Studies in his Life and Writings
By W. H. Griffith Thomas
SOME GENERAL SUGGESTIONS
The following points will also perhaps help in the study of this book.
1. The Apocalypse cannot be properly understood without a knowledge of Old Testament prophecy, especially Daniel 2. The vision of Christ in Revelation 1 is strikingly like that of Daniel 10, as the following comparison will show:
It is impossible to question the close parallels here, and if so, it is more than probable that the time, place, and people of both books are the same. "Thy people" would be Israel; "the latter days" bring us to the period of the Revelation, "the day of the Lord." The difference between the two accounts is that Daniel was told to shut up the words and seal the book to the time of the end, whereas John is told: "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep those things that are written therein, for the time is at hand."
2. It is urged by some that all the symbols are Jewish, and not one, even the white stone, is Gentile, and that it is an essentially Jewish book. If this is so, the interpretation is certainly made easier by the limitation to Jewish life.
3. The recurrence of the sevens is particularly noteworthy, as illustrated in Erdman's outline given above.
4. Careful distinction must be made between the symbolical and the literal elements. While the book is full of Oriental symbolism and imagery, yet the literal interpretation should be given primary place whenever possible. And even the symbols, like figures of speech, express realities.
5. Much depends upon whether the book refers to the Church or to the Kingdom. But even if it is impossible to determine this, it is important to remember that Church and Kingdom are not identical. The Lord's Prayer alone shows this, for it would be manifestly impossible to substitute Church and say: Thy Church come. The usage in the Gospels (Kingdom), in Acts (Kingdom and Church), in the Epistles of (Church), and in Revelation (Kingdom) points in the same direction. While the spiritual principles of the Kingdom obtain now, the Kingdom in full reality is not yet revealed, nor will be till the Lord comes. A kingdom is impossible without a king. The Church is an instrument for bringing in the Kingdom, but the "Kingdom of God" is far wider than the Church and means God's rule over the whole universe.
6. The idea of a double fulfilment of prophecy is worthy of attention. We see something of this in a comparison of Acts 2 with Joel 2, where it is evident that the Day of Pentecost was not a complete fulfilment of Joel's words. There must still be some further realization to give the prophecy its full import. Then, too, the realization of Malachi 4:5, 6, in John the Baptist does not exhaust the meaning, for the words clearly indicate some further and future fulfilment.
Dr. Scofield, on Matthew 24:4-11, suggests that these words are at once characteristic of the whole of the age and also of the last week of Daniel's vision, which, on this view, is regarded as still future.
Some writers endeavor to blend the Historical and Futurist views by means of a primary and secondary fulfilment, one in the present, and the other in the future, but this is difficult and perhaps impossible. At any rate, leading scholars- of both schools maintain that the two positions are incompatible.
7. But whatever may be the true interpretation of the book as a whole, there are two points on which it is possible for all to agree and in this agreement to obtain much spiritual profit from the study.
The first of these is suggested by the title, The Revelation of Jesus Christ. It is a book which unveils, not conceals, the Lord. It is full of him, and the thoughtful student will not fail to see that he is the subject and substance of every part. The following outline, adapted from one by the Rev. W. Graham Scroggie, will show how full the book is of Christ:
The second of these points is the remarkable and close connection (by contrast) between the first three or four chapters of Genesis, and the last three or four chapters of the Apocalypse. This comparison has often been shown, and the following, taken from' "The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ," by W. W. Mead, is eminently worthy of study and meditation. Cf. Companion Bible, Appendix 3.
And so in spite of the difficulties, it remains true that a blessing is promised to the reader and student of this book (1:3), and those who have given most attention to it know by experience that the promise is abundantly fulfilled.
Note: After having noted the various points that seem to call for attention, I may perhaps be allowed to add that of all the books referred to, I would' strongly recommend' two as, in. my judgment, the most illuminating and satisfying:(1) "The Book of Revelation," by Scroggie (The Book Stall, 113 Fulton St., New York City, $1.60), and (2) "The Book of Revelation," by McConkey (Silver Publishing Company Bessemer Building, Pittsburgh, Pa.). They should be read in this order.