The last days will not be a pretty sight for those who refuse to bow their knee to Christ. But those days will be a glorious sight for the ones who do. To whom do you pay homage today?
No Longer Top Secret
A recent issue of World Magazine carried a brief article on the tight security measures used recently in the transference of information from one location to another. After spending decades locked away in a secret cabinet with multiple locks inside a triple locked vault, company officials carefully removed a yellowing piece of paper and transferred it to an undisclosed location. The entire process was carefully guarded and security was at top alert. That yellowing piece of paper dates back to 1940, and the handwriting on it is by the corporate founder, whose name was Harland Sanders and the company he founded – Kentucky Fried Chicken.
That’s right . . . that yellowing piece of paper, bearing his signature is, in his own handwriting, the only copy of a secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices which supposedly holds the key to KFC’s world-wide success. Corporate executives needed to consult the original recipe once more as they prepared to release a new line of chicken strips. That consultation prompted the need for heightened security – and so, following their top level, top secret meeting, the paper was locked in a small safe, handcuffed to a guard who got into an armored car that took him and the recipe to an undisclosed location where the secret lies safely hidden away, once again. / World Magazine, October, 2008 “Tight Security”
This is proof that corporate theft is a real problem . . . it’s also proof that we take our chicken seriously. KFC can argue of course that they made more 840 million dollars in 2008 and their recipe is worth keeping secret.
That’s the way it is isn’t it? You keep whatever it takes to advance your own wealth and worth, top secret.
You keep your valuables under lock and key. You lock your car door.
You keep your trade secrets surrounded with filters and cameras.
I’m not opposed to that . . . I lock the doors to my house and we have a security system and only a few people know the code.
My F150 has an alarm system built into it . . . whenever anyone in the church parking lot opens their door and dings my truck, it takes your picture and emails it to me. We’re developing a whole new category for church discipline.
Can you imagine KFC . . . or Apple Computer . . . or General Motors or Wall Street announcing, “We’re going to show you the recipe . . . photo copies for everyone; we’re going to tell you what we’re working on for the future . . . we’re going to open up to you our trade secrets.
Not on your life.
Well for those who care enough to look, God is going to do something wonderful . . . if not breathtaking. He is about to open the vault of heaven and show us the future in a unique way.
And for those of you who might be feeling a little overwhelmed by now with all the strangeness of Revelation – the weird animals and flying creatures; trumpets, seals, horsemen, blood, gore and pestilence; mysterious numbers and markings, our Lord stops for a brief moment at exactly the half-way point of this Revelation and gives us a crystal clear look at the future of the world.
Corporate executives might lock away a chicken recipe or hide- away trade secrets but God will now open the vault and reveal future secrets for all the world to see.
As you turn in your Bibles to Revelation chapter 11, you need to understand that often in this Book, we are given the big picture in a few verses, followed by close-up snapshots that focus in on the details. / Edward Hindson, Revelation: Unlocking the Future (AMG, 2002), p. 128
Well, here in verse 15, we are given the big picture as God reveals some secrets concerning future days. / Adapted from Ray Stedman, God’s Final Word (Discovery House, 1991), p. 224
It all begins with the sounding of the 7th trumpet – notice verse 15. Then the seventh angel sounded, 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 will reign forever and ever.”
Let me make note once again that although the seventh trumpet is the last in the sequence of the seven trumpet judgments, it is not to be equated with the “last trumpet” to which Paul refers in 1 Corinthians 15:52 where he writes, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will all be changed.”
The seventh trumpet here in Revelation covers an extended period of time, not an instantaneous “in the twinkling of an eye” event of the last trumpet in 1 Corinthians. In fact, this seventh trumpet here in Revelation calls for prolonged waves of judgment on the ungodly. / John MacArthur, Revelation: Volume 1 (Moody Press, 1999), p. 308
Verse 15 tells us that “loud voices in heaven were saying…”
We’ve already encountered the word legontes (legonteV) translated “saying” in chapter 5 which can amplify adousin (adousin) as a clear reference to singing.
The word translated “saying” is a reference to their lyrics that we’re able to read in verses 15 and 16.
So just imagine, at the sounding of the 7th trumpet, you have the glorious, swelling anthem of praise and adoration as first the angels sing. / William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors (Baker, 1940), p. 132
We’ve also already learned that a myriads times myriads of angels stand ready to sing these great praises – here perhaps as well. A myriad means 10,000 – it was the largest unit used in Greek Mathematics in the ancient world. If you do your math and multiply a myriad times a myriad, you come with 100 million angels – singing, John writes here in verse 15, at the top of their lungs.
One author write that if you wanted to hear a little bit of what this sounded like and what these words mean, go and hear Handel’s Messiah and it’s Hallelujah chorus. / Ibid
In fact, George Fredric Handel took the words of verse 15 as his text; notice again – The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever.
