Notes on the Revelation

If we look at the Book of the Revelation generally, we shall see its division into three parts:—

In the first part, we find not so much the divinity or the humanity of Christ, as His personal or official glory (chap. 1).

In the second part, we see Christ judging the seven churches (chaps. 2 and 3).

In the third part, we have that which takes place after the church has been removed (chaps. 4-22).

In the addresses to the seven churches, it is interesting to note that what is taken up by the Spirit of God is so presented that there should be nothing to check the expectation of the Lord’s return at the time these letters were written, and still less so now.

And so elsewhere. When the Spirit of God speaks of the Bridegroom not tarrying, He takes the things then present, and uses them as existing on to the end. It is so in Matthew 25, where the same virgins go to sleep and awake; and in the parable of the talents, the lord, at his return, requires at the hands of the same servants that with which they had been entrusted at the first.

And thus it is in the seven churches. The evils seen therein at the end were there at the first.

Ques. Does that shew a cumulative responsibility?

I do not doubt it does. All the blood shed from Abel to Zecharias was to be required of that generation; Luke 11:51. And in Babylon was found the blood of all that had been slain upon the earth; Rev. 18:24.

After the seven churches, we find that which characterises the Book of the Revelation generally is the throne. In chapter 4:2, “A throne was set in heaven,” and in chapter 1:4, it is grace from before His throne.

Ques. What is meant by “to come,” in that verse?

It does not refer to futurity of time, but to the coming One. “Which is,” i.e., exists; “which was,” i.e., has been revealed in time; and “is to come,” i.e., the coming One.

Ques. Why is the “garment down to the foot”?

That is, as not in service. You have here a transitional aspect of Christ; there is no crown upon His head.

In chapter 4, the throne is that of Daniel 7, but with a larger development. It is not simply for judgment or government, for we find seraphim as well as cherubim.

Ques. What is the special difference between the two?

A cherub is the instrument of God’s judicial power upon earth; like the cherubim which stopped the way to the tree of life; Gen. 3. But in Isaiah 6, we find the seraphim, and there it is, not merely a throne governing in respect of responsibility but, God revealed in His own character; and so the seraphim cry, “Holy, holy, holy “; this was to bring man as man into God’s presence, whether clean or unclean, and it goes right beyond Israelitish government. It was government, but as having respect to God’s own nature in its holiness, and not merely to the particular revealed ways in which God dealt with Israel.

You do not find God saying to Israel, “I will punish you with the Assyrian”; but it was according to the terms in which He had made a covenant with them.

And it is so with us now. As life and incorruptibility are brought to light by the glad tidings, so God’s wrath is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”

In the seraph, then, we have, not exactly the executioner of governmental power, but the nature of God coming out. All this is seen in the living creatures; they are cherubim, but with the attributes of God; the heads of creation are also seen in them (which is cherubic), man, lion, bullock, eagle, and they are here used as symbols of the throne of judgment.

Observe that, in this connection, we have nothing to do with the name of “Father”; the names used being those of the Old Testament; neither in Isaiah 6 is there anything to do with grace.

Cherubim are thus indicative of the government of God upon earth; seraphim, of His nature.

We find them both in Revelation 4, where the living creatures are of cherubic character, but crying, “Holy, holy, holy.” Seraphim, means, “burners.”

Ques. What is the character of the seven Spirits of God?

They indicate wisdom, power, etc., i.e., all that is necessary for this government.

Next, we find the heavenly saints sitting on thrones (“seats” should be “thrones”), round the throne; they are seen here as kings, and, in the next chapter, as priests.

Ques. Why are the cherubim said to be in the midst of the throne?

They are the pillars of the throne; in the Psalms we read, “He sitteth between the cherubim.” These same creatures are found in Ezekiel, and God is sitting on the top of them.

It is very noticeable that the sculptures which have been brought to this country from Assyria largely represent these attributes of God, which have been worshipped there, but there is no God upon them.

