Revelation 11:15-19. 15 So the seventh angel trumpeted, 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.” 16 And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones in God’s presence, fell on their faces and worshipped God 17 saying: “We thank You, O Lord God Almighty, He who is and who was and who is coming, because You have taken up your great power and begun to reign. 18 The nations were angry and your wrath came, even the time for the dead to be judged and to give the reward to Your slaves the prophets, and to the saints and those who fear your name, small and great, and to destroy those who have corrupted the earth.” 19 And the temple of God in heaven was opened, and the ark of the covenant of the Lord was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings and huge hail.1
Introduction - five puzzling statements
In these next five verses we have what some commentators consider to be five very puzzling statements. They are not puzzling to me, but let me begin by explaining why these statements are puzzling to others.
Puzzle one: How can verse 15 claim that Jesus was given the kingdom in AD 70 when the first five chapters indicate that He had already ascended to His throne in AD 30? He is already declared to be King of kings. Isn't that a contradiction? And some will say that the contradiction is even stronger in verse 17. In that verse the elders say, "because You have taken up your great power and begun to reign." If Jesus was already on His throne after His ascension, why would they now be celebrating the beginning of His reign in AD 70? It won't do to claim that AD 30 relates to His reign in heaven and AD 70 relates to the beginning of His reign on earth. After all, Jesus said forty years earlier, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. So that is the first puzzle.
Puzzle two: how can the Father be said to begin to reign in verse 17? The Father's reign never had a beginning and will never have an end. And this passage seems to indicate that Jehovah God for the first time takes up His great power and begins His reign. That gives some people heartburn.
Puzzle three: why do the vast majority of the manuscripts say the kingdom (singular) of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ rather than saying that the kingdoms (plural) of the world have become the kingdom of Christ? And we will see that rather than being a puzzle, that is actually a very significant statement - it is the fulfillment of Daniel 7 and it shows a massive blow to Satan.
Puzzle four: how can verse 18 say that AD 70 is the time for the dead to be judged and rewarded when other Scriptures indicate that God will judge the living and the dead on the last day of history? Well, to anticipate, we will see that there are other Scriptures that speak of two judgments. Just as the kingdom was begun and will be ended with a resurrection, it begins and ends with judgment of the dead. This shows that all judgment has been committed to Christ. He is not waiting for that power. He has already been given that power.
Puzzle five: Why does verse 19 seem to indicate that AD 70 is a significant date for the symbolic opening of the way into the holy of holies when Hebrews indicates that Christ's death, burial, resurrection, and ascension is what gives us bold access to the throne room of God? And you will see that the symbolism of Yom Kippur becomes a perfect answer to that puzzle. There is a legal side and a historical side to that equation.
Some have tried to get around these so-called conundrums by placing all of these things at the end of history. But that doesn't resolve anything. It just adds a few years to the already/not yet tension. Furthermore, it yanks these verses out of a crystal clear first century context. And even if you were to ignore that, it still doesn't resolve the passages that tie some of these things to AD 30.
Others have tried to get around these conundrums by taking an Idealist position and saying that none of this section is related to history. They claim that it is just talking about various divine principles at work but not necessarily pinning those principles to one point in history. But in my introductory sermon to chapter 6 I demonstrated how these chapters are given in a tightly chronological sequence with numerous time indicators. Let me list a few from the previous few chapters. John says, "after these things," "a little while longer," "when," "then," "about to sound," "five months," "in those days," "one woe is past, two more woes are coming after these things," "prepared for the hour and day and month and year," etc., etc. If you take those time indicators at all seriously, we are in AD 70 in these verses. There is no getting around that.
The first century timing
Verse 14 is literally, "The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly"
So let's go through this passage phrase by phrase and try to understand some of the revolutionary things that happened in AD 70. I think you will find it to be an encouragement to your faith.
And actually, before we do that, I will back up to verse 14 and reiterate how these things are chronological. Verse 14 says, "The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming shortly (ταχύ)" Pickering doesn't translate the last word ταχύ, but it always means shortly after the current event. That means that the seventh trumpet would follow soon after the burning of the temple.
The context: "the seventh angel trumpeted" puts this in tight sequence with the other first century trumpets
And of course, when verse 15 says, "So the seventh angel trumpeted..." you would expect that the seventh trumpet would come after the sixth. Unless you can demonstrate clearly that this is out of order or that there should be a gap of several thousand years, we should assume that the seventh trumpet comes after the sixth in terms of historical order. This is clearly an AD 70 context.
So what happened in AD 70?
So what happens in AD 70?
An angel sounds a trumpet
The first obvious thing that happens is that an angel sounds yet another trumpet. Think of this trumpet blast as a signal to an army of hundreds of thousands of angels that it is time for them to join the other angel regiments in the battle. Every angel who sounds a trumpet in this book has been leading his armies of angels into more spiritual warfare. So this is not the end of history when all battles are done, but this is the beginning of more warfare against Satan's hosts. A trumpet equals a call to warfare. Indeed, we will see that this is one of the major turning points in the spiritual warfare on planet earth. The kingdom will be wrested out of Satan's control - the reason why some believe that Satan was bound in the pit in AD 70. But whether that is true or not (and we will look at that subject in chapter 12), there was clearly another major conflict going on since yet another regiment of angels is being summoned to conflict.
Let me deal with a controversy on the identity of this trumpet. Full Preterists and Futurists make exactly the same mistake by identifying this trumpet with the last trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15. And at first it seems like a logical conclusion to think that the last in this series might be the last in another passage. But because it is a mistaken conclusion, it forces futurists to place this trumpet at the end of history and it forces Full Preterists (to be consistent) to place end-of-history passages in AD 70. But though they come to different conclusions (both of them disastrous), it is because they make the same mistake of identity.
For example, they have identified this trumpet with the trumpet in 1 Thessalonians 4:16. But I see that trumpet as being quite different. For example, Jesus blows that trumpet, whereas an angel blows this one. The 1 Thessalonians trumpet is blown at the end of Christ's kingdom, whereas this one is blown at the beginning of Christ's kingdom. The 1 Thessalonians trumpet is sounded after Christ descends out of heaven whereas this one is sounded in heaven. Even after the trumpet, where is the focus in verse 15? It says that there were loud voices in heaven. We are still in heaven after the trumpet sounds. So those are three hints that they are different trumpet occasions.
But as I mentioned earlier, others identify this seventh trumpet with the last trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15. But that too is different than this one. Like the 1 Thessalonians trumpet, the 1 Corinthians 15 one signals the end of history and the end of Christ's kingdom, when He hands the kingdom back to the Father, not when He receives the kingdom, as He does here. They are quite different. And Full Preterists who insist that they are the same are forced to conclude that the thousand years of Christ's reign is really the forty years between AD 30 and AD 70. They claim that Christ only reigned from 30-70 and He handed the kingdom back to the Father after that. That's impossible. Besides, there is no evidence of the destruction of the Jewish temple in 1 Corinthians 15 as there is in this passage. When the 1 Corinthians 15 trumpet sounds, there are no more enemies to be defeated by Christ, whereas we will see that there are numerous enemies that will still need to be defeated after AD 70.
So "last" in 1 Corinthians 15 means last in history, not last in one of several sequences of trumpets. What do I mean by several sequences of trumpets? Well, the Old Testament had trumpets blasting quite a number of times. Various wars had sequences of trumpets, and you are not going to take the last of each of those as referring to the same thing. The fall of Jericho followed a sequence of trumpet blasts, but it was only the first of several battles. The various festivals had sequences of trumpet calls. And we saw in chapter 8 that the specific festival that was being fulfilled in these seven trumpet blasts was the Festival of Trumpets. And by the way, the Festival of Trumpets was not the last festival. It was immediately followed by Yom Kippur (which verse 19 alludes to) and then by Tabernacles, which refers to the dispersion of Israel around the world and the gathering of the Gentiles into the church. So the last trumpet of the festival of Trumpets is not the last trumpet of the religious calendar of Israel. So it is arbitrary to insist that "last" in 1 Corinthians 15 has to refer to the seventh trumpet here.
But the significance of it being the seventh trumpet of the Festival of Trumpets and not the first is that the Old Covenant is definitively ended at this point. And the Old Testament prophesied that there would be a huge heavenly ceremony in declaring Jesus to be king once the temple was destroyed and once the demonic Beast was slain.
And so it is no suprise to find that the very next phrase speaks of loud voices in heaven. This is not the silence of waiting in chapter 8. This is the boisterous noise of celebration. Something spectacular has just happened. It says, "there were loud voices in heaven..." This is generally taken as the acclamations accompanying Christ inheriting the kingdom. And notice the context of heaven, not earth. "...there were loud voices in heaven..."
The kingdom (singular) of Satan was transferred to another Lord, Jesus (v. 15)
The third thing that happened was a transferrence of the kingdom of the world to another Lord, the Lord Jesus. Verse 15 has the voices celebrating this fact, implying that it occured at that precise time. “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.” Let's ask this text several questions that will help to clarify what was going on:
What is this kingdom?
First, what kingdom did Christ receive in AD 70? The New King James says "kingdoms" (plural) but the Majority Text says "kingdom" (singular). And that difference between kingdom and kingdoms is very significant because this was the time when the title deed that already legally belonged to Christ was handed to him by the heavenly court. Daniel 7 speaks about a court with thrones and this text speaks of those "thrones" in verse 16. And we will get to that in a bit. But it was a kingdom (singular) that Jesus receives.
So a follow up question is, "Was there a kingdom (singular) in the first century that encompassed the whole world?" Well, it depends upon which Greek word for "world" was used. If John had used the Greek word οἰκουμένη, people might have assumed that Jesus would receive the kingdom of Rome in AD 70. Rome did indeed rule the οἰκουμένη world. They didn't rule over China, America, or Africa, but they ruled the οἰκουμένη world - a word that is used elsewhere in this book to refer to Rome.
But the Greek word here is not οἰκουμένη. It is κόσμοs, a word that goes way beyond Rome. So was there any human kingdom (singular) of the κόσμοs? And the answer is, "No." The only kingdom that fits here is the kingdom of Satan. Satan had robbed the dominion of the world away from Adam and Jesus was now wresting the kingdom of the world away from Satan.
Now, some Reformed people question whether it is legitimate to say that Satan ruled the world. Doesn't the Old Testament say that the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof? Yes it does. And God was always sovereign, even over Satan and over men who rule on earth. In the book of Job Satan couldn't do a thing without God's permission. Yet it is just as clear that God allowed Satan to ruin this world, to make it groan, to have total dominion over all nations. Jesus called Satan the "ruler of this world" three times - in John 12:31, 14:30, and 16:11. Paul calls him the prince of the power of the air who has sway over the world. 1 John 5:19 says that the whole world lies in the lap of the wicked one. God punished the world by allowing Satan to rule it. Satan even had the audacity to offer his kingdom to Jesus if Jesus would bow down and worship him. And Jesus didn't deny that Satan had a worldwide kingdom. Instead, He affirmed that Satan did indeed have a kingdom in Matthew 12:26 and Luke 11:18. But He promised to take the kingdom from Satan, to bind the strongman, and to plunder that kingdom. And He won the legal right to do so in AD 30 - in His life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. But now in AD 70 the court of heaven officially transfers rights to the kingdom from Satan to Jesus.
Moses Stuart said this in his commentary:
The kingdoms of the world are many, considered in themselves; but in reference to the sway of Satan, there is only one kingdom - ruled over by “the god of this world.” That dominion which he once had, is now transferred to another Lord, and thus the kingdom is spoken of as one or in the singular. In respect to the scriptural view of Satan’s dominion over the unbelieving world, see 2 Cor. 4:4. John 14:30. Eph. 6:12. Col. 1:13. Rev. 12:17. 20:8.2
So something world-shaking happened in AD 70. The voices of men in heaven recognize the significance of the burning of the temple and the ending of the Old Covenant. It signaled the time for a whole series of changes in planet earth. So with loud voices they say, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.”
When did this kingdom get transferred?
I guess I have already answered the next question: "When did this transference happen?" But it is worth a little more comment because some commentators have tried to say that the aorist tense means that this transference could have happened earlier in AD 30. But most partial preterist scholars say that the whole context of their celebration of something that happens as a result of the seventh trumpet completely militates against putting this forty years earlier. In any case, if it happened an hour before or even minutes before, it would still need to use the aorist tense. The aorist tense does not push this earlier than AD 70 - the time when the seventh trumpet sounded.
So how do we reconcile this with the fact that Jesus was given the kingdom in AD 30? And the answer is that there is a difference between having the legal right to the kingdom (something Christ affirmed that He had in AD 30) and actually taking the kingdom away from Satan. When I signed the contract on the sale of our old house, the new owners had legal right to that house. But until closing day, and until I got my money, we lived there and they couldn't move in. Did they own it? Yes, in a sense they owned it. But could they move in? No. Not until closing. Legally Jesus already was given the kingdom in AD 30, but the kingdom of the world was transferred into His hands in AD 70.
