars, metaphorically speaking, and not stone.

Now turn to 7:15. Remember that this verse is contained within the interlude that comes between the breaking of the sixth and seventh seals. Also, remember that this verse comes after the sealing of the 144,000 on earth. And remember that this verse is referring to those that John saw in heaven, “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9–10, ESV). These are the ones who, in verse 15, are said to be “before the throne of God, [serving] him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence” (Revelation 7:15, ESV). Is this an earthly physical temple?  No, it is a the heavenly temple. It is the “temple” which is in heaven now where God dwells, being surrounded by angels and the souls of the redeemed who worship him day and night. The thing that makes it a “temple” is the presence of God with his people.

The next two occurrences of the word ναός are found in 11:1-2, which is the text we are considering today. We will return to it.

Turn to 11:19. There we read, “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” (Revelation 11:19, ESV).

Turn to 14:15.  There we read, “And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, ‘Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe’” (Revelation 14:15, ESV). Again, the word temple is used to refer, not to an earthly temple constructed by men out of stone but to the heavenly temple or dwelling place of God.

Turn to 15:5. There John says, “After this I looked, and the sanctuary [ναός] of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests” (Revelation 15:5–6, ESV).

Look at 15:8. There John says, “…and the sanctuary [ναός] was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished” (Revelation 15:8, ESV). This is a another reference to the heavenly sanctuary mentioned in 15:5.

Turn to 16:1. There John says, “Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God’” (Revelation 16:1, ESV). Again, this is the heavenly temple. It is the place where God dwells, where he is worshipped and served, and from whence his judgments flow.

Finally, we come to Revelation 21:22, in which John describes the new heavens and the news earth, saying, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Revelation 21:22, ESV). It will be then, on that last day, that heaven and earth become one. It will be there in the new heavens and the new earth that the presence of God will be enjoyed by his people in a most immediate way. It will be in this place and at this time that all of the promises of God will be fulfilled in a most full and consummate way. There will be no physical temple made of stone on the earth in that day for all of creation will be God’s “temple”. His glory will fill all. His people will walk with him and enjoy his presence. This is the thing that Adam tasted of in the garden but forfeited. In the end God will bring it to pass, not through the obedience of the first Adam, but through the obedience of Jesus the Christ, whom Paul refers to as the second Adam. What has he done for us? He has made it possible for us to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).

So we’ve examined every usage of the word ναός (temple or sanctuary) in the book of Revelation. Not once is the word used to describe a future, physical, earthly, brick and mortar temple. Most often the word is used to refer to the temple of God as it is in heaven now – the temple that John was, time and again, given a glimpse of in the heavenly visions shown to him. Sometimes the word is used in reference to the “temple” of the new heavens and earth, which is not made of stone, but includes the whole of the new heavens and earth, for the glory of God will fill all.

Remember Christ’s promise to the saints in Philadelphia: “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God.” In other words Christ says, “stay true to me till the end and you will enjoy a permanent place within my temple, that is, the heavenly one as it is now, and the temple of the new creation, which will come to be at the consummation. Does the hyper-literalist take this to mean that as faithful saints we will be transformed into stone and become literal pillars in God’s temple? They do not. Even they would have to admit that this is symbolic language which speaks of spiritual realities. Even they would admit that when Christ promises that the faithful will be pilers, he speaks metaphorically and means that they Christian will enjoy God’s presence an comfort forever and ever. But they are woefully inconsistent in their handling of this book.

We should not overlook the fact that word “temple” is actually used one time in the book of Revelation to refer to a literal temple of stone, built by man, which occupies a small piece of real-estate within God’s creation – a temple like the one that stood in Jesus’ day, the foundation of which remains in Jerusalem today. And that occurrence is found in Revelation 21:22 where John says, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Revelation 21:22, ESV). So the only time the word “temple” is used to refer to a temple of stone built by man,  John uses it to say, “I looked for one, but I did not see it.”

The Temple Measured

Having now considered the way that the word “temple” or “sanctuary” is consistently used in the book of Revelation it is not hard to understand the meaning of 11:1 where John “was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there” (Revelation 11:1, ESV).” By the way, we could have done the same thing with the word “alter” as we did with the word “temple”, demonstrating that this not a physical and earthly alter, but the heavenly one that has been mentioned numerous times in the book of Revelation thus far (Revelation 6:9; 8:3; 8:5; 9:13;14:18; 16:7).

John’s task was to measure the heavenly temple, the heavenly alter, and all who worship there.

And who are those who worship there?

The elect angels worship there. Revelation 7:11 says, “And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen’” (Revelation 7:11–12, ESV).

Those who have been killed for their faith in Christ worship there. “When [Christ] opened the fifth seal, [John] saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” (Revelation 6:9–10, ESV).

Those who have faith in Christ who have died and gone to glory worship there. Remember that John “looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9–10, ESV)

And it is those who have faith in Christ living on earth worship there. “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…” (Revelation 8:3, ESV).

These are the ones who have been measured. John measured the heavenly temple, the alter and those who worship there – the elect angels, the saints gone to glory, and those in Christ who dwell upon the earth.

And what does it mean to be measured?

Clearly to be measured is to be protected.

The only other time something is measured in the book of Revelation is in chapter 21 which describes the measuring of the perfect and pure new Jerusalem. John, being “carried… away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain… [saw] coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal” (Revelation 21:10–11, ESV). The city is described as being perfectly cubed,12,000 stadia (which is 1,380 miles) in length, height, and width. It’s walls are 144 cubits (or 216 feet) high. It is of this city that John said,

“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:22–27, ESV)

The measuring of the city in Revelation 21 signifies, among there things, it’s security. This it is will be perfectly secure. “Nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

This is also the meaning of the measuring of the temple and those who worship there in Revelation 11. The heavenly temple is secure. Those who worship there are protected and preserved spiritually. That is true of those who are there now – the elect angels, and the elect saints who have gone to glory – and it is true of those in Christ who are still sojourning on earth.

You and I, brothers and sisters (please don’t miss this) worship now at the heavenly temple.

“For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.’ Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear.’ But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:18–24, ESV).

You and I, brothers and sisters, have been measured by God. God’s promise to us is that he will preserve and protect us to bring us safely home. Christ said, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28–29, ESV).

The Temple Court And The Holy City Left Unmeasured

But it is important to notice that, not only was John commanded to measure, but to leave some things unmeasured.“Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months” (Revelation 11:1–2, ESV).

Without a doubt this reference to the temple court and the holy city being trampled by the nations would have brought to remembrance the recent destruction of the Jewish temple by the Romans. That was a cataclysmic event. It’s significance can hardly be exaggerated.

Jesus predicted that event in his earthy ministry, saying, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2, ESV).

The Jewish historian, Josephus, described the event after it happened. Here is the first paragraph of Book 7, Chapter 1 of Josephus’ , The War Of The Jews, also called, The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem:

“Now, as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be objects of their fury (for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other such work to be done) Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency… and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side. (2) This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison; as were the towers also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; (3) but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. (4) This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.

Some believe that the book of Revelation was written prior to 70 A.D. and that the destruction of the Jewish temple. Many of them believe that the events of 70 A.D. in some ways fulfilled, either in part or in whole, the passage that we are considering today. When they read the words, “do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations”, they think of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans. I do not wish to describe the preterist, or partial-preterist, position today, but to simply say that it seems better to understand the 70 A.D. destruction of the temple to be in the background of this text. Without a doubt this reference to the temple court and the holy city being trampled by the nations would have brought to remembrance the recent destruction of the Jewish temple by the Romans.

Whether you believe the book of Revelation was written before or after the destruction of the temple you must admit that Revelation 11:1 is symbolic for the truth of the matter is that everything was leveled by the Romans in 70 A.D. The temple and the alter were not left standing.

Symbolized here, then, is this truth: though God’s true temple be secure (measured) in heaven, and though those who worship there, either from heaven or from the earth, be secure, preserved and protected by the very presence of God in and with them, the church is also vulnerable as she lives in this present evil age.

To put it differently, we have not yet come to enjoy the complete security associated with fulness of the eschatological new creation city and temple of Revelation 21 – the one of which it is said, “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:23–27, ESV). That reality – the reality symbolized by everything being measured and declared to be temple – is yet in our future.

The temple of God as she is now must be viewed from these two perspectives: She is secure and yet vulnerable. This theme runs through the book of Revelation. The church is consistently portrayed as suffering yet secure, persecuted yet preserved. She, like Christ, her husband, is given to over to trials and tribulations, even to the point of death, and yet through death she obtains life. Christ said these things to us “that in [him we] may have peace. In the world [we] will have tribulation. But take heart; [Christ has] overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV).

Brothers and sisters, when we think of God’s temple as it is today we are to think, not of the earthly, manmade, brick and mortar temple, which, under the Old Covenant, was merely a shadow or copy of heavenly realities and greater things yet to come, but instead we are to think of the heavenly temple itself – the place where God dwells in glory – and all who worship there in heaven and on the earth – “You are the temple of the Holy Spirit”.

And when we think of this heavenly temple we are to think of something that is both measured – owned by God, protected and preserved – and yet at the same time unmeasured – vulnerable to the trampling feet of the nations.

42 Months

How long will things go on like this? The text says that “the court outside the temple [will be]… given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months” (Revelation 11:2, ESV).

