BOOK OF REVELATION
Part 2 of 2, chapters 12-22
VII - A SERIES OF SIGNS:
THE WOMAN; THE DRAGON AND WAR IN HEAVEN; THE TWO BEASTS AND WAR ON EARTH
THE WOMAN AND THE DRAGON
A PREGNANT WOMAN APPEARS IN HEAVEN
Revelation 12:1-2 - Then a huge sign (or symbol) became visible in the sky - the figure of a woman (probably representing God's chosen people - both Jew and Christian, and the mother of the Messiah and the Church) clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars upon her head. She was pregnant, and cried out in her labour and in the pains of bringing forth her child (the Messiah who will defeat Satan)
A DRAGON APPEARS, READY TO DEVOUR HER NEWBORN
Revelation 12:3-4 - Then another sign (or symbol) became visible in the sky, and I saw that it was a huge red dragon (representing the primeval Serpent, the devil or Satan) with seven heads and ten horns (representing empires and rulers, the significance of which is outlined below), with a diadem upon each of his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them upon the earth (... perhaps the fallen angels who joined Satan). The dragon took his place in front of the woman who was about to give birth to a child, so that as soon as she did so he might devour it.
SHE BEARS A SON; HE IS TAKEN TO GOD'S THRONE, SHE FLEES TO A DESERT REFUGE
Revelation 12:5-6 - She gave birth to a male child (the Messiah and the Church) who is to shepherd all the nations "with a rod of iron". Her child was snatched up to God and to his throne, while the woman fled into the desert where she has a place prepared for her by God's command. There they will take care of her for twelve hundred and sixty days ("time, times and half a time").
A HEAVENLY WAR WITH THE DRAGON - SATAN, WHO IS THROWN TO EARTH
Revelation 12:7-9 - The war broke out in Heaven. Michael (one of the seven archangels of Judaism; the Protector, Defender, or guardian angel of Israel, Daniel 10:13,21; 12:1) and his angels battled with the dragon. The dragon and his angels (... Satan and the angels, soon to become "fallen") fought back, but they did not prevail and they were expelled from Heaven. So the huge dragon, the serpent of ancient times, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world, was hurled down upon the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him.
THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB OVERCOMES HIM; SATAN, IN FURY, THREATENS THE EARTH
Revelation 12:10-12 - Then I heard a great voice in Heaven cry: "Now the salvation and the power and kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ have come! For the accuser (Satan) of our brethren has been thrown down from this place (heaven), where he stood before our God accusing them day and night. Now they have conquered him through the blood of the Lamb, and through the Word to which they bore witness. They did not cherish life even in the face of death!
"Therefore, rejoice, O Heavens, and all you who live in the Heavens! But alas for the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you in great fury, knowing that his time is short (... Satan, thrown down from heaven to earth is determined to wreak vengeance)!"
THE DRAGON PURSUES THE WOMAN; WITH EAGLE'S WINGS, SHE FLIES TOWARDS SAFETY
Revelation 12:13-14 - And when the dragon (Satan) saw that he had been cast down upon the earth, he began to pursue the woman (the mother of the Messiah and the Church) who had given birth to the male child (the Messiah). But she was given two great (symbolic) eagle's wings so that she could fly to her place in the desert, where she is kept safe from the serpent (Satan) for a time and times and half a time.
HE SPEWS OUT A RIVER TO SWEEP HER AWAY; SHE ESCAPES, HE MAKES WAR ON GOD'S SAINTS
Revelation 12:15-17 - Then the serpent (Satan) ejected water from his mouth, streaming like a river in pursuit of the woman, to drown her in its flood. But the earth came to the woman's rescue, opened its mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon (Satan) had emitted from his mouth. Then the dragon raged with fury against the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her children (of the Church) - those who keep the commandments of God and bear their witness to Jesus.
THE FIRST BEAST - FROM THE SEA
THE BEAST IS GIVEN THE DRAGON'S THRONE AND POWER
Revelation 13:1-3 - Then, as I stood on the sand of the sea-shore, there rose out of the sea before my eyes an animal (the Beast from the Sea) with seven heads and ten horns (see below). There were diadems upon its horns and blasphemous names upon its heads. The animal which I saw had the appearance of a leopard, though it had the feet of a bear and a mouth like the mouth of a lion (... the description derives from Daniel 7:1-7). Then the dragon gave it his own power and throne and great authority (... Satan delegates his powers to the Beast from the Sea, the world empire, the Roman Empire?). One of its heads appeared to have been wounded to death but the mortal wound had healed (... possibly referring to the dead emperor Nero, who it was believed at that time would return from the dead).
THE WORLD WORSHIPS THE DRAGON AND THE BEAST, WHO IS THOUGHT INVINCIBLE
Revelation 13:4 - The whole earth followed the animal (the Beast from the Sea) with wonder, and they worshipped the dragon (Satan) because he had given authority to the animal (the Beast, the world empire, Rome?). Then they worshipped the animal, too, saying, "Who is like the animal? Who could make war against it?"
THE BEAST BLASPHEMES GOD; WITH AUTHORITY OVER ALL MANKIND, HE WARS AGAINST THE SAINTS; THEY ARE COUNSELLED TO ENDURE
Revelation 13:5-10 - It (the Beast, Rome?) was allowed to speak monstrous blasphemies (against God) and to exert its authority for forty-two months ("time, times and half a time").
So it poured out blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling place and those who live in Heaven. Moreover, it was permitted to make war upon the saints (the Christians) and to conquer them; the authority given to it extended over every tribe and people and language and nation. All the inhabitants of the earth will worship it (in the form of emperor-worship) - all those whose names have not been written in the book of life (for saved Christians) which belongs to the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Parenthetical: a word to the reader
Let the listener hear this: If any man is destined for captivity he will go into captivity. If any man kills with the sword he must himself be killed with the sword. Amid all this stands the endurance and faith of the saints.
THE SECOND BEAST - FROM THE EARTH
HE FORCES MANKIND TO WORSHIP THE FIRST BEAST
Revelation 13:11-12 - Then I saw another animal rising out of the earth (the Beast of the Earth, the high priest of emperor-worship), and it had two horns like a lamb (representing the anti-christ) but it spoke in the voice of a dragon (like Satan). It uses the full authority of the first animal (the Beast from the Sea, Rome?) in its presence. It compels the earth and all its inhabitants to worship the first animal (the Beast from the Sea) - the one with the mortal wound which had healed.
HIS MIRACLES DECEIVE MANKIND; THEY MUST HONOUR THE FIRST BEAST'S IMAGE, OR DIE
Revelation 13:13-15 - It (... the Beast from the Earth, the high-priest of emperor-worship, the anti-christ) performs great signs: before men's eyes it makes fire fall down from heaven to earth. It deceives the inhabitants of the earth by the signs which it is allowed to perform in the presence of the animal (the Beast from the Sea, Rome), and it tells them to make a statue (of the emperor) in honour of the animal which received the sword-thrust and yet survived. Further, it was allowed to give the breath of life to the statue of the animal so that the statue could speak (through priestly trickery and mechanisms) and condemn to death all those who do not worship its statue.
UNLESS MANKIND IS "MARKED" NONE CAN BUY AND SELL; THE MARK OF THE BEAST IS "SIX SIX SIX"
Revelation 13:16-18 - Then it (the Beast from the Earth, the high priest) compels all, small and great, rich and poor, free men and slaves, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads (... possibly a real identification mark allowing economic control to be exercised). The purpose of this is that no one should be able to buy or sell unless he bears the mark of the name of the animal or the number of its name (... the mark of the Beast). Understanding is needed here: let every thinking man calculate the number of the animal. It is the number of a man, and its number is six hundred and sixty-six.
- Of the various interpretations of this ancient art of using numbers to symbolise names, the most frequently suggested is the emperor Nero and the Roman Empire's agents of control and persecution.
INTERLUDE - VISIONS OF THE SAVED IN HEAVEN AND DOOMED ON EARTH; THE SIX ANGELS
- Persecution and hostility may be the lot of Christians on earth, but they will know the very opposite in heaven:
THE LAMB ON MOUNT ZION; THE 144,000 MARKED BY GOD; THE HEAVENLY CHOIR
Revelation 14:1-5 - Then I looked again and before my eyes the Lamb (of God, Jesus Christ) was standing on Mount Sion (or Zion), and with him were a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written upon their foreheads (either the same group from Revelation 7:1-8, or saved Christians in general; the Mark of God contrasts with the mark of the Beast). Then I heard a sound coming from Heaven like the roar of a great waterfall and the heavy rolling of thunder. Yet the sound which I heard was also like the music of harpists sweeping their strings. And now they are singing a new song of praise before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the (twenty-four) elders. No one could learn that song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the earth. These are the men who have never defiled themselves with women, for they are celibate (possibly a literal meaning. Alternatively, as celibacy is not considered more Godly than marriage in the Bible, it may mean those who have been obedient to God's commandments). These are the men who follow the Lamb wherever he may go; these men have been redeemed from among mankind as first-fruits to God and to the Lamb. They have never been guilty of any falsehood; they are beyond reproach.
- Six angelic pronouncements are now made, three on God's approaching judgment on the world, three on the execution of his verdict:
THE FIRST ANGEL PROCLAIMS THE GOSPEL; A LAST CALL TO EVERYONE TO WORSHIP GOD
Revelation 14:6-7 - Then I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, holding the everlasting (eternal) Gospel to proclaim to the inhabitants of the earth - to every nation and tribe and language and people. He was crying in a loud voice, "Reverence God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment has come! Worship him who made Heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water."
THE SECOND ANGEL ANNOUNCES THE FALL OF WICKED BABYLON
Revelation 14:8 - Then another, a second angel, followed him crying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great (pagan Rome?)! She who made all nations drink the wine of her passionate unfaithfulness (or adultery - idolatry in Old Testament terms)!"
THE THIRD ANGEL DECLARES THAT ALL WHO WORSHIP THE BEAST WILL KNOW GOD'S WRATH; THE SAINTS MUST STILL ENDURE
Revelation 14:9-13 - Then a third angel followed these two, crying in a loud voice, "If any man worships the animal (the Beast from the Sea, Rome?) and its statue (raised by the Beast from the Earth, the high priest of emperor-worship) and bears its mark ("666") upon his forehead or upon his hand, then that man shall drink the wine of God's passion, poured undiluted into the cup of his wrath. He shall be tortured by fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb (of God). The smoke of such men's torture ascends for timeless ages, and there is no respite from it day or night. Such are the worshippers of the animal and its statue and among their number are all who bear the mark of its name ("666")."
The call to stand fast
In all this stands the endurance of the saints - those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
The security of the saints
Then I heard a voice from Heaven, saying, "Write this! From henceforth happy are the dead who die in the Lord!"
"Happy indeed," says the Spirit, "for they rest from their labours and their deeds go with them!"
- Like the Gospel parables on the final separation of good from evil, such as "the wheat and weeds in the field" (Matthew 13:24-30,36-43), the final harvest now takes place. This may be in two parts - Christ harvesting the wheat, the "saved"; then an angel harvesting the grapes, the "wicked":
THE "SON OF MAN" SEATED ON A CLOUD, HOLDING A SICKLE
Revelation 14:14 - Once again I looked, and a white cloud appeared before me with someone sitting upon the cloud with the appearance of
'the Son of Man' (Daniel 7:13).
He (presumably Christ) had a golden crown on his head, and held a sharp sickle in his hand.
THE FOURTH ANGEL CALLS FOR THE "SON" TO HARVEST THE EARTH
Revelation 14:15-16 - Then another angel came out from the Temple, calling in a loud voice to the one sitting on the cloud, "Thrust in your sickle and reap, for the time of reaping has come and the harvest of the earth is fully ripe!"
Then the one sitting upon the cloud swung his sickle upon the earth, and the reaping of the earth was done (Christ has harvested the "saved"?).
THE FIFTH ANGEL APPEARS, ALSO WITH A SICKLE
Revelation 14:18 - Then another angel came out from the Temple in Heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle.
A SIXTH ANGEL ORDERS THE EARTH'S GRAPES TO BE HARVESTED, AND THROWN INTO GOD'S WINEPRESS; BLOOD FLOWS DEEP AND FAR
Revelation 14:18-20 - Yet another angel came out from the altar where he had command over the fire, and called out in a loud voice to the angel with the sharp sickle, "Thrust in your sharp sickle and harvest the clusters from the vineyard of the earth for the grapes are fully ripe!"
Then the angel swung his sickle upon the earth and gathered the harvest of the earth's vineyard (the wicked?), and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. The grapes were trodden outside the city (probably Jerusalem), and out of the winepress flowed blood for two hundred miles (or 1600 stadia, possibly another symbolic number - 4 x 4 x 100, representing the destruction of all evil) in a stream as high as the horses' bridles.
- Although chapter 14 has seen the final harvest or at least its description, there is a final set of sevenfold judgments to be endured:
VIII - SEVEN ANGELS POUR OUT THE LAST SEVEN PLAGUES OF GOD'S WRATH
JOHN SEES THE ANGELS AND THOSE WHO ENDURED PERSECUTION; THEIR SONG GLORIFIES GOD
Revelation 15:1-4 - Then I saw another sign (or symbol) in Heaven, vast and awe-inspiring: seven angels are holding the seven last plagues, and with these the wrath of God is brought to an end.
The hymn of the redeemed
And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass shot through with fire, and upon this glassy sea were standing those (the Christians who had endured persecution) who had emerged victorious from the fight with the animal (the Beast from the Sea, Rome?), its statue (erected by the Beast from the Land) and the number ("666") which denotes its name. In their hands they hold harps which God has given them, and they are singing the song of Moses the servant of God (sung after the crossing of the Red Sea, Exodus 15:1-21), and the song of the Lamb (of God), and these are the words they sing: 'Great and marvellous are your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O king of the saints! Who shall not fear you, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before you, for your judgments have been manifested!" (The Song of Moses may represent the 144,000 saved of Israel, and the Song of the Lamb, the great Multitude of Gentiles, Revelation 7).
SEVEN ANGELS LEAVE THE TEMPLE WITH THE PLAGUES; THEY RECEIVE THE BOWLS OF GOD'S WRATH
Revelation 15:5-16:1 - Later in my vision I saw the Temple of the tabernacle of testimony in Heaven wide open, and out of the Temple came forth the seven angels who hold the seven plagues. They were dressed (as priests) in spotless shining linen, and they were girded round their breasts with golden girdles.
Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God who lives for timeless ages. The Temple was filled with smoke from the glory and power of God, and no one could enter the Temple (to plead with God for further mercy) until the seven plagues of the seven angels were past and over (and the doom of the wicked complete).
(Chapter 16 ....) Then I heard a loud voice from the Temple saying to the seven angels, "Go and pour out upon the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God!"
- Now the Beast has appeared (Revelation 13), the Seven Bowls of wrath, unlike the the judgments of the Seven Seals and Seven Trumpets, are poured out on him and his followers, and with a far greater intensity and completeness. Some of the plagues are like those visited on Egypt by Moses before the Exodus:
THE FIRST ANGEL ON THE LAND - SORES BREAK OUT ON THE WORSHIPPERS OF THE BEAST
Revelation 16:2 - The first angel went off and emptied his bowl upon the earth. Whereupon loathsome and malignant ulcers (similar to those of Exodus 9:8-12) attacked all those who bore the mark ("666") of the animal (the Beast from the Sea) and worshipped its statue.
THE SECOND ANGEL ON THE SEA - EVERYTHING IN IT DIES
Revelation 16:3 - The second angel emptied his bowl into the sea, which turned into a fluid like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing in it died.
THE THIRD ANGEL ON THE FRESH WATERS - HE SPEAKS OF GOD'S JUDGMENT
Revelation 16:4-7 - Then the third angel emptied his bowl into the rivers and springs of water, and they turned into blood (the last two judgments are similar to those of Exodus 7:17-21). And I heard the angel of the waters say, "You are righteous, O Lord, the one who is and who was and who is to be, because you have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due."
And I heard the altar say, "Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are your judgments."
THE FOURTH ANGEL ON THE SUN - THE PEOPLE ARE SCORCHED
Revelation 16:8-9 - The fourth angel emptied his bowl over the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch men in its fiery blaze. Then men were terribly burned in the heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has control over these afflictions; but they neither repented nor gave him glory.
THE FIFTH ANGEL ON THE BEAST'S THRONE - IT'S KINGDOM IS IN DARKNESS, MEN ARE IN AGONY; BUT STILL THEY WILL NOT REPENT
Revelation 16:10-11 - Then the fifth angel emptied his bowl upon the throne of the animal (the Beast from the Sea, the City of Rome?). Its kingdom was plunged into darkness; men gnawed their tongues in agony, cursed the God of Heaven for their pain and their ulcers, but refused to repent of what they had done.
THE SIXTH ANGEL ON THE RIVER EUPHRATES - ITS WATERS DRY UP
Revelation 16:12 - Then the sixth angel emptied his bowl upon the great River Euphrates (separating the Roman and Parthian empires). The waters of that river were dried up to prepare a road for the kings from the east (Either to allow the Parthians or these kings to invade the west at their leisure, or for them to join with the Beast in his attack on the Lamb).
THREE SPIRITS GATHER THE KINGS OF THE EARTH FOR THE BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON
Revelation 16:13-16 - And then I noticed three foul spirits, looking like frogs (mythological miracle-working demons or agents of Satan; also related to the plague of frogs in Exodus 8:2-6) emerging from the mouths of ...
the dragon (Satan),
the animal (the Beast from the Sea, Rome?) and
the false prophet (the Beast from the Earth, the high priest of emperor-worship). ...
... They are diabolical spirits performing wonders and they set out to muster all the kings of the world for battle on the great day of God, the Almighty (drawing together all the nations and forces of evil to resist God's judgment).
So they brought them together to the place called, in Hebrew, Armageddon (Har-Magedon, the "Mount" or "Mountain of Megiddo", an ancient city on the coastal road through Israel from Egypt to the North, the scene of many battles in Old Testament times and later, including 1918. It is used as a symbol of all battles and the final battle).
The words in the background
- An insertion into these cataclysmic events allowing Christ to comfort faithful Christians:
"See, I am coming like a thief! Happy is the man who stays awake and keeps his clothes at his side, so that he will not have to walk naked and men see his shame."
THE SEVENTH ANGEL INTO THE AIR - NATURAL CATASTROPHES STRIKE MEN AND CITIES, ESPECIALLY BABYLON
Revelation 16:17-21 - The seventh angel emptied his bowl into the air. A loud voice came out of the Temple, from the throne, saying, "The end has come!" (The final judgment, this time not poured out on the earth, but in the air.)
Then followed flashes of lightning, noises and peals of thunder. There was a terrific earthquake, the like of which no man has ever seen since mankind began to live upon the earth - so great and tremendous was this earthquake. The great city (usually considered to be "Babylon" - Rome) was split into three parts, and the (remaining) cities of all the nations fell in ruins. And God called to mind Babylon the great and made her drink the cup of the wine of his furious wrath. Every island fled and the mountains vanished. Great hailstones (as in Exodus 9:18-26) like heavy weights fell from the sky and men blasphemed God for the curse of the hail, for it fell upon them with savage and fearful blows.
- So ends the series of Seven Seals, Seven Trumpets, and Seven Bowls of Wrath. Whether these follow each other in time, overlap, or more likely take place simultaneously is not known. The end of the age, the end-times, have now come when the forces of Heaven and of Satan will do final battle.
IX - THE FALL OF BABYLON
THE PROSTITUTE BABYLON SITTING ON THE BEAST
- Babylon, the ancient city on the River Euphrates, had become an emblem of a godless culture at the heights (or depths) of its powers, and was often pictured as a prostitute dominating her clients. By New Testament times, Rome and the Roman Empire with its corruption, emperor worship, torture and persecution had become equated with the Babylon of old:
AN ANGEL ANNOUNCES THE PUNISHMENT OF THE GREAT WORLD PROSTITUTE, BABYLON
Revelation 17:1-2 - Then came one of the seven angels who held the seven bowls, and said to me, "Come, and I will show you the judgment passed upon the great harlot ("Babylon", Rome?) who is seated upon many waters. It is with her that the kings of the earth have debauched themselves and the inhabitants of the earth have become drunk on the wine of her filthiness (Old Testament imagery for accepting the overlordship of "Babylon", the worship of Rome and its paganism)."
JOHN SEES THE WOMAN SITTING ON A SCARLET BEAST, DRUNK WITH THE SAINT'S BLOOD
Revelation 17:3-6a - Then he carried me away in spirit into the desert. There I saw a woman ("Babylon", Rome) riding upon a scarlet animal (the great political and military power of the Roman Empire. Scarlet represents the pomp and splendour of that power), covered with blasphemous titles (imperial titles claiming divinity) and having seven heads and ten horns (see below). The woman herself was dressed in purple and scarlet, glittering with gold, jewels and pearls (symbols of her incredible wealth). In her hand she held a golden cup full of the earth's filthiness and her own foul impurity. On her forehead is written a name with a secret meaning - BABYLON THE GREAT, MOTHER OF ALL HARLOTS AND OF THE EARTH'S ABOMINATIONS.
Then I noticed that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and of the martyrs for Jesus.
THE MYSTERY EXPLAINED; THE BEAST OF THE ABYSS WILL BE DESTROYED
Revelation 17:6b-8 - As I watched her, I was filled with utter amazement, but the angel said to me, "Why are you amazed? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman (Rome) and of the animal (the Roman Empire, perhaps now personified as the dead emperor Nero) with seven heads and ten horns which carries her. The animal, which you saw, once lived but now is no more ("Nero"?) - it will come up out of the pit (or Abyss of the dead) only to meet with destruction. The inhabitants of the earth, whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will be utterly astonished when they see that the animal was, and is not, and yet is to come (Nero supposedly returning from the dead?).
THE BEAST'S SEVEN HEADS REPRESENT THE RISE AND FALL OF KINGS; THE BEAST IS THE EIGHTH KING
Revelation 17:9-11 - (Here we need a mind with understanding.)
"The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman takes her seat (Rome, the city on seven hills). There are also seven kings (emperors or empires);
five have been dethroned (if these are Roman emperors, possibly Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula or Gaius Caesar, Claudius and Nero who reigned from 30BC to AD68, then all are by now dead. Three more emperors then appeared in quick succession AD68-69),
one reigns (possibly the emperor Vespasian, AD69-79. If so suggesting an earlier date for the Book of Revelation)
and the other has not yet appeared (this would then be the emperor Titus, AD79-81) - when he comes he must remain only for a short time. ...
... As for the animal which once lived but now lives no longer, it is an eighth king (possibly the returning dead "Nero"? Domitian AD81-96 who was nicknamed "Nero", actually succeeded Titus) which belongs to the seven, but it goes to utter destruction.
THE TEN HORNS ARE TEN MORE KINGS WHO WILL WAR UNSUCCESSFULLY AGAINST THE LAMB
Revelation 17:12-14 - The ten horns which you saw are ten kings (perhaps Roman emperors or province governors, or minor kings of Parthia who will ally themselves with "Nero") who have not yet received their power to reign, but they will receive authority to be kings for one hour (a short period equivalent to the short reign of "Nero") in company with the animal ("Nero"?). They are of one mind, and they will hand over their power and authority to the animal. They will all go to war with the Lamb (of God), and the Lamb, with his called, chosen and faithful followers, will conquer them. For he is Lord of lords and King of kings."
GOD WILL ALLOW THE BEAST AND TEN KINGS TO DESTROY BABYLON
Revelation 17:15-18 - Then he said to me, "As for the waters which you saw, on which the woman took her seat, they are peoples and vast crowds, nations and languages. The ten horns (minor Parthian kings?) and the animal ("Nero"?) which you saw will loathe the harlot (Rome?), and leave her deserted and naked ("Nero" will take his revenge on Rome for his enforced suicide in AD68). Moreover, they will devour her flesh, and then consume her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by making them of one mind, and by handing over their authority to the animal, until the words of God have been fulfilled.
"The woman that you saw is the great city ("Babylon", Rome) which dominates the kings of the earth."
THE FALL, EARTHLY LAMENT FOR, AND DESTRUCTION OF BABYLON
AN ANGEL ANNOUNCES THE FALL OF WICKED BABYLON
Revelation 18:1-3 - Later I saw another angel coming down from Heaven, armed with great authority. The earth shone with the splendour of his presence, and he cried in a mighty voice, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great (Rome?)! She has become a haunt of devils, a prison for every unclean spirit, and a cage for every foul and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk the wine of her passionate unfaithfulness and have fallen thereby. The kings of the earth have debauched themselves with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the extravagance of her dissipation (reflecting Rome's vast wealth and power)!"
GOD'S PEOPLE ARE TOLD TO LEAVE AND ESCAPE THE JUDGMENT ON BABYLON
Revelation 18:4-8 - Then I heard another voice from Heaven, crying, "Come out from her, O my people, lest you become accomplices in her sins and must share in her punishment. For her sins have mounted up to the sky, and God has remembered the tale of her wickedness. Pay her back in her own coin - yes, pay her back double for all that she has done! In the cup which she mixed for others mix her a drink of double strength! For the pride in which she flaunted herself give her torture and misery! Because she says to herself, 'Here I sit a queen on a throne; I am no woman who lacks a man and I shall never know sorrow!' So in a single day her punishments shall strike her - death, sorrow and famine and she shall be burned in the fire. For mighty is the Lord God who judges her!"
- Three groups now lament the fall of Babylon (Rome?) - the kings who relied on her support and power, and the merchants and seafaring traders who grew rich on her vast consumption and commerce:
THE WORLD'S RULERS AND MERCHANTS LAMENT HER DESTRUCTION
Revelation 18:9-17a - Then the kings of the earth, who debauched and indulged themselves with her, will wail and lament over her. Standing at a safe distance through very fear of her torment, they will watch the smoke of her burning and cry, "Alas, alas for the great city, Babylon the mighty city, that your judgment should come in a single hour."
The merchants of the earth shall also wail and lament over her, for there is no one left to buy their goods - cargoes of gold and silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, every sort of ivory vessel, every kind of vessel of precious wood, of bronze, iron and marble; cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour and corn; cattle, sheep and horses; chariots, slaves (and gladiators to die for public entertainment), the very souls of men.
Those who bought and sold these things, who had gained their wealth from her, will stand afar off through fear of her punishment, weeping and lamenting and saying, "Alas, alas for the great city that was dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and was bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls - alas that in a single hour all that wealth should be destroyed!"
THE SEAFARING TRADERS OF THE WORLD JOIN IN THE LAMENT
Revelation 18:17b-19 - Then every shipmaster and seafarer - sailors and all whose business is upon the sea - stood and watched the smoke of her burning from afar, and cried out, "What city was ever like the great city?"
They even threw dust on their heads and cried aloud as they wept, saying, "Alas, alas for the great city where all who had ships on the sea grew wealthy through the richness of her treasure! Alas that in a single hour she should be ruined!"
AN ANGEL DESCRIBES THE VIOLENT END OF BABYLON AND ITS PEOPLE
Revelation 18:20-24 - Rejoicing in heaven is now heard:
"Rejoice over her fate, O Heaven, and all you saints, apostles and prophets! For God has pronounced his judgment for you against her!"
The words of Babylon's doom
Then a mighty angel lifted up a stone like a huge mill-stone and hurled it into the sea, saying, "So shall Babylon the great city (Rome?) be sent hurtling down to disappear for ever (never to rise again)! Never more shall the sound of harpists and musicians, flute-players and trumpeters be heard in you again! Never again shall a craftsman of any craft be found in you; never again will the sound of the mill-stone's grinding be heard in you! No light of a lamp shall ever shine in you again, and the voices of bridegroom and bride shall be heard in you no more! The fruit of your soul's desire is lost to you for ever. All your luxuries and brilliance are lost to you and men will never find them in you again!
"For your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all nations were seduced by your witchery!"
For in her was discovered the blood of prophets and saints, indeed the blood of all who were ever slaughtered upon the earth (possibly both Jews and Christians, but only during Rome's period of power).
HEAVEN'S JOYFUL RESPONSE TO THE FALL OF BABYLON
- Heaven now rings out with four Alleluia's or Hallelujah's - from the Hebrew for "praise the Lord". This is the only time the term appears in the New Testament.
Joy over the destruction of the city and its people, and the avenging of Christian martyrs is not easy to accept. Yet the Bible is full of warnings about the fate of those who fail to worship and obey God, and in the New Testament to do so through Jesus Christ. We can accept or reject this in the light of our own views on fairness, humanity, love and so on, but we cannot with any sincerity, soften or explain away these and similar divine warnings:
A HEAVENLY CHOIR SINGS OF GOD'S JUDGMENT ON BABYLON
Revelation 19:1-3 - Afterwards I heard what sounded like the mighty roar of a vast crowd in Heaven, crying, "Alleluia! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just. He has judged the great harlot (Babylon, Rome?) who corrupted the earth with her wickedness, and he has avenged upon her the blood of his servants!" Then they cried a second time, "Alleluia! The smoke of her destruction ascends for timeless ages!"
THE ELDERS AND LIVING CREATURES WORSHIP GOD; THERE ARE MORE CALLS TO WORSHIP
Revelation 19:4-5 - Then the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures prostrated themselves and worshipped God who is seated upon the throne, saying, "Amen, alleluia!"
Then out of the throne came a voice, saying, "Praise our God, all you who serve him, all you who reverence him, both small and great!"
REJOICING THAT THE LAMB IS TO MARRY THE BRIDE; BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO ARE INVITED
Revelation 19:6-10 - And then I heard a sound (from heaven) like the voices of a vast crowd, the roar of a great waterfall and the rolling of heavy thunder, and they were saying, "Alleluia! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, has come into his kingdom! Let us rejoice, let us be glad with all our hearts. Let us give him the glory, for the wedding-day of the Lamb (Christ) has come, and his bride (the beloved Church, Ephesians 5:25) has made herself ready. She may be seen dressed in linen, gleaming and spotless - for such linen is the righteous living of the saints (the simplicity of the bridal Church is contrasted with the gaudiness of the prostitute Babylon)!"
Instruction to John
Then he said to me, "Write this down: Happy are those who are invited to the wedding-feast of the Lamb!"
Then he added, "These are true words of God."
At that I fell at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, "No! I am your fellow-servant and fellow-servant with your brothers who are holding fast their witness to Jesus. Give your worship to God!"
(This witness to Jesus inspires all prophecy.)
THE CONCLUSION OF GOD'S JUDGMENT ON THE UNIVERSE
The Book of Revelation concludes with:
- God's final victory over Satan and his Final Judgment (19:11-20:15),
- Followed by the descent from heaven of the new Jerusalem where He will live with the saved (21:1-22:5).
An epilogue is Christ's final appeal to all mankind to be saved by God's grace (22:6-21).
X - FINAL VICTORY AND JUDGMENT
CHRIST'S VICTORY OVER THE TWO BEASTS
THE RIDER, CHRIST, ON THE WHITE HORSE, AND HIS ARMIES
Revelation 19:11-16 - Then I saw Heaven wide open, and before my eyes appeared a white horse, whose rider (Christ) is called faithful and true, for his judgment and his warfare are just. His eyes are a flame of fire and there are many diadems upon his head. There is a name written upon him, known only to himself. He is dressed in a cloak dipped in blood, and the name by which he is known is the Word of God.
The armies of Heaven follow him, riding upon white horses and clad in white and spotless linen. Out of his mouth there comes a sharp sword with which to strike the nations.
'He will rule them with a rod of iron' (Psalm 2:9),
and alone he will tread the winepress of the furious wrath of God the Almighty. Written upon his cloak and upon his thigh is the name, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
THE BEAST AND THE FALSE PROPHET ARE DESTROYED
Revelation 19:17-21 - Then I saw an angel standing alone in the blazing light of the sun, and he shouted in a loud voice, calling to all the birds flying in mid-air, "Come, flock together to God's great feast! Here you may eat the flesh of kings and captains, the flesh of strong men, of horses and their riders - the flesh of all men, free men and slaves, small and great!"
And I saw the animal (the Beast from the Sea, Rome now personified as "Nero"?) with the kings of the earth (the Parthian kings?) and their armies massed together for battle against the rider upon the horse and his army. The animal was captured and with it the false prophet (still the Beast from the Earth, the high priest of emperor-worship?) who had performed marvels in its presence, which he had used to deceive those who accepted the mark of the animal ("666") and worshipped its statue. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with sulphur (fire and brimstone).
The rest were killed by the sword which issues from the mouth of the rider upon the horse; and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
SATAN IS OVERTHROWN; GOD MAKES HIS FINAL JUDGMENT
SATAN, THE DECEIVER, IS BOUND AND IMPRISONED FOR A THOUSAND YEARS
Revelation 20:1-3 - Then I saw an angel coming down from Heaven with the key of the pit (Abyss) and a huge chain in his hand. He seized the dragon (Satan), the serpent of ancient days, who is both the devil and Satan, and bound him fast for a thousand years (a millennium). Then he (the angel) hurled him (Satan) into the pit (the Abyss), and locked and sealed it over his head, so that he could deceive the nations no more until the thousand years were past. But then he must be set free for a little while.
- The period of a thousand years and sequence of events has led to endless speculation and theorising over the centuries. It is possibly a length of time symbolic of the Church's life on earth, during which time the Gospel is preached to all mankind while Satan is restrained by God. At the end-time, the second coming of Christ and the destruction of Satan finally takes place.
THE FIRST RESURRECTION - CHRIST AND THE SAINTS REIGN FOR A THOUSAND YEARS
Revelation 20:4-6 - And I saw thrones, with appointed judges seated upon them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been executed for their witness to Jesus and for proclaiming the Word of God - those who never worshipped the animal (Beast from the Sea, Rome?) or its statue, and had not accepted its mark upon their foreheads or their hands. They (the Christian saints and martyrs only) came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years (the millennial kingdom. The rest of the dead - all the other Christians - did not come to life until the thousand years were over.) This is the first resurrection. Happy and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! The second death (after the Last Judgment) cannot touch such men; they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him for the thousand years.
SATAN IS RELEASED; THE FINAL BATTLE; HIS DESTRUCTION
Revelation 20:7-10 - Then, when the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison, and will set out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog ( ... representing all who oppose God in the last great battle by Satan at the end of time, Ezekiel 38), and to lead them into battle. They will be as numerous as the sand of the seashore.
They came up and spread over the breadth of the earth; they encircled the army of the saints defending the beloved city (Jerusalem). But fire came down from the sky and consumed them. The devil (Satan, the first of the "trinity" of evil) who deceived them was hurled into the lake of fire and sulphur to join the animal and the false prophet (the second and third parts of this same "trinity"). And there they shall be tortured day and night for timeless ages.
THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD; THE LAST JUDGMENT
Revelation 20:11-15 - And then I saw a great white throne, and one seated upon it from whose presence both earth and sky fled and vanished (heaven and earth have perhaps disappeared).
Then I saw the dead (who had not shared in the first resurrection), great and small, standing (risen and embodied) before the throne and the books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books concerning what they had done. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up the dead which were in them. And men were judged, each according to what he had done.
Then death and the grave (Hades) were themselves hurled into the lake of fire, which is the second death (following the Last Judgment). If anyone's name (the wicked) was not found written in the book of life he was thrown into the (eternal) lake of fire.
XI - GOD'S NEW WORLD
THE NEW JERUSALEM - A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH
GOD PROCLAIMS THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW EARTH
- Satan and all his evil works are no more; the Last Judgment has taken place; God now provides a new dwelling for all who have been saved:
Revelation 21:1-5 - Then I saw a new Heaven and a new earth (the new Jerusalem), for the first Heaven and the first earth had disappeared and the sea was no more (they are no longer fit for God's people). I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride (the Church) dressed in beauty for her husband (Christ). Then I heard a great voice from the throne crying, "See! The home of God is with men, and he will live among them ...
- The "Shekinah" glory, a Hebrew term expressing the majesty of God living among his people. Also "Immanuel" or "Emmanuel" meaning "God with us" - the prophecy about Jesus in Matthew 1:23:
... They shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death shall be no more, and never again shall there be sorrow or crying or pain. For all those former things are past and gone (suffering, pain, death, and all the results of the fall of man are no more)."
Then he who is seated upon the throne said, "See, I am making all thing new!"
And he added, "Write this down for my words are true and to be trusted!"
THE GLORIOUS REWARDS OF THE BELIEVER; THE DEATH OF THE WICKED
Revelation 21:6-8 - Then he said to me, "It is done! I am Alpha and Omega (a description of God in Revelation 1:8, and of Christ shortly in 22:13), the beginning and the end. I will give to the thirsty water without price (as in John 7:37-38) from the fountain of life. The victorious (referred to in the third part of each of the covering letters to the seven churches of Asia) shall inherit these things, and I will be God to him and he will be son to me. But as for the cowards, the faithless and the corrupt, the murderers, the traffickers in sex and sorcery, the worshippers of idols and all liars - their inheritance is in the lake which burns with fire and sulphur (fire and brimstone), which is the second death (following the Last Judgment)."
THE NEW JERUSALEM REVEALED, MEASURED, AND DESCRIBED
Revelation 21:9-21 - Then one of the seven angels who hold the seven bowls which were filled with the seven last plagues, came to me and said, "Come, and I will show you the bride (the Church), the wife of the Lamb (of God - Christ)."
Then he carried me away in spirit to the top of a vast mountain, and pointed out to me the city, the holy Jerusalem, descending from God out of Heaven, radiant with the glory of God. ...
- John describes the New Jerusalem in terms of the most beautiful objects he can imagine. To some modern readers, these might even conjure up visions of the colossal, magnificent structures of some science fiction galactic city:
... Her brilliance sparkled like a very precious jewel with the clear light of crystal. ...
Around her she had a vast and lofty wall in which were twelve gateways with twelve angels at the gates.
There were twelve names inscribed over the twelve gateways, and they are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.
On the east there were three gateways, on the north three gateways, on the south three gateways and on the west three gateways.
The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on these were engraved the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The measurement of the city
The one (an angel) who was talking to me had a golden rod in his hand with which to measure the city, its gateways and its wall. ...
The city lies foursquare, its length equal to its breadth.
He measured the city with his rod and it was twelve thousand furlongs (or stadia, about 1,400 miles or 2,200 km. Again presumably a symbolic number, 12 x 1,000) in each direction, for its length, breadth and height are all equal (a cube 1,400 miles on each side). Then he measured its wall, and found that to be one hundred and forty-four half-yards (or cubits, about 200 feet or 65 metres) high by human measurement, (which the angel was using).
The splendour of the city's building
The wall itself was built of translucent stone, while ...
... the city was of purest gold, with the brilliance of glass.
The foundation stones of the wall of the city were fashioned out of every kind of precious stone (similar to the stones in the breastpiece of the high priest, Exodus 28:17-20).
The first foundation-stone was jasper,
the second sapphire,
the third agate,
the fourth emerald,
the fifth onyx,
the sixth cornelian,
the seventh goldstone,
the eighth beryl,
the ninth topaz,
the tenth green goldstone,
the eleventh zircon, and
the twelfth amethyst
(the identification of some of these stones is uncertain).
The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl (the "pearly gates" of popular culture).
The street of the city was purest gold gleaming like glass.
NEW LIFE WITH GOD AND THE LAMB
Revelation 21:22-27 - I could see no Temple in the city, for the Lord, the Almighty God, and the Lamb are themselves its Temple (the city is the Temple, and God lives directly with his people). The city has no need for the light of sun or moon, for the splendour of God fills it with light and its radiance is the Lamb (who provide all the illumination required). The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. The city's gates shall stand open day after day (as there is nothing more for the saved of mankind to fear) - and there will be no night there. Into the city they will bring the splendours and honours of the nations.
But nothing unclean, no one who deals in filthiness and lies, shall ever at any time enter it - only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
XI - PARADISE REGAINED
THE GARDEN OF EDEN RESTORED
Revelation 22:1-5 - Then he (the angel) showed me the river (suggesting the river of the Garden of Eden, Genesis 2:10) of the water of life, sparkling like crystal as it flowed from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of the street of the city and on either bank of the river grew the tree of life (no longer denied to mankind as it was so long before to Adam in Genesis 3:22-24), bearing twelve fruits, a different kind for each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Nothing that has cursed mankind shall exist any longer; the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be within the city. His servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name will be upon their foreheads. Night (and all the natural and symbolic darkness implied) shall be no more; they have no more need for either lamplight or sunlight, for the Lord God will shed his light upon them and they shall reign as kings for timeless ages.
XII - EPILOGUE: CHRIST'S FINAL APPEAL
A CALL TO OBEDIENCE
Revelation 22:6-11 - (The angel to John ....) Then the angel said to me, "These words are true and to be trusted, for the Lord God, who inspired the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants (such as John) what must shortly happen."
(The voice of Christ is now heard .....) "See, I come quickly! Happy is the man who pays heed to (obeys) the words of the prophecy in this book."
John's personal endorsement
(It is now John's turn to speak as his visions come to an end ...) It is I, John, who have heard and seen these things. At the time when I heard and saw them I fell at the feet of the angel who showed them to me and I was about to worship him. but he said to me, "No! I am fellow-servant to you and to your brother, to the prophets and to those who keep the words of this book. give your worship to God!"
Then he added, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy in this book, for the time of their fulfilment is near. Let the wicked man continue his wickedness and the filthy man his filthiness; let the good man continue his good deeds, and the holy man continue in holiness.
JESUS CHRIST IS COMING AGAIN
Revelation 22:12-15 - "See, I (Christ) come quickly! I carry my reward with me, and repay every man according to his deeds (we are saved by God's grace or goodness, but rewarded according to how we use this priceless gift). I am Alpha and Omega (first applied to God the Father in Revelation 1:8, and now to Christ the Son), the first and the last, the Beginning and the End. Happy are those who wash their robes, for they have the right to the tree of life and the freedom of the gates of the city (the new Jerusalem). Shut out from the city shall be the depraved, the sorcerers, the impure, the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practises a lie!
THE FINAL INVITATION
Revelation 22:16-17 - "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to you (John) with this testimony for the Churches. I am both the root and stock of David (Revelation 5:5), and the bright star of the morning!"
The invitation of the Church and the Spirit
The (Holy) Spirit and the bride (the Church) say, "Come!"
Let everyone who hears this also say, "Come (either the Christian's response to Christ, or their cry to the unsaved in the world to hear and respond to the Gospel)!"
Let the thirsty man come, and let everyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
THE FINAL WARNING; A FINAL BLESSING
Revelation 22:18-21 - Now I (presumably John) bear solemn witness to every man (and woman) who hears the words of prophecy in this book: If anyone adds to these words God will add to him the disasters described in this book; if anyone takes away from the words of prophecy in this book, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city (the new Jerusalem, Paradise regained) which are described in this book.
He, who is witness to all this, says, "Yes, I (Jesus Christ) am coming very quickly!"
"Amen, come Lord Jesus (in Aramaic, "Maranatha" - "come, Lord" or "the Lord is coming". Return again Lord, the Christians cry out in response)!"
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all his people.
to top of page
back to J B Phillips with Notes
J.B.Phillips, "The New Testament in Modern English", 1962 edition, published by HarperCollins, is presented here with the kind permission of Mrs Vera Phillips and the J.B.Phillips estate