Revelation: its Scope and Character.
We have come now to the closing book of Scripture, the fifth part of its fifth pentateuch. It is fitting that this fifth part should be just one book, and no more. It is a book of prophecy, and of prophecy which has, as the mind of the Spirit, a unity; and here we find, in fact, the unity of all the prophecies. The number 5, as we have often seen, is a 4 and 1. The 7, which is the perfect number, breaks in half, as one may say, in the middle. It is ordinarily, at least, a 4 and 3, the 4 being a 3 and 1; — the 3, the number of deity, comes first, as is evidently its right place. Then comes the 4, which speaks of weakness, the creature under the control of the Creator, but which, alas, may come under other control also. Here is its liability to fail, and 4 is, as we know, the number of testing, and of failure also. Still, God's purpose will be fulfilled in it; and the 3 and 1, of which it is composed, show in the meaning of its factors the manifestation of the Creator in it. From this 4, another series of 3 completes the 7. In these we have the creature in its relationship to the Creator. Thus 7 is a 3+1+3. As such there can be nothing really to follow it. It is the number of completion — of perfection. We have, no doubt, an 8 also; but the 8 is in this way, as the first day of the new week, the beginning of a new series, and has its symbolic meaning from this. 5, therefore, is a 4 and 1, and is commonly divided in this way in Scripture. It is man or the creature with God, the weak with the strong. It is the number of Immanuel, in whom God and man are united forever; but it is the number, also, of man in responsibility to God — the number, therefore, of divine government as we find it eminently in this Book of Revelation, where, however, Immanuel, as the One who unites God and man, is the necessary thought everywhere.
A 5, as 4 and 1, is in this, also, a return to the beginning; and such it is here. God's first thoughts are also His last: — He holds to them. He is Himself the First and the Last, the living and unchanging One, who abides to carry out His purposes according to His own unchanging nature. Thus it is no wonder if, when we reach the end to which Revelation brings us, we find that we are once more contemplating the beginning. The beginning is now seen from the end; as, indeed, when we look closely into it, we find that the end was seen from the beginning. This, as we have already had before us, the six creative days distinctly show. Things are now seen more deeply, however, as the roll of the ages has worked them out in full. All is seen to be under the control of God, and to be a revelation of Himself, who is thus telling all His heart out to His creatures.
Revelation is Genesis enlarged and glorified. As already said, the days of creation show us all under His hand; and thus the numbering of the days, which is in the eyes of mere science but the crudity of an infantile conception, requiring (always and for all things) God; while the part of science (so they tell us) is to put God as far as possible in the background, and do without Him upon every possible occasion. But, in fact, the order seen here, as it is seen in creation itself, is nothing but the assertion everywhere of the Mind in it throughout. Thus the numbering of Scripture is not a mere numbering. It is a classification. What would we do without classification in science? it should not be strange, then, if Scripture has its own. Everything is put into its place by it, and its relation marked.
When we look but a little deeper, we find that there is progress everywhere — in fact, an evolution. This word belongs to theology, and mindless science can never represent it aright. What is evolved must be involved first. It is but the unfolding of what was in germ in the beginning; and this kind of evolution all nature witnesses, as it is plainly found also in Scripture. Look at these days, in which light, the expanse, the dry land, successively prepare the scene, which is then to be filled with firmamental lights, with creatures of water and air, and then of earth. This is not, in strictness, a zoological classification, which nature has never followed in its development, and which it never follows in its display. Nature is not a dead museum, but a living whole; and scientific classification, with all its use, lacks largeness to take in the various and subtle interweaving of threads into one pattern, though it may well exhibit the different threads themselves.
Yet Scripture, in its own brief way, has a more thorough classification implied in it than mere science can suggest, inviting research, not taking away the need of it. We see the distinctness and the relationship of the different lines to one another as parts of one perfect whole, the last dependent on the first, yet so that the first without the last would be a mere abortion. Life thus takes up the inorganic dust to lift it into a higher sphere, and enable it to serve in nobler ways than it seems naturally destined for. Here is a first step of progress, which shows the manner of the whole — a creature that cannot lift itself up, but must be lifted, and is lifted only by the uniting of a higher nature with it. Here is, for a spiritual mind, a gospel already, Christ already, and not very dimly, foreshadowed. With the creation of the soul, (which is marked out as not a development, but a distinct creation — God created the living soul,) the organization itself is raised to a higher level. The vegetable functions remain, and are incorporated in the animal, but now, besides this, there are self-directing and instinctive powers which need to be and are provided in it; and thus we have what is now for the first time called the "living creature." Life displays now its value in it Finally, by a new creation, man crowns this ascending series, in whom all former elements are combined, but reach a higher development. In him there is the dust of the ground, organization, a soul-life, but all this informed by a spirit in which we find now the image of its Maker, able to look up to Him upon the one hand, and, upon the other, down upon the lower ranks of creature-hood in communion with the glorious Creator. Adam thus fittingly gives names to all. And in man, as the image of God, a spirit from the Spirit, what a prophecy is before us, (incompetent as any one might be to understand it yet,) of Him who was to be, in a brighter and incomparable way, the true Image of the invisible God in manhood; in whom manhood itself shall find a higher plane than that for which it seemed destined, and God be seen in His place as God, yet stooping down in infinite tenderness to lift up the creature to Himself. Here is the Scriptural, the divine evolution in its whole extent; and must we not see the end, in order to appreciate rightly the beginning?
Nor does this progress of the creature stand alone, but the whole creative days leading up to the first Adam, who is himself a "first-born among many brethren," is but a continuous prophecy of the steps which should lead on to a new creation and a better Adam, with the woman (formed out of Him, bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh, the type, according to the apostle, of the Church in its relationship to Christ) completing the picture.
Then we have the Paradise garden and the tree of life, which we meet again as thoughts in Revelation. Notice also how in Revelation the numbering of Genesis begins again: seals, trumpets, vials, all are numbered, as the six days were, though now in connection with trumpet-calls of judgment which declare the vain opposition of the creature to God's thoughts, now to be set aside. Man, with a darker power behind him, has seemed to have his way a long time; and at last, according to prophecy, will parade his complete triumph; but thus only we reach what each one of the six days has declared, that "the evening and the morning are the day." There is a night implied, into which the day which has just shown itself passes, and may seem lost, but only to put upon everything the stamp of resurrection, which is the stamp of God Himself, when, out of that death in which the power of the creature is finally set aside, God, acting from Himself and by Himself, declares afresh His omnipotent power, bringing forth new life and higher beauty out of the ruin of the old.
Thus the cycle of which the preacher speaks as illustrating the vanity stamped upon man's passing generations (Ecc. 1) has in it also a higher and more comforting lesson. We find it in this return of Genesis in Revelation. The cycle is no more a mere cycle. It does not, in fact, return unto itself. The revolving earth does not return unto itself. The morning of the new day does, and yet does not, begin again the old one. The cycle is here a spiral rather than a proper circle; and we see this in the plant, the first living thing, as a law of its growth. God's ways do not bring us back again just to the beginning. He does not replace the ruined past. Always a brighter and better thing comes out of it. The new Adam is not the mere repetition of the old. The new Paradise is the Paradise of God, and not of man merely. The new tree of life is of another nature than that by which Adam was to be sustained in the beginning. The revolution of time brings us back so as to contemplate the old beginning, so as to show that it has not been forgotten. But we are now above it, not on the same plane; and thus we can discern how prophecy should spring out of history, the event being always, however, larger than the type, because God's law is always one of encouragement and progress — Adam in the primal Garden come back in a better.
Spite of the fall and ruin, God is always seen to be Master. The earth itself has a history of this kind written in its own bowels, the present rooting itself in the past, but above it. The future more than fulfils every promise of the past, and of necessity, therefore, all prophecy runs on to the complete fulfilment, intermediate fulfilments in the meanwhile showing that the first purpose abides, which the great end alone reveals in its perfection. Thus all prophecies run on towards the close. In a book like Revelation they must, therefore, all run together. The lines are not confused, but woven together in a perfect pattern, for which divine wisdom alone is competent. Thus we can understand that "no prophecy of Scripture is of its own interpretation." We must have for comparison the various lines, distinct as well as connected. We must not merge Israel and the Church, or forget even the purposes of God as to the earth, in higher and heavenly ones. The true revelation to interpret prophecy can only be found therefore, not in self-imagined canons, but by having before one the great promises of God, remembering how He challenges every thought of their undoing, especially with regard to Israel, His people (Jer. 31:35, 36), and that, even as to the new heaven and the new earth (Isa. 66:22). Thus, an interpretation of Revelation which practically, if not theoretically, leaves Israel out, cannot have the needed largeness, cannot give us the mind of God. The earth also needs to come into the field of view; and if science has in a mere godless way glorified matter, we shall find that God has overdone science in its own field, but in His own glorious manner.