This is what the prophet Daniel predicted; “One like a Son of Man was coming . . . and to Him was given dominion, Glory, and a kingdom . . . then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms . . . will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom. (Daniel 7:13, 14, 27)
As God here in Revelation chapter 11 opens the vault of the future and shows us the end of history – you might say it’s all over but the shouting – or at least the singing.
I want you to notice several elements in these angelic lyrics.
First, the singularity of the coming Kingdom
The angels sing – the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord.
Not “kingdoms”, but one kingdom.
Even though our world is separated into a thousand kingdoms with all their rulers and potentates, an astonishing truth is revealed here. All of the worlds’ diverse national, political, social, cultural, linguistic, and religious groups are in reality one kingdom and they have been under the dominion of one king. / MacArthur, p. 310
Three times in John’s gospel our Lord Jesus called Satan, the ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).
In fact, on one occasion, Jesus was accused with being empowered by Satan by casting out demons. And our Lord responded by exposing their ridiculous logic when He said, “If Satan is casting out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:26)
When Christ was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, the devil showed our Lord all the individual kingdoms in a moment of time and then said to the Lord – worship me and I will give you this domain – singular. (Luke 4:6)
Here’s a secret exposed – the world is actually ruled by Satan. The world systems are under his thumb. They might think they have power and they might think they know where they’re going, but they are in reality, under the sway and dominion of this deceiving angel of light.
The nations do not coincidentally happen to follow other gods and despise the believer and often persecute the Christians. The nations are actually influenced like puppets on strings, manipulated as Paul wrote, by the god of this world who has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
Although Satan is a usurper and not the rightful king, he is the present ruler of earth’s kingdom and he rules through those who disbelieve the gospel and who themselves hate the name and authority of Jesus Christ.
What a frightening thing to reveal to unbelievers – their world system is in the grip of the enemy of the true and living God.
And he will not loosen his grip without a fight – but he’s already lost his kingdom, according to the revelation of the secrets of God.
That leads me to the second point: I want you to notice not only the singularity of the kingdom, but secondly, the certainty of the Kingdom.
The angels sing, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord.
The verb translated “has become” is a proleptic aorist . . . you don’t need to know that for the quiz, so don’t write it down.
Just know that this verb tense is rather amazing; it views an event in the future as an already accomplished fact. / Robert L. Thomas, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1995), p. 106
In other words, the angels are singing that the kingdom will belong in the future to our Lord as an already accomplished, historical reality.
It’s that certain.
And listen, at this point on the planet, they are in the middle of the Tribulation when Satan has consolidated global influence, setting himself up as God – through his puppet antichrist – people might be led to think that God has lost it all.
But listen . . . do you hear the music in heaven? One hundred million angels are singing, “The kingdom belongs to God”.
God knows the future and before it happens the angels go ahead and sing about it . . . God knows the future and unveils its secret to the hosts of heaven and through the Apostle John to the entire human race . . . God knows the future and guess what – God wins.
It’s already in the books . . . in fact, it’s in the Book.
Thirdly, notice again the Sovereign of the Kingdom
15. The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ.
What does that mean?
The title, kuriou (kuriou) or “Lord” is often used as a title for Jesus Christ throughout the New Testament. However, in the Book of Revelation, it is often used as a title for God the Father. / Thomas, p. 107
You could understand this phrase, “the kingdom of God the Father”.
But what does that last part mean, “and of His Christ”?
Christou (Xristou) or Christ, simply means Messiah. You can translate it, “anointed one.”
What the angels are singing are lyrics that reveal the fulfillment of prophecy from centuries past – the Messiah will reign.
How could David have known that, had not the Holy Spirit breathed through him the truth of secrets yet explained to him.
And so David sang, using these same titles in Psalm chapter 2 about the futility of the nations who wage war against “the Lord and His Christ – His Anointed” (Psalm 2:2) – the exact same words in the Greek translation of the Old Testament.
David goes on to say in that same Psalm, “Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling and do homage to the Son.” (Psalm 2:12)
Way back in David’s day, he was singing about God the Father and God the Son – the anointed one – the Messiah.
This is the unity of their sovereign rule . . . when the Father rules, so does the Son and where the Son rules, so does the Father.
John wrote about their union earlier when he said, “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ – literally – the Messiah – the anointed one; whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. (I John 2:22-23)
John’s Revelation of the Messiah’s sovereign rule on earth one day would have been incredibly encouraging to the believers living in John’s day.
When John was writing this Book, the Roman Emperor Domitian became the first emperor to have himself officially titled in Rome, “God the Lord” and “Lord of the earth”. He persecuted Christians, killing many, exiling well known believers such as the Apostle John because they dared to call someone else, “Lord”.
Domitian was sovereign alone.
