Goodness arouses evil. Faithfulness to Christ stirs opposition. This is a commonplace. A piece of white-hot metal plunged into cold water makes a great fuss. Two areas of sharply different temperatures in the atmosphere above us coming suddenly together make a storm.
Purity entering an atmosphere of impurity and insisting on staying, and on keeping pure, creates a lively disturbance. The tempter was aroused to his subtlest effort when Jesus appeared. There is no such demoniac activity recorded as when Jesus walked among men.
So crowning a king arouses opposition, if there be opposition. And the active taking of the reins of government has intensified the opposition when it was strong enough to make a stand. The striking illustration of this in the Bible is King David. After Saul's death the men of Judah anointed David king. That was the signal for an immediate attack by the chief of the forces of Saul's house. And this was succeeded by a long war, before David was acknowledged as king over all Israel. The clearing-up storm in his realm lasted a good while before good weather came.
Here in this Revelation scene we have been looking at our Lord Jesus is represented as stepping forward to take possession of His realm. It is natural to expect a storm. This will be a signal to the opposition to rally all its power. But there can be no question about the outcome of such a set-to. That storm proves to be a clearing-up storm in the realm. It is to be followed by such fine moral weather as has not been known before. But the storm itself proves to be a terrific one for the earth while it lasts.
The greater part of this little end-book is taken up with a description of that storm. But before we turn to this book itself and its storm, we want to get our bearings a bit, so as to understand better what is here. Revelation is the knot in the end of a big bunch of threads. We shall understand the knot better by knowing more about the threads before they are tied into the knot.
The storm area proves to be very large. It takes in the whole earth. The Bible is a big book in its outlook and grasp. It deals with the whole earth, and the whole race. The thoughtful Bible student comes to have a broad outlook, as well as a close lookout about his own front and back doors.
It is fascinating to study the geography of the Bible. We talk about the world growing smaller. That refers of course to the rapidity of transit. It is only within a few hundred years that we have learned of the earth being round. The Bible map includes practically the whole world as we have come to know it.
The centre of the world as seen on this map may seem a little surprising. We Americans feel that the centre of things is here. The Englishman knows that it is in London; and lately the Germans have had the same exclusive sort of knowledge about Berlin. The Chinese has long called his country "the Middle Kingdom," in the sense of its being the central kingdom about which the rest of the world revolves. But here the centre is seen to be on the boundary line, practically, between Orient and Occident, reaching out an embracing arm to each.
We have a broad division of the earth into East and West. The differences between the two, in civilization, mode of thought, religion, language, and so on, are so radical as to make it seem that there was no point of contact. At least this has been emphasized much by western writers on the East. We are disturbed just now here in the far West over the Oriental, Chinese Japanese and Indian crossing the far boundary line between Orient and Occident and coming into the United States and Canada.
Yet East and West have always overlapped at the middle boundary line. There is a great mixture of races in the strip where the eastern edge of the West and the western edge of the East come together. It is the strip running roughly north and south where Russia's west ern border and Turkey's touch Germany and Austria and Greece, including the never-at-rest Balkan Peninsula. Constantinople sits on the dividing line between East and West, with the worst of both civilizations within her confines. Here the hemispheres touch and their life currents intermingle and flow together.
Scientific research seems to find good evidence that all our European civilization, which of course means American too, may have been brought over by Eastern immigrants from central Asia long ages ago, Asia coming into Europe. Perhaps we Westerners would not despise the Easterners so contemptuously and patronizingly if we knew how much we are probably indebted to them for our civilization as well as for our Hebrew and Christian faith, our Bible, and the Christian restraining bulwarks of our common life.
The old common point of contact between Orient and Occident was the strip of land forming the western edge of the Orient at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. Palestine has been for centuries the common roadway of all nations, East and West. No bit of earth has been so tramped and trampled by the feet of all nations and races. This has been the battlefield of the nations through long centuries. The ends of the earth have met here. It is interesting that the waters that wash its western shore are called the Mediterranean Sea, that is, the middle-of-the-earth sea.
Here then is the centre of the map. It is the centre of all things in the Bible. And it has proven to be at the centre of human action through history, attested by the very name given to the chief body of water there.
Jerusalem, the capital city of this Palestine strip, was the centre of a world power in the early ages. It has been the world capital. And it has in turn been fought over and conquered by every world power. No city has been a world centre of action during as long a stretch of time, and to as many different nations.
Out from this centre the action of the Bible reaches north to Russia, south to Africa (Ethiopia), east to China (Sinim, Isa_49:12), and west to Spain. That practically includes the world of our day. America is of course merely a transplanted seedling of Europe.
Those great Hebrew leaders called prophets had a world outlook. They were world messengers. It is intensely interesting to take a piece of paper, and pencil a rough map of the nations named in their messages, notably Isaiah, [Note: Isa_13:1-22; Isa_14:1-32; Isa_15:1-9; Isa_16:1-14; Isa_17:1-14; Isa_18:1-7; Isa_19:1-25; Isa_20:1-6; Isa_21:1-17; Isa_22:1-25; Isa_23:1-18; Isa_24:1-23.] Jeremiah, [Note: Jer_46:1-28; Jer_47:1-7; Jer_48:1-47; Jer_49:1-39; Jer_50:1-46; Jer_51:1-64.] Ezekiel, [Note: Eze_25:1-17; Eze_26:1-21; Eze_27:1-36; Eze_28:1-26; Eze_29:1-21; Eze_30:1-26; Eze_31:1-18; Eze_32:1-32; Eze_38:1-23; Eze_39:1-29.] and Daniel. [Note: Daniel, throughout, notably 7-12.] Beginning at Jerusalem and Israel they reach first this way, then that, up and down, back and forth, until the whole world of action of that day has been touched. They were men of world size. They had a world outlook and a world message.
But then God's man always has. The world outlook of Jesus was tremendous. And every true disciple of Jesus Christ has the world outlook. Grace broadens as well as refining. It is one of the endless outworkings of sin that tends toward that narrowing provincialism which everywhere hinders so much, and so intensely.
Now in this world map in the Bible geography two cities stand out beyond all others, Jerusalem and Babylon; Jerusalem the centre of God's people and of God's plans, Babylon the centre of the opposing worldly power. These are the two outstanding cities of the Bible world.
Between these two there is an enmity and warfare that is practically continuous. Jerusalem comes to be the typical of God's people and power and kingdom. Babylon stands out likewise as typical of the power and kingdom always and innately opposed to God and to His people. The conflict between the two seems irrepressible and irreconcilable. It is never out of view.
Babylon has been the centre, under successive dynasties, of a world empire, including not only part of Asia, but reaching west to Europe and south to Africa. It sat practically in the connecting strip of Orient and Occident, ruling over both. In the dim dawn of history a God-ignoring, and so really a God-defying and man-exalting movement, centred in the city called Babel. And from that time on that city, and its successor Babylon, have seemed as though possessed with a spirit of antagonism to God and His people. It is as though it were the earthly headquarters of the blasphemous unseen evil forces.
This is a simple bit of geography lesson in the Old Testament. This is the map that lies ever open in these older pages, with its two capital cities marked large. And this indicates the area of the storm, and the two central points where its outburst will centre.