"The Day of the Lord"
THE THIRD VISION "IN HEAVEN."
THE SOUNDING OF THE SEVENTH TRUMPET.
The Seventh Trumpet brings us back to Heaven and to the Third Vision seen there by John. For it is "in heaven" that the Trumpet is sounded.
After it is sounded, we again hear the heavenly utterances which tell us of the design of this sounding. In 19:1-16, heavenly voices again tell us of the completion of its effect. After it is sounded, and its object unfolded, there is a break; and an episode occupying chaps. 12., 13 and 14.; the effects of the sounding not being resumed till chap. 16:1, and occupying chaps. 16., 17., 18.
The Seventh Trumpet thus embraces the whole of the seven Vials, or last seven plagues, which make up the "Third Woe."
The Seventh Trumpet, therefore, really reaches from chap. 11:15 to 18:24, or even to 20:5, for it takes in the whole of the remaining judgments, and consists of the remaining five pairs of Visions "in heaven" and "on earth," and occupies about one half of the whole Apocalypse. This shows us the importance of the Scripture on which we are now about to enter. It tells us also why the heavenly utterances, which follow on its sounding, anticipate the end, including the setting up of the throne of earthly dominion, the raising of the dead, "small and great," and the final judgment. All is anticipated by these heavenly voices, which are answered by the concluding utterances of chap. 19 in the seventh and final Heavenly Vision.
In chap. 11:7, the mighty angel declared that "in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall sound, the secret of God should be finished": i.e., that it will be finished during the days covered by his sounding (embracing, as we have seen, the whole of the seven Vials, and bringing us down to 20:15). The whole of God's secret purposes, the details of which were known only to Himself, will be accomplished.
The whole of this great division, therefore, opens with the small section (11:15-19-), concerning the acts of sounding the Seventh Trumpet. The structure is as follows:
H3, chap. 11:15-19-.
The Sounding of the Seventh Trumpet. (3rd WOE)
11:15. And the seventh angel sounded his trumpet; and there were loud voices in heaven;] Each seventh Seal, Trumpet and Vial is marked off from the preceding six by unmistakable signs, sufficient to show us that they are resumptive rather than continuous. Each going over the same ground to give particulars not contained in the others, bringing us to a crisis; and giving the other events in the corresponding period, but from a different point of view.
This is called the "seventh" Trumpet, and it is the "last" of this special series. But it does not follow there will be none after: or, that a trumpet sounding before it may not also be called the "last," relatively to another subject. In 1 Cor. 15:51, 52, we read of "the last trumpet: for a trumpet shall sound." In 1 Thess. 4:16, we read that the Lord "shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel's voice, and with the trump of God." This is the "last" Trumpet as regards the church of God, but not the last absolutely. It will be sounded long before these judgments begin, in order to raise His sleeping saints, and take them up with the living saints, to be with Him for ever. There will be another great trumpet after the great Tribulation, immediately connected with the Lord's Apocalypse. See Matt. 24:31. This is subsequent to this "seventh Trumpet," for that Apocalypse is recorded in Rev. 19. So that the seventh Trumpet in Rev. 11:15 is not the "last Trump," absolutely, but only relatively; for it is only the last of this series of seven. Moreover, this is neither called "the last": nor is it necessary for us to call it. The Trump in 1 Cor. 15:51, 52, is called the "last" with reference to the church of God. It is the Trump which shall close our connection with the earth; it will end up all longing expectation, and therefore there is a true sense in which it is our last Trump.
The Trump of 1 Cor. 15:51, 51, is the same that is mentioned in 1 Thess. iv. 16. We have had so many positive proofs that these "Seven Trumpets" belong to another Dispensation altogether, that we cannot read this into our "calling on high" (Phil. 3:14), where no trump at all is even mentioned, and confuse it with the trumpet which shall bring on the last of God's plagues and end up His judgment of the earth.
The sounding of this Trumpet produces great activity and stir in Heaven, where it is sounded. It is nothing less than the proclamation of the coming Coronation of earth's rightful king (compare 2 Sam. 15:10, 1 Kings 1:39). It is the signal that, at length, the hour has come to herald the glorious news of the setting up and establishing of God's kingdom on earth. It is the announcement that the prayer of the ages "Thy kingdom come" is about to receive its wondrous answer. For this is the subject of the loud voices in heaven.
saying "The sovereignty* of the world is become the sovereignty** of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever." (Ex. 15:18. Ps. 10:16. Dan. 2:44; 7:14).
