Is the church being deceived?
Watch out that no one deceives you. Matthew 24:4
Painting of “The Great Day of the Lord”
by John Martin (1789-1854), London, Tate Gallery
Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons.
I have many to thank in regard to this book. I would like to thank my dear wife, Betsy, who has read and re-read this manuscript from the outset.
In addition I am grateful to the following people for reading the manuscript or parts of it and giving me their comments: Ronnie Smith, Julian Crider, Jack and Judy Stone, Pete and Peggy Steffel, Bill and Gloria Brereton. I am especially grateful to the latter couple because of their willingness to uphold me and my work in prayer over the last twenty-five years. I am also grateful for Randy and Lin Swier, Richard and Sharon Wright, and Lynn and Cecile Lantz for their faithful help.
I am especially grateful to my pastor, Ken Moore, for his steady and loving support throughout this project.
Finally I am most grateful to Jesus, the giver of revelation, and the one who has opened the seals for us all.
All Scripture quotations in this publication are from the Holy Bible, New International Version, except where noted (published by Zondervan Corporation, copyright 1985).
This work is affectionately dedicated to our three dear children, Jon (Yoni), Elizabeth (Eliza), and Tim.
Copyright © 2005 Jim Gerrish
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART I – SAINTS, GET PREPARED!
Chapter one – John’s Alarming Vision
Chapter two – Urgent Warnings For The Churches
Chapter three- The Throne Room And Sealed Scroll
PART II – THE GREAT TRIBULATION
Chapter four – Jesus’ End Time Teaching
Chapter five – The Trumpets Are Blaring!
Chapter six – Seven Mysterious Figures
Chapter seven – Here Come The Beasts
Chapter eight – The Seven Figures Concluded
Chapter nine – Plagues That End The World
PART III – THE JUDGMENT OF BABYLON
Chapter ten –Babylon
Chapter eleven – The Anti-Messiah
Chapter twelve – The Mystery Woman
PART IV – RETURN OF THE BRIDEGROOM AND THE CONSUMMATION OF THE KINGDOM
Chapter thirteen – The Bridegroom Arrives
Chapter fourteen – Understanding Jesus’ Coming
Chapter fifteen – The Millennium
Chapter sixteen – Judgment And A New Era
Chapter seventeen – A Glorious Final Vision
We are already being deceived about Revelation and about the end-days despite Jesus’ warning concerning this very thing (Mt. 24:4,5,11, & 24). Vast multitudes do not realize that a terrible time of God’s judgment has almost arrived. In fact, Jesus tells us that we are already feeling the “birth pains” of this approaching era (Matt. 24:8). Lately it seems that these birth pains are more severe and that they are coming closer together.
Revelation assures us that this approaching judgment of God will bring about the complete destruction of the present evil age; the ruin of the world as we know it; and that billions of godless people will die in this fiery judgment.
Sadly, the church of Jesus is not prepared for such an event. We have not bothered to read and heed the Lord’s final instructions sent to us through John the Beloved so many centuries ago.
Revelation makes clear that God’s devoted saints will survive this time of testing and will be totally victorious. Like Noah of old, the world will be destroyed around them but they will be sealed and kept safe. This difficult period, in fact, may well become the most glorious era of all Christian history.
It is sad that in Christendom today we have almost lost the Book of Revelation which speaks of these things. We have certainly lost many keys to understanding the book. Along with this, of course, we have almost lost the urgent instructions given us by our risen Lord on how we should prepare to survive this day.
One widespread misunderstanding of this book is reflected in the fact that many Christians today refer to it as “Revelations.” This is a misnomer, of course. The book is entitled “Revelation,” no doubt because it contains only one revelation, and that is the final and complete unveiling of the Day of the Lord.
The Day of the Lord includes not only the coming of the Kingdom of God, where victorious saints will reign with Christ on this earth, but it includes the Great Tribulation that must precede and accompany it.
KINGDOM AND TRIBULATION
Thus, the inescapable and glorious theme of this book is the coming Kingdom of God. This is an astounding concept. The twin ideas of Jesus’ complete rule and of his victorious saints actually ruling with him are mentioned on numerous occasions in the book (1:5-6; 2:26-27; 5:10; 12:5; 12:10-11; 17:14; 20:4-6; & 22:5). The most important event of the whole book is Jesus coming from heaven on his white horse, both accompanied and met by his triumphant saints (19:16). He has written on his robe and thigh, “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
At the end of Revelation, Jesus is seen as totally victorious over all other rule and authority, with Satan being finally vanquished. As a part of his victory, his overcoming saints are then allowed to reign with the Lord on the earth and forever thereafter (22:5). This is surely one aspect of the Day that created a great excitement in the hearts of those earliest Christians.
Unfortunately, the concept of kings and kingdoms is foreign to most of us today. It is almost impossible for us to imagine ourselves reigning with Christ or sitting with him on his throne. We must remember that the concept was not at all foreign to New Testament people. The kingdom message was at the heart of Jesus’ teaching and especially of
How could we lose such a central teaching of Jesus? Although this message has virtually disappeared from the church today, Jesus promises in Matthew 24:14, that the gospel of the kingdom will be recovered and preached worldwide as the end-days approach.
Of course, the other vital part of the Day of the Lord has to do with the accompanying Great Tribulation, which will not only bring much suffering on the world but will also touch the lives of God’s dear saints. Numerous believers will give themselves as martyrs during this time.
We surely need to understand that tribulation and kingdom go together. The Bible says: “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22 NKJV).
INTERPRETING THE BOOK
Interpreting prophetic scripture can be a bit difficult for us mortals. The Bible assures us that we see in part, and then only through a glass darkly (1 Cor. 13:9,12). However, we believers are priests of God. Through the Holy Spirit we can now make an attempt to interpret this book. We know that the Spirit within us will reveal God’s deepest mysteries to us (1 Cor. 2:9-10; Jn. 16:13).
So, in the realm of prophecy, we must walk softly. While God has given us broad outlines of things to come, he has not revealed too many details. We have enough information that we may recognize the events as they unfold, just as Simeon and Anna did when they saw the baby Jesus, and immediately recognized him (Lk. 2:25-38).
We must always let the weight of scripture make decisions for us concerning last things. Here we can picture an ancient balance scale. On that scale we can arrange biblical truth. When the weight of scriptural evidence begins to tip in a certain direction that should help us make up our minds in that direction.
We should believe it even if we do not understand it, and even if it sounds a little crazy. In time, we will see the truth revealed all over the Bible.
A BOOK OF SYMBOLS
Revelation is necessarily a book of symbols. It represents apocalyptic literature at its best. God, who is Spirit, is attempting to explain to us mortals, who are flesh and blood, some of the deepest mysteries of heaven and earth.
This is virtually an impossible task. It would be almost like trying to explain a modern computer to a backward tribesman. Obviously, to do so we would have to use some sort of symbolic language or pictures. That is exactly what the Lord has done in Revelation. Since there is little hope of our understanding heaven’s deep mysteries, God has presented them to us in word pictures, in order that we may get hold of them. Because Revelation is filled with these deep spiritual symbols, we, like John, had best get “in the Spirit” as we approach this book.
REVELATION, LIKE A SYMPHONY
The book of Revelation is much like a great symphony. There is the exposition, the development, and finally the recapitulation of the theme. In a symphony we will hear the theme repeated over and over, whether with trumpets, violins, flutes, etc.
In Revelation we are not seeing many happenings, but the same event from many different perspectives. Much of this event is necessarily focused on the Great Tribulation, which ushers in God’s eternal kingdom. Whether incidents are pictured in seals, trumpets, or bowls of wrath, the same event is still being described.
PREPARATION AND VICTORY
Thus in this precious book we have the full mystical revelation of what all the prophets glimpsed and described as the Day of the Lord, resulting in God’s eternal kingdom. Jesus, in the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24:1-51 and elsewhere, also described this day in vivid details and he issued stern warnings to his followers lest they be deceived about it or caught off guard by its coming.
Today let us also be warned in the words that Paul spoke to the people of Antioch long ago: “Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you” (Acts 13:40).
In this book we have a plan for our own preparation concerning this day. Therefore, the Book of Revelation has a blessing for us (1:3). It is the blessing of being fully prepared for what is about to come upon us and upon the whole world. May we be ready!
SAINTS, GET PREPARED!
JOHN’S ALARMING VISION
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. Revelation 1:1
Servants of God, look out! Something is coming down the pike that will change everything. The earth as we know it will not survive this time. Billions of God’s enemies will be destroyed in a horrible conflagration. Apparently many Christians will be severely chastened and lose all for which they have labored, but somehow these will be saved through the fire (1 Cor. 3:12-15). Amazingly, the true and faithful saints of God will survive intact and will be totally victorious.
So it is obvious from the beginning of Revelation that something terrible is approaching. It is also obvious that something indescribably glorious is about to happen. It will no doubt be the finest hour for the true church of Jesus, but it will come at a great price. Many of God’s dear saints will stand against the Beast or Antichrist and lay down their lives for the Lord Jesus. The prophet Joel described this difficult time. He cried out: “Alas for that day! For the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty” (Joel 1:15).
Thus what we immediately hear in Revelation is an urgent message from the risen Lord himself that certainly applies to twenty-first century Christians just as it did to first-century Christians. It is a “wake up call” for all of God’s saints to get prepared for what is coming. As Joel also exhorted long ago concerning this day: “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill” (Joel 2:1).
In our day, we can already feel the heat from God’s approaching fire. Even those who are not religious seem to sense that our world is racing toward judgment. We live in a time when even the secular books and movies are focusing upon the apocalypse and its characters, such as the Antichrist.
When we look around we see that indeed, the birth pangs of a new era already seem to be upon us. In our time we have many apocalyptic-type events taking place, like the dreadful terrorist attacks of 9/11, the awful worldwide plague of AIDS; the recent killer Tsunami of Southeast Asia and the hurricane devastation of America’s Gulf Coast.
Thus it is urgent for us saints of God to be prepared so that we can obey the Lord and be shielded in the coming day. The Beloved John says: “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 Jn. 2:17).
Throughout the ages virtually every prophet of God spoke about this dreadful day that is coming upon the earth. The prophets of old often called it “the Day of the Lord” (Joel 2:28-32; Amos 5:18-20; Obad. 1:15; Isa. 2:12ff.).
The early Christians actually looked forward to this special time and they also called it “the Day of the Lord,” just as the prophets had done before them (1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Thess. 5:2). They had several other designations for this period. They referred to it simply as “the day” (2 Thess. 1:10), and sometimes as “that day” (2 Tim. 1:12; 2 Pet. 3:12). In addition they called it “the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10; 2:16).
It is variously referred to by other titles such as “the day of God’s wrath” (Rom. 2:5); “the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30); “the day of evil” (Eph. 6:13); “the day he visits us” (1 Pet.2:12); and “the day of judgment” (2 Pet. 2:9). In these differing expressions the Bible is describing for us Christ’s coming kingdom and the terrible suffering that will
John, the author of Revelation, is allowed to see this day in a fullness and completeness that no other prophet of God had ever experienced. John says, “On the Lord’s Day [the Imperial Day] I was in the Spirit” (Rev. 1:10). The remainder of the book of Revelation is simply a description of this day that John saw coming. Although this day contains horrible suffering for the world, it brings about the glorious consummation of the kingdom. In many ways it will surely be the brightest and most glorious era of all Christian history.
It is puzzling that most commentators still refer to the “Lord’s Day” mentioned here as a reference to Sunday, while the awesome context of the book seems to negate this conclusion. The content of the vision that John is about to see has absolutely nothing to do with Sunday but with the end of the age. The well-known commentator, Walvoord, assures us that this passage is speaking of the Day of the Lord and that the expression used here, “the Imperial Day,” is never used in the Bible for “Sunday.” 1
The purpose of John’s incredible vision is to “show his servants what must soon take place” (1:1). Thus we should understand that this vision is primarily for the servants of God. It is for us who live at this moment in history! The word for “soon” (en tachei) indicates a future event that is coming with suddenness or swiftness. From this root we get our word “tachometer.” 2 Here we are reminded of Zephaniah 1:14: “The great day of the LORD is near—near and coming quickly.”
Once they begin to happen, things will develop rapidly.3 We thus see that the Book of Revelation is not a history book. It is a book of the future (cf. 4:1; 22:6). Unless it is very clear in the context, we should assume that all figures and events of Revelation are figures and events of the future.
Revelation contains an extremely important message for the church, sent down from heaven by the risen Lord himself. How urgent this message is! It contains instructions that will enable the saints of God to prepare for these awesome future events.
Accordingly, there is a great blessing for those who read and heed what is written (1:3), because the day spoken of is almost upon us. Similar blessings are given seven times in the book: 1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6 and 22:7 & 14. Revelation is said to be the only book in the Bible that contains such a direct promise of blessing for its readers. 4
GETTING READY TO REIGN WITH CHRIST
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father. Revelation 1:5-6
John writes to the seven churches of Asia, which will all be named later. He gives greetings from the Spirit of God and from Jesus who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth (1:4-5). It is clear that Jesus is the King of Kings and that he will come to assume full control of the earth, of its kings and kingdoms (cf. 11:15; 19:16).
He reminds these early Christians that they are now made kings and priests unto God (1:6). This is a key concept in understanding the saints’ future role, and also in understanding the whole book of Revelation (cf. Gen. 1:26; Exo. 19:6). Jesus is the king who is coming for his kingdom. However, along with him will be his devoted saints who will then be made kings and priests, ruling with him, even on this earth. We should note particularly that Jesus has made us to be kings and priests with him. It is not something we have done.
Admittedly, this is a foreign concept to many today, especially to those who live in western democracies. It seems strange when we even imagine ourselves reigning with Christ or sitting with him on his throne. The concept of our exercising kingly rule and authority on this earth is also very strange and foreign to us.
Still, this prophetic book is a continuation of the central message of the New Testament. 5 It is a message concerning the Kingdom of God, or Kingdom of Heaven, as it is also called.
John the Baptist announced this kingdom in Matthew 3:1-2. Jesus later came into Galilee proclaiming it (Mk.1:15). Much of Jesus’ teaching dealt with the Kingdom of God, and most all of his parables pictured it (Mark 4:30-33). It was Jesus’ message even after his resurrection (Acts 1:3). The message of the kingdom was also the message of the early apostles (Acts 8:12; 19:8).
In Matthew 24:14, Jesus makes plain that the gospel of the kingdom will again be preached to the whole world in the days just preceding the end of the age. We have almost lost this aspect of the gospel in our modern church. We might well wonder if it is the absence of this “kingdom” gospel that is causing such difficulty, failure and discouragement among many modern and postmodern Christians.
In 1 Peter 2:9 we read: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Jesus wants his people to rule with him. He wants them to rule right now in the daily affairs of life (Rom. 5:17), and he wants them to rule with him on this earth in the last day. Real Christianity must be an intense preparation for this joint-rule with Christ. Of course, the devil is greatly opposed to this plan and tries to frustrate it in every conceivable way.
How desperately this message of the kingdom is needed today! God has commanded us to rule over the earth. Yet we live in a time when multiplied millions of people are overcome and ruled by wicked spirits and by the earthly things around them. Unfortunately, it seems that many of these are Christians. For instance, we all probably know Christians who are ruled by a little weed called tobacco; or by the grape, which is turned into wine; or by the poppy flower or the marijuana plant which are made into hallucinogenic drugs. There are hundreds of other earthly things that can rule over us.
Proverbs 25:28 tells us: “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (NKJV). This seems to be the lot of so many today. Thus it is urgent that the church begin to take seriously the teaching of the Kingdom of God and how this kingdom is to be worked out in our everyday lives. 6 After all, as the commentator Beale points out: “It is not just how people die that proves them to be overcomers, but the whole of their Christian lives are to be characterized by ‘overcoming,’ which is a process completed in death.” 7
The message of John is at once a message of great sorrow and of great joy. It speaks of the sorrow of the coming tribulation. It also speaks of the great joy at the appearing of the Lord with his kingdom, at the close of the tribulation period.
The coming of this Day, and the appearing of the Lord will bring sorrow to the peoples of earth. They will mourn because of him (1:7). We cannot imagine how sorrowful this mourning will be. The whole world will suddenly see how bankrupt its philosophies are and how futile are all the plans of self-redemption. People will see how they have rejected their only hope, their only way and their only chance of life. The world will mourn but God’s victorious elect will rejoice. Jesus says in Luke 21:28, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
ENCOUNTERING THE SON OF MAN
On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet. Revelation 1:10
It is clear that John, one of the original disciples of Jesus, and known as the Son of Zebedee, is now imprisoned. This imprisonment took place around A.D. 95, during the brief but severe persecution under the Roman ruler, Titus Flavius Domitian. John is suffering for the gospel on the Roman prison isle of Patmos (1:9). In this verse, John refers to himself as a “companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus.” Obviously, suffering and kingdom are both ours and they are two things that simply must go together. We have almost lost both concepts in our modern church. This is tragic indeed.
Both John and the other early followers of Jesus believed that to be a Christian was to share with Christ in tribulation in order that they may also share in the kingdom. We see this idea in 2 Timothy 2:12: “if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us.” The inescapable teaching of Revelation is that this tribulation will finally become a universal thing. 8
By means of the Spirit, John is now transported to the time frame known as the Lord’s Day (1:10). He is commanded to write an account of what he sees and to send the account to the churches. In his vision he hears a trumpet voice behind him and turns to see seven golden lamp stands (1:12-13). This is a vision similar to one the prophet Zechariah once saw (Zech. 4:1).
Strangely, this seems to be a vision closely connecting the churches with Israel. The Greek word, luchnias, used here is the same word used in the Septuagint (ancient Greek version of the Old Testament) to describe the menorah of the Tabernacle (Exo. 25:31ff). The menorah has been a symbol of Israel from earliest times.
Apparently there is a mystery here. Ephesians 3:6 speaks of it: “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”
One thing is clear; what has been used traditionally to represent Israel is suddenly used to include the churches (see 1:20b). This pictures for us the great unity of God’s work in the Old and New Testaments. Israel and the church have a wonderful and mysterious connection. Obviously they will draw much closer together, and even be seen as one in the end-days.
In Ephesians 2:14 we read more about this: “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one [Jew and Gentile] and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” In this respect, we should mistrust all theologies that seek to divide Israel and the church, even in the very last days.
John sees that in the midst of the lamps there is someone like the “son of man” (1:13). His appearance and attire are dazzling and virtually indescribable. His eyes of blazing fire, feet like glowing bronze, and voice as the sound of many waters are all descriptive of God elsewhere in biblical passages (cf. Dan. 10:6; Ezek. 43:2; Ezek 1:4-14, 27; 8:2). This one is dressed in clothing strikingly similar to that of Israel’s High Priest.
In his right hand he holds seven stars, who are messengers of the seven churches. We are not sure if this is a reference to the pastors of these churches, or to some angelic beings representing them. From his mouth there proceeds a two-edged sword (1:16). As we will see later, this sword represents the word of God.
At the feet of the risen and glorified Messiah John falls as a dead man. What a good biblical position for us as we face His Majesty, and as we confront the Day of the Lord. The prophet Isaiah speaks in this wise of that coming day: “The LORD Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled)…The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day” (Isa. 2:12, 17). In Zephaniah 2:3 we also read about the Day of the Lord in these words: “Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger.”
