THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST
An Exposition on the
Book of Revelation
LOUIS T. TALBOT
President, Talbot Theological Seminary,
Los Angeles, California
Copyright 1937 by the Author
Mr. W. A. Woodworth
Ocean Beach, California
as a slight token of sincere esteem and an expression of appreciation of his devotion to the cause of Christ in the lives of young men—this volume is affectionately dedicated.
Chapter I INTRODUCTION Rev. 1:1-11, 19
The Book of the Consummation of All Things
The Word of God closes as it opens, only more gloriously. The Bible forms a complete circle. What begins in Genesis ends in Revelation.
Comparing these books, we find opening before us in Genesis a beautiful sinless Paradise; in the book of Revelation, a still more wonderful Paradise. In Genesis we havethe account of the tree of life and how man was driven from it. No more is said about that tree until Revelation is reached. There man is invited to eat of the tree of life. In Genesis we have the statement. “In the beginning God…” in Revelation, “God… will dwell” with His people. Genesis gives the story of the first heaven and the, first earth; Revelation, the vision of the new heaven and the new earth. In Genesis the devil first appears on the scene of action; in Revelation he appearsthe last time, and meets his final and awful doom. Genesis recounts the story of the entrance into the world of sin, sorrow, and suffering: Revelation pictures the end of these things. In Genesis we find the first death; in Revelation, the glorious promise, “There shall be no more deatn.” In Genesis we read the first account of tears: in Revelation, of how all tears shall be wiped awayby God Himself. Genesis tells us of the first Adam and of his dominion over the living creatures of the earth; Revelation, of the last Adam and His sovereign rule over all things. In Genesis we read of the first bride and how she became man’s helpmeet; in Revelation we read of the bride of Christ, His church, and how she shall reign with Him. In Genesis we find the story of man’s first rebellion, and of the beginning of Babel; In Revelation, the accountof Babylon, and what is to be the end of that wicked system which came into being when men gathered together after the flood and built the tower of Babel.
In Genesis we “Have the account of how the Word of God was interfered with, of how the Devil put doubts into man’s mind, saying, “Hath God said . . .?” In the very beginning the devil attacked the Word of God. Through the ages men have asked that same question; and sad to say even many ministers of our own generation are nothing but walking question marks in regard to the Word of God. After asking, “Hath God said . . .?” Satan added to and took away from the Word of God. In Revelation we read these words:
“If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Rev. 22:19).
In spite of that awful warning, men have gone blindly on, adding to and taking from the Word of God. All the turmoil and confusion in the world today have resulted from Satan’s attack upon the eternal Word of God.
As Genesis is the book of the beginning of all things, so Revelation is the book of the consummation of all things.
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ”
As we enter upon the study of this last book of the Bible, let us carefully consider the title. We can better understand its message and its content if we understand its name. The Bible which I have in my hand calls this book “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” whereas the opening verse gives us the correct, the God-given title, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Now we know that men have often given titles to the books of the Word of God which do not fully apply to the messages contained in them, and here we have an example of this very thing. Likewise, men have divided the books into chapters; sometimes according to logical divisions; sometimes in such a way as to divide portions which ought not to be divided. We are grateful for the convenience of chapter and verse divisions; they aid us immeasurably in locating passages. But we need to remember that it was not until John Wycliffe made the first English translation of the Bible in the fifteenth century A. D. that the Scriptures were divided into chapters. And it was still later, in the time of the Puritan Party that the Geneva Bible first gave to the world verse divisions.
Therefore, in considering the title of a book, as well as in noting chapter and verse divisions, let us search the Scriptures themselves, remembering that the men who gave us these helps, devout and well-meaning though they were, did not claim to be infallible. The Scriptures themselves are infallible, inerrant, authoritative, and divine. And in them we find the God-given title of the book we are to study now —”The Revelation of Jesus Christ” While John was the chosen instrument of the Holy Spirit to write this book, yet he was only the human author through whom the Holy Spirit gave the message. He was, in effect, the pen which was used, the channel through whom the Revelation was given. Nor was John Divine. While he was a saint, in the same sense that we and all of God’s children who believe in Christ are saints, yet most emphatically he was not divine.
Again, the title of the book is not in the plural—“Revelations.” It is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” The opening words of the first chapter tell us that. It is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass.”
You will remember that after the crucifixion of the Son of God, and after He had risen from the dead and had given to the disciples the great commission, He “led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-52). “And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10, 11).
My friend, when that event takes place, it will be “The Revelation of Jesus Christ,” our Lord. He has never been seen by the world “as he is.” He walked this old earth nineteen hundred years ago as a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” He wore the coarsest of material for clothing. His seamless garment was the kind worn by the peasants, the humble folk. He was not seen by the world in that glory which is essentially His. But while the world has seen the Son of God in humiliation, this same world will see Him once again—and in that day to come He will appear in the blaze of His uncreated glory.
That will be “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” Then every eye shall see Him. Then the events which are set before us in the book of Revelation will find their culmination, and the Lord Himself will return to the earth, actually, personally, visibly, bodily*
Let us note again the opening words of this book: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass.” When Jesus was upon the earth, He said, “Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matt. 24:36). Our Lord, as a Man, knew not the hour. When the Word of God speaks of “The Revelation” that God the Father gave to God the Son, of course, it has in view the Son of God as a Man. But let us ever remember that, as the eternal Son of God, our Lord Jesus was and is and ever shall be equal with the Father in all wisdom. Here is the Father making known to the Son of Man what He is going to do for Him in that day when the prophecy of the second Psalm shall be fulfilled: “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion” (Psalm 2:6). So John, on the Isle of Patmos, writes: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass.” God the Father gives the revelation to His Son. The Son makes it known to John. John puts it into permanent form, in order that we, the servants of God, may read what the Father is going to do for the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, when all the world shall behold Him in His eternal glory.
The Promise Blessing
“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those which are written therein; for the time is at hand” (Rev. 1:3).
No such special promise of blessing is attached to any other portion of God’s Word, although, of course, blessing does follow the reading of all portions of the Holy Scriptures, But a special promise of blessing is given to those who read this last book of the Bible. Nor did God say, *‘Blessed is he that under standeth” He said, “Blessed is he that readeth.” I think I know why. Perhaps it was because He foresaw that, as the end of the age drew near, men would neglect this last book of the Bible more than any other, vainly trying to excuse themselves by saying that it is too difficult to understand, that it is too full of symbols.
But that is not the real reason why many, even Christians, neglect this book. It is the devil who has turned thousands of people away from this portion of God’s Word. Why? Do you think the devil desires us to read a book which tells how he himself is to be cast out of heaven, bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years, and eventually cast into the lake of fire, to “be tormented day and night for ever and ever?” Do you suppose he wants men and women to read a book that tells what his punishment is to be? I think not. As you read in Revelation of his coming doom, you are not surprised that he has persuaded many people not to read the book at all.
Again, there is yet another reason why Satan has persuaded people not to read this last portion of the Bible, and that reason is this: Revelation tells us of the coming glory of that self-humbled One, the Son of God. It is the book which tells us that He will return as King of kings and Lord of lords; and that one day He will take the sceptre in His hand, to rule from sea to sea over a purified and Satan- delivered earth. It is no wonder the devil has tried to persuade people that it is useless to try to understand this book. But God foresaw all this; therefore, He opened its message with a promise of blessing for those who read it. Then read it, my friend; hear it; believe it; and God says your soul will be blessed.
I once heard Dr. L. W. Munhall, now with the Lord, say that he read it once every six weeks, for he wanted the promised blessing. Is it any wonder he was used of God to lead hundreds of never-dying souls to Christ?
Now it is true that the book of Revelation is a book of symbols. Then someone will ask, “And who will interpret these symbols?” Our answer is that every symbol used in Revelation is explained by some other portion of the Word of God. Therefore, we are not left to lean upon our own understanding and wisdom in regard to the meaning of these symbols. Other passages from the Holy Scriptures show us that the Spirit of God has given us the key that unlocks and makes known to us the meaning of the symbols which set forth the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory. Therefore, those who neglect it are without excuse.
