Past, Present and Future

The fastest way to start a heated argument in many Christian circles is to head to the book of Revelation. End times prophecy and eschatology has often been an item to divide over, with some denominations and churches making it a test of fellowship or orthodoxy. Unfortunately this has driven other churches and believers to stop studying or talking about these things, with many missing out on the blessing promised in the starting verses of this book.

Revelation 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. (NIV)

It is my hope that the following study, of only a small portion of the prophecies of Revelation, will be beneficial to all - perhaps prompting each of you to study it even more. Our brief study will begin with Revelation 10:11 and continue through to the end of chapter 11.

Revelation 10:11 Then I was told, "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings." (NIV)

Revelation 10:11b "You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings." (NASU)

We are clearly told that the prophecy which will follow pertains to a wide range of people, nations, languages and rulers. The arbitrary division between chapters ten and eleven must not be used to obscure that the prophecy of chapter eleven clearly is associated with these words. While this statement does not rule out a specific future fulfillment, the language points towards this being a prophecy fulfilled in an overview of an expanded timeframe. It is also possible that the prophecy has both a general and specific fulfillment as seen with some other prophecies of Scriptures. The focus of this study is not to spend a lot of time speculating about some future specifics but to look at the clear application of this prophecy to a telescoped view of history.

Revelation 11:1 I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, "Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there.

Measure - determine the size of God's temple. God's temple on earth is no longer a physical structure as associated with the Old Testament law. The tabernacle and temples of old were merely shadows of what was to come (Hebrews 10:1), namely the temple of God being the very people of God. In New Testament times, the buildings churches meet in are merely gathering places with no particular religious significance other than being an outward (or visible) symbol of the true church.

1 Corinthians 3:16 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? (NIV)

It should not surprise us that the command to measure God's temple references the altar, with a restated directive to count the worshippers there. Only those who worship at the true altar of God are part of God's holy temple.

Hebrews 13:10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. (NIV)

Churches can have physical altars galore, at the front of their palatial buildings (and the real question is "why?"), but only those who have found the true spiritual altar of Christ are to be counted in measuring the size of God's temple.

Revelation 11:2 But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.

Simply put, the outer court doesn't matter. It is the inward that determines whether a person is a believer in Jesus Christ. On an individual level, the outer court of this spiritual temple is this flesh which is wasting away. Likewise, at a corporate level, the church buildings are earthly structures that also are wasting away.

Philippians 3:3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh (NIV)

2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (NIV)

The religious deceivers of the world are all about this outer court. How they look, how they appear to others externally is their consuming focus. Yet they remain Gentiles, not part of the spiritual family of Abraham. Scriptures are clear that only those who are spiritual descendants of Abraham are recipients of the promise and heirs of salvation.

Galatians 3:7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. (NIV)

In the command to determine the size of God's temple comes this permanent exclusion - do not count those on the outside, those who are all about the externals but have never come to the true altar by God's grace. To never count them remains God's righteous decree, as He looks upon the inward.

1 Samuel 16:7b The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (NIV)

John 7:24 Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." (NIV)

Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (NIV)

Consider in this symbolic temple, those that have an appearance of godliness, who stand at the inward side of this outer court, closest to the true worshippers. These religious looking "Gentiles" are often the first to trample on God's holy city, yet self-deceived into thinking they are different from others farther away in this outer court. In fact they are found to be persecuting, hindering, tearing down, mocking, and despising the true residents of God's city who worship at the altar.

2 Timothy 3:5 ...having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. (NIV)

Titus 1:16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. (NIV)

Isaiah 29:13 The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. (NIV)

Words of comfort are given to the church that this trampling of the outer court is only for a fixed period of time. As was the case with Satan's attack on Job (Job 1:1-2:10), God is sovereign over all of this, restricting what unbelievers can trample and the period of time they appear to be successful.

Proverbs 15:3 The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. (NIV)

As the narrative in Relation continues, two witnesses are also given power for the exact same amount of time. [42 months = 3.5 years. 3.5 years x 360 day per year = 1260 days. Hebrew years were based on a lunar calendar of 360 days, not on a solar year of 365.25 days.] For as long as the trampling of the outer court goes on [42 months] God will have His witnesses that will testify against them and offer salvation to all who will believe.

