Priestly Judgments

By Phillip G. Kayser · Revelation 15:5-8 · 2017-12-31

Text

15:5 After these things I looked, and the sanctuary of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. 6 And out from the sanctuary came the seven angels, the ones having the seven plagues; they were clothed in pure bright linen and were girded around the chests with golden belts. 7 Then one of the four living beings gave the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the fury of God, the One who lives forever and ever. 8 The sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to go into the sanctuary until the seven angels’ plagues were completed.

Introduction

Chapter 15 is the introduction to the fifth section of seven sections in this book, each of which is also sub-divided up into seven parts. And all of it is beautifully structured into a chiasm of an ABCDEDCBA format. And I've given you a diagram of that in your outlines, with the judgment sections highlighted in yellow. Hopefully that diagram will help to make sense of what I am saying as I give you a bird's eye view of where we are at.

You will notice that the C & D sections in the first half parallel the C & D sections in the second half. They are not identical; they are only thematically parallel.

We are now in the second D section; the part of the book that goes backward in time. So if you look at the dates to the right of that diagram you will notice that the seals (the first C) go from AD 30-66, the trumpets (or the first D) pick up where the seals left off and go from AD 66-70, and the central part of the chiasm (the E section) goes from AD 70-136, when Israel as a nation ceased to exist. But then the dates for the bowls go backwards from AD 136 to AD 66 (that's the second D section). And the seven condemnations go even further back, reaching to AD 30, though there are two explicitly mentioned sections that move forward to AD 70 again because that is the key turning point in the book. So that gives you the general way that the book is dated and how the dates fit into the chiasm. Eventually I will get a much more detailed dating chart up on the web.

So one question that might come up is, "What makes this bowl-judgment section different from the trumpet-judgment section that it parallels?" There are actually a number of things, but I will just list three. First, there is a reversal in time. Second, where the judgments in the trumpets speak of a 1/3rd destruction of certain things, these bowls bring a complete destruction of the same things - at least in the first bowls. And there are a few other differences that show that this is not a pure repeat of the first half of the book.

But the main difference is that this section highlights Christ's office of priest. Where the seals of chapter 6 and following introduced us to Christ's prophetic judgments (and the theme of prophecy is seen all through that section, including the ending of prophecy), and where the trumpets section introduced us to Christ's kingly judgments (and we see His kingship being highlighted all through that section), chapters 15-16 introduce us to Christ's priestly judgments. And the priestly and kingly sections (the two D sections)are parallel because Jesus is a King-Priest after the order of Melchizedek, and the Melchizedek prophecies of Psalm 2 play a big role in both sections. And there are a lot of other cool things that I simply can't get into in a sermon without getting majorly bogged down. But the book is beautifully structured.

But I do want to at least show in a cursory fashion that this section shows Christ bringing judgments as Priest. The temple/priestly imagery is seen all through this section. Christ is pictured as a sacrificial Lamb in verse 3, and as a King/priest according to the order of Melchizedek in the remaining verses. Verse 5 points to the temple, the ark of the covenant, and the law inside that ark. Verse 6 has the angels coming out of the temple clothed in pure white linen, which is priestly garb. And verse 7 introduces us to the seven golden temple bowls.

And one more piece of housekeeping - let me remind you of what the purpose of each introduction is. Each of the introductions to the seven sections of the book gives us huge confidence in Christ's ability to advance the kingdom no matter what the opposition. For example, the first C section is introduced with chapters 4-5, which show the sufficiency of Christ as Prophet, the sufficiency of His Law-Word, and the sufficiency of His prophetic covenant lawsuits against the nations using that Law-Word. And Christ uses the whole Bible, including the Old Testament to bring those prophetic covenant lawsuits. All nations are still subject to His law and judged by that law.

Likewise, in the introduction to the kingly section, we see the church confidently petitioning their king to destroy their enemies (8:1-6). It's a passage that showcases faith, hope, and love achieving the impossible.

And in this introduction we see the same confidence that this Priest-King according to the order of Melchizedek will indeed fulfill Psalm 2 and crush His opposition with the rod of iron, while converting other nations. It is designed to stir up our faith, confidence, worship, and hope in Jesus our High Priest. Fear is unworthy of the Christian. If the church of the first four centuries overcame all enemies and established Christianity as the foundation for society, we can do so once again today. So let's finish up this chapter, beginning at verse 5.