The Various Schools of Interpretation.
It is well known that there are three main schools into which current interpretations of Revelation fall, each by itself deficient in its narrowness of vision.
We have Preterism, which contemplates a fulfilment almost wholly in the past; yet even this has a basis of truth in it, though as a whole it will satisfy no one who has worthy thoughts of inspiration.
Then we have Presentism, or Historicalism, giving large place to the Church, which Preterism does not, and in this way abundantly more satisfactory to the Christian apprehension of what Christ's Church is to Himself. Yet here Israel is, on the other hand, almost lost to view, large place as it surely has in all Old Testament prophecy. Here we find naturally a larger basis of truth, but still an incompetence to give us the whole of it.
Lastly, we have Futurism, which in its extreme form gives us nothing as to the present at all. Even the seven churches are looked at prophetically as future, and sometimes even Jewish. What the Lord Himself calls "things that are," are put, in fact, among the "things that shall be." The place of the Jew in prophecy, instead of being forgotten, has become so large as to cover nearly all the field. Incompetency is written upon this view from first to last.
From what has been said, and from the character of prophecy as a whole, it will be seen that we cannot adhere simply to any one of these views. We must find in some way a means of uniting them together, while we shall naturally find the importance of realizing the difference between the primary and secondary applications. We have seen already how these secondary applications are, more or less, fragmentary, imperfect anticipations of that which will alone give us the complete, satisfactory, final fulfilment. It is this alone which will stand all tests, which maintains inspiration at its full level, which has nowhere any apologies to make for failure. Here all discords end in the complete harmony.
Let us look first a little more closely at the schools that have been enumerated. Each has its strong points, which we must recognize. Preterism has these as the others have, worse than unsatisfying as it is, as a whole. Thus, if we look at what may seem a crucial point, it is able to resolve the number of the beast (Rev. 13:18) in a way which, if it stood alone, could not but be apparently most convincing. Thus, Farrar, who stands most boldly for this view throughout, can appeal to the singular fact that he can not only explain by it the name itself, but even the number, which in some copies replaces the common 666 — 616. The number of the name is, as every one is supposed to know, simply the number of the letters which compose it; letters standing for numbers both in the Greek and Hebrew alphabets. The beast is allowed on all hands to be the Roman empire, as identified with one of the seven heads which it carries in Revelation. "Beyond all shadow of doubt or uncertainty," says Farrar, "the wild beast from the sea is meant as a symbol of the emperor Nero. Here, at any rate, St. John has neglected no single means by which he could make his meaning clear without deadly peril to himself and the Christian Church."
He gives no less than seventeen marks: First, "It rises from the sea, by which," he says, "is perhaps indicated not only a western power, and therefore to a Jew a power beyond the sea, but perhaps especially one connected with the sea-washed peninsula of Italy."
Secondly, "It is a beast like one of Daniel's four beasts, but more portentous and formidable. . . . The beast is a symbol interchangeably of the Roman empire and of the emperor. In fact, to a greater degree than at any period of history, the two were one. Roman history had dwindled down into a personal drama. The Roman emperor could say with literal truth, 'L'Etat, c'est moi,' and a wild beast was a Jew's natural symbol either for a pagan kingdom or for its autocrat. When St. Paul was delivered from Nero, or his representative, he says quite naturally that he was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.' . . . Lactantius speaks of Nero as a tam mala bestia."
Third. "This wild beast of heathen power has ten horns, which represent the ten named provinces of imperial Rome."
Fourth. "Each one of its heads has the name of blasphemy. Every one of the seven kings, however counted, had borne the (to Jewish ears) blasphemous surname of Augustus, (Sebastos, 'one to be adored,') had received apotheosis, and been spoken of as divas after his death, had been honored with statues adorned with divine attributes, had been saluted with divine titles, and in some instances had been absolutely worshiped, and that in his lifetime, with temples and flamens, especially in the Asiatic provinces."
Fifth. "Diadems are on the horns because the Roman pro-consuls, as delegates of the emperor, enjoy no little share of the Cesarean autocracy and splendor, but
Sixth. "The name of blasphemy (for such is the true reading) is only on the heads, because the emperor alone receives divine honor, and alone bears the daring title of Augustus."
Seven. "One of the heads is wounded to death, but the deadly wound is healed. If there could be any doubt that this indicates the violent end and universally expected return of Nero, or, (which is the same thing for prophetic purposes,) of one like him, that doubt seems to be removed by the parallel description of the seventeenth chapter, where we are told that of the seven kings of the mystic Babylon —"
Eighth. "The five are fallen, the one is, the other is not yet come, and the beast that thou sawest was and is not, and is about to come out of the abyss. 'The beast that was and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven.' Can language be more apparently perplexing? Yet its solution is obvious. No explanation worthy the name has ever been offered of this enigma except that which makes it turn on the widespread expectation that Nero was either not dead, or that, even if dead, he would in some strange way return. Only two or three of the slaves and people of humble rank had seen his corpse. All of these, except one or two soldiers and the single freedman of Galba, had been his humble adherents. It seemed inconceivable that after a hundred years of imperialism the last of the divine race of Caesars should thus disappear like the foam upon the water. The five kings are Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius (Caligula), Claudius, and Nero. Since the seer is writing in the reign of Galba, the fifth king, Nero, was and is not. Otho, the seventh king, was not yet come. When he came, which could not be long delayed, for Galba was an old man, he was to reign for a short time, and then was to come the eighth, which it was expected would be Nero again, one of the previous seven, and so both the fifth and the eighth."
Farrar shows us afterwards how Domitian would serve the purpose of this revived head — "the bald Nero," as men called him.
Ninth. "All the earth wondered after the beast." The Roman Plebs had become sottish, licentious gamblers and one who was more gigantically sottish than themselves had become their ideal. The best comment on this particular may be found in the description of Tacitus of the manner in which all Rome, from its proudest senators down to its humblest artisans, poured forth along the public ways to receive with acclamations the guilty wretch who was returning from the Campagna, with his hands red with his murdered mother's blood."
Tenth. "That the world worshiped the dragon who gave his power to the beast would be a natural Jewish way of indicating the belief that the pagan world, when it offered holocausts for its emperor, was adoring devils for deities."
Eleventh. "The cries of the world, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him? sound like an echo of the shouts, Victories Olympic! victories Pythian! Nero the Hercules! Nero Apollo! Sacred One! the One of the Aeon!' — that is, unparalleled in all the world!"
Twelfth. "The 'mouth speaking great things and blasphemies' is the mouth which was incessantly uttering the most monstrous boasts and pretensions, declaring that no one before himself had the least conception of what things an emperor might do, and of the lengths to which he could go: the mouth which ordered the erection of his own colossus 120 feet high, adorned with the insignia and attributes of the sun. As for his blasphemies, Suetonius tells us that he was an avowed and even contemptuous atheist."
Thirteenth. "'Power was given to him to act for forty-two months.' The simplest explanation is that it refers to the time which elapsed between the beginning of Nero's persecution in November, 64, and his death in June, 68, which is almost exactly three and a half years."
Fourteenth. "'It was given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them' for it was he who began the terrible era of martyrdom and put a vast multitude to death with hideous tortures, on a false accusation."
Fifteenth. "'Power was given him over all kindreds and tongues and nations.' Of the representatives of the world-powers in that day, Greece received him with frantic adulation. Parthia was in friendly relations with him, and Armenia, in the person of Tiridates, laid its diadem before his feet. Even Herod the Great, though himself a powerful king, had been accustomed to talk of the almighty Romans."
Sixteenth. "'All the inhabitants of the earth,' except the followers of the Lamb, 'worshiped him.' This, as we have seen, was literally true of the emperors, both in their lifetime and after their death. At this dreadful period the cult of the emperor was almost the only sincere worship which still existed."
The seventeenth mark is the number of the name. In the language of the New Testament, however, Neron Kaisar could not possibly make this number but "the apostle was writing as a Hebrew, was evidently thinking as a Hebrew." To give it in Hebrew "would render the cryptograph additionally secure against the prying inquisition of treacherous pagan informers. It would have been to the last degree perilous to make the secret too clear. Accordingly, the Jewish Christian would have tried the name as he thought of the name, that is, in Hebrew letters, and the moment that he did this the secret is revealed. No Jew ever thought of Nero except as Neron Kesar, and this gives at once 666." "If any confirmation could possibly be wanting to this conclusion, we find it in the curious fact recorded by Irenaeus that in some copies he found the reading 616. Now this change can hardly have been due to carelessness. . . . But if the above solution be correct, this simple variation is at once explained and accounted for. A Jewish Christian trying his Hebrew solution, which would, as he knew, defend the interpretation from dangerous Gentiles, may have been puzzled by the n in Neron Kesar. Although the name was written in Hebrew, he knew that to Roman Gentiles generally the name was always Nero Caesar, not Neron but Nero Kesar in Hebrew, omitting the final n, gave 616, not 666 and he may have altered the reading because he imagined that in an unimportant particular it made the solution more suitable and easy."
All this has been quoted so much in full because it makes plain the strength, such as there is, in the arguments of the Preterist, and shows, indeed, in a most striking way the danger which the apostle Peter points out, of making the "prophecy of Scripture" of "private interpretation," or, as the word means, "its own interpretation:" something capable of standing alone, of being interpreted by itself, apart from its general connection with prophecy elsewhere. Of course, as soon as Dr. Farrar gets away from his principal argument, and aims to take up the other prophecies even of Revelation in connection with it, his success is by no means so assured, and he feels it. The second beast, for instance, in the same chapter, the wild beast from the land, the false prophet who works signs before the first beast, — with regard to it, we are assured that "all commentators alike, preterist, futurist, continuous-historical, allegorical, with all their subdivisions, have here been reduced to manifest perplexity, and have been forced to content themselves with explanations which do violence to one or more of the indications by which we must be guided." Of course we must not expect, therefore, that his own solution of these problems is to be much more satisfactory than those of others. At the same time he attempts the solution, and in various ways, which clearly reveal his actual perplexity.
In the first place, you may take as a conjecture that "by this wild beast and false prophet is meant the Roman Augurial System." He admits, however, a great difficulty. "It has been generally felt that the institution of prophets was not so prominent, even in Nero's reign, as to admit of our applying it to the ten definite indications of the apocalyptic seer. False prophets were hardly in any sense a delegate and alter-ego of the emperor." He finds, on the whole, more in favor of the view that this second beast is Simon Magus! He had been baptized, and that, of course, made him more like a lamb. Then there are legions of wonderful miracles on his part, one of which was his appearing clothed in flame. Moreover, he is expressly said to have made statues move, so that he may well have pretended to make them speak. If he attempted this at all, he is more likely to have applied it to the statue of the emperor, the image of the beast, than to any other. All that would have been needed was a little machinery and a little ventriloquism. It is puzzling, however, that "the pagan historians are silent about him and his doings but the events themselves had no political significance, and lay outside their sphere"! That is to say, "exercising all the power of the first beast in his presence" has no political significance! However, there is a third conjecture, more probable than either of the former. Hildebrand's suggestion is that by the false prophet, or the second beast from the laud, is meant Vespasian. If the words be rendered "from the land," they then apply to Judea, and Vespasian as emperor went forth from Judea. Of course that was after Nero, the first beast, was dead but then, that makes no difference to Dr. Farrar. Then he had two horns, like a lamb, and Vespasian was of a remarkably mild character. His two horns are his two sons, who were both men of mark, and supported him — Titus, the conqueror of Judea, and Domitian, who headed his party in Rome. How these two horns made him more like a lamb is a question for Dr. Farrar. He spake, though, as a dragon, or serpent that is, being a pagan, he used the language of paganism, and had a serpentine wisdom about him besides. Then he was a visible delegate of Nero in Palestine, and he made the earth worship the first beast, because to enforce subjection to Nero was the express object of Vespasian's mission against the Jews. It might seem an impossibility to suppose that he pretended to work signs, but in fact his visit to Alexandria was accompanied by signs and wonders which obtained wide credence. He had anointed with spittle the eyes of a blind man and restored his sight, and before a full assembly he had healed a cripple. He had shown a remarkable example of second sight. Then, "as a fulmen belli, and as the supposed recipient of a favorable oracle from Elijah, Vespasian, in his brilliant success at the beginning of the Jewish war, might well be said, in the style of writing which constantly intermingles the symbolic and the literal, to have flashed fire from heaven upon the enemies of the beast."
His giving breath to the image of the beast may have been founded upon a rumor of something of the kind having taken place in Judea if not, the reanimation of the Roman power in Palestine is quite sufficient to meet the language of the seer. It is hardly worth while, one would say, to go through any more of this. Dr. Farrar's one doubt with regard to this application is whether St. John may not have meant to combine in his picture "the, features observable in the position and conduct of Simon Magus, the false prophet who supported Nero at Rome, and of Josephus, the false prophet who embraced the cause of Vespasian in Palestine, with that of Vespasian himself as a two-horned wild beast maintaining the power of Rome in the Holy Land. The composite character of such a symbol presents no difficulty."
Naturally, when we come to the connection of the beast and false prophet in the awful battlefield of the nineteenth chapter, and their being cast alive together into the lake of fire at the appearing of the Lord from heaven, there can be no more even an attempt to show us how this could all be fulfilled in connection with these two emperors of far-back history. It is the private, or isolated, interpretation really of a small part of the prophecy which creates even the possibility of such suggestions as Dr. Farrar has given us. We shall have little or nothing to do with Preterism when we take up the interpretation of the book before us. It is, as a whole, simply a substitution of things which were a partial anticipation of the future for that future itself. Such anticipations we find oftentimes in prophecy, some figure near at hand which becomes a type of what is beyond and greater than itself; as that of Antiochus Epiphanes, for instance, in the Book of Daniel. To make these the whole fulfilment, it is necessary to destroy, as Dr. Farrar clearly aims to do, all faith in any exactness of prophecy whatever. It is for such writers rather a human presage of events sufficiently near for human ken, which, after all, may be largely also a mistake — the substitution of this for divine revelation the human element, so called, in inspiration almost completely banishing the thought of the divine.
In turning now to look at the historical interpretation, we find at once a manifest difference, and much that commends itself to the Christian heart. The Church, for instance, finds such a place in it as we might expect. It has, indeed, too large a place: and the connection with Jewish prophecy here almost disappears. Thus we have, in another direction, again a violation of the apostle's rule that no prophecy of Scripture is of isolated interpretation. Here Rome appears naturally in its professedly Christian character, not only in Babylon the Great, but also in the seven-headed and ten-horned beast, which is the papacy; a fulfilment for which the name Lateinos proffers once more its significant 666, the number of the name. It can appeal also to history for the witness of the 1260 years of its duration, though somewhat variously reckoned, now expiring. We need not enter upon it largely now, as we shall have to consider it more fully after taking up the book in detail; but as exact and full truth, everything depends for it upon that year-day system which furnishes us with these 1260 years themselves. They are the "time, times and a half," or "42 months," or "1260 days," which are found thus variously given in Revelation, and which are admittedly derived from the Book of Daniel. The fourth beast of Daniel's seventh chapter wears out "the saints of the Most High, and thinks to change times and laws, and they are given into his hand until a time and times and half a time." Judgment at the hands of the Son of Man, who comes in the clouds of heaven to execute it, and Himself to take the kingdom, ends the history of the beast both in Daniel and in Revelation. Thus it is certain that we have the same power, in fact, before us in each case. The "times" enumerated here are the same "times" in every instance of their enumeration. It is therefore most important to see how they are to be taken. If the 1260 days indeed stand for the corresponding number of years, then the application to the papacy must be taken as undoubted. No other figure that history can furnish can be substituted for this. If, on the other hand, they are simply 1260 days, (three years and a half, literally,) then, of course, they cannot measure the duration of the papacy at all. They must have reference to something else; and taken into connection with their close at the coming of the Lord, we may say with certainty that their fulfilment is still future. Futurism to this extent will have its undeniable justification. Is there, then, any positive way of settling this? If we will take again the apostle's rule, and seek to bring together the various passages in which these 1260 days are set before us, we shall surely be able to settle without a doubt what is alone their complete and adequate fulfilment. Now if we turn to the Book of Daniel, we find in the twelfth chapter the "time, times and a half" to be clearly reckoned from the continual offering being taken away and the abomination that maketh desolate set up. To this time there are added, in the eleventh verse, thirty more days, making 1290; and in the twelfth, forty-five days more, making 1335; but this in no wise affects the first period.
