Then the seventh angel sounded a trumpet: and there came mighty voices in heaven saying: The kingdom of the cosmos became [the kingdom] of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign into the ages of the ages.
And the twenty four elders who are sitting upon their thrones in the presence of the Lord fell prostrate on their faces and paid homage to God,
saying, “We thank you, Lord God, the Omnipotent, Who is and Who was, because You have taken hold of Your mighty power and You reign.
“And the nations have been enraged, and Your wrath came, and the season of the dead to be judged, and to give the rewards to Your servants: the prophets and the holy ones and the ones who reverence your name, the small and the mighty, and to utterly destroy the ones who are utterly destroying the earth.”
And God’s Holy of Holies which is in heaven was opened and the ark of His covenant in the Holy of Holies was seen, and there came lightnings and voices and thunderings and an earthquake and huge hail.Revelation 11:15-19
It seems fitting that giving God glory on earth would result in the seventh trumpet sounding resounding praise in heaven. Each time there is a momentous action in the spiritual realm, in heaven, there is a corresponding action in the earthly, physical realm. This time, the praises of the elders in heaven prompted an electrical storm in earth’s sky, followed by a hurricane of hail.
The seventh trumpet completes what these theologians see as visions of what would happen during the history of the church.
It also ushers in the seven bowls of God’s wrath, the anticipation of which brings great rejoicing in heaven. Finally, Jesus has taken hold of His power and is actively reigning over the world as His right and His due.
Church history will culminate in the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, when final judgment is rendered: rewards to the faithful, and utter destruction to those who have been busy destroying the earth.
There has been a progression, ever deeper into the true temple in heaven. Now, the Holy of Holies is opened and the Ark of the Covenant is in full view. The celestial storms are a portent of what is about to be revealed.
The seventh trumpet proclaims the fall of Jerusalem, fully clearing the way for Christ’s reign.
Of course, the kingdom of the world became Christ’s at His resurrection, but the earthly establishment of the temple hindered the full sweep of the Jesus movement.
First, to open the way for the Gospel, God poured out the Holy Spirit on believers to preach, teach, evangelize, and authenticate the Gospel with divine power and protection.
Then, God judged those who crucified God the Son. The destruction of Jerusalem and most importantly the temple, ushered in the age of Christianity as a worldwide religion. In effect, the Old Testament era was forcibly ended, the New Testament Era freed to come into its own.
For the preterist scholar, the season of the dead to be judged and to give the rewards to Your servants, should be read as one thought. The dead refer to the martyrs in Chapter 6 who cried out to God to be vindicated.
they cried out in a great voice, saying, “Until how long, Lord, the Holy and Trustworthy, True One, are you not judging and avenging our blood out of the ones living upon the earth?”Revelation 6:9
Therefore, the word “judging” should be understood as “avenging.” The “rewards” to God’s servants include the judgment of their enemies and tormenters. The seven bowls of God’s wrath would bring about this vindication.
God’s final judgment at the end of time is not in view, here. It was not what John’s audience needed in their day. They needed a word from God that would encourage them in their current circumstance. This word was God’s promise to “utterly destroy” those who had been “utterly destroying” τὴν γῆν | ten gēn, the “earth,” or better rendered (for the preterist) the “land,” meaning the land of Judea.
John’s audience knew, at the fall of Jerusalem and the tearing apart of the temple stone from stone, was the fulfillment of God’s specific word to them.
The destruction of Jerusalem’s temple causes the gates of God’s heavenly temple to fly open so that even the Most Holy Place is made available. God’s covenant revealed to all those who belong to the Lord.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith.Hebrews 10:19-22 (NRSV, modifications added)
The seventh trumpet signals the physical return of the Lord Jesus Christ to subdue the nations and reign on earth as He reigns in heaven.
The pattern so far has been the seventh seal launching the seven trumpets, or encompassing them. So now, the seventh trumpet will encompass the seven bowls, which in turn surround the events of Christ’s return in glory and in power.
He will reign into the ages of the ages does not preclude the thousand-year reign of the millennium, but rather includes it. Jesus reigns for all eternity in reality, and on earth Jesus will also exhibit that reign in a physical manner for a proscribed amount of time.
In an important way, the millennium marks the end of humankind’s lordship over the earth and prophetically demonstrates the end of human history as we know it. It is the final chapter in the story of this world, and the preface of the story to be written concerning the new heavens and the new earth.
The season of the dead to be judged does not involve the raptured Church, which has already met Jesus in the sky and returned with Him to heaven. These are, instead, all the saints of the Hebrew scriptures, those who
… looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God…. though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.Hebrews 11:10, 39-40 (NRSV)
… as well as all those who came to saving faith during the seven-year Tribulation.
For the futurist expositor, John’s Apocalypse describes three resurrections:
- The Church, which will be raptured up to Christ either before, amid, or just after the seven-year Tribulation.
- Believers from the Old Testament and Converts from the Tribulation
- All Humankind, For God’s final judgment.
An alternative view sees the seventh trumpet as involving the entirety of the millennial reign in a summary statement, placing the season of the dead to be judged at the end of the Millennium.
The seventh trumpet marks the end of the same story told from a different perspective.
This time, rather than depict the upheaval of God’s judgment on earth, John describes the jubilation in heaven. God’s justice has righted all that was wrong, has vindicated all who were wronged, and has given rewards to all the faithful.
Before, God was praised as the One Who is, Who was, and Who is to come. But God has come! And will remain. Therefore, He is now the Omnipotent, Who is and Who was.
The Ark of the Covenant remains in the heart of God’s Most Holy Place, for God is faithful and will keep all God’s promises.
The four perspectives taken from Revelation: Four Views A Parallel Commentary, edited by Steve Gregg