Revelation 1‑22  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 9
When we look a little at the different agents of evil and of delusions exhibited in the Book of Revelation, we wonder how any soul will escape. And then, when we remember that though these agents have not yet been manifested, yet that the energies which are to animate and use them are already abroad and in action, and all working now in mystery if not in revealed forms, we stand amazed at the sight we thus get of the conflict in which we are engaged.
There will be “the dragon” and his “great wrath” —the “beast” and his “false prophet” —the “frogs” — “Babylon” — “the kings of the earth” —and “the whole world wondering after the beast.”
What tremendous agents in the work of delusion, darkness, and blood! What strong temptations and what appalling difficulties will then beset the path of the wayfaring saints! Who will stand? Who will find safe conduct through this array of hindrances? Who will discover the path of life and light amid all this thickening and overwhelming darkness?
And yet with each feature of this terrible scene, with each member of this great system of subtlety and strength, in the mystery or spirit of it, we have now to do; though of course some part of it may be more in real activity than others. But it is our duty still and always, to recognize the dragon and his wrath, the beast and the frogs, Babylon, the king of the earth, and the world deluded into infidel or idolatrous wonder and worship—to recognize each and all of these in the mystery, or in the hidden energy, of their working.
The field of conflict thus spread out is serious indeed. But, as this same book unfolds to us, we have at the same time to recognize the better region, that is, the heavenly, where we get other objects altogether, and all, I may say, for us.
The prophet of God in Patmos passes, in vision, with great ease and rapidity from earth to heaven, and from heaven to earth. The two regions are alternately before him, and he sees the action in each. But the passage is made with ease and with speed.
In chapters 4, 5., he is in sight of heaven. So, at the opening of the seals in chapter 6, passing however at once to see the results of those opened scenes on earth: so again in chapter 8 we find him in vision of both the regions. And, in like manner, I may say, throughout. He hears the music and the conferences in heaven, the rapture and the hopes there; and then again he is amid the infidel pride, the confusion, and all the workings of apostate principles, which are giving character to the scene on earth. He passes from the exulting marriage feast in heaven to the terrible judgment of the Rider on the white horse on all the confederated iniquity of the earth.
We see something of this in the opening of Job. There we are, in vision, both in heaven and on earth, as in the twinkling of an eye.
Is it not the business of the soul thus to act still? There are two regions—that of faith and that of sight: and the soul should pass rapidly and frequently into the region of faith. Had Job thus visited heaven, and heard and seen the action there, he would have been ready for the trials and sorrows which awaited him on earth.
Little one knows of it indeed, but the soul covets the power to follow John in the Revelation, passing, as we see, easily and speedily from earth to heaven and back again, and always prepared, I may say, without amazement, for the shifting scenery.
But beside this, for the encouragement of our hearts, I observe two victories achieved in the progress of this book—one over the accuser (chap. 12:11), and another over the beast (chap. 15:2).
The accuser was defeated by a certain army of martyrs, and the weapons of their victorious struggle are hung up before us; for we are told they conquered by “the blood of the Lamb,” by “the word of their testimony,” and by “their not loving their lives to the death.” These had been their armor in conflict with the accuser.
If he went up, as in Job’s case, to the presence of God with charges against them, they met him there with “the blood of the Lamb.” They pleaded the sacrifice of God’s own Lamb according to God’s own testimony respecting it. And to the charge that “skin for skin, all that a man has will he give for his life,” they rendered up their lives to death in answer.
Here was their victory, and such and such the weapons which accomplished it. Heaven could employ itself in celebrating this victory. Was Jesus standing when Stephen was martyred? Easy then for heaven to be engaged in rehearsing with joy these conquests of this martyr-band.
But again, we have another victory celebrated in chapter 15. It had been obtained over the beast, as the other had been gained over the accuser.
The conquerors here are like Israel on the Red Sea in Ex. 15 And just as in that song of Israel, so here in this song of triumph, we learn the character of the previous truth, and how it was the conquerors conquered.
Moses and the congregation rehearse the fact that a victory had been won. But more than that, they rehearse how it had been won. They sing of the horse and his rider being thrown into the sea, of the Lord, as a man of war, casting His enemies into the mighty waters, of the depths covering the foe. And they let it be known that Israel themselves had not fought, but that the Lord had made the battle all His own.
Thus the style of the victory, its instrument and strength, is published in this song, as well as the fact of victory. And I judge in like manner so does the song in Rev. 15
All the world had wondered after the beast, and their wonder led to worship—or it was itself worship. (Chap. xiii.) His power appeared to be so great, his history so marvelous, that all the world wondered and worshipped, except (as I may say) this conquering band who paid their lives as the price of their faith in God and fidelity to Jesus.
But the song, as I have said, utters, as I judge, the weapons they had used in that day of battle. And they were these. These martyrs were admiring and worshipping “the Lord God Almighty,” while the world around them were admiring and worshipping the beast. The world was wondering at the greatness of the beast and the marvelousness of his history; but they were standing in the holy adoring admiration of the Lord and the marvelousness of His works. (See Rev. 15:3) And while all beside were fearing the beast who could and would kill their bodies, they lived in the fear of God only, giving heed to the angel’s voice which had spoken of His coming judgment. (See chap. 14:7; 15: 4.)
Thus this fine but short song tells of the manner of the victory, or the weapons which had accomplished it, as that song of Israel at the Red Sea had done before.
