Of the Two Witnesses prophesying in Sackcloth.
Two witnesses or prophets sent by God, clothed in sackcloth, are to preach, while the Gentiles are treading under foot the court of the people of God, or the holy city. These are the interpreters and assertors of Divine truth, who should deplore that foul and lamentable contamination of the Church of Christ, by continual complaints, and whom God would raise up as unceasing monitors to the Christian world, committing whoredom with the Gentiles, and as guides to his saints preserving the faith. After the example of those illustrious pairs, under the Old Testament, Moses and Aaron in the Wilderness, Elijah and Elisha under the Baalitical apostasy, Zorobabel and Jeshua under the Babylonian captivity. From their number, condition, power and actions, these Apocalyptical witnesses seem to be manifestly described, as likewise the state of the church in which they prophesied, agreeably with that of Israel, under the images of Babylon, the Wilderness and Gentilism, or Baalism. Let the reader examine with his own eyes what I have said of the description of the witnesses in the following table:
Moses and Aaron. Elias and Elisha. Zorobabe1 & Jeshua.
|Having power over the waters, to turn them into blood. and to smite the earth with every plague.|
|Having power to shut heaven, that it should not rain.|
|These are the two olive-trees, and two candlesticks, which stand before the Lord of the earth.|
|Whoever would hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their adversaries.|
Numbers xvi.2 Kings i. Zech. iv.
Now let us come to the text. |And I will give power, (says he,) to my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy 1260 days, clothed in sackcloth.| Where it is first to be remarked, that the whole prophecy which follows, from this comma to the sounding of the seventh trumpet, as the nature of the subject demands, was not exhibited to sight in a vision, but dictated to John by the angel sustaining the person of Christ, the observation of which renders the genius of the allegory or type much more easy to be perceived. |To my two witnesses.| He calls them two with reference to the type, which is, as I have observed, of pairs; as if he had said I will give to my Zorobabel, and Jeshua, to my Elijah and Elisha, to my Moses and Aaron: -- To which is to be added, that he calls them witnesses: Now witnesses by the law ought to be two, to establish every word. Add that they may be called two on account of the number of the tables of God, which the witnesses of the Old and New Testament, as of two Testaments, might apply in their prophecy .
|That they should prophesy clothed in sackcloth,| that is, by woefully lamenting the trampling down of the Holy City, in consequence of the introduction of Gentile worship, by affording testimony to the truth of God, and by exhorting to repentance, |For 1260 days| -- which indeed Are contained in forty-two months, and these it is plain are not days of hours; both from those three days and a half, part of those days a little after, assigned to the death of the witnesses, and which the things predicted to be done in them, prove, cannot be taken for days of hours; and because the beast (whose duration is the same), is contemporary with the company of 144,000 sealed: the company of the sealed is contemporary with the six first trumpets, and the affairs of the trumpets cannot possibly be run through in so very short a time as 1260 horary days, or three years and a half. But why, you will say, should the profanation of the Gentiles be measured by months, and the prophecy of the witnesses asserting the pure worship of God in days? Namely, because the worship of idols and every sin and error is under the power of darkness and night, over which the moon presides; on the other hand, true religion may be compared to the light and the day, the presidency over which belongs to the sun. Therefore (Acts c. xxvi. v.18.) the mission of Paul to convert the Gentiles from idols, is said to be, |to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.| With the same meaning also it is said |what fellowship has light with darkness?| Now months are directed by the motion of the moon the queen of darkness, but days and years by that of the sun who presides over light. For the same cause, as we shall see hereafter, the blasphemy of the beast will be reckoned in like manner according to the motion of the moon, by months, but the residence of the woman in the wilderness by days and years with reference to the motion of the sun. |These are the two olive-trees and the two candlesticks, standing before the Lord of the earth.| That is, they are like Zorobabel and Jeshua whom the Lord anciently anointed over the Jewish church, ruined under the Babylonian captivity, at length to be restored and superintended by these witnesses in a similar manner, under the bondage of the Gentiles. For the allusion is to |those two olive-trees,| which Zacharias saw growing on each side of the golden candlestick, and supplying oil to its lamps, (Zach. c. iv.) of which the angel being asked what they meant, |these, said he, are the two sons of oil, or the anointed ones, which stand before the Lord of the whole earth, pointing out the two heads of the church, then in subjection to the Gentiles. -- Zorobabel, the general, and Jeshua, the high priest, of whom he had prophesied a little before. For the candle then with its seven lights, designated the temple, and by its type the church of that time, whose instauration and conservation, the two holy ones were to take charge of, not by force, not by strength, not by any human aid, but by the power of God alone, operating in a certain invisible and wonderful manner, as those olive-trees, standing on each side of the candlestick, supplied oil to its lights in a very extraordinary and imperceptible way. But why, you will say, is mention here made by John, not of one as in Zacharias, but of two candlesticks, to which likewise and not to the anointed ones, the two prophets seem to be compared? I confess that I am here at a stand, nor have I yet found a sufficiently prompt and clear reason for this difference. In the mean time I think there lurks a Hebraism in the words, and it is as if he had said: -- These are the two olive-trees, at or near the two candlesticks, standing before the Lord of the earth; so that the comparison of the witnesses may be only with the olive-trees, but the addition of the candlesticks may be judged only to pertain to the description of those olive-trees. For the copulative in the Hebrew has sometimes the force of the preposition m, that is, with, near by; as (1 Sam. c. xiv. v.18.) |Because the ark of God was at that time, and the children of Israel;| e. with the children of Israel. Vide Lex. Schindleri. But there will still remain a difficulty about the two candlesticks. May it be said, that the one only in Zacharias may here be reckoned for a double candlestick on account of the double rank of lights on each side of the stem; and the two olive-trees pouring in oil secretly on each side? There is, likewise, in Zacharias the mention of seven and seven and twice seven infusers, but what the meaning is does not sufficiently appear. But may we not suppose that this duplicate alludes to the private designation of the Christian church? as being compounded of two people, of Jews and Gentiles; or what, perhaps, is nearer the truth, because, at the time, in which the witnesses clothed in sack-cloth, were uttering their lamentation, it was to be divided together with the Roman empire into that of the east and west.
