Fragmentary Thoughts on Revelation

J. N. Darby.

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{For the remaining papers in this series, the reader is referred to the Editor's Note, Vol. 12, page 1. They are mainly notes of Addresses, not known to have been revised by the Author, save where this is specially indicated.}

Revelation 6 and 7

The ways of God with the church and with the world are always intended to have a practical application to our own individual souls. The expectation of the coming of the Lord changes the moral bearing of everything. There may be many a detail we are incompetent to explain, but we get from God a positive revelation which gives another aspect to all else. "The wise shall understand." Knowledge is not given for the sake of mere increase, but to "profit withal." There are general principles which set the church right on many things. If I have been working for the conversion of the world through the spread of the gospel, what a different thought is presented in the three unclean spirits, like frogs, gathering the whole world together to fight against God!

In teaching we never should say anything that we did not feel to be God's mind; and even then, of course, we might be mistaken in what we believed to be true. A great question has been raised as to the prophetic part of this book. Does it apply to the whole period of the church of God, from the beginning onward to the close; or does it give the character of God's dealings with the earth in the great crisis in which the church is not involved at all after the first chapters? I feel quite clear that it is not about the church, but about the world. The book is given to the church, but it does not in the strictly prophetic parts apply to the church. This part shews us the elders looking down from heaven, seeing things which are going to happen to others, not to themselves. It is a history of God's future dealings with the earth.

When Abraham was on the mountain, God came and told him what was going to happen on the plain, things in which he himself was not at all concerned. This thought is of great importance, because, with the thought of being in the judgments, no wonder we should be like the men spoken of in Luke 21, whose hearts fail for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth. "Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked," Psalm 91. When Abraham rose in the morning (blessed morning for us!) and saw the smoke of the cities going up, where was he? On the mountain, where he had stood before the Lord, and where the Lord had talked with him. Our place is not like Noah, floating on the waters while the judgments are abroad. For him it was a question of being moved with fear and preparing an ark to the saving of his house; but we are destined by grace to be as Enoch, after walking with God here, looking down from heaven on things below. He prophesied of the Lord coming "with ten thousand of his saints"; but his own portion was on high. There will be a remnant on earth saved as by fire through the judgments; but this is not the church. What a place this puts the heavenly saints into! What a character it gives to the Christian who should be ever expecting Christ! We are not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world; we are quickened and risen with Him. By-and-by we are to be caught up in our place as associated with Christ, before He visits the earth to make inquisition for the blood that has been shed from righteous Abel to the blood of Zacharias. What God is going to do upon the earth is not our happiest study, but it helps to keep our affections set on the right objects. The Christian can say to those who are busying themselves about the politics, the riches, the hopes, the improvements, of the world, See where your world is going to end! it is not my world at all. There may be a carnal seeking for detail in the study of this book, but to know these things from God solemnises the heart, and puts the world into its proper background as a doomed system. God does communicate His purposes to us now, as He did of old, to Abraham.

195 In chapter 6 we have the course of the six seals. At the seventh trumpet the whole thing finishes; chap. 11:18. The scene in chapter 10 is parenthetical; it has this place given in the general history, but it is the last great scene, which is afterwards more fully unfolded. It shews Christ's title to dominion and power. From chapter 11:19, to the end of chapter 14, we have a series of subjects. In chapter 12 is disclosed the secret agency, or the dramatis personae, as men say. The springs and source of all the evil, and the hidden cause of the final crisis are here explained. Chapter 13 gives the providential instrumentality under the instigation of Satan in the worldly and the religious powers. Chapter 14 is God's dealing in judgment with respect to all these, and in testimony, with the results also. Chapter 15 is another scene altogether. The sea of glass mingled with fire shews us the martyrdom of the faithful remnant. With this is connected chapters 16 in which the vials, which are God's wrath, are filled up and poured out. Then we have in chapter 17 and 18, Babylon connected with the beast, and her judgment. Above, we see in chapter 19 the marriage of the Lamb, and then the Lamb coming to execute His judgment, preparatory to the closing scene of blessing on the earth during the millennium, followed by the eternal state.

196 To get the moral influence and right understanding of these things, it is most important to remember that the church is a heavenly body connected with the Lamb in heaven. I believe there has been, in a certain measure, a lengthened accomplishment of the opening of the seals. This is a general principle in scripture. Thus our Lord could say, "If ye will believe it, this was Elias which was for to come." John said, "even now are there many antichrists," but this was in no wise the fulfilment of all that was true about the Antichrist. It was not yet the person, but it was evil and error which had the moral stamp of him who was coming. Antichrist is the great characteristic of the "last times," growing out of the corruption of the last good thing that God brought in before judgment. When the heavenly thing that God sent into the world, was, as a dispensation, spoiled, Antichrist entered. "He is the Antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son"; he also denies that Jesus is the Christ. It is the activity of the false spirit, instead of the true. Could anything more be revealed than the Father and the Son? The presence of many antichrists was not the accomplishment of the coming of Antichrist, but it was and is a state which answers in spirit and character to it. When such a state is tried to be proved to be the full accomplishment (as in the historical scheme), Christ is not put in His right place in connection with it all. But, from this book doubtless, we may discern the elements of all that evil which will hereafter be ripened - the principles now, but not the accomplishment till by-and-by. The spirit of Babylon is in Popery: but Popery exclusively is not Babylon. We go morally wrong as to what God is about, if we do not keep in view the great end which He is unfolding in the Revelation, namely, the introduction of Christ into the world as the "First-begotten," and this, too, as the "Faithful Witness," after the failure of the church to be the true witness.

