Exploring the Revelation.

L. M. Grant.

Chapter  1
Chapter  2
Chapter  3
Chapter  4
Chapter  5
Chapter  6
Chapter  7
Chapter  8
Chapter  9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22

Preface

The five books written by the apostle John were all published later than any other writings of Scripture, his gospel considered to be written about A.D. 85, his three epistles about A.D. 90 and Revelation about A.D. 95. His own age would likely be between 85 and 95 during the time of writing, and therefore these books show evidence of a dignity and maturity gained by long experience, yet with no marks of the infirmity of old age. John has been called “the apostle of love,” and his loving admiration of the person of the Son of God is specially evident in his gospel and epistles. However, God chose him to announce the awesome judgments of the Lord Jesus in this book of Revelation. This reminds us that genuine love is not weak and permissive, but faithful and true.

In this last book of the Bible God magnificently reveals the outcome of His sovereign counsels and of His ways with mankind. The book of Revelation stands in great contrast to the simplicity of the book of Genesis. The ravages of sin began their course in Genesis, but now, as we are nearing the day when Revelation is about to be fulfilled, sin has tremendously multiplied the world's problems and caused complicated involvements in every direction, whether among Gentile nations, Israel or the professing church. The confusion in all the world is so great that it has gone far beyond human ability to stem the tide. Therefore this closing book of the Bible is a revelation of how God will discern and judge with calm deliberation every evil work and every evil principle together with those who take sides with the evil. God has ends in view that He will accomplish in marvellous perfection, in righteousness and in love, but He will do so through many great and dreadful judgments.

“Revelation” means just what it says. Though many symbols are used in the book, they are intended to be understood, to be revealed, not hidden. It follows that every believer should be concerned about learning it well. I therefore urge every reader to keep his Bible open and consult it constantly when reading this commentary. The commentary is not a substitute for the Bible, but merely a help in understanding it. God is not concerned that you should know what the commentary says, but what His Word says. If the commentary encourages you to learn His Word better, it will serve a useful purpose. The New King James Version will be used, except as otherwise noted.

Revelation 1.

God gave this Revelation to Jesus Christ so that He might, as the Son of Man, communicate this to His servants. It is He who has been entrusted with the restitution of all things, and is therefore given this revelation to show to His servants the things soon to take place. Only as servants will we be shown these things. Although all believers are servants of Jesus Christ, yet we must be servants in practice if we are to properly understand Revelation. A servant above all is obedient. Thus, the measure of our obedience will be the measure of our understanding.

An angel instead of the Lord Himself is used to communicate (or signify) this to John (v. 1). This implies that there is some distance between the Lord and the people, for He is seen as judging every action, every principle according to pure truth. A judge while on the bench is not free to show his affections even to his family. The angel communicated or signified this by signs (as indicated by the Greek word). Revelation is largely a book of signs (illustrative picture language). This does not mean that we can interpret them as we please, for a sign means what God intends by it and the meaning of the signs is virtually always explained elsewhere in scripture, though not every time the sign is used.

In verse 2 John bears witness to the Word of God (the vital spring from which everything must flow) and to the testimony of Jesus Christ (the manifestation of God's will in this once humbled but now exalted Man). As to these things John testified of what he saw: there was absolute certainty of its truth. Verse 3 pronounces a special blessing on those who hear, read and keep the words of this prophecy — special because the time of its fulfillment is near. As the time nears we should be more concerned to know better what God reveals as to the near future, so that it might have a proper effect in our present conduct. Prophecy is not merely for our entertainment, but for our solid, practical benefit in deeper appreciation of Christ and living for Him.

The Seven Churches in Asia Addressed

In verse 4 John begins writing to the seven churches (or assemblies) in the Roman province of Asia Minor (present day Turkey). They were literal assemblies at the time, but chosen by God as representing the entire Church of God in all its history on earth. This will be more clearly seen in chapters 2 and 3. He addresses them with a greeting of grace and peace from the eternal God who fills the present, the past and the future; and also from the seven spirits before His throne. Compare Isaiah 11:2 where the Spirit of the Lord is said to be “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” The lampstand in the tabernacle represents this, the central stem being “the Spirit of the Lord” and the other six stemming from this. Compare Revelation 4:5.

“And from Jesus Christ.” He is the unique Man who is God's fellow, the one faithful witness of God and for God in the world, the firstborn from the dead. As such He is the supreme Head of a new creation. Adam was head of the first creation (Gen. 1:28), but his sin ruined it. Christ has come into it, has died to make atonement for sin and has risen again as the Head of a new creation, and every believer already shares in the blessing of this (2 Cor. 5:17). “And the ruler over the kings of the earth.” He has a dignity and honor above all the administrative rule of earth's kings. Then His love and sacrifice for us are spoken of, the means by which we have ourselves become a kingdom, priests to God and His Father. The kingdom speaks of public testimony; priesthood of nearness to God. Well might this blessed Man of God's counsels be given “glory and dominion forever and ever.”

Verse 7 refers to Christ's coming in great power and glory at the end of the Tribulation Period. This is not the rapture of the Church, which takes place at least seven years previously (1 Thess. 4:13-18), yet the Church bears witness to the world about this great coming of the Lord in power that all the world will have to face. Enoch bore witness to the Lord's coming in great glory (Jude 14), yet he himself was taken to heaven without dying before the flood of Noah came (Gen. 5:23-24). The flood of Noah is typical of the coming Tribulation. At the end of this awesome Tribulation period the Lord Jesus will be manifested and His saints manifested with Him (Col. 3:4; Rev. 19:11-16). Every eye will see Him. Gentiles will be awestruck, many with abject terror because of their callous unbelief. Those also who pierced Him, the tribe of Judah (Zech. 12:10-11), and all the tribes of the land of Israel will wail in broken humiliation because of their former unbelief toward Him. The book of Revelation centers around the truth of verse 7, but the blessing of the Church, of ourselves, is established (vv. 5-6) before this great event is mentioned.

In verse 8, this blessed Man Christ Jesus affirms Himself to be the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He had no beginning, for He is the beginning: He has no end, for He is the end. He is the Almighty from eternity to eternity. Some have claimed that this must refer only to God, not to Christ, but Revelation 22:12-13, 16 proves that this refers positively to Jesus the Son of God and adds its absolute seal to the truth of the great Godhead glory of the Lord Jesus.

John's Vision of One Like Unto the Son of Man

John, though over ninety years old and suffering banishment in the Isle of Patmos for Christ's sake and for the Word of God, speaks only of his tribulations as making him a companion of other saints of God (verse 9). There is no suggestion here either of self-exaltation or of self-pity. “The kingdom and patience of Jesus” beautifully describes the character of the kingdom at present in contrast to the manifested glory of His kingdom in the millennium. The Lord Jesus will have a kingdom of great magnificence for 1000 years when Israel and the nations bow to Him in full subjection after the Great Tribulation. Meanwhile He has a kingdom in an inconspicuous form composed of all who on earth today acknowledge Him as Lord. This is at a time when He is publicly rejected and is waiting patiently for the day of His public coronation. His present kingdom therefore is connected with His admirable patience, and every believer is privileged to share in this, as John was sharing in suffering for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus.

John was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day (v. 10). This is not the same expression as “the day of the Lord,” but refers to the literal Lord's Day, the first day of the week. Being an exile, he would greatly miss the gathering of the Lord's people to the name of the Lord (Matt. 18:20) and specially so on the Lord's Day. The Lord graciously gave him something to compensate for this: he heard a loud voice as of a trumpet behind him. This implies a clear public declaration.

The voice tells him to write in a book what he now sees and send it to the seven assemblies in Asia (v. 11) which were literal local assemblies, but which also represent the history of the entire Church from its inception until the coming of the Lord. Asia means “the miry land,” a significant suggestion of the Church's entanglement in the mire of the world. These addresses to the assemblies seek to liberate God's people from these unscriptural entanglements. The reason for the order of names will be seen in Revelation 2 and Revelation 3.

The great voice causes John to turn to see seven golden lampstands (v. 12) and One like the Son of Man standing in the midst of the lampstands (v. 13). The word “like” implies the fact that He is greater than merely “the Son of Man,” though He is certainly this also. The seven churches formed roughly a circle in Asia Minor, and the Lord Jesus is seen in the midst, the only Center whom God allows for His Church worldwide. There follows a nine-fold description of His glory. His long garment speaks of His priestly character. As Priest He is not interceding, but judging, just as the priest was to discern and judge in regard to leprosy (Leviticus 13). His breasts bound with a golden girdle intimate that His affections are not free to be expressed, but are restrained by the greater consideration of the glory and righteousness of God of which gold speaks. This is the motive of the solemn service that engages Him.

His head and His hair being white like wool, as white as snow (v. 14), speak of Him as “the ancient of days” (Dan. 7:22) who has the wisdom of eternal experience, wisdom that acts in perfect purity. His eyes as a flame of fire denotes the penetrating holiness of His discernment: nothing is hid from those eyes of pure truth. Proverbs 20:8 refers specially to Him: “A king who sits on the throne of judgment scatters all evil with His eyes.”

Copper and fire are often united in scripture, as in verse 15), both speaking of the holiness of God, for copper is the fiery color. In burning holiness He will subdue all things under His feet. The tremendous power of His voice is likened to many waters, with its irresistible, awe-inspiring resonance. It is no longer a voice of gentle grace heard only by His own sheep (John 10:27), but that which will be heard by every ear in the whole universe.

In His capable right hand are seven stars (the angels of the seven churches) which speak of the reality of heavenly character in those who take a responsible place in those seven assemblies, in contrast to earthly mindedness. This speaks therefore of His power to sustain such reality in spite of every contrary thing. The sharp two-edged sword proceeding from His mouth (v. 16) symbolizes His ability to precisely distinguish between every matter that must be judged. His Word carries out the judgment in perfect consistency with the moral principles involved, not sparing evil in one direction or another. The final characteristic is the most absolute testimony to His deity. His countenance shines as the sun at the peak of its radiance. The full glory of God shines in His face so brilliantly that no human eye can endure looking directly at it.

Little wonder that John falls at His feet as though dead (v. 17). It is a vision utterly subduing even to one who had reclined on His breast sixty years earlier (John 13:23). Such prostration of the creature is due only to God, his Creator. The Lord does not refuse it, as does a mere angel (Rev. 22:8-9). Yet with tender compassion the Lord lays His right hand of power on John, bidding him not to fear. Still He affirms the greatness of His divine glory. He is the first and the last (cf. vv. 8, 11) and the living One. In Him life is seen in its perfection and fulness: He is the very source of life.

Yet as He says, He became dead (v.18), for in manhood He assumed a body capable of dying, in which He bore our sins. None could take His life from Him: He laid it down of Himself (John 10:17-18). But He is alive forevermore. Of course as God He could never die: now also as glorified Man He can never again die. In fact He Himself has the keys of hades and of death. He has total authority in regard to hades, the “unseen” state of the spirit and soul when the death of the body has taken place, and the same authority over death, the condition or state of the body when the spirit and soul have departed. This is a divine prerogative: He is able to change these conditions according to His own will.

The Key to Dividing Revelation

How worthy is He to command John as He does, to write of “the things which you have seen” — a reference to Revelation 1 — and also of “the things which are” which is a clear reference to the present dispensation of the Church. Revelation 2 and Revelation 3, the addresses to the seven churches, embrace this important second division of Revelation. “The things which will take place after this” form the third division and plainly refer to the remainder of the book, as Revelation 4:1 affirms. From that point the Church is never again seen on earth, for that verse symbolizes her removal to the heavenly presence of her Lord.

The Mystery of the Seven Stars

Verse 20 declares the mystery of the seven stars and the seven golden lampstands. Such inspired explanations in this book provide keys by which the truth may be fully opened and understood. The seven lampstands speak of the seven churches or local assemblies, the vessels of public testimony intended for the glory of God (gold). The stars are the angels of the seven churches, to whom the messages are directly addressed in Revelation 2 and Revelation 3. It is not said that a literal angel has charge of each local assembly, but the stars indicate a heavenly character, as do the angels, and this points to the reality of faith and spiritual exercise seen in those who accept responsibility in the assembly, those of whom we read at the end of each address: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Since he is the one who is to hear, it must follow that it is he who is addressed as “the angel.” Let each of us be concerned to have such a character of heavenly-mindedness as to be deeply exercised by these things.

Though this book is signified by a literal angel to John, yet at the beginning John is directly given this great vision of the glory of the Lord, with the Lord speaking directly to him. Though an angel is used of God in what follows, there is to be no doubt remaining that he is communicating the word of the Lord.

Revelation 2.

The Address to Ephesus (vv. 1-7)

Each local assembly is addressed on the basis of its responsibility as a testimony for God. Each of these assemblies actually existed and were functioning as assemblies in Asia Minor at the time of John's writing, but the spiritual condition of each is strikingly representative of seven successive stages of the entire history of the Church on earth from its beginning until the coming of the Lord (the Rapture). This interpretation is supported by such scriptures as Acts 20:29-30 and 2 Timothy 2 and 2 Timothy 3, and many others.. How great is the wisdom of God in overruling and using all these things in the way He does!

The assembly at Ephesus (which means “one desire”) therefore represents the first state of the Church in having been blessed “with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ” (Eph. 1:3) and having responded in fresh, ardent affection toward the name of the Lord Jesus. Coming first, she in a special way represents all, for the Lord speaks to her as He who holds all seven stars in His hand and walks in the midst of the seven lampstands.

The Lord usually commends what He can before reproving what needs reproof. “I know your deeds (v. 2). He takes full account. Their labor, persistent hard work, is fully acknowledged, together with patient endurance or perseverance, a characteristic we may all deeply desire. More than this, they had discernment and energy of faith to refuse the fellowship of evil people. Those who had falsely claimed to be apostles had been tried (that is, examined by the truth of Scripture) and had been proven to be liars. The assembly at Corinth had not been so wise in this matter (2 Cor. 11:13-20).

Ephesus not only was firm in refusing evil, but also manifested a forbearing patience, no doubt in reference to many weaknesses, irritations and frustrations that always will attend a testimony for God. Paul had before told the Ephesians that such lowliness, meekness, longsuffering and forbearance were necessary in order to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:2-3). In these things they had remained well balanced. It is added that they had labored, not simply out of habit or because pressed by conscience, but for the sake of the name of the Lord. They had not allowed themselves to become discouraged.

Nevertheless the Lord must raise the serious issue that they had left their first love (v. 4), not simply “first” in point of time, but in importance. This was not a small thing: their fresh ardor of affection for the Lord Jesus had dimmed. This is the beginning of all departure. Thus, the least weakening of our love for Him is dangerous. We cannot be too watchful to guard against this in ourselves and to face it when we have begun to slip.

Simple honesty will stir us to remember the state that we once enjoyed and from which we have fallen, and to respond to His admonition to repent and do the first works (v. 5). Confession of our failure is most important here. The first works are those spontaneously produced by fresh warmth of love toward the Lord Jesus. In case this is not heeded, He adds the solemn warning that if there is no repentance He will quickly remove the lampstand out of its place! He would remove the testimony of that assembly: she would no longer be a light-bearer for Him. Throughout the history of the Church to the present time, once large and active and godly assemblies have ceased to exist because they left their first love. This is a solemn consideration for every individual who expresses fellowship in a local assembly!

He commends them however that their thoughts were consistent with His in hating the deeds (not the persons) of the Nicolaitans (v. 6). This word means “conquerors of the laity” — of the common people. Some, like Diotrephes, loved to have the preeminence (3 John 9). The Ephesians hated deeds of this kind.  

Therefore, the doctrine of the clergy — of some taking the place of being spiritually and positionally above the “laity” — found no foothold among them, for they knew all such distinctions were gone with the end of Judaism. All believers at present are recognized as priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9) and are expected to function in unity together with one another as “a holy priesthood,” with Christ alone in authority.

The one who has an ear to hear is urged to hear (v. 7). May we truly have listening ears! If so the promise to the overcomer (one who is born of God — 1 John 5:4) will be attractive to us. Such will eat of the tree of life in the Paradise of God. This tree is Christ, the completely satisfying portion of those who love Him. The promise is of a heavenly paradise, of being in the presence of God. Wonderful prospect! It is a contrast to the Garden of Eden, the earthly paradise, where the tree of life was in the midst, but never tasted (Gen. 2:9).

The Assembly at Smyrna (vv. 8-11)

The name Smyrna is derived from the word “myrrh,” a bitter but fragrant perfume used in embalming the dead and an ingredient of the anointing oil used in the tabernacle service (Ex. 30:23-25). Smyrna represents the early Church in its persecution under the hands of Gentile oppressors, the emperors of Rome from about A.D. 70 to 312. Satan's violence is here seen, designed to intimidate the people of God so that they might give way to his cunning deception which appears soon after in the address to Pergamos (vv. 12-14). Therefore the Lord speaks of Himself as “the First and the Last, who was dead and came to life” (v. 8). He was not intimidated by Satan's enmity, but faced death in perfect faith — and triumphed!

Again the Lord takes full account of their works and their resulting tribulation and earthly poverty. “But you are rich” (v. 9) He adds, having the true spiritual, eternal riches. Their persecution involved exclusion from proper employment as well as other deprivations. Reference here is made to the blasphemy of those who falsely say they are Jews. These people evidently claimed to be on Jewish ground (i.e., practicing Judaism) by their principles of law-keeping. However, Gentiles were never given the law and thus were never under the law (Rom. 2:14). For them to make a boast of keeping the law is an insult to God and therefore blasphemy. This is specially true now that Christ has come and the grace of the gospel is declared to the world. The Lord therefore solemnly calls such men “the synagogue of Satan,” for it is satanic opposition to Christ that energizes them. “Synagogue” means “a gathering together,” which is in contrast to the “assembly” which means “a gathering out.” The one settles in the world, the other is gathered out of it.

The Lord encourages them to have no fear of their sufferings, of their imprisonment by the devil, or whatever else. He limits the tribulation to ten days (v. 10), ten speaking of responsibility (as in the ten commandments). This indicates that their afflictions would not go beyond what they could bear, though these afflictions would be severe. Let them be faithful even in the face of threatened death, for death could not hinder His giving them a crown of life, life that is not merely temporal, but eternal.

Again the “ear to hear” (v. 11) is strongly pressed, and the promise to the overcomer is that he shall not be hurt by the “second death.” The first death (that is, physical or natural death) is nothing compared to the second, which is eternal torment (Rev. 20:14-15). Death does not mean extinction, but has the idea of separation (James 2:26). Physical death is the separation of the spirit and soul from the body: the second or spiritual death is the separation of the whole person from God. Certainly no believer will ever suffer this, but this promise is a specially appropriate encouragement to those martyred for Christ's sake. In the case of all seven churches the promise to the overcomer is intended to have particular appeal to the person in his or her special circumstances.

The Assembly at Pergamos (vv. 12-17)

The letter to the assembly at Pergamos refers to that time in the Church's history when Christianity was adopted as the state religion by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, in A.D. 312. From one viewpoint, Satan was successful in so intimidating the Church through the persecutions spoken of in the letter to Smyrna that it relaxed its clear testimony and accepted a link with the world that obscured its true character.

Pergamos means “a marriage,” though implying that the Church virtually “married” the world though already espoused to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2). This was certainly unfaithfulness to her true Lord and Master, though many at the time did not think of it in this way. They rather considered that Christianity had gained a great victory and advantage in having the world recognize the Lord Jesus. They failed to discern that this recognition was in word only and not in heart. Great numbers became “Christians” in a formal manner while not knowing the reality of repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:20-21). Because of the resulting mixture of believers with unbelievers, the Lord speaks to Pergamos as He who has the sword with two edges, who knows how to precisely divide between the Church and the world.

“I know your works,” He says in verse 13, and adds the sad comment as to her dwelling where Satan's throne is, that is, the world which is under Satan's authority (1 John 5:19 — NASB). Thus believers became mixed with unbelievers. Unbelievers cannot understand what it means to possess a heavenly inheritance, and when believers join with them, believers lower themselves to the same earthly level as unbelievers. This is a contradiction to the true state of the Church, for the Church's dwelling is in heaven (Eph. 1:3, Phil. 3:20).

Still, where there is faith it cannot be totally quenched, and the Lord commends their holding fast His name and not denying His faith, even when there was still such persecution as produced the murder of His faithful martyr Antipas. Antipas means against all and seems to infer that he stood alone against a persecuting world. The honor of the Lord's approval put upon this man's faithfulness is surely intended to speak deeply to every believer. While other believers in Pergamos no doubt sympathized with Antipas in his martyrdom, yet there seems not to have been the energy of faith to stand with him. But they did not give up their faith, though he was slain among them where Satan dwells.

However, the Lord had against Pergamos certain serious things, as verses 14 and 15 show. First, among them were those who held the doctrine of Balaam. This is the teaching that it is correct to eat things sacrificed to demons, and to indulge in loose, immoral practices. Possibly those in Pergamas did not approve of sacrificing to demons, yet tolerated a Christian eating things sacrificed to idols, thereby identifying himself with the unbelieving idol worshiper.   

Balaam had counselled Balak to ensnare Israel by this means (Num. 25:1-3, Num. 31:16). Committing fornication is also indulging in a wrong association. Similarly today, many teach that association with evil is all right as long as we do not do the evil things. But God forbids the very association! (Compare l Corinthians 15:33 and 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). How can I be identified with God and with that which dishonors Him? God shows mercy to evil doers, but He does not allow His name to be linked with their evil.

Also, those who held the doctrine or teaching of the Nicolaitans (v. 15) had advanced beyond those who did the deeds of the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:6). People generally begin with doing questionable deeds (in this case deeds that God hated), and because they like the deeds they then adopt the teaching that such deeds are right, and the bad doctrine breeds more bad deeds. We have seen that God does not hate the people who do such deeds, though He does hate the deeds. The deeds of those who desire to rule over the laity are bad enough, and we see such deeds attributed to Diotrephes who loved to have the preeminence (3 John 9). But the doctrine that justifies these deeds is worse! This terrible evil gained a foothold early in the history of the Church and has done devastating damage since that time. Because the teaching says it is right for certain men to take authority over the rank and file of believers, then most believers are denied the right to exercise any public gift the Lord may have given them, and few take any part in public prayer and praise and worship. Thus God is deprived of the honor He deserves and believers are deprived of the ministry they need and the privilege of using their gift for the Lord.

The assembly at Pergamos is held responsible for allowing those among them who held such doctrines: she therefore was to repent (v. 16), or else the Lord would come and fight against them (those who held the doctrine of Baalam and of the Nicolaitans) with the sword of His mouth — His Word — that would sharply discern and judge regarding such evil. If they would not judge the evil, He would.

Again there is the call to one who has an ear, and the promise given to the overcomer (v. 17). In all of these addresses the overcomer is not a special kind of Christian, but simply a born again Christian. John in his first epistle, Revelation 5:4-5, clearly shows that the overcomer is one who is born of God, one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. He overcomes by faith. In principle therefore, every believer is an overcomer, and so ought to be concerned to be an overcomer in every detail of practice. We have seen the bad conditions in Pergamos that called for overcoming. Faith alone could certainly overcome these. The overcomer is promised a special reward, the eating of the hidden manna, which reminds us of the golden pot of manna inside the ark which was kept in the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle (Ex. 16:33-34, Heb. 9:4). It is the eternal reminder of the lowly humiliation of the Lord Jesus on earth. Although now glorified, He is the same blessed, faithful Son of Man. What a contrast to any worldly, temporal advantage such as Pergamos was seeking! The overcomer will find abundant nourishment in his appreciation of the lowly grace of the Lord Jesus. Further, he will have a white stone with a new name written, which speaks of the Lord's approval and appreciation of him. The name is known only to himself. This secret, personal knowledge of the Lord's approval is surely of great value.

