The words of repentant David: ‘Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow’ (Psa. 51:7), have seized the mind, and entered into the preaching of the gospel during all times. In the book of Revelation, the only gospel that is preached (so far as the record goes) contains no reference to Christ, His finished work or to faith (Rev. 14:6,7) and if preached today would merit the anathema of Galatians 1:8. While righteousness appears in different forms (dikaios, dikaiosune, dikaioo and dikaioma), they refer either to judgment (Rev. 15:3,4; 16:5,7; 19:2), war (Rev. 19:11) or to the personal righteousness of saints (Rev. 19:8; 22:11).
The evangelical concept of justification by faith is nowhere seen of spoken of. In the article, THE REST OF THE DEAD, we have examined every reference to the phrase ‘the blood of the Lamb’, and to the shedding of blood generally, but out of all the references, the only one that speaks of deliverance from sin, is that of Revelation 1:5 and this is discussed in the article referred to above where its connection is not with the average sinner, but with the peculiar company, ‘kings and priests’, who play so important a part in the outworking of its prophetic import. Two quotations call for insertion in this article:
- ‘They … made them WHITE in the blood of the Lamb’ (Rev. 7:14).
- ‘They OVERCAME him by the blood of the Lamb’ (Rev. 12:11).
These passages are related. Those who wash their robes and make them WHITE are those who came out of great tribulation. Those who OVERCAME, do so by the same blood of the Lamb, and under enormous pressure. Both companies are martyrs. When this company is complete, it is likened to a Bride prepared for her Husband:
- ‘And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints’ (Rev. 19:8).
The usage of the word translated ‘arrayed’ links the Bridal company with the overcomer, as will be seen from the following list of occurrences of periballo:
- ‘He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment’.
- ‘I counsel thee to buy of Me … white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed‘ (Justification is by faith, and cannot be ‘bought’).
- ‘A great multitude … clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands’.
- ‘What are these which are arrayed in white robes?’.
- ‘She should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white’.
- ‘And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood’ (Rev. 3:5,18; 7:913; 19:8,13).
In the days of the outpourings of the vials, a blessing is pronounced upon him that watched ‘and keepeth his garments (himation)’ (Rev. 16:15), a reference back to Revelation 3:5 and 18. The same Greek word himation is used of the overcoming King of kings, Revelation 19:16; and His vesture also was ‘dipped in blood’ even as were those of the suffering overcomers.
The evidence is accumulative and overwhelming, the the OVERCOMER is the key to the Revelation, and to the essential of the Millennium.
The word mostly translated ‘white’ in the Revelation is the Greek leukos, but in two references (Rev. 15:6 and 19:8), the word lampros, translated elsewhere by ‘gorgeous’, ‘bright’, ‘goodly’, ‘gay’, and ‘clear’ (Luk. 23:11; Acts 10:30; Jas. 2:2,3; Rev. 22:1). The usage of the word ‘white’ in the Revelation suggests a threefold subdivision:
- The Lord Himself.
- The Overcomers.
(1) The Lord Himself.
First as King Priest. Then as King of kings (Rev. 1:14; 19:11). The three descriptions of the Transfiguration refer to the opening vision of Revelation 1:
- ‘He was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light’ (Matt. 17:2).
- ‘His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them’ (Mark 9:3).
- ‘The fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistering’ (Luke 9:29).
White as light, white as snow, white as lightning. Peter tells us that on that mountain he, with James and John, were eyewitnesses of His Majesty, and that the prophecy of the Second Coming was made even ‘more sure’. At that Second Coming, He Who is called Faithful and True is seen coming out of heaven seated upon a white horse and coming in righteousness to judge and make war. Any interpretation that evades, ignores or minimizes this express statement of Scripture must necessarily be rejected by all who love and believe the Word. These words, ‘judge and make war’ are expanded in Revelation 19:15, where we have such adjuncts of discipline and extreme severity as ‘a sharp sword’, ‘smite the nations’, ‘rule them with a rod of iron’, ‘tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God’. There is no exegetical necessity or justification in dividing Revelation 19:21 from Revelation 20:1. The dealing with the Beast and the false prophet, the slaying of the remnant, and the binding of Satan are all leading up to the Millennial reign, which, at its conclusion, finds enough insubordination to justify the terms, ‘Gog and Magog’, ‘the sand of the sea’, and destruction by ‘fire’ from God out of heaven. The white horse of Revelation 6:2 under the opening of the first seal, is Satan’s travesty of Christ. This rider is not followed by the armies of heaven, faithful and true, but by war, famine, pestilence, death, martyrdom and the wrath of the Lamb.
