TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THE BOOK OF REVELATION
In my early teens, I began going to Sunday School for the second time in my life. This second time, I managed to maintain a good level of attendance and so won a prize. This was to be presented on ‘Prize Giving Day’. I was allowed to make a selection from a number of books on offer. I remember looking at an array of books, none of which really interested me. For no reason, other than I had to make a choice, I chose a paper back version of the Book of Revelation. It was my mother who encouraged me to read this book, with the exhortation that I had to understand it! This was many years before I became a Christian. This ‘task’ that my mother gave me all those years ago I still find I am trying to fulfill. I hope the following Chapter will be a help to the reader as he studies ‘The Revelation’ with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Placing Events in their Correct Sequence
When we correctly place the time of ‘great tribulation’ before a separate time when ‘God’s wrath will be poured out upon the earth’, we find that the book of Revelation begins to make sense. As one reads prophecy of Scripture it is necessary to place each jigsaw puzzle piece in its correct place; only then will the whole puzzle come together correctly. The problem we face is that these puzzle pieces are not necessarily found in sequential order in Scripture.
An example of this can be found in Rev.20:1-5 where a reference to the "first resurrection" immediately follows a description of the events which occur after the time of God’s wrath and Jesus’ subsequent coming to the earth with His Saints. The ‘first resurrection’ actually occurs 3½ years earlier. Therefore, one cannot necessarily place an event in its proper time-scale by taking note of where it comes in the text. In some instances, events are described in a very different order to the order in which they are fulfilled.
Many, when trying to understand the book of Revelation, make the error in thinking that the events it describes are in time order. However, once one begins to understand the correct sequence of events, understanding the book of Revelation becomes easier, and all prophecies harmonious, one with the other.
The Book of Revelation
The book of Revelation, from Chapter 4 onwards, describes the events which will occur during the last seven years of this age, and finishes by referring to the millennial reign of Christ which follows, and which in turn culminates in the second resurrection, and is in turn followed by the coming of the new heaven and new earth.
The 24 Elders
As one reads of the 24 elders in Revelation Chapter 5, those who only refer to the King James ‘1611’ version of the Bible find they may be misled as they start to study this book. They read of the twenty four elders singing a "new song," with the words, "..Thou hast made us unto our God, Kings and Priests, and we shall reign on the earth," (Rev.5:10). This should read "..Thou hast made them unto our God, Kings and Priests, and they shall reign on the earth." In order to sustain a ‘Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory’ its adherents need to show that the Church is in heaven before the time of ‘great tribulation’, and some use this translation to uphold their belief. It is held by some, therefore, that the Church is seen in heaven before the ‘great tribulation’ in the form of the twenty four elders, not realising their belief is based on this uncertain translation.
It is most likely the twenty four elders represent the twelve apostles and the twelve heads of the twelve tribes of Israel.
The Seven Seals
The first five seals of Chapter 6 all take place in the time of the ‘great tribulation’. The first seal describes one who rides on a white horse (v.2), and is representative of the ‘beast’, the man the whole world will worship. The second, third and fourth seals inform us that this time will indeed be a time of great tribulation, during which peace is taken from the earth so that men will slay one another, (v.3&4). Economic turmoil will see famine, and Death and Hades will bring even more deaths through the "sword... pestilence and by wild beasts," (v.7&8). The fifth seal indicates this time will produce many martyrs of those "slain because of the word of God and because of the testimony which they had maintained," (v.9). So, we can build up a description of the time of ‘great tribulation’ which is very different to the time of ‘wrath’ which follows it. Then sixth seal describes how "..the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the whole moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth". This agrees with Matt.24:29, where Jesus says, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky," the event, which Jesus tells us precedes His coming "on the clouds of the sky." Although this passage in Revelation makes no reference to Jesus’ actual coming, it does declare that it inaugurates the "wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come and who is able to stand," (v.16&17). We clearly see that ‘wrath’ follows ‘tribulation’, these terms not being confused one with the other. Joel also prophesied of this occasion when "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord shall come," and this is quoted by Peter in his first sermon, (Joel 3:31 and Acts 2:20). Peter thereby indicates the coming of the Lord is after the great tribulation, and before Jesus comes in the clouds, by using this scripture. Peter, in describing the period of time during which the Holy Spirit is poured out upon all flesh and he includes this event when the "sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come," (Acts 2:17), agreeing with the above interpretation.