And of course, the Old Testament anticipated this in so many ways. The Festivals of Israel showed that Christ legally won the kingdom in AD 30. But the Festivals also showed that transference of the kingdom didn't happen till the Old Covenant ended. Daniel prophesied the same two stage inheritance. Old Testament Israel itself was a prophetic symbol of this two stage process of receiving the kingdom. Israel was legally given the land of Canaan the moment they exited Egypt. But when did they move in to Canaan to possess the land? It was forty years later - just like with Christ.
In my sermon on the second part of Revelation 1:9 we saw that there was an exquisite and very detailed prophetic foreshadowing of Christ's kingdom by ancient Israel. Their Exodus from Egypt, Passover, crossing the Red Sea, and emerging on the other side on the day of Firstfruits prophetically foretold Christ's Exodus, Passover, burial, and emerging from the tomb on the day of Firstfruits. Mount Sinai came fifty days later at Pentecost and has numerous parallels to what happened fifty days after Christ's resurrection at the New Testament Pentecost in Acts 2. Then after that, the events of the forty years of Israel's wandering in the wilderness parallel the church's first forty years. Were there victories? Yes. But was there also apostasy in both forty year periods? Yes. Then what is the next stage? Their entering into Canaan and officially getting title to the land happened exactly forty years later just as Christ's receiving of the kingdom here happened exactly forty years after His resurrection.
And verse by verse we see Daniel 7 being fulfilled in these verses. Now some people vigorously deny what I am teaching here and say that this passage will not be fulfilled till some time in our future. What are the consequences of that theology? The biggest consequence is that it guarantees the church's defeat and kills the church's faith in the future. Reasoner's commentary very correctly says,
If, however, we believe the seventh trumpet is in the future, rather than in the past, it forces the interpreter to locate the "renewal" of God's eternal reign in the future as well. Then we must assume that the Evil One now has charge over earth and only heaven belongs to... [Christ]"3
And you see this in futurist commentaries. They are forced to conclude that Christ has not yet inherited His kingdom. They are then forced to conclude that the Beast is alive and well and is winning. They are forced to conclude that the Great Tribulation is in our future, that the saints will become a tiny minority, and only after the Second Coming can we expect victory. What you believe on this passage makes a huge difference.
The twenty-four elders sit on thrones in God's presence (v. 16)
But verse 16 goes on to indicate that it isn't just Jesus ruling. There are others ruling in Christ's presence. It says, "And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones in God’s presence..." We'll stop there and think about those twenty-four elders for a bit.
Notice it says "the twenty four elders." The word "the" points back to the earlier reference to those twenty-four elders so that there will be no mistake about their identity. And in chapter 4 we saw that these elders stood as symbolic representatives of God's people. So their rule represents the rule of the saints. Well, that's exactly what Daniel prophesied would happen in AD 70. Let me read a few sample passages of what would happen at the very end of the three-and-a-half-year-war against Jerusalem. And as I read, notice the references to the saints ruling, having dominion, and inheriting the kingdom. Because of our union with Jesus, we too enter into this transference of authority over the kingdom. Satan no longer has that authority. Let me start reading at Daniel 7:8. We are going to once again read most of the chapter.
Dan. 7:8 I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words. Dan. 7:9 “I watched till thrones were put in place, [notice the reference to thrones] And the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, And the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, Its wheels a burning fire; Dan. 7:10 A fiery stream issued And came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, And the books were opened.
So this is a court room scene in heaven, and judgment will be given in favor of Christ and in favor of the saints in this courtroom. Verse 11 continues:
Dan. 7:11 “I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. Dan. 7:12 As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
Not all of the demonic beasts were cast into the pit in AD 70. The one who reigned over Rome certainly was, and when we get to chapter 12, we will see that Satan was. But let me continue reading to show why the saints can rule. The saints are on thrones because Jesus is on the throne. As Ephesians says, we are seated with Him in the heavenlies. So the next verse (verse 13) also speaks of Christ's enthronement.
Dan. 7:13 “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. Dan. 7:14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.
Now let's skip forward three verses to verse 17. And notice the reference to saints again:
Dan. 7:17 “Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth. Dan. 7:18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.’
