The best indication of the character and purpose of a particular Scripture is given to us by the writer. Either by direct statement, as in this case, or by implication and content, the inspired writers of the books of the Bible are careful to let us know the purpose behind their writing. So it is that John tells us that his record is about the revelation that God gave to Jesus Christ.
The particular word used here means “an unveiling”, “the taking away of a covering”. The Lord Jesus has been hidden from the eyes of men since He hung upon the cross to die for our sins. But He will be revealed in a day not far distant.
In the first chapter of The Book of Revelation there is given a revelation to John the apostle himself. In that revelation John sees the Lord Jesus in His role as the Son of Man, the one who is destined for universal dominion. In chapters two and three the Lord Jesus reveals Himself to the seven churches to whom John is writing. The way the Son of Man will present Himself to the world is used in these two chapters to caution and awake the counterfeit Christian. In this way the Son of Man reveals Himself before His revelation to the world at large at His coming to earth.
Four features of Christ are not used in the addresses to the churches, however, but they are appropriate to the way in which Christ reveals Himself to the world in judgement before He actually comes. These features are:
KINGLY DIGNITY “Clothed with a garment down to the foot”
FULNESS OF WISDOM “His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow”.
STERN WRATH “His countenance as the sun shineth in his strength”.
FULL AUTHORITY “Have the keys of hell and of death”.
Coming to the main body of the revelation as it relates to Christ re-appearing to the world, found in chapters 4-19, we can divide it into six sections, which each culminate in the appearance of the Lord Jesus to the world again. As far as the account of the actual revelation is concerned, this occurs in chapter 19.
So there is a full revelation to John in vision in chapter 1; six partial revelations to the churches in chapters 2 and 3; six partial revelations to the world in chapters 4-18; and then the full revelation in person to the world in chapter 19.
That chapters 4 to 19 are not in chronological order is seen from the fact that there are references to the end of the tribulation period and the start of the reign of Christ throughout, as follows:
Chapter 5:13 “Every creature…heard I saying”. This will not happen until the Lord sets up His kingdom.
Chapter 7:17 “These are they that come out of great tribulation”. This is not tribulation in general, but the specific “tribulation, the great one”, the last three and a half years before Christ comes.
Chapter 11:15 “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our God, and of His Christ”. This happens when Christ comes to reign.
Chapter 14;5 Those sent out to preach in chapter 7 are now safely in heaven before the throne of God, their work over.
Chapter 15:2 Those who have gained the victory over the beast are seen before God.
Chapter 19:10 “The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth”.
GENERAL SURVEY OF CHAPTERS 4 TO 19.
FIRST REVELATION: CHRIST’S WORTHINESS.
Christ’s reveals Himself on the basis of what He did at Calvary.
As he was contemplating the subject of the Day of the Lord, prompted no doubt by his exclamation about the coming of the Lord Jesus and every eye seeing Him, 1:7, (a reference to His coming to earth in judgement), John is interrupted by a trumpet-like voice, and he turns around. When he has done so he is given a sight of Christ as He will be seen when He comes to reveal Himself to the world. When he has been given details about the present situation as Christ saw it, he then moves on to consider the future again in chapter 4. He is attracted to heaven by a voice which invites him to “Come hither”, just as the Lord Jesus will come with a shout to take His people to the Father’s house, 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
In chapter 4 we are shown God’s throne-room as the Creator of all things. Things that God created, such as jasper and sardine stones, are used to describe Him. There is a rainbow around His throne, a reminder of God’s covenant with the earth in Genesis 9:8-17. But this rainbow is wholly of green, for it is the rain that causes the light to be split into its rainbow hues, and God has promised not to flood the earth again, and He is true to His promise. Surrounding His throne there are twenty four elders, reminding of the way David divided up the administration of His kingdom by twenty four’s. These are wise angelic beings who administer for God. There are also four beasts, or living creatures, who by their features clearly represent the rulers of the four major divisions of life on earth; the lion the king of the wild beasts of the forest, the ox the king of the domesticated animals of the field, the man the king of the earth’s fullness, and the flying eagle the king of the birds in the firmament. This is why they are prominent in the first four seals, which have to do with the earth.
