Religion and the Trumpets

Revelation 8:2 ­ 11:19

©1999 by James A. Fowler. All rights reserved.

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 Revelation series

   The risen Lord Jesus reveals to John the third vignette of His divine perspective. The first "frame" or "camera angle" was what we called "religion and the churches" (2:1­3:22). The second "view" was what we called "religion and the seals" (4:1­8:1). The third way of looking at the situation we shall call "religion and the trumpets" (8:2­11:19). These visions are not in chronological sequence, one following after the other as later events in history or in the projected future, but rather are synchronous, giving another viewpoint of the same period of time. They are parallel images so that Christians can see what God is doing from another viewpoint, or through another filter of the Divine intent.

   Jesus' intent in the Revelation is to reveal Himself as the victor over Satan, evil and religion. That victory was accomplished when Jesus died on the cross and exclaimed, "It is finished!" (John 19:30). In the "enigma of the interim" between His first coming and His second coming there is continued spiritual conflict and warfare as the diabolic Evil One operates as "the god of this world" (II Cor. 4:4) and disguises himself in the activities of religion (II Cor. 11:13-15). Jesus wants to assure His followers that despite the present turmoil and tribulation wherein they may have to suffer or even die, He is still victorious and in control of the universe, and they can have the confident expectation of the hope of His ultimate consummation of victory when He returns. Such a transgenerational and translocational message of hope and assurance is the revelation by which Jesus seeks to encourage Christians in every age and every place throughout Christian history.

   The primary imagery that Jesus employs in this third revealing "view" is that of seven angels blowing seven trumpets which introduce a particular revelation of God's activity. What is the significance of the trumpets? Throughout the Scripture record trumpets have been employed for various purposes. While the Israelites were still in the wilderness God instructed Moses to make some trumpets which were to be used for summoning the people together (Numb. 10:3), to sound a warning alarm (Numb. 10:6; Jere. 6:1; Ezek. 33:3), to be used in battle (Numb. 10:9; Jere. 4:5; 51:24-30; Ezek. 7:14), and to be used in the celebration of feasts (Numb. 10:10; Joel 2:15). The trumpet sound is also used to announce the coming "day of the Lord, the day of wrath, destruction, darkness, gloom and clouds" (Zeph. 1:14-16; Matt. 24:31; I Thess. 4:16). The trumpet blasts pictured here in chapters eight through eleven of the Revelation signify an alarm that God is about to engage in battle and there will be horrible effects of destruction and death when God begins to act against the enemies of His people, Christ's church.

   God's objective in having the angels sound the trumpets before He begins His acts of judgment is that the religious "dwellers of the earth" (8:13;11:10) might hear the warning and repent. God is not a blood-thirsty God who delights in vengeance and death. God "has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, rather that he should turn from his ways and live" (Ezek. 18:23). The Lord does not "wish that any should perish, but for all to come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9), that "all men everywhere should repent" (Acts 17:30). Only when men obstinately refuse to repent and submit to the One who created them, rejecting the reconciling mediator and Messiah, Jesus Christ, does God act in judgment, and especially on those who choose counterfeit religion instead of Christ.

   The judgment images that God displays toward religionists when the trumpets are sounded have some obvious correlations with the plagues that came upon Egypt preceding the exodus in the Old Testament. God, acting through Moses, was engaged in the preserving of His people in the old covenant era. He was demonstrating His divine power to prevail over satanically energized human authorities and institutions. He was bringing judgment on those who would oppress His people and enslave His people in bondage. In like manner, the trumpets portrayed in this part of the revelatory vision reveal that God is preserving His Christian people in the victory that Christ won on the cross. God is demonstrating that He is in control and will prevail over the satanically energized authorities and institutions of religion. He will bring judgments upon those who enslave people in the oppressive bondage of religion. What an encouragement this should be to Christians in every age between the two advents of Jesus Christ. Remember that the etymological meaning of "religion" is to "bind up," in contrast to being "set free" in Jesus Christ to be all that God intends man to be (John 8:32,36; Gal. 5:1,13).

   This third visionary sector begins with seven angels being given seven trumpets (8:2). Although Jewish tradition indicated that there were seven archangels there is no evidence here to identify these seven angels as archangels. Neither do we know whether these seven angels are the same seven angels referred to later (15:1,6-8; 16:1; 17:1; 21:9). They may simply represent the perfection of angelic activity.