John, who has now fallen on the ground as dead, is comforted by the one who was dead and is alive for evermore (1:18). We see here that the victorious Christ not only holds the keys of death and Hades but he holds the seven stars and their churches (1:18, 20).
URGENT WARNINGS FOR THE CHURCHES
Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. Revelation 1:19
In his astounding vision, John is directed to write to the seven churches in Asia telling them what he has seen, what is at present, and what is to come (1:19). Commentators have observed that this is almost a short outline of the book. What he has seen is no doubt the vision of Christ, and what is at present is most likely the condition of the seven churches. It appears that everything afterward in the book deals with things to come. 9 These seven churches to which John writes are, in some mysterious way, representative of all churches.
John introduces his message, which is one telling of awesome tribulation to come as the Kingdom of God approaches. His challenge to each church is that they must overcome. Indeed, in the end of days we see just two classes of people left on earth – the overcomers and the overcome.
The one who walks among the churches knows each one intimately. He knows their deeds, their hard work and their perseverance (2:1-2). He also knows their failures. Five out of seven of these churches have serious spiritual problems. 10
His message to them is one of urgent warning and encouragement. It is uniformly a message expressing their great need to overcome and be victorious. The commentator, Walvoord, states: “Many of the evils which exist in the church today are a direct outgrowth of neglect of the solemn instruction given to these seven churches.” 11
EPHESUS LOSES HER LOVE
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Revelation 2:4
The church at Ephesus while commendable in some areas has already left her first love. We remember in Ephesians 1:15, how this assembly was earlier praised by Paul for its great love. The plight of Ephesus may be indicative of many churches in the last day. In this regard we remember the words of the Lord in Matthew 24:12-13, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
This tells us that the loss of our first love will be one of the biggest problems for last-day Christians and churches. We see that this will be a problem for “most” of God’s people and not just for a few. In light of this we need to fan the flame of our personal devotion and ask the Lord to help us love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, as scripture admonishes us.
Now we observe that this important fellowship is also threatened with losing her candlestick or menorah. We might wonder how many congregations today have already lost their menorah, but who still insist on playing church?
In Revelation 2:7, the Master says to Ephesus: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
Those winners in the coming battle will live in God’s paradise once more. What Adam lost, they will regain “in Christ” and through him. 12 Revelation is a complete reversal of
MORE TRIALS FOR SMYRNA
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Revelation 2:10
The Spirit declares that the faithful, afflicted and poverty stricken church at Smyrna would have increasing trials. Some of its people are about to go to prison for their faith (2:10). They are not to be afraid when this happens. Jesus says, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death” (2:10-11).
Here Jesus speaks of the faithful saints being crowned as kings and avoiding the second death. We will see these themes further developed as Revelation unfolds.
HERESY AT PERGAMUM
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin. Revelation 2:14
For the church at Pergamum, tribulation has set in, and she has already produced her first martyr (2:13). The early Christians always knew that martyrdom was a real possibility and they were ready and sometimes even quite eager to meet this challenge.
Still there is within this body the disgusting doctrine of Balaam (2:14). We read about Balaam in Numbers, chapters 22-24. His doctrine might be summed up as one of ministerial greed for money (2 Pet. 2:15), accompanied by sexual immorality and idolatry.
This same doctrine is also destined to become a great problem for the end-day church. In fact, it appears that forms of this heresy are currently ravaging the church. This particular assembly also has within it the heresy of the Nicolaitans (2:15). This was apparently a heresy very similar to that of Balaam.
The Lord sends this message to Pergamum: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it” (2:17).
We do not fully know the mystery of the white stone. We do know that jurors in ancient times used to give a white stone to a person acquitted in trial. 13 Regarding the hidden manna, we can assume that God will feed his flock with spiritual and even natural food, regardless of what transpires.
Now, how are we to understand martyrdom today? Is this something that only applied to the ancient church? Hardly so, for today in many countries, millions of Christians are suffering severe persecution, and are already in deep tribulation. For instance, the Christian community in Sudan is being systematically eliminated by the Moslem government there. Already over two million Sudanese Christians have been murdered, sold into slavery or have simply disappeared.
Christians are also suffering in North Korea, Vietnam, China, Iran and many other places. It has been stated by the World Evangelical Fellowship that more Christians suffered martyrdom in the recent twentieth century than in all previous centuries combined since the time of Christ.
JEZEBEL ATTENDS CHURCH AT THYATIRA
You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. Revelation 2:20
The church at Thyatira is commended for its love and increasing deeds. Yet, this assembly harbors the seducing spirit of Jezebel (2:20). The story of Jezebel can be found beginning in 1 Kings 16:31. Like the spirit of Balaam, this spirit will also be mightily resurrected in the end-time church, leading many down the road of spiritual seduction, fornication
Jesus says to this group: “Only hold on to what you have until I come. To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery’— just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (2:25-29).
Again, the Lord brings up the subject of rule and authority for his people. Now coupled with this, is the idea of doing God’s will to the end (2:26). This is otherwise known
Indeed the Lord will give his victorious people the authority to rule over the nations of the world. In Matthew 19:28, Jesus tells his followers that they will someday judge the world. Paul even says that the saints will eventually judge the angels (1 Cor. 6:3). The victorious Christ will see to it that all the dominion lost in Adam will be regained in himself. Jesus has already given his saints the power and authority to deal with Jezebel and her like.
SARDIS IN THE OBITUARY
I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
The church at Sardis has a great reputation, but in truth, she is already dead. Still Jesus’ loving words to this dying assembly are: “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God” (3:2).
What words of judgment and exhortation for our day! In Revelation 3:4-6, we see that dying churches can still be made into overcoming ones. The message to this dying church is: “Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. 14 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Even in the pagan world, soiled clothing prohibited worshippers from entering their temples. 15 How much more this must be the case concerning the temple of the Living God? While many in our age have their garments soiled and defiled with sin, there are some who still remain undefiled. In the end-day they will shine in bridal glory in the presence of the Lamb (cf. 19:7-8).
I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Revelation 3:8
The faithful church at Philadelphia is commended by the Spirit. Jesus makes his people a great and enlightening promise: “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth” (3:10). Obviously, this promise and warning has world-wide implications. It also has implications for present-day Christendom. We must quickly prepare ourselves and get ready for horribly difficult times.
Once again, in very simple terms, Revelation makes plain that an hour of deep trial is about to come upon the church and the whole world. This time has been called one of “Messianic woes.”16 Such a time must accompany the coming kingdom.
There is no idea here that the saints will entirely escape this ordeal. 17 Jesus once said in John 17:15: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” The coming flames will test the work of Christians everywhere. Some will literally escape with their shirttails on fire and all they have worked for will be lost (1 Cor.3:13). But those who overcome will be kept strong to the end and preserved blameless (1 Cor. 1:8).
In 1 Peter 4:12-13 the apostle says: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory
Jesus says to this victorious church: “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (3:11-13).
Later in the book we will see the Lord writing his name upon his saints and sealing them for the trouble ahead.
In the midst of the coming Great Tribulation there may be times when advance will be impossible, and when the saints will simply have to “hold on.” To such as these, there is the promise of being pillars in God’s temple, and having the Father’s glorious name written upon them.
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! Revelation 3:15
Last of all, the Spirit speaks to the lukewarm church at Laodicea. Jesus is about to spew this people out of his mouth (3:16). This group, like many to come in the last days, feels it is rich, while in reality it is very poor and naked (3:17). Still the Lord stands knocking at the door of this lukewarm church, just as he must still be knocking at the doors of many lukewarm churches today. When Jesus was on earth he seemed concerned whether he would still be able to find faith at his coming (Lk. 18:8).
He speaks these words to Laodicea: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (3:19-22).
The Lord here uses an expression he often used in his earthly ministry (Matt. 11:15; Mk. 4:9). In fact, seven times now the Lord has said, “He who has an ear, let him hear.” This must be really important! We need to ask ourselves if we are hearing what the Lord is saying about the end-times (Mk. 4:9, 24). Are we willing to love the truth and believe what the Bible says? Are we willing to love it more than we love our pet theologies? Since five out of seven churches had serious problems in the first century, we can only imagine what kind of problems we have in hearing and obeying the Lord’s word today.
The Lord wants to impress upon us the great importance of overcoming. We must wake up and be alert. God is about to install his overcomers as kings and priests in the earth. This is almost an unthinkable thought – that they should sit with him on his throne. Yet, Christ even makes this promise to the weakest of the churches. He will make it a reality, if we only let him. Oh, the blessings in store for those who listen and are faithful!
We should mention, however, that overcoming may be best understood in the ironic sense as Beale points out. 18 Christ’s overcoming was ironically accomplished by his death on the cross. He is even pictured triumphantly as a Lamb that was slain. We see that in the end-day the Beast also briefly overcomes the saints, apparently causing a great flood of martyrdom on their part. Our overcoming and ultimate victory may eventually follow a similar path as our Lord’s.
With this, the personal messages to the individual churches are brought to an end. In view of such urgent warnings by the Lord himself, and with the remainder of Revelation in mind, it is certainly amazing that multitudes of western Christians today feel the church will not have to face suffering or tribulation. If such is the case, it would seem that all these urgent warnings from the risen Lord, and even the rest of the book of Revelation, are simply unnecessary.
THE THRONE ROOM AND SEALED SCROLL
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. Revelation 4:1
The Lord knows how a vision of heaven can sustain those in deep persecution. John is here called up to heaven to see its wonders. The invitation to heaven is issued in a trumpet sound saying: “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this” (4:1). Once again we realize that Revelation is dealing with things to come or things in the future.
When John arrives in the heavenly realm he sees the throne of God, the twenty-four elders, and the beasts or living creatures around the throne (cf. Ezek. 1:4ff; 10:12-14). He sees lightning from the throne and hears the rumble of thunder (4:5), all which seem to indicate that a mighty divine storm is about to break.19 John then experiences the awesome and unceasing worship in heaven (4:8-11).
As heaven’s praise continues, the twenty-four elders fall down before the throne and worship the Lord. They cast their crowns before the Lord (4:10) as they worship. This likely indicates that all rule and authority belongs to God. These elders seem to symbolize the leadership in both the Old and New Testaments.
Now we come to the mysterious purpose of John’s invitation to heaven. A tightly sealed scroll is introduced to him. It is written on both sides and sealed with seven seals (5:1). There is an immediate problem in heaven. No one there can dare open this scroll or loose its seals (5:2-3).
This sealed scroll has great significance. It is the document detailing the remainder and climax of human history. 20 The scroll also contains the “mystery of God” long foretold by the prophets of Israel. 21 It is likely a similar thing that Daniel once saw, and did not fully understand. How could he understand it? It was sealed (Dan. 12:8-9).
At this point John begins to weep (5:4). Undoubtedly his weeping is much akin to the deep sorrow and sickness the prophet Daniel must have felt as he saw a similar vision. Daniel probably realized both the glories and horrors of the end-times. He likely realized that these horrors would touch the people of God (Dan. 8:27). John seems to sense the
He greatly desires to know the details of the scroll, but there is no one in heaven or on earth who can open it (5:3-4). The sealed book is certainly an account of the Day of the Lord, including the Great Tribulation and the coming kingdom.
John is then told to stop weeping, since the Lion of the Tribe of Judah has overcome and is able to open the book (5:5). Suddenly the metaphor is switched and John is looking at a Lamb. Interestingly, the Lamb has seven horns which no doubt stand for all power and authority (5:6). Later in the book, the Beast will also have seven horns, in his attempt to emulate this total power.
In the presence of the Lamb who has been slain, the all-powerful, all-knowing Savior, the twenty-four elders again fall down and worship. The living creatures, who are likely representatives of all creation, fall down with them and adore the Lamb (5:8). With this symbolism it is made plain that Christ alone is the key to the understanding of all human history. 22 Indeed, he is the Lord of history.
It is interesting that these heavenly beings each hold a golden bowl, which represents the prayers of the saints (5:8). In some mysterious way, the prayers of the saints greatly figure in, and even help precipitate the tribulation that is about to be poured out on the earth, as well as the advent of the kingdom. Perhaps these are prayers like, “Come Lord Jesus,” or, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.” Could it be that in 2 Peter 3:12, the apostle is talking about the same thing when he speaks of our hastening the coming of the day of God?
All heaven now worships the slain Lamb who is able to open the seals and who has redeemed humankind with his blood (5:9).
Again, we see the theme of kings and priests reigning on earth (5:10). Through Jesus, fallen man will now be elevated to reign once more as a co-regent of God on earth. This is one of the great goals of redemption, to elevate man in Christ to the place he was before the fall. It will be a reversal of what Satan has done.
We read in Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule…over all the earth.’” In Revelation 20:6 we see this at last become a reality, as overcomers reign with Christ throughout the Millennium and forever afterward. So, it becomes clear that what God began in Genesis he will finish in Revelation. Indeed Genesis, and even the rest of the Bible, would simply not be complete without Revelation.
In this book we will hear much about overcomers reigning with God. When we hear this we must remember that there is really only one overcomer, and he is Jesus. The Lord says in John’s gospel, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).
Thus, all the overcoming that humanity will ever do is solely because of what Jesus has already done and because of his living within. It is his victory, totally and exclusively. As we have faith in him, we too can share in this victory. In 1 John 5:4 the apostle says, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”
At this, all heaven and earth resound with praise to the Lamb who alone is able to open the seals (5:11-14). To Jesus, the victorious one, and the coming one, be all power, glory, praise and dominion forever and ever! Amen!
THE LAMB OPENS UP THE FUTURE
I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Revelation 6:1
As the Lamb begins to open the seven seals, we are treated to a short preview of the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord. It is at first introduced to us with the picture of horses and their riders. We should note that this is but a preview of the scroll’s contents. All of the seals are not yet opened and the whole scroll is not unrolled, allowing its entire contents to be seen.
As the first seal is broken there is a white horse and rider (6:1-2). This figure probably represents military conquest.23 This one could perhaps even represent the Beast or Antichrist himself, who will be introduced to us later. Some have tried to picture Jesus as the rider on this horse but this does not seem possible. There is one thing for sure. When Jesus is presented on his white horse in Revelation 19:11ff, there is absolutely no doubt about who he is. He is specifically named as “Faithful and True,” “Word of God,” and “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
Next there is a fiery red horse and its rider. We are told that his purpose is to “take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other” (6:4). We realize that there will be much bloodshed as we are led up to the last days, because he is given a large sword. While this is a clear reference to bloodshed resulting from war, it could also include awful, worldwide terrorism.
As the Lamb opens the third seal, a black horse appears (6:5). This horse likely represents worldwide famine and hunger. These so often have followed on the heels of military conquest and civil insurrection. This famine will be so critical that a person’s wages will do little more than provide bread for that one day.
We need to remember that these first visions are merely introductions to the Great Tribulation. Since the time of Christ, history has been full of such things all reminding us of the approaching end. 24 Jesus himself says in Matthew 24:6-8: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of
So, Jesus pictures for us that times will grow worse and worse, and not better and better as some suppose. God has actually promised to shake heaven and earth so that only the things that are unshakable may remain (Hab. 3:6; Heb.12:26-27). Thus the birth pains of the age to come will grow more frequent and intense until they end in the Day of the Lord. Clearly these birth pains are already upon us and Christians are not exempt.
As the fourth seal is opened, a pale horse appears. Its rider is said to represent death, but we note that Hades follows closely after him. Hades appears to collect the spoils of war, famine and plague. Interestingly, this horse and rider have power over an amazing “fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth” (6:8). Death by wild beast may sound strange to our ears, but just lately the H5N1 flu virus in Asia is spreading from domestic to migratory fowl. This virus can be fatal to humans on a massive scale and already has the experts fearing a pandemic.
Here we get our first real glimpse of the scope and incredible tragedy of coming judgment. Initially, at least one-fourth of the earth will be directly affected by the Great Tribulation. Later we will see it increased to cover a third of the earth, and then perhaps much more. One commentator sees that this will be the greatest destruction of human life ever recorded in history. 25 The early church father, Lactantius, adds: “For the human race will be so consumed, that scarcely the tenth part of mankind will be left.”26
When the fifth seal is opened, we observe the ravages of the tribulation on the saints of God. We immediately see martyrs under the altar in heaven. Some people may be surprised to learn that these martyrs are God’s dear saints. These saints seem to be martyred in a most unusual and cruel fashion, until we remember that today in many Moslem countries, beheading is a common occurrence. The martyrs are now given white robes and bidden to wait until their full number is completed (6:11). Obviously, there are many more saints who are about to lose their lives for the Lord.
Daniel speaks of this awful time in these words: “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand” (Dan. 12:10).
Today in the affluent west, we Christians are not so comfortable with the ideas of suffering and especially of martyrdom for Christ’s sake. This is not the case in other parts of our world where the bulk of today’s Christians are already undergoing persecution, tribulation and even death.
The early Christians were also severely persecuted. They didn’t seem to have the fear of suffering or dying for the Lord that some do today. These early saints knew when they took the name of Jesus, their suffering and persecution would begin immediately. They knew they were taking their lives into their hands, and they were prepared for the consequences. These saints were even instructed to rejoice in their sufferings, since suffering produces perseverance, character and hope (Rom. 5:3-4).
As the sixth seal is opened, the events normally associated with the end of the world begin to take place. The sun turns to darkness and the moon to blood (Joel 2:31). Stars fall from the sky and the sky is rolled up like a scroll (6:12-14). The words of the prophet Isaiah are thus fulfilled: “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail” (Isa. 51:6).
At this point unsaved people begin to cry for rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb (6:16). We can understand how bitter this cry will be since these have spent their lives despising Christ and working against his program.
We have had our first, brief preview of the Great Tribulation and the end of the world. There will be war, famine and trouble in increasing proportions. Then at last, the very heavens and heavenly bodies will be affected. The seventh seal will be dealt with later and will introduce the actual Tribulation.
This section closes with the question of 6:17: “For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” That question is about to be answered for us.
PREPARING THE CHURCH FOR TROUBLE
Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. Revelation 7:2
We believers must be sealed for what is about to happen. We must understand how urgent and important this is. Here we see the vision of a great multitude in white robes. Now that we have had our preview of the coming day, we learn that something must happen before it befalls us. There must be preparation – intense preparation. The saints must be sealed (cf. Ezek. 9:4-6). Through the power of the risen Christ and through his Holy Spirit, they alone will stand in this awful day.
We see that four mighty angels are actually holding back the evil winds of tribulation until the servants of God can be sealed in their foreheads (7:1-3). This seal is a pledge of safety. 27 It is obviously a seal in the minds of God’s people that they may know how to conduct themselves in the terrible trials ahead. 28 This sealing appears to be closely connected with the work of the Holy Spirit as we see in Ephesians 4:30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
This sealing or protection of the righteous was prefigured in the account of Noah and in the experience of the Hebrew children in Goshen. Noah’s ark was sealed both without and within (Gen. 6:14). He was so protected that God destroyed the world with Noah and his family still in it. They were kept safe because of the seal. We read in Matthew 24:37: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”
Regarding the Hebrew children, we see in Exodus 9:4 and 11:7, that they and their livestock were protected during the great plagues that fell upon the land of Egypt. God made a difference between his people and the people of Egypt (Exo. 8:23). They were also later kept safe from the death angel. They were sealed by the lamb’s blood.
The Bible talks about this subject on many occasions. The sealing and preparation are clearly matters of the heart and mind. In Jeremiah 10:2, the righteous are instructed: “Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them.” Proverbs 3:25-26 states: “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.”
In Proverbs 2:7-8 we read: “He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.”
In Psalm 46:2 the Psalmist advises: “ Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” There are many other wonderful Psalms of protection such as Psalm 27:1-3, 5 and 91:1-8. Indeed, the Book of Psalms may become the hymnal for last-day saints.
God says to his faithful and beloved: “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psa. 50:14-15).
In many other scriptures God vows to protect his own. Psalm 33:18-19 states: “But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.” We remember how the prophet Elijah was miraculously delivered from famine for three-and-one-half-years, a period of time very similar to that of the Great Tribulation (1 Ki. 17:1-16).
Indeed, we see that “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Psa. 34:7). The sun will not harm them by day or the moon by night (Psa. 121:6). Joel the prophet in speaking about the day of the Lord says: “But the Lord will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel” (Joel 3:16b).
In 2 Peter 2:9, the apostle assures us that: “the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing
This seal of God obviously does not keep God’s saints from martyrdom, should God choose this course. It is rather designed to keep them from giving up or denying their Lord under the awful pressures of the end-times. It is a form of spiritual protection. In Romans 8:35 Paul asks: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”
We will note later in Revelation 13:16 that the followers of the Beast or Antichrist will also receive a mark or seal in their foreheads. It is clear throughout the book that what God does the devil tries his best to emulate.
The number of saints sealed is said to be 144,000 (7:4). This is obviously a symbolic reckoning, meant to represent completeness. The scripture states that these are from the twelve tribes of Israel, and that twelve thousand come from each tribe. However, it becomes apparent that all twelve tribes are not represented here.
Yet, the great multitude that we see after this includes people from “every nation, tribe, people and language” (7:9). John is then told who these people are. The heavenly messenger says, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14).
Some have maintained that the first group (7:4-8) is made up of Jews and the second group (7:9-17) is made up of Gentiles. This identification does not seem to be workable on several counts. 29 Such a proposed dividing of Israel and the church would obviously do great violence to their end-time unity spoken of in Ephesians 2:11-21. The modern Greek commentator, Beale, sees this group as “the totality of God’s people throughout the ages who are viewed as true Israelites.” 30
The Greek language of 7:14 conveys the idea of continuous action: that they are still arriving out of the tribulation rather than merely escaping from it. 31 What we likely have here is a picture of “all Israel,” prepared for one final and awful act of suffering and even martyrdom on behalf of the Lamb and his kingdom.
This figure includes the believing remnant of Israel and the believing remnant of the Gentiles who have been grafted into the olive tree of Israel, as we see in Romans 11:17-18. We must remember that God promised to make Abraham a father of many nations (Gen. 17:4). What we almost certainly have here is the emergence of the “new man” that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 2:12-20 and 3:6.
As we said, whatever God does, Satan tries his best to emulate. It is certainly interesting today that there is a great and sudden aspiration in the Moslem world for “martyrdom.” While real martyrdom is laying down one’s life for God and for the sake of others, this false martyrdom seeks to destroy as many others as possible. All this might indicate that a true and worldwide Christian martyrdom is not far away.
In the remainder of this chapter, these faithful co-sufferers with Christ spend their time rejoicing before his throne. They have finished their course and kept the faith. God will wipe away all tears from their eyes (7:17). They will now enjoy the blessing of God’s presence forever.
Notes for Part I
1. J.F.Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, (Chicago, Moody Press), 1966, p 42.
“Though today the expression is used commonly of the first day of the week, it is nowhere so used in the Bible. The day of Christ’s resurrection is consistently referred to as ‘the first day of the week’ and never as the Lord’s day…There is no solid evidence… that the expression used by John was ever intended to refer to the first day of the week. It is rather a reference to the day of the Lord in the Old Testament…The New Testament term is therefore the equivalent to the Old Testament expression ‘the day of the Lord.’”
2. Lehman Strauss, The Book of the Revelation, Outlined Series, (Neptune, NJ, Loizeaux Brothers, 1964), p. 21.
3. Walvoord, p. 35.
4. Walvoord, p. 36.
5. George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, (Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co., 1972), p 28.
Ladd in his great work is one of the few commentators to focus upon the Kingdom of God as the theme of Revelation.
6. G.R. Beasley-Murray, New Century Bible Commentary, The Book of Revelation, (Grand Rapids, Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., & Marshall Morgan & Scott Publ. Ltd.London) 1974, p 38.
7. G.K..Beale, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, The Book of Revelation, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI), 1999, p. 271.
Beale adds “…those who fail to prove themselves ‘overcomers’ fail thereby to prove themselves Christians” p. 272.
8. Beasley-Murray, p 13.
This commentator remarks here: “For him [John] it was apparent that to be a Christian was to share in the tribulation and the kingdom and patient endurance, which is the lot of those who live in the fellowship of Jesus…The whole book is written in the conviction that such persecution would become universal.”
9. W. W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, “B.E. Series” (Wheaton, IL, Victor Books, Logos Research Systems), 1996 c1989. Comment on Rev.1:19.
Wiersbe looks at chapter one as being “that which is seen,” chapter 2, as “things which are,” and chapters 4-22 as “things which shall be.”
10. Kenneth L. Barker & John R. Kohlenberger III, Consulting Editors, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan Publishing House), 1994, p. 1125.
11. Walvoord, p. 51.
12. Ladd, p. 30.
Ladd understands the expression “in Jesus” as equivalent to Paul’s often used expression “in Christ.” This expression seems critical to our understanding of the overcomers.
13. Beasley-Murray, p. 88.
14. Beale, p. 281
Beale remarks: “Verse 5 shows that the promise to the conqueror cannot be limited to martyrs but includes all Christians, since it would be unthinkable that the names of all true believers would not be found in the ‘book of life.’”
15. Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary, New Testament, (Inter Varsity Press,Downers Grove, IL), 1993, p. 773.
Keener mentions some temple inscriptions in Asia Minor that barred worshippers with soiled garments from entering. It was considered an insult to the deity.
16. Ladd, p. 62.
17. Barker & Kohlenberger, p. 1151.
These authors remark here: “This ‘hour of trial,’ then, will be described in great detail in the following chapters of this book…Thus, the universal church will experience preservation from harm in the trial of persecution and suffering and will not be raptured till the end of the period” (cf. 1 Th. 4:13ff.).
18. Beale, p. 270.
19. Wiersbe, comment on Rev. 4:5.
This author sees the lightning from the throne as evidence of a coming storm. Obviously the storm would be the coming Great Tribulation.
20. Strauss, p. 138.
21. Barker & Kohlenberger, p. 1158.
22. Ladd, p. 82.
23. Keener, p. 780.
Keener notes that most ancient readers would have quickly associated this figure with military conquest, because of the dreaded Parthians who were fierce warriors and excellent archers.
24. Peter Pett, The Book of Revelation (London, Internet electronic publication), comment on Revelation 6:1-8.
Dr. Pett remarks: “It should be noted that these horsemen are riding at the same time. While one follows another, building up to the worst one of all, each continues to ride. They ride together through world history, a continual reminder of the end. The beginning of the third millennium has already demonstrated that they are riding as bloodthirstily as ever, especially in the countries of the Bible.”
25. Walvoord, p. 131.
26. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7, (Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956), p. 214.
27. Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. Commentary on Revelation, ch. 7.
28. Pett,, comment on Rev. 7:4
“The fact is that we are continually liable to persecution, and while not all God’s judgments have yet been visited on the world, we have experienced sufficient to know that we are not excluded.”
29. Beasley-Murray, pp. 139-140
Beasley-Murray remarks: “…that simple identification will not do. It would imply that Jews alone receive the seal of God, and that Gentile Christians have to get along without it.” He also adds that in Revelation 9:4 there is an assumption that the whole church has been sealed against the assault of the enemy. He states regarding this same passage that the time will come when men are divided under two allegiances. There will be “…those who have received the seal of God and those who have received the seal of the Antichrist.”
30. Beale, p. 1076.
31. A. Robertson, Word Pictures of the New Testament, Vol V, VI, (Oak Harbor, Southern Baptist Convention & Logos Research Systems, 1993 & 1997), comment on Rev. 7:14.
THE GREAT TRIBULATION
JESUS’ END-TIME TEACHING
When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven. Revelation 8:1
In order for us to understand these coming end-day events it is necessary for us to be familiar with what has been called the Synoptic Apocalypse, found in the Gospels. This section is also known as the Olivet Discourse, and is found in Matthew 24:4-36; Mark 13:5-37 and Luke 21:8-36. This important section of scripture is from the Master’s own lips and gives us many details of the last days. For our benefit here, we will briefly summarize this section from all three synoptic gospels.
The section begins with a warning that we should not to be led astray about the end-days. We are told that as the time approaches, many will come claiming to be Christ and will lead multitudes astray. We are warned not to go after them. We will hear of wars and rumors of wars, and are told not to be alarmed because the end will not immediately come. Nations will rise against each other and there will be famines and earthquakes. All these things are called only “the beginning of sufferings” or “birth pains.”
After these things, awful persecution will break out against the saints. They will be persecuted in synagogues and brought before governors and kings. This is their grand opportunity to testify about Jesus, even to proclaim the gospel to all nations. God’s chosen ones are not to be nervous when all this happens, but they must depend upon the Holy Spirit for their words. God will give his elect a mouth of wisdom.
In the afflictions of these times, brothers will deliver up brothers, and fathers will deliver up children and have them put to death. Children will rise up against their parents. God’s elect will be hated of all people on the face of the earth because of Jesus. At this time, many false prophets will arise and lead numerous people astray. There will be a great falling away from the faith and a betrayal of one another. In all this, God’s people will
During this turbulent period, wickedness will so abound that the love of most Christians will grow cold. Yet Jesus promises that those who endure to the end will be saved. Again, in spite of the difficulty, it will be a great time for the spread of the gospel, as people of all nations will eagerly receive the saving word. Then the end will come.
In the midst of these difficult days there will be a repeat of the desolating sacrilege that Daniel spoke of (Dan. 9:27). Jesus desires that we gain understanding about this. When this happens it will once more be urgent that believers in Jerusalem escape the city in haste, without even turning back for forgotten items. In those days there will be great tribulation and distress unlike any that has ever been in the history of the world. In fact, no flesh would be able to survive, except that for the elect’s sake, the days will be shortened. Jesus expresses pity for nursing women and those with small children. He bids us pray that the time will not come on the Sabbath or in the harsh Jerusalem winter.
The end-days will be a great time of deception. False Christs will be everywhere. People will be saying, “Here is Christ” or “there he is!” God’s people are warned not to believe such tales. Some of these false messiahs will be able to work great and impressive signs and wonders, to the extent that they could deceive even the elect, if that were possible.
In those days, if these false prophets say, “He is in the wilderness,” we should not go out there. If they say, “he is in the secret chambers,” we should not go there looking. The Master assures us that when he does come, it will be like the lightning appearing from the east and shining to the west.
Immediately after this tribulation, there will be signs in the heavenly bodies [this statement of the Lord serves as a great time-sequence key for the whole book of Revelation]. The sun will be darkened and the moon’s light will fail. The stars will begin falling from heaven and there will be distress and perplexity of nations. The sea will roar and men will faint with fear and foreboding as they consider what is coming upon the earth.
Then the powers of heaven will be shaken and the sign of the Son of man will appear in the heavens. With this sight, all the tribes of earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming with great power and glory. He will then send out his angels with a loud trumpet call to gather his elect from the corners of earth and from the ends of heaven. When we see these things begin to come to pass, we believers should look up, because our redemption is near.
The coming of the end of the age will be like the blossoming of a fig tree. We should learn a lesson from this. When its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves we can know that summer is near. Likewise when we see all these things taking place we can know that the Kingdom of God is near, even at the gate.
Jesus then speaks these mysterious words to his listeners; that their generation would not pass away before all these things would take place. Heaven and earth might pass away but his words would never pass away. Although the time is about to come, no one knows the day and the hour, not even the angels of heaven, or the Son during his earthly sojourn, but only the Father.
His servants must take heed and watch, because they do not know when the time will come. The coming of the end of the age will be like a man going on a long journey to receive kingly power and then returning. Before leaving, he puts his servants in charge, entrusting to them his property. He gives to each one according to his ability, and outlines the work for him. He commands the doorkeeper to watch, because no one knows when he will return. He could come in the evening, or at midnight, or even when the cock is crowing. He could also come in the morning. They must watch lest they be found sleeping.
What the Master says to them, he says to all – Watch! Jesus says that those servants will be blessed who keep watch.
The writer Luke ends this section of scripture with an additional warning. In Luke 21:34-36 he says: “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
THE TRUMPETS ARE BLARING!
And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Revelation 8:2
With Jesus’ words in mind we continue with the opening of the seventh introductory seal (8:1), which actually initiates the tribulation. This brings a reverent and prolonged silence in heaven (cf. Zech. 2:13; Hab. 2:20). We on earth often observe a moment of silence to commemorate some loss or tragedy. Here, all heaven seems to be doing a similar thing concerning the awesome tragedy to come. At this, we begin viewing the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord in their fullness and not just in preview form. The scroll is now opened completely.
We are also able to witness these events from yet a different perspective. Where in the beginning the theme was played with flutes, so to speak, we soon have it sounded out with blaring trumpets, and later with a full orchestra. With the sounding of the seven trumpets we begin to actually witness the awful tribulation unfolding upon the world.
This is surely the difficult time spoken of in Daniel 12:1. The prophet says: “There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will
In this section we realize once more that the prayers of the saints have a lot to do with the coming of this final day (8:3-5). Indeed it appears to be the prayers of the saints that will greatly help precipitate this worldwide crisis of divine judgment.
REAL TROUBLE BEGINS
Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them. Revelation 8:6
The seven angels now begin to sound their seven trumpets. When the first trumpet sounds, the Great Tribulation begins in earnest. The first plague of hail, fire and blood works havoc on the trees and grass in about a third of the earth (8:7). This plague is very similar to the biblical plagues upon Egypt (Exo. 7:14-22; 9:18-26).
We see fire mentioned many times in connection with the Lord’s coming (Zep. 1:18; 3:8; Psa. 97:3; 2 Thess. 1:7-10). Peter tells us that just as the ancient world was destroyed by water because of its evil, the present evil world will be destroyed by fire. He says: “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:7).
With the sounding of the second trumpet, there is a horrible eruption of something like a great mountain. It spews its contaminants into the sea, killing a third of the sea creatures and destroying much maritime commerce (8:8-9). At our present time in history, we are just beginning to comprehend how certain contaminants can work such awful havoc
When the third angel sounds his trumpet, a great heavenly body or asteroid by the name of “Wormwood” smashes into the earth (8:11), contaminating a third of the world’s fresh water sources (cf. Jer. 9:15). The fourth angel then sounds his trumpet and one third of the sun, moon and stars is stricken (8:12). Joel 2:2 may speak of such a time as being: “a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness” (cf. Amos 8:9).
All these disasters seem horrible enough but the heavenly voice announces: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!” (8:13).
In this book we see a great contrast between “earth-dwellers” and “heaven-dwellers.” 1 The heaven-dwellers will have their citizenship there, even while they still live on the earth (Phil. 3:18-21; Heb. 11:10). The earth and the earth-dwellers are about to experience all the things spoken of by the prophets. The heaven-dwellers will be sheltered, just as the children of Israel were sheltered in the land of Goshen (Exo. 8:23).
The prophets uniformly speak of these awful times. The prophet Isaiah utters these words: “See, the LORD is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants…The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The LORD has spoken this word” (Isa. 24:1,3).
Isaiah then gives us the reason for these awful judgments: “The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left” (Isa. 24:5-6).
The prophet Jeremiah adds that a worldwide disaster is certainly in store. In Jeremiah 25:31-33 the prophet says: “The tumult will resound to the ends of the earth, for the LORD will bring charges against the nations; he will bring judgment on all mankind and put the wicked to the sword…This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Look! Disaster is spreading from nation to nation; a mighty storm is rising from the ends of the earth.’ At that time those slain by the LORD will be everywhere—from one end of the earth to
In Zephaniah 1:2-3 it is said: “‘I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will sweep away both men and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. The wicked will have only heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth,’ declares the LORD.”
The prophet Micah affirms all this devastation with the words: “The earth will become desolate because of its inhabitants, as the result of their deeds” (Mic.7:13).
Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, has this to add: “‘Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them’” (Mal. 4:1).
The prophets make clear that God’s approaching judgments are the result of man’s gross sin and lawlessness, as well as the breaking of God’s covenant.
THE UNSEALED ARE SPOILED
During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them. Revelation 9:6
With the sounding of the fifth trumpet we are introduced to a chastisement exclusively designed to harm evil man. Apparently it is an angel who comes down from heaven, opens the Abyss, and releases a deadly plague upon the earth (9:1-3). This is described as a plague of locusts, but the text makes it clear that it is otherworldly in its source
(cf. Exo. 10:1-20).
These demonic powers, or whoever they are, have their mission restricted. They are told to afflict only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads (9:4). For five months they continue their torture (cf. Joel 2:1-11). People will seek death in their agony, but death will elude them (9:6). So we see something here that is much worse
When the sixth angel sounds, a horrible worldwide disaster is released from the area of the Euphrates River (perhaps ancient Babylon). Two hundred million mounted troops are set free to kill a third of humanity (9:15). At today’s population figures this would amount to about two billion people killed. The author, Warren Wiersbe, in calculating the various judgments of Revelation states that “…half of the world’s population will be dead by the time the sixth trumpet judgment is completed.” 2
Still, after all this, we are told that sinful people are not willing to repent of all their deeds (9:20-21). Included in the deeds are sorcery, idolatry, murder and sexual immorality. It is interesting that the word sorcery (pharmakeion) always has a close connection to hallucinogenic drug usage, which is becoming the rage today.
Because of the incredible size of this army, and because of its description, it is likely that we are dealing partly with demonic hordes rather than with actual soldiers.
WAITING FOR THE LAST TRUMP
But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished. Revelation 10:7
In chapters ten and eleven we are presented with an interlude prior to the sounding of the seventh trumpet. It seems that earth is given a small respite. In this interlude there appears a mighty angel from heaven, who stands with one foot on the land and one on the sea (10:1-3). His very stance seems indicative of a heavenly takeover of the earth .3 This heavenly figure makes an oath and informs us that when the seventh angel finally sounds, the mystery of God will be finished without delay (10:7). As we see in all the various symbols used in Revelation, the number seven on each occasion signifies the end of the age.
John is given instructions by the mighty angel. He is to take a little scroll from the angel’s hand and eat it (10:9). As John does so, the little scroll tastes sweet as honey in his mouth, but sour in his stomach (cf. Ezek. 2:9-3:3). How true it is, as we eat and digest God’s sweet prophetic word, it turns into something bitter. The true prophetic message today will certainly be received as a bitter message by many in the world, perhaps even by
As a part of the interlude, John is presented with the two witnesses who will appear and prophesy during part of the Great Tribulation (11:3-6). At this time, the Holy City and its Temple area will be trodden down by Gentile oppressors (11:2).4 This Gentile force appears to be directed by the Beast or Antichrist himself.
