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By Richard Gunther


Over the years there have been many attempts to decode the symbols in the book of Revelation, and I’m sure this attempt will not be the last. As the years go by more insights are added to what has already been discovered, and God’s Word is revealed in deeper and more wonderful ways.


   However, the very first words of the book tell us that it was written so that we would KNOW the things that were about to happen, and considering the context it seems most logical to suppose that the revealing would begin from about the time when the book was first delivered to John.


   There is also a continuity aspect. The Lord has always revealed, through the ages, the future, like the light of a car cutting through the darkness and revealing some but not all of the road ahead. For example, God foretold the 120 years before the Great Flood, and later the 400 years which Israel was to spend in Egypt, and later He foretold the future of Israel, and of the various nations around her. Through a succession of prophets God foretold the fall of Nineveh, Babylon and other nations, and through Daniel God foretold the rise and fall of the Greek Empire through to the coming of Rome. To Nebuchadnezzar God foretold the succession of Empires from Babylon, Media-Persia-Elam, Greece, Rome (East and West) and the European states. In Daniel 9 God foretold to the very day the coming of the Messiah and subsequent events.


   Which means that all the future was foretold, in general outline, right from soon after Creation through to the time of the Early Church. All Revelation is is a continuation of this foretelling, from the time of the Early Church through the past 2000 years to the return of Christ.


   The following notes are not entirely my own work. I have drawn on the studies of several other Bible students, namely the superb and matchless work of Mrs. J. Browne, also some helpful comments by Mr. W. Wade, and books and articles by several others. I have also checked history books to make sure the general characteristics of the symbols are in fact accurate. If there is any credit to be passed on, let it be not to the students but to the Author of the original work.



There are at least three main methods of interpretation of the book of Revelation. Historicist, Praeterist and Futurist. In simple terms this is what these three terms mean:


1.                      Historicist – Revelation portrays the linear unfolding of history from the time of the Roman Empire and the Early Church, through to today, and on to the return of Christ. The main events as they have occurred in their correct historic sequence are recorded, in symbolic form, and there is no room for private interpretation.


2.                      Praeterist – this has been nicknamed the ‘lucky dip’ method. Readers take portions of the book at random and interpret them to fit whatever area of history they like. There is no linear aspect, and no



3.                      Futurist – this method is the most popular and widespread at the moment, with proponents such as Derek Prince and Barry Smith and many other leading Bible teachers and ministers. It is usually taught as the one and only correct interpretation to the exclusion of all others.


   I will not try to hide my own views on this. I began as a Praeterist, when I was young, mainly because I was totally ignorant of what Revelation was about, and then, for a short time (only a few months) I was influenced strongly by Barry Smith to accept the Futurist view, but then, after some personal study I decided that the Historical view was the most consistent with Scripture. I make no apologies for this stand, but I leave it up to you to decide which view you like best.


   The following notes are but a brief outline, and I encourage any reader to follow up the references and go further with it.


   Revelation 1, 2 and 3.


   The first words of this book tell us a great deal. Firstly, they tell us that it is not the revelation of John, but of Jesus. The second thing is the word “revelation” which in Greek is “apokalupsis” which means “uncovering” or “unveiling”. God wants to uncover or reveal what was formerly sealed or covered.

   We are also told that God “signified” these things by His angel. The Greek for “signify” is “semaino” which means “to give a sign” or “to indicate”.


   No sooner are we told this but we are given some signs and their interpretation. This sets the pattern for the whole book. It is as if God is giving us a few ‘code-breakers’ to assure us that all the symbols in the book are consistent with all He has formerly given to us in similar symbols through the Old Testament and other parts of the New. (i.e. the parables of the kingdom)


   The “stars” represent the “angels of the seven churches”, the “candlesticks” represent the seven churches, and later on we are shown that the “sun, moon, and stars” represent the presiding powers ruling over the earth. The symbols and their meanings are consistent throughout Revelation, and they are also consistent with ALL the prophetic language of the whole Bible. There is no difference between the prophetic language of Revelation and any of the prophets – including Jesus. This is a crucial point to understand as it sets the framework straight for the whole of Revelation. It was Jesus who spoke through all the prophets, and it is Jesus who speaks during his ministry, and it is Jesus who speaks through the Revelation.


   1:3 “for the time is at hand”. This means that the unfolding story of Revelation begins at the time of John, about 96 AD.