The great thing is to know, by God's teaching, what God is occupied with. Suppose David had gone and put the ark into the tabernacle after Ichabod had been written upon it, it would not have been piety, however it might have been thought so; to do so, would have been like going back and saying, "It is not Ichabod." God was going to supplant the tabernacle and set up the temple. The ark had been carried into captivity, and God had let it go. How could it have gone into captivity without Him? as David says, "He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, and delivered. his strength into captivity, his glory into the enemies' hand" (Ps. 78:60-61), and this because He had given up the people. This is all simple to him who understands. "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those that are revealed belong to us." If a person is not spiritual, he cannot understand: he has no moral or spiritual power to discern God's mind. But where there is spiritual discernment, things get simple and clear as daylight. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant." Where there is the fear of the Lord, there will be the understanding of His word and mind. But the word of God will not be simple without subjection to Him.

197 We will now turn to the progress of the evil as it will be in the latter day. The first thing is the general providential coming in of trouble and sorrow. Symbols are a regular language, conveying certain universal ideas. It is important we should be clear as to the abstract principle. The sun, for instance, used in scripture continually, as a symbol means supreme power. It is said, "the sun of righteousness shall arise," etc.; but it may not be always used for Christ. Sometimes it may be used of God's enemy; Ezek. 32:7. It simply means the ruler of a given system. Trees, thus employed, signify the greatest in a kingdom as distinguished from the grass. The horse denotes imperial power in aggressive exercise; and a white horse is that power victorious. Thus victorious, subjugating power, whether of Christ, or Antichrist, etc., might be represented as a white horse. Other features enter and decide who is meant.

In chapter 6:2, the rider on the white horse goes forth conquering and to conquer. Then war comes on (v. 4). Then comes a "black horse": here we see anxiety as to provisions. The colour denotes mourning. Verse 8, is the "pale horse." It is distress among nations, closing in with God's accumulating judgments, famine, etc. - what He calls His "four sore judgments" in Ezekiel. Then the fifth seal opens to us what has been going on in the earth. It is a very definite scene. We see the souls of those who had been slain like victims for God; therefore they are under the altar of burnt-offering. Mark what they say, for this shews who they are: they cry for vengeance. They who have been killed for God at the time meant are in the spirit of retribution. They have not the blessed hope of being taken up to glory, but they cry, "How long dost thou not avenge our blood, on them that dwell on the earth?" They had been mixed up with the dwellers upon earth; they have suffered from them, and it is upon these they cry for judgment. It is a blessed thing to see divine deliverance from the power of evil on the earth. In Psalm 94 we see the same thing, in a lower measure, but the same spirit. "O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself … Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee?" God was going to set up the throne at Jerusalem, and these godly ones caught the tone of the coming day. We do not say, "How long shall the wicked triumph?" (though we anticipate in spirit the Lord's setting aside of evil) but, How long before Thou takest us to Thyself? How long before Thou takest Thy bride to be with Thee in heaven? The difference is very great, and so are the practical results in communion and ways. And mark another thing, They are told that they must wait. They find their place, and the white robe is given them, but they have to wait until others are killed, and the number fulfilled (that is, those who would not worship the beast, chapter 15). They have thus a partial answer, but not a full one yet. The sentence of judgment is not executed yet, because iniquity is not filled up to the uttermost. They are getting the silent fruit of righteousness and their place above, but not judgment, because there is a distinct epoch to come in before. In chapter 20:4, the other class is completed, and then there can be judgment to the uttermost.

198 As to verses 12, etc., this is not the appearing of the Lord, which is much more terrible, as we see in Revelation 1:7; ch. 19:18. He will come like lightning, and His presence thus will be worse than all the earthquakes that ever were. He will come to tread His enemies Himself; whereas verse 12 described one of a series of providential events which awakens the uneasy dread of that day. They are panic-struck. Everything that seemed steady and stable is moved and overturned; and this not merely among the crowd. The "stars of heaven" here are the powers of the world, the symbols of subordinate governments. The kings of the earth and the great men hide themselves from the face of Him, that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. But it is not the Lord who tells them He is coming; their consciences utter this in their terror. Here is a plain proof that the seventh seal is not yet opened; the wrath of God not filled up. But we get the close of God's providential dealings with the earth. Then follows the public, open history of the Roman imperial world, that would be set up. Last of all, the final blasphemy of the beast against God must be dealt with in judgment.

199 Before the judgment comes out, the Lord shews His saints all cared for. In the first eight verses of chapter 7 we see the sealing of the elect 144,000 of Israel 12 being a mystic number). In verse 9, onwards, we see the countless company out of every nation under heaven. These are distinct from the elders who have intelligence. One of the elders says, "these are they which come out of the great tribulation." The church always has intelligence. "We have the mind of Christ." What are the blessings of this remnant? Simply relief. They have neither joy nor intelligence like the elders. It would be a great comfort to have rest in this way, but that is all. They have been through tribulation, and they shall now have no more of it; but we do not find them filled with the Spirit, worshipping in the fulness of joy: "Thou art worthy," etc. By-and-by will be fulfilled in the crisis of the world the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be delivered out of it. So will these Gentiles also. They cry, "Salvation to our God which sitteth on the throne and unto the Lamb." This is to me a proof that it is not the church here speaking, for there is nothing of the Father. The place and character given to their salvation is that it is from God upon the throne. It is real salvation, of course, but of a different character. It is not they who go in with Christ into the Father's house, or are coming with Christ to the judgment. It is the throne of judgment, and God has delivered them from the great tribulation: "Therefore are they before the throne of God," and "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." In the gospel we may say God is doing all this for us now; He wipes away all tears from their eyes, and gives rest to our hearts now. Tears we may have for others, but not for ourselves. The saints are going in triumph to heaven; they even sit with Christ in the heavenly places, while here. They have got nearer to God in a different revelation from this. They have lived near Christ - members of His body; in an atmosphere which this language will not suit.

