Module 39: Unveiling the Veil
Module Guide: Revelation - The Unveiling of Jesus Christ
This pre-read guide is taken from the public domain source "The Analysed Bible in 3 Volumes" by G. Campbell Morgan.
The only satisfactory introduction to the book of Revelation is found in the text thereof, which deals with authorship, nature, origin, method, and intention. Its earliest phrase constitutes its title, and indicates its content. It is the "unveiling of Jesus Christ." Our analysis is based upon the supposition that the key to the interpretation of the book is found in the final charge of Jesus to John, "Write therefore the things which thou sawest, and the things which are, and the things which shall come to pass after these."
There is first a Prologue (1:1-1:3), followed by an Introduction (1:4-1:8). Then follow the three main divisions dealing with the unveiling of Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ Himself (1:9-1:20); Jesus Christ and the Church (2-3); Jesus Christ and the Kingdom (4:1-22:5). The book closes with an Epilogue (22:6-22:21).
The foreword constitutes a key to the study of the book as it declares its nature to be that of the unveiling of Jesus Christ; its origin, that God gave the things to His Son to show; and its method, that He signified them by an angel to John. It closes with a blessing pronounced upon those who read, and hear, and keep.
The apostle introduced his writing of the message received with a double benediction; grace and peace to the churches, glory and dominion to Jesus Christ. He then declared that the hidden One is yet to be revealed, and pronounced the Divine name in all its majesty.
Jesus Christ Himself
The first division of the book deals with what Christ referred to by the phrase "the things which thou sawest." The apostle described the occasion of the coming to him of the unveiling. As to earthly conditions, he was in Patmos in tribulation; as to heavenly condition, he was "in the Spirit on the Lord's day." In these circumstances he beheld the vision of the glorious Person of his Lord, as "a son of man," yet infinitely removed from all the sons of men in the splendour of His glory. In the presence of so amazing an unveiling John became "as one dead," and then heard the voice bidding him "fear not," and ultimately commissioning him to write.
Jesus Christ and the Church
There can be no doubt that the seven letters contained in this division were directed to churches actually in existence in the days of John. Nevertheless they reveal a seven-fold condition, lasting through the dispensation of the Church, and almost certainly indicate a process in Church history. That to the church at Ephesus deals with the loss of first love, and had special application to the apostolic period. That to the church at Smyrna deals with the subject of persecution, and had special reference to the period from Diocletian (A.D. 303), to that of Constantine (A.D. 313). That to the church at Pergamum deals with the patronage of the world, and had special reference to the period commencing with Constantine, in which the church gained in material splendour. That to the church at Thyatira deals with corruption, and had special reference to the Dark Ages. That to the church at Sardis deals with reformation, and had special reference to the hour of the rebirth of evangelical faith under the reformers. That to the church at Philadelphia deals with the open door for evangelization, and had special reference to the period ushered in by the Puritan movement, which broke into full force in the Evangelical Revival. That to the church at Laodicea deals with apostasy, and describes the final period prior to the advent of the Lord Himself. The careful student of this division will find that its supreme value consists in the unveiling of Jesus Christ in His relation to the Church. His authority, His patience, His judgment, are all set forth, and it is upon these that the mind should principally dwell in the study.
Jesus Christ and the Kingdom
The final division of the book opens with the phrase, "After these," which is another translation of the same phrase rendered "here-after," in the commission to John. It indicates that all that is to follow takes place after the conditions described in the previous division, that is, the end of the Church period. In it we see the unveiling of Jesus Christ in the movements which establish the Kingdom in the world. It falls into three sections. The first deals with millennial preparation, and is by far the largest; the second in very brief sentences describes the millennium; while the third has to do with millennial issues.
The subject of millennial preparation is introduced by preliminary pictures of the heavenly order and the earthly administration, and then becomes a symbolic description of the procedure. At the centre of everything a Throne is established and occupied. In closest connection therewith are four living ones who in ceaseless worship attest the holiness of the One Who occupies the Throne. Circling around these, four-and-twenty elders declare Him worthy to receive the glory, and the honour, and the power of all created things.
In the hand of the One Who sits upon the Throne lies the programme of events. It is written but sealed, and none can know it. The Lamb by virtue of victory won is able to take the book and unseal it, that the programme may be carried out. This fact is heralded by the songs of living ones, of elders, of countless thousands of angels, and of the whole creation of God. Thus in preparation for a description of the perplexing events which are to follow, it is revealed that holiness is established upon the central Throne, and that it acts though Him Who is the Exponent of the infinite Love.
That part of this section dealing with the procedure of millennial preparation is the most intricate in the whole book. It is a symbolic prophecy of movements occupying seven years, during which evil works itself out to final issues under the government of God. In this there are two great movements, the first dealing with the first three and a half years (6-11). In this there is an interpolation (10:1-11:14). The second movement (12:1-18:24) covers the last three and a half years, and is introduced by an interpolation (12-14).
The events immediately following the end of the Church dispensation are symbolically set forth. The first seal is opened, and one representing false authority is seen going "forth conquering and to conquer." The second seal is opened, and carnage and bloodshed follow as the outcome of military despotism. The third seal is opened, and famine follows in the wake of commercial despotism. The fourth seal is opened, and death in its most terrible forms reigns. In the opening of these first four seals the true nature of evil is graphically set forth, as to its strength and weakness. At the opening of the fifth seal the cry of slaughtered saints is heard, and to the martyrs are given the white robes which are the reward of fidelity. The opening of the sixth seal is immediately followed by premonitions of the coming One. The first of four seals revealed the development of lawless government. The fifth gave the cry of the saints, and the answer in heaven. At the opening of the sixth, signs are given of the established order of true government, notwithstanding the apparent victory of the false. Restraining angels are now seen holding in check the hurricanes of Divine judgment, while the sealing of an elect number of the servants of God takes place. From this sealing the seer turns to contemplate a great vision in heaven of a vast multitude lifting the song of salvation. In response to the inquiry of the seer, the angel declares that these have come out of the great tribulation. At last the seventh seal is opened. Heaven is sensible of the stupendous importance of this seal, and its songs are hushed, and prayer is silent for half an hour. Then seven archangels receive trumpets, and prepare themselves to sound.
How long a period elapses between the sounding of the trumpets we cannot tell. The rapid grouping of the first four would seem to suggest their quick succession. The sounding of the first is followed by a storm and tempest over the earth. The second sounds, and another convulsion, more terrible than the first, follows. The third sounds, and by the touch of a star God changes the character of a third part of the waters of the earth. The fourth angel sounds, and the earth is affected by a display of power among the heavenly bodies. Between the sounding of the fourth and fifth trumpets there is a pause. A flying eagle proclaims a threefold coming woe, and the proclamation is an evidence of the long-suffering of God. At the sounding of the fifth trumpet the procedure of judgment takes on a new form. New forces of a spiritual nature produce physical pain and death. The sounding of the sixth trumpet introduces a period in which an army of evil spirits hitherto held in bondage are loosened.
Under the period of the sixth trumpet we have an interlude which chronicles the events preparing the way for the sounding of the seventh and last. A strong angel, full of glorious dignity, gives to the seer a book, and charges him to eat it. Following this, John measures the temple, and two witnesses deliver their testimony for three and a half years. It must be remembered that John is not now describing what he sees, but writing what he is told. The testimony of the witnesses is not a brief one given between the sounding of the sixth and seventh trumpets. Between these soundings he is told that they exercise their ministry during three and a half years. At last the message being so fully delivered that men know it, the witnesses are slain. The seventh angel at length sounds, and the period ushered in includes all the remaining pre-millennial process.
At the sounding of this seventh trumpet John is given a series of visions dealing with the great facts and conditions leading up to the things actually following the sounding of the trumpet. They constitute a re-statement of subjects already dealt with in slightly different form. The sign of the woman and the man-child is, as to the woman, that of the external manifestation of loyalty to God, which includes all ages and dispensations; and as to the man-child, that of the coming out of the Church of the Firstborn at the call of Christ from that which was external only, at the end of the Church period, at the beginning of the seven years. Then follows the war in heaven, and the casting out of Satan half way through the period of tribulation. The scene of conflict is now upon the earth, and Satan is seen against the woman. Still reviewing the processes of the past three and a half years, the seer describes the beasts, and then his attention is turned again to the heavenly order. There we see once more the one hundred and forty-four thousand surrounding the Lamb, while angels in succession set forth the supremacy of God, the fall of Babylon, a warning against the mark of the beast, and the imminence of judgment.
Before commencing the detailed description of the final processes of judgment, John beheld a vision in heaven revealing the prepared order. Standing by a sea of glass, mingled with fire, is a great host of those who have overcome the beast. They are singing the song of Moses and the Lamb. Following this vision of the victorious hosts John beholds the opening Temple in heaven. From thereout come the seven angels having the seven last plagues. The pouring out of these plagues constitutes the final judgments of God upon the earth. The long-continued sin of man has been that of refusal to submit to Divine government, and consequent devotion to the lower side of his nature. Evil has wrought itself out to its most terrible expression, and now judgment proceeds without mercy.
The judgment of Babylon having been announced, there follows an unfolding of its true nature, and a more detailed account of its doom. One of the seven angels calls the seer to behold the judgment of the great harlot. The name upon her forehead commences with the word "Mystery" Babylon stands for the whole system of organized godlessness in the history of the human race. From Babel on, this spirit has had definite manifestation in the affairs of men, and has been maintained by material power in some form in every successive age. The angel proceeds to explain to John the meaning of the vision. The beast upon which the woman sits represents the temporal authority which has been the strength of spiritual harlotry. After the angel has thus revealed the history of mystic Babylon under the symbolism of the woman, another angel appears, and with a mighty voice declares the fall of Babylon. Then another voice is heard, this time the voice of God Himself, uttering a call to a remnant, pronouncing an all-inclusive verdict on Babylon, and declaring its sentence of doom. The fall of the city produces entirely opposite effects on earth, and in heaven. The whole earth is plunged in mourning; heaven rejoices. A strong angel casts into the sea a millstone, signifying the utter and overwhelming overthrow of Babylon, and the reason thereof is declared.
In the next section we have a brief description of the millennium. This is introduced by an account of heavenly rejoicing. There are three great movements of praise. The first is that of a great multitude in heaven. The second is that of the elders and the living ones. The third is that of a mighty chorus, which John describes by a threefold symbol, as the voice of a great multitude, of many waters, of mighty thunders. Immediately following, the marriage ceremony of the Lamb is described, and Jesus is manifested to the world. It is the coming of the true King into His Kingdom. His name is "The Word of God," that by which He was known when He appeared full of grace and truth. Man in his rebellion is gathered to oppose Him. The battle is immediately joined. There is no indecision, no varying fortunes. It is quick, sharp, decisive, terrible. The King and His armies are supernatural. It is the hour when heaven is touching earth. The spiritualities which men have refused to acknowledge are carrying out a judgment due to blasphemous denial. Victory having thus been obtained over all the manifestation of godlessness on earth, Satan is arrested and imprisoned.
Then follows in brief sentences the only account which this book contains of the actual millennium. It will be a time of perfect earthly government, an absolute monarchy, that of the God-appointed and anointed King.
The final section deals with millennial issues. During the period of perfect government no active rebellion will be possible, but there will still exist an unmanifested capacity for rebellion. At the close of the period Satan will be loosed in order that once again hidden evil may be brought to light for final destruction. Then follows the last apostasy, and fire devours its armies.
John now saw that last assize when the dead, small and great, will be gathered before the Judge. Finally Death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire, and John beholds beyond it the beginning of the great Kingdom of the Son, that glorious reign of the Lamb in association with His Bride, over an earth and a heaven from which all evil has been finally banished. Toward a city of God, men have looked through long generations, and now at last it comes out of heaven from God. A new order of laughter without tears, of life without death, of singing without mourning, of content without care, of pleasure without pain, will have dawned for the world.
The great unveiling is accomplished. What follows is of the nature of ratification and enforcement. The final words of Jesus declare all to be faithful and true, announce His advent, call all trusting souls to Himself, and utter solemn warnings. The final word of John is that of assent and invitation to his Lord, and the benediction pronounced upon all the saints.
PROLOGUE - Revelation 1:1-1:3
1. The Book. Its Nature, origin, method - Rev. 1:1-1:2
2. The Benediction - Rev. 1:3
INTRODUCTION - Revelation 1:4-1:8
1. The Mutual Benediction. "To you" "Unto Him" - Rev. 1:4-1:6
2. Central Truths - Rev. 1:7-1:8
Part A: JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF - Revelation 1:9-1:20
A.1. The Occasion - Rev. 1:9-1:11
A.2. The Vision - Rev. 1:12-1:16
A.3. The Voice - Rev. 1:17-1:18
A.4. The Commission - Rev. 1:19-1:20
Part B: JESUS CHRIST AND THE CHURCH - Revelation 2:1-3:22
B.1. Ephesus. Apostolic - Rev. 2:1-2:7
B.2. Smyrna. Persecution - Rev. 2:8-2:11
B.3. Pergamum. Patronage - Rev. 2:12-2:17
B.4. Thyatira. Corruption - Rev. 2:18-2:29
B.5. Sardis. Reformation - Rev. 3:1-3:6
B.6. Philadelphia. Evangelisation - Rev. 3:7-3:13
B.7. Laodicea. Apostacy - Rev. 3:14-3:22
Part C: JESUS CHRIST AND THE KINGDOM - Revelation 4:1-22:5
C.1. Millennial Preparation - Rev. 4:1-18:24
- The Heavenly Order - 4:1-4:11
- The Earthly Administration - 5:1-5:14
- The Procedure - 6:1-18:24
- Seals - 6:1-8:5
- Trumpets - 8:6-9:21 and 11:15-11:19
- (Parentheses 1 - 10:1-11:14)
- (Parentheses 2 - 12:1-14:20)
- Plagues - 15:1-16:21
- Fall of Babylon - 17:1-18:24
C.2. The Millennium - Rev. 19:1-20:6
- The Inauguration - 19:1-20:3
- The Reign - 20:4-20:6
C.3. Millennial Issues - Rev. 20:7-22:5
- "After the Thousand years" - 20:7-20:10
- The Great Assize - 20:11-20:15
- The Kingdom of the Son - 21:1-22:5
EPILOGUE - Revelation 22:6-22:21
1. Final Words of Jesus - Rev. 22:6-22:19
2. Final Words of John - Rev. 22:20-22:22
Note: To the best of our knowledge we are of the understanding that the above material, being published in 1907 and freely available elsewhere on the internet in various formats, is in the public domain.