For the last few weeks we have been wrestling with a mystery.
Really, our questions started back in Chapter 6, when we started asking how long this whole process of judgement and redemption is going to take, when all this is going to come to an end. And we were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of God’s servants has been killed. Which made it sound like Judgement Day is not going to begin until every Christian on earth is dead.
And we had questions about that! Because, you know, that does not sound like very good news at all.
But since we were not even really sure we had heard the answer correctly, we set our questions aside for a while — until the topic came up again in Chapter 10.
There, as we saw Jesus descend and proclaim his victory over the earth, he raised his right hand to heaven and declared, “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.”
And when we looked back through the Old Testament to see what mysteries God had announced to his servants the prophets, we realized God had answered the question “how long?” several times already, and each time his answer was essentially the same.
For instance, God told Moses that, in the generations to come, his people would experience great power and prosperity, followed by a great tribulation had the hands of a foreign empire. And only when he sees their strength is gone and no one is left will the LORD vindicate his people.
And when Daniel, in the middle of that great tribulation, asked the same question, God promised that, in the generations to come, his people would successfully rebuild the city of Jerusalem, along with its temple. They would enjoy some measure of security, though in times of trouble. But then a terrible foreign empire would come and destroy the city and the sanctuary in a great tribulation such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until them. And only when the power of the holy people has been finally broken will all these things be completed.
And slowly we came to realize that this pattern God’s Old Testament people experienced — this pattern of redemption, then expansion, followed by tribulation — also applies to us, as God’s New Testament people.
We also began to realize that this pattern is actually a natural effect of our prayers and our preaching as we interact with the world around us. It was through someone’s faithful preaching and prayer that we were redeemed in the first place. It is through our faithful preaching and prayer that Jesus’ Church is expanding throughout the earth, even now growing in power and prosperity. So, really, it makes sense that our faithful preaching and prayer must eventually result in tribulation when the rebellious empires of the earth fight back.
And all that is very instructive, of course. But the foundational mystery remains unanswered: why does it have to be this way? Why must we experience a terrible defeat before our final deliverance?
Well, two weeks ago we were promised that in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished. Six trumpets have passed. Only one more remains. And here we are: today is the day.
So, picking up where we left off last week: the two witnesses in John’s vision, who symbolize Jesus’ Church, have been busy preaching the Good News of Jesus’ New Government for 1,260 days — 42 months, to be exact. And these 42 months symbolize this entire age of Jesus’ Church, which from our perspective has been going on now for 2000 years. And all throughout these 42 symbolic months, the two witnesses have been experiencing both tribulation and great success as Jesus’ Church has expanded to fill every corner of the earth with the knowledge of God.
But  when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them.
…and this comes as no shock to us. By this point, we have been expecting it, we knew it was coming.
Still, to see it written like this, in simple language, is very sobering: apparently, in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, a beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack, overpower and kill Jesus’ Church.
Of course, now we have some questions about the details. Like: what exactly is this beast? What will it look like? And what will it look like for Jesus’ Church to be attacked, overpowered and killed?
Let’s work through these questions one by one: what exactly is this beast?
Well, back in Chapter 9, during the fifth trumpet, John saw an angel called Apollyon the Destroyer leading a demonic army up from the Abyss to torment the people of the earth. And at that time we noticed that there is a connection between Apollyon and the Roman empire: for many of the emperors, the Greek god Apollo — the Destroyer — was their personal god.
And when we go even further back into scripture, we find that the prophet Daniel also saw a series of mutated beasts rising from the Abyss, beasts that symbolized a series of demonic empires. And the fourth beast in his vision was worse than all the rest, and that beast in particular ended up waging war against the holy people and defeating them.
Based on the examples given in scripture, we are supposed to understand that this beast that comes up from the Abyss symbolizes a great empire.
Okay. In that case, second question: what will this bestial empire look like?
Well…we don’t really know yet. This vision is really just our introduction to this beast from the Abyss, the details are only going to be revealed in the weeks to come, so…make sure to come back for that.
Okay then. Third question: what is it going to look like for Jesus’ Church to be attacked, overpowered and killed?
Verse 8: Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also their Lord was crucified.
Okay. So the dead bodies of Jesus’ Church will be publically displayed in a city, a great city, where their Lord was crucified.
So that must be Jerusalem, right? Because that is where Jesus was crucified. Except this city is also figuratively called Sodom and Egypt. Which means there is definitely some symbolism going on here. Also, last week, we were told that ”the holy city“ was going to be trampled by foreign powers for 42 months. And, while it is obvious that “the holy city” must be Jerusalem, we discovered that ”the holy city“ is also a symbol for the earth itself.
So, putting all this together: some earthly empire is going to kill Jesus’ Church, and display their bodies in that empire’s “great city” — which is a collective symbol for every great city on earth, every center of rebellious power.
And these centers of power all have these spiritual characteristics: they are all like Sodom, a city that once seduced God’s people. They are all like Egypt, a nation that once attacked and enslaved God’s people. And they are all like Jerusalem, a city that was supposed to be holy, but proved faithless in the end.
And our conclusion that “the great city” here is actually the universal global city is confirmed by the next few verses, because:
 For three and a half days some 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.
So the death of Jesus’ Church will be truly a global phenomenon, celebrated by everyone. Celebrated because — as we learned last week — the Good News of Jesus’ New Government is a torment to those who want to rule the world themselves.
Okay. So are these verses confirming what we have suspected ever since Chapter 6: that every single Christian on earth is going to be killed before the end?
For one thing, since the final great tribulation of Jesus’ Church was previewed for us by the final great tribulation of God’s people in the Old Testament, we can learn a lot about what is to come by looking back at what happened before.
And in the Old Testament, God’s people were never completely wiped out, a remnant was always preserved. Also, even though the final great tribulation of Israel was accompanied by terrible physical destruction, the Old Testament prophets tell us, again and again, that the worst part about the defeat of God’s Old Testament people was not the physical defeat, but the way all the other nations gathered around and celebrated the spiritual defeat, the powerlessness of Israel’s God.
In the same way, the final tribulation and death of Jesus’ Church will primarily be a spiritual defeat.
And this is further confirmed when we look back through this vision of the two witnesses and we see that we are called to conquer the world through preaching and praying. Our primary struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil; our primary weapon is God’s Word; our primary defeat comes through deception, false teaching, the distortion of God’s Word, the poisoning of the wells of living water.
What this vision is showing us here is not necessarily the violent physical destruction of Jesus’ Church on earth. No doubt there will be physical destruction, as there always has been. But far worse than that will be the final triumph of false teaching over true. Imagine a world full of churches! but no one can tell which ones are true and which ones are false. Imagine a world where many millions — perhaps billions — of people proudly claim the name of Christian! while at the same time they reject the true Gospel as completely ridiculous and irrelevant, nothing more than an old-fashioned anti-social philosophy better left in the dust-bin of history.
That is what is it going to look like for Jesus’ Church to be attacked, overpowered and killed.
Basically, as John pointed out in verse 7, at this point in history, Jesus’ Church will have finished its testimony. The age of preaching will be over, the last of God’s lost children gathered in, the full number completed, our purpose on this earth fulfilled. And during those last few days the world will celebrate our silence and our humiliation, the discrediting of every true Christian idea. Finally, the nations will be free to do what they want, without any prophetic party poopers there to warn them about the consequences.
But their celebration will be short-lived, because:
 After three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them.
Okay. So after three and a half days Jesus’ Church will suddenly and publically come back from the dead: this is some kind of global resurrection moment!
But here’s a question: why three and a half days? And is this a literal measurement of time, or is it symbolic?
Well, let’s see: we realized last week that 42 months is also three and a half years, which corresponds to the time, times and half a time concept that Daniel talked about in his book. Three and a half days also corresponds to the concept of time, times and half a time.
Uh huh. So?
Well, in the bible, the time, times and half a time concept is always associated with tribulation.
In Daniel’s book, it referred to the tribulation God’s people would experience between the foundation of the temple and its completion, which — according to Daniel’s visions — would be followed by a global resurrection and Judgement Day.
Here, in John’s vision, God’s people have just experienced a time, times and half a time of tribulation — 42 months, to be exact — between the foundation of Jesus’ Church and its completion when they finished their testimony.
However, their successful completion of Jesus’ Church does not lead directly to victory, as we might expect, it leads to even greater tribulation instead: the tribulation of death. Which lasts a time, times and half a time — three and a half days, to be exact — as tribulation always does in the bible.
However — check me on this — three and a half days are much much shorter than 42 months. Right?
This is the point being made here: from the foundation of the Church until its completion, God’s people are going to experience tribulations of various kinds for an unspecified time, times and half a time. All we really know is that it will be a long time — it has already been a long time!
But then, in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, we are going to experience a great, global tribulation that will result in the complete humiliation and death of Jesus’ Church, and this intense final tribulation will also last for an unspecified time, times and half a time. However, this tribulation will last only a very very short time — a tiny fraction of the time it took to complete the contruction of the Church, just as three and a half days is a tiny fraction of three and a half years — a great tribulation which will then be followed by some kind of great resurrection event, some kind of global vindication, just as Daniel foretold.
But the process does not end there:
 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.
Okay! So the resurrected Church is then going to be suddenly and publically taken up to heaven in a cloud: this is some kind of global ascension event!
And then,  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.
Huh. The first time an earthquake happened in the Book of Revelation was back in Chapter 6, when the Lamb opened the sixth seal, signalling the dawn of Judgement Day.
Here we find another earthquake taking place…during the course of the sixth trumpet.
And since we have already noticed, in weeks past, how the sixth trumpet is really just another description of the sixth seal from a different perspective, this is where we realize that this earthquake is just another description of the earthquake back in Chapter 6, the one that terrified everyone on earth and made them beg the mountains to fall and hide them from God’s judgement.
Just like the earthquake during the sixth seal, this earthquake of the sixth trumpet is also signalling the dawn of Judgment Day.
And apparently about 10% of the earth’s population is killed at once. But not by the mountains. Instead, they are crushed by the collapse of their own creation, this great city they have built for their own glory, the great global empire where they were just celebrating the final defeat of Jesus’ Church.
And most likely this tenth that die first are meant to symbolize the leaders of mankind. They are the…first-fruits, we could say, of God’s great harvest of the wicked, they are the “cream of the crop“.
And the reason we can say this is because this number — 7000 — is most likely a reference to the seven social classes that were mentioned during the earthquake back in Chapter 6: kings, princes, generals, the rich, the mighty, slave and free. So 7×1000 suggests that a very large number of people — chief representatives from every level of society — will be judged first.
The survivors — their followers — are, quite naturally, terrified by the sudden destruction of their leadership. So they decide to give glory to the God of heaven!
However, this does not mean that 90% of the earth repents at the very last minute. These people were first terrified back in verse 13 when the Church suddenly came back to life and then disappeared into the clouds. But they did not give glory to God until they realized their own lives were in danger and they had exhausted every other option for escape.
This is not the joyful worship of people who are finally seeing God for who he really is; this is the terrified grovelling of people who are finally seeing God for who he really is.
Well, back in Chapter 8, after the fourth trumpet was finished, we heard an eagle — one of the angelic representatives of creation — announce that the last three trumpet judgements were going to be especially traumatic, especially woeful, for the inhabitants of the earth: for everyone who has refused to be sealed by the mark of the Lamb, everyone who has refused to repent of their abusive creation worship.
And we have seen that the eagle was right: the fifth trumpet — the first woe — was the plague of demonic scorpion-locusts who tormented their victims with spiritual famine and thirst. The sixth trumpet — the second woe — was the plague of demonic horsemen who completed the work of the scorpion-locusts. And still, those who had survived the sixth trumpet refused to repent!
Then there was an interlude that went back to the beginning of the trumpet cycle and explained how Jesus’ Church is going to survive in the midst of these fiery judgements: we have already been measured and sealed up safely in God’s presence, which means that we are essentially immune to these judgements, even though our bodies are exposed to tribulation and death on this earth.
And then, as the interlude came to a close, it was confirmed that the nations who refused to repent during the sixth trumpet actually do end up murdering Jesus’ Church.
Now the interlude is over. The sixth trumpet — and the story of the unrepentant — has just resumed and concluded here with an earthquake and the dawn of Judgement Day. And so now, as it says in verse 14: the second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.
And here it is, the worse woe of all:  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 Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
From the very beginning, it was mankind’s task to take the unformed earth and shape it, bringing it gradually into a kind of life and order that would reflect the glory of the heavens. Our species was designed from the first to act as heaven’s representatives on earth, and earth’s representatives in heaven: to draw heaven and earth together until all creation could be united in perfect worship under the government of God.
Well…we failed. But this is telling us that our species will not fail. Because God sent his Son, Jesus, to be born as a member of our species, and to actually accomplish the task for which we were first designed: to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth. Jesus became the perfect representative, the perfect connecting point between earth and heaven that we could not be:
First, he was born into poverty, and tested for 40 days in the wilderness, just as God’s people had been tested for 40 years during the time of Moses. The difference is, of course, Jesus passed where everyone else failed: he trusted his Father to feed him and care for him, he did not turn aside to seize power and prosperity for himself.
Then he began to proclaim the New Government of God. And for three and a half years — a time, times and half a time — he was tested by growing prosperity and power as more and more people said they would submit to his government. Sure, tribulation came to him from time to time, there was some resistance to his ministry, but the truth is, during those years, Jesus was simply unstoppable! And again, he passed this test of prosperity where everyone else had failed: he continued to give his Father credit for everything, refusing to seize power for his own purposes.
And this was proven at the end, when, for three and a half days — a time, times and half a time — he was stripped of everything: arrested, put on trial, mocked, condemned, executed, buried. He could have escaped this process! He could have seized power and saved himself — but he did not. Instead, he remained faithful to the pattern he had worked out with his Father from before the beginning of time: how, through his unjust death, he would break the power of him who holds the power of death, and win the right to rule over all the kingdoms of the earth.
And then, because he passed this final test where everyone else had failed, the breath of life from God entered him, and he rose from the dead. He went up to heaven in a cloud, and received his inheritance from the hand of his Father: a scroll with seven seals on it that was the title deed to earth and heaven, the blueprints to God’s kingdom.
And just a couple of weeks ago, here in the Book of Revelation, we saw him act upon it: he descended and laid claim to the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them. And then he handed the title deed to his servant John, who passed it on to us, the rest of the Church. This gave us the legal right to claim the earth in his name, and we have been extending his power throughout the nations ever since. For a time, times and half a time Jesus’ Church has been being tested by a growing prosperity and power as more and more people from every tribe, language and nation come and submit their lives to the government of Christ.
It is the victorious end of this process that is being celebrated right here, in verse 15. The seventh trumpet has been sounded, and the mystery of God has been accomplished: The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord; heaven and earth have finally become one.
 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.”
Back in Chapter 4, God was first introduced as the one “who was, and is, and is to come.”
Notice that here, he is still the One who is and who was, but he is no longer the One who is to come. Why not? Because he has already arrived.
 “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 people who revere your name, both great and small—and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”
This is the answer to all our prayers for vindication. This is also the answer to all the prayers of creation itself. As it says in another place: the whole creation has been groaning, longing to be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
Well: now the time has come for destroying those who destroy the earth!
How is that going to happen? Like this:
 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 severe hailstorm.
Huh. The first earthquake in this book was when the Lamb opened the sixth seal, signalling the dawn of Judgement Day. But the second earthquake happened in Chapter 8, when the Lamb opened the seventh seal. In that episode, an angel took fire from heaven and hurled it down upon the earth, signalling the end of Judgement Day and the beginning of the new creation.
Here the seventh trumpet is ending exactly as the seventh seal did, with heaven opened so that judgement can be hurled down upon the earth in the form of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm. So apparently what we are seeing here is just another description of the seventh seal from a different perspective: this closing scene here is the end of Judgement Day and beginning of a new creation.
And that’s it!
That is the end.
The seventh angel has sounded his trumpet; the mystery of God has been accomplished: the eternal heavenly kingdom of God has become the eternal earthly kingdom of Jesus Christ. Somehow the perfectly spiritual has become one with with the imperfectly physical. In the days when the seventh angel was about to sound his trumpet, creation perished along with Jesus’ Church. But then, when the seventh angel actually sounded his trumpet, creation was reborn: imperishable, along with Jesus’ Church.
But how? How did this happen? How could this happen?
It happened because of Jesus Christ. Even though he was the imperishable Son of God, he took on the humiliation of a perishable human body. His perishable body was subjected to death, buried in the soil of our decaying earth. But this is where the very center of the mystery was accomplished: everyone expected earth’s decay to reach up through the body of Jesus to infect heaven itself with the virus of death — but instead the holiness of heaven reached down through the body of Jesus to infect the earth with eternal life.
And the first thing on earth to be infected — if we can call it that — was Jesus’ Church. As it says in another place: when Jesus was resurrected, he became the firstfruits from among the dead, the first evidence that the great transformation of the earth has begun. And since he is the firstfruits, that means there will also be a lastfruits: the main harvest from among the dead. And that harvest will be his Church.
We could say it like this: the breath of life that filled Jesus is a foretaste of the life that is going to fill everyone who belongs to him. His death, followed by his resurrection, became the promise and guarantee of eternal life for all who consent to be called by his name.
But that ”infection“ of eternal life is not going to end with us: it is also going to spread into the earth itself. When Jesus was resurrected, he became the firstfruits, he started the process of transformation. When we are resurrected, we will become the main harvest, and the sign of the end of the process. Just as Jesus’ resurrection was the key to our new creation, so also our resurrection will be the key to the earth’s new creation.
…and this is where we realize that, somewhere along the way here, our question has been answered, the question we have been asking for the last few weeks: why must defeat come before victory? Why must judgement come before redemption?
Because death must come before resurrection.
It is so logical, so obvious, that we wonder how we did not see it before! But this is the kind of mystery that can only really be understood after it has been accomplished. It is as simple as this: just as Jesus had to pass through death in order to inherit his resurrected life and his eternal kingdom, so must we.
This is how Paul writes about it in one of his letters: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”
A couple of weeks ago we wondered if the seventh trumpet might be the same “last trumpet” that Paul talked about. The answer is: yes. After the last rebellion, after the final great tribulation and death of Jesus’ Church, the seventh trumpet will sound…and the children of God will be revealed for all the world to see.
But now: what should we do with this information, the revelation of this mystery?
Well, in our search for a practical application today, we are going to go back and visit one of the seven churches that Jesus spoke to at the beginning of the book: we are going to visit the church in Pergamum, because their situation was very similar to the situation described in this chapter.
First, a little background:
Pergamum was the “great city” of Roman Asia: it was the official capital of the province. As a capital city, it was a major center for emperor worship, and for the worship of Dionysus and Aphrodite. Every spring, during the worship festivals dedicated to these gods, everyone in the city was expected to prove their loyalty to the community by participating in drunken orgies. Those who refused were considered anti-social, bad citizens — perhaps even enemies of the state.
To make matters even more complicated, Pergamum had also been given the right to use the sword. In other words: Pergamum’s city council was allowed to execute enemies of the state without first asking for Rome’s permission.
So with this in mind, we can understand better why Jesus says what he says to this church:
 To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
This is a reminder to the church that, even though their city council has claimed the power of life and death, the truth is: only Jesus has that power. He is the only true judge.
He goes on:  I know where you live—where Satan has his throne.
They live in one of the great centers of emperor worship.
Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
So the Christians of Pergamum have already lost people: attacked, overpowered, and killed by the beast that rules their local government. And yet they have remained faithful! They continue to call themselves by the name of Christ.
 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.  Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
So, when faced with violent persecution, the Christians of Pergamum are proud to call themselves Christians, and they are willing to die for that privilege!
But when faced with cultural or economic persecution, some Christians are redefining what “Christian” means. They are saying it is okay for Christians to participate in drunken orgies if it means maintaining a good reputation in the community. After all, how can we preach the glories of Christ if everyone hates us?
In other words: the church in Pergamum is good at resisting persecution from the top down; it is not so good at resisting persecution from the bottom up. When they are threatened with death, they stand strong! When they are threatened with poverty and the loss of social status…they are tempted to avoid such tribulation by compromising on an ethical, cultural level.
What we are seeing here is that all three spiritual characteristics of the figurative “great city” are at work in the city of Pergamum. The spirit of Egypt is present, the spirit that wants to attack and enslave the Church. The spirit of Sodom is present, the spirit that wants to seduce the Church. And the spirit of the false Jerusalem is present, the spirit that wants to corrupt the Church from within by pretending to be a Christian spirit and persuading Christians to submit to the spirit of Sodom. And it is clear, from what Jesus says here, that the false spirit of Jerusalem is the most dangerous threat.
That is why Jesus gives his church this very urgent command:  Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Jesus is telling his church in Pergamum to reject teachers who tell them they do not need to suffer tribulation. He is reminding them that it is, in fact, the Church’s destiny to suffer tribulation. And he is warning them that those who compromise their faith in order to avoid tribulation will one day suffer a far more terrible tribulation from Jesus himself!
Well, Jesus’ command here also applies to us, his church in Kuala Lumpur.
After all, we also live in a “great city” where Satan has his throne. The enslaving spirit of ancient Egypt is alive and well in our government: always standing by ready to attack and devour Christ’s people if we grow too strong. It perhaps goes without saying that the seductive spirit of Sodom is also very strongly at work in our city! — along with the deceptive spirit of the false Jerusalem: it is obvious that there are some churches among us here in Malaysia who hold to the teachings of Balaam and Nicolaos, the corrupted belief that the pursuit of prosperity and pleasure and power for the glory of God is the proper goal of every Christian.
Brothers and sisters, those teachers are lying. This is the truth: over the next time, times and half a time we are going to face more and more pressure to compromise our Christian values to fit the values of the world. Some of that pressure will be violent, but most of it will be subtle, seductive, and social. This pressure is already happening online: more and more, Christians are mocked by those in power who want to force their bestial values upon all the nations of the world. Well, listen, I tell you a mystery: we are going to lose. The day is coming when the power of the holy people will be broken, when Jesus’ Church will be seen as just a silly little cult of people still clinging to their silly little ideas, trotted out to be displayed in the public squares of the world whenever the nations need a good laugh. During those last three and a half days, Jesus’ Church will be like poor blind Samson, forced to perform between the pillars of the temple of Dagon for the entertainment of the masses.
We need to be preparing ourselves for this, friends. And the best way to prepare is to repent, to reject every temptation to avoid tribulation, to reject every teacher who would tempt us to avoid tribulation. We need to embrace this reality: that tribulation and defeat are actually the proper goals of Jesus’ Church — and that this bad news is actually our Good News, because death must always come before resurrection.
In facing tribulation, Jesus wants us to take the long view. He wants us to remember that, no matter how bad they get, tribulations can only last a time, times and half a time — and that they will always end in an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
 To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
Manna is the mysterious bread from heaven that God fed his people with during their 42 year exodus through the Old Testament wilderness. Early on, Moses took some of that manna and hid it inside the ark of God — the golden footstool of God’s throne. This “hidden manna” was a reminder to the following generations of their ancestors’ tribulations, and how God had led them faithfully home.
The white stone with a new name written on it is a reference to the precious stones that Israel’s high priests wore as part of their sacred robes: 12 stones, each one carved with a name of one of the 12 tribes. Those carved stones were seals, reminders that all the names of all God’s people have been secreted safely away within the inner sanctuary of God’s presence.
Those ancient symbols — the hidden bread and the sacred seals — are going to be fulfilled in the last moments of this world. This is how it will happen:
First, the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
Then, as it says in verse 19 here, God’s temple in heaven will be opened, and within his temple will be seen the ark of his covenant. This is the ark that contains the hidden manna and the hidden souls of all who have been sealed on the forehead with the mark of Christ. And as the ark of the covenant descends to meet the rising, resurrected Church, we will finally be made whole: our true heavenly names transforming our earthly names, the true heavenly manna feeding our transformed earthly bodies. In that moment, the eternal temple of Jesus’ Church will be completed, and will be established as the connecting point between heaven and earth, through which the holiness of heaven will come pouring down like living waters to fill the earth with eternal life: and so we will be with the Lord forever.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.