(2) The Overcomers
- ‘To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it’ (Rev. 2:17).
The High Priest of Israël, who entered the Holiest of all once a year, never lifted the Mercy Seat or ate from the golden pot of manna that was hidden beneath it. These ‘priests’ of God and of Christ do. The white stone bears a ‘new name’ which is one of several references to a similar honour.
In Revelation 3:12, the overcomer is honoured by having the name of God, the name of the City, and a ‘new name’ written upon him. All this is a direct contrast with Mystery Babylon, that had her awful name written upon her forehead (Rev. 17:5) and in contrast with those who had ‘the name of the beast, or the number of his name’ (Rev. 13:17). Immediately following this awful branding come the words:
- ‘Lo, a Lamb … with Him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father’s name written in their foreheads’ (Rev. 14:1).
Just as no one knew the name on the white stone, saving he that received it, so no man could learn the new song sung by this company, but such as had been ‘redeemed from the earth’. And lastly Revelation 2:17 links these overcomers with the Lord, in His Coming, for He too ‘had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself’ (Rev. 19:12). To the overcomer in Sardis, the Lord promised that ‘they shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy’. ‘The same shall be clothed in white raiment’ (Rev. 3:4,5).
How it can possibly be congruous to add to such, ‘And I will not blot out his name out of the book of life’ is dealt with THE BOOK OF LIFE (Rev. 3:5; 20:12,15). We find that this links up Revelation 20:6, were ‘priests of God and of Christ’ are assured that ‘on such’ the second death hath no power, again a subject that has been discussed in the article referred to above. That this ‘white raiment’ (Rev. 3:5) is not a symbol of salvation by grace through faith, is manifest by the terms of the next reference:
- ‘I counsel thee TO BUY of me … white raiment’ (Rev. 3:18).
The gold that is offered also is that which has been ‘tried in the fire’ which Peter associates with ‘manifold temptations’ but which will be found unto praise and honour ‘at the APOCALYPSE of Jesus Christ’ (1 Pet. 1:7). Moreover the purpose of Revelation 3:18 is expanded and explained in verse 19, ‘As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten’. In Revelation 6:11, ‘white robes’ were given to the martyrs who had been slain for the word of God, and for their testimony. This is a plain indication as to what ‘white robes’ and ‘white raiment’ symbolize in this Book. The fellowservants who were yet to suffer must include those described in Revelation 20:4. The wearers of the white robes in Revelation 7:13,14 are those that come out of great tribulation ‘and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’. No one can wash robes in blood to make them white.
These symbols of overcoming martyrdom, are linked with the Great Overcomer, ‘The Lamb as it had been slain’ (Rev. 5:5,6), and the words of Revelation 7:14 should never be used in an evangelical sense, or in a Gospel hymn; such usage is a negation of the terms of the Gospel, and a beclouding of the meaning of Revelation 7. In like manner, these overcomers are linked with ‘the’ armies of heaven which follow the Lamb upon ‘white horses’, who are also clothed in fine linen ‘white and clean’.
(3) Judgment and War
The vision of the Son of Man upon a white cloud, having in His hand a sharp sickle (Rev. 14:14) is no reference to a peaceful and happy harvesting of the redeemed. The grapes thus gathered were ‘cast into the great winepress of the wrath of God’ (Rev. 14:19).
Finally, the Throne of Judgment after the close of the Millennium, which is for ‘the rest’ of the dead who were not counted worthy to be numbered with the ‘first resurrection’, that throne is defined as being ‘white’, Revelation 20:11.
There are many references to a throne in the Revelation (thronos occurs 46 times), but no colour or description is given to forty-five of these references. The fact that the throne of Revelation 20:11 is defined as ‘white’ definitely links it with the ‘rest of the dead’ who failed to ‘overcome’.
Here again we pause. The testing of the employment of ‘white’ in the Apocalypse ranges with and supplements a great number of other features that testify with one voice, that the Millennium is pre-eminently the sphere in which the martyrs who suffer during the antichristian oppression will ‘live and reign with Christ a thousand years’.
