and the REVELATION
Uriah Smith - 1897
Start the Book of Revelation
of History to the Revelation
John Writing the Revelation
"What thou seest, write in a book" Rev.
The Revelation, usually termed
"The Apocalypse," from its Greek name, 'ApokaluyiV,
meaning "a disclosure, a revelation," has been
described to be "a panorama of the glory of Christ."
In the Evangelists we have the record of his humiliation,
his condescension, his toil and sufferings, his patience,
his mockings and scourgings by those who should have done
him reverence, and finally his death upon the shameful cross,
- a death esteemed in that age to be the most ignominious
that men could inflict. In the Revelation we have the gospel
of his enthronement in glory, his association with the Father
upon the throne of universal dominion, his overruling providence
among the nations of the earth, and his coming again, not
a homeless stranger, but in power and great glory, to punish
his enemies and reward his followers. "A voice has
cried in the wilderness, 'Behold the Lamb of God; ' a voice
will soon proclaim from heaven, ' Behold the Lion of the
tribe of Judah!'"
Scenes of glory surpassing
fable are unvailed before us in this book. Appeals of unwonted
power bear down upon the impenitent from its sacred pages
in threatenings of judgment that have no parallel in any
other portion of the book of God. Consolation which no language
can describe is here given to the humble followers of Christ
in this lower world, in glorious views of Him upon whom
help for them has been laid, - Him who has the key of David,
who holds his ministers in his own right hand, who, though
he was once dead, is now alive forevermore, and assures
us that he is the triumphant possessor of the keys of death
and of the grave, and who has given to every overcomer the
multiplied promise of walking with him
p 350 -- in white, having
a crown of life, partaking of the fruit of the tree of life
which grows in the midst of the paradise of God, and being
raised up to sit with him upon his own glorious throne.
No other book takes us at once, and so irresistibly, into
another sphere. Long vistas are here opened before us, which
are bounded by no terrestrial objects, but carry us forward
into other worlds. And if ever themes of thrilling and impressive
interest, and grand and lofty imagery, and sublime and magnificent
description, can invite the attention of mankind, then the
Revelation invites us to a careful study of its pages, which
urge upon our notice the realities of a momentous future
and an unseen world. TOP
351 -- The book of the Revelation
opens with the announcement of its title, and with a benediction
on those who shall give diligent heed to its solemn prophetic
utterances, as follows:
1. The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto
him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly
come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel
unto his servant John: 2. Who
bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of
Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. 3.
Blessed is he that readeth, and they
that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things
which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
Title. - The translators of our common version
of the Bible have given this book the title of "The
Revelation of St. John the Divine." In this they contradict
the very first words of the book itself, which declare it
to be "The Revelation of Jesus Christ." Jesus
Christ is the Revelator,
not John. John is but the penman employed by
Christ to write out this Revelation for the benefit of his
church. There is no doubt that the John here mentioned is
the person of that name who was the beloved and highly favored
one among the twelve apostles. He was evangelist and apostle,
and the writer of the Gospel and epistles which bear his
name. (See Clarke, Barnes, Kitto, Pond, and others.) To
his previous titles he now adds that of prophet; for the
Revelation is a prophecy. But the matter
p 352 -- of this book
is traced back to a still higher source. It is not only
the Revelation of Jesus Christ, but it is the Revelation
which God gave unto him. It comes, then, first, from the
great Fountain of all wisdom and truth, God the Father;
by him it was communicated to Jesus Christ, the Son; and
Christ sent and signified it by his angel to his servant
Character of the Book. - This is expressed in
one word, "Revelation." A revelation is something
revealed, something clearly made known, not something hidden
and concealed. Moses, in Deut. 29:29, tells us that "the
secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things
which are revealed
belong unto us and to our children forever."
The very title of the book, then, is a sufficient refutation
of the popular opinion of to-day, that this book is among
the hidden mysteries of God, and cannot be understood. Were
this the case, it should bear some such title as "The
Mystery" or "The Hidden Book;" certainly
not that of "The Revelation."
Object. - "To show unto his servants things
which must shortly come to pass." His servants - who
are they? Is there any limit? For whose benefit was the
Revelation given? Was it given for any specified persons?
for any particular churches? for any special period of time?
- No; it is for all the church in all time, so long as any
of the events therein predicted remain to be accomplished.
It is for all those who can claim the appellation of "his
servants," wherever or whenever they may live.
But this language brings up
again the common view that the Revelation is not to be understood.
God says that it was given to show something to his servants;
and yet many of the expounders of his word tell us that
it does not show anything, because no man can understand
it! as though God would undertake to make known to mankind
some important truths, and yet fall into the worse than
earthly folly of clothing them in language or in figures
which human minds could not comprehend! as though he would
command a person to behold some distant object, and then
erect an impenetrable barrier between him and the object
specified! or as though he would
p 353 -- give his servants
a light to guide them through the gloom of night, and yet
throw over that light a pall so thick and heavy that not
a ray of its brightness could penetrate the obscuring folds!
How do they dishonor God who thus trifle with his word!
No; the Revelation will accomplish the object for which
it was given, and "his servants" will learn therefrom
"the things which must shortly come to pass,"
and which concern their eternal salvation.
Angel. - Christ sent and made known the Revelation
to John by "his angel." A particular angel seems
here to be brought to view. What angel could appropriately
be called Christ's angel? May we not find an answer to this
question in a significant passage in the prophecy of Daniel?
In Dan. 10:21, an angel, which was doubtless Gabriel (see
Daniel, chapters 9, 10, and 11:1), in making known some
important truths to Daniel, said, "There is none that
holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince."
Who Michael is we easily learn. Jude (verse 9) calls him
the "archangel." And Paul tells us that when the
Lord descends from heaven, and the dead in Christ are raised,
the voice of the archangel shall be heard. I Thess. 4:16.
And whose voice will be heard at that amazing hour when
the dead are called to life? The Lord himself replies, "Marvel
not at this; for the hour is coming in the which all that
are in the graves shall hear his
voice" (John 5:28); and the previous verse
shows that the one here referred to, whose voice will then
be heard, is the Son of man, or Christ.
It is the voice of Christ, then, that calls the dead from
their graves. That voice, Paul declares, is the voice of
the archangel; and Jude says that the archangel is called
Michael, the very personage mentioned in Daniel, and all
referring to Christ. The statement in Daniel, then, is,
that the truths to be revealed to Daniel were committed
to Christ, and confined exclusively to him, and to an angel
whose name was Gabriel. Similar to the work of communicating
important truth to the "beloved prophet" is the
work of Christ in the Revelation of communicating important
truth to the "beloved disciple;" and who, in this
work, can be his
angel but he who was engaged with him in the former work,
that is, the angel
p 354 -- Gabriel? This
fact will throw light on some points in this book, while
it would also seem most appropriate that the same being
who was employed to carry messages to the "beloved"
prophet of the former dispensation, should perform the same
office for him who corresponds to that prophet in the gospel
age. (See on chapter 19:10.)
Benediction. - "Blessed is he that readeth,
and they that hear the words of this prophecy." Is
there so direct and formal a blessing pronounced upon the
reading and observance of any other portion of the word
of God? What encouragement, then, have we for its study!
And shall we say that it cannot be understood? Is a blessing
offered for the study of a book which it can do us no good
to study? Men may assert, with more pertness than piety,
that "every age of declension is marked by an increase
of commentaries on the Apocalypse," or that "the
study of the Revelation either finds or leaves a man mad;"
but God has pronounced his blessing upon it, he has set
the seal of his approbation to an earnest study of its marvelous
pages; and with such encouragement from such a source, the
child of God will be unmoved by a thousand feeble counterblasts
Every fulfilment of prophecy
brings its duties; hence there are things in the Revelation
to be kept, or performed; practical duties to be entered
upon as the result of the accomplishment of the prophecy.
A notable instance of this kind may be seen in chapter 14:12,
where it is said, "Here are they that keep the commandments
of God, and the faith of Jesus."
But says John, "The time
is at hand," - another motive offered for the study
of this book. It becomes more and more important, as we
draw near the great consummation. On this point we offer
the impressive thoughts of another:
"The importance of studying the Apocalypse increases
with the lapse of time. Here are ' things which must shortly
come to pass.' Even when John bare record of the word of
God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things
that he saw, the long period within which those successive
scenes were to be realized was at hand. If proximity then
constituted a motive for heeding those contents, how much
more does it now! TOP
p 355 -- Every
revolving century, every closing year, adds to the urgency
with which attention is challenged to the concluding portion
of Holy Writ. And does not that intensity of devotion to
the present, which characterizes our times and our country,
enhance the reasonableness of this claim? Never, surely,
was there a period when some mighty counteracting power
was more needed. The Revelation of Jesus Christ, duly studied,
supplies an appropriate corrective influence. Would that
all Christians might, in fullest measure, receive the blessing
of 'them that hear the words of this prophecy, and that
keep the things which are written therein; for the time
is at hand."' - Thompson's Patmos, pp. 28, 29.
Dedication. - Following the benediction, we have
the dedication, in these words:
4. John to the seven churches which are in Asia; Grace
be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was,
and which is to come; and from the seven spirits which are
before his throne; 5.
And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and
the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings
of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from
our sins in his own blood, 6.
And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father;
to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen
Churches in Asia. - There were more churches
in Asia than seven. We may confine ourselves to that western
fraction of Asia known as Asia Minor, or we may include
still less territory than that; for in even that small portion
of Asia Minor where were situated the seven churches which
are mentioned, and right in their very midst, there were
other important churches. Colosse, to the Christians of
which place Paul addressed his epistle to the Colossians,
was but a slight distance from Laodicea. Miletus was nearer
than any of the seven to Patmos, where John had his vision;
and it was an important station for the church, as we may
judge from the fact that Paul, during one of his stays there,
sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus to meet him
at that place. Acts 20:17-38. At the same place he also
left, in good Christian hands no doubt, Trophimus, his disciple,
sick. 2 Tim. 4:20. And Troas, where Paul spent a season
with the disciples, and whence, having waited till the Sabbath
was past, he started off
p 356 -- upon his journey,
was not far removed from Pergamos, named among the seven.
It becomes, therefore, an interesting question to determine
why seven of the churches of Asia Minor were selected as
the ones to which the Revelation should be dedicated. Does
what is said
of the seven churches in chapter 1, and to
them in chapters 2 and 3, have reference solely to the seven
literal churches named, describing things only as they then
and there existed, and portraying what was before them alone?
We cannot so conclude, for the following reasons: -
entire book of Revelation (see chapter 1:3, 11, 19; 22:18,
19) was dedicated to the seven churches. Verse
11. But the book was no more applicable to them
than to other Christians in Asia Minor, - those, for instance,
who dwelt in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia,
addressed in I Peter 1:1; or the Christians of Colosse,
Troas, and Miletus, in the very midst of the churches named.
a small portion of the book could have personally concerned
the seven churches, or any of the Christians of John's day;
for the events it brings to view were mostly so far in the
future as to lie beyond the lifetime of the generation then
living, or even the time during which those churches would
continue; and consequently they could have no personal connection
with them. TOP
seven stars which the Son of man held in his right hand
(verse 20), are declared to be the angels of the seven churches.
of the churches, doubtless all will agree, are the ministers
of the churches. Their being held in the right hand of the
Son of man denotes the upholding power, guidance, and protection
vouchsafed to them. But there were only seven of them in
his right hand. And are there only seven thus cared for
by the great Master of assemblies? May not, rather, all
the true ministers of the whole gospel age derive
from this representation the consolation of knowing that
they are upheld and guided by the right hand of the great
Head of the church? Such would seem to be the only consistent
John, looking into the Christian dispensation,
p 357 -- saw only seven
candlesticks, representing seven churches, in the midst
of which stood the Son of man. The position of the Son of
man in their midst must denote his presence with them, his
watchcare over them, and his searching scrutiny of all their
works. But does he thus take cognizance of only seven individual
churches in this dispensation? May we not rather conclude
that this scene represents his position in reference to
all his churches during the gospel age? Then why were only
seven mentioned? Seven, as used in the Scriptures, is a
number denoting fulness and completeness, being, doubtless,
a kind of memorial of the great facts of the first seven
days of time, which gave the world the still used weekly
cycle. Like the seven stars, the seven candlesticks must
denote the whole of the things which they represent. The
whole gospel church in seven divisions, or periods, must
be symbolized by them; and hence the seven churches must
be applied in the same manner.
then, were the seven particular churches chosen that are
mentioned? For the reason, doubtless, that in the names
of these churches, according to the definitions of the words,
are brought out the religious features of those periods
of the gospel age which they respectively were to represent.
For these reasons, "the
seven churches" are doubtless to be understood to mean
not merely the seven literal churches of Asia which went
by the names mentioned, but seven periods of the Christian
church, from the days of the apostles to the close of probation.
(See on chapter 2, verse 1.)
Source of Blessing. - "From him which is,
and which was, and which is to come," or is to be,
- an expression which signifies complete eternity, past
and future, and can be applicable to God the Father only.
This language, we believe, is never applied to Christ. He
is spoken of as another person, in distinction from the
being thus described.
Seven Spirits. - This expression probably has
no reference to angels, but to the Spirit of God. It is
one of the sources from which grace and peace are invoked
for the church. On the interesting subject of the seven
spirits, Thompson remarks: "That
is, from the Holy Spirit, denominated 'the seven spirits,'
because seven is a sacred and perfect number;
p 358 -- not thus named
as denoting interior plurality, but the fulness and perfection
of his gifts and operations." Barnes
says, "The number seven, therefore,
may have been given by the Holy Spirit with reference to
or the fulness
of his operations on the souls of men, and to his manifold
agency in the affairs of the world, as further developed
in this book." Bloomfield gives this
as the general interpretation. TOP
Throne. - The throne of God the Father; for Christ
has not yet taken his own throne. The seven spirits being
throne" may be intended to designate the fact that
the Divine Spirit is ever ready to be sent forth, in accordance
with a common representation in the Scriptures, to accomplish
important purposes in human affairs."
from Jesus Christ. - Then Christ is not the person
who, in the verse before us, is designated as "him
which is, and which was, and which is to come." Some
of the chief characteristics which pertain to Christ are
here mentioned. He is, -
Faithful Witness. - Whatever he bears witness
to is true. Whatever he promises, he will surely fulfil.
First Begotten of the Dead. - This expression
is parallel to 1 Cor. 15:20, 23; Heb. 1:6; Rom. 8:29; and
Col. 1:15, 18, where we find such expressions applied to
Christ as "the first-fruits of them that slept,"
"the first-born among many brethren," "the
first-born of every creature," and "the
first-born from the dead." But these expressions
do not necessarily denote that he was the first in point
of time to be raised from the dead; for others were raised
before him. That would be a very unimportant point; but,
he was the chief and central figure of all who have come
up from the grave; for it was by virtue of Christ's coming,
work, and resurrection, that any were raised before his
time. In the purpose of God, he was the first in point of
time as well as in importance; for it was not till after
the purpose of Christ's triumph over the grave was formed
in the mind of God, who calleth those things that be not
as though they were (Rom. 4 :17), that any were released
front the power of death, by virtue of that great fact which
was in due time to be accomplished. Christ is therefore
called the "first-begotten of the dead" (chapter
1:5), the "first-fruits
p 359 -- of them that
slept" (I Cor. 15:20), the "first-born among many
brethren" (Rom. 8:29), and "the first-born from
the dead." Col. 1:18. In Acts 26:23 he is spoken of
as "the first that should rise from the dead, and should
show light unto the people," or the first who by
rising from the dead should show light unto the
people. (See the Greek of this passage, and Bloomfield's
note thereon; also "Here and Hereafter," chapter
Prince of the Kings of the Earth. -
Christ is Prince of earthly kings in a certain
sense now. Paul informs us, in Eph. 1:20, 21, that he has
been set at the right hand of God in the heavenly places,
"far above all principality, and power, and might,
and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in
this world, but also in that which is to come." The
highest names named in this world are the princes, kings,
emperors, and potentates of earth. But Christ is placed
far above them. He is seated with his Father upon the throne
of universal dominion (chapter 3:21), and ranks equally
with him in the overruling and controlling of the affairs
of all the nations of the earth.
In a more particular sense,
Christ is to be Prince of the kings of the earth when he
takes his own throne, and the kingdoms of this world
become the "kingdoms of our Lord and of
his Christ," when they are given by the Father into
his hands, and he comes forth bearing upon his vesture the
title of "King of kings and Lord of lords," to
dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. Chapter 19:16;
2:27; Ps. 2:8, 9. TOP
Him that Loved Us. - We have thought that earthly
friends loved us, - a father, a mother, brothers and sisters,
or bosom friends, - but we see that no love is worthy of
the name compared with the love of Christ for us. And the
following sentence adds intensity of meaning to the previous
words: "And washed us from our sins in
his own blood." What love is this! "Greater
love," says the apostle, "hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends." But
Christ has commended his love for us, in that he died for
us "while we were yet sinners." But more than
this - "Hath made us kings and priests unto God and
his Father." From
p 360 -- being leprous
with sin, we are made clean in his sight; from being enemies,
we are not only made friends, but raised to positions of
honor and dignity. This cleansing, and this kingly and priestly
exaltation - to what state do they pertain? to the present
or the future? - Chiefly to the future; for it is then only
that we shall enjoy these blessings in the highest degree.
Then, after the atonement has been accomplished, we are
absolutely free from our sins; before that time they are
pardoned only on condition, and blotted out only by anticipation.
But when the saints are permitted to sit with Christ on
his throne, according to the promise to the victorious Laodiceans,
when they take the kingdom under the whole heaven and reign
forever and ever, they will be kings in a sense that they
never can be in this present state. Yet enough is true of
our present condition to make this cheering language appropriate
in the Christian's present song of joy; for here we are
permitted to say that
we have redemption through his blood, though
that redemption is not yet given, and that
we have eternal life, though that life is still
in the hands of the Son, to be brought unto us at his appearing;
and it is still true, as it was in the days of John and
Peter, that God designs his people in this world to be unto
him a chosen generation, a royal (kingly) priesthood, a
holy nation, a peculiar people. 1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 3:21;
Dan. 7:18, 27. No wonder the loving and beloved disciple
ascribed to this Being who has done so much for us, glory
and dominion, forever and ever. And let all the church join
in this most fitting ascription to their greatest benefactor
and dearest friend.
7. Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall
see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds
of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
Cometh With Clouds. - Here John carries us forward
to the second advent of Christ in glory, the climax and
crowning event of his intervention in behalf of this fallen
world. Once he came in weakness, now he comes in power;
once in humility, now in glory. He comes in clouds, in like
manner as he ascended. Acts 1:9, 11.
p 361 --
Coming Visible. - "Every eye shall see him;"
that is, all who are alive at the time of his coming. We
know of no personal coming of Christ that shall be as the
stillness of mid-night, or take place only in the desert
or the secret chamber. He comes not as a thief in the sense
of stealing in stealthily and quietly upon the world, and
purloining goods to which he has no right. But he comes
to take to himself his dearest treasure, his sleeping and
living saints, whom he has purchased with his own precious
blood; whom he has wrested from the power of death in fair
and open conflict; and for whom his coming will be no less
open and triumphant, too. It will be with the brilliancy
and splendor of the lightning as it shines from the east
to the west. Matt. 24:27. It will be with a sound of a trumpet
that shall pierce to earth's lowest depths, and with a mighty
voice that shall wake the sainted sleepers from their dusty
beds. Matt. 24:31, margin; I Thess. 4:16. He will come upon
the wicked as a thief, only because they persistently shut
their eyes to the tokens of his approach, and will not believe
the declarations of his word that he is at the door. To
represent two comings, a private and a public one, in connection
with the second advent, as some do, is wholly unwarranted
in the Scriptures. TOP
They Also Which Pierced Him. - They also (in
addition to the "every eye," before mentioned)
who were chiefly concerned in the tragedy of his death;
they shall behold him returning to earth in triumph and
glory. But how is this? They are not now living, and how,
then, shall they behold him when he comes? Answer:
By a resurrection from the dead; for this is the only possible
avenue to life to those who have once been laid in the grave.
But how is it that these wicked persons come up at this
time? for the general resurrection of the wicked does not
take place till a thousand years after the second advent.
Chapter 20:1-6. On this point Daniel informs us. He says
(chapter 12:1, 2): -
"And at that time shall
Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the
children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble,
such as never was since there was a nation even to that
same time: and at that time thy people shall be
p 362 -- delivered,
every one that shall be found written in the book. And many
of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,
some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting
Here a partial resurrection
is brought to view, or a resurrection of a certain class
of each, righteous and wicked, before the general resurrection
of either class.
Many, not all, that sleep shall awake.
Some of the righteous, not all of them, to everlasting
life, and some
of the wicked, not all of them, to shame and everlasting
contempt. And this resurrection transpires in connection
with the great time of trouble such as never was, which
just precedes the coming of the Lord. May not "they
also which pierced him" be among those who then come
up to shame and everlasting contempt? What could be more
appropriate, so far as human minds can judge, than that
those who took part in the scene of our Lord's greatest
humiliation, and other special leaders in crime against
him, should be raised to behold his terrible majesty, as
he comes triumphantly, in flaming fire, to take vengeance
on them that know not God, and obey not his gospel? (See
Church's Response. - "Even so, Amen."
Though this coming of Christ is to the wicked a scene of
terror and destruction, it is to the righteous a scene of
joy and triumph. "When the world's distress comes,
then the saints' rest comes." That coming which is
with flaming fire, and for the purpose of taking vengeance
on the wicked, is to recompense rest to all them that believe.
2 Thess. 1:6-10. Every friend and lover of Christ will hail
every declaration and every token of his return as glad
tidings of great joy.
8. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending,
saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to
come, the Almighty.
Here another speaker is introduced.
Previous to this, John has been the speaker. But this verse
has no connection with what precedes nor with what follows.
Who it is who here speaks must be determined, therefore,
by the terms used. Here we again have the expression, "Which
is, and which was, and
p 363 -- which is to
come," which has already been noticed as referring
exclusively to God. But it may be asked, Does not the word
Lord denote that it was Christ? On this point
Barnes has the following note: "Many
MSS. instead of 'Lord,' kuJioV,
read 'God,' qeoV,
and this reading is adopted by Griesbach, Tittman, and Hahn,
and is now regarded as the correct reading." Bloomfield
supplies the word
God, and marks the words "the beginning
and the ending" as an interpolation. Thus appropriately
closes the first principal division of this chapter, with
a revelation of himself by the great God as being of an
eternity of existence, past and future, and of almighty
power, and hence able to perform all his threatenings and
his promises, which he has given us in this book. TOP
9. I John, who also am your brother, and companion
in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus
Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word
of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
The subject here changes, John
introducing the place and the circumstances under which
the Revelation was given. He first sets himself forth as
a brother of the universal church, and their companion in
the tribulations incident to the Christian profession in
in the Kingdom. - These words have been the occasion
of no little controversy. Does John really mean to say that
Christians in the present state are in the kingdom of Christ,
or in other words, that in his day Christ's kingdom had
already been set up? If this language has any reference
to the present state, it must be in a very limited and accommodated
sense. Those who take the ground that it has its application
here, usually refer to 1 Peter 2:9 to prove the existence
of a kingdom in the present state, and to show its nature.
But, as was remarked on verse 6, the literal reign of the
saints is yet future. It is
through much tribulation that we are to enter
into the kingdom of God. Acts 14:22. But when the kingdom
is entered, the tribulation is done. The tribulation and
the kingdom do not exist contemporaneously. Murdock's translation
of the Syriac of this verse
p 364 -- omits the
and reads as follows: "I John, your
brother, and partaker with you in the affliction and suffering
that are in Jesus the Messiah." Wakefield translates:
"I John, your brother, and sharer
with you in enduring the affliction of the kingdom of Jesus
Christ." Bloomfield says that by
the words tribulation
"are denoted afflictions and troubles to be endured
for the sake, and in the cause of Christ and
basileia [kingdom] intimates that he is to be partaker
with them in the kingdom prepared for them." He says
that "the best comment on this passage is 2 Tim. 2:12,"
which reads: "If we suffer, we shall
also reign with him." From
all which we may safely conclude that though there is a
kingdom of grace in the present state, the kingdom to which
John alluded is the future kingdom of glory, and the suffering
and patience are preparatory to its enjoyment.
Place. - The isle that is called Patmos, - a
small, barren island off the west coast of Asia Minor, between
the island of Icaria and the promontory of Miletus, where
in John's day was located the nearest Christian church.
It is about eight miles in length, one in breadth, and eighteen
in circumference. Its present name is Patino or Patmosa.
The coast is high, and consists of a succession of capes,
which form many ports. The only one now in use is a deep
bay sheltered by high mountains on every side but one, where
it is protected by a projecting cape. The town attached
to this port is situated upon a high, rocky mountain rising
immediately from the sea, and is the only inhabited site
of the island. About half way up the mountain on which this
town is built, there is shown a natural grotto in the rock,
where tradition will have it that John had his vision and
wrote the Revelation. On account of the stern and desolate
character of this island, it was used, under the Roman empire,
as a place of banishment, which accounts for the exile of
John thither. The banishment of the apostle took place about
the year A. D. 94, as is generally supposed, under the emperor
Domitian; and from this fact the date assigned to the writing
of the Revelation is A. D. 95 or 96.
Cause of Banishment. - "For the word of
God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ."
This was John's high
p 365 --
( The Isle of Patmos) TOP
p 366 -- crime and misdemeanor.
The tyrant Domitian, who was then invested with the imperial
purple of Rome, more eminent for his vices than even for
his civil position, quailed before this aged but dauntless
apostle. He dared not permit the promulgation of his pure
gospel within the bounds of his kingdom. He exiled him to
lonely Patmos, where, if anywhere this side of death, he
might be said to be out of the world. Having confined him
to that barren spot, and to the cruel labor of the mines,
the emperor doubtless thought that this preacher of righteousness
was finally disposed of, and that the world would hear no
more of him. So, doubtless, thought the persecutors of John
Bunyan when they had shut him up in Bedford jail. But when
man thinks he has buried the truth in eternal oblivion,
the Lord gives it a resurrection in tenfold glory and power.
From Bunyan's dark and narrow cell there blazed forth a
spiritual light, which, next to the Bible itself, has built
up the interests of the gospel; and from the barren Isle
of Patmos, where Domitian thought he had forever extinguished
at least one torch of truth, there arose the most magnificent
revelation of all the sacred canon, to shed its divine luster
over the whole Christian world till the end of time. And
how many will revere the name of the beloved disciple, and
hang with delight upon his enraptured visions of heavenly
glory, who will never learn the name of the monster who
caused his banishment. Verily, those words of the Scriptures
are sometimes applicable, even to the present life, which
declare that "the righteous shall be in everlasting
remembrance," but "the name of the wicked shall
10. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard
behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.
the Spirit. - Exiled though John was from all
of like faith, and almost from the world, he was not exiled
from God, nor from Christ, nor from the Holy Spirit, nor
from angels. He still had communion with his divine Lord.
And the expression "in the Spirit" seems to denote
the highest state of spiritual elevation into which a person
can be brought by the Spirit of God. It marked the commencement
of his vision.
p 367 -- On
the Lord's Day. - What day is intended by this
designation? On this question four different positions are
taken by different classes. 1.
One class hold that the expression "the Lord's day"
covers the whole gospel dispensation, and does not
mean any particular twenty-four-hour day.
2. Another class hold that the
Lord's day is the day of judgment, the future "day
of the Lord," so often brought to view in the Scriptures.
3. The third view, and the one perhaps
the most prevalent, is that the expression refers to the
first day of the week. 4. Still
another class hold that it means the seventh day, the Sabbath
of the Lord.
the first of these positions it is sufficient to reply that
the book of Revelation is dated by the writer, John, in
the Isle of Patmos, and upon the Lord's day. The writer,
the place where it was written, and the day upon which it
was dated, have each a real existence, and not merely a
symbolical or mystical one. But if we say that the day means
the gospel dispensation, we give it a symbolical or mystical
meaning, which is not admissible. Besides, this position
involves the absurdity of making John say, sixty-five years
after the death of Christ, that the vision which he records
was seen by him in the gospel dispensation, as if any Christian
could possibly be ignorant of that fact!
second position, that it is the day of judgment, cannot
be correct; for while John might have had a vision concerning
the day of judgment, he could not have had one on
that day when it is yet future. The word translated on
is en (en),
and is defined by Robinson when relating to time, as follows:
a definite point or period,
in, during, on, at, which anything takes place."
It never means
about or concerning.
Hence they who refer it to the judgment day either contradict
the language used, making it mean concerning
instead of on,
or they make John state a strange falsehood, by saying that
he had a vision upon the Isle of Patmos, nearly eighteen
hundred years ago,
on the day of judgment which is yet future! TOP
The third view is that by "Lord's day" is meant
the first day of the week, a view by far the most generally
p 368 -- On this we
inquire for the proof. What evidence have we for this assertion?
The text itself does not define the term Lord's day; hence
if it means the first day of the week, we must look elsewhere
in the Bible for the proof that that day of the week is
ever so designated. The only other inspired writers who
speak of the first day at all, are Matthew, Mark, Luke,
and Paul; and they speak of it simply as "the first
day of the week." They never speak of it in a manner
to distinguish it above any other of the six working days.
And this is the more remarkable, viewed from the popular
standpoint, as three of them speak of it at the very time
when it is said to have become the Lord's day by the resurrection
of the Lord upon it, and two of them mention it some thirty
years after that event.
If it is said that the term
"Lord's day" was the usual term for the first
day of the week in John's day, we ask, Where is the proof
of this? It, cannot be found. But we have proof of just
the contrary. (See "History of the Sabbath,"
by J. N. Andrews, for sale by the Southern Publishing Association,
Nashville, Tenn.) If this was the universal designation
of the first day of the week at the time the Revelation
was written, the same writer would most assuredly call it
so in all his subsequent writings. But John wrote the Gospel
he wrote the Revelation, and yet in that Gospel he calls
the first day of the week, not Lord's day, but simply "the
first day of the week." For proof that the Gospel was
written at a period subsequent to the Revelation, the reader
is referred to such standard authorities as the Religious
Encyclopedia, Barnes's Notes (Gospels), Bible
Dictionaries, Cottage Bible, Domestic Bible,
Mine Explored, Union Bible Dictionary, Comprehensive
Bible, Paragraph Bible, Bloomfield, Dr. Hales,
Horne, Nevins, and Olshausen.
And what still further disproves
the claim here set up in behalf of the first day, is the
fact that neither the Father nor the Son has ever claimed
the first day as his own in any higher sense than he has
each or any of the other laboring days. Neither of them
has ever placed any blessing upon it, or
p 369 -- attached
any sanctity to it. If it was to be called the Lord's day
from the fact of Christ's resurrection upon it, Inspiration
would doubtless have somewhere so informed us. But there
are other events equally essential to the plan of salvation,
as, for instance, the crucifixion and the ascension; and
in the absence of all instruction upon the point, why not
call the day upon which either of these occurred, the Lord's
day, as well as the day upon which he rose from the dead?
three positions already examined having been disproved,
the fourth - that by Lord's day is meant the
Sabbath of the Lord - now demands attention.
And this of itself is susceptible of the clearest proof.
1. When God gave to man in the beginning
six days of the week for labor, he expressly reserved the
seventh day to himself, placed his blessing upon it, and
claimed it as his holy day. 2.
Moses told Israel in the wilderness of Sin on the sixth
day of the week, "To-morrow is the rest of the holy
Sabbath unto the Lord." We come to Sinai, where the
great Lawgiver proclaimed his moral precepts in awful grandeur;
and in that supreme code he thus lays
claim to his hallowed day: "The seventh
day is the Sabbath
of the Lord thy God: ... for in six days the
Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them
is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed
the Sabbath day, and hallowed it." By the prophet Isaiah,
about eight hundred years later, God spoke as follows:
"If thou turn away thy foot from the
Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on MY HOLY DAY,
... then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord," etc.
Isa. 58:13. We come down to New-Testament times, and He
who is one with the Father declares expressly, "The
Son of man is
Lord also of the Sabbath." Can any man deny
that that day is the Lord's
day, of which he has emphatically declared that
he is the Lord?
Thus we see that whether it be the Father or the Son whose
title is involved, no other day can be called the Lord's
day but the Sabbath of the great Creator. TOP
One more thought, and we leave
this point. There is in this dispensation one day distinguished
above the other days of the week as the Lord's day. How
completely does this great
p 370 -- fact disprove
the claim put forth by some that there is no Sabbath in
this dispensation, but that all days are alike. And by calling
it the Lord's day, the apostle has given us, near the close
of the first century, apostolic sanction for the observance
of the only day which can be called the Lord's day, which
is the seventh day of the week. (See notes at close of chapter.)
11. Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the
last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it
unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus,
and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and
unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
On this verse Dr. A. Clarke
remarks that the clause "I am Alpha and Omega, the
first and the last, is wanting in some editions; the Syriac,
Coptic, AEthiopic, Armenian, Slavonic, Vulgate, Arethas,
Andreas, and Primasius. Griesbach has left it out of the
text." He also states that the phrase "in Asia"
is wanting in the principal MSS. and versions, and that
Griesbach omits this too from the text. Bloomfield also
marks the clause, "I am Alpha and Omega, the first
and the last, and"- as without doubt an interpolation,
and also the words "in Asia." It would then read,
"saying, What thou seest, write in a book, and send
it unto the seven churches; unto Ephesus," etc. (See
translations of Whiting, Wesley, American Bible Union, and
others. Compare remarks on verse 4.)
12. And I turned to see the voice that spake
with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
13. And in the midst of the seven
candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with
a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with
a golden girdle. 14.
His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as
snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
15. And his feet like unto fine brass,
as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound
of many waters. 16. And
he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his mouth
went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as
the sun shineth in his strength. 17.
And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid
his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the
first and the last: 18. I
am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive
forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
turned to see the voice; that is, the person
from whom the voice came.
p 371 --
Golden Candlesticks. - These cannot be the antitype
of the golden candlestick of the ancient typical temple
service; for that was but one
candlestick with seven branches. That is ever spoken of
in the singular number. But here are seven;
and these are more properly "lamp-stands" than
simply candlesticks, stands upon which lamps are set to
give light in the room. And they bear no resemblance to
the ancient candlestick; on the contrary, the stands are
so distinct, and so far separated one from another, that
the Son of man is seen walking about in the midst of them.
Son of Man. - The central and all-attractive
figure of the scene now opened before John's vision is the
majestic form of one like the Son of man, representing Christ.
The description here given of him, with his flowing robe,
his hair white, not with age, but with the brightness of
heavenly glory, his flaming eyes, his feet glowing like
molten brass, and his voice as the sound of many waters,
cannot be excelled for grandeur and sublimity. Overcome
by the presence of this august Being, and perhaps under
a keen sense of all human unworthiness, John fell at his
feet as dead; but a comforting hand is laid upon him, and
a voice of sweet assurance tells him to fear not. It is
equally the privilege of Christians today to feel the same
hand laid upon them to strengthen and comfort them in hours
of trial and affliction, and to hear the same voice saying
unto them, "Fear not."
But the most cheering assurance
in all these words of consolation is the declaration of
this exalted one who is alive forevermore, that he is the
arbiter of death and the grave. "I have," he says,
"the keys of hell [adhV,
the grave] and of death." Death is a conquered tyrant.
He may ply his gloomy labors age after age, gathering to
the grave the precious of the earth, and gloat for a season
over his apparent triumph; but he is performing a fruitless
task; for the key to his dark prison-house has been wrenched
from his grasp, and is now held in the hands of a mightier
than he. He is compelled to deposit his trophies in a region
over which another has absolute control; and this one is
the unchanging Friend and the pledged Redeemer of his people.
Then grieve not for the righteous
p 372 -- dead; they
are in safe keeping. An enemy for a while takes them away;
but a friend holds the key to the place of their temporary
19. Write the things which thou hast seen, and
the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.
A more definite command is
given in this verse to John to write the entire Revelation,
which would relate chiefly to things which were then in
the future. In some few instances, events then in the past
or then transpiring were referred to; but these references
were simply for the purpose of introducing events to be
fulfilled after that time, and so that no link in the chain
might be lacking.
20. The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest
in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The
seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the
seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
To represent the Son of man
as holding in his hand only the ministers of seven literal
churches in Asia Minor, and walking in the midst of only
those seven churches, would be to reduce the sublime representations
and declarations of this and following chapters to comparative
insignificance. The providential care and presence of the
Lord are with, not a specified number of churches only,
but all his people; not in the days of John merely, but
through all time. "Lo! I am with you alway," said
he to his disciples, "even unto the end of the world."
(See remarks on verse 4.)
NOTE . - An
additional thought may be added to what is said about the
claim that the first day of the week is meant by the term
"Lord's day" in verse 10. If, when Christ said,
"The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day "
(Matt. 12:8), he had said instead, "The Son of man
is Lord of the first day of the week," would not that
now be set forth as conclusive proof that Sunday is the
Lord's day? - Certainly, and with good reason.
Then it ought to be allowed to have the same weight for
the seventh day, in reference to which it was
373 -- Having, in the first chapter,
mapped out the subject by a general reference to the seven
churches, represented by the seven candlesticks, and to
the ministry of the churches, represented by the seven stars,
John now takes up each church particularly, and writes the
message designed for it, addressing the epistle in every
case to the angel, or pastors, of the church.
1. Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write:
These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his
right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden
I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how
thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried
them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast
found them liars: 3. And
hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast
labored, and hast not fainted. 4. Nevertheless
I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy
first love. 5. Remember
therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do
the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly,
and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except
thou repent. 6.
But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes,
which I also hate. 7.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith
unto the churches: To him that overcometh will I give to
eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise
Church of Ephesus. - Some reasons why the seven
churches, or more properly the messages to them, should
be regarded as prophetic, having their application to seven
distinct periods covering the Christian age, have been given
in the remarks on chapter 1:4. It may here be added that
this view is neither new nor local. Benson quotes Bishop
p 374 -- as saying,
"Many contend, and among them such learned men as More
and Vitringa, that the seven epistles are prophetical of
so many successive periods, or states, of the church, from
the beginning to the conclusion of all."
expositors have imagined that these epistles to the seven
churches were mystical prophecies of seven distinct periods,
into which the whole term, from the apostles' days to the
end of the world, would be divided."