Turning back to the eleventh chapter, we find in the thirty-first verse the profanation of the sanctuary (plainly the Jewish one), the taking away of the continual burnt offering, and the setting up of the abomination that maketh desolate. The 1260 days that follow this must of necessity cover, therefore, the details in the rest of the chapter. It is thought by many that the setting up of this abomination was by Antiochus Epiphanes in times long past. The apocryphal Book of Maccabees clearly asserts this, but we are in no wise, of course, bound to accept this interpretation. Clearly, in the eleventh chapter of Daniel, there is no other taking away of the offering, no other abomination set up than that which so many assign to Antiochus, who is, however, by some of the most careful interpreters considered only to be the foreshadow of the great enemy at the end. We cannot, and need not, enter upon this subject here. It is sufficient for us just now that the 1260 days date from the taking away of the daily Jewish offering and the setting up in its place of the abomination that maketh desolate. If we connect this with what we have had already from the seventh chapter, there is no difficulty whatever. The seventh chapter does not speak directly of any such supplanting of Jewish worship by idolatry as the eleventh chapter speaks of, but the thinking to change times and law, or "the law," as it should rather be, and these being given into the hands of the destroyer, who for the same time wears out the saints of the Most High, shows us a condition of things which is entirely in keeping with what is given us in the eleventh chapter. The two accounts are in most perfect harmony, and speak manifestly of the same thing.
Now if we turn to the ninth chapter, we have in it the great calendar of prophecy, Jewish prophecy, which will enable us to put things more distinctly in their place. Here we have the well known seventy weeks which are distinctly determined or decreed upon the people of Daniel and the Holy City, "to finish transgression and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy." Thus the Jews are manifestly before us in all this. It is with their history, and no other, that we are concerned. Moreover, the end of the period is therefore "to finish transgression and to make" (for them) "an end of sins, . . . and to bring in everlasting righteousness." It is, moreover, "to seal up vision and prophecy," that is, to give them their complete accomplishment, and, as that which certifies the full incoming of Israel's blessedness, to "anoint" that "most holy" place, which "the abomination that maketh desolate" has defiled. Here, then, is a complete, final date for all prophecy that has to do with Israel's restoration, or their preparation for it. At the end of this time Israel is restored. What, then, is the beginning of this seventy weeks? There is no necessity to think of actual chronology. That is not in our quest now. The date is given to the prophet himself as "from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem."
Whether that was the commandment given by Cyrus, or whether it was an after commandment given by his successor Artaxerxes, has nothing to do with the question before us. The seventy weeks measure, in some way or another, the time from the incomplete restoration from the Babylonish captivity to the time of the complete one, when Israel will be, as already said, restored to the full favor of the Lord.
But we have further specification. From the commencement of this period to the Messiah, the Prince, there are seven weeks and threescore and two weeks — that is, sixty-nine weeks, of course, altogether. Then, "after the threescore and two weeks," as it should read, (that is, after the whole sixty-nine,) Messiah shall be cut off; and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Yet at most only a week remains of this positively decreed and determined period, at the end of which Israel's full blessing is to come. The weeks, it is not doubted by any, are weeks of years. There need be no discussion about that. When Messiah, the Prince, has come, sixty-nine of these weeks, or 483 years, are past therefore, and only seven years remain. Here is a difficulty which so many have stumbled over. How, then, could it be possible that seven years at the utmost after the cross of Christ there could be the fulfilment of all prophesied blessing for Israel and their reinstatement as the people of God fully in His favor? The difficulty has led many to suppose that since the whole period must in this way have been long ago accomplished, that which was to close it must have been the Cross itself; and that we must either leave out the distinct reference to Israel's blessing, or we must interpret it (in a way unhappily so common) by putting Christians in the place of Israel, and making it an obscure prediction of the coming in of the blessings which we enjoy. Even so, this interpretation will not stand. It is plain that in this part of the prophecy the last week is, in fact, never mentioned. The sixty-nine weeks are ended, after which Messiah is cut off. There is no seventieth week at all that is spoken of here. There is no intimation even, in the prophecy, of the blessings that are to ensue, but the very opposite. Messiah is cut off "and has nothing," as we may read it in the margin of our common Bibles, instead of "not for Himself," as it is in the text. The Revised has it in the text "shall have nothing," which is surely the sense. Literally, it is "there is nothing for Him." Everything has, as it were, come to an end, in the mean time, by His death. In connection with Jewish history, and from the Jewish standpoint, that is as clear as daylight. It is perfectly clear that by the hands of those professedly His people Christ was cut off, and that as a consequence, instead of blessing nationally coming in for them, disaster and ruin followed, and must needs have followed. That is just what we have here — disaster, and nothing but disaster; the issue of which is that the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary — a thing long accomplished, as we know, and which no one doubts to refer to the overthrow of the city by Titus.
But thus in some way we are of necessity outside the limit of the seventy weeks already, if they are to be read in continuous connection with the sixty-nine; and the prophecy still goes on: and "even to the end shall be war," as the Revised Version reads, "desolations are determined." There is a long, indefinite time of sorrow, and nothing but sorrow, to the Jew; even to what is said to be "the end." Thus, if the "end" is the end of the seventy weeks, (however we are to calculate this,) it brings us right to the very time of their blessing, and yet marks it as a time of continuous trouble and desolation.
Supposing, on the other hand, that we are entitled to take this "end" as the end somehow of the determined period of seventy weeks, we can read it in the light of other prophecy without the least perplexity. At the end of this time the blessing must come; but how, then, does the blessing come? From the seventh chapter, it is perfectly plain, it is by the coming of the Son of Man from heaven. Who cannot see that that is the complete putting away of all difficulty? If He comes to receive the kingdom, that reception of the kingdom on His part means, according to the concurrent testimony of the prophets, the blessing of Israel. His coming marks the end of the desolations, and the new consecration of His earthly people to Himself. But still, how then are we to reckon these seventy weeks? We must go on to the end of the chapter before we can answer that. It follows now: "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week." In the margin this is rightly altered to "a covenant." There is no article. The Revised Version puts it: "He shall make a firm covenant with many for one week." The question is, with whom is this covenant made, and who is the maker of it? If it were "the covenant," then it might be naturally thought that it is the divine covenant with Israel, "the holy covenant," as it is called in the eleventh chapter; and the maker of this can be no other than Messiah Himself; but how, then, for one week? Think of Messiah making a covenant with His people for one week! Surely that is a new perplexity. It is, however, referred by many to the Lord's establishing the covenant, not, of course, with Israel, but the new covenant by His blood. Then, the blood of the new covenant was surely shed, so that there seems at first some authorization of such an interpretation. But how are we to say "for one week"? The new covenant, when made with any, is an eternal one. It cannot mean that the new covenant lasts a week and if we say that the language refers rather to some special publication of the new covenant in the seven years following the Cross, (or less than seven if we have a mind to make it so,) then this neither really fulfils the word of the prophecy, nor can there be shown any distinct fulfilment of it in history either. What was there at the end of seven years, or half of seven years, after the Lord's death, which brought to an end this making (or publishing) of a covenant? It is plain that nothing whatever can be pointed out to fulfil what is certainly a main point in what we have here. For this one week cannot be doubted really, on any interpretation, to be the last week of the seventy, and that last week is a most important one. The end of it is not the end of the publication of a covenant, but it is in some way or other the fulness of blessing being brought in. How, then, can it be shown that there has been any fulfilment of the prophecy in this way, in any proper sense at all? If it were applied to the Gentiles and the preaching of the gospel amongst them, no date of this kind as to it can be established; but there are other details here which decisively confirm the impossibility of such an application.
