Unveiling the Symbolism in Revelation
"After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, `Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bondservants on her.'" (vv.1-2)
In the previous chapter we saw the fall of Babylon - the harlot that rides on the back of our carnal nature. All our carnality and religiosity have been judged. This judgment is to our advantage, for it has to take place so that we can get rid of all that is not truth. God loves us so much that He will not let us continue to live in the lies and deception of Babylon! God is concerned about the things that are taking place in us internally! Our internal condition will determine our attitude and actions.
The Greek word META, translated `after', really means `in the midst of'. In the midst of everything that John was being shown in his spirit, he heard the voice of a great multitude. This is not a progressive prophecy of the future. These visions reveal the purging that has to take place in us to change us into the likeness of Christ!
In this scene we are introduced to the corporate Christ. The scriptures speak of two men. In Adam (the first man) all die, and in Christ (the second man) all are made alive. Since there are only two men, it follows that everyone is either in the first man (Adam) or in the second man (Christ). It is impossible to have any man between the first man and the second man, therefore these two men have to be corporate men. So Christ is not an individual being; He is the corporate Christ; He is the head, and we are members of His body. This great multitude that speaks with one voice, is the voice of the corporate Christ!
There is great rejoicing in the throne room of heaven! An ecstasy of worship and praise wells up within the overcomers because the truth has freed them from every fetter that bound them to the god of self - the great harlot! It has freed them from the world system! What an awesome God we have! Nothing can withstand His mighty power! "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God!"
"Because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality." This judgment against the great harlot has been taking place throughout the years. How is this judgment taking place? The great harlot represents a condition of the natural heart, so this judgment has to take place in us - in our earth - and it will continue to take place in every generation. God is concerned with our internal life. All the thoughts and ideas that are not in line with God's nature have to be judged as being unrighteous and immoral. God's standard is truth and righteousness, and His truth and righteousness judge all lies as being false, and uncover all the guises and subterfuges of unrighteousness to reveal their true nature.
"He has judged the great harlot." A harlot does not seek intimacy in commitment. Her intimacy is based on selfish motives. Everything she does has its source in self. The natural mind is centered on self, and worships self. It makes alliances with the flesh on many levels. However, there is no selfishness in God. Everything He does has its source in love; intimacy with Him is united with commitment! God has already judged this great idolater, and we need to agree with His judgment.
Idolatry of self has corrupted the world. This idolatry manifests itself in people's demand for "their rights" as they cry out, "I want my rights even if it infringes on the rights of others." A husband's demands on his wife can stifle her creativity, and make her feel like an inferior person. This keeps her from being the helpmeet she is meant to be. Women's demand for abortion infringes on the right of life of the unborn child. Selfishness infringes on the freedom of others. Desire for riches and power infringes on the rights of the poor. The list goes on and on! Self has no compassion except for self. It devises many costumes designed to hide its hideous nature, but underneath those beautiful designer clothes, the serpent of self lies camouflaged in religiosity.
Idolatry of self has also corrupted the church and has produced or created organizations. It debases the scriptures by taking words that are spirit and life, and placing them into the lower realm of carnality and death. To elevate self, many false interpretations of the scriptures have taken place. Many substitutions have been, and are being propagated. Self-effort in the keeping of the laws of each respective organization is substituted for the righteousness of Christ. Self-effort is substituted for grace, for they say that people deserve eternal life because they believed, and unbelievers deserve eternal hell-fire because they did not believe. A few of the more popular substitutions are: escapism instead of overcoming, heaven instead of life, hell instead of death, choice instead of belief and obedience, and financial prosperity instead of spiritual prosperity.
No one is exempt from Babylon's corruption. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all." (Rom. 3:23: 11:32) Just as no one is excluded from disobedience, so no one is exempt or excluded from God's mercy! This is the good news of the gospel! It is not difficult for us to believe that all have sinned and that all have been disobedient. However, we find it difficult to believe that God will show mercy to ALL who have been disobedient!
"He has avenged the blood of His bondservants on her." The blood of Christ's bondservants who refused to bow to the beast, is avenged! How is it avenged? It is avenged by the destruction of the oppressive world system - the system that Babylon propagates and delights in. This system is anti-God and anti-Christ. The destruction of this system brings freedom and causes our hearts to overflow with gratitude!
"And a second time they said, `Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever.'" (v.3) The correct rendering of the Greek "to the AIONS of the AIONS", is "to the ages of the ages" - not "forever and ever". Logically speaking, it is impossible to add an ever to that which already is forever.
The corporate Christ, the new humanity in Christ, is not exclaiming "Hallelujah" with embarrassment, but in an ecstasy of worship! God has judged the world system. Hallelujah! This causes great rejoicing!
