Authenticity. -- The author calls himself John (Re 1:1, 4, 9; 2:8). Justin Martyr [Dialogue with Trypho, p.308] (A.D.139-161) quotes from the Apocalypse, as John the apostle's work, the prophecy of the millennium of the saints, to be followed by the general resurrection and judgment. This testimony of Justin is referred to also by Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 4.18]. Justin Martyr, in the early part of the second century, held his controversy with Trypho, a learned Jew, at Ephesus, where John had been living thirty or thirty-five years before: he says that |the Revelation had been given to John, one of the twelve apostles of Christ.| Melito, bishop of Sardis (about A.D.171), one of the seven churches addressed, a successor, therefore, of one of the seven angels, is said by Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 4.26] to have written treatises on the Apocalypse of John. The testimony of the bishop of Sardis is the more impartial, as Sardis is one of the churches severely reproved (Re 3:1). So also Theophilus of Antioch (about A.D.180), according to Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 4.26], quoted testimonies from the Apocalypse of John. Eusebius says the same of Apollonius, who lived in Asia Minor in the end of the second century. Irenæus (about A.D.180), a hearer of Polycarp, the disciple of John, and supposed by Archbishop Usher to be the angel of the Church of Smyrna, is most decided again and again in quoting the Apocalypse as the work of the apostle John [Against Heresies, 4.20.11; 4.21.3; 4.30.4; 5.36.1; 5.30.3; 5.35.2]. In [5.30.1], alluding to the mystical number of the beast, six hundred sixty-six (Re 13:18), found in all old copies, he says, |We do not hazard a confident theory as to the name of Antichrist; for if it had been necessary that his name should be proclaimed openly at the present time, it would have been declared by him who saw the apocalyptic vision; for it was seen at no long time back, but almost in our generation, towards the end of Domitian's reign.| In his work Against Heresies, published ten years after Polycarp's martyrdom, he quotes the Apocalypse twenty times, and makes long extracts from it, as inspired Scripture. These testimonies of persons contemporary with John's immediate successors, and more or less connected with the region of the seven churches to which Revelation is addressed, are most convincing. Tertullian, of North Africa (about A.D.220), [Against Marcion, 3.14], quotes the apostle John's descriptions in the Apocalypse of the sword proceeding out of the Lord's mouth (Re 19:15), and of the heavenly city (Re 21:1-27). Compare On the Resurrection of the Flesh ; A Treatise on the Soul, [8, 9, &c.]; The Prescription Against Heretics, . The Muratori fragment of the canon (about A.D.200) refers to John the apostle writing to the seven churches. Hippolytus, bishop of Ostia, near Rome (about A.D.240) [On Antichrist, p.67], quotes Re 17:1-18, as the writing of John the apostle. Among Hippolytus' works, there is specified in the catalogue on his statue, a treatise |on the Apocalypse and Gospel according to John.| Clement of Alexandria (about A.D.200) [Miscellanies, 6.13], alludes to the twenty-four seats on which the elders sit as mentioned by John in the Apocalypse (Re 4:5); also, [Who Is the Rich Man Who Shall Be Saved? 42], he mentions John's return from Patmos to Ephesus on the death of the Roman tyrant. Origen (about A.D.233), [Commentary on Matthew, in Eusebius Ecclesiastical History, 6.25], mentions John as the author of the Apocalypse, without expressing any doubts as to its authenticity; also, in Commentary on Matthew, [16.6], he quotes Re 1:9, and says, |John seems to have beheld the Apocalypse in the island of Patmos.| Victorinus, bishop of Pettau in Pannonia, who suffered martyrdom under Diocletian in A.D.303, wrote the earliest extant commentary on the Apocalypse. Though the Old Syriac Peschito version does not contain the Apocalypse, yet Ephrem the Syrian (about A.D.378) frequently quotes the Apocalypse as canonical, and ascribes it to John.
