THE CHURCH IN THE LAST JUDGMENT - Prof. Benne Holwerda
This speech by Professor Benne Holwerda, was made in 1949 for a youth meeting in the Netherlands.
Before his death in 1954, Professor Benne Holwerda taught at the Reformed Theological School in Kampen, NL. See: A Brief Biography
(Translated by Dr. P. Y. DeJong)
Since our subject concerns itself specifically with Revelation 17, we do well by way of introduction to provide a brief orientation into the composition and train of thought found in Revelation.
It is my strong conviction that in Revelation we do not find different glimpses into history, so that time and again we arrive at the last day and thereafter again see history unfolding itself. Instead, the pattern of Revelation, more specifically its visionary sections, contains but two distinct parts, namely, chapters 4 through 11 and chapters 12 to the end. In chapters 4 through 11 God proclaims in visionary language the church as she performs her evangelistic task and perfects her preaching, while Christ reinforces this preaching and call to repentance by means of the judgments which He unleashes in the world in this fashion we should understand the entire vision of the seven seals which are successively broken open. In this fashion, too, the vision of the seven trumpets, wherein the seventh seal is particularized and expanded, is illumined.
All the judgments which Christ Jesus unleashes in the world in the form of war and revolution, of famine and pestilence, of postponement of wrath aroused by the blood of the church, of world-collapse and especially of the seven final plagues have but one aim. It is that of bringing the world to repentance and causing men to believe the word of Christ as proclaimed by the church. And only when all these attempts are stubbornly resisted even in the last hour, will God put a stop to history and lead his church to victory.
Those who hold this view will understand at once that at the beginning of Revelation the center of the stage is occupied by the world, in so far as the church seeks to reach the world with the gospel of Christ Jesus.
As soon as we come to Revelation 12, however, the scene shifts. There the church suddenly stands in the foreground, even though the world remains one of the chief actors in this drama. John tells us in Revelaton 12 that he has seen a women clothed with the glory of the sun and the moon and the stars; hence a woman adorned with heavenly glory because she both brings forth the Christ in this world and is the mother of "the rest of her seed" who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. In this way he introduces the church as queen of the light, who from the outset is contrasted with the dragon, the devil.
He hates her not only because of her great Son Jesus Christ but also because of her other children who keep the commandments. John, however, does not develop in detail the drama of the persecution of the church by the world, influenced by satan. Actually he finishes with this subject in the one scene of chapter 12. He simply says, "And the earth helped the women." For the earth opened her mouth, so that the river which the dragon spewed out after the woman was swallowed up. Thus unto the woman could be shown a place for herself in the wilderness where she could be safe at least from immediate annihilation.
Thereafter in chapter 13 John mentions the great monster who appears repeatedly in history, namely, the beast which ascends out of the abyss and receives all its authority from the dragon. In this way the devil incorporates his dominion in a human power and allows that beast, which is the political world-power, to be assisted by a second beast which comes up out of the-earth: the beast of false prophecy. But precisely how this develops, after what fashion false prophecy attacks the church and the world-power opposes the church, John does not relate in detail. For again, although quite differently than in the first section of the book, he takes the leap to the last days. In chapter 14 the thought-pattern of chapter 7 reappears. It is namely so, that just before the last plagues of the seven trumpets break out - hence after the opening of the sixth seal with its judgments and before the unleashing of the final judgment (the seventh seal) - John announces that the church of God has been made secure. He has sealed he 144,000 upon their foreheads. Only then are the ultimate catastrophes set in motion From this you realize that in chapter 14 we are at the end of history. Before describing the last drama from the church's viewpoint, he says again "And I saw, and behold the Lamb standing on the mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty and four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads . . . . and they sing as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders."
When the great storm breaks, we find ourselves at the final moment of history. The sealing has been accomplished. Now appear the seven last plagues, which John first introduced as the seven trumpet-plagues but at this point announces as the seven vials or seven bowls filled with the last plagues. (cf. chapters 15 and 16).
Thus the seven last plagues are poured out upon the earth by God. It is strange indeed that, while John throughout this chapter has indicated only the outstanding events and leaves large gaps, he suddenly introduces in great detail in connection with the revelation of the seven last plagues (the seven bowls) a unique figure: the great whore whose name is Babylon. In explaining this I feel constrained to differ on some points with the exegesis of Prof. Greydanus.
As we begin to read this chapter, We discover that the details presented at the outset are somewhat difficult to reconstruct. For John tells us that he beheld a woman, decked out as a prostitute, who set upon seven heads and at the same time upon many waters. She sat upon the mountains but also in the midst of the waters. Likely we should so combine these two pictures or representations that John, receiving the vision, beholds an inland sea wherein the Beast is swimming. Thus at this moment only his heads are visible and not his body, since the author writes somewhat later, "The Beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and is about to come up out of the abyss. . ."
Another difficulty is presented by the seven heads. On the one hand these are called the seven mountains upon which the woman sat, and on the other hand the seven kingdoms (seven "kings") of which five have already fallen, and the sixth now is, and the seventh is yet to come.
Perhaps we do best by beginning with the seven heads of the Beast. This is the easier, since in chapter 13 the same description is found of a monster with seven heads and ten horns and who has been endowed by the dragon with his power. Only in so far do the two descriptions differ, that in chapter 13 mention is made of the fact that one of the heads has been so severely smitten that the Beast received a deadly wound from which it could not be expected to recover. Yet contrary to all expectation its death stroke was healed, with the result that when the Beast recovered from this deadly blow, everyone on earth was ready to worship it.
You will remember, of course, that when the writer of Revelation speaks about the beast, he is indicating the world power, the universal kingdom. This is the attempt to unite all peoples and nations and, races in to one great federation and under one powerful political structure. This he calls a "Beast," because this is the world power or unified state which has scattered death and destruction since the beginning of the world. He could choose no other description, for too clearly has he seen in God's light that this world government is a monster which like some wild beast has seized everything within its reach and destroyed it. And in choosing this name John is not alone, for he refers to Daniel. In the seventh chapter of his prophecies Daniel actually says the same thing. When discussing the world monarchies, he mentions four, the four which existed, in his day and in the time immediately thereafter. He informs us that the first was like a lion, the second like a bear, the third like a leopard, while the fourth was an altogether terrifying monster with iron teeth.
It kept on devouring and stamped in pieces all the residue. All the characteristics of these different beasts are combined here.
John describes but one Beast, yet it displays all the features of the four beasts of Daniel. Actually he says: it was like unto a leopard, and it had the feet of a bear and the mouth of lion and also the seven heads and ten horns. Thus Daniel beheld four distinct beasts. He saw world power in its several manifestations, each with its own pattern and character. Therefore he could say that the first appeared in history devouring as does a lion; the second brutish as a bear; the third cunning as a leopard; and the fourth as the most fearful of them all. But John says: If you discern well, you will discover in all these kingdoms one and the same satanic power which incorporates itself in a unified state, a world government, and as such always speaks blasphemy and brings death and destruction upon mankind.
