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The Christian life is very real, and God desires to help His children grasp its realities. Rightly understood, the Apocalypse provides prophetic pictures which enable the Christian to visualize the actualities of the spiritual conflict. One writer has stated: "Could our spiritual vision be quickened, we should see souls bowed under oppression and burdened with grief. We should see angels flying quickly to the aid of these tempted ones, forcing back the hosts of evil that encompass them, and placing their feet on a firm foundation. The battles waging between the two armies are as real as those fought by the armies of this world, and on the issue of the spiritual conflict eternal destinies depend." ("Prophets and Kings," p.176.)

The more the Christian remembers that this conflict is constantly being waged, the more he realizes what is transpiring around him and in connection with his own salvation, the more alert, watchful and prepared will he be. Satan ever seeks to make the realities appear unreal or far-removed. The unseen and eternal become vague and shadowy. The urgency and the necessity for watchfulness are dulled by a multitude of worldly things - things which seem so very real, but after all are not the real things. Paul declared: "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18).

Christians have to fight against the ever-present tendency to relegate spiritual realities to the background and to permit the temporal things of this world to hide the eternal, unseen things. To help the Christian fasten clear pictures upon his mind and to draw from them strength and comfort, God caused the prophets to employ arresting, colorful imagery in their prophetic descriptions. Educationalists rightly stress the value of "visual education." Because God has endowed the mind with the ability to make pictures - to visualize what we read or hear - He has so inspired the writing of His Holy Word that it forms a long gallery of word pictures - "likenesses," "similitudes," "imagery."

The historical incidents recorded in the Old Testament provide us with word pictures by which God teaches us spiritual truths. In them we are to see things world-wide in scope: corresponding likenesses in the spiritual realm, which are "spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14). The New Testament, and particularly the Revelation, reveals the principle of "spiritually" discerning "spiritual things" in the historical narratives of the Old Testament. The natural eye does not see these "spiritual things," and often interprets literally that which should be "spiritually discerned." (See 1 Cor. 2:6-16.)

In the Old Testament, seven golden candlesticks provided the only light in the Jewish sanctuary; in the first chapter of Revelation those seven candlesticks represent the experience of the Christian church throughout the Christian era. (Rev. 1:20.) Like its divine Author, the church is "the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14; John 9:5). The picture provided of a world in darkness only lit by the church should act as a stimulant to provoke zeal in letting the light of the Saviour shine forth in all its splendor. In a previous publication, the writer has shown that the Revelation, throughout, employs the principle that the things of the Old Testament provide imagery in depicting world-wide things in connection with our Lord and His church - and their enemies.

The Revelation is rich in word pictures, and sometimes errors are conceived and advocated by those who interpret literally all the details of these graphic descriptions, instead of symbolically as they should be interpreted. We cite but a few examples.

The doctrines of eternal torment and a red devil with a tail, etc., have their basis in taking with rigid literality figures of speech and symbols. (See Rev. 12:3, 4; Isa. 14:9-20:Ezek. 32:18-32; Luke 16:19-31, etc.)

The emblems of our Lord's broken body and His shed blood- the bread and the wine used in the Lord's Supper - are spiritual symbols By taking literally Christ's statement: "This is My body . . . this is My blood," Roman Catholics have been led into the error of transubstantiation. Protestants repudiate the idolatry of the Mass by interpreting Christ's statement symbolically, and not literally. Error is often the literal interpretation of that which God intended to be applied spiritually.

The four celestial beings of Rev. 7:1-3 are not literally stationed in the four quarters of the earth, for the purpose of checking and restraining literal winds that blow from the four points of the compass. It is a symbolical representation of the Lord's control, through His angelic ministers, of world affairs so that they do not prevent the completion of His work on earth.

"Ascending from the east" (v. 2): a message comes from Christ as the sun comes forth with increasing splendor until the meridian glory is reached. (See Rev. 18:1.) Thus light is to increase until the end. The prophetic picture concerning the coming of the angel from the east, four angels holding the four winds, and the sealing of the tribes of Israel, is not to be taken literally, but as a symbolical representation of the completion of the work of Christ on earth. A well-known writer has stated:-

" 'The four corners of the earth,' and the 'four winds of the earth, are evidently phrases which are meant to convey the idea of the world-wide extent of the conditions which the Revelator is describing. The seal of the living God, and the white robes, and the twelve tribes are also symbols, for no one would suppose that a literal seal was to be actually stamped upon the foreheads of God's servants; nor that the saints literally washed their robes in the blood of Christ, nor that the sealing work was confined to the twelve literal tribes of Israel, of whom all means of identification have been lost for many centuries. . . . Much of the real meaning of such passages of Scripture as Rev. 7 is lost when an attempt is made to deal with them literally. Beautiful truths are revealed in these symbolic passages, once we can define the symbolism which is used." ("The World's Finale," pp.69-72, by A. W. Anderson.) (Emphasis mine.)