Ques. Are the cherubim, the church?

They may, or they may not be. In chapter 5, the beasts are identified with the church—saints, and the angels are viewed as a distinct, outside company.

The Lamb’s taking the book marks the beginning of the coming age, though it is not actual as yet. Unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the habitable earth to come. Up to this time it is in subjection to the angels, but here no longer so; and we pass from angelic authority into saint authority. There are no angels in chapter 4, but in chapter 5, beasts and elders, and angels, worship together.

Ques. Are, then, the beasts symbols?

Yes, they are true symbols; for if they were persons, there would then be but four.

People try to make pictures of such things; but suppose you have seven heads and ten horns, as in Daniel, how can you put them together? How can they fit?

Another thing that strikes me is, that you never get angels giving a reason for their worship, but the elders, i.e., saints, do say why they worship.

I regard the church as the instrument of the power which is symbolised by the beasts.

Ques. “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” Does that come in here?

It will be part of it.

I do not take the Lamb in chapter 5:6, to be the Redeemer in character. He is the Redeemer, but this is not the feature of His humiliation that comes before us here. He is seen, not as Redeemer, but as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, and as such, He opens the book.

Ques. What are the seven horns and the seven eyes?

The perfection of power and the perfection of intelligence.

Ques. What is the difference between these eyes, and the eyes of the beasts within, as in chapter 4?

It is quite distinct action; here, they are sent out into all the earth; but in the other, it is divine perception of every thing—the direct government of the earth, in contrast with the indirect government of God as now. In chapter 4:6, the thought of the eyes is that of all-seeing; but in chapter 5, it is governmental intelligence. “Without,” i.e., as seeing events; “within,” as seeing by divine intelligence.

“Eyes within” are a real thing now; the spiritual man judgeth all things; we now have the mind of Christ; and, as to range, we shall not have more in the millennium. The church depends now, in point of fact, upon her spirituality. “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.”

There is a perpetual contradiction between my place before God, as in the new creation, and the circumstances of my body, which is still part of the groaning creation.

In chapter 4, it is the praises of creation, and in chapter 5, the praises of redemption.

Ques. In chapter 4, have we the resumption of God’s action on the earth?

Not exactly; we see that the thrones are set in view of, all that is going to follow. When you get God in heaven, you must have that which is according to God in heaven, and therefore the seraphim are brought in here. When, too, man fails in his place, God comes out according to what He is in Himself. Just as, in the first three gospels, we have the presentation of Christ to men in their responsibility and their rejection of Him; so, in the last gospel, there is the bringing in of God.

Ques. But is not the gospel of John limited to the Jews?

No; “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world.”

Ques. But has not such an interpretation been put on John’s gospel?

Whenever you put an interpretation, you go wrong; there is a remark of one of the old fathers (so-called), to this effect, that “he reads Scripture well, who brings back a sense from it, and not one to it.”

In chapter 6, the dealings of God, when the horses come out, are in view of the Lamb.

It is not God, but the kings who say, “the great day of his wrath is come”; this is not really the end, though it has been so taken.

In chapter 7 the church is no longer here; the closing verses do not refer to us, for it all takes place after the church is gone. It is a striking evidence as to the state of souls, that this description should be taken to be that of the highest kind of blessing, whereas, after all, it is blessing for those saints who will be found on the earth after the church has been removed. A frequent use of this passage is that which makes God a mere Comforter of man now, just relieving man where he is. Of course, it is blessed, because it is really consolation from God.

The presence of the temple shews it is not the church. Yet these saints will have the advantage over those who have their origin in the millennium, because they have had to go through the great tribulation in which they have learned most blessed experiences of God. At the present time, the church has dropped down to the condition of earth, so that Christians have assumed all this applies to them. It is not so, because it is written of those who have come out of the great tribulation.

Ques. If the church is already gone from the earth, where does this multitude come from?

Clearly from the peoples still living upon the earth.

