The seven seals crescendoed into 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 rest before the grand finale. The seven trumpets, as we’ve seen, parallel the seven seals in many ways. They have a pattern of 4+3; they have an earthquake signaling the beginning of the end; and they have an interlude showing the church’s safety before the end comes. But unlike the seals, the seven trumpets don’t crescendo into silence. They crescendo into singing.

Revelation 11:15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. 18 The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great– and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” 19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.

Instead of silence in heaven, like we saw with the breaking of the seventh seal, we have, with the seventh trumpet, loud voices in heaven–probably the voices of the great multitude of God’s people. It doesn’t say that the voices are singing, but it is a poem or verse or refrain that they utter. And more than likely, this means it was a song. “The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever.”

I love Handel’s Messiah. I love all of it. Unlike almost any other music, I can put the Messiah CD in my car and worship. It is wonderful. And probably the most famous section of the Messiah is the Hallelujah Chorus. It’s so grand and triumphant and majestic. It’s actually not the end of the Messiah. Worthy is the Lamb is the last section. But the Hallelujah Chorus is probably the best known section. And my favorite part of the Chorus is when they sing this line from verse 15. The voices get real soft and legato: “The kingdom of this world.” Then you hear the strings. And the voices sing still softly “is become.” And then the voices and the instruments jump back in full throttle and punch it: “is become…the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and of his Christ. And he shall reign for ever and ever.” The music captures so well the theology of the text. The kingdom of the world is small and fading and lilting compared to the majestic kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ who burst on the scene in triumph and power and royalty and reign for ever and ever. Hallelujah! It’s gospel text put to gospel music.

Thy Kingdom Come

But what does it mean that the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of God and of Christ? Let’s go back even further. What is the kingdom of the world? It’s the way the world works. The kingdom of the world is whatever rules and has power in this world. 1 John 2:16 defines the world as the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does. That’s what shapes and defines and reigns in this world. Because the world is in rebellion against God. It’s not how God created things, but it’s how things are in a fallen world. This is not the way it’s supposed to be.

But the good news of verse 15 is that one day the ways things are will be the way things are supposed to be, which is another way of saying “the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of God and of his Christ.”

Let’s spend a few minutes talking about the kingdom of God. Most everyone nowadays is agreed that the kingdom of God is a central theme in the New Testament and the main theme in the gospels. But people can’t agree on what the kingdom means. There are three main views of the kingdom. Together they give a good definition of the kingdom. Separate they present a skewed picture of the kingdom.

The first view of the kingdom is the ethical view. According to this view, the kingdom is about living rightly. It’s about ethics. It’s the Sermon on the Mount. Love your enemies. Forgive those who sin against you. Don’t be judgmental. Give to the poor. Don’t commit adultery. Welcome the outcast. This is the view of the old theological liberals and of many of the new emergent church leaders. The kingdom of God means living out God’s shalom on earth. And that’s not an incorrect view of the kingdom. It’s just incomplete. The kingdom of God does mean living a certain way and enjoying a peace and harmony and justice that only Christ can bring. But that’s not all that the kingdom brings. If the kingdom is only a message about ethics, there’s no good news, because the utopia isn’t coming in this age and we can’t keep the Sermon on the Mount perfectly. So the kingdom is ethics, but it’s more than ethics.

The second view of the kingdom is the experiential view. According to this view, the kindgom is about what it’s your hearts. To receive the kingdom of God you must be like a little child (Mark 10:15). This is the pietistic view fo the kingdom. Be humble. Rely on God. Have an inner experience. Get in touch with your spiritual side. And this is not incorrect. The kingdom of God is about changed hearts and humility and experiencing the love of Jesus. But that’s not all. If the kingdom is only about an experience, there’s no Jesus. The kingdom is not just an experience, or even an experience of Jesus. It’s also a message about who he is, what he’s done, and what he demands.

Which brings us to the third view, the eschatological view. Eschatological simply means last things. According to this view, the kingdom of God ushers in the reign of God and brings us out of this present evil age and into the age to come. The kingdom means the king has come to finally vanquish his foes and save his people. The goats will be separated from the sheep. Those who believe in Jesus will be saved. Those who reject him stand condemned. This is the conservative evangelical view. And it’s right. As much as liberals and emergent folks don’t like it, the kingdom is about who’s in and who’s out. Who submits to the king and his rule and who doesn’t. But that’s not all the kingdom is about. It’s also about heart transformation and living out righteousness and justice.