All theories concerning the Millennium must line up with the positive teaching of the Apocalypse, all theories that ignore or belittle such testimony must be repudiated by all who love and honour the Scriptures as the Word of Truth. Revelation 20:1-10 is the only sure starting point for studying the meaning and character of the Millennial kingdom. Many prophecies, hitherto forced into that kingdom, may belong to the succeeding Day of God (2 Pet. 3:2) which is scarcely touched upon in the Apocalypse. What John said concerning the earthly ministry of the son of God in His gospel, namely:
- ‘There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written’ (John 21:25).
could be said of the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. The Apocalyps is as much selected as were the eight signs of the gospel of John. The purpose of the Old Testament have a focus, a gathering point, and this is sufficiently definite to ensure that the student who observes their limits and the items that converge at the time of the end, will have a sufficient guide and chart to the outworking of prophecy, until faith merges into sight as the day dawns and shadows flee away.
THE BOOK OF LIFE (Rev. 3:5; 20:12,15)
If the book of life contains the names of the ‘elect’, the ‘redeemed’ and the ‘saved’, such passage as Romans 8:31-39 and John 10:28,29 preclude the idea that a believer can ever be ‘lost’. If the book of life refers to the gift of eternal life, it is a gratuitous promise to tell the ‘overcomer’ that ‘he’ will not have his name blotted out of that book; the possibility does not arise. In Revelation 13:8 and Revelation 17:8, the book of life is linked with the words, ‘from the foundation of the world’, and a reference to Luke 11:50,51 will associated this period with martyrdom, thus:
- ‘That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; from the blood of Abel …’.
The book of life is the Lamb’s Book of Martyr’s. Paul speaks of the book of life once, not in Romans or Ephesians, but in the epistle of the ‘Prize’, namely Philippians. Epaphroditus had risked his life in service, and with ‘Clement’ and other fellowlabourers (not simply fellowbelievers) had their names in ‘the book of life’. The Lamb’s book of life may be limited to the calling that is in view in the Apocalypse, even as the Great White Throne may be ‘The Judgment seat of Christ’ for believers of that calling too. If the Lord could promise the overcomer that He would NOT blot his name out of the book of life, for the Lord does not trifle with His people, it must mean that those who failed to overcome did run that risk. And inasmuch as the gift of eternal life could not be at stake, then a prize, crown or reward must be in view.
WHY ‘THE SECOND DEATH?
The word translated ‘second’ in Revelation 2:11 and 20:6,14 is the Greek word deuteros, familiar to English readers in the word Deuteronomy, ‘The Second law’, derived from the LXX translation of Deuteronomy 17:18, ‘a repetition of the law’, deuteronomium. Now a ‘second death’ implies a first, and orthodox teaching is fairly unanimous that the first death implied by the term, is the natural death of all men. If, however, both the terms ‘second’ and the associated word ‘hurt’ have particular reference to overcoming or failing so to do, a fresh investigation is called for. Where there is suffering for Christ’s sake, where one ‘loves not his life unto death’, there will be a ‘tasting of death’ long before natural demise, even as there will be a ‘hurting’ of the second death, after natural decease, for some who evaded the suffering. Paul would have no difficulty here for he himself said, many years before his end came, ‘I die daily’, which he immediately connects with fighting with beasts at Ephesus (1 Cor. 15:31,32). He spoke of his own experiences as being ‘in deaths oft’ (2 Cor. 11:23), and summed these expressions up in 2 Corinthians 4:10-12:
- ‘Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus … we … are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake … death worketh in us’.
The epistle of Jude uses the word deuteros in a suggestive way:
- ‘The Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, AFTERWARD (deuteros) destroyed them that believed not’ (Jude 5).
We find this word adikeo (hurt) also is translated, ‘do wrong’, ‘suffer wrong’, ‘take wrong’ and in this rendering lies the answer to the difficulty:
- ‘Servants obey … knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the REWARD of the inheritance … . But he that doeth WRONG shall receive for the WRONG which he hath done: And there is no respect of persons‘ (Col. 3:22-25).
Reward or Wrong! Reward or Hurt!
The inheritance itself is blessedly and eternally secure (Col. 1:12-14), the presentation ‘holy’, unblameable and unreproveable’ is likewise unalterable, but when we come to ‘service’ and ‘rewards’ we are on other grounds. Here is assessment of ‘works’, with the reminder that there is no respect of persons. The Great White Throne is one of the sessions of ‘The judgment seat of Christ’ where every man’s ‘work’ shall be tried by fire, where he will receive either a ‘reward’ of ‘suffer loss’ (1 Cor. 3:13-15), where every one shall receive the things done in the body, whether it be good or bad (2 Cor. 5:10). In the special case of these believers who succumb to the pressure of antichristian tyranny, to be ‘hurt’ of the second death will be to receive for the ‘wrong’ they have done, and to miss the reward.