200 How much our hearts should seek while seeing God's government and care, to get into the peaceful, happy consciousness of the place that Christ has given us; that our souls may live in the enjoyment of our common portion in Christ. It is not vengeance we look for, or such deliverance as this, but Himself. The soul, knowing this, has a quiet, happy, peaceful sphere, separated from all around. It does not want the world, nor the things of the world. It can say, "I know whom I have believed." "To depart and be with Christ is far better," not for a term to our sorrow, but that the very radiance of Christ may shine in full power into the soul. Stephen, looking up, saw heaven opened, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. It is a terrible world we are passing through: vanity that attracts the flesh, and misery that rakes the heart. But in Christ we get that which makes the vanity tinsel. When Jesus walked through the world He saw nothing but trouble and misery in it, while He came to bring in blessing: "He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Alas! for the man who is not this, but finds pleasure in vanity, and that which is contrary to Christ. It is not with ill-will, not with scorn, that the saint looks at this poor world, but his heart is weaned from it, and he does not want it. A heart that is weaned from the world can pity what is great in it, if Christ is not known, and can comfort where there is sorrow, because he can speak of Christ as the remedy who came to pour oil and wine into the rent sin has made: he can pity what is great, because it is not Christ, and he can comfort what is sorrowful because it is Christ. Let us seek to get through this world in His spirit and mind, carrying Him with us.

Revelation 11 and 12

We find ourselves here in the midst of Jewish circumstances, not earthquakes, horsemen, etc., as before, but the ark, the covenant, Moses and Elias testimony, etc. The reason is simple, namely, the government of the earth is connected with Israel. Israel is the centre of Gentile blessing and judgment. The church is in heavenly places with Christ, but the object round which all God's ways on earth centre is Israel (See Deut. 32:8.) There we see the grand centre round which He portioned the nations at first. (See also verse 15.) They forgot God, His anger is stirred, He scattered them among their enemies. Then, verse 36, the Lord turns His hand again upon them for good. He has mercy on His heritage, and then judges the Gentiles. (Read to verse 43.) To this point of the history we have now arrived; but the subject of Revelation is judgment upon the apostate part of the Gentiles, not the Gentiles generally. It is where the light shined and has been rejected. Here in the true sense of the word are adversaries, and we have to notice the rebellious character of this apostasy, and Jew, Gentile and church of God (so-called) are in open opposition to Him who has the right to reign. The time will come when there will be only a passive testimony for God, in those who refuse to worship the beast; and as the iniquity ripens, there will be no testimony for God at all, when those who are in Judea will flee to the mountains.

201 Let us turn and see in this chapter 11 the condition in which Israel will be in that day, then the Gentiles themselves, and the testimony of God to them then. When God begins to measure in this way (v. 1), there is something to measure, but there is something left out: God says, there is something I own as My portion. First, those who are worshippers are taken account of, those who have a priestly character; they are not going with the multitude, but are within. All this language is connected with Jews; the locality is the holy place, properly so called, and the people are those who own the true God, and all the rest is given up to the Gentiles; the holy city is given up to be trodden down of the profane.

Verse 3. God has a witness. It is not the gospel but His power over the earth. It is not the same testimony now, for He is gathering out a people to be to the praise of the glory of His grace. In these witnesses, we see there are not only those in priestly character, but prophets, and they are in sorrow - they prophesy in sack-cloth: opposition is their portion, and it is for a limited period.

Daniel 9:24. Bear in mind that Israel were to be cast aside until he saw what the end would be. In Daniel we never find the blessing fully given. Daniel is in the place of a remnant, and sees the blessing just about to be brought in. Millennial blessedness is not yet come. Here the thing closes at sixty-nine weeks, the last week is wanting. Afterwards the prince comes, not Messiah, but the anti-messiah for the overspreading, etc. He will make alliance with the Jews (the first half-week), and in the midst will be the overspreading of desolation, utter desolation comes in because of this idolatry or abomination in Israel. Idolatry will come in to Israel (Isa. 66:17), sanctifying themselves behind one tree in the midst, etc. There is an interval, how long we know not ("it is not for you to know the times and the seasons") between the rejection of Christ and His coming again; Dan. 11. Desolations are determined, the history of the evil is narrated, the ships of Chittim shall come; and in verse 33 of that chapter, the expression "days" alludes to the present - it is a picture of what is going on, and we are now in the unlimited period signified by the expression "days." The week, which remains to be fulfilled after the interval, is taken up in the Revelation.

202 The mission of the two witnesses (Rev. 11) is not to preach the gospel, but they come with the testimony that Christ is Lord of the earth. There is a God that judgeth in the earth. It is true that God's eternal righteousness is connected with the Man in heaven, for the only righteous One has been rejected from earth and accepted in heaven, and now the angels are learning the manifold wisdom of God through the church, His body, down here. Then He will turn round and shew that He has a right on the earth, and He will not give it up. Then He says to His people as in Isaiah, "Come ye into your chambers," etc. This claim the men of the earth will not hear, and as soon as God gives His two witnesses leave, they devour them with fire (v. 5).

