The New Testament book of Revelation was written to reveal the full identity of Jesus Christ and to give warning and hope to believers. Revelation is a book of hope: John, the beloved apostle and eyewitness to Jesus Christ, proclaimed that the victorious Lord would surely return to vindicate the righteous and to judge the wicked. However, Revelation is also a book of warning: things were not as they should have been in the seven churches of Asia, so Jesus Christ Himself called their members to commit themselves to live in righteousness.
Revelation begins with John explaining how he received this revelation from God (1:1-20). He then records specific messages from Jesus to the seven churches in Asia (2:1-3:22). Suddenly, the scene shifts as a mosaic of dramatic and majestic images bursts into view before John’s eyes. This series of visions portrays the future rise of evil, culminating in the antichrist (4:1-18:24). Then follows John’s recounting of the triumph of the King of kings, the wedding of the Lamb, the final judgment, and the coming of the new Jerusalem (19:1-22:5). Revelation concludes with the promise of Christ’s soon return (22:6-21), and John breathes a prayer that has been echoed by Christians through the centuries, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (22:20).
The Layout of Revelation
Letters To The Churches:
This is concentrated in (1:1-3:22) … The vision John received opens with instructions for him to write to seven churches. He both commends them for their strengths and warns them about their flaws. Each letter was directed to a church then in existence, but also speaks to conditions in the church throughout history. Both in the church and in Christian’s individual lives, there is the constant struggle against the temptation to become loveless, immoral, lenient, casual, lifeless or compromising regarding faith in God and in His only begotten Son Jesus Christ.
Message For The Church:
This is concentrated in (4:1-22:21) … consisting of worshiping God in heaven, opening the seven seals, sounding the seven trumpets, observing the great conflict, pouring out the seven plagues, seizing the final victory, and making everything new. The revelation is both a warning to Christians who have grown apathetic, and an encouragement to those faithfully enduring the struggles of life in the world. It reassures believers that good will ultimately triumph over evil, gives them hope as they face difficult circumstances, and provides guidance to prevent them from wavering in the faith.
Themes: Explanation and Importance
God is sovereign. He is greater than any power in the universe. God is not to be compared with any leader, government or religion. He controls history for the purpose of uniting true believers in loving fellowship with Him.
Though Satan’s power may temporarily increase, we are not to be led astray. God is all-powerful. He is in control. He will bring His true family safely into eternal life. Because He cares for us, we can trust Him with our lives and everything that we have.
Christ came to earth as a “Lamb”, the symbol of His perfect sacrifice for our sin. He will return as the triumphant “Lion”, the rightful ruler and conqueror. He will defeat Satan, settle accounts with all those who reject Him, and bring His faithful people into eternity.
Assurance of Christ’s return gives suffering Christians the strength to endure. We can look forward to His return as King and Judge. Since no one knows the time when He will appear, we must be ready at all times by keeping our faith strong.
GOD’S FAITHFUL PEOPLE
John wrote to encourage the church to resist the demands to worship the Roman emporer. He warns all God’s faithful people to be devoted only to Christ. Revelation identifies who the faithful people are and what they should be doing until Christ returns.
People can take their place in the ranks of God’s faithful people by believing in Jesus Christ. Victory is sure for those who resist temptation and make loyalty to Christ the first priority in their lives.
One day God’s anger toward sin will be fully and completely unleashed. Satan will be defeated with all his followers. False religion will be destroyed. God will reward the faithful with eternal life, but all who refuse to believe in Him and in the Son that He gave for the sake of the world will be condemned to everlasting punishment.
Evil and injustice will not prevail forever. God’s final judgment will put an end to them. Believers need to be certain of their commitment to Jesus Christ if they are to escape the judgment before the Great White Throne. No one who rejects Jesus Christ will escape the God’s punishment.
One day God will create a new heaven and a new earth. All believers will live with Him forever in perfect peace and security. Those who have already died will be raised to life. These promises for the future bring believers hope.
The great hope for believers is that what Jesus Christ has promised will come to pass. When believers have confidence in their final destination, they can follow Christ with unwavering dedication no matter what it is that they will face. The return of Jesus Christ is certain – the faith of believers in His Name must also be certain.
Commentary on the various passages of Holy Scripture from the book of Revelation is taken, with gratitude, from Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary.
A Closer Look… Rev. 1:1-20
The Superscription (1:1-3), the Prologue (1:1-8) and the Salutation (1:4-8) are given. Note the word “soon” in the first verse… this does not mean that the events chronicled in Revelation will necessarily occur in the near future, but what it does mean is that, once the events have started to occur, they will come to pass swiftly. Also note the first of seven beatitudes in the book of Revelation, starting with 1:3 (“Blessed is the one…” the others are in 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, and 22:14):
The Superscription and Prologue:
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw – that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. (Rev. 1:1-3)
John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (Rev. 1:4-6)
Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. (Rev. 1:7)
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev. 1:8)
The Circumstances of the Vision:
I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” (Rev. 1:9-11)
The Content of the Vision:
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brillance. (Rev. 1:12-16)
The Consequences of the Vision:
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (Rev. 1:17-20)
A Closer Look… Rev. 2:1-29
Starting with Chapter 2 of the book of Revelation, John speaks as to “what is now” (the state of the seven churches in Asia), beginning with Christ’s message to the church in Ephesus. Note Christ saying that the church in Ephesus had forsaken its first love… its eagerness to please Christ and the first blush of pure, unadultered service and devotion. Note also that Christ commends the church in Ephesus for rejecting Nicolaitan practices… a sect in the early days of the church that advocated license in matters of Christian conduct (including free love), and the creation and maintenance of a formal clerical hierarchy. Christ speaks to “him who overcomes”; a reference to all true believers:
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Rev. 2:1-7)
John continues with Christ’s message to the church in Smyrna. Note Christ accusing apostate Jews in the church, and warning of persecutions to come, either in the form of a period of 10 days of intense persecution, or possibly 10 cycles of persecution from Nero to Diocletian. Christ refers to the “crown of life”; the reward for those remaining faithful under trial, or unto death, and refers to the “second death”… eternal separation from God in the lake of fire:
“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. (Rev. 2:8-11)
John continues with Christ’s message to the church in Pergamum. Note Christ referring to Pergamum as where Satan has his throne, likely a reference to Pergamum’s worship of either the Roman emporer or of Zeus at his altar on the local acropolis, or both. Christ refers to “the sword of my mouth”… the power of the Word of God with which Christ fights the enemies of God. Christ mentions “hidden manna” , a reference to Christ being sufficient for the needs of all believers, as He was for the Jews during the wilderness wanderings following the exodus from Egypt. The reference to a white stone with a new name on it may refer to the custom of voting for the acquittal of an accused person by using a white stone (indicating that believers can be assured of their acquittal before God), or it may again refer to the sufficiency of Christ (from the custom of wearing amulets around the neck):
“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live – where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city – where Satan lives. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. (Rev. 2:12-17)
John continues with Christ’s message to the church in Thyatira. Note Christ’s reference to Jezebel, a false prophetess whose actions made her a contemporary counterpart of the notorious Jezebel of 1 Kings 16 and 21, and 2 Kings 9. Also, reference is made to her suffering, and to the suffering of her followers as well, possibly due to immoral practices. There is an indication that believers will share in the millenial rule of Christ on the earth, and receive the “morning star”, a reference either to Christ Himself (Rev. 22:16, 2 Pe. 1:19), or the immortal life that believers will receive from Christ:
“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): Only hold onto what you have until I come. To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations – ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery’ – just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev. 2:18-29)
A Closer Look… Rev. 3:1-22
