The Revelation of John

Notes.

Division 2. (Rev. 4 — 22.)

Things that come to pass after these. The salvation of Israel and the earth.

Subdivision 2. (Rev. 8:6 — 11:18.)

The trumpets. The progress of judgment to salvation.

We have now the trumpets, therefore, in successive, orderly course; it is the progress of a judgment which is yet to salvation, and by which the earth is to come into a new state of blessing such as has never yet been known. As already said, the trumpets are trumpets of jubilee, yet Jericho is to be destroyed. The fashion of the world, evil world as it has been, pass away; and in no other manner can salvation for man at large be reached. The trumpets proclaim this aloud. If the seals show us mysteries that have to be penetrated, the trumpets speak plainly; and that, whether all their details may be clear to us or not.

Section 1. (Rev. 8:6-13.)

The empire under its seventh head.

Nevertheless, we come at first to what has been always found one of the most difficult parts of Revelation, and as to which thoughts of interpreters are perhaps the most diverse. The fact is that, as to these early trumpets, there is a significant hint given us which will in measure explain the mystery in which they are involved. This is found in the vision which follows the sixth trumpet, in the same way exactly as the visions of the seventh chapter follow the sixth seal. In this, we may well look for that which will cast light upon all that is before us. In the vision following the sixth trumpet we see, first of all, an angel descending out of heaven, who claims the sea and the land — the whole earth therefore — for God. It is no doubt once more Christ in angelic form, as that which is said of Him proves; but we need not pause upon this now: the great point for us at present is, that we are brought thus manifestly into connection, in a more decisive way than before, with God's purposes of blessing for the earth at large. For this, it must be manifestly His; and thus we are brought into connection also in a fuller way than before with the prophets who speak of this — with the prophets, therefore, of the Old Testament. As He comes down, the Angel has in His hand a little book, which, in contrast with that which was in Christ's hand before, is open now. It is a little book, in implied contrast with the other, just as its being open is in contrast with the sealing of the other, and the Angel Himself declares that now there is to be delay no longer, "but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, who is about to sound, the mystery of God shall be completed, according to the good tidings which He declared by His servants the prophets." This ought to make us prepared for what we find is before us when the book has been taken by John — a vision of the temple of God and the holy city, but now trodden under foot of the Gentiles, yet a testimony of God preserved in it which is to last for a period which is the exact half of a week of years. We are, in short, in the last week of Daniel's seventy, as all that is connected with this shows, and thus manifestly also where is found the full light of prophetic testimony. The little book is the testimony of Israel's prophets — little just because it is confined to earth and the divine purposes as to it, and does not in any wise reach to the full compass of that which the New Testament has revealed to us.

But if this is found only at the end of the sixth trumpet, we shall easily understand that that which takes place before this, although in the same line of things, yet can be but introductory to what the prophets speak. We are left (apart, of course, from the general indications furnished by the prophetic testimony) to a kind of isolated interpretation, if we may so say, of the former part here, and therefore we need not wonder if we find difficulty in it. No doubt we are by no means altogether left to this. We have helps and assistances which we must not disregard. We shall find that the very succession of these trumpets, plainly given as it is, every one numbered, will be a help to us. There is a certain connection of them with one another which any right interpretation of them must bring out. Events do not merely follow one another, but more or less grow out of one another. They are a divine series, and not a mere bringing together of disconnected things.

Then again, we shall find, probably, that just here, where Israel's prophets seem in measure to fail us, there comes to our help what mere Futurism indeed refuses, but which, nevertheless, has meaning and help for us in its place, namely, the historical interpretation of Revelation: if we make it the whole thing, it will certainly display its inadequacy; but in these trumpet-proclaimed judgments, especially under the fifth and sixth trumpets, it acquires a consistency which certainly speaks for its truthfulness. We must examine somewhat this historical interpretation at a future time, but nothing forbids us to call it to our help here if we should find, as we may, help in it. If God has given us in the history of the Church — as it would be folly to deny — what may very well seem but the echo of Israel's history, the parallelism which we shall thus find should be helpful to confirm the two interpretations here, which may well be expected to be parallel. At any rate, we must search for ourselves and see.

