or Day of the Lord
by E.W. Bullinger
Philologos Religious Online Books
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The Apocalypse, or "The Day of the Lord"
(VIII.) THE DESCRIPTIONS OF THE BOOK.
The descriptive titles given to this book mark it off as being special in its nature, distinct from the other books of the New Testament; and in character and keeping with the prophetic books of the Old Testament. It is called
1. "THE WORD OF GOD" (i. 2).
This is not used as a general term, of the Scriptures or of the Bible, as such:* but in a special sense, not uncommon in the Old Testament, of the "word which comes from God," or which He speaks. Hence, a prophetic message, e.g.,
1 Sam. ix. 27. Samuel said to Saul: "Stand thou still awhile, that I may show thee the word of God."
1 Kings xii. 22. "The word of God came unto Shemaiah, the man of God (i.e., the prophet), saying." (Compare 2 Chron. xi. 2; xii. 15.)
1 Chron. xvii. 3. "The word of God came to Nathan." (So 2 Sam. vii. 4.)
* Though, of course, as the Bible is made up of the words of God, we may conveniently and very truly use "the Word of God" of the Scriptures as a whole. See Jer. xv. 16.
It is difficult to distinguish between the written Word and the Living Word. Both make known and reveal God.
In Gen. xv. 1, we read "The Word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield," etc. Here, it is evidently the Living Word, though it may include both.
When we come to the Apocalypse, we are at once prepared for both Vision of the Living Word, and also the prophetic word of the Living God; both making known to the servants of God the visions and words of "this prophecy" (ver. 3).
Five times we have this expression in this book.* Not in the common sense, as in the Gospels and Epistles, but in this special sense of a prophetic message.
* Chaps. i. 2; i. 9; vi. 9; xix. 13; xx. 4.
In i. 9 John tells us he "was in the Isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." Leaving the latter expression for a moment, we may remark that the popular interpretation of the word "for" is based on a tradition which doubtless sprang from a misunderstanding of these words. There is no idea of banishment in them. It was no accident which lead to the giving of this prophecy. John went to Patmos "for" the purpose of receiving it (as Paul went into Arabia, Gal. i. 17). "On account of" is the meaning of the word here used, for "for."* If his preaching of "the Word of God" was the cause of this being in Patmos, another expression would have been used. See Exposition below, on i. 9.
* As in Heb. ii. 9, "For the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour;" and verse 10 - "For whom are all things and by whom are all things." So Rom. iv. 25, "on account of."
Verse 2 tells us that "the word of God" consisted of "the things that he saw." How could John be banished to Patmos because of, or by reason of, the things which he saw in Patmos!
No, the truth here recorded is that John was there on account of (i.e., to receive) "the word of God," i.e., the prophetic message, even "the words of this prophecy."
There is a second descriptive title which stamps this book. It is called
2. "THIS PROPHECY" (i. 3).
Seven times we have the word prophecy in this book,* and prophecy is its one great subject.
* chaps. i. 3; xi. 6; xix. 10; xxii. 7,10,18,19.
It is "prophecy" for us, therefore, and not past history. It is prophecy concerning the events which shall take place "hereafter" during the day of the Lord, i.e., during the day when the Lord will be the Judge, in contradistinction to the present day, i.e., "man's day" (1 Cor. iv. 3) during which man is judging (to the painful experience of most of us). See Exposition on i. 10.
Even "Historicists" take some part of this book as prophecy.
Most "Futurists" take from iv. 1 as prophecy.
But we fall back on the first blessing in verse 3: "Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear the words of THIS PROPHECY."
That reading commences at once; that hearing commences with the reading. Neither is to be postponed till some future time, or to some particular part of the book: nor are we to be left in ignorance as to where our reading and our blessing commences. We believe that "this prophecy" means "this prophecy," and that we begin at once to read it and to get the blessing. It cannot be that we are to read on and wait till we come to some particular verse where the blessing commences. Our attention to what is written is not to be postponed. All the words are "the words of this prophecy." John was to bear witness of "all things that he saw" (ver. 2); and the command is "what thou seest write in A BOOK." What we have therefore is in "a book;" and that book contains all that John saw and heard; and it is called "this prophecy." The whole book, therefore, is prophecy for us. It is "those things which are written in it" which we are to keep: and it is as a whole Book that we propose to deal with it. We feel it safer to be guided by what God Himself calls it than by what man tells us as to what part is prophecy and what is not. If they who tell us this were agreed among themselves it would be something; but when they differ, we cannot gain much by listening to them.
The evidence afforded by this title is, that, as the whole book is prophecy, the Church of God is not the subject of it: for, as we have seen, the Church is not the subject of prophecy, but of "revelation." The future of the Church is given and written for our reading and blessing in the Pauline Epistles; especially in 1 Thess. iv., where the Apostle Paul speaks "by the word of the Lord," which means, here as well as elsewhere, a prophetic announcement. Further, we may add that, when John is told that he is to prophesy again (x. 11), it is not about the Church, but about "peoples and nations and tongues and kings."
But there is another title given to this book. It is
3. "THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST" (i. 2,9).
Now, this may mean the testimony concerning Him (the Gen. of the object or relation); or, the testimony which comes from Him (the Gen. of the subject or origin), i.e., which he bore.
If we take it as the former, it then agrees with the whole prophetic word, which is concerning Him as "the coming One."
If we take it in the latter meaning, then it refers to the nature of the testimony which the Lord Jesus bore when on earth; and does not go outside it. That testimony related to the kingdom and not to the Church.
The word for "testimony" is worthy of note. It is (...), marturia (fem.), and not (...), marturion (neuter). Now, when there are two nouns from the same root, one feminine and the other neuter, there is an unmistakable difference, which has to be carefully noted and observed: i.e., if we believe that we are dealing with "the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth," as we most certainly do.
The difference here is clear and decided, and a few illustrations will be convincing.
The neuter noun, ending in (...)(-ion), denotes something definite and substantial, while the feminine noun, ending in (...)(ia), denotes the matter referred to or contained in or relating to the neuter noun.
For example: Emporia is merchandise; while Emporion is the place or building where the merchandise (emporia) is stored (the Emporium).
Apostasia are the matters concerning which there is defection, falling away, forsaking or revolt (Acts xxi. 21, 2 Thess. ii. 3); while Apostasion is the act of falling away, or the document, etc., which contains it. Hence it is the technical term for a bill of divorcement (Matt. v. 31; xix. 7; Mark x. 4).
Georgia is tillage; georgion is the field where the tillage is carried on. (1 Cor. iii. 9 only).
Gymnasia denotes the exercises (1 Tim. iv. 8); gymnasium, the place or building where the exercises are done.
Dokimee is the examination or proof (Rom. v. 4; 2 Cor. ii. 9; viii. 2, ix. 13, xiii. 3; Phil. ii. 22); while dokimion is the trial, at which the examination is made and the proofs given (Jas. i. 3; 1 Pet. i. 7 only).
Mneia is remembrance or mention (Rom. i. 9; Eph. i. 16; Phil. i. 3; 1 Thess. i. 2, iii. 6; 2 Tim. i. 3; Philem. 4); mneion is the tombstone or sepulchre where the mention or remembrance is made.
Soteria is a saving or delivering (and is the general word for salvation in N.T.); while soterion is the act of saving, and almost the person who delivers. See Luke ii. 30 (where it is "seen") and iii. 6. Acts xxviii. 28; Eph. v. 17.*
* In some cases these references support these facts; in other they must be re-interpreted by them.
It will be noted that the accentuation of these words in -ion intimates that they are all properly adjectives: hence the actual noun to be supplied in each case will vary with the nature of the noun from which the adjective is formed. The general distinction, however, holds good: that the words in -ia represent a process, or habit, and that, too, under its feminine, not masculine, aspect; while the neuters represent some special act, or instance of this habit or process, or some material or instrument by which, or place in which, the habit is carried out, or the process carried on.
Now, in the Apocalypse, we have maturion (the neuter), testimony, only once (Rev. xv. 5), where it is used of a thing, "the tabernacle of the testimony," i.e., the tent and tables of stone which were placed therein. In every other place (nine times) we have marturia, i.e., the testimony given or witness borne (i. 2,9; vi. 9; xi. 7; xii. 11,17; xix. 10, twice; xx. 4). In all these cases therefore, it is testimony or witness borne, as a reference to them will show.
It seems, then, quite clear that, where we read in this prophecy of "the testimony of Jesus" (i. 2,9; xii. 17; xix. 10, twice*), it means the testimony which the Lord Jesus bore or gave on earth as "Jesus" in the days of His humiliation (not as the Christ as raised from the dead).
* In xx. 4 it is doubtless the testimony concerning Jesus for which those who gave it were beheaded. (The Gen. of relation.)
The testimony was, as we have already said, concerning His kingdom and concerning Israel (see Rom. xv. 8); and it is the same testimony which the same Jesus gives in the book of this prophecy.
(IX.) CERTAIN EXPRESSIONS IN CHAPS. i. - iii.
There are certain expressions used throughout the Apocalypse which are wholly unlike any expressions used in connection with the Church of God or in the Church Epistles.
Some of these are sufficient in themselves to show that the Church is not the subject of the Apocalypse, and have been already noticed. But there are others of importance which require more lengthened treatment; so we group them together under this heading, referring our reader to the Exposition which follows, where supplementary comments on them will be found.
To find these expressions we will not now travel beyond the first chapter, except for one expression which occurs seven times in chaps. ii. and iii.
There are sufficient in chap. i. to show us how the Holy Spirit has, at the very threshold of this book, used these expressions for our consideration and our guidance.
We find seven of these expressions:-
(1) "UNTO HIM THAT LOVED US" (i. 5).
Because "Christ loved His Church and gave Himself for it," we seem unable, from our natural selfishness, to rise above or beyond the thought of ourselves.
We, naturally, fill our own vision and see nothing beyond ourselves.
The thought that Jehovah said of Israel, "Yea, he loved the people,"* does not enter into our minds for a moment. Gentile hatred of the Jew, added to our own natural selfishness, quite cuts out the Jew, not only from the Old Testament, but out of the Apocalypse also.
