Thoughts on the Revelation

J. N. Darby.

<30030E> {file section c.}

384 In chapter 15 we have another distinct revelation, complete in Revelation 15 and Revelation 16, but a part of which is developed in Revelation 17 and Revelation 18. The general subject is expressly the seven last plagues, in which the wrath of God is filled up, closing with the destruction of Babylon before the marriage of the Lamb and His public manifestation in the earth. But, before their pouring out, the spared remnant are seen secure. The 144,000 were Jews who, faithful in the time of trial, had a place with Christ in His earth by royalty. These, in chapter 15 are not Jews - "them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image." And, without excluding a Jew to whom it might apply, these having been noticed in Revelation 14, it applies essentially to Gentiles. The reader will remark another thing - Revelation 12 - 14 are of far wider extent. It reaches from the rejection and ascension of Christ, to His appearing, and executing judgment, and includes, as a period, all that is here, and far beyond. This, the special judgments of God (not of the Lamb) within that period, and towards its close.

385 God is celebrated as the King of nations. The song sung is in connection with God and the Lamb. It is again Jehovah, Elohim, Shaddai, exacting judgment in righteousness on the earth, and on the Gentile power which had oppressed His people. Hence the song of Moses; but it was withal the victory of the rejected Lamb. God's ways were shewn in it (of old, only shewn to Moses, His works to the people), but now made manifest, and that not to mere destruction, like that of Pharaoh, but to bringing the nations - all nations - to come and worship Jehovah, whose judgments have been made manifest. For the earth this is all of the last importance. It is the result of all its history.

A word as to the place where the overcomers are found. They are on the sea of glass mingled with fire. They are not sitting on thrones round the throne, nor have they suffered previous to the manifestation of the beast's power, at any rate had not been martyrs and brought to heavenly joy, before the half-week of his power came. But they had gotten the victory over him, his mark, and every form of subjection to him. They had been purified and saved - still through fire. They stood on what was the sign of purity - the sea of glass. When it was water, it was the sign of purifying; but here it is the result, and it is purity; but they had passed through the fire of God's judicial tribulation to obtain it. These are the owned ones of God, the overcomers, even to death, of the time of the beast's power, having part in the first resurrection.

After the vision of these the preparation for the execution of God's judgment comes. It is not, as in Revelation 11:19, the ark of God's covenant, His sure relationship with Israel; yet it is immediately connected with it, and in view of that people. The "testimony" means strictly the two tables of the law. Thence even the ark, as enclosing them, was called so. It was the throne of God withal, who had this as the testimony and witness of His governmental requirements in the world. The sprinkling of blood on it made it a true propitiatory; but with that we have nothing to do here. The house is opened, not to look into it, to see covenant - relationship with Israel, but for the seven angels to come out with judgments on those who had heeded neither the throne nor the rule according to which the throne judged. It was the house of the tabernacle of the testimony. It was not Christ as Lord who was coming out, but providential ministers of God's power.

386 We can readily understand how these vials were the expression of the judgment of the throne of the Lord God Almighty - of the wrath of Him who never changes, and must, according to the testimony of what He is, put down corruption and iniquity and oppression on the earth. It was not yet giving the throne to Christ to govern as Prince of peace in righteousness, but it was providentially the righteous judgment of the throne of God; and this, though coming from heaven (for the throne was not yet established on earth), yet was associated with the whole character of the testimony given when the earthly throne was set at Jerusalem. The nations would come and fear the God revealed in the Old Testament, Jehovah, Elohim, Shaddai, for His judgments were manifested. His earthly throne had been, we know, in Jerusalem, and would be again in Christ. This judgment characterised the whole scene. God displayed His glory in this way, so that none could approach Him; as when the cloud was on the temple in Solomon's time.

The judgments fall on the same spheres of human existence (only not solely the third part, or Roman empire) as the first four trumpets, save that, instead of destroying the prosperity of society and the great of the earth, the first judgment falls on the men who had received the mark of the beast, bringing them into a wretched and distressing state. The next judgment falls on the mass of the peoples; and all who abandoned God, that is, in profession, died. Then all the sources of popular influence, which characterised peoples and nations, became deathful. What they drank in was death, the principle of alienation from God. In the fourth, the supreme power on the earth became consuming and oppressive in the highest degree. These, like the first four trumpets (as it was of the seals, too) stand apart from the last three, which have a peculiar though judicial character. Penal judgment falls on the throne of the beast. The Euphrates being dried up, the way of the kings of the East is prepared, and the kings of the world are gathered, by the threefold form of evil, for judgment; and, finally, Babylon is brought to remembrance for the cup of wrath, while convulsions rock the earth, and judgment from above provokes their rage. This last vial was poured out into the air, the whole circumambient influence that acts on men.

387 The judgment on the beast's throne (fifth vial) is felt in the extent of his empire. His enterprises are not arrested, but his kingdom is full of darkness, and "they paw their tongues for pain." And now the forces are gathered for the great final battle of good and evil. The principle of Satan's power as the enemy of Christ in the Latin empire - the renewed form of imperial power - and the false Messiah in Palestine, a prophet-king - are the sources of this gathering power. They promote and proclaim the principles that gather. It is a notable fact here that the excessively miserable state of the beast's kingdom does not hinder his pushing his war against the Lamb. Under the influence of these three spirits of evil the apostate armies are gathered to the battle of the great day of God Almighty, the final conflict of good and evil - heaven and earth. I suppose Armageddon refers to Judges 5:19, 20. This gives occasion to the solemn warning to the world that the Lord was just coming as a thief. When the seventh vial is poured out, there was a universal subversive convulsion, such as never had been in the world. And the great city, the public confederation of the civilised earth was broken up into three parts; and Babylon came into remembrance, to give her the cup of the fierceness of God's wrath. The details of her judgment are in Revelation 18. Men were plagued with the terrible judgments of God falling on them; but they only blasphemed His name. We have three parts of the effect of this final judgment of God: the city is divided into three, the cities of the nations fall, and Babylon comes into remembrance. The great city I have alluded to is the practically unified association of European civilisation; the other centres of social life fell. Babylon is the third. It is more particularly Western civilisation viewed in connection with its corrupt religious side.

