with practical reflections.
H. H. Snell.
Fourth edition. London: A. S. Rouse, 1892.
Introduction (this file)
Introductory Verses. The Things which John saw Rev. 1:1-8; 9-20.
The Things which are Rev. 2. 3.
The Things which shall be after these —
The Throne of God in Heaven, and the Lamb taking the Book Rev. 4, 5.
The Seven Seals Rev. 6 — 8:1-5.
The Parenthesis between the Sixth and Seventh Seals Rev. 7
The Seven Trumpets Rev. 8:6 — 11.
The Parenthesis between the Sixth and Seventh Trumpets Rev. 10, 11:1-14.
The Jewish Remnant and the Great Tribulation Rev. 12, 13, 14.
The Martyred Remnant and the Seven Vials Rev. 15, 16.
The Parenthesis between the Sixth and Seventh Vials Rev. 16:15.
Babylon the Great Rev. 17, 18.
The Marriage of the Lamb, the Reign of Christ, and the Eternal State Rev. 19, 20, 21:1-8.
The Bride the Lamb's Wife Rev. 21:9 — 22:1-5.
Concluding Verses Rev. 22:6-21.
The following pages do not lay claim to originality. The views put forth are, in the main, held by many of the Lord's servants; and the writer has freely availed himself of the thoughts of the best instructed on this portion of God's truth. It is hoped that the division of the book into sections, with a simple exposition and practical reflections, will be found helpful, through God's blessing, especially to those who are beginning to see the value of this marvellous part of Scripture.
Most believers will admit, that if we are not seeking to embrace the whole range of divine truth, there must be a serious lack both of comfort of soul and of testimony for the Lord; and if the word of God be not an object of interest to our hearts, something injurious will usurp its place, and thus the affection and desires will be turned from Him who alone is entitled to them, and who says, "My son, give Me thine heart." These considerations are deemed sufficient reasons for calling attention to "The Revelation."
Where an alteration has been made in the commonly received text, it has generally been in accordance with all the best critics.
"To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen."
It is commonly acknowledged that few persons read the book of Revelation. Why is this? With some, its difficulties are pleaded as an excuse, but its name, signifying something revealed, would not certainly lead us to expect greater obstacles to its being understood than other portions of the Holy Scriptures; though we know that the natural man is unable to understand or receive any part of God's truth, but by the teaching of the Holy Ghost. The question may be fairly asked, Can we find a single Christian who has read this book, prayerfully looking for the guidance of the Holy Ghost, who has not obtained much blessing? The many speculative and fanciful theories that have been advanced may have deterred some from going beyond its threshold, while the systematic way in which it has been excluded from the teaching of many godly persons, may have been the means of keeping others from having their attention directed to it. But whatever may be the reasons assigned for the neglect of this blessed portion of Divine truth, we may be assured that Satan has succeeded in robbing many of the Lord's dear children of the profit and enjoyment of this last written communication of the risen and ascended Jesus to His Church.
But after all, it is questionable whether indifferentism be not in most instances the reason why "The Revelation" is so neglected. Let us test ourselves on this point. If we were more alive to the realities of the Cross of Christ — the price paid for our redemption — if the groans of the Sin-Bearer, and His unutterable, unfathomable sorrows were felt in our souls with more freshness and power, how could we rest till we read, nay, understood, His last words to the assemblies? How could we think of Him as our ever-living and ever-loving High Priest, without being deeply concerned about those things which He declares must shortly come to pass?
The Revelation may truly be called the book of results. In it, though Christ's faithfulness to His own abides, declension marks the Churches. Sin receives its eternal wages. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, are seen in full bloom, and pass away for ever. False religion is judged, its blazing glory extinguished, and the smoke of the torment of the unchaste woman rises up for ever and ever. Man living in rebellion is crushed under the feet of Jesus, and the dead are banished from His presence for ever. The Antichrist and his associates meet their just and most terrible abasement and misery. Satan is everlastingly consigned to the lake of fire. The created heavens and earth are cleared of evil, and Christ's power fully known, His worth fully owned. The Church is seen in glory, in untreated light and beauty, and the new heavens and the new earth speak to us only of righteousness and blessing from God to man. It is emphatically a book of judgment upon things on earth; prophetic, of course, in its character.
