Evidence from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ, by William Miller, , at sacred-texts.com
IT has generally been believed that the seven churches to whom the angel instructed John to write, were seven different and distinct churches in Asia, and by almost all of our commentators at the present day are understood to mean seven literal churches. But your speaker is forced, from the reasons which will hereafter be produced, to believe that these seven churches of Asia are to be understood in a figurative sense, alluding to seven periods of the church militant, during the Christian dispensation, down to the first resurrection, and the commencing of the glorious reign of Christ on the earth, commonly called The Millennium. If this view of the subject should prove to be the correct exposition of the text, how important and interesting is the subject to us who live in the last stage of the church! Then we who live at this day, are particularly, and solemnly and awfully, admonished in what is said by Christ to the church of the Laodiceans, that church corresponding with our stage of the church immediately previous to the commencing of the millennial glory; and how necessary that we should know that these admonitions do most deeply concern us!
This view of the subject will then claim our first attention. Were the seven churches used as a figure of the whole Christian dispensation, or were they not? I answer, In my humble opinion, they were. Because, first, the book of Revelation does evidently contain a prophecy of things which did not concern those seven literal churches in Asia; for those churches have long since passed away and become extinct; yet the book of Revelation contains prophecies which are daily fulfilling, and have been for eighteen centuries. It is also said to be a revelation of things which must shortly come to pass. "The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass." Not things that have been. Yet if Christ is only giving admonitory advice to those seven literal churches, then he is only relating their characters as they then were, and so far as these churches were concerned it would cease to be a prophecy, and the very first verse in Revelation would be violated. Again, 3d verse, "Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein; for the time is at hand." We see that it is called a prophecy in this verse, and must allude to the whole book; but who will pretend that the three chapters in the beginning of Revelation are a prophecy, if we understand them as relating the character of seven literal churches in Asia only? None, none.
Again: the word seven is often used in the word of God as a mystical number, meaning the whole, as seven spirits, seven stars, seven angels, seven candlesticks, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials, seven thunders, seven plagues, seven mountains, seven heads, seven eyes, seven horns, seven crowns, seven kings, and seven churches. All these are used in Revelation and apply to or concerning the whole Gospel period. If, then, the number seven is used so often in this book in a figurative sense, may we not reasonably suppose that it is so used in the dedication of this book to the seven churches in Asia, and the history of those seven churches be prophetic? for no scripture is given for any private interpretation, and surely the instruction in the introduction of the book carries us down to the coming of Christ in the clouds--"Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him; even so, amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." And why all this descriptive grandeur in the address to these seven churches, if they only were meant? Surely there were other churches of equal importance at that day. Where were the churches at Corinth, Cappadocia, Galatia, Thessalonica, Philippi, Collossee, Rome, Jerusalem, Bithynia, &c.? Our text shows that the seven churches were to be understood in a figurative or mystical sense. "The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches; and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches." These seven churches are represented by "seven lamps." See Zach. iv. 2, "And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps which were upon the top thereof." These seven lamps are called "the eyes of the Lord which run to and fro through the whole earth." See Zach. iv. 10. If this is true, then it readily follows that the seven churches of Asia are only used as a figure representing the church "through the whole earth." Again: the seven lamps, which are the seven churches, are called the seven spirits of God. Rev. iv. 5, "And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God." I have clearly proved, and I think it will be admitted by all, that the "seven eyes of the Lord," and "the seven spirits of God," are the seven churches to whom John was directed to write or dedicate his book, the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
And I will now show that these comprehended the whole church through the whole earth. See Rev. v. 6, "And I beheld, and lo! in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the "seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth." Again: when we compare the several characteristic marks or events, upon opening the seven seals, with those marks and instructions to the seven churches, we shall be led to admire the beauty, harmony, and consistency of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to his people. And I think the mind will rest satisfied that this view of the subject is the truth, because it so exactly agrees with Christ's manner of teaching by parables when he was with us in the flesh.
