by Roger McCay
15 January 2023
Sermon Passage: Revelation 11:15-19
Link to Audio Version
There is confusion as to the reign of Christ. This is problematic because our entire worldview is impacted by whether we believe that Jesus reigns now, or we have to wait until some undefined time in the future before he takes up the mantle of rule.
While the Kingdom of God can be defined as “God’s rule,” and the Scriptures clearly and repeatedly teach that God has always ruled over heaven and earth, where does the reign of Christ come into play? Well, if Jesus reigns now, then everything in life has to be considered with that reign in mind. This includes the larger circumstances and events of the world (politically, socially, economically), issues of justice, and also (in a narrower sense) how we understand our own place in history (in the context of family, community, worship, evangelism, and our individual calling in life). However, if Christ Jesus is not the King, then where does that leave us?
But Jesus does reign now. In Rev. 1:5-6, John tells us that Jesus is “the ruler of the kings of the earth,” and he has made Christians “a kingdom.” Then, in Rev. 17:14, Jesus is the presently reigning “Lord of lords and King of kings.” In our passage today, Christ Jesus is celebrated as having taken up the mantle of rule in the past and continuing to reign. And then, in Rev. 20, Christ’s present reign is mentioned in terms of a millennium (symbolic for a long time) before his final coming on The Day of Judgement.
So, we live during a time that has been dubbed, “the already but not yet.” As Anthony Hoekema puts it, “The kingdom is … both present and future.” There is “a distinction between the ‘already’—the present state of the kingdom as inaugurated by Christ—and the ‘not yet’—the final establishment of the kingdom which will take place at the time of Christ’s Second Coming.”
Now, in our passage today, with the blowing of the seventh trumpet, the Lord’s ongoing reign as King is celebrated, to be followed by the acknowledgement and praise of his wrath (as it had been carried out), highlighting his judgments of justice and mercy, and also the ongoing effects of his actions (which reverberate into the now).
Take a look, again, at the first part of Rev. 11:15: “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven.” That this is the seventh trumpet brings to mind that six trumpets are blown before it. Over the course of several months, here at MPC, we have examined each passage describing what the blowing of each trumpet set in motion. And we’ve considered, in turn, how they spoke to God’s wrath coming down upon apostate Israel, as decreed in the scroll first seen in Rev. 5:1, which culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, in AD 70.
Rev. 11:15 shifts the point of view, once again, back into heaven, where John has described for us the throne room of God and the variety of the hosts of beings all around him, who are very vocal in their praise of the Lord, with the exception of the silence that fell at the breaking of the seventh seal. But now, with the seven trumpets blown, the Lord’s justice carried out and his wrath satisfied, the voices in heaven are once again described as being lifted up in praise.
And what are these voices saying? Second part of v. 15 through v. 17:
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 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.
Now, how we understand what the heavenly voices mean, as to the Lord’s reign, is essential to our understanding of reality itself. And what we are being told here is that the prophecy of Dan. 7:13-14 (our OT reading this morning) has already been fulfilled:
… and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
In Rev. 10:7, we are told “that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” As we’ve studied, the mystery of God was the mystery of Christ, the revealed gospel (the good news) for all who believe—both Jew and Gentile.
So, how did the fulfillment of the mystery of God come about? Milton Terry, writing in the late 19th century, aptly observes: “The completion of that mystery was the special mission of Christ and his apostles. It occupied the transition period between the old dispensation and the full inauguration and establishment of the kingdom of Jehovah and his Messiah.”
Now, what is the kingdom of the world (Rev. 11:15)? Well, it evidently includes “all peoples, nations, and languages,” indeed, all “the kingdoms under the whole heaven” mentioned in Dan. 7:14 & 27. And “the kingdom of the world has become [so became and remains] the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ.” Christ reigns at the right hand of the Father. The Father (the Ancient of Days) has given Jesus dominion and authority over the earth and heavens (Matt. 28:18). His reign has been inaugurated, established and is ongoing.
Christ’s Kingdom is that spoken of in Heb. 12:28: “the kingdom that cannot be shaken.” But, for “the kingdom that cannot be shaken” to be firmly established means the necessity of “the removal of things that are shaken” (Heb. 12:27). Like the writer of Hebrews points out, “When He [Jesus] said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear” (Heb. 8:13).
What this is speaking of is that with the ministry of Christ, then his Apostles (including the two witnesses), and the spread of Christianity throughout the world during apostolic times (Col. 1:6, 23), and then with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, in AD 70, the obsolete, Old Sinaitic Covenant with its ritual system was finally and permanently brought to a dramatic conclusion with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. The Old Covenant’s purpose had been fulfilled, in Christ. Under the New Covenant, made in Christ’s blood, Christ’s Kingdom, was finally and permanently established.
