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By Richard Gunther
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.
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:
– 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.
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
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
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
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.
– 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.
– 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.”
– 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.
– 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)
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
– 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
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
– 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
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.
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.
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
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.)
All the symbols are warlike.
Rome is here pictured, victorious and conquering.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 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
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.
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”
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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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