We are now arrived at the important chapters which describe the connection of Babylon with the beast, and the destruction of the former. One of the ministers of God's judgments calls the prophet to see the judgment of the great whore who sits on many waters, that is, the grand corruptress of religion, who turns away souls from the truth of God, exercising widespread influence over the masses of population. The kings of the earth had had intercourse with her, cultivated it in this prostitution of Christianity; and the inhabitants of the earth - those settled in the sphere of the civilised order where God's ways and dealings were known, had been mentally steeped, besotted with this corruption of Christianity. Rich as all was to man's eye, and pious, and religious, to the Spirit all was wilderness, desolation, and drought - anything but the garden of God. She sits on a scarlet-coloured beast, the imperial Roman power in its last blasphemous form. She herself was enriched with luxury, power, and splendour; in her hand a cup of gold, full of that with which she corrupted and made drunk the earth. To a spiritual eye her character was stamped upon her forehead, though a mystery to those who were not. She was judged, however, as a mystery by the spiritual man; that is, he was spiritual enough to judge hers - how, if unrevealed, her true character was not understood. She was the heir, as the great moral characterising capital of the world, of that great city, which first was the seat of idolatry antagonistic of the true God, the fertile source of all corruptions of primitive Christianity, and of all idolatries in the earth. She was drunk with the blood of persecution in a double character; first of saints, and then of the witnesses of Jesus. This was the character of her who rode. The riding it, or the time of that, was a distinct thing - the saints she could not bear the witnesses of Jesus she could not bear. The prophet was astonished at seeing her. This astonishment clearly intimates, I think, something special and extraordinary. And so it is, that what should call itself the church should be drunk with the blood of the saints. The foolish notion of the rationalists (and what have they taught, that is not foolishness?) that all this is the history of Pagan Rome, makes this astonishment without any sense. It is Rome, but Rome under special circumstances.

388 Here the reader will remark what aids us in the apprehension of these symbols, that the beast, now that the explanation is given to the prophet, wholly fills this scene. At the close, we find the destruction of the woman, and who she is. Her name at the beginning of the chapter had fully told what she was; her own character as such, independent of the beast, though seen sitting on the beast. Verses 5 and 6 give the proper character of the woman herself. When I come to the history of the beast, though identified with the whole Roman empire, I get the special history of its last form - of the very last days, and of the fact that, as beast it had ceased to exist, yet was found again. The woman may have been all that she was described in verses 5, 6, while the beast was not.

389 But we have now to consider the beast in its full description, as seen at the end. The beast carries her. No doubt she thus exercises influence over him, but it is not her strength. She sits on him, but he carries her; and to the beast the prophet now at once turns. It is the seven-headed ten-horned beast, known as the old Roman but now ten-horned beast. But its character is followed out more precisely. It was - is not and is going to ascend out of the bottomless pit and go into destruction. It had been, it had ceased to exist, and at the end it would ascend out of the bottomless pit - have a distinctly devilish character. In this it is we have seen him persecute and slay the witnesses; in this he goes into destruction. The deadly wound the beast had received in one of his heads was healed, but now he was in his last form going into perdition. All but the elect pay homage to him in this last form, seeing the beast, which had ceased to exist, now present again. This gives in general, the history and character of the beast.

But there are more particulars as to the heads. The seven heads have a double application: first they are seven mountains, on which the woman sits. We may learn here how, while giving much more light as to facts, a symbol cannot be literally taken. The woman was sitting on the beast. So Rome is seated on seven hills, as well as on the Roman empire by its influence. But, besides this, the heads of the beast were seven forms of power which characterised it. Five had already passed away when the angel spoke to the prophet; one was existing, the imperial form. Another was to come and subsist for only a short time (perhaps Napoleon I; in the protracted system, Charlemagne); and then an extra head, the last beast, but which is the same as one of the seven; in which form the head and beast, and all is destroyed. Seven complete the form.

But the beast that reappears after ceasing to exist, the renewed Roman empire, with its confederate vassal kingdoms, is a distinct and special existence of the beast, a resurrection form of the Roman empire come out of the bottomless pit, Satanic - a substantial devilish existence, in which, though peculiar in form, the Roman empire reappeared, that is, the Western, as the empire historically was. In this state the beast would be destroyed. The ten horns did not exist at the time the vision was given, but would subsist one same period with the beast the prophet had before his eyes, that is, the beast in his last Roman form. These ten kingdoms would give their power and influence to the beast - would exist, but play entirely into his hands.

390 But this brings us to a point of the greatest importance. The formation of this beast, the empire or imperial head of power with the ten helping kingdoms, brings evil up to the point of open war on the part of the kingdoms, with the Lamb who now appears again. Here the kings are mentioned as making war, because the object is to give the character at this time of the great body of nations which form Western Europe. In the end of Revelation 19 we find the beast who is at their head engaged in the war, but the ten kingdoms shall make war with the Lamb. But the Lamb shall overcome them, for He is King of kings and Lord of lords. Here we have, not the governmental dealings of God by angelic power, or in a providential way, but the Lamb Himself manifesting His power to the destruction of those who rise up against Him. But He is not alone. They that are with Him are called, chosen, faithful - the saints of God, not angels (though they may be too); angels are not called - with this war they have not to do. Of the waters we have already spoken. It is the influence of Rome over the populations.