The last week, the end of which is to bring in the blessing, is clearly divided into two parts. "He shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even to the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate." Now here we have, as is evident, sacrifice and oblation ceasing — the Jewish sacrifices, as all must allow. Thus we have what the eleventh chapter gives again, the profanation of the sanctuary and the taking away the daily offering. In place of it, "the abomination that maketh desolate" is set up; and here we find, accordingly, that "for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate," this lasting until the consummation. That is surely until the end of the week "and that determined is poured upon the desolate." The words here clearly refer to the end of the seventy weeks, which have been said to be determined upon Daniel's people and his holy city. Now if it be said, as it has been said, that it is the Cross that makes the sacrifice and oblation to cease (as in some sense, confessedly, it has; it has taken the meaning out of them, substituting substance for the shadow, and thus bringing completely to an end the Jewish system), yet is there a possibility of saying that three years and a half after that, at the end of the last half week, the blessing comes? To Israel certainly it did not then come; and the abomination of desolation contemplates Israel surely, and can by no fair interpretation be made to apply in any connection with Christianity. The half week must be three years and a half, as the first half week was. You cannot make the one 1260 days, and the other 1260 years. That is absolutely impossible. What event, then, one may ask again, was there that happened just three years and a half after the cross of Christ which, to any plain understanding, can be supposed to close these seventy weeks of years and bring in the blessing for which all these seventy weeks were only preparing the way? The Cross it cannot be, for the Cross takes place three years and a half before the end. The whole attempt to make these things apply to the past is, in fact, a mere perversion of Scripture. One can say nothing else.
To the Jews this last half-week can in this way have no real application. What abomination among them was it for which the desolation followed for this short period? To speak of the destruction of the city by the Romans here is absolutely impossible; and that we have had already, in a gap of time which evidently comes into the midst of the seventy weeks themselves, and which deserves the most earnest attention if we would understand this whole matter.
Let us notice that in Jewish prophecy the whole Christian times are, in fact, a gap. As the Lord says of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven, in the thirteenth of Matthew, they are things that were "hidden" till that time, "from the foundation of the world." The Jewish prophecies, therefore, do not speak of these mysteries. They must in some way leave room for them, but speak of them directly they cannot. Now, apply this principle to what we have in the prophecy before us. Messiah is cut off after sixty-nine weeks of the seventy have elapsed, and then "the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." There, it is plain, we have the destruction by the Romans, but that was in the year 70 of the Christian era. It carries us, therefore, completely beyond the seventy weeks themselves if taken continuously; but there is nothing about the last week or either of its halves here, and the prophecy goes on with a prospect of desolations beyond, "even to the end." What end? Now, let us notice the expression here: "The people of the prince that shall come." It does not say, the "prince that shall come shall destroy the city," (that might be intelligibly said of Titus,) but it is "the people of the prince" that do so; and "the prince that shall come" hardly seems to speak of one that shall come against the city. The people destroy the city, not the prince; but why, then, "the people of the prince"? The people were the Roman people, that is plain. The prince, therefore, must be a Roman prince; but according to the seventh chapter of Daniel the Roman Empire goes down to the end, to the coming of the Son of Man Himself; and in connection with the last days of this it is that we find, certainly, a prince whose career is very specially and significantly brought before us, terminating in judgment when the Son of Man appears. Thus, in this case, he is a Roman "prince that shall come," is he not? And in connection with him it is that we have that specification of time upon which we have been dwelling so much, a "time, times and a half," during which the times and the law are given into his hands, and which ends with his destruction. How perfectly it all fits with what we have here: "The people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." "To the end of the war desolations are determined." And then it is said, "He shall confirm a covenant with many for one week." The person antecedent to this "he" is clearly not Messiah the Prince, but "the prince that shall come" himself. Isolate the prophecy, make it of private interpretation, and you may make of it almost anything that you will; but if you take it all together here, what other interpretation can we give than that we have here spoken of, of one who is to profane the sanctuary, take away the daily offering, and set up the abomination that maketh desolate? In this case, the causing sacrifice and oblation to cease does not refer to the Cross, but to a totally different event in the last days. If we read here, with Keil, not "the end thereof shall be with a flood," but "his end," the end of this prince, "shall be in the flood," then it is the history of the coming prince that is before us all through. It is he, then, that confirms a covenant with the many for one week. The specification of time is as simple here, as in connection with the Cross it is well nigh impossible to understand; but it is the same person who causes the sacrifice and oblation to cease, who sets up the abomination on account of which desolation comes. The desolation lasts for just three years and a half, is terminated by the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven, and Israel's blessing follows immediately upon this. Every detail comes into honest daylight and plain view.
If we connect once more, now, with the book of Revelation itself, we find not only the reckoning of these times, but we find the connected events exactly in accordance with what is in Daniel. In the eleventh chapter the holy city is trodden under foot of the Gentiles forty and two months — the half-week. There are two witnesses that prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth — the half-week again. When they have finished their testimony, the beast that cometh up out of the abyss makes war with them, and overcomes them, and kills them. The beast is confessedly the last beast of Daniel's four. It is the Roman beast.
In the twelfth chapter we have a woman who gives birth to a man-child who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. Any one would say that that must be Christ. There is no one person to whom is given a rule of this kind but Christ, though His saints may share it with Him. The child is caught up to God and to His throne. The woman, if the application is to Christ, can be only the Jewish nation. Nothing else is possible. Christ was not the offspring of the Church, not even of the Jewish Church, as is plain. As the apostle tells us in the ninth of Romans, and as is perfectly clear — of Israel Christ according to the flesh came. But if the woman is the Jewish nation, we are told that she flees into the wilderness from the face of the dragon to a place prepared of God, that she may be nourished there a thousand two hundred and threescore days — a half-week. It may be said that there is an immense gap of time between Christ's being caught up to heaven and Israel persecuted in the wilderness in the days just preceding the coming of the Lord. The answer should be plain — it is just such a gap as we have in the ninth of Daniel itself; when Messiah being cut off and having nothing, none of the promises in connection with Israel being fulfilled to Him then, "the people of the prince that shall come" destroy the city and the sanctuary. It is the same gap of time in each place, and the last week, or half-week, of the seventy appears here suddenly at the end of that gap in exactly the same place in the two prophesies.
The dragon comes down from heaven to the earth, persecutes the woman, but cannot prevail against her; and the next thing we hear is of a beast coming up out of the sea, plainly the beast already spoken of and the last beast of Daniel, marked with its ten horns and its blasphemy, and this is the beast which is described further in the seventeenth chapter in connection with the woman there, and which in the nineteenth receives judgment along with the false prophet at the appearing of the Lord. How well the apostle has bidden us, "first of all," to understand this, "that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any isolated interpretation, because holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit!"
This week, then, in both its halves, as one would say (certainly in its last half), refers to a time still future, and it is the half-week of years specially referring to Israel and to the desolation to come upon her just before that coming. But now notice this, that if this time so carefully specified, this "time, times and a half," or "forty-two months," or "1260 days," as it is variously given, is connected with the seventy weeks at all, the doom of the year-day theory in any exact application to Daniel or to Revelation is settled once for all. Make these 1260 days 1260 years, and remember that this is only the last half of the week of Daniel's seventy, then you have to reckon the whole seventy after the same manner, and they amount in all to 176,400 years. Who will claim for the seventy weeks such a fulfilment? The only possible hope is, of course, in the ability to detach the one from the other; but they are welded together, one may say, by prophetic links which it will be found impossible to snap, and which will convict any one who does so of merely wresting the Scriptures.
But that does not mean, as it might easily be taken to mean, that there is no truth in the year-day theory at all. There may be truth, but it is not the exact and literal truth. As we have seen, there may be another application of these prophecies, and an application to Christian times, which is simply an anticipation of the exact fulfilment which is to come. There may be an analogical reckoning depending upon the analogy between the histories of Israel and the Church. Such an analogy there is, and Babylonish captivity and all will come in it. Nevertheless, the two are separate and distinct. To confound them together is to make it impossible to understand either clearly. To substitute one for the other is to make it impossible to apprehend prophecy aright.
