Revelation (Part 18): The Seventh Trumpet Kingdom
In the last part of Revelation 11, the seventh trumpet is blown, and we are told that the kingdom of the earth has become the kingdom of the Lord and his Messiah. Surely, however, this was already so, was it not? We had been reading in chapter 11 of our current age, which precedes the seventh trumpet, and the seventh trumpet is connected with Christ’s return—his second advent. Surely we believe Jesus is Lord now, right. He is already king. What then is the seventh trumpet meaning that the kingdom of the world only then becomes that of God’s and Christ’s?
One battle among Christians regards whether the world should be viewed in a one kingdom or two kingdom perspective. Some believe there are two kingdoms: Christ’s and Satan’s (or sin’s). A battle continues through this age until the end when Christ conquers and becomes king over all. Others believe that it is all Christ’s kingdom now. Rebels are being dealt with and sin is being pushed out. My understanding is that both these views misunderstand the kingdom.
Whenever we hear the phrase “the kingdom of God” or of Christ, we ought to immediately recall John 18:36. There Jesus stood before Pilate and said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Correctly understanding what Jesus meant helps us understand Revelation’s use of the word kingdom.
Many people understand Jesus to be decrying the selfish character of the kings of this world. Jesus’s kingdom was based on the cares and desires of God and not on human selfishness. But why wouldn’t we still say that that is selfish? If we say one king is selfish because he wants the world run according to his way and how it benefits him the most, why is it when God says no to that and demands that the world be run his way (God’s way) to bring glory to God, that that isn’t considered selfish? We may argue that it is okay for God to be selfish because he’s the all-powerful one. He could crush us like a bug. Therefore, he deserves to be worshipped. But selfishness is still selfishness no matter how strong one is.
If someone of this earth were better than us in every way—strength, beauty, intelligence, riches, etc.—and that person were to treat us rudely if we did not bow before her or him, we’d be repulsed by the arrogance. Arrogance is not pretty whether it comes from someone less than us or greater than us. So why should we excuse it with God?
Here’s where a firm grasp on kinship theology is necessary. We must remember that God’s primary characteristic is love. Even without this creation, God, existing in his multiple-in-oneness, was love. His essence of truth, goodness, and beauty exists as truth, goodness, and beauty in relationship. His purpose for creation was to establish an everlasting love relationship with his image bearers—ones who could understand this truth, goodness, and beauty, embrace it in faith, pursue it in hope, and share it in love.
Since we can understand that to be the character of God and his purpose in how he lives and moves, we see contrast between this and the attitude of the earthly, selfish kings and kingdoms. This is how Christ’s kingdom is different. Christ’s kingdom is built on relational truth, goodness, and beauty.
This is also the reason why such an important divide exists between kinship theology’s faith electionism and reformed theology’s Calvinism. One passage that illustrates this well is 1 Peter 3:18-21. Most translations of this passage make it almost impossible to understand. But proceeding slowly through it will provide insight.
The passage begins telling us that Christ suffered for sins—our sins. He was righteous—faithful to the covenant of life. We, through Adam, were unrighteous—unfaithful to that covenant. What was the covenant? God’s covenant at the beginning was no mere master-to-slave test of obedience that, when broken, would send God into a rage at the affront, requiring a punishment of death. God created for relationship—a relationship necessarily dependent on his relational truth, goodness, and beauty. When Adam and Eve chose for self rather than trust in their relationship with God—the relationship necessarily (logically) was broken. If life is defined as relationship with God and death is defined as separation from relationship with God, Adam and Eve’s broken relationship could be called nothing else but death.
Jesus came to suffer and die—without cause—so that his death could be given to us, satisfying the condition (not simply assuaging God’s anger). We could then be brought to God. This is the focus of the 1 Peter passage. Let’s see how Peter works through it.
First he tells us that Jesus was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. In this spirit he went to proclaim to “spirits under guard” (end of verse 18). Who were these spirits under guard? We must understand that Christ’s redemption occurred at one point in history. Before that, people desired relationship with God and trusted in God for rescue just as we do now since the time that Christ accomplished redemption. Yet before Christ came, those people who died had no substitutionary death to offer so as to be able to be brought to God. They waited, therefore, for Christ’s rescue. We see hints of that in stories such as Lazarus awaiting in Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16).
We are told then in 1 Peter 3:19 that Jesus proclaimed to these disobeying ones from time past. Peter then gives an important example in verse 20. Some of those disobeying ones were actually Noah and his family. Noah and his family were just as disobedient as every other soul that died in that flood. But the difference was that Noah wanted relationship with God. It was based on that that God brought him through the flood in the ark.
1 Peter 3:21, then, shows the parallel. Noah being brought through the water of death to life is the same kind of figure or image that baptism is supposed to represent—a coming through the blood and death of Jesus to a resurrected life with God. And it is, as verse 21 tells us, because of the appeal of a good conscience—faith—that God carries us through.
This is consistent with God’s character and purpose. Only those who seek relationship may have life, defined as relationship with God.