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Thy Kingdom Come

A systematic study into God’s revelation of His purposes for mankind

Copyright © 2017 by Robert Brien

Robert Brien has asserted his right under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

This book is a work of fiction and except in the case of historical fact any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

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A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover, other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition, including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

ISBN: 978-1-86151-617-6

Dedicated to all those who ‘look for new Heavens and a new Earth where righteousness dwells’.

2 Peter 3:13


Preface: A Kaleidoscope of Images


A Disconnected World

Why was the Revelation Written?

Tis Jesus the First and the Last

The Testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy

Section One: God is Working His Purpose Out

Preface to Section One

The Right Character

The Right Pedigree

A Calling to Account

A Deafening Silence

A Spectacular Phenomenon

The Imminent Marriage

The Perfect Marriage

Section Two: The Significant Issues and Affairs

Preface to Section Two

The Age of Duplicity and Doubt

The Four Living Creatures within the Throne

The Supremacy of the Lamb

A Fanfare of Trumpets

The Majesty of God and His Mission

The Sinister Beast


The Return of the King

Section Three: The Spectacular Realisation of God’s Purposes

Preface to Section Three

The End of an Era

Where Are We all Going?

The Irresistible Presence

Broken Promises

Mankind’s Last Chance

The Die is Cast

Section Four: The Consummation of All History

Preface to Section Four

Parables of the Kingdom

The Kingdom of God Within Us

The Heavenly Life Within Us

Christ in Us the Hope of Glory

If anyone is in Christ He is a new Creation

Spiritual Maturity

The Kingdom of our Lord

Spiritual Adultery

Seven Hills and Seven Kingdoms

Seven Hills: A Spiritual Allegory

The New Heaven and Earth

The Foundations of the Holy City

Paradise Restored

Postscript: The End of the Visual Imagery


1. The Day of the Lord

2. The Purpose of History

3. Moral Responsibility


An Outline of the Consecutive and Recurrent Themes

How the two Sequences of Themes Intersect

A Summary of the Gospel Discourse and the Four Main Sections of the Revelation Symbolic Meanings

The Seven Letters to the Churches

The Seals Trumpets and Bowls compared

A Summary of the Historical Significance of the Seven Heads of the 'Beast' to Israel

A General Index of Cross References

A General Index of Ancillary Themes



A Kaleidoscope of Images

The Thematic Structure of This Study

One thing is very apparent if we read through the Book of the Revelation: that it is about a series of visions or scenes, some set in Heaven, some on Earth. Some it would seem are historical while others are contemporary or refer to a future time; some are naturalistic, some seem quite surrealistic. Many are clearly written in picturesque language while others have a simple, direct message. The purpose of this study is to look at how these different scenes or visions relate to each other and to see the themes that appear to run through the whole Book.

Most of the book of Revelation cannot be seen to happen consecutively in time as it is multi layered, about eternal issues, spiritual, moral and judicial mostly. However, those scenes in this book that relate to God’s dealing directly with mankind on Earth, such as the seals, trumpets and bowls of wrath, probably do happen successively as mankind is a temporal creature. There is then a partly temporal basis for this book though for the most part it is a sequence of overlapping themes rather than events in time.

Four of these themes are consecutive through the Book, covering several chapters at a time, each one developing towards the climax of the effect on Earth of the coming of Christ. Another theme that runs parallel to these can also be traced through our Lord’s own earthly account of how His second coming will bring about the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God on Earth, recorded for us in three of the four gospels. These themes or settings are existential in quality and can be broadly described as:

• God’s purposes for mankind, revealed in and through the person of Jesus Christ.

• The character of the settings, or arenas, of their implementation.

• The removal of everything of the old natural order that prevents the reign of Christ at present.

• The Kingdom of God on Earth; the new state of Divine order.

There are also five sub-themes however that are recurrent, that is repeated, ideas that appear sequentially through each of those gospel accounts, particularly Matthew’s, and also through each of the four consecutive themes or ‘theses’ of the Revelation. Each of the recurrent sub themes running through each of the sequential passages are spiritual in nature or consequence, relating broadly to a particular aspect of God’s purposes for mankind, and how He is revealed and made real to us in salvation. They show how these themes all work towards a climax in a particular aspect of the revelation of Christ. Broadly these themes or settings define five aspects of each theme or stage of the bringing in of God’s kingdom in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

• The temporal or physical perspective.

• The heavenly or spiritual perspective.

• The moral perspective or the standard of perfection that God requires.

• The judicial perspective manifesting all that is evil and separating us from God, yet also the contrasting perspective of graciousness or the mercy of God, calling for repentance while offering forgiveness and protection.

• ‘The New Divine World Order’; the final realisation of God’s purposes.

This study seeks to concentrate on the deeper spiritual meaning of each of these scenes or settings as described recurrently in the gospels and the Book of the Revelation and show how they complement each other. The arrangement of this study will follow those spiritual themes as they would seem to be presented in the scripture. These spiritual themes as delineated are clearly expressed throughout scripture and are not just a fanciful reinterpretation of particular scriptures to fit modern viewpoints or popular ideas from any other places or era.