Because John sees the unity of all these diverse world powers, the single style which controls them all, therefore he speaks of only one Beast and ascribes to it all the characteristics of Daniel's four beasts. Daniel wrote about the four of his own day. John says that actually there will be seven. He is farther along in history. What Daniel did not see as yet, God revealed to John. Consequently he says: We have already seen five heads of that Beast; the one manifest now is the sixth; after a while the seventh will appear.
If you know your Bible, you will be able to glean from its pages what all this means. This totalitarian state and world power you will find for the first time shortly after the Flood - in Genesis 11. It arose in Babel where in opposition to the promise and mandate of God, mankind stayed together and built a city to house everybody. They reasoned: Upon this accursed earth there is but one way to make life: bearable - in unity lies our strength. For the first time, then, a world federation was organized there. And as you continue reading in the Old Testament, you will notice somewhat latter the rise of the Assyrian power which shatters the people of Isreal. Without interruption follow the Neo-Babylonian, the Medio-Persian, the Graeco-Macedonian and at last the Roman empire, this last one known to John by personal experience. Thus the Roman empire of that day was the sixth.
Now I think you already understand one of the details of Revelation l3 - the matter of the deadly wound which that Beast received. For when the sixth head appears on the scene, events take a new turn. The Roman world power is not succeeded by another, which takes its place. Rather, that kingdom is repeatedly broken up into a large number of great and small nations. This paves the way for the modern period in history, wherein every people proclaims its national independence and pursues a policy of neutrality, a period of countless clashes. Throughout this period all attempts to resurrect the ancient world power of Babel are unsuccessful. This is tried by Louis XIV and Napoleon and Hitler but to no avail. All of modern history is a concatenation of wars among the various nations of the world all determined to defend their own independence. Consequently throughout this period between the sixth and the seventh world power it appears as if the old monster had indeed suffered a deadly wound, one so decisive that it cannot rise again, with the result that history will follow the same course as today with its many peoples and nations and its innumerable national boundaries and barriers. The struggle for a world-wide empire, which has always inspired the devil and wherein he seeks his strength, seems to be frustrated for good.
But John warns us: Watch out, lest you be deceived. Look carefully and believe God's word. For indeed at the time of the dissolution of the Roman empire the satanic organization of sin seems to have received its death-blow without hope of recovery. But that which no one deems possible - in view of the perpetual clashes and conflicting interests, the permanent tensions among all peoples - will finally take place. The compelling urge for unity and federation will triumph over all particularism and national independence and national pride. At last this spirit of unification will again embody itself in a world empire. Then contrary to all expectations that old monster, which throughout the ages has blasphemed God and wrought death and destruction, will miraculously arise. At that time the spirit of lawlessness; which caused both Daniel and John to tremble, will begin anew. At that time the church once again, even as Israel in the days of our Lord Jesus, will be confronted with the monster of sin which terrorizes the church and tyrannizes over the world with a scepter of iron. At that time everyone will worship that Beast in the form of its seventh head, the world government which has recovered itself from its deadly divisiveness through the ages and now reveals its grand victory.
To be sure, I need venture no prophecies concerning the future when I say in simple language: We are beginning to see that seventh head today. Isn't it true that preparations are being made even now for the seventh world empire? And would you know what is most surprising and also most dangerous? It is that all this takes place so noiselessly.
During the war there was the Atlantic Charter. Of course, we had to do something about the Germans, as did also the British and Americans. One simply had to join hands. circumstances compelled it. What else could anyone do? And should one desire some future, one simply must not play the game of neutrality as in earlier days or persist in swaggering about on one's own two little legs. Everyone must conform to the demand of today's circumstances. And after the war this tidal wave engulfs the whole world with U.N.O., Security Council, United Nations, Atlantic Charter . . . . . Even the Netherlands is carried along . . . Of course, we all say . . . Benelux appears on the scene, and the Netherlands enters into the alliance. Because if we do not join hands, then perhaps a more horrible war with atomic weapons will break out.
Anyone who desires a future for the economy must learn to think and act and trade in terms of the family of nations. The United States of Europe is in the making. About this the newspapers make mention of some initial discussions - a little item which is scarcely noticed but this union is coming. And when the Security Council stirs in the troubled waters, as for example in the Dutch East Indies, then we all grumble; and when we take notice of all the fumbling of the past few years, we complain ecspecially when our children are there. Some even wonder whether Benelux will be profitable for us.But a war wouldn't be so nice either : Hence me are compelled to choose whether or not we will sacrifice our national aspirations. It is undeniable that not the Netherlands but the United Nations have their say in the Indies. And when all is said and done, Montgomery is also commander-in-chief of our soldiers. As soon as we realize this, further argumentation is fruitless.
We can still wear the "orange," and display our Netherlands' flag and-honor the Dutch lion, but meanwhile the Netherlands together with all the other nations will lose its idenity in the world government. The newspapers will make much noise about changing a few boundaries for the sake of a few square miles of territory and even challenge the party in power, but this noise will sound so foolish at a time when all national boundaries are being obliterated. But all this takes place so noiselessly. Meanwhile the several nations of the world are being swallowed up in the coming world empire.
Each day the contours of this seventh head become clearer. Naturally, we are incensed that our troops are being evacuated from Djocja. We regard it as a disgrace to the Dutch flag, an insult to our nation, a mockery of our boys who have risked their lives for nothing. But shall I tell you something? Within a half year we will forget this, and after twenty five years our children will assume that all this was proper. But then, at that time, we shall be painfully aware that the Beast has been healed of his death-wound!
We tremble when the Russians act sullenly in Berlin. And when as in recent days the bombers again streak through our skies, we ask anxiously: Is anything serious in the offing? When the Russians are a little friendlier, we again take a deep breath and say: No war yet. And to be sure everyone wants the Big Four to agree. People applaud when our prime minister affixes his signature to some solemn pact, supposing that this is the road to world peace. At school, too, our children must be brought up-to-date on the United Nations.
But no one speaks about the seventh head. Small wonder that the Beast laughs. Not too much enthusiasm is evident, since everyone betrays a tendency to perpetuate the traditional. But all are agreed that the present developments are demanded by our countries. Thus tomorrow already they can begin to worship the Beast: Never war again but prosperity, thanks to the United Nations. Perhaps the Russians will first have to be put in their place, only then never another war but perpetual peace.
Are there, then, not some things a thousand times more terrible than even a war with nuclear weapons? Is not this the worst of all, that the old monster is once more alive and raises himself up to spew destruction over the face of the earth?
Would that we worried less abut the chances of a coming war So long as these chances are present, the time of the end is not yet come. Would that we stopped talking about economic problems and soberly assessed the spirit of the age - that with full speed we are steering in the direction of the seventh head.