Now the general historic 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 later 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; the fifth and sixth trumpets turning now to judgments upon the eastern half, by the hands of Saracen and Turk; and the seventh being universal in its character. 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. (Compare 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 us 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 as 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 aspect, 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, namely, the eastern (Asia Minor, Syria, Arabia, Egypt); the central (Moesia, Greece, Illyricum, Rhoetia); the western (Italy, Gaul, Britain, Spain, Northwestern Africa); and that the third, or western part, was destroyed." 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, 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 must be existing at the time of the end, when, because of the words of the little horn, judgment comes down upon it (Dan. 7:11). 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" (ver. 8). So it is called "the beast that was, and is not, and shall come." 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 (Rev. 13:3, 12, 14). It is after this that it becomes idolatrous, as Daniel has intimated that it will, and all the world wonders after it (vers. 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 fulfilment 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, says the angel, "five are fallen, 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 which have to be settled with the historical interpretation; but in the meantime the course of the trumpets, 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; under the third, apostasy is added to this, casting off the restraint of divine government, soon to grow into the last and worst form of Christianity according to Satan — Antichrist: it is the opposition of deified humanity to incarnate Deity.

The result is, under the fourth trumpet, as it would appear, that the imperial power is 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!"

1. The first trumpet now sounds, and there is "hail and fire mingled with blood," and they are cast upon the earth: and the third part of the earth is burnt up, and the third part of the trees, and all the green grass. We find in this what connects itself with one of the plagues of Egypt, and there is a reference in the prophets (Micah 7:15) to some repetition of the plagues of Egypt in the last days: "As in the days of your coming forth out of the land of Egypt, will I show unto him marvelous things." The trumpets and vials, so similar as they are to one another, similarly speak also with regard to the judgments of the latter days. It is not necessary to believe, as we are sometimes assured we must, that these plagues in Revelation must have the same physical form that the plagues in Egypt had. We are intended to learn, no doubt, by the resemblance; and Egypt being, as we know, the type of the world out of which our salvation is, we can see again how these judgments are judgments upon the world in order to the deliverance of God's people out of it. But in the time of which we now are thinking, it is Israel that is God's people; and the relation that we have seen exists here, so far as it is a relation of type and antitype, would speak rather for a dissimilarity than complete likeness between them. The shadow differs from the substance, and we are led rather to expect the repetition of these Egyptian plagues in their symbolical meaning than literally. This does not lessen its importance for us.

We find the hail with fire, of the first trumpet, among these plagues of Egypt. Symbolically it is one of the most solemn figures of divine judgment which nature furnishes. In the eighteenth psalm it is found in solemn connection: "The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave His voice: hailstones and coals of fire." Electric discharges and hail are products of a common 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 concord of apparent contraries. Cold is 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. Both these things can therefore exist together. God's forsaking is in anger necessarily. Love with Him could not forsake; therefore if there be on His part withdrawal, this cannot be a mere cold turning away. There is with Him no apathy, no mere indifference; and thus the heat of His anger necessarily accompanies His withdrawal. With the hail and fire blood is mingled here — a token of violent death, which shows the deadly character of a visitation by which the third part of the earth, the third part of the trees, and all green grass, is burnt up. The earth is not the globe, but the prophetic earth; and this is practically the territory of Daniel's four empires.

The third part, as already said, would seem to refer to the revived Roman empire in that western portion, which was in fact what was essentially Roman, and which is what seems to be revived. There is no need to suppose, as many do, that the revival of the Roman empire necessarily infers the exact boundaries that it had of old. The empire may be the same empire without this, and in the last days the West and the East seem to be not merely in separation, but in decisive opposition to one another. It is this third part of the earth, then, that is visited in this way. By the language, it seems to affect especially the lower ranks of the people, though, as necessarily would be the case, many of the higher also, but rather in contradistinction to 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 the governments go on; and in what follows we find that they do go on, although never really recovering themselves. Under this trumpet now begins, as it would seem, what should really cause them to collapse. Everywhere prosperity is gone, as the burning of the grass may imply; while the trees, which speak of that more deeply rooted in the earth, and which has power to stand as it were alone, are less affected. It is noticeable how in Isaiah (Isa. 2:13, 14), in the day of the Lord, the judgment is said to be "upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up." Everywhere it is upon that which lifts itself up that the Lord's judgment is; and the loftiness of man is specially emphasized. But the sources of all prosperity are rather found among the lowest than among the highest: "The king himself is served by the field" (Ecc. 5:9); and thus this first judgment strikes really all that is stable.

