THE REVELATION OF SAINT JOHN THE DIVINE
The writer of this book is the apostle John. Authorities on the subject give the date as A.D. 96. The theme of the book is Jesus Christ. He is portrayed in a threefold way
1. As to time: “Which is, and which was, and which is to come”.
2. As to relationships: to the Church in His headship; To the world in judgments; To the coming kingdom.
3. In His offices: As High priest; As Bridegroom; As the coming King-judge.
While Christ is the central theme of the book, all of the events move toward one consummation, the bringing in of the covenanted kingdom. The key-phrase is, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ”. The book is, therefore, prophecy.
The three major divisions of the book are mentioned in Ch.1:19:
1. Ch. 1. Things past. AThe things which thou hast seen.
2. Chs. 2 & 3. Things present. AThe things which are.
3. Chs. 4 to 22. Things future. AThe things which shall be hereafter.
The interpreter of Revelation should bear in mind what is written in 2 Peter 1:20, ANo prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. That is, as given in the margin of the Scofield Bible, “No prophecy is its own interpretation, i.e. Not isolated from all the Word given elsewhere.” It is quite important to apply this rule tin the present instance, for the book of Revelation is in reality a consummation of other truth mentioned elsewhere in the Word of God.
THE THINGS WHICH THOU HAST SEEN.
A special blessing is pronounced upon those who read, and hear, and keep what is written in this book of Revelation. God the Trinity is mentioned in Ch.1:4-5 in His redemptive relationship to man, as in His grace He has provided cleansing through the blood, and has made provision that we should be kings and priests unto God through our new relationship to Him as our Father.
John the writer was in exile on the isle of Patmos. Being in the Spirit on the Lords day, he heard a voice as a trumpet speaking to him. He was told to write what he saw and send the word to the seven churches which were in Asia. What John saw was seven golden candlestick with Christ in the midst holding seven stars in his right hand, and with a sharp two-edged sword proceeding out of His mouth. The vision was given as a message of encouragement to the effect that Christ had overcome hell and death, v.18, and that He was in the midst of His church to counsel and guide, and to especially aid the ministers of the churches who were represented by the seven stars, v.20. These are the things which John saw, and they form the basis of what follows in the next two chapters.
THE THINGS WHICH ARE.
This section of the book evidently refers to the conditions existing in the seven churches. While they were seven local assemblies, and as such had need of exhortation or encouragement from their invisible risen Head, students of prophecy also regard the seven letters a prophetic of the spiritual history of the church from that time until the end of the age. One outstanding feature of each letter is that Christ is fully aware of the state of each church and what it needs, and that He desires that each one endeavor to overcome, and offers a suitable reward for so doing.The church of Ephesus was well equipped with spiritual knowledge and was very zealous in applying same.
The Lord, however, had one serious criticism to make, for she had left her first love, Ch.2:4. Without this there was lacking the full light of His presence, and the warning was given that if she failed to repent her light would be removed entirely. This church in a figure represents that of the apostolic age.
To the church in Smyrna there was no reproof given. Hers was an experience of tribulation and poverty, with great opposition from the Jews of that time, Ch.2:9. Dr. Scofield says this group represents the second stage of the church when it was greatly persecuted, and that in history it would bring us to about A.D.316.
The church in Pergamos had conditions existing within itself which could represent the time when the church universal came into governmental favor, and allowed to creep into its ranks worldliness or the doctrine of Balaam, and formalism and ritualism of the Nicolaitanes, which brought about the division call the clergy and the laity, Ch. 2:14-15. This condition has remained within the ranks of the church and will do so until the end of the age.
The next in order is the church at Thyatira. In history this could be placed between A.D. 500 and 1500. Worldliness had triumphed, and Christ extends a call to the overcomer, promising joint-rulership with Himself over the nations, even as He had received such appointment from His Father, Ch. 2:26-27.