In order to enable His children to grasp the grandeur of spiritual truths that will strengthen and encourage, that will arrest attention and powerfully impress, God inspired His prophets to paint prophetic pictures that will make what He seeks to impart stand out as though literally happening before our eyes. It would help readers of the Apocalypse to obtain a correct understanding of the moral purpose of the Apocalypse if it were remembered that the church is pictured as if it were Israel dwelling in Canaan and re-living the experiences of ancient Israel. As the Christian life is powerfully illustrated by the typical experiences of literal Israel (1. Cor. 10:1-11, margin, etc.), so experiences befalling the Christian church and described in the prophecies of the Apocalypse are also depicted as if the church as Israel still dwells in the Holy Land. Many commentators have drawn attention to this fact A "Commentary on the New Testament," published by the "Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge," says on its notes dealing with the battle of Armageddon: "We must remember that throughout this Book Canaan represents the locality of the church of God. The quarter from which enemies gathered against the earthly Canaan was the North. Then from the banks of the Euphrates came the Assyrian . . . the Chaldean, the destroyer of Jerusalem. . . . We are not to think here of any great battle to be fought on this actual spot [Megiddo]. This were to forget what is ever to be borne in mind, that throughout this Book, Jerusalem, Sion, the Holy Land and various localities in it are symbols of the Christian church, its sanctuary, or its enemies.... The battle is a figure, as naturally employed, as the words by which we describe the prevalence of good over evil, in which it is almost impossible not to use expressions borrowed from the battlefield - struggle, defeat, triumph, victory, and the like. The Visions of the Apocalypse are to the eye what metaphorical words are to the ears - symbols, ideal, not real, pictures of what is to come to pass."

Anciently Israel was referred to as "a people near unto Him" (Ps. 148:14). The sanctuary and, later, the temple, the dwelling place of God, was located in the midst of Israel. Israel encamped about and near to the sanctuary, while the gentile world was far-removed; a people "afar off." This physical fact is employed by Paul to picture a spiritual truth. Writing of believers now being the Israel of God and those not "in Christ" as the "Gentiles," Paul says to those who had previously been classified as "Gentiles": "Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh. . . . That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. . . . But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometime were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. . . . And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh" (Ephes. 2:11-22). Thus Paul pictures the church now made up of Jews and Gentiles as if it were Israel living "near" to God in Jerusalem, while unbelievers are pictured as "Gentiles" "afar off." Jesus, the Revelator (see Rev. 22:16), represents the church as if it were "with Him" "on the mount Sion" (Rev. 14:1). In Rev. 11:1, 2 the church is pictured as if it were "the temple" and "the holy city." In Rev. 14:20 the destruction of the wicked is symbolized as grapes being trodden in a wine-press "without the city." The city, of course (until after the 1,000 years), referring here to the church of God. The 1,600 furlongs or 200 miles refers to the circuit of the Holy Oblation where, in his symbolic vision of the church, Ezekiel pictures a mighty temple and city on the "very high mountain" "in the land of Israel." John applies this vision concerning the city, temple and Holy Oblation in "the land of Israel" in a world- wide sense.

In his "Notes on the Book of Revelation," the Rev. A. Barnes says on the phrase "And the winepress was trodden without the city": "The representation was made as if it were outside of the city; that is, the city of Jerusalem, for that is represented as the abode of the holy. . . . The winepress was usually in the vineyard - not in a city - and this is the representation here. As appearing to the eye of John, it was not within the walls of any city, but standing without. And blood came out of the winepress. The representation is, that there would be a great destruction which would be well represented by the juice flowing from a winepress. Even unto the horse-bridles. Deep - as blood would be in a field of slaughter where it would come up to the very bridles of the horses. The idea is, that there would be a great slaughter. . . . The enemies of the church would be completely and finally overthrown, and that the church, therefore, delivered from all its enemies, would be triumphant."

These graphic portrayals were designed to cheer the hearts of the faithful and to console them in their trials and persecutions. Satan, seeking to divert the eyes of saints from the assurance these verses contain for them that their foes would be overthrown, causes erroneous ideas to be promulgated that these verses have reference to a literal, military conflict in Palestine outside of the city of Jerusalem; that the 200 miles refers to the length of Palestine, etc.