The hyper-literalistic, futuristic, dispensational, pre-millenarian takes this number to be both literal and in reference to a reality future to us. Their view is that this text describes things that will happen, primarily to ethnic Jews, in either first or second half of a seven year tribulation (forty-two months equals three and a half years).

It is far better, and far more instep with the method of interpretation demanded by the book of Revelation itself, to take the number as symbolic.

The symbolism associated with the time frame of forty two-months (or three and a half years) is beautifully complex. In general it represents a time of tribulation for God’s people. Certainly the prophesy of Daniel 7 stands behind the number forty-two. In verse 25 of Daniel 7 we find a prophesy concerning a period of suffering that would be experienced by the people of God under one who would “speak words against the Most High, and… wear out the saints of the Most High, and… think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time” (Daniel 7:25, ESV). The phrase “time, times, and half a time” stands for three and one half years, or forty-two months.

This prophesy of Daniel was initially fulfilled when “Antiochus Epiphanes oppressed Israel and ultimately desecrated the temple from 167 to 164 b.c. It is interesting that 1 Maccabees 1–3, 2 Maccabees 5; and Josephus’ works all describe the oppression as lasting “three years and six months.”

It should also be recognized that Israel wandered in the wilderness after their exile from Egypt, not for forty years as we commonly say, but for forty-two. Two years passed before they were condemned to wander for another forty because of the hardness of their hearts. There experienced a series of forty-two encampment before they entered the promised land.

Also notice that the Jewish historian, Josephus, tells us that the Romans siege against Jerusalem leading to it’s destruction in 70 A.D. lasted three and one half years, or forty-months.

Therefore, the time frame of forty-two months symbolized a period of suffering and tribulation for the people of God often with an emphasis upon trouble for the temple of God.

Notice that this same period of time is referenced again and again in the book of Revelation, but in different ways (recapitulation).

Look down at Revelation 11:3. There we read, “And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth” (Revelation 11:3, ESV). According to the Jewish calendar one year is 360 days. 360 times three and a half is 1,260. 1,260 days is another way of referring to three and a half years time or forty-two months.

Look at Revelation 12:6. There we are told of a vision of a woman who gave birth to a male child. The male child was caught to heaven, but the woman, being pursued by the dragon “fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days” (Revelation 12:6, ESV), or forty-two months, or three and a half years.

Look at 12:14. There the woman is said to have been “given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time” (Revelation 12:14, ESV). The language of Daniel 7:25 is used here. It is a “time, and times, and half a time”, or three and a half years, or forty-months, or 1,260 days.

Finally look at Revelation 13:5-8 where we read,

“And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:5–8, ESV).

The beast is here said to have authority for forty-two months, which is three and a half years, or 1,260 days, or a time, times, and half a time.

Clearly these are all descriptions of the same period of time. As we continue in our study of the book of Revelation it will grow exceedingly clear that these are all different ways of referring, not to a literal three and a half year period of tribulation yet in our future and immediately preceding the end, but to the whole time between Christ’s first and second comings. Perhaps the most obvious place to see this is in the episode of the woman giving birth to a male child, the child being caught up to heaven, and the woman being pursued by the dragon and yet protected for 1,260 days. Clearly this symbolizes the birth of Christ, his death, resurrection, and ascension, and the evil ones war against the church, and God’s preservation of her, not just in the time of the end, but from the birth of Christ in to the end. These numbers all amount to the same thing and they symbolize the church age – the age in which you and I live – an age marked by trials and tribulations, persecutions, suffering, and even death.

Here in Revelation 11:1-2 we are reminded that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that though we be trampled underfoot for these forty-two months, God is ever with us. We are measured and kept secure by his power in the midst of the tribulation.

This very truth is what provoked Peter to exclaim,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3–7, ESV).

Application

How might we apply these truths, by way of conclusion?

Expected tribulation.

Know that God’s presence is with you. Take comfort in him. Take sanctuary in him.

Remember that one of our primary functions as the church is to offer up worship to God. The 144,000 sealed reminds us that we are protected in the midst of battle. The measuring of the temple reminds us that we are preserved as we worship and serve the one true God in a hostile and idolatrous world.

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Revelation 11:1-2, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: The Temple of God Measured (Part 2): Revelation 11:1-2

Sermon: The Temple of God Measured (Part 1): Revelation 11:1-2

Old Testament Reading: Ezekiel 40:1–6 & Ezekiel 43:1–12

“In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was struck down, on that very day, the hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me to the city. In visions of God he brought me to the land of Israel, and set me down on a very high mountain, on which was a structure like a city to the south. When he brought me there, behold, there was a man whose appearance was like bronze, with a linen cord and a measuring reed in his hand. And he was standing in the gateway. And the man said to me, ‘Son of man, look with your eyes, and hear with your ears, and set your heart upon all that I shall show you, for you were brought here in order that I might show it to you. Declare all that you see to the house of Israel.’ And behold, there was a wall all around the outside of the temple area, and the length of the measuring reed in the man’s hand was six long cubits, each being a cubit and a handbreadth in length. So he measured the thickness of the wall, one reed; and the height, one reed. Then he went into the gateway facing east, going up its steps, and measured the threshold of the gate, one reed deep” (Ezekiel 40:1–6, ESV).

The measuring continues through chapter 42. When we come to chapter 43 we read, “Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple. While the man was standing beside me, I heard one speaking to me out of the temple, and he said to me, ‘Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places, by setting their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them. They have defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger. Now let them put away their whoring and the dead bodies of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in their midst forever.’ As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out. This is the law of the temple: the whole territory on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple” (Ezekiel 43:1–12, ESV).

New Testament Reading: Revelation 11:1-2

“Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months’” (Revelation 11:1–2, ESV).

Introduction

Here is what I believe the proper interpretation of this passage to be: the vision shown to John, of which he becomes a participant as he is “given a measuring rod” and told to “rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there”, symbolizes God’s presence with and protection of his people as they worship and serve him in a troubled world. John being told to “not measure the court outside the temple; [but to] leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months”, symbolizes the fact that God’s people will suffer trials and tribulations in this world in the time between the first and second coming of Christ.

In other words, the temple, its court, and the holy city symbolize the church. The measuring of “the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there” signifies God’s presence, protection and preservation of the church. The leaving out of the court and the holy city to be trampled by the nations signifies the church’s vulnerability in regards to suffering. The church is both secure and vulnerable in this world. This theme pervades the book of Revelation.

Not A Literal Temple, Contrary To Dispensationalism

I’m well aware of the fact that this is not the interpretation that most of you grew up with. Instead most of us were told that this vision will be fulfilled in the future during the last three and a half years of a seven year tribulation. In that time the ethnic Jews, having been regathered in Jerusalem and their temple having been rebuilt (temple is taken to be literal here) will suffer tribulation at the hands of the Gentiles, but will be protected and preserved by God. There are certainly variations within this hyper-literalistic, futuristic, pre-tribulational, pre-millennial, dispensational scheme, but what I have just said gets at the heart of the view. They imagine this text to be only about events in our future, they take the temple to be a literal brick and mortar temple, and they claim that this has nothing to do with Christians, but instead with ethnic Israel.

To put things in a more pejorative way, when reading Revelation 11:1-2 the hyper-literalistic, futuristic, pre-tribulational, pre-millennial, dispensationalist (we are surrounded by them) thinks, “this text had nothing at all to do with the Christians who received this letter from John in the first century, it had nothing at all to do with the Christians who have lived since that time, it has nothing to do with us today, and it will have nothing to do with us for, according to their view, all Christians will be raptured out of this world before this tribulation begins.

This is interpretation is clearly wrong for a number of reasons which I will list briefly:

  1. It is ignores the repeated emphasis in the book of Revelation concerning the of fulfillment of these prophesies being near in time to those who revived the book originally in 90 A.D. There are clearly references in the book to the time of the end which any reader should be able to recognize. That event – the second coming of Christ, the resurrection, final judgment, and the ushering in of the new heavens and new earth – are clearly in our future. But everything else in the book has to do, not with that last day, but with life as we know it now. The book begins and ends with the warning, “for the time is near”(1:3; 22:10) in order to keep us from making the error that the futurists have made.
  2. This view is incorrect in that it ignores the fact that this book had to do with the lives of those who first received it. They were said to be blessed if they kept what was in it. This too is said at the beginning and end of the book (1:3; 22:7) in order to keep the reader from making the error of the futurist who imagines that these prophesies will have only to do with people living in the last three and a half years of human history.
  3. The dispensational view is incorrect because it cannot give a reason for thinking that this passage has to do only with the time of the end. The burden of proof is on them. Where is the gap of time? Why does the say, this will happen a long, long, time from now at the very end of human history. The truth of the matter is that they impose their unbiblical system upon this text, and it cannot hold the weight.
  4. The dispensational view is incorrect because it is clearly out of step with the established meaning of the book of Revelation. The book has to do with how things will go with the people of God in the time between Christ’s first and second comings. First, John was shown visions concerning how things were in his day (the letters to the seven churches). After that he was shown visions concerning how things would be from that day forward (4:1). The visions that followed, with the exception of the ones that clearly depict what will happen on the last day, symbolize in general how things will be in this world for Christ’s followers. This has been demonstrated time and again in this sermon series. The point is that any Christian living at any time and in any place is able to pick up the book of Revelation and say, “I see what is depicted here in the pages of holy scripture at work in the world today. There are wars and rumors of wars, famines, trials and tribulations. The evil one is at work, but God, by his mercy, restrains him. And he keeps those who belong to him.” The hyper-literalistic, dispensational, futurist is not wrong to think that the prophesies of the book of Revelation will be fulfilled in world events. But they are wrong to assume that these prophesies will be fulfilled in one event only, and only in our future. Their interpretation of 11:1-2 as a description of a literal temple to be rebuilt in our future at which ethnic Jews will worship is yet another example of this error. It’s out of step with the meaning of the book of Revelation, which is clearly organized, not chronologically, but involves reputation and recapitulation.
  5. The dispensational view is incorrect because it badly contradicts the clear teaching of the New Testament. We will return to this point in a little bit. For now recognize that the New Testament makes it clear that the Old Covenant with its old forms of worship (centered at the temple) had passed away with the first coming of Christ and the establishment of the New Covenant. Consider these things: In the New Covenant there is no longer a distinction between Jew and Gentile – the dividing wall of hostility has been broken down (Ephesians 2). The true children of Abraham are those, born not according to the flesh, but of the Spirit – they are those who have faith in Christ (John 1, John 8, Romans 9). They are to worship, not on this mountain or that, but in Spirit and truth (John 4). Christ himself declared the physical temple in Jerusalem – the one destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans – to be desolate (Matthew 23:38). Christ himself claimed to be the temple. He tabernacled amongst us in his incarnation (John 1:1, 14), and he said, “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up”, referring not to the literal and physical temple, but to his body and to the resurrection. And notice that it is the church that is referred to as the temple throughout the New Testament. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth saying, “For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16, ESV). And he says to the individual Christian, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16, ESV)? And listen to what Peter wrote to Christians: “As you come to him [Jesus], a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4–5, ESV). Ironically, the dispensationalist, though obsessed with the thought of a future rebuilt brick and mortar Jewish temple, seems to miss entirely what the New Testament clearly teaches about the temple – that it is no longer physical and earthly, but spiritual and heavenly. The book of Hebrews should make any thought of a literal rebuilt temple and a reinstitution of Old Covenant animal sacrifices unthinkable to the Christians. Why? For the Christ has come who was the fulfillment of those Old Covenant types and shadows. The dispensational scheme is so terribly out of step with the entire New Testament. Their scheme, when put to the test, essentially misses the significance of Christ’s first coming.
  6. The dispensational view of Revelation 11:1-2 is incorrect because it contradicts the clear teaching of the Old Testament too. It is true that the Old Testament prophets spoke often of a restored Israel and a rebuilt temple, but they did so in such a way to make it clear that what was in view was far more glorious, universal, and pure than anything known under the Old Covenant. When we come to the pages of the New Testament they make it exceedingly and undeniably clear that the original intent of the Old Testament prophets was to point forward, first, to the arrival of Jesus the Christ, and through him, to the ushering in of the new heavens and earth at the consummation, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in [Jesus the Christ]” (2 Corinthians 1:20, ESV). Did not Jesus teach his disciples whom he met on the road to Emmaus saying, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25–27, ESV).

The Earthly Temple Pointed To Christ, His Church, And The New Creation

Brothers and sisters, the Old and New Testament scriptures are centered upon Christ, his person and his work. The Old Testament pointed forward to him through promises, prophesies, types and shadows. The New Testament looks back to him, telling of his person and work, applying all that he has accomplished to our lives under the New Covenant. The Old and New Testaments are about Christ’s redeeming work. They describe how it is that God has taken sinful, rebellious, alienated, judgment-deserving humanity and has rescued out it a particular people for his own possession – a people amongst whom he dwells –  a people of whom he can say, “I am their God, and they are my people.”

This phrase is repeated throughout the Old Testament, especially in the prophets as they looked forward to the coming of the Christ, and the establishment of the New Covenant. The phrase, “I will be their God, and they will be my people”, is significant. To put it differently, God promised that the in the days of the New Covenant, all the covenant members “would belong to him, and he to them.”  The phrase, “I will be their God, and they will be my people”, or something close to it, appears in Jeremiah 24:7, 31:33, 32:38, Ezekiel11:20, 37:23, 37:27, and also Zechariah 8:8. The prophets clearly pointed forward to the day when all of the people of the covenant would truly be God’s, and God would be theirs. It is this phrase that the Apostle Paul picks up on in 2 Corinthians 6:16 when he says, “What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16, ESV).

Paul picked up the phrase, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” and applied it, not ethnic Israel, which would run contrary to the rest of the New Testament, but to the church – to all who have faith in Christ, Jew and Gentile alike. He calls the church – those who have faith in Christ – “the temple of God” because they belong to him, and he to them, for he has redeemed them with Christ’s blood, and he dwells in them and with them.

Paul also alluded to another Old Testament passages in that 2 Corinthians 6 text. He says, “for we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them’”. This is a reference to Exodus 29:43-45. There the context is all about the tabernacle, which would later become the temple, and the sacrifices that were to be offered there under the Old Covenant. God said, “There [at the tabernacle] I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God” (Exodus 29:43–45, ESV).

The temple was the place where God dwelt in the midst of his people and was to be worshipped and served. Under the Old Covenant the temple was earthly and physical and was given to the Jews. Under the New Covenant the temple – the place where God dwells with man and is to be worshipped and served – is not earthy and physical, but heavenly, personal, and spiritual. “We are the temple of the living God”, Paul said to the Corinthians. To the Roman church he said, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1, ESV).

The thing that I am laboring to help you see is that the tabernacle and later the temple as it was under the Old Covenant symbolized God’s presence with his people. Everything in the New Testament, and even in the Old, makes it clear that that temple, along with the priesthood and the sacrifices which were offered there, were temporary and typological, pointing forward to a greater reality to be ushered in by a greater priest who had make a greater sacrifice.

When the fullness of time had come God the Son tabernacled amongst us in the incarnation through the person of Jesus Christ. The temple of his body was indeed destroyed as he offered himself up for his people but he was raised on the third day. The veil in the earthly temple was torn in two. He then ascended to the Father, “not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Hebrews 9:23–24, ESV). And Jesus the Christ, who is our great High Priest, did not leave us orphans, but has sent the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, which filled the Old Covenant temple with the glory cloud, now fills the church. You are the temple of of the Holy Spirit.

It is interesting, I think, that every time the word “temple” (ναός) is used in Paul’s writings it is used in reference to Christians or to the church, and not to the physical and Jewish temple. Just listen to Paul as he writes to the Ephesian church: “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:11–22, ESV).

Adam was a priest in the garden of Eden. He was to tend that temple where he enjoyed unbroken communion with the living God. The kingdom was offered to Adam there in the garden paradise. He belonged to God, and God belonged to him. He forfeited it.

God promised Adam that he would reestablish his kingship through the seed of the women. That process began to take shape with the calling of Abraham. The promises of God concerning redemption of a people were reiterated to him. From Abrahams loins a savior would come who would bless all the nations of the earth. Also, from Abrahams loins a peculiar nation would come who would belong to God.

That nation was born in the days of Moses as they were lead out of bondage from Egypt and toward the promised land. The Spirit of God was with them from the beginning, guiding them at night by a pillar of fire, and in the day by a pillar of cloud. The glory cloud of the Spirit would eventually come to rest upon the tabernacle and later the temple, filling the most holy place. It was there under Moses that the kingdom of God was prefigured. Everything in it pointed forward to the Christ.

When Jesus was conceived it was by the Spirit. When he began his ministry he was baptized by the Spirit descending upon him like a dove. His message, as well as John’s, was that the kingdom of God was at hand. Christ was filled by the Spirit so that everything he said and did was of the Spirit.When he was raised from the dead it was by the Spirit. Truly, he was the Messiah, which means, the one anointed of God. He was anointed by the Spirit. And when he ascended to the Father what did he do except give the Spirit to those who belong to him. “For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure” (John 3:34, ESV). He prepared his disciples for this, saying, “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, ESV). This was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, for it was then that the Spirit was poured out from on high upon the disciples of Christ for the first time.  It was then that the Spirit filled the New Covenant temple of God.

The kingdom has been offered, promised, prefigured, and inaugurated. When the kingdom is consummated everything will be temple.

Turn with me to Revelation 21:1 where see a vision depicting the consummation. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:1–3, ESV).

Now look at 21:9: “Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement” (Revelation 21:9–17, ESV).

Look at 21:22: “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:21–27, ESV).

The Ezekiel passage that I read portions from at the beginning of the sermon finds it’s ultimate fulfillment here, not in a physical and earthly temple, but in the new heavens and new earth. The prophet Ezekiel spoke to a people who had been in exile for some time, their temple having been destroyed. God showed Ezekiel a vision of a temple on a high mountain and told him to measure it.  He also described the purity of it’s priests and worship. The promise to the exiles was found in these words from God: “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places” (Ezekiel 43:7, ESV). In other words, “I’m not done with you Israel. Though you have been disciplined through exile, I will keep my promises to you. I will bring about the redemption of my people, and the promise of a new heavens and new earth.” It is important to notice that very last word’s of Ezekiel’s prophesy are these:  “And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There” (Ezekiel 48:35, ESV).

