Revelation 7.

1873 255 (To the Editor of the Bible Treasury)

Dear Mr. Editor,

An interesting question arises out of Revelation vii. Let me clear the way a little before I put the question. I take for granted that the church has been taken up; I take for granted that chapter vii. is not a continuance of the historic sequence in Revelation, but rather an episode between the sixth and the seventh seal, in which God, in His loving kindness, lifts, as it were, the veil a little, to let us know that, when the sore judgments are about to come, His own amongst both Israel and Gentile nations are safe. How could it be otherwise? "In the time of trouble, He shall hide me in His pavilion, in the secret of his tabernacle shall He hide me."

Israel and the Gentiles are the next point to clear up. I take then for granted that in verses 4–8 the twelve tribes mean the twelve tribes — Israel literal. I can neither understand those who say that they mean the "Israel of God" (meaning thereby the christian church), nor can I feel that there is any weight in the references which they give in support of this opinion. I think that they are given under a misapprehension of Matthew xxv. 31-46, supposing this to be the last judgment; from not being aware that there will be a "new Jerusalem" earthly, and a "new Jerusalem" heavenly; and lastly, (which I mention last to attract notice, as I believe it to be the secret of the misinterpretation of the whole book of Revelation from chapter iv. 1, to xxii. 21) that the church is in heaven when chapter vii. comes before us. I do not think that the expression "Israel of God" (see Alford, in loco) is ever used for the Gentile christian church. Galatians vi. 16, is adduced in proof of it. I will not now occupy your space in discussing the point further, than to say, that, even granting for a moment that this expression in Galatians vi. does mean the christian church (which I do not admit), we cannot take one isolated expression against the weight of the universal testimony of Old and New Testaments against it. These say that Zion is Zion, Jerusalem is Jerusalem, and Israel, Israel.

But however this may be, in Revelation vii., it strikes me as impossible, for the plainest reasons, to use it in any such sense, as, in that case, verse 9 would be a mere needless repetition of verses 1–8. Verses 4–8 is literal Israel; verse 9 the Gentiles; verse 11, the church, as we have it always in this book represented by the twenty-four elders.

I take then for granted, first, that the church has been taken up; second, that verses 4-8 are the expression of God's providential care of the elect of Israel; third, verse 9, the same care of Gentiles (other than the risen saints) brought to the Lord by the ministry of restored and converted Israel(?) under the outpouring of the Holy Ghost in larger measure than on the day of Pentecost. I say, assuming these three several points — (though I do not see my way clear in the third except that verse 9 are Gentiles,) I say, assuming these several points, does not all the above indicate that the time between the raising and taking up of the saints and the destruction of Antichrist and his host, must be larger than we (I at least) have generally supposed it to be? This Revelation vii. is, in historic sequence, previous to Revelation xix. Revelation xix. makes way for the millennium. Matthew xxv. 31-46 is the judgment of the nations (other than apostate Christendom) as to having received or rejected the testimony of Israel in behalf of the Lord Jesus.

I would ask then, when does the mission of converted Israelites to the Gentiles take place, and for how long carried on? I beg particularly to say, that I do not put this question as of any doctrinal importance, and think that every dear saint may be quite ignorant of the matter — or, having crossed his mind, he may not have come to any conclusion about it — or, having come to one, it may be contrary to one's own; I say this the rather, because I think it of very great importance that we should not make brethren offenders for any details of the kind, however interesting they may be. Yet still, at the same time, as a clear understanding of this matter would tend to clear up several points mentioned in that wonderful and blessed book, the Apocalypse, I should be glad of information on the subject. After the church has been taken up, and when Antichrist appears, I believe that the two tribes (previously restored but in unbelief, the temple built and city inhabited) will receive Him as Messiah, at the beginning of "the week," that is, seven years. He will, in the course of the week, set up idolatry in the temple. The Jews spurning this, He will turn against them; the slaughter of Zechariah will take place to prevent their entire destruction, Messiah appears, delivers them, and destroys the host of Anti-christ, consigning the leader to the lake of fire. During their seven years, I believe there will be Gentile believers and a Jewish godly remnant, many of whom will be martyred. I believe that, after Antichrist is consigned to the lake of fire, Israel, converted, will be the instrument of conversion to the nations. But when will "the great multitude which no man could number of all nations, kindred, peoples, and tongues "be brought to the Lord? The solution of this will clear up other matters to my mind, which I do not at present see clearly. X. Y.

{1873 271 The querist writes that in the third paragraph (p. 255), there should be neither "chapter" nor "xx.," nor "chapter xx." again repeated, nor "chapter x.," nor "chapter x." again repeated. In the next paragraph "third, verses 4–9," ought to be verse 9, and (p. 250) "chapter x. 9 "ought to be simply verse 9, reading "his" for "her" three lines after. The sentence most affected should run thus: "verse 9 would be a mere needless repetition of verses 1–8. Verses 4–8 is literal Israel; verse 9 the Gentiles; verse 11 the church, as we have," etc.}

 

Answer To "X. Y." On Revelation 7.

1873 302 Dear Mr. Editor,

The points to which "X. Y" draws attention in his letter in the April number of "The Bible Treasury" are very interesting. A work of God, not bounded territorially by the limits of Christendom, will take place upon earth after the church has been removed from this scene, a work prolific in fruit among Gentiles, and unequalled, as regards the area over which it will spread, by all the efforts of Christians from Pentecost to our day; though falling far short, in the blessings souls will thereby enjoy, of the privileges, the hopes, and the portion of those now called out from both Jews and Gentiles to form the bride of Christ and to know, whilst on earth, what it is to be sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty.

Two questions arising out of the consideration of this subject "X. Y." asks in your columns, the one, as to the time requisite for this immense work to be accomplished; the other, as to the agency employed to effect it.

First, as to the time. Of the seventy weeks or heptads which we learn from Daniel ix. 24 were to intervene between the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, and the entrance of Israel into their final blessings under the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ, their Messiah, sixty-nine had run out before the Lord had been cut off by death upon the cross. But do we ever read that only seven years will elapse between the rapture of the church and the Lord's return in power to effect the deliverance of His earthly people? Are there not on the other hand indications in the word which would lead us to conclude that a longer period of time will elapse between the two above mentioned events than one heptad of years? For the beast (the prince who shall come of Daniel ix.) who will confirm a covenant with the Jews for one week, or heptad, and will break it in the middle of it, rises up (as we learn from Revelation xiii. 1) out of the sea: a figure, is it not? of a troubled and abnormal condition of things on the Roman earth, the result perhaps of the providential judgments of God described under the first four seals, when peace will be taken away from the earth. What length of time then will elapse between the rapture of the saints and the rise of the beast out of the sea is, I believe, veiled from us; and what interval of time there will be between the rise of the first beast and that of the two-horned beast (the false prophet and the Antichrist), out of the earth, is also (am I not right?) a period of time unmeasured for us in the word. Taking then these things into account, there are surely grounds to make us slow to conclude that a very short time only will elapse, after the church's departure, before the Lord is seen coming in the clouds of heaven. But, if on this point we can only speak of probabilities, we can say (I believe on the authority of the word) that that whole epoch cannot be a long one; for we read in 2 Thessalonians i. 7–10 that divine vengeance will overtake souls on earth, at the Lord's return with His saints, who have not obeyed the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, an intimation surely that the mass of those who will have been proved by the rapture to be professors only in name will still be alive upon earth, when He shall be revealed from heaven, forming that class described in Revelation as the dwellers (Rev. iii. 10; Rev. vi. 10; Rev. viii. 13; Rev. xi. 10; Rev. xiii. 8; Rev. xvii. 8) and sitters upon earth. (Rev. xiv. 6.) Whilst then scripture clearly bars the thought of any extended duration of time during which the work amongst the Gentiles will be carried on, the fruits of which we read in Revelation vii., there seems surely just ground to forbid us limiting it to one heptad of years.

But how are these Gentiles to be taught, and when? And first, who are they? They "come out of the great tribulation [for so we should read], and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." A description this is, general in its character, bearing testimony to their walk, and their preservation through the fierce time of trial, here called the great tribulation; but predicating nothing of any particular testimony borne by them against special evils which will be rife in those days, though they will be contemporaneous with the beast, the false prophet or antichrist, and the king of the north of Daniel, the Assyrian of Isaiah. Others, as the two witnesses of chapter xi. and the company on the sea of glass of chapter xv., will have stood out as witnesses for God and the Lord Jesus against the idolatrous worship of the beast; but these seem to be the fruits of a wider work among Gentiles, gathered out of every nation, and of kindreds, and of peoples, and of tongues, monuments of God's upholding grace throughout the great tribulation and preserved alive on earth at its close, as the term "come out of" would seem to imply, and the description of their blessings would surely intimate. And, just as there will be a sealed company made up from all the tribes of Israel, of whose special service in testimony we read nothing (a company distinct from that of the 144,000 of Jews who will stand with the Lamb on mount Zion, chap. xiv.), so, judging from the description of these Gentiles given by the elder, and from the place in the book in which they are introduced, may we not regard them as the result of a general work among Gentiles throughout that whole epoch, apart from any special testimony borne by some, or the service rendered by others (for example, those in Matthew xxv. who will inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world)?

But how can this work be effected? I would suggest that, looking at them as connected with no special testimony of that day we have indications in the Book of Revelation of instruments by whom such a work might be carried on. For no sooner will the church be removed than God will begin to work afresh in grace in this sin-defiled world. The earliest intimation of this we have in Revelation 5, in the fact of the elders in heaven having golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints then in trial on earth. Again in chapter viii. we have mention of the prayers of saints on earth in trial, which, taken up by the angel, are answered by judicial dealing with men upon earth. And before that scene at the golden altar we read in Rev. vi. 9, 10 of souls which have already been slain for their faithfulness to God after the rapture of the church. Thus God had evidently been working, and from the answer given to the souls under the altar He would continue to work, till their brethren, that is, Jews, and their fellow servants (may not these be Gentiles?) which were to be slain, as they were, should be fulfilled. I submit then that with these scriptures before us we have indications of the existence of agencies by whom such a work may be carried on.

Other points of interest raised by the consideration of the question proposed by "X. Y." might, I think, with profit be discussed, but as the space in your journal, as well as the patience of your readers, is not inexhaustible, I forbear to suggest them, and will conclude with one remark; namely, the illustration we have in chapter vii. of the difference between standing openly on the ground of redemption accomplished, and the being dealt with in grace on the ground of the atoning work of Christ. As standing nationally on the former ground the preservation of the company from each of the twelve tribes is announced before they enter on their tribulation; whereas Gentiles, who have not that ground nationally before God, are only seen by the prophet, as preserved, after their time of tribulation is over. The grace is the same in both cases; but, God's purpose about the nation having been previously made known, their future can be declared beforehand, whereas it is the preservation of the Gentiles which manifests God's purpose about them. C. E. Stuart.