Unveiling the Symbolism in Revelation

Chapter 11

By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

In Ps. 132:13-14 we read, "For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. `This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it." In this great outdoor movie John was shown that God's resting-place requires preparation, because this place is in His people. He cannot rule in a people who are ruled by the natural mind, for that mind always strives against the Spirit. God can only rest where the flesh does not strive against Him. Our fleshly desires become inactive when the Holy Spirit rules within us, for then the carnal mind's striving against God no longer rules us.

"Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, `Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months." (vv.1-2)

In this heavenly drama the scene now shifts to John and his participation in it. John symbolizes the overcomers. A measuring rod is used to make sure that the object measured has reached a given standard, and it determines where and how much correction is necessary. So it typifies judgment  not condemnation. There is a big difference between the two terms. Judgment is a decision made by someone who is an authority on a matter or subject; condemnation is a declaration of guilt, censure or penalty.

It is interesting to note that the rod, the standard of measure, was given to John. Why? Because the judgment or assessment could not be according to man's standard. The object measured had to be according to God's standard because humanity is unable to make a correct judgment. That is the "judge not" that God declares to humanity, for humanity is not to judge from its own understanding. When people tell us not to judge, they are actually judging us; they are guilty of the very thing they tell us not to do. Man judges according to external appearances, but God judges according to the heart. Before we can make a righteous judgment we have to hear from God; the judgment has to be given to us!

John received instructions to measure the temple (NAOS). This Greek word is never used in reference to a physical temple. Jesus used the word NAOS when He said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." In this vision, the innermost part of the tabernacle of Moses symbolizes the spiritual temple in which Christ dwells. The outer court with its offerings and sacrifices and washings is excluded.

Measuring the temple can be compared to the visit of a building inspector. Everything has to measure up to a certain standard or to certain specifications; all has to fit the standard the building code has prescribed. John is given the measuring rod, the ruler or standard. God declares that we are His workmanship, so anything that is of self has to be eliminated. Christ is the criterion by which we must be measured, for we have been predestined to be conformed to His image!

The outer court is disqualified because it belongs to the Old Covenant. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all the offerings and sacrifices and washings that were performed there. With the inauguration of the New Covenant, the old became obsolete.

This vision is telling us that the church is not as big as it looks, for the large outer court does not belong to the NAOS. God is only interested in the NAOS, that is, the sanctuary. A sanctuary is a place of rest, safety and peace, e.g. a bird sanctuary is a place of safety for birds. In symbolism we see that only those who are in the sanctuary are in a place of safety, peace and rest. There are many religious people who faithfully go to church, but they do not have a living relationship with God. They are religious, but they are not members of Christ's body. Religiosity is enthroned in the carnal mind.

Only those who are born of God are the real church; they are the NAOS. Paul asked the Corinthians, "Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple (NAOS) of the living God; just as God said, `I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'" (1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16) (Young translates NAOS as "sanctuary".) What an honor and privilege to be the dwelling place of God! In Christ we are being built and fitted together and growing into a holy temple, a dwelling place for God in the Spirit! (See Eph. 2:19-22) His dwelling place is in the Spirit - in the "Christ in you."

In Old Testament days, God's presence dwelt in the holiest part of a physical tabernacle. After Christ rose from the dead and poured out His Spirit, a new spiritual sanctuary, not made with hands, was created; this is the new creation described in 2 Cor. 5:17. "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature." This new sanctuary is within a people who have been vitally joined to the living Christ. Mark off the sanctuary - the world cannot touch that!

The outer court of the temple was much bigger than the sanctuary. This symbolizes the fact that many are called by the name of church, but they are not the real church. The world has invaded part of it. How can we tell whether someone is in the NAOS or not? Outward appearances are not reliable, so John was told to look at the golden altar where incense was constantly being burned, and to the worshipers around that altar. This altar was in the sanctuary  not in the outer court. Only the priesthood had access to the sanctuary. These worshipers had a living relationship of love that flowed between the worshiper's spirit and God. Relationship makes all the difference! The spirit of this company cannot be touched.

The incense symbolizes our prayers, and our prayers reflect our inmost thoughts. What are our prayers like? Do we pray for retribution or salvation for our enemies? Do we want God's blessings just for ourselves and for those who are like-minded, or are we willing to be the sacrifice that reveals the glory of God? Do we pray, "Father, don't let this sin go unpunished"? Or do we pray, "Father forgive them for they don't know what they are doing"? Do we advise God, or do we submit ourselves to His will?