   Each of the angels is given a trumpet. Seven trumpets were also employed when seven priests blowing seven trumpets marched around Jericho for seven days, as recorded in Joshua 6:4-16. They too were announcing God's coming judgment and destruction. Some interesting similarities are apparent, though not suggested by the text. Just as the city of Jericho had to fall so that the Israelites could carry the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, so the religious city of Babylon must fall so that the ark of new covenant blessings (11:19) can be experienced without hindrance by Christians in the New Jerusalem.

   John saw another angel standing at the altar of the heavenly temple-scene (8:3). This angel had a golden censer with incense which represented the prayers of Christians going up before God. This imagery of incense in connection with the prayers of Christians has been used previously (5:8), and the concept of our prayers being a sweet and fragrant aroma before God can be seen in the Psalmist's request, "May my prayer be counted as incense before Thee" (Ps. 141:2). The import of these introductory verses (8:3-5) may be to stress the importance of prayer among Christians throughout that period between Christ's comings. Prayer expresses a willingness to see the situation from God's perspective, to accept God's action and allow such to be fulfilled. Indeed, "the effectual prayers of righteous men, availeth much" (James 5:16). By our prayers we "listen under" God unto obedience, and seek God's activity in the situation at hand. Many have been the prayers throughout Christian history that God might vindicate His righteousness and bring judgment upon the powers of evil religion.

   The angel in John's vision "took the censer, filled it with fire from the heavenly altar and threw it to the earth" (8:5). The fire of God's judgment is hurled to the earth. An answer to prayer, no doubt! It is accompanied by "thunder, lightning and an earthquake," representing the awesome presence of God's power. At one point in His earthly ministry in the midst of confronting the religionists, Jesus said, "I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled" (Luke 12:49). The coming of the perfect life of Jesus Christ necessitates the judgment of Satan, sin, evil and religion.

   As with the seven seals, the first four of the trumpet blasts are packaged together, the fifth and sixth receive more protracted explanation, and then there is an interval between the sixth and the seventh. In all of the trumpet announcements God is bringing His providential judgment upon those who have identified with Satan and his religious efforts.

   At the sound of the first trumpet "hail and fire, mixed with blood" are thrown to the earth (8:7). These effects are similar to the judgment plagues sent upon Egypt (Exod. 9:18,23), evidencing God's power to those who were oppressing God's people. Likewise the hostile religious oppressors of Christian peoples are being warned by the first trumpet and its announced display of divine power that God will not tolerate religious assaults forever. Religion is going to get "pounded" and "burned," and the fact that the effects are "mixed with blood" probably signifies death.

   John explains that he saw "one third of the earth and the tree and the grass being burnt up" (8:7). In each of the judgment effects following the first four trumpets, the symbolic picture-language refers to "a third" of a particular object being affected. Such a reference to "one third" evidences the restricted scope of God's judgments throughout the interim of Christian history. God's historical judgments in the interim of the church age are partial, but not complete. A significant portion of mankind are affected, but not all. God is still seeking the repentance of religionists. Complete destruction will come later when God "destroys the destroyers" (11:18).

   The second trumpet announces and warns of "a great mountain burning with fire thrown into the sea" (8:8). Some have thought that this refers to volcanic activity, but the imagery goes far beyond natural phenomena. Only the omnipotent power of God can heave the mountain of religion into the deep-blue sea! Jeremiah used similar pictorial language when he prophesied for God saying, "I will make you (Babylon) a burnt out mountain" (Jere. 51:25), and "the sea has come up over Babylon" (Jere. 51:42).

   John observed that "a third of the sea became blood, a third of the creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed" (8:8,9). Religion has certainly polluted many waters with the blood of its death-deeds. Again we have the similarity with the Egyptian plagues when the waters were turned to blood (Exod. 7:20).

   Upon the sounding of the third trumpet, "a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch" (8:10). Although some would again point to the natural phenomena of a meteorite falling through the atmosphere with a fiery trail like a torch, it is more likely that the picture is symbolic. Religion may appear to be so lofty as a luminary of the heavenlies, but it is a "falling star" which will burn like a torch. The imagery is similar to that expressed by Isaiah when he said, "You (Babylon) have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, have been cut down to the earth" (Isa. 14:12).