John continues with Christ’s message to the church in Sardis. Note Christ’s reference to those in the church at Sardis as “dead” (devoid of spiritual life and power); He asks them to remember what they have received, obey and repent, but promises to come with punishment “as a thief” if they do not. However, Christ remembers the few in Sardis who have remained faithful, and He promises to confess their names before His Father, revealing their names forever inscribed in the Book of Life:
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev. 3:16)
John continues with Christ’s message to the church in Philadelphia. Note Christ’s reference to the “key of David” (a quotation from Isa. 22:22), a symbol of authority; compare this to the “keys of death and of Hades” in Rev. 1:18 and to the “keys of the kingdom” in Mt. 16:19). Even though there were few believers of great spiritual depth in the church at Philadelphia, Christ refers to their triumph over unsaved Jews who oppose them and His power, rule and authority. Christ says that he will rescue believers from the “hour of trial” (the Tribulation) that will come upon the earth, referred to in Mt. 24:14-21 and in 1 Th. 4:17. Christ urges believers to hold on to what they have so that it (crowns) will not be lost (see references to crowns, although not salvation, being lost in 1 Co. 3:15 and in 2 Jn 8), and promises to make all true believers pillars in the temple of His Father, referring to their being honored in the New Jerusalem:
“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars – I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev. 3:7-13)
John concludes Christ’s messages to the churches with Christ’s message to the church in Laodicea. Note Christ’s reference to “the Amen”, Who is the One who guarantees confirmation and certainty of all that He says. Toward Christ and His Father’s purpose, the church in Laodicea was lukewarm, neutral, compromising, accomodating… not recognizing its true condition and immersed in material things, it was repulsive to God. Christ refers to standing at the door of His own church, and knocking… inviting those who are worldly and materialistic to return to Him and have full fellowship with Him. Believers are declared to be co-rulers with Christ in His coming Kingdom:
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev. 3:14-22)
A Closer Look… Rev. 4:1-11
Starting with Chapter 4 of the book of Revelation, John speaks as to “what will take place later” (the Tribulation (Chapters 6-19), the Millenium (Chapter 20), and the new heavens and the new earth (Chapters 21-22)). John begins with a description of the throne of God:
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. (Rev. 4:1-3)
John describes the throng surrounding the throne of God, including the twenty-four elders (thought to be a representation of redeemed people who are glorified, crowned and enthroned) and the “living creatures” (either cherubim or representations of the attributes of God Himself, since they are at the center of the throne). Note the praise, honor and glory ascribed to God by the elders and the living creatures:
Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightening, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying, “Holy, holy holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Rev. 4:4-11)
A Closer Look… Rev. 5:1-14
John describes “the scroll in heaven”, which is the Book of Redemption that contains the story of man’s fall through sin and his rise through Jesus Christ (Heb. 2:5-9). Note the glory ascribed to Jesus Christ as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (the most noble kingly tribe referred to in Gen. 49:9) and the “Root of David” (the One who fulfills the covenant with David, referred to in Isa. 11:1, 10); John is assured that Jesus Christ is competent and worthy to break the seven seals and open the scroll to release the plagues:
Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Rev. 5:1-5)
Jesus Christ is described as the Savior-Sovereign; the Lamb slain for the sins of the world Who bears the marks of His death (Lk. 24:40, Jn. 20:20, 27) even in His glorified state; the horns are a symbol of strength (1 Ki. 22:11, Zec. 1:18). Note the glory given to Jesus Christ by the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders, multitudes of angels, and every living creature:
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Rev. 5:6-14)
A Closer Look… Rev. 6:1-17
John reveals the first manifestations of God’s righteous anger against the pagan nations of the earth: the seal judgments.
As is the case in much of Revelation, there are various interpretations of the visions that John was privileged to behold. The first seal has at least two:
1) The white horse symbolizes a time of peace during the early progress of the Christian religion, going forth in purity at the time when its heavenly Founder sent forth the Apostles to teach all the nations. Christianity is visualized as going forth into the world crowned, having God’s favor upon it, armed spiritually against its foes, and destined for final victory at the end of the age.
2) The white horse symbolizes the initial going forth into the world of the anti-christ (refer to 1 Jn. 2:18), whose initial method of conquest at first does not appear to include open warfare, since peace is not removed from the earth until the second seal is opened; this corresponds to the description of the delusion that is caused by the anti-christ (refer to 1 Th. 5:3).
I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest. (Rev. 6:1-2)
The second seal removes peace from the earth, signifying desolating judgments. The sword of war and persecution is a dreadful judgment because peace is removed from the earth, which is one of its greatest blessings. Men who should love and help one another as Christ commanded are instead set upon killing one another. Scenes like this also followed the pure age of early Christianity when, neglectful of both charity and the bonds of peace, Christian leaders who were divided amongst themselves appealed to the sword rather than to the love and example of Christ.
When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword. (Rev. 6:3-4)
The third seal denotes mourning and woe, darkness and ignorance, but also famine, referring particularly to a famine of the Word of God, a famine of spiritual food. As the stream of Christianity has flowed further and further from its pure fountain, it has been more and more corrupted by sinful men. As the necessities of life have become ever more excessive in price, even so those things that are the most costly of all should not be damaged. In the prophetic language of Revelation, those most costly items signify the food of religious knowledge, by which the souls of all men are nourished unto everlasting life (refer to Isa. 55:1). However, when the dark clouds of ignorance and superstition, denoted by the black horse of the third seal, spread over the Christian world, the knowledge and practice of true religion becomes scarce. When a people loathe their spiritual food, God may justly deprive them of their daily bread as well. The famine of bread is a terrible judgment, but the famine of the Word of God is the worst judgment that can befall mankind.
When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying , “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” (Rev. 6:5-6)
The fourth seal denotes death. The attendant of death is Hades, which will be an eternal state of misery to all who die unrepentant in their sins. The period of the fourth seal is one of death and slaughter on an unparalleled level, destroying whatever makes life worth living and ravaging the souls of mankind; this iniquity is extended over the lives and consciences of mankind. The exact times of the four seals cannot be ascertained, because they are gradual, according to the will of God; they are at His command, they go forth only as God sends them, and they go only as far, and do only as much, as He permits.
When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. (Rev. 6:7-8)
The fifth seal denotes the martyrs who have been slain for the testimony and the witness of Jesus Christ. These martyrs are alive, and conversing with the Lord in His presence. They have trusted in God, knowing that persecutors can kill only the body, after which there is no more harm that they can do. It is not their own death, but the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross, that has given the martyrs entrance to the Kingdom of God. The cause for which they suffered was the noblest that anyone can lay down life for: the eternal Word of God, and bold, unshaken confession of it before men. The martyrs commit their cause to Him to Whom vengeance belongs, for the Lord is the comforter of His afflicted servants, and precious is their blood in His sight, for they have confessed faith in His only begotten Son, and freely given their lives in proof of it.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed. (Rev. 6:9-11)
The sixth seal denotes physical disturbances in the cosmos… not only disturbances in the weather and in the earth, but foundations of both churches and states being terribly shaken. Such bold and figurative descriptions of great changes abound in the prophecies of Scripture, for these events are emblems declaring the end of the world and the day of judgment. Dread and terror will fall upon men… neither grandeur, riches, valor nor strength can support men at this time; they would prefer not to be seen, even to have no physical being any longer. Christ, although He is the Lamb and the Redeemer, can be angry: if Jesus Christ, Who appeases the wrath of God, is our enemy, then there is no one who can plead for us. Men have both their day of opportunity and their seasons of grace… so also does God have His day of righteous wrath. It is interpreted by some that these passages refer to the overthrow of the paganism of the Roman Empire, but God will also have His vengeance against those in these last days who deny both He and His Son who was given for the world.
