The “key” to this chapter is the words “last” (15:1) “seven last plagues,” and the word “completed,” “God's wrath is completed.” This does not, however, mean that the world has come to an end. There is much more to come after the seven bowls of wrath, which we will detail in coming chapters. Please notice that there are saints singing praises because they have gained the victory over the beast (Catholicism). Like the Israelites when they crossed the Red Sea they composed a song and sang because of the victory, the words of the song are as follows: Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed. Heaven’s temple is opened and seven angels who are dressed as priests are given seven bowls full of the wrath of God. No one can enter the temple to the place of testimony to avert the judgments of God upon the beast till the last bowl of wrath is poured out.
Here we have a resplendent scene, 144,000 have their Father’s name on their foreheads. In the previous chapter those who followed the beast had his mark on their forehead. The 144,000 are seen as singing a new song. “On Zion's glorious summit stood a numerous host redeemed by blood! They hymned their King in strains divine; I heard the song, and strove to join, I heard the song, and strove to join. Here all who suffered sword or flame for truth, or Jesus' lovely name, shout victory now and hail the Lamb, and bow before the great I AM, While everlasting ages roll eternal love shall feast their soul, and scenes of bliss, forever new, rise in succession to their view.” The scene changes and we see an Angel flying in mid-heaven with the everlasting gospel to preach to all the world. While the dark ages was in progress the everlasting gospel was hidden from the people now the reformation and restoration have come and the reformers are preaching the gospel to all humanity, “Fear God and give Him glory.” No longer did men have to fear the Pope. He had been locked up in exile. Following the announcement that the gospel has been preached again to all the world by the reformers, comes the second announcement: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great,” (better known to us as Church and State). The Pope had lost the 10 kingdoms of Europe. Hallelujah! She had made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. Now God says that his judgments have come. The imagery is awesome. All who have the mark of the beast must suffer its doom. All who have a part with the religion of Catholicism will be doomed. God says “come out of her my people.”
In chapter 11, John gave us an account of the witnesses of Jesus, the Word of God, from the time it was all completed and brought into one volume, to the time it was restored to the Lord's people after lying dead (in dead languages) for 1260 years (chapter 11). In chapter 12, he gave us an account of the church in the wilderness (during the time the Bible was not used as a measure) for 1260 years. Now, he gives us a perfect view of the power that put down the Word of God and drove the church into the wilderness. He speaks of the power that was to wear out the saints, war against the Word of God, blaspheme the God of heaven, the tabernacle (church) and them that dwell therein, and compel the world to worship him. THE LION — BABYLON THE BEAR — MEDO PERSIA THE LEOPARD — GREECE THE TERRIBLE BEAST — ROME
John saw a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: Some say this woman was Mary, the Man child Jesus, the moon, the Jewish law. Then the dragon must have been Herod, and the heaven to which the child was caught up must have been Egypt. But none of this will fit the rod (God's word that was given to measure with). Mary was never clothed with the sun. She never had a crown of twelve stars on her head. Herod had but one head and no horns, while the dragon had seven heads and ten horns. Egypt would be a poor representative of heaven. If this is the case, who are the other children of verse 17? Here I present a much more consistent representation[CH5]: 1. The “woman” represents the church. 2. “Her head” represents Christ. (Eph. 1:22; 4:15; Col. 1:18). 3. “Clothed with the sun” represents the church clothed with the Gospel or Christ's glory. Mal. 4:2. 4. “Crown of twelve stars” represents the 12 Apostles that Jesus chose. 5. “Moon” represents the Old dispensation, which like the moon shines only from borrowed light. 6. “The woman brought forth a man child” represents The Church giving birth to the citizens of heaven. Cf. Isa 66:7-10. The nation of Israel was referred to as a man-child born of a woman[CH6]. It is no great thing therefore if we refer to the Church giving birth to Children, that is, having an increase in its membership. 7. The Dragon represents a government that acted like a beast. It has seven heads and ten horns. The Western Roman government passed through seven forms of rule and was divided into ten parts. The dragon's tail drew down stars; or eminent men of the church were carnalized and they scandalized the church. The dragon that persecuted the church, Pagan Rome, was not akin to her but her mortal enemy. This despotic government, both in its pagan and papal form, was the bitter and relentless foe of civil and religious liberty. For the entire period of the dark ages she was the foe of every true believer. The church would preach the "blood of the Lamb" and by their testimony and living sacrifice would destroy the dragon from of government. We should note that the papacy assumed the Lordship and Priesthood of the church. It is the same church during the same period contending chiefly against the same power in chapter 12; but the contention is over another sort of ruler-ship. In this chapter the civil rule or temporal lordship is in question. I need only remind the reader that popery claimed to rule in the state as well as in the church and the pope wears a triple crown in testimony of the fact that he rules in earth, heaven and Hades. But God secured the church for 1260 years during the reign of the Papal See. The red dragon arose to destroy the child but God safely secured it. The church remained hidden from view and the dragon continued on in medieval splendor. The Pope tried to find every dissenter and have him tried and exterminated, but the Church was hidden. He made war against them that keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus. The Pope hasn't given up or let up. Now its coming clear to our minds. The dragon represents Rome. Rome was the empire used of Satan to try to destroy the Savior. The Dragon had "ten horns." A horn grows out of the head of an animal. A horn, you remember, is a king. When the Roman Empire collapsed, ten divisions resulted. Barbarian tribes hammered at the Roman empire for many years until it fell apart and the ten divisions were ruled by ten kings! They were: the Alemani (Germany), the Franks (French), Burgundians (Switzerland), the Suevi (Portugal), the Anglo-Saxons (Britain), the Visigoths (Spain), the Lombards (Italy), the Vandals, Ostrogoths, and Heruli. The Pope of Rome destroyed the last three because they refused to become Christian. The last of these, the Ostrogoths, were thrust out of the city of Rome by the armies of Emperor Justinian and have become extinct. Then in 538 A.D. the pope took possession of the city. These ten divisions of Rome are the ten horns of the "dragon."
In the previous chapter we learned of the Bible being translated from dead languages. Now we are told to rise and measure the Temple of God. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians he referred to them as the Temple of God. Priests like John Wycliffe of Oxford, Tyndale (another Oxford monk), and Coverdale (who made the first complete English Bible) gave the world a book that contained the correct measurements. The Roman Clergy had taken the Bible from the people. They were opposed to its circulation. They had put it in a dead language and no one but the monks were allowed to read it. Until Martin Luther found a Latin Bible in an Augustinian monastery he did not know there were scriptures other than the ones in the Catholic breviary. After reading the Word of God he became a reformer. He used the measuring rod of God’s word to determine that their doctrine did not measure up the Bible standard. He couldn’t find purgatory, celibacy, nuns, holly water, worship of saints (idolatry), image worship. After a careful examination of the doctrines of Catholicism one can truthfully say that none of them measure up to the measuring rod. God says the two witnesses (Old Testament and New Testament) would prophesy in sackcloth and ashes (dead languages) during the period of the dark ages and come back to life again. Today we have the LIVING WORD OF GOD.
Early in the 16th century a revolution begun – the reformation movement. For centuries there had been friction between the Catholic Church and the people. One of the principle leaders of the movement was Martin Luther. He was bold enough to publish his protest in the “95 Theses.” This caused a revolt in Germany. This soon had a domino effect throughout Europe. Pope Leo X excommunicated Martin Luther, but Luther burned the decree at Wittenberg. The cries arouse over the sale of indulgences. For money, the church would release people from crimes including murder (by selling indulgences). Then the pope claimed “infallibility.” This supremacy was disputed by England and Germany. Papal power was weakened when she had two popes at the same time hurling words of anger against anyone who should support the other. At about the same time there was a movement in Switzerland by a priest named Zwingli. He married in 1524 openly disobeying the pope. John Calvin settled in Geneva and taught theology which was adopted by the Puritans of England and was carried across the Atlantic by the Pilgrims who came to America for freedom of religion. Scandinavia withdrew its support of the Catholic Church in 1527. Denmark abolished the authority of the bishops in 1536. The Netherlands went over to the Lutherans. Spain, France and Scotland were rejecting the authority of the pope. One by one the ten kingdoms of Europe were leaving the Catholic Church. The entire movement was about a BOOK called the BIBLE.
There is little doubt that this chapter depicts the rise of Mohammed. The prophet sees a falling star: Mohammed was a fallen star. He who was destined to rule was set aside. He came with a smoke screen of deception like blowing smoke from an abyss. He came with a vast army of workers spreading over the eastern part of the empire. Their work of torment lasted one hundred and fifty years. His torment was worse than the sting of a scorpion. They were all on horseback. This mighty movement had its origin in Arabia. They had long beards, long hair, yellow turbans, and horse tails for banners. Every symbol in this chapter points to Arabia. By the eighth century they controlled Egypt, Greece, Eastern Europe, Spain, Arabia, Syria, Portugal and Africa. He used his “key” the Koran, which has no code of morals, to justify licentiousness, murder and robbery. Mohammed boldly claimed that he had ascended into the seventh heaven, and there before the effulgent majesty of the Almighty where he is informed that he is being sent with the sword to compel all the people in the world to cast away their religion and accept the Koran. The Koran says: “A night spent in arms is more precious in the sight of God than months of fasting and prayer. Whosoever dies in battle, his sins are forgiven. In the Day of Judgment, his wounds shall be resplendent as vermilion, and odoriferous as musk. In the Mussulman’s paradise, seventy-two damsels of sparkling beauty shall minister to the most humble of the faithful.” The Turkish Empire has been the upholder of Mohammedism the last twelve hundred years. It was a penalty of death to profess Christianity in that empire till the treaty of Ryswick, 1844 AD, when the united powers of Christendom forced on the Turks the Act of Toleration. This treaty they have been flagrantly violating[CH3].
All of these trumpets tell of war. The successive invasions of the Roman Empire under Alaric, Genseric, Attila, and Odacer are vividly portrayed on the canvas of history. The 1st. was Alaric, king of the Goths (A.D. 395-410). Consider the devastation that was caused by Alaric. The horrors of war cause the trees and green grass to be burned up. The 2nd. Invasion was by Genseric, king of the Vandals (A.D. 423-468). A great mountain, symbol of some kingdom-burning out of control is cast into the sea; the waves are dyed red with blood. The Vandals sail into the Tiber and attack Rome from the sea. The 3rd. trumpet sounds and a star falls from heaven. The rivers and waters are smitten. On the banks of rivers the chief cities of his world have been located. In (A.D. 433-455) Attila, the king of the Huns, invaded the Roman Empire. He was like a meteor streaking across the sky leaving destruction in his way. He is soon burned out. He was styled “the scourge of God.” The 4th. Trumpet sounds and a third part of the sun, moon, and stars are smitten. This must represent political overthrow. The final conquest of Rome came at the hands of Odoacer, king of the Huruli (A.D. 476-490). Rome had not seen an enemy in a thousand years. The Roman senate goes down. It was a time of political upheaval. The winds of war have been released upon the empire.
This chapter tells us that four angels are standing on the four corners of the earth holding the four winds. They were to prevent the winds from blowing on land, sea, or tree. The Old Testament supplies us with many verses that tell us that the four corners of the earth are the four directions, namely North, South, East and West. In this chapter you will see that the winds of war will not come from any direction till God seals the 144,000 Jews and a multitude of Gentiles, which no man could number. To be sealed in the forehead is to have an understanding and acknowledgment of God – when we hear the gospel of our salvation and believe we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. This group of people had come out of great tribulation. The previous chapter gives us insight into the tribulation that they had gone through. They are before the throne (to be before the throne must mean in prayer and praise). They are serving him day and night. They are living on the top of the mountain, drinking the living water and eating the hidden manna. Alleluia.
A white horse comes forth, with a mounted cavalier, having a bow and a crown that was given to him. He goes forth conquering and to conquer. During the reign of Trajan, who came from the Island of Crete which was famous for bows, he went forth conquering and to conquer. The empire of Rome grew to its greatest extent. From Armenia to Assyria, from Albania to Carduchian hills, every day new nations fell under the sway of this famed bowman. No sooner had this ended than a fiery red horse bursts on the scene. For the next hundred years the empire is drenched in blood from the Praetorian guards. They were the secret service of the emperors; with their sword they slew emperor after emperor and sold the office. Then a black horse races on the scene with a rider holding a pair of balances. This was a time of extreme taxation and exorbitant prices. Then a pale horse revealed in the opening of the fourth seal symbolizes death, and portrays in horrific panoramas the awful horrors of death during this period of history. The Greek word chlooros, translated “pale” means livid, ghastly, corpse-like. This horse looks like he was dead on foot, having famished away till there is nothing left but skin and bones. His rider is the grim monster of death. This represents a period of war, famine, pestilence and disease. The opening of the fifth seal reveals the martyrs. These martyrs all cried to God for vindication. Rest assured He has not forgotten a solitary wail or groan. Hence, an awful retribution, with accumulated and compound interest, is on the track of all the people in all ages that have persecuted God’s saints. There is but one Greek word for martyr and witness. Martyr is a pure Greek word, translated witness. When Jesus met an infuriated Saul on the Damascus road, He said unto him “I have appeared unto thee to make thee a minister and martyr.”Acts 26:16. From that time forward Paul knew he would have to suffer martyrdom. When he opened the sixth seal there was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth. This must emblematize the terrible political convulsions, which shake every potentate on the globe from the mighty thrones of time-honored empires. The sun emblematizes the kings, the moon the queens, and stars the state governors and all subordinate rulers. We see, amid these terrible national convulsions and a revolution, every ruler is to be shaken from his throne. This was no doubt fulfilled when paganism fell and Christianity took control of the Roman Empire.