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Chap. 14. 'The Great Unveiling' — Patmos Visions Of The End.

The true expositor of God's Word is ever conscious of a sense of incompetence and insufficiency. He deals with the Ark of the Testimony, and dare not put his hand to it without fear and trembling. This sense is deepened when one faces the closing book of Scripture. We cannot share the smug satisfaction with which some prophetic "authorities" have pronounced their well-nigh infallible interpretations, clearly notifying all and sundry that the last word has been spoken. We share Mr Spurgeon's feelings in regard to the Apocalypse; he regarded with concern the spate of books that appeared in his day, claiming to be the true interpretation of the Revelation. He points out, in his lectures to students, that it was the one book on which John Calvin wrote no commentary, and warns men of spiritual bankruptcy when they prefer an hour's Bible study over an obscure passage in the Revelation to teaching a class in the Ragged Schools. Yet, of course, the study of this book is absolutely essential, and so we come to it; it only behoves us to exercise the greatest care, particularly in those impressive visions John records, and then to advance our conclusions with the required measure of reverent reserve.

We assert right away that the surest ground for doctrinal belief is found in the first chapter. Here, we have not entered the sphere of apocalyptic vision; here are definite doctrine, statements, and, surely, we can see the mind of the Spirit in this. BEFORE ENTERING ON HIS DESCRIPTION OF THE GREAT EVENTS VEILED UNDER THE SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE APOCALYPSE, JOHN GIVES US A CLEAR PRESENTATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE ADVENT HE HELD IN COMMON WITH THE OTHER APOSTLES. THE SUBSEQUENT VISIONS MUST ALWAYS BE SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF THE UNVEILED TRUTH OF CHAPTER ONE. We are confident that the doctrinal position of this chapter coincides with that set forth throughout this work. Consider some of the statements. 

"Jesus Christ, who is the Faithful Witness, and the First-begotten of the dead, and the Prince ( R.V. Ruler ) of the Kings of the earth" ( verse 4 ).

The supremacy of the Lord Jesus over all earthly powers is here asserted to be a present fact—not something to be realised in a future millennium.

"He hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father" ( verse 6 ).

We present this verse as a GOVERNING FACTOR in the interpretation of other passages in this book. Note John's clear declaration that the priestly kingship of believers is something which exists by virtue of their partaking of the atoning Blood, and is not something they are to inherit in a future dispensation. Even as the Lord Jesus is now exercising His Priest-King office after the order of Melchizedek-David, so His followers are KINGS AND PRIESTS NOW. This is of first-rate importance, and should impress itself on the mind of the reader. It is NOW "He hath made us to be a Kingdom of priests" ( R.V. ).

Discussing this issue with a group of able pre-millennial teachers, the writer asked them to produce a single verse from the N.T., apart from Revelation 20, that declared there would be an earthly Kingdom age to intervene between this Gospel age and the eternal age. Only one offered to attempt to provide such evidence, and claimed to give two appropriate verses. Strangely enough ( and yet, not so strange ) they were both from the Revelation, viz. 2:26, "To him will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron," and 5:10, "And we shall reign on the earth."

Surely, on the very face of it, to be able to quote only these verses, and none other, is of itself, a powerful evidence of the bankruptcy of pre-millennialism in the court of the N.T. In any case, both Scriptures bear another interpretation, which utterly discounts the strain put upon them by futurists. The first is based on the prophecy of the second Psalm, and we have already shown that this is being fulfilled in the present dispensation. Christ is ruling NOW; this is confirmed by His words to the believer, "even as I received of My Father" ( verse 27 ). The promise to the believer is not one of helping to stamp out evil during a future millennium ( a strange conception, in any case ), but of sharing the "all power" of Christ in this present age when He is receiving the heathen for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. ( See also Psalm 110 ) But, even suppose it referred to a future event, it would be equally well interpreted if it was credited to the believer's association with Christ in the final Judgment of the wicked, whereby he wields the rod of iron, and shatters the wicked as a potter's vessel.

The second verse quoted is simply an uninformed appeal to the faulty rendering of the Authorised Version. A glance at the Revised, and other modern renderings, would have silenced this pre-millennialist before he opened his mouth. The R.V. reads: "And made them to be unto our God a Kingdom of priests, AND THEY REIGN ON THE EARTH." The reign of the saints is, as shown by Revelation 1:6, A PRESENT FACT, NOT A FUTURE HOPE. Even now, "THEY REIGN IN LIFE, BY ONE CHRIST JESUS" ( Romans 5:17 ). This reign will last forever, receiving its universal manifestation in the new earth of the eternal age, not in an imaginary millennium, where threats of rebellion disturb the serenity of the redeemed.

Following this verse which asserts the present reign, John announces the Advent in arresting words—

"Behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindred's of the earth shall wail because of Him" ( verse 7 ).

It is impossible to escape the plan doctrine in this assertion. Surely, there could not be a more devastating answer to dispensationalism and pre-millennialism than this sentence. Where is the Secret Rapture? Where is the two-phased coming? Where is the "tribulation" and the earthly Kingdom prior to the doom of the wicked? The answer is clear; they were unknown to Johannine eschatology. The only Coming John knew was the one described here, and it is totally out of harmony with the teaching of Darby, Scofield & Co. Let it be noted that John was addressing believers when he says that THE NEXT GREAT ACT OF DIVINE INTERVENTION, FOLLOWING THE REDEMPTION OF HIS PEOPLE, is to be, not a secret Rapture, BUT THE ADVENT IN THE CLOUDS OF GLORY, VISIBLE TO ALL MANKIND. "Every eye shall see Him." And the Coming, instead of ushering in an era of peace, is greeted with universal wailing. To plain readers this latter phrase conveys but one thought—it immediately links itself with the other N.T. statements which describe the doom of the unrepentant as "weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth". What then, have dispensationalists to say to this statement of John's? Can they produce another remarkable interpretation? Of course they can; there is no limit to their expository inventions. The writer recently confronted a thorough-going futurist with this verse, and was met with the astounding reply that this wailing would be the fulfilment of Zechariah 12:11-14, where we read of a weeping in Jerusalem, consequent upon the outpouring of God's: Spirit. Scofield, also, heads the section in Zechariah, "The repentance of the Remnant." So we have the amazing theology of Futurism that this wailing in Revelation 1:7 is the weeping of repentance on the part of that remarkable "Tribulation Remnant" which a certain section of 19th Century Adventism invented. This Remnant is the wonder-prodigy of dispensationalism, and the pungent comments of Alexander Reese ought to make every futurist examine his beliefs.. He writes:

"Marvellous is the Remnant in the hands of a thorough-going dispensationalist. Are there martyrs for God's Word and Christ's Gospel still in the disembodied state in heaven, after the secret rapture and resurrection? ( Revelation 6:9 ) the Remnant or its converts will account for them. Are there saints ( Paul's and John's name for Christians ) in the Tribulation at the End? Again the Remnant's converts fulfil all that is asked of them. Are there Elect ( the term used by our Lord and His apostles for the saved of this dispensation ) to be mustered at the Last Day? The Remnant, with its imprecatory Psalms and the Sermon on the Mount accommodates itself to the situation. It meets every emergency, solves every difficulty, carries every weight." ( Approaching Advent, p. 112 ) His further scathing remarks are in no way out of place when he writes of dispensationalists whose theories have "necessitated and created the two-headed, two-tongued monstrosity in Israel and Christendom at the End-time—a half-converted, half Christian Jewish Remnant, which at one and the same time evangelises the nations—and invokes the curses of heaven upon them; which cleaves to the imprecatory Psalms—and uses the Lord's Prayer, some of the beatitudes and the Missionary Commission of Matthew 28; which knows nothing of present peace, forgiveness and deliverance, yet converts untold millions to Christ; which is sealed against death—and has many thousands of martyrs who are so fortunate as to enter heaven and attain the highest blessings; which is nebulous in its knowledge of full salvation—and becomes the nursing father to the glorious martyrs of Revelation 7." ( Approaching Advent, p. 115 )