There is an allusion to Zechariah in the account of these two witnesses. Zechariah shews how this is all set up in order in Israel (Zech. 4): the candlestick of gold and a bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps thereon, and everything is in its place. The source of the two olive-trees is shewn - Christ in Melchisedec order, ministering the oil; shewing that Jehovah takes the name of God over all the earth, maintaining the brilliancy of the testimony, and the Jewish people as the candle of God's government. In Revelation we do not get the establishment of them on the earth, and therefore there is opposition: it is the time which precedes their establishment We find that the character of the testimony of these two witnesses is judgment: "let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness" - there are two witnesses, "that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established." Verse 5, there is present, living, manifest power against the people that oppose them. Elijah-power is first, and what was that? The testimony of God in an apostate people. Moses-power is last; turning everything into death. As the Mosaic plagues characterised the testimony in the midst of an oppressed Israel, so when they are captive amongst the Gentiles in the last days, there will be the same kind of testimony. Then as soon as the Lord has given an adequate testimony, they are given over to believe a lie: there is power from beneath permitted to influence them. The beast comes out with Satanic power. All power comes down from heaven. "The powers that be are ordained of God," magistrates, etc.; even Pilate's power to crucify Jesus was of God, as the Lord said, "Thou couldst have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above." But the question is, what use did he make of it? But in the day that is coming, after the witnesses are removed, the power will come from beneath, from the devil.

203 The judgment then becomes alarming, and after the Spirit of God has raised up the witnesses, and they have ascended to heaven, the remnant being affrighted (not converted) give glory to the God of heaven. But it is too late. No wonder the Lord says of that time, it is such as never was, and except those days should be shortened there should no flesh be saved. These prophets tormented them that dwell on earth; the "remnant are affrighted." There is alarm at the judgments disclosed, but no reception of the testimony. There is zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. The Jews had this before, and how did they shew it? By killing the disciples and thinking they were doing God service, because they knew neither the Father nor the Son. There was nothing but the fruit of alarm in them, as in Judas when he went and hanged himself. They give glory to the God of heaven, but they should have given glory to Him as God of the earth.' We see in the chapter a very special definite form of evil and also of good, and the centre is Jerusalem.

In the seventh trumpet nothing is entered into, because it is the opening of the seven vials. Faith anticipates the blessing coming - no woe here. He is going positively to reign, and have things His own way. Would God have such a world as this is now, if He had taken to Himself His great power and reigned? His patient grace is being exercised, but not His right to reign asserted. The nations are angry, and that is what His coming produces. "Thy wrath is come." They see the whole result of God's taking all into His own hand. If the wrath is come, who are the objects of it? (v. 18).

204 The last verse of this chapter is connected with chapter 12 and in it we get two things: the ark of His covenant symbolical of God's faithfulness to Israel; and earthquakes and judgments on the earth.

The outline of chapter 12 shews the same thing as we have noticed in others: God's purpose of bringing in the First-begotten into the world. We must know the value of the symbols, to be able to understand the language at all. The sun always means supreme power - the woman is clothed with sovereign power. Christ is to be born of her - clearly not of the church. The church is the woman out of the man, but Christ is the man out of the woman. The church is the Eve, the woman taken out of the man. Here we have the man born of the woman, and it is a far more blessed thing to be in the position of the church than of this woman. But Christ was born of Israel. The moon is seen under her feet: all the passing phases which have been her glory are all done with - Judaism in its old form is gone completely. The twelve stars are all its administrative power in perfection, subordinate power.

Verse 3 has in it the principle of strength out of weakness. It is the Roman Empire historically, but literally Satan's power. It has ten horns, not seven, and not the human administrative perfection of twelve. The child that is to rule does nothing at all, being caught up to God, and the woman who is to be the centre of God's power is hidden in the wilderness. The church is included in the Man, all through the Old Testament; Isaiah 50, etc.

Satan's being deprived of a place in heaven, causes him to stir up war on earth (v. 12). There is war in heaven first, and then Satan is cast out and makes war on earth. Connect Daniel 12 and Matthew 24 with this account. While Satan is in the heavenly place, whatever God has done in goodness man has spoiled in wickedness. This terrible power that man is unable to cope with (that the saints cannot is their own fault, it is true), which hinders God's testimony on the earth, will be cast down, and he can then rage against heaven, but he cannot corrupt from heaven. Christ anticipated this when He said, I saw Satan fall like lightning - "the accuser of our brethren is cast down." This is the last woe to the earth: Satan rages on it. A flood issues from his mouth (v. 15). He tries to overwhelm Israel, but God will not suffer it.

205 The subject of the chapter is the dramatis personae, as men say, of the great flood of evil coming on in that day. The testimony of Jesus is the testimony of the whole book - not preaching the gospel; as in 1 Peter 1 we see the preaching of the prophets, as the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. So here it is not the Holy Ghost sent down and making you see with unveiled face the glory of the Lord. The testimony of Christ is of a different kind, the testimony of power, not of grace. The cherished place is to be above and see the thunderstorm rolling beneath.

Revelation 13

In this chapter we have the history of the two beasts, and they are something distinct from Babylon. One point must be remembered, that beasts are great temporal powers or empires; instead of being in subjection to God's authority, they are ravenous and exacting. Nebuchadnezzar was the first and Babylonish power; and all the four great empires have taken the same character. They rose out of the sea (unformed peoples) and became great corporate powers, ruling the world. Notice that it is not only the ravenous character of the beast, but here the dragon gives it its power.

Being cast out of heaven, Satan rouses the earthly people in rebellion against the Lord and His saints in heaven. This character of the beast exclusively belongs to him for the halfweek. In speaking of this beast or empire, the beginning of its history is given. Its origin we have in verse 1. The form of the beast is the same as the dragon in many respects. It has seven horns and ten heads. Chapter 12:3 and 13:1 compare together. The Roman Empire is divided into ten kingdoms - the world acknowledges it as the rightful power. The crowns are on the horns, and on the heads, the names of blasphemy. The heads are characterised by blasphemy, not power. Daniel 7:7 is identical with this in Revelation 13. Satanic power characterises this last empire. Satan resists Christ; and the Roman world in the beginning, by the power which was vested in the person of Pilate, was that which rejected, condemned, and crucified God's king, the King of the Jews, and stamped its own condemnation upon the act, by writing over them, "This is the king of the Jews." Thus it was not done in ignorance, but "Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews," was written there distinctly, and with authority. As soon as Satan is cast out of heaven, he gives his power to the beast - which had the character of beast before - he is the open opponent of a Christ in power as he had been of a Christ in weakness. Seven heads imply Satanic wisdom, and the expression [of it] is blasphemy. All the characters of power are associated with the beast here. He is wounded to death and healed - the same power, imperial power, revived. This power had been lost, but it revives and gathers up to itself all that the ten horns wield. They worship the dragon. There is direct thorough adoration of this power which is opposed to Christ; the giving up the earnestness and the energy of the soul to all this, not actual bowing down to Satan.

