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BOOK OF REVELATION
A Study of
The Last Prophetic Book
of Holy Scripture
by Clarence Larkin
III. The Things Which Shall Be Hereafter
We have now come to the Third Division of the Book. The Three Divisions of the Book do not overlap nor are they concurrent. The word translated "hereafter," would be better translated "after these things." The word "hereafter" permits a "time space," while the words "after these things" refer to the things that shall immediately follow the completion of the "Church Age," as prefigured in the Messages to the Seven Churches. The Church disappears from view with the close of the third chapter and is not heard of again until the nineteenth chapter, where her marriage to the Lamb is announced. Rev. 19:7-9. The removal of the Church at the end of the third chapter opens the way for God to renew His dealings with Israel, and take up the broken thread of Jewish History. That the portion of the Book from chapter three to the end of chapter nineteen is largely made up of symbols taken from the Old Testament, as the Tabernacle, Ark of the Covenant, Altar, Censer, Elders, Cherubim, Seals, Trumpets, Plagues, etc., is conclusive evidence that we are here back on Jewish ground, and that the Parenthetical Dispensation of the Church is complete, and that the last or "Seventieth Week" of Daniel's "Seventy Weeks" is in course of fulfilment. It is clear therefore that we must look for the explanation of these symbols to the Old Testament.
Chapters four and five are introductory and preparatory to the "Prophetic Action" of the "Seals," "Trumpets" and "Vials," and must be considered first.
1. THE HEAVENLY DOOR.
"AFTER THIS I looked, and, behold, a DOOR WAS OPENED IN HEAVEN: and the first voice which I heard was as it were a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter" (after these).
The scene now changes from earth (Patmos) to Heaven. John tells us that After This, after his Vision of Christ in the midst of the "Seven Candlesticks," and his foreview of the history of the Christian Church, as reviewed in the Messages to the Seven Churches, which carried him down to the end of the Church Age, he looked, and behold a DOOR WAS OPENED IN HEAVEN, and the same voice that spoke to him from the midst of the "Seven Golden Candlesticks," which was the voice of Christ (Rev. 1:10-13), said with the clearness and sweetness of a trumpet--
"COME UP HITHER
AND I WILL SHOW THEE THINGS WHICH MUST
And John adds
"IMMEDIATELY I WAS IN THE SPIRIT:
and, behold, a Throne was set in Heaven, and ONE sat on the Throne."
The experience of John was similar to that of Paul, who was caught up into Paradise. Whether in the body or out of the body they are uncertain, at least Paul was. 2. Cor. 12:2-4. The difference between them however was, that, while Paul heard words that he was forbidden to speak, John was told to "WRITE IN A BOOK" the things he saw and heard, and send them to the Seven Churches in Asia.
In this "Rapture" of John we have a type of the
RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH,
and it is at this place in the Book that the "RAPTURE" of the Church takes place.
After the confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi, that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:13-28), and Jesus had said that upon the rock of that confession He would build His Church, He said to His Disciples'--"Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man COMING IN HIS KINGDOM." And then we read in the next chapter (and there should be no chapter division), "And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was TRANSFIGURED BEFORE THEM." Matt. 17:1-9. Now this "Transfiguration Scene" is a type of the Second Coming of Christ, Moses being a type of the "Resurrected Saints," and Elijah of the "Translated Saints."
As the promise of Christ to His Disciples that some of them should not "taste of death" until they saw in vision a rehearsal of the manner of His Second Coming, was fulfilled in the "Transfiguration Scene," so the statement made to Peter as to John, "If I will that he TARRY TILL I COME" (John 21:20-23), finds its fulfilment in John's being caught up in vision and beholding before his death, what he would have witnessed and experienced if his life had been prolonged until Jesus came back. Thus John was permitted to live, until, in vision, he saw the Return of the Lord.
The "Rapture" of the Church is described in 1. Thess. 4:16-17. "For the Lord HIMSELF shall descend from Heaven with a SHOUT, with the VOICE OF THE ARCHANGEL, and with the TRUMP OF GOD; and the DEAD IN CHRIST shall rise first: then we WHICH ARE ALIVE and REMAIN shall be CAUGHT UP TOGETHER WITH THEM in the clouds, to meet the Lord IN THE AIR: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." Note how John's taking up corresponds with this. He was summoned by the "VOICE OF CHRIST," and it will be the "SHOUT of Christ" that shall summon the saints at the Rapture. It was with a "LOUD VOICE" that Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb. John 11:43. And as it was a Trumpet Like Voice that summoned John, so it will be a TRUMPET CALL that will summon the Saints at the Rapture.
As confirmatory proof that the Church is "caught out" at this time and place, we have in the description of the Throne, the statement that the Holy Spirit in the Seven-fold plentitude of His power, is BACK IN HEAVEN. In none of the Epistles is the Holy Spirit invoked along with the Father and the Son, except in 2. Cor. 13:14, because He is viewed as abiding on the earth with the Church, convicting of sin, comforting believers, and gathering out the elect, but here He is no longer on the earth but back in Heaven, and before the Throne. This is the strongest kind of evidence that the Church at this time has been "caught out" and is no longer on the earth, for when the Holy Spirit goes back to Heaven He will take the Church WITH HIM. And the presence of the Holy Spirit in Heaven is conclusive evidence that the events that follow are to take place after the Church has been caught out, and therefore the Church is not to pass through the Tribulation.
2. THE HEAVENLY THRONE.
Revelation 4:2-3, 5-6.
"And immediately I was in the SPIRIT: and, behold, a THRONE was set in Heaven, and ONE sat on the THRONE. And HE that sat was to look upon like a Jasper and a Sardius stone: and there was a Rainbow round about the THRONE, in sight like unto an Emerald. . . . 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. And before the THRONE there was a Sea of Glass like unto crystal."
The first thing John saw in Heaven was a THRONE. The Throne was not vacant, but One sat upon it, upon whom to look was like looking at glistening gems, such as Jasper and Sardius. The occupant of the Throne was no other than God Himself. In Rev. 21:10-11, John in describing the New Jerusalem says, that its light is the "GLORY OF GOD." A light like unto a stone most precious, even like a JASPER stone, clear as crystal. This corresponds with John's declaration in 1. John 1:5, that "GOD IS LIGHT."
Ezekiel in describing his vision of the "Throne of God" says--"Above the Firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a Throne, as the appearance of a Sapphire Stone: and upon the likeness of the Throne was the likeness as the appearance of a MAN above upon it. And I saw as the color of Amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of His loins even upward, and from the appearance of His loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the Bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the GLORY OF THE LORD." Ez. 1:26-28.
Now there are two things in Ezekiel's Vision that correspond with John's Vision of the "THRONE OF GOD." First that the form of the one who sat on the Throne could not be clearly distinguished or described, but that it was RESPLENDENT WITH LIGHT, which veiled the form or person; and secondly, that there was a RAINBOW ROUND ABOUT THE THRONE. The person of God then, as He sits upon His Throne, is veiled in a Glory that can only be compared to the shining of some beautiful gem. But one of the remarkable things about the Throne of. God is, that it is surrounded by a "RAINBOW" that is emerald in color. The first mention we have in the Bible of a Rainbow is in Gen. 9:13-17. "I do set My BOW in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a COVENANT between Me and the Earth." A Covenant that God would not destroy this earth again by a Flood. But that Rainbow was only SEMI-CIRCULAR, such as we see in the heavens in summer after a shower; but the Rainbow Ezekiel and John saw around the Throne of God was CIRCULAR. In this world we only see half a Rainbow, or the half of things, in Heaven we shall see the whole of things. The Rainbow is the sign of a Covenant based on an accepted Sacrifice, the Sacrifice of Noah (Gen. 8:20-22), and the Rainbow about the Throne of God is the sign of a Covenant based on the accepted Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The difference between Noah's Rainbow and the one around the Throne of God is, that Noah's is composed of the seven primary colors, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet, while the one around the Throne of God is EMERALD. What does this "CIRCULAR GREEN RAINBOW" about the Throne of God signify? It signifies that God is a Covenant keeping God, that His promises as to this earth shall be fulfilled. Even though He is about to bring great judgments upon it, He will not destroy it, but it shall pass through those judgments safely. He will redeem it, and bless it, until its hills, and valleys, and plains, shall teem with the green verdure, fruitful orchards, and bountiful vineyards of the long Millennial Day that is to follow those judgments. If the Rainbow did not encircle the Throne as a "Halo," it might by its reflection in the "Sea of Glass" appear to John to be round.
The "Throne" was not the "Throne of Grace" for out of it proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices, that remind us of Mt. Sinai, and proclaim it to be the
"THRONE OF JUDGMENT."
Before the Throne was a "SEA OF GLASS." This "Sea of Glass" was unoccupied, but later is seen mixed with fire (Rev. 15:2-3), and occupied by martyrs of the Tribulation Period who get the victory over the Beast, and who have harps, and sing the Song of MOSES AND THE LAMB. This "Glassy Sea" reminds us of the "Brazen Sea" that stood before Solomon's Temple (1. Kings 7:23-45), and thus was in front of the Ark of the Covenant, the "Mercy Seat" of which was the earthly Throne of God in Old Testament days.
Right here it might be well for us to remember that the earthly Tabernacle erected by Moses, with all its vessels and instruments of service and mode of worship, was patterned after the "Heavenly Tabernacle." Heb. 9:23.
A knowledge then of the Tabernacle and its various parts and vessels of service, will help us to understand John's Vision of the "Heavenly Tabernacle." Like John, Paul was "caught up" into Heaven, and saw the "Heavenly Tabernacle," and he most beautifully and clearly makes a comparison between it and the "Mosaic Tabernacle" in his Letter to the Hebrews.
The "Throne" that John saw in Heaven corresponds with the "Mercy Seat" of the Ark of the Covenant. The "Four Beasts (Living Ones)" with the "Cherubim" that guarded the "Mercy Seat." The "Four and Twenty Elders" with the "Priestly Courses" that officiated in the Tabernacle. The "Seven Lamps (Spirits)" before the "Throne," with the "Seven Branched Candlestick" of the Holy Place of the Tabernacle. The "Sea of Glass" with the "Brazen Laver" for cleansing, that stood in front of the Tabernacle. The "Altar" under which John saw the "soul of Martyrs" with the "Altar of Burnt Offering." If the "Throne" section of the "Heavenly Tabernacle" corresponds with the "Most Holy Place" of the "Mosaic Tabernacle," and the "Four and Twenty Elder" section with the "Altar of Incense" and "Seven Lamps of Fire" corresponds with the "Holy Place," then the "Sea of Glass" and the "Altar" should correspond with the "Court" of the Tabernacle. This will help us to relatively locate what John saw in the Heavenly Tabernacle.
It is also profitable and instructive to compare the "Heavenly" and "Earthly" Tabernacles with the "Tabernacle of Man." See the Chart of "The Three Tabernacles." Here we see that the "Spirit"
part of man corresponds to the "Most Holy Place" of the Tabernacle, the "Soulish" part to the "Holy Place," and the "Body" part to the "Outer Court." As the only entrance from the "Holy Place" into the "Most Holy Place" of the Tabernacle was through the "Veil," so the only entrance from the "Soulish" part of man into the "Spirit" part is through the "Gate of the Will." And it is only when the "Will" surrenders to the Holy Spirit that God can take up His abode in the "Spirit" part of man, as He took up His residence in the "Most Holy Place" of the Tabernacle on the "Mercy Seat," and man become a regenerated soul.
The Heavenly Tabernacle
The Three Tabernacles
3. THE FOUR AND TWENTY ELDERS.
"And round about the Throne were Four and Twenty Seats (Thrones): and upon the Seats I saw Four and Twenty Elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads Crowns of Gold."
Who are these "Elders" and what do they represent? They are not a heavenly and unfallen order of beings, like the angels or "Living Creatures" that surround the Throne, they are the representatives of redeemed mankind. The name Elder is never applied to angels, neither do angels have "crowns" and sit on "thrones." Only redeemed MEN are promised "Thrones" and Crowns." Matt. 19:28. Rev. 3:21. Rev. 20:4. Rev. 2.10. 1. Pet. 5:2-4. 2. Tim. 4:8. These "Elders" then must be representatives of the Old and New Testament Saints, that have been redeemed by the BLOOD OF CHRIST. This will be made more clear as we consider their position, dress, and song.
