IV. The Heavenly Response

So now we have reached the end of man’s glory. “And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.” The bodies of two prophets are lying on the streets of Jerusalem. The Antichrist has entered the temple during this time and committed the abomination of desolation either by offering swine flesh on the altar or something else. The world has cheered and celebrated in their triumph. They glory in the deification of man. This is the end indeed. It is the end of humanism. It is the fleeting triumph of the proverbial human spirit. The have refused to repent of the perversions and for a moment they feel as if they have defeated God and all of His people. There is hope in humanity in the air. Three and one half days the wicked reveling has gone on. They have drank to their fill from the vessels of the Lords house as Belshazzar did. They have made merry and sent gifts and it seemed that the joy would never end. Three and one half days are litter days. Half of a week. They are also symbolic as to where we are, the middle of the seventieth week (Dan. 9:27); which is the end (Matt. 24:14, 15). The have built their Babel in this is the end of it. Mankind may no more have their kingdom. The image of man with its head of gold down to its feet of clay must be grounded to powder by the stone which they have rejected (Dan. 2). Now it is time for fear for the Belshazzar of this world; a time for their knees to smote together. Now is the time for confusion for the citizens of Babel. Judgment will begin at the house of God that the beast has usurped as its seat. It was not possible that a prophet die outside of Jerusalem (Luke 13:33). Their death was the final straw, the catalyst for the judgment of God. The blood of the prophets have cried from the ground for 6,000 years of human history or more. Now God will require it (Gen. 9:6). Jesus told us this: “Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation” (Luke 11:49-51).

2proph

So our God answers this wicked world. First, God reminds the earth of the power of his resurrection. Again, our text says, “… the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.” The world will be struck with fear when reminded of the resurrection of life. First, it reminded the world that God is the giver of life. We need not fear that those that can kill the body and afterward have no power. Christ said that we ought to “rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). When it comes to the essence of life man has absolutely no control. It is God that breathed into the nostrils of man to make man a living soul (Gen. 2:7). God gives man the spirit of life. It is said of physical death, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecc. 12:7). The false doctrine that says that the soul is the body (as taught by the Adventist and the Jehovah Witnesses among others) is refuted. Man has a soul (spirit of consciousness) that is separated from him at death. When we die our soul goes to God while our bodies may lie upon the earth (II Cor. 5:8). Our text reminds us that the soul of man (described as the spirit of life) comes from God. In God is life (John 1:4, 5:26). The evolutionist and material philosophers have glaring problem with life itself (not to mention the special spirit of life that is given to mankind). The law of biogenesis tells us that life comes from life. They must posit that there was a time which life came from non-life. The Christian never has to make such a leap of faith. The power of the resurrection messes with the understanding of the natural man. It confronts them again with the fact that there is a God who gives life. “The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life” (Job 33:4). The resurrection confronts them with the irrefutable logic that there is a God that they must answer to. Paul declared these truths to the men of Athens, “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:24-31). When these men are raised from the dead it reminded them that this is none else but the finger of God at work. It was a reminder that the God that they stood against was still active and working in their world. This was a rebuke of their sin and rebellion against the God that gave them life.

resurection

Also, it was a reminder of the truths of the Scripture. It reminded the world that after three days in the grave a man from Nazareth also rose from the dead. All this time they have been standing against Christ (since the opening of the 6th seal). When these men rose from the dead it brought His power back to the forefront of their minds. It reminded them that he was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead… (Rom. 1:4). No matter what the world may have thought in their three and a half days rejoicing, Christ is still alive and is still on the throne. He had the power to lay down His own life and He had the power to raise it up again (John 10:18). Not only can he not be defeated but also there is a futility in trying to defeat those who belong to Him. “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (I John 5:12). They are connected to His resurrection, just as these witnesses prove (John 14:19). And the resurrection of these witnesses remind them that Christ is coming for His own: “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (I Cor. 15:23). This is part of the Lord’s work and He is coming. More immediately, it reminded the world that the Lord is standing with the nation of Israel. The antichrist may have murdered their prophets and sat in their temple declaring that he is God but the resurrection of the two witnesses reminded them that they were messing with the chosen people. It has been pointed out that the wording of our text mirrors that of Ezekiel when describing the restoration of Israel from the valley of the dry bones. The Spirit of life entered into them and they stood on their feet. So it says of the valley of dry bones, “So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army (Ezek. 37:1-10). This resurrection showed that God was working in Israel. Great fear therefore fell on this world when they saw these men raise again.

