The Apocalypse, or "The Day of the Lord"
Many readers of the Bible treat it as though it were like
a "puzzle-picture," where we have to "find a face," or "a man," or some other
object. No matter what part of the Bible may be read, the one object seems to
be to "find the Church." For, the "Word of truth" not being rightly divided, or
indeed divided at all, the whole Bible is supposed to be about every one, in
every part, and in every age; and the Church is supposed to be its on pervading
This arises from our own natural selfishness. "We" belong to the Church, and therefore all "we" read "we" take to ourselves, not hesitating to rob others of what belongs to them. Here is a case in point. Open your Bibles at Isa. xxix. and xxx., and at the headings of the pages, at the same opening we read, "Judgment upon Jerusalem," and "God's mercies to His Church"! This is a "dividing" of the word (by man) indeed ! but whether it is "rightly dividing" is another matter. The book is declared to be "The vision of Isaiah...which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem." And yet in spite of this, the blessings spoken of Judah and Jerusalem are taken away and given to the Church, while the curses and judgments are kindly left for "Judah and Jerusalem!"
On this system of interpretation the Bible is useless for the purposes of Divine revelation. It is made a derision to its enemies, a ground for the attacks of infidels, while it becomes a stumbling-block to its friends. And yet it is on this same principle that the Apocalypse is usually treated. Everywhere the Church is thrust in : John (in ch. iv. 1) represents the Church; the living creatures, or Cherubim (ch. iv.) are the Church; the four and twenty elders (ch. iv., v.) are the Church; the 144,000 (ch. vii.) are the Church; * the great multitude (ch. vii.) is the Church; the "woman clothed with the sun" (ch. xii.) is the Church; the man-child (ch. xii.) is the Church; the bride (ch. xix.) is the Church; the "New Jerusalem" (ch. xxi.) is the Church; the "seven churches" are the Church; and so they go on, until the humble reader of the book is bewildered and disheartened. No wonder the book is neglected. The wonder would be if it were not.
* Notwithstanding they are expressly stated to be "of all the tribes of the children of Israel." Had it been for judgment that they were sealed, we should never have heard of these being "the Church."
Now, it is with the object of lifting those who desire to understand this prophecy out of the quagmire of tradition that we propose to write these papers. We believe we shall best accomplish our object by departing from the usual custom of expositors, and leaving the interpretation of words and sentences and verses until after we have learned the scope of the book, and ascertained the great principle on which all interpretation must be based.
Let us say at once that we believe, and must believe (1), that God means what He says; and (2), that He has a meaning for every word that He says. All His works and all His words are perfect, in their choice, order and place: so perfect, that, if one word or expression is used, there is a reason why no other would have done. On these lines we shall proceed to put forth and explain our theses or propositions: begging our readers not to start at the bare statement of them, but prayerfully to test the reasons which we shall give; and to remember that, while some are sufficient of themselves to establish our position, yet, we depend on the cumulative evidence of the whole of them taken together.
Our great fundamental proposition - which we may as well state at once - is, that The Church is not the subject of the Apocalypse. However startling this may sound and may seem to some of our readers, we implore you not to dismiss it, but to test the reasons we shall give by the Word of God itself, and to weigh them in "the balances of the sanctuary." Try to forget all that you have "received by tradition," and ask from whom you learned this or that. Be prepared and ready to unlearn anything that you may have received from men, and learn afresh from the Word of God itself. The first chapter furnishes us with fifteen proofs of our fundamental proposition.
Our first point, in proof of our great proposition, is
(I.) THE FIVE-FOLD DIVISION OF THE BIBLE.
The whole Bible is divided into five great divisions, each determined by its subject-matter.
1. The Old Testament has for its subject the King and his coming Kingdom, in promise and prophecy.
2. The Four Gospels the Kingdom offered and rejected. The King crucified by Israel in the Land.
3. The Acts and earlier Pauline Epistles; the King and Kingdom re-offered (iii. 19-21); and rejected, by the Dispersion in Rome (Acts xxviii. 25, 26).
4. The Later Pauline Epistles. The Kingdom in abeyance. The King made Head over all things to the Church.
5. The Apocalypse. The Kingdom set up with Divine judgment, in Power-Glory. The King enthroned.
Then, during the fourth of these, we have the Epistles relating to the Mystery - the Church of God - during this present interval, while the King is in heaven and His Kingdom is in abeyance; and, while the preaching of "the gospel of the kingdom" is suspended, and "the gospel of the grace of God" is proclaimed. Of course, if there is no difference between these two pieces of "good-news," and the kingdom is the same thing as the Church or Body of Christ, then there is an end of the whole matter; not merely of our task, but of the Bible itself. For, if words do not mean what they say when used of a plain, literal, matter of fact like this, then words are useless for the purposes of revelation altogether. We have concealment and confusion in its place; and an Apocrypha instead of an Apocalypse. But, believing in the perfection of God's words, and not merely of his Word, we submit that we have here a first great reason for our proposition, that the Church (the body of Christ) is not the subject of the Apocalypse. It will be easier to receive this when we come to accumulate the evidence. We submit this first reason, simply asking our readers to believe what God says.
(II.) THE HEBREW CHARACTER OF THE BOOK.
Though this may be considered by some as a minor point, it is so important that it must not be passed over. Most critical commentators have to deal with it: because from the earliest times the enemies of the Book have made use of this undeniable fact in order to argue that it has no right to a place in a Canon of the other Greek Books of the New Testament! The Hebrew character of the book is shown in its use of idioms, expressions, words and phrases, which cannot be called Greek; and indeed is called by many "bad Greek."
Professor Godet in his Studies on the New Testament, says, p. 331: "The only serious objection that can be urged against the authenticity of the Apocalypse, lies in the difference which is observable between its style, and that of the fourth Gospel. The latter is free from Aramaic expressions, the former is saturated with them." And again (p. 351), "the Apocalypse bears, from one end of it to the other, the character of a Hebrew prophecy." The argument based on this fact by the opponents of the Apocalypse is dealt with by scholars in various ways. But the subject is not one which would be of general interest to grammar. Those who wish to see the subject exhaustively treated are referred to the Commentary on the Apocalypse, by Moses Stuart, who devotes over twenty pages to it (pp. 190-210).
There is however another side to the question: and that is, that, while the enemies use the fact against the Book itself, we use it against the popular interpretation of it. Though the language is Greek, the thoughts and idioms are Hebrew; and this links it on, not to the Pauline epistles, but to the Old Testament, and shows that its great subject is God's final dealings with the Jew and the Gentile; and not the Church of God. Connected with this fact there is another, that emphasizes it in a remarkable manner. It is not only Hebrew in character as to its linguistic peculiarities, but especially in its use of the Old Testament. Only those who have most intimate acquaintance with the Old Testament can properly understand the Apocalypse. But all who know anything of old Testament history cannot fail to detect the almost constant reference to it. All the imagery - the Temple, the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, the Altar, the Incense, the heads of the twenty-four courses of Priests (the pattern of which David's was a copy, I Chron. xxviii. 19, see chap. xxv., and compare Heb. ix. 23, etc), all this belongs peculiarly to Israel.
The same may be said of the judgments, which follow on the lines of the plagues of Egypt, and therefore are to be just as real: indeed they are to exceed in dread reality those which were executed in the Exodus from Egypt. For it is written (Ex. xxxiv. 10) - "And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all they people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among which thou art shall see the word of the lord; for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee." It is the fulfilment of this covenant with Israel which is the great subject of the Apocalypse. But it is when we come to look at the literary connection between the Old Testament and the Apocalypse that we find evidences of the most striking kind. If we count up the number of Old Testament passages quoted or alluded to in the New Testament,* we find that the gospel of Matthew has a very large number, amounting in all to 92. The Epistle to the Hebrews comes higher still with 102. Now both these boos are connected in a special manner with Israel. Matthew, it is universally admitted, stands out among the four Gospels as being specially Jewish in its character. And the Epistle to the Hebrews was specially written to Hebrews, and they are addressed as such.
* We take the lists as given in Bagster's Bible.
Now, when we turn to the Apocalypse, what do we find? The result which to our mind is overwhelming. No less than 285 references to the Old Testament. More than three times as many as Matthew, and nearly three times as many as the Epistle to the Hebrews. We ask whether this does not give the book of Revelation a very special connection with the Old Testament, and with Israel? It is undoubtedly written about the people of the Old Testament who are the subjects of its history. These will understand it as Gentile Christians can never hope to do.*
* It is most remarkable that at the present time, 1900, a movement has been commenced in Palestine to overcome the difficulty arising from the fact of Jews assembling in Palestine speaking different languages. Hebrew is to be made and to become the common vernacular! It is not only to be taught in all the Jewish schools, but all other subjects are to be learnt in Hebrew. With this fact must be stated another, and that is the recent wide-spread publication of the Salkinson-Ginsburg Hebrew New Testament by the Trinitarian Bible Society and the Mildmay Mission to the Jews, amounting to some three-quarters of a million copies.
We are merely stating certain important facts which must be taken into account by any who are seeking to find out what the Book of Revelation is all about. The facts exist, and the question is, What do they say to us? Not until we discover this, and thus learn the scope of the book, can we hope to understand it.
(III.) THE CHURCH NOT THE SUBJECT OF OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECY.
Closely connected with this foregoing point, that the book is Hebrew in character, and intended specially for Hebrews, is another undoubted fact, that the Church of God is not the subject of the Old Testament, either in history, type, or prophecy. Passages, etc., may be found there and used to illustrate what is subsequently revealed. But this can be done only by way of application, and not by way of teaching or of interpretation. Because, of the "Mystery" or the secret concerning the Church of God, we are told that it "was kept secret since the world began" (Rom. xvi. 25). That "in other ages it was not made known unto the sons of men" (Eph. iii. 5). That is, "from the beginning of the world, hath been hid in God" (Eph. iii. 9). That it "hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to the saints" (Col. i. 26).
These statements are "the true sayings of God," and not our own. We have no choice but to believe what He says. If any hold that, in spite of all this, the Church was not "hid in God," but was the subject of Old Testament prophecy, then we have nothing more to say to them; for, if they will not believe God, it is not likely they will believe us. But, believing God, we ask whether the Church is likely to be the subject of prophecy in the Apocalypse, especially when its future is clearly foretold in the Epistles which contain the revelation of the Mystery. There we learn what is to be the future and end of the Body of Christ. The members of that Body are merely waiting to be "received up in glory" (1 Tim. iii. 16). They are waiting for their "calling on high" (Phil. iii. 14). They are looking for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change their vile bodies that they may be fashioned like unto His own glorious body (Phil. iii. 20, 21).
But all this, we submit, takes place before the Apocalypse opens. There we have, not the coming of the Lord to take away His Church, but, the revelation of the events which shall take place after the Church has been "received up in glory." These events will take place during "the day of the Lord," when He shall come not in grace, but in judgement; not in mercy, but in wrath. But this brings us to our fourth point. What is the meaning of "the Lord's Day," in chap. i. 9?
(IV.) THE LORD'S DAY
In Rev. i. 9 we are told that John saw and received this revelation on "the Lord's Day." Leaving the former part of this verse for the present, let us notice the latter expression, "the Lord's Day." *
* For more on this subject see a separate pamphlet on The Lord's Day, by the same author and publisher, 1907.
The majority of people, being accustomed from their infancy to hear the first day of the week called the Lord's Day, conclude in their own minds that that day is thus called in Rev. i. 9 because that was the name of it. But the contrary is the fact: the day is so called by us because of this verse. In the New Testament this day is always called "the first day of the week." (See Matt. xxviii. 1; Mark xvi. 2, 9; Luke xxiv. 1; John xx. 1, 19; Acts xx. 7; I Cor. xvi. 2.). Is it not strange that in this one place a different expression is thought to refer to the same day? And yet, so sure are the commentators that it means Sunday, that some go as far as to say it was "Easter Sunday," and it is for this reason that Rev. i. 10-19 is chosen in the New Lectionary of the Church of England as the 2nd Lesson for Easter Sunday morning.