Ques. What is the nature of the “everlasting gospel”?

It is an immediate warning of judgment, something like John the baptist’s gospel.

Ques. Does the great multitude include the hundred and forty-four thousand?

No. This is not the time of Jacob’s trouble of Jeremiah and Matthew 24, though contemporary with it. The great tribulation comes on all the earth, and is confined to the three and a half years.

It is my own conviction that in the Revelation only the last half of the seventieth week of Daniel is referred to.

Ques. What are the “white robes” of Revelation 6:11?

The sign, I suppose, of acceptance in righteousness. The sixth seal has the character of an answer to their prayer.

From Psalms 93-100 we can see the character of the everlasting gospel. Psalm 93 exhibits Jehovah reigning, and the throne established in holiness after all the raging of men.

Psalm 94 is a cry in distress for Jehovah’s coming in vengeance, and for the power of wickedness to be set aside.

Psalm 95 is a last appeal to Israel to come to Jehovah as their God.

Psalm 96 is a testimony that goes out to the Gentiles because Jehovah is coming.

Psalm 97 is Jehovah actually coming in the full power of His reign.

Psalm 98, that He is come; and that He remembers His truth to Israel, and sets aside their enemies.

In Psalm 99 He is seen sitting between the cherubim in Jerusalem on earth.

Psalm 100 is the call to the Gentiles to come up and praise.

Ques. What is the silence spoken of in chapter 8:1?

That after the terrible shaking at the end of the sixth seal, there is no action in heaven’s mind.

Thereupon, another angel—Christ—comes and stands at the altar, and gives efficacy (this is, I believe, the force of it) to the prayers of the saints. It struck me, the other day, that when we see the saints as priests, they do not pray at all. But here, when Christ is priest, He adds incense and gives efficacy to the saints’ prayers. These latter are suffering saints on earth; chap. 8:4.

In the first four trumpets, we have judgments on the state and circumstances of people. God is here clearing the ground. Christ is not seen in action through these scenes, His proper judicial action not being manifested until chapter 19. The Lamb does not anything more here than to open the seals. This continues to chapter 11:17, and then, in verse 18, we are carried right over to the end of all.

In chapters 12-16 we have the opening out of fuller details, with chapters 17 and 18 added as an appendix to the two previous ones (chapters 15 and 16).

After which, Christ comes out, and the final scene is then displayed.

In the earlier trumpets we have, I believe, the judgments of the western nations j and in the fifth and sixth trumpets, that of the eastern nations. The seventh trumpet closes up everything. In the first four, the state of things is touched. Grass represents general prosperity. In chapters 9 and 10, people are attacked. The contents of the little book of chapter 10 are found in chapter 11.

Possession is about to be taken of everything, and the angel, therefore, declares there shall be no longer delay; chap. 10:6 (New Translation).

Then follows the last persecution of Jerusalem. The holy city is trodden under-foot forty-two months; whilst from chapter 13:5, we see that the beast continues for the same period. The forty-two months and the one thousand two hundred and sixty days, I take to represent the same space of time; if it were not so, the second verse should follow the third verse.

The only place where we have the whole week distinctly mentioned is in Daniel 9. He does not say how long after the sixty-two weeks, the cutting off of Messiah takes place. But to us, and to faith, Christ’s ministry was the first half of the seventieth week; and that is just what unbelieving Jews do not own. Notice, too, that in Daniel 7:25, the times and laws are given, not, as some have said, into the hands of the saints, but into the beast’s hands.

Ques. Do you think that the first book of the Psalms refers to the first half-week?

Yes, I do. Observe this, that when Christ came, the nation would not receive Him, though a remnant did; but when the false Christ comes, it will be the reverse of this, for then the nation will receive him, but the remnant will not.

There will be both worship and testimony during the forty-two months.

Ques. If the forty-two months and the one thousand two hundred and sixty days be the same period, why is it not forty-two months also in verse 3?