The Assembly at Thyatira (vv. 18-29)

Thyatira is the development of Pergamos. It developed into a great public religious thing in the world, but internally was full of corruption. It plainly represents the condition that is prominently displayed in Roman Catholicism and the period of the dark ages. Remember that the Lord does not address this church itself, but “the angel,” which implies those in that Church who have an ear to hear, for the general condition is in total opposition to the truth of Christ even though His name is glibly used. Rome claims Peter as the first pope, but their system did not develop until over two centuries after Peter's death.

It is the Son of God who speaks (v. 18), not merely the child of Mary, as some may prefer to think of Him. The flaming fire of His eyes penetrates and judges all Thyatira's false pretensions, as indeed His feet of burnished copper will eventually tread down all wickedness.

Verse 19 shows there are some faithful ones in Thyatira, whose works, love, service, faith and patience are to be commended even though they are linked with what must be condemned. It is wonderful that the Lord Jesus knows how to take forth the precious from the vile, for in spite of that which He must reprove, it is heartwarming to see the Son of God fully recognizing and approving the virtues of verse 19; and in fact adding “works” a second time, saying that these last are more than the first. It seems that as the evil condition grew worse, the faith of the godly grew brighter in contrast, with resulting good works.

But the Lord cannot justify their remaining where they were. He thus solemnly reproves the fact that they allow “that woman Jezebel” (v. 20) to teach and seduce His servants. No more wicked woman could have been chosen as a symbol of this imposing religious system. She takes her place as the teacher, calling herself a prophetess, but even the true Church is not the teacher, nor is any church-system. The Man Christ Jesus is the Teacher through His Word, and the Church is responsible to be subject. But His Word is both ignored and contradicted by the edicts of the Roman system. By this means Rome has kept countless thousands in bondage, teaching God's servants to commit fornication, that is, to engage in associations that are evil, and to identify themselves with idolatry such as the worship of Mary and of the “saints.” The first is corruption in regard to others; the second is a grave insult to God and to Christ.

Roman Catholic edicts are not really made by “the church” — by all the people who compose it — but by a select council of cardinals who call themselves “The Church” and who use the pope as their “infallible” mouthpiece. What tremendous power a few men can hold over the spiritually ignorant masses of deceived adherents!

Verse 21 indicates that God would allow this evil system a long history to give her time to repent. But how can she repent when she is intent on justifying herself? The Lord Himself will cast her eventually into a bed of great tribulation (rather than a bed of sensual lust), along with those who were guilty of willingly identifying themselves with her, unless they should repent of her deeds (v 22 —  NASB). This involves her final awesome judgment shown in Revelation 17:16 to Revelation 18:24. The true Church will be caught up to be with the Lord before the great tribulation, but the false church will find that tribulation an uncomfortable bed! Notice that the Lord holds the individual responsible for associating with her and requires repentance on that person's part because of the deeds of the system. God requires not merely anger against the system, but repentance because of one's association with it.

“And I will kill her children with death” (v. 23), He says. True believers, even though linked with her, are not her children. This judgment shows to all the assemblies the fact that The Lord searches and discerns the motives and hearts of men, and is not deceived by their outward appearances. He will render to everyone according to their works: nothing will escape His eyes.

The Lord distinguishes some to whom He now speaks: “the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine and who have not known the depths of Satan, as they call them” (v. 24). Thank God for those in Thyatira who do not subscribe to the destructive doctrines of Rome. Their faithful hearts are better than their associations. They do not realize that the system is characterized by “the depths of Satan.” The Lord will put no other burden on them: He will not press them beyond the limit of their understanding. However, He does admonish them to hold fast what they have until He comes (v. 25). Here is the first promise of His coming (the Rapture) made to the seven churches, which indicates that, while the first three conditions (Ephesus, Smyrna and Pergamos) have passed, Thyatira and the three following church-conditions will continue until the Lord's coming. Further, in these last four cases, the promise to the overcomer precedes the call to him who has an ear, while in the first three cases it is the reverse, because He is now separating the faithful from the general condition of Thyatira, practically giving up the mass of professing Christianity to its unholy state.

This is a solemn warning today for any local testimony that claims to be Christian. We may all take it seriously to heart, that if seriously corrupt conditions are allowed in any Christian company, with people willingly bowing to the rules of men rather than to the Word of God, then we can only expect the Lord to give up that local witness.

The overcomer (v.26) will be given authority over the nations, the very thing that Rome is determined to have now, but for which the believer waits the manifestation (or appearing) of Christ and His millennial rule with a rod of iron. Also He will give him “the morning star” (v. 28) which speaks of Himself coming for His own before the great day of His manifestation (Rev. 22:16), before the rising of “the Sun of Righteousness” (Mal. 4:2). This promise is a special encouragement to be enjoyed before the time of ruling the nations.

Revelation 3.

The Assembly at Sardis (vv. 1-6)

The message to the assembly at Sardis has a very different character, for instead of being a development from Thyatira, it is rather a revulsion from it. Sardis means “a remnant” and represents the Protestant movement that began with the reformation of Luther's time. Of course, the power and grace of God was behind that reformation and the truth of justification by faith was thankfully recovered. But rather than going back to the first truths of Christianity, those who left Catholicism were content to go no further back than to a state similar to Pergamos, so that protestant “state churches” (like Catholicism) became prominent and the living power of the Spirit of God was virtually replaced by forms and ceremonies. They were not under the same degree of spiritual and physical bondage as in Rome, but were still involved in many of the same type of forms.

Therefore the Lord speaks as He who has the seven spirits of God (v. 1), the fulness of the power of the Holy Spirit so lacking in Sardis. He also has the seven stars: He upholds the heavenly reality of faith in His saints in contrast to the formal sectarianism of Sardis. However, He cannot give any commendation before His solemn reproof, “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” She enjoyed “a name,” that is, a reputation because of having been rightly freed from the shackles of Rome, but she was not true to that name.

Yet she is told to strengthen the little that does remain for God in Sardis (v. 2). This is to be done only by watchfulness of faith, for even what was left was close to dying out. There had been no healthy maturing of her works before God. Though great promise of fruit was at first present, this had proved sadly ineffectual. She is to remember how she had first been blessed in receiving and hearing from God, and is to hold fast by at least letting nothing more slip from her grasp (v. 3). Besides this repentance was vitally important, as it is in all cases of backsliding. If she would not watch, this would prove that she had no reality of faith, and His coming to her would be as a thief in judgment in the day of His manifestation in power and glory. She would have no part in the Rapture.

Yet there are exceptions. A few names of those who had not defiled their garments by the pollutions of empty profession are given the attractive promise of walking with Him in white and are commended as “worthy” (v. 4). The overcomer would be clothed in white garments (v. 5), cleansed from all defilement of former contacts. His name would not be blotted out of the book of life. Though under law one may have been blotted out of God's book (Ex. 32:33), or sometimes because of faithfulness to God one may have his name blotted out of a church register, yet the book of life is a different matter. No name in this book will ever be blotted out, for only the elect are written there! Overcoming (by faith alone) would prove one to be elect of God. This promise is intended for the comfort and encouragement of faith. He adds that He will confess the name of the overcomer before His Father and before His angels. He is not ashamed to be identified with one who by faith honors Him. Again He makes a last appeal to a hearing ear.

The Assembly At Philadelphia

Philadelphia means “brotherly love” and represents a character of single-hearted devotion to the Lord Jesus which, in recognizing Him as the one Center of gathering, is genuinely concerned for the true welfare of every member of the body of Christ, His brethren. In the letter to the assembly at Philadelphia no reproofs are given. It thus is a great contrast to Sardis, for here we see a work of the Spirit of God in separating His own saints from the more formal profession of Christianity in order to set the true work of God in clear and bold relief. Of all the letters to the seven assemblies, this one strikingly focuses on the glory of the person of the Lord Jesus and on the truth concerning His one body, the true Church.

There can be no question that there were individuals all through the Church's history who were Philadelphian in heart, but it was in the 19th century that the Spirit of God initiated a decided public movement of this kind out of the dead formalism of Sardis. Many thousands who were linked with formal protestant denominations were burdened to leave these and gather simply to the name of the Lord Jesus, the true Center of gathering (Matt. 18:20) and to recognize the one body of Christ as distinct from the world and from the mass of merely nominal Christians (Heb. 13:12-13). There have been many failures in standing firmly and honestly for such truths, but the truths remain and there is no reason why Christians today cannot rightly represent such Philadelphian character. To actually be Philadelphian is the important matter, not to claim to be. The Lord Himself will judge every claim according to His Word.

The Lord speaks as He who is holy, He who is true (v. 7), for holiness separates between good and evil. As the True One He is not satisfied with anything less than honest reality. He has the key of David (Isa. 22:22), for David suffered as an outcast before the time of reigning; and this truth is the very key that opens the scriptures to us, as Luke 24:45-46 indicates. Willingness to suffer now, in view of future reigning with Christ, is a proper characteristic of the Assembly, the true Church of God. It is the Lord Himself who opens or shuts, so that man cannot reverse it in either case.

This is seen in verse 8. Though there is strong opposition to the testimony of Philadelphia, yet the Lord has opened a door for her that men cannot close. This door is both for the understanding of the Word of God and for public testimony. In this Philadelphia is said to have “a little strength.” She has no great public place and power, but not weakness either, for there is some true spiritual energy. The significant commendation is added, “have kept My Word.” She not only is a witness to the truth, but faithfully acts on it. Indeed, it is only in this spirit of willing obedience to the Word that we shall be able to understand it rightly (John 17:6). Also, she has not denied the Lord's name, a most important matter too, for Philadelphia bears witness in a day when that blessed name is denied in many subtle, satanic ways, and generally is denied as our Center of gathering.

Verse 9 indicates the special opposition of a Judaizing element (whether Jew or Gentile) who take the Jewish ground of law-keeping and other Jewish ritual. This is also mentioned in Smyrna (Rev. 2:9). These two assemblies stand firmly for the true grace of God against prevailing legality. The Lord will make the opposers “of the synagogue of Satan” and eventually require them to worship Him (not Philadelphia) before their feet. To make them of the synagogue of Satan is to show them up to be totally in contrast to the true Church of God. We have seen in connection with Smyrna (Rev. 2:9) that “synagogue” means “a gathering together” and indicates a desire to have the ungodly world religiously united, with altogether earthly objectives. There will be such a uniting under Satan's control in the future seven year Tribulation Period, an awful contrast to the purity of the Church's blessing with her Lord. But the Tribulation will end, and these then will be required to worship before the feet of the true Church of God.

These proponents of “works” as the means of salvation will find themselves deeply rebuked when they realize that the Lord has loved those who have depended solely on His grace, in true affection for Him personally. Notice that in this address the Lord uses the word “I” nine times and “My” seven times. We can never overestimate the value of His person.

Verse 10 shows that Philadelphia is confined to true believers whom the Lord says “have kept My command to persevere.” His Word sustains them in continuing to endure in the day of His rejection. In actual fact, every believer keeps His Word (Cf. John 17:6). The measure in which each one does so may differ from others, but the fact is true. As a result, the Lord will keep all of these “from the hour of trial” (the Great Tribulation) that is coming on all the world, to try those who are earth-dwellers. (I use the scriptural expression “Great Tribulation” as in Revelation 7:14, focusing on the last three and one half years of Daniel's seventieth week, rather than using the general term “Tribulation” which is often used to denote the seven year tribulation period.) Notice, they are not merely to be kept from the trial, but from the hour of it, the time of this Tribulation. The only way this can be accomplished is by their being taken out of the world, which will take place at the rapture, before “the day of the Lord” comes. Some claim that the Tribulation is the last great trial for the Church, but not so. The Tribulation is to try those who dwell upon the earth, of whom we read in Revelation 13:8 that their names are not written in the book of life. See further proof that these are not saved people by comparing the similar expression used in Revelation 6:10, Revelation 11:10, Revelation 13:14 and Revelation 17:8. In designed contrast to this, the dwelling of the Church is in heaven as Philippians 3:20 tells us.

Philadelphia is encouraged by the words, 'Behold, I come quickly” (v. 11). We are not to suppose that anything else must take place before the Rapture: we are to look momentarily for Christ to come, certainly not to look for the tribulation. In view of this, He urges the holding fast of what God has given us in the truth of His Word, that the crown or reward should not be taken by another. Words of this kind should surely strike deeply into our hearts. Laxity or giving up in the Christian race may virtually forfeit a crown of reward, with another overtaking and passing us because of our lack of devotedness to the Lord.

In verse 12 the overcomer is promised that he will be made a pillar in the temple of the Lord's God, having a special place of honor in the future millennial display of the glory of God as a result of a dependable character of godliness in this present life. This reward however cannot be eternal, for it is said of the heavenly city, “I saw no temple therein” (Rev. 21:22). However, what follows is certainly eternal: “He shall go out no more,” and Christ will write upon him the name of His God — He who approves every motive of devotion toward this blessed Man of His counsels. The overcomer also will have written upon him the name of the city of His God, the New Jerusalem — that which will eternally display the glory of His grace manifested to all the universe. Finally, he has the Lord's own “new name” written on him, that is, His name in connection with the new creation, not as He was on earth. What incentives are these to godly devotion and energy of faith! May we indeed have an ear to hear.

The Assembly at Laodicea (Vv. 14-22)

Laodicea is the last assembly to be addressed. Its name means “the people's rights,” which shows it to have the most evident application to the day in which we live. Philadelphia refreshingly owned the supreme rights of the Lord Jesus, but Laodicea depicts a great revulsion from this. Today we know that the very atmosphere in the world is full of clamor in every direction for “human rights.” Groups are being formed continually to fight for what people conceive to be their rights. The courts are swamped with cases of people demanding higher and higher judgments against others for infringing on what they claim to be their rights. Although there are many just causes and we can be thankful to live in countries where the individual is respected, yet men's greed in taking advantage of this is revolting to witness.

How much more shocking it is to see the same thing reflected strongly in the professing Church! Here at least one would think that God's rights would be of the greatest importance. But not so. Laodicea is the last state of the Church publicly, and shows itself far removed from the freshness of Ephesus and standing in sad contrast to Philadelphia, for it is a counterfeit while boasting great progress. In verse 14 the Lord therefore speaks as “the Amen,” He who has the final word, though Laodicea's words are many. He also is “the faithful and true witness” in contrast to Laodicea's unfaithfulness and deceit. Further, He is “the beginning of the creation of God,” that is, the new creation in contrast to Laodicea's emphasis on present gain in the mere natural or first creation.

There is no commendation here whatever, but the solemn pronouncement of His knowing them to be neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm (v. 15). As one has said, it is merely the warming up of a dead body. There is an effort to put on a show of reality, but actually there is indifference toward the Lord personally and toward His claims. This is what characterizes the last public, widespread state of the professing Church just before the true Church is raptured to heaven. One who is cold at least does not pretend to be a Christian and thus may yet be awakened and saved, but proud indifference stiffens itself against repentance. This whole condition will be spit out of the Lord's mouth, i.e., totally rejected, for faith is utterly lacking (v.16).

With indifference goes the self-complacency of verse 17. Because churches prosper financially, with increasing membership, they pride themselves on their material prosperity and their blessings. Many cults and isms arise, all courting the favor of the crowd and emphasizing present gain.

There is a third marked feature of Laodicea — ignorance of God's thoughts. The Lord declares those of Laodicea to be wretched, miserable, poor and blind and naked when they think they are just the opposite! This is only true of those who are lost, of course, but let the believer avoid any resemblance to them.

Since they consider themselves rich, the Lord counsels them (verse 18) to buy of Him gold tried in the fire. Gold speaks of the glory and righteousness of God, and tried in the fire indicates its being purged from men's efforts to contaminate it, such as the pollution of Laodicea mentioned above. Of course, this great blessing from God is bought “without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1); yet Laodicea must realize it to be at the expense of her own pride. White clothing speaks of Christ as the true robe of righteousness who alone can cover man's nakedness. Finally the eye-salve speaks of the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit to open blind eyes. These three things are therefore, respectively, the genuine work of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

How significant is the fact that it is the love of Christ that moves Him to rebuke and chasten (v. 19). Will Laodicea not therefore listen and repent? This word is of course intended for anyone who will take it to heart, for the Lord has virtually given up the mass of Laodicea. He is standing and knocking outside the door (not in the midst, for Laodicea has no concern for being gathered to His name — Matt. 18:20). Therefore He directs His word to individuals: 'If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with Me.” Though He is sadly outside the door of Laodicea since He is not personally welcome in that particular church, yet He appeals to the individual to open his heart's door (v. 20). This opening will be rewarded with personal, vital fellowship with Him.

While the pride of Laodicea wants to sit on a throne now, the overcomer is promised such honor in the future, but with Christ on His throne (v. 21). Christ has not as yet taken His throne. As Son of Man He will take it in the millennial age to come. Meanwhile He is rewarded with the dignity of being seated on His Father's throne, a place we could never have. Again, a last earnest appeal is made to him who has an ear to hear (v. 22).

Any assembly today that is reduced to such a state as Laodicea will be so blinded as to not realize how awful is its condition before God. We should all be warned against allowing any of the evil things that characterized Laodicea to be in any measure true of us. Let us be awake to recognize the least tendency of slipping into the complacency, the indifference and the ignorance of God's thoughts that are solemnly censured by the Lord Jesus.

Revelation 4.

A Door Opened in Heaven

From this point in Revelation the Church is never again seen on earth, but always in heaven or coming as the armies in heaven with her Lord to judge the earth (Rev. 19:11-14). The indication of her being raptured to glory is seen in the first verse, for John himself plainly represents the Church, and a door is opened in heaven for him to enter. A number of times in Scripture we read of heaven being opened, always indicating a public event of great significance, but only here is mentioned a door opened in heaven, for this indicates the entrance of vast numbers of the redeemed, both Old Testament believers and those of the present-day Church of God. John is called by a trumpet voice to come up (cf. 1 Cor. 15:52, l Thess. 4:16), there to be shown “the things which must take place after this” — after the history of the seven assemblies. So too, from the height of heaven, the raptured saints will see all the spectacular events that follow on earth.

John must first witness the greatness of the glory of the living God, the Judge of all. He is immediately in the Spirit, his body having no place in this great revelation (v. 2). God is upon the throne, but God is only revealed in the person of His Son, as each symbol in verse 3 indicates. A jasper stone is clear and thus speaks of the clarity of pure, absolute truth seen in perfection in the Lord Jesus. The sardius stone is fiery red and indicates deep warmth of feeling, whether of love or of hatred of evil. How perfectly we see these in the Son of God and in His great sacrifice at Calvary!

We also see a rainbow about the throne. All of its divided colors speak of distinct beauties and glories of the God of creation. Yet it is said to look like an emerald which is green. This is the central color of the spectrum and speaks of the fruitful, refreshing principle of the grace of God. It is wonderful to be assured of this before God's awesome work of judgment must begin (Isa. 28:21). It is His great pleasure to do the work of pure grace as He has done in the salvation of countless numbers through the value of the sacrifice of His beloved Son. Judgment is His extraordinary or “unusual” work, that in which He has no pleasure, though it is a necessary work.

Around the throne are 24 thrones on which 24 “elders” are seated, clothed in white and crowned with golden crowns. These elders therefore, though in a lesser position, are reigning with the Lord. They are not angels, for only humans are called “elders” in Scripture. Being men of experience, elders are always in some sense representative (cf. Acts 15:6). The number 24 divides naturally into two twelves, always indicating completeness in governmental administration. Two companies then must be indicated here. The only possible conclusion is that they represent the Old Testament and New Testament saints, each invested with a dignity that was not possible for them on earth. This is consistent with the fact that Revelation is a book that presents truth by pictures (Rev. 1:1) which are often found and defined elsewhere in the Bible. Being crowned with golden crowns intimates that they have been rewarded for lives previously lived for the glory of God.

The lightnings, thunderings and voices proceeding from the throne (v. 5) emphasize the fact of sudden, awesome, inescapable judgment about to fall on the world of the ungodly. Yet this is balanced by the perfect discernment and calm deliberation indicated in the seven lamps of fire before the throne  -  the seven- fold power of the Spirit of God, as we have seen in Revelation 1:4 and in Isaiah 11:2.

The sea of glass (in contrast to a sea of water) denotes an accomplished, fixed purity as will be the case for all saints in heaven (v. 6). Later we see a similar glass sea for those who triumph over the beast and his image (Rev. 15:2), but there it is mingled with fire because of the fiery trial of their faith during the Tribulation.

In the midst of the throne and surrounding it are four living creatures. These cannot be angels, for no angel is in the midst of the throne of God. The Lamb is said to be there (Rev. 5:6), for the Lamb is Himself God, and God's glory is given to no other. The living creatures denote four distinct principles of God's government — living, vital principles that are operative in all His works. The same four faces of verse 7 are also seen in the living creatures of Ezekiel 1. The lion denotes sovereign power as seen in the aspect of Christ's character as King in Matthew. The calf pictures service as seen in Mark's portrayal of Him as God's Servant. The face like that of a man denotes intelligence and understanding, as Luke presents Him. Finally, the eagle pictures a high, inscrutable character (Prov. 30:18-19) as evidenced in the Lord Jesus in John's Gospel of His great Godhead glory. All of these are connected with the throne of God in His governing and judging. In this is a wonderful fulness and perfect balance.

The six wings (v. 8) of each “creature” speak of speed of execution in marked contrast to men's present-day protracted judicial decisions. Wings also speak of protection (Luke 13:34), for in God's judgments there is a true shelter for those who really trust Him. Being full of eyes reminds us of the eyes in the rims of Ezekiel's wheels (Ezekiel 1:18). This teaches us that the eyes of the Lord are in every place, discerning perfectly every detail of every matter that He deals with. These four living principles of truth declare unceasingly the holiness of God, the Almighty, He who is supreme Ruler, past, present and future (v. 9). In this they are giving glory, honor and thanks to Him who occupies the throne of eternal glory, the eternally living One.

As they do this, the 24 elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne, worshiping and casting down their crowns before Him (v. 10). These crowns are God's gift by grace, and give no occasion for self-exaltation, but are seen as a fresh opportunity for exalting their Lord and God who alone is worthy to receive honor and glory and power. They here celebrate God's glory as Creator (v.11), which confirms the fact of God being revealed in His blessed Son. It is His pleasure that delights them as regards all His creation, not their pleasure, though their pleasure is full when His pleasure is predominant. In Revelation 5 we shall see that redemption, not creation, is the theme of their worship.

Revelation 5.

None Found Worthy to Open the Book of Judgment

In the right hand of the Sovereign Ruler is seen a book sealed with seven seals, written on the inside and on the back (v. 1). It is the book of God's judgments, which are seen to be overflowing judgments because sin has been an overflowing challenge to the authority of God. His long patience with sin calls for the more solemn judgment once it comes. A strong angel (v. 2) proclaims for everyone to hear, the great question as to who is worthy to open the book and break its seals. Even with sufficient time given (v. 3), no one was found worthy even to look upon the book, whether in heaven (where the redeemed are gathered) or on earth or under the earth. All creation is consulted, but none qualify.

The fact of none being found worthy to open the book seems to infer that the saints in heaven have already been manifested before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10) and not one of these was found fit to give the word that opens the floodgates of judgment upon an ungodly world. This draws out the profound weeping of the apostle John (v. 4). Is there not an indication here of how deeply we shall feel the sadness of all the unprofitable things in our own lives (and in the lives of all the saints), things which have not been for the glory of God?