Revelation 11:3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth."

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, even following His resurrection, the disciples still had at least some focus on an earthly kingdom and nation. Jesus made clear to them that the times and dates of a terrestrial kingdom were irrelevant (and totally up to God) but that He was going to give them power to be witnesses throughout Israel and the world. The focus was to be spiritual. Yet, even today, many prophetic speculators would rather spend inordinate amounts of time focusing on earthly nations, kingdoms, and places, ignoring or minimizing the greater spiritual message. Returning to our focus on spiritual things, note that it is God's power to save. God uses His people and the preaching and teaching of His word to forth-tell (or prophesy) to the world. For the unbeliever it is a message of foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18) heaping judgment on themselves (2 Peter 2:1), while, in complete contrast, to those who are being saved these are words of life (1 John 1:1)!

Acts 1:6-8 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (NIV)

Before returning to the power of God which enables these witnesses, John takes a moment to identify them.

Revelation 11:4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.

"Lampstands" is a defined code-word (or symbolism) in the book of Revelation. Near the beginning of the book John identifies them as part of his vision of heaven and the resurrected Lord.

Revelation 1:12-20 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. 19 "Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (NIV)

Leaving little room for other interpretation, Jesus' words proclaim the lampstands to be churches. As to why a lampstand would represent a church requires a journey through the Old Testament as well. During the time of the Mosaic Law, God commanded a lampstand to be made for use in the tabernacle (and later temple).

Exodus 25:31-40 "Make a lampstand of pure gold and hammer it out, base and shaft; its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms shall be of one piece with it. 32 Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand - three on one side and three on the other. 33 Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on one branch, three on the next branch, and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand. 34 And on the lampstand there are to be four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. 35 One bud shall be under the first pair of branches extending from the lampstand, a second bud under the second pair, and a third bud under the third pair - six branches in all. 36 The buds and branches shall all be of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold. 37 "Then make its seven lamps and set them up on it so that they light the space in front of it. 38 Its wick trimmers and trays are to be of pure gold. 39 A talent of pure gold is to be used for the lampstand and all these accessories. 40 See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain. (NIV)

The items of the earthly tabernacle were all to be representative of things in the true tabernacle of heaven (Hebrews 8:5). This makes the tabernacle lampstand a symbol no less than the ones described by Jesus to John. It should be noted that there was only one lampstand in view during Old Testament times. This lampstand was to be kept burning, dispelling the darkness, from generation to generation.

Exodus 27:20-21 "Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. 21 In the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain that is in front of the Testimony, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the LORD from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come. (NIV)

This lampstand was representative of the only church of their day, the Jewish church. They received the promise, they alone had a covenant with God, and God's salvation was found only among them, unlike all the other nations of the earth (Deuteronomy 10:15).

The image of the lampstand broadens, in the Old Testament, only when God reveals the future, the time beyond the coming of the Messiah, through prophecy. The prophet Zechariah had such a focus. While the people of his day had the immediate rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem in view (following their Babylonian captivity), God reveals much more, pointing to a time after He (the Branch, the Messiah) will live among them. At that time the focus broadens into many nations who will be joined with the Lord and become His people.

Zechariah 2:10-11 "Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you," declares the LORD. 11 "Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. (NIV)

Zechariah 3:8 "'Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. (NIV)

With the time frame clearly established as being after the coming of the Messiah, Zechariah's following vision now features the one lampstand but having two sources of oil.

Zechariah 4:1-6 Then the angel who talked with me returned and wakened me, as a man is wakened from his sleep. 2 He asked me, "What do you see?" I answered, "I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights. 3 Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left." 4 I asked the angel who talked with me, "What are these, my lord?" 5 He answered, "Do you not know what these are?" "No, my lord," I replied. 6 So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty. (NIV)

In the days of many nations becoming God's people, there are now two sources of oil for this lampstand. Truly all believers, Jew and Gentile, become part of the one universal (catholic) church. This was a mystery to the Jews who saw themselves unique and separate from the nations. But here, God was showing them that a time was coming when a Gentile church would be joined to this Jewish church.