In context it is after the Great Tribulation and after the first half of the war. Now let me read verses 21-22 for yet another reference to the rule of the saints.
Dan. 7:21 “I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, Dan. 7:22 until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.
And finally, let me read verses 26-27 which again make it crystal clear that the saints enter into rule with Jesus.
Dan. 7:26 “But the court shall be seated, And they shall take away his dominion, [This is a dominion taken away from Satan] To consume and destroy it forever. Dan. 7:27 Then the kingdom and dominion, And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’
So Daniel 7 says that Jesus begins to rule in some sense in AD 70 and His saints begin to rule through Him. Our only authority comes through union with Jesus. So let's go back to Revelation 11:16.
Notice that there aren't just twelve elders sitting on twelve thrones. This is not just a New Testament church. There are twenty-four elders. That number represents the totality of God's people, symbolized by twelve elders (or representatives of the people) from the Old Testament and twelve elders (or representatives of the people) from the New Testament. And the double twelve stands as a double witness against God's enemies as well as a unity of God's church. It's wonderful imagery. Hebrews 12 tells us that we are joined with the church of the Old Testament.
And notice the boldness that these elders have!!! They sit in God's presence! That is astounding! It speaks of "the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones in God’s presence..." Do they fall down on their faces before Almighty God as well? Yes. But don't forget the first part of that sentence that shows the amazing boldness they have because of their union with Jesus. They have authority in Jesus, so they sit on thrones. They have security in Jesus, so they are able to sit in God's presence. This is stuff that ought to send shivers down your spine. If the representatives of the saints can do this it shows that the saints themselves have authority to do this.
And these elders are part of Daniel's court that meets to vindicate God's kingdom and to pronounce judgment upon God's enemies. And what they model at the beginning of Christ's kingdom is an indication of the work the church is called to do throughout the New Covenant era. When we are willing to take God's enemies to court in heaven, we have great authority. But when we neglect our privileges in Christ, the enemies triumph. Christ has chosen to advance His rule when the saints sit, and judge, and rule from heaven. We are not to take our cue from the earth, but we are to take our cue from what happens when elders sit and when saints rule from their position in the heavenlies.
And thrones do represent both judgment and rule. Overcomers rule while they are on earth and they continue to rule when they die and go to heaven. Our life will always be bound up with what Jesus is and does. But this is a call for the saints to begin accessing our privileges in Jesus. Ephesians says that we are seated together with Christ in the heavenlies, and we need to act as if that is true - especially now that the AD 70 transfer of power and authority over the world has been given to Jesus and to the saints. To me this is an encouragement to have faith. Jesus told us, "The meek shall inherit the earth." Paul told the Corinthians that they were living far below the privileges that they had in Christ. He told them,
1Cor. 3:21 Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: 1Cor. 3:22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. 1Cor. 3:23 And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
When you are united to Jesus by faith, you own the world, you have authority over the world, and you can claim the world for Jesus. Brothers and sisters, we live in exciting times! Do not take your cues from the raging of the enemy. Take your cues from what is happening in heaven.
They worship God's matchless power and grace (v. 17)
And when you see what happened, it is no wonder that these secure saints fell on their faces and worshiped. They were blown away with their privilege. It says they...
...fell on their faces and worshiped God saying: “We thank You, O Lord God Almighty, He who is and who was and who is coming, because You have taken up your great power and begun to reign.
I spent quite a bit of time on that phrase "He who is and who was and who is coming" when we looked at Revelation 1:4. And we saw that it was an ascription that can only be given to Jehovah. The Septuagint uses that phrase to capture the meaning of Jehovah as the self-existence and self-sufficient God who overflows in generous sufficiency for us. God is the Great I AM who needs nothing but who loves to provide for His people. Who would not be excited to worship such a God? But I want you to notice that their worship is not self-seeking but is God-glorifying. They praise Him "because You have taken up your great power and begun to reign." What are they passionate about? Not their Mercedes Benz or their house. They are seeking first God's kingdom and His righteousness. They rejoice that God is going to be taking back planet earth. Will it be a long process? Yes. But it is a process that began in earnest in AD 70.
Now, that brings back the objection that some have had. God's reign never had a beginning or an end. How can they say of God Almighty, "because You have taken up your great power and begun to reign"? Only Christ's reign has a beginning. But it really is not a problem since Jesus is Jehovah and in the Mediatorial Kingdom that began in the first century, God rules through His Son, Jesus. There was a start to that.
This is obviously not referring to God's providential rule, but to Christ's mediatorial rule. And even that had to begin in power because the Mediatorial kingdom must crush evil before it can restore good. And the specific evil that is ended in AD 70 is Satan's ownership and rule of the kingdom of the world. It is illegitimate to speak any longer of Satan as being the ruler of this world. Satan's kingdom was taken. Chapter 12 will say that at the beginning of the three and a half year war Satan was enraged because he knew he only had a short time. He only had three and a half years before the kingdom would be taken from him, and he did his utmost to destroy during that time.
God's wrath proves greater than the nations' wrath (v. 18a)
But the next phrase pits the wrath of the nations against the wrath of God. The same Greek word is used for both. "The nations were angry and your wrath came..." This is a reference to Psalm 2 which starts with the nations raging against Christ and ends with the command,
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
When God's wrath is pitted against the wrath of the nations, who is going to win? Obviously, God is. He curses nations that refuse to submit to His Son - in this case both Israel and Rome, and He blesses nations that do put their trust in Him. And from AD 70 and on, nation after nation began to trust the Lord. The first nation to trust was the island of Malta which was a Christian nation from the first century on. And many other nations followed suit with Rome itself becoming Christian under Constantine.
Judgment/reward day for the dead (v. 18b)
The next thing that happened in AD 70 was judgment of the dead. Verse 18 goes on to say, "even the time for the dead to be judged and to give the reward to Your slaves the prophets..." And earlier in chapter 11 we saw that the last two prophets to exist on planet earth had been martyred and had been resurrected. Obviously for the dead to be judged they had to be raised, and we looked at the first resurrection earlier in this chapter when the last two prophets were raised from the dead, so I won't delve into that more this morning.
But why would God also do a judgment at this time rather than reserving all judgment for the end of history? Chilton, Gentry, and Stuart weaken the sense of this verse by translating the Greek word κρίνω as "vindicate." While that is possible, it is a very unusual sense of that term. The ordinary meaning for this word is to engage in judicial process. And that is the context, is it not? The elders (representing the people) are seated on thrones; they are engaged in judicial process. And commentators admit that the imagery of the whole passage strongly points to Daniel 7 as the Old Testament background. And that passage has a court case happening and Daniel 7:22 says that in AD 70 "a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most high, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom."
This was the turning point in spiritual warfare. Prior to this Daniel says that the Beast was winning and was wearing down the saints. But after this the church explodes. But in any case, there are thrones, a court, and judgments being made against the Beast, against the nations, in favor of the saints. But Daniel 7 and 12 both indicate that there was judgment and reward of the dead saints made at that point and that Daniel would not only be resurrected in AD 70 but would also be rewarded with an inheritance at that time (12:13). Until Partial Preterists see a resurrection and judgment at both the beginning of Christ's kingdom and the end of Christ's kingdom, they will not have strong answers against the best arguments of the Full Preterists.
And there are many Scriptures besides Daniel that speak of a first century judgment. Let me read you three. Acts 17:31 says,
Acts 17:31 ... He is about to judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
That's Acts 17:31. It says that God was about to judge the world in righteousness. That Greek word μέλλω (which unfortunately the New King James does not translate) cannot by any stretch of the imagination be stretched out to thousands of years. It means that the judgment was just around the corner. It was about to happen.
2 Timothy 4:1 says the same thing. It says,
2Tim. 4:1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is about to judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:
In Matthew 12:41-42 Jesus said,
Matt. 12:41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.
Again, AD 70 is a critically important date in eschatology. Though the New Covenant was inaugurated in Christ's Last Supper, there is an already/not yet tension because the Old Covenant was not yet ended. Hebrews says that Christ's death and resurrection made the Old obsolete, but that it had not yet vanished away. Hebrews 8:13 says,
In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
The Greek word for "ready" is ἐγγὺς and means something that will happen soon. So it was not until AD 70 that the Old Covenant ended and the New Covenant Kingdom went out of the wilderness and into Canaan, so to speak. Warfare didn't end when they crossed the Jordon River, and warfare doesn't end in AD 70. But it was the transition when the authority was taken from Satan and given to Christ.