God is concerned about the worshipers  not about external appearance! Religiosity finds no room in the temple. Everything that smacks of traditions and creeds of men, and everything that is still in the realm of shadows, has to go! Only those who worship in spirit and in truth are true worshipers!

The message that the measuring rod conveys is going forth! Let us pay attention to it! Everything has to fit the measure of the stature of Christ Jesus! Everything that is of the flesh has to go. When Jesus was on earth He drove out all that did not belong in the outer court. Here He is not concerned with the outer court. Christ's sacrifice of Himself is the fulfillment of all the sacrifices and the washings, so the outer court is no longer needed.

Let the Gentiles have it; they are still busy with their sacrifices and their works for righteousness! Religion is concerned with the outward  with self-worth, fame, honor, success, dress codes, eating habits, doctrines, keeping the laws of its organization, etc. All these masquerades have to be stripped away if we want to become true worshipers of God! Everything outside the NAOS is flesh.

The religious mind feels threatened by true worship and praise. King David's wife Michael felt threatened when David took off his kingly robe, and joyously and excitedly leaped and danced and praised God as he was bringing the ark to Jerusalem. When he got home that evening, waiting at the door with a look that could kill, was his wife Michael. She accused him of making a fool of himself and acting like a peasant. What suddenly threatened her? She could talk about God, but she couldn't worship and praise Him because the external appearance (flesh) was of prime importance to her.

The flesh cannot be brought up to God's standard because there is nothing good in the flesh. It does not belong to the NAOS; it belongs to the nations  to the imagination. All fleshly ideas come from man's imagination, and they have to remain there. Paul tells us that "we are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." (2 Cor. 10:5)

David had worshiped, not as a king, for he had taken off his kingly robe, but as one who was in need of grace! There is no hierarchy in worship and praise! This causes the courtyard church to get uptight. The NAOS consists of people who worship God in spirit and in truth! They recognize their dependence on God and His grace! The NAOS is surrounded by the false, but it cannot be destroyed! It is measured off, i.e. it is being perfected!

Since we are His dwelling place, is it any wonder that His probes penetrate our innermost being? He is especially concerned with the altar and the worshipers. No sacrifices were made on the golden altar; only incense was burnt on it. Everything that was placed on this altar had to smell right to God. It had to fit in with His divine nature!

The NAOS cannot be destroyed, but there is a part that can be destroyed for a season. "For they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months." Again, forty-two months or 3« years is not a literal number. It is sending us a coded message. Jesus ministered under the anointing of the Holy Spirit for 3« years, so this number refers to ministry. During our time of ministry on earth, those who live according to the flesh consider the spiritual realm to be of no significance. They not only look down on those who understand the spiritual message of the scriptures, but even persecute them. This is happening all the time.

In this vision God is giving us a message of encouragement! Even though your ministry can be touched, you cannot be touched! He is saying, "Don't worry about the flesh. It doesn't belong to you! You are a spiritual body, and I am concerned about what is in your inner being."

"And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth." (vv.3-4)

Here the vision suddenly changes, and our attention is drawn to two witnesses, namely, two olive trees and two lampstands. The word authority is not in the Greek text - it has been inserted by the translators. Jesus Christ is saying that He will give us two witnesses.

Again we go to the scriptures for our interpretation. Why two witnesses? It says, "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." No testimony is valid until it has been confirmed in the mouth of at least two or three witnesses. Two witnesses are a shorthand symbol for a perfect and complete testimony to truth. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. He is truth personified. People search for truth and argue over doctrines in their search, but refuse to come to the One who is truth.

Ever since Jesus ascended into heaven there has been a witness of Him on this earth. Who are these witnesses? Jesus said to His disciples, "You are My witnesses." Those who are enChristed are His witnesses; they have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying, so they speak under the anointing of the Spirit. Jesus also said that the scriptures bear witness of Him. (Jn. 5:39) To prophesy means to speak under the inspiration of God. God is giving us an idea, a message! To be a witness, we have to exemplify the nature of Christ in word and in action. This vision tells us that Christ's followers are a witness of the nature or essence of Christ. The world feels judged by this witness.

