The narrative of prophetic events was broken off at the end of the ninth chapter. The tenth chapter and the greater part of this, from the beginning to the thirteenth verse inclusive, present appearances and actions quite foreign to the events which follow the sounding of the trumpets. Why is this, the thoughtful student of the Apocalypse will naturally ask? Why is the regular series of the trumpets suspended? When the sixth trumpet, the "second woe,"—has effected its objects, we naturally expect the seventh trumpet to sound; yet we are held in suspense till we come to the fourteenth verse of this chapter. Hitherto we have met with no similar interruption. Let us take a retrospective view:—The seven epistles to the churches followed each other in regular succession. The seals, in like manner, followed successively; and this is true of the vials, (ch, xvi.)
We have seen that the object of the trumpets was the Roman empire, the fourth beast of Daniel's prophecy. The same is the object of the judgments symbolized by the vials. The final subversion and utter destruction of that beastly power, was plainly revealed in the Babylonian monarch's dream. (Dan. ii. 44.) And the same event was afterwards exhibited in vision to Daniel, (ch. vii. 11, 26.) Now the first four trumpets had demolished imperial power in the western or Latin section; and the next two, by the Saracenic locusts and the Euphratean horsemen had subverted the eastern or Greek section. Rome and Constantinople were the capitals of the respective sections or members of the one empire.
Under the first four trumpets, by the Northern barbarians; and under the first two woes, by the Mahometans, both sections of the empire were overthrown. The question now presses upon our attention, Where shall we find an object for the tremendous judgment to be inflicted by the third and last woe? This question requires a solution. It demands it; and he who succeeds in the application of history to solve this apparent enigma in the Apocalypse, will be able to attain to a satisfactory, a certain, understanding of much that is yet to most readers as if the "sealed book" were to this day in the "right hand of Him that sitteth on the throne." Let us humbly attempt to solve this difficulty.
Daniel's fourth beast, the Roman empire, is to be contemplated in diverse aspects, as the varied symbols obviously require. All know that Nebuchadnezzar's "image" is the same as Daniel's "four beasts;" therefore the same thing is presented in different forms or aspects. Of course we are to view that object as presented. We have seen that under the sixth seal, (ch. vi. 12—17,) the Roman empire underwent a revolution; that is, it was destroyed as to its Pagan form. The empire became Christian under Constantine. History proves that Christianity degenerated under the reign of that monarch and his successors. Heresy, idolatry and persecutions characterize the subsequent history of the empire. Then follow the judgments of the trumpets to vindicate the divine government, and alleviate from time to time the sufferings of true Christians. While the two woe—trumpets are demolishing the fabric of idolatry and despotism in the east, the "deadly wound is healed" in the west, which had been inflicted by the first four trumpets. Ten horns are developed upon the beast's head, and another "little horn," by all of which the saints suffer, as had been predicted by Daniel, (ch. vii. 24,) and of which we had intimation after the judgment of the second woe or sixth trumpet. (ch. ix. 20, 21.) All the "plagues," which had been inflicted upon the people of Christendom under this trumpet left them still impenitent,—"worshipping devils," etc. Surely we may now see where the object of the third woe is to be found,—namely in the same Roman empire, now become antichristian more than ever before. To describe this antichristian combination and present the unholy confederacy against the Lord and his Anointed, and so to justify the ways of God; it was necessary to digress from the narrative of the trumpets. We now proceed with our observations on the eleventh chapter.
1. And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
2. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
Vs. 1, 2.—This chapter, (vs. 1—18,) gives the contents of the "little book" delivered to the apostle; as in the tenth chapter. It contains a brief description and prospective history of the true church of Christ for a period of 1260 years. Her conflicts with Daniel's fourth beast are here epitomized. as the scene is laid in the temple and ministry all along in the Apocalypse, so there is probably a special allusion here to Ezekiel's vision, (ch. xl. 5.) At all times the Christian church is to be organized, and all her ordinances to be administered by divine rule. Accordingly we have here presented the actual condition of Christendom during the whole time mentioned above. The command to John from the Angel, is to be understood as from the Lord Jesus, Zion's only king to the gospel ministry. Long before the time of the transactions here predicted, the apostle John had gone the way of all the earth. The work here enjoined was to be performed by his legitimate successors.
The reed is the symbol of the word of God. It is of the same import as Zechariah's "measuring line." (ch. ii. 1,) and to be used for the same purpose—"to measure Jerusalem," the temple; for both are emblematical of the church of God. The "temple, altar and worshippers," are emblems of the church, her doctrines, worship and membership, tried by the Scriptures the "reed." There are Gentiles who worship in the outer court, treading under foot both it and the city. These are formal, immoral, idolatrous professors of Christianity. They are rejected by God as reprobate, and by his command to be "cast out" from the fellowship of his people,—authoritatively excommunicated by those to whom Jesus Christ has given the key of discipline.
Here then, at the disclosing of the contents of the little open book, it is manifest that John goes back from the sixth trumpet in the seventeenth century, when the Eastern section of the Roman empire was subverted, by the Othmans, and gives us another view of society in Christendom cotemporaneously with the trumpets. It follows necessarily that the little book does not rank, as some imagine, under any one trumpet; much less does it comprehend all the remaining chapters of the Apocalypse as others vainly suppose. This matter will receive increasing confirmation as we advance.
Those who worship within the temple and those who worship without, are evidently distinguished from each other. They differ in character tested by the word of God, in fellowship, as authoritatively separated according to the rule of the same word: for whereas the gentile worshippers are so numerous as to crowd both the outer court and the city, the measured worshippers are all included within the confines of the temple, (Song iv. 12.) Measuring is equivalent to the sealing of the servants of God in the seventh chapter; and imports that they are secured from the sins and plagues of their time. The period of the apostacy from God is fixed to "forty and two months." According to Jewish mode of reckoning, a day for a year, (Num. xiv. 34; Dan. ix. 24,) the whole period is 1260 years. Each month has thirty days. Multiply forty—two by thirty, and we have 1260. The same period of time,—not merely an equal period, is otherwise expressed by the prophet Daniel thus: "time, times, and a half." (ch. xii. 7.) That is, 860, the number of days in the Jewish year: times, or 720, the days in two years; and half a time, or 180, the days in half a year. Now, add these three numbers, 360, 720, 180; and the sum is 1260. Now see Daniel iv. 25, where the word "times" means years, and then a child may calculate these mystical numbers.
3. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
V. 3.—While the nominal church, "the outer court and the holy city," would be "trodden under foot," and the most eminent places would be filled with idolaters, infidels, hypocrites, and mercenary spirits, and true Christians grievously oppressed, the Lord Would preserve a faithful few from defiling themselves with the prevailing abominations. These he claims and owns as his "peculiar treasure,"—"my witnesses." These have found that it was "good for them to draw near to God," when the multitude treacherously departed from him. The Lord Christ promises to sustain them in the midst of all their tribulations. The duration of their special work is the very same as that of the treading of the holy city, "a thousand two hundred and three score days,"—1260 years. In attempting to fix the beginning of this period, Daniel and John must be compared; both treat of the same events and dates, and this gives definiteness to the interpretation. Daniel fixes these events to the fourth monarchy after it had been broken in pieces, and the ten horns had arisen: (ch, vii. 23—25;) so that we have both the geography and chronology determined by the prophets themselves. Hence it follows that we must date the beginning of the 1260 years after the first four trumpets; for by these the western Roman empire was dismembered or broken, that the ten horns might appear. Then the "little horn" of Daniel arose after and among them, (ch. vii. 20, 24.) All reliable expositors agree that the "little horn" is the papacy or the Romish church. This little horn is the special enemy of the "saints of the Most High," and they are to be "given into his hand." (Dan. vii. 25.) The first four trumpets subverted the Roman empire in the west in the latter part of the sixth century. This event made way for the bishop of Rome, in process of time, to acquire a great accession of ecclesiastical power. The civil and ecclesiastical rulers, equally unscrupulous and aspiring, were at this period on terms of comparative intimacy, and occasionally disposed to reciprocate good offices. Phocas, having waded through the blood of the citizens to supreme civil power, in order to secure his position, declared Boniface III., bishop of Rome, head of the universal church. This impious public act took place in the year 606. The pope became also a temporal prince in 756. Now we cannot know with certainty which of these events, nor indeed whether either of them, marks the period in time when the 1260 years began. Hence we must remain at uncertainty as to the exact time when this most interesting period will end. Of all transactions recorded in history, however, that between Phocas and Boniface appears most like "giving the saints into the hand of the little horn." At this juncture in particular, church and state conspire, as never before, to resist the authority of Jesus Christ the Mediator. Paul's "man of sin" has been "revealed in his time." (2 Thess. ii. 6.) Paganism has been abolished by formal edict throughout the Roman empire, and Christianity established as the recognised religion of the commonwealth. That which "letted,"—hindered, that is, the pagan idolatry of the civil state, is "taken out of the way;" and nominal Christianity takes its place. This combination or alliance between church and state will be more clearly made known in the succeeding chapters of this book. Mean while it is the immediate design of the "little open book," to give an epitome or outline of this unholy confederacy in the first thirteen verses of this chapter. The treading under foot of the holy city by the "Gentiles," furnishes occasion for the witnesses to appear publicly against them. These pretended Christians, but real hypocrites, as will appear with increasing evidence as we proceed, have usurped the rights of Messiah's crown, and grievously oppressed his real disciples. Against these outrages on the prerogatives of Christ and the rights of man, these witnesses lift their solemn protest. Their distinctive name, "witnesses," is familiar to every one who searches the Scriptures. (Isa. xliii. 10; Acts i. 8.) But witnesses who love not their lives unto the death are distinguished by the name of martyrs. (Rev. ii. 13; Acts xxii. 20.)
God has had his witnesses in all ages since the fall of Adam, in defence of truth and holiness against error and ungodliness; but the specific work of these witnesses is to oppose the corruption of his two ordinances of church and state during the specified period of 1260 years. The existence of this complex system of civil and ecclesiastical tyranny and heresy, in the holy purpose and sovereign providence of God, calls for the public and uncompromising opposition of the two witnesses. We shall discover the two parties in more visible conflict hereafter; and tracing the struggle to its issue, we shall find, that like the more general and lasting warfare between the seed of the woman and that of the serpent, (Gen. iii. 15,) it is a "war of extermination."
These witnesses are distinguished as a part from the whole. All witnesses are not martyrs, but these are such, (v. 7, ch. xx. 4.) And here we are constrained to dissent from the opinion of some expositors, for whose sentiments we entertain profound respect. These "two witnesses" are supposed by these eminent interpreters to "differ as much from the 144,000 sealed ones, (ch. vii. 4,) as Elijah differed from the 7000 in Israel in his time;" whereas, we think the 144,000 and the two, are the same identical company. (See chapters vii. 4—8; xiv. 1; xx. 4.) It is evident that they are the same party, and the whole of the party, who are honored to "reign with Christ a thousand years," (ch. xx. 4.)
They are two in number, because one witness is not sufficient in law, to establish any matter in controversy. (Num. xxxv. 30; 2 Cor. xiii. 1.) They are a small number compared with their opponents, (ch. xiii. 8.) Again, they are few, but sufficient to confront and confute their two opponents, (ch. xiii. 1, 11.) And, finally, they are two, that they may be assimilated to their predecessors.
4. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
5. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
6. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy; and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
Vs. 4—6.—"These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks," answerable to Joshua and Zerubbabel, the representatives of a gospel ministry and a scriptural magistracy in their day, as seen by the prophet Zechariah, (ch. iv. 14.) The official administrators of the divine ordinances of church and state, require the oil of divine grace to qualify them for the discharge of their responsible duties to God and man. (1 Tim. i. 2; Titus i. 4; Ps. lxxii. 1.) Thus were those public servants of God and of his people qualified who "stood before the God of the earth," as Moses and Aaron in Egypt, Elijah and Elisha in Israel, to whom there is obvious allusion in the special work of these witnesses. (2 Kings i. 10; 1 Kings xvii, 1; Exod. vii. 17.) "Fire proceedeth out of their mouth," when from the scriptures they denounce just judgments upon the impenitent enemies of him whom they represent. They "smite the earth with all plagues," when, in answer to their prayers, vengeance comes upon antichristian communities. (Luke xviii. 7, 8.) They "turn waters into blood," when through their effective agency, the votaries of Antichrist are made the instruments of mutual destruction. And all this is made more clear in the symbolic "vials," (ch, 16.)
These witnesses "prophesy," not as being inspired, d but because they,—and they only, apply existing predictions to their appropriate objects, so far as they receive light from Him who is "the light of the world."
They are "clothed in sack—cloth," because they sigh and cry for all the abominations of their time, subjected to oppression, and excluded from "kings' palaces,"—places of worldly honor, power and emolument.
But the question is of great importance, and, to themselves in particular, of absorbing interest, How shall these Witnesses be identified among mankind? For however few, humble, despised and persecuted, even unto death; strange as it may seem, there are not wanting many to put forth a claim to be identified with them! Assuming that these mystic witnesses are individual persons, the Papists say, they are Enoch and Elijah, hereafter to appear on earth! By Protestants, John Huss and Jerome. Luther and Calvin, have been selected. Others suppose the Old. and New Testaments, with many other vague and. groundless conjectures. The witnesses die; but the two prophets named "were translated that they should not see death:" and the thought is preposterous that they should be brought again from their glorious state of immortality and subjected to an ignominious death. John Huss and Jerome of Prague did not prophesy 1260 years, nor have we the shadow of a ground to believe that any of the human race shall ever prolong their days on earth to the age of Methuselah. The two Testaments cannot die, for "the word of God liveth and abideth for ever." (1 Pet. i. 23.) But it would be tedious and unprofitable to confute the various chimeras which on this question have been entertained in the minds equally of the learned and the illiterate. The like fanciful and diversified opinions have been, and still are, prevalent in relation to what constitutes "the Antichrist." (1 John ii. 22.) Now, it is evident, even on a cursory perusal of the Apocalypse; that the witnesses and their opponents are the principal parties symbolized in the whole series of the seals, trumpets and vials. How then can any one attain to a rational understanding of the manifold details, who remains "willingly ignorant" of the principal characters in this grandest of all tragico—dramas, presented to man's view on the stage of Jehovah's moral empire, to be contemplated for the whole period of 1260 years? The prevailing ignorance, bewilderment and error, in the minds of most spectators of these moving scenes, we are warranted to expect. (Dan. xii. 10.) For the present we define the witnesses and Antichrist concisely thus:—The Witnesses are a competent number of Christians, who for 1260 years, insist upon the application of God's word to church and state; and who testify against all communities who rebel against the Lord Christ. Such communities, in visible organization, constitute THE ANTICHRIST, as will more fully appear in the thirteenth and seventeenth chapters, where the two prominent parties are more formally presented.
Let us never lose sight of the fact, that these witnesses cease not to prophesy,—to apply the scriptures, especially the prophetical parts of them, during the whole period of 1260 years; that is, while they live. Authentic history supplies abundant evidence that such has been their special work all along since the rise of the antichristian enemy. That enemy is but obscurely mentioned,—not described in the "little book," the contents of which we have, as already said, in this chapter, (vs. 1—13.) The character and achievements of the witnesses may be found in the familiar histories of the Culdees and Lollards of Britain, the Waldenses of Piedmont, the Bohemian Brethren; together with the more recent and successful reformers on the continent of Europe and in the British Isles. Is it unnecessary to mention the names of those men of renown,—Zwingle, Luther; Calvin, Knox, Henderson, etc.,—men "mighty in words and in deeds," whose influence on the great "family of nations," their very enemies have reluctantly attested? The testimony of an enemy has ever been deemed weighty. The following is appropriate and decisive from the polished pen of the historian of the "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:" "The visible assemblies of the Paulicians, or Albigeois, were extirpated by fire and sword; and the bleeding remnant escaped by flight, concealment, or catholic conformity. But the invincible spirit which they had kindled still lived and breathed in the western world.—In the state, in the church, and even in the cloister, a latent succession was preserved of the disciples of St. Paul, who protested against the tyranny of Rome, embraced the Bible as the rule of faith, and purified their creed from all the visions of the Gnostic theology. The struggles of Wickliff in England, and of Huss in Bohemia, were premature and ineffectual: but the names of Zuinglius, Luther and Calvin, are pronounced with gratitude as the deliverers of nations."*[Gibbon has unconsciously written a commentary on prophecy!—an involuntary witness, like Josephus!]
Ever since the time of those eminent witnesses, the same testimony has been maintained. It is not yet finished, the witnesses are yet alive, and the term of 1260 years is not expired.
7. And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit, shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
8. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
9. And they of the people, and kindreds, and tongues, and nations, shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.
10. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
Vs. 7—10.—In these verses we have described the death of the witnesses, as also the agent mentioned, by—whom the fatal stroke is given. As future occasion will occur for identifying this bloody tyrant, ascertaining with precision his diabolical origin, here only hinted, his crimes and his awful doom, it is premature to amplify in this place.
If the witnesses cannot be identified, neither can the time of their death be ascertained. We find indeed among expositors as many vague notions relative to the time and the nature of their death as in relation to their identity. These notions are unworthy of notice; for however they might amuse, they cannot edify.
Four questions are suggested by these verses. By whom; in what manner, when, and where are the witnesses slain?
The first question is explicitly answered in the sacred text. The "beast," of hellish origin, kills them. But it will afterwards appear that the beast is instigated to this relentless cruelty by another agent of the devil. Again, as to the kind of death, we may in good measure learn this from the kind of life. Now it is obvious that to give testimony, or "prophesy" during the allotted time, constitutes their life. They live, that they may prophesy. Hence it is usual to speak of silencing, as equivalent to slaying these witnesses. But this is not strictly correct. Why? Because they have been hitherto "killed all the day long." (Ps. xliv. 22; Rom. viii. 36.) Doubtless defection and apostacy do always accompany persecution; and thus the testimony of such is silenced. But the enemy in this case is '"drunken with the blood" of these witnesses; and this phrase must be understood literally. Moreover, the enemy gets "blood to drink," because of "shedding blood." (ch. xvi. 6; xvii. 6.) The death of the witnesses is therefore a literal death, of course it will be also moral, they will cease to prophesy.
Some have supposed the "three years, or days and a half," during which the witnesses lie dead are the same as the 1260 days or years; because if these three and a half days be considered as prophetical, and reduced to literal days, they will amount exactly to 1260. Such an interpretation, however, is preposterous; simply because according to this, hypothesis, they never lived at all!—The absurdity is evident.
Having ascertained the nature of the death to which the witnesses are appointed by the Lord of life we now inquire as to the time of this mournful event. The text informs us that their death is connected with the "finishing of their testimony." However the original may be translated, when they shall have finished,—when they shall be finishing,— or about to finish, affects not the question as to time. While they live, their work is to prophesy, and their testimony is not completed. Like their Master, to whose example they are conformed, their life and testimony are finished together. These facts, briefly and obscurely hinted here, will be more satisfactorily presented in the next, but especially in the twentieth chapter, (vs. 1—4.) But inasmuch as many, if not most interpreters, have expressed the opinion that the witnesses are already slain, the following arguments in the negative are submitted to the reader.
The 1260 years are not yet terminated, during which, the whole of which time,—the witnesses are to "prophesy," (v. 3.) Their testimony is yet continued, and sensibly felt by the wicked. They still more or less "torment them that dwell on the earth," (v. 10.) Beyond the usual reproach attached to their names and their work, there has been no general reviling and deriding of them throughout Christendom, to render their memory infamous, (v. 9.)—No opprobrious epithets such as, "These deceivers said, while they were yet alive," (Matt. xxvii. 63,) that so they might be conformed to their Lord in his death. Nor, lastly, have "they that dwell upon the earth" exulted as yet over these hated individuals, as no longer "hurtful to kings and provinces," although there have been, often, partial but premature rejoicings by a part of the enemy. [But although from time to time, "some of them, have fallen, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white" as predicted, (Dan. xi. 35;) yet the time of "making merry, sending gifts," is not yet come.
While we believe, on the grounds adduced,—and much more might have been cited from the context,—that the death of the witnesses is to be understood literally, we do not suppose that every individual will be personally put to death. No, but as in the time of Elijah's banishment, or of our Saviour's lying in the grave, there will be no public body or individual standard—bearer, to bear testimony against the enemies of Jesus Christ, or boldly to assert and press his royal claims upon church and state. In prospect of this dark time,—darker than the "dark ages," we may ask with Joshua,—"What wilt thou do unto thy great name?" But though the witnesses die, the Faithful Witness lives, (ch. i. 18.)
The place, where the witnesses lie dead is pointed out by three places well known in sacred history, Egypt, Sodom and Jerusalem. But these are to be understood mystically. The place resembles Egypt for idolatry and cruelty to the people of God; it is like Sodom for literal and spiritual pollution; and Jerusalem, where our Lord was crucified afresh and put to open shame in the persons of his slain witnesses. It, follows of course,—that place is to be utterly destroyed; having committed the crimes and contracted the guilt of all those unpardonable criminals. (Ps. lxxiv. 13, 14; Ezek. xxxi. 18; Isa. xiii. 19; Luke xxi. 20.) (For similar reasons, Babylon is afterwards mentioned repeatedly as the place of this tragic event, this unpardonable crime,—the slaying of the witnesses, (ch. xviii. 24.) It is to be specially noted here, that in ascertaining the place of the death of these distinguished servants of Christ, our attention is directed by the Holy Spirit to a "street" of the city. At present it is assumed that streets of the city and horns of the beast substantially harmonize as symbols. Now look over the streets of the great city: contemplate the horns of the beast: ascertain which is most guilty of persecution. In estimating the relative degree of guilt, the degree of heavenly light against which the criminal has rebelled is to be taken into the account. (John xv. 22; Matt. xi. 24.) In view of these scriptural principles, and the actual condition of Christendom as portrayed in authentic history, would the conjecture seem presumptuous, should we venture to designate—Great Britain? There, for centuries, the witnesses have been most numerous, active, and pointed, in testifying against encroachments on the crown—rights of Messiah. There also, lordly prelates, in close alliance with a blasphemous horn of the beast, have often vied with the sworn vassals of the "man of sin," in murdering the saints of God. "Therefore it is no great thing" if, throwing off the mask of Protestantism, English prelacy, combining with Romish Jesuitism, should make common cause with undisguised infidelity, in slaying the witnesses against their heaven—daring rebellion. The signs of the present time, (1870,) render our conjecture not improbable. We give it only as a conjecture; for in reference to events yet future,—as we believe that of the death of the witnesses to be, we may not presume to prophesy.—"Three days and a half" is the limited period of their degradation; and this is three natural years and a half: for the word "days" must be taken in the same sense as in v. 3; otherwise we fall into an inextricable labyrinth of endless confusion. From all which it appears that "the triumphing of tile wicked is short." If "while the wicked is in power, and we wait upon God," we are called to "join trembling with our mirth;" the pleasing prospect of the speedy and joyful resurrection of "these slain," may inspire us with "a lively hope," and warrant us to join mirth with our trembling.
11. And after three days and a half, the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.
12. And they heard a great voice from heaven, saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
Vs. 11, 12.—In these two verses, as in the preceding, the thoughtful reader will discern a beautiful allusion in the history of these witnesses, to the death and life of our blessed Master. "For if they have had been planted together in the likeness of his death, they shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." Yes, they have communion with him in death and life,—in grace and glory. "Nothing can separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus their Lord."
"The Spirit of life from God entered into them." That is, God will speedily raise up successors, who, maintaining the very same principles, will be gloriously successful in putting down all rule and authority and power," that had been in hostility to their Lord. (1 Cor. xv. 24, 25. See Ezek. xxxvii. 11—14.) "This is the first resurrection," to be explained by the inspired penman more fully hereafter, (ch. xx. 5.)—As Saul feared David, and Herod John Baptist, because they were "just men and holy;" so were the wicked afraid when these witnesses arose; and, like Shimei, they justly dread the "due reward of their deeds." At the time referred to, "the haters of the Lord will feign submission." The "great voice from heaven" inviting the witnesses to ascend, and their actual ascent, is another allusion to Christ's exaltation. As when "he was taken up, a cloud received him;" so here, "they ascended up to heaven in a cloud."
It has often been the cry of the antichristian multitude, "The voice of the people is the voice of God." This cry has been iterated and reiterated, in centuries past, like that of the Ephesian worshippers of Diana; that thereby the testimony of the witnesses might be counteracted and silenced. It has been only too often successful. But where did flattering demagogues and haughty despots find the sentiment? They found it engraved on the moral constitution of man by our beneficent Creator. They found it also transcribed on the pages of objective revelation,—the Bible. But, like other moral and scriptural principles, it has been perverted and misapplied by the perverse ingenuity of wicked men. This "voice from heaven" is indeed the people's voice: and it is legitimate, as coming from the people, because it is first the voice of God. The "heaven" here mentioned is the seat of civil power, "the ordinance of man." (1 Pet. ii. 13.) In the times here contemplated,—millennial times,—the rights of men will be respected, predicated upon the rights of God, and flowing from them as inseparable. In settling the point of title to civil sovereignty, or the eligibility of any candidate for civil office, the principle enunciated by Hushai the Archite will be found to be alone reliable:—"Whom the Lord and this people choose." (2 Sam. xvi. 18.) Only let the Lord have the first choice of candidates for office in both church and state, and society will be prosperous and happy. Acts i. 23, 24; vi. 5.) The "great voice" of the 12th verse, comes from "heaven," as the "great voices" of the 15th verse, announcing the millennium.
13. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
V. 13.—"The same hour" that the witnesses mark by their resurrection,—contemporaneously with that joyful event, is "a great earthquake,"—a revolution, (ch. vi. 1—2.) "The tenth part of the city fell." The city,—" Sodom." "Tenth part of the city,"— a "street," equivalent to "horn." Some one of the "ten kingdoms" will secede from the antichristian confederacy, or imperial dominion; "and the remnant,". the other nine, dreading the Mediator's vengeance, will reluctantly but speedily submit. (See ch. vi. 16, 17.)—In the "earthquake were slain of men (names, titles,) seven thousand." By "names of men" to be slain,—that is, abolished in reorganized society, we are to, understand those "names of blasphemy" mentioned, (ch. xiii. 1,) hereafter to be explained.
We have now taken a very cursory view of the contents of the "little open book." Its place is between the termination of the fourth, and the sounding of the seventh trumpet. In other words, it gives an outline of the contest between the witnesses and Antichrist during 1260 years,—events running parallel in time, at least in part, with the first two, woe—trumpets; for it obviously anticipates also, the effects of the third and last woe.
This may be as suitable a place as any other, before proceeding to a consideration of the seventh trumpet, to direct attention to the method which Infinite Wisdom has chosen, by which to reveal to mankind the purposes of God in prophecy. He who alone "knows the end from the beginning,"—who "from ancient times has declared the things that are not yet done," has told us plainly, "I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry (hand,) of the prophets." (Hosea xii. 10.) Now since God has multiplied visions, we ought not to think it strange if the same important events in providence be predicted by several, or by many of the prophets; or that one and the same important event be foretold "at sundry times and in diverse manners" by the same prophet. How often, and by how many prophets was the dispersion of the Jews foretold!—the—downfall of ancient cities, Babylon, Nineveh, Tyre!—Need we refer to the language of our Lord, addressed to his disciples on the way to Emmaus?—"And beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke xxiv. 27.) We may be sure that the things concerning Christ and the interests of his kingdom in this world, are the theme of inspired prophets in the New Testament as well as in the old. Agreeably to these views, we find Nebuchadnezzar's dream and Daniel's visions relate to the same objects and events. What was more obscurely revealed in the monarch's dream, is rendered more intelligible by various symbols in Daniel's first vision. (Dan. ii. 36—45; vii. 17—27.) But in the next, the eighth chapter, Daniel is favored with still clearer information relative to what he had already seen in vision; and in the eleventh chapter, his attention is called to the most obscure, but most interesting parts of his former visions; and, after all, the "vision is sealed," so that he sees not "the end of these things," (ch, xii. 8, 9.) "I heard, but I understood not," (1 Pet. i. 10, 11.)
In this book, styled Apocalypse, or Revelation, we are told in the first verse, that the Lord Christ "signified,"—made known by signs, to his servant John the things that were to come to pass. We have thus far seen that the customary method has been pursued in using signs, symbols or emblems, Henceforth we will find "multiplied visions" employed, more clearly to illustrate events which have already passed under review, but of which we could see little more than a profile:—"men, as trees walking."
14. The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.
15. And the seventh angel sounded: and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
Vs. 14, 15.—"The third wo cometh quickly,"— the time elapsing since the end of the second, is not to be so long as that intervening between the first two woes;—The first wo is thought to have begun about the year 612, and continuing by the Saracenic conquests about 150 years, to have terminated in 762. The second woe—trumpet, it is alleged, sounded about 1281, and continuing for 391 years,—the period of the ravages by the Euphratean horsemen, ended about 1672. The destructive influence, however, of these two judgments, may be considered as reaching to the time of the third woe, the one which is to demolish the whole antichristian fabric.
Many eminent expositors,*["It has been our lot to hear the voice of the third woe," Faber.—" In this I entirely agree with that expositor." M'Leod. The blinding influence of earth's politics upon the minds of pious men, has often occasioned the hearts of their brethren to "sigh for their inconsistency."] in the early part of the present century, while the first Napoleon was waging successful war with the other powers of Europe, expressed their belief with much confidence, that the seventh angel had begun to sound. They were evidently mistaken. Christendom will not fail to hear the voice of the third woe. It may be so that an individual may "not be conscious of having an interest inconsistent with fidelity to the Scriptures," while political "bias" may in fact so influence" sentiments, as to render conviction less dependent upon evidence than upon his wishes." And we doubt not that misapprehensions and misinterpretation of "the other scriptures," are to be attributed to this cause, insensibly influencing the minds and hearts of learned and godly men, as well as in their expositions of the Apocalypse. Indeed the misapplying of God's word, precept and prophecy, to political and ecclesiastical organizations, has been the principal means of combining and continuing the antichristian apostacy.
Thus it is precisely, that the great adversary has been successful, as "an angel of light."
"The little book" has been shown to contain such extensive and important events as to justify the solemnity accompanying its delivery to the apostle.— He now resumes the subject which had been interrupted at the close of the ninth chapter.—The "great voices in heaven" represent the expressions of joy by the saints on hearing the voice of the last of the trumpets, as assuring them of the happy change in the moral condition of the world, which they had been warranted to expect by God's "servants the prophets" from the days of old, (ch. x. 7.) The great, the universal change consists in this:—"The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ." The English supplement,—"the kingdoms," is justified and required, equally by the sense and the laws of syntax: and he is a deceiver, if a scholar, who insists upon any other, to supply the ellipsis. Indeed, the omission of similar supplements, has occasioned needless obscurity to the unlearned in other parts of this book. (See chs. xix. 10; xxii. 9.) The greatest of all revolutions consists in restoring church and state to their scriptural foundation,—transferring both from allegiance to "the god of this world," (Matt. iv. 8; Luke iv. 5, 6;) to their rightful owner,—"the Lord and his Anointed." (Ps. ii. 2, 8.) When this desirable epoch arrives, for which the persecuted witnesses have long and fervently prayed, (ch. vi. 10,) gospel ministers and Christian magistrates will seek to do the will, and aim at the glory of God.—It is painful and pitiable to hear learned and pious men often pray,— "That the kingdoms of this world may soon become the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." This is to "ask amiss,"—to miss the promise; for no such promise is on record. The groundless conception confounds the revealed distinctions in the Godhead,—the Father with the Mediator; and it would subvert Jehovah's moral empire, annihilating the eternal principle of representative identification! But those good men "mean not so, neither do their hearts think so." They ought, however, to be more careful and diligent in "searching the Scriptures."—If the scriptural significance of this joyful announcement "in heaven" were better understood by gospel ministers generally, a chief barrier would be removed, which now obstructs the advent of the millennium, Would they but cease, their hearers might more readily cease, to "wonder after the beast." But we may not anticipate.
"He, (Christ,) shall reign for ever and ever. When the seventh trumpet, the third woe, shall have accomplished its object, in the utter destruction of immoral power, and the 1260 years shall have come to 'an end, no other successful combination shall ever again be permitted to assail and harass the city of the Lord:—"of his government there shall be no end." (Dan. vii. 27.) "All dominions shall serve and obey him." The final enterprise of Gog and Magog shall not succeed,—(ch, xx. 7—9.)
16. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God, on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
17. Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.
18. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldst give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldst destroy them which destroy the earth.
Vs. 16—18.—These verses give us a glimpse of the times following the last woe till the end of the world. The "elders," the representatives, not of the ministry, as prelates dream, but of the collective body of God's people, now that they are emancipated from a longer and more cruel bondage than that of their fathers in the literal Egypt, "give thanks to God" for the display of his "great power" in their deliverance. Many times had he made bare his holy arm in past ages on behalf of his people: but this is in their eves the most signal display of his power. "Thou hast taken to thee thy great power."—He now exercises his power over the nations, which was his before; their "anger" in the time of their rebellion is now repressed, Messiah's "wrath is come," heavier wrath than that which fell upon Rome pagan: (ch. vi. 16, 17.) Then follows an intimation of the final judgment, and suitable "rewards." Our curiosity is excited here, but not gratified; but while left in suspense, we may, with Daniel and the virgin Mary, "keep these things in our heart." (Dan. vii. 28; Luke ii. 19.) Farther light will be given, (ch. xx. 11—13.)
19. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple: the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
V. 19.—The inspired books of the Bible were divided into chapters, verses and other parts, for the convenience of reference. [But those who performed this useful service were imperfect like ourselves, and therefore we are at liberty to differ from them in our arrangement. Now it seems evident that the 18th verse closes this chapter with a concise account of the ending of the last woe. But the last woe reaches to the final consummation of all things as we have already seen: it follows that the nineteenth verse must introduce a new subject. Similar mistakes may be seen in numerous instances elsewhere in our Bibles.
But although a new vision is presented in the twelfth chapter, the two principal parties delineated in the eleventh, engage the apostle's attention. And as preparatory to future scenes, "the temple of God was opened in heaven." "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined." Before the following scene of warfare, John is favored with a view of the "ark of the testament,"—a symbol of the covenant of grace, which shall continue to be administered in the worst of times; and the opposition to which, in its external dispensation, is emblematically set forth by "lightnings," as well as the tokens of Jehovah's presence and avenging judgments: for these awful symbols, taken from fearful convulsions in nature, are usually indicative of the tremendous judgments of God.