He had no idea, until it was too late, that he was actually doing the bidding of the great deceiver – the usurper – the one who hates the worship of God the Father, Son and Spirit.
And so here in chapter 11 the angels sing; and you need to understand that we, the church, will actually be in heaven to hear this trumpet blow and 100 million angels sing.
And here’s what you and I will do as a result of their song – v. 16. And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God.
The 24 elders represent the church – the bride of Christ already raptured and safely in heaven, apart from and away from this day of wrath on earth.
One minute the elders are sitting on their thrones and the next minute they are down on their faces worshipping the God of glory. Their response as ecstatic, spontaneous . . . it was pure praise! / Gordon, p. 253
This is what true worship is all about – whether you’re singing or praying or studying or testifying or serving – it’s all worship as you recognize the greatness of God and play the part of willing servant to His majesty’s will in your life.
George Handel communicated this sense well enough in his great work we call, Handel’s Messiah.
He had only recently suffered a stroke which had paralyzed the left side of his face, causing intense pain.
Most days, Handel could barely afford rent and food – his health had been broken . . . he was discouraged and anxious about the future.
Then one night he was given a folder filled with verses of scripture from a friend who was attempting to encourage Handle. His friend was merely trying to encourage him to take the verses of scripture use them to compose some new work. The verses were simply referring to prophecies about Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
George looked them over, then tossed them aside as he crawled into bed. But he couldn’t sleep.
He got up and went to his piano and began to write. He was left handed and because of his recent stroke, his notes and script were poorly written . . . but he carried on.
In fact, for 3 weeks, he hardly stopped to eat or sleep or entertain visitors.
Finally, after 22 days of solitude a friend made it inside Handel’s apartment and found the composer at his piano, sheets of music strewn everywhere; George looked up at him and with tears streaming down his face as he said to his friend, “I do believe I have seen all of Heaven before me, and the greatness of God Himself.”
In 1741, when The Messiah was first performed in London, as they arrived at the Hallelujah chorus, England’s King George removed his crown and stood up – for in their culture one never sat in the presence of a superior – and thus the tradition of standing at the Hallelujah Chorus began. / Edited from several internet sites: George Handel/History of The Messiah
In the text Handel chose, you have the singing of angels who rehearse the greatness of the sovereign and the singularity of His kingdom and the certainty of His reign, and the church, represented by these elders, can’t sit either . . . in fact, they fall down before the throne of God and worship Him.
And now they begin to praise God with this incredible hymn of thanksgiving.
They will thank Him for 5 aspects of these secrets unveiled:
- First, they praise Him for His attributes.
They sing in verse 17. We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were.
This goes back to the phrase in chapter 1, verse 4 which says, “From Him who is and who was and who is to come.” Also, in chapter 4 and verse 8, you read again, “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”
That’s repeated here . . . almost. Notice again the final phrase is left off – here in chapter 11, verse 17 is simply says, “who are and who were” or you could render it, “Who is and who was”; there’s no reference to “and who is to come.” Why not? Because He has come.
He isn’t going to reign, He’s reigning.
And so they praise God for his attributes and secondly,
- They praise Him for His triumphs.
Notice further in verse 17. Because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.
“Begun to reign” is the perfect tense which pictures the permanence of His sovereign control. One author put it this way, “The almighty One until this time allows anti-Christian power to control the world, but after this future climax, His direct control will be in place [and remain forever]. / Thomas, p. 109
This isn’t just a coronation ceremony, an expensive robe and crown and a golden thrown. This is permanent, active sovereignty.
Let me illustrate the difference by reading what one of my favorite commentators, John Phillips, who also happens to be a British subject; listen to what he wrote as he commented on this particular text.
On June 2, 1952 Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of England in Westminster Abbey. At one point during her coronation the Archbishop of Canterbury turned and asked the people, “Do you take Elizabeth to be your true and lawful sovereign”? The multitude rolled back in a single word, “Aye.” She then took the coronation oath, received a Bible, took communion, was seated on the coronation chair, anointed, clothed in a robe made of gold, given the ring, the scepter and crowned with the glorious crown of St. Edward. The guns of London fired a salute, and the new monarch left the Abbey in grand procession for a banquet of state. But from that day to this, Queen Elizabeth II has never made a single decision affecting the government of her kingdom. The Prime Minister of England and the members of the English Parliament do that. All she does is sign their decisions into law. Why? Because this is a constitutional monarchy – a monarchy where the King or Queen is sovereign in name alone while all the power belongs in the hands of her people. / John Phillips, Exploring Revelation (Loizeaux Brother, 1991), p. 153
As I read that, I couldn’t help but think that the average person in America who says they believe in God; what they really believe in is a constitutional monarchy.
He is sovereign in name only. We’ll dress Him with cathedrals and steeples; we’ll furnish Him with money and offerings for things accomplished in His name; we’ll even pay for His representatives to go to distant lands to represent His kingdom, but in our personal lives, outside of church and the ceremony of religion, He is a king in name only.