The lampstand, itself, represents the displayed glory of God. Lampstands can be moved and removed, placed wherever they serve purpose to the one who owns them. God has His lampstand for His purposes, using it to give light to those in darkness, displaying His glory to the world.

Romans 9:25-26 As he says in Hosea: "I will call them 'my people' who are not my people; and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one," 26 and, "It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God.'" (NIV)

The last verse we considered in Zechariah (4:6), emphasized that the power of the lampstands was not earthly but from God. Their proclamation of God's Word is only by the working of the Holy Spirit (Romans 10:14-15). The design of the lampstand, with its' branches, symbolized this power source. Consider the seven-fold spirit of God, which Isaiah prophesied would rest on the Messiah...

Isaiah 11:2

[#1] The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him -

[#2] the Spirit of wisdom and [#3] of understanding,

[#4] the Spirit of counsel and [#5] of power,

[#6] the Spirit of knowledge and [#7] of the fear of the LORD -

Zechariah didn't understand the image of two olive trees in association with this lampstand, so his next action was to ask for explanation.

Zechariah 4:11-14 Then I asked the angel, "What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?" 12 Again I asked him, "What are these two olive branches beside the two gold pipes that pour out golden oil?" 13 He replied, "Do you not know what these are?" "No, my lord," I said. 14 So he said, "These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth." (NIV)

In response to the future nature of this vision, Zechariah was told that there were two who were anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth. With the coming of the Messiah, the focus would no longer be one nation, but all nations! The olive trees grown by God to fill his lampstand with oil would be two, the Jew and the Gentile. God's lampstand would send the light of His salvation to the ends of the earth. This identical imagery is what is in view in the last verse we considered in Revelation...

Revelation 11:4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.

With the Bible being progressive revelation, where more is clarified in the New Testament, John's vision now shows the separate (yet unified) nature of specific churches. In Old Testament times, there were not churches (plural) throughout Israel, there was only one church. This was why it was forbidden to worship in the local synagogues, with a universal requirement that all attend to the temple in Jerusalem for their sacrifices (Deuteronomy 16:5-6). Following Christ, there are many gatherings of believers; each called a church (i.e. Romans 16:4, 16). God uses lampstands, plural, in the book of Revelation to show that the church, while one in Him, is many. This is why there were seven lampstands in view in the earliest appearance (Revelation 1:12). Not that any would try and say that there are only seven true churches in the world, but that God was specifically addressing those individual churches - each which was accountable to Him. In this later reference to two lampstands in Revelation (11:4), God was addressing the two great branches of the church, showing the lampstands in parallel to the olive trees to make it clear that they were the prophesied two, namely the Jewish church and the Gentile church.

Knowing that the two witnesses are the two great branches of the church, the next two verses symbolize the very power of God which inhabits His church.

Revelation 11:5 If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. 6 These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.

The same God who enabled an Old Testament prophet to call down physical fire from heaven (i.e. 2 Kings 1:10), spiritually gives the church the power to send fire from their mouths to consume their enemies. This symbolism is no different that that used in the Old Testament prophetical book of Jeremiah. When God told him to prophesy impending judgment on the nation this is the symbolic description He begins with...

Jeremiah 5:14 Therefore this is what the LORD God Almighty says: "Because the people have spoken these words, I will make my words in your mouth a fire and these people the wood it consumes. (NIV)

In like manner, God's witnesses, the Jewish and Gentile church, proclaim His coming judgment on all enemies unless they repent. Enemies of the church are enemies of God and all who remain such will die by fire (Hebrews 10:27).

The power to shut up the sky is the very power of prayer. We are not to forget that God hears and answers the righteous prayers of His people.

James 5:16b-18 The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. (NIV)

It's worth noting, that by Scriptures, physical famine is not the worst famine that will affect the earth. Far worse is one that we already see signs of in the world around us today. Though there are multitudes of church buildings and stacks of printed Bibles, little of God's word is being heard.

Amos 8:11-12 "The days are coming," declares the Sovereign LORD, "when I will send a famine through the land - not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. 12 Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it. (NIV)

Returning to Revelation, changing waters to blood and striking the earth with plagues is hinged on the words "as often as they want", the limiter to our prayers. As our wants and desires are conformed to our Lord's (Matthew 6:10), God answers our prayers not out of revenge or selfish desires, but as He wills and for His glory. Following the pattern set by Jesus, the church when rejected, though having the power to do so, does not desire to destroy its' enemies.

