Monday, July 30, 2012

Satan Cast Out of Heaven

Reflections on Revelation 12:7-17

When Satan fails to kill Jesus, the male child, and Jesus is caught up to God's throne, Satan also loses his place in heaven.  Until Christ's ascension, Satan had stood in God's presence and continually accused our brothers, but now he has no claim against them.  Christ's death has paid their penalty, so Satan no longer has any legal basis to accuse them. Michael and his angels prevail against the dragon and his angels and throw him out of heaven (see John 12:31-32).  Now all the brothers who were faithful in their testimony even unto death can rejoice before the throne because they conquered the dragon by relying on the blood of the Lamb. 

While heaven rejoices because the kingdom of God and authority of Christ have been asserted in heaven, woe is pronounced on the earth and sea because the devil has come down on them in great wrath.  With these words, John explains why the saints on earth are still suffering when Christ has displaced Satan before the throne of God.

On earth, Satan turns his wrath on the woman who had given birth to the male child and on the rest of her offspring who keep God's commands and are faithful in their testimony to Jesus.  Thus, the woman is the mother of all those in addition to Jesus who are children of the free woman (Galatians 4:26) and represents all God's faithful servants throughout the ages.
Although Satan pursues the woman, God protects her by giving her the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly into the wilderness where God would nourish her just as he had nourished Israel on manna in the desert after bearing them out of Egypt as on eagles' wings (Exodus 19:4).  She is nourished in the wilderness for a time, times, and half a time, which is the same time as mentioned in verse 6, the time between the ascension and return of Christ.  The serpent tries to destroy the woman with a torrent of slander and persecution, but the earth swallows it up. Satan may slander and persecute the church, but he will never defeat her.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Woman and the Dragon

Reflections on Revelation 12:1-6

Chapter twelve begins the fourth major division of Revelation.  It is also the central division in a chiastic structure, so it plays a central role in the unfolding plot.  In previous chapters, the saints have faced opposition and God has fought on their behalf, but the enemies remain shadowy figures.  In this fourth division of John's book, the enemies are fully exposed.  Once identified in this section, they will quickly be judged and sentenced to eternal punish in following sections.

The first enemy is a great red dragon.  In verse nine, he is called the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan.  God's archenemy is determined to destroy the woman's promised son who is to crush his head and rule the nations (Genesis 3:15).  The woman wearing a crown of twelve stars, the twelve sons of Jacob (cf. Genesis 37:9), represents God's faithful Israelite community through whom the Son came.   She includes Eve, Sarah, and Mary.  She is the antithesis of the Great Prostitute about whom we will read later (Revelation 17:1).

The great red dragon fails to devour Jesus, the male child, at his birth, and Jesus ultimately triumphs over him at his resurrection and is caught up into heaven to the throne from which he rules all the nations with a rod of iron.   The radiant woman then flees into the wilderness to be nourished just as Israel had been nourished on its journey to the Promised Land.  The 1,260 days of her sojourn begins at Christ's ascension into heaven and ends with Christ's return to judge the world.  The 1,260 days represent the whole period between Christ's first and second comings.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Last Trumpet

Reflections on Revelation 11:15-19

When the seventh trumpet sounds, the holy people are no longer broken, the holy city is no longer trampled by the nations, and the nations rage no longer.  The saints possess the kingdom because the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ.  The Lord God Almighty has taken his great power and begun to reign.  He judges the dead, rewarding his servants and destroying the destroyers who killed the saints and plundered the earth to satisfy their greed.  More than that, the saints enter the presence of God and dwell there for the temple in heaven is opened revealing the ark of his covenant, which contains God's promises of redemption and salvation for his people.

The seven trumpet blasts assure the saints that God hears their prayers when they are hurting.  Even now, he is pouring out plagues on the wicked.  Because of these plagues, the wicked may heap greater afflictions upon the saints, but the stubborn rebellion of the wicked vindicates God's eventual punishment.   God will deliver the saints, just as he did the Israelites.