* (...) chavav, a very strong word for love, which occurs only in Deut. xxxiii. 3, and is taken by "The Chovevi Zion" (the lovers of Zion) as the title of that modern Jewish society.
And yet is it strange, with the repeated assertions which Jehovah makes of His love for Israel, that not only should Israel be passed over by Bible-students, but this love actually taken from Israel and appropriated to the Church; depriving Israel of God's love and blessing, and leaving for them only the judgments and the curses.
And yet we have such passages as these concerning Israel:-
Deut. vii. 7,8. "The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people. But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you," etc. (See also Deut. vi. 37; xxiii. 5, etc.)
Hos. xi. 1,4. "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt... I drew them with the cords of a man, with bands of love."
Isa. xliii. 4. "Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee."
Jer. xxxi. 3. "The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."
And the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, says (Isa. liv. 10), "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy upon thee."
We are quite aware that these passages are all appropriated by the Church to itself; and, therefore, we can hardly expect them to be received in evidence that the words in Rev. i. 5 are not the words spoken by the Church. But we must be content to leave the matter here. "These are the true sayings of God:" and if people will not believe what God says we can hardly expect them to believe what we say.
Of course we can make an a fortiori application of these words; but that is quite another matter. If Israel can say, "unto Him who loveth us," how much more can we say so according to Eph. v. 25, Acts xx. 28, etc.? But we are dealing now with interpretation; and we must rest content with simply stating that, by interpretation, these Old Testament passages speak of Jehovah's love to Israel, and not to the Church. And, this being so, the words in Rev. i. 5 may we be spoken by the godly remnant of Israel, as they will afterwards be the language of the whole People.
We would further anticipate, here, what belongs properly to our exposition of chap. ii. 4: The first charge brought against His People in this book, viz., "thou hast left thy first love."
What is this, but what Jehovah calls, in Jer. ii. 2, "the love of thine espousals," and in Ezek. xvi. 8, "the time of love." Read the whole of Ezek. xvi. and Ex. xix. 4-6, and say whether we have not here the true key to Rev. ii. 4.
But, before we leave this expression, we must give the correct rendering of the whole verse (i. 5), according to all the Critical Greek Texts and RV. (referring our readers to our further comments in the exposition below).
Unto him who loveth us (it is the present tense, (...) (agaponti) loveth, and not (...) (agapesanti) loved; for Jehovah's love for Israel is an ever-present love, yea, it is "everlasting") and loosed us (past tense, (...) (lusanti) loosed, and not (...) (lousanti) washed) from (...) (ek) from or out of; not (...) (apo) away from) our sins by (not "in") his blood."
(2) "KINGS AND PRIESTS" (i. 6)
the correct text and translation is as follows, and read on from the last expression: "And made (not hath made) us (Tregelles read (...) (heemin) for us) a kingdom, (all read (...) (basileian) a kingdom; instead of (...) (basileis kai) kings and) priests to his God and Father (or priests to God, even His Father)."
we have the same expression in chap. v. 10, where the Greek Text has to be corrected in a similar manner.
There the alteration of the text has been the parent of all the wrong translations made of it.
It is the song, the new song, sung by the four living creatures, and the twenty-four elders.*
* The number four and multiple of four (4X6) marks these and their song as pertaining to the earth and to man as such, not the Church.
They say (ver. 9): "Worthy art thou to take the book, and to open its seals; because thou wast slain and madest a purchase for God (the word "us" must be omitted according to Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Westcott and Hort, and R.V. There is an Ellipsis. The R.V., having taken out "us," has supplied "men" in italics. We may supply "a People," or translate as we have done. All the Texts agree in altering the pronouns that follow in this and the next verse. This necessitates the omission of "us" here. If one is changed, all must be changed for the sake of consistency and sense. But this entirely does away with the supposition that these heavenly beings were themselves redeemed, or were the subject of their own song (See below, on chap. v. 9) by thy blood (a purchase, namely) out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and didst make them (so all the Texts and oldest MSS.) to our God (Alford omits these words) a kingdom (so all the Texts and best MSS.) and priests, and they shall reign (so all the Texts and oldest MSS.) over the earth" (see further on chap. v. 9,10 below).
Here we have again the expression "a kingdom and priests." While we have not a word like this in the Church Epistles, yet we have a passage in the Old Testament where very similar words are used, and truth declared of Israel. Ex. xix. 5,6: "Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation."
True, these words are found in the New Testament; but they are in the Epistle addressed to the sojourners of the Diaspora"* : i.e., "the Dispersion," a believing remnant of scattered Israel. These are the People who are concerned in the promise of Ex. xix. 5,6, and Rev. i. 6 and v. 10: and not the Church of God.
* (...), scattered abroad, came to be the technical term for the dispersed portion of Israel. It is found in LXX. Jer. xxxiv. (Sept. xli.) 17. Ps. cxlvii. 2 (Sept. cxlvi. 2). Judith v. 19. Compare Josephus, Wars, 7.3. In the New Testament we have the word in John vii. 35. Jas. i. 1. 1 Pet. i. 1. (We may compare the technical use, in Holland, of the term "The Beggars").
(3) "HIS FATHER" (i. 6).
This is the part of the expression which we have just considered: and it is important.
Twice we have it in this book, spoken of Christ (i. 6 and xiv. 1), but not once in the Pauline, or Church Epistles.
There, in every one of the Epistles addressed to the Churches (seventeen times), it is always "OUR" Father. See Rom. i. 7; 1 Cor. i. 3; 2 Cor. i. 2; Gal. i. 4; Eph. i. 2; Phil. i. 2, iv. 20; Col. i. 2; 1 Thess. i. 1,3, iii. 11,13; 2 Thess. i. 1,2, ii. 16. Also in 1 Tim. i. 2; Philem. 3.
When we say that we have "His Father" in revelation, and never in the Epistles; and "our Father" in the Epistles and never in Revelation, we have said enough to show that we have here a further point, affording its cumulative evidence to our fundamental proposition that the Church of God is not the subject of the Apocalypse.
(4) "KINGDOM AND PATIENCE" (i. 9).
John is the "brother" specially of those who were of the seed of Abraham. The term can hardly be used here, we submit, either of mere human brotherhood, or of Christian brotherhood, when all else in this chapter and in the book is so evidently stamped with a Jewish character.
John says, I "am your brother and fellow-partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and patience with Jesus."
Here (according to all the Critical Greek Texts and the R.V.) the words "in the" before "kingdom" must be omitted; and the word "in" must be inserted before "Jesus": while the word "Christ" must also be omitted after "Jesus." The verse then stands as we have here given it. The R.V. inserts the italics "which are in Jesus." The word (...) (en), in, may well be rendered, with; as it is rendered 138 times in the New Testament; and then there is no ellipsis to be supplied.
Here is companionship in patient waiting. For that is the meaning of the word rendered "patience,"* and it always has the thought of endurance underlying it.
* It occurs seven times in this book: i. 9; ii. 2,3,19; iii. 10; xiii. 10; xiv. 12.
It is a patient-waiting and enduring in tribulation; yet a patient waiting and expectation of the "kingdom;" and all this "with Jesus," for "this man after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God from henceforth expecting till his enemies shall have been placed as a footstool for his feet."
He is "expecting," and He is also patiently waiting (see 2 Thess. iii. 5, margin), and so are we with Him, but the waiting referred to here is a patient endurance in tribulation and for the kingdom.
We, too, as members of the Church of God have need of patience, and endurance; but we are looking, not for the kingdom, but for the KING Himself (not as King, for He is not so proclaimed till His enemies are subdued); and though we, too, exercise this patient endurance in tribulation, it is not in "the tribulation," but we are waiting to be taken away before that tribulation comes upon the earth.
This expression therefore is worthy of note, and its evidence has to be added to the other expressions used.
(5) "OUT OF HIS MOUTH WENT A SHARP TWO-EDGED SWORD" (i. 16).
There can be no question as to the meaning of this expression. The (...) (rhomphaia) a sharp or two-edged sword, is four times attributed to the Lord in this prophecy, viz., i. 16; ii. 12,16; xix. 15,21.* And in each case it has to do with slaying and not with speaking; with deeds and not with words.
* It occurs also in Luke ii. 35, making five times in all.
It is "the captain of the Lord's host" come with his sword (Josh. v. 13). It is the sword of Jehovah come to execute His judgments (Isa. xxxiv. 6); and with which He will plead with His people (Is. lxvi. 16). It is the sword referred to under other titles (Isa. xi. 4 and 2 Thess. ii. 8), with which, at His coming in judgment, He will destroy the Man of Sin, the Lawless one.
the sword is no priestly weapon; nor can it have any relation to or connection with the Church of God in any aspect whatsoever: for grace characterises all relations between "Christ and His Church."
(6) "A GREAT VOICE" (i. 10,12).
This expression links on the book of Revelation to the book of Deuteronomy, especially if we regard it in the connection with the fire, with which it is associated in each case.
Ten times is the voice of God speaking "out of the midst of the fire" heard in Deuteronomy: viz., chaps. iv. 12,15,33,36; v. 4,22(19)*, 23(20), 24(21), 25(21), 26(23).
* The figures in a parenthesis denotes the different verse numeration of the Hebrew Text.
Here, in Rev. i. 10, John hears "a great voice," and it is connected with fire, for the eyes of the speaker were "as a flame of fire" (ver. 14) and his feet "as if they burned in a furnace" (ver. 15).
In Deut. iv. 12 (the first reference) the expression is associated with the giving of the Law, and the declaring of Jehovah's Covenant (iv. 13).
The second is a command to "take heed" to the voice (iv. 15), and keep from idolatry.
The third and fourth are connected with their turning to the Lord when scattered among the nations, seeking Him and finding Him in the "Tribulation;" and the being obedient to that voice in "the latter days" (iv. 27-36). This tells us of the latter days in Revelation, when they will be brought to hear the "Voice" (iv. 33,36), and to attend to it.
The fifth is again associated with God's Covenant to which He will be true (v. 4).