The real power is in the hands of the people. And most people prefer He stay up there on His golden throne.
Let the people inform Him of their will and expect Him to sign it into law.
Notice verse 17 again, “You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.”
The power is not in the people . . . the power is in God alone.
And so the believers praise Christ because of His attributes; they praise Him because of His triumphs;
- Third, they praise Him because of His judgments.
Verse 18 shows the response of the people on earth. And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.
That last phrase by the way, “those who destroy the earth” isn’t a reference to people who pollute the environment – you won’t believe how many pastors are now using this text to preach environmental messages. No this is a reference to people who pollute the earth with unrepentant sin which brings about the destruction of earth by God’s wrath.
God isn’t judging these people because they wouldn’t recycle. He’s judging them because they won’t repent.
Remember, John’s vision here isn’t a close up view of the details. There are actually several judgments – the judgments of the nations as they enter the Kingdom; the judgment of all unbelievers before the Great White Throne just prior to being condemned and cast into eternal hell.
So also, the rewards here are not distinguished between the New Testament Christian’s reward at the Bema seat or the rewarding of faithful servants in the Kingdom.
This is a picture that condenses everything in one quick, overview.
These verses actually condense the activities of the entire Tribulation period, the Millennial Kingdom and even hint at the eternal state.
And did you notice the attitude of the unbeliever in verse 18 toward the reign of Christ? They literally are enraged at the thought of it.
It brings their hatred to a fever pitch. / MacArthur, p. 316
There is crowning in heaven but cursing on earth; there is rejoicing in heaven, but rage on earth. / Phillips, p. 151
This past week somebody sent me a link to Fox News and their discussion on a new ad campaign by the American Humanist Association – an association of atheists, agnostics, humanists – just the kind of people blinded by the god of this world – but to whom we take the gospel, right?
The ad simply says, “Why believe in a god, just be good for goodness sake.”
How’s that for Christmas cheer? Why believe in a god – and we know which God they’re talking about, because this is targeted for Christmas time – just be good for goodness sake.
In other words, you don’t have to be good because God will hold you accountable, or because He’s actually informed mankind what good is . . . just be good for goodness sake.
The Humanist Association has poured thousands of dollars into this campaign that puts signs on the sides of city busses. They’ve targeted the Washington D.C. transit system which has agreed to carry the ads . . . that was a real shock to me.
Remember, the believing church is singing the praise of God who delivers both rewards and wrath; and if the world has a problem with the suggestion that God has dictated what good and evil are, and rewards accordingly, imagine the unbeliever’s rage over the claim of Christ to rule the earth.
We’ll see later that the world will mount an army to literally take on God Himself.
But here in this paragraph of scripture, the secret is out. Christ will literally reign on earth; the unbelieving world will rage against Him; he will reward His own and usher in His kingdom.
And now more secrets revealed – verse 19. And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm.
For the Jew who belies the ark of the covenant is lost forever; the heavenly original – the image that was copied in the Temple of the Jews – has not been lost.
This image of the ark in the Temple of God is specifically dedicated to the nation Israel that God will keep His covenant promise to them. / William Barclay, The Revelation of John: Volume 2 (Westminster Press, 1976), p. 73
The Messiah will not only rule, but believing Israel will be re-gathered.
And just as the promises of Christ’s first coming were fulfilled, so the promises of His second coming will be fulfilled as well.
Since I mentioned the Christmas season earlier, let me show you something that most Christians miss in the typical Christmas reading. Turn to the Gospel by Luke and chapter 1.
Notice Gabriel’s announcement to Mary in verse 31 – get your pencil ready to circle something often missed – And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; most people assume there’s a period there. That isn’t a period, that’s a semi-colon. I’m speaking to an educated crowd so this isn’t over your head . . . read on – and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.
In this text you have the promise of His first coming – as a baby who grew up to become a crucified Savior, resurrected and ascended Lord; and His second coming – to do what? Sit on David’s throne . . . rule over Israel and everything else.
It’s amazing to me how many people believe the first part but spiritualize away the second part.
No, they are both literally true. At His second coming, He will come to reign as sovereign Lord and His kingdom will have no end.
So, go back and circle that semi-colon . . . then draw a line out to the margin of your Bible and write 2,000 years . . . because that’s how long that semi-colon has lasted so far.
I could easily preach a message on the semi-colon of Luke 2:32.
God has revealed to us all what the rest of the story looks like – it’s no longer top-secret. This is a panoramic view as the vault of heaven’s plan is opened.
Sinners are enraged and judged – oh how tragic;
The Nation is re-gathered – oh what a surprise;
Saints are rewarded – oh what grace;
The kingdom has come – oh what glory.
The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever.