He Shall Reign Forever and Ever
Topic: Judgment Passage: Revelation 11:15–19
Revelation 11:15—words familiar to some of you. Perhaps you’ve heard them sung every year in the famous oratorio, Händel’s Messiah. The Hallelujah Chorus includes a line from 11:15, “He shall reign for ever and ever.” Legend has it that when Händel’s Messiah premiered in London, King George II stood upon hearing the Hallelujah Chorus. It’s said that he was moved by the arrangement, and he stood to pay homage to the true King of kings, Jesus Christ.
Whether or not we can verify that historically, the legend at least illustrates how the end of Revelation 11 should move us. At the heart of the book, the seventh trumpet announces Jesus’ reign. That reign should solidify our allegiance to Jesus. It should also move us to join heaven in worshiping Jesus. Let’s read it together. Verse 15,
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.” 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. 18 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.” 19 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.
Before we look at the seventh trumpet itself, I want to show you how Revelation has prepared us to understand the seventh trumpet. Several clues outside verses 15-19 have taught us what to expect in the seventh trumpet.
For starters, recall how the seven trumpets allude to the story of Jericho in Joshua 6. God worked in mercy to save Rahab and her family. But God also judged the city of Jericho for their rebellion. Part of that plan included seven priests with seven trumpets, marching around the city seven days. With the seventh trumpet blast, God devoted the city to destruction. He replaced the rebel kingdom with his kingdom. What do you think it conveys when seven priestly angels blow seven trumpets? It anticipates the rebellious city of man crumbling before the kingdom of God. That’s what we should expect in the seventh trumpet—God’s kingdom replacing the rebel kingdom.
Something else: consider how the seventh trumpet relates to the third woe. Turn back to 8:13. Four trumpets have already sounded. John then sees an ominous vision. A bird of prey flies overhead and declares three woes: “Woe, woe, woe, to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow.” That means trumpets five, six, and seven will bring woes on earth-dwellers. Throughout Revelation, earth-dwellers are God’s enemies.[i] A “woe” is a cry for those under God’s curse. So, with trumpets five, six, and seven we should expect God’s curse of judgment to fall on his enemies. That’s exactly what happens. 9:12 identifies woes one and two with trumpets five and six—both are temporary judgments meant to drive rebels to repentance. Then 11:14 anticipates the third woe coming soon with the seventh trumpet. So, in the seventh trumpet, we should expect the judgment of God to fall on his enemies. But since it’s the final woe, the judgment will have finality.
One more way that Revelation has prepared us to understand the seventh trumpet: it has told us that the seventh trumpet brings us to the very end of history. In the seventh seal, we noted the language of theophany—God appearing with thunder and lightning and an earthquake. We find the same in verse 19: “flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.” Like the seventh seal, the seventh trumpet runs us to the end again, when God’s majesty shakes the created order. If we sketched it next to the seventh seal, it’d look like this [screen].
But more explicitly, listen again to 10:7. The angel tells John, “…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.” The seventh trumpet takes us to the end, in other words. Even if it doesn’t develop everything in detail—perhaps like chapters 21-22 will provide—the seventh trumpet still encapsulates what it means for the mystery of God to be fulfilled, what it means for the prophets’ words to come to pass. In the seventh trumpet, then, we should expect a new age announced where all God’s promises come to pass in a final, more complete way.
The rebellious kingdom of man crumbling before the kingdom of God; judgment falling on God’s enemies; and God’s promises finding their fulfillment in a new age. Let’s see how the seventh trumpet develops these expectations and then brings them to bear on our own lives by its presentation in the book.
The Seventh Trumpet Announces the Reign of Christ
First thing to note: the seventh trumpet announces the reign of Christ. 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.’”
We’ve already said that the seventh trumpet pictures the end. So, when these voices say, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ…,” they are saying so from the future. They’re describing a reality that will come at the end. That’s not to say the Lord isn’t reigning now. Other places in Revelation depict Christ reigning from his heavenly throne right now. The point here is that Jesus’ heavenly reign will eventually manifest itself fully on earth.
That’s why it says, “the kingdom of the world has become…” The kingdom of the world is the entire system of evil that opposes God and his people. The kingdom of the world is where Satan’s throne is (Rev 2:13). Satan raises up beast-like rulers to oppress God’s people (Rev 2:10; 11:7). He raises up beast-like teachers that enslave people to false ideas that then lead others to abuse image-bearers and destroy God’s creation (Rev 13:11-18). In John’s letters, he speaks of the whole rebellious world lying in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19). That’s still the case today.
But what heaven announces here is that Jesus’ kingdom will replace the kingdom of the world. In the seventh trumpet we see the fulfillment of the long-awaited hopes of Daniel 2. Daniel 2 stands behind some of the imagery here. Nebuchadnezzar saw an image that represented various kingdoms of this world. But he also saw a stone that was cut by no human hand; and that stone shattered the various kingdoms, bringing them to an end, until only the Lord’s kingdom stands forever. The seventh trumpet announces that great day of Daniel’s prophecy, when the rock of Jesus’ kingdom shatters all others and then rises like a great mountain to cover the whole earth.
In the seventh trumpet, we also see the fulfillment of the long-awaited hopes of Psalm 2. Perhaps you thought of Psalm 2 earlier, when you heard words like, “and of his Christ” (i.e., “his anointed one”). Or when you heard about the nations raging in verse 18. Psalm 2 provides some of the backdrop. In Psalm 2 what’s going on?
Kings and kingdoms set themselves against the Lord and his anointed. “Let us burst their bonds apart,” they say. “Let us cast away their cords from us.” That’s why we have war in Ukraine. That’s why we have abortion mills. That’s why media outlets rack up the clicks with angry, polarizing headlines. The nations rage against the Lord and his Christ. Only, David finds their rage rather comical. When Psalm 2 says, “Why do the nations rage…,” it’s not a genuine question; it’s a rhetorical one.
Their rage against the Lord is insane. Why? Because the Lord sits in sovereignty over the nations; and the Lord has decreed his Son’s world-wide dominion. His Son rules on Zion’s hill. His Son will inherit the ends of the earth as his possession. His Son will shatter the nations with a rod of iron. Acts 13 and Hebrews 1 both indicate that God’s Son has already taken his seat on Zion’s hill. By virtue of his resurrection, Jesus already reigns above all. The seventh trumpet now adds to that testimony. Jesus’ reign above all in heaven will manifest itself on earth at the seventh trumpet. God will replace the raging kingdoms of the world with the kingdom of his Christ. Worldly kingdoms that kick against God’s ways—they won’t last. Christ’s kingdom is forever.
The Reign of Christ Engenders Worship
That’s the announcement in verse 15. In verses 16-18, we then see a heavenly response. The reign of Christ engenders worship. Verse 16, “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…’”
These twenty-four elders—we’ve wrestled with their identity before in chapter 4. But throughout Revelation, the focus remains on their function. Again, their function within the vision recognizes God’s reign and exemplifies what we ought to be about—that is, centering our lives around serving and worshiping the Lord. But what is it that moves them to worship here? The text seems to give us three reasons…
First, they give thanks for the Lord establishing his rule. End of verse 17, “…for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.” Now, for God to take his great power doesn’t mean someone else had it, or that he didn’t possess it before. It simply means he has exercised that power in a new and specific way. Same with the translation, “you have begun to reign.” The point isn’t to say he didn’t reign before, but that his reign now manifests itself in a new and specific way on earth. Using his power, God causes the heavenly reign of Jesus to manifest itself fully on earth.
And for that day, heaven erupts in praise. It is right for Jesus to establish God’s reign on earth. It is good for the world that all evil kingdoms get replaced by Jesus’ one kingdom of peace. It is praiseworthy that God’s promises come to pass in Jesus’ reign. Finally, the groanings of creation itself will have their answer in a new world.
Second, they give thanks for the Lord rewarding his people. Verse 18 acknowledges how the time came “for rewarding your servants, the prophets, and the saints, those who fear your name, both small and great.” Revelation 22:12 anticipates the same reward: “I am coming soon,” Jesus promises, “bringing my reward with me…” On the last day, servants like Moses and Isaiah and Jeremiah and John will receive a reward for their faithful testimony. But so will all God’s faithful—both small and great. No matter your status socially, no matter how many people know your name—if you fear the Lord and serve him, the Lord will reward you for your faithfulness at the last trumpet. I’ll talk more about what that reward includes in a minute.
