Revelation 11

Continuing in the pause between the 6th and 7th trumpet John is given a task, he told to measure the Temple of God and to count the people who worship there. What a wonderful picture, in the first pause between the 6th and 7th seals John witnesses the census, the sealing of the 144,000 which then unfolds in his vision to be a great multitude more than you could ever count. Now John sees the Temple of God – that is the inner temple, where true worship takes place – with all the obstacles removed; no veil between the mercy seat and people of God and all believers are present in the place where formerly only the priests could go.
John was told to not measure the outer courtyard, called the Court of the Gentiles, because this has been given over to the Gentiles to be trampled for 42 months. Gentiles refer to those who are opposed to and or have rejected the Lamb; those who cannot stand before the mercy seat because they have rejected every offer of mercy and warning given by God. John is told that the Gentiles will trample the holy city for 42 months; which is 3.5 years or half way through a seven year tribulation.
At this point God grants authority and power to the last two witnesses before the Day of the Lord, the when Jesus returns. Just as there is a limited time for the tribulation there is also a limited time for the last chance witness, 1,260 days of repentance and mourning with the proclamation of the Gospel. The final two witnesses are described as two olive trees and two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. John uses the image from Zechariah that tells us clearly that is not by our own strength and power that the Gospel progresses, but it is by the Spirit of God who rules over all. John describes the witnesses has having the ability to fight back against their enemies and the enemies of the Lamb; they are like Elijah who battled the prophets of Baal and like Moses who confronted the gods of Egypt. But finally, as the 1,260 days of prophesy come to an end the beast from the Abyss will make war on them and kill them.
Just as the forces of evil rejoiced at the crucifixion of Jesus, those that live on the earth will rejoice at the death of the last two witnesses and the demise of the church. As they lie dead in the street for 3 ½ days, the forces of evil will celebrate their murder by sending gifts to each other as congratulations. But when 3 ½ days are finished, God will raise them from the dead, they will stand up and ascend into heaven in a cloud while their enemies stare at them in fear. As they are called into heaven a great earthquake shakes the city and 1/10 of the city collapses, 7,000 are killed and all that remain are terrified and give glory to the God of heaven.
Heaven declares “the second woe has come and gone; the third is coming quickly”. Heaven sounds the 7th trumpet and voices from heaven shout, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever”. In response the 24 elders who are seated on their thrones before God throw themselves down with their faces to the ground and worship God. The time has come, the waiting is over; the one who is and who was has now taken His great power and has begun to reign! The time has come for the dead to be judged, for the faithful to be rewarded and for those who fight against the Lamb, the antichrists, to be destroyed. John’s final vision in this chapter is of God’s temple in heaven, with the doors flung wide open so that all can see into the holy of holies and see God’s mercy seat, the throne room of the LORD!

Revelation 10

Revelation 10 and 11 is the interlude between the 6th and 7th trumpet blast. Remember that in the break between the 6th and 7th seal (chapter 7) the Apostle John saw the four angels holding back the four winds, “who were given the power to harm the land and the sea”. Then he sees another angel coming with the seal of the Living God and the winds where held back until “we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God”. Then John looks up and sees “a great multitude that no one can count from every nation, tribe people and language standing before the throne”.
In this interlude John sees a mighty angel coming down from heaven, “wrapped in a cloud with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun and his legs were like pillar of fire”. These images are familiar to us; we are reminded that Ezekiel saw the temple of heaven filled with a cloud with the brightness of the Lord’s glory. That the brightness of the throne room appears like a rainbow filled with colors. The angel’s legs like a fiery pillar remind us of the pillar of fire that protected and led Israelites in the desert at night. The angel’s shout was like a roaring lion, and when the angel spoke the voices of the seven thunders responded. The seven thunders from heaven are speaking, but John is told to not write down their account instead they will be sealed up until God’s appointed time. Like the four winds held back until all who will come to Christ have come, now the terrible seven thunders are sealed up until the right moment in time. John conveys the image of the mighty angel, everything about the angel reminds of us God, but John doesn’t name the angel as Christ however we sense in the mighty angel all the power and authority of God has been granted to the angel.
John sees the mighty angel standing with one foot on the land and the other in the sea, he is large and commanding over everything he touches – all creation. The angel raises his right hand to heaven and swears “by the one who lives forever, who created heaven and what is in it and the earth and what is in it and the sea and what is in it”. What the angel says is ominous, “There will be no more delay!”; in the last interlude the church that was experiencing suffering was told to wait a little while longer, in this interlude they are told there will be no more delay.
The time has come, the mystery of God is complete, what was proclaimed to the prophets has been accomplished. John is told to take the scroll from the angels hand and eat it; it will taste sweet as honey but will be bitter to his stomach. The good news is that God’s eternal purposes will be no longer delayed; the bad news is that it will involve bitter suffering for those who continue to reject God. John is told to prophesy again, be a witness to God’s truth, like the prophets of old who brought the message of God to a stubborn and obstinate people. But this time the message is not for a certain nation but is for all people – “to many peoples, nations, languages and kings”.
The message is sweet, God provides a way out from the sin and evil that encompasses them, but their reaction will be bitter when they continue to reject God’s mercy. Additionally the message of God’s mercy is sweet to our soul, to be loved and forgiven of our sins while we are still steeped in our sins. But as mature Christians we begin to realize the bitterness of our sins that caused the requirement of Christ’s suffering and sacrifice to cleanse us. Even more, we are forgiven and as forgiven people we are now being conform to Christ’s image, God will expose every dark place in our life to make us like Jesus; continually exposing our hidden sins is a bitter process but necessary to finish the work Christ began in us.
Praise be to God that God does that work in me, I couldn’t do it on my own, preparing me for my meeting with Him, wearing white and washed in the blood of the Lamb!