Just as the vision of the seven seals ends with the judgment of the nations at the return of Christ, so also the vision of the seven trumpets ends with the judgment of the nations at the return of Christ.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Death and Resurrection of the Two Witnesses

Reflections on Revelation 11:7-14

Although the message of the two witnesses can never be destroyed, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit, whose work will be described later in Revelation, makes war on them and conquers them.  Their dead bodies are left lying on the street of the great city, a term which refers to Babylon (see 16:9 and 18:21).  Spiritually, the great city is also called Sodom and Egypt, and it is said to be the place where the Lord was crucified.  These multiple images of Babylon, Sodom, Egypt, and Jerusalem confirm that the outer court refers to all nations in the inhabited world.   Further confirmation is found in verses nine and ten where men from the peoples, tribes, languages, and nations look upon their dead bodies and rejoice because the two prophets had tormented those who dwell on the earth (see Beale, 1999, pp. 593 ff.).

The scene John sees in the vision is reminiscent of the desecration of Jerusalem by the Babylonians as described in Psalm 79:1-7.  John uses the Psalmist's language to describe what he sees.  The Psalmist says that the city is defiled and destroyed and that the bodies of God's people are left unburied on the streets of the city to be mocked by their enemies.  Like the souls under the altar in Revelation 6:10, the Psalmist asks, "How long, O Lord, until you pour out your anger on the nations who do not know you?"

The apparent victory of the beast over the witnesses does not last long.  After only three and a half days, a breath of life from God enters them, and they stand on their feet.  Again John uses language from the OT to describe what he sees.  Just as Ezekiel saw the return of Judah from captivity as the revival of dry bones by the breath of God which entered them and caused them to stand on their feet (Ezekiel 37:9-10), so John sees God's slain witnesses raised to their feet by the breath of life from God.  The allusion to Ezekiel's valley of dry bones suggests that the two witnesses represent all God's witnesses who are slain for their testimony.  After standing on their feet, a loud voice from heaven calls them, and they ascend into heaven in a cloud.  Immediately, a great earthquake strikes the earth, and a tenth part of the great city falls.  God vindicates his faithful witnesses.  Death is their victory.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Two Witnesses

Reflections on Revelation 11:1-6

After eating the little book, John is given a measuring rod and told to measure the temple, altar, and those who worship there.  This vision assures John that even in this time before the blowing of the seventh trumpet, God has marked off an area which is safe from harm.  That area is described as God's temple, the altar, and all who worship at the temple are measured and protected.   As John made clear in the introduction when he called the saints of Asia Minor a kingdom and priests (1:6), the temple imagery is symbolic.  The temple is not the earthly temple where God's glory dwelled for a time, but it is the heavenly one not made with hands where God continues to dwell.  That the altar is included in being measured reminds us that the protection symbolized by the measuring is spiritual and eternal rather than temporal and physical, for under it are the souls of those who were slain for the word of God (6:9).  Those who have been slain or who worship there cannot be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:35).  They have nothing to fear from those who can kill only the body, for they cannot destroy the soul (Matthew 10:28).

On the other hand, the court outside the temple, which John is not to measure, is trampled by the nations for forty-two months.  This area is also called the holy city because the saints dwell there as long as they are in their mortal bodies.  This part of the vision explains why the saints suffer until the seventh trumpet is blown.  Just as the court outside the earthly temple was given to the nations to walk upon it, so the whole earth is trampled by the nations.  The saints suffer even while protected for eternity because they prophesy in the "outer court" or "holy city" which the nations trample and desecrate for forty-two months.

Forty-two months is the "time, times, and half a time" during which the power of God's holy people on earth is "broken" in Daniel 12:7.  (Three and a half "times" equals three and a half years; three and a half years with twelve months in a year equals forty-two months.)   In Revelation, the forty-two months is the entire time the message of Christ is proclaimed from the ascension of Christ (Revelation 12:5-6) until his second coming (Revelation 13:5 with 19:11-20).

During a period of 1,260 days (which is equal to the forty-two months with thirty days in a month), two witnesses prophesy in the outer court. Just as Jesus sent his disciples two by two so that their testimony might be verified, so God's living saints are pictured here as two witnesses.   They prophesy for 1260 days in sackcloth because they know the terrible destruction that awaits the nations which reject the word of Christ they proclaim.  Nevertheless, their testimony cannot be destroyed.  God defends their testimony with plagues and drought and fire from heaven just as he defended the words of Moses and Elijah so that a remnant of all nations might be saved by God's mighty power.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Good News, Bad News

Reflections on Revelation 10:1-11

The seventh trumpet is not blown immediately after the sixth trumpet.  Instead, John sees a mighty angel coming down from heaven.  He is wrapped in a cloud (cf. Daniel 7:13), a rainbow is over his head (cf. Revelation 4:3), and his face shines like the sun (cf. Revelation 1:16) suggesting his close relationship with the Faithful and Holy One sitting on the throne and with his Son.  Unlike the seven thunders which are hidden or sealed, the angel's message is not sealed, but is open in his hand. 

The mighty angel raising his right hand to heaven and, swearing by him who lives forever and ever, declares that there would be no more delay but that the mystery of God previously announced to the prophets would be fulfilled when the seventh trumpet is sounded.  Two allusions to the Old Testament suggest that the mystery of God refers to vindicating his servants and bringing an end to their suffering.  In Deuteronomy 32:40-41, God lifts his hand to heaven and swears that he will take vengeance on his adversaries who oppress and corrupt his people.  Then in Daniel 12:7, a heavenly messenger raises his hands to heaven and swears that the suffering of the holy people would cease at the end of a time, times, and half a time.  Daniel did not understand, and the words were sealed (their meaning hidden), but now the angel reveals when the suffering of God's people would end:  it would end at the sounding of the seventh and final trumpet (Beale, 1999, pp. 537 ff.).

Immediately after this, a voice from heaven instructs John to take the scroll in the angel's hand.  The angel gives him the book and tells him to eat it.  He also tells John the book will become bitter in his stomach, but it will be sweet as honey in his mouth.  The message of God's judgment on behalf of the oppressed saints was sweet as honey in John's mouth, but upon reflection the message becomes bitter in his stomach. Judgment is a message of mercy to the oppressed, but it is necessarily also a message of condemnation to the oppressing nations.   This side of the message is bitter not only because the judgment is horrific, but also because the nations refuse to heed the warning. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Armies of Evil Spiritual Powers

Reflections on Revelation 9:13-21

When the angel blows the sixth trumpet, a voice speaks to him from the horns of the golden altar.  In the earthly tabernacle, the golden altar was the altar of incense, which stood immediately in front of the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (Exodus 30:1 ff.).  Incense was offered daily on this altar, and the blood of a sin offering on the Day of Atonement was sprinkled on the horns of this altar once a year (Exodus 30:10; cf. Leviticus 4:7).  In the heavenly temple, the prayers of the saints are offered on the golden altar (Revelation 8:3), and the blood of Slain Lamb on the horns of that altar also pleads the cause of the saints and commands that the four angels bound at the great river Euphrates be set loose.

A vast army numbering 200,000,000 is unleashed on impenitent mankind and kills a third of them.  In the Old Testament, God sent the armies of Assyria and Babylonia, which were beyond the Euphrates, to discipline an impenitent Israel which had given itself to idolatry, violence, and theft. Here, the armies attack those who persecute God's people, but they do not repent.  Their impenitence vindicates God's coming judgment. 

Every war has a spiritual dimension.  In the sixth seal, the armies are the agents of evil nations, yet God uses them again to accomplish his divine purpose just as God used Assyria and Babylonia. 

I have seen similar things in my own lifetime.  Evil spiritual forces were certainly behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.  They should have served as a warning to the ungodly of our nation who promote and profit from pornography, convict those who oppose ungodly lifestyles of hate crimes, scoff at those who honor marriage, despise those who oppose abortion, arrest those who pray in public, and denounce the preaching of Christ as intolerance.  The attacks did not halt our nation's slide into unrighteousness.  If greater disasters destroy our nation in the future, the failure to change our sinful ways will fully justify God's judgment.  Like Habakkuk, we may wonder why God uses such evil nations to accomplish his purpose, but we must trust God's plan. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Giant Killers

Reflections on 2 Samuel 21:15-22 and 1 Chronicles 20:4-8

During the course of the Philistine wars, David's men killed four giants.  The first was Ishbi-Benob whose spearhead weighed almost eight pounds, half the weight of Goliath's spearhead.  He was threatening David, who had become weary, when Abishai, David's nephew, came to his rescue and killed the giant.  Abishai was also one of his mighty soldiers (see 2 Samuel 23:18-19), greater than the thirty but not as great as the three.  Sibbecai killed the second giant named Saph at a place called Gob.  Elhanan killed a third giant who is called Goliath here, but he is called Lahmi the brother of Goliath in 1 Chronicles 20:5.  Finally, David's nephew Jonathan killed the fourth Philistine giant, who was an unusual man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot.
These exploits remind us that a Christians we must both stand alone against the multitudes opposed the knowledge of our God and our Savior and be willing to face the giants who would harm us.  God gives the victory to those who are faithful even to death. 

Hall of Fame (Part Three)

Reflections on 2 Samuel 23:24-39 and 1 Chronicles 11:26-47

Those who visit the Vietnam War Memorial often are looking for one specific name, perhaps a father, brother, or son.  Most of the other names on the wall are unknown to them, yet the list of names adds something to the meaning of the one name they are looking for.  Similarly, relatives of the men on David's list may not have known everyone on the list, but those relatives would have taken great satisfaction that one of their own family was included.
The following names in 1Samuel 23 are listed elsewhere in the story of David:  1) Asahel  and 2) Joab, David's nephews.  Asahel  (v. 24) was killed by Abner during the war between the house of Saul and David.  Joab (v. 37) led the attack on Jerusalem and became commander of David's army.  3) Naharai, Joab's armor-bearer (v. 37).   4) Jonathan (v. 32), the son of Shammah, who was one of the Three (2 Samuel 23:11-12).  5) Eliam and 6) Uriah the Hittite.    Eliam (v. 34) was the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite, who was one of David's most trusted advisers (2 Samuel 15:12).  Eliam was also the father of Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3).  Uriah the Hittite (v. 39) was the husband of Bathsheba. 

Each month of the year, David had a different division of his army on active duty.  Each division consisted of 24,000 men.  Several of the thirty mighty men were commanders of these divisions:  Helez (2 Samuel 23:26) was commander of the division on duty during the seventh month of the year (1 Chronicles 27:10), Ira the son of Ikkesh (2 Samuel 23:26) was commander of the division on duty during the sixth month of the year (1 Chronicles 27:9), Abiezer  (2 Samuel 23:27) was commander of the division on duty during the ninth month (1 Chronicles 27:12), Maharai (2 Samuel 23:28) was commander of the division on duty on duty during the tenth month (1 Chronicles 27:13), and Benaiah the Pirathonite (2 Samuel 23:30) commander of the division on duty during the eleventh month (1 Chronicles 27:14). 

Hall of Fame (Part Two)

Reflections on 2 Samuel 23:18-23 and 1 Chronicles 11:20-25

Abishai was the brother of Joab and son of David's sister Zeruiah (1 Chronicles 2:13-14).  He had gone with David by night into Saul's camp (1 Samuel 26:6-9).  He had plotted with his brother Joab to kill Abner to avenge the death of Asahel (2 Samuel 3:30).  Whenever Joab divided the army, Abishai often commanded the second part (2 Samuel 10:10).  He had also slain the giant Ishbi-Benob when he was about to kill David (2 Samuel 21:17).  Here, he is remembered for killing 300 men with his spear, a feat comparable to the feats of the three mighty men.   Although Abishai was not numbered with the three might men, he was their commander.  

Benaiah's father, Jehoiada, was a priest and the commander of the soldiers from the family of Aaron who had gone to Hebron with the northern tribes when they made David king of all Israel (1 Chronicles 12:27).  As a priest, Benaiah had participated in bringing the ark to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 15:16 ff.).   Although of a priestly line, Benaiah was a brave soldier.  He had slain two of Moab's best soldiers, killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day, and armed with only a club, he had disarmed an Egyptian and killed him with his own spear.  Benaiah was put in charge of David's bodyguard and of the standing army in the third month (1 Chronicles 27:5-6).

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Plague of Spiritual Delusions

Inscription for a pagan temple
marked out with a cross
Reflections on Revelation 9:1-12

The fifth trumpet sounds, and a star falls from heaven to earth.  The star is given the key to open the bottomless pit, which is the abode of evil spiritual forces.  The great smoke that ascends from the bottomless pit is spiritual deception and wickedness that darkens the light of God in this world (Hendriksen, 1967, p. 145).  Locusts come from the smoke, but instead of destroying grass, trees, and all that is green as the locusts did in Egypt, they harm only people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.  The pain of sin and rebellion against God is said to be like the sting of a scorpion.  This plague is permitted to continue only five months.

Unlike locusts of the earth, these locusts have a king over them who is the angel of the bottomless pit called Abaddon or Apollyon.  The first name is in Hebrew and the second in Greek.  Both names mean Destroyer.
The fifth trumpet blast is the first of three woes (Revelation 9:13).  It is not merely a physical plague, but the powers of darkness are unleashed and used by God to accomplish his will.  The locusts are allowed to harm only those without the seal of God on their foreheads. The saints, like the Israelites in Egypt, are protected from the plagues.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Lord Defends the Saints

Reflections on Revelation 8:6-14

What is the significance of the blowing of the seven trumpets in this vision? In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to make trumpets to call assemblies, to announce the Day of Atonement, and to call Israel to battle (Numbers 10:1-10). God promised to remember Israel and to fight for them when he heard the trumpet blasts.
View of Plain
from Mt. Carmel
And when you go to war in your land against the adversary who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the LORD your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies. -- Numbers 10:9 ESV
Accordingly, Israel marched into battle against Balaam and the Midianites to the sound of trumpets, and God gave them victory (Num 31:1-7). God leveled the walls of Jericho when the trumpets were blown in the days of Joshua (Joshua 6:20). Gideon and 300 men blew trumpets and defeated an army as numberless as the sand of the sea (Judges 7:8). Nehemiah assured those working on the walls of Jerusalem that God would fight for them when they were attacked if they sounded the trumpets (Nehemiah 4:20). The trumpet blasts assure suffering saints that God will fight for them.

The trumpet blasts also assure the suffering saints that they will be victorious because the Lord will send out angels to gather them with a loud trumpet call (Matthew 24:31), and at that last trumpet call, the dead will be raised (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

Each of the first four trumpet calls brings a plague on the earth similar to one of the plagues that fell on the Egyptians when God chastised them for afflicting his firstborn son (Exodus 4:22-23). He responds similarly against those afflicting his firstborn ones during this age. A third of the earth is burned up when the first trumpet is sounded (8:7). A third of the seas become blood and a third of the ships are destroyed (8:8-9) when the second trumpet is sounded. A third of the fresh waters are made bitter (8:10-11), and a third of the sun, moon, and stars are darkened for a third part of the day (8:12) when the third and fourth trumpets are sounded.

After that, John sees an eagle flying in the midst of the heavens. The eagle announces that the three calamities to follow will be even greater. He says, "Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!"

God sees the suffering of his saints, hears their cries, and sends plagues on their enemies assuring the saints of eventual victory.

Monday, July 9, 2012

God Answers Prayer

 Reflections on Revelation 8:2-5

Throughout this age, saints give their lives for the word of God and the testimony they give for Jesus as was seen in the fifth seal. The opening of the sixth and seventh seals assured the saints that those martyrs would be remembered: Christ would return to judge the nations and gather the elect. But, what about those who suffer and are not killed? God does not ignore their plight, does he? No, the new vision, a series of seven trumpet blasts, assures suffering saints that they, too, are remembered before God. He hears the prayers of suffering saints throughout this age. Thus, the sounding of the seven trumpets is roughly parallel with the opening of the seven seals.

Model of Jerusalem; Herod's Palace
with the Temple in the Background
The vision of the seven trumpet blasts is introduced with the prayers of the saints ascending before God with the incense which an angel offers on the golden altar. This altar is not the altar of sacrifice from which the martyrs cried out earlier. Instead, it corresponds to the golden altar of incense before the veil in the Holy Place of the temple in Jerusalem. This altar, however, stands before God in the true, heavenly temple not made with hands. An angel, not a descendant of Aaron, serves at this altar. The prayers refer to the prayers of those suffering for their faith in Jesus. Their prayers remind us of the cries of the Israelites in Egypt (Exodus 2:23-25). The rising of the incense before God in his heavenly temple assures the saints that God hears their prayers just as he heard the cries of the Israelites.

After the angel offers the incense, he fills the censer with fire from the altar and throws it on the earth, and there is thunder, lightening, and an earthquake (v. 5), which foreshadow the judgments which God will send upon the earth.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Book on David's Life Now Available

The name of David, king of Israel, occurs in the Bible more than the name of any other person. The righteousness and equity of his reign became the standard by which all other kings were judged, and the standard he set is surpassed only by Jesus, the Messiah.

City of David and Temple Mount, 1975
Reflections on the Life of King David is not a commentary in the sense of examining the text and explaining the meanings of the words and sentences. Instead, it examines a series of topics suggested by the text that are fitting for reflection and discussion. Hence, it provides discussion questions and personal reflections on short sections of Scripture, which will help people today to emulate David's good qualities and avoid his mistakes. At the same time, the book attempts to
  • Arrange events in David's life chronologically
  • Estimate David's age for each of nine periods in his life
  • Collate the events recorded in Samuel/Kings with the events recorded in Chronicles
My book is available at my publisher:

Link to my publisher
I would appreciate reviews or ratings after you read the book. (Well positive ones anyway. I am not sure how my ego would take a negative review.) The book will also be available on in six to eight weeks.

Silence in Heaven

Reflections on Revelation 8:1

I remember as a child having to answer my dad when he asked, "Son, did you do this?" I seldom wanted to answer the question, but I usually had to say, "Yes."

Theater in Samaria, 1975
Then Dad asked, "Why did you do it?" I never knew what to say, and usually said, "I don't know." Well, I usually did know, but I also knew that my reason would never stand up under Dad's judgment. Inevitably, I had disobeyed an explicit command or had known better than to do it. I could never argue with Dad's judgment. I could only accept it in silence.

The same is true when the seventh seal is opened, and God announces his judgment. Heaven is filled with silence. God's judgment is conclusive, no opposition remains, and the wicked are silenced.
But the Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him.
-- Habakkuk 2:20 NIV
The defiant, belligerent, and proud will have nothing to say on that day. Those who make excuses and those who cry "unfair" will also be silenced. Those who spurned the Lamb, or ignored him, will not say a word. The judgment of the Almighty is final (Beale, 1999, p. 447 ff.).

Monday, July 2, 2012

Gathering the Elect

Reflections on Revelation 7:1-17

The sealing of the tribes of Israel and the great multitude gathered before the throne from all nations corresponds to the gathering of the elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other, in Matthew 24:31 and following verses.

The purpose of this section is to assure the servants of God that they will be kept safe when the Lamb pours out his wrath on the nations. Before that day comes, their number is completed and they are sealed on their foreheads that they might be protected (see Revelation 9:4). This picture is based in part on Ezekiel 9 where those who were distressed by the sins of Jerusalem were marked and protected from those who executed God's wrath against the city. Similarly here, the ones sealed are protected from the wrath of the Lamb.

The 144,000 from every tribe of Israel represent all of the saints of God on the earth at one time. Recall that John said earlier that Jesus has released us from our sins and "made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father" (Revelation 1:6). John takes the language of the kingdom and priesthood referring to Israel in the Old Testament and transfers it to the saints of all nations. The numbering signifies that the Lamb knows all who are part of his kingdom and that his wrath is delayed until their number is completed. The sealing signifies that they are protected.

The great multitude is from all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues gathered around the throne where they praise God and the Lamb. They represent all of God's people of all time gathered at the end of the age. Those living at his return are united with those who died before his return (1 Corinthians 15:50-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The shift from the twelve tribes, representing God's people on the earth, to people of every nation and tribe and tongue emphasizes that Christ's kingdom has been conquering while the nations were fighting among themselves, and that his victory is completed with his coming.

One of the elders who stood before the throne confirms the identity of the great multitutde dressed in white robes. They were those who had washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and come through great tribulation while the the nations were at war. Because they had been cleansed and faithful to their commander, they are before the throne of God in his temple. God dwells with them, trials are ended, tears are wiped away, and the Lamb leads them to the water of life. They live in the eternal kingdom of peace after the last enemy has been destroyed.