Revelation teaches us about God’s reign, and how heaven proclaims his glory. What can we learn about living as God’s people today?
Ezekiel, chapters 29-32; Revelation, chapter 11
Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.”
The twenty-four elders sitting on their thrones before God fell with their faces to the ground and worshiped him. And they said, “We give thanks to you, Lord God, the Almighty, the one who is and who always was, for now you have assumed your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were filled with wrath, but now the time of your wrath has come. It is time to judge the dead and reward your servants the prophets, as well as your holy people, and all who fear your name, from the least to the greatest. It is time to destroy all who have caused destruction on the earth.”
Then, in heaven, the Temple of God was opened and the Ark of his covenant could be seen inside the Temple. Lightning flashed, thunder crashed and roared, and there was an earthquake and a terrible hailstorm.
I do not believe that we should interpret most of the Revelation literally. People in the days when it was written were familiar with apocalyptic literature. They recognized certain symbols that were familiar elements in those writings. I don’t believe that God gave this book to the Church as a “code” for us to “decipher” in order to discover his timeline. Jesus told his disciples that no one knows the day or the hour, not even him – only the Father knows.
Having said that, I still think there is much for us to learn as we read Revelation. I prefer to focus on what people actually say rather than on the symbolism. For instance, Jesus speaks a great deal in the first three chapters of Revelation. We would do well to pay attention to what he says! There are several “songs” contained in chapters 4 and 5, and those reveal a lot about who God is and what Jesus has done.
The Announcement of God’s Reign
We find another of those “songs” in chapter 11, the passage I’ve set out above. After the declaration that The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever, the twenty-four elders around God’s throne make a proclamation. First, they rejoice that now you have assumed your great power and have begun to reign. Now, God has always reigned over creation; he is the Lord God, the Almighty, to one who is and always was. If God is and always was the Almighty, then he does and always has held ultimate authority over everything he created. So what has changed to prompt this praise from the twenty-four elders?
We find the answer in verse 15 and the announcement: the world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever. Jesus has come, and has defeated the enemy. We are living in the “in-between” time between Jesus’ ascension and his return, when Satan is still active in the world. But the day will come when Satan will no longer be “the prince of this world.” At that point, God will exercise his authority over all of creation. And he will reign forever and ever. “Now you have assumed your great power and have begun to reign.”
What will that reign mean? It is time to judge the dead and reward your servants the prophets, as well as your holy people, and all who fear your name, from the least to the greatest. [And] It is time to destroy all who have caused destruction on the earth.” I don’t know exactly how that will all unfold. I don’t think it’s important to know how it will happen. What is important is the distinction between God’s people – prophets, holy people, all who fear your name – and those who have caused destruction on the earth. It seems clear that God will separate us at that final judgment based on those criteria. That means that we need to be part of his people!
I suppose it’s understandable that people want to know details. When will this happen? How will God bring that day to pass? What will it look like? My perspective is different. I certainly don’t want to live through the “great tribulation,” whatever that will be like. My guess is that we’ll be able to look back and see how it all unfolded once we’re in God’s eternal kingdom. But will it even matter to us at that point? Those whom we see around God’s throne in Revelation are primarily focused on who God is and what he has done:
- Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty – the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come (4:8)
- You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased. (4:11)
- You [Jesus] are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God… (5:9)
- Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered – to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing (5:12)
- Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever (5:13)
- Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb! (7:10)
- Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen! (7:12)
God’s reign has begun; Jesus came to announce that God’s Kingdom was breaking into the world. But someday, it will come in its fullness. “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.” What a day that will be!
Father, sometimes we long so much for your kingdom that we forget that you have work for us to do today. Thank you for reminding us that you are not slow, but patient, not wanting anyone to be destroyed, but everyone to repent (2 Peter 3:9). In the meantime, help us to join the chorus of heaven in declaring your greatness and majesty! Amen.