Exposition on Revelation, by Wilhelmus à Brakel

From his book “The Reasonable Service”

Wilhelmus a Brakel, died in 1711, wrote a big part on the Revelation in his by the reformed church of the Netherlands common known work “The Reasonable Service”. (De Redelijke Godsdienst) He was a Dutch pastor in Rotterdam

Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711)

Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711)

and one of his beauties is that he expected a national repentance and return of the Jews to their promised land Israel. While Palestine at that time still was a dessert under reign of the Ottomans, he just read Roman 11 as what it states. He was not alone, dr. M van Campen wrote an interesting (Dutch) dissertation on (positive) opinions on the Jews by reformed theologians of the 17th and 18th century: “Gans Israel” (whole Israel). And I can’t omit to say that at the same time many English Puritans had very good insights on the prophecies on Israel. I think they had it even more than the Dutch theologians. Sadly enough there wasn’t paid attention to it by the church. Millennianism wasn’t accepted by the mainstream. Even in this very day many (pastors) are afraid of being tagged as a millennialist. Brakel was a historical millennialist though. He was very clear in his expectation of a peaceful dynasty of the community of Christ, for a time of 1000 years. This was very diminished in the church. And how sadly is this: the english translator Bartel Elshout of The Reasonable Service has omitted this beautiful exposition of hundreds of pages on Revelation. So (I think) we have it only in Dutch. You can find a free copy of the missing section (Deel III) in two parts here and here.

I’ll give a few points of the last chapters of his book concerning the Revelation.

First he describes the common sights and events John saw.

Then he’s arguing that the 7 letters aren’t 7 eras and aren’t prophetical. The author is the Messiah and the purpose is to teach the communities.

After that, he comes to the part of the prophecy (the revelation of Yeshua) which describes the future. This main part exists of the three images which are: the seals, the trumpets and the bowls as three sequential periods:

  1. The church (community of Christ) under the heathen Caesars +- until 325 CE.
  2. The church under the antichrist (the Pope/might of Cath.church) for a period of 1260 years.
  3. The church in its free state, first struggling under the 7 bowls and finally rules with Christ.

Interesting is his explanation of the 5th and the 6th bowl of the wrath of G-d.

– By the fifth he expected the fall of the beast i.e. the might of the (Catholic) church. This happened with the Enlightenment and the French Revolution.

– By the sixth he expected a fall of the great Ottoman empire. He said it has to happen for enabling the Jews to return to their promised land. And so it happened. In 1870 the Ottoman empire was drawn back to their current borders. And through very difficult times though, the state of Israel was established in 1948.

Brakel was very sure about the coming repentance of the Jews and the return to their land. He said: I don’t know what will happen first, repentance or returning. But both will happen. And it will cause, he said, repentance of “kings and people around Israel”. That would be the beginning of the time (millennium) of the what he called: “glorious state of the Church”. The Church written with a capital was meant to be the community of true believers at that time, the mystical body of God. (Ef.4) It would be a time when Yeshua is King, honored and obeyed by all the nations.

If you want to get more of this, I recommend to read The Rise and Fall of Papacy by Robert Fleming. For example, he predicted the decline of the influence of the Roman church about 100 year prior to the events. He stated it would start in 1794 which correlates with the French Revolution and it would be completed by around 1848 which was the year that the papacy was forced to leave Rome. And very interesting are the works of the great sir Isaac Newton. He spend most of his life not on physics, but on theology. Recently his manuscripts are available at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem under the name Newton’s secrets. And at The Newton Project, were you can find his “Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John” e.g.


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9 Responses to “Exposition on Revelation, by Wilhelmus à Brakel”

  1. Wilhelmus a Brakel and Ethnic Israel Says:

    […] […]

  2. faithbasedworks Says:

    Because it seems that I’m not convincing a few some about the translator Bartel Elshout his omitting to translate a certain section of Brakel’s work, here is a brief explanation. He has not translated the section of Brakel’s Exposition on Revelation, which is the second section of volume III of the Reasonable Service. This is the last 206 pages of the Dutch “Redelijke Godsdienst”. I have linked to Bartel’s own words about that in my post.

    You can satisfy with reading this one sentence: “à Brakel’s exposition of the Revelation of John has not been included in the English edition. This exposition is by far the weakest and most controversial element of his work.” According to Bartel’s words.
    I have no copy of the English translation, so in that way I cannot proof it. But I think it’s clear enough. However, it can be possible that it is translated at a later time in another print.

    If you want to read more on it, here is some more from Bartel: “The Dutch edition of à Brakel’s De Redelijke Godsdienst consists of three volumes. The systematic theology proper which we have just examined in its pastoral emphasis is contained in the first two volumes. In the third volume à Brakel addresses two subjects: first, the chronological revelation and administration of the covenant of grace from Adam until the Revelation of John; and second, an exposition of the book of Revelation. In the English edition, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, the first is included as a six-chapter appendix in volume four. à Brakel’s exposition of the book of Revelation has not been translated as yet; the reasons for this decision will be delineated below.
    à Brakel’s treatment of the administration of the covenant of grace is both of historical and contemporary interest. The historical value of these chapters lies in the fact that they express his critical evaluation of certain elements of the covenant theology of the famous but controversial Dutch theologian Johannes Cocceius (1603-1669). Though Cocceius was a pioneer in the development of what is designated today as biblical theology, having also laid the groundwork for Reformed covenant theology, certain aspects of his theology led to a head-on confrontation with the magisterial systematic theologian of the Dutch Second Reformation, Gisbertus Voetius of Utrecht. In this conflict à Brakel, though appreciative of Cocceius’ biblical and covenant theology, chose the side of his mentor Voetius. With Voetius he rejected the tenets of the Cocceian view of the Old Testament church, some of which are:
    (1) the allegorization of Old Testament History (over against which à Brakel sets forth a very careful and narrow definition of biblical types [Appendix, chapter 1]); (2) the notion that the Old Testament began at Mount Horeb; (3) the non-binding nature of the fourth commandment for the New Testament believer; (4) the fathers of the Old Testament were subject to judicial guilt until the Surety had in actuality made satisfaction; (5) the distinction between Old Testament forgiveness (paresis) and New Testament forgiveness (aphesis); (6) the connected notion that Old Testament believers did not enjoy the same spiritual benefits as New Testament believers; (7) rather than a manifestation of the gospel, the ceremonial laws were an imposition of 23 divine judgment upon Israel in response to the golden calf episode.
    à Brakel recognized that the organic unity and the correct exegesis of the Scriptures were at stake, and therefore went to great lengths, be it tediously at times, to expose the error of the Cocceian Old Testament hermeneutic.
    However, it is à Brakel’s analysis of the erroneous nature of this hermeneutic which makes these chapters so valuable in our current theological setting. Modern evangelicalism is often dispensational, which means that an erroneous and decidedly unreformed hermeneutic concerning the Old Testament (e.g. Sabbath observance, baptism, millennium, etc.) is prevalent among many evangelicals. Anyone who wishes to make a serious study of the Reformed hermeneutic of the Old Testament and is looking for biblical ammunition to expose dispensationalism and baptistic theology for what it is, would do well to study these chapters carefully.
    As stated, à Brakel’s exposition of the Revelation of John has not been included in the English edition. This exposition is by far the weakest and most controversial element of his work –à Brakel was a historical millenialist with postmillenial tendencies– and has therefore never received the abiding recognition and approbation which have been awarded to De Redelijke Godsdienst itself. The Dutch church historian Ypeij states concerning this exposition: “This volume is the least significant and needs to be used by the common man with prudence and with not too much confidence in the exegesis of the writer.” Los concludes: “The public at large has unconsiously placed its stamp of approval on this unfavorable evaluation concerning Brakel’s exposition of the Revelation of John. For, as renowned as the Redelijke Godsdienst is, in like manner the exposition which concludes the work has been relegated to oblivion.” This unfavorable evaluation of his exposition of Revelation led to the decision to postpone its translation to a future date.”
    For so far Bartel’s words.

  3. faithbasedworks Says:

    I send him an email and he confirmed it:

    Dear Jos,

    It is indeed correct that Brakel’s exposition of Revelation was not translated. I addressed this in my little book about à Brakel and The Christian’s Reasonable Service, entitled “The Pastoral and Practical Theology of Wilhelmus à Brakel.” Here is the quote from my book:

    As stated, à Brakel’s exposition of the Revelation of John has not been included in the English edition. ….. [qoute is te same as above, Jos]

    At this point, I am quite doubtful that it will ever be translated.

    Pastor B. Elshout

    My comments on that:

    It’s not new for me to see this. Because I know the doctrines of the contemporary protestant/reformed churches of the Netherlands. I grew up in the Gereformeerde Gemeente. Sharing the same heritage of Bartel. Until about 15 years ago it wasn’t done to speak about the promises for the Jews. “Look unto your own” was the answer. (Now it seems to be changing to better opinions. Because they couldn’t ignore à Brakel and many others:-)

    Many of our Dutch protestant theologians of the 17e and 18e century expected a national conversion of the Jews and a return to their land. But especially in the last century also many followers of the church, in contrary, would sweep out (if they could) all the promises of a great and glorious state of Israel and church ON EARTH. These promises were never came into the doctrines of the church. But thank God they are written in his own Word. And carried on by me to go forward in my poor life, which hold me up to see the purpose of it all: Yeshua to be King in gloriousness and salvation unto His poor people. Which I expected soon.


  4. faithbasedworks Says:

    I’m happy that I recieved another mail from pastor Bart Elshout:

    Dear Jos,

    Are you aware of the fact that I did translate the six appendices of the Reasonable Service, one of which deals with the future conversion of the Jews and their return to the land of Israel? You will find this in volume 4, chapter 6 (of the appendices), pages 511-535. In this section, the return of the Jews to their homeland is addressed on pages 530-534. …

    For so far his email. He attached this translation of the first section of the Dutch “Deel III” for which I am very thankful. I publish the pages 530-534 here:

    The Return of the Jews to Canaan Proven from Various Old Testament Passages

    One more question remains to be answered: Will the Jewish nation be gathered together again from all the regions of the world and from all the nations of the earth among which they have been dispersed? Will they come to and dwell in Canaan and all the lands promised to Abraham, and will Jerusalem be rebuilt?

    We believe that these events will transpire. We deny, however, that the temple will be rebuilt, and that therein the previous mode of worship will be observed, which prior to Christ’s coming was of a typifying nature and would then be of a reflective nature. We also deny that Israel will then have dominion over the entire world—and other such things which the Jews imagine and some Christians dream about. Rather, they will be an independent republic, governed by a very wise, good-natured, and superb government. Furthermore, Canaan will be extraordinarily fruitful, the inhabitants will be eminently godly, and they will constitute a segment of the glorious state of the church during the thousand years prophesied in Rev 20. We shall not enlarge here by vindicating every text over against evasive arguments one could construe—as if those texts referred to the deliverance from Babylon. They could easily be refuted from the answers already given to evasive arguments, and by the attentive examination of texts, comparing them with the actual state of Israel’s restoration from Babylon.

    We prove this from the two passages we have dealt with: Isa 61:1-9 and (Jer 31:31-40). We have refuted those evasive arguments against these texts, for they state expressly that the Jews will again return to their land, and that both their ruined places and Jerusalem will be rebuilt. Consider in addition to this the following texts.

    Deut 30:1-6: “… when all these things are come upon thee”—namely, “that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom” (Deut 29:23). This did not occur during the Babylonian captivity, as the land remained fruitful and was cultivated. Canaan was in this condition after the destruction of Jerusalem (and it is nearly still the case)—“thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the Lord thy God … with all thine heart, and with all thy soul (which occurred neither upon their return from Babylon nor thereafter); that then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will He fetch thee: and the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and He will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. (This did not occur at all after the Babylonian captivity, as those times bore no resemblance whatsoever to the times of David, Solomon, and other kings. There was continual warfare and external dominion, and there were continual troubles within.) And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” Since these things will most certainly befall Israel, and since this has occurred neither in a spiritual nor in a physical sense after the Babylonian captivity, then such a spiritual conversion and a restoration to the land of Canaan is still to be anticipated.

    Amos 9:14-15: “And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.” However, after the Babylonian captivity they only possessed the land for five hundred years, having then been evicted from their land until this very day. Thus, this conversion is yet to be anticipated.

    Ezek 37:21-25: “I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land … and one king shall be king to them all (they did not even have a king after Babylon). … And David (Christ) My servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one Shepherd: they shall also walk in My judgments, and observe My statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob My servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and My servant David shall be their prince for ever.” Israel did not experience this after the Babylonian captivity—neither spiritually, nor physically. This would occur in the days of the Messiah, after His coming—after which the Jews did not reside in the land of Canaan from generation to generation. Instead, the land has been destroyed and they have been dispersed. Thus, that time is yet to come.

    Isa 62:1-4: “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.” Israel is referred to as such in these days. She is the forsaken one and her land is desolate. Therefore, this cannot be said of them after the Babylonian captivity. During this period Israel was also not in the glorious state spoken of here. Thus, it is yet to come.

    “… Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein” (Zech 2:4); “… and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem” (Zech 12:8); “In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David” (Zech 12:8); “… and it (Jerusalem) shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place” (Zech 14:11); “And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited” (Zech 14:11). Jerusalem has not been in such a state after the Babylonian captivity; she has been fully destroyed, and is now in a state of exile. It is therefore not applicable to the return from Babylon, but to a period of time yet to come. From all this it is clearly evident that the Jewish nation will yet be converted, come to her land Canaan, and reside there.

    Evasive argument: All the texts quoted above speak of the glorious state of the church of the New Testament, and all these expressions are to be understood as referring to spiritual matters, rather than to the conversion of the Jews and their restoration to Canaan.

    Answer: This is being asserted, but has not been proven. With every text we have shown emphatically that they speak of Israel and what would befall them according to soul and body.

    Objection: “And the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined … and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate” (Dan 9:26-27). Here it is stated that it has been determined that there will be desolations until the end. Thus, the Jewish nation will neither be converted, nor return to Canaan to possess it.

    Answer: The angel Gabriel not only made known to Daniel their deliverance from Babylon, but also the time when the Messiah would be born, suffer, and die in Canaan, as well as how the Jews would fare in Canaan. There would be continual warfare there until Jerusalem would be destroyed to the ground—a destruction that was most surely decreed and would therefore certainly come to pass. No mention is made of what would befall the Jewish nation and Jerusalem after their destruction, but rather that which would precede their destruction and that which would befall them shortly before the death of Christ: warfare until the end.1 This does not refer to the end of the world, but of Jerusalem. The warfare would not cease until Jerusalem would be destroyed in a dreadful manner by the Romans, the destruction of which would signal the end of the warfare. Thus, this text does not speak against the conversion of the Jews and their restoration to their land.

    Various Reasons Given for Focusing upon the Conversion of the Jewish Nation

    We have not considered the conversion of the Jewish nation and her restoration to Canaan merely for the purpose of ascertaining this to be so, and to end in this as a matter for contemplation. Rather, we have done so in order that we would be exercised to engage in the performance of various duties.

    (1) Attentively observe the immutability of the covenant God made with Abraham and his seed. Consider that God, in spite of all their sins and stiffneckedness under it, does not break His promise nor will He permit any of the good words spoken to them to fall to the earth. Believers, glorify God concerning this and be strengthened thereby as to the immutability of the covenant of grace and its promises, which God will most certainly fulfill to you. Therefore, anticipate their fulfillment with faith and patience.

    (2) Do not despise the Jewish nation. “Boast not against the branches” Rom 11:28, the natural branches of that olive tree into which you, as branches of a wild olive tree, have been grafted contrary to nature. “Be not highminded, but fear” (Rom 11:28). 1) They have received more than enough contempt from the unconverted. 2) They are in one and the same covenant with Abraham, their father. 3) “They are beloved for the fathers’ sakes” (Rom 11:28). Therefore, let there be the love of benevolence toward them. They are the children of the covenant (Acts 3:25). 4) They will once be converted and be a glorious and holy people above all the nations on the face of the earth. Therefore, esteem, honor, and love them.

    (3) Have pity upon their state, which is so wretched according to the flesh, being despised and detested among the nations—this is a righteous judgment of God upon them for their rejection of Christ. They are even more wretched spiritually. They hate the Lord Jesus, the true Messiah, with an evil hatred, and are living without the true religion—yes, have a religion which does not even resemble a religion. Nevertheless, they find a wonderful delight in it; thus they live in a state in which they cannot be saved, but have nothing to look forward to but eternal damnation.

    (4) Pray for their conversion. How they have prayed for the conversion of the Gentiles! How they rejoiced in the prophecies that one day the Gentiles would be converted! Therefore, you

    ought to do likewise for their conversion, for you can pray this in faith, since they will certainly be converted.

    (5) By way of a holy life show that you are walking in the footsteps of their father Abraham. The life of many so-called Christians offends them and keeps them from exercising faith in Christ. They do not know, except it be to a very limited extent, that among Christians there are presently many who fear and love Jehovah, the God of Israel. Therefore, manifest the image of Christ by way of a holy walk, so that they may be convicted by it and yet be aroused to jealousy. Occasionally make use of opportunities to speak in a friendly manner with them, making your affection known to them, as well as your anticipation of their restoration in Canaan. Speak to them about the Lord Jesus by the name of Messiah. Speak of the dreadfulness of sin and of eternal damnation to follow upon sin, and show this from the Scriptures of the Old Testament if you are able to do so. Show them that man cannot be justified before God by works, and that all their deeds cannot justify them. Show them from the Old Testament that the Messiah would make satisfaction for sin by His death, reconcile God with man, and convert souls, proving this from Isa 53, and Dan 9. Perhaps you would be instrumental in the salvation of one. The fact is that in doing so you have done your duty, and it will be a delight to your soul that you have done so. Be very careful not to quarrel, however, thereby giving them an opportunity to slander and grieve you by their diatribe. Their national conversion will not occur in our day, but it will indeed come to pass. At His time the Lord will cause it to come to pass suddenly. May the Lord be gracious to His people of old. Oh, that the Redeemer would come to Zion and turn away ungodliness from Jacob! Israel would then rejoice and the Gentiles would glory, and together they would render the Lord honor, glory, and thanksgiving. Hallelujah!

    Thus far we have considered the state of the church and God’s dealings with her from Adam to Abraham, from Abraham to Sinai, from Sinai to Christ, and from Christ until the Revelation of John. It now remains for us to consider the state of the church, and God’s dealings with her, from the Revelation of John until the end of the world, as recorded for us in the Revelation of John. [2]

    [2] à Brakel’s exposition of the book of Revelation is not included in this four-volume set due to its controversial nature. However, out of respect for àBrakel and for the sake of historicity, it has been decided to publish this exposition as a separate volume at a future date.

  5. Brian Golez Najapfour Says:

    I thought you would want to know this:

    Rev. Bartel Elshout, translator of The Christian’s Reasonable Service by Wilhelmus à Brakel, has recently launched a blog especially devoted to à Brakel.


    All for God’s glory,


  6. Joseph Mede and Millenianism | Faith(based) Works Says:

    […] point were I highly agree with, is the view on the Pope as the Antichrist. A reign dominated by the antichrist for 1260 years with a rise and a fall, that is what we […]

  7. Engelse vertaling van Brakel minus toekomst | Joods Geluid Says:

    […] paar jaar geleden kwam mij dit onder de aandacht. Ik schreef er toen een artikel over op mijn Engelstalig […]

  8. J Parnell McCarter Says:

    Now the commentary is available in English. See http://www.historicism.net/aBrakel.htm .

  9. Jos Says:

    Dear Parnell, thank you so very much for publishing the missing part! I’m so grateful for your work and that of Historicism.net! You couldn’t imagine how happy I am! Keep up the good work of Historicism.net. God bless you!

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