Ten Visions Of Christ Triumphant

Part 4. Visions 6&7.
The Beginning of the Advent

Five visions are past; five more are to come. The events of the First Advent are now left behind; vision six takes us well along the way towards the Second Advent and after that we have four glorious pen‑pictures of the stirring happenings of that Advent and the inception of the Millennial Kingdom. But first of all it is necessary to view vision six.

John saw another mighty angel come down from heaven. (Rev.10:1‑3) The splendour and glory accompanying this visitant from above was something greater by far than that revealed in any of the former visions. John had seen our Lord once as a man‑child, twice as a sacrificial Lamb, twice as an officiating priest. All these appearances had to do with his First coming to earth, his resurrection and ministry on behalf of his Church. But now there is evidence of action; the time has come to set in motion those forces which are to gain power and momentum until at last they overturn and destroy all that there is of evil in the earth and establish a world of everlasting righteousness. No wonder that John, looking upon this new scene, described the visitant as a "mighty" angel.

The newcomer was "clothed with a cloud"—that is, he appeared as if surrounded by the clouds of heaven and almost as if walking upon clouds which were swiftly bearing him earthwards. His head was encircled by the rainbow, his face radiant as the sun, and his feet—properly "legs"—shimmered like pillars of fire. There is much in this description that is reminiscent of the vision of Deity seen by Ezekiel and described in chapter 1 of his prophecy, He too saw a transcendently glorious Being enthroned in the clouds, surrounded by the rainbow, and radiant in a fiery glory. There is one difference. Ezekiel perceived that he was face to face with the Lord God of Israel, and the voice which spoke to him was the voice of God. John knew that the appearance which was before his eyes was a representation of Christ, the Son; his mind went instantly to the vision of the Heavenly Assizes in Dan.7 where "One like the Son of Man" comes before the Ancient of Days to receive his kingdom. Just as that Son of Man descended from Heaven to earth to assert his power and claim his domain, so now John saw this visitant from Heaven "set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth." (ch.10:2) In symbolic gesture he comes to assert his authority over a world which is in rebellion against him, but not yet to institute the Millennial reign which will quieten that rebellion. First of all there is to be an enlightenment, the dawning rays of the "Sun of righteousness," who Malachi (4:2) said would arise with healing in his wings—his beams. Jesus himself likened his Advent to the astrape, the radiance of sunrise. (Matt.24:27) So now, John saw the angel with a countenance "as the sun" and he looked intently to see what the vision should portend.

The angel "had in his hand a little book open" from which he proclaimed a message. Later on John was told to take the book and eat it; it would be sweet as honey in his mouth but afterwards he would experience bitterness. In this he did but repeat the experience of Ezekiel who also was given a book, in which was written "lamentations, and mourning, and woe." (Ezek.2:10) Ezekiel too, was commanded to eat the book "and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness," (ch.3:3) but he soon sensed the bitterness of the message he was to preach from the book. Here the similarity ends, for Ezekiel’s mission was to an unfaithful and apostate nation who had been taken into captivity to Babylon for their sins, and the message was one of condemnation. John’s vision had to do with the coming of new light and new knowledge into the world, the rising of a sun which is never going to set, and the bitterness represented the fiery trials and hard experiences of those who championed this new light against the entrenched forces of darkness. For this vision of Revelation chapter 10 continues into chapter 11, where there is depicted the symbol of two witness‑martyrs who are raised up to bear faithful testimony during the persecution period of the mystic twelve hundred and sixty days, and are finally silenced for a short space only to receive and be vindicated by the coming to earth of the Messianic kingdom, when the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of Christ. (Rev.11:3‑15) That seems to indicate the interpretation of this vision of the rainbow angel and the little book. This is Christ, three‑quarters of the way through the Christian Age, bringing the first harbinger of the light and truth of his Second Advent which itself is still in the future, and the time indicated is that of the Reformation.

The Reformation was the first effective challenge to the power of Antichrist. The battle was not won then—it is not completely won yet—but that great event in the history of the Age does mark the point when the risen Christ intervened from Heaven to halt the downward decline of true Christian faith in the world and begin to bring before the minds of men the true gospel of the Kingdom. The light which then began to shine upon the Word of God has never been extinguished; not only so, but it has increased and grown brighter as the centuries passed until now in these closing days of the Age understanding of the Divine Plan and the purposes of God is clearer and more complete than at any previous time. But this is only to the Church, the true‑hearted followers of Jesus. The rest of the world goes on its way, unknowing, until the cataclysm comes, as Jesus himself said. (Matt.24:37‑39) This is shown here in Revelation. The resplendent angel, standing upon sea and land with the open book in his hand, reads from it in a stentorian (powerful) voice like the roar of a lion. (ch.10:2‑3) Nevertheless only John, the symbol of the faithful, the Church, heard what he said. Then "seven thunders uttered their voices"—the proclamation of the angel echoed and re‑echoed from the skies sevenfold, and John made ready to write down what had been said. But a voice from heaven commanded him to seal up the things that had been said and not to write them. In other words, the proclamation and the revelation of the Divine purposes which it brought was not for all; it was only for those who are pictured by John.

During the long centuries of the Reformation period, when as yet the end of the Age was a measurable distance away, the power of Antichrist was exerted to suppress the truth and the true faith. The faithful were in the main submerged and oppressed and the Faith, although becoming better and better understood by the Reformers and their followers, was still a closed book to the greater part of Christendom. The message of the seven thunders was continually and consistently being given in secret and under cover, but it remained largely unwritten and unknown. Only as time went on did it slowly force its way to the surface. Only at the end of the Age does the voice of the seven thunders become audible to the many, when the power of the Antichrist is in process of being broken. Paul referred to this in 2 Thess.2:8 (YLT) when he said of the Antichrist that the Lord would consume that great system "with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy (it) with the manifestation of his presence," a clear reference to one of the consequences of his Second Advent.

So this mighty angel, our Lord at the time of the Reformation, gave this message to his Church. But he also had another and a wider proclamation. "The angel...lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever...that the time should no longer be delayed but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel...the hidden purpose of God will be fulfilled." (ch.10:5‑7){Author’s translation} When, later on in chapter 11, the seventh angel sounds his trumpet, it is to announce the transfer of world sovereignty from the powers of this Age to the benevolent and just rulership of Christ. The Second Advent will have become fully accomplished "and he shall reign for ever and ever." (ch.11:15)

The setting of this vision, then, is from the time of the Reformation onward to the end of the Age. In a sense the descent of this mighty angel and his proclamation was a kind of preparation for "the gospel of the kingdom" which was to be so marked a feature of Christian witness in the final few centuries of the Age. The message was sweet, sweet as honey, but its consequences in opposition, oppression, persecution, and all the horrors inflicted by Antichrist upon the faithful in Christ Jesus made it bitter when eaten. Nevertheless the witnesses were faithful in their testimony and at the end they were raised to heaven and to life immortal, "and their enemies beheld them." (ch.11:12) As Jesus had already said, "then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." (Matt.13:43)

There now come into view the four visions which between them picture various aspects of the Second Advent itself. Vision seven enshrines very familiar Scripture symbolism—the Son of Man crowned as a king, coming to take possession of his kingdom but first of all to gather to himself those who are truly his. The harvest of the earth is the description given, taking the theme from the parable of the wheat and tares in Matt.13. The 14th chapter of Revelation contains the glorious picture. "I looked, and behold a white (bright, brilliant) cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of Man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle." (ch.14:14) A cry from heaven comes to this kingly figure, calling upon him to thrust in his sickle and reap the harvest of the earth, for the time of harvest has come. So the harvest is reaped.

It is very important to observe here that in this vision the King does not come immediately to take his kingdom and reign over the nations. That aspect does figure in the later visions but not here. He comes for a specific purpose, to reap a harvest. Following this reaping there is another factor in the sequence of events leading to the full end of the Age, the gathering of the "vine of the earth" and the treading of the winepress, Armageddon. (ch.14:17‑20) Only after that does the kingly function, the reign of Christ and his Church over the earth, commence. At this point in chapter 14 the Lord returns to gather his Church, to resurrect to immortal life all who during the Age, having "made their calling and election sure" have been laid aside in death to await the resurrection call. And beside those who are thus raised from the dead to be with the Lord, there are those still living at

the time He comes. These, says the Apostle Paul, will not sleep (in death) but will be "changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (1 Cor.15:51‑52) Again in writing to the Thessalonians he says, "we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them…to meet the Lord…" (I Thess.4:15‑17) This is the same as is pictured by the harvest of wheat in the parable of Matt.13:24‑30; 36‑43. The seed, sown by our Lord through his servants and agents throughout the Age from Pentecost to the end, has borne fruitage in those faithful souls of all generations laid aside to wait the coming of the Chief Reaper to initiate and supervise the harvest. The harvest, he said in this parable, is the end of the Age. Now in Revelation 14 we have this very thing pictured in a vision. The kingly reaper, sickle in hand, comes to reap. Those who are thus reaped are joined with him to be revealed with him a little later on to a wondering world. But at this moment the world knows nothing of this. The harvest is a process that is unknown to and unobserved by mankind in general. The resurrection of the sleeping ones is not to a renewed terrestrial existence upon this earth. They closed their eyes in death, perhaps, some of them, many centuries ago; they open them again to a celestial world outside the range of human sense but one in which their Lord is waiting to greet them. The others, who are, to use Paul’s words, "alive and remain," will pass into death in the normal fashion and find themselves, again in Paul’s words, "in the twinkling of an eye" in that same celestial world and amidst that exalted celestial company. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him: for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2)

Later on in Revelation (chapter 19) there is a picture of a somewhat later stage in the events of the Advent. The Church, the Bride of Christ, has now been gathered together and translated to that celestial home which the Lord himself has prepared. He said so to his disciples "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:2‑3) This union with Christ in the heavens, immediately prior to the manifestation of the Church with him to the world at the establishment of the Messianic kingdom, is described in Revelation chapter 19 as the "marriage supper of the Lamb." Just what is the reality behind this vivid metaphor is difficult to surmise; it relates to conditions and activities in the celestial realm of which we, having only terrestrial experience and knowledge, can have little if any conception. The language of Rev.19 appears to indicate a kind of triumphal reception into Heaven and introduction to the citizens of the celestial realms. It must surely indicate a being familiarised with the privileges and duties of life in that realm and those connected with the ordained work of the Church among mankind upon earth during the Messianic era, the Millennium. For be it remembered that the glorified Church is destined, in association with her Lord and Head, to minister Millennial blessings to men and lead them through the successive stages of repentance, conversion, and acceptance of Christ, to reconciliation with God and entry into the eternal state, as many as will or can be thus persuaded. So this "marriage supper" must be accomplished before the climacteric of the Advent when the Lord Christ, accompanied by the Church, is revealed to the entire human race as earth’s ruler and man’s shepherd. The prophet Isaiah, saw that in vision. "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd...the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." (Isa.40:11,5) The earlier events of the Advent are hidden from the eyes of men but when at last all things are ready, the resurrection and translation of the Church has become an accomplished fact, the kingdoms of the earth have given place to the Kingdom of our Lord, then all men shall know, and see, and accept the fact, that Christ is Lord, and will cry, as Isaiah, again said they will cry, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation." (Isa.25:9)

So the harvest, the gathering of the Church, occupies the earlier part of the Advent period and is followed in Heaven by the "marriage supper," the union of the Church with her Lord, and upon earth by the onset of Armageddon, the final scenes of the breakdown of human society. Both these events are succeeded by the commencement of Divine rule in the earth, when Christ and his Church are manifested in a manner not yet comprehended by men, but one which will amply fulfil the prediction of Jesus "they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." (Matt.24:30) It is the province of the remaining three visions to depict the essential characteristics of the various aspects of that final event.

To be continued