Chapter 7 presents a ‘pause’ between the sixth and seventh seals, during which, the 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel are "sealed" so as not to be harmed in the forthcoming time of wrath, and the "great multitude" who have come "out of the great tribulation" are seen in heaven: "for this reason they are before the throne of God and they serve Him day and night in His temple... and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes," (Rev.7:15-17).
It is the breaking of the seventh seal in Chapter 8 that actually instigates this ‘pause’, when there will be "silence in heaven for half an hour," (Rev.8:1), the events of which were described in Chapter 7. Chapter 8 then goes on to describe the effect of the blasts of the seven trumpets given to the seven angels. These trumpets unfold for us the awesomeness of the time of the wrath of God, a time much more severe than the one described as the ‘great tribulation’ with its focus on the persecution of the saints.
The Greater Severity of the Time of the Wrath of God
In this time of God’s wrath "a third of the earth is burnt up... a third of the trees... and all the green grass," (v.7). "A third of the creatures which were in the sea... died, and a third of the ships were destroyed," (v.9). "A third of the waters became wormwood and many men died from the waters," (v.11). And "a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were smitten," (v.12), before a warning is given of the three remaining blasts of the trumpet, the "three woes," (v.13), for even worse is yet to come! All of this is much more severe than anything which occurred during the time of great tribulation.
The first "woe", heralded by the fifth trumpet in Chapter 9, is a time of torment for five months for those who do not have the "seal of God on their foreheads," the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel. Men will seek death but will be unable to find it: "they will long to die and death flees from them," (Rev.9:1-12).
The sixth trumpet brings the second "woe" when "four angels... kill a third of mankind", and yet "the rest of mankind... did not repent" of the evil deeds they had committed, (Rev.9:13-21)!
In Chapter 11 we read that before "the third woe", "two witnesses" are granted to prophesy for "twelve hundred and sixty days," [3½ years], eventually being killed by the ‘Beast’. 3½ days after their death, however, "the breath of life from God comes into them," and they stand on their feet and they go up into heaven "in a cloud." Some suggest these ‘two witnesses’ represent the Church, quoting this Chapter as a description of the ‘Rapture,’ the catching away of the saints. But this event happens within the time of ‘God’s wrath’, after the Church has already been gathered unto the Lord.
The text explains that these "two witnesses" are "two olive trees, and the two lamp stands that stand before the Lord of the earth," (Rev.11:4). In Zechariah Chapter 4 it is explained that "these two olive trees... beside the two golden pipes [of the lamp stand], which empty the golden oil from themselves," are "the two anointed ones who are standing beside the Lord of the whole earth," (Zech.4:11-14). Is it possible that these "two witnesses" are Enoch and Elijah, the only two men who have never died, as both were taken up into heaven whilst still alive at the end of their previous time on earth, (Gen.5:24 and 2Kings 2:11)? The writer to the Hebrews tells us, "It is appointed once for men to die and after this judgement," (Heb.9:27). Are these two men witnesses to the very purpose of God which has been played out from Genesis to Revelation?
As the "two witnesses" go up to heaven, "seven thousand people.. are killed in an earthquake" which shakes Jerusalem, and the text tells us "the second woe is past, the third is coming quickly," (Rev.11:14). It will not be until Chapter 19, however, that we can tell exactly what this "third woe" is, as when the seventh angel sounds the seventh trumpet, completing the seven seals, we are not told exactly what happens immediately but, instead, are told what the twenty four elders subsequently say: "The nations were [past tense] enraged and Thy wrath came [past tense], and the time came [past tense] for the dead to be judged, and the time to give their reward to Thy bond servants the prophets and to the saints and to those who fear Thy Name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth," (v.18). Readers of the King James 1611 version of the Bible find the present tense being used in that Bible version, saying, "Thy wrath is come," - present tense, but what the elders say does not describe the events after the seventh trumpet, but tells of the elders referring back to the beginning of the time of ‘God’s wrath’, just after the first resurrection and catching away of the saints had taken place - past tense.