In verse 3, it is given in days to shew the constancy of the testimony, which is a daily one.

We must remember that all computation of time is Jewish, and not at all for the church; we belong to heaven, and we do not count time in heaven.

Ques. What about the children of the saints, after we have been caught up, if they have refused the truth?

In that case, they will be lost; but if they died now, it would be just the same thing.

The best thing for us is to have a heavenly portion and hope to draw our hearts out of the world; but so often it is by the candle of the Lord that we are driven out of it rather than by the drawing of the Daystar.

In chapter 11:19, God is giving a heavenly security to His covenant with Israel.

In chapter 12, the sun is the emblem of supreme authority. A circle is a divine thing; a cube is finite; you never get to the end of a circle, but you do to a cube every way.

To the woman a child is born. Then the devil, in the shape of the Roman empire, wants to devour the child, which is caught up to the throne of God, whilst the woman is left to persecution. This introduces the three and a half years. The devil is cast out of heaven at the beginning of the last half-week.

Ques. Is the woman Judah only?

She is Israel as well; for she has a crown of twelve stars. Chapter 13 gives us both the persecution and the instruments of it. We find there, also, a second beast, whom I believe to be the antichrist, because he has two horns and he speaks like a lamb. In chapter 12 the devil is anti-priest, accuser of the brethren, but here, he is seen as cast out of heaven, and consequently, no longer as anti-priest; so he takes the place of long arid prophet; it is false, of course. The two horns indicate power, rule.

Chapter 14 gives the process of God’s dealing at this time; first, the everlasting gospel is proclaimed, and then the Son of man comes and reaps the harvest.

In chapter 7, we find a mystic number of all who may be gathered from east, west, north, and south; but here, in chapter 14, it is those who have been specially faithful in time of trial. They learn the heavenly song, though they are not in heaven. It is then too late to be taken up to heaven, unless they are killed, and they therefore follow the Lamb upon earth. They are the first-fruits on earth, just as we are the first-fruits in heaven. Chapters 12-14 g° together. In chapters 15 and 16, the vials of God’s wrath are poured out Chapter 15 begins before the end of chapter 14. ‘Each angel,’ implies that there is a distinct testimony borne. And notice that there are seven distinct testimonies found in chapter 14.

Babylon is the evil of corruption, but the beast is the evil of power. Each is a centre; only the corrupt system rides the beast, and is finally destroyed, not by the Lamb, but, providentially by God.

In chapter 17, we have the connection of the beast with Babylon; and in chapter 18, the judgment of Babylon. Observe, too, that though the beast was the killer of people, yet all the blood of prophets and saints was found in Babylon, just as of old all the blood shed from Abel onwards was found in Jerusalem.

Corrupt religionism is the most hateful thing of all to God.

In chapter 19, the marriage of the Lamb is come, followed by Christ coming out and destroying the beast. It is Christ’s coming and taking power.

In chapter 20, Satan is bound; and then we have the millennium and the resurrection of the wicked dead.

The eighth verse of chapter 21 finishes, properly speaking, the prophecy. From verse 9, we have the description of the heavenly Jerusalem; and then, lastly, warnings.

And just as, at the beginning of the book, we have the relationship of the church with Christ, so again, after the book is ended, do we find the same thing.

Ques. Is there any connection between this Jerusalem and that mentioned in Hebrews 12?

There, we have Mount Zion, which is royal grace on earth in contrast with Sinai; the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem; an innumerable company of angels, the general assembly; the church of the first-born which are written in heaven; God the Judge of all, not in sovereign grace, but power in judging; so, next, just men are brought in; then, the Mediator of the new covenant, which introduces earthly blessing; and, lastly, the blood of sprinkling.

Ques. But did not Abraham look for that city?

Yes; not that I believe he has it, but he looked for the blessing that accompanied that state of things.

Ephesians 5 settles for us who is the church, the bride, the Lamb’s wife; and also what is the heavenly Jerusalem.