Rev. 11:13 – At that moment a violent earthquake took place, a tenth of the city fell, and 7,000 people were killed in the earthquake. The survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. 14The second woe has passed. Take note: the third woe is coming quickly! (HCSB)
The survivors gave glory to the God of heaven
John writes that the “survivors” of the earthquake are “terrified” and give “glory to the God of heaven” (v. 13). His use of the word “survivors” implies the death of some – perhaps people, human institutions or world systems. Those still alive see the hand of God in these events and are shaken to the bone with fear. Fear of the Lord can be a good thing, starting us on a journey of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). Or, it can move us further away from God, motivating us to hide from His presence (Rev. 6:15-17). Or, it can inspire awe, leading us to exclaim, “We have seen incredible things today” (Luke 5:26).
Commentators are divided as to whether the survivors’ fear in this passage drives them to repentance or merely elicits a response designed to appease an angry God. Elsewhere in Revelation, the wicked stubbornly refuse to turn to God despite the clear understanding that God is bringing His judgments to bear on the earth. After the sixth trumpet is sounded, “The rest of the people, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands to stop worshipping demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood … And they did not repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality, or their thefts” (Rev. 9:20-21). As the fourth bowl judgment is poured out, the wicked who are burned by fire “blasphemed the name of the God who had the power over these plagues, and they did not repent and give God the glory” (Rev. 16:9). And as the fifth bowl judgment follows, plunging people into darkness, they “gnawed their tongues from pain and blasphemed the God of heaven … yet they did not repent of their actions” (Rev. 16:11).
Rev. 11:13 — At that moment a violent earthquake took place, a tenth of the city fell, and 7,000 people were killed in the earthquake. The survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. (HCSB)
A violent earthquake took place
Some commentators urge us to take this passage literally, as a geological event that claims 7,000 lives and causes destruction to one-tenth of Jerusalem. Other interpreters ask us to see this earthquake symbolically. For example, we may see it as the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, where the Lord is taking His “tithe” of the great city and warning His people of further judgment to come in the last days. Or, we may see it as a reference to the political upheaval that shakes Europe after the Reformation; the one-tenth of the city means a fraction of Rome’s power has been lost, and the phrase “7,000 people” refers to seven provinces that break away from Rome. Or, we may view this as God’s righteous destruction of the impenitent (seven being the number of God and 1,000 implying a great number), or of the persecution of the saints. Or, we may understand it as a symbolic representation of alarming events that will occur on the eve of final judgment.
Rev. 11:11 — But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet. So great fear fell on those who saw them. 12Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” They went up to heaven in a cloud while their enemies watched them. (HCSB)
The breath of life from God entered them
John records that “after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet. So great fear fell on those who saw them” (v. 11). Various interpretations are offered. For some, this resurrection is the restoration of political and religious order following the anarchy of the Jewish War, or perhaps the ultimate political and spiritual revival of Israel (see Eze. 37:10-11). For others, it is the resurrection of Christ and the Spirit-infused testimony of the church constituting the two witnesses. Still others argue that after three and a half years of uncontested papal rule following the declaration of the Fifth Lateran Council in 1514, Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church, igniting the Reformation. Spiritualists contend that the events in Revelation 11 symbolize the many times in church history that the Body of Christ has been beaten down by the world, only to rise stronger and rightly vindicated.
Rev. 10:1 – Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face was like the sun, his legs were like fiery pillars, 2and he had a little scroll opened in his hand. He put his right foot on the sea, his left on the land, 3and he cried out with a loud voice like a roaring lion. When he cried out, the seven thunders spoke with their voices. 4And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. Then I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down!”
5Then the angel that I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. 6He swore an oath by the One who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it: “There will no longer be an interval of time, 7but in the days of the sound of the seventh angel, when he will blow his trumpet, then God’s hidden plan will be completed, as He announced to His servants the prophets.”
8Now the voice that I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “God, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”
9So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take and eat it; it will be bitter in your stomach, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.”
10Then I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It was as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I ate it, my stomach became bitter. 11And I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.” (HCSB)
God’s hidden plan will be completed (v. 7)
The second phrase of special interest in the mighty angel’s oath (the first is that there will no longer be an interval of time) is that “God’s hidden plan will be completed” at the sound of the seventh angel’s trumpet. Note carefully that the angel does not say God’s hidden plan will be revealed, but completed. And he adds, “as He announced to His servants the prophets” (v. 7). In other words, we are not to look for further revelation when the third woe is declared; we are to watch as the Lord reclaims what is rightfully His – the kingdoms of this world. He already has told us this day will come. Now He’s going to fulfill His promise.
Rev. 7:9 – After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb! 11All the angels stood around the throne, the elders, and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying: Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength, be to our God forever and ever. Amen. 13Then one of the elders asked me, “Who are these people robed in white, and where did they come from?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you know.” Then he told me: These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His sanctuary. The One seated on the throne will shelter them: 16no longer will they hunger; no longer will they thirst; no longer will the sun strike them, or any heat. 17Because the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; He will guide them to springs of living waters, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (HCSB).
They cried out in a loud voice
The redeemed cry out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb” (v. 10). Their praise reflects at least two biblical truths. First, salvation is of God and not of man. We are bankrupt in our sins; lost and separated from God; under condemnation; deserving only of His wrath; self-sold into the slave market of sin; blinded; bound; citizens of the kingdom of darkness; spiritually dead. The redeemed know this and declare it openly before their Savior. The lost do not know their desperate state – and cannot know it unless the Holy Spirit touches their stone-cold hearts, convincing them of their unbelief, their futile self-righteousness, and their future lot with Satan (John 16:7-11). God has taken the initiative to save lost sinners and has completed the work necessary for our salvation. All that remains is for the sinner to receive the gift of eternal life by faith – and even faith is a gift of God.
The second truth in this cry of the redeemed is that salvation is the finished work of the triune Godhead. God the Father, seated on the throne, has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, in Christ (Eph. 1:3). He chose us, in Christ, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight (Eph. 1:4). He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself (Eph. 1:5). He sent His Son to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14). Take note that all of these wondrous acts of the Father are accomplished through the Son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
While the Holy Spirit is not mentioned in the praise of the redeemed in Rev. 7:10, other scriptures make it clear that He, too, plays an active role in our redemption. He convicts lost sinners of their need for salvation (John 16:7-11); regenerates believing sinners, imparting new life into their once-dead spirits (John 3:5, 6:63; 2 Cor. 3:6); seals believers, or places God’s mark of ownership upon them (Eph.. 4:3); confirms that they belong to God (Rom. 8:16); equips them for ministry through spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:7); and helps them in prayer (Rom. 8:26-27).
Yes, Christ is our Savior, and His finished work on our behalf is accomplished in full cooperation with the Father and the Spirit. Just as the Bible teaches that each member of the Godhead played a role in creation, it also teaches that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit work together in the “new creation” of redeemed lives and, ultimately, new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21-22).
Next: All the angels stood around the throne