At this point, the Beast is mentioned as coming up out of the Abyss and overpowering the witnesses (11:7-10). We will hear much more about this figure. It is important that we do not confuse this beast with the four beasts, or four living creatures of heaven that we met earlier. The Greek word for these heavenly creatures is zo-on, with the root meaning “life.” This Beast on the other hand is called thay-re-on, meaning “wild,
We are told here that the two witnesses will have power to work many miracles and mighty deeds during this difficult period. Although the Beast manages to eventually put them to death, they arise from the dead and ascend to heaven. Terror strikes those who observe them (11:11-12).
It has long been debated whether these two witnesses are actual people or companies of people (i.e. the believing Jewish and Christian remnant). If they are indeed individuals, one may well be the final appearance of Elijah, as prophesied in Malachi 4:5: “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.” Jesus said of John the Baptist, that if Israel would receive it, John was the Elijah (Mt.11:14). Obviously, Israel did not receive it, so what we likely see is Elijah appearing again. 5 It is good to know that even in the darkest hour of human history the Lord will not leave himself without a mighty witness.
At this, there is a great earthquake touching a tenth part of Jerusalem and causing the death of seven thousand people. The terrified survivors give glory to God (11:13). It should be noted that the response of Jerusalem’s residents to disaster is far different than that of the Gentiles. In Zechariah 13:8-9, the prophet speaks of Israel’s suffering in the end-days: “In the whole land, ‘declares the LORD,’ two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold’” (cf. Isa. 13:12).
The prophet Malachi also remarks about this: “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness” (Mal. 3:2-3).
After the two witnesses have ascended to heaven, the seventh trumpet sounds. We now hear these words of Revelation 11:15: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he will reign for ever and ever.” At this announcement there is much thanksgiving in heaven (11:16-18). The heavenly voices note God’s purpose in “destroying those who destroy the earth” (v.18). This would certainly include sinners who defile and corrupt the world, but it may even include terrorists who are determined to destroy the world and those in it.
The simple truth is that Jesus is coming for what is his (Gen. 49:10). After all, the scripture says that he made the world and everything in it (Jn. 1:3). It all belongs to him. For these many centuries the world has been ruled by a usurper- the devil. He has kept his position by pretense and deceit. Soon his reign of terror will be over forever.
SEVEN MYSTERIOUS FIGURES
A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven. Revelation 12:1
We now come to one of the most interesting and intriguing sections of Revelation. From chapter twelve through chapter fourteen, we are introduced to seven pictures or seven figures. Now that the last trumpet has sounded we can expect these figures to give us in summary form various important aspects of that last day. So, this is really another picture of the end.
Some have referred to this section as a parenthesis. However, rather than being a parenthesis, this portion may actually form the book’s main section. 6
FIGURE ONE – THE WOMAN AND THE DEVIL
She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Revelation 12:2
In the first figure, a woman clothed with the sun appears. She has the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head (12:1). The author tells us that this figure is a great wonder or sign. A sign in scripture does not point to itself but rather it points to the theological meaning of history.7 This sign probably indicates that the woman represents God’s heritage of light, goodness, and truth. We see that she has the powers of darkness, or the devil’s kingdom, firmly under her feet. She is in pain to be delivered.
In recent decades many have interpreted this woman as Israel, or particularly as Mary. They see that both are about to bring forth the Messiah. However, we must remember that Revelation is clearly a book of the future, about things that will shortly come to pass. It is not a book of history as we have said.
So, who is this woman? It is interesting that before the last century there was a general agreement among commentators that this woman represented the church. 8 We have certainly lost much of this understanding today.
In fact, the woman could represent the true church or the faithful in Israel, or both. 9 We see in the Bible that God is bringing forth a remnant from Zion (Zech. 13:8-9). We also read in Isaiah 37:32: “For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (cf. Isa. 4:2-3; Joel 2:32).
This surviving remnant, as we have seen previously, will include Gentile Christians, who are grafted by faith into Israel’s olive tree and who are now really a part of Israel (Rom. 11:17-21; cf. Eph. 3:6-7). We realize that God is bringing Jew and Gentile together into one new man for the last day. We note in Isaiah 66:8, that the mother of this faithful remnant is actually named “Zion:” “Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children.” We see in this prophetic reference, that Zion gives birth to children, being many. The prophets often speak of Zion as a woman in travail about to be delivered (see particularly Micah 5:3). So it is likely that this picture would have been understood by most of the Hebrew people as “Mother Zion.”10
As the woman gives birth, an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns eagerly waits to devour her child (12:3-4). This dragon is obviously the devil (cf. Isa. 14:12-15; Psa. 74:13-14) and his red coloration is appropriately fire-like or flame colored. We note that this dragon is also a sign. It is said that he has swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them down to earth (12:4). This no doubt speaks of the heavenly rebellion of Satan and the angels, as spoken of in Genesis 6:1-4 and pictured again in Daniel 8:10. Not only is Satan about to be cast down to earth, but all his evil angels are to be cast down with him.
FIGURE TWO – THE MAN-CHILD, WHO IS HE?
She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. Revelation 12:5
The woman gives birth to a male child (man-child) who will rule or shepherd all nations. This child is immediately caught up to the throne (12:5). Numerous modern commentators see this child as Jesus. But again, we must remind ourselves that Revelation is a book about the future. It is not a rehashing of past history, even if that history is glorious.
Also, this child is caught up to heaven, while the Christ child came in the opposite direction, from heaven to earth. Should this be speaking of Jesus in his adulthood, we might wonder why his saving life and atoning death receive absolutely no mention here.
The commentator, Barnes, remarks: “The Savior, indeed, ascended to heaven, but it was not, as here represented, that he might be protected from the danger of being destroyed; and when he did ascend, it was not as a helpless and unprotected babe, but as a man in the full maturity of his powers.”11 Again, we remind ourselves of Isaiah 66:8, where the woman Zion gives birth to “children,” not just to a child. It is of note that many older commentators like Matthew Henry see the man-child as representing a triumphant group within Christianity. 12 It may be at this point, that we need to ask God for some illumination in our spirits, so that we may comprehend this wondrous mystery (Eph. 1:17). We must remember that John was “in the Spirit” when he saw these things. We cannot understand them with fleshly thinking.
In the Bible, God has promised many wonderful things to his saints. Some of these promises are almost unimaginable. In 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 we are told: “‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.”
In Romans 8:17, the Bible tells us that we are to inherit all things in Christ: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” In addition, we are told that we make up the body of Christ and that he is the head of that body (1 Cor. 12:27; Col. 1:18). It would seem from this, that wherever Christ is, there also his true saints will be. Whatever he is doing, they will be doing.
So, in this passage the author may be speaking about the overcomers who are “in Christ” (Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:17), and who are firmly attached to the Head, Jesus. Should this be the case, it is still Jesus within them. It is his body, and still his exclusive victory.
Perhaps these overcomers are fully taking that heavenly position spoken of in Ephesians 2:6: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” The Lord has already given this promise to the overcomers in Revelation 3:21: “To him who overcomes I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.”
As we have seen, it is also promised to the overcomers, that they will rule with a rod of iron and reign with Christ on this very earth (Rev. 2:26-27; 20:6). So what we likely have in this passage is the faithful and overcoming remnant of Israel (including Gentile believers), who will begin to truly manifest the life of the Messiah in their own lives.
After all, in Ephesians 2:15-16, we see that it is God’s ultimate purpose to make Jew and Gentile into one new man, thus making peace. Also, in Ephesians 4:13, we see it is his purpose that these two groups “reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
It should also be noted in Hebrews 2:5-13 how the writer expounds upon Psalm 8:4-9 in relation to mankind, revealing that God has put “everything under his feet” (v.8). He remarks how we do not yet see this as a reality but we see Jesus who has triumphed over everything. It is Jesus who will now bring “many sons to glory (v 10).” It is of interests that the world to come will not be subjected to angels but to redeemed humanity (v.5).
Jesus will have a complete victory over the devil, and his complete victory will be expressed in fallen man. This is a great and glorious mystery seen often in the Bible. Perhaps it is these of whom Isaiah speaks: “See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land” (Isa. 32:1-2).
We see that after the birth of the man-child, or the overcoming company, the woman flees to a desert place prepared for her where she will be kept 1,260 days (12:6). This, once more, is the approximate three and one-half-year period of the Great Tribulation, which is about to break upon the earth (Dan. 7:25). This woman and her seed will be sheltered, but they will certainly undergo persecution. The commentator, Ladd, says of this time: “At the end of the age, the church is destined to undergo the most intense persecution of her history….” 13 Barnes sees that in this period the persecuted church will become obscure and in danger of being swallowed up, although she will be sustained. 14
We must remember that God will somehow take care of his own people. In Malachi 3:17 we read his promise: “‘They will be mine,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him’” (cf. Zech. 9:16-17).
The woman Zion has now produced a large group of victorious first-fruit saints, who will look and act like Jesus, much as those initial disciples did in the Book of Acts. Perhaps in these we see the complete fulfillment of Jesus’ words in John 14:12: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
The group of overcomers, who are perhaps somewhat less victorious than the first-fruits of Zion, will now be sheltered during the horrible storm that is to come.
SATAN DOWN, BUT NOT OUT
The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. Revelation 12:9
As the first group takes a heavenly position, and becomes in a real sense “heaven dwellers,” it is interesting indeed that there is immediately a great war in heaven (12:7). Michael and his angels fight against the devil and his angels. The devil loses this battle and is hurled down to earth along with all his evil angels. Heaven then announces this event and treats it as one bringing about the power and kingdom of God (12:10).
During his earthly ministry, Jesus once had a prophetic vision of this event. It happened after he sent out the seventy, and as they returned joyously and victoriously from their ministry trip. Jesus said: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you” (Lk. 10:18-19). It is clear that Jesus is speaking of a future event, since the Apostle Paul much later in Ephesians 6:12, still speaks of “the forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Clearly, Jesus sees this future event as having something to do with victorious saints.
It is interesting that Satan does not fall to earth until this very late moment in history. Until this time he enjoys a position in the heavenly places. We get a clear picture of this in the book of Job. In this book we see Satan strutting before God and accusing the Lord’s saints (Job 1:6-12; cf. Zech. 3:1-2).
It seems clear in this section of Revelation that the overcomers, who are now fully “in Christ,” and who are exercising his authority, actually have something to do with Satan’s fall from heaven. Indeed, the heavenly voice exclaims: “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (12:11). “They” in this verse, speaks not of one (Jesus), but of many (saints). Obviously many of these saints will become martyrs.
The well known scholar and teacher, Derek Prince, comments on this passage saying: “The victory in this conflict against Satan’s kingdom will only come through a joint action by God’s angels in heaven and the believers on earth. This challenges us to ask whether or not we on earth are sensitive to what is taking place in heaven and ready to play our part.” 15 The writer, Mounce, adds here, “Not only does Satan suffer defeat at the hands of the archangel, but he is conquered by faithful believers as well.” 16 We must remember here that the saints are only able to overcome because of the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony concerning that blood (12:11).
Obviously, this passage cannot be speaking of Michael and his angels, for it speaks of martyrdom. It is apparently a word regarding mortal saints on the earth, who have overcome by Jesus’ blood and by their testimony. We should notice in 12:10-12 that heaven is rejoicing, because now at last “salvation, and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ” have come (v.10; cf. Dan. 7:27).
Something incredibly important has happened in the heavenly realms. Long ago Satan brought about the fall of man. Now man through Christ and “in Christ” has helped bring about the fall of Satan. Isn’t this what the Kingdom of God is all about? Satan once cast man down from a heavenly position and confined him to earth. Now almost the same thing has happened to Satan through the power of Christ reflected in redeemed humanity and through the assistance of mighty angels.
This defeat of Satan is prefigured in the account of the fall. God said to the serpent: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15). While it is certainly injurious to have the heel struck, it is fatal to have the head crushed. This passage is generally interpreted as a messianic one, and it surely is, for Jesus crushed the head of Satan at Calvary. This is the basis of all victory for the saints.
Yet, this passage might also involve those people who are “in Christ.” We see that whatever Christ does, his people who are “in him” are allowed to do also (cf. Jn. 12:26). There is a beautiful type of this in Joshua 10:24-26, where this great leader, himself a type of Christ, bids his followers to come forward and stand on the necks of the kings of Canaan which he had defeated. It seems that Paul is speaking prophetically of a similar and spiritual thing in Romans 16:20, where he says to believers: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”
The angelic voice now announces that the heavens can rejoice, but the earth will suffer great woe because the devil has been cast down to her (12:12).
Perhaps Satan’s legal position in heaven has been maintained all this time due to the fall of man in the garden, and to the handing over of man’s original authority to Satan. As man “in Christ” finally takes his proper position of authority, Satan is immediately displaced, in that his legal authority is undermined. Obviously, redeemed people are finally entering fully into the victory that was gained by Christ through his death on the cross and through his resurrection.
In the past, some have taken these mysterious verses and have gone into heresy with them by overly magnifying man. We must remember that all this is no credit to man whatsoever, but only to Jesus who has himself gained the victory and by his grace has chosen to share that victory with humankind.
So often, heresy contains a grain of biblical truth. Unfortunately, the heretics take this grain of biblical truth to the extreme, ignoring most other biblical truths. We want to hold fast to the gems of Bible truth in Revelation, but we also want to keep these truths in balance with the rest of scripture. As some of our friends say, “If the devil can’t stop us, he will take us too far.”
We also must be careful to guard our hearts against pride. It is Jesus alone who has worked this wonderful salvation for us. All glory belongs to him. If Jesus gives us a crown on that last day there is only one place for it to go. It must go at the feet of our Lord and Savior (Rev. 4:10). He alone is worthy.
At this point in Revelation the fall of Satan to earth immediately inaugurates the last period of time, including the three and one-half intense years of the Great Tribulation, or the “time, times and a half-time” spoken of by the prophets. This seems to be a literal
So, with Satan’s fall, we see that heaven begins to rejoice. No longer will the brethren be accused before God. No longer will there be spiritual wickedness in the heavenly realms. No longer will Satan be called “ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph. 2:2).
But to earth, the news is devastating. The age-old cosmic battle has now shifted and has become focused and localized on tiny earth. The defeated devil in great rage and fury is totally confined to earth, along with multitudes of his evil angels. He realizes now that his time is very short (12:12).
Immediately he begins to persecute the woman who has produced the overcoming company (12:13). His pursuit of the woman, Zion, as his very first act indicates his great rage against her victorious offspring, the man-child. This act, of course, is also indicative of the latter’s key importance in the book. God comes to Zion’s aid and she is miraculously delivered from his hands (12:14-16).
The devil is enraged and goes off to make war against the rest of her offspring. This group also seems to be an overcoming company, but perhaps not of the same caliber and maturity as the group of first-fruit saints. We might wonder if many or even most of the “first fruits” are now offered up to Christ in martyrdom (Exo. 23:19). The Bible does say that “they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (12:11).
The scholar, Keener, tells us that this awesome end-day struggle is mentioned in the famous Dead Sea Scrolls. He points out that the scrolls often bear witness to how Satan/Belial will unleash his full wrath against God’s people in the last days. 17
We see that these believing and victorious people of the end-day have two great qualifications. They “obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (12:17). There will be no “cheap grace” for these saints. Contrary to what the church has often proclaimed, law and grace can now work together in beautiful harmony. These saints know that to believe is to obey, and to obey is to believe. They fully reflect the “obedience of faith” that Paul speaks of in Romans 1:5.
How can we summarize the incredible and mysterious figure of the man-child? What we likely see is the emergence of the new man in Christ, the completed new creation, the end-day maturity of Christ’s body (cf. Eph. 4:13). As we have seen, this new man is made up of Jewish and Gentile parts, according to Ephesians 2:15 & 3:6.
This completed humanity, or mature body of Christ, has been the longing of all creation since the fall. Paul says concerning this: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed… We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom. 8:18-19, 22). Yes, this picture surely represents the fulfillment of one of our Lord’s great purposes; the formation of a new man in Christ.
HERE COME THE BEASTS
FIGURE THREE – MONSTER FROM THE DEEP
And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. Revelation 13:1
We learn in Revelation that as soon as the devil is cast down to earth, the mysterious beast figure arises (cf. 2 Thess. 2:3-8). This First Beast with his crowns, horns and blasphemy, certainly seems a fulfillment of Daniel’s visions and interpretations (Dan. 7:2-8). The crowns and horns all speak of great authority and power from the devil, designed to establish his counterfeit kingdom (13:2). The blasphemous name on each head likely has some reference to the Roman emperors of the first century AD. Several wanted to be addressed as “God” and “Son of God.” Domitian desired to be addressed and worshipped as Dominus et Deus “Lord and God.” 18
Farmer remarks concerning the Roman Empire’s “absurd pretension to divine honors” by saying: “Here we have a super-empire (ten crowns), an absolute concentration of power to the point of divinization demanding that all the inhabitants of the earth render
him homage.” 19
Of course we remember this very tendency in Nebuchadnezzar, who was the head or beginning of this system. In Daniel 3:5-6 we read what the king had commanded: “As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” We can assume that the beastly government of the last days will make similar and even more urgent demands than Nebuchadnezzar once made.
One of the heads of this beastly system has been mortally wounded in the past, but now this wound is healed (13:3). We will see a fuller development of this in 17:9-11. We should bear in mind that this wound may be more than a death stroke, and likely represents some great spiritual defeat in the past.
This Beast apparently will head up a rather impressive military machine, or at least he has done so in the past, since it is said, “Who can make war against him?” (13:4). Again, as in the Book of Daniel, there is a mouth that utters blasphemies (Dan. 11:36). We are told that the rule of the Beast will last forty-two months (13:5) or roughly three and one-half years.
As we see in Daniel 7:21-22, this Beast or Antichrist, whose wound is now healed, is given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them, albeit for only a short time (13:7). Obviously, many who are in this remnant of the redeemed will make one great end-day offering of their lives on behalf of the Messiah. This might be a reflection of Psalm 44:22: “for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” This great offering will help bring about the end of the age.
The Beast is also given authority and power over the whole world, so that all its unsaved inhabitants will worship him (13:8). With this, the author of Revelation gives yet another urgent warning to God’s elect: “He who has an ear, let him hear” (13:9). Many of us Christians read the book of Revelation, but do we really hear it? The Lord stresses the urgency of our hearing.
The author then speaks of captivity, war and death, and ends this section with a stern admonition to the saints of God: “This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints” (13:10). In other words, the saints of God will have to “tough it out.”
It appears from what we see in Daniel and Revelation that the saints of God will be almost overwhelmed. Daniel even says that the power of the holy people will be broken before the end (Dan. 12:7b). In Jesus’ own words: “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes” (Matt.10:22-23). We realize again from this verse, that the focus of this great end-day contest will take place upon the restored land of Israel.
The Prophet Daniel speaks of this awful time of persecution. He says: “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand. From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days” (Dan. 12:10-12).
