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Father in heaven, we ask not merely because we think this is how sermons ought to begin, but because we and I need Your help. Give us ears to hear what Your Spirit is saying to the churches. Give me the right heart and right words to say, and give to all of us confidence in Christ, who has already triumphed over death and the devil, and will come back again, not as a little babe but as the unmatched, unrivaled, undisputed King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In His name we pray. Amen.
I invite you to turn in your Bibles to Revelation chapter 11, Revelation 11. The last book in the Bible as we continue with this series this morning we come to verses 15 through 19, the seventh of the seven trumpets. And in some ways, as we’ll see at the end, wrapping up this first half of the book, it does neatly fall, 11 chapters down, 11 chapters to go, and starting in chapter 12 will be a new sequence of visions and images even as the sevens continue. So this morning finishes a sequence of verbal images and pictures that began in chapter 4.
We read beginning at verse 15.
“Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, 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 shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for You have taken Your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but Your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding Your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear Your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.””
“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant was seen within His temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.”
The seven seals, you may recall, crescendoed into a surprising silence. When the seventh seal was broken, there was silence in heaven for half an hour. It was the calm before the storm, the musical breath before the grand finale.
The seven trumpets, as we’ve seen have been paralleling the seven seals in many ways. They both have a pattern of four; four horsemen of the apocalypse, then three, and the first four trumpets which go together and then three woes. They have an earthquake signaling the beginning of the end then they have another interlude showing the Church’s safety before the end comes. We saw that in chapter 7, the 144,000 and the great multitude, and then chapter 10 and 11 with those two pictures of the Church threatened yet secure.
So many similarities. But here’s a key difference. Unlike the seals, the seven trumpets don’t crescendo into silence, they crescendo into singing. Joel Beeke says in his commentary, “Revelation is a noisy book.” It is there are lots of pictures and there’s lots of noise. Instead of silence, like we saw with the breaking of the seventh seal, we have with the seventh trumpet, look at verse 15, “loud voices in heaven.” They’re not identified, but probably the voices of the great multitude, the swelling song of God’s people.
Now it doesn’t explicitly say the voices are singing, but what’s given is a kind of poem, or verse, or refrain that they utter, and more likely it means that this was a song. What do they sing in verse 15? It’s the very song that the choir will lead us in at the close of the service and you, too, can sing with them, “The Kingdom of the World has Become the Kingdom of Our Lord and of His Christ and He Shall Reign Forever and Ever.” Hold on, I know you want to sing it right now, that famous line from the most famous part of maybe the most famous piece of classical music ever written.
George Frideric Handel was born in Halle, Germany into a wealthy and religious household. His father, a famous surgeon in northern Germany, wanted George to study law, but when people heard him play the organ at age 11, what all of your 11-year-olds want to do, they realized he was a prodigy and so after much encouragement, his father relented and allowed George to become a musician.
It does seem throughout history if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, dad is good, but you need dad’s permission to if you’re going to become a musician.
By 18 Handel had composed his first opera and for much of his career that’s what he did is produce operas but eventually Handel tired of the financial toll, the emotional stress. You had to get foreign singers and many of them had drama along with them and so he decided he would try his hand at sacred oratorios, and his most famous piece, “The Messiah,” debuted on April 13, 1742. It would become one of the most famous pieces of music composed in the history of the world. It debuted in Dublin. About 300 years later now, people are still singing and all throughout this holiday season will be singing and going to concerts of Handel’s “Messiah.”
The audience in Dublin was a record for the venue, some 700 persons, and they wanted to squeeze in as many as possible and they advertised, “Could the woman attending please wear dresses ‘without hoops'” so they could fit more people in.
When the “Messiah” was performed later in London, debuted in Dublin then performed later in London, the king who was there was so moved during the “Hallelujah Chorus” he stood to his feet and when the king stands, everyone else stood, and so it is a tradition even today that the audience stands during the singing of the “Hallelujah Chorus.”
Amazingly, some of you know this little factoid and if you don’t you won’t forget it, Handel composed the “Messiah,” you ready for this, in three or four weeks. Three or four weeks in August and September of 1741. To be fair, he did reuse a few arias that he had used elsewhere in earlier compositions, but it’s lead many people to say, although not inspired like the Bible, perhaps God gave Handel the “Messiah” that he might give it to the world.