Revelation 9

Revelation nine is a continuation of the dramatic scenes revealed in chapter eight; the first four trumpets have sounded chapter nine opens with the fifth trumpet blast. John hears the trumpet and sees a star that shoots dramatically to the earth, the clue that this star is different from the star in the third trumpet is that the star is referred to as “he”; “he was given the key to the shaft of the abyss”. The star appears to be an angel, which has been given the key to the bottomless pit a place of confinement for demons the agents of Satan. The angel unlocks the abyss and releases an army of locusts from the pit, when the shaft is opened evil escalates exponentially.
When the evil shaft is opened out pours smoke as if from a giant furnace, the smoke is so intense that it darkens the sun and the sky completely. Then from the smoke comes a plague of locusts released onto the earth. However, this plague of locust are told not to damage the grass or any green plant or tree, this was not a natural plague of locust but rather a demon horde that is given permission to torment the people on earth. But their power is limited to only those people who do not have the seal of God upon their forehead, they could torture but not kill mankind and they have a limited time of five months to accomplish their demonic attack. This is similar to the plagues that came upon Egypt during Pharaoh’s reign; the first plagues did not harm or torment the Israelites in Goshen, only the Egyptians. The anguish of the people is so intense that they will seek death but will not be able to find it, even though they long to die.
John describes the locusts’ appearance; it sounds more like a demonic army, with armor on their bodies, helmets of gold, long hair with evil human faces complete with vicious teeth. They attack with a loud noise like charging into battle and the ability to injure people in front and from behind. There is no escaping. The army of locust has a commander; he is the angel of the Abyss whose name is Apollyon which means destroyer.
Then John hears an ominous announcement, “the first doom is past, two dooms are yet to come”, this announcement comes from the altar of the Living God. Then he hears a voice saying, “Let the four angels loose, the angels confined at the great River Euphrates”. These angels have been kept ready for the exact year, month, day and hour; the precise timing of their release indicates that they are under the divine control of God. They are released to kill one third of the human race and we are told their number, they are 200 million horsemen, mounted troops prepared for war.
There are many different interpretations for the attack of the 200 million horsemen of the apocalypse. The preterist view is that John is describing something that he and the church know intimately. That is the war in Israel, when Jerusalem was under siege for five months. The terrible conditions and carnage is recorded in the history books, further more Titus was the commander of the Apollonian Legion, represented by Locusts which are sacred to the god Apollo. Another view is that the army of destruction that John views is actually from our time period, Black Hawk gunships, napalm, missiles and weapons of mass destruction. No matter the interpretation what we know to be true, is that God says, they still did not repent of the works of their hands, they did not stop worshiping demons and idols. Like Pharaoh in Egypt, even in the face of unrelenting plagues that demonstrate the power of God Almighty and reveal the worthless idols for what they really are nothing of value and tools of evil, they still refuse to repent. God has given mankind every opportunity to repent, to know Him and serve Him.
“God will judge not because God gives people what they deserve, but because some people refuse to receive what no one deserves; if evildoers experience God’s terror, it will not be because they have done evil, but because they have resisted to the end the powerful lure of the open arms of the crucified Messiah”. Miroslav Volf