Unlike the Epistles, we do not find the believer's calling or relationship with the Father treated of in the Revelation. We only have the Father referred to about four times; twice as "His Father" and "my Father," and always referring to God as the Father of the Lord Jesus. In this book we see God preparing the earth for His Son, the rightful Heir, under whose feet all enemies will be put.
There appear to be three great hindrances to saints having a clear apprehension of at least the outline of this blessed book. First, the false and unbelieving feeling, long cherished by many, that the Revelation is full of mysteries which no one can understand. Secondly, the erroneous idea that the main scope of the book is a prophetic statement of events while the Church is on earth, and that we are now perhaps in the midst of the outpouring of some of the vials. The consequence is, that it is approached with wrong thoughts, so that the book becomes at once so perplexing that it is quickly laid aside. Thirdly, the chief difficulty perhaps is having false ideas of what the Church of God really is; not seeing its special and unique character, which is defined in Scripture to be "the body of Christ, the fulness of Him which filleth all in all." (Eph. 1:21, 22.) When the believer clearly sees that the Lord abolished in His death the law of commandments in ordinances in order to create (not apart from Himself, but) "in Himself" one new man, he gets at once something new before his mind, very distinct from what had ever gone before, or, as I believe, will follow. It was to this the Lord referred when He said to Peter, "Upon this rock I will build my Church." (Matt. 16:18.) Believers now know union with Christ, and are partakers of the heavenly calling — are quickened together, raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. This very distinctive truth the book of Revelation does not enter into; for it is, as we have said, a book of judgment, and especially of things in relation to the earth. We do get in the Revelation the Lord judging the assemblies on earth professedly gathered to His name, but the Church in her special and unique character as the body of Christ, as before observed, is not treated of there; she is, however, seen coming down from heaven as the Bride, the Lamb's wife, in manifested glory, to take her place in the glories of the kingdom, and she is also seen afterwards as the Bride in the eternal state, when the Son shall have delivered up the kingdom to the Father.
We must not, however, forget that the same portion of God's word often admits of more solutions than one. Besides, there are principles in it as well as facts. In this way, we doubt not the use of the book, in past times of the Church, for the guidance and blessing of those who were a testimony against the tyrannical pretensions of Rome.
We find a table of contents at the close of the first chapter.
1. The things which John saw.
2. The things which are.
3. The things which shall be hereafter, or, after these things.
We have at once, therefore, a sure guide at the threshold of the book. But more than this; for from the beginning of the fourth chapter, where the third division commences, on to the end, we have also several sub-divisions or sections. These are not arranged as a number of historical discourses, each following the other in regular order of narration, but each division gives us a distinct line of instruction. Thus the whole book may be regarded as a series of pictures, each distinct from the others, and every one, so far as it goes, complete in itself; and if we will only be content to take one of these sections at a time, and study it prayerfully, we shall find that at least the outline of the book will be clearly seen, though we may have still much to learn as to the details.
The book opens with introductory sentences, extending to the end of the eighth verse. Then we have the sections of the book fairly presented to us.
1. The vision of the first chapter, and its connections, form a distinct section or picture — the things which John saw — the Lord as Son of man in the midst of the assemblies, judging them as to their responsibility to Him, as light-bearers in a dark world. It extends from the ninth verse to the end.
2. The second and third chapters form another division — the things which are. Here the saints' accountability as to the rights of Christ, the honour of Christ, and the truth of Christ, are clearly brought out. We learn the solemn responsibility of assemblies bearing the name of Christ; and see everything judged according to the love, and truth, and holiness of that name. How few seem to be aware of their accountability to Christ for their corporate position and action, and of what is really involved in being gathered together in the name of Jesus.
3. The fourth and fifth chapters present to us another picture. It is mostly a heavenly scene.
Everything is looked at in connection with the throne of God. The Lamb, as it had been slain, fills heaven with joy and praise, and the circle so widens, that our spirits are led out into the contemplation of millennial blessing, when every creature in heaven, and earth, and under the earth, will praise the Lamb.
4. We may look at the opening of the SEVEN SEALS as another section. It extends from the beginning of the sixth chapter to the fifth verse of the eighth chapter.
The seventh chapter coming in between the sixth and seventh seals is a parenthesis. There is also a parenthesis between the sounding of the sixth and seventh trumpets, and the outpouring of the sixth and seventh vials. Each of these seven-fold series of judgments terminates in lightnings, and thunderings, and voices, and a great earthquake.
