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Revelation 11:16-17 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:57 mins 25 secs

The Almighty; Elders; Thy Kingdom Come; Rev. 11:16-17

We are in that section of the book of Revelation called the little book prophecy. These chapters go back and bring us up to date, as it were, with the other things that are going on during the Tribulation period. Chapter eleven focuses on the ministry of the two witnesses—these two probably Old Testament prophets who are resurrected or brought back and are ministering in the same power as Moses and Elijah—and the remnant of Israel. The focal point is what happens with Israel and what happens as a result of these two witnesses is that after they ascend to heaven there is a tremendous earthquake in Jerusalem. Seven thousand are killed and all the rest give glory to the God of heaven. This is when the majority of the Jews that are living in Israel will finally turn to Jesus Christ, accepting Him as Messiah. Now that is not when the corporate nation is saved; that doesn't occur until the second coming—the physical deliverance of Israel when as a nation they accept Him as Messiah. But this in chapter eleven has to do with the regeneration of those Jews living in Jerusalem. Chapter twelve will continue to give revelation about what happens to the remnant and takes us up to the point of the woman fleeing [the believing remnant of Israel] into the wilderness after the setting up of the abomination of desolation being set up in the temple at the mid-point of the Tribulation. Then we are told about the reign of terror from the two beasts: the dragon who is Satan and the real power behind the international global kingdom of the Antichrist who is the first beast and the false prophet who is the second beast. Nevertheless even in this period there will be a tremendous outpouring of God's grace through three angelic announcements.

Revelation 11:1-14 deals with the two witnesses. Then in vv. 15-19 there is an interlude where we are once again before the throne of God in heaven. This introduces the last of the seven trumpets which contains the seven bowl judgments. The time it takes to carry our these last seven judgments covers the last half of the Tribulation period.    

Revelation 11:15 NASB "Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdom of the world has become {the kingdom} of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever'." Several things are said in this verse. The loud voices would comprise the resurrected church. Because of what we are going to get into in the next verse we should be reminded of the difference here in this statement between the Lord, referring to God the Father, and His Christ, which refers to Jesus Christ. This emphasizes the distinction between these two persons on the Trinity. It is important to keep track of what the Father is called and what Jesus is called in Revelation because we can easily get confused in places. Almost without exception in Revelation the Father is referred to as "the Lord." Usually the full title that he is called is "the Lord God Almighty." Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, is usually referred to as the Lamb, His predominant title in the book of Revelation. 

What is the kingdom of the world? It is a term that is used to describe all that man has tried to accomplish in order to make life work apart from God. The Greek word that is translated there for "world" is kosmos [kosmoj] and it is used a couple of different ways in Scripture. Sometimes it just refers to the physical earth/world, but in other senses it refers to the whole world system that man operates in independence from God. So in that sense it refers to not just the system of the world but to the thought system that makes that up. And we see in Scripture that there is a juxtaposition between the thinking of the world, the thinking of man in independence from God, and the thinking of God. The thinking of the world is not just the thinking that generates from man himself but it has a parallel in that it is synonymous to and it an outgrowth of the thinking of the god of this world, which is Satan. John 12:31 NASB "Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out." Jesus is talking about what will take place on the cross. The casting out of the world ruler and the judgment of the world: even though sins are judged on the cross, the actual defeat of that kingdom and the throwing out of Satan where he is cast into the lake of fire doesn't occur until Jesus comes back the second time. But it is the cross that secures that. Because Christ defeats Satan at the cross it secures his eventual defeat, so He can talk about the defeat of the world system and the kingdoms of the world and the ruler of the world in a present tense as if it has happened.

As Satan is the ruler of the world that means that the thinking of the world really imitates the thinking of Satan. And the thinking of Satan is grounded in arrogance. It is his own assertion that he can do what God can do. This is summarized in the five "I will" statements in Isaiah 14:12-14, where he concludes saying, "I will be like God." So there arrogance on the one hand that focuses on the creature's ability to take over the role of the creator, and secondly, there is an antagonism to God and to everything that God is trying to do. So there are these two elements that relate to the thinking of the world. There is the independence from God on the one hand and on the other hand there is hostility to anything that God is going to do. That is what we see in the attitude of the earth dwellers throughout the Tribulation period.

So the world, then, manifests the kind of thinking of its founder, Satan, and this antagonism and hatred for God and those who are aligned with him is what Jesus referred to in John 15:18, 19 NASB "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before {it hated} you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you." When we are obedient to God's Word we are setting ourselves to be 180 degrees opposite the world's system. As James says in James 4, friendship with the world is enmity with God. We can't find some middle ground where we can become acceptable to the thinking of the world and not offensive to the thinking of the world. And the more that our culture moves away from its historic Judeo-Christian foundation—and we are moving away at break-neck speed into paganism—the more believers are going to be rejected by the world around them. Our values, our thinking, what we would like to see accomplished is always going to be the opposite of the world around us. We are not going to win that battle this side of the second coming. So the dichotomy, the tension Christians feel, is that on the one hand we need to be involved. The disciples just didn't sit back and go into a monastery, they went out and taught the Word and were actively involved in proclaiming the truth and providing the only solution there is: salvation, the cross and the Word of God. On the other hand we have to recognize that we can only do so much, this is the devil's world after all, and people are going to act that way; so we can relax a little bit and not think that we are so defeated and everything is so terrible. 