I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev. 6:12-17)
A Closer Look… Rev. 7:1-17
A dreadful, general destruction is foretold by the angels at the four corners of the earth… but it is to be delayed until the elect of God are sealed with the Holy Spirit. This mark is the witness of the Holy Spirit, printed in the hearts of believers. God would not allow these believers, the remnant of His people, to suffer before they were marked, so that they would be prepared for all conflicts:
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel: From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000. (Rev. 7:1-8)
The word “remnant” is mentioned 65 times throughout the NIV, but is spoken of in a context of returning and being saved in Isa. 10:22-23:
Though your people, O Israel, be like the sand by the sea, only a remnant will return. Destruction has been decreed, overwhelming and righteous. The Lord, the Lord Almighty, will carry out the destruction decreed upon the whole land.
and in Ro. 9:27-28:
Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”
These passages may refer to the return of Israel from the captivity that it suffered in its past history, but may also refer to those true believers who will enter the glory of God.
John sees the “the great multitude” of the Gentiles… those who have come to faith in the Name of Jesus Christ during the time of the Great Tribulation, and who loudly and fervently ascribe their salvation to the Lamb:
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes – who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:9-17)
A Closer Look… Rev. 8:1-13
The seventh seal is opened by the Lamb… silence falls in heaven for the space of half an hour; silence of such length is a precursor to momentous events:
When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (Rev. 8:1)
The silence may mean all is quiet in the church on earth; even though it is suffering because of oppression, its cries reach up to the heavenly realms… it is a silence of expectation of the awesome judgments of God. Jesus Christ is the angel who stands at the altar as the perfected High Priest of God’s holy people, with a golden censer and incense to offer: the prayers of the saints who petition God to judge evil and to inaugurate His kingdom quickly; a judgment follows:
Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightening and an earthquake. Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them. (Rev. 8:3-6)
In the preceding passages, Jesus Christ offers His Father the prayers of the saints… these prayers, offered by Jesus Christ the Lamb and the Son, are not denied hearing and acceptance by God the Father. By the acceptanceof the righteous prayers of the saints, great changes are produced upon the earth. Christian faith and worship, pure and heavenly in their origin, nature and intent, when sent down upon the earth to conflict with the passions and desires of sinful men, produce remarkable tumults, set forth and described in the prophetical language of Revelation.
The angels begin to sound the seven trumpets:
The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. (Rev. 8:7)
Some understand the first trumpet to be a storm of heresies and dreadful errors falling upon the church, or a tempest of general destruction.
The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. (Rev. 8:8-9)
Some understand the second trumpet’s mountain to be leaders of the great persecutions of the church; others understand the reference to be to Rome being sacked by the Goths and the Vandals with extreme slaughter and cruelty.
The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water – the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter. (Rev. 8:10-11)
Some understand the great star to be a reference to an eminent governor; others understand the reference to be to a person in power who corrupted the churches of Jesus Christ. The doctrines of the gospel are the wellsprings of spiritual life, comfort and vigor for the souls of men: these are corrupted and made bitter by the mixture of dangerous errors so that men’s souls are ruined instead of saved.
The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night. As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!” (Rev. 8:12-13)
Guides and governors are placed higher than the people they guide and govern, and are supposed to dispense light and kind influences to them. What this means is when the gospel of truth that is Jesus Christ comes to a people and doesn’t have the appropriate effects upon their hearts and upon their lives, this indifference is followed with dreadful judgments. God does all that He can do through His sacred written words in Scripture, by ministers of the Word, by men’s own consciences, and by the signs of the times… if people confess surprise at the righteous judgments of God, it is their own fault. The anger of God renders all earthly comforts bitter, and life itself almost unbearable, but… God sets bounds to the most terrible of His judgments. The corruption of both doctrine and worship in the church are great judgments, and so are the usual causes and tokens of other judgments that come upon a people. Before the angels sounded the remaining three trumpets, God issued a solemn warning as to how horrific the calamaties that would follow would be. The point is that if lesser judgments do not soften the hearts of those who are unrepentant, then the church and the world must understand and expect that greater judgments will follow: when God comes to punish the world, its inhabitants will tremble before Him. While sinners flee from the wrath that is to come, believers must learn to value and be thankful for their privileges, and must continue to do what is just and right in the eyes of God.
A Closer Look… Rev. 9:1-21
Men are sorely smitten by the fifth trumpet:
The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them. The locusts looked like men prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon. The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come. (Rev. 9:1-12)
The star that fell to the earth ceased being a minister of Christ; he is now a minister of Satan who unleases the powers of hell against the churches of Jesus Christ. When the bottomless pit of the Abyss was opened, a great cloud of smoke arose: this is Satan carrying out his designs by blinding the eyes of men, by putting out light and knowledge, and promoting ignorance and error. Out of this smoke come the locusts, the emblem of Satan’s agents, who promote all manner of superstition, idolatry, error and cruelty. The trees and the grass, symbols of true believers, should remain untouched. However, a secret poison and infection in the soul will rob many others of first purity, and thereafter peace. By God’s design, the locusts do not have any power to harm the true believer, because God’s all-powerful, distinguishing grace will keep His people from final and total apostasy… they will not fall prey to the pestilence of error. From the Scripture (1 Cor. 11:19), such errors were allowed to try and prove the early Christians. Early writers of the Christian church seem to be plainly referring to the first great wave of corrupters who overspread the Christian church.
Men are killed by the sixth trumpet:
The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number. The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury. The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood – idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts. (Rev. 9:13-21)
The sixth trumpet seems to indicate the power of the Turks, which is limited; they brought not only the slaying of men, but a poisonous and ruinous religion. An anti-Christian generation did not repent even under the weight of dreadful judgments. God can make one enemy of the church a scourage and a plague to another enemy of the church: the idolatry in the remains of the eastern church and elsewhere, and the sins of professed Christians, render this prophecy and its fulfillment even more wondrous. An attentive reader of both Scripture and history will find his faith and hope strengthened by events, which in other respects fill his heart with anguish and his eyes with tears, even while he sees men who escape these plagues not repenting of their evil deeds but going on with diverse idolatries, wickedness and cruelty… that is, until the inevitable wrath of Almighty God falls upon them.