Revelation Chapter 12
As Chapter 12 begins, the book of Revelation continues by describing events which go back to the beginning of the ‘great tribulation’, for in this Chapter the ‘saints’ are referred to once again. This ‘division’ is very important to notice and understand.
There are many ‘end-time’ doctrines based on Chapter 12 of the book of Revelation. In particular many of the so called, ‘Manifest sons of God’ doctrines use differing interpretations of this Chapter. However, using Scripture to interpret Scripture, the following can be understood.
"A great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars, and she was with child," (Rev.12:1&2). This appears to refer to Israel, analogous to Joseph’s dream: "Behold, the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me [Joseph being the twelfth star]," (Gen.37:9.), which suggests this interpretation of this picture language.
"And another sign appeared in heaven... a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns," (Rev.12:3). The clear indication is that this is a reference to the ‘ten horned’ beast of Daniel Chapter 7, (Dan.7:7&24). Further reference to this beast, along with explanation, follows in Chapters 13 and 17, clearly describing events in the time of ‘great tribulation,’ (Rev.13:1 and Rev.17:3,7&9). That this sign describes this beast as being a ‘dragon’ alludes to the fact that Satan will give this world system, and the man who personifies this system, "his power and his throne and great authority," (Rev.13:2).
Daniel Chapter 7 tells us a little more about this same ‘beast’. A little horn comes up amongst the ten horned beast having "a mouth uttering great boasts," (v.8&11). This little horn "will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One", who "will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time [3½ years]," (v.25).
Israel, as signified in Rev.12:1 as a ‘woman’, is "in labour and in pain to give birth," (v.2), and is seen by John giving birth "to a son, a male, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron," (v.5). We are told in Rev.19:15 that Jesus "will rule... the nations ...with a rod of iron," a task in which He is joined by those who overcome: "And he who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations and he shall rule them with a rod of iron," (Rev.2:26&27). Some would suggest that this task of ‘ruling’ is undertaken only by the Body of Christ without the actual bodily return of Jesus to the earth, but this does not accord with Rev.19:15.
John then sees the "woman", Israel, fleeing "into the wilderness... for one thousand two hundred and sixty days," [3½ years], to a "place prepared by God," (v.6).
The Key Role of Michael
John next describes a "war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon... and the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth," (v.7-9). This event is that which will trigger the very end of this age, Daniel’s 70th week, and bring about the ‘great tribulation’ for 3½ years, after which there will be 3½ years when God’s wrath will be poured out.
Some suggest that the Church is involved in this battle to throw Satan down to the earth, but Scripture does not indicate that it is. On the contrary, only "Michael and his angels" were "waging war with the dragon," (v.7). However, it is clear that the Church is tremendously effected by this event.
The ‘He’ of Paul’s Letter to the Church at Thessalonica
Paul wrote to the brethren at Thessalonica regarding "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him," telling them, "not be quickly shaken from your composure... that the day of the Lord has come," (2Thess.2:1&2). Paul explained that they were not to be deceived by anyone for that day would not come "unless the apostasy [falling away] comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition," (v.3). Criteria not fulfilled by a Pre-tribulation Rapture! Paul reminded these brethren that he had already explained to them "what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed... only ‘he’ who now restrains will do so until ‘he’ is taken out of the way," (v.6&7).
A classic ‘end-time’ belief has been that this ‘he’ of Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians is the Holy Spirit, who will be removed along with the Church in whom He dwells, at a ‘Rapture’, a catching away of the saints, which is to take place before the ‘great tribulation’, but this is not based on any specific scripture. Scripture, however, does tell us of one who is pivotal to the rise of the ‘beast’ and the coming of the ‘great tribulation’, and that is Michael.
The ‘Time of Distress’ and the ‘Great Tribulation’
Daniel was told that at the time of the end "Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, [Israel], will arise and there will be a time of distress such as has never occurred since there was a nation until that time," (Dan.12:1). It is the rising up of Michael which will see this "time of distress" commence. The description of this event is the same as that used by Jesus to describe the ‘great tribulation’: "There will be great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world, nor ever shall," (Matt.24:21). The "time of distress" of Chapter 12 of Daniel is the same time as the "great tribulation" of Chapter 24 of Matthew’s Gospel, an event which occurs when Michael is taken out of the way, enabling the man of sin to be revealed, (2Thess.2:3-9).
What ‘It’ is that Brings Forth the End-time Ministry of the Church
Many are looking for an end time ‘anointing’ upon the Body of Christ, the Church, to bring about a final revival harvest. This, and only this, is considered by many to be the crucial ingredient which will bring about the last great harvest, a harvest without, and before, any time of tribulation. Recent years have therefore seen great excitement about ‘anointings upon believers’, many of which have proven false. There has been much talk of revival as a result of this expectation, but none of this has been in the context of that which is found in Scripture. There is only one scriptural end-time harvest and this is the one found in the time of "great tribulation".
Realising that there must be some ‘change’ which effects the body of Christ so as to bring in the end-time harvest, many have studied previous ‘moves of God’, concluding that there must be a special anointing upon believers at such a time. It is not an ‘anointing,’ however, which brings the change in the Body of Christ, so as to bring in this harvest, although the Church will be anointed at that time, but rather the fact that Satan is thrown down from heaven and so is no longer accusing the brethren before God day and night. That the Body of Christ will be anointed at that time is not the critical factor.
This future ‘change’ for the Body of Christ, the Church, disclosed to us in this Scripture, therefore, is due to the fact that the "accuser of the brethren has been thrown down [from heaven], who accuses them before God day and night," so "NOW the salvation, and the power, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come," (Rev.12:10). It is this fact that will bring about the Church’s victorious end-time ministry, resulting in a harvest, a great multitude from every nation and tribe and people and tongue.
The End-time Harvest
Jesus spoke of this "harvest" which, He explained to His disciples, is "the end of the age," (Matt.13:39). There is only one harvest found in Scripture, which is when a "great multitude, which no one could count, from all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues... come out of the great tribulation," (Rev.7:9,13&14). Daniel was told that it was in this "time of distress" that those "who have insight will shine brightly like the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness [bring in the harvest], like the stars for ever and ever," (Dan.12:1&3). This agrees with Jesus’ description of the "harvest... the end of the age" when He says "the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father," (Matt.13:39&43). This is when the "gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end [of the age] shall come," (Matt.24:14). Present day evangelistic activity cannot bring about this result which will only find its fulfilment at the end of the Church age.
Satan having Great Wrath causes Great Tribulation
The effect of Satan being cast down upon the earth necessitates him having to find a man in whom to be personified, for Satan, a spirit, once cast to the earth, needs a body through which to be effective. This he does in the man known as the ‘Beast’ who personifies the end-time world system, also described as a ‘beast.’ Although a loud voice will say, when Satan is cast down to the earth, "Rejoice O heavens and you who dwell in them," this same voice declares, "Woe, to the earth and the sea because the devil has come down to you having great wrath, knowing he only has a short time," (Rev.12:12). Satan is the cause of there being great tribulation, not God!
When the dragon sees he is thrown down to the earth he persecutes the woman, [Israel], but she finds a place in the wilderness where she is "nourished for a time, and times and half a time, [3½ years], from the presence of the serpent," (Rev.12:13&14). Enraged with the woman he will then go off to "make war with the rest of her offspring who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus [Christians]", (Rev.12:17). Daniel also saw "the horn was waging war with the saints [Christians] and overpowering them... and they will be given into his hands for a time, and times and half a time [3½ years]", (Dan.7:21&25).