Luke 9:51-56 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them, 56 and they went to another village. (NIV)

In the end, the church cries out to the Righteous Judge of all the earth, and leaves the time and means of judgment to Him.

Revelation 6:10 They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" (NIV)

Our primary passage in Revelation now comes to a transition, a coming day when the church will have finished its' testimony to the inhabitants of the earth. The visible church, Jewish and Gentile, will be seen to be overcome by the demonically charged destructive forces of this world. This beast in all probability represents corrupt government who will misuse the authority given to it by God.

Revelation 11:7 Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. 8 Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.

Do you think that the death of the visible church is not possible? What would it look like? It would be a world still filled with church buildings and probably even having many people filling them, but the church would no longer take a stand for the truth having been overpowered and killed by embracing the lies of the devil. This would be a so-called church that welcomes all beliefs as equals (as long as you don't say yours is the only way) and a church that has without reservation accepted naturalistic views concerning the origins of life. Most of all, this church would be worshipping a God that it has fashioned in its' own mind regardless of the name; certainly a God who is no better than an idol, incapable of hearing, seeing, acting, and certainly not in sovereign control of all things. From the looks of today, many churches have already begun their dying throes.

The bodies or shells of the church will lie in the streets of the great city, figuratively speaking of the world as described by the following terms, Sodom & Egypt. Sodom represents all nations who will suffer the wrath of God (Romans 9:29 & Jude 7) and Egypt represents all unbelievers still in bondage. This is certainly where our Lord was crucified, on this fallen and sinful planet in the hands of godless men.

Ah, you say, didn't Jesus say that the church will never be defeated? Yes, He did!

Matthew 16:18b I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (NIV)

This death of the visible church will be in regards to just that, the visible church. The true church of God will always be everything God intends her to be, built up, prepared, and protected by Him (and spanning all the ages). Yet, in this prophesied era, the true church will have ceased to be visible for a brief period of time, God seeing fit to end her witness for a period, with the few true believers having fled the visible church to hide.

Revelation 11:9 For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.

The world celebrates every time the church is seen to have fallen. It will certainly celebrate a worldwide visual capitulation of church; the death of those organizations perceived to be worldwide troublemakers because of their claims of exclusivity - that Jesus is the only way (John 14:6). To the world, the message of the church has always been a torment.

2 Corinthians 2:15-16 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. (NIV)

Imagine how the world will celebrate when it believes that this stench of death has been removed from the world. I can almost hear the sounds of partying already.

Regarding this brief time (contrast the 3 days to the earlier referenced 1260 days), the shell of the church will still be visible. The dead bodies are merely externals. Why would the world want the external to still be visible? It becomes a monument to what it has now become and makes it easier to celebrate the destruction of what it once was.

It is not impossible and actually highly probable that the true believers will have undergone intense persecution at this time. With the events we see in the news these days, of riots over religion and mobs burning, looting, and killing in the name of their beliefs, a wave of hysteria could easily sweep the world, breaking down into governmentally sanctioned or tolerated societal lawlessness, seeing multitudes of believers slaughtered worldwide for their testimony of Christ. It would be easy to be left with literal dead bodies along with the dead shells of churches that now would only have compromisers to left fill them (who find it easy to deny Jesus as they do not know Him. Matthew 10:32-33).

When speaking of end-times Jesus, Himself, said this...

Luke 18:7-8 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (NIV)

"Will He find faith on the earth?" speaks only of true faith, for there certainly will be people of faith, even as now we have multitudes having faith in false gods and belief systems. Having "a faith" is not enough; having "the faith" is what Jesus questioned finding on His return, words that would certainly hint at the view John had. While some have tried to say that the answer to Jesus' question will be a resounding "yes," professing that the church will be at its' strongest when Jesus returns, it would make the question virtually redundant. The implied "no" that is better understood to be the answer to Jesus' question certainly parallels another scene in heaven, also found in the book of Revelation, one that even speaks of believers being martyred for their faith.