But further. I might extend this thought as to victories in the Book of Revelation, and say, generally, that from beginning to end it is the book of victories.
It contemplates corruption or apostacy—evil in the Church and in the larger scene outside; or first, among the candlesticks, and then in the earth or world.
But corruption or apostacy occasions struggle or conflict on the part of saints; and accordingly, the saints in this book are addressed or contemplated as conquerors; such as have been in conflict because of corruption and have come off in victory.
They are formally regarded in this character in this book. Thus it is as conquerors they are addressed by the Spirit in each of the letters to the churches. “He that overcometh” is the language in each of them. Because in each church there is contemplated a struggle or conflict by reason either of corruption within, or danger and enmity without. (Chap. 2, 3)
And I suggest that the crowns of chapter 15 are more formally the crowns of victors than of kings (see chap. 3:11), as though we saw the “overcomers” of the previous chapter enthroned in chapter iv.
So in the very next scene (chap. 5) the Lord Jesus is recognized as a Conqueror. In that character He takes the book. The word “prevailed” is the common word for “overcome.” (See 5:5, Gr., and foot note.) Then, in the progress of the book, we see two victories celebrated in heaven, one obtained over the accuser (chap. 12), and another over the beast (chap. xv.), as I have before noticed. Then, on the earth, we see victory achieved, victory over the closing concentrated enmity and apostate strength and pride of the whole world. (Chap. 17:14, or 19:11-21.)
And further still, for I ask, Is not the first resurrection contemplated as a resurrection of conquerors? Is it not a reign of conquerors which we see in chapter 20:4?
And so forever for the inheritance of all things, after this is in the bands of conquerors. (Chap. 21:7.)
Can I ask my own soul what measure or character of victory marks my course? Can I inquire of myself, Do I know what conflict is because of corruption, and what the victory of separation from it?
The more we are conquerors, the more are we morally fit to be readers of the Book of Revelation. John, I may say, was a conqueror in the first chapter, for he was a martyr or confessor in the Isle of Patmos, “a brother and a companion in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ,” and in that character he gets the Revelation communicated to him. And I suggest again that it comes to him from a Conqueror, because it comes to him from “Jesus Christ” in the character (among others) of “the faithful Witness,” the character in which He overcame the world. (See 1 Tim. 6:13; see also John 16:33; Rev. 3:21.)
Indeed the four leading ideas in the book seem to be corruption, conflict, victory, and kingdom, the judgment of God being in exercise throughout.
The book assumes so to speak, that those who have tasted the grace of the Savior should stand in the rejection of the Savior. This may give a character to the book which will be somewhat strong for our timid hearts; but it is fitting that the volume of God should close with such a chapter, if I may so call it. Because the blessing of the creature was not the only business in creation, neither is it in redemption. His own glory was proposed as well as His creatures’ good. And it is His glory to judge a reprobate, unrepentant world; and His people glorify Him by taking part with Him in that judgment; and they judge it now in weakness by gainsaying the course of it even at the hazard of goods, liberties, and lives, as they will by and by judge it in power, when seated on their thrones in the regeneration.
The volume then closes as it began, for His own glory, of course in a different way (i.e., in the judgment of all the apostate principles of the world in their ripened condition). And the saints are rightly expected to be on His side in that action. This is their place and character in this book. The present is an age of easy profession, and the martyr strength and devotedness which are found in this book is not the common element. O for faith and love to reach it!—to be on the side of a rejected Jesus against the world!
But more than this: the book contemplates the Saints as heirs as well as conquerors. The expectation and the desire of getting the earth into possession and under dominion, occupy the mind of Christ and of the saints throughout.
In the opening of the prophetic part in chapter 4, we see the rainbow, the sign of the earth’s serenity, round the throne in heaven. And the One who sits on the throne is clothed in His glory as creator, for whose pleasure all things were created. We are, thus, in spirit, in Gen. 1
In chapter 5 the book of the inheritance of the earth passes into the hand of the Lamb and all rejoice. We are, thus, in spirit in Gen. 2, where the Lord God Himself, and all the creatures owned the dominion of Adam, the Lord God by conferring it, the creatures by submitting to it.
Judgments under the seals and under the trumpets, the necessary precursors of the kingdom, then take their course; and in chapter 10 the Lord Jesus, as the mighty angel, triumphs in the now approaching moment of inheritance and dominion over earth and sea; and, in chapter 11, the saints in heaven do the same.
The voice heard in heaven in chapter 12, and the song of the victor-harpers in chapter 15, alike utter joy over the prospect of the kingdom. “Now is come the kingdom of our God and the power of His Christ,” says the voice in heaven. “All nations shall come and worship before thee,” the harpers sing.
Then in chapter 19 the joy in heaven is this, that she that corrupted the earth has been judged; and the voice there (as of many waters and mighty thunderings) utters “Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” And the action which makes the earth the Lord’s property takes place.
In chapter 20, the first resurrection is spoken of as being for the very purpose of bringing in or manifesting the kingdom. Speaking of the risen ones, the prophet says, “they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”
And how does the book close? Not with a description of the Church in the hidden places of heaven, as the Father’s house, but with a sight of the Church in the manifested heavens, the place of power or government, up to the light of which the kings will bring their glory and honor, and forth from which will go the waters of the river and the leaves of the tree for the healing of the nations. And this is such a view of the heavenly places as suits the earth in the days of the kingdom; and of the servants of God and of the Lamb, who are there, it is said at the close, “and they shall reign forever and ever.”