Commentary on Revelation

E.W. Bullinger, Second Edition 1909

Preface

  1. INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF REVELATION

Fifteen Preliminary Points

  1. The [Five-Fold] Division of the Bible
  2. The Hebrew Character of the Book
  3. The Church not the subject of Old Testament Prophecy
  4. “The Lord’s Day”
  5. The Titles of Christ used in the Book

    1. “The Son of Man” (1:13)
    2. “The Almighty” (1:8)
    3. “Lord God” (1:8)
    4. “The First and the Last” (1:11)
    5. “The Prince of the Kings of the Earth” (1:5)
    6. “Who is to Come” (1:8)
    7. “The Living One” (1:18)
  6. The People of the Book: “Servants”
  7. The Title of the Book
  8. The Descriptions of the Book
    1. “The Word of God” (1:2)
    2. “This Prophecy” (1:3)
    3. “The Testimony of Jesus Christ” (1:2, 9)
  9. Certain Expressions in Chaps. 1-3
    1. “Unto Him that loved us” (1:5)
    2. “Kings and Priests” (1:6)
    3. “His Father” (1:6)
    4. “Kingdom and Patience” (1:9)
    5. “Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword” (1:16)
    6. “A great voice” (1:10, 12)
    7. “He that hath an ear, let him hear” (2:7)
  10. The Character of Christ’s Advent (1:7)
  11. The Vision of the Son of Man (1:13-16)
  12. Revelation: The Complement of Genesis
  13. The Summary of its Contents (1:19)
  14. The Seven Assemblies as a whole (1:11)
    1. Ephesus: the day of Israel’s Espousals (Exodus. “Thy first love”)
    2. Smyrna: the period of Israel’s Wanderings (Numbers. Days and Years)
    3. Pergamos: the Wilderness Period (Numbers. “Balaam”)
    4. Thyatira: the period of Israel’s Kings (1 and 2 Kings. Ahab and Jezebel)
    5. Sardis: the period of Israel’s Removal (1 and 2 Chronicles)
    6. Philadelphia: the period of Judah’s Kings (2 Chronicles and Isaiah)
    7. Laodicea: the period of Judah’s Removal (the Minor Prophets)
  15. The Seven Assemblies and their Promises
    1. Ephesus. “The Tree of Life” (Gen. 2.)
    2. Smyrna. “The Second Death” (Gen. 3.)
    3. Pergamos. “The Hidden Manna” (Exodus 16.)
    4. Thyatira. “The Morning Star” (Num. 24.)
    5. Sardis. Names Confessed (2 Sam. 23.)
    6. Philadelphia. The Temple (Sam. and Kings)
    7. Laodicea. The Throne (Kings and Chronicles)
  1. THE SCOPE OF REVELATION SHOWN BY ITS PLACE IN THE CANON
  2. OUTLINE OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION
  3. STRUCTURAL INTRODUCTION (Chapter 1.)
  4. THE PEOPLE ON THE EARTH (Chapters 2 and 3.)
    1. The 1st Epistle (Ephesus, 2:1-7)
    2. The 2nd Epistle (Smyrna, 2:8-11)
    3. The 3rd Epistle (Pergamos, 2:12-17)
    4. The 4th Epistle (Thyatira, 2:18-20)
    5. The 5th Epistle (Sardis, 3:1-6)
    6. The 6th Epistle (Philadelphia, 3:7-13)
    7. The 7th Epistle (Laodicea, 3:14-22)
  5. THE FIRST VISION “IN HEAVEN” (chaps. 4 and 5.)
    1. The Throne (4.)
    2. The Book, the Lion, and the Lamb (5.)
  6. THE FIRST VISION “ON EARTH” (the six Seals and the Sealing, 6:1 – 7:8)
    1. The 1st Seal (the false Christ, 6:1,2)
    2. The 2nd Seal (Wars, 6:3,4)
    3. The 3rd Seal (Famines, 6:5,6)
    4. The 4th Seal (Pestilence, 6:7,8)
    5. The 5th Seal (Martyrdom, 6:9-11)
    6. The 6th Seal (Signs in Heaven, 6:12-17)