As the enemies of God and of His church are not literal bunches of grapes (see Rev. 14:17-20), their gathering is not a literal gathering. God commands the angels: "Gather the clusters of the vine of the earth [i.e., the world-wide vineyard] ... and the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city." Those who are slaughtered in the destruction of Armageddon are said to perish "without the city" - the spiritual Zion, the spiritual Jerusalem. "For in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance" (Joel 2:32). Thus "deliverance" is assured those who, heeding the call of Christ, "come out" of spiritual Babylon and enter into the spiritual city of Jerusalem.

The church is represented as being on Mount Zion "with" the Lord Jesus. (Rev. 14:1.) By a spiritual union they are just as much "with Him" (Rev. 17:14) as if they were there literally. When the kings of the earth - the governments of earth - "make war with the Lamb" His church is said to be "with Him." (See Rev. 17:12-14; 16:14-16; 19:19, 20.) Thus the gathering of the nations to "make war against the Lamb" and His church is not a literal gathering to Mount Zion in the literal city of Jerusalem, but a uniting of the elements of Satan's kingdom into concerted action against the Lord's church, just as if there were two armies involved: one in Jerusalem, and the other gathered outside in "the valley of Jehoshaphat" - the valley of "God's Judgment." The gathering of the ripened grapes for the winepress outside the city of Jerusalem and Mount Zion and the gathering of all nations and people to fight against Christ and His church are both symbolic representations of the same events. The world's harvest which is mentioned in Rev. 14:14-20 is pictured as growing in "the valley of Jehoshaphat." Compare Joel 3:13 with Matt. 13:38-40, also Joel 3:13 with Rev. 14:14-20. By comparing Joel 3:2, 11, 12, with Matt. 25:31-33, we see that Jesus applies "the valley of Jehoshaphat" and the gathering of all the nations into it, as the symbol of the world-wide judgment of "all nations" at the time of His second advent. The literal application of these verses as a gathering of nations to war against each other hides the grandeur and the solemnity of the symbolic imagery portraying a moving, impressive picture representing the great Judgment day when all people - the sheep and the goats - will be judged and eternally separated.

Attempts to apply literally dramatic symbolical representations spoil the picture the inspired word-artist has painted and create absurdities, which not only hide the truth portrayed by the symbol, but which at times lead to superstition and error. As an example we cite Rev. 17:14:"These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them.." One earnestly writing in defense of the teaching that Armageddon pertains to nations in Palestine, after quoting Rev. 17:14, says: "Now it seems that when Jesus comes as King of kings and Lord of lords, the ten kingdoms will be in a position to oppose His cause." Another verse which is quoted in support of the belief that the nations are gathered by Satan to Palestine, and that at the second coming of Christ these nations make war against the Lord, is Rev. 19:19:"I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army."

What consummate folly to imagine an earthly army literally attacking the Almighty Son of God and the hosts of heaven at the second advent! The second advent will be the occasion of a greater display of Omnipotent power than is humanly conceivable. The brightness of Christ's coming destroys the wicked. (2 Thess. 2:8, etc.) When the heavens open, as stated in Rev. 19:11, instead of the beast and the armies of earth (Rev. 19:19, 20) literally making war against the King of kings and His heavenly army, they flee in terror from the glory of the Lord, calling upon the mountains to hide them "from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb." (See Rev. 6:14-17.) It will be noted that in these verses the Revelator, as in Rev. 19:11-19, describes the same great day of the Lord, the same opening of the heavens, the same "kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man." Therefore it is obvious that the gathering together of "the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies" "to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army" cannot possibly refer to a literal gathering of nations to Megiddo to literally fight against the Lord at His second advent, for "all men" - "every bondman and every free man" - will not be literally at Megiddo. Understood symbolically, we see that the unsaved of the whole world are represented as if they all served as divisions under the banner of Satan. The Revelator distinctly states that in this great army which he symbolically describes as being "gathered together" are "all men, both free and bond, both small and great." (Rev. 19:17, 18.) When the Lord, at His second advent, destroys "all" the unregenerate, though symbolically portrayed as armies gathered together and slain together, yet literally they are slain by the Lord in all the world. "The slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth" (Jer. 25:33). Thus the gathering together of "all the fowls that fly" to eat the flesh of "all men" (Rev. 19:17, 18) could not be a literal gathering together of the birds to the literal land of Israel, for "all men" will be destroyed by the Lord "from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth." John obtains this imagery of the ignominy and the completeness of the destruction of the enemies of God from the prophecy concerning Gog and his army. (See Ezek. 39:4, 17-20.) This shows that Ezekiel's prophecy (chaps. 38, 39) must be understood as a symbolical presentation of the world-wide spiritual conflict, which ends in the final destruction of those who serve under the banner of Satan. In Rev. 20:8, 9, we have the Lord's interpretation of the prophecy of Ezekiel concerning the multitudes in the army of Gog - they are the multitudes deceived by Satan: the enemies of our Lord.

In Ps. 45:3-7 the Lord's spiritual conflict is presented symbolically. In Heb. 1:8, 9 these verses are applied to our Lord. The same symbolic description is employed in Rev. 19:11-14 to depict the Lord's return to complete His warfare against evil by destroying those who just previously endeavored to persecute and destroy the people of God. The Revelator's description of Jesus coming with "the armies" of heaven to make "war" against the beast and the armies of earth is obviously intended to be understood symbolically. Will Jesus literally ride "a white horse" down the skies? (Rev. 19:11.) The Revelator had previously pictured Him at His second advent sitting on a cloud, with a sickle in His hand. (See Rev. 14:14-16.) Will all the multiplied millions of angels literally "ride upon white horses"? (Rev. 19:14.) Will a literal "sharp sword" come "out of His mouth"? (V. 15.) Our Lord's "sharp sword" is His word. (See Heb. 4:12; Ephes. 6:17, etc.) Will He come literally "clothed with a vesture dipped in blood"? Will He then literally tread "the winepress"? (Rev. 19:13, 15.) Will an angel literally invite "all the fowls that fly" to come "unto the supper of the great God" and "eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men"? (Rev. 19:17, 18.) "The beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies" will not be literally "gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army." (Rev. 19:19.) Our Lord Jesus, the Revelator (Rev. 22:16), symbolically portrays the world-wide spiritual conflict. Any attempt to literalize this symbolic presentation hides the moral purpose which it was designed to portray.

A widely-read Christian writer, stressing the necessity of observing the symbolic character of the Apocalypse, says:-

"This book [Revelation] demands close, prayerful study, lest it be interpreted according to the ideas of men, and false construction be given to the sacred word of the Lord, which in its symbols and figures means so much to us. . . . In the Revelation the deep things of God are portrayed."

In accordance with the principle enunciated, this same author has often symbolically applied, in connection with the great controversy between Christ and Satan, the same passages of Scripture which we have been considering. Graphically depicting the conflict between the forces of good and evil, in harmony with what we have shown is the correct interpretation of the symbolic "war" passages presented in the Apocalypse, this popular author says :-

"I saw two armies in terrible conflict. One army was led by banners bearing the world's insignia; the other was led by the blood-stained banner of Prince Emmanuel . . . company I after company from the Lord's army joined the foe, and tribe after tribe from the ranks of the enemy united with the commandment-keeping people of God. . . . The battle raged. Victory alternated from side to side. . . . The Captain of our salvation was ordering the battle, and sending support to His soldiers. His power was mightily displayed. . . . He led them on step by step, conquering and to conquer.

"At last the victory was gained. The army following the banner with the inscription, 'The commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus' (Rev. 14:12), was gloriously triumphant. Now the church is militant. . . . But the day is coming in which the battle will have been fought, the victory won. But the church must and will fight against seen and unseen foes. . . . Men have confederated to oppose the Lord of hosts. These confederacies will continue until Christ shall . . . put on the garments of vengeance." (Vol.8, pp.41, 42.)

Those who "come out" of Babylon (Rev. 18:4) and are gathered to be "with" Christ "on the mount Zion" have "the seal of God in their foreheads." (See Rev. 7:1-4; 14:1.) Those who are gathered together to "make war with the Lamb and they that are with Him" (Rev. 17:14; 19:19) have "the mark of the beast" in their foreheads or in their hands. (See Rev. 13:16, 17; 14:9-11; 19:20.) So vital it is for those living in this great hour of destiny to clearly understand the issues at stake, so important are the truths the Lord presents in the Apocalypse, that He throws living, symbolic pictures on the screen of prophecy to arrest and grip the attention. By interpreting these pictures literally in reference to Palestine (they are given in a Palestinian setting, for the church is represented as if it were with Christ on mount Zion, etc.), Satan causes Christ's important Apocalyptic messages to lose their meaning and their vitality.

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