Holy Father, we thank you for your glorious plan of salvation that involved the incarnation and sacrifice of your unique Son. We want to please you and glorify your name and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We pray in His name. Amen!
We began a verse-by-verse study of Revelation chapter 7 in the last broadcast. We almost finished our discussion of the sealing of the end-time elect remnant of Israel of Rev. 7:1-8, but I want to make a few additional comments about that sealing.
There are a few peculiarities in the listing of the twelve tribes in Rev. 7:4-8, but I doubt that there is any major significance. When the tribe of Levi is included, as it is here, there are thirteen tribes, because both of the sons of Joseph became tribes of Israel. Joseph was one of the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel. It is quite unusual that Joseph, the father of Ephraim and Manasseh, is listed here along with Manasseh. The tribe of Levi was different in that the priests and Levites came from this tribe, and it wasn’t allotted a tract of land in the holy land like the other twelve tribes were. The tribe of Dan isn’t listed here. The tribe of Dan is listed, however, in the end-time-oriented listing of Ezekiel chapter 48. It is possible that there was a deliberate effort to omit listing Dan and/or Ephraim, but I doubt it. Ephraim, which was one of the most important tribes, is listed in Ezekiel chapter 48.
Before we go on to discuss the second half of Revelation chapter 7, it will be helpful to review how Revelation chapter 7 fits with the seven seals and how it fits the overall scheme of the book of Revelation. When the Lord Jesus Christ breaks the sixth seal near the end of Revelation chapter 6, we get an early look at the arrival of judgment day before the all-important scroll is opened. After the seventh seal is broken at the beginning of Revelation chapter 8, and the scroll can be opened, we learn of the seven trumpets that will announce the coming of the Lord to save His people and to judge the world; He will come at the time of the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet, right in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week. We also learn of the ministry of the two prophets that will take place throughout the first half of Daniel’s 70th week; their powerful ministry will warn Israel and all mankind of the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the day of judgment. It is quite possible that the two prophets will even announce the sounding of each of the trumpets before they sound, like Moses announced the plagues in Egypt before they came to pass, which would make the trumpets all the more effective.
Revelation chapter 7 is an interlude between the breaking of the sixth seal and the breaking of the seventh and last seal. In Revelation chapter 7, we pause to look at two special groups of people who will be living on the earth during the first half of Daniel’s 70th week. Both groups are part of God’s true Israel, and all of these people will end up having a place in His eternal kingdom that is filled with His glory. I’ll quote the last verse of chapter 6, “for the great day of their wrath [the wrath of God the Father and God the Son] has come, and who is able to stand?” Who is able to stand? The people of both of the special groups spoken of in Revelation chapter 7 will be able to stand; they will not be blown away by God’s judgments. As we have discussed, the first group is the elect end-time remnant of Israel. They are sealed for protection during the days of the sounding of the trumpets, especially during the days of the great shaking of the sixth trumpet, when the short great tribulation will take place. That multitude will need this special seal because, for one thing, they will not become Christians until after the rapture, and it is important that they remain alive to receive the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now we have the privilege to discuss the second special group and the glorious scene pictured in the second half of Revelation chapter 7. In Rev. 7:9-17 we see a great multitude of saints in heaven, before the throne of God. These verses give us an early look at the glorified, raptured saints before the scroll is opened. These saints will be living on the earth during the first half of Daniel’s 70th week, but they will be glorified and raptured from the earth right in the middle of the seven-year period. Instead of being blown away by God’s judgments, they will be standing in His presence. Verse 9 pictures them standing before the throne of God.
The multitude pictured here is limited to believers who will be living on the earth at the time the Lord Jesus Christ returns. They will be able to greatly appreciate the fact that their glorification and rapture means they are being kept out of the hour of great testing that will begin on the earth right in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week. For one thing, they won’t be living on the earth when the devil, having been cast down to the earth with his angels in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week, and having great wrath, will be attacking Christians. And they won’t be living on the earth during any part of the super-evil reign of Antichrist that will start right in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week. Instead of being attacked by the devil and Antichrist, they will be glorified and reigning (which includes judging) with the Lord Jesus Christ.
