The Story of the Seer of Patmos



When a human mind can put itself in the channel of divine thought, then and only then, can the events of the world’s history be rightly interpreted. To John was given a many-sided history of the church on earth. He saw it in its purity, and watched it until it was wholly corrupt. In every case the love of God was unmistakably written on every page. The story of nations reveals the infinite love of the Creator no less than the history of the church reveals His love. The twelfth chapter of Revelation is a bird’s-eye view of the church from the days of Christ until the plan of redemption is complete. The thirteenth chapter bears more directly on the nations which are the chief actors in the Great Controversy, related in the previous chapter. SSP 224.1

Patmos is described as a desolate, rocky Margin island; but it had a sandy beach, and at times the prophet-exile stood upon the sands of the sea, and watched the dashing of the waves of the Mediterranean. The ceaseless lapping, the ebb and flow of the tide, spoke forcibly to the spiritual mind of the holy seer. Everything in nature reminded him of his God, and taught some deep, hidden lesson. His Master, when walking among men, had pointed to the clusters on the vine, to the setting sun, to the fig tree, or to the sower, and the apostle never saw these objects without hearing afresh the sacred story of heaven. But now when the scene is changed, the same God used the objects which daily met the eye of John to tell him of the glories of the world to come, or to illustrate the divine hand in all human history. The ear that can hear, will find a voice in leaf and stone, in rosy sunset and in falling twilight. “Lo, these are parts of His ways ...but the thunder of His power who can understand?” SSP 224.2

As John stood upon the sand of the sea, his mind was opened to the influence from above, and he received a new revelation. He saw “a beast rise up out of the sea;” from the midst of the waves a form appeared. It had the lithe and spotted body of a leopard, the feet of a bear, and the mouth of a lion. The Lord had before represented the history of nations by beasts; and the symbols here used, are the same which were given to Daniel, and were interpreted for that prophet by Gabriel, the angel of revelation. In the history of the world four beasts, or kingdoms, cover the time from the days when Israel lost its standing as a nation until Christ sets up His everlasting kingdom. These four, speaking Margin of them in the order of their existence, were Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Babylon was the lion, the king of beasts, which ruled by the power of worldly grandeur. Compared with other kingdoms, this kingdom was as gold among the baser metals. Babylon was overthrown; but her religious principles lived on, and, like the roots of a fallen tree, sent forth a cluster of new fruit-bearing branches. Babylon’s crowning sin was that of imputing all her wisdom and power unto false gods. Medo-Persia succeeded Babylon, and the bear was taken to represent that nation. Not so noble in appearance as the lion, but stronger, and more savage. With its feet it stamped and crushed its foe. The strength of Medo-Persia lay in its tyrannical government. It was a monarchy of the most absolute form, and the fact that the laws of the Medes and Persians changeth not, was known not only by the nation itself, but by all who fell under its power. A terrible tyranny was the result,-an example of which is recorded in the book of Esther, where the law passed by Xerxes, the greatest of Persian monarchs, would have blotted the people of God from the earth if the Lord had not brought deliverance. This history will be repeated in the closing scenes of earth. Margin SSP 225.1

The Medo-Persian government likewise fell when the life-giving Spirit of God was withdrawn; and the Greek Empire followed. Through Greece, “the prince of the power of the air,” the “old dragon,” who was cast into the earth, attempted a new scheme for enslaving the truth. Greek culture and intellectual development carried men farther away from the simple truth of God’s Word than any form of religion, or any oppression from the government. The teachers of Greek philosophy followed in the wake of the Alexandrian conquests. The beauty and æsthetic nature of their learning deceived men as nothing else has ever done. The mixture of good and evil was divinely represented by the spotted leopard, and its universal acceptance, by the lithe form and agile movements. SSP 227.1

John saw a beast coming up out of the sea, rising in the midst of the nations of the earth, and it combined the characteristics of the leopard, the bear, and the lion. The successor of Greece was Rome, and profiting by past failures, the devil combined the strength of all preceding kingdoms in this fourth. A false religion, a tyrannical government, upheld and propagated by a flattering, insinuating, false system of education,-this was the body of the beast. SSP 227.2

It had seven heads and ten horns, and ten crowns upon these horns. Besides building a nation with the quintessence of the evil of all the past, the power which was controlling in the growth of Rome, experimented on that nation, seeking for that form of administration which would best accomplish his designs. The government Margin began with a king, but the people were able to dethrone the monarch; the wealthy ruled for a time as consuls; but there was discord and weakness. Ten men were chosen to make laws adapted to all classes; then, all the people tried holding the reins of government, and Rome became a sort of republic or tribunate. The greedy heart of man repeated the story of Lucifer in heaven, and a political ring of three prominent citizens ruled. This was the triumvirate. To find three men in Rome who would be of one mind, was as impossible as it would be to find such to-day; and shortly the triumvirs disappeared, and Rome became an empire. Constant change was the only means of perpetuity, and the throne which Satan hoped to see an eternal one, was weakened by constant modifications. SSP 227.3

Thus it was at the advent of Christ; but the end of changes was not yet. The very foundations of the pagan empire tottered as the Gospel spread. Paul himself preached Christ to the household of the Cæsars; and emperors found that though they might spurn the teachings of the Christ, yet their wives believed, their servants accepted Christianity, and even their soldiers, accepted the teachings of Jesus. A new and unheard of power had arisen which could not be met and vanquished, as Cæsar had subdued the foes of Rome. Then the wisdom of past ages was brought into play, and paganism stealthily crept under the garments of Christianity. The prince of darkness clothed himself in the garments of light, and the “mystery of iniquity” was established! The pagan Roman Empire was broken into ten divisions as described in the Margin seventh chapter of Daniel, but each division was a branch nourished by the same old root. Seven of the ten divisions developed into the nations of modern Europe, and bear the fruits formerly borne by the kingdoms which prophecy describes under the symbols of the four beasts. Each horn wore a crown, showing that each is an independent kingdom or nation. These horns cluster about the last head which arose in their midst, taking the place once occupied by three which it plucked up. This plucking up of three horns to give place to the papacy, the seventh head, is. made clear in the seventh chapter of Daniel. That each of the various forms of government under which Romans have lived, was controlled by the enemy of God, is signified by the expression that upon each head was written the name of blasphemy. Each was an attempt to seat a man above the God of heaven. The seventh head most fully accomplished the design of the enemy of truth; for to the beast, the dragon himself gave power, and his seat, and great authority. SSP 228.1

In 330 a. d. Constantine removed his capital from Rome to Constantinople. The ancient city was left to the papal power and the pope occupied in Rome a throne higher than any occupied by the Cæsars. Constantine laid the foundation of the papacy; but it remained for Justinian to complete the edifice in 533 a. d., by declaring that memorable decree which constituted the pope the head of all the churches. The Heruli, the Vandals, and the Ostrogoths were of the Arian faith and opposed to the bishop of Rome. The decree could not go into effect until 538 a. d., when the last of the Margin opposing powers was overthrown by the armies of Justinian. SSP 229.1

From 538 a. d. may be reckoned that absolute power which lasted for forty and two prophetic months, during which time the mouth speaking great blasphemies was practically unchecked. “He opened his mouth in blasphemy against God.” He “opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” He soon claimed power to forgive sin, and the church became sole interpreter of God’s Word; the consciences of all men were made amenable to the church or to those to whom the church delegated the right to sit in judgment. SSP 230.1

With unbounded audacity, the attempt was made to change the immutable law of God. The Sabbath was trodden underfoot, the second commandment was dropped from the decalogue, and the tenth was divided into two. The memorial of creation and redemption was thus denied to man, the atoning work of Christ was set aside, and the worship of idols was instituted. Any who dared lift a voice in opposition, or who denied, by word or act, the right of the church to control the conscience of man, found death a welcome relief,-a thing to be sought in preference to the incessant torture inflicted by the ecclesiastical tyranny which held the world with an iron grip. SSP 230.2

The Gospel of Jesus Christ reached the ears of every nation under heaven; and, likewise, before the death of the seventh head, every kindred, nation, and tongue, will feel its oppression. Margin SSP 230.3