Part One: Judgment (chapters 3-6)

The Things After Church Things

The professing Church having failed, and been judged and rejected as God’s house, must now be superseded by the Coming and Kingdom of the Lord Himself. So we enter upon what our Lord calls “the things that shall come to pass after the present (or Church) things.” (See Chapter 1:19.)

We must, however, be transferred to heaven to view the great scene of our Lord’s receiving the Kingdom at the hands of His Father and by the energy of the Spirit.

Daniel, the prophet, saw the same glorious sight (Daniel 7): the Ancient of Days enthroned, and “One like unto a son of man brought near before him” and given “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, and languages should serve him.” Daniel was not invited to heaven, but saw all in “night-visions.” There was no “Come up hither.” Daniel was not of the Church, but of God’s earthly people, Israel; and while he saw heavenly visions, was not taken to heaven to see them. John, when church things ended with Laodicea, hears (as will all the true Church), the Lord’s words, “Come up hither, and I will show thee”—the next things, those that come after these (Church) things. Thus we come now to Revelation 4 and 5, the Second Section of the book, and the first directly prophetic part.

Chapter III
The Throne Of Adjudication In Heaven

Revelation 4, 5

Revelation Four—The Throne Set in Heaven Read this chapter over and over, and also chapter five; for they introduce the whole prophetic part of The Revelation.

After these things I saw, and behold, a door opened in heaven, and the first voice that I heard, a voice as of a trumpet speaking with me, one saying, Come up hither, and I will show thee the things which must come to pass after these things. Straightway I was in the Spirit: and behold, there was a throne set in heaven, and one sitting upon the throne; and he that sat was to look upon like a jasper stone and a sardius: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, like an emerald to look upon. And round about the throne were four and twenty thrones: and upon the thrones I saw four and twenty elders sitting, arrayed in white garments; and on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceed lightnings and voices and thunders. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; and before the throne, as it were a sea of glass like unto crystal; and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, four living creatures full of eyes before and behind. And the first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face as of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, having each one of them six wings, are full of eyes round about and within: and they have no rest day and night, saying,

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Al- mighty, who was and who is and who is to come.

And when the living creatures shall give glory and honor and thanks to him that sitteth on the throne, to him that liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders shall fall down before him that sitteth on the throne, and shall worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and shall cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

Worthy art thou, our Lord and our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power: for thou didst create all things, and because of thy will they were, and were created.

To adjudicate is denned as “determining judicially conflicting claims”; and so we use the word here. Whether some creature, or whether Christ alone, shall take over the bringing back of judgment to righteousness is the question. When Christ stood before Pilate, righteousness was on His side, but judgment was in the hands of the Roman governor. Here the time has come to return judgment unto righteousness.

Consider that the Throne of God, which was not in sight in the first three chapters of The Revelation, now comes into view; and so prominently, and in such character, from chapter 4 onward, as to make The Revelation become, “the Book of The Throne.”

The Throne was not seen when God walked with His first man Adam, in the garden. But later we read, “Jehovah sat as king at the Flood” (Psalm 29:10). Here it was for judgment, not worship.

The Throne is not seen in the history of Abraham or the patriarchs, for they were walking by simple faith, and were the depositaries of promises. They were not connected with a manifested Throne, but built altars for worship.

When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He had a nation for His name, and dwelt among them in glory (although Himself in thick darkness), sitting above the cherubim of the ark of the covenant, which was a type of the Throne on high.

Isaiah saw Him thus in the temple,—the seraphim above Him, crying, “Holy, holy, holy,” and Ezekiel saw “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Jehovah” enthroned upon the cherubim.

It is quite astonishing in view of such holiness and glory to find written in I Chronicles 29:23, “Then Solomon sat on the throne of Jehovah as king, instead of David his father.” It will not be until our Lord returns to take that throne of David (as He will—Luke 1:32, 33) that it will again become “the throne of Jehovah.” Christ will inherit it, as Son of David, but it was to David that it was promised (2 Samuel 7:11-16). Our Lord will then reign as “a Priest upon his throne”—the full Melchizedek figure. This is “the tabernacle of David,” a phrase quoted in Acts 15:16, 17, from Amos 9:11, 12. It is the millennial time.

That men like David and Solomon and their successors, should sit upon “the throne of Jehovah” is not as wonderful as that “unto us a child is born” and His Name shall be called, “The Mighty God”! Also, as in all other revelations of God’s plan, men were to have the opportunity along all lines to undertake and to fail; and thus make room for Christ, in whom alone are all the real purposes and plans of God.

“Jehovah hath established his throne in the heavens; And his kingdom ruleth over all.”

Psalm 103:19

This is true from the beginning and through all dispensations. Generally speaking, His government has been hidden, in what is called “providence.” If you desire to trace how fully God rules behind the scenes, study, for example, the book of Proverbs, noting that God declares how each course of life will turn out: the wicked, the righteous, the slothful, the diligent, etc. Who makes things thus “turn out”?

“Jehovah sitteth as king forever: He hath prepared his throne for judgment; And he will judge the world in righteousness, He will minister judgment to the peoples in uprightness.”

Psalm 9:7, 8

It is this prepared Throne that comes into view in Daniel 7:9: “I beheld till thrones were placed, and one that was ancient of days did sit”; as also in Revelation 4:2, “Behold, there was a throne set in heaven.” It will be a special arranging of the divine Throne of majesty, for dealing in manifested judgment, although God is not now so dealing.

Today God is on the throne of GRACE: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses.” The world’s sin having been dealt with by God at Calvary, and thus all God’s holy, righteous claims having been met, yea, and the world “reconciled” with His holy being, from God’s side, the One sinned against, God sends forth His messengers to beseech men from their side to be reconciled to God! Furthermore, the believer is invited to come with boldness (literally, freeness, freespokenness) to this “Throne of Grace” (Hebrews 4:16).

“The throne of God and of the Lamb,” the eternal manifestation of the divine Throne, as we shall note at the end of Revelation, is of unmeasured comfort: a Throne, certainly, necessarily, but—“they see his face, his name is on their foreheads”; and the Lamb, although Himself God, is forever Man,—“a Lamb as it had been slain,” and He sits thus on the Throne! “The throne of God and of the Lamb”—forever!

In Revelation, chapters 4 and 5, we find God’s Throne set in peculiar character before us. In fact, the scene of Revelation 4 precisely corresponds to that of Daniel 7:9: “I beheld till thrones were placed and one that was ancient of days did sit,” John’s words being, “And behold, there was a throne SET in heaven” (Revelation 4:2).

Let us note the particulars of this Throne, and the character of the worship:

1. The Throne of the Triune Eternal God “set” in heaven (as in Daniel 7) surrounded by a rainbow (Genesis 9).

2. The twenty-four elders48 crowned and on thrones about the Throne of God.

3. The “lightnings”—“voices”—“thunders”: these powers of nature made intelligent to man in judgment.

4. The “seven lamps of fire”—“the seven Spirits of God”; that is, complete active discernment of all matters and affairs in judgment,—the Holy Spirit: but in governmental administration, not as the “Comforter” of saints, and as Revealer of Christ to sinners, as now.

5. The glassy sea before the Throne: manifested eternal holiness and purity; (not, as now, the approach to the Throne of Grace!).

6. The “four living creatures”49 (or, living beings). The cherubim who support the divine Throne (as in Ezekiel) intelligent fully of His ways in majesty.

7. God’s creatorship declared by the living beings and the elders to be the basis of their worship (4:11).

We have seen in 1:19 the Lord’s commission to John to write “the things which thou sawest”—the vision of the glorious Christ among the churches; “and the things which are” (now existing—that is the seven churches covering prophetically the whole church age) “and the things which shall come to pass after these.”

