The Beast out of the Earth
Such, I feel persuaded, is the meaning of this chapter. If we have spiritual understanding, we must count the number of the beast. You may see him rise before your very eyes in the world of today. Hence, we must watch and pray that we may not fall into temptation. We must be faithful unto the end. But it is not our calling to resist the coming of the beast: for that is impossible. You cannot prevent his coming. But what we must do is watch. Here is the patience of the saints. Here is wisdom. We must know how he will come, that we may recognize his coming and be faithful even unto the end. God grant that we may be found watching in that day, so that we may not be allured by all the beauty and fascination and Christian appearance and strength and stability of that world-kingdom and by the signs and wonders of the false prophet, but that we may remain faithful even unto the very end, so that no one may take our crown.
The Lamb On Mount Zion
1. And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion; and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.
2. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:
3. And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
4. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
5. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
The Book of Revelation ,is full of happy and striking contrasts that cannot but keep the interest alive even from a natural point of view. This phenomenon is but natural, and can easily be explained from the subject matter itself. Revelation deals with the mightiest contrast that ever existed, the contrast between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness, principally between God and the devil, and shows the opposition and enmity of the devil against God and the power and authority of the Almighty maintaining itself over against this enmity of the dragon in actual conflict. It is the prophetic record of the great battle of the ages on the part of the devil against the Almighty for the possession of the kingdoms of the world. And for that reason it is but natural that time and again we meet with tremendous contrasts in this book. We meet with the contrast between the dragon and the woman, between the dragon and the Lamb, between the Lamb and the beast, between the Christ and the Antichrist, between the church and the world.
For the same reason we also found repeatedly that a dark and frightfully horrible picture was immediately followed by one of light and joy and glory. So we found it, for instance, in chapter 7. In chapter 6 we studied the picture of the time immediately before the last judgment at the opening of the sixth seal. Dark and terrible that picture was indeed. Heaven and earth were shaken, and the foundations of all existence seemed to be removed. Earthquakes and thunders and darkness were the signs that accompanied this terrible incident. And the great and small of the world hid themselves and cried to the rocks and mountains to cover them. And the question was asked, in near despair: “Who shall stand?’ But that dark picture was followed immediately by the joyous one in chapter 7, where we read of the one hundred forty-four thousand that were sealed and secure in the midst of tribulation, and of the innumerable multitude before the throne in glory. The same contrast exists between chapters 9 and 10: In the ninth chapter we studied the fifth and sixth trumpets, the first and second woes. There we read of the terrible locusts out of the abyss and how they tortured men, and of the awful horsemen sent by the angels that were let loose by the Euphrates and killing one-third of men. And also that horrible picture is followed by a hopeful and joyous one in chapter 10, where we read of the mighty angel standing with his feet on the earth and the sea and swearing by Him that liveth forever and ever that there should be no more delay.
And the same phenomenon is met with once more in our chapter. In chapter 13 we found the picture of the world power, of Antichrist; of the man of sin in the full development of his power and authority. We found that it was a universal kingdom, having sway over all nations and over all things in the universe. We found that all the people followed this beast, were delighted over him, worshipped him because of the instigation of the power of false prophecy as pictured in the second beast. We found that an image was erected for the beast, so that by means of this image it might become plain who would worship the beast and who would not. We found further that to all that worshipped the beast a sign was given, and that only those that received this sign and could show this sign are participants of the blessings of this kingdom, all the rest being excluded, so that the people of God could neither buy nor sell, could not procure wherewith to clothe or feed themselves. In short, it was a horrible picture of hell and Satan and Antichrist in all their power, a picture of affliction and tribulation for the people of God. And now in the chapter before us we have once more a picture of the opposite side, a picture of the power that opposes this world-kingdom and its king, and therefore at the same time a picture of joy and salvation and glory for God’s people. That is characteristic of the entire chapter, and that is also the purpose of the picture we are now studying in the present passage.
Let us once more impress upon your mind the very evident fact that in this portion we have a continuation of the symbolism begun in chapter 13. The fact that this has been overlooked has led to the gravest errors in the interpretation of this chapter and especially of the portion we are now discussing. It has led many interpreters to read this portion, wholly or in part, as if we merely had a historical record of the future in this chapter. They read then as if John said: “Then, at that time, shall Jesus appear on Mt. Sion, and He shall gather all His people in glory round about Him, in order to save them to the full and wreak vengeance upon the enemy.” And naturally in that case the mistake is also made to take Mt. Sion in the literal sense of the word and to maintain that in the days of Antichrist Jesus shall appear on Mt. Sion as the defender of His people and the opponent of the beast. And thus we come into conflict with the general revelation of Scripture, which assures us time and again that the Lord shall come on the clouds of heaven in the day of judgment. In that case also the angels in heaven are taken in the most literal sense of the word, and it is maintained that in the day of Antichrist angels shall send a warning, a last warning, to the people on earth, in order to bring them to the fear of Jehovah’s name and to proclaim to them the impending judgment. And again, by doing so we come into conflict with the entire trend of Scripture, which teaches us that Moses and the prophets are sufficient, and that if people refuse to believe them, even the dead rising from the grave would have no effect whatever upon them. From the literal point of view we can never understand this passage, nor from the point of view that confuses the literal and symbolical interpretations. And therefore it must be clear to us that John does not write history, that he does not even directly prophesy in the sense of foretelling future events, but that he speaks in highly symbolic language. After the dark vision of the beast and his kingdom, he now receives a bright vision of the Lamb, and His people. And all is symbolism. That this is true is plain from the context. In the preceding chapter we had symbolism pure and simple. No one mistook the beast for a real beast, the horns for real horns, the heads for real heads. No one misunderstood the picture there. And this is also true of the picture in the present passage. What right have we to change the method of interpretation all of a sudden, without any indication in the text. On the contrary, also the text brings us to the same conclusion. In the first place, John does not begin to say, “Then shall Christ appear on Mt. Sion.” But he merely states that he saw the Lamb on Mt. Sion with His people. The two visions, of chapter 13 and the present chapter, belong together. John by no means conveys the idea that the Lamb was not on Mt. Sion when the beast established his kingdom, but far rather that He was there all the time. In all the confusion of the nations during this entire period that Antichrist seemingly reigns supreme, the Lamb is on Mt. Sion, calm and majestic, surrounded by His people, the one hundred forty-four thousand. John sees another vision, but a vision that belongs to the one of chapter 13, and that is its counterpart. This is plain also from the very language employed. Christ is denoted as the Lamb, which, however familiar, is nevertheless symbolic language. His people are described as the one hundred forty-four thousand, as those that are not defiled with women; for they are virgins. And a wonderful song is heard from heaven, which they alone can learn. In short, the entire passage gives us immediately the impression that here we have once more symbolism in the highest sense of the word, and that as such it must be interpreted.
It may be well, before we explain this beautiful picture in detail, to ascertain the purpose of the whole. Why this picture here is inserted? In the first place, let us remark that it cannot escape our attention what a tremendous contrast this portion forms with the preceding vision of the beast. The reference to that chapter by way of contrast is very evident. There we have the picture of the beast lording it supremely over all; here we have the vision of the Lamb on Mt. Sion, standing majestic and in authority as the King and protector of His people. There we have the vision especially of the thousands and millions that worship the beast and his image; here we have the picture of the one hundred forty-four thousand that belong to the Lamb. There we found that the followers of the beast and his worshippers receive his sign on their right hand or on their foreheads; here we find that also the people of the Lamb have a sign, the name of the Lamb and of the Father. There we learned how only the followers of the beast were supreme and blest and happy, controlling the entire world; here we learn that only the one hundred forty-four thousand can learn the song of glory and of joy that is heard from heaven. There we found that the followers of the Lamb were threatened with destruction and woe, so that they could not buy or sell; the present picture is full of woe and destruction to the followers of the beast and Babylon. In a word, the same condition of things, the same state of affairs is described. In both visions we read of the beast and the Lamb. In both visions we read of the worshipping of both. But the difference is that in chapter 13 we find the cause of the Lamb and His people apparently lost, while in this chapter we find Him as the victor. In chapter 13 we found the people of God in distress; here we find them in security and in all glory. In a word, in chapter 13 the kingdom of Antichrist is described from its own point of view, and therefore as victorious; in this chapter the entire state of things is viewed in the light of heaven and of God’s decree, and the Lamb therefore is victorious after all. The contrast reminds us of Elisha and his servant at Dothan. The Syrians were provoked by the work of the prophet, and therefore were seeking his soul. And in the morning, as the servant of Elisha woke up in Dothan, he found that the city was surrounded by foes on all sides, and that escape was impossible. The servant of the prophet, looking at this whole affair from the natural point of view, is, perplexed, is in distress. He despairs and looks upon his master as a lost man. But the prophet prays that the eyes of his servant may be opened, so that he may be able to see the entire situation in its full reality. And now the servant beholds that on their side is a mightier host than on the side of the enemy. The whole mountain is filled with chariots and horses of fire round about them. So is the relation here. Antichrist is supreme. He lords it over all the world and over all things. It seems as if nothing can check his power and authority. The devil has finally gained the victory. The people of God are in distress. From the natural point of view, from the point of view of visible things, it would seem as if the cause of the Lamb and His people were a lost cause. But there is another side, a spiritual side, to this entire economy of things. And when the light of heaven falls on the scene, and the eyes of the people of God through faith are opened, they see that the Lamb is standing on Mt. Sion in calm majesty, and that His people are safe in His protection. The kingdom of Antichrist, â€•so the vision tells us, â€• apparently so safe and secure, is doomed to destruction. For the Lamb stands on Mt. Sion ready to consume His enemies. The people of God, â€• so the vision tells us, â€• apparently in distress and defeat, shall have the victory. For they are with the victorious Lamb, and follow Him whithersoever He goeth. Chapter 14 sheds the light of heaven upon the kingdom of Antichrist.
If this is clear, it will not be difficult to understand the meaning of this entire picture in detail. With the Lamb we are already acquainted, and we need not determine His identity at all. He is the Christ, and especially from the point of view of having accomplished the will of the Father to inherit the kingdom. Christ is the Anointed of God. And it is the will of the Father to give Him the kingdom of the whole world. But in order to receive the kingdom He had to redeem it by His blood and fulfill the will of the Triune God. In that capacity He stands here, as the Lamb, and, as we know from other passages, as the Lamb that was slain. There is no controversy about the identity of the Lamb. But different it is with regard to Mt. Sion. Interpreters differ widely when they come to explain this figure. As we have already mentioned, there are some who take it in the literal sense of the, word, not as a symbol but as the literal Mt. Sion in Jerusalem, and then explain that Christ during the days of Antichrist shall stand on that mount. But the symbolic nature of the entire passage, as we have already observed, is against this interpretation. It will not do to separate one element from all the rest and to explain it in the literal sense of the word. There are others who maintain that Sion is heavenly. Jerusalem. But this is impossible because of the context. We read that as the Lamb stands with His people on Mt. Sion, a voice is heard from heaven, clearly indicating that Mt. Sion is on earth. Still others claim that Mt. Sion is the symbol of the church invisible, on earth. And also this is perfectly allowable as such, for Mt. Sion appears in Scripture as the church of Christ. Only the contents of this passage are all against this interpretation. If Mt. Sion is the church, what then must we make of the one hundred forty-four thousand? They are evidently the church of the living God in Christ Jesus our Lord. But if they are, then Mt. Sion cannot mean the same thing. And therefore, we feel compelled to discard all these interpretations and to look for something else.
Mt. Sion in the literal sense was originally the hill in the city of Jerusalem on which was built the stronghold, the citadel, of the city. It was this citadel that was captured from the Jebusites by David and that became the stronghold of David. Later that same name was often applied to the temple-hill, on which Jehovah dwelt among His people. And again, it is not infrequently referred to as including the entire city of Jerusalem, the city of God. And therefore, in the symbolical sense of the word we may say that Sion implies two things. In. the first place, it is the center of God’s power, the stronghold from which Jehovah rules over and defends His people. And in the second place, it is also the hill of His presence, on which He dwells among His people. Yet we think that we will never be able to explain this symbolism if we take the Lamb and Mt. Sion separately and explain them individually first, in order then to bring them together. On the contrary, the Lamb standing on Mt. Sion constitutes one symbol, and they must be taken together, as belonging together from the very outset. And then it is our conviction that the expression must be explained in the light of Psalm 2:1-9, a psalm that is so often referred to in the Book of Revelation but never more plainly than in chapters 13 and 14. If we turn to this psalm, we will find that verses l-3 give us the exact picture in a few brief expressions of Revelation 13. We read: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” Could you find a more exact picture of what is told us in Revelation 13?