The Greeting to the Churches
“John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; 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” (Rev. 1:4, 5).
The greeting, “Grace be unto you, and peace,” is really not from John; he is only the messenger; it is from the three Persons in the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The words, “the seven Spirits which are before his throne” represent the Holy Spirit in His fullness, as presented in Isaiah 11:2: “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him (the promised Redeemer), the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” Seven is the number that speaks of completion; and these seven descriptive terms give to our finite minds some conception of the eternal power and deity of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.
“The seven churches which are in Asia” are particularly mentioned in John’s greeting, and are named in Rev. 1:11. Of course, there were other churches in those days, but we shall see later why these particular seven were mentioned. We shall see how they not only represent the church from the beginning to the end of this age, but how they set forth also the seven periods of church history from apostolic times to the rapture of the church. Here again “seven” speaks of completion.
In verse 5 our Lord is called “the faithful witness,” reminding us of His earthly life; “the first begotten of the dead,” referring to His resurrection: and “the prince of the kings of the earth,” pointing on to His coming glory, when all men everywhere shall honor Him as King of kings and Lord of lords. And in these three significant names given to Him, we have outlined His whole Person and work, as our Prophet, Priest, and King. What a world of meaning is bound up in this threefold description of our blessed Lord!
When His triumph over the grave and His coming glory are referred to in these names of victory, all heaven bursts forth in a doxology of praise:
“Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever. Amen. Behold, he cometh with clouds: and every eye shall see him and they also which pierced him: and all kindred’s of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”
Thus you see at the very beginning that God’s Spirit gives us a little picture of “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” “Behold, he cometh with clouds”: that is. clouds of saints— the Old Testament saints, the apostles, all New Testament believers on the Lord Jesus, each in his own order.
“And every eye shall see him.” If only the earth’s millions would look up today, and behold Him by faith! But they are too busy with material things to look at the Christ of God. It will not be so when He returns in glory. “Every eye shall see him.” All the tribes of the land shall wail because of Him: that is, Israel, restored to the land of Palestine, shall recognize the crucified Lord Jesus as their Messiah and Deliverer. Jews and Gentiles, those who have accepted Him and those who have rejected Him. shall behold Him in that coming day.
Some years ago, as I was walking down a busy street in Chicago, I noticed that everyone around me was looking up. I, too, looked up, and saw a tiny speck in the sky. It was an aero plane, in the early days of aviation. As I stood there, watching the throngs of people looking up—some with careworn faces; some carefree and gay—I thought of that moment when “every eye” shall behold the glorified Lord Jesus, those who shall have rejected Him and those who shall have looked eagerly for His “appearing.” The Jews in recent years going back to their own land by the thousands; the Gentile nations, now torn by war and strife and greed; the Lord’s redeemed people—“every eye shall see him.”
For the redeemed it will be a time of rejoicing. That is why John’s response to this heavenly doxology was the prayer, “Even so, Amen.” My friend, is that the response of your heart? Will it be a day of joy for you when our Lord is revealed from heaven with all His holy angels? Your attitude now toward the Christ of Calvary will determine your destiny throughout the endless ages. “What think ye of Jesus which is called Christ?” He always was and is and ever shall be the eternal God, who said to John on the Isle of Patmos: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending . . . the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8).
The Exiled Apostle’s Divine Commission
From verses 9-11 of this first chapter of Revelation we learn the circumstances under which the book was written. The aged apostle was exiled to a lonely island where God gave him the vision and commissioned him to write it “in a book.” Listen to his words:
“I John, who am also 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” (Rev. 1:9).
Patmos is a rocky, barren island in the Aegean Sea. John had been banished there by the Roman Emperor. Why? He gives the reason himself: “For the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” The emperor could banish him from the presence of earthly friends, but he could not separate him from the fellowship of God. There he was, a lonely man, treading the sands of the seashore, far from home and human friends; but during this exile God gave him the wonderful vision which is outlined in this closing book of His Holy Word.
My Christian friend, are you suffering affliction “for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ”? If so, you are in good company.
What fellowship John had with his crucified and risen Lord! What fellowship he had with the triune God, for he writes further:
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 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” (Rev. 1:10, 11),
“The communion of the Holy Ghost” was the fellowship which John knew, for he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” But what did he mean by “the Lord’s day”? Some Bible students believe he referred to the first day of the week, because on that day Christ rose from the dead. Other students of the Word of God believe that John referred to “the day of the Lord,” repeatedly mentioned by the Old Testament prophets as that day, yet future, which will begin with the great tribulation and culminate in the return of Christ in glory.
Three “days” are clearly set forth in Scripture: “The day of Christ,” at which time the church will be translated (I Cor. 1:8); “the day of the Lord,” when He will be revealed on earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords (Acts 2:20); and “the day of God,” which will usher in the new heaven and the new earth (II Peter 3:12). (Other references verify this explanation of terms.)
Even if John in Rev. 1:10 referred to the first day of the week, as well he may have done; yet the fact remains that the vision God gave to him projected him into the future, even unto “the day of the Lord,” when He will be revealed from heaven with all His holy angels.
That will be a solemn day, a time of terrible judgment. Many times the prophets sounded a warning concerning it, even as Malachi wrote saying:
“For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch” (Mai. 4:1).
Of that time of judgment Peter spoke, when on the day of Pentecost he quoted the words of the Lord to the prophet Joel, saying:
“And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:19-21).
Thus God has faithfully warned all men to “flee from the wrath to come”; and to John “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” was given, in order to put fear into the hearts of the unsaved. But there is cause also for praise from the hearts of the redeemed as they read of the terrible judgment to come upon a godless world, and realize that from this they have been saved; for the church will be translated before the great tribulation begins to run its course.
Now if John, on the Isle of Patmos, was projected into “the day of the Lord,” how, then, could he write of this present church age, as he does in chapters two and three? In verses 10 and 12 of chapter one we find our answer: “I . . . heard behind me a great voice . . . and being turned, I saw…” First, he looked forward into “the day of the Lord”; then he turned back, as it were, and saw this church age in panorama, before looking forward again into the future at things which will surely come to pass.
And this brings us to the consideration of the key verse of the book, which plainly declares that the vision John saw was in three distinct parts.
The Threefold Vision
The risen Lord Himself gave John the correct division of this prophecy when He said in Rev. 1:19, “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.” Without this God-given outline of Revelation, we cannot grasp the meaning of the message. Let us look at it briefly just here, then keep it in mind throughout this series of studies:
- “The things which thou hast seen”—these are things of Rev. 1:12-20, the vision of the risen Lord and His High- Priestly work, which He is now doing for us at the right hand of the Father.
- “The things which are” follow in chapters two and three, and form the second division of the book. Seven is the number that speaks of completion, and the messages of the risen Lord to the seven churches in Asia outline the history of the professing church from Pentecost till the rapture.
3. “The things which shall be hereafter” are portrayed in chapters 4-22, and give us the third and last division of Revelation. They describe the events which will take place after the church has been caught away to be with Christ: the revelation of the Antichrist, the great tribulation period, the return of Christ in glory, His millennial reign on earth— even unto the eternal state.
This is the God-given outline of the book of Revelation, and it is fundamental to the understanding of this prophecy. In our next lesson we shall consider the vision of the glorified Son of Man and His present ministry for the church, symbolized by the seven golden candlesticks. In the following study we shall see how the messages to the seven churches present a comprehensive outline of all church history, “the things which are” in this age of grace. And beginning with chapter four we shall follow the detailed description which the Holy Spirit gives us of “the things which shall be hereafter“—after the church is caught up, forever to be with the Lord.
May the Spirit of the living Christ quicken our hearts and give us “wisdom from above,” that we may read and hear and keep “the words of this prophecy” concerning “the Revelation of Jesus Christ,” our glorified and coming Lord!