Grace Community Church – Sarasota Florida
Our subject for tonight is going to be the identity of the great whore found in Revelation 17. There are two questions that you have to answer before you can understand that book. One is what is the great city? That one is much easier to answer. We’ll be looking at that. I can identify. What is Babylon? That will be easy to address. But the identity of the whore is more problematic. John will tell us it will take a heavenly wisdom to identify her. We’ll look at that tonight.
We had one clue last week in the parallel correspondence between the Gospel and Revelation in that, uniquely the whore Babylon has a scarlet robe and a cup of loathsomeness; abomination. There’s only one other character in all of John’s writings that has that same scarlet robe and a cup of loathsomeness. To our great surprise, it is the Savior Himself in the Gospel. What is the connection? What does that signify? What does that mean?
You just have to keep that in mind as we look at this. It will gradually, I think unfold itself to you. Tonight, we’ll have another significant clue. Two weeks from now, when we were scheduled to meet, I will be in Israel with many of you. So, we will not be meeting two weeks from now. Our next meeting will be the first time we meet in March, which is March 4th — two weeks after. So, it will be a four-week time before we gather together.
We’ll have a lecture that night, a time together in the Word of God. The following two weeks, I’ll give you the third clue, which I think is definitive. By that time, if you don’t know already, if you don’t discover it tonight, you should certainly have a strong conviction of her identity by that time. So, that’s our task before us is to put these clues that John has left for us, embedded in his own great books, so that we can have the confidence that the Word of God is determining our vision of this.
Let me speak briefly. We’re studying Revelation. I can’t wait until we get through the preliminaries and I can show you what John’s vision is of heaven, of being with the Savior forever. I just can’t wait to get to that time to share the magnificence of what he tells us will be our eternal privilege, what heaven will be like, what it will be like to be with the Savior for all eternity. That is the sweet part of this study. The rest of it is, too. It’s the manifestation of the Son of God. Does this talk about future things? Yes. It talks about things past, present and future. So, we’ll be giving some thought to that. The message of the book is John 3:16. That’s the message of Revelation, too. For God so loved the world that He gave us His Son.
Now, if He has given His Son, do you not then have all things? His Son who has faced death and come back from death tells us what? His consistent word when He has risen from the dead is “fear not.” The Revelation is written to show you how not to fear. Yes, there are going to be great judgments poured out on the earth — plague, famine, pestilence and death — but you will learn how to live with joy through all of that, knowing that your redeemer is close at hand, the one who will deliver us from all of these things.
So, it will encourage your faith. I hope it will deepen, immeasurably, your love for the Savior of whom it speaks. So, I want to show you these are not simple stories. They are profoundly embedded in the text of Scripture, and if we’re going to understand it, we must interpret it through Scripture because that’s been the blessing for the Church for 2,000 years. Every generation has thought that they were the last generation. If we interpret it by the newspaper, we will miss it entirely. It’s a blessing. It promises a blessing to study this book. You’re promised a blessing. It will encourage you in your own generation, and then, if the Lord intends, in the generations that will come. We want that message. We want to know, how do we live courageously in the faith, and how do we live joyously in the prospect of heaven that is set before us? And what does that look like?
So, tonight, our task is to try to understand what John is doing with this vision of the great whore. You may know, at the end of his book, in Revelation 17, he describes this hideous picture. It’s the most hideous picture in all of the Scripture, as far as I know, the description of the great whore. Then, in Revelation 21-22 — this is Lady Babylon, then he gives a picture of Lady Zion, Lady New Jerusalem, and she is beautiful and pure and filled with light and no darkness. It’s like he has these two portraits that are polished up for you to choose between. It’s paraenetic. It’s encouraging you to leave this vision behind and walk in the identity of the Bride of Christ and what that means.
So, to understand what he’s doing, it’s really like, in a way, the final exam of the whole Bible. He says it takes a heavenly wisdom to make that decision, to choose between these two women. And right there, we’ll see something very dramatic. So, let’s begin with looking at the text itself. I want to begin by looking at the portrait of the great whore.
“One of the seven angels who had seven bowls…” — these are bowls of wrath poured out upon the earth — “…came and talked with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great whore who sits on many waters,’” — why does he say she’s sitting on many waters? — “‘with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.’
“So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness.”
He’s still on the earth.
“And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet,” — she wears a scarlet robe. What’s the meaning of that? — “and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls,”
Now, she’s adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, and I think most of you know that that also describes Lady New Jerusalem who has a foundation of twelve precious stones, gates of pearl, streets of gold. You see, both of these women are dressed as brides. That’s a point of commonality. Why is John telling us that?
“…having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written:
“MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF WHORES…”
There are many whores. Apparently, this whole city has given over to whoredom; great Babylon.
“AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”
But he chooses one particular, one of them, the city that is all given to harlotry. There is one portrait he brings forth to kind of present to you.
“I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her,” — you traditionally have read: “I marveled greatly.”
The Greek word “thaumazó” can mean to marvel, but the English translation of that, you can marvel at something that is beautiful. That’s not the context of this reaction of John. When John the Apostle sees her, he is shocked. He is speechless. His mind is addled. He is unable to speak out of his shock. What kind of a shock is that? Is that of her horrendous picture or is it a shock of recognition? But that’s the response of God’s holy apostle to seeing this vision of the woman, and I think that is a great clue to her identity. If this woman is simply the world system, as many of you have been taught, if it’s another sect of Christianity, if it’s the political enemies that we have, if she was totally consumed with evil, then perhaps we’re not so shocked at her destiny. But why is John shocked? My suspicion is that he’s given that to tell you that when you see her and recognize who she really, truly is, you too will have the response. You will be shocked in your soul.
I’m sorry. I fell behind on my slide presentation.
“I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I was greatly shocked. But the angel said to me, ‘Why were you shocked? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.’”
Now it’s a mystery. It has to be revealed. You can’t, by nature, understand it. It has to be supernaturally revealed to you.
“‘I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel [be shocked], whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.’”
And here is your clue: “‘Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. There are also seven kings.’”
She has a relationship with seven men.
“‘Five have fallen, one is, and the other [the seventh] has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time.’”
That’s the clue. There are seven men. Five have fallen, one is, and one has not yet come. But when he comes, the seventh, he must continue a short time. Here is the mind which has wisdom.
Now, I want you to think with me for a minute. This is fairly sophisticated. You have to understand the Scriptures in a fairly sophisticated way to know why John is saying it takes wisdom to understand who this woman is. You will remember that the wisest man in all the earth was Solomon. The Scripture says there was no one before him like him in wisdom, no one that came after him, except for one, and that was Jesus who Paul says was the very wisdom of God. But Solomon, when he became king in Israel, God said, “Ask of me what you will and I will give it to you.” He didn’t ask for riches, length of life or victory in battle. He said, “Lord, give me wisdom to judge Your people.” And the Lord was pleased with that prayer and said, “I will give you wisdom and also glory and honor and power and riches.”
He added to it. But the Lord was pleased with that and He gave him an extraordinary wisdom. And the chronicler tells us that God gave him this wisdom, and then, immediately, the next story is that a case is presented to him. A legal case is presented to Solomon that he must judge that is impossible of decision. You may remember that there were two prostitutes who lived together. Both of them were pregnant. Both of them brought forth a son at roughly the same time. One of the mothers slept upon her son and smothered him in the nighttime. When she awakened and saw that her son was dead, she swapped him for the living son of her roommate.
When the woman who was the mother of the living son awoke and saw it, she thought her son was dead, but on examination she recognized this was not hers. This was the other woman’s.
So, there’s a quarrel between two prostitutes. Solomon will tell you, in the book of Proverbs, the prostitute is known for her lies. So, how do you decide between a “she said, she said” when they’re both notorious liars? No witnesses. How do you decide that? It’s a case impossible of decision because wisdom says you have to so decide the matter that everybody understands what the truth of the secret of the heart is. That’s biblical wisdom. That’s the wisdom of Christ, isn’t it? So, Solomon pretends to say, “Well, he’s an oriental monarch. He’s not to be troubled by such a minor matter.” He says, “Bring me the baby, I will divide him in half.”
Immediately, the one whose son had died said, “That’s fair.” Everything will be equal. But the true mother spoke up immediately and said what? “No. Just let him live. Give the child to the other woman.”
All of the court knew immediately who the true mother was without any question. Solomon’s wisdom had discovered the secret of the heart. It’s a choice between two women. That’s how you discern biblical wisdom, and that’s true all the way through the Bible, isn’t it? Abraham, the father of our faith, his soul is revealed as he veers between Hagar and Sarah, isn’t it? Hagar represents the flesh. Sarah represents the promise, faith. Abraham goes between them, triumphing at last, but also failing along the way. But the choice between two women exposes the soul of our father Abraham, to himself and to us.
The same is true of Jacob. Jacob veers between Leah and Rachel. Jacob, uniquely in the Bible, has a monogamous heart. He wants to love one woman. He’s a one-woman man. He falls totally in love with Rachel, who is beautiful, but he can never find it in his heart to love Leah who is not lovely. So, you see the souls that are revealed between them.
Joseph, when Potiphar’s wife is the predator, she comes upon him and he flees from her. But then he waits and is given a bride, the daughter of a priest, by Pharaoh, whom he takes legally and legitimately. All the way through the Bible, you see this choice between two women. You see it in the book of Proverbs when Solomon writes this book of wisdom to instruct his son. At the beginning of Proverbs, he gives a portrait, in two chapters, of a whorish woman. He says, “Flee from her. Her door is the door of death.”
Then, at the end of the book, he has a picture of the woman of virtue. His instruction is, “Flee the woman of ill repute and marry the woman of virtue.” That’s Solomonic wisdom. That continues on into the New Testament because, three times, you have this same choice between two women presented to you. The climax of the book of Galatians is Paul says, “We are sons of Sarah, the mother of promise,” and he contrasts her with Hagar. The true Gospel is identified with Sarah. It’s the Gospel of faith and promise, identities with Mount Zion. But Sinai is Hagar and Ishmael, and he says, “Cast out the bondwoman.”
It’s a different Gospel. It’s the Gospel of works instead of the Gospel of faith. Justification by faith alone. It’s justification by faith plus works. That’s no Gospel. Cast it out. The same thing happens in Hebrews. At the climax of the book of Hebrews, he sets before you and says, “We have not come to Mount Sinai,” which is Hagar, which is the old Jerusalem. “We have not come to that mountain with its terror, its thunder, its earthquake and its trumpets. We’ve come to Mount Zion, the heavenly city.” That’s Hebrews 12. He describes the heavenly city. It is the hope of the faithful through every age. We’ve rejected the whorish city and we have aligned ourselves and have pursued in faith that heavenly city.
And the book of Revelation brings all of that together in this vision of two women at the very end. I think, really, it’s like the final exam of all the Bible. All the stories of the Bible are undergirding this portrait of two women. Whorish Babylon and virginal and beautiful New Jerusalem. And you’re to discern between them, but it’s not so simple, is it? Because your choice between these two women — don’t you see? — will reveal your own soul to you. That’s the way that it functions within the book of Revelation. So, let’s take a look at this again.
“‘Here is the mind that has wisdom…’”
It’s not easy to discern between them. It will take a heavenly wisdom to understand who she is.
“‘The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, on is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must remain a short time.’”
Now, I’ve suggested to you that one of the major ways we understand Revelation is to understand that John and Revelation are one book. They speak to each other. The major characters in the Gospel reappear in Revelation. I’ve already suggested that to you. Several we’ve identified. You have a false prophet who speaks truth in Caiaphas. You have Judas who as described like the beast. He wants to control who buys and sells. His destiny is to go to perdition. And those are uniquely said of those individuals, but there are others. Other individuals that are prominent in the Gospel will reappear in Revelation.
So, how do they do it? Well, they’re different kinds of correspondence. This one we talked about last time. Revelation takes place in heaven. The Gospel takes place upon the earth. They’re talking to one another. Angels are ascending and descending between them. Vials of judgment are being poured out upon the earth below. It’s a spatial concept. What’s happening in the ministry of the Lord is being reflected upon, ironically, always, in heaven. The center of the book is where Satan is cast out of heaven and Christ is lifted up to heaven by means of the cross. That’s the centerpiece of John’s theology. That’s the center of all these patterns of correspondence.
There is another kind of correspondence between the books that is called a mirror correspondence. You see, Revelation goes this way and the Gospel of John goes this way. They reflect upon one another. I want to introduce that concept to you, the way I discovered it, tonight. It’s much more elaborate than I’ll be able to get into tonight, but I want to suggest to you that at the beginning of John — I talked to you about this, I think, maybe the first night. Certainly last time — we are introduced to the bridegroom who has come from heaven. He has left His Heavenly Father, He has been made flesh and He has come to earth, the bridegroom. Twice, He says, “Come and see.” There’s an invitation to the wedding.
You have no bride in John. The bride is at the end of Revelation where the bride comes from heaven and there’s a twofold invitation. “Come, all who thirst. Come.” It’s said twice. And the ones who heard, the Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” So, you’ve got the bride coming from heaven at the end of Revelation 22. The other pattern, by the way, from Revelation 1 to John 21, is in Revelation 1, Jesus is presented as the priest king. At the end of John, He takes upon Himself the true priesthood and the true kingdom. These are major themes that are worked out through both of these books. They’re not complete, each one, in and of itself. In John, you have a bridegroom, but no bride. In Revelation, you have a bride, but no bridegroom. The two books are wedded together.
I mentioned, too, at the very beginning of John you have a quarrel between light and darkness. At the end of Revelation, we know that the darkness is overcome by the light. So, we can see that these themes are being brought together and they’re being made final. Well, I want to explore this a little bit because the beginning of John, he’s introducing you to the bridegroom. John’s wisdom is to show you that Jesus is the bridegroom after the pattern of two famous bridegrooms from the Old Testament. One is Adam and the other is Jacob. It’s elaborately brought out. And I want to rehearse it for you just to bring it to your memory. Many of you will be familiar with this pattern. But I want to show you how precise and elaborate this pattern is. I want to remind you of how Jacob becomes a bridegroom and how he meets his bride, and then we will look at how John presents Jesus as the new Jacob.
Genesis 28:1: “Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, and said to him: ‘You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan Aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and take yourself a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.’ […] So Isaac sent Jacob away,”
Now, why did he send him away? Jacob was sent away, he was the son of promise, to whom all things were to belong. But his brother, according to the flesh, wanted to kill him, and threatened to kill him. So, Jacob left his after and mother, according to the pattern of Genesis, and went into a far country. The reason that the patriarchs took their brides from Mesopotamia and not from Canaan is really quite clear if you know the story of Jezebel and Athaliah. The daughters of Canaan maintained the worship of their father’s gods, but the daughters of Padan Aram, or Mesopotamia, would take to themselves the god of their husband. So, that’s why they would go. It wasn’t a racial thing. It was to protect true theology. They would take a wife from the daughters of Padan Aram.
“Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran.”
He’s on his way. Haran is in Mesopotamia.
“So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set.”
He’s on his way out. He’s left Beersheba and he’s come to the area of what we know as Bethel. And he has to sleep in the nighttime. So, he took one of the stones — there’s always something about stones with Jacob, all the way through his life.
“And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head,” — to lift up his head from the ground — “and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold,” — pay attention to this dream — “a ladder…”
The Greek word is “climax.” That means ladder, but it’s really a staircase. It’s like a ziggurat, a stepped pyramid, a great ladder. Staircase is, perhaps, better. Ladder sounds like a fireman’s ladder. That’s not what we’re talking about. It’s an elaborate staircase.
“A [staircase] was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.”
That is, God is giving commissions and the angels are His messengers who have been given commissions, and then they come back reporting how the commission has been accomplished.
“And there the angels of God were ascended and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it…”
God Himself, the Lord God, was at the summit of that staircase.
“Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.’ And he was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!’”
The house of God in Hebrew is “Beit El.” Bethel.
“Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it.”
Why does he anoint this stone? You see, that’s where the Church will be built.
“And he called the name of that place Bethel [the house of God].”
“So Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the East.”
So, he’s made his way, now, to Mesopotamia.
“And he looked, and saw a well in the field; and behold, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks. A large stone was on the well’s mouth.”
Now, the time is going to be high noon. It’s not the time when the shepherds assemble, when they come in the evening because this stone is so heavy it takes many men to move it. They can’t do that during the day. It takes many men to move this stone.
“Now all the flocks would be gathered there; and they would roll the stone from the well’s mouth, water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the well’s mouth. And Jacob said to them, ‘My brethren, where are you from?’ And they said, ‘We are from Haran.’ Then he said to them, ‘Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?’ And they said, ‘We know him.’ So he said to them, ‘Is he well?’ And they said, ‘He is well. And look, his daughter Rachel is coming with the sheep.’ Then he said, ‘Look, it is still high day [noon]; it is not the time for the cattle to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go and feed them.’ But they said, ‘We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together [with the shepherds], and they have rolled the stone from the well’s mouth; then we water the sheep.’”
To move this stone is not the work of one man, although you’re going to learn something about Jacob. Most of us think that Jacob is almost effeminate. He dwells in tents with his mother. Esau is the man of the field, the hunter. Right? But that’s not the way the Jews read the Bible. Jacob was a he-man, we would say. Look at this next scene.
“Now while he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother,”
In other words, it’s love at first sight. Jacob sees Rachel. How can he demonstrate that he is a remarkable bachelor? He can do the work that no man can do. See, for this reason, the Jews read the Bible that Jacob was a giant. That’s not the way most of us were raised to think about him.
“Jacob went near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth,” — that will draw the attention of this young lady — “and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.”
Listen to that. He can roll away a stone that no man can roll, and he can give water to his bride.
“Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice and wept. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s relative and that he was Rebekah’s son. So she ran and told her father.”
She immediately she left, ran to tell her father and went to her father’s tent to ask a welcome for this stranger who has come.
“Then it came to pass, when Laban heard the report about Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house.”
Now, John, as I said, wants to present Jesus as a new Jacob. And the bridegroom story about Jacob is significant. Jacob will be the father of twelve sons — won’t he? — who will constitute Israel, the patriarchal fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. Well, Jesus will surround Himself, at the very beginning, with twelve disciples. You should understand that as a part of He’s proclaiming that He is a new Jacob. He’s going to create a spiritual seed. So, let’s look at this pattern. John 1:1, John 1:14.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
“And the Word became flesh…”
That is the incarnation. The Word of God became flesh in Jesus Christ. Jesus, who is fully God and fully man. But in the incarnation, He has left His Heavenly Father. And that’s the pattern of Moses, isn’t it? For this reason, a man will leave his father, seek out his bride and cleave to her. So, he has left his Heavenly Father.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
He came into His own, but His own did not receive Him. In fact, they threatened to kill Him, as we know. So, his brothers are like Esau, Edom, in their enmity against Jesus. But in Chapter 1, He’s choosing twelve disciples. John will select two of them, two of the twelve, to draw special attention to. “One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him [Simon] to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him [looking into his soul], He said, ‘You are Simon the son of Jonah. But I’m going to call you Cephas’ (which is translated, A Stone).”
You’re going to be the stone, Peter, Petras. Peter is the one who will make the confession of Christ, after which Jesus will say, “Upon this stone I will build my Church.” Bethel. One disciple of the twelve that’s highlighted.
“The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’”
That’s one of the invitations to come to the bridegroom.
“Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said to him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!’”
And that’s remarkable. Jacob’s name means “guileful one.” When he’s made weak when he wrestles with God, he’s made weak in the flesh. His thigh, remember, is disabled as he’s wrestling with God. When he becomes weak in the flesh, he’s made strong in the spirit. At that point, he’s given the name Israel. So, that will be many years later, of course, at Peniel. But here’s Nathanael, and Jesus looks into his soul and He says, “Here’s an Israelite in whom there is no guile. A remarkable man.”
“Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’”
He was, a moment ago, saying, “Can any good thing come from Nazareth?” But immediately upon the identification of the fig tree, the fig tree, for Nathanael, becomes the tree of life. In his skepticism, his doubt becomes confession in faith.
“‘You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’”
Now, watch this.
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’ And He said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’”
Does that sound familiar? That’s Jacob’s vision at Bethel, isn’t it? There is the stone upon which the house of God will be built, and there is the vision promised to Nathanael that he would see the vision that Jacob saw in Genesis 28. The ladder of stairs, if we look at that, “I say you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending…” — not upon the ladder, but the connection between earth and heaven, now, is the Son of Man. He is the way to heaven. But it’s the same vision that’s promised, now, to Nathanael, one of the twelve. The twelve disciples, which present Jesus as the new Jacob.
Now, I want to tell you about this. I want to point out one other thing. Jesus says to Nathanael, “I say to you, hereafter you…” — and the verb is plural — “shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” It’s not a private vision promised to Nathanael. It’s open to all of those who will set aside their guile, all those who are true Israel.
Way back in 1995, I was studying this passage. I came to this and looked at the commentaries. The commentaries never comment on it. When was this vision fulfilled? Jesus said it. Obviously, it happened, but where was it fulfilled? None of the commentaries have an answer to that. It’s a striking vision that is promised to Nathanael, promised to others through Nathanael, but where is the fulfillment of that vision? It’s not in the Gospel, is it? There’s nothing in the Gospel that answers to this.
There are three things that will identify it. You will see the heavens opened, and angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. Three things you have to know. When you see those things, you will know you’ve seen the vision. By God’s grace, I want to show it to you. I prayed that God would let me see this vision. I will tell you, frankly, I was not praying with great faith. I really wasn’t. But others were praying for me who knew the project I was working on. I was studying John and Revelation together and I came to a passage — do you remember that line that goes from the beginning of John’s Gospel to the end of Revelation? That axis. I was in that area, just stumbling around, and I came to these verses. Revelation 19. Revelation 19 is the most beautiful vision of Christ in all the Bible. It’s right in the middle between the vision of the whore and the virginal new city. It’s Jesus coming on the white horse at the head of the armies of heaven.
And John says, “Now I saw heaven opened,”
And I was stunned. I saw heaven opened. Why, that’s the language that Jesus said to Nathanael by which he would recognize this vision.
“…and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True,” — He’s in heaven — “and in righteousness He judges and makes war. […] And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
On His thigh? You see, the thigh is the remembrance of the weakness of Jacob. But Jesus is the equestrian on the great white horse, and the most prominent part of a rider of the horse is his thigh that straddles the horse. And on His thigh, He has a name written: King of kings and Lord of lords. That is His thigh is the emblem of His great strength, not His weakness. He’s greater than Jacob. On His thigh, He has a name written: King of kings and Lord of lords.
But that language struck me. “I saw heaven opened.” So, I backed away from the text and looked at the larger section of the seven last angels in Revelation that go from Revelation 17 to Revelation 21. There are seven, the last seven angels, and when I backed away and looked at the text, this is what I found.
I want to take a moment and explain what you’re looking at. The verses that caught my eye, “I saw heaven opened,” are at the top of this staircase. At the very bottom, Revelation 17, the verse we began with.
“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls spoke with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot…and he led me away in the Spirit into the wilderness…’”
The angels speaks of the beast ascending. So, this angel is on the earth. The opposite angel, the first and the seventh in this pattern, uses the same language.
“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues spoke with me, saying, ‘Come, and I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ And he led me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain…’”
And the angel shows the holy city descending. So, this ascending and descending. You’ve got two angels on earth. Then you go one step up to compare the second and the sixth.
“After these things I saw another angel descending from heaven…”
Coming from heaven to mid heaven. The corresponding angle of two is six.
Revelation 20:1-3: “And I saw an angel descending from heaven…”
So, you have two angels on earth, the wilderness and the great high mountain. Two angels in mid heaven. Then you have two others, the third and the fifth.
“And one mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea,”
These angels are in heaven.
The other angel: “And I saw one angel standing in the sun,”
So, that’s in heaven. Two angels on earth, two angels in mid heaven, two angels in heaven. And the very middle angel, the fourth angel, is the angel of the Lord.
“Now I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True,”
That is, what John is presenting is nothing less than saying the one that Jacob saw at the top of the ladder, he saw the Lord. When he presents this great vision to you, the one who is at the top of the ladder is none other than Jesus Himself. Who are these people that say that John doesn’t say that Jesus is God? It would be utter blasphemy if he put a ladder, and Jesus at the top of that ladder, if He is not the eternal, divine God Himself. Now, you can look at this more elaborately.
He says, “I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True,”
His name is called the Word of God. It’s Jesus. And on His thigh, He has a name written: King of kings and Lord of lords. Remember, in Revelation, the parallel chart, Pilate is writing a name. This is Jesus the King of the Jews. But God writes a name. When Pilate sets his throne to rule, the great white throne is set in heaven and God Himself answers the writing of Pilate, “This is the King of the Jews,” by saying, “No, this is King of kings and Lord of lords.” The name written.
Revelation 17, the bottom, “One of the seven angels who had seven bowls spoke with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot…and he led me away in the Spirit into the wilderness…”
The angel speaks of the beast ascending. So, there is the whore city. The correspondent, then, is Revelation 21. Same language. The language that’s in red is the same in Greek. “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues spoke with me, saying, ‘Come, and I will show you…” — not the whore, but the bride — “…the Lamb’s wife.’ And he led me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain…”
And the angel shows the holy city descending.
The two in mid heaven. “After these things I saw another angel descending from heaven, having great authority.” It’s not stated that this angel comes to earth. Fallen Babylon is made a dwelling place for demons and a prison for every unclean spirit because all the nations have drunk of the wine of her wrath. The corresponding angel, six, “And I saw an angel descending from heaven having the key.” So, this angel has authority. This one has a key, which is the symbol of authority, of the abyss. “And a great chain. The devil is bound and thrown into the abyss, and locked in so that he should not deceive the nations.” That deception is the same.
The two angels in heaven: “And one mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea below, saying, ‘Thus with violence shall Babylon the great city be hurled down…’”
Then the corresponding angel, number five, “‘And I saw one angel standing in the sun,’ who speaks in a great voice of judgment upon the mighty men.’ And the beast and the false prophet were hurled down into the lake of fire.”
So, you can see these are all being arranged. They’re scheduled. Two on earth, two in mid heaven, two in heaven and then the angel of the Lord at the summit of the ladder.
Now, that has many implications. Is that the vision and what does it mean? Well, let’s pick up John. I’m trying to show you that in John 1, he highlights two disciples. One who will be the rock upon which the house of God will be built, and one who will have the great vision of the ladder of stairs. We find those answered. What is the answer to the promise to Peter that he will be a great stone upon which the house of God will find its foundation? What corresponds in the appropriate part of Revelation is we find that that is not a promise just to Peter, it’s a promise to all of the twelve. The word that’s used in John is just a regular stone. The word that’s used in Revelation is they’re not just made stones, they’re made precious gems, all twelve, which tells you God is far more generous than even His promises to us. What a God we serve. All of them, all twelve now, are precious stones, and they become — the apostles, the apostolic doctrine becomes the foundation of the City of God, the Church, and not even the gates of hell will prevail against it. That’s the assurance that we have.
So, all that takes place in John 1. He’s showing you how Jesus is the new Jacob, but that takes you up to Bethel. But what happened, remember, we read the rest of Jacob’s story. He went on into Padan Aram, into Mesopotamia, and there he found a well. Well, let’s continue in the book of John. No, I’m sorry. I went too far. John 3. This is where John the Baptist, in the spirit of prophecy, identifies Jesus as the bridegroom. He who has the bride is the bridegroom. But the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears Him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore, the joy of mine is fulfilled.
By the way, this doctrine, when we get to it, will just so thrill your heart. It’s unimaginable. John was right. The joy that will come. But he identifies Jesus as the bridegroom. He’s come in quest of His bride. In the next chapter, we find our Lord, like Jacob, sitting on a well.
Does that remind you of anything? He’s come to a far country. He’s come to Samaria. That was not identified as part of the land.
“Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus had made and baptized more disciples than John […], He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria. So He came to the city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.”
He’s come to a far country, to an area, a territory, that Jacob had given to his son Joseph, who is Rachel’s son. That’s John’s first way of prompting you to remember the story of Jacob meeting Rachel at the well.
“Now Jacob’s well was there.”
It’s identified with Jacob because he dug it. This is not the well in Haran, but this is the well in Samaria where this is going to be reenacted, this scene that we saw in Genesis 29.
“Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well.”
Remember the woman that sat on many waters? Here was Jesus sitting upon the well. He sends the disciples into the city to buy bread, so He’s alone at this well.
“It was about the sixth hour.”
That is the time. It was high noon. It’s not the time when women come to the well. They wait until the cool of the day, just like in Genesis 29. Now, imagine with me, for a minute, the drama in heaven. All of the heavenly court is looking down at this well in Samaria. By the way, those of you who are going to Israel, we’re going to that well. You will drink from it and you will see it’s deep, just as the woman said. It’s the one place we’re absolutely certain God, in the flesh, was right here. That’s just a beautiful, wonderful place. So, Jesus is sitting there. Imagine the heavenly court, all the angels, all the saints looking down. Here is the Son of God, come from heaven, in question for a bride. Jesus is so much greater than Jacob who is filled with deceit and self-dealing and aggrandizement and all of that. He’s a cheater. But Jesus never took anything from anyone. He only always blessed everyone.
So, here is Jesus, the Son of God, the holy, harmless, undefiled one who is true Israel. There is no [inaudible] in His mouth. He’s sitting at that well and everybody in heaven knows the story. He’s being sent like a new Jacob. We’re about to see someone whom the Father has chosen to represent that bride. It’s not that she is the bride, but she will represent the bride. So, all of heaven is look at that site, and Jesus is looking to that city. He knows the story, too. And everybody is looking, and when the hour hits twelve, out of the city she comes. There she is in the distance. It’s a female figure. We’re all in expectation wondering, “What in the world? Who has the Father chosen as one worthy to represent the true Rachel? The true Rachel, virginal, beautiful. Who could excel Rachel for beauty and purity as much as Jesus excels Jacob? What loveliness, what virtue must this woman have?”
Jesus watches her as she comes. She’s drawing near to the well. All of heaven is looking down. But when this woman comes, Jesus sees something. This woman is no longer beautiful, and neither is she pure, but this is the one the Father has chosen. And the Son of Glory loves her for that choice, and He knows what Solomon didn’t know. He knows that His love can make her beautiful. His love can make her pure.
“A woman of Samaria came to draw water.”
She’s coming. She doesn’t come with the other women because this is a woman of shame. So, she sneaks to the well privately, at high noon when no one else will go, in the heat of the day.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink.’”
She’s stunned. Here is a man who, obviously, by His dress, is a Jew. He’s male. Jesus is venturing His reputation for purity. No rabbi would ever be caught talking to a woman or being with a woman alone, unsupervised.
But He says to her, “‘Give Me a drink.’ For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, ‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?’ For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God,’” — who is the gift of God? He is — “‘and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’”
Just like Jacob drew water for Rachel. Remember? And for all of her flocks.
“The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep.’”
The well is deep, by the way.
“‘Where then do You get that living water?’”
And then she asks the question that John preserves because he wants you to answer it.
“‘Are you greater than our father Jacob,’”
The way that it’s phrased in Greek is she’s expecting a negative answer. “Oh, no. You’re not greater than our father Jacob, certainly.”
“‘Are You greater than our father Jacob,’”
And that’s the question you have to answer if you’re going to understand this passage. What is the answer to that question? John doesn’t give it. He expects you to tease it out of the text.
“‘Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?’ Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.’”
And you’ll find, when you drink from that well, you will thirst again.
“‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water sprinting up into everlasting life.’”
Anyone want that water? Don’t you?
“The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.’”
I think she’s asking in an awakening faith, but she’s still thinking of water in earthly terms. She has no idea, does she? So, she asks for the Lord to intervene on her behalf, and look at what happens. She’s lied, by the way — or will lie.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’”
That’s a very tender question. This woman did not want to talk about that.
“The woman answered and said, ‘I have no husband.’”
That is, she lies about her marital state. “I have no husband.”
“Jesus said to her, ‘You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ of you have had five husbands, and the one whom you have now is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.’”
Did you hear that? She has a relationship with seven men. Five are gone, one is, but the seventh is the one who will satisfy her heart that wants to be loved. The seventh is the Lord Jesus Himself. Anyone longing to be loved by a love that will not let you go? Anyone had serial marriages? Heard promises, “I will never leave you or forsake,” and then they’ve gone? Anyone longing for a love that will never let go, that will never forsake you?
“‘You have had five husbands, and the one whom you have now is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.’”
Do you see how tenderly He speaks to her? She has lied, really. She’s misrepresented the truth, and He takes that one aspect by which He can not shame the woman.
He says to her, “‘But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming…’”
See, she believes. She believes that Messiah is coming.
“…(who is called Christ). ‘When He comes, He will tell us all things.’”
Then Jesus identifies. “Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.’”
“I am.” A divine claim. Now, the disciples, remember, had gone into the city to buy bread. But now they come back.
“At this point His disciples came, and they were shocked…”
John is one of them. When He sees Jesus talking to such a woman as that. He can’t imagine that the Holy Savior would talk to a foreigner, a woman who is immoral. They’re shocked. That is, they’re startled that He would talk with a woman, and yet no one dared say, “What are You seeking?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”
They were so startled. Their mind is addled. They can’t even speak. What does the woman do? John says, “She left her waterpot.” Why does he tell you that? She left her waterpot. Why does he tell you that? Did someone say? She’s no longer thirsty, is she? That’s his little way of telling you she’s found living water. The first thing she does, which is so counterintuitive, she’s found her true love and, immediately, she leaves to tell others about how free, how wonderful and how gracious is the love of the Savior. Immediately, she leaves Him in order to go and tell others. That’s her instinctive response to finding the Savior.
“The woman left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, ‘Come,’”
There it is. The spirit and the bride say, “Come.” She’s a picture of the bride. Don’t you know what she says? Come. Anyone who’s thirsty, come. That’s the bride, isn’t it?
“‘Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did.’”
Do you realize what she’s doing there? This is a woman who’s deeply ashamed, and would’ve been shamed in that culture — bullied, mocked. She’s the one who brings up her past, which everybody in that little town would’ve known. “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did.”
What does that mean? Where is her shame? Her shame has been turned into her testimony. She’s no longer ashamed because she’s found a love that will not forsake and leave her.
“‘Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’”
Then what happens?
“Then they went out of the city and came to Him.”
She’s the new Rachel. She’s left to go and ask for a welcome in her father’s tent. This woman has gone into the city to invite everybody to come to the well to meet the new Jacob. What is it that Jesus knew that Solomon didn’t? Solomon’s wisdom is to flee from the whorish woman and marry the woman of virtue. There is wisdom in that. Most of us who are parents, I suspect, have given similar wisdom to our children. Haven’t we? Is there a greater wisdom than that though? Is wisdom so static? What ever happened to Potiphar’s wife? As far as we know, the wisdom of Joseph left her in her sin. He did not sin against God, in his mastery did not partake, and he fled. And that’s good.
But is there a wisdom that isn’t static? Is there a wisdom that’s dynamic? If Jesus came with greater wisdom than Solomon, how would Jesus write the book of Proverbs? Is it possible that there is a divine wisdom by which the whore can become a virginal bride again? Is that possible? If anyone is troubled by a sinful past, is it possible that the love of the Savior can restore your purity? That the love of the Savior who can come can take anyone and espouse His love to you, and make you a royal bride, a holy priesthood? Is there wisdom by which the whore can become the bride? Well, let me summarize this by going through the pattern. Again, I want you to see that John and Revelation are very deeply embedded in the text of Scripture. Very deeply embedded. And if you understand that, it begins to yield its mysteries to you.
Jacob was the son of Isaac who had the blessing. His brother hated him, Esau. His father sent him into a far country to find a bride. He was to have twelve sons, which was to be Israel. Jacob came to Bethel. He took a stone for a pillow. He dreamed a prophetic dream. He saw the ladder reaching from earth to heaven. The angels of God were ascending and descending upon the ladder, and the Lord was at the summit of the ladder. He awoke and anointed the stone as the house of God.
Jacob continued his journey and came to a foreign well. Rachel came to the well at high noon. She was beautiful and a virgin. Jacob loved her and drew water to give her. Rachel ran back home and told everyone about Jacob. All the family of Abraham came to the well to welcome Jacob. Jacob had twelve sons. God called him to return to Canaan. Jacob left on the third day. God met Jacob and wrestled with him. Jacob was disabled in his thigh, which became the mark of his weakness. Jacob was given the name Israel.
Jesus is the Son of God with a blessing. He came to His own brothers who hated Him. God sent Jesus to a far country as a bridegroom. Jesus was to call twelve disciples. When Simon came to Him, Jesus called him the rock. When Nathanael came to Him, Jesus promised he would see the heavens opened, the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. Jesus was called the bridegroom by John the Baptist.
He came to the well in Sychar in the far country of Samaria. It’s not far in distance. It’s far in culture and context. It was Jacob’s well, which he had given to Joseph. That is, Rachel’s son. Jesus sent His twelve disciples into the city for bread. Jesus sat at the well. The woman came at high noon. She was no longer beautiful. She was not a virgin, but Jesus loved her and offered her living water.
Anyone identify with her? I know I’m not the only one. My shame, too, is my testimony to how much He loves me. The Lord can do what Jacob could never do. See, Jacob could not love the unlovely. He never found it in his heart to love Leah who was a godly woman, but not beautiful. Jacob could love the beautiful, but not the unlovely.
Are You greater than our father Jacob? Is Jesus greater than Jacob? Can He love the unlovely, too?
Jesus loved her and offered her living water. The woman asked, “You are not greater than Jacob, are You?” The disciples returned to the well and were shocked that Jesus spoke with this woman.
Anyone out there that when your friends found out you’d become a Christian, they were shocked?
The woman went back to the city and invited the people to come and see the bridegroom. Come, anyone who’s thirsty. Samaritans came to the well to welcome Jesus. And here, I’ll leave you with this. Jesus said to the woman at the well, “You have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.” Whore Babylon. I began by reading a picture of her. The law of Moses condemns such a one. Anyone here want to take up a stone and throw at Lady Babylon? There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other, the seventh, has not yet come.
Gracious Father, we thank You for our precious Savior who is not put off by our sin, but came to take away our sin, to satisfy our thirst with living water, and to show us that even though we’re unlovely in our sin, Jesus’ love can transform us and make us beautiful in His sight. We thank You for that grace of the gift of the love of God, for God so loved the world that He gave His precious, holy, harmless and undefiled Son, that we who were everything but holy, we who were vicious in our sin and defiled in our wickedness — He could find it in His heart to love us and make of us, once again, restoring to us the purity of His own virginal holiness, and the destiny to be with Him forever. He, delighting in our beauty, and we, delighting in His love, for our beloved is ours and we are our beloved’s forever. Amen.
Well, thank you. See you in four weeks.