So the short way of describing the kingdom is to call it the reign and rule of God. The long way to say it is the kingdom is about God having sway over our society, our hearts, and our allegiance. So here’s how one author summarizes Revelation 11:15: “Dominion over the world, without challenge or rival, has come into the possession of our Lord and his anointed King.” When the kingdom of the world becomes the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ there will be no more lawlessness, no more rebellion, no more brokenness, no more injustice, and no more unrighteousness. They way God wants things to be will be the way things are.

Has the Kingdom Come?

But this raises another question. Is the kingdom present or future? Is it here or are we waiting for it to arrive? And the answer is “Yes.” The kingdom of God is present and future; it is here and it has not yet arrived. Until you understand this–what scholars call the already and not yet of the kingdom–you won’t understand the gospels or Revelation or much of the New Testament.

Let me read two verses which illustrate this tension. Matthew 4:17 “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Or, as most of the other translations have it, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It’s like in Luke 17 when the Pharisees ask Jesus when the kingdom will come. And he replies, “The kingdom of God is among you.” Some translations have “within” but among is a better translation. With the coming of Jesus Christ, especially in his death and resurrection, the kingdom has come. That’s why Jesus could say the kingdom is at hand.

But here’s the second verse. It’s very familiar to you. Matthew 6:10, the Lord’s Prayer, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The kingdom has not yet arrived. So we pray for it to come and break in and fully hit the scene.

I want you to picture a couple of diagrams in your head. I know, it would better if you could see, but just imagine. This was the Jewish mindset. You have two ages: this age and the age to come. This age is present and evil; the age to come is the age in the future where the Messiah reigns and his enemies are destroyed and there is peace and righteousness. They saw this age going in a straight line, then the Messiah, then off into the age to come. But that’s not how Jesus explained things which is part of the reason why they didn’t like him as their Messiah. For the Jesus, and the rest of the New Testament, the two ages work like this. You have this age, then overlapping it is the age to come. When Messiah came he announced the in-breaking of the age to come which was realized in principle. This in-breaking is called the kingdom of God. With the coming of Christ and especially his death and resurrection, the present evil age has become in principle the age to come. But it’s not a clean break from one to the other. They overlap such that this age is growing into what it is in principle. And when the ideal announced by Christ which broke in during his life becomes the reality, then the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.

Here’s an analogy. It’s not a perfect analogy. So don’t press it too far. But it’s kind of like election day and inauguration day. In this country the president is elected on the first Tuesday in November, but his presidency doesn’t officially begin until January 20. He’s won. His opponent has been defeated. It’s all in the papers and on the internet. The whole country preparing for the transition. The winner starts forming his cabinet and putting together his administration. The new era has begun, but on the other hand it hasn’t. See, in one sense, we live in the time between the election and inauguration. Christ has defeated sin and Satan and death. It is appropriate to talk about Christ as the King. The news is all over the place. And we are supposed to make sure everyone hears about this news. But opposition to King is still strong, and in some ways, growing stronger all time. He is the already, but not yet King. And it will be this way until his enemies are thoroughly defeated and his reign fully in place.

This already and not yet is really important. It’s how the kingdom works and how your salvation works. What’s true on a macro level is true on a micro level too. Your life is not a straight line with a clean break between old man and new man, or non-Christian and Christian. It doesn’t work like that–unconverted, selfish, prideful, boom, in Christ, now I’m completely holy. What happens is that you have your life outside of Christ then you are converted, regenerated, justified, adopted, all of that and now you are positionally in Christ. But who you in actuality is not yet that Christlike. Which is why New Testament ethics are based on who you are in Christ. Be who you are. Work out your salvation. Make your calling and election sure. In other words, grow into in reality who Christ has made you to be positionally.

So as a Christian you are already holy and not yet holy and becoming holy. And the kingdom of God is already here, not yet here, and getting here. Until we understand those sequences, we won’t understand how the gospel works and how the gospel of the kingdom works.

O Happy Day

Let’s go back to Revelation now. The kingdom of God is here. He already has defeated the devil and paid for our sins. Christ already sits at the Father’s right hand and is the King of this world. But he must also become the King, because his reign is disputed and his subjects are in unchecked rebellion. But, when the seventh trumpet sounds, there will be no more delay. The reign and rule of the Lord and his Anointed One will finally be complete, unquestioned, and unopposed. And all of God’s people will rejoice at the return of the king.

This is where I want to spend our last few minutes. What will be so good about that day? Or to put it another way, why will we sing and give thanks and fall on our faces and worship God on that day when the kingdom of this world becomes the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ? Here’s the answer: 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. That’s all in verses 17-19. We’ll see the same sequence of events unfolded in more detail in chapters 19-22. But in a sentence this is what the kingdom is and what it will mean when it fully comes: 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.

