Session 18

Revelation Study – Session 18


In this session we will resume looking at these seven scenes of celebration that compose Act 6 of this drama of redemption.  Overview the seven scenes of celebration:


1.      17:1-18 – Introductory scene designed to identify clearly the conquered enemy


2.      18:1-24 – Scene showing utter devastation of Rome


3.      19:1-6 – Heavenly choir giving praise to God


4.      19:7-10 – Heavenly wedding between the Lamb and His bride


5.      19:11-18 – Triumphal processional in heaven


6.      19:19-21 – Formal sentencing of the evil earthly leaders of Rome


Interlude (20:1-6) showing special recognition given to those who have been martyred for their faith in Christ.


7.      20:7-10 – The final defeat of Satan



In our last session we explored the first two scenes that are in chapters 17 and 18. 

  • 17:1-18 – Saw from the description of the defeated enemy it is abundantly clear John was referring to Rome...looked in detail at some of the symbolism in relation to the woman sitting of the scarlet beast with seven heads...v.9 tells us the heads represent the “seven mountains” on which the woman sits and also represent kings of the evil my opinion no question chapter 17 refers to Rome, the greats enemy of Christians in the 1st century...
  • 18:1-24 - Having clearly identified the enemy, John is ready to show us the utter devastation of the enemy territory-the great and wicked city, the center and citadel of wickedness.  John saw a mighty angel swoop down out of heaven whose brilliance lighted the whole battlefield so that all could see.  This chapter vividly contrasts the vast difference between the city’s former glory and the dismal darkness of its present state.


We turn from this picture of utter devastation, which indeed is a part of the celebration, to look at the more formal features of the celebration from the heavenly side. 


(The following material is from C.E. Colton’s Revelation: Book of Mystery and Hope and Ray Summer’s Worthy is the Lamb)


SCENE 3 – 19:1-6 – The heavenly choir giving praise to God

The scene opens with a great host in heaven singing a hallelujah chorus.  It is a song that attributes deliverance and glory and power to God because of his righteous judgments upon wicked, persecuting Rome.  It is not a song of rejoicing over the evil that has fallen upon Rome as much as it is a song of rejoicing over the triumph of righteousness and truth.  Above the wails and lamentation of fallen kings, merchants, and mariners, and above the noise of crashing walls and flaming streets is heard the song of the rejoicing saints that righteousness has triumphed over evil.  The destruction pictured in the fall of Rome was great.  But no greater than would have been the destruction wrought by godless nations and men and women allowed to proceed unchallenged and unhindered along the roads of cruelty, degeneracy, and persecution of the righteous people of God.  It is this triumph of righteousness that calls forth the hallelujah chorus.


The chorus repeats the hallelujah and John remarks that the smoke of Rome going up forever and ever is the thing that called forth this second hallelujah.  The destruction of Rome was not pictured as that of a city that burns to the ground and where men go in to remove the wreckage.  It is pictured as an eternal destruction, an eternal burning.  There is always fuel to add to the burning so that the smoke goes up forever and ever, and such a city can never be rebuilt.  With this second hallelujah we have the introduction of the four and twenty elders and the four living creatures as they join in the song of triumph and say, “Amen (so be it).  Hallelujah!”


A voice spoke from the altar with a command for all the Lord’s servants to praise him.  And at this point John heard the redeemed as a great multitude, as the voice of many waters and many peals of thunder take up the song, “Hallelujah!  For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.”


SCENE 4 – 19:7-10 – The heavenly wedding between the Lamb and His bride

The book of Revelation does not reveal the details of the marriage of the Lamb and the church.  By the time we get to that (chapter 21), the figure has changed and the marriage is not mentioned again, even though there is perfect union between Christ and the redeemed.  John does this often.  He did not show the releasing of the winds of retribution (7:1); he changed the figure to the trumpets.  He prepared the way for the Parthians to invade Rome (16:12), but he did not use them; he changed the figure and let an earthquake and giant hailstones do the destructive work.  In both instances the goal was reached.  So it is with the symbol of the marriage.