2. But the second trumpet seems at first sight to be in a different line, while the symbolic meaning shows the real connection. "As it were, a great mountain burning with fire" is cast into the sea, and the third part of the sea becomes blood, and the third part of the living creatures in the sea die, and the third part of the ships are destroyed. A reference to Jeremiah may help us here. Of Babylon, Jehovah says, "Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, which destroyest all the earth, and I will stretch out My hand upon thee and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain" (Jer. 25). The difference is plain, of course, as well as the similarity; but the comparison suggests to us here a power mighty, firmly seated and exalted, yet full of volcanic forces in conflict, by which not only her own bowels are torn out, but ruin is 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. Such a state of eruption we might see in France at the end of the eighteenth century, which may well illustrate what seems intended. There 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 time of final judgment approaches, we may expect to find such pre-intimations of it; and thus there is a growth on to, and preparation for, that which at last takes those who have not received warning by it 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. Here let us notice that, mighty as the power may be, the eruption is from below, and how the distress amongst the lowest classes operates to produce it. Thus the two trumpets here connect together.

3. The third angel sounds, and there falls out of heaven a great star burning as a lamp, which, falling upon the third part of the rivers and springs of water, makes them poisonously bitter. The star is thus called Wormwood, or Absinthe, which is a bitter, intoxicating, and poisonous herb. The heavens are the sphere of government, whether civil or spiritual. A ruler of either kind might therefore be indicated here. 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 are 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." How much the warnings of this abound in the present day it is hardly needful to insist upon. False prophets of every kind are more and more showing themselves. In the French revolution, at the end of the eighteenth century, the revolt against existing governments linked itself with revolt against Christianity; and the social and anarchical movements which have followed, and indeed have largely sprung out of it, are uniformly allied with infidel and atheistic avowals as extreme as any of that time. 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 the Revelation. Here it is only the place to say that his birthplace in this book seems to be under the third trumpet — though his descent more strictly than his rising. He is the fruit of apostasy, as the second epistle to the Thessalonians (2 Thess. 2:3) would lead us to anticipate, and the second chapter of John's first epistle no less.

The rivers and springs of water naturally speak of doctrine. The living water is the well known symbol of the Spirit of God; but, as acting through the Word, water becomes the symbol of this, as we find it in Eph. 5:26 — "the washing of water by the Word." Here, that which should have been refreshment and blessing is distilled into poison; and what this bodes is easy to understand when we remember that if the Lord has now taken His true saints to heaven, the rest have become wholly distasteful to Him, and are to be spewed out of His mouth. Apostasy is the natural issue; and here again the premonitions of this are to be found on every side. Let us remember, also, that the casting off of divine government leads naturally to the casting off of human government as well; and here we find the connection with that which follows, although if merely human government is thrown off, that does not mean but that there may be, as in fact there will be, a form of government arising out of this chaos which will suit the purpose of the prince of this world better than anarchy itself. He can organize as well as merely destroy. He can vivify as well as slay, and we shall find that this is just what the course of things will show us here.

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

Here, then, as it would seem, we have the fall of the revived Roman empire in its seventh head. So far from there being any difficulty in the connection with what has preceded, it is throughout simple and consistent. There is perfect harmony with the prophecy elsewhere, as well as, so far as we can trace it, with the voice of prophecy in general — the prophecy, however, of the New Testament, rather than of the Old. What we are looking at is the collapse of Christianity itself, as an earth-power, with all that with which politically it is connected. We go on to see evils much more intense which arise out of this, and in which the power of Satan over men is most amply demonstrated. Well may the voice of lamentation be heard here, even in that which is a denunciation of judgment. "I heard," says the apostle, "one eagle flying in mid-heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to those that dwell upon the earth, by reason of the rest of the trumpet-voices of the three angels which are about to sound!"

The eagle, or vulture, is the symbol of judgment, for which the carcass, as the figure of corruption, calls; and thus the Lord's words in the Gospels, "Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together" (Matt. 24:28). Spite of the common application of this to the saints as rising to meet their coming Lord, there is an incongruousness in it which one feels ought to shock every Christian soul. Scripture never suggests such degrading parallels, and the Lord's words have a totally different connection. The lightning, coming from the east and shining even to the west, figures the storm and not the calm — the awful horror of judgment, and not the joy of gathering to Christ. All this part of the twenty-fourth chapter, to the end of the forty-second verse, is Jewish in its connection, and not Christian; and that which has misled so many in the parallel passage in Luke 17:37, the connection with what we find in Matthew also, but in a more distant way, — where of two men in one bed, the one is taken and the other left; two women grinding together at the mill, the one is taken and the other left, — all this is but in perfect harmony. Those taken are taken by the judgment, not to blessing. The earth is being cleared by judgment. Thus that which is corrupting upon it must be removed, and the illustration by the case of Noah and the generation of his day, when the flood came and took them all away, shows that the taking away is this. So in the parallel case of Lot: "In the day that Lot went forth from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all." But when the Lord takes away His people, destruction does not come upon them in any such manner. The confusion commonly made between the time of the Lord's taking His own away, and that of His coming with them to the judgment, is responsible for the whole distortion of the picture here.

Section 2. (Rev. 9 — 11:18.)

Alliance with the enemy.

In evil we may always expect a constant development. It is a kingdom, and the head of it is the great apostate, Satan himself. Thus if God only permit things to have their way, as He is doing now in that which is before us in the prophecy, we must expect that the picture will grow ever darker until the great consummation when the lightning of divine wrath will at last enlighten the whole and disperse it, and the day will at last come. What distinguishes the last three woes from what has gone before is the introduction, manifestly, of Satan himself into the scene. Christianity is that which, as light, holds in check the darkness as long as its power continues. We see, indeed, its manifest waning in the present day; but when the Church is removed, and, with the Church, the Spirit of God as dwelling in it is gone out of the scene, then the apostasy from Christianity will link itself more and more openly with the enemy of God and man. We have seen in the history of the churches themselves, as given in the seven epistles, a similar progress, although necessarily not as open; but now we come to the days in which the lawless one shall exalt himself against "all that is called God or that is worshiped," and his "coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders;" God allowing to be taken with a strong delusion those who believed not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

