In this chapter, then, we have a very clear account, not of the details of providential historical acting, but of Satan's mind, and ways, and purposes concerning the purpose of God in its inceptive character; for, as accomplished, it is clear he cannot touch it. Although I have little doubt in my mind in what events these plans of Satan will specially shew themselves, I have entered into them here very little, because God is here instructing the Church what the plans are, rather than how they are accomplished, save as presenting severally the agents: and if we are not content to be instructed as God instructs us, we had better
not learn at all. I desire in scripture not to explain but to receive, and, in communicating, to say what is there, not add thoughts. This may seem a slight distinction; but the effect of the difference will soon be seen in the formation of systems, instead of actual profiting by divine instruction
There are three distinct parts in the chapter. First, the agents; the woman in God's purpose to be delivered of a man-child (the depository of earthly power to rule the nations); the dragon ready to devour him, whose birth and character he partially knew (for scripture told it), and whose speedy bringing forth was now apparent. The result is, that the man-child, instead of acting in power at once, is hid, but in the place of Godhead and power, and the woman flees. Thus the direct agents are disposed of. We have, then, the second portion; in which the question is between his (the dragon's) place there, and the angelic ministrations of God's power ("His angels which excel in strength"); and the dragon loses his place in heaven (he who had deceived the whole world), and he is cast out into the earth, not properly the world. This is all the direct statement made in this portion: for the question was, ruling the nations. But then secretly this made a most important change in another thing not so open in the world,--the Church, dwellers in heaven, the brethren. This was the way heaven was specially affected by this event. Salvation and strength and the kingdom of our God and the power of His Christ were now come, 1 not till then in power. There was that which was hidden to the world and not understood, no more than Christ was, the heavenly-minded Church which understands God's leading and most important meaning in these things (what was next Himself, if I
may so speak). There was a witness to all Christ's glory on the terms and grounds of God's holiness in heaven, as walking in the light as He is in the light, having fellowship one with another, the blood of Jesus cleansing them from all sin, all the time that Satan was in the heavens drawing the third part of the stars--the ruler of the darkness of this world--a people who walked indeed on earth, but in spirit and title and nature, as given, dwelt in heaven; their Head being exalted above Satan, even before God, and who had suffered and shed His blood for them, though now, as yet, He had not taken His power ("all things were not yet put under him"); wherefore Satan could torment. This people Satan had been constantly accusing before God, for their inconsistencies, or falsely, in order to distract, trouble, and hinder their assurance with God, or their testimony for God. By the turning of Satan out of the heavenly places of power this conflict and accusation ceased; the heavens were cleared, that these might now declare His righteousness.
The actual catching up of the saints is not here mentioned, because the Church should always expect it; 1 and because the agents and their public acts being here in question, the Church (one with Christ before the Father, the mystery hidden from ages and known only by the Spirit) is not, as we have seen all through, the subject; 2 but the
acts, as they affect the brethren, looked at in their condition here below, are noticed, because they are to reign with Christ, whose power was now come.
The Church united to Christ and interested in Him as her Advocate and Priest, and all those associated with the heavens, were now free. The question then was between the dragon's wrath against those who were the special scene of Christ's royalty, and the power of that Christ which was now come: the trial of the Church had ceased. The subject being the rule of the nations by the man-child, all the history of what passed in the Church as to this is unnoticed; only the dragon remains in heaven; the royalty not assumed: when it is, the change is noticed. Then, the power though come is not, however, immediately exercised (that is, on earth, for the heavens were already clear). The question then arises for the woman upon earth--a question of royalty and power. The sphere of this royalty and power in Christ being necessarily hated but rescued, 1 and Satan's hatred and animosity then directed against the remnant who were faithful to the light they had, keeping the commandments of God and having the testimony of Jesus, having the light there was--tile spirit of prophecy. 2
The providential actual agencies follow; wherein these things are accomplished. As to the position and condition of the inhabiters of earth (of whom we have only heard as yet), for this period, thrice repeated woe (in the
second, the wide unformed mass of people too included, the inhabiters of the sea).
We have further to remark, that (the moment the saints are introduced in their own position and character, suffering while Satan is in the heavens) the Lamb, its salvation, its strength, its joy, is at once introduced, and their victory celebrated on high. It is the natural association of the saints, as such--fellowship with the crucified One: and therefore if only one or two saints be in their place, their associations are with the Lamb. 1 It will be remembered that the Lamb has not been mentioned all through the historical part: that was providence; and the Church was, as it were, hidden. This, in the course of external history, is its real relationship--as Peter describes it, doing well, suffering for it, and taking it patiently. The Lamb led the way in this their joy; while, as to accusation, His blood gives them access to the throne where He is.
This account in chapter xii. of the dragon's doings, taking up the mind of God in the throne as to it, the conflict by which he is cast out of the heavens of rule, and his conduct upon earth when cast down there, was quite the suitable introduction to the history of the manner and development of it in human instrumentality; that the Church might know, not merely its history, outside in the earth, but the meaning and truth of it in its elementary and radical causes and facts in Satan's position, power, and actings, relative to God's purposes. It relates to the question of ruling the nations (i.e., to Christ, as ruling, as He will, with the saints, the nations); and shows the
relative position of the parties (while the man-child is caught up to God and His throne, or not actually in the scene), first in heaven, and therefore (the evil ceasing, when cast out, to affect the saints of the heavenlies) brought in thus, 1 by the by, when their position has changed; and then on earth as affecting the Jews, during the period in which God's purpose, and therefore those interested in it, as a body, flee, in consequence of the dragon's actings, into the wilderness, where they were nourished of God (i.e., not in the order of God's regulated covenant blessing, apparent in manifested relationship, but of God supremely as such). All this time, therefore of the dragon's prevalence in heaven first, or on earth, is the time of the hiding and apparent disregard of God's relationship with His people. Yet the object of these relationships becomes visible when the earth comes in question, and the woman, though persecuted or fleeing, is seen on earth (i.e., the Jewish body
as such in connection with their place and promises, though, unfulfilled). To this many of the Psalms refer--those in which God and not Lord is used as the term of relationship with the Most High.
The saints may be united to the position of the man-child when removed hence and taken to Christ; but the great signal manifestation of the first statement of the chapter was, when Christ Himself was taken out of the way. All, except that fact which characterizes all, is the statement of the principles and relative position of the parties. There may be, therefore, any lapse of time between the catching up of the man-child and the subsequent actings of the Lord; for there is no note of time connected with it: the facts are resumed, or, as to results, commenced by the war in heaven. This is most signally fulfilled in this actual final accomplishment when Satan is cast out (the commencement, in their source, 1
of the very last events, that change the position of the saints of the heavenlies; and when also the last events on earth relative to the Jews begin to have their course). The providential agents, as far as the moral prophetic earth is concerned, and the beasts, therefore, at this point, as we have said, are thereupon taken up.
The apostle now traces equally from its origin, the earthly circumstances of the power through which Satan operates; 1 and, as in the previous chapter, he first gives us characteristically the subject of the prophecy. It is not here of purpose necessarily, but of fact. Out of the floating mass of population, he sees a beast rise up. It was not now a vision in heaven, where the secret designs were carried on, but on earth, where the instruments of these designs are produced and act; here, not purpose, but fact.
The whole character of the beast, from beginning to end, is seen, but pursued to, and therefore having its agency in, its last form. This enables us to identify the beast all through, and brings him under the character of guilt which has attached to him from the beginning, or marked the course of his protracted progress, whatever unrestrained iniquity this may shew itself in at the close. He is there-fore seen rising out of the sea having all his heads and horns: on his heads names of blasphemy--he bore them
high on his front; and the crowns were on his horns, which was the latter form (i.e., the imperial power divided). I do not carry this farther than being definitely characteristic; for if it were carried into detail, as at the close, we should have, assuming the identity according to the ordinary interpretation of the beasts, 1 three of the horns fallen. Further, this beast had incorporated the characters of' Daniel's three other beasts, but most of the Grecian leopard, though in ravening power and terror like the first. To this beast the dragon (he had not formed it, that is taken as the fact) gives his power, his seat, and great authority. Now, I doubt not, this has its full scope of positive action and manifestation from the close of the former chapter when, in its last form, it will do Satan's work in the place of his power. But as we have the elements of things in these chapters, we have seen the beast traced from his very rise out of the sea; and whatever he so characteristically does, 2 when formed, comes under the designation of holding the throne and power of Satan: It will be exercised according to the character of the place where Satan is, heaven or' earth, each the scene of the conflict whether Christ and His joint-heirs are to have His creation, or Satan hold it by right of the first Adam's fall and sin, the great question agitated, along with the special redemption of the Church. Doubtless, when on earth it will be more definite and formal, not necessarily more important. Nor can I see why the conflict for the delivery of the earthly people and the inheritance is of more or exclusive importance,
rather than what is of heaven, in which the victory and fate of the heirs is decided; though this be more secret, and known only to the Church. Yet it must be remembered that that by which Satan troubles the Church, while here, is that by which he holds the world. It is, then, the great characteristic fact we have here as to the beast so formed: he holds the dragon's place.
I may add, I hold the beast to be simply and plainly the Roman empire.
The next characteristic of the beast was the destruction and healing of one 1 of the heads or forms of government. This, observe, was subsequent to, 2 and not preceding, the dragon's giving him his power. And there was admiration in all the earth at the beast. The Roman empire and its corporate power became in the earth the object of their admiration, and laid hold on their minds. And they worshipped 3 that infidel power and hostility to God, which had given power to the beast. The form in which this shewed itself in man was the pursuit of his own will, simply casting off the thought and principle of obedience. The shape which it assumed, or had in this history, was the dominant power of the Roman empire, not in its
apostasy, but in its self-will 1 and self-aggrandizement--Satan's power without reference to God,--as the apostle expresses it, "the course of this world, the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." Whether this arrives to any formal open act at the close is comparatively immaterial, save as an open act bringing down open judgment. They worshipped also the beast--honoured it as the place, and holder, and depositary of power (God being thus really put out of sight). Pride here was the characteristic--personal pride and power; "Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?"
There seems to me to be an analogy here, or contrast, in falsehood, with the gift of power and glory by the Father to the Son. On the dazzling influence of this false glory and power the world hang's, and takes it as that which holds the only place of power in it, shutting practically, as we have said, God out of' it--"the inheritance ours." And they hang on this evil power, to hold and keep it in human will--openly man, secretly Satan; as openly it shall be (or manifestly) Christ, and hiddenly (i.e., not in personal manifestation, save by the Son) the Father. And the world honoured the hidden and open power as we should honour the Father and the Son, save that in us it is in the knowledge of their persons. It was a false anticipation in deceit and power, by our evil of what we own in principle now, and shall be declared in millennial power and manifestation.
Thus far we have had the fact, and Satan's doings in it. We have, then, the power of mischief as it is conferred upon the beast, he being thus constituted and set up in power by Satan, and receiving Satan's place at his hand. He is then given power to show all his will and thoughts,
and to act for so long; for all these things are controlled: this with its consequences from verses 5 to 8. Consequently, we have here what was done by the beast, as before what was done to the beast, and about the beast, whether by Satan or in the earth. First was given to the beast extraordinary prevailing assumption to himself, "he spoke great things;" it is not here doing but speaking in pride; it is his character, not his acts: next, injurious words against others flowing from this pride--blasphemies; and he was to continue the characteristic period of forty-two months, or to practise, to act, for that period. 1 When we come to the literal use of it, then it is earthly and literal. So, on the other hand, they that dwell in heaven dwell literally in heaven. It is not merely their mystic character; otherwise it is obvious it would be the 1260 years; and they that dwell in heaven are the heavenly-minded remnant. We have then the application of this character of the beast to its objects; "he blasphemed God." It was not here mere apostasy: that might be its actual course on earth, just denying the Father and the Son; but here it is his formal character under Satan's power. He blasphemed the "name" of God, instead of in the place of power owning its source--"and his tabernacle," i. e., the presence of God among the saints, as of the wilderness, their heavenly place, for so it was (the tabernacle was not the wilderness nor was it the temple, as in chapter xxi. 22: the Jewish body was driven into the wilderness: in manifested and lasting glory, the Lord God and the Lamb are the temple). But it was the
tabernacle or tent of God: this included the most holy and holy place. This heavenly dwelling-place of God with the saints he blasphemed; 1 he would have the earth, the inheritance, in his own way: this was an evidence there was a power beyond all this. He blasphemed also those who were characterized by this dwelling-place--dwellers in heaven, the saints of heavenly places. This, as regards heavenly things, was what characterized the Church which sits in heavenly places. Further, it was given him to make war with the saints and overcome them here on earth. Satan they overcame, see chapter xii. 11; 2 but in present physical persecution the beast overcame, and prevailed against the saints. It is not, however, here a question of individual death, but of prevalence, as in chapter xii. 11. But he had the day on earth, for this was not redeemed nor vindicated to Christ yet. This is true also as regards (within the range of the beast) the long protracted period of years, and on earth 3 in the crisis among the Jewish people. 4 The next characteristic was, "power was given him over all kindreds, tongues, and nations:" this still was characteristic. It was to be the dominant power on the
earth, assuming and giving authority over the various subject nations.