These witnesses will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days or 3 and 1/2 years, that is, they will speak under the inspiration of God during their time of ministry. They will be clothed in sackcloth, that is, in humility and grief. In the Old Testament we notice that sackcloth was worn during times of grief and repentance. The true church brings forth a witness of Christ in humility and repentance, and also grieves for those who do not accept the gospel message.

"These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord." Zechariah saw one lampstand, all of gold with a bowl on top of it. He also saw two olive trees - one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side. We already know that the seven-branched lampstand represents the church in its relationship to Christ in the Holy Spirit.

In the tabernacle there was only one lampstand. Why do we have two here? Two is a symbol for witness. God is emphasizing the witness of a church that is filled with the Holy Spirit, and that brings a message from God to the world.

Standing beside the lampstands, Zechariah saw two olive trees. (Zechariah 4) The two olive trees puzzled him, so he asked, "What do the two olive trees that are beside the two golden pipes, which empty the golden oil from themselves on the right and on the left of the lampstand represent?" He was told that these are "the two anointed ones, who are standing by the Lord of all the earth." Notice that this witness is a valid witness, but its anointing is limited, for they "empty the golden oil from themselves." Anything that can be emptied is limited. A ministry with a greater anointing is to follow.

The first mention of the olive tree is in Genesis 8:11 where the dove brings back an olive leaf to Noah, and the last mention is in this verse. The olive tree grows on the mountainside and on the seaside where there is not much soil, and where other trees will not bear fruit. It will yield heavily with a minimum of care and culture. Although only one olive flower in every 100 produces fruit, yet it is claimed that one tree can produce as much as 20 gallons of oil. To the westerner its olive-gray foliage is not very attractive, but to the man who is going to get an abundance of oil from it, it is very attractive!

Hosea declared, "His beauty will be like the olive tree." (Hosea 14:6) This beauty is not an outward attractiveness, but the inward beauty that feeds the hungry with its fruit. David referred to himself as an olive tree in God's house. (Ps. 52:8) Paul used the cultivated olive tree as an example of the true Israel of faith in Romans 11. Olive oil was used for food, anointing, fuel and medicine.

The olive trees beside the lampstand represent the church or the sons of fresh oil, in its power and witness in the Holy Spirit! "`Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts." The witnesses speak in the power of the Holy Spirit! They symbolize the church that is able to stand in the midst of the world and speak with power. In its public witness the church stands before the world in repentance in contrast to a world that is very unrepentant. The world refuses to repent, even though it hears the trumpets. In the midst of that unrepentant world is a church whose very lifestyle and attitude demonstrate repentance. It has yielded to God and responded to Him. The oil of the Holy Spirit is empowering it. It is dependent upon the Lord, speaking forth on God's behalf, but it is limited in the demonstration of God's power!

"And if anyone desires to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way." (v.5) Why would anyone want to harm them? These witnesses are speaking truth, and truth is the fire that proceeds out of the mouths of these witnesses. The fire of truth purifies; it devours the lies. Those who do not want to let go of their lies, deceit and traditions, are tormented by truth, so they do their utmost to destroy the vessel that speaks truth. The inspired word of God purifies the church and convicts the sinner.

They "must be killed in this way." What can be killed? We know that the flesh can die, but the spirit cannot die! In this symbolism we see that everything that is of the flesh has to be put to death, for it is always against the Spirit! This is not about doing away with people, but about getting the wickedness out of them! When the lies of our enemies are devoured by truth, we no longer have enemies. That is how our enemies are killed!

"These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they desire." (v.6) The witnesses have the power to order the sky to withhold rain, to turn water into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.

They are able to withhold the rain. We know Elijah did that. Does that mean that one of them is Elijah? No, but it tells us that as Elijah withheld rain, so the church can withhold the rain of the Holy Spirit. By its teaching, the church has the power to hold people back or to restrict them from coming into the fullness of the Holy Spirit. When the church sets up boundaries by its teaching, it limits the spiritual development of its people. It gets them caught up in emotions instead of letting them feast on the living word. By doing this they are withholding the rain.

Moses stood against a government that hated him and his God. He was a testimony to truth in the midst of lies! Moses had the ability to turn water into blood, but that doesn't mean that the other witness is Moses. This is another way of looking at the water of the Holy Spirit. Elijah withheld water, and Moses turned water into blood. Water is necessary for life, but when the life-giving water is turned into blood it is put into the death realm.