Revelation Chapter 13 explains that Satan gives his "power and his throne and great authority" to the "beast... having ten horns and seven heads," and the whole world, being amazed, worships the dragon, and the ‘beast’ to whom he has given his authority, (Rev.13:2-4). The ‘beast’ will speak arrogant words and blasphemies, and be given "authority to act for forty two months," [3½ years]. He will make war with "the saints," (v.7), "..and all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose name has not been written in the book of life of the lamb, slain from the foundation of the world," (v.8). "Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints," (v.10). So we find the time of the ‘great tribulation’ being described for us, one of tribulation and persecution of the saints, the true Church, but a time in which she will be victorious.
The ‘Beast’ and the ‘False Prophet’
During the ‘great tribulation’ another beast will arise at the time of the first beast, one with "two horns like a lamb." He speaks "as a dragon" and "exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence," making "the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast," (Rev.13:11&12). He "deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast," (v.14). He gives "breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast might even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed," (v.15). "He causes all... to be given a mark on their right hand, or on their forehead, so that no one should be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, the name of the beast, or the number of his name," (v.16&17). "His number is 666," (v.18). This second beast is called the "false prophet," (Rev.16:13), "who performed the signs in the beast’s presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast, and those who had worshipped his image," (Rev.19:20).
In Chapter 14 an angel declares, "‘If any one worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he will drink of the wine of the wrath of God.’ Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and the faith in Jesus," (Rev.14:9-12). This scripture places this conflict clearly before the ‘wrath of God’.
That this happens in the time of ‘great tribulation’, before the ‘wrath of God’, is confirmed by the fact that the "first resurrection" includes those "who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand," (Rev.20:4&5). This is why a voice from heaven is heard in Chapter 14 saying, "‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labours, for their deeds follow with them,’" (Rev.14:13).
Chapter 14, however, describes events which link the time of ‘great tribulation’ and the ‘wrath of God’, indicating once more the ‘interlude’, the "silence in heaven for about half an hour", (Rev.8:1), which we found in Chapters 7 and 8. The sequence of events as described in earlier Chapters is being repeated. Once again the saints are seen in heaven, this time represented by 144,000 "who had been [past tense] purchased from the earth... the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes... purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb," (Rev.14:3-5). These are not the same 144,000 of Chapter 7, who represent Israel, but that perfect number, [not an exact number], who represent those who come from the time of ‘great tribulation’, those who have not been defiled by the religious whore of Babylon, or her daughters, keeping "themselves chaste," (Rev.14:4).
In this Chapter we read of the warning not to "worship the beast", telling us that those who do "will drink of the wine of the wrath of God," (Rev.14:9&10). This warning is clearly for the saints: "Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God, and their faith in Jesus," (v.12), because what follows indicates the different outcome for those who listen to the "eternal gospel" preached to "every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and people," (v.6), and those who do not. We subsequently read of the ‘last harvest’ being reaped, as the "hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe," (v.15). But we are also told this initiates the "wine press of the wrath of God", which awaits those not part of this harvest, (v.18-20). Again, the correct division of this Scripture is essential to place these events in their correct order, as they are guaranteed to be in the correct time sequence in the text. Whichever tense the translators have used in the Bible version we read can effect our understanding of these end-time events, and in what order they come, and we need to be aware of this.
A second angel declares "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality," (v.8); Babylon’s first mention.
Another angel declares to Him who is "Sitting on the cloud, one like the Son of Man [Jesus] having a golden crown upon His head and a sharp sickle in His hand... ‘Put in your sickle and reap, because the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe,’" (v.15). This is referring to the ‘first resurrection and catching away of the saints’, the culmination of this last great harvest. This immediately precedes another angel declaring, "Put in your sharp sickle, and gather the vine of the earth and throw them in to the great wine press of the wrath of God," (v.18&19).
And so we see that the ‘wrath of God’ is outlined once more in Chapters 15 and 16, repeating that which was of the "seven trumpets," (Rev.8:1), described in earlier Chapters. This time the ‘wrath of God’ is portrayed by a vision of "seven angels" who have "seven plagues, the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished," (Rev.15:1). This "sign in heaven", as the vision of the "seven angels" with the "seven plagues" is described, is concurrent with John seeing "those who had [past tense] come off victorious from the beast, and from his image, and from the number of his name," in heaven "holding harps of God", (v.2). This scripture concurs with there being a time of ‘great tribulation’, during which the ‘beast’ is in conflict with ‘the saints’, before the separate time when ‘God will pour forth His wrath’, for John then sees the seven angels given "seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God," (v.7), after the saints are in heaven.
Seven Golden Bowls Full of the Wrath of God
As the "seven bowls of wrath" are poured out in Revelation Chapter 16 the first "became a loathsome and malignant sore upon the men who had the mark of the beast and had worshipped his image," (Rev.16:2).
The second bowl of wrath causes the sea to become "blood, like that of a dead man and every living thing in the sea died," (v.3).
The third causes the "the rivers and the springs of water" to become "blood," the angel and the waters saying, "Righteous art Thou... because Thou didst judge these things, because they poured out [past tense] the blood of the saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink. They deserve it," (v.4-6).
The fourth bowl is poured out upon "the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire..." who "blasphemed the Name of God, who has power over these plagues, and they did not repent," (v.8&9).
The fifth bowl is poured out upon the "throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened and they gnawed their tongues because of pain... but they did not repent of their deeds," (v.11).
The sixth angel pours forth his bowl of wrath upon "the river Euphrates," mirroring the sixth blast of the trumpet in Chapter 9, which also refers to the river Euphrates, (Rev.9:13-19), so that "its water was dried up, that the way might be prepared for the kings of the east," (v.12), two hundred million horsemen according to Chapter 9, (Rev.9:16). Do they come from China?
Before the seventh bowl is poured forth, John sees the "kings of the whole world gathered together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty... to the place which in Hebrew is called ‘Har-Magedon,’ [Armageddon]." This war does not take place at "Har-Magedon" but "outside the city", [Jerusalem], as the prophet Zechariah foretells: "I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle," (Zech14:2), just before Jesus returns to the earth with the "holy ones" [saints], (v.4) . This battle takes place when the seventh bowl is poured forth, as we will see when we consider Revelation Chapter 19. So, this battle will precede the second coming of the Lord to the earth, "a unique day which is known to the Lord," according to the Prophet, Zechariah, (Zech.14:7), agreeing with the interjection in Revelation Chapter 16: "Behold, I am coming like a thief," (Rev.16:15).
The seventh angel pours out his bowl upon the air, bringing a "plague of hail ...huge hailstones about one hundred pounds each," causing men to blaspheme, (Rev.16:21), and a voice from the throne says, "It is done!" (v.17). This coincides with a "a great earthquake such as there has not been since man came upon the earth" splitting Jerusalem in "three parts" (v.18&19), as also prophesied by Zechariah, who speaks of "the Mount of Olives... split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south," (Zech.14:4).
Before concluding the ‘Revelation’, Chapters 17 and 18 describe ‘Babylon the Great,’ who "was remembered before God to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath," (Rev.16:19).
The Great Harlot - Babylon the Great
Chapter 17 announces the "judgement of the great harlot," (Rev.17:1), and provides the information and interpretation that the reader needs to understand the picture language being used in this and other Chapters. She is a "woman sitting on a scarlet beast..." the beast "having seven heads and ten horns," (v.3). "Those who dwell on the earth will wonder, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast," (v.8). We are told of the seven kings who are represented by the seven heads of the beast, "five have fallen, one is, the other is not yet come... and the beast is himself an eighth, and is of the seven." "The ten horns" are also "ten kings" who "receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour," having "one purpose,.. they give their power and authority to the beast," (Rev.17:12&13).
‘Three’ Major Players
Many confuse the three major players described in Revelation Chapter 17, the ‘beast,’ the ‘false prophet,’ and the ‘harlot - Mystery Babylon,’ as they endeavour to understand just who these represent in reality. For example, the head of the religious harlot system cannot also be the ‘beast,’ an amazingly common error, because the harlot rides on the back of the ‘beast’. The man known as ‘beast’, who the whole world will worship, must be a different personality to the man who heads up the ‘harlot religious system’. Although many might ‘see’ other interpretations in ‘type’, these do not allow for the fulfilment of all that is written regarding the end-time events unless these three key figures are recognised.
