(15) Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, 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 shall reign forever and ever.”
The final warning. The last woe. The seventh trumpet. By the seven blasts of the trumpets the wall of Jericho fell down flat; now, by the seventh blast against the house of Israel, it is time for the full collapse of the great city Jerusalem and the great temple. This is what the prophets had spoken about long ago (10:7).
“There were loud voices in heaven.” The focus of the vision is not on what happens on earth at the trumpet’s sound, but what happens in the heavenly places, around the throne of God. We can easily deduce what is happening on earth based on what we hear from these loud voices in heaven.
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord.” It is evident that Judea is falling. Closing the book on the Law and the Prophets (the two witnesses) and the fall of the house of Israel is confirmation that the Lord rules. All that he had spoken against the people is being fulfilled, and the Lord is shown to be true and just. When Daniel prophesied of the days of the kings of Rome, he said,
“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).
Later, Daniel spoke again concerning the rule of the Lord, after he had judged the generation of the first century,
“And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:14).
Any time the Lord judges the wicked is renewed proof of his authority over all (Matthew 28:18). The vanishing of the old covenant was positive proof of the power of the new covenant. And the vanishing of the old people of God, who played the harlot for many years, is proof of the restoration of God’s people to be a holy people again (1 Peter 2:9).
(16) And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, (17) saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.
These beloved brethren, refreshed by the justice of God, give thanks to the Lord. They praise him for taking his great power and reigning. This is not to say that God has never reigned before this; for he has always reigned over all (Psalm 97:1). Even forty-years before the fall of Jerusalem the Lord said, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” However, the praise of the brethren is directed to the restoration of the kingdom of God which had long suffered the violence of wicked men (Matthew 11:12).
(18) The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
This is certainly a nod to the second Psalm, which speaks of the nations raging and the cutting off of the Lord. Yet the elders said “but your wrath came,” just as David prophesied, saying,
“He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’” (Psalm 2:4-6).
The wrath of God was against them, for they were against the Son. Now, in Revelation, we are witnessing the wrath of God being poured out on wicked, while we see the Son glorified on the throne.
“The time for the dead to be judged.” This is not speaking of the final, future day of judgment; that’s just not the point of this context, nor does it fit the timeframe of the book as things that will soon take place (1:1; 22:6). Who are the dead to be judged? As we are immersed in a symbolic book, we may first know this: they must not be literally dead (see also the comments on 20:5, 12). The figure of individuals being dead is common to the scriptures; it refers to someone who is not alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:1, 5; Romans 6:2-11). The “dead” in this vision are all the wicked (dead in their sins) who we have come to know throughout this book; the time for their judgment has arrived. This is in the context of the fall of the house of Israel; God is judging them.
“And for rewarding your servants.” And how are the saint rewarded? They are rewarded with being part of the kingdom of God, restored with the beauty of holiness (see chapter twenty-one). Daniel, speaking in the same time context, said, “but the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.” (Daniel 7:18). There is no greater reward than to possess the kingdom of God! The kingdom surpasses the earth; though there are plenty of servants on earth who are in the kingdom; but the same restored kingdom is also the reward of the “prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great.” This reward was to the servants of God, both on earth and in the heavenly places (Hebrews 12:22-24).
“And for destroying the destroyers.” While one is rewarded the other is destroyed. Notice the justice of God; the destroyers of God’s good things, and the destroyers of God’s people, will find themselves destroyed, while that which they destroyed is restored!
(19) Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.
The beautiful site of the temple becoming “opened” in heaven, speaks to the fall of the earthly temple; and more than that, the entire old covenant system. “He does away with the first in order to establish the second.” (Hebrews 10:9).
“The ark of his covenant” was a great symbol of God’s presence with Israel, as was the temple. The temple, being God’s house, was the visual idea that the Lord dwelt with his people; and the ark of the covenant was the visual of God’s covenant promises upon which he sat and ruled over his people. Now, this vision shows both the house and the seat removed from the earth, and relocated in heaven. This is a powerful way to describe how God has altogether left the old covenant people; he no longer dwells among them. The destruction of the physical temple in 70 A.D. was a visual confirmation of the spiritual realities.
“There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.” This language strongly and violently shouts judgment (see also 4:5, 8:5, 16:18). On this occasion let me point out the earthquake. The earthquake is so common in God’s judgment language (see comments on 6:12), and it indicates the shaking and destroying of that which presently exists, to establish something better. Notice how the writer of Hebrews discusses this point:
“Now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” (27) This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. (28) Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, (29) for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:26-29).
So, the shaking of the house of Israel would cause its collapse, giving way to the kingdom which cannot be shaken, being everlasting.