The four living creatures celebrate God in His timelessness, for He made all things at the beginning by His eternal power, Romans 1:20. His will to create is eternal, as was the power, but He chose when to create, for He is the beginning of all things. They also celebrate God’s holiness, for He is completely unique as Creator, and made it pure like Himself. When the living creatures do this, the twenty four elders are moved to worship Him as the one who created all things, and who did so for His own pleasure. The point at issue in the rest of the book is that God’s original creation has been spoiled, and it is man who has done it- it is time for God to destroy those who destroy the earth either by the corruption of sin, or by pollution and exploitation, Revelation 11:18. Compare this verse with Genesis 6:12,13, and remember that “as the days of Noah were, so shall also the days of the coming of the Son of Man be”, Matthew 24:37.
There are those who believe that the four living creatures and the 24 elders are symbols of the church. The following things should be borne in mind:
They address God in a different way to that appropriate for church believers.
John, a member of the church, is separate from them.
Individual elders and living creatures are spoken of, so they are not symbolic groupings.
The elders know something the apostle does not, 5:5; 7:13.
John does not join in their praise. He weeps, but does not sing.
Against that must be set the following:
They sing a new song, and speak of being redeemed, and waiting to reign on the earth. (Unless the new song is sung by the saints mentioned immediately prior to the account of the new song, but this is unlikely).
In chapter 5 the theme is different. It is the Lamb of God that is prominent, telling us the subject is redemption. But not only does redemption apply to those who believe, but also is relevant to this world, and one day the “redemption of the purchased possession” will take place, Ephesians 1:14, and Christ will come to claim what He purchased at Calvary. In the language of the parable, He bought the field for the treasure that was in it, Matthew 13:44, and “the field is the world”, Matthew 13:38. He is able to deliver creation from its bondage, and proves this ability by delivering from the greater bondage of sin.
A book lays on the hand of God as He sits on His throne as Creator and Governor, (the Greek preposition is ‘epi’ signifying ‘on’- the book is not grasped by God, but lays on His hand for anyone who is competent to take it, to do so). It is a book in which are written the details that will be unfolded in the rest of John’s writing. This book is a scroll, sealed with seven seals, and has writing both on the front and the back. In other words, it is full- there is no space left for any more writing. Ezekiel 2:10 refers to a book full of “lamentations and mourning, and woe”.
But the question is, who is worthy enough to approach the throne and take the book, unseal it, read it, and unleash upon the earth the most fearful of judgements written therein? The one who does this must have superseded all other candidates for the task. It is the Lamb who has prevailed or overcome all opposition in this way.
When the Lamb is revealed in His character of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and takes the book, thus showing that He is worthy to execute judgement, three anthems of praise ring throughout heaven. First, the living creatures and the twenty-four elders join to sing a new song, the song of redemption. Then the many angels of God rejoice, and ascribe praise to the Lamb. Thirdly, every creature, whether in heaven, earth, under the earth, or in the sea, are heard with all of their being praise God as the one on the throne, and the Lamb for ever and ever. The four living creatures say “Amen” to this, and the four and twenty elders fall down and worship God.
So there has been a review of the whole of time from the moment the Lamb takes the book, until all creation is redeemed from the bondage the sin of Adam sin brought it into, (Romans 8:19-22; Colossians 1:20), and to God’s praise again. This is the end of the first revelation.
THE SECOND REVELATION: CHRIST’S WRATH AND MERCY
Chapter 6:1 to chapter 7:17.
Christ reveals Himself as one who in the midst of wrath remembers mercy, see Habakkuk 3:2.