Daniel speaks of many being made spotless. In Ephesians 5:27, Paul tells us that Christ will present to himself a church without spot or wrinkle. Someone has remarked that it takes a very hot iron to get wrinkles out. By all this, we might assume that the final cleansing and preparation of the church will take place during this awful tribulation (cf. Mal. 3:2-4). Perhaps the apostle is speaking of this in 1 Peter 4:1: “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”
We note here that even after the tribulation ends, it will still take another forty-five days (Dan. 12:12) for the saints of God to be completely vindicated. The saints must
FIGURE FOUR – WILL THE REAL FALSE PROPHET PLEASE STAND?
Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. Revelation 13:11
Now we have the rise of the Second Beast. There is surely a difference between these beasts. The first comes from the sea, which in biblical terminology might represent the world’s masses (cf. 17:15). The second comes from the land, which could even be a reference to ha eretz, or the land of Israel. It is stated that this beast will have all the authority of the first one (13:12). It is obvious that this Second Beast has as his purpose to institute the worship of the First Beast.
This Second Beast has the power to perform astounding miraculous signs (13:13). His calling fire down from heaven reminds us of the miraculous signs of Elijah the prophet. Indeed he seems superbly qualified to fulfill the role of the False Prophet. In Revelation 16:13, we see the Beast and False Prophet working hand in hand. In Revelation 19:20, we see the two being captured together as the Messiah appears. We also see in the same verse that their careers end simultaneously as they are thrown together into the lake
This Second Beast or False Prophet may be the more dangerous of the two since he enforces the worldwide worship of the First Beast. Because he has no crown we may assume that he primarily has a religious role. 20
The resurrected First Beast, who received a mortal wound and yet somehow lives, has many deep mysteries associated with his person. Is he a notable figure from the past, whose life and work are somehow resurrected by this Second Beast? Perhaps he is some notable anti-Semite who has been killed and yet is somehow mysteriously brought back to life. This may take place in the physical sense, but it also could happen in the spiritual sense with a revival and restoration of his work and a worldwide worship of his person.
The Second Beast has horns like a lamb but he speaks like a dragon as is noted in 13:11. He thus looks like Christ but is, in fact, the opposite of Christ. So, just as the True Lamb appears on earth later in the book, we first have the appearance of the false lamb.
This beast might also be some great religious figure that is able to deceive the whole world (13:14). This one is able to set up an image of the wounded First Beast, and even to breathe life into this image. All who will not worship the image will be killed (13:15).
The Second Beast now forces everyone to receive a mark in the right hand or forehead (13:16-17). By this mark, the Beast will strictly control the world and regulate national and international commerce of all kinds. All this makes an interesting contrast with Deuteronomy 6:8, where the righteous are commanded to bind the law of God to their hands and foreheads. 21
Then the writer introduces us to another great mystery that has baffled the minds of people over the centuries. The number of the Beast is given as 666 (13:18). This seems to be some cryptic means indicating the magnification of man and man’s system.
From the prophet Daniel we learn much more about this Second Beast. He will apparently make a peace agreement with Israel as mentioned in Daniel 9:27: “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ [apparently a week of seven years] In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” It is often interpreted from this and other passages that the whole time the Beast will be in power will be about seven years. The last three and one half years of his reign will comprise the Great Tribulation.
We see that an Israeli temple of some sort will be in existence, but that temple will quickly be defiled with a dreadful abomination (2 Thess. 2:4), just as it was defiled in the days of the Maccabees, whom we will discuss later in Part III.
This has been a rather cursory coverage of the Beast and False Prophet but we will deal with this subject in more detail when we consider Revelation 17 and 18.
THE SEVEN FIGURES CONCLUDED
FIGURE FIVE – THE CHURCH TRIUMPHANT
Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. Revelation 14:1
Now as the final battle lines are drawn we are re-introduced to the 144,000. This is certainly not a new group but must be identified with the group in chapter seven. 22
We saw the group in chapter seven as they were being sealed against the coming disasters. Now we see them with the Lamb, as they stand together on Mt. Zion. We learned earlier that these believers were sealed in their foreheads. Here we understand more about this seal. The seal is Jesus’ name and the Father’s name (14:1). We remember in Exodus 28:36 how the High Priest, Aaron, had an engraved seal on his forehead that read, “HOLY TO THE LORD” (cf. Ps. 91:14).
The name of God was so holy and so secret in ancient Israel that even its pronunciation was virtually forbidden and finally lost altogether. Now it is written on the foreheads of the faithful. It is displayed in their most prominent place. This is a picture of ownership; of witness; of complete victory, as the persecuted saints now stand triumphantly with the Lamb on Mount Zion. 23 But how interesting it is that God’s people and the Antichrist’s people are both sealed in their foreheads. The seals in the forehead obviously have something to do with the way these people are thinking.
As in chapter seven, we see again that the redeemed of God come from the earth (14:3) and “from among men” (14:4). This seems to preclude that this group is wholly from the nation of Israel in its natural sense, as many have thought. It is obvious that this group must be associated with the overcoming company we glimpsed earlier in Revelation chapters seven and twelve. These are said here to be virgins. This is likely a symbolic reference to purity regarding God’s temple servants. 24
As we said before, it is very possible that this group is a picture of the “new man,” or part of the true Israel, made up of believing Jews and believing Gentiles, the remnant of both. It should not surprise us that, just as there is a holy remnant in Israel, there is also a holy remnant in the church. Jesus himself said in Matthew 22:14: “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Barnes sees this group not as the whole of the redeemed, but as a representation of the redeemed, making up a holy offering to God and picturing the final triumph of the saints. 25 It is amazing how far removed we are today from the interpretations of scholars in recent centuries regarding this passage.
This remnant is totally dedicated to the Lamb and they follow him wherever he goes. It is said of this victorious group that they are “first-fruits” from among men (14:4). We remember in Israel that the beginning of the harvest, or first-fruits, was always considered as a holy offering to God (cf. Exo. 23:19). 26
Truly, no group exactly like this has ever appeared before on the earth. These seem to have taken the instruction of James 3:2 very seriously. He says: “If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man.” Along with their other victories, the members of the 144,000 have won the battle of the tongue. As Revelation 14:5 states, “No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless” (cf. Zeph. 3:13). Of course, no lying would also include theological lies, false doctrine and even hypocrisy. 27
These soldiers of God are arrayed in truth and stand ready with Christ, having their mighty spiritual weapons. They are ready to bring down earth’s strongholds, demolish lying arguments and everything else that stands against the knowledge of God. They are prepared to help make every thought on earth obedient to Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 10:3-6).
In Ephesians 6:10-11 & 13-18, Paul gives careful instructions to God’s soldiers who will stand on this last and evil day. He says:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes…put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
FIGURE SIX – THREE ANGEL INTERLUDE
Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Revelation 14:7
Here we are introduced to three angels. The first of these three angels is said to fly in midair with the eternal gospel for every nation, tribe and language (14:6). Perhaps in these last days a great awakening will come about for many people (Isa. 26:9b). The prophet Joel does say of these last days that “everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls” (Joel 2:32). Again, the angel warns humanity that he hour of God’s judgment is at hand. It is interesting that the Lord speaks once more about last-day “survivors.”
The second angel makes the announcement of Babylon’s impending fall (14:8). This is the first mention of Babylon in the book of Revelation, but it will not be the last. In fact, the subject of Babylon’s fall is a very prominent theme of the last days. The theme is taken up again in chapters sixteen, seventeen and eighteen.
Babylon is one of the deepest mysteries of the Bible. It was certainly more than just the locale of the Hebrew exile. It stands as a spiritual symbol and code word for spiritual bondage and defilement of holy things.
The third angel brings another stern warning about worshipping the beast and receiving his mark (14:9-11). This is an extremely important warning, for those who do these things must drink of the wine of God’s fury. Such fallen ones will be tormented forever in the presence of the angels and the Lamb. What a warning for God’s holy ones to be strong and endure suffering and death, rather than be marked by this beastly system!
Again, the angel gives us one great characteristic of end-day saints. It is said that these overcomers “obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus” (14:12). We saw a similar qualification in Revelation 12:17. How very interesting that these last-day overcomers will maintain such a balance of law and grace in their lives. This group seems to manifest that which is best in Israel and also that which is best in Gentile Christianity.
The angel announces that from this point on, those who die in the Lord will be greatly blessed (14:13). In Revelation 20:4-6, John tells us that these will be raised in the first resurrection to reign on earth with Christ during the thousand-year Millennium. Like their Master, they will have died for the truth.
FIGURE SEVEN – HARVEST TIME ON EARTH
Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe. Revelation 14:15
We see that the angels of God are in charge of carrying out the harvest of the earth, just as Jesus said they would be (Matt. 13:39). Some have felt that the one “like a son of man” is surely Jesus (14:14), but this identification presents major problems. 28
This harvest, although in two distinct phases (14:16 & 18), cannot be interpreted as two distinct harvests, where the righteous will be removed first and taken to heaven, as some suppose. 29 We should note that this final harvest of the world is also reflected in Joel 3:13: “Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow—so great is their wickedness!” We should be aware that both the reaping and the vintage clearly speak of wickedness in this passage.
Also, Jesus says in Matthew 24: 37-39: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For…they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” Jesus assures us that the wicked will be removed first.
This harvest probably corresponds to the early grain harvest and the later general harvest of grapes and other produce in Israel. The Lord makes it abundantly clear that the tares will be gathered out first. He says: “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matt. 13:30).
In most of our lifetimes we surely have observed an accelerated ripening of the harvest. While some of the heads of wheat are looking much more like wheat, the tares are certainly beginning to look and act like tares. As it is said of the last-day in Malachi 3:18, “And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”
Paul talks of these terrible times, or terrible people in the last days. He says in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them” (cf. 1 Ti. 4:1-3; Ps. 37: 34).
Obviously, with this last remark, the apostle places the church right in the midst of the last days. The commentator, Farmer, remarks that in these trying times, the password of all true Christians will be: “Resist and stand firm.” 30
The wicked are now gathered outside the city, likely Jerusalem, and cast into the great winepress of God’s wrath (14:19-20). There is an awesome flow of blood, even to the distance of 180 miles (300 kilometers). All this seems to be connected with the coming world-wide war and battle of Armageddon. This flow of blood sounds incredible, but it is of note that during the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, blood ran down the streets in such volume as to actually extinguish the flames. 31 Of course, we must remember that this earlier flow of blood concerned only the judgment of God’s people, while this latter flow concerns the judgment of the whole world.
Once again with the figures in this interlude, we are brought to the end of the Great Tribulation with its massive destruction of human life. We can surely say that the end-days there will be a great offering up of sinful flesh. Multiplied millions and even billions of wicked people will die in God’s fiery judgment.
PLAGUES THAT END THE WORLD
I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. Revelation 15:1
Here we are introduced to the last days from yet another and final perspective. It is the seven last plagues of the Tribulation. Remember, we are still seeing the same thing – the coming of the Day of Christ, ushered in by the Great Tribulation. This is an important key to understanding Revelation. On this occasion these events are pictured as bowls of wrath. Before these plagues are poured out, we are again given a glimpse of heaven and God’s victorious saints. They are seen playing harps and singing the song of Moses and
the Lamb (15:2-3).
While we have part of this song written here, in order for us to get the rest of it we may have to refer to the rather lengthy song in Exodus 15, or the one in Deuteronomy 32. It is of note that this latter song is about Israel and her deliverance. It is a song about the gathering of Gentiles to rejoice with his people; it is about God’s help to Israel when her strength is gone.
We are told about God’s ultimate purpose for the nations. All nations of earth will ultimately come and worship the true God (15:4). But before this can happen, the seven last plagues must be completed. Shining angels appear with the bowls full of God’s final wrath (15:6). Here these plagues seem to focus largely upon the Beast and his kingdom as well as those who have received his mark and who are following and worshipping him.
With the pouring out of the first bowl, ugly and painful sores break out upon his worshippers (16:2).
The second bowl completes the destruction of the sea, so that everything in it dies and its waters turn to blood (16:3). We will learn later that in the world to come there will be no more sea (Rev. 21:1). In like fashion the third bowl brings the final pollution and destruction of all the rivers and springs (16:4). Natural life is being cut off from earth.
Through all the ages men have dared question the judgments of God. They have particularly questioned God in regard to his dealings with Israel. Yet, in Psalm 99:4, the Psalmist says: “in Jacob you have done what is just and right.” Here the angel of God declares a similar thing: “You are just in these judgments…for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve” (16:5-6). The very altar in heaven responds in affirmation to this declaration.
True to the other scenarios we have seen in Revelation, the heavenly bodies are now affected. When the fourth angel pours out his bowl, the sun begins to scorch people with fire (16:8). These afflicted have become so hardened by their devotion to the Beast that they still refuse to repent (16:9).
When the fifth angel pours out his bowl, the Beast is afflicted. There is darkness, sores and awful pain in his dominion. Still, his people only curse God and refuse to repent (16:10-11). We have seen in our own time the beginnings of a similar hardness displayed. Years ago when some of the first homosexuals became infected with the dreadful plague of AIDS, they cried out in hatred and derision, “God just wants his pound of flesh!”
At this point the massive troop movements begin. These will lead up to the great Battle of Armageddon. The sixth angel is instrumental in this development, by pouring out his bowl of wrath on the waters of the Euphrates River (16:12). This act prepares the way for a great military invasion from the East. This movement seems to be both natural
We see here that evil spirits go out, probably from the Euphrates area or Babylon. They are described as frogs, perhaps due to their uncleanness and incessant croaking.32 Their purpose is to deceive the whole world and gather it to this last great battle (16:13-14). We see that as far back as the days of Daniel, there were powerful spiritual entities ruling in this area of the world (Dan. 10:12-14). Now it is perhaps these very spiritual powers that are going out to draw the whole world to Armageddon.
What a time to watch and be sober! Jesus says, “Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed” (16:15). Here the author may be referring back to those who kept watch in the Temple. When they were found asleep, their superiors often confiscated their garments or set them on fire because of their negligence. 33
Now once again we see the great end-time move to gather all nations to Armageddon (16:16). Many of the prophets had long before spoken of this event (Joel 3:2; Zeph. 3:8). The seventh angel now pours out his bowl into the air. Accompanying this is lightning, thunder, rumblings and a mighty earthquake. With these are the words, “It is done!” (16:17). The Holy City of Jerusalem is split into three parts (16:19; cf. Zech. 14:4-5). Now we have the second mention of Babylon, whose fall is imminent. God is about to give her the cup of his fury. Evil people continue to curse God as hundred-pound (45 kg) hailstones (16:21) rain from the sky.
Notes for Part II
1. Wiersbe, comment on Rev. 6:2.
2. Wiersbe, comment on Rev. 9:15.
3. Pett, comment on Rev. 10:2.
4. Beale, pp. 556-620
Beale develops an interesting scenario for chapter eleven. He sees the measuring and cordoning off of the inner sanctuary as God’s protection of his eschatological community, which is made up of Jewish and Gentile Christians. In this respect he also sees the two witnesses not as individuals but as the whole community of faith whose role will be that of prophetic witness in the dark days of the Antichrist.
5. Strauss, p 215
6. Beasley-Murray, p 191
This commentator says of these figures: “… they are more than a parenthesis, for they form the central section of the book. Not only do they come at the midpoint of the work, they provide an understanding of the nature of the conflict in which the church is engaged, and into which John sees she is to be drawn to the limit.”
7. Mounce, p 285
8. In the older commentaries such as Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (written 1708-1710), the church is seen as the one represented in this vision. The theologian and commentator, Adam Clark, in his Bible commentary (written 1810-26) states: “That the woman here represents the true Church of Christ most commentators are agreed.” Albert Barnes (1789-1870) in his Barnes’ Notes comments on Revelation 12: “The woman is evidently designed to symbolize the church; and in this there is a pretty general agreement among interpreters.”
9. Barker & Kohlenberger, p 1183
These writers remark that “…the identity in the author’s mind must be the believing covenant messianic community.”
10. Beasley-Murray, p 197
11. Barnes, comments on Revelation 12.
12. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume. Hendrickson:Peabody, Logos Research Systems, comment on Rev. 12.
Henry sees the man-child as “a race of true believers, strong and united, resembling Christ, and designed, under him, to rule the nations with a rod of iron; that is, to judge the world by their doctrine and lives now, and as assessors with Christ at the great day.”
13. Ladd, p 165
14. Barnes, comments on Revelation 12.
15. Derek Prince, War In Heaven, God’s Epic Battle With Evil, (Chosen Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2003), p 145
16. Mounce, p 243
17. Keener, p 795
18. Beasley-Murray, p 209
19. William R. Farmer, ed., The International Bible Commentary, (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN 1998), p. 1864.
20. Wiersbe, comment on 13:11-18.
21. William Barclay, The Revelation of John, Vol. 2, Revised Edition, The Daily Study Bible Series, (Philadelphia, The Westminster Press, 1976), p 99
22. Beasley-Murray, p 222
Along with Beasley-Murray, Barker & Kohlenberger (p 1167) note that the unity of the two groups can and should be maintained.
23. Beasley-Murray, p 221
24. Keener, p. 800.
He points out how the term translated ‘virgin’ is hardly ever applied to men in Greek literature. He feels that it may allude symbolically to the purity of priests for the temple service (Lev.15:16-18).
25. Barnes, comments on ch. 14.
26. Keener, p 800
27. Keener, p 800
28. Leon Morris, Revelation, An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, (Inter Varsity Press, Leicester England 1969), p 184
Morris comments that the incarnate Jesus might be unaware of the time of the end, but that the Lamb in heaven should certainly be aware of it. He also notes that the command issued to him in rather peremptory terms (verse 15) is hard to reconcile with the identification of Christ. p 184
29. Ladd , p 275
While many today are eagerly awaiting their escape from earth, Ladd points out that “biblical thought always places man on a redeemed earth, not in a heavenly realm removed from earthly existence.”
30. Farmer, p. 1865.
31. Whitson, p 748
32. Mounce, p 299
33 Alfred Edersheim, The Temple, Its Ministry and Services As They Were In The Time of Christ, (Grand Rapids, MI, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1958), pp 142-143
THE JUDGMENT OF BABYLON
Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. Revelation 17:1
Now the Lord begins to deal with one of the greatest mysteries of the Bible and of the earth. This, of course, is the mystery of Babylon. Babylon has been perhaps the greatest hindrance to the Kingdom of God.
To understand this mystery we must first of all deal with the natural city called Babylon. This city flourished as one of the mighty world empires of ancient times. In fact, she was the first of the four world empires mentioned by Daniel the prophet. Daniel speaks of Babylon as the golden head of the world’s political, economic and religious system. That system is still in place today.
The Babylonian Empire conquered Israel in 586 B.C. The Babylonians destroyed the Temple and led the Israelites off into captivity. So, just as Israel was the expression of true religion in the ancient world, Babylon became the expression of false religion. The city of Babylon soon fell to Cyrus the Persian in 539, and was later conquered by Alexander the Great in 330 B.C. The natural city had almost entirely faded from prominence by the second century B.C. and soon lay in ruins.
Still Babylon as a spiritual city lives on. 1 She has vicariously found representation in other great cities, particularly in ancient Rome. Certainly one very big aspect of Babylon’s personality continues today in the religious world. Babylon has become a spiritual symbol, a code word in the Bible for spiritual bondage and the defilement of holy things.