One Found Worthy

However, the sadness is not to continue, for John is told by one of the elders not to weep (v. 5). His eyes are directed to the only One who is worthy, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David. As the Lion He is God's powerful King: as the Root of David He is the living God, He from whom David received being. He has prevailed because of who He is and because of His great atoning sacrifice which gives Him title to save every believer and to judge those who refuse Him.

Rather than seeing a Lion, John sees a Lamb as if freshly slain in the midst of the throne and the living creatures and elders (v. 6). The wonder of His death will remain a fresh, vital reality for eternity, as though it had just taken place. Certainly, only God is in the midst of the throne. The Lamb is God. The vivid reality of His sacrifice at Calvary — His lowly submission even unto death — is emphasized rather than His irresistible power as seen in the Lion. Wonderful combination indeed in this one adorable Person! His seven horns speak of perfection of power in contrast to the ten horns of the evil, future beast of Revelation 13:1 — a monstrous claim of arrogant pride. The seven eyes (again mentioned) impress us afresh with His perfect, all seeing discernment by the power of the Spirit of God.

His oneness with God the Father has been seen in His being in the midst of the throne. Now, His distinctness is noted in His taking the book from the right hand of God, the hand of positive power (v. 7). This causes the living creatures and the elders to fall down before the throne (v. 8) with harps (the pleasant sound of praise) and golden vials full of odors (the sweet smell of dependent prayers of saints). This wholehearted, unfeigned worship is directed to the Lamb, which is another proof that He is God.

In this chapter, however, the living creatures and elders not only speak (as in Revelation 4:10-11 when celebrating creation), but sing the praises of the Lamb on account of His great redemption (v.9). It is a new song as far as heaven is concerned, though no doubt saints have sung it on earth. It has never been the song of angels. Its words exalt the Lamb as worthy to take the book and break its seals of judgment, not because of His creatorial power, but because of His blessed sacrifice by which He has redeemed thousands from every area of the world. This great work gives Him perfect title to judge those who have refused its redeeming power. The redeemed have been made a kingdom, priests unto our God (v. 10). Kingly character is connected with bearing witness to the truth of God before the world (John 18:37), while as priests believers are privileged to enter the presence of God, whether in worship or in intercession. They shall reign over the earth (J.N.D. translation) with Christ when He reigns.

Angels Uniting in Worshiping the Lamb

Although we are not told that angels sing this song, yet a tremendous number of them is mentioned as surrounding the throne (v. 11), speaking similarly with a loud voice (v. 12). They too worship the Lamb who was slain, as being worthy to receive riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and blessing.

Verse 13 anticipates the coming day of millennial glory rather than describing any conscious worship of every creature before the Great Tribulation. However, all creation must eventually join in eternally ascribing blessing, honor, glory and power, not only to Him who sits on the throne, but also to the Lamb . The four living creatures confirm this (v. 14), but the 24 elders fall down and worship, prostrate in adoration.

Revelation 6.

The First Seal: The White Horse (vv. 1-2)

In the Lamb's opening of the seals our sight is transferred again to earth, but John does not return there. His vision is from heaven. The first seal (v. 1) indicates the beginning of Daniel's seventieth week (Dan. 9:27). In Daniel 9, beginning with verse 24, Daniel is told that after seven “weeks” (or “sevens”) and sixty-two “weeks” Messiah would be cut off (vv. 25-26). This has proven to be 69 weeks of years, which brings us to the exact date of Christ's presentation to Israel when riding into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:6-11) just before His crucifixion. Since that time Israel's history has not been counted, for she rejected her Messiah, and the 70th week (the last seven years) of this prophecy can only begin after the Church has gone to heaven and God resumes His dealings with the nation Israel. This prophecy is most important to consider in connection with the book of Revelation.

With a noise like thunder one of the living creatures (evidently the lion) calls, “Come” (NASB). It is the Lamb who is in control of these events foretold in prophecy and He will initiate them at precisely the right time. A white horse appears, bearing a man with a bow (v. 2). A crown given to him indicates his taking earthly authority. The bow (but without arrows) pictures long-range warfare, and by this he is enabled to conquer. There is one clearly consistent interpretation of this, if we compare Revelation 17:11-13 with Daniel 9:27. The Roman beast, the future head of the revived Roman empire (the prince that shall come) will conquer without bloodshed by the long range warfare of amalgamation — by attracting the allegiance of ten European nations — which will form the future revived Roman empire. At the beginning of the seventieth week (often called the Tribulation Period) he will confirm a covenant with “the many” in Israel. Today, conquests like this are classified as “cold wars,” and there are clear signs of the revival of this ancient Roman empire in NATO and the European Common Market. The white horse speaks of victory: all here appears to be to the advantage of its rider. This man will appear often after this in the book of Revelation, usually called a Beast because he will be “like the beasts that perish” — living only for this life with no recognition of God. (Compare Daniel 4:29-33)

The Second Seal: The Red Horse (vv. 3-4)

When the second seal is opened (v. 3) the second living creature (the Ox) calls “Come.” A red horse appears, and power is given to its rider to take peace from the earth. It seems the important point here is not who the rider is, but that violence and bloodshed will follow quickly in the wake of the Roman Beast's ascendancy to power in Western Europe. His great confederacy of nations will not prevent this, though likely he wants to bring stability by this confederacy, but his designs are thwarted. This is only the beginning of troubles for him, however.

The Third Seal: The Black Horse (vv. 5-6)

The third seal is opened and the third living creature (with the face of a man) calls, “Come” (v. 5). The black horse that comes into sight bears a rider holding a pair of balances (for careful measuring) and a voice announces the high cost of wheat and barley (the food of the common people), while stating that the oil and wine (the luxury of the wealthy) is not to be affected. Famine is the usual result of the ravages of war, but it is the poor who suffer by it. The seals are not the direct outpouring of God's judgments (as are the upcoming inflictions of the vials or bowls), but a picture of God's sovereign working behind the scenes in providential action that is the forerunner of later solemn judgment.

The Fourth Seal: The Pale Horse (vv. 7-8)

The voice of the fourth living creature (the flying eagle) is heard as the fourth seal is opened (v. 7), summoning a pale horse, his rider named Death. Hades follows with him. A fourth part of the earth is now affected by the suffering of death caused by famine, pestilence, the sword and beasts of the earth (perhaps a reference to murder by bestial men). This is simply the natural outcome of what has gone before. Man's pride (as seen in the white horse) wants to conquer. This is offensive to the pride of others and therefore leads to bloodshed (the red horse). Bloodshed will just as surely lead to famine (the black horse), and the sad palor of death from famine, pestilence, etc. (the pale horse) will follow close behind. Only a fourth part of the earth is affected. The third part (Rev. 8:7-12) refers to the Roman empire, so in this case it is less than all the Roman earth.

The Fifth Seal: Martyrs (vv. 9-11)

When the Lamb opens the fifth seal (v. 9) we are directed to the souls of those who have suffered martyrdom during the first three and a half years of Daniel's seventieth week of years. In all the events under the first four seals the pow- er of God will work in awakening and bringing people in faith to Himself. At the time of the Rapture, millions will be living on earth who have never heard or known the gospel of the grace of God, so they are not those who have rejected Christ during our dispensation of grace. In fact, those who know the gospel now and refuse it will have no hope of salvation in the Tribulation, for God will send them strong delusion that they should believe the lie of the Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:10-11)! But many others have not known it and will have opportunity even in the Tribulation to turn to the Lord Jesus. Many of these will be put to death because of their belief in the Word of God and because of their testimony to Himself. They are seen as crying out for the vengeance of God against those earth-dwellers who have murdered them. They know their Sovereign Ruler as holy and true, and thus have no doubt He will judge, but wonder at the length of His patience (v. 10). We do not pray this way today, but rather are told to pray for the blessing of our enemies (Matt. 5:44-45), for today is the day of grace. When the day of God's judgment begins, however, it will be right for people to pray that God will judge the ungodly.

White robes are given them as signifying God's gracious approval of them. This is only an interim provision, for they are not yet in bodily form and must rest in their disembodied state for a short time until others also are killed for the Lord's sake during the remainder of the seven years (v. 11). Since the great bulk of believers will have been raised before this, at the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:15-17), there will be only martyrs left to be raised for heaven after the Rapture. The number of martyrs will not be full until the end of the Tribulation, so these first ones must wait for the later ones in order that all will be raised together. In the latter half of the Tribulation many will suffer martyrdom for refusing to worship the beast (Rev. 13:15). When the Tribulation ends, these will all be raised to complete “the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:4-5). The first resurrection is that of believers: it began with the resurrection of Christ: the main part of it is at the Rapture, and it will be completed with the martyrs being raised.

The Sixth Seal: Apostasy & Anarchy (v. 12-17)

The opening of the sixth seal (v. 12) brings us near to the end of the first 3-1/2 years of Daniel's seventieth week. While there will no doubt be physical disturbances such as a great earthquake and the sun, the moon and the stars affected), yet the spiritual significance of these things is of far greater importance. The earthquake (v. 12) speaks of a general convulsion on earth that indicates the shaking of governments by anarchy (Heb. 12:26-27). The sun becoming black speaks of the light of God withdrawn because of gross atheism, for the sun is the supreme source of light to earth, and people's refusal of God leaves them in spiritual dark- ness (Mal. 4:2). The moon speaks of Israel in the place of responsibility to reflect God's glory, but turned into a state of violence and bloodshed. The stars of heaven stand for those who profess spiritual light (Gen. 15:5), but their falling to the earth in great numbers intimates a general apostasy — a giving up of any heavenly profession and falling to the level of earthly-mindedness. Having no stability, they are easily shaken by the wind of adverse circumstances (Eph. 4:14, Jude 12).

The heaven departing as a rolled up scroll signifies that, since heaven's rule has been rejected by men, God will leave them for a time exposed to the results of their own folly, as it were rolling up the scroll of His direct government. The mountains removed (v. 14) speak of the overthrow of the solid powers of government, while islands indicate neutral powers (isolationists) which will not be able to isolate themselves from the general upheaval: they cannot maintain their neutrality.

In verse 15 individuals are mentioned: kings of the earth (those in authority), great men (men of dignity), rich men (those of wealth), chief captains (those of organizational ability), mighty men (men of power), bondmen (in the place of servitude) and free men (those considered at liberty). All of these together, great and small, will be reduced to the same level of having their hearts fail them for fear. They hide themselves, but not in the secret of God's presence (Ps. 31:19-20). They prefer the dens and rocks of the mountains (v. 16) which speak of men's professedly solid institutions which have been so shaken. Though they feel that this is God's judgment and the wrath of the Lamb, they do not repent and think only of avoiding the judgment by humanly improvised protection. Yet, little as they realize it, they are virtually inviting their own destruction.

They are wrong in assuming that the great day of the Lamb's wrath has come (v. 17). They are only reaping the normal consequences of their own folly at this time, for it is just approaching the middle of Daniel's seventieth week, and God's judgment falls only after this. Note however the arresting expression, “the wrath of the Lamb.” He who was the gentle, submissive Lamb of sacrifice at Calvary's cross will yet be the unsparing Judge of all those who have despised Him.

Revelation 7.

Two Intervening Visions

This entire chapter intervenes between the sixth and seventh seals. Similarly, between the sixth and seventh trumpets, we shall see an even longer intervention (Rev. 10:1 — Rev. 11:14). The last seal will not be opened until it is made clear that divine sovereignty has decreed the salvation and preservation of a great number in Israel (represented by the 144,000) and a great number of Gentiles who will come out of the Tribulation with the blessing of God. The four angels of verse 1 restrain the wind (the strong influences of judgment) from harming the land (Israel), the sea (the nations) or any tree (men generally).

Another angel ascends (v. 2) from the sunrising — prophetic of the manifestation of Christ. In a loud voice he speaks similarly to the words of the four angels, and adds, “till we have sealed the servants of God in their foreheads.” God's seal in their foreheads is in contrast to the mark of the beast received by unbelievers in Revelation 13:16-18.

144,000 of Israel Sealed

The total number of those sealed is 144,000, twelve thousand from each tribe of Israel (v. 4). Their sealing is a guarantee of their being preserved through the Great Tribulation, preserved not simply as individuals, but as specifically of Israel and therefore with earthly blessing as a nation in view. The tribes are mentioned by name (vv. 5-8), which would have no place if their destination was heaven. While Joseph is spoken of in verse 8, this evidently refers to Ephraim (Joseph's son), for Manasseh (Joseph's other son) also is included.

The tribe of Dan is totally omitted, while Levi (the tribe given no inheritance, but distributed among the other tribes — Num. 3:12-13) is added. The reason for Dan's omission appears to be indicated in Jacob's prophecy in Genesis 49:16-18, which is a prophetic history of the nation of Israel, each tribe indicating a distinct era of time. Dan signifies the time of the Tribulation, and is said to be “a serpent by the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse's heels so that its rider shall fall backward.” This is spiteful satanic activity, and seems to refer to the advent of the False Prophet, the Antichrist with his Satanic doctrine. Apparently, therefore, the Antichrist will come from the tribe of Dan. Thus, the Spirit of God ignores that tribe in this chapter. Yet, Dan eventually will be restored, for Jacob says, “Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel” (Gen. 49:16).

A Multitude of Gentiles

Verse 9 introduces an innumerable multitude from all nations, kindreds, people and tongues. These are Gentiles (not Israel and not the Church). They stand before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes and with palms in their hands. It is plainly an anticipated view. It will not take place at the time of the vision, but after the Tribulation. It is given beforehand to emphasize God's sovereign counsels as being absolute, no matter how dreadful the trial of the Tribulation may be.

Because these stand “before the throne and before the Lamb,” some assume that they are in heaven, but there is no intimation either of resurrection or of translation in the passage. Martyrs will be raised and translated to heaven at the end of the Tribulation (Rev. 20:4), but those are not the great multitude of Gentiles seen here in Revelation 7.

These will be blessed on earth, in the millennial kingdom. They do not have to be in heaven to fully recognize the all-embracing authority of the throne of God and of the Lamb. Israel is given the promise of great blessing in the Millennium as verses 2 to 8 declare, and verses 9 to 17 show that many Gentiles also will be blessed with the true, pure knowledge of the Lord Jesus. This passage therefore appears to describe all the Gentiles who will have been saved by the grace of God during the Tribulation. They cry, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (v. 10), but they do not reign with Him as will the raised martyrs (Rev. 20:4) and all the saints in heaven.

In verse 11 we again see all the angels, the 24 elders and the four living creatures standing “around the throne,” not simply “before the throne.” They rejoice in the salvation of this host of Gentiles who have newly awakened affection toward the Lamb. This provides a new occasion for the angels etc. to announce “Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever” (v. 12). There will be a similar joy over the redeemed of Israel (Rev. 14:3) who are also seen “before the throne,” though also on earth.

One of the elders stirs John's interest in these white-robed people, asking him who they are and where they came from (v. 13). John refers the question back to him, for John is willing to take the place of a learner (v. 14). The answer is given him that these have come out of the Great Tribulation: they had passed safely through it. Before the Tribulation all living saints (together with those who have been raised) will have been caught up in the Rapture, so these are the many Gentiles who will be born again during the Tribulation Period. We have seen that Jews are sealed in the first part of this chapter, so only Gentiles are now included. The white robes speak of practical righteousnesses which had proven the reality of their faith during the Tribulation. The robes are washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb: they are purified from the admixture of mere self-righteousness or inconsistent practice. Such purification is possible only by virtue of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.

Serving God day and night in His temple (v. 15) refers to the earthly temple, for there is no temple in the heavenly city (Revelation 21:22). Yet, it cannot be literally in Israel's millennial temple, for this would be impossible for an innumerable number. It rather speaks of the vital work of the Spirit of God in their hearts that makes them continually God's servants in His temple in a spiritual way. Then it is added, “and He who sits on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them” (J.N.D.). This further indicates the earthly character of their blessing.

The description is not limited to their millennial blessing, but goes on to eternity since all who are born again will share eventually in what verses 16 and 17 declare — neither hungering or thirsting, nor subjected to excessive heat, and all tears wiped away from their eyes. The Lamb will feed them and lead them to living fountains of waters. All of this shows that the counsels of God stand, no matter how great may be the trial of the Tribulation.

Revelation 8.

The Seventh Seal Opened:

Introduction to the Trumpets

The last of the seven seals is now opened (v. 1) and there is silence in heaven for about half an hour before John sees seven trumpets given to seven angels.

The seals have been only the beginning of God's working behind the scenes in reference to judgment. The trumpets indicate a ringing, declared testimony to all the world. The silence first shows the calm, quiet deliberation that will do nothing in undue haste. Also, before the angels sound their trumpets, they “stood before God” (v.2). They must first be in God's presence in order to rightly serve Him.

There is further preparation: another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer. Much incense was given him to add to the prayers of all saints, offered upon the golden altar (v. 3). This is not the altar of burnt offering, but of incense (as pictured in the tabernacle — Ex. 30:1-10), indicating the worship of redeemed saints of God. The angel here is Christ Himself, for He acts as priest, presenting the prayers of saints as a sweet odor to God, adding to them a further abundance of incense. More than this: He also fills the censer with fire from the altar and casts it upon the earth (v. 5). No priest of the line of Aaron was ever called upon to do such a thing. The prayers of saints in this case are those of the suffering people of God on earth (and martyrs also — Rev. 6:9-11), pleading for God's intervention in judgment. The casting of the censer on the earth indicates the beginning of God's answer to such pleading prayers, for this results in “noises, thunderings, lightnings and an earthquake.”

The First Trumpet (v. 7)

The prior preparation being complete, the angels now begin the sounding of the trumpets. The first trumpet call is followed by hail and fire mingled with blood (v. 7). At this point the middle of Daniel's seventieth week is not yet reached, but “a third part” of trees and green grass are affected, the trees speaking of man's self-importance and the green grass of prosperity.

What is meant by the third part? When John wrote, the Roman world was divided into three parts — the eastern, the central and the western. It seems likely that verse 7 refers to the empire under its seventh “head” or leader, the Beast of Revelation 13:1-10, and therefore the western third. This empire is seen as a conquering power under the first seal, but here as afflicted by God.

The Second Trumpet (vv. 8-9)

This seventh head is evidently contemplated in verse 8 at the sounding of the second trumpet. A great mountain speaks of a great governing power (cf. Jeremiah 51:24-25), while burning with fire intimates a fearsome character of oppression. Thrown into the sea speaks of God's own sovereign power inflicting this scourge upon the nations (the sea of the Gentiles). The waters of the sea speak of “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues” (Revelation 17:15). The nations want a champion, and God allows them the type of man they desire, whom they will find by experience to be an enemy of all righteousness. The third part is again affected, for the third part of the sea became blood which signifies the stagnation of death, a death that is surely much worse than natural.

The dying of a third part of creatures in the sea indicates that the people of this Western Empire, by allegiance to the Beast and his monstrous claim of divine titles, become coldly dead to the claims of God. Men become “twice dead” (Jude 12)  - first by the fact of their sinful nature (Eph. 2:1), second by apostasy, the cold refusal of God, even though not physically dead. (See Revelation 16:3.) Trade and commerce also will be affected as the destruction of the third part of ships infers.

The Third Trumpet vv. 10-11)

With the sounding of the third trumpet a great star falls out of heaven (v. 10). In Revelation 6:13 we saw that falling stars indicate a general apostasy of those who have professed subjection to heaven's authority. They give this up in favor of earthly honor and advantage. This great star is the leader of them all, the Jewish Antichrist, called the man of sin and the son of perdition (2 Thess. 2:3).

He is given other names also, descriptive of his character. He will first appear to be a godly Jew, going into the house of God together with others who have deep respect for the God of Israel (Ps. 55:11-14). Then gaining a place of prominence by means of this subterfuge, he will turn deliberately against Israel's God and take his seat in the temple of God in Jerusalem, claiming honor that rightly belongs to God alone (2 Thess. 2:3-4). His pretense of giving great spiritual light accounts for the expression, “burning like a torch,” not actually a lamp, but simulating one. Again it is the western Roman earth (the third part) that is affected, the rivers and fountains of waters speaking of the sources of spiritual refreshment.

To this man's many names is added another here: “Wormwood,” speaking of that which is harsh and embittering, for he turns the waters bitter. He corrupts the truth of God by his poisonous doctrine (1 John 2:22). By this many die; not physically, but by apostasy they become dead to any recognition of the living God.

The Fourth Trumpet (vv. 12-13)

The fourth angel sounds his trumpet (v. 12) and the third part of the sun, the moon and the stars are smitten: the third part of each is darkened so as not to shine. Of course this cannot be literal. The sun (which is the supreme source of light to the earth) speaks of the light of the glory of God. Therefore this darkening speaks of people being plunged into the darkness of atheism, not seeing the sun. They become impervious even to the reflected light of the moon and the stars. The light of heavenly testimony is eliminated in all the kingdom of the beast.

At this point an angel flies through the midst of heaven, emphasizing with clarion voice the woeful solemnity of the last three trumpets which are about to sound (v. 13). The reason is clear: with the fifth trumpet we come to the middle of Daniel's seventieth week and “the Great Tribulation” follows. It is at this time that wickedness rises to the height of its most arrogant defiance of God.  

Revelation 9

The Fifth Trumpet: A Demon Infestation (vv. 1-12)

The sounding of the fifth trumpet discloses “a star fallen from heaven:” it is already fallen (v. 1). This is the same star that fell under the third trumpet (Rev. 8:10). Thus the false prophet, the Antichrist, is given the key to the pit of the abyss. His opening it (v. 2) releases a smoke that darkens the sun and the air. This is the darkening and polluting of the very atmosphere of people's existence by satanic doctrine that will also pollute their minds.

Out of this smoke comes a plague of locusts which are given power such as that of scorpions (v. 3). Locusts eat vegetation, and their huge number makes them virtually irresistible as they devastate a land, while the scorpion leaves a tormenting sting. These locusts do not touch the vegetation, but only those persons who don't have God's seal in their foreheads. This indicates the character of this scourge as being that of evil spirits. When the Antichrist brazenly proclaims his polluting doctrine of the denial of the Father and the Son, and with it makes an image to the Roman Beast and requires Israel to give the Beast divine honors, this obnoxious smoke opens the way for Satan's evil spirits to take possession of great numbers of people. This appears to be an infliction specially centered in Israel, though the whole kingdom of the beast also will be affected since most of the population will accept the lie of the Antichrist (Revelation 16:13-14).

This torment continues for five months (v. 5) which number speaks of human responsibility, for the victims have themselves invited it. The horror of such demon possession makes people wish for death (v. 6), but God does not allow them to die: they must learn the results of their folly.

The shape of the locusts being like horses prepared for battle (v. 7) speaks of their strength in conquest: they subdue men. “Crowns like gold” speaks of an assumed dignity that deceives people, while faces similar to men's adds to this deception with a boastful, humanistic approach. The women's hair, speaking of subjection, reminds us of their total subjection to infernal, satanic authority. Teeth as those of lions, however, exposes their actual character of rapacity and tenacity: they catch a person and do not let go.

They have breastplates simulating iron (v. 9). In contrast to the believer's “breastplate of righteousness” (Eph. 6:14), this speaks of a hardened conscience with no proper feeling remaining. The sound of their wings inspired terror, as an army of war-horses on the run. When people have defiantly rejected God, this leaves room for a great and awesome infestation of demons who will make their power felt.

