Thoughts on Revelation 14-16

Revelation 14‑16  •  20 min. read  •  grade level: 6
BEFORE the judgments are poured forth, not before tribulation, you get the redeemed from earth hid—their place marked out; not delivered, but sheltered, before the Lord appears, The moment they see Him, it will be the defeat of the anti-Christian action. Those who obey the word of prophecy will not be exposed in the last three and a half years. This chapter 14 stands alone. Whether in testimony or in judgment, it contains the Lord's dealings while this evil is going on.
(1.) Zion is royal grace, after failure at Sinai; Zion in Heb. 12 is earthly. The passage takes in the millennium up and down—church blessings and earthly blessings. Zion is of great importance in scripture. “Ichabod” was pronounced by the faithful on Israel, the ark being taken into captivity; there is a thorough break up, and then comes in a new thing by the divine interference of David, and the ark is then placed on Zion. Those who had faith went to the ark in David's time. All was confusion in David's reign. The ark was brought back, but the ark and the altar are never united again; the ark never set up again in the tabernacle. The priest walked before God's anointed; but now it was before God where the ark was. A believer would say, I go to the altar and there is the priest; but I find no ark, no cherubim, and the faithful would connect themselves with David, and then get the ark of the covenant. The high place was at Gibeon, and then God did visit his people, as Solomon: to faith the Solomon-reign was inferior to the David. This is the state of things now. “Ichabod” is written on the whole system of things; Christ is the ark. These 140,000 are not the same as those sealed in chapter vii. They are Judah, and do not include the ten tribes; the saved remnant of those who pass through the tribulation three and half years— “continuing with me in my temptations.” It is “the” (not “a") lamb as in common editions. (Verse 1.) The remnant are in an analogous position to Christ (and now His body), only on earth; and not united to the Son of man in heaven. Therefore they are learning the song from the church in heaven, and in principle like Christ, suffering from the evil around.
There are two points distinct in repentance. Two kinds we get in the Psalms and also often in our own hearts.
1st. Deliverance by power, and this answering to the ark on Mount Zion.
2nd. When delivered, they see their horrible sin against Christ who has delivered them. It is worship on Mount Moriah. “Cleanse me from blood-guiltiness,” &c., also Isa. 53 is an expression of it. We have done it. This is what is now called evangelical repentance; not merely the cry of fear, “Who shall deliver me?” “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee.”
“First-fruits” has always the same general meaning, gathering out from the old into the new thing. These have nearness to heaven. This scone is the Lord beginning with the earth. The character of salvation we get all through Revelation is coming from the throne of God—not the Father's house.
(2.) God is setting things to rights on the earth. This same gospel was given in Eden, not the gospel of the glory in heaven as now—the peculiar gospel given to Paul. Gospel means good news in all ages.
Eph. 3 “Every family,” not “the whole family.” See Amos 3:22You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. (Amos 3:2). Every being who comes into connection with God, angels, Jews, Gentiles, the church come under the name of the Father of Jesus, not Jehovah.
The everlasting gospel—good news to the earth—is that which will bruise Satan's head, and set up the kingdom. It is the same as the gospel of the kingdom, and there is nothing to hinder that being extended over the whole world. It goes on through all the tribulation. (Matt. 24) Psa. 96 is the expression of it. There is a cluster of Psalms all connected with the setting up of the kingdom: Psa. 93-100 -consequences; Psa. 94-100 -cry for vengeance from the remnant; Psalm 95.-Jews called to come up; Psa. 96 -for example; Psa. 97-He is coming; Psalm 98-He is come: Psa. 99-sitting between the cherubim; Psa. 100-all in order. They are worshipping; Jesus is Jehovah the Savior, Jah, the Savior, Joshua, Jesus. This gives the character to His people. (Matt. 1:2121And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21).)
Psa. 32 is just the character of verse 5: that the kingdom-character of the gospel; this the creator character. Here is all the difference.
(3 and 4.) This chapter gives us an epitome of God's dealings. Babylon falls first, then the beast. Revelation tells the end of the thing. There are many lames leading into the great thoroughfare of judgment. The spirit of Babylon is one. Well then I say I shall not go through that lane.
The book of Revelation will be of special use to those living at that time. We have to do with the book: but the book will have to do with them.
There are two principles of evil at work. In the beast there is the principle of association, or despotic, power. This we see in France. Babylon is a weaker system—commercial in its character, but also papal idolatry. This we have in spirit in England, everything to quiet the conscience, and anything done for the sake of peace to carry on her commerce; and so there is the setting in of rill evil. Commerce destroys principle, but it promotes civilization; they will not scalp people, but goodness depends on paying bills.
Verse 10. It is fear, and not the blessed attraction of grace, as we have it. The fear of God is put in contrast with the feat of the beast. The fear of the beast is no doubt great, but the fear of God is to be greater. (Ver. 7.)
Here is the patience of the saints to be tried, and of those who keep the faith of Jesus. There is belief in the promises—confidence in Him, which enables them to walk as He walked, looking for deliverance from
(5.) Verse 18. “Blessed are the dead.” God is coming in judgment and in power. The dead will get their full blessedness at once without waiting longer” dead” are those who have been slain, not those who are going to die, but those who have died.
(6, 7.) Verse 14-17. Two judgments, one distinguishing, the other crushing. The harvest applies to what is good; not so the vintage, all is crushed in that: when reaping, some may remain untouched. Vine of the earth takes in the Jews and Antichrist. Babylon is degenerate Christendom, Israel is called a vine.
John 15 is not the church, because we never get the church, till the day of Pentecost. We find all through scripture Christ supplanting Israel. (See Is. lxix.) I suppose it is in Edom that the Jews are judged: see Isa. 63 The Mahometans and Jews with all their corruptions hold a personal Antichrist. Some suppose the reference is to the length of the land of Palestine, but it is tremendous slaughter.
Attention is here drawn to a second great wonder. There was one great wonder (or literally sign) in chapter 12 and in this chapter 15 there is another.
In verse 2 we have a second set of martyrs, not those under the altar, who have been beheaded in an ordinary way, but those who have been under the beast and refused to worship him. They are distinguished in chapter 20:4.
The seven last plagues give us the wrath of God, not of the Lamb. Here God is dealing with those on the earth; nor yet the destruction of the beast, when the Lamb comes forth, but the filling up of the preparatory judgments after the woes. The wrath is filled up when the Lamb comes forth.
These martyrs on the sea of glass are singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb. Moses and the Lamb are connected. There are those who understand His ways by going through the same with Him; and others understand His works by His judgments on the enemies. Some “follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.”
In verse 8 the marginal reading for “saints” is nations, the same persons as are mentioned in chapter v. There the celebration is about them, here by them. He who had the lowly place there of the Lamb slain is here celebrated as King of nations.
The” sea of glass;” it is not merely water, purity, but glass, stability. It is not only water to wash defiled feet, as in the tabernacle service, but here it is solid purity to walk upon, and mingled with fire. They had passed through the fire of tribulation in the judgments. Two things have brought them. there: it is not like the elders who are seen in heaven, as in their natural place, but they have got there, so to speak, through the judgments—saved so as by fire. They have not got clear of these dwellers upon earth, and they have to escape for their lives, like Lot. How came they down in the tribulation at all? They were doubtless faithful when in it, but, like Lot, who would never have been in Sodom if he had not liked the plain of Sodom. They have liked the comfort of the world while they could get it. To Philadelphia the promise was to be kept “from the hour of tribulation,” but here they are not kept from it, but taken through it. They were truly a testimony in the tribulation, but it was inactive testimony, “not worshipping the beast.” In chapter 20 there are two classes, of martyrs spoken of—those beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and those who have not worshipped the beast. In chapter 6 we see those who have been beheaded for the witness of Jesus. This is the positive actual testimony of the faithful three and a half years. In this chapter is no testimony, but a negative one—they had not worshipped, &c.
We see in both that they had not been faithful as the church, or they would never have been in the tribulation. Better to be like Abraham on the top of the mountain, than like Lot in the plain of Sodom, vexing his righteous soul from day to day with the filthy conversation of the wicked. God has sometimes to pass us through a kind of trial on our own account, as well as in testimony, which would not have been necessary if we had been more faithful.
Dan. 11 relates to Antiochus Epiphanes, even be yond the mention of the “abomination of desolation.” In verse 33, “many days,” and that following, reach on to the time yet to be fulfilled, the time of the willful king. The prophecy leaps over the present time, and brings in what is to come in future.
The song we learn in tribulation we sing in glory (ver. 4). So with Christ. So here with the remnant. The manifestation of the judgment of God was their salvation. These nations had been oppressing them, and now they will be brought into subjection. There is not historical order pursued here, for it is anticipative, as are all these scenes with the elders now. This remnant have to go through the tribulation to get at what is here presented. God has come in in the way of deliverance. Enemies now begin to make His footstool. Satan has to be cast out of heaven. He does not yet role with a rod of iron. He has taken His friends to Himself, and the first thing is to cast Satan down. As soon as this is done, Satan begins to stir up the earth against Christ. The woman then flees: the half-week. The twenty-four elders probably include all who have part in the first resurrection. If these two sets of martyrs were not mentioned as having part in resurrection, we should be left to infer they neither had heaven or earth. As they did not go up with the church, and were cut off for their faithfulness, so that they could not have earth, if they had not resurrection, they would have been shut out from both, without getting a reward for their faithfulness.
The vials are direct judgments here. The temple is taken possession of in judgment.
These preliminary judgments prove of no use, and then these positive judgments are filled up in wrath. The former were in the character of chastening, but we do not talk of chastening when wrath is to be filled up. Heaven in Revelation becomes the scene of judgment, and the time is between the church being speed out, and the Lamb coming forth in chapter 19. The witness does not come out on earth until then.
Verse 3. “Marvelous are thy ways,” &c. This was the original title in the book. “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” Then the Lamb's song, “King of nations,” all anticipative of the double judgments of God and the Lamb.
Verse 5. Remark “the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven.” (See chap. xi.) All this is an earthly thing in connection with God's covenant, Testimony is not the gospel, but according to law-Jewish ground being merely secured in the covenant.
The temple is the house (naos)—the place of approach (pro-naos) is the house and the sanctuary. In Acts 7 is the tabernacle of witness-tent within—God there—opened for man to see what had been God's ways within. These angels in their clothing give us the figures of human righteousness (white clothing), and divine righteousness (golden girdles).
They were vials, of the sanctuary that the angels threw out upon the earth. Bowls are more simple than “vials,” but there is no difference—vessels of God's house: the idea is golden bowls, divine righteousness, wrath from the inner place; or divine righteousness, looked at in its judicial character, within. Blood was on the outside of the mercy-seat, signifying divine righteousness had to be satisfied.
We have got into the house, as it were, and here is one of the things given from the throne by one who is there: “Him who liveth forever and ever.” This stamps eternity on the wrath, as well as its being the moral nature of God.
“The temple is filled with smoke.” Man is excluded from the temple which is filled with wrath, and they cannot get in. So Sinai was all of a smoke. “Smoke went out of his nostrils.” It is constantly a figure used—consuming fire, in opposition to grace “clearing transgressions,” &c.
“No man” merely means no one—it often does not mean man at all. Here none could enter in, priests, angels, or any God alone fills the house with His glory, as in the Solomon reign in type. Even the angels have come out. “God chargeth his angels with folly.” None can be there when the house is filled with His glory.
Chapter 16:1. It is between God and man now—the wrath of God with man on the earth. The temple in heaven is shut up. There is a glory of God “no man hath seen, or can see,” but there is where the devil goes near. See Job and Zechariah for different characters of His dwelling-place.
There has been an analogous course going on a long time. The system of the earth is going on—Babylon, and other evils, even many antichrists, and God is taking things into His own hand now. The character of His dealings is like those through Moses in Egypt, quite different from the description in chapters xii.-xiv. It is another sign, and quite distinct, “grievous sores” and “boils breaking out.” All those giving themselves up to the influence of civil power will get some terrible judgment, and men will see it—a “ mark,” a sign upon them, of being a slave—what we should call a brand, a Taw, as in Ezekiel, for service and worship—as people mark cattle now—entire possession of and authority over. It is a terrible thing to be marked by the devil. Paul suffered for Christ, having been faithful to Him, and he was branded for it. It is the same thought.
Verse 3. “Sea” is the unsettled mass of nations. The difficulty here is that every man died in it. The springs that should have been life became death—everything is polluted, deathful. Everything which should have been death bringing to life is life bringing death—every principle in the world turns to death. Any remnant will be kept clear of this.
The “earth” is that part brought out into connection with God. There are certain floating, unformed nations besides, and these represented by the “sea.” They have been inflicting death, and now they are drinking in death. Gentile apostasy is centered up in Jerusalem.
The temple is still the place from which the judgments proceed. None can enter into it while all this is going on. In the previous chapter we had the things prepared; in this it is the pouring out of wrath.
Now it is not the testimony or dealings with saints, but we see God's dealings with the Jews as a people, something the same as the last verse of chapter 11, but there is a difference. Here it is more in the way of government, the throne; in chapter 11, faithfulness to His promises; therefore the ark of the covenant is mentioned. See also the allusions to God's covenant-dealings with them in the next chapter; the figures are connected with the Jews as God's covenant people.
