Pastor Scott Andrews | December 4, 2022
It was quite early in His ministry. After His birth in Bethlehem and a short stay in Egypt, Jesus spent most of the first 30 years of His life in Nazareth, a carpenter’s son. Now, He knew who He really was, the Son of God.
By the way, in this month we celebrate the birth of Christ, let me take a brief aside to consider some personal musings I’ve had through the years. Jesus clearly did know He was the Son of God, God in the flesh, the God-Man, but here’s my question: when did He know? To be clear, Mary knew – stop asking the question. But when did Jesus know?
You see, there is this miraculous thing called the hypostatic union when God, the second person of the Trinity, took on human flesh. That’s a big theological term, but it simply means Jesus had two natures – human and divine – which were united together in one Person – the God-Man. One hundred percent God, one hundred percent man. One author writes:
“At the end of the day, the term itself is not essential, but the concept behind the term is infinitely precious — and worshipfully mind-stretching. It is immeasurably sweet, and awe-inspiring, to know that Jesus’s two natures are perfectly united in His one person. Jesus is not divided. He is not two people. He is one person.”
I understand that – as much as a finite person can understand miraculous, infinite mystery. Now, Luke says He [that is Jesus] grew in wisdom and stature as a man. So in His humanity, He had to learn things – that two plus two equals four, how to feed himself, how to swing a hammer. But in His deity, what did He know, and when did He know it? Did He always know who He was? As Mary held Him as a baby in the manger, did He know? Or was He playing on the playground one day and realize – hey, I can run faster than everyone else if I want to, and I even know their thoughts. I never cheat or lie – hmm, I must be God? Did He always know in His deity, that He was God, or did He come to know? That’s hard for me to comprehend.
I’ve always thought it was the former – that He always knew. Stop asking if Mary knew. She knew. Ponder when Jesus knew. It’ll keep you awake at night. By the way, He knew at least by the time He was 12 and stayed behind at the Temple to be about His Father’s business. Oh – also, when pregnant Mary visited pregnant Elizabeth, John the Baptist leapt in her womb when Mary spoke – in some way, John knew prenatally. And yes, I know the Scripture is silent on this timing of Jesus’ omniscience. But it’s fun to contemplate – enough of that.
Jesus knew He was the Son of God, and at thirty He knew His time had come to enter His public ministry. So, He went to John the Baptist – His cousin actually – who knew who Jesus was, prenatally. John had been preaching, calling people to repentance, and baptizing them in the Jordan River. His message was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” All that John did was preparatory – he was the voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.” When asked if he was the Christ, John responded, “I baptize with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
About that time, Jesus arrived from Galilee and came to the Jordan to be baptized by John. When baptized, the Spirit of God descended on Him in the form of a dove, empowering and inaugurating Him for ministry. The voice of the Father was heard from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Last week, we saw Jesus was then led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the tempter – the devil, Satan himself. Jesus successfully withstood the attacks of the evil one – because He was filled by the Spirit, He spent time with His Father in fasting and prayer, and He battled Satan with the Word of God.
But remember, His last temptation was this: Satan took Him to a high mountain where he showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said to Jesus, “All these I will give You, if you fall down and worship me.” Interestingly, Luke writes it like this:
5 And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
6 And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.
7 “Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.”
To which Jesus responded, “Go, Satan! For is it written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” Temptation averted. But what I want you to see is that Satan offered Jesus the kingdom prematurely – skip the mission, and take Your kingdom.
Well, from that time, Jesus began to preach, and the sermon text was the same as John’s, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Most agree it was genuine offer of the kingdom – that by repentance and faith in Jesus – ultimately in His work on the cross – believers would become subjects of the kingdom – with Jesus as their King. The kingdom is here – it is among you – it is available to you. But there was also an already-not-yet nature of the kingdom. Satan wasn’t lying altogether – he is god of this world, the prince of the power of the air. The kingdoms of this world have been his in some sense.
Now interestingly, a little later, still early in His ministry, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Teach us to pray.” You see, they had seen Jesus praying. He would go off by Himself to pray. Sometimes, He spent all night in prayer. Obviously, Jesus knew how to pray. Teach us to pray. You know His answer – we call it the Lord’s Prayer – its exact words have been prayed doubtless millions of times since, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”
We pray for His kingdom to come – in its fullness. It’s the not-yet part of the kingdom. Yes, right now, Jesus is Lord, we are His subjects, and He is King. But the kingdom has not yet come in its fullness – not everyone acknowledges His kingship. Don’t think for a minute that means God is not sovereign, that He is not ruling and reigning, that Jesus is not exalted and seated at His right hand. But the kingdom is not yet here in its fullness, because there are still large pockets – the majority of the world in fact – who have not recognized His sovereign right to rule and His Kingship. They are still in rebellion, and refuse to believe. The kingdoms of this world are still in Satan’s clutches. And believers, as Christ followers, are Satan’s enemies.
And so, we have seen in the book of Revelation, as the end nears, Satan will turn his full fury against believers. They are subjects of the true King, and the true kingdom. Chapter 13, verse 7 will say, “It was given to him [that is, the beast] to make war with the saints and to overcome them….” Because we are at war. Satan attacked Jesus, and he will also attack His followers. Ultimately, violently, viciously, vehemently, right at the end of time – full fury.
But good news. In chapters 10 and 11 of Revelation, we have seen the interlude taking place between the 6th and 7th trumpets – just as there was an interlude between the 6th and 7th seals. They tell us what is going on with believers at the end of time, right before the return of Christ. Now, when the 7th seal was opened, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. But when the 7th trumpet sounds, we see something a bit different. Read it with me in Revelation 11:14-19. Let’s start in verse 14 (read verse 14). You hear the ominous music. The second woe is past. The first woe was the fifth trumpet – locusts with scorpion tails to torment people for five months. The second woe was the four fallen angels with their demonic armies killing one-third of humanity. That woe is now past. The third is coming quickly. We hold our collective breaths. Verse 15ff.
Interesting, instead of immediate accounts of judgment, we see the roar of heaven. I don’t think we see the third woe in the seventh trumpet until chapter 15, verse 1, “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished.” But, we still have the rest of chapter 11 this morning, and chapters 12-14 first – in which we will see the rise of the beast and the false prophet.
The seventh angel sounds his trumpet, and in that trumpet is found the seven bowls, which will finish the wrath of God. But when that seventh trumpet sounds, we first are transported to heaven where we see God is still sovereignly in control, receiving the worship rightly due Him. So let me give you the outline of the text:
- The Worship of Heaven (15-17)
- The Rage of Nations and Reward of Saints (18)
- The Access to Heaven (19)
Notice, we just read in verse 14 that the third woe is coming quickly. Then, the seventh angel sounds his trumpet. Again, we understandably expect some great judgment – and indeed, it comes, but not till chapter 15. Instead, just like the seventh seal, with the seventh trumpet, something happens in heaven. But quite the opposite of the silence in heaven, here, we find there are loud voices in heaven – we are not told who they are, because more important than who they are is what they say. And what they say must be exuberantly and loudly proclaimed, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” The entire Bible and all of history have awaited this moment.
I have a lot of favorite verses in Revelation – this is right near the top of the list. What a glorious proclamation. It comes right in the midst of all these judgments and is meant encourage us struggling, opposed, persecuted, ridiculed believers. You see, one day, our Lord God will put down all rebellion and the kingdom of this world will be fully and rightly His.
This is why we took the aside last week to look at Matthew 4. Satan tempted Jesus to set aside the mission, to worship him, and receive the kingdom in its fullness then. But Jesus, praise God, rightly said no. It’s not the time. The mission comes first – that of reconciling lost sinners to the Father. If He had been deterred, He certainly would have failed, would not have been God, and we would have been eternally lost. Remember in the Garden when He prayed, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. But the cup was not removed, He drank it all – see Him standing there where I belong.
And don’t miss it – when the seventh trumpet is finally sounded, then it will be time, Thy kingdom come. As I said earlier, that does not imply that God is not sovereign – sitting on His throne as the God of the universe. Revelation has made that point abundantly clear. It means the kingdom will arrive in its fullness – and all rebellion by people and demonic forces led by Satan will be put down. The millions or billions of times believers prayed, Thy kingdom come, will be answered. Jesus told Pilate, My kingdom is not of this world. Now it is.
Notice, the kingdom – not kingdoms – the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. That’s interesting. The indication is the kingdom that was temporarily granted to Satan, made up of all the kingdoms of this world that Satan showed Jesus high on the mountain, is now rightfully God’s. Banished will be all rebellion. Our triune God alone will be Sovereign and King.
By the way, the Father told this to the Son in Psalm 110, “The LORD said to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion saying, ‘Rule in the midst of Your enemies.’”
And when that happens – when all His enemies are made His footstool – to include death, by the way, the last enemy to be destroyed – that which Satan brought as he came to steal, kill and destroy. Hebrews 2 says it this way, “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same (that’s talking about the incarnation), that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” No longer.
So when even death is His footstool, and Satan and his minions are conquered, as well as unbelievers who refuse to repent, then He will reign forever and ever. Which will cause the 24 elders who sit on thrones to fall on their faces in worship to God. I find that interesting – yes, they are sitting on thrones in heaven before God – signifying some kind of rule, some kind of authority – they’re on thrones – but they will fall on their faces before God. As will every throne. This is the only right response in the presence of God whose eternal kingdom has now been proclaimed.
And they say, “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.” Almighty is used several times of God in this book – because He alone is Almighty, and at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, He flexes His omnipotent muscle and begins to reign. Notice, we see that phrase again, who was and who is and who is to come – but something is noticeably absent – who is to come. Why? Because He is no longer to come – but He has taken His power and has come and begun to reign forever.
Bringing us to our second point, the rage of the nations and the reward of the saints in verse 18. This verse is full of glorious truth. The 24 elders are still speaking. God takes His power and sovereign right to rule, which means judgment and reward are about to come.
Notice how John uses the past tense. So sure are these events to come that John writes in the past – a way of saying, this will most assuredly happen – you can bank on it. The nations were enraged against the righteous God’s right to rule them. This is right out of Psalm 2:
1 Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
5 Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”
7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
9 ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”
Always seen as messianic Psalm, Jesus did not come the first time to fulfill the Psalm. He did not come the first time to rule with a rod of iron. But now, we arrive at its fulfillment in Revelation 11. The nations raged, God’s wrath has come. And now, it is time for the dead to be judged. That will happen when we get to Revelation 20. They will meet their assigned and appropriate end for their rebellion in the face of God’s wrath.
But thankfully, it will also be the time for God to reward His bond-servants the prophets – those who have declared His word and His truth in the midst of a hostile generation. This is speaking of both Old and New Testament prophets – many of whom gave their lives for their proclaimed truth. Not only will they be rewarded, but also the saints – that is the holy ones – who fear God’s name. Those who believed and submitted themselves to His Lordship, because they rightly feared God.
Who among the saints will be rewarded? Only the great ones, whose names appear in the annals of history, who appear in the Word of God as being most faithful in the midst opposition? Those who gave their lives for the sake of Christ? Those who became household names? No, both small and great. All those who fear God – from the smallest in our eyes to the greatest – they will be rewarded for their faithfulness, no matter how meager nor how great we view their lives.
They will be rewarded, and notice further, in His wrath, God will destroy those who destroy the earth. This is not talking about those who failed conservation 101 – they destroyed God’s good earth by their sin and rebellion. They will merit that which is rightly theirs – their own destruction. This is the culmination of all things. By the way, some suggest that this passage today summarizes all to come in the rest of the book. All that awaits are the seven bowl judgments which will come quickly, before Christ returns and puts down all rebellion, before the resurrection of both the just and the unjust, before the great white throne judgment, and before the new heaven and the new earth. We have reached the end – and as verse 14 said, it will come quickly.
But there remains good news for us – verse 19 – Access to Heaven – or better, Access to God. Look at verse 19 again.
What – the ark of the covenant? Someone tell Indiana Jones. Actually, there was a legend circulated that the Ark of the Covenant and some other precious temple furnishings were taken by Jeremiah before Nebuchadnezzar arrived and hidden somewhere on Mt. Nebo to later be uncovered. Most today agree the physical ark was likely destroyed by the Babylonian army.
You see, this is not the physical ark John sees anyway. This is in the temple of God in heaven. We remember that the tabernacle and later the temple were built according to specific plans given by God to Moses – all corresponding to this temple in heaven. They were shadows of the reality in heaven. We also remember that by the time we get to the new heaven and the new earth, there will no longer be a temple, because God will be our temple, because He will dwell with His people. Don’t miss that. God will be with us.
So John sees this temple in heaven opened. That’s that point. You see, the earthly temple had a building in the center which housed the holy place and the most holy place. These two places in the tent or the temple building were divided by a thick veil. Only the priests were allowed in the holy place to change the loaves of bread, trim the lamps, refresh the incense. Only the High Priest would go into the most holy place once a year to offer atonement, first for himself, and then for the people.
Now, what was behind the veil, in the most holy place? The ark of the covenant. It was a golden box which held the tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s budding rod. The top of the box was a lid called the mercy seat. On the mercy seat were two golden cherubim with wings outspread, and faces averted. You see, above the mercy seat was the presence of God. Notice – between God’s presence above and the tablets of the Law was the mercy seat. And on that seat, once a year, the high priest would sprinkle the blood of the covenant – the blood of atonement. Of course, we know it represented the blood of Christ which would be shed once and for all.
And when Christ’s blood was shed – when He died – the veil of the temple, separating access to God’s presence represented by the ark of the covenant – that veil was torn into from top to bottom. From the top, signifying it was God who tore it. It was torn asunder representing access we now have to the very presence of God by the sacrifice of Christ.
So now, John sees heaven opened and actually lays his eyes on the ark of the covenant – again, representing the presence of God. Do you see what John is saying here? We’ve been given access to the very presence of God, symbolized by the ark. And there is coming a day when there will be no temple, because God will dwell with His people. His presence will be with us.
And so the passage ends with, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm. We’ve seen these flashes of lightning and peals of thunder before – when John first went to heaven and saw the throne of God. At the opening of the seventh seal. And now at the sounding of the seventh trumpet. We will see them again at the end of chapter 16 as the seventh bowl is poured out. They all speak of the wrath of God to be finished. Here, it is intensified not only with a great earthquake as with the seventh seal and the seventh bowl, but also a great hailstorm. God’s wrath is being poured out in full fury – again, to be finished in the seven bowl judgments to come. And so, like the 24 elders, we fall on our faces in worship to the One who has saved us, and delivered us from His righteous wrath.