The Lamb now proceeds to unseal the scroll, and so disclose what is written on successive sections of it. The first six seals are broken, and then there is a parenthesis, as we shall see, before the seventh seal is broken. The first four judgements will be introduced by one of the four living creatures, who summon the horses and their riders, for the judgements concern events upon the earth, and come under the jurisdiction of these heavenly representatives of earth’s affairs. Seals five to seven are not put in operation by the living creatures, for they concern matters of a spiritual nature. The seals, trumpets and vials are all grouped in this way, four then three, with a parenthesis of some sort between the sixth and the seventh.
When the first seal is removed, a length of scroll is unrolled which tells of the riding forth of a personage on a white horse. He has a bow, but no arrow is mentioned, and he is allowed to go forth to conquer by peaceful means, and to succeed in doing so. This is Antichrist in the first phase of his rise to power during the first half of Daniel’s 70th week, and as such represents a judgement on men.
The second seal is broken, and a further part of the scroll is unrolled and read, and this tells of a rider on a red horse who has a great sword, and he is allowed to take peace from the earth and cause civil war, so that men kill one another. This could well be the Antichrist in a different guise, as his march to universal dominion continues, but in a more aggressive style.
The third seal reveals details about a black horse and his rider, representing death, for he brings famine for the poor, but preserves the luxuries for the rich, thus increasing the turmoil and unrest on the earth. The chaos of the French Revolution, when the oppressed poor rose up against the aristocracy, will be repeated on a world-wide scale.
The fourth seal being broken, a length of scroll is unrolled telling of a pale or greenish colour horse and its rider. This is the consequence of the foregoing events, for pale green is the colour of gangrenous, rotting flesh.
A comparison with Matthew 24 will show that these seals correspond to Christ’s prophecy about the end times. The first seal is indicated by His warning about deceivers who say “I am Christ”, verse 5. The second by the words “wars and rumours of wars”, verse 6. The third by “famines”, verse 7, and the fourth by “pestilences”, verse 7 again. This would explain why such little detail is given of what happens when these seals are broken, for the Lord Jesus has already dealt with these matters in the Olivet Discourse.
The second group, consisting of three seals now comes before us. The fifth seal reveals that there are those who have been martyred for their faith, as Matthew 24:9 had foretold, and being in a different age than the age of grace, they cry to God to ask for vengeance on those who have killed them. This is not appropriate action for those of this age killed for their faith, but it will be in the tribulation period. God’s reply to their call for vengeance is that they should wait for a little season until their brethren would be killed, and then vengeance would be executed. So there are two groups mentioned here. Linking this with the fact that after the mention of pestilences in Matthew 24:7 there is the setting up of the abomination of desolation in the temple, we are able to say that the first group of martyrs is connected with the first half of Daniel’s seventieth week, (“the beginning of sorrows”, Matthew 24:8), whereas the second group are those who are killed during the great tribulation proper, the second half of the seven year end-time period.
The sixth seal tells of the reaction of men to the return of Christ to earth, as they face the wrath of the Lamb. This corresponds to Matthew 24:30, where Christ prophesies His return to the earth. By issuing these prophecies He put Himself under test, for a prophet whose predictions did not come to pass was to be stoned to death, such is the seriousness of the offence, see Deuteronomy 18:20-22. If prophets cannot be trusted, the concept of Divine prophecy is undermined, and God rests His reputation on fulfilled prophecy. In Isaiah 41:21-24 He challenges the forces of evil to foretell the future, but if He cannot do this either, the challenge is pointless. As events unfold in the times we are thinking of, the nation of Israel will come to realise He spoke the truth after all. In this way they will be prepared to receive Him, either before He comes or when He does so.
Now comes a parenthesis, which consists of three things. First, the appointment of 144,000 preachers from amongst Israel, who will go forth to preach the gospel of the kingdom. This is recorded in chapter 7:1-8. Then, secondly, in verses 9 and 10, the results of their preaching, as a great multitude stand before the throne and ascribe the salvation they have to God’s power alone. Then thirdly, verses 11 and 12, the angels which stood about the throne give praise to God. They had been appointed as ministers to those who were heirs of salvation, Hebrews 1:14, and now their task is done, and they disclaim any credit for themselves, but give all the glory to God. Clearly, since the white-robed multitude had come out of the great tribulation, verse 14, this second revelation of Christ is now completed.
