The Blowing of the Seventh Trumpet
What these judgments are we must see in due time. It is not told us here in detail. But notice that also the seventh trumpet is full of comfort to the faithful, while at the same time filled with threats and woe to those that oppose the kingdom of our God. When that seventh trumpet shall have been finally revealed, we shall stand in our reward, small and great, the mighty and the weak, as many as fear the name of our God. It shall do the people of God no harm, but will bring their complete salvation. On the other hand, the wicked, those that love not God and His precepts, that despise His covenant and trample under foot the blood of Christ, may also surely know that not one of God’s words shall fall to the earth. It shall all be realized. The glory of God’s children shall bring woe and judgment to them. And their end shall be in the pool that burns with fire and brimstone.
The Two Signs in Heaven
1. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
2. And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
3. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
4. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
5. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
6. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
As we have remarked more than once, the eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation reveals to us an outline of the general history of the church in this dispensation, and that with a view especially to her final struggle and ultimate victory and the condemnation of her enemies. It pictures the church in her actual condition as false church and show church and true church. It tells us in general of the calling and work of the church in the present dispensation in the picture of the two witnesses in sackcloth. It shows us the church in her battle against Antichrist, in her apparent defeat and shame, but also in her final, glorification and victory.
The same chapter, so we noticed, also gave us a general, proleptical view of the seventh trumpet and its accomplishment. It did not reveal to us the detailed work and effect of that trumpet, but merely gave us a general glimpse of it. It showed us the seventh trumpet from the point of view of the great voices that shouted in heaven and that proclaimed that now the kingdom of the world had become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. Besides, the seventh trumpet was brought to our attention from the viewpoint of the elders, representatives of the church triumphant, who fell down on their faces and worshipped and thanked God Almighty. They thanked Him because He had revealed and assumed His great power. He revealed that power in the destruction of the enemies that came in wrath against Zion and against the Anointed of God. But He revealed that power also in the reward He gave to His servants the prophets and to the saints and all those that feared His name, the small and the great. And finally, we saw that seventh trumpet once more from the point of view of the earth. The inhabitants of the earth might see the temple in heaven opened and the ark of the covenant in the temple,—something that signified, as we showed, that God is about to proceed out of His temple into all creation as the Holy One, to make of all the world His temple and to realize His covenant and make His law of effect over the length and breadth of the earth. And this opening of the temple and issuing forth of the Holy One to make of all the world His temple was necessarily followed by judgments upon the wicked world, that loves not God and tramples under foot the blood of Christ.
We must remind you once more of the fact that in the future chapters you may expect individual pictures of the general facts revealed in chapter eleven. In the chapter we are about to discuss we find a revelation of the real spiritual agency that is back of the opposition and enmity against the church. In chapter eleven we noticed that there was a bitter enmity against the church, an enmity finally revealed in Antichrist, who came out of the abyss. But the question arises: what is that power? Whence comes this bitter enmity? Where is its origin? And our chapter gives us to understand that the great battle of the world is after all not simply one between the church and the world, that it is not even one principally between Christ and Antichrist, but that in the last instance it is one between God and the devil. And we cannot understand the situation unless we grasp and appreciate this fact. And since in the future the book will more fully reveal the power of opposition that rises against the church of God on earth, we must first have an insight into the spiritual powers that are back of this bitter force of opposition. This spiritual power, back of the enmity against the church is pictured in the chapter before us and is introduced in the passage we are now discussing, and which speaks of the two signs in heaven.