rapture

The power of the resurrection lastly teaches us all that there is something greater in store for those who stand with Christ. “And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.” Like Elijah and Enoch, and even like Christ Jesus Himself, these witnesses were received of God. They were raptured. Obviously, this is not the rapture of all saints but is particular to these two witnesses just as it was to John earlier (Rev. 4:1). When Christ was received up into the clouds (Acts 1:9) in His humanity so they way was made for others to likewise ascend. The voice here is no doubt the voice of the archangel (I Thess. 4:16, 17). There will come a day in which all that are in the grave shall hear the voice of Christ. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28, 29). These witnesses were vindicated before their enemies and received into the presence of God in the sight of those that hated them. There will be vindication for the righteous in this world. They will be seen as approved of God. Mankind will have their gaze lifted from the earth and its muck to the clouds. They saw these ascend in the clouds and soon in those same clouds Jesus coming again. “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27). Those witnesses will be there too because so shall they also ever be with the Lord.

Secondly, God in His answer to this earth, reminds the earth of the power of His creation. Our text goes on to say, “And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.” There was no mistake about the timing of this event and the connection with the resurrection and ascension of the two witnesses. Those to events happened at the same hour or rather at the same time. They coincide together to make an unmistakable sign. Prophetically there are specific earthquakes that have been noted in the scripture. First, regarding Jerusalem (under the name Ariel – which means “Victorious under God” which connected with our text may take on the meaning of being conquered by God) Isaiah stated, “Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel…. Moreover the multitude of thy strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly. Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire. And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision. It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion” (Isa. 29:2, 5-8). There is no doubt that that prophecy is directly related to the time of our text and describes the futility of those who imagine to fight against Zion. It is reminiscent of God laughing at the plan to thwart the will of God and Christ in Psalms (Ps. 2). Ariel (Jerusalem) in our text is seen as standing against God and God shakes the earth in response to their foolishness. The book of Zechariah offers another obviously related prophecy related to our text which connects this with the coming of Christ Himself (Zech. 14:1-5). Of course, we have already noted that earthquakes in diverse places mark the time before the end as prophesied by Christ (Matt. 24:7), some of which were said by Luke to be great earthquakes (Luke 21:11). As far as the book of Revelation we know that a “great earthquake” proceeded the opening of the sixth seal which had to do with mankind realizing that Christ was coming (6:12) and a “great earthquake” will also accompany the actual coming of Christ (16:18 – related more with the prophecy of Zechariah). This is the second of the three great earthquakes of the book of Revelation which is again marked with the announcement of Christ kingdom and the repentance of Israel. Earthquakes accompanied both the death and the resurrection of Christ so it is not surprising that they accompany the great points of His return (Matt. 27:54, 28:2).