The “Hallelujah Chorus” is not the end of the “Messiah.” You might think that it’s the grand finale, but it’s not, that is the chorus “Worthy is the Lamb.” But the “Hallelujah Chorus” is probably the best known section.
My favorite part of the “Hallelujah Chorus” is what we just read here in verse 15, because the voices, and I’m sure the choir is going to do this, the voices get soft and a bit legato, the kingdom of this world. It’s almost the music itself is winding down, stretching out, getting softer, then you hear some of the instruments and the voices sing, “is become.” Then just a half breath and the voices and the instruments come crashing back in with joyous explosion, “is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign forever and ever.” The music captures so well the theology of the text. The kingdom of this world is small, is fading, is lilting, compared to the majestic kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, which will burst on the scene in triumph and power and reign and royalty at the end of the age. It’s Gospel text and it’s put to some very fine Gospel music.
It’s very important when we look at Revelation 11, verses 15 through 19, to understand that this transfer, this transformation, the kingdom of the world exiting the stage and then coming on the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, it’s massively important to realize this will happen and to realize when it will happen.
We have the marker at the end in verse 19. I won’t take the time to show you this, I’ve shown you before, but several times you have in building crescendo when the cycle of sevens comes to a completion, you have flashes of lightning, rumblings, and thunder, and then the next time is added an earthquake, and here the next time is added heavy hail. When you have this constellation of sight and sound, you know this is the cataclysmic end. So the kingdom of this world does not finally pass away and become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ until Jesus returns, until the end of history.
But we have to think for a moment before we come back to this text. What does it mean that the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of God and of Christ? So what is the kingdom of the world?
Well, it’s shorthand for the way that the world works. 1 John 2:16 defines the world and worldliness as the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, the boasting of what he has and does. You’ve heard me quote on many occasions that wonderful line from David Wells, one of my favorite professors in seminary, who says worldliness is whatever makes righteousness look strange and sin look normal. That’s what we mean by worldliness. You look out, righteousness seems strange, sin seems normal. That’s the way of the world because the world is in rebellion to God. It’s not how God created the world but it’s the way of a fallen world.
In 2 Corinthians 4, Satan is called the god of this age. I remember one time, I think it was Mike Horton writing in a book or in an article, he was reflecting how can we sing “This is My Father’s World” and then also sing “The World is not My Home?” Which one is it? But of course, both rightly understood, are biblical truths. This is my Father’s world if we’re thinking of this is the world that our Father created, it’s the world that He reigns over sovereignly with His dominion and providence, it’s the world that He is at work through His Son to redeem, so all of that, “This is My Father’s World” and yet the world is not our home, meaning the world that is this fallen worldly system, that Satan is the god of this age.
Hebrews 2 tells us that we do not yet see all things put in subjection to Christ. So that’s the reality. The kingdom of the world. Whatever makes sin look normal and righteousness look strange. Wherever you see Christ and His Word and His ways circumvented or opposed or hated, that’s the kingdom of the world. The good news of verse 15 is that one day the way things are will be the way things are supposed to be. The kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
So that’s the kingdom of the world. What do we mean then the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ? Or the kingdom of God?
Every New Testament scholar agrees that one of the central themes in the New Testament and one of the central planks in Jesus’ teaching has to do with the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven. Those terms just mean the same thing.
There are three different ways that people sometimes think about the kingdom of God, and by themselves they’re not wrong so long as we put them all together. But if we emphasize one aspect to the exclusion of the others, then we are missing something.
So here’s what I mean, real quick, three ways to think about the kingdom of God when you come across that.
So one. Some Christians say well, the kingdom of God is really the kingdom of ethics, so we call this the ethical view. What do I mean? Well, according to this view, the kingdom is about living a certain way. It’s about the Sermon on the Mount. The kingdom comes when you love your enemies, when you forgive those who sin against you, when you’re not judgmental, when you give to the poor, when you welcome the outcast, when you keep God’s commandments. All of that is true, though if that’s all you say about the kingdom, you end up with the mistake of the old theological liberalism, which basically said the kingdom is simply living like better people, and often it meant a kind of liberal/social order, harmony and justice.