The whole subject is one of sovereignty. This is the whole matter which has been in question. And this question is now about to be settled by these final judgments of the seven Vials. The result is celebrated in this Vision "in heaven" by anticipation. It looks forward to the close of the whole book of Revelation. It is not till the events of chap. 20 have taken place that this change of sovereignty is consummated. "The kingdoms of the world" are represented as wild beasts, knowing no master and having no owner. This is God's view of all earthly governments. Government in the world, committed, for the present, to man, has never yet been exercised for God. Not only is His sovereignty not recognised, but even His suzerainty is rejected. It is folly to talk about "Christian kingdoms" or "Christian nations;" and it is worse than folly for ministers of the Gospel to occupy themselves with the taming of these wild beasts, instead of warning all of the coming judgments, which will destroy them altogether; and meantime witnessing of the "grace of God" to lost and helpless sinners. We are not referring to any lawful acts which we may do (as it were, in passing) to improve the condition of things, or to remove crying evils; but we are speaking of laying ourselves out for these things and making them our great aim; and especially of ministers of the Gospel so doing. What is wanted is, not a "Citizen Sunday," but a Sunday for God, when men will be told of what God's verdict is on all these things; of what His remedy for them is; and of what means He is going to take to set right all that is so wrong. A Sunday when men will be told that there can be no Millennium without Christ; and that there is no hope for the world until it comes under the direct sovereignty of God and of His Anointed.
The very laws which God gave on Sinai, and the Divine Ritual of the Tabernacle and the Temple did not keep Israel from Religious Apostasy and political ruin. It ought therefore to be perfectly clear that there is no hope for the world in human laws or religions.
Righteous government is the one great want of the whole world. The obtaining of this is the mighty spring of all political movements for Reform; and of all national conspiracies, and revolutions. It is this that give Anarchists the motive for their crimes. But man does not know or see (and there are so few to tell him) that there can be no righteous government for the world until the Righteous one shall come "whose right it is" (Ezek. 21:27) to rule in righteousness: and no peace for the earth until the Prince of Peace, whom man hath foully murdered, shall return to establish it. When he came, His object was angelically heralded as "Peace on earth" (Luke 2:14); but when He had been rejected, His disciples knew there could be no "peace on earth" while the blood of the Prince of Peace cried for vengeance, and hence they sang of "peace in heaven" (Luke 19:38). That is where our peace now is (Eph. 2:14-17); and peace is now preached to sinners and rebels.
All this, and more, is involved in this heavenly utterance. The coming kingdom is not "from this world" (John 18:36). It is not "from hence." It comes from heaven, and from thence we look for the coming King. Here will be the fulfilment of the second Psalm and many other similar scriptures.
To the general utterance of the loud voices is added the special utterance of the twenty-four elders, which fills out the former with the details embraced in it.
16. And the twenty-four elders, who, in the presence of God sit upon their thrones, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, (17) saying,
There are seven things here celebrated by anticipation. And the seven is divided into four and three. The last three are marked off by their belonging to the special appointed season in which they are to take place. The first four relate to four actions on the part of God, and their effects.
The first act of taking His power is seen in the seven Vials (chap. 15:8), where the temple is filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power. The wrath of the nations, and of God, are both mentioned in Ps. 2:1, 5. In connection with this we may read many of the Psalms, which are proleptic, and therefore in like manner celebrate by anticipation: e.g., Ps. 93: 99., Ps. 57., and others, which ought all to be read carefully through with reference to the particular time referred to in this utterance of the twenty-four elders. There are other Scriptures which refer to this time of wrath. Read Isa. 26:20, 21 (RV.):
(So, Isa. 24:17-21; 30:27, 28, 30-33. Ezek. 38:16-23. Zeph. 1:2, 3, 14-16; 3:8).
In these judgments, under the seventh Trumpet, amendment or repentance is no longer looked for. All is wrath and vengeance. Jehovah at length replies to the reiterated cry of his people: "Arise, O God" Ps. 3:7; 7:6; 44:26. The time has come when the appeal of Ps. 68:1-3, &c., shall be answered:
The last two great Witnesses of God will have finished their testimony, attested by miraculous evidences. Now, all further testimony is to be withdrawn, and vengeance is to take its course.
The last three statements of the Elders' utterance relate to the appointed season ((...), kairos), which has come for their fulfilment.
(1) "The time of the dead to be judged." This connects, therefore, the events of chapter 20 with the sounding of this Trumpet (see 20:12, 13). Resurrection also is included, for the dead, "small and great," stand then before God for this judgment. Here we have more than mere avengement of the martyrs; or, righteous government.
(2) To give the Reward (a) "to thy servants the prophets," as stated in chap. 10:7 (compare 2 Kings 9:7). We have the same phrase in Dan. 9:6, 10, as well as in 2 Kings 17:13, 23; 21:10; 24:2, &c. The Old Testament prophets have a pre-eminent place in the coming kingdom (not in the Church of God). See Luke 13:28. Matt. 5:10-12.
(3) "And to the saints." This is a special term for the Old Testament saints, and is not to be confused with the usage of the word in the Pauline sense, where it is applied to the members of the Body of Christ; or with angels, or whom the word is also used in such passages as Deut. 33:2. In Ex. 22:31 it is used of holy men under the Law, as also in Ps. 16:3; 30:4; 31:23; 34:9; 50:5.
The "saints" here are those spoken of in Daniel 7:18: "the saints shall take the kingdom" (see verses 22, 27). These are the "saints" against whom the Wild Beast will "make war" (Dan. 7:21, 25). These are the "elect" of Matt. 24:31; Luke 18:7; and the "saints" elsewhere spoken of in the Apocalypse. (See 13:7, 10; 14:12; 15:3; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24; 19:8; 20:9). These have their reward under this seventh Trumpet, and we see it actually bestowed on them in chap. 20:4. This is the reward referred to in the Gospels, in such passages as Matt. 10:41, 42; 16:27; 25:34. Rev. 2:23; 22:12.
(c) "Them that fear Thy name, the small and the great." Note, that the Elders do not say "us." They again distinguish themselves from human beings. It was the special character of saints under the Law, to fear the Lord. See Josh. 24:14; 1 Sam. 12:24. Ps. 34:9. But the words here probably include Gentiles (as distinct from Israel, who, as the "holy nation," are called "saints").
They are so distinguished in Ps. 115:, where we have first "Israel" (verse 9); then the "house of Aaron" (verse 10); then "ye that fear the Lord" (verse 11). Then in verse 13: "He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great."
The seventh Trumpet includes as its last object:
(3) "to destroy them that destroy the earth." This involves the destruction of Babylon, and of those who worship the Beast and receive his mark. It would also include the great destruction of the armies of Satan and the rebels who join it, in Rev. 20:9. (Compare Isa. 24:21).
With the destruction of these God's judgments end, and the "mystery (or secret) of God is finished" (10:7), as well as "the mystery of Iniquity."
This third vision "in heaven" closes with the words:
11:19. and the temple (Naos) of God which is in heaven was opened,* and there was seen the ark of his covenant in his temple:] We have already seen that heaven is a place of grand and glorious realities; and not a place of airy nothings, as popular theology pictures it. There is a heavenly Temple, and heavenly worship, and a heavenly priesthood, on the pattern of which the earthly was modelled (See Ex. 25:40. Heb. 9:23).
The Apocalypse is the book of unveiling and of opening. Seven great openings characterise it.
The opening of the Heavenly Temple discloses the Ark of the Covenant, and speaks of the Covenant-keeping God redeeming His pledges of blessing to His People; and tells of judgment on His enemies.
It is from this Temple that the judgments which follow, proceed forth (14:15, 17; 15:5, &c.; 16:17).
This tells us that those judgments have respect to the restoration of His People Israel, and of the fulfilment of all His covenant promises, concerning the Land (Gen. 15.) and the throne (2 Sam. 7.), which were unconditional and therefore certain and sure. The Ark of the Old Covenant was concealed: this is revealed, and it is displayed as a token of Israel's salvation and of their enemies' destruction. The "secret" of God is finished (10:7) because the Temple is laid open, and the Ark revealed.
The Ark of the Old Covenant had stood closely connected with the Tabernacle and Moses; with the Land and Joshua; with the Kingdom and David; and with the Temple and Solomon. All are united here in connection with this Heavenly Ark of which the Earthly Ark was only a copy and a figure.
Under this covenant is at length to be fulfilled all that was announced in the Song of Zacharias (Luke 1:68-79); but which, owning to Christ's rejection, has been since in abeyance:
The words printed in thicker type show us the great subject of each member. They may be more clearly seen if presented thus:
Thus, beautifully, has God the Holy Ghost emphasised for us what is included in His Covenant, of which the manifestation of the Ark of His Covenant, seen in His opened Temple in heaven, is at once the token and assurance. The revelation of the Ark of the Covenant is at once answered on earth by signs which betoken its meaning for the earth.
That we reach a great crisis here, is evident. It anticipates the end, including the judgment of the great white throne in chap. 20:This Third Vision in heaven is followed by a Third Vision on earth, which fitly answers it. Before all that it involves and includes is fulfilled, we are taken back to the foundation of the world, in order to have various matters explained to us; and we are shown how the End is connected with the Beginning; and what the great Crisis really means.
This is why the Third Vision in Heaven is so solemn in its anticipation; and this is why the Third Vision on Earth is so brief in its response.