Jesus had preached, “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). But now, in Rev. 11:17, the 24 elders give praise to him: “you have taken your great power and” (as the KJV puts it) “hast reigned.” The kingdom of God was no longer at hand but had been fully inaugurated and established. Thus, in the context of the established kingdom, they praise the “Lord God Almighty, who is and who was,” omitting “who is to come” from Rev. 1:8 and 4:8.
Christ Jesus took his power to reign at his ascension into heaven on a cloud (Acts 1:9), receiving dominion and power from the Father. In the intervening years, the gospel had gone to the world, the bride of Christ being called to the bridegroom, who saved her by grace through faith. And during the 42 months of Rome’s conquest of Israel, he had come in judgment and wrath upon his enemies, finalizing his divorce with unfaithful Israel, putting the gravestone on the grave of the Old Covenant, in AD 70. Now, with the Father, Christ Jesus continues to reign, in everlasting dominion, over both the earth and heavens, forever and ever (Rev. 3:21; Dan. 7:14; Rev. 11:15).
Which brings us to v. 18, where the 24 elders continue:
“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.”
Now, I’ll clarify up front, this verse is not talking about the final judgment, Judgment Day. Rather, it is talking about the dynamics of judgment involved in the just mentioned 42-month period of time (Rev. 11:2).
Alluding to Psalm 2, the apostles see its fulfillment early on, in Acts 4:24-30, v. 27 which says:
27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel
The city in which they were gathered was Jerusalem. Herod was the Jewish king and Pilate was the Roman governor, and they specifically mention “the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel.” They were praying over the persecution that was beginning to come down upon them, even then, which would worsen and spread throughout the Roman Empire along with the spread of the gospel to the world. But the gospel did spread; Christ’s Kingdom was established, despite their rage.
But Rome would turn against the Jews, as the Jews revolted against Rome. We’ll see a bit more on this as we journey through Revelation. But the Jews who corroborated with Rome towards the crucifixion of the Lord and the persecution of his saints would find the wrath of God come upon them brought by those very Romans. How ironic it is that the Jews used the Romans to kill their Messiah, and the Messiah in turn used the Romans to destroy the apostate Jews! But such is the way of the Lord. He used Assyria in such a way against the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and Babylon against the Kingdom of Judah. As God said concerning Assyria, in Isa. 10:5-6, they were “the rod of my anger.” Too, as Kenneth Gentry suggests, in Rev. 11:18 “The ‘and’ is an ‘and explicative,’ meaning “that is.” Thus he sees it as saying, “the nations raged [that is] your wrath came.” Be that as it may, the point is that the Lord Jesus brought his wrath down upon the apostate Jews, through the conquest of the Romans, including the trampling of the temple and city to their destruction. Like the parable in Matt. 22:7: “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.”
Now, what about “the time for the dead to be judged?” How did that happen in the first century? Well, context, first of all, suggests this is something other than an unexplained jump to the end of history. Jesus does make that jump in his Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:36) when he says “but concerning that day and hour.” And we’ll see that jump made, according to the Lord’s pattern, in Rev. 20, at the end of the millennium.
It helps to know that the word here for “judged” (κρίνω) not only means “judgment” in the sense of “judged unto punishment,” but it can also speak to “the judgment of God … resulting in the vindication of the innocent … and the punishment of the guilty.” And this is right along the lines of Ps. 135:14, “For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants,” where the Hebrew word for vindicate can also mean to judge.
And the sentence structure supports this. It’s a matter of judgment resulting in “rewarding” and then in “destroying.” In this case it’s an answer to the imprecatory prayers of the saints, under the heavenly altar in Rev. 6:10-11. The martyrs cried out for vengeance, and they were told “to wait a little while longer.” At the blowing of the seventh trumpet, that judgment is complete.
Gentry puts it this way, “God is vindicating them by destroying those who destroy the “land.” He then clarifies,
“Physically, it is Rome that destroys the land at God’s behest. Morally and covenantally, it’s Israel that destroys their own land. We have to look at this issue covenantally and legally. Like when the Romans crucified Christ physically, the NT blames the Jews so they are constantly calling the Jews on the carpet for crucify the Lord, the same thing happens here…. The Romans actually did it, but morally, covenantally, the Jews were responsible for it.