These demons are as scorpions with stings in their tails, which shows that people finally will feel the results of their evil work (v. 10). Just as with alcohol and drugs, the people think it exhilarating at first, but the vicious sting comes later. The king over them is the angel of the pit of the abyss. His name is Abaddon or Apollyon, another of Satan's designations, meaning “a destroyer.” This unparalleled plague of demons is the culmination of the doctrine of the Antichrist in his implanting of gross idolatry in the holy place (the temple area of Jerusalem) in defiance of the living God. This woe will be dreadful, but two more will follow.

The Sixth Trumpet: A Great Invading Army (vv. 13-21)

The sixth angel sounds his trumpet and a voice speaks from the horns of the golden altar which is before God (v. 13). It is God Himself whose glory has been outraged, who calls for judgment. Four angels bound in the Euphrates River are loosed (vv. 14-15). The golden altar reminds us that it is God's glory that is to be upheld. The Euphrates River was the former boundary of the Roman Empire and is to be Israel's future border. The four angels bound are Satan's angels who have power in connection with the King of the North, the Assyrian, who will head a strong alliance in bitter animosity against Israel. This man is spoken of a great deal in Old Testament prophecy. The Assyrian Empire was at one time of great importance, its capital being Ninevah (in present-day Iraq). It included Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, part of Iran and part of Turkey. At one time it took the ten tribes of Israel captive. Russia is not the King of the North: the Assyrian is. In Ezekiel 38:15 and Ezekiel 39:2 “the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal” is seen coming from “the far north,” or “the uttermost north,” which must be Russia, while the King of the North is close to Israel, as a map of the time of the Assyrian Empire will show.

Daniel 8:21-22 shows that the kingdom of Alexander the Great would be broken apart into four kingdoms. One of these would be the forerunner of the future King of the North, who is spoken of in verse 23 as “a king — having fierce features who understands sinister schemes.” Verse 24 says, “His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power,” indicating that another power is backing him up, which may be Russia.

Isaiah 10:5-6 is most important in this connection. There God speaks of the Assyrian as the rod of His anger, saying that He would send him against a godless nation (Israel). Then in verse 12 of that chapter He tells us, “when the Lord has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, He will say, 'I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the glory of his haughty looks.'” Daniel 9:27 gives us further instruction as to why God sends the Assyrian against Israel: “Because of the protection of abominations there shall be a desolator, even until that the consumption and what is determined shall be poured upon the desolate” (or desolator) (J.N.D. translation). Because Israel will be guilty of protecting idolatry in the temple area, God will send the King of the North to punish her, though afterward judgment will be poured upon him also. Isaiah 28:14-18 speaks of the Assyrian as “the overflowing scourge” to punish Israel when they have made “a covenant with death” and an “agreement with Sheol,” speaking of their idolatrous alliance with the Roman Beast.

Until this time God has restrained the King of the North from attacking Israel, but following the demon infestation brought on by the idolatry of the Antichrist He gives the command to loose the four angels bound in the Euphrates River, opening the way for the great invasion by the King of the North. This is spoken of also in Daniel 11:40. The King of the South (Egypt) would “attack” the Antichrist “and the King of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through.”

This is a most significant event in prophecy, referred to in many Old Testament scriptures, for it is here that God Himself begins to take a definite, public hand in dealing directly with the idolatrous pride of man that has risen to its boldest height of defiance against His authority as seen in the man of sin sitting as God in the temple in Jerusalem (2 Thess. 2:4). These loosed angels “are prepared for the hour and day and month and year” (v. 15), which seems to infer the time gradually increasing, as though God were willing at any time to intervene in mercy if Israel would repent. The antagonism of this enemy is against “a third of mankind,” the Roman earth, though Israel is the direct point of attack.

Their number (200 million) (v. 16) must include not only the actual army engaged in literal fighting, but the peoples of these mid-eastern lands who will be stirred in hostile antagonism toward the West, as in fact is seen developing strongly in their character today.

The horses (v. 17) are not literal, but speak of whatever influences it may be that carry the riders into war. The breastplates of the riders are not like iron (as in verse 9) which speaks of hardened consciences, but of fire which rather implies consciences deceived by false religious doctrine and consumed by religious fanaticism. All of this is consistent with the character of their leader at the time, “a king — having fierce features and understanding sinister schemes” (Dan. 8:23), that is, ruthless and conversant with evil spirits.

The heads of lions speak of the fierceness of this attack. Fire and smoke and brimstone from their mouths is comparable to the threats, subterfuge and blasphemy of Rabshakeh, the general of the Assyrian army as he besieged Jerusalem (Isaiah 36) after his conquest of other nations. This attack of the King of the North is similar to the character of the infestation of locusts in verses1 to 11, but while the locusts hurt people without killing them, the horses “kill” by the fire, smoke and brimstone from their mouths. This is not physical killing, but driving people to a a state of dead infidelity. The religious fanaticism of the Assyrian in his spiteful treatment of Israel and the West will serve to turn the West more strongly against religion and against any recognition of God. The attack also will be physical and violent, as well as attended by a multitude of words. The horses seem to be the whole religious system that upholds the attack, for they have power in their mouths as well as in their tails (v. 19) — not only in their tails as was true of the locusts. Their words are fierce and the end result is harmful.

However, verses 20 and 21 show us that those not killed by these plagues remained coldly unrepentant in reference to their corrupt religion of idol worship. People will not of themselves turn to God in spite of every solemn warning and shaking experience. Their idolatry seems to them a sufficient cover-up of their murders, sorceries, fornications and thefts.

Revelation 10.

A Long Interval Before the Seventh Trumpet

We find a long interval between the sixth and seventh trumpets, continuing from Revelation 10:1 to Revelation 11:14. There is no doubt as to the identity of the mighty angel who comes down from heaven (v. 1), for His face is as the sun. It is Him in whom the glory of God is revealed, the Lord Jesus, yet clothed with a cloud, indicating some obscurity: God's glory is present, but in measure veiled. The rainbow is the promise of the light of God yet to be manifested in fullest measure, with every color of the spectrum witnessing the great magnificence of God's glory. Feet as pillars of fire speak of the burning holiness of God that must first tread down every evil adversary.

The little opened book (v. 2), if we consider verses 8 to 11, seems to refer to the prophecies of the Old Testament which deal with God's judgments in the earth. They are to be completely fulfilled. His right foot on the sea pictures His subjugation of the Gentile nations: His left foot on the land signifies His subduing Israel under Him. His voice is as a lion roaring: He claims His rightful power over the nations. The seven thunders are the answer of God in the fulness of His resources of divine power (Psalm 29:3). He is fully behind His Son in claiming the sea and the land as His own. But though the thunders spoke intelligibly, John is not permitted to write their words (v. 4): it is not therefore necessary for us know what was spoken.

The angel lifts up His hand to heaven and swears by the living God, the Creator of heaven, earth and sea and everything in them, that there should be delay no longer (v. 6). He is one with God, so that this is really God swearing by Himself. He had done this when showing grace to Abraham and his seed (Hebrews 6:13-14); now He does so when executing the judgment that subdues all things under Him.

The Angel further announces that the sounding of the trumpet of the seventh angel would signal the finishing of the mystery of God in accordance with prophecy given by His servants in the past (v. 7). This is held up only until other matters are put in their proper order. Again we see the calm, orderly deliberation of the judgment of God: there is no precipitate action. The mystery of God will be finished at the sounding of the seventh trumpet. The mystery of God here involves the mystery of Israel's blindness until the fulness of the Gentiles is come in (Romans 11:25) and the mystery of iniquity (2 Thess. 2:7) and all that has been obscure in the great sovereign ways of God. These things will become plain at the manifestation of the glory of the Lord.

The same voice that had forbidden John to write the words uttered by the seven thunders now tells him to go and take the little book from the Angel's hand (v. 8). The angel — the Lord Himself — instructs him to eat the book which would make his stomach bitter, but would taste as sweet as honey, which John proves to be so (v. 10).

This shows us that before judgment falls, our great God has considered every detail of its character and of the way in which creation will be affected, and wants this entered into by His servants at least in some measure. The prophet must feel something of the solemnity of his prophecies. If it is sweet to our taste that the Lord Jesus is about to accomplish His great work of subduing all things under His feet, fulfilling Old Testament prophecies, yet that work will require the bitterness of sad, dreadful and eternal results for all who will not submit by faith to this holy Lord of glory.

The serious reality of this is further impressed on John in his being told he must prophesy again before many peoples, nations, tongues and kings (v. 10). This is work that has some deeply-felt bitterness about it because most people will not believe, though to a true prophet there is sweetness that cannot be disputed.

Revelation 11.

We have seen under the sixth trumpet the desolating invasion of Israel by the King of the North, which takes place because of Israel's idolatrous image of the Beast set up in the temple at the middle of Daniel's seventieth week. Revelation 11:1 to Revelation 13:18 therefore deals with conditions in the last half of this seven year period, designated in scripture as “the Great Tribulation.”

John is given a reed like a rod and told by the Angel (the Lord) to measure the temple, the altar and those who worship (v. 1). The court is given to the Gentiles who will tread it down for 42 months (3 1/2 years) (v. 2). This is not a literal measurement in feet or meters, for the worshipers also are measured. The reference is plainly to Israel's temple and altar, and at a time when these have been grossly desecrated by the Antichrist and the Jews themselves by the idolatry of the image to the Beast at the middle of Daniel's seventieth week, and then further desecrated by the Assyrian invasion which immediately follows.

The measurement speaks of a true spiritual discrimination that separates the godly minority in Israel who care for God's interests in His temple and in His altar, from the masses of the nation. The altar — the altar of burnt offering — speaks of the absolute necessity of the sacrifice of the blessed Messiah of Israel; and the temple, of the dwelling of God among His people. These things will be valued by the minority, though despised by the majority of the nation.

Two Unusual Witnesses in Jerusalem (vv. 3-14)

Two remarkable witnesses, empowered by the Lord, will appear in Jerusalem during the Great Tribulation, but will be killed about the end of this 3-1/2 year period. Therefore, they are killed just before the Lord appears in glory. These prophets are only two of a large number who will also bear some witness in other parts of the land beside Jerusalem, but these will have particular power given them of God. Being clothed in sackcloth, they feel the shame of Israel's guilt. Their prophecy is specifically required in Jerusalem because of the idolatry prevailing there.

In verse 4 they are designated as the two olive trees and the two lampstands of Zechariah 4:2-3, the anointed ones (sons of oil) bearing testimony (the lampstands). Their testimony is to the fact that there is a true anointed Messiah of Israel (anointed as both King and Priest) who will be manifested to Israel. Indeed, “He shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory and shall sit and rule on His throne, so He shall be a Priest on His throne” (Zechariah 6:13).

The fire from their mouths (v. 5) reminds us of Elijah's burning words to the two insolent captains who were immediately devoured by fire with their bands of fifty men (2 Kings 1:9-12). Power to restrain the rain from heaven (v. 6) was also given to Elijah (James 5:17). Power to turn the waters to blood is seen in the conflict of Moses with the Egyptians (Ex. 7:19-20) as well as smiting the earth with many plagues. It would be totally contrary to Christian character for us to attempt such things today (see Luke 9:54-56), for today is the day of grace, but when God initiates judgment, He will not be without clear witness. These two prophets then will be similar to Moses and Elijah, not the same individuals as some have wrongly supposed in reading Malachi 4:5, but coming in the spirit and power of Elijah as was true also of John the Baptist (Luke 1:17).

God allows nothing to stop them until their testimony is finished. He then permits the Roman Beast (the Western European dictator) who ascends from the abyss (Rev. 17:8), who is also said to rise out of the sea (Rev. 13:1), to murder them so that God's power over the Beast may become more clearly manifest (v.7). The fact of the Beast's ascending out of the abyss speaks of the direct satanic power by which he is influenced and energized. He will not be personally in Jerusalem, but will have many willing tools there to do his work. Yet very soon after this, the Roman Beast personally, with the false prophet (the Antichrist), will be terrified by the sudden appearance of the Lord Jesus from heaven at Armageddon in the north of Israel, and the two of them will be captured by divine power and thrown alive into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:11-20).

The two witnesses suffer bitter rejection and apparent shameful defeat. Not content with murdering them, their enemies leave their dead bodies on the street in Jerusalem (called Sodom for its revolting corruption, and Egypt for its proud independence of God) (vv. 8-10). Gloating in fiendish delight over their horrible work, they send congratulatory gifts to one another. These dead bodies are observed for 3 1/2 days by other nations also, perhaps by means of television. There can be no doubt of their actual physical death.

However, this wicked folly of Israel's leaders causes them to witness their own defeat. In the sight of their enemies the two witnesses are raised from death and stand upon their feet (v. 11). If they had buried them, they would not have seen this great sight, but having morbid delight in observing their dead bodies, they expose themselves to the terror of seeing them come to life. These witnesses stand there long enough to impress men with the reality of their resurrection and then are called by a great voice from heaven to come up there. The voice also is heard by their enemies who observe them as they go up to heaven.

Immediately following this, “in the same hour,” a great earthquake (literally as well as morally) shakes the city, destroying a tenth part of it and killing seven thousand (v. 13). This again is just preceding the appearing of the Lord in awesome majesty. It would seem that Jerusalem will have almost no time to recover from the earthquake before the King of the North returns from Egypt to besiege the city. The shaking does some good, however, for those who were not killed at least were terrified enough to give glory to the God of heaven. Whether they were really brought to God in faith is another question.

The Seventh Trumpet:

Christ's Kingdom Announced (vv. 15-18)

The third woe comes with the seventh trumpet. Great voices in heaven announce, “The world kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ is come and He shall reign unto the age of ages” (v. 15, Numerical Bible). Far from being woe to the renewed heart, that great kingdom will bring unspeakable blessing, but to the ungodly rebel it is the worst of all woes, for each such rebel must now face the exposure of his accumulated guilt and be judged by the One whom he has despised and rejected — Jesus, the exalted Son of Man, the eternal Son of God. All other kingdoms fall “and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day” (Isaiah 2:11).

The redeemed in heaven (the 24 elders) respond in deepest adoration, falling on their faces to worship the living God, speaking of Him as the Lord God Almighty, the eternal Sovereign of the present, the past and the future (vv. 16-17). They make it clear that this great dignity fully belongs to the Lord Jesus who has asserted His right of absolute authority to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Their words in verse 18 encompass a long period of time and the events spoken of are not put in chronological order. The anger of the nations and God's wrath against them will be manifest at the time of the revelation of the Lord from heaven, but “the time of the dead, that they should be judged,” anticipates the end of Christ's millennial reign. If He judges the living, there remains no doubt that He will judge the dead. All these things are connected with the kingdom of the Son of Man who will put all things in subjection before delivering the kingdom up to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24-28). Rewards also, to His servants, to prophets, to saints and to all who fear His name, are connected with the kingdom, as will be the destruction of those who destroy the earth. This will include the Tribulation judg- ments and the judgment by fire from heaven of Gog and Magog at the end of the thousand years (Rev. 20:7-9), and is completed with the Great White Throne judgment of all the unsaved dead (Rev. 20:11-15).

The Temple and the Ark

Verse 19 begins a new subject and is connected with Revelation 12. The trumpets take us to the end of all the judgments. The scene now reverts to consider the development of various details connected with the span of time the trumpets have embraced.

The temple of God opened in heaven is not itself a heavenly temple, for in the heavenly city there is no temple (Rev. 21:22). The temple and the ark seen here are connected with Israel at a time when Israel on earth is in a state of guilty apostasy, having deliberately turned from the truth they once claimed to believe, apostatizing from God and from any recognition of a coming Messiah. But God's counsels concerning her blessings are still established in the heavens, the temple speaking of God's dwelling among His people; and the ark, of Christ glorified, the center of all blessing for Israel. The literal ark will be forgotten (Jeremiah 3:16): its spiritual significance is the vital matter. Therefore, Israel will learn that “the heavens do rule.” But the counsels of God in blessing will not be accomplished before the awesome judgments take place, of which the lightnings, thunderings, voices, an earthquake and great hail assure us.

Revelation 12.

A Woman Clothed with the Sun: Israel

A great sign now appears in heaven. We thus are looking at things from heaven's viewpoint, and the vision goes back in time to connect the past with the future so that we may have a clearer view of connected events. The woman (v. 1) is manifestly Israel of whom the Man-child (Christ) is born. “Clothed with the sun” intimates God's counsels as to her when in the Millennium she is clothed with the glory of “The Sun of Righteousness,” the blessed Christ of God (Mal. 4:2). The moon under her feet refers to Israel as she has been in all her previous history, which is seen as the night in contrast to the day of the coming kingdom. Her proper character was to reflect the sun, as does the moon, however poorly she has done it. The crown of twelve stars on her head symbolizes the twelve tribes, all intact in the day to come. Heaven recalls her as travailing before the birth of Christ. This may refer to the pain of Israel's bondage under Roman rule at that time.

Another Sign — The Great Red Dragon

Then another sign appears in heaven (v. 3): this too is plainly a vision, not literal. The great red dragon is Satan in his intimidating character, but the seven heads and ten horns are the same as on the beast in Revelation 13:1, though here the crowns are on the seven heads, while there they are on the ten horns. The sign depicts the Roman empire as energized by Satanic power, the crowns on its heads intimating its glory and authority in past history. Crowns on the horns speak of the revived condition of that empire in the tribulation period when ten European kings (or authorities) will receive power “one hour” with the Beast (Rev. 17:12). The European Economic Community seems a clear step in the direction of this revival of the Roman Empire.

Therefore, Revelation 12 indicates Satanic power operating in the Roman Empire at the time of the birth of Christ. Satan's casting to the earth the third part of the stars of heaven (v. 4) is the strong materialistic doctrine that reduces spiritual hopes to the level of earthly-mindedness. This affected the third part, the Western nations. Satan moved that empire in opposition to Christ: He was determined to destroy the Man-child. The empire (which Pilate represented) did not realize that it was the tool of Satan for the purpose of Christ's destruction, but in all of this we see heaven's discernment of the entire matter. This vicious enmity culminated in the crucifixion of Christ, though neither His crucifixion nor His resurrection are mentioned here, but rather the fact of God's defeating the power of Satan by His setting this blessed Man on His own throne, for He will eventually rule all nations with a rod of iron (v. 5).

Then all the present dispensation of grace is passed over, from the ascension of Christ until after the Rapture, and verse 6 refers to the last 3 1/2 years of Daniel's seventieth week when Satan's enmity against Christ and against Israel will flame to its greatest height. The woman is given a place in the wilderness prepared by God for her, and there nourished for the 1260 days of the Great Tribulation. This will be true for large numbers of Israel, for the Lord warns the Jews that when they see “the abomination of desolation” standing in the holy place, that is, the idolatrous image set up there at the beginning of the Great Tribulation, they should flee to the mountains (Matt. 24:15-16). We know that some will remain and suffer greatly in the city, as we have seen in the case of the two witnesses (Rev. 11:3-12), but the bulk of the godly Jews will flee for their lives.

War in Heaven: Satan Thrown Down to Earth

Daniel 10:12-13, 20-21 bears witness that conflict is taking place continually between God's angels and Satan's host, and that Satan has certain evil spirits delegated to influence certain nations. Satan has for centuries been allowed in heaven to accuse the brethren before God, whether they are Jewish or Gentile brethren. This is seen in Job 1:6-12. In the present dispensation of grace the Church is seen to have conflict in heavenly places because of satanic opposition (Eph. 6:12). Satan is opposing every desire of believers to learn the truth of God and to obey it. We today are enabled to gain a present victory over Satan by having on the whole armor of God and by use of “the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God” (Eph. 6:10-17).

But God has decreed that at the middle of the seven year Tribulation Period Michael and his angels will wage a decisive battle in heaven against Satan and his angels, and throw them down to earth (vv. 7-9). Michael is called “your (Israel's) prince” (Dan. 10:21): he has a special connection with Israel. Therefore, his fighting will be on behalf of Israel, though Israel will suffer all the more after this time. But God will use Satan's enmity to drive Israel back to Himself through the sorrows of the Great Tribulation. Therefore, Satan's presence on earth will result in Israel's true blessing in the end. In verse 9 four designations of this arch-enemy of God are seen. He is called the dragon (the intimidator), that old serpent (the deceiver), the devil (the accuser) and Satan (the adversary). Yet all this infernal power is defeated by angels, though certainly by God's direction.

Rejoicing in Heaven

Verses 10-12 show great rejoicing in heaven, yet it is still anticipative of the end of the Great Tribulation which only begins at this time. The fact of the dragon being cast down is the portent of the very near establishment of the King- dom of God and the authority of His Christ. Satan is said here to be “the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night.” He is persistent in his determination to put down the people of God. But after this he will no longer be able to practice his accusations before God: his activities will be confined to earth.

Verse 11 speaks of the brethren overcoming the devil by the blood of the Lamb, that which had fully cleansed away all their sins before God. This is the work of God done for them, in which they fully trust. When in a dream Satan accused Martin Luther of many past sins, he replied, “You might add many more to these, but write in red ink over the whole list, 'The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin'” (l John 1:7). The brethren also overcome “by the word of their testimony: ” this is the response on their part to what God has done. They were not ashamed to witness their confidence in the living God and in His Word, in the face of satanic persecution in the world. These brethren are those who suffer in the seven years of the Tribulation Period, many of whom will be martyred.

In verse 12 those in heaven rejoice that Satan is banished from there, but woe is pronounced against the inhabitors of the land (Israel) and the sea (the nations), for the devil's hateful animosity will rise to a frenzy of action because he knows his time is short. We may think that Satan's attitude is unreasonable, but this is only to be expected where there is no true faith in God. It is reported that Hitler said that if he and his party had to go out (of power), they would slam the door so hard that all the world would hear it. Such is the foolish vanity of angels or people apart from God. Satan wants to do all the harm he can, but God is simply allowing this in perfect wisdom, for He uses the evil to teach people what is the end result of their choosing Satan's authority rather than God's. The culmination of Satan's malice is the worst tribulation the world has ever seen. Yet behind all this is the stern wrath of God against the accumulated wickedness of both Jews and Gentiles, but God's wrath is seen in the perfection of calm deliberation and in absolute righteousness.

The Dragon Persecuting: The Woman Preserved

The dragon then persecutes the woman (v. 13) who symbolizes the godly of Israel, of whom Christ had been born. In this persecution Satan will employ both Gentiles and apostate Jews who follow Antichrist. Antichrist at first will be friendly toward the godly Jews, but after using them as a stepping-stone to gain power and position in the nation, he will turn against them in cruel persecution (Psalm 55:12-14, 20-21).

The Lord will enable the woman to quickly escape to the wilderness. The wings of a great eagle (v. 14) speak both of this speed and of God's protective care. She is sustained here for a time (one year), times (two years) and half a time (one half year) as indicated by the 1260 days of verse 6. There she is preserved from those who are Satan's willing tools. However, we have before noticed that there will be those remaining in Jerusalem who will suffer greatly. The language of these sufferers is prophetically recorded in Psalm 59.

The flood from the serpent's mouth (v. 15) is evidently the whirlwind attack of the King of the North who will come as an overflowing flood (Daniel 11:40-41), also called “the overflowing scourge” (Isaiah 28:15-18). The land opening her mouth to swallow up the flood indicates that the land of Israel will take the brunt of this attack, thus sparing the godly remnant whom God will preserve for millennial blessing, though some will be martyred and thus have a better destiny in heaven (Rev. 20:4). This martyrdom may be indicated in verse 17, for Satan will do all he can to oppress and decimate Israel, but he can do no more than God allows. This remnant is said to keep the commandments of God in contrast to Antichrist and his followers who will reject even the Old Testament. The remnant has the testimony of Jesus Christ: their faith is steadfast in the true Messiah to whom they bear witness and suffer for it.

Revelation 13.

A Beast Coming Out of the Sea

In contrast to seeing a great sign in heaven in Revelation 12:1-3, John now stands on the shore and sees a Beast rise out of the sea (out of the Gentile or Western nations) with seven heads and ten horns. As we have seen, this is similar to the dragon in Revelation 12:3, but there it is seen as a sign in heaven, for in that case the vision goes back to the past history of the satanically inspired Roman Empire. Here, the crowns being on its ten horns indicate the revival of the old Roman Empire in the Tribulation Period when ten nations give their power to the Beast (Rev. 17:13). The name of blasphemy on its heads shows that the Beast assumes divine titles, for in demanding people's unconditional allegiance it is actually demanding worship (v. 15).

Verse 2 shows that this empire will incorporate into it some features of the world empires that have preceded it. Its likeness to a leopard compares with the Grecian Empire of Alexander the Great (Daniel 7:6) with its swiftness of conquest. Its feet as of a bear reminds us of the empire of the Medes and Persians (Daniel 7:5) with its grasping strength and tenacity. Its mouth as that of a lion indicates its devouring ferocity as seen in the Babylonian Empire (Daniel 7:4). This Beast in Revelation then is the fourth Beast or fourth empire of Daniel 7, dreadful, terrible and strong (verse 7). The dragon (Satan) gives him power, his throne (his elevated dignity) and his authority.

One of its seven heads was wounded to death (v. 3). Compare this with Revelation 17:9-11, where there is the declaration that the seven heads are the seven mountains on which the woman Babylon sits. Babylon means “confusion,” a name used to describe a religious mixture of some truth with much falsehood — that which has caused confusion to countless numbers of her blinded followers. This is literally the city of seven mountains, Rome. Then it is added, “There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is and the other has not yet come.” The first five may refer to the five different forms of government in the Roman Empire that had existed before John wrote, which are Kings, Consuls, Dictators, Decemvirs and Military Tribunes. Or they may refer to the great imperial powers of the world up to that time — Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece, as suggested in the Numerical Bible -Revelation-p. 436. In any case, the sixth head was imperial Rome (Rome under the imperial rule of the Caesars) existing when John wrote and which has long since fallen with the fall of the empire itself. The seventh head therefore will arise with the revival of the empire, and it will be this head (“the prince who is to come”) who will confirm a covenant with the many in Israel, which will introduce Daniel's seventieth “week”* (Daniel 9:26-27).

{*It is most important to understand this prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 in connection with Revelation and the whole subject of prophecy. the first 69 weeks (weeks of years), equalling 483 years, have been completed with the cutting off of the Messiah at the cross of Calvary. But the 70th week is held in abeyance during all our present dispensation of grace, and will take place only after the Rapture. This 70th week is called the Tribulation Period, which occupies a very large place in prophecy.}

This head will then be wounded to death, evidently when the general anarchy takes place at the time of the sixth seal (Rev. 6:17). Many governments will be overthrown before the middle of Daniel's “week” (the Tribulation Period) and this head will be among them, being wounded to death. In other words he will totally lose his authority. The wounded head being healed indicates a striking recovery of his power which causes all the world to wonder. He apparently will bring a semblance of restored order and peace out of the chaos of anarchy, and thus be acclaimed as a great world leader.

Just as the Roman Empire will revive from a virtual deadly wound received many centuries ago, so at about the middle of the Tribulation the seventh head will revive from a deadly wound only a short time after it is inflicted on him. This seems to be the reason we are told that “the beast that was and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven” (Rev. 17:11). When he first arises at the beginning of the seven years of the Tribulation, he is the seventh head; then when revived about the middle of that time-period he is called the eighth. All the world wonders at his power in bringing back the ten kingdoms under his control and establishing apparent peace out of chaos. However, his power is satanic, and therefore people worship both the dragon and the Beast (v. 4). It is not necessary to suppose that they realize they are actually worshiping Satan, but it is he who gives authority to the Beast, and people will give the Beast a place of greatest preeminence, for they will consider him the most formidable power on earth.

He is given a mouth capable of advertising himself (v. 5), while at the same time blaspheming. He glorifies himself while showing contempt for God and His Christ. He continues 42 months, the last half of Daniel's week. As well as blaspheming God and His name, he adds to this the blasphemy of God's tabernacle and “those who dwell in heaven” (v. 6). It seems the tabernacle refers to God's heavenly dwelling, so this involves the Beast's bold defiance of all heavenly authority. As to those who dwell in heaven, this may infer that the Beast will remember the testimony of saints who have been caught up to heaven in the Rapture, and he curses the memory of them. Perhaps for this same reason the heavenly saints will appear with the Lord out of heaven when He judges this insolent enemy and his armies (Rev. 19:11-21).

This man will not make war with Israel, but “with the saints” — those in the Tribulation Period who will be awakened to take a stand for the living God (v.7). We have seen this in Revelation 11:7. Authority given him over all kindreds, tongues and nations speaks particularly of the Western nations which willingly submit to him, for Russia and Assyria (the King of the North) will not be included in this coalition.

Those who worship the beast are earth dwellers (v. 8), settling in the world as though they are going to keep it forever. Their names are not written from the foundation of the earth in the book of life, the property of the Lamb who was slain. The elect have their names written in this book because God has foreknown them. The Lamb, because of the value of His redemption, claims them as His own: nothing can change this. Others are urged to hear if they have an ear to do so (v. 9). Let people take to heart the serious folly of preferring to settle down in a corrupted and corrupting world rather than embracing the liberating grace of the Lord Jesus with its eternal blessings in heaven.

Mere earthdwellers, intent on their own selfish interests, will like cringing slaves follow the Beast in his program to cause suffering to the godly. God will see to it that they receive back the treatment they give others, whether captivity or death (v. 10). The saints thus may wait in calm patience, with fullest faith in God's eventual intervention, though in the meantime they suffer.

A Beast From the Earth

Verse 11 introduces another Beast which comes up out of the land rather than from the sea. The first Beast coming from the sea indicates that he is a Gentile, for the waters of the sea are typical of “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues” (Rev. 17:15), while the earth pictures the land of Israel, so constantly referred to as “the land” throughout scripture. Therefore, this second Beast is Jewish. His two horns like a lamb is a simulation of God's Lamb, a counterfeit of the true Christ. As a leader in Israel he takes the place of Christ, but speaks as a dragon. There can be no doubt that this is Antichrist* (1 John 2:22), called “the false prophet” (Revelation 19:20), “the man of sin, the son of perdition,” “the lawless one” (2 Thess. 2:3, 8), “a foolish shepherd,” “the worthless shepherd” (Zechariah 11:15, 17), “the king” who does his own will (Daniel 11:36) and the “mighty man” (Psalm 52:1). As it requires many designations to describe the beauties and glories of the Lord Jesus, so it takes various designations to show the many aspects of the evil of this man who challenges the authority of the true Messiah. He will claim both civil and religious authority in Israel.

{*Many writers have considered that the first or Roman Beast is the Antichrist, but the Antichrist will claim to be the Jewish Messiah. He will rise from the land (Israel) and will sit in the Jewish temple of God (2 Thess. 2:3-4), while the first Beast is a political ruler and rises from the sea of the Gentiles (v. 1).}

Since the Antichrist is fully identified with the first Beast (the head of the Roman Empire), he will have that power backing him up. On his part he will require the land (Israel) and all its inhabitants to worship the Roman Beast (v. 12). This Roman-Israeli confederacy demands the allegiance of Israel to the satanic authority of this bestial government. God calls this confederacy “a covenant with death” and an “agreement with Sheol” (Isaiah 28:14-18).

This second beast, the Antichrist, will do great wonders (v. 13). These are not miracles of grace as the Lord did on earth, but awesome things such as making fire come from heaven, etc. These are called “lying wonders” in 2 Thessalonians 2:9. Thus, while man's inventive genius probably will have some place in these, yet behind them is both satanic power and satanic delusion.

This deception is successful in persuading the Jews in Israel to give their full allegiance to the Roman Beast, an allegiance demonstrated and strengthened by the erection in Jerusalem of an image in honor of the Roman Beast, for this revived Roman Empire has become Israel's protector (v. 14). The image is called “the abomination of desolation” in Matthew 24:15. It will “stand in the holy place,” the Jewish temple, as a brazen challenge to the authority of God. Daniel 9:27 calls this image “the wing of abominations,” an expression that involves the protection of idolatry. Because of this God sends “a desolator,” the King of the North, against Israel.

The false prophet probably will claim to give life to the image, but the word in verse 15 is properly translated as “breath” in the NKJV. The image will speak and give orders for the execution of those who do not worship it. Man's cunning deception and the sinister power of Satan will combine in this activity of “power, signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9). Anyone who has seen Disney's image of Abraham Lincoln stand and talk can perhaps understand how the best of robotic science combined with satanic power could in the future conceive a very convincing image.

The Mark of the Beast

We see in verse 16 that this Beast will require all Israel, whatever their status, to be coded with a mark in the right hand or on the forehead. Whether one is employed practically or intellectually, he must be marked. Experiments have already been reported in the United States which involve infusing a thin layer of liquid plastic under the skin as a backing for an invisible number only discerned by a laser scanner. In this way the number will be in the person rather than on a credit card he possesses and can lose or have stolen. When a thing like this is forced upon the population with the intention of having the people subject to the Beast's authority, or not to be allowed to buy or sell (v. 17), then believers will be called upon to fully refuse this identification with the Beast as though they were his property.

The 144,000 of Revelation 7 will have the seal of God in their foreheads: they are His property: they will not accept the mark of the beast. All who take this stand will be refused permission to buy or sell. Currency may be done away with as a medium of exchange so that the transfer of funds could be done only by electronic means. Civilization today is rapidly moving in this direction. Many will suffer for refusing the mark of the Beast and many will be put to death, for we read of these among the martyrs (Rev. 20:4).

We should be wise as to these matters even now before these things take place (v.18). One who has understanding is called upon to count the number of the Beast. What does it add up to? In Scripture, six is the number of a man — man independent of God — and as such, reduced to the level of a beast. The number six is indelibly stamped upon mankind, and though it is intensified (666) in the number of the Beast, yet it is short of seven which is the number of completeness in the Bible. Secular humanism — mankind filled with pride in his accomplishments — in its fullest development is seen in the number 666. However, in God's account such pride is merely beastly and doomed to solemn judgment.

Revelation 14.

The Lamb and 144,000 on Mount Zion

In the first five verses of this chapter we find another striking preview of the blessing of the godly remnant in Israel. This preview is given at the time when the nation is involved in the most brazen idolatry in its history. The Lamb standing on Mount Zion (v. 1) indicates His eventual complete triumph over idolatry. The 144,000 with Him remind us of Revelation 7:2-8 where all twelve tribes are represented and seen as sealed in their foreheads. In this chapter the 144,000 have the name of the Lamb and of His Father written on their foreheads. This is in marked contrast to the mark or name of the Beast in the foreheads of his deceived victims.

Mount Zion is on earth, its name meaning “sunny.” This name is specially used for Jerusalem in connection with the sunshine of her millennial glory. A voice is heard from heaven as the voice of many waters and of great thunder (the voice of the great power of God), together with the voice of harpers (v. 2). These have deepest interest in the 144,000 Since they are distinguished from the elders, the harpers must be those martyred during the two halves of the Tribulation Period (Rev. 6:9-11, Rev. 13:15, Rev. 20:4).

These singers of verse 2 sing a new song which only they and the 144,000 can learn (v. 3). This song appears to be that of joyous triumph of faith resulting from God's intervention on their behalf when suffering the great sorrows of the Tribulation. Both of these companies have deep sympathy for each other: no one else could enter into a song of this kind as they could. The reason for this is that they have both gone through deep suffering in the Tribulation Period.

The 144,000 are those who have kept free from the adulterous defilement of the doctrine of the beast and False Prophet (v. 4), for faith has been awakened in them to follow the Lamb wherever He leads, however great the dangers. They are redeemed, liberated by the grace of God in virtue of the blood of the Lamb, from among men and called “the firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” From one viewpoint, Christ Himself is the firstfruits (1 Cor. 15:22). From another viewpoint, those who are saved now are “a kind of firstfruits” (James 1:18), but in the millennial kingdom the twelve tribes will be the firstfruits of all the blessing on earth.

“In their mouth was found no guile” (v. 5) reminds us of Psalm 32:2. Only when David frankly confessed his whole guilt of adultery and murder before God in connection with Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Samuel 11) was this true of him. Such brokenness and confession will be likewise true of Israel, for they have been guilty of adulterous unfaithfulness to God and of the murder of their Messiah. For centuries they have sought to cover up their sin by daring to accuse Jesus of being an imposter and therefore justifying their having put Him to death. But when they see their great Messiah as He appears in Jerusalem at the end of the Great Tribulation they will be broken down in genuine repentance (Zech. 12:10-14). Their hearts will be laid bare in God's sight. Because of their new-found faith in the One whose sacrifice atones fully for their sins, God will impute righteousness to them. They are therefore seen “without fault before the throne of God.”

An Angel With the Everlasting Gospel

In the first five verses of this chapter God has shown His counsels of blessing for Israel: now the rest of the chapter summarizes some solemn events of the Tribulation Period that will lead to this. When judgment is about to fall, an angel is seen flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to all who dwell on the earth, Jews and Gentiles (v. 6). This preaching will be by means of those (mainly) Jews awakened and born again during the Tribulation, and the flying angel denotes the urgency of the message. It is “the everlasting gospel,” not the gospel of the grace of God in Christ Jesus as is preached today.

Rather, it is the gospel (or good news) that creation itself has preached throughout history, that God is Creator of all, but now added to it the fact that the hour of judgment has come (v. 7). Man must face His Creator: let him therefore now bow to His authority. This may not seem like “good news” to many, but it is “good news” for a world crushed and torn by man's sin. Judgment is the only hope, the only relief from mankind's ruined state. It is an appeal to every individual to bow to God rather than to the bestial systems of man's idolatry.

Babylon's Fall

Another angel then announces that Babylon is fallen (v. 8). Babylon, the great harlot that sits on many waters (Rev. 17:1), claims to be “the Church” with headquarters in Rome, the city of seven mountains (Rev. 17:9). Because of her profession she has greater responsibility than any other company on earth at that time, and thus must first be judged. She is shown to have utterly failed in her responsibility. This judgment will be seen more fully in chapters 17 and 18.

The Beast's Worshipers

The judgment of Babylon is followed by a third angel who declares the awful judgment of those who worship the Beast and his image and who receive his mark in their forehead or hand (v. 9). This judgment goes beyond that of the Tribulation. The language of verses 10 and 11 is dreadful: God's wrath is poured out without any alleviating mixture into the cup of His indignation, with the torment of eternal fire and brimstone. Men will reap the well-deserved results of their brazen defiance and blasphemy against their Creator.

In the light of verse 11 (and other scriptures such as Matthew 25:46 and Revelation 20:10)) what folly it is for anyone to belittle the horror of eternal punishment and to claim that the torment of hell is not eternal! There is no end to the smoke of their torment: they have no rest day or night. God does not mince words to accommodate the objections of unbelief. He means what He says and His words are intended to put the fear of God into men's souls, not to lessen their concern as to judgment.

Verses 12 and 13 intervene to encourage the faith of the godly who refuse the mark of the Beast. At such a time the patience (or endurance) of those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus is specially commended. Though martyred for their obedience to God in those days of awful trouble, they have the unspeakable comfort of a voice from heaven, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” It is a special blessing for that time, though certainly the fact is true at all times. The Holy Spirit then affirms the precious reality of their rest from their labors (in contrast to the worshipers of the Beast in verse 11) and of the lasting fruitfulness of their works. Revelation 20:4 speaks of their resurrection before the Millennium to the eternal joys of heaven, a more blessed reward than that of those who are not martyred and only inherit the earthly kingdom, as wonderful as that will be.

The Harvest Reaped

In verses 14 to 20 the direct judgment of the Son of Man is briefly described by two different pictures — the harvest and the winepress. Christ is spoken of as “one like a Son of Man” (v. 14) because, though He is truly Man, He is more than man. His sitting on a cloud indicates some measure of obscurity: though He is acting directly, yet the world will not fully realize it. The cloud being white infers the perfect purity of the judgment. The crown of divine glory is on His head, for here He takes His rightful authority. His hand holds a sharp sickle, a sharp hand tool used by early farmers to cut down a large amount of grain by each swing of the arm.

Later we see Him coming in glory with a sword protruding from His mouth (Rev. 19:15), for there He fights against His enemies. In the case of the sickle, His judgment is seen from the viewpoint of His acting to bring forth fruit for His eternal glory. He cuts down the grain with the object of separating the wheat from the chaff. The harvest is therefore not unmingled wrath in indiscriminate destroying of mankind, but rather involves a discriminating separation of the good from the bad. Reaping is not destruction, but for the benefit of the great Reaper.

Wonderful are the counsels of divine love! If the grain is cut down, yet this is in view of a general harvest. Many will be brought low who will prove to be believers, lifted up again and blessed by the grace of God. The suffering of the Tribulation is not emphasized in the harvest, but the resulting blessing. Many among the Gentile nations will be saved as well as thousands from Israel. Those from the Gentile nations are spoken of in Matthew 25:31-46 where the Son of Man sets the sheep on His right hand and the goats on His left. The sheep are entitled to enter into eternal life, being given all the blessings of the Millennium, while the goats (unbelievers) are assigned to eternal punishment because of their mistreatment of the Lord's brethren (the godly Jews), which indicated their attitude toward Christ Himself.

An angel coming out of the temple spoke the word to Him who sat on the cloud, who swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped. (v. 16). In Matthew 13:30 the harvest involves the wheat gathered into the barn, with the tares (the children of the wicked one) left in bundles for burning. The wheat in that case is the Church (all believers from Pentecost to the Rapture), spoken of in James 1:18 as “a kind of firstfruits” of God's harvest, taken to heaven at the Rapture, while the following Tribulation harvest (in our present chapter) will be that of the multitude who are saved for earthly blessing in the Millennium, the tares and the chaff being burned up in judgment.

The Winepress

In verse 17 “another angel” comes out of the temple in heaven with a sharp sickle. The temple emphasizes the holiness and calm deliberation of the judgment. In verse 18 a different angel still, one who had power over fire, came out from the altar, and he gives the word to the angel with the sickle to use the sickle to gather the vine of the earth because its grapes were ripe. The angel with the sickle is not “one like the Son of Man.” Perhaps the reason for this is that in the case of the winepress, everything is total judgment, the unmitigated suffering of the wrath of God. Nothing is said of resulting blessing. The vine is thrown into the great winepress of the wrath of God and the winepress is trodden outside the city. A winepress was a large vat in which the grapes were placed, and the people in bare feet walked or stamped around in the vat and thus squeezed out the grape juice. Thank God, He will bring great joy out of this tremendous sorrow, for the resultant wine speaks of joy, but the emphasis here is not on joy, but on the unspeakable suffering that will afflict the people, specially in the land of Israel, which will bear the worst of the agony of the Tribulation.

When the winepress is trodden outside the city (not in Jerusalem), blood covers a distance of 1600 furlongs — about the length of the land of Israel — “up to the horses' bridles.” This must be figurative, but an awesome figure! The bloodshed will go far beyond the control of those who have begun the devastation. As to Israel at that time, “in all the land, two parts shall be cut off and die” (Zech. 13:8). In 1988 the population of that country was estimated at 4,500,000. Two-thirds of that number would be fully three million people. Such decimation of Israel's population is staggering to imagine. We are not told how many Gentiles will die, but Joel 3:9-13 shows that both the harvest and the vintage will affect Gentiles as well as Jews. Revelation 19 speaks of this very time of the winepress (v. 15), when the judgment is against the Gentiles at Armageddon. The winepress involves more than this one engagement, however, for the winepress spoken of in Joel 3:12-13 is at a different location — the Valley of Jehoshaphat at Jerusalem.

Revelation 15

Preparation For The Seven Last Plagues

The seventh trumpet (Rev. 11:15) took us to the end of the Tribulation and to the introduction of the Millennial Kingdom. Revelation 12 to Revelation 14 added explanatory details connected with the events of the trumpets, and these also continue to the end of the Tribulation. Therefore the seven vials (or bowls) are not successive to the trumpets or to Revelation 14, but cover at least part of the same period of time. These “bowls” are direct inflictions of awesome judgment from God, beginning at the middle of Daniel's seventieth week of years and thus limited to “the Great Tribulation” of 3 1/2 years length. The seals were confined to the first 3 1/2 years and introduced the trumpets which begin before the middle of the week and continue to the introduction of Christ's millennial kingdom.

In heaven a great and awe-inspiring sign is seen first — the sign of seven angels having the seven last plagues (v. 1). These complete the wrath of God. Dreadful as that wrath is, how wonderful to know it has an end! As is common in prophecy, before the bowls of judgment are poured out we are given a preview of the pure, unspeakable joy and blessing that will come out of the Tribulation. Thus we are shown a sea of glass mixed with fire (v. 2). The sea of glass is to be compared to the sea of moulded metal in Israel's temple (2 Chronicles 4:2), a very large basin which held water for purifying the priests before they performed the temple service. The glass speaks of a fixed, stable state of purity in contrast to the need for many washings. The fire reminds us of the holiness of God which, through the purging fires of the Tribulation, has accomplished its proper work of self-judgment in the company standing on the sea of glass.

No mention is made of a large number, for these are the martyrs who will be resurrected for blessing in heaven (Rev. 20:4), not the 144,000 who stand on Mount Zion (Rev. 14:1) or the great number of Gentiles who stand before the throne in Revelation 7:9. These martyrs have gotten the victory over the beast, his image, his mark and the number of his name. By murdering them, the beast considered himself triumphant, but God in raising them from the dead will give them the ultimate victory while the beast is reduced to the humiliation of eternal judgment.

Having the harps of God, they sing the song of Moses (v. 3), the first song Scripture records (Ex. 15:1-18). It is the song of God's glorious victory. This counterpart of Moses' song is the last song recorded in Scripture. Being also the song of the Lamb, it involves redemption by His great sacrifice — sweet theme for exultant singing! They celebrate the marvellous works of the Lord God Almighty and His righteous, true ways as the King of Nations (v. 3), not King of saints. It is popular to refer to the Lord Jesus as our King, but we have a much closer relationship to Him — the church engaged to Him to be His wife (2 Cor. 11:2). He therefore expects from us more intimate affections than simply being subject to His royal authority. His works are what He has accomplished: His ways are the means by which He works, displaying His own blessed character. His ways are connected with His title, King of Nations, for these involve authority while His works emphasize His power as the Lord God Almighty.

In view of His great judgments, who could be so foolhardy as not to fear Him and glorify His name? He only is holy: the comparative holiness of others fades into insignificance in the light of His absolute holiness manifested in world-encircling judgments. At that time all nations will come and worship before Him (v. 4), whether the worship is genuine or whether it is merely in fear and feigned (Ps. 18:44 — margin — NASB).

The Seven Angels Presented

Verse 5 returns to consider the holiness and truth of God in His ways of bringing judgment on the earth. The “temple” of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven is opened. Though in the heavenly city, New Jerusalem, there will be no temple (Rev. 21:22), yet the temple is spoken of here in connection with judgment to impress us with the fact that judgment must issue from the calm serenity of the sanctuary, the holy presence of God. The seven angels proceed from the temple, clothed in pure white linen — perfection of righteousness (v.6). Their breasts (which symbolize their feelings or affections) are girded with golden girdles, indicating that their feelings are restrained by the greater consideration of God's glory (the gold).