THE IMPORT OF THE EXPRESSION ‘HURT’ OF THE SECOND DEATH
In Revelation 2:11 the overcomer, who was also a martyr (see verse 10) was not only assured of ‘the crown of life’, but that he would not be ‘hurt of the second death’. Now if the second death be the doom of the ungodly at the final judgment, what congruity is there between two such opposite statement:
- Positively. You will receive the crown of life.
- Negatively. You will not be hurt of the second death?
Let us investigate the purport of the strange word ‘hurt’. The Greek word thus translated is adikeo, and means, literally, ‘to be unjust’ and is so translated in Revelation 22:11:
- ‘He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: And he that is filthy, let him be filthy still: And he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: And he that is holy, let him be holy still’.
Here we have two groups: unjust and filthy, righteous and holy, and these are immediately associated with ‘reward’, ‘to give every man according as his work shall be’ (Rev. 22:12). At first, this strange word ‘unjust’ makes the problem harder. Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid, for if so, says Paul, how shall He judge the world?
Adikeo is translated ‘hurt’ nine times in the book of the Revelation, the first occurrence being the phrase ‘hurt of the second death’, the last and balancing passage being ‘unjust’ in Revelation 22:11. By taking a wider canvass of the usage of adikeo, Caleb and Joshua are types of the overcomers, but those who murmured in the wilderness who fell, are types of believers who fail. They ALL were baptized unto Moses, they ALL ate the same spiritual meat, but with MANY of them God was not well pleased, and these things were an ensample to the Corinthian believer. Those who, in the day of the Beast, avoid ‘dying daily’, may be hurt of the ‘second’ or ‘after’ death as a consequence.
The overcomers, who not only ‘live’ but ‘reign’ with Christ during the Millennium, are said to be ‘priest of God and of Christ’ (Rev. 20:6). These overcomers were martyrs who withstood the dreadful pressure brought to bear upon them during the final years of antichristian persecution. The apostle makes a distinction between ‘living’ and ‘reigning’ in 2 Timothy 2:11-13, and establishes the essential difference between being made meet by grace to be partakers of the inheritance, and of attaining unto ‘the reward’ of the inheritance (Col. 1:12; 3:22-25). In like manner Romans 8:16-18 shows the difference that there is between children of God who are heirs, and children of God who are joint-heirs with Christ. The second company ‘suffer with Him’ that they may be also glorified together. This leads us to the one reference to the kingdom in Ephesians. It is prefaced by a dreadful list of sins, concluding with the words:
- ‘For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God’ (Eph. 5:3-5).
This dreadful list could be compared with Revelation 22:15, were exclusion from the New Jerusalem, and consequently from the reign of ‘God and of Christ’ (Rev. 20:6) is the penalty. The parallel between these two passages, taken together with Colossians 1:12 and 3:22-25 and 2 Timothy 2:11-13, shows that in the kingdom of Christ and of God in Ephesians we are dealing not with the Church (ecclesia) as a whole, but with the overcomers in that company, a group who find much instruction in the experiences of Paul, as given in Philippians 3:10-14 where ‘the Prize’ of the high calling equates ‘the Reward’ of the inheritance and ‘the Crown’ of 2 Timothy 4:6-8.
The following extract from The Jew of Tarsus by Hugh J. Schonfield, may be of interest. ‘It is laid down in the Mishnah: “Captivity comes upon the world on account of idolatry, fornication and bloodshed“. And again, “whoso slandereth his neighbour commits sin as great as idolatry, fornication and murder”. Indeed so fundamental was the nature of these commandments that the rabbis in the stress of the times declared: “Any sins denounced by the Law may be committed by a man if his life is threatened, except the sins of idolatry, fornication and murder”. To the Jewish religious authorities, therefore, the three Laws were, “these compulsory things”, exactly what they were called in the Jerusalem letter (Acts 15:28). The Lord Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, also deals first with the same three Murder (Matt. 5:21), Adultery (Matt. 5:27), and Idolatry (Matt. 5:33) — the prohibition of oaths for a Jew being a ruling against idolatry in speech. In the Revelation (21:8; 22:15), “whoremongers, murderers and idolaters” are grouped together among those who are excluded from the ‘Tree of Life and the City of God’.