THIRD REVELATION: CHRIST’S SOVEREIGNTY
Christ reveals Himself in judgement that will achieve the end in view.
When the seventh seal is opened, there is revealed the whole of the remainder of what is written on the scroll, being all the events detailed in chapters 8-19. So awesome is the content that heaven is silent, as the most terrible judgements are disclosed, but not yet read and unleashed. They take the form of angel trumpeters sounding seven trumpets in succession. The trumpet is a war-instrument, as not only has man been at war with God down the ages, but God is at war with man in the tribulation age, and successive waves of His battle against them are summoned by these angels. The seventh trumpet will summon up seven more angels with the last plagues.
There is first of all a reminder of the prayers for vengeance offered by the saints in the first half of the seventieth week. What they asked for is about to start to happen. Not only is the Lamb the Kinsman Redeemer in chapter 5, but in chapter 6 onwards He takes the character of Kinsman Avenger, the one who takes up the cause of His brethren deprived of justice, see Numbers 35:19; Deuteronomy 19:6. Again, the judgements fall into two groups, four then three, with the four having to do with natural things, and the three with the realm of the spirit.
The first trumpet judgement sees hail, fire and blood cast upon the earth, with one third of trees burnt, and all the grass. This would have a dramatic effect on the climate of the earth, as it depends on the fine balance of the oxygen cycle, which would be upset by the loss of greenery. The destruction of the Amazon rainforests is affecting the climate of the whole planet. If we are to make everything a symbol, then we would have to interpret “all the grass” as all mankind, for “all flesh is as grass”. Yet under the trumpet judgements, (which are yet to be described), a third part of men are killed, so there must still be men alive after the first trumpet has sounded. The grass is not a figure for men, therefore.
The second trumpet sees a mountain burning with fire cast into the sea, and as a result the third part of the sea becomes blood. This could quite possibly be an asteroid, Divinely directed to plunge to earth at this precise moment. Consequently the third part of the sea-life was destroyed, and a third of the shipping. The economies of the world will be badly affected if there are no exports and imports.
The third trumpet heralded the fall of a great star from heaven, and a third part of the rivers and waters became wormwood, a bitter substance. It is interesting to notice that the name “Chernobyl”, (the place where a Russian nuclear power station ran out of control in 1986, spewing radioactive clouds into the air, which then fell on the soil), means “wormwood”. There are some farmers in Wales who are not allowed to sell their lambs for human consumption because the soil is still contaminated from the fall-out from Chernobyl. It is said that the meaning “wormwood” for chernobyl has been removed from Russian dictionaries.
The fourth trumpet saw a third part of the sun, moon and stars being darkened. We can only imagine the effect these judgements will have upon men, as the God of heaven pours out His wrath upon them for their wickedness. Men of science claim to be able to explain everything by natural means, but they will be confounded if only a third part of sun, moon and stars is darkened selectively.
The second group of trumpet-judgements begins in chapter 8. Attention is drawn to this group by the words of the angel who flies in mid-heaven and names them as woes. The fifth trumpet summons a demon host like locusts from the abyss, which torment men for five months.
The sixth trumpet sounds, and the river Euphrates is dried up, to allow easy passage for an army of 200 million soldiers from the east. By these a third part of men were killed.
Just as there was a parenthesis between seals six and seven, so there is at the same place in the trumpet series. This parenthesis is a long one, for although we are told that the trumpet sounds in chapter 11:15, we are not told of the effects until chapter 16:1. Before that, however, we shall be given views of how Christ manifests Himself at His coming. Again, there is further evidence that in the midst of wrath God remembers mercy, for just as the 144,00 evangelists are mentioned in the first parenthesis, so in this one the two witnesses are spoken of. Amidst the sounding of the trumpets as Israel marched round Jericho, there was the ark of the covenant with its cloth of blue upon it, signalling that heaven’s provision was available to faith. Rahab, whose house was on the wall, would see this, and by faith she claimed the blessing.
