Before proceeding with the study of Revelation, there is one important feature of this book which should be briefly considered. It may be read through as a continuous story with the various happenings following each other in what may appear regular order—just like the arrangement of many other books. The outline of Revelation given with the preceding lesson indicates this regular sequence of events. However, the student should now recognize that there is a certain amount of overlapping in connection with the seven episodes. Indeed, in some instances the recorded events appear to take place at the same time. Even a casual reading reveals that before the events of one episode are completed, certain activities of the following episode have begun. This overlapping is particularly noticeable in connection with Episodes Two and Three; but there are several other instances. This applies not only to the recorded events, but also to the ideas that the author of Revelation is seeking to present. Therefore, instead of regarding the various episodes as being a series of events and ideas stretching out over a rather lengthy period, the better plan is to recognize them as various parts of one whole. In this way, the period of time between the opening vision and the concluding scenes will prove to be much shorter than would otherwise appear, and the entire record of activities will be thus brought into line with the Master's promise, "Behold, I come quickly!"
With this explanation, we continue the study of Revelation from the closing section of Lesson Eleven:
Episode III: The Seven Trumpets
During the process of breaking the seventh seal, and the subsequent "silence in heaven," seven angels appeared, and each was given a trumpet. The angels were then instructed to sound their trumpets, one at a time, and this brought about some catastrophic happenings. Special attention should be given to the grouping of these angel-trumpeters:
The first group consisted of Angels One to Four; at the sounding of their trumpets, trees and rivers, together with many growing things, were destroyed. However, this was not total destruction. Only one third was destroyed or otherwise affected, with the remaining two thirds left unimpaired. Apparently, this was intended as a stern warning, indicating what would happen unless there was an entire change of attitude by the earth's inhabitants.
Metaphysically, this may serve as a reminder that man is a threefold being—spiritual, intellectual, and physical. There are times, however, when the physical or intellectual phases tend to take complete control, leaving no opportunity for the development of the spiritual phase. Then there must be some of this "destructive" activity, in order to restore proper balance. This is really a cleansing process for the ultimate good of all concerned. Jesus referred to this type of activity when He said: "My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine which bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit" (John 15:1-2).
The second group consisted of Angels Five and Six, and the sounding of their trumpets brought dire affliction upon the inhabitants of the earth. With the earlier soundings only the objects of nature were affected, but when the second group sounded their trumpets, human beings were attacked. The fifth angel's trumpet blast also brought about the opening of the "bottomless pit," from which streamed forth a great horde of locusts, "like the smoke of a great furnace," completely obscuring the sunlight. These locusts immediately began to attack all "those of mankind who did not have the seal of God upon their foreheads." They were not allowed to kill men outright, but only to "torture them for five months." However, when the sixth angel sounded his trumpet, other destructive forces were released— which are first called "angels," but later on are designated as "troops of cavalry"; and by these "a third of mankind was killed."
Metaphysically, the "bottomless pit" may be regarded as symbolizing the subconscious phase of being. This subconscious phase plays an important part in all human activities, and when functioning rightly proves of great benefit in daily living. However, the subconscious may also be the abode of many negative beliefs—fear in many forms, resentments, hatreds, unhappy memories, and the like; and if these are set loose in the conscious level, they are likely to inflict "torture" and other suffering.
Upon reaching this point, the author of Revelation falls back on a plan which he successfully used in the second episode. The sounding of the sixth trumpet and the dramatic events which follow constitute what appears to be the high point in the narrative, and thus there again arises the possibility of anticlimax. In an effort to postpone the sounding of the seventh trumpet, the author introduces a brief interlude—as was done in the second episode. This allows the reader to become emotionally relaxed, and prepared for whatever startling changes which may lie ahead. The interlude thus introduced consists of two sections.