All the believers who have ever lived on the earth and have died before the time of Christ’s return will be resurrected, glorified, and caught up to the throne of God in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week, but those believers are not mentioned in these verses. Revelation 7:14 makes it clear that the great multitude pictured here is limited to those who had just been living on the earth during the days of the short great tribulation. As we have discussed in some detail, the short great tribulation will take place during the one month period that will start with Antichrist’s abomination of desolation and end with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I’ll read Rev. 7:9, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands.” This is an exciting passage for us to consider. For one thing, if the Lord Jesus returns soon, all of us could be included in this great multitude. These saints have just come home! They will now be able to see God the Father and His Son (see, for example Matt. 5:8; John 17:24; 1 Cor. 13:12; and 1 John 3:2). I’ll read Matt. 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” And I’ll read 1 Cor. 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” The “white robes” go with the glorified bodies and the glorified existence of these saints. The “palm branches” go with their rejoicing before God with praise and thanksgiving
Sometimes you hear end-time teachers say that the two prophets of Revelation chapter 11 must be Elijah and Enoch, because they never died, and they must come back to the earth to die. However, all the great multitude of saints pictured in Rev. 7:9 never will die. They will be glorified and taken to heaven without having died. That sounds good to me!
I’ll read Rev. 7:10, “and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ ” The idea is that salvation comes from God, including God the Son, the Lamb. The triune God is the source of their salvation, which they will then be experiencing in full measure, including the fact that they have been kept out of the hour of testing (Rev. 3:10). But much more significant is the fact that they have been saved from sin, spiritual death, and eternal judgment and that they will have just been caught up into the fullness of salvation, eternal life, and eternal glory.
I’ll read Rev. 7:11, 12, “And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders [the twenty-four elders] and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, (12) saying, ‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.’ ” As we have discussed, things like glory, wisdom, power, and might cannot be given to God by those who worship Him - they are ascribed to Him.
I’ll read verse 13, “Then one of the elders [one of the twenty-four elders] answered, saying to me, ‘These who are clothed in white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?’ ” The two questions that are asked here by one of the twenty-four elders are of key importance. He goes on to answer both questions in the next verse. I’ll read the questions of verse 13 again, then I’ll read verse 14, “ ‘These who are clothed in 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 [or, from] the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ ” I would translate “These are the ones who come who come from the great tribulation,” instead of “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation.” “From” is a common translation for the Greek preposition “ek”. For example, ek is used in Rev. 7:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, and 17, and in each of these verses, except for verse 13, where it is translated “of” and verse 14, where it is translated “out of,” the New American Standard Bible translates it “from.”
The words, “These are the ones who come from the great tribulation” answer the question of verse 13, “where have they come from? This glorified, raptured multitude has just come from the great tribulation in the sense that the great tribulation will have been the last major event on the earth before they are caught up to the throne of God. In fact, the sun and moon will have been darkened at the time of their glorification and rapture, because of all the dust and smoke generated during the warfare of the short great tribulation. We discussed the short great tribulation in some detail and the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ will return right after the short great tribulation when we discussed Matthew chapter 24:21, 22, 29-31 and when we discussed Daniel chapter 12. I should mention that Rev. 7:14 speaks of the great tribulation. The definite article is included in the Greek text. We already know about the short great tribulation from Matthew chapter 24; Daniel chapter 12, and other passages.
The words “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” answer the question “who are they” of verse 13. All true Christians “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” I’ll read Rev. 22:14, 15, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city [into the city of God’s new Jerusalem]. (15) Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices lying.” The words of verse 15 mean that the people who are committed to sin will not have access to God’s new Jerusalem; they do not mean that sinners will be located just outside new Jerusalem. I’ll also read the second half of Rev. 1:5, “To Him [to the Lord Jesus Christ] who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood.” The fact that true Christians are made righteous and holy through the atoning blood of the Lamb of God, by grace through faith, through the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, is a dominant theme of the New Testament. See Romans chapters 6 and 8 and 1 Pet. 2:24, for example. I’ll read 1 Pet. 2:24. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” The Lamb of God bore our sins with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin, so that we might be born again and die to sin and live to righteousness.
Now I’ll read Rev. 7:15, “For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them.” The words “For this reason” refer to the fact that they have been saved through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ and “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” From the time of our glorification, we will serve God on a continuous basis, which includes our reigning with Him and being His bondservants. I’ll read Rev. 22:3-5, which speak of all the members of God’s true Israel serving Him in the eternal state, “There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God [God the Father] and of the Lamb will be in it [will be in new Jerusalem], and His bondservants [that’s us] will serve Him; (4) and they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. (5) And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” It is clear that we will function as priests of God throughout the millennial kingdom. I assume we will continue to function as priests in the eternal state.
The fact that God the Father will spread His tabernacle over us speaks of the intimate, protective, fully glorious relationship that we will have with Him.
I’ll read Rev. 7:16, 17, “They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; (17) for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear.” Sounds good doesn’t it, and I am quite sure that the reality of that glory will be beyond our present ability to understand.
Now we’ll go on to Revelation chapter 8. I’ll read verse 1, “When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” I assume this time of silence goes with the awesome significance of the Lamb’s breaking the seventh and last seal. Now the all-important scroll that the Lord Jesus Christ took from God the Father back in chapter 5 can be opened. Once the scroll is opened, we begin to receive much super-important revelation of things that had not been revealed before, starting with the revelation of the seven angels with the seven trumpets. The Lord Jesus Christ will return at the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet, right in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week. The seventh trumpet is extremely important. God’s plans to save and glorify His people and to judge the world at the end of this age will come to pass under the sounding of that trumpet (see Rev. 10:7; 11:15-19, for example). This is very important information, especially for the people who will be living on the earth at the time of Daniel’s 70th week, which probably includes us.
I’ll read Rev. 8:2, “And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.” These seven angels, who clearly have a high standing with God, are mentioned again in verse 6, and then individually in the following verses as each angel progressively sounds his trumpet in chapters 8 and 9, with the seventh and last angel sounding his trumpet at Rev. 11:15.
The next verses, verses 3-5 contain some very important information that is related to the sounding of the trumpets and God’s end-time salvation of His people and His end-time judgment of the world. In verses 3, 4 the prayers of the saints are offered before God. For one thing, these verses help demonstrate that the events associated with the sounding of the seven trumpets will come to pass (in part) in answer to the prayers of the saints. I’m speaking especially of prayers like “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It is important to know that the judgments associated with the trumpets will not be coming against believers. And it is important to know that God’s promised full and final salvation will come to all the members of His true Israel under the sounding of the seventh trumpet. Knowing that these things will come to pass in accordance with the will of God, and in answer to our prayers, helps give us the right perspective as we discuss the seven trumpets.
In verses 3 and 4 we read of an “angel” offering our prayers before God, and in verse 5 we read of this same “angel” casting fire on the earth, which will initiate God’s end-time judgment of the world. I cannot be dogmatic on this point, but I believe the evidence is very strong for the point of view that this “angel” (I put the word angel in quotation marks) is the Lord Jesus Christ, and I favor this viewpoint. We’ll discuss this viewpoint as we continue. These verses become all the more interesting if the Lord Jesus Christ is the One doing these things.
I’ll read verses 3 and 4 from the New King James Bible. (Unless I mention otherwise, I always quote from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition.) “Then another angel, having a golden censer [or, fire-pan], came and stood at the altar. And he was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar [upon the golden altar of incense] which was before the throne. (4) And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from [or, out of] the angel’s hand.”
First let’s discuss these words, “another angel.” This angel is another angel in distinction from the “seven angels” of Rev. 8:2. As I mentioned, I favor the viewpoint that this “angel” is the Lord Jesus Christ. Quite a few commentators agree. I discussed this viewpoint in substantial detail in my book, “The Mid-Week Rapture.” I admit, of course, that it is highly unusual to refer to the Lord Jesus Christ as an “another angel,” but I believe the evidence for this viewpoint is so strong that I have to favor this viewpoint. Of course God the Son is not a created angel, but He did appear quite often in the Old Testament as the Angel of Yahweh.
As I mentioned when we discussed Rev. 7:2 in the last broadcast, it is easier to see the Lord Jesus Christ behind the words “another angel” in that verse if He is also called “another angel” in Rev. 8:3-5 and “another strong angel” in Rev. 10:1, which seems to be the case. As the following discussion of Rev. 8:3-5 will demonstrate, these verses strongly support identifying this angel with the Lord Jesus Christ. Anyway, whether this person is the Lord Jesus Christ, or not, does not substantially affect the overall interpretation of these verses. If it isn’t the Lord Jesus Christ, it is a high level angel who perfectly fulfills His assignments, as God’s angels always do.
Apparently this “angel” is standing by the sacrificial altar here; the altar mentioned in verse 5 is the sacrificial altar also. The sacrificial altar is different than the golden altar (of incense) that is before the throne of God. We should think of hot coals being taken from the sacrificial altar and carried in the golden censer [or, fire-pan] to the golden altar (of incense). That’s what the priests did twice a day in the ancient temple at Jerusalem.
I’ll read verses 3 and 4 again before we further discuss these verses, “Then another angel, having a golden censer [or, fire-pan], came and stood at the altar. And he was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. (4) And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.” Apparently the incense that was given to this “angel” (which ultimately came from God the Father as part of His overall plan of salvation) represents that which makes the prayers of the saints acceptable and effective before God. Apparently this incense represents the fruit of the mediatorial work of the Son of God. Through His incarnation and atoning death, the Lord Jesus Christ has earned the right to function as our great high priest (compare Heb. 4:14-16; 5:5, 6; 7:15-8:6; 9:1-28; and 13:15). He has also earned the right to judge the world and to remove all the unrepentant rebels, starting with the devil.
The mediatorial role of this “angel” is emphasized by the fact that the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, “ascended before God from [or, out of] the angel’s hand.” It hardly needs to be said that the mediatorial role of this “angel” perfectly fits the Lord Jesus Christ, our great high priest.
Before we leave verses 3 and 4, I should point out that the fact that John “heard a voice coming from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God” when the sixth angel sounded his trumpet helps confirm that the judgments associated with the trumpets are coming (in part) in answer to our prayers. They are not coming against God’s people. Under the fifth trumpet, for example, the demonic locusts will not be permitted to touch God’s elect.
Now I’ll read Rev. 8:5. As we will see, this verse lends very strong support to the idea that this “angel” is the Lord Jesus Christ. “Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar [undoubtedly referring to fire from the sacrificial altar], and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” Apparently this casting of fire to the earth initiates God’s end-time judgment of the world that will come to pass under the sounding of the trumpets. It certainly would be appropriate for the Lord Jesus Christ to be One who initiates the end-time judgment of the world. The Scriptures make it quite clear that the end-time judgment of the world has been given into the hand of the Lord Jesus Christ. (see, for example, Matt. 13:36-43; 16:27; 25:1-46; John 5:22-29; Acts 10:42; 17:30, 31; 1 Cor. 15:24-28; 2 Thess. 1:5-10; and 2:8-12.)
It is quite significant that this casting of fire to the earth apparently builds on Ezekiel chapter 10, where the “man dressed in linen” scattered coals of fire over Jerusalem, which initiated the judgment of that city in the days of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel. This cross-reference is all the more significant, because as we discussed in the last araticle, the “man dressed in linen” is the One who sealed the believers in Jerusalem with a mark on their foreheads for protection in Ezekiel chapter 9. He sealed the believers for protection before He initiated the judgment by scattering coals of fire from God over Jerusalem in Ezekiel chapter 10. That judgment came through the Babylonians, who destroyed the city and the temple in 587/586 BC. As we discussed in the last article, the evidence is very strong that the “man dressed in linen” of Ezekiel chapters 9 and 10 and of Daniel chapters 10 and 12 was God the Son, who frequently appeared in the Old Testament as the Angel of Yahweh. And as we discussed in the last article, I have to favor the viewpoint that it is God the Son who seals the end-time remnant of Israel on their foreheads for protection in Revelation chapter 7. He seals them before He initiates the end-time judgment of the world and the seven angels begin to sound their trumpets.
I’ll read Rev. 8:6, “And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them.” First, let’s briefly consider when these trumpets will sound. As we have discussed in some detail, Revelation chapters 11-13 show that the seventh and last trumpet will sound right in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week. And as we have discussed in some detail, the sixth trumpet will sound about the time of Antichrist’s abomination of desolation, some thirty days before the middle of Daniel’s 70th week. The sixth trumpet will initiate the super-intense warfare of the short great tribulation. We are informed that the events associated with the fifth trumpet will last for five months. At the latest then, the fifth trumpet will sound about six months before the middle of Daniel’s 70th week. The first four trumpets will all sound in sequence before the fifth trumpet sounds. I assume they will all sound during the first half of Daniel’s 70th week. The first trumpet could sound as late as something like a few months before the sounding of the fifth trumpet.
Let’s briefly discuss the loss of life that will come to pass under the first five trumpets. The loss of life that will come to pass under the warning judgments of the first five trumpets will apparently be relatively small, considering the fact that these trumpets are announcing the arrival of judgment day. No one will die under the sounding of the fifth trumpet, and it doesn’t seem that anyone will die under the sounding of the fourth trumpet. It is clear that some people will die under the sounding of the second and third trumpets, and some will undoubtedly die under the sounding of the first trumpet, but I assume the number of deaths under the sounding of the first three trumpets will be relatively small. We’ll discuss the details as we continue.
God will, however, get the attention of mankind worldwide through the sounding of these trumpets, when these events come to pass in sequence in accordance with God’s prophetic word. As I have mentioned, the two prophets of Revelation chapter 11 may announce these trumpets before they sound, like Moses announced the plagues in Egypt before they came to pass, which will make the trumpets all the more effective at getting the attention of the people of the world, calling them to repent and warning them that the day of judgment is at hand. Another thing that will make these warning judgments all the more effective is the fact that God will be protecting His elect during the sounding of the trumpets, even as He protected the people of Israel when he poured out the plagues on Egypt. I don’t want to overstate this point, but it is clear, for example, that the demonic locusts of the fifth trumpet will not be able to attack God’s elect (which includes all true Christians and the sealed end-time elect remnant of Israel).
We’ll come back to the seven trumpets in the next article. God bless you!
These articles are slightly modified versions of the texts behind my audio series titled "The Mid-Week Rapture." The CDs are available on my internet site (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching).