Section 2 — "Things that shall be."

An Exposition of Revelation 4 — 22.

Part 2.

The Trumpets. (Rev. 8:2 – 11:18.)

The First Four Trumpets. (Rev. 8:2-13.)

The last seal is loosed, and the book of Revelation lies open before us; yet just here it is undoubtedly true that we have reached the most difficult part of the whole. As we go on, we shall find ourselves in the midst of scenes with which the Old Testament prophets have made us in measure familiar — a part which can be compared in this very prophecy to "a little open book." In the seals, we have found also what was more simple by its very breadth and generality. We have here evidently predictions more definite, and yet the application of which may never be made known to us, as they do not seem to come into that "open book," — do not seem to find their place where the Old Testament can shed its light in the same way upon them. Yet we are not left to that mere "private interpretation" which is forbidden us; and it is well to inquire at the beginning, what helps we have to interpretation from other parts of Scripture.

The series of trumpets is septenary, as we know — just as those of the seals and vials are. Not only so, but, as already said, the 7 here becomes, by the interposed vision between the sixth and seventh, in structure, an 8. And in this, the seals are plainly similar; the vials really, though more obscurely.

This naturally invites further comparison; and then at once we perceive that the vials are certainly in other respects also a parallel to the trumpets. In the first of each, the earth is affected; in the second, the sea; in the third, the rivers and fountains of waters; in the fourth, the sun; in the fifth, there is darkness; in the sixth, the river Euphrates is the scene: the general resemblance cannot be doubted.

No such resemblance can be traced if we compare the seals, however; though the similarity of structure should yield us something. The structure itself, so definite and plainly numerical, may speak to those who have ears to hear it, and we shall seek to gain from it what we can. But there is a third witness, whose help we shall do well to avail ourselves of, and that is, the historical interpretation, which just here — strangely as it may seem — is at its plainest. There is a very striking and satisfactory agreement among those of the historical school with regard to the fifth and sixth trumpets at least; and the harmony pleads for some substantial truth in what they agree about. We must at all events inquire as to this.

Strictly, according to the structure, the first five verses of this chapter belong to the seventh seal; but for our purpose it is more convenient to connect them with the trumpet-series, which they introduce. The judgments following they show us to be the answer of God to the cry of His people, though in His heart for them before they cry. This is what the order plainly teaches: "And I saw the seven angels which stand before God, and seven trumpets were given unto them." Thus all is prepared of God beforehand; yet He must be inquired of, to do it for them, and therefore we have next the prayers of all the saints ascending up to God. There is now a union of all hearts together: the common distress leads to united prayer; and He who has given special assurance that He will answer the prayer of two or three that unitedly ask of Him, how can He withdraw Himself from such supplication?

But we see another thing, — the action of the angel at the altar of incense: "And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of the saints ascended up before God out of the angel's hand." Thus the fragrance of Christ's acceptability gives efficacy to His people's prayers; a thing perfectly familiar to us as Christians, and which scarcely needs interpretation, but which, as pictured for us here, has this element of strangeness in it — the figure of an angel-priest. Why, if it be Christ who of necessity must take this place, why is He shown us as an angel? "For He taketh not hold of angels, but of the seed of Abraham He taketh hold. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High-Priest in things pertaining to God." (Heb. 2:16, 17.) If, then, to be the priest men need, He must be made like to men, why does He appear here as an angel, and not as a man?

There is no need for doubt that what has been answered by many is the true explanation, and that the angel-figure here speaks of personal distance still from those for whom yet He intercedes. We have many like examples in Scripture, and one which is of special interest in this connection. Those who appear in the eighteenth of Genesis as "men" to Abraham, go on to Sodom as "angels" in the nineteenth. They go there to deliver Lot, but are not able to show him the intimacy which they show to Abraham. "Just man "as he is, and "vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked," he is yet one "saved so as through the fire." Found, not in his tent-door at Mamre, but in the "gate of Sodom," he is one of those righteous men but in an evil place, for whom Abraham intercedes with God, and when delivered, it is said of him that "God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in the midst of which Lot dwelt." (Gen. 19:29.)

Lot may thus fitly represent this very remnant of Israel at the last, whose prayers are here coming up before God; who have had opportunity to have known the Church's pilgrim path, but have refused it, and to whom Christ is even yet a stranger, though interceding for them. If we remember the priestly character of the heavenly elders in the fifth chapter here, and "their vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints" (v. 8) we may see further resemblance between these pictures so far apart. And how touching is it to see how in the troubles which encompass Lot in Sodom, these angels begin to appear as "men" again! (Gen. 19:10, 12, 16.) Sweet grace of God, shining out in the very midst of the trial from which it could not, because of our need of it, exempt us!

Thus the angel-priest, in its very incongruity of thought, exactly suits the place in which we find it. It is "the time of Jacob's trouble," — needed, because he is yet Jacob, but out of which he shall be delivered when its work is once accomplished. (Jer. 30:7.) Thus their prayers offered are heard; and, as inheriting on the earth, the answer to them involves the purging of the earth. "And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it unto the earth; and there were voices and thunderings and lightnings, and an earthquake. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound."

This fire, because from the altar, some have difficulty in believing to be judgment. They remember how a live coal from the altar purged Isaiah's lips, and cannot see how that which has fed upon the sacrifice can be any longer wrath against men. But this is easily answered; for while, where the heart turns to God, this is certainly true, it is in no wise true for those who do not turn. For them, there is no sacrifice that avails; rather it pleads against its rejecters: the wrath of God against sin has not been set aside, but demonstrated an awful reality by the cross; and where the precious blood has not cleansed from sin, the wrath of God rests only the more heavily on those who slight it. The signs of judgment following are therefore in perfect keeping with the fact that it is the fire of the altar that evokes them, as they are with their being the answer to the prayers of a people who cry (with the saints under the fifth seal, or with the widow to whom. the Lord compares them,), "Avenge me of mine adversary." (Luke 18:3.)

Every thing finds its place when once we are in the track of the divine thoughts; and in all this there is no difficulty when we have learnt the period to which it applies. It is a suited introduction to the trumpets which follow, and in which, according to the old institution (Num. 10:9), God Himself now declares Himself in behalf of His people, and against their enemies.

There is much more difficulty when we come to consider separately the trumpets themselves.

"And the first sounded, and there followed hail and fire, mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of the earth was burnt up, and the third part of the trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up."

Hail with fire we find in other parts of Scripture, as in nature also. It is one of the most solemn figures of the divine judgment which nature furnishes. It was one of the plagues of Egypt. In the eighteenth psalm it is found connected with similar judgment. "The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave His voice, — hailstones and coals of fire." Electricity and hail are products of the same cause, a mass of heated air saturated with vapor, rising to a higher level, and meeting the check of a cold current. It is a product of cold, the withdrawal of heat, as darkness is the absence of light; and light and heat, cold and darkness, are akin to one another. Cold stands (with darkness) for the withdrawal of God, as fire (which is both heat and light) for the glow of His presence, which, as against sin, is wrath. And both these things can consist together, however they may seem contradictory — "hailstones and coals of fire" be poured out together. God's forsaking is in anger necessarily, and thus what would be a ministry of refreshment is turned into a storm of judgment. There is a concord of contraries against those that cast off God; as for those who love Him, all things work together for good.

The blood mingled is of course a sign of death — a violent death, — and shows the deadly character of this visitation, by which a third part of the prophetic earth is desolated, a third part of the trees burnt up, and prosperity (if the green grass implies that,) every-where destroyed.

This judgment seems to affect, therefore, especially the lower ranks of the people, though, as necessarily would be the case, many of the higher also; but it does not affect especially those in authority. They have not escaped, as we have seen, in the general convulsion under the sixth seal; — nay, the heavens fleeing away might seem to intimate that the very possibility of true government was departed. Yet this might be while in fact governments go on, and we find in what follows here that they do go on, although never really recovering themselves. Under this trumpet now begins, as it would seem, what shall really cause them to collapse. A people impoverished by that which spares the governing classes, who does not realize the danger to these of such a state of things? And the second trumpet seems to show us in reality what we might anticipate to grow out of this.

"And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain, burning with fire, was cast into the sea; and the third part of the sea became blood; and the third part of the creatures which were in the sea and had life died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed."

The comparison of Babylon to such a mountain (Jer. 51:25) may put us in the track of the meaning here. It is a power mighty, firmly seated and exalted, yet full of volcanic forces in conflict, by which not only her own bowels shall be torn out, but ruin spread around. This cast into the sea of the nations, — already in commotion, as the "sea" implies — produces death and disaster beyond that of the preceding trumpet. Human life is more directly attacked by it. Such a state of eruption was in France at the end of the last century, and may well illustrate (as others have suggested) what seems intended. The fierce outburst of revolt against all forms of monarchy, the fruit of centuries of insolent tyranny under which men had been crushed, set Europe in convulsion. History is full of such portents of that which shall be, and we do well to take heed to them. Especially as the end approaches may we expect to find it so: there is growth on to and preparation for that which at last takes those who have not received the warning by surprise.

The third part of the ships being destroyed would seem naturally to imply the destruction of commerce to this extent, the intercourse between the nations necessarily affected by the reign of terror around.

The third trumpet sounds, and a star falls from heaven, burning like a torch. "And it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters. And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter."

The heavens are the sphere of government, whether civil or spiritual; a ruler of either kind might be here indicated therefore, and the historical application is in general to Attila, king of the Huns; yet the fall from heaven, the poisoning of the sources of refreshment, as well as the parallel, if not the deeper, connection with the sixth trumpet, seem to point much more strongly to an apostate teacher, by whose fall the springs of spiritual truth should be embittered, causing men to perish. With all the misery that has hitherto been depicted as coming upon men under these apocalyptic symbols, we have not before had any clear intimation of this, which we know, however, to be a principal ingredient in the full cup of bitterness which will then be meted out to men. Because they have not received the love of the truth, that they might be saved, God will send them strong delusion, that they may believe a lie; and here would seem to be the beginning of this.

In the French revolution at the end of the last century, the revolt against the existing governments linked itself with an uprise against Christianity; and the socialistic and anarchical movements which have followed, with however little present success, are uniformly allied with infidel and atheistic avowals as extreme as any of that time. Russian "nihilism" fulfills its name in demanding "No law, no religion — nihil!" and as the first thing, "Tear out of your hearts the belief in the existence of God." Here is forestalled the one "who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped;" nor is it a contradiction to this that one with such nihilism on his standard should exalt himself into the place of God the atheist Comte devised for his followers a new worship, with forms borrowed from Rome, and a peremptory spirit, which have gained for it from a noted infidel of the day the title of "Catholicism minus Christianity." This was his proposition, as stated by himself: "The re-organization of human society, without God or king, through the systematic worship of humanity."

This was a delirium! True, but such dreams will come again, as the Word of God declares, in that fever of the world to which, with its quick pulse now, it is fast approaching. Apostasy is written already upon what men would fain have the dawn of a new day, and the being who has raised himself from the chattering ape to link the lightning to his chariot of progress, what shall stay him now? These are the words from the lips of Truth itself: "I am come in My Father's name, and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive."

We have already considered in a measure the doctrine of a personal antichrist yet to come, and we shall be repeatedly recalled to the consideration of it as we go on with Revelation. Here it is only the place to say that his birthplace in the book seems to be under this third seal, though his descent more strictly than his rise. He is born of apostasy, as the second epistle to the Thessalonians (2 Thess. 2:3) would lead us to anticipate.

And now, under the fourth trumpet, a scene occurs which may be compared with that under the sixth seal, but which in the comparison reveals important differences. Then, a convulsion affected (as would appear) the whole earth: now, it is only the governing powers that are affected by it; and that, not every where, but a third part of the sun and of the moon and of the stars, so that the day shines not for a third part of it, and the night likewise. These last words in connection with the similar limitation to a third part in the preceding seals, seem plain enough. The day does not shine in a third part of the sphere of its dominion, nor the night (in its moon and stars) either. Certainly this would not be the natural result of the darkening of a third part of sun and moon, and intimates to us that we have not here a literal phenomenon such as is represented, but figures of other things. Royal or imperial authority has collapsed, with its train of satellites, within such limits as a "third part" may designate; and with this, the first series of the trumpets ends. As ordinarily in these septenary series, the last three are cut off from these first four, which have a certain oneness of application, as the use of this "third part" employed in them throughout also would imply; for the next trumpet has no intimation of this kind. The sixth has it again, but the seventh refuses all such limitation.

The meaning of this trumpet, then, is simple; but its proper significance must be gained from its connection with the series of which it forms a part, and indeed with any prophecies elsewhere which by comparison may throw light upon it.

In general, also, the historical application attains here a consistency which claims attention; and that there is some substantial truth in it (though not the full truth) there is no need to doubt. The minds of so many of the Lord's people as have explored the book of Revelation by this light have not been left so utterly dark and untaught of the Spirit as to have allowed them to wander utterly astray. Scripture is larger in compass than we think, and this is by no means the only part of prophecy in which a certain fulfillment has anticipated and, as it were, typified the final and exhaustive one. In this very book, those who receive the addresses to the seven churches as prophetic of the history of the professing church at large can surely not deny, or seek to deny, a primary application to churches actually existing in the apostle's day. And here the foundation of the historical interpretation is already laid. The stream of prophecy in the seals and trumpets in this case naturally has its germinant fulfillment from that very time; and if we refuse it, we refuse not only the comfort we should gain from seeing the Lord's control of the whole course of man's spiritual history for so many centuries, but also lose for the final application a guiding clue with which the grace of God has furnished us. That it is not a full, exhaustive fulfillment will not in this case either affect its being a fulfillment. It will be in perfect keeping with its place that it shall not be a complete one; for were it this, no room for the final one would be left.

Now the general interpretation of the first four trumpets applies them to the breaking up of the Roman empire by the barbarian inroads of Goths, Vandals, and Huns, until its final extinction in the west by the hands of Odoacer. The eastern half survived to a latter day, but it was henceforth Grecian rather than Roman, Rome itself, with all that constituted its greatness, — nay, its being, in the days of its ancient glory, having departed from it. This application agrees with the unity of these trumpets, while it gives a sufficient reason for the series coming to an end, and the fifth and sixth trumpets turning now to judgments upon the eastern half, by the hands of Saracen and Turk, the seventh being in its character universal. The Roman empire, let us remember, as the last empire of Daniel's visions, and that which existed in the Lord's lifetime upon earth, and by the authority of which He was crucified, stands as the representative of the world-power in its rebellion against God. (Comp. Ps. 2 with Acts 4:25-28.) No wonder, therefore, if its history should be given under these war-trumpets, the last of which gives the full victory of Christ over all the opposition.

It is consistent with this that Satan in the twelfth chapter of this book should as the dragon be pictured with the seven heads and ten horns of the Roman beast. He is the spiritual prince of this world, and in this way is clothed with the power of the world, which we see here again is Roman.

So again, the "earth," which both in Greek and Hebrew may mean "land," and is often by no means the equivalent of the world, seems almost constantly in these prophecies, till the final one, to be the Roman earth, the territory of the Roman empire in its widest, and of which the western part seems to be the "third part" mentioned in the trumpets. As to this third part, Mr. Elliott urges, that during the period of these early trumpets, "the Roman world was, in fact, divided into three parts,* viz., the Eastern (Asia Minor, Syria, Arabia, Egypt); the Central (Moesia, Greece, Illyricum, Rhoetia); the Western (Italy, Gaul, Britain, Spain, north-western Africa); and that the third, or western, part was destroyed."

{I quote from the American edition of Lange on Revelation, p. 201.}

Others would make the "third part" equivalent to the territory peculiar to the third beast of Daniel, or the Greek empire; but this seems certainly not the truth: for in this case, according to the historical interpretation, the end of the eastern empire must be found under the fourth trumpet, whereas the fifth trumpet goes back before this, to introduce the Saracens!

Of all interpretations, that only seems consistent which applies the "third part" to the western part of the Roman earth, and in this way the term may have a further significance, as that part in which the Roman empire is yet to revive again, as it will revive for judgment in the latter days, — the "third" being very often connected in Scripture, as is well known, with the thought of resurrection.

The Roman empire has indeed long been extinct, both in the west and in the east, and it is of this very extinction that the historical interpretation of the trumpets speaks, yet the voice of prophecy clearly assures us that it existing at the time of the end, when, because of the words of the little horn, judgment comes down upon it. (Dan. 7:1.) The nineteenth chapter of this book unites with the book of Daniel in this testimony: for it is when the Lord appears that the beast is seen, along with the kings of the earth, arrayed in opposition against Him. Thus it is plain that the Roman empire must be existent at the end. It has yet, therefore, to rise again, and in the thirteenth chapter we see it, in fact, rising out of the sea: while in the seventeenth, where the woman Babylon has her seat upon it, it is said, "The beast that thou sawest was, and is not, and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition." (v. 8.) So it is called, "The beast that was, and is not, and shall come." (v. 8., R.V .)

Nothing can be much plainer than the fact that the Roman empire will revive again.

But not only so; it is also declared by the same sure Word that it will revive to be smitten again in one of its heads, and apparently to death, yet its wound is healed and it lives. (chap. 12:3, 12, 14.) It is after this that it becomes idolatrous, as Daniel has intimated to us it will, and all the world wonders after it. (vv. 3, 8, 12.)

It is not yet the place to go fully into this, but so much is clear as enables us to see how the historical interpretation of these trumpets points, or may point, to a future fulfillment of them. One other thing which the book of Revelation notes will make more complete our means of interpretation.

The beast, as seen in Revelation, has seven heads, or kings; and these are successive rulers — or forms of rule — over the empire: for "five," says the angel, "are fallen, and one is, and another is yet to come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space." The heads, then, in this primary view, are seven, but five had passed away — commentators quote them from Livy — the sixth, the imperial power, existed at that time: the seventh was wholly future, and, in contrast with the long continuance of the sixth, would continue only a short space.

But there is an eighth head, and the beast himself is this. The last statement has been supposed to mean that the head exercised the whole authority of the empire; but it would seem nothing strange for the head of empire to exercise imperial authority. Does it not rather mean that the beast that is seen all through these chapters is the beast of this eighth head?

But the seventh head, where does it come in? There are some things that would seem to give us help with regard to this. For the empire plainly collapsed under its sixth head, and the seventh could not be until the empire again existed. There are questions here that have to be settled with the historical interpretation; but in the meantime the course of the trumpets as we have already followed it, confirmed by their historical interpretation also, would suggest that we have in them, and indeed from the commencement of the seals, the history of the seventh head. The rider upon the white horse, to whom a crown is given, may well be the person under whom the empire is at first re-established. And of such an one Napoleon, though not (as some have thought) the seventh head himself, may be well the foreshadow. The sixth seal does not point to his overthrow: it is a wider, temporary convulsion which affects all classes — high and low together; and in the pause that follows, they would seem to recover themselves. The trumpets begin, however, at once to threaten overthrow. The very escape of the governing classes under the first trumpet seems to prepare the way for the outburst under the second, which is an eruption from beneath, — fierce with passionate revolt; to which is added, under the third, apostasy, the giving up of the restraint of divine government, soon to grow into the last, worst form of Christianity according to Satan — Antichrist: the opposition to incarnate Deity of deified humanity.

The result is, under the fourth trumpet, as it would appear, the imperial power smitten, the seventh head wounded to death, and with it the recently established empire overthrown beyond mere human power to revive again. But this brings in the help of one mightier than man — the awful power of Satan, working with an energy proportionate to the shortness of the time which is now his. The beast arises out of the abyss, its deadly wound is healed; the dragon gives him his power and throne and great authority; and all the world wonders and worships. (Rev. 13:2-4.)

Then indeed it is "Woe! woe! woe! to the inhabiters of the earth."

 

The First Woe. (Rev. 9:1-12.)

At the sound of the fifth trumpet a star is seen, not to fall, as the common version puts it, but already fallen from heaven to earth. This seems naturally to connect thus with the apostasy under the third trumpet, nor is it likely that the apostasy of any other should be as noteworthy as his whose course is recorded here. At all events, it is an apostate, surely, that is before us, and to him is committed "the key of the abyss."

The force of the words have first of all to be considered. A "pit" is in the Old Testament often a synonym for a dungeon, and every thing unites to show this to be the meaning here; while the "abyss" is not other than the pit itself, but only a further definition of it* — the dungeon which is the abyss. So the demons pray that they may not be sent into the deep, or "abyss" (Luke 8:31), and Satan is, in the twentieth chapter, shut up there. In the Old Testament parallel to the same in Revelation, it is said, "They shall be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in prison." (Isa. 24:22.) Here the abyss is the "pit," or prison, clearly. The key is used in this place as in the later one — here, the "key of the pit of the abyss;" there, simply "the key of the abyss."

{*The genitive of apposition, as John 2:21, "the temple of His body."}

The abyss is not, however, "hell" — the "lake of fire," — as we may see by the fact that it is, in one passage (Rom. 10:7), used in connection with the Lord: "Who shall descend into the deep (the abyss)? — that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead." Here, as the heavens are inaccessible to man for height, so is the abyss for depth. The literal meaning (" bottomless") must not be pressed, as our own use of the word shows, and the Greek was similar; the Septuagint use it for the "deep" upon which darkness rested on the first day.

The connection of the "pit" with the state of the dead in the Old Testament is similar to that of the "abyss" here in the New. We have this again in Revelation, where the "beast," in its last phase, is said to come up out of the abyss. This seems naturally to refer to the wounding to death, and revival (Rev. 13:3, 12, 14). Some have even contended, seeing the identification of the beast (the empire) with its last head (Rev. 17:11), for the literal resurrection of a person in this case; but this is only a wild extravagance: for resurrection literally could only be from God, and the beast in its last form is wholly under the power of Satan. (Rev, 13:1, 2). The rising up out of the abyss is figurative, therefore, as the beast itself is; and indeed the use of the word seems figurative throughout.

Now Christ has "the keys of hades and of death" (Rev. 1:18); and it is not to be imagined that He should give up into the hand of an apostate, whether man or spirit, any portion of His own authority. We must not think, therefore, (as has been done,) of a literal opening of hades, and an irruption of the spirits of the lost upon the earth. Fancies like these easily gain ascendency over a certain class of minds; and yet who could seriously maintain such an outbreak of wickedness on the part of those shut up, like the rich man in hades, to await judgment? Were it so, there would be "deeds done" out of the body, as well as "in the body," to give account of in the day of judgment. But, in fact, the locusts are not said even to come out of the pit. Nothing is said to come out of it but the smoke which darkens the sun and air; and out of the smoke the locusts come. It may be natural to think that, after all, they cannot be bred of the smoke, and that they must come with the smoke out of the pit; but naturalistic interpretations may easily deceive us, where the spiritual sense is the whole matter, and for the spiritual meaning there is no difficulty. The smoke is not, as in other places, the smoke of torment, but the fumes of malign spiritual influences which darken the air and the supreme source of light itself. Out of this darkness we can easily understand the locusts to be bred.

It is quite in accordance with their origin that their power should be represented as that of the scorpions of the earth — that is, in their poisonous sting — and their distinction from natural locusts is seen in this, that they do not touch the locusts' food, but are a plague only upon men, and these the unsealed. Remembering that it is in Israel that the sealing is found, the inference seems just that these unsealed ones are Israelites, and the sphere of this plague is in the east. They do not kill — as, in general, the scorpion does not, — but inflict torment to which death is preferable; and their power lasts five months.

We next find them pictured as warriors — a military power subordinated to what is their grand interest and aim, the propagation of poisonous falsehood. Thus "the shapes of the locusts were like horses prepared unto battle;" and, as in the certainty of triumph beforehand, "upon their heads were as it were crowns like gold." Little matter of real triumph had they, as the limiting words here show. "Their faces were as faces of men also, — they had the dignity and apparent independence of such; while yet "they had hair as the hair of women," being in the fullest subjection to the dark and dreadful power that ruled over them. "Their teeth as the teeth of lions" show the savage, tenacious grip with which they can hold their prey; their breastplates of iron, perhaps, the fence of a hardened conscience; the sound of their wings, like that of the locust-hosts they resemble, conveys the hopeless terror which they inspire. Finally, we are again told of their scorpion-stings, and their power to hurt men five months.

They have a king over them — the angel of the abyss, whose name is given, almost exactly the same in meaning, in Hebrew and in Greek. The use of the Hebrew unites, with other indications we have had, to assure us that it is upon Israel that this woe comes, while the Greek no less plainly indicates that the angel here has also to do with the Gentiles: according to both, he is the "destroyer;" and it is natural to think of Satan in such connections, while it seems not probable that the angel of the abyss is the same person with the fallen star.

The historical application in this case is one in which there is great unanimity among interpreters. They apply it to Mohammed, and the Saracens, whose astonishing successes were manifestly gained under the inspiration of a false religion. They came in swarms from the very country of the locusts, and their turbaned heads with men's beards and women's hair, their cuirasses, the sparing of the trees and corn, and even of life where there was submission, with their time of prevalence, according to the year-day reckoning, one hundred and fifty years, — all these things have been pointed out as fulfillment of the vision. It has been objected, on the other hand, that such points as these are below the dignity of Scripture, and that the terms are moral. While this is surely true if we think of the full intention, it is to be considered, on the other hand, whether God does not allow and intend oftentimes a correspondence between such outward things and what is deeper, just as the face of a man may be a real index to his spirit. Just because they are external, they are well fitted to strike the imagination; and the parable is, as we know, a very common method of instruction every where in Scripture. Thus God would open our eyes to see what is indeed all around us; and to stop at what is external, or to ignore it, is alike an error.

In any case, and for reasons which we have already considered, we cannot take this Saracenic scourge as any complete fulfillment of the locust-vision. Nor can we, on the other hand, connect it as fully and certainly with other prophecy as would be necessary for very clear interpretation. What seems indicated, however, with regard to its final fulfillment in a time yet to come, is the rise and propagation of that delusion to which we know both the mass of mere Christian profession and of the unbelieving Jews will in the end surrender themselves. (2 Thess. 2.) The antichrist of that time will be, there is little doubt, both an apostate from Christianity and from the faith of his Jewish fathers (Dan. 11:37); and his apostasy will remove (under divine permission) the present restraint upon the power of evil. It will be as if the abyss had opened its mouth to darken the light of heaven; a mist of confusion will roll in upon men's minds, which will under satanic influence soon find definite expression in forms of blasphemy and a host of armed adherents ready to force upon others the doctrines of the pit. As has been said, it is apparently with Israel that this trumpet has to do, but yet the Greek name of the leader seems to speak also of the connection with the Gentiles. If the application here made be the true one, then we know that the "wicked one" will not be a Jewish false Christ merely, but will also head the apostasy of Christendom. In this sense also it may be that the "beast" under its last head — the revived Roman empire — is said to come up out of the abyss, its actual revival being due to the dark and dreadful power which is presented to us here, — so exceeding in malignity all that has preceded it, that its advent is called, in the language of inspiration, "the first woe."

 

The Sixth Trumpet. (Rev. 9:12-21.)

In these trumpet-judgments we are, as has been already seen, traversing some of the most difficult parts of the book of New Testament prophecy. This is owing largely to the fact that the link with the Old Testament seems very much to fail us, and thus the great rule for interpretation which Peter gives us can be acted on only with proportionate difficulty. Moreover, in the case of symbols such as we have before us, the application is of the greatest importance to the interpretation, and the application is just the fitting of the individual prophecy into the prophetic whole. We have need, therefore, to look carefully, and to speak with a caution corresponding to the difficulty.

A certain connection of the trumpets among themselves, however, we have been able to trace, and this we should expect still to discover, every fresh step in this confirming the past and gaining for itself thus greater assurance. Moreover, the general teaching of prophecy will assist and control our thoughts, although we may be unable to show the relation to each other of single predictions, such as we find, for instance, in comparing the fourth beast of Daniel with the first of Revelation.

A voice from the horns of the golden altar brings on the second woe. It is natural at first sight to connect this with the opening of the eighth chapter, and to see in it an answer to the prayers of the saints with which the incense of the altar is offered up. But this view becomes less satisfactory as we consider it, if only for the reason that the whole of the seven trumpets are in answer to the prayers of the saints, as we have seen, and to make the sixth trumpet specifically this would seem in contradiction. Besides, a voice from the horns of the altar, or even from the altar, would scarcely convey the thought of an answer to the prayers that came up from the altar. The horns too were not in any special relation to the offering of incense, but were for the blood of atonement, which was put upon them either to make atonement for the altar itself, or for the sin of the high-priest or of the congregation of Israel. A voice of judgment from these horns, — still more emphatic if we read, as it seems we should do, "one voice from the four horns," — so different from the usual pleading in behalf of the sinner, speaks of profanation of the altar, or of guilt for which no atonement could be found; and, one would say, of such guilt resting upon the professed people of God, whether this were Israel or that Christendom which Israel often pictures.

If with this thought in our mind we look back to what has taken place under the last trumpet, there seems at once a very distinct connection. If the rise of Antichrist be indeed what is represented there, then we can see how the horns of the altar, from which he has caused sacrifice and oblation to cease (Dan. 9:27), should call for judgment upon himself and those who have followed him, whether Jews or Gentiles. In the passage just quoted from Daniel it is added, "And because of the wing of abominations there shall be a desolator." In the sixth trumpet we have just such a desolator.

The Euphrates was the boundary of the old Roman empire, and there the four angels are "bound" — "restrained," it may be, by the power of the empire itself, until, having risen up against God, their own hands have thrown down the barrier, and the hordes from without enter upon their mission to "slay the third part of men," a term which we have seen as probably indicating the revived Roman empire. Here, too, is the seat of the beast's supremacy and of the power of Antichrist. Thus there seems real accordance in these several particulars; and in this way the trumpet-judgments give us a glance over the prophetic field, if brief, yet complete, as otherwise they would not appear to be. Moreover, when we turn to the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth chapters of Ezekiel to find the desolator of the last days (Ezek. 38:17), we find in fact the full array of nations from the other side of the Euphrates pouring in upon the land of Israel, while the connection of that land with Antichrist and with the Roman empire is plainly shown us in Daniel and in Revelation alike. If the Euphrates be the boundary of the empire, it is also Israel's as declared by God, and the two are already thus far identified: their connection spiritually and politically we shall have fully before us in the more detailed prophecy to come.

But why four angels? and what do they symbolize? The restraint under which they were marks them sufficiently as opposing powers, and would exclude the thought of holy angels; nor is it probable that they are literal angels at all. They would seem representative powers, and in the historical application have been taken to refer to the fourfold division of the old Turkish empire into four kingdoms prior to the attack upon the empire of the East. If such an interpretation is to be made in reference to the final fulfillment, then it is noteworthy that "Gog, of the land of Magog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal," — as the R.V., with most commentators, reads it now, — gives (under one head, indeed,) four separate powers as principal associates in this latter-day irruption. Others there are, but coming behind and apart, as in their train. I mention this for what it may be worth. It is at least a possible application, and therefore not unworthy of serious consideration, while it does not exclude a deeper and more penetrative meaning.

The angels are prepared for the hour and day and month and year, that they might slay the third part of men. The immense hosts, two hundred millions in number, are perfectly in the hand of a Master, — time, work, and limit carefully apportioned by eternal Wisdom, the evil in its fullest development servant to the good. The horses seem to be of chief importance, and are most dwelt upon, though their riders are first described, but only as to their "breast-plates of fire and hyacinth and brimstone." These answer to the "fire and smoke and brimstone" out of the horses' mouths: divine judgment of which they are the instruments making them thus invincible while their work is being done. The horses have heads like lions; destruction comes with an open front — the judgment of God: so that the human hands that direct it are of the less consequence, — divine wrath is sure to find its executioners.

God's judgment is foremost in this infliction, but there is also Satan's power in it: the horses' tails are like serpents, and have heads, and with these they do hurt. Poisonous falsehood characterizes this time when men are given up to believe a lie. Death, physical and spiritual, are in league together, and the destruction is terrible; but those that escape are not delivered from their sins, which, as we see, are, in the main, idolatrous worship, with things that naturally issue out of this. The genealogy of evil is as recorded in the first of Romans: the forsaking of God leads to all other wickedness; but here it is where His full truth has been rejected, and the consequences are so much the more terrible and disastrous.

 

The Little Open Book. (Rev. 10)

We have already seen that in the trumpets, as in the seals, there is a gap, filled up with a vision, between the sixth and seventh, so as to make the seventh structurally an eighth section. This corresponds, moreover, to the meaning; for the seventh trumpet introduces the kingdom of Christ on earth, which, although the third and final woe upon the dwellers on the earth, is on the other hand the beginning of a new condition, and an eternal one. With this octave a chord is struck which vibrates through the universe.

The interposed vision is in both series, therefore, a seventh, with a meaning corresponding to the number of perfection. At least, so it is in the series of the seals, and we may be sure we shall find no failure in this case: failure in the book of God, even in the minutest point, — our Lord's "jot or tittle," — is an impossibility. Nothing is more beautiful of its kind than the way in which all this prophetic history yields itself to the hand that works in all and controls all: thank God, we know whose hand.

But the vision of the trumpet-series is very unlike that of the seals, and its burden of sorrow different indeed from that sweet inlet into beatific rest. We shall find, however, that it vindicates its position none the less. As in the work, so in the word of God, with a substantial unity, there is yet a wonderful variety, never a mere repetition, which would imply that God had exhausted Himself. As you cannot find two leaves in a forest just alike, so you cannot find two passages of Scripture that are just alike, when they are carefully and intelligently considered. The right use of parallel passages must take in the consideration of the diversity and unity alike.

In the vision before us there is first of all seen the descent of a strong angel from heaven. As yet, no descent of this kind has been seen. In the corresponding vision in the seal-series, an angel ascends from the east, but here he descends, and from heaven. A more positive direct action of heaven upon the earth is implied, power acting, though not yet the great power under the seventh trumpet when the kingdom of Christ is come. This being, apparently angelic, is "clothed with a cloud," — a vail about him, which would seem to indicate a mystery either as to his person or his ways. It does not say "the cloud," — what Israel saw as the sign of the presence of the Lord, — otherwise there could be no doubt as to who was here: yet in His actions presently He is revealed to faith as truly what the cloud intimates. It is Christ acting as Jehovah, though yet personally hidden, and in behalf of Israel, among whom the angel of Jehovah walked thus appareled. It is only the cloud; the brightness which is yet there has not shone forth: faith has to penetrate the cloud to enter the Presence-chamber: yet is He there, and in a form that intimates His remembrance of the covenant of old, and on His own part some correspondent action.

So also the rainbow (which we last saw round the throne of God) encircles His head. Joy is coming after sorrow, refreshing after storm, the display of God's blessed attributes at last, though in that which passes, a glory that endureth. And this is coming nearer now, in Him who descends to earth. But His face is as the sun: there indeed we see Him; who else has such a face? In our sky there are not two suns: our orbit is a circle, not an ellipse.

His face is above the cloud with which He is encircled: heaven knows Him for what He is; the earth not yet; though on the earth may be those who are in heaven's secret. But His feet are like pillars of fire, and these are what are first in contact with the earth, the indication of ways which are in divine holiness, necessarily, therefore, in judgment, while the earth mutters and grows dark with rebellion.

Now we have what reveals to us whereto we have arrived: "And he had in his hand a little book opened." The seventh seal opens a book which had been seen in heaven; the seventh section here shows us another book now open, but a little book. It had not the scope and fullness of the other: we hear nothing of how the writing fills up and overflows the page. It is a little book which has been till now shut up, but is no longer shut up, — a book too whose contents, evidently connected with the action of the angel here, has to do with the earth simply, not with heaven also, as the seven-sealed book has. We have in this what should lead us to what the book is; for the characteristic of Old Testament prophecy is just this, that it opens to us the earthly, not the heavenly things. Its promises are Israel's, the earthly people (Rom. 9:4), and it deals fully with the millennial kingdom, and the convulsions which are its birth-throes. Beyond the millennium, except in that brief reference to the new heavens and earth to which Peter refers, it does not go; and the "new heavens" are not our blessed portion, but the earth-heavens, as Peter very distinctly shows. There is no heavenly city there in prospect; there is no rule over the earth on the part of Christ's co-heirs, such as we have already found in the song of Revelation. All this the Christian revelation adds to the Old Testament; while in Revelation the millennium is passed over with the briefest notice. Here for the first time indeed we get its limits set, and see how short it is, while the main thing dwelt upon as to it is with whom shall be filled those thrones which Daniel sees "placed," but sees not the occupants (chap. 7:9, R.V.). Thus it is plain how the book of Old Testament prophecy is, comparatively with the New, "a little book."

It is fully owned and maintained that when we look, with the aid of the New Testament, beyond the letter, we can find more than this. Types there are and shadows, and that every where, in prophecy as well as history, of greater things. Earth itself and earthly things may be and are symbols of heaven and the heavenly. The summer reviving out of winter speaks of resurrection; the very food we feed on preaches life through death. And so more evidently the Old Testament: for Revelation, completing the cycle of the divine testimony, brings us back to paradise, as type of a better one; and the latest unfolding of what had been for ages hidden, shows us in Adam and his Eve Christ and the Church.

But this manifestly leaves untouched the sense in which Old Testament prophecy may be styled "a little book." The application here is also easy. For in fact the Old Testament prophecy as to the earth has been for long a thing waiting for that fulfillment which shall manifest and illumine it. Israel outcast from her land, upon whom the blessing of the earth waits, all connected with this waits. We may see now, indeed, as in some measure we see their faces set once more toward their land, that other things also are arranging themselves preparatory to the final accomplishment. But yet the proper fulfillment of them is not really begun.

In the meanwhile, though the Lord is fulfilling His purposes of grace, and taking out from among the Gentiles a people for His name, as to the earth, it is "man's day." (1 Cor. 4:3, marg.) When He shall have completed this, and having gathered the heavenly saints to heaven, shall put to His hand in order to bring in the blessing for the earth, then the day of the Lord will begin in necessary judgment, that the inhabitants of the world may learn righteousness. (Isa. 26:9.) This day of the Lord begins, therefore, before the appearing of the Lord, for which it prepares the way: the dawn of day is before the sunrise.

The apostle, in warning the Thessalonians against the error of supposing that the day of the Lord was come (2 Thess. 2:2, R.V.), gives them what would be a sign immediately preceding it: "For that day," he says, "shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." The manifestation of the man of sin is therefore the bell that tolls in solemnly the day of the Lord.

This would seem to be the opening, then, of the "little book." Thenceforth the prophecies of the latter day become clear and intelligible. Now the apostasy has been shown, as it would seem, in its beginning under the fifth trumpet, and the man of sin may well be the one spoken of there: thus, the little book may be fittingly now seen as opened, and in the continuation of the vision here we find for the first time the "beast," the "wild beast" of Daniel, in full activity (Rev. 11:7). All, therefore, seems connected and harmonious; and we are emerging out of the obscure border-land of prophecy into the place where the concentrated rays of its lamp are found.

We see too how rapidly the end draws near: "And he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left upon the earth; and he cried with a great voice, as when a lion roareth." It is the preparatory voice of Judah's Lion, as "suddenly his anger kindles;" and the seven thunders,  — the full divine voice, — the whole government of God in action, — answers it; but what they utter has to find its interpretation at a later time.

Meanwhile, the attitude of the angel is explained: "and the angel which I saw standing upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his right hand to heaven, and sware by Him that liveth forever and ever, who created the heavens, and the things that are therein, and the earth, and the things that are therein, and the sea, and the things that are therein, that there should be delay no longer; but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound" — when he shall sound, as he is about to do, — "then is finished the mystery of God, according to the good tidings which He hath declared to His servants the prophets."

All is of a piece: the prophetic testimony, (the testimony of the little open book,) is now to be suddenly consummated, which ends only with the glories of Christ's reign over the earth. Amid all the confusion and evil of days so full of tribulation, that except they were mercifully shortened, no flesh should be saved (Matt. 24:22), yet faith will be allowed to reckon the very days of its continuance, which in both Daniel and Revelation are exactly numbered. How great the relief in that day of distress! and how sweet the compassion of God that has provided it after this manner! "He that endureth to the end shall be saved," — shall find deliverance speedy and effectual, and find it in the coming of that Son of Man whose very title is a gospel of peace, and whose hand will accomplish the deliverance.

There has been an apparent long delay: "There shall be delay* no longer." Man's day has run to its end, and, though in cloud and tempest, the day of the Lord at last is dawning. Then the mystery of God is finished: the mystery of the first prophecy of the woman's Seed, and in which the whole conflict between good and evil is summarized and foretold. What a mystery it has been! and how unbelief, even in believers, has stumbled over the delay! The heel of the Deliverer bruised: a victory of patient suffering to precede and insure the final victory of power! Meantime, the persistence and apparent triumph of evil, by which are disciplined the heirs of glory! Now, all is indeed at last cleared up; the mystery of God (needful to be a mystery while patience wrought its perfect work,) is forever finished: the glory of God shines like the sun; faith is how completely justified! the murmur of doubt forever silenced.

{*There is no doubt at all as to this being legitimate, and being so, although the R.V. still puts it into the margin, there should be no doubt as to its being the true rendering.}

Thus the sea and the land already, even while the days of trouble last, know the step of the divine angel, claiming earth and sea for Christ. And now faith (as in the prophet) is to devour the book of these wondrous communications, sweet in the mouth, yet at present bitter in digestion, for the last throes of the earth's travail are upon her. By and by this trouble will be no more remembered for the joy that the birth of a new day is come, — a day prophesied of by so many voices without God, but a day which can only come when God shall wipe away the tears from off all faces. And it comes; it comes quickly now: the voice heard by the true Philadelphian is, "I come quickly." Come, Lord, and "destroy the face of the covering that is cast over all peoples, and the vail that is spread over all nations;" come, and swallow up death in victory, and take away the reproach of Thy people from off all the earth; come, that faith may say in triumph, "Lo, this is our God: we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation."

 

The Witnesses. (Rev. 11:1-14.)

The last words of the preceding chapter receive their explanation from what we have seen to be the character of the little open book. If this be Old Testament prophecy that is now "open," then we can see how John has at this point to "prophesy again," not "before," but "over," — that is, "concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings." He is to take up the strain of the old prophets, not, of course, merely to echo their predictions, but to add to them a complementary and final testimony.