This is the seventh manifestation of "Babel," a totally godless world wherein we shall stand all alone, since therein is no room for God and for his Christ and for his tabernacle and for those who serve him there.
When I read all this, I can understand why John was so shocked by this vision. Yet I believe that his perplexity actually had a deeper source. He was frightened most of all by that women seated on the scarlet beast.
You will remember that earlier in Revelation John introduced us to a woman, a woman clothed with the sun, having the moon under her feet, and adorned with a crown of seven stars on her head. This was the church, bedecked with the glory from above, because she was enabled to bring forth Christ in this world and to become the mother of the holy seed. But here is the women clothed with the glory which is from below - with purple, scarlet, gold and jewels and pearls.
And why was John so frightened by-this? The answer is simple. This woman is also the church, the apostate church who was the bride but became a prostitute. Upon her forehead John saw her name, precisely as all the harlots in the Roman empire carried their names inscribed upon their foreheads. And this name was: Babylon the Great! But John adds: this is a mystery. One must not think here of the city of Babel or the kingdom of Babylon. This must be understood figuratively, spiritually, precisely as John speaks in chapter 11 of Jerusalem as the city which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt where our Lord was crucified. So it is also here.
The official name of this woman is not Babylon, but spiritually she deserves to be called Babylon. In this woman who has become a whore, that is, an apostate church, the spirit of ancient Babel lives on. It saw no opportunity to incorporate itself in a world empire but recognized the opportunity to assume this form within the church. That church is Babylon, because she does what the world empires have wanted to do since the beginning: seeking unity without believing in the promise and without concerning herself with God's demand. And while doing this she calls herself church, bedecked with the glory of heaven, even though she is Babylon. For she seeks her glory in this present world and sells her soul for the treasures which pass away. Calling herself the wife of God and the bride of Christ, she is actually the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth, the chief prostitute.
This, of course, does not compel us to think only of immorality, although this is included. You will remember that when the Bible speaks of committing fornication, this describes the church in the act of forgetting God who is her husband and of breaking the covenant. Fornication is present when the church transgressed God's commandments. In that connection and in consequence of this, the abomination of licentiousness appears. But this adultery is the total, radical apostasy, the breach of the covenant and the murder of her children.
It is striking that when John speaks of the beast, he refers to Daniel. But when he speaks of the woman, he reminds us of Ezekiel 16 and 23 where we find the same message. When God drives Jerusalem into captivity and punishes her, he says: Sodom was bad and Samaria was even somewhat worse, but Jerusalem was the worst prostitute which the world has ever seen. This is also John's consternation. The woman arrayed with the light of heaven has exchanged the glories from above for the treasures of this earth. She has abandoned the word, even though God was her husband. And because she was an unfaithful wife for God, she became a bad mother for her children. John beholds her drunk with the blood of the saints and the witnesses of Christ. Instead of nurturing her children in the Lord, she sinned against them so greatly that she became dead-drunk with the blood of her own children.
Do you suppose that John didn't know what was happening in his day? He surely saw the Jews persecuting the Christians. In the Jewish church, the "synagogue of satan" (Revel. 2:9), we again discover the woman who became a whore, the church which broke the covenant with the Lord and therefore killed her true children. Read then the rest of the pages of history : What did the Roman Catholic church do? What did the Reformed (State) Church of the Netherlands do? What did the synodically-bound churches do: One may say that today there is no bloodshed. Yet there is a persecution which is more bitter than death. As often as the church abuses church disipline against her children, God says that she is drunk with the blood of the saints.
I do not maintain that outside of the Liberated churches no one is saved. Let me emphasize this. For from what I have just said the conclusion is frequently and unblushingly drawn that the liberated churches announce themselves as the only churches wherein salvation is found - which is completely erroneous. I indeed believe that within the synodically-bound churches and within the Reformed (state-) church there are those who are saved. I also believe that there are Roman Catholics who are saved. But this is not the issue. The point is rather whether we are dealing with an apostate church which slays the brethren. Nor is this a passing quarrel, but rather one which rocks the world in the last days. What, after all, does it mean that also there some people are saved. Ask rather how many millions have been driven into Hell by the Roman Catholic church. Italy, France, Spain, Belgium - these are lost and the true Christian life has almost disappeared without a trace.
Are there Reformed (state-) church members who are saved? Thanks be unto God, indeed : But how many hundreds of thousands have perished with a single century here in the Netherlands, because this church was apostate. Entire generations which sixty years ago were Orthodox but as burdened believers remained within the false church now seem to be irrevocably lost to Christ.
So serious is the apostasy of the church! So dreadful is it when the church makes a game of the covenant and thus becomes unfaithful to her children. Therefore it is not the question whether one can be saved there, but rather what we are doing with the generations to come.
In this connection I should also touch on a question close]y related to the above. This is discussed from time to time among us; the problem of co-operation. I realize full well that people do not find a ready solution to this and therefore are afraid to withdraw from an association which God does not want to see destroyed. But what I cannot understand is that Christians who can no longer see the possibility of co-operation in specific situations are accused of seeking to destroy everything; that even within their own church they are compelled to listen to voices which mock with: a separate church, a separate political party, a separate newspaper . . . .
The matter really isn't so simple. If the sole motive were an inordinate desire to be separate, then the cause certainly should come to nought. But to this I add: Woe to him among us who is not disturbed by the basic issues which are involved. It simply is a fact that nearly all Christian organizations no longer are concerned about departing from the Lord and his word. They champion a set of lovely theories which they call "principles", but faithfulness to God's covenant is nowhere taken seriously and nowhere is there concern about the murders - which are committed within the church. If the covenant of the Lord and loyalty to the true children of the church no longer grip men's hearts, then I don't know what will happen. But I do know that this is the spirit of fornication and that such co-operation is not a manifestation of the communion of the saints controlled from above but rather a striving after the proverb "In unity lies our strength" in the spirit of Babel. Of this the Bible declares: judgment will come upon it. If it were only thus: they have an organization and we too; they have a newspaper, and we too; thus a matter of competition, then would we be guilty of the same sin. But surely the goal is not the organization but the salvation of men for Jesus Christ and his coming. All organization is purely secondary! Our concern is not for the school but the children. And because the salvation of whole generations in the Netherlands is involved in this, therefore no mere man may deal light-heartedly with these matters, especially in our day when we see the contours of the seventh head.
This fornication, let this be remembered, is international. John beholds the woman sitting upon the seven heads. He says that these are the seven hills of Rome which in those days was the capital of the world. A little later he adds, that she sits among many waters - peoples, nations and tongues. The church is an international power.
This is actually the most dreadful of all. Therefore he pauses here so long. When the beast in its sixth head received the deadly wound and loses the opportunity for centuries to establish a world unity and thus a political international power, the church becomes throughout this period an international power and by means of her false unity manifests the image of Babel. Never think lightly about the apostasy of the church. John declares that she rules over the kings of the earth. In her apostasy the church has pursued earthly power and obtained it. Who really are in control among the peoples of the world? The leaders of the apostate church!The church is the chief figure in world politics. All the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her and catered to her. All the inhabitants of the earth are drunk with the wine of her fornication, for all men are intoxicated with a Christian culture which is actually apostate.
You know, of course, that Christianity is strong in Europe and America. We speak of Christian Europe and Christian America and proclaim that all of cultural life is Christian. But who had power in Russia in the past? The Czars. Yet over them stood the Greek Catholic church, the prostitute. In Spain Philip II ruled, but the Roman Catholic church was in control. In France there was Louis XIV, but the prostitute really ruled. A century and more ago in the Netherlands William I was king, but the Reformed (state-) church committed fornication with him. Never throughout the centuries has there been a pure worldly political power. The actual power rested with the apostate church, the whore.
What went wrong in Indonesia? Was this the result of an inefficient government of the consequence of interference by the Security Council? The situation went wrong, because behind the scenes was the Roman Catholic church and the Reformed (state-) church, which even sent two pastors to America to oppose police action. Behind the scenes were American Christendom and the World Council of Churches. When speaking about political matters, we use such political designations as Jews, Liberals, Roman Catholics. But none of these names can be used without using an ecclesiastical term. The "Jew" and the "Liberal" and the "Roman Catholic", these are again and again the children of the whore. The apostate church has not understood her heavenly calling but reached out after worldly power. All the misery in Indonesia and throughout the world was born in the church who is the whore. Would history have taken its present course in Russia, if the Greek church had not comitted fornication for centuries with the Czars? Would the present misery have come upon Indonesia, if the churches throughout the world had not committed adultery? The whole course of human history since the days of the Roman Empire has been dominated by the apostate church.
When in our day the world empire, this seventh head, is being built, this is occasioned by the church which breaks its covenant with the Lord and intoxicates herself with the blood of the faithful witnesses. All wars and revolutions and social injustices and abominations are born within and are fed by the adulterous church. This underscores the significance of the creedal article on the true and false church. This demands the reformation, the return unto the Lord.
Do you know what I can never understand! While everyday and everywhere we see with our eyes the devastation with which the false church regales humanity- a devastation which produces universal sighing - hardly anyone takes the confession concerning "true and false church" seriously. If one only speaks nice words about unity and makes sympathetic gestures in the direction of ecumenicity, reaching over every ecclesiastical wall, then a person is praised as a fine fellow. But if one confesses to the truth about Christ's church, such a person is accused of narrow-minded churchmanship, of absolutism, of fanaticism.
Think for a moment about the relation between us and the churches which are bound. The leadership upholds the doctrinal deliverances which make all the promises and demands and thereby the whole covenant with God of none effect. The great majority (and this perhaps is even worse) doesn't seem to care any more. All they want is peace and unity. Already voices are being heard favoring reunion with the Reformed (state-) church. Many in the Netherlands are flirting with the World Coucil of Churches. And their mission churches in Indonesia are already affiliated with such a council in which Communists also occupy influential positions.
In this situation some in our churches are already rejoicing at the possibility of a speedy or eventual reunion with them. But then I would say: Should another war break out, keep still. When terrors stalk abroad as presently in Indonesia, don't open your mouth about Schermerhorn and Beel but simply announce that here this church of ours has also committed fornication.
As long as they do not take the covenant seriously and become faithful to the Lord and thus also to the children of the church, so long ought we to refuse to think about reunion, let alone even speak about it. The Lord says: Come out, come out, that ye be not partakers of her sins. (Revel. 18:4).
I must say something more about that beast. Already, I suppose, you have understood this. After the days of the Roman empire the antichristian world-government could no longer rise to power, for instead of one world empire there appeared a hosts of nations who continually waged war with each other. In the place of the beast we see today as an international power the apostate church. Therefore John could say: At present the beast is not. The entire civilization of the world has been colored by Christianity. The antichrist cannot be seen clearly and boldly. Regrettably everything bears the hall-mark of being Christian. But in actuality it is the false church which permeates end penetrates all of life.
Formerly in the days of Rome and earlier the beast was, but today is not even though he is. For the beast dwells within the church. But it will come again. The seventh head will appear, says John, and will remain only a short time. Then after a little while the beast will be completely manifested as the antichrist in his final appearance, the eighth world-ruler. During the seventh empire the church will still be able to maintain her strong position and continue with her fornications. But when the reign of Antichrist comes, there will still be divergent powers but all of them blind subjects of Antichrist. All their authority have they delivered unto him, to be motivated by the same will as he. This God himself has put in their hearts.
Today we already can understand this, as we see one nation after another delegating or depriving themselves of some of their authority. When this process has run its course, the world dictator will have appeared with all the others blindly following him even though they insist on exercising dominion within their own realms. At that season a two-pronged attack begins - the first against the Lamb and his faithful followers and the second against the woman called the whore. By that time they are more than disgusted with the secularized Christendom. Those ten horns - which are the ten vassals of the Antichrist, the rulers who in association with him exercise authority - will together hate the whore and uncover her and eat and burn her flesh. Today there is international respect for Christendom, for "righteousness, mercy and love to fellow-men" and all such things, since men can play a fine game with the false church. But the time will come, when they shall loathe her and cast her aside in her nakedness.
Would you see some of the symptoms, some glimpses in history, wherein this is beginning to manifest itself? During the war Hitler was particularly antagonistic towards the Jews, and we trembled because of the such gruesome deeds as gaschambers and the rest. Hitler hated the Jews because of what they had done to Germany in the spheres of politics and economics. But these were still the apostate church, and with their fornications they had polluted Germany and not Germany alone. World Jewry is guilty of many evils. Thus at the last the flames of hatred begin to burn. Far be it from me to rationalize the persecution of the Jews, but Jewry as the apostate church has exerted tremendous power and with her abominations has led many astray. Thus the judgment comes and hate burns brightly! The Russians in their hatred against the Hungarian Roman Catholics and the Bulgarian Protestants have seen the church's power in the life of the nation, socially and politically and economically, yet the church was not the heavenly bride but a whore who committed fornication. With her men make short shrift. And in the days to come this will take place on an international scale.
Therefore the Lord warns: My people, depart out of the midst of her that you may escape her plagues. I realize that when this is done, war is declared against the true church and against Jesus Christ. For neither the antichrist nor his followers will make a distinction. All that bears the name of church they will seize. But God adds, Although the Antichrist will make no distinction between church and church, I will do so. For when He opposes the false church, God declares that His purposes are being fulfilled, that His judgment is falling upon the great whore. But when he wars against the Lamb and His faithful servants, God says that this Lamb is Lord of lords and King of kings. He will triumph with his true church. Oppression will be experienced for a little season, but then will we escape.
Revelation 17 gives us at a glance all of world history and enables us to understand the times. Often we find ourselves unable to keep up even with the best news review. World events are frequently so confusing and chaotic. But God sets John above the international situation end causes him in the spirit to see it all and then describe it for us in the Scriptures. This is the style of the New Testament time, and this shall surely come to pass.
When we have understood this, then we know that the issue is not what America has plotted or the United Nations has planned but rather what is the true church! The basic issue is the problem of the church, that question which men have so lightly dismissed because it is so thorny. But this is undoubtedly the most significant issue of all: The issue is whether the church keeps the covenant and cherishes her children or whether she kills them. We cannot prevent the unfolding of history. When men suggest that we make common cause against Communism and thus demonstrate that in unity lies our strength, I would reply: Rather stop all this, for we cannot prevent this development. The coming of the seventh head cannot be stopped nor that of the eighth.
But what we can do is to make our decision about the church - whether we will co-operate in the abominations of the whore or whether we with Christ as his called and elect and faithful people will keep covenant with him and with each other. We can decide whether we will perish in the judgment which will come upon the great Babel or whether with Christ we will triumph over the devil and his kingdom. When then Djocja is surrendered and Soekarno returns to lay bare all the shame of the Netherlands, and when we see the international powers play their political game, don't throw your newspaper in fury on the table but listen to God addressing you in the specific facts: What now do you believe about the one, holy, catholic Christian church? Will she be bride or whore?
This portion of Holy Writ relates a new vision received by John on Patmos. Immediately it is clear that everything here centers in the glorification of Christ's bride. For John hears a mighty thundering of voices, raising a song of praise: "For the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." Since this is the message of the song, the angel who speaks with John commands him to write a beatitude: "Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb."
Now it should be clear to us that this vision is the counterpart of that other vision found in Revelation 17. While Revelation 19 announces to us the glory of Christ's bride, the seventeenth chapter is replete with the judgments which in the last days shall come upon the whore who sat upon many waters. John first told us that the whore is condemned; but now he proclaims that the bride is about to receive her glory and her lovely bridal gown. Thus the contrast between the two prophecies is complete. Yet it may not escape our attention that there is an intimate relation between these two chapters of Revelation. All too lightly we suppose that in this book we receive many distinct and isolated glimpses into the future, something like viewing a series of seperate slides. This is incorrect.
Throughout the book runs a straight line. All of us know the differences between a film and a slide-projector. The man who makes use of the latter is constantly showing a new scene on the screen, a series of distinct pictures. But he who shows a film does something quite different. He presents a series of closely connected shots, so that we are aware of the progress from the one to the other. Whereas the slide-projector can only give a series of pictures, each separated from the next by a leap as it were, the film presents a coherent picture. Here is a story in which the action is seen and the progression is exhibited.
So it is in Revelation. John does not show series of shots to portray the end-time but the drama of the consummation of all things. Here we see the total development from one stage to the next. He shows, as it were, a film of the last days.
Consider for a moment, if Revelation 19 were an isolated scene without any connection with the rest, then to be sure it would be interesting to view. It would be a consolation, when in all the struggle and stress of our day we would be given a glimpse of the coming great glory. But then we would be unable to see the progress: we would grasp nothing of the way which leads to that glory. We would be compelled, in order to taste the comfort, to take a leap in the spirit out of our present realities to the glory which will come, only immediately thereafter again to be plunged back into the misery of our grim and gray existence.
But now keep clearly in mind that John is not showing an isolated slide in his projector; he is running a film.
For who is the one speaking with him here? This is the same angel mentioned in chapter 17; one of the seven angels who empty out the vials with Gods last plagues upon the world. He led John in the spirit to the wilderness, far beyond the clamor of the world. Here John no longer received a message. He was hermetically sealed off from this life. But then God had this angel show him the film of history. John first beheld that breath-taking spectacle of the Beast with seven heads and ten horns and of the adulterous woman who sat upon that Beast. By this time you know about all this. The Beast is the satanic world-empire, the one realm of blasphemy and abominations which since the days of the flood has manifested itself repeatedly in a different form.
Almost without interruption the world empires follow other: the old-Babylonian, the Assyrian, the Neo-Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Graeco-Macedonian, the Roman. Ever in another form and in new garb. But still always the incarnation of the demonic drive towards world unity and international fraternization apart from God's promises and contrary to his commandments. A world empire in a variety of forms and yet essentially the manifestation and realization of disbelief and disobedience; a realm ever and again of blasphemy, of apostasy and hence always as a wild beast which wreaks devastation and misery. And then suddenly the deadly wound; for the sixth head is cleft and crushed and thereupon the world, is broken up into nations and kingdoms; then comes the modern period of history with its many peoples and boundaries which make it impossible again to unite mankind in one nation. It seems therefore that the satanic monster, after the dissolution of the Roman empire, will never rise again, as if it has been wounded unto death. Yet after so many centuries it succeeds. Then men learn to rise above their divisions and their wars, and the satanic world empire arises anew.
How clearly we learn to understand history here! For today we look into the jaws of that Beast; we see the contours of the seventh head becoming clearer every day.
To this is then added that other, that even greater terror: the woman who commits adultery and decks herself with the glory of this world. The apostate church which breaks the covenant of the Lord and commits fornication and slays her faithful children; the whore who has become an international power and dictates throughout the whole world and thus determines the course of politics end commerce; who flirts with the leaders of the world and allies herself with them; who makes all men drunk with the glory of a "Christian" culture; the church which forgets her heavenly calling and despises her splendor from above and adorns herself instead with gold and purple and jewels. Until at last the Lord produces the Antichrist and his ten vassals and drives the,whole world to attack the apostate church.
If your experience is as mine, you can no longer escape the opressiveness of this vision. For the seventh head of the Beast makes himself manifest. The world empire approaches so silently. It is already much nearer then we think. You must realize that already now boundaries are being effaced, and our government finds itself powerless to do anything. You must see that our nation as well as the others is being controlled by Lake Success. And surely you must be seeing the world church with amorous eyes and filled with adultery.
Now then, this life of ours as it takes shape in our time, this history which is unfolding itself, John saw with his own eyes on the film of the end of the world which the angel showed. This was, so to speak,the initial act.
But now comes the second act. When the apostate church has reached the zenith of her apostasy and whoredom, of her unfaithfulness to Christ and the true children of the church, in the days of the seventh head - when world-empire and world church together push such fornicating to its extreme end so create a glittering "Christian" culture which deceives nearly everyone, then suddenly the seventh head will make way for the eight - the kingdom of the undisguised Antichrist and his ten vassals. They no longer join forces with the fornication and shocking splendor of the church which while flirting with all around builds brilliant culture and becomes drunk with the blood of her own children. On the contrary, suddenly they loathe her; they are filled with revulsion at the sight of her and all the blinding luxuries in which she clothed her life. They must have none of her pious speeches and Christianized culture. Furiously and vehemently they fall upon the apostate church. All the rulers of the world crowd after the Antichrist, each one surrendering his crown and authority to the Beast to follow him blindly. More unanimous than ever before in the history of the world are they, for God has suddenly united them after all their feuding and fighting. He has delivered all the potentates unto a universal and wholesale hatred against the whore, and they plan to kill her.
This, then, is the second act of the drama which John sees in chapter eighteen. He beholds the great Babel, the church solely united in unbelief and disobedience; he beholds that great Babel consumed by flames. This is a conflagration in comparison with which the flames of Rotterdam were of no account. In a moment the whole Christian culture is destroyed. All its treasures; all the wealth and pomp and science and art, indeed, all that the inter-nation church had built up by her apostasy is consumed in an instant. In consternation John describes all this for us: the kings of the earth, the merchants and the multitudes in the streets. For commercial life in its totality was geared to the christian culture of the apostate church; all waxed rich because of her; and in one hour all this glory is destroyed.
Now you may ask whether, there is no one who is grieved because all these cultural treasures are devoted to the flames? But they could not do otherwise. God had made all the leaders of earth one in will and has inclined their hearts to do his will. God will no longer tolerate that culture, and he presses all the powers to do his will. Therefore they set fire to it, so that its smoke arises forever. All the splendor and glory wherewith the apostate church bedecked herself and of which she caused men to "drink" with delight - all this is destroyed in one hour. Of the apostate church and her culture nothing remains.
Meanwhile the screen portrays the last act of this one drama. It opens in heaven with the Hallelujah chorus. Up there the voice of praise to God, who, at last has judged the whore who with her adulteries has corrupted the whole earth and who has intoxicated herself with the blood of her children, resounds. And that paean of praise is barely ended, when John hears for a second time: Hallelujah. This rejoicing continues. It ascends to the very steps of the throne of God. And finally there is even a voice from the throne which summons all the servants of God to sing Hallelujah. Then John hears a sound increasing in intensity as a mighty hurricane. The anthem which began in heaven is echoed by the church on earth. It is the sound as of a mighty host. It resounds like the heavy thunder of a waterfall and as the dark reverberation of a thunder storm: Hallelujah, for the Lord God Almighty reigneth. The kingdom of God is now at last become reality. And they encourage each other: Let us be glad and rejoice! To God be all the glory!
For who was behind all this? Who caused the beast to recover from its deadly wound? Who caused the antichrist to appear? Who forced the movement of history unto the coming of the seventh head of the beast? Who brought this judgment upon the great whore? God!
This was not the work of men. The entire course of events was the work of God. Triumphantly he sat above the great sea of the nations. He directed the days, he stirred the powers, he settled accounts with the great whore to destroy her, he assumed His sovereign control. And this He did, in order that His people might rejoice. For now is come the marriage of the Lamb, and His bride has decked herself for this nuptual day with her shimmering white wedding-gown.
Do you now see the course of events which we are experiencing, which John indeed saw from afar but which is being fulfilled before our eyes?
At the outset is the Beast and the seventh head which appears. At the outset is the whore which corrupts life and intoxicates herself with blood. At the outset is our world of today, so stifling and oppressive. But suddenly comes the second: the fire which breaks out upon the false church and all her splendor. But God exerts his pressures and so directs the course of history that eternal joy appears. When then you shudder, as the first dark figures of this film appear on the screen of world history, hold fast the glory of the last scenes which the word reveals and which shall also be revealed bye-and-bye as history. The false church perishes, but the true church, the Bride, enters along this road into eternal communion with the Bridegroom. The goal of history which is being made today and causes us to tremble, is the glorious mariage of the true church. In a little while she will be brought in solemn procession and in glorious apparel to her King.
He who believes this is truly comforted.
As we witness the appalling chaos of our time, the godlessness and abominations and unconscionability of world politics, the intrigues within the church - then not one of us can possibly escape. To be sure, Revelation 17 enables us to see some line and direction in this confusion. God points it out to us: the seventh head of the Beast is coming, and after him the Antichrist as the eight; meanwhile the church continues to fornicate. As we read this, we see it being fulfilled before our eyes. Thus we learn to understand the life of today. But if we knew no more, we would despair. It really means something to live in such a time in which the old monster again rears his head. How fearfully lonesome we become. And in such a world we bring forth our children.
Not long ago there was a story in the newspaper about a young man who choose Paris as his home and refused to have anything more to do with citizenship papers. He called himself "World Citizen number 1". People laughed at him as a foolish dreamer. We have our children properly registered in the place of birth, and when we request a passport it is neatly noted: Nationality: Dutch. But pause for a moment. National life is deteriorating. Boundaries exist only on paper. In actual fact there is already a world government. All our children, born as Netherlander, are really world citizens. When the situation becomes serious, they will be fighting in an international army. I see the seventh head, and close behind the Antichrist, and the great whore sitting upon many waters. In such a world I beget children. If I knew no more than this, I would lose my sanity and gaze about in bewilderment. We introduce our children into a world of counterfeit Christanity today, a world of undisguised blasphemy tomorrow. This I could not endure, - if God had not already shown me the last scenes of the terrifying film: Hallelujah, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth, and the marriage feast of the Lamb shall come! This is the conclusion.
When people then ask me: What is going to happen to the world? What is the destiny of the demon-possessed history of today! Where are you going, and where are your children going? - then I now reply: straight through the fornications and alongside of the open maw of the monster we are journeying to the banquet of the marriage of the Lamb. If I did not know this, I could not face life.
For do you know where lies the real danger of life today? It is that we allow all this to come upon us in fatalistic fashion; that we see the intrigues of world politics and the fornication of the church as those who are unable to change anything, as people who while either gnashing their teeth or watching with indifference see the avalanche come upon them. But the Lord says: Thou shalt believe! Is today's history the pawn of fate before which we stand.powerless? To be sure, I see the abominations of mankind. Yet all this is governed by God. He permits the monster to arise. He permits the fornicating and drunken church to pursue her course until the day of her destruction. But he says: "In this way will I reign over all, and in this way will I bring my church to the marriage feast. I am making the preparations. I am already setting the table and putting the chairs in their place."
The drama in the Indies is slowly coming to its conclusion. In England people are being aroused but too late. Also the Americans are learning from the copy of their journalists who succumbed the fatal character of their political maneuverings. But meanwhile that which is dreadful has come to pass. We are experiencing the decline of the Netherlands and the Indies. God is saying: Do you see the head of the beast, enraged more than ever? Do you see the fornication of the church, more filthy than before? But do you also see in and above all this your God who also guides the history of these days, who is coming into his sovereign glory, and who along this way is conducting his people to the marriage feast?
Then there is no longer fate to terrify you, but there is faith to fill you with gladness. Already today, in the midst of this demon-possessed world, we are learning the Hallelujah. Indeed, the horror occasioned by so many abominations has not passed away. I still tremble because of both the beast and the whore. But I can also say: We ere going to the marriage feast. Let us be glad and rejoice. We shall give him glory who causes this terrifying history to issue into the wedding-room. The Netherlands has become a fourth-rate power, and the kingdom has been strangled, and the Indies are approaching a dark night; but the end of all this is the wedding of the Lamb.
And if God today is already preparing the wedding room, because he wants to fill us with eternal joy and instructs us that the meaning of all this is the glorifying of his true church, then our life again becomes meaningful. If through all these events God seeks the glory of the church as his bride, what else can we do but place the emphasis where he places it? If he makes the terrifying history of beast and whore and Anticnrist, because he speaks of "church," what else in this world should be of any real significance to me than that church which he is leading to the marriage feast? For when we contemplate eternal joy - let's be honest now - we hardly think at all about the church. Most people seem only concerned that their soul shall be with Christ. But if you have trifled until now with the faith article about the church, this opportunity is yours no longer. The final phase of world history in ail its details is so directed by the Lord as we behold its realization today because Christ says: "My concern is with my bride and with my marriage to her". The beast raises its head, and the adulterous woman ogles in every direction and adorns herself with the fruits of culture, but God says: All this is necessarily so. For the time of the marriage is at hand.
Shall we pity ourselves that we must live in these times and witness these terrors? God says. Look at the last scenes of the film; then you will understand what is at stake in your own day. The marriage is at hand; therefore you who are invited to the wedding may be considered blessed. Are we creatures to be pitied, because we must live in These times? And our children, are they wretches, because they enter this world at this stage of history? The angel instructs John: Write, blessed are they who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. To be sure, they pass through chaos end terror. But they are called to the great wedding, to the feast of everlasting fellowship between Christ and his true church.
Because Christ in all the events of this time is making preparations for the marriage, the bride also should prepare herself. Have you ever met a bride who just before the wedding day, when all the invitations have been mailed and all arrangements have been made with the bridegroom, still shows no interest in her bridal gown?
Thus the Scripture says so appropriately: "And his wife hath made herself ready. And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." (Rev.19:7b,8)
There you see Christ's true bride in her wedding finery. You will recollect how the apostate church bedecked herself like a prostitute, with gold and pearls and gems, with purple and scarlet. By her extravigant dress she drew attention to herself. She adorned herself for everyone, because she was for sale. But the true bride clothes herself simply and attractively in shining white and clean linen, which linen is the righteous acts or good works of the saints. This garb is given to her, for only by the power of grace can the church with her children perform good works. But with these she adorns herself. She does not dress to attract everyone but adorns herself solely for her bridegroom. She prepares herself with her children for the wedding by good works.
What, therefore is left for us to do today? What is to be our goal? The apostate church snatches at honor and power, wealth and luxury, influence and prestige, and for the sake of these denies her husband and barters herself away to anyone. But the true church and her living members do not attract attention in this world. They receive no power and glory. Silently and soberly they go their own way. But they reach after righteousness, after the doing of the will of Christ. And when the splendor of the prostitute is consumed by the flames, the bride of Christ appears without spot or blemish in the glittering garment of good works
Hence only one thing is important today. We need no longer dream of a position of power and prestige. This can be attained only by committing fornication. Even among our people we hear some say: We must do something : We must establish an organization for this or that purpose. We must gain some influence and win the world for Christ. Let us not intoxicate ourselves with such illusions. We will not overcome the world; the antichrist will conquer. Influence will be gained by the apostate church which is not faithful to Christ and her own children, but the true church is always persecuted, set at nought, driven, despoiled, slain. What alone is significant? Not that our business-men make profit, but that they do the will of Christ in their assigned place. Not that our laborers attain to a higher standard of living, but that they are zealous in good works. If only in our families and all other relationships the will of God has dominion, then the rest matters not. Significant in our day is only the question whether we are truly church and whether all of us as living members of the church manifest the pattern of the true church in all good works.
The future belongs to such alone. Of them it is written: "Blessed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And this means to cleave unto the Lord Christ with a true faith. Important is only this that we as church cling to the grace of liberation, and that each of us allows this grace free passage in his persona1 life. All that is important consists in this, that we in this antichristian world, in which the world church commits fornication, keep ourselves chaste and pure for Christ.
Of course, this can be done only when the firm hope of the coming wedding feast fills our hearts. Therefore the angel also gave John the emphatic assurance: "These are the true words of God." (Revel 19:9b) For if in John's day the church would lose hope and fail to live in expectation of the marriage, which in spite of all is approaching, then she will be drawn away by the beast or the whore and at any event will not remain standing. Also then there were martyrs in the church. If we see only the head of the beast and the pomp of the whore and no longer set our hope on the marriage which is the goal towards which all this is moving, ah, then not one will remain standing.
This is true also for us. The head of the beast is an ugly reality and comes oppressively upon us and our children. We have become aware what being loyal to Christ and choosing for his true church demands in the way of struggle and ridicule and distress. If then one has no hope which carries him through, he is lost.
And now we stand only at the beginning. All this will become much worse, as soon as Antichrist appears. Daily the prayer offered at the time of baptism assumes more profound meaning for me, when it states: "that we, daily following him, may joyfully bear our cross, cleaving unto Him in true faith, firm hope, and ardent love; that we, being comforted in Thee, may leave this life, which is nothing but a constant death."
Here the church confesses that life becomes a constant death for Christ's sake. It becomes a life of cross-bearing. And that cross does not consist of headache or rheumatism or some other miseries. It is rather that the church drinks to intoxication the blood of the faithful witnesses and that the beast opens wide his mouth. Through all this we must pass, and such is possible only when we cleave unto him with a true faith, and firm hope.
Let us realize that it really means something to look into the cruel jaws of the beast or to call the whore by her actual name. Then the marriage feast seems too unattainable and so unreal, something with which one can't accomplish a thing.
But still I believe that it s possible to hold fast this hope. God not only gives us the assurance,. "These are the true words of God." He also confirms this by the facts. What we see and experience in church and world today is precisely what John saw from afar. And as history is unfolded still more, we shall see more clearly that these were not the visions of a frenzied fanatic but the true words of God. But when history demonstrates that the beginning of the prophecy concerning the end is true, then it becomes easier to expect the conclusion of this drama.
The whore decks herself in finery, the seventh head of the beast is being more sharply outlined - this we see with our own eyes. But if these beginnings are real, then I know for sure that the conclusion is true. Then I am convinced that the marriage is approaching. The beast rises from the dead, and all men join in worshipping. This is precisely what John has told us. The whore arrays and intoxicates herself. This is precisely what God has announced. But then the marriage feast will also surely come to pass. The word of God is corroborated by the facts. The apostasy of the church and the return of the monster demonstrate that God does not lie. Therefore these times teach me to hold more firmly to the word then ever and to hope for the great supper of the marriage of the Lamb.
"Also to cleave unto him with ardent Love," so we pray in the baptismal liturgy.
Now concerning that ardent love our text concludes with a most remarkable announcement. John was deeply moved, when the angel said that all the agitated and chaotic history of the world was so made by God that the marriage-supper of the Lamb would come. To himself he says: How great is this angel! He is prophesying the end of the ways of God in history, because he could tell me all these things. And not only does he prophesy all this; he is also one of the actors who pours out the final vials of wrath. Hence this angel assists in realizing the end of history and the complete deliverance of the church. He not only announces the end; he also makes the end. Then in John's soul arose such deep reverence for this mighty angel, mighty in word and deed, mighty in prophecy and fulfillment, that before he realized what he was doing he fell upon his knees to worship. To himself he thought: How lilliputian am I, and the church consists only of dwarfs!
But the angel made an end to this at once: "Watch out, see thou do it not. Am I great? Great in word today and great in works after a while? I am, even as yourself, only a servant of God. John, God alone is great and greatly to be praised. He alone has thought out this road which brings the church to the wedding. He alone has revealed to me this mystery of salvation. He alone is the one who will bring world history to an end, who alone will destroy the whore and trample upon the dragon. God alone is great; worship him. For this plan is His, and this prophecy is His, and soon also this marriage feast is His alone. I am but His servant: John, set not the servant above nor even next to his Lord. Do not esteem me so highly.
"Nor must you think so lightly of yourself. For you fall upon your knees and say: How small and insignificant am I compared with you. But this is not true. Am I, because of this word and because of the pouring out of the last plagues bye and bye, any greater than you? I simply stand next to you. I am only a servant of God and a fellow servant of you, and the rest who keep the commandments of God and cling to the testimony of Jesus Christ. Am I a prophet, John? Well, so are you. For Pentecost has come. And all who cling to the testimony of Jesus Christ have received since the day of Pentecost the Spirit of prophecy. As a servant I am, indeed, God's prophet. But so are you and all those others who together with you proclaim: the testimony of Jesus Christ and hold fast to the gospel even at the cost of their lives. And do not say to yourself: But what will happen later on? Do not say to me: You and your fellowangels will take an active part in unleashing judgment upon the whore and in preparing for the wedding, while we as men will only watch without working. This is not true. For I prophecy, but you who maintain the word of Christ and seek with that gospel to bring the world salvation, are prophecying just as well. And after a while I will receive in my hand a vial full of wrath and pour this out. Then I will be doing something. But you and your brethren will be doing no less. For you who keep God's commandments and maintain the testimony of Jesus are struggling in word and deed for the salvation of the world and the apostate church. Ah, no, you will not convert them all. But your prophetic word and evangelical deed is still a power in this world. If not unto conversion, then unto hardening. Your word and deed are active agents, agents of the Holy Spirit by means of which he ripens the world for the end.
Say not, John, when an angel speaks, then I do well to be silent. For your word is fully as significant and fully as much a power in the end-time. Say not; now that I have seen what after a while the angels will do I can put my hands in my pocket. For by means of word end deed, godly walk and prophetic witness, you are bringing in the end of history as much as I in my place.
John, God alone is great; therefore worship Him.
Men and angels stand next to each other, in word and deed, as God's servants.Inthis way they steer the world towards the last day in which the whore is condemned and the beast destroyed.
And therefore John, love God. Worship him together with the whole church as the Lord of history. Worship him who in connection with the whore and the beast brings his true church to the marriage feast.
And love also your fellowmen. Open your mouth together with all your brethren. Proclaim the gospel of Christ. Cling to it in the face of an antichristian world and an apostate church. And keep God's commandments. Never take part in the abominations of the whore or the blasphemies of the beast.
Do we understand this? Ah none of us will be tempted today to worship an angel. But have you not experienced that other temptation of feeling ourselves to be so insignificant and powerless? Increasingly we have an oppresive sense of our own insignificance. Men laugh about us. All the abominations of our day we could not restrain. Meanwhile our government acts and the Security Council acts. But does the church have any influence? Indeed the apostate church, the great city of fornication does. But that little handful which we compose? We feel so helpless in world events. Of all of history we say: I stand there simply as a spectator, unable to do a thing about it. We suppose we can do something only when our men become cabinet members and when we are supported by an organization numbering hundreds of thousands. But we ought to be cured of this illusion once for all.
Who really is significant in the world? He who understands history in the light of God's Word and therefore takes notice of the beast and the whore. He who loves Christ's church with all his heart and therefore hates all fornication within the church and all ungodliness in disciplining the true children of the church. He who believes that today God is preparing for the coming marriage feast and therefore dares to face the future. He whose hope is more firmly fixed on the new Jerusalem with every passing day, because he sees the word being fulfilled. He who worships only God as the Lord of history and is aware of his place next to that of the angels.
He who in his own small corner keeps the commandments of God and clings to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even when men ridicule him. He who in word and deed dares to stand alone not concerned for a moment about how many people will back him up, because he knows, "Angels stand next to me, and God stands above me."
Who make history? Not the gentlemen at Lake Success but the simple soldier in the Indies with whose life the leaders are gambling but who in his own company keeps God's commandments and is not ashamed of confessing Christ.
Who make history? Not the laborers who press their claims through the big union but the men who quietly keeps God's law in relation to his employer. The father who tells his children about the gospel and the mother who puts a Christian stamp on her family, even though everyone in the neighbourhood avoids them as somewhat peculiar. Not the cabinet minister who goes by jet every week to some important conference but the patient who has been confined for years to the same small bed in the same small room and there clings to the testimony of Christ. Not the man who is very active in the ecumenical movement but the simple church member who in the hour of decision refused to tolerate within the church the slaying of his brethren and unfaithfulness to God's covenant and therefore was not ashamed of the liberation and not inspired by the striving for false unity, even though others called him narrow-minded and refused to continue as his customers.
Do you ask about the millions? These you will find following the beast. Are you looking for the hundreds of thousands? They range themselves with the whore. But blessed is the man who remains faithful to God when the whole church denies him, who remains faithful to the brethren when everyone tolerates their slaying, who in word and deed believes in the church even when he has to stand alone. Blessed is the man who is small and bows humbly before God but who also stands up courageously and does not depend on man but takes his place next to the angels and in covenant with them proclaims God's word and in regal fashion keeps God's comandements, knowing "As God's servant I together with the angels am setting all of history in motion towards the day of the great marriage."
For in very truth this is the man, although he may have to stand all alone and be effectively isolated in daily life, who mingles his voice with that of the innumerable multitude roaring like the sea and rumbling like thunder, "Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth and we are traveling towards the great marriage feast." For by word and deed he helps to bring that day nearer, on which God will say also to him, "Blessed art thou, for thou art called to the supper of the marriage of the Lamb."
These are the true words of God.