It is very necessary that we grasp firmly this divine division of this great book of The Revelation, so we repeat it: Christ is speaking in Revelation 1:19, of the subjects of which John is to write. Literally, that verse reads, “Write therefore what you saw, and what are being, and what is about to become after these.” So, in The Revelation, first Christ is seen in His personal risen glory; then, we see the professing Church, which as His witness upon earth finally proves as false as Israel, and is “spewed out of his mouth”; and, third, we have the earth’s governmental history after the Church’s rejection by Christ, until His return to establish His kingdom. During this third period, the true Church is, of course, in heaven, though not in any sense manifested there until the marriage supper of the Lamb in chapter 19.

There are several reasons why chapter 4 succeeds in time chapters 2 and 3. Let us examine the opening verses:

1. After these things (Greek, meta tauta). This expression is most important, as we shall find throughout the book. It may mean merely a new vision, or a new phase of a vision, as in chapter 7:9. But in view of chapter 1:19, the use of the phrase in 4:1 is quite indicative of a change from the church matters of chapters 2 and 3 to an entirely different scene and subject.

2. A door was opened in heaven as if for entrance or egress (see 19:11). It is indeed for John’s entrance, and evidently, the whole Church is represented here! For “churches” are mentioned not once after chapter 3, till the apocalypse is over! 22:16.

3. The first voice which I heard. We know this is the voice that John heard in chapter 1, the Lord’s own voice. He now speaks again to John, not as Himself upon Patmos, but as from heaven.

4. As of a trumpet. Compare 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “The Lord himself … with an assembling shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God”; and also 1 Corinthians 15:52—“The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible.”

5. Come up hither. John had heretofore spoken of those church things about which The Revelation concerned itself—namely, the state of the churches as witness-bearers on earth. He is now called up to heaven, as if the course of things of which he had been speaking was altogether over, and he was henceforth to look at future things from the heavenly side.

6. The Lord’s further words, I will show thee the things which must come to pass. After these things, surely indicate that the matters about to be revealed to the apostle succeed in time of occurrence those matters already considered in chapters 2 and 3.

7. Furthermore, upon examining the scenes following Revelation 4:1, we find as we say above, no mention of the “churches,” until The Revelation itself is over, and the Lord Jesus is setting His personal seal to it in chapter 22:16ff. There, of course, The Revelation having been sent to the assemblies, our Lord speaks to them.

But it is of primary importance that the student of The Revelation leave the earth with John (in spirit) in Revelation 4:2 and not return until the Lord returns, with His saints, in Revelation 19:11.

There is evidently in these chapters 4 and 5 a returning to the Throne of God, and a new beginning. Church things are fully over (chapters 2 and 3).

The Throne, then, of Revelation 4, will have peculiar features displayed befitting the event. It is not merely a description of divine majesty, but that revelation of it that belongs to the matter in hand. It will not, for example, be like the “Great White Throne” of Revelation 20:11-15—the last judgment scene. There, of course, Deity is unveiled in absolute finality of judicial holiness and brightness. There, the heaven and earth have fled away. Final eternal issues, and these only are there involved. But here in chapters 4 and 5, the question is, Who shall execute the “judgments written” regarding this earth, and vindicate God’s ways in its government?

But the Triune Eternal God—worshipped thus in 4:8, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come,” is first revealed. In chapter 4 He is worshipped as the Creator, by the living creatures and the twenty-four elders. His appear- ance, indeed, according to 4:3 “like a jasper stone and sardius … clear as crystal” (21:11) sets forth His holiness in essence rather than in action, (as on the Great White Throne). There are, indeed, “lightnings,” “voices” and “thunders” proceeding out of the Throne, indicating power and intelligence, acting in judgment.50

There was a rainbow round about the throne. This reminds us at once of God’s covenant with Noah and every living creature of Genesis 9. The emerald is the fourth of the stones of the foundation of the City, as seen in Revelation 21:19. We might say that even this number 4 is indicative, as being the earth number; but, be that as it may, the fact of the rainbow round about the throne here described, must indicate God’s calling the inhabitants of the earth to account for their “breaking of the everlasting covenant,” as described in Isaiah 24:5. The “everlasting covenant” is the particular name by which God designates that agreement with Noah and all terrestrial creation recorded in Genesis 9:8-17. In this remarkable passage the word “covenant” is repeated seven times, and in verse 12 it is declared by God to be made “between me and you and every living creature that is with you for perpetual generations”; while in verse 16, “I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and all flesh that is upon the earth.” The human conditions were: to be fruitful and multiply (9:1); to eat animal food as well as vegetable (9:3); to abstain from eating blood (9:4); and to shed the blood of murderers—that is, to continue capital punishment (9:6)—because to strike at man was to strike at the image of God in which he was made!

Now the Isaiah passage (24:1-13) which describes in a few verses the terrific visitations of judgment to come upon the earth prior to the coming of the Lord (for it is not the final burning up of the earth that is there pictured) gives as the reason for these terrible things: “The earth is polluted under the inhabitants thereof because they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant.”

Now the “laws” may well refer to the laws of man’s own being, which we know from our Lord’s words concerning the Sodom-like days which will precede His return, will be universally transgressed. The days before the flood were days of lust and violence, as the days of Lot were times of unnatural departing from the very laws of human being. “The statutes” may include such fundamental and universally recognized relations as those of the family—as to husband and wife, brother, sister and parental authority, and also obedience to the powers that be. These things we find written into the constitution and conscience of all people, even those that have had no contact with God’s written Word. The “everlasting covenant” has been noted with its conditions, which every one knows are all openly ignored in our own days. Birth control in defiance of “be fruitful and multiply”; vegetarianism, despising God’s distinct command to eat flesh as well as herbs and fruit (for flesh-eating protects the human body from demoniacal control), and finally the awful rejection of that fundamental ordinance of human government, the death penalty to murderers:—these things indicate the trend toward that condition which will be brought about in the preliminary judgments of Revelation 6 to 18.

“Few men (shall be) left,” says Isaiah, “For thus shall it be in the midst of the earth among the peoples, as the shaking of an olive-tree, as the gleanings when the vintage is done.”

People conceive of the “millennium” as the time of great peace and plenty on earth, whereas it will be introduced by the most awful day this world has ever known—the great Day of Wrath of God, the Almighty, and that Day of Wrath will be preceded by years of visitations so terrible as to decimate the population of the earth.

The Millennium, or thousand years’ reign, will indeed be a time of peace, but it will be peace by an iron-rod rule in the hands of the Lord Himself and it will be preceded by catastrophic judgments after which “there shall be left therein gleanings, as the shaking of an olive-tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost branches of a fruitful tree, saith Jehovah, the God of Israel. In that day shall men look unto their Maker, and their eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.”

We speak of these things merely to prepare our hearts to believe what we shall see in the coming chapters of Revelation. The voices of the prophets are one as to the “day which the Lord shall make.” Hear one more prophet—Zephaniah. “The great day of Jehovah is near, it is near and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of Jehovah; the mighty man crieth there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness … And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against Jehovah; and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as dung.”

The Slain Lamb Takes the Book of Judgment

(Read Revelation, Chapters 4 and 5, over and over. They are one passage. They contain the key to the rest of Revelation.)

And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the back, close sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a great voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no one in the heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look thereon. And I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look thereon: and one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not; behold, the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath overcome to open the book and the seven seals thereof. And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth. And he came, and he hath taken it out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints. And they sing a new song, saying,

Worthy art thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and madest them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they (shall) reign upon the earth.

And I saw, and I heard a voice of many angels round about the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a great voice,

Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing.

And every created thing which is in the heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things that are in them, heard I saying,

Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion, for ever and ever.

And the four living creatures said, Amen. And the elders fell down and worshipped.

