After the terrible events of the sixth Trumpet (which is the second woe), including the things that John heard and saw from the might angel and of the two witnesses, the seventh angel sounded his trumpet. This seventh trumpet (which is the third woe) introduces, opens the door to, and includes all the rest of the judgments, including the seven bowls and the following events leading to the establishing of the millennial kingdom.
Here, in three parts, is the introduction of the seventh trumpet.
Verses 15-17. Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.
As the seventh angel sounds his trumpet, signaling the beginning of the next series of judgments (the bowls), those in heaven around the throne can see and hear the coming kingdom—they are thrilled. And even though it will be a while for its fullness on earth, at least three and one-half years, there are voices in heaven announcing it as if it were beginning. They are saying two things: 1) The kingdom of the world (led by Satan) has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and 2) He (Christ) will reign (over the heavens and the earth) forever and ever.
And then also the twenty-four elders (who represent the church now in heaven) fall on their faces and worship God, and say, “You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.”
The meaning here in these verses, I think, is that when Satan is kicked out of heaven it is at that point that the scepter of the kingdom is passed from the hands of Satan into the hands of the Savior (we see this in 12:10). Yet we know that God’s transfer of power is just in its first stage, because there will still be evil in the world. At this point, at the midpoint of the Tribulation, Christ is just beginning to reign and He will allow the evil dragon (Satan) and the Antichrist to do their evil work for His purpose—for His judgment of sin. Hence, He has begun to reign in heaven and on earth, yet He will allow evil for three and a half more years (until He comes).
Verse 18. “And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”
There are three things here to consider:
1. The nations are enraged. This reminds me of Psalms 2. Yes, they are enraged or “in an uproar.” But God answers them with His wrathful judgment.
2. Rewards will be given. At His second coming rewards will be given to the Old Testament saints and to the Tribulation saints. The raptured church may also be included here. They will have already been rewarded at the rapture.
3. Destruction to unbelievers. Those who “destroy the earth” are all those on earth who are unbelievers. They will be condemned to the lake of fire forever (Rev. 20:15).
Verse 19. And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm.
This scene of the temple of God being opened is quite a mystery. Was it opened to just John, or to all of the Jews? And where and when did this occur? Hal Lindsey seems to suggest that it was opened to the Jews. As he points out, “[This scene is to show the Jews that] the ark is to remind them that He will be unconditionally faithful to His covenant of forgiveness that He makes with those who will accept the message of His Messiah Jesus.”15 Also, as Lindsey suggests, it is a warning of the coming judgment to any who reject their messiah (Rev. 16:18-21).
15 Ibid., p. 154.