Evidence from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ, by William Miller, , at sacred-texts.com
THE book of Revelation has been called by thousands a sealed book; and many a dear saint, while in this imperfect state of vision and knowledge, has wept much, because they could not read and understand the book. For it is very evident that the book of Revelation is not only interesting in its symbolical and mystical descriptions, natural scenery, and figurative language, but it is rich in truth, and the communication of events then hid under the veil of futurity, and would only be unfolded to the natural visions of men, many ages to come. John has written this book after the laws of nature; that is, he has seemed to copy after some of the richest and most picturesque scenes in nature's laws. He has, in revealing truths to our minds, followed the same steady course that fountains of water do in their course to the sea. He begins as it were back upon the mountains, where the head may be but a fountain, and there gives us a description of the source. He then glides gently along through the vale below, winding between hills and mountains, visiting in his course the hamlets of the peasant, the villages of men, the populous towns and cities of commerce, until he lands us or leaves us in the ocean of eternity. At first, he appears to be describing some bubbling fountain or gentle spring, and swelling in importance as he proceeds, brings in and adds every important stream of event, deepens and widens in his course, until he makes his prophetic history like a deep-flowing river, bearing upon its bosom the gallant ships and galley with oars. At first, he describes a pebbly brook murmuring along the hills, now and then bursting into view with some gentle fall, then gliding softly away, until it meets some rugged head-land, shifts its course, and almost seems to retrace its path; then, suddenly bursting from the hills in cataracts of foam, bounding from rock to rock, leaping into the vale below, he again seems to follow the alluvial flats and receives his tributary streams, winds on his way, until it falls at its mouth by a tremendous leap into a gulf of waters, and is swallowed up in the waves of the sea.
Four times the Revelation seems to bring us down in this manner, as though he had begun on one mountain, and traced four different streams of history down to the great ocean of eternity; like the river of Eden, which watered the garden, becoming four heads of four great rivers, which watered and encompassed the whole land, taking different points of the compass, but falling at last into the ocean, Gen. ii. 10-14; and all these having seven tributary streams in their course. The seven churches of Asia is a history of the church of Christ in her seven forms, in all her windings and turnings, in all her prosperity and adversity, from the days of the apostles down to the end of the world. The seven seals are a history of the transactions of the powers and kings of the earth over the church, and God's protection of his people during the same time. The seven trumpets are a history of seven peculiar and heavy judgments sent upon the earth, or Roman kingdom. And the seven vials are the seven last plagues sent upon Papal Rome. Mixed with these are many other events, woven in like tributary streams, and filling up the grand river of prophecy, until the whole ends us in the ocean of eternity.
This, to me, is the plan of John's prophecy in the book of Revelation. And the man who wishes to understand this book, must have a thorough knowledge of other parts of the word of God. The figures and metaphors used in this prophecy, are not all explained in the same, but must be found in other prophets, and explained in other passages of Scripture. Therefore it is evident that God has designed the study of the whole, even to obtain a clear knowledge of any part. I shall then pursue the following method:--
I. Explain the book which was in the right hand of him who sat on the throne.
II. Give the history of the seven seals, and their opening.
I. I am to explain what is meant by the book.
The book is often spoken of in the word of God. Sometimes we hear it spoken of as a little book, open, in the hands of the angel; and sometimes it is commanded to be sealed up; and sometimes to be unloosed, as in our text. The question arises, What can this book mean? It cannot mean the book of Revelation, for John was commanded not to seal the sayings of this book, Rev. xxii. 10. Neither could it be the prophecies, for they were commanded to be read every Sabbath day by the Jews, and were so read. Yet John tells us, in our context, "That no man, neither in heaven, nor in earth, nor under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon; and I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon." We see, plainly, that it could not apply to the law, nor the prophets, to the Old or New Testaments, for these were committed to the Jews, and also unto us Gentiles, and were to be read by all men; but this book they could not open, read, nor look thereon. There is one more book which answers to John's description, which no man, neither in heaven, nor on earth, nor under the earth, has yet been able to look thereon, or open and read, as we have any account of; and which, according to the whole tenor of the Scripture, will never be opened, read, or looked upon, until the last seal is broken, and the judgment sits. "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books." In this book, which is called the book of life, the names of all the redeemed in heaven, in earth, or under the earth, are written, which are not known to any man, neither will be known, until the last seal is broken open; for the judgment will declare who is on the Lord's side. For the apostle tells us, plainly, "Our lives are hid with Christ in God; that, when he appears, then we shall appear with him in glory." And John tells us, Rev. xxi. 26, 27, "And they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it, and there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie; but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the lake of fire." Again: "And they whose names were not written in the book of life, from the foundation of the world, shall wonder," &c. This book, although we are abundantly informed there is one, in the right hand of him that sitteth upon the throne, no man, as we are any where informed, has been able to look upon it, or open it, or to read its contents. This, then, is the book, on account of which John wept to know its contents. And so it has been with all Christians. They are anxious to know whether their names are written in the Lamb's book of life. But you must first learn, my dear brother in Christ, to live by faith; and faith, too, founded on the book in which you can look--of which you may read the promises, the prophecies, and commands. But into the book of life you can never look, until the Lamb of God shall open the seventh seal, and the righteous dead be raised, to meet with the dear Savior in that world of glory, when the book will be opened in the presence of the universe, and he will own you as his, and crown you with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
II. I shall now give the history of the seven seals, with the time of their opening. After the prophecy of the seven churches, in the 2d and 3d chapters of Revelation, John has a view of the heavenly host, singing the grand song, and gives us a description of the heavenly choir, and a part of the song. He likewise introduces the book, sealed with seven seals, and shows who can open the book, in the fourth and fifth chapters. These we have attended to, in a former lecture.
