Starting with verse 14 of Revelation chapter 11, an announcement is made that the second woe has passed. The first woe of the three to which we were introduced in Revelation 8:13 was the assault of demon scorpion locusts upon humanity. The sting of these creatures was so agonizing the victims wanted to die but couldn’t. The second woe took place over several months, including a demonically driven army of 200 million strong, the two witnesses of God, and an earthquake in Jerusalem that killed thousands.
Next to come is the third woe – the last and the worst. It is the same as the blast of the seventh trumpet, which begins the bowl judgments. These judgments are God’s decontamination of the earth from all who resist his rightful sovereignty.
Here are what the Scriptures say:
“The second terror is past, but look, the third terror is coming quickly. Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: ‘The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.’ The twenty-four elders sitting on their thrones before God fell with their faces to the ground and worshiped him. And they said, we give thanks to you, Lord God, the Almighty, the one who is and who always was, for now you have assumed your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were filled with wrath, but now the time of your wrath has come. It is time to judge the dead and reward your servants the prophets, as well as your holy people, and all who fear your name, from the least to the greatest. It is time to destroy all who have caused destruction on the earth. Then, in heaven, the Temple of God was opened and the Ark of his covenant could be seen inside the Temple. Lightning flashed, thunder crashed and roared, and there was an earthquake and a terrible hailstorm.”
Everything in the above passage (Revelation 11:14-19) outlines what will be further explained in the remaining chapters (12-22).
In his Expository Sermons on Revelation, the late “Prince of Preachers,” as he was often called, W.A. Criswell, summarizes it this way:
“The passage [Revelation 11:14-19] embraces everything involved in the completion of the whole mystery of God. It spans everything on this side of the completed redemption. The vintage and harvest of the earth: the pouring out of the seven last bowls of wrath and the judgment of God: the great and final battle of Armageddon; the personal appearing of the Lord Christ and the establishment of his kingdom on earth; the great final White Throne Judgement of the dead; the recreation of heaven and earth and the descent of the new Jerusalem, our final and ultimate home, into this recreated earth: all of these things in their wonders and in their stupendous, miraculous, marvelous proportions, are encompassed in the days of the voice of this seventh and last angel.”
Note that when the seventh trumpet sounded, the Scripture says that loud voices shouted in heaven.
Many years ago, I had to take a bus for an appointment scheduled in a neighboring state. At that time, we were a one-car family, and I had to leave the car for my wife and children. During my layover at the Raleigh bus station, a deranged fellow with no provocation attacked a man sitting peacefully beside me. I was horrified to witness the victim being cut and stabbed with the assailant’s knife repeatedly.
I had a pillow in my lap and lunged at the perpetrator, hoping the cushion might protect me and distract the assailant. It worked, but the man chased me around the station with his blade. Other passengers in the station were screaming in fear. It was chaos and pandemonium.
To their credit, the police rushed in quickly and subdued the would-be murderer. People were relieved as they came running in, and everyone, including me, started exuberantly cheering at their arrival. Everyone knew the struggle was virtually now settled. The attacker was handcuffed and taken away to jail.
Although seriously injured, the victim survived the attack. I was unharmed. A few months later, I testified as a star witness in court against the man who viciously attempted to take another person’s life. He was sentenced to thirteen years in prison for his heinous crime.
It’s very much the same kind of situation in Revelation 11:14-19. Heaven’s citizenry cheers and shouts when the seventh trumpet is blown. They praise God with jubilation because they can see from heaven’s vantage point that evil is as good as already subdued, handcuffed, and taken away for judgment. The matter is virtually now settled.
They joyously say, “‘The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.’ The twenty-four elders sitting on their thrones before God fell with their faces to the ground and worshiped him. And they said, ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God, the Almighty, the one who is and who always was, for now you have assumed your great power and have begun to reign.'”
Can you hear Handel’s Messiah being sung in the background?
There are still other phenomenal things to see in this passage.
What is good news in heaven is dreadful news for the people of Earth who angrily oppose God and his ways. The Bible says,
“The nations were filled with wrath, but now the time of your wrath has come. It is time to judge the dead and reward your servants the prophets, as well as your holy people, and all who fear your name, from the least to the greatest.”