There was another point connected with this manifestation, not exactly characteristic, as given to him, but a consequence, a resulting fact. All the dwellers upon earth should worship him. Their character we have already noticed--those who, living within the sphere of the application of the word and its light, the formed scene of God's revealed moral providence, have not their πολίτενμα ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, are not dwellers in heaven, and as strangers and pilgrims seek a country, but "dwell upon the earth." These were not written (for such was the security of the others) from the foundation of the world, in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain--characterized, not only by the book of life, but by the sufferings 1 of the Holy One, with whom they were associated as strangers and pilgrims: "He that hath ears to hear let him hear."
There is a great principle connected with all this working and character of the beast upon earth, "he that leadeth into captivity shall go there;" so it will be with him: but God will not depart from His principles. He that uses the oppressing power shall be oppressed: the Lord will judge it, be it where it may; "he that killeth with the sword shall be killed with the sword." The saints' part is to suffer, to endure the continuance of evil, while God permits it and power is given to it. If the saints meddle with its principles and avenge themselves here, they must suffer its consequences here: "they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." Patient suffering is the saints' place, as Christ. 2 They are not to take the beast's character, because they suffer under it: it is warring with God's providential
government, which leaves him thus to practise. The book of life is the book of life of the Lamb slain.
Such was the grand secular power recognized in connection with the purpose and plans of God during this time--to which Satan's throne and power was given. This is no description of a personal Antichrist at all, but the characteristic description of the corporate power of the beast. Antichrist's deadly wound, for example, was never healed. The haste which applies passages to an object (because there may be other passages which prove an important link of the subject of the former with that object), often deprives us of a vast deal of the instruction of the word of God, and deters those from pursuing that link, who have seized the neglected parts which are now, by a particular absorbing interest, all set aside. The terror of the day of Antichrist is not characteristic of the saint: he has, it seems to me, a consciousness of his union with the Lord and gathering to Him, which sets him above the terror of Antichrist's power, or of the day of the Lord upon him.
We have had the sign of Satan as the dragon in heaven, a secret for the Church, for those who saw things there.
We have had the beast arise out of the sea (the tumultuous movings of the nations, the mass of peoples), and, so formed, Satan give him his power, and throne, and great authority. Now, out of the formed arrangement of the scene of God's moral providence, the subject-place of light and darkness, the earth, we have another beast come up. In form of power he was like the Lamb, not in real meekness and suffering; but he took the similitude of His power; yet his utterance, his voice, his expression of himself, having this form of power, was like the dragon, the great hostile power of Satan himself, prevailing over the stars of heaven, and persecuting on earth: a very strange and singular combination--the similitude of the power of Christ,
in form--of Christ in His kingly power as Messiah, yet who had been the rejected Lamb (it was not of the Son of man openly); but the expression of the character of Satan when he spake. We have still, as a beast, a corporate oppressing power, as such, though, in some sense, an individual may actually wield its power; 1 but it is not the force of the symbol "beast." Power so concentrated is rather a horn, though there may be close connection between them. This did not set aside the existence of the first beast, but was of another character; yet "he exercises all the power of the first beast," before the first beast, in his presence--still a very singular position. His power, however, is not, as such, over kindreds and tongues and nations, but localized, and acting on men's minds in influence when subject--not subjecting secularly nations. He causes the earth, and them that dwell therein, to worship the first beast; but to worship him as bearing this character, "whose deadly wound was healed." 2 It is in this restored state or headship-form
of government of the beast that he does this. It is not the horns he makes them worship, but the beast, whose deadly wound (of one of his heads) was healed. Such is his character. Lamb-like as he may be in the form of his own power, he wields the power of the first beast before him; that is one point: another, he makes the earth and dwellers on it--carnal-minded men--worship the first, whose wound was healed: these were distinct points; for the whole character is here given. As to his own doing, there is the open exhibition of judicial power as of God: it was not (like the witnesses) "fire out of their mouth," a testimony made good in judgment, but "fire down from heaven" in the sight of men--the apparent exercise of God's judgments
[paragraph continues] (as Elijah 1 did) outwardly. All this, remark, is an ecclesiastical or spiritual power--a power ostensibly connected with divine things falsely, for it is evil--but ostensibly, and verified to the eyes of men by the exhibitions of power.
Moreover, he does miracles on the earth, by which he deceives those that dwell on it, whose character we have so often seen, and leads them to set up a resemblance of the beast whose deadly wound was healed--this great corporate system, with a formal headship--and to give breath to and thus apparently vivify this image to exercise controlling authority--not to kill, but to cause to be killed, those who did not worship this image. This was the doing of this second beast, the spiritual being; they had power to do this. It is not said, he had them all killed, but he had power to cause all this. 2
But he did oppress in earthly things; he caused all to receive "the mark of the beast" (in profession or service, as slaves), and would allow no man to buy or sell, "save he that had the mark;" or if he had "his name" it would do, though perhaps not thus actually a slave--or "the number of his name." A person might be a ruler or leader in this system, and then, though not actually a slave, he would have the character of it yet more indelibly and intelligently stamped upon him. The name and the number of the name would be there. I do not pretend to wisdom--indeed, far from it; but I find, if the Lord means such a sense, tradition as well as apostasy gives the
number of his name. As I have said in the note, these seem to me not the last actions in crisis, but the character of the preparatory agents: we shall see the results afterwards. 1 That which is formal, and not ancillary in their character, may continue and hold its place during the
crisis--for example the blasphemy; for this was on his heads, it was characteristically part of himself, not particular subservient conduct. Both these parties are found at the judgment which closes the last three years and a half; but the last is found, not exactly in the same form, but, if I may so speak, in an exceedingly narrowed character; for the moral operations previous to the last critical period are very different from the conduct and its consequences which fill up that period, though the parties may be the same, and have just the same spirit really. The characters here are of much wider extent, having their description comprehensively given here, as Satan's designs previously.
The historical process of the Lord's dealings follows. Special details of the objects and character of His judgments succeed. In chapter xv., as I have said, there is a new great sign seen in heaven. The description of the secret agency and the providential instruments on earth has finished. The gracious effects of divine grace and spiritual power, with open testimony and judgment, follow here. Mount Zion is a modification of what was before seen. It is not yet the Lord returned in judgment--then he is the Son of Man. And here we have, subsequent to this, the patience of the saints under the prevailing power of the beast and his image, and afterwards "blessed are the dead," and the Son of man reaping the harvest of the earth. Moreover, we have a new song 1 sung before the
I see no reason to suppose that "they shall be given into his hand" (Dan. vii. 25) means the saints, but rather times and laws.
throne, and before the elders, which song none but the "hundred and forty and four thousand" could learn; so that we are not dissociated from heavenly places, for this throne was set in heaven. Yet Zion was not the place of the temple, but the place of royalty: but, first, of grace--the place of God's connection, in grace, with the earth before the temple was built, where David had prepared a place for the ark--contrasted with Sinai, the place of law to the earth--whence, too, the law was to go forth in grace from the city of the great King, that Zion that bringeth glad tidings."