We understand the wailing of Revelation 1:7 in the same way every commentator understood it before J. N. Darby, arrived with his incredible theories. We see in this verse John's description of an Advent which brings deliverance to the righteous and eternal disaster to the ungodly. It should be noted, also, that this pronouncement of the Appearing of Christ is enforced by a solemn decree: "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord which is, and which was, and which is to come, THE ALMIGHTY." What is the implication of this? Surely, nothing less than the truth that the Coming so solemnly announced in verse 7 ushers in the Great Day OF GOD ALMIGHTY. The suggestion is so strong as to force the conclusion.

The importance of this verse in the introduction to the Apocalypse should not be overlooked; IT IS THE SPIRIT'S GUIDEPOST TO THE TRUE DOCTRINE OF THE ADVENT. Addressing the Churches of his day, John his only one Coming to point them to as the Hope of every blood-bought believer; it is not secret, nor separate from the Glorious Appearing, but identical with it. He comes in the clouds of heaven, visible to all mankind, and brings in the Final Great Day. IT IS SUCH A COMING THE FOLLOWING VISIONS OF PATMOS EXPOUND. It his no "series of Comings", nor a Coming that ushers in a Kingdom age where sin smoulders and erupts. It is the same Coming as in the Gospels and Epistles. John points in exactly the same direction as Peter and Paul, and their Great Master.

Another suggestive statement is found in verse 9, where John describes himself as "a brother and companion in tribulation and in the Kingdom and patience of Jesus Messiah " Obviously John regarded himself as a member, not only of the Church, but of Messiah's Kingdom, thus again intimating that the latter was a present, not a future establishment.

We now proceed to the visions of Revelation. Full exposition is impossible—and unnecessary. We propose dealing only with those portions that clearly portray the End, and in this our task is plain. There are several passages that so clearly describe various aspects of the Final events that if we treat of these, we shall apprehend the true teaching of Revelation relative to the question discusses throughout this work. There is, of course, no need to remind the reader that the futuristic theory that in Revelation from the beginning of chapter 4 onwards has nothing to do with the Church Age, but deals with events after the Church has been "raptured to the heavenlies", is completely discountenanced. It is a 19th Century fable, "a thing fondly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture." Neither do we accept the extravagant application of some of the visions to certain historical events, is advocated by varying schools of historicist interpretation. Whilst we believe the book is historical, we do not believe its visions are consecutive, neither do we feel they deal with a succession of comparatively minor events in the history of Europe, is certain expositors have sought to prove. We refer in interpretation that might be called "Spiritual historical", i.e. the main message of the visions is spiritual, unfolding the great spiritual dramas that have been enacted, and will be enacted, in the great conflict between God and Satan. These events may embrace great movements in earth's history, or may be events occurring in the spiritual realm. We commend such expositions is Hendrickson's "More than Conquerors".

Having said this, we turn to some of the relevant passages.

The Sixth Seal

Revelation 6:12-17.

We feel convinced that only the great consummating event of the Advent coincides with the awful picture even under the symbols of this passage. Dr. Scofield's interpretation that it represents "Anarchy" is pathetic. This is no picture of human anarchy, but of AWFUL, UNIVERSAL, AND FINAL JUDGMENT. The identifying marks of this portion, fixing it upon the Advent, are manifold. The signs in the heavenly bodies, the shaking of earth and heaven, and then their passing away; the terror and wailing of earth's inhabitants, and the vengeance of the Crucified One, all proclaim that here we have a fearful a description of the Day when He appears, "taking vengeance on them that know not God". And the issue is clinched beyond doubt by the concluding verse, which states that this is none other than "THE GREAT DAY OF HIS WRATH". This is the Final Day of Judgment, when the ungodly shall receive their  eternal sentence. The futurist dodges this by contending that verse 16 states "the wrath of the Lamb", and this Day is entirely different from the Final Day of God's wrath. Surely, nothing more puerile could be advanced. How many Days of Wrath ( Great Days ) are there to be in this calendar of prophetic guesswork? Have not these Bible students learned one of the elementary truths of Revelation that God and the Lamb are one? Look at chapter 7, where the Blood-washed throng are before the Throne and the Lamb; salvation is to "God and the Lamb" ( verse 10 ); they have "washed their robes…in the Blood of the Lamb, and are before the Throne of God" ( verses 14, 15 ). So it is throughout the Book,  and in the final visions we see "the Throne of God and the Lamb" ( 22:3 ), whilst in 21:22, "God and the Lamb are the temple of it". Frankly, we ale utterly weary of this lamentable by-play on words, whereby, when a different phrase is used, prophetic theorists imagine some different event to be in view. Let them be consistent; in chapter 20 we read of "the book of life", but in 21:27 we read "the Lamb's book of life". Two different books? Absurd! Yes, and so is the dispensational contention that the wrath of the Lamb is something different from the wrath of God. In any case, 6:16 shatters them to pieces when it states, "the face of Him that sitteth on the Throne, and the wrath of the Lamb."

We present, therefore, the conclusion that the picture of this vision is of an event that accords with the clear statements of the rest of the N.T. We have seen repeatedly that the message of Christ and His apostles points to an Advent that is attended by cataclysmic happenings, bringing this present world to an end. Such is the message of this vision; the affairs of this age are wound up by the Great Day of His wrath.

Then, in conformity with the rest of N.T. teaching, there follows in chapter 7, an indescribably sublime record of the lot of the righteous—the multitude which no man can number of all nations: I take this to refer to the whole Israel of God; it is one great company, the roll-call of the "Tribes" having been "heard" by-John ( verse 4 ), then, when he "looks", he beholds, not a company of literal Jews, but a host out of every tribe and nation—the Israel of God, the "My People" of Isaiah and Hosea, They are set before us in striking contrast with the company of chapter 6; These latter face awful vengeance; they have "come out of great tribulation". These cry to be "hid from Him that sitteth on the Throne"; they "are before the Throne of God". These suffer "the wrath of the Lamb"; but they are "led and fed by the Lamb at the living fountains of water".

What shall we say of the crowning absurdity of dispensationalism that this company of blood-washed saints are a company of people saved after the Church has been taken from the earth, and that THIS HOLY PASSAGE WHICH HAS THRILLED AND COMFORTED THE PEOPLE OF GOD ALL DOWN HISTORY, really has nothing to do with the Christian Church? We shall add nothing to what we have already said; this wretched treatment of this sublime passage creates such strong feelings in us that we fear lest we should speak unadvisedly, like Moses of old. But let every reader be warned of a system of theorising that would filch from the Christian Church the power and glory of such a passage is Revelation 7, and apply it to some imaginary crowd of "tribulation saints", of which neither the apostles nor the Great Head of the Church ever uttered a syllable.

The passage requires a further emphasis. We have here a picture of the ransomed of the Lord entirely out of accord with pre-millennial theories. They join in an everlasting song ( verse 12 ); they are "before the Throne of God", and they "serve in His Temple"; they "hunger and thirst no more", and the Lamb leads them "to fountains of living water". To us, the state described is plainly identical with Revelation 21 and 22, and can be nothing less than be eternal state. There is no idea of a millennial Kingdom where saints are supposed to suppress sinners with a rod of iron. Such a thought is completely antagonistic to the scene of unalloyed and undisturbed holiness wherein the blood-washed ones enjoy the presence of their God in the passage before us. From their tribulation the redeemed enter into that eternal state which is the Hope and Home of the Israel of God.

The Seventh Trumpet.

Revelation 11:15-19. 