The church in Sardis can be regarded as representative of the period of the Reformation. They had a name that they lived, but they were dead, Ch.3:1. To the faithful remnant, the Lord promised a place with Himself where they would walk with Him in white, v.4.
The church in Philadelphia was, like Smyrna, without rebuke. Historically she may be regarded as the true believers within the professing church. To the overcomer Christ promises deliverance from the great tribulation, Ch.3:16, and a threefold name which included the new birth, the bride ship, and full likeness to Christ, v.12.
The closing message is to the church at Leodicea. This group represents the great apostasy of the church at the end of the age. The Lord Himself is outside, but to the overcomer He promises His presence, and a place with Him in His throne, even as He has a place in His Fathers throne, Ch.4:20-21.
THE THINGS WHICH SHALL BE HEREAFTER.
In this section of the book of Revelation we have happenings foretold which in the main will take place in the end of and after the close of the church age. Chapter 4 introduces us to a scene in heaven. John was caught away in spirit in response to a voice which said, ACome up hither, and I will show thee things which be hereafter. The stage is set for the general wind-up of the end of this age. John saw the throne of God with twenty four elders surrounding it, and four living creatures within and around it. It is particularly noticeable that in appearance the living creatures between them make up the design such as we usually ascribe to the four Gospels. The four symbols are: in Matthew, the Lion of the tribe of Judah; in Mark, the ox or Servant of Jehovah; in Luke, the Man; and in John, the eagle symbolizing the deity of Christ.
Because of the above, one is led to draw the conclusion that which follows is to do with the consummation of the redemption of the world. As this is essentially based upon the righteousness of God, the great theme uttered by the four living creatures is ascribing the perfection of holiness to the triune God, Who is about to start proceedings which shall culminate in the liberation of His creation. In Chapter 5 we are shown a sealed book in the hand of Him that sat on the throne. One writer has called it the title deed of this earth. This seems to be as near a correct explanation as one could find. The earth of which man was made ruler at the time of his creation has fallen into the hands of a usurper. None but man can take it from hi, and John wept because he could find none worthy in heaven, nor in earth, nor under the earth to do this. He is then told not to weep, for One was found Who was worthy. John looked and saw One Who is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, standing in the midst of the throne in appearance as a slain Lamb, but bearing the marks of great power. Unto Him a great song is rendered that He was worthy to take the book, and break the seals, for by His death He had redeemed man. back to God. The song is caught up by angels numbering then thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands who sing “Worthy is the Lamb”, and all creatures echo the refrain in their joy, at the release obtained through their wonderful Emancipator.
THE BREAKING OF THE SEALS.
There are three sets of sevens in the book of Revelation which have to do with judgment. They are; the Seven Seals; the Seven Trumpets; and the Seven Vials. While they are more or less fulfilled in consecutive order, they are not each terminated to give place to the next one, but at times are found to become contemporaneous in their fulfillment. With the opening of the seals we have the beginning of the time of the end, when Christ shall proceed to take over world government. God sometimes follows a principle of allowing man to take his our course to his own undoing, and in that way his judgment is brought about. This is what we have in the breaking of the first four seals.
When the first one was broken John saw a white horse ridden by one who had a bow, Ch.6:2. This represents the great wave of anti-Christian propaganda which is abroad in the world, and shall become yet more pronounced as we near the end. This is a judgment. God sends strong delusions to those who refuse a love of the truth.
When the second seal was broken a red horse came forth whose rider had power to take peace from the earth, v.4. When God is banished from mans life he becomes a creature of great hatred and cruelty. The natural result of anti-Christian teaching is war, and such shall characterize the last days.
The third seal was broken and a black horse made its appearance whose rider had a pair of balances in his hand, v.5. During a war we have what we might call a condition of artificial famine which controls the staple foodstuffs, but does not bother about luxuries. Such is what we find here. People are allowed to buy just so much of daily necessities because of governmental supervision of such things. This condition will be in evidence in the last days before Jesus comes, and to an advanced degree.
