E^2, THE FIRST SIX TRUMPETS (viii.7 - xi.14).
A., The First Four Trumpets (viii.7-12)
Before we give the Structure of this section we must again call attention to the fact that the sixth Seal takes us on to the time of the end; and the seventh Seal takes us back and commences a new series of judgments initiated by the seven Trumpets and followed by the seven Vials. So that the whole of the rest of the Apocalypse comes under the seventh Seal. Whereas the seventh Trumpet issues in and contains the seven Vials.
First of all we have (as we have seen) the six Seals (chaps. vi., vii.)
Then the seventh Seal expands into and contains both the seven Trumpets (viii.7 - xi.14) and the seven Vials (xvi.1 - xviii.24).
Finally, the seventh Trumpet expands into and contains the seven Vials (xvi.1 - xviii.24).
Thus the seventh Seal embraces the whole of the great Judgment period of the Trumpets and Vials (from viii.7 - xviii.24) and is immediately followed by the Apocalypse of the Son of Man in power and great glory.
A careful study of the following Presentation will explain our meaning; and set forth the order of the general contents of these judgment Visions, viii.1 - xviii.24:
The Seventh Seal, viii.1 -- xviii.24.
The Seven Trumpets
and the Seven Vials
viii.7. The 1st Trumpet. Fire mingled with blood. Third part of Trees and grass burnt up.
viii.8, 9. The 2nd Trumpet. Burning mountain cast into sea. Third of sea becomes blood.
viii.10, 11. The 3rd Trumpet. Burning star falls on third part of Rivers (|Wormwood|).
viii.12, 13. The 4th Trumpet. Third part of Sun smitten. Moon and stars darkened.
ix.1-12. The 5th Trumpet. (The First WOE). Pit opened. Locusts.
ix.13 -- xi.14. The 6th Trumpet. (The Second WOE). The 4 Euphratean Angels loosed. Horsemen.
The Seventh Trumpet (x.7)
The 3rd WOE (Rev. xi.14).
Consisting of the Seven Vials.
xvi.1, 2. Vial I. (The Third WOE). On the earth. Sores on Worshippers of Beast.
xvi.3. Vial II. On the Sea. Sea became blood.
xvi.4-7. Vial III. On the Rivers. Rivers became blood.
xvi.8-9. Vial IV. On the Sun. men scorched with fire.
xvi.10, 11. Vial V. On the Throne of the Beast. Kingdom full of darkness.
xvi.12-16. Vial VI. On the River Euphrates. Euphrates dried up. 3 spirits like Frogs. Armageddon.
xvi.17 -- xviii.24. Vial VII. |It is done.| The judgment of Great Babylon
The whole of this great judgment period, covered by the Trumpets and Vials, is given in two pairs of alternate Visions of events |in Heaven| and |on Earth.|
The 2nd Vision |in Heaven| (viii.1-6) consists of the opening of the seventh Seal.
The 2nd Vision |on Earth| (viii.7- xi.14) consists of the effects of this opening (the first six Trumpets).
The 3rd Vision |in Heaven| (xi.15-19-) consists of the Sounding of the seventh Trumpet.
The 3rd Vision |on Earth| (xi. -19) consists of the effects of this sounding.
We are then (in chap. xii.) taken back to a time prior to chap. iv.; while the sequence of the Trumpet and Vial judgments is broken in order to admit of this parenthetical break.
The Trumpet and Vial judgments are continuous once they begin. It is only the description of them (not the course of them) which is interrupted, in order to allow of the necessary information being given which shows the necessity for them.
This digression commences at chap. xii.1 and is carried on to xv.8. Then the description of the Vial Judgments is taken up and continued, giving the results |on Earth| of the sounding of the seventh Trumpet; an epitome of which had been given in a few words in xi. -19. These Vial Judgments are then continuous from xvi.1 - xviii.24, which ends their mission, accomplishes their object, and issues in the Revelation of Christ from Heaven in power and great glory (chap. xix.).
But we must return now to the second Vision |on Earth,| runs from viii.7 - xi.14.
E^2. viii.7 -- xi.14. The Second Vision |On Earth.| The First Six Trumpets
E^2 A B a viii.7-. The FIRST Trumpet.
^ b viii. -7-. The Earth smitten (Hail and fire, etc.)
c viii. -7. The Third part of trees.
C d viii.8-. The SECOND Trumpet.
e viii. -8-. The Sea
smitten (Burning mountain, etc.)
f viii. -8. Third
part of sea, blood.
g viii.9. Death
of living creatures in sea.
C d viii.10-. The THIRD Trumpet.
e viii. -10, 11-. The
Waters smitten (Star falling, etc.)
f viii. -11-. Third
part of waters wormwood.
g viii. -11.
Death of men.
B a viii.12-. The FOURTH Trumpet.
b viii. -12-. The Heavens smitten (Sun,
Moon, and Stars).
c viii. -12. Third part darkened.
A D viii.13. Three woes yet to come.
E h ix.1-11. The FIFTH Trumpet. (The First WOE). i ix.12. The termination of First Woe (|The
first woe is past.|)
E h ix.13 -- xi.13. The SIXTH Trumpet. (The
i xi.14-. The termination of Second Woe
(|The second woe is past.|)
D xi. -14. |The third woe cometh quickly.|
Here we have the whole of the six Trumpets. The six refer to the earth; the seventh consists of the third Vision |in heaven.| So with the Seals: six referred to the earth, and the seventh was opened |in heaven.| It is the same with the seven Trumpets; six Trumpets refer to the earth, the seventh refers to heaven. Moreover, they are divided into four and three: the four (A. viii.7-12) being grouped together, and the last three (A. viii.13-xi.14, etc.) being the three |Woe| Trumpets.
The first four Trumpets and their results are recorded with brevity; while the last three are set forth in more detail. The four occupy only seven verses; the last three occupy some fifty verses.
The first of the four affects the earth; the fourth affects the heavens; while the second and third affect the waters of the earth. Thus all is recorded in perfect order.
THE FIRST TRUMPET (viii.7).
viii.7. And the first sounded his trumpet,] The verb (...) (salpizo) means to sound a trumpet; the noun (...) (salpingx) being included in the verb.
and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third of the earth was burned up, and the third of the trees was burned up, and all green grass was burned up] In the plagues of Egypt, to which these judgments were to be like, the seventh plague was |hail, and fire mingled with the hail| (Ex. ix.22-28), and plants of the earth were smitten (verses 31, 32). Here blood was mingled with the fire and hail. We are aware that a majority of interpreters maintain that the results of this first Trumpet are not literal. They seem as anxious to get rid of the miraculous and the supernatural from Interpretation, as the Rationalists are to eliminate it from Inspiration. But why, unless the plagues of Egypt also were not literal plagues, we cannot understand. Again we ask, Why should not these be literal judgments which are to come on the earth? What is the difficulty? God has said concerning the events of the day of the Lord, |I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath, blood and fire| (Joel ii.30). How He will do this we are here told.
To explain this away is to manifest a want of faith in the power of God, and in the Word of God. Such things have taken place on earth. Why should they not take place again?
Cicero tells us that the word was brought to the Roman Senate, on one occasion, that it had rained blood, and that the river Atratus had flowed with blood.
On August 17, 1819, Dr. Seiss tells us that |Captain Ross saw the mountains at Baffin's Bay covered for eight miles with blood-red snow many feet in depth.| Also that Saussare found it on Mount St. Bernard, in 1778; that Ramond found it on the Pyrenes; and Summerfield in Norway.
Why may it not be seen again?
The historical interpreters differ so much among themselves that we may well ask, Which one of them are we to believe? It is this very diversity which has caused so many earnest students to put the Apocalypse aside in despair. Our object in writing is that they may take up the book again with hope; asking them only to believe God. It will be better to err in such simplicity of faith in the Word of God, than to adopt the most plausible scheme based upon the opinion of man; and which differs not only from God, but from every other human interpretation.
For example, Elliott says that this first Trumpet denotes the wars of Alaric the Goth and Rhadagaisus the Vandal against the Western Roman Empire. We should never have guessed this ourselves. There is nothing about this or even like it in this Scripture. John saw one result, Mr. Elliott gives two. John saw the blood-red rain of hail and fire from heaven; this gives human blood on earth!
One says |trees| mean princes and great men; and |grass| means men's power and glory (Wordsworth).
J.N. Darby says |that which is elevated, eminent, lofty is intended by the trees; the young, feeble and aged are meant by the green grass.|
Wetstein says |Trees mean fortified cities; grass, unwalled villages.|
Others say |by trees are signified apostles and great doctors; by grass, common Christians| (Paralus).
Alford holds that |it appears rather to indicate a general characters of the judgments, than to require any special interpretation in each particular case.|
To all this we have one simple remark to make -- We prefer to believe God's own special interpretation of His own judgments, in the plain literal sense of the words.
THE SECOND TRUMPET (viii.8, 9).
viii.8. And the second angel sounded his trumpet, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third of the sea became blood; (9) and there died the third of the creatures which were in the sea, which had life; and the third of the ships were destroyed.] It does not say it was a mountain, but that it was like one. This shows us what is not to be taken literally, as well as what is. It was something which resembled a mountain. John does not say he saw a volcano (as some assert). What John saw was a fiery mass like a mountain cast into the sea, and turning it into blood. |This cannot be literal| exclaim the interpreters. But again we ask, Why not? In one of the plagues of Egypt it is written that Moses |lifted up his rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants, and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood| (Ex. viii.20). In Ps. cv.29 it is written, |He turned their waters into blood|; so Ps. lxxviii.44. The poorest and humblest reader can understand this. It does not require education in order to believe God. All it needs is a spiritual understanding, and a childlike mind. (1 John v.20 and 1 Cor. ii.14.) It does not require wide reading to understand God. It requires faith.
To follow what man says it requires only credulity. Which are we to believe of the following interpretations?
One interpretation asks us to believe that
The fiery mountain means Satan.
The sea means the nations.
The dying of the fish denotes the persecution and slaughter of Christians.
The wreck of the ships denotes the extinction of congregations.
(2). Another system (E.B. Elliott's) tells us that
The mountain was Genseric with his Vandals, forced by the Huns from their native seat.
The sea was their plunging through France and Spain into Africa, settling themselves in the conquered territory.
The destruction of fish, etc., was their depredations on the neighboring islands and shores of the Mediterranean.