One of the four living creatures (one of those sublime principles that deal with God's administrative government in the universe) gives each of the angels a golden bowl full of the wrath of God (v. 7). The angels receive the bowls from the living creatures because of the glory of Him who is the eternally living One, who only has immortality.

The Lord's glory and power so filled the temple with smoke that no one could enter the temple (v. 8). Judgment is inflexible: there is no other remedy, and no intercessor can draw near until all the bowls of wrath are poured out.

Revelation 16.

The First Bowl Poured Out (vv. 1-2)

A great voice from the temple now commands the execution of judgment.

Grace has been patient; justice has not been hasty, but is to be apportioned out precisely according the measure of guilt. Yet when it comes, it cannot spare: it will be swift, unerring, awesome. The first angel pours out his bowl on the earth with a resulting loathsome and grievous sore upon those who receive the mark of the beast and who worship his image (Rev. 13:15-16). Since the image is set up at the middle of the week of seven years, the bowl judgments begin after this. This sore is worse than a mere physical sore. Note that it is singular (not sores), for it represents a general moral condition everywhere by which people are affected: it is the breaking out of the inward corruption that has moved people in their defiance of God. Their moral and spiritual state will be loathsome and repulsive. This condition is exposed by God's judicial action. It reminds us of the plague of boils upon the Egyptians in Moses' day when the Egyptian magicians could not stand before Moses because they themselves were afflicted (Ex. 9:10-11).

The Second Bowl Poured Out (v.3)

The second bowl is poured on the sea which became as the blood of a dead person. Death claimed every living thing. This is not blood that has been shed, but blood still in the body of one who has died. This speaks of the putrid stagnation of death which affects the Gentile nations. They have refused the truth of the gospel of grace and become like Nabal, the husband of Abigail, of whom it is recorded when told of his having been nearly killed by the hand of David, “his heart died within him and he became as a stone” (1 Sam. 25:37-38). Because man wilfully hardens himself against God, God eventually judicially (governmentally) hardens man's heart so that he is impervious to the grace of God: he becomes dead while he lives.

The Third Bowl Poured Out (vv. 4-7)

The poured out bowl of the third angel reminds us of Moses turning the water of the Nile River into blood (Ex. 7:20). Rivers and fountains, sources of refreshment, are turned into death's corruption. Again, this is not literal, but indicates that whatever remains of “religion” will have no refreshment in it whatever, but being totally given up to Satan's falsehood, will exude only the corruption of spiritual death.

God's judgment has thus turned man's false religion into the corruption that is its actual character, exposing it for what it is, and the angel of the waters absolutely justifies God in this. It is a perfectly righteous judgment because those who propagate the religion of falsehood and idol worship are guilty of shedding the blood of saints and prophets. They merit the resulting judgment of being given blood to drink, again speaking of their own blood being required.

The Fourth Bowl Poured Out (vv. 8-9)

The fourth angel's bowl is poured on the sun, and men are scorched with fire (vv. 8-9). The sun, the supreme source of light, heat and blessing, is a marvellous friend, but can be a relentless enemy in a desert land. This plague again is worse than literal heat: it is God's burning anger against man's defiant rebellion. We have seen before the sun turned into darkness (Rev. 6:12), speaking of the light of God withdrawn because of man's “apostasy,” man's complete giving up the truth of God. The two conditions of the sun can be true at the same time only in a spiritual sense, not literally.

People even today recognize that God is dealing with them, for there are many inflictions that they designate as “acts of God,” but they don't honor Him and they won't at this later time either. Rather, they will blaspheme the God of heaven. What folly to think that they can defy God and prosper! Their foolish pride keeps them from repenting.

The Fifth Bowl Poured Out (vv. 10-11)

The fifth angel pours his bowl upon the throne of the Beast. This is the Beast from the land, the political military leader who has his throne over the revived Roman empire. His kingdom became darkened. This is spiritual and moral darkness. The Beast and his followers have chosen darkness rather than light. Therefore, God afflicts them with more intense darkness that brings with it such pain as to cause people to chew their tongues. This is surely a warning of the more awful darkness of eternal judgment that will engulf those who do not repent.

However, no repentance is seen here at all. Rather than having sense enough to acknowledge their sins before God and seek His mercy, they blaspheme the God of heaven. Their pains and sores ought to make them cry to God for mercy, but instead they only cry out against their great Creator.

The Sixth Bowl Poured Out (v. 12)

The pouring out of the sixth bowl embraces a wide scope. It is poured upon the Euphrates River, drying up its waters. This does not appear to be literal, but refers to God's opening the way for the kings of the East. The Euphrates River is a natural dividing line between Israel and the East, just as it is also a dividing line between Israel and the King of the North. Revelation 9:14 mentions the Euphrates where the loosing of four angels speaks of God's loosing the Assyrian, the King of the North, to invade Israel. At that time the King of the North will come against Israel like a whirlwind and will “overflow them and pass through” (Dan. 11:40). After causing terrible desolation in the land of Israel, he will continue down to Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia, and bring those nations into subjection (Dan. 11:42-43).

Then “news from the east and the north shall trouble him” (v. 44) and he will rush back to Jerusalem. The “news from the east” seems to refer to the kings of the East in motion, —  perhaps just what we read of here in Revelation 16:12. The King of the North considers the East a challenge to him, as he also considers news from the north a challenge. Israel will be north from him at that time since he has invaded North African nations, and the Beast and his armies will be coming to Armageddon at the same time in order to help Israel against the King of the North. This movement of the Beast and his armies is likely the news from the north that reaches the ears of the King of the North while in Africa. He will come back to Jerusalem when the Beast and his Western-allied armies and other armies with them will be massing in the valley of Armageddon, about 60 to 80 miles north of Jerusalem.

While the way of the kings of the East has been prepared, we do not read of what significance they are in the actual conflicts. Since they are found in connection with the sixth bowl, the context seems to connect them with being gathered by the spirits of demons to the place called Armageddon, where the western European armies will gather under the Beast. But I don't know of any scripture that speaks directly of the kings of the East coming either to Armageddon or to Jerusalem.

Evil Propaganda Leading to Armageddon

Verse 13 shows the trinity of wickedness (the Dragon, the Beast and the False Prophet) in its insolent challenge to the true Trinity, with the outpouring of its cunning evil doctrine likened to the croaking of frogs, creatures accustomed to slime. The Beast, the head of the Roman empire, imitates God the Father; the False Prophet (or Antichrist) takes the place of the true Christ, the Son of God; while Satan, behind the scenes, simulates the Holy Spirit. Their doctrine and their ability to work miracles of deception will have powerful influence in deceiving many national leaders to bring their armies to Israel to “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (v. 14). This evil trinity will plead the cause of Israel, which has been invaded by the King of the North, to persuade many nations to come to fight in what they claim is a great humanitarian effort to liberate Israel from oppression. But they are fighting against God, for God has sent the King of the North to punish His people Israel because of their idolatry (Isa. 10:5-6).

For this reason verse 15 is inserted here. The Lord will come as a thief, unexpected and unwanted, in great power and glory against this proud Western alliance that considers itself the police system of the world. Those whom God will bless are those who watch and are thus not deceived by fair appearances. They keep their garments, not being exposed to the shame and humiliation that comes through ignoring the truth and grace of God. While King Saul slept, the skirt of his robe was taken from him, a symbol of the exposure of his sinful course (l Sam. 24:3-4). Thus, one who is asleep to the truth of the Word of God because of his own preference for sin is in immediate danger of being exposed. One who does evil cannot expect to remain undetected for long.

Verse 14 has indicated that the power of demons is exerted to gather many nations to Israel, but verse 16 shows that it is really God's acting sovereignly behind the scenes to gather them to Armageddon, north of Jerusalem, for He has a purpose in great contrast to theirs. Those gathered there by the influence of Satan, the Beast and the False Prophet intend to come to the defense of Jerusalem, but they never get there. Revelation 19:11-21 describes their humiliating destruction by the Lord on the white horse, who fights against them with the sword of His mouth. There is no defensive-fighting on their part: they are simply destroyed. This is not the same engagement as that at Jerusalem, at “the valley of Jehoshaphat,” also called “the valley of decision” (Joel 3:2, 14), which will take place very soon after Armageddon, and will involve the Lord and the Jewish armies against the King of the North and those with him (Zech. 14:3, 14).

The Seventh Bowl Poured Out (vv. 17-21)

The seventh bowl is poured into the air, the domain of Satan's activity (for he is “the prince of the power of the air” — Eph. 2:2). This indicates a world-wide summing up of God's ways in defeating all the power of the enemy. In fact, God's great voice from the throne, out of the holy place, announces, “It is done.”

This is followed by noises, thunderings and lightnings and a great earthquake (v. 18). All these things are intended to make people realize the majesty of the power of God. While we do not question that these manifestations will be literal and that the earthquake will be the most violent of all history, yet the great shaking of people's souls is the more important matter.

The events of verses 19 to 21 are not chronological any more than are the events of Revelation 11:18 which are found under the seventh trumpet. The facts they describe, however, are all connected with God's conclusive judgments in bringing everything into subjection to His beloved Son.

“The great city” is divided into three parts (v. 19). Some consider this to be Rome (Rev. 17:18), but it is far more likely to be Jerusalem since Jerusalem is called “the great city” in Revelation 11:8, and since it is added, “the cities of the nations (distinct from Israel) fell” and then great Babylon (Rome) also is mentioned. Babylon will be totally destroyed, but not Jerusalem. The three parts may speak of the godly remnant, the worshipers of the Beast and the mixed company of others present But I should be glad to hear of a more satisfactory interpretation.

The cities of the nations, centers of commerce and industry and authority, fall under the hand of God. Great Babylon (Rome) is specially singled out as finally to receive the cup of the wine of the fierceness of God's wrath. Revelation 17 shows how this is accomplished and Revelation 18 describes the judgment from God's standpoint. The fleeing away of every island (v. 20) teaches us that no isolationism will be permitted: every nation will be involved in the judgment. The mountains not being found speaks of governments being reduced to nothing.

Last is the great hail from heaven, each stone being about a talent weight (v. 21), which is about 55 pounds or 102 pounds, depending on the definition of a talent. Some years ago it was reported that 75 pound hailstones fell in Arabia. However terrifying this literal infliction will be, it surely signifies also the heavy weight of God's direct judgment upon people that will make them feel its crushing force. In spite of this, rather than being led to repent, they blaspheme God because of the hail.

REVELATION 17.

Great Babylon Exposed in View of Judgment

The next two chapters (17 and 18) deal with great Babylon, her character, her self-exaltation and her judgment. This emphasizes the solemnity of God's view of the corruption of Christianity. One of the seven angels of Revelation 16 bids John to come and see the judgment of this great harlot who sits on many waters — who has strong influence over many nations (v. 1). This is the final form of Roman Catholicism, yet then including many others who had professed Christianity while having no knowledge of Christ as Savior. Thus it is more of an apostate “world-church” comprised of all merely professed Christians who were left behind at the Rapture, but organized under the ecumenical umbrella of Rome.

The kings of the earth have had illicit associations with her, indulging in religious hypocrisy for political reasons and for monetary gain (v. 2). Rome of that day will be most cunning, with no regard for faithfulness toward Him whose bride she professes to be. She mixes her pleasurable wine to intoxicate and seduce great numbers of the inhabitants of the world.

John is carried by the angel into the wilderness (v. 3). This is in designed contrast to Revelation 21:10 where he is carried to a high mountain to view the true bride, the great city, the holy Jerusalem. The wilderness reminds us of the moral and spiritual desolation of this vast corrupt future-day religious organization called “great Babylon,” its very name meaning “confusion.”

She sits on a scarlet coloured Beast, full of names of blasphemy, indicating that she assumes divine rights and titles in defiance of God. The seven heads and ten horns of the Beast refer to Revelation 13:1, for she will have considerable influence over the revived Roman Empire. She is pictured as holding the reins of this bestial empire, but only for a short time before she is thrown off and destroyed by the very empire she sought to control (v. 16).

Being arrayed in purple and scarlet (v. 4) indicates her assuming the place of royalty and of world-wide attraction, in total denial of the present true place of the Church in sharing the sorrow and rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ, her future husband. This adulterous woman seeks the public display of glory and honor (gold, precious stones and pearls) in a world that still rejects the Lord she professes to represent. True faith, on the other hand, refuses to accept the world's honors at a time when that world dishonors our blessed Lord. The golden cup in her hand indicates her claim to be the representative of the glory of Christ on earth, but inside is abomination (idolatry) and the filthiness of her fornication (corruption).

The terrible name written on the woman's forehead for all to see (v. 5) is in contrast to the 144,000 in Revelation 14:1 who have the Father's name in their foreheads, and the saints of the heavenly city in Revelation 22:4 who have the Lamb's name in their foreheads. Great Babylon advertises herself, not the Lord. “Mystery” tells us of her deceitful covering of her character by keeping her victims in ignorance of the Word of God and in bondage to mystical rites and human dogmas. As the mother of harlots she has children who are as guilty as she.

“Drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (v. 6) is a graphic way of describing her insensitivity to the enormous guilt of her persecution of the true saints of God. Like a wild beast that has tasted blood, she has become the more callous and unrelenting. John, in seeing her, wonders with great wonder. Probably it was hard for him to imagine a woman being so exalted and yet so callous. Could one have before thought of the professing “church” developing so grotesque a character?

The Mystery of the Woman and of the Beast Explained

The angel questions John as to why he marvels (v. 7). Is it so hard to understand that when the best thing on earth (the true Church of God) is corrupted, it becomes the worst corruption? The angel then gives a long explanation that is a key to understanding the mystery of the woman and of the Beast on which she rides. The Beast “was and is not” (v. 8). During the Christian dispensation the Beast, the Roman Empire, has ceased to exist. However, it is about to exist again by ascending out of the bottomless pit, or the abyss. NATO and the European Common Market embrace the general area of the Old Roman Empire, and no doubt foreshadow the revival of the Empire to take place soon after the Rapture. Ascending out of the bottomless pit speaks of its revival by means of satanic power. Satan will be allowed to bring the Roman Empire back into existence in order that God may judge that whole system that was in power at the time of the crucifixion of Christ and was guilty of perpetrating history's most enormous miscarriage of justice. The Beast will go to destruction. Its judgment will be swift and sure. These things are true of the Roman Empire as such and true also of the man who will rule it, also called the Beast or the seventh head, who will also become the eighth head (v. 11).

Though this head of the Roman Empire will be at Rome, he is the political head and must not be confused with the head of the Roman Catholic church. The “church” is looked at as a woman, responsible to be in subjection to the Man Christ Jesus. We see her in this case, however, seeking to take the prominent place of holding the reins and directing the Beast as she desires. Though she is a religious entity, she seeks political prominence.

Earthdwellers (whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world) will wonder at the miraculous character of the revival both of the empire and its head. They are ignorant of the fact that Satan can produce miracles and lying wonders that can deceive anyone who does not know the Lord Jesus Christ. There is further explanation for the mind that has wisdom. This explanation establishes the fact that prophecy can have at least a double application. The seven heads speak of seven literal mountains of the city of Rome (v. 9). This clearly settles the issue as to the woman's identity. She is the religious system that holds great influence over the Beast, over political Rome. Also, the heads indicate seven successive kings (or authorities), five having already passed at the time of writing, the sixth being then in power and the seventh still future (v. 10). The sixth was Imperial Rome (Rome under the Caesars) at the time the Apostle John wrote these words. Now the whole present dispensation of the grace of God has intervened before eventually, at the beginning of the seven year Tribulation period, the seventh head will rise.

When he arises he continues a short time. This Beast that was and is not, is said to be the eighth, yet “is of the seven” (v. 11). The only apparent answer to this is that he is the seventh head, but will be revived as the eighth head. He personally will receive a deadly wound, evidently in the great overthrow of government by anarchy under the sixth seal (Rev. 6:12-17). Thus, he falls as the seventh head, but arises by satanic power as the eighth head. However, the glory of his revival is only for a moment: he goes into perdition.

The ten horns are ten (European) kings (v. 12) though not in power at the time John wrote, but who will be identified with the Beast in a future great political-military confederacy. These appear to be Western European nations which were part of the bygone Roman Empire and will at the end willingly join forces with the Beast.

The ten nations are not forced into alliance with the Beast by military conquest. Rather, they have one mind and give their power and strength to the Beast. Of course these nations want the advantage of a strong leader and the protection of one another, as well as economic advantage. This “one mind” therefore is one purpose, not really unity of heart and soul.

“These shall make war with the Lamb” (v. 14). They don't fight against Israel, but against the Lamb. Although they intend to defend Israel when they come to Armageddon, God is punishing Israel for its idolatry, and the Beast interferes by attempting to defend Israel. Thus, he is fighting against God and against the Lamb, who by infinite grace seek only the true good of the idolatrous nation of Israel. “The Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings.” This great event is seen accomplished in Revelation 19:11-21. Those with the Lamb have no significance in winning the victory: it is won by His power alone. Yet because they are “called, chosen and faithful,” He will honor them by associating them with Himself in His conquest of the nations. All the saints caught up in the Rapture are “the armies in heaven” (Rev. 19:14). They have been there for at least seven years awaiting this great manifestation.

Verse 15 gives us another key to the understanding of prophecy. The waters of the sea on which the woman sits (v. 1) are declared to be “peoples multitudes, nations and tongues.” Of course, she sits on the Beast which involves ten nations (v. 3), but her influence is more widespread still. It is over many Gentile nations. The waters symbolize the Gentile nations, just as the land speaks of Israel.

Though the harlot has long enjoyed great prominence and influence, those very nations which have been most forward in giving her this idolatrous adulation will be those who turn in bitter vindictiveness against her. The ten horns and the Beast eventually will be filled with hatred against all that remains of the so-called Christian religion. They will divest her of her luxurious clothing and eat her flesh, evidently appropriating her wealth, and will destroy her by fire. The whole religious world-church will be desolated, and the center of it, Rome, evidently literally burned (Rev. 18:18).

This judgment appears to coincide with the Roman Empire (the Beast and its ten horns) accepting the lie of the Antichrist, the false prophet of Israel. Once he has set up “the abomination of desolation” in Jerusalem at the middle of Daniel's seventieth week and claims to have given it life, it is understandable that all who accept this will then despise the claims of Christianity and reject every vestige of it. How long after the middle of the week this destruction takes place is not told us, but it will be before “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:1-9) and before the Beast and his armies gather at Armageddon with the purpose of defending Israel against the King of the North (Rev. 19:19).

Little do the Beast and his cohorts realize that in all this they are subservient to the God they have refused! It is He who puts in their hearts to destroy the corrupt woman, the false church (v. 17), and He uses them until His judgment is complete. Then they too will suffer the judgment they justly deserve.

Finally, verse 18 gives the clearest testimony as to who this woman is — “that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.” Rome the city stands for the world-church, the woman. Her condition then will have worsened far beyond what it is today because no believers will remain to restrain the growth of corrupting evil.

Revelation 18.

God's Judgment of Great Babylon

In Revelation 17 we have seen that the destruction of Great Babylon is by the hand of the Beast and his ten horns. Now, in Revelation 18, the judgment is seen to be from the Lord God (vv. 5, 8, 20) — as Lord being in absolute authority, as God being supreme in majestic glory. An angel from heaven having great authority announces Babylon's fall (v. 1). The earth was lightened by his glory. Such light is God's exposure of the sordid works of the great harlot which have prospered under cover of spiritual darkness. What has been said and done in the dark is to be proclaimed in the light (Luke 12:2-3). Mightily he cries, for the whole earth to hear, that Babylon is fallen and has become the habitation of demons (v. 2). Demon activity has been rampant within her bosom before this announcement is made, but she has cunningly concealed it by fair outward appearances and by professing the name of Christ. How glaring and humiliating the exposure will be when it comes! Every foul spirit and every unclean and hateful bird are additional expressions descriptive of demons.

The nations that will not accept the truth of Christianity will accept the woman's adulterous corruption of it and thus drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication (v. 3). The acceptance of her hypocrisy deadens the conscience and allows the indulgence of every lust. Merchants of the earth have grown rich by trading with her, for it means nothing to them that she gains her wealth by oppression of the poor. By collusion and flattery they can multiply their gains so that both share in the spoil. But God has set the limit.

An urgent voice from heaven says, “Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins and lest you receive of her plagues” (v. 4). This message surely is intended for God's people to hear before the actual judgment falls. If one remains in that false religious system named the woman Babylon, the person is partaker of her sins and can only expect the judgment she receives. Some may protest that an evil association does not defile unless one is actually doing the same evil things, but this is not God's view: He commands to come out from the very association!

God had borne with this corrupt woman until her cup of iniquity becomes full and her sins cry out for heaven's judgment. God remembers her past and will judge in perfect righteousness (v. 5). She has meted out cruel, unrighteous judgment to others: now she will be rewarded in double measure. She has filled her cup with iniquity, so she receives a righteous double recompense (v. 6).  

She has exalted herself and lived in luxury at the expense of the poor. Now her torment and sorrow is to be commensurate with the measure of her self-indulgence (v. 7). She has boasted of being “a queen,” in fact “the queen of heaven,” reigning as the professed bride of Christ before Christ Himself has taken His throne with His true bride, the Church (Rev. 3:21). She thus has no heart for the rejected Lord. The true Church mourns His absence and wants no part in being recognized and patronized by a world that despises her Lord.

Great Babylon has glorified herself and will be utterly abased. This abasement will come swiftly, “in one day death and mourning and famine” (v. 8). This strong world-wide system has been building itself virtually high into the heavens, considering itself so secure as to give Rome the proud misnomer, “the eternal city.” Man will not bring her down: it is God who is stronger than she, and the swiftness of her judgment will amaze all who observe this complete desolation. The destroying fire will be both literal as to the city of Rome itself and symbolical of the total destruction of the entire false church. The patient grace of God has borne long with her, but judgment when it falls will be all the more dreadful.

Great Lamentation for Babylon

The kings of the earth who have indulged themselves in luxurious evil with the woman Babylon will be shocked and will mourn the loss of this source of illicit gain and pleasure (v. 9). They themselves will not as yet have fallen under the approaching judgment of God. Though the angel has said that Babylon's plagues come in one day, the nations speak of her judgment coming in one hour (v. 10). Little do they realize that Babylon's torment is a forewarning of what awaits them. They speak of Babylon as “the great city” and “the strong city.” Such is man's estimation, but she has been built in independence of God and He reduces her greatness to nothing, her strength to weakness. Just as the first city Babylon was left a ruin after men's boast of making themselves a name (Gen. 11:1-9), so will the second Babylon suffer a similar humiliating end.

Merchants of the earth weep because their trade has been devastated (v. 11). Trade in religious artifacts and ornaments of gold and silver, vestments of expensive finery and jewels, ornamented buildings, wine and oil, food and travel equipment and many other industries owned or controlled by Rome will be tremendously affected.

However, these things speak more solemnly of the illicit traffic in spiritual things by which there is great temporal gain. Babylon may boast of its gold — that which claims to be for the glory of God — though this is merely trading for its own profit. It can speak of silver, typical of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, but use this also to prompt its adherents to give money to the church. All of the other things mentioned in verses 12 and 13 also speak of various precious aspects of the truth of God used by this great system as a means of present gain, thereby making the professed house of God “a house of merchandise.”

Verse 13 ends with the significant expression “and bodies and souls of men.” The common people have been made her virtual slaves, not only physically, but psychologically as well. God takes full account of all this.