We are next told of an angel who has a little book or scroll open on his hand, and then John hears seven thunder rolls, the sure sign of an impending storm. The angel then swore on oath by God as the Creator of all things, that there should be time no longer. This clearly does not mean and end of time itself, for there are still 1000 years to run their course before that happens. May it not be that the angel is signalling that time for repentance and faith is no longer to be given by God? We see in subsequent passages that believers and preachers are being withdrawn from the earth. The martyrs of the first three and half years are already departed, and the martyrs of the tribulation period will soon be of full complement, as the Antichrist makes war against them and prevails, Daniel 7:21; 8:24; 11:33,35. In chapter 11 we read of the two witnesses caught up to heaven, and then in chapter 14 the 144,000 evangelists sealed in chapter 7 are seen in heaven.
John is next bidden to take the little book, not so that he may read it, or write in it, for both are not permitted, but to eat it. This is a figurative action, signifying his close involvement with the affairs written in the book. In his mouth the book tastes like honey, but as it was digested, and the full import of what was in it realised, then it became bitter to him. Perhaps the apostle is being given insight into the sufferings that the nation of Israel are yet to pass through, even though the end result will be sweet for them when Christ comes. It is interesting to notice that at this point John is told that he must prophesy again, 10:11. Might this be the point at which the reader of the scroll moves from the front to the backside, to commence a new set of details about God’s judgements?
John’s attention is now drawn to the temple at Jerusalem. He is to measure the inner parts, to ring-fence them so to speak. The outer court is not to be thus protected, but is to be trodden under foot by the Gentiles for 42 months, see Luke 21:24. When the disciples asked the Lord when the destruction of Jerusalem would be, He did not mention the destruction under Titus in AD 70, but spoke exclusively of still-future times. This is the same period of time as the 1260 days of verse 3, and also 12:6. It is also the same as the “time, times, and half of time” of 12:14. Then in 13:5 the first beast is allowed to continue for 42 months, again the same length of time, a month being 30 days in prophecy. The mention of months connects with the temple rituals and feasts, which were governed by the moon. During this period the Gentiles will be in control of the services in the temple, and God marks this by noting how many months pass by. The times, time, and half of time connects with the Daniel 7:25, and given, as it is, in connection with the faithful remnant of Israel, shows that God’s promises to them through Daniel are surely coming to their fulfilment, as well as the final judgement of their enemies. The mention of days shows that God sends His witnesses out every day to preach, just like He did of old time, “daily rising up early and sending them”, Jeremiah 7:25. And the days in connection with the oppressed remnant would indicate His daily faithful care of them, nourishing them in the wilderness just as He did Elijah, 1 Kings 17:6. They will pray “Give us this day our daily bread”, Matthew 6:11, and God will answer their prayer through those who are sympathetic to them, as Matthew 25:34-40 indicates.
The two witnesses God raises up will continue their ministry for 1260 days, and then will be killed, their bodies laying in the street of Jerusalem for three and a half days, (as many days as years they served), and then they are revived and caught up to God. It is definitely promised that Elijah will come at the end times, Malachi 4:5,6, and the previous verse to this speaks of Moses as God’s servant. The miracles the two witnesses perform are similar to those done by Moses and Elijah. That these two have a special interest in the end times is seen in their appearance together on the mount of transfiguration. The tenth part of the city of Jerusalem will be destroyed at this point through a great earthquake.