A Closer Look… Rev. 10:1-11
Jesus Christ, the mighty angel, reveals the little scroll… God’s truths (which are sweet because they are perfection, but sour because they represent inevitable and righteous judgment). Over His head is a rainbow, symbolic of the new and ever-lasting covenant He has instituted and of which He is always mindful, and He speaks in seven thunders: solemn and terrible ways in which the mind of God is revealed. So powerful are the words of the seven thunders that they are commanded to be sealed up; the subjects of which the thunders speak are not revealed, neither is the purpose for their being sealed… they may possibly relate to historic events in the founding and evolution of the Christian church. The angel indicates that the final salvation of the righteous, and the final success of true religion on earth, are at hand… there will be no more delay:
Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.” Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” (Rev 10:1-7)
The little scroll is sweet because it is revealed truth of God, but it is also bitter because of what it reveals… grevious persecutions of the people of God, desolations in the earth, idolatries… and such knowledge must necessarily bring the true believer in God and in His Son and in the Word to an extreme heaviness of heart. The perfection of the Scriptures as the revealed Word of God, when understood, is compared to the state of the world, and believers are grieved because of it:
Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.” I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.” (Rev. 10:8-11)
A Closer Look… Rev. 11:1-19
The temple of God is measured; a seeming reference to Ezekiel’s vision. The design of the measuring seems to relate to the preservation of the church in times of public danger; or for its trial, or for its reformation. The worshippers must be measured; whether they are making God’s glory their end, and His word their rule, in all of the acts of their worship. The outer court is excluded from the measurement; a seeming reference to those who worship God in a false manner, or with dissembling hearts: they will be found among His enemies. God will have a temple and an altar in the world until He decrees the end of time and human history. The holy city is the visible church of God, and it will be trodden underfoot: filled with idolaters, infidels and hypocrites. However, all the desolations of God’s church are limited by God Himself, and He will deliver His church out of all its persecutions and defilements:
I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshippers there. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. (Rev. 11:1-2)
In the time that the church is treaded down, God keeps His faithful witnesses to attest the truth of His Word and His worship, and the excellence of His ways. The number of the witnesses is small, but adequate for God’s purpose; they prophesy in sackcloth, showing their afflicted, persecuted state, and deep sorrow for the abominations that have been visited upon the church and all true believers. By God’s amazing grace, they are supported in their work until the time that it is completed. It is said that with God, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day: when these witnesses have prophesied for the greatest part of 1,260 years (the passage refers to 1,260 days, or 3-1/2 years; the first half of the Tribulation), antichrist, the great instrument of the devil, will war against these true witnesses of God and of His Son Jesus Christ with great force and violence. The forces of the antichrist are determined to do whatever they can to destroy the faithful servants of God and of His Son, because their holy and righteous conduct torments them. The term of this persecution is not yet over with, and the witness to both God and the pure and holy testimony of His only begotten Son will continue due to the depressed state of true religion. The spirit of life from God quickens dead souls and dead bodies, and the revival of God’s work through His witnesses will strike abject terror into the souls of His enemies. Where there is guilt because of the hatred of God and of His Son, there is fear, and a persecuting spirit, although it is a cruel spirit, is a cowardly spirit. Persecutors of God and of His Son Jesus Christ will suffer all the more on the Day of the Lord when they see the faithful and true servants of God honored and advanced. The witnesses of the Lord must not grow weary in their suffering and service, and must continue in it until they are called home by Him. That the children of God who are privileged to be called that name by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on their behalf are exalted unto the kingdom of heaven sends shock waves through the forces that stand against God, and historical events have shown this. Whenever God’s work and witnesses are revived, the work and the witnesses of Satan are destroyed. It is virtually certain that the martyrdom of the true witnesses for God and for His Son Jesus Christ will continue:
And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want. Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on. At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon. (Rev. 11:3-14)
Attention is demanded before the seventh trumpet is sounded. The right of God to rule over all of the earth according to His will is inalienable and eminently just, but the nations of the earth impudently met God’s righteous anger with their own anger. This is a seeming reference to God’s church on earth, which God favored through the death of His Son our Lord Jesus Christ: His sacrificial death tore the curtain of the temple in Jerusalem from top to bottom, opening a path for sinful men to communicate with their God through the One Mediator Jesus Christ, who defeated both sin and death. However, in the wake of that greatest event in human history, the nations unleashed the powers of the antichrists to lay the law of God and the sacrifice of His only Son Jesus Christ aside, replacing it with their own customs, decrees and traditions, thus making the law of God of no account. However, what God has accomplished cannot, and will never, be laid aside: the Holy Scriptures have been opened for all to behold, and the direct path to God has been established by the death of His Son Jesus Christ… this is a sign of the return of God to His people, and the setting aside of the customs, decrees and traditions created by men so that God alone may be glorified in all that He has done, especially the provision of Jesus Christ as the one and final propitiation for the forgiveness of sin; a seeming reference to the Reformation:
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great – and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightening, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. (Rev. 11:15-19)
A Closer Look… Rev. 12:1-17
Personified as a woman, the church of Jesus Christ, Israel, the mother of believers, was seen in heaven by the apostle John in a vision. Clothed with the sun, she is justified, sanctified, and shining by union with the groom Jesus Christ, the Lord of Righteousness. The moon is under her feet; the brilliant light of the revelation of Jesus Christ, the sun, is superior to the reflected light of the revelation of Moses, the moon. The doctrine of the gospel, the eternal crown of glory for all true believers, is her crown of twelve stars. She cries out in pain as she struggles to bring forth into the world a holy family, sinners convicted by the truth of the gospel message unto repentance, conversion and eternal life. Her opposition is seen as the red dragon, Satan, and those (at the time, the Roman Empire) who rule according to his dictates, who are dedicated to persecuting and seducing the ministers of the gospel. In spite of all of the opposition of Satan and his followers, the church brings forth Jesus Christ as its Foundation, and true, faithful professors of the gospel truth that partake of the glory of Jesus Christ, the One who rules the nations; the church is under His divine protection:
A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. (Rev. 12:1-6)
There was war: the seat of the war was in heaven, and also in the church of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of heaven on earth. With Jesus Christ as the Mighty Angel of the new covenant, Satan and his angels were defeated and cast out of heaven down to the earth. An example of the power of Jesus Christ and His church is that pagan idolatry, the worship of devils, was overthrown in the Roman Empire by the spreading of Christianity. Satan, who accuses all true believers even before the throne of God, was overthrown and overcome by the blood of the Lamb. Because of the purity of the salvation that Jesus Christ has provided by His sacred blood, believers must never give Satan cause to accuse them, but must always be ready to go before the Lord to condemn themselves, and to re-commit themselves to Jesus Christ as their Advocate; their defense against the evil one is to put faith in the merits of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, to witness to His mission and to His glory, and to make any sacrifice up to and including death. The work of Satan is to deceive the entire world, soliciting it to eternal death, and to accuse the brethren before God. However, God has already passed, and will pass in the future, judgments on the evil one: 1) his removal from guarding the throne of God (Eze. 28:14, 16), 2) the prophecy in the Garden of Eden (Ge. 3:15), 3) his defeat at the Cross (Jn. 12:31), 4) his being barred from heaven (Rev. 12:9), 5) his confinement in the abyss (Rev. 20:3), and 6) his eternal torment in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10):
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short. (Rev. 12:7-12)
Israel is personified as being under attack by Satan. This is the church, the Body of Christ, and she will be protected by her God. The flood of water alluded to is interpreted by some to mean the invasions of the barbarians against the Western world following the collapse of the Roman Empire, by others an overwhelming tide of doctrinal errors, the goal of which was to completely destroy Christianity. However, as the timeline of human history has proved thus far, Satan has been defeated in his attempts to destroy God’s church, so he has now turned his rage against all who obey God and witness to Jesus Christ:
When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring – those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Rev. 12:13-17)
A Closer Look… Rev. 13:1-18
