“When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” … for the horror of what was coming. The “plagues of Egypt,” leading up the final overthrow of the regime of Jerusalem. Chapters of 8-10 follow the final stages in the lead up to the destruction of Jerusalem. Here there is a strong correlation between the Revelation and the teachings of Jesus in his final days.
First of all, Jerusalem is likened to the pagan nations. This is because many of the Jews in that day refused to love their enemies. They expected and called for the destruction of their enemies. This contrasted with the nature of God, who came to give his life for his enemies. That is, the nation of Israel failed to bear God’s image. They had taken on the image of paganism, which is violence and hatred towards others, and the destruction of others.
Throughout his teachings, Jesus compared Israel to their enemies.
They were worse than Sodom and Nineveh. They were more wicked than Tyre and Sidon. They had become Gog and Magog.
Gog and Magog were an apocalyptic symbol in those days for the enemies of God, or the enemies of Israel. If we look at the Aramaic translation of Isaiah, for example, Assyria, which attacked Jerusalem in the days of king Hezekiah, was transliterated as “Gog and Magog.” The Assyrian army was thrown into Gehenna, the valley of fire outside of Jerusalem. When Jesus said to the Jews of his time that they were in danger of Gehenna, he was calling them Gog and Magog, the enemies of God, because they refused his teachings on enemy love from the Sermon on the Mount. They refused his Messianic ministry and wanted a king that would destroy their enemies.
So, Revelation calls Jerusalem Sodom and Egypt, “where they crucified the Lord.” We will also see in these notes that the “Babylon” and “Gog and Magog” of Revelation refer to Jerusalem.
This is in keeping with all the Old Testament Prophets, who said Israel had become worse than their neighbours, than the nations they hated. This is what hatred does to us: it makes us worse than the thing we hate. This is why Revelation chapters 8-10 depict Israel’s fall by the plagues of Egypt. They had become Egypt. As they had their Exodus from Egypt of old, the true believers, the bride of Christ, were having their Exodus from the beastly Jerusalem.
The other thing that Jesus said about Jerusalem in his time, is that it had become the place of every foul spirit. In describing its fall, Jesus said that though God had blessed the nation, the former demons had returned with more powerful demons and repossessed them.
The last state of the nation had become far worse than the beginning. These are the demons that Revelation depicts, filling the hearts of the people. This doesn’t mean they could blame demons for this. It was the state of their hearts that the scriptures were referring to.
The wormwood and locusts speak of the bitterness and hatred that filled the people, and the destruction that this led them to. They place poison in human hearts to destroy, to move us against each other, because we refuse God’s peace and cooperative service in our relationships. The demons are therefore called Apollyon, the demon of destruction. Revelation depicts these things coming from the throne of God, but this means his judgement, his allowing them to happen, so he could cleanse the land for the sake of his people.
But every destroying agent came out of the hearts of the people themselves, not from God. Just like with Pharaoh in Egypt, it was the hardness of their own heart.
These accounts, apart from being symbolic, may also represent actual events in the lead up the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
The description of the locusts and the horses crossing the Euphrates sound like the Roman army. In Joel, the locusts represented the Assyrian army. There are other people who have done more research of the events on those days and are in a better position to comment on correlations between these symbols and actual events at the time. A review of the works of Flavius Josephus may help. The work of my friend Andrew Corbett also gathers a lot of details from the first century, which the text was referring to.
When the text speaks of a third of the people being killed, and a third of the trees being destroyed, it means the terrible numbers of people being killed in plagues and wars, but there was also a symbolic meaning. It shows the way Rome moved, destroying vegetation and trees, using them for scaffolding and catapults and other weaponry to siege and destroy Jerusalem. The land was laid waste, like a desert. But the symbolic use “one third” in Revelation seems to represent the destruction that Rome caused within its wider empire, including the land of Israel. The term is used also in Revelation 12, when Rome, representing satan, destroyed a third of the rulers of the world.
The seven seals of Revelation corresponded to the seven woes of Jesus against Jerusalem, in Matthew 23, as he pronounced the final judgement of God in that generation. The plagues were against the idolatry of that time, the covetousness in the hearts of the people, which caused them to destroy mankind. The idolatry of the pagans was literal, but the idolatry of Jerusalem was in the hearts of the people. Jesus depicts this throughout his teachings, the worship of mammon, because of which they refused to help the poor, the sick, the foreigner. They refused to repent of this idolatry, and of their sexual immorality and of their love of money, violently taking from those they should have been serving. All of this is the worship of self, the nature of the beast.
Revelation 10 shows the angel who stands on the land and on the sea, representing both Israel and the pagan world, then ruled by Rome. Again, the angel states that there would be no more delay.
This was to be fulfilled in John’s day. The mystery of God would be complete, as spoken of by the Prophets. This mystery is about God’s purposes in both judging Israel and fulfilling his promises concerning the resurrection and new creation. In this is fulfilled the whole of the book of Ezekiel, which spoke of God’s judgement upon Israel and of the new creation.
John was told not to record what the “seven thunders” said. These were on the little scroll, which described the result of the seventh trumpet, of the seventh seal from the original larger scroll, first opened by the Lamb. This was the final part of the judgement of God against Jerusalem. I don’t know why John was told not to record what the seven thunders said. It wasn’t because there would be a delay in the fulfilment. The angel said there would be no more delay, meaning it was about to be fulfilled when John wrote.
Then John was told to eat the little scroll in the hand of the seventh angel. So, John ate it and it was sweet to the taste, but bitter in the stomach. This was also what Jeremiah and Ezekiel were told to do.
They also ate the scroll and found the same experience. And for both, the subject on the scroll was the judgement on Jerusalem. So, the vision to John was the same, as John was speaking as a Hebrew prophet concerning Israel. The scroll was concerning the judgement on Jerusalem.
Revelation 11 begins to speak of Jerusalem and its temple being encircled by the Roman army. Then the Revelation introduces the beast, which was Nero and the Roman Empire. This is the subject of Revelation 12-13. Then, from chapter 14 the Revelation begins to depict the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. These events were the result of the seventh trumpet, blown by the seventh angel, releasing the seven thunders from the little scroll in the seventh angel’s hand.
At the end of Revelation 10, John was told he will yet prophecy concerning many peoples, nations, languages and kings. This is the result of the fall of Jerusalem, the gospel going to the nations, the new creation promises being fulfilled. This is the defeat of satan that Revelation spoke of. Satan had the world in captivity through the condemnation of the law ruling in our hearts, setting us against each other. This rule of satan over the nations was broken by the cross of Christ, and in the final battle between Jerusalem and the early church, in which satan killed the Christ and then tried to kill his followers. This is the battle that Revelation depicts satan as losing.