Fragment on Revelation 6 and 7

Revelation 6‑7  •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 7
The ways of God with the church and with the world are always intended to have a practical application to our own individual souls. The expectation of the coming of the Lord changes the moral bearing of everything. There may be many a detail we are incompetent to explain, but we get from God a positive revelation which gives another aspect to all else. " The wise shall understand." Knowledge is not given for the sake of mere increase, but to " profit withal." There are general principles which set the church right on many things. If I have been working for the conversion of the world through the spread of the gospel, what a different thought is presented in the three unclean spirits, like frogs, gathering the whole world together to fight against God!
In teaching we never should say anything that we did not feel to be God's mind; and even then, of course, we might be mistaken in what we believed to be true. A great question has been raised as to the prophetic part of this book. Does it apply to the whole period of the church of God, from the beginning onward to the close; or does it give the character of God's dealings with the earth in the great crisis in which the church is not involved at all after the first chapters? I feel quite clear that it is not about the church, but about the world. The book is given to the church, but it does not in the strictly prophetic parts apply to the church. This part shows us the elders looking down from heaven, seeing things which are going to happen to others, not to themselves. It is a history of God's future dealings with the earth.
When Abraham was on the mountain, God came and told him what was going to happen on the plain, things in which he himself was not at all concerned. This thought is of great importance, because, with the thought of being in the judgments, no wonder we should be like the men spoken of in Luke 21, whose hearts fail for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth. " Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked," Psa. 91 When Abraham rose in the morning (blessed morning for us!) and saw the smoke of the cities going up, where was he? On the mountain, where he had stood before the Lord, and where the Lord had talked with him. Our place is not like Noah, floating on the waters while the judgments are abroad. For him it was a question of being moved with fear and preparing an ark to the saving of his house; but we are destined by grace to be as Enoch, after walking with God here, looking down from heaven on things below. He prophesied of the Lord coming " with ten thousand of his saints "; but his own portion was on high. There will be a remnant on earth saved as by fire through the judgments; but this is not the church. What a place this puts the heavenly saints into! What a character it gives to the Christian who should be ever expecting Christ! We are not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world; we are quickened and risen with Him. By-and-by we are to be caught up in our place as associated with Christ, before He visits the earth to make inquisition for the blood that has been shed from righteous Abel to the blood of Zacharias. What God is going to do upon the earth is not our happiest study, but it helps to keep our affections set on the right objects. The Christian can say to those who are busying themselves about the politics, the riches, the hopes, the improvements, of the world, See where your world is going to end! it is not my world at all. There may be a carnal seeking for detail in the study of this book, but to know these things from God solemnizes the heart, and puts the world into its proper background as a doomed system. God does communicate His purposes to us now, as He did of old, to Abraham.
In chapter 6 we have the course of the six seals. At the seventh trumpet the whole thing finishes; chap. 11:18. The scene in chapter to is parenthetical; it has this place given in the general history, but it is the last great scene, which is afterward more fully unfolded. It shows Christ's title to dominion and power. From chapter 11:19, to the end of chapter 14, we have a series of subjects. In chapter 12 is disclosed the secret agency, or the dramatis persona, as men say. The springs and source of all the evil, and the hidden cause of the final crisis are here explained. Chapter 13 gives the providential instrumentality under the instigation of Satan in the worldly and the religious powers. Chapter 14 is God's dealing in judgment with respect to all these, and in testimony, with the results also. Chapter 15 is another scene altogether. The sea of glass mingled with fire shows us the martyrdom of the faithful remnant. With this is connected chapters 16 in which the vials, which are God's wrath, are filled up and poured out. Then we have in chapter 17 and 18, Babylon connected with the beast, and her judgment. Above, we see in chapter 19 the marriage of the Lamb, and then the Lamb coming to execute His judgment, preparatory to the closing scene of blessing on the earth during the millennium, followed by the eternal state.
To get the moral influence and right understanding of these things, it is most important to remember that the church is a heavenly body connected with the Lamb in heaven. I believe there has been, in a certain measure, a lengthened accomplishment of the opening of the seals. This is a general principle in scripture. Thus our Lord could say, " If ye will believe it, this was Elias which was for to come." John said, " even now are there many antichrists," but this was in no wise the fulfillment of all that was true about the Antichrist. It was not yet the person, but it was evil and error which had the moral stamp of him who was coming. Antichrist is the great characteristic of the " last times," growing out of the corruption of the last good thing that God brought in before judgment. When the heavenly thing that God sent into the world, was, as a dispensation, spoiled, Antichrist entered. " He is the Antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son "; he also denies that Jesus is the Christ. It is the activity of the false spirit, instead of the true. Could anything more be revealed than the Father and the Son? The presence of many antichrists was not the accomplishment of the coming of Antichrist, but it was and is a state which answers in spirit and character to it. When such a state is tried to be proved to be the full accomplishment (as in the historical scheme), Christ is not put in His right place in connection with it all. But, from this book doubtless, we may discern the elements of all that evil which will hereafter be ripened-the principles now, but not the accomplishment till by-and-by. The spirit of Babylon is in Popery: but Popery exclusively is not Babylon. We go morally wrong as to what God is about, if we do not keep in view the great end which He is unfolding in the Revelation, namely, the introduction of Christ into the world as the " First-begotten," and this, too, as the " Faithful Witness," after the failure of the church to be the true witness.
The great thing is to know, by God's teaching, what God is occupied with. Suppose David had gone and put the ark into the tabernacle after Ichabod had been written upon it, it would not have been piety, however it might have been thought so; to do so, would have been like going back and saying, " It is not Ichabod." God was going to supplant the tabernacle and set up the temple. The ark had been carried into captivity, and God had let it go. How could it have gone into captivity without Him? as David says, " He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, and delivered, his strength into captivity, his glory into the enemies' hand " (Psa. 78:60, 6160So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men; 61And delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand. (Psalm 78:60‑61)), and this because He had given up the people. This is all simple to him who understands. " The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those that are revealed belong to us." If a person is not spiritual, he cannot understand: he has no moral or spiritual power to discern God's mind. But where there is spiritual discernment, things get simple and clear as daylight. " The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant." Where there is the fear of the Lord, there will be the understanding of His word and mind. But the word of God will not be simple without subjection to Him.
We will now turn to the progress of the evil as it will be in the latter day. The first thing is the general providential coming in of trouble and sorrow. Symbols are a regular language, conveying certain universal ideas. It is important we should be clear as to the abstract principle. The sun, for instance, used in scripture continually, as a symbol means supreme power. It is said, " the sun of righteousness shall arise," etc.; but it may not be always used for Christ. Sometimes it may be used of God's enemy; Ezek. 32:77And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. (Ezekiel 32:7). It simply means the ruler of a given system. Trees, thus employed, signify the greatest in a kingdom as distinguished from the grass. The horse denotes imperial power in aggressive exercise; and a white horse is that power victorious. Thus victorious, subjugating power, whether of Christ, or Antichrist, etc., might be represented as a white horse. Other features enter and decide who is meant.
In chapter 6: 2, the rider on the white horse goes forth conquering and to conquer. Then war comes on (v. 4). Then comes a " black horse ": here we see anxiety as to provisions. The color denotes mourning. Verse 8, is the,, pale horse." It is distress among nations, closing in with God's accumulating judgments, famine, etc.-what He calls His " four sore judgments " in Ezekiel. Then the fifth seal opens to us what has been going on in the earth. It is a very definite scene. We see the souls of those who had been slain like victims for God; therefore they are under the altar of burnt-offering. Mark what they say, for this shows who they are: they cry for vengeance. They who have been killed for God at the time meant are in the spirit of retribution. They have not the blessed hope of being taken up to glory, but they cry, " How long dost thou not avenge our blood, on them that dwell on the earth? " They had been mixed up with the dwellers upon earth; they have suffered from them, and it is upon these they cry for judgment. It is a blessed thing to see divine deliverance from the power of evil on the earth. In Psa. 94 we see the same thing, in a lower measure, but the same spirit. " O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, show thyself.... Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee? " God was going to set up the throne at Jerusalem, and these godly ones caught the tone of the coming day. We do not say, " How long shall the wicked triumph? " (though we anticipate in spirit the Lord's setting aside of evil) but, How long before Thou takest us to Thyself? How long before Thou takest Thy bride to be with Thee in heaven? The difference is very great, and so are the practical results in communion and ways. And mark another thing, They are told that they must wait. They find their place, and the white robe is given them, but they have to wait until others are killed, and the number fulfilled (that is, those who would not worship the beast, chapter 15). They have thus a partial answer, but not a full one yet. The sentence of judgment is not executed yet, because iniquity is not filled up to the uttermost. They are getting the silent fruit of righteousness and their place above, but not judgment, because there is a distinct epoch to come in before. In chapter 20: 4, the other class is completed, and then there can be judgment to the uttermost.
