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The Revelation Explained

An Exposition, Text by Text,
of the Apocalypse of St. John

Showing the Marvelous Development of the Prophecies from the Time of
their Delivery on the Isle of Patmos--The Establishment and Growth of
Christianity--Rise of Mohammedanism in the Eastern Empire--Of the Papacy
in the Western Division--Of Protestantism--The Civil History of the
Territory Comprising the Ancient Roman Empire until the End of
Time--Together with the Conflicts and Triumphs of the Redeemed until the
Final Judgment, and their Eternal Reward and Home in the "New Heavens
and New Earth."


Author of

"What the Bible Teaches" and "The Last Reformation," etc.

* * * * *

"Behold the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare:
before they spring forth I tell you of them." Isa. 42:9.

"Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto
his servants the prophets." Amos 3:7.


The subject of prophecy should be of interest to every Bible student.
Its importance can not be overestimated. By it we are enabled to
ascertain our true position in this time-world. From the early dawn of
creation, Inspiration has foretold with certainty the great facts
connected with the history of God's chosen people. By this means alone,
the divinity of Jesus Christ and the truth of our holy religion has been
established in many minds; for it is not in the power of mortals thus to
vaticinate future events. With such surprising accuracy have these
predictions been fulfilled that even infidels ofttimes bear witness to
their truthfulness. "Behold the former things are come to pass, and new
things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them." Isa.
42:9. "For I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none
like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times
the things that are not yet done." Isa. 46:9, 10.

The Revelation is a rich mine of prophetic truth. The history of the
current dispensation is there delineated in advance so perfectly that we
can not but attribute its authorship to Him who knoweth the end from the
beginning, and worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. It
was written for the special benefit of the people of God, and we should
give it prayerful consideration.

In the preparation for this work, I have gleaned historical information
from all the general and ecclesiastical histories, encyclopedias, etc.,
within my reach, and only regret that I had not access to a still
greater number. However, knowing that large books are seldom read, I
determined in advance not to write an extensive work, but to condense
the subject matter as much as possible, and, therefore, I have been
obliged to omit much valuable material previously gathered. For this
reason many lines of prophetic truth penned by others of the sacred
writers have been passed over in silence, even though relating to the
same events as certain symbolic visions in the Revelation.

I have availed myself of all the helps and the commentaries within my
reach in the study of this important subject. However, I have but seldom
referred to the opinions of expositors. In most cases their explanations
are not based upon any established rule of interpretation, and the
definite laws of symbolic language are usually overlooked or
disregarded. Ordinary readers of the Revelation have always supposed
that the only course for them was to take the opinion of some learned
expositor and to believe on _his authority_; and when they have found
that equally learned and judicious men sustained the most opposite
views, they have been bewildered amid conflicting opinions and have
decided that, when such men were at issue, it was useless for them to
investigate. While, therefore, I have made every available use of their
opinions, it was only for the purpose of forming my own and of enabling
myself so to unfold the nature of the symbols that every one might see
for himself the propriety of the interpretation given.

The present knowledge that has been attained of this prophetic book is
largely the result of the combined efforts of all who have labored to
unfold its meaning. No one has had the honor of first understanding all
its parts, and very few have failed to contribute something, more or
less, to its true interpretation. Therefore I have endeavored as much as
possible to gather up the good from the labors of my predecessors and to
combine it with the results of my own study and research. The Exposition
of Mr. Lord has had an important bearing on this work. For many
beautiful thoughts concerning the nature and the use of symbols, in the
chapter on the nature of symbolic language, I must acknowledge special
indebtedness to the Lectures of Thomas Wickes on the Apocalypse,
delivered many years ago, although I have ofttimes arrived at quite
different conclusions in their interpretation throughout the Revelation.
Much appreciated assistance has been derived from the works of other
commentators as well.

There is considerable disagreement among historians themselves regarding
certain historical points, but their differences are of minor importance
so far as the present work is concerned. When such points were involved,
I have simply endeavored to follow the best authorities. Lengthy or
important quotations from other writers have been duly credited where
they appear, hence no special mention is necessary in this place. Minor
extracts are merely enclosed within quotation-marks.

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 6 Vols., Philadelphia, 1872,
is the edition of Gibbon's Rome from which quotations are made.

To assist in simplifying the subject and in placing it before the reader
in a concise, comprehensive manner, a number of useful diagrams have
been added; for they serve about the same purpose in the study of a
subject so complicated as do maps in the study of geography. I would
especially call attention to the large "Diagram of the Revelation,"
where the various lines of prophetic truth are outlined in parallel
series, enabling the reader to comprehend at once where the symbolic
narrative returns to take up a new line of thought covering the same
period of time. In these diagrams, however, no attempt has been made to
set forth every phase of thought connected with the subject; only the
main features have been outlined.

Feeling directed by the Lord to undertake this work and realizing the
greatness of the task, I have earnestly sought for divine wisdom and
guidance, and I humbly acknowledge his gracious assistance in its
prosecution; and while I can not indulge the hope that human fallibility
has been overcome, yet I firmly believe that a careful reliance upon the
Holy Spirit has been an effectual means of avoiding error and unfolding
many of the hitherto mysterious prophecies of this wonderful book. To
his worthy name I ascribe all praise and glory. The future, doubtless,
will witness a still greater development of this subject; for men of God
more worthy and possessing greater abilities will arise, who, beginning
where we have left off, will continue its investigation and throw upon
it additional light as yet unrevealed.

That the Lord will bless The Revelation Explained to the good of his
church upon earth and grant it a place, however small, in the cause of
present truth, is my earnest prayer.

Yours in Christ,
F.G. Smith.
_Grand Junction, Mich., June 26, 1906_.


The reception accorded this work when it was first submitted to the
public was more than gratifying to the author. The lapse of time has
only tended to confirm still more strongly the fundamental nature of the
principle of interpretation adopted. In order to supply the constant
demand, the fourth edition is now issued.

I have taken advantage of this opportunity to make certain revisions
necessitated by an increase of knowledge since the work was first
written, nearly twelve years ago. This revision, however, did not
require an entire re-writing and does not involve a change in

F.G. Smith.
_Anderson, Ind., Mar. 1, 1918_.


Nature of Symbolic Language


Introduction, verses 1-11
Vision of Christ, verses 12-20


Message to Ephesus, verses 1-7
Message to Smyrna, verses 8-11
Message to Pergamus, verses 12-17
Message to Thyatira, verses 18-29


Message to Sardis, verses 1-6
Message to Philadelphia, verses 7-13
Message to Laodicea, verses 14-22


Vision of God's Throne


The Book with Seven Seals


First Seal Opened, verses 1, 2
Second Seal Opened, verses 3, 4
Third Seal Opened, verses 5, 6
Fourth Seal Opened, verses 7, 8
Fifth Seal Opened, verses 9-11
Sixth Seal Opened, verses 12-17


God's Servants Sealed, verses 1-8
The White-Robed Company, verses 9-17


Seventh Seal Opened, verses 1-5
First Trumpet Sounded, verses 6, 7
Second Trumpet Sounded, verses 8, 9
Third Trumpet Sounded, verses 10, 11
Fourth Trumpet Sounded, verses 12, 13


Fifth Trumpet Sounded, verses 1-12
Sixth Trumpet Sounded, verses 13-21


The Rainbow Angel


Temple and Holy City, verses 1, 2
The Two Witnesses, verses 3-6
The Witnesses Slain, verses 7-10
The Witnesses Resurrected, verses 11-14
Seventh Trumpet Sounded, verses 15-19


Woman and Man-Child, verses 1-6
Michael and the Dragon, verses 7-12
The Woman's Flight, verses 13-17


The Leopard Beast, verses 1-9
"The Faith of the Saints," verse 10
The Two-Horned Beast, verses 11-18


The 144,000 on Mount Sion, verses 1-5
The Three Angels, verses 6-11
"The Patience of the Saints," verses 12, 13
Harvest of the World, verses 14-20


Seven Last Plagues


The First Vial, verses 1, 2
The Second Vial, verse 3
The Third Vial, verses 4-7
The Fourth Vial, verses 8, 9
The Fifth Vial, verses 10, 11
The Sixth Vial, verses 12-16
The Seventh Vial, verses 17-21


"Babylon the Great," verses 1-6
Beast and Ten Kingdoms, verses 7-18


Fall of Babylon


Marriage of the Lamb, verses 1-10
Coming of Christ, verses 11-21


The Dragon Bound, verses 1-6
The Dragon Released, verses 7-10
The Judgment Scene, verses 11-15


New Heaven and Earth, verses 1-8
The Heavenly Jerusalem, verses 9-27


River and Tree of Life, verses 1-5
Christ's Coming and Eternity, verses 6-21

Nature of Symbolic Language.

Before proceeding with the interpretation of this wonderful book, it
will be necessary for us to pause and make inquiry concerning the nature
of the language employed in its prophecies and concerning the mode of
its interpretation. It will be seen at a glance that it is wholly unlike
the common language of life; and it will be useless for us to undertake
to ascertain its signification unless we understand perfectly the
principles upon which it is founded.

The question may be asked, "Is the language intelligible at all?"
Considering the variety of interpretations placed upon it by expositors
and the opinions generally held respecting it, we might conclude that it
is not. The majority of the people look upon these prophecies as "a mass
of unintelligible enigmas," and are ready to tell the student of
Revelation that this book "either finds or leaves a man mad." But are we
to look upon its language as being applied at a venture, without any
definite rule, capable of every variety of meaning, so that we can never
be quite _sure_ that we have its correct interpretation?

Commentators generally unite in attaching a definite meaning to certain
symbols, and they tell us that these can not be applied otherwise
without violating their nature. They may not give us their reasons for
thus applying them (in fact, they generally do not), yet it is evidently
assumed that such reasons do exist. Now, if reasons actually exist why a
definite signification must be applied to the symbol in the one case,
why do they not exist in another case, and in all cases? If any law
exists in the case at all, it is a uniform one, for a law that does not
possess uniformity is no law; otherwise, it would be an unintelligible
revelation, and the only possible thing left for us to do would be to
attempt to solve it like a riddle--guess it out. It would be as if the
writer were to use words with every variety of meaning peculiarly his
own attached, without informing the reader what signification to give
them in a given instance. No man has a right thus to abuse written or
spoken language; and we may take it for granted that the God of heaven
would not make such an indiscriminate use of symbolical language when
making a revelation to men. There is no other book the wide world around
in which language is as carefully employed as in the Bible; and we can
rest assured that when God gave this Revelation to Jesus Christ "to
_show_ unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass," he
made choice of proper symbols whose meaning can be definitely evolved,
provided we can but ascertain the great underlying principles upon which
their original selection was based.

In the ordinary communication of our thoughts we employ arbitrary signs
and sounds to which we have universally agreed to fix a definite
meaning. Thus, our entire spoken language is made up of a great variety
of sounds or words with which by long practise we have become familiar.
We call a certain object a horse, not because there is any similarity
between the sound and the animal designated, but because we have agreed
that that sound shall represent that object. So, also, we have agreed
that the characters h-o-r-s-e shall represent the same thing; and by the
use of twenty-six characters, called the alphabet, placed together in
various combinations, we are able to write our entire spoken language.

The incidents connected with the introduction of written language among
a barbarous people are worthy of remark in this connection. That thought
can be conveyed to persons at a distance by the use of certain
cabalistic characters seems to them incredible, and when compelled to
believe it, they look upon the person that can accomplish such wonders
as embodying something supernatural. These things I mention merely to
call attention to the fact that spoken and written language is a curious
and wonderfully complicated affair. This is brought forcibly to our
minds when we hear persons conversing in a foreign tongue, or when we
pick up a book the characters of which are wholly unlike those of our
own language. To us an English book is full of instinctive beauty, every
letter or mark possessing a definite meaning that is instantly conveyed
to our minds, because we have become familiar with them by diligent
study and practise.

There are other ways of transferring thought besides the complicated
system just mentioned--ways which are much more natural and simple.
Thus, a simpler way to represent a certain object would be to draw a
picture of it; or, better still, to represent a certain character or
quality by exhibiting, not the object itself, but an analagous one whose
peculiar character that property is; for examples: the quiet, peaceful,
gentle disposition of a child, by a lamb; a man of cunning, artful,
deceptive disposition, by a fox; or a cruel, bloodthirsty, vindictive
tyrant, by a tiger, etc. This is hieroglyphical or symbolic language.
This language takes precedence over every other for naturalness and
simplicity, being common to a greater or less extent among all nations
and intelligible to all.

Spoken language was undoubtedly a gift from God originally, while
written language is probably a mere human invention. We are not to
suppose that the first attempts to convey thought in writing would be by
an alphabetical system, but by the symbolic, it being, as before stated,
the most natural and within reach of the ordinary ingenuity of man. This
is proved by the fact that the inscriptions on the ancient monuments of
Egypt and the inscriptions of other nations of antiquity are of this
character. It is also a fact worthy of notice that, four thousand years
later, men of other countries and of other languages have, by much study
and a careful comparison of the symbols, been able to decipher with
accuracy those hierographical representations.[1] This of itself is
sufficient to establish the point that definiteness can be attached to
the use and the interpretation of carefully-selected symbols, when the
principles that governed their original selection are discovered.

[Footnote 1: The systems of hieroglyphical writing employed by various
nations have, for the most part, remained unintelligible until a key of
their interpretation was discovered. In 1799 M. Bouchard, a French
captain of engineers, while digging intrenchments on the site of an old
temple near the Rosetta mouth of the Nile, unearthed a black stone
containing a trilingual inscription in hieroglyphics, demotic
characters, and Greek. The last paragraph of the Greek inscription
stated that two translations, one in the sacred and the other in the
popular Egyptian language, would be found adjacent; hence this
celebrated stone has afforded European scholars a key to the language
and writing of the ancient Egyptians. The cuneiform writing of the
Babylonians and Persians remained a mystery also until modern times, but
great progress has now been made in the deciphering of thousands of
inscribed clay tablets, cylinders, prisms, etc. The key to its
interpretation is the celebrated inscription at Behistun, cut upon the
face of a high rock three hundred feet above its base, and recording a
portion of the history of Darius. It is written in the cuneiform
characters, in three languages--Median, Persian, and Assyrian.]

I do not wish to be understood as implying that the symbolical language
of Scripture is identical with the hieroglyphics of ancient monuments.
There may be different kinds of symbolic representations; but they are
not arbitrary, as is spoken language, and can not be arbitrarily
applied; a fixed law governs them all.

Now, the book of Revelation is made up of this symbolic language. It is
not, however, confined to this book alone. There are many instances of
it to be found elsewhere in the sacred volume, and in many cases it is
explained by inspiration itself, thus giving us a reliable key to the
whole. Joseph's dream of the eleven sheaves that made obeisance to his
sheaf was of this description (Gen. 37:7, 8), and his eleven brethren
were angered, because its meaning was apparent--that they should be
humbled before him. Also, his dream of the sun, the moon, and the eleven
stars (verses 9, 10) was understood to signify the subjection of the
entire family unto him, which was actually fulfilled after Joseph's
exaltation in Egypt. The chief butler's dream of the vine with three
branches bearing grapes, which he took and pressed into the king's cup,
was interpretated by Joseph as signifying the butler's restoration in
three days to his former position of cup-bearer to the king; while the
chief baker's dream of the three baskets upon his head, out of which the
birds ate, was interpretated as signifying his execution in the same
length of time. Gen. 40. Pharaoh's dream of the seven fat kine and the
seven lean kine, also of the seven full ears and the seven thin ears,
signified seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Gen. 41.

Again, the four divisions of King Nebuchadnezzar's wonderful image was
explained by Daniel as signifying four universal monarchies and the ten
toes as signifying the ten minor kingdoms which grew out of the fourth;
while the stone that was cut out of the mountain without human
intervention he interpreted as signifying the divine kingdom of God.
Dan. 2. The two-horned ram of Daniel's vision (chap. 8), according to
the explanation of the angel, symbolized the Medo-Persian empire, its
two horns signifying the two dynasties of allied kings that composed it.
The he-goat signified the Greco-Macedonian empire; his great horn, its
first mighty king; and the four horns that replaced the great one when
broken represented four kings under whom the empire would eventually be
divided into as many parts. In the Apocalypse itself we have a number of
symbols divinely interpreted, "The seven stars are the angels of the
seven churches." "The seven candle-sticks which thou sawest are the
seven churches." "The ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings." "The
waters which thou sawest ... are peoples, and multitudes, and nations,
and tongues." "The woman which thou sawest is that great city which
reigneth over the kings of the earth," etc.

It will be seen that the great underlying principle or _law_ upon which
symbolic language is based is ANALOGY. An object is chosen to represent
not itself, but something of analagous character.

Webster defines _symbol_ as follows: "The sign or representation of any
moral thing by the images or properties of natural things. Thus, a lion
is the _symbol_ of courage; the lamb is the _symbol_ of meekness or
patience." Home, in his Introduction to the Study of the Bible, says:
"By symbols we mean certain representative marks, rather than express
pictures; or, if pictures, such as were at the time _characters_, and
besides presenting to the eye the resemblance of a particular object,
suggested a general idea to the mind, as when a _horn_ was made to
denote _strength_, an _eye_ and _scepter, majesty_, and in numberless
such instances; where the picture was not drawn to express merely the
thing itself, but something else, which was, or was conceived to be,
analagous to it." The main idea, then, as expressed in the foregoing
definitions, is the representation of an object, not by a picture of
itself, but by something analagous, such as the exhibition of moral
qualities by images drawn from nature. But the use of symbols is not
confined to the representation of moral subjects alone. Anything may be
symbolized to which a corresponding analagous object can be found.

To establish the principle of analogy here laid down, it will be
necessary to refer only to a few of the numerous examples of divinely
interpreted symbols in the Scriptures. Any one can readily perceive the
analogy between the seven fat kine of Pharaoh's dream and as many years
of plenty; so, also, with the seven full, healthy ears that grew up on
seven stalks. Likewise, the analogy between the seven thin kine and as
many years of famine, and the seven thin, blasted ears that represented
the same thing, is apparent. One fat kine or one full ear would
symbolize one year of plenty, when crops were abundant; while seven
would represent as many distinct seasons of prosperity, etc. Kine do not
represent kine, but something analagous. The beasts of Daniel's visions
do not represent animals like themselves, or a multitude of such
animals, but something of analagous disposition. The analogy between a
wild, ferocious beast, stamping upon or devouring everything within its
reach, and a cruel, persecuting, tyrannical government is apparent. A
horn does not signify a horn, but some great power, such as a dynasty of
kings or rulers; and what the horn is to the animal in manifesting its
desolating disposition, kings and rulers are to an empire in executing
the persecuting or oppressive principles of the body politic. A pure,
chaste virgin is used to symbolize the true church of God; whereas a
corrupt harlot is chosen to represent an apostate church, and
fornication her idolatrous worship.

Although this principle is worthy of further elucidation, yet enough has
been said to firmly establish the point that symbolic language is
founded upon analogy. It is also clear that, whenever we attach a
literal signification to a symbolic object, we immediately destroy
entirely its use as a symbol. So we may accept it as one established
landmark in the interpretation of the Apocalypse, that every symbol,
regardless of the department from which it is taken--whether from the
material universe, the animal kingdom, human life or the heavenly
realm--stands as the representative, not of itself, but of some other
object of analagous character not found in the same department from
which it is drawn.

This develops another important fact worthy of attention. If the great
law of symbolic language is based upon analogy, it is clear to a
demonstration that the symbols employed _must be_ definitely applied.
They can not be arbitrary, as the words composing our spoken language
are. There is nothing in the nature of the thing to prevent our calling
a horse an elephant, provided we had only agreed universally to adopt
that designation of the animal referred to (arbitrary sounds can be
arbitrarily applied); but we violate nature when we attempt to make a
ferocious tiger the symbol of an innocent child, or represent a
blood-thirsty tyrant by the symbol of a lamb. A disgusting, polluted
harlot may be the proper symbol of an apostate church, but of the pure,
holy church of God--_never_. A proper correspondence must be kept up. We
must follow nature strictly.

Symbols are drawn from every department--from animate and inanimate
creation, from animal life and human life, from the visible universe
below and the heavenly world above, and also from some objects of fancy
to which there is no corresponding object in existence, such as Daniel's
four-headed beast, or the one in the Revelator's vision with seven heads
and ten horns; but in the selection of the same a proper correspondence
of quality is kept up. The symbols that are chosen to set forth the
great spiritual affairs of the church are such as are in themselves
nobler than those selected to describe the political affairs of kings
and empires, because in the divine estimation the church is of
infinitely greater importance and occupies a more honorable position
than worldly kingdoms. Thus, a beautiful virgin bride is chosen to
represent the church of God; whereas a great red dragon with seven heads
and ten horns is chosen to symbolize the Pagan Roman empire. The
glorious body of God's reformers is set forth under the symbol of an
angel from heaven, with his face as the sun, his feet as pillars of
fire, and a rainbow upon his head; whereas the Saracen warriors of
Mahomet are locusts upon the earth, with stings of scorpions. The
department of human and angelic life is chosen to set forth the
spiritual affairs of the church, while the department of nature and of
animal life represents the political affairs of nations. To this general
rule, there is at least one exception. Certain things connected with
God's chosen people under the old dispensation are considered proper
symbols to represent similar things or events in the New Testament
dispensation, without special regard to the department from which they
are drawn. Thus, the temple, altar, incense, candlesticks, holy city,
etc., of the former age, though not taken from the department of human
or angelic life, are, nevertheless, clearly used to represent affairs of
the church, the analogy in the case being apparent because of their
former prominence as connected with the Lord's covenant people.

Again, when the symbol selected is that of a living, active, intelligent
agent, it represents an analagous intelligent agent. Likewise, the
actions of the former plainly denote analagous actions in the latter,
and the effects produced by the actions of the symbolic agent signify
analagous effects produced by the actions of the agent symbolized. To
make it clearer: agents symbolize agents, actions symbolize actions, and
effects symbolize effects. If this be not true--if agents can symbolize
actions and effects as well as agents, or if actions can symbolize
agents and effects--then all is an inextricable maze of confusion, and
well may we repeat the words uttered by a certain minister to the
writer, "The book should have been called Mystification, not

The same principle of analogy is carried out in another particular.
Whenever the enemies of God or destructive agents are intended, objects
of a corresponding desolating character are chosen as their symbols;
whereas the peaceful triumphs of the cross, as exhibited by God's chosen
people, are described under symbols of an equally benign and gentle
character. Thus, the anti-christian, persecuting power of Rome is
described as a ferocious wild beast, stamping everything beneath its
feet and spreading desolation on every side. The Vandal hordes of
Northern barbarians, who, under Genseric overran the Western Roman
empire early in the fifth century, are symbolized by a volcanic mountain
cast into the sea and spreading its streams of molten lava in every
direction. The fearful pest of Mohammedanism is a dense smoke issuing
from the bottomless pit and darkening the heavens. The Saracens of
Mahomet are swarms of locusts appearing upon the earth, with scorpion
stings, tormenting men five months, or, prophetically, one hundred and
fifty years. On the other hand, a church is a candle-stick; its pastor,
a beautiful star; the whole church, a virgin bride; the glorious
assembly of God's reformers, a rainbow angel, etc.

From the foregoing it will be seen that symbols are not words, but
things, chosen because of some analagous resemblance to represent other
things; and by a careful study of the nature of the symbols themselves
we can ascertain where to look for their fulfilment. In the present work
no attempt has been made to prove the interpretations given merely by
the authority of learned names (for they can be arrayed on every side of
a passage), but the nature of the symbols themselves has been developed;
and the reader will be able to judge how nearly the known laws of
symbolic language have been followed.

It will be necessary, however, to notice another exception to the rules
given, although it can scarcely be said to form an exception--it rather
proves the very position taken. Undoubtedly, there are some few objects
whose nature forbids their symbolization, there being no object in
existence of analagous character that can be chosen as their
representative. God, evidently, can not be symbolized; for where is the
individual in heaven or on earth that can stand as his representative?
"To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto
him?" Isa. 40:18. Man can not represent him, angels can not; for
whenever they appear on the panoramic scene, they denote distinguished
agencies among men. There may be certain symbols connected with his
person, setting forth his divine attributes and proclaiming the eternal
majesty of his name; but he himself is described as "One sitting upon a
throne," before whom the created intelligences of earth and heaven fall
down and worship unceasingly, but no symbol of Him is given. The same
exception also applies to the person of Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer.
While the human aspect of the Savior, as exhibited during the
incarnation in his sacrificial death, may be properly symbolized by a
lamb, as in chap. V, there is no created intelligence in God's great
universe that can be chosen to represent, in his true, essential
divinity, Him who does not deem it robbery to claim equality with God.
There may, likewise, be certain symbols connected with his person to
give us at least a faint impression of his divine character and infinite
majesty; yet when he appears upon the symbolic scene, he distinctly
announces, "I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was
dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore." "He hath on his vesture and
on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." So
whenever the divine Christ appears on the symbolic scene, he comes in
his own person, proclaiming his own name, and we need look for no symbol
of him.

Upon the opening of the fifth seal, the souls of the martyrs are
represented as crying unto God from the altar for the avenging of their
blood on those who dwell on the earth. Where is there an object in all
creation analagous to a disembodied spirit? None can be found. It is
easy to give them an arbitrary name; therefore they appear in the
Revelation under their own appropriate title, as "the _souls_ of them
that were slain." Chap. 6:9, 10, also 20:4.

This exception applies to every case where no corresponding object can
be selected as a symbol. Where the nature of the subject forbids its
symbolization, there the description must of necessity be literal, and
all such objects appear under their own appropriate titles. Otherwise,
we are to look upon the entire book of Revelation as a vast collection
of symbols whose interpretation is to be found, not in the department
from which they are taken, but in another, to which they bear a certain
analagous resemblance.

Although not pertaining strictly to the subject of symbolic language,
yet a word respecting the plan of the prophecy will be appropriate at
this time. The prophetic events are not arranged after the ordinary plan
of histories, narrating all the contemporaneous events in a given
period, whether civil, religious, literary, scientific, or biographical,
thus finishing up the history of that period; but it consists of a
number of distinct themes running over the same ground. The proof of
this assertion will appear as we proceed with the development of the

May the wisdom of heaven direct us in the perusal of this wonderful book
of Revelation, and may we at last be "accounted worthy to obtain that
world," and the glorious privilege of rendering eternal praise to "Him
that sitteth upon the throne," "upholding all things by the word of his
power," "declaring the end from the beginning," and revealing his mighty
works unto the children of men.


The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show
unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he
sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

2. Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of
Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

3. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of
this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein:
for the time is at hand.

This book of the Revelation is frequently styled the Apocalypse, derived
from the word by which it is designated in Greek. Jesus Christ having
received it from God, its author, designed it for the future benefit of
his church, and communicated it to his servants by the hand of the
beloved apostle John. Its character is described by its title
"Revelation," which signifies something revealed or made known; and its
object was to "show unto his servants things which must shortly come to
pass." This object of God's in delivering the Revelation to his church
should be a sufficient refutation of the popular theory that this book
is unintelligible, and its varied symbols wrapped in such deep mystery
that their meaning can not be evolved; for it is not consonant with the
supreme power and wisdom of the God-head to suppose that, in making a
revelation to man, he would make the fatal mistake of clothing his
language with a mystery that defies the intellect of mortals to unveil.
It is said of the things herein revealed that they "must shortly come to
pass," by which is meant not that they were all to be completely
fulfilled within a short time, but that the series of special events
predicted were soon to begin. Thus, we speak of a century or eternity as
near at hand, by which we mean that the events of the period spoken of
are about to commence, although the end of the series may be very far

But who are "his servants"? For whose benefit was the Revelation given?
Surely it was for all those who become children of God by faith in
Christ Jesus, from the beginning of the gospel dispensation when it was
given, until the end of time; for a benediction is pronounced upon _all_
those who read and hear its prophecies and "keep those things which are
written therein." It was this promised blessing unto the earnest
inquirers into the truths of Revelation that enabled the writer to
decide to give these prophecies the consideration that is justly their
due, and to recognize their infinite importance to the present church;
"for the time is at hand" that will close the series of events herein
predicted and usher in eternity. Every fulfilment of prophecy brings
with it new duties, and enjoins fresh responsibilities upon the people
of God; yea, "every revolving century, every closing year, adds to the
urgency with which attention is challenged to the concluding portion of
Holy Writ." Daniel prophetically described some of the events contained
also in the Apocalypse, but he was told to shut up the words and seal
the book _until_ the time of the end, when "many shall run to and fro,
and knowledge shall be increased."

It has been a matter of conjecture as to who the angel or messenger was
that Christ sent to deliver the prophecies to John. Some suppose it to
have been Gabriel, because of his having been a chosen instrument to
deliver similar prophecies to Daniel. Some think it was Elijah, he
having been translated that he should not see death, and afterwards
appearing on the mount of transfiguration. Others think it was one of
the redeemed sons of earth; because afterward, when rejecting the
worship John was about to tender him, he says, "See thou do it not: I am
thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of
Jesus: worship God." Chaps. 19:10; 22:9. But we can not identify this
messenger positively, as no definite information is given. To these
revelations received John bore a faithful record of all things that he
_saw_, implying the fact that they passed in vision before him and he
beheld them as in a picture.

4. JOHN to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto
you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is
to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;

5. And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the
first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the
earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in
his own blood,

6. And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father;
to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

7. Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him,
and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth
shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

8. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the
Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the

The Apocalypse opens with the salutation of John to the seven churches
in Asia, unto whom it was particularly addressed, and for whom special
messages were prepared. There were other congregations of the church of
God in Asia, or Asia Minor, besides the seven to whom the Revelation was
sent, such as Colosse, Miletus, Troas, etc. Why only seven were
addressed, we do not know, unless it be that the number seven is used,
as elsewhere in the Sacred Volume, to denote fulness or completeness,
being, as has been said, "a kind of memorial of the great facts of the
first seven days of time which have divided all ages into cycles of
weeks." So when we read of Christ's walking in the midst of the seven
churches, we are to understand that he is in all the congregations of
his people; and the ministers of the seven churches who are upheld by
the Lord himself are representative, in one important sense at least, of
the entire Christian ministry; for Christ has promised to be with them
alway "even unto the end of the world." Mat. 28:20.

This salutation of John's is one of great beauty and splendor, setting
forth, as it does, the divine attributes of the great Jehovah in a
striking manner as he "which is, and which was, and which is to come,"
an expression embracing eternity and designating the eternal,
unchangeable God. The seven spirits before his throne describe the third
person in the Trinity, as will appear clearer hereafter, seven being
used as a sacred or perfect number designating his dignity and
excellence. Some have supposed that seven angelic spirits were here
described; but it is not consistent with the honor due the God-head to
suppose that created intelligences should be exalted to a plane of
equality with the supreme Deity. Moreover, they would probably have been
described as seven _angels_, and not as seven _spirits_.

Jesus Christ is mentioned next and more fully described, he being the
direct author of the Revelation. He is "the first begotten of the dead,
the prince of the kings of the earth," and the one "that loved us, and
washed us from our sins in his own blood." The statement that Christ is
the "first-begotten of the dead," is parallel to similar expressions in
the Bible, where he is declared to be "the first-fruits of them that
slept," "and the first-born from the dead." Though others had been
restored to life before the resurrection of Christ, yet he was the first
to rise with an immortal, glorified body. These expressions may also
denote that Christ was the chief or central figure among all those who
arose. But it was by virtue of his coming and of his victory over death
that any were enabled to rise before his resurrection, as in the mind
and purpose of God, who "calleth those things which be not as though
they were" (Rom. 4:17), Christ was ordained to die and rise again, from
the foundation of the world. He is the "prince of the kings of the
earth" by virtue of his being exalted to the right hand of God, with
"angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him." 1 Pet.
3:22. "Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion,
and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that
which is to come." Eph. 1:21.

"Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,"
describes the great atonement work of Jesus Christ, by which we are
cleansed from all sin and made a royal, kingly priesthood unto God even
in this world. Every soul that has received the blessed experience John
here describes will be able to appreciate the unbounded rapture the
beloved apostle felt in the contemplation of this wonderful theme of
redemption that caused him to ascribe to God, its author, "glory and
dominion forever and ever."

This Jesus is he who will come again, not in humiliation and suffering,
but in glory and honor; not as a Lamb to shed his blood for the sins of
the world, but as the Lion of the tribe of Juda, with infinite power and
majesty, causing all the kindreds of earth to wail because of him. The
blasphemous Jews, who clamored for his crucifixion; Pilate, who
delivered him up; and the Roman soldiery, who drove the nails and
pierced his side, producing a death of greatest ignominy--all will see
him when he comes. But while the proud enemies of God and the cruel
oppressors of his saints are overwhelmed with terror at the sight of His
person, the saints of all ages will shout for joy, saying, "Even so.
Amen." "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." In
the face of this awful truth, how dare men assert that the second advent
will usher in a thousand years of peace and tranquility, during which
time the wicked will lie in their graves, when God's word declares that
_every eye_ shall see him when he comes?

The present description of Christ closes with the statement that he is
the Alpha and the Omega, which, being the first and last letters of the
Greek alphabet, mean the same as "the beginning and the ending"; while
the whole concludes with the statement that he is the one "which is, and
which was, and which is to come, the Almighty"--which is the same as the
description given of God in verse 4. Nothing in addition to this could
be ascribed to Christ. Every attribute with which the Deity himself is
invested is here ascribed to Jesus Christ. If our Savior is anything
more than this description declares him to be, it is beyond the reach of
our finite minds to comprehend. The sacred writers everywhere speak of
him as a being worthy of worship and praise; and this fact, taken in
connection with the universal proneness of men to take the honor from
God and to give it to those who are no gods, is a convincing proof that
Christ is God and, as such, is worthy of all honor and praise; and
nowhere is there given in regard to Christ a warning caution such as
John received from the angel at whose feet he fell to worship--"See thou
do it not ... worship God."

9. I John, who also am your brother, and companion in
tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ,
was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and
for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

10. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a
great voice, as of a trumpet,

11. Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and,
What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven
churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and
unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto
Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

At the time the Revelation was given, John was a prisoner in the Isle of
Patmos (now called Patmo or Patino), a small, desolate, rocky island in
the Aegean sea, near the coast of Asia Minor, its greatest length from
north to south being about ten miles, and its greatest breadth six. To
this lonely place, according to Jerome and others, John was exiled
during the reign of the tyrant Domitian, in A.D. 95. The reason of his
banishment is given--"For the word of God, and for the testimony of
Jesus Christ." Having confined him to this barren spot, the emperor no
doubt thought he had effectually cleared the world of this preacher of
righteousness. Doubtless the persecutors of John Bunyan[2] thought the
same when they had him shut up in Bedford jail. But when men think the
truth is dead and buried out of sight, God suddenly gives it a
resurrection with thirty-fold greater glory. It was so in this case. The
giving of the book of Revelation--the writing on this spot of the
history of the church in advance--has changed the name of this rocky
island from deepest infamy to one of sacred interest and holy
recollections. The death of Domitian occurred in A.D. 96, and his
successor, the humane Nerva, recalled those who had been exiled because
of their faithfulness to Christianity; and John returned to Ephesus,
where he spent the remainder of his days, dying a natural death at the
advanced age of about one hundred years.

[Footnote 2: John Bunyan (1628-1688) was a Puritan. After the
restoration of the Stuarts to the throne, at the close of the English
Revolution and the failure of the Commonwealth, he was imprisoned for
twelve years "on account of non-conformity to the established worship."
It was during this dreary confinement that he wrote his "Pilgrim's
Progress," the most admirable allegory in English literature.]

The humble manner in which John speaks of himself is affectionate. He
does not represent himself to the churches as some great apostle or
prophet, but as "your brother and companion in tribulation," a sharer
with them in the trials and the persecutions that they were all called
upon to endure. He also testified that he was "in the kingdom and
patience of Christ," of which we will speak more hereafter.

It was on the first day of the week, or the Lord's day, that the vision
recorded in this chapter was given John, while he was "in the Spirit,"
or under the influence of the spirit of prophecy. He was commanded to
write in a book the things that he saw and to send it unto the seven
churches of Asia. It is important to bear in mind the fact that these
visions are things that John _saw_, all the actors and events passing
before him as a moving panorama--the most stupendous scene that human
eyes have ever beheld, containing the future political history of
various nations and kingdoms and also the history of the church in her
different phases from the beginning until the final consummation. Of the
seven churches we will speak more particularly hereafter.

12. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being
turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;

13. And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the
Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt
about the paps with a golden girdle.

14. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as
snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;

15. And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a
furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.

16. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his
mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as
the sun shineth in his strength.

17. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid
his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first
and the last:

18. I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive
for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

The hieroglyphic, or symbolic, characters now begin. Turning in the
direction from which the voice came, John saw seven beautiful
candle-sticks and standing in their midst, a personage whose appearance
was inexpressibly glorious. John had recognized the voice of Christ
announcing "I am the first and the last," but he was not prepared for
the sight that met his gaze when he turned and found himself in the
immediate presence of his August Majesty, the Son of God. A human form
was there, but clothed in such vestments as proclaimed God; and no
wonder mortality was overwhelmed when ushered into the presence of the
uncreated Deity--he whose feet glowed as brass in a furnace, whose eyes
were as a flame of fire, and whose voice was as the sound of many
waters. Any man would have fallen as dead before such a personage as is
here described. Men may talk atheism, but it is the atheism of the lips
and of a coward heart, an atheism that would flee appalled before the
burning footsteps of the Deity, and the irresistible conclusion would
be, "It is God himself."

John was not left in doubt regarding the identity of this personage;
for, laying his hand upon the prostrate form of the apostle, he said,
"Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was
dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of
hell and of death." The ever-living One entered death's domains and
permitted himself to be bound with chains; but at his pleasure he broke
them asunder, conquered death, and rose triumphant, carrying with him
the keys of hell and of death; and he has ascended on high, alive
forevermore; and at his voice all the dead will arise at his appearing,
for the grave can no longer hold its victims.

This vision settles an important fact--that when Christ appears upon the
panoramic scene, he comes in his own person, and not in the character of
a created substitute. There may be symbols connected with his
person--the sword of his mouth may signify vengeance upon his enemies;
his eyes as a flame of fire, superior intelligence and penetrating
vision, etc.--but he distinctly announces himself to be the Christ of
God. There is no creature in the universe that could personate "him that
liveth, and was dead, but is alive forevermore."

19. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which
are, and the things which shall be hereafter;

20. The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right
hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the
angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which
thou sawest are the seven churches.

Here John received a special commission to write the things of the
future that were to be given, the things that were then taking place,
and also certain events which had come under his personal observation
during his life-time, and which were also included in the symbolic
visions, thus covering the entire gospel dispensation.

The special symbols employed in this introductory vision are here
explained by Christ himself, thus leaving us in no doubt whatever. A
star is a fit symbol of the position of a Christian minister--set in the
church to give the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world;
while a candle-stick fitly represents the congregation working with him
and sustaining him in his position. The special power of
Christ--symbolized by his right hand--is manifested in upholding his
ministers, while he walks in the midst of his churches, ready with the
sword of his mouth to defend them from the attacks of their adversaries
and to prove their constant Guardian and Protector.


Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things
saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who
walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;

2. I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how
thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried
them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found
them liars:

3. And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake
hast labored, and hast not fainted.

4. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast
left thy first love.

5. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent,
and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly,
and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou

6. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the
Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.

7. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto
the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the
tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

The special messages to the seven churches of Asia Minor are not of such
thrilling interest as are the symbolic visions of the remainder of the
book, yet we can learn many beneficial lessons from the various
experiences of these congregations.

At the time the Revelation was given, Ephesus was the chief capital of
Proconsular Asia and its pride and glory. It was also that country's
chief mart of idolatry, containing, as it did, the magnificent temple of
Diana, which is reckoned as one of the seven wonders of the world. This
temple, according to the disclosures of modern excavations, was four
hundred and eighteen feet in length, and two hundred and thirty-nine in
width, with one hundred beautiful external pillars of Parian marble,
each a single shaft about fifty-six feet high. The city was proud of the
title it had received, "Servant of the Goddess," and even the Roman
emperors vied with wealthy natives in lavishing gifts to her. One of the
latter, named Vibius Salutaris, presented a large quantity of gold and
silver images to be carried annually in procession.

In this proud, wealthy, idolatrous city the apostle Paul planted a
Christian church, and the great inroads the gospel made into the
prevalent system of idolatry is shown by one circumstance mentioned in
the Book of Acts. "And many that believed came, and confessed, and
showed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought
their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted
the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So
mightily grew the word of God and prevailed." Acts 19:18-20. Fifty
thousand pieces of silver would be equal to ten thousand dollars' worth,
or, according to some estimates, six times that amount. But ten thousand
dollars' worth of books on incantation and magic alone destroyed,
considering the scarcity of books in that day, shows the wondrous extent
to which the gospel had been accepted. This was made the occasion of a
great tumult in the city, when one, Demetrius, seeing that the prestige
of Diana was diminishing, stirred up the people of the city against Paul
and his companions, and cried vehemently, "Great is Diana of the
Ephesians!" The souvenir silver shrines and images of this goddess,
which had been in such demand by the multitudes of people constantly
visiting the city, were no longer sought for when the knowledge of the
one true God was made known; and well might Demetrius and his
fellow-craftsmen be alarmed as their means of wealth disappeared.

The spiritual condition of this church in Paul's time is worthy of
notice; for it presents a striking contrast with its condition at the
time when the special message of the Revelation was addressed to it.
Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians taught them the glorious doctrine
of entire sanctification (chap. 5:25-27), and they had received the
experience; for he gives them the express command, "Grieve not the holy
Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." Chap.
4:30. And again, "After that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy
Spirit of promise." Chap. 1:13. Their ministers, also, had been placed
in their position by authority of the Holy Ghost, and were commanded to
feed the flock. See Acts 20:28. When this was their heavenly experience,
their "first works" of patience, love, and perseverance, were acceptable
unto Christ; but it was not their present condition. A sad declension
had taken place; therefore the declaration, "I have somewhat against
thee, because thou hast left thy first love." This was no mere human
estimate placed upon their piety, but it was their condition as Christ
himself knew it to be. He "who walketh in the midst of the seven golden
candlesticks," and knoweth the hearts of all men, declared they had
fallen, and commanded them to repent and to do the first works. How sad
that a congregation which had one time enjoyed the fulness of God's
favor should fall from grace and be threatened with destruction by the
Lord himself! But there is one consolation to be obtained from the
experience of this church, and that is, that even if persons have
enjoyed an experience of pardon and of sanctification and have lost it,
there is a possibility of their recovering the favor of God, provided
they "repent, and do the first works."

But Christ, who in chapter 1:5 is said to be "the faithful witness,"
will not overlook anything that is good, nor censure a congregation
unjustly. He finds in this church one fact worthy of commendation--their
abhorrence of the deeds of the Nicolaitans. The infamous practises
attributed to this party are promiscuous sexual intercourse and the
eating of things sacrificed to idols. It is said to have derived its
name from Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch, who was one of the seven
deacons appointed by the church at Jerusalem, Acts 6:5. But there is no
satisfactory evidence that Nicolas was its founder; and it is the belief
of many, that the sect attributed their origin to him simply to gain the
prestige of his name. However, its mention in this connection is
sufficient proof that at this time those corrupt principles had been
widely promulgated.

The letter closes with an admonition and a promise--an admonition to
give heed to the things uttered by the Spirit, and a promise of
everlasting life to the overcomer. This shows that Christ does not
approve or condemn indiscriminately. If the great mass of professors
continue in their backslidden condition, the individual that gives heed
to God's Word and is made an overcomer will have a right to "the tree of
life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God."

What, may we ask, has been the fate of this church against which Christ
uttered the threat of removal? There is no proof that they gave heed to
the exhortation to repent, and the candle-stick has long since been
taken away. Not a vestige of a church remains to mark the site of this
once important congregation; nay, the city itself is no more, the stork,
the jackal, and a few miserable Turkish huts alone remaining on the site
of this once proud metropolis where thousands congregated and cried,
"Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"

8. And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These
things saith the first and the last which was dead, and is

9. I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art
rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews,
and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

10. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold,
the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be
tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful
unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

11. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto
the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second

Smyrna was situated on a bay of the Aegean Sea, its beautiful harbor
rendering it from time immemorial one of the most important commercial
cities of Asia Minor. History does not inform us when the gospel was
first introduced in this city; but at a very early date a large
congregation existed there, with the venerable Polycarp as its pastor.
He suffered death by martyrdom under the reign of Marcus Aurelius about
A.D. 167.

In each of the seven letters to the churches Christ introduces himself
by some appellation significant of the character he assumes toward them.
In this he styles himself "the first and the last, which was dead, and
is alive," a fact very important for that congregation to remember
during the great seasons of persecution and oppression through which
they were to be called to pass.

Against this church Christ has no words of condemnation to utter; all is
encouragement and promise. Their condition of poverty is mentioned. It
is probable that this very poverty arose because of their accepting
Christianity and taking joyfully the spoiling of their goods; for it is
a well-known fact that, when individuals embrace Christianity in an
idolatrous land, they are disinherited by parents, cast out by
relatives, and denied public employment. Even the community refuses to
associate with them or to render them assistance in any form. Their
means of subsistence is thus cut off, and they are harassed in every
possible manner. Perhaps this is the very trial of poverty the church of
Smyrna passed through; but Christ declares that they are rich: yea, God
hath "chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the
kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him." Jas. 2:5. Their
enemies may think that they have reduced them to a condition of
wretchedness, but in this the persecutors are mistaken. God says the
righteous are rich. A certain writer has remarked, "There is many a rich
poor man, and many a poor rich man."

The blasphemy of opposing, self-styled Jews is next mentioned. In all
probability the term _Jew_ is applied in its spiritual sense. Paul
declares that "he is not a Jew which is one outwardly ... but he is a
Jew which is one inwardly" (Rom. 2:28, 29), and that "if ye be Christ's,
then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Gal.
3:29. These persons professed to belong to the true "Israel of God"
(Gal. 6:16), but they were without salvation; and the Smyrnaen church
would not recognize them as belonging to the congregation, and therefore
the only name that could be applied to them was "the synagogue of
Satan." Had they been tolerated in the assembly of the righteous, Christ
would have condemned or rebuked the church for not performing their
duty, the same as he did the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira.

Great persecutions for the church of Smyrna are predicted; but he "which
was dead, and is alive forevermore," having passed through the ordeal of
suffering and death himself, stands in a position to speak words of
comfort and consolation, assuring them in the strongest terms that,
although wicked men and the devil may cast them into prison and
persecute them unto the death, yet "he that overcometh shall not be hurt
of the second death." The overcomers are of the number of those who,
having had "part in the first resurrection, on such the second death
hath no power." Chap. 20:6. The ten days doubtless are prophetic time
(which will be explained later) and signify ten years, which was
probably fulfilled in the terrible persecution that began under the
reign of Diocletian, and continued ten years, or from A.D. 302 to 312.

The subsequent history of Smyrna has been different from that of
Ephesus, in that it has retained its name and importance until the
present day, being the greatest commercial city in the Levant. It has a
population of more than two hundred thousand, several thousand of whom
belong to the Greek and Armenian churches. The light there has become
dimmed, but let us pray that God will soon remember the faith and
perseverance of his ancient servants and again trim the lamps that once
shone so brightly.

12. And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These
things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;

13. I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where
Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not
denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my
faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

14. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast
there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to
cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat
things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

15. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the
Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.

16. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will
fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

17. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto
the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the
hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone
a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that
receiveth it.

Pergamos was a city of considerable importance, the ancient metropolis
of the province of Mysia and the residence of the Attalian kings.

The description here given of Christ is in accordance with the character
of the church addressed and the work he found necessary to perform in
it. They are said to be located "where Satan's seat is." Pergamos was a
city reputed to be "sacred to the gods" and was one of the headquarters
of idolatry. There are numerous such cities now among the Hindoos and
other idolatrous nations. These cities are regarded with peculiar
veneration and sanctity, and they contain the most honored temples. In
the midst of such surroundings the influences against Christianity would
be very great.

The congregation is commended because of its loyalty and steadfastness
during a period of persecution in which Antipas was slain. When this
persecution occurred, we are not informed; and as to the identity of
Antipas, we are also left in uncertainty. Some suppose him to have been
the elder of the church.

Christ censures them severely, however, for tolerating persons in their
midst who held the doctrine of Balaam and the pernicious sentiments of
the Nicolaitans, and he threatens to fight against them with the sword
of his mouth unless they repent. The doctrine of Balaam is partly
explained--he "taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the
children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit
fornication." When Balak desired Balaam to pronounce a curse against
Israel, God by various means miraculously prevented Balaam's doing so;
but Balaam craftily instructed Balak to make use of the women of Moab to
seduce the men of Israel to sacrifice to their idols and to indulge in
the licentious accompaniments to such idolatry. In many places in
heathen countries to-day vile women are attached to the temples of the
gods, and at certain stated feasts licentiousness becomes a sanctioned
part of the religious celebration. Balaam's plan was successful. God was
displeased with Israel, and because of this fornication there fell in
one day twenty-four thousand. For a full account see Num. 22-25;

It would appear that the doctrine of Balaam and the doctrine of the
Nicolaitans were classed as two different heresies; but the corrupt
tenets of the latter were identical with those of the former, and the
probable meaning is, "As the Hebrews had Balaamites among them; so,
likewise, you have among you the Nicolaitans teaching the same
pernicious doctrines." It is also a singular fact that the Hebrew
signification of Balaam and the Greek of Nicolas is the same--"subduer
of the people." Thus the doctrine of Balaam would stand as a
representation of the principles taught by the Nicolaitans.

The letter to this church also closes with an exhortation and a promise.
Hidden manna and a white stone in which is inscribed a new name are
rewarded the overcomer. The interpretations of this white stone have
been various, but the difficulty seems to lie in determining which
ancient custom is meant. The most satisfactory to my mind is that
contained in the following account by Mr. Blunt:

"In primitive times, when traveling was rendered difficult from want of
places of public entertainment, hospitality was exercised by private
individuals to a very great extent, of which, indeed, we find frequent
traces in all history, and in none more than in the Old Testament.
Persons who partook of this hospitality, and those who practised it,
frequently contracted habits of friendship and regard for each other,
and it became a well-established custom among the Greeks and Romans to
provide their guests with some particular mark, which was handed down
from father to son, and insured hospitality and kind treatment whenever
it was presented. This mark was usually a small stone or pebble, cut in
halves, upon each of which the host and the guest mutually inscribed
their names, and then interchanged with each other. The production of
these stones was quite sufficient to insure friendship for themselves or
descendants whenever they traveled again in the same direction; while it
is evident that these stones required to be privately kept, and the
names written upon them carefully concealed, lest others should obtain
the privileges instead of the persons for whom they were intended." So
those who have obtained salvation and are overcomers through the blood
have received the sure pledge of Christ's eternal friendship (which
those who know not God can not receive) and are invited to partake of
all of his hospitalities, even to "eat of the hidden manna," which is
experienced by the truly sanctified.

18. And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These
things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame
of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;

19. I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and
thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the

20. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because
thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a
prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit
fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

21. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she
repented not.

22. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit
adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of
their deeds.

23. And I will kill her children with death; and all the
churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and
hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your

24. But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many
as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths
of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.

25. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.

26. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end,
to him will I give power over the nations:

27. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of
a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of
my Father.

28. And I will give him the morning star.

29. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto
the churches.

To this congregation Christ manifests himself in the character of him
"who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet like fine
brass," denoting the fact that he is the great discerner of all hearts
and that he is able to render unto every man according to his deeds.
Whether the expression, "his feet like fine brass," has any particular
signification, I am unable to say.

This letter opens with a commendation of the works, the charity, the
service, and the faith of this church. In these things they had made
considerable advancement. Nevertheless, Christ had something against
them, because they had suffered "that woman Jezebel" to teach false
doctrines and to seduce the servants of Christ to compromise with
idolatry and to commit fornication. It is improbable that Jezebel was
her real name; but she was a Jezebel in character, named in this letter
after King Ahab's wicked wife, who killed the Lord's prophets, seduced
her husband into idolatry, and fed the priests of Baal at her own table.
Some have supposed that this appellation designated a number or class of
people teaching these doctrines; but the manner in which "her children,"
or disciples, are spoken of would seem rather to point out a particular
woman--one who was a leader and the chief instrument of mischief.

The long-suffering of Christ had been manifested in this case. He had
given her an opportunity to repent of her evil deeds, but she would not.
Now he declares that he will cause his judgments to descend upon her and
her followers. By casting her into a bed is doubtless meant that he
would bring her down upon a bed of sickness and pain and thus make her a
most distressing object. Her partners in sin were to suffer "great
tribulation," and "her children," or disciples, he would kill with
death, or deadly pestilence. Thus would this whole corrupt party be
visited with divine judgments according to their works; while their
great pretensions to wisdom and discernment, "as they speak," or as they
term it, will be shown to be nothing but the "depths of Satan."

The frequent references to these gross sins in the letters to the
churches may seem a little strange to us in the altered circumstances of
society in which we live; but when we consider the tone of public
sentiment and the prevalence of idolatry at that time, it will be seen
that the lapse into these sins was very easy. Some compromised with the
heathen by joining in their idolatrous feasts, maintaining that the meat
was not affected one way or the other, and this proved but a
stepping-stone to the licentious principles and the corrupt practises of
those with whom they thus associated.

The remainder of this letter is full of encouragement to the faithful.
The only burden Christ placed upon them was a severe censure because
they tolerated that abominable party in their midst. They were exhorted
to continue faithful and were promised power over the nations. These
they should rule with a rod of iron, the same as Christ, who received
this power from his Father. The law, or rod, with which Christ, and his
people with him, as _kings_ and priests, rule the nations is the word of
God, the most unyielding law, based upon the greatest authority, ever
written. "Let the saints be joyful in glory ... let the high praises of
God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand; to execute
vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; to bind
their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to
execute upon them the _judgments written_: this honor have _all his
saints_." Psa. 149:5-9.


And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things
saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven
stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest,
and art dead.

2. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are
ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

3. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold
fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come
on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will
come upon thee.

4. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled
their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they
are worthy.

5. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white
raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of
life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before
his angels.

6. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto
the churches.

Sardis was one of the chief cities of western Asia Minor. It was
beautifully situated on the river Pactolus, in the middle Hermus valley,
at the foot of Mount Tmolus, and was once the capital of the kingdom of
Lydia, the place of residence of Croesus and other Lydian kings. It was
a city of great opulence and splendor, and "distinguished for the
voluptuous and debauched manners of its inhabitants."

To this church Christ introduces himself as "he that hath the seven
Spirits of God, and the seven stars"--that is, he has control of the
Holy Spirit's agency and of his ministers. Thus, the great spiritual
agencies of the church are in his keeping to bestow or to take away as
he pleases. Considering the dead condition of this church of Sardis, it
was very appropriate for Christ thus to address himself to them. He has
no words of commendation to offer, no works of charity, service, faith,
and patience of which to approve. They had works, but these were not
"perfect before God." They were threatened with sudden visitation, as
unexpected as a thief breaking in unawares upon the slumbering inmates
of a dwelling in the still hours of night. Their condition was different
from that of any of the churches before mentioned. They are not charged
with such vile practises as prevailed at Pergamus and Thyatira, the
doctrine of the Nicolaitans had gained no foothold among them, yet their
works were not perfect. "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and are
_dead_." They had maintained the external form of religion, but the
vital power of godliness was lacking.

Although Christ could not commend this church as a body, on account of
their lack of spirituality, yet he testified, "Thou hast a few names
even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments." In the midst of
all the cold formalism of professors and surrounded by worldliness and
iniquity, a few preserved their Christian integrity and were approved by
the Lord. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this
... to keep himself unspotted from the world." Jas. 1:27. All such
overcomers have the promise of being clothed in white raiment ("the
righteousness of saints "--chap. 19:8) and of having their names
preserved in the "book of life" in heaven and confessed before the
Father and the holy angels. Wondrous admission into the heavenly realm!
Presented to the Father and the innumerable hosts of heaven _by the
Lord, himself_, there, amid sacred environments, to enjoy the
transcendent felicity of eternal blessedness! "They are worthy," saith

Although this church was threatened with sudden visitation, there is no
hint given of the manner in which this should be fulfilled, for the
reason, perhaps, that it might be all the more unexpected. The church
has long since passed out of existence. The city itself has lain in
ruins for centuries, the modern village of Sart composed of a few huts
inhabited by semi-nomadic Yuruks alone remaining near the ancient site.
Cattle now graze on grassy plains once traversed by streets and thronged
with the inhabitants of this superb metropolis.

7. And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These
things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the
key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and
shutteth, and no man openeth;

8. I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open
door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength,
and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

9. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say
they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them
to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have
loved thee.

10. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will
keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all
the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

11. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that
no man take thy crown.

12. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my
God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the
name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new
Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and I
will write upon him my new name.

13. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto
the churches.

Philadelphia was once a large and powerful city, and it continued thus
until later times. Prior to the time the Revelation was written, it had
suffered severely from repeated earthquakes, which caused it to be
almost deserted by its inhabitants. Subsequently, however, it recovered
and became a prosperous, influential city.

The character Christ assumes toward this church is that of the Holy and
True--one who will justly reward them for their patience and
perseverance--and by virtue of his possessing the key of David (a symbol
of power and authority), he is able to place before them an open door
which no man can shut.

The character of this church is wholly unlike that of the preceding. In
that, there was nothing to commend, but much to condemn; whereas to
this, all is admonition, encouragement, and promise, because they had
"kept the word of his patience" and had not denied his name. Christ knew
their works and that they were worthy of approval. They still possessed
"a little strength" and had not denied his name.

Christ, who always upholds and rewards his faithful followers, although
they be few in number and constitute the despised of earth, was not
unrighteous that he should overlook this humble congregation of devoted
disciples that had kept his word, but he made them a number of special
promises _because_ of their faith and perseverance. The first was the
assurance that he had set before them an open door which no man could
shut. A door is a means either of entrance or of escape, and signifies
that God was going to open before them a greater field of enlargement
and success, or else would furnish them a sure means of escape and
protection from their cruel and relentless persecutors. It will be
remembered that the church of Smyrna also received nothing but
commendation and encouragement; but there was no promise of an open door
to them. On the contrary, they were told that they should be tried, cast
into prison, and suffer tribulation ten days. They were comforted,
however, with a certain assurance of future reward and a crown of
everlasting life. But before the church of Philadelphia there was opened
a scene of greater prosperity, deliverance from enemies, greater
enlargement, and the glorious prospect of seeing multitudes of souls
brought under the influence of the saving gospel of Christ.

The next promise was that of deliverance from opposing Jews, who were to
be humbled before them. This refers, doubtless, to persons who had a
mere profession of Christianity and who were not recognized by the
congregation--the same as the blaspheming Jews of Smyrna. The
faithfulness of God's elect would eventually be the means of bringing
them back to an experience of salvation, so that they would worship in
the midst of the church again.

Another promise to this congregation was, "I also will keep thee from
the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world." Some
dreadful calamity is here predicted, during which the power of God would
be mercifully manifested in granting this church a special preservation.
Some suppose it to have reference to a great general persecution
throughout the Roman empire, during which the Christians of Philadelphia
would be spared. This may have been the fact; but whether it was or not,
we have no means of information. When we come to consider the symbols of
chapter 9, in which the delusive error of Mohammedanism is set forth, we
will see what a period of sore trial this delusion was to the Eastern
churches. It is also a fact that, in the midst of this abounding heresy,
the church of Philadelphia was preserved as was no other church of Asia.
When the followers of Mohammed were sweeping like a whirlwind over the
Eastern empire, ravaging everything before them, Philadelphia remained
an independent Christian city, when _all the other_ cities of Asia Minor
were under the power of the Saracen sword. It held out against the
Ottoman power until the year 1390 A.D., when it surrendered to Sultan
Bayazid's mixed army of Ottoman Turks and Byzantine Christians (?). This
was six years after the death of Wickliffe, "the morning star of the
reformation," who opposed the corruptions of the Papacy, gave the world
the first English translation of the Bible, and sowed the seeds that
soon grew and produced a Huss, a Jerome, and a Luther. So God preserved
the Christians of Philadelphia in the East until he began raising up
others to herald his truth in the West, whose labors soon ripened into
the glorious Reformation of the Sixteenth Century.

His final promise to the overcomer is that he shall be made a pillar in
the temple of God, and receive the name of God, of Christ, and of the
New Jerusalem, or city of God. In some manner the Christian is labelled
with the name of God, whose property he is; with the name of Christ, by
whom he was purchased; and with the name of the New Jerusalem, or city
of God, his inheritance and eternal abiding-place; and he is made a
pillar in the temple of God. By turning to Heb. 12:22, 23, we find that
the general assembly and church of God in this dispensation constitutes,
in one important sense, the New Jerusalem, or city of God, in which the
overcomers abide. "But ye _are come_ unto Mount Sion, and unto the city
of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem ... to the general assembly
and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven." The church
is also styled the house or temple of God, composed of people out of all
nations who "are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the
building fitly framed together groweth unto _an holy temple_ in the Lord
... for an habitation of God through the Spirit." Eph. 2:20-22. See also
1 Cor. 3:17; 1 Pet. 2:5; 1 Tim. 3:15.

To be a pillar in this temple of God means to occupy a conspicuous or
useful position in supporting the truth, examples of which are to be
found in such characters as "James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be
pillars" in the church in apostolic times. Gal. 2:9. In the last prayer
of Christ to the Father, he says concerning his disciples, "While I was
with them in the world, I kept them in thy name" (John 17:12); and since
the church promised by Christ (Mat. 16:18) has been established, we
continually bear the name of the Father, its title being the church or
city of God. We also bear the new name of Christ, as explained in
chapter 2:17, and we meet together and worship in that name (Mat.
18:20), obeying the exhortation of the apostle Paul--"Whatsoever ye do
in word or deed, do all _in the name of the Lord Jesus_, giving thanks
to God and the Father by him." Col. 3:17. A better understanding of the
manner in which we receive the name of God and of his city will be
obtained when we come to the consideration of the followers of a false,
degenerate church represented as receiving the "mark of the beast," by
which they are designated.

To inquire further into the history of this church, Philadelphia still
remains with a population of about fifteen thousand. It contains a
number of places of public worship, a resident (Greek) archbishop, and
several inferior clergy. Mr. Keith, in his "Evidence of Prophecy,"
speaks of the then presiding bishop, and says that he acknowledges "the
Bible as the only foundation of all religious belief" and admits that
"abuses have entered into the church, which former ages might endure,
but the present must put down." It is also a singular coincidence that
the modern Turkish name of the city, Ala-Shehr, signifies "city of God."

This description of the church of Philadelphia I will bring to a close
by adding the following extract from Gibbon, recorded in his noted
history entitled "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." It is of
especial value since the writer, being an avowed infidel, can not be
convicted of misconstruing historical facts in order to favor

"The captivity or ruin of the seven churches of Asia was consummated [by
the Ottomans] A.D. 1312, and the barbarous lords of Ionia and Lydia
still trample on the monuments of classic and Christian antiquity. In
the loss of Ephesus the Christians deplore the fall of the first
candle-stick of the Revelation. The desolation is complete; and the
temple of Diana and the church of Mary will equally elude the search of
the curious traveler. The circus and three stately theatres of Laodicea
are now peopled with wolves and foxes. Sardis is reduced to a miserable
village. The God of Mohammed without a rival is invoked in the mosques
of Thyatira and Pergamus; and the populousness of Smyrna is supported by
the foreign trade of the Franks and Armenians. _Philadelphia alone_ has
been saved by prophecy or courage. At a distance from the sea, forgotten
by the emperors, encompassed on all sides by the Turks, her valiant sons
defended their religion and freedom above fourscore years, and at length
capitulated with the proudest of the Ottomans. Among the Greek colonies
of Asia, Philadelphia is still erect--a column in a scene of ruins--a
pleasing example that the path of honor and safety may sometimes be the
same." Vol. VI., p. 229.

14. And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write;
These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the
beginning of the creation of God;

15. I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I
would thou wert cold or hot.

16. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,
I will spue thee out of my mouth.

17. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods,
and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art
wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

18. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that
thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be
clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and
anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see.

19. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous
therefore, and repent.

20. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my
voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup
with him, and he with me.

21. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my
throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father
in his throne.

22. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto
the churches.

Laodicea was one of the wealthiest cities of Asia Minor. It was built
upon some low hills, and occupied an important situation in the center
of a very fertile district. It was famous for its money transactions and
for the beautiful soft wool grown by the sheep of the country, which
facts are both alluded to in the message. Verses 17, 18. During the
reign of Tiberius Caesar it was entirely destroyed by an earthquake, but
its wealthy inhabitants rebuilt it immediately. A Christian church was
soon planted there; for Paul makes the request that his epistle to the
Colossians be read in the church of Laodicea and that his epistle to the
church of Laodicea (which was not included in the New Testament canon)
be read unto them. Col. 4:16.

The condition of this church, according to the burden of the message,
was worse than that of any of the others; for there is not only no
commendation of former faith and piety, but it is not even said of them,
as of the church at Sardis, that a few names were left who had not
defiled their garments. Christ, who here represents himself in the
character of the "faithful and true Witness," testifies that they are
"neither cold nor hot." They did not have enough piety nor zeal to cause
them to do anything for the honor of Christ and his cause, neither were
they open enemies. They were merely lukewarm, insincere friends, and, as
such, were in a position to do the greatest harm. A certain writer has
said, "We always dread a professed but insincere friend; he is the least
desirable of all relations."

They are further described as being satisfied to remain in their
lukewarm condition, indulging themselves in the riches and the pleasures
of this life. Theirs was a rich, prosperous, influential church in their
estimation, and they were proud of it; but "the faithful and true
Witness" declares that they were "wretched, and poor, and blind, and
naked." What a contrast this congregation presents with the churches of
Smyrna and Philadelphia, whose poverty and "little strength" are
expressly mentioned, but who were rich in spirituality, and who received
no reproof, but words of comfort! They of Laodicea possessed no true
gold from the mine of gospel truth, no white raiment of righteousness to
hide their spiritual nakedness, no clear vision to enable them to
discern the things of the Spirit. In fact, they lacked everything
necessary to constitute a church of which the Lord could approve and
which would be an honor to his cause. But notwithstanding their sad
condition, Christ still pleads with them to repent of their doings and
to allow him to come in and sup with them, promising the overcomer the
privilege of sharing the throne of his Redeemer.

On account of their lukewarmness a severe threat was uttered--"I will
spue thee out of my mouth." Allusion is doubtless made to the former
catastrophe that overthrew the city under Tiberius, thus giving them
warning of the destruction that might come upon them in the future. The
result has been in accordance with the prediction. God spued that church
out of his mouth centuries ago, and nothing remains of that proud,
wealthy city. Not even a Turk has any fixed residence on the spot. Its
ruins alone remain in their desolation, "rejected of God, deserted of
man, its glory a ruin, its name a reproach." The Encyclopaedia Britannica
says, "Its ruins are of wide extent.... There is no doubt, however, that
much has been buried beneath the surface by the _frequent earthquakes_
to which the district is exposed."

The prophecies concerning these individual churches have been fulfilled;
so that even infidelity itself bears witness to the "strange
verification of Apocalyptic promise and threatening." Two of the
churches, Ephesus and Laodicea, where no spiritual souls remained, were
threatened with utter extinction. They are now in utter ruins--forsaken,
desolate. Sardis, too, where only a few names were left, is reduced to a
small Turkish village, without a church or a Christian. Pergamus and
Thyatira, where much spirituality remained, but where wickedness also
was tolerated, still survive, though but mere remnants of their former
greatness. While Smyrna and Philadelphia, where Christ found nothing to
condemn and to whose churches he uttered only words of comfort and
promise, remain until the present day and are the brightest spots on the
whole scene, standing like erect columns in the midst of the surrounding

I do not wish, however, to give too much prominence to the cities
themselves in the fulfilment of these prophecies. The churches located
in these seven cities of Asia were doubtless the main thing under
consideration in the utterance of these promises and threatenings. Yet
it is a singular fact that the subsequent history of the cities
themselves has accorded in a remarkable degree with the nature of the
prophecies uttered. It may be that God has preserved Smyrna and
Philadelphia because of the piety of their ancient inhabitants.

He who held the seven stars in his right hand and walked in the midst of
the seven golden candle-sticks, still possesses the control of his
ministers and is present in the congregations of the righteous; but let
us all take warning from the example of the churches of Asia, and live
such a life of devotion, charity, faith, and patience as Christ, the
"faithful and true Witness," will approve of, that we may "walk with him
in white" and have right to the "tree of life which is in the midst of
the paradise of God."


After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven:
and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet
talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show
thee things which must be hereafter.

2. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne
was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.

3. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine
stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight
like unto an emerald.

4. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and
upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in
white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.

5. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings
and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before
the throne, which are the seven spirits of God.

6. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto
crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the
throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.

7. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast
like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the
fourth beast was like a flying eagle.

8. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and
they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night,
saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is,
and is to come.

9. And when those beasts give glory and honor and thanks to him
that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,

10. The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on
the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and
cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

11. Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and
power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure
they are and were created.

It is probable that the Apocalypse was communicated to John in parts, or
consisted of a series of symbolic visions. This is indicated by the
expression "after this I looked," and is also confirmed by the words
following, "And immediately I was in the spirit," implying that the
vision recorded in chapter 1, which was given on the Lord's day, had
been interrupted and that a new one now began when the angel with
trumpet voice gave summons for him to ascend to heaven "in the spirit"
(or under the influence of the spirit of prophecy) to behold the events
of the future, passing before him as a vast moving picture.

This fact of John's ascension to heaven to behold certain visions of the
future (which begin properly with chapter 6) will serve to explain many
allusions to things said to occur in heaven, merely signifying that John
was in heaven when these things were revealed to him, although their
fulfilment was intimately connected with the affairs of the church on
earth, for whose benefit the Revelation was given and unto whom it was

When the apostle ascended through the door that had been opened unto
him, the first object that met his vision and absorbed his soul was a
throne with the Almighty seated upon it, around whom all the inhabitants
of heaven were assembled. No symbol of God is given, for the reason that
there is no analagous object that can be chosen as his representative.
True, John saw a throne, but that is a symbol, not of God himself, but
of his supreme power and authority. One was seated upon the throne
separate from the throne itself. It is not said that a jasper or a
sardine stone was seated thereon, for that would be to make such an
object the representative of God; but he that sat on the throne "was to
look upon" like a jasper or sardine stone. The jasper mentioned was in
all probability the diamond, and is described in chapter 21:11 as a
stone most precious, clear as crystal; while the sardine stone was a
brilliant gem of a red hue. This description naturally suggests the
vestments of a great monarch in a position of authority upon his throne.
The main idea, then, as here expressed, is that the appearance of the
Almighty was so inexpressibly glorious that it could be likened to
nothing except the beauty of the most resplendent gems. But God himself
appears in his own person, unrepresented by another, for the reason, as
above stated, that no inferior intelligence of earth or heaven can
analagously represent the uncreated Deity.

The throne of the omnipotent One was surrounded by a beautiful rainbow
of emerald clearness, and was probably a perfect one, or a complete
circle, such as ours would be could it come wholly into our sight. The
rainbow on the cloud, to Noah and his descendants, constitutes the sure
pledge of God's covenant promise not to destroy the earth with another
deluge; so, also, the bow surrounding the throne is a symbol of God's
covenant favor with his people eternally.

There were "lightnings and thunderings and voices" proceeding from the
throne--the same outward manifestations as heralded the Godhead when he
came down on Sinai to declare his holy law. The "seven lamps of fire
burning before the throne" are said to signify the seven spirits of God.
These are not lamp-stands or candle-sticks, such as the ones in the
midst of which the Son of God walked on earth, but seven lights or
flames of fire, representing the operation of the Holy Spirit upon the
hearts of men and women. Surrounding the throne also was "a sea of glass
like unto crystal." In the Greek it stands in a little different
form--"And before the throne _as it were_ a sea of glass." Describing
the same object in chapter 15:2, the Revelator says, "I saw _as it were_
a sea of glass." It was a broad expanse spread out before the throne
with a glassy or transparent appearance like crystal. Its signification
will be made clear hereafter.

In addition to this description of the throne and Deity, our attention
is directed to certain objects before and surrounding the throne. Four
beasts and four and twenty elders are brought to view. The word _beasts_
is a very unfortunate translation, being necessarily associated in our
minds with the brute creation. It is not the word _therion_, which in
thirty-five instances in the Apocalypse is translated beast, denoting an
animal of wild disposition, but the word _zoon_, which signifies "a
living creature," and is thus rendered by many of the translators of the
New Testament. Their being full of eyes signifies sleepless vigilance
and superior intelligence and discernment. The chief description given
of the first living creature is that it was "like a lion." It is stated,
not that the creature was a lion, but that it was "like a lion." It
possessed some peculiar quality characteristic of the lion; namely,
strength and courage. The second living creature, "like a calf," or,
more properly, the ox, is symbolic of sacrifice or of patient labor. The
third, with "a face as a man," denotes reason and intelligence. While
the fourth, "like a flying eagle," is an emblem of swiftness and
far-sighted vision.

But the peculiar qualities thus symbolized are possessed by the four
living creatures themselves, and what do _they_ represent? To whom are
the four and twenty elders referred? They are particularly distinguished
from the angelic throng. In the ninth verse of the following chapter the
elders and the living creatures represent themselves as the host of
people redeemed by the blood of Christ "out of every kindred, and
tongue, and people, and nation." The above-mentioned characteristics,
then, are the peculiar possession of God's people--power and courage to
attack all enemies and to gain the victory; a spirit of perseverance in
patiently laboring for Christ, with a willingness to sacrifice their
lives, if necessary, for the glory of God; ability to receive a
"knowledge of the truth," that they may understand the will of God in
Christ Jesus concerning them; and power and willingness to obey
instantly when able to discern spiritual things, rising above the things
of earth and the trials and persecutions of life--soaring away to
loftier heights, there to bask continually in the blessed sunlight of
God's eternal presence.

Why was it necessary that the redeemed company of God's people should be
represented by _four_ living creatures? Doubtless because it would
probably have been very difficult to select any _one_ creature combining
all the characteristics desired to represent all God's people of all
ages. It is also a significant fact that all the people of God on earth
were included in four great dispensations--ante-deluvian, post-deluvian,
Mosaic, and Christian; although it is not certain that _four_ living
creatures were selected for the special purpose of showing the number of

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