In the historical interpretation of Revelation, Israel finds almost no place whatever. All the connection with Old Testament prophets is almost completely broken off. The whole book itself is made "of private interpretation." The historical interpretation has a certain place and claims examination, but it is but a partial truth at best, which we must in no wise allow to take the place of that which is the full and exact one.
There remains, then, only what is called "Futurism," as it would seem, to be considered. But can this fill the whole field of Revelation? As has been said, it is now sought even to make the seven churches represent seven Jewish assemblies in the last day; so that the whole Book, as it were, leaps at once into the future. The system developed in this way gives no hostages at all to the present. It may seem to be safe from refutation; for you cannot test a prophecy of the future by a fulfilment of what itself must be future. This system ignores the division which the book itself makes: "things that are," to be distinguished from "things that shall be after these." In some sense, surely, the "things that are" must give us something for the present, and this, any proper examination of them ought to place beyond doubt. It is only in this way that we can understand aright the earnest exhortation to every one that hath an ear to hear, to "hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches," and it is only in this way that we can understand the blessedness of those "who hear the words of the prophecy and keep the things which are written therein, because the time is at hand." In fact, this extreme futurist view has hardly any proper claim to be discussed. The examination which we have presently to make will assuredly show us that the present and the future both find ample place in the book of Revelation; that as to what is future itself, the present has most important relation to it, (in some sense governs it,) and here there is no anticipated leap into the future; there is no refusal by the interpretation of all reasonable tests, by history as well as in other ways. We shall find in it that the divine view is necessarily the largest possible view also; that Revelation connects itself with all the prophecies that have gone before, receiving at once help from them and throwing, also, the fullest light upon them; but this view can, therefore, not be given aright except upon a fuller induction of all the particulars.
Connection with Prophecy Elsewhere.
The great principle of the interpretation of the book, as has been said again and again, is just that which was announced by the apostle himself of the true interpretation of any prophecy. That which is new in it always reveals connection with what has gone before, — the prophecy of the New Testament with that of the Old, which, if it cannot anticipate it, yet leaves, as we have already seen, a manifest gap for it. The only preparation, therefore, for the examination of the book of Revelation is by seeking to have before us the general scope of the prophecies elsewhere, with which what is added to them here must, of course, be in complete accordance. Let us now, then, briefly see what Scripture in this way presents to us, and we shall find Scripture confirming Scripture in such a way as to make it possible not only to read actual fulfilments of it which have taken place, but also to read in large measure what is future also. It is plain, on the one hand, we are not to expect that our view of this can ever be as absolutely complete as we might naturally desire. God does not intend that we should be able to make an exact history of the future, putting every detail of what He has given us in its place, so as to leave nothing further for the future itself to discover to us. It should be perfectly plain that this would not be according to His mind. But, on the other hand, this will not hinder us from a perfect knowledge, as we may say, of the great outlines, and such an apprehension of details themselves as will help us to apply the future to the present, which is a most important use of prophecy, too much overlooked. The future before the world is largely, alas, made up of judgment, although it is true that the judgment is for a blessing which lies beyond it, and which is as bright as God can make it. Yet the judgment is emphatically a judgment of the world as it is, a judgment in which the whole present fashion of it passes away; and how important that we should know why it should pass away, and now to apprehend the mind of God with regard to that which He is going to judge! In this way prophecy is of the most practical nature, and a grand help to real holiness; that is, to a separation from evil which necessarily is found in fellowship with Him. If there are things with which finally it will be seen that He cannot go on, then how clearly this must enter into our present estimate of them! And this will make clear much of the detail with regard to that which is plainly the theme of a large part of the book. If we are to get out of this mere historical details, as such, these may have little significance for us; but if we are to find in all, God's moral ways as the end will perfectly bring them out, then how great may be the importance of any detail whatever!
Let us, then, look back now, and seek to get a general outline of prophecy apart from the book of Revelation itself, so that as we enter upon it we may enter with this already as ascertained knowledge.
We have already considered the prophecy of the seventy weeks, and it will be hardly necessary to go into this again. It shows us, in the plainest way, how God is keeping Israel before Him, can never forget her, and that the time of final blessing is one in which that interest in His earthly people will be most manifestly shown. But the prophecy shows us also that in these determined times which have to do with Israel there is a gap of unreckoned time, which, while it does not bring Christianity into view, makes room for it. When Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman power, Christianity, as we know, had already started upon its career of blessing. Israel's times are uncounted then. Thus it is that the final week is cut off from the rest of the seventy, and comes in the place it does in connection with events which are still future. This is in accordance with what the Lord said to His disciples after He was risen from the dead, when they asked Him, full of their hopes of blessing for their nation, "Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He answers, "It is not for you to know the times and seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power." But "times and seasons" there are in connection with Israel. Why should we not know them, then? Just because they are not being at present reckoned, and you can begin no reckoning of them until the time comes in which they shall once more be taken up. This last week of Daniel is in fact what the Lord calls, alike in the prophecy of the thirteenth of Matthew and in that of the twenty-fourth, "the end of the age." As we have already seen, it is the Jewish age of which He is speaking. It is the broken-off end of the seventy weeks, as the events connected with it show as plainly as possible.
The Lord had announced to His disciples the impending overthrow of the temple. They thereupon put two questions to Him, which in their minds were no doubt more closely connected than they might be in ours. "Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age?" As to the first question, which had reference to the destruction of the temple, we have nothing to do with it just now. The answer to it is found more fully given in the twenty-first chapter of Luke, in which the destruction of Jerusalem, which took place more than thirty-five years afterwards, is explicitly announced. In Matthew the Lord deals rather with the second question, where the disciples seem evidently to identify the coming of the Lord with "the end of the age," or "world," in our common version. Now, remembering Daniel, and that these were Jewish questioners, with at present no hopes beyond Jewish ones, yet owning Jesus as their Messiah, with no thought of the long interval which was to elapse before His still future coming, it is plain that the "age" of which they were speaking was that in which they were, the age of the law — of Judaism as it then was. Of any Christian dispensation they could have had no possible thought. The coming of which they spoke was doubtless that coming of the Son of Man of which Daniel had spoken. "The end of the age" for them was that preceding the age of Messiah, which in the Jews' mind was that which we now call millennial. From our own point of view, we naturally think of it as Christian; but the Lord was answering their thoughts, in which as yet Christianity, in the way we now speak of it, could not have been. For us, Judaism is gone forever; and it seems a strange thing to speak of any end before us of that bygone age; which, of course, must imply its revival in the meantime. Yet we have seen that Daniel shows us a week of special divine dealing with Judah and Jerusalem, cut off from the sixty-nine weeks preceding by an unknown interval, in which Christianity has prevailed, as we know. But in the last week, as we find it in Daniel, the temple-services are again going on until their interruption by the head of the Gentile power. It is to this interruption the Lord refers, directly citing Daniel for it. "When ye, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth, let him understand), then let them which be in Judea flee to the mountains; let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house; neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes." In Luke we have the taking of Jerusalem by the Romans, and instead of any such scene as is here given, Jerusalem is compassed with armies. In this case the directions as to instant flight are omitted: they would be plainly out of place. No such rapid and immediate flight as is here spoken of was needed to escape the desolating hosts. It is merely said, therefore, "Let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let them which are in the midst of it depart out, and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto." But here it is not an enemy outside, but one in the midst, idolatry in some form set up in the very temple itself. The saints are the objects of special enmity, and they must escape without delay. "And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days; but pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day." This is in full accordance with the inference that Jews, under the full rigor of Jewish law, are contemplated.
Now comes another reference to Daniel. In his last prophecy we find that "at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince that standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (Dan. 12:1). In this case it is plain that it is the great day of Jewish deliverance which is contemplated, and the people are delivered out of a time of unequaled trouble. The Lord's words can apply to no other than this: "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be; and except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." The precise time of the tribulation is given by the Old Testament prophet, three years and a half, and we see by the Lord's words how impossible it is again to apply here a year-day theory, which would extend it to 1260 years. Certainly that would not be shortening the days; and a tribulation of such a character as is here spoken of could not surely be extended throughout such a period.