We shall now begin with the sixth chapter, 1st verse, "And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts, saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him; and he went forth conquering and to conquer." The "beast," in this passage, is the first, which was like a lion, representing the church in its first state, in the days of the apostles, when the church went every where, preaching the word, bold as a lion. The white horse, and him that sat upon him, represent Jesus Christ going forth in the power of the gospel. This is proved by the passage, Rev. xix. 11-13, "And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written that no man knew but he himself, and he was clothed in a vesture dipped in blood; and his name is called The Word of God." This is the same personage as the other, and both places represent the same thing, only the first description is representing the spread of the gospel in the beginning of the gospel day, the other at the end of the gospel period, under which we are now living. Therefore the first seal opens with the promulgation of the gospel, as the last will be closed by the same. 3d and 4th verses, "And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse, that was red; and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another; and there was given unto him a great sword." The red horse denotes blood and carnage, and has reference to the times of persecution in the days of Nero and other Roman emperors, and answers to the same time as the Smyrna church. "Given unto him a great sword," shows that the power would have great authority. The second beast spoken of in this passage is the representation of the church, which was like a calf, showing that the church would be given to the slaughter, like a calf fatted for the market, during the period of the opening of this seal, which period lasted until about A.D. 318, when Constantine put a period to the persecutions of the Christians.
5th and 6th verses, "And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo, a black horse; and he that sat upon him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny, and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine." The third beast, which represents the church, under this seal, had a face as a man, and shows that the church would be like a natural man, proud, haughty, independent, selfish, ambitious, covetous, and worldly. This seal was opened in the days of Constantine, when religion became popular, and was a stepping-stone to power; and this seal agrees with the Pergamos church, as to time and place. The black horse denotes error and darkness; and when the church became connected with worldly power and wisdom, she lost her purity of doctrine and practice, and adopted, in her creed, maxims and principles congenial with the natural heart, and forms and ceremonies for show and parade, rather than the humbling and cross-bearing life of the followers of Jesus. The balances denoted that religion and civil power would be united in the person who would administer the executive power in the government, and that he would claim the judicial authority both in church and state. This was true among the Roman emperors, from the days of Constantine until the reign of Justinian, when he gave the same judicial power to the bishop of Rome. The measures of wheat and barley for a penny denote that the members of the church would be eagerly engaged after worldly goods, and the love of money would be the prevailing spirit of the times, for they would dispose of any thing for money. The oil and wine denote the graces of the Spirit, faith and love, and there was great danger of hurting these, under the influence of so much worldly spirit. And it is well attested, by all historians, that the prosperity of the church in this age produced the corruptions which finally terminated in the falling away, and setting up the anti-Christian abominations.
7th and 8th verses, "And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold, a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was death, and hell followed with him; and power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with beasts of the earth." The fourth seal opened in the year A.D. 538, when anti-Christ first arose, for the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. "And to the woman was given two wings of an eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, times, and a half, from the face of the serpent." The pale horse is named, in this passage, death. And hell followed, showing us plainly that it is the anti-Christian power which would have the ascendency over one fourth part of the earth, during the opening of this seal. "Power was given unto them," shows conclusively that it is the same power mentioned in Rev. xiii. 2-5, "And the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority." "And there was given him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months." Again, 7th verse, "And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations." In our text he says, "Power was given them to kill with the sword," that is, to make war, which was fulfilled in Europe, when the papal power sent out large armies to exterminate the heretics, as they were called, who would not worship the beast or his image. "And with hunger;" this was fulfilled by the same power imprisoning and starving to death many thousands of persons who were suspected of opposition to her ungodly pretensions. "And with death;" inventing the most cruel and bloody means of torture that were ever imposed upon our world; to inflict death, in every possible shape that men or devils could invent thousands and tens of thousands suffered death under the most excruciating torments that the Inquisition could devise. "And with the beasts of the earth;" after they had glutted their thirst for blood in every possible shape that man could inflict, thousands were thrown to ferocious beasts, to be destroyed by them. The time and place of the opening of this seal we cannot be mistaken in. It must have been during the bloody and persecuting reign of the papal church.
9th-11th verses, "And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held; and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." On the opening of the fifth seal, there is no beast to say, "Come and see," for this very good reason--the church has not changed her position, and is yet in the wilderness, like the flying eagle. Therefore, under the fourth beast, the church is likewise under the control of the same anti-Christian power as under the fourth seal, but the difference appears to be only in one thing--the church appears to enjoy a little respite from her persecuting enemy; and it would seem by the language of the souls of the martyrs that they are now looking for a day of vengeance, which God hath promised upon them who worshipped the beast or his image; and the inquiry is, How long before this day of vengeance will come? The answer is given to these praying souls to rest a little season, and they are informed there must be one more day or little season of persecution, when their brethren must be killed in like manner with themselves; and when that is accomplished, they would then experience the last promise of God, the resurrection. This seal was opened about the beginning of the 18th century, A.D. 1700 when the bloody persecutions against Protestants ceased, and the nations of the world began to enjoy religious freedom.
12th-17th verses, "And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake." On the opening of this seal there is a great earthquake. This earthquake is spoken of in other places in this book and alludes to the French revolution; and of course this seal opened about A.D. 1790. "And the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood." Sun sometimes denotes rulers or kings, as in the case of Joseph's dream, when the sun, moon and stars made obeisance to him, meaning his father, head over all Israel, his mother, and his brethren; for where the king is called the sun, the queen is called the moon, and inferior rulers are called stars, as Christ is called sun of righteousness, because he is king of Zion. The church is called the moon, because she is the bride of Christ. Ministers are called stars because they are inferior rulers in Christ's kingdom. Therefore I understand this to mean in that revolution when the king lost his authority, and tried to disguise himself, and fled from his own subjects, afterwards was beheaded. The queen, too, became blood, and all the nobility of France fell to the earth. One decree levelled all titles and distinctions with the commonalty, like a fig-tree casting her untimely figs. "And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together." The heavens must mean that circle in which the planets move; and if that is to be understood figuratively, so must this. Heavens must then mean the laws and government of France. These were all swept away, or rolled up and laid away like an old parchment out of date or use. "And every mountain and island were moved out of their places." Mountains and islands are figures of large and small governments, and in the French revolution every government was removed from their legitimate sovereigns, except England, in the old Roman empire, and given to kings of Bonaparte's creation. And certainly all the kingdoms in Europe were changed from what they were before; so that when legitimacy was restored, the ancient kings could not and have not found their kingdoms in the same situation they were in before the revolution. "And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every freeman, hid themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the rocks and mountains, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb."
It is a well-known fact to all who are conversant with the history of the French revolution, that almost every king in Europe had to flee from his kingdom during the space of about five and twenty years: the king of Portugal to Brazil; the king of Spain to France; the king of France fled to England; the Pope died in exile; the king of Sardinia left his kingdom and fled to the island of Sardinia; the king of Naples to the island of the same name; the king of Austria left his capital; and the king of Prussia took shelter under Russia; the emperor of all the Russias left Moscow to its fate; and Bonaparte himself fled to the island of Elba, and died a prisoner on St. Helena. The great men and chief captains, and all orders and degrees of men, had to flee from the land of their fathers, and seek an asylum among strangers. So true was this passage of Scripture fulfilled that many writers and divines actually supposed that it was the last great battle and supper of the great God. "For the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" The sixth seal is not yet wholly opened; for it is evident that we are carried down to the last day, the great day of wrath which will immediately follow the sealing time which he gives us in the next chapter.
Rev. vii. 1, "And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that it should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree." Daniel tells us, vii. 2, "I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven strove upon the great sea." The four winds, then, means the opposing elements, war and contention. These principal elements of war and contention God would restrain for a little season, so they should not fan up the spirit of war and strife, neither in the Roman government, (called earth,) nor on the great nations, (called great sea,) nor on individuals or small societies of men, (called trees;) and this has been remarkably fulfilled for twenty years past. Not a particle of opposition has been experienced against the translation and spread of the Bible, or the missionary cause. Kings have been nursing fathers, and queens nursing mothers, to help forward the cause of God. The wind of Papacy has been kept down by the angel, so that all the opposition they could raise has been weak and inefficient. The Mahometan wind has not blown a blast for twenty years; the idolatrous and pagan nations of the East have, by some invisible power, been kept in check; the infidel and deistical principles of the West have been held in complete subjection by the same invisible hand, until the servants of God should be sealed. Therefore, since the French revolution, none of these four winds of opposition to Christ have been permitted to use any physical force, as formerly, to suppress the spread of the gospel through the earth. "And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God; and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea." The angel here spoken of as ascending from the east, is the angel standing on the land and on the sea, with a little book open, and the same that is represented in another place as flying through the midst of heaven having the everlasting gospel to preach to them who dwell on the earth. Coming from the east, the place of light, and having the seal of the living God, shows plainly that it is the angel of the gospel. The four angels are the four messengers of God, who suppress those four opposition principles, until the sealing time shall be over, "saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of God in their foreheads." The four angels are here commanded not to let these four winds of opposition hurt the earth, sea, or trees, until the sealing time is past, which is the same time spoken of, Daniel xii. 1, "Then shall Michael stand up, the great Prince which standeth for the children of thy people." "And I heard the number of them which were sealed; and there were sealed a hundred forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel." John first gives us an account of the number that were sealed in his day, out of all the tribes of Israel. They were sealed, as he tells us when he wrote, it being finished in the close of the Jewish dispensation. It being a complete number, 144,000, and therefore could be numbered; and as these were sealed at the close of that dispensation, so John now saw in vision a great number, which no man could number, sealed at the close of the Gentile dispensation, of which he has been prophesying; for after he has gone through with numbering twelve thousand in every tribe, he then says, Rev. vii. 9, "After this I beheld," that is, after this sealing, by which 144,000 had been sealed among the Jews, he beheld, "and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands." This evidently refers to the last sealing time among all nations; for he again hears them singing the grand chorus song, as at the close of the history of the seven churches, "And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, Amen: blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might be unto our God forever and ever, amen."
This shows us that we are again brought down the stream of time, to hear a part, at least, of the song which no man can sing, but those whose bodies are redeemed from the earth. "And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said unto me, These are they which come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." This passage shows who those were that John saw, and how they obtained the honor and glory, which John saw them possessing, through great tribulation, and the blood of the Lamb "Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them;" the same as in Rev. xx. 6, "And they lived and reigned with him," in the New Jerusalem state; for he goes on to describe this state of happiness, which John does in Rev. xxi. 1-5, compared with the two following, and there can be no doubt on the mind that John is describing the same in one place as in the other. "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." There can be no doubt left on the mind of any man, that John has, in these passages, given us a view of the New Jerusalem in the immortal state. We have been permitted to hear a part of the new song, and have received, in the passage just read, the blessed promises contained in that beloved city. And now, we only wait for the last seal to open. "And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour." Zechariah says, ii. 13, "Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord; for he is raised up out of his holy habitation!" Habakkuk says, ii. 20, "But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!" From these passages I should infer, that when God arises up to the prey, when his great white throne is set in the heavens, and when the Son of Man shall come in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory, then will all flesh be silent before him. And it is reasonable to suppose that the whole universe of rational beings who may be permitted to witness that grand scene, will be so filled with wonder and awe at the sight of the glory of God, that they will be silent. Then, too, will the redeemed souls, while the great Judge is separating them from the wicked, while they are rising to meet their Lord in the air, be silent. They will, like the children of Israel, stand still, (be silent,) and see the salvation of God. And the wicked world, who have scoffed at the idea of Christ's second coming, who have said, "Where is the promise of his coming?" and laughed and ridiculed the servants of Christ, who have cried to them, in their midnight revels, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh," will be silent. Then will those servants who have "said in their hearts, My Lord delayeth his coming," and "begin to beat and bruise their fellow-servants," who have proclaimed his coming, "and to eat and drink with the drunken," be silent. Then, too, will all the false prophets, who have cried Peace, peace, when there was no peace, be silent, when they see the frowns of an angry judge whom they have disregarded. Then shall those who have promised the wicked life, though he should not turn from his wickedness, be silent. Then, every one found in that great assembly, when the Son of Man shall come in the clouds, and all the holy angels with him, and all the saints who have slept, and all nations then shall be gathered before him, and every eye shall see him; then, I say, will every one found in this vast multitude, not having on the wedding garment, be silent; for the Scripture says, "He was speechless."
And now, my dear friends, what say you? Have you wept much to know whether your names are written in the Lamb's book of life? "Weep not," for "behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to open the book." And he says, "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. Therefore, "rejoice, because your names are written in heaven," says the dear Savior.
But you, my impenitent friends, who have never wept, nor confessed your sins to God, who have been more anxious to have your names written in the book of fame, of worldly honor, of the riches of this world, than in the book of life, remember, you too will weep when all heaven is silent--when the last seal is broken--then you will see the book, and your name blotted out. Then you will weep and say, "Once, my name was there; I had a day of probation; life was proffered; but I hated instruction, I despised reproof, and my part is taken from the book of life. Farewell, happiness farewell, hope! Amen.