REVELATION - INTRODUCTION
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
Like the book of Daniel, Revelation being a prophecy, holds the same fascination as does Daniel, but perhaps in greater degree, for added to the appeal of prophecy is the curiosity inspired by the profusion of its symbols. This lends an additional aura of mystery to the book, and may account for its popularity with readers and writers alike.
A legitimate question relative to any new commentary is, What need is there of another? And the answer must be the same as that given in the preface to the companion book on Daniel, there is probably no need for another, except for the fact, that with a few rare exceptions, books tend to go out of print - even good ones - with the result that the next generation of readers is denied the opportunity of having easily available to them material that would be as profitable to them as it was to their predecessors.
The authorís objective therefore has been, not necessarily to produce a commentary that would be radically different from any other, but rather to incorporate into this work the best of what others have also written. Since some of those books are now out of print, this present work offers the reader, not only the results of the present authorís studies, but in addition, the best of what others have written. It will therefore supply the reader with most of what has been written on Revelation witho≠ut his having to consult other books, and expend time in what often proves to be repetitious reading.
It should be explained however, that the presentation of that material doesnít consist in the verbatim reproduction of what others have said or written. As with all who study, and listen to the ministry of Godís Word, what the author has read and listened to over more than fifty years has become so much a part of his total knowledge that it is impossible to say what is the result of his own studies and what the result of the labors of others. He makes no claim to much originality in what is presented in this present work, but very gratefully acknowledges his deep indebtedness to the oral and written ministry of many.
In the course of over forty years of Bible teaching, he has found Revelation almost invariably to be the Bible book about which most people wanted information, and it was inevitable that the notes accumulated in the preparation of lectures for Bible study classes shou≠ld have expanded into what now constitutes the basis of this book. At first there was no thought of producing a book on Revelation, but as more people began to ask whether the lectures, not only on Revelation, but on other Bible books, were available in written form, the idea began to develop that they might perhaps be prepared in booklet form. Only the studies on Genesis however, were issued in that format; but in 1986 the publication of the monthly magazine Green Pastures was begun, presenting studies on several Bible books, in serialized form.
Like the original lectures however, the serialized articles evoked the question whether the material might be made available in book form, so in 1995 publication of the magazine was stopped, and the work of editing
and consolidating the articles begun, with a view to producing the material in more permanent form. One result of that work is this commentary on Revelation, which is presented with the prayer that God will be pleased to use it for His own glory in the instruction and upbuilding of all who read it.
The author wishes to take this opportunity to acknowledge his indebtedness to the goodness of God for having made production of the book possible. He likewise gratefully acknowledges his deep indebtedness to many others whose oral and written ministry has furnished no small part of what constitutes the essence of this present work.
And it would be base ingratitude were he to omit grateful acknowledgement of the willing sacrifice by his wife of very much time she has uncomplainingly relinquished over many years so that the author might devote himself to the Lordís work, and apart from which sacrifice, production of this book would have been impossible.
In Leviticus chapter 23 we have the record of the seven great annual feats appointed by God for Israel, many Bible students seeing in them the symbolic unfolding of what, for the most part, is now history. Passover pointed to the coming of Christ as the true Passover Lamb, see 1 Co 5:7. The feast of Unleavened bread symbolizes the holiness which God requires of His redeemed people. Firstfruits portrays the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ; and Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the beginning of the Church. Trumpets points to what is still future - the awakening of Israel in the Tribulation, the long interval between Pentecost and Trumpets representing the Church age. Next comes the day of Atonement, which represents the end of the Tribulation and the revelation of the converted remnant as the new Israel, (the believing remnant of the Gentile nations represents the new nations, which with Israel, will enter the Millennial kingdom); and in the seventh, and final feast of the series, Tabernacles, we have the symbolic portrait of the Millennium.
The seven parables of Matthew chapter 13 are also recognized by many as the symbolic revelation of the same section of history. The parable of the sower represents the beginning of the Church age; while that of the wheat and the tares points to the emergence of Satanís counterfeit of the Church, the great harlot church consisting of a mixture of believers and unbelievers; while the abnormal growth of the mustard seed symbolizes the phenomenal growth of that false system. The leaven hidden by the woman in the three measures of meal portrays the corruption of the Word by the great harlot church. The treasure hid in the field, and the pearl of great price (both costing the buyer all that he had), are generally taken to portray Christís redemption of both Israel and the Church, at the cost of His life. The seventh parable, that of the net full of good and bad fish, ends the series, and points to the end of the age, and the separation of believers and unbelievers; the separation relative to the church, occurring at the Rapture; that relative to Israe≠l, at the Lordís return to end the Tribulation and judge the nations.
The first three chapters of Revelation likewise prese≠nt a seven-step symbolic history of the Church from Pentecost till the Rapture; while what relates to Israel is disclosed in the remaining chapters, the accuracy of the prophecy being attested by the evidence of history up to the present, and leaving no doubt that the little part yet to be fulfilled will also enjoy the same confirmation.
No intelligent student of Scripture will fail to recognize that the Church is nearing the end of her long pilgrimage, nor will any reasonable mind refuse to concede that the lamentable state of ďthe church of the LaodiceansĒ is exactly the state of the professing church today.
Many, noting that the completion of his letter to Laodicea, was followed by Johnís being caught up to heaven, have suggested that his rapture is a figure of that of the Church, the suggestion being given credence by the fact that the remainder of the Revelation deals, not with the Church, but with the Tribulation, and Scripture makes it clear that the Rapture of the Church will be followed by the outpouring of the terrible Tribulation judgments described in chapters 4 to 20.
The difficulty of interpreting the symbols used throughout the book is more imagined than real, for virtually all of them are found in the rest of the Scriptures. If however, one hasnít acquainted himself with those Scriptures his comprehension of the Revelat≠ion will be accordingly more difficult, and one of the purposes of this commentary is to help overcome that obstacle.
The author questions very much whether any need exists for the writers of commentaries to prove that any Bible book has been written by the man whose name it bears. Each book bears the imprint of Divine Authorship, the human amanuensis having nothing to do with the content of the book itself, so no attempt has been made in the present instance to verify the identity of the penman. John is almost universally accepted as the writer, and those who disagree will not be persuaded to change their minds if they havenít been convinced by the proofs already adduced by those more competent that the present author.
Since a verse-by-verse format facilitates quick reference, and seems to be preferred by most readers, it is the one that has been used in this work.
With this brief introduction therefore, the book is commended to the reader with the prayer that it will bring glory to God, and encouragement and enlightenment to all who may read it, reviving in the hearts of His people the expectation of the Lordís return, and producing a more zealous response to His command to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. The day of grace is fast running out. The terrible judgments described in the Revelation are about to be poured out on a world that has filled its cup of iniquity to overflowing. There is little time left to warn men to save themselves from the wrath to come.