The beast referred to as coming out of the sea is the antichrist: a tyrannical, idolatrous, persecuting, frightful power. It appears to mean that worldly, oppressing domination has been against the saints of God ever since the days of the Babylon captivity, which started in those days with hostility against the righteous but then escalated to unparalleled heights under the fourth beast of Daniel’s vision (the Roman Empire), which afflicted the saints with many cruel persecutions. The source of the power of the antichrist is the dragon, Satan himself, who sets up the beast and supports him. The wounding of its head is an allusion to the abolishment of pagan idolatry in the Roman Empire, but the healing of that wound is an allusion to the introduction of papal idolatry: the same persecution in substance as that suffered previously, but in a new dress which just as effectively serves the purposes of the evil one. The world, which is opposed to God, admires its power, policy and success, paying both honor and subjection to the evil one and his supporters. Their power and policy are infernal because they require men to render that honor to creatures which belongs to God, and to God alone. However, the power and success of the dragon and of the beast are limited by God. Jesus Christ has a chosen remnant, redeemed by His blood, recorded in His book, and sealed by His Spirit, and though Satan and the antichrist may overcome the body and take away the natural life, they cannot conquer the soul, nor prevail with true believers to forsake their Savior and join the ranks of the enemies of God. Perseverance in the truth of the gospel message and in the true worship of God in the great hour of trial and temptation (which will overcome all but the elect of God) is the character of those whose names are written in the Book of Life. This powerful motive and encouragement to constancy in the love of and the worship of God, and in the belief of His Son Jesus Christ and in His completed work of redemption, is the great design of Revelation:
And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. He who has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints. (Rev. 13:1-10)
There are those who understand the first beast to denote a worldly power, and they also take the second beast to be a persecuting and assumed power that acts under the guise of religion and charity to the souls of men. It is a spiritual dominion, professing to be derived from Christ, and exercised at first in a gentle manner, but soon speaks like the dragon. Its own speech betrayed it, for it gave forth those false doctrines and cruel decrees that showed it belonged to the dragon and not to the Lamb. The second beast exercised all the power of the first beast, and it pursued the same design: to draw men away from worshipping the true God and to subject their souls to the will and control of men, rather than to the will of God alone as revealed through His sacred Scripture and the completed work of His Son Jesus Christ. The second beast has carried on its designs, by methods whereby men should be deceived to worship the first beast in the new shape and likeness made for it, by lying wonders, pretended miracles, severe censures, and by allowing no one to enjoy natural and/or civil rights who will not worship that beast which is the image of the pagan beast. Belief in and allegiance to the beast is made a qualification for buying and selling, and well as for places of profit and trust, that they oblige themselves to use all their interest, power and efforts to forward the dominion of the beast, which is meant by receiving his mark. To make an image to the beast, whose fatal wound was healed, would be to give form and power to his worship, or to require obedience to his commands. To worship the image of the beast implies being subject to those things which stamp the character of the picture to render it as the image of the beast. The number of the beast is given so as to show the infinite wisdom of God, and to exercise the wisdom of men. The number is the number of a man, and is 666. What or who is intended by this remains a mystery that no one to date has solved, although the number has been applied to almost every religious dispute; however, he who has wisdom and understanding will perceive that all of the enemies of God are numbered and marked for destruction: the term of their power will soon expire, and all nations will submit to God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit:
Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666. (Rev. 13:11-18)
A Closer Look… Rev. 14:1-20
Mount Zion is the gospel church, and Jesus Christ, her bridegroom and protector, is present with her in the midst of her troubles; because of Him, she is not consumed by the forces that so actively seek her destruction. The presence of Jesus Christ secures her perseverance, and her people appear with Him in honor: they have the Name of God written on their foreheads; they make a bold and open profession of faith in God and in Jesus Christ. Their history is long and honorable: they come from those who have throughout history ventured forth to proclaim and lay down their lives for the worship and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, keeping themselves clean from the wicked abominations of the followers of the antichrist, having their hearts right with God and being freely pardoned from the penalty of sin by the purity of Jesus Christ; He is glorified in them, and they in Him. All true believers pray and work toward being included in this purest of company, those who are truly justified and sanctified in and through Jesus Christ:
Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a shout from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. (Rev. 14:1-5)
In the next passages of the chapter, the earthly progress of the Reformation appears to be set forth. The four proclamations made are plain in their meaning: in the times of trial, all Christians should be encouraged to be faithful to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The gospel is the one means whereby men are brought to fear God and to give glory to Him. It is the preaching of the gospel that shakes the foundations of the antichrist in the world and that hastens his downfall, for he cannot stand against it. If anyone persists in being subject to the beast, and sharing in his wicked work, they must expect to be condemned for all eternity. The believer must suffer all that comes his or her way in obeying the commandments of God and in professing the Name of Jesus Christ and belief in Him, and should pray that such patient endurance would be granted. The description of these that are and shall be blessed is that they die in the Lord, die in the cause of Jesus Christ, be found in Jesus Christ when death comes… they rest forever from all sin, temptation, sorrow and persecution. Their works follow them, not as their title or the price of their purchase for God, but as proof of their having both lived and died in the Lord. Their remembrance will be pleasant, and their reward eternal life for all of their services and their sufferings patiently endured in the Name of Jesus Christ their Lord, Messiah, Savior and King. This is guaranteed by the testimony of the Holy Spirit , witnessing with their spirits before Almighty God, and by the written Word:
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth – to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” A second angel followed and said, “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.” A third angel followed them and said, “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name. This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” (Rev. 14:6-14)
Where the warnings and the judgments of God have not produced reformation, the sins of the unbelieving nations continue to be filled up until they become ripe for God’s judgment, which is represented by a harvest, an emblem used to signify the gathering of the righteous, when they are ripe for heaven, by the mercy of God. The righteous shall be gathered unto their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The enemies of Jesus Christ and of His church will not be destroyed until such time as by the multiplicity of their sins they are finally ripe for ruin; then they will be spared no longer. The winepress referred to is the just and awful wrath of God, a terrible calamity, probably a sword, shedding the blood of the wicked. The patience of God toward sinners is the greatest of miracles, but though it is lasting, it is not ever-lasting, and the full bloom of ripened sin in the wicked is a sure proof that God’s just punishment is nearer than the wicked believe:
I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of man” with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia. (Rev. 14:14-20)
A Closer Look… Rev. 15:1-8
In the prelude to the bowl judgments, seven angels appear in heaven, prepared to finish the destruction of the antichrist. The moment is at hand wherein the sins of Babylon have filled to their full measure, and wherein the awesome wrath of God against those sins has also filled to its full measure. Believers are looking for their final deliverance, singing a powerful hymn of glory, honor and praise to Almighty God, fearing and honoring Him alone, Whose praise is above both heaven and earth:
I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues – last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Rev. 15:1-4)
In the judgments that God executes against the antichrist and his followers, He fulfills the prophecies and the promises of His Word. The seven angels are prepared for their work as ministers of Divine justice, appropriately clothed and sashed, and armed with the wrath of God against His enemies. They receive the bowls of God’s wrath from one of the four living creatures, one of the ministers of the true church, as an answer to the prayers of the ministers and the people of God. Antichrist cannot be destroyed without a great and overwhelming shock to the world, which will affect even the people of God while it is occurring; the greatest deliverances of the true church are brought about by the will of God, and its eternal happy state will not commence until all of its enemies have been utterly destroyed, and all believers purified. Then, with everything that is against Scripture finally purged away, the entire church shall be spiritual, and firmly established in purity for all eternity:
After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened. Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests. Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed. (Rev. 15:5-8)
A Closer Look… Rev. 16:1-21
A succession of the terrible judgments of God upon an unrepentent world is unfolded, and there are allusions amongst them to several of the plagues of Egypt. The bowls refer to the seven trumpets, which represented the rise of the antichrist; the fall and destruction of the enemies of the church will bear a resemblance to their rise. All things throughout the domain of unbelievers on the earth… their air, their seas, their rivers, their cities… are condemned to sure and certain ruin, all of them accursed for the wickedness of their people. It is no wonder that angels, divine created beings that execute and witness God’s just and awful vengeance on the obstinate haters of God and of Jesus Christ and of all holiness and righteousness, praise forever and ever His just punishments and enduring truths, when He brings upon cruel persecutors the tortures they made His saints and prophets… even His only and beloved Son Jesus Christ… suffer:
Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.” The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the poeple who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died. The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: “You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged; for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.” And I heard the altar respond: “Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.” (Rev. 16: 1-7)