When the fourth seal was opened John saw a pale horse whose rider is named Death and Hell followed with him, v.8. Through the activity of these two agencies mankind is smitten in various ways such as war, hunger, death, and the beasts or rules of the earth. In the last days a condition like this will be all too common.
As the apostle watched the fifth seal was opened. No horse and rider came forth this time, but John saw the souls of the martyrs of the past eagerly watching the aforementioned judgments. They seemed surprised and disappointed at the apparent delay in proceedings and ask a question saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? White robes were given them , and they were told to rest a little season until other martyrs should be added to their number,” vs. 10-11.
Following this John saw the sixth seal opened. There was a great earthquake accompanied with other phenomenal happenings, and the people of this earth from the king down were terrified, and cried for the mountains and the rocks to fall on them and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb, vs.12-17. This scene brings us to the great tribulation when such things shall literally take place.
PARENTHESIS NO.1B THE JEWISH REMNANT AND THE TRIBULATION MARTYRS,
In Chapter 7, we have a parenthetical passage of which there are four in the book. Four angels are seen standing on the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, until 144,000 Israelites are sealed with the seal of God, vs.1-8. When this was ended John saw a great multitude of people of all nationalities standing before the throne of God. One of the elders explained to him that they had come our of great tribulation, and were now comforted by the Lamb for Whom that had suffered. Many think that these are martyrs (not a rapture) from the great tribulation and they could easily be so, for they are shown to John as a side light following the breaking of the sixth seal which portrays events of that time.
THE SOUNDING OF THE SEVEN TRUMPETS.
The period of trumpet blowing is ushered in by the breaking of the seventh seal. What follows does not necessarily have to be in point of time the result of breaking the other seals. After a half hour of silence in heaven, seven angels appeared before the throne of God. To them were given seven trumpets. The prayers of all the saints were then offered up to God, and a great disturbance of the elements took place, Ch.8:1-5.
The first angel sounded. Hail and fire mingled with blood were poured upon the earth, causing the destruction of a third part of the trees and all green grass. When the second angel blew his trumpet a burning mountain was cast into the sea and it was turned into blood. All life died in a third part of the sea, and a third part of shipping was destroyed. As the third angel sounded a burning star called Wormwood fell upon a third part of all drinking waters and they became bitter, causing the death of many who drank of it. At the sounding of the fourth trumpet the third part of the sun, moon, and start was darkened. Then an angel flew through mid-heaven and warned the people of the earth of three more woes to follow, vs.6-13.
The first of the woes was soon fulfilled. The fifth angel sounded, causing a star or great being to fall from heaven. This one opened the bottomless pit and released a swarm of creature like locusts which had power to torment men five months with a sting like that of a scorpion, but from which there was no release by death for they shall not be able to die. This no doubt will be some kind of plague from an invisible source, Ch.9:1-11. The sixth angel sounded, and then loosed four angels which were bound in the river Euphrates. They led forth an army of demon spirits numbering 200,000,000. These demons were like horses with riders. The horses had lion’s heads and tails like serpents. They belched forth fire, smoke and brimstone. With these three a third of men were killed, vs.13-18. This attack is called a plague, v.20, and it is quite possible that the creatures John saw will not be visible to the eyes of men of that time.
PARENTHESIS NO.2 THE ANGEL, THE LITTLE BOOK, AND THE TWO WITNESSES.
Chapter 10 tells of a mighty angel who came down from heaven with a little book open in his hand. He stood upon the sea and upon the earth and declared that there should be time or delay no longer. This is in accord with Ch.6:10-11, and the little season is now to end. The angel said, AIn the days of the voice of the seventh angel...the mystery of God should be finished, v.7. There is a mystery which naturally comes to ones mind which was declared by the prophets, and that is the Church. It began with the mystery of Christ in you, and shall end with “Behold I show you a mystery. we shall all be changed.” Thus we may expect something of that character to the place at the sounding of the seventh trumpet. John is told to take the little book from the angel and eat it. The Word says it was sweet in his mount but bitter when he swallowed it. John was told that he must prophesy again, and one can truly say he has done it through the very book we are now studying.