Verse 14 shows that selfish lust always eventually loses what it seems to gain or what it expects to gain. All is lost for which the woman has lived. The merchants who profited by her lust now weep as they consider her great wealth and luxury as being reduced to nothing in one hour (v. 15). Shipping companies and their employees mourn the tremendous loss of trade because of her demise. Traffic in and out of Rome has been notoriously heavy through the centuries. What city has been like this great city? What other city has been so suddenly and totally destroyed? — specially a city boasting of a world-wide religious organization that has seemed immovable! Sea traders then repeat what has been said by kings (v. 10) and by merchants (v. 17): “in one hour she is made desolate” (v. 19).

Heaven Rejoices

The mourning is not shared by heaven where the call is rather to rejoice together with apostles and prophets (v. 20), for this is God's answer to the cries of His people who have been oppressed. In righteousness He avenges His beloved saints by His unsparing destruction of this destructive harlot.

In token of the awesome finality of the judgment, a mighty angel takes a stone like a great millstone and casts it into the sea (v. 21). He announces that Babylon likewise will be violently thrown down with no semblance of a remaining existence. She is no longer to sit on the waters (the nations), but will be utterly swallowed up by them. This entire graphic description of her ruin is intended to strike home to the consciences of all who would dare to make merchandise of the truth of the Word of God.

What will become of the great emphasis on music such as is prominent in mere human religion, and which the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar knew well to have great influence on the feelings of the people (Dan. 3:4-6)? Nothing of this mere sensual attraction will remain. There will be no employment left for the unsaved promoters of so-called Christian music (v. 22), for real Christian musicians will have been taken away at the Rapture. This is just another area that will receive a staggering shock. Further, craftsmen of whatever description — artists, sculptors, cabinet makers, stone masons, tile setters, etc. will share this total desolation. Even the flour mills will be silent.

Millions of candles will no longer burn for solemn religious services. Countless processions of marriage ceremonies will come to a stunning, sudden end (v. 23). All of these things have provided employment for millions of people. The merchants of these things were the great men of the earth, and they, together with the common people, will be devastated. By the harlot's sorceries (her cunning satanic manipulation of the truth) all nations have been deceived, and all will be awakened with sudden shock. How greatly will people everywhere be shaken! Verse 24 uses words of solemn exposure and indictment. Babylon is found guilty of the blood of prophets, saints and great numbers of others who have been murdered. Prophets have been killed for proclaiming the truth of God, saints have been killed for acting on the truth, while others have been killed simply because the harlot considered she could profit by their death. How great a mercy for earth itself when she is removed!

Revelation 19.

More Rejoicing in Heaven

The prophet John hears in heaven a celebration of great magnitude (v. 1). How rightly so, for the true bride (the Church — Rev. 19:7) is there, and to see all the claims of the false bride forever rejected will cause deepest thanksgiving and praise to God. Her defiance of the truth of God in claiming to be the bride of Christ, while actually being a harlot, is a most revolting feature of her character. But God has refused this, and salvation, glory, honor and power are ascribed to the Lord, the God of the redeemed. They rejoice in His pure truth and righteousness in having unsparingly judged the great harlot.

Her smoke rising up forever and ever (v. 3) indicates that we shall never forget the solemn reality of the judgment of God against evil, just as we shall never forget the dreadful sufferings of the Lord Jesus in bearing our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). The elders and living creatures therefore fall down and worship the eternal God (v. 4). If we worship Him for who He is, we also adore Him for His matchless grace in salvation by the sacrifice of Christ and for His true and righteous judgments. These things magnify His greatness.

A voice out of the throne (v. 5) bids all God's servants, small and great, to praise Him. The incentive for our praising God always originates with Him. It requires His own divine activity to produce anything for His glory, whether in our service or in our worship. The response in verse 6 is magnificent: a tremendous multitude, their united voice as the sound of many waters, echo the praises of the Lord God omnipotent (the “all-powerful”) who has taken His great power to reign.

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

This sublime honor given to the Lord God introduces an occasion of great rejoicing, for if God is glorified in the judgment of great Babylon, how much more is He glorified in the marriage of the Lamb to His true wife, the true Church of God raptured to glory some years previously! Honor is given Him because the marriage of the Lamb is come (v. 7). The pretensions of the false bride having been publicly rejected and she totally destroyed, the time has come for the true wife to be presented in marriage to her Lord and Head. It is interesting that she is called “His wife” rather than His bride. Both are true, but as His wife she is linked with Him in the administration of His kingdom, while the beauty of her relationship with Him and the greatness of her blessing are emphasized in the term “bride.” Both terms are used in Revelation 21:9 where the description of the city is connected with the millennial kingdom, but when the eternal state is involved, she is spoken of only “as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2).

The wife making herself ready has involved her manifestation at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). Every inconsistency of the past will have been fully put away: she will have learned to judge herself fully from the viewpoint of her Lord. Her sanctification (her separation to her Lord from every evil thing) and cleansing is complete (Eph. 5:26), and she is given title to be clothed in fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousnesses of saints — their righteous acts (v. 8). None of us could be so clothed today, for such display of our works would be mere self-righteousness, though all believers are now clothed in Christ who is our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). As to our own righteousnesses (which today have too much of the flesh mixed with them) we then shall have washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, as Revelation 7:14 tells us concerning another company of believers. Believers have now been personally cleansed by the blood of Christ, but our works will require the same cleansing. The Judgment Seat of Christ will have separated all that was merely of self, consigning it to the fire (1 Cor. 3:13-15), so that only what is truly of and for the Lord will remain. These things will shine out unitedly in the Church for the glory of her Lord.

The angel instructs John to write of the blessedness of those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb (v. 9). The wife is composed only of the saints of our current “dispensation of the grace of God” which follows the resurrection of Christ and continues to the Rapture. There is a question as to whether the expression “those who are called to the marriage supper” refers to those individuals who make up the Church or to spectators of former ages who have been raised and raptured at the same time as the Church. John the Baptist speaks of himself as “the friend of the Bridegroom” (John 3:29), which is no doubt true of Old Testament saints. However, whatever that expression refers to, it seems evident that all who are in heaven will witness this wondrous event.

When it is added, “these are the true sayings of God,” John is so deeply affected that he falls down before the angel to worship him (v. 10). Immediately the angel forbids this: he is only a servant of God as also was John. God alone is to be worshiped. Yet it is significantly added, “for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” The angel was not bearing testimony to himself, but to the glory of God and Jesus who is the center and theme of all prophecy. There is no question that Jesus is to be worshiped as God. If we don't discern in every prophecy a real connection with the testimony of Jesus, then we have no proper perception of it.

The Glorious Appearing of the King of kings and Lord of lords

John, seeing heaven opened, witnesses that great manifestation to which all the ages have looked forward — the appearing in glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ (v. 11). Of course, John merely saw a vision of what will be actually true in a coming day. Paramount attention is drawn to Him who sits on a white horse, He who is called Faithful and True in contrast to every other man who ever lived. In pure righteousness He judges and makes war.

The Warrior's eyes, as a flame of fire, discern and penetrate in burning holiness the character of every work, every motive, every secret thing (v.12). God has crowned Him with many crowns (diadems) to show His total ascendancy over the universe. The name written, known only to Himself, is clear evidence of His inscrutable divine glory. No man can understand the infinite greatness of His person.

His garment (which, thank God, is only a temporary one) is dipped in blood (v. 13), for He must perform His unusual work (Isa. 28:21) of destructive judgment against enemies who have boldly defied the living God. Linked with this is His significant name “the Word of God.” He is the expression of God's thoughts and the One by whom God speaks. Hebrews 1 tells us of God speaking in many ways by many means in past ages, but that now He has spoken to us in His Son (v.2) in marvellous grace. But when grace has been refused, then that same Word will be the judge of every rejector, as John 12:48 declares.

The armies in heaven follow Him, also on white horses (v. 14), symbolical of total conquest. They are clothed in fine linen white and clean, the same clothing of the wife, which shows these armies to be the heavenly saints. Only when we have learned to rightly judge ourselves at the Judgment Seat of Christ shall we be prepared to come with the Lord in His judgment of the world so that our Lord may be glorified in His saints (2 Thess. 1:10).

These armies accompanying the Lord of glory are not said to have any weapons, but their white clothing is a reminder to the world of the testimony they have borne to the truth of God, so as to leave the world no excuse when judgment falls. Only their great Leader has a weapon, a figurative sharp sword going out of His mouth (v. 15). This symbolizes the Word of God (Eph. 6:17) spoken by Him whose word brought creation into existence (Ps. 33:6-9). Even in the days of His voluntary humiliation on earth He had simply and strikingly demonstrated the power of His word when He spoke His name “I Am” (Ex. 3:14) to the soldiers who came to arrest Him. They went backwards and fell to the ground (John 18:6). This word will be sufficient for Him to smite the nations. The rod of iron with which He rules them (Ps. 2:9) is a shepherd's rod by which He protects His sheep from enemies. It is inflexible, unbending. Another symbol is added to this — His treading the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God. This all speaks of unmitigated judgment. How awesome and terrifying is the very contemplation!

As He has many crowns, so His names are many, and now the name is added on His garment and on His thigh, “King of kings and Lord of lords” (v. 16). Whatever kings there may be, He is King over them all; and every titled lord is subservient to Him. The name on the thigh is where the sword usually would hang.

The Great Supper of God

An angel standing in the brightness of the sun cries with a loud voice to unclean birds to come to the great supper of God (v. 17). What a contrast to the marriage supper of the Lamb! This will be a literal gathering of ravenous birds of prey at the place called Armageddon, the valley of Esdraelon (Rev. 16:13-16), north of Jerusalem, as we have seen. The slaughter there will be tremendous. One angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian troops in one night (Isa. 37:36). Imagine the slaughter when the Lord of glory Himself goes forth to battle against those who have long defied Him!

These armies at Armageddon have not come to fight against Jerusalem, but with the object of protecting Jerusalem at a time when God has sent the King of the North to punish His earthly people for gross idolatry. So actually they are fighting against the Lord in their siding with the sin of Israel. A little later the Lord will physically, literally appear in the city of Jerusalem and will go forth from the city to fight against the King of the North and his armies in the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:12-16; Zech. 14:3-4), just outside of Jerusalem. The two engagements are totally distinct. Here at Armageddon the Beast and other kings and their armies are gathered, the Beast being the head of the Roman Empire, the ten nation European alliance, but having attracted other nations as well to join them at Armageddon (Rev. 16:13-16). The kings of the east may be there also. The Roman alliance claims to be humanitarian, but has rejected the blessed Christ of God and strongly opposes His authority in Israel.

The Beast himself is taken prisoner by the might of the King of kings; and with him also the False Prophet, the Antichrist who had so deceived his own Jewish people (v. 20). He is “the worthless shepherd who leaves the flock” (Zech. 11:17) at the time when trouble threatens. In deserting Israel it appears that he goes to seek the protection of the Beast, with whom of course he comes to Armageddon. All his great boast of deified humanity is brought down to the humiliation of utter destruction. No trial is needed, for they are caught in the very act of haughty rebellion against God. They thus are consigned alive to a lake of fire burning with brimstone. This is not annihiliation, but the suffering of torment forever and ever (Rev. 20:10). These are the first two people to be thrown into the Lake of Fire, hell. Others of unbelieving mankind will first stand before the Great White Throne one thousand years later (Rev. 20:11-15).

The great host of the armies of the Beast will meet the judgment of death by the sword of the Lord, the Word of His mouth (v. 21). While the armies of heaven accompany Him, He alone smites His enemies. The birds of prey are filled.

Revelation 20.

Satan Bound for 1000 years

Though the Beast and the False Prophet have been (in Rev. 19) consigned to the Lake of Fire, the wicked spirit Satan who influenced them is not immediately sent there. Rather an angel (not the Lord) is delegated to take Satan captive and to secure him in the pit of “the abyss” for the specified time of one thousand years (vv. 1-3). A seal is set upon him: there is no possibility of escape. The object of this limited imprisonment is that he might not deceive the nations for a thousand years. “After that he must be loosed a little season.”

Of course the great wisdom of God is in this. While this thousand years will be a time of unparalleled peace and blessing on earth for mankind, with the Lord of glory establishing peace on earth and reigning from heaven (v. 4), yet sin will still be present. There will be great numbers at the end of the millennial reign who are not born of God. Some will have entered the Millennium unregenerate, for Psalm 18:43-45 (J.N.D.) speaks of strangers coming cringing to Messiah, obeying Him because of fear, not faith. Great numbers also born during that time will not bow the heart to the Lord Jesus, though outwardly subject because circumstances of every kind will be pleasant and favorable (Isa. 65:17-25). The loosing of Satan at the end will serve to manifest what is really in their hearts.

The First Resurrection Completed

(Three Distinct Groups)

Another sight attracts John's attention (v. 4), this time clearly in heaven, for thrones are seen along with those raised to live and reign with Christ. First there is a company who sit upon thrones, with judgment (administrative rule) given them. These are manifestly the elders whom we have before seen enthroned (Rev. 4:4) as representing all saints of the Old and New Testaments who were raptured at the Lord's coming just before the beginning of the Tribulation Period.

A second company is comprised of those who had been martyred for the witness of Jesus and for the Word of God during the first half of the Tribulation Period. That company was seen in Revelation 6:9-11 (though possibly at that time not yet complete). A third company is comprised of those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and therefore martyred during the last half of the Tribulation (Rev. 13:15). These are all raised from the dead.

While these three companies are distinguished, they are linked together as living and reigning with Christ (in heaven, of course) for a thousand years. This therefore includes all of those who at this future time have been raised from death as well as the living taken at the Rapture. The rest of the dead will not be raised until the end of the thousand years (v. 5). They will have their part in the second resurrection — a resurrection to damnation or judgment (John 5:29). Referring to verse 4 the declaration is made, “This is the first resurrection: ” it will be complete when the martyrs are raised at the end of the Tribulation, but of course it includes all who have been raised before. Thus the first resurrection includes all true believers who have left this world. Christ was the firstfruits of the first resurrection, then all who are His at His coming (1 Cor. 15:23). “His coming” here embraces both aspects of it, the Rapture and His Appearing.

Those who have part in the first resurrection are blessed and holy (v. 6): their happiness is complete and they are set apart for God's glory for eternity. The second death (eternal separation from God) has no effect whatever in regard to them, but it will in regard to all who are raised in the second resurrection to judgment. The first or physical death is separation of the spirit and soul from the body. The second death is eternal separation of the unsaved (though physically resurrected) from God under His judgment in hell, the Lake of Fire. All of those in the first resurrection are said to be priests of God and of Christ, though not all are of the Bride, the Lamb's wife. Many Old Testament scriptures speak of the blessedness of the thousand years' reign of righteousness. A few samples of this are: Psalm 21:1-6; Psalm 24; Psalm 36:5-9; Psalm 96; Psalm 98 and Isaiah 11:1-10; 12. But these wonderful things are not mentioned here in Revelation.

Satan Loosed: His Last Effort of Rebellion

The thousand years will prove the faithfulness and goodness of God to His creation in every public way. There will be no cause of complaint. Yet at the end of this, Satan will be loosed from his prison (v. 7). Immediately he resumes his deceiving tactics (v. 8). It seems hard to imagine that people then will become so grossly unreasoning as to receive his false witness against a God who had proven His unfailing goodness toward them. But unrenewed mankind hates authority, no matter how good and considerate. All the unbelieving world blindly accepts Satan's authority which leads them to a final earthly destruction. God allows Satan's activity to expose what is in their hearts, and earth is cleansed of the last unbeliever.

When Satan is loosed and allowed to again deceive the nations, the number of those revolting against God is astonishing. They come from every direction of the earth (vv. 8-9). They are characterized as “Gog and Magog.” In Ezekiel 38 and 39 we also read of Gog and Magog, but in a different connection, for there they come from “the far north” (Ezek. 38:6, 15) and are addressed as “the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal” (Ezek. 38:3). Of course the furthest north nation today is Russia. This great northern attack, (with the help of Persia, Ethiopia, Put, Gomer and Beth-togarmah) will take place at the beginning of the Millennial reign, when they attack “a land that is brought back from the sword” (v. 8) — Israel, — but will fall on the mountains of Israel. The King of the North comes from immediately north of Israel. Gog and Magog is from the far north.

This second “Gog and Magog” embraces far more than the first, for its forces come from every quarter of the world. Its name denotes its atheistic character, just as it does in the former attack, but now affecting a far larger territory. Gog means “to surmount” or “to top” while Magog means “to overtop.” This reminds us of Agag, king of Amalek (1 Sam. 15:32-33), meaning “I will overtop,” for it involves the pride of people always seeking to dethrone God so that they may rule.

God allows them to come so far as to surround the city of Jerusalem (v. 9), for He will wait until they are congregated there with their full show of united force before the awesome judgment of fire from God out of heaven falls on them in sudden, devastating destruction. There is no indication of Israelites being involved in this rebellion, for they then will be a nation born of God, with Jerusalem called “the beloved city.” Because that city will represent God in His dealings with the earth, it will be made the object of attack. This will be the last attempt by mankind, energized by Satan, to seek to overthrow the authority of God. If not born again, people refuse to learn, though surrounded by innumerable witnesses. This attack will not be simply against the Son of Man, but directly against God: therefore it is appropriate that the judgment of fire is from God out of heaven.

At this time (not at the Great White Throne) the devil who had led this senseless revolt, comes to the end of his history of wicked deception. God has allowed the evil of his character to serve God's great purposes of truth and faithfulness, but Satan's long history only confirms his stubborn, unbending hatred against God. He is assigned to the Lake of Fire with its eternal, incessant torment, which he and the Beast and the False Prophet share (v. 10). It seems likely that at this time also the devil's fallen angels receive the same doom (Isa. 24:21), for we know that this everlasting fire is prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). However, the time they are consigned there is not specifically stated.

The Great White Throne

Following this, the Great White Throne is set, awesome in its pure, spotless magnificence (v. 11). He who sits on it is the Son of God, the Son of Man, for the Father has committed all judgment to the Son (John 5:22). The earth and the heavens flee from the glory of His face.This appears to be the fulfillment of 2 Peter 3:10, the earth and the heaven passing away by a fire of great heat. Nothing is said as to how the godly who lived through the Millennium will be preserved, but it is likely that their bodies will be changed at that time, and that they will be present to witness the Great White Throne judgment, as will the heavenly saints, for John represents them all when he says, “I saw a Great White Throne” (v. 11). It seems evident that this stupendous event will call for the witness of all creation. The heaven here spoken of is the firmament (the sky) that surrounds the earth, not “the heaven of heavens” (Deut. 10:14 — KJV) or “the third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2).

The dead small and great stand before the throne (v. 12). They formerly were physically dead and remain spiritually dead. Their physical resurrection is not mentioned here, but verse 5 has already referred to that and John 5:29 speaks of “the resurrection of judgment” which obviously refers to this final, individual judgment of the Great White Throne. In what character of body the unsaved are raised we are not told, but since it is the things done in the body that must be brought to account (2 Cor. 5:10), then it is in their literal body that people will receive their judgment.

The books are opened, for in these are recorded all the works of all who stand there. No believer will be among them, for all believers who ever die will have been raised in the first resurrection. The book of life also is opened to confirm that the names of all who stand there are not written in it. They are all judged according to their works. This being the case, there is no possibility of their escaping the Lake of Fire. They have depended on their works to save them, but those works can only condemn them. Their works will not all have been the same, and the judgment will be perfectly just. Luke 12:47-48 shows that some will receive many stripes in the way of punishment, others fewer. The degree of guilt will determine the degree of punishment, but the place and duration of punishment is the same for every unbeliever. They were before under condemnation, having not believed in the Son of God (John 3:18). Now sentence is carried out.

While this chapter shows that all who stand before the Great White Throne will be judged according to their works, John 5:24 is very clear that believers will not come into judgment: Christ has borne the judgment for them in His sacrifice of Calvary (1 Peter 2:24). Their works, however, will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:13-15) with rewards given for everything done for God's glory, while works to the contrary will be burned up.

On the other hand the ungodly have refused the Son of God whose sacrifice is the only atonement for human guilt. Therefore they themselves must bear the judgment that their sins deserve. Nothing is missed. Things they had hoped were forgotten will face them in all the horror of their character of rebellion against the living God.

The sea giving up the dead (v. 13) involves millions who perished in the flood of Noah, thousands who have drowned in maritime disasters, and even those whose bodies were cremated and their ashes consigned to the sea in an attempt to hide from God. God knows where to find the physical remains of all. Those in death and hades are not a separate company, but include all who have died unregenerate. Death is the physical state of the body while hades (meaning “the unseen”) is the state of the spirit and soul as separated from the body. By resurrection they are brought out of those two conditions of death and hades.

Death and hades are said to be cast into the Lake of Fire, indicating that there will be no more separating of the soul and spirit from the body. The second resurrection has ended these conditions. Yet consignment to the Lake of Fire is called “the second death.” It is not a physical separation of the spirit from the body, but a most solemn separation of the entire person from God, and as verse 10 has shown, it means “torment day and night forever and ever.”

Revelation 21.

The New Heaven and New Earth

Revelation 20:11 has indicated that at the time of the Great White Throne the earth and the heaven flee away. Now John sees a new heaven and a new earth, and the earth had no more sea. The earth is transformed. It is not a different earth, but a renewed earth, just as a sinner being renewed becomes a new creation in Christ. The sea is typical both of the nations in constant tumult (Rev. 17:15) and of the flesh in its swelling unrest and vanity (Isa. 57:20). Wonderful to know that all this will be gone in the eternal state! Verses 1-5 briefly refer to this eternal state of heaven and earth. This will be the eternity of God's rest after ages of His laboring with mankind.

The holy city, new Jerusalem, comes down from God out of heaven (v. 2). It is not said to come to earth, but will evidently be in sight of earth and in close connection. Its description given later (v. 9 to Rev. 22:5) shows it to be a cube of 12,000 furlongs (over 1400 miles) and therefore not a city designed for earth at all, but symbolical or pictorial in its appearance and dimensions, though at the same time picturing a reality. In verse 9 the city is called “the bride, the Lamb's wife” when it is seen and considered in connection with the millennial kingdom which of course precedes verse 2 in point of time. This city, the bride, is the Church of God comprised of all believers of the present dispensation of grace, seen then in connection with the millennial reign of Christ. As the wife she assists in administrative matters. She is not said to administer in eternity, but then to be “as a bride adorned for her husband” (v. 2), for in eternity the emphasis is on the personal joy and newness of this beautiful relationship of Christ and His Church. This fresh bridal affection does not wear off after the 1000 years, but is new for eternity. Though this holy city is named for the bride, the Church, it is also a place of holy fellowship in contrast to the world's unholy cities. Old Testament saints also will have their place there, for Abraham looked for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10).

The city is the last great symbol used in connection with the Church in Scripture. The Church is seen as one pearl of great price (Matt. 13:46), as one flock (John 10:16), one body (1 Cor. 12:13), the epistle of Christ (2 Cor. 3:3), the house of God (1 Tim. 3:15) or the household of God (Eph. 2:19), the espoused wife or bride (2 Cor. 11:2, Eph. 5:25-29) and lastly as the city. Each of these aspects emphasizes some special feature or features of the Church. The city speaks of perfect order in a great sphere in contrast to the disorder of the world's cities. It involves fellowship of tremendous dimensions in contrast to the limited fellowship that is implied in the present household character of the Church. We know that Old Testament saints will have their place in the city as seen by Hebrews 11:8-10, but the city is named for the bride, the Church, because in her the grace of God is most strikingly shown as being the first result of the value of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. In fact, the city (Jerusalem which is from above) is called “our mother” (Gal. 4:26), for it symbolizes the covenant of God's grace (in contrast to law) as the principle by which the Church has been eternally blessed. Therefore, though the city will be named for the bride, yet many others (all whose names are written in the book of life) will enter into it (Rev. 21:27). They will be partakers of its marvellous grace.

