The Seventh Trumpet and Third Woe
Now that the saints have been gathered “up there” after being decimated on the earth by pagan nations, the end comes in which God’s judgment falls upon the wicked (the Third Woe) and His blessing upon His saints. After this John will write a third interlude describing the trials of the saints on earth before seven angels pour the final seven bowls of plagues upon unrepentant mankind. But for the moment, we see the joyous reward of the saints and the fulfillment of the saints’ prayers on the wicked (6:9-11).
The seventh angel sounds and loud voices in heaven declare: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” Many of you will recognize this line as the inspiration behind Handel’s, “Hallelujah Chorus.” We must understand that though Satan presently perverts and corrupts and rules his petty kingdom of lechery and vice upon the earth, it is God Almighty who reigns. And one day, he shall make even this world His own when He regenerates it and heaven and earth become one (Romans 8:18-25).
At this, the twenty-four elders fall on their faces and worship because Almighty God has “taken [His] great power and begun to reign.” Understand that God reigns now and always has. What the elders declare here is that God has finally judged the world, overthrown the wicked, and commenced His glorious reign with His saints absent sin and death. Verse eighteen echoes Psalm 2:1-2: “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His anointed.” They rage because the “Lord of vineyard” comes to reclaim what is rightfully his. What Satan and his minions stole by deception, God has rescued and recovered through the death and resurrection of His Son. Christ is the Victor and claims his due: God’s people and God’s world in a redeemed state. And so the heathen rage, and they shall take their rage with them all the way to hell.
But the righteous, denoted here as “prophets and saints,” are finally rewarded—the small and the great—each one of them. They are further described as those who fear God’s name. We read that “God’s temple in heaven was opened and the ark of His covenant was seen within His temple.” I read that this signifies “God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his covenant promises” as believers will need reassurance in the difficult days ahead (NICNT, 233). We shall see this in the “Third Interlude.”