However it may be, it is certain that the candlesticks signify not the prophets or presidents of the churches, but the churches themselves, because in chapter i. the angel interprets the seven candlesticks, as so many Churches. |The seven candlesticks, (says he,) which thou sawest, are the seven Churches. |
|If any one wish to hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies, and if any one wish to hurt them, so must he be killed.| The witnesses do not revenge themselves by the sword or daggers, if they are ever injured by their enemies, but out of their mouth proceedeth the vengeance; that is, they transfix their enemies with the shafts of the Word; whilst they are denouncing the wrath of God impending over the violators of his ministers, or imploring vengeance with their prayers and groans. For the fire which is here reported as proceeding out of the mouth of the witnesses is the word of vengeance; agreeably to that saying of the Lord to Jeremiah (v.15.). |Behold I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.| Moses, indeed, and Aaron, and afterwards Elijah, the former against the conspirators in the sedition of Korah, the latter against the ministers of Ahaziah the King, the worshipper of Baal, literally called down fire from heaven, but the fire of our witnesses is to be interpreted mystically, since by the instruction of the holy spirit, our Egypt, and consequently the wilderness, is to be understood spiritually. Moreover, what the prophets denounce in the name of God, they are said to execute, as what the Lord says to the same Jeremiah, (c. i. v.10.) |I have set thee over the nations and kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, and to destroy, to build, and to plant.| Let not any one now be surprised that fire or the divine vengeance is said to be poured out of the mouth of the witnesses, with whom however the only power is that of denouncing or imploring it from God. It is thus the witnesses revenge their own injuries. That which follows shows by what means also they revenge the reproach brought upon the temple of God.
|These have power to shut heaven that it rain not;| (viz. that mystical rain fall not) |in the days of their prophecy. That is, they are endued with the power of the keys, by which they can shut heaven on those new Gentiles, contaminators of the Christian worship, that the grace of Christ's blood, sealed to them by baptism may not distil upon them for the remission of sins, so long as they shall persevere in being the cause of the mournful prophecy of the witnesses by their idolatries and superstitions. I will speak more plainly. They expel by the word of God those new idolaters from the hope of eternal life promised to the pure worshippers of God alone; until, mindful of the stipulation in their baptism, and having rejected the services of Satan, they shall have returned to the worship of the one God, through the only Mediator Jesus Christ, and thus put an end to the mournful prophecy of the witnesses. In the same manner also, Elijah did not bring rain again upon the Israelites, when they were already almost half dead with drought, until the worship of Baal and his prophets were exterminated.
Of this power of the witnesses we have an example hereafter, (c. xiv.9.) |If any one say they shall worship the beast and his image, and shall receive the mark on his forehead, or his hand, he shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God; of unmixed wine poured out into the cup of his indignation, and shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.|
Lastly, |they have power over the waters, to convert them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague as often as they will.| Moses and Aaron exercised a power of this kind when they were about to conduct Israel out of Egyptian slavery. Whence I collect, that the power of the witnesses, represented by this type, does not refer to all the days of the prophecy in sackcloth, but to the end of them, or the time of the phials; when indeed, under the auspices of the witnesses or prophets, as of Moses and Aaron, the Christian people, by plagues described under the image of those of Egypt, are in like manner to be led forth out of the tyranny and slavery of the beast. For the first plague of the phials smites the earth with a sore; by the second and third, the waters are turned into blood; the rest afflict with other and heavier plagues the adherents of the beast, or the Gentiles abiding in the court of the temple. The interpretation of all which we reserve for the proper place. Here it may be sufficient to have referred this last power to the effusion of the phials.
|But when they are about to finish their testimony, the beast which ascendeth out of the abyss, shall make war upon them, and shall overcome them, and shall slay them.'|
We have hitherto treated of the office and power of the witnesses; the fate now follows which they shall experience at the end of their prophecy, the description of which is wholly taken from the history of our Lord's passion. For the Lord Jesus, in like manner, when he was finishing his preaching, which lasted about as many days as the prophecy of the witnesses, was killed by the Roman president, a legate of that beast, which warred with the witnesses, (but in the shape of its sixth head.) The third day after, when there was a great earthquake also, he rose again; and a little after, namely, on the fortieth day, being received up in a cloud, he ascended into heaven. All which things God wished to represent in this slaughter of the witnesses or prophets; that as in the nature of their office they had borne a resemblance, as was stated before, to those illustrious pairs; so in suffering and death they should become conformable to Christ their Lord, that faithful Witness; which ought to be their consolation and their glory in the midst of their troubles.
But let us throw light on the text. |When,| says he, |they shall be finishing their testimony,| (for so hotan telesosi should be translated, not by the preterite, when they have finished,) |the beast who ascends out of the abyss, shall make war upon them and shall kill them.| That is, when at length, a part of the Holy City, or of the Christian world, having acknowledged the impurity of Gentilism, repenting, and cleansing the temple of God among them, and the witnesses rejoicing, shall begin to put off their sackcloth, and to be discharged from their daily lamentation, though they shall not be yet fully discharged from it, the seven-headed Roman beast in his last state, (of whom see ch. xiii.) indignant that the preaching of those hitherto-mourning persons should have prevailed, will make war upon them, conquer, and kill them: Of which, the first symptom of the lamentation of the witnesses beginning to come to an end, took place at the commencement of the Reformed Church, and has been continually repeated up to this present time. The other, respecting the war and slaughter, I suspect to be yet future. Our Brightman, indeed, supposed that it had been long ago fulfilled in the war of Smalcalde, under Charles the Fifth. Others accommodate it to the recent destruction of the German Churches. And who would not much rather wish that so sad a misfortune for the Church had already passed, than that it should remain to be apprehended? But the interpretation is not to be governed according to our wish; nay, the error will be greater on this side than the other; since the expectation of future calamity is more conducive to piety, than too credulous a security respecting it, as if already past. Two things persuade me that this last slaughter is .yet to be dreaded. The first is, that those sorrowful times, of the Gentiles treading under foot the Holy City, or the Christian Religion, -- that is, the forty-two months, as long as the beast shall be reigning, -- cannot be said to have completed their period; nor, therefore, the days of the witnesses lamenting in sack or hair cloth, contemporary and coeval with those months. The other is, that this destruction of the witnesses (as we shall in a short time see), is immediately antecedent to the overthrow and ruin of the great city, that is, of Rome, which the series of the phials will not permit to be at so short a distance, as we are not yet carried beyond the fourth of them, (though, in the present agitation of affairs, it is to be hoped, that is now passing,) as we shall then be instructed. But we will show, by-and-by, that the ruin of the city relates to the fifth, of which it is very probable that this slaughter of which we treat, will be the forerunner; especially since it is usual for our general Christ to contend with his enemies, and to bestow a victory upon his followers, only by the method of the cross. It does not follow, however, that because this should be the last slaughter, and even yet future, that any thing can certainly be determined of its severity, above all which preceded it. For perhaps it deserved a singular mention and description, not so much on account of its severity, (certainly, not of its duration,) as because it was a sign that the sorrows of the witnesses were then about to be immediately concluded, and of the impending ruin of the Roman city, and therefore alone was selected out of all the slaughters by which the beast would wear out the saints. In like manner, for instance, as the surrounding of Jerusalem by the army of Cestius Gallus, a little before the fatal siege of Titus, was predicted as a sign of its ruin then impending before the doors. For as our Saviour said to his apostles, inquiring about the signs of the time of its destruction, |When ye shall see Jerusalem encompassed with armies, then know that its desolation draweth near.| So here it should seem to be intimated by the overthrow of Babylon; when you shall see that slaughter of the witnesses for three years and a half, then know that the desolation of the great city approacheth.
But the destruction by which the witnesses are predicted to be overthrown, must I think be understood in a very general sense, in which it may comprehend death, metaphorically or analogically so called. In this notion, that is said to die, which in whatever state it was constituted, either political or ecclesiastical, or in any other, ceases to be what it was. Whence likewise he kills, who inflicts on any one such a death. For as in the sacred style, to live is oftentimes to be, to die, is not to be. In which sense, we are said to die to Satan and sin, when we cease to be any longer their servants; and to live to Christ, when we begin to be his.
And the mode of opposition seems to require that as the resurrection of the witnesses to life, after the slaughter was perpetrated, should be of this kind, so the slaughter itself should be. But that is clearly analogical, because no resurrection properly so called, will take place before the advent of Christ, under the seventh trumpet; but this takes place while the sixth is still running on.
The death of the witnesses then in war, if we explain it according to this rule of interpretation, will appear to he their overthrow and dejection from that office and station in the Church, reformed by the force of their preaching, which they had obtained for a while, whether that may be joined with corporeal death or otherwise; so that the prophetic life which they had lived till that time, should from thence continue no longer, and that they should no more exercise their offices. By which, at the same time, it necessarily follows, that the columns being withdrawn, and the false prophets of the beast substituted in the place of the prophets of Christ, the whole polity of the reformed Church, as widely as this may happen, should fall to the ground. Which, whether it will come to pass sooner or later, He only knows, in whose hands are the times and seasons.
In the mean time, lest any one should possibly be deceived, there is one thing to be accurately attended to, that this last war of the beast is not of the same kind with that which he had hitherto waged against the assembly of the saints, (of which indeed we shall speak in the history of the beast, c. xiii.) |that it was given him to make war upon the saints, and to overcome them;| but altogether of a different character. For why should that be related as peculiar to the last times of the beast, which if not from his first rise, at least from his acme, had been common to him? The war which the beast waged against the saints universally, is one; that which he wages in his last state, is another; namely, with the prophets who had begun to lay aside their prophetic lamentations with their sackcloth; that is, with the heads of the Church, reformed from his party. This is still more manifest from the different event of one war from the other; the former, indeed, prosperous, the latter very unfortunate. By the former, the beast obtained power over every tribe and tongue, and nation, &c.; by the latter he draws down upon himself a sudden and fatal destruction, as we shall see in the text. |And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.| That city surnamed great, is Rome, so called, not so much with a view to its size, as because it was the queen of other cities, according to that saying of the angel, c. xvii., |The woman which thou sawest is that great city which hath dominion over the kings of the earth.| In like manner, by the name of the great king, (by which God is called, Ps. xlviii. v.3, and Matt. c. v. v.25, and which title was of old peculiarly suited to the kings of the Assyrians and Persians,) is intimated the king of kings, who has power over other kings. For which reason, throughout the whole Apocalypse, by whatever name Rome is otherwise called, whether of Babylon, or of the harlot, she is always distinguished by this title, great; as that great Babylon, that great harlot. Add that in the whole Apocalypse, this title is bestowed on no city besides, unless at last, after its fall, to the new Jerusalem, descending from heaven, in whose light from thenceforth the Gentiles should walk. Which whoever could suppose was intended here must have need of hellebore. But neither Jerusalem in the time of St. John, nor any other Jerusalem, except that, is ever to become |the great city,| or the head or queen of the other cities of the world. It is added, |which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt:| Egypt, on account of its tyranny; Sodom, on account of its fornication; that is, spiritual fornication. But here (as the reader should diligently observe) is a key to the allegory, (of which kind many occur in this book,) by which, in truth, the Holy Spirit means to intimate once for all, that whatever is any where exhibited in these visions of Egyptian plagues, or of the destruction of the Sodomites, is wholly to be interpreted pneumarikos, that is, mystically; since Rome, or the state of the Roman commonweal, the subject of all those plagues, was a mystical Sodom and Egypt. Then all references, too, to Egyptian plagues in the description of the trumpets and phials, as well as in this history of the witnesses; and of the destruction of the Sodomites in the judgment of the beast, c. xix. v.20, and c. xx. v.10; of all which the sense is to be opened by this key. Hence it may even be demonstrated, that the subject of the trumpets is the Roman empire; because of those plagues some are Egyptian. Now to what can Egyptian plagues be applied, but to Egypt? and this by the authority of the Holy Spirit is Rome.
Respecting the great city, then, the meaning is plain, but what the plateia of the city may he, of which mention is here made, is not so easily to be known. For it seems, it cannot be taken for a street, or for what we call in Latin platea, or forum, or for any other place within a city, for the following reasons: In the first place, Christ our Lord, who is said to have been crucified in this plateia, was not crucified either in any street or forum of the city of Rome, or Jerusalem, but without the gate of the latter, (Heb. c. xiii. v.12,) in a province thereof only, by Pilate the governor. Therefore the plateia of the great city is not any street or broadway within the walls of either of the cities, but a place without the city. Plateia, secondly, being put in the singular number, it is very probable that it designates a thing of that kind, of which a city has one only, and not many. But there are many streets in every city; at least in every one of consequence. Thirdly, it is supposed, that the bodies of the witnesses lie where they were conquered in battle; but it is not usual for troops to be gathered together within the walls of a city; but if not in the enemy's land, at least in the region and provinces subject to the city. Fourthly, |the people, tribes, tongues, and nations,| might see |the dead bodies of those who were slain for three days and a half,| and not suffer them to be buried. It seems, therefore, that they did not lie in any way or street of the great city, but were either dispersed or spread abroad throughout the provinces, to which, consequently, the signification of tes plateias ought to be accommodated. And if any one should say, that the army of the beast, by which the witnesses were routed and slain, might be composed of various people and tongues, and therefore might easily see the carcases of those whom they had slain, we must recur to the former; it is not customary for such armies to be gathered together within the walls of a city. For, undoubtedly, the subject is so to be explained, especially where no appearance of allegory can be pretended, that there should not be any absurdity in the literal sense. What else, then, can we say of this passage, but that by the expression of plateia, the whole region and territory, subject to the dominion of the city, was pointed out, and that such a signification may be drawn either from the Hebrew chvts, to which it often corresponds in the version of the Septuagint? namely, according to the custom and use of the Hellenistic language, which is wont to apply a Greek word answering in one signification according to its original use, to a Hebrew word signifying many things, in some other signification; as might be proved by many examples, if there were a question of this custom. chvts signifies with the Hebrews whatever is altogether external, either without the house, as streets and ways in cities; or without the city, as the circumjacent country or land. Job c. v. v.10, where in the Hebrew it is tsl phny chvtsvt, the Chaldee renders it, |Who giveth rain on the face of the earth, and sendeth waters on the surface of the province, or on the region of the people.| Or from a notion of width, that it may be the same as platos tes ges Is. c. viii. v.8, |And the stretching out of his wings (that is, of the Assyrian) shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel!| and Apoc. c. xxix. v.9, of Gog and Magog: |They came up upon the breadth of the earth, (epi platos tes ges,) and encompassed the beloved city.| Now it makes for this interpretation, that rchv another word which the Septuagint translate plateian, and rchv which signifies breadth, or platos, has exactly the same letters, and each is called by the same word in the Chaldee, pht'h Or lastly, by the notion of breadth, which is the original meaning of the word plateian, the Holy Spirit meant to intimate the amplitude of the dominion of that great city, by which it surpassed all cities, and even at this day surpasses them, as if epi tes plateias was used for epi choras tes plateias, on the extensive country, &c. The word plateia is an adjective, used substantively, and therefore something ought to be understood, and it may be either one thing or another, to explain the interpretation, nor do I know whether that signification of street is often found among the ancient Greek writers.
But now it can no longer be obscure to one by whom this interpretation is approved, either in what manner Christ may be said to have been crucified in the plateia of the Roman city, or when the carcases of the slain witnesses were to be cast out; namely, not in the city of Rome, but in the Roman domain. I know, indeed, that many of our writers, in order to arrive at the same conclusion, understand here, under the name of the city, the whole dominion of the city. But what then, I pray, will be the meaning of plateia? For of those two, of which it seems almost necessary it should be one, it can be neither; not dominion, as that is designated under the name of the city; not any province, though a great city has many; for plateia means something unique and singular, as it is put in the singular number. And this may suffice for our remarks on the plateia tes poleos tes megales. Let us now proceed to the remainder.
|And (some) of the peoples, and tribes, and tongues, and nations, shall see their dead bodies for three days and a half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put into monuments.| -- Whether this is to be taken in the sense of inhumanity or of kindness, is doubtful, and not to be decided except by the fulfilment of the prophecy. For it may be taken either as done by enemies, adding this for the sake of ignominy, to the slaughter which they had perpetrated, that they would deny sepulture to the bodies of the dead: Or by friends and favourers of the witnesses by this means consulting the interests of those who were soon to revive. For, however it may be held on other considerations, an act of the greatest cruelty, not to bury the dead, and to cast them out unburied, and especially among the Jews, as the greatest ignominy; yet to prohibit those who were so dead, as not to create a despair but they might again be restored to life, from being immured for a short time in the cloisters of the sepulchre, ought to be placed to the account of kindness. If the first is to be understood, some marks of infamy or ignominy seem to be intimated by this type by which the followers of the beast, not content with having made away with the witnesses, would inflict on them in addition. But if the latter, it may be some assistance from the reformed nations, out of fear of whom, as of a multitude, much the largest
and therefore, while the wound was yet recent, and their affairs not yet confirmed, not to be provoked with impunity to desperation, or at least, by exertion and secret favour, it should come to pass, that they should not deal with the witnesses as if there were no hope of their revival. -- Achmet, from the doctrine of the Indians, (Apotelesma, 130,) |If any one in dreams should seem to be buried, the sepulchre refers to the full certainty of his death. If he should seem to observe some deficiency of those things which pertain to sepultures, that deficiency must be placed to the account of hope. If now you should be disposed to inquire what appears in the text which would lead rather to one interpretation than the other, I would introduce this observation into the argument on the subject, that since he announces what is here suggested in a different mode, and in different words, and since he treats of enemies in the following verse, he wishes them to be understood, in this and the latter instance, not as the same, but as different persons. In the one case, indeed, as the enemies, in the other as the friends of the witnesses. For of the enemies, in the following verse, exulting and sending presents to one another, he says, |They that dwell on the earth,| but of those who would not suffer the dead bodies of the witnesses to be put into graves, |they of the tribes, and people, and tongues,| partitively, as if it would note certain persons different from the others in disposition. Let the reader judge.
|For three days and a half.| That is, as it appears for three years and a half, for the things which are there foretold, as to be performed, prove that it cannot be understood of horary days. For who can believe that the short space of three days and a half are sufficient either for disseminating the report of the slaughter of the witnesses through the world, or for sending messengers with gifts backwards and forwards among the nations. It is obvious that it would not be sufficient even for preparing them. To this must be added, that half a day, or twelve hours, is wholly inadequate for measuring acts of this kind. For these sort of things are accustomed to be marked, not by hours, but rather by months, or at least, by entire days. In the meanwhile it is to be observed, that the time is here to be computed, not from the date of the witnesses being killed, but from that in which they shall lie dead and inanimate, after they have been slain. But how long that war shall last, and how much time will be given to killing the prophets, the fulfilment of the prophecy only will explain. |And they that dwell on the earth shall rejoice over them, and be merry, and shall send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented them who dwelt on the earth.| Of the custom of sending gifts in cases of public joy or of great rejoicings, vide Esther, c. ix. v.22. |And after three days and a half, the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet, and fear fell on those who beheld them.|
Such as the death of the witnesses was, such will be their awakening or resurrection from the dead; namely, their restitution to their former state; and that, not so much by any exertion or human assistance, as by the finger of God, who is wonderful in his works. For this is implied in the words, |The Spirit of life from God entered into them.| Achmet says, (Apotelesm. vi. and vii. of the Doctrine of the Egyptians and Persians,) |If any one in dreams thinks he sees the resuscitation of the dead, it signifies the liberation of the conquered and the termination of wars.| Apot. vi. Deliverance from Calamities. Vide Ezek. ch. xxxvii.
|And they heard a great voice from heaven, saying to them, Come up hither. And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies beheld them.| Not only will the witnesses be restored to their former place and station, but they will be even elevated to a higher degree of honour and power. For that is the signification of being carried up in a cloud, and ascending to heaven. Vide Dan. c. vii. v.13, and c. xix. v.1. Whence in the interpretation of dreams which the Arabian I have so often quoted, Apomasar or Achmet, has collected from the ancient records of the Egyptians and Persians, we read, |If a king seem to himself to be seated in the clouds, and to be carried wherever he will, his barbarian enemies shall be reduced into subjection to him, over whom he shall preside with supreme command.| Also, |If a king should seem to himself to have flown, as it were, to heaven, where the stars are, he shall possess eminence and distinction above other kings.| Also, |If a king should seem to be carried upward to be seated in heaven, he shall reduce under his authority a larger region than that which he possesses.| Apot.162.164.
These I bring forward for the purpose of showing, that the parable I speak of is applied in that signification by the prophets, in which it is understood according to the use of the East. The ministry of the witnesses, then, will not be despised as before, nor they themselves treated as men of an abject and contemptible kind. So that what our Saviour said of himself, Luke, ch. xxiv. v.26, |Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and then to enter into his glory?| may acquire its force and truth in the example of the prophets likewise. And who knows whether the reformed Church may not undergo the reproach brought upon Christ on this behalf by the subduction of the witnesses for a time, because they had not treated them according to the dignity of their embassy, while they enjoyed it. It is too well known what is the sin of the reformed Churches in this case; and as, while the prophets of Christ were strenuously engaged in purifying the temple of God, some in the mean time contaminated that most holy work by pillaging its treasures, and embezzling its oblations, not having left a maintenance in some places, to the great disgrace of true religion, by which its ministers might be sustained honourably, and according to the dignity of their order, much less, a superabundance, that they might lay aside for the improvement of the reformed affairs, the necessities of a saored war, the aid of afflicted brethren, and for other pious uses: Was not this the kind of prevarication for which anciently the Jewish temple was profaned by Antiochus Epiphanes, and the religion of the true God given up to be trodden under foot, in like manner, for three years? |A host,| says Daniel, |shall be given to him against the daily sacrifice, on account of prevarication, and it shall cast down the truth to the ground, and it shall practise and prosper,| ch. viii. v.12. See the history, second Book of Maccabees, from the beginning of the third chapter to the fifth, and judge. But I will not press the matter any farther. This only will I add, -- perhaps this increase of honour and power to the witnesses by their resurrection, will be brought about by the command of the Supreme magistrate, (which, perhaps, may be that voice from heaven,) as a compensation for the infamy and ignominy with which the followers of the beast had disgraced them when dead, supposing that to be signified by the prohibition of sepulture.
|And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth part of the city fell, and there were slain in the earthquake (the names of) seven thousand men.| At the time at which the witnesses or prophets returned to life, and ascended into heaven, there was a great earthquake, that is, a great commotion of the nations, and revolution of political affairs, by which, in fact, a way was opened to the witnesses, and a facility given them of returning to life, with such an increase of dignity and power. By that commotion of the nations, |a tenth of the city fell, and there were slain seven thousand names of men.| That we may attain as nearly as possible in a future event to the meaning of these words, two things are to be pre-established and proved. First, since there is no misfortune attending the fall of the beast, but what is contained in some one of the phials, the same overthrow of the beast is here described as at the effusion of the fifth phial. The proof is, that the subject is the same in both plagues; in the former, the seat or throne of the beast; in the latter, the great city. That the great city is Rome, the seat of the beast, is so plain that it need not be proved. It is still farther confirmed, because the slaughter which is here described, so nearly precedes the full abolition of the beast at the seventh trumpet, that nothing is related to have intervened but the conclusion of the second woe; but now, at all events, the total destruction of the beast is the work of the last phial, the conclusion of the second woe, or of the plague from the Euphrates, of the sixth phial. Therefore the destruction of the great city, which immediately precedes that conclusion, agrees with the fifth phial. Another thing to be previously established by us is, that the ruin of the great city is that very destruction of Babylon, which is celebrated in the eighteenth chapter. This is proved, because it is certain from that same chapter, that the destruction of Babylon, or the Roman city, goes before the complete demolition of the beast and the august reign of Christ, beginning with the seventh trumpet. Now the destruction of the same city, which is here related, so nearly precedes that kingdom, that the Spirit, with the mention of no destruction beside, as intervening, passes at once to that kingdom, and the description of the seventh trumpet. It necessarily follows, that the same destruction of the city is described in both places. For who can bring his mind to believe that the Holy Spirit would have altogether passed over that very great desolation, and have introduced the mention of some smaller overthrow, by no means to be compared with it?
This being the state of the case, it follows, that the interpretation of the passage is to be guided by the above rule, and is to be proved, as it were, by a touchstone; and therefore a meaning of these words is to be sought for, of such a nature as may agree with the description of that Babylonian destruction. Let us now see by what means this may be done. Philip Nicolai, a theologian of the Augustan confession, a learned and acute man, thinks that by the Dekaton tes poleos is to be understood the decarchy of the city, or the ten kingdoms, subdued to its dominion, which indeed, in this concussion of the nations, revolted from Rome, to whose government they had been subject for so many years; and from thenceforward its commands were not to be obeyed. This, in truth, is what is said in another place. That |the ten kings who had delivered up their power to the beast, when the words of God were fulfilled, should hate the whore, and make her desolate, and naked, should eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.| But this notion of the word Dekaton, however it had in the first place presented itself to me, while reflecting on the meaning of this passage, and though it pleased me very much from the appositeness of the event, yet afterwards, when I examined the matter more closely, appeared a little strained, and unusual; so that I fear it will not easily be approved by those who would desire a simple and unforced interpretation. I seek, therefore, for another. And first it suggested itself to my mind, that the tenth, perhaps, was the name of a tribute, either that which the high priest receives from the whole kingdom of the beast, or that which the city itself receives from its estates by the right of dominion. This tenth of the city, in that commotion of affairs, was to fall, that is, to fail, and therefore I inferred, that the principality of the city would be wholly extinguished; namely, despoiled of the territory bestowed on it for a patrimony, and its high priest driven from thence by force; that it would lose the prerogative and dominion which it was accustomed to exercise, to so great an extent over cities and people; since it would no longer be that which had procured for it prerogative and dominion, the metropolis of the kingdom of the beast, nor the seat of the false prophet. For it is well known, that tribute is the symbol of dominion, and that in this name, most of the provinces under the empire of ancient Rome paid the tenth part of their products every year. Which likewise may be proved to have been customary in the kingdoms of the east, both from the first of Maccabees, c. x. v.31, and c. xi. v.35, and from that summary of royal right, 1 Sam. c. viii. (for observe, what is said of tenths is not to be taken of sacred tenths or tithes: They were royal, accustomed to be paid to kings as viceroys of the gods,) which Aristotle also confirms in the second book of his OEconomics. It ought not, then, to appear strange, if any one should here affirm that under the name of a tenth, a representation so common, might be signified some kind of tribute belonging to the city. But there is no need to go back so far, since in Italy that mode of tribute has not yet been abolished, and besides, the Roman pontiff has long since renewed the image of -it in his ecclesiastical empire, by annually requiring a tenth part of ecclesiastical benefices. But to this interpretation it is an objection, that it seems it ought then rather to be called Dekate than Dekaton. Besides the word epese, it fell, by which some effect consistent with an earthquake must be designed, is not sufficiently suited to an interpretation of this sort. Nay, if it could be established, yet it would seem to express the fall of Babylon, with which we presuppose it to be identified too obscurely and faintly, and not in a suitable manner.
At last, then, until any one shall suggest something more certain, and consonant to the text, I am brought to this conclusion, that I conceive by the tenth of the city, a part of the city is indeed to be understood, but not a part of the present city, but the whole of it, which is the tenth part of the ancient one. That this is the fact, and that not more than the tenth part of the ancient city of Rome, as it existed in the age of St. John, remains at this day, may appear from the: following reasoning. For Lypsius affirms, that ancient Rome, such as it was in the age of John, with respect to form, was nearly round, but not however exactly so. Its semi-diameter, from the golden milestone placed at the top of the Roman forum, to the extremity of the building, was about 7000 paces, that is, 7 miles, its circuit at length was 42 miles. Since then it was not exactly round, let us diminish its semi-diameter, in order to measure its area by one mile (as much as in a hexangular figure, according to a perpendicular to the side, it ought to be diminished). It will then be 6, which multiplied by 21, the half of the periphery, will give 126 for the area of the city.
But modern, or pontifical Rome has only 13 or 15 miles for its circuit, as they know, says Lypsius, who have measured it. Its form, as may be seen from its ichnography, is an oblong, nearly quadrangular, in a proportion almost double. To measure which, let a rectangular parallelogram be constituted, whose perimeter may be 15, its length double the breadth; of which form, in fact, the sides will be 22 and 5, which multiplied into each other, will give an area of 121. Now the number 126 contains 10 times the number 121. The latter area, then, is the tenth part of the former, and consequently, modern Rome the tenth part of ancient. Q. E. D. Any one who is not much accustomed to reasonings of this sort, may apply the judgment of his eyes to the following diagram.
Diagram comparing Ancient and Modern Rome
We cannot, indeed, examine every thing here according to line and rule, but it is wonderful how near we can approach to it. I define the circumference of the present city by the walls by which it is surrounded, for beyond them, contrary to what was formerly the case, it is not at this day inhabited; but the whole contents, whatever they may be, are included within the walls; those walls which Hadrian the First, and Leo the Fourth, pontiff, erected, as it were, by a fatal instinct, as the boundary to that which had just been made the seat of the pontifical kingdom. For so Blondus relates, that the walls which now exist were built by Hadrian I. for 100,000 pieces of gold, collected from Tuscany. Those, as is remarked by others, Leo IV. afterwards, about the year of our Lord 850, either repaired or finished; and having added the Transtiberian or Leontine city to it, completed the city in the form and circuit in which it is now seen. And though it has much of the space included within the walls void and desert, yet since the walls are reckoned among the principal works of the city, the city itself cannot be considered as less extensive than its walls. Ampler, indeed, it might be, if, as the old one formerly was, it were extended every way beyond the walls by contiguous buildings.
That I may at length draw to a conclusion, the sum of what I have said reverts to this; that the Holy Spirit means to say, or to intimate, that so much of the Great City as remained at this earthquake, should become a ruin at the time, viz. a tenth of the city; for there was to be no more remaining up to that period. Nine parts were to fall many ages before; and we in truth have seen them fall, partly by the destructions and devastations which the barbarians brought upon it at so many different times, partly by decay from great age, and partly overthrown by lightning, as we have pointed out under the fourth trumpet. The tenth part was reserved for the pontifical Roman fate, being constituted the head of a new empire, and the mother of Christian harlots. This part the earthquake, which is connected with the resurrection of the witnesses, will entirely demolish.
Nor was it perhaps necessary that we should interpret the Holy Spirit as having spoken so rigidly as we have done, of the tenth part of the city, according to geometrical miles. It would have been sufficient, if, as formerly, he had spoken by his influence on Isaiah, c. vi. v.13. of the destruction of the Jewish people, |A tenth of it shall be preserved, and be brought back into the land.| So here we may understand, not so strictly a tenth, as some very small part, about a tenth of the ancient amplitude of the Roman city, which should remain as the seat of the beast for the last destruction.
It is added, |And there were slain in the earthquake seven thousand names of men.| Here, if by names of men we understand heads of men, or individual men, the number seems too trifling, and not consistent with the magnitude of the slaughter, which the Holy Spirit elsewhere intimates. For in the destruction of Babylon, will there not be a far greater number slain than seven thousand men? And is it likely that the effusion of the fifth phial on the throne of the beast should terminate by so very small a massacre of men? In order to satisfy this doubt by some other means: First, it is to be observed, that by the name of the city is here to be understood, not the citizens and inhabitants, but the buildings and walls, that is, the royal seat of the beast; and so a double destruction of Babylon is described in these prophecies; first, of Babylon as the royal city of the beast, that is to say, of the Roman city at the fifth phial; afterwards of Babylon, as to the citizens or Roman state, which consists of the Pope, with the senate of empurpled Cardinals, and the other crowd of citizens, especially of ecclesiastics, who, after Rome has been destroyed and burnt, betook themselves to a habitation in some other place, and who are to be reserved for the last phial: at whose effusion it is said, over and above other destructions of nations and states in every part of the world, in that earthquake which was far the greatest of all that had ever taken place, even |that great Babylon came in memory before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath,| c. xvi. v.19; which, notwithstanding the burning and destruction of Babylon, described in the xviiith and xixth chapters, certainly precede the full extermination of the beast, and false prophet, as is there manifest from the text. I know some unravel this knot in a different manner, by saying, that Babylon, of which mention is made in the last phial, is Constantinople, the metropolis of the Turks; but they will never persuade me, that the Holy Spirit, in the first and principal image of all, has used so remarkable a synonyme, and that we are to understand two Babylons, and not one only, and the same, though with a double reference. To come, then, to the point. It may perhaps come to pass, that the first destruction of Babylon, that is, the devastation and ruin of the city of Rome, may be effected without any immense or total slaughter of the citizens. And though |her smoke was to ascend for ever and ever,| that is, she should be wholly converted into ashes, and levelled with the ground, never again to be inhabited, yet a great part of the citizens might escape from the overthrow of the city, either because they would in time consult their safety by flight, or from some other cause, which the event will make manifest.
And this is one mode by which the doubt may be satisfied about the too trifling number .of those who were slain. Another is, if we should say that by |names of men| are possibly intended men of name, or renown. For a hypallage of this kind is not unfrequent in the Scriptures, that in the order of the nouns, that which precedes is used in the place of an epithet. As for example, |The silver of the shekels,| Lev. c. v. for shekels of silver; the uncleanness of man, for a man of uncleanness, that is, an unclean man, (ib. c. vii.) the law of justice, for the justice of the law; Rom. c. ix. the riches of grace, for rich and abundant grace, and the like. A name, besides, is familiar for celebrity in almost all languages, especially the sacred, in which men of name are illustrious men; sons without a name, (Job c. xxx.) ignoble; in Chaldee, vulgar persons. Whence Beza, in his Annotations on the Ephesians, c. i. v.21, and Philipp. c. ii. v.9, speaking of the exaltation of Christ above every name; as also Heb. c. i. v.4, understands name in the signification of dignity and worth.
If we follow an interpretation of this kind, (nor do I see what can be opposed to it,) the names of men will be dignities of men, onomastoi, men of name, illustrious men and excelling in dignity, of whom about 7000 (and what if they should be of the order of the false prophet, which they call ecclesiastics?) should fall in this concussion of things and nations. The number, however, of 7000, I conceive to be so intended that a few more or less may be understood, according to the manner of Scripture. How great a number of the Plebeians are to fall in this war it does not belong to the subject to declare, since that may be conjectured from the slaughter of the nobles, nor did the Holy Spirit wish to descend so far as to reduce the dregs of the slain to a calculation.
But still another interpretation may be given, which would not render it necessary to come to an enumeration of particular men; for instance, if we may interpret names of men as companies and societies of men, men accustomed to be called by their proper names no less than individuals, as are states, municipalities, parishes, villages, abbeys, and similar titles of human communities. For what are these things else, if we are desirous of forming the hypothesis, than names of men? for so is the political state of the Thebans called by Eschines Thebaion onoma, and the Roman name is used for the Roman people .
What, then, if out of these titles of human communities, whatever they may be, and whether at Rome, or in what they call the state of the Church, about 7000 are to be slain in this concussion of the nations; that is, they are to sink under adverse power, which Scripture, according to its usual style, has called death.
But nothing is to be rashly pronounced concerning a future event, since the issue of things predicted is a commentary on the prophecy. These observations I have adduced that it may appear more clearly, as far as relates to words, that the interpretation may he more liberal than is commonly supposed, since the use of Scripture does not bind down the word name to any uniform and certain signification. For names of men are not to be found conjunctively any where else, than in the place now under consideration; nor are names to be found, singly of individuals, unless twice only, c. i. v.15, Apo. c. iii. v.4. The word is otherwise applied in a different signification. There remains, |And the rest were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.| That is, by their consternation; by which, even unwillingly and ungratefully, they acknowledged the finger of God. For to acknowledge, by whatever mark, the wisdom, goodness, or power of God, is to give him glory. As they who detected by God confess their sins, are said to give glory to God, as Achan. Then follows, |The second woe is past, the third woe cometh quickly.| The meaning is, that the great earthquake should be continued till the end of the second woe, or sixth trumpet; and the mournful prophecy of the witnesses was at length to finish with it; since after such a victory over the followers of the beast, and their ascent into the heaven of power and honour, they would no longer be clothed in sackcloth. If the second woe, or the plague of the sixth trumpet, be the overflow of the Turks from the Euphrates in ancient time on the Roman world, as we then interpreted it, it can scarely be denied, but that the passing away of this plague, must be the drying up of the waters of the Euphrates at the effusion of the sixth phial, by which |the way of the kings from the east might be prepared,| c. xvi. v.12. From which coming of the kings of the east, (lest any interval should otherwise be left between the two trumpets,) the seventh trumpet seems to begin, and therefore that wonderful preparation of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet, for the war to be waged at Armageddon, c. xvi. vv.13, 14, together with its event at the last phial, v.17, must be referred to the beginning of the same seventh trumpet. And indeed, it appears very probable, that the preparation for war belongs to the same trumpet as the war itself. But here a doubt arises, which requires solution, and therefore must not be passed over in silence. For since there is the same termination to the forty-two months of the beast as there is to the 1260 days of the mourning of the witnesses, and those days finish at the conclusion of the plague of the sixth trumpet, or of the second woe, it may not improperly be asked, why the months of the beast should not be extended farther, since, after this time, no small portion of the beast remains which is not to be put an end to, until the beginning of the seventh trumpet.
It may be answered, that this takes place because at that time the conversion of Israel, and the new kingdom begin, (for they are called kings from the East,) or because, in the duration of the beast, the empire of the Roman city is chiefly attended to. But that great city, the royal residence of the beast, is taken and overthrown in that earthquake; so far that the beast from thenceforth will have in some degree changed his form, since his metropolis being thus demolished, it can no longer be considered as the kingdom of the seven mountains, (which is the other signification of the seven heads.) There still remains in the text the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and the august kingdom of Christ in the great day of judgment. The interpretation of which we will defer to the end of the book, that we may exhibit all the prophecies relating to it in that place, at the same time and in one point of view.