The sixth and seventh with the giving of the Law, v. 22(19), 23(20).
The eighth with the greatness and the glory of Jehovah (v. 24, Heb. 21).
The ninth and tenth are references to it by the People (v. 25,26).
All these are brought together, and combined, and fulfilled in the Apocalypse, when Israel will again hear that Voice and, take heed to it, and in their Tribulation turn unto the Lord and seek His face and find Him and rejoice in the faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God.
(7) "HE THAT HATH AN EAR, LET HIM HEAR" (ii. 7).
This expression is absolutely Hebrew in its character, origin, and use. It is never used with reference to, or in connection with, the Church of God.
By application of course it told those who first read it of the cause of all declension - failure to hear what the Spirit had already said to the Churches by the Apostle Paul. By application also, it reminds us of the same cause today. But the interpretation which will exhaust the seven-fold expression is that which leaps over the present Church period, and links together the Gospels and Acts with the Apocalypse.
The expression (which is slightly varied in form) as first used in the Gospels is connected solely with, and marks, a change of dispensation. When used again in Revelation another great change of dispensation is about to take place. It is to be wrought by "the Son of Man," who has received authority to show it to "His servants."
Such a change could be known only to God, ruled and over-ruled by Him. None but Divine foreknowledge, therefore, could make it known.
The Son of Man alone made use of this weighty expression: and on fourteen separate occasions He called for the deepest attention to what was being announced.
Now, the number fourteen is most significant; twice seven, denoting a special Divine revelation made by "the Son of Man."
And these fourteen* are divided into six and eight (just as seven is divided into three and four). For six of them occur in the Gospels and eight in the Revelation. Six were spoken by Him as the Son of Man on earth, and eight as the Son of Man from glory. Six being the number pertaining to man, and eight being the number connected with resurrection.**
* The occasions were 14, but the actual occurrences of this example of the Figure are sixteen on account of the repetition of the Parable of the Sower in the parallel Gospel records. Sixteen is a square number (4X4) marking completeness.
** For the significance of these numbers see Number in Scripture.
The six occasions on earth are Matt. xi. 15; xiii. 9,43. Mark iv. 23: vii. 16, and Luke xiv. 35.
The eight from Heaven are Rev. ii. 7,11,17,29; iii. 6,13,22; and xiii. 9.
These, like the six in the Gospels, are Dispensational, and are thus associated with the great change in God's relation to the earth, to "the Jew and the Gentile," which was about to take place.
The first use of the expression in Matt. xi. 15 is most significant, and stamps it as belonging to the setting up of the kingdom with power and glory. Elijah's presence on the holy mount characterises the scene there as representing the power and coming of that kingdom (Matt. xvi. 28. 2 Pet. i. 16,17,18), while Mal. iv. 5 (Heb. iii. 23) connects Elijah's ministry with the setting up of that kingdom.
It has been proclaimed of John before his birth "he shall go before Him (i.e, Messiah) in the spirit and power of Elijah" (Luke i. 17); and again, in Luke i. 76,77, it was announced: "And thou, child, shalt be called prophet of the Highest *: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people, by (marg., for) the remission of their sins," etc.
* This title is always connected with dominion in the earth. See Gen. xiv. 18-22.
John the Baptist was therefore invested with Elijah's "spirit and power" (i.e., Elijah's spiritual power), and was specially designated as "the prophet of the Most High."
Therefore our Lord could say in Matt. xi. 14,15: "If ye will receive him, this is (i.e., represents) Elijah which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
But "their ears were dull of hearing" (Matt. xiii. 15), fulfilling the dispensational prophecy of Isa. vi. 10: Therefore they did not "receive him;" and, consequently, "Elijah the prophet" is still to come. Hence it is that, in the Book which relates to the events connected with the ministry of Elijah and his work in connection with the restoration of the kingdom, we again meet with this dispensational admonition: which takes us back not merely to Matt. xi. 15, but to Ma. iv. 5, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
Thus we have in the expression another proof that the Church of God is not the subject of the Apocalypse; and that we are reading here, not of the period belonging to the ministry of Paul the Apostle, or of the period of present Church history, as the historicists assert; but, of that which belong to the ministry of "Elijah the Prophet."
(X). THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST'S ADVENT (i. 7).
Another of the points which prove that the Church of God is not the subject of the Apocalypse is the character of Christ's Coming which is there announced and described; and with which its events are connected.
This has been already partly shown under the headings of "The Day of the Lord" and "The Son of Man." But it is now more definitely stated and distinguished.
The coming of Christ for His Church is quite a different event, and belongs to quite a different Dispensation. The end for which the Church is waiting is not judgment or tribulation, but to be "received up in glory" (1 Tim. iii. 16), to be "called on high" (Phi. iii. 14), to be changed and have glorious bodies like our Saviour's own body of glory. Their seat of government exists now in heaven, from whence they look for the Saviour (Phil. iii. 19-21).
That coming is into the air, and not unto the earth; it is in grace, and not in judgment; it concerns those who are "in Christ," and not either Jew or Gentile as such.
Nothing is revealed in the Old Testament or in the Gospels about this coming. Those books know nothing of it. This coming concerns the Mystery, which was kept secret from times eternal, and was "hid in God." The church of God (which is the Mystery) waits for one thing as its consummation, and that is to be "received up into glory" (1 Tim. iii. 16). But this is not the subject of the Apocalypse.
To make this more clear we must compare what we call the "second" Advent with the "first."
When the Coming of the Lord was announced in Micah, v. 2, it was announced as a coming forth; and in Zech. ix. as a coming unto. The former speaks of the coming forth at Bethlehem, the latter of the coming unto Jerusalem.
There was nothing in those prophecies to tell the Jewish reader whether there would be any interval between these events, or what that interval would be. The Jewish Bible student might think there was a discrepancy; while the Jew with the mind of a "higher critic" might see a greater difficulty, and refuse to believe either Scripture.
But we, today, with our knowledge, know that there was an interval of more than thirty years between the two events. Both refer to one and the same Coming, but to two different stages in it; and that all the events between them go to make up what we speak of as the "first Coming."
We believe that it will be exactly the same with regard to what we call the "second Coming." There will be the same two stages, with a similar interval (or longer it may be) between them, and all the events (which are recorded in the Apocalypse and elsewhere) will go to make up what we speak of as "the second Coming."
There will be the coming forth (as at Bethlehem) of "the Lord Himself" and the calling of His saints on high (Phil. iii. 14), and the receiving of them in glory (1 Tim. iii. 16); and then, later on, to fulfil all the prophecies which related to His People Israel; and, as the Son of man will "come unto" the earth, to take unto Himself His great power, and reign.
This latter coming is connected with "the Day of the Lord," and it is that which is the subject of the Book of Revelation.
Chap. i. 7 settles this for us: "Behold, 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."
Only Jew and Gentile are in this verse, and not the Church of God.
This is the Coming of which the Old Testament speaks. It knows no other. See Dan. vii. 13 and Zech. xii. 9,10, which is the Scripture referred to here.*
* It might be rendered "the Land" better than "earth" in Rev. i. 7.
This is the Coming which the Lord spoke of when on earth in Matt. xxiv. 30,31; xxvi. 64, and elsewhere (mark the "ye"). What He there said is perfectly clear, and in perfect harmony with all that had been said in the Old Testament. To read Eph., Phil., and Col. into the Gospels is only to create confusion; and make a difficulty where none before existed: it is to use one truth for the upsetting of another truth.
The same difficulty is created when we arbitrarily introduce these later Prison Epistles of Paul into the Apocalypse.
To save us from making such a disastrous mistake, the Holy spirit gave special instruction in 1 Thess. v., immediately after He had inspired the revelation of 1 Thess iv. If we heed this and learn its great and important lesson, all will be perfectly clear.
1 Thess. v. 1. "But of the times and the season, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you."
Why, "no need"? Simply because the Coming forth into the air and our "gathering together unto Him" there, do not depend on any time or season. His "Coming unto" the earth does; but that is not what he had been speaking about in the chapter immediately before (Thess. iv.).
2. "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night."
It is the "day of the Lord" which (as we have seen above) is the subject of the Apocalypse: and in Rev. iii. 3, the Lord distinctly warns as to His Coming "as a thief," which is the very opposite of what we read of in Eph., Phil., and Col., and even in 1 Thess. iv., v. For mark the sudden change of pronouns in the latter chapters.
3. "For when THEY shall say, 'Peace and safety,' then sudden destruction cometh upon THEM...and THEY shall not escape."
It is this "destruction" which the Apocalypse describes. It is this which gives its character to "the day of the Lord." It is "sudden," and comes "as a thief;" and it comes upon "THEM" and "THEY," not upon us: for mark the change of pronouns again.
4. "But YE, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake YOU as a thief."
Here, our point is distinctly, emphatically, and categorically stated, with a precision and explicitness which leaves nothing to be added. Can anything be more clear than the fact that the Church of God is not the subject of the Apocalypse? And that the "Coming" which is the subject of this book is not the Coming for which the Church of God is now longing, waiting, and looking?
If some of our points are cumulative in their evidence, this one point, by itself, is sufficient to establish our fundamental proposition that the Church of God is not the subject of the book of Revelation, either in prophecy or in history.
The book is "prophecy," as we have seen; and therefore it awaits a future fulfilment in "the day of the Lord," when the Lord Jesus shall be unveiled as the Son of man, and every eye shall see Him.
(XI.) THE VISION OF THE SON OF MAN.
This is essential, for it is directly associated with the object and purpose of the book.
The only other place in the whole Bible where we have anything like it is in Daniel x. 5,6, where in every particular the resemblance is the same. His girdle is of gold; His eyes as fire; His feet as brass; His voice as many waters (Rev.), and as a multitude (Dan.); His countenance as the sun (Rev.) and the appearance as lightening (Dan.).
In Daniel it is "a certain man" (Heb. one - a man). In Rev. it is "one like unto the Son of Man."
The Two Visions being identical as to the Person and as to His appearance, and also as to the effect on Daniel and John respectively, it is not more than probably that the purpose is also the same in each case?
In Daniel we are expressly told why the Vision was sent. "Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days; for yet the vision is for many days... I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth" (Dan. x. 14, 21).
The expression, "thy People," is most significant. It is not the Church of God which is in question, but Daniel's People, Israel. This People had been the subject of Daniel's prayer (Dan. ix. 4-19). He call them (in speaking to God) "Thy People" (vv. 15, 19); and in the answer to the prayer (ix. 24), as well as here (x. 14) and in xii. 1, the angel speaks of them to Daniel as "thy people."*
* It is beautiful to notice that when Daniel confesses the sins of this People he uses, throughout, the pronouns, "we," "us," and "our" (see verses 5-10, 14-16). But when he pleads with God for them on the ground of the everlasting covenant, it is always "Thy" : "Thy People," "Thy City," "Thy Sanctuary," "Thy righteousness," Thy great mercies," "Thy Name's sake."
Is it not certain that this People is the subject, and what is to befall them in the latter day is precisely the import, of the vision which John saw in Rev. i. 13-16.
It had been given to that glorious One to show unto His servants things which shall be "hereafter," and that was what was to befall Daniel's people (Israel) "in the latter days."
In Rev. we have "the latter days" - even "the Day of the Lord," and the time has come to show John that which is noted in the scripture of truth.
The people, therefore, who are the subjects of the Revelation, are Daniel's People, and not the Church of God.
(XII.) THE COMPLEMENT OF GENESIS.
The Apocalypse is connected very closely with the Old Testament, and not as we have seen with the New; with Genesis, and not with the Church Epistles.
Indeed, the connection between Genesis and Revelation is so marked that many have noticed it.
It will be only necessary for us therefore to exhibit the likenesses and contrasts in parallel columns. No comment will be necessary.
In Genesis we have the book of the Beginning; in revelation the book of the End (not the whole period which we call A.D., but the end of it).
The Apocalypse completes all that Genesis begins, and introduces the New Creation, lest we should think there is nothing beyond.
In Genesis we have therefore the primal creation and the history of the curse which came upon it: Revelation tells how that curse will be removed, and the New Creation brought in.
In Genesis we have Satan's first revolt, and in Revelation his final revolt. The parallel between the two books may be thus set forth: -
|The Earth created (i. 1)||Earth passed away (xxi. 1).|
|Sun, moon and stars for Earth's government (i. 14-16).||Sun, moon and stars connected with Earth's judgment (vi. 12; viii. 12; xvi. 8).|
|Sun to govern the day (i. 16).||No need of the sun (xxx. 23).|
|Darkness called night (i. 5).||"No night there" (xxii. 5).|
|Waters called seas (i. 10).||"No more sea" (xxi. 1).|
|A river for Earth's blessing (ii. 10-14).||A river for the New Earth (xxii. 1,2).|
|Man in God's image (i. 26).||Man headed by one in Satan's image (xiii.)|
|Entrance of sin (iii.).||Development and end of sin.|
|Curse pronounced (iii. 14,17).||"No more curse" (xxii. 3).|
|Death entered (iii. 19).||"No more death" (xxi. 4).|
|Cherubim first mentioned in
with man (iii. 24).
|Cherubim final mention in connection with man.|
|Man driven out from Eden (iii. 24).||Man restored (xxii.).|
|Tree of life guarded (iii. 24).||"Right to the Tree of Life" (xxii. 14).|
|Sorrow and suffering enter (iii. 17).||No more sorrow (xxii. 4).|
|Man's religion, art, and
science, resorted to
for enjoyment apart from God (iv.).
|Man's religion, luxury, art, and science, in their full glory judged and destroyed by God (xviii.).|
|Nimrod, a great rebel and King, and hidden anti-God, the founder of Babylon (x. 8-10).||The Beast, the great Rebel, a King, and manifested anti-God, the reviver of Babylon (xiii., xviii.).|
|A flood from God to destroy an evil generation (vi.-ix.).||A flood from Satan to destroy an elect generation (xii.).|
|The bow the token of God's covenant with the Earth (ix. 13).||The bow, betokening God's remembrance of His covenant with the Earth (iv. 3; x. 1).|
|Sodom and Egypt, the place of corruption and temptation (xiii., xix.).||Sodom and Egypt again (spiritually representing Jerusalem) (xi. 8).|
|A confederacy against Abraham's people overthrown (xiv.).||A confederacy against Abraham's seed overthrown (xii.).|
|Marriage of first Adam (ii. 18-23).||Marriage of last Adam (xix.).|
|A bride sought for Abraham's son (Isaac) and found (xxiv.).||A Bride made ready and brought to Abraham's Son (xix. 9). See Matt. i. 1.|
|Two angels acting for God on behalf of His People (xix.).||Two witnesses acting for God on behalf of His people (xi.).|
|A promised seed to possess the gate of his enemies (xxix. 8).||The promised seed coming into possession.|
|Man's dominion ceased and Satan's begun (iii. 24).||Satan's dominion ended and man's restored (xxii.).|
|Sun, moon and stars associated with Israel (xxxvii.).||Sun, moon and stars associated again with Israel (xii.).|
|The Church not preconfigured.||The Church not to be looked for.|
It is surely impossible for us to read these solemn parallels and contrast without coming to the conclusion that there must be the closest possible connection between the two books.
They are joined together by God in a way so that no man can put them asunder.
God has joined the Revelation to Genesis; man joins it with the Epistles.
God has joined it with Jews, Gentile and the Earth; man joins it with Christendom.
God has joined it with what He had before written in Genesis; man joins it with what man has written himself in Church history!
Can perversity go further than this? Is it any wonder that the book is misunderstood by so many, and neglected by most? For what can be made of it when such elements of confusion are introduced?
When God has placed the key to the book at the very threshold, in the first chapter, man deliberately ignores it, and makes another, which he presents to those who would fain enter; but, when it is tried, it is found that none of the wards fit the lock, and the door either has to be forced, or all hope of entrance abandoned!
And yet, when we look at the general scope of the book which will be given later on, how wonderous it is! How Divinely perfect! And, at the same time, how simple and easy! So simple that a child can become interested in it, and the humblest saint understand it.
(XIII.) THE SUMMARY OF ITS CONTENTS (i. 19).
In chapter i. 19 we have the summary of the contents of the whole book.
It is the misunderstanding of this verse which, we believe, has led so many astray, and turned so many into the wrong channel. This verse is usually taken as referring to three things, marking off the book into three divisions:
The things which thou sawest (past). The things which are (present). The things which shall be hereafter (future).
Having got these three divisions, then comes a difference of opinion as to exactly where and how these contents of the Book are to be divided.
But there is another rendering which we wish to present, suggested, in part, by Moses Stuart and Dean Alford. This removes all such difficulties, and shows that there is no such three-fold division; and that instead of three subjects we have only one.
John was instructed to write what he had seen. It is clear, therefore, that this first chapter is the Introduction to the whole Book, and consequently, like all other Introductions, is written, or supposed to be written, last of all. For, at the very commencement (in i. 2), it is said of John that he "bare record of the Word of God (i.e., as we have seen, the prophetic message), and of the testimony of Jesus Christ (which He bore) and of all things that he saw."
If this chapter then be not written after John had see these things, the words are without meaning; for in that case John had as yet seen nothing!
Verse 19 (which we are considering) is part of this Introduction, and therefore the words "which thou sawest" are used in the same sense as in verse 2. John had seen, or is supposed to have seen, all the Visions of the Book when the command to write was given to him. This explains why the word "therefore" must be added in the Greek (according to all the Critical Greek Texts and the R.V.). Moreover, it is specially declared at the very end of the book (chap. xxii. 16), "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto THESE THINGS in the assemblies" : showing that "the things which thou sawest" refer, not as is generally supposed, only to the things in chap. i., but to the contents of the whole book.
Having seen all these things the command is - "Write therefore the things which thou sawest, and what they are (i.e., what they signify),* even the things which shall come to pass (i.e., happen, as in Acts xxvi. 22) hereafter."
* As to this rendering, "and what they ARE," the verb to be is constantly translated to mean or signify. See Matt. ix. 13: "But go ye and learn what that IS" (A.V. and R.V. meaneth). Matt. xii. 7: "but if ye had known what that IS" (A.V. and R.V. meaneth). Luke xv. 26: "He asked what these things WERE" (A.V. meant; R.V. might be). Acts ii. 12: "What IS this?" (A.V. and R.V. What meaneth this). Acts x. 17: "Now, while Peter doubted in himself what this vision WAS which he had seen" (A.V. What this vision should mean; R.V. might mean). So, "and what they ARE" should be rendered "and what they mean," or signify.
According to this rendering, which may be rejected as an interpretation, but cannot be condemned as a translation, there is only one thing stated as the subject-matter of what was to be written, and not three things. It relates not to past, present, and future, but to the future alone - "hereafter," or, as it says in Dan. xi. 14, "in the latter days."
Some lay a stress on the words (...), meta tauta, which mean literally after these things. But an examination of other places where they occur will show that when used in narrative they may imply historical sequence (as in Luke v. 27; x. 1; xii. 4; xvii. 8; xviii. 4. John iii. 22; v. 14; vii. 1; xix. 38; xii. 1. Acts xiii. 20; xviii. 1); yet when used in connection with promise or prophecy, they, as naturally, are indefinite, hereafter. (John xiii. 7. Acts vii. 7. 1 Peter i. 1, where it is rendered "should follow," and has not followed even yet). In any case, the A.V. and R.V. both render the expression "hereafter" where it occurs in Revelation, viz., i. 19; iv. 1; and ix. 12, in a prophetic sense.
There is no necessity therefore for anyone to regard any portion of the book as relating to the present church period. This (in which we live) is the Dispensation of the Holy Spirit; but that (which is the subject of the Revelation) is wholly the Dispensation of the Son of Man - the revelation or unveiling and manifestation of Jesus Christ.
That is still future. The book which describes it must likewise be future also, and relate only to "the things which shall be hereafter." See further notes on chap. i. 19.
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