The fate of the ‘harlot’ is in the hands of the ‘beast’ for "the ten horns... and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire. For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose," (Rev.17:16&17). Before her judgement, a voice is heard from heaven saying, "Come out of her My people, that you may not participate in her sins and that you may not receive of her plagues, for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities... for this reason, in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire," (v.4-8).
This separation of the saints from this religious harlot must take place before, and during the ‘great tribulation’, when, in the time of "harvest... the end of the age... the Son of Man will gather out of His Kingdom all stumbling blocks and those who commit lawlessness," separating the "tares" sown "among the wheat", which are allowed to "grow together until the time of harvest," (Matt.13:24-30 and 36-43). The tares are gathered up and bound into bundles to be burnt. This ‘burning’ is not, necessarily, carried out immediately, the very separation enabling the "righteous to shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father," (v.43). The fate of the tares, as part of the harlot, is to be "burned up with fire," a judgement carried out by the beast, (Rev.17:16&18:8). The call to "Come out of her My people" has always been part of the will of God for His people, that they should "Come out from their [unbelievers] midst and be separate", just as Paul exhorted the believers in Corinth to do, (2Cor.6:14-18). But we see there is a full separation of tares and wheat which takes place at the end of the age before the judgement of the great harlot, and this we will discuss later.
It is often speculated that the Pope is ‘the Antichrist’, ‘the Beast’ who all who "dwell on the earth will worship," but it will be seen that he cannot be, because he is the ‘head’ of the harlot, the false religious system, who rides on the back of the seven headed beast. These are separate personalities.
We are told the "great harlot" has caused all who "dwell on the earth to be made drunk with the wine of her immorality," (Rev.17:2). It can be confusing to note that in the religious system, the "great harlot", "the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all who have been slain on the earth," is found, (Rev.18:24), sharing the guilt are the "Scribes and Pharisees", upon whom, according to Jesus, fell the "guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, who was murdered between the temple and the altar," (Matt.23:29-35). By the events which are described in the Book of Revelation, the ‘Beast’ will share in this same guilt of the shedding of the innocent blood of the saints. Just how this ‘blood guilt’ falls upon any these differing groups may be difficult for us to understand, but clearly it can.
World-wide Economic Disaster
We see that when "Babylon, the great city" is "thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer," then "the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more," (v.21&11). It seems that the judgement of the harlot will coincide with economic disaster. Is this because the beast will have to remove the harlot before the whole world will worship him, and the circumstances will also have to be created so that no one will be able to buy or sell without his mark? This would suggest he brings down the economic system of the world at this same time. Again, many look for an imminent economic collapse without our even having entered the time of ‘great tribulation’. However, a collapse on the unprecedented scale of the one described can only occur when the "ten horns, and the beast... will hate the harlot and... make her desolate... and will burn her up with fire" (Rev.17:16).
Chapter 19 returns again to the scene in heaven where the "great multitude", are, and where "the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready, and it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints," (Rev.19:1,6&7). It is then that the saints, described as "the armies which are in heaven," wearing "fine linen, white and clean," and riding "white horses", follow Jesus on His white horse coming to "judge and wage war." From Jesus’ mouth "comes a sharp sword, so that with it He might smite the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron... On His robe is written King of kings and Lord of lords," (v.11-16).
Unlike Jesus’ coming on the clouds 3½ years earlier with His angels, this time He comes with the saints to the earth, just as Zechariah prophesied: "Then the Lord, my God, will come, and all the holy ones [saints] with Him," (Zech.14:5), and "His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives," (v.4).
Jesus’ coming to the earth completes the time of the ‘wrath of God’ as it is His return to the earth which sees a culmination of God’s ‘wrath’ with Jesus treading "the wine press of the fierce wrath of God," (Rev.19:16), the third woe. As the "beast and the kings of the earth and their armies are assembled to make war against Him who sat upon the horse, and against His army," (v.19), the, so called, battle of Armageddon begins. In a final act of ‘wrath’ we see the "beast... seized, and with him the false prophet... these two... thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone, and the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat upon the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh," (v.20&21). Thus, we see the outcome for the ‘Beast’ described in the Book of Revelation which we can also read about in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians: "the lawless one... whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth, and bring to an end by the brightness of His coming," (2Thess.2:8).
