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TitleRevelation 15-22
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsDraper, Richard D., and Michael D. Rhodes
EditorHalverson, Taylor
Book TitleNew Testament Minute: Revelation
Number of Volumes27
PublisherScripture Central
CitySpringville, UT
KeywordsBible; New Testament, Revelation (Book)

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Revelation 15: The Seven Angels

The completion of the vision begun in the prior chapter is a scene of victorious celebration. The celebrants are those who have overcome all aspects of Satan’s beast. Instead of a happy conclusion, however, a new vision opens. This one stands in sour contrast to the sweetness of the one just closed: it introduces seven angels with the last plagues to violently strike the earth before the Second Coming. Since the theme at the end of chapter 14 is the Final Judgment—symbolized by the harvest of the wheat fields and vineyards—how can there be more plagues? The answer is that there cannot. What John sees is a flashback that looks carefully at those who constitute the grapes of the earth and who, therefore, feel the fullness of God’s wrath. In chapter 15, the Seer watches as destroying angels prepare to do their work. In this vision, we sense the book of Revelation moving irresistibly toward its climax. The Seer’s view narrows from its perspective in the earlier part of the vision. He does not see the plagues as they affect the whole earth as in chapter 8, nor as they molest humankind in general as in chapter 9. Here only the wicked are in view. Thus, John says of the plagues, “In them is filled up the wrath of God.”

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 15:1–4. The singing Saints of God

Throughout Revelation, the Lord has a pattern of describing the blessed condition of the faithful before presenting the horrors unleashed against the ungodly. His pattern continues here as John briefly sees the peaceful Saints before the bowls of wrath are poured out against the world. The vision centers on the final glorious reward of the victorious Saints as they stand on the sea of glass, having harps to praise God (Revelation 15:2). A sea of glass represented the celestialized earth. The symbol seems to be expanded here to include all those who will inhabit it. Through this imagery, the Lord assures readers that the Saints will come through the fiery trials—which will destroy the wicked—to their eternal glory. Thus, it is appropriate that they sing a victor’s song. Because they, as Israel of old, won through no other weapon than the intervening power of God, the song is appropriately called the song of Moses.

While the song echoes a number of Old Testament doxologies, Revelation has combined them in such a way as to amplify this song’s central message—the Christians’ faithfulness that allows God to exercise His power unto their salvation. The song is sung by those who were delivered from the bruising power of the beast because they prevailed in their testimony of Christ. But John gives the song an even higher quality, noting that it is also composed by the Lamb.

The song focuses on the works and the methods of God, which are amazing to humankind. His deeds amaze people in two ways: in their magnitude and in their unpredictability. At the same time, they consist of two attributes: they are perfectly just and totally proper. Because of these, God is worthy of praise and honor. Though the song is a celebration of victory, it does not mention God’s judgment upon His enemies. Rather, it concentrates on the rightness of His redemptive acts through which “all nations shall come and worship before [him]” (verse 4).

At the time of Jesus’s coming, all will be revealed. All will come to see that His laws were designed to bring them joy and life. Even those who do not receive these blessings will readily admit the fault was their own for three reasons: (1) the Father fully revealed His law, (2) He did His best to bring all people to Him, and (3) He warned them of the consequences of disobedience. Nothing can stop His will from being done. He executes it through the course of history and, in this way, constructs that history. In the end, justice will be done and judgment will have its total sway. All will be fairly and fully judged. Thus, the force of the song emphasizes the impossibility of anyone considering God has been unjust. It also emphasizes the impossibility of them not falling in reverence before Him. In the not-too-distant future and without any coercion whatsoever, “every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess” the greatness of God and glorify His name.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 15:5–8. The seven angels

John again looks and sees the heavenly temple. Once before he has seen this celestial shrine; however, then the vision focused on the ark of the covenant (Revelation 11:19). The covering of the ark was called the mercy seat, and there the mercy of God shone forth. This time it is not the ark that occupies the Seer’s attention but the “tabernacle of the testimony” (15:5). The covenant and the law stand center. Mercy has had its day. The time for the execution of the law has arrived. God has made it very clear that “whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest. And whosoever will harden his heart and will do iniquity, behold, I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest” (Alma 12:34–35).

God designates seven angels to enforce the judgment. Again, the symbolism is important. All heaven combines in this great moment to see that God’s will is fully executed. The ministers of justice are angels of high rank and act under God’s authority as suggested by the golden girdles like that of the Son of Man that they wear (Revelation 1:13). One of the living creatures hands each of the angels of doom a vial or bowl filled with the wrath of God. At the same time, John sees the heavenly temple filled with smoke and the glory of God, “and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled” (15:8).

Thus, John depicts the ominous moment. No one can enter the temple. No blood of expiation can be sprinkled as the high priest had done on the Day of Atonement to bring renewal of the covenant of peace and mercy between Jehovah and Israel. No one will be able to enter and make peace until judgment has had its way. It is worth noting the contrast between the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls. The seals announce the designs of God, the trumpets sound the voice of warning, and the bowls execute His judgment. From this point on, there is neither turning back nor remorse. God has clearly stated, “If ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins” (Leviticus 26:21). Thus, any show of mercy would be wickedness.

This chapter celebrates not the God of mercy but the God of justice. John shows that justice must have its day. “For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands” (Alma 42:24). They who “bring forth evil fruit . . . must be hewn down and cast into fire” (Jacob 6:7). This is “according to the power of justice, for justice cannot be denied” because “on such the plan of redemption could have no power, for the works of justice could not be destroyed, according to the supreme goodness of God” (Revelation 15:10; Alma 12:32).

John has aptly shown that the world has had its chance to repent but refused and forfeited mercy. Now, according to the goodness of God, justice must be satisfied. Chapter 15 makes two points: first, that the plagues are inexorable once they commence, and second, that God executes them both in justice and vengeance upon the world. Though punishment comes without mitigation, it is both just and righteous. Once the plagues begin, they are unstoppable. But what of the Saints? The Lord has both warned and promised them, “Nevertheless, Zion shall escape if she observes to do all things whatsoever, I have commanded her” (Doctrine and Covenants 97:25).

Here the Lord states His conditions: obedience will bring safety and security; disobedience will bring wrath. No unrighteousness is exempt even if found among the Saints. All in the Church must never forget the Lord’s declaration, “Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord. And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord; first among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord” (Doctrine and Covenants 112:24–26). Under the power of judgment, the mask of pretended righteousness will be ripped off and all hypocrisy will be fully revealed. The rebellious Saints, like the rest of the wicked, will not escape the justice of God.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 16: The Seven Bowls

The vision begun in chapter 15 forms the backdrop for that of 16. John has already heard the victorious Saints sing their song of triumph (Revelation 15:2–5). In this way, the Seer assures his readers of their own eventual victory, and that they have nothing to fear from the judgments that John will now disclose to them. Even the plagues they will now hear about are under God’s control. Thus, the assurance found in chapter 15 steels His people against the doom which will grip the ungodly as the vision continues.

Chapter 14 closed with the picture of wrath contained in the symbolism of the harvest of the vintage. Chapter 16 repeats this to emphasize both the intensity and finality of the coming judgment. The Lord chose symbols different from those He used in chapters 8–9 and 14 to depict the same judgments because in those chapters, the purview took in all the earth, God’s people excepted. Judgment was harsh but mitigated in those chapters.

In this chapter, judgment is unmitigated. And its target is precisely two groups of people: “Upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshiped his image” (Revelation 16:2). That the trumpet and bowl plagues look at the same events but from different perspectives is suggested by the fact that they follow the same order. They strike (1) the earth, (2) the sea, (3) the rivers, (4) the sun, (5) the seat of wickedness, (6) the Euphrates, and finally (7) the world. In all of these, we can hear the echoes of God’s plagues against Egypt and see that once more, Jehovah is making bare His mighty arm (Exodus 7–10). These plagues are the precursors of Jehovah’s direct entrance onto the stage of history. The similarity is not coincidental. Moses promised future Israel that as they were faithful, Jehovah “will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee; but will lay them upon all them that hate thee” (Deuteronomy 7:15).

In chapter 16, that promise is realized. The use of the number seven, symbolizing wholeness, completeness, totality, emphasizes both the severity and completeness of the judgment God will bring against those who hate righteousness and seek to harm His people.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 16:1. The bowl plagues begin

From the temple “filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power” comes a voice of command: “Go!” (Revelation 15:8). That word sets in motion the seven angels who will “pour out the bowls of God’s wrath upon the earth” (Revelation 16:1). The term translated “vial” means “bowl,” especially one used in making sacred offerings. In this context, John probably envisioned the bowl used to catch the blood of the sacrificial animal. Here the content of the bowls is not blood but that which will shed blood. It is the wrath of God poured out in its fullness against the wicked.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 16:2–7. The first three bowls

A voice dispatches the first angel to pour out its bowl against the followers of the first beast. These have proudly worn the beast’s mark; now they will feel God’s wrath. Foul and angry sores come upon them, echoing those of the sixth Egyptian plague brought by Moses (Exodus 9:8–12).

The second angel pours out the wrath of God upon the sea while the third directs its vial toward the rivers and springs of waters. The result is that all became as blood and “every living soul died in the sea” (Revelation 16:3). Here the sea, as part of creation, suffers as a result of sin. The Lord has stated, “I, the Lord, in the beginning blessed the waters; but in the last days, by the mouth of my servant John, I cursed the waters. Wherefore, the days will come that no flesh shall be safe upon the waters. And it shall be said in days to come that none is able to go up to the land of Zion upon the waters, but he that is upright in heart” (Doctrine and Covenants 61:14–16).

Note that only the righteous can transverse the waters during this period. All others will die. The Lord incorporates an important symbol in constructing His message. In chapter 13, the first monster arose from the sea. There, the term “sea” denoted a large segment of society out of whose upheavals the beast came. In 17:15 an angel states that the waters “are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” Here, in verse 3, the sea may have a double connotation, indicating the real sea and a spiritually dead society that has abandoned itself to idolatry and immorality. That which fuels the furnace and drives the engines of such a society—acute materialism—is the spirit of idolatry. According to latter-day revelation, this evil spirit “has been growing stronger and stronger, and is now the very mainspring of all corruption and the whole earth groans under the weight of its iniquity” (Doctrine and Covenants 123:7).

The angel of the water, speaking for the other seven angels, proclaims the righteousness of God “because thou hast judged” by this means (Revelation 16:5). John shows that this justice is a cosmic force that acts as a heavenly flame. When this consuming fire contacts something that is not itself just, conflagration occurs. Corruption must fall to the flame. As the Lord has declared, “when the veil of the covering of my temple, in my tabernacle, which hideth the earth shall be taken off, and all flesh shall see me together. And every corruptible thing, both of man, or of the beasts of the field, or of the fowls of the heavens, or of the fish of the sea, that dwells upon all the face of the earth, shall be consumed” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:23–25). However, the bowls of wrath are designed not to destroy the natural order but rather to enlist it in the service of divine recompense. Thus, the whole of creation becomes a means by which the wicked are punished.

Throughout Revelation, God interweaves the principles of sacrifice (altar) and judgment. Thus, echoing the angel of the water, the angel of the altar declares the absolute justice of God in executing His judgments. One hears reverberations of the song of Moses and the Lamb as the angel declares, “True and righteous are thy judgments” (Revelation 15:3–5; 16:7). God’s actions are in absolute accordance with truth and justice. The focus of this vision is that in spite of the overwhelming odds presented by an antagonistic world, God has the ability to deliver His people. Indeed, the first three bowl plagues vindicate the faith of the Saints, whom the world has judged guilty. It is at this point when God begins to answer their pleas expressed in Revelation 6:10. The execution of God’s will, enacted by the pouring out of the first three bowls, ends in the declaration of His justice. The next two bowls focus on the reaction of the inhabitants of the earth to that justice.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 16:8–11. The fourth and fifth bowls

The fourth angel pours out its bowl upon the sun. Scorching heat results, standing in sharp contrast to the condition of the sealed, where they “hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat” (Revelation 7:16). With the righteous there is peace, security, and love; where the beast rules there is anxiety, unrest, and turmoil. But the pressure does not let up. The fifth angel releases the power of its bowl upon the seat of the beast. The result is darkness—not a cool penumbra but a suffocating blanket. Its purpose is to expel light and truth. The result reflects the warning from the Almighty: “The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart: And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee” (Deuteronomy 28:28–29).

Now has come the time when “all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:91). This is the day of the locusts, destructive forces associated with darkness, heat, and fire (Revelation 9:3–12). As darkness swallows the kingdom of the first beast, the whole movement underscores one theme: finality.

The core of the Seer’s message centers on humans’ reactions to the plagues. The people recognize God as the One who controls the plagues, and they curse Him because of the anguish He has unleashed against them, but they do not repent (9:20–21). Instead, they blaspheme their maker. This point is significant. Before, only the beast has spoken blasphemy, but in this chapter, it is men who thrice revile God (16:9, 11, 21). John seems to be showing that these individuals have wholly taken on the character of the beast they serve. The mark of the monster has become indelible not only on their bodies but also on their souls.

The result of the fifth plague is darkness across Satan’s kingdom. The imagery emphasizes Satan’s growing inability to control those institutions that were once under his command. Though they have been effective in supporting his agenda in suppressing God’s word and the rights of his people, these institutions have also become more like him: rebellious. As history has moved forward, they have grown more independent. Now these entities follow their own evil agenda and no longer foster his. His house, at last, is becoming one divided and thus is ready to fall.

Lucifer prepared the way for his own ruin from the beginning. In the premortal existence, he partook of a most toxic poison (pride), which over time twisted his once-glorious soul—a son of the morning—into a horror and corruption. Little wonder, then, that Satan uses pride to his benefit. Because pride is a major stone in the foundation of Satan’s kingdom and because its competitive nature produces little or no cohesion, it can bear but little weight. In the last days when pressure mounts against him, the evil one will find that his minions will easily turn against him and destroy his empire.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelations 16:12–16. The sixth bowl

As the angel pours out the sixth bowl, the effect excites into greater motion the three great world antagonists: the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. This is the moment when Satan and those earthly institutions under his control, directed by the philosophy or theology that drives them, begin to make their last move. Satan can do this because God has lifted all restraining influences. The nature of the symbols used in this chapter, as in others, suggests they reflect actual if not specific conditions.

Bizarre weather patterns, scorching heat, large rivers drying up, famine, and plague reveal nature itself working with God in His recompense upon rampant wickedness. The wickedness of this time mirrors the unrighteous conditions that existed just before the Flood, when “the wickedness of men had become great in the earth; and every man was lifted up in the imagination of the thoughts of his heart, being only evil continually” (Moses 8:22).

The final war that results from this loosening grows out of a great delusion. The dragon, the beast, and the false prophet spin lies into webs that make nations captive. The the triumvirates’ satanically inspired philosophy are symbolized by unclean, froglike spirits working among world rulers and giving them signs that promise success. That these three originate from the unholy triumvirate suggests the deceptive nature of their propaganda. John was concerned about the false spirits that were at work in the Church in his day and that would also attack the Church in the latter days.

Even now, a spirit of antichrist neither denies nor fights against Jesus but promotes an untrue picture of Him. Among the untruths being promulgated in these last days is the invention of a tolerant, nonjudgmental, coddling Jesus who demands nothing and accepts everything. The third beast’s propaganda is not directed at the world alone. He works within God’s kingdom to deceive the Saints to whatever degree possible. For that reason, the Lord clearly warned those living in the last days that “there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are elect according to the covenant” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:22). The word “very” here should not be taken adverbially to denote the top portion of a group but rather in the sense of “truly” or “actually.” All will be put to the test, and the trials and tribulations will be such that even the most spiritual will be tried to the utmost.

From the visions he recorded in chapter 12 on, John had watched the dragon and his beasts in the act of working their lies. Filth had already spewed from their mouths: from the dragon came a river of lies, from the beast came blasphemies, and from the false prophet came seductive propaganda which enticed the world to follow the ways of the beast (Revelation 12:15; 13:5, 14). In the last days all three combine and send forth their powerful and seductive cant. Their purpose is to gather the forces of evil for the purpose of annihilating the good. Thus, the object of the unclean spirits is to muster the forces of the kings of the earth “to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (16:14). Through the machinations of these malignant spirits, nations will be seized with a passion for war. But the battle will be God’s, for this is the great day when He will reckon with the wicked nations of the world. John’s vision goes beyond nationalistic limits as he views the entire Mediterranean area moved to battle. John depicts nothing less than the final acts that will end the telestial world, an end caused by the abrupt coming of Christ Himself.

Just as tension reaches its apex in the story, the Savior inserts a warning. Echoing Matthew 24:42–46, He speaks to His readers directly, reminding them that He will come as a thief in the night and that they must therefore be constantly prepared. Though the interruption is a bit jarring, the warning just at this point is very appropriate. As the forces of the dragon gather, the crises will not bypass the Saints. They must respond to the moment with faith, with constant alertness, and with total preparation. Having recorded the warning, John returns to the narrative. Powers operate that will tear the designs of these evil beings apart. The result of the fifth plague has already loosened the dragon’s grasp on his own kingdom. When he finally loses all control, his army will be the means by which he will lose his entire worldly empire.

John calls the place of gathering Armageddon. John states that this is a Greek transliteration of a Hebrew word, but he does not supply the word. Many feel it should be “har-magedon,” meaning “the mount of Megiddo.” If that is the case, then the reference is to an ancient fortress that guarded one of the major highways going through the Jezreel Valley. Megiddo was the site for a number of famous battles in Israelite history. However, we find no reference to a Mount Megiddo in any ancient writing. Scriptural references abound for Megiddo and its three small towns, but there is not a whisper about a mount with the name Megiddo. In John’s day, the site of the city would have been little more than seventy feet above the plain. That hardly qualifies it to be a mountain.

Whatever the meaning behind John’s word, the idea found in verses 13–14 and 16 conforms to the long-held belief among Jews and Christians that a final, cosmic confrontation between the forces of good and evil will occur. That battle marks the Day of Judgment. It is also clear that as with his reference to other names, John’s intent is symbolic. The last war does not end in Northern Israel but in Jerusalem. Zechariah connects Jerusalem and Megiddo in this context (Zechariah 12:10–11). There is a reason Jerusalem will be highly involved in the final confrontation. Jerusalem will be the place where “the mountain of the Lord’s house,” one of His temples, will stand. That holy edifice could easily be the draw. The last great battle is essentially religious: one ideology and theology pitted against another. To prove his power and supremacy, the beast must eventually destroy “the mountain of the Lord’s House,” an important seat of God’s power on earth.

The shadow that overspreads all this is the seductress Babylon. She makes her appearance here for the first time in the book. Though she gets only a brief cameo, John lets the reader know she is the target of God’s anger. The Seer hints that her work underlies the reason for the seven plagues. As we shall see, she is the seductive queen and high priestess who pits her power against that of God, one religious system pitted against another. Since the historical Babylon was destroyed and so thoroughly cursed by God that it would be desolate forever, never to rise again, these verses do not refer to a real historical entity. Rather, God uses the image to represent world powers and world systems driven by a false theology that acts contrary to His teachings and pits His will against nations. The antagonism will result in a battle for supremacy, and the temple will be the trophy—the proof of supreme power—for the side that wins.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 16:17–21. The seventh bowl

With the seventh bowl, a voice resounds from the throne in the temple, declaring, “It is done!” The combination of throne and temple suggests the absolute authority by which God accomplishes His will. He invokes both kingly and priestly authority. With the pouring out of the seventh plague, God finally and fully accomplishes His designs. As John said in Revelation 11:18, the time has come to destroy those who would destroy the earth. The vision here, then, is the destruction of the whole corrupt worldly systems that results from the battle called Armageddon. In vivid language, John describes the power God unleashes against the wicked: thunder, lightning, tumult, and finally an earthquake of unprecedented proportions. “For with you, saith the Lord Almighty, I will rend their kingdoms; I will not only shake the earth, but the starry heavens shall tremble” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:118). In reality, all this is nothing less than the preparation of the earth for its paradisiacal state.

And he shall utter his voice out of Zion, and he shall speak from Jerusalem, and his voice shall be heard among all people; and it shall be a voice as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder, which shall break down the mountains, and the valleys shall not be found. And he shall command the great deep, and it shall be driven back into the north countries, and the islands shall become one land; And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like it was in the days before it was divided. And the Lord, even the Savior, shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh. (Doctrine and Covenants 133:21–25)

The earthquake causes the fall of the cities of the nations: “And the great city was divided into three parts” (Revelation 16:19). The focus appears to be on Babylon, which is divided into thirds, symbolic of the fact she has come under divine wrath that destroys her. Humans have long stood in fear of the power of earthquakes. Here this power, in the service of God, causes the world to rock such that the entire civilization of the dragon falls at the blow. To use another symbol, Babylon herself comes down, her division becoming a mortal wound.

As part of the seventh bowl, John sees one last plague of tremendous proportions. This one is not directed at the nations under the power of spiritual Babylon as was the earthquake. The new threat is directed at the people who inhabit those cities. “And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent [90 pounds]” (verse 21). From the days when Moses brought the plague of hail upon Egypt, hail has served as both the symbol and reality of God’s judgment upon hardened humankind. Through this symbol John describes the pounding power that will bring all humans to their knees.

Sadly, it will not bring penitence. That will take the fury of hellfire and maybe as long as a thousand years. These hardened people can only curse God and wish to die. Even in their agony, however, they use the lie embedded in their blasphemy in an attempt to bring sympathy to themselves and coax others to their cause. They have created a spiritual darkness so deep that now no light can get through. Little wonder the angels declared that God’s judgments against these bitter souls are entirely proper and just.

After being brought three times through the period of judgment, we finally come to their end with God’s declaration, “It is finished!” With those words, all judgment against the world suddenly ceases. The earth dwellers refused to respond to the cry of repentance and have now faced the consequences. Sandwiched between all this symbolic but very graphic material is a warning to the Saints: be continually on guard, get prepared, and stay prepared (verse 15). The Lord has charged His prophets to “prepare the saints for the hour of judgment which is to come; that their souls may escape the wrath of God, the desolation of abomination which awaits the wicked, both in this world and in the world to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:84–85). To the Saints He commands, “Entangle not yourselves in sin, but let your hands be clean, until the Lord comes. For not many days hence and the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man. . . . [For] after your testimonies cometh wrath and indignation upon the people” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:86–88). Chapter 16 shows the fulfillment of that prophecy.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 17: Babylon the Great

The visions John has seen thus far have disclosed the nature both of those who fight against God and of those who come under their influence. It has also revealed the twofold results that happen to both: first, a pervasive and addictive materialism permeates their souls so deeply that repentance is impossible and, second, the punishment justly and truly destroys them. But what was it that led them down the road to addiction and destruction? In the next two chapters God shows John exactly who and what it was.

The perspective John continues to write from is when the future has become the past. He now looks back on events that are more than two millennia into his future. This perspective acts to assure him and his audience of the sureness of the events he records. It underscores the seriousness with which God expects John and his readers to take this message.

The textual unit beginning here runs through chapter 19. The first three verses of chapter 17, in which the angel tells John that he will show him the judgment on the great whore, function as the introduction not just to the vision in chapter 17 but to all those that follow through to the coming of the great King, Christ Jesus, and the destruction of those who oppose Him. The focus of chapter 17 is, however, not on the whore but on her beast. There are two reasons for that focus. First, we cannot fully understand the great whore’s significance and power without knowing the beast’s. Second, it allows us to see what leads up to and finally causes her destruction.

This unit has two unique features. First, this is the only place in Revelation where a detailed interpretive segment is woven into the narrative. Second, we have here the first appearance of an interpreting angel. Though these appearances are a stock feature in other apocalypses, we find but two in Revelation (here and in 21:1–22:10).

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 17:1–3. The woman and the beast

To John, an angel cries, “Come hither, I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore” (Revelation 17:1). With those words, the angel invites John to take a microscopic view of the destruction of the consummate evil “that sitteth upon many waters.” The waters, as John will find out, represent “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” whom the harlot rules (verse 15). Little wonder that the angel calls her great, an adjective denoting quantity not quality. To find her they go into the wilderness. The last time John viewed the wilderness, a different woman was there—the virtuous mother, the pure Church of God. Now upon his return, that woman is gone and in her place sits another “upon a scarlet-coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns” (verse 3). The great woman reeks of prostitution as she sits proudly atop her steed. But the harlot is not the master of the beast; the beast supports and sustains the woman while the woman directs him and seduces humans to honor him.

Some speculate that the immoral woman represents the true Church become apostate through the seduction of the philosophy and propaganda of the dragon. They base this argument on the idea that the harlot and the woman are both in the same place, the wilderness. However, wilderness has a dual symbolism in the scriptures. On the one hand, it denotes a place of discipline and protection where the Lord “made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock” (Psalm 78:52). On the other hand, those who are not His people shall find their habitation “a desolation, dry like the wilderness,” full of wild beasts and the haunt of scavengers (Zephaniah 2:13). Therefore, the wilderness may be the abode of peace, protection, and divine schooling with God’s assistance, or it may be the place of desolation, desertion, and death without Him. The Church dwells in the first place; the whore exists in the second. The wilderness has another aspect: it is here where robbers find safety and can stage their attacks. It is therefore the place most fitting to find the greatest robber of all, Babylon the great.

The close connection between the two women, however, seems deliberate. The harlot with her beast is the reverse image of the woman with the man child. Herein stands an interesting contrast: the Church produces the kingdom of God, a heavenly society, while conversely, the kingdom of the devil sustains Babylon, the degenerate society. Unlike the virtuous woman, the whore has no son. Indeed, one of her more obvious features is her perpetual barrenness. All her glitter and ornamentation is but a mask that really does not hide from those with eyes to see the reality of her barrenness.

John describes the period just before the end time when nearly all the world follows after the whore, committing economic, political, and religious immoralities for both pleasure and gain. By promoting her doctrine, society purchases her favors and, as flatterers, yield to her whims. No class of society is without representation; all have become intoxicated with her lusts. As Isaiah prophesied, “they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink” (Isaiah 29:9). The inebriating wine of materialism and unchastity fills their souls; the liquor of pride and selfishness dissipates them.

At first appearance, the beast that supports the woman appears to be the monster that came up out of the sea. Such is not the case; its color, horns, and heads are the same as the dragon’s, but it is more closely associated with blasphemy. The monster in chapter 13 wore “upon his heads the name of blasphemy” and “opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name,” while this one is “full of the names of blasphemy” (Revelation 13:1, 6; 17:3).

Clearly this beast, the steed of the harlot, is the embodiment of sacrilege. This act is more than merely defiling the name of God. It goes even further by claiming the very attributes of deity, to being deity itself. The special form this blasphemy takes is the claim of savior. But the salvation it promises, epitomized by the whore, is anchored solely in the illusion that one can find happiness and security in iniquity. Ezekiel ties the idea of fornication with economic alliances: Judah “committed fornication with the Egyptians” and “played the whore also with Assyria” and “multiplied thy fornication in the land of Canaan” (Ezekiel 16:26–29). The image John sees, then, indicates that the work of the whore is tying people together in a worldly religio-economic system that unites states and merchants in a system that has spanned the centuries. It is in the last days, however, that it will reach its zenith.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 17:4–6. The great whore

Since God directs His total wrath against the beast rider, it is important to understand what she represents. First and foremost, she reeks with the stench of gross immorality. The Old Testament consistently uses the figure of the harlot to represent spiritual apostasy, the deliberate and willful rebellion against God and His covenants. The harlot drinks from a golden cup filled with abominations and corruption. Her goblet stands in contrast to the golden chalice held by the Levitical high priest and used in the temple for making a wine offering to God.

But this is not the only imitation of holy things John associates with the woman. Her clothing is purple and scarlet. These colors dominate the fabric of the veils and interior of the temple as well as the vestments of the high priest. Further, the high priest wore a miter. Engraved upon a golden plate fastened to it were the words, “Holiness to the Lord,” identifying the priest as the Lord’s own.

The whore also wears a name. It is tattooed on her brow and proclaims her threefold status as “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (Revelation 17:5). Like the high priest, she works for another, but his name is hidden. He is the dragon. Unlike the priest’s relationship with Jehovah, no covenant binds these two. Each is loyal only to itself, and as will be shown, therein lies the fatal weakness of Satan’s kingdom. John paints the picture of a priestess-harlot standing as a counterfeit high priest. The woman, therefore, does not represent institutions or powers; the beast’s heads and horns do that. Instead, the harlot epitomizes a religious philosophical or ethical system through which men are seduced to worship the beast and the dragon. In this guise, she is the second beast (the lamb with two horns) and the false prophet.1 In the guise of the city Babylon, she represents secular societies wherever they have gained dominance.

The word mystery is also associated with her. The term generally denotes the most holy teachings and doctrines of God kept from the profane world. Paul speaks of the Apostles as “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1). Only the power of the Holy Ghost can reveal these mysteries, which remain in the temple and constitute in large measure the mysteries of godliness (1 Nephi 10:19).

The woman represents counterfeit ordinances with their secret oaths, a kind of pseudoworship containing “secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness” (2 Nephi 9:9). These are “the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things” (2 Nephi 26:22). These combinations constitute the “abominations of the earth” (Revelation 17:5). They also form the last part of the harlot’s titles. In the Bible, the term abomination describes that which is so vile it rouses the instant wrath of God. In its worst form it is called the abomination of desolation and is associated with the corruption of the temple. There its presence kindles God’s wrath and causes God’s spirit to withdraw, thus leaving the sanctuary fully exposed to destruction. In self-defense born of a seared conscience, the whore derides and openly persecutes the Church of God. So severe is her hatred that she is satisfied only when she can sate herself on the wine of the Saints’ tears and blood.

John also identifies the woman as Babylon. This ancient city had the reputation of being the first where humans combined against God with the deliberate goal of wresting control from Him. It was where a false theological system fought against the true system (Genesis 11:1–9). In the first and last books of the Bible, Babylon incarnates insatiable corruption in opposition to meekness and righteousness.

Babylon stands in contrast to the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, where the law of God thrives. In this guise, it also represents the main stratum of the corrupt society. Nephi saw the devil establish it among the nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles, and he traced its continual existence into the present.2 That prophet makes it clear, however, that it is composed of more than one entity. He notes that “they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious. . . . And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord (1 Nephi 13:26–27; emphasis added). It would be wrong, therefore, to see spiritual Babylon as only one association either at its inception or today. It symbolizes all leagues that may properly be called Antichrist, and that pervert the right way of the Lord and promote anti-Christian principles and lifestyles.

John’s two motifs make apparent two major aspects of the same phenomenon; the figure of the city portrays secular society, and the figure of the harlot portrays the essence of their souls. Both are found in all the nations of the world. Taken together they symbolize a kind of state-cult that combines with local and national governments to impose its sham religious system upon humankind. Such a system can be either theistic or atheistic. Both together compose the state-church. To her acolytes, the whore serves wine consisting of abominations and filthiness, those ideas and practices that evoke God’s wrath. Partaking of her draught causes people to become mad.

In this passage, the wine of Babylon has intoxicated the nations. Their ability to think rationally is gone, and they have entered into the state of madness compounded by spiritual blindness. A consequence of that insanity and blindness on the part of world leaders will be a growing propensity to make deadly decisions. On the part of the people, it will be an inability to see that they are responsible for all the hellishness that has happened and that there is a way out. Instead, in their insane fury exacerbated by intense pain, they will curse God, try to recruit others to their cause, cling to their idols made by their own hands, and die in their sins.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 17:7–13. The mystery of the beast

The greatness of the woman’s image and power boggles John. Seeing his reaction, the angel gives John a mild rebuke, asking, “Why are you amazed? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and the beast carrying her that has seven heads and ten horns” (Revelation 17:7). The angel’s point is that in spite of the power and horror of the image John saw, he should know that God is still in control. Now, the angel points back to the closed vision to explain its meaning. He uses a set formula that can be expressed, “This is what you saw . . . and this is what it means.”

Note that the angel is summarizing and interpreting the vision but in reverse order from that presented. He does not begin by defining the woman but instead first explains the beast. Only after he has done that does he define the whore. This order is deliberate because it allows him to follow up with the next vision recorded in chapter 18, in which the focus is on the harlot alone. The beast that John saw is not the same beast met in chapter 13. Even so, it still stands as counterfeit to the Lamb of God: “The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit” (verse 8).

This statement stands in contrast to the description of the Savior as “the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come” (1:8). The Savior is the great Jehovah, who exists from everlasting to everlasting; the beast is, at best, only a momentary reality. John’s statement that he “is not” suggests his shadowy nature. He seems to have suffered death, but in reality, he is but momentarily in the abyss, waiting to arise.

Again, a backhanded parallel emerges. This satanically inspired power imitates the resurrecting power of the divine Lamb who died and came back to life. The beast returns to hurl itself in fury against the kingdom of God. This resiliency causes those who “dwell on the earth” to wonder “when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is” (17:8). John can see that the beast is not really dead or gone; it is only hidden. It still pulls the strings and will do so until the day it emerges full force from the abyss and takes more direct action.

The angel tells John that there will be one group of people particularly resistant to the ploys of the beast: those who have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life. Though having their name written premortally in this holy ledger is no guarantee that they will succeed, it does mean that they come into mortality with certain spiritual gifts that will help them. In the premortal realm, these people separated themselves out from the rest by their righteousness. Thus, they readily sense the falseness of the beast and are neither overwhelmed by nor attracted to it. They have an additional layer of power, God’s Spirit, which forces them ever back to God, augments that which is native to them, and makes them almost invulnerable to the beast’s allures.

That cannot be said for those who have not paid the price. Because of their lack of spiritual sensitivity, many of the earth dwellers will fall to the propaganda and power of the beast. The question naturally arises, “If these souls are already under God’s protective care, why do they need to be warned against deception by the beast?” The reason is that God gives them a double boost. His warnings act as a second witness to their own inspiration but also help specify exactly what they need to do to protect themselves and why.

The beast, as viewed in chapter 17, is not a particular political organization but a composite entity that works from a common ideology pitting government and business against true religion. Thus, there is mutual support between the beast, its heads, and its horns. John states, “These have one mind,” which is the mind of the beast, and they “shall give their power and strength unto the beast” so that his perverse theology may be coerced upon all (verse 13). John’s angelic guide begins the interpretation of the heads and horns with an admonition: “And here is the mind which hath wisdom” (verse 9).

The angel seems to be warning readers that the reality behind the symbols is not obvious. The amount of scholarly generated speculation accentuates this; unfortunately, there is no definitive prophetic or scriptural commentary to help decipher this portion of John’s revelation. Though Nephi seems to have seen the historical period covered in this part of Revelation, he focuses only on the great whore. He tells us nothing about the kings or other institutions that support and sustain her. Even so, we can make a few generalities about the beast she rides.

The angel states, “The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth” (verse 9). The allusion to seven hills best fits Rome, which certainly manifested the spirit of the great beast in John’s day. However, Rome itself stands as a symbol of the archetypal Babylon. As the number for completeness, seven not only symbolizes the power exercised by Rome in John’s day but also denotes the transtemporal political powers reaching from John’s day to the present and beyond. The seven heads likely represent a fullness of authority, but an authority that acts both to oppress and to repress God’s people.

That the beast carries blasphemous names suggests that those entities that make it up claim powers that belong exclusively to God: the right to make laws promising salvation and happiness on terms other than those laid down by the Lord. Because of that claim, many earth dwellers will believe that these authorities have the right to move against God’s people and, therefore, not resist their efforts. They, however, will pay for their stupidity, as they become victims of their masters. The condition leaves their overseers free to suck out both their money and lives. Further, it strips them of their ability to repent to the extent that nothing, not even the brutal pounding of the last days, can get them to change.

Affiliating with the people are certain kings, probably representing institutions that would come into being after the period of Roman rule, for John states that they “have received no kingdom as yet” (verse 12). John uses the number ten to describe them, symbolically representing the whole of a part. As applied to the kings, this symbol suggests that they represent all those kingdoms and rulers whom the great whore seduces and who, therefore, adopt her philosophy and manner. Their greatest period of power appears to be in these last days. It is important to note, however, that they do not represent all kingdoms.

The kingdom of God particularly, as John has shown, stands apart. The beast is ever present but in some periods is so shadowy that he seems dead. However, his power in the last days, when he holds the greatest hegemony, will cause many to follow him. At that time, he will be able to make many nations subservient to his will. Taking up his banner, the nations will war against the Messiah. But the time of their rule will be short, for they only “receive power as kings one hour with the beast” (verse 12). Thus, John notes that their kingly authority is derived from another source. Whoever gives the authority can set the limits and strength of that power. Once again, the Seer subtly shows that God controls all. The machinations of both the kings and the beast actually work the Lord’s will to their total frustration. Indeed the Lord will win, “for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings,” unlike the rulers of the earth, who are but pseudokings (verse 14).

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 17:14–18. The fall of the harlot

The prominence of the whore in the drama of the latter days shows that when people cease to worship God, they do not cease to worship. They turn to a false form of religion to establish meaning and direction in life. The whore provides them with a counter to God’s true priests, with false rites in contrast to God’s saving ordinances. Both God and the beast demand much—indeed, everything—but the beast renders nothing in return while the Lord gives all He has. The Seer casts the great evil of the last days in a double form. One is that of the seductive harlot, reveling in the pain and blood of the righteous. The other is that of the great city Babylon, mother of abominations, dominating kingdoms while crushing truth, virtue, and love.

The image of the harlot and the city, taken together, represent the formation of a kind of state religion that is able to impose its will on the people, but it will not last long, for it carries with it the seeds of its own destruction. The dragon with its beasts, due to the effective efforts of the froglike spirits, goad the military complex of Babylon into a great war called Armageddon (Revelation 16:14). From the dragon’s perspective, the war machine has but one objective: the destruction of the Lamb and His people. As a result, a kind of civil war will erupt in the military camps and among the civilians who support it. The outcome will bring down Babylon with all her power.

John makes it clear, despite the apparent chaos, that God designed the whole thing to happen in this way. Earlier scripture is clear that Babylon and all they that fight against Zion will come down and that the Lamb will be behind it, but doesn’t reveal just how. This is the mystery that the angel discloses to John and his readers. God is going to use Babylon’s own muscle, the ten kings, to pull her down. How? By putting it into their hearts to do so. Little do the ten kings know that the reason God inspires their coalition is so that He can use their combined power to topple Babylon.

John had already heard a mighty angel declare that “in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets” (Revelation 10:7; compare Amos 3:7). What he declared was Babylon’s fall, but now comes the stunning and ironic revelation that the kingdom of evil will destroy itself through the means of a civil war. The result will be the inadvertent destruction of the dragon’s own religious economic system. Thus shall the prophecy be fulfilled that states, “Every nation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel, shall be turned one against another, and they shall fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord. And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed and that great whore, who perverteth the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it” (1 Nephi 22:16).

Jesus once told Jewish leaders that “if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand” (Mark 3:24–26). As foreshadowed in Revelation 16:10, now is the moment when the house that Satan built, thus far kept together for millennia, comes apart. As civil war erupts, Satan’s kingdom falls to pieces. Revelation is clear on one major point: the fall happens as a result of divine causation. Though Satan’s house is riddled from the top down with the weakness inherent in wickedness and pride, fear of the dragon coupled with his power has kept it together for millennia.

But in the end, a divinely directed madness will set in that will prevent the dragon from keeping his forces in check. With unbelievable rashness, the mortal leaders of his forces will go berserk and turn their armies one against another. Once again, the cosmos will see the truth that “by the wicked are the wicked punished” (Mormon 4:5). It will also show that sooner or later, the Lord will avenge His people and “destroy them which destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18).

It is during this period that the warning words of John hold true: “Here is the patience and faith of the Saints” (13:10; 14:12). This is the time—as it was with the Saints in John’s own day, waiting, forbidden to take the offensive against the whore, concerned with doing nothing but good works—when the Saints need great faith, patience, courage most. In the end, these attributes will prove to be the very tools of victory. Babylon is alive and well in these last days and testing the Saints’ patience. John’s overriding concern here seems to be to warn the Saints not to make compromises with the world so they will not fall as she does. Jeremiah’s warning to latter-day Israel is particularly appropriate: “Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance; he will render unto her a recompense” 51:6).

The Saints do not fight; they do not need to. The reason is that the enemy cannot get to them. By the time the army gathers, the Lamb will have established places of refuge in “Zion, and in her stakes, and in the Jerusalem” (Doctrine and Covenants 124:36). The “gathering together upon the land of Zion and upon her stakes” will be “for a defense and for a refuge from the storm” that will be “poured out without mixture upon the whole earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 115:6). As we have seen already, the Lamb will be with His Saints on Mount Zion, and “the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord shall be there insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:6; Revelation 14:1). In fact, they will say, “Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:70). It will be at this time that “every man that will not take up his sword against his neighbor must needs flee to Zion for safety,” and they will be “the only people that shall not be at war one with another” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:68–69). Thus, the task of the Saints is to rely on God and continue in the faith unto the end.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 18: The Fall of Babylon the Great

In the preceding chapter, the angel told John that he would show him “the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon the many waters” (Revelation 17:1). Initially, however, the angel devoted only one verse to it (17:16). Instead, his focus fell not just on the woman but also on the beast she rode. His object was to show the relationship and interaction between the beast and the harlot as a means of helping the Seer understand the dynamics behind her fall. The full disclosure of that fall and its consequences, however, had to wait for the next segment of the vision, from 18:1 to 19:4. In those verses we find in detail God’s judgment upon Babylon the great.

The whole of chapter 18 is a declaration made by two angels of authority and the voice of the divine. Verses 2–4 record the message of the first angel. His purpose is to describe the condition of fallen Babylon and the reason she fell. The heavenly voice, quoted in verses 4–20, commands the righteous to flee Babylon, gives the reason why they must flee, reveals the reaction to Babylon’s destruction by those who had made economic league with her, explains the reason for and the justness of her condemnation, and calls for a general celebration over her demise.

The second angel picks up the taunt song again in verses 21–24. Through explanation and visual aid, he reveals the violence with which she will go down to total destruction. The whole ends with a cry of joy and victory. This chapter contains a strong secondary theme: the suddenness of Babylon’s destruction. The angels note that it will come “in a single day” or in “a single hour,” the latter figure used to stress just how quickly God’s vengeance will come upon her (18:8, 10, 17, 19). There will be no prior warning. For those who have drunk of her wine and become blinded therewith, her collapse will come with such unseen speed that there will be no time to prepare or hardly to flee.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 18:1–8. Sins that reach heaven

Chapter 18 fulfills the angel’s promise to John that he would show him “the judgment of the great whore” (Revelation 17:1). The vision of judgment begins as another angel, radiant with power and glory, “descends from heaven” and “the earth was lightened with his glory” (18:1). John’s vision parallels one that Ezekiel had that provides insight. That prophet had seen in vision God abandoning the Jews because of their wickedness, but looking further into their future, he saw a grand restoration in which the glory of the Lord returned to His temple and overspread His people, “and the earth shined with his glory” (Ezekiel 43:2). He heard the voice of the Lord declare to His people that He would “dwell in the midst of them forever” (Ezekiel 43:9). From this we gather that the angel John sees foreshadows the coming of the Lord to His people, in spite of the gloomy nature of his dirge that “Babylon the great is fallen” (Revelation 18:2).

This angel does not exult in the overthrow of the woman but rather celebrates the triumph of the good. God has fully realized His purposes, and therefore, His people at last are going to enjoy liberation from all oppression. This task will be done by history repeating itself. Isaiah knew well what was going to come upon old Babylon and why. She said in her heart, “I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children,” but warned Isaiah, “These two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood” (Isaiah 47:8–9). Her arrogance precludes repentance, and therefore, she will fall. So, too, John understands, shall the modern global colossus symbolized by the term “Babylon” fall and for the same reason. Because of her size, that fall shall be terrible and none will be left unaffected.

One of the great sins of modern Babylon, like that of her sister of old, is that she glorifies herself. Her fault is twofold: boastful arrogance and total faith in her boundless resources. Her words reveal not a whisper of consciousness of a deadly spiritual lack. Her death shall be swift, “in one day,” and full, “she shall be utterly burned with fire” (Revelation 18:8). Her fate is significant. John’s harlot is no commoner. The Levitical punishment for adultery or harlotry for the daughter of a priest was burning (Leviticus 21:9). For the nonpriestly class, the more merciful punishments of strangulation or stoning were employed.

Babylon, as an apostate—even idolatrous—religion deserves her fate. The first words of verse 8, “because of this,” explain why she will fall. Because of her keen political and economic arrogance, she pits herself against God. Nothing, she feels, not even He, can bring her down. The suddenness of her destruction, however, shows just how puny she really is and always has been. The means of her death (fire) brings the reader back to chapter 17 and the fact that it is her lovers who destroy her.

The satanically inspired religious economic system will fall to the fury of those who once benefited from it. John’s writings reveal an unpleasant scenario: the woman is first threatened by the prospects of hunger and famine. There is reason, for nature disallows crops to either be planted or to grow. Huge economic downturns cause hyperinflation and monetary collapse; supply lines are disrupted, and foodstuffs do not flow. The result? Global famine and hunger. The image is horrible beyond imagination, but the result will be Babylon’s rising smoke and the ashes of the bodies of all who would not flee from her. The angel’s proclamation reveals fallen Babylon as the great haunt of devils, unclean spirits, and hateful birds. The latter inhabitants seem out of place with devils and spirits, but they probably symbolize in general those incorporeal forces that destroy the souls of humankind.

Another reason Babylon becomes a shattered palace is because of the role she played with the leaders of the world, seducing them to partake of her sensuous lifestyle. In this chapter, the angel makes clear the true nature of her power of seduction—the allure of wealth. While earthly lords were guilty of economic dalliance, the merchants committed idolatry through their worship of mammon. They had ample opportunity, for Babylon offered it all. She had cargos of gold, silver, precious stones, and pearls; clothiers who produced fine linen, purple, silk, and scarlet cloth; furniture makers and home decorators who made articles of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble. The list goes on. She was the great supermarket carrying cinnamon and spice, incense such as myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep; her transportation department included horses and carriages; finally, she offered as slaves the very souls of humans (Revelation 18:12–13). This last commodity shows the spiritual depth of Babylon’s wickedness: she sold human beings for profit.

John shows that Babylon’s seductive power tempts almost everyone. In the face of this reality, the angel gives a command and warning: “Come out of her, my people . . . that ye receive not of her plagues” (verse 4). The Saints in the latter days have received the same warning: “The voice of the Lord is unto you: Go ye out of Babylon; gather ye out from among the nations, from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. . . . Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:7, 14). The Lord means for the Saints to take Him seriously; He warns, “After today cometh the burning—this is speaking after the manner of the Lord—for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:24). So great is the total of Babylon’s iniquities that it reaches into heaven. And heaven will pay her back for all her mischief completely. As she judged without mercy so shall she be judged in return. None are to feel the least bit sorry for her. In fact, just the opposite; they are to rejoice, for she receives exactly what she deserves.

John’s vision shows a consistent belief in the idea that the punishment should match the crime. However, this is modified in two instances. The first modification affects those who refuse to come out of the great city. Her punishment, thereby, becomes their punishment. Because they have been warned, they will have to answer not only for their own sins but for hers as well. The second alteration concerns those who do come out of her. Angels keep books of judgment in heaven (Revelation 20:12). But what the books contain is a matter of what God chooses to remember, not what He chooses to forget. He has promised that when His people repent and become one with Him, “I will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). When men and women forsake Babylon, God forgets they were ever there.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 18:9–19. The three dirges

The divine voice reveals what Babylon lusts after, what is at her very heart. She craves to flaunt her wealth and power. That society will fall. As her smoke ascends upward in tribute to the omnipotence of God, her lovers’ lamentations will also rise. The kings of the earth, the merchants, and all those in the maritime trades sing dirges (Revelation 18:9–19). For each, the smoldering ashes of Babylon become the smoke signals of their own destruction. Each has his special reason for sorrow. The kings lament because they have lost their mistress, she who provided them with direction, force, power, finances, and great satisfaction. The merchants weep and mourn because they have suddenly lost their markets and their overstocked wares have become worthless. Finally, the sailors “cast dust on their heads” and weep and wail because they have suddenly lost the bazaars that fed the insatiable appetite of Babylon, and their ships are worthless (verse 19). The list of Babylon’s goods marks the extravagance that she promoted. Never was enough good enough. Her acolytes had to have more and more. Thus, the merchants did well in supplying the voracious appetites of those who drank deeply of Babylon’s wine.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 18:20–24. Great rejoicing

In contrast to the lament by the kings, merchants, and maritime traders, the heavenly voice commands the retinue of holy beings to rejoice over her fall and outlines why—God has, at long last, yielded to their prayers and has avenged them. The command of the angel to “rejoice over her, O heavens, and the saints, and apostles, and prophets, because God passed your judgment upon her” stands in contrast to the lamentation of the men of the world (Revelation 18:20; see verses 9–19). Twice John has intimated that the prayers of the Saints greatly influenced the timing of this judgment. Here he indicates that there was more going on than mere timing. The whore played the role of the great judge against the Saints. Now the tables are turned, and those the harlot wrongfully judged become her judges.

All this is quite in keeping with divine law. God had set down two which apply—the law of bloodshed and the law of the spiteful witness. According to the first, one who kills will die as punishment (Genesis 9:5–6). According to the second, when witnesses are found guilty of perjury, they receive the punishment they desired for their fellow (Deuteronomy 19:16–19). Now is the time when God allows the Saints, Apostles, and prophets to pass sentence on the harlot. They find her guilty of both perjury and murder. Indeed, she brought forth false accusations and then passed the death sentence on holy men and women (“In her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth” [Revelation 18:24])—she must forfeit her life.

The first angel lists three of Babylon’s grievous sins: corruption of the world, fornication with kings, and, finally, making her merchants wealthy. The last angel lists three more of her grievous sins: causing great men of the earth to not help, casting spells that blinded her followers, and finally playing her part in the killing of all good people. It was not because Babylon possessed great wealth that God moved against her. It was because she trusted in it and put full faith in the security it was supposed to bring. She practiced an acute form of idolatry. It was this practice, which she refused to abandon, that raised God’s ire, resulting in her painful demise. Thus, for all the power, strength, and solidity she evidenced, her amazingly quick fall demonstrates how fragile she was all along. To dramatize the force of her fall, an angel hurls a heavy millstone-like object into the sea with the cry, “With violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all” (verse 21). This act represents the final demise of the harlot-city. As the massive stone could never raise itself again from the depths, so the great city will ever remain buried.

God’s actions speak neither of retaliation nor of revenge. No, there is no vindictiveness here, no intent to inflict injury for injury’s sake, no intent to get even. It is true that though His anger is fully justified, He actually moves against Babylon to avenge His Saints and bring about justice. The truth is that the woman, neither in the aspect of the whore nor of the city, has not hurt God directly. Babylon cannot, really. The joy that surrounds Him acts as a perfect armor. All that Satan, his hosts, or his kingdom can hurl will not scratch or penetrate it. The Father is so far beyond the dragon, the beast, and false lamb, so far beyond the whore and the society she produces, so far beyond this world with all its pettiness, pride, and misery, that all these shrink into insignificance.

No, Babylon has not hurt Him directly. She has, however, grievously touched Him indirectly. She has temporally hurt and even destroyed many of His children. This act He cannot and will not abide. She will pay. His actions, therefore, are not to vindicate Himself or assuage His anger at her as though she had somehow touched Him. He acts for one reason only—to avenge His righteous children whose mouths Babylon has shut by intimidating or killing them. God has provided a solution: flee Babylon. The command demands a complete severing of relations. God allows no association whatsoever: Babylon is not to be converted but will be destroyed: “We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her” (Jeremiah 51:9). Any that linger in Babylon will be taken with her plagues, “for after today cometh the burning . . . and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:24). Therefore, the cry is, “Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon” (Zechariah 2:7). When will the Saints learn we can neither be in nor of the world?

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 19: The King of Kings

In order to bring readers back to the narrative, the Seer repeats the dual themes of the seventh trumpet blasts: God’s reward to the righteous and His punishment of the wicked. The forepart of this chapter (verses 1–10) serves as a transition from God’s judgment upon the great whore to the marriage of the Lamb and His bride, the Holy City (Revelation 17:1–18:24; 21:9–22:5). It consists of two parts: the five praises sung by the heavenly host, the twenty-four elders, and the living creatures in the celestial throne room (Revelation 19:1–8) and the instructions from the angel to John and the Seer’s response (verses 9–10). The first eight verses constitute the longest and most complex set of hymns recorded by the Seer and act as a powerful climax of praise sung by the righteous in heaven. The praise celebrates the judgment upon Babylon, the reign of God upon the earth, and the coming marriage of the Lamb. The second half of the chapter focuses on the judgment, incarceration, and execution of God’s enemies. The emphasis is on the war as led by God’s Son, the Rider on the white horse, and its aftermath—namely, the death of all His enemies.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 19:1–5. In praise of a God of judgment

John hears the multitude of heaven doing one complete unified act of praise: “Hallelujah! Salvation, glory and power belong to our God” (Revelation 19:1). The adoration focuses on those aspects of God revealed by His victory over Babylon. Therefore, all honor is due Him. Out of this grows the rest of the praise: “He hath judged the great whore . . . and hath avenged the blood of his servants” (verse 2). Judgment always comes. Though God may delay the time in accordance with His designs, judgment is inevitable. The world will learn that mercy cannot rob justice. Humankind can have faith in God because before all else, He is just. As Alma explained to one of his sons, “the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God. . . . But 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” (Alma 42:13, 22).

Since God will never cease to be God, mercy will forever have to yield to justice. God gave the law that determines the punishment He then afflicts 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” (Mormon 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, the focus was on the witness and suffering of the Saints (Revelation 16:7). 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 (19:5). All the heavenly hosts join in the anthem. But just at this moment a shift occurs, and a new cause of rejoicing springs forth.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 19:6–10. The marriage of the Lamb

The multitude thunders its praise: “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Revelation 19:6). But the cause of joy does not arise solely because of God’s reign but also comes from what develops out of it: the marriage of the Lamb. “Let us be glad and rejoice,” sings the heavenly host, “and give glory to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come” (verse 7). The day has arrived when at last the Church unites forever with her King. She wears a garment that is both utterly clean and brilliantly white. The voice of the multitude adds, “The fine linen is the righteous deeds of saints,” so that the reader does not miss the meaning of this important symbol (verse 8). The wording in this verse conveys the impression of a bestowal, or endowment. The active agent is God; He is giving the garment. All righteousness centers in Him. Even humans’ righteous deeds result from God’s goodness, in that the spirit and light within man, as well as all law, come from God and coaxes one to do right (Doctrine and Covenants 88:11–13).

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, who do the guests represent? It appears that 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 fullness, 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” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:56–58). However, righteous women, the queens and priestesses of the Church, are also there. The gathering is of all the justified.

The symbolism in this section reveals what Church leaders must do in order to prepare the institution of the Church for entrance into holy matrimony and then into the Lord’s eternal city. Its mission is to prepare for the coming of the Lord by resisting the world’s seductions, perfecting the Saints, redeeming the dead, and preaching the gospel. Its fidelity to its mission opens the way for it to be sanctified by Christ, symbolized by being clothed in the beautiful wedding gown, the “righteous deeds,” of the Saints. Though each individual member must work out their personal salvation, the aggregate of those who walk God’s paths bequeath to the institution a gift of institutional purity. God credits the Church with the individuals’ good deeds, and the institution itself is blessed and thereby prepared to enter into the millennial era. The righteous deeds of the Saints then become a kind of recommend that the Church must possess in order to enter into its marriage with the Lord.

Already, the text has associated individual Saints with white robes. In Revelation 6:9–11, white robes were given to those who bore faithful witness to the Lord in and before John’s day, and in 7:13–15 they are worn by those who retained faithfulness during “the great tribulation” of the last days. The combination of their robes makes up the wedding dress of the bride. Thus, the Lord can say that this is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30).

In this interaction between Saint and institution we see the significance of the Church’s name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church has two components: the corporate Church of Jesus Christ and the combined membership of the Latter-day Saints. Each entity plays a part in preparing the earth for Christ’s millennial reign. The corporation, consisting of all the officers and administrators, gathers and manages the resources while directing the Church as a whole. The faithful members follow that direction, do the work and will of God, and become purified and sealed into eternal life. Their righteous deeds, then, bequeath back to the institution a holiness that makes it acceptable to the Lord.

It is at this point that an angel commands John to write. The angel dictates the exact words for the Seer to record: “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). The word called 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 will receive one. They have done so as a result of keeping covenants. Therefore, the list is exclusive, containing only the names of those who will have eternal life. The angel underscores this when he tells John, “These are the true sayings of God” (verse 9). 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. The angel’s assurance is, however, not exclusive to the invitation to the wedding feast. It includes all the promises given to the righteous contained in this portion of the vision.

Now, John bows in worship before the divine being who proclaimed the words. Perhaps this deep awe came from 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.” “I am thy fellow servant,” the angel goes on to explain, 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” (verse 10).

The act of prophesying is, then, the same as bearing testimony. It is limited neither to inspired prognostication nor to the statements of those formally designated as prophets. Indeed, in John’s parallel experience recorded in 22:8–9, the angel notes that those who “keep the sayings of this book” act as prophets. The Saints, then, blessed as they are with the prophetic spirit via the gift of the Holy Ghost, can have revelatory experiences and are expected to share those experiences with others. In doing so, they act as prophets and prophetesses.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 19:11–16. The Rider on the white horse

The Lord now opens a new vision to John. In it John sees the final defeat of the Lamb’s enemies. Already he has seen the judgment upon Babylon. There he learned Babylon will be destroyed by her lovers. However, as that scene closed, the destroyers of Babylon still dominated the battlefield. These, too, must be destroyed, for it is not enough to destroy the dragon, beast, and false prophet and the society they produced. Those whom they enlisted in their cause and who executed their will must also be destroyed. The truth was available to these followers of darkness, but they allowed themselves to be deluded by the false prophet and persecuted the children of God. These children stayed true and faithful, their words and lives bearing witness to their testimonies, but these wicked ones must now pay for their choices. God’s action upon them marks His complete and total vindication of His martyrs. It is Christ’s word, the sword and rod of His mouth, that both destroys the wicked and protects the righteous (see Revelation 19:15). It was the martyrs’ word that put the world in a position of judgment. Thus, the image of the sword ties His testimony to that of His people and underscores their truthfulness.

The command in the former vision to praise God relates directly to what happens in this new vision (verse 5). At the beginning of his heavenly revelations, John saw “a door opened in heaven” through which he was able to see the throne of God (4:1). Later, “the temple of God was opened in heaven” such that the Seer could behold the ark of the testimony (11:19). Afterward, the whole temple opened so that the seven angels with the seven bowls could come out (15:5). Now John sees the entire expanse of heaven unfold to make way for the Warrior-King and His army prepared to battle the hosts of darkness. The Rider, terrible in majesty upon His white horse, is the Savior, “called Faithful and True” (19:11).

John clearly states the Rider’s purpose: “In righteousness he doth judge and make war” (verse 11). War results from His just judgment. The two salient factors are His unknown name and the many crowns He wears. The new name and crown look to the time of renewed covenant making that brings both priestly and royal status. Also the new name suggests the eternal tie that takes place with the marriage covenant when the bride willingly takes on a new name. Thus, both people and the Lord share the new name. Therefore, the new name which “no one knows except himself” is not a cosmic secret never to be divulged. God’s covenant people will know the name as they enter into eternal covenant with Him. Further, the crown of each king, through the covenant of consecration, becomes one of the diadems of His Lord. By this means, the Rider on the horse becomes King of kings and Lord of lords.

John deliberately contrasts the King with the dragon and the sea beast. While the former two possess seven and ten diadems respectively, the Warrior has “many diadems” (verse 12). The King’s true royalty far surpasses the false sovereignty of Satan and his minions. He now rides as “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS,” and He has acquired His crowns since John last saw him (verse 16). Although there was no doubt earlier that He was king sitting upon His throne, John mentioned no crowns (3:21). Here they are prominently displayed. They signify that the “kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (11:15).

The Rider bears a name “that no man knew, but he himself” (verse 12). But the Warrior does have a known name: “the Word of God” (verse 13). John calls Him by this same title at the beginning of his Gospel (John 1:1–3). The Savior is the active agent who executes the word (the will) of God. That word is now judgment. Thus, the rider’s vestments are blood red, for the judgment is one of death. According to the Doctrine and Covenants, His appearance will cause consternation among the nations. Many will ask,

Who is this that cometh down from God in heaven with dyed garments; yea, from the regions which are not known, clothed in his glorious apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength? And he shall say: I am he who spake in righteousness mighty to save. And so great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame and the moon shall withhold its light, and the stars shall be hurled from their places. And his voice shall be heard: I have trodden the wine press alone, and have brought judgment upon all people; and none were with me; And I have trampled them in my fury, and I did tread upon them in mine anger, and their blood have I sprinkled upon my garments, and stained all my raiment; for this was the day of vengeance which was in my heart. (Doctrine and Covenants 133:46–51)

Clearly John depicts the moment of vengeance when the Lord will destroy all wickedness by the brightness of His coming. At this moment, all nations will come under His authority, “and he shall rule them with a rod of iron” (Revelation 19:15).

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 19:17–21. The battle of the Warrior-King

Once again the scene suddenly changes. John sees an angel bathed in celestial glory. The divine being summons birds of prey to a great feast. This banquet stands in contrast to the banquet at the wedding party of the Lamb. Here the bodies of the rebellious supply the entree. John sees “the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army” (verse 19). The purpose of the battle is clear. They fight to decide who rules the earth. The irony is grim; the outcome is already certain. Before the armies even march, the birds of ruin stand ready. Though the battle itself is not described, it is clear that the first to fall are the beast and the false prophet. Under the light of the power of Christ, false political entities and faithless institutions and pseudoreligious organizations will fail. A work of death will result. Behind all that goes on is the Rider on the white horse. The legions will be unable to stand against the power of His word.

Chapter 19 depicts two feasts. One is the feast of the justified, the other the feast of the condemned. The Lord will set both tables. For the obedient the banquet will consist of “fat things, of wine on the lees well refined, . . . a supper of the house of the Lord well prepared, unto which all nations shall be invited” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:8–9). Those who refuse to come to it may well be the fare of the second meal, for it will consist of “the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great” (Revelation 19:18). What determines to which feast a person will go? It is clearly a matter of worship. Those whom God calls to the wedding supper worship Him, and those who come to the death feast worship the beast and its image. Blessedness awaits the first gathering, destruction the second.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 20: The Thousand Years

The visions in this section continue the chronological sequence of events John began to relate in chapter 19. This chapter contains a description of the temporary confinement of Satan during the millennial era (verses 1–3), the millennial reign of the Christian martyrs (verses 4–6), the loosening of Satan and the battle of Gog and Magog (verses 7–10), the great Judgment of the righteous and the wicked (verses 11–13), and the final end of the dragon and his followers (verses 11–15). It also serves as the background to the events John records in chapter 21.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 20:1–3. Satan is bound for a thousand years

After the eradication of the false prophet and the beast, John’s vision centers on the destruction of the dragon. The importance of Satan’s defeat must not be overlooked. Not only must instruments and agents of evil be overthrown but the father of evil himself must be stopped and punished. It would be insufficient to cast the two monsters into the lake of fire; the dragon, who motivated and empowered them, must also share their fate. A lesson grows out of this. War will never end through pacifist or militant means as long as hatred and lust for power dominate the hearts of men. This glorious condition will not come by political revolution, only by spiritual renovation. Zion, composed of the pure in heart, expands only as love dominates society. The fall of Satan, master of hate, must precede the era of millennial peace.

John beholds an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the pit in the abyss. The contrast with the star of chapter 9 (Satan) is striking: the star fell and the angel descends; while the star was given the key, the angel possesses it on his own. The identity of the angel remains unknown, but he holds the key to both open and close the pit. This suggests that he ministers directly under the Lord. Likely he is Michael once again warring with and defeating the lord of darkness. The book of Daniel may reflect this period in noting that the Saints of the last days could not prevail over the world until “the Ancient of days [Michael] came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (Daniel 7:21–22).

There appears to be no real contest between the adversary and the angel. The archangel seizes, binds, and throws the devil into the pit of the abyss with little struggle. John makes it clear that the act will be a historical reality. The key and the chain denote God’s supremacy over both Satan and his realm. Thus, Satan is not the magistrate of hell; God is. The angel not only binds Satan in the pit but also locks it and then seals it. Thus, the devil’s power is triply curtailed. Only when all three bonds are freed will he be able to make mischief again. Through the use of this triple binding, John emphasizes the extent of Satan’s impotency during the Millennium, when “Satan shall not have power to tempt any man” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:28).

One point should not be overlooked: the angel does the binding, not humankind. People do not bring about the millennial condition through some kind of supreme righteous act; God does. However, it would be incorrect to believe that the people play no role in keeping Satan bound. “Because of the righteousness of his people,” Nephi reported, “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 Nephi 22:26). Thus, the subjugation of Satan invokes teamwork: the Lord’s power binds Satan initially, and the righteousness of the Saints keeps him bound.

John spells out precisely the reason for the evil one’s incarceration: “That he should deceive the nations no more” (Revelation 20:3). Satan has used deception as a major tool from the beginning, whispering to Eve that she would not die and to Cain and his brethren that they could murder, get gain, and get away with it. Yet Satan knew full well that “these things are not hid from the Lord” as both Eve and Cain learned (Moses 5:29–41). When Cain faced the wrath of a just God, Satan, with his delusions, discreetly stayed away. The purpose of Satan’s binding is not yet punitive but is precautionary. The Savior and His people must have time to prepare the earth for celestial glory. Satanic delusions are not to get in the way for a season until all is finished.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 20:4–6. The First Resurrection and the Lord’s reign

The Doctrine and Covenants provides a glimpse into the glorious period of the Resurrection. There the Lord declares, “The graves of the saints shall be opened; and they shall come forth and stand on the right hand of the Lamb, when he shall stand upon Mount Zion, and upon the holy city, the New Jerusalem; and they shall sing the song of the Lamb, day and night forever and ever” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:56). The song of the Lamb (actually, the song sung to the Lamb) is one of deep and continued thanks for what He has done on two fronts: first, in vindicating His people, and second, in triumphing over their combined enemies. At about the same time that the Saints sing their song of praise, an angel binds Satan. Once that action is completed, the earth moves fully into its paradisiacal era.

However, instead of focusing his attention of the millennial world, the Seer draws readers’ attention to the type of people who will share in that reign. These people worshipped God and not the dragon. They did not fall to Satan’s blandishments propagated by the false prophet but actively fought for truth. Having done so, they came under the power of the First Resurrection and became kings with the Lamb. “I saw some thrones and they sat upon them,” the Seer said, and they “were given the authority to pass judgment even the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshipped the beast nor his image, and had not received the mark upon their foreheads or their hands” (Revelation 20:4).

John has two sets of kings in mind: those who suffered martyrdom in his day and those who overcame the beast in the latter days (see Revelation 6:9–11; 14:4–5). But more than likely these symbolize all those throughout time who gave their lives in service to the Lamb. The Seer notes their reward: “Judgment was given to them” (20:4). The power of judgment has two aspects. The faithful will sit as judges over those who persecuted them. The time frame of that activity may be well after the Millennium closes. What do they do in the meantime? That is where the other aspect comes in. They help the Savior govern the earth and prepare it for celestial glory. The Lord explained what will happen to both the righteous living and dead at the time of the Second Coming:

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 the 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. (Doctrine and Covenants 88:96–101)

The First Resurrection, which began that fateful morning when the Lord’s tomb lay empty, takes in all those, living and dead, who are heirs of celestial glory at the time of the Lord’s coming in glory. These are they who “were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb,” who “being made pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence” (Alma 13:11–12). They are pure because they did not defile themselves with sexual immorality, and in their “mouth was found no guile” (Revelation 14:4–5). These are they who are members of the Church of the Firstborn.3 It is these, the firstfruits with Christ, whom John sees as the rulers during the thousand years when the earth shall rest.

A second group will also be resurrected at this time. These are they who are “Christ’s at his coming” (1 Corinthians 15:23). Two classes of people are found under this category. One class consists of those men and women where were honorable and good but never exercised the necessary faith in Christ to become members the Church of the Firstborn. Sadly, this group will include many Latter-day Saints (Doctrine and Covenants 76:71–80). The second class consists of those who “died without law” and, therefore, are mercifully not condemned for their actions committed without a full knowledge of the truth (see Doctrine and Covenants 45:54). Speaking of the millennial era, the Lord stated, “Wickedness shall not be upon the earth, For I will reveal myself from heaven with power and great glory, with all the hosts thereof, and dwell in righteousness with men a thousand years, and the wicked shall not stand” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:9, 11). These righteous souls who sit upon thrones and exercise both civil and judicial authority make sure of it.

John is the only biblical writer to speak of a thousand-year reign of the Lord. What is significant is that he passes over the period in just three verses. The reason is likely that John does not elaborate on details that distract from his primary objectives. He writes with a specific agenda: to prepare the Saints for the Second Coming and to warn the wicked of their fate. Thus, the bulk of his writing focuses on the last days and the great battle to be won.

Once he has completed this task, he gives but a quick preview of the results as they affect the righteous, assuring the Saints that they will be rewarded for their struggles. They become both blessed and holy, two attributes belonging to both God and the Lamb (Revelation 20:6). Those who overcome and take upon themselves these attributes need not fear the second death; having come alive in Christ, they, like Christ, are eternal. Therefore, they can share the glory, honor, authority, and majesty with Him. They are a kingdom of priests and kings, priestesses and queens, who rule and reign with Him forever. The Millennium thus marks the beginning of their eternal coregency.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 20:7–10. The battle of Gog and Magog

The millennial era does not end, as one might expect, with the earth and its inhabitants moving smoothly into eternal glory. Instead, it ends in horror. John sees the time when “Satan shall be loosed out of his prison” and once again make mischief upon all the face of the earth (Revelation 20:7). Since the power of God bound Satan, only it can loose him. Therefore, his freedom must play an important part in the purposes of deity. John makes that purpose clear. The old serpent, he notes, “shall go out to deceive the nations” (verse 8). The result will be that “men [shall] again begin to deny their God” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:22). So what goes wrong?

In large part, it was the events that led to God’s release of Satan. There was always more than the power of God at play in keeping Lucifer bound. It is “because of the righteousness of [the Lord’s] people,” Nephi tells us, that “Satan has no more 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 Nephi 22:26). Sadly, as the Lord tells us, “when the thousand years are ended, [people will] again begin to deny their God” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:22).

At that time people’s hearts will again harden and they will rebel against God. This hardening is not the result of Satan’s work. Like the Nephites, these people will not dwindle in unbelief but will willfully rebel of their own accord. Satan, smoldering in his pit for a thousand years or more, will have had plenty of time to refine his deceptions. Remember, he lost the last battle only because of divine intervention. Having some in his camp the very day he is released means that he has a strong power base right from the start. Using these, he will very successfully deceive ever more and more among humankind to his cause.

These newly won minions will be his mortal executors. They will teach their children to hate righteousness, and from generation to generation that hatred will increase until it is white hot. Near the end it will create an ever-widening rift that will divide the righteous from the wicked. Then, because of their burning hatred, Satan will be able to gather these haters of all righteousness into his international forces symbolized as Gog and Magog. And when they are ready, he will move them forward to meet his major objective—the destruction of all righteousness.

John tells us little of the battle, and modern scripture only tells slightly more. We do know that Satan “shall be loosed for a little season so that he may gather together his armies” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:111). Though brief, this verse is illuminating. From God’s perspective, God frees Satan for a purpose, and that is so that he may gather his armies for the very last battle. Of this battle we also know that

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. (Doctrine and Covenants 88:112–15)

Unlike Revelation, which focuses on the physical side of the war, the latter-day verses above focus on the spiritual side. Both together show us the all-encompassing nature of the battle. In it, Satan will gain one of his chief objectives: to reign with blood and horror. But this scripture shows us that he has yet another objective: he seeks the throne of the Lamb. For millennia before his incarceration, he ruled the earth. Now he wants to do so again. In his fiendish insanity, he somehow thinks he can pull it off, and what is most interesting, he is able to convince entire nations of people that he can.

At some point during this period, Michael will begin his countermove. He will gather the host of heaven. The record does not tell us what the Saints will be doing during this time, but they will be forced, either by coercion or divine direction (likely the latter), to gather into one place. Gog and Magog will then strike at the Saints, initiating the last, great war. About the same time, Satan will throw all his spiritual weight against Michael and his hosts. As the forces join, fire will come out of heaven, destroying the mortal army and sending Satan and his hosts, the once-mortal as well as the never-mortal, into hell.

Michael’s victory results in the total overthrow of all wickedness. The willfully corrupt will be devoured by the fire while “the devil that deceived them [will be] cast into the lake of fire and brimstone” (Revelation 20:10). The divine inferno, which long before began its ceaseless torment of the beast and the false prophet, now accepts its master. Forever, Satan must live with the fire of disappointment. He will know well that all his work has brought him nothing, not even the command of hell. But the most intense part of his pain may be generated from another source: the realization that he played a major, even an indispensable, role in the total success of his archenemy.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 20:11–15. The Last Judgment

In John’s model, only after Michael destroys Satan does the Final Judgment commence. With the blindness of satanic delusion gone, all men and women, both small and great, will stand to face Christ. John shows us two judgment scenes and two bases of judgment.

The first to be judged are the righteous. All these will be “judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12). The basis of their judgment will consist of what is recorded in the books on earth and in heaven. John sees two sets of records. The first he refers to as books, and the second he calls the book of life. Speaking of these two sets of records Joseph Smith wrote, “The books spoken of must be the books which contained the record of their works, and refer to the records which are kept on the earth. And the book which was the book of life is the record which is kept in heaven” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:7). He went on to explain that John actually had reference to priesthood sealing ordinances in which

whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Or, in other words, taking a different view of the translation, whatsoever you record on earth shall be recorded in heaven, and whatsoever you do not record on earth shall not be recorded in heaven; for out of the books shall your dead be judged, according to their own works, whether they themselves have attended to the ordinances in their own propria persona, or by the means of their own agents, according to the ordinance which God has prepared for their salvation from before the foundation of the world, according to the records which they have kept concerning their dead. (Doctrine and Covenants 128:8)

Those people are, then, the ones who accepted the gospel either while on earth or in the spirit world and were sealed by the power of the priesthood. They will come under the Lord’s domain and receive everlasting life.

After the First Resurrection is complete, John sees the sea (the old home of chaos and misery) along with death and hell give up the dead that are in them. The time of the Second Resurrection has come. Those upon whom this judgment comes are they whose names are found neither in the books on earth nor in those in heaven. The sealing power never covered them, and therefore, most of them “remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:17).

There is, however, one last group who will not even qualify to be God’s angels. The Lord has declared, “Before the earth shall pass away, Michael, mine archangel, shall sound his trump, and then shall all the dead awake, for their graves shall be opened, and they shall come forth—yea, even all. And the righteous shall be gathered on my right hand unto eternal life; and the wicked on my left hand will I be ashamed to own before the Father; Wherefore I will say unto them—Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:26–28).

Though a somber note ends this declaration, for the vast majority of people neither sorrow nor lamentation cast a pall on the joy of the moment. This Judgment marks no the beginning of torment but its end. The misery of death and the pain of hell cannot endure the divine flame emanating from grace and love. All who are redeemed shall come out of captivity into a kingdom of glory. Nonetheless, John concludes this vision with a note of warning: he whose name “was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). Some deny grace and reject Christ and in their rebellion refuse the power of repentance and spurn the love of God.

The Savior spoke of the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” and those people who become devils and angels to the devil must partake of that punishment (Matthew 25:41). This is the second death. It is visited only upon those who can go through the purifying fires of hell—where all but the most hardened find humility and acceptance—and remain “filthy still.” These are “vessels of wrath, doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:33). Becoming like Satan, they have no redemption. Anyone who “breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor by judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:35). These are not resurrected until the very end. When they are resurrected, death—spiritual death—immediately reclaims them.

This portion of John’s vision teaches that the power of the First Resurrection only reaches those of the past and present ages who are Christ’s at the time of His coming. Those who must seek a little time while they get their lives in order will find that the words “I come quickly” indeed mean “I come suddenly, even before you are ready.” These, like the five foolish virgins, may find when they finally are ready that the door to celestial glory has been shut. Their cry, “Lord, Lord open unto us,” will be met with the response, Go away, for “Verily I say unto you, Ye know me not” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 25:9–11).

God has used and will continue to use the rebellion of Lucifer and the work of his hosts to His own ends. As the whore Babylon provided the foil that strengthened and prepared the Lamb’s bride for her marriage, so too Satan’s work after the Millennium will provide the resistance that will build the spiritual muscle of those in God’s kingdom on earth. One can imagine, as Satan’s deceptions capture many and he builds his forces to huge proportions, that the faith of the Saints will be tried to the core. That trial, however, will harden their trust and obedience in the Lord. The result of that extreme faith will be the heavenly fire that consumes their enemies and ushers in celestial glory. Thus, their faith, as with those before the Millennium, will be fully vindicated. John’s vision drives home that the binding of Satan does more than merely give hope for the future. It speaks to the present. It says that there is no ultimate dualism. The power of evil, though deadly real now, has no place in the future. It exists and operates at any time only by permission of God. When He determines that it will end, it will end. There will be no argument, no retort, no rebuttal, only the irresistible and overpowering explosion of divine fire in which all corruption will be eternally consumed and evil forever incarcerated.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 21: The New Jerusalem

With Revelation 21:8, the story begun at Revelation 19:11 of the coming of the Rider on the white horse finally comes to an end. This long piece is bracketed by two parallel visions, each opened by one of the plague angels first met in chapter 16. The first one describes the corrupt culture and its destruction (Revelation 17:1–19:10). The second describes holy culture and its exaltation (21:9–22:9). In this way, Revelation sets up a contrast between the ungodly city, Babylon, and the Holy City, the New Jerusalem.

Another contrast is set up here between the imperfect and temporal Church viewed in chapters 1–3 and the eternal and exalted Church (known in Latter-day Saint theology as the Church of the Firstborn) in this and the following chapter. Chapter 20 ended with a description of the destruction of the wicked. With only a brief glance back, the new section of the vision looks to the glorious future of those who are eternally rejoined with the Father. The Seer hears God make the promise that He will personally care for these who are once again His children. Never again will they experience grief, fear, or pain of body. That promise ends the vision and prepares John and his readers for the new one that opens immediately. In it, John describes in some detail the glory of the Lamb’s bride, the celestial city in which God’s children will reside forever and ever.

John carefully details the exterior and then interior of the holy city, giving its dimensions and detailing its beauty. The whole is replete with symbols that represent God’s very presence in the Holy City. Throughout this section, the vision continues in its highly symbolic style because heaven so transcends anything we mortals can imagine that the only way to approach that reality is through powerful symbols. Paul stated, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered in the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Through symbols, however, John gets us as close as he can. The Lord’s purpose in showing John these things seems to be to encourage John’s readers, in whatever age they may live, to persevere in righteousness against all the temptations and vicissitudes so they are qualified to enter into the glorious city God has prepared from them.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 21:1–4. The people of God

As the vision of the general Resurrection closes, a new vision immediately opens. John sees what he describes as a new heaven and a new earth. However, the old earth is not so much annihilated as reconstituted to become a new celestial orb. Salvation, in the biblical sense, is not just for humans but is for all creation. All things are to be saved, including the cosmos itself. The Doctrine and Covenants also affirms this view: “And the end shall come, and the heaven and the earth shall be consumed and pass away, and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth. For all old things shall pass away, and all things shall become new, even the heaven and the earth, and all the fulness thereof, both men and beasts, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea; And not one hair, neither mote, shall be lost, for it is the workmanship of mine hand” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:23–25).

Of the earth itself scripture states, “Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory; for after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even the presence of God the Father” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:18–19). In order to withstand the full glory of God, the earth with its sky and its inhabitants will need to be entirely reconstructed. This does not mean that the universe or even the galaxy will pass away when the earth and sky are renewed. Instead, a new heaven will manifest itself as the earth takes up its position as a celestial sphere in the empyrean.

What strikes John about the new world is that “there was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1). Under the force of the Lamb’s radiance, the source of Babylon’s seaborne luxuries and that which helped feed and sustain her corruption has boiled into oblivion. Since the sea and the abyss are one and the same, the destruction of the sea represents the annihilation of the primeval deep, the home of malevolence and evil. Thus, the abode of chaos, the home of the satanic beast, the old seat over which the whore held sway, has vanished (see 17:15). Up to this point the sea had dominated the world. As the stronghold of those who loved Satan instead of God, its existence mocked the hope of the Saints’ complete victory and the Lord’s absolute sovereignty. That will be the case no more, for in the new world, the Saints’ victory is fully realized and God’s sovereignty sure. Previewing what he will explore more fully later, John introduces the central seat of celestial rule—the New Jerusalem. Through his use of the chiastic structure, he is able to stress the importance of the establishment of this city.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 21:5–7. He that sat upon the throne

For the first time in the entire vision, we hear God speak. He makes exactly seven statements, and the significance of the number should not be overlooked (Revelation 21:5–8). It means that the separation between God and His children caused by the Fall has now been totally overcome. No longer does Jesus need to act as intermediary. With spiritual death done away in behalf of these people, the great Elohim Himself can once more administer directly to them.

John compares the beauty and purity of the city to that of a bride. The dazzling whiteness of the bride’s gown mirrors her radiant purity. God also showed the prophet Ether this far future. He learned that the New World would be a choice land. He also learned “that it was the place of the New Jerusalem, which should come down out of heaven, and the holy sanctuary of the Lord” (Ether 13:3).

This new city was not the old Jerusalem refurbished (though that was going to happen) but a new and different city. He was also told when it would be established. It was when “there shall be a new heaven and a new earth; and they shall be like unto the old save the old have passed away, and all things have become new. And then cometh the New Jerusalem; and blessed are they who dwell therein, for it is they whose garments are white through the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who are numbered among the remnant of the seed of Joseph, who were of the house of Israel” (Ether 13:9–10).

As hinted at above, this would not be the first time the earth would know a New Jerusalem: one would grace its land before the Millennium began and continue in operation through the thousand years of righteousness. The tenth article of faith provides a time frame for the establishment of that city. It will come when Israel will be gathered and the ten tribes restored. During that time, “Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent” and after that, “Christ will reign personally upon the earth,” which shall be “renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory. “God told the prophet Enoch that he would establish the city so that “my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.” To this city Enoch would join his own, for “thou and all the city [shall] meet them there” with great rejoicing (Moses 7:62–63).

At the center of John’s new vision lays a city—a place where families dwell, which represents celestial society. John clearly makes this the heart of the vision. Joseph Smith explained that the “same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:2). The celestial kingdom is a community or system of communities presided over by an eternal Father and inhabited by His children, organized according to family units under the divine patriarchal order. Thus, the city represents the ideal and perfect community that is the eternal family of God.

The declaration made by the heavenly throne is important. It reveals the significance of the rest of the vision (from Revelation 21:4 to 22:5). God Himself shall dwell with and take care of His people (see 21:3). John’s statement emphasizes the very personal association that will be set up on the new earth between God and His children. The reason such an association can be maintained is clearly stated: “They shall be his [Elohim’s] people” (verse 3). This fulfills the promise God made with Israel at Sinai. That promise has been continually renewed through His prophets and continues today as part of the new and everlasting covenant.

John hears a great voice out of heaven proclaiming the privileges of those who have sacrificed the things of the old world in hope of obtaining those of the new. While on earth they felt themselves as little more than strangers and pilgrims seeking “a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16). As He begins to speak, the first fact that God reveals about Himself is that He is the Maker, the Creator, the Director of all things. He holds the power of regeneration. His purposes allow nothing of the old order to remain. All things—not just heaven and the earth but all things associated with them—must become new. God does, however, place humankind foremost in this operation.

According to Paul, God begins in mortality to transform people into His image. Those with a spark of the Light of Christ behold as in a mirror “the glory of the Lord, [and] are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The operation is quiet and subtle and unseen by the natural man and woman. Nonetheless, working through His Spirit, God makes His minute but daily transformation upon those who are His own. Ever so gradually but ever so surely, His people become more like God. John observed, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doeth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

Revelation allows us to see that this transformation also occurs on a cosmic scale. Though historians and social prophets may see only the natural world moving ever more swiftly through deepening stages of depravity to doom, John understands that the hand of God moves in all things, slowly refashioning the whole. In this light, the suffering of the earth both at the beginning and end of the Millennium is but the travail preceding a new order.

Now, John retakes his place in his own time period and once again looks toward the future rather than reporting reality from it. God identifies the objective so far as His child is concerned: “I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Revelation 21:7). Men and women will be fully one with God, their very constitutions being remade so that they are bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. The importance of this work is emphasized by the Lord’s command to John, “Write: for these words are true and faithful” (verse 5). By this oath, John understands that God will accomplish His designs toward humankind and creation. Nothing can prevent it. God is in charge. In Him the future is secure. Those who have trusted Him, who have followed His paths, who have overcome, “shall inherit all things” (verse 7).

As the wonderful, enthroned Majesty speaks, He reveals ever more clearly His nature and work. He is “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end” (verse 6). The title of the enthroned figure emphasizes His supreme position. He is Alpha—the beginning, the initiator of all things. Everything proceeds from His will. He is also Omega—the end, the finisher, the one in whom all things take meaning and find completeness.

Supporting this idea, Joseph Smith taught that God “contemplated the whole of the events connected with the earth, pertaining to the plan of salvation, before it rolled into existence,” that He “was acquainted with the situation of all nations and with their destiny,” and that “He ordered all things according to the council of his own will.” The last statement is arresting. Elohim “ordered all things” according to His own will, and that will determined that the faithful will be blessed “and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (verse 4).

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 21:8. The second death

Though John is on the very threshold of incomprehensible joy, God reminds the Seer of those who suffer the horror resulting from following the great dragon. These are “the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars” (Revelation 21:8). Though fear and disbelief matter, few would place them among the great sins. The reason the Seer may have placed them before all others grows out of the context of the revelation itself. John saw the latter days in which Christ and the beasts would vie for the souls of humans. He understood that opposition to goodness and virtue would constantly increase. The result would put ever greater pressure on people to abandon the ways of God.

Under these excruciating conditions, courage and faithfulness would be the supreme virtues. Cowardice and unfaithfulness would become great sins. John quotes the Father as saying such sinners “have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (verse 8). The imagery of the burning lake apparently refers to the punishment of the wicked before they are saved from the fires of hell. Latter-day revelation states, “These are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God, until the fulness of times, when Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his feet, and shall have perfected his work” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:106). They “shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:85).

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 21:9–14. The New Jerusalem

Revelation 21:9 introduces a new vision that continues into the next chapter. One of the seven angels that once carried a bowl of wrath commands John, “Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (verse 9). The Seer’s language is again deliberate, paralleling as it does the words found in 17:1: “Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore.” The language places the virgin bride in marked contrast with the great whore. The two visions are remarkably parallel even though their subjects could not be more different (Revelation 17:1–19:10; 21:9–22:9). Their deliberate parallelism enhances the difference between the two cities.

Note that in chapter 17, this angel, or one of his brothers, took the Seer into the wilderness to view the harlot and her beast. In the present vision he takes John to the top of a high mountain to see the bride. In both instances he sees a city, Babylon the great and the New Jerusalem. The former, he knows, will eventually lie in eternal ruins, while the later will everlastingly bathe in celestial glory. That the Holy City is initially depicted as a bride suggests that contrary to some commentators, John is describing not just a real city but also the exalted Church of God (Revelation 21:9–10). The imagery of the ascension to the mountaintop is arresting. It conveys the idea that John received an additional endowment of the Spirit such that his ability to understand was again magnified to a higher level than ever before. Only through that ability and from that vantage point could he really see the Holy City, a city that shines like jasper. The term jasper anciently described a broad category of precious and semiprecious gems. The imagery is that of valuable dazzling colors representative of the glory of the celestial kingdom. Here we get a feel for the resplendent power of God, which shines forth from the city to give life, light, and law to all things.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 21:15–27. The city and its walls and gates

The symbolic description of the city as coming down from God highlights the main message of this entire section of Revelation. It is that the Saints will enjoy eternal and complete security because the Father has made His abode with them and will, therefore, abide with them forever. That is not to say that God will be with them at all times or that He does not have residences elsewhere. From modern revelation, we learn that God has a celestial residence, likely a heavenly sphere which had previously been made celestial much like the earth will be (“A Facsimile from the Book of Abraham, No. 2). The scriptures refer to it only as the throne of God (Abraham 3:9). God does not have to be physically present in order to have a permanent abode in the New Jerusalem. Instead, He will be spiritually present at all times. With both the individual and the community of the Saints, He has established an indwelling spiritual relationship that will now be permanent and eternal.

The great city has twelve gates, three per side. The latter number represents the Godhead and suggests that these three beings preside over all aspects of the city. Each gate is named in honor of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. In this aspect the city resembles the temple of Ezekiel 48. But there are differences. First, at each of John’s gates stands an angel to facilitate and augment the work of the kingdom. Their job, unlike the cherubim met in chapter 4 who act as sentinels to protect the holiness of God, are God’s assistants. In this celestial realm, His holiness is in no danger, and therefore the cherubim do not appear.

There is good reason the unclean stay away. As Moroni said, while speaking to sinners,

Do ye suppose that ye shall dwell with him under a consciousness of your guilt? Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws? Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell. For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you. (Mormon 9:3–5)

The second difference between John’s temple and that of Ezekiel is that the whole heavenly city seen in Revelation is the sanctuary, while in Ezekiel, the temple alone is holy. Ezekiel’s temple wall separated the sacred sanctuary from the profane city. He was explicit in noting who could and could not come into the sanctuary Ezekiel (44:5–7). Thus, the wall marked the boundary line over which the unjustified could not pass. But with John, any dividing line would be improper since all members of the entire city, not just a portion of it, are holy.

Third, John’s city sat on twelve foundation stones named after the Apostles of the Lord, while no mention is made of any foundation in Ezekiel. The repetition of number twelve in the supports and the gates stands as a constant reminder of the priesthood power that presides over all aspects of the holy city. This is seen especially in the measurement of the walls. John notes they are 144 cubits after the measure of an angel who is using human measurements. The size of a human cubit varies, and thus the exact dimensions John has in mind are unknown. What is important is the number—twelve squared—signifying the fullness of priesthood authority. It is this that surrounds and stands as a great bulwark of the glorious city.

John himself once performed a similar task under angelic direction, for he, too, was given a measuring rod to measure a temple. The Seer’s measuring identified those areas spared from judgment, those areas where the protection of the Lord would be. Now he stands back and watches the angel do the work. But the golden rod of the angel, in contrast to John’s rod of judgment, acts as a standard that demonstrates the city’s purity. The city is four squared, the same shape as the tabernacle’s holy of holies, an exact cube, symbol of perfection and eternal stability. This suggests why the angel does the measuring. As great as John is, he is yet mortal and imperfect. The task of measuring the height, depth, and breadth of celestial perfection is beyond any mortal’s capability. This is emphasized by the city’s size—twelve thousand stadia in length, breadth, and (if it can be imagined) height. But the size is a metaphor for the power of the priesthood that operates cosmically from the celestial city.

John uses the brilliance of precious stones to describe the limitless beauty of the city. The stones tie to the twelve tribes of Israel and echo those found on the breastplate of the high priest. An important part of the walls are its twelve gates. John describes these as huge pearls. A perfect pearl in the Mediterranean world was worth more than its weight in gold. The Savior’s parable about a pearl of such value that a wealthy merchant would have to sell all he had to buy it was not much of an exaggeration. The pearlescent luster of this gem could explain its use in helping readers appreciate the beauty of the portal.

John has not been the only one to see and attempt to describe such a gate. “The heavens were opened upon us,” exulted Joseph Smith, “and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether in the body or out I cannot tell. I saw the transcendent beauty of the gate through which the heirs of that kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire” (Doctrine and Covenants 137:1–2). John notes that these gates never shut (Revelation 21:25). They do not need to. The city is never in danger, for the glory of God is there. Harmony, peace, security, and joy dominate not only the city but also the entire sphere in which it dwells.

What is surprising about the heavenly city is the Seer’s statement that “I saw no temple therein” (verse 22). Both the heavenly tabernacle and temple have been center stage in a number of visions up to this point. Now, as John beholds the eternal and celestial realm, the temple is not to be found. Where did it go? Earthly temples will dot the lands during the millennial era, preparing men and women for the celestial kingdom. The lack of a visible temple emphasizes the idea that the work is completed and perfected. Nothing has been left undone. Jeremiah foresaw the time when “they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord; neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more. At that time they shall call Jerusalem the Throne of the Lord; and all nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 3:16–17).

To this universal seat of government the exalted priest-kings of the celestial earth will bring honor and glory. From this seat will flow the light in which the heavenly nations will walk. Thus we see that the new earth, one of the imposing celestial suns, will have its own capital whose glory the whole planet will radiate as a grand mirror for all worlds to see and reverence. Even so, it need be noted that the city is a metaphor God used to assist John and his readers in understanding the nature of the people who will inherit everlasting life. These are they with whom God has an eternal and ever abiding relationship, spirit always in tune and communion with spirit. These are they who reflect back to God His own glory and power. They are they who walk in His light. These are they who are priests and priestesses, kings and queens, holding the keys of power and functioning under priesthood authority.

But most of all, these are God’s children who, having been born again, are united with God in a stable and an eternal family unit. Thus, the city must symbolically be square, the symbol of exactness and stability. Families are forever, and God’s family is eternal. John follows an Old Testament theme in which the ideal heaven is local and earthly. The celestial realm is not beyond this earth but is the earth itself in a sanctified state. It is to this very earth that the Father will come and from where the Son will direct the affairs of the cosmos. Because the gods will dwell here, the whole must be pure. An angel made this clear to Enoch: “Teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, . . . for in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name” (Moses 6:57). It is in this light that John’s concluding statement can be appreciated: “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27). No, only the pure shall be there.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 22: Blessed Are They That Do His Commandments

Here John’s focus moves further inside the heavenly city. The rest of the chapter is the formal conclusion of the entire work. John carefully links it to his introduction in 1:1–3, affirms that he is the recipient of this grand vision, and assures his readers of its divine authenticity. Jesus speaks through His angel, confirming the truth of John’s work and also assuring readers of His coming. This portion also confirms the blessing that comes from obedience and the punishment that will accompany disobedience and contains a stiff warning to anyone who would corrupt the work.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 22:1–5: The tree and the waters of life

As the vision of the city continues, John’s escort shows him a river of water, pure and crystal clear, that represents the waters of life. The source of the water is important. It flows from “the throne of God and of the Lamb”; note there is one throne, not two (Revelation 22:1). There is but one source of life—God—but here that office belongs to two beings. Thus both God and Christ occupy the same throne, for life flows from the Father through the Son to humankind. The imagery John shares reveals three aspects of eternal life. The first one is its source in both God and Christ. When John saw the celestial throne room, he also saw the rays and currents of life flowing from the Father. The imagery shows that the Father is the source of all life and power. The conduit through which that power flows, however, is Jesus Christ. He is the immediate Father of those who inherit eternal life. He is “the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are” (Alma 11:39).

In his Gospel, John recorded the Lord saying, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). The second aspect of eternal life John’s vision shows is its abundance. The righteous “are raised to dwell with God who has redeemed them; thus they have eternal life through Christ, who has broken the bands of death” (Mosiah 15:23). That the water continually flows from the throne shows that death will never have power again. Life prevails. The water, however, does not just flow from the throne; it also never diminishes. Thus, the quantity suggesting that the quality of life remains the same forever. The third aspect of eternal life that the imagery reveals is its purity. It is untainted, uncorrupted, and concentrated. For these reasons, it will last forever.

These three aspects—source, quality, and quantity—make the water an excellent symbol for eternal life. These words reveal that the righteous will enjoy not only life with God but also the same quality of life that He has. That kind of life consists of, among other things, “glory, and salvation, and honor” and includes “kingdoms, principalities, and powers” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:23). These rewards are but weak metaphors for what God has in store for the faithful, as the glory of the afterlife is far beyond what we can imagine. But the water has yet another and even more significant meaning. Nephi saw that the waters in his vision were “a representation of the love of God” (1 Nephi 11:25). Herein lies the power of the water. It bequeaths and sustains life because it is love, pure and unaffected.

The heart of John’s city is love, the pure love of Christ. John, as few others, understood the life-power behind that love. “For God so loved the world,” he testified, “that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Christ was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world who became flesh so that to “as many as received him,” He could give the “power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). In another epistle, the Seer had taught the Saints “God is love,” and “love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7–8). In the eternal city, all are free to drink of the love that flows from the Father and the Son (the living water) and partake of the love that fills this celestial paradise (the tree of life) and, in doing so, know personally of Their undying love.

The Seer’s attention is drawn next to the tree of life and the avenue in which it stands. The symbolism emphasizes that the city is the new Eden and that there we find the tree of life. Other prophets have seen and described the tree of life. “I looked and beheld a tree,” exclaimed Nephi, “and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow” (1 Nephi 11:8). Lehi noted that the “fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.” Further, the fruit “was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. . . . It filled my soul with exceeding great joy” (1 Nephi 8:11–12).

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil has ceased to exist because the inhabitants of the city, knowing good from evil, have spurned all evil and eternally choose the good. In consequence the cherubim, placed to guard the original tree of life, have been removed, allowing God’s people to eat freely of the fruit. Echoing Ezekiel 47:12, the Seer notes that each month the tree produces a different type of fruit. John conveys the idea that the tree does not follow the normal course of budding, blossoming, fruit setting, ripening, and finally harvest. The crops grow continually. The very leaves of the tree hold healing properties. Where it stands, not a single blade of weakness or sin can be found, an absolute triumph of life over death. All nations are healed through the power of the tree. But one must not overlook the meaning of the tree itself, for “it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men, . . . [which is] the most joyous to the soul” (1 Nephi 11:22–23). Thus, the tree and the water symbolize the same thing. The continual flow of the water and the perpetual bearing of the trees emphasize the limitlessness of God’s love. It flows from Him forever and unconditionally. All who wish to partake may do so.

John sees that “there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light” (Revelation 22:5). The whole city is alive with the light of God’s glory. This omnipresent power of the Father suffuses all. Isaiah had long ago promised, “The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory” (Isaiah 60:19). In verse 4, John expressed the real blessing that comes to those who walk in the light: “And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.”

One of the tasks Jesus accomplished during His mortal ministry was the revelation of the power, attributes, and character of God (John 14:7, 9; 17:3). In short, humans were to behold God through Christ. But it was a mediated vision as it came via the Lord through faith. In the eternal city, faith will give way to perfect knowledge, for the sons and daughters of God will know Him personally, intimately, and fully. That knowledge does not come merely through sound, sight, or even touch. They know Him because they are like Him; in every one of their thoughts, in every one of their acts, He is revealed to them. Those who inhabit the eternal city shall have His name written in their foreheads because as He is so are they. John knew that oneness could be realized. He proclaimed, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). To be like Him is to be one with Him.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 22:6–15. Conclusion to the vision

With the promise that men and women can truly become as God is, the magnificent visions of John close. The sweep of his prophecy has been vast, stretching from the premortal existence to the postmortal glory. He has placed all history in its cosmic setting and shown its movement to the end of time. But even more grand than the historical review stands his powerful testimony of his King and his God, whose power, judgment, and love none can escape.

The Lord is coming, and that coming is going to be quick. How the Lord uses the word quick can be seen particularly in the pages of the Doctrine and Covenants: there He uses the term thirteen times. In every instance, it is an adverb describing His coming, and in the first twelve uses it can be construed to mean Jesus’s coming is imminent. However, that may not be the case. Joseph Smith in 1837 quoted the Lord as saying, “Be faithful until I come, for I come quickly; and my reward is with me to recompense every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, Amen.” Note that this statement is nearly identical to the one the Lord makes in Revelation 22:12–13.

Therefore, it would seem that the Lord uses the word quickly as a synonym for suddenly and, thus, as a warning to each Saint to be prepared at all times, for we never know when we will meet the Lord. When the Lord says He is coming quickly, therefore, He is not necessarily referring just to the Second Coming. His statement to the Saints He addresses in Revelation actually describes an initiatory coming, the purpose of which is to set in process those events that will terminate in His eventual Second Coming; but between these, there will be others. Each of these subsequent comings will further this cause. With each, He will bring judgment and recompense. Thus, the righteous will not have to wait until the end to receive a reward, and the wicked will not have to wait to receive their punishment. Paradise and hell are there to immediately welcome whichever.

The angel’s words to John in verse 6 call attention to the fact that prophets enjoy a special gift called “the spirits of the prophets,” which is the ability to receive inspiration from the Lord for the direction of His children. Because of this, it is only through them that the members of the Church are informed concerning God’s plans and know how to prepare. This gift of the prophets, however, in no way precludes the individual Saint from being personally inspired by the Lord. This is the way the Lord has designed His kingdom to work.

The Lord told John he was to publish this revelation and soon, “for the time is at hand” (verse 10). The whole period was the season, the time, in which the Lord would prepare the earth for His Second Coming. It is in this light that Paul admonished the Saints in his day, “Knowing the time . . . it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than we believed” (Romans 13:11). Thus, the time that was near for John and his people was the inauguration of an age over two thousand years long that would culminate in the Restoration of the gospel, the gathering of God’s people, the fall of Babylon, and the great latter-day judgments.

Revelation shows the period to be bleak. The Restoration has not prevented the world from slipping into greater darkness and apostasy but has exacerbated it. As in the past and in the face of this ever-growing apostasy, God is not withholding His word but, rather, proclaiming it with force and clarity. For that reason, this part of the vision holds a strong warning: be prepared, for the dynamics of the age is such that the wicked will not have time to repent and, therefore, will remain filthy. The Lord’s words, however, do not mean the people are predetermined to be unjust or wicked. In fact, one of the purposes of the prophets’ work is to, hopefully, shock those who will hear out of their spiritual torpor and bring them to hear more clearly God’s word and respond with the needed faith. The result would be that the hardened would remain hard and the holy continue in righteousness.

The phrase “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still” is not so much a command as it is a statement of fact (Revelation 22:11). The stiffest warning in this section, however, is uttered against those who practice and love the lie. The warning appears to be directed at those in the Church whose sin is dissembling. They pretend to a holiness they neither have nor want. These are they who have one foot in Babylon and the other in the Church. What they do not seem to see is that their sin weights them on Babylon’s side such that when she falls, they will go down with her and their fall will be so fast, repentance will be impossible.

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. He sent “his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done” (verse 6). Doubly accentuating this is God’s own proclamation that “these sayings are faithful and true” (verse 6). The law of two witnesses has been satisfied, and the vision stands. But the real thrust of the conclusion is in the beatitude expressed in verse 7: “Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” 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.

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

Revelation 22:16–21. Final witness, warning, and exhortation

This last section, much of it quoting the words of Jesus, emphasizes both the divine authority through which the revelation was given and the celestial origin of the whole. In addition, it stresses the truthfulness of the vision. That the angel that appeared to John appeared to other leaders as well and verified the truthfulness of the vision gives added weight to its truthfulness. This section also ties the whole of Revelation together with references to items found in the first two verses of chapter 1, such as the mention that the vision is from Jesus and the angel who signified its truthfulness.

Thus, the revelation ends where it started with an affirmation of its validity. Besides the stress on the authenticity of the vision, this section also strongly invites John’s readers to come into the work. In his day as well as ours, the time is short and all need to be engaged in the work of the Lord, crying repentance. The promise is that all those who respond will be blessed to partake of the tree of life (immortality) and enter the Holy City (celestial glory). This section also contains a strong warning spoken by the Lord Himself that if anyone takes away or adds to the prophetic words of the book, they will suffer the plagues listed therein. The warning is specifically addressed to those in the Church. Two groups seem to be in mind. First, those who would tamper with the text and remove plain and precious parts. These are the ones who composed “the great and abominable church of the devil” and whose primary work was in John’s day and shortly after. Second, those members who adulterate the word by going beyond the Lord’s commandments by adding self-imposed obligations or diminish His word through ignoring its teachings. Any of these, the text assures us, will bring dire results.

Additionally, the compilation of scrolls that would eventually gain the title Bible, literally “the books,” did not exist in John’s day. Therefore, John was not talking about the arrangement of the Bible as we now know it but his own book of Revelation when he gave the warning. There was time after these works were authored and before their inclusion in the New Testament for errors and corruption to work their way into the various texts. Thankfully, the Lord foresaw that happening and prepared the way for new, corrective scriptures to come forth in the Restoration.

The section ends with the personal promise of the Lord that He is coming soon and that He will bring His reward with Him. Thus the book of Revelation is a fitting bookend to the Bible. At the beginning, Genesis tells of earth’s creation, the initial choice between good and evil, and mortality’s fall from the divine presence; Revelation shows us earth’s de-creation, renewal, and rise to a sanctified state, the ultimate reward of choosing good and mortality’s reunion with deity. The promised coming of the Lord, whether that is personal, communal, or cosmic, assures the Saints’ vindication and eternal recompense. John’s enthusiastic response to the Lord’s assurance is one we echo—a heartfelt, “Amen! Come Lord!”

The following is adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, The Revelation of John the Apostle (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2016).

  • 1. See Revelation 13:11; 16:13; 19:20.
  • 2. 1 Nephi 13:4–6, 26–29; 14:1–17.
  • 3. Doctrine and Covenants 76:50–59, 94–95; 93:21–22.

Scripture Reference

Revelation 15:1