As to verses 12, etc., this is not the appearing of the Lord, which is much more terrible, as we see in Rev. 1:77Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. (Revelation 1:7); ch. 19: 18. He will come like lightning, and His presence thus will be worse than all the earthquakes that ever were. He will come to tread His enemies Himself; whereas verse 12 described one of a series of providential events which awakens the uneasy dread of that day. They are panic-struck. Everything that seemed steady and stable is moved and overturned; and this not merely among the crowd. The " stars of heaven " here are the powers of the world, the symbols of subordinate governments. The kings of the earth and the great men hide themselves from the face of Him, that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. But it is not the Lord who tells them He is coming; their consciences utter this in their terror. Here is a plain proof that the seventh seal is not yet opened; the wrath of God not filled up. But we get the close of God's providential dealings with the earth. Then follows the public, open history of the Roman imperial world, that would be set up. Last of all, the final blasphemy of the beast against God must be dealt with in judgment.
Before the judgment comes out, the Lord shows His saints all cared for. In the first eight verses of chapter 7 we see the sealing of the elect 144,000 of Israel (12 being a mystic number). In verse 9, onwards, we see the countless company out of every nation under heaven. These are distinct from the elders who have intelligence. One of the elders says, " these are they which come out of the great tribulation." The church always has intelligence. " We have the mind of Christ." What are the blessings of this remnant? Simply relief. They have neither joy nor intelligence like the elders. It would be a great comfort to have rest in this way, but that is all. They have been through tribulation, and they shall now have no more of it; but we do not find them filled with the Spirit, worshipping in the fullness of joy: " Thou art worthy," etc. By-and-by will be fulfilled in the crisis of the world the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be delivered out of it. So will these Gentiles also. They cry, " Salvation to our God which sitteth on the throne and unto the Lamb." This is to me a proof that it is not the church here speaking, for there is nothing of the Father. The place and character given to their salvation is that it is from God upon the throne. It is real salvation, of course, but of a different character. It is not they who go in with Christ into the Father's house, or are coming with Christ to the judgment. It is the throne of judgment, and God has delivered them from the great tribulation: " Therefore are they before the throne of God," and " God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." In the gospel we may say God is doing all this for us now; He wipes away all tears from their eyes, and gives rest to our hearts now. Tears we may have for others, but not for ourselves. The saints are going in triumph to heaven; they even sit with Christ in the heavenly places, while here. They have got nearer to God in a different revelation from this. They have lived near Christ-members of His body; in an atmosphere which this language will not suit.
How much our hearts should seek while seeing God's government and care, to get into the peaceful, happy consciousness of the place that Christ has given us; that our souls may live in the enjoyment of our common portion in Christ. It is not vengeance we look for, or such deliverance as this, but Himself. The soul, knowing this, has a quiet, happy, peaceful sphere, separated from all around. It does not want the world, nor the things of the world. It can say, " I know whom I have believed." " To depart and be with Christ is far better," not for a term to our sorrow, but that the very radiance of Christ may shine in full power into the soul. Stephen, looking up, saw heaven opened, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. It is a terrible world we are passing through: vanity that attracts the flesh, and misery that rakes the heart. But in Christ we get that which makes the vanity tinsel. When Jesus walked through the world He saw nothing but trouble and misery in it, while He came to bring in blessing: " He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Alas! for the man who is not this, but finds pleasure in vanity, and that which is contrary to Christ. It is not with ill-will, not with scorn, that the saint looks at this poor world, but his heart is weaned from it, and he does not want it. A heart that is weaned from the world can pity what is great in it, if Christ is not known, and can comfort where there is sorrow, because he can speak of Christ as the remedy who came to pour oil and wine into the rent sin has made: he can pity what is great, because it is not Christ, and he can comfort what is sorrowful because it is Christ. Let us seek to get through this world in His spirit and mind, carrying Him with us.