Brief Thoughts on Revelation 7-22

Revelation 7‑22  •  16 min. read  •  grade level: 7
BUT special things, a scene of special dealings and judgment, were first to come in, yet part of the general history, i.e., not the beasts of chap. 13. But before this new scene is opened, the perfect remnant of Israel is sealed. The angel came from—was connected with the dawn of the new day upon the earth. I cannot think that “before the throne and before the Lamb” is physical locality, but moral. The angels do not stand round the white-robed multitude. I apprehend they are the delivered saints on the earth, who are perfectly secured and sheltered forever God dwells among them, His tabernacle is over them. I do not say they are seen on earth, for I do not think so, any more than the woman in 12: 1; yet her history is on earth, but in both cases in the purpose and mind of God. God views them thus, and their place is moral. They are never κυκλῳ θρονου, which is remarkable; nor are they seated as the elders; nor do they give motives for praise as they do. Their salvation is of and from the throne, before which they stand. They have known God and the Lamb only there. There is, however, I apprehend, victory. They have come out of the great tribulation. They are not those born in the peace of the millennium. So that they have a place before the throne, as then set, and serve him inside, and with a knowledge not possessed by merely millennial blessing. There is no temple in the heavenly Jerusalem. It is not the Son of David or of Man, who feeds them, but the Lamb on the throne, and they are before God on the throne. They have an inner place and better knowledge than the millennium. The elders can explain for them—are interested, so to speak, in them—though they are not in their place. There is a connection with Christ, to the elders' minds, which themselves do not fully understand, something as if they said, “When saw we thee?” Compare xiv. for a somewhat analogous class, though there we are not in the general history. They have a heavenly connection, though they are not in heaven.
Chap. 8. I suppose to be general judgments on the Roman Empire. In 9, we begin more special dealings of God: the first woe trumpet, on the rebellious part of Israel; then an inroad of eastern cavalry—characterized nations, but in the Roman empire. (See for the Roman empire being characterized by a third part, chap. 12: 3, 4.)
But men do not repent. Then before the third woe, a more special and peculiar subject is parenthetically introduced. From the eight, the ministrations, as noticed long ago, are angelic in character; previously from 5, the actings of the Lamb: I suppose the latter connected with time throne in heaven, the former with administration towards the earth, before the Lamb takes his title as King of kings and Lord of lords. As such we again find the Lamb. This, if just, is a help to the interpretation and moral placing of these two parts. Hence, we have yet a step lower down, and John takes the book from the angel (Christ.), not the Lamb from Him that sits on the throne. This is no sealed book of counsels and universal ways towards Gentiles, but the open dealings of God with Israel and the earth again, not providential, but in already revealed circumstances, God's known ways on earth. We are here, then, (11.) on direct Jewish ground; the inner remnant are owned, the general outer body given up to be profaned by Gentiles. It is not, I judge, locally, though speaking of Jews and Jerusalem, but morally, that the distinction is made. It is trodden under foot forty-two months. Some have put the 1260 days of verse 3, after this.
Now, though I admit the possibility of recurring to a previous dealing of God, it seems to me forced to attempt it here with και δωσω. This is important in another point of view; because, in this case, there is only one half week here, as in Matt. 24.; for the city's being given up to be trodden down forty-two months, and 1260 days following after, in which it still is, does not well hang together. It is not sufficient, I think, to say: the first period was characterized by this, without testimony, and the last half-week by testimony, not by this, because forty-two months is an exclusive measure of time. If so, as in Matt. 24., we are in general time up to the last half-week—no commencement here, but the conclusion marked. Then I hardly think, if the forty-two months came after the 1260 days, the beginning of treading down by the Gentiles could be celebrated as the coming of the worldly kingdom of Christ. The witness, however, goes further than the Jews; it maintains (as must be in them) the claims of God over the earth—His ruling title there.
We have worshippers in an earthly way, and witnesses or prophets. They are like Moses and Elias in testimony—in the midst of a captive people and an apostate people. They act in power like them, shutting heaven, as Elias, and turning waters into blood, as Moses, over heaven, the waters, and the earth, but in view of the earth. But they are only witnesses (testifying what is fulfilled in Zechariah.) The power of evil, the beast from the abyss, overcomes and kills them (properly it is the great street of the city); but they go to heaven, and judgment strikes the city; names of men fall; the remnant own the God of heaven, not of the earth—the new testimony.
Note, there is a completing the testimony; till then they are safe. They of the nations kept their bodies—ready to go up. This closes the second woe, The time is thus placed; and this seems to me to conclude a second half-week, because the forty-two months must be within the second woe; and if the third woe gives the last half-week, we have three half weeks—two closed by the end of the second woe, and one forming the third. It can hardly be said that ver. 2 is not within the closing of the second woe.
