This article continues our Prophecy Q/A series, where I do my best to answer questions from readers like you.
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Q: What does Revelation 5:13-14 mean when it says that “every one in heaven on earth and under the earth” will praise the Lord? I don’t understand that. The rapture just happened (Revelation 4:1) and the tribulation is about to start, so how can it be that all are praising God—especially considering they reject Him here on earth. And what about the term “under the earth?” Is that Hell, or what? It would be great if you can answer that. God bless you for your wonderful work you are doing! Thanks in advance.
A: In the Old Testament “the grave” (AKA “Hades”) was the place of the dead. Revelation relies heavily on Old Testament motifs/allusions. Even the unbelieving dead are still conscious as they await the final judgment. They are in Hell/Hades (a place of torment as described by Jesus explanation of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31) while they await final judgment after the Millennial Kingdom (see Revelation 20:11-15).
There are several places in Revelation where (similar to a modern day movie) there is a flash-forward scene to the end of the tribulation period . Revelation is Chronological—generally speaking. However, there are parenthetical chapters that show a broader view, and there are flash-forward sections that show the end of the tribulation or the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom (see Rev. 14:1-5 for example).
So, I believe this is a passage that is a flash-forward section that highlights the moment when even the unrighteous dead—awaiting their judgment—will realize the weight of the moment.
Remember that Philippians 2:10-11 informs us that one day in the future “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
These two texts (Philippians 2:10-11 and Revelation 5:13-14) seem to be highlighting the same moment.