John now sees an angel who hands him a measuring reed with which he is told to measure the temple, the altar, and the worshipers, but to omit the court. Jerusalem is to be trodden under foot by the Gentiles for 42 months, Ch.11:1-2. During that time two remarkable men shall testify in Jerusalem in spite of persecution. None can hurt them for 1260 days, but after that the beast or coming great world ruler shall kill them. Their bodies shall lie unburied for three and one half days. Then they shall be revived, and caught up to heaven, vs.3-12. This will be followed with an earthquake which will cause the death of 7,000. This will consummate the second woe, vs.13-14, and there the second parenthesis ends.
The seventh angel now sounds his trumpet. Notice what follows, vs.15, 18. Voices in heaven say, Athe kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever. Also, the time has come for rewarding the saints; the time has come to judge the dead; and the time has come to destroy them that destroy the earth. What follows is the outcome of the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and is finishing or consummation of the mystery.
The language of Ch. 12 is largely symbolic. John saw “a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and travailing in birth,” vs.1-8. The apostle also saw a seven headed dragon with ten horns and seven crows upon his heads, waiting to devour the child as soon as it was born, vs.3-4. The woman gave birth to a man child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron, and it was immediately caught up to God’s throne. After that the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place for 1260 days, vs.5-6.
Various opinions are held by Bible students on the foregoing. The truest to the Word seems to be that the woman is the church universal out of which a company of overcomer comes forth, who shall have a joint-reign with Jesus Christ. The strong reason for this view is because of the period of time which follows the birth of the man child, and also because of another event which follows. The dragon which is Satan is cast out of heaven to the earth and great trouble follows because he knows his time is short, vs.7-10, 12. What we have is the account of the rapture, and the great tribulation for three and one half years which immediately follows. The remaining members of the church universal are persecuted, but get some help to sustain them in the trying hour, vs. 14-17.
John is now shown a beast with seven heads and ten horns with ten crowns on them, arising out of the sea. This beast has all the characteristics of the four Daniel saw in his first vision, but the order is reversed. This is proper for Daniel looked forward, but John is prophetically looking backward. In other words, it is a vision of world-empire in the time of the end, when the nondescript monster symbolizing the revived Roman empire, which also sprang out of the Grecian, Medo-Persian, and Babylonian empires is holding sway in the last days. The language of the chapter is similar to the book of Daniel. The beast is the dictator of the last days who shall demand worship as God and will make war with the saints, Ch.13:5-7. Another beast is seen coming up out of the earth who is the false prophet. He becomes the chief executive of the first beast. An image will be made with the demand that everybody worship it, and no one shall be able to buy or sell unless they receive the mark of the beast, vs.15-17.
PARENTHESIS NO.3BTHE LAMB AND THE OVERCOMERS.
The next thing John saw was a lamb on Mt Sion surrounded by a company of 144,000 saints. By their description one can draw the conclusion that it is a view of the raptured company in the heavenly Jerusalem, Ch.14:1-5. That ends this parenthesis.
Following this we have an account of six angels who one after another come forth and carry out a special mission. The first preaches the everlasting Gospel, vs.6-7; the second proclaims the fall of Babylon, v.8; the third warns the people against taking the mark of the beast, vs.9-11; the fourth comes forth in company with One like the Son of man and urges Him to reap the harvest of the earth, vs.14-16; the fifth has a sickle to reap the wicked for judgment, vs.17, 19, and he is accompanied by the sixth one who urges him so to do, v.18. This last act tallies with Armageddon, and is a prophetic before view of Armageddon, vs.20.
THE POURING OUT OF THE SEVEN VIALS.
Chapter 15 introduces seven angels who are given seven vials which contain the seven last plagues that fill up the wrath of God, v.1. A great number of saints who had not taken the mark of the beast but were probably martyred for their refusal, are seen gathered on the sea of glass. They sing praises unto God and vindicate His judgments, vs.2-4. Then one of the living creatures gave the seven vials to the seven angels, that the final judgments might be poured out upon the ungodly, v.7.
