Jesus, the Messiah that came as a lamb and offered himself up as our sacrifice, told us that in this world we would have tribulation as an ongoing aspect of our lives. While discomforts come in many forms, such as illness, distress, or finance, the real grief seems to come from religious folk, and if Jesus, Paul or Stephen (of the New Testament) are our example, then lynching, beatings, and death at the hands of these zealots are a possibility. Take the time to read 2Corinthians chapter 11. In it, Paul gives considerable detail about the things that happened to him and takes pride in the fact that he could bear the marks of Christ.
Tribulation, many of you are up to your necks in it, and I pray for your strength and courage. But know this, as followers of the risen one we have an unquenchable hope, and that is an eternity in the arms of Love himself, God the Father. I long for that day, but until then, I attempt to explain what is coming upon the earth, and perhaps, warn those that will listen so that they may avoid the horror that is yet to come.
What is the context of what John sees here in chapter eleven?
In verses one and two, the temple has been given over to the nations.
The Complete Jewish Bible calls them, the Goyim. In the Jewish mindset, this indicates idolatrous outsiders. Since the Jews give little consideration to Christianity, we too may be included in this thought process. Since the rapture has taken place and the church is removed from the earth, the focus here in Revelation is on those who are utterly contrary to God’s laws. The primary group that fits this descriptive is Islam. This trampling of God’s ways, and what is thought of as, God’s temple, goes on for forty-two months – three-and-one-half years.
- In Revelation 11:3 we see this: God places two witnesses in the middle of Jerusalem. Revelation 11:3-12. Read this passage intently, as it is eye-opening, and the actions of these two are almost played in reverse when the false-prophet comes on the scene.
When the scene opens, the CJB says, “also.” Also indicates that there is a multitude of things happening at the same time. As you saw in the first point I made, the temple is given over to the nations. The ramifications of this event are beyond belief, especially when you consider how
strongly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks about the strength of Israel. Many Israelis think they are invincible, and that is not the case.
As you will see in a moment, the two witnesses are called back home. Since their “ministry” lasts three-and-a-half years, there is only one logical place to insert them, almost immediately after the catching away of the church.
God will call these two witnesses back home after they have laid dead in the streets for three-and-a-half days. This time period is hugely significant and is the same number days that Jesus was in the grave. We, however, know that no tomb could hold Him, but to the Jews this was precise.
We are told in Revelation 11:14 that this ends the second woe, and now a third is coming. How could things get any worse? While still within the framework of, “what is the context of what John sees?”, we have this section which takes us up to verse 18 of chapter 11.
Revelation 11:15-18 NASB 15 Then the seventh angel sounded; 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 will 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 You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. 18 “And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”
What we see here in Revelation 11:15-18 is extremely condensed.
We have to jump forward to chapter 19 to see Christ, sitting upon the white horse and a flaming sword coming out of his mouth. It is with this sword that He subdues the nations. But this does not happen until the end of the seven-year period, and we are presently looking at the midpoint so far.
The Messiah is in control, and yet not.
Luke 22:69 Jesus, speaking of himself, said,
“But from now on THE SON OF MAN WILL BE SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND of the power OF GOD.”
Paul, in Ephesians 1:19-20, is describing Jesus when he says,
“and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,…”
This line, “and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe,” was not a question, Paul is telling us what God had done in the process of raising His son from the dead.
Does the fact that Christ is sitting on the throne ruling, and yet, has a rule that is still to come, imply that Christ is not in control right now?
Not at all, for nothing is out of his control, and all things are going according to His plan, even when it makes us uncomfortable or looks like it is out of our control. He is seated upon that throne as we speak, and yet, there is coming a day when the totality of government will come. In the meantime, we watch the plan being played out.
As I talked about the events of verse 18, I indicated that the outcome described applied to the end of time. But, as you read, you are frequently thrown back in time and then abruptly brought forward again, such as we see here. Why do that? Because all time is His, and it is all under His control. Another way to perceive this is that it is a revealed mystery, as scripture calls it all, “the day of the Lord.”
Yes, Revelation 11:15-18 speaks of a judgment of the nations, and Christ, upon the white horse brings much of that about, but, it is not the final judgment, as my legalistic friends think. This final judgment happens at the Great White Throne, which takes place at the end of the thousand-year reign.
But make no mistake, neither of these events is a final, concluding judgment, for in both cases, which are spelled out in Matthew 25 and Revelation 20, there are those that are shown mercy. Matthew 25 most clearly spells out the fate of the sheep – those from among the nations, that acted in the character of God by exhibiting kindness in the smallest of ways.
As usual, that was a bit long, so allow me to jog your memory by showing you from where we came.
Revelation 11:17-18 ESV (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.”
There is a line in verse 17 which says, “for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.” If I focus on this from a Jewish mindset; one in which Jesus reigns as the recognizable Messiah, then what we see in John’s writing is precisely that. This idea of reigning is what Israel thought they were going to see that day He rode into town on the young colt – the luxury vehicle and ride of kings. But did he take control and overthrow the Roman oppressors? No, He began overturning tables in the courtyard of the Gentiles and arguing vehemently with the elders, scribes, and Pharisees.
