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Part 5 of 6

Chapter 14

THE BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON

The opening verse of chapter 15 says, "And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God." There is a continual representation that we are given-a series of signs proceeding from heaven. Many of the chapters begin with a new sign that John saw, and the disclosure is that these signs originate from the spiritual realm. There is frequent mention made of the wrath of God. It would be wrong for us to suppose that God is a vindictive, all- powerful agent visiting persecution and torment on mankind. What is meant by this; is simply the results of disobedience and rejection of His Law. It is simply that we reap what we sow, as Paul says in Galatians 6:7. God is not struggling and He is not on the verge of collapse or defeat. God rules, God reigns, God is victorious from the beginning of time. He is the Alpha and Omega. The Book of Revelation emphasizes once again, at this point, that it is the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It is not a forecasting of future events, but it is a revelation of the plan of God and the triumph of God through the ages.

John takes time out to follow the fortunes of those who have gone on before. In Revelation 15:2,3 we read, "And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints." The Apostle, at this point, demonstrates that many of the things that were prophesied in previous chapters are now history. The band of people he is viewing are those who have the victory over the beast, over his image, over his mark, and over the number of his name. The thing that is most prominent at this point is the song they are singing. That is the song of Moses, which is the song of Deliverance and the song of the Lamb, or the song of Redemption. Repeatedly, the group of the redeemed are singled out as those who have complete victory and who jubilantly express their victory in song, which is, of course, in praise. It is also notable that the singers exonerate and vindicate the name of God. They say, "G-eat and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints" (Rev. 15:3b). We see in this, exaltation and glorious approval of the redeemed saints extolling the majesty and absolute rightness of God's plan in the universe. This is amply demonstrated in the psalm of praise of those who have gone through the trials and persecutions of this world and who have won the victory over their temptations. Even the angels who proceed out of the temple, which indicates that they came from the presence of God, with the vials of God's wrath, are giving glory to God for His righteous government. Concerning God's wrath, we should not be alarmed by thinking that God is standing over the earth with its multitude of evil doers with a sort of club or vindictive execution of His Law. What is indicated is simply the expression and the result of adhering to or disobeying the Law of God.

It will be observed that the balance of the chapter deals with various vials that are poured out upon the earth resulting in further judgments against wrong doers. These culminate in a major confrontation between righteousness and evil that is described as Armageddon.

Armageddon gets its name from Megiddo, the place approximately ten miles from Nazareth, where some of the most decisive battles in Israel's history were fought. Consequently, it has come to mean the place where the great struggle between right and wrong is decided. A poem by James Russell Lowell describes in a measure the kind of a struggle the Christian is faced with: "Careless seems the great avenger, history's pages but record, one death-grapple in the darkness, 'twixed old systems and the Word; truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne-yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown, standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own." We must ever remember that what John saw was a sign, and it was described in symbols. Thus we do not have a great military exhibition with the clashing of arms and the boom of cannons, but we do see the continual confrontation of evil with righteousness. This is called Armaggedon. It is the are-long struggle between the people of God and the world of unbelievers.

There is not an immediate decision about the outcome of this struggle. The next thing that we read is that the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air. The convulsions in nature that followed this vial are almost indescribable, but we should notice that Babylon the Great came into the remembrance before God, "to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath" (Rev. 16:19b). While it would seem that we are nearing the end or the time when God's final outpouring of justice and judgment is meted out, it is evident that there are still things that have to take place before the final end is affected.

Chapter 15

THE JUDGMENT OF MYSTERY BABYLON

In many ways this chapter is an explanation of all that has been said before. It is therefore a pivotal chapter, and since it gives a detailed description of previous chapters, we shall deal with it in particular detail. The first verse of chapter 17 is as follows, "And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters." If we now consult verse 15, it says, "And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." Here we see that the waters represent the multitude, composed of tongues or races ruled by the great whore. As we have previously noted, waters are used in contrast to the earth and it indicates that people are astir or people are in turmoil or insecurity, whereas the things relating to the earth are stable and illustrate a world at peace.

In the third verse we are told, "So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns." In the first verse this great whore is sitting upon many waters, but in the third verse she is sitting upon a scarlet-coloured beast, the beast having seven heads and ten horns. The meaning of this is the relationship between the woman and the beast. The woman indicates that it is a religious complex where the influence is exerted, whereas the beast shows that it is a political basis and the two are working together. The seven heads and the ten horns indicate the relationship to the government and also the kingdoms which in total represent the realm of influence of this grim power we are examining. Now we read from the fourth verse to the sixth verse as follows: "And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration." You will notice that the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colors. These are the colors of royalty and indicate supreme power and royalty in the political and religious world. You will remember that Herod clothed Christ in a purple robe at the time of mocking Him before he sent Him back to Pilate. Since Christ claimed to be King, Herod mockingly clothed Him with the garment of a king.

As the picture unfolds, it is evident that it is not pretty. The cup in her hands was filled with the abominations and filthiness of her fornications. Today, one would not normally apply this depth of evil and this type of persecution to the Roman Catholic church, but during the Middle Ages, it was not an exaggeration. Many of the brothels at one time were operated by Cardinals. While history records the inquisition and every form of torture endorsed and sanctioned by the church, we say once again that this happened during the Dark Ages, and it would not be fair to say that it is a present day practice. It was, however, the condition and the practice that was carried out in times past, as history will abundantly prove. We will now quote the passage from Revelation 17:7-13: "And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. And there are seven kings: five have fallen, and one is and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition. And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast."

A little Acquaintance with ancient history will follow this step by step. The early church during the first two or three centuries was a thrilling, inspired missionary group spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. As the influence of the church mounted, its power in the political arena became stronger until the time of Constantine the Great who made Christianity the dominant religion of the Empire. In doing this he succeeded in getting the Christians to go to war, and the cross has been going to war ever since.

It will be observed in Revelation 17:9, "And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth." It may trouble some to see the seven heads symbolizing the seven mountains on which the woman sitteth, but in the next verse, the tenth, it says, "And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other has not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space." The double symbolism is correct. The city of Rome is built upon seven hills, but also, politically speaking, Rome was under seven different forms of government. Some commentators even go so far as to say there were seven Caesars or emperors who ruled the Empire during this period of time. It seems more correct to apply it to the seven different types of government under which Rome was ruled. This can be seen by the fact that at one time, the government was almost toppled and the Empire almost ceased to be able to continue. Then there was a revival of authority and power that restored it to its ability to continue ruling for a time. It would seem that Christianity effected a major victory when Constantine became the Emperor and made Christianity the official religion of the realm. However, Constantine succeeded in letting in many forms of paganism, and Christianity was over- whelmed by many who adopted nominal Christianity without having any experience of regeneration. Consequently, Christianity became infiltrated and to a great extent dominated by pagan influences. This is known as the rise of the Papacy in history. With the fall of Rome and the emergence of the ten different kingdoms, we have what was known as the Holy Roman Empire. This is epitomized in verse 13, which says, "These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast." The end of the influence of the seven different forms of government came with the fall of Rome and subsequently, that power was exercised by ten different kingdoms. History will record the names of each of these ten kingdoms. It will also endorse the fact that these ten kingdoms were one insofar as they all gave their allegiance to the Pope.

In Revelation 17:14 we read, "These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful." Thus we see that in the end there is a great confrontation between the Christians and the one that is described as the woman sitting on the beast who is called the great whore. Perhaps we should point out that the description of the great whore with its fornication and adultery and filthiness, applied to the political and moral decay of the so-called church, not the Bride of Christ owing her allegiance to Him that sits upon the throne in heaven. We see a woman sitting upon a scarlet beast compromising and cooperating with every political intrigue, and persecuting, even slaying those who are followers of the Lamb. This is simply history and is not meant to reflect on the practices of the present day. John goes on to say, "And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh and burn her with fire" (Rev. 17:16). We can see in this the change that will take place in the relationship of these ten kingdoms to the beast and the great whore that sits upon the beast. This also is history, and we can trace this to the Renaissance and what followed. A further description of this event is given in verses 17 and 18: "For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth." Thus we identify the woman with the city on the seven hills. She is the same woman who is described as sitting on the beast which had seven heads and ten horns. In the case of the dragon, the seven crowns were on the heads; and with the beast, the seven crowns were upon the horns. The influence of the papacy was exercised over all the kings of the earth at one time. The freedoms that we enjoy today have been blood bought and should be cherished. We see it expressed in a beautiful hymn called "Faith of Our Fathers." One verse says, " Faith of our fathers! living still, In spite of dungeon, fire and sword: 0 how our hearts beat high with joy, When ever we hear that glorious word." It goes on to say, "Faith of our fathers! holy faith! We will be true to thee till death!" This was the actual experience of thousands of people who endured the fire, the sword, the gladiators, the beasts of prey and all of the persecutions which they endured so faithfully, often at the cost of their lives or at least of their liberty. Another hymn was written by Isaac Watts. It says, "Must I be carried to the skies, On flowery beds of case, While others fought to win the prize, And sailed thro' bloody seas?" We must never cease to join in the anthems of praise to God for the privilege of serving Him and sacrificing and even of dying for Him. Revelation 17:18 says, "And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth." There are those who identify this great city as Jerusalem, but it is difficult to think of her in the role of reigning over the kings of the earth. Jerusalem has never done that since the days of David. On the other hand, Rome reigned over the kings of the earth for almost a thousand years, and it is this city which John refers to. Rome was often in the role of persecuting the true Christians and causing many to die a martyr's death rather then deny their Lord.

Chapter 16

THE FINAL FALL AND RUIN OF BABYLON

The Book of Revelation makes frequent references to Babylon and yet there is no evidence that there was a church in any city by that name. However, at one time, Babylon was the most important city in the world, and its name became associated with Rome. One of the places that is significant is in I Peter 5:13: "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son." According to tradition, the Apostle Peter went to Rome and died there as a martyr. While he was there, he wrote First and Second Peter, and he says the church that is at Babylon saluteth you. Babylon is mentioned four times in the Book of Revelation. Its fall was a major catastrophe. In the eighteenth chapter of Revelation John gives a very descriptive and detailed report of her fall and its effect upon the world.

We can enlarge on the fall of Rome almost without limit. It had become a place that was morally bankrupt. Free bread and free circuses were offered by the city to a population that was half slave and half free. Christians and slaves alike were tossed into the arena in mortal gladiatorial combats that shed endless rivers of blood. The defeated one would simply have a hook thrust into his body and the body would be dragged off the scene. At other times, lions that were kept hungry for several days would be turned loose on a company of Christians, while spectators in the vast arena shouted their glee as they watched the Christians die. Many emperors who were opposed to Christianity ordered the wholesale slaughter of Christians. Some Christians sought refuge in the safety of the catacombs. The catacombs were actually an underground cemetery, regarded as sacred. No Roman would enter there due to his fear of the city of the dead. Thus the Christians patronized these underground caverns and gave their Christian testimony there.

As we read the eighteenth chapter of Revelation, we can see how the tables were turned and the judgment of God rested on this doomed city. Over and over we hear the lament of the world saying, "Alas, Alas, that great city." In contrast with the lament of the nations we read in verse 20, "Rejoice over her, thou heavens, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her." We remember the prayer that was offered several chapters back in which the prayers of the martyrs was "How long, 0 Lord, how long? "They wanted to be avenged for the rivers of blood that was shed because of Rome as she tried to crush the Church. This is a description of the dragon that stood before the woman waiting to devour her seed as it was born (Rev. 12:4). Revelation 18:24 says, "And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth." We must remember that it was in Rome that the Apostle Paul finally poured out his life's blood for the Christ he loved and served so dearly. Paul's parting words can be found in 2 Timothy 4:6-8: "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." The word departure here is the one that is used when a ship has taken on its cargo and is ready to set sail for its destination. Paul is now ready to be offered, that is to say, he is ready to die and he is also ready for his departure to that heavenly country. He has the testimony of having fought a good fight; he finished his course and kept the faith. So he had no regrets. He left this life even as he started out on his Christian faith with confidence and with assurance that it was worth it all. It is reputed that Peter also died in Rome. It may be that he did, but we do know for sure that many martyrs did shed their blood in Rome. God is not blind or unconcerned with the death of all these saints. There is a time of reckoning. There is a time of judgment in which all things are made right. Rome had ruled with violence over many centuries of time, but at the end we read in Revelation 18:21 b, "Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all."

Chapter 17

THE HALLELUJAH CHORUS IN HEAVEN

The entire nineteenth chapter is given to praise and exultation on the part of believers. It begins "And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God." The nineteenth chapter seems like either an interlude or an anticipatory period of rejoicing that precedes the end. The twentieth chapter still goes back to deal with some of the adverse factors that have been the subject throughout Revelation.

As the great anthem of praise continues to swell from the lips of multitudes of worshipers, we find over and over again how God is praised. In the sixth verse it says, "Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth." These are the words that are found in Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" and they capture the glory and the victory that is due Him that is on the throne.

We must give proper recognition to what is described as the marriage of the Lamb and focus also on the Bride who has made herself ready. In verse eight it says, 'And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." In other places this is called the wedding garment, I am told that this linen is worth more than its weight in gold. It is extremely costly, and it is fitting that the saints of God have a covering for their nakedness, which is the righteousness of the saints. We are sure that this wedding supper will take place in due time, for we read in verse nine, "These are the true sayings of God" (Rev. 19:9b). In Revelation 19:10 we read, "And I fell at His feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." We do well to pay special heed to these important words. We see, and for the sake of emphasis will repeat, "For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Prophecy is not the unfolding of puzzles or time tables or future events. The purpose of the Bible is to reveal Jesus, and the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. We do not find e- vents but we find Him and possibly His association with events. Now let us look at Revelation 19:1 I b:"And I saw heaven opened, and be- hold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God." There is no doubt that this is the same white horse that we first saw in chapter six. A white horse and he who sat on it had a bow and he went forth conquering and to conquer. In this verse we look upon the same horse and rider after the conquest is over. The description of His eyes and the crowns on His head are like the one in the first chapter that describes the risen Christ. Now, however, His vesture has been dipped in blood, signifying the sacrifices that He has had to undergo in the progress of the gospel in the world. There is no mistake who He is, for His name is the word of God.

The armies that followed Him are the heavenly warriors who are also clothed in fine linen, white and clean. We are told in verse 15 that "out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations." We can see the symbolism that is used when it speaks about a sharp sword from -His mouth. This would not be a literal sword, because a sword would not proceed out of a literal mouth, but it is symbolism that is used to express how His Word cuts and conquers all who are influenced by His convicting message.

The victory of God is described in verses 17 to the end of the chapter. Here we are told that the victors could gather themselves together unto the supper of the great God. This supper includes feasting upon the flesh of kings and captains and mighty men and horses and them that sit on them, both free and bond people. They had gathered together to make war against the King of kings. Ultimately, they are vanquished. the beast that was presented through several chapters of Revelation is at last taken captive. The false prophet that wrought miracles before the beast with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast and them that worshipped his image was also taken captive. In the end, they are all taken and cast into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. Incidentally, brimstone is sulphur. Victory in this combat rests in the hands of the One called the King of kings and the Lord of Lords. God is still on His throne and the end of all things is safely in His hands.