First, a "mighty angel" appears, carrying a small parchment scroll in his hand. Then the narrator is instructed to take the scroll from the hand of the angel, and eat it! Apparently, the scroll contained a divine message (the entire situation is somewhat similar to that described in the prophecy of Ezekiel). (See Ezekiel 2:8-10.) The narrator then states: "I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; and it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter." This indicates that Scriptural instruction, especially that dealing with maintaining one's faith in times of hardship or persecution, makes pleasant reading, but may lead to difficult experiences when put into practice.
In the second section the narrator is given a measuring rod, and is instructed to make a survey of the temple buildings. This is significant; the Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70, and Revelation was written about A.D. 85. This passage may therefore be interpreted as a prophecy that the Temple would rise again, as it did after destruction by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. This also has connection with what follows. Two "witnesses" appear, who are appointed to "prophesy for one thousand two hundred and sixty days." These "witnesses" are likened to olive trees and lampstands (probably a reference to Zechariah 4:1-3). But the "witnesses" were put to death by "the beast that ascends from the bottomless pit," and their corpses lay unburied in the streets of Jerusalem, which city is here designated as "Sodom and Egypt." However, after a lapse of three and a half days they were restored to life, and then taken up on a cloud into heaven. Thus these "human temples," like the Temple building in Jerusalem, are to be restored and glorified. Early Christians were instructed to remember how their Master had said, "Fear not them which kill the body" (Matt. 10:28 A. V.). True, they might be called upon to "rest from their labors" (Rev. 14:13), but they were assured that at the coming of their Lord they would arise and enter upon the blessings of life eternal. Thus this brief interlude brought to the hard-pressed Christiansthe message that life, love, and Truth are eternal-a message which also applies today.
The reader is now well prepared for the next announcement: "Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever' " (Rev. 11:15).
Contrasted with the effects of the six preceding trumpet blasts, the sounding of the seventh trumpet produced what may be termed a positive result. The sounding of the six trumpets brought destruction and slaughter; but the sounding of the seventh trumpet heralded the establishment of the kingdom of Christ. This calls attention to what are termed the three "woes," which are mentioned in the narrative. The* first "woe" is associated with the sounding of the fifth trumpet, consisting of destruction of trees, rivers, and other natural objects. The second "woe" followed the sounding of the sixth trumpet, and included the slaughter of "one third of mankind." But many readers of Revelation find it difficult to associate the third "woe" with the announcement regarding the establishment of Christ's kingdom. However, it should be recognized that all these "woes" are related to the opponents of Christianity, and the announcement that Christ's kingdom was established would be for them the most calamitous "woe"! Even in the midst of the first and second "woes" these opponents might still operate, but the announcement regarding Christ's kingdom would necessarily bring their nefarious activities to a close.
Metaphysically, Episode Three marks a distinct advance in the spiritual development. In Episode Two, the breaking of the seals was recognized as symbolizing the work of denials, but in Episode Three the sounding of the trumpets indicates that these denials are merging into affirmations. True, at the outset this affirmative work leads to the destruction of certain old, erroneous conditions; but the final outcome is the establishment of right conditions, or the kingdom of Christ. In point of fact, the third episode might be regarded as suggesting the possibility of development through affirmation, with the trumpet blasts giving the "go ahead" signals. The final announcement then indicates that the new and higher state of consciousness is now in process of attainment.
Episode IV: Three Great Portents
In the fourth episode the author of Revelation makes a complete change in his symbology. Thus far, he has used the mystical number seven with great effect, but now the sacred number three is brought into use. Possibly the change was made for literary reasons, since it would have the effect of reviving the reader's interest, and would also indicate progress in the narrative. The author's use of the word portent also makes for added interest. Usually, a portent is regarded as an omen, or warning, pointing to a momentous happening that is about to take place— the foreshadowing of a coming event. For the first and second portents the author draws upon historical events, and presents these in allegorical form to portray the possibilities of the future. Thus what has already taken place symbolizes what is yet to come. The third portent is of entirely different character, as will be seen later. These three portents should now be carefully studied.
First Portent: Birth of the Christ Child (Rev. 12:1-17.)
This first portent is an allegorical presentation of events connected with the birth of Jesus, and Herod's attempts to destroy the Child. These events are recorded in the second chapter of Matthew's Gospel. The woman mentioned in the allegorical presentation may represent the Virgin Mary, but more likely symbolizes the Messianic Hope of Israel, as indicated by the "crown of twelve stars." The statement is also made that the Child would "rule all nations with a rod of iron" (Rev. 12:5). This is a quotation from the Second Psalm, and this Psalm was regarded as Messianic. While the allegorical presentation does not specifically mention king Herod, the red dragon is intended to symbolize his destructive activities. This symbology also indicates that Herod's attempts to destroy the Christ Child were instigated by Satan. However, in seeking this destruction, Satan appears to have exceeded his authority, and as a punishment was "thrown down to earth, and his angel's were thrown down with him" (Rev. 12:9). Jesus, during His ministry, made reference to this overthrow: "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven" (Luke 10:19).
Metaphysically, this first portent points to the birth of the Christ in our consciousness. A casual reader might be inclined to wonder why this birth should occur at such a relatively late period in the narrative. Matters connected with birth are usually placed at the beginning, and not introduced when the story is halfway through. But careful consideration confirms that the birth of the Christ is here placed correctly. The earlier sections of Revelation, when interpreted in a metaphysical way, deal with what may be termed intellectual processes. Thus the seven letters invite us to "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" the heavenly message; the breaking of the seven seals indicate a process of eliminating old beliefs by means of denials; and the sounding of the seven trumpets may be regarded as representing the work of affirmation. But while all these activities may be conducted on the intellectual level, the allegorical presentation of the birth of Christ clearly indicates the awakening of spiritual consciousness. "Awake, 0 sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light" (Eph. 5:14). Intellectual activity then gives place to spirituality. However, the first portent indicates that this spiritual awakening may be accompanied by inner disturbances — allegorically represented by attacks on the Christ Child. Possibly this is the underlying meaning in Jesus' cryptic statement, "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matt. 10:34). Mortal consciousness resists all attempts to replace it, and seeks to destroy the Christ Child. But this first portent also assures us that, if we hold steady in our faith, spirituality will ultimately be victorious.
Second Portent: Activities of the antichrist (Rev. 13:1-18.)
Just prior to the Christian era, the Jewish people developed the idea of an opponent to the coming Messiah. A leader would arise—personifying all the evils of the world—who would oppose the Messiah, and seek to prevent the establishment of His kingdom. This idea was taken over by the early church, and the term antichrist was quite familiar when Revelation was written. The antichrist was identified with the "great red dragon" and "Satan" in the first portent, and was also regarded as directing his activities against the early church. While the persecutions and similar evils appeared to be the work of the Roman emperors, behind all their activities was this antichrist. Therefore, while the second portent seems to deal with the Roman Empire and its rulers, the evil activity indicated is really the work of the antichrist. Note the following:
(1) The first beast is described as having "ten horns and seven heads." Probably the "seven heads" refer to the seven Roman emperors of the period, and the "ten horns" represent provincial governors, or dependent kings. The "blasphemous words" uttered by the beast refer to the assumption of names indicating divinity.
(2) The second beast represents the development of Caesar worship during this period. Not only did the Roman emperors claim divinity, but altars were erected where the people were called upon to offer incense as an act of worship to the emperors. Persons participating in this worship were then given tokens, which permitted them to purchase food and other necessities. Many Christians refused to offer incense, and were put to death. One emperor is specifically mentioned here, being regarded as the instigator of the persecutions, and his name is given in symbolic form. "This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is six hundred and sixty-six" (Rev. 13:18). This emperor is usually regarded as being Nero (or Neron) Caesar, since when his name is written in Hebrew characters, the numerical values of these is 666.
The special significance of the second portent, both to the early Christians and also for present-day readers, will be readily recognized after carefully studying the third portent.
Third Portent: The triumphant Christ (Rev. 14:1-20.)
Following the works of destruction depicted in the earlier chapters of Revelation, the third portent brings an entirely different type of message presented in three sections (or visions).
(1) Activities on Mount Zion: Here the "one hundred and forty-four thousand," previously mentioned in Chapter Seven, again appear. In Chapter Seven this group represented Jewish converts, but here there is no indication of Jew or Gentile. The reference to chastity indicates that members of this group have not defiled themselves by offering incense on the altars of Caesar.
(2) The three angels: The term "eternal Gospel," as used by the first angel, is not a reference to the New Testament, but rather to the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. The second angel announces the fall of "Babylon"—symbolizing Rome and its persecution activities (this would be welcome news for the hard-pressed Christians). The third angel warns against worship of "the beast," and thus prepares the way for a comforting message regarding the martyred Christians: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth ... they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!" (Rev. 14:13).
(3) Appearance of the Christ: The account states that there appeared one "like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand ... seated on a cloud" (Rev. 14:14). This seems like the beginning of the final triumph, and the announcement would bring new hope to the persecuted Christians. The "sickle" symbolizes the harvest, which was then to begin. However, there seems a twofold suggestion in this harvest symbology. While the gathering of grapes may indicate reward for the faithful Christians, the statement that "blood flowed from the wine press" seems to foretell the slaughter of the persecutors.
Metaphysically interpreted, these three great portents not only tell of awakening spiritual consciousness and the coming of the triumphant Christ, but also indicate how certain disturbing happenings may follow in the train of these events. Paul, when writing to the Ephesians, was fully aware of this disturbing situation, for he urged his converts to "put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places" (Eph. 6:11-12). We too must be prepared for the reactions of mortal (or error) consciousness when spiritual consciousness seeks to take full control. At such times there may be a tendency on our part to feel that this spiritual awakening has brought new trials and tribulations, with the last state being worse than the first and we may be inclined to give up the struggle. However, if we hold fast to the belief in the ultimate triumph of Truth, we shall be led safely through all these difficult experiences to final victory. The words of the familiar hymn are appropriate here:
"Crowns and thrones may perish,
Kingdoms rise and wane;
But the Church of Jesus
Constant will remain;
Gates of hell can never
'Gainst that Church prevail
We have Christ's own promise,
Which can never fail."
Episode V: The Seven Plagues
While the author of Revelation has some further tragic happenings to disclose, he desires that his readers shall keep their attention fixed upon their forthcoming triumph. Possibly his purpose is to strengthen their faith and steady their nerves, so that they will be able to endure further persecutions. He therefore divides this fifth episode into two sections.
(1) A Preparatory Vision (Rev. 15:2-8): Some faithful converts—viz., those who have not defiled themselves by offering incense at Caesar's altar—are seen standing on the seashore, singing an anthem, which is designated as "a song of Moses ... and of the Lamb." In the background appears "the temple of the tent of witness," wherein seven angels are seen, awaiting instructions regarding the seven plagues. It should be noted that in Revelation most references to the temple seem to indicate the very early structures in Hebrew history, rather than the elaborate building later erected in Jerusalem.
(2) The Work of Destruction (Rev. 16:1-20): In this section seven angels are seen pouring out what is here termed "the wrath of God" upon the earth and its inhabitants. Several important details should be noted:
(a) The author here returns to his original figure seven. The reason for this will be explained later.
(b) At first sight, the happenings here recorded appear similar to those connected with the breaking of the seals and the sounding of the seven trumpets. But there is one notable difference. Since the sounding of the trumpets the antichrist has been revealed and, while the work of destruction affects all earthly things and conditions, the main force of the attack is now directed toward this archenemy of mankind.
(c) As the result of the sixth angel's activities, the "great river Euphrates" dried up. The dry river bed then formed a ready-made military road for an advancing army "from the east," which was led by "kings," "the dragon," and "the false prophet." This great army finally reached a place named "Armageddon" (meaning "the mountains of Meggido," or, most probably, the plain of Esdraelon, at the foot of the mountains, where many battles in Jewish history had been fought), and the setting was complete for the final battle on "the great day of God the Almighty." Apparently, this was introductory to the final overthrow of the antichrist, as described in the following chapters.
(d) The activities of the seventh angel should also be noted. These were directed mainly against "Babylon" (Rome), and so severe was the attack that the "great city" was split into three parts. The present-day reader may be inclined to regard what is depicted in Episode Five as a reversion to the type of activity recorded in earlier sections of Revelation. Following the appearance of the triumphant Christ in the third portent, it might be supposed that the narrative would then press forward to record the final victory. Instead of this, the author tells of a series of punishing plagues poured out upon earthly transgressors, using again the earlier symbolic number seven. The mention of plagues would immediately remind Jewish Christians of happenings in their early history, when the Israelites were suffering under Egyptian taskmasters. A reference to the Book of Exodus, Chapters Seven to Twelve, reveals that the plagues inflicted upon the Egyptians were seven in number (when reckoned in the Jewish way), and also that the Egyptians suffered severely. For the Israelites, those ancient plagues symbolized "the darkest hour before the dawn," for the plagues not only ended their Egyptian bondage, but also opened the way for their freedom and the journey to the Promised Land. Similarly for the early Christians, the seven plagues mentioned in Revelation would be joyfully recognized as the symbol of their approaching freedom. Just like the Israelites of old, those early Christians—following these plagues—would find release from their bondage of persecution, and they would then march forward into Christ's kingdom.
This teaching regarding "the darkest hour before the dawn" may also prove helpful today. As we progress on our journey from mortal consciousness to spirituality, there are times when we experience a spiritual awakening, and we feel that all our difficulties now belong to the past. But then comes a sudden reversal—similar to the appearance of the seven plagues of Revelation—causing us to lose heart, and to become ready to give up the struggle after higher things. Of course all this may be merely the reaction of mortal consciousness, as mentioned earlier in this lesson. But it may also be an experience of "the darkest hour," similar to the Fifth Episode of Revelation. If such be the case, we must strengthen our faith in the realization that this "darkest hour" is only a preliminary to the dawn of the full Christ consciousness. The words of the Psalmist seem appropriate here: "Why art thou cast down 0 my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him who is the health of my countenance and my God" (Psalms 42:11 A.V.).
Episode VI: Overthrow of "Babylon"
The vision of the seven plagues reached its climax with a brief account of the destruction of "Babylon" (Rev. 16:17-21). In Episode Six this brief account of destruction is elaborated, together with some other important happenings.
(1)The woman arrayed in purple and scarlet (Rev. 17:1-18). Evidently the purpose of this section is to give reasons for the destruction of "Babylon" (Rome). Not only was Rome responsible for persecuting the Christians, but it was also promoting immorality and the worship of false gods. Possibly there is also a reference here to the destruction of Jerusalem and the slaughter of so many Jewish people in the rebellion of A.D. 66-70. The "woman" mentioned clearly represents Rome, while the "beast" symbolizes Nero—whom the early Christians regarded as the instigator of the persecutions. The phrase "was, and is not" (Rev. 17:11) indicates that Revelation was written after the death of Nero. However, later emperors continued the persecution with even greater vehemence. The author of Revelation states that "these are of one mind and give over their power and authority to the beast; they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called the chosen and faithful" (Rev. 17:13-14).
(2) Dirge over the fallen city (Rev. 18:1-24). While this dramatic poem is frequently referred to as a "dirge" (funeral song), the tone is not one of actual lamentation. Rather, the thought is that in this destruction Rome has received her just deserts, brought about by all the evils previously mentioned. Note how this dirge begins: "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!" It is significant that the present tense is used here—although the actual destruction was supposed to take place later. Possibly this is an indication that faith sees all things as accomplished, even though the manifestation does not yet appear. Faith says, "It is done!" though the manifestation may be instantaneous or delayed according to our state of consciousness. Special attention should also be given to the twenty-first verse, which reads: "Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, 'So shall Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and shall be found no more.' " This indicates more than destruction. History records that cities have been destroyed, but later were rebuilt and restored. Babylon, however, was to be entirely removed from the face of the earth, with every trace eliminated, so that it can never be restored.
(3) The final victory (Rev. 19:1-21). In this section three visions are described, and in each instance reference is made to happenings already recorded in Revelation. These earlier happenings are retold, with certain elaborations, so that they are appropriate to the later developments.
First, there is seen the Heavenly Council with the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures, as described in Chapter Four. The elders and living creatures express their gratitude for the overthrow of Babylon, and in this they are joined by "a great multitude," so that the song of praise becomes like "the sound of mighty thunderpeals." Preparations are also made for "the marriage of the Lamb ... and his Bride"—symbolizing the return of the Lord to His faithful followers in the early church.
Second, the rider upon the white horse again makes an appearance—the rider mentioned in Chapter Six, second verse. However, on this occasion further details are given. The rider has "a name ... which no one knows but himself," and He is also designated as "King of kings and Lord of lords," "Faithful and True," and "The word of God." We are told that "the armies of heaven" followed Him. This is a symbolic picture of the conquering Christ.
Third, the battle of Armageddon. After reading the statements given in Chapter Sixteen, many persons suppose that the reference to Armageddon given there indicates something in the far distant future. But Rev. 19:17-21 makes it quite clear that the battle of Armageddon was part of the general overthrow of the enemies of Christianity, as depicted in Episode Six. Not only was "Babylon" to be overthrown, but also all the nations and peoples who had opposed the Gospel message. We are told that while "the armies of heaven ... followed him on the white horse," arrayed on the opposite side were "the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who sits on the horse and against his army" (Rev. 19:19). In the ensuing battle, "the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet" and "these two were then thrown alive into the lake of fire ... and the rest were slain by the sword" (Rev. 19:20-21). Thus the rider on the white horse was victorious in this battle of Armageddon.
(4) Aftermath of Armageddon (Rev. 20:1-15). In order that Armageddon should be recognized as the final victory, several important events are recorded in this section.
First: The Devil is bound with a "great chain" and thrust into the bottomless pit, which is then sealed for a thousand years. During this thousand-year period, the earth would be free from all evil influences, and its people would be at peace.
Second: The first resurrection. Following the Devil's overthrow, the Christian martyrs were to be resurrected, to reign with Christ for a thousand years. Special honors would also be accorded them. Other Christians would not be resurrected until the close of the thousand-year period. At that time Satan would be freed from the bottomless pit for a short period, to make his final attack on the saints. But Satan would then be defeated and thrown into the lake of fire, to remain there "tormented ... for ever and ever."
Third: The Day of Judgment. "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne ... and the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done." Following this, "Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire, and if any one's name was not written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:12-14). Earlier it was intimated that this would be the "second death," from which there would be no possibility of resurrection.
For present-day Christians this sixth episode makes rather difficult reading. The major emphasis is upon the destruction of the nonChristians and the persecutors, and many of the activities recorded appear quite vindictive. Indeed, this applies also to many other sections of Revelation; and modern readers are likely to wonder how all this can be reconciled with the Master's instructions to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). Of course many of these activities are reported as originating in celestial regions; but this does not make the situation easier—rather, the reverse! However, when reading Revelation, it should be recognized that the apocalyptic viewpoint differs considerably from Gospel teaching, and the necessary adjustments in thought should be made. Furthermore, as pointed out in the opening section of this lesson, when "Babylon" was finally overthrown by the Christians, with the conversion of Constantine, (approximately A.D. 300), the means used to bring about this overthrow were those presented by Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, rather than the physical attacks and torments indicated in Revelation.
Metaphysically, this sixth episode emphasizes the necessity for eliminating all error thoughts from consciousness. In this work of elimination there must be no compromise. Every error thought—that is, all thoughts and beliefs that are not of God, those that have no foundation in Truth—must be overcome and driven forth from our consciousness. This is accomplished by denying their reality and power, and affirming the Truth of Being. "The city of Babylon, of Rev. 17 and Rev. 18, signifies the aggregation of the states of mind of the people of the earth. The kings of the earth are the ruling egos of the people of the earth, of the thoughts of people's minds" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary pp. 92-93). Thus "Babylon," as used in this section of Revelation, indicates confusion, or the mixed thoughts of material consciousness, and this condition must be rectified. Jesus referred to this mixed state of consciousness when He said, "No one can serve two masters. . . you cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6:24). This "Babylon" must be overthrown before we can enter upon the experience of spiritual consciousness.
References to the battle of Armageddon may be interpreted metaphysically as follows: "The gathering together of hordes of error thoughts in consciousness ... to make war against the truer and higher thoughts and ideals of the individual" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 436 entry for Megiddo). And we may win this battle by placing ourself under the leadership of the One whose name is "Faithful and True," "The Word of God," "King of kings and Lord of lords."
Regarding Judgment Day: "The overcomer, the individual who consciously is in the overcoming process, knows that to him every day is a judgment day. Every day the act of separating the good and constructive thoughts (sheep) from the destructive ones (goats) is taking place in him; and the error states of consciousness, error thoughts (goats) are cast into the refiner's fire of purification, where they are refined, purified, and transmuted into helpful, upbuilding forces" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 377). (Note: The student should also read the Gospel account of the Last Judgment, given in Matt. 25:31-46.)
Episode VII: A New Heaven and Earth
This concluding episode places emphasis on what has been termed "the apocalyptic viewpoint." Apocalyptic writers were not greatly concerned with reforms or improvements. They believed that old things and old conditions must be ruthlessly swept away, and replaced by an entirely new creation. The new sky and earth and the New Jerusalem would "come down .. . from God." This idea of a new heaven and earth would be familiar to the early Christians, since it had been clearly predicted in the closing chapter of Isaiah's prophecy. (See Isa. 66:22.) Note the following special features of the new creation.
(1) The New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:1-8): Several important promises applying to the inhabitants of this city are given. "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more" ... "To the thirsty I will give water without price from the fountain of the water of life. He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son." However, all wrongdoers are to be consigned to the lake of fire.
(2) The Bride of the Lamb (Rev. 21:9-27): Usually, in the New Testament the term Bride is applied to the Church, or the group of believers, but here it has reference to New Jerusalem. Possibly the author of Revelation regarded New Jerusalem as a symbol of the glorified Christian Church. It will be seen that this symbology is worked out in describing the walls, gates, and foundations of the city. The city walls are described as being built "foursquare," with each wall measuring (approximately 375 miles in length, or a total of 1,500 miles all around, while the height of the wall is given as 144 cubits—216 feet). Evidently these measurements are intended to indicate the enormous size of the city—capable of containing the huge throng of citizens indicated in Chapter Seven, and elsewhere. The twelve precious stones adorning the foundations are reminiscent of the jewels in the breast plate worn by the Jewish High Priest. Special attention is also directed to the absence of a temple in New Jerusalem. This is important. In Jewish history the temple (and its predecessor, the tabernacle) served as a connecting link between man and God. But this was no longer necessary, for in New Jerusalem "the dwelling place of God is with man ... and God himself shall be with them" (Rev. 21:3).
(3) River of water of life (Rev. 22:1-5): Through the center of New Jerusalem flows "the river of the water of life." This is similar to the Garden of Eden (See Gen. 2:10), but in this instance the river has its source at "the throne of God and of the Lamb." Mention is also made of the "tree of life," another similarity to the Garden of Eden. However, in the Revelation account the context indicates that several trees are intended, since they grow "on either side of the river." Again the symbolic number twelve is used in connection with the fruit of the tree; while the leaves are reported as being "for the healing of the nations." The passage closes with the statement that the citizens of New Jerusalem need "no lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever."
Episode Seven contains many interesting details which, when interpreted metaphysically, prove helpful and inspiring. The jeweled foundations of New Jerusalem symbolize man's twelve powers functioning to the fullest degree; the twelve gates indicate perfect receptivity to spiritual ideas; while the measurements of the walls suggest unlimited capacity for good. Intensive spiritual illumination is indicated in the statement, "The glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb" (Rev. 21:23). Furthermore, references to the "water of life" and the "tree of life" make clear that spiritual man, following a period of wandering through the sense world, is now fully restored to his rightful place.
However, this piecemeal method of study may leave something to be desired. There is an old saying about being unable to see the beauty of the forest because of the trees. In a somewhat similar way, undue emphasis on details may cause us to miss the spiritual meaning of the entire episode. However, a right understanding of the episode as a whole will throw considerable light upon the component details. The major emphasis should be placed upon the recognition that in this description of the New Jerusalem there is symbolized the full attainment of spiritual consciousness. This includes not only spiritual ideas, but also their manifestation. The familiar prayer, "as in heaven, so on earth," is thus literally fulfilled, and divine ideasare made manifest in experience. Just what all this means is indicated in the name of the Holy City: "Jerusalem means habitation of peace. In man it is the abiding consciousness of spiritual peace, which is the result of continuous realizations of spiritual power, tempered with spiritual poise and confidence. ... The New Jerusalem of Rev. 21:2 is spiritual consciousness, and it is founded on the twelve fundamental ideas in Divine Mind, each represented by one of these precious stones. It also represents an association of all people in peace, based on spiritual understanding, purity, and a willingness to be united with Christ—'made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.' " (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 342-343).
Here a question arises: Is it absolutely necessary for us to pass through all the difficult experiences that are symbolized in Episodes Two to Six, before attaining the full development of spiritual consciousness as symbolized in Episode Seven? In other words, must we inevitably suffer the attacks and tortures of the wilderness before we reach New Jerusalem? The answer is not difficult to find. The seven letters, as given in Episode One, contain full directions for the attainment of spiritual consciousness, and the seven promises given therein indicate all the joys associated with New Jerusalem. If we faithfully follow these instructions, and shape our course accordingly, our journey will be safe, speedy, and successful. But if, on the other hand, we give heed to the suggestions of mortal consciousness, or elect to pursue the path of trial and error, then the aforesaid difficulties and tribulations will be our portion. God has given us freedom of choice in the development of our consciousness, but the ultimate outcome will always be commensurate with our choice. The words of Jesus, as given in the Sermon on the Mount, appear quite significant here: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matt. 7:13-14).
This closing passage needs very little comment. It follows the pattern found in many other apocalyptic writings, placing emphasis on the promise of the speedy return of the Lord, and then adding a final warning to wrongdoers. Evidently the author's purpose was to encourage the hard-pressed Christians to hold on just a little while longer: " 'Surely I am coming soon.' Amen. Come Lord Jesus!" (Rev. 22:20). The epilogue closes appropriately with a brief benediction:
"The grace of the Lord Jesus
be with all the saints. Amen."
Questions for Lesson 12
- Explain briefly what happened when the six angels blew their trumpets. What important message was given by the seventh angel?
- What important historical event is presented in the first great portent? In what way or ways is this similar to the account of Jesus' birth, as given in the second chapter of Matthew's Gospel? What are the differences?
- List briefly the seven happenings following the pouring out of "the wrath of God" upon the earth. (Rev. 16)
- Who was the leader of the "armies of heaven" in the battle of Armageddon? How are the leaders of the opposing army described? What happened to these opposition leaders following their defeat?
- Why was "a new heaven and earth" necessary? What attitude was taken by the author of Revelation regarding old things and old conditions? What is indicated by the term "Bride of the Lamb"?
- What important metaphysical message is contained in the account of the three great portents? In the development of spiritual consciousness, how can we guard against disturbing happenings?
- What is symbolized by the seven plagues? How should we regard the "darkest hour"? If possible, give an example of this "darkest hour" from your own experience, or from your own reading.
- Metaphysically, what is indicated by the battle of Armageddon? When and where does the Judgment Day take place?
- Where should we place the major emphasis when seeking to interpret New Jerusalem? How does this help us to understand the details? How may we assure ourself of a safe and speedy journey in our development of spiritual consciousness?
- Write a paragraph or so indicating briefly how these lessons have helped you to attain a better understanding of the New Testament.