FRIDAY MORNING MANNA
Biblical Numerology: NUMBER SEVEN – Part 6
‘The Divine Method of Prophetic Revelation’
This is an unabashed personal appeal urging the reader to review—and if you haven’t already done so—to read/study Daniel and the Revelation by Uriah Smith. I am currently reviewing it again with my KJV Bible and the references from the inspired pen.
Many students of Biblical prophecy, Daniel and Revelation In particular, have concluded that it is one, if not the definitive book on the two interconnected major prophetic books of the Bible. The Bible scholar, prolific writer and editor, Uriah Smith, lived and wrote this book over a century ago and his understanding and interpretations have stood the test of time. As introduction to reviewing the seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven last plagues, and other vital sevens in the Revelation, we first quote his words appearing as the title head of this column, pp. 339-344:
“The book of Revelation opens with the announcement of its title, and with a benediction on those who give diligent heed to its solemn prophetic utterances: [Chapter 1, Verse 1 quoted].
“The Title. – The translators of the Kin g James Version of the Bible have given this book the title, ‘The Revelation of St. John the Divine.’ In this they contradict the very first words of the book itself, which declare it to be ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Revelator, not John. John is but the penman employed by Christ to write out this Revelation for the benefit of His church. John is the disciple of Jesus who was beloved and highly favored among the twelve. He was evangelist and apostle, and the writer of the Gospel and the epistles which bear his name. To his previous titles must now be added that of prophet; for the Revelation is a prophecy., and John so denominates it.
“But the content of this book has its origin in a still higher source. It is not only the Revelation of Jesus Christ, but is is the Revelation which God gave unto Him [Jesus]. It comes first from the great Fountain of wisdom and truth, God the Father; by Him it was communicated to Jesus Christ, the Son; and Christ send and signified it by His angel to His servant John.
“The Character of the Book. – This is expressed in one word, ‘Revelation.’ A revelation is something revealed or made known, not something hidden and concealed. Moses tells us that ‘the secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever.’ Deuteronomy 29: 29. The very title of the book, then, is a sufficient refutation of the opinion sometimes expressed that this book is among the mysteries of God, and cannot be understood. Were this the case, it should bear some such title as ‘The Mystery’ or ‘The Hidden Book,’ certainly not ‘The Revelation.’
“Its Object. – ‘To show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass.’ His servants—who are they? For whose benefit was the Revelation given? Was it to be for any specified persons, for any particular churches, for any special period of time? No, it is for all the church in all time, as long as any of the events predicted within the book remain to be accomplished. It is for all those who can claim the appellation, ‘His servants,’ wherever or whenever they may live.
“God says that this prophecy was given to reveal coming events to His servants, yet many of the expositors of His word tell us that no man can understand it! This is as if God would undertake to make known to mankind important truths, yet fall into the worse than earthly folly of clothing them in language or in figures which human minds could not comprehend! It is as if He would command a person to behold some distant object, and erect an impenetrable barrier between him and the object! Or as He would give His servants a light to guide them through the gloom of night, yet throw over that light a pall so thick and heavy that not a ray of its brightness could penetrate the obscuring folds! How men dishonor God who thus trifle with His word! No; the Revelation will accomplish the object for which it was given, and ‘His servants’ will learn from it the ‘things which must shortly come to pass,’ and which concern their eternal salvation.
“His Angel. — Christ sent and made known the Revelation to John by “His angel.’ A particular angel seems to be brought to view here. What angel could appropriately be called Christ’s angel? We found an answer to this question in our study, as will be seen in the comments on Daniel 10: 21. From that study we concluded that the truths to be revealed to Daniel were committed exclusively to Christ, and to an angel whose name was Gabriel. Similar to the work of communicating important truth to the ‘beloved prophet’ is the work of Christ in the book of the Revelation—transmitting important truth to the ‘beloved disciple.’ Who in this work can be His angel but the one who was engaged with Daniel in the former work of prophecy, that is, the angel Gabriel? It would also seem most appropriate that the same angel who was employed to carry messages to the ‘beloved’ prophet of ancient times, should perform the same office for the prophet John in the gospel age. (See comments on Revelation 19: 10.)
“Blessing on the Reader. — ‘Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy.’ Is there so direct and formal a blessing pronounced upon the reading and observance of any other part of the word of God? What and encouragement we have for its study! Shall we say that it cannot be understood? Is a blessing offered for the study of a book which it can do us no good to study?
“God has pronounced His blessing upon the reader of this prophecy, and has set the seal of His approbation to an earnest study of its marvelous pages. With such and encouragement from a divine source, the child of God will be unmoved by a thousand feeble counterblasts from men.
“Every fulfillment of prophecy brings its duties. There are things in the Revelation to be observed, or performed. Practical duties are to be fulfilled as a result of an understanding and accomplishment of the prophecy. A notable instance of this kind may be seen in Revelation 14: 12, where it is said [every Christian should know this by heart!], ‘Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.’
“ ‘The time is at hand,’ writes John, and in so doing he gives another motive for the study of this book. It becomes more and more important, as we draw near the great consummation. On this point we offer the impressive thoughts of another: ‘The importance of studying the Apocalypse increase with the lapse of time. Here are ‘things which must shortly come to pass’. . . . Even when John bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw, the long period within which those successive scenes were to be realized was at hand. The first in the connected series was on the eve of accomplishment. If proximity then constituted a motive for heeding these contents, how much more does it now! Every revolving century, every closing year, adds to the urgency with which attention is challenged to the concluding portion of the Holy Writ. And does not that intensity of devotion to the present, which characterizes our times and our country, enhance the reasonableness of this claim? Never, surely, was there a period when some mighty counteracting power was more needed. The Revelation of Jesus Christ duly studied supplies and appropriate corrective influence. Would that all Christians might in fullest measure receive the blessing of ‘them that hear the word of this prophecy, and that keep the things which are written therein; for the time is at hand.’ – Augustus C. Thompson, Morning Hours in Patmos, pp. 28, 29.
“The Dedication. – Following the blessing, we have the dedication in these words:
VERSE 4: ‘John to the seven churches which are in Asia. . . .’ [Read the rest from your King James or New King James Bible].
“The Churches in Asia. — There were more churches in Asia than seven. We may confine ourselves to the western fraction of Asia known as Asia Minor, or we may include still less territory than that. Even in that small part of Asia Minor where the seven churches were located, and right in their very midst, were other important churches. Colosse, to the Christians of which place Paul addressed his epistle to the Colossians, was but a short distance from Laodicea. Miletus was nearer than any of the seven to Patmos, where John had his vision. Furthermore, it was an important center of Christianity, as we may judge them from the fact that during one of his stays there Paul sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus to meet him at that place. (Acts 20: 17-38). At the same place he also left in good Christian hands, his disciple Trophimus, sick. (2 Timothy 4: 20.) Troas, where Paul spent a season with the disciples, and whence after waiting until [the seventh day] Sabbath was past he started upon his journey, was not far removed from Pergamos, named among the seven [churches].
“It becomes therefore and interesting question to determine why seven of the churches of Asia Minor were selected as the ones to which the Revelation should be dedicated. Does the salutation to the seven churches in Revelation 1, and the admonitions to them in Revelation 2 and 3, have reference solely to the seven literal churches names? Are things described only as they then existed, and portrayed as they were to come to them alone? We cannot so conclude, for good and substantial reasons:
“The entire book of Revelation was dedicated to the seven churches. (See Revelation 1: 3, 11; 22: 18, 19.) The book was no more applicable to them than to other Christians in Asia Minor—those, for instance, who dwelt in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia, who were addressed in Peter’s epistle [or letters] (1 Peter 1: 1); or the Christians at Colosse, Troas, and Miletus, in the very midst of the churches named.
“Only a small part of the book could have individually concerned the seven churches, or any of the Christians of John’s day, for most of the events it bring to view were so far in the future as to lie far beyond the lifetime of the generation then living, or even the time during which those churches would continue. Consequently those churches would have no direct connection with them.
“The seven stars which the Son of man held in His tight hand are declared to be the angels of the seven churches (Verse 20.)The angels of the churches, doubtless all will agree, are the ministers of the churches. Their being held in the right hand of the Son of man denotes the sustaining power, guidance, and protection vouchsafed to them. But there were only seven of them in His right hand. Are there only seven [ministers/pastors] thus cared for by the Master of assemblies? May not all the true ministers of the entire gospel age derived from this representation the consolation of knowing that they are upheld and guided by the right hand of the great Head of the church? Such would seem to be theonly consistent conclusion to be reached.
“Again, John, looking into the Christian Era, saw only seven candlesticks, representing seven churches, in the midst of which stood the Son of man. The position of the Son of man among them must denote His presence with them, His watch-care over them, and His searching scrutiny over all their works. But does He thus take cognizance of only seven individual churches? May we not rather conclude that this scene represents His position in reference to all His churches during the gospel age?Then why were there only seven mentioned? Seven, as used in the Scriptures, is a number denoting fullness and completeness. Therefore the seven candlesticks denote the entire gospel church in seven periods, and the seven churches may be applied in the same manner.
“Why, then, were the seven particular chosen that are mentioned? For the reason, doubtless, that in the names of these churches, according to the definitions of the words, are brought out the religious features of those periods of the gospel age which they were respectively to represent. ‘The seven churches, therefore, are easily understood to mean not merely the seven literal churches of Asia which went by the names mentioned, but seven periods of the Christian church, from the days of the apostles to the close of probation.’ “
(To be continued next week).