They are seated on "thrones," not ordinary seats, and remind us of Daniel's Vision of the Judgment.
"I beheld till THRONES were placed and ONE that was ANCIENT OF DAYS did sit; His raiment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool; His Throne was fiery flames, the wheels thereof burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him, thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and 10,000 times 10,000 stood before Him; the JUDGMENT was set, and the 'Books' were opened." Dan. 7:9-10 R. V.
This is Daniel's foreview of the
"JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST."
While the "Thrones" were placed (ready for those who should be found worthy to occupy them) they were as yet unoccupied. Their occupancy awaited the outcome of the Judgment. Now as the "Thrones" that John saw were occupied by crowned Elders. Then those Elders must have passed the "fiery test" of the Judgment of Reward (2. Cor. 5:10, 1. Cor. 3:11-15), and received their crowns. Those Crowns are five in number. The "Incorruptible Crown." 1. Cor. 9:25-27. The "Crown of Life." Rev. 2:10. The "Crown of Glory." 1. Pet. 5:2-4. The "Crown of Righteousness." 2. Tim. 4:8. The "Crown of Rejoicing." 1. Thess. 2:19-20. See the Chart--"Judgment of Reward."
That these "Elders" were REDEEMED MEN is further evidenced by the "Song" they sung.
"And they sung a NEW SONG, Saying, Thou art worthy to take the Book, and to open the Seals thereof, for thou wast slain, and hast REDEEMED US TO GOD BY THY BLOOD, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God KINGS and PRIESTS; and we shall reign on the earth." Rev. 5:9-10.
Now this could not be said of angels, or any other created heavenly beings, for they have not been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb, nor are they to be "Kings" and "Priests" on the earth.
While the "Elders" sit on Thrones and wear Crowns, they are not dressed in royal robes but in "white raiment," the garment of a Priest. They are the members of a "ROYAL PRIESTHOOD." 1. Pet. 2:9. That the time has not yet come for them to reign is clear, for they are engaged in Priestly duties, having "Golden Vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints," in their hands. Rev. 5:8. These saints are not the saints of the Church, but the Jewish saints on earth during the "Tribulation Period," whose prayers are so beautifully prewritten in the Psalms.
That the "Elders" will be given the right of Judgment is clear. Writing to the Corinthians Paul says--"Do ye not know that the Saints shall JUDGE THE WORLD. . . . Know ye not that We shall JUDGE ANGELS." (The Fallen Angels.) 1. Cor. 6:2-3. The time when this right of Judgment is conferred on the "Elders" (Saints) is given by John as after the binding of Satan, and just before the Millennium--"I saw THRONES, and they (the First Resurrection Saints--THE ELDERS) sat upon them, and JUDGMENT was given unto them." Rev. 20:4.
The word "Elder" in the majority of places where it is used in the Scriptures means the representative head of a city, family, tribe or nation, so the "Four and Twenty Elders" are representative of the redeemed human race. But why 24 Elders? Twenty-four is the number of the Priestly Courses as given in 1. Chron. 24:1-19. When David distributed the Priests into "Courses" he found there were 24 Heads of the Priestly families, and these 24 Heads he made representative of the WHOLE PRIESTHOOD. As the "Elders" are representative of both the Old and New Testament Saints, and the Old Testament Saints are represented by the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and the New Testament Saints' by the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, they together make up 24 representative characters. This distinction is clearly brought out in the description of the New Jerusalem, where the 12 Foundation Stones are named after the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, and the 12 Gates after the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Rev. 21:10-14.
While the Four and Twenty Elders are representative of the Old and New Testament Saints, they do not, as a whole, represent the Church, for the Church is composed only of New Testament Saints. The Old Testament saints are merely the Friends of the Bridegroom. But the fact that the New Testament Saints, as represented by the Twelve Apostles, are required to make up the 24 representative characters (Elders), is additional evidence that the Rapture of the Church takes place before the Tribulation.
The Judgment of "Reward"