206 He boasts as man and blasphemes God. The tongue is a little member and boasts great things, a world of iniquity, as James says. Men are just preparing for this great wondering after the beast. Society is worn out, and wants something new - some energising centre, something it can follow, for old things are broken up. All the old things were broken up at the old French Revolution, and they have never been repaired. Whatever has been set up has been only breaking and breaking ever since, but this great power that is to come will just supply the lack. He blasphemes the name of God and His tabernacle, and theirs that dwell in heaven. Satan can blaspheme the saints in heaven, but he cannot hurt them, they are in the heavenly Jerusalem of which the Lord God is the temple. Satan can never get back to heaven when once cast out; when loosed from the bottomless pit, he will not get beyond the earth. He will make war with those on the earth, but he cannot touch those in heaven; and we are associated with Christ there, and can sit in as much composure and peace above the devil's blasphemy, for we are with God, as while the "lightnings and thunderings and voices" were proceeding from the throne. It is a blessed thing to be so identified with God in being thus the objects of Satan's blasphemies. We want to get our hearts filled with the sense of this connection with God in the heavenlies, and it is this which is always in contrast with the dwellers upon earth; but just as far as we are mixed up with the dwellers upon earth, we lose the sense of our identification with Him.

207 "It was given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them." There are some killed, for example, the two witnesses. This could never have been before - God never allowed them to be overcome. All that dwell on the earth are swayed by this power except those who were elected from before the foundation of the world. These do not worship the beast, the vessel of Satan's authority. There are four things specially to be remembered: first, the dragon is worshipped; second, those are blasphemed who dwell in heaven; third, those on earth are overcome; fourth, all the characteristics of the four beasts are to be found in this one. "If any man have an ear to hear, let him hear."

Now we find ourselves, as in chapter 11:19, in Jewish circumstances. Verse 11 of this chapter introduces us to a sovereign power in his way, and he assumes to have Christ's power. He has horns like a lamb, and yet if you really hear what he says, you find it is a power in opposition to Christ; though pretending to be Christ, he has a mouth like a dragon, he has the devil's energy against Christ, and pretends to be the Messiah. Christ was a prophet when down here, and He will be a king when He comes again, and both these this second beast takes to himself, so that he is the Antichrist (Herod being a figure of him). We find in him the pretension to Christ's royalty, and His prophetical character, but the priesthood of Christ he cannot claim. In the three great powers in action at this time, the dragon, the first beast and the second beast, we find a mimicry of the Trinity - Father, Son, and Spirit.

"He maketh fire come down out of heaven" (v. 13). This miracle resembles that of Elijah's with Baal. The very thing that was done to prove Jehovah God is done here to prove Satan's power. He mimics that which proved Jehovah to be God, and he will also mimic those which proved Jesus of Nazareth to be the Christ of God. Thus we see that idolatry will be again set up in the earth, for man after all, infidel as he may be, cannot get on without religion, because he must have something that is above and greater than himself, for his thoughts to rest on. Man by nature in every act is infamous, and he is not only blasphemous in heart, but idolatrous in ways. The character of idolatry is to consecrate what is in man's heart already, will or lust, in absolute subjection - as much will as you please may be allowed, provided it be consecrated - to this beast. Chapter 19:20, refers to these two beasts of this chapter. It becomes quite Jewish at the end; but the character of evil working now we see from 2 Thessalonians 2. The expressions used in verse 9 of that chapter in reference to Satan's powers are just the same as those applied to Christ in Acts 2:22. The words in Greek are identical - miracles, wonders and signs. All the pride now rolling around, and the intellect setting itself up, wasting itself for want of an object, will here find its focus. All the pride of man will be as a mere puppet show, for Satan to stand behind and pull the strings.

208 What painstaking care was given the apostle to warn us of these buddings of evil! We have more than buddings now - Judaism attached to Christianity, ordinances added to the work of Christ, instead of the Holy Ghost recognised as uniting the members to the Head in heaven, with nothing between. They who hold such things deny that the members on earth are Himself; but He says of them "I am Jesus." They have begun in the Spirit and end in the flesh. The stamp and character of apostasy is upon it: denying the Master that bought them, going back to days and months and times and years - and this with the Galatians was going back to the heathenism they had given up. The flesh makes an effort to accredit itself with what God accredits Christ with. But if we take Hebrews 10 as our stay, we shall be glad to part with all this as a mere lie: believing God's word from verses 19-23, it will all be gone like a mere fog (the mere form of godliness). The energy of Satan is now being exercised in the mystery of "iniquity," and this will continue so long as Satan is in heaven, from whence he corrupts all the truth God has ever given to the church. Therefore in 2 Thessalonians 2 we get the link between the mystery of iniquity which is now working, and the man of sin; between the false Christianity which now exists, and the false Christ which will then appear. False Christianity is now deceiving the Gentiles; but when it takes its ripened form under a false Christ, then it will be connected with the Jews. Those who have not the love of the truth, God says, shall love a lie. There are even now plenty of lovers of religion, and but few who love the truth. This is a sad and solemn truth, to believe and witness. May the Lord give us to be very plain in our testimony, and to have our souls entirely separated from a form of godliness without the power thereof, for when it becomes a mere form it is the direct power of Satan. Do not let us be violent in our efforts; for if we are convinced of the truth of it, we can be quiet, and let God work in His own way; and as to persons, treat them graciously, taking all things quietly. May we so experimentally know what a saint is as united to Him, as to be following Him, and not denying His name, for the contrary would be blaspheming it.

209 Revelation 14, 15, 16

Before the judgments are poured forth, not before tribulation, you get the redeemed from earth hid - their place marked out; not delivered, but sheltered before the Lord appears. The moment they see Him, it will be the defeat of the antichristian action. Those who obey the word of prophecy will not be exposed in the last three and a half years. This chapter 14 stands alone. Whether in testimony or in judgment, it contains the Lord's dealings while this evil is going on.

(1) Verses 1-5. Zion is royal grace, after failure at Sinai: Zion in Hebrews 12 is earthly. The passage takes in the millennium up and down - church blessings and earthly blessings. Zion is of great importance in scripture. "Ichabod" was pronounced by the faithful on Israel, the ark being taken into captivity; there is a thorough break up, and then comes in a new thing by the divine interference of David, and the ark is then placed on Zion. Those who had faith went to the ark in David's time. All was confusion in David's reign. The ark was brought back, but the ark and the altar are never united again; the ark never set up again in the tabernacle. The priest walked before God's anointed; but now it was before God where the ark was. A believer would say, I go to the altar, and there is the priest, but I find no ark, no cherubim; and the faithful would connect themselves with David, and then get the ark of the covenant. The high place was at Gibeon, and there God did visit His people, as Solomon: to faith the Solomon-reign was inferior to the David. This is the state of things now. "Ichabod" is written on the whole system of things; Christ is the ark.

These 144,000 are not the same as those sealed in chapter 7; they are Judah, and do not include the ten tribes; the saved remnant of those who pass through the tribulation three and a half years, "continuing with me in my temptations." It is "the" Lamb, not "a" (as in common editions). The remnant are in an analogous position to Christ (and now His body), only on earth, and not united to the Son of man in heaven. Therefore they are learning the song from the church in heaven, and in principle like Christ, suffering from the evil around.

210 There are two points distinct in repentance: two kinds we get in the Psalms and also often in our own hearts. Deliverance by power, and this answering to the ark on Mount Zion. Then when delivered, they see their horrible sin against Christ who has delivered them. It is worship as on Mount Moriah. "Cleanse me from blood-guiltiness," etc., also Isaiah 53 is an expression of it: we have done it. This is what is now called evangelical repentance; not merely the cry of fear, "Who shall deliver me?" "Out of the depths have I cried unto thee."

"First-fruits" (v. 4) has always the same general meaning, gathering out from the old into the new thing. These have nearness to heaven. This scene is the Lord beginning with the world. The character of salvation we get all through Revelation is coming from the throne of God - not the Father's house.

(2). Verses 6, 7. God is setting things to rights on the earth. This same gospel was given in Eden, not the gospel of the glory in heaven as now - the peculiar gospel given to Paul. Gospel means good news in all ages. It is "every family" in Ephesians 3:15, not "the whole family." See Amos 3:2. Every being who comes into connection with God, angels, Jews, Gentiles, the church - come under the name of the Father of Jesus, not Jehovah.

The everlasting gospel - good news to the earth - is that which will bruise Satan's head, and set up the kingdom. It is the same as the gospel of the kingdom, and there is nothing to hinder that being extended over the whole earth. It goes on through all the tribulation; Matt. 24. Psalm 96 is the expression of it. There is a cluster of Psalms all connected with the setting up of the kingdom: Psalm 93 gives the consequences - Jehovah reigning, and the throne established in holiness after all the raging of men; Psalm 94 is a cry for Jehovah's coming in vengeance from the remnant; in Psalm 95 the Jews are called to come up; Psalm 96 - testimony goes out to the Gentiles because Jehovah is coming; Psalm 97 - He is actually coming in the full power of His reign; Psalm 98 - He is come; Psalm 99 - He is seen sitting between the cherubim in Jerusalem on earth; Psalm 100 - all in order: they are worshipping. Jesus is Jehovah the Saviour, Jah, the Saviour, Joshua, Jesus. This gives the character to His people; Matt. 1:27.

211 Psalm 32 is just the character of verse 5: that the Kingdom-character of the gospel; this the Creator character. Here is all the difference.

(3) and (4). This chapter gives us an epitome of God's dealings. Babylon falls first, then the beast. Revelation tells the end of the thing. There are many lanes leading into the great thoroughfare of judgment. The spirit of Babylon is one.

The Book of Revelation will be of special use to those living at that time. We have to do with the book: but the book will have to do with them.

There are two principles of evil at work. In the beast there is the principle of association, or despotic power. This we see in France. Babylon is a weaker system - commercial in its character, but also papal idolatry. This we have in spirit in England, everything to quiet the conscience, and anything done for the sake of peace to carry on her commerce; and so there is the setting in of all evil. Commerce destroys principle, but it promotes civilisation; they will not scalp people, but goodness depends on paying bills. Verse 10 is fear, and not the blessed attraction of grace, as we have it. The fear of God is put in contrast with the fear of the beast. The fear of the beast is no doubt great, but the fear of God is to be greater. (See verse 7.) Here (v. 12) is the patience of the saints to be tried, of those who keep the "commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." There is belief in the promises - confidence in Him, which enables them to walk as He walked, looking for deliverance from God.

(5). Verse 13. "Blessed are the dead." God is coming in judgment and in power; the dead will get their full blessedness at once without waiting longer - "dead" are those who have been slain, not those who are going to die, but those who have died.

