An Outline of the Books of the Bible

By James H. Brookes

Chapter 9



It is needless to say that the Sacred Scriptures would have been incomplete without this last book. It impugns the wisdom of our heavenly Father to suppose that He made a mistake in placing it among His living oracles, and it surely grieves Him when His children treat it, as too many do, with studied neglect and almost with undisguised contempt. It is "The Revelation of Jesus Christ [not of St. John the Divine, as the uninspired title falsely asserts], which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass." As He gave it, therefore, to show His servants what is certainly coming to pass, it can not be His will to have them turn from its solemn testimony in utter unconcern.

The plea that is constantly urged as an excuse for indifference to this portion of the inspired word is our inability to understand it. But, as if God foresaw the excuse, and determined to sweep it out of the way of obedience to His command. He says, " Blessed is lie that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein." It will be observed that nothing is said about understanding it, but there is a blessing for him that readeth, and for them that hear. Any child of God can get this blessing, and every one should desire it. "He that readeth "implies that it should be read personally, and "they that hear "indicates that the people should have an opportunity of listening to it. Even if they can not read, it is blessed to hear and to keep the words of this prophecy.

After all, is not the trouble in the heart rather than the head, when professing Christians complain that they derive no profit from that which God has been pleased to make known as a revelation, apocalypse, or unveiling of Jesus Christ? Ko matter what the seals, trumpets, and vials mean: it is enough for the loyal believer to know that his Lord stands before him unveiled, even in the midst of strange symbols, to call forth his loving interest and adoring gratitude. It may be safely asserted that those who find nothing here worthy of their attention most neglect the book; and on the other hand, they who most frequently and prayerfully read it receive constant pleasure and instruction and blessing.

Even a casual acquaintance with the Bible shows a striking similarity in many respects between the prophecy of Daniel and the book of Revelation; and it is suggested that the two be read together at a single sitting. There is this difference however, that what the former is told to shut up and seal to the time of the end, the last of the Kew Testament prophets, now that the time of the end is at hand, is told to reveal. Moreover the Lord Jesus Himself gives us a key to the general meaning and design of the book in the three grand divisions which He makes of its contents. He says to John, "Write the things which thou hast seen," that is, His walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, arrayed in the robes of a priest exercising judgment; "and the things which are," that is the things which were going on in John's day and during the present dispensation; "and the things which shall be hereafter," or literally "after these things," that is, after the present dispensation.

Hence the book gives us first the revelation of Jesus Christ, looking into the state of the churches, chap. i.: second, in prophetic outline the history of the churches, chaps, ii., iii.; third, the Church, the real Church, made up of quickened souls, in heaven around the throne set for judgment; and the investiture of the Lamb with the title deeds to the earth, chaps, iv., v.; fourth, the outpouring of successive judgments upon the earth, growing sharper and severer, but only hardening men in iniquity, until the evil heads up in the Antichrist, and a monstrous ecclesiastical system of corruption, chaps. vi.-xviii.; fifth, the marriage supper of the Lamb, and His descent with the saints to inflict personal vengeance upon Antichrist and his armies, chap. xix.; sixth, the resurrection of the righteous dead, the millennial kingdom, during which Satan is bound, and the final judgment of the great white throne, chap. xx.; seventh, eternal glory and millennial joy, chaps, xxi., xxii.

Scarcely do we open the book before we find that we stand upon different ground from other portions of the New Testament. The invocation is addressed to God, to Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit, but in all the epistles grace and peace are implored only from the Father and the Son, because the Spirit is viewed as the abiding Comforter of the Church, dwelling in believers. Here He has taken His place in heaven, as before His descent on the day of Pentecost. This is immediately followed by a Christian song and a Jewish wail in view of the coming of Christ with clouds; and this again by His revelation as in Dan. vii., where He is about to take the kingdom, chap. i.

But before His final appearing the history of the professing body of His followers is given, to explain the subsequent events sketched in the book. That the seven churches actually existed in John's day is certain, but it is equally certain that they were symbolical, as shown (1) by the fact that Jesus speaks of "the mystery '' connected with them; (2) by the fact that there were just seven, the word seven occurring at least fifty times in the book, and always elsewhere as symbolic; (3) by the fact that our Lord confines His messages to these seven, although there were hundreds and thousands of churches then established; (4) by the fact that there are marked differences in the messages, though the churches were founded at the same time and composed of the same people, and lying almost in a circle within a few miles of each other; (5) by the fact that there is no explanation of the change that occurs in the mode of address to the first three and the last four, unless they are symbolical; (6) by the fact that the promises and warnings are evidently continuous, the blessings being restored in the order in which they were lost, and the whole seven answering to seven successive periods of Israel's decline and fall; (7) by the fact that the prophetic view corresponds precisely with events that have occurred in the history of the Church. Ephesus shows the giving up of the first love; Smyrna the period of persecution that followed the days of the apostles; Pergamos the corruption of the church by union with the world under Constantine and his successors, and the prevalence of Nicolaitanism or clerical pretension; Thyatira increasing evil through the idolatry and spiritual adultery of popery in the dark ages. Here it will be observed, the warning, "He that hath an ear " succeeds the promise, and it does not precede as in the first three epistles; and here "the rest "or "remnant "are addressed in a great mass of empty profession; and from this time on the coming of Christ is mentioned as the motive and hope of the faithful, chap. ii.

This is followed by Sardis, or the state of Protestantism, with much that is good and much that is formal and dead; and this by Philadelphia, or revived interest in the person and word of Christ, leading to the promise, "I will keep thee from [out of ] the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth;" and this by Laodicea, the last state of the professing body, outwardly prosperous, but inwardly corrupt, excluding the Saviour from His own house, and at length spued out of His mouth, chap. iii.

At some unnoticed point after the message to Philadelphia, and it must have been unnoticed by the very nature of the case, the real Church is caught up to heaven, for it was said to John, "Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter," literally, "after these things "recorded in chap. ii. and iii. From that time the church is seen no more, until she descends with her divine Bridegroom in chap. xix. But her representatives are seated upon thrones, while the Almighty, a title given to God nine times in the book, though it occurs but once elsewhere in the New Testament, is preparing His judgments, chap. iv.

Then we have the Lamb, literally "a little lamb," a term of endearment given to Christ about thirty times in the book, and never elsewhere. He is seen to be the centre of God's counsels, and He alone is worthy to take the seven-sealed book, and to exercise lordship over creation, while the saints ascribe redemption solely to His blood, and the angels on the outer circle echo their praise, Chap. v.

So the seals are opened, as the cry is heard to the executors of God's righteous judgments, "Come;" and wrath descends upon the fourth part of the prophetic earth. Here the prayer for vengeance from the souls of them that are slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held, can not be the prayer of saints in the present dispensation. But it will be noticed that there is an interval between the sixth and seventh seal, as there is between the sixth and seventh trumpet, and the sixth and seventh vial, chap. vi.

During the interval an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel are sealed, the very names of the tribes being given, marking them as God's own; and a great multitude which no man can number of Gentiles are redeemed, though they do not constitute part of the church, strictly speaking. Multitudes were saved before the Christian Church was formed on the day of Pentecost, and multitudes will be saved after the church, composed of all who are baptized by one Spirit into one body, and united to their living Head, shall have been caught away to heaven, chap. vii.

The opening of the seventh seal is the signal or preparation for the sounding of the trumpets, that Indicate sorer judgments over a wider field, even the third, or Roman part of the earth. Let it be borne in mind that these judgments are yet future, although no doubt there have been events in the past that are typical of them, as "history ever repeats itself;" but the very purpose of God in connection with the second advent of His Son would have been defeated, if He had been more explicit in details and explanations. Six trumpets sound, but those who are smitten only harden themselves, as did Pharaoh of old, chaps, viii., ix.

Then comes another interruption, during which a mighty angel descends from heaven, declaring "that there should be time no longer," or rather, "that there should be no longer delay,'' in winding up the awful scene, chap. x.

Meanwhile Jerusalem comes distinctly into view, the temple, the altar, the court of the Gentiles, the holy city, being explicitly mentioned, the two witnesses consuming with fire and smiting with plagues, which the saints of this dispensation are forbidden to do; and at length their dead bodies lie "in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." Their ascension to heaven is followed by a terrible earthquake, and the sounding of the seventh trumpet, announcing that "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever," chap. xi.

But this naturally leads to a rehearsal of God's purpose and plan in connection with the Son of His love, from His birth in Israel, or rather in Judah, to His sitting down on the throne in heaven, the casting out from the heavenly places, where our conflict is now, of the devil, and his baffled purpose to destroy the Jews and the believing remnant, chap. xii.

Therefore his last attempt is his old game to counterfeit God, and hence we have an infernal trinity after the church is caught away, Satan counterfeiting the Father; an imperial infidel government in the restored Roman empire combined with a blasphemous ecclesiastical power, substituting culture for the gospel of Christ; and a base imitation of the Holy Ghost, working miracles, and deluding the whole world to worship Antichrist, chap. xiii.

But there will be an elect remnant, another hundred and forty and four thousand, refusing to bow the knee to man, the first fruits of a glorious harvest afterwards to be gathered in. This is followed by a swift succession of angelic ministries, cheering the faithful to meet death, and marking seven distinct results of God's dealing in grace and in judgment, chap. xiv.

Then come seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them is filled up the wrath of God. But before they proceed to inflict judgment, the martyred and yet victorious Jewish remnant is heard singing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, giving praise to the king, not of saints, but of nations, chap. xv.

The outpouring of the vials or bowls is the next act in this startling drama of the world's closing history, denoting still more terrible disasters that are coming upon the Christ- rejecting earth, and thus bringing the testimonies of the last book of the Bible into perfect harmony with all preceding prophecies; for they all predict that fearful judgments will usher in millennial glory. But there is a pause between the sixth and seven vials, as between the seals and trumpets, chap. xvi.

This brings us to the overthrow of Babylon, the false ecclesiastical system, by the false civil system upon which she rode into power. But if Babylon means popery, it must not be forgotten that she will be destroyed only by the personal advent of Christ, and that she is "the mother of harlots," having many daughters clothed, it may be, in a Protestant garb, chap. xvii.

So important, however, is the part Babylon plays, as the counterfeit of the true Church, the bride, in the causes that lead to the calamities of the last days, her destruction is more minutely described. God's people are called to come out of her, and all her luxury and power and splendor make her degradation and punishment the more appalling, chap, xviii.

Immediately upon the judgment of the great whore, the marriage supper of the Lamb is celebrated in heaven, and the crowned King of kings descends with His saints, who have been with Him during these terrible events, for the destruction of the Antichrist and all opposing powers, chap. xix.

Satan is then cast bound into the abyss for a thousand years, all the righteous dead before Christ, during the present dispensation, and after the rapture of the Church, are raised up, and share with him kingly and priestly dignity through the millennium, after which Satan is to be loosed for a little season, only to be finally and forever cast into the lake of fire; and the judgment of the great white throne introduces eternity, chap. xx.

A glimpse of eternal blessedness is given, and only a glimpse, for we could stand no more; but the rest of the book is occupied with an entrancing description of the glory of the Lamb, the beauty of the Lamb's wife, and the unalloyed happiness of the saved nations of earth, walking in the light of the celestial city and of the bride's shining garments, chap, xxi., xxii. That we may have our hearts fully and intently set upon the revelations of this wondrous book, three times in closing does Jesus say, "Behold, I come quickly;" "Behold, I come quickly;" "Surely, I come quickly;" and well may we respond with the eager cry —

"Lord Jesus, Come!
Nor let us longer roam
Afar from Thee, and that bright place
Where we shall see Thee face to face:
Lord Jesus, Come!"