(3) A third system tells us that
The sea is the church with its baptismal waters.
The mountain is some great heresy.
The blood is the corruption by deadly error.
The destruction of fish is the destruction of souls. The wreck of ships is the overturning of churches.
(4) Another system is that
The sea is the sea of Galilee, put for Palestine.
The mountain is Vespasian.
The fishes are the Jews.
The ships are the cities of Palestine.
(5) A fifth scheme is that
The sea is pure doctrine.
The mountain is prelacy.
The fire Episcopal ambition.
The blood-red waters means the introduction of false doctrine. The fishes are Ecclesiastics, monks.
The ships the bearers of the Gospel.
(6) A sixth system is that
The mountain is Rome.
Its burning the burning of Rome by Alaric.
The wreck of its ships is the sack of Rome.
(7) William Kelly would have us believe him. He says
|The second blow supposes a great change: it falls on the sea, and so refers not to that sphere which is under special and settled government, but to that which is, or will then be, in a state of confusion and anarchy.| And again |the mountain burning with fire, represents a system of power, itself under the judgment of God and the occasion of judgment to others| (Apoc., p.141).
Again we ask, Is it not better to believe God? Is it not easier to understand what He says?
It is perfectly clear that all the above systems cannot be right. Which of them, then, are we to accept? Why is there this universal effort to have us believe that God always means something different from what He says? Whence comes this spirit? Dr. Seiss well asks, |What do we want with Vespasian and Alaric and Rhadagaisus, Attila, Genseric, Romans, Goths, Vandals, Arians, Prelates, or the Devil,| when God tells us that it was a fiery mass like a mountain cast into the sea? That God's coming judgments will affect the fishes and the ships we are distinctly told in Hosea iv.1-3. Zeph. i.3. Isa. ii.16, &c.
All Bible readers and commentators believe that waters were turned to blood in the plagues of Egypt. Why not believe that they will be so turned again? If God had said ink instead of blood, we would believe Him. All things are possible with Him.
Indeed, it is quite recently that we were told that this had happened; or something like it. The Daily Express (London May 19, 1900) says: |Great consternation has been caused at Santa Cruz (Cal., U.S.A.,) by the sea turning suddenly black,| and given an extract from the San Francisco Examiner, which says:
|There are many theories as to the cause of this remarkable change. One man thinks it is due to the tides. Another says the turbid waters are the result of a submarine upheaval in the blue mud of the channel. A third believes the water is full of animalculae -- the whale food.
|Still another states that a storm from the ocean has muddled the water, and talks wisely, too, of marine earthquakes and the like. They all agree that the whole bay was never before like the sea of ink it is at present.|
If, in our day, the sea can be turned black, Why cannot it be as easily turned red? And when it is, when these words of |the book of this prophecy| shall be fulfilled, men will doubtless speculate about the cause of it, just as they speculate about the sea at Santa Cruz: and remain just as ignorant as before, because |God is not in all their thoughts.|
In like manner, the cleaving in two of the Mount of Olives in Zech. xiv.4 is regarded by most commentators as being quite beyond a literal interpretation: and yet, a few years ago, The Illustrated London News gave some interesting drawings of the scene of the great volcanic eruption in the North Island, New Zealand. It will be remembered that the outburst of volcanic energy began by the explosion of MOUNT TARAWERA, a mountain which had no crater upon it, and showed no signs of recent activity. TARAWERA was split in two by the sudden opening of a great chasm or line of craters four miles long, about 500 feet wide, and, in many places, 400 feet deep.
What happened in that case may easily happen again; not that we require, or ought to require, any such aid to our faith; for we believe that God means exactly what He says, in this and in other prophecies.
THE THIRD TRUMPET (viii.10, 11).
viii.10. And the third angel sounded his trumpet, and there fell from heaven a great star, burning as it were a torch ((...) (lampas) a torch; not (...) (luchnos) a lamp), and it fell upon the third of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; (11) and the name of the star is called Wormwood ((...) (apsinthos) Absinthe): and the third of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter] That stars should fall from heaven is a subject of prophecy (vi.13). Here is one special star, smaller, evidently, than the burning mountain. When we are distinctly told it was |like a torch| there is no occasion to introduce the idea of a comet (as Dr. Seiss does), or a meteor, or anything else. As a torch it was burning only at one end, and not burning all over as the mountain was. All this is quite clear as it stands. It requires no explanation if we believe what is written.
On the other hand, the ideas of historical interpreters are in wild confusion and mutual opposition. As to the |Star,| the interpretations include Mahomet, Simon Magus, Montanus, Arius, Cerinthus, Pelagius, among ecclesiastics. Those who hold it to be a military personage say it was some Jewish leader, as Eleazar, Josephus, etc. Others bring in poor Genseric again, or Attila, and a long series of wholesale murderers.
But a few questions will dispose of them all: What was the heaven out of which they fell? What was their fall? How did they burn? How did they embitter the fountains and rivers and make them bitter like themselves? When were they called by the name |Wormwood?| or |Absinthe?|
There is no reasonable answer to these questions. It is a very sad reflection to think that, with so many, these definite and particular revelations of the Holy Ghost may mean anything.
We ourselves might add another interpretation; and however extravagant it might be, men would not mind. Some would probably receive it. But, we dare to commit the unpardonable sin of adopting a principle of interpretation which requires us to believe that these things |mean| exactly what God says, and are consequently looked on as |cranks| for so doing.
And yet events somewhat similar have happened. In the Annual Register for 1823, p.683, we read that, as the result of a volcanic explosion, showers of sand darkened the sky and |the sea water became thick, and river water assumed the colour of beer, and was so extremely bitter as to be unfit for use. This was in the Aleutian Islands, and it is quoted by Mr. Govett in his Apocalypse Expounded. Something like this was foretold as God's punishment of His People (Jer. ix.13-15): |Behold I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink.| So Jer. xxiii.15. Lam. iii.15. Jer. viii.14; ix.15.
The result of one of the plagues of Egypt was that |the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river| (Ex. vii.18-24). That was real and literal. So will this be.
THE FOURTH TRUMPET (viii.12).
viii.12. And the fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and the third of the moon, and the third of the stars; in order that the third part of them might be darkened, and the day might not shine for a third of it, and the night in like manner] |Signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars| are what the Lord foretold as part of the wonders to be looked for. (Luke xxi.25. So Matt. xxiv.29 and Mark xiii.24). Here, some of those signs are seen by John. Others are foretold in Isaiah, |Behold darkness and sorrow: and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof (Isaiah v.30). |I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day (Amos viii.9). Read Jer. iv.23, 28. Ezek. xxxii.7, 8. Joel ii.10, 30, 31; iii.15. Amos v.20. Zeph. i.14-16.
The interpretations of this, differ, as usual; and it seems hardly worth our time to name them. We read about the |imperial sun| and the |political day| and |political noon| and |political stars,| whatever they may be. Is it any wonder that teachers and students are alike confused and bewildered? They first assume that it is past; and are then at their wits' end to find something or anything, however irrelevant, that can be forced into any connection with the word.
Ask a little child what are the sun, moon and stars? and he will experience no difficulty. Neither shall we, if we, with childlike minds, believe what God says.
D. and E., THE FIFTH TRUMPET (or First Woe) (viii.13 - ix.12).
The fifth and sixth Trumpets are the first and second of the three |Woe| Trumpets. These three are introduced in a special manner, viz., by an Eagle and its cry (viii.13), which marks off the last three of the whole seven, from the first four.
The Eagle and its cry separates the four from the three.
viii.13. And I looked, and I heard an (Greek, one, single, or solitary)eagle flying in mid-heaven, saying with a loud voice, |Woe, woe, woe, to those that dwell upon the earth by reason of the remaining voices of the trumpet of the three angels, who are about to sound!|] (ix.1, 12, and xi.14). We believe it to be what it says -- a veritable eagle. All the critical Greek texts, and all the ancient manuscripts read |eagle.| Bengel, 150 years ago, said that the |most ancient authorities, widely separated from each other in age and clime, and in very great numbers, clearly vindicate the reading of (...) (aetou), eagle, from all suspicion of gloss.| Eagles are often connected with judgments. (See Deut. xxviii.49.2 Sam. i.23. Is. xl.31. Jer. iv.13. Hos. viii.1. Hab. i.8). It was flying in mid-heaven, i.e., the meridian, or the highest point reached by the sun at noon. The word rendered |mid-heaven| occurs only here, and in xiv.6 and xix.17. The fifth day saw the creation of birds which |fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven| (Gen. i.20); and it is an eagle that announces this fifth Trumpet.
This eagle speaks. So did Balaam's ass. If God could |open the mouth| of the one, so He can of the other. Thus it is written, and thus we believe.
The Structure of the member containing the description of this Trumpet is as follows: --
h. ix.1-11. The Fifth Trumpet (1st WOE).
h k 1-. The Star fallen to the earth.
l -1, 2. The Abyss. (The key and the opening).
l -2. The Abyss. (The result of the opening).
k 3-11. The Locusts coming upon the earth.
This structure shows that three things form the subject of this Fifth Trumpet: The fallen Star, The Pit of the Abyss, and The Locusts.
ix.1. And the fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star from heaven fallen (So RV. Not |fall| as in AV.) to earth: and there was given to him the key of the pit of the abyss.] The star (or angel) had fallen from heaven before John saw it. (Compare Isa. xiv.12. Luke x.18).
Angels are called stars in Job xxxviii.7, and often in the Old Testament, the phrase |host of heaven| means the angels, as in 1 Kings xxii.19.2 Chron. xviii.18. Ps. cxlviii.2. Josh. v.14. It sometimes means the literal stars, as in Is. xxiv.4; xl.26; xlv.12. Jer. xxxiii.22. That the word |star,| here, is used for |angel| seems clear from the personal actions ascribed to it.
|The pit of the abyss| appears to be the abode of demons. See Rev. xx.1-3. Luke viii.28, 31.
2. And he opened the pit of the abyss; and there went up smoke out of the abyss, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit.] We are not to confuse this pit with Hades, or Sheol, or Tartarus. It is called the Abyss, and is shown by the smoke to be a place of fire. (Compare xviii.9, 18; xix.3; and Gen. xix.24-28).
In Jeremiah iv.23-28, we read:
|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 moved lightly.
I beheld, and lo, there was no man,
And all the birds of the heavens were fled.
