The Blowing Of The Seventh Trumpet - Rev. Herman Hoeksema
14 The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.
15 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.
16 And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
17 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.
18 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.
19 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.
In order to gain a true understanding of this part of the Book of Revelation it is of the utmost importance that we bear in mind the general character of the chapter in which it occurs. We have said that in this chapter we have a picture of the general course of history, of the history of the church in the midst of the world in the present dispensation, and that too, with a view to the end. It really covers the entire history. From that point of view, the Book of Revelation might have closed with this chapter. But we must remember that it is only a general picture, a picture which gives us very general outlines; and the details of that picture shall be presented to us in the chapters that follow. It might be called the general program that is to be worked out in the succeeding chapters, or, if you please, the general index of the book from here on.
In it we found a general characterization of the condition of the church in this world. The temple was measured; and we found that the distinction was made between the holy city at large, the outer court, and the real holy place with its worshippers, - a distinction which we found to be applicable to the condition of the church in the new dispensation. There is always a Christendom in the general sense of the word, including all who belong to nominal Christianity in the outward sense, all who have been baptized in the name of the Triune God. But within this largest circle of Christianity there is, in the first place, the false church, which does no more adhere to the Christ, but tramples the blood of atonement under foot. And, in the second place, within the same sphere of Christianity in general there is also the show church, which enters with the true people of God in the sanctuary, but which does not worship with them in spirit and in truth. And, finally, there is the true church, the body of the true believers, who are implanted into Christ by a true and living faith. And this distinction will become more plain, will be emphasized, toward the time of the end in such a way that the show church of hypocrites will fall away and identify themselves with the false church, the enemies of Christ, and ultimately ally themselves with the power of Antichrist.
We found in this chapter a general picture of the calling and work of the true church in the midst of the world. They must be and are witnesses for Christ. They are the two witnesses. The believers, the church and its ministers, the servants of God, will witness throughout this dispensation, even to the time of the end. They prophesy not only in the midst of the world that does not know the Christ and the gospel, but prophesy also against the wickedness of the false church, in the midst of which they exist as a living testimony. We found that over against these enemies their word becomes a fire, consuming the enemy, so that he cannot prevail against them in the spiritual sense. We found that these two witnesses perform wonders; even as Elijah and Moses of old, they shut the heaven with their spiritual power, turn the waters into blood, and have power to strike the earth with every plague. You will remember how we explained that all of this must be taken in the most literal sense of the word, as applying to the church of the new dispensation.
Finally, we found in this chapter a general indication of the final rise of the Antichrist, the beast which comes up out of the abyss. He oppresses the church. He persecutes the believers who witness against him and who perform these wonders. He kills some of them undoubtedly, and succeeds in declaring the entire church of Christ dead, so that their testimony is silenced and they are the object of greatest scorn and contempt, as is expressed in the figure of their bodies lying unburied in the streets of Jerusalem for three days and a half. But we also find a general picture of the final victory, or rather, of the ultimate deliverance of the church. The days are shortened for their sake. They are raised, changed, and taken to heaven even before the time of the end and before the seventh trumpet will play the greatest havoc with the enemies of Christ and His kingdom. And now it is in that same general sense of the word that in the passage we are about to discuss we meet with the picture of the seventh trumpet.
The Victory Brought By The Seventh Trumpet
In the fourteenth verse of this chapter, the first verse of the passage we are now discussing, we read: "The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly." This fact has led many interpreters to believe that all that is told us in Chapter 9, verse 12, to Chapter 11, verse 13, belongs to the second woe. You will remember that the eagle which flew in mid-heaven announced a three-fold woe, evidently corresponding with the three last trumpets. These last three trumpets, therefore, may very appropriately be called the woe-trumpets. Now it is very evident from the text that the first woe, or the fifth trumpet, simply includes the plague of the locusts. All are agreed in this .respect. But there is difference of opinion with regard to the second woe, or the sixth trumpet. There are interpreters who maintain that it includes all that is told us in Chapter 9, verse 12, to Chapter 11, verse 13, as I said above. According to this view, it includes the setting at liberty of the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates and all the deadly destruction caused by this. It includes, in the second place, all that is told us in Chapter 10 of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land and of the open book which John must swallow. And it includes, in the third place, all we have thus far discussed of the eleventh chapter: the measuring of the temple, the witnessing of the two prophets, the rise of the Antichrist, and the deliverance of the church.
