The Book of Books—Part 17

The Revelation of Jesus Christ—Part 2

Satan’s Work Destroyed

THE Apostle Paul speaks of Satan as the one who has the “power of death.” (Heb. 2:14) This reminds us that it was through the influence of that old serpent, the Devil, and Satan, that our first parents were induced to disobey God’s law and brought upon themselves the penalty of death. God had said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) When they did disobey, the penalty fell, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”—Gen. 3:19

Previous to this, that old serpent said to mother Eve, “Ye shall not surely die.” (Gen. 3:4) We have noted the fact that the Devil has endeavored by many and devious deceptive methods to substantiate this blackest of all lies ever told. He has induced millions to believe that death is not a reality, that there is no death. In the minds of many he has succeeded in implanting the idea that eternal torment, not death, is the wages of sin.

However, the testimony of the Scriptures on this point is consistent from Genesis to Revelation. Death is the penalty for sin, not torment. The torment doctrine became associated with the biblical word hell; but we found that in the Old Testament hell is a translation of the Hebrew word sheol, and that the first time the word sheol is used in the Bible is by the righteous patriarch, Jacob, who indicated his expectation of going to sheol when he died.—Gen. 42:38

Hell, then, is simply the condition of death into which both the wicked and the righteous go when they die, there to await the resurrection of the dead. Job prayed to go to sheol, the Bible hell, in order to escape suffering. (Job 14:13) Solomon explained that there is no knowledge or wisdom in sheol—hell, the grave. (Eccles. 9:10) Through the Prophet Hosea, the Lord has assured us of his intention to destroy sheol. This, the Lord reveals, was to be accomplished by means of a ransom—“I will ransom them from the power of the grave,” that is, sheol.—Hos. 13:14

Jesus, the Redeemer and Messiah, is the one whom Jehovah sent into the world to ransom mankind from death, from sheol. To do this, he himself took the sinner’s place in death. He went into the Bible hell when he died. But he was not left in hell. Psalm 16:10 reveals that Jesus’ soul was brought back from hell, that is, restored to life. So this wonderful story of redemption and restoration is also carried over into the Book of Revelation where we are assured of the final and victorious accomplishment of divine love through the return of all who are in the Bible hell.

In Revelation 1:18 we find Jesus saying, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, … and have the keys of hell and of death.” Keys are used in the Scriptures as a symbol of authority and power to unlock. Jesus purchased these keys to unlock the gates of hell by himself going into hell; so he is now the Lord both “of the dead and living.”—Rom. 14:9

In keeping with this we have the assurance throughout the Bible that when Christ’s thousand-year kingdom is established, one of the blessed things to be accomplished by him will be the resurrection of the dead. In Revelation 20:13 the resurrection is depicted as a returning from the Bible hell. The text reads, “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them.”

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus speaks of the “gates of hell.” Hell will give up its dead because Jesus will use the keys of hell to unlock these gates. Thus all the prisoners of death will be set free, which is simply another way of saying that there shall be “a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust.” (Acts 24:15) With the resurrection work complete, man’s great enemy, death, will have been destroyed, or, as the Prophet Isaiah stated it, “swallowed up in victory.”—Isa. 25:8

The Lamb Was Slain

The reason the world of mankind will have an opportunity for life in the next age is because Jesus gave his flesh for the life of the world. (John 6:53) Throughout the Bible, this sacrificial work of the Redeemer is symbolized by a slain lamb. The first, although indefinite, reference to it is in connection with the lamb which, by faith, Abel offered to the Lord in sacrifice. (Gen. 4:4) Man had sinned, but God had promised that there would be a seed to bruise the serpent’s head, implying that in some way this sin would be remitted. So the Lord began to illustrate how it would be accomplished, that “without the shedding of blood” there would be no remission of sin.—Heb. 9:22

When Isaac, type of the Redeemer, was stretched upon the altar ready to be slain, the Lord substituted a ram, a lamb, to be sacrificed instead. God had promised Abraham that through his seed all the families of the earth were to be blessed, and in this scene the fact is illustrated that before this blessing could take place a loving father must give up his beloved son in sacrifice. As the plan of God unfolds, we discover that the Son who actually does this is Jesus, the Heavenly Father’s only begotten Son. In the picture of this, a lamb was provided as a substitute, thus reminding us that Jesus would become identified in the promises and prophecies of the Bible as God’s lamb who would be “brought to the slaughter.”—Isa. 53:7

The Passover lamb sacrificed by the Hebrew children in Egypt, and prominently associated with the deliverance of that people from Egyptian bondage, also pictured God’s lamb, Christ Jesus. Paul wrote, “Christ our Passover [lamb] is sacrificed for us.”—I Cor. 5:7

John the Baptist, the last of the prophets, had the high honor of introducing Jesus to his own disciples, and he did so by saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) This is as though John were saying, “This is the lamb that was foreshadowed by the one sacrificed by Abel, and by the lamb that God provided as a substitute for Isaac. This is the anti-typical Passover Iamb. This is the Iamb foretold by Isaiah, who would be brought to the slaughter. This is the real lamb, the ‘Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’.”

And this symbolism of the slain lamb also finds its glorious climax in the Book of Revelation. It is first introduced in Revelation 5:6. The fourth chapter of Revelation presents what is called the throne scene by many students of the Bible. In it we see the great Creator of the universe in his exalted position, with all creatures giving glory to him. In the beginning of the fifth chapter he is shown upon his throne with a book in his right hand, “written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.” Then a proclamation goes out, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?”—Rev. 5:1,2

This book clearly seems to be a symbol of the divine plan as contained in the Bible. It long remained a sealed book. Even those who were used by the Lord to write the Old Testament Scriptures did not comprehend the full significance of what they wrote. It remained for Jesus to begin breaking the seals of this book. Of him it is written that he “brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.”—II Tim. 1:10

So in response to the inquiry, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” the answer came, “The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book.” (Rev. 5:5) These two titles are both used in the prophesies concerning Jesus, the Messiah. Jacob’s prophecy speaks of him as a “lion’s whelp.” (Gen. 49:9,10) Isaiah refers to Jesus as the “root of Jesse.” (Isa. 11:10; Rom. 15:12) Jesse was the father of David, so the root of Jesse would also be the root of David.

When John heard the announcement that the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, had prevailed to open the book, he looked to see who that might be, and said, “I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts [living ones, representing the wisdom, justice, love, and power of the Creator], and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain.”—Rev. 5:6

The sequence of this vision is in complete harmony with the manner in which the plan of God itself actually unfolded to the Lord’s people, those represented by John. When Jesus came, his disciples recognized him to be the Messiah of promise, the one who had come to be “King of kings.” They saw him to be the Lion, the strong one, the ruler, of the tribe of Judah. It was only when he was taken away from them in death, and by special enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, that they recognized him also as the “Lamb of God,” the Lamb who came to give his life for the sins of the world, “a Lamb as it had been slain.”

And this Lamb symbolism is prominent throughout the remainder of the Book of Revelation. “A Lamb stood on the Mount Zion, and with him an hundred and forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.”—Rev. 14:1,4

We have already noted the many ways in which the Bible reveals that Jesus will have associates in the kingdom, joint-heirs who will live and reign with him. Here these are again shown. They are with the Lamb on Mount Zion (the heavenly phase of Christ’s kingdom), because they followed the Lamb, that is, they did as he did, they laid down their lives in sacrifice.

Nor were they defiled with women. A woman is used in the Scriptures to represent the church. There is, of course, the true church, a virgin, waiting to be united with Christ in marriage; and then there are impure churches, women, who, as we have seen have committed fornication with the kingdoms of the earth (the illicit union of church and state). Individual Christians throughout the age, who, at heart, have remained loyal to the heavenly Bridegroom, regardless of the position of the organization with which they were nominally associated, have been recognized by the Lord as those who follow the Lamb.

In the seventeenth chapter of Revelation we see the coming into being of unholy influences represented as a scarlet colored beast. The chapter indicates that this beast is a revival of something which had previously existed. As this prophecy is not yet wholly fulfilled, we will not speculate as to the details of its meaning. Suffice it to say that while it is the agency used to destroy that unholy city, Babylon, it also makes war with the Lamb. But the Lamb (the leader of God’s people) overcomes the beast, and it is destroyed and goes into perdition. This indicates the end of that long period when the forces of Satan represented by the “little horn” of Daniel 7:8,20-26, and the leopard-like beast of Revelation 13:1-8, “made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.” God’s plan moves forward toward the establishment of the kingdom.

Two chapters further on—the nineteenth—we again find mention of the Lamb. Verse seven reads, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” This not only speaks of the glorious reward of the called-out class in being united with their Lord in heavenly glory, but serves also as a valuable key in unlocking the meaning of some of the symbolic prophecies of the Book of Revelation.

Throughout the book we have the contrasting symbols of the Lamb and the beast. There is, as we have seen, a leopard-like beast; there is an image of the beast; and there is a scarlet colored beast. For the purposes of this study we may think of all these as unholy systems which seek to destroy the followers of the Lamb. Through illicit union of church and state; through the spirit of the world along all lines; through corrupt and blasphemous doctrines, millions of professed followers of the Lamb have been enticed away from full loyalty to him.

As a composite whole, these are shown, not as a virgin waiting for her heavenly Bridegroom to be united with him in marriage, but as committing fornication with the kings of the earth. By this unholy union they become a city, a governing force in the world; not a holy city, but “Babylon the great, the mother of harlots.” But in God’s due time, and by agencies which he permits to rise up in the earth for this purpose, Babylon is destroyed.

As John saw it in vision, “the great city was divided into three parts [as it went down in destruction], and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came into remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.” (Rev. 16:19) Revelation 17:1 identifies this unholy city, Babylon, as sitting “upon many waters”—representing peoples and nations of the earth—and in Jeremiah 51:13 we read, “O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come.”

In the place of Babylon there appears another city, a holy city, new Jerusalem. It is not a humanly constituted city. It is not formed by the illicit union of church and state. It is in no way a kingdom or city of this world. (John 18:36) Instead, it comes “down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev. 21:2) In verses nine and ten we read, “Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in spirit to a great and high mountain [Mount Zion], and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.”

Just as unholy Babylon is not a literal city, so holy Jerusalem is not a literal city. Both, however, are governments, or kingdoms; one unholy, created and inspired by that old serpent; the other holy, the new creation of God and designed by him to be the governing authority in the earth for a thousand years, and to be his channel through which will flow out his promised blessing to all the families of the earth.

As John saw the matter in vision, a new heaven and a new earth were closely associated with the holy city. (Rev. 21:1,2) This is in keeping with a prophecy in the Book of Isaiah, where we read God’s promise, “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.”—Isa. 65:17,18

In Isaiah’s prophecy, as a result of the creation of the new heavens and new earth, and the rejoicing Jerusalem, length of life is seen to increase, and the people “long enjoy the work of their hands.” (Isa. 65:22) Peter refers to this promise of a “new heavens and a new earth,” and says that therein will dwell “righteousness.” (II Pet. 3:13) Sin and unrighteousness led to death. Righteousness will lead to life; so as shown in John’s vision, as a result of the coming into power of the holy city, the new heavens and the new earth, “there shall be no more death,” for “the former things are passed away.”—Rev. 21:4

Verse three of this chapter says that then “the tabernacle of God” will be with men, and that he “will dwell with them.” Through Israel’s Tabernacle in the wilderness, God’s presence was represented with that nation. This symbolism is now used to convey to our minds that through the holy city, God’s favor and blessing will be manifested toward the people of all nations. Just as that old serpent, the Devil, and Satan, deceived and plagued mankind through the unholy city, Babylon, so the Lord will enlighten and bless the people through the agencies of Christ’s kingdom, the holy city.

In Revelation 22:1 this governmental arrangement is symbolized by a throne, the “throne of God and of the Lamb.” Proceeding out of this throne is a “pure river of water of life. … In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him.”—vss. 1-3

Thus is described the glorious climax of God’s plan of redemption and restoration as associated with the symbolisms of the slain Lamb. In this final picture we see the authority of the kingdom represented by the throne, and we are reminded that the blessings it will administer to the people—symbolized by the life-giving waters of the river—are made available through the sacrificial work of the slain Lamb.

Peter wrote about the combined testimony of the prophets, saying that they foretold the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. (I Pet. 1:11,12) Here, in the picture of the slain Lamb and the throne, we have both these prophetic truths brought to our attention, revealing that as a result of the suffering and death of the Lamb, and the glory of the kingdom, the river of life is made available; also the trees of life, the leaves of the trees being for the healing of the nations—the blessing, indeed, of all the families of the earth.

We saw the called-out ones with the Lamb on Mount Zion. (Rev. 14:1) We have seen them portrayed as united with the Lamb in marriage. We have seen the bride as the holy city, the new Jerusalem. And now, as the water of life is made available for the people, we see the bride again, and she is saying, “Come, … and … take the water of life freely.” (Rev. 22:17) Thus are confirmed again the many promises of God that those who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth are to be associated with him in the future work of blessing all mankind with life and happiness.

In the twentieth chapter of Revelation we have another portrayal of the glorious triumph of Christ’s kingdom, in which those called to be saints will share. In the Garden of Eden, God said to that old serpent that its head would be bruised by the seed of the woman. In fulfillment of this, the Revelator sees an “angel,” a messenger of God, who is Christ, lay “hold upon that old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan,” and bind him “for a thousand years,” after which he is destroyed.—vss. 1,2

John continues, “I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, nor in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years: this is the first resurrection.”—Rev. 20:4,5*

*NOTE: The remainder of verse five is not in the older Greek manuscripts, hence is spurious.

The purpose of the thousand-year reign of Christ, in which his church participates, is the restoration of the remainder of the dead from the sleep of death, and giving them an opportunity under the favorable circumstances of that time, to accept Christ, obey the laws of his kingdom, and live forever. That is brought to our attention in verses eleven through thirteen, in which we are told that the dead, small and great, shall stand before God, when books will be opened and the people judged from the things written in the books.

When Adam disobeyed God’s law he was sentenced to death. His children, born imperfect, lost life with him, and with it they lost their standing with God, being cast off from his favor. But in his love, God made provision through Christ for the human race to return to his favor. Therefore they must be awakened from death in order to have an opportunity to benefit from this provision. Here we see them, the dead, small and great, and they stand before God. The very fact that they are awakened from death indicates God’s favor being manifested toward them.

Then the books are opened. This, symbolically, indicates that a knowledge of God and his laws is revealed to them. That will be the time when the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. The awakened dead will be judged by the things written in the books; that is, they will have an opportunity to obey the will of God as contained in the opened books, and upon this basis they will be judged worthy or unworthy of everlasting life.

Verse twelve declares that another book will be opened, which is the book of life. Those who prove loyal to the truths written in the opened books will have their names placed in the book of life. This is simply a figurative way of saying that they will be deemed worthy to live forever.

And then, to emphasize that the dead who thus are given an opportunity to receive the blessings which divine love has provided for them, include all the dead, the next verse declares, “The sea gave up the dead which were in it: and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to his works” (Rev. 20:13)—according to the manner, that is, in which their works conform to the books which will then be opened for their guidance and instruction in righteousness.

The word hell, in this wonderful promise of the resurrection, is translated from the Greek word hades, which, as we have seen, simply denotes the condition of death. Verse fourteen declares that “death and hell” will be cast into the “lake of fire,” which is explained to be “the second death.” Failing to understand the Word of God, some have mistakenly supposed that the lake of fire is a place of torment, but it is simply the second death.

The first time God pronounced the death sentence, only Adam and his descendants were involved. But the second death will include everything out of harmony with God’s supreme will. All sinners who willfully oppose God, when full opportunity is given to them to reform, will go into the second death. The devil, and the beast, and the false prophet are cast into this symbolic lake of fire. And even death and hell are thus shown to be destroyed; or, as the poet has stated it, “Death itself will die.”

That is why, in the fourth verse of the next chapter, we are told that “there shall be no more death,” no more “pain,” and that the “former things are passed away.” All the evils which were introduced by Satan in the Garden of Eden, and which have plagued the human race for six thousand years, will then be destroyed. “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.”—Rev. 5:13

Dawn Bible Students Association
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