earthquake

This, as all the great prophetic earthquakes, is centered on the city of Jerusalem. The earthquake caused the destruction of physical and human capital. One tenth of the city fell in the earthquake. The tenth is the tithe. It symbolizes that which should be given for the glory of God. If man will not give glory to God, then God will still have His glory. Also, seven thousand men died in the great earthquake. Not sure if there is significance to the number of the dead above and beyond the mere truth of the death toll (Rom. 11:4). The chief result of the power displayed by the earthquake is salvation of Israel. When it says that the remnant were affrighted in the text some say that it simply meant those that were left in the city but it would be hard to say that anyone outside of the Jews at this point would go on to give glory to God. The term remnant has always been applicable to the true believers in Israel (II Kings 19:30, Isa. 10:20, Mic. 2:12, Zech. 8:12, Rom. 9:27, 11:5). The remnant of Israel had heard the preaching of the witnesses for three and a half years and now have seen them raised from the dead and then the felt the great earthquake. They were brought again to a place of the fear of the Lord. This is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zech. 12:9, 10). This is the day they receive Christ and the day that they reject Antichrist. “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land” (Zech. 13:1, 2). The only way they could glorify the Father was by giving glory to the Son. This is the moment in which they said, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 23:39).

3rd woe

Our text now directs us back to the trumpets that sounded in warning against an ungodly world. “The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.” The woe of the sixth trumpet and its evil are done. The first two woes regarded the power of Hell conquering earth. The last woe is concerning God conquering all of the earth. Now the last declaration of woe and sorrow is coming. The seventh and final trumpet is going to sound. The last trumpet sets into motion the events that bring Christ to this earth. The days that follow are the days of the seventh angel.

Thirdly, God in his answer to this earth, declares to the earth to coming of His kingdom. “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” The great voices corresponds to the great earthquake. Our text answers the longing prayers of all saints who have prayed, “Thy Kingdom come….” We have looked for the day in which God through Christ would come to rule over all and this is God saying that He is now going to do it. All the world will know that the time for them to rule has come to an end and God is coming. It is directly related to two specific prophecies and their fulfilment. First, consider the prophecy found in Psalms: “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Ps. 2:7, 8). Also, it is fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Dan. 2:44). It was declared that when the seventh angel sounded there would be time no longer (Rev. 10:6). The kingdoms of man have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. The seven trumpets have now sounded and the space of repentance is gone for man. The Lord and his anointed will reign despite the raging and vain imaging of the nations of men (Ps. 2:1-3). The stone which the builders rejected has now officially become the head of the corner (Ps. 118). And we have the crescendo embodied in Handel’s Messiah: “he shall reign for ever and ever.” There is something coming that will never end. Mankind has never built a kingdom that lasted. Hitler promised a Reich that would last 1,000 years and it ended with in shambles within years. Lenin promised a communist Utopia that would never end but it ended in bloodshed and bankruptcy within 70 years. Every kingdom made by man has fell. The kingdom that is coming will be a righteous kingdom that will never end. “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13, 14).

bowing to worship

This causes a real party in heaven which could not be compared with the shabby party the world threw over the death of the witnesses. In fact the voices (plural) declaring that the Kingdoms of this world now are the Lord’s are the voices of those in heaven. They are the voices of joy and triumph through Christ. Our text goes on to say, “And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.” Little needs to be said about these verses. They represent the joy of heaven in knowing the time of the kingdom of heaven has come. Just a few periphery notes are worth mentioning. First, note that the 24 elders (representatives of all redeemed – see notes on chapter 4 and 5) had seats before God. A seat is a throne, it is a place of authority. They are reigning with Christ and when Christ comes to this earth they will reign with Him forever. There are those that will sit on the left and the right of Christ when He comes into His kingdom (Matt. 20:23). We shall reign with Him (II Tim. 2:12). Secondly, we note that their joy is a humble joy. They fell on their faces before God when the reality of the kingdom is announced they seek the lowest place of humble worship possible. We will always realize that this is all of grace. Thirdly, when they open their mouth they open their mouth with thanksgiving (Ps. 100 – this is the fulfillment of that text). Lastly, their praise and worship are and always have been and always will be built on the propositional doctrinal truth. So much of worship and preaching denies the importance of doctrine. They worship based on what they know about God. He is the Lord God Almighty. They worship Him based on what they know that he was done. They worship based on what they know about His nature; He is I AM; He is the one that is and was and ever shall be. They worship Him because of what they know He has done; He has taken the power of this world and has reigned. He has taken the kingdom which was His right to take.

The interesting point in the praise of the saints in this heavenly scene is found in the 18th verse. “And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.” The doctrinal truth that they are praising here is amazing. They believed in the wrath of God. That is doctrinal truth that modern churches often deny. God is a holy God and therefore hates sin. The nations were in rage against God and God has justly brought His wrath (Ps. 2:1-5). They praised the doctrinal truth that God is just in the exercise of His wrath. God has answered the sinful rage of sinful men with His righteous holy wrath. Further they worshipped in the doctrinal truth of the resurrection of the dead. They believed that the dead were soon going to be raised when Christ is made king. The resurrection will be a topic that we will deal with later as to its exact timing but they believed that the dead were going to be raised and judged. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:25-29). They believed that God would reward them that fear the name of God. They believed that God would destroy them that destroy the earth. This is the truth that is taught throughout the scriptures. God will judge all. God will reward those that fear Him. God will judge the wicked. A distinction is made between Old and New Testament believers here. God will reward the prophets that looked forward to the promises of Christ. God will reward the saints which were sanctified by Him (that is all that have been saved since). God will reward them no matter how small or how great they were in their faith or in their works. The bottom line is that they worhsipped believing that Christ was coming to this earth. And he would destroy those that destroyed the earth. That is, He would destroy those who through their sin and rebellion caused the judgment of God to fall upon the earth (this is not a proof text for environmentalism; though a Christian should be a good steward of the earth). Man as sinners have corrupted the earth, brought death and suffering to all creation and will in the final rebellion merit the fiery wrath of God that destroys the earth. Praise God, there will be a new heaven and a new earth wherein will dwell righteousness (II Pet. 3).

temple in heaven

Finally, in God’s answer to this wicked unrepentant world, God shows the awesomeness of His presence. “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.” This is the tale of two temples. We saw the earthly temple which has now become the seat of Antichrist. Now we see the true temple in heaven of which the earthly tabernacle and temple were only patterns (Heb. 8:5). The temple in heaven to this point was closed but now it is opened. God has opened the book and now He has opened the temple. And what is seen? The ark of his testament. Now is this the same as the earthly Ark of the Covenant which was in the temple and tabernacle. Some say that it is and at some time it had ascended up to heaven. The problem is that there is no scripture to support that claim outside of this present text. It may be true. Some would say that this ark is the true ark of which the earthly ark was only made after its pattern. Maybe. We could ask ourselves if there is a difference in the term covenant (applied to the earthly ark) and testament (applied to this ark). There does not appear to be; both the terms refer to the promises and word and will of God. Whatever this is it is meant to mean, it is a vessel in which is embodied His testament. The term testament is only used in the New Testament and refers to the atonement of Christ which fulfilled and removed the threatening of the law against us (Matt. 26:28, II Cor. 3:6, Heb. 7:22, 9:15). This would lead one to believe that this is possibly the eternal pattern of the first, the substance for which the earthly ark was but the shadow. I myself believe that Christ is the embodiment and vessel in which all of the Testament is placed; that Christ is the ark and the mercy seat which covers it. Regardless, the picture would remain the same. Our text is meant to evoke the same imagery of that of the ark spoken of in the Old Testament. The Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament represented the power and presence of God (Judges 20:27). It went before the armies of God into battle. It led the armies of God into the earthly Promised Land and it will be doing the same thing here (Josh. 3:8). The imagery here then is amazing. The ark is being brought out because the armies of the Lord are getting ready to move. The kingdoms of the earth are now to be conquered by the presence of God. God is moving forth through Christ as God triumphant. What follows is the same that we saw before the altar in heaven (Rev. 8). The only difference is the added “great hail” of our text. This immediately brings the picture of the triumphant God of battle moving forward in Ps. 18. “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth. There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire. Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them” (Ps. 18:6-14). The presence and power of God and His testament are coming to conquer the earth.