Well, of course, we want those things, but that’s not all that the kingdom brings. When the kingdom comes, it also means, as we’ve seen throughout Revelation, it means judgment. The kingdom is only good news to those who know the king. The kingdom is only good news to those who know the king.
So yes, the kingdom is about ethics. When you embrace the King, you inhabit the kingdom, you live a certain way. So that’s the first view. It’s not wrong in what it affirms, but it’s incomplete.
The second, if that’s the ethical view, you might say the second is the experiential view. According to this view, the kingdom is about what is in your heart, enthroning Jesus on your heart. That’s when you come into the kingdom. The kingdom is something internal. You receive the kingdom of God like a little child, Mark 10. It’s a pietistic view.
And it’s not wrong. The kingdom is an inward reality. The kingdom does mean a changed heart and the experience of the love of Christ in our hearts. But if that’s all we say about the kingdom, then we haven’t said enough. It’s not just an experience. It’s not even just an experience of Jesus, it’s also a message about who He is, what He has done, what He demands, and what He will do when He comes again.
So the ethical view, the experiential view, we can call the third view, you’re saying can he come up with another “e” word? I can. The eschatological view.
Now don’t get scared away. Eschatology simply means “last things,” the eschaton, or what God is doing in the world for, and in the cosmos, until the end of history and beyond. According to this eschatological view, the kingdom of God ushers in the reign and rule of God, so that this present evil age is now come into the reign of Christ. The kingdom means the King has come to vanquish His foes, to save His people, and at the end the goats will be separated from the sheep, those who believe in Jesus will be saved, those who reject Him will stand condemned, and this is often associated with good Reformed thinkers and this is a correct view, the eschatological view.
But we should not divorce it from the other two aspects, that in this eschatological view of the kingdom, which has to do with ages colliding and what Christ will do at the end of the age, that it does imply in the here and now a certain ethical stance and an experiential embracing of Christ. So the kingdom is about a heart transformation, it is about living out righteousness and justice, and it is about what God is doing in the whole cosmos.
So coming back to our text, one author summarizes verse 15 in this way: Dominion over the world without challenge or rival has come into the possession of our Lord and His anointed King.
That’s a good summary of what is announced in verse 15, because in a way this is already Christ is King, certainly, but He has a rival. There is a god of this age, where verse 15 looks forward to the day when all of the enemies have finally been placed under His feet and subdued, when the kingdom of the world becomes the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, then, and listen carefully, only then will there be no more lawlessness, no more rebellion, no more pain, no more tears, no more injustice, no more God-defying wickedness. The way God wants things to be will be the way things are.
Which is why theologians often say that the kingdom is already and not yet. It’s like the election, and there was, we didn’t cast votes, but the decree of Christ as King has happened and yet the inauguration is there and yet the full and final enthronement and defeat of His enemies is yet to come.
So He promises that this will happen and yet we should not expect in this age that fully and finally all the political institutions of the world will turn to Christ, or all of the national identities will become Christian. No, this complete and total transfer, the kingdom of the world gone, the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ arrived and established, this does not happen until the very end.
Which is what we see in verse 19 – until Christ returns, cataclysmic in wonder and glory at the end of the age.
So on the one hand, we can read in Matthew 4, from that time Jesus began to preach repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Or in Luke 17, he says the kingdom of God is among you.
And yet we are told in the Lord’s Prayer to pray Thy kingdom come.
So which is it? Is the kingdom here or not here? Yes. Both. It has arrived and yet it is not fully embraced or established.
It is, if you picture especially on a day like today, which is still cloudy, I can see out the windows in the back and it’s supposed to be raining on and off all day, at some point the sun will break through the clouds later today, or you’ll see it tomorrow. And the kingdom coming is like the wisp of clouds blowing away.
Now you really have to transport yourself to Michigan to really appreciate what that would be like, because we get a lot of sun here. But you know when you don’t get sun in Michigan? All the time. And so when it comes out, when you see just even a little glowing orb behind a thin mist of clouds, people are out in tank tops, shorts, sun’s out, guns out. This is exciting. Then just a little bit of ray. The kingdom is here with the promise that spring will come and eventually summer will be here.
So it is with the kingdom of God. Rays of sun breaking through the clouds. You can feel its warmth, and yet it’s not at noon day, it’s not in the middle of the summer. We still await the arrival of that kingdom and that’s what verse 15 tells us.