There are several places in scripture where the mysteries of Babylon are dealt with. Isaiah speaks much of this vast trans-historical system of evil. In Isaiah, chapter 13, he ties Babylon’s judgment directly to the Day of the Lord (vs. 6-14). We can understand this section as dealing with the end of time, since the heavenly bodies are also pictured in turmoil (v. 10 & 13). In Isaiah chapter 14, Babylon is closely identified with Satan himself (vs. 12-17). Later in Isaiah 47 the prophet deals with her in more detail. The prophet Jeremiah also speaks of her in chapters 50 & 51.
But the foundational principles of Babylon are best seen in the Book of Genesis. We see that Babylon was founded by Nimrod, the Hebrew root of whose name means “rebel.” We learn more in the episode of the Tower of Babel spoken of in Genesis 11:1-9. Here it speaks of a tower on the plain of Shinar that was supposed to reach to heaven. This tower was built with brick and not with stone. In the Bible, brick seems to represent man’s work, while stone represents God’s work (Deut. 27:6; Isa. 65:3).
Man was attempting to make a name for himself, instead of allowing God to make a name for him. He was building a city to his own glory. How different this was from the spirit of Abraham who would later come on this scene and would look for a city with real foundations whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10).
We see in scripture that God put a quick end to this proud, new-world order. God simply scrambled the language of mankind, and in their confusion, these evil men ceased building the tower. But as we learn from the remainder of the Bible, the subject of Babylon was not finished. Babylon continued to distress God’s true saints.
The Babylonian captivity officially ended seventy years after its beginning. However, the bulk of those Jews living in Babylon did not return to Israel until the nation was reestablished in the mid-twentieth century. Thus for many centuries, Babylon continued to be the world center of exiled Judaism.
The judgment of Babylon represents God’s final decree upon all that is false among his own people. After all, the Bible does say in 1 Peter 4:17: “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
BABYLON’S SECRETS REVEALED
I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. Revelation 17:7
There are two important dreams in the book of Daniel that shed immense light upon Babylon and therefore upon the Book of Revelation. Let us take a slight detour from our study and look at these dreams and visions more closely. We really cannot understand Revelation without comprehending these dreams.
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had the first dream. The king saw an enormous, dazzling statue. It had a head of gold; chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze and legs of iron, with feet and toes partly of iron and partly of baked clay.
As the king watched, a rock was cut out without human hands. The rock crashed into the statue’s feet smashing them. With that, the whole image came tumbling down and was turned to dust, which the wind blew away without leaving a trace (Dan. 2:31-35). It is of note that the rock then became a great mountain filling the whole earth.
Daniel then interpreted the dream. King Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, was the head of gold. After him, an inferior kingdom would come [Media-Persia], and then one inferior still would rise and rule over the whole world [Greece]. Finally a fourth inferior kingdom would appear and be made mostly of iron. This kingdom would smash everything to pieces [Rome].
The feet of iron and clay, indicate that this kingdom will be divided and that it will be partly strong and partly weak. The two legs of this image seem clearly to represent the eastern and western divisions of the old Roman Empire. During the time of the weak kings that are pictured in the toes of this image, God will establish his kingdom that will never be destroyed (Dan. 2:36-45; Rev. 11:15). This will happen in the last days.
A similar revelation came as a dream to Daniel himself in the reign of Belshazzar, King of Babylon. Daniel dreamed of four great beasts coming up out of the sea (Dan. 7:1-28). The first beast was like a lion with wings of an eagle. It stood up like a man and even the heart of a man was given to it. The second beast was like a bear, and it was seen devouring much flesh. The third beast was like a leopard with wings of a bird. This beast had four heads and it was given great authority. The fourth beast was terrifying and powerful. It had ten horns and trampled the earth with its feet.
While Daniel was watching this beast, a little horn came up. This little horn had eyes like a man and a boastful mouth. As Daniel looked, the Ancient of Days with his heavenly court appeared and they were seated for judgment. Afterward the beast was slain and his body destroyed and thrown into the fire.
Daniel then saw one like the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven. This one was led into the presence of the Ancient of Days and was given authority and power over all peoples. Daniel saw that his dominion will never end, and his kingdom will not pass away (Dan.7:27). This one is surely Jesus the Messiah.
The prophet asked one of the heavenly beings what this dream meant and it was explained to him. The four beasts are four kingdoms that will arise in the earth. We see this corresponds very well to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. After these governments are cast down, the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom.
Daniel wanted to know the mystery of the fourth kingdom, which was terrifying and different from the others. He also wanted to know the mystery of the little horn that waged war with the saints and began to defeat them.
The angel mentioned that the fourth kingdom will devour the whole earth and trample it down, especially during the time of the Antichrist. This evil one will oppress God’s saints and change set laws and times. The saints will actually be handed over to him for a time, times and a half-time. Afterward, the heavenly court will sit and take his power away. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all kingdoms will be given over to the saints of the Most High. This kingdom will be everlasting (Dan.7:15-28).
When the dreams and their interpretations are compared with other visions of Daniel, we see clearly that the four beasts represent Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece and Rome (cf. Dan. 8:19-22; 2:36-43). The last kingdom that so oppresses the earth is the Roman Empire, and the little horn, that arises to persecute the saints of God, comes from the remnants of this last kingdom. It is clear that this little horn is the Beast or Antichrist
TWO VISIONS RECONCILED
This calls for a mind of wisdom. Revelation 17:9
The dreams of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel are essentially the same. Daniel makes clear that the world will be ruled by these four empires until our present day; that these world governments will decline in their strength and depreciate in their value (Dan. 2:39); and that they will collapse at the same time (Dan. 2:35).
These two revelations of a man’s image and of four beasts very well describe the present system of Gentile world government or the “times of the Gentiles” (Lk. 21:24). While the system has a human quality about it, there is also a beastly quality. This beastly quality has manifested itself on several occasions in history, particularly in the recent Nazi Holocaust, where six million Jews were murdered. This beastly side of government will again become very evident in the last days.
The system will collapse as it is struck by the rock from the mountain [Zion]. In the meantime, all governments will be guided by the principles and value systems handed down from these four governments of Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece and Rome.
This is certainly the case with our present world. Not only do we operate with Babylonian principles, but we operate with Greek ones as well. An example of this is seen in the humanism that we have inherited directly from the Greeks. This very aggressive godless philosophy is presently dominating the power centers of our western world. Even our schools are filled with it.
Certainly our world has been greatly influenced by the literature and learning of both Greece and Rome. Until the past century, a person was hardly considered educated without a strong background in the classics. Indeed the Roman Empire in a greatly weakened form survives until this day. How true it is that we are heirs of much that was Rome, particularly its system of law and government. I find myself even using Roman numerals to divide the main sections of this work.
A LITTLE HORN
The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. Revelation 17:11
In summary, we can say that out of the weakened Roman/Babylonian Empire of our day, a “little horn” will eventually arise speaking boastful words (Dan. 7:8). This one is known as the Beast or Antichrist.
How interesting, that a rock hewn out of the mountain will crash into this Babylonian image, including the Antichrist himself, and turn everything to powder (Dan. 2:23-45)! This is surely a picture of the Messiah and his government from Mount Zion (Isa. 28:16; Psa. 118:22; Isa. 2:2).
However, Daniel makes it very clear that the “little horn” will wage war against God’s saints and even defeat them until God intervenes. We should carefully note this in Daniel 7:21-22: “As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.”
Thus it is obvious from Daniel that during the Tribulation, “the saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time” (Dan. 7:25). This again is the recurring period of approximately three and one-half years, or the duration of the Great Tribulation.
AN ANCIENT ANTICHRIST TYPE
He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction. Revelation 17:11
In his eighth and eleventh chapters, Daniel gives more details about the Beast or Antichrist. He deals in these chapters with an important type of the Antichrist who appeared in the Greek Empire. This one arose after the time of Alexander the Great, and even before Rome became a world power. We know him from history as Antiochus Epiphanes. His nickname, “Epiphanes,” meant “illustrious” in the Greek language. Daniel refers to this man as a “little horn” (Dan. 7:8 & 8:9).
The prophet Daniel describes for us the work of this antichrist type in Daniel 8:23-25. We see in this important passage that rebels must become completely wicked before his rise. We see that he will attack and partially defeat the Lord’s people, but finally he will be overthrown with God’s power.
We know from Jewish history that this particular madman did arrive on the scene, and that he created great havoc. He invaded Israel, defiled the sacred altar by sacrificing a pig upon it, and utterly forbade the practice of Judaism. Many were persecuted and were even martyred in his wake. All this occurred around 165 B.C.
Chapter eleven of Daniel gives us some additional color concerning this evil antichrist type. We see that he attacks the Temple and sets up the “abomination of desolation.” We also see that God’s true saints will sternly resist him (Dan. 11:31 & 32).
The prophet further speaks of the great trials of these days. He speaks of God’s saints being burned, captured and plundered (Dan.11:33). This evil ruler will do as he pleases. He will greatly magnify himself and even speak against the true God (Dan. 11:36).
It was the valiant Maccabees who finally arose to withstand the antichrist type of their day. Ultimately they defeated this evil man and his program. They did so with the miraculous help of God. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah is celebrated each year as a memorial of this great victory. In New Testament times, this festival was known as the Feast of Dedication. We see in John’s tenth chapter that Jesus joined in this celebration.
The account of this miraculous victory, as well as the awful suffering of God’s people, can be read in the apocryphal books of 1 & 2 Maccabees. The Books of Maccabees are not in most Bibles, but they are available in some newer translations such as the New Revised Standard Version. The books were written “between the testaments,” and were readily available to the early Christians in their version of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint. No doubt the Apostle John, who wrote Revelation, was very familiar
“They will make war against the Lamb” as we see in Revelation 17:14.
We can know from Daniel that the events of Revelation and of the end-times will closely parallel the events that happened in the days of the Maccabees. We see in Daniel 8 that the prophet’s vision concerns the time of the end (cf. Dan. 8:17 & 26b). Both events speak of awful persecution facing the saints, and even of a falling away from the faith. This is also reflected in the New Testament (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1). History tells us that during the time of the Maccabees many Jewish people turned away from the faith.
Paul, no doubt with this picture in mind, challenges us to take up the armor of God as we prepare for the evil day (Eph. 6:13). Obviously, God is still looking for end-day people like the valiant Maccabees, who will stand against the evil one.
Although suffering is not a popular theme in the western church today, such suffering is a legacy bequeathed us from Christ himself. The scripture says: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Phil. 1:29). So, suffering is God’s gift to us. The scripture also says in 2 Timothy 2:12: “if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us.”
Several of the earliest church fathers comment upon this awful time of tribulation coming upon the church at the end of the age. Hermas (c. AD 150) says: “Happy are you who endure the great tribulation that is coming. And happy are they who will not deny their own life.” 2 Hippolytus (c. AD 200) speaks of the tyrant who will “…reign and persecute the church, which flees from city to city, and seeks concealment in the wilderness among the mountains.” 3 Irenaeus (c. AD 180) says: “For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which they are crowned with incorruption – when they overcome.” 4
And with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers. Revelation 17:14
Thus from the time of the Maccabees; from the New Testament times and from the days of the early church, we see how God expects his people to be overcomers. This is part of the mission and work of the church, to overcome the devil. Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:18, “And I tell you…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
Thus, the church has a call to overcome the world. In another place Jesus promises his followers: “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you” (Lk. 10:19). Many years after this statement was made, Paul laid down this same principle for the whole church by commanding: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).
At last, it would be appropriate for us to hear from John who wrote the book of Revelation. What did he think about the overcomers? In his little book of 1 John he has some important things to share about them. In 1 John 2:12 we read: “I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.” Thus, in John’s own day there were overcomers already present in the church. In 1 John 4:4 he says to the church: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” Then finally in 1 John 5:4 the aged apostle says: “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”
With all this background in Daniel and other places we can now better understand the Beast and the deadly end-day struggle of the righteous against him. Now that we have some background on this Babylonian Beast and his beastly system of world government, let us return to our commentary on Revelation and notice some things about the woman sitting upon the beast. This woman is called “Mystery Babylon.”
THE MYSTERY WOMAN
The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. Revelation 17:15
Thus, the Babylonian system has a spiritual side that is closely intertwined with its political side. John is now allowed to see this spiritual side of Babylon in some detail. Let us quickly review chapter 17 of Revelation to get a picture of this mystery woman.
John is here shown the great prostitute, and he is told of her ensuing punishment. She is guilty of intoxicating the world and its leaders with her adulteries (17:2). John sees that the prostitute is sitting on the scarlet colored beast, representing the Gentile world governmental system that we have discussed. We note that the beast itself is covered with blasphemous names. This beastly form of world government is closely allied with Satan and his system. John says: “I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns” (17:3).
The ten horns immediately identify the beast with the one we have just discussed in Daniel (Dan. 7:7). The horns also speak of his counterfeit power. The woman represents false Christianity, and to some degree, perhaps even false Judaism (1 Pet. 5:13; Isa. 1:21). She has come to be conveyed by a depraved world governmental system that had its beginnings with ancient Babylon.
We notice how this phony bride of Christ is able to cling to the defiled world governmental system and be carried along by it. She has done this for centuries. This really should not surprise us since she herself is also defiled.
This woman is dressed in royal colors of purple and scarlet and she glitters with gold (17:4). All this is outwardly impressive and speaks of her great wealth and glory. She also holds a cup made of gold, which perhaps should speak of the divine, but upon close inspection we find the cup is filled with adulteries and other detestable things.
MOTHER OF HARLOTS
The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth. Revelation 17:18.
John further describes the mystery woman: “This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (17:5).
Here we see that Babylon is the mother, or the source of much of the world’s evil and spiritual pollution. The woman is not only defiled with adulteries, but is also drunk on the blood of the saints (17:6). John is almost overwhelmed with his vision of her. This phony bride and her corrupt political system, together persecute the true bride, and stand against the coming Kingdom of God.
As to the beast that the woman is riding, and particularly to the Antichrist himself, John adds: “The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction” (17:8). We understand by this that the Beast or Antichrist existed before John’s time; was not present in his day; but will be restored in the end-day. This Beast with its blasphemous names will draw away those who are not written in the Lamb’s book of life. The whole world will be astonished at it. This Beast is nothing less than the incarnation of satanic evil. 5
John then gives us even more information about this Beast upon which the woman sits. The seven heads of the system correspond to seven hills, which is undoubtedly a reference to Rome and the Roman system (17:9). We saw in Daniel that the Beast does indeed spring from the Roman Empire. Many earlier Christian commentators were certain that Babylon was the Roman Catholic Church. However, today we need to realize that Babylon is bigger than Catholicism or any Christian group. The spirit of Babylon indeed touches all churches and denominations to some degree.
We are told that the heads of this system also represent seven important antichrist-type kings. John tells us: “Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction” (17:10-11).
With this riddle, we realize that history holds several antichrist-type kings. Five of these types had already passed in John’s day, while one was ruling in his time [likely Domitian]. There was still one to come. The eighth king has existed before but will come again, or be miraculously raised up in the form of Antichrist. Perhaps he existed before in the very person of Antiochus Epiphanes. Obviously, there are still some things hidden about this mysterious person.
When Antichrist arises we are told that the ten horns, or ten kings of the greatly weakened Roman Empire, will join with him and make war against the Lamb (17:12). Interpreters are fond of identifying these kings with European nations. However, Europe made up scarcely half of the Roman Empire. These kings could just as easily come from other areas that Rome once controlled; areas like Babylonia, Syria, Turkey, Israel, Egypt or
We see that with the Lamb, and apparently fighting at his side, are his “called, chosen and faithful followers” (17:14). This is likely a reference to the 144,000 overcomers that we met earlier, or the “new man” of Ephesians, chapters 2 and 3.
As the scripture makes plain in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, the saints will not fight in the natural, for: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Also, our great battle is always against our own flesh. We see this battle in Colossians 3:5: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which
At this point we see that the beast with his allies will turn in rage against the prostitute and destroy her (17:16-17). Thus in the end-days, the very political system that has long supported the prostitute will become her sudden foe, bringing about her end. Thus the political system of the Beast will turn against polluted and government supported Christianity, bringing about its quick and total demise. 6
SOME BABYLONIAN PRINCIPLES
Then I heard another voice from heaven say: ‘Come out of her, my people so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues.’ Revelation 18:4
The scripture now turns to the final judgment of Babylon and its system. Her judgment actually stretches from Revelation chapters 14 through 18. This is an extremely important event of the last days and we are attempting to give it plenty of space here. Babylon, once a great international power, has somehow become a home for demons, evil spirits and unclean things (18:2). Babylon has polluted the nations with her adulteries (18:3). She has also polluted the church of God.
While part of Babylon pretends to be religious, she has actually been the mother of adulteries for kings and nations (cf. Rev. 17:5). It is no secret that after her natural fall, the Greeks and Romans imported Babylon’s numerous false religions to the west. They later found their way into many practices of Christianity. 7 Here Christians are urgently commanded to come out of her, lest they partake of her judgments (18:4).
We should note that Christians are nowhere commanded to judge Babylon. We are only commanded to come out of her. God will put it into the heart of the Beast to bring judgment upon Babylon.
As we have noted, Babylon has not only affected Christians, but she has also deeply affected the Jews. Since the subject of Babylon is an extremely complicated one, we need to look at the major Babylonian principles, in order that we may understand God’s great wrath against this city.
We see first of all that Babylon represents spiritual pride (cf. Jer. 50:29-32). She boasts “I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn” (18:7b). We remember that the people in Genesis 11:4 wanted to make a name for themselves. How many Christians and church leaders in our day have sought to make a name for themselves and to glorify themselves? How many of us would secretly like to do the same thing? This is all quite different from the spirit of the Messiah who “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:7).
Second, there is the principle of idolatry. Babylon was famous for her gods. Babylon had a host of some 300 gods of heaven and another 600 of earth. This did not count the many spirits who were also worshipped. 8 It was “a land of idols” (Jer. 50:38). We simply cannot comprehend the extent to which this Babylonian idolatry has affected the world, Judaism and even Christianity.
Third, Babylon was also famous for her covetousness (Jer. 51:13). The alarming thing about Babylon’s covetousness is that she is merchandising in gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, cinnamon, fragrances, ointments, frankincense, wine, oil, flour, wheat, etc. Almost all of these things represent pictures of redemption and of divine worship. Most were either present in Israel’s sacrifices or had to do with her worship. Babylon also merchandises in the souls of men (18:12-13; 2 Pet. 2:3). She still leads people in chains of religious bondage. We note here that all the merchants who made themselves rich by her excesses will weep and mourn for her at her fall (18:15).
Fourth, Babylon is famous for her sorcery. We read in Revelation 18:23, “By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.” The prophet Isaiah says: “Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you” (Isa. 47:13). Sorcery might be defined as taking our spiritual directions from any place but from the Lord and the Bible. It is no secret that the church is filled with various types of sorcery today.
Fifth, Lady Babylon is an adulteress as we saw earlier in Revelation 17:5. To adulterate is to mix and to weaken. Babylonian principles have subtly infiltrated and weakened true religion. 9 It has come about through compromise with the beastly world system, and it surely has cost Christianity its pristine purity. We remember that it was in Babylon that the people partied and drank from God’s holy temple vessels.