(6) and (7). Verses 14-17. There are two judgments, one distinguishing, the other crushing. The harvest applies to what is good; not so the vintage, all is crushed in that: when reaping, some may remain untouched The vine of the earth in the Jews and Antichrist. Babylon is degenerate Christendom: Israel is called a vine. In John 15 it is not the church, because we never get the church till the day of Pentecost. We find all through scripture Christ supplanting Israel. (See Isaiah 49.) I suppose that it is in Edom that the Jews are judged: see Isaiah 63. The Mahometans and Jews with all their corruptions hold a personal Antichrist. Some suppose the reference (v. 20) is to the length of the land of Palestine, but it is tremendous slaughter.

212 Attention is here drawn to a second great wonder. There was one great wonder (or literally sign) in chapter 12, and in this chapter 15 there is another.

The seven last plagues give us the wrath of God, not of the Lamb - we do not get that until chapter 19. Here God is dealing with those on the earth; nor yet the destruction of the beast, when the Lamb comes forth, but the filling up of the preparatory judgments after the woes. The wrath is filled up when the Lamb comes forth.

In verse 2 we have a second set of martyrs, not those under the altar (chap. 6), who have been beheaded in an ordinary way, but those who have been under the beast, and refused to worship him. They are distinguished in chapter 20:4.

These martyrs on the sea of glass are singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb: Moses and the Lamb are connected. There are those who understand His ways by going through the same with Him; and others understand His works by His judgments on the enemies. Some "follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth." In verse 3 the critical reading for "saints" is nations, the same persons as are mentioned in chapter 5. There the celebration is about them, here by them. He who had the lowly place there of the Lamb slain is here celebrated as "King of nations."

The "sea of glass"; it is not merely water, purity, but glass, stability. It is not only water to wash defiled feet, as in the tabernacle service, but here it is solid purity to walk upon, and mingled with fire. They had passed through the fire of tribulation in the judgments. Two things have brought them there: it is not like the elders who are seen in heaven, as in their natural place, but they have got there, so to speak, through the judgments - saved so as through fire. They have not got clear of these dwellers upon earth, and they have to escape for their lives, like Lot. How came they down in the tribulation at all? They were doubtless faithful when in it, but, like Lot, who would never have been in Sodom if he had not liked the plain of Sodom, they have liked the comfort of the world while they could get it. To Philadelphia the promise was to be kept "from the hour of tribulation," but here they are not kept from it, but taken through it. They were truly a testimony in the tribulation, but it was inactive testimony, not worshipping the beast. In chapter 20 there are two classes of martyrs spoken of - those beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and those who have not worshipped the beast. In chapter 6 we see those who have been beheaded for the witness of Jesus. This is the positive actual testimony of the faithful, three and a half years. In this chapter is no testimony, but a negative one - they had not worshipped, etc. We see in both that they had not been faithful as the church, or they would never have been in the tribulation. Better to be like Abraham on the top of the mountain, than like Lot in the plain of Sodom, vexing his righteous soul from day to day with the filthy conversation of the wicked. God has sometimes to pass us through a kind of trial on our own account, as well as in testimony, which would not have been necessary if we had been more faithful. The song we learn in tribulation we sing in glory (v. 4). So with Christ. So here with the remnant. The manifestation of the judgment of God was their salvation. These nations had been oppressing them, and now they will be brought into subjection.

213 There is not historical order pursued here, for it is anticipative, as are all these scenes with the elders now. This remnant have to go through the tribulation to get at what is here presented. God has come in, in the way of deliverance. Enemies now begin to be made His footstool. Satan has to be cast out of heaven. He does not yet rule with a rod of iron. He has taken His friends to Himself, and the first thing is to cast Satan down. As soon as this is done, Satan begins to stir up the earth against Christ. The woman then flees: the half-week. If these two sets of martyrs were not mentioned (chap. 20:4), as having part in the first resurrection, we should be left to infer that neither had they heaven nor earth. As they did not go up with the church, and were cut off for their faithfulness, so that they could not have earth, if they had not resurrection, they would have been shut out from both, without getting a reward for their faithfulness. The twenty-four elders probably include all who have part in the first resurrection.

214 The vials are direct judgments here. The temple is taken possession of in judgment. The preliminary judgments prove of no use, and then these positive judgments are filled up in wrath. The former were in the character of chastening, but we do not talk of chastening when wrath is to be filled up. Heaven in Revelation becomes the scene of judgment, and the time is between the church being spued out, and the Lamb coming forth in chapter 19. The Witness does not come out on earth until then.

Verse 3. "Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty." This was the original title in the book. "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty." Then the Lamb's song, "King of nations," all anticipative of the double judgments of God and the Lamb.

Verse 5. Remark "the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven." (See chapter 11.) All this is an earthly thing in connection with God's covenant. The testimony is not the gospel, but according to law - Jewish ground being merely secured in the covenant. The temple is the house (naos) - the place of approach. Compare Acts 7:44, "the tabernacle of witness" - the tent within. It is here opened for man to see what had been God's ways within.

These angels (v. 6), in their clothing give us the figure of human righteousness (white clothing), and divine righteousness (golden girdles). They were vials of the sanctuary that the angels threw out upon the earth. "Bowls" is more simple than "vials," but there is no difference - vessels of God's house: the idea is golden bowls, divine righteousness, looked at in its judicial character, within. Blood was on the outside of the mercy-seat, signifying divine righteousness had to be satisfied. We have got into the house, as it were. And here is one of the things given from the throne by one who is there: "Him who liveth for ever and ever." This stamps eternity on the wrath, as well as its being the moral nature of God. "The temple was filled with smoke." Man is excluded from the temple which is filled with wrath, and they cannot get in. So Sinai was all of a smoke. "Smoke went out of his nostrils." It is constantly used as a figure of consuming fire, in opposition to grace clearing transgressions, etc. "No man" (v. 8) merely means no one - it often does not mean man at all. Here none could enter in, priests, angels, or any. God alone fills the house with His glory, as in the Solomon reign in type. Even the angels have come out. "God chargeth his angels with folly." None can be there when the house is filled with His glory.

