Notes of a Lecture on the Book of the Revelation, or the Apocalypse.
by G.W. Heath
WHEN we take in our hands the precious book or collection of books we call the Bible, we hold the only record the world has of its most wonderful past of creation----the attempts to explain which otherwise than as the Bible explains, would be the riddle of the present----and also the only valid unfoldings of that otherwise mysterious future still before us (you and me), Israel, the Nations of the World, the Earth and the Powers of Light and Darkness.
If in the first book----Genesis----we have the beginnings revealed of everything seen and tangible, so most surely have we in this last book----The Revelation----glimpses given us of those terrible judgments, yet future, which will be God's way of cleansing the scene of the foul blot and ravages of sin, in order to the setting up of that kingdom of righteousness and peace so perfectly after God's heart and mind.
We know that judgment is God's strange work, and yet the necessity for this strange work is only too manifest. Is it not worth notice that John, ''the beloved disciple," the one who possibly nestled more closely to the heart and bosom of Jesus than any of the others, the one who fills his Gospel and Epistles with the warmth of divine love----that this one should have been chosen of God as the vessel to make known in the most wonderful way and in the most wonderful language, the most awful judgments the mind of man could conceive?
If John, "the beloved," and the loving, writes of judgment, what an awful necessity that judgment must be!
One can understand with what joy this same writer would declare in the Gospel, chap. v. verse 24, "He that heareth My Word and believeth on Him that sent Me hath everlasting life and shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life." Also in his Epistle, "Herein is love with us made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment."
The title of the book----"The Revelation"----clearly indicates its character. "The Revelation" or Apocalypse. "The Revelation" signifies the veil rolled aside; Apocalypse is a Greek word meaning ''I reveal.''
We are all well aware that the Old Testament is rich in prophetic utterances, and these from the mouths of many Prophets. But the only prophetic book in the New Testament is the one we are now hoping to study. May I ask your very earnest attention to it? Difficult it may be, but you shall surely reap a harvest of blessing if you give it your careful consideration.
Turning to the book itself, we find it to be the record of a number of visions of the most striking character, and all of them, except the first, chap. i. vs. 12-18----referring to the FUTURE. All that the book unfolds was seen by John at one time, and on one day (chap. i. 10), "the Lord's Day," the first day of the week, the day we are privileged to keep and dedicate to our living Lord.
John was "in the Spirit" in living touch with Heaven and heavenly persons and things, and was led in vision into what might be called "the day of the Lord," and was told at once to "write" in a book in order that you and I might have fellowship with him in what he saw.
Much of the book is occupied in telling us what will surely happen to the professing Christian world in its closing hours; that time of "tribulation" which shall fall on all the world, and from which you and I, and every true saint of God will be delivered (chap. iii. 10), and this not because we are better than others, but simply because of His sovereign love and electing mercy.
The book has been well called "God's Searchlight," revealing Heaven, Earth, the Abyss, the Lake of Fire, Time, Eternity, Angels, Men, Demons, the Church, the Professing Church, Israel, and the World; it is the book of eternal destiny.
These terrible visions are relieved some thirty times by the mention of "the Lamb." The judgments fall on those who have refused the offers of mercy which God can offer righteously through the work of the "slain Lamb," and, so, again and again, right in the very midst of scenes of judgment, we find ''the Lamb," the One Who bore the fiercest judgment in order that you and I might escape it forever. Surely our hearts praise and bless and worship Him!
I might here say, the name of "Father" occurs several times, but God is never presented as "Father" to any of the actors mentioned in the book. It is always "His Father," or "My Father," that is, Christ's. (See chap. i. 6, & chap. iii. 21)
The importance of every part of this book is proved by the way it is guarded and divinely attested (chap. xxii. 6-9).
Then again, most carefully remember that "he that readeth" and "they that keep" the sayings of the book are singled out for special blessing (chap. i. 3, & chap. xxii. 7).
In spite of what we have read of all the care God has taken for the preservation of the Book and the blessing of those who read it, I suppose no portion of the sacred volume is so little read. People say the language is so full of symbolism that it is almost impossible to understand it. But surely the most interesting and instructive speakers of the day, fill their speeches with the charm and force of symbol. We have here the symbol of a Dragon, a Beast, a Lion, a Mountain, a Vial, a Trumpet and such like, all conveying most complete ideas to the mind.
Then further, there are critical readers of the book, unspiritual men, who ridicule the whole as the vapourings of a distorted mind. Others, the true critics, have ranged themselves into two schools or camps, and this helps to add somewhat to the confusion.
These two camps are known as the ''Presentists,'' or Historicals, and the "Futurists," or Prophetics.
The Presentists read the book as a kind of history, fitting in vision after vision, seal after seal, vial after vial, trumpet after trumpet, to the history of the world, or rather that part of it known as the "Roman Earth" from the time of John down to the present day, and I may say, leaving only a very small portion of the book to be yet fulfilled.
I am sure this is not the correct interpretation of the book and its visions, but it is well known that history in the most wonderful way repeats itself, and there may have been events in history forming a partial fulfilment, which only become the shadow of a deeper one.
The Futurist or Prophetic School of interpreters say, and I am sure they are right, that all except the first three chapters refer mainly to the future.
I am persuaded that God has given us this book to serve us as a lamp in a dark place, ''until the day dawn and the Day-star arise in our hearts.''
Of course, the future for you and me and all the dear saints of God, since our Lord took His seat on high, and for all the Old Testament saints who died in the faith, is the "rapture," that of our being caught up (like Enoch) to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. iv. 13-17). This is our future.
The visions and prophecies of this book, excepting chap. iii., refer to the events anterior to, as well as that short acute period mentioned in Daniel ix. 27, and will be fulfilled between the translation of the Church to glory and the appearing of Christ in judgment, in order to the setting up of His Kingdom. What and who are staying, then the opening of the judgments unfolded in this book? The Church and the Holy Ghost (2 Thess. ii. 6, 7).
When the Church has gone (and it is going very soon; are we all ready?), then very rapidly, Daniel's last or seventh week will open. The week is cut in halves (Daniel ix. 27). The details of the first half of the week are not clearly stated in Scripture, but Isaiah xviii. tells us of the return of Judah, and how this will come about, and which will no doubt occur during the first half of the week of seven years.
The last half of the week will open by an attempt to force idolatry on the Jews who have been taken back to their land according to Isaiah xviii., Daniel xii. 11, and Matthew xxiv. 15-35, which Scriptures indicate very exactly this period.
If we examine the book, we shall see it is divided into three main subjects or, rather, periods (Rev. i. 19).
(1) The things which thou (John) hast seen.
(2) The things which are.
(3) The things which shall be after these.
The book of twenty-two chapters may be divided into two great parts:----Part I., chaps. i. to xi. 18; Part II., chaps, xi, 19, to xxii. Eleven chapters in each part is an easy way to remember the division.
Note also the twelve sections. We know twelve is a numeral indicating Government on the Earth, and this very especially in relation to Israel.
Then there are three parenthetical periods. These occur:----
(1) Just before the last seal (chap. vii.).
(2) Just before the last trumpet (chaps. x., xi. 1-13).
(3) Just before the last vial (chap. xvi. 15).
Oh, how eloquently these parenthetical pauses speak of the boundless mercy of God, ''not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." The most extreme torment of each period of judgment is about to fall, and He pauses; will men consider and be wise in time?