Sixth, Babylon is guilty of murder. In Revelation 17:6 we read: “I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished.” The spirit of Babylon has managed to pursue and destroy godly people in every age. Often they have been killed in the name of religion. It is ironic that many of Christianity’s famous martyrs were actually put to death by
Seventh, the land of Babylon is shot through with division. We remember that after the Tower of Babel episode the people of all the earth became divided in language (Gen. 11:7-8). The Bible clearly teaches us about the unity of our faith. In Ephesians 4:4-6 we read: “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” There are not two nations of Israel or two churches, or ten or a thousand. We can safely say that most things dividing the church are of Babylon, while the things that bring the church together in true unity are generally of God.
Because of all this, Babylon is a land of confusion. It is also a land of deep spiritual bondage. It is a place where God’s people can no longer freely sing his praises (Psa. 137:2-4). Thus we realize that Babylon represents everything that is false and abhorrent to
We can plainly say that Babylonian principles are in the church today and to some degree have always been a part of Christianity. They were even found in the first century church. It was the Babylonian principle of greed that infected the early Christians, Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11. The great apostle Peter had to be rebuked publicly by Paul for his spiritual pride in Galatians 2:11-14. The beloved apostle John was once denied entry to an early church because its leader, Diotrephes, loved to have the preeminence (3 Jn. 1:9)
MIGHTY BABYLON COMES DOWN
Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her. Revelation 18:8
Now we hear in Revelation: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit (18:2).
We see that Babylon is at last judged by God. The cries of those lamenting her ruin rise before the Lord (18:18-19). But God’s heavens, saints, apostles and prophets are bidden to rejoice over her downfall (18:20). Like its namesake of old, the city will be thrown down with violence and will never rise again (18:21).
The pleasant sounds of music, of workmen, of grinding at the millstone will never be heard in her again. She will be missing the light of the lamp, the voice of the bridegroom and the bride (18:23). In other words, these symbols make clear that the uniquely Christian elements will be snatched from her. The nations will never again be led astray by her magic spell. The prophets and saints will never again be killed in her.
God commands earlier: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4). God’s true saints must now come out of Babylon. This is urgent, since Babylon is about to be judged and will fall. However, the coming out of Babylon seems to be primarily a thing of the heart and spirit as we mentioned. We must resist the temptation to point our fingers at churches or organizations that we think are “Babylonish.” We must remember to keep the fingers pointed primarily at our own hearts.
God’s true saints must now renounce her defiled ways. They must get free of her pride, her adultery, her sorcery and idolatry. They must loose themselves from the bonds of her covetousness and the slothful dependence upon her many luxuries.
But it is extremely difficult for us just to come out of something. We must come into something as well, or else we will be left stranded in no-man’s land. It is clear from scripture that we come out of Babylon in order to go up to Zion. This speaks of a last day return to Zion, to our Hebrew heritage (Heb. 12:22-24) and to the eternal word of God. In Jeremiah 50:5, the prophet says of those coming out of Babylon: “They will ask the way to Zion and turn their faces toward it. They will come and bind themselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten.”
Notes for Part III
1. Ladd, p 226
2. Roberts & Donaldson, V2, p. 11.
3. Roberts & Donaldson, V5 p. 217
4. Roberts & Donaldson, V1 p 558
5. Barker & Kohlenberger, p 1209.
These authors remark of Babylon: “The meaning cannot be confined to any earthly cities. Instead, John describes the real trans-historical system of satanic evil that infuses
6. Roberts & Donaldson, V7 p. 214.
The early church father, Lactantius, writing around 304-313 and speaking of this last day states:” Two thirds of the worshippers of God will perish as well. But the third part, which will have been proved faithful will remain.”
7. Walvoord, p. 248.
“The doctrines of the mystery religions of Babylon seem to have permeated the ancient world, giving rise to countless mystery religions…In the early centuries of the church in Rome, incredible confusion arose; and attempts were made to combine some of the features of the mystery religion of Babylon with the Christian faith, a confusion which has continued down to the present day.”
8. E.A. Wallace Budge, Babylonian Life and History (New York; Dorsett Press, 1992)
9. Beale, p. 836.
Beale points out that in the Roman world the trade guilds had their own patron gods and all members had to pay homage to these as well as to the Roman emperor. Christians who did not participate in this activity would be economically ostracized and even excluded from their own trades.
RETURN OF THE BRIDEGROOM AND
THE CONSUMMATION OF THE KINGDOM
THE BRIDEGROOM ARRIVES
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. Revelation 19:11
With Babylon’s fall, a mighty chorus of praise arises from the courts of heaven. The multitudes of heaven shout: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute” (19:1-2). Heaven is ecstatic over her fall, because Babylon will no longer corrupt the earth with her adulteries. At last, the blood of God’s saints shed by her is avenged. The spiritual world will now probably lose much of its apparent complexity and difficulty.
Heaven’s worship continues as the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fall down in praise to the Lord, crying “Amen, Hallelujah!” (19:4). Then all God’s servants, a mighty multitude, cry out “Hallelujah! For the Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!” (19:6-7). Heaven is delighted that the reign of God is becoming complete in the earth at long last.
The heavenly multitudes now announce an event of utmost importance: “For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (19:7). It is interesting that as soon as the harlot Babylon is judged, the wedding of the Lamb begins to take place. We cannot clearly see the True Bride until the False Bride is taken out of the way.
In that day, God will have his people. There will be no mixture in them, for they will not be defiled with Babylon. They will follow the Lamb wherever he goes (Rev. 14:4) and they will be forever clothed in God’s righteousness (19:8). We notice in Ephesians 4:24 and Colossians 3:12, that it is the Bride who clothes herself and makes herself ready for this holy wedding. 1
Thus there is much preparation for the church to make. Christ has provided the lovely garments of salvation, but the Bride has the responsibility of putting them on. These are the garments of praise; the robes of righteousness, etc.
These provided garments include the good works foreordained for the saints. The invited guests are blessed (19:9) and heaven prepares for the Lamb’s marriage.
THE LORD AND HIS ARMIES
The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Revelation 19:14
The Bridegroom of this glorious wedding now appears from heaven on a white horse (19:11). Accompanying him are the armies of heaven. This is likely the focal point of the whole book of Revelation.
It seems however, that before the wedding can actually proceed and be consummated, the Lord must dispatch all his enemies. In fact, we realize that the wedding stretches over a rather lengthy period of time, even through the coming Millennium (cf. 21:2). The heavenly rider is called “Faithful and True” (19:11) and the war he will lead is a just war.
He is described as having eyes of blazing fire and with many crowns upon his head (19:12). Perhaps he is coming from Edom as the scripture hints (Hab. 3:3; Isa. 34:1-10). He will likely come after first destroying the heart of anti-Semitism in the Middle East. As he comes, his garments are already dipped in the blood of his enemies (19:13; Isa. 63:1-6). He has a mysterious name written on him that no one but he himself knows. He is also called the “Word of God.”
In Psalm 45:3-6 this mighty heavenly Messiah is described: “Gird your sword upon your side, O mighty one; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty. In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds. Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies; let the nations fall beneath your feet. Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom”
The armies of heaven follow him, dressed in fine linen and riding on white horses. As we see, all God’s holy ones, past and present, have a part in his coming. We are told that the Lord Jesus will come with all his saints (1 Thess. 3:13). Undoubtedly it is these who are arrayed in white (cf. 19:8). The saints who are still alive at his appearing will be instantly changed and will rise to meet him. They will then join in his great army (1 Thess. 4:16-17). As Jude 1:14 says, “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones.” Ancient Israelites believed that they would be a part of this great end-
time drama. 2
According to Psalm 149:6-9, we see clearly that God’s saints will have something to do with the punishment of the wicked. The Psalmist says: “May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them. This is the glory of all his saints. Praise the LORD” (cf. 2 Cor. 10:6).
Later during the Millennium we see God’s overcomers seated on thrones and given great authority to judge. We also see those beheaded for their testimony, coming to life and reigning with Christ for the thousand-year period (Rev. 20:4).
We must take note of the Lord’s direction and purpose as he appears. He is coming to take complete charge of this rebellious planet, and his authority and kingdom will never end. He is not making a “divine Dunkirk” rescue operation for his defeated saints, but rather coming for and with his victorious ones. Many of these have already endured great persecution and even martyrdom for his cause. We can safely say that all have taken up
Out of the Bridegroom’s mouth comes the sharp two-edged sword of the word (Isa. 11:4). With this word he smites the nations (19:15). The Bridegroom now unleashes the pent-up heavenly displeasure with sinners as he “treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty” (19:15). There is no mistaking his identity, for “On his robe and on his thigh he has the name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (19:16).
ARMAGEDDON FINALLY COMES
Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. Revelation 19:15
The stage is now set for the long-prophesied battle to end the age. This of course is the Battle of Armageddon (cf. 16:16). Long ago the prophets had spoken of this great end-day battle (Zech. 14:1-3; Zeph. 3:8). Armageddon (Har Megiddo) at the foot of the Carmel mountain range seems representative of so many of Israel’s great battles fought in the past at the Jezreel Valley (Jud. 5:19-20;2 Ki. 23:29-30). Still today this valley is a very strategic sight, and an ideal place for enemies to cut the land of Israel into two parts.
An angel of heaven now summons the birds of prey that they may gorge themselves on the flesh of generals, mighty men and all people small and great (19:17-18). We note from scripture that all the nations of earth will be represented here (Joel 3:2). It will no doubt be an impressive display of the world’s combined military might.
In Isaiah 34:2-3 we seem to have a description of this great contest: “The LORD is angry with all nations; his wrath is upon all their armies. He will totally destroy them, he will give them over to slaughter. Their slain will be thrown out, their dead bodies will send up a stench; the mountains will be soaked with their blood.”
Although the contest with the Beast is now at hand (19:19), it proves to be no contest at all. In contrast to its long and impressive build-up, this battle has a quick and decisive end. The Beast is immediately taken prisoner and along with him the False Prophet so responsible for his rise to power. Both are thrown alive into the lake of burning sulfur (19:20). Their armies are quickly killed by the sword of the word. Then the birds of heaven receive their promised banquet on the flesh of the mighty (19:21).
Isaiah 27:1 also speaks of this great battle: “In that day, the LORD will punish with his sword, his fierce, great and powerful sword, Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea.” Of course, we remember from Revelation 13 that this monster who comes up out of the sea is the Beast or Antichrist.
This great prophetic battle will bring devastation upon all nations of the earth. In Micah 7:16-17, the prophet speaks of this awful time and has this to say: “Nations will see and be ashamed, deprived of all their power. They will lay their hands on their mouths and their ears will become deaf. They will lick dust like a snake, like creatures that crawl on the ground. They will come trembling out of their dens; they will turn in fear to the LORD our God and will be afraid of you” (cf. Psa. 76:1-12).
Perhaps we may wonder at this point why the Lord is so angry with the nations. Isaiah 34:8 may give us a clue: “For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause.” Although we may not be able to comprehend the full scope of this anger we can be sure that part of it is a simmering rage over the way nations have treated his chosen people and his chosen land. Of course God is no doubt also angry over the way nations have rejected his saving gospel and his Messiah.
We might assume that the Antichrist’s speedy and disastrous fall at this point is partly because both he and his system have already been judged with Babylon. After all, it was upon this beastly Antichrist system that the woman Mystery Babylon had taken her seat.
UNDERSTANDING JESUS’ COMING
He will rule them with an iron scepter. Revelation 19:15
The church appears confused today over the purpose of Jesus’ coming. We are often taught in the Gentile church as though his coming is solely for the benefit of Gentile Christians. Although we realize that he is returning to the Mount of Olives in Israel, we do not realize that his coming is for the purpose of delivering Israel from the rage of all the nations (Zech. 14:1-5). While it is true that he is coming for Gentile saints, this is not his main purpose.
PURPOSES OF HIS COMING
He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. Revelation 19:15
Jesus is coming to firmly establish his eternal kingdom on the earth. As we have seen before, his victorious saints will exercise authority and rule for him in this kingdom. His kingdom will be complete and it will never cease. Paul expresses it well in Philippians 2:10-11: “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God
Second, his coming is designed to put a quick end to all other authority and especially the exceedingly evil kingdom of Antichrist (cf. Psa. 110:1-2). In 2 Thessalonians 2:8 we read: “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.” Jesus’ coming, as we have already seen, will also put a quick end to the work of both the Beast and the
A third purpose for his coming will be to permanently remove millions, even billions, of wicked and utterly rebellious people from off his earth. This is pictured by the harvest we saw earlier. Indeed, the whole tribulation period is one vast harvest of flesh and wickedness. John the Baptist spoke of the Lord’s coming in this wise: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12).
In Matthew 24:38-39, Jesus tells us that the end-day will be like the days of Noah. Jesus says: “For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” In this passage we see all fleshly pursuits; a lot of eating, drinking and marrying, as if these were being done somehow to great excess. We must note again that it is always the wicked that are taken away from the earth.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 we read: “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
So the Day of the Lord will dawn for the wicked, bringing sudden disaster from on high. Ecclesiastes 9:12 states: “Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.”
There are several other purposes in his coming. He is coming to completely purge the earth of every sin and stain. He will in fact make a new heaven and a new earth. This probably does not mean that the present heaven and earth will be totally destroyed but that it will undergo more of a regeneration (cf. Ps. 78:69; Ecc. 1:4; Mt. 19:28).
The Greek word kainos, used in Revelation 21:1 for “new heaven” and “new earth” has the idea of “freshness” or “unused,” as contrasted with the old. The same word is used in Galatians 6:15, which describes those converted as “new” creatures in Christ. Obviously they are still the same people, although their outlook and lifestyle have become totally changed. Pfeiffer and Harrison here quote from the Greek scholar, Swete, who describes the meaning as, “fresh life arising from the decay and wreck of the old world.” 3
Jesus is also coming to institute the final judgment on men, nations, angelic beings, and the devil, as well as to fully save and reward his faithful people (cf. Isa. 26:19-21).
WHAT THE EARLIEST CHRISTIANS BELIEVED ABOUT HIS COMING
On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Revelation 19:16
In Acts 3:19-21 we hear some early preaching concerning the coming of the Lord: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.”
It might be advantageous for us to pause here for a few moments and review some other things that the immediate followers of Jesus believed about the coming of the Lord. This will help us fill in some of the blanks here in Revelation. Several things stand out, especially as we thumb through the epistles.
These earliest Christians believed that they should eagerly wait for his coming; and that it was important for the Lord to keep them strong for that event (1 Cor. 1:7-8). They believed that the one who had begun the work in them would complete it until the day of his coming (Phil. 1:6). They were certain that when Christ appeared, Christians would appear with him in glory (Col. 3:4). Actually it was Paul’s great joy to think of presenting the saints complete at Christ’s coming (1 Thess. 2:19). In regard to that coming, early Christians were instructed to always watch and be sober (1 Thess. 5:6).
We should note here that in the New Testament, the Greek words for his coming are apparently not distinguished. The words “Epiphany” (appearing), “Parousia” (advent), “hemera” (day), and “Apocalypse” (revelation) are all used interchangeably. For instance, in 1 Corinthians 3:13, we learn that the day (hemera) shall reveal (apokalupto) every man’s work. In 2 Timothy 4:8, the righteous are crowned on that day (hemera) – also those who love his appearing (epiphania).
We see the themes of his coming repeated over and over in the epistles. The early Christians believed that Jesus would be glorified in his saints and admired by them when he appeared (2 Thess.1:10). In 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Paul prayed that the saints be preserved blameless unto the coming. As is seen in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, they strongly believed that the rebellion and the appearing of Antichrist had to first happen before the Lord could appear.
In 2 Timothy 1:12, we see that Paul expected that he would be kept against that day through his obedience to the Lord. In 2 Timothy 2:12, Paul says that if believers endure, they will reign with Christ, but if they deny him, he will deny them. These earliest Christians expected that a crown of life would be given on that day to those who longed for his appearing (2 Tim. 4:8). But they knew they must say “no” to all ungodliness while they looked for his coming (Tit. 2:12-13).
New Testament believers expected to be shielded by God’s power as they awaited the salvation that would be revealed in the last time (1 Pet. 1:5). They felt that the trials of their faith would result in praise and glory at the appearing (1 Pet. 1:7); and that grace would be given to them at that time (1 Pet.1:13). Peter, like Paul, knew that believers would receive a crown of glory when the Chief Shepherd appears (1 Pet. 5:4). We see in 2 Peter 3:10-13, that while Jesus will come like a thief, still the elements will be destroyed at his coming.
They looked forward to a new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells. God’s early saints knew they should be a holy people as they waited for him; that they should abide in him, lest they be ashamed at his coming (1 Jn. 2:28).
They knew that when he appeared they would be like him (1 Jn. 3:2-3). The Elder John felt that those who have this hope should purify themselves (1 Jn. 3:3). It is clear that the earliest Christians were eagerly waiting for the mercy that brings eternal life (Jude 1:21). They knew that Jesus was able to keep them and present them faultless before his presence (Jude 1:24). They knew that even if the world and its lusts passed away, they would abide forever (1 Jn. 2:17).
It is truly amazing that while these earliest Christians knew that terrible times were coming in connection with the Lord’s appearance, they nevertheless were filled with an overflowing, exuberant joy and hope while they awaited his coming. This joy and hope likely has something to do with the crown of righteousness awaiting them and with the prospect of sharing the reign of Christ upon this earth.
How different it is in the church today. While the early church waited eagerly to greet the Lord in victory, the modern church waits to be rescued from defeat.
He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. Revelation 20:2
Now it is Satan’s turn to receive God’s judgment. This fallen one has always been the source of earth’s problems and has now gathered all the nations against God. He is quickly seized by a mighty angel of heaven and bound in the Abyss for a thousand-year period (20:1-3). Earth will now experience a new era and will no longer endure the constant temptations of Satan.
Yes, when the international war against Israel is over and Armageddon is history, we will see some tremendous changes in our world. As we enter the Millennial Age, we will see God’s plan for Israel go into effect as has not been the case since ancient times. It is like the quiet after a storm. Indeed it is said in Proverbs 10:25, “When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.”
When we look at the Millennium we are looking at a totally new era that is still largely hidden from our eyes. Although we do not fully understand the peculiarities of this age and it leaves us with many questions, we had best believe in its existence until we understand it better. We certainly should not deny it as many Christian thinkers came to do in the church’s early history.
We can perceive some things about this age. Because of the absence of the Beast and False Prophet, people will likely not be deceived by false prophecy during this period. Satan himself will be temporarily out of the picture as he is bound for a thousand years, and apparently will not be able to tempt men and nations.
The world will enter an age of peace and tranquility unknown since the Garden of Eden. The Messianic government will be fully established in the earth.4 In Micah 4:3-4 we read of this period: “He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.”
The prophet Zechariah speaks of this day in these words: “Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zech. 14:16).
The law of God will begin to regulate all affairs on earth. The prophet pictures this law of God as going out from Jerusalem: “Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3).
In reflecting on the Millennial Age, we can view it as a prototype Kingdom of God finally established on the earth. It is a natural fulfillment of everything promised to Israel by her prophets (Ez. 36-37; Isa. 2:1-5). It is designed to fulfill all the things for which Israel has long hoped and prayed.
This kingdom is probably also designed to display God’s righteousness before angels, principalities, powers and men (Isa. 26:9b). It is designed to display the glory of the Messianic government before all nations. This is the very government Israel once rejected. This government seems designed to root out the evil influences of earth and establish God’s holiness and righteousness. 5 One purpose of this government is surely to elevate fallen man to the position of authority in Christ and with Christ.
The Millennial Age may also be looked upon as a transition period between heaven and earth. While it has heavenly qualities, it also still has earthly ones. For instance, the Lord himself will reign on earth with his victorious saints for the thousand years. These obviously will be resurrected saints. Yet, the Bible makes it sound as if some natural people will still be left on earth. These will still be building houses, planting vineyards and seemingly continuing with natural pursuits (Isa. 65:20-21).
There are many other perplexing mysteries about this time. In this period there will be great peace in the natural realm. The wolf and the lamb will even feed together (Isa. 65:25). The young child will safely play over the hole of the viper (Isa. 11:8).
We see that during this age, thrones will be set up and those who have been given authority will judge. This is a promise that has been made several times to the overcomers in Revelation. Those tribulation martyrs who have not worshipped the Beast or received his image will also come to life and reign with Christ for this thousand years (20:4). The remainder of the dead will not be raised or judged until the thousand years have ended.6 Those who have a part in this first resurrection are called blessed and holy (20:5-6).
The first resurrection will apparently occur in stages. 7 As we see in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, the dead in Christ will arise first. After this the living saints will then be transformed miraculously. 8 Jesus said in John 6:40: “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the
JUDGMENT AND A NEW ERA
When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations. Revelation 20:7-8
So we see that at the end of the blissful Millennium, Satan will once more be released in the earth. Although this is incomprehensible to us, it still must be necessary in God’s great and perfect plan. The unleashing of the devil after this age may be designed to illustrate Satan’s hopelessly evil intent, and the righteousness of God’s final judgment against him (20:7). After this event, angels, principalities, powers and man should fully realize just who Satan is (Isa. 14:16-17).
It may also be designed to truly reveal the innate sinfulness of man’s heart as Isaiah 26:10 states: “even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the LORD.” Amazingly, though some people on earth have lived in a heavenly environment they will still turn back to rebellion in the end. 9 We must remember that the Millennium is not yet the final and perfect order. The heavenly city or Bride has not yet completely descended to earth.
Satan will again continue his age-old work of deceiving nations, albeit without the help of the Beast or False Prophet. He will have some successes in bringing the mighty nations of Gog and Magog together for battle against Israel (Ezek. 38-39). Their people will be vast in number, like sand on the seashore. The object of Satan’s wrath will be the same as always. It will be directed toward Israel, Jerusalem and the covenant people (20:9).
This will be one of earth’s shortest wars. Fire will immediately fall down from heaven and devour this horde (cf. Psa. 21:9-10). After this incredible and awful defeat, the devil will at last be given his due. He will be thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where he will be in company with the Beast and False Prophet. They will be tormented there with eternal punishment (20:10).
THE WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT
and each person was judged according to what he had done. Revelation 20:13
It is now time for the great white throne judgment of all humanity. John says, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (20:11-12).
It is obvious that the dead are being judged on the basis of whether or not their names are found written in the Lamb’s book of life. It is also clear that this judgment is based upon their obedience, their actions and deeds (20:13). 10 The ungodly are then thrown into the lake of fire, which is called the second death (20:14). The author, Wiersbe, with others, sees this judgment as pertaining only to the unredeemed; and that it will determine only their degrees of punishment in hell (cf. Mt. 11:20-24). 11
There may be some validity to this view. In 2 Corinthians 5:10 we read: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” Also in 1 Corinthians 11:31 we read: “But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.” It would seem by these statements that Christians all will appear only before Christ’s judgment and that they have the option of escaping any negative aspects of that judgment if they conform their lives to his will while they are living on this earth.
THE WEDDING PROCEEDS
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. Revelation 21:2
The appearing of the Bridegroom, the cataclysmic events of the Antichrist’s world-wide war, the blissful Millennium and the last great battle of Gog and Magog all combine to usher in a new era for the earth. Heaven and earth are now remade and restructured. The greatly contaminated sea is not renewed but is totally eliminated (21:1).
The Holy City or New Jerusalem now continues her descent from heaven. Indeed she still appears as a bride, beautifully dressed (21:2). Heaven and earth can now be united as the “dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them” (21:3). Death, mourning, crying and pain are all things of the past. God announces that he is making all things new (21:4-5). Jesus, the Alpha and Omega (beginning and end), proclaims the end of the old order (cf. Isa. 65:17-19).
The overcomers are now honored. They inherit everything along with Christ (21:7). The Lord opens the springs of the water of life to them. The remade and purified world will belong to them as Jesus said in his earthly ministry: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). A similar idea is conveyed in Psalm 115:16, “The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to man.”
The Lamb now speaks with scorn toward the disobedient: “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (21:8). In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Paul also mentions this: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
How tragic it is that so many of today’s popular pursuits will come under the awful and eternal wrath of the Almighty God. We see that these pursuits include things like sexual immorality of all types, sorcery, idolatry and deceitfulness. Such things will result in the second death, which is an eternal death.
With the Bridegroom’s enemies all vanquished, and with the righteous duly rewarded, the wedding proceeds. The Bride fully makes her descent from heaven. She is also known as Holy Jerusalem (21:10). John continues to describe the indescribable: “It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal” (21:11). In every wedding on earth, the bride is the center of focus and attention. Here it seems that all creation waits in suspense as the bride appears (cf. Rom.8:19).
We cannot help but note the great contrast between the true bride and the false bride, Babylon. While lady Babylon was arrayed in beautiful and costly things, she was polluted through and through. This bride is arrayed in the glory of God and is holy throughout. Just as Babylon was a city as well as a person, or persons, the true bride is also a holy city as well as holy persons.
The bride or city is described as having a high wall with twelve gates and with twelve angels standing guard. In Isaiah 60:18, the walls and gates of this city are described in this way: “but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.” On the gates are written the names of Israel’s twelve tribes (21:12; cf. Ez. 48:31).
As we see, the book of Revelation is a very Jewish book. The further we go in it, the more Jewish it becomes. The tribes of Israel that are written on the gates of the heavenly city will surely be an embarrassment to Christian anti-Semites. Here we see that the way into the city must still be through Israel and her Messiah. The city wall has twelve foundations and on these are written the twelve Jewish Apostles of the Lamb (21:14).
Imagine finding names like Shi-mon Ke-fa (Simon Peter), Ya-a-kov ben Zav-da-i (James, son of Zebedee), and Ya-a-kov ben Hal-fi-e (James son of Alphaeus) written on the New Jerusalem’s very foundations! Again, we see the close connection with the heavenlyJerusalem and with people. The New Jerusalem is a city – a bride – victorious saints – apostles. She is all of these.
At this point the new and heavenly city is measured (21:15-16). This city is massive, about 1400 miles or 2200 kilometers for each of its dimensions, height, width and depth (21:17). The wall and city are made up of very precious things, such as jasper, gold and other treasures. The gates to the city are described as twelve pearls (21:18-21). Like the other precious things that are made by heat and pressure, the pearl is made through the suffering of the oyster. The pearls also speak of Jesus, who is called “the door” (Jn. 10:1 & 7), and who is alluded to as the Pearl of Great Price (Matt. 13:46).
In this New Jerusalem there is no longer a temple. There is no need for virtual reality when reality has now arrived. The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple (21:22). The Lamb is not only the temple, but he is the light of the city (21:23). Isaiah had prophesied this long before, saying: “The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory” (Isa. 60:19).
The gates of this city will always be open and the kings and nations will bring their glory into it (21:24). Nothing impure will ever enter this city. Only those will enter who have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life (21:27).
A GLORIOUS FINAL VISION
No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. Revelation 22:3
John continues in his attempt to describe the indescribable. He is shown a river of the water of life proceeding from the throne (22:1). The scripture speaks a great deal about this future stream. In Psalm 46:4 it is said: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.” The Prophet Zechariah adds: “On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter” (Zech. 14:8).
On each side of this river John sees the tree of life with its fruits. All human history has indeed made a great circle. Paradise is now regained. Renewed and obedient man is once again in the renewed garden of God. We see that the tree of life in this new garden yields fruit continually, and the fruit is for the healing or health of the nations (22:2). We are then told that the curse which has long troubled the earth is finished (22:3).
The servants will now serve God forever, and his holy name will be on their foreheads. They will at last see his face (22:4). What a blessed promise! (cf. Matt. 5:8; 1 Jo. 3:2). It is said that “they” being the servants will reign forever and ever (22:5).
Indeed, what God began in Genesis he is now finishing in Revelation, as Strauss outlines very well: 12
Genesis – The commencement of Heaven and earth (1:1);
Revelation- The consummation of Heaven and earth (21:1).
Genesis- The entrance of sin and the curse (3:1-19).
Revelation- The end of sin and the curse (21:27; 22:3).
Genesis- The dawn of Satan and his activities (3:1-7);
Revelation- The doom of Satan and his activities (20:10.
Genesis- The tree of life is relinquished (2:9; 3:24);
Revelation- The tree of life is regained (22:2).
Genesis- Death makes its entrance (2:17; 5:5);
Revelation- Death makes its exit (22:2).
Genesis- Sorrow begins (3:16);
Revelation- Sorrow is banished (21:4).
God made man to reign as his vice-regent on earth. This is stated in Psalm 8:6-9: “You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (cf. Heb. 2:5-9).
We saw earlier that in his earthly ministry, Jesus talked a great deal about the Kingdom of God (Mk. 1:15). Paul and other apostles talked about it too (Acts 19:8). As we have seen, the kingdom is one great key to understanding Revelation.
Again we remind ourselves that it is not man who reigns but Jesus the Messiah who now reigns completely in man. It is totally his victory, and the victory is total. To him be all the glory forever! Now the beautiful prophecy of Daniel 7:18 will become a reality: “But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.” Kenneth Tinder remarks about the kingdom saying that this “Christian universe is peopled exclusively with royalty.” 13
The words of the Revelation are trustworthy and true (22:6), but only those who love the truth (2 Thess. 2:10) and those who buy it, refusing to sell it (Prov. 23:23), will ever get hold of these things. Jerusalem will now be called the city of truth (Zech. 8:3). Only those who love the truth will enter the city or its lovely garden. Those who failed to love the truth have already received a powerful delusion and have believed a lie, resulting in their eternal damnation (2 Thess. 2:10-12).
Once again we are told that these things must soon take place. The Master then adds: “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book” (22:7). We realize once more that Revelation is about overcoming; it is about obedience. What a challenge for present-day lethargic, disobedient Christianity! True religion is about obedience to the very end, even if it means martyrdom. Great and unspeakable blessings of God are in store for the obedient!
The angel in addressing John says, “I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book” (22:9). We are reminded by this that even angelic beings have the constant responsibility of obedience, just as we do.
John is instructed by the angel not to seal the words of this prophecy because of the nearness to its fulfillment (22:10). We can praise God that Revelation is no longer a sealed book. Jesus has broken the seals and the least saint is now able to interpret this book with God’s help.
John is told that as the end-day comes the vile will continue to be vile, but those who do right will continue in their righteousness and holiness (22:11). It is amazing that not even the awesome events of Revelation seem able to change the hearts of those beast worshippers, who are truly and permanently hardened toward God.
As he has said before he says again: “Behold, I am coming soon!” (22:12). Those who wash their robes will be blessed. Those who are washed in the blood of the Lamb will have access to the city (22:14). Now the Master repeats much that he stated in Revelation 21:8. He breaks the sad news that outside the city are “the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (22:15).
The road to Zion is a holy road as Isaiah said long before: “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it…But only the redeemed will walk there” (Isa. 35:8-9). In Zechariah 13:1 the prophet tells us: “On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.” In Jeremiah 50:20 the prophet says: “In those days…search will be made for Israel’s guilt, but there will be none.”
Now as the prophecy ends, we are assured again that it is Jesus, the Root and Offspring of David, the bright and Morning Star, who is giving this word to the churches (22:16). Jesus is the fulfillment of everything promised to Israel through David. Also, like the Morning Star, he is the light-giver and the hope-giver, even for those who have lived through the darkest night of earth’s history.
The Holy Spirit and the Bride (the redeemed community) give the open invitation to “come.” Indeed, all who are thirsty may come (22:17). Today as signs of the world’s end are appearing everywhere, the invitation to a full salvation remains open.
This book of warnings and plagues now closes with a warning and promise of plague (22:18-19). This plague will be upon those who add or take away from this book (cf. Deut. 4:2; Pr. 30:5-6). Certainly this includes all those who handle the word deceitfully. It could also apply to those who dare add their own false and ear-tickling scenarios to the Lord’s pure word. In this regard we know that teachers of the word will be judged more severely than others (Jas. 3:1). The plagues of this book may be added to them, or they may even lose their share in the holy city.
Again Jesus warns of his speedy coming (22:20). John then ends by returning the church’s invitation to the Lord. What is here uttered was the prevalent attitude of the earliest Christians, and it is expressed everywhere in the New Testament. In spite of all the great judgments and disasters associated with the Lord’s coming, they eagerly and joyfully awaited it. They cry out, “even so, come Lord Jesus!” (22:20 NKJV). May we join with them in hastening his coming.
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Notes for Part IV
1. Mounce, p 340
2. Keener, p 812
He remarks how it is reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls that most people ofIsraelbelieved they would participate in this final battle.
3. C.F. Pfeiffer & E.F. Harrison, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, New Testament, (Chicago, Moody Press, 1962). Electronic media. Comment on Rev. 21:1-8.
4. Robert L. Thomas, The Kingdom of Christ in the Apocalypse, TMSJ, Fall, 1992,
Robert L. Thomas, professor of NT at Master’s Seminary,Californiaremarks:
“Though allowance is made for a present aspect of the kingdom, the time of the kingdom in its ultimate form is clearly future. The location of the kingdom is fixed in the earthly sphere rather than a heavenly one. The nature of the kingdom is political and outward in the common understanding of the terms and not merely spiritual and hidden. This is seen from its OT roots, the means by which it is established, and the internal conditions with which it must cope. The span of the kingdom covers the period between Christ’s second coming and the creation of the new heavens and new earth, a period of one thousand years on earth as it is now known, and then an unlimited phase after the new creation.”
5. Barker & Kohlenberger p 1219
These authors state: “The Millennium will reveal that humanity’s rebellion against God lies deep in one’s own heart, not in the devil’s deception. Even when Satan is bound and righteousness prevails in the world, some people will still rebel against God. The final release of Satan will openly draw out this hidden evil.” These writers also see the Millennium “as a long period required to do the ‘house cleaning’ needed after the preceding ages of sin.”
6. Ladd, p 265.
Ladd mentions that this passage allows for several groupings of the redeemed. The groups include those who sat in the thrones, the martyr-saints, and the living saints who had not received the mark of the Beast. He notes that the Greek text could allow for such an interpretation.
7. Walvoord, p. 298.
This author even remarks concerning the mysterious token resurrection that took place when Jesus was raised. He says: “…Matthew mentions that at the death of Christ, ‘the graves were opened’ and that later ‘many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared to many (Matt. 27:52-53).’ This difficult passage is best explained as an actual resurrection of a token number of saints in keeping with the symbolism of the feast of the first-fruits, when a handful of grain, not just one stalk, was presented to the priest.”
8. Pfeiffer & Harrison.
These authors see this first resurrection as occurring in stages. First they see the dead in Christ, then we who are alive and remain and finally after a short period, the martyr -saints of the tribulation.
Others like Walvoord (pp. 38 & 308) see a progression with Christ being the first or first-fruit. He states that all the righteous dead will be included in the first resurrection. The wicked dead will be raised after the Millennium.
9. Wiersbe, comment on Rev. 20:1-6.
This author remarks here: “During the Millennium, the inhabitants of the earth will include not only glorified saints, but also citizens of the nations who bow in submission to Jesus Christ (see Matt. 25:31–40; also8:11). Because of the earth’s perfect conditions, people will live long lives (Isa. 65:17–25, especially v. 20). They will marry and have children who will outwardly conform to our Lord’s righteous rule. But not all of them will be truly born again as the Millennium progresses; and this explains why Satan will be able to gather a great army of rebels at the close of the Kingdom Age (Rev. 20:8).”
“In one sense, the millennial kingdom will ‘sum up’ all that God has said about the heart of man during the various periods of history. It will be a reign of law, and yet law will not change man’s sinful heart. Man will still revolt against God. The Millennium will be a period of peace and perfect environment, a time when disobedience will be judged swiftly and with justice; and yet in the end the subjects of the King will follow Satan and rebel against the Lord. A perfect environment cannot produce a perfect heart.”
10. Ladd, p 292
Here Ladd points out that “The New Testament constantly emphasizes the fact of judgment on the basis of works (Rom.2:26; Rev. 2:23).”
12. Strauss, p 17
13. As quoted in, Mike Mason, The Gospel According to Job, (Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL, 1994), p 241.
Barker, Kenneth L. & John R. Kohlenberger III, Consulting Editors, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994.
Barclay, William, The Revelation of John, Vol. 2, Revised Edition, The Daily Study Bible Series, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976.
Barnes, Albert, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Beale, G.K, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, The Book of Revelation, Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999.
Beasley-Muray, G.R., New Century Bible Commentary, The Book of Revelation Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., & Marshall Morgan & Scott Publ. Ltd.
Budge, E.A. Wallace, Babylonian Life and History, New York: Dorsett Press, 1992.
Edersheim, Alfred, The Temple, Its Ministry and Services As They Were In The Time of Christ,Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1958.
Farmer, William R., ed., The International Bible Commentary, Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1998.
Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume, Hendrickson: Peabody, Logos Research Systems.
Keener, Craig S., The IVP Bible Background Commentary, New Testament, Downers Grove IL: Inter Varsity Press, 1993.
Ladd, George Eldon, A Commentary on the Revelation of John,Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co., 1972.
Mason, Mike, The Gospel According to Job,Wheaton,IL: Crossway Books, 1994.
Morris, Leon, Revelation, An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries,Leicester, England: Inter Varsity Press, 1969.
Pett, Peter, The Book of Revelation, London: Internet electronic publication.
Pfeiffer, C.F. & E..F. Harrison, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, New Testament, Chicago: Moody Press, 1962.
Prince, Derek, War In Heaven, God’s Epic Battle With Evil,Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen Books, 2003.
Roberts, Alexander & James Donaldson, editors, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vols. 1, 2, 5 &. 7, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956.
Robertson, A., Word Pictures of the New Testament, Vol. V, VI, Oak Harbor: Southern Baptist Convention & Logos Research Systems, 1993 & 1997.
Strauss, Lehman, The Book of the Revelation, Outlined Series,Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1964.
Thomas, Robert L., The Kingdom of Christ in the Apocalypse, TMSJ, Fall, electronic edition, 1992.
Walvoord, J..F., The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Chicago: Moody Press, 1966.
Wiersbe, W. W., The Bible Exposition Commentary, “B.E. Series,” Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, Logos Research Systems, 1996 c1989.