The judgments are a result of worship (v. 5a - "After these things")

Verse 5 begins with the phrase, "After these things." We shouldn't just hurriedly rush over that phrase. It indicates that verses 1-4 are what gets the ball rolling in the heavenlies and what produces the bowls of judgment in chapter 16. There is a relationship between what the church does and what the angels do.

In chapter 16 we will see that the bowls spell the total defeat of the worst enemies that the church has ever faced or will ever face. So if the preceding "things" of verses 1-4 were the prelude to total victory, it is worth asking ourselves, "What were the preconditions to this victory?" If we can have those preconditions, then perhaps we can see similar victory.

So let me give a very brief review of verses 1-4. Verse 1 says,

15:1 And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues — in them the fury of God is completed.

I won't cover every point that we drew from that verse, but we saw that God cares about the evil in this world. In fact, He is far more furious over the lawlessness of this land than we are. We saw second that the angels are on our side. We saw third that the word "last" indicates that God numbers the days in which enemies can triumph. Their days of dominance are limited. Humanism will crumble. Verse 2 says,

2 And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who prevailed over the Beast and over his image and over the number of his name, standing on the glassy sea, having harps of God.

This verse describes an incredible worship service that outlines even more encouraging things: God is on His throne. Second, we can be more than conquerors no matter how bad things may appear. Third, while the beast may take our life, he cannot take our destiny. We have a glorious destiny in heaven that makes the sacrifices of earth all worthwhile. We see the unity and love of the church, and the joy they experience in God's presence. This is what makes their worship so transformational. Verses 3-4:

3 They sing the song of Moses, the slave of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the nations! 4 Who could not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? Because You alone are holy, because all the nations will come and do obeisance before You, because Your righteous judgments have been manifested.”

We looked at the kind of new covenant worship that pleases God and that reaches the throne of God. Not all worship has the power of this worship. I won't cover those points, but worship has a power in it that only faith can appreciate and appropriate. Worship makes God big in our minds and makes the problems of this world seem like mole hills in comparison. So worship not only begins with faith, it also elevates our faith and enables us to come into total agreement with the promises of Scripture that might otherwise seem totally insane - such as the promise affirmed by this persecuted church in verse 4: "because all the nations will come and worship before You..." It sure didn't look like the church would be that victorious. But faith is driven by seeing God's will done on earth more than it is driven by newspaper reports. Our God is up to the task of fulfilling the promises of eschatology.

And these first four verses are stirring up the church to have a similar faith, hope, and love in every generation. When we have that, there is nothing that cannot be achieved. It is the presence of those kinds of things in the church that is the prelude to the kind of victory that the church had in the first four centuries.

But all of those things were present where? In a worship service; in the church gathered. It was the worship itself which seems to have led to the angelic warfare that these verses will highlight. If you just look at worship with physical eyes, it may not seem that powerful. But faith looks at worship and sees it shaking the earth. It changes things in our lives; it changes things in this world.

For purposes of introducing these seven bowl judgments, let me just illustrate the power that worship has with an incident in King Jehoshaphat's life. I'm going to read 2 Chronicles 20:20-24. Jehoshaphat was being attacked by an army that was so huge that it threatened to annihilate the nation. It seemed hopeless to resist. But here's what the Scripture says of faithful Jehoshaphat:

2Chr. 20:20 So they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the LORD your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.” 2Chr. 20:21 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the LORD, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: “Praise the LORD, For His mercy endures forever.” 2Chr. 20:22 Now when they began to sing and to praise, [note that phrase: "when they began to sing and to praise"] the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. 2Chr. 20:23 For the people of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to utterly kill and destroy them. And when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another. 2Chr. 20:24 So when Judah came to a place overlooking the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude; and there were their dead bodies, fallen on the earth. No one had escaped.