It is time now for the seventh trumpet judgement, the third woe. We are not told at this point what happens- we have to wait until 15:1 onwards to find out. We are told of the rejoicing in heaven as the result of the judgement is anticipated, for certain critical things will have been achieved once this judgement is over. This is because the seventh trumpet summons the last seven angels, who shall pour out their vials on the earth at the end of the tribulation period, as detailed in chapter 16. The things accomplished once the final judgements have been enacted are as follows: One, God will have taken His great power and reigned. Two, the nations will have shown their anger at God in the most violent way, as Psalm 2 had predicted. Three, the wrath of God can now be said to have come. Four, the time for the raising of the dead Old Testament saints and the tribulation saints has arrived, coinciding with the return of Christ to earth. Five, to judge the saints of old time. Six, to give rewards to them as appropriate. And seven, to destroy those who destroy the earth. This is the climax to the third revelation of Christ.
FOURTH REVELATION: CHRIST’S FAITHFULNESS
Christ will reveal Himself to be true to His promises to Israel despite the opposition of Satan.
Immediately prior to this revelation, the temple of God is opened in heaven. This is because the events next to be detailed have connections with the temple at Jerusalem, for the woman, (the faithful remnant of Israel), flees when the image of the beast is set up in the temple in Jerusalem, Matthew 24:15, and this is detailed in the next chapter, 13:15. So before these things are told us, God shows the true temple in the heavenly Jerusalem, thus demonstrating that He has not lost control, and that the centre of government, the ark, is still intact. No amount of profanity on the earth can touch heaven.
In chapter 12 we learn how God will preserve His faithful remnant people at the end time. The Lord had warned them to flee to the mountains once they knew that the image of the beast had been set up at Jerusalem, Matthew 24:15-21. This they will do, and be sheltered by God, possibly at Petra in Arabia. They will be vulnerable there, however, for Satan is capable of producing enough rainfall to flood them out, but God will see to it that an earthquake causes a chasm to open up, to allow the waters to be swallowed up so as not to harm them. It seems that the account of their flight is given twice, first in verse 6 in connection with the catching up of the man-child, (showing that God’s provision for them is based on what His Son has done for them), and again in verse 14, after the devil has been cast down.
Chapter 13 details the two evil personages that the devil will use to try to achieve his purpose in the world. Daniel had seen four beasts in his vision of Gentile dominion in Daniel 7. These were a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a nondescript beast. Of the first three it was said that their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season. We see in Revelation 13 how this works out, for the lion, bear and leopard kingdoms have been absorbed by the fourth beast, but their characteristics continue. We also learn of the false prophet who works miracles in order to attract attention to the first beast, the Antichrist, so that worship is directed to him, and through him to the devil himself. For from Daniel 11:38,39 we learn that the first beast worships the god of forces, Satan himself.
We are assured, however, at the end of this fourth revelation of the person of Christ, that despite the Antichrist’s seeming success against the saints on earth, the ultimate victory belongs to God, for the 144,000 He had sent forth to preach are now seen, with not one missing, in heaven, singing songs of triumph.
FIFTH REVELATION: CHRIST’S AUTHORITY TO JUDGE
Christ reveals Himself as the one given authority as Son of Man.
This revelation consists first of all of three angels making announcements, and then three angels executing judgements. The first angel making announcements declares the everlasting gospel, which simply announces God to be the creator and the judge, as chapter 4 had emphasised, but without speaking of Him as a Saviour God. Those who preached the gospel of the kingdom in the previous part of the seven years we are thinking of, have all been withdrawn. The martyred remnant are in heaven, as are those who come out of great tribulation. The 144,000 are seen in heaven, and the two witnesses have been caught up there too. The faithful remnant have been hidden by God. It is left to an angel to preach from the skies- there is no-one on earth to do it.
The second angel announces in anticipation of chapters 17 and 18, that Babylon is fallen. A third angel warns men of the consequences of worshipping the beast and having his mark.