Most cringe and even detest a preacher’s sermon about sin and judgment. Judgment is bad news for “the dead,” the spiritually dead whose lives lack the knowledge and experience of God’s redeeming grace. Everyone who goes through life this way is headed for the “Great White Throne Judgment,” which we learn more about in Revelation 20:12. This is a judgment where people are tried and punished “according to their works.”
This particular judgment is when God will “destroy all who have caused destruction on the earth.”
Jesus said of Satan, “The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10).
The devil is the destroyer, and everyone who believes his lies and follows him is also considered the Earth’s destroyers. They raze, damage, spoil, and wreck God’s incomparable, beautiful plans and purposes for this planet.
Few people understand the way sin has profoundly corrupted them. They make the critical mistake of thinking if they are good enough, they can earn God’s favor, and the gates of heaven will swing wide open for them. But carefully consider what the prophet Isaiah said when he wrote, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
In other words, a Holy God will judge our best efforts as unworthy of eternal life, grossly insufficient, and unacceptably filthy.
The Bible says that God directed the apostle Peter to go to Caesarea and share with a man named Cornelius God’s plan of redemption. Acts 10:2,22 says Cornelius was a devout and just man. He had a splendid reputation. He prayed to God. He gave generously to people in poverty. However, just being an upstanding person couldn’t merit his salvation. Peter went to tell him not to trust in his works but in the atoning blood of Christ.
Salvation is not based on what we have done, but on what Christ has done. Salvation is by faith in Christ alone – the finished work of Christ’s sinless life, death, and resurrection, whereby he fully purchased salvation and grants it as a free gift to anyone who receives him.
The apostle Paul wrote, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:8,9).
Considering how people will be judged and condemned to hell on the last day is disturbing. Floyd M. Barnard, who taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for twenty-five years, once told his class, “Ladies and gentlemen, I never joke about hell, for men and women are really going there.”
The whole class seemed stunned. There was complete silence. Many were suddenly struck with a new awareness of the countless people on their way to perdition.
Revelation 11:14-19 also says believers will be judged. This judgment, however, is not dreadful news but good news. Why is it different? The former chancellor of Moody Bible Institute, George Sweeting, explains:
“The Christian will not be judged to see if he is going to heaven or hell. His place in eternity is already determined. Christ bore his sins and judgment on the cross, and his place in heaven is secure. He has already passed from death to life. He will not come into condemnation.”
So, what is this judgment? Scripture references it as the “Judgment Seat of Christ.” It is when God determines the quality of the Christian’s service in the Lord’s name and whether it deserves a reward (2 Corinthians 5:9-11; I Corinthians 3:13-15).
At the Judgment Seat of Christ, our Lord will dole out many wonderful and precious rewards to the prophets of old, God’s holy people, and those who fear his name, from the least to the greatest.
Last, John said he saw the Temple of God in heaven, and the Temple was opened with the Ark of the Covenant inside.
Apparently, the Ark hasn’t been crated up and stored away among countless other crates somewhere in a United States government warehouse. Just kidding. Nonetheless, the Steven Spielberg movie, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" does demonstrate considerable speculation about the Ark’s whereabouts through the centuries.
Recognizing some will disagree, Henry Morris, in The Revelation Record, I believe, addresses this question marvelously. He writes:
“There is no mystery as to where it [the Ark] is. God showed John, when he revealed to him the Apocalypse, that it was safely stored in the heavenly Temple. No doubt the two tables of the Ten Commandments are there as well. If God could translate Enoch and Elijah to heaven, and if the resurrected Christ could ascend to heaven, he would be quite able to have an angel remove the Ark from Jerusalem before Nebuchadnezzar’s armies sacked the Temple, and then have him carry it safely to the true tabernacle in the New Jerusalem under construction in heaven.”
Still, the most important thing to see here is that John is shown the Ark because it represents God’s presence with his people, that God protects them, and that he shows them his mercy. The Ark was about this when in the Tabernacle and the Temple of God’s elect nation, Israel.
Revelation chapter 11 ends with lightning, noises, thunder, earthquakes, and hailstorms – all pointing to God’s coming wrath.
I cannot press upon the reader enough to be prepared for the return of Christ. The matters previously discussed are not simply hearsay, conjectures, or suppositions; they are the sure Word of God. They are imminent. You will be among those whom Christ comes to reward or those he comes to sweep from the earth.
Rev. Mark H. Creech is Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. He was a pastor for twenty years before taking this position, having served five different Southern Baptist churches in North Carolina and one Independent Baptist in upstate New York.