But as we have already indicated in our discussion, we cannot agree with this, and that for the simple reason that there is nothing woeful in Chapter 10 and in Chapter 11, verses 1 to 13, for the world. The woe-trumpets evidently mean to cause woe not to the church, but to the world. And from this point of view the last-mentioned portion cannot be classed together with Chapter 9, verses 13 to 21, which speaks of the sixth trumpet. And therefore, our conception is that the second woe is recorded in Chapter 9, verses 13 to 21, where the sixth trumpet ends. Then in Chapter 10 we have an interlude, assuring the people of God that the mighty Christ shall surely bring the kingdom and perfect it. And in the eleventh chapter we have a general picture of what will be described in detail in future chapters in connection with the seventh trumpet, or the third woe.
That seventh trumpet, or third woe, John now announces and pictures in general terms. And therefore, immediately before this seventh trumpet he announces that the third woe cometh quickly.
It is of the utmost importance for the future understanding of the Book of Revelation that you have a clear view of the question in what connection this seventh trumpet is here mentioned, and how it occurs. Let it be definitely understood that in this passage we have no detailed description of the effects of the seventh trumpet, but merely a general proleptical vision of it. The last part of the chapter bears the same character as the entire portion which preceded. As we have said, in the preceding we had only general pictures: a picture of the church, her testimony, her struggle, the Antichrist, Babylon, and the relation between all these. In future chapters this will be worked out in detail. We must not be surprised if we read of the church again, even though in this chapter we saw her already going up to heaven. We must not be surprised if in future chapters we shall read again of the false church, of Babylon, of Antichrist, and of the intrigues against the church. All that follows describes in detail what is here mentioned in general. And the same is true of the seventh trumpet. We are told here that it blows, and in general terms the voices in heaven and the elders tell us what is the effect of this seventh trumpet. That trumpet finishes all. You will remember that there are seven seals, and that the last seal reveals itself as seven trumpets. When therefore the seventh trumpet shall have had its effect, all shall have been completed, and the mystery of God shall have been finished. Babylon shall have fallen, and Antichrist shall have been judged. Gog and Magog shall have been destroyed. The devil and all his host shall have been cast into the pool that burns with fire and sulphur. The new heavens and the new earth shall have been realized, and Christ shall have delivered His kingdom to the Father. The seventh trumpet shall finish all things, and carries us into eternity.
Now in our portion we have the picture of the effect of the seventh trumpet, but not in detail. We are not told here of the fall of Babylon and of the last mighty attempt of Antichrist to gain control, of the final defeat of the devil. Nor have we a real description of the resurrection of the dead and of the judgment, of the coming down out of heaven of the heavenly Jerusalem, and the realization of the kingdom. All this will be described in the future. We shall therefore also meet with the seventh trumpet again, when it shall dissolve itself into the seven vials of wrath. But in our portion we have a proleptical vision, revealing in a few sentences the entire effect of that seventh trumpet. A general statement is given of the effect of this trumpet as viewed from heaven.
We are told in the text that at the blowing of the seventh trumpet great voices were heard in heaven. Many attempts have been made to identify these voices and to answer the question whose they are. But the text does not tell us; nor is this of any account to us. There are indeed many possibilities. In future portions of the book, in connection with the carrying out of the plan of God, especially in connection with the realization of the seventh trumpet, we read of voices which speak and cry and sing. When the dragon is cast down to the earth, we read that a great voice speaks in heaven, making mention of the salvation of God's people and of woe to the earth (12:10). Chapter 14 makes mention of various voices. It speaks of the voice of the one hundred forty-four thousand who sing with the voice of many waters, of great thunder, with a voice of harpers. It makes mention of the voice of the angel flying in mid-heaven and proclaiming eternal good tidings to them that dwell on the earth. It speaks of a second angel announcing the fall of Babylon the great; of a third announcing woe to them that worship the beast and his image; of a voice pronouncing a beatitude upon the dead that die in the Lord. Chapter 15 speaks of a multitude that stands by the sea of glass and sings the song of Moses and of the Lamb. Chapter 16 tells us of a voice that proceeds from the temple and speaks to the angels who hold the seven bowls of wrath. Many and various voices are mentioned in connection with the realization of the mystery of God. As the time approaches that the kingdom shall be completed, the voices in heaven multiply. We receive the impression that heaven is watching and waiting for a long time. An occasional voice is heard now and then; but in the end it becomes plain that God Almighty is to have the victory, and heaven appears teeming with life and rebounding with songs and outcries and voices that rejoice and take part in the carrying out of the plan of the Almighty. And therefore we need not be surprised that our text describes in a few sentences the effect of the seventh trumpet, and speaks of great voices that cause themselves to be heard.
