DIGRESSION 9: The Seven
Final Visions Of Revelation
of the keys to understanding Revelation is to realize that it is structured
as a series of visions based around the number seven. It must also be
understood that as with many Old Testament prophecies, the book of Revelation
is not strictly chronological in its fulfilment.
Sometimes we read something which is actually the final picture, and
then we read how this situation came about. At other times, we find
a series of visions give us as it were 'snapshots' of different aspects
of the same process. The seven final visions are introduced by the rubric
"And I saw...". It is my suggestion
that they each show different aspects of the process of setting up the
Kingdom. All references are to Revelation unless otherwise stated.
thoughtful student of the final chapters of Revelation will realize
that there are difficulties in 'fitting in' our usual view of the Millenium
with the information presented there. The suggestion is made in these
notes that the "thousand years" simply means 'a very long
time', and refers to eternity. This solves the problem that a rebellion
at the end of the 'Millennium' would contradict Is. 9:7; 60:18; Jer.
3:17 and other passages which teach that "they shall learn war
no more" after the Kingdom is established. The wrath of God is
finished when the seven last plagues are poured out (Rev. 15:1
RV), at the Lord's return, i.e. at the beginning of the 'Millennium'.
At the coming of Christ, the powers represented by the dragon and beast
are defeated and chained up. The dead are raised and judged. The rejected
join the dragon in the 'bottomless pit', an area on the borders of the
land of promise, i.e. the initial geographical extent of the Kingdom.
Here they are restrained, but once the Kingdom is established, perhaps
after a period of 7 years or so, they 'attack' the
land of Israel, where the Kingdom of God
has been established. They are then destroyed. The Kingdom then continues
eternally. The descriptions of a judgment seat in these final chapters
are all related to the same judgment seat, i.e. that when Christ returns.
The OT prophecies of a 'Millenium' with mortal
people in it either apply to the setting up period of the Kingdom, or
they are to be read in a more figurative way.
First Vision: 19:11-16
Christ goes out to make war, the Beast and his armies go out to make
war against Him (v.19)- head on conflict.
Cp. our name in the Kingdom; no-one can enter into Christ's sense of
resurrection and reward; there will always be an unreachable, untouchable
element in him throughout eternity. Surely this makes our relationship
with Him the more appealing.
Second Vision: 19:17,18
19:17 birds of prey gathered together = Ez. 39:17-20;
therefore Gog / Magog
= Beast and false prophet (19:19). This = 14:18-20, which is Joel 3:13.
Therefore Joel 3 and Ez. 38/39 are parallel.
Third Vision: 19:19-21
This is war with Christ- therefore Ez. 38/9
= after Christ's return- the Psalm 2 scenario. He is already crowned,
19:19 The beast, the kings
of the earth and their armies 'gather together' to fight against Christ.
This is the gathering of 16:13,14; they are gathered together by the power of
the false miracles. Thus v. 20 mentions how "the false prophet
that wrought miracles before [the beast]" is captured with the
beast- the scene of 16:14.
"that wrought miracles"; the connections between Revelation
and John's Gospel tke us back to the miracles
of Christ, for which John uses the same phrase (Jn. 2:11,18; 3:2; 4:54;
6:2,14,30; 7:31; 9:16; 10:41; 11:47; 12:18,37; 20:30. Thus the false
prophet is an anti-Christ,a
fake Christ with fake power and fake validation.
19:20 Destruction of the beast by fire = Dan. 7:11; Is. 30:30,33 (who
is "the king"?). The beast and false prophet are cast into
the lake of fire. This is the lake of 20:14,15; 21:8- where the unworthy saints are thrown.
Thus the punishment of the rejected and that of the world is the same;
and therefore there must be a separation now, lest we be "condemned
with the world" (1 Cor. 11:). "Burning
with brimstone" / sulphur recalls Sodom- where the unworthy believers shared the same
fate as the 'world' around them. Lot's wife was
turned into salt, as was the surrounding country (Lk. 17:29).
"The lake of fire"
will be in the presence of Christ (14:10)- not underground. "Cast alive" suggests
torture; cp. 14:10 "tormented". Others are simply killed
outright by Christ's word of command (20:21).
This would suggest that even among the unresponsible
there are degrees of punishment.
a pit and fire as punishment cp.
of Daniel and his friends.
Fourth Vision: 20:1-3
20:2 Satan is bound. Surely
'satan' here is the political forces of the dragon, not abstract sinfulness.
Satan in the sense of the power of the flesh was bound by the Lord during
his life and death (Mt. 12:29). However, it may be that the Lord's binding
of satan was only for believers; he still has
the power to bind (Lk. 13:16).
1000 years- i.e. for ever? Note the difference between binding and sealing.
20:3 The pit is s.w. Lk.
8:31,33, where the demons ask Christ not to send them
into the abyss; the parallel record says that they asked not to be sent
out of the land of Israel (Mk. 5:10). Also Rom. 10:7 uses the abyss as a term
for the lands beyond Israel (it is referring to Dt. 30:13). The beast
that comes out of the abyss comes out of the sea (11:7; 13:1). It seems
that the geographical area outside Israel
from where the beast comes (i.e. the Arab world?) is where it is returned
to for punishment.
Loosed a little
season once eternity (the "1000 years") is established. "Fulfilled" = s.w. accomplish; to establish, build up (Lk. 22:37; Gal. 5:16;
James 2:8; LXX: Ruth 3:18; Is. 55:11; Dan. 4:30). The little season
cp. 6:11- the time of persecution just before the Lord's return. Do
the forces of evil try to persecute the saints by repeating their behaviour
during the holocaust period which lead up to the Lord's return? If that
lasted 3˝ years, will their rebellion last a similar 3˝ years? Both
periods are described as "a little season".
Fifth Vision: 20:4-10
"Them that were beheaded". Death by beheading was only for
Roman citizens; is this reference a special recognition of the sacrifice
of those who could have had much in life, but gave it up for the sake
of God's Truth?
Saints sitting on thrones =
the throne of the beast is cast down, and judgment given to the faithful.
word of God" = the preaching of the word; the word is designed
by its very nature to be preached.
"But the rest"- those not among the righteous, v.4.
not again (no, not even when) the thousand years were established".
For other examples of this idiom see 2 Sam. 6:23; Dt. 23:3 cp. Neh.
13:1. Who are the "rest of the dead"? The wicked responsible,
raised to judgment along with the righteous? The rest of humanity?
"The first resurrection"
doesn't have to imply that there is a second one chronologcially.
says there are two resurrections; the first, to life, and the second
to death. The second death is this second resurrection to death.
20:8 Gog and Magog.
The similarities with Ez. 38/9 are so strong; an invasion of God's land
when His people are in "peace and safety" (a phrase elsewhere
used about the Kingdom), destruction by fire. According to the usual
view of Rev. 20, this similarity means absolutely nothing. This cannot
be correct exposition. There must be a connection; surely this must
refer to the same invasion?
"Shall go out"- implying the bottomless pit is a geographical
deceives the "nations"; but 21:1 says that when the Kingdom
is established, there will be no more sea, no more nations. Therefore
this must be appropriate to the beginning of the Kingdom. During the
setting up period, the nations come up to worship Christ, as often prophesied
in the OT; however, they are described as entering into the city (21:24-27),
i.e. attaining immortality through their faith and obedience.
The dragon "will come out
to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth/ land"
(RSV). The Gog / Magog invasion comes from
those dwelling in the "isles" (Ez. 39:6); but this Greek phrase
often means Gentile areas on the borders of the land (Is. 41:5; Jer.
47:4; and "the isles" in Ezekiel refer to Arab lands bordering
the land of promise). Abraham was from the sides of the
land of Israel
(Is. 41:8,9), the margins of the land of promise-
from where the final Arab invasion will come.
There is triple emphasis on
his deception (vv. 3,8,10). He continues the
work of the false prophet, after the false prophet is put into the lake
of fire. The dragon carries on his work; the false prophet is
Babylon (19:20), who also deceived (18:23). The bottomless pit, where the rebellion
comes from, is therefore at the borders of the land. The Kingdom of God is fundamentally based upon the land of Israel. They
are gathered to "the battle" (RV)-
the final battle which the OT prophets so often mention.
The dragon was a deceiver back
in 12:9, and still is, as Jezebel in the early church deceived (2:20). The dragon of chapter 12 is cast down at
Christ's return; the description of the dragon being cast into the pit
is an amplification of this. When the dragon is thrown down in chapter
12, he persecutes those of the land (natural
Israel?) and the sea (the nations?) for "a short
the "little season" of 20:3? The dragon is cast out of heaven
in 12:9- meaning that he is thrown out of the 'heavens' of the land
of Israel (or the temple specifically), into the earth / world.
The dragon persecutes the woman
for 3˝ years
The holocaust before Christ's
Thrown out of the temple /
land of Israel
(heaven) to the earth / rest of the world
Dragon cast to the abyss
Christ comes to throw the man
of sin out of his place in 'heaven' (2 Thess. 2)
There for a while until he
realizes he has a short time
Setting up of the Kingdom
Makes war with the saints
for another 3˝ years, replicating the holocaust, also involving
suffering for the sea (nations) and the land-dwellers (natural
Makes war with the saints;
aims for Jerusalem.
Rebellion; the invasion of
Ez. 38 and maybe Joel 3; the desire for the temple in Joel 3 would
then be another similarity between the rebellion and the invasion
prior to Christ's return.
Destroyed by fire
The Ez. 38/39 invasion is destroyed
in two stages; five sixths are destroyed first, then the final
sixth- by fire.
s.w. Lk. 21:20. As they did during the invasion of the land prior to
Christ's coming, so they will do in this re-enactment of it.
rejected saints and defeated Arab armies will make the rebellion of
20:9. This will connect with the rebellion of Korah and his company
of rejects against the encamoment of God and
His faithful people- which was also destroyed by fire. The lake of fire
/ bottomless pit / second death all seem to be parallel.
20:10 The dragon is in
the abyss and deceives the nations which are there. The devil will deceive
during the rebellion as it did in the period of the holocaust before
the Lord's return (12:9; 13:14; 18;23;
The devil is cast into the lake
of fire and brimstone, where the beast and false prophet already are.
This suggests that their punishment lasts until the Kingdom is established,
and until the "little season" of the rebellion is finished.
Thus it would seem that the punishment of the wicked and rebels is to
exist for some time into the Kingdom age. A number of passages tend
to agree with this. The righteous will go forth from the borders of
the promised land and look at their carcases
(Is. 66). The rejected saints go to the same place (20:15),
condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11).
The sea giving up the dead doesn't refer to
dead bodies floating upwards; sea = nations (17:5), which won't exist
after the Kingdom is established (21:1); therefore this refers to the
judgment at Christ's return.
Is the bottomless pit to be
equated with the lake of fire? A place of punishment?
The rebels are punished and then those who survive (i.e. those deserving
more punishment) are sent back to this area, where they are punished
for a long time, day and night for ever (20:10). But there
will be no day and night as such in the Kingdom (21:25;
22:5). Therefore we must take this description of their punishment figuratively.
Sixth Vision: 20:11-15
20:11 is amplified / repeated in 21:1. This is about
the judgment at the second coming, not the end of the 'Millennium'.
Earth and heaven flee away (cp. 6:14)- the old human system. "There was no place found for them"
= Dan. 2:35 re. the
human system beign destroyed at Christ's second
coming, not the end of the 'Millennium'. This is surely the new heaven
and earth of 21:1; that of Is. 65:17 and 2 Pet. 3:13, which will be
established at Christ's return. The opening of the books (20:12) = Dan. 7:10;
12:1, which concern the start of the 'Millennium'.
The destruction of death = the second death,
which occurs at the judgment (21:8), when Christ comes. The second death
can't happen twice, at the start and
end of the Millennium. Death, sorrow etc. (21:4) are destroyed for us,
the believers; this is believer-centric language. Likewise "men"
in 21:3 = the believers, not all human beings then alive (some will
still be enduring punishment).
Seventh Vision: 21:1-8
connects with Is. 65, concerning the establishment of the Kingdom, not
after the Millennium.
No more sea, i.e. nations, 17:15
Heaven and earth pass away, the former (Gk. proton) things pass,
v.4- the things that were once first place now pass.
"The bride" is married at the marriage supper (19:7-9)-
not at the end of the Millennium. Therefore this is about the setting
up of the Kingdom at Christ's return.
"The tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them,
and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and
be their God" (21:3) = Ez. 37:26,27, concerning
the time of Christ's return. If God lives with us at Christ's return,
how will He be shielded from the 'mortal' population? This problem dissapears if the 1000 years is seen as a description of the
= fulfilment of Gen. 17:3.
21:4 wiping away tears s.w.
sin blotted out at Christ's return. Tears = for our sins (sorrow = sin
in Is. 53).
we have an emotional breakdown straight after the judgment?
to mortals to drink fountain of water of (eternal) life freely, as the
river in chapter 22, implies the mortals will be progressively granted
immortality during the setting up period.
21:24 Gk. speaks of the nations of those who are
being saved. We, now, take the water of life (22:17; Jn. 4:14;
Mt. 10:8). The mortals will replicate then our experience now. Therefore
we can preach to them from our personal experience and they can follow
our pattern of redemption.
will give the water of life freely then to the mortals- as he did in
his mortality. It's the same Jesus, with no fundamental change. Freely
we received, freely give- not a reference to not charging for the Gospel,
but a command to reflect the gracious enthusiasm for our salvation which
we have received from the Lord.
people are the responsbile of
20:15, those of 22:15
who are placed (Geographically?) outside the encampment of the people
The fearful- s.w.
only Mt. 8:26; Mk. 4:40
re. disciples. We either have faith or no faith;
there's no third road. "I believe, help thou mine unbelief"
was counted as faith. On the other hand, "O ye
of little faith. How is it that ye have no faith?".
The unbelieving- s.w.
re. the disciples (Mt. 17:17; Jn. 20:27; Tit. 1:15).
only s.w. elsewhere in Rev. re. believers
murderers, whoremongers (s.w. re.
believers in 1 Cor. 5:9,11; Heb. 12:16; 13:4),
sorcerers, idolaters, liars". These are the refjected
saints. It means that in essence this is how God sees some in the ecclesias.
Or does it show that far more people than we expect will be classed
as responsible to judgment?
This overall sequence of judgment
on the kings of the earth, gathering them into a pit, shutting them
up, then their revival and final destruction and then the unchallenged,
eternal reign of Christ is the same sequence as in Is. 24:20-23. Very
significantly, Psalm 2 has a similar picture, of Christ ruling amidst
his enemies, "the kings of the earth" (cp. Rev. 19:19), who
then decide to cast away the cords with which Christ has bound them
(Ps. 2:3). This is exactly the scene of Rev. 20; the enchained remnants
of the first invasion, along with the rejected saints, being loosed
from their chains and surrounding Jerusalem.
Interestingly, Psalm 2 describes them throwing off their chains, whilst
Rev. 20 says that their chains of condemnation are loosed. Presumably
this means that they try a rebellion against the Lord Jesus which he
'lets' succeed. The language of Rev. 19:15-18 combines allusions to
both Psalm 2 and also Ezekiel 38- as if to imply that they both prophecy
of the same invasion, i.e. that after Christ has returned.
can construct a possible timeline of events from the evidence here presented:
invasion; 3˝ year domination of
and punished, some immediately, others by being placed outside the confines
land of promise, i.e. the Kingdom. The rejected 'saints' also go there.
They are 'chained', i.e. kept out of the territory which comprises the Kingdom. They rebel against
this period of 'chaining' and punishment, the Kingdom is established.
invasion aims for the temple (Joel 3; Ez. 38) .
It replicates the earlier invasion, prior to Christ's return. He is King
(Psalm 2). The rebellion lasts a short time- maybe 3˝ years?
It is destroyed by fire (Ez. 39).
with the first invasion, some are destroyed immediately, others are
punished in a certain geographical area on the borders of the
Kingdom, for a very long time.