So go back to Revelation now, and I promise we move through the rest of this quickly. If that’s what is announced in verse 15, and that’s what meant by the kingdom of the world off, the kingdom of our Lord of His Christ established, what is so good? What will be so good about that day that the voices are singing? And that we will want to sing?
Well, here’s the answer, and it’s found in the rest of the song or the hymn or the chant or the poem in verses 17, 18, and into 19 – we will rejoice because on that day the Lord will take His power, the nations will no longer rage, the saints will be rewarded, the wicked destroyed, and God Himself will be with us.
So number one, we will sing on that day and worship because the Lord will take His power.
Do you see that in verse 17? We give thanks to You, Lord God, as the 24 elders fall on their faces and worship Him who is and who was and they cry out, “You have taken Your great power and begun to reign.”
Power and authority are often suspect in our day. It’s true. They are often abused, but the antidote to bad authority is not no authority, it is good authority. The Bible is not against power, the Bible is not against authority. It is certainly against the corrupt use of power and the abuse of authority, but if you are a Christian this morning, you desperately want God Almighty to take His great power and begin to reign.
In Revelation 1:4, Revelation 1:8, and Revelation 4:8, God is described as Him who is and who was and who is to come. But notice here He’s described in verse 17 as the One who is and who was. So what’s missing there? That third refrain, “who is to come.” I agree with the commentators who think this is because when we get to the end of chapter 11, He has come, He has arrived. The future has become the present. On that day the Lord will have taken His great power and begun to reign.
So they sing because the Lord will take His power.
Number two. They sing because the nations will no longer rage.
Look at verse 18. This is obviously an allusion to Psalm 2. Psalm 2 prophesied why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against His anointed One. Let us break their chains, they say, throw off their fetters. Psalm 2 goes on to say that the One enthroned in heaven laughs. He laughs at their puny, pitiful, grasping for power.
Dear Christian, dear saint, remember that when you are tempted to be afraid of all that you read in the newspapers, metaphorically in a newspaper, on your phone. Know that the nations, even if it be our own nation, raging against God, the One who sits enthroned in heaven, is not impressed. He’s not afraid. He laughs. And He will have the last laugh.
The nations were angry, Psalm 2 says, and Your wrath has come. And so it’s repeated here in verse 18.
Now it can be hard for us to get excited as we think about judgment on the nations. We think, well, no, this seems a little harsh. Really? Do we want all the nations to be judged? One of the reasons that can seem hard for us, especially living in America, is we live in a country that has the greatest military, economic, cultural power of any country on the face of the earth at the moment.
If, however, we lived under an oppressive regime, and pray that it would not be so but perhaps it will be in our own lifetime, a government that is violently hostile to Christianity, a leader or a leadership that is hopelessly corrupt, even a brutal dictator, surely we would cry out, “Come and judge the nations.”
So it is that millions if not billions of people in the world cry out, or ought to cry out, with that petition. And who knows what might become of our own land. You only have to follow the news from a distance to look forward to the day when the nations will no longer shake their fist against God, they will no longer rage – they will all be subjected under His feet.
Third. They sing on that day because the saints will be rewarded.
You see in the middle of verse 18, “rewarding Your servants,” which the ESV takes to be a catch-all category for both the prophets and the saints. So not all are prophets, but all who are Christians are saints, and both prophets and saints are called His servants.
We will be rewarded. Not a reward of merit, that we’ve somehow in a quid pro quo deserved or earned it, but a reward as God has arranged things in His covenant to receive this blessing of eternal life in His peace and joy and presence forevermore.
Think about your best, purest, happiest day of your life. A wedding, a birth, a great accomplishment, a family reunion, a meal, a celebration, a holiday. You think of that day, multiply it by 100, by a million, by a billion, by a trillion, and think about living that day today, tomorrow, the next day, and forever and ever, and you still have not begun to grasp how good our reward will be.
Parents, adults, I know we can get bothered sometimes when the kids are just counting down all the days until Christmas and you’re thinking it’s a lot of work and they say I wish Christmas were tomorrow and you say, “Believe me, you don’t. You’re going to be real disappointed if you want Christmas tomorrow.” I’ve told you before, I just, as a kid, I would just think, I even made an acronym for it TAC, think about Christmas, that’s what I just gave myself for months and months, just think about Christmas, from Thanksgiving to December 25, just live on the energy and anticipation of Christmas, because when you’re a kid, you’re going to have the presents and the candy and the cousins and maybe in some parts of the country the snowmen or the sledding, or better yet you can watch other people doing those things as you go outside in shorts.
Sometimes the Scrooge in us wants to say, “You kids are so greedy, it’s about Jesus.” Well, it is about Jesus and kids can be greedy. But would that we had something of the anticipation of children for Christmas. Do they have all their priorities straight? Well, probably not. But they know something good is coming.
It is today my 5-year-old’s birthday. I can tell you he opened his first present this morning. We tried to talk him into it. Don’t you want to just wait until…. No! We’re not waiting until after Christmas. He opened that first present, a Duplo train set, and immediately exclaimed, “This is the best day of my life!” Now check with us by tonight because those things can change very quickly.
You know how many days he asked if tomorrow was his birthday? It starts, today’s December 10, it starts on December 11 – “Is omorrow my birthday? Is omorrow my birthday?”
We could use something of the excitement and anticipation of a little child. Is tomorrow the day? Is tomorrow the day for our great reward? It’s coming. I know it’s coming. It feels so long. I can hardly wait another day. But it will come.
Number four. On that day we rejoice because the saints will be rewarded and the destroyers of the earth will be destroyed. As much as the saints rejoice, the final trumpet blast is the sound of death for the wicked. Jeremiah 51:25 – I am against you, O destroying mountain, you who destroy the whole earth, declares the Lord.
I hope you have in your head, because I think Revelation means for us to have in your head, the battle of Jericho. What happened at the battle of Jericho? For six days the seven priests carrying seven trumpets marched around the city, blowing their trumpets with the arc of the Lord behind them. The people did not raise their voices. But on the seventh day, after marching and blowing the trumpets seven times, the people shout and the walls came a tumbling down and the enemy was routed.
Revelation 11 is giving to us this very same picture. Now the seventh trumpet sounds and just like the people marching around Jericho, a great cry to heaven is lifted and just as happened in Jericho, the walls come a tumbling down and the destroyers of the earth are destroyed. No kingdom except for Christ’s kingdom will be left to stand. Not the great kingdoms of Egypt or Babylon over the centuries or Persia or Greece or Rome or the great dynasties of China or the British Empire or all of America’s might. None of it will be able to stand except for the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
Which brings us to the final point, of rejoicing that God Himself will be with us. On that day, the Lord will take His power, the nations will no longer rage, the saints will be rewarded, the wicked will be destroyed, and God Himself will be with us. You say, well, where is He? Look at verse 19. The temple in heaven was opened. It’s the open house for God’s temple. Finally the doors swing wide open and what do you see in the temple but that greatest of all Old Testament symbols of the presence of God, the ark of His covenant. To make clear that this is a theophany, a God-appearing, it is met with flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, just like we hear outside this morning, an earthquake and heavy hail. Altogether, they symbolize the presence of God.
The seven seals ended with lightning, rumblings, thunder. The seven trumpets do as well. But this time they grow and there is an earthquake and now hail, signifying this is the end.
The ark of the covenant. Remember the arc was in the holy of holies, in the temple, because it symbolized the presence of God. That’s why when Israel lost the arc it was as if losing God Himself. It was meant to be the physical representation of God’s holiness.
So as John sees the temple doors flung open, he looks inside to see the ark of the covenant, the best news, friends, the best news of the Good News is that when the kingdom of this world because the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, God Himself will be with us. This is the climax, the ultimate reward, our supreme comfort, Immanuel, God with us. Not only that He reigns, not only that the nations are subdued, not only that we receive a great reward, not only that the destroyers of the earth are destroyed, but there in that moment for the first time full in display of His glory with eyes to see, God with us. Surely we will want to sing on that day as we do today, “Hallelujah, the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign forever and ever.”
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, words can barely capture what this day will be like, but You have given us Your inspired Word and You have given to us a great tradition of these words put to soaring music. So move us this morning, O Lord, not just by the swell of the musical refrain and the instruments and the voices, but by the hope, our blessed hope of the appearing of our God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. So we pray, come Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.