The Book of Books—Part 16

The Revelation of Jesus Christ—Part 1

REVELATION, the last book in the Bible, is often called the Apocalypse, which is its title in the Greek language. Written by the Apostle John, it was based upon visions given to him while a prisoner on the isle of Patmos. In the opening sentence of the book he describes what he is about to write as “the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.”—Rev. 1:1

The Greek expression here translated signified literally means ‘told in signs’, indicating that the important lessons of this closing book of the Bible are set forth in sign language, or symbolisms. With few exceptions, however, the symbolisms employed appear in other books of the Bible; so it should not be too difficult to understand the important lessons this language is designed to convey as this closing book sums up and brings to a climax many of the themes of the Bible which we have already traced throughout the Old and New Testaments.

None of the Bible’s books present the truths of the divine plan in the exact sequence in which they occur. It is important to bear this in mind as we examine the testimony of the Apocalypse. For this reason, our present study of the book will not be from chapter to chapter. Instead, we will endeavor to note the manner in which this Revelation of Jesus Christ discloses the climactic fulfillment of the main prophetic themes introduced and partially developed earlier in the Word of God.

The Seed of Promise

The opening chapters of the Bible tell of man’s creation and of the Creator’s design that he fill the earth with his offspring, and have dominion over it. The accomplishment of this was dependent upon obedience to the divine law. Our first parents disobeyed, were sentenced to death, and driven out of the Garden of Eden to die. “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” was the penalty which fell upon them.—Gen. 1:27,28; 2:17; 3:17-19

There was a serpent in Eden which beguiled mother Eve and, through her, induced Adam to disobey God’s law. In Revelation 20:2 John speaks of “that old serpent, the Devil, and Satan.” When pronouncing the sentence of death upon our first parents, the Lord said to that old serpent, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman; and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”—Gen. 3:15

Here is the first intimation from God that although man had transgressed his law and must die, he did not intend to abandon him, but would provide a seed that would crush the Adversary, and, by implication, deliver man from the result of the sin into which he had been led. God’s statement to the serpent indicates, however, that there would be a great struggle in connection with the development of the promised seed, a struggle resulting from the enmity that would exist between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The whole Bible is designed to reveal the manner in which this seed is developed, and to record the many and various ways in which the enmity of Satan manifested itself in efforts to destroy God’s seed.

In tracing the promises of God from book to book throughout his Word we have found that the seed of promise is none other than the Messiah. We have also seen that those called out from the world during the present age to follow in the footsteps of Jesus are body members of the Messiah, the Christ. In Genesis 12:3 and 22:17,18 we have God’s promise to bless all the families of the earth through the seed of Abraham. Jacob prophesied the coming of this great one, referring to him as “Shiloh,” saying that unto him would the gathering of the people be. (Gen. 49:9,10) The Messiah was again promised by the Lord when he said to Moses, “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren like unto thee.”—Deut. 18:18

It was this Messiah to whom David referred when in the seventy-second psalm he wrote, “In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” (Ps. 72:7,8) David again writes of the Messiah saying, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”—Ps. 110:1

In a prophecy of the birth of Jesus, Isaiah says that the government, the messianic kingdom, will be upon his shoulder, and that “his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6,7) It is concerning this same one, the seed, the Messiah, that Isaiah writes, “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”—Isa. 11:2

The Prophet Micah refers to the Messiah as the “tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion.” and prophesies concerning him, “Unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion.” (Mic. 4:8) This same prophet also foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.—Mic. 5:2

When Jesus was born, the angel announced to the shepherds, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ [the Messiah] the Lord.” (Luke 2:10) When Jesus said to his disciples, “Whom say ye that I am?” Peter replied, “Thou art the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the living God.”—Matt. 16:15,16

Jesus promised his disciples that they would share the glory of the messianic kingdom with him. Later, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostles developed this theme in more detail. Paul explained that those who have “put on Christ”—that is, those who are true followers of Christ—are “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:27-29) Paul speaks of the church, the called-out class of the present age, as being the body of Christ.—Eph. 1:22,23

The Seven Churches

This messianic theme of deliverance is amplified in the Book of Revelation, where Jesus and his followers, the church, are presented as the rulers in that glorious kingdom, the channel of the promised blessing of all nations. In Revelation 1:12-17, Jesus, the Son of man, is shown standing in the midst of seven golden candlesticks. The explanation is that the “seven candlesticks … are the seven churches.”—Rev. 1:20

All symbolisms used in the Bible have a background of fact, so these seven churches in Asia Minor—Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea—were actual congregations of that day. However, it is reasonable to believe that they are intended to be symbolic of the entire church of Christ as it has existed in the earth since its beginning at Pentecost. The Lord’s promises to these are inspiring, and confirm the fact that the faithful among them will share the kingdom glory with Jesus.