Some may inquire, "Why were those seven churches in Asia used as figures to represent the church militant in her several conditions to the end of her militant state?" I answer, )if we may be allowed to answer the whys or wherefores,) Because the signification of the names of those seven churches describe the spirit and qualities of the several periods of the Christian church, which they are brought forward to represent, which we shall attempt to show in its proper place.
I shall now endeavor to take up the churches in the order in which they are laid down to us in Revelation. (Read Rev. ii. 1-7, inclusive.) 1st. The word EPHESUS, desirable chief. This is true concerning the first age of the church, in the apostles' days, when the Holy Ghost was given the power to work miracles, and the power to distinguish between good and evil spirits, and when all were of one heart and one mind, and the canon of the Holy Scriptures were filling up, and the inspired apostles were setting things in order, and establishing churches through the world. Yes, my brethren, these were desirable times surely. But to proceed: This church is addressed by the character "that holdeth the seven stars," the ministers and servants of him who holdeth them "in his right hand," under his immediate care and control, "who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks," and has said, where two or three are gathered together in his name, there will he be in the midst of them, and has promised that whatsoever they should ask in his name it should be granted unto them. He says, "I know thy works." In that day they brought forth fruits meet for repentance, and they went every where preaching that men should repent; and Paul said, when preaching at Athens, "But now commandeth all men every where to repent." Yes, all, saint or sinner, high or low, rich or poor; all, all must repent. And O! my brethren, how much we need these works at the present day! "Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent and do thy first works." Again he says, "I know thy labor." Did not the apostles labor night and day? 2 Thess. iii. 8, "Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought, but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you." See 1 Thess. ii. 8,9, "So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail; for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable to any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God." Again he says, "And thy patience." This, too, will apply to the apostles' days. For Paul says, 2 Cor. vi. 4, "But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses." Also, xii. 12, "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. And again the apostle says to Timothy, "But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience." And who can read the history of the first age of the church, but will admit that works, labor and patience, were prominent features of that age, and virtues which adorned the Christian church in its infancy, more than any age since? "And how thou canst not bear them which are evil." Who can read Paul's instructions to his Corinthian brethren, in 1 Cor. v. 11, without seeing this text fulfilled? "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother [as though such a one could not be a real brother, but only called so] be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no not to eat." And had the servants of Christ at the present day the power of the apostles to discern the spirits by which we are governed, how many in this congregation would blush when "fornicator" is mentioned! How many "covetous" would hide their faces! How many "idolaters" would bow their heads, or "railers" would begin to murmur at the plainness of the speaker! How many "drunkards" would not have staggered into this house! And how many "extortioners" would have staid at home! O God, thou knowest. Or who can read the 2d chapter of the 2d epistle of Peter, and John's first epistle, Jude, and others, and not be convinced that the apostles could not bear with them that were evil? Again: "Thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars." This sentence was fulfilled in the apostles' days. Simon Magus, after he was professedly a disciple of Christ, was found out by Peter to be in the "gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity." Hymeneus and Alexander, whom Paul delivered to Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme. 1 Tim. i. 20. Also Philetus, Demas, and Alexander the coppersmith, were all found to be liars, and many others who went out from them, as the apostle says, because they were not of them. And how many are there now, my brethren, among us, who, when tribulation cometh, will be offended, and go out from us! Lord, is it I? "And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast labored, and hast not fainted." Yes, my brethren, it was for the name of Jesus, that the primitive Christians bore the persecutions of their day. Acts xv. 25, 26, "It seemed good unto us to send chosen men unto you, with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Acts ix. 16, "For I will show him what great things he must suffer for my name's sake." Verse 41, "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." And, may I not inquire, how many of us are willing and would rejoice to suffer shame for the name of Christ? Perhaps none. We had rather be called Rabbi, Rev., Dr., &c. We are contending for our names at the present day; for Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Free-wills, Campbellites, &c. If we do not contend earnestly for our sect, they will decrease, and we shall come to nought. And I say, May God speed it; so that you all may fall on the word of God, and rally again under the name of Jesus. But we will proceed with our subject. 4th verse, "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." Can this be true? Did the apostolic church, in its purity, so soon depart from the first principles of the gospel? Yes, in Acts xv. 24, "Forasmuch as we have heard that certain subverting your souls, saying, ye must be circumcised, and keep the whole law, to whom we gave no such commandment." Gal. i. 6, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel." 1 Timothy, i. 19, "Holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away, concerning faith, have made shipwreck." 2 Tim. i. 15, "This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia are turned away from me." And Paul further says, iv. 16, "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me. I pray God lay not this sin to their charge."
