The title of this scroll, "The Unveiling of Jesus Christ," is an epitome of this whole prophecy. Hitherto Christ has hid himself. Here He is about to throw off the covering and take His public place in the affairs of mankind. He must be unveiled. His name and title are the clue to the character of this unveiling.
Our Lord's personal name, Jesus, means Jehovah the Saviour. Jehovah is the God of Israel. Hence Christ is presented in this prophecy as the Saviour of the people of the covenant. The name Jehovah is emphasized by its translation into "Him Who is, and Who was, and Who is coming" (1:4).
Our Lord's official title, Christ (the anointed), is the key to His unveiling, for it contains within itself the three characters in which He appears. Just as our realization of the beauties and blessings of light is greatly enhanced when we see it refracted into its three primary colors, yellow, red and blue, so the three-fold elements of the title Christ are presented to us separately, yet mingled now and then, that we may get a clear and cordial appreciation of the blessings and beauties which will be seen when He rises as the Sun of Righteousness upon this dark and dismal world. Of old three classes were anointed: prophets, potentates and priests. Each of these received the holy anointing oil upon entering his office. Samuel the prophet, David the king, and Aaron the priest, were all "christs" by virtue of their anointing. Jesus Christ combines these three offices in Himself. In this prophecy He is first unveiled as Prophet to His people (1:4, 3:22), then as King (4:1-11:18) as Priest (11:19-20:15). After the climax is reached at the new creation (21:1) these titles are rehearsed in reverse order in the concluding division. The Temple (21:1-27) and the Throne (22:1-5) occupy us first and then the Prophet reappears with His closing message (22:6-17).
The literary structure divides this book into two grand divisions, one staged on this present earth and the other on the next. The first deals with the day of Jehovah, the second with the day of God.
The time occupied by this is called the eons of the eons or ages. The first division covers the first of these eons, the second is in the last, which is called the eon of the eons. The second division may last a long time, but is very briefly told; while the first division, if we except the thousand years, of which little is said, occupies the bulk of the book, though it is a very short period. This is the great judgment era which prepares the earth for the advent of Messiah.
The judgments of this book are for the purpose of enforcing the right of Christ to be its Potentate and Priest. Judgment must begin at God's house, hence He first presents His claims as Prophet among the synagogues of His own people Israel in the messages to the seven ecclesias.
Then heaven's throne is set and His regal rights are established. The world He ransomed as the Lamb will be redeemed by the Lion. The Throne Judgments are divided into three closely related yet distinct sections; the Seals, the Trumpets and the Thunders. The opening of the Seals gives us a general record of the whole period right up to the establishment of the kingdom. The judgments, especially the first four, are providential in character and affect saint and sinner alike. The fifth seal calls for vengeance on Israel's foes. The Trumpets are the answer to this cry. The intervening section makes provision for the protection of the saints during the sounding of the trumpets, the 144,000 being sealed and shielded from them. These judgments result in the kingdoms of this world coming under the sovereignty of our Lord's Anointed.
The temple Judgments are twofold. First God's covenant with Israel is in view and Jerusalem is shielded from the wild beast. When the law is exposed and its curses are poured out, especially upon those of the apostate nation who enjoy a false sovereignty over the earth in Babylon. This is followed by the marriage of the Lambkin, and the millennium. The section ends with the Great White Throne judgment, which winds up the affairs of this present earth.
In the last grand division God is reconciled to all mankind. Priesthood vanishes but rule continues to the consummation.
THE TIME PERIODS OF THE UNVEILING
The chart is designed to give, at one glance, all the time periods mentioned or referred to, from the grand eons or ages down to the days of Daniel's visions. In order to accomplish this the short era of judgment at the inception of the Lord's Day is expanded, as indicated by the oblique lines. In this era most of the events in this scroll occur.
The Eons or Ages are five in number. This scroll is a prophecy covering the last two, which, as they spring out of the first three, are called "the eons of the eons" (1:6, 18, 4:9, 10, 5:13, 7:12, 10:6, 11:15, 14:11, 15:7, 19:3, 20:10, 22:5).
The first of these two eons includes the day of the Lord, the second the Day of God. The present is Man's Day (1Co.4:3).
The Seventy Heptads, or "Weeks", are foretold in Daniel (9:24). From the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (Neh.2:1,5), to Christ's entry into Jerusalem (Lu.19:37, 44) was a period of exactly 173,880 days, or 69 heptads of years, counting 360 days to a year. The seventieth heptad is still future (Dan.9:26). Daniel divides it in half by the breaking of a treaty when the sacrifice and gift offering are stopped (Dan.9:27). This leaves us the period often referred to in this scroll of 42 months (11:2, 13:5), 1260 days (11:3, 12:6), and "season, seasons and half a season" (12:14). These are principally in the last half of the heptad. The middle of the heptad is the beginning of most of the movements in this scroll and the end closes them.
This prophecy is not given in chronological order, but gives a general view under the Seals, expands the seventh seal under the Trumpets, and probably expands the seventh Trumpet under the Bowls. The end of the seventieth heptad is reached at least five times, and the narrative goes back again to fill in further details.
The days after Christ's epiphany are taken from Daniel's prophecy.
THE DAY OF JEHOVAH
The day of the Lord, or Jehovah (Isa.13:9), is a day of destruction, a cruel day with wrath and anger (Isa.13:13; Zeph.2:2-3), in which the stars and constellations, and the sun and moon will be darkened (Joel 2:10, 30, 31, 3:15 cf.Un.6:12), in which He punishes the inhabitants of the world for their evil, in which Babylon will be overthrown (cf.Un.18 ), and when Jehovah sets His people Israel in their own land and gives them rest (Isa.14:1,3). It is a day of battle (Eze.13:5), a day of famine (Joel 1:16; cf.Un.6:6), and fire (Joel 1:19 cf. Un.8:7), a day of thick darkness and subterranean horrors (Joel 2:2, 4 cf. Un.9:17), a great and terrible day ( Joel 2:11), when He roars out of Zion (Joel 3:16), a day of woe (Amos 5:18, 20 cf. Un.8:13). It will judge the nations (Obad.15,21; Eze.30:3), and in it He will take the kingdom (Un.11:15). It is a day of wrath (Zeph.1:14-15 cf.Un.6:17), of trouble and distress (Zeph.1:15 cf. Un.7:14). In that day Jerusalem will be besieged and taken by an army from all nations (Zech.14:2 cf. Un.16:14), and His feet shall once more stand upon the Mount of Olives (Zech.14:4; Ac.1:10,12). In it
"The eyes of the haughty human are low, And prostrate is the highness of mortals, And impregnable is Jehovah alone in that day." (Isa.2:11-12)
This is in contrast with the present, which is "man's day" (1Co.4:3), when men are haughty and high and self-sufficient. The day of Jehovah will come as a thief in the night (1Thes.5:22; Pt.3:10). It cannot come until after the apostasy (2Thes.2:3). It closes with the dissolution of the heavens and the earth (2Pet.3:10,13 cf. Un.20:11 ) and the creation of a new heavens and a new earth (Isa.65:17; 2Pt.3:13 cf. Un.21:1-5) .
Those under Paul's preaching were promised deliverance from that day of wrath (1Thes.1:10, 5:1-11; 2Thes.2:2; Ro.5:9). Before it comes they will be assembled together to the Lord at His presence (2Thes.2:1).
At the end of Jehovah's day the heavens will be dissolved and the elements will melt with heat because of the presence of the day of God (2Pt.3:12). Then there will be a new heavens and a new earth (2Pt.3:13 cf. Un.21:1).
1 This is the unveiling of a Person Jesus Christ–not merely a prediction revealed through Him. God gives it to Him as a reward for His sufferings.
1 Swiftly–not soon, but with speed. On the morning of the resurrection John and Peter started together, but John ran more swiftly than Peter (Jn.20:4). If this prophecy started soon after John wrote, it has moved very slowly indeed. When it does commence, it will run with great rapidity. God lingers in dispensing grace but hastens in executing judgment. This calls for an entirely future fulfillment.
1 Signify–not necessarily by signs, but in the ordinary sense of this word in English, as, the Lord signified His death (Jn.12:33, 18:32), and foretold Peter's (Jn.21:19), and Festus signified Paul's crimes to Caesar (Ac.25:27). There are only three distinct signs in this scroll: the woman clothed with the sun (12:1), the dragon (12:3), and the seven messengers who have the seven calamities (15:1). Besides this the false prophet (13:13-14, 19:20) and the spirits of demons do signs (16:14). None of the rest is communicated by signs.
3 Near denotes a conditional proximity. The kingdom of the heavens was near during the early part of our Lord's ministry. It was postponed by His rejection. It was near again when proclaimed by the apostles but once more rejected by the nation of Israel. Peter writes "the consummation of all things is near" (lPt.4:7), yet nearly twenty centuries have passed and the consummation or end is still future.
THE PROPHETIC SECTION
4 The Divine Name, JEHOVAH, is a union of the three tenses of TO BE.
יהיה הויה היה HE-WILL-BE BEING HE-WAS
The reverse arrangement of this is used once (4:8) by the four animals. Here and in 1:8 the present tense is put first to emphasize the fact that He is now present:
o wn o hn o ercomenos THE BEING THE WAS THE COMING-One
In 11:17 and 16:5 the phrase "Who is coming" is omitted, because He is regarded as having come at that time. The Name is flexible and adapts itself to times and conditions.
10 In spirit, John is transported into the future day of Jehovah of which the prophets have often spoken. The Hebrew phrase "the day of the Lord" is changed to "the Lord's day" in order to shift the emphasis from the character of the day to the time, which is the important point in this passage. This is done in three ways, by changing the grammatical form, the rank, and the order of the words. The direction of the thought is altered by putting "Lord" in the dative instead of the genitive case, so that it locates rather than describes the day. Its force is further weakened by making it all adjective rather than a noun, and by shifting it from its prominent place at the end of the sentence and giving that striking location to "day".
13 Seven lampstands stand for a scattered Israel, as the one seven-branched lampstand in the tabernacle and temple stood for a united nation. These ecclesias are all in the "dispersion".
13 The description and acts here ascribed to Christ are not priestly, but accord with His prophetic office, The prophet's function was to point out God's method of procedure. At first this was done privately, by the seers; then officially by prophets. Prophets are sent especially in apostasy. Christ wears none of the priestly vestments except the girdle, and this is of gold, not of fine twined linen (Ex.39:29), The scene is one of judgment, which the apostle tells us must begin at the house of God (1Pet.4:17). The sword indicates this (cf .Dan.10:5 ).
16 Stars stand for those whose spirits are in touch with God (Dan.12:3, C. V.). Abraham's seed was to become as the stars of heaven. His physical progeny are like the sand upon the seashore.
17 First and Last (Isa.41:4, 44:6, 48:12; Un.2:8, 22:13) is a title of Jehovah, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer.
19 The word "are" must be given the same sense here as in verse 20 "the seven stars are," and "the lampstands are." It is a metaphor.
20 There are three "mysteries" or secrets in this scroll. The seven stars and lampstands are in Christ's hands as Prophet. The secret of God (10:7) is finished when Christ as King receives the sovereignty of the world. The secret of Babylon is in the Temple section (17:5,7).
The Prophetic Section
20 The vision is figurative. The explanation is literal. It must not be further "explained". The seven stars are seven messengers. The seven lamp stands are seven ecclesias. These will be found at the places indicated at the opening of the Lord's day. They are God's luminaries in the dense darkness of that judgment era.
THE SEVEN LETTERS
These letters fall into two groups. In the first three the injunction to hear precedes the promise. In the last four this order is reversed. In the former the wilderness experiences of Israel are recalled: their first love in Ephesus, their trials in Smyrna, Balaam in Pergamos. The latter recall their history in the land–two for Israel and two for Judah; Jezebel in Thyatira, Israel's blotting out in Sardis, the temple in Hezekiah's reign in Philadelphia, and the declining days of the Minor Prophets in Laodicea.
4 Their "first love" is an allusion to Israel's espousals in the wilderness (Hos.11:1; Jer 2:2; Eze.16:8,10; Ex.19:4,6 ) .
6 The Nicolaitans (Conqueror People) are probably Israelitish votaries of the wild beast. Their name indicates their allegiance to the great world conqueror. First their acts are condemned and then their doctrine (2:15). It was the same as Balaam's (Nu.25:2).
7 The "tree" of life is, literally, the wood or log of life, for the wood is dead, and, in this phrase, always speaks of life out of death, or resurrection.
7 The promise reminds us of the tree of life in Eden and has its consummation in the new Jerusalem (22:2). Our destiny is heaven (Eph.1:3).
8 In each message the Lord alludes to such particulars of the preceding vision as meet the case of the ecclesia. His resurrection life is a pledge of the wreath of life He promises to those who are faithful until death.
9 What force can there be to the claim to be Jews unless the Smyrna ecclesia was composed of Jews? Their allegiance to Satan's (or the Adversary's) synagogue would have no point if the Smyrnaites did not belong to God's synagogue.
10 The ten days' affliction alludes to Israel's trial in the wilderness. That lasted forty years. This will be brief. Jews often suffer from anti-Semitic riots.
10 A wreath or garland, often of laurel, was awarded the successful contestant in the ancient games. This was the trophy of victory. It is not the symbol of rule, but the reward of faithful effort. The wreath of life will be worn by all who gain life as a reward of their deeds. It is given to the one who endures trial (Ja.1:12). The life we have in Christ is a gratuitous gift, in no sense the reward of our efforts, so it cannot be figured by a wreath.
11 The allusion in this promise is to the entrance of death when Adam sinned. The fulfillment of the promise will wait until the great white throne judgment (20:11). This promise cannot be applied now, for all in Christ are beyond judgment.
14 Balaam (Nu.25). The sorry scene at Shittim will be repeated in the day of Jehovah. In ancient times sacrifices to the gods were accompanied by ceremonial prostitution, which will also characterize the worship of the wild beast. Compare 2:20, 9:20-21; 14:4, 21:8, 22:15; Jude 15,16,23. Balaam was killed with the sword (Nu.31:8; Josh.13:22). The Nicolaitans are threatened with a similar fate. This is put in execution when the followers of the wild beast are "killed with the blade which is coming out of the mouth of Him Who is sitting on the horse" (19:21).
17 Unless they worship the image of the wild beast they will not be able to obtain food, unless God gives it as He gave the manna. So the star-crowned woman will be nourished in the wilderness (12:14). Then they will pray as He taught them: "Our bread, our dole, be giving us today" (Mt. 6:11), for every other source is cut off.
The white pebble was used in allotting the land. Each man's name was written on a pebble, and these were put into a bag. As each allotment is called, a pebble is withdrawn. The allotment is given to the man whose name is on it. Thus the white pebble will be an earnest of their allotment in the kingdom. This is for Israel, not for the body of Christ.
The Prophetic Section
18 Tertullian and Epiphanius say that there was no ecclesia in Thyatira when John wrote these letters. On this ground many rejected this prophecy in early times. There is no difficulty in this if we recognize the fact that, in spirit, John was transported into the day of Jehovah. Then there will be an ecclesia in Thyatira which will correspond perfectly with the epistle addressed to it.
20 This is an allusion to the period of the Kings (lKi.16:31). The error of Balaam (2Pt.2:15; Jude 10,13) becomes the state religion ( cf.9:20-21, 17:2,4, 18:3). The fact that Ephesus (2:6) and Pergamos (2:14) and Thyatira are all warned against this evil shows that the worship of the wild beast will revive the seductions of idolatry.
23 Death, here used for an epidemic disease (plague, cf. black death). See 6:8.
23 "Kidneys and hearts" is a Hebrew phrase signifying purity of motive.
24 The depths of Satan are in contrast to the depths of God (1Co.2:10). The latter are explored by the spirit and are unknown to the soulish man. Satan's depths are found in consecrating the most debased passions to religion. Every appeal to the senses, whether to the eye, in magnificent buildings and ritual, or to the ear by the mesmeric influence of music, or to the taste in suppers and banquets, or to the lower sensual appetites, is a descent into the depths of Satan. In the beginning he appealed to the woman through her senses (Gen.3:1,6). His desire for worshipers leads him to offer them the strongest sensual inducements disguised under the sacred sanction of divine worship.
27 The shepherd's mace was a heavy club with a thong to hold it securely to his wrist, and a large head, bristling with spikes, at the end. He carried a crook for the sheep and a club for their enemies (12:5, 19:15). He will rule with rigor. Israel, not the body of Christ, will rule the millennial earth.
27 In the East pottery was crushed into bits to make a kind of cement.
28 The Morning Star is especially appropriated by the Son of David (22:16). He is the Herald of approaching day. A place in the earliest phase of the kingdom is awarded the conqueror.
1 The seven spirits of God are literal. They are seen under various figures, according to the connection. Before the throne they appear as torches of fire (4:5). On the Lambkin they are seen as seven horns and seven eyes (5:6). They are commissioned for the entire earth. The stars are limited to the ecclesias.
3 Christ's coming is presented under various figures. He comes as a thief in the day of the Lord (1Th.5:2; 2Pt.3:10 cf.16:15). The Lord warned His disciples of this aspect (Mt.24:42-44; Lu.12:39). When they shall say "peace and security" then sudden destruction will come upon the unwatchful (1Th.5:3). But we are not in darkness that it should overtake us as a thief (1Th.5:4,11).
5 Any man, woman, family or tribe who turned from Jehovah to worship the gods of the nations was to be rubbed out (Deut.29:18-20). David rubs out the names of some of his mighty men because they did not remain true to him (2Sa.23:8,39), Joab, once over all the host (2Sa.20:23), and Ahithophel were also erased. Here too, life and position depend on conduct. Our life is hid with Christ in God (Col.3:3).
5 The scroll of life is referred to six times in this book. It contains the names of those who do not worship the wild beast (13:8, 17:8). It is opened at the great white throne (20:12) and any whose names were not found written in it were cast into the lake of fire (20:15). Those enrolled in it may enter the new Jerusalem (21:27). Those who take from the sayings of this prophecy will have their part taken from the log of life (22:19).
7 David's key (Isa.22:15-25) refers to the deposing of Shebna and the raising up of Eliakim to be the treasurer of the temple, or minister of the court ( See Isa.36:22). This letter moves in the temple, where the treasures are, where safety is found, and where worship is carried on.
9 It is impossible to escape the inference that the Philadelphian ecclesia is composed only of Jews who are members of God's synagogue. As every other consideration points in this direction we may conclude that all of these ecclesias are Jewish. Each will worship in a synagogue, which has a "messenger" who will read to them.
The Prophetic Section
10 Endurance will be a cardinal virtue in that day of stress and distress. Seven times are we reminded of it (1:9, 2:2,3,19, 3:10:1310, 14:12). He that endures to the end shall be saved (Mt.10:22, 24:13; Mk.13:13). In the present economy salvation depends entirely on faith in Christ.
10 The English idiom to keep out, conveys a false impression to many. Here it does not mean to keep from, but to keep those who are in the trial so that they come out victoriously.12 The conqueror with but little power who hides in the temple during the hour of trial will be openly acknowledged in the kingdom by giving him a place of prominence and power like the great pillars, Jachin and Boaz. It may be that they will have a special place of authority over the vast crowd who serve Him day and night in His temple (7:15).
12 The 144,000 are sealed on their foreheads (7:3) which exempts them from the judgment of the locusts (9:4). This seal is probably the Father's name. In the new earth the slaves of the Lambkin are thus sealed (22:4). On the other hand, the false prophet causes all to receive the emblem of the wild beast (13:16), marking them for God's indignation (14:9). Only those who refuse this symbol live and reign with Christ the thousand years (20:4).
14 God's creative Original. See Col.1:15 note. He is called the Origin or Beginning three times in this scroll in the phrase "Origin and Consummation" (21:6, 22:13).
16 To spew as the result of an emetic.
17 Naked in the sense of scantily clad, not necessarily nude.
21 The promises to the conquerors increase in proportion to the apostasy with which they contend. In Ephesus they are promised a place in the paradise of the new earth. This will doubtless be shared by all the other conquerors as well. In Laodicea, the nauseating ecclesia, the conqueror is promised a place with Christ on His millennial throne. This is the highest place to which an Israelite could aspire (Mt.20:21). This is fulfilled when the wages are paid (11:18) and the saints reign with Him the thousand years (20:4).
22 A low state of spirituality is denoted by the hearing ear. Job said "I heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees Thee" (Job 42:5).
THE THRONE SECTION
CHRIST AS KING
This section deals with the establishment of the kingdom of Christ and His saints (Dan.7:14, 18) over the whole earth, as the Temple Section (11:19, 20:15) breaks down all opposition to the worship of Jehovah and the priesthood of Israel. There are three distinct divisions in this section: the Seals, the Trumpets, and the Thunders. Each of these is preceded by a preparatory vision, the Seals by the Throne, the Scroll and the Lambkin, the Trumpets by the 144,000 and the Vast Multitude, the Thunders by the Messenger and the Open Scroll.
1 The "openings" of this prophecy should be given careful consideration. They are like the rising curtain which reveals the next act in this great tragedy. There are four pairs of "openings", each of which should be studied together. They are as follows:
Heaven–A Door (41) Providential Judgements.
Heaven (19:11) Public Judgements
The Earth–A Well (9:2) The Terrible Cavalry.
Its Mouth (12:16) Swallows the Floor
The Scrolls–Seven Seals (5:2-5, 9, 6:1,3,5,7,9,12, 8:1
The Scrolls (20:12) Individual Judgement.
The Temple– The Temple (11:19) Ark, Covenant.
Tent of Testimony (15:5) Law Exposed
3 The emerald rainbow assures us that God will remember His covenant with every living creature (Gen.9:9,17). There shall not be another deluge. These days will be like the days of Noah in many other respects (Mt.24:37; Lu.17:26).
4 Elder, or senior or presbyter, is a title of honor and respect implying authority rather than advanced age, as in our "alderman". These elders follow the living creatures in worshiping the Creator (4:10). An elder assures John that the Lion will break the seals (5:5) and when He takes the scroll they celebrate (5:8,11). They fall and worship in unison with all creation (5:14). They echo the worship of the vast crowd (7:11) and one of them tells John who they are (7:14).
Throne Section–The Scroll
At the seventh trumpet they fall and worship, the tenor of their words showing that they are not included among His slaves the prophets or the saints (11:16). They hear the song of the 144,000 (14:3) and join the hallelujahs at the destruction of Babylon (19:4). David patterned the twenty-four courses of the priesthood after them (1Chr.24:3,5; Heb.8:5, 9:23). They lead heaven's worship and combine the offices of prophet, priest and king, for they sit on thrones, present the worship of others, and speak for God. Their "crowns", however, are not regal, but wreaths of victory.
6 The throne attendants of the Divine Majesty vary according to the character and title which He assumes. Jehovah is attended by the Living Ones, or Cherubim. These are intensely animate and are incorporated into the very throne itself. All creation is represented in this august session. The heads of the heavenly hosts sit on thrones. The messengers attend. All of these are heavenly spirit beings.
The realm of earth is represented by the heads of the animal kingdom, including man. These are the divisions of creation (Gen.l) except fish and creeping things. With these only God established His covenant after the flood (Gen.9:9-10). They are living souls, rather than spirits. They conform to the scene about them. When we first see the cherubim, guarding the way to the tree of life (for this tree was a source of the life they represented) no wings are mentioned (Gen.3:24). When they form part of the mercy seat, they seem to have had two wings (Ex.25:20). When Ezekiel sees them they have four wings (Eze.1:6). Here they have six wings each. Ezekiel tells us they looked like living coals of fire. Here they are full of eyes. Ezekiel calls them by the same name they are given here when he says: "It is the animal which I saw under the God of Israel at the stream Chebar: and I know that they are cherubim" (Eze.l0:20). According to these passages they do not seem to be confined to a set physical manifestation, but conform to their spiritual activity and environment. Isaiah calls them Seraphim or Burning Ones in connection with the title Adonai.
11 The elders worship the Creator rather than a Redeemer.
Throne Section–The Lambkin
1 The scroll is not a "book". It was applied to a legal document (Mt.19:7; Mk.l0:4). This is its probable meaning here, for it is endorsed on the back and sealed like a mortgage "acccording to the law and custom" which obtained in Israel in ancient times (Jer.32:8-14). What the breaking of the seals involves is clear from the new song of the animals and elders (5:9) when the Lambkin gets the scroll. The sovereignty of the earth, which is Israel's, has passed from them. It is held by alien powers which must be dispossessed. It is Jehovah's purpose that Israel shall reign over the whole earth. The redemption of their lost heritage is the subject of this section. Nothing could more aptly portray the process of this redemption than the gradual breaking of the seals of the scroll. When all are broken the incumbrance is removed–the sovereignty of the earth becomes our Lord's and His Messiah's for the eons of the eons (11:15).
6 Lambkin, the diminutive form, is used to distinguish it from the usual word lamb (Jn.1:29, 36; Ac.8:32; 1Pt.1:19). It is used only once elsewhere (Jn.21:15), in contrast to a full grown sheep. This tender and delicate form adds much to the loving pathos of this prophecy. The utter weakness of a very young Lamb is in striking antithesis to His character as the Lion and to the mighty acts which He performs as a result of His suffering and death. It is in beautiful accord with the new name of His wife, who is now called the bride. Youth is renewed in resurrection.
8 The ancient "harp" was shaped like the lyre and was used in prophecy (1Sa.l0:5; 1Chr.25:1) and thanks and praise (1Chr.25:3; Ps.92:1-3, 149:3), which are seen in this new song which they sing.
8 The prayers of the saints may be summed up in one word: "Thy kingdom come!" (Mt.6:10). How fit that these should find remembrance when He is about to fulfill their request!
9 The elders and animals are bought, not redeemed. They celebrate Israel's deliverance. The failure to note this distinction and the consequent attempt to reconcile the two parts of this song, has led to much confusion in the manuscripts.
Throne Section–The Seals
13 It has been suggested that the Syriac version preserves the true reading here. After "blessing" it goes right on and gives every creature to the Lambkin, rather than getting praise from them, thus (combined with Vaticanus 'b'):
And honor and glory and blessing
And every creature which is in heaven
And on the earth and underneath the earth
And on the sea and all [those] in them!"
And I hear all [messengers] saying,
"To Him Who is sitting on the throne–
To the Lambkin–
Be blessing and honor and glory and might
For the eons of the eons!"
1 The seals fall into two groups. The first are "the beginning of travail" (Mt.24:8). Then follows "the time of Jacob's trouble" such as has not been from the beginning of creation and never shall be again (Mt.24:21; Mk.13:19).
1 The first four seals correspond with the opening words of our Lord's address on the Mount of Olives (Mt.24-25; Mk.13; Lu.21:5-36) .
2 Compare Mt.24:5. The false messiah comes forth on a white horse after the manner of the real Messiah.
2 The horse is prepared against the "day of battle" (Prov.21:31 cf. Job 39:19-25). Its absence denotes peace (Zech.9:10, 10:3). They were not in common use in the land of Israel. The king was forbidden to multiply horses (Deut.17:16). They were used chiefly as cavalry and for drawing chariots.
2 The bow is a symbol of distant warfare. It is probable that these four seals describe the time when the great western nondescript monster (Dan.7:7) tramples upon and devours the three eastern beasts (cf.13:1). This will provoke wars all over the earth.
3 Compare Mt.24:7. Whole nations will rise against other nations. Universal conscription of manpower and all industries will make war a much more terrible experience than in the past.
5 Compare Mt.24:7, "There shall be famines:"
The Greek word zugon was used of two different Hebrew words: ol, a yoke, and maznim, balances, scales (Lev.19:36; Job 3:16; Dan.5:27; Chaldee). It may mean either a yoke or a pair of balances, according to the context. Here it seems to stand for the weighing of food in time of famine. Thus Ezekiel was given ten ounces of food and a pint or water each day (Eze.4:9-12).
6 A chenix is supposed to be the daily ration for one person. A denarius was the daily wage of a laborer (Mt.20:2-13). Hence a day's labor will barely suffice to buy enough food to exist.
8 The fourth horse is the ghastly greenish tinge of young or sickly vegetation.
8 The Unseen is, literally, the Unperceived, or Imperceptible. It corresponds with the Hebrew sheol (shaul), from shal, to ask. The unseen powers of evil which come before us in this scroll, the dragon and its messengers (12:3,4), are called "the gates of the unseen" (Mt.16:18) because the rulers of an eastern city sat in its gate.
8 To kill...with death (thanatos). This Greek word stands for two Hebrew words, one of which is dbr, plague. In the LXX famine and plague are joined nine times (1Ki.8:37; 2Chr.20:9; Jer.21:7, 9, 24:10; 44:13; Eze.6:11, 7:15,15 ), in all of which they translate "plague" by "death". We also speak of the "black death".
9 The soul is the seat of sensation. As the spirit is associated with the breath and the body with the soil, so the soul (not the life) is in the blood (Gen.9:4-5; Lev.17:11,14,14). Christ poured out His soul unto death. It represents the suffering and anguish which He endured. The blood of the sin offering was poured out at the foundation of the altar (Lev.4:7). In Solomon's temple there was a vast pit under the altar to receive the blood of the sacrifices. Able’s blood cried from the ground, where it had been poured. So these martyrs are accounted by God as sacrifices on the altar. Their sensations of suffering called for vengeance on those who had sacrificed them because of their testimony. This event marks the middle of Daniel's seventieth heptad.
Compare Mt.24:9. These martyrs are mentioned often (2:10, 12:10-11, 20:4).
10 We bless those who persecute us (Ro.12:14 ). In the days of the seals the "acceptable year" will have given place to "the day of vengeance" (Isa.61:2; Lu.4:18-19). The parable of the importunate widow (Lu.18:1-8) is applicable at this time.
"For He wIll avenge the blood of His servants, And will return vengeance to His foes" (Deut.32:43).
Throne section–The 144,000
12 Compare Mt.24:29.
12 This cataclysm affects heaven as well as earth. There will be many quakes at the time of the end (8:5, 1l:13,19, 16:18). Compare Hag.2:6-7 and Heb.12:26. See also Hag.2:21; Zech.14:4-5.
13 Figs which form in the winter are shaded so that they fail to mature and are easily shaken off in the spring. This is true also of figs without sufficient moisture or which are not fertilized. They wither and fall at the slightest shock. Figuratively the fig tree stands for government.
12 Before the great and terrible day of Jehovah comes manifestly "The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood" (Joel 2:31; Ac.2:20). Compare Isa.2:10,11, 13:6-13, 24:20-23, 34:4.
16 Our Lord quoted Hos.10:8 in referring to this time (Lu.23:30). Compare Joel 2:10-11, 30-31, 3:15.
17 See Mt.24:30. The Son of Mankind appears immediately after the great convulsion. This seal takes us up to His advent, the same point we will reach under the seventh trumpet (11:15). The following visions are a review of the period we have already traversed, filling in details and treating it from various viewpoints.
17 Two classes will be able to stand: the 144,000 and the vast multitude.
1 The four winds. Compare Mt.24:31; Dan.7:2, 8:8, l1:4; Jer.49:36.
3 The wild beast's followers have the symbol of its name on their foreheads (13:16); so these have His Father's name on their foreheads (14:1).
4 Twelve is the number of government and the kingdom. There were twelve patriarchs, twelve tribes, etc. The Lord chose twelve commissioners who will rule the twelve tribes. The twelve times twelve thousand sealed will administer the kingdom. Here they are seen as slaves. Later they are seen as worshipers. Just as Jehovah reserved seven thousand for Himself in Ahab's days (1Ki.19:18), so He keeps these for Himself during this judgment era. Just as 1000 were taken from each tribe to go against the Midianites and none were lacking at the close (Nu.31:49), so with this chosen company. The full 144,000 will enter the kingdom unscathed.
Throne section–The Vast Multitude
7-8 Levi and Joseph appear here as tribes in place of Dan and Ephraim, who are "blotted out" because they introduced idolatry into Israel. Jehovah threatened to blot out the name of any tribe that served other gods and worshiped them (Deut.29:18-26). The accounts of their apostasy will be found in Judg.18; 1Ki.12:28-30. Ephraim, later, was joined to his idols (Hos.4:17). They will, however, be restored to their allotment in the land (Eze.48) when the kingdom comes. But none of these are protected by God's seal during this time of affliction.
9 Palm branches were used in celebrating the feast of tabernacles (Lev.23:40). It was a sign that they had come into the land. Here it is the assurance of entrance into the kingdom. The 144,000 are the first fruits (14:4). These correspond to the feast of ingathering after the full harvest (Lev.23:39). The fact that they come out of every nation and all tribes and peoples and languages does not forbid their being Israelites, for Jews are scattered among all the peoples of the earth. The fact that they keep this feast is sufficient evidence that they, like the 144,000, are out of the sons of Israel. These are those of the dispersion who conquer through the blood of the Lambkin (7:14, 12:11) and do not love their souls until death. They are the martyrs needed to complete those slain before the great affliction (6:11) seen under the altar under the fifth seal.
14 Literal washing under the law was always in water, not in blood (Lev.l1:25; Nu.8:21). The literal sense of this passage is that they cleansed themselves by their behavior, and faith in the sufferings of the One Sacrifice fitted them for God's presence. Such mingling of deeds and faith can have no place in this day of grace. Grace refuses to be mixed with deeds without losing its essential character (Ro.4:4, l1:6). God will deal differently in the coming era of vengeance.
14 This great affliction was foretold by our Lord (Mt.24:21). It will be unexampled in the annals of the race. It will be shortened, or not even the elect would be saved. It is essentially an anti-Semitic outbreak on the part of the nations of the earth, in a last attempt to wipe out the name of Jehovah from the earth.
Throne Section–The Trumpets
15 The fact that they perform priestly functions shows that they are of the priest nation. No other nation will have access to the temple (Ex.19:6; 1Pt.2:9; Un.1:6) .
16 This description of millennial blessing is in accord with many passages in the prophets, notably the description of Jerusalem by Isaiah (4:5-6).
1 The hush is occasioned by the intense expectation which accompanies this, the last seal, just as the crowd who clamored for Paul's death hushed when he was about to speak (Ac.21:40). Hitherto there have been cries for vengeance and bursts of praise, but now the crisis has come and all hold their breath, as it were, to see the outcome. The delay shows that the inflictions are deliberate, not vindictive.
2 The trumpet was sounded in Israel in case of war (Nu.10:9). This was done by Ehud (Jud.3:27) and Gideon (Jud.6:34, 7:8,18) and Saul (1Sa.13:3). Zephaniah (1:14-16) calls the day of Jehovah a "day of trumpet and shouting". Joel says (2:1) "Blow a trumpet . . . for the day of Jehovah comes". The trumpet judgments are the divine response to the prayers of the souls under the altar (6:9).
2 The seven messengers may be identical with the seven who pour out the seven bowls (15:1), and the seven spirits before the throne (1:4), one of whom is Gabriel (Lu.1:19).
3 The golden altar is distinct from the brazen altar of the fifth seal, which was in front of the temple and tabernacle. This altar was in the holy place, before the curtain, behind which was the ark and mercy seat, which was Jehovah's throne (Ex.30:6, 40:5,26) .
5 Compare the action of the messenger with the tenth of Ezekiel (10:5,8), where fire is taken from between the Cherubim and strewn over Jerusalem in token of its doom.
7 Blood and fire are signs of the day of the Lord (Joel 2:30). One of the plagues of Egypt was sounds and hail, and fire (Ex.9:23-25). This will be repeated on a grander scale. Compare Joel 1:19. We have no more reason to make the effects of the Trumpets figurative than the effect of Moses' rod in Egypt. A greater One than Moses is here.
8 This burning mountain may be a volcano, for this time is characterized by seismic disturbances of unparalleled violence (Ex.7:20-21, Ps.78:44, 105:29; Hos.4:3; Isa.2:16).
9 If we believe that the river of Egypt was turned into blood and the fish in the river died (Ex.7:20-21) when Moses smote the waters, what reason is there why we should not look for a similar judgment in Jehovah's day? (Ps.78:44, 105:29). But under no circumstances may these judgments be found in this day of grace.
10 The "star" seems to be a gaseous comet which will be readily absorbed by water. Absinthin, a yellow, crystalline compound, is the bitter principle of wormwood, which is highly poisonous when taken in large doses.
12 Signs in the sun, moon, and constellations precede the coming of the Son of Mankind (Lu.21:25), though the usual reference is to the final cataclysm (6:12).
Compare Amos 8:9; Jer.4:23.13 The vulture is noted for its swiftness (Deut.28:49; Jer.4:13; Hab.1:8). Unlike the eagle, it goes in company, seldom alone. Hence the significance of one vulture. It feeds on the carcasses of the dead, and is foraging for prey.
THE WOE TRUMPETS
The last three trumpets, because of the unexampled and terrible nature of their inflictions, are called the three woes.
1 The abyss is a vast waste of waters which were on the surface of the earth after the cataclysm of Gen.1:2, but which later subsided into its bowels, to emerge once more at the deluge (Gen.7:11, 8:2) and to recede again afterwards. It is called the abyss (depth) reclining under (Gen.49:25; Deut.33:13). It is the subterranean source of springs (Deut.8:7; Prov.8:28). In the beginning there was no abyss (Prov.8:24), It occurs in Lu.8:31; Ro.10:7; Un.9:1-2,11, 11:7, 17:8, 20:1,3. It plays a prominent part in this Unveiling, for the wild beast ascends out of the abyss (11:7, 17:8) and Satan is imprisoned there during the thousand years.
1 The "well" is not a mere pit but is used of Jacob's well from which water is still drawn. This is in line with the meaning of abyss.
Throne Section–The Locusts
8 The detailed description of these locusts forbids our taking them in any way but as literal creatures just as they are described, Their time limit is the same as natural locusts–five months–but they differ from them in many ways, Common locusts are harmless to mankind. They devour only the vegetation (Ex.l0:12), These are designed to torment mankind without killing them, yet do no damage to the grass or the herbs or the trees.
They are a fourfold combination of the horse, the lion, the scorpion and the human. They are swift as horses, terrible as lions, intelligent as human beings and malignant as scorpions. It will be a far more terrible scourge than anything which has preceded it. There is good reason for calling it a woe!
Locusts have no king over them (Prov.30:27), but these are the subjects of the messenger of the abyss. His name is given in both Greek and Hebrew. Both Apollyon and Abaddon signify "Destroyer".
Defensively they are armed with iron cuirasses, an armor covering the entire trunk with both breast and back plates. Their offensive power lies in their tails, which are like scorpions, The sting of the scorpion is very painful, much more so than that of the hornet. Men have been known to die of its effects.
Just as Satan was licensed to torment Job, but forbidden to take his life, so these locusts are limited to their work of torment and cannot take life. Their sting is so terrible, however, that the votaries of the wild beast would be glad to die, if they could, to escape it.
All of this is in direct contrast and actual opposition to God's dealings in the present economy of grace. Hence it is worse than futile to seek any fulfillment in the history of the past. Such scenes as this can come only once in the history of the race and must necessarily be of brief duration. Those who have God's seal will escape.
The locusts in the introduction to Joel's prophecy represent the four Assyrian invasions which devastated the land in the four generations referred to. Two of these, involving Judah, are the immediate subjects of Joel's prophecy.
Throne Section—The Horses
THE SECOND WOE
The second woe is even more terrible than the first and, like it, cannot be understood otherwise than literally.
14 These are probably the messengers who were thrust into the gloomy caverns of Tartarus, to be kept for chastening judging (2 Pet. 2:4), or, as Jude says, kept in imperceptible [not "everlasting"] bonds under gloom for the judging of the great day (6). Now that the specific hour and day and month and year has come, they are sent about their work of killing a third of mankind. The detailed description of these creatures is necessary because no one has ever seen such monsters. It is difficult to imagine two hundred million cavalry such as these, in which the horses themselves are provided with death-dealing mouths and tails. This is certainly one of the marvels "which are not created in all the earth, nor in all the nations" (Ex.34:10).
None of men's instruments of destruction seem to compare with these. They combine modern methods of warfare, such as flame projectors and poison gas, with the serpent's sting.
Preceding judgments will have reduced the population of the earth by more than one fourth (6:8, 8:11). We have no way of knowing how many will be alive at the time when death is fleeing from mankind (9:6). A third of these will be killed by "the troops of cavalry."
17 Amethystine, the ancient hyacinth, corresponds to our amethyst, a transparent, violet colored gem, or our sapphire, of purple hue. The context here suggests the amethyst.
17 Sulphur was much used as a purifier in the religious rites of the nations, hence its name in the Greek is "divine". Fire and sulphur were regarded as the divine lustrations or purifying agents.
20 That such a judgment should not change the minds of those who are spared seems incredible. Yet such is man. The most terrible trials but harden his heart instead of producing repentance. They continue as before in their idolatry and sin. We may learn from this that men do not change their minds from compulsion or fear, even in the proclamation of the kingdom. This will be accomplished by milder means.
Throne Section–The Seven Thunders
1 The symbol of the rainbow suggests the covenant of God with creation.
2 The planting of the messenger's feet on the sea and on the land is a token of possession. "Every place on which the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours" (Deut.11:24; Josh. 1:3).
The opened scroll shows that the incumbrance has been lifted, just as the sealed scroll was a sign of the bond which burdened it. Were it not for the fact that this opened scroll is, according to the best readings, always called a little scroll (biblaridion) while the closed scroll was the usual diminutive (biblion), we would be tempted to identify these two scrolls. It seems best to take this as a still smaller scroll which deals with the deliverance of Israel as the larger scroll dealt with the whole earth. It is evident from the messenger's acts and his words that the earth and the sea are no longer under bond, and that there will be no further delay in ejecting the usurpers out of the sovereignty which is Christ's.
3 Bellowing–not roaring after its prey (1Pt.5:8), but the sound lions use when calling to one another. Applied to cattle this word is used for their lowing.
3 Besides the seven thunders here introduced, thunder is mentioned seven times, three before and four after these special seven. Thrice it describes the voice of one speaking: one of the four animals saying Come! (6:1), the song of the 144,0000 (14:2), and (19:6) the voices of God's slaves saying "Hallelujah! for the Lord our, God, the Almighty, reignsl" Four times it is associated with voices and lightnings, They issue out of the throne (4:5), follow the casting of the thurible into the earth (8:5), the opening of the temple (11:19), and the pouring out of the seventh bowl into the air (16:18). As thunder is the audible effect of that which we see as lightning, and always follows it, the thunders probably record the effect of the seven final lightning strokes, or bowls. This brings us to the coming of the kingdom. The next vision is retrospective, going back to the middle of Daniel's seventieth heptad.
6 The delay commences under the fifth seal (6:11).
Throne Section–The Two Witnesses
7 Surely Adonai Jehovah will do nothing but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets (Amos 3:7).
9 Compare this action with Eze.2:9, 3:3-14.
9 The eating of the scroll, corresponding to the digesting of its contents, was very sweet to John, for it assured the ejection of the usurpers and the establishment of the kingdom. But it also involved much more bitter judgment which he had not yet apprehended.
11 Concerning, literally on (Lu.12:52-53) .
1 The rod or mace is the shepherd's means of defense against the sheep's enemies. The crook is for the sheep. It is the symbol of power and as such may be called a sceptre (Heb.1:8). To shepherd with an iron club will be the reward of the conqueror in Thyatira (2:27), the place of the male son (12:5), and the White Horse Rider (19:15). To measure with a mace is significant of the fact that Israel's Shepherd will maintain these measurements by force. The sheep will be safe within them.
1 The temple seems to be a sanctuary for the faithful. The period of forty-two months (measured by the moon, a symbol of the powers of darkness, 12:1) measures the career of the "wild beast" (13:5). The same length of time expressed in days (measured by the sun, a symbol of God's glory, 12:1) marks the duration of the ministry of the two witnesses (11:3) and the period during which the star-crowned woman is nourished in the wilderness (12:6). The same period is called, after the Hebrew of Dan.12:7, "a season, seasons, and half a season" (12:14). This period is probably the last half of Daniel's seventieth heptad (Dan.9:27). The prince that shall come makes a treaty with the majority of the Jews, but breaks it after three and a half years, causing the sacrifice and gift offering to cease, leaving the period here spoken of, in which he insists that all worship must be directed to him. It appears from this that the worship of Jehovah will be stamped out of the earth except in the temple in Jerusalem, which will be preserved with divine power, and in the wilderness, where the woman (the faithful inhabitants of Jerusalem) is sustained by miraculous means.
Throne Section–The Two Witnesses
4 The two olive trees remind us of Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel (Zech.3-4), who witnessed for Jehovah in a former apostasy.
The ministry of the two witnesses has much in common with the ministry of Elijah. Both cause a great drought for three and a half years (1 Ki.17:1). Both kill their enemies by miraculous fire. The prophet Malachi predicts this ministry (4:5): "Lo! I send you Elijah the prophet before the great and fearful day of Jehovah comes." John the baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, but they did not receive him (Mt.17:10-13, 11:14; Lu.1:17), hence he is still to come as was foretold. As he did not die, but was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind (2 Ki.2:11), and as he appeared with Moses on the Mount, speaking of the Lord's exodus which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem (Lu.9:30-31), he would make an excellent witness to the Lord's life and death. Some think that Moses, because his place of burial is unknown (cf. Jude 9) and because he, too, appeared on the mount, is the other witness. Others prefer Enoch (Gen.5:24 ).
6 These judgments are just and salutary, for men reject the testimony to the blood of Christ and the blessing that it brings. They are taught that their souls depend upon the abiding efficacy of His death.
7 Just as the two witnesses will be invulnerable until their testimony is complete, so it is with every slave who is doing God's will. Nothing in heaven or on earth can hinder the witness which has God back of it. And when it is finished the enemies of God will be confounded even in their death.
11 The short space of time-three and a half days–allowed for the news of the death of the two witnesses to travel over the earth, besides giving time for them to celebrate and send gifts, would seem to be a great difficulty to early students of this prophecy. It would take months and years to do this a century ago. Yet we have come to a time when this would be a matter of course. Everything will move with incredible swiftness when the judgments of God are in the earth. Let us not doubt God or judge His Word by our own ignorance.
Throne Section–The Kingdom Comes
13 This earthquake, coming so near the end of the judgment period, may be a precursor of the one under the seventh bowl (16:18). It seems to affect Jerusalem principally–the city in which the two witnesses testify and where they will be killed.
15 The details of the events under the seventh trumpet are not given here, but in connection with the Temple Section. That there is some terrible infliction is certain, for it is the worst of the woes. We suggest that it includes the bowls (15:7) and the battle of the great day when the armies of the entire earth are arrayed against Jerusalem and are slain by the Rider on the White Horse (19:11-17). It certainly ends with His coming in glory and taking over the governments of earth.
15 This completes the Throne Section. Christ is King! He reigns! This brings us to the era of the resurrection and the thousand years, which is detailed in the early part of the twentieth chapter.
18 The "judgment of the dead" here refers to the former resurrection and the awards given to those who have lost their lives for His sake. It corresponds with the word "judgment is granted them'. (20:4).
THE TEMPLE SECTION
CHRIST AS PRIEST
The "opening" of the temple (4:1 note), giving a view of the covenant, is the key to the first division of the Temple Section (11:19-15:4). The covenant and the divine ritual are the exclusive prerogatives of one nation, Israel (Ro.9:4, etc.). Jehovah remembers His covenant with them, to fulfill it. In awful contrast with this is the opening of the second division of the Temple Section (15:5). There the tabernacle of the testimony is opened and the law is exposed. The first division is filled with blessing for the faithful In Israel, the second with terrible judgments for those of them who apostatize. This division centers around the faithful city Jerusalem; the next division is much concerned with unfaithful Babylon.
This section gives us the religious aspect of judgment, as viewed from the standpoint of the temple. Just as the books of Kings and Chronicles present
Temple Section–The Male Son
the same historical events from two sides, Kings from the human, Chronicles from the divine, so this section reviews the period which has already been presented in its relation to the throne. These two sections correspond to the two great missions of the chosen nation (Ex.19:6 ). They were to be a royal priesthood (1Pt.2:9). The Throne Section gives them the sovereignty of the nations. This section recovers their priestly functions. In that they will rule the nations for Jehovah: in this they bring them to Jehovah. The theme is no longer the political redemption of the earth. The dragon, the wild beast and the false prophet demand divine honors. They want worship. This is refused by the faithful in Israel. The apostates, especially those in Babylon, with all the rest of mankind, join the great confederation to blot out the worship of Jehovah from the face of the earth.
1 This woman is in contrast with the false woman, the city of Babylon (18), hence is a sign of the faithful city of Jerusalem. Clothed with the sun indicates the possession of authority to rule in the day of Jehovah. The law, which reflects God's glory and controls her walk, is under her feet. The twelve stars signify the twelve apostles, who will administer the kingdom. Her condition is like that of the nation in Isa.26:17. Unparalleled persecution will be her portion. This is directed especially against a select company out of her, which seems to correspond to the 144,000 who were sealed in the previous section (7:3). They seem to have a safe asylum in the temple (11:1) on Mount Zion (14:1) while the woman flees into the wilderness. They are celibates (14:4), hence are called male sons.
3 The dragon is explained as Satan. It is a composite figure, like the Lambkin (5:6), the seven heads and ten horns denoting subordinate powers which are apart of its organization. They are the real powers behind the great empire of the end, for, when the beast arises, it, too, has seven heads and ten horns, the counterpart of the dragon.
6 The times of God's saints are measured by the sun–twelve hundred sixty days. The same period, when concerned with the wild beast is measured by the moon–forty-two months.
Temple Section–The Dragon and its Messengers
7 When the dragon attacks Jerusalem it comes into conflict with Michael, one of the chief princes (Dan.10:13 ), who is Israel's prince (Dan.10:21) in God's government, Prince Michael and his messengers eject the dragon and its messengers out of heaven.
9 Satan is now in heaven (Job 1:6; Eph.6:12) and will not be ejected until about the middle of Daniel's seventieth week.
9 Satan is Hebrew, meaning adversary. This is a common term applied to the angels of Jehovah (Nu.22:22,32), David (1Sa.29:4), the sons of Zeruiah (2Sa.19:22), etc. Later, when used in its untranslated form in Greek, it always seems to refer to the personality whose appellations are gathered together in this passage.
10 Michael's victory over the dragon secures the final overthrow of its power, though it continues for a short period, concentrated on the earth. Those still on the earth are warned that the fury of the Adversary will be bitter because brief.
13 Compare Mt.24:16. Our Lord counsels them to flee into the mountains of Judea, which are a wilderness, when they see the abomination of desolation (Dan.9:27) standing in the holy place. This fixes the time as the middle of the last heptad. The season and seasons and half a season (counted by harvests, as their sustenance is in question) corresponds to the last half of the seventieth heptad.
14 The great griffon vulture of Palestine has enormous strength and swiftness of wing. Unlike the eagle, it is bald (Mic.1:16), and it congregates in flocks. It was held in highest esteem by the ancients. Assyria and Persia and Rome adopted it for their ensign. This has been followed by some modern nations. The aptness of this figure lies in the fact that these vultures inhabit the inaccessible cliffs (Jer.49:16) where no human hand can touch them. Thus the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem will find an asylum in the impenetrable fastnesses which abound in the vast mountainous wilderness not many miles from the city. There they will be sheltered and sustained until their Messiah is manifested in power.
Temple Section–The Wild Beast
1 The dragon, not John, was stationed so as to bring up the wild beast.
1 The beast from the sea (which is the equivalent of the abyss) has hitherto enacted the role of a deceiver and is known as the false christ (Mt.24:5 cf.Un.6:1-2) and the white horse rider. That was in the political sphere. This is the religious section. Here the figure is a wild beast and corresponds to the antichrist. The wild beast is a composite of the four beasts of the seventh of Daniel:
Here we have the same wild beasts seen by Daniel after the nondescript has devoured the other three.
The Chaldee k'd'm, before, refers to position, not time (Dan.7:7,10), and may have the sense of east as in Hebrew. In that case the ten-horned beast is a confederacy of western powers and the other three beasts are eastern powers.
It will be noted that worship rather than rule is the dominant note here. These beasts bring before us kingdoms and confederacies bound together by a common religion. The western beast will be confederate Christendom. The ten horns will be ten Christian military powers. There are, in the East, three great religions, Brahmanism in India, Buddhism in Japan and China, Islamism or Mohammedanism in the Arab world and elsewhere. All these will form three great eastern combinations which will be, in time, conquered by Christendom, and absorbed into the one great world religion which will worship the dragon and the wild beast. Thus a confederacy of the whole world's religious powers will be concentrated against the few Jews who remain faithful to Jehovah.
7 This world empire will not be limited to any ancient boundaries but will include every tribe and people and language and nation–all who dwell on the earth–not only the Roman empire.
10 As the beast is to conquer the saints during its period of forty-two months, the saints are warned not to commit any acts of violence during this period. They are exhorted to endure to the end.
Temple Section–The Second Wild Beast
11 The second wild beast emphasizes the religious character of the first. It is called a prophet (16:13), and makes every effort to get worship for the beast. The calling down of fire from heaven was the test of deity in Elijah's day: "the God Who answers by fire, He is God" (1Ki.18:24). Hence this will be a "strong delusion" (2Th.2:11) like the giving of life to the image.
There is a marked similarity between the career of the first beast and Christ. As the Lord was crucified and raised again, so the wounded head descends into the abyss and is recalled to life by the dragon. Before that he will be a deceiver. The second beast is also patterned after Christ, for it points to the first, even as Christ points to the Father.
15 Spirit is the source of life. "The spirit is that which is vivifying" (Jn.6:63). So that, giving spirit to the Image results in its manifesting signs of life. This is man's poor imitation of Christ, Who is the Image of God (Col.1:15). But God's Anointed was given God's Spirit, not only to speak, as this image, but to give life. This image cannot give life, but causes all who do not bow to it to be killed. After centuries of civilization and culture and religion, mankind will actually descend to the worship of an image because it has miraculous powers!
16 The "mark" of the wild beast will be the emblem or flag or symbol of the world confederation. It must be worn, or be branded, in a most conspicuous place so that anyone may be able to tell at a glance if anyone is not a worshiper of the beast. Such a mark or badge has often been used to indicate political or religious affiliations, and usually consists of some appropriate and significant design expressive of the character or purpose of the unity which it represents. As all who belong to the body of Christ will be in heaven by this time, all the world will gladly receive this badge as the pledge of their allegiance to the world federation of religion, except the few Jews who will be faithful to Jehovah.
Temple Section–The 144,000
18 All will be obliged to have one of three marks to indicate their worship of the wild beast: either its symbol, its name, or its number. The number, we are told, is the number of humanity. This has nothing to do with its name. The number seven, which is used throughout this scroll, is significant of sufficiency, completion. This is its meaning in Hebrew. The number six comes one short of this. It is significant of insufficiency. This entire era is marked by man's supreme attempt to attain perfection apart from God. All his achievements fall short of the divine standard. He accomplishes the federation of mankind–except a few Jews. He unites all the world under one religion–except a handful in Judea. He conquers all who oppose–except Christ. In everything humanity falls one step short of its goal. Hence its number is 666. This is the summit of all man's efforts.
1 This is the same company of 144,000 who are sealed in the Throne Section (7:3-8). There they are slaves, here they are worshipers, standing on Mount Zion, where the temple is. The seal on their foreheads (7:3), the names of the Father and the Lambkin, take the place of the name of the wild beast (13:17), which the unfaithful receive. This is the time of the harvest and these are the first fruits (Lev.23:10) before the full harvest, which is represented by the vast multitude (7:9). They will be, literally, celibates, whose worship is in marked contrast to the sensuous ritual which will characterize the worship of the wild beast.
6 The eonian evangel is not for this day. It is for the hours of judgment. In the midst of wrath He remembers mercy. But it does not call upon them to believe, as the gospel does today, for that is adapted to a time of undiluted grace (Ro.4:16). It is not even repent, for that is the door into the kingdom before the hour of judgment has struck (Ac.2:38). It is fear–fear for God in His most elemental character as the Creator. It is a demand that no one be worshiped but the One Who created the universe. This is His answer to the demands of the false prophet that all worship the wild beast and the dragon (cf.Ac.17:24-31).
The Temple Section–The Emblem of the Wild Beast
8 This notation fixes the time of Babylon's overthrow, which is greatly expanded in the next division of this section, where God deals particularly with the apostates of the chosen nation. It falls just before the final judgments which usher in the priestly kingdom. This makes it clear that the Harvest and the Vintage follow Babylon's destruction and that, when we take up the next division of the Temple Section we must go back in time to a period prior to these announcements.
10 This so-called "cup of malediction" (Ps.75:8, 60:3; Isa.51:17-23), was wine fortified with myrrh, frankincense or some other bitter drug. In this case it is not tempered with water (18:6 cf Mt.27:34; Mk.15:23).
11 The torment spoken of in this prophecy is of various lengths and limited to specific classes. All of mankind who have not the seal of God on their foreheads will be tormented five months by the locusts, under the fifth trumpet (9:5). Satan and the wild beast and the false prophet will be tormented (20:10). The fumes of the torment of those here spoken of last for the eons of the eons. These are the supreme sinners of mankind, hence shall be tormented until they die (16:2,8-9, 18:8), some of them by the blade (19:21).
13 "Happy are the dead who are dying in the Lord henceforth" can only be applied to this particular crisis. The reason is clear. No one, unless especially protected by God, can remain true to Him when they cannot buy or sell, or have any intercourse with their fellow men unless they have the emblem of the wild beast. It will mean certain death to accept the eonian evangel and worship the Creator.
14 The One like a son of mankind is, most probably, Christ Himself, hence the words "son of mankind" do not refer to Him directly but indirectly, for He is like him. The harvest is the result of the eonian evangel. The darnel has been gathered Into bundles; now the wheat is to be gathered into His barn (Mt.13:30). This division of the Temple Section is based on the covenant with Israel, hence ends in the blessing of His people and the destruction of their enemies. These are accomplished in the Harvest and the Vintage.
20 A stadium was 600 Greek feet, 625 Roman feet, or 125 paces, or one-eighth of a Roman mile. This is about 606 3/4 English feet. The race course at Olympia was this length. From this standard length, it became the usual name for a race course (lCo.9:24).
From Harmageddon down through the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:1-2, 9-16) to Bozrah (Isa.34:6-8, 63:1-6) is a line about this length. It is likened to an enormous trough for treading grapes such as was found in almost every vineyard in Palestine. The grapes were cast in and trodden with the feet, the juice running into the vat below.
The Vintage is referred to again in the next division, when the Rider on the white horse treads the wine trough of the furious indignation of God the Almighty (19:15). Joel seems to fill in many details of this scene (Joel 3:9,16). After a proclamation inviting the nations to battle in the valley of Jehoshaphat, the account proceeds:
"Send forth the sickle, for the harvest is ripe :
Come, descend, for the wine trough Is full,
The vats run over.
For their evil is much.
Throngs, throngs In the vale of decision!
For the day of Jehovah Is near in the vale of decision !"
It is called The Vale of Decision for here the controversy between Jehovah and the nations is finally decided.
Compare also Zeph.3:8; Isa.34:1,8.
THE SEVEN BOWLS
Before the seven bowls are poured out we are given a vision which is the counterpart of the souls under the altar (6:9). They are bidden to rest until their number is completed. Here we have all those who suffer on account of their loyalty to God standing on a glassy sea. This is the laver. Only the altar and the laver stood in the temple court. Instead of cleansing, the glassy sea speaks of their permanent purity for resisting the worship of the wild beast and its image, and refusing to wear its emblem.
Temple Section–The Bowls
3 That these are saints out of Israel is evident, for they sing the song of Moses (Deut.32:1-43), which rehearses God's dealings with Israel throughout their history, and forms the ground upon which the judgment of the bowls is based. The song testifies against them. It vindicates God in pouring out the judgments upon them. To this they add the song of the Lambkin, which anticipates the results of His just awards.
5 The temple of the tent of the testimony must be carefully distinguished from the temple of God with the covenant in view. The covenant calls upon God to fulfill His obligations, which He does in the judgments of the Harvest and the Vintage. These are directed against the confederation of the nations who oppose the worship of Jehovah and the priesthood of His people. In this section the testimony or law is in view. These judgments are specially directed against the apostates of the nation, especially the city of Babylon.
7 The bowls were shallow basins used in the service of the temple. Before they are poured out those who are faithful in Israel have been killed or are in refuge. While they follow the same general course as the trumpets, being poured out upon the land, the sea, the water and the sun, they differ from them in intensity and character, corresponding to the different objects to be attained. The trumpets are usually limited in their effects to a third; the bowls seem to have no such limitation. The trumpets are a political measure and close with the sovereignty of the earth in the hands of Christ. The bowls are distinctly religions. They are poured out on the worshipers of the wild beast and on those who shed the blood of the saints and His prophets. The seven messengers who trumpet "stand before God" (8:2). Another messenger is at the altar (8:3). The seven messengers who have the bowls come out of the temple. A voice out of the temple bids them perform their duty. No worship is possible while these judgments continue.
There is no reason why these infliction’s should not be as literal as the plagues of Egypt, which they resemble (Isa.11:16 ) .
2 Compare Ex.9:8-11; Job 2:7; Deut.28:27.
Temple Section–The Bowls
3 This corresponds very closely with the second trumpet (8:8). That was limited to a third and affected the ships. The blood here is ''as if of a dead man."
4 The third trumpet (8:10) affects a third of the rivers and springs in the same way as the third bowl. The first plague of Egypt (Ex.7:17-21) is a limited sample of this very judgment.
5 "The messenger of the waters" gives us a glimpse into the divine economy. The various departments of nature seem to be under the guidance and control of special executives who are responsible for their operation. The messenger of the waters acquiesces in this infliction on the ground that the blood of God's witnesses whom they had slain demanded such a retribution. This is echoed by a voice from out of the altar, where the souls of the martyrs are waiting for this very action (6:9). They call for vengeance on their enemies. This is right, in its place, but must not be imported into the present economy of God's grace. Our only recourse is to heap coals of fire on the heads of our enemies by returning good for their evil (Ro.12:20).
8 The fourth bowl, like the fourth trumpet (8:12) affects the sun, but in an opposite way. Then a third of the sun and the moon and the stars were eclipsed. Now the heat of the sun is greatly intensified. This is one of the signs in the sun foretold by our Lord (Lu.21:25). This is the day that burns as an oven (Mal.4:1) and its inhabitants are burned (Isa.24:6, 42:25). Yet they do not obey the evangel and repent (14:7).
10 This infliction corresponds to the three days' plague of darkness in Egypt (Ex.10:21-23). Our Lord predicted a total withdrawal of the light of the sun and moon (Mk.13:24). Joel says that the sun should be turned into darkness (Joel 2:31; Ac.2:20). Under the fifth trumpet the sun and air are darkened by the fumes out of the well of the abyss (9:2).
12 In view of the reason given, the drying up of the Euphrates must be a literal event. Only so can it have any effect on the mobilization of the oriental armies. It is always best to interpret literally unless that is impossible. There is nothing contrary to fact here.
The Temple Section–Harmageddon
15 The best text reads "I am coming". The reference seems to be to the watchers in the temple at Jerusalem, in view of the great army coming against it. The inspector of the guard was wont to take away the cloak of anyone found napping. Christ is not coming for us as a thief (lTh.5:4). He is coming with a shout (1Th.4:16).
16 Har Megiddon, the mountain district of Megiddo, overlooks the great plain of Esdraelon, about forty miles north of Jerusalem. Here Barak defeated the Canaanites (Jud.5:19), Gideon the Midianites, and the Egyptians Josiah (2Ki.23:29). There will be no battle of Armageddon. It is the place where the armies of the earth will mobilize for the battle with the Rider on the White Horse (19:19). The battle line will extend from Esdraelon down to Bozrah, a distance of about 184 miles. The battle which follows is described later (19:11-21) when the Rider on the White Horse mobilizes His heavenly army and fights them with the sword which issues out of His mouth. This battle is also referred to in the Vintage (14:17-20), where the battle line is compared to a long winetrough and the blood to the juice of grapes.
18 Does not this imply that there have been such seismic disturbances before mankind was on the earth, thus confirming the facts of geology? And do not the very strata of the earth's surface prove the possibility of such upheavals? There have been violent local earthquakes during the tenancy of mankind, but this one will be far more destructive and terrible than any in the experience of the race hitherto.
19 This is the climax of all the climaxes in this scroll. It ends the seventh bowl which ends the seventh trumpet which ends the seventh seal. The great earthquake destroys all the cities of the earth except Jerusalem. This is divided into three parts. The destruction of Babylon is detailed in the following chapters.
21 This hail is like one of the plagues of Egypt (Ex.9:18-26). The stones will weigh over eighty-five pounds each. The effect of the earthquake and the hail will be like the springing of a mine beneath and a bombardment from above. It will be terrific.
The Temple Section–The Scarlet Woman
1 The following chapters (17-19:5) are a detailed expansion of the announcement of Babylon's fall in both the first and second divisions of the Temple Section (14:8, 16:19), We know the fact and the time; now we are told the reason and the circumstances which lead up to it.
3 The false woman is in contrast with faithful Jerusalem (12:1). The true woman is arrayed with heavenly splendor, ready to take her place in the kingdom of God. The false is decked with earthly ornaments and is supported by the wild beast (13:1), which is a composite of all the false religious powers of the world, organized and energized by Satan.
The secret consists in the fact that the unfaithful woman–apostate Israel –attains to world supremacy and blessing altogether apart from Jehovah or His Christ. By their own efforts the Jews have amassed untold wealth. When their capital is combined they will be able to dictate to any government on earth, Covetousness is idolatry, They worship wealth, and all the world has bowed down at the same shrine. The love of money leads to every other form of evil. It has been a fruitful source of earth's ills,
5 Babylon is the only city which has been the capital of a world empire in the past. Here Nebuchadnezzar had his capital, Medo-Persia made it theirs, and Alexander of Greece made it his after conquering the world. No other city has ruled the whole earth. The decree of Caesar Augustus, that the whole inhabited earth should be registered (Lu.2:1) was a vain pretense. It could not be enforced in Babylon itself, for the Romans could not conquer it.
The present ecclesia is nowhere called the "bride of Christ", so present apostasy is not presented under the figure of marital unfaithfulness.
7 Babylon is supported in her ascendancy by the united religions of the earth. No wonder John marvels that, while God's saints are being slaughtered, the unfaithful should attain to almost millennial bliss!
8 This is a note of time. After the wild beast is recalled from the abyss by the dragon (13:1) it no longer supports the woman.
The Temple Section–The Wild, Beast
8 When the wild beast emerges from the sea one of its heads was as though it had been slain (13:3). This, it would seem, is the eighth head, which is also one of the seven. These kings must be taken literally, for they explain to us what the heads represent.
12 In Daniel's vision (7) the western wild beast had ten horns, hence the ten horns probably stand for ten western military powers in Christendom. In a federation of many governments it is easily seen how they could temporarily delegate their powers to the head of the world league. When the call goes forth for an international force to destroy the rebellious Jews in Jerusalem the federation of the West as well as the kings of the East will mobilize at Armageddon. There they will be slain by the Rider on the White Horse (19:19-21). This is their end. But before this they are used in the destruction of Babylon.
15 The Jews in Babylon will be supported principally by the toil of the great masses in the western nations. The enormous interest on the national debts will make the people comparative slaves of those to whom the interest is paid, When it becomes known that the greater part of this money is used by the Jews in Babylon for their luxurious magnificence, it will arouse the hatred of the peoples and the governments who are under a perpetual tribute, as there is no possibility of paying off the principal. This hatred will lead to the unanimous opinion that Babylon must be destroyed, The wild beast upon which Babylon rests, after being obsessed by the dragon, becomes her implacable enemy. This is God's means of destroying the apostates in Israel.
17 By a bold figure of speech God is said to have an "opinion". The ten horns pride themselves in forming their own opinion and in carrying it out, when, as a matter of fact, they are obliged, by the purpose of God, to think and act as they do. Man is moved by ulterior motives. God provides these and men, conscious only of their own selfish aims, accomplish His end. God wants Babylon destroyed: they gladly do it for their own sakes, not for Him.
The Temple Section–Babylon's Fall
18 The basic law which underlies all figures of speech pleads with us to make this city a literal fact. No one presumes to make the woman literal. She must be figurative. The city, however, explains to us what the woman represents, and must be taken as a literal city. If not, there is no end to the "explanations" which may be offered, each of which may, in turn, be further explained.
18 The city is Babylon, on the Euphrates, which will be rebuilt in due time. But, instead of being a gentile city, as in time past, it will become a Jewish city, composed of the apostates of Judaism. When the Jews return to Palestine, many will find that place unsuited to their genius for trade and commerce, or for the beautiful city which they plan for themselves, so they move over to the plains of Shinar and build Babylon, making it the commercial and financial center or the world. At this time the vision of the Ephah (Zech.5:5-11) will have its fulfillment. The ephah was a measure used in commerce. This is a symbol of the Jews throughout the earth. They are merchants. A woman was cast into the ephah and swiftly borne to the land of Shinar, as Babylonia was called. There she will be established and take her toll of the traffic of the West with the East.
2 Babylon has never fallen as is predicted in the prophets (Isa.13, 47; Jer.50-51). Its final overthrow will be sudden (Isa.47:11) and it will become a desolation without any inhabitants (Jer.51:29). No Arabian will pitch his tent there. Yet hitherto it has gone into gradual decay until, of recent years, it is being restored. Peter lived there (1Pt.5:13). To this day there has always been a considerable town in the center of its site. Moreover, its destruction is to be in the day of Jehovah (Isa.13:6), when there are signs in the heavens (Isa.13:10; Un.6:12), and when the sons of Israel and Judah come and seek the Lord their God (Jer.50:4).
4 Some of God's true saints will be in the city before her destruction. These are warned to come out of her.
6 These sentiments are quite foreign to the present display or God's grace, for this is not a day of vengeance.
Temple Section–Burning of Babylon
11 Because of their enormous wealth the Jews in Babylon will import every luxury which their heart desires, so that it becomes the best market for the most valuable commodities of all kinds. This will employ ships and merchants who will make large profits. They will mourn and lament, not out of sympathy with the suffering city, but because their means of gain is gone. Babylon is not on the sea coast, but the Euphrates can easily be made navigable for large ships as far up as the site of the ancient city. It is notable that most of the great ports of the world have been inland on a river or bay. London, Antwerp, Hamburg, and New York, are all some distance from the open sea. The greatest maritime centers are on sheltered inland waterways to an open roadstead on the coast. Engineers are already at work on vast irrigation enterprises, to control the waters of the rivers. When there is a market, the Euphrates can easily be dredged to Babylon.
12 This is a list of the luxuries and necessities of a large city. Any attempt to "spiritualize" these items cannot fail to impress us with the futility of any but a literal interpretation of this marvelous metropolis of the end time.
12 Citron wood (callitris quadrivalvis) is found in the Atlas mountains of North Africa, and belongs to the cypress family. It is like lignum vitae, and is still used in Algeria for inlaying. It is dark brown, heavy, close grained and fragrant. It was used, as its Greek name implies, to burn incense.
13 Ginger, or amomum, is a genus of aromatic herbs from which the "grains of paradise" of commerce are obtained.
14 Fruition, literally the "juice hour", is an expressive term denoting the time when fruit is fully ripe. Figs are insipid and the white juice which exudes from them is poisonous only a few hours before it becomes sweet as honey. There is typical teaching in this. Israel is the true fig tree. Babylon seeks to take her place and establish the kingdom and thus realize the blessings promised by the prophets, which is suggested by the delicate sweetness of the fig's syrup. Instead they eat the bitter, unpalatable poison, but a little while before the true kingdom is established.
Temple Section–Babylon's Destruction
16 "Gilded" seems to be a figure for all mere outward show, for it is with gold, and precious stones and pearls.
21 In the East the millstone is used to grind the meal for the daily bread.
22 The ancient harp was in the form of a lyre. It was used to accompany solo singing. "Entertainers" denoted those devoted to the arts of the muses, history, poetry, tragedy, astronomy, dancing and song. A flageolet is a flute blown from the end, as anciently.
23 Enchantment comes from the word drug, but is used in this sense in the LXX as the equivalent of k’sg’ph, usually rendered sorceries or witchcraft (Ex.7:11-17; Deut.18:10; 2Ki.9:22; Isa.47:9; Jer.27:9; Dan. 2:2; Mic.5:12; Nahum 3:4.
23 The rapid rise of the power and influence of wealth has made it possible for riches to rule. Not only locally does the man of means control the government, but the policies of nations are determined by their financial obligations. In this way will the merchants of Babylon become the great men of the earth. Holding its weal in their hands, being the creditors of many nations, they will be able to dictate to them in any matters which affect their interests. By means of their capital they will conquer all nations. Kings will cringe before them, for they alone will be able to buy their bonds. Nations will slave for them, for they must pay the interest. The world will be theirs in spite of Jehovah's frown. He purposes to bless His people by making them a blessing to the nations. They obtain the desire of their souls by becoming a curse. They are the head of the new despotism–the autocracy of capital. Money rules the world far more really than emperors or kings or the public. The great confederacy which seems certain to arise out of the present world crisis, will have all political power, but will preside over a bankrupt world. Above them will be this woman–faithless, apostate Israel–and she will have dominion over the kings of the earth. No wonder they conspire to slay her rather than pay her the enormous tribute which her bonds demand!
24 Just as the Jews of our Lord's generation were held guilty of crimes committed long before (Mt.23:35), so Babylon is charged with all previous bloodshed.
Temple Section–Marriage of the Lambkin
1 Hallelujah, Greek alleluia, is the Hebrew Hallelu Jah, "praise ye Jah". This exclamation is used only in the "Hallelujah Psalms" (Ps.104:35, 105:45, 106:1,48, 111:1, 112:1, 113:1,9, 115:18, 116:19, 117:2, 135:1,3,21, 146:1,10, 147:1,20, 148:1,14, 149:1,9, 150:1,6) and always in response to the execution of judment. It occurs only in this passage (19:1,3,4,6) in celebrating the destruction of Babylon. It should never be used in rejoicing or worship in the present dispensation of God's grace.
7 We are first introduced to the bride of the Lamb by John the baptist (Jn.3:28-30). She was composed of those in Israel who acknowledged Him to be Jehovah's Lamb for their sins. Just as the water blushed into wine at Cana of Galilee (Jn.2:1-11), so He will transform the law into brimming cheer when this marriage comes. It was the custom for the festivities to last for seven days or a fortnight. The wedding of the Lambkin will last for a whole millennium.
Israel is often presented under the figure of the wife of Jehovah. At Sinai He became her Husband (Jer.31:32). He puts His comeliness upon her (Eze.16:8-14). But she forsook Him to go after other lovers (Hos.2:6-13). So He gave Israel a bill of divorce (Deut.24:1-4). They were sent into captivity. According to the law they can never be His again. Nevertheless He invites her to return (Jer.3:1). He promises to wait for her and to keep her for Himself until the latter days. "You shall not have a husband, moreover I also am for you" (Hos.3:3). He will call them back. " 'Return, sons of returnings,' avers Jehovah, 'for I own you,' " says Jeremiah (3:14). When our Lord came He called them a wicked and adulterous generation, for they had forsaken Jehovah. But those who received Him became a part, not of the wife of Jehovah or the Lamb, but the bride of the Lambkin. Not a sad reunion in old age, but with youth renewed. The eastern bride was arrayed in the most gorgeous manner possible. Hence the prophet's question:
"Shall a virgin forget her ornaments? A bride her ribbons?" (Jer.2:32)
8 The white apparel is symbolic of the rewards of their just acts.
Temple Section–The Great Dinner
11 Contrast this scene with His entry into Jerusalem (Mt.21:1-9 etc.). There He presented Himself as their King, lowly, and mounted as any poor peasant would ride. Now He comes seated on a white horse. In the East it is a mark of dignity to ride on a white animal, especially a horse. This is allowed only to those of high rank. There is another contrast between this Rider and the false messiah under the first seal (6:2), whose conquests were followed by war, famine and pestilence. This battle is followed by a thousand years of peace and plenty and prosperity. The pseudo-messiah will be unfaithful and false, this Rider is Faithful and True.
11 This opening is in contrast with the open door (4:1) with which the Throne Section begins. Today there is no communication between heaven and earth. When the judgment begins it is still restricted, as is suggested by the figure of a door, but when this Rider comes forth, heaven itself is opened, showing that, at last, the barriers between heaven and earth are removed.
This is the glorious coming for which all His earthly people have longed, and concerning which the prophets have often spoken. Compare the passage in Isaiah (63:1-6), which reminds us of the Vintage (14:17-20), which seems to be another aspect of this same scene, for they are combined in the question:
"Wherefore is Thy clothing red
And Thy garments as the treader in the wine trough ?"
14 The armies in heaven have already expelled the dragon out of heaven (12:7-9). Now they are about to finish the judgment of the earth. This was foretold as early as the days of Enoch: "Behold, the Lord is coming with ten thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment upon all" (Jude 14-15).
This is the full end of all man's misrule and the prelude to the reign of Christ and His saints. The so-called second psalm finds its fulfillment in this battle. He meets the vast international army which worships the beast and the dragon, and, by vanquishing it, establishes His own rule and the worship of Jehovah. Then He takes His true place at the head of all earthly sovereignty.
Temple Section–The Thousand Years
17 God's great dinner after the battle shows how terrible will be the slaughter. The battle referred to in Ezekiel (39:11-22) is probably after the thousand years (20:9).
19 The name "wild beast" is given both to the world empire and to its last head. This head and the false prophet are evidently superhuman–the "supermen" for whom the world is already looking. Their fate is in accord with their deeds. The fact that the wild beast was once slain but was recalled to life by the dragon, and the fact that the false prophet imparted life to the image, seem to indicate that they cannot be killed as the rest, hence suffer in the lake of fire during the thousand years. Their fate is unique, and must not be taken as the lot of all who die out of Christ.
21 This is like the destruction of Sennacherib's army on a grander scale (2 Ki.19:35).
2 Satan, the Hebrew for Adversary, is, as his name implies, the great adversary of Christ. Here he is given all his various appellations. In Eden he was seen under the guise of the serpent (Gen.3:1-5). In this scroll he is seen under the figure of a dragon 12:3). As the Adversary (usually translated "devil" cf. 1Ti.3:11; 2Ti.3:3; Tit.2:3) he misrepresents God, as witness his attempts to seduce our Lord in the wilderness (Mt.4:1-11; Lu.4:2-13) .
4 Judgment here, as often, refers to awards rather than punishment. This "judgment" of the saints consists in granting to each one the place in the kingdom which he deserves. It is to be deplored that there is no good English word for judgment, which calls for the setting of matters right, whether the action be favorable or the reverse. God judges His saints as well as sinners–all get their due, whether their title to it is based on their own acts or on His promises.
From the usage of this word it is clear that even the condemnation of the unbeliever is no mere exhibition of aimless rage, but is carefully calculated to right the wrongs of all concerned. The claims of God and Christ, and of the sinner himself are all as conscientiously considered as in the first judgment in Eden (Gen.3:14-19), where the very curse put upon the ground was for man's sake.