Although Newton and Scott do
not themselves hold this view, their testimony is good as
showing that such has been the view of many
Matthew Henry says: "An
opinion has been held by some commentators of note, which
may be given in the words of Vitringa: 'That under
this emblematical representation of the seven churches of
Asia, the Holy Spirit has delineated seven different states
of the Christian church, which would appear in succession,
extending to the coming of our Lord and the consummation
of all things; that this is given in descriptions taken
from the names, states, and conditions of these churches,
so that they might behold themselves, and learn both their
good qualities and their defects, and what admonitions and
exhortations were suitable for them.' Vitringa has
given a summary of the arguments which may be alleged in
favor of this interpretation. Some of them are ingenious,
but they are not now considered sufficient to support such
a theory. Gill is one of the principal of the English commentators
who adopt this view, that 'they are prophetical of
the churches of Christ in the several periods of time until
he appears again.'" TOP
It appears from the authors
above cited, that what has led commentators of more modern
times to discard the view of the prophetical nature of the
messages to the seven churches, is the comparatively recent
and unscriptural doctrine of the temporal millennium. The
last stage of the church, as described in chapter 3:15-17,
was deemed to be incompatible with the glorious state of
things which would exist here on this earth for a thousand
years, with all the world converted to God. Hence in this
case, as in many others, the more Scriptural view is made
to yield to the more pleasing. The hearts of
p 375 -- men, as in
ancient times, still love smooth things, and their ears
are ever favorably open to those who will prophesy peace.
The first church named is Ephesus.
According to the application here made, this would cover
the first, or apostolic age of the church. The definition
of the word
Ephesus is desirable,
which may well be taken as a good descriptive term of the
character and condition of the church in its first state.
Those early Christians had received the doctrine of Christ
in its purity. They enjoyed the benefits and blessings of
the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They were noted for works,
labor, and patience. In faithfulness to the pure principles
taught by Christ, they could not bear those that were evil,
and they tried false apostles, searched out their true characters,
and found them liars. That this work was specially done
by the literal and particular church at Ephesus more than
by other churches of that time, we have no evidence; there
is nothing said about it by Paul in the epistle he wrote
to that church; but it was done by the Christian church
as a whole, in that age, and was a most appropriate work
at that time. (See Acts 15; 2 Cor. 11:13.)
Angel of the Church. - The angel of a church
must denote a messenger, or minister of that church; and
as these churches each cover a period of time, the angel
of each church must denote the ministry,
or all the true ministers of Christ during the period covered
by that church. The different messages, though addressed
to the ministers, cannot be understood to be applicable
to them alone; but they are appropriately addressed to the
church through them.
Cause of Complaint. - "I have somewhat against
thee," says Christ, "because thou hast left thy
"Not less worthy of warning than departure from
fundamental doctrine or from Scriptural morality, is the
leaving of first love. The charge here is not that of falling
from grace, nor that love is extinguished, but diminished.
No zeal, no suffering, can atone for the want of first love."
The time never should come in a Christian's experience,
when, if he were asked to mention the period of his greatest
love to Christ, he would not say, The present moment. But
p 376 -- a time does
come, then should he remember from whence he is fallen,
meditate upon it, take time for it, carefully call up the
state of his former acceptance with God, and then hasten
to repent, and retrace his steps to that desirable position.
Love, like faith, is manifested by works; and first love,
when it is attained, will always bring first works.
Threatening. - "I will come unto thee quickly,
and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except
thou repent." The coming here mentioned must be a figurative
coming, signifying a visitation of judgment, inasmuch as
it is conditional. The removing of the candlestick would
denote the taking away from them of the light and privileges
of the gospel, and committing them to other hands, unless
they should better fulfil the responsibilities of the trust
committed to them. But it may be asked on the view that
these messages are prophetic, if the candlestick would not
be removed anyway, whether they repented or not, as that
church was succeeded by the next, to occupy the next period,
and if this is not an objection against regarding these
churches as prophetic. Answer: The expiration
of the period covered by any church is not the removal of
the candlestick of that church. The removal of their candlestick
would be taking away from them privileges which they might
and should longer enjoy. It would be the rejection of them
on the part of Christ as his representatives, to bear the
light of his truth and gospel before the world. And this
threatening would be just as applicable to individuals as
to the church as a body. How many who professed Christianity
during that period thus came short and were rejected, we
know not; doubtless many. And thus things would go on, some
remaining steadfast, some backsliding and becoming no longer
light-bearers in the world, new converts meanwhile filling
up the vacancies made by death and apostasy, until the church
reached a new era in her experience, marked off as another
period in her history, and covered by another message. TOP
Nicolaitanes. - How ready is Christ to commend
his people for whatever good qualities they may possess!
If there is anything of which he approves, he mentions that
p 377 -- in this message
to the church of Ephesus, having first mentioned their commendable
traits and then their failures, as if unwilling to pass
by any of their good qualities he mentions this, that they
hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which he also hated.
In verse 15 the doctrines of the same characters are condemned.
It appears that they were a class of persons whose deeds
and doctrines were alike abominable in the sight of Heaven.
Their origin is involved in some doubt. Some say that they
sprang from Nicholas of Antioch, one of the seven deacons
(Acts 6:5); some, that they only attribute their origin
to him to gain the prestige of his name; and others, that
the sect took its name from one Nicholas of later date,
which is probably the nearest correct. Concerning their
doctrines and practices, there seems to be a general agreement
that they held to a community of wives, regarding adultery
and fornication as things indifferent, and permitted the
eating of things offered to idols. (See Religious Encyclopedia,
Clarke, Kitto, and other authorities.)
Summons to Attention. - "He that hath an
ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."
A solemn manner of calling universal attention to that which
is of general and most momentous importance. The same language
is used to each of the seven churches. Christ, when upon
earth, made use of the same form of speech in calling the
attention of the people to the most important of his teachings.
He used it in reference to the mission of John (Matt. 11:15),
the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:9), and the parable of
the tares, setting forth the end of the world. Verse 43.
It is also used in relation to an important prophetic fulfilment
in Rev. 13:9.
Promise to the Victor. - To the overcomer it
is promised that he shall eat of the tree of life that grows
in the midst of the paradise, or garden, of God. Where is
this paradise? Answer: In the third heaven.
Paul writes, in 2 Cor. 12:2, that he knew a man (referring
to himself) caught up to the third heaven. In verse 4 he
calls the same place "paradise," leaving only
one conclusion to be drawn, which is that paradise is in
the third heaven. In this paradise, it seems, is the tree
of life. There is but one tree of life brought to view in
p 378 -- the Bible.
It is mentioned six times, three times in Genesis, and three
times in the Revelation; but it is used every time with
the definite article
the. It is
the tree of life in the first book of the Bible,
the tree of life in the last;
the tree of life in the "paradise"
(Septuagint) in Eden at the beginning, and
the tree of life in the paradise of which John
now speaks, in heaven above. But if there is but one tree,
and that was at first upon earth, it may be asked how it
has now come to be in heaven. And the answer would be that
it must have been taken up, or translated, to the paradise
above. There is no possible way that the same identical
body which is situated in one place can be located in another,
but by being transported bodily thither. And that the tree
of life and paradise have been removed from earth to heaven,
besides the necessary inference from this argument, there
is very good reason to believe.
In 2 Esdras 7:26 occurs this
language: "Behold, the time shall come,
that these tokens which I have told thee shall come to pass,
and the bride
shall appear, and she coming forth shall be seen
that now is
withdrawn from the earth." There
is an evident allusion here to the "bride, the Lamb's
wife" (Rev. 21:9), which is the "holy city, New
Jerusalem" (verse 10; Gal. 4:26), in which is the tree
of life (Rev. 22:2), which is now "withdrawn from the
earth," but which will in due time appear, and be located
among men. Rev. 21:2, 3. TOP
The following paragraph on
this point we quote from Kurtz's
"Sacred History," p. 50:
of God in appointing the cherubim 'to keep the way of the
tree of life' (Gen. 3:24), in the garden of Eden, likewise
appears not only in an aspect indicating judicial severity,
but also in one which conveys a promise full of consolation.
The blessed abode from which man is expelled, is neither
annihilated nor even abandoned to desolation and ruin, but
withdrawn from the earth and from man, and consigned to
the care of the most perfect creatures of God, in order
that it may be ultimately restored to man when he is redeemed.
Rev. 22:2. The garden, as it existed before God 'planted,'
or adorned it, came under the curse, like the remainder
p 379 -- earth,
but the celestial and paradisiacal addition was exempted,
and entrusted to the cherubim. The true paradise is now
translated to the invisible world. At least a symbolical
copy of it, established in the holy of holies in the tabernacle,
was granted to the people of Israel after the pattern which
Moses saw in the mount (Ex. 25:9, 40); and the original
itself, as the renewed habitation of redeemed man, will
hereafter descend to the earth. Rev. 21:10."
To the overcomer, then, is
promised a restoration to more than Adam lost; not to the
overcomers of that state of the church merely, but to all
overcomers of every age; for in the great rewards of Heaven
there are no restrictions. Reader, strive to be an overcomer;
for he who gains access to the tree of life in the midst
of the paradise of God, shall die no more.
The time covered by this first
church may be considered the period from the resurrection
of Christ to the close of the first century, or to the death
of the last of the apostles.
8. And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These things saith the first and the last, which was dead
and is alive; 9.
I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty (but thou
art rich), and I know the blasphemy of them which say they
are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
10. Fear none of those things which
thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of
you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have
tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I
will give thee a crown of life. 11.
He that hath an ear, let him hear
what the Spirit saith unto the churches: He that overcometh
shall not be hurt of the second death.
It will be noticed that the
Lord introduces himself to each church by mentioning some
of his characteristics which show him to be peculiarly fitted
to bear to them the testimony which he utters. To the Smyrnian
church, about to pass through the fiery ordeal of persecution,
he reveals himself as one who was dead, but is now alive.
If they should be called to seal their testimony with their
blood, they were to remember that the eyes of One were upon
them who had shared the same fate, but had triumphed over
death, and was able to bring them up again from a martyr's
p 380 -- Poverty
and Riches. - "I know thy poverty,"
says Christ to them, "but thou art rich." Strange
paradox this may seem at first. But who are the truly rich
in this world? - Those who are "rich in faith"
and "heirs of the kingdom." The wealth of this
world, for which men so eagerly strive, and so often barter
away present happiness and future endless life, is "coin
not current in heaven." A certain writer has forcibly
remarked, "There is many a rich poor man, and many
a poor rich man."
They are Jews, and Are Not. - That the term Jew
is not here used in a literal sense, is very evident. It
denotes some character which was approved by the gospel
standard. Paul's language will make this point plain. He
says (Rom. 2:28, 29): "For he is not a
Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision
which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew [in the true
Christian sense] which is one inwardly; and circumcision
is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter,
whose praise is not of men, but of God."
Again he says (chapter 9:6, 7) : "For they
are not all Israel which are of Israel; neither, because
they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children."
In Gal. 3:28, 29, Paul further tells us that in Christ there
are no such outward distinctions as Jew or Greek; but if
we are Christ's, then are we Abraham's
seed (in the true sense), and heirs
according to the promise. To say, as some do,
that the term Jew is never applied to Christians, is to
contradict all these inspired declarations of Paul's, and
the testimony of the faithful and true Witness to the Smyrnian
church. Some were hypocritically pretending to be Jews in
this Christian sense, when they possessed nothing of the
requisite character. Such were of the synagogue of Satan.
Ten Days. - As this message is prophetic, the
time mentioned in it must also be regarded as prophetic,
and would denote ten years. And it is a noticeable fact
that the last and most bloody of the ten persecutions continued
just ten years, beginning under Diocletian, from A. D. 303
to A. D. 313. It would be difficult to make an application
of this language on the ground that these messages are not
prophetic; for in
p 381 -- that case only
ten literal days could be meant; and it would not seem probable
that a persecution of only ten days, or only a single church,
would be made a matter of prophecy; and no mention of any
such case of limited persecution can be found. Again, apply
this persecution to any of the notable, persecutions of
that period, and how could it be spoken of as the fate of
one church alone? All the churches suffered in them; and
where, then, would be the propriety of singling out one,
to the exclusion of the rest, as alone involved in such
Unto Death. - Some
have endeavored to base a criticism on the use of the word
instead of until,
as though the idea of time was not involved. But the original
word, acri, rendered unto,
until. No argument, however, can be drawn from
this for consciousness in death. The vital point for such
an argument is still lacking; for it is not affirmed that
the crown of life is bestowed immediately at death. We must
consequently look to other scriptures to learn when the
crown of life is given; and other scriptures very fully
inform us. Paul declares that this crown is to be given
at the day of Christ's appearing (2 Tim. 4:8); at the last
trump (1 Cor. 15:51-54); when the Lord shall himself descend
from heaven (1 Thess. 4:16, 17); when the Chief Shepherd
shall appear, says Peter (1 Peter 5:4); at the resurrection
of the just, says Christ (Luke 14:14); and when he shall
return to take his people to the mansions prepared for them,
that they may ever be with him. John 14:3. "Be thou
faithful until death; " and having been thus faithful,
when the time comes that the saints of God are rewarded,
you shall receive a crown of life.
Overcomer's Reward. - "He shall not be hurt
of the second death." Is not the language Christ here
uses a good comment upon what he taught his disciples, when
he said, "And fear not them which kill the body, but
are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which
is able to destroy both soul and body in hell"? Matt.
10:28. The Smyrnians might be put to death here; but the
future life, which was to be given them, man
could not take away, and God
p 382 --
(Christian Martyrs In Arena) TOP
p 383 -- hence they
were to fear not those who could kill the body, - to "fear
none of the things which they should suffer;" for their
eternal existence was sure.
myrrh, fit appellation for the church of God
while passing through the fiery furnace of persecution,
and proving herself a "sweet-smelling savor" unto
him. But we soon reach the days of Constantine, when the
church presents a new phase, rendering a far different name
and another message applicable to her history.
According to the foregoing
application, the date of the Smyrnian church would be A.
12. And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write:
These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two
edges: 13. I
know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's
seat is; and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied
my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful
martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
14. But I have a few things against
thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine
of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before
the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols,
and to commit fornication. 15.
So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes,
which thing I hate. 16.
Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will
fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17. He that hath an ear, let him hear
what the Spirit saith unto the churches: To him that overcometh
will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him
a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which
no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
Against the church of Smyrna,
which has just been considered, there was no word of condemnation
uttered. Persecution is ever calculated to keep the church
pure, and incite its members to piety and godliness. But
we now reach a period when influences began to work through
which errors and evils were likely to creep into the church.
Pergamos, signifies height,
elevation. The period covered by this church
may be located from the days of Constantine, or perhaps,
rather, from his professed conversion to Christianity, A.
D. 323, to the establishment of the papacy A. D. 538. It
was a period in which the true servants of God had to struggle
against a spirit of worldly policy, pride, and popularity
among the professed followers of Christ, and
p 384 -- against the
virulent workings of the mystery of iniquity, which finally
resulted in the full development of the papal man of sin.
Satan's Seat Is. - Christ takes cognizance of
the unfavorable situation of his people during this period.
The language is not probably designed to denote locality.
As to place, Satan works wherever Christians dwell. But
surely there are times and seasons when he works with special
power; and the period covered by the church of Pergamos
was one of these. During this period, the doctrine of Christ
was being corrupted, the mystery of iniquity was working,
and Satan was laying the very foundation of that most stupendous
system of wickedness, the papacy. Here was the falling away
foretold by Paul in 2 Thess. 2:3. TOP
- That a class of persons is referred to by this
name, and not an individual, there is good reason to believe;
for no authentic information respecting such an individual
is now to be found. On this point William Miller says: - "It
is supposed that Antipas was not an individual, but a class
of men who opposed the power of the bishops, or popes, in
that day, being a combination of two words, anti,
opposed, and papas, father, or pope; and at that
time many of them suffered martyrdom in Constantinople and
Rome, where the bishops and popes began to exercise the
power which soon after brought into subjection the kings
of the earth, and trampled on the rights of the church of
Christ. And for myself, I see no reason to reject this explanation
of this word Antipas in this text, as the history
of those times is perfectly silent respecting such an individual
as is here named." - Miller's Lectures, pp.
Watson says, "Ancient
ecclesiastical history furnishes no account of this Antipas."
Dr. Clarke mentions a work as extant called the "Acts
of Antipas," but gives us to understand that it is
entitled to no credit.
Cause of Censure. - Disadvantages in situation
are no excuse for wrongs in the church. Although this church
lived at a time when Satan was especially at work, it was
their duty to keep themselves pure from the leaven of his
p 385 -- evil doctrines.
Hence they were censured for harboring among them those
who held the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitanes.
(See remarks on the Nicolaitanes, verse 6.) What the
doctrine of Balaam was, is here partially revealed. He taught
Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel.
(See a full account of his work and its results in
Numbers, chapters 22-25 and 31:13-16.) It appears
that Balaam desired to curse Israel for the sake of the
rich reward which Balak offered him for so doing. But not
being permitted by the Lord to curse them, he resolved to
accomplish essentially the same thing, though in a different
way. He therefore counseled Balak to seduce them, by means
of the females of Moab, to participate in the celebration
of the rites of idolatry, and all its licentious accompaniments.
The plan succeeded. The abominations of idolatry spread
through the camp of Israel, the curse of God was called
down upon them by their sins, and there fell by the plague
twenty-four thousand persons.
The doctrines complained of
in the church of Pergamos were of course similar in their
tendency, leading to spiritual idolatry, and an unlawful
connection between the church and the world. Out of this
spirit was finally produced the union of the civil and ecclesiastical
powers, which culminated in the formation of the papacy.
- By disciplining or expelling those who hold
these pernicious doctrines Christ declared that if they
did not do this, he would take the matter into his own hands,
and come unto them (in judgment), and fight against them
(those who held these evil doctrines); and the whole church
would be held responsible for the wrongs of those heretical
ones whom they harbored in their midst.
Promise. - To the overcomer it is promised that
he shall eat of the hidden manna, and receive from his approving
Lord a white stone, with a new and precious name engraved
thereon. Concerning manna that is "hidden," and
a new name that no one is to know but he that receives it,
not much in the way of exposition should be required. But
there has been much conjecture upon these points, and an
p 386 -- them may be
expected. Most commentators apply the manna, white stone,
and new name, to spiritual blessings to be enjoyed in this
life; but like all the other promises to the overcomer,
this one doubtless refers wholly to the future, and is to
be given when the time comes that the saints are to be rewarded.
Perhaps the following from the late
H. Blunt is as satisfactory as anything that has
ever been written upon these several particulars: "It
is generally thought by commentators that this refers to
an ancient judicial custom of dropping a black stone into
an urn when it is intended to condemn, and a white stone
when the prisoner is to be acquitted; but this is an act
so distinct from that described, 'I will give thee a white
stone,' that we are disposed to agree with those who think
it refers rather to a custom of a very different kind, and
not unknown to the classical reader, according with beautiful
propriety to the case before us. In primitive times, when
traveling was rendered difficult from want of places of
public entertainment, hospitality was exercised by private
individuals to a very great extent, of which, indeed, we
find frequent traces in all history, and in none more than
the Old Testament. Persons who partook of this hospitality,
and those who practiced it, frequently contracted habits
of friendship and regard for each other, and it became a
well-established custom among the Greeks and Romans to provide
their guests with some particular mark, which was handed
down from father to son, and insured hospitality and kind
treatment whenever it was presented. This mark was usually
a small stone or pebble, cut in half, upon the halves of
which the host and guest mutually inscribed their names,
and then interchanged with each other. The production of
this tessera was quite sufficient to insure friendship for
themselves or descendants whenever they traveled again in
the same direction, while it is evident that these stones
required to be privately kept, and the names written upon
them carefully concealed, lest others should obtain the
privileges instead of the persons for whom they were intended.
natural, then, the allusion to this custom in the words
of the text, 'I will give him to eat of the hidden
p 387 -- manna!'
and having done this, having made him partake of my hospitality,
having recognized him as my guest and friend, I will present
him with the white stone, and in the stone a new name written,
which no man knoweth save he who receiveth it. I will give
him a pledge of my friendship, sacred and inviolable, known
only to himself."
On the new name,
very appropriately says: - "Jacob,
after his victory, gained the new name of Israel. Wouldst
thou know what thy new name will be? The way to this is
plain - overcome. Till then, all thy inquiries are vain.
Thou wilt then read it on the white stone."
18. And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira
write: These things saith the Son of God, who
hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are
like fine brass; 19.
I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith,
and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more
than the first. 20. Notwithstanding
I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest
that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess,
to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication,
and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
21. And I gave her space to repent
of her fornication; and she repented not.
22. Behold, I will cast her into
a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great
tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
23. And I will kill her children
with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he
which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto
every one of you according to your works. 24.
But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many
as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the
depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none
other burden. 25. But
that which ye have already hold fast till I come. 26.
And he that overcometh, and keepeth
my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the
And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels
of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received
of my Father. 28.
And I will give him the morning star.
29. He that hath an ear, let him
hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
If the period covered by the
Pergamos church has been correctly located, terminating
with the setting up of the papacy, A. D. 538, the most natural
division to be assigned to the church of Thyatira would
be the time of the continuance of this blasphemous power
through the 1260 years of its supremacy, or from A. D. 538
to A. D. 1798.
Thyatira signifies "sweet
savor of labor," or "sacrifice of contrition."
This would well describe the state of the church
p 388 -- of Jesus Christ
during the long period of papal triumph and persecution.
This age of such dreadful tribulation upon the church as
never was (Matt. 24:21), improved the religious condition
of believers. Hence they receive for their works, charity,
service, faith, and patience, the commendation of Him whose
eyes are as a flame of fire. And works are then again mentioned,
as if worthy of double commendation. And the last were more
than the first. There had been an improvement in their condition,
a growth of grace, an increase in all these elements of
Christianity. This church is the only one that is commended
for an improvement in spiritual things. But as in the church
of Pergamos unfavorable circumstances were no apology for
false doctrines in the church, so in this church, no amount
of labor, charity, service, faith, or patience could compensate
for a like sin. A rebuke is therefore given them for suffering
in their midst -
Woman Jezebel. - As in the preceding church Antipas
denoted, not an individual, but a class of persons, so,
doubtless, Jezebel is here to be understood in the same
sense. Watson's Bible Dictionary says, "The
name of Jezebel is used proverbially. Rev. 2:20." William
Miller, Lectures, p. 142, speaks as
is a figurative name, alluding to Ahab's wife, who slew
the prophets of the Lord, led her husband into idolatry,
and fed the prophets of Baal at her own table. A more striking
figure could not have been used to denote the papal abominations.
(See I Kings, chapters 18, 19, and 21). It is very evident
from history, as well as from this verse, that the church
of Christ did suffer some of the papal monks to preach and
teach among them. (See the History of the Waldenses.')"
has the following remark upon verse 23:
"Children are spoken of, which confirms the idea that
a sect and its proselytes are meant." The
judgments here threatened against this woman are in harmony
with the threatenings in other parts of this book against
the Romish Church under the symbol of a corrupt woman, the
mother of harlots and abominations of the earth. (See chapters
p 389 -- The death which
is threatened is doubtless the second death, at the end
of the one thousand years of Revelation 20, when the righteous
retribution from the Searcher of "the reins and hearts"
of all men will be given. And further, the declaration,
"I will give unto every one of you according to your
works," is proof that the address to this church looks
forward prophetically to the final reward or punishment
of all accountable beings.
All the Churches Shall Know. - It has been argued
from this expression that these churches could not denote
periods of the gospel age, but must exist contemporaneously,
all the churches could not know that Christ was
the searcher of the reins and hearts from seeing his judgments
upon Jezebel and her children. But when is it that all the
churches are to know this? - It is when these
children are punished with death. And if this is at the
time when the second death is inflicted upon all the wicked,
then indeed will "all the churches," as they behold
the infliction of the judgment, know that no secret thing,
no evil thought or purpose of the heart, has escaped the
knowledge of Him, who, with eyes like flames of fire, searches
the hearts and reins of men.
Will Lay Upon You None Other Burden. - A respite
promised the church, if we rightly apprehend, from the burden,
so long her portion, - the weight of papal oppression.
It cannot be applied to the reception of new truths; for
truth is not a burden to any accountable being. But the
days of tribulation that came upon that church were to be
shortened for the elect's sake. Matt. 24:22. "They
shall be holpen," says the prophet, "with a little
help." Dan. 11:34. "And the earth helped the woman,"
says John. Rev. 12:16.
Fast Till I Come. - These are the words of the
"Son of God," and bring to our view an unconditional
coming. To the churches of Ephesus and Pergamos, certain
comings were threatened on conditions: "Repent,
I will come unto thee," etc., implying visitations
of judgment. But here a coming of a different nature altogether
is brought to view. It is not a threatening of punishment.
It is suspended upon no
p 390 -- conditions.
It is set before the believer as a matter of hope, and can
refer to no other event but the future second advent of
the Lord in glory, when the Christian's trials will cease,
and his efforts in the race for life, and his warfare for
a crown of righteousness, will be rewarded with everlasting
This church brings us down
to the time when the more immediate signs of the soon-coming
advent began to be fulfilled. In 1780, eighteen years before
the close of this period, the predicted signs in the sun
and moon were fulfilled. (See chapter 6:12.) And in reference
to these signs the Saviour said: "And when
these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift
up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."
In the history of this church we reach a point when the
end is drawing so near that the attention of the people
could properly be called more particularly to that event.
All along Christ has said to his followers, "Occupy
till I come." Luke 19:13. Now he says, "Hold fast
till I come." TOP
the End.- The end of the Christian age. "He
that shall endure unto the end," says Christ, "the
same shall be saved." Matt. 24:13. Is not here a like
promise to those who keep Christ's works, do the things
he has enjoined, keep the faith of Jesus? Chapter 14:12.
Over the Nations. - In this world the wicked
bear rule, and the servants of Christ are of no esteem.
But the time is coming when righteousness will be in the
ascendency; when all ungodliness will be seen in its true
light, and be at a heavy discount; and when the scepter
of power will be in the hands of the people of God. This
promise will be explained by the following facts and scriptures:
(1) The nations are to be given by
the Father into the hands of Christ, to be ruled with a
rod of iron, and dashed in pieces like a potter's vessel
(Ps. 2:8, 9); (2) Associated
with Christ when he thus enters upon his own work of power
and judgment, are to be his saints (Rev. 3:21);
(3) They are to reign with him in
this capacity for one thousand years (chapter 20:4);
(4) During this period, the degree
of judgment upon wicked men and evil angels is determined
(1 Cor. 6:2, 3); (5)
At the end of the one
p 391 -- thousand years,
they have the honor of sharing with Christ in the execution
of the sentence written. (Ps. 149: 9).
Morning Star. - Christ says, in chapter
22:16, that he is himself the morning star. The morning
star is the immediate forerunner of the day. What is here
called the morning star, is called the day star in 2 Peter
1:19, where it is associated with the dawn of the day: "Until
the day dawn, and the day star arise."
During the saints' weary night of watching, they have the
word of God to shed its needful light upon their path. But
when the day star shall arise in their hearts, or the morning
star be given to the overcomers, they will be taken into
so close a relationship to Christ that their hearts will
be fully illuminated with his Spirit, and they will walk
in his light. Then they will no longer need the sure word
of prophecy, which now shines as a light in a dark place.
Hasten on, O glorious hour, when the light of heaven's bright
day shall rise upon the pathway of the little flock, and
beams of glory from the eternal world shall gild their banners!
Seven Churches Continued
CHAPTER -- III
392 -- VERSE
1. And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God,
and the seven stars: I know thy works, that thou hast a
name that thou livest, and art dead. 2.
Be watchful, and strengthen the things
which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found
thy works perfect before God. 3.
Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and
hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch,
I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know
what hour I will come upon thee. 4.
Thou hast a few names even in Sardis
which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk
with me in white: for they are worthy. 5.
He that overcometh, the same shall
be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his
name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name
before my Father, and before his angels.
6. He that hath an ear, let him hear
what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
If the dates of the preceding
churches have been correctly fixed, the period covered by
the church of Sardis must commence about the year 1798.
signifies "prince or song of joy," or "that
which remains." We then have before us, as constituting
this church, the reformed churches, from the date above
named to the great movement which marked another era in
the history of the people of God.
The great fault found with
this church is that it has a name to live, but is dead.
And what a high position, in a worldly point of view, has
the nominal church occupied during this period! Look at
her high-sounding titles, and her favor with the world.
But how have pride and popularity grown apace, until spirituality
is destroyed, the line of distinction between the church
and the world is obliterated, and these different
p 393 -- popular bodies
are churches of Christ only in name!
This church was to hear the
proclamation of the doctrine of the second advent, as we
learn from verse 3: "If therefore
thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief."
This implies that the doctrine of the advent would be proclaimed,
and the duty of watching be enjoined upon the church. The
coming spoken of is unconditional; the manner only in which
it would come upon them is conditional. Their not watching
would not prevent the coming of the Lord; but by watching
they could avoid being overtaken as by a thief. It is only
to those who are in this condition that the day of the Lord
comes unawares. "Ye, brethren," says Paul, "are
not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a
thief." I Thess. 5:4.
Few Names Even In Sardis. - This language would
seem to imply a period of unparalleled worldliness in the
church. But even in this state of things, there are some
whose garments are not defiled, - some who have
kept themselves free from this contaminating influence.
James says, "Pure
religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this,
To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction,
and to keep himself
unspotted from the world." James 1:27.
Walk With Me In White. - The
Lord does not overlook his people in any place, however
few their numbers. Lonely Christian, with none of like precious
faith with whom to commune, do you ever feel as if the hosts
of the unbelievers would swallow you up? You are not unnoticed
or forgotten by your Lord. The multitude of the wicked around
you cannot be so great as to hide you from his view; and
if you keep yourself unspotted from surrounding evil, the
promise is sure to you. You shall be clothed in white,
- the white raiment of the overcomer, - and
walk with your Lord in glory. See chapter 7:17:
"For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall
feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of
waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."
Being clothed with white raiment is explained
in other scriptures to be a symbol of exchanging iniquity
for righteousness. (See Zech. 3:4, 5.) "Take
p 394 -- away the filthy
garments from him," is explained by the language that
follows, "Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass
from thee." "The fine linen,"
or the white raiment, "is the righteousness of saints."
Book of Life. - Object of thrilling interest!
Vast and ponderous volume, in which are enrolled the names
of all the candidates for everlasting life! And is there
danger, after our names have once been entered in that heavenly
journal, that they may be blotted out? - Yes; or this warning
would never have been penned. Paul, even, feared that he
himself might become a castaway. 1 Cor. 9:27. It is only
by being overcomers at last that our names can be retained
in that book. But all will not overcome. Their names, of
course, will be blotted out. And reference is made to some
definite point of time in the future for this work. "I
says Christ (in the future), blot out the names of the overcomers,
which is also saying, by implication, that at the same time
he will blot
out the names of those who do not overcome. Is not this
the same time mentioned by Peter in Acts 3:19? "Repent
ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins
may be blotted
out when the times of refreshing shall come from
the presence of the Lord." To say to the overcomer
that his name shall not be blotted out of the book of life,
is to say also that his sins shall be blotted out of the
book wherein they are recorded, to be remembered against
him no more forever. Heb. 8:12. And this is to be when the
times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord;
may we not also add, in that other language of Peter, When
the day star shall arise in our hearts, or the morning star
be given to the church, just previous to the advent of the
Lord to usher in the glorious day? 2 Peter 1:19; Rev. 2:28.
And when that hour of decision shall come, which can not
now be a great way in the future, how, reader, will it be
with you? Will your sins be blotted out, and your name be
retained in the book of life? or will your name be blotted
out of the book of life, and your sins be left to bear their
fearful record against you?
p 395 -- The
Presentation In Glory. - "I will confess
his name before my Father, and before his angels."
Christ taught here upon earth, that as men confessed or
denied, despised or honored him here, they would be confessed
or denied by him before his Father in heaven and the holy
angels. Matt. 10:32, 33; Mark 8:38; Luke 12:8, 9. And who
can fathom the honor of being approved before the heavenly
hosts! Who can conceive the bliss of that moment when we
shall be owned by the Lord of life before his Father as
those who have done his will, fought the good fight, run
the race, honored him before men, overcome, and whose names
are worthy, through his merits, of standing upon the imperishable
record of the book of life forever and ever!
7. And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia
write: These things saith he that is holy, he that is true,
he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man
shutteth; and shutteth and no man openeth; 8.
I know thy works: behold, I have
set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for
thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and
hast not denied my name. 9.
Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which
say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will
make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know
that I have loved thee. 10. Because
thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep
thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon
all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
11. Behold, I come quickly:
hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
12. Him that overcometh will I
make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no
more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God,
and the name of the city of my God, which is New Jerusalem,
which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will
write upon him my new name. 13.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith
unto the churches. TOP
brotherly love, and expresses the position and
spirit of those who received the Advent message up to the
autumn of 1844. As they came out of the sectarian churches,
they left party names and party feelings behind; and every
heart beat in union, as they gave the alarm to the churches
and to the world, and pointed to the coming of the Son of
man as the believer's true hope. Selfishness and covetousness
were laid aside, and a spirit of consecration and sacrifice
was cherished. The Spirit of God was with every
p 396 -- true believer,
and his praise upon every tongue. Those who were not in
that movement know nothing of the deep searching of heart,
consecration of all to God, peace, joy in the Holy Spirit,
and pure, fervent love for one another, which true believers
then enjoyed. Those who were in that movement are aware
that language would fail to describe that holy, happy state.
Key of David. - A key is a symbol of power. The
Son of God is the rightful heir to David's throne; and he
is about to take to himself his great power, and to reign;
hence he is represented as having the key of David. The
throne of David, or of Christ, on which he is to reign,
is included in the capital of his kingdom, the New Jerusalem,
now above, but which is to be located on this earth, where
he is to reign forever and ever. Rev. 21:1-5; Luke 1:32,
That Openeth, and No Man Shutteth, etc. - To
understand this language, it is necessary to look at Christ's
position and work as connected with his ministry in the
sanctuary, or true tabernacle above. Heb. 8:2. A figure,
or pattern, of this heavenly sanctuary once existed here
upon earth in the sanctuary built by Moses. Ex. 25:8, 9;
Acts 7:44; Heb. 9:1, 21, 23, 24. The earthly building had
two apartments, - the holy place and the
most holy place. Ex. 26:33, 34. In the first apartment were
the candlestick, the table of showbread, and the altar of
incense. In the second were the ark, which contained the
tables of the covenant, or ten commandments, and the cherubim.
Heb. 9:1-5. In like manner the sanctuary in which Christ
ministers in heaven has two apartments. Heb. 9:24. (See
also verses 8 and 12 and chapter 10:19, in each of which
texts the words rendered
holiest and holy
place are plural in the original, and should
be rendered holy
places.) And as all things were made after their
pattern, the heavenly sanctuary has also furniture similar
to that of the worldly. For the antitype of the golden candlestick
and altar of incense, in the first apartment, see Rev. 4:5;
8:3; and for the antitype of the ark of the covenant, with
its ten commandments, see Rev. 11:19. In the worldly sanctuary
the priests ministered. Ex. 28:41, 43;
p 397 -- Heb. 9:6, 7;
13:11; etc. The ministry of these priests was a shadow of
the ministry of Christ in the sanctuary in heaven. Heb.
8:4, 5. A complete round of service was performed in the
earthly tabernacle once every year. Heb. 9:7. But in the
tabernacle above the service is performed once for all.
Heb. 7:27; 9:12. At the close of the yearly typical service,
the high priest entered the second apartment, the most holy
place of the sanctuary, to make an atonement; and this work
is called the cleansing of the sanctuary. Lev. 16:20, 30,
33; Eze. 45:18. When the ministry in the most holy place
commenced, that in the holy place ceased; and no service
was performed there so long as the priest was engaged in
the most holy place. Lev. 16:17. A similar opening and shutting,
or change of ministration, must be accomplished by Christ
when the time comes for the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary.
And the time did come for this service to commence at the
close of the 2300 days, in 1844. To this event the opening
and shutting mentioned in the text under consideration can
appropriately apply, the opening being the opening of his
ministration in the most holy place, and the shutting, its
cessation in the first apartment, or holy place. (See exposition
of the subject of the sanctuary and its cleansing, under
Verse 9 probably applies to
those who do not keep pace with the advancing light of truth,
and who oppose those that do. Such shall yet be made to
feel and confess that God loves those who, not rejecting
the past fulfilments of his word, nor stereotyping themselves
in a creed, continue to advance in the knowledge of his
Word of My Patience. - Says John, in Rev. 14:12,
"Here is the patience of the saints; here are they
that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."
Those who now live in patient, faithful obedience to the
commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, will be kept
in the hour of temptation and peril just before us. (See
I Come Quickly. - The second coming of Christ
is here again brought to view, and with more startling emphasis
p 398 -- than in any
of the preceding messages. The nearness of that event is
here urged upon the attention of believers. The message
applies to a period when that great event is impending;
and in this we have most indubitable evidence of the prophetic
nature of these messages. What is said of the first three
churches contains no allusion to the second coming of Christ,
from the fact that they do not cover a period during which
that event could be Scripturally expected. But we come down
to the Thyatiran church, beyond which only three comparatively
brief stages of the church appear before the end, and, as
if then the time had come when this great hope was just
beginning to dawn upon the church, the mind is carried forward
to it by a single allusion: "Hold fast till I come."
We come down to the next state of the church, the Sardis,
the church which occupies a position still nearer that event,
and the great proclamation is brought to view which was
to herald it, and the duty of watching enjoined upon the
church: "If thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee
as a thief." We reach the Philadelphian church, still
further down in the stream of time, and the nearness of
the same great event then leads Him who "is holy and
true" to utter the stirring declaration, "Behold,
I come quickly." How evident it is from all this that
these churches occupy positions successively nearer the
great day of the Lord, as in each succeeding one, and in
a continually increasing ratio, this great event is made
more and more prominent, and is more definitely and impressively
urged upon the attention of the church. Here they see indeed
the day approaching. Heb. 10:25.
Enjoined. - "Hold that fast which thou hast,
that no man take thy crown." Not that by our faithfulness
we are depriving any one else of a crown; but the verb rendered
has a number of definitions, one of which is "to take
away, snatch from,
deprive of." Hold fast that thou hast, that
no man deprive thee of the crown of life. Let no one, and
no thing, induce you to yield up the truth, or pervert you
from the right ways of the Lord; for by so doing they will
cause you to lose the reward.
p 399 -- A
Pillar In the Temple. - The overcomer in this
address has the promise of being made a pillar in the temple
of God, and going no more out. The temple here must denote
the church; and the promise of being made a pillar therein
is the strongest promise that could be given of a place
of honor, permanence, and safety in the church, under the
figure of a heavenly building. And when the time comes that
this part of the promise is fulfilled, probation with the
overcomer is past; he is fully established in the truth,
and sealed. "He shall go no more out;" that is,
there is no more danger of his falling away; he is the Lord's
forever; his salvation is sure.
But they are to have more
than this. From the moment they overcome, and are sealed
for heaven, they are labeled, if we may so express
it, as belonging to God and Christ, and addressed to their
destination, the New Jerusalem. They are to have written
upon them the
name of God, whose property they are, the name
of the New Jerusalem,
to which place they are going, not old Jerusalem, where
some are vainly looking; and they have
them the new name of Christ, by whose authority they
are to receive everlasting life, and enter into the kingdom.
Thus sealed and labeled, the saints of God are safe. No
enemy will be able to prevent their reaching their destination,
their glorious haven of rest, Jerusalem above. TOP
14. And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans
write: These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true
Witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
15. I know thy works, that thou
are neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,
I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17.
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods,
and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art
wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18. I counsel thee to buy of me
gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white
raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame
of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with
eye-salve, that thou mayest see. 19.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore,
and repent. 20. Behold,
I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice,
and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with
him, and he with me. 21.
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my
throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my
Father in his throne. 22.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith
unto the churches.
p 400 --
judging of the people, or, according to Cruden,
a just people. The message to this church brings
to view the closing scenes of probation. It reveals a period
of judgment. It is the last stage of the church. It consequently
applies to believers under the third message, the last message
of mercy before the coming of Christ (see chapter 14:9-14),
while the great day of atonement is transpiring, and the
investigative Judgment is going forward upon the house of
God, - a period during which the just and holy law of God
is taken by the waiting church as their rule of life.
Things Saith the Amen. - This is, then, the final
message to the churches ere the close of probation. And
though the description of their condition which he gives
to the indifferent Laodiceans is fearful and startling,
nevertheless it cannot be denied; for the Witness is "faithful
and true." Moreover, he is "the beginning of the
creation of God." Some attempt by this language to
uphold the error that Christ was a created being, dating
his existence anterior to that of any other created being
or thing, next to the self-existent and eternal God. But
the language does not necessarily imply that he was created;
for the words, "the beginning of the creation,"
may simply signify that the work of creation, strictly speaking,
was begun by him. "Without him was not anything made."
Others, however, and more properly we think, take the word
arch to mean the "agent"
or "efficient cause," which is one of the definitions
of the word, understanding that Christ is the agent through
whom God has created all things, but that the Son came into
existence in a different manner, as he is called "the
only begotten" of the Father. It would seem utterly
inappropriate to apply this expression to any being created
in the ordinary sense of that term.
The charge he brings against
the Laodiceans is that they are lukewarm, neither hot nor
cold. They lack that religious fervency, zeal, and devotion
which their position in the world's closing history, with
the light of prophecy beaming upon their pathway, demands
that they should manifest; and this lukewarmness is shown
by a lack of good works; for it
p 401 -- is from a knowledge
of their works that the faithful and true Witness brings
this fearful charge against them. TOP
Would Thou Wert Cold or Hot. - Three states are
brought to view in this message, - the cold, the lukewarm,
and the hot. It is important to determine what condition
they each denote, in order to guard against wrong conclusions.
Three conditions of spiritual life which pertain to the
church, not to the world, are to be considered. What the
means it is not difficult to conceive. The mind at once
calls up a state of intense fervency and zeal, when all
the affections, raised to the highest pitch, are drawn out
for God and his cause, and manifest themselves in corresponding
works. To be lukewarm is to lack this zeal, to be in a state
in which heart and earnestness are wanting; in which there
is no self-denial that costs anything, no cross-bearing
that is felt, no determined witnessing for Christ, and no
valiant aggression that keeps sinews strained and armor
bright; and, worst of all, it implies entire satisfaction
with that condition. But to be cold - what
is that? Does it denote a state of corruption, wickedness,
and sin, such as characterizes the world of unbelievers?
We cannot so regard it, for the following reasons: -
1. It would
seem harsh and repulsive to represent Christ as wishing,
under any circumstances, that persons should be in such
a condition; but he says, "I would
cold or hot."
2. No state
can be more offensive to Christ than that of the sinner
in open rebellion, and his heart filled with every evil.
It would therefore be incorrect to represent him as preferring
that state to any position which his people can occupy while
they are still retained as his.
3. The threat
of rejection in verse 16 is
because they are neither
cold nor hot. As much as to say that if they
cold or hot, they would not be rejected. But if by
cold is meant a state of open worldly wickedness,
they would be rejected therefore very speedily. Hence such
cannot be its meaning.
We are consequently forced
to the conclusion that by this language our Lord has no
reference whatever to those outside
p 402 -- of his church,
but that he refers to three degrees of spiritual affections,
two of which are more acceptable to him than the third.
Heat and cold are preferable to lukewarmness But what kind
of spiritual state is denoted by the term cold?
We may remark first that it is a state of feeling.
In this respect it is superior to lukewarmness, which is
a state of comparative insensibility, indifference, and
supreme self-satisfaction. To be hot is also to be in a
state of feeling. And as hot denotes joyous fervency, and
a lively exercise of all the affections, with a heart buoyant
with the sensible presence and love of God, so by cold would
seem to be denoted a spiritual condition characterized by
a destitution of these traits, yet one in which the individual
destitution, and longs to recover his lost treasures. This
state is well expressed by the language of Job, "O
that I knew where I might find him!" Job 23:3. In this
state there is not indifference, nor is there content; but
there is a sense of coldness, unfitness, and discomfort,
and a groping and seeking after something better. There
is hope of a person in this condition. What a man feels
that he lacks and wants, he will earnestly strive to obtain.
The most discouraging feature of the lukewarm is that they
are conscious of no lack, and feel that they have need of
nothing. Hence it is easy to see why our Lord should prefer
to behold his church in a state of comfortless coldness,
rather than in a state of comfortable, easy, indifferent
lukewarmness. Cold, a person will not long remain. His efforts
will soon lead him to the fervid state. But lukewarm, there
is danger of his remaining till the faithful and true Witness
is obliged to reject him as a nauseous and loathsome thing.
Will Spue Thee Out of My Mouth. - Here the figure
is still further carried out, and the rejection of the lukewarm
expressed by the nauseating effects of tepid water. And
this denotes a final rejection, an utter separation
from his church.
and Increased With Goods. - Such the Laodiceans
think is their condition. They are not hypocrites, because
not" that they are poor, miserable, blind,
and naked. TOP
p 403 -- The
Counsel Given Them. - Buy of me, says the true
Witness, gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich,
and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and anoint
thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. This shows
at once to the deceived Laodiceans the objects they lack,
and the extent of their destitution. It shows, too, where
they can obtain those things in which they are so fearfully
poor; it brings before them the necessity of speedily obtaining
them. The case is so urgent that our great Advocate in the
court above sends us special counsel on the point; and the
fact that he who has condescended to point out our lack,
and counsel us to buy, is the one who has these things to
bestow, and invites us to come to him for them, is the best
possible guarantee that our application will be respected,
and our requests granted.
But by what means can we buy
these things? - Just as we buy all other gospel graces.
"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters,
and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come,
buy wine and milk without money and without price."
Isa. 55:1. We thus buy by the asking; buy by throwing away
the worthless baubles of earth, and receiving priceless
treasures in their stead; buy by simply coming and receiving;
buy, giving nothing in return. And what do we buy on these
gracious terms? - Bread that perishes not, spotless
raiment that soils not, riches that corrupt not, and an
inheritance that fadeth not. Strange traffic, this! yet
thus the Lord condescends to deal with his people. He might
compel us to come in the manner and with the mien of beggars;
but instead of this he gives us the treasures of his grace,
and in return receives our worthlessness, that we may take
the blessings he has to bestow, not as pittances dealt out
to mendicants, but as the legitimate possessions of honorable
The things to be obtained demand
especial notice. They are enumerated as follows: -
Tried in the Fire. -
Gold, literally considered, is the comprehensive
name for all worldly wealth and riches. Figuratively, it
must denote that which constitutes spiritual riches. What
grace, then, is represented by the gold, or, rather,
p 404 -- what graces?
for doubtless no one single grace can be said to answer
to the full import of that term. The Lord said to the church
of Smyrna that he knew their poverty, but they were rich;
and the testimony shows that their riches consisted of that
which was finally to put them in possession of a crown of
life. Says James, "Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath
not God chosen the poor of this world, rich
in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath
promised to them that love him?" "Faith,"
says Paul, "is the substance of things hoped for, the
evidence of things not seen." To be "rich toward
God," - rich in the spiritual sense, - is to have a
clear title to the promises, - to be an heir of that inheritance
which is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away,
reserved in heaven for us. "If ye be Christ's, then
are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
Gal. 3:29. And how do we obtain this heirship? - In the
same way that Abraham obtained the promise; that is, through
faith. Rom. 4:13, 14. No wonder, then, that Paul should
devote an entire chapter in Hebrews (chapter 11) to this
important subject, setting forth the mighty achievements
that have been accomplished, and the precious promises that
have been obtained, through faith; and that he should, in
the first verse of the next chapter, as the grand conclusion
to his argument, exhort Christians to lay aside every weight,
and the sin (of unbelief) that so easily besets them. Nothing
will sooner dry up the springs of spirituality, and sink
us into utter poverty in reference to the things of the
kingdom of God, than to let faith go out and unbelief come
in. For faith must enter into every action that is pleasing
in his sight; and in coming to him, the first thing is to
believe that he is; and it is through faith, as the chief
agent under the grace which is the gift of God, that we
are to be saved. Heb. 11:6; Eph. 2:8.
From this it would seem that
faith is a principal element of spiritual wealth. But if,
as already remarked, no one grace can answer to the full
import of the term
gold, so, doubtless, other things are included
with faith. "Faith is the substance of things hoped
for," says Paul. Hence hope is an inseparable accompaniment
of faith. - Heb. 11:1; Rom. 8:24, 25.
p 405 -- And again Paul
tells us that faith works by love, and speaks in another
place of being "rich in good works." Gal. 5:6;
1 Tim. 6:18. Hence love cannot be separated from faith.
We then have before us the three objects associated together
by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, - faith, hope,
and charity, or love; and the greatest of these is charity.
Such is the gold tried by fire which we are counseled to
On this point there would not seem to be much
room for controversy. A few texts will furnish a key to
the understanding of this expression. Says the prophet,
Isa. 64:6, "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags."
We are counseled to buy the opposite of filthy rags, which
would be complete and spotless raiment. The same figure
is used in Zech. 3:3, 4. And John, in the 19th chapter of
the Revelation, verse 8, says plainly that "the fine
linen is the righteousness of saints."
On this there is as little room for a
diversity of opinion as upon the white raiment. The anointing
of the eyes is certainly not to be taken in a literal sense;
and, reference being made to spiritual things, the eye-salve
must denote that by which our spiritual discernment is quickened.
There is but one agent revealed to us in the word of God
by which this is accomplished, and that is the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 10:38 we read that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Ghost." And the same writer through whom
came this Revelation from Jesus Christ, wrote to the church
in his first epistle (chapter 2:20) as follows: "But
ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things."
In verse 27 he enlarges upon this point thus: "But
the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you,
and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same
anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and
is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide
in him." By referring to his Gospel, it is found that
the work which he here sets forth as accomplished by the
anointing is exactly the same that he there attributes to
the Holy Spirit. John 14:26: "But the Comforter, which
is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name,
he shall teach you all things, and bring all things
p 406 -- to your remembrance,
whatsoever I have said unto you." (See also John 16:13.)
Thus in a formal and solemn
manner are we counseled by the faithful and true Witness,
under the figures of gold, white raiment, and eye-salve,
to seek from him, speedily and earnestly, an increase of
the heavenly graces of faith, hope, charity, that righteousness
which he alone can furnish, and an unction from the Holy
Spirit. But how is it possible that a people lacking these
things should think themselves rich and increased with goods?
A plausible inference may here be drawn, which is perhaps
also a necessary one, as there is room for no other. It
will be observed that no fault is found with the Laodiceans
on account of the doctrines they hold. They are not accused
of harboring any Jezebel in their midst, or of countenancing
the doctrines of Balaam or the Nicolaitanes. So far as we
can learn from the address to them, their belief is correct,
and their theory sound. The inference therefore is that
having a correct theory, therewith they are content. They
are satisfied with a correct form of doctrine without its
power. Having received light concerning the closing events
of this dispensation, and having a correct theoretical knowledge
of the truths that pertain to the last generation of men,
they are inclined to rest in this to the neglect of the
spiritual part of religion. It is by their actions, doubtless,
not by their words, that they say they are rich, and increased
with goods. Having so much light and so much truth, what
can they want besides? And if, with a commendable tenacity,
they defend the theory, and in the letter, so far as their
outward life is concerned, conform to the increasing light
upon the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, is
not their righteousness complete? Rich, and increased with
goods, and needing nothing! Here is their failure. Their
whole being should cry out for the spirit, the zeal, the
fervency, the life, the power, of a living Christianity,
and their righteousness should consist in a swallowing up
of self and all its works in the merits of their Redeemer.
Token of Love. - This, strange as it may seem,
is chastisement. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten."
If we are without chastisement, we are not sons. Hebrews
p 407 -- "A
general law," says
Thompson, "of his gracious economy is here set forth.
As all need chastisement in some measure, they in some measure
receive it, and thus have proof of the Saviour's attachment.
This is a hard lesson to learn, and believers are dull scholars;
yet here and throughout God's word and providence it stands,
that trials are his benedictions, and that no child escapes
the rod. The incorrigibly misshapen and coarse-grained blocks
are rejected, while those chosen for the glorious structure
are subjected to the chisel and the hammer. There is no
cluster on the true vine but must pass through the winepress.
'For myself,' said an old divine under affliction, 'for
myself, I bless God I have observed and felt so much mercy
in this angry dispensation of God that I am almost transported.
I am, surely, highly pleased with thinking how infinitely
sweet his mercies are, when his judgments are so gracious.'
In view, then, of the origin and design of the chastisements
you receive, 'Be zealous and repent.' Lose no time; lose
not a blow of the rod, but repent at once. Be fervent in
spirit. Such is the first appliance of encouragement."
Zealous and Repent. - Although, as we have seen,
the state represented by coldness is preferable to one of
lukewarmness, yet that is not a state in which our Lord
ever desires to find us. We are never exhorted to seek that
state. There is a far better one which we are counseled
to attain; and that is to be zealous, to be fervent, and
to have our hearts all aglow in the service of our Master.
Knocking At the Door. -
Let us listen again to the author above quoted:
is the heart of hearts. Notwithstanding their offensive
attitude, their unlovely character, such is his love to
their souls that be humbles himself to solicit the privilege
of making them blessed. 'Behold, I stand at the door, and
knock.' Why does he? Not because he is without home elsewhere.
Among the mansions in his Father's house there is not one
entrance closed to him. He is the life of every heart, the
light in every eye, the song on every tongue, in glory.
But be goes round from door to door in Laodicea. He stands
at each, and knocks, because he came to seek and to save
that which is lost, because he cannot give up the purpose
p 408 --
of communicating eternal life to as many as the Father has
given him, and because be cannot become known to the inmate
unless the door be opened and a welcome given him. Have
you bought a piece of ground? have you bought five yoke
of oxen? is your hat in your hand, and do you pray to be
excused? He knocks and knocks. But you cannot receive company
at present; you are worn out with labor; you have wheeled
round the sofa; you are making yourself comfortable, and
send word that you are engaged. He knocks and knocks. ...
It is the hour for church prayer-meeting or for monthly
concert; there is opportunity to pay a Christian visit to
an individual or a family; but you move not. ... Oh, nauseous
lukewarmness! Oh, fatal worldliness! The Lord of glory comes
all the way from his celestial palace - comes in poverty,
in sweat, in blood - comes to the door of a professed friend,
who owes all to him, and cannot get in! - comes to rescue
a man whose house is on fire, and he will not admit him!
Oh, the height, the depth, of Jesus Christ's forbearance!
Even the heathen Publius received Paul, and lodged him three
days courteously. Shall nominal Christians tell the Lord
of apostles that they have no room for him?" TOP
Any Man Hear My Voice. - The Lord entreats, then,
as well as knocks. And the word if
implies that some will not hear. Though he stands
and knocks and entreats till his locks are wet with the
dews of night, yet some will close their ears to his tender
entreaties. But it is not enough simply to hear. We must
hear, and open the door. And many who at first hear the
voice, and for a time feel inclined to heed, will doubtless,
alas! fail in the end to do that which is necessary to secure
to themselves the communion of the heavenly Guest. Reader,
are your ears open to the entreaties which the Saviour directs
to you? Is the sound of his voice a welcome sound? Will
you heed it? Will you open the door and let him in? Or is
the door of your heart held fast by heaps of this world's
rubbish, which you are unwilling to remove? Remember that
the Lord of life never forces an entrance. He condescends
to come and knock, and seek admittance; but he takes up
p 409 -- abode in those
hearts only where he is then a welcome and invited guest.
And then the promise! "I
will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with
me." How forcible and touching the figure! Friend with
friend, partaking of the cheerful and social meal! Mind
with mind, holding free and intimate converse! And what
a festal scene must that be where the King of glory is a
guest! No common degree of union, no ordinary blessing,
no usual privilege, is denoted by this language. Who, under
such tender entreaty and so gracious a promise, can remain
indifferent? Nor are we required to furnish the table for
this exalted Guest. This he does himself, not with the gross
nutriment of earth, but with viands from his own heavenly
storehouse. Here he sets before us foretastes of the glory
soon to be revealed. Here he gives us earnests of our future
inheritance, which is incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth
not away. Verily, when we shall comply with the conditions,
and receive this promise, we shall experience the rising
of the day star in our hearts, and behold the dawn of a
glorious morning for the church of God.
Final Promise. - The promise of supping with
his disciples is made by the Lord before the final promise
to the overcomer is given. This shows that the blessings
included in that promise are to be enjoyed in this probationary
state. And now, superadded to all these, is the promise
to the overcomer: "To him that overcometh will
I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame,
and am set down with my Father in his throne." Here
the promises of the Lord culminate. From being at first
rebellious, and then fallen, degraded, and polluted, man
is brought by the work of the Redeemer back into reconciliation
with God, cleansed from his pollutions, redeemed from the
fall, made immortal, and finally raised to a seat upon the
very throne of his Saviour. Honor and exaltation could go
no farther. Human minds cannot conceive that state, human
language cannot describe it. We can only labor on till,
if overcomers at last, we shall "know what it is to
In this verse there is not
only a glorious promise, but there
p 410 -- is also an
important doctrine. We learn by this that Christ reigns
consecutively upon two thrones. One is the throne of his
Father, the other is his own throne. He declares in this
verse that he has overcome, and is now set down with his
Father in his throne. He is now associated with the Father
in the throne of universal dominion, placed at his right
hand, far above all principality, power, might, and dominion.
Eph. 1:20-22, etc. While in this position, he is a priest-king.
He is a priest, "a minister of the sanctuary;"
but at the same time he is "on the right hand of the
throne of the Majesty in the heavens." Heb.
8:1, 2. This position and work of our Lord was thus predicted
by the prophet Zechariah: "And speak unto
him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts [God], saying,
Behold the man whose name is the Branch [Christ]; and he
shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple
of the Lord. ... And he [Christ] shall sit and rule upon
his [God's] throne; and he [Christ] shall be a priest upon
his [God's] throne; and the counsel of peace [in the sacrifice
and priestly work of Christ in behalf of repenting man]
shall be between them both." Zech. 6:12-13. But the
time is coming when he is to change his position, and, leaving
the throne of his Father, take his own throne; and this
must be when the time comes for the reward of the overcomers;
for when they enter upon their reward, they are to sit with
Christ on his throne, as he has overcome, and is now seated
with the Father upon his throne. This change in the position
of Christ is set forth by Paul in.
1 Cor. 15:24-28, as follows: - "Then
cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom
to God, even the Father; when be shall have put down all
rule and all authority and power. For he must reign till
he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that
shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things
under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under
him, it is manifest that he is excepted which did put all
things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto
him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him
that put all things under him, that God may be all in all."
p 411 -- The truths
taught in this portion of Scripture may perhaps be most
briefly expressed by a slight paraphrase, and by giving,
in every instance, instead of the pronouns, the nouns to
which they respectively refer. Thus: - "Then
cometh the end (of
the present dispensation),
when Christ shall have delivered up the kingdom (which
he now holds conjointly with the Father)
to God, even the Father; when God shall have put down all
rule and all authority and power (that
is opposed to the work of the Son).
For Christ must reign (on
the throne of his Father)
till the Father hath put all enemies under Christ's feet.
[See. Ps. 110:1.] The last enemy that shall be destroyed
is death. For God (then)
hath put all things under Christ's feet. But when God saith,
All things are put under Christ (and
he commences his reign upon his own throne),
it is manifest that God is excepted, who did put all things
under Christ. And when all things shall be subdued unto
Christ, then shall Christ also himself be subject unto God
that put all things under him, that God may be all in all."
That this is a correct version
of this scripture may be easily verified. The only question
that can be raised is concerning the persons to whom the
pronouns refer; and any attempt to make the pronouns refer
to Christ which in the foregoing paraphrase are referred
to God, will be found, when traced through the quotation,
to make poor sense of Paul's language.
From this it will be seen that
the kingdom which Christ delivers up to the Father is that
which he holds at the present time upon his Father's throne,
where he tells us he is now seated. He delivers up this
kingdom at the end of this dispensation, when the time comes
for him to take his own throne. After this he reigns on
the throne of his father David, and is subject only to God,
who still retains his position upon the throne of universal
dominion. In this reign of Christ the saints participate.
"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me
in my throne." "And they lived," says John,
dating from the first resurrection (chapter 20:4), "and
reigned with Christ a thousand years." This we understand
to be a special reign, or for a special purpose, as will
p 412 -- in that chapter;
for the actual reign of the saints is to be "forever
and ever." Dan. 7:18, 27. How can any earthly object
divert our gaze from this durable and heavenly prospect?
Thus close the messages to
the seven churches. How pointed and searching their testimony!
What lessons do they contain for all Christians in all ages!
It is as true with the last church as with the first, that
all their works are known to Him who walks in the midst
of the seven golden candlesticks. From his scrutinizing
gaze nothing can be hidden. And while his threatenings to
the hypocrites and evil workers, as in justice they may
be, are awful, how ample, how comforting, how gracious,
how glorious, his promises to those who love and follow
him with singleness of heart!
words of counsel, messages of love,
Sent to all his children from the Lord on high:
Precious are these warnings from the throne above
As the world's last crisis swiftly draweth nigh.
and all unworthy we, his children, are -
Pure and perfect must be ere we see his face;
Now for us the Saviour shows his tender care,
Offering for our purchase every heavenly grace.
each boundless promise every bosom thrill,
Bear us through sad ills this world has ever known,
Till we reach the mansions on God's holy hill,
Till we sit with Jesus on his glorious throne.
New Vision - The Heavenly Sanctuary
413 -- VERSE 1.
this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven:
and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet
talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will
show thee things which must be hereafter.
In the first three chapters,
John presents the vision he had of the Son of man, comprising
a description of his majestic person, and a record of the
words which, with a voice as the sound of many waters, he
was heard to utter. A new scene and a new vision now open
before us; and the expression "after this" does
not denote that what is recorded in chapter 4 and onward
was to take place after the fulfilment
of everything recorded in the three preceding chapters,
but only that after he had seen and heard what is there
recorded, he had the new view which he now introduces.
Door Was Opened In Heaven. - Let it be noticed
that John says, "A door was opened
in heaven," not
into heaven. It was not an opening of heaven
itself before the mind of John, as in the case of Stephen
(Acts 7:56); but some place, or apartment, in heaven was
opened before him, and he was permitted to behold what was
transpiring within. That this apartment which John saw open
was the heavenly sanctuary, will plainly appear from other
portions of the book.
p 414 --
Which Must Be Hereafter. - Compare with this
chapter 1:1. The great object of the Revelation seems to
be the presentation of future events, for the purpose of
informing, edifying, and comforting the church.
2. And immediately I was in the Spirit: and, behold,
a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
3. And he that sat was to look
upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a
rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
4. And round about the throne were
four and twenty seats; and upon the seats I saw four and
twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they
had on their heads crowns of gold. 5.
And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings
and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before
the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
the Spirit. - Once before in this book we have
had this expression; namely, in chapter 1:10, "I was
in the Spirit on the Lord's day," where it was taken
to express the fact that John had a vision upon the Sabbath,
or Lord's day. If it there expressed the state of being
in vision, it would denote the same thing here; and consequently
the first vision ended with chapter 3, and a new one is
here introduced. Nor is it any objection to this view that
John, previous to this, as is learned from the first verse
of this chapter, was in such a spiritual state as to be
able to look up and see a door opened in heaven, and to
hear a voice, like the mighty sound of a trumpet, calling
him up to a nearer prospect of heavenly things. It is evident
that there may be such states of ecstasy independent of
vision, just as Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, could look
up and see the heavens opened, and the Son of man on the
right hand of God. To be in the Spirit denotes a still higher
state of spiritual elevation. On what day this vision was
given, we are not informed.
Being again fully wrapped in
heavenly vision, the first object which he beholds is a
throne set in heaven, and the Divine Being seated thereon.
The description of the appearance of this personage, clothed
in the mingled colors of the jasper, frequently a purple,
and the blood-red sardine stone, is such as at once to suggest
to the mind a monarch vested with his royal robes. And round
about the throne there was a rainbow,
p 415 -- both adding
to the grandeur of the scene, and reminding us that though
he who sits upon the throne is an almighty and absolute
ruler, he is nevertheless the covenant-keeping God. TOP
Four and Twenty Elders. - The question once proposed
to John concerning a certain company, has frequently arisen
concerning these four and twenty elders: "Who
are these? and whence came they?" It will
be observed that they are clothed in white raiment, and
have on their heads crowns of gold, which are tokens both
of a conflict completed and a victory gained. From this
we conclude that they were once participants in the Christian
warfare, once trod, in common with all saints, this earthly
pilgrimage, but have overcome; and for some good purpose,
in advance of the great multitude of the redeemed, are wearing
their victor crowns in the heavenly world. Indeed, they
plainly tell us as much as this in the song of praise which
they, in connection with the four living beings, ascribe
to the Lamb, in the 9th verse of the following chapter:
"And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy
to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou
wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out
of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation."
This song is sung before any of the events in the prophecy
of the seven seals transpire; for it is sung to set forth
the worthiness of the Lamb to take the book and to open
the seals, on the ground of what he had already accomplished,
which was their redemption. It is not, therefore, thrown
in here by anticipation, having its application in the future;
but it expresses an absolute and finished fact in the history
of those who sang it. These, then, were a class of redeemed
persons, - redeemed from this earth, redeemed as all others
must be redeemed, by the precious blood of Christ.
Do we in any other place read
of such a class of redeemed ones? - We think Paul refers
to the same company when he writes to the Ephesians thus:
"Wherefore he saith, When he [Christ] ascended up on
high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." The
marginal reading is, he led a "multitude of captives."
Eph. 4:8. Going back to the events that occurred in connection
with the crucifixion and
p 416 -- resurrection
of Christ, we read: "And the graves were opened; and
many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out
of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the
holy city, and appeared unto many." Matt. 27:52, 53.
Thus the answer to our question comes back, gathered unmistakably
from the sacred page. These are some of those who came out
of their graves at the resurrection of Christ, and who were
numbered with the illustrious multitude which he led up
from the captivity of Death's dark domain when he ascended
in triumph on high. Matthew records their resurrection,
Paul their ascension, and John beholds them in heaven, performing
the sacred duties which they were raised up to accomplish.
In this view we are not alone.
Wesley speaks as follows concerning the four
and twenty elders:
"'Clothed in white raiment.' This, and their golden
crowns, show that they had already finished their course,
and taken their places among the citizens of heaven. They
are never termed souls, and hence it is probable that they
had glorified bodies already. Compare Matt.
The particular attention of
the reader is asked to the fact that the four and twenty
elders are said to be seated on thrones. Our translation,
it is true, reads "seats;" but the Greek is
qronoi, "thrones;" and so the Revised Version
reads: "And round about the throne were four and twenty
thrones, and upon the thrones I saw four and twenty elders
sitting." This passage, consequently, throws light
on the expression found in Dan. 7: 9, " I beheld till
the thrones were cast down." These are the same thrones;
and, as has been shown in comments upon that passage, the
meaning is not that the thrones were overturned, or cast
down, in the ordinary sense of that expression, but placed,
or established; and the figure is taken from the Eastern
custom of casting down, or placing, mats or divans for distinguished
guests to sit upon. These four and twenty elders (see on
chapter 5) are supposed to be assistants of Christ in his
mediatorial work in the sanctuary on high; and when the
judgment scene described in Dan. 7: 9 commenced in the
p 417 -- most holy place,
their seats, or thrones, would be set, or placed, there,
according to the testimony of that passage.
Seven Lamps of Fire. - In these lamps of fire
we have an appropriate antitype of the golden candlestick
of the typical sanctuary, with its seven ever-burning lamps.
This candlestick was placed, by divine direction, in the
first apartment of the earthly sanctuary. Ex. 25:31, 32,
37; 26:35; 27:20; etc. And now when John tells us that a
door was opened in heaven, and in the apartment thus disclosed
to view he sees the antitype of the candlestick of the earthly
sanctuary, it is good proof that he is looking into the
first apartment of the sanctuary above. TOP
6. And before the throne there was a sea of glass
like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round
about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and
behind. 7. And
the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like
a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the
fourth beast was like a flying eagle,
8. And the four beasts had each
of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes
within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy,
holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
9. And when those beasts give glory
and honor and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who
liveth forever and ever, 10. The
four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on
the throne, and worship him that liveth forever and ever,
and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11.
Thou art worthy, 0 Lord, to receive glory and honor and
power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure
they are and were created.
Sea of Glass. - Not composed of glass, but a
broad expanse resembling glass; that is, says Greenfield,
transparent, brilliant. This idea is further carried out
by its being likened to crystal, which is defined to mean
"anything concrete and pellucid, like ice or glass."
The position of this sea is such as to show that it bears
no analogy to the laver of the ancient typical service.
It may extend under, and be
the foundation of, the throne, and even further, of the
city itself. It is again brought to view in chapter 15:2,
as the place where the overcomers, in the ecstatic joy of
final victory, will soon stand.
Four Beasts. - It is a very unhappy translation
which has given us the word beasts
in this verse. The Greek word
p 418 -- zwon
denotes properly a living creature. Bloomfield
living creatures' (not beasts).
So Heinr renders it. ... The propriety of this correction
is now, I believe, generally agreed upon by commentators.
The word is very different from qhrion,
designate the prophetic beasts in the 13th and following
chapters. (Scholefield.) It may be added that Bulkeley adduces
several examples of zwon to
denote, not only creature, but even a human being, especially
one from Origen, who uses it of our Lord Jesus."
Similar imagery is used in
the first chapter of Ezekiel. The qualities which would
seem to be signified by the emblems are strength, perseverance,
reason, and swiftness, - strength of affection, perseverance
in carrying out the requirements of duty, reason in comprehending
the divine will, and swiftness in obeying. These living
beings are even more intimately connected with the throne
than are the four and twenty elders, being represented as
in the midst of it, and round about it. Like the elders,
these, in their song to the Lamb, ascribe to him praise
for having redeemed them from the earth. They therefore
belong to the same company, and represent a part of the
great multitude, who, as already described (see remarks
on verse 4), have been led up on high from the captivity
of death. Concerning the object of their redemption, see
remarks on chapter 5:8.
Rest Not. - "Oh! happy unrest!" beautifully
exclaims John Wesley; and the theme of their constant worship
is, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was,
and is, and is to come." No sublimer strain ever issued
from created lips. And they repeat it "day and night,"
or continually, these terms only denoting the manner in
which time is reckoned here; for there can be no night where
the throne of God is.
We mortals are apt to tire
of the repetition of the simple testimony we bear here to
the goodness and mercy of God; and we are sometimes tempted
to say nothing, because we cannot continually say something
new. But may we not learn a profitable lesson from the course
of these holy beings above, who never grow weary of the
ceaseless repetition of these
p 419 -- words, "Holy,
holy, holy, Lord God Almighty;" and to whom these words
never grow old, because their hearts ever glow with a sense
of his holiness, goodness, and love? Praise does not become
to them monotonous; for with every utterance they gain a
new view of the attributes of the Almighty; they reach a
greater height of comprehension in their vision of his perfeetions;
the horizon expands before them; their hearts enlarge; and
the new emotions of adoration, from their new standpoint,
draw from them a fresh utterance of their holy salutation,
new even to themselves, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God
So, even with us here, though
remarks are often repeated in reference to the goodness,
the mercy, and the love of God, the value of his truth,
and the attractions of the world to come, these should not
grow stale upon the ear; for we should all our lives be
rising to new conceptions of the blessings embraced in these
Concerning the expression,
"which was, and is, and is to come," see remarks
on chapter 1:4.
"Thou art worthy,O Lord,
to receive glory and honor and power." How worthy,
we never shall be able to realize till, like the holy beings
who utter this language, changed to immortality, we are
presented faultless before the presence of his glory. Jude
Hast Created All Things. - The works of creation
furnish the foundation for the honor, glory, and power ascribed
to God. "And for thy pleasure," or through thy
will, dia to qelhma sou,
they are, and were created. God willed, and all things
came into existence; and by the same power they are preserved
and sustained. TOP
Heavenly Sanctuary Continued
420 -- VERSE
And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne
a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven
A new chapter here opens, but
not a new scene. The same view is still before the mind
of the apostle. By the words "him that sat on the throne,"
is evidently meant the Father, as the Son is subsequently
introduced as "a Lamb as it had been slain." The
book which John here saw, contained a revelation of scenes
that were to transpire in the history of the church to the
end of time. Its being held in the right hand of him that
sat on the throne may signify that a knowledge of the future
rests with God alone, except so far as he sees fit to reveal
it to others.
Book. - The books in use at the time the Revelation
was given were not in the form of books as now made. They
did not consist of a series of leaves bound together, but
were composed of strips of parchment or other material,
longer or shorter, one or more, and rolled up. On this point
usual books of the ancients were not like ours, but were
volumes, or long pieces of parchment, rolled upon a long
stick, as we frequently roll silks. Such was this represented,
which was sealed with seven seals. Not as if the apostle
421 -- all
the seals at once for there were seven volumes wrapped up
one within another, each of which was sealed; so that upon
opening and unrolling the first, the second appeared to
be sealed up till that was opened, and so on to the seventh."
On the same point Scott
"It appeared as a roll consisting of several parchments,
according to the custom of those times; and though it was
supposed to be written within, yet nothing could be read
till the seals were loosed. It was afterward found to contain
seven parchments, or small volumes, each of which was separately
sealed; but if all the seals had been on the outside, nothing
could have been read till they had all been loosed; whereas
the loosing of each seal was followed by some discovery
of the contents of the roll. Yet the appearance on the outside
seems to have indicated that it consisted of seven, or at
least of several parts."
"The long rolls of parchment used by the ancients,
which we call books, were seldom written but on one
side; namely, that which was in rolling turned inward."
So, doubtless, this book was not written within and on the
backside, as the punctuation of our common version makes
it read. "Grotius,
Lowman, Fuller, etc.," says
the comma, thus: 'Written within, and on the back (or outside)
sealed,' etc." How
these seals were placed, is sufficiently explained in the
notes from Wesley and Scott, given above.
2. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud
voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the
seals thereof? 3. And
no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth,
was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.
4. And I wept much, because
no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither
to look thereon. TOP
Challenge. - God, as it were, holds forth this
book to the view of the universe, and a strong angel, one
doubtless of great eminence and power, comes forth as a
crier, and with a mighty voice challenges all creatures
in the universe to try the strength of their wisdom in opening
the counsels of God. Who can be found worthy to open the
book, and to loose the seals thereof? A pause ensues. In
silence the universe owns
p 422 -- its inability
and unworthiness to enter into the counsels of the Creator.
"And no man in heaven," oudeiV
not merely no man, but no one, no being, in heaven. Is not
here proof that the faculties of angels are limited, like
those of man, in respect to penetrating the future and disclosing
what is to come? And when the apostle saw that no one came
forward to open the book, he greatly feared that the counsels
of God which it contained in reference to his people, would
never be disclosed; and in the natural tenderness of his
feelings, and his concern for the church, he wept much.
"How far are they,"
the temper of St. John, who inquire after anything rather
than the contents of this book!"
Upon the phrase, "I
wept much," Benson
offers the following beautiful remarks: "Being
greatly affected with the thought that no being whatever
was to be found able to understand, reveal, and accomplish
the divine counsels, fearing they would still remain concealed
from the church. This weeping of the apostle sprang from
greatness of mind. The tenderness of heart which be always
had, appeared more clearly now he was out of his own power.
The Revelation was not written without tears, neither without
tears will it be understood."
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold,
the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath
prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals
And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of
the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a
Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven
eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into
all the earth. 7. And
he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that
sat upon the throne.
Not long is John permitted
to weep. God is not willing that any knowledge which can
benefit his people shall be withheld. Provision is made
for the opening of the book. Hence, one of the elders says
to him, "Weep not; behold, the Lion of the tribe of
Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book,
and to loose the seven seals thereof." Why one of the
elders should impart this information to John in preference
to some other being, does not appear, unless it is that
having been redeemed, they would be especially interested
p 423 -- in all that
pertained to the welfare of the church on earth. Christ
is here called the "Lion of the tribe of Judah."
Why called a lion? and why of the tribe of Judah? - As to
the first, it is probably to denote his strength. As the
lion is the king of beasts, the monarch of the forest, he
thus becomes a fit emblem of kingly authority and power.
"Of the tribe of Judah." Doubtless he receives
this appellation from the prophecy in Gen. 49:9, 10.
Root of David. - The source and sustainer of
David as to his position and power. That David's position
was specially ordained of Christ, and that he was specially
sustained by him, there can be no doubt. David was the type,
Christ the antitype. David's throne and reign over Israel
was a type of Christ's reign over his people. He shall reign
upon the throne of his father David. Luke 1:32, 33. As Christ
appeared in the line of David's descendants when he took
upon himself our nature, he is also called the offspring
of David, and a root out of the stem of Jesse. Isa. 11:1,
10; Rev. 22:16. His connection with the throne of David
being thus set forth, and his right thus shown to rule over
the people of God, there was a propriety in intrusting to
him the opening of the seals.
Prevailed. - These words indicate that the right
to open the book was acquired by a victory gained in some
previous conflict; and so we find it set forth in subsequent
portions of this chapter. The very next scene introduces
us to the great work of Christ as the Redeemer of the world,
and the shedding of his blood for the remission of sin and
the salvation of man. In this work he was subjected to the
fiercest assaults of Satan. But he endured his temptations,
bore the agonies of the cross, rose a victor over death
and the grave, made the way of redemption sure - triumphed!
Hence the four living beings and the four and twenty elders
sing, "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open
the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed
us to God by thy blood." TOP
John looks to see the Lion
of the tribe of Judah, and beholds a Lamb in the midst of
the throne and of the four living beings and the elders,
as it had been slain.
p 424 --
the Midst of the Throne. - Doddridge
translates thus: "And
I beheld in the middle space between the throne and the
four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders there
stood a Lamb,"
etc. In the center of the scene was the throne of
the Father, and standing in the open space which surrounded
it was the Son, set forth under the symbol of a slain lamb.
Around these there stood those saints who had been redeemed:
first, those represented by the four living creatures, then
the elders forming the second circle, and the angels (verse
11) forming a third circle. The worthiness of Christ, as
he thus stands forth under the figure of a slain lamb, is
the admiration of all the holy throng.
It Had Been Slain. - Woodhouse, as quoted in
Commentary, says: "The
Greek implies that the Lamb appeared with a wounded neck
and throat, as if smitten at the altar as a victim."
On this phrase,
"As if now in the act of being offered. This is very
remarkable. So important is the sacrificial offering of
Christ in the sight of God, that he is still represented
as being in the very act of pouring out his blood for the
offences of man. This gives great advantage to faith; when
any soul comes to the throne of grace, he finds a sacrifice
there provided for him to offer to God."
Horns and Seven Eyes. - Horns are symbols of
power, eyes of wisdom; and seven is a number denoting completeness,
or perfection. We are thus taught that perfect power and
perfect wisdom in here in the Lamb, through the operation
of the Spirit of God, called the seven Spirits of God, to
denote the fulness and perfection of its operation.
Came and Took the Book. - Commentators have found
an incongruity in the idea that the book was taken by a
lamb, and have had recourse to several expedients to avoid
the difficulty. But is it not a well-established principle
that any action may be attributed to a symbol which could
be appropriately performed by the person or being represented
by the symbol? And is not this all the explanation that
the passage needs? The Lamb, we know, is a symbol of Christ.
We know there is nothing incongruous in Christ's taking
a book; and when
p 425 -- we read that
the book was taken, we think of the action, not as performed
by the lamb, but by the one of whom the lamb is a symbol.
8. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts
and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having
every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors,
which are the prayers of saints.
9. And they sung a new song, saying,
Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals
thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God
by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people,
and nation; 10. And
hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall
reign on the earth.
Full of Odors. - From this expression
we form an idea of the employment of those redeemed ones
represented by the four living creatures and the four and
twenty elders. They have golden vials, or vessels, full
of odors - or, as the margin reads, incense - which are
the prayers of saints. This is a work of ministry such as
pertains to priests. TOP
is indisputably manifest that the four living creatures
join in, or rather lead, the worship of the Lamb as having
redeemed them to God; and this proves beyond controversy
that part of the redeemed church is meant by this emblem,
and not angels, whose worship is next described, but in
language entirely different."
Barnes, in his notes on this passage,
idea here is, therefore, that the representatives of the
church in heaven, the elders, spoken of as 'priests,' are
described as officiating in the temple above in behalf of
the church still below, and as offering incense while the
church is engaged in prayer."
The reader will remember that
in the ancient typical service the high priest had many
assistants; and when we consider that we are now looking
into the sanctuary in heaven, the conclusion at once follows
that these redeemed ones are the assistants of our great
High Priest above. For this purpose they were doubtless
redeemed. And what could be more appropriate than that our
Lord, in his priestly work for the human race, should be
assisted by noble members of that race, whose holiness of
life, and purity of character, had fitted
p 426 -- them to be
raised up for that purpose? ( See remarks on chapter 4:4.)
We are aware that many entertain
a great aversion to the idea of there being anything real
and tangible in heaven; and we can easily anticipate that
the views here presented will be altogether too literal
for such. To sustain themselves in their position, they
dwell much on the fact that the language is highly figurative,
and that we cannot suppose there are or were any such things
in heaven as John describes. We reply that, though the Revelation
deals largely in figures,
it does not deal in
fictions. There is reality in all the things
described; and we gain an understanding of the reality when
we get a correct interpretation of the figures. Thus, in
this vision we know that the One upon the throne is God.
He is really there. We know the Lamb symbolizes Christ.
He too is really there. He ascended with a literal, tangible
body; and who can say that he does not still retain it?
If, then, our great High Priest is a literal being, he must
have a literal place in which to minister. And if the four
living creatures and the four and twenty elders represent
those whom Christ led up from the captivity of death at
the time of his resurrection and ascension, why are they
not just as literal beings while there in heaven as they
were when they ascended?
Song. - It is called "a new song,"
new, probably, in respect to the occasion and the composition.
They were the first that could sing it, being the first
that were redeemed. They call themselves kings and priests.
In what sense they are priests has already been noticed,
they being the assistants of Christ in his priestly work.
In the same sense, doubtless, they are also kings; for Christ
is set down with his Father on his throne, and doubtless
these, as ministers of his, have some part to act in connection
with the government of heaven in reference to this world.
Anticipation. - "We shall reign on the earth."
Thus, notwithstanding they are redeemed, and surround the
throne of God, and are in the presence of the Lamb that
redeemed them, and are surrounded with the angelic hosts
of heaven, where all is glory ineffable, their song contemplates
p 427 -- higher state,
when the great work of redemption shall be completed, and
they, with the whole redeemed family of God, of every age,
shall reign on the earth, which is the promised inheritance,
and is to be the final and eternal residence of the saints.
Rom. 4:13; Gal. 3:29; Ps. 37:11; Matt. 5:5; 2 Peter 3:13;
Isa. 65:17-25; Rev. 21:1-5. TOP
11. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels
round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and
the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand,
and thousands of' thousands; 12.
Saying with a loud voice, Worthy
is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches,
and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.
Heavenly Sanctuary. - How little conception have
we of the magnitude and glory of the heavenly temple! Into
that temple John was introduced, at the opening of chapter
4, by the door which was opened in heaven. Into the same
temple, be it remembered, he is still looking in verses
11 and 12. And now he beholds the heavenly hosts. (1)
Round about the throne are those represented by the four
living creatures. (2)
Next come the four and twenty elders.
(3) Then John views, surrounding the
whole, a multitude of the heavenly angels. How many? How
many would we suppose could convene within the heavenly
temple? "Ten thousand times ten thousand!" exclaims
the seer. In this expression alone we have one hundred million!
And then, as if no numerical expression was adequate to
embrace the countless throng, he further adds, "And
thousands of thousands!" Well might Paul call this,
in Heb. 12:22, "an innumerable company of angels."
And these were in the sanctuary above. Such was the company
that John saw assembled at the place where the worship of
a universe centers, and where the wondrous plan of human
redemption is going forward to completion. And the central
object in this innumerable and holy throng was the Lamb
of God; and the central act of his life, which claimed their
admiration, was the shedding of his blood for the salvation
of fallen man; for every voice in all that heavenly host
joined in the ascription which was raised, "Worthy
is the Lamb that was slain
to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and
p 428 -- strength, and
honor, and glory, and blessing." Fitting assemblage
for such a place! Fitting song of adoration to be raised
to Him who by the shedding of his blood became a ransom
for many, and who, as our great High Priest, still pleads
its merits in the sanctuary above in our behalf. And here,
before such an august assemblage, must our characters soon
come up in final review. What shall fit us for the searching
ordeal? What shall enable us to rise and stand at last with
the sinless throng above? O, infinite merit of the blood
of Christ! which can cleanse us from all our pollutions,
and make us meet to tread the holy hill of Zion! O, infinite
grace of God! which can prepare us to endure the glory,
and give us boldness to enter into his presence, even with
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth,
and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all
that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and
glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne,
and unto the Lamb forever and ever.
14. And the four beasts said,
Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshiped
him that liveth forever and ever.
Clean Universe. - In verse 13 we have an instance
of what very frequently occurs in the Scriptures; namely,
a declaration thrown in out of its chronological order for
the purpose of following out to its completion some previous
statement or allusion. In this instance the time is anticipated
when redemption is finished. In verse 10 the four living
creatures and four and twenty elders had declared, "We
shall reign on the earth." Now the prophet's mind is
carried forward to that time. The greatest act of Christ's
intervention for man - the shedding of his blood - having
been introduced, nothing could be more natural than that
the vision should, for a moment, look over to the time when
the grand result of the work then inaugurated should be
accomplished, the number of the redeemed be made up, the
universe be freed from sin and sinners, and a universal
song of adoration go up to God and the Lamb. TOP
It is futile to attempt to
apply this to the church in its present state, as most commentators
do, or to any time in the
p 429 -- past since
sin entered the world, or even since Satan fell from his
high position as an angel of light and love in heaven. For
at the time of which John speaks, every
creature in heaven and on earth, without any
exception, was sending up its anthem of blessings to God.
But to speak only of this world since the fall, cursings
instead of blessings have been breathed out against God
and his throne from the great majority of our apostate race.
And so it will ever be while sin reigns.
We find, then, no place for
this scene which John describes, unless we go forward, according
to the position above taken, to the time when the whole
scheme of redemption is completed, and the saints enter
upon their promised reign on the earth, to which the living
creatures and elders looked forward in their song in verse
10. With this view, all is harmonious and plain. That reign
on the earth commences after the second resurrection. Dan.
7:27; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21:1. At that resurrection, which
takes place a thousand years subsequently to the first resurrection
(Rev. 20:4, 5), occurs the perdition of ungodly men. 2 Peter
3:7. Then fire comes down from God out of heaven and devours
them (Rev. 20:9); and this fire that causes the perdition
of ungodly men is the fire that melts and purifies the earth,
as we learn from 2 Peter 3:7-13. Then sin and sinners are
destroyed, the earth is purified, the curse with all its
ills is forever wiped away, the righteous "shine forth
as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," and from
a clean universe an anthem of praise and thanksgiving ascends
to God. In all the fair domain of the great Creator, there
is then no room for a vast receptacle of fire and brimstone,
where myriads, preserved by the direct power of a God of
mercy, shall burn and writhe in unspeakable and eternal
torment. In this glad anthem of jubilee there is no room
for the discordant and hopeless wailings of the damned,
and the curses and blasphemies of those who are sinning
and suffering beyond the pale of hope. Every rebel voice
has been hushed in death. They have been burned up root
and branch, - Satan and all his followers, deceiver and
deceived. Mal. 4:1; Heb. 2:14. Into smoke have they consumed
away. Ps. 37:20. Like the perishable chaff have they vanished
in the flames.
430 -- Matt. 3:12. They have been annihilated, not as
matter, but as conscious and intelligent beings; for they
have become as though they had not been. Obadiah 16.
To the Lamb, equally with
the Father who sits upon the throne, praise is ascribed
in this song of adoration. Commentators, with great unanimity,
have seized upon this as proof that Christ must be coeval
with the Father; for otherwise, say they, here would be
worship paid to the creature which belongs only to the Creator.
But this does not seem to be a necessary conclusion. The
Scriptures nowhere speak of Christ as a created being, but
on the contrary plainly state that be was begotten of the
Father. (See remarks on Rev. 3:14, where it is shown that
Christ is not a created being.) But while as the Son he
does not possess a coeternity of past existence with the
Father, the beginning of his existence, as the begotten
of the Father, antedates the entire work of creation, in
relation to which he stands as joint creator with God. John
1:3; Heb. 1:2. Could not the Father ordain that to such
a being worship should be rendered equally with himself,
without its being idolatry on the part of the worshiper?
He has raised him to positions which make it proper that
he should be worshiped, and has even commanded that worship
should be rendered him, which would not have been necessary
had he been equal with the Father in eternity of existence.
Christ himself declares that "as the Father hath life
in himself, so hath he
given to the Son to have life in himself."
John 5:26. The Father has "highly exalted him, and
him a name which is above every name." Phil. 2:9. And
the Father himself says, "Let all the angels of God
worship him." Heb. 1:6. These testimonies show that
Christ is now an object of worship equally with the Father;
but they do not prove that with him he holds an eternity
of past existence. TOP
Coming back from the glorious
scene anticipated in verse 13 to events transpiring in the
heavenly sanctuary before him, the prophet hears the four
living creatures exclaim, Amen. TOP
regard to the above thoughts on Christ as a created Being.
The following are excerpts from a study done by the Bible
Research Institute entitled "The Doctrine of God"
which is a study on the term Trinity.
The doctrine of God that teaches
the "Blessed Trinity" is a Roman Catholic teaching.
"The mystery of the Trinity is the central doctrine
of the Catholic faith. Upon it are based all the other teachings
of the Church." (Handbook for Today's Catholic,
p. 12) What is this doctrine of Catholicism simply stated?
In a recognized catechism, the question is asked, "What
do we mean by the Blessed Trinity?" The answer is given
- "By the Blessed Trinity we mean one and the same
God in three divine Persons." (New Baltimore Catechism,
NO. 3, Rev. Ed., 1949, p. 20) However, "not until
the council of Constantinople (381) was the formula of one
God existing in three co-equal Persons formally ratified."
(Early Christian Doctrines, p. 88) ...
Our Bibles open with the words,
"In the beginning God."The word, God, is in the
plural form, Elohim.
The use of the plural in referring to God is called by Hebrew
linguists - "a plural of majesty," or "the
majestic plural." This is taken by some to mean that
the word, Elohim,
when used of God is not intended as a true plural. The fact
is noted that this plural noun is consistently used with
singular verb forms and with adjectives and pronouns in
the singular. However, this hardly holds for the use of
in the rest of Genesis 1 "where... the necessity of
a term conveying both the unity of the one God and yet allowing
for a plurality of persons is found." (Theological
Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol. 1, p. 44) When the
design for man was revealed, it was the Elohim
who said, "Let us make man in our image,
after our likeness." (1:26) Further, the plural form,
occurs only in Hebrew, and in no other Semitic language
which languages express Pagan cultures. (ibid.) This
makes the revelation of God in Genesis unique.
Of interest is the fact that
one man represented the "image" and "likeness"
of the Elohim.
Again, when sin entered, the text reads - "And said
Jehovah God (Elohim),
Behold the man has become as one of us." (3:22)
The Shema of Israel reads -
"Hear, 0 Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and
thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart."
(Deut. 6:4-5) A translation designating the singular and
plural would read - "Hear, O Israel, Jehovah (singular),
our Gods (plural) [is] One Jehovah (singular). You shall
love Jehovah (singular) your God (plural) with all your
heart." What is the force of ONE (echad)
Jehovah? When a strictly singular sense is emphasized, the
word is yachid
as in Genesis 22:2 - "Take now thy son, thine only
son, Isaac." Echad
on the other hand as used in Genesis 2:24 - "and they
shall be one flesh" - conveys the sense of oneness
in duality. TOP
In Isaiah, we read: Thus
saith the Lord the king of Israel, and his redeemer the
Lord of hosts, I am the first, and the last, and beside
me there is no God (Elohim) (44:6)
This duality is carried forward
into the New Testament. In the book of Revelation, this
concept found in Isaiah is attributed to both the Almighty
and Jesus Christ. (1:8; 22:13)
Zechariah in his Messianic
description of "The BRANCH" quotes "the Lord
of hosts" as saying that "the counsel of peace"
was between "the Two of Them." (6:13, Heb) This
raises the question as to the relationship existing between
In the announcement of the
birth of Jesus, it was stated by the angel Gabriel that
"God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David."
(Luke 1:32) David was promised that to his son who was to
build the temple, God would be "his father" and
that he would be his "son." (II Sam. 7:14) Likewise,
"the Man whose name is The BRANCH," who was to
build "the temple of the Lord," and who was to
"be a priest upon His throne" (Zech. 6:12-13),
that Man whom "the Lord of hosts" designates as
"my fellow" (13:7) is the One to whom God said,
"Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee;"
and "I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to
Me a Son." (Heb. 1:5-6) This was by decree. (Ps. 2:7)
In the Messianic promise which
declares that "unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son
is given," is defined the eternal association of the
Two between Whom was the "counsel of peace." The
Child, the Son, was "the Father of eternity" ('abi-'ad)
Isa. 9:6. Jesus in His conflict with the Jews defined Himself
as the I AM - the self-existent One, I am; the ever
existent One, I AM. (John 8:58).
In our two previous studies
of the Doctrine of God, we observed that the Old Testament
presented two Co-Eternal, Self-Existent Beings, as composing
the Elohim. The New Testament introduces a third Being,
most commonly called the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised the
disciples that He would "send... from the Father,...
the Spirit of truth." This Spirit of truth "proceedeth
from the Father." (John 15:26) Just prior to this announcement,
Jesus had indicated that the "Father" would "send
in [Jesus'] name the Holy Spirit. (John 14:26)
The first problem is that in
the Greek language, the word for "spirit" is a
neuter noun. But the name by which the Holy Spirit could
be designated is "Comforter," the Paracletos,
a Greek masculine noun. The Greek text of John 14:26 supports
this designation. It reads literally - "But the Paracletos,
the Holy Spirit, the One the Father shall send in my name,
that One shall teach you all things." In both the use
of the article in "the
One" being sent, and the pronoun, "that
One," the masculine form is used. This removes some
of the vagueness from the Holy Spirit.
Jesus also refers to the Spirit
of truth as "another Comforter." (John
14:16) The word used for "another" is
allos in contrast to Heteros,
another Greek word for "another."
Heteros means one distinct from, but of unequal
quality or rank. This word is used in Luke 23:32 to distinguish
the two malefactors from Jesus. But where
allos is used, it also means two distinct entities,
but of equal character or essence. This is why Peter could
say to Ananias that in lying to the Holy Spirit, he had
lied to God. (Acts 5:3-4) TOP
One very interesting verse
picturing the work of the Holy Spirit is found in II Corinthians
3:18, which reads that "we all, with open face beholding
as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the
same image from glory to glory even as by the Lord the Spirit."
The close relationship existing
between Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit can be seen in
various verses of Scripture:
The symbolism of Revelation pictures Jesus as "the
Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven
eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into
all the earth." (5:6)
The messages to the Seven Churches of Revelation begin with
a message from Jesus Christ, and close with the words, "Hear
what the Spirit saith unto the churches." (See Rev.
2:8, 11 as illustration)
Jesus presented the relationship between
Himself and the Holy Spirit as so close that when He spoke
of the coming of "another Comforter" - One distinct
from, but equal to Himself - He said, "I will not
leave you orphans, I will come unto you." (John 14:18,
In the first letter of John, Jesus is pictured as a Paracletos.
John wrote "If any man sin, we have an advocate
(paracletos) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
So close is the relationship portrayed in the Scriptures
between Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, that one Commentary
on the Greek New Testament text refers to the Holy Spirit
alter ego. (The Expository Greek New Testament,
Vol. 5, p. 195)
The incarnation stands as the
Great Divide both of time and eternity. It is at the Incarnation
that the Holy Spirit is introduced. The angel Gabriel making
the announcement that God was about to be revealed in flesh
said to Mary - "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee
and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee: therefore
also that holy [Spirit] which shall be born of thee shall
be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35) The word, "thing"
as the KJV reads is a supplied word based upon the fact
that the word, "holy" is hagion,
a neuter adjective. ... END of
Webmaster note. TOP
431 -- VERSE
1. And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals,
and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the
four beasts saying, Come and see. 2.
And I saw, and behold a white horse; and he that sat
on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he
went forth conquering, and to conquer.
Having taken the book, the
Lamb proceeds at once to open the seals; and the attention
of the apostle is called to the scenes that transpire under
each seal. The number seven has already been noticed as
denoting in the Scriptures completeness and perfection.
The seven seals therefore embrace the whole of a certain
class of events, reaching down to the close of probationary
time. Hence to say, as some do, that the seals denote a
series of events reaching down perhaps to the time of Constantine,
and the seven trumpets another series from that time farther
on, cannot be correct. The trumpets denote a series of events
which transpire contemporaneously with the events of the
seals, but of an entirely different character. A trumpet
is a symbol of war; hence the trumpets denote great political
commotions to take place among the nations during the gospel
age. The seals denote events of a religious character, and
contain the history of the church from the opening of the
Christian era to the coming of Christ.
Commentators have raised a
question concerning the manner in which these scenes were
represented before the apostle. Was it merely a written
description of the events which was
p 432 -- read to him
as each successive seal was opened? or was it a pictorial
illustration of the events which the book contained, and
which was presented before him as the seals were broken?
or was it a scenic representation which passed before him,
the different actors coming forth and performing their parts?
Barnes decides in favor of calling them pictorial illustrations;
for he thinks a merely written description would not answer
to the language of the apostle setting forth what he saw,
and a mere scenic representation could have no connection
with the opening of the seals. But to the view held by Dr.
Barnes there are two serious objections:
(1) The book was said to contain only
within, not pictorial illustrations; and
(2) John saw the characters which
made up the various scenes, not fixed and motionless upon
canvass, but living and moving, and engaged actively in
the parts assigned them. The view which to us seems most
consistent is that the book contained a record of events
which were to transpire; and when the seals were broken,
and the record was brought to light, the scenes were presented
before John, not by the reading of the description, but
by a representation of what was described in the book being
made to pass before his mind in living characters, in the
place where the reality was to transpire; namely, on the
The first symbol, a white horse,
and the rider who bears a bow and to whom a crown is given,
and who goes forth conquering and to conquer, is a fit emblem
of the triumphs of the gospel in the first century of this
dispensation. The whiteness of the horse denotes the purity
of faith in that age; and the crown which was given to the
rider, and his going forth conquering and to make still
further conquests, the zeal and success with which the truth
was promulgated by its earliest ministers. To this it is
objected that the ministers of Christ and the progress of
the gospel could not be properly represented by such warlike
symbols. But we ask, By what symbols could the work of Christianity
better be represented when it went forth as an aggressive
principle against the huge systems of error with which it
had at first to contend? The rider upon this horse went
forth - where? His commission was unlimited. The gospel
was to all the world. TOP
p 433 --
VERSE 3. And
when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast
say, Come and see. 4.
And there went out another horse that was red: and power
was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the
earth, and that they should kill one another: and there
was given unto him a great sword.
Perhaps the first noticeable
feature in these symbols is the contrast in the color of
the horses. This is doubtless designed to be significant.
If the whiteness of the first horse denoted the purity of
the gospel in the period which that symbol covers, the redness
of the second horse would signify that in this period that
original purity began to be corrupted. The mystery of iniquity
already worked in Paul's day; and the professed church of
Christ, it would seem, was now so far corrupted by it as
to require this change in the color of the symbol. Errors
began to arise. Worldliness came in. The ecclesiastical
power sought the alliance of the secular. Troubles and commotions
were the result. The spirit of this period perhaps reached
its climax as we come down to the days of Constantine, the
first so-called Christian emperor, whose conversion to Christianity
is dated by Mosheim in A. D. 323. -
Of this period Dr.
"It represents a secular period, or union of church
and state. Constantine aided the clergy, and put them under
obligations to him. He legislated for the church, called
the Council of Nicaea, and was most prominent in that Council.
Constantine, not the gospel, had the glory of tearing down
the heathen temples. The state had the glory instead of
the church. Constantine made decrees against some errors,
and was praised, and suffered to go on and introduce many
other errors, and oppose some important truths. Controversies
arose; and when a new emperor took the throne, there was
a rush of the clergy to get him on the side of their peculiar
tenets. Mosheim says of this period, 'There was continual
war and trouble.'"
This state of things answers
well to the declaration of the prophet that power was given
to him that sat on the horse "to take peace from the
earth, and that they should kill one another: and there
was given unto him a great sword." The Christianity
of that time had mounted the throne, and bore the emblem
of the civil power.
p 434 -- VERSE
when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast
say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo, a black horse;
and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.
6. And I heard a voice in the midst
of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny,
and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt
not the oil and the wine.
How rapidly the work of corruption
progresses! What a contrast in color between this symbol
and the first one: A black horse - the very opposite of
white! A period of great darkness and moral corruption in
the church must be denoted by this symbol. By the events
of the second seal the way was fully opened for that state
of things to be brought about which is here presented. The
time that intervened between the reign of Constantine and
the establishment of the papacy in A. D. 538 may be justly
noted as the time when the darkest errors and grossest superstitions
sprang up in the church. Of a period immediately succeeding
the days of Constantine,
vain fictions, which an attachment to the Platonic philosophy
and to popular opinions had engaged the greatest part of
the Christian doctors to adopt before the time of Constantine,
were now confirmed, enlarged, and embellished in various
ways. Hence arose that extravagant veneration for departed
saints, and those absurd notions of a certain fire destined
to purify separate souls, that now prevailed, and of which
the public marks were everywhere to be seen. Hence also
the celibacy of priests, the worship of images and relics,
which in process of time almost utterly destroyed the Christian
religion, or at least eclipsed its Iuster, and corrupted
its very essence in the most deplorable manner. An enormous
train of superstitions was gradually substituted for true
religion and genuine piety. This odious revolution proceeded
from a variety of causes. A ridiculous precipitation in
receiving new opinions, a preposterous desire of imitating
the pagan rites, and of blending them with the Christian
worship, and that idle propensity which the generality of
mankind have toward a gaudy and ostentatious religion, all
contributed to establish the reign of superstition upon
the ruins of Christianity. Accordingly, frequent pilgrimages
were undertaken to Palestine and to the
p 435 --
(Arch of Constantine) TOP
p 436 -- tombs
of the martyrs, as if there alone the sacred principles
of virtue and the certain hope of salvation were to be acquired.
The reins being once let loose to superstition, which knows
no bounds, absurd notions and idle ceremonies multiplied
almost every day. Quantities of dust and earth brought from
Palestine, and other places remarkable for their supposed
sanctity, were handed about as the most wonderful remedies
against the violence of wicked spirits, and were sold and
bought everywhere at enormous prices. The public processions
and supplications by which the pagans endeavored to appease
their gods, were now adopted into the Christian worship,
and celebrated in many places with great pomp and magnificence.
The virtues which had formerly been ascribed to the heathen
temples, to their lustrations, to the statues of their gods
and heroes, were now attributed to Christian churches, to
water consecrated by certain forms of prayer, and to the
images of holy men. And the same privileges that the former
enjoyed under the darkness of paganism, were conferred upon
the latter under the light of the gospel, or, rather, under
that cloud of superstition which was obscuring its glory.
It is true that, as yet, images were not very common, nor
were there any statues at all. But it is at the same time
as undoubtedly certain as it is extravagant and monstrous,
that the worship of the martyrs was modeled, by degrees,
according to the religious services that were paid to the
gods before the coming of Christ.
these facts, which are but small specimens of the state
of Christianity at this time, the discerning reader will
easily perceive what detriment the church received from
the peace and prosperity procured by Constantine, and from
the imprudent methods employed to allure the different nations
to embrace the gospel. The brevity we have proposed to observe
in this history prevents our entering into an ample detail
of the dismal effects that arose from the progress and the
baneful influence of superstition, which had now become
Again he says:
"A whole volume would be requisite to contain an enumeration
of the various frauds which artful knaves practiced with
success to delude the ignorant, when true religion was almost
entirely superseded by horrid superstition."
p 437 -- -
Ecclesiastical History, 4th cent., part 2, chap.
This extract from Mosheim contains
a description of the period covered by the black horse of
the third seal that answers accurately to the prophecy.
It is seen by this how paganism was incorporated into Christianity,
and how, during this period, the false system which resulted
in the establishment of the papacy, rapidly rounded out
its full outlines, and ripened into all its deplorable perfection
of strength and stature.
Balances. - "The balances denoted that religion
and civil power would be united in the person who would
administer the executive power in the government, and that
he would claim the judicial authority both in church and
state. This was true among the Roman emperors from the days
of Constantine until the reign of Justinian, when he gave
the same judicial power to the bishop of Rome." - Miller's
Lectures, p. 181.
The Wheat and Barley. - "The measures of wheat
and barley for a penny denote that the members of the church
would be eagerly engaged after worldly goods, and the love
of money would be the prevailing spirit of the times; for
they would dispose of anything for money." - Id.
Oil and Wine. - These "denote
the graces of the Spirit, faith and love, and there was
great danger of hurting these, under the influence of so
much of a worldly spirit. And it is well attested by all
historians that the prosperity of the church in this age
produced the corruptions which finally terminated in the
falling away, and the setting up of the anti-christian
It will be observed that the
voice limiting the amount of wheat for a penny, and saying,
"Hurt not the oil and the wine," is not spoken
by any one on earth, but comes from the midst of the four
living creatures; signifying that, though the under shepherds,
the professed ministers of Christ on earth, had no care
for the flock, yet the Lord was not unmindful of them in
this period of darkness. A voice comes from heaven. He takes
care that the spirit of worldliness does not prevail to
such a degree that Christianity should be entirely lost,
p 438 -- that the oil
and the wine, the graces of genuine piety, should entirely
perish from the earth.
7. And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard
the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
8. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and
his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with
him. And power was given unto him over the fourth part of
the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with
death, and with the beasts of the earth.
The color of this horse is
remarkable. The colors of the white, red, and black horses
mentioned in the preceding verses, are natural; but a pale
color is unnatural. The original word denotes the "pale
or yellowish color" that is seen in blighted or sickly
plants. A strange state of things in the professed church
must be denoted by this symbol. The rider on this horse
is named Death and Hell (adhV,
the grave) follows with him. The mortality is so great during
this period that it would seem as if "the pale nations
of the dead" had come upon earth, and were following
in the wake of this desolating power. The period during
which this seal applies can hardly be mistaken. It must
refer to the time in which the papacy bore its unrebuked,
unrestrained, and persecuting rule, commencing about A.
D. 538, and extending to the time when the Reformers commenced
their work of exposing the corruptions of the papal systems.
"And power was given unto
them" - him,
says the margin; that is, the power personified by Death
on the pale horse; namely, the papacy. By the fourth part
of the earth is doubtless meant the territory over which
this power had jurisdiction; while the words sword,
hunger, death (that is, some infliction which
causes death, as exposure, torture, etc.), and beasts of
the earth, are figures denoting the means by which it has
put to death its martyrs, fifty millions of whom, according
to the lowest estimate, call for vengeance from beneath
its bloody altar.
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the
altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of
God and for the testimony which they held: 10.
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, 0
Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our
blood on them that dwell on the earth? 11.
p 439 -- robes
were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto
them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until
their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should
be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. TOP
The events set forth as transpiring
under the fifth seal are the crying of the martyrs for vengeance,
and the giving to them of white robes. The questions that
at once suggest themselves for solution are, Does this seal
cover a period of time? and if so, what period? Where is
the altar under which these souls were seen? What are these
souls, and what is their condition? What is meant by their
cry for vengeance? What is meant by white robes being given
to them? When do they rest for a little season? and what
is signified by their brethren being killed as they were?
To all these questions we believe a satisfactory answer
can be returned.
The Fifth Seal Covers a Period of Time. -
It seems consistent that this seal, like all
the others, should cover a period of time; and the date
of its application cannot be mistaken, if the preceding
seals have been rightly located. Following the period of
the papal persecution, the time covered by this seal would
commence when the Reformation began to undermine the antichristian
papal fabric, and restrain the persecuting power of the
The Altar. - This cannot denote any altar in
heaven, as it is evidently the place where these victims
had been slain, - the altar of sacrifice. On this point,
Dr. A. Clarke says:
"A symbolical vision was exhibited, in which he saw
an altar. And under it the souls of those who had been slain
for the word
of God - martyred for their attachment to Christianity -
are represented as being newly slain as victims to idolatry
and superstition. The altar is upon earth, not in heaven."
A confirmation of this view is found in the fact that John
is beholding scenes upon the earth. The souls are represented
under the altar, just as victims slain upon it would pour
out their blood beneath it, and fall by its side.
The Souls under the Altar. - This representation
is popularly regarded as a strong proof of the doctrine
of the disembodied and conscious state of the dead. Here,
p 440 -- claimed, are
souls seen by John in a disembodied state; and they were
conscious, and had knowledge of passing events; for they
cried for vengeance on their persecutors. This view of the
passages is inadmissible, for several reasons:
(1) The popular view places these souls in heaven;
but the altar of sacrifice on which they were slain, and
beneath which they were seen, cannot be there. The only
altar we read of in heaven is the altar of incense; but
it would not be correct to represent victims just slain
as under the altar of incense, as that altar was never devoted
to such a use. (2) It would be repugnant
to all our ideas of the heavenly state, to represent souls
in heaven shut
up under an altar. (3) Can
we suppose that the idea of vengeance
would reign so supreme in the minds of souls
in heaven as to render them, despite the joy and glory of
that ineffable state, dissatisfied and uneasy till vengeance
was inflicted upon their enemies? Would they not rather
rejoice that persecution raised its hand against them, and
thus hastened them into the presence of their Redeemer,
at whose right hand there is fulness of joy, and pleasures
forevermore? But, further, the popular view which puts these
souls in heaven, puts the wicked at the same time in the
lake of fire, writhing in unutterable torment, and in full
view of the heavenly host. This, it is claimed,
is proved by the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, as
recorded in Luke 16. Now the souls brought to view under
the fifth seal were those who had been slain under the preceding
seal, scores of years, and most of them centuries, before.
Beyond any question, their persecutors had all passed off
the stage of action, and, according to the view under consideration,
were suffering all the torments of hell right before their
Yet, as if not satisfied with
this, they cry to God as though he were delaying vengeance
on their murderers. What greater vengeance could they want?
Or, if their persecutors were still on the earth, they must
know that they would, in a few years at most, join the vast
multitude daily pouring through the gate of death into the
world of woe. Their amiability is put in no better light
even by this supposition. One thing, at least, is evident:
The popular theory concerning the condition of the
p 441 -- dead, righteous
and wicked, cannot be correct; or the interpretation usually
given to this passage is not correct; for they devour each
But it is urged that these
souls must be conscious; for they cry to God. This argument
would be of weight, were there no such figure of speech
as personification. But while there is, it will be proper,
on certain conditions, to attribute life, action, and intelligence
to inanimate objects. Thus the blood of Abel is said to
have cried to God from the ground. Gen. 4: 9, 10. The stone
cried out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber answered
it. Hab. 2:11. The hire of the laborers kept back by fraud
cried, and the cry entered into the ears of the Lord of
sabaoth. James 5:4. So the souls mentioned in our text could
cry, and not thereby be proved to be conscious.
The incongruity of the popular
view on this verse is so apparent that Albert
Barnes makes the following concession:
"We are not to suppose that this
literally occurred, and that John actually saw the
souls of the martyrs beneath the altar, for the whole representation
is symbolical; nor are we to suppose that the injured and
the wronged in heaven actually pray for vengeance on those
who wronged them, or that the redeemed in heaven will continue
to pray with reference to things on earth; but it may be
fairly inferred from this that there will be as real
a remembrance of the wrongs of the persecuted, the injured,
and the oppressed, as if such a prayer were offered
there; and that the oppressor has as much to dread from
the divine vengeance as if those whom he has injured
should cry in heaven to the God who hears prayer, and who
takes vengeance." - Notes on Revelation 6.
On such passages as this, the
reader is misled by the popular definition of the word soul.
From that definition, he is led to suppose that this text
speaks of an immaterial, invisible, immortal essence in
man, which soars into its coveted freedom on the death of
its hindrance and clog, the mortal body. No instance of
the occurrence of the word in the original Hebrew or Greek
will sustain such a definition. It oftenest means
life, and is not infrequently rendered person.
It applies to the dead as well as to the living, as may
be seen by reference
p 442 -- to Gen. 2:7,
where the word living,
need not have been expressed were life an inseparable attribute
of the soul; and to Num. 19:13, where the Hebrew Concordance
reads "dead soul." Moreover, these souls pray
that their blood
may be avenged, - an article which the immaterial soul,
as popularly understood, is not supposed to possess. The
may be regarded as here meaning simply the martyrs, those
who had been slain, the words
souls of them being a periphrasis for the whole
person. They were represented to John as having been slain
upon the altar of papal sacrifice, on this earth, and lying
dead beneath it. They certainly were not alive when John
saw them under the fifth seal; for he again brings to view
the same company, in almost the same language, and assures
us that the first time they live after their martyrdom,
is at the resurrection of the just. Rev. 20:4-6. Lying there,
victims of papal bloodthirstiness and oppression, they cried
to God for vengeance in the same manner that Abel's blood
cried to him from the ground. Gen. 4:10.
The White Robes. -
These were given as a partial answer to their
cry, "How long, 0 Lord, ... dost thou not judge and
avenge our blood?" How was it? - They had gone down
to the grave in the most ignominious manner. Their lives
had been misrepresented, their reputations tarnished, their
names defamed, their motives maligned, and their graves
covered with shame and reproach, as containing the dishonored
dust of the most vile and despicable of characters. Thus
the Church of Rome, which then molded the sentiment of the
principal nations of the earth, spared no pains to make
her victims an abhorring unto all flesh.
But the Reformation began its
work. It began to be seen that the church was the corrupt
and disreputable party, and those against whom it vented
its rage were the good, the pure, and the true. The work
went on among the most enlightened nations, the reputation
of the church going down, and that of the martyrs coming
up, until the corruptions of the papal abominations were
fully exposed, and that huge system of iniquity stood forth
before the world in all its naked deformity, while the martyrs
were vindicated from all the aspersions under
p 443 -- which that
antichristian church had sought to bury them. Then it was
seen that they had suffered, not for being vile and criminal,
but "for the word of God, and for the testimony which
they held." Then their praises were sung, their virtues
admired, their fortitude applauded, their names honored,
and their memories cherished. White robes were thus given
unto every one of them. TOP
The Little Season. - The cruel work of Romanism
did not altogether cease, even after the work of the Reformation
had become wide-spread and well established. Not a few terrible
outbursts of Romish hate and persecution were yet to be
felt by the church. Multitudes more were to be punished
as heretics, and to join the great army of martyrs. The
full vindication of their cause was to be delayed a little
season. And during this time, Rome added hundreds of thousands
to the vast throng of whose blood she had already become
guilty. (See Buck's Theological Dictionary, art.
Persecution.) But the spirit of persecution was finally
restrained; the cause of the martyrs was vindicated; and
the "little season" of the fifth seal came to
VERSE 12. And I beheld when he had opened the sixth
seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun
became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as
blood; 13. And
the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree
casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty
wind. 14. And the
heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together;
and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
15. And the kings of the earth, and the
great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and
the mighty men, and every bond man, and every free man,
hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
16. And said to the
mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face
of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of
the Lamb: 17. For
the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able
Such are the solemn and sublime
scenes that transpire under the sixth seal. And a thought
well calculated to awaken in every heart an intense interest
in divine things, is the consideration that we are now living
amid the momentous events of this seal, as will presently
Between the fifth and sixth
seals there seems to be a sudden
p 444 -- and entire
change in the language, from the highly figurative to the
strictly literal. Whatever may be the cause of this change,
the change itself cannot well be denied. By no principle
of interpretation can the language of the preceding seals
be made to be literal, nor can the language of this any
more easily be made to be figurative. We must therefore
accept the change, even though we should be unable to explain
it. There is a great fact, however, to which we would here
call attention. It was in the period covered by this seal
that the prophetic portions of God's word were to be unsealed,
and many run to and fro, or "give their sedulous attention
to the understanding of these things," and thereby
knowledge on this part of God's word was to be greatly increased.
And we suggest that it may be for this reason that the change
in the language here occurs, and that the events of this
seal, transpiring at a time when these things were to be
fully understood, are couched in no figures, but are laid
before us in plain and unmistakable language.