When we read the letters that comprise the lion’s share of the New Testament, we see events that had to take place. Things like His going into the depths of hell; stripping Satan of the keys to death, hell, and the grave; preaching to the captives and releasing them; and, His ascension into the heavens. These truths come from various places in scripture, and yet, put together, tell the whole story. Colossians 2:12-15; Ephesians 4:8; Hebrews 2:14-15; Revelation 1:18; Hebrews 1:3.
At this point in the timeline, things are falling precisely into place.
The world, as we know it, is finally at peace. Christ is seated as the Messiah and the martyred saints, an innumerable quantity of people, have been raised from the dead and are set upon thrones to maintain peace. Weapons are quickly being turned into farming tools, and thrones are set up to keep order and rule over the earth. Why, under the rule of the Messiah, would anyone dare to carry out some form of an uprising?
But you must remember that, contrary to popular religious belief, not everyone is arbitrarily slaughtered and sent to a burning hell. Many from among the nations enter the millennial reign with their free wills intact.
We are finally in verse 19.
After all that introduction the question I find myself asking is, when does this event we see in Revelation 11:19 take place?
Revelation 11:19 ESV 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.
If what we see here is a demonstration of God’s glory and power, then the beginning of the time of wrath is the perfect time to show the world those attributes, as they are descriptives of many of the things the earth will experience during the seven years.
Two persons stand out in my mind as I read this, Daniel and the Apostle Paul when he was known as Saul. Both apprehended God’s voice, but those around them only heard what sounded like rumblings and peals of thunder.
Albert Barnes commentary explains that “The vision was of the temple the symbol of the church – and it was “opened” so that John could see into its inmost part,” and that may be true. As you transition from Revelation chapter three into chapter four, there are the words, “after these things.” The implication is, after the church age. This idea would cause Albert Barnes commentary to sound very logical.
But the focus throughout the eleventh chapter is primarily on the last three-and-a-half years of the tribulation.
Will God fling the doors to the temple open and leave them that way for the entire period?
Maybe, and maybe that is none of our concern. If I have been raptured with the church, then I am in heaven with Jesus, and this is nothing worthy of worry. I am not saying I do, but because the things we talk about in our gatherings of the body scare and concern the newer Christians and those who prefer to let some administrator read the Bible for them, then someone needs to be able to answer these questions intelligently. No doubt that within the seven-year period horrible things happen, but it all comes to an end someday.
A quick overview of what transpires during the seven-years of wrath.
Immediately after the church is removed from the earth, the judgment begins. This removal of the righteous from harm’s way has direct ties to the ruling God brought upon the earth in the days of Noah (Luke 17:26-27.)
Jesus never said, this period, in which all the things that happen will be bad migrating rapidly to worse, will be the tribulation. What he did tell us was that it would be bad, and at the mid-point, there will be great tribulation. It is non-stop horror during the seven years. However, it will get so much worse from the halfway point on. Jesus said it would be so intense that unless God shortens time no one would survive. (Revelation 4:1; Matthew 24: 21, 22)
If you look at Revelation 7:14 you will notice that the speaker uses the phrase great tribulation, but it does not classify the seven-year event as “The Great Tribulation.” It is merely pointing out a time of severity.
Revelation 7:13-14 NASB 13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
This seven-year period is also clearly established as a time of God’s wrath and anger against the nations and Israel.
As you read the Revelation, the things that begin to happen are also categorized as being a part of the seals; the trumpets; the bowls and the vials. There is a tremendous amount of death, shaking, fire, and destruction.
First seal judgment – Revelation 6:2 ESV And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.
The second seal – Peace is taken from the earth. Rev 6:4
Third seal – Widespread famine. Rev 6:6
Fourth seal – Massive casualties over a fourth of the earth: from the famine, pestilence and predatory wild beasts. Rev 6:8
Fifth seal – Tremendous numbers of God followers will be merciless martyred.
Sixth seal – A devastating earthquake, accompanied by severe cosmic disturbances. People everywhere try to hide. Rev 6:12-17
Seventh seal – Results in the unleashing of the trumpet judgments, which are even more catastrophic.
A man that scripture calls: the anti-Christ, the beast, the Assyrian, and a number of other things will show up. The anti-Christ will be charismatic and well-spoken (I believe that he will be Islamic). Islam calls this man the Mahdi, a long-awaited prophet of Allah. He will bring Israel into a seven-year peace treaty. (Why would Israel sign a peace treaty unless there is a significant issue with peace. Here we are five years after I wrote this piece originally, and finally, things seem to be escalating for Israel. There are now the threats are almost daily from Iran, Syria, Turkey Hamas, PLO, and others; and yet, Israel still acts like they are well defended and secure.
Something drastic is going to change all that. Ezekiel 38,39 describes armies amassed against Israel, and a firestorm from the God wiping those armies out. Where exactly this fits into the seven-year scene, I am not sure. Joel Rosenberg portrays this happening right before the rapture of the church [You can read a description of this in his book The Copper Scroll.] Since the players are rapidly falling into place, I cannot imagine why this does not happen any day now.