Leaders can also do that. When the scriptures are taught according to the letter, they are brought into the death realm. Paul said that the letter kills. It keeps the hearers in the letter of the law - and that law always brings condemnation. In Christ we have a new law - the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus! When condemnation and hell fire are preached, the water is being turned into blood  instead of bringing people into a love relationship with God, it brings them into a fear relationship with Him.

They can smite the earth with plagues. This word is used metaphorically of calamities. We need calamities to bring change into our life. Without pressures, trials and tribulation we won't be conformed to the image of Christ. Many Christians have a wrong image of God. They think He is out to punish them whenever they fail to be what they think they should be, or fail to do what they think they should do. God's goal is to change us, not to punish us! We all need to understand that God's sovereign rule of love is in control of everything that happens to us! All the chastening and the blessings help to mature us.

"When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified." (vv.7-8)

The Greek word for witness or testimony is MARTUREO. From it we get the word martyr. A martyr is one who gives his life for someone or for a cause.

The testimony of the witnesses had to be completed before the beast could make war with them and overcome them. This beast came out of the abyss, and in chapter 13:1 it came out of the sea, and the sea symbolizes humanity. The abyss and the sea both symbolize the thinking of the carnal mind - the mind that is against the Spirit. The natural mind wages war against the true understanding of spiritual realities. It brings in its cunningly devised fables, and people accept its lies as truth. The witness of the church is killed when the spiritual understanding is exchanged for the natural.

"And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified." What do Sodom and Egypt have to do with the death of the two witnesses? Sodom was known for its sexual perversion and its careless living, and Egypt was known for its great power. Its strong government kept God's people in slavery. We are familiar with this story, but then a surprising statement follows! It says that this is where our Lord was crucified! Wasn't Jesus crucified outside Jerusalem? Obviously He couldn't be crucified in three different places.

As we look at the message this symbolism is conveying, we see that Sodom and Egypt are mystical names for Jerusalem, where our Lord was crucified. And what does Jerusalem stand for? Two Jerusalems are mentioned in the New Testament. One is the Jerusalem where they crucified Jesus  and that is the Jerusalem in the Middle East today. The other Jerusalem is the heavenly Jerusalem that is described in chapter 21.

Jesus was crucified in the hearts of religious people long before He was put on the cross. The gospel of John repeatedly states that the leaders wanted to kill Jesus long before they had the opportunity to get Him crucified. These were religious leaders! They were people who knew the scriptures. So He was crucified in the heart of a religious community. Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, but religion cannot understand that because it has to strive and work for its salvation.

Notice that Paul makes a distinction between natural Jerusalem and the Jerusalem above in Galatians 4: 25-26. The Jerusalem below - natural Jerusalem, Sodom and Egypt - is the Jerusalem where they crucified the Lord, and it symbolizes apostate religion. The Jerusalem above - the New Jerusalem, the holy city - is the worshiping church of true believers!

Since the church (NAOS) is a testimony of the truth and power of God, it is always opposed and harassed by the combined forces of the outer court and the world. The true church cannot be killed, but its public witness can be put to death for a season. By whom? By Sodom in its symbolism of careless ease, its lusting for immorality and its disrespect for the poor, and by Egypt in its symbolism of a very strong and controlling government that does not know God, and by natural Jerusalem in its symbolism of being the heart of apostate religion. These are one in their purpose of putting the witness of the church to death.

These lustful desires symbolized by Sodom, Egypt, and natural Jerusalem are described as the beast that comes out of the abyss. The abyss is an immeasurably deep pit - a bottomless pit, and it symbolizes the carnal mind because there is no bottom or end to its lies and deception. The beast comes out of this pit. When the carnal mind kills the testimony of the two witnesses (the church), all that is left is a form of godliness that denies the power of the gospel. This is the religiosity of the apostate church, and we are to turn away from it.

The church is still there, for no one can touch the NAOS, but its public witness to truth has been silenced. In Old Testament history we learn that Jezebel tried to silence the public witness of the true Israel, and Elijah thought he was the only remaining public witness. But the Lord said there were 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal. No one could touch the NAOS!

In the light of this, we can understand a lot of things that are happening in the world today. Even as the witness of the church has been silenced through the years, it is also being silenced today! In western countries the media is silencing the witness by character assassination, defamation and fear. People think it would be scary if a leader with morals would take leadership. Support for the Sodom mentality is growing by leaps and bounds. In communist countries the witness is silenced, but the church is growing. The NAOS cannot be touched! All the power of the prince of this world, in whatever form it comes  whether as communism, dictatorship, democracy, religiosity, etc. - cannot touch the NAOS, the worshiping community! Only its public witness can be touched. We see it more clearly in some countries than in others.

The world and religion treat the church in the same way they treated Jesus! They slew Him. The greatest judgment that can ever come upon a country or city is the silencing of the true church. The dead bodies of the witnesses lying in the street or square are the evidence that the witness of the church has been silenced, and only the dead forms remain. When the only speaking voice of God has been silenced, man has cut himself off from the witness that proclaims God's message of love and truth for a hurting world.

"Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth." (vv.9-10)

Those who dwell on the earth (Christians who receive spiritual realities in their carnal minds) will not permit the dead bodies of the witnesses to be laid in a tomb. When the life of the witnesses is removed, all that remains is a lifeless form. Religion is a lifeless form consisting of legalism, rituals and traditions. Religion does not allow these forms to be buried. Those who dwell on the earth rejoice over the forms! The forms do not interfere with their way of living; they do not torment anyone, so they can keep the forms and rejoice in their religiosity!

These forms include the rules and regulations that dictate how religion is to be practiced. Jesus overstepped the boundaries of religion by eating with sinners and tax collectors, by healing people on the Sabbath and by calling God His Father. Therefore He was hated and resented by the religious hierarchy. Had He adhered to the accepted norms, He would not have been crucified. Individuals and organizations have their own accepted norms, and woe betide anyone who oversteps those boundaries!

"Because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth." The word that has been translated "tormented" should actually read touchstone. Do you know what a touchstone is? It is a black stone that was formerly used to test the purity or genuineness of silver or gold by the streak that was left on it when it was rubbed with the metal that was being tested. When lies are tested on the touchstone of truth, they are judged as being false and without value. Lovers of truth welcome this information, but lovers of self hate it. They want to remain in their forms, rituals and traditions! They are satisfied with their playground, their toys and entertainment.

"But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell upon those who were watching them." (v.11)

The three and a half days compare with the three and a half years of Christ's ministry, and typify the duration of a ministry. Since humanity is fascinated with religion, it will not change. The Babylonian system does not change; it has to be overcome by the same life that is in the body of Christ.

God deals with the church in the same way as He dealt with Jesus. Just like Christ's life could not remain in death, so the life in His witnesses could not remain in the death realm! The witnesses were raised into life! Wherever the church is persecuted, it continues to live in the mighty power of the resurrection! Christ is our life, and He is also the life of the church! The glory of the resurrected Christ is in the resurrected church. Both Christ and His body receive the same treatment.

Things aren't what they seem to be. The church seems to be embattled, mutilated, silenced and put underground  but the NAOS, the sanctuary, is secure. To the surprise of religion, the witness is revived! The power of God is revealed, and fear falls on those who witness this strange phenomenon! The power to change and overcome evil comes to the forefront. It suddenly stands up! No one can take away the life that we have in Christ! This realization shows us why this book is a blessing to all who read it.

"And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, `Come up here.' Then they went up to heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them." (v.12) This is not what is popularly called the rapture of the church. The word rapture is not mentioned in the Bible, nor does it mean a lifting away from this earth. It means to be enamored by something or someone. The rapture of the church theory came into being in the 1800's. Through the writings of Lacunza, a Jesuit priest whose pen name was Rabbi Ben Ezra, this teaching was accepted and propagated by Edward Irving and J. N. Darby. Scofield incorporated it in his footnotes in the Scofield Bible, and it has become widely accepted. Escapism from suffering appeals to the natural mind!

God's call to "Come up here," is a call to all who are united with Him in the Spirit. God calls us to ascend  to live in the heavenly realm - and to join the cloud of witnesses who are already living in this realm. All who are living in the mind of Christ are in the spiritual realm. A physical death does not have to take place before we reach this heavenly place. This is for now! Paul tells us that we are (present tense) seated with Christ in the heavenlies. To be in a heavenly place means that our understanding of spiritual truth comes from the Holy Spirit instead of our natural perspective.