Its canonicity and inspiration (according to a scholium of Andreas of Cappadocia) are attested by Papias, a hearer of John, and associate of Polycarp. Papias was bishop of Hierapolis, near Laodicea, one of the seven churches. Wordsworth conjectures that a feeling of shame, on account of the rebukes of Laodicea in Revelation, may have operated on the Council of Laodicea, so as to omit Revelation from its list of books to be read publicly (?). The Epistle of the churches of Lyons and Vienne to the churches of Asia and Phrygia (in Eusebius, [Ecclesiastical History, 5.1-3]), in the persecution under Marcus Aurelius (A.D.77) quotes Re 1:5; 3:14; 14:4; 22:11, as Scripture. Cyprian (about A.D.250) also, in Epistle 13, quotes Re 2:5 as Scripture; and in Epistle 25 he quotes Re 3:21, as of the same authority as the Gospel. (For other instances, see Alford's Prolegomena, from whom mainly this summary of evidence has been derived). Athanasius, in his Festival Epistle, enumerates the Apocalypse among the canonical Scriptures, to which none must add, and from which none must take away. Jerome [Epistle to Paulinus] includes in the canon the Apocalypse, adding, |It has as many mysteries as words. All praise falls short of its merits. In each of its words lie hid manifold senses.| Thus an unbroken chain of testimony down from the apostolic period confirms its canonicity and authenticity.
The Alogi [Epiphanius, Heresies, 51] and Caius the Roman presbyter [Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3.28], towards the end of the second and beginning of the third century, rejected John's Apocalypse on mere captious grounds. Caius, according to Jerome [On Illustrious Men], about A.D.210, attributed it to Cerinthus, on the ground of its supporting the millennial reign on earth. Dionysius of Alexandria mentions many before his time who rejected it because of its obscurity and because it seemed to support Cerinthus' dogma of an earthly and carnal kingdom; whence they attributed it to Cerinthus. This Dionysius, scholar of Origen, and bishop of Alexandria (A.D.247), admits its inspiration (in Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 7.10]), but attributes it to some John distinct from John the apostle, on the ground of its difference of style and character, as compared with John's Gospel and Epistle, as also because the name John is several times mentioned in the Apocalypse, which is always kept back in both the Gospel and Epistle; moreover, neither does the Epistle make any allusion to the Apocalypse, nor the Apocalypse to the Epistle; and the style is not pure Greek, but abounds in barbarisms and solecisms. Eusebius wavers in opinion [Ecclesiastical History, 24.39] as to whether it is, or is not, to be ranked among the undoubtedly canonical Scriptures. His antipathy to the millennial doctrine would give an unconscious bias to his judgment on the Apocalypse. Cyril of Jerusalem (A.D.386), [Catechetical Lectures, 4.35,36], omits the Apocalypse in enumerating the New Testament Scriptures to be read privately as well as publicly. |Whatever is not read in the churches, that do not even read by thyself; the apostles and ancient bishops of the Church who transmitted them to us were far wiser than thou art.| Hence, we see that, in his day, the Apocalypse was not read in the churches. Yet in Catechetical Lectures, 1.4 he quotes Re 2:7, 17; and in Catechetical Lectures, 1; 15.13 he draws the prophetical statement from Re 17:11, that the king who is to humble the three kings (Da 7:8, 20) is the eighth king. In Catechetical Lectures, 15 and 27, he similarly quotes from Re 12:3, 4. Alford conjectures that Cyril had at some time changed his opinion, and that these references to the Apocalypse were slips of memory whereby he retained phraseology which belonged to his former, not his subsequent views. The sixtieth canon (if genuine) of the Laodicean Council in the middle of the fourth century omits the Apocalypse from the canonical books. The Eastern Church in part doubted, the Western Church, after the fifth century, universally recognized, the Apocalypse. Cyril of Alexandria [On Worship, 146], though implying the fact of some doubting its genuineness, himself undoubtedly accepts it as the work of St. John. Andreas of Cæsarea, in Cappadocia, recognized as genuine and canonical, and wrote the first entire and connected commentary on, the Apocalypse. The sources of doubt seem to have been, (1) the antagonism of many to the millennium, which is set forth in it; (2) its obscurity and symbolism having caused it not to be read in the churches, or to be taught to the young. But the most primitive tradition is unequivocal in its favor. In a word, the objective evidence is decidedly for it; the only arguments against it seem to have been subjective.
The personal notices of John in the Apocalypse occur Re 1:1, 4, 9; Re 22:8. Moreover, the writer's addresses to the churches of Proconsular Asia (Re 2:1) accord with the concurrent tradition, that after John's return from his exile in Patmos, at the death of Domitian, under Nerva, he resided for long, and died at last in Ephesus, in the time of Trajan [Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3.20,23]. If the Apocalypse were not the inspired work of John, purporting as it does to be an address from their superior to the seven churches of Proconsular Asia, it would have assuredly been rejected in that region; whereas the earliest testimonies in those churches are all in its favor. One person alone was entitled to use language of authority such as is addressed to the seven angels of the churches -- namely, John, as the last surviving apostle and superintendent of all the churches. Also, it accords with John's manner to assert the accuracy of his testimony both at the beginning and end of his book (compare Re 1:2, 3, and 22:8, with Joh 1:14; 21:24; 1Jo 1:1, 2). Again, it accords with the view of the writer being an inspired apostle that he addresses the angels or presidents of the several churches in the tone of a superior addressing inferiors. Also, he commends the Church of Ephesus for trying and convicting |them which say they are apostles, and are not,| by which he implies his own undoubted claim to apostolic inspiration (Re 2:2), as declaring in the seven epistles Christ's will revealed through him.
As to the difference of style, as compared with the Gospel and Epistle, the difference of subject in part accounts for it, the visions of the seer, transported as he was above the region of sense, appropriately taking a form of expression abrupt, and unbound by the grammatical laws which governed his writings of a calmer and more deliberate character. Moreover, as being a Galilean Hebrew, John, in writing a Revelation akin to the Old Testament prophecies, naturally reverted to their Hebraistic style. Alford notices, among the features of resemblance between the styles of the Apocalypse and John's Gospel and Epistle: (1) the characteristic appellation of our Lord, peculiar to John exclusively, |the Word of God| (Re 19:13; compare Joh 1:1; 1Jo 1:1). (2) the phrase, |he that overcometh| (Re 2:7, 11, 17; 3:5, 12, 21; 12:11; 15:2; 17:14; 21:7; compare Joh 16:33 1Jo 2:13, 14; 4:4; 5:4, 5). (3) The Greek term (alethinos) for |true,| as opposed to that which is shadowy and unreal (Re 3:7, 14; 6:10; 15:3; 16:7; 19:2, 9, 11; 21:5; 22:6). This term, found only once in Luke (Lu 16:11), four times in Paul (1Th 1:9; Heb 8:2; 9:24; 10:22), is found nine times in John's Gospel (Joh 1:9; 4:23, 37; 6:32; 7:28; 8:16; 15:1 Joh 17:3; 19:3, 5), twice in John's First Epistle (1Jo 2:8; 5:20), and ten times in Revelation (Re 3:7, 14; 6:10; 15:3; 16:7; 19:2, 9, 11; 21:5 Re 22:6). (4) The Greek diminutive for |Lamb| (arnion, literally, |lambkin|) occurs twenty-nine times in the Apocalypse, and the only other place where it occurs is Joh 21:15. In John's writings alone is Christ called directly |the Lamb| (Joh 1:29, 36). In 1Pe 1:19, He is called |as a lamb without blemish,| in allusion to Isa 53:7. So the use of |witness,| or |testimony| (Re 1:2, 9; 6:9; 11:7, &c.; compare Joh 1:7, 8, 15, 19, 32; 1Jo 1:2; 4:14; 5:6-11). |Keep the word,| or |commandments| (Re 3:8, 10; 12:17; compare Joh 8:51, 55; 14:15). The assertion of the same thing positively and negatively (Re 2:2, 6, 8, 13; 3:8, 17, 18; compare Joh 1:3, 6, 7, 20; 1Jo 2:27, 28). Compare also 1Jo 2:20, 27 with Re 3:18, as to the spiritual anointing. The seeming solecisms of style are attributable to that,inspired elevation which is above mere grammatical rules, and are designed to arrest the reader's attention by the peculiarity of the phrase, so as to pause and search into some deep truth lying beneath. The vivid earnestness of the inspired writer, handling a subject so transcending all others, raises him above all servile adherence to ordinary rules, so that at times he abruptly passes from one grammatical construction to another, as he graphically sets the thing described before the eye of the reader. This is not due to ignorance of grammar, for he |has displayed a knowledge of grammatical rules in other much more difficult constructions| [Winer]. The connection of thought is more attended to than mere grammatical connection. Another consideration to be taken into account is that two-fifths of the whole being the recorded language of others, he moulds his style accordingly. Compare Tregelles' Introduction to Revelation from Heathen Authorities.