There is no evidence of any kind that "the first day of the week" was ever called "the Lord's Day" before the Apocalypse was written. That it should be so called afterwards is easily understood, and there can be little doubt that the practice arose from the misinterpretation of these words in Rev. i. 9. It is incredible that the earliest use of a term can have a meaning which only subsequent usage makes intelligible. On the contrary, it ceased to be called by its Scripture name ("the First day of the week"), not because of any advance of Biblical truth or reverence, but because of declension from it. The Greek "Fathers" of the Church were converts from Paganism: and it is not yet sufficiently recognized how much of Pagan rites and ceremonies and expressions they introduced into the Church; and how far Christian ritual was elaborated from and based upon Pagan ritual by the Church of Rome. Especially is this seen in the case of baptism.*
* See The Buddha of Christendom, by Sir Robert Anderson, C.B. (Hodder and Stoughton, page 68 and chap. ix.)
It was these Fathers who, on their conversion, brought the title "Sunday" into the Church from the Pagan terminology which they had been accustomed to use in connection with their Sun-worship.
Justin Martyr (114-165 A.D.) in his second Apology (i.e., his second defence of Christianity), says,* in chap. lxvii. on "The weekly worship of the Christians," - "On the day called SUN-DAY all who live in the country gather together to one place... SUN-DAY is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of SATURN [i.e., Saturn's day]; and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the SUN, having appeared to his apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration."
* T. and T. Clark's edition, pages 65, 66.
It is passing strange that if John called the first day of the week "the Lord's Day," we find no trace of the use of such a title until a hundred years later. And that though we do find a change, it is to "Sunday," and not the "the Lord's Day" - a name which has become practically universal.*
* The French, Spanish, and Italian nations have retained the Roman Pagan names. The English is tainted with Scandinavian mythology. The 1st day they call Dies Dominica, the Lord's Day (i.e., the day of the lord, the sun). All the Oriental nations called the sun "lord." The Persians called their god Mithra (the sun), i.e., the lord Mithra. The Syrians called it Adonis, which is from the Hebrew Adonai, lord. The Hebrews called it Baal (which means lord) and Moloch. Porphyry, in a prayer to the sun, calls him "Dominus Sol." The Romans kept the Pagan name, Dies Dominica (the day of the lord sun), for the first day of the week; but called the others by the names of the moon and planets to which they were dedicated. Thus we have Dies Lunae (day of the moon), Dies Martis (day of Mars), Dies Mercurii (day of Mercury), Dies Jovis (day of Jupiter), Dies Veneris (day of Venus), Dies Saturnii (day of Saturn).
Some Christians still perpetuate the name of the Lord's Day for Sunday: but it is really the survival of a Pagan name, with a new meaning, derived from a misunderstanding of Rev. i. 9. Objection has been taken to the interpretation of "the Lord's Day" here, because we have (in i. 9) the adjective "Lord's" instead of the noun (in regimen), "of the Lord," as in the Hebrew. But what else could it be called in Hebrew? Such objectors do not seem to be aware of the fact that there is no adjective for "Lord's" in Hebrew; and therefore the only way of expressing "the Lord's Day" is by using the two nouns, "the day of the Lord" - which means equally "the Lord's Day" (Jehovah's day). It is useless, therefore, to make any objection on this ground; for if a Hebrew wanted to say "the Lord's Day," he must say "the day of the Lord." In the Greek there are two ways of expressing this (as in modern languages); either by saying literally, as in Hebrew, "the day of the Lord" (using the two nouns); or by using the adjective "Lord's" instead. It comes to exactly the same thing as to signification; the difference lies only in the emphasis.
The natural way of qualifying a nouns is by using an adjective, as here - (kyriakee) Lord's; and, when this is done, the emphasis takes its natural course, and is placed on the noun thus qualified ("day"). But when the emphasis is required to be placed on the word "Lord" then, instead of the adjective, the noun would be used in the genitive case, "of the Lord." In the former case (as in Rev. i. 9), it would be "the Lord's DAY." In the latter case it would be "THE LORD'S day." The same day is meant in each case, but with a different emphasis.
By way of illustration and proof, we may call attention to the fact that we have the corresponding expressions concerning another "day." In Luke xvii. 22 we have "the days of the Son of Man," where the emphasis must be on "THE SON OF MAN" (as shown by the context). While in 1 Cor. iv. 3 we have "man's DAY," with the emphasis on "day," marking that "day" as being actually present, as it now is. This is so clear from the context that it is actually translated "judgment," which is exactly what it means. The apostle says - "It is a very small thing, that I should be judged of you, or of man's DAY." The emphasis is on day, because the time in which we now live is the time, or "day," when man is judging. Another day is coming, and that is the day when the Lord will be present, and He will be the judge. This is the reason why the adjective (anthropinee) man's is used in 1 Cor. iv. 3; and this is why (kyriakee), Lord's is used in Rev. i. 9. So far from the use of the adjective being an argument against our conclusion, it is an argument in favour of it. For what is the "DAY of the Lord" or "the LORD'S day"? The first occurrence of the expression (which is the key to its meaning) is in Isa. ii. 11.* It is the day when "the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted.
