Thoughts on Gospel Doctrine Lesson 46

5:1 I saw in the right hand. The book with seven seals is in Heavenly Father's right hand, which is the hand "associated with righteousness (Ps. 48:10; Isa. 41:10), power (Ex. 15:6, 12; Ps. 89:13), and covenant making (Isa. 62:8). With his right hand, the Lord executes justice (3 Ne. 29:4, 9), dispenses the law (Deut. 33:2), and saves his people (Ps. 17:7; 20:6) with his right hand he created the heavens and the earth (Isa. 48:13)."
him that [sits] on the throne. God the Father.
book. This book "contains the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence" (D&C 77:6). Orson F. Whitney explained: "The book which John saw represented the real history of the world—what the eye of God has seen, what the recording angel has written; and the seven thousand years, corresponding to the seven seals of the Apocalyptic volume, are as seven great days during which Mother Earth will fulfill her mortal mission, laboring six days and resting upon the seventh, her period of sanctification. These seven days do not include the period of our planet's creation and preparation as a dwelling place for man. They are limited to Earth's `temporal existence,' that is, to Time, considered as distinct from Eternity."
written within and on the backside. The technical term for this book is an opistographi, which is a scroll that has writing on both sides. Ezekiel's scroll is similarly described: "I looked, . . . and [the scroll] was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe" (Ezek. 2:9-10). The book in God's right hand overflows with his "revealed will, mysteries, and . . . works" (D&C 77:6).
sealed with seven seals. Each of the seven seals corresponds with one of the seven millennia of the earth's temporal existence. The Lord revealed that "the first seal contains the things of the first thousand years, and the second also of the second thousand years, and so on until the seventh" (D&C 77:7).
A seal is an impression of a signet (a finger ring or similar object with an engraved design) in wax that is designed to fasten and seal a scroll or document. Gottfried Fitzer, a biblical scholar, explains the significance of the seal and how it was used in the ancient Near East. First, kings possessed seals that were unique and not easily duplicated, lest someone attempt to counterfeit the seal and imitate the authority of the king. God's seal was unique, and no one in heaven or on earth, save Christ himself, was permitted to open the seals (5:2-3). Second, "the seal served as a legal protection and guarantee in many ways, especially in relation to property. All objects suitable for sealing could be marked as the property of the owner in this way."8 God owned the book and the seals that sealed it. No other individual, save the Lamb of God, was empowered to open it. Third, the seal proved the identity of its owner. The seal of God, with which the book was sealed, indicated to onlookers and observers the identity of the true King. Fourth, "the holder of the seal is the holder of power and has his place in a duly constituted order. Might and right come together in the seal."9 Christ, by virtue of his worthiness to open the seals, held great power in the cosmos. That is indicated in the statement that Christ "hath prevailed to open the book." Fifth, "the seal was also meant to protect a document against inappropriate or premature disclosure."10 God's sealed book was closed until he revealed its contents through Christ, who opened the seals one at a time (6:1, 3, 5, 7, 9; 8:1), according to the foreordained time schedule of God. And finally, "the seal makes a document legally valid."11 God's sealed book was opened in a legal and official manner: the King, who sat on his throne in the heavenly temple, delivered the sealed book in his right hand to his chief administrator, and hosts of beings stood as witnesses.
5:2 I saw a strong angel . . . proclaiming with a loud voice. The identity of the "strong angel" is not revealed. It may be Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, or any other mighty angel. John later witnesses "a mighty angel" performing sacred work (10:1; 18:1). The angel proclaims with a loud voice so that all the millions in heaven who are witnessing these events will hear him. The expression "loud voice" is used twelve times in Revelation (5:12; 6:10; 7:2, 10; 8:13; 10:3; 12:10; 14:7, 9, 15; 19:17).
Who is worthy to open the book? The strong angel asks the hosts of heaven this question. We learn in Rev. 5:3 and 5 that Jesus Christ is the only one in heaven or on earth who is worthy to open the book. Why? Perhaps because Jesus Christ is the only one qualified to bring about the eternal and infinite atonement for the inhabitants of this world, the history of which is contained in the book to be opened.