Finally, the ten horns and the beast shall hate the whore, make her desolate and naked, and eat her flesh and burn her with fire. I think that this statement marks that the beast and the kingdoms' dealings with her are not instantaneous destruction in an historical point of view. God's final judgment at the end may be. They hate her. It is a change of mind and feeling which takes place as to her, and makes desolate and naked. There is progress in this: they deal actively with her; next they eat her flesh. This is more - they make her contemptible, expose her first; then deprive of her wealth and possessions, what formed her personal body; finally destroy herself, burn her with fire. They join the beast in this. Their mind, what was unnatural for these kingdoms, which might have been jealous of the beast, is governed by God, to unite all of them to give their kingdom and power to the beast; but this was not giving it to the woman. And the beast, being a power on his own score, they join in destroying the whore. The prophet then states in the distinctest language that it was Rome.

391 I think, then, that the statements as to Babylon imply a human desertion and confiscation of wealth first, and then the utter destruction. To this, I judge, Revelation 18 answers. It is a distinct vision; the display of power, not Christ, God's instrumental glory, yet signally displayed - he had great power, and the earth was lightened with his glory. The second verse, I apprehend, to be, not the finally utter destruction of what had been glorious Babylon, though anticipative of it in her evidently losing her pre-eminent place and fair show. "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit." This was not yet her ceasing to exist, though to exist in power and rule it was. Yet, I apprehend, this is only the general announcement of her judgment, when she loses her place of power; just as in Revelation 12 salvation and the kingdom was announced when Satan was precipitated from heaven. She had had the supremacy, by her idolatries and fornications, over the beast and the horns; she was now a cast-off harlot, degraded and fallen; and the beast is the leading power. The details then follow, where her burning with fire is not the first and immediate thing.

But before the final judgment (but I think, applicable at all times, when the character of Babylon is spiritually seen), God's people are urgently called to come out of her, that they may not partake in her sins, and so in her plagues. Hence, I think, the absence of precision is notable here, and like all difficulties in scripture, introductory to light. The time of destruction is precise enough. It is at the close of God's judgments, and before the coming forth of the Lamb. It is when the seventh angel has poured his vial into the air, for final judgment on the part of God (Rev. 16:17-19), and before the rising up of the beast and his armies against the Lamb coming from heaven as King of kings and Lord of lords. But the woman, as to her place and seat, could be pointed out to John then: not her state (Rev. 17:18). And if there was spirituality enough to discern, the mystery could be left (perhaps at the expense of life - all the blood of saints was found in her) at all times; Rev. 18:4.

392 But there is a special character and special time, the character that she rides the beast with seven heads and ten horns. A long while she contended, so to speak, with the beast, or it was wounded to death, and she took practically its place. Towards the end (having seduced the horns for years and centuries - her habitual character - and made the people drunk), she rides the beast, the beast having taken a blasphemous character, the woman drunken with the blood of saints. The beast had been, was not, and then appears again. The elements may have been there before, but when the subject of the vision is complete, you have ten horns during the same period with the beast, and at first the woman riding it, I suppose in this state, but I am not yet quite clear upon this point, when the beast has ascended out of the bottomless pit, that is, is directly under the guidance and influence of Satan. At first I have said, the woman rides the beast; but this changes, she loses her influence and power, and is deprived of her wealth and everything, and destroyed; and the beast acts, the horns having done with the woman, giving all their power to the beast in open opposition to the Lamb. The heavenly voice must be heard to get out of Babylon.

We may remark, that the saints are seen here entirely on governmental and, in this sense, Jewish grounds. Not that they are Jews; I speak of the spirit. They are called out to execute wrath. I do not at all believe any saints on earth do this work. Here the horns and the beast do it. But these judgments are the avenging of God's people, their cry has brought it. They rejoice in it as righteous judgment in their favour. Verse 6 is not, I think, an appeal to the saints to act necessarily (the "you" is left out after "rewarded"), but it is in the mind of the prophet in thinking of them. Evil comes suddenly on Babylon, though her burning is not the first thing; still I doubt not it is very rapid; famine for one literal day would not be much, but it comes in one day - "and she shall be burned with fire." The cry of this self-styled civilised world - all the classes of modern civilisation - is, however, on her burning. The ten horns are the ten kingdoms. The ten kings are the kings of those kingdoms which had committed fornication with her; these mourn, as all those interested in modern civilisation. The fall and the final ruin of this great system, of which Rome was the centre, is a grief and pain to them. The apostles and prophets rejoice: God has avenged them on her. Terrible judgment for her who had professed alone to have their teaching! Babylon would be violently thrown down, and not found any more. This is in allusion to Jeremiah 51, which I refer to as shewing that it is met by ordinary providential judgment - here perhaps, more summarily than ancient Babylon. Note the whole system of Western papal Europe is not punished for, but in, its wealth and civilisation.

393 No doubt this slighted Christianity had an apostate character - would order and moralise and embellish the world excluding Christ; but the idolatrous character of Rome was the cause of judgment. The nations, deceived by her sorceries, had turned wholly to this world, and their moral condition was met by a judgment falling on this state of civilisation and prosperity. There is no judgment on the merchants and kings and navigators; but they mourn the loss of the great city. The system is all broken up with her. The royal commercial civilised world falls with the upset of Rome, the people's power not: but it is given to the beast.