It is sure and it is certain that the heart of man is so desperately wicked that even the most severe of God’s punishments will never bring any to repent of what they have done without the special grace of God. Those who are ignorant of, and especially those who willingly remain thus, of the history of human nature, the Holy Bible, and their own hearts, and who do not know that the more that people suffer, and the more plainly that the hand of God in that suffering is seen, often are the ones to more violently rage against God. Sinners must seek repentance from Jesus Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit, or have the anguish and the horror of an unhumbled, impenitent and desperate heart adding to their guilt and misery throughout all eternity. God alone understands in the fullest sense that the darkness of sin is opposed to wisdom and to knowledge, and is the hallmark of those who follow the beast and the ways of the world; sin is opposed to godly joy and pleasure, and is accompanied by anguish and vexation of the spirit:
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done. (Rev. 16:8-11)
The next verses likely display either the destruction of the Turkish power and its idolatry (with a way being made for the return of the Jews), or the destruction of Rome as mystical Babylon (the name of Babylon being meant for Rome, but which was not at that time meant to be named directly). When Rome is destroyed, her river and merchandise were to be destroyed with her, with perhaps a way for the eastern nations to be brought into the church of Jesus Christ. The great dragon will collect all his forces, to make one last and desperate struggle before all that is his is lost. God warns the world of this great trial, to engage His people to prepare for it. These times will be times of great temptation; therefore Christ, through His Apostle, calls on His professed servants to expect His sudden and glorious coming, and to watch that they might not be put to shame as apostates or hypocrites. However Christians may differ as to their views of the times and the seasons of events yet to be brought to pass, on this one point all are agreed: Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, will suddenly come again to judge the world. To those who are living near to Christ, His return will be the object of joyful hope and expectation, and His delay will not be desired by them:
The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. “Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.” Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. (Rev. 16:12-16)
The seventh and last angel poured out his bowl, and the downfall of Babylon is finished. The church triumphant in heaven sees this and rejoices; the church in conflict on the earth sees this and becomes triumphant. God remembers the great and wicked city, although He seems to have forgotten for some time its idolatry and cruelty. In the wake of the downfall, men continue to blaspheme: the greatest and most terrible of God’s judgments will not bring any to repentance unless they are touched with the grace of God. To be willingly hardened against God, especially after His just and righteous punishments which should cause sinners to reflect upon His glory and repent to give Him honor, praise and glory, is a sure and certain token of utter destruction:
The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!” Then there came flashes of lightening, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible. (Rev. 16:17-21)
A Closer Look… Rev. 17:1-18
In this chapter, Rome clearly appears to be indicated. There are two Romes to discuss… pagan Rome ruthlessly subdued and ruled the nations with military power, not by art and flattery. In general, the nations subjugated by Rome were left to their ancient religions and patterns of worship. However, it is well known and understood that papal Rome, by crafty management and politics, and by subtle deceit and unrighteousness, has obtained and retained rule over these same nations. As part of papal Rome were allurements of worldly honor and riches, and pomp and pride suited to sensual and worldly minds. Prosperity, pomp and splendor feed the pride and lusts of the human heart, but are no security against the divine vengeance. The golden cup referred to represents the allurements and delusions by which this mystical Babylon has obtained and retained her influence and, not only that, but seduced others to join her abominations as well. From her infamous practices, she is named a ‘mother of prostitutes’, training them up to idolatry and all other manner of wickedness. She filled herself with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus Christ, and intoxicated herself with it; it was so pleasant to her that she was never satisfied. Humankind cannot but wonder at the oceans of Christian blood shed by men called Christians; yet when they consider the prophecies of Revelation, these awful deeds testify to the truth of the gospel. All people must beware of a splendid, gainful or fashionable religion. All people must avoid the mysteries of iniquity and study diligently the great mystery of godliness, that all people might learn humility and gratitude from the example of Jesus Christ. The more that all people seek to resemble Jesus Christ, the less all people shall be liable to be deceived by the antichrist:
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blaspemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. (Rev. 17:1-6)
The beast on which the woman sat was, and is not, and yet is. It was a seat of idolatry and persecution, and is not; not in the ancient form, which was pagan; yet it is; it is truly the seat of idolatry and tyranny, though of another sort and form. It would deceive into blind submission all of the inhabitants of the earth within its influence except for the remnant of the elect. This beast was seven heads, seven mountains, the seven hills on which Rome stands; and seven kings, seven sorts of government. Five of these were gone by the time this prophecy was written; one was then in being; the other was yet to come. This beast, directed by the papacy, makes an eighth governor, and sets up idolatry again. It had ten horns, which are said to be ten kings who had as yet no kingdoms; they should not rise up until the Roman Empire was broken apart; but should for a time be very zealous in her interest. Christ must reign until all of His enemies be put under His feet. The reason of the victory is, that he is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. He has supreme dominion and power over all things; all the powers of earth and hell are subject to his control. His followers are called to this warfare, are fitted for it, and will be faithful in it:
Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come. “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction. “The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings – and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” (Rev. 17:7-14)
God so ruled the hearts of these kings, by His power over them, and by His providence, that they did those things, without intending them, which He purposed and foretold. These kings shall see their folly, and how they have been bewitched and enslaved by the great harlot, and be made instruments in her destruction. She was that great city which reigned over the kings of the earth, when John had this vision; and everyone knows Rome to be that city. True believers will be received to the glory of the Lord, when wicked men will be destroyed in the most awful manner; their joining together in sin, will be turned to hatred and rage, and they will eagerly assist in tormenting each other. However, the Lord’s portion is His people; His counsel shall stand, and He will do all His pleasure to His glory, and the eternal happiness of all his servants:
Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God’s words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.” (Rev. 17:15-18)
A Closer Look… Rev. 18:1-24
The downfall and the destruction of the mystical Babylon are determined in the sacred counsels of God. A mighty angel comes from heaven… Jesus Christ Himself, the Angel of the New Covenant, is coming both to destroy His enemies and to shed the light of His gospel through all the nations. The wickedness of Babylon is very great: she had completely forsaken the true God, had set up idols, had drawn all sorts of men into spiritual adultery, and had kept them all in her interest through her wealth and luxury. The spiritual merchandise, by which many have lived wickedly in extreme wealth, and the sins and follies of humankind, seem principally indicated. Fair warning is given to all that expect mercy from God that they should not only come out of this Babylon, but assist in its destruction as well. God may have a people even in Babylon, but they will be called out of her, and called effectually, because those who continue to partake with the wicked in their sins must receive of the plagues that will be visited upon them by God:
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. With a mighty voice he shouted: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.” Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup. Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.’ Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her. (Rev. 18:1-8)
Those who mourn in anguish over Babylon’s fall and destruction have shared in her sensual pleasures, and have gained by her wealth and trade. The kings of the earth, whom she had flattered into idolatry, allowing them to be tyrannical over their subjects, while remaining obedient to her; and the merchants, those who trafficked for her indulgences, pardons and honors; these are the ones who are mourning. The friends of Babylon partook in her sinful pleasures and profits, but they are not willing to share in her plagues. The spirit of antichrist is a worldly spirit, and that sorrow is a mere worldly sorrow; they do not lament for the anger of God, but for the loss of their outward comforts. The magnificence and riches of the ungodly will avail them nothing, but will render the Godly vengeance against them harder to bear. The spiritual merchandise is referred to, when not only slaves, but the very souls of men, are mentioned as articles of commerce, to the destroying of the souls of millions. Nor has this been peculiar to the Roman antichrist, and only her guilt. Let prosperous traders learn, with all their gains, to get the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ; otherwise, even in this life, they will mourn that riches make to themselves wings and fly away, and that all the fruits that their souls lusted after, are departed from them. Death will soon end their commerce, and all the riches of the ungodly will be exchanged, not only for the coffin and the worm, but for the fire that can never be extinguished:
“When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!’ “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more – cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men. “They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’ The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn and cry out: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’ “Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’ They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin! (Rev. 18:9-19)
That which is a matter of rejoicing to the servants of God on earth, is a matter of rejoicing to the angels in heaven. The Apostles, who are honored and worshiped daily at Rome in an idolatrous manner, will rejoice in her fall. The fall of Babylon is an act of God’s pure and righteous judgment. Because it is a final ruin, this enemy will never molest the faithful of God again; of this they are assured by a sign. Let true believers take warning from those things that bring others to destruction; let them set their affections on the things of the Kingdom of God:
Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.'” Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again. The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the world’s greatest men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray. In her was found the blood of the prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.” (Rev. 18:20-24)
A Closer Look… Rev. 19:1-21
There are announcements that come before the return of Jesus Christ… praising God for what we have is also praying for what is yet to be done for us. There is harmony between the angels and the saints in this triumphant song: all of creation praises God and gives thanks for His Son Jesus Christ, who is the bridegroom of the ransomed church. The second union will be completed in heaven, but the beginning of the glorious millenium (a reign of Jesus Christ, a state of happiness for a thousand years on the earth) is considered to be a celebration of His espousals upon the earth. At that time, the church of Jesus Christ, being purified from errors, divisions and corruptions in doctrine, discipline, worship and practice, will be made ready to be publicly owned by Him as His delight and His beloved. The church appears, not in the gay and gaudy dress of the mother of harlots, but in fine linen, clean and white: in the robes of the Christ’s righteousness, imputed for justification, and imparted for sanctification. The promises of the gospel, the true sayings of God, opened, applied and sealed by the Spirit of God in holy ordinances, are the marriage-feast; this seems to refer to the abundant grace and consolation Christians will receive in the happy days which are to come. The apostle John offers honor to the angel, but the angel refuses it, directing the apostle to the true and only object of religious worship: to the worship of God, and to the worship of God alone. This plainly condemns the practices of those who worship the elements of bread and wine, and the saints and angels; and of those who do not believe that Christ is truly and by His nature God, yet pay Him a sort of worship. These stand convicted of idolatry by a messenger from heaven. These are the true sayings of God, of Him who is to be worshipped as one with the Father and the Holy Spirit:
After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” And again they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.” The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!” Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!” Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'” And he added “These are the true words of God.” At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev. 19:1-10)
Jesus Christ, the Glorious Head of the church, is described as on a white horse, the emblem of justice and holiness. He has many crowns, for He is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. He is arrayed in a vesture dipped in His own blood, by which He purchased His power as Mediator; and in the blood of His enemies, over whom He always prevails. His name is “The Word of God”; a name none fully knows but Himself, but this much is known: this Word was God manifest in the flesh, but His perfections cannot be fully understood by any creature. Angels and saints follow, and are like Christ in their armor of purity and righteousness. There are the threatenings of the written Word He is going to execute against His enemies. The ensigns of His authority are His Name, asserting His authority and power, warning the most powerful princes of the earth to either submit before Him or fall before Him. While the powers of both earth and hell will make their utmost efforts against Him, these verses declare important events foretold by the prophets. People will not be excused in the great and awesome Day of the Lord because they did what their earthly leaders bade them to do; how vain will be the pleas of many sinners at the great day… we followed our guides, we did as we saw others do! God has given rules to walk by in His Word; neither the example of the most nor of the greatest, must influence believers to walk in another path: if this occurs to anyone, they will go where the most and the greatest go… into the lake of fire:
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in mid-air, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.” Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh. (Rev. 19:11-21)
A Closer Look… Rev. 20:1-15
The first three verses of the chapter indicate a time when:
1) Jesus Christ shall reign on the earth:
Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isa. 2:3)
He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Da. 17:4)
The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name. (Zec. 14:9)
2) Satan will not be free to work:
He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. (Rev. 20:3)
3) righteousness will flourish:
and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. (Isa. 11:3-5)
4) peace will be universal:
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. (Isa. 2:4)
5) the productivity of the earth will be greatly increased:
The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. (Isa. 35:1-2)
At the conclusion of this time, Satan will be loosed to make one final attempt to overthrow and defeat Jesus Christ, but without success:
And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the keys to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. (Rev. 20:1-3)
What follows is an account of the reign of the saints… for the same span of time as Satan is bound in the great Abyss. Those who believe in Christ, and who suffer for and with Him, shall reign with Him in His spiritual and heavenly kingdom, in perfect conformity to Him in His wisdom, righteousness and holiness: this is called the first resurrection with which none but those who serve Christ, and who suffer for Him, shall be favored. The happiness of these servants of God is freely declared. None can be so richly blessed but those that are holy, and all that are holy shall be blessed. We know what the first death is: the death of the physical body, but while that death is a fearful one, it can in no way compare to the second death: the death of the soul because of its eternal separation in torment from God. May we never know the horrors of the second death! Only those who have been made, by their declared faith in the one and only Son of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, partakers in a spiritual resurrection, will be spared from the second death. It may be expected that the thousand years will follow the destruction of all anti-Christian, idolatrous and persecuting powers , during which time pure Christianity, in doctrine, worship and holiness, will be made known all over the earth. By the all-powerful working of the Holy Spirit, fallen humanity will be created anew, and faith and holiness will prevail in that time as unbelief and unholiness prevail now. We must be able to understand that a variety of afflictions would cease in those times if all humanity were true and consistent Christians; all the evils of those struggling to gain the things of this world would also cease, and happiness of every kind would be vastly increased, becasue humanity would strive to lighten suffering rather than adding to the sorrows that surround it. It is the bound duty of Christians to pray for these promised, glorious days, and to do everything within their powers to in all the endeavors of life to prepare for them:
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Rev. 20:4-6)
While the world endures, Satan’s power in it will not be wholly destroyed, though according to the will and the purpose of God, it will be limited and lessened. No sooner than is Satan loosed from the great Abyss than he will again set about the business of deceiving the nations to stir them up to make war against the saints and the servants of God; it will be a good occupation of time for all believers to be as busy with the preservation of righteousness as the powers of darkness and sin are with their fruitless attempts to challenge the authority and rule of God. God will fight the last and decisive battle for His people, so that they may be preserved in life eternal, the victory complete at last, with all glory ascribed to Himself. Satan is at long last destroyed:
When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth – Gog and Magog – to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Rev. 20:7-10)
The end comes with speed and utter finality: there is no mention of any other event following the demise of Satan in the lake of burning sulphur before the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ to judge the entire earth. This will be the Great Day: the Righteous Judge, the Lord Jesus Christ, will put on both majesty and terror. The persons to be judged are the dead: small and great, young and old, low and high, poor and rich. No one is so lacking in gifts that they have at least some talents to be accounted for, and no one is so rich in gifts as to avoid having talents to be accounted for. There is a book of remembrance for both good and bad deeds, and a book of the sinner’s conscience; though formerly secret and in many cases almost if not entirely forgotten, and both will be opened. Another book will also be opened, the book of the Scriptures, the rule of life, which represents the Lord’s knowledge of His people, and His declaring their repentance, faith and good works, showing the multiple blessings of the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. By their own works, humanity shall be justified or condemned; Jesus the Great and the Righteous Judge, will try their principles by their practices. Those justified and acquitted by the gospel, shall also be justified and acquitted by the One to whom God has entrusted all judgment; the same shall enter into eternal life, having nothing more to fear from death, hell, or wicked humanity, which will be completely destroyed. This is the second death, and it is the final and the eternal separation of sinners from God. It should be the great concern of all believers to see whether or not the Holy Scripture justifies or condemns them: Christ will judge the secrets of all men according to that inviolate, pure and holy standard. There is NOTHING in all of creation that is, or can be, hidden from God!