5:3 no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth. No individual (angels, or exalted Saints) in heaven, no flesh (mortals) upon the earth, and no disembodied spirit (either righteous or evil) under the earth was permitted to "open the book" or even to "look thereon." See also Philip. 2:10.
5:4 I wept much. John sorrows that no one can open the book.
5:5 one of the elders saith unto me. One of the twenty-four elders interprets for John here and again in 7:13.
Weep not. John is told to "weep not" because there is an individual who is able to open the book.
Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book. In 5:6 Christ is called "Lamb," but here he is called "Lion," a creature hostile and adverse to the Lamb. Christ as the Lamb portrays one who is submissive, as a sacrificial victim who is "brought as a lamb to the slaughter" (Isa. 53:7), or one who condescended to descend below all things. Christ as the Lion depicts one who has power over all creatures and is a majestic, fearless king (as a lion is "king of the beasts") who possesses great strength. In this context the title is especially appropriate, because just as a lion prevails over other creatures, so Christ "prevailed to open the book" with seven seals (or, according to RSV, Christ "has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals").
Jesus is a member "of the tribe of Juda," whose emblem is the lion (Gen. 49:9). Paul stated that Jesus "sprang out of Juda" (Heb. 7:14), and Christ himself declared, "I am the root and the offspring of David" (22:16). Christ as the "Root" provides spiritual water, nourishment, and life to his people (Isa. 11:1, 10; 53:2; John 15:1-7).
(Donald W. Parry and Jay A. Parry, Understanding the Book of Revelation [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1998], 69.)
Donald W. Parry and Jay A. Parry on the Opening of Four Seals:
John describes the Lamb's opening of the first four seals, which contain brief information about the first four thousand years of the earth's "temporal existence" (D&C 77:6). Comparatively little attention is given in Revelation to these and the fifth seal, for only eleven verses are dedicated to them. One commentator points out that John's entire revelation "from beginning to end takes 317 verses, and yet John spends only eleven verses (or about 3.5 percent) on the first five thousand years of history."
At the opening of each seal, one of the four beasts invites John to "come and see." John responds with "and I saw," "and I beheld," "and I looked," followed by a brief description of what he sees: four horses and their riders. Each horse is a different color (white, red, black, and pale), and each is interpreted symbolically. Three of the four horsemen possess objects: the first has a bow and a crown, the second a sword, and the third a pair of balances. The fourth horseman does not possess an object, but he is named "Death" (the first three horsemen are not named). Each of the four horses, horsemen, and the objects or name attached to them tells us something about the thousand years that each represents.
Beyond what is mentioned in Rev. 6:1-8, we know very little about the four horsemen, who travel in silence, and their horses. We do not know their origin or their direction of travel. Do they come from heaven or hell?2 Are they destroying angels from God executing his divine plan to destroy the wicked, or are they evil men from hell who are asserting their agency to kill and cause wars and famines upon the earth? Are the four horsemen related to the four destroying angels described in Revelation 7? Do they correspond in some manner with the four horses of Zech. 1:8-11; 6:2 Do the four horsemen and their horses pertain only to the first four thousand years, or are they also types of things to come?
Joseph Smith taught, "John saw beasts that had to do with things on the earth, but not in past ages. The beasts which John saw had to devour the inhabitants of the earth in days to come [quotes Rev. 6:1-4]." 3 This statement suggests that the activities of the four horses and horsemen, representing the first four thousand years, also typify wars, famines, and tribulations yet to come upon the earth.
The number four has symbolic importance in Revelation, where we read about the four living creatures (4:6, 8; 5:6, 8, 14), the four horses, and the four horsemen who correspond with the first four seals (announced by the four beasts; 6:1-8), the "four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth" (7:1), and the "four quarters of the earth" (20:8).
The first seals are linked together into a unified group of four (four seals, four horses, four horsemen, four statements from four beasts), while the final three seals belong to a second group. This pattern of one group of four and one group of three parallels that pattern set forth for the seven trumpets (Rev. 8-9) and the seven vials (Rev. 16).
According to one scholar, the number four "has its origin in the orientation to four sides which, as before, behind and to right and left, are suggested by man's physical constitution. The four corners of heaven or the world embrace the whole of man's horizon."4 The following table sets forth the structure of Rev. 6:1-8.
(Donald W. Parry and Jay A. Parry, Understanding the Book of Revelation [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1998], .)
Richard D. Draper on the Seven Seals and the Four Horsemen:
As the songs of adoration cease, the Lamb begins the task only he can do. One by one he breaks the seven seals. As he does so, John beholds in vision the dramatic events associated with them. Each seal attached to the scroll of destiny symbolizes a set portion of earth's history: "The first seal contains the things of the first thousand years, and the second also of the second thousand years, and so on until the seventh" (D&C 77:7). According to the Doctrine and Covenants, the seals will be opened in connection with the Second Coming:
Then shall the first angel again sound his trump in the ears of all living, and reveal the secret acts of men, and the mighty works of God in the first thousand years. And then shall the second angel sound his trump, and reveal the secret acts of men, and the thoughts and intents of their hearts, and the mighty works of God in the second thousand years—and so on, until the seventh angel shall sound his trump; and he shall stand forth upon the land and upon the sea, and swear in the name of him who sitteth upon the throne, that there shall be time no longer; and Satan shall be bound (88:108-110).
The breaking of the seals does not open any portion of the document. The scroll will not open until the seventh seal breaks. All must wait until then for the will of God to be fully executed. Before that day, evil will rule. But judgment, fully fueled bythe indignation and wrath of God, will be executed when the seventh seal is broken.
John uses horses and their riders to symbolize the events of the first four thousand years. The symbolism is found in the Old Testament. In Revelation it is modified for a purpose, but it definitely echoes the two visions of Zechariah, one of four horsemen, the other of four chariots (see 1:8-11; 6:1- 8). However, in Zechariah's vision both sets were but patrol squads whose purpose was to report on the peaceful condition upon the earth. Like John's, the horses Zechariah saw were of different colors, but they corresponded to the different winds or points of the compass. In Revelation the four colors indicate a significant aspect of each millennium: conquest (white), bloodshed and war (red), plague and famine (black), and death (pale or livid)...
John associates a major event with the breaking of each seal. He catches the major characteristic of each millennium through the fifth. When he arrives at the sixth, his pace slows, and he gives more detail. He notes not just one event, but seven. It seems fitting that his rapid narrative should slow at this point. This is the moment just before the final millennium begins—the preparation period for it. It is the time when the Lord will reach out in terrible majesty and shake the very foundations of the earth in an attempt to break the hard-heartedness of the race. The Lord explained his purpose in these words:
Hearken, O ye nations of the earth, and hear the words of that God who made you. O, ye nations of the earth, how often would I have gathered you together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not! How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my servants, and by the ministering of angels, and by mine own voice, and by the voice of thunderings, and by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes, and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind, and by the great sound of a trump, and by the voice of judgment, and by the voice of mercy all the day long, and by the voice of glory and honor and the riches of eternal life, and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would not! Behold, the day has come, when the cup of the wrath of mine indignation is full (D&C 43:23-26).
This scripture suggests that the Lord will try everything from promises to punishments to bring people to him. But once all is tried, the retribution will follow: he "would have saved" them, but now they are left to his anger. Little wonder that the wicked will cry "to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev. 6:16, KJV).
What transpires in the sixth seal is a severe warning, but it is not the end. It is God's attempt to get men to repent and come to him. Looking at this same time period, an angel prophesied to Nephi saying,
Wo be unto the Gentiles if it so be that they harden their hearts against the Lamb of God. For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other—either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil, of which I have spoken (1 Ne. 14:6-7).
Therefore, the Lord will use the sixth seal to call people to repentance in ways that will shake the very foundations of the earth.
(Richard D. Draper, Opening the Seven Seals: The Visions of John the Revelator [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 74.)