Jesus said, though, that we can relax and can have joy even in the midst of all of this opposition. John 16:33 NASB "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." This isn't talking about reconciliation peace because He is talking to the disciples who are already believers. There is always going to be adversity, antagonism and hostility that Christians will face in taking the gospel to people who are God-haters and suppressors of truth. Then Jesus says in John 18:36 NASB "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." So the kingdom of God is not going to be established through the militancy of Christians.

The reference to the kingdom of this world in Revelation 11:15 goes back to Daniel. In Daniel 2 we have the image that appears to Nebuchadnezzar which was a prophetic look at the history of the kingdom of man, the kingdom of the world. This is how the kingdom looked from man's perspective—it was glorious. It traced the kingdom through the various empires, concluding with the fact that in the days of these kings, when this kingdom is viewed as one integrated whole, the kingdom will be destroyed and the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed. This, then, is pictured in a different way in chapter seven which looks at the kingdom of man from a bestial viewpoint. Babylon is presented as a lion with eagle's wings, the Media-Persian empire is pictured as a bear with three ribs in its mouth, the Greek empire is pictured as a four-headed and four-winged leopard, and then the Roman empire is pictured as this indescribable beast with ten horns. Then there is going to be this event at the end where those ten horns are conquered by a little horn, and that is the last form of the Roman empire which is the revived Roman empire. The little horn is actually the beast of Revelation 13, which is the Antichrist; and at the end of that we see that it is the Son of Man who is given this everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and His kingdom is set up through the defeat of the kingdom of man.

We come to the last part of the verse where it talks about the Lord and His Christ. Here we have reference to Jesus Christ. The term christos [xristoj] refers to the fact that He is the anointed one, or the appointed one, who has been established to bring in the kingdom. Psalm 2 is really the background for this event in Revelation 11. Psalm 2:2 NASB "The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed…" There again we have the two personages: the Lord being God the Father and His anointed being the Christ; the same two personages mentioned in Revelation 11:15.     

In response to this blast of the trumpet: Revelation 11:16 NASB "And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God…" They are bowing down in obedience to Him. This relates to one of the key meanings for worship which is the Greek verb proskuneo [proskunew] which has the idea of bowing the knee or bowing down before Him; it is a recognition of the authority of the ruler. So in this passage we see that an aspect of worship of God is recognizing His authority to do what He is doing in history. And that runs through worship. When we talk about worship on Sunday morning it is the believers coming together in the body of Christ to submit themselves to the teaching of God, the teaching of His Word, so that they can conform their thinking to God's thinking. It is not simply a time to come together and have fellowship or to enjoy being with other believers; it is a time for orienting to submission to God.

These twenty-four elders need to be identified. There are some who think these are angels; others that twelve represent the church, twelve represent Israel. Actually the twenty-four elders must be understood to be resurrected, glorified and rewarded church age believers. They are actually 24 representatives of the mass of church age believers. Old Testament saints haven't been resurrected yet, Tribulation saints haven't, and so we just have the church age believers. They are called "elders" –presbuteroi [presbuteroi]—a word that is never ever used anywhere of angels. The term "elders" emphasizes maturity. They are crowned, which indicates that they are rewarded. So the word "elders" is a good term because it emphasizes their maturity; these are the overcomer believers who have been rewarded. Secondly, at no point is there mention of these 24 elders in heaven prior to the events of Revelation four, no mention of them in any of the Old Testament passages, such as Isaiah 6.

Thirdly, the prophecies in Daniel are the frame of reference for the book of Revelation. Again and again as we go through the book of Revelation we see how important it is to go back and understand the prophecies of Daniel. Daniel 7:9 NASB "I kept looking Until thrones were set up…" So these are the thrones that the 24 elders are sitting on. "… And the Ancient of Days [God the Father, not Jesus Christ] took {His} seat; His vesture {was} like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne {was} ablaze with flames, Its wheels {were} a burning fire." The description of the Ancient of Days given here is similar to the vision that John has of the Lord Jesus Christ in Revelation chapter one. Revelation 1:13 NASB "and in the middle of the lampstands {I saw} one like a son of man…" There's the connection. In Daniel 7 we see the one who appears before the Ancient of Days is the son of man. "… clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. [14] His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire." Because of this similarity there have been those down through church history who have tried to identify the Ancient of Days as the Lord Jesus Christ. This really leads to some terrible problems. In Daniel chapter seven we have the introduction of the term "son of man." Daniel 7:13 NASB "I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him." So there are two personages there, the Son of Man and the Ancient of Days. So even though there are certain similarities in the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ in Revelation one to the Ancient of Days we have to maintain that distinction. We need to be reminded of the fact that when our Lord was on the earth He made the statement: "I and the Father are one." In His explanation of that we see that what the Father thinks, the Son thinks; what the Son thinks, the Father thinks. So at times it is almost impossible to distinction whether the term "God" or "Lord" is focusing on one member of the Trinity or another. Sometimes we push it too far and say, This has got to be the Father; this has got to be the Son. There is a solution to that.

Why do we have the number 24? It is not just a symbolic number, it is a literal number based on the representative priesthood in Israel. So that when there was a mass of priests who were qualified to serve in the temple they would take twenty-four. They functioned as representatives of the entire body. Every month another set of twenty-four would serve. So this is a representational group and it changes every so often. The white garments that they wear are those of rewarded church age believers, as stated on Revelation 3:5, 18. The golden crowns that they wear are stephanos [stefanoj] crowns, crowns that are given as a reward, not ruler crowns which would be a diadema [diadhma] crown. Angels are never said to wear victor's crowns. The function of the 24 elders as kings and priests fits the role of the glorified church, not the role of angels. Revelation 5:10 is not a function of angels. These twenty-four elders are stated to be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb in Revelation 5:9; angels are not redeemed. So in Revelation 11:16 we see the response of church age believers: they will fall down on their faces and worship God. That worship, that sign of their submission to God, is indicated by what they say. The content of what they say is remarkable.    

Revelation 11:17 NASB "saying, '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.". There is a grace orientation there; gratitude is always related to grace. They recognize that despite all the horror and the judgment that has come upon the earth this is something to give thanks for because God is judging evil as it is exemplified in human history and the kingdom of the world. Who is the Lord God, the Almighty in this verse? It is God the Father. Jesus Christ is going to come and is going to reign on the earth as the messianic King. Is God the Father also going to reign and rule? Yes, He is. Both the Father and the Son are going to reign together. The words "who are and who were" is seen in the first mention of the term "the Almighty" in Revelation 1:8 with the appearance of the one who was sitting on the throne. The one who sits on the throne is always the Father. "I am the Alpha and the Omega" is a term that refers to the Father, not to the Son. It applies to the Son later on but initially it is a term for the Father. It can apply to both because they are both equally eternal. Where people get confused is when the Father and the Son are viewed so closely together. There is a word for this: perichoresis. This is a very old theological term that was used to describe the inter-penetration of other members of the Trinity with each other—so that Jesus can say, "I and the Father are one." Some titles apply to both the Father and the Son and we make the mistake when we see a title like Alpha and Omega and say that applies to Jesus at the end of Revelation, so this has to be Jesus here in 1:8.

The other thing that confuses people is in Revelation 1:8 NASB "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." Revelation seems to focus on Jesus' coming. He is going to come in Revelation 19, but who comes in Revelation 21 in the new heaven and the new earth? The Father dwells upon the earth because there is no need for a temple anymore. The Trinity is coming. Revelation 1:8 makes it clear that it is the Father who is and was and is to come. But Revelation 11:17 says, "who are and who were." It doesn't say "who is to come." Why not? Because in their proleptic framework they are putting themselves in the future time of His coming, when His kingdom supplants the kingdoms of the world. Rev 4:8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, 'HOLY, HOLY, HOLY {is} THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME'." Who is that referring to? It has to be the Father because in 5:1 the one who is on the throne has a scroll in His hand and they start looking for someone who is worthy to take the scroll, and the only one worthy to take the scroll is the Lamb. The Lamb comes up and takes the scroll out of the hand of the Lord God, the Almighty.

In Revelation 15 we have the prelude to the bowl judgments. Revelation 15:3 NASB "And they sang the song of Moses [They sing the song of Moses before the throne. This would be the church], the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, 'Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty [the Father]; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!'" In 16:7 NASB "And I heard the altar saying, 'Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments'." So chapter 16 focuses on the content of the seven bowls and again we see that the Lord God the Almighty is the one on the throne, the one who is distinguished from the Lamb. The Lamb is the one who will be leading the charge back down to the battle of Armageddon. Revelation 19:6 NASB "Then I heard {something} like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, 'Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns'." He is going to reign but He reigns through the Son who is the Davidic King, the Messiah who reigns. [7] "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him [the Father], for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready…. [15] From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron [Ps. 2:9]; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God [the Father], the Almighty." Revelation 21:22 NASB "I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." Again they are distinguished. So what we see here is this doctrine of perichoresis which is that there is a distinction between the Father and the Son but the Father reigns, the Son reigns. The Father and the Son are viewed so closely together at times that they both are pictured doing the same thing.

Illustrations