Note here, “the kingdom of our Lord.” It explains the reign forever. It is the establishment of God's government in contrast with man's misrule. So verse 16, we have ενωπιον. This partly shows its moral force, for they were κυκλοθεν. We have the elders in their own distinctive place again as intelligent worshippers, not the living creatures. (See 19: 4.) They only give an amen to the voices in heaven. Both are there, only elders, as we have remarked, first. They are noted hem, too, as silting before God, on their thrones. But the setting up the governmental power of God draws them to prostrate worship, as the celebration of creative glory had done in chap. 4. The whole scene is judging time quick and the dead, at His appearing and His kingdom, and destroying them that corrupt and destroy time earth. It. is thus the whole scene of judgment of the kingdom—not the destruction of the We now come to the direct and complete development of the parenthetical matter of 10, 11. We get the counsels and thoughts of God, not the history of His ways and man's conduct, but His view of what He was bringing about, and the formal design of Satan to oppose it. This is connected with His covenant with Israel. The ark of His covenant was seen in His temple, which was opened in heaven. He was going to act openly on the earth in connection with the covenant with Israel, and first we have the heavenly aspect of it all before the history. That is to say, Jerusalem or Israel viewed according to God's sure counsel, clothed with supreme authority, all legal ordinances under her feet, crowned with perfect administrative subordinate authority. Of her the Man child that was to govern all was to be born (i.e. Christ and the Church in Him). Opposed to this, is Satan's power in the Empire of Rome. This empire is looked at, however, not historically, but as the power of Satan. But the Child was not yet set up in power, but caught up to God's throne—bidden there. The woman's (Israel's) place is in the wilderness, driven out in desolation, but kept of God for 1260 days.
Next, we begin our history from heaven downwards. The dragon is cast out thence, but into this earth—he becomes a mere earthly power. The heavens are set free, the accuser gone, and those who suffered, in connection with his and their place, are then freed from all his efforts. He then begins to attack the woman; (now seen historically on earth;) she flees from him three and a half years into the desert, is saved from his pursuit, and he turns to persecute the godly of her seed. Here I certainly think we have still only one half-week. The woe on the earth, on the heavens being set free, is not, I judge, the coming of the worldly kingdom. Divine power was set up in heaven, to the exclusion of the accuser, and in favor of the heavenly people. But the earthly kingdom of the dragon came, not the judgment and worldly kingdom of Christ.
In 13, we get the earthly agent of Satan, the Roman. Empire; but not as a direct subject in its heathen character, but in its blasphemous one: still, it is viewed as being the last of the four empires that came out of the sea, but with ten horns and seven heads, and embracing characteristically the other three. The slain head had been slain, and continued ώς εςφαγμενην, but had been healed. This is part of his character, showing previous existence and history of a beast who now rises; to whom the dragon gives his authority. But the world would be infidel in it, and take up, independent of Christianity, the admiration of that power which would have destroyed Christ in its imperial character. Blasphemy is the new character of the beast, and he continues in this character, forty-two mouths—half a week, not a whole one. Ηe blasphemes God, and in the shape of His name, dwelling-place, and the dwellers in heaven. This is characteristic. The Church, as a heavenly thing, could not be endured. But it intimates that, in the close, historically, the Church is already caught up. He can only blaspheme them. But He makes war with the saints on earth, i.e., who are not dwellers in heaven. The dwellers on earth worship him, save the elect remnant. I apprehend this latter is more universal in character; while the saints he overcomes are active in witness, more or less, and answer to the saints of the high places (Dan. 7.) whom he wears out. Though more generally expressed here, they are the understanding ones of Dan. 11; not the Church, but not merely faithful, but aware of God's title and ways, as the Most High, and their testimony obnoxious to the beast. Hence they are slain and go up—though they do not dwell there. The changing times and laws is the Jewish part, and not brought in here; but the period is the same. And the two former parts of Dan. 7:2525And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. (Daniel 7:25), are found here. (Read “written from the foundation of the world.") As yet, God not being come in in judgment, submission, not actual resistance, is the patient path of faith. He will bring judgment on the persecutor. The rest of the chapter and chapter 14. do not offer, I think, much difficulty. We have active Satanic agency, bearing the form of Messiah's power, and ministering to the first beast's throne and blasphemous claims. Chap. 14. is the work of God in this time:—the perfect remnant of Jewish sufferers preserved under the beast's reign; the gospel of the kingdom and coming judgment before that judgment is executed; the fall of Babylon; the warning as to the beast, and the lot of those who worshipped him; the judgment, of the earth, sparing many—and of the vine, the religious corporate character of evil connected with the apostasy of Israel and antichrist, sparing none. It is the utter destruction of apostate religiousness in the earth—the vine of the earth. The judgment of the beast as such is not here. I apprehend the beginning of 15. is anticipative, as the judgments are made manifest. But they are what follows. (Ver. 5) it is the ναος, holy place. Tabernacle of testimony is the word used by the LΧΧ. for the tabernacle of the congregation. So Stephen in Acts. What follows is the inauguration of it (like Ex. 40:3434Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34), and 1 Kings or 2 Chronicles But here it is the smoke of glory and power, wrath being to be executed as from it. Still God takes His place—though not Himself—by His presence. This and 16. come in before 14: 8. Chaps. 12.—14. have no date till Satan is cast down, and the last half-week. That casting down changes the whole character of the working of evil. Note, these last chapters are testimony or conflict, and the ways of God when He does not execute judgment, though ending in the Son of man's doing so. Evil has the upper hand as far as man can see. Deliverances, then, are by special or providential interventions. The ark of His covenant was then securing through the power of evil; but not judging. Chaps. 15: 16. are the judgment and wrath of God—not yet the Lamb. And they act not on the power of Satan as an adversary, but on men and the world and what is worldly, as such, according to responsibility to God. You get God's doings in 14. in the period; and the closing judgment by Him to whom definite judgment is committed. God's ways in his government of the world are only noticed in recital. (Ver. 8.)