   1:4 The messages to the seven churches. There were, of course, far more Christian gatherings, or fellowships than seven in the whole of Asia, but God has selected seven as special examples, because they have specific characteristics, which He then applies certain prophetic words to.


   John then has a vision of the risen glorious Christ. Fantastic!


   Working from the Historicist point of view, each church represents a distinctive stage in the development of the Church through the last 2000 years.


Ephesus – the distinctive historical era represented by this church was the late Apostolic Age, which ran from about the time of the birth of the Church through to about 100 AD. As with each selected church, it has certain characteristics which set it out as a sort of summary of the whole Church during a certain period of time.


   The Early Church had been troubled by several false teachings. One was Legalism, another was Gnosticism. Legalism robbed Christians of their full freedom in Christ, and Gnosticism claimed that, among other things, the Bible had to be interpreted by outside sources – that it wasn’t sufficient in itself. Already there were people going about teaching things off the top of their heads, rather than from the Bible.


   Smyrna – the distinctive historical era represented by this church was the late Apostolic Age, which ran from about 100 through to about 313 AD.


   Smyrna was a center of emperor worship – it was made compulsory for every Roman citizen under threat of death. It was about this time that Polycarp was burned to death. He said: “Eighty-six years have I served Christ, and he has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my king who has saved me?” (Eusebius Ecclesiastical History)


   “Them that say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan”. A large and hostile Jewish community at Smyrna was prominent in the death of Polycarp, but the symbolic meaning is explained in Romans 2:28,29. Paul here refers to those who were Jews in name only. They are natural, not spiritual men. Their standing is in external things, not the internal change of heart. They had neither the character or faith of Abraham and were opposed to Christians. In this case “Jew” actually means “Christian”, and should read “Them that say they are Christians and are not.”


 Pergamos – the distinctive historical era represented by this church was the Age of Constantine, which ran from about the time of about 313 to 606 AD.


   During this time Christianity became the State religion. Worldliness and lack of spirituality came in and spiritual fornication – the mingling of truth with error, holiness with worldliness.


Thyatira – the distinctive historical era represented by this church was about 606 to about 1517 AD.


   This period in church history was marked by the rise and power of the papacy. Verse 20 mentions Jezebel. A cross reference to her life (1 kings 16:31 and forwards) reveals that she was an idolater, who induced her husband to not only connive at the introduction of the worship of her native idols, but to coerce him to worship them too. She also slew the Lord’s prophets while the prophets of Baal ate at her table.


   In history we see that the priesthood of the Middle Ages taught the people to worship Mary the mother of Jesus as if divine, and to call her the “queen of heaven”. This heathen practice actually went back to the worship of Ashtaroth, the queen of heaven, from whence we get Ashtar, Ishtar, and Easter. (Jer.7:18, 44:17-19, 25)


Sardis – the distinctive historical era represented by this church was the Reformation, or the Reformation Church, from about 1517 – 1739 AD.


   Jesus refers to the dead portion of the Church, that which has accepted the Papal errors, in verse 1. It is set aside as irreformable, having refuted the Council of Trent, so it is left to go on in its error until the end of the Age.


Philadelphia – the distinctive historical era represented by this church was the Evangelical and Missionary period, from about 1739 – 1830.


   This was the time of John Wesley, who was called by God to launch the great Evangelical Movement. It was also the time of George Whitfield and William Wilberforce – who helped abolish slavery, and John Howard – who helped effect prison reform. Other outstanding servants were raised up, such as Jonathan Edwards, Moody, Spurgeon, William Booth and many dedicated woman as well.


   Bible Societies began translating God’s Word and disseminating it to the nations, and Missionary Societies also appeared. William Carey went to India, Judson went to Burma, Hudson Taylor went to China.


   It is interesting to note that the city of Philadelphia was founded and named by Christians who knew they were in the ‘Philadelphia’ stage in church history.



Laodicea – the distinctive historical era represented by this church was the present time, which began about 1830 and will continue until Christ returns.


   The word ‘Laodicea’ comes from 2 words and means, literally “the right” or “the judgment of the people”. This means that Man sets himself up as judge, and, as C.S.Lewis put it, people have tried to put “God in the dock”. The Humanistic church of today is not willing to obey God’s Word without a murmur. Instead it challenges, discusses, modifies and omits whatever it finds awkward or difficult. Liberalism has been allowed to grow. Today’s Church is riddled with opinions, heresies and sects. It  has failed to live in a separated, godly manner, and as a result it has (like Samson) lost its strength. Like hot and cold water mixed, it has become “lukewarm”.


   One of the most deadly false teachings to be spread during the Laodicean time has been the Futurist. This Jesuit-inspired doctrine was aimed at turning away the accusing finger of the Reformers pointed at the Papacy as the Antichrist of prophecy. The false teaching was smuggled into the Reformed Church under the guise of a boom by “Rabbi Ben Ezra” (a supposed converted Jew). According to his book, a future individual Antichrist was to arise in Jerusalem, who would, among other things, rule the world, cause people to have a mark on their head or hand, and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Coupled with this false teaching was an offshoot called the “secret rapture”, and sadly, these untruths have been taught and preached continually by many leading Christian writers and speakers for many years.


   Revelation 4 and 5


   These two chapters are a view of the “Throne”  and the “24 thrones” both symbols of judgment. They represent the setting up of coming judgment, which has been committed to the Son by the father (John 5:22,27, Acts 10:42, 17:31)


   The judgment of the nations is progressive. God decides on how long each nation has, and then finishes their time. The Lord is the initiator of the judgment and e allows for the work of both other nations and also the saints in the work. (Acts 17:26,31, Rev.11:3 -15, 17:14, 19:11-14 and forward).


   John is called into heaven to see “what things must come to pass” (4:1) (KJ says “hereafter” which means ‘from here and after”)


   The whole vision is about God the great Judge, surrounded by His glory. Power emanates from the Throne, and the people He operates through are symbolized by elders and beasts. The lion, calf, man and eagle are symbols of the national power of Israel – they render service to God on Earth, serving in whatever capacity they can.


   Revelation 5


   The roll is a symbol of God’s infinite knowledge of all things, the seven represents perfection. The fact that it is written on both sides represents the completeness of it.


   All power and judgment is committed to the Son. He is the One who in perfect Omniscience is able to judge perfectly. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is worthy. It is a fearsome thing to think that all the people who have scorned Jesus, and used his name as a swear word, and ‘demythologized’ him, and ignored his warnings, will one day stand in the withering glory of his power.


   Revelation 6


   The chapter begins with the opening of the book which is sealed with seven seals. The book or scroll is a symbol of knowledge, mainly of future events, and the seals represent the perfection of god’s complete authority over all things. History is therefore the unfolding of God’s plan – not that this rules out freedom of choice, but it does show that despite what sinful people do, God still maintains His own schedule.


   Daniel’s prophecy covers the history of the four-fold succession of empires (Dan.2 and 7) and revelation takes up the same prophetic story in the time of the fourth empire – Rome in its pagan stage – and carries it forward from about 96 AD when john received it from Jesus. (This was about the time of the emperor Domitian.)


   Seal 1 (Rev.6:1,2)

   All the symbols are warlike.

   Rome is here pictured, victorious and conquering.


   Seal 2 (Rev.6:3,4)

   The symbols are now of discord and bloodshed. Internal rivalry split the Roman Empire and wars raged right up and down the borders. The period covered would be about 185-284. Peace was taken from the “earth” – a symbol of the Roman Empire, and each new evil overlapped the next.


   The historian Edward Gibbon comments: “The dissolute tyranny of Commodus, the civil wars occasioned by his death, the new maxims of policy introduced by the house of Severus, had all contributed to increase the dangerous power of the army, and to obliterate the faint image of laws and liberty that was still impressed upon the minds of the Romans. This internal change undermined the foundations of the empire” (The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire)


   Seal 3 (Rev.6:5,6)

   “Black” is a symbol, usually, of famine and mourning. The “balances” represent the heavy taxation and oppressive burdens laid upon the people by the emperors. The period covered would be about 200 to 250.


   The emperor Caracalla in 212 issued a decree extending the privilege of Roman citizenship to all free men within the empire, but there were heavy taxes attached to this, which resulted in ruined agriculture. Oppressive laws were brought in which further increased the degradation of Rome. As Gibbon says “the land tax, the capitation, and the heavy contributions of corn, wine, oil and wheat, exacted from the provinces for the use of the court, the army and the Capital . . .  the great body of Caracalla’s subjects were oppressed by the aggravated taxes, and every part of the empire was crushed under the weight of the iron scepter.”