"And their enemies watched them." The enemies of truth cannot participate in this great event. They can only watch from the outside. They see the change that takes place in believers, but they cannot produce this change in themselves.

"And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven." (v.13)

"In that hour there was a great earthquake." In the scriptures we notice that the thundering of God's message to His people is often accompanied by an earthquake. When God's voice thundered from Mount Sinai, there was an earthquake, and a new covenant of Law came into being. An earthquake took place when Jesus died, and another occurred when He was resurrected and a new covenant of life in Christ was inaugurated!

An earthquake brings upheaval. Our earthquakes produce upheavals in our thinking! We like to be in control of everything that happens to us. When situations that are beyond our control come into our life, struggles take place. Although we want to remain in control, God wants us to know that He is in control! We need earthquakes to alert us to our wrong thinking; otherwise we won't learn to hear God!

"And a tenth of the city (singular) fell." A tenth of which city? This is the city of apostate religion that has just been identified symbolically as Sodom, Egypt and natural Jerusalem. It is also known as Babylon - the city whose name means confusion. Here we have a message in symbolism. A tenth is known as the tithe or the firstfruit, and this means that there is a remnant that has not yielded to religious thinking.

"Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake." In Elijah's time seven thousand were left who had not bowed their knee to Baal, so here seven thousand have not bowed to apostate religion. Seven thousand symbolizes God's perfect number, and here it symbolizes the fact that apostate religion was killed in them. This is wonderful!

"And the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven." The religious community was terrified! It recognized the work of God in these people, but since they did not want to submit themselves to God, it brought them into fear! They gave glory to God but they did not repent. God wants the glory that comes from a people who have a love relationship with Him and who have died to their love of self.

"The second woe is past; behold, the third woe is coming quickly." (v.14) The third woe comes on the heels of the second woe! These woes are sent to condition us and to make us strong. We need to know that God loves us, and therefore cannot be against us! This helps us to rise above the abuse that we can expect from the religious community and the world. Have you ever had a heart-rending experience, then another and another, and you wondered what you had done to deserve all that? These difficulties are not sent as a punishment, but as our fitness training!

"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' (actually, "for the eons of the eons").'" (v.15) This scene in heaven again emphasizes the reign and authority of Christ!

With the announcement that the third woe is at the door, the seventh trumpet sounded (seven symbolizing divine completeness), and a loud triumphant cry broke forth in the spiritual realm! The joyous proclamation announcing the uninterrupted and unending reign of Christ erupted!

"The kingdom of the world has become "the kingdom" of our Lord!" In the Bible, the second "the kingdom" is in italics, and that means it is not in the Greek manuscripts, but has been added by the translators. Some translations read "kingdoms," but the NASV has corrected that mistake. There is only one kingdom of this world and only one kingdom of God!

The kingdom of this world already belongs to Christ. In Hebrews 2:8 we read that all things are in subjection to Him. "For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him." Christ reigns, and He will continue to reign until all things are subject to Him.! He is Lord of everything that happens to us while we are living in this world!

"And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 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.'" (vv.16-17)

As we have seen in chapter 4, the twenty-four elders personify the twenty-four courses of the priesthood, i.e., the entire royal priesthood that Peter describes in 1 Peter 2. The elders sit on their thrones; they are not zealously running back and forth trying to please God by their own works. They know their place before God. This is a place of rest, for they are resting from their own works.

The elders (the priesthood) worship God in spirit and in truth! They know who their God is! They know that He is the Almighty God for He has the power to do whatever He pleases, and He only pleases to do what is right! He is the God who always is! He never changes; He always is the same as He always was. Therefore He can be trusted implicitly! He has always reigned, but His reign in His children began when the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost! He reigns in us through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. He has the power to reign!

The twenty-four elders are a wonderful, powerful example of the competence of God's rule! From a selfish carnally-minded humanity they have become a spiritually-minded new humanity! They have overcome the desire to do their own will, and are now totally dedicated and delighted to do the Father's will. For this reason they are overcomers and therefore privileged rulers with Christ!

While the elders are moved into an ecstasy of worship, the nations are enraged. "And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to give their reward to Your bond-servants the prophets and to the saints and to those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth." (v.18)

The nations are against God and become enraged when we worship God! The nations symbolize the strongholds in the carnal or natural mind, and they war against God. Paul tells us that the flesh is always against the Spirit! Our lustful thoughts and imaginations are loathe to give up their supremacy and admit defeat! This triggers strong passion and renewed effort in their war against the rule of the Spirit.