Donald W. Parry and Jay A. Parry on the Lord's Thousand-year Reign:
Having seen the defeat and destruction of the beast, the false prophet, and the armies of the wicked, John now sees the defeat and imprisonment of their master, Satan. An angel comes from heaven, captures the devil, and throws him into a bottomless pit, where he must remain for a thousand years. The martyrs for Christ, who stood firm in the face of all the persecution and trouble brought by the beast and his followers, will be called forth in the first resurrection and given power to reign with Christ on earth. But those who joined the beast will have to wait the thousand years for the blessing of resurrection...
20:1 an angel come down [out of] heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit. In 9:1 an angel is given the key to the bottomless pit. (This follows the reading given by the Joseph Smith Translation; the king James Version incorrectly has Satan receiving the key.) Here that angel returns to capture the devil. We do not know the identity of this angel, but obviously it is a being of great power. Perhaps it is Michael, who has a special commission to fight and defeat Satan (D&C 88:112-15). 3 We do know that Michael is the seventh angel, who is given the privilege of proclaiming the victory of the Lamb (D&C 88:106-7, 112). Ultimately, of course, it is Christ who holds the key of hell and who gives the key to whomever he chooses to accomplish his work. See commentary on 9:1.
a great chain in his hand. Not only will the devil be cast into prison but he will be bound there by a chain, suggesting shackles and reemphasizing that there is no hope of his escape.
20:2 he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him. This verse gives us in one place the four names or titles John calls the adversary, making certain that we know the identity of our enemy throughout the revelation: the dragon, the serpent, the devil, and Satan. It is important to note that it is the angel who captures and binds the devil, not the inhabitants of earth, but he remains bound because the people refuse to hearken to him. As Nephi taught, "Because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power; wherefore, he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; for he hath no power over the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness, and the Holy One of Israel reigneth" (1 Ne. 22:26).
a thousand years. During the Millennium, which will last a thousand years, "Satan shall not have power to tempt any man" (D&C 101:28).
Elder Eldred G. Smith said: "Many other scriptures refer to the thousand years of wonderful, glorious conditions on the earth, because Lucifer, Satan, the devil, will be bound. The scriptures say he will be `bound with a chain' and `put into a bottomless pit.' To me, these are symbolical terms. I cannot quite conceive of steel chains or pits that could hold Satan. The only power I know of that will bind Satan, or render him powerless, is righteous living.
"The war that started in heaven has not ended yet and shall not end until everyone has proved the extent of his ability to resist Satan. Even Jesus Christ had to bind Satan when he was tempted in the wilderness. Satan had no power over him, because Jesus resisted his temptations. Then the record says, `. . . he departed from him for a season.' (Luke 4:13.) When you have resisted a temptation until it no longer becomes a temptation, then to that extent, Satan has lost his power over you, and as long as you do not yield to him, to that degree he is bound."4
20:3 cast him into the bottomless pit. The bottomless pit is another name for outer darkness.5 See commentary on 9:1.
set a seal upon him. Other versions of the Bible agree that it was the pit that was sealed, rather than the devil himself (see LB, RSV, GNB, NIV, JB, NEB). To ensure that the devil could not escape, the pit that is his prison will be sealed shut by the power of God.
that he should deceive the nations no more. We see in 12:9 that Satan's mission on the earth is to deceive the people and the nations of the world. But when he is captured, bound with chains, and cast into the pit, he will no longer be able to deceive the people of the earth.
till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. After the thousand-year period has expired, Satan will be loosed to turn again to his work of deception and destruction—but only for a "little season." How long will the little season last?
President Joseph Fielding Smith reasoned that it might last a full one thousand years: "Our Savior came in the meridian of time. That dispensation is called the dispensation of the meridian of time. This means that it was about half way from the beginning of `time' to the end of `time.' Anyone who desires can figure it for himself that our Lord came about 4,000 years from the time of the fall. The millennium is to come some time following the 2,000 years after his coming. Then there is to be the millennium for 1,000 years, and following that a `little season,' the length of which is not revealed, but which may bring `time' to its end about 8,000 years from the beginning."6
Latter-day revelation gives additional details about what will transpire during that "little season": "Satan shall be bound, that old serpent, who is called the devil, and shall not be loosed for the space of a thousand years. And then he shall be loosed for a little season, that he may gather together his armies. And Michael, the seventh angel, even the archangel, shall gather together his armies, even the hosts of heaven. And the devil shall gather together his armies; even the hosts of hell, and shall come up to battle against Michael and his armies. And then cometh the battle of the great God; and the devil and his armies shall be cast away into their own place, that they shall not have power over the saints any more at all. For Michael shall fight their battles, and shall overcome him who seeketh the throne of him who sitteth upon the throne, even the Lamb" (D&C 88:110-15).
20:4 thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them. The kings of the earth, who once occupied the world's thrones, joined with the beast to fight against the kingdom of Christ. By the power of Christ they will be defeated and slain (19:21). Then those who stood firm in righteousness will be blessed to become kings themselves, granted thrones to reign with Christ throughout the Millennium.
There apparently is a hierarchy of judgment in the time of the Millennium. First is Christ himself, who rules over all and judges all (John 5:22; Acts 10:42; Morm. 3:20). Serving under him, the Twelve Apostles from the meridian dispensation will judge the house of Israel (Matt. 19:28). The house of Israel in this context apparently means those who are true Israel, those who are true to their covenants, as Joseph Smith learned by revelation: "Mine apostles, the Twelve which were with me in my ministry at Jerusalem, shall stand at my right hand at the day of my coming in a pillar of fire, being clothed with robes of righteousness, with crowns upon their heads, in glory even as I am, to judge the whole house of Israel, even as many as have loved me and kept my commandments, and none else" (D&C 29:12). John the Revelator, of course, is one of the Twelve who will so judge.
In addition, the Nephite twelve are given the charge to judge the seed of Lehi (1 Ne. 12:9-10; 3 Ne. 27:27; Morm. 3:19). The principle would suggest that there are other divinely appointed leaders of other peoples who also will judge those they serve. Missionaries will be given the responsibility to stand in judgment on those who reject them (D&C 75:20-22). And finally, all Saints shall "judge the world" (1 Cor. 6:2).
Daniel had a similar vision of the judgment: "I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days [Adam] did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. . . . I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom" (Dan. 7:9-10, 21-22).
the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God. The martyrs for Christ will reign with Christ: "And whoso layeth down his life in my cause, for my name's sake, shall find it again, even life eternal" (D&C 98:13). See commentary on 6:9.
which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image. See commentary on 13:15.
neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands. See commentary on 13:16.
they lived. As we see in 13:15, the righteous are slain for refusing to worship the beast or to receive his mark. The beast gained a temporary victory. But here they rise in the resurrection to live forevermore and to reign victorious with their King.
and reigned with Christ a thousand years. During the thousand years of the Millennium, Christ "will reign personally upon the earth" (Article of Faith 10). With him will reign the martyrs and other righteous people who resisted the great pressure to worship the beast and who were raised up in the first resurrection. "In mine own due time will I come upon the earth in judgment, and my people shall be redeemed and shall reign with me on earth. For the great Millennium, of which I have spoken by the mouth of my servants, shall come" (D&C 43:29-30).
20:5 the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. The righteous are resurrected at the coming of the Lord—they were dead but now live again, like their Master (2:8). But the wicked must wait until after the Millennium. Their resurrection, with their judgment, is described in 20:12-13.
This is the first resurrection. The first and second resurrections are described in some detail in the Doctrine and Covenants: "The curtain of heaven [shall] be unfolded, as a scroll is unfolded after it is rolled up, and the face of the Lord shall be unveiled;
"And the saints that are upon the earth, who are alive, shall be quickened and be caught up to meet him.
"And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven—
"They are Christ's, the first fruits, they who shall descend with him first, and they who are on the earth and in their graves, who are first caught up to meet him; and all this by the voice of the sounding of the trump of the angel of God.
"And after this another angel shall sound, which is the second trump; and then cometh the redemption of those who are Christ's at his coming; who have received their part in that prison which is prepared for them, that they might receive the gospel, and be judged according to men in the flesh.
"And again, another trump shall sound, which is the third trump; and then come the spirits of men who are to be judged, and are found under condemnation;
"And these are the rest of the dead; and they live not again until the thousand years are ended, neither again, until the end of the earth.
"And another trump shall sound, which is the fourth trump, saying: There are found among those who are to remain until that great and last day, even the end, who shall remain filthy still" (D&C 88:95-102).
20:6 Blessed and holy [are they who have] part in the first resurrection. This passage is another of the beatitudes found in Revelation (see Appendix 5). Those who are blessed to rise first are blessed indeed, for spirits look upon "the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage" (D&C 138:50). They are further blessed because they are victors over the second death; they are made "priests of God and of Christ," and they are chosen to "reign with him a thousand years." They are holy because they are righteous and because they are made holy by the glorified bodies they are given in the resurrection (D&C 88:28-29).
on such the second death hath no power. The second death has no power over those of the first resurrection.
(Donald W. Parry and Jay A. Parry, Understanding the Book of Revelation [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1998], 267.)
Richard D. Draper on Revelation 19:
Chapter nineteen continues the tempo of rejoicing begun in chapter eighteen. John hears the multitude of heaven joining in one unified act of praise: "Hallelujah; salvation, and glory, the honor, and power belong to our God" (v. 1, AT). The adoration focuses on those aspects of God revealed through his victory over Babylon. Exaltation, authority, and blessing all originate and end in him. Therefore, all honor is due him.
The heavenly host repeat the theme of the nature of God's judgments; they are both "true and righteous" (v. 2, KJV). The idea behind the term true (Greek alths) is"exact" or "correct" but goes beyond that. The word conveys the idea of legitimacy. fn The term righteous (Greek dikaios) denotes what isin keeping with the sovereignty of God, by which his laws are kept inviolate. Out of this grows the rest of the praise: "He hath judged the great whore . . . and hath avenged the blood of his servants" (v. 2, KJV). Judgment always comes. Though God may delay the time in accordance with his designs, it is inevitable. The world will learn that mercy cannot rob justice.
Mankind can have faith in God because before all else he is just. As the Book of Mormon prophet Alma explained to one of his sons: "The work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God" (Alma 42:13). Further, "there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God" (v. 22). The point is that God gave the law that inflicts the punishment upon those who will not repent. This is totally just. Thus, God "changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God"—that is, a God of justice (Morm. 9:19). John shows that the unrepentant world will learn this lesson too late.
During this act of praise, a voice from the throne speaks. When a voice near the altar spoke in a former vision (see 16:7), the focus was on the witness and suffering of the Saints. In the present vision, the Saints suffer no longer. Thus, from the source of government—for God is on his throne—goes forth the call to praise (see v. 5). All the heavenly host join in the anthem. But just at this moment, a shift occurs as a new cause of rejoicing springs forth...
The multitude thunders its praise: "Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth" (v. 6, KJV). But the cause of joy does not arise solely from God's reign. Rather, it also stems from what develops out of it: the marriage of the Lamb. "Let us be glad and rejoice," sings the host, "and give glory to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come" (v. 7, AT). The day has arrived when, at last, the Church unites forever with her king. The revelation skillfully weaves together three distinct strands from the Old Testament, all of which have been used before in the New Testament and related literature, but never together. The first is the depiction of the reign of God as a great feast (see Isa. 25:6; cf. Mark 2:19; Matt. 22:1-14; 25:1-13; Luke 14:15-24). fn The second is the notion of Israel as the bride of Jehovah (see Hosea 2:5; Isa. 1:21; Jer. 2:2; cf. Eph. 5:32). The final is the use of clean garments as a symbol of sanctity (see Gen. 35:2; Isa. 52:1; 61:10; Zech. 3:4; cf. Rev. 3:4; 6:11; 7:14).
The Church as a bride wears a garment both clean and white. John, so that the reader does not miss the meaning of this important symbol, adds, "The fine linen is the righteous deeds of saints" (v. 8, AT). The Greek word used here, dikaima,focuses on the acts of the righteous rather than on righteousness itself. The Seer's wording in this verse is interesting: "It was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure" (AT). The thrust of the verb (edoth, from didmimeaning "to give") conveys the impression of an impartation, bestowal, or endowment. The active agent is God; he is the bestower of the garment. All righteousness centers in him. Even man's righteous deeds result from God's goodness in that the spirit and light within man, as well as all law, come from God (see D&C 88:11-13).
The harlot's costume and manner, revealed in chapter seventeen, contrast with the glorious dress and demure behavior of the bride. The great whore, gorgeously arrayed in bright and expensive apparel, insisted that her ornamentation, splendor, and pomp are her full due—a direct result of her own works. The bride's attire is different; her apparel reflects her acknowledged dependence on grace.
At this point an angel commands John to write. The injunction marks the importance and seriousness of the communication. The angel dictates the exact words for the Seer to record: "Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (v. 9, KJV). The word called (Greekklsis) in its religious context denotes an invitation to enter the kingdom of God. Not everyone receives such an invitation, only those who have found the grace of the Lord. John does not separate the called from the chosen as the Savior did in Matthew 22:1-14. The context of Revelation suggests that those who are called are also chosen because, based on the angel's insistence that "these are the true sayings of God" (v. 9, KJV), those who are invited receive the blessings. Therefore, the list is exclusive, containing only the names of those who will have eternal life. God says (and his word will not be altered) that only those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lord will enter the state of blessedness.
Interestingly, John makes a distinction between the bride and the guests. The former is in more intimate association with the Lamb than the latter: the bride is wed while the guests sup. If the bride represents the Church, then whom do the guests represent? Apparently, John sees the bride as the institution itself—the Church as a whole, composed of both leaders and members. The guests symbolize individual Saints. The bride, then, represents the true and living church in which God's covenant resides. The guests are those who "are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory; and are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son. Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God" (D&C 76:56-58). Because this verse focuses exclusively on priesthood authority, it must not be assumed that righteous women, the queens and priestesses of the church, are not there. The gathering is of all the justified. In this light, all the righteous are truly the blessed ones.
At this point, John bows in worship before the divine being who proclaimed the words. Just what brought on this deep expression of awe is not stated. Perhaps it was the angel's declaration that the words he spoke were of God. At any rate the Seer receives a sharp rebuke from the angel: "See thou do it not." The angel goes on to explain, "I am thy fellowservant" (v. 10, KJV), one of those who have the testimony of Jesus. He then commands John to "worship God: for the witness which testifies that Jesus is the Christ is the spirit of prophecy" (v. 10, AT). The last phrase of the verse as interpreted in the KJV "for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Greek h gar marturia Isou estin to pneuma ts prophteias) has beenvariously understood. Based on John 15:26 and Joseph Smith, I have taken it as an objective genitive, meaning that the testimony about Jesus is the common ground of all prophecy.
(Richard D. Draper, Opening the Seven Seals: The Visions of John the Revelator [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 206.)
Richard D. Draper on the Men and Women Becoming as God:
With the promise that men and women can truly become as God, the magnificent visions of John close. The sweep of his prophecy has been vast, stretching from the premortal existence to the postmortal worlds. He has placed all history in its cosmic setting and shown its movement to the end of time. But more grand than the historical review stands his powerful and pure testimony of his King and his God, whose power, judgment, and love he has shown none can escape.
The Seer emphasized both the truthfulness of the vision and the assurance of its accomplishment. By testifying of God's responsibility for the message, John legitimized the vision for his readers. God sent "his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done" (v. 6, KJV). Doubly accentuating the point is God's own proclamation that "these sayings are faithful and true" (v. 6, KJV). The law of two witnesses has been satisfied: the angel and the Lamb have testified to John (see v. 16). In turn, John and the Lamb testify to the reader (see vv. 18-20). John even identifies another set of two witnesses: the Spirit and the bride, or the Church (see v. 17).
The vision stands true, established in the mouths of divine and mortal witnesses. Therefore, a curse is laid on any who might tamper with the words of the prophecy (see vv. 18-19). But the real thrust of the epilogue is in the beatitude expressed in verse seven: "Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book" (KJV). In powerful, poetic, and prophetic terms, John has spelled out the full measure of that blessing. Now it is up to his readers to actualize it.
(Richard D. Draper, Opening the Seven Seals: The Visions of John the Revelator [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 244.)
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