   Seal 4 (Rev.6:7,8)

   “Death” and “hell” or the grave, represent the effects of famines, pestilences, wars and wild beasts.

   The period covered is from about 250 to 300. It was a time of disastrous civil wars as well as invasions by the Goths. Gibbon notes that from the year 250 to 265 a plague spread into every province and town. During that time approximately 5000 people died every day in Rome.


  Seal 5 (Rev.6:9-11)

   The opening of this seal depicts the great persecution which came about 303 to 313. Christians had been persecuted throughout the whole time of the Roman Empire, but during this time in particular the official persecutions were outstanding. The emperor Diocletian undertook reform measures during this time. He inaugurated the system of partnership emperors, dividing the Empire into four sections under himself, Maximian, Galerius and Constantius. He also set into place a religious reformation, a return to the old gods, and the eradication of Christianity. As you may note, this time of persecution is also marked by the Smyrna church. An outstanding feature of this persecution was an attempt to eradicate all manuscripts of the Bible. Every method of torture was used against Christians and many saints “loved not their lives unto the death.” (Rev. 12:11)


   Seal 6 (Rev.6:12-17)

   The “great earthquake” is a symbol of great alterations and changes on the earth, political and spiritual. Verses 12-17 are about the fall of old pagan Rome before the armies of Constantine the Great, 313 AD.


   For a match up of the symbols of the “sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood . . . etc” see Is.5:30, 13:6-10, 34:4, Jer.4:23-28, Ez.32:7,8. This is the same figurative language already used and made familiar by the prophets concerning other interventions by God in the affairs of world powers. The darkening and falling of the heavenly bodies symbolizes the overthrow of ruling powers on earth – Is.2:10-12, Jer.46:10, Ez.30:2,3, Joel 1:15, Obad.15, Zech.14:1, 2Pet.3:10,12.


   With the fall of pagan Rome, thanks to the invasion of Constantine, the thing which hindered the rise of the Papal power of Rome was taken away – see 2Thess.2:7,8.


   Revelation 7


   So far we have been consistent with the symbols and interpreted them according to the normal interpretation found throughout the whole Bible. There is no need for us to depart from this method anywhere in Revelation. So, when we come to Revelation 7, we need not take any of it literally, but continue in the way we have started. (If we jumped from literal to prophetic or symbolic whenever we had difficulty, we would make a terrible mess of the book, and also imply that the Author was fickle and inconsistent.)


   Chapter 7 contains two visions. Seal number 7 is not opened until chapter 8.


   In history we have reached the point where paganism in the Roman Empire has been overthrown (not eradicated), and Christianity has been adopted by the emperor Constantine. Christianity was now officially the religion of the State, and so many non-Christians were attracted into positions of power – these pretenders brought their pagan life with them, and gradually introduced pagan rites and beliefs – disguised of course as Christian. Pagan Festivals were altered to include Christian phraseology, and of course we still have these blended events today, although much of the pagan content has been obscured or forgotten by most people.


   The first vision - the sealing of the 144,000.


   “The four corners of the earth” represents the world at that time. Invading forces were held back for a time, and a period of tranquility descended on the Roman Empire. In fact, some medals of Constantine are still preserved with the emperor’s head and inscription : CONSTANTINUS AUG, and on the reverse: BEATA TRANQUILLITAS = Blessed tranquility.


   The “four winds” represent the judgments of God.


   “Sealing in the forehead” is a symbol of identity. The identifying mark upon the “servants of God” is the indwelling Spirit, whereby they are “sealed unto the day of redemption” – Eph.4:30. See also John 3:5-7, 7:38,39, 14:14-17, 2Cor.121,22, Eph.1:13,14.  Satan also “seals” his own – Rev.13:16,17, 14:9, 16:2, 19:20 and 20:4.


   The 144,000 most likely represents the visible Church world-wide. The number is symbolic. 12 is thought to be the number of governmental perfection, thus we have 12 lots of 12 thousand. Other 12’s are the tribes themselves, the apostles, the foundations of the New Jerusalem and the fruits of the miracle trees in Rev.22.


   The second vision – the Lamb in the Throne.


   In the second part of this chapter God assures all those who have seen the great suffering of the Church, and who may live through further persecution, that their God is on the Throne, and that the final reward for faithfulness is eternal joy.


Revelation 8


The opening of the seventh seal. In history we have come as far as the Pagan Roman Empire, about 313 AD. Now the seventh seal is opened and seven trumpets are introduced. The trumpets announce further judgments.


   First trumpet.


   This trumpet marks the period from about AD 400 to 410. During this time the Goths invaded Italy, led by Alaric. They came like “hail” from the north and devastated the land. “Fire mingled with blood” symbolizes the terrible destruction wrought by the Goths.      


   So violent was their attack that the Romans abandoned Britain in order to defend Rome. On three occasions Alaric descended on the Italian Plains and succeeded in capturing the city of Rome, but he died in the same year – 410.


   Second trumpet.


   In 425 another branch of the Goths known as the Vandals ravaged Gaul and Spain and then crossed to Africa. In prophetic language “mountain” is often used for “nation” or “power” (Jer.51:25, 42). The Vandals under their leader Genseric are here described as “a great mountain burning with fire . . . cast into the sea”. In 439 the Vandals took Carthage where they built fleets for some 30 years and with them they pirated the islands and sea coasts. They captured Sicily, Sardinia and more. Roman navies, in 457 and 468 were sent against Genseric, but he defeated them and continued to lay waste the Mediterranean.


   Third trumpet.


   The “great star” represents the coming of a great ruler who exerts a short but powerful influence on the world, like a meteor or shooting star. Attila the Hun was such a “star”. He was called “the scourge of God”. In 441 he attacked the eastern Roman Empire and laid waste Thrace and Maesia, and the Danube down to the Black Sea. In 450 he ravaged the upper Danube. Following the Rhine from Basle to Belgium he made desolate the valleys. The Huns, in their path of destruction and bloodshed, fell (in prophetic language) upon the “fountains” or sources of the rivers in this western third of the Roman Empire.


   In 453 Attila retired to Buda, where he died in the same year. His career had been short, and he disappeared. But he left a trail of destruction. He made the waters of life “wormwood’ or bitter wherever he went.


   Fourth trumpet.


   Taken literally we have a major astronomical event (!), but the language is still prophetic, so no heavenly disruption occurred on the scale here described. In the language of the prophets, darkening of heavenly luminaries means the overthrow or disturbance of earthly rulers and powers.


   In 476 the Heruli, led by Odoacer entered Rome and caused the banishment of the Emperor Romulus Augustulus. This finished imperial rule in the west. However, emperors still held power in the east, from the city of Constaninople. The eastern empire was called Byzantine and it continued until it was overthrown by the Mohammedans, the Ottoman Turks, in 1453.


   But it is very important to notice that out of the overthrow of the western empire came the Papacy, which, like the mythical Phoenix, rose from the ashes and took over all the power of its former host. Dr. Grattan Guinness puts it this way: “As the power of Rome waned before the hordes of Gothic invaders, the Christian Bishopric . . . raised its head   . . . . . . the tendency of the Latin episcopate thus enthroned in the old metropolis of the world, in the midst of ignorant, superstitious . . . Gothic nations, was to become first a monarchial, and then an imperial power. This tendency . . . at last produced that singular usurpation and tyrannical government we call the Papacy. (Romanism and the Reformation)


   In his ‘History of the Middle Ages’, the historian Hallam comments: “Rome inspired during this age all the terror of her ancient name; she was once again the mistress of the world, and kings were her vassals.” (servants)


   Fifth, sixth and seventh trumpet.


   The last three trumpets are also called “woes”, because even worse things are about to come on the Roman world. The fifth and sixth trumpets sound in chapter 9 and the seventh sounds in the latter part of chapter 11. Once again God includes a more detailed view of history in between the last two trumpets.


   Revelation 9


   Revelation chapter nine is about the sounding of the fifth and sixth trumpets, and it covers the period in history when the Saracens and the Saracen Arabs, and the Turks were busy. Their attack was largely upon apostate Christendom, in what had been the eastern part of the Roman Empire.


   The fifth and sixth trumpets.



   Under the first four trumpets the western half of the Roman Empire was judged by invasions and so on by the Goths, and then a few years passed as God gave the eastern half of the Roman Empire time to repent, but it didn’t, so God brought the Moslems. Their time lasted from about 600 right through to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and beyond. The Moslem, or Mohammedan downtreading of the Holy land (Palestine) lasted until 1917.


   In Daniel 8:9 a “little horn” is pictured, which rises in the east. Along with his followers, this “horn” was a symbol of Mahomet, who founded the religion of Mohammedanism. His influence over the Holy Land lasted 1260 years altogether.


   Islam is still a powerful force in the world. It is both religious and political. It also has a militant aspect, and it has prospered because God has used it as a weapon of judgment on unrepentant nations. It has always been this way for all of man’s history – when Man rejects the truth, he goes under some form of bondage.


   Fifth trumpet.


   The “star” is a symbol of a ruler. He is energized by Satan because God has included the prophetic code words “bottomless pit”. It was Satan who energized the Moslem hordes, which came like locusts from the east and swarmed across towards the west. Islam, for all its good points, is not Christian, nor is it from the true God.


   About 610, at Mecca in Arabia, Mahomet proclaimed a new religion which he claimed to be received by Divine revelation, but as shown here was actually from “the pit”. Mahomet’s teaching was “smoke from the pit” which darkened the world, and from the smoke came the locusts. In 612 Mahomet proclaimed his mission to overthrow idolatry and away went the armies, intent on converting all infidels to the Moslem religion.


   The “locusts” were not allowed to “hurt the grass, or green things etc” The Saracen armies were under orders which match this verse exactly. “When Yezed was marching with his army to invade Syria, Abubeker charged him with this, among other orders, ‘Destroy no palm trees, nor burn any fields of corn; cut down no fruit trees, nor do any mischief to cattle, only such as you kill to eat” (Thomas Newton)


   The “locusts” attacked idolatrous Christianity, that is those people who “had not the seal of God on their foreheads”. The Saracens worked mainly in those countries where corruptions of Christianity prevailed, i.e. the Greek and Orthodox churches. Bishop Newton points out that when the Saracens made the attempt to approach those parts of Christendom most free from the infection of apostasy, namely Savoy, Piedmont and the southern parts of France, they were defeated by Charles Martel, in several violent battles.


   The Saracens were permitted to torment Christendom but not to destroy it. Immense numbers were slain, but the political and religious eastern parts continued. “Five months” was the allotted time for the torment. Working on the usual 1 day = 1 year prophetic scale, five months is the equivalent of 150 years. In 612 Mahomet proclaimed his mission. In 622 he fled to Mecca. In 629 his war against apostate Christendom began. In 755 a rival Caliph arose in the west and divided the Mohammedan Empire. In 761 the Arabs began to be driven out of Spain, and in 762 the eastern Caliph shifted his capital from Syria and founded Baghdad. That was 150th year, and from that year the Arabs ceased from their aggressive expansion and became a settled people.


   “locusts” like “horses”. Verses 7-9 describe how the Saracens were fitted out. They were renowned for their horsemanship. “crowns of gold” – they wore yellow turbans. “hair like women” – they had beards and long hair. “teeth like lions” – very fierce. “breastplates” – they wore chain mail armour. Their horses were also armoured, and made a loud, clattering noise when they galloped. “Tails like scorpions” – they were very dangerous and deadly, unlike harmless locusts. Their king’s name was “Abaddon” and “Apollyon” which means “Destroyer”


   Sixth trumpet.


  The four angels are permitted to release God’s judgment for a specific time: “an hour, a day, a month and a year”. In prophetic time this represents: 31 day/years +  1 year 360 day/years = a total of 391 years. The year in which the Turks began their onslaught against Greek and eastern Christendom was 1062. 391 years later, in 1453, the Turks took Constantinople.


   The number of the horsemen shows that there were many of them. They came from the Euphrates area because the original home of the Turks was the Euphrates area. There were four sultanates of Turks bordering on the Euphrates and four waves of these horsemen poured into the provinces of the eastern side of the Roman Empire, an invasion which lasted some 400 years. These Turks marched for Mohammed and waged war against Christendom.


    “Their power is in their mouth and in their tails” and the reference to fire and brimstone refer to the use of the cannon, which was used on a large scale at this time. Perhaps the “roar” of the cannon is a reference to the lions’ roar. Constantinople was almost an impregnable fortress, until the Arabs began to use cannons against it.


   And so it was that the western portion of the Empire was destroyed by Goths, while the eastern portion was destroyed by Saracens.


   “And the rest of the men which were not killed . . . .repented not”. The western nations and churches, presided over by the Papacy, “repented not” of their idolatries, their spiritual “fornication” – that is their worship of images, saints and relics, nor of their persecutions and murders of true believers, their Inquisitions, and thefts – Indulgences, Penance and other ploys to gather money, nor of their superstitions. The Papal nations failed to see the hand of God judging the rest of the world, and instead sent armies of Crusaders against the Turks! If they had repented and understood where they were in the book of Revelation (as the Christians who named the city of Philadelphia had done) the whole course of history would have been completely different.


   Revelation 10 and 11.




   The next two chapters describe the coming and progress of the Reformation. A great deal could be written here about the claims and pretensions of the Papacy. Many good history books have been written, recording the facts. The truth is frightening. Despite its claim to be the representative of the Christian Church on earth, the Roman Church has destroyed, placed in bondage, trampled, robbed and persecuted millions, and all in the name of Christ! It is the largest cult in the world.


   For example, in 1294 Boniface VII became Pope. He prepared the statement (called a ‘bull’) called the UNUM SANCTUM in which he claimed that the Pope represents God upon earth. Quote: “The Pope is of so great dignity and excellence that he is not merely man, but as if God, and the Vicar of God. The Pope alone is called most holy . . . divine Monarch and Supreme Emperor, and King of kings . . . the Pope is of so great dignity and power, that he constitutes one and the same tribunal with Christ, so that whatsoever the Pope does seems to proceed from the mouth of God . . .  the Pope is as God on earth . . .”


   That which was claimed by Boniface VII in the 13th century has been claimed ever since by a succession of Popes. The great ecumenical council of 1870 proclaimed the Pope at that time to be all which Boniface claimed.


   But at the time appointed by God, a new, refreshing wave of truth and freedom came in. Men like Wycliffe appeared and the Reformation movement began to grow. Martin Luther made his stand, followed by many other reformers, delivering England and also German and other lands from the Papal chains. The west was divided into two camps: Protestant and Romanist (or Catholic as thy like to say). Vainly did Rome try to draw the people back into her prison, and many thousands died – oceans of blood flowed – but nothing could stop true Christianity from flourishing.


   At the beginning of the 16th century Rome boasted that not a single ‘heretic’ could be found (thanks to the inquisition, massacres, tortures, wars and intrigue) but her world-gripping tyranny has passed. Praise God.


   Revelation 10


   An angel comes down. This reminds us of a time when an angel descended before Sodom and the other cities were destroyed (Gen.11:5-7, 18:21)

   The “little book” which the angel brings is opened. This symbolizes the beginning of the reformation, when the Bible was made available to all – thanks to the invention of the printing press and many willing helpers.


   The papacy was not complacent as it saw the people being liberated from its control. It launched many crusades against the believers. One of these was the massacre instituted by pope Innocent III first against the Albigenses (some 60,000 died in Beziers, southern France) and then against the Waldenses (in Piedmont, Italy).


   The “seven thunders” seem to be from earth. Perhaps they symbolize the threats and boastings of the Papacy, which god does not permit to be heard or written here. The popes were keen on hurling edicts of excommunication, fearsome bulls and curses of anathema against all who opposed them.


   John is told to take and eat the little book. John himself here represents the believers, the true Christians, who accepted the Bible as God’s Word and received it. The truth was sweet to their taste, but the consequences of believing were often bitter.


   Revelation 11.


   The reed and the temple, and the measuring of things is a picture or symbol of God’s assessment of the situation. His measuring reed is absolute truth, and His standards are perfect. John here symbolizes how God makes a difference between holy and unholy, clean and unclean, true and untrue.


   The holy city is to be trodden down 42 months. One good match with history begins this 1260 year time of persecution at 606, at the time of the rise of the papacy, and ends the period in 1870, when the Pope lost all his temporal power and was unable to continue persecuting Christians. (This period also matches the duration of the time of the “little horn” of Daniel 7:25)


   The “two witnesses”. The Futurists like to think that these two witnesses are literal men, and all that happens to them is not symbolic, but to jump from symbolic to literal is inconsistent and makes nonsense of the prophetic nature of the book.


   In the OT Law, two witnesses were always required to establish a conclusive testimony (Deut.17:6,7, 19:15 and Matt.18:16). The word for “witness” in Greek is ‘martus’, from whence we get our English word ‘martyr’ – or one who bears witness even to the point of death. The fact that the witnesses wore “sackcloth” indicates that their work would be done under duress, i.e. persecution and suffering.


   The witnesses are also likened to two olive trees, and two candlesticks, which takes us back to Zechariah 4:11-14. In Zechariah the prophet sees two olive trees, one each side of a candlestick. A most likely interpretation of the two witness would be the prophets of the O.T. and the apostles of the N.T. These witnesses represent the people (men and women and children, true Christians) who faithfully present and proclaim God’s Word, and whose testimony is true.


   The fire which comes from the witnesses’ mouths represents the fiery judgment which will come on all who try to quench the work of God. Anyone who harmed one of God’s witnesses was in for trouble! Even whole nations would not go unpunished.


   Shutting the heavens . . .calling down plagues and so on. Keeping within the spiritual system of interpretation we can see that the symbols here mentioned refer to spiritual drought, and all the efforts which nations and rulers made to stop the Reformation would fall back on them in judgment. This is exactly what history shows, for example France and Spain were embattled by many wars and troubles as they tried to stop the Protestants from flourishing.


   The witnesses are killed. Here, as if to make absolutely certain that we do not read any of this literally, God tells us that the witnesses die and lie in the street of “the great city, which is SPIRITUALLY called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” Well obviously, Jesus was NOT crucified in either Sodom or Egypt, so the “street”, and the “death” of the witnesses must mean something else.


   By the time of the Lateran Council in 1514 the whole of the pre-Reformation witness to the truth of God in France, Spain, Piedmont, Italy and Bohemia, by means of the sword, the rack, and the stake, had been crushed and silenced. In England the Lollards were extinct. It looked as if the promise of a Reformation was gone. In fact, the Romanists thought so, and one of their orators, speaking from the pulpit addressed the members of the Lateran Council this way: “There is an end of resistance to Papal rule, and religion; opposers there exist no more!” This Lateran Council repeatedly issued edicts of excommunication against the slaughtered witnesses and ordered that Christian burial be refused them, and that the bones of those already buried be dug up and burnt.


   In 1514 a decree ordered that the bones of Wycliffe be dug up and burnt. The order was carried out in 1428 and the ashes thrown into the river Swift, which, as one writer said “carried them into the Severn and the Severn into the oceans of the world, a fit emblem of the Gospel, which by reason of the toils and trials of this great and good man, today embraces the world.”


   Despite all this, there are people today who teach and preach the Futurist doctrine (or entertain their imaginations with the Praeterist). Futurism is literalism, and literalism is a denial of the well-established method of expression used by God from Genesis to Jude. Futurism is an abuse and a degradation of God’s Word as well as a theft from the people of God, who should be given a clear, consistent message instead of a travesty.


   “three and a half days” represents three and a half years. One match, which seems to fit extremely well, is to count from the commencement of the Lateran Council in May 1514, when the orator pronounced ‘officially’ the final extinction to the Roman church, through to the posting of the 95 theses by Luther at Wittenburg, Oct. 31st 1517.


   The Romanists rejoiced, but God sparked the Reformation and it grew like a wild fire through dry grass. The “witnesses” went up into heaven, which means symbolically that the Reformers were advanced in power and authority and dominion, just as Christ was when He ascended.


   The “great earthquake” and the “city falls” etc. The power and influence of the Papacy collapsed. Many of the great leaders and rulers who backed the Papacy were brought down. The Reformation was a power unstoppable.


   Seventh trumpet.


   This may sound like the Second Advent, but it is not. We are still dealing with symbols, and we have a lot of history still to cover, so we must look to history for an explanation. Something utterly amazing and incredible happened as the Reformation took place. A combination of spiritually liberated people also became a politically free people. The work of Christian principles worked its way into government and many reforms began to take place. The British Commonwealth and America rose out of this framework world and became what we call the ‘Christian’ nations – though admittedly still far from perfect! 


   The Catholic nations of course were indignant and angry. God dealt with them accordingly. The symbolic passage about the judging of the dead refers NOT to the final end-of-the-Age resurrection, but to a fair retribution paid to those who had resisted the Reformers and tried to destroy the Gospel.


   The raging of the nations shows that, rather than repent, they became even more determined to regain the liberated people. This is what history shows. Many new attempts were made to destroy the Reformation – massacres, the Jesuits, the Tractarians, the Anglo-Catholic Movement, bribes, subtle teaching and so on. But God was on the Reformer’s side and all attempts to stop them met with retribution, of judgment. God avenged His murdered people and took vengeance on the persecutors…………..continued


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