Note these seven facts in chapter five:

1. The seven-sealed book: fully written, ready to be opened, close-sealed, indicating finality and privacy.

2. All creation’s utter inability even to look upon this book.

3. John’s overwhelming sorrow at apparent delay of God’s longed-for kingdom.

4. The Lion of Judah declared to have “overcome” and be ready to open the book.

5. The slain Lamb revealed in the midst of the throne, with seven horns of perfect power, and seven eyes, “the seven Spirits of God,” sent forth into earth’s affairs in utter discernment.

6. His formal coming and taking the book from the hand of God. This is that taking over of governmental power by the Mediator which is the burden of Old Testament prophecy, (and of all our hearts!) and all creation’s celebration thereof! (verses 7-14)

7. Worship now founded not merely upon creation, but upon redemption. “Worthy art thou … for thou wast slain” (verses 9, 12).

The second character in which our Lord is seen in the book of Revelation is that of the Slain Lamb, now invested and exalted, opening the seven-sealed book written with the divine order of events, by which Christ is put in actual possession and active exercise of the kingdom denied Him when He was on earth before.

These two chapters (4 and 5) naturally become the most majestic and overwhelming of any portion of Scripture up to this point. They reveal that tremendous event toward which God the Father has been bending all events of the history of creation—the investiture of Jesus (who obeyed Him even unto death, yea, the death of the cross), with that inheritance of glory, honor, dominion and power which brings “every created thing which is in the heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things that are in them” to acknowledge aloud His place and majesty (Revelation 5:13).

If we have followed the “spirit of prophecy” from the beginning of Scripture until this book of Revelation, and have found that Jesus is its constant testimony, we are prepared for the blessed scene of chapter 5. Because all creation has utterly failed to take over the business of carrying out the due judgment of God written in the sealed book, we hail with great delight this public (and that an absolutely universally public!) handing over of this book of judgment, to our Lord as the Lamb that was slain.

“A Lamb … as though it had been slain.” Do we wonder that the One who was so devoted to the will of God as to die in obedience to it,—so committed to holiness and righteousness as to be slain rather than submit to sin, should now be deemed worthy to take this book of judgment and open its seals? This thought of the wounds of Christ, blessed comfort to His own, (John 20:20) will strike stark terror to His enemies! For the slain Lamb cannot compromise with the iniquity they love!

Why are harps and bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (5:8), connected with the Lamb’s taking the book of the inheritance? Did the prayers of the saints bring about this scene? Would our Lord have commanded His disciples to pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth,” if (a) God had not meant to bring this to pass, and (b) if the prayers of the saints were not a vital factor in bringing about this glorious result? Follow through the book of Revelation whatever is said about the prayers of the saints. Some day it will be found that every soul that has been saved, every blessing any saint has received, every thwarting of Satan, every victory for God, as well as this final consummation of our Lord’s taking over the book of the kingdom—all have been brought about through the saints’ prayers, inspired of God, as essential elements in His great, all-comprehensive purpose.

How, in verse 9, is the worth of the Lamb brought out by His having been slain? We ask this again. Just why should our Lord’s obeying the Father even unto death make Him the One to take over from the hand of His God and Father all judgment? Please study this. Do not pass it lightly.

John “wept much” when no one was found worthy even to look on this book.51

It was as if sin and Satan were to go on forever in the usurped control of affairs in this world. It was as if it must still be written:

      Right forever on the scaffold,

      Wrong forever on the throne.

The apostle was broken-hearted about this. The Greek indicates that he burst into tears of sorrow. The same word is used of our Lord in His weeping over Jerusalem. It would be well if we had the intense longing of the apostle John that the kingdom of God should come, that His will should be done on earth as it is in heaven; it would be well if even the thought of the continuation of evil should give us deepest anguish!

It is to be feared that oft our knowledge that our Lord is to return to earth to “straighten things out” has been the occasion of the temptation to a kind of spiritual patience with iniquity, that is hardening and deadening. We need to “vex our righteous souls” as Lot did, as we see their “lawless deeds.” And we need to long and pray for the great denouement of Revelation 5!

It should be noted that the four living beings and the four and twenty elders have each a harp (verse 8) which indicates glad celebration of victory; and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. That is, it is the prayers of the saints of all ages that have brought about this taking over of the kingdom at last by God. “Thy kingdom come” has been the heart cry of every believer since Abel the righteous. Our Lord taught the disciples to pray this prayer with the express desire that His Father’s will should be done on this earth as it is in heaven. It is the prayers of the saints which in divine providence bring about this “returning of judgment to righteousness.”

Another fact, in verse 9: they sing this new kingdom song to the Lamb: “For thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and madest them unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they reign upon the earth.” Notice that these beings are not in ecstasy over their own salvation (the word “us” in verse 9, in the old version, should not be there) but their rejoicing is that redeemed men have been made a kingdom and priests and are to reign upon the earth. It is not the escape to heaven by redemption that is being rejoiced over here, but the near-at-hand establishment upon earth of a reign of God by means of these redeemed ones, that gives joy before the throne of God. We should keep this in mind throughout The Revelation. God is at last setting His hand to interfere with the earthly sinful order of things to the extent of completely setting aside earthly authority, after overturning it by dire judgments: then causing certain saints to reign with Christ on earth with a divine absolutism for a thousand years (Revelation 20), and then bringing in final judgment and the disappearance from the scene of the present heavens and earth. The objective of God is the new heavens and new earth wherein righteousness will be at home (Greek of 2 Peter 3:13). This should be our objective in thought, hope and prayer.

At last the angels are admitted into the circle (where the Church has ever been) of worshippers and celebrators of the Lamb that had been slain! What were the angels hitherto? (Hebrews 1:14). In Revelation 5:11, 12 we find Hebrews 1:6 fulfilled: “When he again bringeth in the firstborn into the world he saith, let all the angels of God worship him.” This glorious advancement should be rejoiced in by us, for the angels have evermore been giving glad service in our behalf; and they have ever “desired to look into” the blessed things of grace connected with the gospel (1 Peter 1:12).

The number of the angels is stated as one hundred millions, to begin with, and then millions and millions! When they see the Lamb that they saw slain, (knowing that He was the Eternal Son of God) now take over the book of the kingdom, do you wonder that they say with a great voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain”? Have you spoken thus about the Lamb of God? No other theme is really worth shouting over!

When every created thing in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea and all things that are in them say, “Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion, unto the ages of the ages,” all infidels will be included, and all “modernist” preacher-infidels, all rejectors of Christ, all your family—saved or unsaved, all your loved ones—saved or lost alike! No creature will be left out. This great universal confession will not be for salvation, but it will be the fulfilling of Philippians 2:9-ll: “Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name, which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”52

Why was the book sealed? Why was it written within and on the back? Remember, it requires lawful authority to break a seal. You seal a private communication to your friend when you have written it and are ready to deliver it.

Each seal as it is broken by the Lamb will have a revelation from God therein; a revelation of His divine purpose toward Christ and through Christ. It certainly will be a blessed day when one after another we see Him break the seals of the written book and bring to pass what is written under each seal.

Chapter IV
Six Seals Opened

Revelation 6

Let us now consider the seals of chapter 6. They cover the whole book to the new creation; for the seventh seal contains the seven trumpets, and the seventh trumpet the seven bowls of wrath of chapter 16 (which chapter really ends the revelation of the judgments preceding the Lord’s second coming; chapters 17 and 18 being a detailed description of the judgment of Babylon the Great of 16:19).

Let us remember, as we have already directed, that the Lamb opens all the seals while still inn heaven in the midst of the throne.

It should be noticed also that the four living beings have directly to do with the first four seals. They are connected with the execution of divine judgment, being full of intelligence concerning the divine will.

The First Seal

I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, Come. (The words “and see,” of A. V., should not be there.) And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and he that sat thereon had a bow; and there was given unto him a crown: and he came forth conquering, and to conquer.

This horse and rider are plainly connected with the holy hosts and armies that are in heaven. Heaven is no longer engaged in grace but in judgment. “White horse”—this is holiness in exhibition and in warfare, for thus do white horses appear in Scripture. The rider has a bow, the weapon of long distance conflict. The Lord and the heavenly host are not yet coming (for the rider symbolises not only Christ but the whole heavenly host now exhibited as antagonistic to earth). “Thine arrows are sharp; … in the heart of the king’s enemies” is written in Psalm 45:5 of our Lord’s coming.

“And there was given unto him a crown” denotes the fact that the Lord and the powers of heaven are to take the kingdom away from men, and rule for God!

“He came forth conquering, and to conquer.” Some have amazingly conceived this white horse to represent the Antichrist! Not only would this be absolutely out of time (for the career of the Antichrist constitutes a woe under the seventh trumpet of the seventh seal) but how impossible to conceive of the Antichrist as conquering and to conquer—that is, to get the final victory. This is what the phrase, “conquering and to conquer” means— to achieve final and decisive conquest. And only Christ will ever do that. This first seal then indicates the Lord and the hosts of heaven turned against the earth: a most solemn thought! It is a public change from the day of grace.

The Second Seal

And when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, Come. And another horse came forth, a red horse: and to him that sat thereon it was given to take peace from the earth, and that they should slay one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.

If coming events cast their shadows before them, as goes the proverb, surely we have today, in the frantic and ceaseless efforts of the statesmen and economists of earth to secure even the stability that existed a few years ago, a suggestion of the awful time indicated by this “red horse.”

We are sure that the peace of the earth has not yet judicially been taken away, for there is still quietness and order for the most part—despite increasing sin. But when the Lord opens this second seal, universal distrust, plotting, and carnage will follow.

It should be remembered that any ordered, peaceful life on earth is purely the result of God’s gracious intervention. The “hinderer” of 2 Thessalonians 2 is holding back human passions. But there will come a day when all the murderous evil of the human heart will be unleashed, and “they will slay one another.”

Also, I am inclined to think that the “giving” to this second rider of “a great sword” may indicate such participation in human battles by angelic intervention as is frequently noted in the Old Testament. The Lord set “liers-in-wait” from His angelic hosts more than once: for example, 2 Chronicles 20:22; 14:13; 2 Samuel 5:24; 2 Kings 7:6.

The Third Seal

A black horse; and he that sat thereon had a balance … a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, a quart of wheat for a day’s wage, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wage; and the oil and the wine hurt thou not.

The choenix measure was about a quart, and a denarius is shown in Matthew 20:2 to be a common day’s wage. What its money value was as compared with our day, has nothing to do with the subject. The denarius was evidently, from the New Testament, a day’s wage. The laborers “agreed” to work for a denarius a day. Therefore we read, “a quart of wheat for a day’s wage” showing a desperate condition!

That the oil and wine are to be spared indicates, it seems, that the rich have their luxuries despite the terrible scarcity among the poor. This would agree with the description in James 5:l-5 of the self-indulgence of the rich in the last days, for we must read in the R. V. “Ye have laid up your treasure in the last days.”

On the other hand, James warns the rich of “their miseries that are coming upon them,” in this world, as it seems to mean. Before the tribulation is over, yea, even now, the rich cry out. For the whole movement of “government” is to appropriate private property. See Russia, Italy, Germany, and the “New Deal” in America. But the very rich are seen here as still having their luxuries, under this third seal, and the great mass ground to poverty.

We noticed not long ago in a Chicago newspaper a paragraph reading about as follows: “By modern methods of agriculture we have solved the question of famine. We can produce any amount of grain we decide to produce. Science has triumphed over the constant dread of less enlightened communities,” etc., etc.

How baleful statements so contrary to the predictions of Scripture become when dealt out to people that are ignorant enough to believe them! The most fearful days of famine this world has ever seen lie, we believe, net very far ahead.

The Fourth Seal

Behold, a pale horse: and he that sat upon him, his name was Death; and Hades followed with him. And there was given unto them authority over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with famine, and with death, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Now death takes the body, and Hades the spirit, of lost men. Death is so spoken of in Scripture as often almost to compel us to regard it as a personality. Mark, I do not say it is such, nor can I fully believe it to be. Nevertheless Scripture, the narration of others, and personal experience have taught me profoundly to believe that death is more than simple dissolution. When death seizes upon the body of an unbeliever, something happens vastly beyond the departure of the spirit and the cessation of the breath of life. A terrible seizure (said by Paul to have been the result of Adam’s sin—Romans 5:12) occurs to those dying. Of the death of our Lord, Peter said (Acts 2:24) “God … loosed the pangs of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (for He was not personally a sinner).

Death in connection with Hades is mentioned in three places in The Revelation. In 1:18, our Lord “has the keys of death and of Hades.” In 20:13 death and Hades give up the dead which were in them, death holding the body and Hades the spirit. (Those given up by the sea are not, in my judgment, human dead.)

Finally, death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire. Now, we know that the lake of fire is literal. (Isaiah 30:33 describes it and its antiquity, as well as its kindling to receive the Beast, the last “king” of the Gentiles, Revelation 19:20.) Whatever that power is that holds the bodies of men, it will be cast finally into the lake of fire, and will lose forever its power of dissolution. For the bodies of the damned will be indestructible. Hades also, now located in the center of this earth (Matthew 12:40 with Acts 2:31 and Ephesians 4:9) will be cast into the lake of fire.

But under the fourth seal we see death and Hades given authority over the fourth part of the earth to kill; and that with God’s four sore judgments of Ezekiel 14:21, “sword,” “famine,” “pestilence” and “wild beasts.” People say, “Peace,” but the sword is coming. People cry, “Prosperity and plenty,” but famine is coming. People boast of conquering disease by medical science, but pestilence is coming. Hunters complain of the disappearance of beasts to hunt, of game to pursue; but wild beasts will (by and by) multiply again, even in America, to the slaying of thousands upon thousands! We must remember that a fourth of the population of the earth is given over to these four judgments alone. And let us also remember that the plagues hurled directly from heaven, as in chapter 16, have not yet begun, under the four seals, not even the locust plague of chapter 9, nor the career of the wild beast of chapter 13. These come later. But the sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts, take a quarter of earth’s population.

The Fifth Seal

And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a great voice, saying, How long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And there was given them to each one a white robe; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little time, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, who should be killed even as they were, should have fulfilled their course.

To Moses was given a pattern of the things in the heavens (Hebrews 9:23). Therefore, there was an altar in heaven, or rather there is an altar. It was possibly thither that our Lord was going in John 20:17 to present Himself, according to Hebrews 9:12, as the Great High Priest. Underneath this altar in heaven are seen the souls (yet disembodied) of God’s martyrs, evidently from Abel on. Their martyrdom has cried to heaven, as did Abel’s blood, for vengeance. These souls give expression now to the change of dispensation from grace to judgment: “How long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” The answer is, that God is delaying judgment— not for salvation purposes, but that the rest of the martyrs may join their fellows!

“There was given them to each one a white robe (manifested righteousness) and it was said unto them, that they should rest (note this—they are at rest, personally) yet for a little time, until (1) their fellow-servants also and (2) their brethren, who should be killed even as they were, should have fulfilled their course”—(keep these two classes in mind).

This fifth seal exhibits especially three things: First, the patience of God—“He proceeds slowly and reluctantly from mercy to judgment.” Second, the change of dispensation evidenced in the character of the prayers of these martyrs for vengeance. Third, the utter wickedness of the earth which is plainly expected to go on martyring the full complement of God’s saints.

The Sixth Seal

And I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the whole moon became as blood; and the stars of the heaven fell unto the earth, as a fig tree casteth her unripe figs when she is shaken of a great wind. And the heaven was removed as a scroll when it is rolled up; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the princes, and the chief captains, and the rich, and the strong, and every bondman and freeman, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and they say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of their wrath is come; and who is able to stand?

1. The earthquake. These are on the increase today. This will be a great one, for God is arising to “shake terribly the earth,” for man’s sin. It shook thus when Christ bare our guilt; and at His resurrection (Matthew 27:51; 28:2).

2. The first darkening of the sun and moon, “before the great and terrible day of the Lord” (Acts 2:20 quoting Joel 2:31). The second will be “immediately after the tribulation” (Matthew 24:29). But men in terror believe the end has come! When it does not, they grow hardened like Pharaoh, and we see them in Revelation 19:19 boldly gather to war against the Lamb whom here they dread!

3. Such a “removing” of the stars and of material “heaven” as probably to render visible thereafter what cannot now be seen.

4. Unlimited terror upon all the earth, at the world-wide dreaded wrath of Him upon the throne and of the Lamb: for the Bible has gone everywhere; and the Throne seems at this moment to be seen by all the earth!

But the particulars remain to be filled in (chapters 8 to 16) of those preliminary visitations from heaven which we find only result in men’s refusing repentance and becoming hardened (except in the one instance in Jerusalem when the two witnesses are killed—chapter 11).

Meanwhile, we shall find God giving, in chapter 7, a vision of His election and salvation; and in the following chapters particulars of judgment under the seventh seal.

Chapter V
The Sealed Israelites

Revelation 7:1-8

We have in the remarkable seventh chapter two great companies of saved ones revealed to us before those direct visitations of judgment from heaven, which begin under the seventh seal in chapter 8.

There are three sections to the chapter:

1. The staying of the four angels from “hurting the earth.”

2. The sealing of the remnant of Israel—the “bondservants of God”—evidently to go through the great time of trouble.

3. The great victorious multitude in heaven from every nation.

Let us notice the remarkable place angels have in the ordering of present things upon earth. It will not be so in the dispensation to come, according to Hebrews 2:5-9 where we find the eighth Psalm quoted as referring to Christ (and with Him of course, the saints) as directly controlling things in the millennial age—“The age to come.”

It will be well to trace through The Revelation the very remarkable and often wholly unexpected and hitherto unrevealed angelic activity.

We have already noticed, as we shall further note, the constant and prominent part angels have in the administration of affairs in heaven. Revelation 5:2-11; and further 8:3-5; then the seven angels with the trumpets, from chapter 8:6-11, sending terrible direct judgment from heaven. How God places in angels, “the mighty in strength,” the execution of His plans is concretely suggested in Revelation 10:7. In 14:18 we find the angel “that hath power over fire.” In 16:5 “the angel of the waters”; in 16:8 an angel the agent that gives power to the sun “to scorch men with fire”; and in 19:17 we find “an angel standing in the sun,” speaking his message! These are instances of the altogether remarkable powers and offices possessed through divine gift by these beings called angels.53

Therefore, we should not be surprised by the striking scene at the opening of chapter 7: I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth. And further, it was given unto them to “hurt” the earth.

Now, in Revelation 7, these four angels are to be regarded simply and plainly as such. It will be our wisdom to receive the simple statements of this unsealed book (see 22:10) of Revelation in child-like faith. This is the great principle of understanding the book.

We see then these four angels holding the winds, that no wind should blow on the earth, or on the sea, or upon any tree.

We now see another angel ascend from the sunrising, having the seal of the living God. This angel has a most striking commission. He cried with a great voice to the four angels to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we shall have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads. It is evident to our hearts that trouble is coming. Certain must be “sealed,” to believe God through that trouble. Let us note this carefully. Six seals have already been opened. Under the seventh seal will come the terrible trumpet-angels, bringing desolation and thrice-told woe upon earth (chapters 8 to 16) but certain individuals are sealed by God to pass safely through the trouble.

And I heard the number of them that were sealed, a hundred and forty and four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the children of Israel.

The elect Israelites are sealed at this time; that is, just before the opening of the seventh seal and the outgoing of divine judgments directly from heaven.

Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand: Of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand: Of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand: Of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand: Of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand: Of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand: Of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand: Of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand: Of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand: Of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand: Of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand: Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand (verses 5-8).

The 12,000 of each tribe means, of course, simply 12,000. In Elijah’s day God had left for himself seven thousand (1 Kings 19 and Romans 11). We believe that these were exactly seven thousand persons. Inasmuch as there is no hint of the 144,000 being “a symbolic number”—that is, a sign or indication of some other number, we shall and must receive God’s words concerning the future as literally as we do concerning the past. They are 12,000 from each tribe.

The enumeration of the tribes is striking.

Judah, the elect royal tribe, is named first. God’s sovereignty placed him there, not Judah’s goodness (Genesis 38. Compare Genesis 49:10 and Psalm 108:8). Christ is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.”

Reuben, the first born after the flesh, is next recognized, when divine sovereignty has been shown. Gad and Asher come next. Leah’s sons by her handmaid, Zilpah! Surely the flesh is not being honored.

Next comes Naphtali, Rachel’s son by her handmaid, Bilhah. Dan, Bilhah’s first son, is left out altogether here. He was ever a cherisher of idolatry. Yet Dan is mentioned first, when the land is divided in Ezekiel 48, for the 1,000 year kingdom: which shows God’s grace! And that Dan should be preserved through The Tribulation, though not publicly sealed, is greater grace still!

Manasseh, younger son of Joseph, is next, with Ephraim, the proud tribe of Judges 8 and 12, left out. Ephraim also was a synonym of idolatry, as seen in the prophet Hosea. Yet Ephraim is in the kingdom (Ezekiel 48:5).

Simeon and Levi are next. Jacob their father called them cruel men (Genesis 49:5-7). Grace remembers them, however.

Issachar and Zebulun, Leah’s fifth and sixth sons, come next. Zebulun and Naphtali—from these despised regions “light sprang up” (Matthew 4:12-17).

Then Joseph is next to the last, though the most beautiful in character of all. And finally his brother Benjamin, youngest of all the brethren, and smallest of all the tribes, and as to sin, fallen lowest,—almost destroyed (Judges 19-21). Yet it gave Israel its first king; and us our apostle (Romans 11:1).

There are various lists of these sons of Jacob in Scripture, and lessons to be learned from all.

Now if it be objected that 144,000 out of the nation of Israel is too small a number, recall God’s words “If the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that shall be saved.” The most of the nation will perish under the awful blows of the last enemy of God (Psalm 83; Zechariah 14; Isaiah 28:14-21). The nation of Israel is being gathered back to Palestine just now for the coming time of trouble. All the wars of the nations have some bearing upon this elect nation.

It is refreshing to our hearts to remember that although the leaders of socialism, atheism and Godless commercialism are found among the Jews and are gathered back to their land in unbelief, trusting their money to purchase the favor of the Gentiles, yet God will have 144,000 whom He calls His bond-servants, who are sealed with the name of the Lamb and of His Father in their foreheads (Revelation 14:1 compared with 7:3).54

The Saved Multitude
Revelation 7:9-17

But not only the 144,000 elect remnant of Israelites are found in this chapter 7—given to cheer our hearts—but “a great multitude, which no man could number, out of every nation and of all tribes and peoples and tongues” will “wash their robes” and have a place “before the throne” in heaven. Here we have one of the most striking scenes in this great book.

After these things I saw, and behold, a great multitude, which no man could number, out of every nation, and of all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, arrayed in white robes, and palms in their hands; and they cry with a great voice, saying, Salvation unto our God which sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels were standing round about the throne, and about the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, Amen; Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, These which are arrayed in the white robes, who are they, and whence came they? And I say unto him, My lord, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which come out of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God; and they serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun strike upon them, nor any heat: for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them unto fountains of waters of life: and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.

John does not know who these are, as his answer to the elder’s question “Who are they and whence came they?” plainly shows. We feel he would have known them if Old Testament saints, as he and Peter and James knew Elijah and Moses on the Transfiguration Mount. Also, he would have known them if Church saints. He is told that they “come out of the great tribulation.” Also that they “washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” That means salvation, and salvation by faith in God’s Word regarding the blood of Christ. These are not of the Church, which is Christ’s Body, yet they are in heaven.

It is necessary for us to have a largeness of heart concerning heaven and its hosts—even of its saved hosts. The Lord Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many abiding-places. I go to prepare a place for you.” But let us not forget that other companies from earth, besides saints of the Church, are to be there—according to Revelation 7:9.

For it is the result of unbelief to seek to bring back to earth, to a lesser calling, this mighty company seen before the throne. The throne of God here in chapter 7 is necessarily that revealed in chapter 5. It is on that heavenly throne that the Lamb is seen “in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures and … the elders” (Revelation 5:6). It is not that throne of “his father David” (Luke 1:32,33), not the “throne of his glory” upon which the King shall sit when He returns to earth (Matthew 25). There is no account of the living creatures at the throne of David! And it is directly stated that the angels will not have to do with the millennial order (Hebrews 2:5). The angels of 7:11 would have absolutely no place if the scene were earthly.

I would rather credit the general spirit of reverent commentators of all the Christian centuries (which regards this company as a heavenly one) than the opinions of some, whose awakened sense of the literalness and glory of the millennial kingdom led them, in commenting on both chapter 7 and 21:9, to ascribe to earthly millennial times what the passages themselves necessarily make heavenly and eternal.

The Millennium is a reign on earth “with Christ” of 1,000 years. Its form of worship is fully set forth in Ezekiel, Zechariah and other Old Testament prophets.

But the language used of this company in Revelation 7:9-14 is not one of reigning; nor of any scene on earth; but “they are before the throne of God” (the throne of Revelation 4) “and they serve him day and night in his temple.” “Day and night” is used of eternity in 20:10. It sets forth ceaselessness. Moreover, the complete resemblance of those divine comforts given to those of Revelation 7:15-17 and to those of 21:3, 4, 6, is convincing. It is heavenly service—not that of a reign on earth that is described.

Moreover, (and please note this matter well) if you make 7:9-17 millennial, what disposition do you make of this great company after the brief 1,000 years? Answer this, beloved. Go to the Scriptures. Call no man on earth “Master.” You cannot regard these Brethren—especially beloved Darby, more than I do. But the strongest argument against accepting a system handed to him from men whom he confessed he reverenced for their godliness, is made by Mr. Darby himself in his essays against Presbyterianism as “legality” and Anglicanism as “authority.”

Now it should be evident, we feel, that this great company is not the Church, the Bride. For the Church is the Body of Christ, the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 1:22, 23). Her relation to Christ in The Revelation is as the Bride, the Lamb’s wife. But this company is before the throne—not the place of the Church (which is hidden until chapter 19).

There arises also the difficult question as to what means were used, what message, to save this great company?

We are told that they “came out of the great tribulation (literally, the tribulation, the great), and we know from Daniel 12; Matthew 24; Mark 13; Jeremiah 30-33; and Revelation 3:10; that this must be the last half of the 70th week of Daniel 9. This tribulation (1) is future; (2) is overwhelmingly terrible; (3) will be a particular “time of trouble” for Jacob—that is, Israel, and (4) will come on “all them that dwell on the earth.”

But in the last named passage (Revelation 3:10) we find that its object is “to try them that dwell on the earth.” The true saints of this age, the Church (even Loadicean overcomers), are to “sit with Christ in his throne” and will be “kept from” this hour of trial.

But what of those left after the rapture of the Church? It is upon these that the hour of trial comes.

Now, we are not told it is the hour of universal damnation, but of trial. Doubtless those who “received not the love of the truth” will be given over to believe “the lie” (Revelation 13)—devil worship. But does not the use of the word “trial” indicate that some may endure it?

Even the enemies of God knew about God—the throne and the Lamb—under the sixth seal (chapter 6). Bibles have been scattered all over this earth. In every nation men not yet saved know about the Lamb of God and His sacrifice for sin. When the awful world-wide “hour of trial” sets in, it seems that thousands will wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb, at all cost.

We must confess that this is a difficult question to determine, as to the exact relation of this great multitude to The Great Tribulation, in view of the fact that the same preposition (ek) is used here as in Revelation 3:10, where the saints are kept out of (ek) “the hour of trial.”

Chapter VI
The Seven Trumpet Angels And The Other Angel

Revelation 8:1-5

When the Lamb opens the seventh one of the seals of the book of judgment of 8:1, we read,

There followed a silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

On the one hand, all vocal worship and praise wholly cease; on the other, there is not seen any creature activity, even in the prosecution of those terrible visitations from heaven so soon to be sent on earth. All is silent.

The meaning, it seems to me, is two-fold: “The steps of God from mercy to judgment are always slow, reluctant, and measured.” It is God’s “strange work,” this of actually proceeding to visit from a long forbearing heaven direct strokes upon men. In the seals of chapter 6 men slay one another. Even the fourth seal sets forth death by sword, famine, pestilence and wild beasts—God’s four sore judgments, but not such as we shall see under the trumpets. So there is “silence in heaven.” All the heavenly hosts will soon be engaging in actual warfare against earth. But it is God’s “strange act” (Isaiah 28:21). He “hath no pleasure in the death of him that dieth.” God is love.

Again, on the other hand, this is an ominous silence! It is the calm before the storm. God, the Lamb, the four living ones, the twenty-four elders, the seraphim of Isaiah 6, the hundred million and millions of angels, the Church, the martyrs beneath the altar—all silent. Meditate on this scene: it greatly grows upon your soul!

And I saw the seven angels that stand before God (8:2). These are mentioned as if we knew of them before. But, so far as I am aware, there is no previous instruction regarding them in Scripture. Over and over again in The Revelation such unexpected words are used—especially regarding the arrangements in heaven. For this book, as its name signifies, is a revelation. If John says

“I saw,” we, by the Spirit and by faith, also see. Perhaps Gabriel is one of these seven, though probably filling a yet special place. “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God” (Luke 1:19, R. V.).

God is “the great king”; and He is surrounded as is described in Daniel 7:10, “Thousands of thousands ministered unto him.” We know little of that scene of ineffable majesty: let us treasure what is told us!

And there were given unto them seven trumpets (8:2). The trumpets were appointed in Israel by God for calling of the princes, and the congregation, and for the journeying of the camps, as an alarm, or public notification (Numbers 10:1-6).55

The trumpets were to be blown also in the days of Israel’s “gladness,” “set feasts,” and over their sacrifice in the beginnings of their months—“for a memorial before your God.” Jehovah also loved them (Numbers 10:10).

But we find an especial use of the trumpet, in arousing to war the hosts of Jehovah against their enemies (Numbers 10:9). Compare Ezekiel 33:1-7, where the watchman’s trumpet blown faithfully could deliver all who would “take warning.” But it was too late in Jeremiah 4:19 (for the Israel of that day). “Thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. Destruction upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is laid waste … How long shall I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet? For my people are foolish … no understanding … wise to do evil … to do good—no knowledge!” What a state! And the prophet heard the trumpet of judgment.

So with these seven angels. They blow the very trumpets of heaven against an earth become “as it was in the days of Noah … as the days of Sodom,” as Joshua and Israel blew the trumpets against Jericho.

Remembering the angelic governmental control that obtains over earth’s affairs, until Christ and the Church possess the kingdom (Hebrews 2:5, 6), we are not interpreting but perverting Scripture, unless we believe these seven angels to be angels indeed, and their trumpets, trumpets indeed, and the results, results indeed, as described. God had priests blow ram’s-horn trumpets a week around Jericho’s walls: and they “fell down flat.” Of course it was God’s power that caused it. But God thus proclaimed Himself the God of Israel, working wonders, as Israel blew and shouted.

So will He do, on an earth-wide scale, as these angels blow their trumpets in heaven. It is idle to call all these literally described scenes by the favorite word, “symbolic.” Symbolic of what, pray tell us! Do you have a plainer account of definite things anywhere in the Bible than we here have in The Revelation?

It is true that we must needs know the rest of Scripture to understand The Revelation fully; for it takes for granted such knowledge. But when God declares that definite things follow—“by reason of the … voices, of the angels” (8:7, 13, R. V.), who dares say that some fact of history, or some imagination of the human mind, other than the plainly described event, is to be understood? Let us beware of finding ourselves finally aligned with the Sadducees who denied both angel and spirit (Acts 23:8). There are figures and “signs” (semeia) in The Revelation; but we learn from Scripture, not from history, or reason, what such things mean.

And another angel came and stood over the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should add it unto the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. And the angel taketh the censer; and he filled it with the fire of the altar, and cast it upon the earth: and there followed thunders, and voices, and lightnings, and an earthquake.

This angel is not Christ, who is the Lamb opening the seals, and directing these processes of judgment. The fact that this angel is at the altar, and has incense, has led many, in their very jealousy for the Great High Priest, to forget the vision of the Lord in chapter 1 as Judge, clad in the robe of the Judge, not of the Priest. The vision of chapter 1 must control all the book—“Write the things which thou sawest (the glorious Lord); and the things which are (that are on—Church things); and the things which shall come to pass after these things.” (Revelation 1:19). It is not a book of salvation, nor of intercession, but of processed judgment.

This angel of 8:3 is publicly to bring before all heaven three things:

1. That the prayers of all the saints are ever had in memory before God: a most blessed and solemn truth! No saint’s prayer is forgotten, but has its effect in due season, in bringing in the Kingdom, that is, our Lord’s return!

2. That the incense (ever in Scripture setting forth the power of Christ’s atonement acting upon God) the incense, I say, representing our Lord’s person and work at Calvary, added in due time to the prayers of all the saints, makes them instantly effectual before God.

3. That the prayers of all the saints, in the power of Christ’s atonement, is that which really brings about judgment. It is the answer at last to “Thy Kingdom come” which the saints of all ages have prayed. No other answer could be given, inasmuch as earth has rejected the rightful King!

It is of the utmost importance that we understand Revelation 8:3-5. This incense is “given” to this angel. (Christ would have needed none!) And it is God’s hour to begin from heaven that direct heavenly intervention which will be the answer to the saints’ prayers. Enoch prophesied of it (Jude 14, 15). Jacob waited for it (Gen. 49:18). All the prophets spake of it. Now, in Revelation 8:3-5,—inasmuch as its hour has begun to be, what caused it must be openly brought in and shown upon “the golden altar which was before the throne” (of God).

Now this angel takes his censer, and, filling it with the fire of the altar, he “cast it into the earth.” The altar of old was the place of substitutionary atonement, and the fire represented the judgment of a holy God upon sin visited upon a sacrifice rather than the sinner. Here it is reversed. When the censer is cast into the earth, there follow thunders, and voices, and lightnings, and an earthquake” (8:5, R.V.).

Notice first, that the “scientific” explanation of the “processes of nature” utterly fail—thunders precede lightnings!

Again, voices, intelligent, significant, warning, come between the thunders and the lightnings.

And finally all these are physical disturbances. The earthquake is a real earthquake: one of God’s constant ways of arousing men.

When we proceed to what follows each trumpet, things will be simple, if we but believe what is written.

Four of the Seven Trumpets 8:6-13

And the seven angels that had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.

These seven presence-angels, having waited until the incense (the power of Christ’s sacrificial work) and the prayers of all the saints should be formally presented before God (8:3-5) as the means of direct judgment from heaven upon men (as before these were the means of salvation) are now ready to act. Until this time the judgments have been preliminary and indirect: now we shall see direct visitations from heaven upon men.56

And the first sounded, and there followed hail and fire, mingled with blood, and they were cast into the earth, and the third part of the earth was burnt up, and the third part of the trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

Now this is a book of revelation we are reading. And it is not sealed (22:10). Therefore we have just read an exact description of what will take place! If you should read to someone an account of the seventh plague in Egypt, from Exodus 9:18-26, he would hear such words as these:

“I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the day it was founded even until now … Jehovah sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down into the earth … so there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as had not been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation … Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail.”

Now if your hearer should say, “I believe that literally happened, just as related,” you would reply: “Certainly. God does not speak in a riddle; all this happened in Egypt.” But if you then read him what God says will happen when the first angel blows his trumpet in Revelation 8:7: “hail and fire, mingled with blood … cast upon the earth,” and he declares, “That is not literal hail or fire or blood,” your only proper course would be to call him a doubter, a caviller at God’s plain statements. He might reply, “The book of Revelation is full of ‘symbols’—you cannot take it literally as you do Exodus.”

Your true course then would be to show him, in all meekness, but with all firmness, that if God does not mean what He says here, no one on earth can tell what He means! When God uses emblems, or “signs,” as, for example, the two evil women, Jezebel in Thyatira, and the harlot on the Beast in chapter 17, God tells what He means. But when God says that such and such exuents will take place, they will take place! It is folly to pretend that the trumpet-judgments have already been “fulfilled in Church history.” God says John here was beholding the things that should come to pass after Church things (4:1).

Tell me, when was exactly one third of this earth burnt, so that the grass and the trees were destroyed? History has no record of such an event!

But it will occur, literally! And the very inventions that help geographers to chart this earth (and there are many), will enable the men living in the days of the Seventh Angel quickly to compute that one third of the earth has been affected by this great judgment.

One third! Three is the divine number (as all Bible students know) and four is the earth-number.

Now under the first four trumpets, we read the words “a third” twelve times! And twelve is God’s governmental number concerning this earth.

And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea; and the third part of the sea became blood; and there died the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, even they that had life; and the third part of the ships was destroyed.

Manifestly, to understand this, we have only to believe it. Unbelief is the greatest enemy of prophecy.

Also, it is idle to talk about this “third part” as “the Roman earth.” What but your imagination ever told you such a thing? These judgments are world-wide (as is plainly seen from verse 12, where the sun is smitten). Is there a “Roman” sun?

God says a third part of the sea will become blood. God will do this: and will let all the earth know three things: (1) That it is a heavenly judgment, by the loud blast of the angel’s trumpet; (2) that a great body like a burning mountain has been cast into the sea; (3) that just one third—God’s number—of the sea becomes, like the river Nile under Moses’ rod, blood. And the lines of it will be absolutely denned in the ocean, that men may know it is God’s hand that is at work.

For example, now the Gulf Stream flows, a great sea-river, many miles in width, with a color so marked that a ship’s bow enters it with the stern plainly back in the common ocean. Also, it keeps on its distinct way clear across the Atlantic.

And it will not be difficult for the nations to ascertain that one third of their ships have been “destroyed.” Louder and louder are the divine voices which should awake men. “When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9). But many perish under the judgments!

And the third angel sounded, and there fell from heaven a great star, burning as a torch, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of the waters; and the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.

