The Tribulation: A Scroll, Two Witnesses, and a Trumpet Blast
So far, In Parts 5 and 6 we have been following the trumpet judgments as they strike the planet with unprecedented fury. Blow after blow has struck rebellious mankind, yet in spite of it all, he still will not repent of his evil.
(Note: this is going to be a bit long, so be prepared to read for a while folks...)
As we continue, we await the blast of the final trumpet, but it is delayed for a bit while John relays this scene to us:
"Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, "Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down." (Revelation 10:1-4, NIV)
As we watch, John sees an angel: but this is no ordinary angel. This one is described as "mighty" and his appearance is impressive. Clothed with a cloud, his head was ringed by a rainbow. Some might think that this is a vision of Christ coming to earth, but keep in mind that when John describes Christ, he never leaves it ambiguous. He always uses titles such as "Alpha and Omega". But we do know from this description that this angel is very important, so wee are never left in doubt as to who it is in scripture. The fact that his feet stand upon the land and the sea means that what he has to say will affect the "land" (Israel) as well as the "sea" (Gentiles). His face shining denotes brilliant glory, and a rainbow is a reminder of God's promise to the earth. This interlude between trumpets seems to serve as a point for the Lord to remind those watching (both those who will see this event as well as us reading it) that he is indeed in control of all of this. All these judgments are from his hand, and are not at the behest of Satan. ALL of the Tribulation is his wrath, and not just the Bowl Judgments as some believe.
As for the part about the seven thunders: this is the only place in scripture it is mentioned, and we are not told here who they are. All we know is that John was restricted from writing what they said. It is another of those things we will have to wait until eternity to find out.
"Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, "There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets." (Revelation 10:5-7, NIV)
The angel swears an oath before the Lord and the earth, promising everyone that "there will be no more delay." God was about to reveal his secret, his "mystery" and lay bare what he has hidden for so long. In other words, God wasn't waiting any longer: his plan was ready to proceed to it's final phase, and all would be revealed.
He is going to hold NOTHING back.
"Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: "Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land." So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, "Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey." I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings." (Revelation 10:8-11, NIV)
We are not told what the scroll says, but we are told that it is small enough for John to eat. A voice from heaven (most likely God) instructs John to take it and eat it. As he does so, the angel tells him it will taste sweet like honey, but give him a sour stomach. Now, being that people normally don't eat scrolls, we infer that this is symbolic. The clue to the scroll's contents lies within the last verse of chapter 10: "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings" The scroll is the judgments of the Tribulation and how God's plan will transpire. Upon eating it (taking it in), it is sweet, as we discover that the Lord is indeed bringing his kingdom to the planet and putting an end to evil. But upon "digesting" it (discerning it's meaning and contemplating it) we realize the "bitterness" that must take place, as billions die in the cataclysmic judgments that pound the earth. We also learn that John was to "prophesy again"; I take this to mean that his life wasn't going to end on Patmos; after all, if it had, then we would not have had the Book of Revelation!
"I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, "Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth." These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want." (Revelation 11:1-6, NIV)
We come to a scene similar to what Ezekiel was asked to do, only it is John doing the measuring of the temple and not an angel as Ezekiel chapter 40 records. It is called the "temple of God", but John is told to exclude the outer court, because it was given to the gentiles. This indicates it is not God's temple in heaven, but the temple on earth in Jerusalem; the third temple that is yet to be built. We are then told that they would trample the holy city for a period of 42 months. 42 months works out to 3-1/2 years; this is one half of the seven-year period that the Tribulation is allotted. And the time given to the two witnesses also works out to 3-1/2 years.
Two witnesses? What is THAT all about?
In addition to the 144,000 that God has sealed in order to witness to the world, he is also going to send two witnesses to witness as well. They will have the power to keep it from raining and to turn water into blood, not to mention striking the world with plagues at WILL (remember: the planet is already being struck with all sorts of judgments, and the witnesses have the ability to make it even WORSE). This, plus the fact that they will be preaching the word of God Almighty to those that don't want to hear it, means that they are QUICKLY going to become hated by people across the globe, who will want them DEAD.
But God has planned for it:
"If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die." (Revelation 11:5, NIV)
These two witnesses will not simply preach hellfire, but will literally SPEW it at anyone who tries to harm them.
"Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth. " (Revelation 11:7-10, NIV)
At the end of their testimony though, they will be killed. And in an ultimate show of disrespect and a major slap in the face of the Lord, they will be allowed to sit unburied in the streets of Jerusalem for 3 an half days. We infer this from the verse, which describes the city as where Christ was crucified. Jerusalem is described as being "Sodom and Egypt", spiritually. Sodom evokes hedonism and rampant sin; Egypt denotes bondage and slavery. Jerusalem is at this point a slave to sin, and is bound in it. With the death of the two witnesses, people around the world rejoice, so much so that they act as if it's the holidays and send gifts to one another in celebration! Also mentioned is the fact that people all across the world will be able to "see" the witnesses' bodies in the streets as they lay there. It's pretty well a given that with modern satellite and broadcast technology, that will easily be possible.
But the celebration will not last long...
"But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on. At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon." (Revelation 11:14, NIV)
Just as the world thinks it safe to rejoice, God has the final say and RESURRECTS his two witnesses, causing panic and utter fear throughout the world. To further answer their insult by not burying the witnesses' bodies, God brings them to heaven in a cloud as the world watches. once they are safely in heaven, God strikes Jerusalem with a quake that drops a tenth of the city around the people and kills 7,000 people in one shot.
Needless to say, those that survive probably won't think it was a good idea to kill the two witnesses afterwards, as they end up giving glory to the Lord.
Now, as far as the identities of the two witnesses are concerned: A lot of folks have theories and speculation on who it could be, with Moses and Elijah being amongst the top contenders. Not only am I NOT going to hazard a guess, but I discourage anyone FROM guessing. the reason why is this: their purpose is not of themselves, but to draw attention to the Lord. By focusing on them, we don't see what God is doing in this matter. Were we to ask them directly, i think they would say the same thing: they are but servants of the Lord, and it isn't important who they are. What IS important is what they preach.
And finally, it happens...
The Seventh Trumpet sounds:
"The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever." And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: "We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great— and for destroying those who destroy the earth." Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm." (Revelation 11:15-19, NIV)
With the final trumpet, voices in heaven proclaim that the earth is now the Lord's. The elders in the throne room fall down in worship, praising God for what he has done, and for what he is about to do. The temple in heaven opens it's doors, and the ark of the covenant is visible to all who look inside. Nothing was hidden away, but was in plain sight of all. Meanwhile, on earth, the planet suffers yet another earthquake, with lightning, thunder and rumbling across the heavens. Another hailstorm pelts the planet, causing even more destruction in it's wake.
This is the third woe.
Now, something to keep in mind about this series of judgments is that while the Seal Judgments affected 1/4 of the planet, this series affected 1/3, a substantially larger part of the world. Needless to say, a considerable amount of people have died by this time, and more are yet to perish as the coming Bowl Judgments await being poured upon the globe.
In the next part, we will see a war in heaven. Trust me: Satan is NOT on the wining end of this prospect!
I bid you all peace.