The Millennial Reign of Jesus upon the Earth
Chapter 20 sees an angel come down from heaven "having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand." He binds Satan and throws him into the abyss, shutting and sealing it over him "for a thousand years," (v.1-3). The Millennial reign of Christ upon the earth has begun!
We are told that after the thousand years Satan will be "released for a short time," but meanwhile he cannot "deceive the nations any longer," (v.3).
Reigning with Christ will be those who are part of the "first resurrection". This includes those "beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and because of the Word of God, and those who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand," (Rev.20:4-6). Perhaps this Scripture more than any other makes it very clear that the ‘first resurrection’, and concurrent ‘catching away of the saints,’ [often referred to as the ‘Rapture’], occurs after the ‘great tribulation’, during which the ‘beast’ is first revealed upon the earth, making it quite clear that the Church will be on earth during the ‘great tribulation’.
The "second death", we are told, will have no power over these who partake in the "first resurrection," (v.5). They will already have their immortal bodies.
Little is said about the Millennial reign of Christ upon the earth in the book of Revelation except that when the thousand years is over "Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations" once more, gathering them together for another war, (Rev.20:7&8). This war takes place on the "broad plain of the earth surrounding the camp of the saints and the beloved city, [Jerusalem]," (v.9).
This area, containing the temple which will stand in Jerusalem during the thousand year reign of Jesus as King of the whole earth, is described in Ezekiel, Chapters 40 to 48. The land promised to Abraham, "from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates," (Gen.15:18), is divided between the twelve tribes of Israel, but with "the remainder for the Prince [Jesus] with the holy allotment and the sanctuary of the house... in the middle of it," (Ez.48:21).
This war is short lived, it seems, as "fire comes down from heaven" and devours those who are gathered. Satan is now "thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also," (Rev.20:10).
A New Heaven and a New Earth
We are told that after the thousand year reign of Christ "no place is found for earth and heaven," (Rev.20:11), "the first heaven and the first earth" passing "away," (Rev.21:1). Peter tells us that "the present heavens and earth, by His Word, are being preserved for fire," in the "day of the Lord which will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up," (2Pet.3:7-10). We can see that the ‘day of the Lord,’ beginning with ‘the wrath of God’, which came "as a thief," (1Thess.5:4&5, 2Pet.3:10, and Rev.16:15), is actually one thousand years long, for it is at the end of the thousand years that this judgement comes, as Peter explains, for "with the Lord one day is a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day," (2Pet.3:8).
The Great White Throne Judgement
John was shown the "Great White Throne and Him who sits upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away," (Rev.20:11). Jesus Himself told of this time of judgement, explaining there would be a "resurrection of life" and for "those who committed evil deeds... a resurrection of judgement," (John 5:29).
John saw that taking part in this "resurrection of judgement" were all those who have died from the very beginning of the earth who were not part of the ‘first resurrection’, plus all who have died during Jesus’ thousand year reign: "the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened, and another book was opened which is of life, and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds," (Rev.20:12). "The sea... and Death and Hades gave up their dead," for this judgement, (v.13), before "Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire," which "is the second death," (v.14), as was anyone whose name "was not found written in the book of life", (v.15). "Blessed and holy is the one who had a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power," (Rev.20:6). Their judgement is already complete..
The Holy City, the New Jerusalem
In Chapter 21 John sees the new heaven and new earth, and "the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband," (Rev.21:2). This is the consummation of the ages, this City prepared for all those who sought this better resurrection. It has "no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb," (v.23).
Now has come the time which Paul spoke of, "the end, when Jesus delivers up the Kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power," having reigned "until He put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death," (1Cor.15:25&26).
David had prophesied of God the Father saying of His Son, "Sit at My right hand until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet," (Ps.110:1 and Heb.1:13). Now this is fulfilled, when the Father has "put all things in subjection under His feet... and when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all," (1Cor.15:27&28).
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