A similar thing happened to the enemies of the church in AD 132-136 (and we will look at the details next week). Israel decimated Rome's armies to the point that Hadrian had to conscript boys to fight. This was a devastating judgment on Rome. And Hadrian so decimated Israel, that it ceased to be a nation until the last century. The threat of both Rome and Israel to the church's existence was eliminated for that generation. So in my mind, that is the implication of the words, "After these things." It hints that the victory flowed from the worship of a people who had a God-given faith, hope, and love.

The opening of the temple doors symbolizes kingdom advancement (v. 5b)

Verse 5 goes on: "After these things I looked, and the sanctuary of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened." What is the significance of heaven opening? Heaven was opened at Pentecost, and the church grew like crazy. It was opened at the martyrdom of Stephen, and the church grew like crazy. It was opened at the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, and through Paul, the church grew like crazy. The opening of the temple in heaven symbolizes the advancement of Christ's redemptive kingdom.

sanctuary = ναὸς = Holy of Holies

Look at each part of the phrase, "the sanctuary of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven..." The sanctuary is the word for the inner part of the temple - the Holy of Holies. This is not the outer temple, but the ναὸς - the inner Holy of Holies. The outer temple was Jehovah's palace, and the sanctuary (or the ναὸς) was His throne room. So these angels are once again being sent from God's throne room. But because this section relates to Christ's Priesthood, John uses language from the Mosaic Tent or Tabernacle.

"tabernacle of the testimony" = either the whole building Tabernacle (Numb. 1:50,53; 9:15; 10:11) or the "ark of the testimony" (Ex. 25:16,21-22; 26:33; 30:6,26; 31:7; 39:35; 40:3,5,20,21; Numb. 4:5; 7:89) within the ναὸς.

The phrase "tabernacle of the testimony" can refer to either the whole Tabernacle building (Numb. 1:50,53; 9:15; 10:11) or to the "ark of the testimony" where the law was housed (Ex. 25:16,21-22; 26:33; 30:6,26; 31:7; 39:35; 40:3,5,20,21; Numb. 4:5; 7:89).[1] The word "ark" can refer to the whole Tabernacle, using the figure of speech of a part for the whole. Dictionaries struggle over the meaning and etymology of the Hebrew word for "ark,"[2] but there is strong evidence that the phrase "ark of the testimony" is equivalent to this phrase, "tabernacle of the testimony."[3] But whether this is referring to the Tabernacle building as a whole or to the ark, either way, it is really the law of God that is being highlighted since both the Tabernacle building and the ark of the covenant were named after the law.

testimony = two tables of the law which remain a covenant witness to nations

And commentaries are totally agreed that the word "testimony" refers to the two tables of the law that Moses put inside the ark or inside the Tabernacle. Well, this is hugely significant for the debate on theonomy in the modern church. The way this is worded, it makes it crystal clear that God's throne continues to administer the law of Moses, exactly as written, and exactly as stored in the ark of the covenant, as the standard for Christ's kingdom. The two tables of the law were inside the ark, and the whole Old Testament was stored on the side of the ark. That law was God's testimony or witness to Israel. And that law continues to judge not just Israel and Rome, but all nations.

the whole image = the throne room of this Priest-King

And it makes sense. Without the law there is no kingdom. Without the law there is no basis for judgment. Without the law there is no sin. Without the law there is no need for Christ's Priesthood. So this phrase beautifully encapsulates the rule of our Priest-King.

more angelic warfare (v. 6a)

Verse 6 continues: "And out from the sanctuary came the seven angels..." These are seven more angels who lead their own angelic armies in battle against the enemies of Christ. And the point is that His throne is not just a throne of grace; it is also a throne of judgment against those who spurn His grace. And angels are many times His instruments of judgment.

Israel being treated as Egypt (cf. 11:8; plagues reminiscent of the ten plagues on Egypt and similar to them - v. 6b)

Interestingly, Israel is here once again treated symbolically as being equivalent to Egypt by likening these judgments to the plagues of Egypt. Jerusalem was explicitly called Sodom and Egypt in chapter 11:8. So there is no way that we can call Jerusalem a holy city today. No. It is Sodom and Egypt as long as it remains outside of Jesus. So it is called Egypt in chapter 11. But here that same concept is hinted at since it receives six of the plagues that Egypt received. Even the use of the word "plague" reminds us of Egypt. But look at the parallels. The first bowl produces sores or boils just like the sixth plague on Egypt did. The second and third bowls turn water to blood just like Egypt's first plague turned water to blood. The sixth bowl is connected to demonic frogs sending armies from the Euphrates River just like the second plague of Egypt had an invasion of frogs from the Nile River. The seventh bowl has hail just as the seventh plague on Egypt had hail. And so Israel is likened to Egypt even in the way that it is judged. Until it repents, it has no special favor; only judgment. And later in the book God calls true believing Jews to leave the synagogue system. It's their own exodus from spiritual Egypt.

angels have priestly garments; share in Christ's priestly judgments (v. 6c)

But these angels wear priestly garments, which shows that they share in Christ's priestly ministry and judgments. It describes them not only as coming out of the Holy of Holies, but says, "they were clothed in pure bright linen and were girded around the chests with golden belts..." That is identical to the clothing of Jesus as the High Priest in chapter 1:13. So this is reinforcing once again the imagery of priestly judgments.

Priestly bowls no longer spell blessing; when Christ's blood rejected, only God's wrath remains (v. 7)

Verse 7:

7 Then one of the four living beings gave the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the fury of God, the One who lives forever and ever.

The word for bowl, φιάλη, refers to bowls used to hold the temple incense as well as blood from the sacrifices. Alan Johnson says,

...it was a ritual bowl used for collecting the blood of the sacrifices (Exod 27:3). Golden bowls seem to be always associated with the temple (e.g., 1 Kings 7:50; 2 Kings 12:13; 25:15)[4]

In chapter 5:8 the φιάλη bowls held incense, representing the priestly prayers. But here they hold blood and fire and judgment. We often think of Christ's priestly office as only referring to His mercy. No, that's a mistake. In the book of Hebrews, which highlights Christ's priestly office, you see that when mercy and grace are spurned, the only thing that can remain is wrath and indignation. Turn to Hebrews 10 as one example. In Hebrews 10:19-25 we see His priestly office highlighting the boldness we can have as we approach the mercy seat by grace - the same mercy seat that these angels came from. And these are verses we love. Now consider the miracle of this boldness in the context of the incredible judgments that also flow from the same throne. It helps you to appreciate the privilege that we have. Beginning at verse 19:

Heb. 10:19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

But the next verses show what happens if we spurn that grace. Verses 26-31:

Heb. 10:26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. [or literally, ‘which is about to devour the adversaries.] 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

This is prophesying what was about to happen to Israel. Again, this is a rebuke to the modern antinomian church which tends to deny Christ's wrath and judgment. The book of Revelation shows how all three offices of Christ can show mercy or can show judgment. They are in perfect synchronism with each other.

No priestly intercession for Israel would be possible until God's wrath has been poured out (v. 8).

Finally, verse 8 says,

8 The sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to go into the sanctuary until the seven angels’ plagues were completed.

And you can recognize that this is exactly what happened when Moses dedicated that brand-new tabernacle in the wilderness. And this is what happened when Solomon dedicated the Temple. God's glory so filled the whole temple that the priests had to leave. They could no longer stand inside doing their ministry. And here it points to the fact that no one can bring their own priestly intercession on behalf of Israel or Rome.

But there is controversy with this verse, and I want to deal with it. If no one could enter the Holy Place from the time John saw this vision until the last bowl judgment was experienced, then it seems to contradict historicism, full preterism, partial preterism, Premillennialism, Dispensationalism - really every position that sees it as history. It's a problem for everybody.[5] And its equally a problem (if you take this as an absolute exclusion) even in the time sequence between the fulfillments of bowls 1 through 7. The book of Revelation seems to indicate that there are angels coming in and out of the throne room between AD 66 and the time of the fulfillment on every system. And saints have access to the throne of grace during those periods of time. So of all the commentaries that I have, I only know of a couple that see this as a strict absence of everyone from God's throne room between AD 66 and whenever each bowl is finally fulfilled. Here are the two alternative explanations that I have seen presented (and they may both be true).

First, you could say that this fleeing from the temple was something that only occupied a few minutes from the time that John saw the first bowl being poured out until the time that the last bowl was poured out in the vision. And that seems to be the way Pickering takes it because he translates it as "completed" rather than "fulfilled." I think that is a possibility. When God's wrath is raised, even those who are holy back away in respect.[6]

But the vast majority of amil, postmil, premil, Dispensational, historicist, preterist, and Idealist commentators take it to mean that no one can come before God's throne in order to intercede so as to avert the disasters that God has now determined. This interpretation fits the theme of this whole section - that these are Christ's priestly judgments. The priesthood had both intercession and cursing as part of its function. So in effect this verse is saying that it is too late for mercy for these sinners. You could treat it sort of like the unpardonable sin for nations. Nations too can go too far and never be reclaimed. Here is how Albert Barnes words it:

The meaning here seems to be, that no one would be permitted to enter to make intercession — to turn away his wrath — to divert him from his purpose. That is, the purpose of punishment had been formed, and would certainly be executed. The agents or instrumentalities in this fearful work had been now sent forth, and they would by no means be recalled. The mercy-seat, in this respect, was inaccessible...[7]

And I think that interpretation is correct. It may be a combination of the first theory and this one (they are not mutually exclusive), but I think symbolically it has to at least mean this. This is the view taken by Mounce,[8] Beale,[9] Yeatts,[10] Krodle,[11] Moses Stuart,[12] David S. Clark,[13] Jay Adams,[14] and many others.

The point is that a nation can get to a point of no return. That's the serious message - a nation can get to the point of no return. No matter who prays for that nation, Jesus as High Priest will not join their prayers with His prayer. And without His prayers joining with our prayers, they won't get past the ceiling.

Is there any confirmation that this interpretation is correct? When I am interpreting Revelation, I am looking for every clue that I can get, and sometime if you look at the huge outline I have handed out in the past, the right column shows the chapters from Ezekiel that Revelation parallels. Well, Ezekiel 14 parallels this, and there God told Ezekiel that even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were to intercede on behalf of the nation, the judgment would not be averted. They would only save their own lives. So that is added confirmation for this interpretation. Once these bowls began to be poured, it was useless to ask for mercy for these nations. No mercy would be shown. Their hour for repentance had past. They had committed the unpardonable sin. It didn't mean that individuals couldn't be saved, but there could be no more patience with the nations.

So where the bowls of blood that were poured out by the altar could speak of Christ's atonement averting God's wrath, those same bowls only brought a curse and were filled with God's wrath for those who trampled on the atonement. And by the way, Chilton is wrong in treating these as communion cups. That would be a totally different word in the Greek. The Greek word here clearly refers to the golden blood basins that were poured out as part of atonement. As Isaiah 1:13 words it, "Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me." or as Hebrews 10:26 words it, "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins."

So here is the question - was this principle enforced on Rome and Israel? Yes it was. By AD 68 the Julio-Claudian dynasty of Rome (represented by the first six heads of the sea beast) was completely wiped out. And by AD 96 the Flavian Dynasty of Rome (represented by the seventh head, Vespasian, and by the succeeding two emperors, Titus and Domitian) was totally destroyed. And we will see that Israel as a nation ceased to exist after AD 136 - the time foreshadowed by the first bowl. So verse 8 is a rather sobering verse.

And by the way, this explains why bowls 2-3 turn 100% of the lakes and streams into blood in AD 136 whereas trumpets 2 and 3 in chapter 8 only polluted 1/3 of the sea and streams with blood and only killed one third of the sea creatures. They are not referring to the same events, though most recapitulationists and preterists try to make them refer to exactly the same events. In AD 66 you have 1/3 impact, in AD 136 it is a total impact. And too many commentaries just slide over those kinds of details.

We will look in detail at God's destruction of both the beast from the sea and the beast from the land next week. But once AD 66 hit, and John saw those bowls poured out, no amount of intercession could avert the judgments that God had guaranteed upon both Israel and Rome. It was as good as done.

But this implies that intercession would be possible for both Rome's and Israel's conversion after these judgments happened (v. 8)

But there is one more implication; and it's an encouraging implication. And it is based on the word, "until." If the vast majority of interpreters are correct in saying that no priestly prayers could avert the judgments decreed in this book "until the seven angels' plagues were completed," it also implies that such priestly prayers on behalf of these enemies would be possible after that point. I think the word "until" clearly points to that conclusion.

And if this is true, then we would expect phenomenal success of the Gospel after AD 136 worldwide. Indeed, we would expect that the geographic region that the Jews previously occupied would become Christian and that Rome itself would become Christian. And both did. There was a progressive Christianizing of both the land of Israel and the empire of Rome over the next 175 years that was so successful, that the empire felt compelled to issue an edict of toleration of Christians in AD 311. In many places of the empire, Christianity was already the majority religion. By the time of Constantine, it was the majority throughout the empire.

But the process began to rapidly accelerate in the second century and beyond. Cities, tribes, and kingdoms began to be possessed by Christians. And cities, tribes, and kingdoms began to be converted. By the early 200's AD, Tertullian told one pagan, "We are but of yesterday, and yet we already fill your cities, islands, camps, your palace, senate and forum; we have left to you only your temples."[15] Huh! That was in early 200s AD. He said that even the palace, senate, forum, and army was filled with Christians. Tertullian was saying that the Christians were taking over. The saints were indeed possessing the dominions of the world for Jesus. Malta got converted along with several cities. Ethiopia became Christian, then Armenia. Schaff says that "in less than 300 years from the death of St. John the whole population of the Roman empire which then represented the civilized world was nominally Christianized."[16]

That's what happens when the church has faith. And why would these Christians have faith for such an aggressive advance of the Gospel? Because they knew that AD 70 spelled the reversal that would shake the earth. No wonder the saints in verse 4 could worship God with a faith that says, "all the nations will come and worship before You."

This chapter introduces the judgments of chapter 16 by showing that they are redemptive judgments; they are priestly judgments; they are part of the means of Christ growing His church so effectively that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. This chapter is an expression of incredible faith in the midst of bad times. I hope it is an encouragement for you to have your vision of what is possible never be driven by the newspaper but always to be driven by what God says is possible. Two people can look at the same facts on planet earth and interpret them in wildly different ways. The Christian realizes that God's decrees in heaven dictate the events on earth. When He blows trumpets in heaven, it doesn't matter what things look like on earth; they are going to be changed. When He pours out bowls from heaven, it doesn't matter what things look like on earth; they are going to be changed. The form of this world is passing away. Why? Because God has decreed it so. As Hebrews 12:27 words it, God has decreed the shaking of heaven and earth and the replacing of the things that can be shaken with what cannot be shaken. It doesn't matter that we can't see it in the newspaper yet; it is as good as done. And he ends that amazing chapter by encouraging the Jewish Christians to trust our God of judgment and grace, saying,

Heb. 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

We can say the same today. When you stand in worship before that God, it changes you. We need not fear the raging of the socialists, homosexuals, abortionists, ACLU, and other God-haters. We need to stay focused on serving God with fear and praying, "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The kingdom of Christ will eventually replace the kingdoms of man. To God be the glory. Amen.


  1. The ark had other names as well. TWOT says, "Often designated “the ark” (‏הָאָרוֹן‎), it is also “the ark of the Lord” (Josh 4:11; etc.) and “the ark of God” (1 Sam 3:3; etc.). It is called “the ark of the God of Israel” by the Philistines (5:2–11, etc.). The ark is most often “the ark of the covenant” (‏אֲרוֹן הַבְּרִית‎, Num 10:33 etc.; 184 times), “the ark of the testimony” (‏אֲרוֹן הָעֵדֻת‎, Ex 25:22; etc.; 13 times); “the ark of thy might” (Ps 132:8), and once “the holy ark” (‏אֲרוֹן הַקֹּדֶשׁ; 2 Chr 35:3)." R. Laird Harris, Editor, “Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Associate Editor Bruce K. Waltke, Associate Editor,” TWOT, paragraph 6.

  2. For example, see the discussion by Zobel where he struggles with the numerous theories, and concludes that "...its etymology is unknown." Zobel, “אֲרוֹן,” TDOT, 1:367. https://accordance.bible/link/read/TDOT#6213. Likewise Hague, who concludes, "the etymology is uncertain." Stephen T. Hague, “א,” NIDOTTE, 1:493. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIDOTTE#5376

  3. Though there is great debate over the meaning of the term, "ark," there is evidence that other ancient cultures used the term to refer to a tent or tent shrine. The NIDOTTE dictionary acknowledges that there is evidence for a tent being called an "ark," but discounts it, saying, "Some seek analogies with Egyptian, Babylonian, Hittite, Amorite, Canaanite, and Arabic arks, tents, and tent shrines. Despite formal similarities and the fact that the Israelite ark and tent were not unprecedented in their ANE context, there is no consensus about the analogies." Stephen T. Hague, “א,” NIDOTTE, 1:494. https://accordance.bible/link/read/NIDOTTE#5379

  4. Alan F. Johnson, Revelation, EBC 12; ed. Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), paragraph 61352.

  5. For example, if we argue that this is moving forwards from 66-70, then we have a problem with the recapitulation theory, because there are saints continually before God in His inner temple during the great tribulation (7:15; cf. 3:12). If we take it as AD 136 to 66, then there are saints in the temple during that period too. However, if we take the bowls as all being poured out simultaneously (see next footnote) and then working in reverse (as even some premillennialists insist must be happening), then both theories are preserved: the bowls are all poured out in AD 66, and on the forward movement theory they are fulfilled in sequential order. In the reverse theory they are fulfilled in reverse order, starting with the very last plague (136) and moving backwards.

  6. A slightly different variation is given by Alice Linsley, who claims, “The seven bowls, like the seven plagues bring misery worldwide. There is a difference in the delivery of these miseries, however. The plagues come one after another, whereas the bowls are poured out simultaneously.” https://biblicalanthropology.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-seven-bowls-of-revelation-16.html

  7. Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: Revelation, ed. Robert Frew (London: Blackie & Son, 1884–1885), 356.

  8. "Once the time of final judgment has come, none can stay the hand of God. The time for intercession is past." Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 289.

  9. "No one is able to hold back God’s hand when he decides to execute judgments (cf. Dan. 4:35). The suggestion that these concluding words mean that the time for intercession is past is generally correct. But what has ceased is not intercession for the world’s salvation but the saints’ plea for vindication against their persecutors (also alluded to in v 7), which no longer is needed because God is answering the prayer." G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 807.

  10. "The meaning, then, is that no one can intercede to stop God’s inevitable judgment." John R. Yeatts, Revelation, Believers Church Bible Commentary (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2003), 290.

  11. "No one may interfere during the execution of his wrath." Gerhard A. Krodel, Revelation, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1989), 280.

  12. "Two purposes seem to be answered by this imagery; the first is, that the smoke excluded all intercessors from the house or temple; comp. 2 Chron. 5:13, 14. In other words, no remission is to be shown in the exhibition of vindictive justice upon the beast. The second is, that inasmuch as the veiling of himself in clouds of darkness is often predicated of God, (see Ex. 19:18 seq. Ps. 18:8, seq. Is. 6:4, etc.) so we may regard the mysterious majesty of the Godhead as symbolized by imagery such as that before us. The plagues, also, must be all completed, before the Vindicator of his church will relinquish the attitude thus described; for no one can enter the temple to intercede ἄχρι τελεσθῶσι, i.e. until they are completed." Moses Stuart, A Commentary on the Apocalypse, vol. 2 (Andover; New York: Allen, Morrill and Wardwell; M. H. Newman, 1845), 307–308.

  13. "Here it is said, no man was able to enter this temple in heaven till the seven plagues were fulfilled. This was no doubt to show that no intercession would now avail for the doomed sinners. Their day of grace was past. The judgment was now to fall without let or hindrance..." David S. Clark, The Message from Patmos: A Postmillennial Commentary on the Book of Revelation, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), p. 100.

  14. Jay Adams says, “While access to the heavenly temple is still open for other purposes, no intercession for the pagan empire any longer avails. It is doomed. None, therefore, is allowed to enter until the wrath of God has been fully spent upon her. She is beyond reclamation.”

  15. Philip Schaff, History of the Church, volume two, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950), p. 20. This is still available in Kindle format at History of the Church

  16. Schaff, History, Ibid.


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