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Written by J.H. Fisher   

TREATISE on the Book of Revelation




Let me lay down a few axioms as rules for the use and interpretation of symbols, figures, parables, and signs, as used in the Bible.

In no case is the figure and the substance to be the same thing. Let me illustrate. A map of Texas is the figure. But the map of Texas can never be Texas in reality. But we look at the map and say “this is Texas.” But every one knows at once that the map is not Texas. Jesus is called a lamb, but we all know that He is not literally a lamb. George Washington’s picture is not Washington; yet when we look at the. picture we say “that is George Washington.”

The school teacher points to the map and says “this is Texas.” We know the teacher only means to tell the child that this stands for Texas, so we can learn all about Texas, its rivers, its mountains, its cities, countries, water ways, borders, size, and so on. Every one uses these figures, and frequently when they do not think of it. Let us understand ourselves. I want to make this simple, so as to help the little ones, for the strong ones do not need it so much. Yet the very -simplicity is a joy to the stronger ones. Now Jesus used this kind of manner to teach, and the: perversion of it brings on confusion.

Jesus takes the bread in His hand and in teaching His poor weak disciples, says: “This is my body.” Did He have His body in His hand? Could they, just there and then, eat His real body? No one can believe this. Then He takes the wine glass and says, “This is my blood.” Was it His real blood? now, let from His veins and placed in the cup? You know it is not so. What then,

is His faithful teaching to these pupils? It is that the wine and the bread just now represents His blood and His suffering body, just as a man’s picture represents the man. The blood and bread of the communion is a two fold picture of our blessed and holy Husband.  What holy memories arise from the contemplation on the lovely picture of our Almighty and unchangeable Friend!

2. The substance is in all cases the main thing, and is greater than the symbol.

Now here is my second axiom – self evident truth.  Texas is greater than the map of Texas.  Jesus is greater than a lamb. Eternal life is greater than natural life. The wonderful spiritual birth is greater than natural birth. God as our Father is so much greater than our earthly father. Jesus, the spiritual bread is much better than natural bread. The river of life is much better than common water out of the natural river.  It is so much better to eat spiritual than it is to eat our natural food. There is natural milk and there is spiritual milk, sincere milk of the word. There are natural sheep and there are also sheep of Christ’s pasture. There are natural goats and there are other goats. There are good trees that bring forth good fruit, and there are other trees that bring bad fruit. Watch the fruit to know the tree. There is a natural candlestick and there are the candlesticks, seven of which Jesus says are the churches. There are seven stars, and they are the angels of the seven churches or candlesticks.

There are many natural women, and there is also the women clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. There are many bad, wild natural beasts and again there is a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns. There are many worldly kings, but Jesus is to be crowned in the daylight presence of the entire universe King of Kings and Lord of Lords. There are many physicians but Jesus is the good physician that has never yet lost a case, and we are led by faith from this to believe that He will, never lose a single case. There are many rocks in nature, but Jesus is the Rock whose work is perfect and on which His church stands, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. In the mouth of two or three natural witnesses every word is established in a court; but the two witnesses in the eleventh chapter of Revelation were directed to preach the gospel of Jesus through the 1260 years of the darkest age, that by it the location of the true church is traced as a city set upon a hill that cannot be hid.

There are many natural cities, but the church of Jesus Christ is a city set on a hill whose light is joy, peace, comfort, instruction, help to rise up, to teach, shine, enlighten, show, lead, aid, furnish, house, protect, shield, guide, feed, nourish, and direct the feet of the little ones to higher things.

There is a natural sun that shines over all the creation of God; there is also the great eternal Sun of Righteousness that is a million times greater, brighter, larger, and higher than this sun that gives the common daylight. This is that light that shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not - preventeth it not.

3. The third axiom that I lay down here is that there may be thousands of the figure, yea millions, but there is but one of the substance. There may be a million maps of Texas but there is only one Texas. There may be a million pictures of William Jennings Bryan, but there was only one Bryan. There may be a million lambs, but there is but one Jesus. The world is today filled with many christs saying “lo here and lo there”, but go not after them for they are deceivers and antichrist. They are but biting serpents instead of saviors. They are cheats and a fraud. No man no church has been pointed to do what Jesus does. Jesus is not a substitute to be placed by men wherever they may please. What wondrous beauties hang around this great thought that Jesus does His will in the army of heaven and none can stay His hand or hurry not prevent Him in the day of His work. He alone and Jesus only save sinners, and completely prepares them for glory, and that without the aid or even consulting man.

Can we help the sun to shine? Can we, help the clouds to rain? Can we quicken sinners or help give them eternal life? No in no wise. This is the Christ and none but Him has a hand in this divine work.

4. While the figure is no part of the substance, and is not as important as the substance, yet a figure is in some sense similar to the substance, or else it is not a figure of said matter. Bryan’s picture must look like him or else it is not a picture of Bryan. If a map looks more like France than it does Texas, then it is not a map of Texas. Here, now lies the chief value of figures and signs and symbols and parables. The kingdom of heaven is like unto ten virgins. It has a similarity. But there is quite a difference between ten virgins and the Kingdom of God. Baptism is a sign, a figure, but salvation from sin is a substantial matter. Which is the most important matter, the sign or the substance?

Suppose you were very hungry, and you look down the street and see a sign-board which reads, Restaurant? You start at once toward that sign. When you get to the sign-board, do you begin to eat the signboard? I trow not.  Some people tell us that there is eternal salvation in baptism. Is that so? So; we do not eat the signboard, but as we approach the signboard we begin to look around to see after that which the signboard refers.

The board is not the restaurant. How silly we are to run to water baptism to get salvation. Again, how silly we would be to denounce every one that has a signboard.

We do not have signboards to eat, but Jesus said “go teach and baptize” Why object to baptism? This book of Revelation is a constant reproduction of signs. Some say, “I care nothing about it.” Someone might say of the restaurant signboard, “I care nothing about it.” That proves that you are not hungry for the food in that restaurant. So there are so many that care nothing of the signs in the great book of Revelation. It is because they have no ear to hear. Jesus said in the opening of this book: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith unto the churches.” He has no ear to hear. Has no interest in these things that Jesus sent to His beloved bride. He may be no part of the bride, and may be a real enemy to the people of God. We cannot be a sheep and wolf at the same time. There, the wolf is also a figure. For we have a natural wolf that eats natural sheep; and we likewise have another kind of wolf and dog, also, of which we are told to beware. But numbers of God’s children are so full of prejudice and in the flesh that they act like wolves in devouring each other. May heaven, sweet heaven, help us to crucify and put under this old wolfish spirit.

Stranger, if thou want to know.
Who I am or what I do,
Come and listen while I tell
Who I am and where I dwell
I was lost in nature’s night,
Without hearing, without sight
Faint with sickness wounded sore
Deep in debt and very poor.
Jesus found me in this state,
Kindly cancelled all my debt,
Healed my sickness, gave me sight,
Filled my heart with pure delight.
Jesus promised to defend,
And to be my constant friend.
Though thy foes be great, said he,
I will aid and succor thee.
In myself I am unclean,
Vile and sinful base and mean,
But in Jesus I appear,
White and comely bright and fair.
In myself I own it true,
I’m condemned and justly too,
But in Jesus I am free,
From the law that threatens me
In myself I’m led to see,
I am worse than poverty,
But in Jesus I possess,
Riches, fame and righteousness.
In myself I soon must die,
In the dust my flesh shall lie,
But in Jesus Wondrous thought
I shall live His days throughout
‘Tis enough I ask no more,
Jesus hath laid up in store,
Riches, honor, life and peace
Joys divine that never cease.
Stranger wilt thou go with me?
Christ hath pleanteous grace for thee,
Wilt thou leave these carnal toys,
For the greater heavenly joys?
Last Updated ( Thursday, 02 November 2006 )
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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.