The Lord follows with the announcement of false Christs and false prophets, an addition to the Old Testament of the greatest significance, and which we shall find developed in prophecies that are to come before us: "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe him not. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore, if they shall say unto you, Behold, He is in the desert! go not forth. Behold, He is in the secret chambers! believe it not. For, as the lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be; for wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together." As in Daniel also, it is by this coming that the time of trouble is closed. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken; and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth (or land) mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
For our present purpose it will not be necessary to go further. The agreement with former prophecies is clear and conclusive. A latter-day remnant is seen here in Jerusalem, distinctly Jewish in character, yet who listen to Christ's words, and are owned of God; and "the end of the age," of which the disciples inquire, is identified with the broken-off last week of Daniel's seventy. The temple is once more owned as the holy place, although it is in the meanwhile defiled with idolatry; and this before the coming of the Lord in the clouds of heaven. We ask ourselves necessarily, where, then, at such a time is Christianity? And what does the presence of a Jewish "age" just before the Lord's appearing imply as to the present Christian dispensation? To this, Scripture gives no uncertain answer. It shows us that what we call the Christian dispensation is over then; that the Church, Christ's body, is complete; and that all true Christians have been caught up to Christ and are then with Him; that the rest of the professing Church has been spued out of His mouth according to His threatening to Laodicea: that the Lord is now taking up again for blessing Israel and the earth; and we are again in the line of Old Testament prophecy, and going on to the fulfilment of Old Testament promises.
That these promises belong really to Israel, Paul's kindred according to the flesh, we have his unexceptionable witness, who was himself the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 9:4). But he warns earnestly the Gentile professing body that they stand only by faith; and if they abide not in the goodness of God which He has shown them, they will be cut off; while Israel abiding not in unbelief shall be graffed back again into her own olive tree. He tells us, also, that this receiving of them back shall be life from the dead to the nations of the world; that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles is come in, and that then all Israel — that is, the nation as a whole — shall be saved. But he adds that while, as regards the gospel now going out, they are enemies — that is, treated by God as enemies — for our sakes, as touching the election, they are still beloved for the fathers' sakes; because the gifts and calling of God are without repentance (Rom. 11:13-39). In this way the wonderful change which Matt. 24 exhibits is fully accounted for. The Jews and Judaism (not taking into account now the change which this will necessarily undergo) being once more owned, shows that the Christian gospel having now completed its full gathering of Gentiles, as designed by God, is going out no longer. Heaven in this sense is full, though we must make a certain exception which we shall by and by consider; but it is the gathering for earth and blessing upon the earth that are now commencing.
The Lord has spoken of false Christs and false prophets in connection with that time. Let us turn now to the apostle John's description of Antichrist, and see how this connects with such a statement. He warns us that already in his time there were many antichrists; already there was the character of the last time. He speaks of them as apostates issuing from the professing Church itself, but never really Christians, though among them (1 John 2:18, 19); but he goes on to describe one special form, "the liar," "the antichrist," as his words really are. "Who is the liar," he asks, "but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?" And then he adds: "He is the antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son" (verse 22). Here then are two forms of unbelief, which in this wicked one unite in one. The first is the symbol of the Jewish form, that denies that Jesus is the Christ. It is not denied that a Christ there was to be, but it is denied that Jesus is this. The full Christian belief is, not only that Jesus is the Christ, but that He is also the Son of the Father; and "Whosoever denieth the Son hath not the Father." Such a virtual denial, many, as we know, even of those called Christians, make now. These deny the Son, to make much of the Father; but that of which John speaks is a step beyond this; the full climax of unbelief in the great head of it is that he denieth both the Father and the Son. Thus it will be seen that the antichrist of whom the apostle is speaking denies Christianity altogether; but he owns Judaism; for the very denial that Jesus is the Christ implies, however, that some Christ there is; and this is what antichrist, when seen in full character, means — one who is not only against Christ, but who takes His place; and so the Lord speaks of false Christs. These, then, by profession would be Jews; and the last antichrist is here a Jew. How naturally he belongs, therefore, to a time when Christianity is gone from the earth, the revived Judaism in its old seat, and the nation are in expectation, as almost necessarily they would be, of the speedy fulfilment now of the promise of Messiah. When the Lord came in the flesh there was just such an expectation, and just such fruit of it in the appearance of false Christs; and the words in Matthew show that such a time there will be again, only now with a peculiar power of deception which only the elect escape. Among these blasphemous pretenders is the full, prophetic antichrist.
This connects naturally with that other picture which we have seen the apostle put before the Thessalonians (2 Thess. 2:1-12); and here we find what unites John and Matthew, connecting the developed evil of apostate Christendom with the revival of Judaism, which the Lord's own words foreshadow. Here we find a direct warning of an apostasy to come, issuing in the revelation of one who is spoken of as the "man of sin, the son of perdition," — the title given elsewhere to Judas, — but one who, as it were, not only denies and betrays Christ, but who opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God or that is worshiped. He sits in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God. The end of this wicked one is that the Lord Jesus shall slay him with the breath of His mouth and bring him to naught by the manifestation of His coming. It is plain that we are in the same times as those spoken of in Daniel and in Matthew; and when we find one sitting in the temple of God who takes such a place, how can we forbear to think of that abomination of desolation standing in the holy place, which the Lord has called our attention to through Daniel? Naturally, as Christians, we think of the temple of God as the Christian Church; and the common interpretation of the man of sin is that he is the Pope. We are not obliged altogether to deny this; for we have seen already that prophecy has oftentimes such incomplete, anticipative fulfilments, which are only pledges and foreshadows of the full and exhaustive one which is to come; but popery has existed for too many centuries to allow it to be such a sign as the apostle is speaking of, of the "Day of the Lord," either come or at hand, while the prophecies which in every other way correspond with the present one so simply explain this, that the application should not be either difficult or doubtful. Here, then, is what, so far, the great body of prophecy, apart from Revelation, presents to us.
We are now ready to look, though very briefly yet, at the book of Revelation itself, to see how thoroughly in unison it is with what has gone before; that indeed it is no isolated prophecy, but that we have, in what is elsewhere revealed, the key put into our hand of a consistent interpretation of the book from first to last.
The connection of Daniel with the Revelation has been already spoken of, and it is acknowledged, and must be, by all. The first beast of the thirteenth chapter here is the last one of Daniel seventh; but an important thing, of which Revelation speaks in connection with it, and which confirms from another side what has been said of the gap of time in Old Testament prophecy, in which in the New Testament we find the Christian Church, is that the beast of Revelation has its period of non-existence, and then comes up again in greatly altered character, as from the bottomless pit. He is "the beast that was, and is not, and shall be present" (Rev. 17:8). We are not going to look closely into it now, but it is plain that if Daniel's last beast stands for the Roman Empire, then it has, in fact, in the mean time ceased to be. If it is found upon earth immediately before the Lord's appearing, then it must have come up again, as the book of Revelation represents. The beast in this form "practices" for forty and two months, that last half-week of Daniel so often spoken of, the time of the Jewish woman being nourished in the wilderness from the face of the serpent. Whether it is the time also of the prophesying of God's two witnesses clothed in sackcloth, whom the beast finally slays, is a question resulting from the fact that in the last future week there are, of course, two half-weeks, and we are not entitled as yet to say in which of these this testimony to Israel takes place. Either way the time of their testimony, a thousand two hundred and threescore days, is equally significant.
Before this vision, however, we find another — not preceding it in actual time, of course, but the contrary — "of a multitude out of all nations," (Gentiles, that is,) "who come out of the great tribulation" (Rev. 7:14); evidently that one which is spoken of in Daniel and in Matthew is the only one that could be (in view of what is said of it there) announced as the great one. In this part of Revelation, then, it should be amply clear that we are in the Jewish times of the last days. These are, in the language of Revelation itself, "things that shall be," after the "things that are" have come to an end. This gives two parts of Revelation, which we may call, therefore, the presentist and the futurist; and when we consider the present things as they are pictured to us in the book, we find, without any need for doubt at all, that we have before us Christian times, the times of the Church of God on earth.