But another secret was found there by divine light: the blood of prophets and saints, and of all the slain upon the earth. She had corrupted the earth with her sorceries; this, though mysterious, was hardly a secret; but Babylon had inherited the sad place of fallen Jerusalem. The blood of saints, and prophets, was all of it found in her. Religion without God is the cruellest and most relentless enemy of all testimony to God. But she who was essentially characterised by this in the world, in whom all the blood of the slain was found, was now in her final judgment utterly and for ever destroyed.

In Revelation 19, I find, for the first time, a reason for praise given by others than the elders or body of saints, the church called up on high. But there this is intelligible because they praise for accomplished judgments, in which they are avenged. The elders and beasts only fall down, saying "Amen"; and worship. Those who praise speak of the salvation and power and glory of our God; so that they are in heaven as His heavenly saints, who are not the elders or beasts. They have suffered, and are in the place to celebrate the avenging of the blood of God's servants. Compare the souls under the altar, in chapter 6. Their joy is that Babylon is judged, and in fact, her smoke goes up continually.

394 God is here praised as on the throne, not as He that liveth for ever and ever. He is seen in government. A voice out of the throne then goes forth, but which associates him who speaks with the saints below. "Praise our God." I suppose that it is the voice of Christ; but what characterises it is that it comes out of the throne. It is a summons to praise, addressed from this centre of authority to all the servants, and whoever feared His name. We shall see the subject of it in their praise, which, on this summons, sounds forth as thunder. I should say "subjects," for there are two distinct, though connected, ones. Jehovah-Elohim-Shaddai is the subject of praise, according to the summons, "our God"; and the praisers are viewed as servants and fearers of His name, not the church or children as such. On the other hand if this thought be just, and it is the Lord, we see Christ associating Himself with the whole company of singers in heaven, not bearing the character of the church, and we get an insight into their place. The two subjects of the song are - "the Lord God omnipotent reigneth, and the marriage of the Lamb is come." One is "Hallelujah"; the other, "let us be glad and rejoice." These two indeed are, as to the setting up of divine government, the great elements of its establishment, direct and accessory in God's counsels. The Lord God omnipotent, Jehovah-Elohim Shaddai, the names of the Old Testament, are revealed in power. He has set aside all that He, as God, judged of corruption, and now was actually introducing Christ as King of kings, and Lord of lords, before whom the beast's power was to disappear.

But, further, He must have His bride, His spouse. No doubt His rule goes farther, but that is not the subject here. But the church must be associated with Him when He takes the power and the rule. He could not be alone in it, though He alone has the power and the rule. We have thus, in these verses, the source, Him whose authority He represents and wields, and the associate by the counsels of God; not yet the actual ruler coming forth - the Lord God omnipotent, and the Lamb's wife. The marriage of the Lamb was come, this purpose of God now accomplished, or in the act of being so; and "His wife had made herself ready." She was arrayed in fine linen, the righteousness of saints. Note, that this individual excellency adorns the whole church. We have then, indeed, another class - assistants, those called to the marriage-supper of the Lamb - I suppose all the saints gone up, save the church.

395 This closed the revelation here. The angel talking with John declares that these were the true sayings of God, and forbids the homage he was disposed to offer. He was a fellow-servant, and of those who had the testimony of Jesus; for the angels must serve Him. And (what might have been called in question, because of its different character, from the usual manner of the Holy Ghost acting as the witness of Jesus in the church), "the Spirit of prophecy was the testimony of Jesus." The proper testimony of Jesus was that of the apostles and Paul, and the Holy Ghost, in the church; but this prophetic part was the testimony of Jesus too.

Now heaven opens again. It opened on Jesus as Son of man and Son of God in the Gospels, the object of divine delight. It was opened to Stephen when the Son of man was standing on the right hand of God in heaven, which is the Christian state. And it is now opened for Jesus to come out as King of kings, and Lord of lords, to execute judgment and justice on the earth. Triumphant power as the operation of God first appears, and characterises the vision - a white horse. But there was one that sat on it called "Faithful"; such He had ever been, at all cost, to God, in the testimony of righteousness, in glorifying Him even to death, that His name might be made good. Obedient till it was given to Him to rise up and take the power, and "true," so that the witness of God which He did render was a perfect witness of all God was, and all His thoughts. His name was "Faithful and True." "Holy and True" was His name for Philadelphia, for us. This was what was subjectively needed for us - but now rewarded, and He coming forth as the faithful and true One. He now does not serve but judges in righteousness, and makes war on the power of evil in the same righteousness. His eyes had the piercing discerning power of judgment, many crowns were on His head.

But there was an essential glory in His person - a relationship to God which none knew but Himself. A name in God is a revelation of what He is, and in general of what He is in relation to others, as Almighty, Father. A name in one who takes a place under God is what He is towards God, or for Him. We have a name on the white stone which no one knows but he who has it. It is our special place and relationship in the favour of Jesus. So has Christ here. He has public names made good in all His ways, or displayed in glory; but He has also what is the expression, in that glory, of His secret relationship with the Father which none knew but He Himself. It is not without interest to have the analogy of our associations with Christ and His own in glory.

