Sketch on Revelation: Part 2

Revelation  •  17 min. read  •  grade level: 8
(Concluded from page 111.)
SOMETHING, though much need not, is to be said, and it is hoped for blessing, as to the fourth and fifth chapters that follow. They are the introduction of the Book of the Apocalypse as the judgments that follow on the rejection of the testimony of the church by the Lord. They are all however addressed to the churches:, an abundant evidence of their importance to all those that confess Christ upon the earth; and we may say that this third part shows at once what, had been the growing defect of the churches; viz., growing insubjection to Christ the Lord and the Lord to come; for the sin of the world as here shown is to be overcome in the vengeance at last to be executed according to the will of the Father and Christ's reign to begin.
The churches spued out fall into the world and take their fate with the world and as the world. They are spued out as fitted to the state of the world, and subject to its fate, and reproved with its reproof. Those that have had ears to hear have known and followed that subjection to Christ and to the Holy Ghost that God required, whatever the form of evil of the time or mixture of times was, and are saved. I am sure this insubjection to the Lord is the great defect of modern religion. It is not accounted of, but God has His own amidst it all, and knows them, and great and peculiar blessedness it is to be enabled to enter into the counsels of God, and to apprehend what place the saints have as to the glory and rights of the Son.
The apostle is called from the scene on earth to what is preparing in heaven.
The actors in the scene in the first of these chapters are, HE on the throne and they on thrones encircling the throne, and the seven Spirits before the throne, and the four living creatures in the midst of the throne, and there is the yet empty sea and the rainbow of promise to the earth. The living creatures and the four-and-twenty elders are only those that could exercise us by any difficulty. The living creatures in the midst of the throne (thus manifestly divine) I believe to be the expression of the attributes of God as manifested in all places and things. They are here with God and in the throne and about it. But they are to be found everywhere wherever God's action or the fruits of it are found. Their highest office was over the mercy seat. They had an office at the gate of the east of Eden; they had so in creation. They had a significant one, though only in part, in the curtain of the new temple. It is only the attributes of God in anything or in any place that are to the peraise of God or can justly fulfill the mind of God. How in perfect accordance they are found crying in the midst of the throne, Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty, that was, and is, and is to come—a cry that also in all places and in all relations is the claim of the character and majesty of God. And when all that is created praise God, they characteristically have but to say, Amen. Cherub is ordinarily given but as an appellative only. The nearest approach to the sense is something great and excellent. Nothing is great and excellent but what is of God. And they vary not day and night, for He is ever the same and must ever be so recognized, and Holy, Holy, Holy heard wherever found. All that is of Him must be to Him and holy.
In the next chapter, the Lamb is in the midst of the elders, and they with Him within the circle of the throne, and the seven Spirits which were before the throne are the eyes of spiritual guidance, (“ Thou shalt guide me with thine eye.") In this chapter we see them, but in attendance. All becomes ready for action in the fifth chapter.
As to the elders, while the living creatures cry, “Holy, holy, holy,” they say the praise of the Lamb. In fact, the song belongs, not to any, but in regard of redemption; and it is in the character of redeemed that the elders stand is in the next chapter. The clothing and the crowns and song of the elders mark them. The white garments are the righteousness of the saints. They have crowns—golden crowns. These crowns are theirs before the crown of righteousness is given, in the day of the Lord's glory, if this is the representation of actual and present state at this time.
To me, I own that the saints of the Old Testament would not come in here; but as the remnant will, they reign with Christ. Nor do I see how I can divide the elders; but the Lord can teach. I feel thus much—that likeness to Christ answers best the manner they are presented in. It seems to agree with the “better thing for us.” What is that? Is not the heavenly call of the saint in Christ? ("For thy pleasure—they are and were created” is old English for “because of thy will.")
The fourth chapter presents all. in its place and prepared—in attendance, so to speak.
Chapter v. Christ now comes forward. There is but one able to open the book that describes the destiny of the world, of which the iniquity is so near full but still borne with in grace—though fearfully afflicted yet sought to be reclaimed. Never let us forget grace, God's grace, and grace because of His grace. God never consents to evil in His mercy, or in not letting His anger go forth to destruction; we are apt to consent to evil when we do not avenge it. (It is always the feeling of the world that the saint gives evil its scope by suffering wrong.) For we are much truer to our passions than to God's holiness, and our kindnesses are mingled with the flesh.
To return—Christ, wondrous grace! took the world with its burden. He became heir, (the elders are coheirs,) having worked redemption; and in right of His having done so the Lamb, and the Lamb alone, is for this reason able to open the book. The Lamb, in the midst of the throne, and in the midst of the elders, (their place is changed,) opens the book of the world, now to be made known to the seven churches. It is in the hands of the Lamb; delivered to Him by Him that sitteth on the throne. He is as a lamb that had been slain in the midst of the throne—perfect power, as denoted by seven horns being now His, and perfect spiritual action. As to the prayers of the saints, they are odors, and they are in the bowls in the hands of the elders as incense. We see them in chapter viii. 3, 4, cast into the earth and the power of them, with the fire taken from the altar.1 The Lamb had not appeared in the former chapter. He now shares with Him that sitteth on the throne the adoration of all.2 To the former actors is added the great assembly; all is ready to carry on the vision.
All that can now be proposed to be done is in the way of arrangement. I find explanations so fully provided, and for the most part so just, that little that I am given to see can be added. In venturing a new aspect of arrangement of some parts, I do it in confidence, or I ought not to do it; and, as true, will have the power of persuasion that God may be pleased to give it. Nor need it be considered as destroying the suggestion of arrangement already offered, as far as such can stand with it, for it is exceptional here and there, and not more.
I gave once a short sketch of the Apocalypse in German, and found it unexpectedly in English. It was very short, and in deference, which I still hold in general, of a person deeply versed in the word of the Lord, avoided the twelfth chapter, because my sense of it was different; but being further persuaded of the truth of my view I leave it in the Lord's hands. It has taken large dimensions and an important place, for I find in this chapter a great key to the arrangement of the whole book.
I see the twelfth chapter neither belonging in its entirety to what goes before nor to what follows, but divided between the two, and closing so as to admit of what follow s after chapter xv.
As preliminary, however, to entering on this view, there is an assignment of the various expressions of time which it will be needful to set forth. It is not the key to the view here offered, but which, had it not accorded with it, would have shaken it, but for something not perceived.
The expressions of time are threefold—viz., a time and times and half a time, 1260 days, and forty-two months being the same extent of period, according to Jewish reckoning. It will be found that 1260 days are, in regard of the half week, previous to the great tribulation; and a time and times and half a time, refer to the Jewish position in the last tribulation, and the 42 months to the same period; but in respect of the great Gentile oppression. But the holy city being trodden under the foot of the Gentiles could not be less in this case than this power, and it is not used in application to anything else, and I trust this will be clearer as I proceed. The 1260 days, as the first half week, are so placed as to be alone capable of application to a more extended period of some kind, and so it has been justly applied, and variously true, and to a yet more extended thought of general time from Christ downwards, and which is the case in this twelfth chapter; but not excluding the more strict use of it, closing the first half week. The use of time and times and half a time by Daniel is decided in its character by the period he speaks of and those concerned. This period we find in this chapter. The grand conclusion of Daniel's prophecy being 1290 and 1335 days at the close exceed these periods, whereas his proper subject is, as in chap vii. of his prophecy where this period of a time and times, &c. occurs, for it relates to the fate of his people in particular.
I should, I think, safely say that there are three applications of the 1260 days; viz., the strict real days, or three and a half years, a period of 1260 years, and general time. It may be all three, or the first and last of three, in this chapter. Again, the period of 1260 days is applied to the period of the testimony of the witnesses, in strict application to the first half week, and their time of testimony is closed by the entrance of the Gentile powers, that is to endure forty and two months.3 It occurs again in its proper application in xiii. 5.
Looking then at this chapter thus, we find it beginning with Christ the Judge and Ruler of nations taken up to heaven. The Second period begins with Michael driving Satan out of heaven. The 10th, 11Th, and 12Th verses belong to the song in heaven and date before the time. The 11Th verse is distinctly, as a matter passed. Satan is now at the commencement of this period cast from heaven, and his work on the earth towards the woman begins and is to continue for the appointed time. It does not conclude with the deliverance of the whole with which the Apocalypse concludes, but leaves this to the actual overthrowing of the resistance described at the end of the book. It leaves Satan engaged in pursuit of the ten tribes against whom save the remnant, he prevails. The remnant come up to the land; they are late enough to know what is before them in a Savior.
It is no doubt understood by the reader that the time, and tune, and half a time, and the forty-two months apply to an identical period, though each with a peculiar application, and that these two periods relate to the last half week. The 1260 days belong always to the prior half week, and therefore capable of extension, and embrace Christianity and the history of the world as Christendom as well.
We have now to go back to the part of the book belonging to the first half of the twelfth chapter in strict time.
The view I have, as far as I can say that I have received, is that the close (not the very last portion) of the visions of the chapters vii. onwards introduce the time subsequent to chapter xii. and also develop the result in anticipation. The sixth seal I would look to be that breaking up of nations which will make them constitute the “sea” out of which the beast is to arise. In this chapter God in His never-failing grace manifests two bodies perfectly preserved, one for earth, the other for heaven, during the great tribulation that is to follow. This intervenes, and then the seventh seal and seventh trumpet end the mystery of God. The trumpets I regard as far more Jewish, if not essentially so, than the seals. There are many marks of this. Trumpets were the Jewish instrument of awakening the people, under the law. The feast of trumpets relates to this. The meaning of the temple in chapter xi., which is in fact the sixth trumpet, and the vision of the new economy in the smite chapter, ready to be manifested at the end, all tend to show that this was more specially dedicated to this portion of the dealings of God and coming in with the close of Him. All that relates to the earth moves round this earthly center of God's purposes. The whole appointed to the Lamb. The sixth trumpet brings on in the east the same whirlwind of disasters answering to the sixth seal elsewhere. The contents of chapter x. do not enter into the question of arrangement. It marks, however, by the declaration of the mystery of God being finished, that it corresponds to the same place in the seals. Of chapter xi. enough has been said.