A great voice spoke out of the temple and sent the angels forth to their appointed task, Ch. 16:1. The first vial when emptied caused a grievous sore to break out on those who worship the beast, v.2; when the second was emptied the sea became blood causing all life within it to die, v.3; the third was poured upon the water fountains and they became blood, that those who drank might be punished for all the blood of the martyrs they had spilt, vs.4-6; the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun, and its heat was intensified so that it scorched men with firs, vs.8-9; the kingdom of the beast suffered next, as the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast. It caused men to gnaw their tongues for very pain, vs.10-11. The sixth angel poured out his vial upon the river Euphrates and the waters were dried up. This prepares the way for the kings of the east, and three demon spirits are seen coming forth like grogs who shall draw the kings together of the Batter of Armageddon, vs.12-16. The seventh angel poured out his vial in the air which resulted in a great earthquake overthrowing many cities, and in a hail storm with stones weighing a least one hundred pounds each, vs.17-21.
In Chapter 17 we have a picture of the last days when there shall be a federation of ten kings who shall all honor one head king, who is the first beast of Ch.13. This ruler will be in alliance with the false church of those days, which will most likely be predominately Catholic, vs.1, 3, 8-9, 12-13, 15. The woman, who is the symbol of this church, will eventually be overthrown by the ten kings, vs. 16-17, and this will not doubt be brought about by anti-Christ demanding all worship for himself. In v.6, we read that the woman was in a drunken state, caused by a great persecution of the saints of that time.
The next chapter records the fall of Babylon. This might not be a literal city, for v.24 says Ain her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth, and yet it could refer to the Vatican City. It is a picture of the overthrow of the world system of commerce, politics, and religion. God’s people are warned to come out of her, v.4, and the merchants lament her fall for it spells their ruin, v.11.
PARENTHESIS NO.4 THE FOUR ALLELUIAS IN HEAVEN.
The judgment of the woman called forth four Alleluias signifying the spiritual emancipation of the many peoples over which she ruled, Ch. 19:1-6. This parenthesis ends here.
Following this, preparations are made for the marriage of the Lamb, vs.7-9. Then Christ Himself comes forth on a white horse followed by the armies in heaven also upon white horses, and the contending armies of the beast are slain by the sword which proceeds out of His mouth, vs.11-15, and 21. So great is the slaughter that all the vultures are called to devour the slain, vs.17-18. The beast and the false prophet are then cast alive into the lake of fire, v.20.
The next one to come under divine judgment is Satan. He is bound with a great chain and cast into the bottomless pit for 1,000 years, Ch. 20:1-3. John then saw those who shall reign with Christ seated upon thrones. They shall be joint-rulers with the Lord of 1,000 years, vs. 4-6. At the end of that time Satan will be loosed for a season. He will instigate a rebellion against Christ, but the fire of God shall very quickly devour these enemies and the devil shall be cast into the lake of fire, vs.7-10. Then the great white throne is established, and the final judgment of the rest of the dead will take place. All whose names are not found in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire, vs.11-15. Thus ends the history of sin, and by the final disposal of the devil and those who refused to renounce him the victory of the Lamb is established.
The two closing chapters give us a picture of the eternal state. There will be a new heaven and a new earth with no more sea. Ch.21:1. The New Jerusalem will come down to this earth and god and the Lamb will dwell within it, vs.2, 9-10, and 22-23. The saved of the nations shall walk in the light of it, and the glory and honor of the nations shall be brought into it, vs.24, 26. John was told not to seal the sayings which were made known to him, and a blessing was pronounced upon those who do the Lords commands, Ch.22:10, 14. To those who add to or take from the message of the book the judgment of God will be applied, vs.18-19. The book closes with a word of cheer from Christ Himself, “Surely I come quickly”, to which let us all reply, “Amen, Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”