And, interestingly, Josephus (who was not a Christian, but a Jew who was an eyewitness of the Jewish War with Rome and Jerusalem and the Temple’s destruction) … Josephus even recognizes this truth. He writes,
I “must be allowed to indulge some lamentations upon the miseries undergone by my own country; for that it was a seditious temper of our own that destroyed it; and that they were the tyrants among the Jews who brought the Roman power upon us.” 
Or to put it another way, as Terry does, the Lord’s wrath once again came down “on those inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah’ who had so culpably neglected the vineyard of the Lord entrusted to their care ( … Isa. 5:1-7 and Matt. 21:33-46).”
Now, as we look about us, at the world today, like Christians of all times, we see a definite divide between the people of God and the enemies of God. We could spend quite a bit of time speaking of how justice is often absent, and how it seems evil prospers, etc., etc. Even so, the gospel has gone forth, been proclaimed throughout the earth, and it continues to triumph, with more and more people coming to faith in the Lord every day. There are more Christians in the world today than ever before, although corresponding to that, there are also more Christians being persecuted than ever before. I’ve spoken often, here, on these topics, and you know what I mean.
But even in the most anti-Christian nations on this earth, people are still coming to know Jesus, and following him. For example, even in the hermit kingdom of North Korea, there are hundreds of thousands of Christians. Open Doors reports:
It’s hard to know exactly how many Christians there are in North Korea, because they must keep their faith so well hidden, but Open Doors estimates it is 400,000 – some 1.5 per cent of the population. About 50-70,000 of these Christians are in horrendous prisons and labour camps.
400,000 Christians! How could that be? How has the most oppressive regime on earth, in a country that has been ranked as “the most oppressive place in the world for Christians,”  not have squashed all the Christians and the growth of Christianity in their domain? Simple, my friends. Jesus reigns. The devil was bound by the Lord (Mark 3:27; Rev. 20:2), and the Lord gathers his elect to him at will (Matt. 24:31).
Now, there is justice to be had in this life, and the governments, all which are under the Lord’s authority, have been mandated to uphold justice (Rom. 13:1-7). Christ reigns over all governments, whether they acknowledge him or not. But the governments of the world rule imperfectly, so justice does not always come about. And then, of course, there are the petty injustices that happen every day. And while it may seem that such injustices in this world often go unpunished, such is only true if we have a strictly temporal view of things. In the end, the Lord will judge us all (2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:12). For those of us who have been saved by grace through faith, with our sins punished on the cross of Christ, we will be acknowledged as forgiven and righteous, and receive our eternal reward—vindicated in Christ. For those who are not saved by grace through faith, they will be judged—God’s wrath remaining upon them. Christ came in history, in judgment, bringing his justice, and this was just as he said. So that is of the “already.” Likewise, Christ has promised, in his Word, to come in judgment once again (which is of the “not yet”). When we pray that God will defend justice on the earth, and destroy evil, like he answered the prayers of the saints heard in Rev. 8:4, he hears your prayer, and he has promised his answer.
My friends, we can get so caught up in worrying about the state of the world. But if the Lord is truly sovereign, and reigning over heaven and earth, then why don’t we just trust him to handle those things? God’s got it. Do you think that those raging against him will come to anything? Just remember Psalm 2. And Jesus doesn’t want you worrying about these things. Rather, he tells you and I to follow him in obedience of faith, as his witnesses, the body of Christ in the world, living in denial of self, focused on loving our neighbor, while loving him. Worry gets you nowhere. Obedience is rewarded in both this life and eternity. Since Christ reigns now, we should take comfort in his justice.
So, the first part of v. 19, take a look: “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple.” While this may seem a perplexing verse, remember this is symbolism, and we’ve seen some of this before. To sum it up, as has been said, in the New Covenant, the Temple of the Old Covenant had become obsolete. And by the time of the blowing of the Seventh Trumpet, the temple had been destroyed. It’s like Jesus told the woman at the well, in John 4:21, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” As Jay Adams puts it, the symbolism here is “To show that earthly temples no longer have any place in the spiritual worship of the new kingdom, the door to the only true temple is opened, and it is there that the proper accouterments are seen (no earthly temple possesses them).” And by that latter he means the Ark of the Covenant. With the temple opened in heaven, we have, through the Spirit, direct access to the Lord, in worship. What was once behind the veil of the holy of holies, the Ark of the Covenant with the Mercy Seat, which represented the presence of God, is now accessible by all who believe, having been atoned, in Christ’s blood, once and for all. So now, in Christ, Christians can worship in spirit and in truth anywhere, with no restriction (John 4:23-24). For we are the priests in the inner courts of Christ, measured and protected, purified by the blood of Christ (Rev. 1:6 and 11:1).
