Let us look a little at the different forms of evil in connection with the Revelation.
When we go beyond the seven churches, we find the government of the world, but we see the government put into the hands of the Lamb that was slain. The book, we know, is divided into three parts; chap. I:19. Firstly, “The things which thou hast seen,” that is, the personal glory of Christ; not merely in His deity, nor His humanity, but in the character of judgment, as seen in chapter 1. Secondly, “The things which are” —the seven churches—His judgment of the seven churches as given in chapters 2 and 3. Thirdly, “The things which shall be hereafter” (or, after these). There we see God’s judgment and government of the world.
In chapter 1 we find the divine attributes in One who is Man. There is a full description of the Lord Jesus, not as girded for priestly service, but “clothed with a garment down to his foot”; here it is priestly judgment. The “golden girdle” is divine righteousness. “His head and his hairs were white like wool,” the Ancient of days; Dan. 7:9. “His eyes a flame of fire “are divine unsparing scrutiny; “His feet like unto fine brass,” earthly judgment; “His voice as the sound of many waters,” His majesty; “His countenance as the sun,” supreme light; “The first and the last,” Jehovah; “He that liveth and was dead,” the risen man. We see Him with certain divine attributes, and executing judgment as the Son of man. There is something similar in chapters 7 and 10 of Daniel. You get Him as Jehovah, and as One risen from the dead, as the risen Man walking among the candlesticks.
The seven churches (chaps. 2, 3) then existing are looked at as those which Christ judges, though they present to us the whole history of the church until the coming of the Lord. They are thus given that there might be nothing to hinder their looking for the immediate coming of the Lord. It is the same in Matthew 25. The virgins who go to sleep are the same that wake; and the servants who receive the talents are the same the Lord reckons with at His coming, though ages and generations have passed away from the time of the church going to sleep, and the time of the going forth of the cry, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh.” When the Spirit of God speaks of the Bridegroom tarrying, He speaks of the present state of things existing unto the end. We see seven subsisting churches, and there is no form of evil can come in that is not provided for. In Jerusalem was found the blood of all the prophets; in Babylon (chap. 17) the blood of all the saints. We at the close have all the responsibility. The vision and the blessing was from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come. “Who is” is the immutable being of God. Thus time is brought in in connection with Him who is eternal— the coming One—who is, was, and is coming.
In chapter 4 we see a throne set in heaven, and the four living creatures surrounding it. The throne of Daniel 7 is a partial development; but it is not simply the throne in that character here. We have cherubim as well as seraphim. What is the difference? The cherubim are connected with present judgment on the earth; they are the seat of God’s judicial power on earth. The seraphim covered their faces, crying, “Holy, holy, holy.” They are connected with God revealed, so as to bring man as man into His presence. In Isaiah 6 we find the seraphim. Here we see government in respect to the holiness of God’s nature, not so much His revealed ways. God comes out according to His nature. Anything not according to that nature I cannot have. We find the incompatability of God’s nature with sin—the contrariety of an unholy nature with a holy Being. The living creatures here are cherubim, the attributes of God and the heads of creation— cattle, beasts of the field, birds, and man. The lion was the symbol of strength; the calf, firmness; man, intelligence; the eagle, swiftness of judgment. The seraphim in Isaiah 6 have nothing to do with grace, only with judgment. The coal of fire is grace, but burning grace. Cherubim are the government of God on earth; seraphim cry, “Holy, holy, holy.” The living creatures here illustrate the cherubic character: Holy, holy, holy, the seraphic character; the seven Spirits of God the attributive character. The seven lamps are the seven Spirits; they are in connection with God’s government of the earth, and similar to Isaiah 11, “the spirit of wisdom,” etc. The rainbow (v. 3) is God’s covenant with creation. You find judgment, but not yet the Lord till the next chapter. The living creatures in Ezekiel 1 are the attributes of God, the pillars of the throne. “The Lord reigneth … he sitteth between the cherubims,” Psa. 99:1. Man made gods of the attributes to worship.
In chapter 5 the angels are seen as a distinct set outside. In chapter 4 are no angels at all—the living creatures may be angels; in chapter 5 they are the heavenly saints. We perhaps get here the transfer of power from angels to men, according to Hebrews 2. The coming age is not to be under angels, but under man. The Lamb’s taking the book is the beginning in a certain way of the coming age. All through the old dispensation God was dealing with man through angels— “the law was given by the disposition of angels”; now they are displaced by man, their power transferred to the heavenly saints. The four living creatures are only used as symbols, just as the beast of chapter 17 has seven heads and ten horns; if taken literally, where would you put the ten horns on seven heads? They have tried to put them in pictures, and they have made a mess of it.
The beasts and elders worship together. The beasts celebrate, but do not worship. You see the beasts and elders separate in chapter 4. The angels never give a reason for their worship; the saints always do, for they have the mind and thoughts of God. Theirs is an intelligent—a “reasonable service.”
God has been pleased to use certain agents, according to these attributes, of which the beasts are the symbols. He has used angels, He will use saints. Earthly saints will not reign over the earth, they are reigned over—a royal nation in a certain sense. The beasts have more the governmental character, the elders are worshippers. Both represent the church in chapter 5; they may perhaps include the Old Testament saints too. The elders are characterised by their intelligence in the mind of God. In chapter 5:10, the words us and we should be them and they—it refers to the remnant. Their song mentions the two classes—themselves the heavenly saints, and the remnant. “Redeemed or bought,” “made them.” He is worthy, for He has purchased us. It is not here so much His character as the Redeemer making atonement that is seen, but rather what we find in Philippians 2—the humbled Man set upon the throne—the effect of His death for Him, and not for us. Through death He got into this place. It is His title to take the government of the earth.
Verse 6. The seven horns and the seven eyes represent the perfection of power and the perfection of intelligence. The “eyes” are the exercise of divine intelligence in the government of the earth. (See 2 Chron. 16:9; Zech. 4:10.) In the lion (v. 5), we have the symbol of power, in the lamb (v. 6) of redemption, in the seven spirits we get the Holy Ghost as governing. They are sent out into all the earth, the divine perfection of government in the earth. The eyes in chapter 4 are all-seeing; in chapter 5 perfection in government; in chapter 4:8 internal spiritual perception; in chapter 5 all is looked at as in order, both in the heavens and the earth, the effect of the Lamb’s taking the book. There is no reign in chapter 4.
The church has the spiritual intelligence now which is necessary to the government of the earth, but is not yet in the place to exercise the power. We have an unction from the Holy One and know all things. You cannot go beyond that. We do not need any fresh endowment. Of course there is the new body and the glory which we have not got. Our bodies belong to the first creation. I belong to the new creation. The church will have no more power of discernment in the glory than now. The perfect thing is not yet come; 1 Cor. 13. There are always the two things (for instance, in John, we have everlasting life as a present possession; in Romans 6:22, “the end everlasting life”). So in Romans we have justification and righteousness as a present thing, whilst in Philippians 3 it is something future. This is because, although we belong to the new creation, we are still in the old as to the body. As regards the new man, it realises everything in heaven. As to our body, we realise that we are groaning on earth. They are priests in chapter 5, but not acting in chapter 4. That is preparatory, a sort of programme to the soul of all the things that were to come out after. The throne is set, but not yet acting. God’s holiness is celebrated.
You have the throne set in heaven, not in Jerusalem. God is seen in heaven and directly I see the character of things in Him. When Christ comes to the world, He comes as God, not as the Messiah. In the first three Gospels He comes as Messiah, presenting Himself to man’s responsibility. They are summed up in John 1:11: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” Then in John we have Him as God manifest in flesh. The Son came to reveal the Father. So we find John full of election. We have the character of John’s Gospel in that verse, “I came forth from the Father and am come into the world,” chap. 16:28. If He comes as God, He must necessarily come to the world as the sphere of His acting, not to the Jews only. “I came into the world.” He leaves the world and goes to the Father. Whenever you put an interpretation upon a scripture, you go wrong. One of the old fathers has well said, “He reads the scriptures well who brings back a sense from it, but does not take one to it.” In chapters 4, 5, the elders are the administrative power by which the attributes of God are displayed.
In Revelation 6, at the opening of the fifth seal, we find the souls of martyrs under the altar. They cry for judgment, not rest. Then as the answer to their prayer we have a mighty shaking at the opening of the sixth seal, so that the kings, the great men, etc., think in their terror that the end is come (but they are mistaken).
Chapter 7. Before the other judgments are poured out, the Lord takes care to number His people. We have in this chapter God’s people on earth: first, the Jews, then the Gentiles. These are those who go through the tribulation. They are the results of the everlasting gospel going out to the Gentiles after the church has been taken up. These saints, after the church is gone, are living in earthly circumstances and have the highest kind of comfort you can have. These saints are in a better case than the millennial ones, but not in so good an one as the elder saints. Saints have so got down to earth in their hopes that they have taken this as belonging to them, thanking God that He is coming down to them to wipe away their tears, instead of rising up to God beyond the place where tears are. The church is up in heaven. Where does this multitude come from? They are those who are living on the earth, for they serve God day and night in His temple, whilst in the New Jerusalem there is no temple. The everlasting gospel bears something of the character of John the Baptist’s. Connected with judgment, they are warned. The number of the Jews here (one hundred and forty-four thousand) is a mystic number—it is that of human perfection—a thousand times over of each tribe (seven the highest indivisible number, perfection in unity, God’s perfect number; twelve is the lowest number divisible by four different numbers). We find these Jews in Matthew 25 spoken of as the Lord’s brethren. We have the heavenly saints in the same chapter as the virgins and the servants. These are not altogether the same as the one hundred and forty-four thousand of chapter 14. Some of them are killed during the tribulation and get their places in heaven. White robes—token of acceptance and righteousness—are given to the slain remnant. The Gentiles seen in chapter 7 are those who have gone through the tribulation and therefore have a higher place of blessing than those born during the millennium. The great tribulation is not the same as Jacob’s trial; the former is connected with the whole earth, whilst the latter only applies to Israel. They may be going on at the same time.
We may just look at the connection of Psalms 93-100 with this period. Psalm 93, the Lord reigneth—general idea; Psalm 94, the cry of the remnant of Israel and the question asked, Is He going to have the throne together with Antichrist? (v. 20); Psalm 95, the last summons to Israel; Psalm 96, the everlasting gospel to the heathen; Psalm 97, He is actually coming; Psalm 98, He is come; Psalm 99, He is sitting between the cherubim; Psalm 100, all the Gentiles, the nations are summoned to come up and worship. Here we get what the reign of Solomon is a type of.
Chapter 8. Here we find the answers to the prayers of the saints (chap. 6:10), the angel having given efficacy to their prayers by offering them up with incense on the golden altar before the throne and now the judgments are poured out. The angel here is Christ. When the heavenly saints act as priests, they do not pray at all; chap. 5:8, 9. When Christ is the priest, as here, He adds incense to the prayers. In chapter 5 the prayers are the incense. At the opening of the seventh seal we see more special judgments. First, there is silence, a lull after the terrible sixth, and no action. Then we come to the trumpets. In chapter 8 are the first four judgments, and these are more specially on states and circumstances (they are the western judgments); in chapter 9 the fifth and sixth trumpets, which are specially upon man, people are attacked; these are the eastern judgments, the third part of man being slain. The fifth falls on the apostate Jews who had not the seal of God on their foreheads; chap. 9:4. It is the wrath of God here that is poured out, not that of the Lamb. God is about to bring the Only-begotten into the world again, and in this chapter He is clearing the ground. His title as the slain Lamb is owned in chapter 5, but we do not get His acting in judgment till we come to chapter 19. The action here is all angelic.
Chapters 10 and 11 are parenthetical; chaps. 12, 13 and 14 are connected; chaps. 15-18 form an appendix. The whole book closes at chapter 11:18. It brings us down to the judgment of the dead, at the end of the millennium, which you get more fully gone into in chapter 20. The last verse of chapter 11 belongs to chapter 12. It goes on beyond the millennium into the eternal state. Then follows an appendix, chapters 12-20 going more into detail right on to the final scene in the last two chapters. In chapter 10 you again find Christ under the figure of an angel. Before the sounding of the last trumpet, He brings in a little book which unfolds all the rest; chap. 11. In chapter 10:6, “that there should be time no longer” —the real force of the word here is, “that there should be no more delay” but the mystery of God should be finished at the sounding of the seventh angel.
Chapter 11:2. The holy city is trodden under foot of the Gentiles forty-two months. This is the second half of the last of the seventy weeks of Daniel. We only find the last half of the week spoken of in Revelation. The whole week is spoken of in Daniel 9:24-27. First, you have seven weeks— these were historical; then sixty-two weeks are added, bringing us “unto Messiah the Prince.” “After these things [it does not say how long] Messiah is cut off.” The first half of the remaining week we find is the ministry of Christ which lasted three years and a half. Then the Messiah is cut off. So now to faith there is only the last half of the week to come. But the apostate nation, not owning the period of Christ’s ministry, “confirms the covenant” with Antichrist for the whole week. They go on flourishing till the middle of the week. Then Antichrist breaks his covenant with them, and their judgment follows, and Jerusalem is trodden down of the Gentiles for “forty and two months.” They refused Him who came in His Father’s name, and will receive him who comes in his own name. In Daniel 7:25 it is the times and laws, and not the saints, that are given into his hand. In the first book of Psalms we see the experience of the remnant during the first half-week, and that is why we find more of the experience of the Lord Jesus here than in all the other Psalms. In the half-week of the Lord’s ministry the remnant received Him, the nation did not. When under Antichrist the nation again go through the first half-week, it will be the converse, the nation receive him and the remnant do not. In the Gospels by Matthew and Mark we have only the last tribulation, whilst in Luke is also seen the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. Luke says nothing of the abomination of desolation set up. We find from Revelation 11:1-3 that true worship and true testimony are maintained during the whole of this time of one thousand two hundred and sixty days. Time is never counted except in connection with the Jews. The church belongs to heaven, and time is not reckoned in connection with it. There is no date mentioned in Revelation till you come to the last half-week (v. 9, probably literal days). When the church is caught up, there will be apostasy. We see in 2 Thessalonians 2 that those who received not the love of the truth that they might be saved are given up to believe a lie. So to Christendom it is the same thing whether Christ comes, or does not come; if the truth is rejected, they die in their sins. Revelation 11 takes us on to the last scene of judgment—that of the dead, which takes place after the millennium: this finishes the book. Thus the beast, Babylon, and then the appendix (chapters 11:19, and chaps. 12, 13 and 14) go together.
You are in the dark place, but you have the Lord’s candle, namely, prophecy, and you do well to take heed to it.
In chapter 11:19 we see the ark of God’s testament in His temple. Come what may, there is security for Israel. He has given a heavenly security to the covenant on earth. The word of prophecy is not to draw, but to drive us out of the world. The best thing is to have a heavenly Christ to draw us out, but it is good to have the word of prophecy to let us know what is coming on the world.
The church is not spoken of here (chap. 12); she forms the body of the one new man, the man-child caught up to God and His throne. The woman includes all the twelve tribes clothed with supreme authority, and complete government about her head. Seven is the highest indivisible number, twelve the most divisible number (a circle and a cube). The man-child is taken up to God and His throne, the woman is left to persecution. James addresses all the twelve tribes, though ten seem to have been lost sight of.
In chapter 13 we get the instruments of Satan: the Roman beast in his last form, and the second beast, which I believe to Antichrist. In chapter 12 we had an anti-priest, “the accuser of our brethren, which accused them before our God day and night.” In chapter 13 we see an anti-king and anti-prophet. The true King and Prophet was rejected; so now they get a false king and a false prophet. He takes these two earthly characters, now he can no longer exercise the former.
In chapter 14 we get the result of God’s dealings during this period—one hundred and forty-four thousand associated with Christ on earth. It is “His Father,” never the Father relating to the saints. They are associated with Christ in His royal place upon earth. They are those who have been specially faithful; they learn the heavenly song though they are not in heaven, and they have His comfort. They have shared Christ’s rejection, and now they have a place of special blessing. Special blessing is always the result of special sorrow. They are the firstfruits for God and the Lamb on the earth, as we are the firstfruits for heaven. It is too late to go to heaven unless they are killed. They learn the song that is sung there, and accompany Him in His rejection. Whoever belongs to Him out of all the nations you find in chapter 7.
Chapters 15, 16. Now we come to a new wonder. The others in chapter 14 end with the winepress of the wrath of God. Chapter 15 begins before the end of chapter 14. There are seven different testimonies in chapter 14. Corruption is centred in Babylon, power in the beast. God destroys Babylon, not the Lamb.
An inward quickening is never treated of in Scripture as salvation; the idea of regeneration has been lost. Cornelius was quickened beyond a doubt, but was told to send for Peter to hear “words whereby he might be saved.” We get the two things in Romans 10: “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Salvation is here the result not merely of believing, but also of confessing. Peter, in Acts 2 exhorts those who were pricked to the heart by the word spoken to “save” themselves from that untoward generation. Lydia was a worshipper of God before the visit of Paul to Philippi. Salvation is not the Holy Ghost’s work, but the work of Christ. I cannot say a man is saved unless his conscience is purged. The church has lost the thought of being saved. People think it is enough to be born anew. Regeneration is confounded with having life. If we look at Israel, they are not spoken of as saved till they were across the Red Sea. Salvation is connected with actual deliverance. When the blood was on the doorpost, they were free from the judgment. There God was known as a Judge; as a Saviour at the Red Sea— “Stand still and see the salvation of God.”