1. Accordingly, when the fifth angel sounds, we see a star fallen from heaven to the earth, to whom is given the key of the pit of the abyss, and the pit of the abyss is opened. The star is not seen to fall, as under the third trumpet. It has already fallen; and we are necessarily referred back to the third trumpet for its previous history. It is the history of an apostate. To him is given the key of the abyss, and by his means there is opened upon the earth from the pit of the abyss a Satanic influence pictured as a smoke of a great furnace, so that the sun is darkened and the air, by the smoke of the pit. The abyss, or bottomless pit, is not hell itself; nor, according to Scripture, is Satan yet there. Yet the abyss is a "pit," often in the Old Testament the synonym for a dungeon, and everything shows it to have this meaning here; for it is a key by which alone it can be opened. The "pit of the abyss" is the "dungeon of the abyss," — the dungeon which is that; an infinite deep from which nothing can recover itself, except by divine permission. 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: but the distinction between that abyss and hell itself, which is the lake of fire, is manifest in what is said in that connection. In the Old Testament, parallel to this 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 pit and the prison are synonymous. That it is not hell proper is seen again from the use of the word with regard to the Lord Himself (Rom. 10:7): "Who shall descend into the deep (abyss); that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead?" 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; and the beast in its last phase is said to come up out of the abyss. Here, too, the death-state is indicated. It naturally refers to the wounding to death and revival of the beast, or of the seventh head (Rev. 13:3, 12, 14). Some have even contended, seeing the identification of the beast, or empire, with its last head (Rev. 17:11), for the literal resurrection of a person in this case. But literal resurrection could only be from God, and the beast in its last form is filled and energized by Satan (Rev. 13:1, 2). The coming out of the abyss, therefore, is figurative, as the beast itself is; and indeed the use of the word seems figurative throughout. 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 eruption of the spirits of the lost upon the earth. The demons, it is urged, were, in heathen account, but "the spirits of mortals when separated from their earthly bodies;" and Josephus is cited for the orthodox Jewish opinion that "demons are none other than the spirits of the wicked dead. With very few exceptions, the Christian fathers were of like opinion, . . . and the burden of evidence and authority is to the effect that demons are the souls of dead men, particularly the spirits of those who bore a bad character in this life. There is no such thing known in the Bible as a good demon." This does not suit, however, with that which the Lord gives us from the mouth of the rich man in Hades, who is assured by Abraham of a great gulf fixed between the two classes there (Luke 16:26), "so that they who would pass from hence to you cannot, neither can they pass to us that would come from thence." This naturally intimates that, at least without distinct permission, the spirits of the dead would not be found upon earth. God might, of course, give permission, and it is said here that to the fallen star the key of the pit is "given;" this, no doubt, from God; for if Christ be the Master of the prison-house, none plainly could break bounds without His permission. The dead are by their death removed from the sphere of earth, and those shut up to await judgment can scarcely be thought of as at the same time taking active part in that which is done upon the earth. The thought of Satan being in hell and yet taking such part as it is confessed he does, naturally leads to the thought that with regard to the spirits of the dead there may be the same thing. But Satan is not in hell, as we have seen; nor, as yet, even in the abyss. And the days of men upon earth are ended when the earthly life is. Thus we read that it is for "deeds done in the body," and not out of it, that men are to give account in the day of judgment.

But we have to remember here, surely, that the whole language is symbolic. We are not called upon to believe that Christ literally puts the key of the prison-house into the hands of an apostate. The symbolism of the language here sets aside the whole moral question as to such a thing. Man certainly has the terrible power of yielding himself to the power of evil so as to open, not merely for himself, but for others also, the access to himself and others of that which lies otherwise under the restraint of God's judgment. At the time to which we are brought here this will be done, as we have seen, in a way such as has never been known as yet; but it is the abandonment to a lie of those that love a lie; and thus fittingly that which is said to rise out of the pit is but a smoke of darkness, by which everything, to the very sun itself, is darkened. Out of this smoke come locusts upon the earth, the evil bringing its own torment with it. It is not said that the locusts come directly out of the pit. It may be natural indeed to think that after all they cannot be bred of the smoke merely, but must have come out of the pit with this. But where the spiritual sense is the whole matter, naturalistic interpretations may easily deceive us. Recognizing that these are symbols, there is no difficulty. The smoke is not the smoke of torment, but the fumes of malign influences darkening men's minds. Out of this darkness we can easily understand such locusts as we have here to be bred. The symbolism, one would think, is manifest, and we can scarcely escape from it by saying that these are "supernatural, infernal, not earthly, locusts." 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, the sting of malignant error; and their distinction from natural locusts is seen in this, that they do not touch the food of such, but are a plague only upon men, and these the unsealed men. Remembering that it is in Israel that this sealing has taken place, it seems to be clear that the unsealed ones too are Israelites, and that the sphere of this plague is in the East. They do not kill, as in general the scorpion does not, but inflict a torment to which death is preferable; and their power lasts five months. The death here is plainly not spiritual, but simple, natural death. Men long to die as their escape from torment, but death flees from them.

Next we 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 are like horses prepared to 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 are as the faces of men. They have the dignity and apparent independence belonging to such. Nevertheless, their hair is as the hair of women, for they are in fullest subjection to the dark and dreadful power that rules over them. Their teeth as the teeth of lions shows the savage, tenacious grip with which they can hold their prey; their breastplates of iron, probably 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, as most important, we are again reminded of their scorpion stings and their power to hurt men five months. From this it has been urged that we have, in fact, to double the five months and make it ten; but the words themselves prohibit such a thought. The repetition is plainly for the sake of emphasis.

They have a king over them, the angel of the abyss, whose name is given (exactly the same in meaning) in Hebrew and in Greek. The use of the Hebrew joins with what we have seen before, 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." It is natural to think of Satan in such connections; and Satan, we are reminded, is the inspirer of antichrist. The historical application in this case is one in which there is great unanimity among interpreters. They are applied 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, and 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, 150 years — all these things have been pointed out as fulfilment 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; and because they are external they are well fitted to strike the imagination. The parable is, as we know, a very common method of instruction everywhere in Scripture. Thus God would open our eyes to what is indeed all around us; and to stop at what is external, or to ignore it, is alike an error. But in any case, and for reasons already considered, we cannot take this Saracenic scourge as any complete fulfilment of the locust vision; nor can we, on the other hand, connect it in full certainty with other prophecy, as would be necessary for very clear interpretation. What seems indicated, however, with regard to its final fulfilment in the time yet to come, is the rise and propagation of that desolation to which we know both the masses of mere Christian profession and of the unbelieving Jews will in the end surrender themselves. The antichrist of that time will be, there is little doubt, both an apostate from Christianity (2 Thess. 2) 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, under Satanic influence, will soon find definite expression both 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 to have the Greek name of the leader seems to speak also of the connection with Gentiles. If the application here made be the true one, then we know that the wicked one will not be a Jewish false Christian 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."*

{*As to the duration of this woe, five months, little may be said beyond what is given in the text in connection with the historical interpretation. Five, however, is the number of human capacity and the limit of human responsibility; ten being but the twofold witness of this, manward and Godward, as seen in the Ten Commandments. The time of this intense persecution, then, will not be beyond the limits of human endurance, or, at least, beyond the measure of human responsibility. The fact, too, that men were not slain but only tormented would also indicate this. May we not also see a measure of mercy in this limitation of the time of this infliction? "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." It would almost seem as though God were yet calling upon men in this sore judgment to turn to Him. We see, indeed, that this is implied in the next plague (ver. 20), where men still refuse to repent. — S.R.}

2. The sounding of the sixth trumpet is followed by a voice out of the horns of the golden altar which is before God. We recognize it at once as that which has furnished the incense added to the prayers of the saints by the Angel-Priest, and that we have here what is distinctly judgment upon the persecutors of the people of God. We have only to remember, also, that the idolatry in Israel in the last days is spoken of as "the abomination of desolation" (that is, the abomination which brings the desolator) to see an intimation of the connection between what has taken place under the fifth trumpet and what is here. In Dan. 9:27 it is said literally, "And because of the wing of abominations there shall be a desolator." The wing of abominations is in contrast with that sheltering wing of the God of Israel under which the true remnant amongst them have learned to trust. The voice from the altar may remind us of one who has caused sacrifice and oblations to cease from the place whence it went up to God. The altar here is indeed the golden altar, not the altar of sacrifice itself; but the blood of the sacrifice had to be applied to the horns of the golden altar in order that incense might go up from it. It is more emphatic as read now: "one voice out of the four horns" — their united cry against the blasphemous invader. The cry is for judgment, to loose the four angels that are bound by the great river Euphrates.

The Euphrates was the boundary of the old Roman empire, and there the four angels are said to be bound — restrained, it may be, by the power of the empire itself, until, having risen up against God, their own hands throw 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 is the seat of the beast's supremacy, with which the power of Antichrist is found allied. 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, as it once really was, 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 fulfilment, 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. This 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 host, 200,000,000 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 number is particularly emphasized: "I heard the number of them;" and yet it seems impossible to be literal except we take it, as some would do, as applying to angelic hosts, where, of course, all our reasoning is lost. The horses seem to be of chief importance, and are most dwelt upon, though their riders are first described, but only with regard to their "breastplates of fire and jacinth 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. In this there is no possible contradiction, as we know. 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.

3. It has been already noticed that the difficulty of interpretation with regard to the trumpets hitherto is the result of their lying so much outside the field of vision of Old Testament prophecy. We are now coming, however, to what is completely within that field, and in this way the little book in the angel's hand speaks: a book which is opened, not needing to be opened, comparatively small in its scope, as Old Testament prophecy, compared with the larger range of the book of Revelation itself, necessarily is. The visions that follow here are all the filling up of Old Testament outlines. This we shall see as we take them up in detail.

(1) 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 on 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 in connection with the seals, and we may be sure that 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; and this is what the numbers speak of. Thank God, we know whose hand it is. But the vision of the trumpet-series is very unlike that of the seals, and its burden of sorrow differs 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 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 yet "clothed with a cloud" — a veil 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 a 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 around 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 which 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, as noticed before, a little book. It has not the scope and fulness of the other. We hear nothing of how the writing fills up, and overflows the page. It is a little book which is open, until now shut up, but which is no longer shut up; a book, too, whose contents (evidently connected with the action of the angel here) have to do with the earth simply, not with heaven also, as the seven-sealed book has. We have in this what should surely 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 of Peter's to the new heavens and earth, it does not go; and the new heavens are not the subject here, but the earth-heavens, the heavens of the second day, as Peter very distinctly shows. There is no heavenly city in prospect here. There is no rule over the earth on the part of Christ's co-heirs such as we have found in the song of Revelation. All this the Christian revelation adds to the Old Testament, while in the present book 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, those with whom shall be filled the thrones which Daniel sees "placed," but sees not the occupants (Dan. 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 everywhere 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 fulfilment 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 ranging themselves preparatory to the final accomplishment. But yet the proper fulfilment 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 gathered the heavenly saints to heaven, He shall put forth 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. 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), 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," Daniel's "wild beast," in full activity (Dan. 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 earth lifted up his right hand to heaven and swore by Him that liveth to the ages of ages, 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 by His servants the prophets."

All is of a piece here: 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, 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, the same 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 completely justified, the murmur of doubt forever silenced.

(2) 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."

The prophet begins here, therefore, what is a repetition in part of what has been already communicated by the prophets of old. He has to "prophesy again of peoples and nations and tongues and many kings." He is giving us thus, with additions certainly, what is contained in the Old Testament prophets. He is giving us the little open book.

(3) We are coming now, therefore, to the contents of the little book; and, as the numerical structure would show us here, we see how the sanctuary-worshipers are set apart to God. It is Israel's sanctuary, of course, that is contemplated — one which has been long lying empty, and which in the days before its re-anointing becomes the sign of the most open defiance of God that has ever been witnessed upon the earth, and that can be witnessed but once. The enemy is in the sanctuary, and idolatry there rears its head in the place of the name of the God of Israel. Through this distress it is, nevertheless, that God forms and educates a people for Himself: and these pains are the throes of travail by which at length (and, as it might seem, "in a day) a nation is born." Israel's new nation, new in spirit, has never as yet been seen. We have here God's witness among them, by which the separation of the remnant is accomplished, which remnant, through the purgation of the judgment coming on, becomes the nation.