TTHE TIMES OF THE GENTILES, AND THE TREADING DOWN OF JERUSALEM
Let us first of all examine the term, ‘the treading down of Jerusalem’. The prophecy of the Second Coming is given in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. Luke’s account adds a reference to the times of the Gentiles, a feature that the study of Luke’s gospel leads us to expect. One peculiar and outstanding character is given, the relationship that exists between the length of time allotted to Gentile dominion, and the treading down of Jerusalem by the selfsame Gentiles.
- ‘And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled’ (Luke 21:24).
Immediately following these words, we are projected into the day of the Lord:
- ‘And there shall be signs in the sun, and the moon, and in the stars; and upon earth distress of nations, with perplexity … the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And THEN shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory’ (Luke 21:25-27).
If the words ‘treading down’ accurately translate Luke’s intention, then there is proof that the times of the Gentiles coincide with the subjugation of Jerusalem, that both run together into the Coming of the Lord and the setting up of the Millennial kingdom, with no possible room for a period of blessing upon or through Israël until Israël is delivered. Jerusalem cannot be at the same time ‘trodden down’ and a centre of light and peace. We claim no ability to convince any who can believe two contradictory statements. We must and do leave them in the hands of God.
Where Luke 21 emphasizes the relationship of subjected Jerusalem to the times of the Gentiles, Matthew gives another yet parallel evidence:
- ‘When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, STAND IN THE HOLY PLACE … flee’ (Matt. 24:15,16).
Matthew concentrates on the desecration of the holy place, Luke concentrates on the desecration of the city. Matthew takes us to the final seven years of Daniel’s prophecy, and the end of Gentile dominion, Luke points to the parallel subjugation of the city of Jerusalem. There is no discrepancy, both accounts meet the same point (see the article, THE CONVERGING LINES OF PROPHETIC TRUTH).
We now turn our attention to the term, ‘trodden down’, for if this should turn out to be an expression that means blessing, then we must accept the consequences. The Greek word so translated is pateo, and if we bow to the choice of words ‘which the Holy Ghost speaketh’, the matter will be an end.P
Pateo (We draw attention to the fact that we have exhibited every reference to the use of this word in the New Testament.
- Luke 10:19 ‘Power to TREAD on serpents and scorpions’.
- Luke 21:24 ‘Jerusalem shall be TRODDEN DOWN’.
- Rev. 11:2 ‘The holy city shall they TREAD UNDER foot’.
- Rev. 14:20 ‘The winepress was TRODDEN’.
- Rev. 19:15 ‘He TREADETH the winepress … wrath’.
This testimony of usage admits of no debate. It has been argued, that inasmuch as Rome did not cover the same territory as that ruled over by Nebuchadnezzar, it cannot be considered as a legitimate successor, but this argument is self-destructive and invalid. First: Nebuchadnezzar was told that the kingdom that succeeded after him would be ‘inferior’ but this inferiority in no wise invalidated succession. Secondly: There is all the difference in the world between the dominion that God GAVE to Nebuchadnezzar, and what he actually ruled over, for if that be the criterion, Nebuchadnezzar himself would be ruled out, which is not only absurd, but contrary to truth (Dan. 2:38). Thirdly: The dominion given to Nebuchadnezzar is specified in Daniel 2:38, and reads:
- ‘And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beast of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath He given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all’.
Neither Nebuchadnezzar nor any of his successors exercised this authority. Rome exercised dominion over tracts of earth that in all probability Nebuchadnezzar never heard of, so that if extent of territory be the standard, we could as well say that Rome has more right to a place than Babylon, which is absurd. Fourthly: At the time of the end GLOBAL war and dominion may well characterize Nebuchadnezzar’s last successor. The hint that Nebuchadnezzar came in the line of Adam and Noah opens up a vista of prophetic truth that we cannot pursue here, except that when Israël succeeds to the throne and Jerusalem is a praise in the earth, Paradise will, then and not till then, be restored. When the treading down of Jerusalem ends, then, and only then, will the words of Isaiah 60 become possible:
- ‘Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee … the Gentiles shall come to thy light … the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls … thy gates shall be open continually … the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish … they shall call thee, The city of the LORD … and the DAYS OF THY MOURNING SHALL BE ENDED‘ (Isa. 60:1,3,10-12,14,20).
The treading down of Jerusalem continues right up to the Second Coming of Christ. The moment the Stone strikes the feet of the Gentile colossus, ‘the kingdoms of the world‘ will become the kingdom of the Lord, and of His Christ, when, ‘He shall reign for ever and ever‘ (Rev. 11:15).
Jerusalem is the key to much PROPHETIC TRUTH!
TO WHOM WAS THE APOCALYPSE WRITTEN?
One of the consequences of applying the great principle of interpretation called ‘Right Division’ is to establish the habit of reading the address on the envelope, before attempting to read or to interpret the letter enclosed. What harmful practices and erroneous doctrines have arisen by failing to read clearly and with understanding, the address on the envelope that encloses the epistle of James, for example.
- ‘James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, TO THE TWELVE TRIBES WHICH ARE SCATTERED ABROAD’ (Jas. 1:1).
In like manner, what have we not missed, and what have we not read into the book of the Revelation, by failing to observe that it was written, in its entirety from first to last, to seven churches, and particularly to the overcomers in their midst.
- ‘John to the SEVEN CHURCHES which are in Asia’ (Rev. 1:4).
- ‘What thou SEEST, write in a BOOK, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia’ (Rev. 1:110.
At the close of the Revelation, these churches are still in sight.
- ‘I Jesus have sent Mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches’ (Rev. 22:16).
It is impossible at any time in history, for the words of verses 18 and 19 of chapter 22 to apply to anyone else than to those who actually lived through the days when it was possible for ‘the plagues that are written in this book’ to be endured. It is impossible to speak of any who shall have their part taken away from the Book of Life, out of the Holy City, and from the things ‘written in this Book’, and to forget that only they who have lived through those dreadful days could be thus deprived. All that follows the second and third chapter, is a record of what John saw, ‘what thou seest’, things which were ‘signified’ by an angel (Rev. 1:1). This angel has evidently been with John throughout the unfolding visions and signs, and meets us in the last chapter.
- ‘I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things’ (Rev. 22:8).
The angel associates himself with those who keep the sayings of ‘this book’. He speaks of ‘the sayings of the prophecy of this book’, and of ‘the words of the prophecy of this book’, and ‘things … written in this book’ (Rev. 22:9,10,18,19). Quite apart therefore from any visible connections that lie on the surface, chapter 20, the Millennium, and the Great White Throne, from a part of the things testified to the churches, and when we realize that such items as ‘The Second Death’ and ‘The Book of Life’, so generally associated with the general judgment of the wicked dead of all time, form an integral part and an unbreakable link with the ‘overcomers’ in the seven churches, then we need make no apology for calling a halt to tradition, and asserting our right and responsibility to ‘search and see’ (Rev. 20:6,14,15; 21:8,27; 2:11 and 3:5).
John, who was inspired to assure the overcomer that he would not be ‘hurt of the second death’ in chapter 2, would not forget all about it when he came to speak of it again in chapters 20 and 21, and neither can, nor will, we do so. Everything that is recorded in chapters 4 to 22 is written to encourage the ‘overcomer’. Nothing extraneous is added, so that nothing is said of the Millennial kingdom but that the overcomers ‘live and reign with Christ’. We only gather incidentally that there were ‘saints’ on the earth and a ‘beloved city’. It has been left for prophetic students to attempt to fill the gap, and this is a legitimate employment, providing it does not obscure the supreme purpose with which the Apocalypse was written, namely the Revelation of Jesus Christ Himself, and the association with Him on the throne, of those who suffered and withstood anti-christian domination during the closing years of Gentile ascendancy.
The Greek verb nikao, ‘conquer’ or ‘overcome’ occurs a number of times, and is distributed under three headings:
(1) It speaks of the nature and the reward of this ‘overcoming’.
(a) ‘And they overcame him (i.e. the Accuser) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death’ (Rev. 12:11). This follows the sign in which the Man child is caught up to God and to His throne, who will ‘rule all nations with a rod of iron’ (Rev. 12:5; cf. 2:27; 19:15).
(b) ‘He that overcometh shall inherit all things (or these things)’ (Rev. 21:7). This takes us beyond the Millennium, beyond the Great White Throne, into the new heavens and the new earth which shows that the thousand years is but an episode in the reign of Christ which is unto the ages of the ages.
(2) It points to the One True Overcomer, Christ Himself.
‘Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed (nikao overcome) to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof’ (Rev. 5:5). John tells us that he beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne, he saw, not a lion, but a Lamb, and not only a Lamb, but One that had been slain. This embodies all that is contained in the expression ‘Him that overcometh’ or ‘they overcame by the blood of the Lamb’.
(3) Scripture is true; it does not hide from the overcomer that the struggle will be deadly, and for a while, he will appear to have been forsaken in the fight.
(a) The false Christ is seen going forth ‘conquering, and to conquer’ (Rev. 6:2).
(b) ‘The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them’ (Rev. 11:7). ‘And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them’ (Rev. 13:7).
The link between the overcomer and the seven churches with the closing scenes of the Revelation, may be set out as follows. It will be seen that the opening words of encouragement given in chapter 1 look to their fulfilment in chapter 20. Let us see this more clearly. First, the Saviour declares:
- ‘I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore’ (Rev. 1:18).
This would put heart into those who, like the believer in the church of Smyrna, was exhorted and comforted by the words:
- ‘Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life’ (Rev. 2:10).
The Saviour continued:
- ‘And have the keys of hell and of death’ (Rev. 1:18).
In Revelation 20:14 we read that ‘death and hell’ were cast into the lake of fire. Now keys are ostensibly a means of ‘opening’ and ‘shutting’, and upon ‘opening’ the book and ‘loosing’ the seals, ‘Death and Hell’ ride forth as is revealed in Revelation 6:8. He that ‘opens and no man shuts’, can also ‘shut and no man open’ (Rev. 3:7), and this is a part of the encouragement given to the church at Philadelphia.
In Revelation 9:1 an angel has the key of the bottomless pit, and opens it. In Revelation 20:1 an angel has the key of the bottomless pit and shuts it, to loosen or open it after a little season. Consequently it is not the destruction of death and hades that is in view in Revelation 20:14, it is the turning of the key once more for a period, for there will be death right up to the very end of time, ‘For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet, the LAST enemy that shall be destroyed is DEATH’ (1 Cor. 15:25,26). Even in the new heavens and new earth there will be those who ‘die’ and ‘carcases’, ‘worms’ and ‘fire’ are still there as a warning (Isa. 65:17-20; 66:22-24). We must leave this aspect of the subject for a time, to consider the meaning of the term, ‘the second death’. If by the term ‘the second dead’ we mean ‘the final condemnation of all the wicked dead that have ever lived’, then the assurance given to the overcomer is gratuitous:
‘Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first (the former) resurrection: on such,
- The second death hath no power, but
- They shall be priest of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years’ (Rev. 20:6).
If condemnation in its wider sense were in view, the believer who may not be an ‘overcomer’ knows already that he will not come into condemnation but is passed from death unto life (John 5:24; Rom. 8:33,34,38,39). What congruity is there in the statement of Revelation 2:10,11 interpreted by traditional methods:
- ‘Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life’, said the Saviour to the church of Smyrna, and then added words to the OVERCOMER only saying, ‘He that overcometh shall NOT BE HURT OF THE SECOND DEATH’ (Rev. 2:10,11).
Would it be a fair comment to say the believer who is faithful unto death, will receive a crown, but the overcomer just escapes hell and damnation by the skin of his teeth? That would be monstrous. In what conceivable way could the second death, as ordinarily construed, threaten those who were already priests of God and of Christ? The integrity of the Word is at stake, so let us with chastened hearts seek afresh the meaning and intention of these Scriptures.
The apostle Paul suffered death over and over again before the day of his departure arrived, as he has written:
- ‘We had the sentence of death in ourselves’. ‘To the one we are a savour of death unto death’. ‘For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake’. ‘In deaths oft’. ‘I die daily’. ‘If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not’.
Immediately following the revelation that the follower of Christ must take up his cross, the Saviour said:
- ‘There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. And after six days … (He) was transfigured before them’ (Matt. 16:28; 17:1,2).
Peter speaking of this vision says that ‘the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ was confirmed to him ‘when we were with Him in the holy mount (2 Pet. 1:16-18). It will be difficult to represent the idea involved in these two phases or experiences of death, the one experimental and voluntary, the other inflicted and associated with loss of crown and reign; but we will attempt it.
A usage of the word deuteros ‘second’ in Jude 5 may help us here. ‘The Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not’. Here the word ‘afterward’ is the word deuteros ‘second’, and this is illuminating. The believer, who like Paul, or like the martyr of Revelation 2:10 can say ‘I die daily’, may be described as one whose sufferings were premature or anticipatory. One, who came ‘fearful and unbelieving’ (Rev. 21:8) would avoid this premature ‘dying’, but would be subjected to the searching fire of the ‘after death’, the ‘second death’.
It is alas too possible for the redeemed, delivered from their spiritual Egypt, to exhibit ‘an evil heart of unbelief’ (Heb. 3:12), to be ‘destroyed of the destroyer’ (1 Cor. 10:10) as Israël were, but this is a ‘chastening’ that is entirely removed from ‘condemnation’ (1 Cor. 11:32). Those who pass through the ordeal fire (1 Cor. 3:13) will either receive a reward or suffer loss. Their eternal salvation is not at stake. They will either endure ‘the fiery trial’ which will ‘try’ them (1 Pet. 4:12) and so be found unto praise and honour and glory at the revelation (apokalupsis) of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:7), or by betraying their trust, and denying their Lord (2 Tim. 2:12) will suffer loss in that day and be ‘hurt’ of the second death. The loss suffered by those called ‘the rest of the dead’ in Revelation 20:5 will be that they will not be raised from the dead until the thousand years’ reign is finished.
The second death is reserved for ‘the fearful and the unbelieving’, but on the overcomer this testing and searching second death has no power, neither can any overcomer be ‘hurt’ by it. The word translated ‘hurt’ is adikeo which originally meant injustice or doing anyone wrong (Matt. 20:13) and so ‘to hurt’ wether justly or unjustly. Adikeo is translated ‘hurt’ nine times in the Book of the Revelation, but in chapter 22:11 it is translated ‘unjust’. Now the problem which such a word raises is solved by its use in Colossians 3:25, but as this passage is so important for the light it sheds on the second death and its ‘hurt’ let us consider the matter with regard to the remote context of Colossians 1.
There can be no possible doubt concerning the eternal security of any believer who has been ‘made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light’ (Col. 1:12), yet Colossians 3:22-25 speaks of either receiving ‘the reward’ of this inheritance, or of ‘receiving wrong’ for the wrong that he has done; and we are reminded, in case we need it, that ‘there is no respect of persons’. We cannot plead that because we are members of the Body of Christ, this cannot apply to us. Colossians 1:12 is sheer, unadulterated grace, Colossians 3:22-25 is service with its consequences. Now the word translated ‘wrong’ twice over here, is adikeo, the ‘hurt’ associated with the second death, and the ‘unjust’ condition of those denominated in Revelation 22:11, where both the unjust and the filthy on the one hand, and the righteous and the holy on the other hand, are placed in expectation of Him Who says, ‘My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be’ (Rev. 22:12).
The Great White Throne is ‘The judgment seat of Christ’ where ‘works’ will be appraised (Rev. 2:2,9,13,19; 3:1,8,15) and where ‘every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad’. Such is the second death from which the overcomer is exempt but by which the fearful and the unbelieving will be ‘hurt’ when the judgment of works takes place. Christ has the keys of Death and Hell. None can shut but He. None can open but He, and in this consciousness we can safely abide.
In another study we have discussed the ‘Book of Life’ and referred among other passages to Philippians 4. This has been questioned, and an answer is demanded:
- ‘If Paul did not feel sure that he had attained the prize and so had become an overcomer, with his name in the Book of Life, how did he know that “Clement” and other fellowlabourers had their names there?”
Suppose for argument’s sake the Book of Life refers to the saved, the record of the elect. How would Paul know that Clement’s name was there? Only by the evidence of his faith and works (see 1 Thess. 1:4-10). So he would see the self-sacrificing service of such as Epaphroditus and others, who for the work of Christ were nigh unto death, that their names were in the Book of Life even if it referred to the overcomer. Moreover, the problem goes further. Names must be ‘in’ a book before they can be expunged. These names could be ‘blotted out’. Now the name of Demas may have been in that book, for he is mentioned with a group of faithful workers who stood by the apostle even during his imprisonment. But, in the last epistle Paul has to write in contrast with the crown with which he was assured, that ‘Demas hath forsaken me’ and so Demas, failing to stand the strain, his name would be blotted out of the Book of Life.
If this interpretation is rejected, then we have but one alternative. We have to believe and teach that in spite of all the witness of the epistle to the Romans, a believer who had been redeemed, saved, justified, freed from condemnation, assured that nothing could either accuse or separate him, that in spite of all that grace … … …