Many Christians feel embarrassed, and wince at the thought of God's judgments, and it seems preposterous to them that this even causes joy in heaven. How can a loving God cause the world system to go up in smoke? Yet the teaching that God will burn forever all unbelieving humanity, causing it to suffer in great agony without any hope of release, does not seem to faze them. How illogical our thoughts can be when we are faced with traditional teaching! Yet traditional teachings are accepted with complete disregard for their content and origin. In fact, many do not even realize that a great number of their religious concepts come from paganism - from Babylon!
Everything perishable, that is, every thought and deed that is rooted in self, needs to be burned away because it does not submit itself to the reign of God. Smoke is the evidence that something is burning. Let's remember that it's the worldly religious system in us that is being eradicated - not we ourselves. Once we realize that the gracious intent of this burning is to produce the image of Christ in us, we will not fear God's righteous judgments; instead, we will look forward to them.
The world system is rotten to the core! There is no truth in it; it is full of lies, selfishness, greed, immorality, fear and depravity! God's righteousness demands the judgment of all unrighteousness. His anger and passion against ungodliness and unrighteousness are components of His goodness! In order to establish a righteous government, all unrighteousness has to be judged. Truth always judges lies, and righteousness always judges unrighteousness. Restoration cannot take place without this judgment!
Truth reveals error, and in so doing, judges error. Truth can never accept error, for if it did, it would no longer be truth. Jesus came into the world to bring us truth. The very nature of our God brings judgment on all carnal thinking - the root of evil. Since God is truth, we can safely worship Him!
In 2 Thess. 2:10 we read that those who perish "did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved." We need to take pleasure in truth even as God does. Without the love of truth we will not be willing to leave our old soulish traditions and ideas that are not according to truth. The very nature of truth makes it the aggressive enemy of error - and error is evil.! That is why all error has to be judged to be error. This judgment is for our good!
Jesus Christ came to save the world - not to punish sinners. The doctrine of hell, as taught by present-day Christianity, is gross error. God does not delight in punishing sinners. His delight is in getting them out of the Adam man that causes them to sin, and placing them into the Christ man - the new man of truth - in whom there is no sin! This is the goodness of God!
Our new birth gives us God's DNA. In Christ we receive God's nature, but that does not make us equal with God. He always remains the source! Christ is our hope, and our union with His life gives us His nature! Teachings that are either beyond or below the boundaries of scripture, are lacking in truth. Worshiping false images and ideas of God are the idolatries and harlotries that are committed by God's people.
"Her smoke rises up forever and ever." The correct translation reads, "to the ages of the ages." Smoke only rises up as long as there is something perishable - something that can be destroyed by burning. Once everything perishable is destroyed, smoke ceases to be. God is a consuming fire, and His fire is consuming all that is not eternal! The destruction of evil continues through the ages until "Christ is all and in all." Fire reveals that which cannot be destroyed.
We need to understand that neither the punishment of sin, nor the forgiveness of sin, changes the sinner; he remains a sinner as long as he remains in the Adam man, and sinners are not admitted into the kingdom of heaven! "In Adam all die." That is why we need to be born again and be placed into Christ.
There is no such thing as a born-again sinner. If there were, being born again would be meaningless. Our new birth takes us out of the Adam man and places us into the Christ man. God in His goodness and righteousness gave us Christ! He is the new man! In Him we become a new creation! Our new birth takes us out of Adam, in whom there is no righteousness, and puts us into Christ, in whom there is no sin! "In Christ all are made alive." We are taken out of Adam whose priesthood is one of sin and death, and put into Christ in whom we have a new priesthood - one that brings life and righteousness!
This new priesthood is mirrored in the twenty-four elders. "And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, `Amen. Hallelujah!'" (v.4) The twenty-four elders represent the royal priesthood in its total ministry - for in the Old Testament the priesthood was divided into twenty-four courses. The priesthood is under God's government - twelve representing or symbolizing the government of God. Two twelves are a witness to God's government.
Four symbolizes completeness. Just as the four gospels reveal the four aspects of the complete living Christ, so the four living creatures represent the complete Christ man. Some translations read "beast" instead of "living creatures" - and that is a mistranslation of the Greek ZOON that is used here. The Greek ZOON means A LIVING BEING; the Greek THERION denotes a wild beast. The four living beings symbolize the completeness of the Christ in us! Do we still identify with the sinner and wretch that we we were in the old Adam man, or do we identify with the saint that we are in Christ? Let's remember that the epistles were written to saints. When we understand our union with Christ, we won't live in defeat, depression and despair. We'll walk in the victory that is ours in Christ and shout, "Amen. Hallelujah!" Our agreement with Christ brings us victory!
The righteous judgment of the great harlot brings a revelation of the greatness of the wonderful salvation God has procured for us in Christ! This gives rise to the highest adoration and worship recorded in the book of Revelation! Christ's reign in us does away with all lies, deception and error! It does away with Babylon, the false religion, the whore, and all the corruption, evil and immorality it produces.
"And a voice came from the throne, saying, `Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.' And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, `Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.'" (vv.5-6)
John heard this voice coming from the throne of God. Where is God's throne? God's throne symbolizes His government, power and authority. We need His government in our hearts to do away with all our self-will, for it continually opposes God. God's throne needs to be established in our hearts so our salvation can be actualized and we can reign with Christ. The manifestation of the Christ in us will reveal God's ability to do away with evil, and to bring to fruition His purpose on earth! The truth will unquestionably judge all that is associated with the world system.
Many waters symbolize many people; as all the believers of all ages joined in their praise to God, it grew in gigantic proportions! The sound of mighty peals of thunder identifies God as the source of our illumination! Without His voice thundering in our hearts we'll never believe that God truly reigns! After we finally wake up to this wondrous truth, our voices will also join the mighty throng singing, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns."
Handel's Messiah was inspired by this worship, and the great Hallelujah Chorus was born! Remembering that four signifies completeness, we note that there are four "Hallelujahs" in this passage, namely: "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God. Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up to the ages of the ages. Amen. Hallelujah. Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns."
The reason for this great jubilation is the knowledge that God is the author of our salvation. He has the power to perform it, and His power carries with it the glory of performance! The Almighty reigns! Nothing, absolutely nothing can hinder His great salvation! Therefore we join our voices to this mighty throng of "Hallelujah" singers in the worship of our awesome God.
"Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." (v. 7) As we look at this marriage, let's forget about the traditions humanity has added to this holy union called marriage. Every concept, every picture of Revelation has its source in the scriptures. This is also true of the expression "bride". Paul used it to explain the mysterious relationship of the church to Christ in Eph. 5:22-32. Christ is the groom, and the church is the bride. So let's go back to the first marriage, and look at the symbolism we have there.
Adam and Eve - the first groom and the first bride - teach us what God means when He talks about the bride. God formed Adam's bride from Adam's side. After God had taken Eve out of the side of Adam, He presented her to Adam and said, "Here's your wife." Adam delightedly responded by saying, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh." In other words, her bones were really his bones, and her flesh was really his flesh. Adam was saying that the one standing before him was really he himself in another form. This becomes plainer in the Hebrew language. Adam called himself "Ish" - meaning self - a rational person. Adam had named all the animals, but he was different, and therefore he called himself "Ish". When he saw Eve, he called her "Isha". In English we say "man" and "woman". Adam couldn't fellowship with the animals, but before him was an "Ish" in another form of himself - Isha - with whom he could communicate! That was the very first marriage, and that is the biblical understanding of the word "bride".
The way Eve came into being is important. Adam was put to sleep, and God sculptured a woman from the rib that came out of Adam's side. Adam had to sleep in order that Eve could come into being. Jesus equated sleep with death. There is a two-fold purpose for the death of Jesus Christ. He died to sin in order to redeem us from our sins, and in order for the church, His bride, to come into being! Out of His side came water and blood. Blood speaks of the remission of sin, and water speaks of life - the life-giving Holy Spirit. The church came out of the side of Jesus, and when His Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, the church was born.
The true church is not a human organization; it is an organism, a relationship; it is Christ's life in another form! That is why we have to be born from above. Jesus is the eternal "Ish", and He looks at us and calls us "Isha"! His life is within us. That is the only way we can be presented to God. Malcolm Smith so aptly said, "Only that which is of Adam could be presented to Adam for a wife, and only that which is of God can be presented to Christ as His bride." Our good deeds for righteousness that flow out of the pride of the Adamic nature are an abomination to Him. God rewards the good deeds that flow out of His nature in us. Just as Jesus only did the things that the Father showed Him to do, so we must only do the things the Father shows us to do.
God said that the two shall become one. Adam and Eve were two, yet they were one flesh. Christ and His bride are two, yet they are one spirit. Christ is IN us but we are not Christ. We have His life, and His life unites us with Him, but He ever remains the head - the source! The church is alive with the life of Christ Jesus! He has come again in another form. The bride of Christ is formed out of the essence of Christ's being. We are not bone of His bone, for spirit does not have bone, but we are essence of His essence, and spirit of His Spirit! That is the understanding we are to receive by the expression, "the bride of Christ".
Gladness and rejoicing can take place NOW, because this union has taken place in those who are in love with Him and follow Him wherever He goes! We don't have to wait for some time in the distant future of many millenniums or for a rapture into the sky. It takes place when "His bride has made herself ready." The bride has prepared herself. How has she prepared herself? She has fallen in love with Him; she has developed a relationship with Him; she listens to His voice and enjoys making Him happy. Her thoughts and interests no longer are wrapped around self. Instead, they center on her lover and his desires! His love permeates her thoughts and actions, and is a constant strength to her!
Intimacy with our lover fulfills the desire and need of our inmost being! It changes us. Intimacy reveals what is in the heart. Our intimacy with Christ reveals His great love for us as well as His true essence or being! This causes us to recognize the areas in our life that are not according to His nature. The revelation of His love overcomes the fear of becoming aware of our inadequacies and the areas in which we need to change. We recognize that there is nothing more important than intimacy with our lover!
In Hebrew custom, the engagement of a couple was as binding as the marriage. The book of Revelation can be compared to the time between the engagement and the marriage supper. In the beginning of the book we see the relationship of Christ with the church, and then we see Christ going forth to prepare the bride. This preparation requires the cleansing of all our fleshly thinking and desires! In this chapter we come to the marriage supper.
J. Preston Eby so aptly explains that the Song of Solomon is a story that Solomon told about himself in the days when he was walking away from the Lord. To us, it beautifully illustrates the relationship between Christ and the church - His bride, and the temptations the bride has to overcome to remain true to her lover. In this book, Solomon, the great king in Jerusalem, goes out to the villages to look for more women to take back to his palace. Among them is a shepherdess who has a lover, so she doesn't want to go with him. Solomon woos her with perfumes, jewelry and fine clothing, but all she wants is the man she truly loves. She tells all the women of Jerusalem about the one she loves - the shepherd who pastures the flock in the gardens. Solomon lavishes her with all his riches, and all she does is rave about her beloved. And then there are visits to the palace by the beloved. Finally Solomon gives up, and lets her go back to her lover. In the last chapter she is leaning on her beloved. Here is a demonstration of love that cannot be quenched, and that riches cannot buy!
In symbolism we see that the church's engagement period with her Lord Jesus Christ is compared to the shepherdess and her engagement to the shepherd. During this time the tempter (Solomon) comes to tempt her with riches and flattery to entice her away from her lover! The church is being attacked on every hand, inside and outside, to forsake her love for Christ. However, the true church can only say, "If you would only learn to know my beloved, you would understand." When the church, the bride, is ready, and her love conquers all the allurements of fleshly desire, the lavish marriage feast is celebrated with great joy!
The bride's preparation took time. The emphasis here is not on the length of time but on the readiness of the bride. In Queen Esther's time this process took 12 months, and twelve symbolizes God's divine government. Before she went to meet the king, she was given special clothes to wear. Esther only took with her the things given to her by her eunuch. There is a special significance in this, for we can only take with us that which is given us by the Holy Spirit!
"It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." (v.8) These clothes were given her! She did not shop for them, nor did she design and sew them for herself. In the symbolism of this book it tells us that she did not make herself righteous. She prepared herself to receive her bridegroom, and He gave her His clothes of righteousness!
She was clothed in fine linen. Linen had to be worn by the priests, and God had a reason for this regulation. Linen symbolizes the absence of self-effort because linen does not absorb sweat. (Eze. 44:18) The works of the priests were not to be done through self-effort, for self-effort would produce sweat. This symbolism tells us that the works of the bride (the church) did not come out of self-effort. Righteous acts have their source in Christ and are not performed out of self-effort, so absorption of sweat is unnecessary.
"Then he said to me, `Write, "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'" And he said to me, These are true words of God.'" (v.9) A marriage supper includes the bride and groom and their families and friends. In Matthew 22 Jesus taught on this subject. He compared the kingdom of heaven to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. The invitation to come to the dinner went out to the good, and even to the evil. The wedding hall had to be filled with guests! The guests consisted of all who responded to the invitation. According to the custom of that time, the guests were given wedding clothes when they arrived. When the king spotted a guest who was not wearing the wedding clothes that were provided for the occasion, but was wearing his own clothes (his own righteousness), he was thrown out. He did not belong!
The symbolism of the wedding clothes teaches us that no one can participate in the wedding feast on the basis of his own works of righteousness. Everyone has to receive his righteousness from Christ. We cannot earn our righteousness! Those who come on the basis of their own achievements are thrown into outer darkness. Outer darkness means greater darkness and greater ignorance! If we reject truth, we will receive more error! Outer darkness has nothing to do with being thrown into hell.
The marriage supper of the Lamb is an ongoing event. It began after Pentecost, and it continues to all generations as people receive the righteousness of Christ! The food consists of truth, and the wine symbolizes the revelation knowledge of who Christ is! Jesus said, "I am the bread of life_He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life." (Jn. 6:35; 54) He is the bread that has come down from heaven. How we need that heavenly truth! The revelation of Jesus Christ is actually the unveiling of His true being. It is an uncovering of the knowledge that is in God! This is not new knowledge, for it has been in Christ all the time, but it is new to us. What a feast Christ has set before us!
"And he said to me, 'these are the words of God.'" This messenger was sent by God and was given the words that he should speak. We know that God sent His Son into the world, and He only spoke the words God gave Him to speak. This messenger was none other than Jesus Christ.
"Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, `Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.'" (v.10) John was speaking to an angel who was a fellow servant of his. How can Jesus be a fellow servant of ours? We marvel at His identification with us! Sonship does not exclude us from being servants, nor did it exclude Christ from being a servant. In our relationship to God our Father, we are both sons and servants. As sons we know our relationship to Him, and commune with Him on that level. As servants, we do His bidding and become servants in our relationship to others. This has nothing to do with being servants of the law. Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and told us to follow His example. The Son came as a servant, but communed with God as a Son.
But why was John not to worship Jesus? Jesus is the name of the Son of God in His earthly existence. Everyone, both Jew and Gentile could call Him by that name. But only those who are filled with the Holy Spirit can call Him Lord Jesus Christ. The word "Christ" means "anointed". Our worship has to take place in spirit and in truth. This eliminates all worship of heroes in the physical sense. It also excludes the worship of the physical Jesus - the Jesus who walked the dusty roads in Palestine. In 2 Cor. 5:16 Paul said that we no longer know Jesus according to the flesh. Jesus was a physical man, but now He is with the Father in spirit form. If He were still in physical form, He couldn't dwell in each believer!
Many Christians do not understand this, so they still worship a physical image of Jesus. This image is their idol. They want to walk in the physical footsteps of Jesus, and they are waiting for the return of a physical Jesus. We need to understand that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven. Jesus Christ is no longer flesh and blood; He is spirit!
Jesus understood that the scriptures were a testimony or witness of Him. (Jn. 5:39) The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Many think that prophecy deals only with the future. But prophecy is actually a spoken, inspired word from God, dealing with either the future or the present. We see this in the prophecies of the Old Testament. The prophets dealt with Israel's situation as it was at that time, as well as with future events.
Jesus obeyed every word that came from God, and those who hold to God's words are His brethren. He is the first born of many brethren. Jesus, in His identification with humanity, is our older brother. In His identification with God, He is the Word of God! We do not worship Jesus in His identification with humanity. True worship of God can only take place in spirit and in truth! God manifests Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We need to cast down all the images of the carnal mind. This includes the image of a fleshly Jesus, for flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven.
"And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war." (v.11)
"And I saw heaven opened." This book relates many things concerning heaven, and we know that heaven is the spirit realm where Christ rules. So the spirit realm was opened to John. Previously he had heard voices from heaven, seen angels coming from heaven, a door opened in heaven, and the temple opened in heaven. Now he caught a glimpse of greater glory. What a glory is ours when our eyes are opened to see that His righteousness has become our righteousness, and that we are clothed with a white garment that has been given to us! We did not have to work to obtain it!
When heaven was opened to John, he saw a white horse and its rider. The color white always denotes purity and righteousness - the righteousness that is in Christ. The rider is identified by His name - Faithful and True! Only Christ can be called Faithful and True! When heaven is opened to us, we too will see Him who is Faithful and True.
We may be surprised that He comes to make war. The Greek word for war is POLEMEO, from which we get the English word, polemics, meaning the art or practice of disputation. Since Christ is truth, He will never be satisfied until we know truth! He will dispute with us as long as we harbor lies as our truth. He is a faithful God! His faithfulness keeps Him from leaving us even when we go astray, ever ready to bring us back into His fold! He strives with us until we are brought into truth, that Christ may be revealed in us!
"His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself." (v.12) In Revelation 1:14 we first see Christ identified with eyes that are a flame of fire. This fire penetrates all our masks of piety and external behavior. He sees our unbelief. His eyes have to burn away all our lies, deception and unbelief - everything that keeps us from seeing how great His all-encompassing salvation is! He also sees the new creation man that we are in Him.
"On His head are many diadems." As we have previously explained, a diadem was a kingly ornament bound around the head. Among the Greeks and Romans it was the distinctive badge of royalty, and Diocletian was the first Roman Emperor to wear it constantly. It symbolized rulership. Christ comes into our lives as the true ruler of all our thoughts!
"He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself." The Greek word for "name" is ONOMA, and it includes everything a person is - character, power, excellence, rank, majesty, and personal attributes. In Revelation 2 we read that we are also given a name that no one knows except he who receives it. This new name is a new nature. Christ's nature is so wonderful that humanity can never fathom it. Christ alone knows the depth of love and righteousness within Himself. His nature can only be made known to us by revelation. 1 Corinthians 2:10 reads, "For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God."
From Paul we learn that Christ is the head of the church, and the church is His body. So the church belongs to Christ, and forms an integral part of His being, but in a different form. The description of Christ and His body includes all that are in Christ. Christ is a corporate man even as Adam is a corporate man. "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive." All who are in Adam receive Adam's nature, and all who are in Christ receive Christ's nature. What an awesome truth! This wonderful and all-encompassing salvation is made known to us by the revelation of His name. To know it experientially, we have to face trials and temptations, and see His great deliverance!
"He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called the Word of God." (v.13) A natural understanding of wearing a robe dipped in blood is quite offensive and distasteful, so let's look at the spiritual significance. We already understand that the soul is in the blood, and that the reference in Leviticus 17:11 should read, "the soul is in the blood." "Life" is a wrong translation of the Hebrew NEPHESH. The soul is our sense of being. Our soul can receive its sense of being either from the natural mind or from the spiritual mind - the mind of Christ. The soul of Christ is without blemish. Christ never yielded to the natural instincts, for they are opposed to the Spirit's teaching. He is the Word of God (the Logos of God). We know that our words come out of our thoughts - out of that which fills our heart. Jesus said, "For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart." (Matt. 12:34) Since Christ is the Word, He came out of the heart of God as a verbal expression of what was in God's heart. Everything in Christ's heart is good! In this vision He is identified as one who is perfect and true and without blemish in all that He is and does. In His perfection He became the perfect sacrifice. His robe dipped in blood is a reminder of the cross where we see the climax of His death to sin!
"And the armies that are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. (v.14) Heavenly armies move in the spirit realm. They are clothed with white, clean linen garments - that is, with the purity of Christ's righteousness. Their works have their source in God.
"They were following the Lamb." Who are the ones that follow the Lamb wherever He goes? In Rev. 14:1-5 we find the answer. They are the 144,000 who stand on Mt. Zion. That number symbolizes all who are governed by God. They are the first fruits to God and to the Lamb, and are described in symbolic language. They have the Father's name written on their foreheads, that is, they have the mind of Christ. They have been purchased from the earth (from their old way of carnal thinking). They have not been defiled with women (they have not received the philosophies perpetrated by humanity). They have kept themselves chaste (they have not committed spiritual adultery). And in their mouth no lie was found (they only spoke the truth that is in Christ). These are the ones who "follow the Lamb wherever He goes."
A follower cannot have his own agenda. He has to set it aside and follow his leader wherever he goes. To follow Christ we too have to set aside our own ideas, plans and goals, and accept Christ's agenda and His roadmap for getting us to our destination. His goal for us is extremely high, namely, to be changed into His likeness in every facet of our being - but His process seems strange to us. Therefore we have to trust Him in the way He is leading us. He has promised to lead us in paths of righteousness, and we are assured that He watches over His word to perform it!
How does this affect our lives? It simply means that we let the Holy Spirit lead us in everything we do! The religious Babylonian system tries to make God fit into humanity's plans instead of humanity fitting into God's plan. As followers of Christ, we do not do things according to what seems good in our own eyes. We follow the Spirit's leading in all our relationships, whether at home, at our jobs, at play, at church, or wherever we are. Everything is submitted to God for His direction! God's nature is to shine forth even when we are treated unfairly. If we are in the position of leadership in church, we are willing to change direction if the Spirit so leads. We willingly fit into God's plans, and His leading is filled with surprises!
"And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may smite the nations; and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and he treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty." (v.15)
A natural conception of this verse gives us the ridiculous picture of a sharp sword in the mouth of our Lord, striking and killing all people who oppose Him because He is so angry with them. Their obedience is motivated by fear - fear of this angry God. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
"And from His mouth comes a sharp sword." Hebrews 4:12 states that "The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Christ's words are spirit and life. Since they are spiritual words, they can only be understood spiritually. They cannot be understood by the mind of the flesh. Christ's words are directed to our spirit, and when we receive them spiritually, they bring about a change in us! The soul is in obedience to either the flesh or the spirit. When the spirit begins to reign over the soul, dramatic changes take place, because the flesh has lost its control over us. In this way Christ smites the nations (the fleshly strongholds that reside in us and need to be evicted) with His words! His words of love and His accomplished redemption put to death the antagonism and hate that were directed toward Him! Christ takes the wickedness out of people and fills them with His love! This does away with His enemies.
"He will rule them with a rod of iron." His rule is inflexible; He does not make deals to get people to agree with Him, nor does He compromise in any way to make truth more palatable to them. Jesus loved the rich young ruler who was not willing to sell all that he had in order to follow Him. Jesus did not try to negotiate a lesser amount with him to entice him to follow Him. He did not say 80% or 50% would do as well. It had to be 100%! He will not deviate from His standard, for His standard is truth.
Truth cannot be changed, nor can it be polluted! That is why a rod of iron symbolizes truth. Christ always rules in truth and righteousness! Knowing this gives us great cause for rejoicing! Seeing all the corruption in the natural mind and in worldly governments brings sadness to our hearts. Christ's reign of truth in us does away with the corruption in our own hearts. Only after this has taken place are we fit to reign with Him. When it comes to the things of God, we too have to be uncompromising in all our ways with anything that is not truth.
The temptation to compromise is greater when the disagreement comes from someone who has authority over us or from a spouse or dear friend. We cannot be respecters of persons! Whatever God has spoken to us has to be obeyed!
"He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty." The first thing we notice is that it is Christ who treads the winepress. The purpose of treading grapes is to break the flesh of the grapes so the juice can flow out. From this juice, wine can be made and enjoyed. Wine symbolizes divine revelation. Our flesh has to be broken and crushed because of its rule over us, so that we can receive divine revelation of the Christ in us. Since Christ is in charge of this procedure, we can trust Him to do a good job! We cannot escape this process because we are all in need of it!
The "fierce wrath of God" sounds very ominous! Again, we have to go to the Greek to discover the real meaning. Fierce is translated from the Greek THUMOS, meaning passion. Wrath is translated from the Greek ORGE, meaning the strongest of passions. So God's strongest passionate desire consists of breaking our flesh so that we can receive divine revelation of the Christ! Only then will we show forth the Christ in our lives. Our flesh has to be crushed in order for the new wine to flow out of us and into others.
"And on His robe and on His thigh, He has a name written `KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.'" (v.16) This title is written in reverse order in chapter 17:14 where the Lamb is called "Lord of lords and King of kings". Why was His title written on His robe and on His thigh? In biblical symbolism a robe signifies the essence of the one wearing it.
The Lamb's robe was dipped in blood, and the blood reminds us of the cross. The Lamb also reminds us of sacrifice. What a vivid reminder of Christ's intense suffering! By humbling Himself, He overcame every obstacle and the greatest humiliation that humanity could inflict on Him. In the midst of the most horrendous suffering known to humanity, He remained obedient to God! Because of His implicit obedience in all His affliction and suffering, "God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name." (Phil. 2:9) His high position of "KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS", written on His robe, came at a great cost! Therefore He is worthy to carry this title and authority! Christ did not grasp for this honor and authority, for it states that it was given to Him by God!
It was also written on His thigh. The thigh represents procreation. This tells us that children will be born of Him, and these children will also be overcomers! In 1 Peter 1:23 we read that we have been born of incorruptible seed. This seed cannot produce anything perishable. The Christ in the believers overcomes all that is perishable and corruptible.
The Christ in us also bears children. In Gal. 4:19 Paul said, "My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you." Paul called the ones who had received Christ under his ministry, "his children". Children have to be cared for. So we too have a responsibility to care for those who are immature, and help them come into maturity!
"Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, `Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.'" (vv.17-18)
"And I saw an angel standing in the sun" Who is this angel messenger that can stand and endure the heat and light of the sun? It has to be someone in whom there is nothing perishable. Anything perishable would be burned! This can be none other than the Christ, the Light-giver! The Christ in us has an important message for us!
He is calling the flesh-eating birds to assemble for the great supper of God! A natural understanding of this is quite grotesque! It gives us a picture of a God who enjoys seeing people eaten. Nothing can be farther from the truth! Birds represent our thoughts and imaginations. The thoughts in our natural mind are against God, for the natural mind cannot know God, nor can it understand Him. These thoughts can only be eradicated by thoughts that exalt and glorify God! Thoughts that are in agreement with God will destroy all our fleshly thoughts.
This verse is actually a message of hope, for it tells us that all our fleshly thinking will be done away with. The flesh that is eaten is not the flesh of the physical bodies of kings and commanders and mighty men; instead, it refers to our fleshly lusts and desires. These fleshly lusts and desires are so strong and all-inclusive that they are symbolized by kings, commanders, mighty men, horses and their riders, free men and slaves, small and great. All carnality has to go! This can only occur when the mind of Christ is in control.
The lusts of the flesh make their appearance in a multitudinous variety of evil and religious guises. One victory does not ensure the next victory. For this reason, submission to the mind of Christ is a constant must. When this process is complete, the lusts of the flesh will no longer appeal to us! As someone so aptly said, "It is not about getting rid of all the evil people in this world, but of getting rid of all the evil in us!" When all the fleshly lusts and ideas have been destroyed in us, the Christ will shine forth through us in all His glory.
When do we dine with God? The great supper of God consists of feeding on truth! We can only receive true knowledge of God by revelation! Paul prayed that God might give us "a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him," (Ephesians 1:17) As we are obedient to the truth, "we are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." (2 Cor. 10:5) This is dining with God!
"And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat upon the horse, and against His army." (v. 19)
The beast represents our carnal nature. "I saw the beast." Seeing the beast implies recognition of the beast. We recognize that our carnal nature is a beastly one. It is aligned with the kings of the earth. They belong to the earthly realm and are unable to leave that realm. Therefore they can never ascend into the heavenly realm. They rule our natural desires, attitudes and actions. These are imbedded in self, and self is fascinated with the recognition and advancement of self by its own good works. These form the foundation of its religion, for each religion has a list of its own demands that have to be met in order to rise to a higher rank. However it can never bring anyone into a spiritual realm, for that realm is unattainable by works.
Religiosity is at war with "Him who sat upon the horse, and against His army." Religiosity is always against Christ. It is also directed against those who radiate forth His nature. The war against religiosity takes place internally and externally. It takes place within us, for the natural mind keeps hurling its thoughts of religious works and piety at us. But it is also directed toward us from religious Christians. They will persecute spiritual Christians just like Ishmael, the son of fleshly effort, persecuted Isaac, the son of promise.
"And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown also into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone." (v. 20)
The beast and the false prophet work together, for they are one; they are two manifestations of the same entity. Their goal is deception. The beast is the beast nature within us. Who is the false prophet? He is the prophet who utters lies. He too is within us! Have you ever received a word from the Lord, and the moment you received it, another voice came to you and told you to disregard it? It told you that bad things would happen if you followed that voice, and that it would be better for you to ignore it. That voice, my friend, is the false prophet within you. He tells you to follow signs that point to self-effort, ease, false wonders and magical miracles. He makes disobedience look desirable! There are also many false prophets in this world, but here we are concerned with what is going on within us!
The false prophet cannot deceive those who are led by the Holy Spirit. He can only deceive those who have received the mark of the beast - the 666 number that symbolizes carnal thinking! Those who trust their own wisdom and reasoning power carry that number. Worship of the beast is actually a worship of self.
The false prophet performed signs. When Moses went to Pharaoh to perform the signs God had given him, Pharaoh's magicians could also perform them up to a certain degree. But God's power was greater and the rod of Moses swallowed the serpents of the magicians! If God has told us to do something we don't want to do, we often ask for a sign to confirm His instructions. By doubting God's word we open ourselves up to the sign the false prophet performs. A sign points toward the direction of a place; it is not the place; it just tells us where we must go to find our goal. If we do not want to obey God, we can make signs for ourselves that point to the direction in which we desire to go.
To make this clearer, let's look at the story of a man who wanted to lose weight. On his way to work he always passed a bakery. To flee the temptation of stopping in, he took a different route to work. This worked well for awhile, but one day he was overcome with a craving for sweets, so he took his former route and prayed, "God if you want me to have some sweets, give me a parking place right in front of the bakery." Later, he arrived at work with a dozen doughnuts and a cheesecake. His coworkers were amazed and asked him why he had bought them. "Oh," he said, "I prayed that if God wanted me to have some sweets that He would give me a parking place in front of the bakery - and on the eighth round it was there!" We too can self-fulfill our signs. Jesus told the Jews that they were putting their faith in the scriptures instead of coming to Him. Our faith is not to be in signs and wonders, but in Christ!
"These two were thrown also into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone." The lake of fire burns with brimstone. Brimstone is another name for sulfur. In the Old Testament sulfur was used in the sacrifices for purification. This was its only use. Within us we find a duality. We have the mind of Christ, but our natural mind still wants to rule us. Since it is ruled by the lies of the beast and the false prophet, we dare not listen to them. When the beast and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire, they are consumed by the fire of God, for He is a consuming fire. This takes place within us. We all need to be purified of religiosity and the lies and deceptions in which we formerly walked, and from the traditions that are in the death realm. God's fire consumes our beastly nature and all our religiosity!
"And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh." (v.21) The sword of the Spirit that comes out of the mouth of God, kills everything that is not of God. Notice that no battle takes place. When God speaks, it is done! All we need to do is to wear the armor of God (truth), stand firm, and watch the salvation of the Lord!
The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life do not belong to the mind of Christ. Pride and lust dwell in our imagination of who we think we are. Birds symbolize our imaginations. These imaginations have to be cast down! This takes place when the word of God takes root in us! The sword of the Spirit cuts off all our fleshly desires. What a glorious promise! We can trust God to deliver us from all that is not of Him!