I beheld, and lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, And all the cities thereof were broken down
At the presence of the Lord,
And by His fierce anger.
For thus hath the Lord said,
The whole land shall be desolate;
Yet will I not make a full end.
For this shall the earth mourn,
And the heavens above be black:
Because I have spoken it, I have purposed it,
And will not repent, nor will I turn back from it.|
This refers, of course, to Judah and the Land. What John sees, refers to the earth in general. This judgment corresponds with the eighth and ninth plagues of Egypt (Ex. x.5), when Moses threatened that the locusts should |cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth.|
This judgment is now to be more particularly described in verses -3-11.
The Structure is as follows: --
k. ix. -3-11. The Locusts coming on the Earth.
k m o ix. -3. Their power.
p ix.4, 5-. Their commission.
q ix. -5-. Their
continuance. (|5 months.|)
n ix. -5-10-.
Description of locusts.
m o ix. -10-. Their power.
p ix. -10-. Their commission.
q ix. -10. Their
continuance. (|5 months.|)
Description of their king.
Here we have the symmetrical statement which distinguishes their Power, Commission, Continuance, and Description; and shows the points which are important; and on which we are to dwell.
ix.3. And out of the smoke there came forth locusts into the earth: and there was given to them power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.] These were no ordinary locusts. Those that came in the plagues of Egypt were no common locusts either, for we are told |before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such| (Ex. x.14). Ordinary locusts have |no king| (Prov. xxx.27); but these have; and his name is given (verse 11). They seem, from their description, to be a kind of Infernal Cherubim. The horse, the man, the lion, and the scorpion are combined in them. They are called locusts, though they are supernatural and, apparently, incapable of being killed. But of this we shall see more as we proceed.
4. And it was said to them that they should not injure the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree; but should injure the men who have not the seal of God on their foreheads.] Common locusts eat up and destroy only vegetation (Ex. x.5, 12, 15): beyond this they are not injurious. But these, from the bottomless pit, are designed for a very different purpose. Human beings are the objects of their assaults. Though released from the pit, they cannot go beyond the power |given| to them. A similar limitation is seen in Ezek. ix.4-6.
5. And it was given to them 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 it striketh a man] Here is another limitation. Under the second Seal there is no such limit. |Torment| applies in a special manner to demons (Matt. viii.29; Rev. xiv.10, 11; xx.10). The duration of this plague is fixed. It is to last |five months.| A similar fixed date is given in Num. xi.19, 20: |a whole month.| In 2 Sam. xxiv.13, also we have |seven years,| |three months,| and |three days,| as the fixed limit of certain judgments. These periods are always taken literally. Why not this? The time limit of these infernal locusts corresponds with that of ordinary locusts, which is five months (from May to September).
6. And in those days shall men seek death and shall in no wise find it; and shall desire to die, and death fleeth , from them.] |In those days| refers to the period of |five months| mentioned in the previous verse. The result of the plague is not the producing of repentance; but only a desire of death. A similar state of things is foretold in Jer. viii.3: |Death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue that remains of this evil family.| How this desire is to be thwarted we are not told; it may be part of the result of the torment. This one feature of the plague proves that it must be future and literal: for no period in history is known where such a condition of things lasted for |five months.| There have always been isolated cases where men have sought death (1 Kings xix.4); but this is to be universal.
7. And the likenesses of the locusts were like to horses prepared for war: and there were upon their heads as it were crowns like unto gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.] Four verses are given to this description, so that the matter is evidently important. Their size is not given. The words |like| and |as| occur nine times. In verses 7 and 8 we have the fore-part described; in verse 9 the middle part; and in verse 10 their hind part. Joel has a description of similar beings (See Joel ii.).
8. And they had hair, like women's hair, and their teeth were like lions' teeth. (9) and they had breastplates like iron breastplates; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses rushing into battle.] Some ordinary locusts have hair. See Jer. li.27, |locusts bristling with hair.| Joel i.6 has two references to the lions' teeth.
10. And they have tails like scorpions, and stings were in their tails: and their power (or license) is to injure men five months.] Here is developed what was only alluded to in verse 5. This discloses their origin, from the bottomless pit. The action, commenced in verse 5, is suspended so that their description might be completed.
11. And they have over them a king, the angel of the abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he hath his name Apollyon.] It is a special characteristic of ordinary earth-born locusts that they have |no king| (Prov. xxx.27), but these awful beings from the Abyss have a king. It is beside the point to say this king is Satan, for his special name is given. The Wild-Beast is twice described as coming up |out of the bottomless pit| (ix.7 and xvii.8). The name is evidently important, as it is given in two languages. They are equivalent as to their meaning, which is Destruction. It is literally the name of the bottomless pit, in Hebrew. It is distinguished from Sheol (See Job xxvi.6; xxviii.22. Ps. lxxxviii.11. Prov. xv.11; xxvii.20). The name of the pit is given to the angel of the pit, and means Destroyer. Hence his name in Jer. iv.7; vi.26. Isa. xvi.4. Dan. viii.24, 25; ix.26; xi.44.
12. The first woe is past; behold, there are coming yet two woes after these things.] The awful character of these three Woe-Trumpets is seen from what we are told of the first. The mighty forces of heaven and hell are gathering for the final conflict. We have here some of the outpost work, which gives an indication of what is to follow. From Joel ii.11 we learn that Almighty God Himself will lead on His own great army.
|Jehovah shall utter his voice before his army;
For his camp is very great:
For he is strong that executeth his word:
For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; And who can abide it?|
On the other hand, one of Satan's superior officers, |the angel of the abyss,| Abaddon, leads forth this great division, and forms part of the Satanic force to be brought against the King of kings. All is clear and simple and plain if we read this as one of a series of literal judgments which is to take place in the |day of the Lord.| As literal and real as were the plagues of Egypt. But the moment we turn to the opinions of men, we are landed, as Alford himself says, |in an endless Babel of allegorical and historical interpretation.|
It seems a terrible descent from these awful and sublime realities to come down to the petty and trivial views of man with regard to them. We must, however, give our readers an idea of some of the interpretations, so that they may thankfully return to, and rest on, the simple statements of God's Word.
The most common interpretation sees the fulfilment of this judgment in the Invasion of Europe by the Turks. In that case, the |star| is said to be Mahomet. His |fall from heaven| means that his family was once high and wealthy; he being an orphan and poor. |To him was given the key of the bottomless pit:| i.e., |he professed to receive a key from God.| So that in his case profession was evidently possession! How he opened the pit the interpreters do not tell us, but the |smoke| was his false teaching. Out of the pit came the locusts. Arbah in Hebrew means a locust. That is quite near enough with them for Arabians, though there could hardly be Mahommedans before Mahomet. The locusts were forbidden to destroy men; but the Arabians killed off just a few: -- 50,000 in one battle, 150,000 in another, etc. Indeed Mahomet commanded slaughter (See Koran xlvii.409). Elliott gets over this command |not to kill| by saying it means |not to annihilate them as a political body|!
The |crowns like gold| were the turbans of linen. |Faces as men| means courage. |They had hair as women:| this refers to the horse tail decorations worn by the Pashas on their heads; one, two, or three, to distinguish their respective rank and dignity. Here, the Scripture says all the locusts, not merely certain leaders!
Dr. Cumming held that their breast-plates as of iron |denotes their invulnerability.| The trouble with this interpretation is that thousands of the Mahommedans were slain in battle. The tails and stings, however, baffle the interpreters! The sparing of the sealed also is difficult with the Protestant interpretation, because Rome and the Pope were untouched by the Saracens. Their duration also, |five months,| is another difficulty. This, according to |the year-day theory,| becomes 150 years, whereas the Saracenic invasion lasted over 400 years, and has continued to this day. Twice the Holy Spirit mentions this period, |five months,| as though to emphasize it and impress us with the fact.
Others tell us that the star was Luther. Let our readers try the puzzle, and see how it works out, in view of the Reformation blessings which Luther was the means of conferring on the world.
No wonder Alford gives it up. Moses Stuart gives it up. Hengstenberg and others give it up. No wonder that most Bible-students have given the whole book up, in despair of ever understanding it.
What God says is plain enough. He does not ask us to understand it. He asks us to believe it; and this, by God's help, we mean to do.
He has promised us a blessing if we do this. But man asks us to choose from his Babel of interpretations; and gives up, instead of a blessing, only the curse of confusion.
E., THE SIXTH TRUMPET (or Second Woe)
(ix.13 -- 14).
The Sixth, or |second Woe| Trumpet is set forth with more detail than any of the others: no less than thirty-three verses being devoted to its description. Like the fifth Trumpet (or first Woe) it is distinguished from the first four by being introduced by a |voice.| In the former it was the voice of |an eagle flying in mid-heaven;| in this latter, it is the voice |from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God.| Coming from this altar it seems to say that we have here the continuation of the answer to the prayers of vi.10.
Coming from the |four horns,| the direction goes forth to the four quarters of the earth.
But the Structure will give us the scope of the whole.
The literal fulfilment of this judgment, interpreters will not have at any price. It is altogether too much too ask them to believe it. Stuart says it is symbol |excessive and unnatural.| Of course it is |unnatural,| simply because it is supernatural. So we believe is the Structure: --
h. ix.13 -- xi.14. The Sixth Trumpet (2nd WOE).
h r t ix.13-. The Sixth Angel (2nd WOE Trumpet). u -13-. His sounding.
v -13. The Voice from the altar.
w 14-. Its Command: Loose the 4
x 15. Execution of command.
y 16-21. Result: The Horsemen.
s z a x.1, 2.
|Another| might angel.
b 3, 4.
His cry and the seven thunders.
z a -4-. The
|Voice from heaven.|
Its command. |Seal up.|
r t x.5. The Angel.
u 6, 7. His oath.
v 8. The Voice from heaven.
w -8. His command: |Go and take...
x 9-11. Execution of command.
y xi.1-14. Result: The Two
ix.13. And the sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God.] In the earthly Tabernacle and Temple the golden altar is described as standing |before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony, where I will meet with thee| (Ex. xxx.6; xl.3). Here, there is no veil; and the voice comes from |before God.|
The sixth angel is not only to blow his trumpet, but is also to obey the command. The utterance of this voice from the Altar is important enough to have its own Structure, and the members w. and x. may be expanded thus: --
w. and x., ix.14, 15.
The Command and its execution.
w a ix.14-. |Loose the four angels.|
b -14-. Bound.
c -14. Place. Euphrates...
x a ix.15-. The four angels loosed.
b 15-. Prepared.
c -15. Time. |An hour and...
ix.14. Saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, |Loose the four angels which are bound at the river Euphrates.|
15. And the four angels were loosed, who had been prepared for the hour, and day, and month, and year, that they should kill the third part of men.] These four angels cannot be identified with any others; for they are |bound.| There can be no doubt about their being |delivered into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto (or for) judgment| (2 Peter ii.4). This is the judgment for which they (four of them at least) are |reserved| and |prepared| or ready. In Jude 6 we are again told of the angels which are |reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto (or for) the judgment of the great day.| Not only that they should be then judged, but that they should be the executors of God's judgments also in that great day which we are now studying and learning about in the Apocalypse. There are other |in-prison spirits| (1 Pet. iii.19), to whom the Saviour's triumph was proclaimed at His resurrection; not for their comfort or blessing, but for the proclamation that the price of Redemption had been paid, and the work done which should hereafter be celebrated in Rev. v., when the worthiness of the Lamb that was slain should be proclaimed, not only to Tartarus, but to all Creation.
These angels are at present |bound.| Satan will be bound by-and-by (xx.2-7). But before that day a further division of the Satanic forces is to be let loose upon the earth.
Why |at the river Euphrates| we are not told. What connection there may be between Babel and the Abyss we do not know. Seeing that Satan's earlier activities were connected with that region, there must be some appropriate reason. The Euphrates is associated with the coming judgments of the great day. See Jer. xlvi.4-10 (RV.)
|Harness the horses; and get up, ye horsemen,
And stand forth with your helmets;
Furbish the spears, and put on coats of mail.
Wherefore have I seen it?
They are dismayed
And are turned backward;
And their mighty ones are beaten down,
And fled apace, and look not back
Terror is on every side, saith the Lord
Let not the swift flee away, nor the mighty man escape; In the north, by the river Euphrates, have they stumbled and fallen. Who is this that riseth up like the Nile,
Whose waters toss themselves like the rivers?
Egypt riseth up like the Nile,
And his waters toss themselves like the rivers:
And he saith, I will rise up, I will cover the earth: I will destroy the city, and the inhabitants thereof. Go up, ye horses; and rage, ye chariots;
And let the mighty men go forth:
Cush and Put, that handle the shield;
And the Ludim, that handle and bend the bow.
For that day is a day of the Lord, the Lord of hosts, A day of vengeance
That he may avenge him of his adversaries;
And the sword shall devour and be satiate,
And shall drink its fill of their blood:
For the Lord, the Lord of hosts, hath a sacrifice
In the north country by the river Euphrates.|
From the same quarter will come these future and greater judgments.
For greater transgressions (verse 20, 21) shall a greater army, not of men, but of evil spirits, come forth. See Jer. iv.13, 29 (RV.)
|Behold he shall come up as clouds,
And his chariots shall be as the whirlwind.
His horses are swifter than eagles.
Woe unto us! for we are spoiled...
The whole city fleeth from the noise of the horsemen and bowmen; They go into the thickets, and climb up upon the rocks: Every city is forsaken,
And not a man dwelleth therein.|
These four angels, now bound, we are distinctly told are |reserved unto judgment.| The word is (...) (eis) unto, with a view to judgment (not merely to being judged); and this judgment is that of |the great day.| They are reserved for the particular appointed moment; the moment of this their loosing. There seems to be little doubt as to the meaning of the period of time. It does not imply the duration of the judgment, but the preparation for the particular moment which has been appointed by God. The one article and one preposition before the four times, unites them: whereas had the article and preposition been repeated it would have implied the separation of the four which, added together, would make a period of more than thirteen months. As it is, it denotes the appointed hour of the appointed day of the appointed month of the appointed year. The emphasis on the words |prepared| or |reserved| supports this interpretation. Finally, the general object is stated, to be particularised below.
We now come to the description of these |horsemen|; and from this it is to be seen that they were not human beings of any kind. Difficulties have been made on account of the vast number of these horsemen, and had they been human beings, we could well understand it. But spirits are |legion,| and no difficulties can arise from their number.
First we give the Structure of y.
y., ix.16-21. The Horsemen.
y d f ix.16, 17-. Description. Number. Heads and breastplates.
g ix. -17-. Mouths.
h ix. -17. Agency: |Fire.|
e ix.18-. Result: Men
d h ix. -18-. Agency: |Fire.| g ix. -18, 19. Mouths.
f ix. -19. Description. Power. Heads and
e ix.20, 21. Result:
Men not killed.
ix.16. And the number of the armies of the horsemen was two myriads of myriads: (I heard the number of them). (17) And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and those sitting on them having breastplates fiery, and hyacinthine, and sulphureous: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths goeth forth fire, and smoke, and brimstone. (18) By these three plagues were the third part of men killed, by the fire, and the smoke, and the brimstone, which goeth forth out of their mouths. (19) for the power of the horses is in their mouth, and in their tails : for their tails are like serpents, having heads, and with them they do injure.]
This is the description of these supernatural beings. They are not human. They come from below. We know of nothing like them. When God thus describes them nothing ought to be easier than to believe what He says. They need no explanation. This description is given to explain them to us. Is it not easier to believe they are what God says they and their spirit riders are, than to believe what Dr. Adam Clarke says they are? He says they are brass cannon, ornamented with lions' heads cast at their mouth and at their breach. He adds that nothing could better describe |gunpowder| than |the fiery sulphurous smoke which goeth forth out of their mouths.| We find this much more difficult to believe. And our difficulties are not less when, again, we are asked to believe that this was fulfilled in the taking of Constantinople by the Turks! Mr. Elliott says that the horses and tails refer to the horse-tails worn by the Pashas! Dean Alford says: |I will venture to say, that a more self-condemnatory interpretation was never broached, than this of the horse-tails of the Pachas.| But the Turks still rule in Asia. Are they like these horsemen? Cannon were used on both sides of that war. Why is it, that one side is so different from the other?
It is not as though we had anything here unheard of before. It is wonderful, truly; but that is just what God said the future plagues were to be. |The Lord will make thy plagues wonderful| (Deut. xxviii.59). |I will do marvels which have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation| (Ex. xxxiv.10).
When Israel would trust in the horses of Egypt they were warned that their riders and horses were |flesh and not spirit| (Is. xxxi.3). Here we have horses that are spirit, and not flesh. In Jer. viii.17, Jehovah says |Behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the Lord| (read 13-17).
The number of these infernal horsemen is also wonderful, two hundred millions! John says |I heard the number of them| (verse 16). Twice he refers to it. And why not? What is it that makes man hesitate to believe God? These, as we have said, are no mere human beings: they are wicked spirits; and Are not these legion and innumerable?
The results of this plague which follow the sounding of the sixth Trumpet are given in the concluding portion of this chapter.
20. And the rest of the men who were not killed by these plagues neither repented of the works of their hands,] And we know not that these may be; nor the awful form of idolatry hinted at in these verses. The expression |works of their hands,| always points to idolatry (Deut. iv.28. Psalm cxxxv.15). And here, it is idolatry of the grossest kind.
that they should not worship the demons, nor the idols which are golden, and silver, and brazen, and stone, and wooden: which are neither able to see, nor to hear, nor to walk:] This cannot possibly refer to the Church. No Christian of any kind worships demons; for these are always evil. (See Matt. x.1-8; xii.43-45.1 Cor. x.20.1 Tim. iv.1. Compare Deut. xxxii.17). This evil is spoken of in Deut. xxxi.29, as recurring |in the latter days.|
Spiritism, which is now making rapid strides, is the forerunner of all this; and will surely develop into what is referred to in these verses. Planchette is becoming a household god with many, and is openly advertised in the Spiritist magazines and newspapers. Thousands are being |guided| by |Crystals,| Planchette, and evil spirits at the present moment. They are |lying spirits,| as the scripture calls them. (1 Kings xxii.22, 23.2 Chron. xviii.21, 22). |Deceiving spirits| they are called in 1 Tim. iv.1, pretending to be whom they are not, and thus gaining a hearing with many. They do speak; and hence speaking is specially excluded here. It says only that they are not able to see, or hear, or walk. It is the final and full development of what is called |Spiritualism| which is here referred to, and which calls for the plague of this sixth Trumpet. If Spiritists could see the end to which they are rapidly approaching, some might be alarmed; and many ministers and religious professors would be prevented from dabbling in the Bible-forbidden |mystery of iniquity.| And if Christians, at large, could realize, in only a small degree, the awful nature of these coming judgments and plagues, they would welcome and be thankful for any evidence which exposed and be thankful for any evidence which exposed their real character and end.
21. And they repented not of their murders, nor of their sorceries (or spiritualism), nor of their fornication (which will be a great feature of the coming religious apostasy), nor of their thefts.] These |sorceries| are the dealings of men with spirit-agencies; accepting the teaching of evil angels and deceiving spirits (1 Tim. iv.1). The word occurs only here, xviii.23, and Gal. v.20, where it is rendered |witchcraft.| It is used of the Egyptian sorceries (Exod. vii.22) and of the Babylonian (Is. xlvii.9, 12).
No wonder God has so solemnly warned us against these things, and no wonder such awful judgments are to be visited upon them. (See Lev. xix.31; xx.6, 27. Ex. xxii.18. Deut. xviii.10.1 Sam. xxviii.7.1 Chron. x.13. Isa. viii.19. Acts xvi.16; &c., &c.)
z., x.1, 2. |Another Angel.|
We have considered the sounding of the sixth Angel and its results as described in |r| (ix.13-21), we now have |Another Angel| in |s| (x.1-4); and then to complete the whole scene, we have, in |r| (x.5 -- 14), his actions and their results set forth on exactly the same lines as those of the sixth Angel, in six particulars. The description and activities of this -- |another angel| (x.1-4), differ from that of the sixth Angel, and his own subsequent activities (x.5 -- 14). While the sixth Angel's has six members, this, |another angel,| has only four (|s|). The following is the Structure of the first of these four members:
a., x.1, 2. |Another Angel.|
a i x.1-. His descension from heaven.
k -1-. His accessories. (Cloud; Rainbow).
l -1-. His person: (face as the sun.)
l -1. His person: (feet as pillars of
k 2-. His accessories. (The little book.)
i -2. His station on the earth.
TRANSLATION OF |a.| (x.1, 2).
x.1. And I saw another mighty angel coming down out of heaven, arrayed with a cloud: and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: (2) and he was holding in his hand a little scroll opened : and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left upon the earth,] We are here still under the effects and consequences of the sounding of the sixth Trumpet. It is not till xi.14, that we have the announcement of this |second woe| trumpet as being |past.| As chap. vii. was Episodal to the sixth Seal, so chaps. x. -- 14 are Episodal to the sixth Trumpet. It continues the same prophecy of judgment, but introduces new details connected with that judgment; and new subjects and phases of it.
It is not of the Trumpet Angels, but |Another| and a |mighty| one. His descent is with great majesty; and the cloud betokens his high dignity; for the cloud is generally associated with Divine movements (Ps. xviii.11; civ.3. Is. xix.1. Ezek. i.4. Matt. xxiv.30. Rev. i.7).
He comes |down from heaven,| as the great antagonist of the |angel of the abyss,| who comes up from below, and is enveloped in the cloud of the smoke of the pit.
The book opened, or which had been opened (according to the revised reading, noted above) points us to chap. v., and seems to show that nothing now remains but to sound the seventh and last Trumpet. This, the angel says (in verse 6), shall take place without further delay. The sealed book has been opened; and now the little book, not sealed, discloses new directions. John devours its contents and continues his prophetic duty; while the judgments take different forms and have different subjects. Its contents must surely refer to the future, and begin where the other book (chap. v.) ends. Moreover, it relates specially to Israel and Israel's ancient enemy, Babylon. Michael is the mighty angel that |standeth| for the children of Israel (Dan. xii.1). He is called with reference to Israel, |Michael your prince| (Dan. x.21; compare verse 13, Jude 9, and Rev. xii.7). There is no reason why we should take this Angel to be Christ. True, Christ is sometimes called |the Angel of the Covenant,| but He is not |another| angel (i.e., another of the same king, as the word (...) implies). It says |another angel.| Let us leave the words as meaning what they say.
Everywhere else in this book Angels mean Angels, and are always distinct from Divine Persons. They are, throughout, the ministers of the Divine will. They are invested with such delegated glory and attributes as befits their special missions respectively. It may well be the |strong angel| of chap. v.2 or viii.3; but there is no need to identify him, as he is not identified here in this scripture.
The setting or planting of this feet on sea and land is the formal taking possession of both; or the formal expression of the purpose to do so. In Deut. xi.24 it was said to Israel, |every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours.| Judgment has long since been pronounced (John xii.31; xvi.11). A judgment-summons has been issued (Rev. v.), and now, at length, execution is to be put in. The right to execute this judgment has been established in the fifth chapter; and here we have the assertion of that right, and the expressed determination to enforce it.
In verses 3 and 4 we have His cry. The following is the Structure:
b., x.3, 4. His cry.
b m x.3-. Occasion. |and when...
n -3. Action. |Seven thunders uttered...
m x.4-. Occasion. |and when...
n -4. Action. |I was about to write...
x.3. And he cried with a loud voice, even as when a lion roareth: and when he cried, the seven thunders uttered their voices. (4) And when the seven thunders had spoken, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven, saying |Seal up the things which the seven thunders spoke, And do not write them.|]
It was not a cry of distress or fear; but a shout of power, telling of the coming execution of judgment. The prophets have foretold of this roaring cry, which the Lord, by His agents and messengers, will cause to be heard. (See Joel iii.16. Jer. xxv.29-31). This cry is at once answered by a |voice from heaven| (verse 4).
The definite article here marks these seven thunders. In chap. iv.5 they are spoken of generally; here the seven are particularised. They may have been consecutive, and heard by John |in heaven| as thunder, just as when a voice from heaven spoken to the Lord Jesus on earth some of the people |said that it thundered; others said, an angel spake to him| (John xii.29). These may have been angel-voices, the effect (thunder) being put, by Metonymy, for the cause.
John heard what the thunders said, and understood; for he was about to write. But God, in order to conceal them, ordered John not to write. Some would have us believe that these seven thunders are the Papal Bulls issued against Luther and the Reformation. If this be so, then God sealed the book in vain! for all know what those thunders uttered. No, God's purpose in this book is very different from man's ideas of it. God has caused it to be written in order to make things known to us. Man treats it as though what is written is to conceal what is said, and make it incomprehensible.
In chap. xxii.10, John was told |Seal not the words of the prophecy of this book.| But there were certain things sealed up, as there were with Daniel (see Dan. viii.26, 27; xii.9). A whole dispensation was to pass before Daniel's words could be known. But here, |the season is near.|
The actions of this angel and their results are then set forth in exactly the same form as were those of the sixth angel in ix.13-21. They correspond in the same six particulars. See |r|, where, in x.5 -- 14, we have them duly displayed.
r. x.5-11. Another Angel -- (continued).
x.5. And the angel whom I saw standing upon the sea and on the earth lifted up his right hand towards heaven (6) and sware by Him that liveth for ever and ever, who created the heaven, and the things that are therein, and the earth, and the things that are therein, and the sea, and the things that are therein, that |there shall be no longer delay:|] i.e., time should no longer intervene. The allusion is still to the martyr's cry for vengeance in vi.10, 11. Indeed, the whole series of these Trumpet-judgments (the seventh of which expands into the seven Vials) is the answer to those prayers (the formal offering of which takes place under the seventh Seal). It was said to 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.|
That time is now about to be fulfilled; and the execution of final vengeance, should no longer be delayed. That this is the meaning is clear from the words which immediately follows.
7. But, in the days of the sound of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound his trumpet, then shall have been completed also the secret of God, as he announced the good news to His servants the prophets] The oath seems fatal to the theory that makes this angel to be the Lord Jesus Christ; especially in the face of Matt. v.33-37. Jas. v.12. But here, |another angel| is commissioned by God to make a formal announcement which only He Himself could know. |In the days| is a remarkable expression; and denotes that the days commence with his sounding, which develops into the seven final plagues of the seven Vials. These will complete the judgments which God had hitherto kept secret. It is quite unnecessary to take the word |mystery| or secret, here, in the Pauline sense. In the Ephesian Epistle it is used with reference to |the Body of Christ.| Though before this (Rom. xi.25 ) we have the secret of the duration of Israel's blindness spoken of; and in 1 Cor. xv.51, the |secret| that all should not die. In Matt. xiii.10, 11, and 34, 35 we have secrets concerning the kingdom. When we have these other secrets connected with Israel and the kingdom, why should we go to Ephesians and Colossians and fix on the |great| secret, and confine it to that? All are God's secrets, and each may be so called; but to introduce the Church of God here, is wholly unnecessary, because it tends only to create confusion where all is perfectly clear without it. The secret, here, refers to what had already been made known by God to his servants the prophets. The word |servants| identifies these with the Old Testament prophets. The great secret |concerning Christ and the Church| was made known only to the New Testament prophets; the prophets given to and for the Church. (See Eph. iv.11.1 Cor. xii.28. Rom. xvi.25, 26. So Eph. ii.20 and iii.5). God has revealed the secret of coming judgment to |his servants the prophets,| as it is written: |Surely, Adonai Jehovah will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets| (Amos iii.7). It is then in the Old Testament that we are to look for the announcements of these secrets; and we have done so in our many and constant references to the prophecies of the Old Testament which will receive their fulfilment in |the Day of the Lord.| And in the days when the seventh angel shall sound they will be completed, for his sounding calls for the pouring forth of the seven Vials which will fill up the cup of Divine Vengeance, and answer the cry of the martyrs' blood.
8. And the voice which I heard out of heaven I heard again speaking with me, and saying, |Go, take the scroll which lieth open in the hand of the angel that standeth upon the sea and upon the earth.| (9) And I went up to the angel, saying unto him, |Give me the little scroll.| And he saith unto me, |Take, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but in thy mouth shall be sweet as honey.| (10) And I took the little scroll out of the hand of the angel, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and when I had eaten it my belly was made bitter. (11) And they say to me, |Thou must again prophesy against peoples, and nations, and tongues, and many kings|] The eating of the book has its counterpart in Ezek. ii.9 and iii.3. Ezekiel ate the roll of the book given to him, and it was in his mouth as honey for sweetness. The bitterness he describes in verse 14, saying, |I went in bitterness and in the heat of my spirit.| |Eating| is a Hebrew idiom for receiving knowledge; just as we idiomatically use the word digesting of considering what we have learnt. Ezekiel ate that he might speak of God's words (Ezek. iii.4). So in John vi., the eating and drinking of Christ is explained as believing on Him; compare verses 47 and 48 with 53 and 54. See also 1 Cor. xii.13 compared with Luke xiii.15. In Ezek. iii.10 it is explained as receiving in the heart; compare Deut. xxxi.26. Jer. xxxi.33. If any prefer to take it literally, there is no reason why they should not do so. It is better to err on that side, than to have the responsibility of erring on the other. In either case, the result is the same. There was sweetness in the assurance that the prayers of God's Israel, who had |cried day and night unto Him,| were about to be answered. There was bitterness in the solemn announcements of the awful judgments which were to form that answer.
The last sentence is peculiar and important. |They say unto me,| i.e., the Angel and the other voices which had before spoken, |thou must prophesy again against peoples,| etc. (...) (epi), with the Dative following, means, literally, upon. It is never rendered |before,| except in this place. Six times it is rendered |against|; in Luke xii.52, 53. In the RV. it is |over.| Margin concerning.
In the chapters immediately following (chaps. xi. -- xviii.) these prophecies are clearly seen. The contrast between |kings| and |nations| and |peoples| prove to us that we cannot take these kings as referring to systems religious or political.
The contrast also with the historical interpretation is very clear. The angel here descends. This, we are asked to believe, is the |sun of righteousness rising over Europe.| The cry like a lion is, we are told, |the preaching of Luther.| But others tell us it was the Papal Bulls: others, that it was the |shout of the Wittenbergers when Luther burnt the Pope's Bull.| But these voices and thunders came from heaven. They do not come from Rome, nor were they made in Germany. John was commanded to |seal up| what he heard; Luther made it known. We need not go further. The bare statement of such wild extravagancies are their own, sufficient and best, refutation.
THE TWO WITNESSES.
y., xi.1-14. The Two Witnesses.
o^1., xi.1, 2. The Measuring of the Temple.
The second Vision |on Earth,| which consists of the six Trumpets, is given to us in three parts.
(1) The Immediate judgments or plagues which follow its sounding: (r. Ch. ix.13-21).
(2) The Episode of |another mighty Angel;| His oath and the little book: (s. and r. Ch. x.1-11)
(3) The Two Witnesses: (y. Ch. xi.1-14).
The connection of the three is continuous and close. It is the same angel who addresses John throughout: and the command |Rise, and measure| is only a sequel to |Seal up| (x.4), and |Take, and eat| (x.9).
Chap. xi., etc., is the fulfilment of the command |Thou shalt prophesy|: taking prophesying as being witnessing in its widest sense.
The descent of |another mighty angel| (x.1) is, as we have seen, the formal taking possession of the earth in the name of the King of Kings, before actual occupation takes place (which is not till chap. xix.), though it is celebrated by anticipation in the next Vision |in heaven| (ix.15). Two earthly Witnesses are added to the making of the claim as the accredited agents of the throne. They are the link between the judgments and men's sins which are the cause of them. Their witness is a confirmation of the faith of God's people then on the earth, and a witness to the |dwellers on the earth| that the end is near, and the interval of delay will last |no longer.|
(1) The angel takes possession by planting his feet on the sea and on the earth;
(2) John takes possession by measuring out part of the territory occupied; and
(3) The Two Witnesses take possession by prophesying in Divine and miraculous power.
Just as after the sixth Seal there was an Episode relating the protection and deliverance of God's people then to be on the earth: so here, after or at the end of the sixth Trumpet, there is a similar Episode with a similar object, viz., to show that with all the external destruction that shall go on, there shall be the preservation of all that is essential to God's purposes, and to God's People.
This third Episode of the sixth Trumpet is one whole, and is recorded in chap. xi.1-14, completing at once the sixth Trumpet and the second Woe. The seventh Trumpet, which follows, is expanded into, and consists of, the seven Vials of wrath, which speedily prove that there is no more delay, and bring on the consummation in chap. xix.
We do not propose, here, to trouble our readers with all the conflicting interpretations of this chapter. Some are half symbolical and half literal. Others are wholly ridiculous. Of course, the |The Temple is said to mean the church; the altar, Christ; the porch without means heretics and pseudo-Christians.| Others hold that John was |not only ignorant of the future, but that he designed nothing more than to express his hopes, and give vent to his remaining Jewish sympathies for the literal temple and its ritual| (Stuart, Heinrichs, Ewald, Bleek, &c.).
The Structure of the whole passages tells us that we are dealing with something far more important than all this; even with what shall yet take place in connection with future judgment-scenes preparatory to the final ejection of the great usurper from God's Earth, over which he has so long held sway.
Let us therefore approach this scene, not with view, merely, of interpreting it; but of receiving it and believing it as God's own interpretation of real events which are yet to take place. God is telling us of some of the |marvels| and of the |terrible things| which He will do in the Day of the Lord. Let us not bring it down to |man's day| and treat it as mere Ecclesiastical or Roman history. This it is which causes all the difficulty, combined with the yet greater difficulty which man ever finds in believing God.
The Structure of the whole passage is as follows: --
y., xi.1-14. The Two Witnesses.
y o^1 p^1 xi.1-. Person. John.
q^1 -1-. What he was to do. To measure.
r^1 -1, 2-. Commencement.
o^2 p^2 -2-. Persons. The Gentiles.
q^2 -2-. What they were to do. To trample.
r^2 -2. Continuance: 42 months
o^3 p^3 3-. Persons. The two Witnesses.
q^3 -3-. What they were to do. To prophesy.
r^3 -3. Continuance: 1260 days.
o^4 p^4 4. Persons. The two olive trees.
q^4 5, 6. What they were to do. To inflict
r^4 7-14. Conclusion: |After three days and
|The second woe is past.|
xi.1. And there was given to me a reed] by whom, it is not said. It is indefinite, as in vi.11; viii.2, &c.
like a measuring rod: and he (i.e., the angel who continued speaking with him) said] Bishop Wordsworth imagines that it is the reed that speaks. He says, |The reed speaks: it is inspired; the Spirit is in it; it is the word of God, and it measures the church: that is, the Canon of Scripture is the Rule of Faith.|
Rise, and measure the Naos (or Temple) of God,] Observe the word is (...) (naos), the holy place; not (...) (hieron), the temple-building as a whole. The two words must always be carefully distinguished. It is a pity that the AV. confuses both by rendering them |temple| indiscriminately.
This reed was a light measuring rod. The Heb. (...) (shevet), staff, also means a measuring-rod (Ps. lxxiv.2. Jer. x.16; li.19). In Ezek. xl.3, etc., the object was for the building of a new Temple. Here (verse 2) it is for the destruction, as in Lam. ii.8.2 Kings xxi.13. Isa. xxxiv.11. Amos vii.8, 9. It is also (verse 1) for protection, as in Zech. ii.1-5. Part was holy and part profane. There is no difficulty whatever if we leave the Temple alone. But if we say (with Alford and others) that it means |the church of the elect servants of God, everywhere in this book symbolized by Jews in deed and truth,| then we create difficulties which are insurmountable; for how John was to measure the Church we are at a loss to understand.
That there is to be a |Temple of God| in Jerusalem is clear from 2 Thess. ii.4, for Antichrist is to sit as God there; and |the abomination of desolation| is to be there set up (Matt. xxiv.15).
One would have thought that the words employed here would have effectually shut out the church from the interpretation. We read of the Temple, the Altar, and the Court of the Gentiles, which surely have nothing to do with the church of God. Even Dr. Adam Clarke admits that |this must refer to the temple of Jerusalem,| though he confesses he does not know what to do with it! We confess that we have no wish to do anything with it. We know that it will be re-built, and once we recognise that, there is no need to fix the period at seven years after the church is caught up; but to understand that these seven years may be the Telos or last seven of some thirty or forty years of the Sunteleia. See THE PROMISES TO THE SEVEN ASSEMBLIES and THE FIRST VISION |ON EARTH,| where it is shown that there is ample time for all this and much more to be done in bringing about the fulfilment of all that is written in this book. God has not yet done with His people Israel. They are already, though in partial blindness (Rom. xi.25), feeling their way back to their land, and to a restoration of their national Polity. Since the year 1896, the Zionist movement has been at work to this end. We regard this as leading directly up to this longer period, the Sunteleia (ending with the seven years of Daniel's last week, the Telos), and after the church has been caught up, the movement will rapidly develop and issue in the re-settlement of the Jews in their Land and City in partial independence, but in unbelief. It may be at first under the suzerainty of Turkey, or the protection of the Great Powers; until he arises who will make a covenant with them, and bring on such events as will be the crisis or end of |the Great Tribulation.|
and the altar,] By being mentioned separately from the Naos (in which was the golden altar or incense) it looks as though the brazen altar of sacrifice was intended. The word will suit either.
and take account of those who worship therein.] Although the Zionist movement does not openly profess to act under Divine authority, that is no reason why it should not be most religious. Hence there will be worshippers: and among the worshippers the 144,000 sealed for Divine protection; beside those who suffer martyrdom at the hands of the Beast, and those with whom he makes war.
Such a condition of things will need a re-survey when God is going to take action. He will separate the chaff from the wheat, Israel from the Gentiles, and His |servants| from the |dwellers on the earth.|
In this command with regard to the worshippers, we must recognise the figure called Zeugma, by which one verb is used of two things, and is strictly appropriate only to the former. A second verb must be supplied for the second noun, properly related to it. We have here supplied the verb |take account of| (...); for measuring, while quite appropriate to building, is incongruous when used of persons.
2. But the court that is without the Naos (or Temple) cast without, and measure it not; because it is given up to the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.] The Court of the Temple is thus distinguished from the Naos. The former is owned by God; the latter is rejected and delivered over to the Gentiles. These are distinguished in Luke i.22.
We must again remind ourselves that we have here what relates to the Earth. Had expositors noticed that this was the second Vision of what takes place |on earth,| they could never have supposed that the Temple, etc., here was the Temple in heaven. To apply this measuring and treading down by the Gentiles to heaven betokens confusion of mind, and brings hopeless confusion into the Scriptures, besides showing a very poor idea of what heaven is.
The outer court of this Temple is ordered to be rejected; and the reason is given. It is given over to the Gentiles. This, of itself, is sufficient to establish the fact that we are here in another Dispensation. During this present Dispensation Jews and Gentiles stand on the same level. There is |no difference| (Rom. iii.22; both are equally sinners before God, and both need the same Saviour. The Church of God cannot be here, for in Col. iii.11 we are distinctly told that now there is |neither Greek (i.e., Gentile) nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarism, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all and in all.| But here (in chap. xi.) the Jews are again in remembrance for the father's sake, and the Gentiles are put back to the place which they occupied in the former Dispensation. This measurement of the Temple, etc., is the formal acknowledgment of the Jew again, and the re-grafting him on his own olive-tree; and it is the formal putting back of the Gentiles from the privilege and position which they hold under the present Dispensation. The |middle wall of partition,| which is now |broken down| (Eph. ii.14), is to be again built up, and this measurement is the proof of it.
The |court| of the Temple and the city is given over to be |trodden under foot| by the Gentiles. It is given over to the Gentiles for a special treading down, and for a definite period. The period of 42 months is connected with the measuring. It closely follows it in order of time. We dare not reverse the two events. This proves, again, that the Church cannot be here, because it could not be at one and the same time delivered from Papal oppression, and yet still be under that oppression. In other words the treading down of the true Church by Rome, preceded the Reformation (which is said by the Historicists to be denoted by the measuring); whereas, here, the order is the opposite. This, at once, effectually disposes of the historical interpretation.
As to the period of |forty and two months| Alford truly says |no solution at all approaching to a satisfactory one has ever yet been given of any one of these periods. This being so, my principle is to regard them as still among the things unknown to the Church.| But why? Why does this period require any |solution| at all? When it makes known a fact to us as to the duration of a certain period, Why regard the period as |among the things unknown|? |Secret things (we read) belong unto the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever| (Deut. xxix.29). Surely this period of |forty two months| is among the things that are |revealed.| It is not a |secret| thing; and therefore, being revealed, we are not to regard it as |unknown,| but as among the things which we assuredly know: and that, upon Divine authority. The great |solution| of this (and similar difficulties) is to believe that the words mean what they say: that |months| mean |months|; and |forty-two| mean forty-two. There is no difficulty then. All is natural, simple and easy. The |city| is literal. The treading down is literal. The Gentiles are literal. Why is not the duration of their oppression of the holy city literal also? And when this duration is given to us as |forty and two months| (or 3 1/2 years), why should it need any so called |solution|? It matters not how great or learned the men may be who offer us these solutions. They are all vain imaginations; and mere fancy-work, which only obscures instead of elucidating the word of God.
Something more than learning is needed when we come to His book. Faith is the great thing needed, and if we possess this we shall have to unlearn much that man has taught us.
y., xi.3-14. The Two Witnesses.
o^3, xi.3. Their Endowment and Testimony.
In xi.3-14 we have the account of the Two Witnesses, one of the most solemn and mysterious scenes of the whole Apocalypse. It is the test of all interpretations, and one over which many make shipwreck. The particulars of the mission of these Two Witnesses are given with great detail.
In verse 3 and 4 we have, first, their Equipment and endowment; verses 5, 6, their Judgments on their enemies and the elements; verse 7-10, their Sufferings; verses 11-12, their Reward; and verse 13, their Avengement. These divisions will be seen to be marked off by the Structures given below.
xi.3. And I will endow my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.] Literally, it is |I will give,| but as there is the Ellipsis of the object, it does not say what is given. The AV. supplies the word |power.| The RV. supplies nothing, but renders it badly: |I will give to my two witnesses and they shall prophesy,| etc. We have (with Tregelles) avoided both by rendering the word |endow,| which includes |power,| and whatever other gifts were necessary for their mission. The duration of their prophecy covers an exactly similar period as the 42 months: for it is 1260 days. We are not told that it is the same period as the treading down, but it reads as though the two periods were synchronous. The computation is given in months, for these seem to have a special relation to judgments. The beginning and duration of the Flood is given in months. The Plague of Locusts is be |five months.| The blasphemies and persecutions of the Beast are reckoned by months. But when it comes to man, the duration if his years are reckoned by |days| (Gen. xlvii.9, 28. Ps. xc.10, 12; cxix.84, &c.). Our life is lived by days. And the testimony of these Two Witnesses is to be given by days, day by day.
The period is given in three forms in the Apocalypse.
Forty-two months -- xi.2; xiii.5.
1260 days -- xi.3; xii.6.
A time, times, and a half (3 1/2 years) -- xii.14; and see Dan. vii.25; xii.7.
The duration of the period in which Elijah's prayer shut up the heaven corresponds with this, and is given as |three years and six months| (Luke iv.25, Jas. v.17).
p^4, xi.4. The Two Olive Trees
xi.4. These are (or represent) the two olive trees, and the two lampstands which stand before the Lord of the earth.] The Divine title here used tell us that the events here recorded refer to the Earth; for this is the special title which the Holy Spirit uses when right to dominion and authority in the Earth is asserted. The title is first used in Joshua iii.11, 13 where Jehovah claims the right to give the Earth to whom He will (Ps. cxv.16). But the reference is to Zech. iv., where, in verse 14, the title is again used. Now, while Israel is Lo-Ammi (|not my People|), the title used with respect to Israel is |the God of Heaven| (See Ezra, Neh., and Dan. ii.18, 28, 37, 44, &c.); i.e., the God who no longer dwells between the Cherubim, in the midst of His People; but who has withdrawn Himself from them and removed to a distance; God who is now known to Israel as |the God of Heaven.| Hence, in Rev. xi. when He again assumes direct relationship with Israel and the Earth; it is as |the Lord of the Earth| that He will be known. The two Olive Trees in Zech. iv. are there explained as denoting ZERUBBABEL the prince, and JESHUA the high priest. And when it says here in Rev. xi.4: |These (two Witnesses) ARE the two Olive Trees, the Figure is Metaphor, and the verb |are| means represents. |These represent the two Olive trees,| etc. This is the Spirit's own explanation of these two Witnesses. Just as Zerubbabel and Jeshua were raised up, and gifted, and Divinely endowed, and protected against Satan's assaults, so in the coming day of Israel's acknowledgment by God, two other great Witnesses from God will be raised up, corresponding to them, occupying a similar position as the depositories of Heavenly power and wisdom, and exercising a similar ministry.
The two Olive Trees represented two individuals then; and they represent two individuals here in this Scripture. They will be the |two Olive Trees| for their day, as Zerubbabel and Jeshua were in a former day.
The Angel gave the essence of the meaning to Zechariah; and the same is the meaning here. The secret Divine supply of oil to these two Trees and Lamp-stands illustrates the great reality -- |This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might (mar. armies), nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts| (Zech. iv.6). That is to say, it was a material representation of mighty spiritual potencies which were coming forth from the Spirit of God to give success and power to Zerubbabel and Jeshua for the completion of the work in which they were then engaged. That work was the restoration of Jerusalem, its temple, and its worship. In like manner shall these Two Witnesses be spiritually endowed with still greater power for a greater work, which will be carried out in face of the opposition of more formidable enemies. In that day Satan was present to |resist| (Zech. iii.1, etc.): and the Lord, who had |chosen Jerusalem,| was present to |rebuke| him. So here, Satan will be indeed present; and his resistance will reach its highest point: hence these Two Witnesses must needs be equipped as witnesses never were before, in order to carry out and fulfil their testimony.
Expositors have exhausted their ingenuity in endeavouring to answer the question, which they all ask, |Who are the two witnesses?| We do not ask the question, and therefore we have nothing to answer. Why cannot we leave them alone? If God wished us to know He could have told us. The fact that He has not done so ought to stop our mouths. The wildest extravagances have been indulged in from the earliest times, and it would fill very many pages if we were merely to name them. They would require no refutation, for they are all mutually destructive of one another. Alford says: |No solution has ever been given of this portion of the prophecy.| He means, of course, no satisfactory solution, for the interpretations themselves are innumerable.
Malachi (iii. iv.) speaks of Elijah as coming to restore all things; and the Lord Himself endorses it in Matt. xi.14; xvii.11-13. In one sense (He explains) he had come in the person of John the Baptist who ministered in the |spirit and power| of Elijah (Luke. i.17). But this was conditional: |If ye will receive it.| They did not receive it; and, therefore, in another sense he was yet to come. This undoubted prophetic truth has led some expositors to add another witness to Elijah, so as to make the |two| Witnesses here foretold. They are not agreed whether it should be Moses (as on the Mount of Transfiguration) or Enoch. So we must perforce wait. What is certain is, that in the coming day of Israel's recognition and in the days of the Beast, God will raise up two individual men, whom he will call |MY two witnesses,| and will endow them will wondrous powers to enable them to carry out the commission which He will give them. Beyond this it is neither necessary nor desirable for us to go.
We now come to their power to inflict judgments, which is given us in verses 5, 6. It is important, for the Structure of these two verses is as follows: --
q4, xi.5, 6. The Infliction of Judgments.
q^4 s t^1 5-. Injury. |And if any man will hurt them u^1 -5-. Retribution. |fire proceedeth out
of their mouth...
t^2 -5-. Injury. |And if any man will them
u^2 -5-. Retribution. |he must in this
manner be killed.
s t^3 6. Power. |These have power
u^3 w^1 -6-. Object. |to shut heaven
x^1 -6-. Drought. |that it rain
v^1 -6-. Time (total) |in
the days of their prophecy
t^4 -6-. Power. |And have power
u^4 w^2 -6-. Object. |over waters,
x^2 -6-. Effect. |to turn them
w^3 -6-. Object. |and to smite the
x^3 -6-. Effect. |with all
v^2 -6. Time (occasional)
|as often as they will.|
We have included the translation of the AV. in the Structure, but we give our own here, for the sake of uniformity:
xi.5. And if any one desireth to injure them, fire goeth forth out of their mouth (2 Kings i.10; Jer. v.14), and devoureth their enemies: and if anyone desireth to injure them, thus must he be killed. (6) These have authority to shut the heaven (1 Kings xvii.1), so that no rain may fall during the days (the 1260 days) of their prophecy: and they have authority over the waters to turn them into blood, (Ex. vii.19) and to smite (xix.15) the earth with every plague, as often as they will] It is impossible to make this harmonise with the powers and functions of any Ministry during this present Dispensation of |the gospel of the grace of God.| Its ministers are to be |harmless| (Phil. ii.15. Rom. xvi.19). This is their characteristic. But this Vision refers to Judgment-times and Kingdom-scenes, affecting the Jew and the Gentile, but not the church of God. Alford's weighty comment on this is worthy of attention. He says |this whole description is most difficult to apply, on the allegorical interpretation; as is that which follows. And, as might have been expected, the allegorists halt, and are perplexed exceedingly. The double announcement here seems to stamp the literal sense, and the (...) [if any one] and (...) [he must be killed] are decisive against any mere national application of the words (as Elliott). Individuality could not be more strongly indicated.|
Interpreters talk about the |political heaven|! We may well ask what is political rain? We can only say that Scripture knows nothing of either.
r^4, xi.7-13. The Completion of their Testimony.
The completion of their testimony (xi.7-14) marks a distinct portion of their history and description here given. It is as strongly emphasised as is the nature of it. This is shown by the beautiful Structure which sets it forth.
Three things are shown to characterise the completion of their testimony:
1. verses 7-10. Their Sufferings.
2. verses 11, 12. Their Reward.
3. verse 13. Their Avengement.
r^4, xi.7-13. The Completion of their Testimony.
r^4 a c 7-. Time. |And when...
d -7. Death. |The beast...
e 8.9. The City. Bodies lie in its
f 10. Enemies rejoice.
b g 11-. The spirit from
i -11. Enemies
b g 12-. The Voice from
h -12-. The
i -12. Enemies
a c 13-. Time. |And the same hour...
d -13-. Earthquake.
e -13-. The City. Tenth part falls.
f -13. Enemies slain.
No harm can come to them during their witness. Not till their testimony is completed can they be injured or overcome. Till then they are invulnerable. As with |the Faithful Witness| Himself, so with them. Not till His hour had come could His enemies lay their hands on Him. (See John vi..6, 8, 30; viii.20; xii.23; xiii.1; xvii.1, 11).
xi.7. And when they shall have finished their testimony, the Beast that cometh up out of the abyss shall make war upon them (xii.17; xiii.7; xix.19. Dan. vii.21), and shall overcome them, and kill them.] This shows that these Witnesses are upon the earth during the thirteenth chapter; and that the Beast is on the Earth during the eleventh chapter. The account of the rise of the Beast is postponed till ch. xiii., but his actual revelation must already have taken place a long time before. The events recorded in the twelfth chapter must also have then taken place. We must remember, therefore, that when we come to chap. xii., we are, chronologically, taken back and told what will have previously happened. Just as an author to-day takes us by one line of events up to a certain point, and then goes back, and by another line of events reaches the same point again. All through these judgments scenes, or, at any rate, the great part of them, the Beast is on the earth, and it is against him and his forces that the plagues of the Seals and the Trumpets are directed. This fact is often overlooked in the interpretation of chaps. vi.-xi., but it must be allowed its full weight in our present consideration of the Apocalypse. It is clear from this verse that the whole period of their testimony will be at an end when that which is here said shall take place. The allegorists attempt to escape this by assuming that it means any one complete delivery of it which other witnesses might have continued. But this is impossible; as is the interpretation of the Two Witnesses, as being the Old and New Testaments (as Bishop Wordsworth does). How these can become a corpse passes our understanding. For see the next verse.
8. And their dead body (or corpse) shall lie on the street of the great city, which is called spiritually Sodom, and Egypt,]
Here, then, in the street of |the great city| Jerusalem, these two witnesses will be slain, and Ps. lxxix. will receive its fulfilment, for it is to this very time that it refers.
|O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; Thy holy temple have they defiled;
They have laid Jerusalem on heaps.
The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven,
The flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth, Their blood have they shed like water on every side of Jerusalem, And there was none to bury them.|
The whole Psalm should be read in this connection, as well as Psalms ix. and x., which relate to these very |times of trouble| (ix.9; x.1) when the |wicked man,| or |the man of the earth| oppresses and slays the saints of God.
where their Lord also, was crucified] So jealous is the Holy Spirit over His words, that He effectually prevents any allegorical interpretation here. Lest anyone should for a moment think He meant |Sodom| and |Egypt,| He not only says it is only |spiritually| called by these names, but also immediately adds |where their Lord also was crucified|; and yet, in spite of this, interpreters -- for example, Alford -- say, |not Jerusalem, which is never called by this name|; i.e., |the great city.| But it is so called in Neh. vii.3, 4. Jer. xxii.5, 7-9. (Compare Jer. v.1.2 Chron. xxxii.6). One would think |where their Lord was crucified| would settle the matter. But, no! he says, |It is true, He was crucified at Jerusalem; but it is also true that He was crucified, not in, but outside, the city.| Was ever such interpretation heard of? It is sufficient to notice that it does not say |in,| but |where| (...). A Sunday-school child could tell us where the Lord was crucified; but these learned men cannot. They say |the great city| here means |the church of God|! Well, what is gained by this? Was |the church of God| the place where the Lord was crucified? And is |the church of God| spiritually called |Sodom| and |Egypt|? The fact is, that these proper names are used to describe the character and condition in a spiritual and moral sense. What the character of |Sodom| was, we know from Gen. xviii.; xix.; and 2 Pet. ii.6. What that of |Egypt| was, we know from Ex. i. - xv.
Jerusalem is compared to |Sodom| in Isa. i.9, 10; iii.8, 9. Jer. xxiii.14; and in the Song of Moses, which refers to these very times, Deut. xxxii.30-33. It is also spiritually likened to |Egypt| in Ezek. xxiii.3, 4, 8, 19, because of the adoption of the customs and vices of Egypt. There is another reason why they may be spiritually so called; and that is, because both were visited with judgments and plagues similar to those described in this prophecy. But, beyond this, lest there should be any doubt left in the reader's mind, or any danger of being misled by the use of these names, it is added, |where their Lord also was crucified.|
9. And the peoples (lit., by Hebrew idiom, |some of the peoples|)and tribes and tongues and nations, look upon their corpse three days and a half, and do not suffer their corpses to be put into a tomb. ] The |year-day| theory surely breaks down here, for corpses could hardly lie exposed for three years and a half! But to avoid this difficulty, we are told that these are not corpses! According to Elliott, the period is that which elapsed between the ninth session of the Lateran Council, and the posting up of his Theses by Luther at Wittenberg. This fulfils the prophecy, he says, |precisely to a day.| But, unfortunately, he has to take the three years (from May 5th, 1514, to May 5, 1517) as years of 365 days, and the half year (from May 5th, 1517 to October 31st of the same year) as a year of 360 days; i.e., two days and a half short of the |precisely to a day.| And yet in the face of this he exclaims |O wonderful prophecy! O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the foreknowledge of God!|
Bishop Wordsworth is equally unfortunate, for he builds on the amended reading |tomb,| or sepulchre (which he takes to mean monument), this fantastic interpretation, that Papal Rome (the Wild Beast) |has laboured that the two witnesses [i.e., the Old and New Testaments] may not be committed to the immortal monuments of Editions, Translations, and Expositions.| It is fatal to this theory, (1) that (...) (mnema) never means anything but grave, tomb, or sepulchre, and (2) that we are indebted to Papal Rome for the only edition of the oldest published Codex, of the Old and New Testament know as the Vatican Codex (B). But such interpretations need no serious disproof.
The tenth verse, in which their enemies look upon their dead bodies, is thus constructed:
f. xi.10. Enemies rejoice.
f k 10. Dwellers on the earth.
l -10-. Rejoicings.
l -10. Torments.
k -10. Dwellers on the earth.
xi.10. And they that dwell on the earth (the earth-dwellers)rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another: because these two prophets tormented them that dwell on the earth.]
The older commentators might have felt a difficulty in understanding how the whole earth could rejoice at an event happening at Jerusalem. But in these days of electric inventions, telephones, and wireless telegraphy, we all know how the next day the whole world sympathises and rejoices together.
But |the triumphing of the wicked is short| (Job xx.5).
11. And after three days and a half the breath of life (or life-spirit) from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon those who beheld them.] The Two Witnesses are raised from the dead by the power of God (Gen. ii.7. Job xxxiii.4. Compare Ezek. xxxvii.10). The rejoicing is soon turned into fear -- great fear. Their Lord was raised to life in Jerusalem after three days, and they after a somewhat similar period. Like Him, too, they ascend up into heaven; but, unlike Him, this follows immediately on their resurrection.
The twelfth verse is constructed as follows:
b. xi.12. Ascension.
b m 12-. Hearing.
n -12-. Invitation.
n -12-. Reception.
m -12. Seeing.
xi.12. And they heard a loud voice out of heaven, saying to them, |Come up hither.| And they ascended up to heaven in the cloud (Acts i.9); and their enemies beheld them] The world they hear is |with power;| for immediately they ascend; and are for ever delivered out of the hand of their enemies. Their death, resurrection and ascension are all literal. This shows that the words, |first resurrection,| in chap. xx., refer to the contrast between that and the second; it is the first (or former) of those two, and not the first that ever took place. Nor is this the only ascension. The Church shall have ascended long before these judgment scenes commence; and during those time we have the ascension of the great multitude of chap. vii., and the 144,000 of chap. xv., besides that of the Two Witnesses here recorded. The |great fear| of their enemies is completely justified; for judgment speedily follows, and the death of the Lord's Two Witnesses is avenged.
This is recorded in verse 13:
f. xi. -13. Enemies Slain.
o -13. Killed.
p -13-. Number.
p -13-. Remainder.
o -13. Affrighted.
xi.13. And in that same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth part of the city fell,] i.e., of the great city mentioned above. But how can this be if this great city is |the Church of God|? Why should a tenth part of |the Church of God| be thus judged because of sins of |the peoples, and tribes, and tongues and nations|?
and there were killed in the earthquake seven thousand men:] |Name of men| is an Idiomatic expression for persons. Both in Scripture and in the Papyri (...) (onoma), name, is used of a person. The word (...) always means the number 1,000 and yet Elliott interprets this of the seven Dutch republics which were lost to the Papacy by the Reformation! so he takes these |names of men| literally, and says they mean |titles of dignity and command,| such as Duchies and Lordships. Hence, perforce, the smiting down of these by the earthquake must denote the setting of them up, and establishing them in a better and independent position!
and the rest became affrighted and gave glory to the God of heaven] This giving glory to God is not equivalent to praising or blessing God. It is extorted, not by penitence, but by terror. The idiom is well known. See Luke iv.15, where those referred to in the words |glorified of all,| soon attempted to take the life of the Lord Jesus (verse 29). (See also Josh. vii.19 (Sept.). Ps. cvi.12-15. Mark vi.20. Luke v.26; xvii.12-18; xviii.43; xxiii.47. John ix.24. Acts xii.23; xxiv.25. Rom. iv.20). The context here clearly shows the sense in which this is to be taken. God is said to be glorified when His power is acknowledged in an emergency; just as the magicians said to Pharaoh, |this is the finger of God| (Ex. viii.19). And just as the ungodly admit the same thing every day. Even the demons acknowledge the Lord Jesus, and confessed His Deity.
Here, it is only |the God of Heaven| who is acknowledged; not a covenant God (Jehovah) known and loved. Only a God at a distance, unknown and feared. We have already spoken of the title, |God of heaven,| and its significance as occurring only here, and in chap. xvi.11. Ezra i.2. Neh. i.4. Dan. ii.18, 19, etc.
Thus ends the sixth Trumpet or |second Woe.| Hence it is added:
14. The second woe is past: behold, the third woe cometh quickly.] The second Woe consists of two parts: The Horsemen, and the Two Witnesses.
The third Woe, which is the result of the sounding of the seventh Trumpet, occupies four chapters (xv. -- ); and after the sounding of the seventh Trumpet three chapters are interposed (xii. -- ), taking us back (probably) to a time prior to ch. iv.; conducting us by a different route to the same point; describing to us how it is the Wild Beast is to be revealed; and telling us the causes and consequences of his revelation. Then the seventh Trumpet is taken up again in chap. xv.
The second Woe ends with the earthquake following on the ascension of the Two Witnesses. Theirs is a marvellous history. It comes upon us suddenly, as does the history of Elijah in 1 Kings xvii.1; and the description of their course is soon told. In spite of all unbelief, misapplied learning, and fanciful interpretation, they will one day appear on the earth and fulfil their mission. Then this Scripture will be understood in all its simplicity and clearness.