The book of Revelation was given to the apostle John by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the last word to his believers unto his coming in glory as King of kings and Lord of lords. So it must be important. God gave it to him and Christ sent it by means of his own angel in the last years of John, the last living member of the apostles. This whole process was described in the most de­liberate language, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John” (Rev 1:1).

Note that a blessing is particularly mentioned for those who respond to the message of the book and adapt their lives to its import.

This must surely mean that the Lord Jesus wants his servants to know and appreciate the message of the book. It cannot mean that he is happy for his servants to endlessly debate the interpretation of the Revelation. It was given to his servants that they might have a blessing in understanding the book. The language of the book is dramatic and oft times vehement. In fact, there is no other writing of the Lord that has such vivid descriptions, especially of the beast in chapter 17 and the lewd woman who sat upon it. Our Master is thus stressing the anger of heaven towards this system, in order that his people would not fall prey to its overtures. “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” is the appeal of our Master to the people of God (18:4). It is a passionate appeal based upon many vivid descriptions of what he here calls “Babylon the Great”. He speaks of the enormous judgments to fall upon this system of historic evil. Nowhere does the Lord speak in more blatant terms of such momentous sins than here in the Revelation.

Would it be reasonable, in any sense, that we retort to our Master, “But who do you mean, Lord, What is the ‘Great Babylon’ (16:19, 17:5, 18:2) of which you speak? I can’t work out who you are speaking about!” After 1900 years the book would be still unintelligible and its motivating messages still mostly irrelevant to the people of Christ. Such a concept is clearly unsatisfactory.

Hear What the Spirit Saith

The urgency with which the Lord appeals to us in chapter 18 is consistent with the rest of the Book. “What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven ecclesias which are in Asia” (1:11). “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the ecclesias” (2:7,11,17). Seven times the Lord repeats this appeal. Did he expect his people to intelligently respond to these frank appeals and warnings? To not do so would result in direst con­sequences; to respond faithfully meant wonderful blessings (eg 2:5,7,16,17,etc). Although many symbols are employed by the Lord it is indisputable that he expected his servants to comprehend the import of his messages. The Revelation was not given for aimless and endless disputation.

Many Encouragements

The book of Revelation was given to the apostle John who, like the prophet Daniel, was a “man greatly beloved”, “lying on Jesus’ breast” at supper and intensely desiring to know the significance of the prophecies received from God (Dan 10:11,19; John 13:25; 21:20; Rev 5:4). John was encouraged in his enquiry for when the visions of the seals were given, he was repeatedly invited to “Come and see” (6:1,3,5,7). He often comments how he “looked” and “saw” and “heard” the matters of these visions (6:8,9,7). We can surely take from this that the Fa­ther loves His children to share this strong interest and inquiry into matters of special revelation that He has given to them. Of course He does!

Consider the numerous symbols in chapters 8 and 9 which portray the six trumpet visions. There are about eighty different symbols and figures to be interpreted in order to comprehend the prophecy. From the perspective of the apostle John that must have been a daunting prospect, especially as he would be unaware of the time factors involved. But the Spirit’s comment, that the “locusts” would only harm those “which have not the seal of God in their foreheads”, spoke forcefully of the virtue of comprehending the prophecy when it became relevant to its own era of mankind (9:4). The saints would know to keep out of the politics of the time, for God had prepared that this force would not be a threat to them, neither should they work against the new Muslim influence that would arise.

Again in chapter 13 we have a very trying time for the saints portrayed, for a system would arise to whom God would allow dominion over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. It would, in fact, “make war with the saints and overcome them” (13:7). Pressure to conform to the desires of this system would be extremely great upon God’s people, for the threat of death for non-conformity is the sense of the prophecy. In a delightful illustration of Divine love, there follow encouraging warnings, “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”. In other words, “Don’t fall in with this ‘Beast of the sea’ for if you do, then you will lose your entry in the Book of Life!—never mind how generally popular the Beast will be”!

Then the Lord invokes, “If any man have an ear, let him hear”. This is an appeal of the clearest and most urgent kind. “Christ’s brethren, don’t retaliate, vengeance is Mine”—“He that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and faith of the saints” (v10). These are endearing words of warning to those isolated and lonely lovers of Truth who for centuries would fear for their lives as the Papally inspired armies of Catholic Europe were commissioned to hunt for “heretics”, our breth­ren, and to arraign them before magistrates. Imagine when the time came, if some of the brethren rose up to say that they couldn’t discern of whom the Lord was speaking! The certainty of the Master’s attitude to the Papal system would be lost and the saints would not know where to stand. What confusion and dissension would result! The true believers would be decimated in the uncertainty. But that is surely not what our Lord wanted. If his words of prophecy were discerned, they would be resolute of heart in the darkest hour, and that is the very reason the Lord gave the prophecy.

Of a similar kind is the passage in the Olivet Prophecy in which the Master tells his people to flee the city when they see Daniel’s “abomination of desolation” in Jerusalem. If they didn’t study the prophecy and know the interpretation (as the Lord pleads with them to do! Matt 24:15) then events would overtake them for their destruction. It is no good saying that we shall wait till the issue is before our eyes. Too late, events would have overtaken them! So, too, with the Beast of the sea in Revelation 13. Useless it would have been if brethren endlessly debated the issues and could not see the interpretation or give leadership to the saints in the hour of need.

Here Is Wisdom

This little phrase is in chapter 13:18. It is a special key for interpretation. It is the kindness of the Master to provide this extra little key that his people will have certain knowledge of their position when they are found isolated, unemployed and persecuted throughout the long dark years of Medieval Europe. “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.” The threat was upon every soul to worship the image of the beast and to bear his mark in their foreheads! The Master gives the vision because he wants them to be sure and faithful in their stand. He says the number of the beast is “666”. Did they understand? Most assuredly they did. As early as the second century we have record of their inter­pretation as the Latin One (Greek lateinos). They waited for that Latin religious impostor to dominate the mind and livelihood of mankind. And surely it arose. Speaking Latin, the local language of the district of Rome, in all their assemblies worldwide, their edicts written in the same to all peoples, a strange, mysterious practice began in AD666 and continued unaltered for 1300 years. Distinctive of that religion was this supreme hierarchical position of its leader, set before men as “The Lord God” upon earth. The Papacy is the momentous example of blasphemy. Nothing in history, from the first century to now, compares with its arrogance. “Vicar of the Son of God”, “Holy Father”, “our Lord God the Pope”; here is the Latin One and what a vicious persecutor it was for hundreds of years to any who would dare open the Bible to study the Word of the Living God. So Revelation 13 came to pass. (An excellent coverage of this Beast and his Number can be found in Dr John Thomas’ Eureka, Vol 3, pages 365–373.)

And Here is the Mind that hath Wisdom

It is not proposed that every element of the Apoca­lypse is easily and immediately comprehended. This Book must be among those that illustrate the truth of the proverb, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter” (Prov 25:2). However, there are many mat­ters that are almost self-evident. One is the obvious comparison of the Revelation with the prophecy of Daniel (see chart below). If the apostle John was living in the times of Daniel’s fourth world empire, the Roman, then the various beasts presented in Revelation must be representative of various phases of the Roman era. “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his serv­ants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). The long night of Gentile Roman dominion is no exception to this principle of Amos.

In chapter 17 the Lord puts it beyond reasonable question. “And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth” (v9). The “woman” represents an international system (v15), in fact, “that great city” which reigned over the kings of the earth in the days of the apostle John (v18). Everyone knows that this was the city of Rome, whose bounds were made co-extensive with the boundaries of the Empire. And everyone knows that it was Rome that was described as the city upon seven hills; sometimes the poets simply called her “Septimontium”.

It is very moving to note our beloved Master’s little key, “Here is the mind which hath wisdom”. In the midst of his graphic description of this scarlet coloured beast and the cruel and gaudy harlot that rides upon it, the Lord provides a most simple key to the understanding of such a critical prophecy.

Not many years ago the Protestant churches saw the basic interpretation of this woman as the Roman Catholic Church. By Jesuit activity they lost this comprehension. A spirit of ecumenism prevailed, and now the prophecy of Revelation has no common understanding to them. Their protest has gone, a matter of the past, whilst Rome marches on triumphant!

Let us beware that the same thing does not happen to us!

“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut 29:29).