A great voice announces that the tabernacle of God is with men and that He will dwell with them (v. 3). Why is it the tabernacle of God and not the temple? The temple emphasizes the magnificence of the display of glory (which will be seen in the Millennium), which subdues mankind with awe and wonder, but the tabernacle emphasizes God's tender grace in desiring to dwell among His people even though they have not deserved it. However, while the tabernacle in the wilderness was temporary, this is eternal. The abiding sweetness of the presence of God is surely more wonderful than the greatest outward display. In this His love and goodness will be deeply enjoyed forever. God will be simply dwelling with man-kind, they being His people and He their God. By that time Christ will have delivered up the kingdom to God the Father; Christ as Man being subject to God so that God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:24-28). The calmness of perfect rest, perfect well-being, perfect accord is beautifully depicted in this third verse which so briefly notes the positive side of the eternal state. Some have wondered why so little is written of the positive blessings of eternity. The answer is surely that the marvels of what God has to show us are so great that we cannot in our present state form any proper conception of them. The apostle Paul was caught up to heaven and made no attempt to describe it (2 Cor. 12:1-4).

On the negative side, we will be most thankful for what is not there. There will be no more tears, no death, no sorrow, no crying out in protest and no pain. The former things (everything connected with a fallen creation) will have passed away (v. 4).

Though so very little is said about eternity and what it will be like, the Christian gladly bows to this, for having the knowledge of all the glory of God being manifested in His Son, we know that we shall be eternally more than satisfied. God is still on the throne, and He declares, “Behold, I make all things new” (v. 5). This newness is perpetual: eternity always will be as fresh and new as though we had just entered into it. This wonder will never fade. In our present physical and mental condition we could not form any right perception of it, no matter how it was described to us. It has been observed that, while Satan could show to the Lord Jesus all he possessed (by usurpation) in a moment of time (Luke 4:5), eternity will not exhaust all that our great God has to show us. John is told to specifically write about all things being new. What is told him is true and faithful. We need this assurance because of our natural unbelieving tendencies.

The “I Am,” The Overcomer and The Unbelieving

A short section (verses 6 to 8) is inserted by the Spirit of God to show how the heart of the Lord Jesus desires that all mankind should enter into this eternal blessing, yet solemnly affirming the contrary for every unbeliever. His words, “It is done” are final and positive: nothing can hinder the accomplishment of God's counsels. He again declares Himself as Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, He who is from eternity to eternity the living God. He promises “the fountain of the water of life freely” to one who thirsts. This is the thirst of realizing one's own emptiness as a sinner in need and thus turning to the one source of this living water, Jesus Christ who gives freely from a heart of perfect grace.

The overcomer will inherit all things (v. 7), for he becomes by faith a joint heir with Christ, into whose hands the Father has entrusted everything (Rom. 8:17, John 3:35). The Lord Jesus adds here, “I will be his God and he shall be My son” (v. 7). This is the only time in John's inspired writings that the believer is said to be a son (“huios”) of God. “Son” indicates a position of dignity, liberty and trust. John's usual description of believers is “children,” but this one exception is appropriate since eternity is contemplated, for the dignity of having part with God in eternal glory is emphasized rather than simply filial relationship.

The dreadful contrast to all this is seen in verse 8. Who can estimate the awful horror of the end of those who choose to reject the faithful, gracious Lord of glory? Solemnly, “the cowardly” are mentioned first — those whose fear of human disapproval causes them to refuse the Son of God! “The unbelieving” are those who refuse God's testimony, the only means by which they could be preserved from the company of “the abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars.” Every unbeliever chooses such company, and he or she will have part with them in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. This is the second death, not annihilation, but separation (the basic meaning of death) — separation from God in eternal torment. If the symbol of fire is dreadful, what must the reality be?

The Holy City in Millennial Splendour

The first eight verses of this chapter (21), in completing a series of events described in Revelation 19 and Revelation 20, have carried us to the introduction of the eternal state. In verse 9 we are taken back in time for a detailed description of the glory of the bride, the Lamb's wife, the holy Jerusalem, as she will be in the thousand years' reign of the Lord Jesus, previous to the Great White Throne judgment. The wisdom of God has ordered it this way, for how much better it is to have this glory described to us as we near the end of Revelation, rather than to have it told us before reading of the Great White Throne. Thus the Great White Throne judgment does not cast a shadow over the splendor of God's glory revealed in the city.

One of the seven angels who had the seven vials is appointed to show this great vision to John. These angels and vials are connected with the subduing of the earth in preparing for Christ's reign, and the city is seen here as the center of God's administration as Christ and His wife reign over the earth.

John is carried in the Spirit to a great and high mountain to see a heavenly city, the true Church, which is in contrast to Revelation 17:3 where he was carried to the wilderness to see the woman Babylon, the false church, seated on a scarlet colored Beast. The true wife is now exalted high above her earthly wilderness history. She had suffered with Christ; now she reigns with Him. She is pictured here as “the great city” (v. 10), no longer with a small, confined fellowship as on earth, and also as “the holy Jerusalem” in contrast to the unholy history of the earthly Jerusalem. Cities generally are notorious for harboring every kind of evil and intrigue, but here we see a perfect city and perfect administration. Here again (as in verse 2) she is seen descending out of heaven from God. In the Millennium as well as in the eternal state, she will be in close proximity to the earth; not on earth, but in the place of ruling over it.

She is invested with the glory of God (v. 11) — clothed in a beauty greater than her own. Her light is not intrinsic as is that of her Lord, but is reflected, just as a crystal-clear jasper stone (possibly a diamond) reflects light that shines on it (v.11). Everything is distinct: there is no shadow of deceit, no hint of darkness.

Its great and high wall (v. 12), speaks of its being fully protected, but also of the city being set apart from every evil. Walls are to keep out what ought to be out. On the other hand, its twelve gates are to allow in what ought to be in. Twelve in Scripture always is the number of governmental completeness. Administrative order in that city will be perfect. Twelve angels guard the gates, which bear the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Though the city is named for the bride, the angels are not a part of the Church. But since the heavenly city is the great exemplification of the grace of God (Gal. 4:22-29), there is the blessed reminder that Israel, though on earth, has been blessed through the same matchless grace. Also, while Israel will be the chief of the nations of the world, yet the real center of government will be “Jerusalem above” (Gal. 4:26). Three gates are on each side of the city (v. 13), which reminds us of the encampment of the tribes of Israel around the tabernacle in the wilderness (Num. 2:1-31).

Twelve foundations support the wall of the city, and in them the names of the twelves apostles of the Lamb (v. 14). This indicates that the truth of God concerning His Son Jesus Christ, ministered by the apostles, is the solid basis of true separation according to God. Each of the apostles was given his particular line of ministry so that all together might form a well-balanced foundation that cannot fail.

The angel who had spoken to John had a golden reed to measure the city, not a reed like a rod (Rev. 11:1), for there is no longer any necessity in that city for smiting with the rod. Rather, the glory of God (gold) has triumphed over evil, and that glory will be displayed in the entire city. Yet the city is measured: there is not an unlimited manifestation of His glory, for no man could endure that (1 Tim. 6:16). The city, being limited, cannot fully manifest a God who is infinite. In Christ personally, we see God's glory revealed in such a way as to perfectly satisfy our hearts, yet God's essential glory is beyond man's capacity to observe. These measurements therefore remind us of our own limitations as humans, even when we are changed to have bodies like our Lord's body of glory (Phil. 3:21 — JND).

The measurements show the city to be a 1400-1500 mile cube (v. 16). It is certainly not, therefore, a literal city set on earth, as some have imagined. In fact, we should not think of it as a literal, material city, as though it could be compared with any earthly city. Whatever may be its visible manifestation (and it will be a reality: we will be there), the most important matter will be its vital, spiritual character, for all that we read of it emphasizes principles of living truth. The three equal dimensions remind us that it is the dwelling of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. All three dimensions must be present to form a solid. If one is taken away, nothing solid remains. Therefore all of the city is comprehended in its length, all of it in its breadth and all of it in its height. We cannot say that length is part of the city, or breadth or height, for all must be there to form the city, The Father is not part of God: He is God fully and absolutely. The Son is God, the Spirit is God. This unity is absolute, marvellous, mysterious, but real.

The wall (apparently in height) is 144 cubits, 12 times 12 (v. 17). The number 12 stands out everywhere in regard to the wall. The wall is not mentioned in regard to the city in the eternal state (v. 2), perhaps because it has special reference to the administration of the Millennium where there is still sin on earth. The building of the wall is of jasper, clear and transparent as the city itself, for the wall is not intended to hide anything. The city is of pure gold, like clear glass (v. 18). Gold is not naturally transparent, but the symbols teach us spiritual facts, the pure gold speaking of God's glory in the person of the Lord Jesus manifested there, and the clear glass indicating that transparent truth will characterize the city. Everything will be open and aboveboard: there will be no wickedness thriving under cover.

The foundations (v. 19) are decorated with twelve different precious stones, just as was the case with the breastplate of the high priest in Israel (Ex. 28:15-20). The various colors of these stones reflect the various beauties of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, as revealed in the foundational ministry of the apostles in establishing the Assembly (the Church). We will not attempt to explain what may be the special significance of each stone, though it is certain that each one of them symbolizes some special reflection of the beauties of the Lord Jesus.

Each of the twelve gates is said to be of one pearl (v.21). This would be difficult to visualize literally. Spiritually, however, the pearl emphasizes the beauty of the grace of God in reference to the Church (Matt. 13:45-46). A pearl is a fitting picture of the Church. It is the result of some foreign substance coming under the oyster shell and causing an injury. The oyster then manufactures a substance called “nacre” or “mother of pearl” that surrounds the offending object with layer after layer, building up into a beautiful pearl. We are the offending object, but by God's work of grace we are covered and accepted “in Christ,” with a beauty that delights His heart of love. The Church is invested with such beauty that in her is seen the exceeding riches of God's grace (Eph. 2:7). But grace is not selfish: it delights to manifest itself to others, as these open gates infer. That grace also has pleasure in the blessing of Israel as is seen in the name of the twelve tribes of Israel on the gates.

The street corresponds to the city itself, being of pure gold, like transparent glass (v. 21). Not only our surroundings, but the area of our walk will speak of God's glory (the gold), and of clear, transparent truth (the glass). Nothing will be covered and nothing will defile our feet, nor will our feet defile that pure street.

No temple is seen in the city, for the entire city is God's dwelling (v. 22). The personal presence of God and of the Lamb makes the city itself His sanctuary. Natural objects such as the sun and moon do not provide its light, for it has a light infinitely more radiant and welcome — the shining of the bright glory of God. The Lamb is the lamp, the bearer of the light. In measure we have known this today as God has shined in our hearts for the shining forth of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). We know that all the light of God's glory is revealed in Christ, but in our present state there is too much smog both within us and around us to hinder its bright shining. In the holy city there will be nothing in us or in all the surrounding circumstances to obscure its shining forth.

Nations Giving Honour to the City

The nations will walk in the light of the heavenly city, for being in close proximity to the earth, it will shed its beams of blessing on all the restored nations for a thousand years. In the eternal state nations will no longer exist, but they will during the Millennium. Thus, in the Millennium the kings of the earth will bring their glory and honor to the city. They will not come into the city, but will demonstrate their allegiance to it by willing tribute. This is explained further in Zechariah 14:16-19 which shows that nations will be required to send representatives to the earthly Jerusalem every year to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Jerusalem in Israel will be God's earthly center, and in recognizing this the nations will in this way own their allegiance to the heavenly city, the metropolis of heaven and earth, for God dwells there.

The gates are always open since it is always day (v. 25). There thus is no possibility of anything creeping in under cover of darkness. Does this imply too that in our spiritual bodies we will not sleep? Whatever the case, the entire time will be of “rest” (Heb. 4:9). Every service that may occupy our time will be done in a constant atmosphere of rest. Stress management won't be needed there!

Verse 26 adds that the glory and honor of the nations (not only of kings) will be brought to the city. The city will be seen as the source from which the nations receive their great blessing. No defilement shall enter there — no working of abomination (idolatry) and no vestige of falsehood because only those enter whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life (v. 27). This certainly involves God's election, but added to it is the precious truth of their redemption by the great sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. The city is named for the bride, but all Old Testament saints and the martyrs of the Tribulation period also will enter the city along with those who form the Church. These are all written in the Lamb's book of life. Abraham “waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10).

Revelation 22.

The River of Water of Life and the Tree of Life

The description of the city continues to the end of verse 5 of this chapter. The city is blessed with a river of the water of life proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb (v. 1). Being clear as crystal, it speaks of the pure, unadulterated truth of the Word of God continually bringing its blessing of refreshment to the city by the power of the Holy Spirit. The city is the means of conveying that blessing to the renewed earth. God and the Lamb remain in absolute authority, an authority characterized by marvellous grace.

In the middle of the street, the place of activity, and on either side of the river was the tree of life (v. 2). In Genesis 2:9 we read of the tree of life in the middle of the garden of Eden, from which Adam and Eve never ate (Gen. 3:22), because they chose to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Being in the middle, the central place of attraction, the tree can only speak of Christ Himself. Being also on either side of the river shows that the blessings of the river — the living Word of God vitalized by the Holy Spirit — are inseparably connected with this blessed living Person.

The tree of life produces twelve types of fruit, one type of fruit borne every month of the year. Though the city is blessed by the presence of the tree of life itself, the fruit evidently is for the twelve tribes of Israel since its leaves are for the healing of the nations (Gentiles). Thus in Christ, Jews, Gentiles and the Church of God are all greatly blessed.

The curse being done away, all is unmixed blessing in the city. The throne of God and of the Lamb ensure perfect truth and righteousness, yet with perfect grace in administration (v. 3). During the thousand year reign (the Millennium) the curse of Genesis 3:17-19 is largely but not completely removed from the earth as Isaiah 65:17-25 declares. Note verse 20 in particular and also Zechariah 14:17-19. Only exceptional cases will call for a curse.

In the heavenly city, service will have its important place (v. 3). Little is said as to the form of service in which we shall be privileged to engage. It will not be unpleasant labor, but devoted, delightful service in calm rest of soul. More wonderful still is the assurance that the Lord Jesus Himself will serve His beloved saints (Luke 12:37). Exodus 21:5-6 indicates that He will remain a servant forever.

“They shall see His face” (v. 4). In Exodus 33:23 God told Moses “My face shall not be seen.” Today, by the living power of faith through the Holy Spirit, we see “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Then, in the eternal city, we shall see Him face to face, eternally to behold His glory and beauty, our souls supremely satisfied. The reflection of His beauty will be in our own countenances. His name will be imprinted in our foreheads in contrast to the number of the Beast imprinted in the foreheads of the ungodly (Rev. 13:15-16). We will be delighted to be fully identified as His own property so that none can mistake the reflection of His own beauty in His redeemed saints. This should surely speak to us now, to encourage us to present to the world a clear confession of His name in both our words and ways.

The fact is repeated (v. 5) that there is no night there, no opportunity for evil to operate under cover of darkness or for times of dark, dismal experience. Artificial light will have no place — not even the light of the sun. The presence of the Lord God will give continual light, more satisfying than the sunshine when the fresh beauty of spring dispels the clouds and cold of a long winter. Those in the city shall reign, not only for the thousand years, but forever and ever. Theirs is an eternal identification with their Lord whose reign is eternal. However, we cannot forget that service is just as important an aspect of our lives as reigning: both will be in perfect balance in that day.

Prophecy Must Be Received as Truth

Verse 5 completes the marvellous presentation of prophecy as declared in this book. So amazing are the prophetic truths that one might well wonder how they can be true. Is there a possibility of doubt? Not in the slightest! The Lord Himself strongly affirms the faithfulness and truth of all that has been told to John (v. 6). It has been a message from the Lord God of the holy prophets, perfectly coinciding with His messages through the prophets from the beginning, but sent by an angel in the case of Revelation to show His servants the things that must shortly take place. This is a confirmation of Revelation 1:1, emphasizing the importance of the revelation of Jesus Christ.

A Closing Message

These are the words of the Lord Jesus Himself, conveyed by the angel. He adds the assurance, “Behold I am coming quickly” (v. 7). Mere impatience might not think this to be true, but faith absolutely believes it. Then it surely follows that there is greatest blessing for one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book. Keeping these words surely involves laying them to heart and acting in the light of their truth.

John is profoundly impressed with what he has seen and heard, and rightly so, but he makes the serious mistake of falling down before the feet of the messenger to worship him (v. 8). The angel immediately forbids this. Though he has brought God's message, he is not be treated as God. He is John's fellow-servant, a dependent creature, but one who keeps the truth which God has given. John must worship only God (v. 9). In Revelation 1:17 John is seen at the feet of the Lord Jesus and there his worship is fully received, for Christ is God, but no creature must dare to accept such adoration.

John is told in verse 10, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.” In Daniel 12:4, Daniel was told to “seal the book until the time of the end.” Much that Daniel had written could not be understood when he wrote it: it was sealed so that Old Testament saints could not take it in. But of believers of this age it is said, “upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11). Since it is the time of the ends of the ages, the accomplishment of these things is near, and nothing that John has written is to be sealed. Believers are intended to understand it and profit by it.

How solemn is verse 11! When the judgment is finished, there will be no more conversion. All will have formed their character. There will be no possibility of change. Whether unjust or filthy, whether righteous or holy, such will be the character that remains for eternity — the first two under judgment, the latter two in eternal blessing.

The words of the Lord Jesus again press on us that He is coming quickly (v. 12). The first time this was mentioned (v. 7) this was in connection with the blessing of those obedient to His Word. Now He adds that He has reward to give to all in accordance with the works of each. Not only is there present blessing in obedience, but there is future reward for every work that has been truly done for Christ's sake (1 Cor. 3:14, Matt. 25:21, Luke 19:16-19). He gives us every incentive to live in truth for Himself.

Again in verse 13 the Lord affirms the truth as to His person. He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He had no beginning: He is the beginning. He has no end: He is the end. If anyone objects by claiming that the same expression in Revelation 1:8 refers only to God Almighty and not to Christ, this objection is fully dismissed in the same chapter (vv. 10-13) when the One who speaks thus is “One like unto the Son of Man.” Here also in Revelation 22:13 it is plainly the Lord Jesus (who is coming quickly) who speaks of Himself. He is the Almighty!

Verse 14 is correctly translated in the NASB: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city.” Revelation 7:14 spoke of a great Gentile company having “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Such washing in the blood of the Lamb is absolutely essential to give one a right to the tree of life — a right to communion with the Lord Jesus Himself. Simply keeping His commandments can never give anyone that right. That in itself would be a form of law-keeping and could not wash away the contamination of sin. It is the blood of Christ that gives title to the enjoyment of His person (the tree of life) and to the inheritance (the city). After being so washed, however we are called upon to gladly be obedient to the Word of God.

In verse 15 we must again be reminded of the great contrast of the portion of unbelievers. Outside the city are dogs (those unclean in nature) and sorcerers (those deceived by evil spirits) and whoremongers (those sunk in moral corruption) and idolaters (those who give to the creature the place of the Creator) and whoever loves and makes a lie (those who have deliberately chosen falsehood rather than truth). These are totally outside the sphere of the grace of God which they have knowingly refused.

A Final Appealing Message

This book of Revelation has all the signs of a careful documentary which is confirmed with decisive finality in its last six verses. “I Jesus have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches” (v. 16). After all that has preceded this, only a callous, dishonest person could dare to suggest that the book is a forgery. The contrast between this and the fictional “Book of Mormon” (for instance) is greater than the height of heaven above the earth.

Again the Lord affirms the truth concerning His own person because this cannot be allowed to be a matter of indifference. He is “the root and offspring of David.” Historical genealogical records prove Him to be the offspring of David (Matt. 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38). He is a true Son of Man. But He also is the root of David. According to flesh He came from David, but David came from Him! This is a most important fact. He is Himself God over all, blessed forever (Rom. 9:5). Both facts are true, whether or not we can understand how it is so.

He is also “the bright and morning star.” The last chapter of the Old Testament speaks of Him as “the sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2) when announcing His appearing, His manifestation in power and glory to introduce the radiant thousand year reign. But the morning star rises shortly before the sun does. This star speaks of His coming to rapture the Church to heaven before the Tribulation, while the world is still in deep moral darkness before the rising of the Sun. How perfectly appropriate this is, for Israel and the world look for the sunrise of earthly blessing, but the portion of the Church is heavenly blessing with the Lord Jesus.

Because the Lord Jesus is the bright and morning star, “the Spirit and the bride say Come” (v. 17). The Holy Spirit dwelling in the bride, the Church, draws her heart to ardently desire and welcome the coming of the Lord. “And let the one who hears say Come.” Everyone with open ears, every believer, is urged to join in this genuine desire for His coming. Then abruptly, as showing the great heart of the Lord Jesus, the word “come” is used differently in a sweet message of gospel grace, “Let him who thirsts come.” Has the thirst of one man or woman been awakened by reading God's words? Then let him or her come to Christ from Whom he will find a wonderful welcome. Whether one thirsts or not, the last great invitation of Scripture is given for everyone who will respond: “Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”

When the offer of pure grace is freely given, the solemn warning as to despising it must also be added because the stubborn rebellion of mankind is notoriously foolish. Many have dared to add figments of their own imagination to the sacred revelation of God in spite of the plain warning of verse 18 as well as earlier warnings such as Deuteronomy 4:2 and Proverbs 30:5, but this is a dishonest, insulting show of contempt for the God of absolute, eternal truth. It is no wonder that the judgment of these is so unsparingly dreadful. God will add to such the plagues written in the book. Consider such plagues as in Revelation 14:10, Revelation 20:15 and Revelation 22:15.

On the other hand, many have not hesitated to delete from Scripture things that they do not like, judging by their own narrow minds what is acceptable. They recognize that Scripture holds much valuable instruction, but they will not allow it to judge their sinful ways. A recent so-called “abridgement” of the Bible is a shocking example of the brazen defiance of men against their Creator. The promoters of this travesty seem insensible to the gross wickedness of what they have done and to the horror of God's judgment against them (v. 19). God will take away their part from the tree of life (NASB). Such will have no part in Christ Himself. “And from the holy city.” Such will have no part in the inheritance. “And from the things which are written in this book.” They forfeit all the blessings that are promised to the faithful in this book. A wise person would deeply fear to tamper with the Word of God, but “folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment” (Prov. 15:21).

For the third time in fifteen verses the Lord urges upon us the reality of His coming, “Surely I am coming quickly” (v. 20). This word had previously been connected with the blessing of obedience (v. 7) and with the promise of reward (v. 12). Now all is centered simply in His own blessed Person, the One who is coming. This awakens the glad response, “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.” Precious, marvellous, sweet anticipation!

The closing benediction of grace (v. 21) has often been contrasted to the closing words of the Old Testament, “lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:6). The Law of Moses could only bring a curse to Israel, but the Lord Jesus Christ has brought the great blessing of the grace of God. The last words of this great Revelation of Jesus Christ show His desire that all should share eternally in the sweetness of that grace. Thank God for all in whom that grace has wrought a response of thankful appreciation! Rather than a solemn curse deserved because of many sins, the result is blessing far beyond all that any person could ever have imagined. Well might the consideration of such a book fill every believer with unceasing, overflowing worship of the living God revealed in His blessed Son!