Think of the layout of this study as a chess board with columns of squares running vertically down and rows of squares across. The narrative of the Revelation runs down the first column of the chess board, each square representing a new vision or group of visions. The last square in each column is one aspect of the complete revealing of Jesus Christ, and all the other squares in that column lead up to that conclusion. The narrative then continues in the next column, concluding with another aspect of the coming of Christ. This continues down four columns in all, there being five ‘squares’ in each column. Each column has a particular theme building up to a conclusion. How this works in practice you can see from appendix 2 to see which chapters and parts of this study come in each ‘square’. The Book of the Revelation then is different consecutive accounts of the coming of Christ.

Each section of this study however is represented by a row horizontally across the chess board, each part or sequence of parts is represented by each square in that row with each row also having a particular theme to it. However the squares in each ‘row’ will be a sequence of themes that are the same in each row; these are the themes of the columns referred to above, suggesting there is a matrix of themes running through the Revelation both sequentially and recurrently.

The Texts or Passages

In our Lord’s discourse, as recorded in Matthew Gospel chapter 21:28 – 25:46, our Lord adds considerably to the subject of the ‘Day of the Lord’ as it is referred to in the Old Testament by describing what God has purposed for mankind, particularly His chosen people Israel, and how He will bring about the setting up of His Kingdom on Earth, despite the fact that His plans see no outward sign of fulfilment at the present.

Jesus said to His disciples in John 15:15:

A servant does not know what his master is doing,

But I have called you friends,

For all things that I have heard from

My Father I have made known to you.

This is in fact also why the Book of the Revelation was written, to show us how God’s Will and character will be fully implemented through the revealing of Himself in Jesus Christ. There are four main aspects of God that are revealed sequentially in this way, each following a similar recurrent pattern; see items 2-5 in the table below. These four great attributes of God that are revealed to all mankind can be traced through the Book, showing in relevant detail how each is revealed.

The Revelation does not just reveal to us what events on Earth will surround the coming of Christ to establish His Kingdom throughout the world, however, as does our Lord’s Olivet discourse, auspicious as they will be; rather this great vision that was given to St. John reveals to us just who God is in all His majesty and how He is both working to bring about a tremendous blessing for the whole of His creation and also the nature of that blessing.

Each of the consecutive themes then are five great theses that can be summarised as follows:

1. Matthew Chapter 21:28 Chapter 25

A Temporal Perspective:

Our Lord’s parables in Matthew’s Gospel chapters 21 – 23 and the Olivet Discourse as recorded in chapter 24 and 25; this is God’s plan for mankind, the events on Earth that will indicate salient features and signs and how this will be implemented practically. The Revelation however is about altogether more spiritual issues.

The Revelation however is about altogether more spiritual issues.

2. Chapters 1-7

A heavenly Perspective:

A spiritual viewpoint displaying how the Mercy of God is revealed in salvation

3. Chapters 8-11

A Moral Perspective:

Declaring the righteousness of God on a global stage and man’s responsibility to God

4. Chapters 12-18

The graciousness of God in mercy but also the justice of God is realized in the elimination of evil from the world

5. Chapters 19-22

The Establishment of the Divine Order:

When the glory and love of God are fully manifested

Through each of these four sections we are presented with a particular aspect of the Almighty through the revelation of Christ to the world, a facet that we can comprehend and enter into in a full understanding of and extending to a personal and special relationship with Him.

The Spiritual Themes Running Through

Each Passage

As already intimated, however, there is a sequence of sub themes or a pattern that emerges through each of these topics that is common to each; each of the first four theses described above building to a climax in the return of Christ. The final thesis in Revelation chapters 19-22 climaxes with an exposition of what the new Heaven and Earth will be like after all God’s purposes in this world have been fulfilled. This last episode starts with the culmination of what God is doing at this present time, through the coming of Christ as King over all the Earth, and then the judgements and eventually the New Heavens and Earth where only peace and righteousness are present; where everything and everyone that offends those principles is excluded.

Each of these five precipitous scenarios themselves then have an order of development, a pattern that can be traced through each of the four recurrent themes referred to above. They are in fact an outline, not just of what we can know subjectively yet experientially about God, but rather the way that God reveals and will reveal Himself to us in each of these five facets. Thus the whole Book of the Revelation is relevant to each one of us. Each and every part identifies with an area of our lives that is allied to our salvation and relationship with our Lord. Each section is a stage in our spiritual progress in that relationship.

The layout of this study then follows these four recurrent spiritual themes that run through each thesis grouped together in sections 1 to 4. This analysis may seem complicated and difficult to grasp, but a study of the ‘The Recurrent and Consecutive Themes’ in the appendix will illustrate the layout.

Looking at it this way gives the Book of the Revelation a beautiful symmetry, as each section of this study is in a sense complete in itself, just as the five theses or passages of scripture referred to above are complementary to each other.

The Gospels answer the disciples’ questions as to when Christ would return (as the master of His vineyard) and what would be the sign of the end of the age; two very practical questions that receive a direct and positive reply from our Lord. The corresponding sections of The Revelation then develop what our Lord taught in His Olivet discourse, to acquaint us with a full understanding of God as He is revealed in Jesus Christ.

There are many bible references indicated throughout the book. They either illustrate the text, giving biblical evidence for statements, or are there merely to illustrate the symbolic use of word meanings within the whole of scripture, which are regarded to be wholly consistent throughout all of it, if properly understood.

