THE following pages pretend to be nothing more whatsoever than what is presented in the title. There is no attempt at a general exposition of this most instructive and important book: and those who seek for an exciting application to surrounding and past events will not find it here. The writer has noted down, in reading, what struck him in the text (often, he believes, overlooked in the framing of some general theory), and he has published what has struck his own mind for the purpose of drawing attention to the book itself. He has added some notes containing more the expression of the light thus elicited from the text; and in these and in the commencement, as he was writing really for the use of christian brethren, he, has not been afraid to communicate freely what thus struck him, desiring it to be as freely weighed, by this and other scriptures, before the Lord. In teaching, he would feel it wrong to teach anything which (however still fallible) he could not affirm was the Lord's mind, without doubt in his own. Here, he has not exactly restricted himself to this, because he does not present himself as a teacher, but merely as seeking to help on others, who are enquiring with him. At the same time he has stated nothing he believes unweighed; nor, when a difficulty presented itself
connected with any statement, has he allowed the statement to stand without the difficulty being solved. Many very simple statements have, in this way, been connected with much enquiry throughout scripture; though neither the difficulty nor the solution appear, perhaps, in what follows. But he has found abundant instruction and enlargement of judgment in scripture in the research occasioned by it. He believes that the book, in the body of it, views the Church as either mystically, according to Ephesians ii., or really, according to 1 Thessalonians iv. 17, in heavenly places; and that the want of observing this has much obscured the study of it. He conceives that the scriptural estimate of Ephesians ii. has justified an application of it to past events (though on ground of which those who so applied the prophecy were, in the wisdom of God, scarcely conscious),--an application which had its force in a period now nearly, though not quite, passed away; while the application of it, consequent on 1 Thessalonians iv. 17, clearly has, as to the substance of it, to begin. I say, the substance of it, because, in tracing the evils to their sources, and developing the various subjects, there are many connecting links, with antecedent facts and events; and this not only in the more hidden sources, but, while the dispensation of judgment is quite distinct from the dispensation of patience, the tares which are judged in the one are often to be spiritually discerned in the other. And hence it is that the book is given to the Church. The judgment of God in power supplies force to the conduct and judgment of the Church in patience. It seems to me, then, that they are both alike practically wrong who have slightingly rejected the one or the other, and thus respectively deprived the Church of each.
A difficulty may perhaps present itself to some. It will be found, that many points, familiar to modern students of
the prophetic words, are taken for granted; as, for example, the idea of a personal Antichrist is assumed to be just. The answer to such an objection, if these papers should be subjected to such, is, that they are not written to demonstrate truths already elementary to those to whom they could be interesting. The writer is presenting what has occupied his own mind to those who, with him, stand on such points as admitted, and seek to make progress. It is possible some inconsistencies may be found. The writer has found his own mind grow clearer, and make progress in the research occasioned by the study of the book; and it is possible that some immature idea, assumed unconsciously, but not stated in the word, may be found. He is not aware, however, of any. He has found disencumbering himself of his own or others' assumptions a main point of progress. Finally, he would say, that there are certain great outlines and truths of a definite character in the word of prophecy--safeguards in every research. If in any details he has erred against these, he trusts any such idea may be at once rejected He commends what he has written to the blessing of God, whose the Church is, and who loves it; and to the thoughts and enquiries of those brethren who are led by the Spirit of God, to search into and be instructed in these things.
We cannot, I think, interpret the divine word in the Book of the Revelation with the same confined sense that the ancient prophecies carry; because the Church has the mind of Christ, and is supposed not merely to have particular facts communicated to it, but to understand the thoughts of God about, or as manifested in, those facts.
To take an example: I read in Isaiah, "Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be
remembered nor brought to mind. But rejoice ye for ever in that which I create; for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy." Now here, I find this vast and blessed expectation of the new heavens and the new earth brought down to a definite joy connected with earthly associations, and resulting from known though new enjoyments and blessings; coming indeed fresh from the hand of God, and, therefore, real and divine blessings, but restricted to a given and earthly sphere, and to definite facts.
Could the Church confine itself to this sphere? or are such its apprehensions created by the testimony of a new heavens and a new earth? Clearly not. The mind of God--the glory of Christ--the deliverance of the whole groaning creation of which (in the marvellous love of God, and the power of that worthiness which makes it due to Christ, according to the counsel of grace and glory which unites them to Him) the Church is a fellow-heir with Christ--the being like Him, and seeing Him as Ha is, displayed in the same love of the Father in which He is, that the world may know it--the savour of that love which can delight not only in its own blessing, but by its divine nature, in the blessing of others--and the filling of all things with the divine glory, first mediatorially, and then directly--these are the thoughts (with the blessing of banished sin, perfected holiness, and the restoration of all things) which would occupy the mind of the Church as having the Spirit.
Whoever, then, would set about to present the contents of the Revelation with the same confinedness of interpretation as Old Testament prophecy at once puts the Church out of her place as the hill confidante of God and the wonderful counsellor, as having the mind of Christ, and narrows the glory and the counsel to the feebleness of that
state with which the Church's position is expressly contrasted (1 Cor. ii. 9, 10; see that whole passage). We may indeed know in part and prophesy in part, and so learn from time to time; but, in another sense, we have an unction from the Holy One, and we know all things, because we have the Spirit of God who formed, ordered, and reveals them. We are of one counsel with Him, have the mind of Christ, and are not merely the objects of that counsel, as they of old. Being children, the family interests are ours as well as His, though we may be but feeble in the detailed apprehension of them. Now the Revelation has particularly this character, because it was left for the Church (not a communication between living apostles and living men, but left for the Church), as having the Spirit and dependent on the Spirit, and so, as having that Spirit, to use it in time to come; and so only.
Consistently herewith, the address is not an address of personal relationship, but the presenting of that which is the subject of knowledge. The most blessed truths of redemption may shine forth throughout it, yet it is not the address simply of the Father, by the Spirit, to the family, as to the things which concern them within the family. The Father 1 is not spoken of in it, save in one place, as the Lamb's Father (or we, save as kings and priests to His Father); never as in intercourse with the children as His children. This difference, and the corresponding characters of the operation of the Spirit, I find constantly maintained in the scriptures.
Accordingly we find (with much additional light, indeed, for the sphere is much wider, and the foundation of divine conduct on a much fuller and more widely extended base) that the position and imagery of the Revelation are all Jewish in character, though not Jewish in place. Neglect of this last point has misled many whose views have been contracted, and who have not in this, I believe, been led by the Spirit of God.
It is not the Father we have here (at least not in that character), but the temple and temple circumstances--He that was, and that is, and that comes. It is a throne and not a family: but it is not, on the other hand, the temple on earth at all, but the mind of God acting there on the throne, but in the perfection of that provident wisdom, in which the seven spirits are before the throne. He that sat on the throne 1 is the character and leading title of the Almighty in the Revelation; but that throne is not at Jerusalem, and has nothing to do with it immediately as the place of its establishment.
It is, in this sense, the Book of the throne when the King had been rejected upon earth.
We have, in conformity to this idea, not the Son in the bosom of the Father, but a revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him; and he sent and signified it by an angel to his servant John. All this is Jewish in its character. It is not the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost testifying, but God, Jesus Christ, and the ministration of angels to a servant; none of the other things, of course, ceased to be true; but it was not the character here developed.
It is therefore the word of God, the testimony of Jesus Christ, and visions; and there is blessing on the reader. It is addressed to the Church in its full privilege; but the subject presented is governance, and order and control, not Sonship with the Father. God would instruct His servants.
The blessings to the churches are conformable to this: from One who bears the character of Ancient of Days, who shall come--who was, and is, and is to come; and we see the Spirit, not as on earth, the Comforter (come down here, and in the sons, looking up there), but in His various and manifold sufficiency and perfection, in the presence of the throne, and as afterwards sent in power into the earth (providential protection and power) and from the Lord, not as the Son, one with His Father (see John xiv. 20), so that we are with Him there through the union of the Spirit, but seen as in human character, as a faithful Witness, the First-begotten from the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth--glorious in all this, but human.
Still the Church is put in full confidence here, for the praise to this blessed One is praise in which this word of the Spirit "us" is ever found; and, seeing Him in the glory, she breaks out, by the Spirit in the apostle, into thanksgiving, for His praise cannot be passed by; for she is loved, washed, and will reign in nearness to God and His Father. 1
[paragraph continues] To the world and to the Jews, His coming will be sorrow. Here, then, we find the place of all these parties at the outset. This is its form, then, ὁ ὣν κᾶι ῆ᾽ν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος 1--the perfection or fulness of the Spirit before the throne: Jesus known as faithful, risen to reign--all on earth. 2 The Church, meanwhile, knowing its own position in this, therefore says, not Our Father, but His--His God and Father: for so it is. The announcement of what the purport of Jesus' coming is to the world follows thereon, completing what He is and was on earth, the Church's portion thereby, and the world's at His coming. In verse 8 we have the announcement of His titles and character here, by "the Lord." Upon His name, thus developed, all the stability of purpose and government hung; and the Church had need to know this in all the circumstances which followed. Her place follows--as to the present, in the place of the instrument of this word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ (the word is God's, the testimony Jesus's,--in hearing Him we "set to our seal that God is true"); "your brother in tribulation, and partaker of the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ." This is the Church's place through the recognition of Sonship, while the throne is above. But it is not in union and headship, but kingdom and patience. Still, in whatever form, the word she ministers is the word of God or the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Lordship in itself is not the highest title of Christ:
[paragraph continues] "God hath made Him both Lord and Christ." To us there is but one God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ. But in this word the herald of God announces all the style of His ancient and future glory; for Lord here, doubtless answers to Jehovah. Further, this book does not present to us the Holy Ghost received of the Father, sent down to produce a public testimony to the world. Nor is it a gift received as needful for the maintenance of the Church, and communicated "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come," &c. But it is a revelation given to Christ, and communicated, when the Church had begun to decay (instead of growing), and had need, in its severed compartments, at very best to be reproved or encouraged, as so looked at apart--as these several candlesticks--the Son of Man interfering as the High Priest, but judicially: a revelation given (not the Spirit communicated) when all this darkness and (in principle) apostasy had come in. Each one of these seems another thing, and less immediate than the promise in John already referred to (xiv. 20): "In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you."
There is the Sonship of Christ with the Father, in respect of which the Holy Ghost dwells in us (the Spirit of adoption and union, the Comforter) and looks up and places us before the Father even as He the Son is.
There is Christ, the Head of the body, the exalted man (the first-born among many brethren), in which character He receives the promise of the Father, and imparts it, as power for testimony. And there is the Lordship of Christ over the world, which is communicated subordinately to the Church, who reign with Him, are kings and priests to His God and Father, by virtue of the previous parts of blessing. This last, after the judgment of the Churches in
their present state, is the subject of the book of Revelation. This state of the churches becomes thus very important and appropriately introductory.
After the heading, and four subsequent verses of introduction, including His work, our position (i.e., as kings and priests), and His coming again, we find the announcement, that, come what would, the Lord was the beginning and ending, the Almighty.
Then we have the revelation to one cast out into the wilderness, the depository of the sorrows of the Church, and no of the providence of God, but in the Spirit, on the day typical of the rest of glory which remains. He sees Christ in the midst of the seven candlesticks (not as a servant with his loins girt, but) in holy execution of judgment as Priest, the symbols of the Ancient of Days being withal upon Him. It is not Christ on high. It is not Christ the Head of one body. 1 It is not Christ in heaven. But he turns and sees Him governing, judging and holding in His hand the destines of the several churches; but while, with the symbols of the Ancient of Days upon Him, yet revealing Himself for the Church to the faithful disciple, as 'One that lived, was dead, and is alive for evermore, 2 having power over the gates of His enemies, the keys of hell and of death. This the apostle saw: such was the
place Christ took now--a different place from being the communicating Head of the body, however that might also be. The seer was to write these things, and the things which are, and what should be after these things. In a word, we have the Almighty continuance which comprehends all things of the Lord, and the present position of the Son of man in the churches, yet he that lived, was dead, and was alive, and had power over the power of death. The churches are the things that are. There is a close connection between the things that are and those that were seen; for, turning to see the voice that spike with him, he sees the golden candlesticks. So often as in the judgment of "the woman," the chief part of the description is of "the beast" (Chap. xvii).
The addresses to the churches are not part of the things that are, properly; they come in by the by, and designedly so: "Until the angel, &c., write," and "he that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches." Yet the existence of the churches themselves and the stars constitute the things that are, and are of all importance, as showing the transition from the state in which Christ, according to Ephesians iv. was the Head of the one body, making it grow by that which every joint supplied (in which its original state was connected with, and presented in, its theory and mystic perfectness--the results of which . shall be manifested in that day when it shall be manifested as one with Him), to the state of ruin and apostasy into which it actually fell, so as to be cut off and spued out of His month: as a dispensation--a state of transition--in which He was not filling the one body with gifts, but judging details in the several corporate bodies, in different places, and judging the evil inconsistent with the moral design of the Church, maintaining a character absolutely necessary to their recognition as His--as churches at all.
[paragraph continues] Hence they are moral addresses of the Spirit with promises and threatenings.
From this last recognized state, this place of transition, in which Christ can deal upon earth (but in a spiritual sense) judicially, we are necessarily caught up to the throne, on which all hangs subsisting always, but now the only resource; because the manifestation of acceptable grace, with which the Lord can manifestatively dwell in spiritual presence upon earth, had ceased. Hence this part is not properly prophetic, but connected with things that are; and the prophetic character that it has is entirely by the moral designation of the testimony of the Spirit; and we come back to the throne, μετὰ ταῦτα. 1 If John was to describe the government of the world on the throne, the Church being lost, he must first trace the Church as subjected to this moral judgment. The picture of the word would not be complete, had we not, after the epistles which regulated the Church, as subsisting among the Gentiles, not only the practical account of the apostasy, as in Jude, 2 Peter, 2 Timothy, 2 Thessalonians, &c., but the moral judgment of the Church, as passing from the state noticed in the epistles,--evidences that Christ never lost sight of it, and that when it ceased to be a manifestative place of His presence--his epistle--He takes His place and title in the throne whence all things are governed--"the same yesterday, to day, and for ever;" "Him who was, and is, and is to come;" "the First and the Last," comprehending and ruling all things. The things that are, then, are the seven candlesticks and
the seven stars--mystic perfection and actual imperfection; the Church never losing its mystic perfection in the mind of God, but when it has to be addressed on earth--to be addressed as figured in so many separate bodies then actually existing, and often with reproofs and threatenings.
The things that are, then, involve both these points.
The things that shall be hereafter, or after these things, begin when He that sits on the throne begins to act in providence, not when Jesus is in recognized Church relationship, or even in judicial testimony to the Church when the world (creation) is brought into view. It does not follow from this, that there may be no saints, or that they may not be faithful and give a testimony, but that the Lord does not stand towards them in this particular character of relationship.
The things which are, and the addresses to the seven churches, have (connected with this, to my mind) a double character; i.e., accordingly as we look at actually existing facts, or facts dispensationally existing: an observation which has strictly the same application to the expression of the Lord to the Jewish economy: "This generation shall not pass away till all these things be fulfilled"--the connection of which, indeed, with this subject is more strong than is at first sight apparent (for the fortunes 1 of the Church and the Jews are more coincident than we suppose as to dispensation, though for the same reason opposite in principle. The root bears us, though the branches may be broken off that we may be grafted in),
and has its light increased by, while it casts light on, the passage at the end of St. John's Gospel, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" This was taken as if he in person would not die. But, says the inspired writer, that was not said by the Lord, but "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" The Lord, then, in that expression, left something for the Church's wisdom and spirituality to discover. He did not say he should not die, but "If I will," &c.
Now it appears to me that we have very distinctly, in Peter, Paul, and John, the three representatives of, first, the Jewish church, as planted, its tabernacle shortly to be put off; then, the Gentile church in its energy, as planted, and ministerially sustained of the apostle (i.e., Paul), but, after his decease, the flock unspared, and perverse men arising, and so that departing too--Ichabod on that; lastly, John on the contrary is placed in contrast with the cutting off of the Jewish body, likened in the person of Peter to the Lord, and made to represent the extended protracted existence of the Church as one hanging on The will of the Lord, having lost and forfeited its real character, to which faithfulness attached blessing and sustaining power, as due to the character of God, and just hanging now on his secret counsel. And accordingly we have John here, who was in the bosom of Jesus and received the communication of His mind and secret knowledge, hanging over the fallen and falling fortunes of the Church--already fallen, if we compare them with their estate as planted, not now sustained by Paul's apostolic care and energy, but beset by wolves and perverse men, and failing, yet sustained by this word, "If I will that he tarry till I come." Now I take it that this suspended place had its form actually and externally at the destruction of Jerusalem. Then also "this generation" took
its place externally: the earthly local centralization of the Church was externally set aside (it was really from the time of Stephen's death, when the first martyr left the world to go, as to his spirit, on high), and, the Lord's hand having set aside the earth as His place, all was in abeyance till He personally took up the matter again--coming again in connection with a similar overturning: the fitting of which two events together is what constitutes the force of Matthew xxiv. 1--43. In the meanwhile the throne was really set up in heaven, giving the evidence that everything had failed on earth, but that nothing could fail in the purpose and throne of God. With this the book commences; and the protracted condition of the churches is brought in after the throne is set up, as incidental before the unfolding of the actings, in the world, of the throne so set up in faithfulness.
I hold therefore that the things that are, and this address to the churches, give this double character, as to period, to the Revelation. If we take the things that are, as that which actually existed in the time of St. John, then it closes with the actual existence and state of those churches, as addressed by St. John, or rather with the life of St. John himself, who addresses them under the warning of removal for their failure. The throne of Jerusalem being gone, there was still, by him who had been there with the Lord, a recognition of the churches as something upon earth. There was nothing sealed in this. But if we take the apostle as the mystic representative of the dispensation in its condition after the departure of St. Peter and St. Paul, 1 then it is the protraction of that
state of things, till the Church, as a dispensation, is spued out of Christ's mouth; and the things that shall be here-after are the actual intervention of the throne of God afresh in the government of the world.
I believe the Holy Ghost has ordered it so as to leave ground for both these applications; as the Church knows the throne mystically now in the exaltation of her Head, and actually in its future judicial and open intervention in the affairs of the world.
Accordingly, chapters ii. and iii. are addresses to the churches, but, on moral principles, extended to every one that had ears to hear; connecting the actually existing bodies with the condition in which the Church might find. itself in after ages. "The things that are" are, more
properly, what then was; the addresses to the churches, the exhibition of the protracted prolongation of the dispensation of the Church, mystically perfect, yet ruined (the throne being set up already, but its full manifestation, as for the world, not yet brought out). Within this scene, the yet remaining attention of Christ to the churches, as to the formal manifestation in the body on earth, was in warning and judgment, not headship. This being their state on earth, in heaven they were only expecting with Him a glory which could not fail.
It is not my object here to enter into the detail of instruction given to the churches, though it be most personally precious; turning attention here rather to the structure and prophetic character of the Apocalypse. And, as briefly as I may, I add, therefore, here merely the order of the statements made to these churches, and their condition, that they may stand together before the mind of the reader of the Apocalypse.
First, declension from first love, and the Lord taking the place of examination and judgment.
Secondly, persecution: Christ the overcomer of death, a giver of the crown of life.
Thirdly, dwelling in the world, to wit, where Satan's throne is (the prince of this world), yet Christ's witness amongst them where Satan dwelleth, suffering faithfully: with this, the beginning of teaching error for reward, and allowance of evil and low practice. Christ would fight against them (to wit, as an adversary) if they did not repent.
Fourthly, a state of increased devotedness in patience, charity, and works: but Jezebel, teaching communion with an evil and idolatrous world; and suffered. Space had been given for her repentance, but she did not (note here it is a woman, not some of them). Judgment would
fall on her followers, but discriminating--to every one according to his works, and no further burden laid on the faithful.
Here begins another distinction, that, whereas the reward promised was, previously, after the warning to hear, from this point it comes regularly before. On this fearful judgments, and the Lord's coming first introduced and the morning star, and the kingdom on the earth substituted for the professing Church.
Fifthly, a name. to live, but no reality; profession of being alive as something distinctive: but there were, however, things remaining and a few names. The Lord, if they did not repent, would come on them like a thief: here the Church, in this state, judged like the world.
Sixthly, weakness, but an open door, marked, not by detailed works, but keeping the word of Christ, of His patience, and not denying His name. They would be kept from an hour of temptation, which was coming on all the world to try the dwellers upon earth. (Comp. Isa. xxiv.)
Seventhly, the Church to be spued out of His mouth without proposal of repentance, because of what they had become, yet counsel given; and if any one who has remained within and heard when Christ knocked still at the door, that one would be with Him.
Such is the course presented by these churches in their moral character and condition.
These addresses, however, as we have remarked, come in incidentally. John was to write the things he saw. But this was not properly his vision, but came in afterwards, generally under the things that are, and that only as a consequence.
In the fourth chapter we come to the next branch of the
subject--the things μετὰ ταῦτα, or (as it is here translated) which must be hereafter, taking up i. 19.
If we take the former part as the protracted condition of the Church dispensation, then this will be the power of the throne of Him who was, and is, and is to come, 1 (the Lamb being still, however, there,) exercised over the world, after the close of this dispensation, yet properly before the beginning of the next. If we take the former part as the things which actually then were (and, doubtless, such actually existed), then it is the governance of the world, when the Church had no formal recognized existence on earth which could be called the habitation of God in any full sense, though just as dear to Him individually as regards salvation. I believe both these thoughts are intended for the Church. In the former case we have literal fulfilment of the prophecy which follows, in the latter analogies in a protracted period.
The apostle now is translated (in spirit) into heaven. Before, he had seen Christ, on turning round: a newly revealed state of things, but on earth, and he there still. But the churches now were no longer so recognized; and the voice, which he hid heard at the first behind him on earth, now calls him up to heaven.
Here, accordingly, for the first time, he saw the throne, for it is set in heaven (the earth, as addressing the Church, he had left), and there was One sitting on it.
Heretofore, it has been the Son of man judging upon earth: according to His various glory, in address; but in vision the Son of man. We have not the Son of man again, till the judgment in chapter xiv. 14. The Lamb only is concerned in the seals. The angelic power is connected
with the trumpets. We shall see this more particularly; but I remark only, the Lamb is always in a higher or lower place (this latter by grace), not exercising intermediate providences; in the throne, suffering, or judging.
It was in heaven the apostle must learn the things which were to be hereafter. There only they can be learned; 1 and, by the habituation of the mind there, seen, as they are important to God, to Christ, and, therefore, to the Church, and to the Spirit for the Church. No one having the Spirit, so as to be interested in God's mind about the Church loved of Christ, could be indifferent to them.
But to follow closely the chapters. Chapter iv. sets up
the throne in heaven, and One is sitting on it. The sign of the covenant with creation was around the throne. There is no statement of a veil, intercession, incense, or priesthood. It is government--elders on thrones. There were the seven spirits, the Holy Ghost in His energy and perfectness, the fixed moral purity which belonged to the place, the approach to the throne, and lastly (that of which most was said), four beasts, 1 which were the heads-of the genera of creation, and filled with the intelligence and activity of providence, celebrating Jehovah Elohim Shaddai, the covenant and dispensational names of God, not the relationship name of the Church, thus representing the throne of providence and creation, controlling all the springs of the state of things in nature; of which throne these living attributes of God formed the pillars and support; they were κύκλῳ τοῦ θρόβου. It was the temple; but the temple was the accompaniment of the throne, without veil or priest. The twenty-four elders may be taken as the representatives of the redeemed of the two dispensations; but it was not the essential character. They were on thrones. But I doubt they went beyond creature instrumentality, however sustained by divine power. The beasts or living creatures are more particularly noticed as connected with the living creatures of Ezekiel--the living supports of the throne of God, leaving (judging rather) Jerusalem, now found as parts of the circle of the throne in heaven. 2
We may remark, that all dispensation, and that which is the source of it, is noticed (save the Church properly, i.e., sons with the Father)--God, Shaddai (i.e., God as with Abraham the Almighty), and Jehovah, the Governor, who is, and was, and is to come. A part of these living creatures, the eyes, are found elsewhere: first, in 2 Chronicles. xvi. 9--there service generally; in Ezekiel their connection is with the place of the throne which had been in Jerusalem, but a throne of God over all, the Spirit leading; graven on the stone laid, in Zechariah iii. 9, and again, in Zechariah iv. 10, resuming their course through the earth, and, as we shall soon see, as the eyes of the Lamb (as possessing all power in heaven and earth), the seven Spirits so sent forth.
This, then, established the throne, the Church not being (properly speaking as such) in the scene at all, save representatively in the enthroned elders. It was another subject. The throne of Him that liveth for ever and ever was the subject here. In chapter v. the hook is introduced to us. The throne first established, whatever happened now was what hung on the throne. In the right hand of His, power who sat on the throne was a book.
There may be some allusion in this, and the little open book, to Jeremiah xxxii.; but it is (to say the least) very faint. A title to open a book is a distinct thing from a book containing a title, the evidences of a title. Besides, it was a book to be read, to be opened and read, as containing communications of the mind of God.
But the death of Christ doubtless gave Him the title to the inheritance morally, and to open the book, and purchased and redeemed the joint-heirs.
It is not, moreover, here the kingdom merely of the Son of man, as given to Him, nor the title of the Offspring of David (that is not brought in until the end), but the Root of David, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, David's Lord, not his son--He hath prevailed. The redemption, or purchase,. here, is of the Church 1--a new song, not a Jewish one. It was a book in the hand of God, of Him that sat on the throne, not antecedently revealed, nor the subject of ordered prophecy before, and founded, not on promise which man could have had on uprightness, as the Jewish promises, but solely on the exaltation of the Lamb that was slain; and His being on the throne who was rejected on earth, and specially in the character of the head of these promises to the Jews; and none, therefore, but He, could open it or look on it. The title, too, is one higher than the official or given inheritance of the Son of man, deeper in its ground, and much more exalted. It is a place and a title, held in the throne--the Lamb slain there. This was not a title properly given to a mediatorial person in peace; but a title, due, perhaps, as to person, but acquired by excellency, and humiliation, and perfectness.
In this place, the communication is with the elder, as representing, I apprehend, the Church cognizant ("for you hath he reconciled") of the title and glory of the Lamb.
We are then shewn the Lamb slain--He who did not resist evil, but gave Himself even unto death, and was led to the slaughter, "as he had been slain;" the full power
actually, the seven horns, and full knowledge, seven eyes, being in Him, and this, universal permanence of knowledge. His eyes were the seven spirits sent forth into all the earth. Those spirits, the light and power of the holiness of God before the throne, thus characterizing His presence, were now the agents of the active discernment and power of Him who was justly exalted. It was not then the Son of man, in His titles of inheritance, but the Lamb who opened the book. To Him and to the Church, in measure, as one with Him, as suffering, rejected, and exalted in her Head, the opening of the book appertains. We have the mind of Christ--to us by the word.
He came and took the book. The moment He had done this, the beasts and elders (i.e., in principle and title, creation, providence, and redemption) all own His headship, the headship of this humbled but exalted One; for, though the Lion of the tribe of Judah had undertaken it, yet the Church knew His titles as Root of David, and yet the Lamb slain but now exalted to the throne as such. The book unfolded what under His hand concerned their; all of it was the counsel of God to bring all out into the place they had in His mind and purpose. Verse 9 should be "they sing," not "they sung." This is what they do in heaven, as under the Lamb. This being so, "us" would be no difficulty. Perhaps we are bound to take the correction of Griesbach, which would remove even its appearance to the eye, the sense remaining the same. It is remarkable, that while the same confidence and title is expressed by St. John writing to the saints on earth in the first chapter, and here by those around the Lamb on the throne, they add here, to shew their state of expectancy, 1
[paragraph continues] "We shall reign." That was needless to say, though true, to the saints on earth: it was pretty plain to sufferers that they were not reigning. We might have thought that these were. They are therefore shewn to us in this state of expectancy. 1
The four beasts are ever mentioned first, as connected with divine power, and entirely distinct from the angels. 2 I see not exactly, how one searching Ezekiel, and their places here, can doubt their general force. They are more intimately connected with redemption, because all that displays creation and providence being connected with, and come under, the power of evil subjectively, they are especially interested in it. The angels merely celebrate the person of Him that was slain, and His excellent dignity. And, after them, all the actual creation (of which as creatures they are head, they having owned the Lamb as worthy) celebrate Him that sitteth on the throne and the Lamb together. And the four beasts, who sum up all its moral import, say, Amen. And the elders, the intelligent redeemed, fall down and worship Him that liveth for over and over This is His highest and essential character; and in this they close the doxology. First, redemption; then, the angels own the Lamb; then, every creature Him that sits upon the throne and the Lamb; the living beasts saying, Amen and then the elders Him that liveth for ever and ever, filled with all the fulness of God. This is particularly the portion of the elders, though it is the same blessed One that is honoured by the beasts; but their word is continuance,
rather Jehovah-continuance--was, and is, and is to come--relative continuance, not intrinsic life;--for, though the throne is the great head and source of all, yet redemption leads us more deeply into the knowledge of Him that sits upon it, and puts all things in their place. 1
This, then, is a position which bears upon the whole to the end, though much intermediate important matter may come in under different heads; but the position of this bears upon all the intrinsic exaltation of the Lamb to the throne. Many dispensatory arrangements and providences may come in subordinately, but this is the key to the result. Further, this is connected with the immediate relationship of the Church with Christ. The Church knows Him as the Lamb, and should be the follower of Him, and representative of Him as such here. The Lord may act on the dispensation by many external circumstances and orderings; He does not act in it but in this character. As such, He is primarily glorified; as such the world is against Him, and Satan's rage in its deepest and intrinsic character. The Church is seen in its dispensed perfectness as kings and priests (seven is the number for its abstract mystic perfection); because, though all through this period, viewed in its protracted character of years for days, it was yet imperfect, yet here the government of the world is viewed, 2 not the dealing with the Church; and, therefore, in placing the parties (if I may so speak, the dramatis personæ), the Church is viewed as a complete distinct whole. Although it is the supreme throne which is above all, and
the source of all (it is He that sits on the throne that makes all things new, and is the object of supreme worship), yet, relatively it is not the throne of God at Jerusalem. It is not the filial relation of the Church, nor the ordered throne of the Son of man, but the throne in heaven; 1 and there the Lamb in the throne, with the power, knowledge, and holiness belonging to it in exercise, and that over the earth.
There is a very distinct break, in the course of the book, at the close of the eleventh chapter, which, in the sum of its contents, closes the whole book. The time was come that those that destroyed or corrupted the earth should be destroyed. But in chapter xii. it resumes from the origin, to bring in the radical character and development of the last form of evil; and, as this will be manifested in fact at the end, as to the facts, it may be taken as a continuance of the previous visions. But there is another important division within the first eleven chapters. At the beginning of the eighth chapter, the last seal is opened by the Lamb. Now of course this closes the book; and though that which follows may come under it, yet it is a distinct course and character of events. The Lamb is not spoken of during the course of the trumpets; all is angelic. After chapter xii. we have the Lamb again: of that we can speak there. The Lamb is in opposition to man and the world; that is, they have rejected Him. And the suffering Church, at least, is rejected by the world; and what concerns it is what answers to Christ in that character. This, then, is
what we have under the seals. In a certain sense, this is always true; for "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution;" but it is not dispensatorily true (i.e., as to the condition of the Church). We have then, looking at it as progressive history, three great divisions: the Church under the Lamb; the Church under the ministration of angelic providences; and the Church under and during the last great apostasy, traced from Satan's power at the outset. The world meanwhile, not the Church, is the subject of the statements contained in these portions. 1
Upon this earthquake great terror manifests itself; but it is not the expression of God's revealed judgment, but of their terror. I do not say this may not have an application afterwards, and that the kings of the earth may have terror then; but this is not the kings joined to the beast, making war with the Lamb, and slain with the sword of Him that sat on the horse. It is terror on an earthquake, which they ascribe to the wrath of the Lamb, as if His clay were come. It is after this all the trumpets sound. On the ground on which I am at present interpreting (that is, that of the protracted period), it would be the upsetting of that heathen empire with its rulers, which had hitherto been in existence, with the consequent terror and dismay of the Lamb's enemies. The idea of an application to such a period is often unjustly combated, and the name of
[paragraph continues] Constantine introduced to shew that what he did in the Church was of no consequence, or evil instead of good. But this anxiety proceeds on a false supposition that this is the history of the Church: whereas it is the history of the Lamb's government of the world in providence. And in this respect we should remember there never was such an event since Babel, and its consummation in the image at Babylon, as the setting aside the direct worship of Satan in the imperial nation. And this is what took place then.
The recognition of the Church, in spite of all, then comes in by the by: first, the full complement of the elect Jews; and, then, the multitude of the Gentiles with their portion. Nothing was allowed to be done till these were reckoned up or owned in their place.
The first tumult and storm of nations was arrested till this was distinctly done. Such had been the power of God in the Spirit during this period, in spite of all the persecutions and oppositions of ungodly men. The fifth and sixth seals shew the different result of the actually persecuted or rather killed, and the powers that had persecuted them; 1 the seventh, the great result, in spite of the persecution--the word of God had not been bound.
The four winds, blowing on the earth and sea, shew the disorder and tumult of the spirit of nations. Here, not merely on the sea, wherefrom, consequent on it, Daniel saw the four great beasts or kingdoms emerge; but on the earth, here, because there was already a settled and ordered system which was affected by them as well as the mass of unformed nations--the sea.
This was arrested till it was shown how effectual the word of God had been in spite of opposition.
The seals, as well as the trumpets, and perhaps I might add, the vials, are divided into four and three. The four beasts call to see the consequences of opening the first four seals. The last three have their own special character. The division of the trumpets is well known; the last three being woe-trumpets. The seven churches are divided into four and three, by the different position of the promise and warning to all that have ears to hear. I think it will be found that no repentance is proposed to the Church after the first three. 1
Looked at in the light of the sustaining power and attributes of providential rule, the call of the four living creatures is very intelligible.
Taking the interpretation now according to the protracted course of divine government, the first four seals would be the history of the empire. I hold a horse to be the symbol of imperial or royal power in exercise. And such would be God's account of the course of the empire then existing. If it be asked, What avails this to the saints? I answer, Everything:--to know that all passes under the eye and knowledge of God. This lion, in whose mouth they were, had his days and ways all numbered and ordered of the Lord; and they were, indeed, in union with Him who governed, though they might suffer with. Him. The understanding of this place of patience was, and to us is, of the very last importance.
In the fifth seal we have the estimate of those who had suffered during this period graciously taken notice of, although it had been enough to have shewn all was ordered. But it comes out here that many had been killed. Their place is ordered. This was not the last persecution.
The sixth seal has occasioned great difficulty. I admit the application of all this to an ulterior period, if "the things that are" be taken as the whole dispensation, which I recognize.
There was a great earthquake, 1 and the ruling powers
shaken, convulsions of the prophetic earth, and dislocations of its governing powers; 1 and, to strengthen the saints, the consequence is shown.
The seventh seal gave occasion to the definite results of the state of things introduced by the fifth. There were those who had come out of great tribulation, and were fully owned--their robes were "white in the blood of the Lamb."
The seventh seal once opened, we hear no more of the Lamb, The Church, as a dispensation, had ceased to be in a suffering state. 2 Of the seventh seal nothing could be directly said: heaven could say nothing, man perhaps much; but his thoughts are not as God's thoughts. The owning 3 of Christianity could not be condemned; the
putting the Church into the world, its real effect, could not be celebrated. There was silence in heaven. But on this state of things, which heaven could not own at all, secret providence soon began to act. The angels began sounding. It was an action, then, ab extra in the providential state of things by angelic ministrations of providence, not in the known relationship of a suffering Church, and the world opposed, as it had crucified the Head. The growth of apostasy is traced, not in this second part, but in the third, as having its own importance.
But there was a feature in this not yet noticed. Mixed, as they might be (in a certain sense in spite of themselves) with the world, the prayers of the saints had not ceased, and much incense was given to the angel of the altar to add to them, or give them savour and efficacy with God. 1 The High Priest Himself wears the angelic character here: the nearness of relationship, and completeness of all in heaven as governing on known principles (known by man in the Church as his own to go upon), were gone.
This is the first mention we have of the altar of incense. The souls were under the altar of burnt-offering as whole burnt-offerings. Now, it was the whole resource of the saints to cry to God. The answer was judgments from the holiness of God against evil; and the definite course
of disasters prepared to pursue its progress. We have, thus, at the close or at the beginning of the periods, an account of the state of the saints during the period (i.e. as to the principle of the dispensation in the period). The trumpets, then, would be the judgments of God upon the mingled state of things, in which the saints had ceased to suffer 1 and be identified with the character of the Lamb, in answer to the secret prayers of the remnant offered up as a sweet savour by the secret action of the angel of the covenant; but the known dealings, externally, upon principles which the Church could explain on the character of its existence.
There was alarm, the powerful acting of God in men's spirits in terror, and a convulsion in the condition of the earth; then the progressive course of Judgments:--
On the grandees, and universal prosperity and glory of man, by heaven-sent judgments;
Then, destruction by judgment, through power, on the mass of extern nations;
Then, some apostate power polluting and embittering the very sources of the moral popular condition; 2
Then, the supreme authority smitten, but this in a confined sphere, with all dependent or subordinate light or authority.
There is then a term introduced, not previously used, save in the address to the Church of Philadelphia, "Woe to the inhabiters of earth!" an expression, I apprehend, taken from Isaiah xxiv., and used in the Apocalypse in contrast with dwellers in heaven (i.e., persons within the range of' the prophetic earth, or scene of God's immediate moral dealings, but not a stranger or sojourner there, that is, a spiritual, heavenly-minded man, but dwelling there). In chapter xii., it is contrasted with "Rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea;" (compare Eph. i. at the close, and chap. ii.) Here, accordingly, we have the last three trumpets announced as woes to these inhabiters of the earth. The rest might be providential judgments on the condition of things. These last took up these earthly-minded people fixed upon earth. Note, when the saints, though in supplication, live, as to their actual condition, not in suffering, but mixed up with the world, they 1 partake externally, and therefore in spirit sensibly,
of the trouble and sorrow of the judgments that come; and come, it may be, just as wholesome chastenings, or at least warnings, in answer 1 to their prayers; and this in principle may, I believe, quite go on now. But there are judgments afterwards specially on these earthly-minded ones (the form in which they become now characterized, when, after the patient and separating chastenings of God, they are fixed in this character). Then come positive judgments on them specifically.
The first comes by apostasy letting loose the influences of what is beneath--what is of the abyss. The effect is to put out or darken the supreme authority and the healthful influences which acted on men's minds. 2 From this, a swarm of marauders spread themselves upon the earth--the prophetic earth, having a king, the angel of the bottomless pit: for though, having the active energy of imperial power, and towards others in face they were men, yet they had "power on their heads." When seen behind, they were not in the open dignity of man, as governing in civil power by the image of God; they were subject to some-thing, though they might press forward in prevailing con-quest on others; and their sting their tail. It was not their energy that was their poisonous power of mischief, but what they brought in as a consequence. "The prophet and teacher of lies, he is the tail."
The next woe was a more open incursion of external enemies, as such--this army of prevailing, imperial, congregated
power; and from the mouths of them (they carried it before them) what was judgment came forth: only it was by evil, and what was of the enemy positively. 1 They had power in their mouths, but in their tails too; for in that, also, was their planned mischief more settled than before, though not the introduction of it; "and with them they hurt." It was like Satan in form. This was more open and warlike in character; but not the original evil.
But those, the rest of men, that were not killed by them, did not repent of their idolatries and evil conduct; many would be entirely destroyed from their profession, and their place set aside and filled up by others; but even so the rest repented not. The extent of the power of these was limited. The general objects of all the woes were earthly-minded people in the region of God's dealings. When the originating. darkening, and tormenting evil came in, those only were excepted who were manifestly owned of God as His--manifested to be of Him.
The trumpet angel--this announcement of the full time of God's purpose--looses these subordinate instruments of His providence to have power of destruction for the prescribed time.
All these, however, were dealings in which, though a remnant prayed, the Church had no natural place. 2 For
the growth of the apostasy is not the subject here. It is all mere angelic providential dealing. It is not the Son of man in judgment. It is not the Lamb in glory on the throne, but in sympathy withal with a suffering people, whom the world is against, and whom He ostensibly recognized. This was quite lost when the world recognized the Church: the Church wholly lost its place. It had gradually practically approached the world--it was now ostensibly sunk in it; such was its downward course, having lost the spiritual discernment, it was not capable of seeing its position in the outward blessing. So Abraham, when his wife was taken into Pharaoh's court. He had gone down into Egypt first. Then the Lord acts by angelic ministrations on the profession, first in external chastenings, then in direct judgment and woes. Present facts, as we proceed, will lead us to the extent (i.e., geographical extent) of these two woes. I reserve the course of these passages more particularly, according to the protracted sense of "the things that are," as applied to the whole dispensation, for what presents itself farther on.
But before the third woe, or seventh trumpet, there is a large parenthetic revelation comes in; but it is still further angelic or providential 1 ministration. Nor is it, though it goes through manifestly the same scene, the account of the apostasy which we have afterwards, but the same scene historically, as coming under the course of events as
prophetically declared by God. There was much that announced God's judgment against the state of things here-entered into, that was not revealed. But though this was not a sealed book which the Lamb alone could open, but the progress of the course of historic events in Providence, yet was it specially in the hand of that mighty angel, and the dignity of His person was sustained.
The manifestations of the judgment of God connected with the utterance of His voice, and what followed on it,. were not yet revealed. A voice from heaven sealed them up: for though the course of events went on, and was described, yet were there really principles in this of such a character and weight in the eyes of Him who could bring in the name of Him that liveth for ever and ever, that it proved that delay should be no longer. And these things were to precede the accomplishing of the mystery of God, which should be when the seventh angel was about to sound.
In this way the little open book is very simple. It is not the mystery of iniquity, brought all out in its character, but it is the historic course of events--a picture of that scene, by itself, in which the mystery of iniquity, and all its important principles, and God's acting on them, are developed, in order to the filling up of that which is finished at the sounding of the seventh trumpet. It is thus a step lower in its nature than the great sealed book. That was held by Him that sat on the throne; and it was given to the Lamb, who alone could open it. It belonged to Him by a title none else at all had: but this is in the hand of the angel, and it is given to the prophet. It was part of the course of progressive historic events. Its allusions, however, identify it with what comes after, as the beast out of the bottomless pit, &c.
There was a further point. The prophet could look at
external events, and describe them; but here, though the taste of the knowledge of this was sweet, yet, when he saw what it really conveyed, when he digested it, when the sympathies of' his own soul were concerned in it, painful and trying things concerning the position and ruin-state of the Church 1 were involved in it--disorder and evil, and departure from God, and trial connected with this in the saints. Ah! it was bitter in his belly. This term is ever used for the affections and inward thoughts of the man. Therefore, in the Church, the Holy Ghost is said to flow from the belly of the believer, because it is not merely a communication of known events, but the Spirit, as an earnest of what belongs to ourselves, and therefore filling the soul; and, from our own association with the things, the joy and testimony flow forth.
There was to be the wide-spread field of this testimony again resumed. This part of the testimony took the subject up afresh, and though connected in fact, a full subject and scene of itself.
Thus, this little open book gave the historical account (when it assumed its place in external history) of the state of things under the great apostasy, in order to closing the whole scene as a history in the seventh trumpet; while the detail of the apostasy, its origin and source (before it was matter of the Church's progressive history at all), the power and intent of Satan as manifested in it, were reserved for
a distinct account (that is, all its moral workings and developments).
It is to be remarked, in addition, that the third woe is not given here at all. When the seventh trumpet sounds, there are voices in heaven celebrating the coming of the worldly kingdom of Christ; and the scene is described in very general terms, as embracing its introduction and results; but the woe is not described. In truth, all the detail of circumstances is reserved for the accounts which would follow: but "delay no longer" is the thing here evidenced. I have only to add, that if "the things that are" are to be taken for the whole dispensation, then the twelfth chapter may be taken continuously 1 for the acting of the agents there described in their conduct in the crisis; only, that it traces them downwards from the state of things in the heavens--that is, as objects of the judgment referred to in the seventh trumpet. In this case, the first act would be the taking of the saints out of the way; then
the casting down of Satan; then, after persecution of the Jews, the last struggle, including the judgment of the beast
and the like. Otherwise the twelfth chapter is a tracing of the details of the source, principles, and actings of them, as in God's mind, and that from their nature, object, and outset.
I apprehend some of them, at any rate, as the two witnesses, partook of the heavenly calling according to Daniel vii., without being the Church testimony represented in the holy city. See the analogy of the Pentecostal Church at first (though that was in fact the Church), but its testimony is remarkable as to this.
3:1 "Notes on the Book of Revelation; to assist Inquirers in searching into that Book." London, 1839.
7:1 This is true also of the Hebrews, where sacrifice and priesthood are spoken of, which constitute relationship with God. Here it is supremacy (whatever be the circumstances), which is His character, not with the children, but over all things, over all creation, and ever the throne of Him that was and is and is to come.
8:1 See also (that is, as soon as we come to the prophecy) iv. 2, 10; v. 1, 7, 13; vi. 16. Note also vii. 10 (observe there is no allusion to this from viii. until xix. 4) and xxi. 5. Chapter xx. 11 comes in specially intermediately. As to the city, see xxii. 1.
9:1 The instant answer of the Church on the announcement of Christ in His titles as to His person, is exceedingly beautiful here. And, on the announcement of His coming glory (xxii. 16), the instant response of the Church, led by the Spirit, is equally lovely: "The Spirit and the bride say, Come;" and the Church then takes its full place, while waiting.
Christ's relative character is fully shewn and responded to--a faithful witness for God to man, the perfect representative and p. 10 Head of the Church, as the perfect new risen man before God, and the head of power to the world; and the Church sees Him, and then says what He is to herself.
10:1 [Note here, not was and is, but is and was, the One who is, and thus, in relation to time, was and is coming.]
10:2 i.e. The witness of God, as He was the conqueror of death, and the governor of the world in power.
12:1 It has therefore passed beyond the condition of the apostolic epistles, but not entered on the relation in which Christ stands to the world in government and lordship.
12:2 The first and the last. Christ as continuous, as Jehovah in power and nature, yet One that had passed through the vicissitudes of the Church's necessity, so that in all circumstantial changes it might know what and where its security was: so that it was security, not terror to the individual. So, come what would, the Church would not be prevailed over by her enemies.
14:1 [Note the wisdom of this. No delay was thus revealed; before the Lord came, the things were; but that was given which, as I doubt not, gives a full consecutive history of the Church till He comes.]
15:1 That is, the Church dispensation on earth, taking, as to time, the place of the broken-off Jewish branches, and therefore, in many respects, connected in dates, though the Church itself be just opposite in principle; for it is another and a heavenly thing instead of a failed earthly thing.
17:1 If we trace the actual order of church history in the Acts, we shall find the breaking up and scattering of the central and only Church of Jerusalem by the death of Stephen, gone to p. 18 Jesus--and then the Church on earth scattered; thereon Saul called for, an entirely new instrument to Gentiles, rulers, and the people of Israel; and thereon the union of the Church with Jesus in heaven for the first time mentioned, "Why persecutest thou me?" but after this (though the principle of Paul's mission and the union of the Church with Jesus was established), the patience of God continuing to work by the ministration of Peter. Æneas and Tabitha are the witnesses of his power; and the calling of the Gentiles is by his mouth, that the witness of the Jewish stock might still be preserved in grace, whatever the righteous justice of the dispensation might do in judgment (and so in dispensation the faithful partake of the ruin of the unfaithful, as Caleb and Joshua must wander in the wilderness), and thereon extraordinary intervention might effect besides in one born out of due time, the witness of prerogative grace in the disorder of the dispensation as to man. We find the lingering traces of habitual evil in the saints, for they objected to Peter his having gone to the Gentiles; yet this was the final sin of the Jews. Such was the patience of God, that they were not, historically, then shut up, till Paul's intercourse with them at Rome (Acts xxviii.); and even so, it was blindness in part, not stumbling to fall, and there was a remnant according to the election of grace.
21:1 In the next, He is Son of man and Son of David seated on His throne.
22:1 History was not written in heaven. I believe that the attempt to interpret prophecy by history has been most injurious to the ascertaining of its real meaning. When we have ascertained, by the aid of the Spirit of Christ, the mind of God, we have, as far as it be history, God's estimate of events, and their explanation. But history is man's estimate of events, and he has no right to assume that these are in prophecy at all; and it is clear that he must understand prophecy before he can apply it to any: when he understands it, he has what God meant to give him, without going farther. I do not admit history to be, in any sense, necessary to the understanding of prophecy. I get present facts, and God's moral account of what led to them, and thereby His moral estimate of them: I do not want history to tell me Nineveh or Babylon is ruined, or Jerusalem in the hands of the Gentiles. Of course, where any prophecy does apply to facts, it is a true history of those facts; but it is much more. It is the connection of those facts with the purposes of God in Christ, and whenever any isolated fact, however important in the eyes of man, is taken as the fulfilment of a prophecy, that prophecy is made of private interpretation: and this I believe to be the meaning of that passage. Of course, when any prophecy is fulfilled, the fulfilment is evidence of its truth, but the Christian does not need this; and evidence of truth and interpretation are two very different things.
23:1 It will be found that they are intelligent worshippers--give a reason for their service; the angels never do.
23:2 The four characters of beasts are the beads of the four genera stated in Genesis. Birds of the air, cattle, beasts of the field, and man; doubtless, they had specific characters as to attribute too. [The beasts will be found to unite seraphic qualities with the p. 24 cherubic. Cherubic is earthly government. The seraph introduces the proper holiness of God and so brings in a principle of final judgment. In adding this note, I will add another recent impression, that up to the next chapter (where the Lamb first appears) angels had been the instrument; with the Lamb men take this, place, though the result be not brought out.]
25:1 [The difference of reading throws doubt on this: at any rate, it was a new song in heaven, not a Jewish one.]
26:1 [Many MSS read 'they shall reign;' but then I doubt as to 'redeemed [us].']
27:1 This sets the saints in heaven but awaiting their inheritance--of the earth,--the place, in principle, of Christ now.
27:2 [In the fourth chapter we have no angels, and the beast are apart from the elders; here the beasts and the elders are associated, and we have angels.]
28:1 [This is true even if these honours of the beasts be transferred to the elders, as we know those of the angels certainly will to men in the world to come. For the elders always represent the place of intelligent faith.]
28:2 Viewed, that is, in its protracted character on earth.
29:1 This can clearly apply but to two periods properly: the protracted period subsequent to owning the churches upon earth; and the preparatory scene of judicial and providential governance, subsequent to the taking up of the Church, and previous to the reign of the Son of man.
30:1 As regards the crisis at the close, this would develop itself in, first, the period of trials and persecution of the saints (compare Matt. xxiv.); secondly, the preparatory or providential judgments on the despisers of the Lord (the wrath being simply announced, and not described, in the seventh trumpet); and lastly, a full account of the character, doings, and rise of the beast, with the final judgment of all that belongs to him.
31:1 It would seen, from the fifth seal, just when the heavens are going to be changed, that, after the Church who have suffered are publicly owned and put in white robes, they are to rest a little season, because there are brethren and fellow-servants to be killed yet. Though. thus owned, therefore, vengeance could not be taken for this little space, till this was done. But then the heavens were changed to prepare for this vengeance. In the trumpets note that there is no evil on the saints, or any saints, but judgment on the earth or its inhabiters. The last suffering (i.e., as to death) of these "brethren" seems a transition point, the act of the beast in its last state, as coming out of the bottomless pit, getting rid of them in that power, to the comfort of the inhabiters p. 32 of the earth whom they tormented. They stood before the God of the earth.
Some would account this the time of the catching up of the Church; but this appears to me a mistake. It is the time, rather, of their public owning before the throne, consequent upon the change in the heavens previously spoken of, and previous to the commencement of the judgments. The hundred and forty-four thousand are, in that case, the Jewish remnant, then owned upon earth. Looked at as the Church, in its own portion, it is looked at, I apprehend, as in the heavens from the end of chapter iii. It is quite done with on earth there.
32:1 [This is true in the main of the ecclesiastical body. It is said to Thyatira, "I gave her space to repent and she repented not," and the coming of Christ is then announced. But the call is renewed to Sardis (as I believe, Protestantism) in its turn, but, unless for individuals, in vain. It ends in Laodicea.]
33:1 In the crisis, I do not believe it to be the judgment of Antichrist at all, but that subversion of Satan's power in the heavens, and consequent complete subversion and revolution of all the foundation and elements of all political arrangement and power, which are spoken of as preceding the day of the Lord. For the sources of power in the heavens must be changed before the day of the Lord come, though Satan may be raging upon earth; against whose earthly doings, and upon them, the day may come. p. 34 (See Joel ii.; Mark xiii. 24, 25). The extent and importance of this revolution in the heavens I believe not to be sufficiently attended to ordinarily. The earth may have been often shaken, and have reverted to its course, because the heavens are not. But when the heavens are, the sources of power are changed, and the enemy cast out; and he never regains that place, though, when loose, he may still act in opposition--fruitless opposition--on earth; for then the judgment is come, the heavens being so established and ruling.
34:1 The application of symbols literally seems to me to be very false in principle and a very unsuitable mode of interpretation. It is the denial that they are symbols. I believe the language of symbols as definite as any other, and always used in the same sense, as much as language is.
34:2 Or an expectant state as to themselves. Looking at the close, they had no longer to say "How long?" though the judgment might not yet be actually come.
34:3 So as regards the crisis, the heavens, as now filled by the saints, had no part in the Son of man's judgment. Their armies which are in heaven will follow Him; but these were the preparatory judgments of God's supreme providential power, in which the saints have no part at all. They could not open the bottomless p. 35 pit to let the locusts out and Apollyon loose. They have the mind of Christ, and thus the character and ways of God in the Son of man, not His supreme government, though that ministers to them. It is entirely beyond them; and of that the trumpets are a part--the announcement of God's sovereign dealings and government, not His ways and purposes with them.
35:1 Hence I apprehend in the crisis this would be the intercession of the High Priest for those left on the earth--saints after (as we have been before led to see) the rapture of the Church--saints then connected with the condition of the earth.
36:1 Their corporate suffering was not characteristic of the con-tents of the trumpets, which dealt in judgments on those not saints; and there was no recognition of their present union and identification with the Lamb, though individually they might be so.
36:2 There is no symbol more difficult than the various uses of water. Living water is the Spirit; but, as this acts by the word, water (not exactly living water) is doctrine, and in a good sense the word. But waters are peoples, tongues, nations, and languages, and the sea the unformed mass of them. Hence rivers seem the different compartments of them, as "whose land the rivers have spoiled." But I take it, water is always viewed as under active moral influences of some sort, when living, in power; when the sea, it may be acted on merely; when fountains, it may be the p. 37 spring of their influences, as the rivers would be their source; and therefore, according to the form of its use, it would be the source, or effects, of these moral influences on the mass of the population (what we call the "people"), and hence, the moral popular condition as a whole, the respective form of water indicating its particular character. The springs of waters, the sources of this influenced condition:--"From the fountain of Israel," looked at Israel as the source of the whole nation. Thus he stamped their relative character on all that flowed from him: and hence it might be applied perhaps directly to a teacher, or rather existing set of teachers--fountains of waters: for where they are, they characterize the people; as men say, "Like people, like priest."
37:1 This will have its truth in the land withal in the latter day.
38:1 Compare the spiritual process of the prophet Habakkuk, which just illustrates this.
38:2 In the protracted view I see no reason to deviate from the ordinary interpretation of this (that is, the Saracens): in the crisis, it will have its accomplishment in the great last enemy, or Antichrist.
39:1 As in the first woe in the long period, I take this as usually, as the Turks. In the crisis, it will be the inroads of the northern and eastern armies, headed up after into the Assyrian, and Gog, the prince of Magog.
39:2 As regards the crisis, it is viewed as actually in heaven (i.e., lost sight of on earth entirely, as it was actually, when it lost its place of testimony here below, as a city set on a hill). For all through, as to time, whatever the particular condition of the saints, from the moment the Church ceased to be owned by the p. 40 Son of man in judgment here, as in the seven churches, it was viewed either mystically (which gives the protracted period), or actually in heaven, when the latter-day trials and judgments, the crisis, as it has been called, takes place. In both cases it is lost sight of on earth.
40:1 The rainbow round the head showed its connection with the restoration of creation--the covenant with creation at the time government was instituted.
42:1 In the crisis, rather the apostate results of what was nominally the Church.
In the seals the Lamb is concerned, and the saints are still liable to persecution. The trumpets are providential judgments on the evil, in which the saints are not found (often by wicked men on one another, as in Jewish history). Then comes the display of the open enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ and their judgment, and in their full character, by the Son of man Himself.
43:1 But the historical continuance is then not immediate; but from the state of things consequent on the position of the parties, more particularly from the flight of the woman into the wilderness, the previous verses being merely to spew what had brought the parties into this condition, that the strength of the man-child was not at first put forth, but taken out of the way--then there was a process by which the heavens were first cleared; and then that by which, after its full heading up against Christ, apostate power was put down. The thing to be noted here, as to order is, that the war seems to be before the powers of heaven were changed, with which the fifth, sixth, and seventh seals must be compared. I do not see that the owning of the saints, in the fifth, involves the changing of the heavens. The sixth seems, however, to do so.
The order which these passages would involve, as to the final crisis, would be this:--The three seals after the first are the beginning of sorrows; during this period the faithful witnesses on earth were liable to be killed, and the gospel of the kingdom was p. 44 preached among the Gentiles. At the fifth seal the heavens are changed.
The abomination of desolation is set up in the midst of the last week.
A time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, the dragon persecuting the woman.
The woman flees.--Those in Judea flee to the mountains.
The sixth seal is opened: and, before the winds blow, the remnant are sealed, and the palm-bearing multitude seen clothed in white.
The cry of the remnant on earth brings judgment down there; as the cry from under the altar in the fifth seal had brought on the sixth.
Then come the trumpet-judgments in succession, the last involving the final judgment.
The only point that remains is, when is Satan cast down? The twelfth chapter takes in the whole course of the book, in its sources within, to introduce the last agents as objects of judgment announced in heaven on the seventh trumpet sounding. That chapter shews, as noticed, the first act to he catching clean out of the way Him who is to rule the nations; and the whole question all goes on after that. The next step is, not changing the heavens, but war there; and then the adversary and accuser is cast down. This is clearly before the last three and a half years when there is tribulation, and before the tribulation and fleeing takes place; at least it seems to me so. The changing of the heavens is after that, or rather thereupon. I only state, then, as to this, that upon these passages, the casting down of the dragon, as to the crisis, seems to be some time previous to the setting up of the abomination, after the catching up of the saints, i.e., before or in the period of the first four or five seals. *
It is clear that the appearing of the Son of man is subsequent to these changes in the heavens, from Matthew, Mark, Joel; and indeed the whole course and order of these mighty dealings of God's judgment. The epiphany of His parousia destroys the man of sin. Isaiah xxiv. may be referred to here.
43:* [The sixth would be the effect of it.]