Revelation 6:9b-11 I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed. (NIV)

Continuing with John's panorama of church history, when it looks like things are at their very worst for the church, something incredible happens. These witnesses, the churches that everyone celebrated as dead, by the power of God now stand on their feet. God who builds his church brings it back to life in such a worldwide visible way that all those celebrating its widely hailed demise now are struck with fear. The visible reappearance of believers that had hidden for a time, perhaps even augmented by a number of new believers, but all now motivated and energized by God to appear before the world fearlessly, Jew and Gentile, would certainly be resurrected witnesses. Think of it as one last great revival.

Revelation 11:11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them.

The reemergence of the church would show the world that it cannot control nor eliminate it, even as the world has been unable to destroy God's word throughout history. The world fears anything it cannot control, manipulate or destroy. This resurrected witness would clearly be seen to exist by the very power of God. In our account in Revelation, God's intervention and display of power continues...

Revelation 11:12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.

The glorious rapture of the church, Jew and Gentile, in the sight of all mankind, solidifies their claim that God is for them. With every believer, including those formerly dead, now ascending into heaven, only the enemies of the church are left to stare in utter disbelief.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (NIV)

The only thing secret about the rapture of God's church is when it will take place (Matthew 24:36-51, 25:13; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 12:46), for it certainly will not be hidden from the eyes of the unbelieving world.

Luke 17:24 For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. (NIV)

In a parable Jesus used to speak of His return, He warned that imminent justice awaited those who were not true servants...

Matthew 24:50-51 The master of that [wicked] servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (NIV)

The beginning of this final judgment on the unbelieving earth, following the removal of all believers, is seen in the next verses of our passage. Be assured that while the church may suffer trials (1 Thessalonians 3:3) and tribulations and persecutions in this world (Mark 10:30), it will not suffer the outpouring of Gods' wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9) which is reserved for those who do not believe.

Revelation 11:13 At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. 14 The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.

The book of Revelation certainly gives more detail elsewhere about this outpouring of God's wrath. What needs to be seen here is the reaction to what they have seen, that they "gave glory to the God of heaven." This does not say that they turned from their disbelief to follow Jesus, rather that they acknowledged that it was God who had done all this! In fact, with their hardened hearts, even while acknowledging that God has done it, they would curse Him.

Revelation 16:19-21 The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. 20 Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. 21 From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible. [Also Revelation 16:11]

Many a lost person, even now, will acknowledge God's judgment upon them and yet continue on in their sins refusing to repent. Back in chapter eleven, the scene now shifts to heaven, the destination of all believers.

Revelation 11:15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever." 16 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying: "We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.

The church now sees the imminent culmination of the kingdom of God when all enemies of Christ are defeated. It certainly will be a cause for thanksgiving and worship! Two groups of 12 are in view regarding the twenty four elders. The first twelve represent the elders of the twelve tribes of Israel, with the second twelve representing the elders of the church, the apostles. As a spiritual representation they again show the equality and combined branches of the Jewish and Gentile churches.

1 Corinthians 15:24-25 Then the end will come, when he [Christ] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. (NIV)

Those enemies have the face of the nations with the salt and light of God's church removed from them. And certainly it would be an angry face.

Revelation 11:18 The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great - and for destroying those who destroy the earth." 19 Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. (NIV)

The time for God's wrath had come, not only the outpouring of such on those remaining on the earth, but subsequently to all who died in their unbelief as well. When God has finished with the unbelieving nations of the earth, the judgment of the living and dead is shortly to come. Eternal destruction awaits all unbelievers versus the eternal reward all believers will experience in the presence of their Lord. Notice also that the destruction of the earth (God's creation) is credited to all unbelievers in contrast to believers who have been credited Christ's righteousness (Romans 4:24).

In this brief piece of the book of Revelation that we have so far studied, John has given us a compressed view of history from his time until the end of time. What message does it give the church? Serve God, proclaim His unchanging word and stand firm as He will accomplish all of this in His timing. The overall message is one of victory in the face of everything that the world throws at us. The end of the Book is the same message found all through it; we win because He has won!

Revelation 22:20-21 He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen. (NIV)

Written by Brent MacDonald of Lion Tracks Ministries. (c) 2006
Duplication permitted as long as the source is cited.