We now come to the second part of the Apocalypse—the separation of the two parts being bridged across by chap. xii. This latter portion is given wholly to the forty and two months, till judgment brings in Christ the Lord, with the marriage of the Lamb and the bride, who is to share the honors of the inheritance with Him.
The first chapter of this portion sets out with the period of forty-two months. and we find them in chap. xiii, As the sum, the first thing presented to us is the imperial head now having received Satan's power and throne and great authority, and to work forty and two months.
The beast arose out of the sea. The second beast found in this chapter arises out of the earth. The sense of both is familiar to most. Satan is the rival of God. Satan has his man, the blasphemous head, wielding the power of the beast. God has His man, Christ. Satan's man is seen as reigning as the blasphemous head of the worldly empire, having ten horns with diadems, and seven heads, of which he was (as continued in an eight) the last. This empire bear irrefragably, the stamp of the Roman Empire. We have, set forth in vision in chap. xiv., the Lamb on Mount Zion, the place of KINGLY power, (set over here in vision against Satan's man of chap. xiii.) to whom God has given to have authority over all things, and to break the rebellious nations in pieces as a potter's vessel. He has His earthly attendants in the 144,000. The fall of Babylon is foreseen, and the subsequent trial of yielding or resisting the obligation to worship the beast. And the harvest and vintage is proclaimed.
Chapter xv. opens with the declaration of the seven last plagues. I own I see a distinct purpose in the word “last.” put here side by side with the last trial of grace in calling the nations to the allegiance of God, to whom from everlasting to everlasting allegiance is due. As before, also when judgments were to come in, is revealed the body of the saved amidst it, (and time sea of chap. iv. is filled,) as has been God's gracious way to declare His preservation of them that confess His name and the name of Lis Christ here, even the company who were victors over the beast. Blessed victory! Strange victory! He that loseth his life shall keep it unto life eternal.
But the Lamb of xiv. and the company in xv. do not take the part to faith in the view in which we see in the first part of chap. xii. It bears the impress of the victorious Messiah of the Psalms. “All the nations shall come and worship before thee.” And the song of chap. xv. is of Moses and of the Lamb, victorious over the nations. The sixth vial of chap. xvi. has its analogy, but no identity, with the sixth seal and trumpets. Under the seventh vial, Babylon fails. The religious and social condition of Babylon forms the subject of chapters xvii. and xviii. Her fall is at the hand of the beast and the ten kings; and he is alone worshipped, save by the saints, which becomes the signal of the coming, forth of the Word of God,4
Chapters xx., xxi., xxii„ belong to the blessedness that follows. There was little in the last half of the Apocalypse to note as to arrangement. The contents of xvii. and xviii. might induce one to enter into this field. I have only to say that the development of the evil has yet to find its chief director. The characteristics exist plain enough to be seen now, and have been ably spoken of.5 They are ripened for judgment under the direction they will receive.
W. IL D.
1. While it is necessary to speak guardedly, a view here of Col. 2:1818Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, (Colossians 2:18) will be in place. It is part of the apostacy. The angels were never at any time an object of regard (Christ coming as such excepted). In the Old Testament, the ordering of the things of the old Testament was committed to angels, as we are more than once told. This was all changed under the New. Instead of ordering, they take a lower place, as ministers to the heirs of salvation. This place in the Colossians seems there explained-that that rejected ministration, which had been of God's counsels, Satan now takes up, and ordinances, and would give them as of God, a place in the New Testament, to the deception of the saints, whose feebleness of spiritual apprehension and of the knowledge of God, had exposed to his wiles, and he reintroduces them; and thus the beggarly elements cast into the world, and now its rudiments, are again brought in.
2. From the view taken of the elders above stated, it might naturally be concluded that the reading of the Codex Sinaiticus, would be to be preferred, though the strangeness of the Apocalyptic Greek is apparent.
3. Had time been mentioned in Matt. 24, a double application would have place, finishing at the 14th verse; while what is subsequent would have been, if time had been mentioned, is time, and times, and half a time.
4. The four empires perish together. Three in impotence, and one in fullness of power. Greece exists, Persia exists, Shinar is to exist, and the sea is to come and the beast to arise as the fourth, and all to be ground to powder by the stone cut out without hands.
5. See the notes (translated from the French) ontho Apocalypse by J. N. Darby, and the exposition of the Apocalypse by W. Kelly.