Accordingly we find now what carries us back to those prophecies of Daniel which were briefly reviewed in our introductory chapter. The mention of the "beast," and of the precise period of "forty-two months," or "twelve hundred and sixty days," — that is, the half-week of his last or seventieth week, previous to the coming in of blessing for Israel and the earth, is by itself conclusive. This week we have seen to be, in fact, divided in this way by the taking away of the daily sacrifice in the midst of it (Dan. 9:27). It is by this direct opposition to God also that the man of sin is revealed. Hence it would seem clear that it is with the last half of the week that we have here to do.

A reed like a staff is now given to the prophet that he may measure with it the temple of God. If a reed might suggest weakness, as in fact all that is of God lies at the time contemplated under such a reproach, the words, "like a staff" suggest the opposite thought. God's care for his people implied in this measurement is to unbelief indeed a mystery, for they seem exposed to the vicissitudes of other men, yet is it a staff upon which one may lean with fullest confidence. His measurement of things abides, perfect righteousness and absolute truth, abiding necessarily as such.

The temple of God is, of course, the Jewish temple, and though not to be taken literally, still, as all its connections here assure us, stands for Jewish worship, and not Christian, though a certain application, as in the historical interpretation, need not be denied. The altar, as distinct from the temple proper, is, I believe, the altar of burnt-offering, upon which, indeed, for Israel, all depended. It was there God met with the people (Ex. 29:43), although, as we contemplate things here, the mass of the nation was in rejection, the court given up to the Gentiles,* the holy city to be trodden under foot by them, only a remnant of true worshipers acknowledged. It may be said that the altar of burnt-offering stood in the court; but the idea connected with each is different. The court, however, being given up, the worshipers recognized must have the sanctuary opened for them: in the rejection of the mass, God brings the faithful few nearer to Himself. This is His constant grace.

{*Which shows, I think, that it is not the court of the Gentiles, which belonged to them of right.}

"And the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months." The "holy city" can speak but of one city on earth; nor can there be justifiable doubts as to the place in prophecy of this half-week of desolation. The mixture of literal and figurative language will be no cause of stumbling to any one who has carefully considered the style of all these apocalyptic visions, which are evidently not intended to carry their significance upon their face. All must be fully weighed, must be self-consistent, and fitting into its place in connection with the whole prophetic plan. Thus alone can we have clearness and certainty as to interpretation.

As a man, then, who has been sunk in a long dream of sorrow, but to whom is now brought inspiriting news of a joy in which he is called to have an active part, — as an Elijah at another Horeb after the wind and the earthquake and the fire have passed and He whom he had sought — the Lord — is not in these, but who is aroused at once by the utterance of the "still, small voice," — so the prophet here is bidden to rise and measure the temple of God. Not so unlike, either, to the measure given to the elder prophet, of seven thousand men that had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. How speedy and thorough a relief when God is brought into the scene! and from what scene is He really absent? How animating, how courageous a thing, then, is faith that recognizes Him!

And where He is there must be a testimony to Him. We find it, therefore, immediately in this case: "And I will give power unto My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand, two hundred, and threescore days clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive-trees, and the two candlesticks which stand before the Lord of the earth."

The reference is plain to Zechariah (Zech. 4), but there are also differences which are plain. There it is the thing itself accomplished, to which here there is but testimony, and in humiliation, though there is power to maintain it, spite of all opposition, till the time appointed. The witnesses are identified with their testimony — that to which they bear witness. Hence the resemblance. They stand before the Lord of the earth, — the One to whom the earth belongs, to maintain His claim upon it: in sackcloth, because their claim is resisted; a sufficient testimony in the power of the Spirit, a spiritual light amidst the darkness, but which does not banish darkness.

"And if any man desireth to hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies; and if any man shall desire to hurt them, in this manner must he be killed. These have power to shut the heaven that it rain not during the days of their prophecy; and they have power over the waters, to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague as often as they shall desire."

Here is not the grace of Christianity, but the ministry of power after the manner of Elijah and of Moses: judgment which must come because grace has been ineffectual, and of which the issue shall be in blessing, for "when Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world shall learn righteousness." (Isa. 26:9.)

The association of Elijah with Moses, which is evident here, of necessity reminds us of their association also on the mount of transfiguration, wherein, as a picture, was presented "the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:16-18.) They are here in the same place of attendance upon their coming Lord. It does not follow, however, that they are personally present, as some have thought, and that the one has had preserved to him, the other will have restored to him, his mortal body for that purpose.

The preservation to Elijah of a mortal body in heaven seems a thought weird and unscriptural enough, with all its necessary suggestions also. But the closing prophecy of the Old Testament does announce the sending of Elijah the prophet before the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Is not this proof that so he must come?

Naturally, one would say so; but our Lord's words as to John the Baptist, on the other hand, — "If ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come," — raise question. It has been answered that his own words deny that he was really Elias, and that Israel did not receive him, and so John could not be Elias to them. Both things are true, and yet do not seem satisfactory as argument. That he was not Elias literally, only shows, or seems to show, that one who was not Elias could, under certain conditions, have fulfilled the prediction. While other words of the Lord — "I say unto you that Elias is come already, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed" — show even more strongly that for that day and generation he was Elias. Why, then, could not another, coming in his spirit and power, fulfill the prophecy in the future day?

This Revelation seems to confirm, inasmuch as it speaks of two witnesses who are both marked as possessing the spirit and power of Elias, and who stand on an equal footing as witnesses for God. Had it been one figure before the eyes here, it would have been more natural to say it is Elias himself; but here are two doing his work, nor can we think of a possible third behind and unnoticed and yet the real instrument of God in this crisis. The two form this Elias ministry, which is to recall the hearts of the fathers to the children, and of the children to the fathers, arid who both lay down their lives as the seal of their testimony. Put all this together, and does it not seem as if Elias appeared in others raised up of God and indeed with His Spirit, to complete the work for which he was raised up in Israel?

Much more would all this hinder the reception of the thought of any personal appearance of Moses, while there is no prediction at all of any such thing. Jude's words (which have been adduced) as to the contention of Michael with Satan about the body of the lawgiver may well refer to the fact that the Lord had buried him, and no man knew of his sepulchre. Satan may well, for his own purposes, have desired to make known his grave, just as God in His wisdom chose to hide it.

Yet the appearance of Moses and Elias in connection with the appearing of the Lord, as seen on the mount of transfiguration, seems none the less to connect itself with these two witnesses and their work, — both caught away in like manner into the "cloud," as the twelfth verse ought to read. And Malachi, just before the declaration of the mission of Elias, bids them, on God's part, "remember the law of Moses My servant." Moses must do his work as well as Elias; for it is upon their turning in heart to the law of Moses that their blessing in the last days depends; and thus we find the power of God acting in their behalf in the likeness of what He wrought upon Egypt: the witnesses "have power over waters, to turn them to blood." It is not that Moses is personally among them, but that Moses is in this way witnessing for them; and so the vials after this emphatically declare.

God thus, during the whole time of trouble and apostasy, preserves a testimony for Himself, until at the close the final outrage is permitted which brings down speedy judgment. For" when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that cometh up out of the abyss shall make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom' and Egypt,' where also their Lord was crucified. And from among the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations do men look upon their dead bodies three days and a half, and suffer not their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. And they that dwell upon the earth rejoice over them and make merry; and they shall send gifts to one another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwell on the earth. And after the three days and a half, the breath of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which beheld them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither.' And they went up into heaven in the cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And in that hour there was 'a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell; and there were killed in the earthquake seven thousand persons: and the rest were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven."

If the twelve hundred and sixty days of the prophetic testimony agree with the last half of the closing week of Daniel, they coincide with the time of the beast's permitted power, and the death of the witnesses is his last political act. That a certain interval of time should follow before his judgment, which takes place under the third and not the second woe, does not seem to conflict with Rev. 13:5, where it should read, "power was given unto him to practice" — not "continue," — "forty and two months." The last act of tyranny may have been perpetrated in the slaying of the witnesses and indeed it seems a thing fitted to be the close of power of this kind permitted him. With this the storm-cloud of judgment arises, which smites him down shortly after.

If, however, the duration of the testimony be for the first half of the week, then the power of the beast begins with the slaughter of the witnesses, and the three and a half years' tribulation follows, which does not seem to consist with the judgment and its effects three and a half days afterward. Then, too, the second woe is past" (v. 14), and the third announces the kingdom of Christ as having come. But we shall yet consider this more closely when we come, if the Lord will, to the interpretation of the vials.

Here, then, for the first time, the beast out of the abyss comes plainly into the scene. In Daniel, and in Rev. 13, he does not come out of the abyss, but out of the sea but in the seventeenth chapter he is spoken of as "about to come up out of the abyss," showing undeniably that it is the same "beast" as Daniel's fourth one, — the Roman empire. In the first case, as coming out of the sea, it has a common origin with the other three empires — the Babylonian, Persian, and Grecian — out of the heaving deep of Gentile nations. Then we find in Revelation what from Daniel we should never have expected, but what in fact has certainly taken place, — that the empire which is to meet its judgment at the coming of the Lord does not continue uninterruptedly in power till then. There is a time in which it ceases to be, — and we can measure this time of non-existence already by centuries, — and then it comes back again in a peculiar form, as from the dead: "the beast that was and is not, and shall be present." (Rev. 17:8.) This rising again into existence we would naturally take as its coming up out of the abyss, — out of the death state, — and think that we were at the bottom of the whole matter. The truth seems to be not quite so simple, but here is not the place to go into it further.

For the present, it is enough to say that the coming up out of the abyss is in fact a revival out of the death state, but, as a comparison with the fifth trumpet may suggest, revival by the dark and demon-influences which are there represented as in attendance upon the angel of the abyss. It is the one in whom is vested the power of the revived empire who concentrates the energy of his hatred against God in the slaying of the witnesses.

The place of their death is clearly Jerusalem: "Their dead bodies lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called 'Sodom' and 'Egypt,' where also their Lord was crucified." Certainly no other place could be so defined: and thus defined and characterized for its lusts as Sodom, for its cruelty to the people of God as Egypt, it is not now called the "holy," but the "great" city, — great even in its crimes. In its street their bodies lie, exposed by the malice of their foes which denies them burial, but allowed by God as the open indictment of those who have thus definitively rejected His righteous rule. The race of the prophets is at an end, which has tormented them with their claim of the world for God and the men of the earth rejoice, and send gifts to one another. Little do they understand that when His testimony is at an end, there is nothing left but for God Himself to come in and to manifest a power before which man's power shall be extinguished as flax before the flame.

And the presage of this quickly follows. "And after the three days and a half, the breath of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which beheld them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, 'Come up hither.' And they went up into heaven in the cloud; and their enemies beheld them."

If this is the time of the addition of the saints martyred under the beast's persecution to the first resurrection, of which the vision in the twentieth chapter speaks, then it is plain that we are arrived at the end of the beast's power against the saints, and of the last week of Daniel. "Two" is the number of valid testimony (John 8:17), and these two witnesses may, in a vision like that before us, stand for many more, — nay, for this whole martyred remnant in Israel. We cannot say it is so, but we can as little say it is not so and even the suggestion has its interest: for thus this appendix to the sixth trumpet seems designed to put in place the various features of Daniel's last week, the details of which are opened out to us in the seven chapters following, with many additions. And this we might expect in a connected chain of prophecy which stretches on to the end; for under the seventh trumpet the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of the Lord, and of His Christ, and the "time of the dead to be judged" is at least contemplated.

The resurrection of the witnesses is not all: a great earthquake follows, "and the tenth part of the city fell; and there were killed in the earthquake seven thousand persons; and the rest were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven."

Thus the sixth trumpet ends in a convulsion in which judgment takes, as it were, the refused tithe from a rebellious people. There is a marked similarity here between the trumpets and the vials, which end also in an earthquake and judgment of the great city: as to which we may see further in its place. The rest that are not slain give glory to the God of heaven. It is the unacceptable product of mere human fear, which has no practical result; for God is claiming the earth, not simply heaven, and for the affirmation of this claim His witnesses have died. They can allow Him heaven who deny Him earth. And judgment takes its course.

The second woe ends with this, and the third comes quickly after it.

 

The Kingdom. (Rev. 11:15-18.)

The third woe is the coming of the kingdom!

Yes; that to greet which the earth breaks out in gladness, the morning without clouds, the day which has no night, and the fulfillment of the first promise which fell upon man's ears when he stood a naked sinner before God to hear his doom, the constant theme of prophecy now swelling into song and now sighed out in prayer, that kingdom is yet, to the "dwellers upon earth," the last and deepest woe.

The rod of iron is now to smite, and omnipotence it is that wields it. "And the seventh angel sounded, and there followed great voices in heaven, and they said, 'The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.'"

Few words and concise, but how pregnant with blessed meaning! The earth that has rolled from its orbit is reclaimed; judgment has returned to righteousness; He who has learned for Himself the path of obedience in a suffering which was the fruit of tender interest in man has now Himself the sceptre; nor is there any power that can take it out of His hand.

There are no details yet: simply the announcement, which the elders in heaven answer with adoration, prostrate upon their faces, saying, "We give Thee thanks, O Lord God the Almighty, who art and who wast, that Thou hast taken Thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead to be judged, and to give their reward to Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear Thy name, small and great; and to destroy them that destroy the earth."

There is nothing difficult here in the way of interpretation, except that the "time of the dead to be judged" seems to come with the period of the earthly judgments which introduce millennial blessing. We find in the twentieth chapter full assurance that this is not to be. The explanation is that we have here the setting up of the kingdom in its full results, and that the order is one of thought and not of time. The judgments of the quick (or living) and of the dead are both implied in the reign of our Lord and of His Christ, though they are not executed together. God's wrath is mentioned first, because it is for the earth the pre-requisite of blessing, and because judgment is not what He rests in, but in His love. It is therefore put first, that the realization of the blessing may come after, and not give place to it. But this wrath of God which meets and quells the nations' wrath goes on and necessitates the judgment of the dead also. Death is no escape from it: the coming One has the keys of death and hades.

With this the holiness of God is satisfied, and the love in which He rests is free to show itself in the reward of prophets and saints, and those who fear His name, little as well as great. This seems as general in its aspect as the judgment of the dead on the other side unquestionably is. The foremost mention of the prophets, as those who have stood for God in testimony upon the earth, is in perfect keeping with the character of the whole book before us. And the destruction of those who destroy the earth is not noticed here apparently as judgment so much as to assure us of the reparation of the injury to that which came out of His hands at first, and in which He has never ceased to have tender interest, despite the permitted evil of "man's day."