To us, there is no question that this scene also introduces the Last Things. Its distinguishing features are too numerous to leave any reasonable doubt. And we also contend that the description is such as to give no indication of an earthly millennium; rather, it presents forcibly the view of the End which this work has sought to show, is the unanimous testimony of Scripture. Note the details stated in this passage.
  1. It is inaugurated by the sounding of the Last Trump, and we have already shown its identity with the Last Trump of 1 Corinthians 15.
  2. It witnesses the passing away of this world system and its powers, with the manifestation of the Everlasting Kingdom of God.
  3. It is the Kingdom of THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY—the very same Kingdom Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 15, which succeeds the handing over of "the Kingdom of the Son". So clearly, it is no earthly time-limit Kingdom.
  4. It is the time of the visitation of the wrath of God on the nations of earth. That this wrath is not merely in earthly, temporal judgment, is made clear from the statement immediately following, that it is "the time of the dead, that they should be judged."
  5. Following the judgment of the ungodly it the time of the raising of the dead, comes the rewarding of the saints. So this latter is located at the judgment of the wicked. This is entirely out of harmony with pre-millennialism, but fully consistent with the rest of Scripture.
  6. The heavenly Temple is opened, whilst the present earthly order passes away in earthquake, etc.

We submit, therefore, this is another passage which contains no sentiment of pre-millennialism, but breathes the spirit of the doctrine we advocate.

The Double Harvest.

Revelation 14:14-20. 

This chapter contains several visions of the end-time; the last bears a relationship to our theme. It is in harmony with the teaching of Christ on similar matters. The picture is of the harvest, and the obvious message of the vision is that the harvest is of a twofold character. There is a reaping unto glory; there is also a reaping unto wrath. A reaping of harvest grain by the Son of Man, and a reaping of the vintage for the winepress by the angels. The picture irresistibly recalls the parables of Matthew 13 where the end of the world is likened to such a double harvest—the angels sever the wicked from among the just, consigning the former to doom whilst the latter are gathered to the heavenly Kingdom. It is not wise to press too much from the apocalyptic visions in view of the varied interpretations, but we cannot help but feel that the whole tenor of this vision supports the view so clearly presented in the rest of the N.T. that the end of this age brings the final harvest of both righteous and ungodly. Scofield's heading to this passage is, "Vision of Armageddon"—a theoretical assertion without a vestige of support from any other passage of Scripture that depicts Last Things under the fibre of the harvest.

The Great Day Of God Almighty.

Revelation 16:12-21.

The 6th and 7th vials bring us again to the Final Things. The 6th vial prepares for "the Great Day of God Almighty", and the 7th pictures the Day itself. This terribly solemn phrase can have but one intent—to impress our minds that we are confronted, not with incidents in the development of Time ( Man's day ), but with the One Great Day to which all time has moved and at whose arrival Time shall be no more; it is the final consummation of all things temporal; the story of sin and rebellion is over; it is THE GREAT DAY OF GOD ALMIGHTY. To say that any other day ( such as the beginning of the "millennium" ) is this day is a contradiction in terms. Only one day can possibly merit such description—the Final Great Day of God's reckoning with this world. There are other identifying marks of this Great Day. The naming of the Day is followed by the reminder of the Coming of the Lord as a thief, with the call to His people to watch ( verse 15 ). The message is inescapable; the Great Day is not seven years, or 1,007 years after the Christians have been removed from the earth, but the awe-inspiring event for which they are to watch and prepare. This is the same counsel as given by Paul, Peter and the Lord.

Again, we read of "a great voice out of the Temple of heaven saying, 'It is done'." It reminds us of "the Lord Himself shall descend FROM HEAVEN, with THE VOICE of the archangel." The thunders, lightnings and earthquake, accompanied by the passing away of the islands and mountains, and the hail out of heaven, all proclaim the Day of Judgment when the ancient destructions of Sodom and Gomorrah and Babylon will receive a final, universal repetition.

All these passages which introduce us to the Final Things give no hint of a future age on this earth as told as by pre-millennialists. The picture is the same all the way through the N.T., of one awful, consummating Day, wherein the purposes of God, both in redemption and judgment, reach their finality.

Thus have we travelled the path of the N.T. It has been a plan path, like the way of holiness, clearly seen by the simple. Like the path of the just, it has shone more and more, leading us to the PERFECT DAY, THE HEAVENLY ZION. The imaginary millennium has nowhere cast its shadow. All that remains is to examine the passage which the blindness of literalism has made the basis of Fundamentalism's greatest blunder.