   This particular star is identified with the symbolic name of "Wormwood" (8:11). Wormwood was a plant that grew in the region of Palestine which produced a bitter oil from its leaves. The mention of "wormwood" became equivalent to the concept of bitterness. "The lips of an adulteress drip honey...but in the end she is bitter as wormwood" (Prov. 5:3,4). Through the prophet Jeremiah, God says to the Israelites who had turned to false religion, "I will feed them with wormwood" (Jere. 9:15; 23:15). The activities of religion have created much bitterness. They have polluted many river and waters (8:10,11) with their "galling" poison, and brought death to many men (8:11).

   When the fourth trumpet was sounded "a third of the sun, moon and stars were smitten, so that they were darkened and ceased to shine" (8:12). Again we see a similarity with the ninth plague when there was "darkness over the land of Egypt" (Exod. 10:21). Religion is identified with the "world forces of darkness" (Eph. 6:12), in Satan's (Acts 26:18) "domain of darkness" (Col. 1:13). Speaking to religious Nicodemus, Jesus said, "This is the judgment, that light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). Jesus also indicated that "sons of the (religious Jewish) kingdom would be cast out into the outer darkness..." (Matt. 8:12). God can bring a darkness upon religion, which not even they can tolerate. The prophet Joel cried, "Blow a trumpet in Zion, for the day of darkness is coming; a day of darkness and gloom" (Joel 2:2).

   Between the fourth and fifth angelic trumpet blasts John saw "an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, 'Woe, woe, woe, to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet which are about to sound" (8:13). The eagle is sometimes portrayed as a symbol of strength that flies above all others and is powerful to destroy. "Like an eagle the enemy comes against the house of the Lord" (Hosea 8:1). The "eagle swoops down to devour" (Hab. 1:8). The Greek word aetos can also be translated "vulture." Jesus said, "wherever a corpse is, vultures will gather" (Matt. 24:28; Luke 17:37). The bird of prey is announcing that the results revealed by the remaining three trumpet blasts will be worse than the first four. The first four consequences might be called the "four trumpet warnings," whereas the last three consequences of God's actions might be called the "three trumpet woes."

   The woes of divine judgment are directed toward "those who dwell on the earth" (8:13). This is a prominent designation throughout the Revelation for the religionists who are part of Satan's world-system (cf. 3:10; 6:10; 11:10). In contrast to religious "earth-dwellers," Christians are "citizens of heaven" (Phil. 3:20), "seated in the heavenlies" (Eph. 2:6).

   At the sound of the fifth angel blowing the fifth trumpet, John "saw a star from heaven which had fallen to earth; and the key to the bottomless pit was given to him" (9:1). Though the imagery is similar to that which was revealed after the third trumpet (8:10), an entirely different scenario unfolds. This star is personified. When the king of Babylon is represented as a star fallen from heaven (Isa. 14:12), this has often been given a secondary interpretation as the fall of Lucifer from heaven in order to become the diabolic Evil One. Later in the Revelation it is revealed that "the great dragon, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, was thrown down to the earth from heaven, and his angels were thrown down with him" (Rev. 12:9). Jesus explained that the seventy witnesses were effective for He saw "Satan fall from heaven like lightning," and He goes on to indicate that He gave them "authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy" (Luke 10:18,19). The fallen one that John observed was given "the key of the bottomless pit" (9:1), so as to have authority over the underworld and the "abyss" which even the demons want to avoid (Luke 8:31).

   From the bottomless pit issued forth "smoke like that of a great furnace" (9:2). "Where there is smoke there is fire," goes the saying, and this smoke may have come from the "unquenchable fire of hell" (Mark 9:43). Smoke can represent the deception and delusion of "the prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2).

   "Out of the smoke came forth locusts" (9:3), which are often a symbol of destruction and judgment as they were in the eighth plague of locusts upon Egypt (Exod. 10:12). These locusts can attack like scorpions to inject their poisonous venom. Religion arises straight from the pit of hell with the full authority of Satan behind it, shrouded in the smoke of deception and delusion, and injects its poisonous error like a scorpion.

   Notice though that the sovereign God is still in control! He permits (9:5) only a limited tormenting of non-Christians who do not have the seal (9:4) of God's Holy Spirit in their lives. The limitation is expressed by the time-period of "five months" (9:5,10), which some have noted is approximately the life-cycle and infestation-span of a locust, but which probably represents simply the limitation of time.

   The sting of a scorpion can bring such a painful torment that a person can wish they were dead (9:6). Many of the more thoughtful unregenerate people throughout history have indicated that they thought dying would be preferable to living in the destructive world in which we live, with its religious corruption, brutalization and senseless activity. The only remedy, of course, is to know the life of Jesus Christ which transcends all worldly chaos and religious corruption.

   The symbolism of the locusts is further expanded (9:7-10) to include some of the most grotesque and revolting images of diabolic forces of "the spiritual hosts of wickedness" (Eph. 6:12). The locusts are likened to horses equipped for battle, just as the prophet Joel also likened locusts to "war horses" (Joel 2:4). The word for "locust" in several languages is identified with horses, as can be seen in the German word heupferd meaning "hay-horse," and the Italian word cavalletta meaning "little horse." Many have noted a physical resemblance between horses and locusts, but the imagery that John observes goes far beyond such physical similarities into horrifying pictorializations of lionized femininity, metallic weaponry and stinging power ­ all evident within religion.

   These diabolic religious forces which make war and "hurt men" (9:10), "have a king over them" (9:11), who is probably the same one who is the personified fallen star (9:1). He is "the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he has the name Apollyon" (9:11). Both the Hebrew and Greek words mean "destroyer," which is the activity of the devil, and his destruction is evidenced in religious activity.

   The sixth trumpet sound reveals a voice coming from the golden altar which is before God, which tells the sixth angel to, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates" (9:14). God is still in control for He controls the releasing of these four evil angels. They come from the region of the Euphrates river where the Assyrians (Isa. 8:7) and the Parthian barbarians, some of the most feared enemies of God's people came. This is an army straight from hell, prepared for this destruction (9:15). They number "two myriads of myriads" or two times ten thousand times ten thousand, which is two hundred million; an army that is incalculably immense. The breastplates on the riders of the horsemen in this army are emblazoned in red, blue and yellow (9:17) to match the "fire, smoke and brimstone" which issues forth from the mouths of the horses (9:18). These lion-headed (9:17), fire-breathing mounts with serpentine tails (9:19) do much harm upon a third of mankind. The "old serpent" (12:9) is indeed the authority that directs the cavalry charge of this immense army of religion that does such harm to so much of mankind.

   God's purpose in allowing such is that mankind might see the destruction, repent of their evil and religious ways, and receive the sole Savior of mankind, His Son, Jesus Christ. Modern men often have a difficult time understanding how God can permit such widespread devastation and death. In large part this is due to our having developed an idolatrous view that physical life is infinitely precious and to be preserved at all cost, while physical death is the ultimate tragedy. This is not so! That which is eternally valuable is the spiritual and divine life of Jesus Christ. "It is appointed unto all men that we should die physically and face judgment" (Heb. 9:27). The certainty of such physical death is established; the only question is the timing of our death. We must remember the transient insecurity of this life, and not be deceived by the religious ideology that idolizes physical life. In His sovereignty God can and does use the physical death of mankind, even in large numbers, as an object lesson to the rest of mankind to encourage them to choose the life which is eternal in Jesus Christ.

   Sad to say, even when God does allow "the one having the power of death" (Heb. 2:14) to cause devastating destruction and death through his religious efforts, the "rest of mankind" (9:20) often do not respond in repentance toward God. Why? They remain recalcitrant in their allegiance and worship of the gods of their own making, the idolatrous images which they make with their own hands (Ps. 115:4; 135:15), whether they be of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, stone (Daniel 5:23) or the hardened concrete of inflexible thinking. These impotent idols cannot see, hear, eat, smell or walk (9:20; Deut. 4:28; Ps. 115:5-8; Dan. 5:23), but they adhere to them anyway, for they are really worshipping themselves, "the creature rather than the Creator" (Rom. 1:26), and at a deeper level they are worshipping demons (9:20; Acts 17:22; I Cor. 10:20). All religion is demonically inspired! All religion is idolatry! God has repeatedly explained to mankind, "I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies. Therefore, repent and live" (Ezek. 18:32); "Repent and turn from your idols" (Ezek. 14:6). But the vast majority of mankind obstinately refuse to change their minds about what they falsely perceive to be their own self-generative capabilities, and thus fail to change their action so as to derive and receive all from God in faith in order to function as God intended.