Many more evidences might be brought, to prove that many, in that early state of the church, did fall away from the doctrine of grace, which Paul and the apostles taught. And now, my brethren, how is it with us? Are we built on the truth? Have we a "Thus saith the Lord," for all we believe and do? Are we built on "the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone"? Look well to your foundation--the day is coming that will try every man's works.
Verse 5, "Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the first works, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove the candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." In this verse the great Head of the church admonishes the Christians of their former sins in neglecting the doctrine of grace, and falling into the popular errors of the day, which I have before noticed, and warns them of their duty to repent, which is the first and great command under the gospel. He also gives them notice, that, except they repent, he will remove the "desirable" state of the church into the next, which would be a state of trial, persecution, and poverty.
6th verse, "But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." What the deeds of the Nicolaitans were, we are not able, from the word of God, to determine; but from some things hinted at by some ancient authors, we have good reason to believe that Nicolas, one of the seven deacons, departed from the doctrine which the apostles taught, and preached a doctrine which was repugnant to the gospel of Christ, viz., a community or plurality of wives, which led Paul in his instructions to say, "Let the deacons be the husband of one wife," 1 Tim. iii. 12. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches." Here we have another evidence, that the branch of the church at Ephesus was not the only church addressed in this epistle and prophecy; for, if so, what propriety in using the word churches, in the plural, when only one church in Asia was spoken of? No, it could not be proper, neither would it have been, as it is so used in every epistle through the whole seven, had not Christ designed it for all the churches in a certain age. There is also an admonition contained in these last-quoted words, to read, hear, and observe the prophecy now given by the Spirit to John, the inspired servant of Christ; and for all the churches of the age spoken of, to be careful to apply to themselves the admonitions, designed by the Holy Spirit for their immediate benefit. "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." How precious is this promise to the faithful and tried soul, who places all his hope, and strength, and dependence, on one who is mighty to save, and on one who has promised to bring him off conqueror over all the enemies of grace, and the powers of hell! Yes, and, more than all, he has overcome and entered within the veil, as a forerunner for us who believe. May we all, by faith, have a right to this tree of life, this paradise of God.
I will now examine the prophecy to the second church, which I understand to commence about the close of the first century, and lasted about two hundred years, until the days of Constantine, A.D. 312.
8th verse, "And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna, write." The signification of the word Smyrna, is myrrh; denoting that the church in this age would be a sweet-smelling savor to God, while she was passing through the fiery ordeal of persecution and affliction, which always has served to weed out those obnoxious plants of pride, popularity, self-dependence--the bane and poison of true faith, piety, and devotion. And O, my brethren, could we learn wisdom, by what the church has already suffered in the days of our forefathers, we should be more humble, the more worldly peace and prosperity we enjoyed. For it is only in the midst of persecution and trial, that the church manifest great purity of doctrine of life. How well, then, might this age of the church be compared to myrrh, when she must have been separated from worldly honors, avarice, pride, popularity, and hypocrisy, when the hypocrite and worldling had not motives to unite with and destroy the union of the brotherhood, and when the hireling shepherd could expect no fleece, that would suit his cupidity, to filch from the lambs of Christ! "These things saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive." In these words we learn the character speaking to the church. It is no less than the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. "I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty." Now, their works were about to be tried; although God knew them that were his, yet he designed to manifest to a world who would be faithful even unto death, and to show that pure and undefiled religion would burn with a brighter flame in tribulation and poverty, and the richness of that faith, which would bring off the true Christian conqueror over the powers of the world, the temptations of Satan, and corruptions of the flesh. "But thou art rich." Yes, brethren, the true and genuine Christian is rich. For charity can suffer long in tribulation, and the spirit of Christ will make us forsake all for his sake, and endure poverty for the name of Jesus. "And I know," says Christ, "the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, (that is, people of God,) and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan." Although Christ knew the hypocrites and false professors that had rushed into his visible kingdom during a time of prosperity that the church had experienced in its Ephesian state, or apostolic age, yet now the time had come, when that candlestick must be removed, and the next age of the church or candlestick be set up; and the same means used by God to purify the silver would purge out the dross, so that the kingdom would again be cleansed of its worldly, hypocritical, and false professors.