5. The sounding of the SEVEN TRUMPETS may be looked at also as a distinct section, extending from the sixth verse of the eighth chapter to the end of the eleventh chapter. Observe that this division goes on to the judgment of the dead at the end of the millennium. It is important to notice also, that at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, when there are lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, the Lord Jesus comes forth in glory with His saints to take the kingdom, and judge the world in righteousness. The voices in heaven say, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever."
The parenthesis between the sixth and seventh trumpets occupies the tenth chapter, and the first fourteen verses of the eleventh chapter.
6. The twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth chapters give us another section. It is a deeply interesting portion for our spiritual contemplation. It goes back to the incarnation of our Lord the man-child — and extends to His coming in flaming fire to tread the winepress of the wrath of God. It is the history of the remnant of Israel in the time of the great tribulation.
The fifteenth and sixteenth chapters may be read together. We first have the martyred remnant of the previous section now standing on the sea of glass before the throne of God in heaven; then, we have the outpouring of the vials.
There is also a short parenthesis between the sixth and seventh vials.
8. Though we have had the judgment and fall of Babylon announced before, yet so important is the consideration of this "mother of harlots and abominations of the earth," that the next two chapters are occupied in giving details of her mysterious working and bewitching influence. Multitudes are deceived by her, and drawn within the vortex of her intoxicating grasp. As she had a place of luxuriousness and popularity in the world, both in a civil and religious aspect, so her sorrow and torment must be accordingly.
9. The nineteenth and twentieth chapters, and also the first eight verses of the twenty-first chapter, give us another separate portion of this blessed book. The Lamb's wife is here seen in contrast with the great whore. The marriage of the Lamb takes place, and heaven is opened for Christ and His saints to come forth in manifested glory. The judgment of the beast and false prophet, the kings of the earth and their associates, and the binding of Satan, usher in the millennial reign. Here we get the first resurrection defined, as, in a manner, distributive, and all who have part in it reign with Christ. We have also the letting loose of Satan at the close of the thousand years, and the judgment of God upon the myriads of living wicked deceived by him, followed by the final judgment of all the wicked dead. This is succeeded by a description of the eternal state, the new heaven and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
10. The next scene takes us back again. It gives us the Bride, the Lamb's wife, in relation to the kingdom during the reign of Christ, filling up a most important and necessary part in prophetic truth. It extends from the ninth verse of the twenty-first chapter to the sixth verse of the twenty-second chapter. It is a golden scene, full of light, and life, and blessing. The former part of the chapter shows us the Bride in her eternal state.
The last section is followed by some fragmentary sentences, in which the coming of the Lord as the present hope of the believer is the most prominent thought.
With this book the Scriptures are closed, so that for any man now to add to God's word is to expose himself to the plagues written in this book. It is addressed by the Lord to the assemblies, and concludes with the thrice repeated assurance of His coming quickly.
In looking through this blessed book, however hastily, we cannot fail to notice how often Christ is brought before us as THE LAMB. Its importance is obvious; for the believer proves in his experience that truth itself, apart from The Truth, is rather calculated to amuse the intellect than to warm the heart; it also shows us that God's way of teaching prophecy is not so much by the arrangement of events in chronological order, as viewing everything in relation to Christ Himself. In The Revelation, THE LAMB is the centre around which all else is clustered, the foundation on which everything lasting is built, the nail on which all hangs, the object to which all points, and the spring from which all blessing proceeds. THE LAMB is the light, the glory, the life, the Lord of heaven and earth, from whose face all defilement must flee away, and in whose presence fulness of joy is known. Hence, we cannot go far in the study of The Revelation, without seeing THE LAMB, like direction-posts along the road, to remind us that He who did by Himself purge our sins is now highly exalted, and that to Him every knee must bow, and every tongue confess.
If the saying of another be true, that:
"They flourish as the watered herb,
Who keep THE LAMB in sight."
then this one feature of this inspired book should be enough to engage our hearts, and warrant the largest expectations of blessing. And if the frequent contemplation of the precious blood of Christ keeps down the weeds of our flesh, nourishes the inner man, and is the wine that cheers both God and man, we may be assured of gathering much profit from the frequent and prayerful reading of this book, where THE LAMB as it had been slain is so prominently set forth, and where we are so often reminded of the sufferings of Christ, and the judgments and glories which follow.