(a) The remembrance that we have before us now, that which carries us back to those prophecies of Daniel with which we should now be sufficiently familiar, guides at once as to the interpretation of what is before us. The mention of the "beast," and of the precise period of forty-two months or 1260 days, that is the half-week of his last or seventieth week previous to the coming in of blessing for Israel to the earth, is by itself conclusive. This week we have seen to be, in fact, divided by the taking away of the daily sacrifice in the midst of it (Dan. 9:27). It is by the direct opposition to God involved in this that the man of sin is revealed. Hence it would seem clear that it is with the last half-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. In a sense, no doubt, this is symbolical; that is, that the "temple" stands for its worshipers. We are not to think literally of the temple; and yet a purely symbolical interpretation, which would make us understand, for instance, the Church as the temple of God, would lead us, as is evident, far away from the truth. God measures the temple in token of His care of it. A reed like a staff is given to the prophet, that he may do this. If a reed suggests weakness (as all that is of God lies, at the time contemplated, under such a reproach), the words "like a staff" suggest the opposite of it. 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 is therefore, of course, the Jewish temple; not literal, but standing for Jewish worship and not Christian. Christian worship is over upon earth, and God is owning a people worshiping once more in connection with a temple, as of old. The altar as distinct from the temple proper would seem to be the altar of burnt-offering, upon which indeed for Israel all depended. It was there, too, God met with the people (Ex. 29:43), although, as we contemplate things here, the mass of the nation is 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 for whom the altar still avails. A literal rendering of things here would seem only to create the most perfect confusion. While God is owning the remnant of His people at this time, their sanctuary is yet being trodden under foot along with the holy city. Temple and altar can only thus represent the true worshipers connected with these, whom God preserves. "The holy city" can speak of but 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 faces. All must be fully weighed, must be self-consistent, and fitting in 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, the prophet is here bidden to rise and measure the temple of God. 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 the faith that recognizes Him!

(b) But where God 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 whole earth."

The reference here is plainly to Zech. 4; but there are also differences which are as plain. There the thing itself is 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 this claim is resisted; a sufficient testimony in the power of the Spirit, a spiritual light amidst the darkness, which does not banish the darkness. "And if any man desire 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 will." Here is certainly 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 more than Israel themselves. 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, while the other has had 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. That is the day that is before us here; and is not this proof that Elijah himself 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 come, and in his spirit and power fulfil 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 that it was Elias himself who was here, but there 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, and 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 endued with his spirit to complete the work for which he was raised up in Israel? Much more would all this hinder 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 as to 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 verse twelve really reads. And Malachi, just before the declaration of the mission of Elijah, 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.*

{*Doubtless this, as we have already seen in the second trumpet, is to be interpreted symbolically. — S.R.}

(c) God thus during the whole time of trouble and apostasy preserves a testimony for Himself, until at the close that 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 shall be upon the street of the great city which spiritually is called 'Sodom' and 'Egypt;' where also their Lord was crucified." If the 1260 days of 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 to him to practise" — 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 the duration of the testimony were supposed to be for the first half of the week, then the power of the beast would begin with the slaughter of the witnesses, and the three and a half years' tribulation follow; which does not seem to consist with the judgment and its effects, three and a half days afterwards.

Then, too, "the second woe is past" (ver. 14), and the third announces the kingdom of Christ as having come. It seems plain, therefore, that divine power maintains the testimony of the witnesses in spite of the reign of terror during the beast's usurpation, and that only at the end is it permitted to be, according to appearance, extinguished utterly. It is the time of the apparently perfect triumph of evil, and thus the dwellers upon the earth rejoice over them and make merry, because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt upon the earth. 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) after which it comes back 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 will be extinguished as flax before the flame.

And the presage of this quickly follows. "After the three days and a half, the spirit 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."*

{*"The triumphing of the wicked is short." This seems suggested by the brief period of dishonor permitted to these witnesses. The correspondence with the three years and a half of the great tribulation is suggestive. Evil has but that brief period to assert itself, but in reality its real triumph shrivels up into days. — S.R.}

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, and these two witnesses may, in a vision like that before us, stand for many more, nay, for the whole martyred remnant in Israel. We cannot say it is so, but we can as little say it is not so; but even the suggestion has its interest: for 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 the connected chain of prophecy which stretches on to the end: for under the seventh trumpet the kingdoms of this world have 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 7,000 persons — "names of men," as it is put here (significantly enough in a history of doom for those who are asserting their greatness upon the earth); "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 tithes 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 afterward.

4. 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 fulfilment 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. The seventh angel sounds, and there follow great voices in heaven, saying, "The world-kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ has come, and He shall reign to the ages of ages."

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 learnt 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 reward to Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and those that fear Thy name, small and great; and to destroy those 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 connect with the period of earthly judgments which introduce millennial blessing. It does not take place just then, as the twentieth chapter gives full proof. 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 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 in testimony for God on 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.