215 Chapter 16:1. It is between God and man now - the wrath of God with man on the earth. The temple in heaven is shut up. There is a glory of God "no man hath seen, or can see"; but there is where the devil goes near. See Job and Zechariah for different characters of His dwelling-place.

Verse 2. There has been an analogous course going on a long time. The system of the earth is going on - Babylon, and other evils, even many antichrists, and God is taking things into His own hand now. The character of His dealings is like those through Moses in Egypt, quite different from the description in chapters 12-14. It is another sign, and quite distinct, "grievous sores" and "boils breaking out." All those giving themselves up to the influence of civil power will get some terrible judgment, and men will see it - a "mark," a sign upon them, of being a slave - what we should call a brand, a Taw, as in Ezekiel, for service and worship - as people mark cattle now - a mark of entire possession of and authority over. It is terrible thing to be marked by the devil. Paul suffered for Christ, having been faithful to Him, and he was branded for it. It is the same thought.

Verse 3. "Sea" is the unsettled mass of nations. The difficulty here is that every man died in it. Verse 4. The springs that should have been life became death - everything is polluted, deathful. Everything which should have been death bringing to life is life bringing death - every principle in the world turns to death. Any remnant will be kept clear of this. The "earth" is that part brought out into connection with God. There are certain floating, unformed nations besides, and these represented by the "sea." They have been inflicting death, and now they are drinking in death. Gentile apostasy is centred up in Jerusalem.

The temple is still the place from which the judgments proceed. None can enter into it while all this is going on. In the previous chapter we had the things prepared; in this it is the pouring out of wrath. Now it is not the testimony or dealings with saints, but we see God's dealings with the Jews as a people, something the same as the last verse of chapter 11, but there is a difference. Here it is more in the way of government, the throne; in chapter 11, faithfulness to His promises; therefore the ark of the covenant is mentioned. See also the allusions to God's covenant-dealings with them in the next chapter; the figures are connected with the Jews and God's covenant people. Smoke from the glory of God filled the temple - not leading to worship, as in Solomon's time, but it is filled with wrath. It is all Sinai character, only it is in heaven, instead of on earth.

216 In the pouring out of these vials, we see the usual division of four and three. The first four are poured out upon the earth, the sea, the rivers, and the sun: and the fifth upon the beast, and the "sore" upon those who have the mark of the beast. The rivers of water are symbolical of classes of popular principles, masses of people moved along by a certain class of principles, for example, the French Revolution. The sea is the great mass; the river the floating population, a particular local influence. The king of Egypt said, "My river is mine own." All they had to drink was the power of death - the water turned into blood.

The restitution of all things, spoken of in Acts 3, begins as soon as Satan is cast out of heaven, but it is not accomplished until after the millennium.

The "sun" (v. 8) means public authorities, "and men were scorched with great heat." Tyranny becomes intolerable when fire is poured out. The principle of the thing was seen in France, where you used to have a padlock on your lips, if they did not know what kind of a person you were. "Blasphemed the name of God" - this shews the effect of judgment when the heart is not changed.

Verse 10. The term "beast" is used, because of the ravaging power of this king. A beast's heart was given to Nebuchadnezzar. Man's heart looks upwards to God; a beast's heart looks down and ravages others. A beast is a wild ravenous creature, which devours all below it. They "blasphemed the God of heaven": but faith would have owned Him as the God of the earth as well as heaven - "because of their pains and their sores," they ascribe them to Him.

Verses 12-14. "Kings from the east" are connected with the same subject. The barrier of the empire will be broken. The seven heads on the beast denote forms of government: the ten horns, its division into ten kingdoms. The miracles wrought by the spirits of demons are those which are so beyond the power of natural science to interpret, that they cannot be understood in the age in which they are worked. A more advanced age might be able to understand them. The devil has uncommon knowledge of the resources of nature and science; they may be beyond the power of man to effect, but such a combination of natural things as to be within the reach of Satan. There are things very like miracles performed now through electro-biology and animal magnetism. The brain is a voltaic battery, the nerves the wires, etc., but the question is, who is to fire the battery? They could not make an animal move itself, and they could not make the animal. In chapter 13:15 it should be "breath," not life, given to the image of the beast. It is life to man's eye, but not really so.

217 The three unclean spirits are: 1, the dragon: this is infidelity, war against Christ; 2, the beast: pretensions to imperial power, given by the devil; 3, the false prophet: antichristian Judaism. The saints are endangered, and therefore exhorted to keep their garments (v. 15). "Garments" in scripture mean our daily habits or daily life. How needful it is to keep oneself in death, while walking through the world! The great thing is to keep nature dead. "Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." "I die daily," Paul said. "When I am weak, then I am strong." When God's mind, or God Himself, comes in, natural joy would be confusion and disgrace.

Verse 16. When both Hebrew and Greek are named as in chapter 9:11, there is connection between Hebrew and Greek power; but when Hebrew is alone, it is solely Jewish.

Babylon (v. 19) is idolatry; commerce, too, and worldly power connected with civilisation. The things men are judged in are not always those they are judged for. Here men are judged in wealth, because of the abominable heart which sought the wealth apart from God. So was the merchant city of Chaldea, whose cry was in the ships. The thing judged is the idolatry, but the judgment reached their commerce. When you get the abomination for which God strikes her, she is spoiled of her comfort. The "great city" means the civil association; the "great Babylon" is its recorded character, idolatry.