There are also many references to the ‘Church’ in this study as there are many references to it in these scriptures. The word itself, however, in scripture can mean different things. It can mean a local community of Christians, as it can today. In scripture, however, it more often has a much deeper meaning, that of the body of Christ, His ‘Bride’, His ‘Brethren’ or His followers. All these ideas do not give it an exclusive identity, however, but a particular character, a deeply spiritual character as those that seek to do the will of God as revealed by Him, those that love honour and serve Him. As we will see in this study, Christ taught that it was not those that belonged to some exclusive group that would inherit the Kingdom of God but those that showed true compassion and mercy to ‘his brethren’. The ‘Church’ is not an exclusive group but an inclusive group.


‘Blessed is he who reads

And those that hear the words of this prophecy

And keep those things that are written in it.’

This book is a reflective study into the Revelation of Jesus Christ and associated scriptures.

To read the Revelation, understand and assimilate it is to come to a greater knowledge of Him and to walk more closely with Him.

Introduction One

A Disconnected World

The Need for a New World Order

Mankind is fundamentally self-centered. We are all driven by a basic initiative to fulfil vital survival needs, for security, food, water, sex and ambition to exploit, to assert ourselves and our agendas and to dominate our environment to our own advantage, both physically and socially. These different characteristics may vary in intensity between individuals, for different psychological reasons, though fundamentally in this respect we are basically no different from the rest of creation. This is the natural spirit that is common to us all, an inherent survival necessity, to state the matter from a scientific perspective.

We are instinctively driven then towards self-preservation, which informs all our thinking and feelings and attitudes, and is hard wired into our DNA. Our reputation, rights, security and comfort for example are all things that we spontaneously protect; we can moderate, even suppress our response when these things are threatened, but we cannot be free of them or even think entirely independently of them.

However, we may also aspire to an idealistic world of universal peace, comfort, harmony and freedom; a state that is good for ourselves but also good for all, though it is an ideal to which we can aspire but seem never able to deliver. This aspiration itself is what we may desire primarily for our own contentment and comfort, but the aspiration of mankind to control and exploit the world and people around directly conflict with this, and this creates disappointment and inconvenience for others.

Mankind may be fundamentally self-serving, but we are also social creatures. From a Neo-Darwinian perspective this may also be necessary for our survival and security, but it does not at heart change the way we are. Cooperation is essential for our survival at least and certainly for our contentment, though inevitably this often conflicts with the first premise, our most basic instinct for self-survival. Cooperation ultimately works to our individual advantage, though that is not to deny that our inclination to collaborate and connect with others is also innate. Hence are present within us conflicting emotions, the desire to unite and live in peace and the more dominant selfish emotions that drive our thinking and outlook on life to survive and dominate. Thus, despite millennia of civilisation, experimenting, developing and honing the way we interact, this has failed to deliver the peace and happiness that we desire, individually and corporately. We are however intelligent creatures, which potentially enables us to resolve the dilemma.

Mankind, as intelligent, rational beings, can see a fundamental principle of cause and effect operating throughout the whole world, indeed the universe. It therefore becomes intuitive to assume that every effect has a cause, although we may not always be able to sense that cause directly, but only infer it from the effect.

We are also a self-conscious species, one that appreciates that as we ourselves can be the cause, we can have an effect on our environment and that this has consequences for other people and other creatures. Coupled therefore with our inclination to collaborate, there comes a sense of personal and social conscience, of altruistic inclinations and empathetic consideration. Still this has not been sufficient to provide a single society that is entirely fair, ordered and content. The best that we can manage is a precarious compromise that is tolerated by the majority of individuals and imposed to varying degrees upon the rest.

From a humanistic perspective the world in ancient times was very dangerous and unpredictable and so, because mankind appreciated the principle of cause and effect, it was logical for them to infer that unseen forces acted on their lives and for them to fear those assumed forces or agents. Likewise the actions of those around them were a potential threat to their wellbeing and so the concept of moral principles became imperative, if mankind was to cooperate in living and working together for the good of all. Thus a common belief system of mutual behaviour was intrinsic to civilisation and quickly learned, if not intuitive.

Common interests then emerged, the mutual fulfilment of basic needs and desires, not the least of these being survival and protection from dangers seen and from unseen agents and forces in the world, actual or otherwise.

Thus we can see the rise of simple superstition within groups of individuals and how it became a cohesive influence within and in defining society; then as these were discussed and speculated upon more complex folklore and belief systems developed. Thus religion is intuitive for us all, with an instinctive belief in forces or unseen beings that influence our lives, together with the adopted practice, personal and collective, that emanates from that belief.

This does not though entirely account for the intuitive regard that mankind has shown for the sacred since antiquity. Placation of inferred supernatural beings, supplication to and worship of them may be a spontaneous response to a fear or awe of the unknown, just as we may have such a fear of sensed physical threats and dangers, but it does not fully explain that non-rational appreciation of the Divine, of higher morality and of a deeper meaning to life that we have as expressed eloquently and symbolically in art, philosophy and social ritual. This instinctive understanding has been seen in the most primitive tribes and expressed in mythological belief systems and superstitious practice throughout millennia. It is something that is inherent in the social identity of tribes, largely forming the adhesion of that society to form a common outlook, identity and understanding of the world. Primarily though, it is an inner conviction that is very individual and something that is incompatible with a purely materialistic explanation for the physical world that we see around us.

Such convictions then produced another, more powerful inclination for individuals to combine to integrate and cooperate, though this gave each group an exclusive identity and thereby created divisions and distinctions between different social groups. However, such powerful emotions fostered and cherished by the members of each group were insufficient to even control the tendency towards the assertion of individual self-interest, let alone lay it to rest.

This was typically seen in the ancient Roman Empire. Life in ancient Rome was controlled by the belief in their gods. Nothing of any consequence was done without consulting them first, and to disown them was to invite their anger and retribution and the suspicion of the other citizens.

The religion of ancient Rome was therefore closely fused with its political power, the one giving meaning to the other for the citizens. This autocratic political and religious power was concentrated in the high priest of Rome, the ‘Pontifex Maximus’, particularly when that position was to become adopted by the Emperor himself under Augustus, 53 BC – 14 AD

It was in this environment that Christianity first came into being and flourished, a short while after Christ died, rose again and ascended into Heaven. At first this new sect was persecuted by the Jews, who hated the Christians as much as they had Christ Himself. Later it was to suffer severe persecution by the Romans, who were becoming fearful of this new sect that was pervading the whole of the Roman Empire. By the beginning of the fourth century though, Christianity began to be adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire, giving Christianity political and religious power throughout the Empire, a supremacy that it was largely to retain in Europe even after the demise of Rome as an empire, in the west and eventually in the east. Thus Christianity changed from a simple religion based on personal faith in a benevolent God to one that defined and controlled the social and national lives of its citizens, exerting considerable political influence.

Before Christianity emerged however, before even the mighty Roman Empire gained the ascendancy in the civilised world, there was another force that was beginning to gain influence amongst the intellectuals of the dominant Greek Empire and influence it politically. This was not a military force or religious persuasion but rational argument; mathematics, logic and scientific analysis.

Politically this had begun with Plato in about the beginning of the 4th century BC with his ideas of a republic with philosopher rulers and compliant citizens. After Plato, Aristotle published his ideas as regards logic and science. Both these thinkers had an influence on later thinkers, particularly on a fourth century Christian, Bishop Augustine of Hippo, later known as Saint Augustine. It was about this time that Christianity had become acceptable in the Roman Empire and started its process of becoming the official state religion.

Philosophy then became in the west, largely synonymous with Christian theology, a school of thought known as scholasticism; this persisted throughout the dark ages until the time of the Protestant Reformation in Europe in the 16th century.

Philosophy though, as a distinct intellectual discipline, did not emerge again to flourish independently until the Renaissance with the advent of Descartes and his sceptical thinking. His technique was to distinguish between what we can know for certain and what we believe without sound intelligent foundation.

Thus was born modern secular thought which has directed the development of science and philosophy ever since. Scepticism, materialism and liberalism have continued to fashion all reformed intellectual and popular thought to this day. We have now arrived, in the West, at post-modernism where all is relative to context, whether it is personal and social moral responsibility or our concept of truth and religion. It is the new ‘religion’ that replaces speculation and folklore with science and scientific theory to explain the operation of the world we live in. Humanism replaces Divine accountability; personal gain and satisfaction replace dependence on and the worship of a Divine being or beings for our continued wellbeing. Mankind puts himself in control of his own destiny and denies any responsibility to a higher order. Thus self-consideration is promoted to the detriment of more benevolent ideals.

Where then has this Relativism led to? Has it made us more secure, content and confident? Has increased knowledge and the technology that has flowed from it benefited mankind? To be sure it has benefited those that have been the recipients of its produce but what of our quality of life? We are also the more restless, fearful and inward-looking than we have ever been. The world as a whole has become a more dangerous and polluted place. ‘Relativism’ has merely lead to mediocrity and exacerbation of the status quo, subjectively and socially at heart we remain entirely motivated by self-interest. Progress has not led us to the goals of security and personal fulfilment that we long for.

Are God and the religious imperative therefore dead, as the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche maintained, something that the world ever since, from conviction or convenience, has increasingly believed? Has Hegel’s dialectic thought delivered mankind from unremitting self-serving?

What is the hope for mankind and for this world, ravished and exploited as it increasingly is by an incorrigibly rapacious creature?

And is there any solution? Can mankind ever escape from the seemingly fundamental drive of its basic human nature? Can our superior intelligence ever rescue us from overwhelming self-interest in the way that we conduct our lives? Is an absolute moral purity a fantasy, a mental projection? Is a perfect society, as Plato, Marx and others have imagined, possible for us to create?

The fact that we can give it real parameters shows that it is a theoretical possibility to exist even if it is not possible to deliver.

Is it even in our powers though to achieve personally, as Pallagius asserted? Experience so far has shown us that the best we can achieve is a poor compromise, not even an approximation to what we really aspire to. There is one person though that has offered a solution, a solution that has not been tried yet, beyond a few individual and parochial examples, and one that ultimately guarantees to deliver.

Christ never preached Christianity. In fact what He did have to say about established social religion was very little. Even about personal religious practice He said relatively little; what He did teach and preach about widely though was the advent and character of the Kingdom of Heaven. A Kingdom based on absolutes, absolute personal goodness, purity and truth. It was from this basis that the Kingdom of Heaven that Christ taught could establish a universal kingdom where absolute and comprehensive peace and righteousness would prevail.

Christianity though, the religion that developed in the early centuries after the early church of Jesus’ disciples, has singularly failed to deliver Christ’s Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Over two millennia it has become too eclectic in its belief and practice to deliver what Christ taught, except at a personal and esoteric level.

Christ had presented this solution to mankind’s dilemma from a new and completely different perspective, not one that disregarded the problem of self-interest. This, the Kingdom of Heaven, was a completely new order, not like Plato’s republic or communism for example, which was dependant on mankind to deliver, but one that could and would only be delivered by God alone. Not an absolute remedy that we can just aspire to, but one that God alone can and will deliver. A kingdom that is here now, one that is developing within us, one that we may personally achieve now if we are willing to accept it, see Luke 17:20-21; one that God alone will deliver Himself, one that will be universal though and total in its effect.

This is what the Book of the Revelation is all about; it brings together all that is contained in the whole of the Bible regarding God’s final plans for mankind, what they are and how God will implement them. It is all about what is prophesied in the OT, revealed in the NT and made real and relevant personally to us through faith alone. This will be the definitive solution to the problem of mankind’s inherent self-absorption, that predominantly self-interested view of the world. Thus God will change and is changing the status quo, now in the hearts of individuals but in a future age throughout the whole of the natural world. It is this on-going establishment of this new Divine world order that this Book of the Revelation is all about.

Introduction Two

Why was the Revelation Written?

Who the ‘Revelation’ is Addressed to and Why

Our Lord’s instruction given to John at the beginning of the Book was to write down what he saw and send it to all seven churches in Asia Minor. These seven local churches typically represent the whole Church for the whole of the church age; every experience of John throughout this revelation was expressly intended as much for the whole Church as for John himself. He is not relating the drama as a mere commentary though, but throughout as a powerful experience in which he is intrinsically involved, either dynamically or receptively, and as understanding important details regarding our responsibilities and involvement in the purposes of God, both now and in the future. This had such a powerful effect on him on several occasions, eg verse 17, chapter 1: ‘When I saw Him I fell at His feet as dead’.

Likewise for ourselves, if we are to grasp the real significance of these passages, if we are to be open to what God would say to us through these extraordinary verses, if we are to be open to Christ and to ‘be in His Spirit’ (v.10) regarding what He has to say, then it will have a similar effect on us; powerful, dramatic and life changing.

‘Blessed, (favoured, endowed), is he who:

1. Reads and

2. Those who hear the words of this prophesy, and

3. Keep those things which are written in it.’ Chapter 1, verse three.

It is clear from this that we are all instructed to be closely involved ourselves.

Apart from these words which imply the powerful effect that the experience had on John, there are many references where John makes very specific reference to scenes where he and/or the church are intrinsically involved in the Divine manifestation. Jesus Himself says to John, right at the end of the Book, ‘I Jesus … testify unto you these things in the Churches’, which reinforces how directly the Church is involved and how specifically the prophecy is directed to the Church. Earlier in the Book we read that ‘Round the throne were twenty-four elders’ which implies the immediate presence of the Church itself, represented by its elders, as they were an image that the early churches particularly would have understood as being typical in the constitution of their individual church localities.

They sang a new song:

‘Thou hast redeemed us out of every kindred and tongue

and people and nation and hast made us unto our God kings and priests;

and we shall reign on the Earth.’

This theme was introduced in verses five and six of chapter 1 to leave us in no doubt as to who the enthroned elders refer to in chapters four and five. Their role as recorded in subsequent chapter exemplifies this and also shows what an important and dignified role they occupy in a heavenly capacity. Throughout the book they:

• Sanction the judgement of God, as seen from a spiritual perspective.

• They worship in full adoration.

• They appreciate intelligently and welcome the coming reign of Christ.

These elders then are clearly identified, not to just label them but to identify them by their spiritual characteristics:

1. As the redeemed – identifies them firstly as specifically those from among mankind that have been saved and sanctified by Grace.

2. The concept of elder – One who is mature in the faith, by virtue of their experience, having authority, wisdom and understanding

3. As kings and priests; this signifies the specific role of the elders. In the Old Testament it was Israel that had that special function; Exodus 19:6 ‘And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.’ In the new Testament it is the Church that is spoken of as having these qualities, suggesting these elders are the redeemed of Israel, or the Church in its fully perfected or mature state, or both

4. They surround, literally encircle, the Throne, implying they:

i. Are intimately associated with it, the Almighty, the Lamb and the four living creatures. Totally identify with it.

ii. Are fully expressing and testifying to it.

5. They are clothed, that is revealing only their assigned identity and function.

i. Clothed: that is having the character and qualities attributed to them.

ii. In white, signifying purity of purpose and function.

6. They have crowns of Gold on their heads

i. Crowns, signifying authority and glory.

ii. Of gold, signifying what is eternal and incorruptible; what is Divine in character.

7. They are twenty-four in number, identifying them with the 24 courses of priesthood in the temple order (see 1 Chronicles chapter 24). This implies that it is associated with the priestly function of those that are assigned by God from among mankind to fulfil that purpose. Under the Old Covenant it was solely male persons of a certain age from one particularly tribe of Israel, a very exclusive group indeed. Under the New Covenant it typifies the role of all the redeemed, as far as they are qualified as being ‘Elders’.

There are many references throughout scripture that support the thesis that these qualities are examples of the characteristics of those that have been redeemed from mankind to serve the Living God. It is the particular spiritual qualities that identify them, it is not just superficially some particular individuals or group as we tend naturally to identify people. As we consider the function of the elders throughout this study, this should be exemplified.

The Nature of Priesthood

In verse three of chapter 8 it is the prayers of the saints that come into view. Here then it is not the very public, albeit heavenly role that the elders occupy that is of significance, but the very private and intimate prayer-relationship with God Himself through the sacrifice of Christ. A role that precipitates the trumpets announcing to Earth, and its inhabitants, the terrible calamities that will befall the Earth and those that will not turn from their pernicious ways.

It is then in chapter 21 that we are finally introduced to the final object of God’s purposes – the Holy City, the New Jerusalem – and given insight into the special part that the Church will play in that holy plan of God. It is the Church as represented by the twelve apostles that form the foundations of that place. All that God is realising in His saints on Earth during this present time, all the spiritual characteristics that are created in us through the work of the Holy Spirit as symbolised by the precious stones of the foundations, will form the basis of that heavenly building. What a joy, what an encouragement to a suffering Church to endure, to remain faithful to the end; what a strength to the ‘over-comer’ to look ahead to the crown that awaits him. This shows clearly that the heavenly city, New Jerusalem, is not just a physical entity, though it may be that as well incidentally, but the significant thing about the heavenly City is its character, its spiritual substance.

When we look at the world as it is today, there seems little to even give us hope or encouragement regarding the future, let alone to give us confidence and real contentment, even less a state of real joy. Seven times though in this book, even at times when what is being described seems absolutely horrific, we hear in stark contrast the announcement, ‘blessed are’ or ‘blessed is he’. What a special privilege of grace is promised in these pages. Not just a blessing on the Church but also a sevenfold blessing awaits all those that are fully involved in its teaching and directives. When we consider each one of the sevenfold blessings that are given, we realise how extensive our involvement is in the expanse of this prophecy, and how completely it encompasses our individual being and experience. The first three blessings relate particularly to those who are still in this sphere of trial and suffering for Christ’s sake; it is an encouragement to all the Church to remain faithful. The first is a blessing awaiting us for just reading the book, as we have considered earlier. It does not presuppose any experience or knowledge as a disciple of Christ; the only call is for faith and an open mind; all that is necessary for all the blessings.

One of the most prominent characters in the Revelation is the ‘Beast’ that is introduced at the beginning of chapter 13. A lot of detail is given to us in chapters 13 and 17 so we understand the influence this formidable creature commands. The most succinct detail that we are given though is at the end of chapter 13; it is his name, or the number that represents his name, that is symbolically his character or what he means to the world. It is in fact the amalgam of three numbers that give us the meaning, six hundred, sixty and six. Sinister as it sounds, it is what these numbers symbolically represent, as we can glean from scripture, that indicates to us his true spiritual significance in the judgment of God, as we shall see in a later chapter. Six, sixty and six hundred probably represent in this context what mankind is capable of in every way, or perhaps more closely to a direct interpretation of the symbolism, man’s natural effort or ambition, his innate capacity for it and the totality of his performance. The three numbers 600, 60 and 6 together then would signify the end of man’s time, of his working or the allotted span of his management of the Earth. It is the end of the days of grace and the execution of wrath and the deliverance of God’s people. A fuller examination of this symbolism will be expounded in section two.

It is this particularly characteristic of the ‘Beast’ that the Church is called to be cognisant of, as joint heirs and governors with Christ; it is important particularly to us now as its influence is extant in the world now, as John tells us in two of his letters. It is knowing its meaning now that can give us wisdom to show others of its significance and its sinister outcome. It was as John stood on the sand of the seashore that he saw the beast emerge from the sea, the restless sea, symbolising a restless threat, probably the heaving masses of the surrounding pagan nations as the scriptures often convey the ‘sea’ to represent. He takes the position of Israel in taking cognisance of the creature as a person, as physically it is to Israel that it will have the greatest significance. This is particularly emphasised because it follows on immediately from chapter 12, the chapter that gives a brief history of Israel from the point of view of its relationship to its Messiah, that is Christ, and the fate that will befall Israel in the later days.

The Encouragement of Promised Blessings

The first, as has been mentioned, is a special blessing promised to those who read the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. In contrast there are also curses given to those that add or take anything away from it. Reading means to heed, to take note of and act upon, not just to casually or critically peruse. How indeed though could reading what seems at first such a horrific account be a blessing to anyone, least of all those whose hearts are filled with the love of Christ? This is a question that can only be answered individually and personally as we read the scriptures with faith and an open mind. It is then that we begin to understand the true nature of God, an absolute, Holy God who cannot accommodate anything that is contrary to pure peace, happiness and righteousness.

The next blessing is in chapter 14, a blessing for those that are experiencing the pain and trials of this life, for now and also during the time when this miscreant, pictured as ‘The Beast’, imposes such mayhem on the world:

‘Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord,

for their works do follow them’

This can only be telling us that whatever we go through for Christ’s sake, whatever pain and sorrow, even death, it will be for our ultimate blessing. If we consider this in the context of verse eleven, it compares this with the anticipated end of those that worship the beast or his image, and so emphasises the dramatic contrast between the hope and end of those that love Christ and those that reject Him.

The third blessing is not only an encouragement to faith; it is an encouragement to patience and fortitude:

‘Blessed is he that watches and keeps his garments’

Watching and waiting patiently and meekly for our blessed Lord’s return and being clothed in the beauty of life that the Holy Spirit lives within us is what is encapsulated here for us. It is in the context here of the impending horror of Armageddon, that which indicates the end of all and everything that rejects Christ. For those that love Him, however, it is the moment in time that will usher in the perfect reign of Christ upon the Earth.

The next blessing is also an encouragement, but not only an encouragement to faith but also to hope and anticipation to the life that awaits us with the one we love. Heaven, as a deeply personal experience, is just to be with Christ; it can be no more, it is no less. It is a blessing to those that are called to the marriage of the Lamb:

‘For His wife hath made herself ready’

This blessing is actually for the guests, those with whom the bridegroom and the bride have a special relationship, for a time of mutual rejoicing and celebration. There has been some confusion in the past as who these guests might be, though if we compare this passage with our Lord’s parables of the wedding feast in chapters twenty-two and twenty-five of Matthew’s Gospel, the context is explained. We begin then to get a clear idea that on each occasion, what is being referred to is that particular special relationship that Christ has with all His saints. The emphasis of the parable is on the nature of the relationship, not to identify different groups; this will be discussed in a later chapter.

The fifth blessing is for all those that are resurrected just after Christ returns to reign on the Earth, in chapter 20, verse 6:

‘Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection’

This is said in the context of the judgement by the elders that we see sitting on the thrones, those thrones that surrounded the throne of the Almighty and so by implication receiving their authority to rule from Him. It was Jesus Himself that had said to His disciples:

‘He… shall sit on the throne of His glory, you also shall sit

upon twelve thrones,

Judging the twelve tribes of Israel’,

Matthew 19:28’

Again this confirms the special place of the Church in relation to He who has received ‘all authority and power’ from His father. It also portrays the Church’s function in its heavenly role. Particularly we see here the special place of government delegated to the Church, yet also one of welcome to the saved of a different time, one of sharing the position of being priests of God and also of having a joint reign with Christ for the period of a thousand years. It is as it were the Church being in spirit with their brothers during their time of tremendous suffering, in a time of ‘Great Tribulation’. The idea of government here, though real in its normal sense, is not one of control or domination as rule implies in most societies today, but the rule of love, joy, peace etc, the Spirit of God Himself, that character that pervades and indwells all that love Him.

In chapter 22 we come to another special message given directly and primarily to the Church. The context there is where the Church is involved in the government or administration of the Holy City New Jerusalem.

In verse seven of chapter 22 we are given the sixth blessing; it is the same as the first one at the beginning of chapter 1:

‘Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophesy of this book’

A blessing to those that keep, that is to say live by, the sayings of this book. How important to understand and hold firmly to all its precious truth, that we do not miss any of its great import. To see it merely as an objective scenario that will be physically played out without understanding the spiritual language will be to miss most of its meaning.

In verse 14, the last blessing is promised:

‘Blessed are those that do His commandments that they might have the right to the tree of life’

That is the commandments of the ‘Alpha and Omega’, His commandments being all His teaching in here at least and also elsewhere in scripture. He that is the beginning and end of everything and has all things at His command. Here it becomes clear, not only what that blessing might be, but also that it applies to all saved of all spheres and ages throughout history; they will have access to the tree of life and to the Holy City, that spiritual domain of which the Church itself is the foundation; Revelation 21:14. What insight this gives to the Church, now in this age, to the tremendous privilege and responsibilities it is destined for; what great joys and glory in serving our Lord now and in what ways we will serve Him and all those that are saved from sin and corruption.

As if that is not enough to comprehend, as well as to realise why we have been given this glorious piece of scripture, there are also the many lessons that these texts teach us that give us further insight. To understand will not just be to realise why we have been given this book, but also of the paramount importance to study it and fully understand what important things it has to teach us, both in this life and in preparation for the next.

Our Time Left on Earth, How We

Should Conduct Ourselves

No less poignant then than the many blessings promised in this remarkable book are the many lessons that we can glean from its pages; also those warnings that are expressly made to us throughout its chapters and to the other issues that our attention is prominently drawn to, from the sinister warnings of chapter 13 of the penalty for imposing our selfish will or sanction on others or of limiting their freedom, to the rewards for those that are the overcomers of their own selfish will. Then from the warnings in chapter 14 of being conformed to this world, to the glorious delight of that city the New Jerusalem, that is all of God’s chosen people. This is represented, at least in part, by the bride of Christ in her final state as we see in chapter 21.

It is in verses 9-10 of Chapter 13 that we find the warning: ‘He that leads into captivity shall go into captivity etc.’ Here we have an illustration of something that pertains particularly to the Day of the Lord but also something that illustrates a principal that is relevant for all time. This is another reason then that the prophesied events of this time are revealed to the Church of every age, not that all or even any of us will be faced with the particular trial of those events, but that typically its teaching is applicable to every era, just as the trials of that era are typical of the tribulation we suffer in every age.

Hence it is also brought to our attention that ‘here is the patience of the saints,’ that they should find freedom, that God-given right to mankind, true freedom, that is spiritual freedom, not just an absence of physical constraint. It is a freedom from all compulsion of the world or of self-interest, freedom to follow only God’s own law and commandments but also by implication a freedom to choose to do so or not as well. This is what the Ark in the Old Testament represents, telling us ‘He that doeth these things shall live’. This was God’s covenant with mankind that God made with the Children of Israel in Leviticus 18:4-5 and Deuteronomy 8:1, 30:6. If then we live by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we will do these things by default. If we live according to our natural desires, we will not.

It was our precious Lord Himself, now in His supreme position and Divine glory, that condescends to explain to John, and through him to ourselves, the meaning of the angels and the candlesticks, in that awesome vision of the glorious omnipotent Jesus, in chapter 1. In chapter 17 though it is the sight of the prostitute that was riding the beast that also caused John to wonder. This time though it was not because he was amazed at the sight of his Lord whom he did recognise, but rather here he did not recognise the woman or the symbolism implied at all. Hence the rest of the chapter is devoted to the angel’s explanation of the sinister character that the woman represented and the beast on which she was carried – Chapter 17:1-3.

‘Come hither, I will show thee the great whore’

This, as we shall see in a later chapter, is all that displaces Christ in our affections, all that would draw away our faith and loyalty to Christ as Lord and cause us to live according to our natural desires.

It is then in the following chapter, once we realise that the great whore and the beast that she rides represent different aspects of our present evil world, that environment in which we all exist. This emphasises our need to be constantly and actively separated from all that distracts our attention from following our Lord, we see the need for an unqualified dedication and devotion to Him, turning our backs on anything that gives an inkling of this world system. No wonder in chapter 18 the words echo from the page:

‘Come out of her, my people, least you share in her sins

and least you receive of her plagues.’

Thus when she finally meets her demise in chapter 18, verse 20 we are instructed

‘Rejoice over her O Heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets;

for God hath avenged you on her.’

It is then with a similar imperative that the words at the end of the book warn us of the importance of the prophecy and the dire consequences of adding or taking from its meaning. The book is not just significant to the church; it is of vital importance. It is not something for our curiosity about what is to come at the end of the age; it is something we need to be concerned with at this present time. It is not just some warning to flee from the wrath of God when Satan’s power is unchecked upon the Earth; it is a warning now to disentangle ourselves from the very elements of antichrist that prevail even at this present time and ask ourselves how we should conduct ourselves then in this present evil age.

Not only are there many blessings, not only are there many warnings in this book; not only are there many references that show intrinsically that the church is involved in the issues raised in its chapters, there are also important and specific instructions recorded for the church of Christ to take heed of and that are paramount to comply with.

When Christ begins to explain to John the meanings of those things he has seen, he no doubt recognised that voice of Jesus with its grace and authority. When Christ says ‘what you see, write in a book’ he implies the enduring significance of those words. Here are matters of eternal consequence that are to be unveiled to him, words of the Lord of Glory Himself, of things that God Himself would reveal about His Son and His Divine manifestation to the world. He that is the ‘First and the Last’, He in whom we have absolute faith that He that promised these things is also able to bring those things to pass.

John was told to write. Later he was told also to take a little book, to eat the book and then to measure the temple with the reed he was given. These were not just words to attract his attention but instructions to him to get directly involved in the revelation. To reinforce this at the end of the book John is reminded to make the prophecy public, because it was soon to come to pass.

He was told to play an active role in making known the truth, but also a restricted one. The angel told him to worship God only and in so doing emphasising unequivocally the divinity of Christ, Christ being given worship in chapter 5 for example. He was told also to seal up the things that the seven thunders said to affirm that not all was to be revealed yet, for some aspects of the mystery must remain a mystery until their completion, although there was a specific reason and mandate for their consequence. The purpose of this book then is as its title states ‘The revelation of Christ,’ not just to make known the future. It is a declaration by God of how His eternal will and purpose will be universally established by Christ alone, and that all that would purport to stand in opposition will be removed and destroyed; but all that embrace what is revealed and embrace it on His terms will have a place within His kingdom.

Introduction Three

Tis Jesus the First and the Last

What, or Rather Who, this Book is About, and How it Should be Read

The book of the Revelation is possibly the most misunderstood book of the Bible. It is a book that has been little read over the centuries, in fact it was even excluded from the canon of scripture on occasions during the history of the Church, yet with events reported daily in the world news today that seem to have such an ‘apocalyptic’ quality, Christians and non-Christians alike are turning to its pages as they see a certain concurrence of those events with the things prophesied in this book.

It is perhaps a good idea though to state first what the Book of the Revelation is not before attempting any exposition of this scripture.

It is often understood by non-Christian people to be a macabre description of how the world will end, a cataclysmic vision of events that will bring mankind to an end. It is read as a consecutive narrative of events that all seem rather unrealistic and therefore it is dismissed as a bizarre form of pre-medieval science fiction.

Others regard its message as valid with a relevant warning to mankind for today, but believe that it was written using abstract metaphors and fables that have to be deciphered by one’s own imagination or relative to one’s own views and experiences. What is then understood is profoundly personal or esoteric and would seem to have little objective value, cp 2 Pet. 1:20. What emerges from this understanding is what we find sometimes dramatically portrayed in modern ‘end-of-the-world’ fiction.

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