For now, let’s move to another reason they give thanks. They also give thanks for the Lord destroying his enemies. “The nations raged,” they say in verse 18, “but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged.” Part of that judgment includes rewarding the saints. The other part includes, “destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
Again, the idea of the nations raging goes back to Psalm 2. Their rage against the Lord will not last forever. The Lord’s wrath will come. But remember, God’s wrath is a pure expression of God’s holiness. It’s not the work of a capricious God flying off the handle. The Lord’s wrath is controlled by his character and used toward good ends. The Lord’s wrath restores the good; it removes the evil.
That’s why God will destroy the destroyers of the earth. “Destroyers of the earth” mainly has to do with those who destroy the earth’s inhabitants. In 9:11, John identifies Satan by the name Apollyon, which means Destroyer. Satan is a destroyer and so are all who follow him into sin. Sin destroys everything—it destroys our person; it destroys our attitude; it destroys the relationships we have; it destroys the way we use God’s creation. Remember from chapter 8—instead of stewarding creation for the worship of God, it becomes a life-sucking factory for the idols of man. The intent of God’s judgment is to remove those who are bent on destroying what’s good.
This last point comes as an answer to prayer. Remember from 6:10 how the martyrs cried, “How long, O Lord…before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth.” Here is their answer. When the Lord establishes his kingdom on earth, he will avenge the blood of his people. So, the reign of Christ engenders worship because God’s rule will finally come on earth, God’s people will finally receive their reward, and God’s enemies will finally be destroyed.
The Reign of Christ Brings God’s Presence
One more piece to the seventh trumpet: the reign of Christ brings God’s presence. In verse 19, God’s temple in heaven opens. John sees the ark of his covenant. That vision will continue in 15:5-8. So, I’ll develop this more when we get there. For now, it’s enough to recall that God’s temple is where he dwells. The ark was where God was enthroned above the cherubim. With the opening of God’s temple, John envisions the reign of Christ bringing the fullness of God’s presence on earth. Christ’s reign will make earth one with heaven. In Revelation 21, Christ’s reign will so manifest God’s presence, that the entire earth becomes his sanctuary. Trey talked about this a few weeks ago from Isaiah 60: “the LORD will be your everlasting light…God will be your glory.”
Responding to the Seventh Trumpet
That’s what the seventh trumpet announces. Let’s now consider a few implications. Some of these come from how the seventh trumpet relates to the message of Revelation as a whole. Others come from how the message of the seventh trumpet relates to other places in the New Testament that speak to these themes.
First, repent and trust Christ before the seventh trumpet blows. Do you belong to the nations who rage against the Lord? Maybe you find the Bible burdensome, you dislike its moral restraints. Maybe you want to cast off God’s commands to do your own thing. But friend, go on and read passages like Psalm 2 and Daniel 2 and Revelation 11. Those who live that way are only destroying themselves. They’re destroying the earth. God will not tolerate it. If you keep raging against him, he will rage against you, and you are guaranteed to lose. That’s the bad news.
Here’s the good news. Before the last trumpet blows, God extends great mercy to his enemies. He does so in a manner that’s consistent with his hatred for evil. The Bible calls it propitiation. Propitiation is God’s act to satisfy his wrath against sinners in the death of Jesus. 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” If you trust in Jesus, that means your judgment is removed. Your sins are paid for. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. So, forsake your quest for autonomy, your quest for sinful pleasures, and surrender yourself to the true King. Jesus is your only hope to escape judgment; and he’s the only one to bring you true freedom in God’s
Second, the seventh trumpet does not allow us to stay complacent in a world coming to judgment. The seventh trumpet teaches us how to view history. History isn’t an endless cycle. History is linear; it’s heading somewhere. God is taking everything to the judgment and new creation. So, we must live for his kingdom, not for this world.
Consider how that message would’ve landed on those Christians who were settling in with the world. Remember the churches in Sardis and Laodicea. One had so assimilated to the world that Jesus called them dead—dead to the things of God. The other had become so dependent on the world’s riches, they acted like they had no need for Christ anymore. But if Jesus’ kingdom will replace the kingdom of the world, you can no longer straddle the fence. You can no longer pretend that it’s okay to have the world and Jesus too; have your sin and Jesus too.