    7. The Sealing of the 144,000 (7:1-8)
  7. THE SECOND VISION “IN HEAVEN” (7:9 – 8:6)
    1. The Great Multitude (6:9-17)
    2. The 7th Seal (8:1-6)
  8. THE SECOND VISION “ON EARTH”(8:7 – 11:14)
    1. The 1st Trumpet (Hail and Fire, 8:7)
    2. The 2nd Trumpet (the Burning Mountain, 8:8,9)
    3. The 3rd Trumpet (the Fallen Star, 8:10,11)
    4. The 4th Trumpet (Sun and Stars smitten, 8:12)
    5. The 5th Trumpet, or 1st WOE (the Locusts, 9:1-12)
    6. The 6th Trumpet, or 2nd WOE (9:13-21)
    7. The Spirit-Horsemen (9:16-21)
    8. Another Angel (10:1-11)
    9. The Two Witnesses (11: 1-14)
  9. THE THIRD VISION “IN HEAVEN” (the 7th Trumpet, 11:15-19)
  10. THE THIRD VISION “ON EARTH” (11:19)
  11. THE FOURTH VISION “IN HEAVEN”(12:1-12)
    1. The Woman and the Dragon (12:1-4)
    2. The Woman and the Child (12:5)
    3. The Great Conflict of the Ages (12:6)
    4. The War in Heaven (12:7-9)
    5. The Loud Voice in Heaven. The 3rd WOE (12:10-12)
  12. THE FOURTH VISION “ON EARTH”(12:13 – 13:18)
    1. Result of the War as to Israel (12:13 – 13:1)
    2. Result of the War as to the Earth ( 13:-1-18)
    3. The First Beast (13:1-10)
    4. The Second Beast (13:11-18)
  13. THE FIFTH VISION “IN HEAVEN”(14:1-5)
    1. The Lamb and the 144,000
  14. THE FIFTH VISION “ON EARTH”(14:6-20)
    1. The First Angel (14:6,7)
    2. The Second Angel (14:8)
    3. The Third Angel (14:9-13)
    4. His Denunciation (14:9-11)
    5. His Consolation (14:12,13)
    6. The Son of Man (14:14)
    7. The Fourth Angel and the Harvest (14:15,16)
    8. The Fifth Angel (14:17)
    9. The S9th Angel and the Vintage (14:18-20)
  15. THE SIXTH VISION “IN HEAVEN”(15.)
    1. The Seven Vial Angels (15:1,2)
    2. The Song of Moses (15: 3)
    3. The Song of the Lamb (15:3-8)
  16. THE SIXTH VISION “ON EARTH” (16., 17., 18.)
    1. The Great Judgments (the Vials, 16.)
    2. The 1st Vial (on the Earth, 16:1,2)
    3. The 2nd Vial (on the Sea, 16:3)
    4. The 3rd Vial (on the Rivers, 16:4-7)
    5. The 4th Vial (on the Sun, 16:8,9)
    6. The 5th Vial (on the Throne of the Beast, 16:10,11)
    7. The 6th Vial (on the Euphrates, 16:12-16)
    8. The 7th Vial (into the Air, 16:17-21)
    9. The Great Harlot (17.)
    10. The Vision (17:1-6)
    11. The Interpretation (17:7-18)
    12. The Great City (18.)
  17. THE SEVENTH VISION “IN HEAVEN” (19:1-16)
    1. The Final Heavenly Utterances (19:1-10)
    2. The Final Heavenly Actions (19:11-16)
  18. THE SEVENTH VISION “ON EARTH” (19:17 – 20:15)The Final Five Judgments:
    1. The 1st Judgment (Men, 19:17-21)
    2. The 2nd Judgment (Satan, 20:1-3)
    3. The 3rd Judgment (Men, 20:4-6)
    4. The 4th Judgment (Satan, 20:7-10)
    5. The 5th Judgment (Men, 20:11-15)
  19. THE PEOPLE ON THE NEW EARTH (21:1 – 22: 5)
    1. The Vision of the New Heavens and Earth (21:1,2)
    2. Voices (21:3-8)
    3. The Vision of the Bride or Holy City (21:9 – 22:5)
  20. THE CONCLUSION (22:6-21)


Appendix: On the relation of Astrology to the Apocalypse

Preface to Second Edition

This Second Edition has been carefully revised and corrected; and it is published with thanksgiving to God for many tokens and testimonies of His blessing on the First Edition.

