Life-Study of Revelationby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Apart from the introduction (1:1-8) and the conclusion (22:6-21), the book of Revelation has three main sections. In 1:19 the Lord said to John, “Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which are about to take place after these things.” Thus, these three main sections are “the things seen” (1:9-20), “the things present” (2:1—3:22), and “the things to come” (4:1—22:5). In chapter one, there are the seven golden lampstands with Christ in their midst, which are “the things seen,” and in chapters two and three there are the seven churches, which are “the things present.” The section on “the things to come” begins with the scene in heaven in chapter four. As chapter five reveals, Christ comes into this scene as the unique One worthy to open the secret of God’s economy. As we have pointed out, the first four seals give a brief history of the world from Christ’s ascension until His coming back, portraying it as a four-horse race. Near to the end of this age, at the time of the fifth seal, the martyred saints will cry to God. The sixth seal will be God’s answer to their cry. He will shake the universe as a warning to those who dwell on the earth and as an introduction to the coming great tribulation. Following this, the seven trumpets will come in as the content of the seventh seal. The first four trumpets will be God’s judgment upon the earth, the sea, the rivers, and the heavenly host. Due to this judgment, the earth will no longer be a suitable place for man to dwell. Because the calamities of the sixth seal and the first four trumpets do not directly injure man, but only damage the earth, making it no longer suitable for man to live in, they are not a part of the great tribulation. As we pointed out in the last message, the fifth trumpet marks the beginning of the great tribulation. The great tribulation mentioned in Matthew 24:21 is composed of the three woes of the fifth, sixth, and seventh trumpets.
In the fifth trumpet mankind will be directly tormented. At the sounding of the fifth trumpet, Satan will come down from heaven to earth and Antichrist will come up from the abyss, and together they will cause men to be tormented for five months. Unlike the foregoing calamities, the torment of the demon-possessed locusts will directly touch man’s being. As we have seen, at the beginning of the last three and one-half years, Antichrist will change his mind about the Israelites, will discontinue the worship of God, and will torment the man created by God for Himself. This will be the beginning of the great tribulation. This torment, as the first woe, will be so severe that no one will be able to bear it. Following this, there will be the second woe, which is the sixth trumpet.
The second woe is more complicated than the first. It is not as clear cut as the woe of the fifth trumpet, which is caused by the collaboration of Satan and Antichrist. Revelation 9:13 and 14 say, “And the sixth angel trumpeted, and I heard a voice out of the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound at the great river Euphrates.” The blood of the atonement was put upon the four horns of the golden altar, the incense altar, for atonement, that is, for redemption (Lev. 16:18). The voice which comes “out of the four horns of the golden altar” indicates that God’s judgment upon man is based on the redemption of Christ; it is because men do not believe in Christ’s redemption that God sends His judgment.
Verse 12 says, “The first woe is past; behold, two woes are yet to come after these things.” Since it is at the fifth trumpet that Satan falls from heaven to earth to damage the earth and persecute the people of God for three and one-half years (12:10, 12-17, 6) and that at the same time (the last three and one-half years—13:5-7; 11:7), Antichrist comes up out of the abyss to collaborate with Satan to torment people, persecute the saints, and blaspheme God, and since it is also in the same last three and one-half years that the holy city Jerusalem is given to the Gentiles for destruction (11:2), the woe of the fifth trumpet must be the beginning of the great tribulation (Matt. 24:21). The second woe of the sixth trumpet and the third woe of the seventh trumpet (8:13; 9:12; 11:14) must also be parts of the great tribulation, which, probably with the damage caused by the sixth seal and the first four trumpets, will be the trial on all the earth’s dwellers (3:10). The two woes spoken of in verse 12 are the sixth and seventh trumpets (9:13-20; 11:14-15).
Undoubtedly, the four angels “which are bound at the great river Euphrates” are four evil, fallen, rebellious angels who followed Satan. The Bible does not indicate how long they have been bound there. Verse 15 says, “And the four angels were loosed who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, that they might kill the third part of men.” Many understand this word according to their natural concept, thinking that “the hour and day and month and year” refer to the specific year, month, day, and hour when the killing of the third part of men will take place. But this is not the meaning. “For the hour and day and month and year” means that the four angels have been prepared unto the hour, plus the day, plus the month, plus the year—altogether thirteen months, one day, and one hour—for the killing of men. The killing will firstly last one hour, then one day, then one month, and then one year. It will be so severe and terrifying that, firstly, people will not expect it to last more than an hour. When, after an hour, it has not ended, they will expect it to last only for a day. After that, they will expect that surely it will not be prolonged more than a month. After a month transpires, then people will think that it could only continue for a year. Altogether, the time of this horrible killing will be thirteen months, one day, and one hour.
During World War II many of us suffered. When that war broke out on July 7, 1937, I was traveling in China. The next morning I read an express edition of the newspaper which said that war had broken out the previous night. From that time on, we began to suffer the war, firstly for four years. Then came the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the United States entered the war. As our suffering continued, we expected the war to end at any time. The news came again and again that after a certain period of time the war would probably end, but it still dragged on and we kept counting the days. During the war, I was imprisoned by the invading army for thirty days. As I suffered there in prison, I not only counted the days but also the hours, expecting surely that the next hour would see my release. After thirty days I was released, but I still had no freedom, and we continued to count the days. From this experience we can understand the meaning of “the hour and day and month and year” in 9:15. When the dreadful killing mentioned in chapter nine comes upon man, people will expect the slaughter to cease in an hour, then in a day, then in a month, and then in a year. The four angels that are bound by the river Euphrates are prepared to kill man for such a long period of time—for an hour, a day, a month, and a year.
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