From time to time we print articles in this section which are provocative of thought. This article is from a nonagenarian worker whose mind is keen and whose eye is largely undimmed. Our readers will appreciate this analytical approach to some important fields of study.—Eds.
Many people look upon the book of Revelation as a conglomeration of strange symbols thrown together in a heterogeneous mass, without plan or reason. Consequently, it is thought of as a book which cannot be understood or interpreted. Even those who accept it as one of the inspired books of the Bible have confessed their inability to understand it. For example, the noted Methodist writer, Dr. Adam Clarke, in his preface to this book in his Commentary, writes as follows:
As I have scarcely any opinion to give concerning this book on which I could wish any of my readers to rely, I shall not enter into any discussion relative to the author, or the meaning of his several visions and prophecies. . . . Viewing all these things,
I feel myself at perfect liberty to state that, to my apprehension, all these prophecies have been misapplied and misapprehended; and that the key to them is not yet intrusted to the sons of men.—Pages 963-966.
These statements from such a notable student as Dr. Clarke have no doubt led many to take the same position. And yet we find other statements by the same pr. Clarke that lead us to believe that if he were now living he might express an entirely different opinion as to the possibility of understanding the book.
He clearly recognizes the fact that time is the great factor in the unfolding of prophetic truth. For, in his comment on Daniel 12:9, he says:The prophecy shall not be understood, but in its accomplishment; and then the depth of the wisdom and providence of God will be clearly seen in these matters. . . . We must wait "till the time of the end;" and this, it appears from the following calculations, will not arrive before the TWENTIETH CENTURY. We here see the reasons why these prophecies are at present so imperfectly understood. God has sealed them.—Page 618.
We are now living in the twentieth century, to which Dr. Clarke looked forward for the unsealing of the book of Daniel.
And since the unsealing of the book of Daniel furnishes us the key for the unlocking of the book of Revelation, we must justly conclude that if Adam Clarke were living today he would rejoice in the knowledge of the light which God in His providence has thrown upon these two books during the past century. The object of this work is to gather up these rays of light and demonstrate:
- That the author of Revelation, Jesus Christ Himself, had a very definite and symmetrical plan in mind when He gave the book to the apostle John, through His angel.
- That this plan gives emphasis to the message that God has entrusted to His church in "the time of the end"; a message that has been unfolding with ever-increasing light.
- That when the plan of the book has been discovered and comprehended, it will be seen that the plan, in itself, bears witness to its divine origin, linking it with the Creation week of seven days, and giving additional emphasis to the fourth commandment as a memorial of Christ's creative work. For "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not" (John 1:10).
The unrolling of time is the unrolling of Bible prophecy; hence it may be truly said of this generation who seek for God's wisdom, "Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them" (Matt. 13:16, 17).
In these words of the Master we observe again that it is time that unseals the prophetic scroll and gives the advantage to those who are living when the predicted events take place.
The Plan of the Book
In a general way the book of Revelation is constructed on the same plan as the book of Daniel. In Daniel we find a series of prophecies dealing with world events, and covering practically the same period of time, viz, from the days of Daniel to the second coming of Christ. In Revelation we also find a series of prophecies in symbolic form, five of which cover practically the same period of time, that is from the days of pagan Rome down to the second coming of Christ; and two other prophecies which carry us beyond that great event and into that eternal state described as the new heaven and the new earth.
We have therefore in the book of Revelation seven great divisions, or lines, of prophecy. Taking this thought of SEVEN as a working hypothesis, let us seek to discover these seven divisions.
We can make no mistake about the first three divisions, for the Spirit of God has clearly set them before us as follows:
- The seven churches.
- The seven seals.
- The seven trumpets.
Each of these divisions has its introduction, which, like the introduction or preface of any book, is included in the book itself. These three divisions cover the first eleven chapters of the Revelation.
Omitting for the present the next three divisions and assuming that the Revelation is constructed on the plan of seven, the number that is first brought to view in the Bible in the Creation week, it is not difficult to ascertain what part of the book corresponds to the last day of the week—the Sabbath. The weekly Sabbath of rest, given to man as a memorial of Creation, may be considered as a type of that eternal state of rest from sin and all of the consequences described in Revelation twenty-one and twenty-two. These two chapters constitute division seven.
Again, in the week, as described in the Scriptures and by the Spirit of Prophecy, the day preceding the Sabbath is the day of preparation. Hence, in the antitype we should find a period of preparation for that eternal Sabbath of rest.
The period of preparation is found and described in chapter twenty. This period is usually called the millennium, or thousand year period. Whatever may be our view as to the nature of the millennium, it is perfectly clear that this period is a distinct one. It is still future and is 'marked off as beginning with the first resurrection and ending with the events connected with the second resurrection. Chapter twenty, then, constitutes the sixth division.
Beginning with chapter seventeen and ending with another description of the second coming of Christ in the latter part of the nineteenth chapter, we have a clear-cut division in the history of Babylon the Great.
It may be well to note at this point that the objective and final act in all of the first five divisions of the book is the second coming of Christ, which puts an end to the present order of things. And this event is to be considered as the final act in each of these five divisions. Chapters seventeen to nineteen, therefore, constitute the fifth division of the book.
We have now discovered the first three and the last three clear-cut divisions of this wonderful book. And, if our hypothesis is correct, the middle or fourth division must cover chapters twelve to sixteen inclusive.
The question to decide is this: Do these chapters present to us a distinct, united line of prophecy as do the others we have discovered? The answer to this question may be found in the following statement from the Spirit of Prophecy writings:
In Revelation 14, men are called upon to worship the Creator. . . . The line of prophecy in which these symbols [the three angels] are found, begins with Revelation 12, with the dragon that sought to destroy Christ at His birth.—The Great Controversy, pp. 437, 438.
The first angel announces to the world that the hour or time of God's judgment has arrived and this announcement is but a part of the "everlasting gospel." It is the same gospel that Paul preached, only in a different time setting.
Paul, as he reasoned with Felix, warned him of a future judgment, a "judgment to come" (Acts 24:25). But this angel or messenger announces that the judgment has come.
The second angel announces what takes place when men reject the message of the first angel-they become confused, and they become Babylon. The third angel tells these confused ones and all men what will happen if they refuse to worship the Creator and prefer to worship the beast and his image, which are a part of Babylon. In other words, they will suffer the agony of the seven last plagues as described in chapters fifteen and sixteen. Note that the first plague falls "upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image" (Rev. 16:2; see also verses 10, 19).
It is therefore very clear that chapters 12 to 16 present to us a distinct and united line of prophecy, and this qualifies as the fourth division.
We now have our seven great divisions of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Creator of all things, the One who in the creation of this world stamped upon it and upon this book the number seven, His trademark and mark of His authority as Creator, the number which symbolizes completion and perfection.
But this is not all. As we examine these great divisions more closely we discover that each of them has seven divisions also. Thus we may think of this book as consisting of seven volumes, each volume having seven chapters.
The following will illustrate our thought, keeping in mind that like any book there may be a preface or introduction to the main theme of the book.
Volume I.-The Seven Churches (chapters 1-3).
1. Ephesus, 2. Smyrna, 3. Pergamos, 4. Thyatira, 5. Sardis, 6. Philadelphia, 7. Laodicea.
Volume II.-The Seven Seals (chapters 4-8:1).
First seal, second seal, third seal, fourth seal, fifth seal, sixth seal, seventh seal.
Volume III.-The Seven Trumpets (chapters 8-11 inclusive).
First trumpet, second trumpet, third trumpet, fourth trumpet, fifth trumpet, sixth trumpet, seventh trumpet.
Volume IV.-The Woman, or True Church, and Her Adversaries (chapters 12-16).
1. The woman and the dragon; 2. the woman and the leopard beast; 3. the woman and the two-horned beast; 4. the woman's or first angel's message; 5. the church or second angel's message; 6. the church and the third angel's message; 7. the result of rejecting these last-day messages of the church-the seven last plagues.
Volume V.-Babylon the Great (chapters 17-19). Note Revelation 17:9.
1. Babylon on the first head; 2. Babylon on the second head; 3. Babylon on the third head; 4. Babylon on the fourth head; 5. Babylon on the fifth head; 6. Babylon on the sixth head; 7. Babylon on the seventh head.
Volume VI.-The Millennium, or Preparation Period (chapter 20).
1. The binding of Satan; 2. the first resurrection; 3. the reign of the saints with Christ when "judgment was given unto them"; 4. the second resurrection; 5. the loosing of Satan; 6. the battle around the Holy City; 7. the final judgment and destruction of the wicked.
Volume VII.-The Rest, or the Eternal State of Redemption (chapters 21, 22). 1. The new earth; 2. the heavenly Jerusalem; 3. the river of life; 4. the end of temporal ills; 5. the final invitation and benediction.