THE THEME OF REVELATION
By Larry White
(Originally delivered in Boise, ID. September 2, 2001)
I obtained most of this information from the excellent commentary on Revelation, The Avenging of the Apostles and Prophets by Arthur M. Ogden.
I ) The purpose of this book is stated in the first verse
"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants--things which must shortly take place. And he sent and signified it by his angel to his servant John."
This purpose is kept before the reader by being restated three times.
A.) At the close of the vision of Christ among the lampstands.
"Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this."
B.) John begins the revelation of chapters 4-11 with the same statement.
"After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, "Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this."
C.) When the visions are complete
"Then he said to me, "These words are faithful and true." And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to show his servants the things which must shortly take place."
So the purpose of this book is to show to Christ's servants "things which must shortly come to pass."
What are the things about to come to pass? We are not told straight out --because these are visions.
- Since these things were shortly to come to pass, we do not have to be looking for these events in a later age.
- Since the book is to show these events to his servants, then the book must have some clues as to what the events are, or else it is useless to anyone.
- Any clues found in the book that show what these things mean, must be in harmony with the rest of scripture dealing with the same subject. Every book in the Bible must pass muster on this issue. If it contradicts the rest of scripture, then it does not belong in the canon.
II ) Clues that point to the things shortly to come to pass
۞ Argument I
Compare Rev.10:7 with Lk.21:22, which are dealing with the same thing.
"...but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as he declared to his servants the prophets."
"For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled."
A.) The mystery of God declared to his servants the prophets is included in the "all things that are written. When Jesus said this the only things that were written was the Law and the Prophets.
B.) "Finished" in Rev.10:7 and "fulfilled" in Lk.21:22 are the same thing that is accomplished. The contexts of these verses show that they are the same.
1.) 10:1-6 -- An angel swears that there should be, lit. "delay no longer".
2.) 10:7 -- When the 7th angel sounds the last trumpet, the mystery of God would be finished, i.e. accomplished, completed, fulfilled.
3.) 11:1 -- John then is told to measure the temple. Remember Ezekial measured it too.
4.) 11:2 -- But the court outside the temple he is not to measure because it and the Holy City are given to the Gentiles to tread it under foot.
5.) 11:8 -- The city of Jerusalem is the city in this context because it is the place where our Lord was crucified.
This was said by Jesus when he was telling his disciples about the coming destruction of the temple. He says that not one stone shall be left standing on top of another that will not be thrown down. He then gives them signs of when this would happen.
1.) The good news of the kingdom was to be preached in all the world before Jerusalem was destroyed.
Lk.21:13 -- "But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony."
We can compare this to:
Rev.14:6-7 -- "Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth--to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people-- saying with a loud voice, "Fear God and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment has come; and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.'"
2.) Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles.
Lk.21:24 -- "And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."
Just as the Holy City was in:
Rev.11:2 -- "But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months."
The forty-two months here equals the 3 1/2 years of Daniel.
3.) In Lk.21 the city to be destroyed is Jerusalem. We have the same thing in:
Rev.11:8 -- "And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified."
4.) All things written in the prophets were to be fulfilled in that generation.
Lk.21:22, 32 -- 22 "For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
32 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place."
When we consider "all things written", this would mean of necessity that the mystery of God would be fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem. The coming of the Spirit, the establishment of the Kingdom, and it being given to the saints, the ancient of Days sitting on his throne of Judgement -- when Jerusalem was destroyed, there was nothing else to be fulfilled.
So the events that were shortly to come to pass, were concerning the desolation of Israel and the destruction of the capital city.
۞ Argument II
The "vengeance" in the book of Revelation is the same vengeance of which Jesus spoke.
A.) In Rev.4-11 martyred souls cry out for vengeance.
"When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"
These were the souls of those killed for their faithfulness to God. They had been dead and resting for some time.
"Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed."
They were given white robes -- which could indicate that these were O.T. worthies who were martyred and can now be perfected by the death of Christ.
"Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?" And I said to him, "Sir, you know."
So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
At the end of the revelation (4-11) vengeance had been taken on the Jews.
"We give you thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The one who is and who was and who is to come,
Because you have taken your great power and reigned.
The nations were angry, and your wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that you should reward your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth."
Also notice that God's "servants the prophets" were avenged.
In Rev.12-20 vengeance is viewed as being poured out. Right after the third angels pours his bowl of wrath -- the angel of the waters says:
And I heard the angel of the waters saying:
"You are righteous, O Lord,
The one who is and who was and who is to be,
Because you have judged these things.
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
And you have given them blood to drink.
For it is their just due."
John sees Babylon the great and says this:
"I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement."
As the angel continues to show John the mystery of this city called Babylon the great, he shows her destruction and the lamentation over her.
"Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!"
The reason for the destruction of Babylon the great is in:
"And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth."
God held this city accountable for the blood of all his apostles, prophets and saints - in fact for all the righteous that were killed on the earth.
B.) Now we will look at the vengeance promised by Jesus.
"On that very day some Pharisees came, saying to him, "Get out and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill you.'
And he said to them, "Go, tell that fox, "Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.'
Nevertheless I must journey today, tomorrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.'"
Jesus does not mean that no prophet died outside of Jerusalem, but that he must die there so they would be held responsible for all the others.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!
See! your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see me until the time comes when you say, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.!"'
Desolations are promised to be poured out on Jerusalem. (compare that to Daniels last week) Jesus makes the point very strongly that that generation of Jews were going to be held responsible for all the righteous blood shed upon the earth.
Then one of the lawyers answered and said to him, "Teacher, by saying these things you reproach us also."
And he said, "Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.
Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs.
Therefore the wisdom of God also said, "I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,' that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation."
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’
“Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.
Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.
Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of Hell?
Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.
Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see me no more till you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!”
The conclusion then is thus:
1. Jerusalem, including the Temple, would be destroyed.
2. Because in her was found the blood of the prophets, in fact, all the righteous blood shed upon the earth.
3. It would be required of that generation then living as vengeance from God.
So comparing this to Revelation, the only difference is the name of the city. All the other essentials are identical. This forces us to the conclusion that Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots upon whom God avenged all the righteous blood shed on the earth, is none other than Jerusalem - that great city which is also spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
So the things which must shortly come to pass are once again identical with the destruction of Israel and the destruction of their capital city.
۞ Argument III
Comparing Rev.7:14 with Mt.24:21 shows a period of tribulation as identical.
So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.
The NIV says The Great Tribulation. KJV omits "The" but it is found in the oldest manuscripts.
If the great tribulation that precedes the destruction of Jer. was to be the greatest that ever was or ever would be, then the great tribulation in Rev. 7 must be the same one or it is not The Great Tribulation. We saw this in Dan.12:1.
"At that time Michael shall stand up,
The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people;
And there shall be a time of trouble,
Such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time.
And at that time your people shall be delivered,
Every one who is found written in the book.
There can be not question about the tribulation in Mt.24 since it was to be fulfilled in that generation - so the Great Tribulation in Revelation must be the one before the destruction of Jerusalem. There are no alternatives.
So the purpose of the book of Revelation is to show the things that must shortly come to pass with reference to the last days of Israel and Jerusalem.
III ) The Theme
The theme of the book is reflected in its purpose to show things which must shortly come to pass. These things are seen in the finishing of the mystery of God, (10:7) and the avenging of the apostles and prophets, (18:20).
Vengeance was called for by the martyred saints from under the alter, (6:9-10) and vengeance was taken, (11:17-18).
Of Babylon's destruction it was said:
18:20 -- "Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!"
Then in the victory celebration in heaven over her destruction:
19:1-2 -- After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are his judgments, because he has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and he has avenged on her the blood of his servants shed by her."
I hope this helps you get clear about this important book. To really appreciate the book of Revelation and understand its message we must have an appreciation of the mystery of God. So we might talk about that next week.
~ Invitation ~