Wormwood is the bitterest shrub known. Several varieties are found in the East, and in Syria and Palestine. It would be easy for any one to understand what the Seer meant. “The star is called Wormwood.” Men are reaping the bitter fruits of sin; and they know that heaven is sending these troubles upon them.

It should be carefully noted, that the order of these first four trumpet-judgments is the same as that of the bowls of wrath in chapter 16. (1) Earth; (2) Sea; (3) Rivers and fountains of waters; (4) The Sun.

Men get their water supply from the rivers of earth, and from the “fountains of waters”—which sometimes flow from the snows and glaciers of the mountains, and sometimes become the underground sources of springs and wells. To cut off their “water supply” is to render men desperate and helpless. The greater part of earth’s inhabitants (Matthew 7:13—“wide is the gate”) is evermore hastening on to “the pit wherein is no water” (Zechariah 9:11). What wonder, then, that God now lets them have a hint of what is coming! The day was, that “all the Egyptians digged around about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river.” Then God let them find water—though at great labor. And here in The Revelation He smites only a third of the sources of their drinking water.

As we before quoted: “The steps of God from mercy to judgment are always slow, reluctant, and measured.”

But now comes a stroke that even the lowest and least of men can, and must, recognize and interpret:

The fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; that the third part of them should be darkened, and the day should not shine for the third part of it, and the night in like manner.

On the fourth day of creation God said, “Let there be light bearers (Hebrew—maorim) in the firmament of heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years.” Men’s almanacs deal with seasons, days and years: but God said these heavenly bodies were primarily for Signs!

“And there shall be signs in the sun and moon and stars,” Christ, the Creator of them, said (Luke 21:25) speaking in connection with His own second coming.

Revelation 8:12 will surely set the “star-gazers” on their heads! There is the loud blast of a heavenly trumpet, and lo! out goes the sun! And the daylight turns into night. And such night! No stars, no moon, just black, impenetrable darkness. Then lo! again the sun shines. And when men compute the duration of it, they find again that third—ominous indeed to those who know not, and who desire not to know God.

Our Lord tells us plainly that “the powers of the heavens shall be shaken”—evidently referring to such physical powers as the so-called laws of gravitation, and celestial attraction: for the “distress of nations” referred to in Luke 21:25, 26, is terror arising from “the roaring of the sea and the billows.” They will be “in perplexity” (R. V.), for no science will be able to explain these things.

All their confidence has been in “all things continuing as they were”—in the “fixity of nature’s laws,” etc., etc. Now all is overset. And, the Lord continued, “men will be fainting (or expiring) for fear, and for expectation of the things which are coming on the world.”57

Then, indeed, to Israel’s sealed remnant, such Psalms as 46 will be a source of confidence that will be unknown except to God’s own: “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth do change, And though the mountains be shaken into the heart of the seas; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, Though the mountains tremble with the swelling thereof.”

But now in Revelation 8:13 comes the great eagle’s announcement of the three woes that trumpets five, six and seven, will usher in chapter 9.

And I saw, and I heard one eagle, flying in mid heaven, saying with a great voice, Woe, woe, woe, for them that dwell on the earth, by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, who are yet to sound.

The warning is that trumpets five, six and seven will bring a new quality and degree of divine displeasure and consequent disaster. We shall see the first woe in the locusts (9:1-11); the second, in the Euphratean horsemen and hosts (9:13-21) and the plagues wherewith the two witnesses (11:5, 6) smite the earth. The third we see in the handing over of the earth to the Beast-worship of chapter 13—worst by far, of all!

48 See Appendix II on the twenty-four elders.

49 The old rendering “beasts” is not a happy translation of this wonderful Greek expression zoa. Such a translation doubtless arose from a cumbersome attention to the described forms or appearances of these four living beings. God’s designation of them gives only the number four and the fact that they are (as their four generic forms reveal) the very embodiment of created life. Their name zoa cannot be duplicated by any single word in our language. It indicates that they are real, literal beings, and that they are vibrant with life in every direction and degree. The fact that they are “full of eyes before and behind round about and within” and that they have “no rest day and night” (and need none) proves this. They celebrate constantly the being of the Lord God the Almighty, the Eternal, Thrice Holy One; seeming in this celebration and worship to join with the twenty-four elders constantly in adoration.

This is their eternal occupation (4:9-11).

50 How significant is the occurrence of the word voices between the lightnings and thunders which we now know in nature! Compare 8:5; 11:19; 16:18. Compare these verses with Exodus 19:16—God’s appearance upon the top of Sinai. Also note that in Revelation 8:5: “There followed thunders, and voices, and lightnings” as if God had said, “You who rely on your knowledge of scientific facts, hearken while the thunders precede the lightnings and between the two are solemn voices showing the intelligent power that really produces all these things.” How blind is human science which leaves out God!

51 Note that the preposition in the first verse is “upon” (epi) and not in, the right hand. The book was not grasped by God, but offered for any one to take who could.

52 Contrast this passage carefully with that glorious prospect of the new creation recorded in Cafossians 1:20, where “the things under the earth” are significantly omitted!

53 These are days of general skepticism concerning the direct intervention of God in the physical universe. Yet a very brief examination of Scripture reveals God’s control: “Stormy wind fulfilling his word” (Psalm 148:8). He sends the rain (Matthew 5:45). God says He “caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city”—a great passage! (Amos 4:7, 8). Hear Amos further: “For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought; that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth—Jehovah, the God of hosts, is his name. That maketh the Pleiades and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning and maketh the day dark with night; that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth (Jehovah is his name)” (Amos 4:13; 5:8).

From such passages (and there are many) we find that God continually and personally administers the affairs of this earth; and we learn from such verses as Revelation 7:1, that He does it through angelic ministers. He loves to delegate His power to His faithful servants!

The case of Job is simply the exception that proves the rule. God had set a hedge about Job, complained Satan (Job 1:10). This, of course, involved God’s management of the physical universe to Job’s outward benefit. When Jehovah grants all that Job had, except his own person, to be attacked by Satan, among the other disasters, we read, “And there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men” (Job’s children). Satan could not have sent this wind except by divine permission—it is God that rides “upon the wings of the wind,” not Satan! Psalm 104:3.)

54 It should be noted that this 144,000 of Revelation 7:3, being God’s douloi, or “bond-servants,” will understand the Book of The Revelation. For God gave it unto Jesus Christ “to show unto his bond-servants” douloi (Revelation 1:1). Thus they all, however dark it be, know where they are. The Revelation involves a knowledge of all Scripture. It speaks of Israel, Moses, the Prophets, the Martyrs, the Bride of the Lamb, the Kingdom, and the New Creation,—as well as the present creation: and finds all blessing in the person and sacrifice of Christ!

55 Numbers 10:7 is interesting indeed to one who knows the real hope of the Church: “When the assembly is to be gathered together, ye shall blow, but ye shall not sound an alarm!”

56 It is probable that these trumpet-blasts will be heard on earth; and that all the world will know whence these troubles come. In 16:9 we read “they blasphemed the name of God who hath the power over these plagues” (the bowls of wrath). Men will know what is going on. The heaven, under the sixth seal (6:14) “was removed as a scroll when it is rolled up.” We cannot avoid the conclusion that there will be at that time manifest knowledge that God is the direct Author of earth’s calamities. He will make men feel it.

57 We see from Matthew 24:29, that the greatest physical convulsions are to take place “immediately after the tribulation.” But the Lord’s own are, in Luke 21:28, told to be encouraged “when these things begin to come to pass.” The Church escapes from earth at the end of Church-things, in Revelation 4:1. But God has others of His saints, who will behold, and “lift up their heads,” in the dark days before The Tribulation, as well as after it.