Quiet Talks by Samuel Dickey: Gordon, Samuel Dickey - Quiet Talks on the Crowned Christ of Revelation: 52. A Bitter Cup to Its Dregs

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Quiet Talks by Samuel Dickey: Gordon, Samuel Dickey - Quiet Talks on the Crowned Christ of Revelation: 52. A Bitter Cup to Its Dregs

TOPIC: Gordon, Samuel Dickey - Quiet Talks on the Crowned Christ of Revelation (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 52. A Bitter Cup to Its Dregs

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A Bitter Cup to Its Dregs

The fifth view [Note: Rev_15:1-8; Rev_16:1-21.] is, not of the whole tribulation time as with these others, but of only a part, the closing part. It speaks of the visitation of judgments, the great climactic battle, and the earthquake, with which the period is brought to its end.

It connects at the point in the fourth view [Note: Rev_14:1-5.] where those who have been suffering in the tribulation are seen standing before the throne singing with harps. It is said that they are singing the song of Moses, who had the experience of tribulation and deliverance in Egypt, and the song of the Lamb, who went through the worst tribulation experience in His contest with Satan and sin on our behalf.

It connects also with the close of the second view, [Note: Rev_11:19.] where the temple is seen opened and the ark of the covenant is seen. That covenant is now to receive further fulfilment. God never forgets His promises and agreements. Seven angels have seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God. In this way is told the visitation of judgments now described as taking place at this time.

In the first view the picture is of seals being broken or opened, which indicates the execution of a document. The trumpets of the next view indicate a commanding call to action; the seven thunders, not written, a great storm. These bowls or vials indicate the administration of a dose of bitter-tasting medicine. The visitation of judgments by God is commonly spoken of in Scripture in this language. [Note: Psa_11:6; Psa_60:3; Psa_75:8; Job_21:20; Isa_51:17; Isa_51:22-23; Jer_25:15-17; Eze_23:31-33; Hab_2:16; Zec_12:2.]

Then follows the description of the judgments upon men's persons, and everything concerning their life. Men's bodies are diseased, the water is unfit to drink, the food supply cut short; they suffer with terrible heat, and then darkness. But there is no penitence. The Euphrates is said to be dried up, suggesting that it is the great river at or near the world's centre of action. So, it is said, the way is prepared for the kings that come from the east.

And the prophetic bit in Isaiah comes to mind about men passing over the Euphrates at the time of the great gathering of the Jews. [Note: Isa_11:15-16.] As though aroused by all this to bitterest opposition there is increased demon activity, and through it a great gathering of all nations, at a place named in Palestine, for a great battle.

Then a terrible climax comes in the earthquake, with which the first, second, and third views closed. It is the worst earthquake ever experienced. It centres in "the great city," Babylon, the capital of the whole system of wickedness. With the storm is a terrible hail. The description tallies with that in the close of the first view, [Note: Rev_6:15-17.] and with the vivid prophetic bit in Isa_2:10-22.

There's no suggestion of how much time all this takes. The judgments visited on Egypt at the deliverance of Israel are described at much greater length, running into ten items. Yet all could have occurred within five weeks, allowing for brief intervals. Whether these judgments occur in succession, or all at once, or partly in both ways, they could all come within a very short time. This fifth view depicts the final scene. It gives the visitation of judgments ending the tribulation period, describes a great pitched battle, in which all nations are involved, and ends with the earthquake. This is the third of the three great woes. [Note: Rev_11:14.]

The sixth view is of the great system of wickedness in the world, through which the tribulation comes, and which is judged at its close. [Note: Chapters 17 and 18.] The description is full of details of great interest and instructiveness, but we can only have time at present for the essential thing being taught. The Spirit takes John into a wilderness. To the Spirit's eye wherever wickedness has sway, whether vulgar or polished, political or commercial, cunning or brazen, it is a wilderness.

Here is shown a woman gorgeously clothed, prodigally bedecked with jewels, and having a cup in her hand, made of gold, but full of vile filth. Upon her forehead appears a description: "Mystery [or explanation of mystery], Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth." This woman is riding upon a strange beast; it is scarlet-colored, with seven heads and ten horns, and full of blasphemous names. This is the startlingly suggestive picture.

Who is this woman? And what is this beast upon which she is seated? The whole description taken together suggests that she is meant to stand for the whole system of wickedness which has had such sway in the world from earliest time until the end. And the beast represents typically the dominant governmental powers. The two have always worked together. There has been a consistent unity of spirit and of characteristic, and a persistent devilishness marking the wickedness in the world throughout the ages.

It has been as though there were an unseen spirit power tirelessly at work behind all the varied manifestations of evil. The dominant characteristic always has been blasphemy of God. It has controlled thrones and royal power, and has had unlimited gold at its command. And it has always been an enemy, subtle or open, cunning or violent, of God and His people.

That system or genius of evil is represented in the Old Testament as finding expression in one great political power after another, but chiefly in the power of Babylon. Babylon stands typically in these older pages, not merely for the great empire of the Euphrates, but for the unseen spirit of evil lying behind that power, and making use of it to carry through its own foul purposes.

But that unseen evil spirit power has found more than one agency to dominate and use. Babylon long since passed off the stage as a political factor. But the power of evil has not ceased. It is distressing to note another great organization behind and through which the power of evil has worked. What is the system that has, for the past sixteen centuries, been supported by the various great civil governments?

There is only one answer. It is the organization known as "the Christian Church." And the term Church must be taken here in its fullest, broadest meaning. Its great main stem historically is the Roman Catholic Church. The first great split-off was the Greek Orthodox Church. The Church of England was a later break-off. These, with the various government-ally supported Churches, and those free of such support, and various ancient primitive bodies,—these all together make up the organization known as "the Church."

The two symbolical characteristics of this woman and the two dominant characteristics of this historical Church are the same. The Church has been and is supported almost wholly by the civil governments, and used by them in furthering their policies. And it has been active in persecuting to death the people of God who would not yield to its domination. It has been marked by intolerance of all not yielding to its wishes, and especially of the Jew. That intolerance has been carried not only to the extreme of blood, but a riot of bloodshed. This is utterly heart-breaking to realize and to repeat.

The woman is said to be "drunken (1) with the blood of the saints, and (2) with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus." The twofold statement is seen to cover the two great periods, before Christ and since. And it covers also the two great powers through which the spirit of evil has chiefly worked in those two periods. But the name given first in the plains of Shinar, and used characteristically of the God-defying power of evil, is given here, Babylon. It will be Babylon again at the very end after the Church system is overthrown.

It is plainly said that the beast represents the great civil or governmental power in its final stage, the shape it will be in at the end when these events occur. [Note: Rev_17:8-12.] The chief dominating political power of the world will have passed through a succession of changes, seven kingdoms successively following each other. At the end there will be a combination of some sort, with ten great subdivisions, and one great head over all.

But at the last, the civil power will discard the Church, and persecute it. The spirit of evil thus gets embodiment typically in the great Babylon power, then in the Church, and at the very last, in a coalition of civil powers heading up in a new Babylon.

Then follows announcement of the fall of Babylon. The city is regarded here as the earthly capital of the organized system of unseen evil spirit power at work in the world. The city and the system are inseparably allied. The name Babylon is used in the Bible for both system and city.

If the question be asked what city is meant here, there can be but one answer. From the twelfth of Genesis on the Bible never touches history, except as history touches Israel as a nation. A thoughtful review of the book makes this clear. And this book of Revelation is a gathering-up of Bible threads, and only these. There is only one city in the Bible record that answers to the description here, "the great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth." "Babylon the great."

But the old Babylon lies in ruins. And its ruined condition has been quoted as the fulfilment of the famous passage in Isa_13:19-22. It should be carefully noted that the present conditions at the site of old Babylon do not seem to satisfy fully the language of that passage. It would seem to be another illustration of the rare use of language in the Bible, which adapts a passage accurately to one event, and then to a second event, a long time afterward.

This would, of course, involve the rebuilding of the old capital of the Euphrates. The reverent student quietly notes the movements taking place in that part of the world, but restrains mere curious speculation, as he continues fervently to pray, "Thy kingdom come."

This eighteenth chapter of Revelation seems like an echo of that intense twenty-first of Isaiah, and indeed of a strain sounding all through the prophetic books. One familiar with the old writings is not surprised to find this echo; he expects it. No echo of God's voice or purpose is ever lost. God never loses any of the threads out of His hand.