Great Earthquake. - The first
event under this seal, perhaps the one which marks its opening,
is a great earthquake. As the most probable fulfilment of
this prediction, we refer to the great earthquake of Nov.
1, 1755, known as the earthquake of Lisbon. Of this earthquake,
in his Wonders
of the World, pp. 50, 58, 381, says: - "The
great earthquake of Nov. 1, 1755, extended over a tract
of at least 4,000,000 square miles. Its effects were even
extended to the waters in many places, where the shocks
were not perceptible. It pervaded the greater portion of
Europe, Africa, and America; but its extreme violence was
exercised on the southwestern part of the former. In Africa,
this earthquake was felt almost as severely as it had been
in Europe. A great part of Algiers was destroyed. Many houses
were thrown down at Fez and Mequinez, and multitudes were
buried beneath the ruins. Similar effects were realized
at Morocco. Its effects were likewise left at Tangier, at
Tetuan, at Funchal in the Island of Madeira. It is probable
that all Africa was shaken. At the north, it extended to
Norway and Sweden. Germany, Holland, France, Great Britain,
and. Ireland were
p 445 --
all more or less agitated by the same great commotion of
the elements. Lisbon (Portugal), previous to the earthquake
in 1755, contained 150,000 inhabitants. Mr. Barretti says
that 90,000 persons 'were lost on that fatal day.'"
On page 200 of the same work,
we again read: "The
terror of the people was beyond description. Nobody wept;
it was beyond tears. They ran hither and thither, delirious
with horror and astonishment, beating their faces and breasts,
crying, 'Misericordia; the world's at an end!'
Mothers forgot their children, and ran about loaded with
crucifixed images. Unfortunately, many ran to the churches
for protection; but in vain was the sacrament exposed; in
vain did the poor creatures embrace the altars; images,
priests, and people were buried in one common ruin."
Americana states that this earthquake extended
also to Greenland, and of its effects upon the city of Lisbon
"The city then contained about 150,000 inhabitants.
The shock was instantly followed by the fall of every church
and convent, almost all the large public buildings, and
more than one fourth of the houses. In about two hours after
the shock, fires broke out in different quarters, and raged
with such violence for the space of nearly three days that
the city was completely desolated. The earthquake happened
on a holy day, when the churches and convents were full
of people, very few of whom escaped."
Charles Lyell gives the following graphic description
of this remarkable phenomenon: "In
no part of the volcanic region of southern Europe has so
tremendous an earthquake occurred in modern times as that
which began on the 1st of November, 1755, at Lisbon. A sound
of thunder was heard underground, and immediately afterward
a violent shock threw down the greater part of that city.
In the course of about six minutes, sixty thousand persons
perished. The sea first retired, and laid the bar dry; it
then rolled in, rising fifty feet above its ordinary level.
The mountains of Arrabida, Estrella, Julio, Marvan, and
Cintra, being some of the largest in Portugal, were impetuously
shaken, as it were from their very foundations; and some
p 446 --
(The Lisbon Earthquake)
p 447 -- opened
at their summits, which were split and rent in a wonderful
manner, huge masses of them being thrown down into the adjacent
valleys. Flames are related to have issued from these mountains,
which are supposed to have been electric; they are also
said to have smoked; but vast clouds of dust may have given
rise to this appearance.
"The most extraordinary circumstance which occurred
at Lisbon during the catastrophe, was the subsidence of
the new quay, built entirely of marble, at an immense expense.
A great concourse of people had collected there for safety,
as a spot where they might be beyond the reach of falling
ruins; but suddenly the quay sunk down with all the people
on it, and not one of the dead bodies ever floated to the
surface. A great number of boats and small vessels anchored
near it, all full of people, were swallowed up as in a whirlpool.
No fragments of these wrecks ever rose again to the surface,
and the water in the place where the quay had stood is stated,
in many accounts, to be unfathomable; but Whitehurst says
he ascertained it to be one hundred fathoms.
this case we must either suppose that a certain tract sunk
down into a subterranean hollow, which would cause a 'fault'
in the strata to the depth of six hundred feet, or we may
infer, as some have done, from the entire disappearance
of the substances engulfed, that a chasm opened and closed
again. Yet in adopting this latter hypothesis, we must suppose
that the upper part of the chasm, to the depth of one hundred
fathoms, remained open after the shock. According to the
observations made at Lisbon in 1837 by Mr. Sharpe, the destroying
effects of this earthquake were confined to the tertiary
strata, and were most violent on the blue clay, on which
the lower part of the city is constructed. Not a building,
he says, on the secondary limestone or the basalt was injured.
"The great area over which this Lisbon earthquake extended
is very remarkable. The movement was most violent in Spain,
Portugal, and the north of Africa; but nearly the whole
of Europe, and even the West Indies, felt the shock on the
same day. A seaport called St. Ubes, about twenty miles
south of Lisbon, was engulfed. At Algiers and Fez in Africa,
p 448 -- the
agitation of the earth was equally violent, and at the distance
of eight leagues from Morocco, a village, with the inhabitants
to the number of about eight or ten thousand persons, together
with all their cattle, was swallowed up. Soon after, the
earth closed again over them.
shock was felt at sea, on the deck of a ship to the west
of Lisbon, and produced very much the same sensation as
on dry land. Off St. Lucas, the captain of the ship 'Nancy'
felt his vessel shaken so violently that he thought she
had struck the ground, but, on heaving the lead, found a
great depth of water. Captain Clark, from Denia, in latitude
36'' 24' N., between nine and ten in the morning, had his
ship shaken and strained as if she had struck upon a rock.
Another ship, forty leagues west of St. Vincent, experienced
so violent a concussion that the men were thrown a foot
and a half perpendicularly up from the deck. In Antigua
and Barbadoes, as also in Norway, Sweden, Germany, Holland,
Corsica, Switzerland, and Italy, tremors and slight oscillations
of the ground were felt.
"The agitation of lakes, rivers, and springs in Great
Britain was remarkable. At Loch Lomond, in Scotland, for
example, the water, without the least apparent cause, rose
against its banks, and then subsided below its usual level.
The greatest perpendicular height of this swell was two
feet four inches. It is said that the movement of this earthquake
was undulatory, and that it traveled at the rate of twenty
miles a minute. A great wave swept over the coast of Spain,
and is said to have been sixty feet high at Cadiz. At Tangier,
in Africa, it rose and fell eighteen times on the coast;
at Funchal, in Maderia, it rose full fifteen feet perpendicular
above high-water mark, although the tide, which ebbs and
flows there seven feet, was then
at half ebb. Besides entering the city and committing great
havoc, it overflowed other seaports in the island. At Kinsale,
in Ireland, a body of water rushed into the harbor, whirled
round several vessels, and poured into the marketplace.
"It was before stated that the sea first retired at
Lisbon; and this retreat of the ocean from the shore at
449 -- of an earthquake, and its subsequent return
in a violent wave, is a common occurrence. In order to account
for the phenomenon, Mitchell imagines a subsidence at the
bottom of the sea from the giving way of the roof of some
cavity, in consequence of a vacuum produced by the condensation
of steam. Such condensation, he observes, might be the first
effect of the introduction of a large body of water into
fissures and cavities already filled with steam, before
there had been sufficient time for the heat of the incandescent
lava to turn so large a supply of water into steam, which,
being soon accomplished, causes a greater explosion."
- Library of Choice Literature, Vol. VII, pp. 162,
If the reader will look on
his atlas at the countries above mentioned, he will see
how large a portion of the earth's surface was agitated
by this awful convulsion. Other earthquakes may have been
as severe in particular localities, but no other one of
which we have any record, combining so great an extent with
such a degree of severity, has ever been felt on this earth.
It certainly supplies all the conditions necessary to constitute
it a fitting event to mark the opening of the seal.
Darkening of the Sun. - Following
the earthquake, it is announced that "the sun became
black as sackcloth of hair." This portion of the prediction
has also been fulfilled. Into a detailed account of the
wonderful darkening of the sun, May 19,1780, we need not
here enter. Most persons of general reading, it is presumed,
have seen some account of it. The following detached declarations
from different authorities will give an idea of its nature: - "The
dark day of Northern America was one of those wonderful
phenomena of nature which will always be read of with interest,
but which philosophy is at a loss to explain." -
the month of May,1780, there was a terrific dark day in
New England, when 'all faces seemed to gather blackness,'
and the people were filled with fear. There was great distress
in the village where Edward Lee lived, 'men's hearts failing
them for fear' that the Judgment-day was at hand; and the
neighbors all flocked around the holy man,"
p 450 --
"spent the gloomy hours in earnest prayer for the distressed
multitude." - Tract No. 379, American Tract Society;
Life of Edward Lee.
were lighted in many houses. Birds were silent and disappeared.
Fowls retired to roost. It was the general opinion that
the day of Judgment was at hand." - President Dwight,
in Connecticut Historical Collections.
darkness was such as to occasion farmers to leave their
work in the field, and retire to their dwellings. Lights
became necessary to the transaction of business within doors.
The darkness continued through the day." - Gage's
History of Rowley, Mass.
cocks crew as at daybreak, and everything bore the appearance
and gloom of night. The alarm produced by this unusual aspect
of the heavens was very great." - Portsmouth Journal,
was midnight darkness at noonday.... Thousands of people
who could not account for it from natural causes, were greatly
terrified; and indeed, it cast a universal gloom on the
earth. The frogs and night-hawks began their notes."
- Dr. Adams.
"Similar days have occasionally been known, though
inferior in the degree or extent of their darkness. The
causes of these phenomena are unknown. They certainly were
not the result of eclipses." - Sears's Guide to
if not altogether alone, as the most mysterious and yet
unexplained phenomenon of its kind in nature's diversified
range of events, during the last century, stands the dark
day of May 19th,1780, - a most unaccountable darkening
of the whole visible heavens and atmosphere in New England,
- which brought intense alarm and distress to multitudes
of minds, as well as dismay to the brute creation, the fowls
fleeing, bewildered, to their roosts, and the birds to their
nests, and the cattle returning to their stalls. Indeed,
thousands of the good people of that day became fully convinced
that the end of all things terrestrial had come.... The
extent of this darkness was also very remarkable. It was
observed at the most easterly regions of New England; westward
p 451 -- farthest
parts of Connecticut, and at Albany; to the southward,
it was observed all along the seacoast; and to the north,
as far as the American settlements extended. It probably
far exceeded these boundaries, but the exact limits were
never positively known." - Our First Century,
by R. M. Devens, pp. 89, 90. TOP
The poet Whittier
thus speaks of this event: -
"'Twas on a May-day of the far old year
Seventeen hundred eighty, that there fell
Over the bloom and sweet life of the spring,
Over the fresh earth and the heaven of noon,
A horror of great darkness, like the night
In day of which the Norland sagas tell -
The Twilight of the Gods. The low-hung sky
Was black with ominous clouds, save where its rim
Was fringed with a dull glow, like that which climbs
The crater's sides from the red hell below.
Birds ceased to sing, and all the barnyard fowls
Roosted; the cattle at the pasture bars
Lowed, and looked homeward; bats on leathern wings
Flitted abroad; the sounds of labor died;
Men prayed, and women wept; all ears grew sharp
To hear the doom-blast of the trumpet shatter
The black sky, that the dreadful face of Christ
Might look from the rent clouds, not as he looked
A loving guest at Bethany, but stern
As justice and inexorable law."
Moon Became as Blood. - The darkness
of the following night, May 19, 1780, was as unnatural as
that of the day had been.
darkness of the following evening was probably as gross
as has ever been observed since the Almighty fiat gave birth
to light. I could not help conceiving at the time that if
every luminous body in the universe had been shrouded in
impenetrable darkness, or struck out of existence, the darkness
could not have been more complete. A sheet of white paper
held within a few inches of the eyes, was equally invisible
with the blackest velvet." - Mr. Tenney, of Exeter,
Adams, already quoted, wrote concerning the night
following the dark day: - "Almost
every one who happened to be out in the evening got
lost in going home. The darkness was as uncommon in
p 452 --
(Meteoric Shower, or Falling Stars, of Nov. 13, 1833) TOP
p 453 --
night as it was in the day, as the moon had fulled the day
This statement respecting the
phase of the moon proves the impossibility of an eclipse
of the sun at that time.
And whenever on this memorable
night the moon did appear, as at certain times it did, it
had, according to this prophecy, the appearance of blood.
the Stars of Heaven Fell. - The
voice of history still is, Fulfilled!
Being a much later event than the darkening of the sun,
there are multitudes in whose memories it is as fresh as
if it were but yesterday. We refer to the great meteoric
shower of Nov. 13, 1833. On this point a few extracts will
the cry, 'Look out of the window,' I sprang from a deep
sleep, and with wonder saw the east lighted up with the
dawn and meteors.... I called to my wife to behold; and
while robing, she exclaimed, 'See how the stars fall! '
I replied, 'That is the wonder;' and we felt in our hearts
that it was a sign of the last days. For truly 'the stars
of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth
her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.'
Rev. 6:13. This language of the prophet has always been
received as metaphorical. Yesterday it was literally fulfilled.
The ancients understood by aster in Greek, and stella
in Latin, the smaller lights of heaven. The refinement of
modern astronomy has made distinctions between stars of
heaven and meteors of heaven. Therefore the idea of the
prophet, as it is expressed in the original Greek, was literally
fulfilled in the phenomenon of yesterday, so as no man before
yesterday had conceived to be possible that it should be
fulfilled. The immense size and distance of the planets
and fixed stars forbid the idea of their falling unto
the earth. Larger bodies cannot fall in myriads unto
a smaller body; and most of the planets and all the fixed
stars are many times larger than our earth; but these fell
toward the earth. And how did they fall? Neither myself
nor one of the family heard any report; and were I to hunt
through nature for a simile, I could not find one so apt,
to illustrate the appearance of the heavens, as that which
St. John uses
p 454 --
the prophecy before quoted: 'The stars of heaven fell unto
the earth.' They were not sheets, or flakes, or drops of
fire; but they were what the world understands by falling
stars; and one speaking to his fellow, in the midst of the
scene, would say, 'See how the stars fall!' And he who heard
would not stop to correct the astronomy of the speaker,
any more than be would reply, 'The sun does not move,' to
one who should tell him, 'The sun is rising.' The stars
fell 'even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when
she is shaken of a mighty wind.' Here is the exactness of
the prophet. The falling stars did not come as if from several
trees shaken, but from one. Those which appeared
in the east fell toward the east; those which appeared in
the north fell toward the north; those which appeared in
the west fell toward the west; and those which appeared
in the south (for I went out of my residence into the park),
fell toward the south. And they fell not as ripe
fruit falls; far from it; but they flew, they were cast,
like the unripe, which at first refuses to leave the branch,
and when, under a violent pressure, it does break its hold,
it flies swiftly, straight off, descending; and in the multitude
falling, some cross the track of others, as they are thrown
with more or less force, but each one falls on its own side
of the tree." - New York Journal of Commerce,
Nov. 14,1833. TOP
"Extensive and magnificent showers of shooting stars
have been known to occur at various places in modern times;
but the most universal and wonderful which has ever been
recorded, is that of the 13th of November, 1833, the
whole firmament, over all the United States, being then,
for hours, in fiery commotion. No celestial phenomenon
has ever occurred in this country since its first settlement,
which was viewed with such intense admiration by one class
in the community, or with so much dread and alarm by another....
During the three hours of its continuance, the day of judgment
was believed to be only waiting for sunrise." - Our
First Century, p. 329.
computes that not less than two hundred and forty thousand
meteors were at the same time visible above the horizon
p 455 --
of Boston." And
of the display at Niagara it is said that "no
spectacle so terribly grand and sublime was ever before
beheld by man as that of the firmament descending in
fiery torrents over the dark and roaring cataract."
- Id., ib.
the Heaven Departed as a Scroll. - In
this event minds are turned to the future. From looking
at the past, and beholding the word of God fulfilled, we
are now called to look at events in the future, which are
no less sure to come. Here is our position, unmistakably
defined. We stand between the 13th and 14th verses of this
chapter. We wait for the heavens to depart as a scroll when
it is rolled together. And these are times of unparalleled
solemnity and importance; for we know not how near we may
be to the fulfilment of these things.
This departing of the heavens
is included in what the evangelists call, in the same series
of events, the shaking of the powers of the heavens. Other
scriptures give us further particulars concerning this prediction.
From Heb. 12:25-27; Joel 3:16; Jer. 25:30-33; Rev. 16:17,
we learn that it is the voice of God, as he speaks in terrible
majesty from his throne in heaven, that causes this fearful
commotion in earth and sky. Once the Lord spoke, when with
an audible voice he declared to his creatures the precepts
of his eternal law, and the earth shook. He is to speak
again, and not only the earth will shake, but the heavens
also. Then will the earth "reel to and fro like a drunkard;"
it will be "dissolved" and "utterly broken
down" (Isaiah 24); mountains will move from their firm
bases; islands will suddenly change their location in the
midst of the sea; from the level plain will arise the precipitous
mountain; rocks will thrust up their ragged forms from earth's
broken surface; and while the voice of God is reverberating
through the earth, the direst confusion will reign over
the face of nature.
To show that this is no mere
conception of the imagination, the reader is requested to
mark the exact phraseology which some of the prophets have
used in reference to this time. Isaiah (24:19, 20) says:
"The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean
dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly.
p 456 -- The earth shall
reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like
a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy
upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again."
Jeremiah (4:23-27) in thrilling language describes
the scene as follows:
"I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form,
and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld
the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills
move lightly. I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all
the birds of the heavens were fled.... For thus hath the
Lord said, The whole land shall be desolate."
(See also the scriptures referred to above.) TOP
Then will the world's dream
of carnal security be effectually broken. Kings, who, intoxicated
with their own earthly authority, have never dreamed of
a higher power than themselves, now realize that there is
One who reigns King of kings; and the great men behold the
vanity of all earthly pomp, for there is a greatness above
that of earth; and the rich men throw their silver and gold
to the moles and bats, for it cannot save them in that day;
and the chief captains forget their little brief authority,
and the mighty men their might; and every bondman who is
in the still worse bondage of sin, and every freeman, -
all classes of the wicked, from the highest to the lowest,
- join in the general wail of consternation and despair.
They who never prayed to Him whose arm could bring salvation,
now raise an agonizing prayer to rocks and mountains to
bury them forever from the sight of Him whose presence brings
to them destruction. Fain would they now avoid reaping what
they have sown by a life of lust and sin. Fain would they
now shun the fearful treasure of wrath which they have been
heaping up for themselves against this day. Fain would they
bury themselves and their catalogue of crimes in everlasting
darkness. And so they fly to the rocks, caves, caverns,
and fissures, which the broken surface of the earth now
presents before them. But it is too late. They cannot conceal
their guilt, nor escape the long-delayed vengeance.
p 457 --
will be in vain to call,
Rocks and mountains on us fall;
For His hand will find out all,
In that day."
The day which they thought
never would come, has at last taken them as in a snare;
and the involuntary language of their anguished hearts is,
"The great day of his wrath is come, and who shall
be able to stand?" Before it is called out by the fearful
scenes of this time, we pray you, reader, give your most
serious and candid attention to this subject.
Many now affect to despise
the institution of prayer; but at one time or another all
men will pray. Those who will not now pray to God in penitence,
will then pray to the rocks and mountains in despair; and
this will be the largest prayer-meeting ever held. As you
read these lines, think whether you would like to have a
part therein: -
Ah! better far
To cease the unequal war,
While pardon, hope, and peace may yet be found;
longer rush upon the embossed shield
Of the Almighty, but repentant yield,
And all your weapons of rebellion ground.
Better pray now in love, than pray ere long in fear.
Call ye upon him, while he waits to hear;
So in the coming end,
When down the parted sky
The angelic hosts attend
The Lord of heaven, most high,
Before whose face the solid earth is rent,
You may behold him a friend omnipotent,
And safely rest beneath his sheltering wings,
Amid the ruin of all earthly things. TOP
458 -- VERSE
And after these things I saw four angels standing on the
four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the
earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on
the sea, nor on any tree. 2.
And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having
the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice
to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth
and the sea, 3. Saying,
Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till
we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
The chronology of the work
here introduced is established beyond mistake. The sixth
chapter closed with the events of the sixth seal, and the
seventh seal is not mentioned until we reach the opening
of chapter 8. The whole of chapter is therefore thrown in
here parenthetically. Why is it thus thrown in at this point?
- Evidently for the purpose of stating additional particulars
concerning the sixth seal. The expression, "after these
things," does not mean after the fulfilment of all
the events previously described; but after the prophet had
been carried down in vision to the close of the sixth seal,
in order not to break the consecutive order of events as
given in chapter 6, his mind is called to what is mentioned
in chapter 7, as further particulars to transpire in connection
with that seal. Then we inquire, Between what events in
that seal does this work come in? It must transpire before
the departing of the heavens as a scroll; for after that
event there is no place for such a work as this. And it
must take place subsequently to the signs in the sun, moon,
and stars; for
p 459 -- these signs
have been fulfilled, and such a work has not yet been accomplished.
It comes in, therefore, between the 13th and 14th verses
of Revelation 6; but there, as already shown, is just where
we now stand. Hence the first part of Revelation 7 relates
to a work the accomplishment of which may be looked for
at the present time.
Angels. - Angels are ever-present agents in the
affairs of the earth; and why may not these be four of those
heavenly beings into whose hands God has committed the work
here described; namely, holding the winds while it is God's
purpose that they should not blow, and hurting the earth
with them when the time comes that they should be loosed?
For it will be noticed (verse 3) that the "hurting"
is a work committed to their hands equally with the "holding;"
so that they do not merely let the winds go when they are
to blow, but they
cause them to blow; they impel
forward the work of destruction with their own supernatural
energy. But the hurting process here brought to view does
not include the seven last plagues. That work is given into
the hands of seven special angels; this, into the hands
of four. Or, it may be that when the time comes for the
pouring out of the plagues, the seven angels who have specific
charge of these judgments, unite with the four whose mission
it is to cause the winds to blow, and all together bring
on that pre-eminent exhibition of divine vengeance against
a generation which is preeminent in guilt.
Corners of the Earth. - An expression denoting
the four quarters, or the four points of the compass, and
signifying that these angels, in their particular sphere,
had charge of the whole earth.
Four Winds. - Winds, in the Bible, symbolize
political commotion, strife, and war. Dan. 7:2; Jer. 25:32.
The four winds,
held by four angels standing in the four quarters of the
earth, must denote all the elements of strife and commotion
that exist in the world; and when they are all loosed, and
all blow together, it will constitute the great whirlwind
just referred to in the prophecy of Jeremiah. TOP
p 460 -- The
Angel Ascending From the East. - Another literal
angel, having charge of another specific work, is here introduced.
Instead of the words "ascending from the east,"
some translations read, "Ascending from the sun rising,"
which is a more literal translation. The expression evidently
refers to manner rather than locality; for as the sun arises
with rays at first oblique and comparatively powerless,
but increases in strength until it shines in all its meridian
power and splendor, so the work of this angel commences
in weakness, moves onward with ever-accumulating influence,
and closes in strength and power.
Seal of the Living God. - This is the distinguishing
characteristic of the ascending angel; he bears with him
the seal of the living God. From this fact, and the chronology
of his work, we are to determine, if possible, what movement
is symbolized by his mission. The nature of his work is
evidently embraced in his having the seal of the living
God; and to ascertain what his work is, the inquiry must
be answered what this seal of the living God is, which he
bears with him.
Term Seal Defined. - A seal is defined
to be an instrument of sealing; that which "is used
by individuals, corporate bodies, and states, for making
impressions on wax, upon instruments of writing, as an evidence
of their authenticity."
The original word in this passage is defined, "A seal,
i. e., a signet ring; a mark, stamp, badge; a
token, a pledge." Among the significations of the verb
are the following: "To secure to any one, to make sure;
to set a seal or mark upon anything in token of its being
genuine or approved; to attest, to confirm, to establish,
to distinguish by a mark." By a comparison of Gen.
17:11 with Rom. 4:11, and Rev. 7:3 with Eze. 9:4, in connection
with the above definition, the reader will see that the
sign, seal, and
mark are used in the Bible as synonymous terms.
The seal of God, as brought to view in our text, is to be
applied to the servants of God. We are not, of course, to
suppose that in this case it is some literal mark to be
made in the flesh, but that it is some institution or observance
having special reference to God, which will serve
461 -- as a "mark of distinction" between
the worshipers of God and those who are not in truth his
servants, though they may profess to follow him.
of a Seal. - A seal is used to render
valid or authentic any enactments, or laws, which a person
or power may promulgate. Frequent instances of its use occur
in the Scriptures. In 1 Kings 21:8, we read that Jezebel
"wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with
his seal." These letters then had all the authority
of King Ahab. Again, in Esther 3:12: "In the name of
King Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king's
ring." So also in chapter 8:8: "The writing which
is written in the king's name, and sealed with the king's
ring, may no man reverse."
a Seal is Used. - Always in connection
with some law or enactment that demands obedience, or upon
documents that are to be made legal, or subject to the provisions
of law. The idea of law is inseparable from a seal.
Applied to God. - We are not to suppose
that to the
enactments and laws of God binding upon men, there must
be attached a literal seal, made with literal instruments;
but from the definition of the term, and the purpose for
which a seal is used, as shown above, we must understand
a seal to be strictly that which gives validity and authenticity
to enactments and laws. This is found, though a literal
seal may not be used, in the name or signature of the law-making
power, expressed in such terms as
to show what the power is, and its right to make laws and
demand obedience. Even with a literal seal, the name must
always be used. (See the references above given.) An instance
of the use of the name alone seems to occur in Dan. 6:8:
"Now, 0 king, establish the decree, and
sign the writing, that it be not changed,
according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth
not;" that is, affix the signature of royalty, showing
who it is that demands obedience, and his right to demand
In a gospel prophecy found
in Isaiah 8, we read: "Bind up the testimony, seal
the law among my disciples." This must refer to a work
of reviving in the minds of the disciples some of the claims
of the law which had been overlooked,
p 462 -- or perverted
from their true meaning, and this, in the prophecy, is called
sealing the law, or restoring to it its seal, which had
been taken from it.
Again, the 144,000, who in
the chapter before us are said to be sealed with the
seal of God in their foreheads, are again
brought to view in Rev. 14:1, where they are said to have
the Father's name
written in their foreheads.
From the foregoing reasoning,
facts, and declarations of Scripture, two conclusions inevitably
1. The seal of God is
found in connection with the law of God.
2. The seal of God is
that part of his law which contains his name, or descriptive
title, showing who he is, the extent of his dominion, and
his right to rule.
The law of God is admitted
by all the leading evangelical denominations to be summarily
contained in the decalogue, or ten commandments. We have,
then, but to examine these commandments to see which one
it is that constitutes the seal of the law, or, in other
words, makes known the true God, the lawmaking power. The
first three commandments mention the word God;
but we cannot tell from these who is meant, for there are
multitudes of objects to which this name is applied. There
are "gods many and lords many," as the apostle
says. 1 Cor. 8:5. Passing over the fourth commandment for
the time being, the fifth contains the words Lord
but does not define them; and the remaining five precepts
do not contain the name of God at all. Now what shall be
done? With that portion of the law which we have examined,
it would be impossible to convict the grossest idolater
of sin. The worshiper of images could say, This idol before
me is my god; his name is god, and these are his precepts.
The worshiper of the heavenly bodies could also say, The
sun is my god, and I worship him according to this law.
Thus, without the fourth commandment, the decalogue is null
and void, so far as it pertains to enforcing the worship
of the true God. But let us now add the fourth commandment,
restore to the law this precept, which many are ready to
contend has been expunged, and see how the case will then
p 463 -- stand. As
we examine this commandment, which contains the declaration,
"For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the
sea, and all that in them is," etc., we see at once
that we are reading the requirements of Him who created
all things. The sun, then, is not the God of the decalogue;
the true God is he who made the sun. No object in heaven
or earth is the being who here demands obedience; for the
God of this law is the one who made all created things.
Now we have a weapon against idolatry. Now this law can
no longer be applied to false gods, who "have not made
the heavens and the earth." Jer. 10:11. Now the author
of this law has declared who he is, the extent of his dominion,
and his right to rule; for every created intelligence must
at once assent that He who is the Creator of all, has a
right to demand obedience from all his creatures. Thus with
the fourth commandment in its place, this wonderful document,
the decalogue, the only document among men which God ever
wrote with his own finger, has a signature; it has that
which renders it intelligible and authentic; it has a seal.
But without the fourth commandment, it lacks all these things.
From the foregoing reasoning,
it is evident that the fourth commandment constitutes the
seal of the law of God, or the seal of God. But the Scriptures
do not leave us without direct testimony on this point.
We have seen above that in
Scripture usage, sign,
seal, token, and
mark are synonymous terms. Now, the Lord expressly
says that the Sabbath is a
sign between him and his people. "Verily
my Sabbaths ye shall keep; for it is a sign
between me and you throughout your generations;
that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth
sanctify you." Ex. 31:13. The same fact is again stated
by the prophet Ezekiel, chapter 20:12, 20. Here the Lord
told his people that the very object of their keeping the
Sabbath, that is, observing the fourth commandment, was
that they might
know that he was the true God. This is the same
as if the Lord had said, "The Sabbath is a seal. On
my part it is the seal of my authority, the sign that I
have the right to command obedience; on your part it is
a token that you take me to be your God." TOP
p 464 -- Should it be
said that this principle can have no applicatian to Christians
at the present time, as the Sabbath was a sign between God
and the Jews only, it would be sufficient to reply that
the terms Jew
in a true Scriptural sense, are not confined,to the literal
seed of Abraham. Abraham was chosen at first because he
was the friend of God while his fathers were idolaters;
and his seed were chosen to be God's people, the guardians
of his law and the depositaries of his truth, because all
others had apostatized from him; and it is true that these
words respecting the Sabbath were spoken to them while they
enjoyed the honor of being thus set apart from all others.
But when the middle wall of partition was broken down, and
the Gentiles were called in to be partakers of the blessings
of Abraham, all God's people, both Jews and Gentiles, were
brought into a new and more intimate relation to God through
his Son, and they are now called "Jews inwardly"
and "Israelites indeed." And now the declaration
applies to all such; for they have as much occasion to
know the Lord as had his people of old.
Thus the fourth commandment,
or the Sabbath, is taken by the Lord as a
sign between him and his people, or the
seal of his law in both dispensations; the people
by that commandment signifying that they are the worshipers
of the true God, and God, by the same commandment, making
himself known as their rightful ruler, inasmuch as he is
In harmony with this idea,
the significant fact is to be noticed that whenever the
sacred writers wish to point out the true God in distinction
from false gods of every description, an appeal is made
to the great facts of creation, upon which the fourth commandment
is based. (See 2 Kings 19:15; 2 Chron. 2:12; Neh. 9:6; Ps.
115:4-7,15; 121:2; 124:8; 134:3; 146:6; Isa. 37:16; 42:5;
44:24; 45:12; Job 9:8; Isa 51:13; Jer. 10:10-12; Ps. 96:5;
Jer. 32:17; 51:15; Acts 4:24; 14:15; 17:23, 24, etc.)
We refer again to the fact
that the same company who in Revelation 7 have the seal
of the living God in their foreheads, are brought to view
again in Rev. 14:1, having the Father's
name in their foreheads. This is good proof that
the "seal of
p 465 -- the living
God" and the "Father's name" are used synonymously.
The chain of evidence on this point is rendered complete,
when it is ascertained that the fourth commandment, which
has been shown to be the seal of the law, is spoken of by
the Lord as that which contains his name. The proof of this
will be seen by referring to Deut. 16:6: "But
at the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place
in, there shalt thou sacrifice the passover," etc.
What was there where they sacrificed the Passover? - There
was the sanctuary, having in its holiest apartment the ark
with the ten commandments, the fourth of which declared
the true God, and contained his name. Wherever this fourth
commandment was, there God's name was placed; and this was
the only object to which the language could be applied.
(See Deut. 12:5, 11, 21; 14:23, 24, etc.)
Having now ascertained that
the seal of God is his holy Sabbath, having his name, we
are prepared to proceed with the application. By the scenes
introduced in the verses before us, namely, the four winds
apparently about to blow, bringing war and trouble upon
the land, and this work restrained till the servants of
God should be sealed, as though a preparatory work must
be done for them to save them from this trouble, we are
reminded of the houses of the Israelites marked with the
blood of the paschal lamb, and spared as the destroying
angel passed over to slay the first-born of the Egyptians
(Exodus 12); also of the mark made by the man with a writer's
ink-horn (Ezekiel 9) upon all those who were to be spared
by the men with the slaughtering weapons who followed after;
and we conclude that the seal of God, here placed upon his
servants, is some distinguishing mark, or religious characteristic,
through which they will be exempted from the judgments of
God that fall on the wicked around them. TOP
As we have found the seal of
God in the fourth commandment, the inquiry follows, Does
the observance of that commandment involve any peculiarity
in religious practice? - Yes, a very marked and striking
one. It is one of the most singular facts to be met with
in religious history that, in an age of such boasted gospel
light as the present, when the influence of Christianity
p 466 -- is so powerful
and wide-spread, one of the most striking peculiarities
in practice which a person can adopt, and one of the greatest
crosses he can take up, even in the most enlightened and
Christian lands, is the simple observance of the law of
God. For the fourth commandment requires the observance
of the seventh day of each week as the Sabbath of the Lord;
but almost all Christendom, through the combined influences
of paganism and the papacy, have been beguiled into the
keeping of the first day. A person has but to commence the
observance of the day enjoined in the commandment and a
mark of peculiarity is upon him at once. He is distinct
alike from the professedly religious world and the unconverted
We conclude, then, that the
angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living
God, is a divine messenger in charge of a work of reform
to be carried on among men in reference to the Sabbath of
the fourth commandment. The agents of this work on the earth
are of course ministers of Christ; for to men is given the
commission of instructing their fellow men in Bible truth;
but as there is order in the execution of all the divine
counsels, it seems not improbable that a literal angel may
have the charge and oversight of this work.
We have already noticed the
chronology of this work as locating it in our own time.
This is further evident from the the fact that, as the next
event after the sealing of these servants of God, we behold
them before the throne, with palms of victory in their hands.
The sealing is therefore the last work to be accomplished
for them prior to their redemption.
In Revelation 14 we find the
same work again brought to view under the symbol of an angel
flying in the midst of heaven with the most terrific warning
that ever fell upon the ears of men. We shall speak of this
more fully when we reach that chapter. We refer to it now,
as it is the last work to be accomplished for the world
before the coming of Christ, which is the next event in
order in that prophecy, and hence must synchronize with
the work here brought to view in Rev. 7:1-3. The angel with
the seal of the living God, mentioned in chapter 7, is therefore
the same as the third angel of chapter 14.
p 467 -- And this view
strengthens the foregoing exposition of the seal. For while,
as the result of the work in chapter 7, a certain company
are sealed with the seal of the living God, as the result
of the third message of chapter 14 a company are brought
out rendering Scriptural obedience to all the "commandments
of God." Verse 12. It is the fourth commandment
of the decalogue and that alone which the Christian world
is openly violating and teaching men to violate; and that
this is the representative question in this message is evident
from the fact that the keeping of the commandments, observing,
with all the other moral precepts, the Lord's Sabbath, is
what distinguishes the servants of God from those who worship
the beast and receive his mark, which is, as will be hereafter
shown, the observance of a counterfeit sabbath.
Having thus briefly noticed
the main points of the subject, we now come to the most
striking feature of all. In exact accordance with the foregoing
chronological argument, we find this work already in process
of fulfilment before our eyes. The third angel's message
is going forth; the angel ascending from the east is on
his mission; the reform on the Sabbath question has commenced;
it is surely, though yet in comparative silence, working
its way through the land; it is destined to agitate every
country entitled to the light of the gospel; and it will
result in bringing out a people prepared for the soon coming
of the Saviour, and sealed for his everlasting kingdom.
With one more question we leave
these verses, upon which we have so lengthily dwelt. Have
we seen among the nations any movements which would indicate
that the cry of the ascending angel, "Hurt not,"
etc., by the blowing of the winds, "till we have sealed
the servants of our God," has in any manner been answered?
The time during which the winds are held could not, from
the nature of the case, be a time of profound peace. This
would not answer to the prophecy. For in order to make it
manifest that the winds are being held, there must be disturbance,
agitation, anger, and jealousy among the nations, with an
occasional outburst of strife, like a fitful gust breaking
away from the imprisoned and struggling tempest; and these
outbursts must be suddenly and
p 468 -- unexpectedly
checked. Then, but not otherwise, would it be evident to
him who looked at events in the light of prophecy, that
for some good purpose the restraining hand of Omnipotence
was laid upon the surging elements of strife and war. And
such has been the aspect of our times for nearly half a
century. Commencing with the great revolution of 1848, when
so many European thrones toppled into the dust, what a state
of anger and political unrest has existed among all the
nations of the earth! New and unlooked-for complications
have suddenly sprung up, throwing matters into apparently
inextricable confusion, and threatening immediate and direful
war. And now and then the conflict has burst forth in fury,
and a thousand voices have been raised to predict that the
great crisis had come, that universal war must result, and
the termination no man could foretell, when suddenly and
unaccountably it has been extinguished, and all subsided
into quiet again.
In our own land the terrible
civil war of 1861 to 1865 is a notable instance. By the
spring of the latter year, so great had become the pressure
upon the nation for men and means to continue the war that
it began seriously to impede the progress of the work symbolized
by the ascending angel, even threatening to arrest it entirely.
Those interested in these truths, believing that the time
had come for the application of the prophecy, and that the
words of the angel, "Hurt not," etc., indicated
a movement on the part of the church, accordingly raised
their petitions to the Ruler of nations to restrain the
cruel work of tumult and war. Days of fasting and prayer
were set apart for this purpose. The time at which this
occurred was a dark and gloomy period of the war; and not
a few high in political life predicted its indefinite continuance,
and an appalling intensity of all its evils. But suddenly
a change came; and not three months had elapsed from the
time of which we speak, ere the last army of the Southern
Confederacy had surrendered, and all its soldiers had laid
down their arms. So sudden and entire was the collapse,
and so grateful were all hearts for relief from the pressure
of the terrible strife, that the nation broke forth into
a song of jubilee,
p 469 -- and these
words were conspicuously displayed at the national capital: "This
is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes."
There are those who believe there was
a definite cause for this sudden cessation of the strife,
of which, of course, the world is but little aware. The
sudden conclusion of the Franco-German war of 1870, of the
war between Turkey and Russia in 1877-78, the Spanish-American
war in 1896, and the recent war between Russia and Japan,
may be cited as still later examples.
I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there
were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all
the tribes of the children of Israel. 5.
Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve
thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand.
Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. 6.
Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the
tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe
of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.
7. Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed
twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve
thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.
8. Of the tribe of
Zebulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph
were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were
sealed twelve thousand. TOP
The number sealed is here stated
to be one hundred and forty-four thousand; and from the
fact that twelve thousand are sealed from each of the twelve
tribes, many suppose that this work must have been accomplished
as far back at least as about the beginning of the Christian
era, when these tribes were literally in existence. They
do not see how it can apply to our own time, when every
trace of distinction between these tribes has been so long
and so completely obliterated. We refer such persons to
the opening language of the Epistle of James: "James,
a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve
tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations,"
etc. Those whom James here addresses are (1)
Christians; for they are his brethren;
(2) They are not the converts to Christianity
from the Jews, the twelve tribes of his own day; for he
addresses them in view of the coming of the Lord. (See chapter
5.) He is thus addressing the last generation of Christians,
the Christians of our own day,
p 470 -- and he calls
them the twelve tribes scattered abroad. How can this be?
Paul explains in Rom. 11:17-24. In the striking figure of
grafting which he there introduces, the tame olive tree
represents Israel. Some of the branches, the natural descendants
of Abraham, were broken off because of unbelief (in Christ).
Through faith in Christ the wild olive scions, the Gentiles,
are grafted into the tame olive stock, and thus the twelve
tribes are perpetuated. And here we find an explanation
of the language of the same apostle: "They
are not all Israel which are of Israel," and "he
is not a Jew which is one outwardly,... but he is a Jew
which is one inwardly." Rom. 9:6-8; 2:28, 29. So we
find on the gates of the New Jerusalem - which is a New
Testament or Christian, not a Jewish, city - the names of
the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. On the foundations
of this city are inscribed the names of the twelve apostles
of the Lamb, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes
of Israel. Rev. 21:12-14. If the twelve tribes belong exclusively
to the former dispensation, the more natural order would
have been to have their names on the foundations, and those
of the twelve apostles on the gates; but no, the names of
the twelve tribes are on the gates. And as through these
gates, so inscribed, all the redeemed hosts will go in and
out, so, as belonging to these twelve tribes, will all the
redeemed be reckoned, whether on earth they were Jews or
Gentiles. Of course we look in vain for any marks of distinction
between the tribes here on earth; and since Christ has appeared
in the flesh, the preservation of the genealogy of the tribes
is not necessary. But in heaven, where the names of the
church of the firstborn are being enrolled, we may be sure
there is order, and that each name is enrolled in its own
tribe. Heb. 12:23.
It will be observed that the
enumeration of the tribes here differs from that given in
other places. The twelve sons of Jacob, who became the heads
of great families, called tribes, were Reuben, Simeon, Levi,
Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad,
Asher, and Joseph. But Jacob, on his dying bed, adopted
the sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh to constitute two
of the tribes of Israel. Gen. 48:5.
p 471 -- This divided
the tribe of Joseph, making thirteen tribes in all. Yet
in the distribution of the land of Canaan by lot, they numbered
but twelve tribes, and made but twelve lots; for the tribe
of Levi was left out, being appointed to the service of
the tabernacle, and having no inheritance. But in the passage
before us, Ephraim and Dan are omitted, and Levi and Joseph
put in their places. The omission of Dan is accounted for
by commentators on the ground that that tribe was the one
chiefly addicted to idolatry. (See Judges 18, etc.) The
tribe of Levi here takes its place with the rest, as in
the heavenly Canaan the reasons for their not having an
inheritance will not exist, as in the earthly; and Joseph
is probably put for Ephraim, it being a name which appears
to have been applied to either the tribe of Ephraim or Manasseh.
Twelve thousand were sealed
"out of " each of the twelve tribes, showing that
not all who in the records of heaven had a place among these
tribes when this sealing work commenced, stood the test,
and were overcomers at last; for the names of those already
in the book of life will be blotted out, unless they overcome.
9. After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude,
which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds,
and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before
the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
10. And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation
to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
11. And all the angels stood round about the throne,
and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before
the throne on their faces, and worshiped God, 12.
Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving,
and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God forever
and ever. Amen.
The sealing having been accomplished,
John beholds a countless multitude worshiping God in rapture
before his throne. This vast throng are undoubtedly the
saved out of every nation, kindred, tribe, and tongue, raised
from the dead at the second coming of Christ, showing that
the sealing is the last work accomplished for the people
of God prior to translation.
13. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me,
What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence
came they? TOP
472 -- 14.
And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest.
And he said to me, These are they which came out of great
tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them
white in the blood of the Lamb. 15.
Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him
day and night in his temple; and he that sitteth on the
throne shall dwell among them. 16. They
shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall
the sun light on them, nor any heat. 17.
For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed
them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters:
and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
The questions proposed by one
of the elders to John, "What are these which are arrayed
in white robes? and whence came they?" taken in connection
with John's answer, "Sir, thou knowest," implying
that John did not know, would seem to be devoid of all point,
if they had reference to the whole of the great multitude
now before him. For John did know who they were, and from
whence they came; inasmuch as he had just said that they
were people - redeemed of course - out of all nations, kindreds,
people, and tongues; and John could have answered, These
are the redeemed ones from all the nations of the earth.
But if a special company in this vast throng were referred
to, distinguished by some special mark or position, then
it might not be so evident who they were, and what had given
them their peculiarity; and the questions, as applied to
them, would be appropriate and pertinent. We therefore incline
to the view that attention is called to a special company
by the questions which were proposed by one of the elders;
and no company is brought to view to which special allusion
would more naturally be made than to the company spoken
of in the first part of the chapter; namely, the 144,000.
John had indeed seen this company in their mortal state,
as they were receiving the seal of the living God amid the
troublous scenes of the last days; but as they here stand
among the redeemed throng, the transition is so great, and
the condition in which they now appear so different, that
he does not recognize them as the special company which
he saw sealed upon the earth. And to this company, the specifications
that follow seem to be specially applicable.
Came Out of Great Tribulation. - While
it is true in some degree of all Christians that they must
p 473 -- tribulation
enter into the kingdom of God," it is true in a very
emphatic sense of the 144,000. They pass through the great
time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.
Dan. 12:1. They experience the mental anguish of the time
of Jacob's trouble. Jer. 30:4-7. They stand without a mediator
through the terrific scenes of the seven last plagues, those
exhibitions of God's unmingled wrath in the earth. Revelation,
chapters 15, 16. They pass through the severest time of
trouble the world has ever known, although they are delivered
out of it.
Robes. - They
wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the
Lamb. To the last generation the testimony is very emphatic
on the subject of obtaining the white raiment. Rev. 3:5,
18. And though the 144,000 are accused of rejecting Christ,
and trusting to their own works for salvation, because they
refuse to violate the commandments of God (Rev. 14:1, 12),
in the great day that calumny will be wiped off. It will
be seen that they have rested their hope of life on the
merits of the shed blood of their divine Redeemer, making
him their source of righteousness. There is peculiar force
in saying of these that they have washed their robes, and
made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
- Verse 15 describes the post of honor they occupy
in the kingdom, and their nearness to God. In another place
they are called "the first-fruits unto God and the
Lamb." Rev. 14:4.
They Shall Hunger No More. -
In verse 16 it is said, "They shall hunger
no more, neither thirst any more." This shows that
they have once suffered hunger and thirst. To what can this
refer? As it doubtless has reference to some special experience,
may it not refer to their trials in the time of trouble,
more especially during the last plagues? In this time the
righteous will be reduced to bread and water; and though
that "will be sure" (Isa. 33:16), enough for sustenance,
yet may it not be that when the pastures, with all fruits
and vegetation, are dried up (Joel 1:18-20), and the rivers
and fountains are turned to blood (Rev. 16: 4-9), to reduce
their connection with earth and earthly things to the lowest
p 474 -- limit, the
saints who pass through that time will be brought occasionally
to the extreme degrees of hunger and thirst? But the kingdom
once gained, "they shall hunger no more, neither thirst
any more." And the prophet continues in reference to
this company, "Neither shall the sun light on them,
nor any heat." We remember that the 144,000 live through
the time when power is given unto the sun "to scorch
men with fire." Rev. 16:8, 9. And though they are shielded
from the deadly effect which it has upon the wicked around
them, we cannot suppose that their sensibilities will be
so deadened that they will feel no unpleasant sensations
from the terrific heat. No; as they enter the fields of
the heavenly Canaan, they will be prepared to appreciate
the divine assurance that the sun shall not light upon or
injure them, nor any heat. TOP
the Lamb Shall Lead Them. - Another testimony
concerning the same company, and applying at the same time,
says, "These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever
he goeth." Rev. 14:4. Both expressions denote the state
of intimate and divine companionship to which the blessed
Redeemer admits them in reference to himself.
The psalmist, in the following
beautiful passage, seems to allude to the same promise:
"They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness
of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river
of thy pleasures." Ps. 36:8. The phraseology of this
promise to the 144,000 is also partially found in the following
glowing prophecy from the pen of Isaiah: "He will swallow
up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears
from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he
take away from off all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken
it." Isa. 25:8. TOP
475 --We name as the subject of
this chapter the seven trumpets, as these constitute the
main theme of the chapter, although there are other matters
introduced before the opening of that series of events.
The first verse of this chapter relates to the events of
the preceding chapters, and therefore should not have been
separated from them by the division of the chapter.
And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence
in heaven about the space of half an hour.
The series of seven seals is
here resumed and concluded. The sixth chapter closed with
the events of the sixth seal, and the eighth commences with
the opening of the seventh seal; hence the seventh chapter
stands parenthetically between the sixth and seventh seals,
from which it appears that the sealing work of that chapter
belongs to the sixth seal.
in Heaven. - Concerning the cause of this silence,
only conjecture can be offered, - a conjecture, however,
which is supported by the events of the sixth seal. That
seal does not bring us to the second advent, although it
embraces events that transpire in close connection therewith.
It introduces the fearful commotions of the elements, described
as the rolling of the heavens together as a scroll, caused
by the voice of God, the breaking up of the surface of the
earth, and the confession on the part of the wicked that
the great day of God's wrath is come. They are doubtless
in momentary expectation of seeing
p 476 -- the King appear
in, to them, unendurable glory. But the seal stops just
short of that event. The personal appearing of Christ must
therefore be allotted to the next seal. But when the Lord
appears, he comes with all the holy angels with him. Matt.
25:31. And when all
the heavenly harpers leave the courts above to come down
with their divine Lord, as he descends to gather the fruit
of his redeeming work, will there not be silence in heaven?
The length of this period of
silence, if we consider it prophetic time, would be about
2. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God;
and to them were given seven trumpets.
This verse introduces a new
and distinct series of events. In the seals we have had
the history of the church during what is called the gospel
dispensation. In the seven trumpets, now introduced, we
have the principal political and warlike events which were
to transpire during the same time.
another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden
censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that
he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the
golden altar which was before the throne. 4.
And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers
of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's
hand. 5. And the angel took
the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast
it into the earth; and there were voices, and thunderings,
and lightnings, and an earthquake. TOP
Having as it were, in verse
2, brought out the seven angels, and introduced them before
us upon the stage of action, John, for a moment, in the
three verses last quoted, directs attention to an entirely
different scene. The angel which approaches the altar is
not one of the seven trumpet angels. The altar is the altar
of incense, which, in the earthly sanctuary, was placed
in the first apartment. Here, then, is another proof that
there exists in heaven a sanctuary with its corresponding
vessels of service, of which the earthly was a figure, and
that we are taken into that sanctuary by the visions of
John. A work of ministration for all the saints in the sanctuary
above is thus brought to view. Doubtless the entire work
of mediation for the people of God during the gospel dispensation
is here presented.
p 477 -- This is apparent
from the fact that the angel offers his incense with the
prayers of all
saints. And that we are here carried forward
to the end, is evident from the act of the angel in filling
the censer with fire and casting it unto the earth; for
his work is then done; no more prayers are to be offered
up mingled with incense; and this symbolic act can have
its application only at the time when the ministration of
Christ in the sanctuary in behalf of mankind has forever
ceased. And following the angel's act are voices, thunderings,
lightnings, and an earthquake, - exactly such occurrences
as we are elsewhere informed transpire at the close of human
probation. (See Rev. 11:19; 16:17, 18.)
But why are these verses thus
thrown in here? Answer: As a message
of hope and comfort for the church. The seven angels with
their warlike trumpets had been introduced; terrible scenes
were to transpire under their sounding; but before they
commence, the people of God are pointed to the work of mediation
in their behalf above, and their source of help and strength
during this time. Though they should be tossed like feathers
upon the tumultuous waves of strife and war, they were to
know that their great High Priest still ministered for them
in the sanctuary in heaven, and that thither they could
direct their prayers, and have them offered, with incense,
to their Father in heaven. Thus could they gain strength
and support in all their calamities.
And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared
themselves to sound.
The subject of the seven trumpets
is here resumed, and occupies the remainder of this chapter
and all of chapter 9. The seven angels prepare themselves
to sound. Their sounding comes in as a complement to the
prophecy of Daniel 2 and 7, commencing with the breaking
up of the old Roman empire into its ten divisions, of which,
in the first four trumpets, we have a description.
The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire
mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and
the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass
was burnt up.
p 478 -- Mr.
Keith has very justly remarked on the subject of
this prophecy: "None
could elucidate the texts more clearly, or expound them
more fully, than the task has been performed by Gibbon.
The chapters of the skeptical philosopher that treat directly
of the matter, need but a text to be prefixed, and a few
unholy words to be blotted out, to form a series of expository
lectures on the eighth and ninth chapters of Revelation."
"Little or nothing is left for the professed interpreter
to do but to point to the pages of Gibbon."
The first sore and heavy judgment
which fell on Western Rome in its downward course, was the
war with the Goths under Alaric, who opened the way for
later inroads. The death of Theodosius, the Roman emperor,
occurred in January, 395, and before the end of the winter
the Goths under Alaric were in arms against the empire.
The first invasion under Alaric
ravaged Thrace, Macedonia, Attica, and the Peloponnesus,
but did not reach the city of Rome. On his second invasion,
however, the Gothic chieftain crossed the Alps and the Apennines
and appeared before the walls of the "eternal city,"
which soon fell a prey to the fury of the barbarians. TOP
"Hail and fire mingled
with blood" were cast upon the earth. The terrible
effects of this Gothic invasion are represented as "hail,"
from the fact of the northern origin of the invaders; "fire,"
from the destruction by flame of both city and country;
and "blood," from the terrible slaughter of the
citizens of the empire by the bold and intrepid warriors.
The blast of the first trumpet
has its location about the close of the fourth century and
onward, and refers to these desolating invasions of the
Roman empire under the Goths.
I know not how the history
of the sounding of the first trumpet can be more impressively
set forth than by presenting the graphic rehearsal of the
facts which are stated in Gibbon's History, by Mr.
Keith, in his Signs of the Times, Vol. I, pp. 221-233: - "Large
extracts show how amply and well Gibbon has expounded his
text in the history of the first trumpet, the first
p 479 --
that pervaded the Roman
earth, and the first fall of Rome. To use his words in more
direct comment, we read thus the sum of the matter:
'The Gothic nation was in arms at the first sound of the
trumpet, and in the uncommon severity of the winter, they
rolled their ponderous wagons over the broad and icy back
of the river. The fertile fields of Phocis and Boeotia were
crowded with a deluge of barbarians; the males were massacred;
the females and cattle of the flaming villages were driven
away. The deep and bloody traces of the march of the Goths
could easily be discovered after several years. The whole
territory of Attica was blasted by the baneful presence
of Alaric. The most fortunate of the inhabitants of Corinth,
Argos, and Sparta were saved by death from beholding the
conflagration of their cities. In a season of such extreme
heat that the beds of the rivers were dry, Alaric invaded
the dominion of the West. A secluded "old man of Verona,"
the poet Claudian, pathetically lamented the fate of his
contemporary trees, which must blaze in the
conflagration of the whole country [note the
words of the prophecy, - "The third part of the trees
was burned up"]; and the emperor of the Romans
fled before the king of the Goths.'
furious tempest was excited among the nations of Germany,
from the northern extremity of which the barbarians marched
almost to the gates of Rome. They achieved the destruction
of the West. The dark cloud which was collected along the
coasts of the Baltic, burst in thunder upon the banks of
the upper Danube. The pastures of Gaul, in which flocks
and herds grazed, and the banks of the Rhine, which were
covered with elegant houses and well-cultivated farms, formed
a scene of peace and plenty, which was suddenly changed
into a desert, distinguished from the solitude of nature
only by smoking ruins. Many cities were cruelly oppressed,
or destroyed. Many thousands were inhumanly massacred; and
the consuming flames of war spread over the greater part
of the seventeen provinces of Gaul.
again stretched his ravages over Italy. During four years
the Goths ravaged and reigned over it without control. And
in the pillage and fire of Rome, the streets of the
p 480 -- city
were filled with dead bodies; the flames consumed many public
and private buildings; and the ruins of a palace remained
(after a century and a half) a stately monument of the Gothic
concluding sentence of the thirty-third chapter of Gibbon's
History is of itself a clear and comprehensive commentary;
for in winding up his own description of this brief but
most eventful period, be concentrates, as in a parallel
reading, the sum of the history and the substance of the
prediction. But the words which precede it are not without
their meaning: 'The public devotion of the age
was impatient to exalt the saints and martyrs of the Catholic
Church on the altars of Diana and Hercules. The union
of the Roman empire was dissolved; its genius
was humbled in the dust; and armies of' unknown barbarians,
issuing from the frozen regions of the North, had established
their victorious reign over the fairest provinces of Europe
last word, Africa, is the signal for the sounding of the
second trumpet. The scene changes from the shores of the
Baltic to the southern coast of the Mediterranean, or from
the frozen regions of the North to the borders of burning
Africa; and instead of a storm of hail being cast upon the
earth, a burning mountain was cast into the sea."
8. And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great
mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the
third part of the sea became blood; 9. And
the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and
had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
The Roman empire, after Constantine,
was divided into three parts; and hence the frequent remark,
"a third part of men," etc., in allusion to the
third part of the empire which was under the scourge. This
division of the Roman kingdom was made at the death of Constantine,
among his three sons,
Constantius, Constantine II, and Constans.
Constantius possessed the East, and fixed his residence
at Constantinople, the metropolis of the empire. Constantine
the Second held Britain, Gaul, and Spain. Constans held
Illyricum, Africa, and Italy. (See Sabine's Ecclesiastical
History, p. 155.) Of this well-known
p 481 -- historical
as quoted by Albert Barnes, in his notes on Rev.
"Twice, at least, before the Roman empire became divided
permanently into the two parts, the Eastern and the Western,
there was a tripartite division of the empire. The
first occurred A. D. 311, when it was divided between Constantine,
Licinius, and Maximin; the other, A. D. 337, on the death
of Constantine, when it was divided between his three sons,
Constantine, Constans, and Constantius."
The history illustrative of
the sounding of the second trumpet evidently relates to
the invasion and conquest of Africa, and afterward of Italy,
by the terrible Genseric. His conquests were for the most
part NAVAL; and his triumphs were "as it were a great
mountain burning with fire, cast into the sea." What
figure would better, or even so well, illustrate the collision
of navies, and the general havoc of war on the maritime
coasts? In explaining this trumpet, we are to look for some
events which will have a particular bearing on the commercial
world. The symbol used naturally leads us to look for agitation
and commotion. Nothing but a fierce maritime warfare would
fulfil the prediction. If the sounding of the first four
trumpets relates to four remarkable events which contributed
to the downfall of the Roman empire, and the first trumpet
refers to the ravages of the Goths under Alaric, in this
we naturally look for the next
succeeding act of invasion which shook the Roman power and
conduced to its fall. The next great invasion was
that of "the terrible Genseric," at
the head of the Vandals. His career occurred during the
years A. D. 428-468. This great Vandal chief had his headquarters
in Africa. But as Gibbon
discovery and conquest of the black nations [in Africa],
that might dwell beneath the torrid zone, could not tempt
the rational ambition of Genseric; but he cast his eyes
TOWARD THE SEA; he resolved to create a naval power,
and his bold resolution was executed with steady and active
From the port of Carthage he repeatedly made piratical
sallies, and preyed on the Roman commerce, and waged war
with that empire. To cope with this sea monarch, the Roman
emperor, Majorian, made extensive naval preparations. Three
p 482 -- long galleys,
with an adequate proportion of transports and smaller vessels,
were collected in the secure and capacious harbor of Cartagena,
in Spain. But Genseric was saved from impending and inevitable
ruin by the treachery of some powerful subjects, envious
or apprehensive of their master's success. Guided by their
secret intelligence, he surprised the unguarded fleet in
the bay of Cartagena; many of the ships were sunk, taken,
or burned, and the preparations of three years were destroyed
in a single day. TOP
Italy continued to be long
afflicted by the incessant depredations of the Vandal pirates.
In the spring of each year they equipped a formidable navy
in the port of Carthage, and Genseric himself, though at
a very advanced age, still commanded in person the most
The Vandals repeatedly visited
the coasts of Spain, Liguria, Tuscany, Campania, Lucania,
Bruttium, Apulia, Calabria, Venetia, Dalmatia, Epirus, Greece,
The celerity of their motion
enabled them, almost at the same time, to threaten and to
attack the most distant objects which attracted their desires;
and as they always embarked a sufficient number of horses,
they had no sooner landed than they swept the dismayed country
with a body of light cavalry.
A last and desperate attempt
to dispossess Genseric of the sovereignty of the seas, was
made in the year 468 by Leo, the emperor of the East. Gibbon
bears witness to this as follows: "The
whole expense of the African campaign amounted to the sum
of one hundred and thirty thousand pounds of gold, - about
five million two hundred thousand pounds sterling.... The
fleet that sailed from Constantinople to Carthage consisted
of eleven hundred and thirteen ships, and the number of
soldiers and mariners exceeded one hundred thousand men
... The army of Heraclius and the fleet of Marcellinus either
joined or seconded the imperial lieutenant.... The wind
became favorable to the designs of Genseric. He manned his
largest ships of war with the bravest of the Moors and Vandals,
and they towed after them many large barks filled with combustible
materials. In the obscurity of the night, these
p 483 --
(The Vandals Invading Africa)
p 484 -- destructive
vessels were impelled against the unguarded and unsuspecting
fleet of the Romans, who were awakened by a sense of their
instant danger. Their close and crowded order assisted the
progress of the fire, which was communicated with rapid
and irresistible violence; and the noise of the wind, the
crackling of the flames, the dissonant cries of the soldiers
and mariners, who could neither command nor obey, increased
the horror of the nocturnal tumult. While they labored to
extricate themselves from the fire-ships, and to save at
least a part of the navy, the galleys of Genseric assaulted
them with temperate and disciplined valor; and many of the
Romans who escaped the fury of the flames, were destroyed
or taken by the victorious Vandals.... After the failure
of this great expedition, Genseric again became the tyrant
of the sea; the coasts of Italy, Greece, and Asia were again
exposed to his revenge and avarice; Tripoli and Sardinia
returned to his obedience; he added Sicily to the number
of his provinces; and before he died, in the fulness of
years and of glory, he beheld the FINAL EXTINCTION of the
empire of the West." Gibbon, Vol.
III, pp. 495-498.
Concerning the important part
which this bold corsair acted in the downfall of Rome, Mr.
Gibbon uses this significant language:
a name which, in the destruction of the Roman empire, has
deserved an equal rank with the names of Alaric and Attila."
10. And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great
star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell
upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains
of waters. 11. And the name
of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the
waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters,
because they were made bitter.
In the interpretation and
application of this passage, we are brought to the third
important event which resulted in the subversion of the
Roman empire. And in finding a historical fulfilment of
this third trumpet, we shall be indebted to the Notes
of Dr. Albert Barnes for a few extracts. In explaining
this scripture, it is necessary, as this commentator says,
there should be some chieftain or warrior who
p 485 -- might
be compared to a blazing meteor; whose course would be singularly
brilliant; who would appear suddenly LIKE a blazing star,
and then disappear like a star whose light was quenched
in the waters. That the desolating course of this meteor
would be mainly on those portions of the world which abounded
with springs of water and running streams; that an effect
would be produced as if those streams and fountains
were made bitter; that is, that many persons would perish,
and that wide desolations would be caused in the vicinity
of those rivers and streams, as if a bitter and baleful
star should fall into the waters, and death should spread
over lands adjacent to them, and watered by them."
- Notes on Revelation 8.
It is here premised that this
trumpet has allusion to the desolating wars and furious
invasions of Attila against the Roman power, which he carried
on at the head of his hordes of Huns. Speaking of this warrior,
particularly of his personal appearance, Mr.
Barnes says: - "In
the manner of his appearance, he strongly resembled a brilliant
meteor flashing in the sky. He came from the East gathering
his Huns, and poured them down, as we shall see, with the
rapidity of a flashing meteor, suddenly on the empire. He
regarded himself also as devoted to Mars, the god of war,
and was accustomed to array himself in a peculiarly brilliant
manner, so that his appearance, in the language of his flatterers,
was such as to dazzle the eyes of beholders."
In speaking of the locality
of the events predicted by this trumpet, Mr.
Barnes has this note: -
is said particularly that the effect would be on 'the rivers'
and on 'the fountains of waters.' If this has a literal
application, or if, as was supposed in the case of the second
trumpet, the language used was such as had reference to
the portion of the empire that would be particularly affected
by the hostile invasion, then we may suppose that this refers
to those portions of the empire that abounded in rivers
and streams, and more particularly those in which the rivers
and streams had their origin; for the effect was
permanently in the 'fountains of waters.' As a matter
of fact, the principal operations of Attila were on the
regions of the Alps, and on the portions
p 486 --
(Attila, King of the Huns) TOP
p 487 -- of
the empire whence the rivers flow down into Italy. The invasion
of Attila is described by Mr. Gibbon in this general language: 'The
whole breadth of Europe, as it extends above five hundred
miles from the Euxine to the Adriatic, was at once invaded,
and occupied, and desolated, by the myriads of barbarians
whom Attila led into the field.'"
the Name of the Star is Called Wormwood [denoting the
These words -
which are more intimately connected with the preceding verse,
as even the punctuation in our version denotes - recall
us for a moment to the character of Attila, to the misery
of which he was the author or the instrument, and to the
terror that was inspired by his name.
"'Total extirpation and erasure,' are terms which best
denote the calamities he inflicted." He
styled himself, "The Scourge of God."
of his lieutenants chastised and almost exterminated the
Burgundians of the Rhine. They traversed, both in their
march and in their return, the territories of the Franks;
and they massacred their hostages as well as their captives.
Two hundred young maidens were tortured with exquisite and
unrelenting rage; their bodies were torn asunder by wild
horses, or were crushed under the weight of rolling wagons;
and their unburied limbs were abandoned on public roads,
as a prey to dogs and vultures.
"It was the boast of Attila that the grass never grew
on the spot which his horse had trod. The Western emperor
with the senate and people of Rome, humbly and fearfully
depreciated the wrath of Attila. And the concluding paragraph
of the chapters which record his history, is entitled, 'Symptoms
of the Decay and Ruin of the Roman Government.' 'The name
of the star is called Wormwood.'" - Keith.
12. And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part
of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon,
and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of
them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part
of it, and the night likewise.
We understand that this trumpet
symbolizes the career of Odoacer, the barbarian monarch
who was so intimately connected
p 488 -- with the downfall
Rome. The symbols sun, moon, and stars - for they are undoubtedly
here used as symbols - evidently denote the great luminaries
of the Roman government, - its emperors, senators, and consuls.
Bishop Newton remarks that the last emperor of Western Rome
was Romulus, who in derision was called Augustulus,
or the "diminutive Augustus." Western Rome fell
A. D. 476. Still, however, though the Roman sun was extinguished,
its subordinate luminaries shone faintly while the senate
and consuls continued. But after many civil reverses and
changes of political fortune, at length, A. D. 566, the
whole form of the ancient government was subverted, and
Rome itself was reduced from being the empress of the world
to a poor dukedom tributary to the Exarch of Ravenna.
Under the heading, "Extinction
of the Western Empire, A. D. 476 or A. D. 479," Elder
Exposition, Vol. II, pp. 156-160) quotes from Mr. Keith
as follows: - "The
unfortunate Augustulus was made the instrument of his own
disgrace; and he signified his resignation to the senate;
and that assembly, in their last act of obedience to a Roman
prince, still affected the spirit of freedom and the forms
of the constitution. An epistle was addressed, by their
unanimous decree, to the emperor Zeno, the son-in-law and
successor of Leo, who had lately been restored, after a
short rebellion, to the Byzantine throne. They solemnly
'disclaim the necessity or even the wish of continuing any
longer the imperial succession in Italy; since in their
opinion the majesty of a sole monarch is sufficient to pervade
and to protect, at the same time, both the East and the
West. In their own name, and in the name of the people,
they consent that the seat of universal empire shall be
transferred from Rome to Constantinople; and they basely
renounce the right of choosing their master, the only vestige
which yet remained of the authority which had given laws
to the world.' TOP
power and glory of Rome as bearing rule over any nation,
became extinct. The name alone remained to the queen of
nations. Every token of royalty disappeared from the imperial
city. She who had ruled over the nations sat in the
p 489 --
dust, like a second Babylon, and there was no throne where
the Caesars had reigned. The last act of obedience to a
Roman Prince which that once august assembly performed,
was the acceptance
of the resignation of the last emperor of the West, and
the abolition of the imperial succession in Italy. The sun
of Rome was smitten....
new conqueror of Italy, Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, speedily
arose, who unscrupulously assumed the purple, and reigned
by right of conquest. 'The royalty of Theodoric was proclaimed
by the Goths (March 5, A. D. 493), with the tardy, reluctant,
ambiguous consent of the emperor of the East.' The imperial
Roman power, of which either Rome or Constantinople had
been jointly or singly the seat, whether in the West or
the East, was no longer recognized in Italy, and the third
part of the sun was smitten, till it emitted no longer the
faintest rays. The power of the Caesars was unknown in Italy;
and a Gothic king reigned over Rome.
though the third part of the sun was smitten, and the Roman
imperial power was at an end in the city of the Caesars,
yet the moon and the stars still shone, or glimmered, for
a little longer in the Western empire, even in the midst
of Gothic darkness. The consulship and the senate
["the moon and the stars"] were not abolished
by Theodoric. 'A Gothic historian applauds the consulship
of Theodoric as the height of all temporal power and greatness;'
- as the moon reigns by night, after the setting of the
sun. And instead of abolishing that office, Theodoric himself
'congratulates those annual favorites of fortune, who, without
the cares, enjoyed the splendor of the throne.'
in their prophetic order, the consulship and the senate
of Rome met their fate, though they fell not by the hands
of Vandals or of Goths. The next revolution in Italy was
in subjection to Belisarius, the general of Justinian, emperor
of the East. He did not spare what barbarians had hallowed.
'The Roman Consulship Extinguished by Justinian, A. D. 541,'
is the title of the last paragraph of the fortieth chapter
of Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of Rome.
'The succession of the consuls finally ceased in the thirteenth
p 490 -- of
Justinian, whose despotic temper might be gratified by the
silent extinction of a title which admonished the Romans
of their ancient freedom.' The third part of the sun was
smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part
of the stars. In the political firmament of the ancient
world, while under the reign of imperial Rome, the emperorship,
the consulate, and the senate shone like the sun, the moon,
and the stars. The history of their decline and fall is
brought down till the two former were 'extinguished,' in
reference to Rome and Italy, which so long had ranked as
the first of cities and of countries;
and finally, as the fourth trumpet closes, we see the 'extinction
of that illustrious assembly,' the Roman senate. The city
that had ruled the world, as if in mockery of human greatness,
was conquered by the eunuch Narses, the successor of Belisarius.
He defeated the Goths (A. D. 552), achieved 'the conquest
of Rome,' and the fate of the senate was sealed."
(Horae Apocalypticae, Vol. I, pp. 357-360) speaks
of the fulfilment of this portion
of the prophecy in the extinction of the Western empire,
as follows: - "Thus
was the final catastrophe preparing, by which the Western
emperors and empire were to become extinct. The glory of
Rome had long departed; its provinces one after another
had been rent from it; the territory still attached to it
become like a desert; and its maritime possessions and its
fleets and commerce been annihilated. Little remained to
it but the vain titles and insignia of sovereignty. And
now the time was come when these too were to be withdrawn.
Some twenty years or more from the death of Attila, and
much less from that of Genseric (who, ere his death, had
indeed visited and ravaged the eternal city in one of his
maritime marauding expeditions, and thus yet more prepared
the coming consummation), about this time, I say, Odoacer,
chief of the Heruli, - a barbarian remnant of the host of
Attila, left on the Alpine frontiers of Italy, - interposed
with his command that the name and the office
of Roman emperor of the West, should be abolished. The
authorities bowed in submission to him. The last phantom
of an emperor - one whose name, Romulus Augustus,
was singularly calculated to bring in contrast before the
p 491 --
(Surrender of Western Rome to Odoacer) TOP
p 492 --
mind the past glories of Rome and its present degradation
- abdicated; and the senate sent away the imperial insignia
to Constantinople, professing to the emperor of the East
that one emperor was sufficient for the whole of the empire.
Thus of the Roman imperial sun, that third which appertained
to the Western empire was eclipsed, and shone no more. I
say, That third of its orb which appertained to the
Western empire; for the Apocalyptic fraction is literally
accurate. In the last arrangement between the two courts,
the whole of the Illyrian third had been made over to the
Eastern division. Thus in the West 'the extinction
of the empire' had taken place; the night had fallen.
this, however, it must be borne in mind that the authority
of the Roman name had not yet entirely ceased. The senate
of Rome continued to assemble as usual. The consuls were
appointed yearly, one by the Eastern emperor, one by Italy
and Rome. Odoacer himself governed Italy under a title (that
of patrician) conferred on him by the Eastern emperor.
And as regarded the more distant Western provinces, or at
least considerable districts in them, the tie which had
united them to the Roman empire was not altogether severed.
There was still a certain, though often faint, recognition
supreme imperial authority. The moon and the stars might
seem still to shine on the West with a dim reflected light.
In the course of the events, however, which rapidly followed
one on the other in the next half century, these, too, were
extinguished. Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, on destroying the
Heruli and their kingdom at Rome and Ravenna, ruled in Italy
from A. D. 493 to 526 as an independent sovereign; and on
Belisarius's and Narses's conquest of Italy from the Ostrogoths
(a conquest preceded by wars and desolations in which Italy,
and above all its seven-hilled city, were for a time almost
made desert), the Roman senate was dissolved, the consulship
abrogated. Moreover, as regards the barbaric princes of
the Western provinces, their independence of the Roman imperial
power became now more distinctly averred and understood.
After above a century and a half of calamities unexampled
almost, as Dr. Robertson most truly represents it, in the
history of nations,
p 493 --
the statement of Jerome, - a statement couched under the
figure of the text, but prematurely pronounced on the first
taking of Rome by Alaric, - might be considered as at length
accomplished: 'Clarissimum terrarum lumen extinctum
est,' The world's glorious sun has been extinguished;'
and that, too, which our own poet has expressed, still under
the same beautifully appropriate Apocalyptic imagery, -
saw her glories star by star expire,'
not even a single star remained, to glimmer on the vacant
and dark night." TOP
fearful ravages of these barbarian hordes, who, under their
bold but cruel and desperate leaders, devastated Rome, are
vividly portrayed in the following spirited lines:
then a deluge of wrath it came,
And the nations shook with dread;
And it swept the earth, till its fields were flame,
And piled with the mingled dead.
Kings were rolled in the wasteful flood,
With the low and crouching slave,
And together lay, in a shroud of blood,
The coward and the brave."
Fearful as were the calamities
brought upon the empire by the first incursions of these
barbarians, they were comparatively light as contrasted
with the calamities which were to follow. They were but
as the preliminary drops of a shower before the torrent
which was soon to fall upon the Roman world. The three remaining
trumpets are overshadowed with a cloud of woe, as set forth
in the following verses.
13. And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through
the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe,
woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other
voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet
This angel is not one of the
series of the seven trumpet angels, but simply one who announces
that the three remaining trumpets are
woe trumpets, on account of the more terrible events
to transpire under their sounding. Thus the next, or fifth
trumpet, is the first woe; the sixth trumpet, the second
woe; and the seventh, the last one in this series of seven
trumpets, is the third woe.
p 494 --
("Woe, Woe, Woe, To the Inhabiters of the Earth!") TOP
Seven Trumpets Continued
495 -- VERSE
the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven
unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless
For an exposition of this trumpet,
we shall again draw from the writings of Mr.
Keith. This writer truthfully says:
There is scarcely
so uniform an agreement among interpreters concerning any
other part of the Apocalypse as respecting the application
of the fifth and sixth trumpets, or the first and second
woes, to the Saracens and Turks. It is so obvious that it
can scarcely be misunderstood. Instead of a verse or two
designating each, the whole of the ninth chapter of the
Revelation, in equal portions, is occupied with a description
"The Roman empire declined, as it arose, by conquest;
but the Saracens and the Turks were the instruments by which
a false religion became the scourge of an apostate church;
and hence, instead of the fifth and sixth trumpets, like
the former, being designated by that name alone, they are
"Constantinople was besieged, for the first time after
the extinction of the Western empire, by Chosroes, the king
star fell from heaven unto the earth; and to him was given
the key of the bottomless pit."
the Persian monarch contemplated the wonders of his art
and power, he received an epistle from an obscure citizen
of Mecca, inviting him to acknowledge Mohammed as the
p 496 -- apostle
of God. He rejected the invitation, and tore
the epistle. 'It is thus,' exclaimed the Arabian prophet,
'that God will tear the kingdom, and reject the supplication
of Chosroes.' Placed on the verge of these two empires of
the East, Mohammed observed with secret joy the progress
of mutual destruction; and in the midst of the Persian triumphs
he ventured to foretell, that, before many years should
elapse, victory would again return to the banners of the
Romans. 'At the time when this prediction is said to have
been delivered, no prophecy could be more distant from its
accomplishment (!) since the first twelve years of Heraclius
announced the approaching dissolution of the empire.'
was not, like that designative of Attila, on a single
spot that the star fell, but UPON THE EARTH.
"Chosroes subjugated the Roman possessions in Asia
and Africa. And 'the Roman empire,' at that period, 'was
reduced to the walls of Constantinople, with the remnant
of Greece, Italy, and Africa, and some maritime cities,
from Tyre to Trebizond, of the Asiatic coast. The experience
of six years at length persuaded the Persian monarch to
renounce the conquest of Constantinople, and to specify
the annual tribute of the ransom of the Roman empire, -
a thousand talents of gold, a thousand talents of silver,
a thousand silk robes, a thousand horses, and a thousand
virgins. Heraclius subscribed to these ignominious terms.
But the time and space which he obtained to collect those
treasures from the poverty of the East, were industriously
employed in the preparation of a bold and desperate attack.'
king of Persia despised the obscure Saracen, and derided
the message of the pretended prophet of Mecca. Even the
overthrow of the Roman empire would not have opened a door
for Mohammedanism, or for the progress of the Saracenic
armed propagators of an imposture, though the monarch of
the Persians and chagan of the Avars (the successor
of Attila) had divided between them the remains of the kingdoms
of the Caesars. Chosroes himself fell. The Persian and Roman
monarchies exhausted each other's strength. And before a
sword was put into the hands of the false prophet, it was
p 497 -- smitten
from the hands of those who would have checked his career
and crushed his power.
"'Since the days of Scipio and Hannibal, no bolder
enterprise has been attempted than that which Heraclius
achieved for the deliverance of the empire. He explored
his perilous way through the Black Sea and the mountains
of Armenia, penetrated into the heart of Persia, and recalled
the armies of the great king to the defense of their bleeding
"In the battle of Nineveh, which was fiercely fought
from daybreak to the eleventh hour, twenty-eight standards,
besides those which might be broken or torn, were taken
from the Persians; the greatest part of their army was cut
in pieces, and the victors, concealing their own loss, passed
the night on the field. The cities and palaces of Assyria
were opened for the first time to the Romans."
Roman emperor was not strengthened by the conquests which
he achieved; and a way was prepared at the same time, and
by the same means, for the multitudes of Saracens from Arabia,
like locusts from the same region, who, propagating in their
course the dark and delusive Mohammedan creed, speedily
overspread both the Persian and the Roman empire.
complete illustration of this fact could not be desired
than is supplied in the concluding words of the chapter
from Gibbon, from which the preceding extracts are taken."
"Although a victorious army had been formed under the
standard of Heraclius, the unnatural effort seems to have
exhausted rather than exercised their strength. While the
emperor triumphed at Constantinople or Jerusalem, an obscure
town on the confines of Syria was pillaged by the Saracens,
and they cut in pieces some troops who advanced to its relief,
- an ordinary and trifling occurrence, had it not been the
prelude of a mighty revolution. These robbers were the apostles
of Mohammed; their frantic valor had emerged from the desert;
and in the last eight years of his reign, Heraclius lost
to the Arabs the same provinces which he had rescued from
spirit of fraud and enthusiasm, whose abode is not
p 498 --
in the heavens,' was let loose on earth. The bottomless
pit needed but a key to open it, and that key was the
fall of Chosroes. He had contemptuously torn the letter
of an obscure citizen of Mecca. But when from his 'blaze
of glory' he sunk into the ' tower of darkness' which no
eye could penetrate, the name of Chosroes was suddenly to
pass into oblivion before that of Mohammed; and the crescent
seemed but to wait its rising till the falling of the star.
Chosroes, after his entire discomfiture and loss of empire,
was murdered in the year 628; and the year 629 is marked
by 'the conquest of Arabia,' and 'the first war of the Mohammedans
against the Roman empire.' 'And the fifth
angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the
earth; and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.
And he opened the bottomless pit.' He fell unto the
earth. When the strength of the Roman empire was exhausted,
and the great king of the East lay dead in his tower of
darkness, the pillage of an obscure town on the borders
of Syria was 'the prelude of a mighty revolution.' 'The
robbers were the apostles of Mohammed, and their frantic
valor emerged from the desert.'"
Bottomless Pit. - The
meaning of this term may be learned from the Greek abussoV,
which is defined "deep, bottomless, profound,"
and may refer to any waste, desolate, and uncultivated place.
It is applied to the earth in its original state of chaos.
Gen. 1:2. In this instance it may appropriately refer to
the unknown wastes of the Arabian desert, from the borders
of which issued the hordes of Saracens, like swarms of locusts.
And the fall of Chosroes, the Persian king, may well be
represented as the opening of the bottomless pit, inasmuch
as it prepared the way for the followers of Mohammed to
issue from their obscure country, and propagate their delusive
doctrines with fire and sword, till they had spread their
darkness over all the Eastern empire.
2. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose
a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace;
and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke
of the pit.
the noxious and even deadly vapors which the winds, particularly
from the southwest, diffuse in Arabia, Mohammedanism
p 499 --
(Mohammed - Mohammed II ) TOP
p 500 --
spread from thence its pestilential influence, - arose as
suddenly and spread as widely as smoke arising out of the
pit, the smoke of a great furnace. Such is a suitable symbol
of the religion of Mohammed, of itself, or as compared with
the pure light of the gospel of Jesus. It was not, like
the latter, a light from heaven, but a smoke out of the
there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and
unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth
false religion was set up, which, although the scourge of
transgressions and idolatry, filled the world with darkness
and delusion; and swarms of Saracens, like locusts, overspread
the earth, and speedily extended their ravages over the
Roman empire from east to west. The hail descended from
the frozen shores of the Baltic; the burning mountain fell
upon the sea from Africa; and the locusts (the fit symbol
of the Arabs) issued from Arabia, their native region. They
came as destroyers, propagating a new doctrine, and stirred
up to rapine and violence by motives of interest and religion.
still more specific illustration may be given of the power
like unto that of scorpions, which was given them. Not only
was their attack speedy and vigorous, but 'the nice sensibility
of honor, which weighs the insult rather than the injury,
shed its deadly venom on the quarrels of the Arabs; an indecent
action, a contemptuous word, can be expiated only by the
blood of the offender; and such is their patient inveteracy,
that they expect whole months and years the opportunity
4. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt
the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither
any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of
God in their foreheads.
the death of Mohammed, he was succeeded in the command by
A. D. 632, who, as soon as he had fairly established his
authority and government, dispatched a
circular letter to the Arabian tribes, from which
the following is an extract: - "'When
you fight the battles of the Lord, acquit yourselves
p 501 -- like
men, without turning your backs; but let not your victory
be stained with the blood of women and children. Destroy
no palm-trees, nor burn any fields of corn. Cut down no
fruit-trees, nor do any mischief to cattle, only such as
you kill to eat. When you make any covenant or article,
stand to it, and be as good as your word. And as you go,
you will find some religious persons who live retired in
monasteries, and propose to themselves to serve God that
way; let them alone, and neither kill them nor destroy their
monasteries. And you will find another sort of people that
belong to the synagogue of Satan, who have shaven crowns;
be sure you cleave their skulls, and give them no quarter
till they either turn Mohammedans or pay tribute.'
is not said in prophecy or in history that the more humane
injunctions were as scrupulously obeyed as the ferocious
mandate; but it was so commanded them. And the preceding
are the only instructions recorded by Gibbon, as given by
Abubekr to the chiefs whose duty it was to issue the commands
to all the Saracen hosts. The commands are alike discriminating
with the prediction, as if the caliph himself had been acting
in known as well as direct obedience to a higher mandate
than that of mortal man; and in the very act of going forth
to fight against the religion of Jesus, and to propagate
Mohammedanism in its stead, he repeated the words which
it was foretold in the Revelation of Jesus Christ that he
The Seal of God in Their Foreheads. - In
remarks upon chapter 7:1-3, we have shown that the seal
of God is the Sabbath of the fourth commandment; and history
is not silent upon the fact that there have been observers
of the true Sabbath all through the present dispensation.
But the question has here arisen with many, Who were those
men who at this time had the seal of God in their foreheads,
and who thereby became exempt from Mohammedan oppression?
Let the reader bear in mind the fact, already alluded to,
that there have been those all through this dispensation
who have had the seal of God in their foreheads, or have
been intelligent observers of the true Sabbath; and let
them consider further
p 502 -- that what the
prophecy asserts is that the attacks of this desolating
Turkish power are not directed against them, but against
another class. The subject is thus freed from all difficulty;
for this is all that the prophecy really asserts. Only,
one class of persons is directly brought to view in the
text; namely, those who have not the seal of God in their
foreheads; and the preservation of those who have the seal
of God is brought in only by implication. Accordingly, we
do not learn from history that any of these were involved
in any of the calamities inflicted by the Saracens upon
the objects of their hate. They were commissioned against
another class of men. And the destruction to come upon this
class of men is not put in contrast with the preservation
of other men, but only with that of the fruits and verdure
of the earth; thus, Hurt not the grass, trees, nor any green
thing, but only a certain class of men. And in fulfilment,
we have the strange spectacle of an army of invaders sparing
those things which such armies usually destroy, namely,
the face and productions of nature; and, in pursuance of
their permission to hurt those men who had not the seal
of God in their foreheads, cleaving the skulls of a class
of religionists with shaven crowns, who belonged to the
synagogue of Satan.
These were doubtless a class
of monks, or some other division of the Roman Catholic Church.
Against these the arms of the Mohammedans were directed.
And it seems to us that there is a peculiar fitness, if
not design, in describing them as those who had not the
seal of God in their foreheads; inasmuch as that is the
very church which has robbed the law of God of its seal,
by tearing away the true Sabbath, and erecting a counterfeit
in its place. And we do not understand, either from the
prophecy or from history, that those persons whom Abubekr
charged his followers not to molest were in possession of
the seal of God, or necessarily constituted the people of
God. Who they were, and for what reason they were spared,
the meager testimony of Gibbon does not inform us, and we
have no other means of knowing; but we have every reason
to believe that none of those who had the seal of God were
molested, while another class, who emphatically had it not,
p 503 --
Saracen Warrior) TOP
p 504 -- put to the
sword; and thus the specifications of the prophecy are amply
to them it was given that they should not kill them, but
that they should be tormented five months; and their torment
was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.
constant incursions into the Roman territory, and frequent
assaults on Constantinople itself, were an unceasing torment
throughout the empire; and yet they were not able effectually
to subdue it, notwithstanding the long period, afterward
more directly alluded to, during which they continued, by
unremitting attacks, grievously to afflict an idolatrous
church, of which the pope was the head. Their charge was
to torment, and then to hurt, but not to kill, or utterly
destroy. The marvel was that they did not." (
In reference to the five months, see on verse 10.)
6. And in those days shall men seek death, and shall
not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee
were weary of life, when life was spared only for a renewal
of woe, and when all that they accounted sacred was violated,
and all that they held dear constantly endangered, and the
savage Saracens domineered over them, or left them only
to a momentary repose, ever liable to be suddenly or violently
interrupted, as if by the sting of a scorpion."
7. And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses
prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were
crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.
Arabian horse takes the lead throughout the world and skill
in horsemanship is the art and science of Arabia. And the
barbed Arabs, swift as locusts and armed like scorpions,
ready to dart away in a moment, were ever prepared unto
on their heads were as it were crowns like gold.' When Mohammed
entered Medina (A. D. 622), and was first received as its
prince, 'a turban was ufurled before him to supply the deficiency
of a standard.' The turbans of the Saracens, like unto a
coronet, were their ornament and their
p 505 --
boast. The rich booty abundantly supplied and frequently
renewed them. To assume the turban is proverbially to turn
Mussulman. And the Arabs were anciently distinguished by
the miters which they wore.
their faces were as the faces of men.' 'The
gravity and firmness of the mind of the Arab is conspicuous
in his outward demeanor; his only gesture is that of stroking
his beard, the venerable symbol of manhood.' 'The
honor of their beards is most easily wounded.'"
8. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their
teeth were as the teeth of lions. TOP
"Long hair" is esteemed
an ornament by women. The Arabs, unlike other men, had their
hair as the hair of women, or uncut, as their practice is
recorded by Pliny and others. But there was nothing effeminate
in their character; for, as denoting their ferocity and
strength to devour, their teeth were as the teeth of lions.
9. And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates
of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of
chariots of many horses running to battle.
Breastplate. - "The cuirass (or breastplate)
was in use among the Arabs in the days of Mohammed. In the
battle of Ohud (the second which Mohammed fought) with the
Koreish of Mecca (A. D. 624), 'seven hundred of them were
armed with cuirasses.'"
Sound of Their Wings. - "The
charge of the Arabs was not, like that of the Greeks and
Romans, the efforts of a firm and compact infantry; their
military force was chiefly formed of cavalry and archers.
With a touch of the hand, the Arab horses darted away with
the swiftness of the wind. "The sound of their wings
was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle."
Their conquests were marvelous both in rapidity and extent,
and their attack was instantaneous. Nor was it less successful
against the Romans than the Persians."
10. And thy had tails like unto scorpions, and there
were strings in their tails: and their power was to hurt
men five months.
p 506 -- 11.
And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the
bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon,
but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.
Thus far, Keith has furnished
us with illustrations of the sounding of the first five
trumpets. But we must now take leave of him, and proceed
to the application of the new feature of the prophecy here
introduced; namely, the prophetic periods.
Power Was to Hurt Men Five Months. - 1.
The question arises, What men were they to hurt
five months? - Undoubtedly the same they were afterward
to slay (see verse 15); "the third part of men,"
or third of the Roman empire, - the Greek division of it.
were they to begin their work of torment? The 11th verse
answers the question.
"They had a king over them." From the death of
Mohammed until near the close of the thirteenth century,
the Mohammedans were divided into various factions under
several leaders, with no general
civil government extending over them all. Near the close
of the thirteenth century, Othman founded a government which
has since been known as the Ottoman government, or empire,
which grew until it extended over all the principal Mohammedan
tribes, consolidating them into one grand monarchy.
The character of the king. "Which is the angel of the
bottomless pit." An angel signifies a messenger, a
minister, either good or bad, and not always a spiritual
being. "The angel of the bottomless pit," or chief
minister of the religion which came from thence when it
was opened. That religion is Mohammedanism, and the sultan
is its chief minister. "The Sultan, or grand Seignior,
as he is indifferently called, is also Supreme Caliph, or
high priest, uniting in his person the highest spiritual
dignity with the supreme secular authority." - World
As It Is, p. 361. TOP
His name. In Hebrew, "Abaddon," the destroyer;
in Greek, "Apollyon," one that exterminates, or
destroys. Having two different names in two languages, it
is evident that the character, rather than the name of the
power, is intended to be represented. If so, as expressed
in both languages,
p 507 -- he is a destroyer.
Such has always been the character of the Ottoman government.
when did Othman make his first assault on the
Greek empire? - According to Gibbon, Decline and Fall,
first entered the territory of Nicomedia on the 27th day
of July, 1299."
The calculations of some writers
have gone upon the supposition that the period should begin
with the foundation of the Ottoman empire; but this is evidently
an error; for they were not only to have a king over them,
but were to torment men five months. But the period of torment
could not begin before the first attack of the tormentors,
which was, as above stated, July 27, 1299.
The calculation which follows,
founded on this starting-point, was made and published in
a work entitled, Christ's Second Coming, etc., by
J. Litch, in 1838.
"And their power was
to hurt men five months." Thus far their commission
extended, to torment by constant depredations, but not politically
to kill them. "Five months," thirty days to a
month, give us one hundred and fifty days; and these days,
being symbolic, signify one hundred and fifty years. Commencing
July 27, 1299, the one hundred and fifty years reach to
1449. During that whole period the Turks were engaged in
an almost perpetual warfare with the Greek empire, but yet
without conquering it. They seized upon and held
several of the Greek provinces, but still Greek independence
was maintained in Constantinople. But in 1449, the termination
of the one hundred and fifty years, a change came, the history
of which will be found under the succeeding trumpet.
One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.
13. And the sixth angel sounded, and
I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar
which is before God, 14. Saying
to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four
angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. 15.
And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for
an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay
the third part of men.
The first woe was to continue
from the rise of Mohammedanism until the end of the five
months. Then the first woe
p 508 -- was to end,
and the second to begin. And when the sixth angel sounded,
it was commanded to take off the restraints which had been
imposed on the nation, by which they were restricted to
the work of tormenting men, and their commission was enlarged
so as to permit them to slay the third part of men. This
command came from the four horns of the golden altar. TOP
Four Angels. - These were the four principal
sultanies of which the Ottoman empire was composed, located
in the country watered by the great river Euphrates. These
sultanies were situated at Aleppo, Iconium, Damascus, and
Bagdad. Previously they had been restrained; but God commanded,
and they were loosed.
In the year 1449, John Palaeologus,
the Greek emperor, died, but left no children to inherit
his throne, and Constantine, his brother, succeeded to it.
he would not venture to ascend the throne without the consent
of Amurath, the Turkish sultan. He therefore sent ambassadors
to ask his consent, and obtained it before he presumed to
call himself sovereign.
Let this historical fact be
carefully examined in connection with the prediction given
above. This was not a violent assault made on the Greeks,
by which their empire was overthrown and their independence
taken away, but simply a voluntary surrender of that independence
into the hands of' the Turks. The authority and supremacy
of the Turkish power was acknowledged when Constantine virtually
said, "I cannot reign unless you permit."
The four angels were loosed
for an hour, a day, a month, and a year, to slay the third
part of men. This period, during which Ottoman supremacy
was to exist, amounts to three hundred ninety-one years
and fifteen days. Thus: A prophetic year is three hundred
and sixty prophetic days, or three hundred and sixty literal
years; a prophetic month, thirty prophetic days, is thirty
literal years; one prophetic day is one
historians have given this date as 1448, but the best authorities
sustain the date here given, 1449. See Chamber's Encyclopedia,
p 509 -- literal year;
and an hour, or the twenty-fourth part of a prophetic day,
would be a twenty-fourth part of a literal year, or fifteen
days; the whole amounting to three hundred and ninety-one
years and fifteen days.
But although the four angels
were thus loosed by the voluntary submission of the Greeks,
yet another doom awaited the seat of empire. Amurath, the
sultan to whom the submission of Constantine XIII was made,
and by whose permission he reigned in Constantinople, soon
after died, and was succeeded in the empire, in 1451, by
Mohammed II, who set his heart on securing Constantinople
as the seat of his empire.
He accordingly made preparations
for besieging and taking the city. The siege commenced on
the 6th of April, 1453, and ended in the capture of the
city, and the death of the last of the Constantines, on
the 16th day of May following. And the eastern city of the
Caesars became the seat of the Ottoman empire.
The arms and mode of warfare
which were used in the siege in which Constantinople was
to be overthrown and held in subjection were, as we shall
see, distinctly noticed by the Revelator.
16. And the number of the army of the horsemen were
two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of
Innumerable hordes of horses,
and them that sat on them!
thus describes the first invasion of the Roman territories
by the Turks:
"The myriads of Turkish horse overspread a frontier
of six hundred miles, from Taurus to Erzeroum; and the blood
of 130,000 Christians was a grateful sacrifice to the Arabian
Whether the language is designed to convey the idea of any
definite number or not, the reader must judge. Some suppose
200,000 twice told is meant, and, following some historians,
they find that number of Turkish warriors in the siege of
Constantinople. Some think 200,000,000 to mean all the Turkish
warriors during the three hundred and ninety-one years and
fifteen days of their triumph over the Greeks. Nothing can
be affirmed on the point. And it is nothing at all essential.
p 510 -- VERSE
17. And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them
that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth,
and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads
of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke
The first part of this description
may have reference to the appearance of these horsemen.
Fire, representing a color, stands for red, "as red
as fire" being a frequent term of expression; jacinth,
or hyacinth, for blue; and brimstone, for yellow. And these
colors greatly predominated in the dress of these warriors;
so that the description, according to this view, would be
accurately met in the Turkish uniform, which was composed
largely of red, or scarlet, blue, and yellow. The heads
of the horses were in appearance as the heads of lions,
to denote their strength, courage, and fierceness; while
the last part of the verse undoubtedly has reference to
the use of gunpowder and firearms for purposes of war, which
were then but recently introduced. As the Turks discharged
their firearms on horseback, it would appear to the distant
beholder that the fire, smoke, and brimstone issued out
of the horses' mouths, as illustrated by the accompanying
Respecting the use of firearms
by the Turks in their campaign against Constantinople,
(Horae Apocalypticae, Vol. I, pp. 482-484)
thus speaks: - "It
was to 'the fire and the smoke and the sulpher,' to the
artillery and firearms of Mahomet, that the killing of the
third part of men, i. e., the capture of Constantinople,
and by consequence the destruction of the Greek empire,
was owing. Eleven hundred years, and more had now elapsed
since her foundation by Constantine. In the course of them,
Goths, Huns, Avars, Persians, Bulgarians, Saracens, Russians,
an agreement exists among commentators in applying the prophecy
concerning the fire, smoke, and brimstone to the use of
gunpowder by the Turks in their warfare against the Eastern
empire. (See Clarke, Barnes, Elliott, Cottage Bible,
etc.) But they generally allude simply to the heavy ordnance,
the large cannon, employed by that power; whereas the prophecy
mentions especially the "horses," and the fire
"issuing from their mouths," as though smaller
arms were used, and used on horseback. Barnes thinks this
was the case; and a statement from Gibbon confirms this
view. He says (IV, 343): "The incessant volleys of
lances and arrows were accompanied with the smoke, the sound,
and the fire of their musketry and cannon." Here is
good historical evidence that muskets were used by the Turks;
and, secondly, it is undisputed that in their general warfare
they fought principally on horseback. The inference is therefore
well supported that they used firearms on horseback, accurately
fulfilling the prophecy, according to the illustration above
p 511 --
(Turkish Warrior) TOP
p 512 --
the Ottoman Turks themselves, had made their hostile assaults,
or laid siege against it. But the fortifications were impregnable
by them. Constantinople survived, and with it the Greek
empire. Hence the anxiety of the Sultan Mahomet to find
that which would remove the obstacle. 'Canst thou cast a
cannon,' was his question to the founder of cannon that
deserted to him, 'of size sufficient to batter down the
wall of Constantinople?' Then the foundry was established
at Adrianople, the cannon cast, the artillery prepared,
and the siege began.
well deserves remark, how Gibbon, always the unconscious
commentator on the Apocalyptic prophecy, puts this new instrumentality
of war into the foreground of his picture, in his eloquent
and striking narrative of the final catastrophe of the Greek
empire. In preparation for it, he gives the history of the
recent invention of gunpowder, 'that mixture of saltpeter,
sulphur, and charcoal,' tells of its earlier use by the
Sultan Amurath, and also, as before said, of Mahomet's foundry
of larger cannon at Adrianople; then, in the progress of
the siege itself, describes how 'the volleys of lances and
arrows were accompanied with the smoke, the sound, and the
fire of the musketry and cannon;' how 'the long order of
the Turkish artillery was pointed against the walls, fourteen
batteries thundering at once on the most accessible places;'
how 'the fortifications which had stood for ages against
hostile violence were dismantled on all sides by the Ottoman
cannon, many breaches opened, and near the gate of St. Romanus,
four towers leveled with the ground:' how, as 'from the
lines, the galleys, and the bridge, the Ottoman artillery
thundered on all sides, the camp and city, the Greeks and
the Turks, were involved in a cloud of smoke, which could
only be dispelled by the final deliverance or destruction
of the Roman empire:' how 'the double walls were reduced
by the cannon to a heap of ruins:' and how the Turks at
length 'rushing through the breaches,' 'Constantinople was
subdued, her empire subverted, and her religion trampled
in the dust by the Moslem conquerors.' I say it well deserves
observation how markedly and strikingly Gibbon attributes
the capture of the city, and
p 513 --
(Entry of Mohammed II, Into Constantinople)
p 514 -- so
the destruction of the empire, to the Ottoman artillery.
For what, is it but a comment on the words of our prophecy?
'By these three was the third part of men killed, by the
fire, and by the smoke, and by the sulphur, which issued
out of their mouths.'"
18. By these three was the third part of men killed,
by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which
issued out of their mouths. 19. For
their power is in their month, and in their tails; for their
tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them
they do hurt.
These verses express the deadly
effect of the new mode of warfare introduced. It was by
means of these agents, - gunpowder, firearms, and cannon,
- that Constantinople was finally overcome, and given into
the hands of the Turks.
In addition to the fire, smoke,
and brimstone, which apparently issued out of their mouths,
it is said that their power was also in their tails. It
is a remarkable fact that the horse's tail is a well-known
Turkish standard, a symbol of office and authority. The
meaning of the expression appears to be that their tails
were the symbol, or emblem of their authority. The image
before the mind of John would seem to have been that he
saw the horses belching out fire and smoke, and, what was
equally strange, he saw that their power of spreading desolation
was connected with the tails of the horses. Any one looking
on a body of cavalry with such banners, or ensigns, would
be struck with this unusual or remarkable appearance, and
would speak of their banners as concentrating and directing
their power. TOP
This supremacy of the Mohammedans
over the Greeks was to continue, as already noticed, three
hundred and ninety-one years and fifteen days. Commencing
when the one hundred and fifty years ended, July 27, 1449,
the period would end Aug. 11, 1840. Judging from the manner
of the commencement of the Ottoman supremacy, that it was
by a voluntary acknowledgment on the part of the Greek emperor
that he reigned only by permission of the Turkish sultan,
we should naturally conclude that the fall or departure
of the Ottoman independence would be brought about in the
same way; that at
p 515 -- the end of
the specified period, that is, on the 11th of August, 1840,
the sultan would voluntarily surrender his independence
into the hands of the Christian powers, just as he had,
three hundred and ninety-one years and fifteen days before,
received it from the hands of the Christian emperor, Constantine
This conclusion was reached,
and this application of the prophecy was made by Elder J.
Litch in 1838, two years before the predicted event was
to occur. It was then purely a matter of calculation on
the prophetic periods of Scripture. Now, however, the time
has passed by, and it is proper to inquire what the result
has been - whether such events did transpire according to
the previous calculation. The matter sums itself up in the
following inquiry: -
Did Mohammedan Independence in Constantinople Depart? -
For several years previous to 1840, the sultan
had been embroiled in war with Mehemet Ali, pasha of Egypt.
In 1838 the trouble between the sultan and his Egyptian
vassal was for the time being restrained by the influence
of the foreign ambassadors. In 1839, however, hostilities
were again commenced, and were prosecuted until, in a general
battle between the armies of the sultan and Mehemet, the
sultan's army was entirely cut up and destroyed, and his
fleet taken by Mehemet and carried into Egypt. So completely
had the sultan's fleet been reduced, that, when the war
again commenced in August, he had only two first-rates and
three frigates as the sad remains of the once powerful Turkish
fleet. This fleet Mehemet positively refused to give up
and return to the sultan, and declared that if the powers
attempted to take it from him, he would burn it. In this
posture affairs stood, when, in 1840, England, Russia, Austria,
and Prussia interposed, and determined on a settlement of
the difficulty; for it was evident that, if let alone, Mehemet
would soon become master of the sultan's throne.
The sultan accepted this intervention
of the great powers, and thus made a voluntary surrender
of the question into their hands. A conference of these
powers was held in London, the Sheik Effendi Bey Likgis
being present as Ottoman plenipotentiary. An agreement was
drawn up to be presented to
p 516 -- the pasha of
Egypt, whereby the sultan was to offer him the hereditary
government of Egypt, and all that part of Syria extending
from the Gulf of Suez to the Lake of Tiberias, together
with the province of Acre, for life; he on his part to evacuate
all other parts of the sultan's dominions then occupied
by him, and to return the Ottoman fleet. In case he refused
this offer from the sultan, the four powers were to take
the matter into their own hands, and use such other means
to bring him to terms as they should see fit.
It is apparent that just as
soon as this ultimatum should be put by the sultan into
the hands of Mehemet Ali, the matter would be forever beyond
the control of the former, and the disposal of his affairs
would, from that moment, be in the hands of foreign powers.
The sultan despatched Rifat Bey on a government steamer
to Alexandria, to communicate the ultimatum to the pasha.
It was put into his hands, and by him taken in charge, on
the eleventh day of August, 1840! On the same
day, a note was addressed by the sultan to the ambassadors
of the four powers, inquiring what plan was to be adopted
in case the pasha should refuse to comply with the terms
of the ultimatum, to which they made answer that provision
had been made, and there
was no necessity of his alarming himself about any contingency
that might arise. This day, the period of three
hundred and ninety-one years and fifteen days, allotted
to the continuance of the Ottoman power, ended; and where
was the sultan's independence? - GONE! Who had
the supremacy of the Ottoman empire in their hands? - The
four great powers; and that empire has existed
ever since only by the sufferance
of these Christian powers. Thus was the prophecy fulfilled
to the very letter.
From the first publication
of the calculation of this matter in 1838, before referred
to, the time set for the fulfilment of the prophecy - Aug.
11, 1840 - was watched by thousands with intense interest.
And the exact accomplishment of the event predicted, showing,
as it did, the right application of the prophecy, gave a
mighty impetus to the great Advent movement then beginning
to attract the attention of the world.
p 517 -- VERSE
And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues
yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they
should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver,
and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see,
nor hear, nor walk: 21. Neither
repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries,
nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
God designs that men shall
make a note of his judgments, and receive the lessons he
thereby designs to convey. But how slow are they to learn!
and how blind to the indications of providence! The events
that transpired under the sixth trumpet constituted the
second woe; yet these judgments led to no improvement in
the manners and morals of men. Those who escaped them learned
nothing by their manifestation in the earth. The worship
of devils (demons, dead men deified) and of idols of gold,
silver, brass, stone, and wood, may find a fulfilment in
the saint worship
worship of the Roman Catholic Church; while of murders,
sorceries, (pretended miracles through the agency of departed
saints), fornications, and thefts in countries where the
Roman religion has prevailed, there has been no lack.
The hordes of Saracens and
Turks were let loose as a scourge and punishment upon apostate
Christendom. Men suffered the punishment, but learned therefrom
no lesson. TOP
Proclamation of the Advent
518 -- VERSE
And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed
with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face
was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire.
2. And he had in his hand a little
book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his
left foot on the earth.
In this scripture we have another
instance in which the consecutive line of thought is for
a time interrupted; and this chapter comes in as -
Parenthetical Prophecy. - Chapter 9 closed with
the events of the sixth trumpet. The sounding of the seventh
trumpet is not introduced until we reach the 15th verse
of chapter 11. The whole of chapter 10 and a portion of
chapter 11, therefore, come in parenthetically between the
sixth and seventh trumpets. That which is particularly connected
with the sounding of the sixth trumpet is recorded in chapter
9. The prophet has other events to introduce before the
opening of another trumpet, and takes occasion to do it
in the scripture which intervenes to the 15th verse of chapter
11. Among these is the prophecy of chapter 10. Let us first
look at the chronology of the message of this angel.
Little Book. - "He had in his hand a little
There is a necessary inference to be drawn from this language,
which is, that this book was at some time closed up. We
read in Daniel of a book which was closed up and sealed
to a certain time: "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the
words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many
shall run to and fro,
p 519 --
(The Angel On Sea and Land - Rev 10:2)
p 520 -- and knowledge
shall be increased." Dan. 12:4. Since this book was
closed up only till
the time of the end, it follows that at
the time of the end the book would be opened; and as this
closing was mentioned in prophecy, it would be but reasonable
to expect that in the predictions of events to take place
at the time of the end, the opening
of this book would also be mentioned. There is
no book spoken of as closed up and sealed except the book
of Daniel's prophecy; and there is no account of the opening
of that book, unless it be here in the 10th of Revelation.
We see, furthermore, that in both places the contents ascribed
to the book are the same. The book which Daniel had directions
to close up and seal had reference to time: "How long
shall it be to the end of these wonders?" And when
the angel of this chapter comes down with the little book
open, on which he bases his proclamation, he gives a message
in relation to time: "Time shall be no longer."
Nothing more could be required to show that both expressions
refer to one book, and to prove that the little book which
the angel had in his hand open, was the book of the prophecy
An important point is now determined
toward settling the chronology of this angel; for we have
seen that the prophecy, more particularly the prophetic
periods of Daniel, were not to be opened till the time of
the end; and if this is the book which the angel had in
his hand open,
it follows that he proclaims his message this side of the
time when the book should be opened, or somewhere this side
of the commencement of the time of the end. All that now
remains on this point is to ascertain when the time of the
end commenced; and the book of Daniel itself furnishes data
from which this can be done. In Daniel 11, from verse 30,
the papal power is brought to view. In verse 35 we read,
"And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try
them, and to purge, and make them white, even
to the time of the end." Here is brought
to view the period of the supremacy of the little horn,
during which time the saints, times, and laws were to be
given into his hand, and from him suffer fearful persecutions.
This is declared to reach to the time of the end. It ended
A. D. 1798, where the
p 521 -- 1260 years
of papal rule expired. There the time of the end commenced,
and the book was opened. And since that time, many have
run to and fro, and knowledge on these prophetic subjects
has marvelously increased. TOP
The chronology of the events
of Revelation 10 is further ascertained from the fact that
this angel is identical with the first angel of Revelation
14. The points of identity between them are easily seen:
(1) They both have a special message
to proclaim; (2) they
both utter their proclamation with a loud voice; (3)
they both use similar language, referring to the great Creator
as the maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and the things
that are therein; and (4)
they both proclaim time, one swearing that time should be
no more, and the other proclaiming that the hour of God's
judgment has come. But the message of Rev. 14:6 is located
this side of the commencement of the time of the end. It
is a proclamation of the hour of God's judgment come, and
hence must have its application in the last generation.
Paul did not preach the hour of judgment come. Luther and
his coadjutors did not preach it. Paul reasoned of a judgment
to come, indefinitely future; and Luther placed it at least
three hundred years off from his day. Moreover, Paul warns
the church against any such preaching as that the hour of
God's judgment has come, until a certain time. In 2 Thess.
2:1-3, he says: "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the
coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together
unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled,
neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us,
as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive
you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there
come a falling away first, and that man
of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,"
etc. Here Paul introduces to our view the man of sin, the
little horn, the papacy, and covers with a caution the whole
period of his supremacy, which, as already noticed, continued
1260 years, ending in 1798. In 1798, therefore, the restriction
against proclaiming the day of Christ at hand ceased; in
1798, the time of the end commenced, and the seal was taken
from the little book. Since that period, therefore, the
angel of Revelation 14 has gone
p 522 --
(Preaching the Advent Message in Norway)
p 523 -- forth proclaiming
the hour of God's judgment come; and it is since that time,
too, that the angel of chapter 10 has taken his stand on
sea and land, and sworn that time shall be no more. Of their
identity there can now be no question; and all the arguments
which go to locate the one, are equally effective in the
case of the other. We need not enter into any argument here
to show that the present generation is witnessing the fulfilment
of these two prophecies. In the preaching of the advent,
more especially from 1840 to 1844, began their full and
circumstantial accomplishment. The position of this angel,
one foot upon the sea and the other on the land, denotes
the wide extent of his proclamation by sea and by land.
Had this message been designed for only one country, it
would have been sufficient for the angel to take his position
on the land only. But he has one foot upon the sea, from
which we may infer that his message would cross the ocean,
and extend to the various nations and divisions of the globe;
and this inference is strengthened by the fact that the
Advent proclamation, above referred to, did go to every
missionary station in the world. More on this under chapter
And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and
when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices.
4. And when the seven thunders
had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard
a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things
which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.
Seven Thunders. - It would be vain to
speculate to any great length upon the seven thunders, in
hope of gaining a definite knowledge of what they uttered.
We must acquiesce in the directions given to John concerning
them, and leave them where he left them, sealed up, unwritten,
and consequently to us unknown. There is, however, a conjecture
extant in relation to them, which may not inappropriately
be mentioned here. It is that what the seven thunders uttered
is the experience of the Adventists engaged in that movement,
embracing their sore disappointment and trial. Something,
evidently, was uttered which it would not be well for the
church to know; and for God to have given an inspired record
of the Advent movement in advance, would have been simply
p 524 -- to defeat that
movement, which we verily believe was in all its particulars
an accomplishment of his purposes, and according to his
will. Why, then, any mention of the seven thunders at all?
Following out the above noticed conjecture, the conclusion
would be that we, having met in our history with sudden,
mysterious, and unexpected events, as startling and strange
as thunders from an unclouded sky, might not give up in
utter perplexity, inferring, as we may, that all is in the
order and providence of God, since something of this nature
was sealed up, and hidden from the church. TOP
5. And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and
upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven,
6. And sware by him that liveth
forever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that
therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein
are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that
there should be time no longer.
No Longer. - What is the meaning of this most
solemn declaration? It cannot mean that with the message
of this angel, time, as computed in this world, in comparison
with eternity, should end; for the next verse speaks of
of the voice of the seventh angel; and chapter 11:15-19
gives us some of the events to take place under this trumpet,
which transpire in the present state. And it cannot mean
probationary time; for that does not cease till Christ closes
his work as priest, which is not till after the seventh
angel has commenced to sound. Rev. 11:15, 19; 15:5-8. It
must therefore mean prophetic time; for there is no other
to which it can refer. Prophetic time shall be no more -
not that time should never be used in a prophetic sense;
for the "days of the voice of the seventh angel,"
spoken of immediately after, doubtless mean the years
of the seventh angel; but no prophetic period should extend
beyond this message; those that reach to the latest point
would all close there. Arguments on the prophetic periods,
showing that the longest ones did not extend beyond the
autumn of 1844, will be found in remarks on Dan. 8:14.
in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall
begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as
he hath declared to his servants the prophets.
p 525 --
Days of the Voice of the Seventh Angel. - This
seventh trumpet is not that which is spoken of in 1 Cor.
15:52 as the last trump, which wakes the sleeping dead;
but it is the seventh of the series of the seven trumpets,
and like the others of this series, occupies days (years)
in sounding. In the days when he shall begin to sound, the
mystery of God shall be finished. Not in the day when he
shall begin to sound, not in the very commencement of his
sounding, but in the early years of his sounding, the mystery
of God shall be finished.
of the Seventh Trumpet. - From the events to
take place under the sounding of the seventh trumpet, its
commencement may be located with sufficient definiteness
at the close of the prophetic periods in 1844. Not many
years from that date, then, the mystery of God is to be
finished. The great event, whatever it is, is right upon
us. Some closing and decisive work, with whatever of importance
and solemnity it bears in its train, is near at hand. There
is an importance connected with the finishing of any of
the works of God. Such an act marks a solemn and important
era. Our Saviour, when expiring upon the cross, cried, "It
is finished" (John 19:30); and when the great work
of mercy for fallen man is completed, it will be announced
by a voice from the throne of God, proclaiming, in tones
which roll like thunder through all the earth, the solemn
sentence, "It is done!" Rev. 16:17. It is therefore
no uncalled-for solicitude which prompts us to inquire what
bearing such events have upon our eternal hopes and interests;
and, when we read of the finishing of the mystery of God,
to ask what that mystery is, and in what its finishing consists.
Mystery of God. - A few direct testimonies from
that Book which has been given as a lamp to our feet, will
show what this mystery is. Eph. 1:9, 10: "Having made
known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his
good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in
the dispensation or the fulness of times he might gather
together in one all things in Christ, both which are in
heaven, and which are on earth; even in him." Here
God's purpose to gather together all in Christ is called
the "mystery" of his will. This is accomplished
p 526 -- through the
gospel. Eph. 6:19 "And for me [Paul asks that prayers
be made], that utterance may be given unto me, that I may
open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel."
Here the gospel is declared plainly to be a mystery. It
is called in Col. 4:3, the mystery of Christ. Eph. 3:3,
6: "How that by revelation he made known unto me the
mystery (as I wrote afore in few words)," etc., "that
the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body,
and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel."
Paul here declares that the mystery was made known to him
by revelation, as he had before written. In this he refers
to his Epistle to the Galatians, where he recorded what
had been given him "by revelation," in these words:
"But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel
which was preached of me is not after man; for
I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but
by the revelation
of Jesus Christ." Gal. 1:11, 12. Here Paul
tells us plainly that what he received through revelation
was the gospel. In Eph. 3:3, he calls it the
mystery made known to him by revelation, as he
had written before. The Epistle to the Galatians was written
in A. D. 58, and that to the Ephesians in A. D. 64. TOP
In view of these testimonies,
few will be disposed to deny that the mystery of God is
the gospel. It is the same, then, as if the angel had declared,
In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall
begin to sound, the gospel
shall be finished. But what is the finishing of the gospel?
Let us first inquire for what it was given. It was given
to take out from the nations a people for God's name. Acts
15:14. Its finishing must, as a matter of course, be the
close of this work. It will be finished when the number
of God's people is made up, mercy ceases to be offered,
and probation closes.
The subject is now before us
in all its magnitude. Such is the momentous work to be accomplished
in the early days of the voice of the seventh angel, whose
trumpet notes have been reverberating through the world
since the memorable epoch of 1844. God is not slack; his
work is not uncertain; are we ready for the issue?
p 527 -- VERSE
And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again,
and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the
hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the
earth. 9. And I went
unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book.
And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall
make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet
as honey. 10. And I took the little
book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was
in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it,
my belly was bitter.
In verse 8, John himself is
brought in to act a part as a representative of the church,
probably on acount of the succeeding peculiar experience
of the church, which the Lord of the prophecy would cause
to be put on record, but which could not well be presented
under the symbol of an angel. When only a straightforward
proclamation is brought to view, without including the peculiar
experience which the church is to pass through in connection
therewith, angels may be used as symbols to represent the
religious teachers who proclaim that message, as in Revelation
14; but when some particular experience of the church is
to be presented, the case is manifestly different. This
could most appropriately be set forth in the person of some
member of the human family; hence John is himself called
upon to act a part in this symbolic representation. And
this being the case, the angel who here appeared to John
may represent that divine messenger, who, in the order which
is observed in all the work of God, has charge of this message;
or he may be introduced for the purpose of representing
the nature of the message, and the source from which it
There are not a few now living
who have in their own experience met a striking fulfilment
of these verses, in the joy with which they received the
message of Christ's immediate second coming, the honey-like
sweetness of the precious truths then brought out, and the
sadness and pain that followed, when at the appointed time
in 1844 the Lord did not come, but a great disappointment
did. A mistake had been made which apparently involved the
integrity of the little book they had been eating. What
had been so like honey to their taste, suddenly became like
wormwood and gall. But those who had patience
p 528 -- to endure,
so to speak, the digesting process, soon learned that the
mistake was only in the event, not in the time, and that
what the angel had given them was not unto death, but to
their nourishment and support. (See the same facts brought
to view under a similar figure in Jer. 15:16-18.)
And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many
peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.
John, standing as the representative
of the church, here receives from the angel another commission.
Another message is to go forth after the time when the first
and second messages, as leading proclamations, ceased. In
other words, we have here a prophecy of the third angel's
message, now, as we believe, in process of fulfilment. Neither
will this work be done in a corner; for it is to go before
"many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings."
(See chapter 14.) TOP
529 -- VERSE
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.
We here have a continuation
of the instruction which the angel commenced giving to John
in the preceding chapter; hence these verses properly belong
to that chapter, and should not be separated by the present
division. In the last verse of chapter 10, the angel gave
to John, as a representative of the church, a new commission.
In other words, as already shown, we have in that verse
a prophecy of the third angel's message. Now follows testimony
showing what the nature of that message is to be. It is
connected with the temple of God in heaven, and is designed
to fit up a class of people as worshipers therein. The temple
here cannot mean the church; for the church is brought to
view in connection with this temple as "them that worship
The temple is therefore the
literal temple in heaven, and the worshipers the true church
on earth. But of course these worshipers are not to be measured
in the sense of ascertaining the height and circumference
of each one in feet and inches; they are to be measured
and character can be
p 530 -- measured only
by some standard of right, namely, a law, or rule of action.
We are thus brought to the conclusion that the ten commandments,
the standard which God has given by which to measure "the
whole duty of man," are embraced in the measuring rod
put by the angel into the hands of John; and in the fulfilment
of this prophecy, this very law has been put, under the
third message, into the hands of the church. This is the
standard by which the worshipers of God are now to be tested.
Having seen what it is to measure
those who worship in the temple, we inquire further, What
is meant by measuring the temple? To measure any object
requires that we give especial attention to that object;
so, doubtless, the call to rise and measure the temple of
God is a prophetic command to the church to give the subject
of the temple, or sanctuary, a special examination. But
how is this to be done with a measuring rod given to the
church? With the ten commandments alone we could not do
it. When, however, we take the entire message, we find ourselves
led by it to an examination of the sanctuary on high, with
the commandments of God and the ministration of Christ connected
therewith. Hence we conclude that the measuring rod, taken
as a whole, is the special message now given to the church,
which embraces the great truths peculiar to this time, including
the ten commandments. By this message, our attention has
been called to the temple above, and through it the light
and truth on this subject has come out. Thus we measure
the temple and the altar, or the ministration connected
with the temple, the work and the position of our great
High Priest; and we measure the worshipers with that portion
of the rod which relates to character; namely, the ten commandments.
"But the court which is
without the temple leave out." As much as to say, The
attention of the church is now directed to the inner temple,
and the service there. Matters pertaining to the court are
of less consequence now. It is given to the Gentiles. That
the court refers to this earth is proved thus: The court
is the place where the victims were slain whose blood was
to be ministered in the sanctuary. The antitypical victim
p 531 -- must die in
the antitypical court, and he died on Calvary in Judea.
Having thus introduced the Gentiles, the attention of the
prophet is directed to the great feature of Gentile apostasy;
namely, the treading down of the holy city forty and two
months during the period of papal supremacy. He is then
directed to the condition of the word of God, the truth,
and the church during that time. Thus by an easy and natural
transition, we are carried back into the past, and our attention
is called to a new series of events. TOP
3. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and
they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore
days, clothed in sackcloth.
days are the same as the forty-two months of the preceding
verse, and refer to the period of papal triumph. During
this time, the witnesses are in a state
of sackcloth, or obscurity, and God gives them power to
endure and maintain their testimony through that dark and
dismal period. But who or what are these witnesses?
4. These are the two olive trees, and the two
candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
Evident allusion is here made
to Zech. 4:11-14, where it is explained that the two olive
trees are taken to represent the word of God; and David
testifies, "The entrance of thy words giveth light;"
and, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light
unto my path." Written testimony is stronger than oral.
Jesus declared of the Old Testament Scriptures, "They
are they which testify of me." In this dispensation,
he says that his works bear witness of him. By what means
do they bear witness of him? Ever since those disciples
who were personally associated with him while on earth passed
off the stage of life, his works have borne witness of him
only through the medium of the New Testament, where alone
we find them recorded. This gospel of the kingdom, it was
once declared, shall be preached in all the world for a
witness to all nations, etc.
These declarations and considerations
are sufficient to sustain the conclusion that the Old and
New Testaments, one given
p 532 -- in one dispensation,
and the other in the other, are Christ's two witnesses.
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.
To hurt the word of God is
to oppose, corrupt, or pervert its testimony, and turn people
away from it. Against those who do this work, fire proceedeth
out of their mouth to devour them; that is, judgment of
fire is denounced in that word against such. It declares
that they will have their portion at last in the lake that
burneth with fire and brimstone. Mal. 4:1; Rev. 20:15; 22:18,
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.
In what sense have these witnesses
power to shut heaven, turn waters to blood, and bring plagues
on the earth? Elijah shut heaven that it rained not for
three years and a half; but he did it by the word of the
Lord. Moses, by the word of the Lord, turned the waters
of Egypt to blood. And just as these judgments, recorded
in their testimony, have been fulfilled, so will every threatening
and judgment denounced by them against any people surely
be accomplished. "As often as they will." As often
as judgments are recorded on their pages to take place,
so often they will come to pass. An instance of this the
world is yet to experience in the infliction of the seven
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.
"When they shall have
finished their testimony," that is, "in
sackcloth state ended, or, as elsewhere expressed, the days
of persecution were shortened (Matt. 24:22), before the
period itself expired. A "beast" in prophecy,
denotes a kingdom, or power. (See Dan. 7:17, 23.) The
p 533 -- question now
arises, When did the 1260-year period of the witnesses close?
and did such a kingdom as described make war on them at
the time spoken of? If we are correct in fixing upon A.
D. 538 as the time of the commencement of the papal supremacy,
the forty-two months being 1260 prophetic days, or years,
would bring us down to A. D. 1798. About this time, then,
did such a kingdom as described appear, and make war on
them, etc.? Mark! this beast, or kingdom, is out of the
bottomless pit; it has no foundation, is an atheistical
power, is "spiritually Egypt." (See Ex. 5:2: "And
Pharoah said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice
to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let
Israel go.") Here is atheism. Did any kingdom, about
1798 manifest the same spirit? - Yes, France; in her national
capacity she denied the being of God, and made war on the
"Monarchy of heaven."
power "is called Sodom." What was the characteristic
sin of Sodom? - Licentiousness.
Did France have this character? - She did; fornication
was established by
law during the period spoken of. "Spiritually"
the place was "where our Lord was crucified."
Was this true in France? - It was, in more senses than one.
A plot was laid in France to destroy all the pious Huguenots;
and the awful St. Bartholomew massacre, with its seventy
thousand victims, stands as an indelible blot upon the history
of that country. Thus our Lord was "spiritually crucified"
in his members. Again, the watchword and motto of the French
infidels was, "CRUSH THE WRETCH," meaning Christ.
Thus it may be truly said, "Where our Lord was crucified."
The very spirit of the "bottomless pit" was poured
out in that wicked nation.
But did France "make war"
on the Bible? - She did; and in 1793 a decree passed the
French Assembly forbidding the Bible; and under that decree,
the Bibles were gathered and burned, every possible mark
of contempt was heaped upon them, and all the institutions
of the Bible were abolished; the weekly rest-day was blotted
out, and every tenth
day substituted for mirth and profanity. Baptism and the
p 534 --
(Fugitive Huguenots) TOP
p 535 -- were abolished.
The being of God was denied, and death pronounced an eternal
sleep. The Goddess of Reason, in the person of a vile woman,
was set up, and publicly worshiped. Surely here is a power
that exactly answers the prophecy. But let us examine this
point still further.
9. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues
and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and a
half, and shalt not suffer their dead bodies to be put in
The language of this verse
describes the feelings of other nations besides the one
committing the outrage on the witnesses. They would see
what war infidel France had made on the Bible, but would
not be led nationally to engage in the wicked work, nor
suffer the murdered witnesses to be buried,
or put out of sight among themselves, though they lay dead
three days and a half, that is, three years and a half,
in France. No; this very attempt on the part of France served
to arouse Christians everywhere to put forth new exertions
in behalf of the Bible, as we shall presently see.
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.
This denotes the joy those
felt who hated the Bible, or were tormented by it. Great
was the joy of infidels everywhere for awhile. But the "triumphing
of the wicked is short;" so was it in France, for their
war on the Bible and Christianity well-nigh swallowed them
all up. They set out to destroy Christ's "two witnesses,"
but they filled France with blood and terror, so that they
were horror-struck at the result of their own wicked deeds,
and were soon glad to remove their impious hands from the
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.
In 1793, a decree passed the
French Assembly suppressing the Bible. Just three years
after, a resolution was introduced into the Assembly superseding
the decree, and giving toleration to the Scriptures. That
resolution lay on the table six months,
p 536 -- when it was
taken up, and passed without a dissenting vote. Thus, in
just three years and a half, the witnesses "stood upon
their feet, and great fear fell upon them which saw them."
Nothing but the appalling results of the rejection of the
Bible could have induced France to take her hands off these
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.
up to Heaven." - To understand this expression,
see Dan. 4:22: "Thy greatness is grown, and reacheth
unto heaven." Here we see that the expression
exaltation. Have the Scriptures attained to such
a state of exaltation as here indicated, since France made
war upon them? - They have. Shortly after, the British Bible
Society was organized (1804); then followed the American
Bible Society (1817); and these, with their almost innumerable
auxiliaries, are scattering the Bible everywhere. Since
that period, the Bible has been translated into nearly two
hundred different languages that it was never in before;
and the improvements in paper-making and printing within
the last seventy-five years have given an impetus to the
work of scattering Bibles which is without a parallel. TOP
The Bible has been sent to
the destitute, literally by
ship-loads. One vessel carried out from England
fifty-nine tons of Bibles for the emancipated slaves in
the West Indies. The Bible has risen to be respected by
almost every one, whether saint or sinner. Within the last
century, translations of the Scriptures have increased fivefold,
and the circulation of the Scriptures thirtyfold.
No other book approaches it in cheapness or number of copies
sold. According to the Missionary Review of September,
1896, it has been translated into languages embracing nine
tenths of the human race. And the American Bible Society,
in its eightieth annual report, dated May, 1896, gives the
number of Bibles and parts of Bibles issued by that society
alone, as 61,705,841. Add the issues by the British Bible
Society and other publishers,
-- Increase of Crime, by D. T. Taylor, p. 5.
p 537 -- and how vastly
would the number be increased! What other book has the world
ever seen which approaches the Bible in this respect? It
is exalted as above all price, as, next to his Son, the
most invaluable blessing of God to man, and as the glorious
concerning that Son. Yes; the Scriptures may truly be said
to be exalted "to heaven in a cloud," a cloud
being an emblem of heavenly elevation.
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.
What city? (See chapter 17:18:
woman which thou sawest is that great
city which reigneth over the kings [kingdoms]
of the earth.") That city is the papal
Roman power. France is one
of the "ten
horns" that gave "their power and strength unto
beast;" or is one of the ten kingdoms that arose out
of the Western Empire of Rome, as indicated by the ten toes
of Nebuchadnezzar's image, the ten horns of Daniel's beast
(Dan. 7:24), and John's dragon. Rev. 12:3. France, then,
was "a tenth part of the city," and was one of
the strongest ministers of papal vengeance; but in this
revolution it "fell," and with it fell the last
messenger of papal fury. "And in the earthquake were
slain of men [margin, names
of men, or TITLES of
men] seven thousand." France made war, in
her revolution of 1789-98 and onward, on all titles of nobility.
It is said by those who have examined the French records,
that just seven thousand titles of men were abolished in
that revolution. "And the remnant were affrighted,
and gave glory to the God of heaven." Their God-dishonoring
and Heaven-defying work filled France with such scenes of
blood, carnage, and horror, as made even the infidels themselves
tremble, and stand aghast; and the "remnant" that
escaped the horrors of that hour "gave glory to God"
- not willingly, but the God of heaven caused this "wrath
of man to praise him," by causing all the world to
see that those who make war on heaven make graves for themselves;
thus glory redounded to God by the very means that wicked
men employed to tarnish that glory.
p 538 -- For the statistics
and many of the foregoing thoughts on the two witnesses,
we are indebted to an exposition of the subject of The
Two Witnesses, by the late George Storrs. TOP
14. The second woe is past; and, behold, the
third woe cometh quickly.
The series of seven trumpets
is here again resumed. The second woe ended with the sixth
trumpet, Aug. 11, 1840; and the third woe occurs under the
sounding of the seventh trumpet, which commenced in 1844.
Then where are we? "Behold!"
that is to say, mark it well, "the third woe cometh
quickly." The fearful scenes of the second woe are
past, and we are now under the sounding of the trumpet that
brings the third and last woe. And shall we now look for
peace and safety, a temporal millennium, a thousand years
of righteousness and prosperity? Rather let us earnestly
pray the Lord to awaken a slumbering world.
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 forever and ever. 16.
And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on
their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshiped 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.
From the 15th verse to the
end of the chapter, we seem to be carried over the ground,
from the sounding of the seventh angel to the end, three
distinct times. In the verses last quoted, the prophet glances
forward to the full establishment of the kingdom of God.
Although the seventh trumpet has begun to sound, it may
not yet be a fact that the great voices in heaven have proclaimed
that the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms
of our Lord and of his Christ, except it be in anticipation
of the speedy accomplishment of this event; but the seventh
trumpet, like the preceding six, covers a period of time:
and the transfer of the kingdoms from earthly powers to
Him whose right it is to reign, is the principal event to
occur in the early years of its sounding; hence this event,
to the exclusion of all else, here engages the
p 539 -- mind of the
prophet. (See remarks on verse 19.) In the next verse John
goes back and takes up intervening events as follows:
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.
Nations Were Angry." - Commencing with the
wonderful revolution in Europe in 1848, that spontaneous
outburst of violence among the nations, their anger toward
one another, their jealousy and envy, have been constantly
increasing. Almost every paper shows the fearful degree
to which they are now excited, and how tense has become
the strain on the relations between them.
Thy Wrath Is Come." - The wrath of God for
the present generation is filled up in the seven last plagues
(chapter 15:1), which consequently must here be referred
to, and which are soon to be poured out upon the earth.
Judgment of the Dead. - "And the time of
the dead, that they should be judged." The great majority
of the dead, that is, the wicked, are still in their graves
after the visitation of the plagues, and the close of this
dispensation. A work of judgment, of allotting to each one
the punishment due to his sins, is carried on in reference
to them by the saints, in conjunction with Christ, during
the one thousand years following the first resurrection.
I Cor. 6:2; Rev. 20:4. Inasmuch as this judgment of the
dead follows the wrath of God, or the seven last plagues,
it would seem necessary to refer it to the one thousand
years of judgment upon the wicked, above mentioned; for
the investigative judgment takes place before
the plagues are poured out.
Reward of the Righteous. - "And that thou
shouldst give reward unto thy servants the prophets."
These will enter upon their reward at the coming of Christ,
for he brings their reward with him. Matt. 16:27; Rev. 22:12.
The full reward of the saints however is not reached till
they enter upon the possession of the new earth. Matt. 25:34.
p 540 --
(The Berlin Insurrection of 1848) TOP
p 541 -- The
Punishment of the Wicked. - "And shoudst
destroy them which destroy the earth," referring to
the time when all the wicked will be forever devoured by
those purifying fires which come down from God out of heaven
upon them, and which melt and renovate the earth. 2 Peter
3:7; Rev. 20:9. By this we learn that the seventh trumpet
reaches over to the end of the one thousand years. Momentous,
startling, but yet joyous thought! that the trumpet is now
sounding which is to see the final destruction of the wicked,
and to behold the saints, clothed in a glorious immortality,
safely located on the earth made new.
Once more the prophet carries
us back to the commencement of the trumpet, in the following
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.
Having introduced the seventh
trumpet in verse 15, the first great event that strikes
the mind of the seer is the transfer of the kingdom from
earthly to heavenly rule. God takes to him his great power,
and forever crushes the rebellion of this revolted earth,
establishes Christ upon his own throne, and remains himself
supreme over all. This picture being completed, we are pointed
back, in verse 18, to the state of the nations, the judgment
to fall upon them, and the final destiny of both saints
and sinners. This field of vision having been scanned, we
are taken back once more in the verse now under notice,
and our attention is called to the close of the priesthood
of Christ, the last scene in the work of mercy for a guilty
world. The temple is opened; the second apartment of the
sanctuary is entered. We know it is the holy of holies that
is here opened, for the ark is seen; and in that apartment
alone the ark was deposited. This took place at the end
of the 2300 days, when the sanctuary was to be cleansed,
the time when the prophetic periods expired, and the seventh
angel commenced to sound. Since that time, the people of
God have seen by faith the open door in heaven, and
p 542 -- the ark of
God's testament there. They are endeavoring to keep every
precept of the holy law written upon the tables therein
deposited. And that the tables of the law are there, just
as in the ark in the sanctuary erected by Moses, is evident
from the terms which John uses in describing the ark. He
calls it the "ark of his testament." The ark was
called the ark of the covenant, or testament, because it
was made for the express purpose of containing the tables
of the testimony, or ten commandments. Ex. 25:16; 31:18;
Deut. 10 2, 5. It was put to no other use, and owed its
name solely to the fact that it contained the tables of
the law. If the tables were not therein, it would not be
the ark of his (God's) testament, and could not truthfully
be so called. Yet John, beholding the ark in heaven under
the sounding of the seventh trumpet, still calls it the
"ark of his testament," affording unanswerable
proof that the law is still there, unaltered in one jot
or tittle from the copy which for a time was committed to
the care of men in the typical ark of the tabernacle during
the Mosaic dispensation.
The followers of the prophetic
word have also received the reed, and are measuring the
temple, the altar, and them that worship therein. Verse
1. They are uttering their last prophecy before nations,
peoples, and tongues. Chapter 10:11. And the drama will
soon close with the lightnings, thunderings, voices, the
earthquake, and great hail, which will constitute nature's
last convulsion before all things are made new at the close
of the thousand years. Rev. 21:5. (See on chapter 16:17-21.)
543 -- VERSE
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed
with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her
head a crown of twelve stars: 2. And
she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained
to be delivered. 3. And there
appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red
dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns
upon his heads.
An elucidation of this portion
of the chapter will involve little more than a mere definition
of the symbols introduced. This may be given in few words,
as follows: -
"A woman," the true
church. A corrupt woman is used to represent an apostate
or corrupt church. Eze. 23:2-4; Rev. 17:3-6, 15, 18. By
parity of reasoning, a pure woman, as in this instance,
would represent the true church.
"The sun," the light
and glory of the gospel dispensation.
"The moon," the Mosaic
dispensation. As the moon shines with a borrowed light derived
from the sun, so the former dispensation shone with a light
borrowed from the present. There they had the type and shadow;
here we have the antitype and substance.
"A crown of twelve stars,"
the twelve apostles.
"'A great red dragon,"
pagan Rome. (See under verses 4 and 5.)
p 544 --
(The Gospel Church Rev. 12:1)
p 545 -- "Heaven,"
the space in which this representation was seen by the apostle.
We are not to suppose that the scenes here represented to
John took place in heaven where God resides; for they are
events which transpired upon this earth, but this scenic
representation which passed before the eye of the prophet,
appeared as if in the region occupied by the sun, moon,
and stars, which we speak of as heaven.
Verses 1 and 2 cover a period
of time commencing just previous to the opening of the present
dispensation, when the church was earnestly longing for
and expecting the advent of the Messiah, and extending to
the time of the full establishment of the gospel church
with its crown of twelve apostles. Luke 2:25, 26, 38.
No symbols more fitting and
impressive could be found than are here employed. The Mosaic
dispensation shone with a light borrowed from the Christian
dispensation, just as the moon shines with light borrowed
from the sun. How appropriate, therefore, to represent the
former by the moon, and the latter by the sun. The woman,
the church, had the moon under her feet; that is, the Mosaic
dispensation had just ended, and the woman was clothed with
the light of the gospel sun, which had just risen. By the
figure of prolepsis, the church is represented as fully
organized, with its twelve apostles, before the man-child,
Christ, appeared upon the scene. This is easily accounted
for by the fact that it was to be thus constituted immediately
after Christ should commence his ministry; and he is more
especially connected with this church than with that of
the former dispensation. There is no ground for any misunderstanding
of the passage; and hence no violence is done to a correct
system of interpretation by this representation. TOP
And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven,
and did cast them to the earth; and the dragon stood before
the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour
her child as soon as it was born. 5.
And she brought forth a man-child, who was to rule all nations
with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God,
and to his throne. 6.
And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a
place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a
thousand two hundred and threescore days.
p 546 --
Third Part of the Stars of Heaven." - The
dragon drew the third part of the stars from heaven. If
the twelve stars with which the woman is crowned, here used
symbolically, denote the twelve apostles, then the stars
thrown down by the dragon before his attempt to destroy
the man-child, or before the Christian era, may denote a
portion of the rulers of the Jewish people. That the sun,
moon, and stars are sometimes used in this symbolic sense,
we have already had evidence in chapter 8:12. The dragon,
being a symbol, could deal only with symbolic stars; and
the chronology of the act here mentioned would confine it
to the Jewish people. Judea became a Roman province sixty-three
years before the birth of the Messiah. The Jews had three
classes of rulers, - kings, priests, and the Sanhedrim.
A third of these, the kings, were taken away by the Roman
Smith, History of the World, Vol. III, p. 181,
after describing the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans and
Herod, and its capitulation in the spring of B.C. 37, after
an obstinate resistance of six months, says:
the end of the Asmonean dynasty, exactly 130 years after
the first victories of Judas Maccabaeus, and in the seventieth
year from the assumption of the diadem by Aristobulus I."
The dragon stood before the
woman to devour her child. It now becomes necessary to identify
the power symbolized by the dragon; and this can very easily
be done. The testimony concerning the "man-child "
which the dragon seeks to destroy, is applicable to only
one being that has appeared in this world, and that is our
Lord Jesus Christ. No other one has been caught up to God
and his throne; but he has been thus exalted. Eph. 1:20,
21; Heb. 8:1; Rev. 3:21. No other one has received from
God the commission to rule all nations with a rod of iron;
but he has been appointed to this work. Ps. 2:7-9.
There can certainly be no doubt
that the man-child represents Jesus Christ. The time to
which the prophecy refers is equally evident. It was the
time when Christ appeared in this world, as a babe in Bethlehem.
Having now ascertained who
the man-child was, namely,
p 547 --
(A. The Dragon - Pagan Rome Rev 12:3. B. The
Leopard Beast - Papal Rome Rev 23:1, 2)
p 548 -- Christ; and
having fixed the chronology of the prophecy at the time
when he was born into this world, it will be easy to find
the power symbolized by the dragon; for the dragon represents
some power which did attempt to destroy him at his birth.
Was any such attempt made? and who made it? No formal answer
to this question need be given to any one who has read how
Herod, in a fiendish effort to destroy the infant Jesus,
sent forth and slew all the children in Bethlehem, from
two years old and under. But who was Herod? - A Roman governor.
From Rome Herod derived his power. Rome ruled at that time
over all the world (Luke 2:1), and was therefore the responsible
party in this transaction. Moreover, Rome was the only earthly
government which at that time could
be symbolized in prophecy, for this very reason that its
dominion was universal. It is not, therefore, without the
most conclusive reason that the Roman empire is considered
by Protestant commentators generally to be the power indicated
by the great red dragon. And it may be a fact worth mentioning
that during the second, third, fourth, and fifth centuries
of the Christian era, next to the eagle the dragon was the
principal standard of the Roman legions; and that dragon
was painted red, as though, in faithful response to the
picture held up by the seer of Patmos, they would exclaim
to the world, We are the nation which that picture represents.
As we have said, Rome, in the
person of Herod, attempted to destroy Jesus Christ, when
he sent forth and destroyed all the children of Bethlehem
from two years old and under. The child which was born to
the expectant desires of a waiting and watching church,
was our adorable Redeemer, who is soon to rule the nations
with a rod of iron. Herod could not destroy him; the combined
powers of earth and hell could not overcome him; and though
held for a time under the dominion of the grave, he rent
its cruel bands, opened a way of life for mankind, and was
caught up to God and his throne. He ascended to heaven in
the sight of his disciples, leaving to them and us the promise
that he would come again.
And the church fled into the
wilderness at the time the papacy was established, in 538,
where it was nourished by the
p 549 -- word of God
and the ministration of angels during the long, dark, and
bloody rule of that power, 1260 years.
there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against
the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8.
And prevailed not; neither was their
place found any more in heaven. 9.
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called
the devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he
was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out
with him. 10. And I
heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation,
and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power
of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down,
which accused them before our God day and night.
11. And they overcame him by the
blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and
they loved not their lives unto the death. 12.
Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and
ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth
and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having
great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short
The first six verses of this
chapter, as has been seen, take us down to the close of
the 1260 years, which marked the end of the papal supremacy
in 1798. In the 7th verse it is equally plain that we are
carried back into previous ages. How far? - To the time
first introduced in the chapter, - the days of the first
advent. "And there was war in heaven," the same
heaven where the woman and the dragon were seen at first;
but they were actors in scenes that took place here upon
the earth; hence we understand this war to be located in
the same place. And to what point are we carried back? -
Evidently to the commencement of Christ's ministry here
upon earth. To prove that Michael is Christ, see Jude 9;
1 Thess. 4:16; John 5:28, 29; and that this was a special
time of warfare between him and Satan need not be argued.
Another symbol is here introduced,
and John hastens to tell us what this symbol represents.
It is the devil and Satan. But this is not the same as the
dragon of verses 3 and 4. That was a great
red dragon, with seven heads
and ten horns,
and seven crowns
upon his heads. Though in a sense the dragon
represents Satan, since he was the instigator of the work
which this dragon did, it would be most grotesque to try
to apply this symbol to Satan personally. Satan is not said
anywhere in the Bible to be red,
and he is not possessed of the
p 550 -- number of
horns there stated; and while he might, as the
god of this world, have one crown, there would be no reason
for his having seven. But all these features are very appropriate
as applied to pagan Rome. TOP
When it is desired to set forth
Satan by a symbol, no more appropriate one can be chosen
than a great dragon, or serpent, unqualified. And why a
similar symbol is also employed to represent Rome with some
of its peculiar features, is evident. It was because Rome,
as a universal empire, was then the only possible general
agent to carry out Satan's will in the earth. But there
is no occasion to confound the two symbols.
In reference to the war mentioned,
Satan had looked forward to Christ's mission to this earth
as his last chance of success in overthrowing the plan of
salvation. He came to Christ with specious temptations,
in hope of overcoming him; he tried in various ways to destroy
him during his ministry; and when he had succeeded in laying
him in the tomb, he endeavored, in malignant triumph, to
hold him there. But in every encounter the Son of God came
off triumphant; and he sends back this gracious promise
to his faithful followers: "To him that overcometh
will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as
I also overcame, and am set down with my Father
in his throne." This shows us that Jesus while on earth
waged a warfare, and obtained the victory. Satan saw his
last effort fail, his last scheme miscarry. He had boasted
that he would overcome the Son of God in his mission to
this world, and thus render the plan of salvation an ignominious
failure; and well he knew that if he was foiled in this
his last desperate effort to thwart the work of God, his
last hope had perished, and all was lost.
But, in the language of verse
8, he "prevailed not;" and hence the song may
well be sung, "Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye
that dwell in them."
It is held by some that this
war took place when Satan, then an angel of light and glory,
rebelled in heaven; and that the "casting out"
of which John speaks, was his expulsion from heaven at that
time. But we are unable to harmonize
p 551 -- this view with
the testimony before us. Thus, in verse 13 we read: "And
when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he
persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child."
This shows that just as soon as the devil saw that he was
cast out, he turned his wrath against the woman, the church,
which, not far from that time, fled into the wilderness.
When Satan therefore found himself thus overthrown, the
man-child had already been brought forth, or, in other words,
the first advent of Christ had taken place. Hence this war
and defeat of Satan, taking place this side of the Christian
era, and not a great length of time before the church went
into the wilderness in 538, cannot be his fall from heaven
before the creation of the world; though that was a war
Again, there seem to be a number
of instances in which Satan is spoken of as defeated, or
cast down. One was his first rejection from heaven; another,
when Christ overcame him at his first advent; and there
will be another in the future, when he is cast into the
bottomless pit, and shut up for a thousand years. And on
each successive occasion, we behold a regularly increasing
limitation of his power. He falls a degree lower in every
succeeding combat. The first time, as we may plainly infer
from certain scriptures, the contest was between him and
God the Father (see 2 Peter 2:4); the second time between
him and Christ the Son, as in the scripture before us; while
the third time an angel suffices to accomplish the work
of his humiliation. Rev. 20:1, 2. Since his first contest,
be has not been permitted to rise to the dignity of contending
with the Father; since the second, he has not had the privilege,
if such it may be called, of a personal encounter with the
Son. The war mentioned in the scripture now before us is
between the devil and Michael, Christ. The great effort
of the former against the latter, personally, was during
his mission here on earth; and Christ's great personal victory
over him was in that very contest. TOP
"Neither was their place
found any more in heaven." Heaven, we have seen, does
not mean, in this chapter, the place which is the abode
of God and his celestial messengers.
p 552 -- It here doubtless
denotes condition rather than place; and the expression
would then signify that they were here humiliated, and never
to regain their former position. They had suffered a terrible
defeat, which Christ describes by saying, "I beheld
Satan as lightning fall from heaven." The hope which
he had all along cherished, of overcoming the Son of man
when he took upon himself our nature, had forever perished.
His power was limited. He could no more aspire to a personal
encounter with the Son of God, - a fact which hitherto had
given, in a comparative degree, dignity and prestige to
his position. Henceforth the church (the woman) is the object
of his malice, and he resorts to all those nefarious means
against her that would naturally characterize a baffled
and hopeless rage.
But hereupon a song is sung
in heaven, - "Now is
come salvation," etc. How is this, if these scenes
are in the past? Had salvation, and strength, and the kingdom
of God, and the power of his Christ, then come? - Not at
all; but this song was sung prospectively. Those things
were made sure. The great victory had been won by Christ
which put the question of their establishment forever at
rest. Just as we read in other scriptures, "We have
eternal life," "We have
redemption through his blood," etc., as if we were
now in actual possession of these blessings; whereas we
only have them by faith, and the language is simply an assurance
that they are forever sure to the final overcomers.
The prophet then glances rapidly
over the working of Satan from that time to the end (verses
11, 12), during which time the faithful "brethren"
overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their
testimony while his wrath increases as his time grows short.
Though working through earthly powers, Satan, personally,
is the chief agent from verses 9 to 17.
when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he
persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-chiId.
14. And to the woman were
given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into
the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for
a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the
serpent. 15. And the
serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood
p 553 --
after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried
away of the flood. 16.
And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened
her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast
out of his mouth. 17.
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went
to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the
commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
But little comment is necessary
on the verses last introduced. Suffice it to say that here
we are again carried back to the time when Satan became
fully aware that he had utterly failed in all his attempts
against the Lord of glory in his earthly mission; and seeing
this, be turned with tenfold fury, as already noticed, upon
the church which Christ had established. Then we have again
brought to view the church going into that condition here
denominated being "in the wilderness." This must
denote a state of seclusion from the public gaze, and of
concealment from her foes. That church which during all
the dark ages trumpeted her lordly commands into the ears
of listening Christendom, and flaunted her ostentatious
banners before gaping crowds, was not the church of Christ;
it was the body of the mystery of iniquity. The "mystery
of godliness" was God manifested here as a man; the
"mystery of iniquity" was a man pretending to
be God. This was the great apostasy, the mongrel produced
by the union of heathenism and Christianity. The true church
was out of sight; in secret places they worshiped God; the
caves and the hidden recesses of the valleys of the Piedmont
may be taken as representative places, where the truth of
the gospel was sacredly cherished from the rage of its foes.
Here God watched over his church, and by his providence
protected and nourished her. TOP
The eagles' wings given her
appropriately signify the haste with which the true church
was obliged to provide for her own safety when the man of
sin was installed in power, together with the assistance
God provided her to this end. The like figure is used to
describe God's dealings with ancient Israel. By Moses he
said to them: "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians,
and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto
myself." Ex. 19:4.
p 554 --
(Burning the Papal Bull)
p 555 -- The mention
of the period during which the woman is nourished in the
wilderness as "a time and times and half a time,"
the exact phraseology used in Dan. 7:25, furnishes a key
for the explanation of the latter passage; for the very
same period is called in verse 6 of Revelation 12, "a
thousand two hundred and threescore days." This shows
that a "time" is one year, 360 days; two "times,"
two years, or 720 days; and "half a time," half
a year, or 180 days, making in all 1260 days; and this being
symbolic, signifies 1260 literal years.
The serpent cast out of his
mouth water as a flood to carry away the church. By its
false doctrines the papacy had so corrupted all nations
as to have control absolutely, for long centuries, of the
civil power. Through it Satan could hurl a mighty flood
of persecution against the church in every direction; and
this he was not slow to do. (See reference to the terrible
persecutions of the church in remarks on Dan. 7:25.) From
fifty to one hundred million were carried away by the flood;
but the church was not entirely swallowed up; the days were
shortened for the elect's sake. Matt. 24:22.
"The earth helped the
woman" by opening its mouth and swallowing up the flood.
The reformation of the sixteenth century began its work.
God raised up the noble Luther and his colaborers to expose
the true character of the papacy, and break the power with
which superstition had enslaved the minds of the people.
Luther nailed his theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg;
and the pen with which he wrote them, according to the symbolic
dream of the good elector Frederick of Saxony, did indeed
span the continent, and shake the triple crown on the pope's
head. Princes began to espouse the cause of the Reformers.
It was the dawning of religious light and liberty, and God
would not suffer the darkness to swallow up its radiance.
Tetzel, the indulgence-peddler, swelled and bellowed with
wrath, and Pope Leo roared with rage; but all in vain. The
spell was broken. Men found that the bulls and anathemas
of the pope fell harmless at their feet, just as soon as
they dared exercise their God-given right to regulate their
consciences by his word alone. Defenders of the true
p 556 --
(Eminent Reformers. Men who have been prominent in advancing
the work of God. For biographical sketches, see Appendix.
p 557 -- faith
multiplied. And soon there was enough Protestant soil found
in Switzerland, Germany, Holland, England, Norway and Sweden,
to swallow up the flood of papal fury, and rob it of its
power to harm the church. Thus the earth helped the woman,
and has continued to help to the present day, as the spirit
of the Reformation and religious liberty has been fostered
by the leading nations of Christendom.
But the dragon is not yet through
with his work. Verse 17 brings to view another and a final
outburst of his wrath, this time against the last generation
of Christians to live on the earth. We say the last generation;
for the war of the dragon is directed against the remnant
of the woman's seed; that is, the remnant of the seed, or
individuals, that constitute the true church; and no generation
but the last can truthfully be represented by the remnant.
If the view is correct that we have already reached the
generation which is to witness the closing up of earthly
scenes, this warfare against the truth cannot be far in
This remnant is characterized
by the keeping of the commandments of God, and having the
testimony of Jesus Christ. This points to a Sabbath reform
to be accomplished in the last days; for on the Sabbath
alone, as pertaining to the commandments, is there a difference
of faith and practice among those who accept the decalogue
as the moral law. This is more particularly brought to view
in the message of Rev. 14:9-12.
It may be proper to notice
that according to the testimony of this chapter, three powers
are made use of by the devil to carry out his work, and
hence all are spoken of as the dragon, he being the inspiring
agent in them all. These are, (1) pagan
Rome; (2) papal Rome; (3)
the two-horned beast, our own government under the control
of apostate Protestantism, which is the chief agent, as
will hereafter appear, in making war upon those who keep
the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.
of Part C. To
continue your study:
D -- Prophecies of Daniel and Revelation