The sovereignty that had been announced by the voices is here, in the first place, acknowledged. They not only come down from their thrones. They not only kneel down before the Almighty. But they bow down, fall down in the dust on their faces, thus expressing that they are overwhelmed by the revelation of the sovereignty of God. O, surely, they knew that He was sovereign. They were aware of His great power. They felt assured that He would overcome His enemies to the last. But the reality of it is still so overwhelming that they all of a sudden fall down and bow with their faces in the dust. And they also place themselves on the same standpoint of that first great voice. Also they see the fulfillment, the full carrying out, of all that is implied in, the seventh trumpet. And standing on that ground, from where they see the complete carrying out of the mystery of God, seeing how all is fulfilled, they are overwhelmed with the reality of the things that have happened. And they fall down and worship. So shall reality far surpass our boldest expectation. Now we are children of God. Now we have a revelation of the things that are to be, of the power of God and of His Christ that is to be revealed in the future, of the glory of the children of God that is to be revealed in them, Now we can speak, nay, stammer, about these things in imperfection; and joy fills our hearts when we speak of them. Now we fall down in humble worship and thanks whenever we obtain a glimpse of the glory of God’s power and grace that is to be manifested; but it has not yet been revealed what we shall be. If these glorified elders, who at least know far more of the glory that is to be expected than we in the church militant, fall down at the blowing of the seventh trumpet, when they saw all things realized, how much more will reality surpass our expectation while we are still in the period in which we are saved by hope.
That these elders actually do place themselves on this standpoint of the complete fulfillment of the seventh trumpet and of the entire mystery of God is evident too from what they say. We read that they give thanks to God Almighty, “which art, and wast.” In our version there is also added: “and art to come.” But this is a mistake. In the original we merely read: “which art, and wast.” He has come already in the fulfillment of the seventh trumpet. And therefore they now do not make the addition which was made in a former connection, and they give thanks to God for the fact that God has now actually assumed His great power: “We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.” Surely, they knew His great power; but now He has fully revealed it and taken it on. And this great power He has revealed in a two-fold way. He has revealed it in His wrath against the enemies of His kingdom in the first place: “And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, . . . . . and that thou shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.” Proleptically, once more, the elders have seen how, during the time of the seventh trumpet, the enemy made a last attempt, how they through all the history of this world warred against the holy city and trampled it under foot, how they allied themselves against God and His Christ and purposed to destroy His Zion. But He that was in the heavens laughed them to scorn. He has come to destroy them with the breath of His mouth. His power revealed itself against their power, and they were completely defeated. The devil, Antichrist, Babylon, Gog and Magog, all the enemies of the kingdom and the King have been destroyed. They that oppressed the people of God are no more. God has revealed His power and now reigns forevermore. The representatives of the church triumphant give Him thanks and worship because He has revealed His great power. But, in the second place, He has also revealed His power and the grace shown to His people, the oppressed and faithful: “And the time came to give the reward to thy servants, the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear thy name, the small and the great.” Again, proleptically the elders see how all is accomplished. That same judgment that cast the enemies of the kingdom into the pool that burns with fire and sulphur brought the reward to the faithful. They see the new heavens and the new earth realized by the seventh trumpet. They see how God’s temple is with men and how He spreads His tabernacle over them all. In that new creation they see the mighty prophets that have witnessed in the old dispensation and that have shed their lifeblood for the testimony of God. In that new creation they behold the saints of the new dispensation, they that have performed special service in the church of God. In that new creation they see the general mass of God’s people, they that fear His name. And to be sure that they are not misunderstood they add: “the small and the great.” Not only the prophets and the special servants, not only Abel and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Israel and Moses and all the heroes of faith, not only the great saints of the new dispensation, the giants of faith, that shone like the stars already on earth, but also the small are-among them. Those that were among the common of God’s people, the little ones, the weak and the timid, but faithful children of God that feared His name,—they all have their reward, and not one is forgotten. Is it a wonder that at the sight of this the elders fall on their faces and worship and give thanks?
But this seventh trumpet is here shown also from the viewpoint of the earth. We read in vs. 19: “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.” The meaning of this is rather evident. It shows in general the seventh trumpet from the viewpoint of the earth at this time. For the fact that the heaven is opened and that the temple of God is seen plainly reveals that the viewpoint is on earth. And it tells us in general that the opening of the temple in heaven and the appearance of the ark of God’s covenant spells woe and judgment to the inhabitants of the earth, as symbolized in the lightnings and voices and thunders and the earthquake and great hail. Let us consider these different elements for a moment.
The temple of God in Jerusalem was made after the pattern of the heavenly temple, as it was shown to Moses on the mount. The idea of the temple is that of a dwelling place of God. The temple was the house of God. It was the place where God dwelt in the holy place. But to this must be added that it was a limited place, where God dwelt in distinction from the world in general, in distinction too from the holy city at large. It speaks of the fact that in the world at large, as long as it is the kingdom of darkness, God, the Holy One, cannot take up His abode. But that distinction is only temporal. God shall not remain in His temple in distinction from the world. On the contrary, in the end that distinction shall be wiped away. God shall come forth from His holy temple in heaven, and He shall make of all the world His dwelling place. That shall be realized in the blowing of this seventh trumpet. And for that reason we here see the temple of God which is in heaven opened, symbolizing that the Holy One issues forth to make of all the world His dwelling. Somewhat the same idea is expressed in the appearance of the ark. Naturally, when the temple is opened, the ark is seen. For the ark stood in the holy place. It was in a most specific sense the symbol of the presence of God. It is called the throne of God in Scripture. It stood in the immediate presence of God, as symbolized in the cloud, and on its mercy seat the blood of atonement was sprinkled once a year: It contained the law of the covenant as well as the manna and the rod of Aaron. And therefore it is the symbol of God in His covenant greatness issuing His law to His people and blessing them with all the blessings of the covenant in the blood of atonement. That ark now appears. It tells us that the time is come that the law of God’s covenant shall appear and issue forth over all the earth, that the full realization of that covenant is come, and that God shall have His throne in all the world.
But naturally, when the Holy One issues forth to make of all the world His temple, and when He is about to issue His law and realize to the full His holy covenant, this must be accompanied by the final destruction of His enemies. In the world into which the Holy One now issues forth, the enemy still reigns, and wickedness prevails. And before He can make of that world His temple, these enemies must be destroyed. Judgments must necessarily follow the opening of the temple, judgments that will defeat the enemy and make of the world a fit temple of the Almighty. And so we actually find it. Judgments issue forth out of that open temple, as we shall see in the future. Out of that temple comes the angel with the sharp sickle, Rev. 14:17. Out of that temple come the seven angels that carry the seven bowls of wrath, ready to pour them over the earth, chapter 15, ff. Out of that temple comes the command to empty the vials that will bring the judgment of God over the enemies, Rev. 16:1. And out of that temple comes the voice that announces that all is finished after the seven vials of wrath have been poured out,Rev. 17:1. The opening of the temple spells judgment to purify the world and make it the temple of the Lord. And for that same reason we read also in the words of our text that the opening of the temple is followed by lightnings and voices and thunders and an earthquake and great hail, -all of them symbols of judgments that are about to strike the earth.