"And Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged." The Greek word THUMOS, translated wrath, expresses an inward feeling or passion. God's passion for truth is aroused. It is God who causes us to become aware of the lies we have incorporated as truth. The time has come for all our lustful thoughts to be judged, for it is the old heart that is evil; it is filled with lies, revenge, bitterness, harshness and murder!

Thoughts form the basis for our actions. How do we judge our thoughts and emotions? Receiving truth enables us to judge the thoughts that do not come from God. Without truth it is impossible to make a correct judgment. Only the thoughts that come from God contain life; all other thoughts are in the death realm, and we need to judge them as being dead. Once we recognize that they are lies, we will no longer believe them nor listen to them. We need to acknowledge that thoughts from the carnal mind do not contain life, and are therefore dead.

Those who fear God's name are rewarded with life and truth! In order to receive truth we need to be willing to leave the traditions that do not have their source in God, and be ready to accept persecution from the religious church. As we walk in truth we will be rewarded with more truth! We will see that obedience to God's word brings joy and victory. Truth does away with the destruction the carnal mind has brought into being! It frees us from our bondage to sin, and brings glory to God!

"And the temple (NAOS) of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm." (v.19)

God does not live in a temple made with hands, but in the new creation body He has created. This temple of God (which we are) has its residency in heaven - and heaven is the throne of God. His throne symbolizes the government of God. Jesus said that the kingdom of God (His government) is within us. We have been baptized into the body of Christ  and His body is a body of truth! God dwells in truth! So our new body is a spiritual body of truth! All the lies and deception resident in our carnal mind have to be done away with through the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

After the temple was duly measured (judged) and approved, it is opened and an unveiling takes place. Now it becomes apparent what the new covenant has accomplished in us. This is the covenant that God made with Himself, namely, that He would be responsible for our redemption! The revelation of this covenant emphasizes and proves God's ability to do what He has promised to do! He has covenanted to provide a salvation that changes us on the inside. The open temple reveals that He has kept His promise. His living presence abides in His sons! As Paul said, "Christ in you, the hope of glory!"

The opening of the NAOS is accompanied by five spectacular events. There were flashes of lightning, sounds, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm! "Flashes of lightning" send light into the darkness; they illumine our darkness! Have you ever noticed that our illumination of a certain truth comes to us suddenly? All at once our understanding is enlightened! It comes with the speed of lightning, and we see something we had not previously seen!

The "sounds" or voices are coming from an open temple. These voices do not bring confusion. Isaac was confused when he heard Jacob's voice coming from someone he supposed was Esau  for the hands were like Esau's hands. The voice and the hands did not match! Far too often we have heard an unmatched message. Trying to match the work of the flesh with a spiritual voice brings confusion. The message and the messenger have to become one! Then the message will go forth in power!

"Peals of thunder" occur. God's messages to us are often accompanied by peals of thunder. Thunder is caused by the sudden expansion of air in the path of the power that is in the lightning. When the gospel is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, noises will be heard! The enemy forces are aroused and religiosity will put up a fight!

The opening of the temple was also accompanied by "an earthquake." Earthquakes are very frightening! The earth shakes, and we feel our foundation is being taken away. Truth shakes our foundation of religious traditions and legalism. We need an earthquake to roll away the stone that zealously guards the lifeless body of religious forms and rituals entombed in our carnal mind! Once they are exposed, they can be discarded.

"And a great hailstorm." The revelation of the new covenant is also accompanied by a great hailstorm! Hail sweeps away our refuge of lies! (Isa. 28:17) The presence of God reveals the areas that are in need of change! This seems like a hard message to us. Hailstones are pellets of frozen water - and water is needed for the preservation of life. When frozen water is thrown at us, it hurts. But these hard life-giving words are necessary to get our attention and to bring us into maturity. Without them we would continue in our sleep of complacency.

God's wonderful salvation, faithfulness and power are proclaimed by the life of His people! The life and the words have to match! The temple in heaven is opened when the life of Christ is revealed in us. The minister and the message have become one! Our oneness with Christ is revealed when His love and forgiveness rule in us in the midst of rejection, pain, persecution, and difficulties! May God's love radiate from us at all times!

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