The vision is symbolical, certainly.  A few make it literal and tell when, who, where, what, and all about it.  One man was heard to say that is was a real marriage and that the apostle Paul would perform the ceremony because he had so much to do with the betrothal. All such ideas are fantasy and no more.  The Oriental marriage was a great and happy occasion.  But the public marriage ceremonies in John’s day had become so corrupt that the Christians could not attend.  Here is one where all may and will attend-they will be the bride when that final happy union with the Lamb comes.  The marriage was a beautiful symbol for the union of Christ and his church.  This is the reason for the joyous song of the triumphant redeemed.


SCENE 5 - 19:11-18 – Triumphal processional in heaven


The next triumph in the series is that of Christ.  Up to this point he has been pictured as Lion, Lamb, Judge, and now he is a victorious Warrior.  There appears to be little doubt that he is the One symbolized here.  The Christians who view the pageant see the curtains drawn to reveal one riding on a white horse, symbolical of victory.  The rider is called “Faithful and True,” “The Word of God,” and on his garment is written “King of kings, and Lord of lords.”  These names identify him as the Christ.  In the beginning of the book he was called “the faithful and true witness” (1:5; 3:7; 3:14).  One of John’s favorite terms for Christ is the “word of God”-God’s utterance to man.  The Lamb is identified in 17:14 as “Lord of lords, and King of kings.”  Aside from the names there are other marks that identify him:  “His eyes are a flame of fire” (1:14).  “Out of his mouth proceeds a sharp sword” (1:16).  “He shall rule them [the nations] with a rod of iron” (12:5).  “He treads the fierceness of the wrath of God” (14:20).  “He is arrayed in a garment sprinkled with blood” (Isaiah 63:3).


The victorious Warrior is not by himself.  He is followed by heavenly armies; all the riders are upon white horses and they wear pure white linen.  All this is symbolical of victory.  No statement is made as to whether or not they are armed.  Their Leader goes before them, and he is armed with the sharp sword that proceeded out of his mouth.  With it he is to smite the enemy into subjection and then rule them with the strength of iron.  The sword is best identified as “a spiritual weapon of resistless might.”  Some have called it the Bible since the Bible is spoken of as the “Sword of the Spirit.”  Others call it simply “Judgment,” a similar symbol to the sickle of chapter 14.  Whichever or whatever it is, it is a spiritual weapon of resistless might.  With it he wins the battle.


The victory is announced before the battle begins.  An angel standing in the sun, the direction from which light for a dark world comes, issues an invitation to the birds of the heavens to come together for a feast which God would provide for them.  They were invited to eat the flesh of kings, of military captains, of mighty men, of horses, of horsemen, of all men, free and slave, small and great.  The carnage of the enemies of God is going to be great.  The scene closes with the birds of prey flocking to the battlefield.



SCENE 6 – 19:19-21 – Formal sentencing of the evil earthly leaders of Rome

The sixth phase of the celebration will be the formal ceremony in which the earthly leaders of the wicked kingdom are given their official sentence.  This is always an exciting time in the celebration of any victory.  The leaders of the enemy, if not killed in battle, are immediately imprisoned; but later they are brought out and given an official sentence.  We have already seen the utter destruction of the wicked empire city.  Now John shows us the tragic end of the wicked themselves, with emphasis upon their earthly leaders-the first beast and the second beast (the false prophet).  The birds of the heavens are seen to gather around the carcasses of these dead enemies of the Lord for a great feast.  As we watch this ordeal we see the old beast, the earthly leader of the wicked empire, and his first assistant, the commune, as they are taken and cast into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.  At the sight of this we can well imagine that these persecuted Christians of Asia Minor as they read this portion of the book burst forth into a shout of praise, saying, “Hallelujah, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!”


As at various other places in Revelation, there has been much dispute as to the correct interpretation here.  The futurists look on this as a literal battle that will usher in the kingdom of God.  Writers of this group look upon the beast as the personal Antichrist of the last days and expect his army to be a military force, brought to Palestine for warfare against the Jews; by that time he will have complete possession of the land, and the Lord and his army will have to overthrow him to set up the millennial kingdom.


For the proper interpretation of the book, we must always seek for a starting point in the immediate age and circumstances of the writer, and of those for whose instruction, assurance, and comfort he writes.  This is a book thoroughly suited to the times in which it was produced.  Armageddon is not a place name; it is a symbolic term for a decisive conflict.  Christ is pictured as coming down from heaven, but this does not picture the second coming of Christ that is discussed elsewhere in the New Testament.  This scene symbolically represents his coming to the aid of the persecuted Christians with heavenly assistance in their spiritual struggles.  If the beast is identified with the emperor as he personified Roman Empire, there is no other explanation of this battle.  It is a vivid symbolical representation of the final victory of Christ’s cause and people over that pagan Empire.  The beast (Domitian) and the second beast (false prophet, Roman Concilia, state religion priesthood) were cast into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.  This is symbolical of their destruction.  Christ overcomes them; the Christians are bothered with them no more.  The conflict pictured is a spiritual conflict.


INTERLUDE BETWEEN 6TH AND 7TH CELEBRATION – 20:1-6 – The binding of Satan and recognition of martyrs

In the interlude between the sixth and seventh symbols we are privileged to see a very special feature of the victory celebration.  Many Bible scholars have dulled or almost obscured this picture for the average reader by their endless debates on one minor aspect of this phase of the celebration-the reference to the thousand years.  We will not take the time of space here to elaborate on the many various facets of this debate developed around the work millennium, a Latin work which means a thousand years.  The Greek word as used in our text is chilia.  The only other time this work appears in the New Testament outside the Revelation is in 2 Peter 3:8.  There Peter simply mentioned the fact that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”  It is an amazing thing that in this one brief passage we have the only reference to a millennium to be found in the Bible; yet volumes upon volumes have been written in an attempt to set out its apparent elaborate significance and meaning!


Whatever may be the significance of this reference to a thousand years, one thing is certain-the idea of a thousand years in this text is secondary and incidental, not primary.  John certainly had no idea of setting out an elaborate doctrine of millennialism by his use of the term in this text.  It is unfortunate that so may have become so engrossed in the theological technicalities of a millennial system of eschatology that they have become impervious to the blessedness of this aspect of God’s redemptive program and victory celebration.  It is incredible to think that men of no mean ability, realizing the symbolic nature of the book of Revelation and so interpreting many of the passages, will come to this particular passage and insist that it must be interpreted literally.


We have seen throughout our study that numbers in Revelation are symbolic and not literal.  “Ten” is a complete number, and “one thousand” is a high multiple of ten.  The number is to be understood as an idea of completeness.  It does not represent a period of years either before or after the second coming Christ.  Following, then, what we believe to be a path of consistency, I interpret the “one thousand years” to mean an appreciable time, not necessarily a literal thousand years.  Be that as it may, let us try to find the real significance of this total picture.  The old dragon himself, the devil, is laid hold of by an angel, chained, and cast into the bottomless pit for a thousand years.  During this thousand-year period, which John is privileged to see, the martyred dead are seen to reign with Christ in a beautiful and glorious millennium.   The actual duration of this thousand-year period is of minor consequence in the proper understanding of the true meaning of the text.


During this period, not all of the saints shall reign with Christ, as many have supposed-only the martyrs.  Literally, this description would limit those who reigned with Christ to those martyred saints of the Domitian persecution.  As we have said all along, John was thinking about those of his own generation; but the principle might well be applied to similar conditions of any generation.  We are safe, therefore, in saying that during this period all the martyred saints shall reign with Christ.


The significance of the picture is simply this:  Somewhere in God’s plan there will be a time and place in which God will give special recognition and tribute to those who have had to pay the supreme sacrifice of their lives for their faith in the Lord Jesus.   What a blessed comfort this must have been to those saints of Asia Minor who were constantly threatened with martyrdom, even as some of their fellow Christians had already suffered and had died for their faith!

From a study of the scriptures alone, without the aid of preconceived systems of eschatology, it appears that John knew nothing about a “millennium” in any sense in which the word is used as a theological term.  Premillennialists say that Christ will come and usher in a thousand-year period of Utopian peace and righteousness.  Postmillennialists say that the gospel will usher in a thousand-year period of peace and righteousness, at the end of which Christ will come.  A-millennialists say that there is no such thing as a millennium taught in the New Testament.  Preterists say that the millennium began when Christianity was made free of danger from heathenism about A.D. 300 (some place its beginning with the death of Christ) and that we are in it now.  Because of a conflict between these views, many evils have resulted in Christian history.  Fanatical zeal has been generated which has caused communities and churches to be torn asunder and fellowship and friendship destroyed. The cause of the kingdom of God has often been retarded because of an insistence on a literal meaning for a passage which is highly symbolical.  Altogether it has been largely an unprofitable experience.  It appears that the best thing to do is to study the passage in its context and against its background and thus determine its meaning for John and those for whose benefit it was first given-the persecuted Christians of first century Asia Minor.  Such has been the purpose of this study.  Perhaps the solutions suggested do not explain all the little details   Unanimity of opinion can never be reached on these details.  In spite of this, I believe this interpretation comes close to the truth which Christ wanted the broken, persecuted, discouraged Christians to see. [Summers]


SCENE 7 – 20:7-10 – The final defeat of Satan

Now we are ready for the seventh symbol and the climax of the celebration.  The interlude has given to us a picture of a special feature of the celebration.  Now we return to another aspect of it in which all the redeemed participate.  It, too, has been quite a battleground of theological controversy.  We are told that after this thousand-year reign “Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle” (vv. 7-8).  For those who had been watching these pictures of triumph, this scene perhaps comes as a shocking surprise.  According to the other scenes we had supposed that the battle was over and that the victory had already been celebrated.  But now we see the appearance of the old dragon going about rallying recruits for a battle against the redeemed of God.  How can this be?  After the matter is all settled, does the battle break loose again?  Is this a reference to some future battle which will actually be fought?  For those who insist on a literal interpretation, this could be the meaning; but once again let us try to see the idea or principle which John is trying to portray in this figurative picture.


This figure, like the others, is taken from the experiences of warfare.  Rather than being another conflict as such, it is really a climactic part of the victory celebration.  It was not at all uncommon in earlier days for the victors to celebrate their victory by bringing the captured leader of the enemy into their midst.  In order to add to his chagrin, the victors give him a certain amount of liberty which is well circumscribed and guarded.  In this apparent liberty the captured leader rants and raves while the people watch with glee.  Before he is able to do any harm he is overtaken by those who stand on guard.  Thus the victory is made all the more impressive.  This is exactly what was done by the Philistines when they overcame the Israelites and captured their leader, Samson.  As a part of their celebration they brought Samson out of his den where he had been blinded and placed him in their midst at a gala occasion in order to show how completely he had been subdued.  Of course, they did not realize in this particular case that God would let him have a moment of resurging power in order to get vengeance for his people.  But the idea is clear, and it was a very common practice in celebrating a victory.


The only other reference in the Bible to Gog and Magog is found in the thirty-eighth chapter of Ezekiel.  This reference by John is a commentary on this Old Testament passage.  One will have to admit that this is a rather strange battle which Ezekiel described in his vision.  Israel is pictured in peace and security with no attempt to defend herself against the enemy who approaches.  Without a struggle, as soon as the enemy arrives on the scene, he is smitten with an awful judgment directly from God.  The rest of the vision tells of a glorious celebration of victory on the part of the people of Israel.  In both passages the language is highly figurative, and we must interpret it as such.  If this is the meaning of John’s reference to Gog and Magog, it is also the meaning of Ezekiel’s reference to it; at least, this is the way John interpreted it since he uses the same symbolic language.  The only difference is that John’s version is a little more complete and is given to us in the fuller light of the New Testament revelation.  In both instances the struggle is already over, and the people of God are settled down in security and peace.  There is no struggle at all; and before any damage is done to the people of God, an awful judgment from God falls upon these forces of evil.


This, it seems to me, is exactly what John is depicting in this last symbol of victory.  The victorious redeemed are gathered together on Mount Zion for the last phase of their victory celebration.  The old devil is brought out of his pit where he had been placed.  He is turned loose in their midst to rant and to rave, thinking that he is free to wage war against the redeemed of God.  He gathers up his forces; but before he is able to harm a hair on the head of one saint, “fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them” (v. 9).  There is no actual conflict.  The redeemed watch with shouts of ecstasy as the old devil is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone to take his place in torment along with the beast and the false prophet.  This is the climax of a most magnificent celebration of victory.  We are almost breathless as we watch with John the victorious consummation of this sublime program of celebration.  Only one thing now remains.  We must see the permanent state of being after the celebration is over.  This will be the subject of our last episode in the drama of redemption.