By Charles H. Welch
Before any comment is made or any individual feature examined, let us see the structure of the book as a whole, for that settles its scope. (See overleaf).
This survey presents to the eye the whole book, and demonstrates at a
glance the fact that the central member ‘C’ is indeed not only central in
position, but is the pivot or platform of the whole. The seven-fold division
of visions is of great importance, the whole series being found in pairs,
that which takes place upon the earth being the result of that which has
taken place in heaven, which is not only a structural feature, but the
revelation of a principle. It will be observed that the seven assemblies are
brought into direct line with the new Jerusalem, and that little company of
overcomers is the underlying theme of the book.
Much of the failure to understand the Scriptures arises from the fact that we approach its pages thinking that we have to explain the Bible, instead of realizing that the Bible has been written to explain things to us. Further, we approach the various books of the Bible as though they had no connection with the rest of Scriptures, and thereby not only fail to perceive the beautiful design running through the entire Word, but miss a valuable key to its interpretation. In approaching the book of the Revelation, it is of the utmost importance to notice its place in the canon of Scripture, and the relation which it holds to the remainder of the inspired Word. The simplest and at the same time the most obvious relation is the connection of this last book with the first, viz. Genesis.
Genesis tells us of the creation, the Serpent’s deception, the loss of Paradise, the forfeiture of the right to the tree of life, the entrance of sin, death, and the curse. Revelation tells us of the new creation, the end of the Serpent’s deception, the restoration of Paradise, the right to the tree of life, and the blessed fact that there shall be ‘no more death’ and ‘no more curse’. Genesis 3 contains in a brief statement the great prophecy concerning the Seed of the woman, and the seed of the Serpent. Revelation shows us in fuller detail the final and complete fulfilment of this basic prophecy.
Coming to the New Testament we find in the opening book, the Gospel of Matthew, a striking and obvious connection between this Gospel of the Kingdom, and the Revelation. Matthew presents us with the coming of the ‘Son of man’ in lowliness, finally showing us His rejection by Israel as their King, His head crowned with thorns, and the Gentile successor to Nebuchadnezzar’s dominion preferred to the King of God’s appointment.
The Revelation has an answer to this, just as it has an answer to all that was said in Genesis. In the Revelation the Lord is seen coming again, still as the Son of man, this time in great glory; this time crowned with many crowns; this time to enter into His place as heaven’s appointed King to rule with a rod of iron, to overthrow the final blasphemous culmination of Gentile dominion, and to usher in that perfect kingdom concerning which all the prophets had spoken.
In studying the teaching of the New Testament books, a great deal can be gathered from the way in which they use the Old Testament Scriptures. When we find that Matthew refers to the Old Testament Scriptures more than ninety times, and that the epistle to the Hebrews contains in its short compass 102 Old Testament references, we are at once impressed with the fact that these books contain some line of teaching which has a real relationship with the purpose and people of Old Testament times. When we consider the Prison Epistles, and note how very few quotations they contain of the Old Testament, we are at once in possession of that which helps us to see that these epistles are not a continuation of the teaching of the Old Testament, but they are a revelation of something new, even as they themselves claim (see Ephesians 3).
What shall we say then, when we find no less than 285 references to the Old Testament in the book of the Revelation, or more than the references of Matthew and Hebrews put together? Surely this is a witness that must not be overlooked. Further, the visions, the symbols, the general character of the language of the Revelation is similar to that of Daniel, Zechariah, Joel and the Old Testament prophets generally. If we approach the Revelation with a mind stored with the teaching of the prophets of old, we shall not need explanation of much that would otherwise mystify us, and we shall be spared the utterly vain attempt to find, by ransacking the history of Europe, something approaching to an interpretation.
As a consequence of many years’ study, we hold very strongly that the Bible explains itself, and that all necessary information is found within its pages. If the child of God must possess a knowledge of the acts of Goths and Vandals, and of the tortuous intricacies of European and Roman history before he can understand this book, then but a very few can possibly hope to acquire sufficient data even to commence the study. This shuts us up to the few whose opportunities for research have been more advantageous than the majority, and finally calls us either to rest upon the conflicting findings of these frail and erring teachers, fallible as ourselves, or to turn away disheartened from this prophetic light that shines in a dark place.
The simplest believer who may never have heard of Caligula, nor of Alaric, to whom such phrases as ‘political heavens’ and ‘ecclesiastical suns’ may be utterly unintelligible, can nevertheless understand all the mind of God as revealed in this book without one single additional outside or historical allusion. Revelation studied in the light of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, Zechariah and Malachi, is luminous, and in turn reflects light on some otherwise difficult passages in those prophecies. This is particularly so in the understanding of the place that the seven churches occupy.
As we compare the Old Testament prophecies written before the captivity, and those written during and after the captivity, we shall find a marked change. Ezekiel’s prophecy is full of symbols, so also is Daniel’s; Zechariah devotes six chapters to symbols. This change, this important place given to symbols, is worthy of notice. During the time of Israel’s decline and failure, symbolic prophecy is in the ascendant. When we come to the Revelation we find these symbols referred to as ‘mysteries’, e.g., ‘the mystery of the seven stars’ (Rev. 1:20). Mystery first appears in the New Testament in Matthew 13, when Christ, as Israel’s King, had been rejected by the nation (see Matt. 11 and 12). It was because of this that He spoke in parables, and it is because Revelation deals with this same people, their final trouble and restoration, that we have so many signs or symbols in it. It is not until the seventh angel sounds his trumpet that:
Many opponents of the inspiration of the book of the Revelation have brought forward, among other arguments, the style and language of the book. One need not have a very great acquaintance with classical Greek to be able to point out the many departures from recognized rules of syntax which are to be found in the Revelation. What is important to observe is that these departures from pure Greek are not ‘barbarisms’, as Dionysius Alexandrinus called them, but are to be traced to the strong Hebrew current of theme and style running through this prophecy. The imagery of the book is peculiarly Jewish throughout; temple, tabernacle, ark, manna, covenant, altar, incense, priesthood, the rod of iron, the holy city, New Jerusalem, Jezebel, Balaam, Sodom, Egypt, the plagues so closely parallel to those of Exodus, all these figure largely in the Revelation. The vision of the four horses of Revelation 6 and the two witnesses of Revelation 11, are direct references and continuations of the same visions and prophecies of Zechariah. The angel of Revelation 10:5,6 is a direct reference to Daniel 12:7, while the opening vision of the Son of man in Revelation 1 is parallel to that of Daniel 10.
It has been pointed out already by others that the titles of Christ
used in this book link the Lord to the kingdom purpose, and not to the church
of the Mystery. The student is recommended to make a list of these titles.
He is called, the Son of man; the Almighty; the Lord God; the First and Last;
the Prince of the kings of the earth; the One Who is to come; the One Who
liveth; the Lamb; the Lion of the tribe of Judah; the Morning Star; the Root
and Offspring of David; and He Who has the Key of David.
A fuller list of parallels will be found in The Companion Bible,
Appendix No. 3.
The Day of the Lord (Rev. 1:10)
‘I came to be in spirit in the day of the Lord, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet’.
Verse 9 tells us that John came to be in Patmos for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus; verse 10 tells us that he came to be in spirit in the day of the Lord. The word and testimony were received by signs (‘He sent and signified’, verses 1 and 2) in the isle called Patmos, and are vitally connected with the statement ‘in spirit in the day of the Lord’.
There are four occasions where John tells us that he was ‘in spirit’, viz., Revelation 1:10, he became in spirit in the day of the Lord; 4:2, he became in spirit, and saw the throne in heaven; 17:3, he is carried away into a desert, in spirit, to see the woman sitting on the scarlet beast; 21:10, he is carried away in spirit to see the Holy City. When John is to be taken to a desert or a mountain he is ‘carried away in spirit’, and when he is transported into time, ‘the day of the Lord’, or to the future heavenly sphere, he writes, ‘I became in spirit’. For a full examination of this subject, see LORD's DAY.
The four references made by John find an echo and an explanation in the statement to a like effect by Ezekiel.
If in Revelation 1, John is taken, in spirit, to the future day of the Lord to see the visions and to write them in a book, All the book that he writes, including chapters 1, 2 and 3, must be future in interpretation. There is no part of the prophecy or vision that is not ‘in the day of the Lord’: in fact, the bulk of the book is concerned with the final three years and a half of the prophecy of Daniel 9.
When John says of anything ‘it is present’, or ‘it shall arise’, he speaks from the stand-point of his vision -- the day of the Lord, and not a.d. 96. No sign has been given to John however, so far as we have gone in our study. All is preparatory and introductory. Immediately, however, the prophetic point of time is settled, the visions begin, for as soon as he ‘became in spirit in the day of the Lord’ he ‘heard a great voice, as of a trumpet’. This is an allusion to Zephaniah 1:14-16 where ‘the voice of the day of the Lord’ is linked to ‘a day of the trumpet’. The voice said to John:
These places are all found in that part of the earth adjoining the land of Canaan called by us Asia Minor. The reason why this spot of earth and not another is chosen, is for the simple yet awful fact that it is directly connected with the place of Satan’s Throne, for that will be at Pergamos, as Revelation 2:13 shows. The development of things in the Near East makes this spot of earth more and more important, and here the scene of the Revelation is laid and members of the assemblies in these places will come prominently into view during the time of tribulation and persecution.
We have found that the apostle John was taken ‘in spirit’ to the day of the Lord, a period concerning which Old Testament prophecy is specially clear. From that standpoint the apostle sees the visions of the Apocalypse, and is here instructed to write them in a book, and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia. We can well believe that as Paul was commissioned to write to seven churches, which should be representative of the Gentile section of believers particularly, even so these seven churches in Asia may have been selected in order to show the character of the Church in the last days. If the ‘Lord’s day’ of chapter 1:10 be the prophetic ‘Day of the Lord’, then it follows that if John addressed seven churches in Asia while ‘in spirit in the day of the Lord’, these churches also fall within that prophetic period, and their connection with the rest of the prophecy should be capable of proof. Revelation 1:19 has been used as a proof text to show that the seven churches belong to ‘the things which are’, i.e. the churches of Christendom up to the time of the Second Coming. Revelation 1:19 however has been translated by Alford, Rotherham, Moses Stuart, Dr. Bullinger and others as follows:
Verse 20 immediately does this very thing:
The structure of the Revelation as a whole shows that the bulk of the
prophecy is a sevenfold alternation, covering chapters 4 to 20. As a test of
the relationship of these seven churches with the rest of the book, we will
place the first church over against the first of these pairs, calling it pro-visionally
‘The Ephesus Period’; the second over against the second pair, and
so on to the end. The results of such an arrangement are indicated in the
The seven churches are demonstrably an integral part of the prophecy of this book. We need neither the history of Christendom nor of pagan or papal Rome.
In the series entitled MILLENNIAL STUDIES which will be found in the prophetic section of this Analysis, the reader will find a series of links between the Overcomers of these churches, and the Millennial Kingdom.
The opening of the seals in Revelation 6 which let loose the judgments
of the Day of the Lord, finds a parallel with the prophetic forecast given in
Matthew 24 which can be exhibited thus:
The focus of events is the rise of the anti-christian Dictator at the
end of the times of the Gentiles, and chapter 13 must be included in our
The Two Beasts (Rev. 13)
‘The Devil is come down unto you, having great wrath’, and the most appalling programme of evil immediately ensues. The R.V. places the opening of chapter 13 at the close of chapter 12, and follows the critical Greek texts by reading ‘and he stood upon the sand of the sea’, instead of the A.V. reading ‘I stood’. Before attempting to analyse the intricate details of this chapter it will be necessary to look at it as a whole. It is divided into two parts closely related:
These two parts run parallel to one another in detail:
A 1. And I saw.
B 1. A beast rise up out of the sea.
A 11. And I saw.
B 11. Another beast arise up out of the earth.
In this chapter we have the ‘number of his name’ which is given as 666. The
reader is referred to the article entitled NUMERICS for light upon this
feature, and as an expansion of this theme, we give a diagrammatic
illustration using the dream of Nebuchadnezzar as our basis.
See drawing: Image of Nebukadnezar.
Babylon figures very prominently at the time of the end, and must be given a place in our survey. In Revelation 17:5 we read ‘Mystery, Babylon the Great’. This indicates a secret symbol of something deeper than a mere city. If, however, we are in ignorance or confusion as to the basis of this symbol, we shall not be ready to follow the inspired interpretation, and for the sake of clearness we must set before the reader the Scriptural history and prophecy concerning Babylon, before we go further into the intricate details of chapter 17.
Babylon, as the seat of government from which commenced ‘the times of the Gentiles’, is that great city which existed in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar; but Babylon, the mother of harlots, is that older city founded by Nimrod the rebel. Idolatry when traced to its source dips finally underground, and is found originating in the secret rites and teachings of ancient Babel, and idolatry with its associated obscenities is the dark and persecuting background of the whole book of the Revelation. The ancient mystery cults were all derived from Babel. Bunsen says that the religious system of Egypt itself, ancient as it is, was derived from Asia and ‘the primitive empire in Babel’. It is not our purpose to attempt to set forth the ramifications of the Babylonian system, the reader will find it most fully set forth in Hislop’s Two Babylons. There is practically no religious system on earth today that does not use the symbols, names, and ritual of this leavening cult of lies. What Jerusalem is yet to be in the hands of our God for blessing, Babylon has been and yet will be, in the hands of Satan, for a curse.
There are many expositors who believe and teach that the Babylon of the Revelation is the Roman Catholic Church. This we must set aside as not fulfilling the Scriptures. Isaiah wrote prophetically of Babylon. Did he speak of Rome or literal Babylon? Let him speak for himself:
The whole of Isaiah 13 should be read, and its many parallels with Revelation noted. Its time period is spoken of as ‘the day of the Lord’ (verse 9). Its signs are the darkening of the sun, moon and stars (verse 10). Its object is the punishing of the wicked and the proud (verse 11). Its accompaniments are the shaking of the heavens and the removing of the earth (verse 13). These four points of resemblance are enough to connect the Babylon of Isaiah’s burden with that of John in the Revelation.
When we read on into Isaiah 14 and hear the proverb taken up against the ‘King of Babylon’, we again realize that prophecy is pointing onward to the great apostate head of world rule who is to seek universal worship for himself, saying ‘I will be like the Most High’ (Isa. 14:4-23 and Rev. 13). Jeremiah prophesies concerning Babylon, and he too is careful to locate Babylon geographically:
One incident that dates the overthrow of Babylon is the return of both Israel and Judah:
This covenant has not yet been made. Isaiah speaks of Babylon as ‘The beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency’, and it is situated where it is a likely thing for Arabs to pitch their tents (13:19,20), which can have no reference to Rome, Pagan or Papal. Jeremiah 50 opens with the words, ‘The word that the Lord spake against Babylon and against the land of the Chaldeans’. The connection between Babylon and the land of the Chaldeans is seen again in verses 8,10,25,35,45; and chapter 51:4,24,35,54. Not only so, but the symbol of Babylon’s fall is connected with the river Euphrates (Jer. 51:63,64). We do not think words could be plainer. Supposing we agree that the Babylon of Isaiah and Jeremiah is literal, how does that prove that the Babylon of Revelation 17:18 is literal too?
Let us ‘search and see’.
We believe these parallels are too evident to need further remark. One question that demands an answer is:
May not the fall of Babylon have taken place already?
We will answer this question by noting:
(a) Marks of time.
The fall of Babylon synchronizes with the restoration of Israel and Judah. It must therefore be future. Further, the Scriptures already considered declare that this blow shall fall in the Day of the Lord.
(b) Other signs.
The fall of Babylon is placed in a setting of world-wide judgment.
The fall of Babylon is accompanied by signs in the heavens.
This is dated for us in Matthew 24 as being ‘immediately after the tribulation of those days’, and is closely connected with the Lord’s parousia.
The fall of Babylon is to be sudden.
The gradual decline of Babylon in no sense corresponds with this emphasis upon its sudden end. In the days of Alexander the Great, Babylon was a city strong enough to have attempted resistance against him. It did not do so, but welcomed the conqueror, who commanded the rebuilding of its temples. Babylon therefore was not suddenly destroyed when the Medes took the kingdom. In the time of Tiberius, Strabo speaks of Babylon as being ‘to a great degree deserted’. Peter wrote his epistle from Babylon, where a church had been formed. In a.d. 460 a writer says that Babylon was only inhabited by some Jews, and from Babylon soon after this was produced the Babylonian Talmud. In a.d. 917 Ibn. Hankal speaks of Babylon as ‘a small village’. In a.d. 1100 a fortified town is mentioned named Hillah (from Arabic to rest, to take up abode). In a.d. 1811 Hillah was visited by Rich who found a population of between six and seven thousand Arabs and Jews. The land which supports even this number of people cannot be called ‘desolate -- that no man shall dwell therein’ (Jer. 50:3). If Hillah had been built out of the stones that composed the greater buildings of Babylon, then the words of Jeremiah 51:26 have never been fulfilled: ‘They shall not take of thee a stone for a corner, nor a stone for foundations; but thou shalt be desolate for ever’.
No useful purpose will be served by lengthening these evidences. We believe that the testimony of Scripture is clear and unambiguous: that Babylon, in the land of the Chaldeans, on the Euphrates, will be revived to accord with the description of Isaiah 13; Jeremiah 50 and 51 and Revelation 17 and 18: that in the day of the Lord, and accompanied by signs in the heavenly bodies, Babylon will be suddenly destroyed and become like Sodom and Gomorrah. Throughout the thousand-year reign of Christ, Babylon will remain a witness to all the world; a prison house of every unclean spirit; a place shunned and abhorred by all men. In direct contrast with this will be the glory of restored Israel and the city of Jerusalem.
We look upon Rome and Romanism as one of many corrupt streams that flow from Babylon, but do not believe that this most corrupt daughter can be called the mother of all the abominations of the earth. The issues are vaster and deeper than can be contained within the history of the professing church, and we believe that the united testimony of Scripture demands a future rebuilt Babylon followed by utter destruction at the coming of the Lord.
The consummation of the book is the marriage of the Lamb and the reader
is referred to the article BRIDE and the BODY which deals with this great
subject. He Who said on the cross ‘It is finished’, will one day, as a
sequel, say from the throne, ‘It is done’, for He will make all things new.
The structure of Revelation 21:1-5 is as follows:
At the close of 22:1-5 we find paradise restored. It will be seen therefore that there are to be a series of steps ever back to ‘as it was in the beginning’.
We have already suggested that the new Jerusalem is closely associated with the ‘overcomer’, and a glance back to some of the promises in Revelation 2 and 3 will show that some of them are not fulfilled until after the Millennium:
In these four passages, we have four items that are connected with our subject:
It will be found that Nos. 2 and 3 are indicated in 21:8 and 27, where the two statements ‘the second death’ and ‘the book of life’ are mentioned in connection with the new Jerusalem.
The very close resemblance between the Tabernacle and the City becomes evident upon examination. The materials for the Tabernacle are given in Exodus 25:1-7, and they are gold, silver, brass, blue, purple, scarlet, precious stones, etc. The breastplate of the high priest contained twelve precious stones. These closely resemble the twelve precious stones with which the foundations of the wall were garnished. There is also an intended contrast with Babylon. In Revelation 17 and 18 we have the mystery of iniquity and there we read of purple and scarlet, gold and precious stones and pearls in the description of the harlot, and among the merchandise of that great city we find gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, fine linen, purple, silk, scarlet. Again, in the description of the king of Tyre (Ezek. 28:12-19) who sets forth in symbol, Satan, we have a description which includes ‘every precious stone’, and nine precious stones are mentioned by name.
The great city, Babylon, falls to rise no more; the great city, new Jerusalem, which descends from God out of heaven, manifests the triumphant conclusion of one phase of the conflict of the ages.
We may observe here that one feature of the Tabernacle which is given first place in Exodus 25 is the one feature mentioned in Revelation 21.
The new heaven and the new earth, of Revelation 21:1, take the place of the ‘former’ heaven and earth (see verse 4 where the same Greek word is translated ‘former’ correctly). Genesis 1:1 is not in view, but the limited heaven and earth of the six days creation.
Isaiah 65 and 66 speak of this new heaven and new earth, and link them with Jerusalem. While in Jerusalem itself, as in the Heavenly City, there shall be no more crying, we find ‘death’ and ‘carcases’ still spoken of in the regions beyond.
This, and other related problems are more fully considered in Part Nine of this Analysis, under the heading MILLENNIAL STUDIES. We must now pass on to the more detailed description of the new Jerusalem, which commences at Revelation 21:9. The intervening verses (5-8) form a transition:
Some authorities read ‘they have been accomplished’, even so the sense
of fulfilment remains unaltered. The word gegone, ‘it is done’, is the word
that was uttered as the last vial of wrath was poured out ‘and great Babylon
came into remembrance before God’. At this utterance ‘every island fled
away, and (certain) mountains were not found. And there fell upon men a
great hail out of heaven’ (Rev. 16:19-21). Here we see the contrast.
The reader may lengthen this list; we have given enough to show the evident contrast between the two cities and the two conflicting purposes that attach to them. The mystery of iniquity ends in destruction utter and complete; the mystery of godliness ends in glory beyond description. Who is it that sits upon the throne? Who is it that says ‘Behold, I make all things new’? Who is it that says ‘It is done’?
This title has occurred in Revelation before, namely, in chapter 1:8. There it is shown to be parallel with the great name Jehovah, and with the Almighty:
It is also closely associated with death and resurrection:
Both Alpha and Omega are vowels. A vowel is required to form a complete sound. Without Christ the promises of God can never be fulfilled, but with Him every jot and tittle shall be accomplished. He Who bowed His head upon the cross crying, ‘It is finished’, shall one day sit upon the throne and say ‘It is done’.
As we review the black night of tribulation that casts its gloom over
this book; as we see the persecution of the saints, the mark of the beast,
and the worship of the dragon, our hearts unite with that of John in response
to the word of promise. Amen. Even So, Come, Lord Jesus.