In Revelation 2:10, we read, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Chapter 3, verse 21, reads, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” Another promise is, “He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.”—Rev. 2:26,27

As Jesus indicates, he had received this promise from his Father, and now he makes it clear that the church will be partners with him in his kingdom, and with him will have power over the nations. This wonderful promise is found in Psalm 2:8,9. Here the Heavenly Father says to his beloved Son, “Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen [Hebrew text denotes Gentiles, or nations] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Christ’s Return

Throughout the entire Bible the establishment of the messianic kingdom is shown to follow the return of Christ. In Revelation 1:7 this is again promised, with the explanation that he will come “with clouds,” and “every eye” will see him—that is, discern the fact of his return. The clouds are symbolic of the trouble and distress which would be upon the nations as the initial result of his return. But this is only a necessary preparation for kingdom blessing—the setting aside of the kingdoms of this world under the rulership of Satan and the dashing of them to pieces like a potter’s vessel. After that will come the blessing of the people, for it will be “the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.” (Rev. 11:18) In this one verse, the consummation of the work of the entire thousand years of Christ’s kingdom is described.

And in this work of the kingdom the called-out ones of the Gospel Age will share. Like Jesus, they will be raised from the dead, coming forth in the first resurrection to live and reign with Christ. (Rev. 20:4,6) Thus, through the promised seed, mankind will be blessed. In chapter twenty-one, verses four and five, this is revealed, and by faith we see mankind delivered from the result of original sin, and the earth filled with a knowledge of the glory of the Lord. Concerning this we read: “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

Thus we see that the great tragedy of disobedience which was induced by that old serpent in the Garden of Eden is not to have lasting evil consequences, for suffering and death are to end. We see also that this is to be accomplished through the promised seed, the messianic company composed of Christ and his faithful followers. Yes, this glorious divine victory which will result in the prevalence of righteousness and life throughout the earth is assured, yet it will not be without great cost to those who participate in it.

God’s People Persecuted

While the seed of promise will eventually bruise the serpent’s head, the serpent and his seed have throughout all the ages been inflicting painful bruises upon the people of God. Satan is the prince of darkness, and the Lord’s people have been bearers of light, so the conflict between the two has been continuous. The deeds of darkness are evil and are exposed by the light; so the darkness hateth the light and the prince of darkness has opposed the bearers of light, and the foretold enmity has continued. Satan has not known just who this promised seed might be, so throughout the ages he has directed his opposition against all those upon whom God has manifested his favor. The first evidence of this was the murder of righteous Abel.*

*For information on the identity of the Devil and his opposition to God, see the booklet entitled, “Your Adversary the Devil”.

Without exception, the servants of God from Abel to John the Baptist were persecuted. A rereading of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews will help to impress this fact upon one’s mind. In all those experiences we see the enmity of Satan manifested toward the people of God. Through their faith in God and his promises they endured; and, through them, the light of truth which God wanted revealed to the people, shone out and was the contributing cause of the hatred that was so cruelly manifested toward them.

The enmity of Satan was vehemently manifested toward Jesus, resulting in his cruel death upon the cross. The tools of Satan used to persecute Jesus were the religious leaders of that day, whom Jesus himself said were of their “father the devil,” the seed of the serpent. (John 8:13,44) After Pentecost these same opposers of the light vented their hatred against the disciples of Jesus, haling them into prison and putting them to death whenever possible.

This continuous and insistent campaign of Satan to destroy the seed of the woman is seen also in all the deceptions and erroneous doctrines which developed among the professed followers of Jesus. Paul prophesied a widespread apostasy which would develop in the church after the apostles fell asleep in death and, describing the system which would be based upon false doctrines as the “man of sin,” he said that its coming would be “after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.”—II Thess 2:3-11

The truth concerning the efforts of that old serpent to thwart the plan of God to bruise his head also reaches its climactic revealment in the Book of Revelation. In the messages to the seven churches, the trail of the serpent is manifested in Jesus’ expressions of condemnation for various wrong doctrines and practices prevalent among his professed people. In the church at Ephesus there were those who professed to be apostles, but were not, the brethren having found them to be liars. In the church at Smyrna, there were those who “say they are Jews [spiritual Israelites, the called-out ones of this age], and are not but are the synagogue of Satan.” To the Smyrna brethren Jesus also said, “The Devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried.”—Rev. 2:2,9,10

The church at Pergamos is said to dwell “where Satan’s seat is.” And Satan evidently had gotten his viewpoints into the minds of some of these brethren, for Jesus said, “Thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel.” Jesus said that they also had “them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.” (Rev. 2:13-15) The error of Balaam was teaching for “reward” (Jude 11) It is believed that the’ Nicolaitane spirit is one of dictatorship. This is contrary to the spirit of Christ.

The great sin that entered the church at Thyatira was permitting “that woman Jezebel” to seduce the believers—not all of them, for Jesus indicated that there were those who had not thus known “the depths of Satan.” (Rev. 2:20-24) In the church of Philadelphia there were also those of “the synagogue of Satan.” (Rev. 3:9) In the Laodicean church some say, “I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing”—a boastful attitude of pride and self-sufficiency which is characteristic of Satan.

The Unholy City

In these messages to the various churches, which in their composite application reveal the condition among the Lord’s professed people throughout the entire age, Satan’s cunning and unholy handiwork is clearly manifested. Later in the Book of Revelation a great counterfeit system of Christianity is shown to arise as a result of his efforts to destroy the seed of promise and the plan of God which is centered in the Messiah. This unholy thing is named “Babylon the great, the mother of harlots,” and is shown as reigning over “the kings of the earth.” (Rev. 17:5) John wrote concerning Babylon, “I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints,, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” (vs. 6) Thousands of the Lord’s people were put to death during the Dark Ages by just such an unholy system.

While this woman herself was drunken with the blood of the saints, the Revelator informs us that the “kings of the earth” and the people of the earth were made “drunk with the wine of her fornication.” (Rev. 14:8; 17:2) Wine is used in the Bible as a symbol of doctrine, or teachings. This unholy church system called Babylon taught and instituted the union of church and state. This was spiritual harlotry, because the followers of Jesus are espoused to him and, if faithful to their vows, wait for his return to be united with him in the kingdom which he establishes. But, through the union of church and state, the kingdom of Christ was allegedly established. This was a false claim, and the illicit union only led to wars and to bitter persecution of those who held loyally to the true teachings of the Word of God.

Under another symbol, a system of government created by this unholy alliance is represented as a leopard-like beast. (Rev. 13:1-3) Space will not permit a detailed discussion of all that is represented by the various characteristics of this beast as John describes them. We call attention to the general lesson merely to trace further the extreme lengths to which Satan has gone in order to thwart the purpose of God, and to destroy his people. Concerning this beast we read, “it was given unto him [that is, permitted] to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.”—Rev. 13:7

Four “beasts” are mentioned in the Book of Daniel, chapter seven. They represent, we believe, four kingdoms, or empires—Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. The fourth of these beasts is shown with ten horns, and then a little horn is seen to grow up among the others, displacing three of them. Horns seem to be symbolic of ruling authority, or power, so these ten horns, and later the little horn, would picture various aspects of Roman rulership during the many centuries of its existence, the little horn being the last, and in control until the beast is “given to the burning flame.”—Dan. 7:11,26,27

Of this little horn, Daniel wrote, “I beheld and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.” (Dan. 7:21) This is almost the identical language used by the Revelator to describe the persecuting activities of the leopard-like beast, so both seem clearly to symbolize a beast-like system of government which through the centuries continued to bruise the heel of the Lord’s elect people, those called to be saints, and who will eventually make up that messianic company which will rule the world in righteousness and bless all the families of the earth.

But this bruising is not fatal in the sense of destroying the seed. It is the heel that is bruised, and while the persecution of the saints throughout the age has been painful, it has served to test the faithful and to prove them worthy to live and reign with Christ. Besides, this persecution is not to go on forever. This is emphasized in Daniel’s prophecy where we read that the prevailing of the Satan-inspired little horn against the Lord’s true people was to continue only “until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.”—Dan. 7:21,22

The saints do not possess the kingdom by virtue of a military victory over the little horn, or beast—the church-state counterfeit of the kingdom of Christ. Rather, they continue to be bruised by the seed of the serpent until every member of this foreordained company of called-out ones from the earth has proved his faithfulness even unto death. When the last one of these has thus proved faithful, and has passed within the veil, then, all being raised from the dead in the first resurrection, they will possess the kingdom, and will “live and reign with Christ a thousand years.”—Rev. 20:4

It will be then that the tide of battle will be turned. Instead of that old serpent and his seed continuing to bruise those whom the Lord is preparing to be his channel of blessing to all mankind, they, exalted to the divine nature and to glory with Jesus, will be instrumental, first in binding him for a thousand years, and then crushing his head; that is, forever and completely destroying him that he may no more deceive and plague the people.

Click here to go to Part 17
Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |