Behold He Cometh……… serialized notes and quotes from the brilliant commentary on Revelation by Herman Hoeksema
able from CPRC bookshop..here
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.1:2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.1:3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
Note that to keep those things we need to understand what we read!
Apocalypse means an uncovering of something that is hid. This book is full of “visions, signs (v1) and symbols” that point to earthly realities. As human beings we can only receive the revelation of heavenly things in other earthly forms, signs and symbols. This book is the revelation of Jesus Christ. When Christ ascended his revelation was not finished. In this book he reveals what was given to him after his exaltation. “In the position of supreme power and authority belongs the possession of all knowledge and wisdom.” His revelation will be perfected at his second coming. The whole book looks forward to the ultimate state of blessedness in the New Jerusalem. Living “in the expectation of his coming, there is peace and hope and joy.”
Revelation 1:4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. 8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
“Salutations and benedictions are the word of God to bless the people of God who hear and believe them. They are spiritual blessings of grace merited by Christ and bestowed by him. They(the saints)live only through a constant influx of grace. The triune God “which is” denotes God as the absolute being, the one who eternally is, the self-existent, the uncaused, the ground of whose being is himself alone…whose being cannot be measured or limited by time (but) who revealed himself in time.” And he is coming!
Revelation 5:6 “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” The number seven denotes the fullness of God’s covenant grace and the fullness of the church in which he dwells. The seven Spirits of God is the Spirit’s seven-fold fullness as he is given to the exalted Christ and poured out into the church. He is the divine agent of the blessing of grace and peace which will forever remain ours. The faithful witness Jesus Christ, bears witness to the truth (John 18:37) and still does through the Scriptures and his Spirit who leads us into all the truth. “In life and in death you may rely on his word…Here we lie in the midst of death. How can we have peace? He that speaks stands at the other side of death and the grave as the risen one! “ He prepares the way for all his brethren.” No power is able to deprive God’s people of that blessing or to prevent the ultimate realization of the peace he has promised them in the day of Christ.”
In the book of revelation the kings of the earth are the antichristian world rulers. They do not acknowledge the Christ of the Scriptures as their Lord. They are the rulers that are pictured in Psalm 2 who set themselves and take counsel together against the Lord and against his anointed.” Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” But “he that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision.” For he hath anointed his king upon his holy hill of Zion. And this king shall rule the antichristian powers with a rod of iron and break them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. “Christ is the prince of the rulers of the earth! Though they may rave against him, yet they must do his will.” Even the Caesars, Hitler, Stalin and Obama are his servants in spite of themselves. “The church is perfectly safe; her salvation and final victory are sure. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. “Grace unto you and peace!”
Revelation 1:7,8 “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”
“Nothing can prevent this omega. For God is lord, and he is the almighty. He is not merely supreme in power, more powerful than all other powers combined; but his is all power, even the power of the creature, the power also of the forces of darkness. They have no power but from him. And he uses them, willingly or in spite of themselves, for his sovereign purpose. He is coming, therefore, surely and irresistibly, always coming through the ages of history, coming from the alpha to the omega, from glory to glory, his own glory, until all his glory shall forever shine forth in the perfect revelation of Jesus Christ!”
Revelation 1:9 “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
Only the power of that patience (of Jesus Christ) can we bear the tribulation and persevere unto the end. The Lord had his purpose in the banishment of his servant John. Here the glorified Saviour appears as the mighty King-Judge, with unmistakable reference to Daniel 7:9,13 where the Ancient of Days had raiment as white as snow, hair like wool. In Daniel the Ancient of Days and the Son of man were two distinct persons but in our passage (1:14) they are presented as one because the divine and human natures have become united in Immanuel. His eyes like flames of fire denote both his holy anger and his power of omniscience, before whom all things are open, even the secret thoughts and intents of men. The sharp two-edged sword that proceeds from his mouth is a symbol of that power to take revenge and execute wrath upon all the workers of iniquity.
Revelation 1:12.The seven candlesticks represent the church of all ages in her perfection. Once it was Israel, now it is from every nation. The seven angels are human servants, ministers through whom it is God’s pleasure to enlighten and instruct his church. “Seven denotes the fullness and perfection of grace. It contains the numbers three and four, and it is also the sum of six and one. In the latter sense it denotes the perfection of all that God does in time with a view to and including the eternal Sabbath, the consummation of all things. In the former sense it symbolizes the perfected communion of God (three) and the cosmos (four), the perfected covenant of God’s friendship in Christ, God’s dwelling with men.”
The features of the seven churches in Revelation are observable in the church in the world. The church in tribulation is encouraged by the promise of the crown of life. “Smyrna and Philadelphia are distinguished by the fact that they receive only praise and encouragement.” Ephesus had been visited by Paul thrice, Timothy had labored there and John had spent many years there. They were strong in doctrine, and only those sound in the truth can expose error wherever it presents itself. Much of the church today is easily seduced and tossed about by all kinds of false doctrines.
The church at EPHESUS, a city of 500,000 and leading port of Asia Minor, famed for worship of Artemis whose priestesses were cult prostitutes, possessed it appears all the marks of a true church-the gospel was proclaimed, church discipline was exercised and we could safely assume the sacraments were properly administered but they had lost their first love, true love for God in Christ, which Hoeksema believes is the start of all apostasy in the church. These people failed to notice the lack of spirituality in all the activity of the church-all the life of a church must spring forth from the root of true love for and in Christ Jesus her Lord.
SMYRNA (moderm Izmir) a port of 200,000 was a wealthy academic community. Revelation 2:10 “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried: and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Satan attacks the church first by false doctrine and then by open persecution-loss of privileges, places of worship, job, family, freedom, physical hurt and ultimately death. Christ our loving Lord employs even the devil to achieve his won divine purpose. It is a source of comfort because we are assured that we shall be faithful to the end through the irresistible and sufficient grace of the Lord. God will try his people that the strength of his grace may become manifest to the world and to the devil and the angels, and thus his own name will be glorified. How else could so many have been faithful unto death in all the ages past?
The ten days that the church in Smyrna is to be cast in prison is a limited time and though it may actually be much longer than a literal ten days it is symbolic of all our tribulation which is comparatively short when compared to the glory that is to come. Ten, in Scripture is a symbol of completeness. This time period is set by God and the devil can never proceed beyond the limits set by God and neither can he reach any other end than the purpose of God in the affliction.” Under the mighty protection and care of her great king, the church has nothing to fear. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
More thoughts on Smyrna. When the storms of persecution sweeps through the church, it strikes the roots of its faith more deeply into Christ and draws from him more consciously the very strength of its life. This is when it flourishes: for at such times it is taught to cling to its powerful King, and seeks its all in him. Carnal hypocritical members who are there for selfish reasons and are a veritable danger to the church will be cleansed from the church at such a time.
In the glory there will be degrees of reward and special place and crown of glory for the victors who were faithful unto death.
WE ARE ALL IN THE BATTLE OF FAITH-we may not be called to die for it but struggle against sin, the world and the devil. We must overcome in the power of the Lord Jesus, not our own strength-hence a life saturated by prayer.
PERGAMOS church was where Satan had his seat. It was the site of Asclepion health resort and temple of Zeus. We are told the church sadly was lax in discipline. The Nicolaitanes, men of false doctrine and sinful practice, were tolerated. They were like Balaam enticing God’s people into sin and hence to cause the destruction of the church. Christ says if they don’t exercise discipline he will! He promises them hidden manna (grace I believe) which will strengthen them in their battle with Satan. He mentions a new name which if faithful they would receive-we will all get one in glory, one that reflects exactly who we are in Christ with the total renewal of our being.
THYATIRA- town southeast of Pergamos on road to Sardis. Where purple dye was made (Lydia was from there). Smaller city. Spiritually similar to Pergamos, weak in discipline and suffering a evil woman, a false prophetess in her midst. The Nicolaitanes were also present. This church had a mystical tendency-to exalt feelings and emotions and experience over the word of God. Personal experience must always be subjected constantly to the test of the word. Christ says he will exercise discipline, most likely sexually transmitted disease. We have here a doctrine of licentiousness that advocated a life of sin in order that grace may abound. Those who overcome will share with Christ in his power and glory at his coming-with him they will judge the nations. Our service is only good as it is based on the eternal principle of the word.
SARDIS-The minister at Sardis lacked consecration and loved the things of the flesh-leisure, worldly comfort and pleasure, the luxuries for which the city of Sardis was noted. The flesh dominated the church of Sardis (cf. I Timothy 5:6). This church had no interest in the kingdom of God, no searching of the Scriptures, no prayer, no confession of Christ, no zeal for proclaiming the gospel, no instruction of young or old, no suffering for Christ’s sake, no love of God or the brethren but instead friendship with the world and striving after treasures and pleasures. But there were a few faithful saints. The rest wore the outward garments of the church, as professing members, but had defiled them by gross sin and were unfaithful. The faithful are promised spotless white robes of righteousness, their names remain forever in the book of life and their names will be confessed by their Lord. This is a warning to the many churches fallen asleep today, with dead ministers and defiled garments. Christ comes as a thief to take away their candlestick.
PHILADELPHIA-Christ promises to this small but faithful church the power of the key. He will create opportunity and receptivity for the preaching and hearing of the gospel which they must preach and witness to. His promise was in harmony with the desire and longing of the congregation. He also promises to keep them when tribulation comes and they will enter into that eternal covenant communion which is eternal life.
LAODICEA- From Paul’s letter to the Colossians we surmise that the church here was in danger of straying after ascetic Judaizing philosophers (Col.2:8). This church is miserably lukewarm, spiritually poor, blind and naked. She was not rich in grace, faith, love, hope, patience, understanding the truth, fighting the fight of faith etc. She did not see her own misery. She was like the Pharisee rather than the publican in the temple. She may have had everything material but little spiritual. Their minister led them in this sad façade and, along with them was even more guilty of Christ’s indictment.
Christ counsels the church at Laodicea to ask of him what she needs namely gold tried by fire, spiritual riches and glory which make the possessor truly rich and eyesalve that will enable the blind to see, and spiritual garments of righteousness and sanctification. The church must rid herself of the notion she is rich in herself and confess that Christ alone is her riches and fullness. These are all blessings of grace. In this case judgement seems inevitable. The elect among them are called to repent, wake up and seek communion with their Lord. Notable it is that the church as a whole is lost and only a few will be saved out of it. They, in principle, also reign with Christ in his glory, through faith, even in this present world.
When we get to the vision of the throne of God, Hoeksema states that “ the main theme of the book is the certain displacement of the kingdom of Satan by the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ, a displacement which in its process will follow the line of historical development, but which will find its final consummation in the great world-catastrophe which will accompany the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to judge the quick and the dead.” This basic theme precludes any earthly millennial kingdom of course, as the second coming, and there is only one second coming, as there was only one first coming, and this brings to an end the world as we know it. This coming is ever getting closer even as world climatic events become more and more extreme, symptomatic of the birth pangs.
Revelation pictures for us the battle of the ages between Satan and his hordes, angelic and human versus Christ, the holy angels and the church. There is no doubting the ultimate result. The book is not chronological. John is in the spirit so he can behold things beyond the natural eye. The seven churches represent the church in all ages. What MUST come to pass implies the necessity of God’s counsel. He has decreed the whole course of history. From Revelation 5-22 we have material that concerns the whole church and is for her joy and comfort. God enthroned is like a sardius stone, bright red, speaking of his holy wrath. The rainbow round the throne symbolises God’s grace and is a symbol of hope, being green it represents budding and renewing spring, and looks forward to the day of the Lord.
Before the throne are seven burning lamps signifying the seven spirits or God or seven-fold spirit. As the spirit of Christ he dwells in the church for ever and it is through him that the kingdom will be perfected and in its perfection will exist for ever. “The sea is a symbol of the splendour, as well as the transparency, of the entire new creation.” The twenty four elders represent the church and people of God in all ages. The four cherubim represent the fullness of life in the ideal new creation and can be compared with the same in Ezekiel who prophesied the destruction of the old temple and the rebuilding of the new ideal temple of God. The new temple not made with hands is the new creation. Four is the number symbolic of creation (four winds, four corners of the earth). The lion, ox, man and eagle represent the powers of creation in their maximum strength and talents as “ once it shall develop to the glory of him who sits on the throne.”
As you will be aware numbers in the Bible have significance-10 is the number of completeness, 7 is the covenant, 6 is creation as it originally received its power from God and is also the number of man, 3 is the Trinity, 4 is the world. The six-winged creatures in Revelation 4 indicate the power and development of creation to its full extent. This new creation will plainly reveal its inmost nature to the glory of God as it shall no more be under the veil of sin. Hence we have the new creation that displaces that which was marred by sin and Satan and which still groans as described in the latter part of Romans 8. “ Brute creation glorifies God unconsciously but man knows that all creation has been made by him and is a reflection of his glory.” Hence Revelation 4:11 “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
Christ is here shown as receiving the power from God to do what no one in all creation was worthy and able to do, namely to bring to completion the glorious kingdom of God in all creation. Christ is the general of the battle-forces of the Almighty to lead the armies of God to complete victory at the second coming. The book is symbolic of the living and powerful decree of God with regard to the things that must shortly come to pass. The opening of the book and loosing of the seals is not simply revelation but rather the very realization of that all comprehensive irresistible decree.
Who can open the book? Who can save the world and bring peace and bliss? Not any man or angel! If the book is not opened the kingdom cannot come. The elder, representative of the church triumphant speaks to comfort John from the church militant. The elder by experience knows who the victor is and that victory is certain. The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root that bears the tree, he has already overcome and gained the victory necessary to complete the kingdom. He did it in the capacity of the lamb for the slaughter, the most perfect sacrifice to God. The lamb has received the spirit of God in all his fullness, who dwells in him, and is sent forth into all the kingdom, so that he is the life of the kingdom. The lamb with seven horns has complete power, in comparison to the beast who has ten, possessing also a complete dominion but yet limited by the decree of God. The lamb is Christ crucified and glorified.
When did Christ take the book? Just before he ascended he said all power is given unto me in heaven and earth and on his exaltation to God’s right hand, having secured eternal redemption, he earned the right to open the book. The creatures and representatives of the church lead the heavenly choir falling before the lamb. The harps are symbolic of prophecy and prophecy in the highest sense of the world namely in praising and glorifying God. The golden bowls of incense are the prayers of the saints. These are expressions of our devotion and consecration to God as we lay ourselves on his altar as a sweet savour. Prayer, of course includes much more than this but this is its highest expression. The original song of creation sang the glory of the triune God who created all things but this new song is addressed to the lamb who is worthy to open the book and bring to completion his kingdom, because he was slain and redeemed these saints to God by his blood out of every kindred and people and nation.
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.” “Seven-fold is this adoration, now that the victory is assured and the coming of the kingdom safely rests in the hand of the lion of Juda’s tribe.” God, through the lamb shall be the song of creation, because through him the eternal and incomprehensible grace, holiness and righteousness of him who sitteth upon the throne was revealed in the highest sense. This eternal kingdom “will come only through the power of the lamb that was slain.”
The Four Horsemen
We are told of seven seals the last of which becomes seven trumpets, the seventh of which becomes seven vials of God’s wrath. The first four seals, related to one another, have a combined effect upon this dispensation (the last days). The theme of the book it must be remembered is the coming king and the completion of his kingdom, so all the seals, trumpets and vials contribute towards that end. The four riders each of which is released as a seal is opened, are simultaneously upon earth in the white horse as the victorious progress of the gospel and the kingdom of God, war, famine and pestilence. The horse is a battle animal par excellence. All these horses have a rider directing them intelligently as under the control of the spirit of Christ.
The white horse is white as it is the symbol of victory-hence white robes given to all who overcome. So the horse is a symbol of victorious power, an armed warrior whose victory is assured beforehand. The riding of this horse is mapped out beforehand-Jerusalem, Judea, Antioch, Asia Minor, Europe and the ends of the earth.
The red horse is a glowing colour like fire, symbolizing passion, revenge, bloodshed and war going about to do his work on earth.
Black is the symbol of scarcity and famine (Jeremiah 14:2, Lamentations 5:10). His balances and his sayings present the contrast between poverty and riches, social upheaval and problems, something that will continue till the end.” It is the cause of feasting and riotous living, on the one hand; of dissatisfaction, misery, protest, rebellion, revolution, and bloodshed, on the other.”
The pale horse is death in its various forms and he kills a percentage of people,” just as many as is in harmony with the history of the world and as will maintain the equilibrium among the peoples of the earth.”
All the horses serve in history to bring in the kingdom of God.
This world power that will bring in peace, control church, state and business will not tolerate the true church. The antichristian world power will be partially realized and it will be terrible for Christians who will become social outcasts. So bad will it be that if the days were not shortened they might not persevere. This rise to power is presently checked by Christ who opens the book with its seven seals. Christ as Lord ensures that as long as nation rises against nation the world-power cannot realize itself. Hoeksema answers the question why do these horses bringing war, social contrast and death and the answer is, to prevent the premature establishment of the imitation-kingdom of Antichrist (as seen in Revelation 20vv3 and 7 where Satan, having been bound in the present age (represented by the millennium) is let loose to deceive all the nations so that they come under Antichrist’s control.
Just to recap. The first four seals when opened, unleashed the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The white horse of the victorious gospel, the red horse of war, the black horse of social contrast and the pale horse of death. Now the fifth seal, is opened and referring to the entire history of the present dispensation, that is the last days from Christ’s first to second comings, reveals a vision of souls under the altar. The kingdom of darkness fights to maintain itself and employs force to fight and kill those who oppose it with scaffold, stake and now bullets. This seal assures us that the martyrdom of the saints is an element in the progress toward the completion of the kingdom of Christ. This passage may rightly be used to prove that the saints after death are conscious in glory and they cry for vengeance. The altar alludes to the altar of burnt offering in the temple and bears testimony to the fact these witnesses have laid their lives upon this altar of consecration (as they are exhorted to do in Romans 12:1,2). They were witnesses who confessed before men, usually when asked or compelled, that Christ Jesus was their Lord and to the truth of the gospel.
“And also here it is evident from all the history of this dispensation that this fifth seal is constantly being realized. Again, the question might be raised: do these souls in the state of perfection in glory cry out for vengeance? Is it not true that while they were still in this present world they prayed for their enemies, according to the injunction of the Lord Jesus that they should love their enemies, do good to them that hate them, and pray for them that despitefully use them? How then is it possible that now they invoke the wrath of God on them, and that too, while they are in the state of perfection in heaven?
As we shall see, they do not cry for sinful vengeance, but for the final manifestation of righteousness and justice and for the glory of their God.
For the entire passage is visionary and symbolic. It is only in the vision that John is able to see the souls. The altar under which they are found is visionary and symbolic. And the same must be applied to the outcry of these souls under the altar.
The question we must ask is this: what is really the meaning, what is the reality of the outcry of these souls under the altar? What is the essential idea of this symbolism?
The answer is not difficult to find. The outcry is symbolic of the necessity of ultimate justice, of the final manifestation of the righteousness of God which is to be revealed in the just vengeance upon the heads of those who have killed and persecuted the saints in Christ Jesus. It is an outcry which ascends to the throne of God throughout all the history of the church in the world. It represents the longing of the saints for the day of their final justification and of just retribution for all who have hated and persecuted them in the present world.
These souls under the altar, therefore long and cry for nothing less than the perfect manifestation of the holiness and truth of their King and Master. The holiness and truth of Christ is trampled underfoot when the world kills his saints.”
““In fact, all the saints of the new dispensation as they have suffered in the world for the sake of Christ their Lord are represented by the souls under the altar….the kingdom of God will be completed by a final day of judgment. He must judge in righteousness. In that day it must become perfectly plain that the world actually hates Christ Jesus and that in this hatred of Him they hated the Father. This hatred they also reveal in the slaying of the saints who witness for the Word of God and the name of Christ. Hence, it is because these souls have been slain that the perfect revelation of the righteousness of God must be revealed in a day of Judgment, so that it will become perfectly manifest to all the world, as well as to all the church, that Christ is holy and true and that He represents God in His perfect righteousness and justice.”
The shakeup of the physical universe.
The sixth seal is related to the fifth because it also deals with events at the close of this age. Cross references may be made with Matthew 24:29 and Luke 21. The literal interpretation here is correct. “It is very evident that in the text the earth is the earth as we see it and know it, and nothing else. And when it quakes, real mountains and real islands are removed out of their place. The stars fall from heaven, that is, from the firmament;The sun mentioned in the text is evidently the luminary in the firmament as we know it; and there is nothing in the context or in the text itself to indicate the contrary. The same may be said of the moon: also it is simply the luminary in the firmament as we see it at night. In a word, it can only be by a method of putting our own thoughts into the text that we can possibly conceive of this part of the Book of Revelation as symbolical…Finally, we must remember that it would be an impossibility to describe things which happen in the physical universe in terms of symbolism. The physical universe and elements of it may be used as symbols of things spiritual and historical, but how shall the shake-up of the physical universe be symbolized?”
“The effects of the coming of Christ upon the physical universe are naturally last. Just as in our individual redemption the spiritual precedes the physical… Nevertheless, also the sixth seal has been opened ever since the time that John received this revelation.
Earthquakes have occurred very frequently in the past, as we all know. Innumerable earthquakes have occurred ever since, some of them in alarming force and proportions. In the year 1875, so we are told by the science of seismology, as many as ninety-seven earthquakes occurred; and in the following year one hundred four. The same science informs us of the fact that between the years 1600 and 1850 there were as many as six thousand or seven thousand earthquakes in various parts of the earth. Surely, this is sufficient proof that in this respect also the sixth seal is opened throughout this dispensation in a limited way.
All these phenomena, however, must increase in force and generalness of manifestation. The sixth seal will not be completely realized till all these natural phenomena have become completely universal, so that all men will be able to witness them.”
“First the great tribulation must come. First the number of the souls under the altar must become full.” But the great day of the Lord, the last day is foretold throughout scripture eg Joel 2:30,31, Haggai 2:6,7, Matthew 24:29. “The sixth seal brings upon the earth the signs which immediately precede the coming of the Lord….The Lord cometh, and all the universe will be affected by His coming! Hence, all the universe will also reveal the signs of that coming.” The response of the godless world is panic and great fear because the stability of the material universe in which they sought to establish an imitation kingdom of peace is shattered. So they call on the mountains to fall on them.
This is an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals. The sealing of the 144,000. First it must be recognized that national Israel has no more special privileges. Election makes one a true Israelite. Spiritual Israel is the true Israel. Imputed righteousness to Jew and Gentile constitutes the true Israel of God. Hence there is no special nation spiritually either now or in the future. The seal which safeguards God’s people against attack is the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). This sealing is the perseverance of the saints and the 144,000 is the full number of the elect.
The significance of the sealing. “The angels are here the servants of God who must execute the judgment of Christ. And the winds which they hold are the evil powers which will presently be let loose upon all the earth. That they are four, standing on the four corners of the earth and holding the four winds of heaven, shows plainly that these evil forces will affect all the universe ultimately. It is on the eve of tribulation and affliction…and warns them that they may not let those winds go till the one hundred forty-four thousand shall have been sealed, that is, till they have been made immune against the evils which shall come upon the earth. Hence, the general idea of this portion of the Book of Revelation is that the people of God in the midst of tribulation and affliction are safe, and that the upheavals of the world shall not touch them, because the Lord their God has sealed them as His own possession.”
“Surely, the people of God are touched when the ravages of war devastate the whole world. Surely, the people of God partake of the suffering from a natural point of view which follows from the social contrast. Also the people of God fight the awful battle against death…. Still more, they shall be subjected to a suffering which the world shall not know, the suffering for Christ’s sake. They shall be persecuted. The world shall more and more oppose them, shall kill them, because of the Word of God and the testimony which they hold. And therefore it may be said indeed that the people of God shall suffer more than the children of the world before the time of the end shall come. In this sense they are not immune; and the sealing of the one hundred forty-four thousand does not at all mean that the people of God shall not suffer.
From a spiritual point of view they are immune indeed. Spiritually they are sealed.
Six seals have already been opened. Those six seals implied the suffering of the people of God in the world. The seventh seal, which is still to be opened, will reveal still greater suffering and more terrible times. Hence, the question may arise: shall we be able to stand? The answer is in this part of the Book of Revelation in the sealing of the one hundred forty-four thousand by the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. It means that you are sealed in the book of God’s decree, that you are elect. It means that you are marked as one of the flock of our Lord, that you are His possession, His peculiar people. It means that you are sealed unto the day of redemption, and that you shall never fall away.
Be not afraid of all that is still to come!
The Lord is our possessor, and He has sealed us also against the evil day! “
The numberless throng.
We are now ready also to answer the further question: what is the relation between the one hundred forty-four thousand, those who were sealed, according to the first part of this chapter, and those who are in the numberless throng, standing before the throne of God and the Lamb, who have already entered into everlasting glory?
Who are they? “To Abraham a seed is promised as multitudinous as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is by the seashore innumerable. This promise certainly is not completely fulfilled in the children of Israel: they always could be numbered.” Hoeksema has said that the countable one hundred forty-four thousand are the same complete number of the elect from all of time. “In this particular vision, we see for the first time the fulfillment of that glorious promise to Abraham. For John beholds a numberless throng.” The throng is universal in extent from all ethnic groups hence the gospel must be preached to all without distinction and the throng includes Jews. The palm branches represent booths or tabernacles, the feast of redemption from Egypt and of God dwelling with his people. “This numberless throng is the multitude of the people of God after they shall have been gathered in eternal glory in the new creation.”
The great tribulation
Finally, it is of importance that we notice their origin. For also this is expressly indicated in the text: the elder tells John that they have all come out of the great tribulation.
“To understand this clause fully, we must remember the general viewpoint of the Book of Revelation. We have seen time and again that it pictures to us the events of this entire dispensation as they, under the control of Christ, must lead to the completion of the kingdom of God. These events cover this entire dispensation, as we have stated repeatedly.
In the narrowest sense of the word this phrase calls to our mind the period immediately before the coming of Christ. There is no doubt in the light of Scripture that there shall be a period of persecution of the church, a period of great tribulation for the people of God, such as has never been before. When the power of the Antichrist shall develop and reach its climax, when the great apostasy shall take place and the few faithful shall stand over against a world which is filled with enmity against Christ and His people, then shall they be hated of all nations and shall be subjected to terrible persecution. To this particular period the phrase refers in its narrowest sense.
Nevertheless, we must never conceive of this great tribulation as standing all by itself. For that is not the case. It is merely the climax, the ultimate manifestation of the power which always was filled with bitter hatred against the church of Christ in the world.. We may understand this term, therefore, in the broadest sense, namely, as including the tribulation of the people of God of all ages…The power of Antichrist was in the world already in the time of John, has been in the world ever since, and is never out of the world. That power of Antichrist always is filled with enmity against God and His Christ and His people, always plans to hurt the children of God and to destroy the kingdom of Christ..”
Hence, the picture which we may form of this great tribulation is that of a great ocean, involving all history and every age. But in this great ocean there are higher and lower waves, while the great tribulation which is still to come is the highest of all and the most threatening to the church of Christ and the people of God. Hence, when our text speaks of great tribulation, it does no doubt refer especially to those times of persecution when the blood of the saints shall be shed for the testimony which they have and for the Word of God. Yet in general it implies this entire dispensation to a greater or smaller degree.
The 144,000 and the numberless throng
“ All we wish to do now is to make clear that essentially the numberless throng and the one hundred forty-four thousand are not a different class of people, but principally the same. This is shown in the first place, by the fact that the great tribulation is one of the main ideas in both passages.The purpose of both passages evidently is to reveal to the church their precarious position in the world, and nevertheless their safety over against that great tribulation. The only difference is that the one hundred forty-four thousand still confront that tribulation, while the numberless throng have already passed through it. It is very evident that it is the same throng: the one pictured as in the midst of the great tribulation, or rather, as standing on the verge of passing through it, and the other pictured as already having experienced it and having overcome. It is, therefore, the same multitude, only in different states, at different periods, and therefore from different points of view. In the first part they are upon the earth; in the second part they are already in glory in the new economy of the kingdom which is completed. In the first they are in tribulation; in the second they are already passed through that tribulation.”
The blessed state of the numberless throng.
From the beginning to the end of the world Christ Jesus gathers His church. Part of that church is always in the world; and that part is represented by the number one hundred forty-four thousand. It is the church militant. But at the end of time all these parts shall be gathered together before the throne and the Lamb. Is it surprising, then, that at the end of time we find no more than one hundred forty-four thousand, but nothing less than a numberless throng? Who then are these people? They are the people of God of all ages and climes and nations and tribes, gathered together in the new economy of things in the new creation. The reason for all this is expressed in the last words of the passage: “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
Does not this fulfill all the desires of our hearts even in the present world?
He now sits at the right hand of God and rules over us in perfection. The time shall come indeed when He will deliver His kingdom, deliver it to the Father, and He Himself shall also be subject. This, however, does not mean that then He shall disappear as our Saviour, lay aside, perhaps, His human nature, or abdicate entirely and occupy no place in the new creation. On the contrary, then He shall occupy the place of our head and of our King under God as the second Adam, and that too, forevermore. Also in eternity we shall be organically one with Christ. Also then He shall be our head. He shall be our King, our leader, in the new creation. Also then we shall have our all in Him, and our life we shall draw from Him forevermore, and through Him from God. He is now our redemption and our sanctification: and all we receive in the line of grace we receive by faith from Him. But also then he shall be the fount of our life, through which we shall draw the living water of eternal life from the Lord our God. That is the meaning of the expression that He shall lead us to fountains of waters, of the water of life.
“The redeemed throng sing of the fact that of this salvation God and the Lamb are the authors: they have wrought it; they have planned it; they have completed that salvation. And the angels conclude by pointing out that therefore all praise and glory and honor and thanksgiving and wisdom and power and might belong to the Most High, and that all the powers of creation unite in ascribing glory to Him Who sitteth upon the throne….This throng consists of the redeemed and glorified and perfected children of God who have passed through the great tribulation and have now been gathered from all peoples and nations and tongues and tribes into everlasting glory. And those who reply to their outcry are the mighty angels, ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands in number.” The singers are well qualified because, “They have, in the first place, arrived in the state of perfect knowledge.” Our knowledge is clouded and, “And as it is with our knowledge, so also it is with our will, with our feeling and with our desires. Our will is still under the influence of sinful perversion. The lust of the flesh often still dominates and controls us to a certain extent, and we do not live the fullness of our spiritual life in the present dispensation. We are by no means perfect. There is, in fact, but a small beginning of the new obedience. There is but a small principle of the new life within us. And the result is that here we cannot sing in the perfect and true sense of the word.”
“ And when they sing of it, they take it as they see it, as they have it before their very eyes, and as they experience it and enjoy it.
“They sing of it in its all-comprehensive sense. By it they refer, in the first place, to their own condition and state, as well as to all that was necessary to lead them to this state of glory. There is but one life, but one desire, but one constant longing: that is to enjoy the full communion of him who sitteth upon the throne, and of the Lamb. They do not look for it in vain. Their every desire is now satisfied. They hunger no more, neither thirst any more. Wherever they go, they find themselves in the temple of their God, and they find themselves covered by His tabernacle. They find that they dwell with Him, and He with, them, and that they serve Him day and night. For not only they personally have been saved; but also all creation has been completely redeemed, according to their present perfect state. All things have now been brought into subjection to man in Christ Jesus their Lord. All creation has become a kingdom under man, in Christ, a kingdom with its King standing before the throne of the Most High, serving him day and night. In a word, when these redeemed sing of their salvation, they understand it in its all-comprehensive sense; and they refer to the redemption of all the world in its fullness and to the restoration of perfect harmony in the new heaven and the new earth. In a word, salvation is the state of universal perfection.”
“Salvation belongeth unto God and unto the Lamb, and to no one else.” They do not sing “Salvation is unto our God and unto man.” But they sing, “Salvation unto our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” “It is the Lamb Who thus completes the kingdom of God. And when all shall have been completed, then the Lamb shall deliver that kingdom to the Father, and, subjecting Himself, shall eternally be at the head of all His people, leading them unto fountains of living water forever and ever. Such is salvation! Man and the world are the object, never the subject of it. Is it a wonder that in the new world, when all this shall be clearly understood, there shall be no more controversy about these truths, but all shall sing with all their heart and mind, “Salvation,-this completed work of salvation,-is unto our God which sitteth upon the throne, and is unto the Lamb for ever and ever?”
The presentation of the prayers of the saints.
The trumpets signify especially that God through Christ Jesus is coming to inflict judgment and destruction upon the enemy of the kingdom of God. When our text informs us, therefore, that the angels who stand before the throne receive the seven trumpets, it thereby indicates that these servants of the Most High receive power to execute judgment over the world of evil…The Spirit knows the needs of the saints. That Spirit also knows their deepest longings as members of the body of Christ. And that Spirit presents these longings now through their own consciousness, teaching them how to pray, and now praying within them, outside of their consciousness, with groanings which cannot be uttered. And it is of these prayers of the saints, as they rise from their hearts, controlled by the Spirit of Christ Who is in them, that our text speaks”….what do these saints pray for? What is the deepest longing of the saints in Christ? “It is the perfect fellowship with the God of their salvation, the Sovereign of heaven and earth; and it is their desire that He may be glorified. And as they know that this God of their life shall never reach His glory except through the completion and perfecting of the kingdom of Christ, the prayer of the saints is that the kingdom may come and quickly be completed. Moreover, since they also know that the glory of God and the kingdom of Christ cannot come otherwise than through the judgments that must come upon the wicked world, their prayers include also these judgments. Not only the saints whose blood has been shed for the Word of God and the testimony which they had, but all the saints, the entire body of Christ, pray for judgment upon the world.
“the text speaks of the prayers of all the saints: not of the prayers of a few, but of the prayers of all. This implies all the saints in the strict sense of the word. It implies, in the first place, the saints of all ages, the saints that have ever appeared in the history of the world. This prayer of the saints is heard at any one time…….this scene of the seventh seal, as all the other seals, evidently covers the entire period of this dispensation. It refers to all the saints of all lands and from among all nations of the earth. It implies the saints who have already entered into glory everlasting. But, in the second place, this word “all” indicates that we may not think here of the particular prayer of the individual saints, but exactly of those prayers which they all have in common…… under the control of the Spirit of Christ, they utter but one great prayer, to which all the rest of their life and their prayer is subservient: “Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” All the saints, as members of the body of Christ, pray for the coming and the perfecting of that kingdom of Christ. And it is that prayer that is here presented to the Almighty. That prayer is always heard from the lips of the saints. But that prayer, under the influence of the Spirit of Christ, will grow more fervent and more powerful as the time draws near when the Lord shall come, until it really becomes the prayer of the longing quoted at the close of the Book of Revelation: “Come, Lord Jesus; yea, come quickly.”
“in heaven the prayers of all the saints are made acceptable unto God, so that they rise before Him and are well-pleasing in His sight, even as the vapour of the incense is sweet and well-pleasing in His nostrils. This is the symbolism. What is the reality corresponding to this?
….as Christ opens seal after seal, He thereby completes and perfects the kingdom of heaven. All these seals became forces, living forces in the history of the world which would ultimately lead to the perfecting of the kingdom of Christ. Thus Christ uses the gospel. Thus He employs war. Thus He uses the social contrast in the world. Thus He employs the very power of death. Thus He energizes the outcry of the souls under the altar. And thus He causes the shake-up of the physical universe. To that end He also sends forth the angels with the seven trumpets presently, who constitute the second part of this seventh seal. But thus it is also with the prayers of the saints. These prayers are, in the first place, included in the book of God’s decree. God Himself has from eternity decreed that the saints should pray. Before the kingdom can come, their prayers must be full according to the measure of that decree. Hence, Christ Himself, as the head of His body, employs these prayers of the saints as forces to bring the kingdom of heaven unto perfection. Of these prayers He is the author: for we do not pray of ourselves, but through the Spirit of Christ Who dwells in us. Christ therefore prays within us through His Spirit. He teaches us; He causes us to pray for the coming of the kingdom. And thus the prayers of these saints rise to God Almighty, crying for the perfection of the kingdom of heaven. He adds to them the sweet incense of His atoning blood. And on the basis of that atoning blood He presents them to the Father, and says: “Father, I will that these prayers be heard.” When these prayers are full, according to the measure of the decree of God, they will be one great outcry of longing, rising from the body of the Saviour: “Thy kingdom come, O Lord.”
The Answer to their prayer
“The saints pray for the coming of the kingdom. And these prayers are presented as forces with sweet-smelling incense to God Who sitteth upon the throne. And the answer which is sent to the earth is the fire of God’s wrath, taken from the same altar before His throne. That fire cast upon earth reveals itself in omens of judgment and destruction. It reveals the presence of the Judge. Voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and earthquakes are symbols of judgment. And therefore, the passage means to teach us that in answer to the prayers of all the saints for the perfecting of the kingdom the judgments of the King are sent to the earth. It is through these judgments, it is through great upheavals,-through war and bloodshed and changes in the physical world,-that the everlasting kingdom will surely come. And for that very reason these judgments are an answer to the prayers of the saints, assuring them: “My kingdom will surely come. It is coming now. It will come till all shall be completed. And My name shall receive the honour and the power and the glory and the wisdom forevermore…..this teaches us that we shall not be disturbed about the judgments of Christ which come upon the world. These judgments are upon the earth now; and they shall increase. They must increase. For in no other way can the kingdom of God come. Sin and unrighteousness will develop, and must develop……the glory of Christ must be revealed and vindicated, and can be vindicated only by the judgments upon the world. Be not disturbed, therefore, and by no means implore God that He may stop bringing His kingdom in the way of judgments. And if you should feel that your prayers are not answered, then know that there is something wrong with your conscious life. The prayers of all the saints are certainly answered. And the beginning of their fulfillment you may see in the judgments of Christ upon earth.”
The first four trumpets.
The seventh seal, so we found, is revealed as seven trumpets. The first four of these trumpets we shall discuss in the present chapter.
We must constantly bear in mind the fact that we are discussing the last of the seven seals. Because this seventh seal reveals itself as seven trumpets, we are likely to lose sight of the fact that after all we are discussing the seven seals. But it is necessary that we keep this in mind for a correct understanding of the entire book. The whole history of this dispensation is implied in these seven seals. But the seventh seal is divided into seven trumpets, while the seventh trumpet is again divided into seven vials of wrath. We must also remember that the relation between the seals. and the trumpets is not to be conceived of as strictly successive, but rather as contemporaneous, while we bear this in mind, however, that the judgments and the forces that are thus represented by the seals and the trumpets become more emphatic and more severe as the time draws near for the coming of the Lord Jesus, and that they finally assume the character of clear signs, to be witnessed by all that live upon the earth.
All Represent Evil Phenomena In Nature
The trumpets “ refer to natural phenomena. If we see this, it will bring the vision much nearer home. As I have emphasized repeatedly, the seals and the trumpets principally all refer to events which take place throughout this dispensation. True, they will increase in force in an alarming measure as time goes on and as the completion of the kingdom draws near. Some of the phenomena here mentioned, as, for instance, the blood with which the hail is mingled, are to be revealed in the future, perhaps, in the literal sense of the word. But for the rest, they all refer to mere natural phenomena that take place and may be observed in our own time….. By these four trumpets the physical universe is affected, but through it all the world of men and the relation of nation over against nation is largely determined. Let us also notice, in the second place, that these four trumpets have this in common, that they all refer to what we may call evil phenomena in nature. On the whole they picture destructive forces which become active and affect the whole of the natural world. ” This fits with the “birthpangs” of Matthew 24 as our earth convulses in the realms of seismology, climatology and cosmology till the birth of the new creation.
“But now…. instead of one-fourth, one-third. Just a little more hail and fire, just a little more cooling of the atmosphere, just a little more death to the creatures of the sea, just a few more ships destroyed, just a few more people die because of the waters, and just a little more cooling off of the sun. This is meant by the four trumpets….. You will remember that we explained the meaning of one-fourth in connection with the fourth seal. That fourth horse and its rider traverse the earth and kill one-fourth part of all men. We then said that one-fourth signifies just as many as is in harmony with the history of this dispensation; or, if you please,-to speak concretely,-one-fourth indicates the ordinary death-rate of the world. Four is the number of the world. And one-fourth is that part which is in harmony with the present existence of the world of men. One-fourth therefore indicates the ordinary rate in which men die.
But as long as this is not increased, the earth does not consider them judgments. There is nothing strange in this. We have become accustomed to this…
You know the effect of this just-a-little-more: it upsets all the calculations of men..
Be not afraid, therefore! These things must surely come to pass. They will come ever more forcefully and plainly. And in them all you may see the judgment that is coming upon the world and the answer to your own prayers.
Be not afraid! For even though by these judgments you will undoubtedly be touched as far as your present existence and life in the world is concerned, the spiritual kingdom of Christ is invulnerable and immune from the spiritual point of view. In the midst of these times as they are pictured in the text, the people of God are sealed, and they are sealed securely; that is, spiritually they shall surely conquer. And finally they shall through all these things enter into the economy of things where God shall spread His tabernacle over them, and they shall serve Him in His temple day and night forevermore.”
The locusts out of the abyss
“Woe, woe, woe, for them that dwell on the earth.” This indicates that we may expect that the three trumpets which are still to sound will bring events which are quite different from those revealed thus far. “The element of vengeance and suffering in them will be more pronounced. They will be most plainly visible as the day draws near when the Lord shall return in His final appearance. They indicate that the world gradually becomes ripe for judgment. Accordingly, we expect also that it will be more difficult to point out the exact historical realization of these last trumpets, seeing that they point to events which must for the most part still be fulfilled in the future.
The star, which has fallen from heaven, acts like a person with intellect and will. We read of this strange star that the key of the pit, of the abyss, was given him, and that as the key was received by him, he went and opened the pit of the abyss.”
The supposition is not without grounds, as we shall see, that this star represents no one else but Satan himself. He is called in the Word of God the prince of the demons and of him the Saviour speaks in language remarkably similar to this passage, namely, that He saw him fall as lightning out of heaven. And, as we hope to see presently, it is in that very capacity that he occurs also in the words of this particular passage.
Satan is given the key to open the abyss. Locusts are always the harbingers of judgment by God e.g. one of the ten plagues. These locust-like demons have power to torment men.
Revelation 9:1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.
9:2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.
9:3 And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
9:4 And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
9:5 And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.
9:6 And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.
9:7 And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.
9:8 And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.
9:9 And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.
9:10 And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.
9:11 And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.
Locusts are terribly destructive insects, they are harbingers of God’s judgment, they represent demons in this passage and their head Apollyon means destroyer. They are an infernal army let loose by Satan at Christ’s behest (he is given the key). These demons are everywhere and will be given more and more sway as the world ripens for final judgment.”They stand behind the thrones of kings and emperors. They control the minds of the leaders of the people. They influence the thoughts and the teachings of the infidel professors in our universities.” They represent the power of Satan over the wicked world. ” These spirits play on the passions of men…they incite men to more and more sin. But the sting in their tail is utter despair, those stung look into…”the mocking eyes of the devil of despair and dissatisfaction.”.Those stung want to die but have not the courage to do so. These are the spirits behind spiritism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, false religions like Roman Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, evolutionism and humanism. They bring a foretaste of the judgements of hell. Praise God that his people, those that are sealed, are not hurt by these demons. God and his holy angels protect them.
These demons are everywhere, behind those in authority, those unbelievers who teach in universities and theological colleges, developing the “ spirit of the age”. Note their part in developing false doctrine, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;” ( I Timothy 4:1 ).These demons are loosed when the world ripens for judgment. They confirm wicked men and women in their courses whom God has given over to lust and vile affections, increasingly becoming ripe for judgment. “These spirits represent all that attracts the wicked world, all that which the world of sin considers the source of bliss and salvation.” “Their tail-end is their real nature. These same spirits who have incited the wicked world to plunge still more deeply in sin and vile transgression fill the hearts of men with the darkness of despair. They give themselves to the satisfaction of their lion-like greed; but also this is immediately followed by a gloomy pessimism. The path of philosophy they tread to the end, only to look into the mocking eyes of the devil of despair and dissatisfaction. The meaning of this text is simply this, that the pessimism of men in those times is so great that they cannot even find the courage and the incentive to take their own lives. Not the suicide, who hastens to take his own life when all of life is despair, but he who desires to die and cannot find the courage to commit suicide is the living illustration of the most terrible pessimism in this world.” But thank God his people are sealed and kept so they are not hurt.
We then read of the altar which is evidently the same as the one that is mentioned in Chapter 8, verse 3. Also there we read of an altar in connection with the prayers of the saints which were offered together with the incense. “The idea is of atonement, on the basis of which the prayers of the saints could be offered to God. “And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements: once in the year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations: t is most holy unto the Lord.” And thus we find it more than once in Scripture.The horns were the most sacred part of the altar. Upon them was sprinkled the blood of atonement. And therefore, we are safe in saying that they stood above all for the idea that the blood of atonement was shed. And now what do we notice? We notice that it is from these same horns, representative of the blood of atonement, that a voice proceeds, calling for a terrible judgment upon the world. It is the voice of the blood of the Lamb that cries for this judgment. And with a view to the wicked world, it indicates that the time has come when the world has trampled under foot and despised the blood of the Savior. It is that blood that now cries for revenge. It has therefore become plain that the world rejects the Christ and despises the blood of atonement. And now it is this blood that must be revenged and that cries: “Loose the four angels that are bound in the great river Euphrates.”
The plague of the sixth trumpet in Revelation 9:13ff and it’s fearful horses with fire and brimstone issuing from their mouths, which of course cannot be real horses but are symbolic is explained according to Hoeksema like this…….”Of what is the fire a symbol in the Bible? We find that it symbolizes anger (Psalm 57:4; 78:21, etc.), jealousy (Psalm 79:5; Ezekiel 36:5; Zephaniah 1:18), vengeance (Deuteronomy 32:22; Judges 12:1, etc.). And since the passions of anger, of jealousy, and of vengeance in the unholy sense of the word, as evidently they must be taken in the words of our passage, are the root cause of war, we find that fire is also taken time and again in Scripture as the symbol of war.” And we have just to look over the world today to see these horses riding-Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Central African Republic, Venezuela and even Ukraine.
Hoeksema sees the effect of these horsemen bringing war, destruction, famine and pestilence on a massive scale in the future.
“You must expect disappointment if you imagine that judgment will do what the gospel could not accomplish. In the midst of judgment the hearts will become more hardened and embittered, and people will continue in their sins. Their end will be in the pool that burneth with fire and brimstone.”
Even as Pharaoh repented not when plague after plague so plainly came from the hand of Jehovah, but continued till his judgment was complete, so also the wicked world at the end of time will not repent until their destruction is finished. We must expect also this feature.
Hence, the great lesson for the people of God contained in this particular passage is this: turn away from such! Have nothing to do with the world that tramples under foot the blood of Christ, except in as far as you are called to be the light of the world and to spread the testimony of the gospel. Have no communion with their idolatry and murders and thefts and fornication. Then it may be that the bitterness of the world will seek revenge upon you for a time. It may be that you will have to bear their contempt, their hatred, and their persecution. Nevertheless, there is no danger whatsoever. The people of God are sealed. And therefore you should not fear those that can kill the body and cannot touch the soul. But much rather fear Him who ruleth over all and who can condemn both soul and body in hell. “
Be not afraid! In the world ye shall have tribulation, saith the Lord; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. In the darkest night the eternal morning of glory shall surely dawn, and the faithful shall receive the crown of glory.
“The book, as we have pointed out repeatedly, is covered by the seven seals which are broken by the Lion of Judah’s tribe. When these seven seals shall all have been broken, and all that they reveal shall have been realized, the plan of God with a view to the completion of the kingdom shall also be completely fulfilled. But these seven seals do not maintain their form as seals, as we have also remarked several times. On the contrary, the seventh seal becomes revealed to us under the aspect of the seven trumpets, six of which we have now discussed. And the seventh trumpet again does not reveal itself in the form of a trumpet, but becomes manifest as the seven vials of wrath. Seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials, – such is the general plan of the book we are attempting to explain…….(and) as we have seen, they are both contemporaneous and successive. On the one hand, they are contemporaneous, so that in principle the vials begin at the same time that the seals are broken and are realized throughout the history of the present dispensation, side by side and at the same time. But on the other hand, they are also successive, so that there is an increase in the element of judgment. And as we study them, we feel that we are gradually led on to the time of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The identity of the angel.
“First of all, then, let us attend to the description which is given of this angel in the text. We are told of Him that He is arrayed in a cloud. And the cloud, as we have had occasion to remark before, is the symbol of divine majesty, especially of that divine majesty as it is coming for judgment. And who can read this description of the angel’s being arrayed in a cloud without thinking of the so often repeated assertion that Christ shall come with the clouds of heaven to judge the quick and the dead? In the second place, we read that a rainbow was upon His head. In other words, the rainbow is His crown. A rainbow we found thus far only above the throne of God Almighty in heaven. It is the symbol of the grace and the faithfulness of God in keeping His covenant, especially with a view to all creation. And therefore also this detail of the description could hardly be fitted in with the picture of a common angel. It makes us think of the Angel of the Covenant, of Jesus Christ Himself. In the third place, we read that His face was as the sun, and therefore is so glorious and majestic that it is impossible to look upon. And, in the fourth place, we read that His feet were like pillars of fire. And, as we have seen before, the fire in Scripture indicates war and judgment. Here it indicates the war of the Almighty upon the wicked world. But this judgment upon the wicked world, still more emphasized by the fact that it is the feet that appear under this symbol, cannot be attributed to anyone else in the world than our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. And therefore, the description itself already causes us to think immediately of the Lord, and of no one else.”
We have here described not literal Jerusalem but the city representing the NT church in it’s broadest sense (including the false church), the outer court of the temple who are the show church, hypocrites within the church (tares among wheat) , and the true temple who are the church composed of true believers. This situation persists throughout the NT or church age, the three and a half years (1260 days, 42 months, time, times and a half) which is also called the last days and also the millennium. This is the period between the first and second comings of Christ when the church is in the wilderness. Seven is the number of completeness of the kingdom and six the number of man and the beast. “Six times seven indicates that the power of evil shall attempt to destroy the kingdom of God.” Remember that when John was writing this the Jerusalem temple had already been destroyed by the Romans.
The identity of the two witnesses, confirmed by Zechariah 4, the two olive trees who supply oil to the two candlesticks are the the anointed servants of God, true ordained ministers of the word supplying light to the church throughout this dispensation. “Ye are the light of the world.” All the light ultimately comes by the operation of the Holy Spirit (Zech.4:6). The church animated by the Spirit and given light through its pastor-teachers are the two witnesses that cannot be hurt by persecution whatever form it takes. The only way they are hurt is if they are tempted to compromise and fall into sin so that they deny Christ. The effect of their opponents is to bring fire out of their mouths which kills them, the word of God which shall slay them either in time or on the great day.
The seventh trumpet brings time to an end. The kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of Christ. Woe to all the unrepentant on earth. The ark appears and God’s covenant is complete as heaven and earth combine to be his temple along with his bride. Redemption of the elect through judgement of the wicked world is effected finally.
The beast who arises to destroy the witnesses (Dan.7) empowered by the dragon of Rev.12 is the Antichrist who is the culmination of many antichrists who have been active even since John’s day (I John 2:18). He can only arise as Christ wills after the gospel has been preached to all peoples, to fill up the world’s cup of iniquity and the cup of suffering of the church. The church by her prayers brings not only the gospel but also judgment in the forms of plagues, war and economic turmoil in the world. However the testimony of the church will be silenced, she will be as good as dead during Antichrist’s time which is cut short, three and a half days (Daniel 9), for the elect’s sakes (the great tribulation of Matt.24).
The Old Testament church, the woman, at the appointed time (Gal.4:4) brings forth the Messiah whose birth Satan has tried to thwart ever since Cain killed Abel, the sons of God went into the daughters of men etc. right up until the massacre of the innocents under Herod. But the Messiah is born and taken up to God (in the ascension). Satan now realising he cannot get at the Christ, though he tried his damnest in all his temptations from Matt.4 till the cross, now persecutes the body of Christ, the church. The church is in the wilderness, a safe place, in the world but separate from the world. That Satan did not reckon with the resurrection is evident, the reason being, it would appear, that although he knows scripture he does not believe it, indeed he cannot and will not because of his perverse nature totally bereft of the Spirit of God. He is the personification of self-deception who believes lies and seeks to spread lies.
Satan, shortly after his creation with all the other good angels, as Lucifer, fell through pride and took a third of the angels with him in rebellion against God. The spiritual battle in heaven, a battle of belief, ideas and truth versus lies is fought between Michael and his angels and Satan and his hordes. Hoeksema believes the battle was over Moses’ body and the destiny of the souls of the OT saints right through the OT dispensation. His claim was based on his belief that their sins were not paid for (true) and would never be paid for (false). When Christ ascended the battle was over, there was no place for Satan in heaven, the accuser was cast down, the King has taken his place as King in his kingdom!
In the new dispensation, the last days , between Christ’s first and second comings we have Satan and his hordes persecuting the NT church because he opposes God and his kingdom and knows that it is through the church that the children of the kingdom are born and born again. This time period, three and one half days shows that time is divided into two halves, bisected by Christ’s coming, seven being the completion of all God’s work in time. Satan sending a deluge of water seeks to drive the church into the world, to unite her with the world in compromise with her, dominating the powers that be, or being ruled absolutely by them. The true church stands for separation of church and state and against common grace that would seek compromising alliances with the wicked world.
Here we have the description of Antichrist. We have seen numerous strategies employed by Satan to destroy God’s kingdom:
1) Stop the birth of Christ.
2) Possess the saints of the Old Testament.
3) Amalgamate the power of the church with the power of the world.
4) Persecute the church.
We now come to his “trump card”. A man who will embody Satan, who arises from the sea of mankind (cf. Dan.7:2-3,17) who rules a universal kingdom. He usurps this kingdom in the name of Christ (the number seven) and ten is the completeness of his authority and strength (but also the number of God’s decree). His wound healed was the ending of the tower of Babel (symbol of world union and dominion) which in effect he has now rebuilt.
This beast will control everything and bring peace. It will be a godless society except he will be god. He will war against the saints (Dan.11:36, II Thess.2:3-4,9), and do miracles. The second beast, the false-prophet is head of a universal religion set up to worship the first beast in this ultimate kingdom of the supremacy of man (666).
In contrast to the previous chapter here we see the real King, the Lamb of God in the midst of his elect people on earth. Not one of them is lost or shall be lost. They are pure and undefiled. The angel flying with the eternal gospel reassures God’s people that his demand for exclusive worship is never rescinded and is still made to the wicked kingdom which will now fall. Antichrist and all who worship him will be tormented for ever knowing only the terrible wrath of God. The saints who have been patient see God wreak vengeance on his and their enemies and enter everlasting glory each with a degree of glory depending on their works and suffering. The one who supervises the reaping of the earth, who is the son of man and comes on the clouds to judge, can only be Christ. Hoeksema envisages two reapings. First the wheat (believers) are gathered into Christ’s barn and are taken away and second the clusters of the vine, all the heathen (Gog and Magog) who come to battle against the antichristian kingdom wipe themselves out in a final last battle (Armageddon) which is pictured as Christ treading the winepress of the wrath of God. Babylon, says Hoeksema, is all that opposes and oppresses God’s people who are here glorified but with distinction and difference.
The seven angels and the seven last plagues constitute the last outpouring of God’s wrath on this world before the final judgment. The multitude singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb are not only God’s strongest, best and most privileged forces that he deployed at the time of Antichrist but the saints of all ages. Their song clearly combines the era of the Old and New Testaments! They are the church in glory like Israel of old looking back at the Red Sea which had not only been the way of their deliverance but also the destruction of their enemies. The song is absolutely God-centred and praises God and his grace which alone is the reason his people endured. We can sing this song by faith now and one day we will sing it when faith gives place to sight!
The first four vials of wrath all affect nature. Four is the number of creation (four corners, four winds etc.) Just as with the first four trumpets these plagues affect the natural world, there being one major difference, this time the entire earth or sea is affected. The emptying of these vials teach that this is the end of God’s wrath concerning the earth. Hoeksema sees these as being universal disease, the universal death of the sea (turned to blood) and the rivers and then the sun turned up in heat to scorch. The whole creation is affected by God’s wrath. These plagues will clearly show Antichrist and the world that he is Lord. These are righteous judgments against those who impoverished and killed God’s servants. They will cause the disintegration of the Antichristian kingdom. They also show that nothing but the grace of God brings men to repentance.
The fifth vial sees the antichristian throne darkened so that this kingdom wanes in power, the sixth vial drying up the natural boundary between Israel and the heathen nations paves the way for all the heathen nations to come to battle against Antichrist. It seems a bit of a contradiction that the unclean spirits from the infernal trinity actually inspire this battle which will, along with massive earthquake and hail bring destruction upon the whole world. Hoeksema believes the church will not be on earth at this time, so the battle is not actually against the true saints.
This and the next chapter describe the great harlot and her fall. Remember that these chapters are not chronological. Revelation 16 ends time with the smashing of antichrist, Babylon and Gog and Magog in the winepress of God’s wrath. We met Babylon in chapter 11 compared to Jerusalem and Sodom and Gomorrah and her fall announced in 14:8. This Babylon is portrayed as a city and a woman. She is rich and powerful and rides the beast. Remember that the true bride of Christ is a woman married to Jehovah Jesus (Eph.5:25-32, Rev.19:7, 21:9,10). The real wife of the lamb is both a woman and a city. This wicked woman is the false church which has apostatized from her husband, sworn to be faithful but now whoring after other men (see Ezekiel 16:8-22). So the harlot is one who has belonged to Jehovah in the external sense but has broken her pledge. The counterfeit church is employed by Antichrist and enjoys the favour of the world. This is the conglomeration of churches that have abandoned the Word of God and trample underfoot the blood of the new covenant. “Babylon stands for all that is opposed to the kingdom of God.” As a city she is the powerhouse of the antichristian kingdom. Gradually this harlot shall reveal her character. Paul speaks of this falling away in the visible church in II Thess. 2:3ff. She is an amalgamation of all false churches seeking to reconstruct the world. We must come out of her and have no fellowship with her sins (Rev.18:4). Where is your church leading you?
This seventh head, under Antichrist, this great confederation of nations that failed in Nimrod’s time now is realized. This part of the chapter clearly pictures something that often happens in reality when a wicked man having used and abused a harlot then murders her. Here we have the ten kings and the beast having committed fornication with the harlot for a long time for their own interests and lusts finally bitterly hating her killing her, eating her flesh and burning her with fire. All this is done under the sovereign hand of God. The harlot sitting on the beast in an intimate union reveals the apostate church in a wrong relationship to the power of the world, fulfilling the world state’s purpose and therefore losing completely her true character. The harlot is used and abused by the world power and ” leads all the individual inhabitants of the earth to follow her and to serve the purpose of the beast.”
This is why over the centuries true believers and churches have always insisted on the separation of church and state and is, I suspect, the main reason why state churches inevitably degenerate and apostatize! Hoeksema clearly delineates the different responsibilities of church and state and what ought to be the right relation between the two namely that state exists to keep peace and allow the development of the people of God in the world. When the state usurps the job of the church and seeks to bring in the kingdom without the true means of word and Spirit and presumes to exercise authority over God’s church, it becomes the beast. The church becomes the harlot when she aligns herself with this antichristian world power. She then will abandon the necessity of the blood of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit, the truth of total depravity and reality of sin and will instead promote peace, a better society, prosperity theology and essentially humanism! She preaches a religion that can easily be adopted by the world. She succeeds at first and persecutes the saints. Just as she has been instrumental in promoting the religion of and deification of Antichrist so after that infernal goal is accomplished she shall be discarded, is of no more use and her body, her manifestation in the world shall be destroyed. The institution of the church, albeit the false church shall be destroyed. However her apostate spirit shall continue and be realized in the worship of the beast. She now exists as the great city, Babylon, capital of the kingdom of Antichrist. These are salutary warnings to all of God’s true saints to examine their hearts and the churches to which they give allegiance in this age of increasing apostasy.
” In Babylon, the centre and heart of the antichristian kingdom, the spirit of that same woman (the harlot) who once appeared as the apostate church shall reign supreme.” Here we witness the fall of the entire structure of the antichristian kingdom. It is the heart and centre of all commerce, law and rule. In the kingdom we had equality, justice and brotherhood, the climax of man’s attainment but also the height of iniquity and godlessness. The antitype was Sodom and Gomorrah. Isaiah also spoke of the downfall of original Babylon in Isaiah 13:19-22.
Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar.
The destruction of Babylon means the power of Antichrist is broken. Satan shall cause his own destruction as he rouses the nations against his own kingdom. Gog and Magog fight the antichristian kingdom and they destroy each other just like the enemies of Israel did in II Chronicles 20:23.
Destruction of Sodom.
Babylon, as we saw, was the ultimate outcome of the line of false religion, of apostasy from the living God, of faith in the lie of Satan, “Ye shall not surely die, but ye shall be like God.” The principle of this lie is that it rebels against the living God and tries to work out its own salvation and come to the establishment of its own kingdom, without God and without Jesus Christ. And the development of this lie in the new dispensation is that the apostate church commits fornication with the powers of the world, aids them in their efforts to establish that one and final, powerful kingdom, which shall exalt itself against the living God and do wondrous things. That church as an institute shall be done away with by the very powers which courted her favor, so that her spirit and principle shall ultimately embody itself in the great city which bears her name, Babylon. But as we saw in the preceding chapter, also this great city shall be destroyed, and that by the power of God through Jesus Christ.
In the next part of John’s vision which relates to the beginning of the everlasting day, we have the marriage and marriage supper of the Lamb. Christ has subdues all his enemies, principally the power of Babylon and Antichrist and has delivered the kingdom, over which he is supreme, to his father. The completion of the kingdom mean the marriage of the Lamb shall take place. This marriage is prefigured in Psalm 45, the preaching of John the Baptist (John 3:28-9),The Lord Jesus ministry (Parable of wedding feast) and in Paul’s writings (Eph.5). The Lamb has displayed in his atoning death the central revelation of his love for his people. The bride of the Lamb is the whole church, while the members considered individually are the guests at the feast. The bride is clothed with garments of justification and sanctification, garments of fine linen, given by grace. Marriage as Hoeksema points out is meant to be “an intimate union of fellowship of nature, of life, and of love between husband and wife.” The church militant and the church in heaven are glorified in body and fit to be forever with the Lord, to receive “all the blessings of his love in his perfect and glorious kingdom. The feast is everlasting states Hoeksema.” Eternally the saints will rejoice in the fact that now they have been perfectly united in life, in nature, and in love to Christ, the bridegroom.”
Scripture knows of only one coming of the Lord at the end of the world.
I Thess.4:16-17 speaks clearly of a very public, noisy coming. That the saints go through tribulation is clear from Phil.1:29 and Matthew 24:29-31,that the second coming is simultaneous with the gathering of the wheat and tares and the last judgment from Matthew 25:31ff and 13:39-43. The binding of Satan is with respect only to his final deceiving of the nations when they come to battle the camp of the saints, this complete time period decreed by God lasts from Christ’s ascension till the end. Just as the heathen nations Gog and Magog were sent against apostate Jerusalem in Ezekiel 38,39 so the heathen nations, according to Hoeksema will attack the antichristian kingdom (mistaking it for true Christendom). The souls who were beheaded and who reign with him who have taken part in the first resurrection are all those who have died and gone to glory to await the second resurrection of their bodies. Just as for the wicked their is their first (physical) death and the second death with eternal confinement in hell. So this reign which Christ spoke about in Matthew 28:18 is going on presently. It would appear that foul spirits emanating from the antichristian kingdom actually foment this last rebellion of the heathen against what they perceive is the last bastion of Christendom. It is certainly a case of Satan’s kingdom divided against itself. Fire from heaven will consume these, and Satan, the beast, false prophet and all their worshippers will be cast into the lake of fire to be tormented forever.
The last post shared Hoeksema’s view that the last battle was fought between heathen hordes and the nominal antichristian kingdom. Personally I find that plausible but also a bit far-fetched. The battle of the ages between the forces of Satan and the church militant continues to the end and intensifies at the end when there is an all-out attempt to wipe out the church and at this point Christ intervenes and all his enemies are vanquished. Whatever form this battle takes we then have the last judgment and the death of death and the New Jerusalem and new creation. This judgment is of all men, righteous and wicked. The judgement results in rewards as well as punishments. That this is a call to all men to resurrection and judgement is clear from parallel passages in Matthew 25:31-46 and John 5:28-29. This is an amazing mystery and wonder–that all who have ever lived and died in all sorts of ways, whose bodies have long disintegrated will be raised body and soul. God through Christ judges.
The books represent a complete record and manifestation of everyone’s works (II Cor.5:10). God must be publicly justified in this judgment and there is no appeal and no reversal of it. “All the works of men shall be seen in their true ethical character, our works outward and inward, our works together with their motive and purpose; and they shall be judged according to the standard of the judge of heaven and earth, the holy law of God, and that according to perfect justice.” Christ’s work on our behalf is our only salvation. 2The fact that the judgement takes place according to works also implies that there shall be individual difference of degree in the judgment of both the righteous and the wicked–hence “difference of degree of damnation unto desolation” and for the righteous “difference of value unto glory in their works of righteousness in Christ.” The old heavens and earth vanish, having served their purpose. Similarly death and the place of the dead are cast into everlasting hell with all the wicked (I Cor.15:26). All very sobering!
“Jerusalem is manifested in a three-fold form. First of all, it was the capital of the old land of Canaan. Secondly, it is also the church of the New Testament in the broadest sense of the word. But in the third place, Jerusalem is also the perfected church, the bride of the lamb in glory.” We believers are the dwelling place of God. The New Jerusalem is heavenly. It is the place of perfect covenant fellowship, of God’s abiding with men perfectly and completely. This is the fulfilment of all prophecy e.g. Ezekiel 37:27, Isaiah 25:6-6, Isaiah 60.
Just as in death the old body passes away and is resurrected so the universe will be renewed. The new creation will be perfectly adapted to serve the resurrected and glorified church in Christ. In this new creation there will be no cause of sorrow or frustration or regret. No death, persecution, sickness, pain or tears just everlasting joy, peace, communion and satisfaction.
Because this new heaven and earth are so unbelievable, so different, so glorious, the angel has to underline the truthfulness and faithfulness of the speaker and the maker of these things. Our God is the alpha and omega. “He made all things with a view to the end…and whatever lies between the alpha and the omega is through him. He controls all things in such a way that his counsel is accomplished..”.
Those who have their part in the lake of fire, the second death, who are described in these verses are as Hoeksema says “dead now. They have never lived.” Is that not a sobering thought, that the reprobate wicked have never really lived, their lives have been a living death and it could well be said of them, what was said of Judas,” it would have been better if he had never been born.”
The New Jerusalem envisioned as a perfect golden cube of vast dimensions is God’s dwelling place forever, it is the bride, the church with the twelve apostles being foundational. It is a place of perfection and beauty. Christ fills the city with his life and love. He is the chief cornerstone (Eph.2:19-22). It consists millions and millions of believers for whom just as now the Lord has plenty of individual time! His ear is ever open to them! No gates, no padlocks, no police! Every single one of the elect are there (the oft-repeated number 12 being 3×4, the number of God as Trinity and 4 the creation, multiplied by ten meaning completeness). The beauty is symbolized by the precious stones (we are his jewels Malachi 3:17).
The gold also symbolizes his people, whose faith has been tried in the fire and refined and is precious. It is cosmopolitan. All of life there will be fellowship with and worship of God in perfection. Constant activity, joy and abundant life! All because our names were written in the Lamb’s book of life.
In this continuation of the vision the life and blessedness of the New Jerusalem, the glorified church is pictured under the imagery of the garden of Eden. Here the paradise of God is presented as the final realization of the promise to Old Testament as well as New Testament saints. The land promised to Abraham, the paradise promised to the penitent thief, the kingdom prepared for God’s elect and what has not entered into the heart of men to conceive, all these along with the prophecies of Ezekiel 47 and Zechariah 14:8 are fulfilled here. As with Paradise lost (Eden) this new paradise is God’s dwelling place with men, it is the reality of which perfect Eden was a type. The first paradise was earthy and corruptible, the heavenly one is incorruptible like her risen Lord. The trees and river are also symbolic. The gushing water, alluded to by Christ at the feast of tabernacles in John 7:38, is symbolic of the “continuous operation of the life-giving Spirit of God in Christ” which is constantly received and appropriated by the glorified saints. That stream is “the blessings of knowledge of God, righteousness, and holiness, of the favour of God, and all that is implied in life in the truest sense of the word,–a constant stream of (spiritual-JK)blessings which flow to the saints through the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. Crystal clear water is pure and undefiled life. It flows down the street, through the heart of the church. The tree of life was an emblem of God’s covenant fellowship with Adam, like the most holy place in the tabernacle. It thus symbolizes God’s ever present favour in heavenly, immortal existence. Continuous fruit means no lack of life and immortality for the church and sickness is forever excluded.
Where the will of God is done perfectly there can be no curse. We shall see Christ as he is, see him everywhere and always, and through him the face of God forever. No light of sun required by which we see and know things because God is the light and he will grant the true light which is the full knowledge of himself.
From ” Behold He Cometh” by Herman Hoeksema
Available from CPRC bookshop..here
Herman Hoeksema preached often on Revelation, even preaching through the entire book more than once—not to mention the numerous Bible studies he led on it. Behold He Cometh is thus the fruit of several decades of teaching. This essay-style commentary on the book of Revelation is written from the Reformed, amillennial viewpoint. In clear, concise language, the author sets forth rich biblical teaching concerning the end times.
Dr. William Hendriksen (renowned expositor of the Book of Revelation and minister in the Christian Reformed Church): “The treatment of the text is definitely Reformed in character in that it always ascribes all the glory to God and traces his way in history … I warmly recommend the book” (The Banner).
The following pages contain the deceased author’s exposition of the Book of Revelation which first appeared serially in the magazine of which he was for many years the editor, The Standard Bearer. Tentative plans for publication had been made before the Lord took him to glory. In fact, the title of this volume is of the author’s choosing. However, before final preparation of the contents could be completed, the author died. My father and I had consulted on some of the preparations for publishing. Besides, I fell heir to the vast amount of notes and sermon outlines on the Book of Revelation which he had amassed over the years of his long ministry. This made my task of editing much easier. My part in this volume has been mostly editorial. The only exception to this is a few chapters involving parts of Revelation 19-22 which the author himself would have rewritten. Due to various circumstances, as originally written, these chapters were very abbreviated and were not consistent with the others in length, style, and format. On the basis of my father’s notes and sermon outlines, I have revised and expanded these few chapters in the hope that this would enhance the value of this commentary.
Perhaps a few biographical notes will not be out of place. The author loved to preach and to teach from the Book of Revelation, perhaps more than from any other book. Twice during his long service as pastor of a large congregation he preached through the entire book. The first series of sermons was shortly after World War I. The second series belonged to the era of World War II. The latter series I remember well from the days of my youth. Besides, more than once the author led his large adult Bible Class through a detailed study of parts or all of the Book of Revelation. His sermons, of which there were two complete sets totalling well over a hundred sermons, were characterized by lucid, simple, and yet thorough exposition; and they were delivered with a warmth and fervor which kept a large congregation at spellbound attention Sunday after Sunday. It is my hope that something of these virtues is reflected in this commentary, which, for the sake of both interest and clarity, was written in essay form, rather than in the form of a verse-by-verse explanation.
May the Lord so bless this effort and sanctify this explanation of the last book of Holy Writ to the hearts of the readers that we may look more earnestly for the coming of our Lord.
Homer C. Hoeksema
Copyright © 1969 by the
Reformed Free Publishing Association
Box 2006, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501
Library of Congress Catalog No. 70-82449
ISBN 0-8254-2809-2 (Cloth)
ISBN 0-916206-28-9 (Paper)
First Edition 1969
Second Printing 1974
Third Printing 1980
First Paperback Edition 1986
Printed in the United States of America