The kingdom of the world is going down. Don’t tie your hopes up with it. Invest in Christ’s kingdom by serving the saints, showing hospitality in Jesus’ name, sharing the gospel with others, making motherhood glorious, discipling others who are young in the faith, building up others with the truth, doing your work heartily for the Lord, being generous and ready to share. Invest in the kingdom that is forever.
Consider how the New Testament elsewhere applies the final judgment to Christians. 2 Corinthians 5:9-10, “Whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ…” God’s judgment motivates a life that pleases God. 2 Peter 3:10-12, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness.” God’s judgment motivates holy living. 2 Corinthians 5:11, “For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ…therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” Complacency in evangelism is one way to test how much you believe in final judgment.
Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” God’s judgment motivates us to gather and encourage each other. Again and again, the New Testament uses Christ’s coming, reward, and judgment to move into passionate service.
Many of you have been faithful, though. Not complacent, but faithful. You have been laboring well with the grace given to you. You have served the church with zeal, shared the gospel with coworkers, suffered with patience. Others of you have worked quietly behind the scenes and rarely do you receive a Thank you. Some of you, for years, have poured yourself out for Christ’s sake—on children at home; on spouses who don’t get it; on siblings that don’t change; on family that manipulates; on friends that just leave anyway; on coworkers that don’t care—and it seems like nothing ever comes of your faithful service. Sometimes it might even lead you to doubt whether to keep serving with so little in return. The seventh trumpet has something to say to you as well…
[Third,] Rest assured, Jesus sees your faithfulness and he’s bringing your reward. For those who fear his name, both small and great—your reward is coming. What does that reward include? Chapters 2 and 3 told us. To the one who conquers, Jesus promised you the tree of life in the paradise of God (Rev 2:7). He promised you the crown of life (Rev 2:10) and a white stone with a new name that signals you are his forever (Rev 2:17). He will give you authority over the nations and all the benefits of his reign (Rev 2:27-28). He will confess your name before his Father, give you citizenship in the New Jerusalem, and seat you with him on his Father’s throne (Rev 3:5, 12, 21). There’s no greater reward than that! Fullness of joy resides there; at his right hand are pleasures forevermore! That’s all yours, faithful ones.
So don’t lose heart. Every step of obedience—every dirty diaper changed for Jesus; every cup of cold water; every dollar given; every living room shared, you care group hosts; every truthful word rejected; every act of integrity missed by your boss; every tear shed for the lost—it will all be totally worth it. Why? God is faithful to reward those whose works display the worthiness of his Son. As Hebrews 6:10 says, “God is not unjust so as to overlook your work.” He sees you. He will follow through on the reward.
Finally, trust the Lord to destroy the destroyers of the earth. Instead of repenting, some will continue joining Satan in destroying the earth. Some will keep destroying babies in the womb under the guise of “women’s rights.” Some will seek to destroy children by withholding the truth about their God-given sex and then affirming the mutilation of their bodies. Others will destroy by seeking to undermine the nuclear family. Others will destroy by trafficking humans or using images of humans for their personal fantasies. Others will destroy by building themselves bigger barns instead of using their resources to help those in need. Others will destroy the church by abandoning the Bible’s moral vision for holiness or by corrupting talk.
Sometimes we can feel like this is the only thing we see—the downfall and destruction of all that God created to be good. But here we have a vision that gives us hope. Things will not always be this way. The Lord will put an end to all destroyers. Destroyers won’t go free forever—their destruction will be met with the just penalty of destruction. Our prayer is for their repentance before the day of judgment. Our prayer is for Christ to convert destroyers into disciples—that’s what happened to us. Since vengeance belongs to the Lord, we are also freed to love our enemies and seek the salvation of those who hate God. But for those who continue in rebellion and the hatred of God’s ways, we can trust him to judge rightly. God will make the world right again.
In the new world, there will be no more destroyers. Everything that God created for good and beauty—it will all prosper like it’s supposed to. For that we can join heaven in worship and giving thanks.
[i] In 6:10, they murder Christians. In 13:8, they worship the Beast. In 17:2, they get drunk with sexual immorality.