10, "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer." The true child of God need not fear to suffer for Christ's sake, for the sufferings of this present evil world will work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. "Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried, and ye shall have tribulation ten days." The devil in this verse means Pagan Rome. See Rev. xii. 9, 17, "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil." "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." How exactly was this prophecy fulfilled in the days of Nero, Domitian, and other Roman emperors, and how faithful has history been to record the ten persecutions between the days of John's prophecy and the emperor Constantine! In these ten persecutions of the Roman government, in the text called ten days, we learn by the history of those days the church suffered a great diminution in numbers by apostasy and fear; yet those that remained steadfast made up in graces what they lost in numbers; and it was truly a time of trial, for many were cast into prison, and many suffered torture and death, rather than to offer sacrifices to their Pagan gods. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Yes, my brethren, if we can believe the history of those days, many of the dear disciples of Christ were faithful unto death, and have long enjoyed the crown of life promised in this prophecy.
11, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." Here, then, we find some of those characters who will have part in the first resurrection, the blessed martyrs who were slain for the witness of Jesus. See Rev. xx. 4. And in this passage we are again commanded to hear what the Spirit saith to the churches--all, all who have ears; not the branch in Smyrna only, but all who have ears. We have long been in the habit of giving away Scripture to others when it belongs to us and our children; let us therefore apply it home.
12, "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write." Very earthy elevated is the signification of the word Pergamos; and this church represents the age of Constantine, which lasted more than two hundred years, until the rise of anti-Christ, from A.D. 312 until A.D. 538. During this age the church became very earthy, having her worldly policy, and, like the church in the present day, attending more to the outward concerns, and the worldly part of religion, than to inward piety and graces of the spirit, looking more for forms and ceremonies, than for the life, power, and spirit of the religion of Jesus, spending much of their time in building elegant chapels, gorgeous temples, high places to educate their ministry, and adorning them with pictures and pleasant things, and filling the hearts of their worshippers with high, popular, and haughty notions. Yes, my brethren, the age of trial was gone; the holy and secret aspirations of piety fled away, and, now she had obtained an earthly emperor, her divine Master was forgotten. And here was the falling away mentioned by Paul, 2 Thess. ii. 3, "Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." This, then, was the age that prepared the church to receive that monster, the man of sin, the son of perdition, into her bosom, which stung the church with the poison of asps, and filled the temple of God with image worship, and the church with idolatry, selfishness, avarice, and pride.
"These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges." By the sharp sword with two edges, we must understand the word of God, which denounces heavy judgments on the wicked, and cuts off the corruptions and errors from the church. The Psalmist says, cxlix. 5-7, "Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud upon their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people." Paul says, Heb. iv. 12, "For the word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And John saw, Rev. i. 16, "And he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword." Then this is the meaning of the passage under consideration, "These things saith he," which hath the word of God, and showing us the importance of attending to the subject following, by the importance of the speaker, "He that is Christ." And now, while we read or hear, let us keep in memory that it is no less a personage speaking, than Him of whom the prophets did write; who holdeth the stars in his right hand, and created and preserves all things by the word of his power. Hear him.
"I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is. Here, again, we have an evidence that this church is mystical, "dwelling in Satan's seat," the fourth kingdom, the great red dragon, imperial Rome, whereon the great mystical whore of Babylon sitteth. The church, in this age, became immediately connected with this power called Satan, which is the devil, Pagan Rome. "And thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith." In this time of popular religion, and when many, from political and worldly motives, united their names to the people of God, still there were some who held to the doctrine of Christ, and did not deny the faith.
"Even in those days, wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you where Satan dwelleth." It is supposed that Antipas was not an individual, but a class of men who opposed the power of the bishops or Popes in that day, being a combination of two words, Anti, opposed, and Papas, father or Pope, and many of them suffered martyrdom, at that time, in Constantinople and Rome, where the bishops and Popes began to exercise the power which soon after brought into subjection the kings of the earth, and trampled on the rights of the church of Christ. And, for myself, I see no reason to reject this explanation of the word Antipas in this text, as the history of those times are perfectly silent respecting such an individual as is here named. Yet many, who opposed the worship of saints and pictures, and the infallibility of the bishop of Rome, were excommunicated, persecuted, and finally driven out from among men, and in the next age of the church had to flee into the wilderness. All this happened in the kingdom of Rome, "where Satan dwelleth."
"But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication." The world have always been endeavoring to draw the church of Christ into fellowship with them, and to a mixed communion of idolatry, as Balaam taught Balak to draw the children of Israel from their God and his commands, by mixing with the Jews in their worship, and, at the same time, by degrees, introduce their priests, their altars and idol worship into their camp. In Constantine's day this mode of warfare was introduced with great success by Pagan worshippers, so that in little more than two centuries the greater part of the professed Christian church became the image of the beast of which we are now speaking, viz., Pagan Rome. Here, then, we see the rise of Papacy on the downfall of Pagan Rome. Whosoever will take the pains of comparing the Pagan manner of worship, forms, and ceremonies with Papacy, cannot help being forcibly struck with the similarity of the two. One deified their departed heroes and poets, the other her departed saints and votaries. The one consulted her oracles and priests for laws and instructions, the other her Popes and cardinals. The one had her altars, images, and statues, the other her chapels, pictures, and crosses. Both had them erected in every public place, for the multitude to fall before and worship. Both had their holy fire, holy water, and both claimed to perform miracles; the one by the response of her wooden oracles, and the other by her carnal priesthood. Here, then, we see how the church, in the fourth and fifth century, was led over the stumbling-block of Paganism, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication.
"So, also, hast thou them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate." This doctrine was promulgated in the fourth century. See the church history, and our former observations.
"Repent, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth." Again the Lord calls for repentance, and threatens the judgments of his word upon them that obey not. O! may we take warning, my brethren, and tempt not the heavy judgments of God upon us, for our idolatry and fellowship of that which is not the religion of Jesus.
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." Again, all that have ears are commanded to hear, and those who remain faithful, that do not fall away, receive a promise of spiritual food, and a name and righteousness which none can know but they who receive it.
18, "And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write." The signification of Thyatira is, a "sweet savor of labor or sacrifice and contrition," and is a description of the church, after she is driven into the wilderness by the anti-Christian beast. This church lasted until about the tenth century; and little of her history is known to the world; but some authors have pretended to trace her into the north-west part of Asia, and in the north-east part of Europe, where they lived until about the tenth century, unknown unto the rest of the world, or taking but little concern with the nations around them. Yet it is said they retained religion in its purity, and held to the doctrines of the word of God. At any rate this church is represented as being in a state of heavy trial, and subject to seduction by some power represented by that woman Jezebel, of which I shall speak in its place. "These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;" representing, as in all the other declarations to the churches, that the character addressing them is no less than the mighty God, the omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent Jehovah, who says, "I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first." When this church existed, which was when anti-Christ began her reign, there was great need of the exercise of those graces of the spirit which in this passage are enumerated. 1st. In works they had to, and without doubt did, combat the anti-Christian doctrines which began in the sixth century to overwhelm the Christian world, such as worshipping angels, departed saints, subject to councils and bishops, infallibility of the Pope, &c. They, in charity, too, had many of their brethren to sustain while combatting these errors against the power of this beast. They did much service in holding up the hands of their pious teachers and pastors who were not led away by this wicked one. How much faith, too, must they have been in possession of to have withstood the power of their councils, the excommunications of the Pope, and a majority of their brethren who had fell into Papal errors! how much "patience" to have remained unwavering amidst persecution when driven from their homes, their country and friends, into the wilderness, where God prepared a place for her! and how much more necessary were their last works to support each other in exile, poverty, and distress, the natural consequence of being driven from among men! But these things were so, according to the best account we can obtain of those times.
20, "Nothwithstanding, I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols." In this verse we have strong testimony that the exposition we have given of the seven churches is correct; for no character given the woman Jezebel will apply so exactly, as the woman sitting on the scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, "having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication."
Jezebel is a figurative name, alluding to Ahab's wife, who slew the prophets of the Lord, led her husband into idolatry, and fed the prophets of Baal at her own table. A more striking figure could not have been used to describe the Papal abomination. See 1 Kings xviii. xix. xxi. chapters. It is very evident from history, as well as from this verse in Revelation, that the church of Christ did suffer some of the Papal monks to preach and teach among them. See the history of the Waldenses.
21, "And I gave her space to repent of her fornication, and she repented not." 22, "Behold I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds." 23, "And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts, and I will give unto every one of you according to your works." We cannot be mistaken in the character given to this mystical Jezebel, when we compare the descriptions here used, and the judgments threatened, with other passages of like import in Revelation, where mystical Babylon is described and threatened. See Rev. ix. 20, 21, "And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues, yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood, which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts."
If these last texts mean anti-Christ, of which I believe none have any doubt, that is, no commentator that I have been able to consult, then it is equally evident that this woman, called Jezebel, in this prophecy of the church in Thyatira, means the same; and the conclusion is strong the Thyatira church represents the churches in some age of anti-Christ, and the prophecy contained in the verses we have already quoted are the judgments God has and will pour out on that great city that rules over the kings of the earth, and has for ages past trodden the church under foot, and contaminated the people of God by her seductions, sorceries, and fornications.
24, "But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, As many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan as they speak, I will put upon you none other burden." 25, "But that which ye have already, hold fast till I come." In these verses the church which have not fellowshipped the anti-Christian doctrine, and have not followed the practices of the satanic blasphemies of their abominations, are here promised to experience no other persecution except what they may experience from this beast or woman Jezebel, which is another proof of this being anti-Christ; for the church in Thyatira has long been extinct, if there ever was such a church, and was when the man of sin was revealed; and yet they are promised to have none other burden until he come, as it is more than implied; and this power is to stand until he comes. For Paul says, "Whom he shall consume with the spirit of his mouth and destroy with the brightness of his coming." This is Daniel's fourth kingdom, which was to be broken without hand, and to be carried away like the chaff of the summer threshing-floor before the wind, that no place be found for it.
26, "And he that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations," 27, ("And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers,) even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star." 29, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."
In closing the prophecies to the churches, our divine Instructor carries them down to that day when he shall come to be admired in all them that believe, or to glorify his saints, to crown them his in his kingdom of glory, to break in pieces all the kingdoms of the earth as a potter's vessel is broken to shivers, as the last text says, which proves that when Christ comes, he will bring all the saints with him, and this too when the kingdoms of this world and anti-Christ will be destroyed. And this proves another important point in which many good and pious people are greatly mistaken, viz., that there will not be a thousand years' happy reign previous to Christ's coming the second time without sin unto salvation. What happy reign can there be while the kingdoms of the earth stand as they now do; while the anti-Christian beast has power to seduce and draw the servants of God into idolatry, and lull to her serpentine folds thousands and tens of thousands human beings yearly, and deceive the nations by her siren song of mother church; while by means of her poison, subtle, secret, and deep, she is undermining and sapping the foundation of every religious sect but her own; of every civil government but such as will resign their power unto her control? And now, while I am speaking, she is exerting an influence in this once favored land, by means of her Jesuits, that will set father against son, and son against father, and drench our country in blood. Can this monster of murder, iniquity, and blood, retain her life, her standing in society, and we have a happy reign? No. She must and will sink like a millstone in the mighty deep, and God will avenge the blood of his servants. Her flesh must be eaten by dogs; yea, the kings of the earth shall eat her flesh, and God shall consume her with fire before the happy reign comes. "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly."