The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 26

Round About the Throne

(Revelation 4)

The Promise of His Coming

     The final messages from Christ to His churches had been completed, insofar as their activities and attitudes in this present age are concerned.  The Apostle Paul had also left divinely-inspired instructions for seven representative churches (at Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, and Thessalonica) and four other apostles (James, Peter, Jude, and John) had written seven epistles, in addition to the special epistle to the Hebrews, of unknown authorship, and Paul’s four pastoral letters (to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon).  The churches had received ample direction for every need they might encounter until Christ’s return.  They did not know how long this might be, of course, and had been urged by Christ to be watchful and ready always.

     However, until this point, they knew very little about what would take place after Christ’s return.  They did have the prophecies of the Old Testament, of course, and there was much information in them.

     But there were two problems.  In the Old Testament, the church and the Church Age constituted a mystery “which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:5).  Consequently, the prophecies of Isaiah, Daniel, and others largely focused on the nation Israel, and on other nations in their relation to Israel.  But there was little that the early Christians could derive from them about the future of the church.

     Second, the Old Testament prophecies had the peculiar characteristic of mingling events which were to be fulfilled very soon with events which would be fulfilled near the end of the age.  God, of course, is outside of “time,” since He created time as well as space and matter, and to Him all events of all time are seen in all their aspects – future, present, and past – simultaneously.  Two events separated in time by thousands of years may be viewed by God as essentially a single event, with the first a precursor of the second, and the latter a causal effect and continuation of the former.

     By the time of the early church, many Old Testament prophecies had already been fulfilled – such as the Babylonian captivity, the judgments on various nations, the first coming of the Messiah – so Christians were much better able to distinguish between the fulfilled and unfulfilled aspects of these prophecies than earlier believers had been.  Nevertheless, there was still much that was uncertain.

     The Lord Jesus Christ Himself had clarified many of these questions, especially in His great prophetic discourse on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21), but even these contained many minglings of near fulfillments (such as the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70) with end-of-the-age fulfillments.  The Church Age itself was only partially explained by Christ during His pre-Calvary ministry, and that largely in the form of parables which they could not fully comprehend until after His resurrection and ascension, along with the subsequent teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit (note Matthew 13:9-17; 34, 35; John 14:25, 26; 16:12-15, 25), who would “shew you things to come” (John 16:13).

     Indeed the Holy Spirit, through the epistles of the apostles, did reveal some of the things that were to come.  These, however, largely had to do with general trends in the world as they would affect the church, especially in the latter days (1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-13; James 5:1-8; 2 Peter 3:3-13; 1 John 2:18-20, 28).  None of these had to do with specific events, and the trends were already evident in many places, so these early days of the church could well have also been the last days of the church, so far as they could tell at the time (or, for that matter, so far as we can tell at this time).

     Furthermore, there was much revealed in these epistles concerning the actual return of Christ for His Church – especially the great resurrection and rapture passages of 1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:10, and 1 Corinthians 15:42-49.  There are numerous other less extensive sections also (Philippians 3:20, 21, Colossians 3:4, Titus 2:11-13; Hebrews 9:27, 28; 10:25, 37; 1 Peter 1:3-7; 1 John 3:2, 3; Jude 14-18).  Again, however, these had little to do with any events other than the one great truth that Christ was coming back for His Church – His bride.  Furthermore, even these still contained certain confusing elements which suggested the same old mingling of near and far fulfillments.  For example, one prophecy might say He was coming to the air where His followers, both dead and living, would be caught up to meet Him (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).  Another would say He was coming out of Zion to deliver Israel (Romans 11:25, 26).  Christ Himself had said He would return to the earth in power and glory immediately after the coming great tribulation (Matthew 24:21, 29) and that the tribulation would not begin until after the “abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet” would “stand in the holy place” (Matthew 24:15, 21).  Yet, in the same discourse, He had urged His hearers to “watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42), a warning which would seem pointless during any generation prior to the establishment of the abomination of desolation in the temple at Jerusalem.

     Thus the sequence of events associated with Christ’s second coming was still almost as obscure to His followers after Calvary as it was to those before.  It was at least discernible that His second coming, just as His first coming, would involve a considerable period of time and many different events.  But there was still a great need for another final prophecy, which would enable the church to sort out and harmonize all the remaining unfulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament, those given by Christ while He was on earth, and those given through the apostles to equip them with real assurance and understanding concerning God’s great purposes for His creation in the ages to come.

     This is the primary purpose of the book of the “unveiling” (Revelation 1:1-3).  After the final instructions to His churches, provided at the very end of the Apostolic Age and covering all their remaining needs until the end of the Church Age, the Lord then proceeded, beginning at Revelation 4, to show unto His servants all the great events associated with His second coming and eternal reign.olyHolH

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