Then three further angels begin their task. These either say things to the Son of Man or to one another. The first comes out of the temple in heaven, clearly with a word from God, to call the Son of Man to reap the harvest of the earth. This would correspond to the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:36-43. Then another angel comes out of the heavenly temple with a sharp sickle, and yet another angel, coming from the altar, (the place where the souls of the martyred saints had been heard calling for vengeance in chapter 6), and called the other angel to cut off the clusters of grapes from the vine of the earth. Now if Christ is the true and heavenly vine, John 15, this vine of the earth must be the Antichrist, and the clusters of fruit on his branches are those who are confederate with him. The clusters are fully ripe for judgement, and they are cast into the great winepress of the wrath of God. In other words, are gathered together for Armageddon.
The final scene in this fifth revelation is in 15:1-4, the sight of those who have overcome the antichrist safely home in heaven singing in triumph the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. The latter celebrated the destruction of God’s enemies at the Red Sea, and the former was written by Moses to caution the people about rebellion, (into which a large part of the nation will fall during the tribulation as they worship the Antichrist), but also to foretell the day when God would say “If I whet My glittering sword, and My hand take hold on judgement; I will render vengeance to Mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me”, Deuteronomy 32:41.
SIXTH REVELATION: CHRIST’S WRATH WITHOUT MERCY
Chapter 15:5 to 19:10.
Christ reveals Himself as vindicator of the Old Testament prophets.
This consists first of all of seven angels bearing the seven last plagues in their bowls or vials of wrath. These are summoned by the seventh trumpet blower. Again the seven are divided, four, affecting the earth, and three, affecting the spirit world. Again, there is a parenthesis between numbers six and seven, albeit a short one.
The first plague is on the earth, and men who have worshipped the beast and have his mark in recognition of his claims, are afflicted with a grievous sore.
The second is more general, for it results in the sea becoming like the blood of a dead man, and every sea-creature, being unable to breathe, dies. In the first trumpet judgement all the grass had been burnt up. Perhaps men had turned to harvesting the sea as a result. Now this is denied them, and they begin to starve.
The third plague turns the waters of rivers and fountains to blood, so extreme thirst will overcome men, especially bearing in mind the next plague. The waters become blood as just recompense for shedding the blood of God’s saints.
The fourth plague afflicts men with sunstroke, with all its accompanying pain. They blasphemed God’s name still further, however, and refused to repent.
The fifth plague is more spiritual in character, being directed at the antichrist’s seat of government. They now gnaw their tongues with pain because of the accumulated torments inflicted upon them.
The sixth plague has to do with the drying up of the Euphrates so that the kings of the east may be gathered together for Armageddon.
Between the sixth and seventh plague there is a most solemn parenthesis. Three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the three evil personages opposing God at this time. They work miracles, and gather men to the great battle of Armageddon, for their destruction. The other two parenthetical passages concerned God’s messengers, whether the 144,000 or the two witnesses, showing that in the midst of wrath He shows mercy. These messengers, however, come from the devil to deceive. Is this the strong delusion the apostle Paul wrote of in 2 Thessalonians 2:11?
The seventh plague was poured out on the air, the means of man’s life. How terrible to be judged by God with suffocation! Belshazzar was accused of not glorifying the God in whose hand his breath was, so his breath was withdrawn that night, Daniel 5:23,30. These are God’s final acts of wrath, and He announces the fact in the words “It is done”. There follows a great earthquake, Jerusalem was divided into three parts, the cities of the nations fell, and Babylon came into remembrance before God.
It is clear from a comparison between Jeremiah’s prophecy about the downfall of Babylon in chapters 50 and 51, with Revelation 17 and 18, that a literal city is in view. Jeremiah is speaking about the city of his day that was responsible for the destruction of Jerusalem, but this prefigures a more solemn day when God takes account of the fact that all of earth’s ills since the flood have stemmed from that city. The words of God are “Babylon hath been a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, that made all the earth drunken”, Jeremiah 51:7. Revelation 17:2 is an obvious reference to this, speaking of “being drunk with the wine of her fornication”. Fornication in this setting meaning unfaithfulness to God expressed in idolatry. That idolatry is founded on the concept of the Mother and the Child. The child being, in Babylonian mythology, the Husband of the Mother. So the child become the expression of the father, for he is the father reincarnated. This is a blasphemous imitation of the truth that the Son of God has come by way of incarnation to express the Father. He could say in truth, “He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father”, John 14:9. This system is represented most clearly in our day by the Catholic System, but as these chapters indicate, she has daughters, and it is striking how that the Popes in recent times have reached out to the religions of the world. She is the mother of harlots.