Verse 8. Glory filled the temple, not leading to worship, as in Solomon's time, but it is filled with wrath. It is all Sinai character, only it is in heaven, instead of on earth.
In the pouring out of these vials, we see the usual division of four and three.
The first four are poured out upon the earth, the sea, the rivers, and the sun: and the fifth upon the beast, and the “sore” upon those who have the mark of the beast.
The rivers of waters are symbolical of classes of popular principles, masses of people moved along by a certain class of principles, for example, the French Revolution. The sea is the great mass; the river the floating population, a particular local influence. The king of Egypt said, “My river is mine own.” All they had to drink was the power of death—the water turned into blood.
Restitution in Acts 3 begins as soon as Satan is cast out of heaven, but is not accomplished until after the millennium.
The “sun” means public authorities, “great heat.” Tyranny becomes intolerable when fire is poured out. The principle of the thing was seen in France, where you used to have a padlock on your lips, if they did not know what kind of a person you were. “Men scorched,” this shows the effect of judgment when the heart is not changed.
Why is the term “beast” used? Because of the ravaging power of this king. A beast's heart was given to Nebuchadnezzar. Man's heart looks upwards to God; a beast's heart looks down and ravages others. A beast is a wild ravenous creature, which devours all below it.
They give not glory to the God of heaven: but faith would have owned Him as the God of the earth as well as heaven. “They blasphemed the God of heaven.” They ascribe their pains and sores to Him.
Verses 12-14. “Kings from the east” are connected with the same subject. The barrier of the Empire will be broken. The seven heads on the beast denote forms of government: the ten horns, its division into ten kingdoms. What is meant by the miracles wrought by the spirits of demons? They are those which are so beyond the power of natural science to interpret, that they cannot be understood in the age in which they are worked. A more advanced age might be able to understand them. The devil has uncommon knowledge of the resources of nature and science; they may be beyond the power of man to effect, but such a combination of natural things as to be within the reach of Satan. There are things very like miracles performed now through electro-biology and animal magnetism. The brain is a voltaic battery, the nerves, the wires, &c., but the question is, who is to fire the battery? They could not make an animal move itself, and they could not make the animal.
In chapter 13: 15 it should be “breath,” not life, given to the image of the beast. It is life to man's eye, but not really so.
The three unclean spirits are—
1st. The dragon: this is infidelity, war against Christ;
2nd. The beast: pretensions to imperial power, given by the devil;
3rd. The false prophet: anti-Christian Judaism.
The saints are endangered, and therefore exhorted to keep their garments. “Garments” in scripture mean our daily habits or daily life. How needful it is to keep oneself in death, while walking through the world I A man’s nature should be so dead as to live as he dies; the nature dead. As it has been said, “A man wants but one text to die well, but every portion of the word to live well.” The only question with a dying man is what his soul is with God, not at all what it is with man. A man may be very disagreeable, troubling saints all his life; but when he comes to his deathbed, his soul is happy with God on the right ground of grace.
We must keep nature dead. If I am ardent, and you lazy, my ardor and your laziness may carry something rather than Christ to another. The great thing is to keep nature dead.
“Keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” “I die daily,” Paul said. “When I am weak, then I am strong.” When God's mind or God Himself comes in, natural joy would be confusion and disgrace.
Babylon is idolatry; commerce too and worldly power connected with civilization. The things men are judged in are not always those they are judged for. Here men are judged in wealth, because of the abominable heart which sought the wealth apart from God. So was the merchant city of Chaldea, whose cry was in the ships. The thing judged is the idolatry, but the judgment reached their commerce. When you get the abomination for which God strikes her, she is spoiled of her comfort.
The “great city” means the civil association; the “great Babylon” is its record character, idolatry.
Verse 16. When both Hebrew and Greek are named as in chapter 9:11, there is connection between Hebrew and Greek power; but when Hebrew is alone, it is solely Jewish.
One thing in connection with the church is important: we have need to distinguish between the Spirit's work, and Christ's headship—one in us, the other over us; one is grace in me, the other is Christ above me.
Isa. 32 it was that taught me about the new dispensation. I saw there would be a David reign, and did not know whether the church might not be removed before forty years' time. At that time I was ill with my knee. It gave me peace to see what the church was. I saw that I, poor, wretched, and sinful J. N. D., knowing too much yet not enough about myself, was left behind, and let go, but I was united to Christ in heaven. Then what was I waiting for? J. G. B. came up and said they were teaching some new thing in England. “I have it!” I said.