Life-Study of Revelationby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
When I was young, I was told that there were at least one hundred different expositions of the book of Revelation. Later I spent a great deal of time to study this book. I eventually came to realize that the Bible cannot be understood simply by studying its language. If we would understand the Scriptures, we also need experience.
Let us consider, for example, the matter of the pillars in 1 Kings 7:13-21. In message eighty-three of the Life-study of Genesis, I pointed out that the height of each of the two pillars, which was eighteen cubits, was half of three complete units of twelve cubits. I did not get this point from a commentary. Rather, I read various versions of the Bible in order to obtain the correct understanding of the language concerning all the points related to the building of the pillars. Second Chronicles 3:15 says that the height of the pillars was a total of thirty-five cubits. Immediately I asked myself, “Why does 1 Kings 7:15 say that the height of each pillar was eighteen cubits, but 2 Chronicles 3:15 says that the height of both was thirty-five cubits?” I could immediately see that this thirty-five cubits was the total height of both pillars. This confirms my saying that eighteen cubits was half of three complete units. But the total should have been thirty-six. What about the missing cubit? By a note in one version I was helped to conclude that the joint in the capitals no doubt accounts for the missing cubit. The whole pillar measured eighteen cubits, but half a cubit was lost in the joint between the pillar and the capital. In order to gain the proper understanding, we need to study various versions of the Bible. But the versions of the Bible do not give us the significance in life. In order to know this, we must have experience. Only by experience could I apprehend that eighteen cubits indicate half of three complete units and that we need others to match us.
With this in mind, let us now come to the book of Revelation. We all agree that Revelation is a book of prophecy. But to understand prophecy there is still the need of experience. The prophecies do not simply teach objective doctrines. The Bible is a book of life. Everything in the Bible, whether it is a narrative, a history, a type, a shadow, a prophecy, or a plain word, must be related to life. If we lack the experience in life, we shall be unable to apprehend the significance in life of many portions of the Word. In order to understand Revelation, we need the experiences in life.
In this message I am burdened to share more concerning the universal bright woman. Some of the expositions of the book of Revelation say that this woman is Israel. Of course, they have a ground to say this. When Brother Nee was very young, in the years before 1933, he conducted a study of this book. At that time, he followed the concept that the woman in chapter twelve was Israel. However, afterward he saw something further—that this woman signifies God’s chosen people (see The Glorious Church, pp. 73-77). As I have pointed out, this woman is neither Mary, the mother of Jesus, nor merely the children of Israel. She is the totality of God’s people. When I was in Taiwan, I did not use the expression “the totality of God’s people.” This utterance has come to me during this last period of my ministry. Some may ask, “How can you prove that this woman is the totality of God’s people?” I have said that in order to understand this book we must check whether our apprehension of it corresponds to our life experience. Is there any confirmation from our life experience of a particular interpretation? If we would rightly interpret the woman in Revelation 12, we must check any proposed interpretation with our experience in life.
To say that this woman is Mary, the mother of Jesus, is altogether too objective and has nothing to do with our experience. If this is the case, then the entire twelfth chapter of Revelation is not for us. It is merely an account of a woman named Mary who brought forth Jesus and later suffered persecution. If this were the proper understanding of the woman in chapter twelve, then, as far as we are concerned, this chapter has no purpose. What would be the point of its being included in the book of Revelation? This interpretation is groundless and, according to the experience of life, has no standing whatever. It is somewhat an improvement to say that this woman is Israel. But even if she were merely Israel, she would not be related to us, for this chapter would then simply be a record of Satan’s fighting against the children of Israel.
I would remind you that the book of Revelation, composed of twenty-two chapters, is divided into two main sections of eleven chapters each. The first section gives a complete sketch of the events from Christ’s ascension unto eternity. In chapter four we see the scene in heaven after the ascension of Christ, and in chapter eleven we see the eternal kingdom. While the first section affords a general sketch, the second section gives the details of some important things and crucial matters which transpire during the period of time between Christ’s ascension and eternity future. At the very beginning of this second section, we have the first of these important and crucial matters—a bright woman opposed by a red dragon. Just as the second section begins with a woman, so at the ending, in chapter twenty-two, we also see a woman. Hence, both the first and last crucial matters are a woman. This is significant.
Who is this woman? If we look at chapter twelve with a narrow view, we may think she is Mary or the nation of Israel. But if we have a broad view which encompasses a wide span, we shall see that she is not Mary or merely the nation of Israel, but the totality of God’s people. If we have a panoramic view, we shall say, “This woman is not Mary or even the nation of Israel. She must be all the people chosen and saved by God for His economy.” Once you have this realization, you will begin to see that the stars indicate the Patriarchs, that the moon under her feet must signify those under the law, and that the sun must represent the church people. Such an understanding fills our entire view and causes us to say, “This woman is certainly a universal woman, including all the people from the Patriarchs to the last member of Christ’s Body.” This understanding is confirmed by the vision of the woman at the end of Revelation, where we see that the New Jerusalem is the wife of the Lamb (21:9), composed of both the Old Testament saints, represented by the names of the twelve tribes, and the New Testament saints, represented by the names of the twelve Apostles.
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