Temple Section–The Former Resurrection
4 Those who have suffered death for their loyalty during the great persecutions of the end time are especially included in the former resurrection. This is the time spoken of by Daniel (7:22) when "the saints safeguard the kingdom". This is the resurrection of the just (Lu.14:14) and the resurrection of life (Jn.5:29), in contrast to the resurrection of judgment (20:12). But those who suffer martyrdom or who endure to the end will have the added privilege of reigning with Him and will be His priests for the thousand years. Their trials have wrought an eonian weight of glory for them. They will be happy and holy indeed.
5 The statement that "the rest of the dead do not live until the thousand years may be finished" was omitted in the best manuscript. As the same codex also omits the tribes of Gad (7:5) and Simeon (7:7) from the hundred forty-four thousand, too much stress must not be laid on any such omission. These tribes must go in to make up the required number (144,000) in that manuscript. If we accept the insertion of the tribes we must also accept the insertion of this statement, for it rests on the same evidence. It could easily have been overlooked by a copyist, for the preceding sentence ends with the same words as this one does–"the thousand years" (see the Greek text). It is easy, in copying, to skip from the first "thousand years" to the next, and thus omit the intervening statement.
6 The thousand years limits their reign as priests. As kings they reign for the eons of the eons (22:5)–a much longer period.
7 The loosing of Satan finds mankind as a whole unregenerate after the thousand years of peace. They are ready as ever to follow the deceptions of Satan and oppose the Christ of God. But they are given short shrift, for fire descends from heaven and devours them. The fire eonian was prepared for the Adversary and his messengers (cf page 49:41, 46). Now he receives his doom.
11 The Great White Throne judgment has no place for those who are Christ's, for they have all been made alive and have been enjoying eonian life for more than a millennium.
12 This is not a "general" judgment, though it approaches nearer to it than any other. Only the dead appear before this throne. Those who are Christ's will have been made alive at His presence more than a thousand years before (1Co.15:23). Those who are His will not die during the thousand years, nor can they be hurt by the second death. Hence only those who have not believed in Christ appear in this judgment. They will all receive their just deserts, according to their acts, during the period between their resurrection and second death. Hence they are condemned, for all fall short of God's standard. They are not vivified, or made alive, as the saints are, by a better resurrection, hence they die again.
13 Thus all evil is segregated in the lake of fire, where Satan and the wild beast and the false prophet already are (20:10). "This is the second death" defines the lake of fire. Those who have been raised from death return to the same state in the second death. The only immunity from condemnation lies in having a place in the scroll of life.
SECOND TEMPLE SECTION
1 In this section we enter a new eon. Peter, in his second epistle (3:7, 10) tells us that the present heavens and earth are a storehouse of fire, and that they will pass away with a booming noise and the elements be dissolved by combustion. The earth and the works in it shall be burned up by reason of the coming of the day of God. Isaiah (65:17) has promised a new heaven and a new earth. Righteousness rules during the thousand years. It dwells in the new creation.
2 The new Jerusalem is heavenly as to character, but will be located on the earth. It comes down "out of heaven". The present heavens and earth are not the first, There was an earth before the present (2 Pt.3:5). The world that then was perished by water (Gen.1:2). The present is the second earth. The one in this vision is the third.
3 That these are not final scenes is indicated by the temporary nature of God 's habitation (Heb.11:9). Though all are His peoples, and He comforts all, He does not as yet, dwell amongst His creatures.
Second Temple Section–The Holy City
6 This is written from the standpoint of the time when John wrote, at Patmos, hence all is put in the future tense. This is vital to a true understanding of this section.
6 "The Origin and the Consummation" gives Him His true place in creation and redemption. God begins with Him and He brings all God's purposes to fruition.
10 This is the city for which Abraham looked (Heb.11:10). Since the capture of Zion by David (2Sa.5), Jerusalem has been God's choice to rule over the nation and over the whole earth. The city descends out of heaven to the earth and seems to be shaped like an enormous mountain. Jerusalem and Zion are almost always described as a mountain. The contrast with Sinai (Ga.4:24-26; He.12:18-22) implies as much, while Ezekiel's vision of a very high mountain (40:2, 43:12) may refer first of all to the millennial city, yet it is suggestive of the shape of the new Jerusalem.
No other shape could very well have its length and breadth and its height equal and be surrounded by a wall much lower than the city itself. The millennial city, as measured in Ezekiel, will be about twelve times as great as Jerusalem in the past, while the new Jerusalem of this vision will raise it to the seventh power. Ezekiel's city has twelve gates, named after the twelve tribes (48:31-34). There is a river, flowing from Jehovah's house, descending about three and a half feet per mile. If the throne be at the summit of this glorious city, such a river could wind about it with no greater descent than that in the millennial scene.
11 The word here used for luminosity, or light bearer, is applied to the sun and the moon (Gen.1:14,16). It is used figuratively of believers (Phil.2:15). But the sun and moon are not needed, for the glory of God illuminates the city (21:23, 22:5) and its Lamp is the Lambkin (21:23). Natural light was excluded from His habitations.
11 The jasper is probably the most valuable variety, called plasma, a translucent green stone. Like the gold of the city, its luminosity will be crystalline in its translucent radiance. The Enthroned One looks like a jasper gem (4:3).
Second Temple Section–No Temple
18 Gold, if subjected to intense heat, may be made permanently transparent. When the city has passed through the fiery crucible which introduces the new earth (2Pt.3:10), the gold which now exists in considerable quantities in a diffused state, will be precipitated and refined and emerge with crystalline clarity.
17 A cubit was the length from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger.
18 Josephus applies the term "in-building" to a mole or breakwater.
19 Lapis lazuli, anciently cailed sapphire, is a mixture of minerals, ultramarine in color, with specks of iron which look like gold. Pliny (Nat. Hist.xxxii,9) describes it as sky blue with golden spots.
19 Chalcedony is probably a waxy, translucent gem, from white to bluish grey in color (Plin.xxxvii,8 ).
20 Sardonyx (a variety of onyx, so-called from its resemblance to the substance of a finger nail or claw) consists of alternate layers of light-colored onyx between reddish layers of camelian or "sard".
20 Carnelian, or sardius, is used for the Hebrew ohdem, red (Ex.28:17, 39:10; Eze.28:13) and for the onyx (Ex.25:7, 35:9).
20 The gold stone, or chrysolite, of the ancient is our topaz, while their topaz is our peridot,
20 The best beryl is of a sea green color,
20 Chrysoprase is the palest of the green beryls of a golden cast.
20 Amethyst, the ancient hyacinth, resembles the flower of this name. It is a transparent gem of violet color (cf. 9:17), The amethyst of the ancients is now called garnet (9:17).
22 Six temples "made with hands" are indwelt by Jehovah in the eons. The first was the Tabernacle in the wilderness (Ex.25:8). The second was erected by Solomon (2Sa.7:13). It was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Ki.2:59). The third was built by Ezra at the command of Cyrus (Ezra 6:3), Herod's temple is the fourth. The fifth is called "the temple of God" (2Th.2:4) and is measured in this scroll (11:1). The sixth is described by Ezekiel (40-43). It is intensely interesting to note the development of the truth in the first, second and sixth. Here we have the true Temple, God Himself, with the true Sacrifice, the Lambkin.
SECOND THRONE SECTION
24 The vision has ended. John now is back again in Patmos and tells what will be in the days of the vision. It is not that the common and abominable will be outside the city, unable to enter. Then all will be God's people and misery will be no more (21:3-4). But those who are false before–these have no hope of entering into the city. In Israel, this is a reward.
1 The river of living water can be traced from the laver of the tabernacle (Ex.30:18) through the ten lavers and the molten sea of Solomon's temple (2Chr.4:2-6) and the waters which flowed from the threshold of Ezekiel's house (Eze.47) to the crystal stream here described.
2 Ezekiel describes the trees which line the millennial river (47:7,12).
2 The square, or common, or plaza, was a wide open space which had corners (Mt.6:5) and a center. The streets of eastern cities could not be denoted by this word, which means wide, broad, for they have always been exceedingly narrow, and were called by a distinct name (Mt.62; Lu.14:21; Ac.9:11, 12:10).
3 At this point the seer changes his viewpoint back to Patmos. What was present to his gaze is now put in the future. His slaves will minister; they will reign. Hence their reign is for the eons of the eons. This would present a difficulty if John spoke from the standpoint of the last eon, for only one eon will then remain in which they can reign (1Co.15:24).
3 The "curse" is not yet gone or the leaves of the trees were useless. But there is no more anything devoted to God for destruction. His way with men has changed.
5 Though the temple and priesthood are gone, they continue to reign for the eons of the eons. This corresponds with the Hebrew scriptures, for the temple with its ritual lasts "for ever" (for the eon) but the kingdom continues "for ever and ever" (for the eons of the eons).
SECOND PROPHETIC SECTION
6 This section should not be referred to the far future which John has been describing. He reverts to the time when the prophecy was given to him. Hence the era is impending, the Lord is still to come, the sayings of the prophecy may still be kept.
10 It is God's will that this prophecy should be known by His slaves. Daniel was commanded to seal up his vision because much was to intervene before its fulfillment. As this era is impending–there is nothing between the present and this prophecy–it is time for it to be studied and understood.
Nothing (except a knowledge of the special epistles written for the present) will help us more in estimating the true trend of present day movements than a clear conception of their outcome in the great judgment period just ahead. All of the factors of the end time are rapidly taking on the form which they will have in that day. Israel is going back to the land. The nations are forming the great confederacy. The religions of the earth are uniting. In it all God is given no place.
12 As in the first chapter (1:8), the Lord Jesus suddenly intervenes and closes the prophecy with His own august declarations. The three-fold title, the A and the Z, the First and Last, and the Origin and the Consummation, are most appropriate after the revelation of the marvelous jeweled city and the glories of the new earth. At present He has only begun: then He will finish. The A and the Z suggests that He is the whole alphabet of God's revelation, the First and the Last, His place in the times in which it is accomplished, and the Origin and Consummation, His place in the purpose which underlies it.
16 The night is darkest just before the dawn. His earthly people will long for the Morning Star to herald the approach of day. Then He, from Whom David sprang and Who descended from David, will fulfill all the promises which God made to Him.
17 Come! All who know Him and His will cannot but obey this last request. The hearts of all saints should well up into one grand shout to urge His speedy return. There is no other help, no other hope. Come! Lord Jesus!
Come, then, and, added to Thy many crowns,
Receive yet one, the crown of all the earth,
Thou Who alone art worthy! It was Thine
By ancient covenant, ere Nature's birth;
And Thou hast made it Thine by purchase since
And overpaid its value with Thy blood.
Thy saints proclaim Thee King; and in their hearts
Thy title is engraven with a pen
Dipped in the fountain of eternal love."
Cowper, in The Task
18 It is one of the saddest commentaries on the frailty of mankind to find that this warning has about seven variant readings in the three manuscripts we consult. Who would not suppose that these lines would be most anxiously and scrupulously copied by the scribe? Surely no transcriber would dare to add or subtract a single letter! Yet there is not only one transposition, but four additions and three omissions in a passage fearfully denouncing such a practice. May God forgive if we, unwittingly, have failed to restore or expunge these mutilations!
20 The desire for the coming and presence of the Lord is the truest test of spiritual condition. The saints long for Him, not merely for their own happiness but for the manifestation of His glories and the blessing of all creation.