In result, salvation always includes the body. “Believe— be saved,” Eph., chaps. 1, 2). “By grace are ye saved.” I should say a quickened soul was safe, but not saved. Israel was safe under the shelter of the blood, though they had not then seen “the salvation of God”—full deliverance from Egypt. A man has not to be saved unless he is lost. You could not say in that sense, that a Jew, before the rejection of Christ, was totally lost; that is, he was under probation. It is no longer so now that man is in a probationary state. Not only is he a sinner, but the cross of Christ proves him to be totally lost. Man thus proved to be lost is in a position to be totally saved— “delivered from this present evil world.” I was in the flesh, but now I am in Christ. If a soul were only quickened and not saved, he would not belong to the church at the coming of the Lord. I know this is impossible, because, as the apostle says, “He which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ.” You are not united by faith, or by life, but by the Holy Ghost. “In whom, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,” Eph. 1. People are now taught to hope that they have life. I meet two different persons, and I ask both whether they are the children of God. I get the same reply from each, “I hope so”; but if I hear them at their prayers, I find there the different state of their souls. Whilst one, having the Spirit of adoption, is crying “Abba, Father,” the language of the other is “Lord, have mercy.”
“Regeneration,” as the word is used in the New Testament, is not the same as being born again. The word is only used twice; Matthew 19, where it is in connection with the millennium: and in Titus 3, with baptism. It is more connected with salvation than quickening. A desire after holiness would be one evidence of a quickened soul. I do not say he is saved; Scripture does not say so. If one has been set free, one never gets into uncertainty. “Forgotten that he was purged from his old sins,” is speaking of practice. For instance, my child runs out in the street and gets dirty, and I say to him, “You have forgotten that I washed you just before you went out.” A person may be very clear and have little godliness. I would far rather see a person in real distress of soul, as in Romans 7 than knowing himself saved, and taking it coolly without any exercise of conscience. It is not till after Israel had passed the Red Sea and seen the salvation of God, that we get the song of deliverance. What is the meaning of the word of the Lord to Zacchaeus: “This day is salvation come to this house”? Christ was Himself the salvation of God. As Simeon says, “mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” Zacchaeus now receives Him joyfully. He had been full of his good works before, giving half of his goods to the poor, etc.; he was just telling the Saviour what he was doing before. Jesus seeks and saves the lost.
In chapter 17 we have Babylon and the two beasts.
Chapter 18, the judgment of Babylon, “in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that were slain on the earth.” She is corrupt religion, most hateful to God, like Jerusalem which the Lord held guilty in His day of all the righteous blood shed upon the earth from Abel downward.
Chapter 19. The marriage of the Lamb comes after the judgment of Babylon. Here we have not God destroying corruption, but the Lamb Himself taking the power.
In chapters 20, and 21:5 is seen the final scene, till, according to 1 Corinthians 15, “God is all in all.”
Chapter 21:8 entirely closes the history of the book. A description follows (from chap. 21:9) of the New Jerusalem; then warnings. In the end we get again the relationship of the church to Christ, as at the beginning of chapter 1. At the presentation of Himself, she says, “Unto him that loved us,” etc. Here, in chapter 22:16, He presents Himself as the Root and the Offspring of David, the bright and morning star. The bride immediately with the Spirit answers, Come. We have three invitations in this verse: first, as to the Bridegroom, she invites Him to come; second, she turns to the other saints—those who have heard and received the word are invited to join in the cry, and say, “come”; third, she turns to the world and invites the thirsty to come and drink freely of the water of life. We see the bride under different names, the assembly and the body in Ephesians; and holy city, and the new and holy Jerusalem in Revelation 21. Were Abraham, etc., not in the church? Some think they may be of the city, but not of the body.
Would you make a third sphere then for the Old Testament saints? There may be twenty spheres. Look at Hebrews 12:22-24: there we see several spheres. First, we are “come unto Mount Zion” (that is, the hundred and forty-four thousand in the land (Rev. 14)—here we have royal grace upon earth); secondly, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem; thirdly, and to an innumerable company of angels, the general assembly; fourthly, and to the church of the first-born which are written in heaven; fifthly, and to God the Judge of all; sixthly, and to the spirits of just men made perfect (that is, the Old Testament saints, Heb. 11:40); seventhly, and to Jesus the mediator, etc.; eighthly, and to the blood, etc. You find out the different divisions by noticing where the word and is used. We have the ascending scale, then the descending. He begins with earth and goes higher and higher till he arrives at God the Judge of all at the top, and then descends to earth again. The blood of sprinkling is connected with the new covenant of God and the earth. I suppose that Abraham, etc., looked for the blessing that accompanied that state of things. Having got nothing on earth, he looked up for the eternal city.
[End Of Expository—Vol. 7.]