   Throughout that merciful period between Christ's comings when God seeks the repentance of all mankind and tests His own people, the majority of mankind "do not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts" (9:21). These behaviors contrary to the character of God are rampant in society today and are often tolerated or encouraged in religious practices, including the drugs of sorcery (Greek: pharmaceutikos). The conclusion of the Revelation indicates that "sorcerers, immoral persons and idolaters" will be outside of the heavenly gate (22:15).

   Between trumpets six and seven we have an apparent interlude (10:1 ­ 11:13), similar to what was observed between the breaking of the sixth and seventh seals (7:1-17). Perhaps this is to highlight how the "enigma of the interim" serves God's purposes. The parenthetical delay may expose God's continued desire for the repentance of all men, giving them more time. Within that time the full complement of God's martyred witnesses also accumulates as they are "faithful unto death" (2:10). The interval also provides a sense of suspense of what is yet to come in the climax of that which is revealed by the seventh trumpet.

   John observes "another strong angel" (10:1), other than the one referred to in 5:2, who was "clothed with the cloud" of God's invisible presence, had a "rainbow on his head" representing God's faithfulness, whose "face was like the sun" radiating the Light of God, and whose "feet were like pillars of fire" symbolic of God's presence and undergirding (Exod. 13:21). Some have speculated that this angel was Gabriel, while others have identified him as Jesus Christ, but he must remain an unidentified angel. Whoever he was, he was of colossal size and awesome power for "he placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land" (10:2), perhaps indicating that God is bigger than anything religion can muster.

   The angel had "a little scroll which was open" in his hand (10:2). What was inscribed in this scroll and what does it represent? Many have conjectured that it is the Bible or "God's Plan for the ages," but perhaps it contained the same basic message as the sealed scroll in chapters five, six and seven of the Revelation, which we have suggested was the written record of God's foreknown awareness of what was to happen in that time between Christ's comings, including the trials and deaths of Christians.

   When the strong angel "cried out with a loud voice, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices" (10:3), perhaps declaring the judgments of God, but we do not know for a "voice from heaven" (10:4) told John to "seal up" what had been uttered and "do not write them," perhaps only postponing such until they could be further illustrated later in the Revelation. The angel then "lifted his right hand" (10:5) and took an oath "that there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the seventh angel and the seventh trumpet, then the mystery of God is finished, as he preached to His servants the prophets" (10:7). The martyrs had asked, "How long?" (6:10), and now the angel indicates that a time will come when God will delay "no longer." The divine delay for the purpose of men's repentance (II Peter 3:9) will come to an end, and God's determinative judgment will be set in motion. This is all tied to the action of the seventh angel and his seventh trumpet which is referred to in 11:15-19. At this time the "mystery of God," once concealed but now revealed, will be brought to completion. The opportunity to receive Jesus Christ, the mystery of God (Col. 2:2) will be concluded, as God made known through "His servants the prophets" (Joel 3:7) in both old and new covenants.

   John was told to take the little scroll from the big angel (10:8), and when he did so the angel said, "Take it, and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey" (10:9). The Psalmist had declared that the words of God were "sweeter than honey to his mouth" (Ps. 119:103), and Ezekiel used the same imagery of eating a scroll which was sweet as honey (Ezek. 2:9; 3:3). Jeremiah explained that God's words were a "joy and delight to his heart" (Jere. 15:16), but on the other hand they "resulted in reproach and derision all the day long" (Jere. 20:8). God's witnesses will find that the gospel is sweet, but there are bitter consequences of identifying with and partaking of Jesus Christ. There is both joy and sorrow for Christians until Christ comes again. The way of victory is the way of pain, even unto the bitterness of physical death. Recognizing such, John is commissioned to "prophesy again" (10:11), to proclaim Jesus Christ among "many peoples and nations and tongues and kings" while time still remains.

   Another interactive scenario begins when John is given "a measuring rod like a staff" and told to "measure the temple of God, and the altar, and those who worship in it, but leave out the outer court" (11:1). The act of measuring signifies the recognition and distinguishing which leads to a measured understanding of God's purposes and what God is doing by His Son, Jesus Christ prior to His return. The true worship of God in the temple of Christ's church (I Cor. 3:16; II Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21; I Peter 2:5), conducted by all Christians as priests (I Peter 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10), can never be quashed or snuffed out. The prayers of Christians emanating from the altar like incense from the inner temple sanctum will be heard. But in the outer court of that same temple, representing the Church of Jesus Christ, the "holy community" of Christian peoples will be "tread under foot by the nations" (11:2) until "the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 17:24). The church will not be overcome, for "the gates of hades shall not overpower it" (Matt. 16:18), but in the outer court of their physical lives Christians are vulnerable and exposed to the trampling effects of religious persecution, suffering and the death of martyrdom. As the "city of God," the "holy city" prepared and build by God (Heb. 11:10,16), the "heavenly Jerusalem above" (Heb. 12:22; Gal. 4:25), Christians are subject to religious hostility and will be "hated on account of His name" (Luke 21:17). The duration of this suffering is divinely limited, though, as expressed by the time periods of "forty-two months" (11:2), which is "twelve hundred and sixty days" (11:3) by Jewish calendar calculation, which is "three and a half years." "Three and a half" is half of the complete and perfect number, seven, indicating that the time of destruction will be limited and incomplete. God continues to protect His own!

   During this divinely limited period of time when the church will be persecuted, God will grant the authority of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18) to His "two witnesses, who will prophesy, though clothed in sackcloth" (11:3). God's has always demanded that testimony be validated by "two witnesses" (Deut. 17:6; 19:15; Numb. 35:30; Matt. 18:16; John 8:17; II Cor. 13:1; Heb. 10:28). Jesus sent out the seventy witnesses "two by two" (Luke 10:1-24). All Christians in the church of Jesus Christ are called to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8), so the "two witnesses" are best understood to be the necessary complement of Christian witnesses who are willing to invest their lives for Jesus Christ, even unto martyrdom, for the Greek word translated "witness" is martur. Jesus identified Himself as the "faithful witness" (1:5). John considered himself a "witness" (1:2). All Christians comprise the necessary "two witnesses." Speculations have run rampant as interpreters have attempted to identify the "two witnesses" as Moses and Elijah, Peter and Paul, James and John, Luther and Calvin, or as non personal entities such as Old Testament and New Testament, or as law and gospel. Such specific identifications are trivial diversions which do not serve to encourage all Christians to be witnesses who proclaim Jesus Christ, even in the context of humiliation and hardship (illustrated by the garb of "sackcloth") unto death until Christ returns.

   The "two witnesses" are further identified as "the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth" (11:4). The two olive trees may represent the oil of the Holy Spirit which is necessary for the light to be expressed in the lampstands, which were earlier identified as churches (1:20). Christians are called to be "the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14), but can be such witnesses only by the power of the Holy Spirit. "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit," says the Lord of hosts (Zech 4:6)in the Old Testament passage which employs the same imagery of olive trees and lampstands (Zech. 4:2-14). There the two olive trees and lampstands seem to be representative of Zerubbabel, the king, and Joshua, the priest. All Christians are anointed to represent God as kings and priests (I Peter 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10), which serves to verify the "two witnesses" as all Christians.

   As Christian witnesses are empowered by the Holy Spirit, the fire of divine judgmental action in Jesus Christ proceeds from their mouths. God told Jeremiah that He was making His words in his mouth to be fire in order to consume the religionists (Jere. 5:14). The Christian witnesses have supernatural power to "shut up the sky" (11:6) like Elijah (I Kings 17,18) and to bring forth plagues (11:6) like Moses (Exod. 7-12), for Jesus promised that "greater works than I have done, you shall do" (John 14:12). God's powerful works through Christians are unlimited as we remain available to His supernatural ability.

   When the witnesses "have finished their testimony" (11:7) and the delay is over (10:6), the beast of religion "that comes out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them" (11:7). The physical lives of many of God's Christian witnesses will be given up in martyrdom, "faithful unto death" (2:10). The corpses of Christians will be strewn throughout the streets of the "great city" (11:8) of religion, later to be identified as Babylon (14:8; 16:19; 18:10), which is historically linked to the religious efforts at Babel (Gen. 11:9). That this is not a literal city on earth is evident from the words of John which explain that this city is also "mystically" or "spiritually" called Sodom and Egypt and Jerusalem (11:8). Sodom is the symbol of God's judgment on rebellious perversity (Gen. 19:23; Lk. 10:12; 17:29). Egypt represents the captivity from which God delivered His people (Jude 1:5). The earthly city of Jerusalem "where the Lord was crucified" (11:8) stands for the center of enslaving Jewish religion (Gal. 4:25) and the persecution of God's Christian people (Luke 13:33-35). This religious community of Babylon, a.k.a. Sodom, Egypt, Jerusalem, is comprised of "peoples and tribes and tongues and nations" (11:9) who will observe the corpses of the martyred Christians for a divinely limited time represented by the period of "three and a half days." The "earth-dwelling" religionists (3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10) gloat over the indignity of disallowing the bodies to be buried (11:9), rejoicing with glee and merriment over the death of the Christian witnesses which they perceive to have tormented them (11:10), and over which they now think they have been victorious. Little do they realize what God is yet to do to express the victory that has been accomplished in Christ Jesus, the victory over all religion!

   After the limited time of indignity, pictured as "three and a half days," the Christians are resurrected. The "breath of life from God comes into them" similar to the imagery employed in Ezekiel's vision of life restored in the valley of dry bones (Ezek. 37:10). "A loud voice" of divine origin "from heaven" invites the resurrected Christians to, "Come up here" (11:12); to leave the ignominy of the religious city and dwell forevermore in the "heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb. 12:22) which is "above" (Gal. 4:26), the "new Jerusalem" (Rev. 3:12; 21:2,10). They are translated into the heavenly realm via the "cloud" (11:12) of God's presence (Matt. 17:5; Acts 1:9). This is no "secret rapture," as some suggest, for the religious "enemies beheld them" (11:11,12) and were fearful.

   The religious world is once again "shaken" by an earthquake-judgment of God with divinely limited effects which encompass only "a tenth of the city" and the death of "seven thousand people" (11:13). "The rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven" (11:13). Do they really repent, or are they just responding in order to attempt to save their own skins? Sometimes the similar phraseology of the Revelation seems to indicate genuine repentance (14:7; 15:4; 16:9), but other scenarios cause us to question whether they will repent (6:15-17; 9:20,21; 13:3,4).

   Finally we come to the seventh trumpet sounded by the seventh angel (11:15). It reveals loud voices from heaven declaring, "The kingdom of the world has become that of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever" (11:15). When the "god of this world" (II Cor. 4:4) is totally overcome and the reign of religion is terminated, then in "the new heaven and the new earth" (Isa. 65:17; II Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1) Christians will experience the unhindered reign of Christ as "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (17:14; 19:16) for eternity. Based on His victory at the cross and resurrection Jesus reigns already in the life of a Christian (Rom. 5:17,21), for we "have been transferred into the kingdom of Christ" (Col. 1:13), but the Lord Jesus Christ will reign in unhindered supremacy forever and ever in the heavenly realm. Along with the twenty-four elders we will worship the Almighty God and the Son, Jesus Christ (11:17). God's bondservants, the prophets, along with the saints and all those who fear the name of Jehovah will receive their eternal reward (11:18).

   On the other hand, the final and complete judgment of God will come upon the religionists and those who do not receive Christ as their eternal life. The just wrath of God will be poured out, and the nations without God will be enraged as they face judgment (11:18). God will "destroy those who destroy the earth." All of those identified with the "destroyer," the devil, as all men are who are not identified with Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:2), and who by their religious endeavors have been destructive to mankind and the earth that God created as the dwelling place of man will be finally destroyed. They will face "eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord" (II Thess. 1:9).

   The final image in this vision reveals "the ark of His covenant appearing in the heavenly temple" (11:19). This would appear to represent the unhindered access that Christians have to all the new covenant blessings of God in Jesus Christ, "every spiritual blessing in heavenly places" (Eph. 1:3) including the "law of God written on our hearts" (Heb. 8:10; 10:16). The opposite of His blessings are the cursings of His judgment, and these, too, are illustrated by lightning, thunder, earthquake and hailstorm which are brought to bear upon those who refuse to receive Jesus Christ.

   What is the ever-applicable message that the risen Lord Jesus has for Christians in every age within this panoramic vision of the trumpets? It might be that the prayers of Christians are indeed efficacious in calling for the release of the fires of God's judgment to vindicate His righteousness and the victory of Jesus Christ. God's providential judgments will most certainly be enacted against religion throughout the interim between Christ's advents, and religion is essentially impotent to counteract that which God does. The pre-set limitations of God's mercy will eventually come to an end. The sufferings of the saints will not last forever. In the meantime, God gives every opportunity for those involved in religion to repent and to rely solely on the dynamic of the life of Jesus Christ. "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:5).



 Revelation Series