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:11-15)
A Closer Look… Rev. 21:1-27
The new heaven and the new earth will not be separate from each other; the earth of the saints, their glorified bodies, will be heavenly. The old world, with all of its troubles and tumults, will have passed away. There will be no sea… this aptly represents freedom from conflicting passions, temptations, troubles, changes and alarms, freedom from whatever can divide or interrupt the communion of the saints. The new Jerusalem is the church of God in its new and perfect state, the church triumphant. Its blessedness comes wholly from God, and depends on Him. The presence of God with His people in heaven will not be interrupted as it was on earth; He will dwell with them continually, and all effects of former trouble will be removed. God’s people have often been in tears, by reason of sin, of affliction, of the calamaties of the church, but no signs or remembrances of former sorrows will remain, because Christ has made all things new. If we as believers are willing and desirous that the gracious Redeemer should make all things new in both our hearts and in His creation, He will bring about this renewal until He has brought us to complete and eternal happiness. Behold the certainty of the promise: God gives His titles, Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, as a pledge that will be fulfilled in the fullness of His time. Sensual and sinful pleasures are merely muddy and poisoned waters, and the best earthly comforts are like a dry and dusty cistern; when these are idolized, they become broken and yield only frustration. In contrast, the joys that Christ imparts are like waters springing from a fountain: pure, refreshing, abundant and eternal. The sanctifying consolations of the Holy Spirit prepare believers for heavenly happiness; they are streams which flow for them in the wilderness. Those who are fearful will not meet the difficulties of true religion; their slavish fears come from their stubborn unbelief, but far worse off are those who choose not to take up the cross of Christ, yet indulge in multiple and abominable wickednesses. For these, the agonies and the terrors of the first death will only lead to the far greater terrors and agonies of the second death, their eternal separation from God in torment:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Rev. 21:1-8)
God has various employments for His holy angels. Sometimes they sound the trumpet of Divine Providence to warn a careless world; sometimes they discover things of a heavenly nature of the heirs of salvation. Those who desire a clear view of heaven must have it based on meditation of the Holy Scriptures and faith in the One and Only Son of God, Jesus Christ. The subject of the vision seen is the church of God in a perfect and triumphant state, shing in its luster, glorious in relation to Christ, which proves that the happiness of heaven is in intimate relationship with God, and in perfect conformity with Him. The change of emblems from a bride to a city shows that we are to take only general ideas from the descriptions given. The wall is for security: heaven is a safe state; those who are there are separated and secured from all evils and from all enemies. The city is vast, with room for all the people of God. The foundation of the wall; the promise and the power of God, and the purchase of people’s souls for God by His Son Jesus Christ, are the strong foundations of the safety and the happiness of the church. These foundations are set forth by twelve sorts of precious stones, denoting the variety and excellence of the doctrines of the gospel, or of the graces of the Holy Spirit, or the personal excellences of the Lord Jesus Christ. Heaven has gates; there is a free admission to all that are sanctified; they shall not find themselves shut out. These gates were all of pearls. Christ is the Pearl of great price, and He alone is the believer’s path to God. The streets of the city are pure gold, like transparent glass. The saints in heaven are there at rest, but it is not a state of sleep and idleness; they have communion not only with God, but with one another. All of these described glories but faintly represent heaven:
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. (Rev. 21:9-21)
Perfect and direct communion with God will more than take the place of gospel institutions. What words can more fully express the union and co-equality of the Son with the Father in the Godhead? The glory of God lightens the city of God, and the Lamb is the perfect reflection of the glory of God. God in Jesus Christ will be an everlasting fountain of knowledge and joy to the saints in heaven. There will be no night, and therefore no need to secure the gates of the city of God, as all will be at peace. Heaven is filled with the glory of God and enlightened by the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing sinful, unclean, idolatrous, false or deceitful can enter, because all of the inhabitants are made perfect in holiness. In the earthly life, the saints feel a sad mixture of corruption which hinders them in their service to God and which interrupts them in their communion with God, but upon their entrance into the Holy of Holies they are washed in the blood of Jesus Christ and presented blameless to the Father. No one who works abominations of any kind can be admitted to heaven. Since nothing unclean can enter heaven, believers must be stirred by these descriptions of the holy and eternal state to use all of their diligence to perfect, as much as possible, holiness in the fear of God:
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Rev. 21:22-27)
A Closer Look… Rev. 22:1-21
The delights of the new Jerusalem are illustrated. All streams of earthly comfort are muddy, but the water of life is clear and refreshing… it gives life, and preserves life, to those who drink of it, and it will flow for all eternity. This water points to the quickening and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, as given to sinners through Christ. The Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, applies this salvation to our souls by His new-creating love and power. The trees of life are fed by the pure waters of the river that comes from the throne of God. The presence of God in heaven is the health and the happiness of the saints. This tree was an emblem of Christ, and of all the blessings of His salvation; and the leaves for the healing of the nations mean that His favor and presence supply all good things to the inhabitants of that blessed world. The devil has no power there; he cannot draw the saints from serving God, nor can he disturb them in the service of God. God and the Lamb are here spoken of as One. Service to God shall be not only freedom, but also honor and dominion. There will be no night; no affliction or dejection, no pause in either service or enjoyment: no diversions or pleasures or man’s inventing will there be needed or wanted. How different all this will be from the gross and merely human views of heavenly happiness… even those which refer to the pleasures of the mind:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Rev. 22:1-5)
The Epilogue is given. The Lord Jesus spoke by the angel, solemnly confirming the contents of the book, particularly of this last vision. He is the Lord God Faithful and True. Also by His messengers the holy angels was He revealed to the holy men of God. There are things that must shortly be done; Christ will come quickly and put all things out of doubt. By the integrity of that angel who had been the apostle John’s interpreter, he refused to accept religious worship from John, and moreover reproved him for offering it. This picture presents yet another and forcefully compelling testimony against the idolatrous worship of saints and angels. God calls everyone to witness to the declarations made. This book, thus kept open, will have effect upon men; the filthy and unjust will be more so, but it will confirm, strengthen and further sanctify those who are upright with God. Never let anyone think that a dead or disobedient faith will save humanity, for the First and the Last has declared that those alone are blessed who do His commandments. It is a book that shuts out from heaven all wicked and unrighteous persons, particularly those who love and make lies, therefore cannot itself be a lie. There is no middle place or condition. Jesus, who is the Spirit of prophecy, has given His churches this morning-light of prophecy to assure them of the light of the perfect day which is approaching. All is confirmed by an open and general invitation to mankind, to come and partake freely of the promises and of the privileges of the gospel. The Spirit, by the sacred word, and by convictions and influence in the sinner’s conscience, says come to Christ for salvation; and the bride, or the whole church on earth and in heaven, says, come and share our happiness. Lest any should hesitate, it is added, let whosoever will, or is willing, come and take of the water of life freely. May everyone who hears or reads these words, desire at once to accept the gracious invitation. All are condemned who should dare to corrupt or change the word of God, either by adding to it or taking from it:
The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place. “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.” I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Rev. 22:6-19)
The final benediction is given. After discovering these things to His people on earth, Christ seems to take leave of them and return to heaven, but He assures them that it will not be long before He returns. While we are busy in the duties of our different stations in life; whatever labors may try us, whatever difficulties may surround us, whatever sorrows may weigh us down, let us with pleasure hear our Lord and Savior proclaiming Behold, I come quickly; I come to put an end to the labor and the suffering of My servants. I come, and My reward of grace is with Me, to recompense with royal bounty every work of faith and labor of love. I come to receive My faithful and persevering people to Myself, to dwell forever in that blissful world. Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus. A blessing closes the whole. By the grace of Christ we must be kept in joyful expectation of His glory, fitted for it and preserved to it; and His glorious appearance will be joyful to those who partake of His grace and favor here on earth. Let all people say, Amen. Let us earnestly thirst after greater measures of the gracious influences of the blessed Jesus Christ in our souls, and His gracious presence with us, until glory has made perfect His grace toward us. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen. (Rev. 22:20-21)