Of more importance it is to us to know what these voices say. The text says that they shout: "The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever." In our version we read of kingdoms, in the plural. This would leave the impression that the reference was to the various kingdoms and empires in the political sense of the word that exist upon the earth. But the original does not speak of kingdoms, in the plural, but simply of the kingdom. And the idea is that the sovereign rule over the world has completely fallen to God Almighty and His Christ. We might therefore paraphrase: "God and His Christ have gained the sovereign rule over the world as a whole." That world was originally made to be a kingdom as an organic whole. And now, at the end, when the seventh trumpet blows, God has with and through His Anointed, His Christ, gained the actual sovereign dominion over all the world. We feel that these voices speak proleptically. At the moment when the seventh trumpet sounds they speak as if the effect of it had already been accomplished, and in one sentence they tell us that God and His Christ have assumed the sovereign rule over all the world.
Two questions arise in our mind when we listen to these voices. In the first place, the question arises: in what sense does God become sovereign over all the world at the end of time, when the seventh trumpet is finished? Is He not sovereign, and is His Christ not actually sovereign, all through this dispensation? And, in the second place, what is the relation between the sovereignty of God Almighty and that of His Christ at the finishing of the seventh trumpet? Shall they reign side by side, or shall there be subordination?
In answer to the first question, it must be said that God is indeed sovereign all through the history of the world. There is nothing, there is no creature, that can thwart His will; and all are in subjection to Him. Even the devil and all his host and all the wicked world can after all do nothing against Him, even though they so imagine in the wickedness of their heart. But although in this sense He is sovereign, absolutely sovereign, yet it is not true that His sovereignty is undisputed. Even though we tremble at the thought, it is true nevertheless that the devil conceived of the plan of becoming sovereign instead of the Most High, and that he has employed other angels and man to realize this plan of his own sovereignty. And therefore, he, together with his agencies, the host of the devils from the abyss and Babylon and Antichrist on earth, rise in rebellion against the Sovereign of heaven and earth. There is, therefore, a battle being carried on in this world for the possession of the whole world as kingdom between God and His Anointed, the Christ, and the devil and his anointed, the Antichrist. God's sovereignty is disputed. The devil wars against God, to wrest His sovereignty from Him. And the full and complete sovereignty of God Almighty shall not appear before these rebels have been subdued, before these enemies have been destroyed, and God and His Christ reign in undisputed sovereignty forever. This destruction of the enemy, this final subjection of all that rebel against God, the seventh trumpet shall bring about. By this seventh trumpet Babylon shall be brought to its ruin, Antichrist shall be destroyed, Gog and Magog shall be annihilated and punished, the new Jerusalem shall be realized, and God shall spread His tabernacle over all. And now these voices, at the sound of the last trumpet, see the realization of all this. They speak as if the trumpet is already finished, as if the enemies have already been destroyed. And therefore they now shout: "The sovereignty of the world has become the sovereignty of our God and of His Anointed for ever and ever."
As to the second question, we must remember that the plan of God is that the kingdom of the world shall be a kingdom of man under God. Man is made king of the world in obedience to God Almighty as Sovereign. He is made viceroy. But man rebelled. The first man went with his power and royal glory and subjected himself to the prince of darkness with his kingdom. And now God has sent His second man, the Anointed, the man Jesus Christ. He is to take man's place. He is the Servant of God, the head of the covenant which is to be realized, the King of the new creation. But He is to take the place of man. Now He reigns at the right hand of God and carries out the decree of God with a view to the coming kingdom. He breaks the seals. He causes the trumpets to blow. He sends the vials of wrath. For He alone was worthy to receive the book out of the hand of Him Who sitteth upon the throne. But in the end, when all is completed and the seventh trumpet shall have finished its work, He shall subject Himself too, according to the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15, and shall reign over all the works of God forever and ever, but under God as His Sovereign. In Christ, the Anointed of God, the new creation shall lie at the foot of its Maker and give Him glory.
What a glory that shall be! The enemies of God and of His church are destroyed. The people of God are delivered. All creation is lying at the feet of . the Sovereign forever and ever. There will be no more war or disturbance. There will be no more sin. There will never be a second fall of angels and men. But into ages of ages God, the Supreme Ruler, reigns over all; and we shall reign with Christ forever over the works of His hands.
The Joy In Heaven At The Seventh Trumpet
But there is not only the voice of these mighty ones which is heard, but also the voice of the four and twenty elders who shout in this connection. Who they are we have explained in a different connection. We will not go into detail again. Be it sufficient to say that they are the representatives of the church of all ages, both of the old and of the new dispensation.
We read of them that at the voice of the seventh trumpet they fell upon their faces and worshipped God. This is in complete harmony with the contents of the great voice which has just spoken. The latter had announced that God and His Christ had assumed the full sovereignty of the world, and that forever and ever. In harmony with this the twenty-four elders fall upon their faces and worship. The sovereignty that had been announced by the voices is here, in the first place, acknowledged. They not only come down from their thrones. They not only kneel down before the Almighty. But they bow down, fall down in the dust on their faces, thus expressing that they are overwhelmed by the revelation of the sovereignty of God. O, surely, they knew that He was sovereign. They were aware of His great power. They felt assured that He would overcome His enemies to the last. But the reality of it is still so overwhelming that they all of a sudden fall down and bow with their faces in the dust. And they also place themselves on the same standpoint of that first great voice. Also they see the fulfillment, the full carrying out, of all that is implied in the seventh trumpet. And standing on that ground, from whence they see the complete carrying out of the mystery of God, seeing how all is fulfilled, they are overwhelmed with the reality of the things that have happened. And they fall down and worship.
So shall reality far surpass our boldest expectation. Now we are children of God. Now we have a revelation of the things that are to be, of the power of God and of His Christ that is to be revealed in the future, of the glory of the children of God that is to be revealed in them. Now we can speak, nay, stammer, about these things in imperfection; and joy fills our hearts when we speak of them. Now we fall down in humble worship and thanks whenever we obtain a glimpse of the glory of God's power and grace that is to be manifested; but it has not yet been revealed what we shall be. If these glorified elders, who at least know far more of the glory that is to be expected than we in the church militant, fall down at the blowing of the seventh trumpet, when they see all things realized, how much more will reality surpass our expectation while we are still in the period in which we are saved by hope.
That these elders actually do place themselves on this standpoint of the complete fulfillment of the seventh trumpet and of the entire mystery of God is evident too from what they say. We read that they give thanks to God Almighty, "which art, and wast." In our version there is also added: "and art to come." But this is a mistake. In the original we merely read: "which art, and wast." He has come already in the fulfillment of the seventh trumpet. And therefore they now do not make the addition which was made in a former connection, and they give thanks to God for the fact that God has now actually assumed His great power: "We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned."
Surely, they knew His great power; but now He has fully revealed it and taken it on. And this great power He has revealed in a two-fold way. He has revealed it in His wrath against the enemies of His kingdom, in the first place: "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 destroy them which destroy the earth." Proleptically, once more, the elders have seen how, during the time of the seventh trumpet, the enemy made a last attempt, how they through al? the history of this world warred against the holy city and trampled it under foot, how they allied themselves against God and His Christ and purposed to destroy His Zion. But He Who was in the heavens laughed them to scorn. He has come to destroy them with the breath of His mouth. His power revealed itself against their power, and they were completely defeated. The devil, Antichrist, Babylon, Gog and Magog, all the enemies of the kingdom and the King have been destroyed. They that oppressed the people of God are no more. God has revealed His power and now reigns forevermore. The representatives of the church triumphant give Him thanks and worship because He has revealed His great power.
But, in the second place, He has also revealed His power and the grace shown to His people, the oppressed and faithful: "And the time came to give the reward to thy servants, the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear thy name, the small and the great." Again, proleptically the elders see how all is accomplished. That same judgment which cast the enemies of the kingdom into the pool that burns with fire and sulphur brought the reward to the faithful. They see the new heavens and the new earth realized by the seventh trumpet. They see how God's temple is with men and how He spreads His tabernacle over them all. In that new creation they see the mighty prophets who have witnessed in the old dispensation and who have shed their lifeblood for the testimony of God. In that new creation they behold the saints of the new dispensation, they who have performed special service in the church of God. In that new creation they see the general mass of God's people, they who fear His name. And to be sure that they are not misunderstood they add: "the small and the great." Not only the prophets and the special servants, not only Abel and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Israel and Moses and all the heroes of faith, not only the great saints of the new dispensation, the giants of faith, who shone like the stars already on earth, but also the small are among them. Those who were among the common of God's people, the little ones, the weak and the timid, but faithful children of God who feared His name, they all have their reward, and not one is forgotten. Is it a wonder that at the sight of this the elders fall on their faces and worship and give thanks?
The Judgments On Earth Brought By The Seventh
But this seventh trumpet is here shown also from the viewpoint of the earth. We read in vs. 19: "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." The meaning of this is rather evident. It shows the seventh trumpet in general from the viewpoint of the earth at this time. For the fact that the heaven is opened and that the temple of God is seen plainly reveals that the viewpoint is on earth. And it tells us, in general, that the opening of the temple in heaven and the appearance of the ark of God's covenant spells woe and judgment to the inhabitants of the earth, as symbolized in the lightnings and voices and thunders and the earthquake and great hail. Let us consider these different elements for a moment.
The temple of God in Jerusalem was made after the pattern of the heavenly temple, as it was shown to Moses on the mount. The idea of the temple is that of a dwellingplace of God. The temple was the house of God. It was the place where God dwelt in the holy place. But to this must be added that it was a limited place, where God dwelt in distinction from the world in general, in distinction, too, from the holy city at large. It speaks of the fact that in the world at large, as long as it is the kingdom of darkness, God, the Holy One, cannot take up His abode. But that distinction is only temporal. God shall not remain in His temple in distinction from the world. On the contrary, in the end that distinction shall be wiped away. God shall come forth from His holy temple in heaven, and He shall make of all the world His dwellingplace. That shall be realized in the blowing of this seventh trumpet. And for that reason we here see the temple of God which is in heaven opened, symbolizing that the Holy One issues forth to make of all the world His dwelling. Somewhat the same idea is expressed in the appearance of the ark. Naturally, when the temple is opened, the ark is seen. For the ark stood in the most holy place. It was in a most specific sense the symbol of the presence of God. It is called the throne of God in Scripture. It stood in the immediate presence of God, as symbolized in the cloud, and on its mercy seat the blood of atonement was sprinkled once a year. It contained the law of the covenant as well as the manna and the rod of Aaron. And therefore it is the symbol of God in His covenant greatness issuing His law to His people and blessing them with all the blessings of the covenant in the blood of atonement. That ark now appears. It tells us that the time is come that the law of God's covenant shall appear and issue forth over all the earth, that the full realization of that covenant is come, and that God shall have His throne in all the world.
But naturally, when the Holy One issues forth to make of all the world His temple, and when He is about to issue His law and realize to the full His holy covenant, this must be accompanied by the final destruction of His enemies. In the world into which the Holy One now issues forth, the enemy still reigns, and wickedness prevails. And before He can make of that world His temple, these enemies must be destroyed. Judgments must necessarily follow the opening of the temple, judgments which will defeat the enemy and make of the world a fit temple of the Almighty. And so we actually find it. Judgments issue forth out of that open temple, as we shall see in the future. Out of that temple comes the angel with the sharp sickle (14:17). Out of that temple come the seven angels that carry the seven bowls of wrath, ready to pour them over the earth (Chapter 15, ff.). Out of that temple comes the command to empty the vials which will bring the judgment of God over the enemies (16:1). And out of that temple comes the voice that announces that all is finished after the seven vials of wrath have been poured out (17:1). The opening of the temple spells judgment to purify the world and make it the temple of the Lord. And for that same reason we read also in the words of our text that the opening of the temple is followed by lightnings and voices and thunders and an earthquake and great hail, - all of them symbols of judgments which are about to strike the earth. What these judgments are we must see in due time. It is not told us here in detail.
But notice that also the seventh trumpet is full of comfort to the faithful, while at the same time filled with threats and woe to those who oppose the kingdom of our God. When that seventh trumpet shall have been finally revealed, we shall stand in our reward, small and great, the mighty and the weak, as many as fear the name of our God. It shall do the people of God no harm, but will bring their complete salvation. On the other hand, the wicked, those who love not God and His precepts, who despise His covenant and trample under foot the blood of Christ, may also surely know that not one of God's words shall fall to the earth. It shall all be realized. The glory of God's children shall bring woe and judgment to them. And their end shall be in the pool that burns with fire and brimstone.