In chap. 12.—14. the people are secured; and the world, till the Son of man comes, has its way. The ark of the covenant is seen, ordered and sure, but not made to grow. The men of Belial are taken at the end. Chap. 15. 16. there is no ark of the covenant, but the house filled with smoke, so that none can enter; but it is glory and power active in wrath. In both we have to do with relationship with Israel, and the world; only as yet from heaven, not from Jerusalem on earth. In the first, directly with the Jews—their whole state is unfolded; in the last, the judgment on the proud of the earth, who leave no place for them, have displaced them, and in wickedness taken their place. The earth and everything in it is providentially judged. I have nothing particularly now to remark on chap. 18., only the time is drawing on close, ηγγικε. In chap. 18. I apprehend the fall is before the violent throwing down, but immediately preparatory to it, a total degradation of its state—a final call to God's people to come out of her, to avoid her sins and imminent plagues. I apprehend there will be some strange union under secular influence, connected with the false Messiah, (see Rev. 13. and 2 Thess. 2. for Went and association too,) between idolatrous Romanism and idolatrous Judaism. The Jews only, I apprehend, are His people here. The ark of the covenant has appeared, but it would have a moral application whenever Babylon was spiritually discerned, as even now are there many antichrists. She was now in her last stage: her sins had reached unto heaven and God had remembered her iniquities. So Jer. 9, where also her fall precedes her being taken. The last verse shows the religious character, answering to Jerusalem in the Lord's time. She has taken in a worse way Jerusalem's place.
In chap. 19. it is, first, heavenly, not Church, worship; i.e., not of intelligence of divine ways, but celebration when divine judgments are made manifest. It follows chap. xv. Hence it is entirely God's judgments. The Lamb is not yet spoken of. The twenty-four elders and four living creatures only add their amen, worship, and hallelujah. Here it is a universal summons to praise of every one that fears God, for He reigns as Jehovah Elohim Shaddai. This must be connected with xi. 17, mid helps to a date, and Psa. 95-98 This introduces the marriage of the Lamb (His wife being already made ready). This closes thus far the divine communication. It is on the assertion of the truth of them here, and 22: 6, on the reigning of the saints, that John was going to worship, Read, “the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus;” i.e., this book was the same service and had the same object as John's own, who was in Patmos for it. These were all in heaven. Now heaven is opened not on Jesus—not to the spiritual man—but for Jesus who, with the name taken to Laodicea, (only there in witness,) comes to judge and make war. He was characterized by the garment dipped in blood. He is the Word of God. The 15th verse is not solely or properly applicable to the destruction of the beast and false prophet (though they may come under it as first opposing the other.) It is the place Christ is taking in the world to introduce His kingdom. The beast and the false prophet and their armies gather themselves together to oppose this. They are therefore first met, themselves cast into the lake of fire, and their armies become the mystical supper of the great God, for the fowls of the air slain—by the judicial authority of Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords. The dragon was then laid hold on and bound for a thousand years in the abyss—then to be loosed for a little season. I have nothing new to add here, save that, if the thought of there being only one half week be just, the slain for the testimony of Jesus are a general class, and those who do not worship the beast belong to the half week. Indeed this makes it simpler. In 21: 1-8, there is, remark, no dispensational name. In the description of the city, which follows, we have the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. It is a dispensational state.