And so, the latter part of v. 19: “There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.” Repeatedly, in the Scriptures, we find this kind of language (called theophanic signs) pointing to manifestations of the Lord’s presence (called theophanies). And we first see these kind of theophanic signs (in the particular category called a “Thunderstorm Theophany”) when the Lord gave Israel the law on Mount Sinai. As God came down on the mountain with the smoke and fire of his presence, there was thunder and lightning and the earth quaked (Ex. 19:16, 20:18, etc.). Then when God on his judicial throne is first described, in the book of Revelation (ch. 4, v. 5), we once again see such signs in the throne room of heaven: “flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder.” Shortly after that we are introduced to the scroll (5:1). Vern Poythress, in his book Theophany, points out that, in such types of manifestations,
These theophanies underline the power and authority of God’s promises, his covenants, and his kingship. The thunder in a thunderstorm theophany depicts the thunderous character of God’s voice, a voice that “breaks the cedars” (Ps. 29:5) and shakes the nations. Thus, theophany manifests the power of God’s promises and God’s covenantal words. God is the Creator and ruler, who makes the thunderstorm. So a thunderstorm is a massive display of God’s power; a thunderstorm manifests his kingship.
Now, with the scroll having been read and the trumpets blown, the Lord’s presence is expressed, not with a warning of “danger, stay away” to God’s people, like at Sinai, but rather the opposite with an inviting open temple. The divorce decree against apostate Judaism has been given with the execution of the covenant curses carried out upon them due to their unfaithfulness. The Old Covenant under the law has been definitively brought to an end, and the inheritors of the covenant of grace have been freed to experience the fullness of the New Covenant blessings under the gospel.
And so, we come to an end of another major section of the book of Revelation. But John’s Apocalypse is not done. More is revealed, in recapitulation and expansion, for our edification and God’s glory.
But as for this last part of ch. 11, what a great comfort it is to know that no matter where we are, we can worship the Lord, in spirit and in truth. We don’t need a church building to worship. We don’t need some any sort of special sacred place. We can worship anywhere, because we are always priests in the Lord’s temple, purified by the blood of Jesus, serving him. And that describes the underlying reality of our life. Worship of the living and true God is part and parcel of who we are, as much a part of our being as our very soul. We are indwelled by the Spirit of God. And we are united with Christ Jesus our Savior and Lord, not only in spirit but also in body (1 Cor. 6:15). Indeed as Paul tells us, we “are the temple of God” (1 Cor. 3:16).
If you are a Christian, no matter what is going on in the world or your life, be it peace or calamity, sickness or health, freedom or bondage, goodwill or scorn, the pleasures of youth or the ravages of old age, this does not change the fact that you live a life of worship. Let us keep this in mind as we go about each day. What a comfort it is to know that we walk with God, in his presence, secure in his covenant, grace, love, power, and rule. With all the trouble of this fallen world, the Lord, our King and our Savior, is our rock, our fortress, our mighty God. Since Christ reigns now, we should take comfort in his worship.
My friends, Jesus is reigning over the earth and heavens right now. We don’t have to wait for some future coming for his reign to begin. In this world with all its troubles, let us take comfort in the fact that he is sovereign Lord, ruler over all nations and all peoples, ruling with justice and mercy. Despite the raging of the nations, his kingdom is victorious, as the gospel continues to spread. The Lord vindicates the faithfulness and witness of his people. And his glory fills the earth. Let us also take comfort in the intimate worship with which the Lord has blessed us, as we daily walk with him, following Jesus in the obedience of faith, worshipping him with our lives. Since Christ reigns now, we should take comfort in his rule.
 Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), ix.
 Milton S. Terry, The Apocalypse of John, ed. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. and Jay Rogers (Chesnee, SC: Victorious Hope Publishing, 2021; originally pub. 1898), 145.
 BDAG, κρίνω, 5.b.
 BDB, דִּין , def. 3. execute judgment, vindicate
 Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Survey of the Book of Revelation, Video Series (Chesnee SC: Victorious Hope Publishing, 2012), DVD 3, lesson 13.
 Flavius Josephus, trans. William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), 544. J.W., Preface.4
 Terry, 148.
 Open Doors, “North Korea,” accessed 5 Jan. 2023, https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/world-watch-list/north-korea/.
 Hollie McKay, “North Korea: How Christians survive in the world’s most anti-Christian nation,” Fox News, pub. 25 Sept. 2017, accessed 5 Jan. 2023,
 Jay Adams, The Time is at Hand (Woodruff, SC: Timeless Texts, 2000), 70.
 Vern S. Poythress, Theophany: A Biblical Theology of God’s Appearing, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, Kindle Edition, 2018), 43.