396 But other signs of what He was and other names remained yet to be noticed. He had a vesture dipped in blood. He came as the avenger. He tramples now the wine-press of God's wrath. It is not in the lowliness of humiliation, and to be trodden down by man that He comes; He comes to tread down in power. With this is associated another name - "The 'Word of God." "Faithful and True" would make good promises. The Word of God reveals God, but now in judgment according to what He had revealed Himself to be. "The word that I have spoken unto you, the same shall judge you in the last day." He was the Word of God, the perfect expression of that nature, which must have everything subject to itself. He was it when the expression of it awakened all the hostility of the flesh which hated the light. Still He made it good in this humiliation at all cost. He was it, declared God's righteousness and truth in the great congregation, did not refrain His lips. "I am altogether what I am also saying to you" - "the Word of God": but now, in judgment, making good this in power and vengeance against rebellious men, the children of disobedience to wisdom's voice. The armies which were in heaven followed Him. These had not the signs of treading the wine-press on them, but of declared accepted practical righteousness, while partakers of the triumph. They were on white horses also, but clothed in fine linen, white and clean. Next, the sword of the word goes out of His mouth to smite the nations. This is general. He judges by His word. Further, Psalm 2 is now fulfilled. He rules them with a rod of iron. The wine-press is the unmingled fierceness and wrath of Almighty God, which He executes. Lastly, He has on that which shews His public character in the world, His clothing, the title which He now takes in the world - "King of kings and Lord of lords." I do not know what the meaning of "on his thigh" is, unless the clothing be His bearing it in peaceful government, and His thigh, His bearing when He makes Himself bare for war.

The summons of verses 17 and 18 seem to be general. The angel stands in the place of universal and supreme authority, and summons the fowls of the air to the supper of the great God. I do not see that it specifically refers to the beast here; verse 19 does. We come back in it to the history of the beast. The kings of the earth are first, the ten kings. I cannot say that it is absolutely confined to them, but, I suppose, those under the influence of Rome. They come to make war against Christ and His heavenly armies. Satan had raised up the earth, into which he had been cast, against heaven. The issue was not doubtful. Deceive he may - never conquer. Both the beasts of chapter 13 (the second, now seen as false prophet) are taken, and cast into the lake of fire - its first victims. The rest are slain with the sword of Him that sat on the horse, the direct execution of judgment was Christ's alone; this was outward present judgment. The invited guests are satiated with prey. These armies of the beast formed, at any rate, a prominent part at this great supper of God. But this was not all. This was the public judgment of men by Him who was King of kings and Lord of lords.

397 But God was dealing in power after another manner, by divine, and to us unseen, instrumentality. An angel comes down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand - figures, of course. The dragon or serpent, the devil or Satan, the power of evil is laid hold of, bound for a thousand years, and cast into the prison that belongs to his nature, whence he cannot act on the earth: not the place of divine torment and punishment. Out of that he cannot come. But he was shut up, and a seal put upon him, so that he cannot deceive the nations till the thousand years of his confinement are over. After that he will be loosed a little season.

We are thus arrived at the beginning of the thousand years, Babylon, the mother of harlots, the corrupt worldly church on the earth, judged; making way for the heavenly one fully associated with Christ in the heavens. Professing worldliness done away, Satan's seat under the garb of Christianity. The beast, the power of antagonist evil, on the earth with the false prophet who had stirred it up in Jewish and Antichristian shape, is cast into the lake of fire. Satan is bound and shut up. Thus the source, and all the forms of corruption and violence, idolatry and apostasy, were swept away. This is a great act of powerful and mighty judgment. The storm of God has passed over the earth, and laid low all that opposed itself to it.

398 The thrones can now be occupied for judgment. Previously it was judgment in the way of war; now the session of right. It is not simply the throne. In Daniel 7 the thrones were set, but the Ancient of days alone is seen sitting, and thereupon the beast is judged, the Ancient of days Himself coming to execute it as we have seen here. (Compare Rev. 19:16 and 1 Tim. 6:14-16.) But now there are sitters on the thrones: amongst these, two classes are mentioned who might have seemed otherwise not to have had their place there - the witnesses slain for the testimony, and those who would neither worship the beast nor own him. All reigned with Christ a thousand years. All this is very simple. This composed the first resurrection, for there was another. A general resurrection is a thing wholly unknown to scripture.

This first resurrection fixed the state of those who had part in it. The second death had no claim on them. They are priests of God and of Christ. Note here, the language is all literal, we are out of the symbolical language of the book.

This once seen, the following verses require, in this short sketch of the book, few remarks to be made. The saints reign a thousand years with Christ over the earth. Satan is again let loose, deceiving the nations on earth (he never returns to heaven), and gathering them together against the camp of the saints and the beloved city (Jerusalem). judgment from God then closes the scene on earth. The working of Satan had separated between saints and the unconverted, who had remained mixed up together when no temptation was there. The devil is now cast from earth into the lake of fire, being finally judged, as before cast out of heaven and then subsequently shut up.

After this the great white throne of judgment is set. It was not now government; though in that there might be final righteous retribution - the judgment of the quick, as indeed it was as to the living who had rejected the testimony in Matthew 25, and of the beast and false prophet. But the present judgment was that of the secrets of men's hearts, and their answering for their works. Thus the saints had no part in it. Death and hades wholly lost their power, and for ever. This is the second death. Death and hades, being the power of evil in its effects, ceased to have a provisional and separate existence. That power which they exercised is now merged in the complete judgment. Death was death; it is fixed in the second. Hades is the closing up the soul in unseen darkness and separation from the light of life. As far as its effect on the natural man went, this was done, and finally, in the lake of fire. All that was in any way associated with death as an instrument referred to living man, that is, to man in the responsibility of the first Adam; all this was cast into final condemnation and separation from God - the most terrible of punishments. The second death had absorbed the first. Those who had escaped it were in the power of life in Christ. Satan, who had had the power of death, was himself under the power of this in the lake of fire. Whoever had not life in Christ was there too.

399 This closes the scene of this busy world - closes it finally, and for ever. In the first eight verses of the next chapter (Rev. 21) we have the wholly new creation, where God is all in all: a new earth and a new heaven, and no more sea. Some remarks are called for here. And, first of all, how little is revealed! The course and judgment of the state we are in, and the glory of the heavenly city, is so largely; but of the post-millennial state scarcely anything, save some great general principles, which mainly bear upon our present condition. "Sea" bears a general notion of what remains vague and unreclaimed, unsubject to man, not reduced into any order, or regularised relationship to God or amongst men. This exists no more. I suppose fully this will be physically true, and many appropriate physical changes would be associated with it; but into this I do not venture myself. Atmosphere would cease - human life, by breathing and blood. I refrain, the rather, as it is simply negative, and, I think, meant to be so. The imperfect waste of tumultuous separation would have no existence there. All would be connected and in order. Further we get the heavenly city (the Lamb's bride, the assembly) coming down to be the tabernacle of God amongst men - not a special people, but the glorified church, the seat of His power and presence amongst men. It is not said how these are changed to be ever there, or what their peculiar state. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor corruption inherit incorruption. More we cannot say: only God "dwells with" (not "tabernacles over," as in Revelation 7) men. They are His people, and He Himself shall be with them and their God. The whole family of man, redeemed men, have this relationship, such, after all, as angels, cannot boast of; though more glorious in other respects, they are never called His people. Previous orderings of this, such as Israel and the temple, were only premonitory and preparatory to this great and blessed position. But His temple we are. The church never loses its own proper and peculiar place, but the two forms of blessing - the temple or tabernacle, the dwelling-place of God, and the people of God, positions brought out in the church and Israel - are maintained for ever. Only Israel was more figurative and passing than the assembly, because it was in flesh, the church not. All sorrow would here have ceased for ever.

400 This reproduction and connection of the two systems of Israel and the church is full of interest, and gives a great moral importance to each. In their nature they last for ever. But it is in perfect peace and joy - the former things are passed away. All, save the fact of eternal life, is provisional now. They are ways, dealings of God with what is creation and failing, an admirable occasion of the display of His grace and all He is, but not in and for itself as such, the fruit of His absolute and only work, what He has produced. Now it is - "Behold I make all things new." Sorrow He owns, and wipes away its tears. It was a right thing in the disorder of sin. Christ was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Death was there too; and Christ, in grace, underwent death. He must come divinely under all that evil had brought in, that God might be owned as forgiving it, glorified as to it, and good have the victory over all evil. This made His work so profound and glorious, so complete in itself, and for the glory of God, whence man in Him has entered into the divine glory: so He states it in John 13:31, connecting it with previous glory in chapter 17:4, 5.

I return to my remarks on the passage. There are a new heaven and a new earth, and no more sea. I do not look for more than the atmospheric heaven here - the connected system of heaven (not heavens) and earth, Ephesians and Colossians heavens, here heaven - the first were passed away. The second verse, I take as characteristic - the city was the true holy city, New Jerusalem; it was not human or earthly. It came down from God - out of heaven, and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, fit for Christ as to what she was apparelled in, still characteristic, not historic. The bride was married long ago, before the heaven and earth passed away; verses 3-5 already noticed are the earthly character and state of things: God's tabernacle with men, they His people, and He their God and with them. He wipes away all tears - they belonged to the former state. Death is no more; that, too, belonged to the former state. Sorrow, crying, pain, are all gone; they were former things. Verse 8 closes the statement, and applies it to conscience now. It is the God who sat on the throne, but now His working and ways are done. He is the beginning and end of all. Two principles are thus stated as belonging to His ways: first, whoever is athirst gets of the water of Life freely; secondly, he that overcomes shall inherit all things. God will be his God, and he will be His son. The free power of life is to the comer, the blessing to the overcomer. But, if there was giving way through fear, unbelief, and sin, the lake of fire, the second death, was their portion - not death because of sin in Paradise, not terrible judgments on the earth, but the second death because of casting away and rejecting the truth when grace had come in.

401 This closes the history of the book. What follows is a description of the heavenly city when the Lamb is there; and His glory made manifest. It is the city, but the city in its millennial relationships with the earth. It is presented, too, in the character of millennial association, not of the verses 1-8, last considered. It is the bride, the Lamb's wife. It is description, not history, which, as often remarked, closes in verse 8. The description is given here as that of Babylon (Rev. 17). The prophet gets, figuratively, a vantage point of view, like Moses, and like the Lord Himself from Satan. He first describes it all from without, as it appears; then its nature - what he did not see in it, but the absence of which is of immense importance. Lastly, we have what is more prophetic declaration than vision. It has the glory of God - immense truth! "We rejoice in hope of the glory of God its display and its dwelling-place shall be in us. The light of the city was such; for He that sat on the throne was like a jasper stone; now it shines forth clear as crystal in unsullied brightness, even when displayed in the redeemed assembly. It is in perfect security, figured here according to the image of a city, a wall great and high. There is the perfection of administrative order and power in the creation, twelve gates. As we saw of the idea of people (v. 3), it had been foreshadowed in Israel, and the names of the twelve tribes are found here. The foundations, however, were not the patriarchs, but the twelve apostles of the Lamb. They were the foundation of all Christian governmental and administrative power.

402 We may remark here, that though, of course, the bride is the same, it is not in its Pauline character, the one body, but in its governmental, as founded in connection with, and an offspring of, the Jewish and earthly system, just as the child was born of the woman. It is a city, not a body. We now get its proper perfection. It is measured with its gates and its walls. It is finitely perfect. It is four square - the length as large as the breadth - its platform was perfect. It was twelve thousand furlongs, the number twelve again marking the administrative perfection in man, only largely multiplied in fact; but it was as complete as its platform was perfect. It was a cube, not merely a square - a circle or sphere has neither beginning nor end - a square and cube are equal in every dimension, but each line ends. They are finite perfection; the square in principle; the cube in completeness also. The wall has its perfection, 12 x 12. It is not divine in its nature - it is the measure of a man, though God measures it by the angel. The wall, its security, is divine glory. The jasper here, is not spoken of as clear. It were out of place. The city is divine righteousness and fixed unalterable purity; as it is said: - "after the image of him that created him," "and in righteousness and true holiness."

Next, the foundations of the wall are garnished with precious stones. Besides the general idea of every character of beauty, there is the special character, elsewhere remarked, of the stones - the variegated display of colours into which light transforms itself, when seen through a medium, when God is revealed in and by the creature, or in connection with his state - in creation, intercessional representation, and here, in glory. The names of the apostles were in the foundation which God had laid for the security of the city, as they had displayed the truth on which that rests, but the varied display of the light of God was found therein. The beauty and comeliness which delights Christ in the church,, meet the eye at once when arriving at the city. The gates were each one pearl. Within, and where one walked, was righteousness and true holiness, as the very character and nature of the city itself. There was no temple seen. God displayed His glory - the place of His worship, unclouded, unhidden. God's glory lit it up, and it was in the Lamb that glory centred and shone. This closes the direct description of the beauty and glory of the city itself. What follows is what belonged to it, in relation to others, and what was enjoyed in it.

403 Within the city, the glory of God gives light, and the Lamb is its light-giver. The nations walk in the light of the city itself. That heavenly glory now enlightened the earth. They have it, not directly; but the sight of the church in glory is a yet more fitting, more instructive sight to them. They learn what faithful ones have got, what the humiliation of Christ implies. They will know how the Father sent the Son, how those whom the world rejected were loved as Christ was loved. They will have Christ in His glory and joy in His reign, but they cannot learn the other truths in the millennial state, nor can they, therefore, learn them directly. It would not be suited. They learn them in the church, in glory. The kings bring their glory there to it (not "into it"). Its exalting is owned by them, and they honour it as the place of honour. Nothing defiled enters, no idolatry, no falsehood. It cannot be corrupted as the assembly on earth. It rests not on man's responsibility, but on God's power, and redemption, of which it is the heavenly fruit.

We now come to the descending blessings which are its blessings, but which flow down on earth. Note here, the throne of God and the Lamb are now in it. That throne, which was acting in judgment to bring about blessing, was now fixed in the heavenly city; but it is not the seat of judgment now. The river of water of life flows out of it - divine life - giving blessing. The Lamb still holds its place in the scene, and it is the throne of the Lamb as well as of God. The reader will remark that now for the first time it is called the throne of the Lamb. We had the throne of God, and the Lamb in the midst of it, but the throne distinct from the Lamb. It was He that sits on the throne. In chapter 21:1-8 God is all in all. But here we have the throne, the Lamb's throne as well as God's and the time and the character of the time distinctly marked.

Next, we have the tree of life, the constant supply in the street., and on either side the river, ready for all to enjoy, ever fresh, the full ripe fruit of life as Christ has displayed it. The outward manifestation of this, its leaves were to heal the nations. Evil was not absolutely gone below, though its power was, but remedy was there. Curse there was none at all. This was wholly gone. The throne of God and the Lamb was there: there could not be a curse. But His servants should serve Him. Observe how God and the Lamb are thrown into unity here. His servants (God's and the Lamb's) shall serve Him and shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads, that is, they shall be evidently and avowedly His. These are the three characteristics of the waiting people in glory: they serve Him directly and perfectly; they see His face directly and fully; their connection with, and confession of, His name are complete and evident. Doubtless this is God, but we cannot at all separate the Lamb, for when it is said "His name," it is God, so known as revealed in Him. This is deeply and blessedly characteristic, and, indeed, so it is of the whole book, save the mysterious angelic part; and then the Lamb opens and introduces it, so that the same truth shines out more fully. Thus what the Lamb is, the suffering and enthroned One, shines out. Night or obscurity there is none there, nor need of artificial or even created light. Jehovah-Elohim gives them light, and they reign for ever and ever. This is not, I apprehend, their reign with Christ, but the statement of their glory and joy which will never cease. "Ye have reigned as kings without us," says the apostle. This was false. That will be true and eternal.

404 This closes the book. There are, however, concluding observations, besides what is said to the church, from verse 16, which require some notice. The angel declares the truth of all this, and adds, the Lord God has sent His angel to show to His servants things that must shortly come to pass. This last expression must be noticed. It is one of the difficulties of the book. The same expression is used in the first verse. But I do not think that the whole key to the expression is in the fact that it begins with Ephesus and is a whole. In God's mind the church had failed as a witness. The time was come for judgment to begin at the house of God. Hence whatever the patience of God, there was no more time recognised till judgment was executed, save 1260 days which belong in fact to a period marked out in Jewish chronology. Perhaps I should say, that the church which belongs to heaven having lost this character and left its first love, and Christ having hence taken a judicial character in view of its earthly testimony, the time of taking up computed time and judgment was a question of divine patience - might be at any moment there. If it were not, it was grace, working as long as love could produce blessing, while all was, in spite of mercy, ripening for judgment. But the Lord warns that He was coming quickly - "Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book."

405 Here again, we may apply all the book, provided we see the church in its responsibility, and not in its connection with Christ as its Head. Christ is viewed as coming in reference to responsibility. To such prophecy applies - the hope of His coming to receive us up is another thing. It is hope, not responsibility and warning. His coming, in connection with responsibility, is always His appearing; and the church, though doubtless saved and coming with Him, stands on the same ground as the world, that is, of the consequences of its conduct. Hence the difference is not made here, though from chapter 4 the book be more directly prophetic. This verse applies to those who have the book. The testifying angel again rejects the proffered worship. Surely this has reference to the time the book treats of when the very position of the church as connected with the Head being out of view, holding the Head by Christians would tend to give place to excessive reverence for the higher instruments of God's government, in whom He used to reveal Himself, and above which the minds of Christians did not go. In both cases here the worship was proffered when the witness has closed, saying - "These are the true sayings of God." But the angel does more than refuse the worship: he is a fellow servant, the prophet is to worship God. Now God has ceased thus to reveal Himself angelically. Not only has God alone the title to be worshipped, but it in man He has revealed Himself. We know this by faith.

The close of this book contemplates its public manifestation. The angels have their own known place for the Christian in service, as creatures of course, not objects of worship, not the beings or form in which God reveals Himself, never mediatorial intercessors and not for the Christian those in whom God is seen; and, once Christ is glorified as man, not even administrative authorities though ever willing servants. God I worship, Christ I worship, because He is God and Lord. In Him God is perfectly revealed. He with the saints, that is, Redeemer, Ruler, will govern and inherit all things. All here, even the prophet, are servants. The sayings of this book were not to be sealed as Daniel's were. That was in place. The fulfilment was to come out in the last days. Between, all the wonderful church or heavenly system was to come in, and what was .revealed was to be sealed till this; and the decay of this on earth, which let in these earthly ways of God again, had made it timely by the speedy taking up again of these ways. Now that is exactly what we have here. The professing church got into the place of judgment and the divine preparation made, the Lamb being seen in the throne and opening the book, for the fulfilling the things which had to be sealed in Daniel's time. Hence the book was not to be sealed, for the time is at hand. The time in view in it was not that of restoring grace, of the gospel but of judgment, of man's responsibility, in which there is no change in man. Even in the churches, which is not the strictly prophetic part of the book, those who hear and are righteous in the churches, are directed and guided in the way, but supposed to be already righteous. Still, here, I doubt not the closing scenes are looked to, and the saints to whom the prophecy is addressed, as already such.

406 The Lord was coming to judge, and quickly. Verse 7 addresses itself in warning to those engaged in the circumstances of the book itself, and the things are shortly to be done. Here, in verses 10-14, all is closed. The Lord is coming to judge every one according to their works, and their state is viewed as a fixed one. Hence, in verse 13, He closes all with His own nature, as First and Last. Verses 14, 15, need not be confined, I apprehend, to those who form the city itself, but include all those who, having washed their robes (I think Codex Sinaiticus has confirmed this reading), have the right to the of life, and enter in through the gates of pearl into the city: redemption, leading to life, and fitting for a state lovely in grace in Christ's eyes, what meets the entering person at once, and for association with divine holiness and righteousness. This, even the blood of Christ and the sanctification of the Spirit, is the foundation of the blessing of all who are blessed. Without are the evil and the violent, the corrupt and the idolatrous. In Revelation 21:8 it is final judgment; here it is exclusion.

This wholly closes the book; and Jesus presents Himself as such to the prophet, as revealing all this for the churches. He comes personally forward, still in connection of course with the subject of the book, as the Source and Heir of the promises of Israel, and as the One known to the faith of the church and none else - a heavenly One, not the day for this world, but the Bright and Morning Star for those who watch in the night. Whatever the state of the professing church might be, this remained true and bright for hope, and the brighter, the darker all seemed to be. It is no announcement of coming or warning now, but Christ's announcing Himself, "I, Jesus" announcing what He is for the Jews, and what He is for the church. When what He is for the church, her special portion in Him, is named, all the affection of the church in her own relationship is awakened: indeed what love produced in her in ever respect, as animated by the Spirit which dwells in her. Indeed He is first named. The position of the church is this: she has the Spirit, and longs for Christ. "The Spirit and the bride say, Come." It is not merely affection or a wish, but the mind of the Spirit as down here on the earth.

407 The church looks for Christ, for Himself and herself, in the consciousness of her own relationship. No doubt, it will be blessing for the world. That, she enters into and delights in; but Christ Himself is before her mind. Thus her heart, or the Spirit speaking in the prophet as associated personally with her in position and testimony, turns round in love, first to him who hears; let him who has received the testimony of Jesus say "Come." That is the thing to desire. After Christ Himself, the Spirit first turns to them that are His; then to any one who has an awakened desire and need of soul, "Let him that is athirst"; then in the power of that love with which the church is filled, and with which the Spirit works, "Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely." The church longs for Christ, but she has the full stream of life already. She says to every soul, "Whosoever will, let him come"; not to me, as Jesus alone could. Still she possesses the water, and invites to come as freely as she has enjoyed. In a word, we get the full place of the church and her testimony while waiting for Christ, and for nothing else, and thus for Him directly. This desire the Lord meets then. "He which testifieth these things, saith, Surely I come quickly"; and this satisfies the heart of the saints. "Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus." A solemn sanction is added to the authority of the book, and to maintain its integrity. The book of life is not life, but the presumed and apparent possession of it as inscribed among professing Christians.

I have thus attempted a sketch of the book in its structure and meaning. To complete this, something might be said of its historical application, at least as warning as to the present time, and perhaps something of a vocabulary of symbolical language.

[END OF EXPOSITORY - VOLUME 2.]