Please tell me that you can see the progression. Adam and Eve lived in a kind of temple where they enjoyed living in God’s presence. They were kicked out due to their sin. God promised to redeem. Things progressed. In the days of Moses the temple signified God presence amongst his people but in such a way so as to magnify their sin and to point to a coming Savior. The Savior came, being himself anointed by the Spirit and earned the right to give the Spirit. Those who are in him are filled with the Spirit and are individually and collectedly called the temple. In this age, the kingdom being inaugurated but not consummated, God’s temple is in hostile territory. At the consummation only the temple will remain, for “the dwelling place of God [will be] with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”

If this is all true, then why would Christians celebrate at the thought of a rebuilt brick and mortar temple where animal sacrifices are preformed? In light of all that the New Testament has to say about Christ, the temple, and the church, why would we celebrate or encourage such a thing? Wouldn’t a rebuilt temple and a return to the Old Covenant forms of worship be a most blatant denial that the Messiah has come. I can’t even begin to understand why Christians would celebrate such a thing. I understand the system – I grew up in a dispensational church. What I’m saying is that the system, when pressed and tested, ends up denying Jesus as the Christ. The Christian who is found rooting for a temple rebuilt by the Jews is really rooting for the Jewish people to continue in their rejection of Jesus as the Christ.

It is far better to understand that the temple and the court that are mentioned in Revelation 11:1-2 symbolize the church.  When John measures the “temple of God and the altar and those who worship there” it symbolizes this truth: God is with his people now as they worship and serve him on earth. He protects and preserves his people spiritually as they live on earth. This corresponds to the sealing of the 144,000 in the interlude between seals six and seven. John being told to “not measure the court outside the temple; [but to] leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months”, symbolizes the fact that God’s people will suffer trials and tribulations in this world.  Symbolized here, then, is the church of God prior to the consummation of all things. Symbolized here is the church of God living in the age between Christ’s first and second comings. This age is marked by tribulation. At the consummation all will be temple, as described in Revelation 21. No longer will the nations trample God’s people underfoot. Until that day, the church will suffer tribulation. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV).

This interpretation is perfectly in step with the way the Old Testament talks about the temple – both the earthly Mosaic temple, and the future, eschatological temple of Ezekiel 40-48. This interpretation is perfectly in step with the way that Jesus spoke about the temple – he claimed to be the true temple, declared it the earthly one to be desolate, and promised to send his Spirit to fill, not the physical temple but his people. This interpretation is perfectly in step with the way that the Apostles of Christ, particularly Peter and Paul, spoke of the temple. “You are the temple of the Holy Spirit”, Paul said. “As you come to [Jesus], a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual”, Peter said.  And this is perfectly in step with the way that the book of Revelation speaks about the temple.

The book uses temple imagery and applies to the church from the beginning. The opening vision was that of Christ walking in the midst of seven golden lamp stands. This is the lamp stand that was in the temple. Here it represents the church. To the church in Philadelphia Christ said, “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name” (Revelation 3:12, ESV).

Conclusion

Brothers and sisters, if you are in Christ, you are God’s temple. His Spirit is you. His Spirt is in us. It is we who are to offer up to God spiritual sacrifices as we live in this world. But we are still in the world, are we not? And in this world we will have tribulation. But God is with us. He is our God, and we are his people. Just as he sojourned with Israel in the wilderness those forty years – a pillar of fire by night, and a pillar of cloud by day – so too he is with us. We have all that we need in Christ Jesus. He is our sanctuary. We are seated with him in the heavenly places. He gives us spiritual manna to eat and spiritual water to drink. He will protect and preserve us until we take full possession of the new heavens and new earth go which it is said, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3–4, ESV). Take comfort in these things, brothers and sisters. And walk faithfully in Christ until that day.

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Russell Schmidt, Revelation 11:1-2, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: The Temple of God Measured (Part 1): Revelation 11:1-2

Sermon: A Bittersweet Message To Proclaim: Revelation 10

Old Testament Reading: Ezekiel 2:1–3:15

“’Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.’ And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house. But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.’ And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.’ So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.’ Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel— not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.’ Moreover, he said to me, ‘Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears. And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.’ Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me the voice of a great earthquake: ‘Blessed be the glory of the Lord from its place!’ It was the sound of the wings of the living creatures as they touched one another, and the sound of the wheels beside them, and the sound of a great earthquake. The Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the Lord being strong upon me. And I came to the exiles at Tel-abib, who were dwelling by the Chebar canal, and I sat where they were dwelling. And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days” (Ezekiel 2:1–3:15, ESV).

New Testament Reading: Revelation 10

“Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.’ And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven 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, 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. Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, ‘Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.’ So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, ‘Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.’ And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. And I was told, You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings’” (Revelation 10, ESV).

Introduction

I hope that by now you are growing accustom to the rhythm of the book of Revelation. The book is highly structured and it is repetitive. Both the structure and the repetition are meaningful.

The repetition – the repeated, albeit varied, description of how things will be in the world in the age between Christ’s first and second comings – is meaningful in that it corresponds to the repetitive nature of human history. Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun. The book of Revelation portrays, through the symbol-laden visions shown to John recorded for us in chapters 6 through 8, how things will be in this world until Christ returns.

Two passages from the gospels, which record the direct teaching Christ, seem to sum up the overarching message of Revelation chapters 6 through 8.

The first has been cited many times already. It is in Matthew 24:6-8 that we hear Christ say to his disciples, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:6–8, ESV).

This truth, taught by Christ in a most direct way, has been portrayed repeatedly and via symbol in Revelation chapters 6 through 8. This age will be marked by nations rising against nations, wars, rumors of war, famines, and natural disasters. This will be the norm. Their presence does not necessarily signal the end, but rather reminds us that the end will eventually come. God, by his mercy, will restrain evil until then. He will refrain from pouring out full and final judgment until the appointed time. But we should expect an intensification of wickedness and calamity on earth as the day of the Lord draws near. As it is with birth pains, so will it be when it comes to wickedness and trials and tribulations in the world. We should expect intensification.

This is what Jesus taught directly, and this is what the visions of Revelation 6 through 8 symbolize.

The second passage that comes to mind from the teaching of Christ in the gospels is John chapters 16 and 17. I cannot read these chapters in their entirety, but listen to the words of Christ in 16:33 as he prepares his disciples for life in this world in the time between his first and second comings: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV).

This is the other overarching message communicated in Revelation chapters 6-8: Those who belong to Christ will experience tribulation, but they are to be at peace in the world. Why are they to be at peace? Because Christ has overcome the world, and they belong to him. He has won the victory so that to die in Christ is to live – remember Revelation 6:9-11. His people are sealed so that they might be preserved in the midst of tribulation – remember Revelation 7:3-8. And because they are sealed those who belong to Christ are also protected from the torments of the evil one  – remember Revelation 9:4. And do not forget that Christ, because he has won the victory, is able to bring his people home to glory – remember the vision of Revelation 7:9-17.

God will keep his people in the midst of tribulation in and through Christ Jesus. Jesus said it directly. The visions of Revelation have symbolized it for us.

The book of Revelation also urges the Christian to be comforted by the bittersweet thought that God is active in pouring out partial and perpetual judgments upon his enemies even now, and that he will indeed judge his enemies fully and finally in the end.

Therefore, the repetition of Revelation 6 through 8 is intended to drive these three points home: One, there will be tribulation in the world until the Lord returns and even the people of God will experience it.  Two, God will preserve those who are his in Christ Jesus in midst of it.  Three, God is actively judging his enemies now in partial ways, but he will judge fully and finally in the end. This thought should be bittersweet to the Christian. Sweet in that it will be the day when God makes all things right and new. Bitter in that no Christian would ever celebrate at the thought of, even a personal enemy, coming under God’s judgment, but would rather mourn (Ezekiel 18:23). We should remember that the final judgment will produce, not celebration in heaven, but solemn silence (Revelation 8:1).

I have taken the time to review in this way for two reasons.

One, I want to exhort you to think deeply about these particular truths before we move on from them. It is not that we will move away from these concepts completely, but the focus does shift rather significantly beginning with chapter 12, which we will come to shortly.

Two, I have reviewed in this way so as to help us get our bearings before jumping into this new and distinct portion of the book of Revelation.

Exposition

What do we have here beginning with 10:1 except another interlude. Do you remember that term? I used it before to describe the literary feature that we encountered near to the end of the seal cycle.

We were told at the beginning of the seal cycle that there were seven seals to be broken by the Lamb. John then proceeded to describe to us the breaking of the individual seals and the visions that followed – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 – and then something unexpected happened. We were led to anticipate the breaking of the 7th seal but instead the cycle was interrupted.

The interruption itself provided a sense of delay – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6… the final judgment is not yet. But the content of the interlude was most revealing. It was there in Revelation 7 that we were shown the 144,000 sealed on earth followed by a vision of all the redeemed in heaven – an innumerable multitude from every tongue tribe and nation. The interlude communicated delay – final judgment is not yet – and it is also stressed the principle that God will keep his people on earth in the midst of tribulation and bring them safely home to glory.

It is no surprise, then, that we find the same feature in the trumpet cycle which has mirrored the seal cycle in many ways. How many trumpets are to be blown? Seven trumpets. How many have been blown? Only six. And now we have an interruption. The seventh trumpet will not be blown util Revelation 11:15.

If you were guess based upon what you have seen so far in the book of Revelation, what do you think will be emphasized in this interlude? Wouldn’t you assume that we would again see an emphasis God’s preservation of his people?

That is indeed what we have. Look ahead to chapter 11 verse 1.

It is there that John is “given a measuring rod like a staff, and [is]… told, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there” (Revelation 11:1, ESV). The temple, the alter, and those who worship there are protected, while the court outside the temple is “given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months” (Revelation 11:2, ESV). I’ll explain the text when we get there. For now, recognize the obvious point that it has to do with the protection and preservation of those who worship God on the earth as they are surrounded by the wicked.

The same principle is communicated, but from a different vantage point, with the “two witnesses”, who are called “the two olive trees” in Revelation 11:3-13. They serve God faithfully. They are killed by the wicked. “But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here!’ And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them” (Revelation 11:11–12, ESV). I’ll explain the text when we get there. For now, recognize that this passage has to do with God’s ability to bring his servants safely home to glory.

So the interlude of chapter 11 mirrors the interlude of chapter 7. The same overarching principles are communicated in both texts but in a different way, and with a different emphasis.

You’ve noticed, no doubt, that I have said a lot about the chapters that come before our text by way of review, and I’ve looked forward to the chapter that comes after our text, but as of yet I have said nothing about the text that is before us today. Let’s get to it now.

Here in chapter 10 we encounter a vision wherein John is recommissioned to prophecy concerning God’s judgments, which to John is bittersweet.

Indeed, John has already been prophesying in the book of Revelation. He has already been bearing “witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw” (Revelation 1:2, ESV). But here in 10:1 John is recommissioned as the chain of transmission that was verbally communicated in Revelation 1:1-3 is visually portrayed.

Do you remember then chain of transmission communicated in Revelation 1:1-3? “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:1–3, ESV).

The prophesies of the book of Revelation come to us from God who gave them to Christ who gave them to his angel who gave them to John to reveal to the church. This chain of transmission was stated verbally in 1:1-3 but it has been symbolized progressively in the book of Revelation through the exchange of the scroll which was initially sealed with seven seals.

We have already witnessed the first step in the chain of transmission. Revelation 5:1: “Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals” (Revelation 5:1, ESV). No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was found worthy to open the scroll with the exception of the Lamb who had been slain but was now alive. “He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne” (Revelation 5:7, ESV), and he began to break it’s seals.

Here we have a vision of the last stages of the chain of transmission as a mighty angel descends to give the little scroll, now opened, to John and God recommissions him to prophesy. The recommissioning at this point serves to highlight the fact that everything is about to intensify in the book and will have to do with the time of the end and the mysteries of God.

In 10:1 we read, “Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire” (Revelation 10:1, ESV). Some argue that this must be Christ himself given the glorious way in which this angel is described and the similarities with other passages that describe the glory of God and Christ. It is better, I think, to understand this being to be a mighty angel who comes from God and Christ and therefore represents them in a most powerful way.

In 10:2 we read, “He had a little scroll open in his hand…” (Revelation 10:2, ESV). We should not make too much out of the fact that before the “scroll” was simply called a “scroll”, but here it is called a “little scroll”. It is significant, I think, that the little scroll is said to be “open”. That is emphasized here in 10:2 and also in 10:8 where John is told to “the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel…” (Revelation 10:8, ESV). This is the scroll that was at first sealed but has been opened by Christ, given to the angel, who is hear seen giving it to John.

In 10:2 the angel is described as having “set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land…” (Revelation 10:2, ESV). This angel and the God who sent him has authority over land and sea. The scroll that he has will speak to God’s judgments over all that proceeds from land and sea – this will become important as the book of Revelation progresses.

In 10:3 we are told that the angel, “called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down” (Revelation 10:3–4, ESV).

How many cycles of seven are there in the book of Revelation. It is tempting to say “three” – the seals, trumpets and bowls – but really there are four if we include the thunders. They typically are not mentioned because the content of the seven thunders is not revealed, but rather hidden. John was commanded to “seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” This should remind us of Daniel’s experience when he, after receiving a vision, was told to “seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now’” (Daniel 8:26, ESV).

Commentators disagree over the meaning of the thunders being revealed to John and yet withheld from us.

Is this yet another way of God saying, “no more delay”? In other words, is this God saying that there will not be an ongoing recapitulation of cycles which communicate partial judgments – it’s time for the bowls of God full wrath to be poured out?

Or is this a way of communicating that, though the book of Revelation reveals much, it does not reveal all. There are some things about the time of the end which will remain mysterious to us and will only be known and understood as they happen. In other words, the book of Revelation advances what was revealed to Daniel, but the revelation is not exhaustive – somethings are left “sealed up”.

I prefer the second view, but it is not impossible to see that both might be correct. Perhaps both the end of delay and the ongoing presence mystery are meant to be communicated.

Look at verse 5: “And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven 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, 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” (Revelation 10:5–7, ESV).

This great angel swears by God, who is the Creator and Sovereign Lord of all created things – heaven, earth, and sea – that there will be no more delay. The seventh trumpet will usher in a vision that signifies the consummation of all things – that is to say, the end. And what will be revealed in the bowl judgments will have only to do with the end – that is to say, the full and final outpouring of the wrath of God. No more delay.

And it will be in that day that “mystery of God [will] be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” The prophets certainly spoke concerning the time of the end. That it will come is certain. But there is much that we do not know. When will that day come? Only God knows. And what exactly will it be like? Only God knows.

In 10:8 John says, “Then the voice that I had heard from heaven (4:1; 10:4) spoke to me again, saying, ‘Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.’ So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, ‘Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey’” (Revelation 10:8–9, ESV).

Certainly we are to remember Ezekiel 2 and the prophets commissioning to preach to Israel concerning the impending doom that would come upon them. Ezekiel was to call that people to repentance. He too was given a scroll to eat. In other words, he was to internalize the message, take it to heart, and live by it himself, before preaching the message to the people. The message was to him was both sweet and bitter. Sweet in that it was the word of God and contained promises concerning the future. Bitter in that his message would largely be ignored and would result in judgment.

I verse 10 we read, “And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. And I was told, ‘You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings’” (Revelation 10:10–11, ESV).

The message that John would to proclaim has to do, not with ethnic Israel, but with “many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” It is not hard to understand why his message is described as bittersweet. The message is bitter in that it has to do with the full and final judgment – the outputting of God’s wrath upon the ungodly. The message is sweet in that it describes the consummation of all of God’s plans, the day when all will be made right, and the ushering in of the new heavens and new earth.

Conclusion 

Are you ready for the Lord’s return?

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake” (Mark 13:32–37, ESV).

Is the thought of his return and all that will happen on that day bittersweet to you?

Are you diligent to pray for the salvation of those who do not know Christ and to speak of him as the Lord gives opportunity?

 

 

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Revelation 10, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: A Bittersweet Message To Proclaim: Revelation 10

Sermon: The Sixth Trumpet – Four Destroying Angels, First Restrained, Then Released:  Revelation 9:13-21

Old Testament Reading: Jeremiah 46:1-11; 19–28

“The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the nations. About Egypt. Concerning the army of Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates at Carchemish and which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: ‘Prepare buckler and shield, and advance for battle! Harness the horses; mount, O horsemen! Take your stations with your helmets, polish your spears, put on your armor! Why have I seen it? They are dismayed and have turned backward. Their warriors are beaten down and have fled in haste; they look not back— terror on every side!’ declares the Lord. ‘The swift cannot flee away, nor the warrior escape; in the north by the river Euphrates they have stumbled and fallen. Who is this, rising like the Nile, like rivers whose waters surge? Egypt rises like the Nile, like rivers whose waters surge. He said, ‘I will rise, I will cover the earth, I will destroy cities and their inhabitants.’ Advance, O horses, and rage, O chariots! Let the warriors go out: men of Cush and Put who handle the shield, men of Lud, skilled in handling the bow. That day is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance, to avenge himself on his foes. The sword shall devour and be sated and drink its fill of their blood. For the Lord God of hosts holds a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates. Go up to Gilead, and take balm, O virgin daughter of Egypt! In vain you have used many medicines; there is no healing for you… [verse 19] Prepare yourselves baggage for exile, O inhabitants of Egypt! For Memphis shall become a waste, a ruin, without inhabitant. A beautiful heifer is Egypt, but a biting fly from the north has come upon her. Even her hired soldiers in her midst are like fattened calves; yes, they have turned and fled together; they did not stand, for the day of their calamity has come upon them, the time of their punishment. She makes a sound like a serpent gliding away; for her enemies march in force and come against her with axes like those who fell trees. They shall cut down her forest, declares the Lord, though it is impenetrable, because they are more numerous than locusts; they are without number. The daughter of Egypt shall be put to shame; she shall be delivered into the hand of a people from the north.’ The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, said: ‘Behold, I am bringing punishment upon Amon of Thebes, and Pharaoh and Egypt and her gods and her kings, upon Pharaoh and those who trust in him. I will deliver them into the hand of those who seek their life, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and his officers. Afterward Egypt shall be inhabited as in the days of old’, declares the Lord. ‘But fear not, O Jacob my servant, nor be dismayed, O Israel, for behold, I will save you from far away, and your offspring from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease, and none shall make him afraid. Fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the Lord, for I am with you. I will make a full end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished’” (Jeremiah 46:1-11; 19–28, ESV).

New Testament Reading: Revelation 9:13-21

“Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound. The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts’” (Revelation 9:13–21, ESV).

Exposition

When the sixth angel blew his trumpet John “heard a voice from the four horns of the golden alter before God…”

This golden alter has been mentioned many times now in the book of Revelation. In 6:9 John saw “the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne” under the alter. From there they cried out to God for justice to be served. What follows is a description of judgment, an answer to their prayers. In 8:3 it was upon this alter that John saw an angel offer up much incense along with the prayers of all the saints before the throne of God. And in 8:5 John says that “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.” This alter, then, has taken a central place in the book of Revelation. It has come to represent, on the one hand, the prayers of the saints in heaven and on earth coming to the ears of God, and on the other hand, the place from which the judgments of God are poured out upon the earth. The same seems to be true here in Revelation 9:13. John heard a voice coming from the four horns of the golden alter. Are we not to assume that, one, judgment is about to be released, and two, that it is prayers of God’s people that precipitate the outpouring of the judgment.