In the last days Antichrist will set up his throne there as King of Babylon, and thus it will be the place where opposition to God is concentrated. Before he can rightfully set up His kingdom centred at Jerusalem, the Lord must deal with the rival city, which has been Satan’s headquarters from the beginning. It should be noticed that the woman in the vision does not ride on the beast, as if she is in control, but simply sits on it, as one who is prepared to be taken along by it. (In 1825 Pope Leo XII struck a medal bearing his image on one side, and on the other a woman holding a cross in her left hand, a cup in her right hand, and the inscription “Sedet super universum”, meaning, “The whole world is her seat”). This suits the purpose of the beast for a time, for he knows that superstitious religion has a hold upon men. But when the moment comes for him to reveal himself as the sole object of worship, (as Nebuchadnezzar did before him, Daniel 3), then he will no longer need the religion of Babylon in that way, and will destroy it. When he does this he unwittingly will be serving the Lord’s interests.
FULL AND FINAL REVELATION OF CHRIST IN PERSON TO THE WORLD
Christ rides forth as the Warrior-King
The time is now right for the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven. What a surprise is in store for those who thought they had rid themselves of Him some 2000 years before. But in His own times He will show “who is the blessed and only potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting”, 1 Timothy 6:15,16. The Lord Jesus rides forth from heaven and utterly defeats His enemies, who will be consigned to the Lake of Fire as its first occupants. The Six verses describing this coming constitute just 1.5% of the whole book, showing that the book has mainly to do with the ways in which He reveals Himself before He actually comes.
Prior to this, however, the marriage supper of the lamb will take place, subsequent to the marriage of the Lamb to His bride, the church.
In chapter 20:1-9 we are told of a period of 1000 years, when Christ reigns over the earth as King of kings. Three things are characteristic of that age. First, Satan is bound and cast into the abyss for the duration of that age, then is released, and leads the final rebellion against God at the end of the reign of Christ and is decisively defeated, and is cast into the Lake of Fire, verses 2,3,7. Second, the unsaved dead remain in the grave for the whole of the period, and then are raised to stand before the Great White throne of God to be judged for their sins and sent to the Lake of Fire to be punished for ever and ever, verse 5. Third, those who suffer during the Great Tribulation are said to reign with Christ for a thousand years, verse 4.
Finally, in chapter 21:1-8, the new heaven and new earth is created by God. This brings to a close the events of time.
Chapter 21:9-22;5 revert back to the 1000-year reign of Christ, (as is indicated by the fact that it is one of the angels that had the plagues of the end of the tribulation period that talks with John, 21:9), and describe the city of Jerusalem of that time, and the conditions that will prevail. Just as in chapter 1 John was brought back from future things to present things, so in these verses he is brought back from eternity to the reign of Christ. The same thing happens in the conclusion of the book from 22:6 to the end, where John is brought back from millenial scenes to his present situation of waiting for Christ to come for the church.
Chapter 22:6 to the end of the book consists of a conclusion which revolves around the coming of the Lord Jesus and our response to it. It consists largely of the words of Christ Himself, with some input from the angel and from John. The passage may be thought of as centreing around the mentions of the coming of Christ, which is presented to us in principle, without going into the detail of His coming, which has been fully treated in the rest of the New Testament. These references to Christ’s coming are found in verses 7, 12, and 20, and John responds in verse 20 with the words “Even so, come, Lord Jesus”.