John's view of the Great Tribulation from apocalyptic language.
Sun, 30 Aug 2009 11:01:00 +0000
Before we start the last study on the great tribulation let me say please do not let anyone ever tell you that any scri pture in the Bible has nothing to do with salvation. All of the Bible is about God’s plan of salvation form the book of Genesis to Revelation.
People have had the desire to understand the book of Revelation but many have often given up due to the highly apocalyptic language within the book. "The book of Revelation is apocalyptic; therefore, I can never understand it." Well the truth is God never meant for the book of Revelation to be a great mystery to Christians.
The first thing one must understand about the book of Revelation is that it is a book composed almost entirely of symbols ..... symbols that a first century Jew would have found immediately recognizable. These symbols were used before in such books as Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Zechariah. They are closely associated with the book of Revelation.
For example in the Tabernacle the only light in the Holy Place would have come from the golden lampstands. We find the details for the lampstands listed in Exodus 25. And we find the symbolic use both in Zechariah 4 and Revelation 1. In the case of Revelation reference Christ is the source of the light. Zechariah used the lampstands in a similar manner, as Jehovah God is the light source.
So John would naturally borrow from their Old Testament Jewish imagery and symbols. Many of the events recorded in the Old Testament were strikingly filmier whether in reality or symbolically to the Jewish Christians of that day. Bringing those events to memory would serve to drive home the messages in Revelation.
These symbols were not selected as (fill in) by the Holy Spirit when He inspired the book, and they do not stand for just anything we may desire in our future. These symbols were not strange to John's original audience to whom the book was written. These symbols were generally understood that Revelation drew on spiritual truths and historical realities. Symbols were like flags being raised that great tribulation was coming. While those being warned would not heed it. Believers, understood these symbols as signs of victory.
John’s writing in Revelation 17:1-18 is quite unique as he takes a series of pictures that when put together become a full-motion picture. John is like the photographer who, in capturing a scene, takes pictures from many different angles, that can be seen throughout the book. John will take a series of pictures and then he will move around to a different point of observation. Here John tell the same story of the great tribulation but in apocalyptic language.
We begin with John’s snap shot of (Revelation 17:1-2) Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, "Come, I will show you (the judgment) of the (great harlot) who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth (committed fornication), and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication." (emphasis added)
The women here is pictured and introduced as a prostitute women. This arrangement with Roman can be seen beginning with the crucifixion of Christ. The Romans had no desire to kill Jesus. It was the wicked Jews who shouted ‘Crucify him! Crucify Let his blood be on us and our children (Matthews 27:22-25). And it was the wicked Jews who said. "If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar's friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar." (John 19:12)
Spiritual fornication or harlotry in scri pture indicates the breaking of God’s covenant, or a departure from his ways (Ezekiel 16: 6-22). The LORD said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: "Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. (Jeremiah 3:6) The nation of Israel had been in covenant relationship with God for 15.000 years, and had been referred to as a women married to the Lord, had sworn faith and love in all things to her rightful husband; but as was so often the case in Old Testament apostasies, even so now in the day of her redemption and visitation, she has shamefully forsaken and rejected him in whoring after strangers. (Jeremiah 3:20 concerning Jerusalem) Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, So have you dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel.’ says the Lord.
What is meant by she sits on many waters or lives by many waters’? This terminology is used in (Jeremiah 51:13) concerning the ancient city of Babylon were it was first applied.. There it denoted the vast expanse of influence she had in both civil and political realms. "waters" in Revelation often signifies "people" or nations instead of "H2O." (Dwelling upon many waters) denoted the broad expanse of the Babylon kingdom in the exercise of its political and civil power. Babylon was the civil king of that day. Jerusalem was to the world religiously what Babylon was politically.
John new move around to a different point of observation. So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a (woman sitting on a scarlet beast) which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. (Revelation 17:3) Here the harlot women is riding or sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
An interpretive angel appears for the express purpose of explaining the vision: "But the angel said to me, "Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns." (Rev 17:7). Then in verses 9 and 10 this angel explains the vision: "Here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitting. And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space."
Most evangelical scholars recognize that the seven mountains represent the famed seven hills of Rome. The recipients of Revelation lived under the rule of Rome, which was universally distinguished by its seven hills would have immediately recognizable this symbol. How could the recipients, living in the seven historical churches of Asia Minor and under Roman imperial rule, understand anything else but this geographical picture of John?
But there is an additional information involved. The seven heads have a two-fold referent. We learn also that the seven heads represent a political situation in which five kings have fallen, the sixth is, and the seventh is yet to come and will remain but a short while. It is surely no accident that Nero was the sixth emperor of Rome, who reigned after the deaths of his five predecessors and before the brief rule of the seventh emperor.
Flavius Josephus, the Jewish contemporary of John, clearly points out that Julius Caesar was the first emperor of Rome and that he was followed in succession by Augustus, Tiberius, Caius, Claudius, and Nero (Antiquities 18; 19). We discover this enumeration also in other near contemporaries of John: 4 Ezra 11 and 12; Sibylline Oracles, books 5 and 8; Barnabas, Epistle 4; Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars; and Dio Cassius’ Roman History 5.
The text of Revelation says of the seven kings "five have fallen." The first five emperors are dead, when John writes. But the verse goes on to say "one is." That is, the sixth one is then reigning even as John wrote. That would be Nero Caesar, who assumed imperial power upon the death of Claudius in October, A.D. 54, and remained emperor until June, A.D. 68.
John continues: "The other is not yet come; and when he comes, he must continue a short space." When the Roman Civil Wars broke out in rebellion against him, Nero committed suicide on June 8, A.D. 68. The seventh king was "not yet come." That would be Galba, who assumed power in June, A.D. 68. But he was only to continue a "short space." His reign lasted but six months, until January 15, A.D. 69. Thus, we see that while John wrote, Nero was still alive and Galba was looming in the near future. Revelation could not have been written after June, A.D. 68, according to the internal political evidence. In this vision we discover strong evidence that Revelation was written before the death of Nero, which occurred on June 8, A.D. 68.
The woman/whore represents apostate Jerusalem and sitting on the beast means she has the political power she controls the beast. A beast is a symbol used to depict a political state, such as the lion, bear, and leopard of Daniel 7, representing the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persian and Greece respectively.
The ten horns of the beast (17:12-17) are defined as ten kings or provincial governors who aided in the war against the Lamb Christ. verse 14. Farrar lists ten major provinces that constituted the Roman Empire in the days of Nero–namely: Italy, Achaia, Asia, Syria, Egypt, Africa, Spain, Gaul, Britain and Germany. They united with Nero in the matter of war against the Lamb, and of Christian persecution.
The interpretive angel further explains the identify the harlot woman in his vision: The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. (Revelation 17:4) The garment of this women is the exact garment of the high priest of Israel, according to the Bible, contained specific colors:
"Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron's sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest. And these are the garments which they shall make: a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a skillfully woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. So they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, that he may minister to Me as priest. "They shall take the gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and the fine linen, and they shall make the ephod of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, artistically worked. It shall have two shoulder straps joined at its two edges, and so it shall be joined together. And the intricately woven band of the ephod, which is on it, shall be of the same workmanship, made of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. "Then you shall take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel: (Exodus 28:1-9)
The garments of the high priest include gold, purple, scarlet, and blue. This de scri ption is of the woman of (Revelation 17:4)
John now move around to a different point of observation and takes another picture that makes the harlot woman becomes ever clearer. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement. (Revelation 17:5-6)