John beholds, according to our text, two great wonders, or signs, in heaven. In the first verse of our text he mentions one of them, when he says: “And a great sign was seen in heaven.” And in the third verse he makes mention of a second sign: “And there was seen another sign in heaven.” What John sees, then, is signs, or wonders. And by saying this he indicates at the same time that in the chapter before us we must not expect a literal description of something real, but symbolism, and that the passage must be explained accordingly, namely, in the symbolical sense of the word. If he had not told us, the contents of the chapter might have been sufficient indication that it must be explained in this sense. But now we know all the more certainly that here we have no literal description, but the presentation of some reality in symbolical language. A sign is something that has no significance and. no reality in itself, but that is indicative of something else and that has meaning only as it stands connected with the reality which it symbolizes. And also in this connection I wish to call your attention to the fact that the Book of Revelation in regard to its symbolism explains itself. There is no one that makes the mistake of taking this chapter in the literal sense, so that the woman is a woman clothed with the real and literal sun and with the real moon under her feet. There is no one who interprets the dragon literally, as a dragon in heaven with seven heads and ten horns and a tail that draws a third part of the literal stars. Here we have symbolism, and every reader of the chapter knows that it is nothing else than symbolism.
The first wonder, or sign (we prefer the translation “sign” rather than “wonder,” as also the Revised Version does), which John beholds in heaven is that of a woman. She is, on the one hand, of great and glorious appearance: for she is arrayed with the sun. In what way we must conceive of this concretely, so that we can form a picture of it in our minds, we know not. Nor does it matter, if we only remember that the sun in all its glory of light must serve to deck and adorn the woman, serve her as apparel. Under her feet she has the moon, and on her head she has a crown of twelve stars. In general we may say, therefore, that this woman as to her appearance is mighty and glorious, of so great importance that even the heavenly bodies of light must serve, to add to her splendor. Even as a woman in beauty and significance is far above the apparel she wears, even as the clothing she wears must only serve to bring out the beauty of a woman, so this woman is far above the sun and moon and stars of heaven. And these must serve to bring out the beauty and significance of the woman. On the other hand, it must also be said that with all her glory she has not yet reached the purpose of her existence and is not perfectly happy and blessed. For she is described as being pregnant and in pains and travail of birth. She lives in the expectation of motherhood and evidently is about to be delivered. A woman, therefore, of high station in life, of great importance, exalted above the heavenly bodies of light, but a woman also at the same time in distress and in helpless condition,—such is the woman that is described by John.
The second sign which is seen in heaven forms a terrible contrast with this glorious, yet helpless, woman. It is a dragon. And a dragon in Scripture seems to indicate not one of God’s own created animals in its natural appearance, but rather a monster. It is an animal departing considerably from the usual type in size and shape and number of limbs, an animal that is greatly deformed, as it exists only in the imagination of man. Such a monster is here pictured. Its main feature is that of a serpent. For in the ninth verse of this chapter the great dragon is called the old serpent. And therefore we do best to picture him as a great serpent. But it is a serpent of strange appearance. In the first place, it is of a red color, the color of blood and war and destruction. In the second place, it is a serpent of tremendous proportions, as is indicated, in the first place, by the fact that the text calls him a great dragon, but, in the second place, also becomes plain from the fact that with his tail he can draw a third part of the stars of heaven and cast them down to the earth. It is therefore a great and powerful and blood-thirsty monster in the main form of a serpent that is here pictured to us. And that it is a real monster of very unnatural appearance is plain from the fact that in distinction from all other serpents this one has seven heads and ten horns. The question as to the relative position of the seven heads and ten horns is certainly irrelevant. Attempts have been made to make a picture of this great dragon with his seven heads and ten horns, some placing two horns on three of the heads, others placing the horns all on one head, and still others preferring to have three of the horns between the fifth and the sixth heads of the dragon. But John tells us nothing about their relative position, and hence we have nothing to do with it. A still further peculiarity of the dragon is that on each of his heads he carries a diadem, a royal crown; and therefore he is also a dragon with royal power and authority. And as has already been said, with one stroke of his tail he carries away the third part of the stars of heaven, and therefore reveals great power. It is a monstrous serpent of prodigious dimensions, of terrible power, with royal authority, of hideous appearance, and with a bloodthirsty and destructive nature.