Tregelles well says [New Testament Historic Evidence], |There is no book of the New Testament for which we have such clear, ample, and numerous testimonies in the second century as we have in favor of the Apocalypse. The more closely the witnesses were connected with the apostle John (as was the case with Irenæus), the more explicit is their testimony. That doubts should prevail in after ages must have originated either in ignorance of the earlier testimony, or else from some supposed intuition of what an apostle ought to have written. The objections on the ground of internal style can weigh nothing against the actual evidence. It is in vain to argue, a priori, that John could not have written this book when we have the evidence of several competent witnesses that he did write it.|
Relation of the Apocalypse to the rest of the canon. -- Gregory of Nyssa [tom.3, p.601], calls Revelation |the last book of grace.| It completes the volume of inspiration, so that we are to look for no further revelation till Christ Himself shall come. Appropriately the last book completing the canon was written by John, the last survivor of the apostles. The New Testament is composed of the historical books, the Gospels and Acts, the doctrinal Epistles, and the one prophetical book, Revelation. The same apostle wrote the last of the Gospels, and probably the last of the Epistles, and the only prophetical book of the New Testament. All the books of the New Testament had been written, and were read in the Church assemblies, some years before John's death. His life was providentially prolonged that he might give the final attestation to Scripture. About the year A.D.100, the bishops of Asia (the angels of the seven churches) came to John at Ephesus, bringing him copies of the three Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and desired of him a statement of his apostolical judgment concerning them; whereupon he pronounced them authentic, genuine, and inspired, and at their request added his own Gospel to complete the fourfold aspect of the Gospel of Christ (compare Muratori [Fragment on the Canon of Scripture]; Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 3.24]; Jerome [Commentary on Matthew]; Victorinus on the Apocalypse; Theodoret [Ecclesiastical History, 39]). A Greek divine, quoted in Allatius, calls Revelation |the seal of the whole Bible.| The canon would be incomplete without Revelation. Scripture is a complete whole, its component books, written in a period ranging over one thousand five hundred years, being mutually connected. Unity of aim and spirit pervades the entire, so that the end is the necessary sequence of the middle, and the middle of the beginning. Genesis presents before us man and his bride in innocence and blessedness, followed by man's fall through Satan's subtlety, and man's consequent misery, his exclusion from Paradise and its tree of life and delightful rivers. Revelation presents, in reverse order, man first liable to sin and death, but afterwards made conqueror through the blood of the Lamb; the first Adam and Eve, represented by the second Adam, Christ, and the Church. His spotless bride, in Paradise, with free access to the tree of life and the crystal water of life that flows from the throne of God. As Genesis foretold the bruising of the serpent's head by the woman's seed (Ge 3:15), so Revelation declares the final accomplishment of that prediction (Re 19:1-20:15).
Place and time of writing. -- The best authorities among the Fathers state that John was exiled under Domitian (Irenæus [Against Heresies, 5; 30]; Clement of Alexandria; Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 3.20]). Victorinus says that he had to labor in the mines of Patmos. At Domitian's death, A.D.95, he returned to Ephesus under the Emperor Nerva. Probably it was immediately after his return that he wrote, under divine inspiration, the account of the visions vouchsafed to him in Patmos (Re 1:2, 9). However, Re 10:4 seems to imply that he wrote the visions immediately after seeing them. Patmos is one of the Sporades. Its circumference is about thirty miles. |It was fitting that when forbidden to go beyond certain bounds of the earth's lands, he was permitted to penetrate the secrets of heaven| [Bede, Explanation of the Apocalypse on chap.1]. The following arguments favor an earlier date, namely, under Nero: (1) Eusebius [Demonstration of the Gospel] unites in the same sentence John's banishment with the stoning of James and the beheading of Paul, which were under Nero. (2) Clement of Alexandria's'S story of the robber reclaimed by John, after he had pursued, and with difficulty overtaken him, accords better with John then being a younger man than under Domitian, when he was one hundred years old. Arethas, in the sixth century, applies the sixth seal to the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D.70), adding that the Apocalypse was written before that event. So the Syriac version states he was banished by Nero the Cæsar. Laodicea was overthrown by an earthquake (A.D.60) but was immediately rebuilt, so that its being called |rich and increased with goods| is not incompatible with this book having been written under the Neronian persecution (A.D.64). But the possible allusions to it in Heb 10:37; compare Re 1:4, 8; 4:8; 22:12; Heb 11:10; compare Re 21:14; Heb 12:22, 23; compare Re 14:1; Heb 8:1, 2; compare Re 11:19; 15:5; 21:3; Heb 4:12; compare Re 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:13, 15; Heb 4:9; compare Re 20:1-15; also 1Pe 1:7, 13; 4:13, with Re 1:1; 1Pe 2:9 with Re 5:10; 2Ti 4:8, with Re 2:26, 27; 3:21; 11:18; Eph 6:12, with Re 12:7-12; Php 4:3, with Re 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; Col 1:18, with Re 1:5; 1Co 15:52, with Re 10:7; 11:15-18, make a date before the destruction of Laodicea possible. Cerinthus is stated to have died before John; as then he borrowed much in his Pseudo-Apocalypse from John's, it is likely the latter was at an earlier date than Domitian's reign. See Tilloch's Introduction to Apocalypse. But the Pauline benediction (Re 1:4) implies it was written after Paul's death under Nero.
To what readers addressed. -- The inscription states that it is addressed to the seven churches of Asia, that is, Proconsular Asia. John's reason for fixing on the number seven (for there were more than seven churches in the region meant by |Asia,| for instance, Magnesia and Tralles) was doubtless because seven is the sacred number implying totality and universality: so it is implied that John, through the medium of the seven churches, addresses in the Spirit the Church of all places and ages. The Church in its various states of spiritual life or deadness, in all ages and places, is represented by the seven churches, and is addressed with words of consolation or warning accordingly. Smyrna and Philadelphia alone of the seven are honored with unmixed praise, as faithful in tribulation and rich in good works. Heresies of a decided kind had by this time arisen in the churches of Asia, and the love of many had waxed cold, while others had advanced to greater zeal, and one had sealed his testimony with his blood.
Object. -- It begins with admonitory addresses to the seven churches from the divine Son of man, whom John saw in vision, after a brief introduction which sets forth the main subject of the book, namely, to |show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass| (the first through third chapters). From the fourth chapter to the end is mainly prophecy, with practical exhortations and consolations, however, interspersed, similar to those addressed to the seven churches (the representatives of the universal Church of every age), and so connecting the body of the book with its beginning, which therefore forms its appropriate introduction. Three schools of interpreters exist: (1) The Preterists, who hold that almost the whole has been fulfilled. (2) The Historical Interpreters, who hold that it comprises the history of the Church from John's time to the end of the world, the seals being chronologically succeeded, by the trumpets and the trumpets by the vials. (3) The Futurists, who consider almost the whole as yet future, and to be fulfilled immediately before Christ's second coming. The first theory was not held by any of the earliest Fathers, and is only held now by Rationalists, who limit John's vision to things within his own horizon, pagan Rome's persecutions of Christians, and its consequently anticipated destruction. The Futurist school is open to this great objection: it would leave the Church of Christ unprovided with prophetical guidance or support under her fiery trials for 1700 or 1800 years. Now God has said, |Surely He will do nothing, but He revealeth His secrets unto His servants the prophets| (Am 3:7). The Jews had a succession of prophets who guided them with the light of prophecy: what their prophets were to them, that the apocalyptic Scriptures have been, and are, to us.
Alford, following Isaac Williams, draws attention to the parallel connection between the Apocalypse and Christ's discourse on the Mount of Olives, recorded in Mt 24:4-28. The seals plainly bring us down to the second coming of Christ, just as the trumpets also do (compare Re 6:12-17; 8:1, &c.; Re 11:15), and as the vials also do (Re 16:17): all three run parallel, and end in the same point. Certain |catchwords| (as Wordsworth calls them) connect the three series of symbols together. They do not succeed one to the other in historical and chronological sequence, but move side by side, the subsequent series filling up in detail the same picture which the preceding series had drawn in outline. So Victorinus (on Re 7:2), the earliest commentator on the Apocalypse, says, |The order of the things said is not to be regarded, since often the Holy Spirit, when He has run to the end of the last time, again returns to the same times, and supplies what He has less fully expressed.| And Primasius [Commentary on the Apocalypse], |In the trumpets he gives a description by a pleasing repetition, as is his custom.|
At the very beginning, John hastens, by anticipation (as was the tendency of all the prophets), to the grand consummation. Re 1:7, |Behold, He cometh with clouds,| &c. Re 1:8, 17, |I am the beginning and the ending ... the first and the last.| So the seven epistles exhibit the same anticipation of the end. Re 3:12, |Him that overcometh, 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|; compare at the close, Re 21:2. So also Re 2:28, |I will give him the morning star|; compare at the close, Re 22:16, |I am the bright and morning star.|
Again, the earthquake that ensues on the opening of the sixth seal is one of the catchwords, that is, a link connecting chronologically this sixth seal with the sixth trumpet (Re 9:13; 11:13): compare also the seventh vial, Re 16:17, 18. The concomitants of the opening of the sixth seal, it is plain, in no full and exhaustive sense apply to any event, save the terrors which shall overwhelm the ungodly just before the coming of the Judge.
Again, the beast out of the bottomless pit (Re 11:7), between the sixth and seventh trumpets, connects this series with the section, twelfth through fourteenth chapters, concerning the Church and her adversaries.
Again, the sealing of the 144,000 under the sixth seal connects this seal with the section, the twelfth through fourteenth chapters.
Again, the loosing of the four winds by the four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, under the sixth seal, answers to the loosing of the four angels at the Euphrates, under the sixth trumpet.
Moreover, links occur in the Apocalypse connecting it with the Old Testament. For instance, the |mouth speaking great things| (Da 7:8 Re 13:5), connects the beast that blasphemes against God, and makes war against the saints, with the little horn (Da 7:21; Re 13:6, 7), or at last king, who, arising after the ten kings, shall speak against the Most High, and wear out the saints (Da 7:25); also, compare the |forty-two months| (Re 13:5), or |a thousand two hundred and threescore days| (Re 12:6), with the |time, times, and the dividing of time,| of Da 7:25. Moreover, the |forty-two months,| Re 11:2, answering to Re 12:6; 13:5, link together the period under the sixth trumpet to the section, Re 12:1-14:20.
Auberlen observes, |The history of salvation is mysteriously governed by holy numbers. They are the scaffolding of the organic edifice. They are not merely outward indications of time, but indications of nature and essence. Not only nature, but history, is based in numbers. Scripture and antiquity put numbers as the fundamental forms of things, where we put ideas.| As number is the regulator of the relations and proportions of the natural world, so does it enter most frequently into the revelations of the Apocalypse, which sets forth the harmonies of the supernatural, the immediately Divine. Thus the most supernatural revelation leads us the farthest into the natural, as was to be expected, seeing the God of nature and of revelation is one. Seven is the number for perfection (compare Re 1:4; 4:5, the seven Spirits before the throne; also, Re 5:6, the Lamb's seven horns and seven eyes). Thus the seven churches represent the Church catholic in its totality. The seven seals (Re 5:1), the seven trumpets (Re 8:2), and the seven vials (Re 17:1), are severally a complete series each in itself, fulfilling perfectly the divine course of judgments. Three and a half implies a number opposed to the divine (seven), but broken in itself, and which, in the moment of its highest triumph, is overwhelmed by judgment and utter ruin. Four is the number of the world's extension; seven is the number of God's revelation in the world. In the four beasts of Daniel (Da 7:3) there is a recognition of some power above them, at the same time that there is a mimicry of the four cherubs of Ezekiel (Eze 10:9), the heavenly symbols of all creation in its due subjection to God (Re 4:6-8). So the four corners of the earth, the four winds, the four angels loosed from the Euphrates, and Jerusalem lying |foursquare| (Re 21:16), represent world-wide extension. The sevenfoldness of the Spirits on the part of God corresponds with the fourfold cherubim on the part of the created. John, seeing more deeply into the essentially God-opposed character of the world, presents to us, not the four beasts of Daniel, but the seven heads of the beast, whereby it arrogates to itself the sevenfold perfection of the Spirits of God; at the same time that, with characteristic self-contradiction, it has ten horns, the number peculiar to the world power. Its unjust usurpation of the sacred number seven is marked by the addition of an eighth to the seven heads, and also by the beast's own number, six hundred sixty-six, which in units, tens, and hundreds, verges upon, but falls short of, seven. The judgments on the world are complete in six: after the sixth seal and the sixth trumpet, there is a pause. When seven comes, there comes |the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ.| Six is the number of the world given to judgment. Moreover, six is half of twelve, as three and a half is the half of seven. Twelve is the number of the Church: compare the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve stars on the woman's head (Re 12:1), the twelve gates of new Jerusalem (Re 21:12, 21). Six thus symbolizes the world broken, and without solid foundation. Twice twelve is the number of the heavenly elders; twelve times twelve thousand the number of the sealed elect (Re 7:4): the tree of life yields twelve manner of fruits. Doubtless, besides this symbolic force, there is a special chronological meaning in the numbers; but as yet, though a commanded subject of investigation, they have received no solution which we can be sure is the true one. They are intended to stimulate reverent inquiry, not to gratify idle speculative curiosity; and when the event shall have been fulfilled, they will show the divine wisdom of God, who ordered all things in minutely harmonious relations, and left neither the times nor the ways haphazard.
The arguments for the year-day theory are as follows: Da 9:24, |Seventy weeks are determined upon,| where the Hebrew may be seventy sevens; but Mede observes, the Hebrew word means always seven of days, and never seven of years (Le 12:5; De 16:9, 10, 16). Again, the number of years' wandering of the Israelites was made to correspond to the number of days in which the spies searched the land, namely, forty: compare |each day for a year,| Nu 14:33, 34. So in Eze 4:5, 6, |I have laid up on thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days ... forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year.| John, in Revelation itself, uses days in a sense which can hardly be literal. Re 2:10, |Ye shall have tribulation ten days|: the persecution of ten years recorded by Eusebius seems to correspond to it. In the year-day theory there is still quite enough of obscurity to exercise the patience and probation of faith, for we cannot say precisely when the 1260 years begin: so that this theory is quite compatible with Christ's words, |Of that day and hour knoweth no man| [Mt 24:36; Mr 13:32]. However, it is a difficulty in this theory that |a thousand years,| in Re 20:6, 7, can hardly mean one thousand by three hundred sixty days, that is, three hundred sixty thousand years. The first resurrection there must be literal, even as Re 20:5 must be taken literally, |the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished| (Re 20:5). To interpret the former spiritually would entail the need of interpreting the latter so, which would be most improbable; for it would imply that |the rest of the (spiritually) dead lived not (spiritually)| until the end of the thousand years, and then that they did come spiritually to life.1Co 15:23, |they that are Christ's at His coming,| confirms the literal view.