* It should be noted that the expression (yom Jehovah, the day of the Lord) occurs (in the Hebrew Bible) sixteen times, viz., Isa. xiii. 6,9. Ezek. xiii. 5, Joel i. 15; ii. 1, 11; iii. 14; iv. 14. Amos v. 18 (twice), 20. Obad. 16 (Heb. 1). Zeph. i. 7, 14 (twice), and Mal. iv. 5 (Heb. iii. 23). In four other places where we have in the English Bible "the day of the Lord," the Hebrew has the preposition lamed for or to, before the word Jehovah. In Isa. ii. 12, Ezek. xxx. 3, and Zech. xiv. 1 it means "a day for Jehovah"; and in Zech. xiv. 7 it means "a day (known) to Jehovah." In other places where we have in English "the day of the Lord," there is some other word between yom and Jehovah in the Hebrew (such as "wrath" or "vengeance;" i.e., the day of the wrath of the Lord)! and therefore these cannot be included as examples of this expression, "the day of the Lord." In the New Testament the expression occurs four times; viz., 1 Thess. v. 2. 2 Thess. ii. 2 (according to all the critical Greek texts and R.V., instead of "the day of Christ.") 2 Pet. iii. 10, and Rev. 1. 10. It is remarkable that all these occurrences are stamped with the number four, which marks that day has having special relation to the earth. In the New Testament four times. In the Old Testament, with the preposition, four times; and simply yom Jehovah 16 times (i.e. the square of four). This is merely a note in passing, but it is most significant.
That is the one great object of all the future events, seen by John in vision, and recorded for us in the Apocalypse.
One other fact has to be stated, and that is the reason why the first day of the week came to be called "Sunday." It was called by the Pagan "Dominus Sol," the Lord Sun. Hence the Latin name "Dies Dominica," used by the early Christian Fathers for the Sunday, and the speedy transition of its name from "the Lord Sun" to "the Lord's Day," and then "Sunday." Bingham (Ant. xx., sec. 5) mentions the fact that it was the custom in the Primitive Church to replace heathen days and festivals by those which were Christian. We see one result of this in our Yule-tide and Christmas. Bingham (Ant. xx., sec. 2) also mentions the fact that the early Christians were charged with being worshippers of the sun. Tertullian also admits that Christians were only looked upon by some as a sect of sun worshippers: * while some account for this on other grounds: (e.g. the sects of the Gnostics and Basilideans having retained or introduced solar forms of worship). Yet these facts are better and more fully accounted for by the adoption of the name "the Lord's Day" for the Sunday; while it serves to throw light on the transition from the original name of "the first day of the week."
* Tertullian Ad Nationes, Bk. i. chap. xiii., and Apologeticus, C. 16. (Latter half).
From all this evidence we feel justified in believing that the Apocalypse consists of a series of visions, which set forth the events connected with "the Revelation of Jesus Christ," which will take place during "the Lord's DAY;" that day being so called because it is viewed as being then present; and as it had been called heretofore in prophecy, "the day of the Lord."
(V.) THE TITLES OF CHRIST.
The titles used of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Revelation afford further evidence as to the Church of god not being the subject of that Book. We propose to consider seven of these, all used in the Introduction (chap. i). The most important of these is that given in connection with his vision in chap. i. 13-16. In ver. 13, He is called
(1) "THE SON OF MAN"
This is a title connected with the Lord Jesus in relation to the earth. Its first occurrence in Psa. viii. fixes its peculiar signification. That Psalm begins and ends with a reference to the "earth," and, after speaking of "the Son of Man," it adds: "Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands." It will be found, therefore, that wherever this title occurs, it always refers to the Lord Jesus in connection with His dominion in the earth.* And, when used of His second coming, it refers to the judgment which He is then and there to exercise.
* See The Divine Names and Titles, by Dr. E.W. Bullinger.
It is most remarkable, and so remarkable as to make it practically conclusive, that this title, while it occurs eighty-four times in the New Testament, is never once used in the Pauline epistles addressed to Churches; thus proving that this title has nothing whatever to do with the Church. But while it has no connection with the Church, in the Epistles, it occurs no less than eighty times in the four Gospels and Acts, because there we have Christ on the earth, and the presentation of the King and the Kingdom. But, when again he reveals Himself by this title, it is in the Book of Revelation (i. 13 and xiv. 14).*
* Between the Gospels and the Revelation there are only two occurrences, on where Stephen sees Him (Acts vii. 56) in a vision, standing as though to avenge the blood of His servant, then being shed on the earth (anticipatory of His action in the Apocalypse); and once in Heb. ii. 6, where it is merely a quotation of Psalm viii.
Thus we are pointed to the fact, and told (if we have ears to hear), that the Apocalypse relates to the coming of "the Son of Man" to exercise judgment in and assume dominion over the earth. It is remarkable that the first use of the title in the New Testament is in Matt. viii. 20, where it is said: "The Son of Man hath no where to lay His head": and the last is in Rev. xiv. 14, where the Son of Man is seen "having on His head a golden crown." Both are connected with his "head," and with the earth; while in the latter there is associated both judgment and dominion.
The significance of this title is further proved by its contrast with the title "Son of God" in John v. 25-27: "Verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of THE SON OF GOD, and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; and hath given Him authority to execute judgment also; because He is THE SON OF MAN."
It is thus clear that the use of this title twice in Revelation (i. 13 and xiv. 14), and not once in the Church Epistles, is a further proof that the Church is not the subject of the Apocalypse. The Church has no more to do with Christ under the title of "The Son of Man" than the Syro-Phoenician woman had anything to do with Him as "the Son of David." We ought to add that this fact is a key to all the passages where this title is used: and shows that Matt. xiv. and xxv. have nothing whatever to do with the Church of God, because of the use of this title in xxiv. 30, and xxv. 31. Both refer to His coming in clouds to the earth in judgment, after the Church has been taken up, and after the Great Tribulation.
(2) "THE ALMIGHTY" (i. 8, etc).
This title is used 9 times* in the Apocalypse, and only once elsewhere in the rest of the New Testament (2 Cor. vi. 18).**
* Nine is the number of judgment (see Number in Scripture by the same Author).
** Ten is the number of ordinal perfection.
It is (pantokrator) and means having dominion over all, and is used in the Old Testament as the Septuagint translation of "Lord of Hosts" (Heb., Jehovah, Sabaioth; see 2 Sam. v. 10; vii. 25, 27). In Revelation the title is used in i. 8; iv 8; xi. 17; xv. 3; xvi. 7, 14; xix. 6, 15, 22. "The Lord of Hosts" means Jehovah of the hosts in heaven above, and on the earth beneath; and especially of the hosts of Israel. Its first occurrence is (as usual) most significant (see 1 Sam. i. 3, 11; and iv. 4), when Israel was reduced to a low estate - oppressed by the Philistines. All had failed. The Judges had failed. The priests (witness Eli) had failed: there was "no king in Israel:" and God's sanctuary was defiled.
But the revelation of this title at this juncture, and here used for the first time, told of the blessed fact that there was going to be a king; and a judge too; as well as a Priest upon His throne; that the sanctuary was going to be cleansed (Rev. xi.), and the oppressors of Israel destroyed. Israel is, conversely, called "The Lord's Host" (see Exod. xii. 42), when, at the moment of the formation of the nation at the end of the 430 years of sojourning and servitude, and the birth of the new nation at the Exodus, we read these most significant words: "and it came to pass at the end of the 430 years, even the self-same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out of the land of Egypt." And further, we may note that, in Joshua v. 14, 15, we have the real connection between "the Lord of Hosts" and "The Hosts of the Lord." Jehovah-Jesus announces His coming as "the Captain of the Lord's Host," to lead them on, to fight their battles, to judge the nations, and give them rest, and settle them in their own land. Now, we ask, Is it not most significant that this is the title used here in the Apocalypse, 9 times? Does not the fact speak to us and say that when that book opens Israel is in low estate? Priests and people alike have failed, and there is "no king." Does it not say that "the Captain of the Lord's host" is coming down as their judge and vindicator, to deliver them from their oppressors, to fight for them and give them rest, and to bring them into their own land?
Surely the association of this title, Pantokrator, with the Lord of Hosts in the Old Testament, and with Israel; its frequent use in Revelation, and its practical absence in the Church Epistles, shuts us up to the fact that we have in this book, not the Church, but that which concerns the Jew and the Gentile. It is in this book we have that which the first occurrence of the title in the Book of Psalms relates to: "Who is this King of glory (i.e. this glorious King)? The Lord of Hosts - He is the King of Glory." And it is the object of the Apocalypse to show how this comes about, and how He becomes the King of kings and Lord of lords (xix. 16). And how all "the kingdoms of the world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ" (xi. 15). Then, too, will Israel fulfil the forty-sixth Psalm, and say: "The Lord of Hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge."
(3) "LORD GOD" (i. 8).
In i. 8 the title "god" must be added to the word "Lord," according to all the Critical Greek Texts* and the R.V.
* Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford, Westcott and Hort.
In chap. xxii. 6 we have the same title. Thus at the end of the book and at the beginning we have this peculiar title, which seems to enclose all that the book contains, and stamp it all with that which the title signifies. What is signifies is clear from the place where we first find it, vix., in the second of the twelve divisions of Genesis (chap. ii. 4 - iv. 26). This division is called "the generations of the heavens and of the earth." In the Apocalypse we have the final results of all that pertains to the heavens and the earth. The title "Lord God" is the title used in this division, which treats of the settlement of man in Paradise, or garden of the Lord. In the New Testament it first appears in the Apocalypse; where it has reference to the undoing of the effects of the curse (describe in that section of Genesis), and to the making of the earth again into the Paradise* of God - the garden of the Lord.
* The word Paradise occurs in the New Testament three times. Luke xxiii. 43, where the Lord spoke of it in promise and prophecy; in 2 Cor. xii. 9, whither Paul was caught away; and in Rev. ii. 7.
The title implies all this: viz., that God is about to do all that Jehovah has revealed. For Elohim is the God of creation and the commencement of life, while Jehovah is the God of revelation and the development and sustainer of life with regard to His covenant People. Elohim (God) expresses the power which accomplishes; Jehovah (Lord) the grace which provides.
Hence in Gen. ii. 4 - iv. 26, and in Rev. i. 8, and xxii. 5 we meet with this title; which links the two books together in a most remarkable manner, and gives the pledge that Paradise lost will become Paradise regained; and that the curse which drove man out shall no longer keep him out, but shall be "no more" for ever. This use of the title "Lord God" thus assures us that He who made the promise of Gen. iii. 15, that the Serpent's head should one day be crushed, will, in His own day (the Lord's day), finally crush the Serpent's head. The fact that this title is never used in connection with the Church of God, affords us one more great and important proof of our proposition that [the] Church is not the subject of the Apocalypse, but that it has to do with the Jew and the Gentile.
(4) "THE FIRST AND THE LAST" (i. 11).
This title is used in Rev. i. 11. It is used again in 1. 17, ii. 8, and xxii. 13, but is never found in connection with "the Church of God." On the other hand, it is a title closely associated with "the Jew and the Gentile," as the following Scriptures will testify.
Is. xli. 4, 5: "Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I, Jehovah, THE FIRST AND LAST; I am He. The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid."
Is. xliv. 6: "Thus saith the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts; I AM THE FIRST, AND I AM THE LAST; and beside me there is no God."
Is. xlviii. 12: "Hearken unto me, O Jacob, and Israel, my called; I am he; I AM THE FIRST, I ALSO AM THE LAST. Mine hand hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together."
Is it not clear, almost to certainty, that when the Lord Jesus specially reveals Himself by this title, never using it again till He claims it in the book of Revelation four * times, He means to teach us that He is come to act on behalf of Israel and in connection with that People with which this title is thus peculiarly associated?
* Four being the number that relates specially to the earth."
The connection of Isaiah with Revelation in the use of this title is eloquent to all who have "ears to hear."
(5) "THE PRINCE OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH."
This is a title used only in this book (i. 5). Many kings are mentioned and referred to in the book: but the Lord Jesus comes as their "Prince;" "King of kings and Lord of lords." The word is (archon), and occurs in the New Testament 37 times. It is used of earthly rulers, and spirit rulers of this age; also of Christ (only of Christ) in relation to the earth; but never in relation to or in connection with the Church. He it is of whom His God and Father has declared, "I will make Him my first-born, higher than the kings of the earth" (Ps. lxxxix. 27). It is in connection with the earth that He comes, in Revelation, and hence this title is used. Another testimony to the truth of our proposition.
(6) "WHO IS TO COME" (i. 8).
This also is a definite title of Christ; (ho erchomenos), THE COMING ONE.
It is not, who is "about to come," as though it were announcing a fact or an act, as being near at hand: but, it describes a person who has this for His special title, by which He came to be known. He has borne that title ever since the great prophecy and promise of Gen. iii. 15. From that time the coming "seed of the woman" has always been the hope of God's People, and hence He is "The Coming One."
True, He was rejected; therefore that coming is now in abeyance. The book of Revelation is a prophecy giving further details concerning that same coming. The Church of God waits for the Saviour, not as the coming one to the earth. It is as going ones we wait for Him, looking to be caught up to meet Him in the air. "The Coming One" is His special title, which connects Him with the Old Testament prophecies. The title is never once used in any of the Church epistles. We have it variously rendered: -
"That cometh," Luke xix. 38. John xii. 13. "He that cometh," Matt. iii. 11; xxi. 9; xxiii. 39. John i. 15; iii. 31 (twice). "Who coming," John i. 27. "He that shall come," Heb. x. 37. "Which (or that) should come," John vi. 14; xi. 27. "He that (or which) should come," Matt. xi. 3. Luke vii. 19,20. Acts xix. 4. "Which is (or art) to come," Rev. i. 4,8; iv. 8.*
*"Which art to come," In Rev. xi. 17, was inserted by a later scribe, thinking to make it harmonize with i. 4,8; and iv. 8. It must be omitted according to all the Critical Greek Texts (G[r]. L. T. Tr. A. [WH.]) and the R.V. It clearly is out of place here, because the twenty-four elders say, "We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and reignedst" (not hast reigned). The coming had already taken place in Rev. xi. 17: and therefore the title of "the Coming One" is omitted in this passage.
Sixteen times we have the title in the Gospels and Acts and Heb. x. 37; and then, not again until Revelation; when it is used three times of Him who was about to fulfil the hope of His People. This again stamps this prophecy as having to do with Christ as God, who "is" (essential being), and "was" (in eternity past), and is "the coming one" (time future).
(7) "THE LIVING ONE" (i. 18).
"I am He that liveth, and was dead" (i. 18). (ho zon), THE LIVING ONE. Like the previous title, it is used as a special designation of the One whose unveiling is about to be shewn to John. Its use is peculiar to Daniel and Revelation. The two books thus linked together by it are linked as to their character and subject matter in a very special manner. It is used twice in Daniel:- Dan. iv. 34 (31*) and xii. 7; and six time in Revelation:- Rev. i. 18**; iv. 9,10; v. 14; x. 6; and xv. 7.**
* Verses in parentheses indicate the number of the verse in the Hebrew Bible, where it differs from that of the English Bible.
** It is referred to in ii. 8, but not used.
In Dan. iv. 34 (the first occurrence), we read of Nebuchadnezzer, "I praised and honoured HIM THAT LIVETH for ever; whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation; and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth." That exactly expresses what He who reveals Himself by the title, "He that liveth," in Rev. i. 18, has there come to do. He is coming with the armies of heaven (Rev. xix. 14) to take the kingdom and the dominion, and to do his will among the inhabitants of the earth (not the church or the churches).
Dan. xii. 7 and Rev. x. 6 are so similar that we put them side by side. Both refer to and contrast Christ's relation to eternity and to time:
"He (the angel) held up his right hand and his left to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that is shall be for a time, times, and a half, and ... all these things shall be finished" (Dan. xii. 7). "And the angel... lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever... that there should be time (R.V. marg., delay) no longer" (Rev. x. 5,6).
Who can doubt that Daniel and Revelation are identical as to their scope; and that they relate, not to this present church period at all, but to the time when "he that liveth," or the Living One, shall come to exercise dominion in the earth, and this in connection, not with the grace of God, but with "the wrath of God" (Rev. xv. 7)? The double testimony of two witnesses, in Daniel and Revelation, bespeak the fact that this title relates entirely to the earth, and to man.*
*For six is the number which marks it as relating to man; while the total number, eight (twice four) connects it with the earth.
The church is heavenly in its calling, its standing, its hope, and its destiny. But here, everything relates to the execution of judgment on the earth, and upon man. There is a related title which is also very significant, "the living God." This is used in both Testaments, and indiscriminately, because it has no special reference either to Israel or to the church; but because of a latent reference it always has, to idols, and to judgment on idolaters. This is often expressed in the context; but where it is not actually expressed in words, the thought of idols and idolatry and idolaters has to be supplied mentally. The title ("the living God") occurs 13 times in the Old Testament (Hebrew), and twice in the Chaldee (Dan. vi. 20,26), fifteen times in all. It begins in connection with apostasy (13), but ends in grace and blessing (15=3X5). In the New Testament it occurs sixteen times (4X4), the square of four, four being the number specially associated with the earth.
The whole matter is so important and full of interest, that we venture to give all the references. The first, Deut. v. 26 (23) gives the key (as usual) to the whole. It is in connection with the giving of the Ten Commandments (with special reference to the second, iv. 19), when they "heard the voice of the living God (Elohim) speaking out of the midst of the fire." We say that the title here used is in connection with idolatry; and especially in its most ancient and universal form, sun-worship. A few verses before (Deut. iv. 19), we read, "Lest thou lift up thine eyes to heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and to serve them," etc. The whole heathen world worshipped the sun and the host of heaven; because they "associated with them certain human characters who had really performed the actions which were thence ascribed to the celestial bodies.* The sun had various attributes; and one was "the living one."** The sun has a conspicuous place in freemasonry; and sun-worship has its ramifications throughout the whole world. We cannot impede our argument by giving further details here. We have put them together in an Appendix, where our readers may see the evidence for themselves.
*Faber's Mystery of Pagan Idolatry, vol. ii. 223.
**Adventures in New Guinea, p. 56.
Our point is this; that the first use of the title "the living God" has to do with the voice out of the midst of the fire; and the last use of it (in Rev. vii. 2) is where God's servants are sealed with "the seal of the living God," so as to be kept from the then coming most awful phase of idolatry the world has ever seen, even the worship of the Beast; and to be preserved from and through the consequent judgments which shall come on those worshippers.
In Deut. xxii. 40,41, we have (not the title, but) words which connect the thought contained in it with that time of judgment.
Deut. xxxii. contains that "Song of Moses," of which Rev. xv. 3 speaks, and the time referred to is Apocalyptic time. "For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever. If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me" (Deut. xxxii. 40,41).
Ps. xviii. 46-48 (47-49). "The Lord liveth...It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me. He delivereth me from mine enemies:" etc.
The title also has to do with Israel's restoration and deliverance. See Jer. xvi. 14,15; xxiii. 7,8.
The judgment on those who use this title of idols is described in Amos viii. 14. If our readers will compare all the occurrences which we now give of this title, "the living God," they will see how (as a whole) they refer to Israel, to Gentiles, to the earth, to idolaters, and to idols. Deut. v. 26 (23). Josh. iii. 10. I Sam. xvii. 26,36, where David uses it against the defiance of Goliath. 2 Kings xix. 4,16. Isa. xxxvii. 4,17, where it is used against the reproach of Sennacherib. Ps. xlii. 2 (3); lxxxiv. 2 (3), where it is used with a latent reference to the false gods which others worship and seek. So Jer. x. 10; xxiii. 36, and Hos. i. 10 (ii. 1). In the New Testament the usage is the same. Matt. xvi. 16; xxvi. 63. John vi. 69. Acts xiv. 15. Rom. ix. 26. 2 Cor. iii. 3; vi. 16. 1 Thess. i. 9 (idols). 1 Tim. iii. 15; iv. 10; vi. 17. Heb. iii. 12; ix. 14; x. 31; xii. 22; and Rev. vii. 2. Sixteen in all (4 in the Gospels and Acts, 4 in the Church Epistles, 3 in the Pastoral Epistles, 4 in Hebrews, and once in Revelation).
Enough has been said on this particular title, and upon the seven as a whole, to show that they all link on the book of Revelation to the Old Testament and the Gospels, and not to the Church; and that their cumulative testimony is that Christ is revealed in this book, not in the character in which He is presented to the Church of God, but in that character in which He is revealed in the Old Testament in relation to Israel and the Earth, which is again taken up in the Apocalypse. There are other titles of Christ in this book which all add their own testimony; but these we can leave for the present, till we come to them in their own place. Enough has been said to show that these titles assumed by the Lord Jesus in the first chapter of this book shut it entirely off, by way of interpretation, from the Church, which is His Body.
(VI.) THE PEOPLE OF THE BOOK.
This expression tells us who the person are who are specially concerned in this book; and to whom the Revelation of Jesus Christ is shown. At the very outset we are thus warned that we are no longer on, but quite off, the ground of the Pauline Epistles, which are addressed to "sons," and not to "servants." The word is doulos, and means a bond servant. Now, without denying that the members of the Body of Christ are in a certain sense the servants of Christ, yet it is also perfectly clear that this is not their title as to their standing in Christ before God. It is distinctly declared to each of them, "Thou art no more a servant, but a son" (Gal. iv. 7). This is the one great point which is insisted on with reference to their new position in Christ. Throughout the Old Testament, in passages too numerous to be counted, God's People Israel are constantly spoken of as His servants. This fact is too well known to need anything more than its bare statement.
Its significance will be at once seen when we come to the New Testament Scriptures. There we find the same use of the word whenever Israel is in question. It occurs 124 times; but as in 39 of these it refers to domestic servants, or those who serve man, we have to deal only with the 85 occurrences where it is used with reference to God. Of these 85, no less than 59 are in the Gospels and Acts. Only six in the Church Epistles (Rom. i. 1; 1 Cor. vii. 22; Gal. i. 10; Eph. vi. 6; Phil. i. 1; Col. iv. 12), and six in the general and other Epistles (2 Tim. ii. 24; Tit. i. 1; Jas. i. 1; 1 Pet. ii. 16; 2 Pet. i. 1; Jude 1). But while this is the case with the Epistles, the word "servants" occurs no less than fourteen times in the book of Revelation, and this, not in the exceptional manner, as in the Epistles, but as the one specific and proper title for those who are the subjects of the book. In the Epistles the use is peculiar, as an examination of the passages will show. Out of the whole twelve, six are in the first verse of the Epistle,* describing the special character of the writer. For while all sons serve, and are in a sense, therefore, servants, yet "servants," as such, are not necessarily sons. In other words a "son" may be called a servant, but a "servant" can never be called a son.
* Rom., Phil., Tit., Jas., 2 Pet., and Jude.
Hence, the writers of the Epistles, being all engaged in special service, might well be called servants. And the Apocalypse, being written concerning Israel, the Israelites are, as appropriately, always spoken of as "servants." This evidence may not seem conclusive in itself; but, taken with the other reasons given, it adds its cumulative testimony to our position that the book of Revelation has not the Church of God for its subject. As the members of the Body of Christ, we are "in Christ." We have received a sonship-spirit, whereby we cry, Abba - i.e., my Father, "...and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. viii. 15-17). "As many as are led by Divine-spirit (i.e., the new nature) are sons of God; for we have not received a bond-service spirit" (v. 14,15). This is enlarged upon in Gal. iv. 1-7, where the fact is still more clearly enforced and taught. May we not ask why, if the Apocalypse be all about the Church of God, the people are never spoken of by this their new designation of "sons," but always by the title used of those in the Old Testament who were under the Law? Is it not passing strange that this should be so? And is it not the duty of those interpreters who see the Church as the subject of the book, to explain to us this striking peculiarity? Even in the Gospels, in speaking to the Twelve, the Lord Jesus specially calls their and our attention to such a change in the relationship, which had then taken place. Not so great a change as that revealed and contained in the Mystery. He had been showing them somewhat of the future, and He says (John xv. 15), "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends." In the Apocalypse, He is about to show them things which must come to pass hereafter; and He does not even call them "friends," still less does He speak of them as "sons," but He goes back and takes up still more distant ground, and calls them, without exception, "servants."
A careful study of the Old Testament with reference to this word "servants" will help to strengthen our position. In Lev. xxv. 42, Jehovah declares of them, "they are my servants." Deut. is full of references to this great fact: and, when we pass to the Apocalypse, and read it as the continuation of God's dealings with Israel, then all is clear; and we have no problem to solve, as to why all is turned from light to darkness, and the "sons of God" are suddenly spoken of as "servants." Neither have we any difficulty to explain as to why those who are declared to be no more "servants," but "sons," are continually called servants, and not sons.
Even John himself, in writing by the same Spirit for the Church of God (1 John iii. 2), when speaking of them, says, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God," and he calls them this in view of their seeing Him as He is, and their becoming like Him. But when he is writing for those who will be on the earth during the times of the Great Tribulation, he is Divinely inspired to speak of them, not as "the sons of God," but as the "servants of God." We repeat once again, in order to make this point quite clear, that while "sons" may perform some special service, and therefore may, on that account, be called "servants:" "servants," on the contrary, whatever may be the service rendered, can never occupy the position, or have the title, of "sons."
(VII.) THE TITLE OF THE BOOK.
Our next evidence is the title given to the book by the Holy Spirit who inspired it.
It is not "the Revelation of St. John the Divine," which is man's title for it. Indeed, among the later MSS., we find fifteen or sixteen various titles; but the Divine title given in the text, is "The Revelation of Jesus Christ."
The word apocalupsis. Hence the title of "Apocalypse" so frequently given to the book. It is from the verb apocalupto to unveil, from apo away from, and kalumma a veil. Hence Apocalypsis means a taking away of a veil (as when a statue is said to be unveiled), and thus bringing into view that which had been before hidden as by a veil. Unveiling is the equivalent English word. It is used, of course, in two senses: viz., of a bringing to knowledge by the removing of the veil of ignorance; or of the visible appearance of one who had previously been unseen, as though hidden by a veil. Our point is that, whenever this word is used of a visible person or thing, it always denotes the visible manifestation of that person; and it is the same in the case of all material or visible things. This is not a matter of opinion, but it is a matter of fact, on which our readers can easily satisfy themselves by examining the passages. The word occurs eighteen times; and in the following ten places is used of a person.
Luke ii. 32 - "A light to lighten the Gentiles," literally "a light for a revelation to the Gentiles." What was this light? It was a person, even the Saviour in Simeon's arms, of whom he could say, "Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation."
Rom. ii. 5 - "The day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." Here it refers to the visible judgment of God, which will be manifested to all in "the day of wrath."
Rom. viii. 19 - "The manifestation of the sons of God:" i.e., the visible revelation of the sons of God, when they shall appear and be manifested in glory with Christ (Col. iii. 4).
1 Cor. i. 7 - "Waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Here, without doubt, it refers to the personal appearing of Christ. This passage occurs in one of the earlier epistles of St. Paul, written during the Dispensation of the Acts, while the offer of the Kingdom and the King was still open to Israel (iii. 19-21), before the sentence of judicial blindness was passed upon Israel (Acts xxviii. 25,26). The words Parousia (1 Thess., &c) and Apocalypse were suitable for that Dispensation; and, of course, necessitated the personal presence of the Lord Jesus.
2 Cor. xii. 1 - "I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord." Here the word is joined to visions as though it meant visible manifestations of the Lord. Verse 7 may mean either a revelation of truths, or visible scenes of glory, or both.
Gal. i. 12 - "I neither received it (i.e., the Gospel which he announced) from man, neither was I taught it [by man], but by a revelation (i.e., a vision or visible appearance) of Jesus Christ." There is no reason whatever why the word should not have both meanings. Why should not the Lord have appeared to him, and made known to him that message which was given to him? It must have been made known to him in some way; and he distinctly says it was by Jesus Christ (not by the Holy Spirit). Therefore it must have been in one of those many "visions" which he says he saw at different times; and probably during those three preparatory years which he spent in Arabia (Gal. i. 17,18). In verse 16 it is the verb that is used and not the noun, and therefore it does not come within our inquiry.
2 Thess. i. 7 - "When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels." Here, though the English uses the verb, the Greek has the noun, and reads, "And to you who are troubled, rest with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven, with His mighty angels." There can be no doubt about this passage. (See below, the chapter on "The scope of the book, gathered from its place in the Canon.")
1 Pet. i.7 -"Might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ." The context shows that the meaning here is as in 2 Thess. i. 10, and refers to His visible manifestation with His People in the air at His Revelation.
But, if Peter's words are taken as referring to the remnant, then the visible manifestation is to them. So in verse 13, we have the same expression, "at (the) revelation of Jesus Christ." Also in iv. 13 where we read of the time "when His glory shall be revealed;" i.e., visibly manifested.
Now from all these ten passages, is it not clear that the word Apocalupsis, when it refers to what can be seen (such as a thing or a person), always means that visible manifestation of that person or thing?
If so, that is what we have in this book. We have an account of the various events which are to take place in heaven and on earth, connected with His visible unveiling. It is His Apocalupsis which God gave Him the right or authority to show, make known, or represent to his bondservants what must shortly come to pass. It is this thrusting of the sense of making known a truth into the word which, when used of a person, means the appearance of that person, that has led people commonly to speak of this book in the plural, "the Revelations."
We have therefore, in the Title of this book, further evidence that the subject of this whole book is the visible appearing of Jesus Christ in power, and glory; and for judgment in the earth. It is not a series of revelations about Jesus Christ; but the book which gives us the particulars about the events which are connected with His revelation or appearing. And it is made known, it says, specially, to his "servants," as we saw in our previous point.
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