In any case, the Old and New Testament both indicate that judgment was critical to the beginning of the kingdom. The kingdom begins and ends with judgment. And in my last message I pointed out how you can clearly see that in the Olivet Discourse. The judgment of AD 70 was said to be near (24:32,33), at the doors (24:33), within one generation (24:34), and being "about to" happen - our favorite word μέλλω (see the parallel in Luke 21:7). On the other hand, Full Preterists ignore the references in the second half of the Olivet Discourse which indicate that the second judgment will be delayed (and the word "delayed" repeated twice in 24:48; 25:5), will be "far" off (25:14), and "after a long time" (25:19). So there is a judgment that is near at the beginning of the kingdom and a judgment that is after a long time at the end of the kingdom.
And by the way, Hebrews explains why the Old Testament saints were resurrected and rewarded at the beginning of the kingdom rather than at the end. Hebrews 11:40 says that they didn't have the privilege of living in the age of the kingdom, so God privileges them in one way and He privileges us in another way. He privileges us with something better than they had, but God privileges them by letting them get resurrection bodies before we do. He kind of evens out the privileges. It says,
Heb. 11:40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
The next chapter defines being made perfect as being resurrected and made whole. They couldn't be resurrected until the kingdom came. It says that the kingdom will begin with the spirits of just men made perfect (Heb. 12:23). This brings about a fairness and a unity in the kingdom where they participate with us. Old Testament saints were not gipped - they were not left out.
Judgment is made in favor of the living saints (v. 18c)
But it isn't just the dead who are judged and rewarded. Judgment is also made in favor of the living saints. The text goes on to say,
and to the saints and those who fear your name [that's the present tense - those who are fearing your name; so they are alive - "to the saints and those who currently fear your name"], small and great, and to destroy those who have corrupted the earth.”
This too is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel 7. That chapter not only promised a judgment in favor of the dead, but a judgment in favor of the living saints. Daniel says that when the court was seated and the books were opened (v. 10) that judgment was made in favor of the saints (v. 18,22,27) and against the demonic Beasts that controlled the world (vv. 11-12,26-27). So we living-saints have privileges we need to access.
What about the judgment of those who corrupted the earth? Both Rome and Israel suffered greatly since both had corrupted the land of Israel. But ultimately it was the demonic powers behind them that were bound and cast into the pit according to Daniel. And Revelation 12 will pick up on that theme.
But Daniel does caution us not to expect perfection in the first century. While the Beast would be bound in the pit, there are other demonic powers that would not be bound. Verse 12 of Daniel 7 says,
Dan. 7:12 As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
In other words, the kingdom was yanked from them, but that does not mean that these demons cannot continue to work. They will work. They will engage in guerrilla activity. And any time Christians stop operating in faith, the demonic can come in to fill the gap. But the encouraging thing for me is that we are living in the period when there is no reason whatsoever that believers cannot win against the demonic every time if we will abide in Christ and have faith in His Word and His Kingdom Power. The book of Revelation is a call to faith, but the way many people read it through dispensational glasses, they actually kill faith.
Now that the physical temple is destroyed there is no competition for the temple of heaven and that temple's doors are thrown wide open to those who will approach in faith (v. 19)
But the most encouraging verse to me is verse 19, which says,
And the temple of God in heaven was opened, and the ark of the covenant of the Lord was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings and huge hail.
I'll save my discussion of the huge hail that fell that day for a later chapter in the book that gives the astounding weight of the hail as being a talent, or about one hundred pounds. And people are skeptical of that. Chilton says it was the ballista stones that were being lobbed into the city and that were white and could have looked like hail. But I think it was real hail. And people say, "There is no way you could have hail that big." But actually, I have some interesting modern examples of massive hail, including one ice ball in Brazil that weighed 110 pounds and another that weighed an astounding 440 pounds. Scientists don't call those ice balls "hail." They call them megacryometeors. But the makeup of these huge megacryometeors have all the features of hail, and they have discovered that they are made in a similar way to hail.4 They have been demonstrated to be from our atmosphere and not from outer space. So even though they are called megacryometeors, they are not technically meteorites. And by the way, we are not talking about the blue waste that sometimes leaks out of airplanes and lands as huge ice blocks on the ground. That's got urine and feces and chemicals in it. That's blue. But we are talking about massive hail composed of water. And scientific journals have been studying these for years. So the hail that fell that day is a fascinating topic. But today I just want to focus on the theology of this event.
Now that the temple was burning down, the temple of heaven was thrown wide open. Indeed, it was opened so wide that the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies could be seen. No longer would there be access barred to the saints. Every saint can approach the throne boldly.
And there are two features to this appearance of the ark that bear mentioning. The first is that the ark of the covenant is also called God's throne of grace. It speaks of His rule being seen. Chilton rightly says,
The fall of the old Israel was not "the beginning of the end." Instead, it was the sign that Christ's worldwide Kingdom had truly begun, that their Lord was ruling the nations from His heavenly throne, and that the eventual conquest of all nations by the armies of Christ was assured. For these humble, suffering believers, the promised age of the Messiah's rule had arrived. And what they were about to witness in the fall of Israel was the end of the Beginning.5
Beale and Carson point out a second significant fact. They say that the way this verse is worded connects it thematically with the ark of the covenant at the battle of Jericho6 - the only time in the Old Testament when the ark of the covenant was authorized to be seen by the people. Jericho was the beginning of Joshua's conquest of the land of Canaan, and so this hints at what Daniel 7 makes explicit - that this is not the end, but the beginning of the conquest of Canaan, or the beginning a world wide success of the Great Commission.
I've included a chart of the festivals of Israel on the back of your outline so that you can see the progress we have seen in this book. I'm not going to explain the chart completely; I will just highlight portions of it. The first festival, Dedication, points to the birth of Jesus. The next grouping of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits all pointed to AD 30. The next grouping of Trumpets, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles all points to the casting away of Israel and the receiving of the Gentiles into the church.
But what we have been looking at in chapters 8-11 has been the thematic outworking of the Festival of Trumpets. And what is the next feast? It is Yom Kippur. Verse 19 of our chapter relates to Yom Kippur. It is the purifying of the new Holy of Holies and the destruction of the old. And of course, the old Holy of Holies was burning even as that trumpet was sounding.
And later in the book we will see that Tabernacles goes from AD 70 to the end of the times of the Gentiles. But even that is not the end. What is the last festival of the Jewish year? It is Purim. Purim points to the restoration of Israel into the church and even greater blessing upon the Gentiles.
And that is all that I will say about the chart at this point, but I thought it would be helpful for you to have it because these feasts form one more prophetic Old Testament background to the whole book of Revelation. Revelation is structured around these kinds of things.
But hopefully you have found this passage encouraging. It is a call to live, and rule, and conquer by faith. May we do so. Amen. Let's pray.
Translation based on the Greek text of Wilbur Pickering's The The Greek New Testament According to Family 35. ↩
http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/368/1922/3145 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6561843_Megacryometeors_Distribution_on_Earth_and_Current_Research https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megacryometeor http://tierra.rediris.es/megacryometeors/ http://hyperion.cc.uregina.ca/~astro/Ice_Mets.pdf http://discovermagazine.com/2009/jan/073 https://www.damninteresting.com/the-peculiar-phenomenon-of-megacryometeors/ http://www.weatherimagery.com/blog/chunks-ice-fall-sky/ http://cosmology.com/Megacryometeors1.pdf http://at.yorku.ca/c/a/j/i/24.htm http://web.b.ebscohost.com/abstract?direct=true&profile=ehost&scope=site&authtype=crawler&jrnl=00113891&AN=87094662&h=7yLeqrCoAO5tdvNHymuGGn%2bY4C8vj5s6zRhvYY6F%2f9k%2fZjROkk4NEfOoR%2fZ4yQlHVKfjZWBVcB7povbwCxHncQ%3d%3d&crl=c&resultNs=AdminWebAuth&resultLocal=ErrCrlNotAuth&crlhashurl=login.aspx%3fdirect%3dtrue%26profile%3dehost%26scope%3dsite%26authtype%3dcrawler%26jrnl%3d00113891%26AN%3d87094662 http://www.abc-7.com/story/30848944/basketball-sized-ice-ball-smashes-through-naples-roof See Peter T. Bobrowsky, Hans Rickman (eds), Comet/Asteroid Impacts and Human Society: An Interdisciplinary Approach, (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2007); Ashton Acton (ed), Issues in General Science and Scientific Theory and Method, (Atlanta: Scholary Editions, 2012), chapter 13. ↩
"The appearance of the ark of the covenant may stem from the account of the fall of Jericho, where the ark plays a prominent role along with the trumpets. The ark also symbolizes God's gracious presence in his redeemed community." G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (eds), Commentatry on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), p. 1122. ↩