We will sing and give thanks and worship on that day because the Lord will take his power. Since the 1960s, American society has been very suspicious of power. Authority has been seen as a bad thing, maybe even an un-Christian thing. But the Bible is not against power and authority. It is against corrupt power and abusive authority, but not against the things themselves. I trust that we all desperately want the Lord God Almighty to take his great power and begin to reign.

In Revelation 1:4, 1:8, and 4:8 God is described as him who is and who was and who is to come. But here in verse 16 we simply have “the One who is and who was.” The last part of the triad is missing. There is no “who is to come.” Because in chapter 11:16, he has come. He has begun to reign. The future has become the present. On that day, the Lord will have taken his great power.

And the nations will no longer rage. Psalm 2 prophesied “Why do the nations conspire 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, ‘and throw off their fetters.’” Psalm 2 goes on to say that the One enthroned in heaven laughs and scoffs at them. Well, this is the Lord getting the last laugh. “The nations were angry; and your wrath has come.”

It’s hard for us to think get too excited about the judgment of the nations because we live in the top dog nation. Most of us don’t know what it’s like to under an oppressive regime, or a government violently hostile to Christianity, or a hopelessly corrupt leader, or a brutal dictator. But one or more of those are the reality for millions of people in the world. Philip Jenkins writes “Societies that know the threat of persecution, that have experienced anti-Christian violence in living memory, feel a strong affinity to the sections of the Bible that regard the secular state coldly, that present suffering as the likely lot of the Christian in this life. In such communities, apocalyptic literature–especially the book of Revelation–has a near-documentary relevance.”

On that day, the saints will be rewarded. Take the best, purest, happiest day of your life, multiply it by a hundred and have that same day for eternity. That’s still not as good as our reward. Watch kids at Christmas. It’s a mythical time for them. Presents, candy, cousins, mom and dad home for work, snowmen, sledding, no school. It’s magical. You may say, “they’re greedy kids, wanting all those presents and candy canes.” Perhaps. But we could stand to be a little more greedy for God’s gifts coming to us in the age to come. It wouldn’t hurt God’s feelings if we were to live each day in anticipation of heaven like kids live every day in December in anticipation for Christmas.

The saints will be rewarded and the destroyers will be destroyed. Eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth is still the law for those who do no know Christ. God is still a God of justice. He still demands an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. It’s just that he poked Christ in the eye and knocked his teeth instead of ours. But don’t forget that this last trumpet is the third woe. 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’m sure that Revelation 11 is meant to make us think of the Battle of Jericho: For six days the seven priests carrying seven trumpets marched around Jericho blowing their trumpets with the ark of the Lord behind them. And the people did not raise their voices. But on the seventh day, after marching and blowing the trumpets seven times, the people shout, the walls come a tumblin down, and the enemy is routed. In Revelation 11, the seventh trumpet sounds, the people shout in loud voices, and God’s enemies are destroyed.

We will sing and give thanks and fall on our faces and worship God on that day when the kingdom of this world becomes the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, 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. Chapter 11 brings to a close the long vision that began in chapter 4. At the beginning of chapter 4 John saw a door standing open in heaven and a voice like a trumpet speaking to him. And he saw God on the throne with lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. And the Lamb who was slain. And then the Lamb took the scroll and opened its seals one by one. And as the last seal was broken John saw seven angels with seven trumpets. And they were sounded one by one. And with the sounding of the last trumpet, John again sees a door open and inside there are flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. This long vision has come to an end and will lead into a different set of images in chapter 12.

I’ve said before the lightning, rumbling, and thunder are signs of theophany. They symbolize the presence of God, which is why they surround him who sits on the throne. And that’s why the seven seals ended with lightning, rumbling, and thunder and why the seven trumpets do as well. This series, which grows each time adding an earthquake and now hail, signify that this is the end. God has come to earth. The world has been judged. The righteous rewarded. And God dwells with us.

But, you say, there’s no vision of God here. Yes there is. There’s the ark of the covenant. The ark was in the holy of holies in the temple because it symbolized the presence of God. That’s why losing the ark was a big deal and touching the ark meant death. It was a physical manifestation of God’s holiness. And John sees the temple doors wide open so he can look right at the ark. So, here’s the best news of the good news, when the kingdom of this world becomes the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, God himself will be with us–Immanuel.

So rejoice the Lord is King! Your Lord and King adore. Rejoice, give thanks and sing and triumph evermore. Lift up your heart, lift up your voice. Rejoice, again, I say, rejoice!