Here, then, anticipatively of the time when the Lord God and the Lamb should be the temple of the heavenly Jerusalem, when withal on earth Solomon's glory should be all displayed, stood a Lamb, maintaining still this character, not yet appearing in that of Son of man, but now drawing towards His royalty, towards the earth, yet associated with His suffering people still, and with the perfect number of the remnant, having His father's name on their forehead, the manifestation of the character plain upon them in grace connected with Him. 1 Their great
characteristic was, having kept themselves pure. The dwellers upon earth, we read afterwards, had been made drunk with the poison of Babylon's fornication, but these had kept themselves pure though Babylon was not yet fallen. They were redeemed from among men, from the earth--a peculiar people in the power of their lives, in the midst of those professors, while Babylon stood--not the reign of Christ in blessing, not the wide-spread promulgation of the gospel, but purity, as an undefiled few, following the Lamb, the holy Sufferer.
Though the world might have slighted them, as an unknown people, yet the full perfect remnant of them was here found assembled. And as Zion, as we have said, was the place where the ark was before the temple was built (and the temple was the type of the established glory), so here we find them assembled on Mount Zion; yet we are still in close connection with the heavenly places; for the new song is sung before the throne and before the elders. The harvest and dealings of the Son of man are subsequent to this and the fall of Babylon. These are redeemed from the earth (while the earth 1 went on, i.e., the earth as described in the two preceding chapters) to be firstfruits to God and the Lamb. 2
We meet with this connection for the first time formally expressed. It seems to me connected with fidelity during corruption, during which the mediatorial work of Christ was confounded, corrupted, or denied, as the mediatorial glory is described by the terms "Throne of God and the Lamb," 1 "The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it," &c. So, in the true bride, contrasted with the great whore that did corrupt the earth with her fornication, we have the elect or heavenly Church (which is spoken of, therefore, as coming down from heaven) contrasted with that earthly system which connects itself with the kings of the earth. It is the Lord God that judges her. The kings of the earth have their war with the Lamb. "Firstfruits to God and the Lamb" seem to imply separation from the evil of the one, and suffering in faithfulness to the Lamb, from the unbelief of the other. They follow the Lamb wherever He goes, and are without 'fault before the throne of God. It is not properly the
[paragraph continues] Father's 1 house they are received into, as identified with Himself--as hidden in heavenly places. It was deliverance from this corruption as regards worship, that formed a prominent part of the next of the seven messages of this chapter--a public general announcement for all to hear of the everlasting 2 gospel, declaring judgment on subsisting things; and calling for true worship to recognize God in the supremacy of His ministrations as the source of all things. The connection of the hour of His judgment being come and the call for true worship, supposes a gospel preached in the midst of apostasy and corruption before the judgment. I believe the principle 3 of this began at the Reformation (though it was by no means the accomplishment of it), and that it will not be fulfilled till the testimony to all--even the heathen nations--for a witness, be fulfilled. The striking feature is the announcement
of the hour of God's judgment 1 being come. The next messenger announces the fall of Babylon. The particulars of this are more fully given us farther on; but getting its place in the course of events is of great moment, which is given us here. The beast and his image still continue, but things are now closing in; for the warning is next given, If any man worship him, he shall be made to drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation. This, therefore, is the point of patience and faith now for the saints, keeping entirely aloof from all connection with the beast; for as yet it was a prevailing though judged power.
But now the patience of the saints (who suffered even to death, at least) closed. They were the happy ones; they rested from their labours, and their works followed them.
On the announcement of judgment on those that worshipped the beast or his image, or received his mark, and of the trial being the point of the saints' patience, a voice was heard from heaven; not the next progressive providential announcement (for it was no part of providence or dealings below), but the heavenly declaration of the decreed state of the saints, to whom this place was now publicly assigned in the economy of God. Death of the saints was now quite done with; and the blessedness of those of whom this was the portion was brought to light (not yet by their public manifestation on earth, but by the announcement from heaven to the ear of faith, that the time was come): a blessedness to which the Spirit, who had been their secret strength in labour, and even to death, now, with the same understanding and sympathy in joy, adds its "Yea." This introduction of the Spirit is very beautiful in this connection. When the earth was coming into blessing, they could not be left out in the testimony of Him who had suffered with them. It will be seen that, on the introduction of grace to the earth ("the Lamb on Mount Zion"), all that follows in this chapter relates to the earth; but then, by the voice from heaven, the portion of the saints is thereon given. Their portion is given, too, as in the reward of glory, at least in announcement--"Their works do follow them." This refers to manifestation in glory. (Comp. 2 Thess. i.) 1
Anything the beast does after this is not mentioned here. It is the account of God's dealings as towards the earth (the condition of the saints having been stated in passing). The next step therefore is the "harvest of the earth"--the execution of separating judgment in it; which was the actual accomplishment of the announcement of the previous verse--at least as regards its consequences in earth.
Then comes the vintage, which is pure wrath, not discriminating judgment. All the grapes of that which had the form of His people upon earth are trampled in the wine-press of God's wrath. This was done "without the city," not yet mentioned since chapter xi. And there, notice, it was "men" were slain; here, it is "blood came out:" the destruction is dreadful. 1
This passes then from redemption out of the really apostate earth, seen in the one hundred and forty-four thousand, when redemption from amid profession was necessary, to the dealing of God, first in testimony, and then in judgment, with evil in all its forms as to men, the beast being reserved in judgment for a fuller description. This was rather the judgment of' men, and their corruption under those circumstances, the Lamb's open war and victory being another thing. This is God's judgment of the state of things, not the Lamb's war with hostile power.
We have here, then, a general prospective view of God's dealings with the subject--apostasy (for subject it is to Him) first, saving His saints out of it, preserving them pure; then testimony; then judgment.
Chapter xv. begins a new sign and a distinct subject. No longer various parties in heaven with consequent effects--the child caught away, and the patience and faith of the saints--but the plain statement of the wrath of God being completed or fulfilled: not here, observe, the judgment and victory of the Lamb over the beast; that is all special and administrative, connected with the exhibition of the power and effect in their followers.
Here was "another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels" (this was providential government, not the Lamb or Son of man) "having the seven last plagues." The sea was seen before the throne. Here it was seen, not only in its fixed purity, but this connected with trial judicial trial. But on it, having now gotten the victory, stood those who had overcome the beast, and his image, and his mark, and the number of his name. Neither secular persecution nor deceitful power had prevailed over those faithful kept ones. They had the "harps of God"--divine and well-tuned joy. The song they sung was of a double character--the victory of God's power, the song of Moses--Jehovah Elohim Shaddai's works were "great and marvellous;" and the truth and justice of the ways of the King of nations 1--the song 2--of
the Lamb. It was not only for power exhibited; but, as the saints, they understood, in the Spirit of the Lamb, the justice and truth of His ways: so they celebrate the coming recognition of the Lord. Now His judgments were made manifest, who should not fear Him? For He only was holy: all else had failed. The Lord alone was to be exalted.
These had gotten the victory over everything of the beast. They were conspicuous in joy, consequent on this, before the throne of God, the elect remnant, faithful under the beast's power. 1 There was a complete and final separation. They are not here seen as come forth to judgment with the Lamb, or on their thrones, for He is not yet so manifested, but singing His song. (Comp. Ps. xcii.) The judgments were on those who had the mark of the beast, not yet on the beast; that was by the Lamb coming with the saints. From these they were entirely exempt--seen in heaven. Faith may anticipate it; but the full actual accomplishment of this would be on the rapture of the victors, taking of the victors, to their scene of glory. They were not under the altar, nor necessarily
killed; but they had the victory, refusing the mark of the beast.
The temple of the tabernacle of the testimony was now seen opened. In chapter xi. it was the ark of the covenant that was seen securing all for His people, while the power of evil remained unpunished; here, the tabernacle of His testimony. For judgment was to go forth according to His word. His judgments were made manifest, but for the deliverance of His earthly people according to that word. The deliverance of the saints is judgment, the judgment of the wicked. This was according to His governing power over creation in providence. One of the four beasts gave the angels the vials--vials fall of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever. The return is to past dispensation and circumstance in this wrath, to Him whom we saw sitting on the throne before they were opened, according to that character in which He judges by and from Himself. The glory of God now displayed itself (i.e., not in bright blessing), but in the power and influence of His judgment, as Sinai smoked, and "there went up a smoke out of his nostrils." "The tabernacle of the testimony was opened," but not the callings of grace or warnings, but for the execution and manifestation of judgments. It was not a time of testimony, in this sense, but of judgment, and no one could come into the temple: and, as the Lord speaks of the land, telling them their testimony would close ("These be the days of vengeance, Flee!"), so here (the saints first removed), it is no longer a time of reception but of judgment. Separation having being made (i.e., within the range of the beast's influence), no one could now enter into the heavenlies: and the earthly people who had taken and received the mark of the beast were judged.
The judgment as yet, however, was not one of destruction.
[paragraph continues] The heavenlies 1 and the earth were now separated; and instead of entering into the former, judgment was flowing from them on the latter. But it was not the actual judgment of the quick by the Son of man, but providential dealings of the wrath of God as such, and the wrath filled up in them.
I do not say that this is the last woe. But we have-here that which was connected with it, "Thy wrath is come;" and I am disposed to think all that follows in that verse, though other things are mentioned also here.
But as the woe in chapter xii., pronounced on the descent of Satan, was on the earth and on the sea, when he was cast out of heaven, so here, on the distinction between heaven and earth and closing of the heavenlies (the saints being on the sea of glass), the judgment sent on the earth falls on the earth and sea too.
First, it was "poured" in the stricter sense "on the earth . . . . . a grievous sore." A manifested plague from God fell on the men who had received the mark of the beast, and who worshipped his image.
Next, all form of life was turned into death in the mass of the population, "and every living soul" (they are not spoken of as written in the book of life; but those who externally had life) "died." The profession of being alive to God was blotted out of the mass of unformed nations.
The sources of the state of the population became also the form and power of death--the just judgment of those who had put the saints to death. These were general judgments on the mass and on their condition. Griesbach
reads, "I heard the altar saying." "Another out of the altar" would apparently mean another angel, which would be unsuited to all the force of these images. The force of "the altar" generally is clear; because the slain saints are looked at as offered, as burnt offerings to God. (Comp. chapter vi. 9, 10.) And the altar may be here heard to cry, as the witness of all this slaughter of the saints of God. I hardly think one saint would give this testimony from under or out of the altar. If the ordinary reading be correct, then an angel announces it out of the altar, recalling the mind to their having been in their death as burnt sacrifices to God.
The fourth angel deals with the supreme power over the earth. But its effect was only to make it hotter. Men suffered from intolerable tyranny now; they would not be subject to God--now they only blasphemed Him.
The fifth poured out his vial on the throne of the beast, which was really Satan's throne, the seat of his dominion and power. The effect was darkness and confusion; and they, the people of his dominion, "gnawed their tongues for pain." The beast and his armies, his active evil and mischief, are not in question now; the vial was poured upon his throne. There God's judgment reached him, in the other the Lamb's. The pains and sores here connected seem to identify this class with the first. God had still, to them, only the character of the God of heaven.
Under the sixth, that which flowed through, and gave its strength, character, and prosperity to Babylon was dried up; that "the way of the kings from the sun-rising might be prepared." The final destruction of Babylon and the final combats still remained.
There is reference here plainly to the position of the Euphrates. It is not, I conceive, the kings "of the east,"
but the kings who came from the east, τῶν ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν ἡλίου. This drying up of the great river Euphrates prepared their way. I suppose, from other passages, the Euphrates will, at any rate temporarily, be dried up for Israel to pass over; but I do not see that this passage applies to it in the midst of a symbolical prophecy, the vial being said to be poured out on it. It is commonly, from a previous passage, considered that it is the drying up of the Turkish power: it may be so, or at least there may be something analogous, taking the whole chapter in a subordinate and preparatory sense, which I believe it has had and is having in our own days (as I have expressed of other chapters, only over a longer period). Such application I believe this chapter has had; and this falls in consistently with the whole plan of the protracted scheme of prophecy, because the second beast loses its character as a beast and becomes a false prophet before the final close.
The saints in chapter xv. had their victory over the effort to make them worship the image of the beast; but it was the second beast, not the false prophet, who sought to make them worship the image of the first. But here he has the character of the false prophet, so that thus far (i.e., in principle) the victory had been obtained and could be celebrated, by the Spirit, for the Church. But when we come to a more positive fulfilment of judgment, and the actual bringing it into effect, on the separation of the saints out of the scene, and the closing the testimony of grace which gathered into the heavenlies, then there must be something more distinct, something which makes way for the eastern kings to take their part in the great catastrophe. The barrier and resources of the western Roman empire were dried up, so that the way for this coming in of the kings from the east was prepared.
[paragraph continues] Thereon it is, that the unclean spirits go out to gather the kings of the whole world to the battle of the great day of God Almighty.
Chapter xiv. had given, so to speak, the ecclesiastical dealings of the Lord; and testimony and grace was there. In chapter xv. we have the separation of the saints appropriated to the heavenlies; and then, in chapter xvi., the judgment on the earth, reaching primarily those who had received the mark: all this in relation to God--subjection and fidelity to Him--not the Lamb nor the Son of man wielding His power as King of kings and Lord of lords.
But upon this judgment 1 (the drying up of the Euphrates) the last struggle must commence; and Satan uses all his energies to prepare his forces: but it is only for the battle of the great clay of God Almighty. This is done (being a vision in the midst of the course of the judgment) by the influence and principles of the positive exercise of infidel self-will and enmity to Christ's power, the concentrating spirit of empire in the beast (the Roman power), and the spirit of Antichrist here (having changed its secular power of a beast for its false influence on minds as a prophet). We see the sort of place this holds in Judah in Jeremiah's time, and with Ahab, &c.: the manner of it may be different, but it exercises this guiding character in apostasy (the power to be wielded being held by another),
These three gather the kings (τῆς οἰκουμένης) of the whole organized habitable earth to the battle of the great day of God Almighty. But now Christ was nigh at hand. All this went on with multiplied human plans perhaps, but to the saints it was the sign that Christ was at hand. And He gathered them together." Who is He? This was the power and providence of God by Christ, I apprehend: whatever the Satanic influence or instrumentality, it was done, if through that, by Him. The spirits were to go forth to gather; and they gathered: but it was really the Lord's doing in judgment (Comp. Mic. iv. 11--13).
This battle, the scene of the Lamb's judgments, against whom the hatred and opposition was, is reserved for His coming forth, and the display of His power. We have an intimation of its connection with Hebrew localities: the place has a Hebrew name, Armageddon. But this comes in here by the bye; for it is the account of God's wrath, and the gathering is all that has this character providentially. If there be allusion to the place and term Megiddo, I should suppose it was, of the two, rather Judges v. than the case of Josiah.
The seventh vial was poured into the air, that which affected the whole scene below, the place of universal government and influence. The wrath was still in the earth: so, in fact, in all. And now a voice from the throne in the temple announced that all was finished (γέγονε), and the power of God displayed itself in judgments and thunderings of His power; for "the voice of the Lord is mighty in operation." And never was so great an earthquake--so great a disruption of all the elements of organized social existence. "The great city" (that frame-work and centre of this organization) "was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell"--all the centres of organization of the nations extern to
the great city. And great Babylon is here presented, not merely in its civil sociality, but its full character before--"great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath." The particulars of her judgment also are reserved for a fuller and exacter display, together with her character, as was that of the beast. The precursory judgments have been stated here, and the order of these final ones placed. The fall of Babylon is connected with chapter xiv., where testimony is going on, as we have seen.
Direct destructive judgment, in the way of plague, not proper judgment before the throne, came down on men, along with this bringing the corporate system of Babylon into remembrance. It was neither repentance, nor, as I have said, anything of the final judgment of the throne--an earthly thing; for men blasphemed God because of it, for it was very great. Such is the effect of God's judgments when the wilful rebellious heart is unchanged; such have all of us, unless in new life by grace.
68:1 Should not this be, "Now is come the salvation and power and kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ"?
69:1 [I have no doubt it is contained in the catching up of the man-child, as well as Christ Himself.]
69:2 It is looked at corporately only as in heaven (as we have often seen) from the end of chapter iii. The accuser of our brethren, therefore, is spoken of; for the voice from heaven could not speak of suffering or accusation of saints there, but of those who have been liable to it on earth. On the supposition noticed above, these would be the class of sufferers still to be gathered as slain in the last testimony, or who would not worship the beast.
70:1 The time of Jacob's trouble; but he is delivered out of it.
70:2 We have here the important fact, that, after the celebration of the coming of salvation, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ, and the casting Satan down out of the heavenly places, three years and a half elapse before his trial and persecution of the Jewish people closes; and they are the object of his hatred; and Christ does not appear in their behalf.
71:1 [The Lamb is always the suffering rejected One, who is after all the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the centre of glory. In the historical fact this takes place on the casting down of Satan, in which the kingdom and power are first displayed.]
72:1 This passage is a remarkable one as regards the crisis; for the joy is properly in heaven. The Church, properly speaking, is not in question. A voice accordingly is heard in heaven; but it clearly expresses the mind of God in the Church above; for it says "the accuser of our brethren," and has the prospect of the kingdom as now come. It is as a gleaming out of the Church's joy in heaven, before the saints are manifested with Christ, on the cessation of the sufferings of those left on earth, and the clearing of the heavenlies. The voice of heaven, the Church, is here rather identified with the priesthood and expectation of Christ, but that in a triumphant character, because accomplished by the casting down of Satan, and the kingdom now come, though not yet established for three years and a half upon earth.
I apprehend the proper application of the catching up of the man-child, besides Christ, to be to the Church of the first-born--His body, and to be undated, save by its precedence of all ulterior events, i.e., of all events below, and even of the war in heaven; for Christ and His body cannot take their new relative place on earth, till Satan and his angels are cast down.
73:1 Although I say their source, which is true as to the administration of events and the moral state of things, yet there is passed by here (as not the subject of the chapter, and what can be hardly called an event, as changing the whole order of administration and divine government itself),--the shaking of the heavens, in order to the appearing of the sign and government of the Son of man there: but this does not properly come in here; and therefore I have only thus noticed it. Its date in the course of events may be seen in Matthew xxiv. and Mark xiii.; but it forms no part of the course of mere human events, but is a change in the heavenly administration of their order. But the war in heaven, and the consequent casting down of Satan to earth, do alter altogether the relative position of the saints, heaven, and earth. The direct administrative exercise of all this is deferred for three years and a half, to give time for the ripening of God's purposes, the separation of the remnant of the Jews in their tribulation, and the full Satanic rising of the earth against heaven: but heaven could announce its joy at once, and woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea. But, the administration not being yet changed, things otherwise p. 74 went on unrebuked, until the earth being worse far by this, and in Satanic energy enlisted against heaven, the Son of Man has to take the power into His own hands, and the administration itself is changed. Then begins the administration of the world to come, whereof we speak. This last is a most important, and scripture speaks of it as a very seldom, event. It is what I apprehend is called the end; "Then shall the end come." Sinai was the manifest beginning; though there were other points connected with it in the world and earth, to wit, Noah and Nebuchadnezzar.
74:1 Specially in his workings, in these last events.
75:1 i.e., of Daniel's fourth beast with this.
75:2 [This is an attempt to connect by general terms the protracted period of the beast's existence and the crisis, or last half week;. and till the clear light of the end, this served to guide the conscience in a general way.]
76:1 [That is, it was seen in this state subsequent to the healing what had received the deadly wound.] I suppose the wounded head was imperial. Many considerations go, I think, to shew it, and make the point pretty clear. I doubt that it was fully developed as a beast till then.
76:2 [Rather it was seen subsequent to it. First, he sees the general character of the beast as a whole, and where his throne and authority, there this particular characteristic in the state in which he considers him, not of the beast in himself, but of the beast as he then saw him.]
76:3 Admiration implies the effect on a senseless imagination, though excited perhaps by a strong cause--not the judgment or affections.
77:1 This, however, is the apostasy of power.
78:1 This must be taken for the last period of half the week, if taken in crisis and applied to the full manifestation of his character, which the verse seems to do. It is no part of this passage to say it is the last half week, but merely to attach to the beast the characteristic period of his continuance. [But it gives that period as the duration of his practising.]
79:1 [This is all he could do now. Satan the accuser was cast out of heaven, and indeed the saints there. The beast's tendencies would have pleased the Jews before. Now it persecuted the saints on earth too. The other Jews would be now in rebellion.]
79:2 This had been previously to this period, which commenced on the closing of that by the casting down of Satan. Up to the that they had suffered actual death; at least they had not loved their lives unto death.
79:3 But I doubt that there is any dated period connected with verse 7. It is characteristic, not a question of time.
79:4 The elect there are saved as regards the flesh [save those who, being killed, get a heavenly portion, the saints of the heavenlies of Daniel and those particularly noticed as not worshipping him in chapter xx., here].
80:1 This will have its literal force in crisis in the land.
80:2 "If when you do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God," says the Apostle Peter.
82:1 [As the eighth head was the beast.]
82:2 The trials under the beast are distinct from the mere preservation of purity; and the final warning to have nothing to do with the beast comes after the announcement of the fall of Babylon. Hence, we have the celebration of the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have kept themselves pure; and afterwards, distinct, those who have got the victory over the beast. It does not follow that some of them may not have been involved in both trials, or have kept themselves from one, and suffered under the Other, but they are treated as distinct subjects; and there may be those who are under the trial of the beast's actings, in general, preparatory to his final conflicts in Judea, who have never been in the circumstances, at any rate fully, of the hundred and forty-four thousand. They are numbered before Babylon falls. The warning against the beast has its peculiar force after. That chapter xiii. has had accomplishment in the protracted period of years, may easily be understood; and if applied to what is closing, its application is rather preparatory, not final; when p. 83 the second beast falls, as a false prophet merely (his secular character as a beast gone), this change has taken place in him; he has lost his secular character and power as a beast, and is merely a false prophet. It seems to me that all this is previous to the last actings of Antichrist in Judea as the wilful king: * they are quite distinct in character. This is preparatory in order to bring them, the dwellers on earth, into his subjection, and carry them with him. The whole, save the period of his blasphemous continuance, is not here date, but character, or doings. He may draw after him the Gentile dwellers upon earth in this way; and, when in the land, the same process may locally and specifically continue there. The only date to the second beast is the restoration of the wounded (as I suppose) imperial head.
82:* p. 83 [This is a very important remark, which had long passed out of my mind. I doubt its being quite exact, in saying "all this is previous." It is distinct in character; but both may go on together and in its distinct form at the end apply to Palestine, though dwellers on earth be still characteristic. When the beast falls in Palestine, the second beast is merely viewed as a false prophet; his person as kingly seems superseded by the beast's presence. As in Isaiah xxiv. the difficulty is as to the force of earth. The whole passage requires maturer consideration. Note, the world, and kindred, tongues, and nations are not formally put under the influence of the second beast.]
84:1 [Note here how solemn it is that he should give the sign, which under Elijah was test of Jehovah being God; and in 2 Thessalonians ii., what in Acts ii. is the proof of Jesus being the Christ.]
84:2 I repeat the remark of the note on pp. 82, 83; all this is characteristic, not of time, save the restoration of the imperial head.
85:1 We have the distinction of periods, I think, very distinctly marked in Daniel vii. The character of the little horn--the last evil form of presumption against the Most High in the beast--we have in verse 8: that is, its character before God. The prophet saw this till the thrones were set; in 9, 10, judgment set and books opened, not now the time of testimony. Then again he beholds till the beast was slain, verse 11, because of the little horn's great words. After this, the Son of man's kingdom is spoken of as given; this in connection with the Lord. The saints, whether of the heavenly places or simply saints, are introduced in the explanation, verse 21; the character of the horn, as to the saints, is given--saints, whether of the heavenlies or not--it is the horn's character. Then this is till, first, the Ancient of days comes; then, judgment is given to the saints of the heavenlies; thirdly, the saints, heavenly or on earth, possess the kingdom. As to the actings of the little horn explained, we have, first, his presumption against the Most High; next, he wears out the saints of the heavenlies, and takes the Jewish times and festivals into his power, and they are given up to him for a prescribed period; then, the judgment sits, as in the close of verses 10, 11. Verse 25 seems to me, then, properly the three years and a half antecedent to the commencement of the judgment or the judgment-sitting; after that a process goes on to take away, to consume, and to destroy; and then the kingdom, under the whole heaven, is given to the people of the saints of the Most High, thus connecting the earthly people at Jerusalem, the city of the great King, with the heavenly people.
Chapter viii. I conclude to be an entirely different and opposed enemy; and I believe the confounding the Assyrian and Antichrist * has much tended to obscure prophecy, and embroil the mind as to the simplicity of its statements. p. 86 One is the enemy of Christ as coming from heaven with the saints; the other His enemy, as associated with the accepted remnant of the Jews at Jerusalem.
85:* [Or even the beast, for I do not hold the first beast as the personal Antichrist.]
86:1 This is a very important epoch. In chapter v. 9, they sing a new song. There was new subject of praise when the Lamb who was in the midst of the throne took the book, and assumed the p. 87 development of what was to introduce the inheritance. The redeemed could say then, "They shall reign," although the Lamb was still above, and the action of His power was only heavenly or providential. Here, the Lamb, not having yet laid aside this character and assumed that of Son of man, and judge, and warrior, yet is associated with earth, and stands on Mount Sion. And therefore they sing a new song before the living creatures and before the elders: these not themselves taking a part in it (for it was not the mystic Church's portion, nor the great witness therefore of redemption for creation), but a special occasion of praise on the Lamb's taking a place on Mount Sion, and associating Himself, though in a special manner with the earth [the once rejected Messiah].
87:1 [This seems to me, as in John, the Father's name declared as He then revealed it, and as Christ said, "My Father, of whom ye say that he is your God."]
88:1 The second beast had caused the earth to worship the first beast.
88:2 This, taken in the crisis, would seem to imply that, besides the Church, properly so called, whose place was in heaven, and, in that sense, the earth done with, there would be a remnant redeemed from the earth still connected with the Lamb (i.e., the Sufferer owned by the name of His Father) and learning a song sung before the throne, and before the elders--a peculiar class, and having a song thus specially theirs. They were a firstfruits redeemed from the earth, redeemed from among men. The body of the Church, in its heavenly character, had passed out of the scene before--had nothing to do with the earth. The refusing the beast after is for p. 89 preservation in an earthly place--a preservation enforced by a warning of unmingled wrath in the presence of the holy angels, the ministers of His providence, and of the Lamb, the Sufferer, whose grace, and power, and title, they refused and rejected in the great controversy. These hundred and forty-four thousand are more circumstantially like the Lord in His earthly portion and taking up. They were not corporately looked at as the bride of Christ, but as holding a special place as virgins--still, as contrasted with the harlotry of evil in the protracted period, the remnant peculiarly and separately preserved--in the crisis, a special remnant which we have noted.
89:1 [We must not confound the throne of God and the Lamb, and the revelation of the Father in the Son: our revelation of God is the latter, blessed be His name. The former is governmental glory. There is an analogy in the protracted period; but salvation ascribed to God and to the Lamb, and firstfruits from the earth, introduce the millennium. See following note.]
90:1 They were, rather, a witness of the purity of the throne and of the Lamb, as King of kings, and Lord of lords, for what became Him in the earth, and therefore, in the full sense, are the dawn of that bright and blessed morning of the earth from the Creator and Redeemer of it.
90:2 Everlasting I take to be distinguished from any temporary or provisional good news. Canaan was a gospel to Israel; the birth of Christ in the flesh was good news to Israel. But this is the everlasting, αἰώνοις;--the full complete promise of the results in the Son of man, formed on the intentions and rights of God; and that as by redemption. It involved, therefore, the kingdom; though, in some cases, only the basis might be laid. Any diligent student of the gospels will see the transition, from promises presented to the Jews in the person of Christ in the flesh, to this everlasting gospel. Of this it is said, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God;" and then earthly things and heavenly are brought in.
90:3 [The time given to Jezebel to repent was, so to speak, run out then. Chapter ii.]
91:1 When the everlasting gospel then goes forth, it is not the bringing in a universal state of blessedness, but a call to fear God amongst wide-spread apostasy of all sorts, "for the hour of His judgment has come," as "this gospel of the kingdom must first be preached to all nations, and then shall the end come," i.e., of the age. And this last, while I fully recognize what precedes as involving the principles, is the strong final sense of the passage, and therefore, as noticed in the preceding note, God is announced as a Creator, who had a right to His creatures, and presented Himself as such to men on the earth, as against all their idolatries, resuming (first in testimony) His place as God in the earth. Babylon, which had been the great corrupter of the earth, and the centre of idolatry, is next judged of God.
There is another point connected with the hundred and forty-four thousand and the everlasting gospel. The hundred and forty-four thousand are redeemed from the earth, where the testimony is already a redemption from the midst of prevailing evil in the limited sphere so designated--in the crisis, probably, entirely confined to the land. Before the judgment ("the end") comes, the everlasting gospel goes out afresh to the nations (many of them, doubtless, in actual idolatry) to announce the coming judgment, and to testify the good news of the coming millennial kingdom and blessedness. These two spheres--earth, and people and tongues and nations and languages--we have noticed as contrasted in repeated instances.
92:1 In the protracted period, verse 13 would refer, I apprehend, to the announcement of that blessedness of the saints, which the harvest, looked at as in Matthew xiii., in its application to them, would accomplish--in the crisis, to their manifestation in this. This distinction is only what we actually find in the interpretation p. 93 of that parable in Matthew. In the parable, the tares are gathered in bundles in the field, and the wheat into the garner: in the explanation, the tares are burned in the field, and the righteous shine forth. This is precisely the difference, and only this, I make here. The harvest and vintage are two acts of judgment, the harvest being of much wider scope; and, accordingly, in it there is not clear riddance of the corners of the field as to the wheat. It may distinctively clear and take the wicked, leaving those spared for earthly blessing. The vintage is pure vengeance on a specific object (the religious system), which has its character from earth--in the crisis, I apprehend, Jewish. Its grapes are now fully ripe. This vengeance is actual earthly judgment: "blood came out of the wine-press" far and wide. It was an actual and dreadful judgment in the land. All these--all the contents of this chapter--are God's religious warnings or dealings with the earth.
93:1 There may be an application of what passes in this chapter to the crisis; and, in such case, many dates would be ascertained, but the application is less particular of part. Thus the song, being before the throne of God, must be taken only as the commencing association of heavenly with earthly things, and the re-cognition of the earthly by the heavenly powers. The Lamb, p. 94 standing on Mount Zion, would recognize the return of the Jews into suffering associated with the Lamb amongst them in grace (that is, of a remnant among them). The everlasting gospel would then be strictly that mentioned in Matthew, "the gospel of the kingdom," (i.e., that Christ was just coming in His kingdom), which I have no doubt will so go out in all nations before the end. The fall of Babylon would precede the harvest of the earth, and then the last time of trouble would be to the Jewish people such as never was, and Michael would stand up for them, and the sanctuary at length be cleansed. In this case, I am inclined to think, the vine of the earth would be rather the Jewish part of the profession, as in Isaiah lxv., lxvi. Such judgment is certain. But there will be also the apostasy to be destroyed; but that is rather in war against the royalty of Christ then, and has assumed a worse form than mere apostasy or profession. Viewed in this light, "without the city" would, in the general application, refer to the great city of the corporate Roman empire; in the application in crisis it would, as before, be taken for Jerusalem.
In the application in the text (p. 90) of the claim of true worship, there are most important principles--the acknowledging God, not man, as the source in creative power of every blessing, or order of blessing, or power, or streams and fountains of true influence, and consequent condition of men--than which there cannot be a more important principle possible for daily use. The sense given above in the text I believe to be the most important for the Church in the present time.
95:1 [This is acknowledged to be the true reading.]
95:2 Though this chapter be a distinct sign, yet, like the eleventh and twelfth, it is not unconnected. It seems to apply itself to those who have passed through the fire--not merely escaped corruption when Babylon prevailed. And the judgment is not now the fall of Babylon and a warning against any's receiving the mark of the beast, but judgment and plague on those who had; p. 96 the faithful being out of the way on the sea of glass mingled with fire. They had suffered, but were therefore out of the way of the judgments: still the judgment is in the earth.
In subject it follows, but is not, I apprehend, chronologically consequent, but a distinct design, more secular in its general character of judgments and dealings. The last of the saints too, not left on earth, were now out of the way. Compare xiv. 13.
96:1 The imperial head subsisted in the apostolic times--Cæsar. It may be noticed that the head was destroyed in the West, and, taken in the protracted sense, was restored and continued with the continuance of the hierarchy and the pope set up at Rome who had the character of the image here described. Any further or more literal accomplishment of it will have its place more fitly in a subsequent chapter.
98:1 I doubt, as to the crisis, that the heavens were yet changed--whether these signs did not belong to the old heavens.
101:1 Although I do not doubt this will have an actual physical accomplishment in gathering of the nations or their powers and armies to battle, yet, as that which concerns us all, I would say that in that which the Church is entitled to understand--the more hidden working of the enemy in principle--this is just going on: that a moral, and so far partial, fulfilment of what preceded has taken place, and there is that which morally gathers them now taking place, so that we have a date of locality as to the Church's spiritual judgment and position given: the separation then only marked in character, and morally also.