E.W. Bullinger
“Bremgarten,”
Golders Hill,
Hampstead, London, N.W.
April, 1909.

Preface to First Edition

It is with a sense of devout praise to God that this exposition of the Apocalypse is now completed. It will be found to differ in its conclusions from any other work that has been issued with the same design.

It may be permitted here to specify briefly the reason of such departure: for the reader will find that traditional teaching is set aside, and history is never appealed to to substantiate any of the events of this prophetic portion of the Holy Word.

There are numberless expositions based on historical lines; and it must be admitted, when the different writers come to be examined, no two of them agree as to the historical events that are said to fulfil, or are put forward as fulfilling, the judgments either of seals, trumpets, or vials. Good reason, therefore, exists for attempting a more self-consistent principle of interpretation. It may be said by some that there is no authority, in any previous writer, for the views presented in the following pages; and it is true. Very few care to be thought what is termed singular or peculiar, and therefore they like to have some names to appeal to. But this is the very reason why the mists of tradition have been allowed to take the place of independent research.

Tradition is like the tether which prevents an animal from getting a blade of grass beyond the length of that tether. We thankfully acknowledge that there are a few who have been delivered from that bondage, and have given us the results of their labours in a more or less fragmentary form.

Our own work is the result of years of study devoted to the book. During these years, notes have been gathered, and are now brought together and used as forming so many links in the chain which brings to completion the work we now send forth. The key that unlocks the door to the understanding of this book is, we believe, that it relates to

THE DAY OF THE LORD,

and not to any tradition which limits the reception of this Vision to a particular day of the wee; and that day Sunday. It is not a question of when John received this vision: but of what he saw in it. Whether it was a Sunday or Monday can have no real relation to the book; nor can it have any weight in determining the interpretation of the contents of the book.

Chap. 1:10, therefore, is the key to the whole book. If that day was Sunday, then what day was chap. 4:2? Surely not another Sunday, but another Vision without relation to the particular day on which it was seen. What John saw, by the Spirit’s power and agency, was “the Day of the Lord,” and the whole course of future events connected with that Day.

Just as the Vision which Isaiah “saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem” was future; and was made known to him by the Spirit; and, therefore, seen by him “in Spirit,” so it was with John. Isaiah’s Vision included “the last days” (Is. 2:1, 2): and John’s Visions refer to “the Day of the Lord.”

Thus did Abraham also see Christ’s Day. He saw it, and rejoiced, and was glad. It must have been “in Spirit,” whatever meaning we may put upon the expression. There was no other way of his seeing Christ’s Day ;and that is the way in which it says John saw “the Lord’s Day.”

Ezekiel, too, saw vision of the future “by the Spirit” (Ezek. 11:24, 25; 40:2, 3) concerning the events connected with the restoration of Israel (see Ezek. 11:16-20; 34:13-16; 36:24-38, etc.). In precisely the same way, “by the Spirit,” John saw the events as they will take place in “the Day of the Lord.” This is the foundation on which the following pages are based. In order to get a true understanding of any passage, or book, the interpretation of the words must be determined by the scope of the context.

Before the meaning of the words can be understood, the scope of the whole book must be first ascertained. And this scope can be gathered best from the Structure. TheStructure is designed and calculated to present the scope in the best, clearest, and most convincing manner.

The scope can sometimes be gathered apart from the Structure. For example, the scope of 2 Peter 1:20, 21 is clearly not what Scripture means, but whence it comes. Not what its interpretation is, but what is its source. Then, its scope furnishes the key to the words “private interpretation,” and shows that they must mean its own sending forth or its own unfolding.* and the statement is that no prophecy of the Scripture ever came of itself, or of its own revealment. Why?

Because it never came by the will of man at all. How, then, did it come? The Holy Spirit spake by men of God (i.e., by the prophets).

* The word (…) (idios) in 77 out of 113 places is rendered his or its own; and “private” never in any other place but this. The word (…) (epilusis) means an unloosing; and occurs nowhere else in the N.T.

This example shows us how the scope of a passage enables us to determine the meaning we are to put upon the words employed in it. The opposite course will never help us, but only lead to confusion and error. We cannot hope to get the scope of a passage from the particular words that we used.

To understand the Apocalypse, therefore, we must first regard the book as a whole, or we shall be found wrongly dividing it according to some preconceived plan; or to some mistaken idea of the meaning of certain words or phrases.

But to get the scope of a whole book we must seek for it in the Structure. This Structure will, of course, be open to criticism; and it will have to commend itself to the enlightened judgment of the spiritual mind. On page 118 we have set forth the Structure of the Book, which seems to satisfy all requirements: and it will be found perfectly consistent with itself. The divisions appear to be so natural, and so evenly balanced, that no one part can be touched without affecting or upsetting the whole.

In the first place, the Introduction (chap. 1.) and the Conclusion (chap. 22:6-21), are seen to correspond with each other, member for member, throughout (compare the two Structures on pages 129 and 677 respectively). Each is composed of eight pairs of members, arranged alternately. The person testifying and the things testified, form the first pair. A Benediction and reference to the Advent form the second pair.

There are eight of these pairs (i.e., four sets of the two pairs) in the Introduction (chap. 1.); and eight in the Conclusion (chap. 22:6-21); four of each respectively, arranged in alternation. Thus there is a perfect harmony between the two; and they are seen to correspond in every particular. We detect no flaw in this Correspondence; and are, therefore, driven to the conclusion that its perfection is Divine as to its origin: one of the Lord’s glorious works which are left to be “sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.”

For those who are unacquainted with our use of the capital and small letters in Roman and Italic type, we ought to explain that their adoption is arbitrary. They are used merely to mark and identify the corresponding subjects as they reappear in the text. They are useful also for purposes of reference. The Italic letter shows that the subject of the member, so indicated, corresponds (in similarity or contrast) with the subject of the preceding member marked by the same letter in Roman type. The plan is exceedingly simple once this fact is grasped.

Returning to the Structure of the Apocalypse, we find that the great central portion is marked off into seven pairs of Visions. The first of each pair is a Vision of what is seen and heard “in Heaven;” and the second of each pair is a Vision of what is seen and heard “on Earth.” The Heavenly Utterances explain and show the object of what is subsequently seen on Earth; and the Judgments on Earth are the consequence and outcome of what has been previously seen and heard in Heaven. This applies to each pair respectively.

We thus see, at once, that the Apocalypse does not consists of a few chapters of Church History, confined to one small portion of the Earth; but these great divisions show that the Book concerns the closing up of God’s controversy with the Universe. It includes Satan, and the fallen Angels, as well as rebellious Man. It includes all that is “in Heaven” and “on Earth.”

This is further shown by the fact that in this book the word “Heaven” is always used in the singular number and not once in the plural. This tells us that the word “Heaven” is used in contradistinction from the “Earth.” When it is used in the plural it embraces the whole sphere of God’s rule, including the Earth. But when it is used in the singular, it is the Heaven, as contrasted with, and distinct from, the Earth.

When we read “Our Father which are in Heaven,” it is plural (the heavens). If it had been the singular, it would have implied that our Father is in Heaven, but not on the Earth! But it is plural, and shows that He is everywhere, including the Earth. On the other hand, when it goes on to say “They will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven;” here the word is in the singular number, because Heaven and Earth are set in contrast, as distinct from each other.

This is the constant usage of the singular and plural of the word “Heaven.” This is its use in the Apocalypse. It is the book which specially relates to “Heaven” and “Earth;” and to the settlement of the great controversy between the two. that controversy has been going on since Satan entered the earth and brought in Ruin and Sin and Death; and was thus the cause of man’s losing and being cast out of the Paradise of God on earth.

That controversy will not be closed until Satan is first bound, and then finally cast into the lake of fire. Not until Sin and Death shall have been done away, and the curse removed, shall man see and enjoy the Glory of God in Paradise Regained and Eden Restored. This it is that links Genesis and Revelation together with an indissoluble tie; and shows how all that was lost in the former will be regained in the latter; and by what judgments that controversy will be closed.

Our lot is cast in “Man’s day” (I Cor. 4:3, marg.). Now is the time when man is judging; and few, if any, escape from experiencing sad proofs of the fact. But, thank God, “man’s day” will not go on for ever. Another day is coming, and that will be “the Lord’s Day.” Then, He will be the Judge. Hence, we are exhorted in view of that very fact, “therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come.”

Yes. He is coming. He is to be revealed from Heaven: and this book of the Apocalypse records the judgments with which He will judge the earth when His day – “the Lord’s Day” – shall have come. John, in vision, and by the Spirit, saw that day, as Abraham had seen Christ’s day before him. We are now permitted to hear what John saw and to read what John wrote.

In the Introduction to the book (ch. 1.) we are at once impressed with four important facts:

  1. The Person of the Testifier,
  2. The Things testified,
  3. The Blessing pronounced on those who heed that testimony, and
  4. The Advent solemnly announced.

Four times is this enforced upon us in the Introduction as the great subject which is to be preliminary to and the foundation of all that follows. Four times also at the close of the book this is repeated, and it is done in order that we might not be diverted from the great central object of the book, which is the Apocalypse or Revelation of Christ in judgment.

His Advent is the great event to which all other events lead up. It is the central subject of the whole book. Everything said and done has its own special relation to that Advent in which all the judgments culminate. This is the scope of the book as presented by its Structure. After we have divided off this great central portion, consisting of the seven pairs of Visions, together with the Introduction and Conclusions, all that we have left are the two portions, chaps. 2 and 3, and chap. 21:1-22:5.

The first of these two great members is seen at once to relate to the people who are specially addressed: who are exhorted to faithfulness in view of those judgments which they will witness; to diligence in reading and keeping in mind what is written concerning them; to courage and constancy in not yielding to the Temptation to worship the Beast, or believing the lies of his False Prophet; to endurance in being faithful unto death, enduring to the end. These are reminded of the special blessing for the “over-comers” in those judgment scenes.

Hence the first portion (chaps. 2 and 3) relates to those who will be on the Earth in the Day of the Lord: while the latter portion (chap. 21:1-22:5) relates to those who will dwell on the new Earth.

Thus, we may well believe that these are the Divine Divisions into which the whole book falls. when we study the Divine Plan of the Ages, as shown on page 630, we shall be confirmed in this belief; and feel assured that we must give up all the old interpretations which proceed on the narrow lines of a Parish Vestry, and adopt the larger and grander lines which are far above even those of worldly Empire; and see in this book the judgments which will fill up the day of the Lord, and end Heaven’s great controversy with Earth.

As to the performance of our own task, it is necessary only to add a few words with regard to the principles on which it has been carried out.

As to the Text, every departure from the Greek Textus Receptus has been noted, and the authorities given. We have judged it to be simpler to note by initials the Texts of the principal editors of the Greek Testament, and not to trouble our readers (except in a few instances) with the citations of particular Manuscripts and Versions.

As to the Translation, we assume the entire responsibility, and have endeavoured to give a rendering as accurately as possible.

Where the pronouns are emphatic (being used in addition to the pronoun already included in the verb) we have printed them in black letter or German Text. The References, where they appear without any book being named, or simply “ch.,” or “chap.,” are always references to the Apocalypse itself.

The parts of verses are noted as follows: – the first part of a verse we have printed 7-, a middle part as -7-, and the last part -7. When the number of the verses in the Hebrew or Greek differ from the number in the A.V., we have put them in brackets immediately after such references. The Abbreviations we have presented in a separate Table.

We pray God to accept and bless our humble effort to interpret this wonderful and important Book. We believe He has ruled it; but where, through any infirmity, we have misused His gifts, we pray Him to over-rule it. None are more cognisant of imperfection and failure than ourselves; and, after all we have done, there is still much left for others to do. We do not exhaust the book; and may, after all, have only laid out a road on which others may follow with far greater success.

We claim only one thing – an earnest desire to believe God; and to receive what He has said, regardless alike of the praise of man or the fear of man; and quite apart from all traditional beliefs or interpretations. May the Lord own and use and bless our efforts for His own Glory and the good of His people.

E.W. Bullinger
25 Connaught St., London W.
July 1st, 1902