The number four is used in the book of Revelation, as well as other places in scripture, to symbolize completeness especially in connection with the earth. We use the number four symbolically even today, referring to the ends of the earth as the four corners of the earth – north, south, east and west. The number four symbolizes global completeness. It is to here – to this four cornered alter – that the prayers of all the saints throughout all the world come. And it is from here that the judgments of God are poured out upon all the earth. Horns symbolize power in the Bible. It from this alter, with four horns on it’s corners, that the God’s powerful sovereign judgments are poured out.

What did the voice coming from the horns of the alter say? The voice from the alter addressed “the sixth angel who had the trumpet [saying], ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates’” (Revelation 9:14, ESV).

The mention of “four angels… bound” here in this text should remind us immediately of the other bound quadruplets that we have encountered in the book of Revelation. The four horsemen of Revelation 6 and also the four angels called the four winds of heaven in Revelation 7:1-2 should come to mind. These spiritual beings were given authority by God to harm the earth, but they are described as being restrained until some appointed time, then they are released. The same is true here in Revelation 9. Mention is made of “four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”

The Euphrates River originates in eastern Turkey, flows through Syria and Iraq, joins the Tigris river, and then empties into the Persian Gulf. In biblical times, from the perspective of the Jews, the Euphrates River was associated with the enemy nations from the east who threatened them and who would eventually carry them into captivity. Put yourself in Israel and under the Old Covenant. Look east, away from the Mediterranean Sea, across the Jordan, far out into the wilderness. What do you think of when you consider that land where the Euphrates River runs? That is where the enemy lives. That is where conquering armies come from.

Quoting Dr. Dennis Johnson, “The Euphrates River had biblical and contemporary significance. In biblical history the Euphrates connoted a source of oppression and place of exile. Beyond the Euphrates River had stood ancient Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian Empire that conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, and Babylon, which had carried Judah into captivity. The Lord had humbled and dismantled Babylon through the rising power of the Medo-Persian Empire and had resettled his people in the land of promise. But prophets of the exile still spoke of foreign powers such as  ‘Gog,’ who would sweep down from the northeast, from the Euphrates, to afflict God’s people” (Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, 150).

Johnson explains the contemporary significance of the Euphrates, saying, “For residents of the Roman Empire at the end of the first century [contemporary with the writing of the book of Revelation], the Euphrates was the eastern edge of the of Rome’s domain, beyond which were the threatening powers of the East, especially Parthia with its calvary of mounted archers, always harassing the Roman Empire’s eastern outposts. During the 60’s, after the conflagration that destroyed large portions of Rome and Nero’s disappearance, rumors flew in the capitol and the provinces that the megalomaniacal emperor had escaped to the east and was making preparations to reconquer the world at the head of the Parthian calvary” (Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, 150).

Why do I read these excerpts from Johnson’s commentary? Well, they helps us get into the mind of the original reader of the book of Revelation living in 90 A.D. These were Christians who knew the Old Testament – they knew the significance of the Euphrates River, biblically speaking. And these were Christians living in a particular situation. To them, mention of powers pent up at the Euphrates meant something. It conjured up images of the marauding hoards that constantly assaulted their homeland. It probably also brought to mind the myth that Nero had fled there, and might return, bringing all manner of destruction with him. The vision shown to John is be understood with these things in mind. When the Christians living within those seven churches in Asia Minor to whom this book was addressed read the words, “release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates”, they would not have thought, I wonder what that will mean for Christian living 2,000 years from now, but rather, this image represents what has happened and what will happen time and again in human history – nation will rise up against nation, people against people, bring all manner death and destruction.

Mention of “angels bound at the Euphrates” has symbolic force. It symbolizes the fact we live in a world that is constantly on the verge of being given over to chaos and calamity. God, by his grace, restrains it; but he also permits calamities as a form of judgment upon the wicked. The voice from the alter addressed “the sixth angel who had the trumpet [saying], ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates’” (Revelation 9:14, ESV).

“So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind” (Revelation 9:15, ESV). Notice that these angels were prepared, that is to say, made ready, for a particular task to be accomplished at a particular time – “the hour, the day, the month, and the year”.

The futurist believes that the “hour, the day, the month, and the year” is yet to come in our future. Tim Lahaye, a popular dispensationalist and futurist says, “There is no need to spiritualize, ‘the great river Euphrates’, considered by Bible scholars to be the greatest river of boundaries in the Bible… That these four evil angels are today (copyright 1999) bound in that area of the world is no accident, for it seems that some of the world’s greatest events took place near the Euphrates River” (Lahaye, Revelation Unveiled, 174). His view is that Revelation 9:13-21 describes something that will happen yet future to us.

Our view is that Revelation 9:13-21, though it describes events future to us, also describes events that were near in time to those who first to read Revelation, having received it from John in 90 A.D.

In response to Lahaye’s comment, “there is no need to spiritualize, ‘the great river Euphrates’”, I would say two things. One, I agree that we should not “spiritualize” the text if by that he means interpreting this passage as if it will never have any real fulfillment that manifests itself in the physical world, but only “spiritual” meaning or application. I do think that this text has been and will be fulfilled in the world through actual historical happenings. Two, though we ought not to spiritualize this passage in the way described above, we must take it as symbolic. The whole of the book of Revelation is filled with symbols. The book communicates truth via symbol. That is why our first impulse should be to ask, what does the river Euphrates symbolize, and what does the releasing of the four angels bound there, prepared for “the hour, the day, the month, and the year” represent in this vision?

In the mind of the futurist there are literally four fallen angels – angels of destruction – bound right now at the Euphrates (I suppose they have been there for 1,900 years or more) who are waiting for “the hour, the day, the month, and the year” so that they might do what they have been prepared to do.

The idealist, which is what I am, interprets the passage differently and begins by asking what do these things represent? And after discerning the symbolism associated with the number four, the Euphrates, and the principle of restraint and releasing, we then to move to ask the question, how has this been fulfilled in the past, and how might this come to be in the future?

Look at what happens when the angels are released. “So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind” (Revelation 9:15, ESV). Is this the final judgment? No, it is something less than that.

Then we are told that “the number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number” (Revelation 9:16, ESV). These mounted troops seem to appear out of nowhere. These four ungodly angels have power over these ungodly spiritual forces. Literally, their number is 200,000,000. This should remind us of what happened when the fifth trumpet was blown. The fallen star was given the key to the bottomless pit and when the pit was opened so many locust rushed out that the sun was darkened. So too, when the four angels are released, an innumerable hoard of evil spirits appear armed for battle and ridding upon horses.

Verse 17: “And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur , and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths” (Revelation 9:17, ESV). These are ferocious creatures who bring about death and destruction.

“By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths” (Revelation 9:18, ESV). Beale notes that “elsewhere in the Apocalypse the same phrase [fire and sulphur] is always used in references to the final judgment of ungodly idolaters (14:10; 21:8) and of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet (19:20; 20:10). Therefore, 9:17 speaks of a similar judgment, but one that precedes the final punishment. Likewise in the OT “fire and sulphur”, sometimes with “smoke,” indicate a fatal judgment (Gen. 19:24, 28; Deut. 29:23; 2 Sam. 22:9; Isa. 34:9-10; Ezek. 38:22)” (Beale, NIGTC, 510-511).

In verse 19 we read: “For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound” (Revelation 9:19, ESV). This should remind us of the description of the locust. It should also remind us that these are not literal horses, but symbolic. They represent demons in such a way that reminds us of their power, their ferocity, and their ability to deceive.

It seems to me that Christians living in America, or in any place that has not been touched by war or significant civil unrest for some time, have a particularly difficult time understanding what is symbolized here with the sounding of the sixth trumpet.

You and I live with a sense of security not enjoyed by all in the world today, not to mention the history of the world. Imagine what it would have been like to live in Europe in the 1940’s. Or put yourself in Korea living near the 38th parallel in 1950. Or imagine living in Vietnam in the 60’s and 70’s. Somehow I think you might read Revelation 9:13-21 a little differently if you were living in those places at those times.

Certainly you would have thought, “this is being fulfilled now! I see it before my eyes. Death and destruction is all around me! Look at power of the evil one unleashed! Look at how sick and sinful humanity is!” Indeed, being surrounded on every side with death and destruction you would have been right to say, “it appears as if the four angels once bound at the Euphrates, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, have been released to kill a third of mankind.” If you had any knowledge of history you would also say, “this is not the first time”. If you had any understanding of human nature you would say, “this will not be the last”, unless the Lord returns.

My complaint against the futurist and the dispensationalist is not that they see the prophesies of the book of Revelation being fulfilled in the world today. I also believe that the visions shown to John are being and will be fulfilled. My complaint against them is that they busy themselves trying to find THE ONE EVENT that fulfills this passage or that exhaustively so that they might start their countdown clocks. The approach is misguided.

You would think that men and women, having had a taste of judgment and having seen with their eyes the depth of man’s depravity would turn from their own sin and to Christ. But look at verses 20 and 21: “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation 9:20–21, ESV).

This parallels the exodus. God judgments were poured out upon the Egyptians in the form of plagues, but Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. He did not turn from worshipping his false God’s.

Let me draw your attention to four things before we close.

Intensification

First of all, notice the intensification that we see as the book of Revelation progresses.

Remember the how the seal cycle intensified as it progressed from seal to seal.

The first four describe calamity in general.

In the fifth the souls of the mortars cry out for justice.

The sixth describes the final judgment from an earthly perspective.

The seventh describes the final judgment from the heavenly perspective.

And notice the intensification from the seals to the trumpets.

1/4 to 1/3

The judgments poured out are less general and more pointed.

The imagery is more graphic

Notice the intensification from trumpet to trumpet.

In the first four the realms of creation are touched, disturbing the natural order of things, taking comfort and security from the earth dweller.

In the fifth, those who do not belong to Christ are tormented spiritually and physiologically, but in a limited way. For five months. The locusts cannot kill them.

In the sixth trumpet 1/3 of all the idol worshippers are killed.

We will see intensification as we move from the trumpet cycle to the bowl cycle.

The meaning is this, I think. The world – people and nations – tend towards evil, and not towards good. And therefore the judgments of God intensify accordingly in the lives of individuals and nations. And this pattern repeats itself, not only in the book of Revelation, but also in human history.

Applied To The World

It seems to me that the world is moving, not from bad to good, but from bad to bad, if not bad to worse. I disagree with the postmillennialist who is optimistic concerning the betterment of culture. I am optimistic concerning the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, but I question weather the world is going to become a better place.

“As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to [Jesus] privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. ‘Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:3–14, ESV).

Applied To Nations

It seems to me that nations follow this pattern. They tend to degenerate over time, and not improve, morally speaking.

Applied To Individuals

And the same is true concerning individuals who do not know Christ. It seems to me that this is the kind of thing that Paul was talking about in Romans 1:18: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:18–25, ESV).

Restraint

Secondly, notice the principle of restraint. The destructive angels who were eventually release were first of all bound.

And when they were released they were permitted to kill only 1/3 of the idolators – 2/3 of the enemies of God were spared.

To those who blaspheme God saying, “if there is a God then why is there so much suffering in the world?”, I say, “it is only because God is merciful that there is not more.” God would be right to judge all fully and finally now.

But he is merciful to all. And he unimaginably gracious to those whom he has determined to reconciled to himself through faith in Christ Jesus.

Permission

Thirdly, notice the principle of permission.

Certainly God will judge in a most direct way in the future. But he also judges by way of permission.

He gives men over to their sins, permitting them to walk according to their sinful desires so that they reap the consequences of their ways.

And he permits the evil spirits to at in this world. They are restrained – that we have already seen – but he does permit them to act so that he might bring about his judgments through them.

Preservation

Lastly, let me remind you of God’s ability to preserve those who are his.

What is described here in the sixth trumpet is God’s judgment poured out upon those who do  “not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor [do] they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.” These are the ones judged.

This corresponds to the fifth seal. It is those who do not have God’s mark on them who come under his judgment. Christians suffer in the world, no doubt. But for the child of God the suffering is for good. It is to refine. The end of it is life. But for those not in Christ, the suffering is just judgment, and it’s end is death.

Turn to Christ, friend. Confess your sin to him, trust in him, cling to him always, and see that God is good and that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6, ESV)

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Revelation 9:13-21, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: The Sixth Trumpet – Four Destroying Angels, First Restrained, Then Released:  Revelation 9:13-21

Sermon: The Fifth Trumpet – A Star Fallen From Heaven: Revelation 9:1-12

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 10:1-20

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.’ So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and said to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country, and they shall cover the face of the land, so that no one can see the land. And they shall eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours that grows in the field, and they shall fill your houses and the houses of all your servants and of all the Egyptians, as neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day.’’ Then he turned and went out from Pharaoh. Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, ‘How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?’ So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. And he said to them, ‘Go, serve the Lord your God. But which ones are to go?’ Moses said, ‘We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘The Lord be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. No! Go, the men among you, and serve the Lord, for that is what you are asking.’ And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, so that they may come upon the land of Egypt and eat every plant in the land, all that the hail has left.’ So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind had brought the locusts. The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever will be again. They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh hastily called Moses and Aaron and said, ‘I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you. Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the Lord your God only to remove this death from me.’ So he went out from Pharaoh and pleaded with the Lord. And the Lord turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea. Not a single locust was left in all the country of Egypt. But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go” (Exodus 10:1–20, ESV).

New Testament Reading: Revelation 9:1-12

“And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them. In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon. The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come” (Revelation 9:1–12, ESV).

Introduction 

I will begin today by stating directly the meaning of this passage, and then afterwards move carefully through the text, verse by verse, in order to demonstrate the validity of the interpretation.

The vision that was shown to John when the fifth of the seven trumpets was blown symbolizes this truth: Satan, that ancient serpent and fallen angel, was barred from heaven and cast down to earth when Christ won the decisive victory over him through his life, death, burial and resurrection. Satan was defeated then. One of the effects of Christ’s victory was that Satan was barred from heaven as the accuser of the brethren, was restricted to the earth, and was bound.

To say that he was bound does not mean that he is now powerless in every respect, or that he is inactive altogether, but that such a decisive victory was won over him through the cross of Christ, that whatever he does, he does only by way of permission. God and Christ are sovereign over the evil one. This has always been the case. But from the time of the ascension of Christ to the Father, the powers of the evil one are greatly limited. Satan is on a shorter leash today than in the days prior to the resurrection of Christ from the dead. And it is Christ who holds that leash.

The evil one knows that his days are numbered. When he is permitted to act, he acts, therefore, with great ferocity. That seems to be the point of this vision. Satan is a wicked and cruel master. He torments with spiritual and psychological torment all who belong to him – that is, all who do not have the seal of God upon them, but who have taken instead his mark. The reward they receive for their fidelity to him is not life, but death; not peace, but turmoil. These torments are poured out upon the ungodly by his demons, whom he is king over.

Some of you have lived for a time under the torments of this wicked master.  Some of you are living under his torments even now as you walk, not according to Christ, but according to the evil one. You know what it is to be stung by his minions, and to even long for death, but to have death flee from you. This passage ought to to move the Christian to follow Christ all the more closely – to be true to him as Lord – to be his slave, knowing that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30).  To have Christ as Lord is to have “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding… [guarding] your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV).

This is the meaning of the vision shown to John when the fifth of seven trumpets were blown.

Brothers and sisters, remember that when the first four trumpets were blown judgments were poured out upon the created world. When the first trumpet was blown John saw hail, fire and blood cast upon the land. When the second trumpet was blown he saw something like a burning mountain cast into the sea. When the third trumpet was blown he saw a great star burning like a torch fall upon rivers and springs. And when the fourth trumpet was blown the sun, moon and stars were darkened. In each instance our minds are directed back to the Old Testament, particularly the plagues poured out upon the Egyptians at the exodus – there too the created world was effected. In each of the four trumpets the plagues of the exodus are both universalized (not restricted to the land of Egypt, but effecting the world), and also restrained (only a third of the mentioned realms are said to be effected). The meaning of the first four trumpets is this: God will, in the time between Christ’s first and second comings, pour out partial and perpetual judgments upon the earth disrupting the stability of life on this planet as a demonstration to the unbelieving and idolatrous, that they are not right with God, and as a warning to all that a full and final judgment will one day come. The first six trumpets in the book of Revelation function like the first six trumpets in the days leading up to the destruction of Jericho. We should remember, though, that God, while pouring out partial and perpetual judgments upon the idolatrous can and will preserve his people. Nations will rise and fall. There will be wars and rumors of wars. Earthquakes and famines will trouble us. But by the grace of God these phenomena will be restrained. The end is not yet. These are but the beginning of birth pains. The people of God are to persevere.

Intensification

Notice that the last three trumpets are set off from the first four.

There is an intensification. Look at 8:13.  Between the sounding of the fourth trumpet and the fifth we have these words: “Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, ‘Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow’” (Revelation 8:13, ESV)!

Eagles and vultures symbolize judgment in the Bible. They are called to gorge themselves upon the flesh of the fallen.

Ezekiel 39:1-5: “And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog and say, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. And I will turn you about and drive you forward, and bring you up from the uttermost parts of the north, and lead you against the mountains of Israel. Then I will strike your bow from your left hand, and will make your arrows drop out of your right hand. You shall fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your hordes and the peoples who are with you. I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. You shall fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Lord God” (Ezekiel 39:1–5, ESV).

Here an eagle is seen by John flying overhead and crying out “woe, woe, woe”. The last of the seven trumpets are also called “woes”, for they are more intense than the first four.

A Star Fallen From Heaven

When the “fifth angel blew his trumpet… [John] saw a star fallen from heaven to earth…” (Revelation 9:1a, ESV).

This star represents Satan. He is, in verse eleven, said to be the king over the demonic hoards that will proceed from the bottomless pit. His name, in verse eleven, is said to be Abandon in Hebrew, and Apollyon in Greek. “Abandon” means destruction. “Apollyon” means destroyer.

Notice that in this vision John does not say that he saw Satan fall, but that he saw him fallen: “And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth…” (Revelation 9:1a, ESV).  The verb “fallen” is in the perfect tense which is used in the Greek to refer to a completed action that occurred in the past but produces a state of being that exists in the present, from the writers perspective. The vision picks up, then, not with Satan being cast from heaven, but with him already having been barred from heaven and bound.

The casting down of Satan from heaven to earth will be portrayed in Revelation 12:7-12.

“Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:7–12, ESV)!

Jesus referred to the casting down of Satan from heaven to earth in his earth ministry.  Luke 10:17-20 says,  “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’  And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven’” (Luke 10:17–20, ESV). The disciples of Jesus rejoiced that they had authority over the demonic in Christ’s name. And Jesus confirmed their success by saying, “I saw…” (other translations say, “I was watching”, or “I beheld”, which brings out the emphasis of the imperfect tense a little more, I think) “I saw [or was watching] Satan fall like lightning from heaven”. The disciples of Christ were beginning to enjoy the victory of Christ over the evil on even in the days of his earthly ministry as the kingdom of heaven was intruding.

In John 12:31-32 we find these words on Jesus’ lips as he speaks of the effect of his death: “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:31–32, ESV). The death of Christ would accomplish, among other things, the casting out Satan, who is the ruler of this world.

Matthew 12:28-29 communicates a similar concept. Christ here speaks of the binding of Satan. He replied to the accusation of his opponents that he was casting out dreams by the power of Satan with the words, “And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:26, ESV) And in verse 28 he says, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house” (Matthew 12:28–29, ESV).

Indeed, this is what Christ has accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection. He has defeated the evil one so that he be barred from heaven. He has bound him from deceiving the nations so that he might plunder his house through the advancement of his kingdom by the making of disciples to the ends of the earth.

You might be thinking to yourself, but wasn’t Satan cast from heaven the moment he fell? Not completely. Do you remember the story of Job? The book begins with a description of Job as a righteous man, but the focus quickly turns to the accusations that Satan brings to God against him.

Job 1:6-12: “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’ Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord” (Job 1:6–12, ESV).

Satan, after his fall, was permitted to come before God in heaven. And what was he doing there? Bringing accusation against God’s elect.

The same thing can be observed in Zechariah 3:1. Zechariah saw a heavenly vision where he was shown, and I quote,  “…Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire’” (Zechariah 3:1–2, ESV)? Once more, Satan is said to come before God to do what? Accuse God’s elect!

And do you remember what Christ said to Peter as he warned him that he would deny him three time? “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31–32, ESV). Again, Satan is portrayed as the accuser of God’s elect and evidently, even at this point in time immediately preceding the crucifixion of Christ, has access to God to ask for Peter that he might destroy him.

When the scriptures refer to Satan being cast or barred from heaven at Christ’s first coming, this is what stands behind it. He, in this New Covenant era no longer has access to God to accuse the elect for the work of Christ has been finished.

It is the Revelation 12 passage that I read earlier which makes this so clear. The heavenly announcement was this: “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” This was accomplished at Christ’s first coming. I will prove it when we come to that text in our study.

Do you see that when A-millennialists such as I say things like, “Satan was bound at Christ’s first coming”, or “Satan was bared from heaven at Christ’s first coming”, or “Satan was defeated at Christ’s first coming”, we do not mean to say that he is powerless in every respect, or that he is inactive altogether. No! He is indeed active. He has power. He is ferocious. But he is on a short leash. He cannot accuse the brethren any long, nor is he able to keep the nation is darkness, nor can he do harm to God’s elect.

That he is still active is clear from the text that is before us this morning.

He Was Given The Key To The Shaft Of The Bottomless Pit 

Notice at the end of verse one that John saw this fallen star being given “… the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit” (Revelation 9:1, ESV).

The bottomless pit, or the abyss, is the realm of demons over which Satan rules. Revelation 20:1-3 says that Satan is bound there. It is from the bottomless pit that the beast will arise. Revelation 11:7 says “And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them…” (Revelation 11:7, ESV). Listen also to Revelation 17:8: “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction…. (Revelation 17:8, ESV).  The image is that of Satan doing his destructive work on the earth from this bottomless pit as he sends forth his emissaries from there.

Remember that John saw him being given “… the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.” Who gave the keys to him? Christ did. Remember that Christ is the one who, by his death and resurrection, has “the keys of Death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17–18, ESV). It is God and Christ who have the keys, but they here given to Abaddon, who is also called Apollyon, for a purpose. To quote G.K. Beale, the meaning is this: “Neither Satan nor his evil servants can any longer unleash the forces of hell on earth unless they are given power to do so by the resurrected Christ.”

Brothers and sisters, Satan has surely been bound – he is certainly restrained (praise be to God) – but this does not mean that he is inactive. He is king of the abyss. And he is permitted by God to release destruction upon the earth from the abyss, but in a limited and restrained way.

Locust From The Bottomless Pit  

Look at verse two and use your imagination as we read. The fallen star, who’s name is Abaddon and Apollyon “opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft” (Revelation 9:2, ESV).

Can you picture what John saw in this vision? Can you picture the abyss and smoke rising from it “like the smoke of a great furnace”? So thick was this smoke that “the sun and the air were darkened” by it.

But this is not merely smoke.  Verse three: “Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth” (Revelation 9:3, ESV).

The eighth of the ten plagues should come to mind. Remember that God sent swarms of locust upon the Egyptians. “The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever will be again. They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt” (Exodus 10:14–15, ESV). In this way God poured out judgment upon the idolators of Egypt, but he preserved his own.

Notice in Revelation that these are not literal locusts who literally consume literal plants. Instead these locusts, “were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (Revelation 9:4, ESV).

Their work is limited. They do not have the freedom to harm people indiscriminately, but only those who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. Who are these except all who belong to Christ by faith who have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise? It is the 144,00 who are sealed – 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of multiethnic, New Covenant Israel – that is to say, the church.

These locusts cannot touch God’s people, but only the idolaters who have, not the seal of God, but the mark of beast. Friends, you are not free. You are in bondage to someone. You either belong to Christ, having been sealed by him, or you belong to the evil one, bearing his mark.

These locusts, who represent demons,  “were allowed to torment them [those not sealed by God] for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone” (Revelation 9:5, ESV).

Notice again that these are limited. They are permitted to torment for five months. This should not be taken literally. Numbers are symbolic in this book. The point seems to be that, not only are the locust restrained from harming God’s people, bit they are restrained also in regard to the harm they can do even to the idolator.

They are also restrained in that they are not allowed to kill those whom they torment.

Their torment is described as the sting of a scorpion.

It seems to me that what is portrayed here in Revelation is a depiction of what Christ said in Luke 10:18-20: “And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:18–20, ESV).

Such is the torment of these locusts that those effected by them “in those days… will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them” (Revelation 9:6, ESV).

The futurist and the hyper-literalist thinks that this is a literal description of literal creatures who will literally sting with a sting like that of a scorpion, and that the literal and physical pain will drive men mad to the point of desiring death. This method of interpretation is not in step with the method of interpretation demanded elsewhere in the book of Revelation. The book everywhere communicates truth by way of symbol. The torment of the locusts sting is not literal and physical, but spiritaulartul and psychological. This interpretation is in keeping with the symbolism of the rest of he book.

The point is this: this is how the evil one rewards those who belong to him. Notice that he is pleased to sting, not the people of God, but his own people. He is pleased to torment them. He is glad to remove all joy and peace as he overwhelms them with all manner of spiritual torment to the point that they despair of life and long for death.

A child of God – one sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise – cannot be stung by the full power of the locusts sting. But I cannot help but think that the Christian may taste what it is like to live under these torments for a time when he or she turns from Christ to walk in sin, and in so doing, grieves the Spirit of God with which they have been sealed.

Some of you know what it is to belong to the evil one and to be tormented by him to the point of despairing of life and longing for death. The thing that kept you from suicide, was the fearful expectation of judgment.

But some of you who belong to Christ have walked in sin and, in so doing, grieved the Holy Spirit so that you know something of the tortuous existence experienced by those who have not the Holy Spirit. This, I think, is a relatively common Christian experience.

Walk with Christ, friends. Turn from your sins and believe in him. Confess him as Lord, for his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30). In him is found joy and peace and much comfort. To belong to the evil one will bring only everlasting torment to your soul.

Notice the description of these locusts in Revelation 9:7-10. “In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails” (Revelation 9:7–10, ESV).

Some hyper-literalistic dispensational futurists think that John must have been shown a vision of modern attack helicopters and that he did his best to describe what he saw. I will admit that I can see how this passage would get their imaginations going. I can understand how they would come to this conclusion given their presuppositions about the book of Revelation – they assume that the visions shown to John we like video footage, as it were, of historical events that are yet to happen in our future. But as I have said before, their presuppositions are faulty.

Instead it is better to understand that what John saw had symbolic significance and that it draws upon key Old Testament texts.

The way that John describes locust should take our minds to Joel chapters 1 and 2 and Jeremiah 51, which I do not have the time to read today.

It is clear that he struggled to describe what he saw.  He said, “In appearance the locusts were like…” These creatures were so strange that he struggled to describe them. They were like nothing he had seen before.

The way that the creatures are described underscores that they are powerful, rational, terrifying, beings who possess authority to destroy.

When I say this is not a literal description of real creatures that should not bring you too much comfort. These creatures represent real beings who, although they do not look like this, have real power cause real destruction. The terrifying description of them ought to make us all the more sober concerning the evil one and power to destroy.

Conclusion

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Revelation 9:1-12, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: The Fifth Trumpet – A Star Fallen From Heaven: Revelation 9:1-12


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warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
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