From what we have seen already, the visions of the second half of the book plainly declare that, when this part of Revelation has its fulfilment, the Christian dispensation will have passed away, Christians will be forever with the Lord, and the earthly people will be again those owned of Him, whatever the sorrows they may have yet to pass through before their full blessing comes. Yet, the appearing of the Lord in the clouds of heaven we only reach in the nineteenth chapter; but "then," says the apostle (Col. 3:4), "we shall appear with Him in glory." To appear with Him then, we must have been taken from the earth before; and thus the same apostle writes to the Thessalonians that "the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we be ever with the Lord." Here is how, as the apostle says, "those that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." There is no promiscuous resurrection when the Lord appears in glory. There is no picking out by judgment of sheep from goats, such as the twenty-fifth of Matthew teaches will take place when the Son of Man is come in His glory and sits on the throne of His glory. Here, on the contrary, we find but one company of raised and glorified saints, caught up to meet Him and be with Him. Scripture is clear as to this blessed fact, which in itself affirms and emphasizes the gospel assurance that those who hear Christ's word, and believe on Him who sent Him, shall not come into judgment (John 5:24). This assurance, by such an expansion of it, is made clear enough. From this view, no one would understand that between the gathering up of the saints to meet the Lord and His appearing with them in glory there was to be an interval of months and years of earthly history nor can one be blamed for being slow to assent to such a statement as this. Yet it can be perfectly well established from Scripture, although there is no single text which states it, and here is the place to give this some final consideration.
We have seen elsewhere that as the Old Testament ends with the promise of the Sun of Righteousness, so the New Testament ends with that of the Morning Star. Christ Himself is both and in both His coming is intimated, but, as is plain, in very different connections. The sun brings the day for the earth, floods the whole of it with light, and this is in suited connection with the blessing of an earthly people whose are the Old Testament promises. The morning star heralds the day, but it does not bring it. It rises when the earth is still dark, shining, as it were, for heaven alone. It is to saints of the present time that the Lord says, as to the overcomers in Thyatira, "I will give him the Morning Star." This speaks of our being with Christ before the blessing for the earth comes. In the promise to Philadelphia also we find the assurance, "Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee out of the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." Here is a universal hour of trial, out of which some saints, at least, are to be kept. They are not to be kept through the temptation, but kept out of the hour of it — out of the very time in which it takes place. This hour of temptation we need have no hesitation in taking as that time of great tribulation which has been already before us. How simply the apostle's assurance of all the saints of the present and the past being caught up together to meet the Lord in the air, so as to be with Him when He appears in glory, declares to us how Christians are to be kept out of this time! The hour of trial, then, that of the great tribulation, follows the removal of Christians from the earth. Thus it is simply intelligible how in those pictures of the world's trial which we have had before us we have had no trace of the presence of Christians. All, as we have seen, speak of Jews and Judaism as once more recognized, a thing inconsistent with the existence of Christians and Christianity at the same time for as long as the present gospel goes out, they are "enemies for your sakes." So, also, the antichristian snare, as spoken of in Matthew, shows the same thing. Christ is looked for in the desert, or in the secret chambers as appearing, not from heaven, but in the midst of the people and the false Christ, when he comes to sit with divine honors in the temple of God, does not come from heaven, or assume this. Explicitly is it stated also, in Isa. 60, that when the Lord arises upon Israel, and His glory is seen upon them, "darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples" — a thing impossible if Christianity existed at the same time, yet perfectly plain in connection with what we have been looking at. Indeed, the difficulty with such passages has been to realize the fact of such a darkness as possibly succeeding the present day of gospel light. Again, the important scene in Matt. 25, so misconceived by most interpreters even now, and for centuries taken as a picture of "the general judgment," becomes thus perfectly intelligible, as it is only consistent with this view. It is not the judgment of the dead before the Great White Throne, as in Rev. 20, which is post-millennial. It has nothing to do with those who, as we have seen, are caught up to meet the Lord in the air; no "goats" can be caught up in that way. It is the judgment of the living upon earth, after the Lord has come and set up His throne here. There is no hint, in fact, of resurrection at all and if the Lord caught up the saints to meet Him in the air, as we see in Thessalonians, and then immediately came on to the judgment of the earth, there could be no "sheep" then upon earth to put upon His right hand. Universal judgment alone could follow. The fact of an interval between these two, such as we have been considering, at once clears the whole difficulty.
But now let us look at the two parts of Revelation — that of the present, or "the things that are," and that of the future, or "the things that shall be after these," as we find them outlined in the early chapters. The first part, it is plain, is that of addresses to seven assemblies in Asia. It is preceded by the vision of the Lord Himself in the midst of seven golden candlesticks, or lamp-stands. The seven golden lamp-stands are the seven assemblies. The Lord's attention is, so to speak, confined to these. He is surveying them, and in the addresses which follow He tells them the result of His survey. The seven lamp-stands, with this complete number stamped upon them, are surely significant. They are the representatives of the professing Church as a whole, God's light for the earth in the mean time, now that the One who was Himself the Light of the world has been taken from it, and it is night in consequence.
The addresses themselves give us — but we cannot yet look properly at this — the history of the Church upon earth from the apostle's days till the Lord comes again. It is not put, indeed, directly as a prophecy of this, just because we are always to "be as men that wait for their Lord," and it would not be consistent with this that the long period of Church history should be given to us, which would make unintelligible any watching for Him in the mean time, until the end should be in plain view.
To each address every one that has ears to hear is summoned to pay attention. There is no such urgent exhortation in connection with any other part of Scripture. How clearly there must be for all of us, then, that which is of the most intense interest — things which, as is said in the first chapter, "blessed are those who keep." In this way they remain, of course, with a most perfect value for every generation of Christians from that day to this. Wherever the characters of any of these churches appear, there the Lord's voice of warning or encouragement, or both, is to be heard and listened to. This could be without realizing them to be, in fact, a history of successive stages of the Church during the time of the Lord's absence. On the other hand, when it begins to be clear, by the fulfilment itself, that they are this, then what an encouraging admonition for us all that the Lord is at hand! Notice also how, as we draw towards the close, the coming of the Lord is more and more pressed upon us. To Thyatira already is it said, "That which ye have already hold fast till I come." And the promise of the sharing with the Lord in the authority over the nations, Christ's rule with a rod of iron, is connected with the promise, "I will give him the Morning Star." This is the first time, midway in these epistles, that the coming of the Lord is spoken of. But now, in the address to Sardis, where there is a name to live, but actual death, they are warned, "If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." To Philadelphia the voice of glad encouragement, and yet of warning, is, "I come quickly, hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown." Finally, to Laodicea, lukewarm now, nauseous as that to the Lord, who stands outside still knocking, but with little encouragement, the word is, "I will spue thee out of My mouth;" while, indeed, "to him that overcometh" there is another: "I will give to him to sit down with Me in My throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with My Father in His throne." Thus the warning is intensified as the end draws near. Finally the Voice ceases; what the Spirit saith to the churches is completed; and then" After these things, I saw, and behold, a door opened in heaven" and the first voice that is heard, as of a trumpet speaking, is saying, "Come up hither, and I will show thee the things which must be after these." Here, then, is where the "things after these" begin. We have no more candlesticks, and One who stands among them, and addresses them. The apostle is caught up in the Spirit to heaven, and there what does he see? Not only the throne of God, but thrones around the throne, and upon the thrones four and twenty elders clothed in white garments, and on their heads crowns of gold.
In the fifth chapter the Lamb comes forward to take the book out of the hand of Him that sat upon the throne; and immediately we find these four and twenty elders falling down before Him, singing a new song: "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for Thou wast slain, and hast purchased unto God with Thy blood of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made them to our God kings and priests; and they shall reign upon the earth." Here is a song of redemption, and it is a song in the elders' mouths, a song which does not, however, contemplate all the redeemed, but only those who shall "reign upon the earth" that is, the saints of the first resurrection (Rev. 20:4-6).
The comparative vagueness of the text here, now recognized by the editors of the Greek Testament, has given rise to a doubt on the part of some whether the elders here are celebrating their own redemption or that of others; but it is plain that it is the redemption of the heavenly saints that they are speaking of, and these elders are clearly not angels, but men — glorified men, not spirits, but already upon their thrones around the throne of God. All is in keeping with the surroundings throughout the apostle himself being caught up to heaven, as the representative of those who are in "the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ," being the fitting introduction to a vision of glorified saints there. These elders are found in their place throughout the rest of the book. They interpret in the seventh chapter as to the white-robed multitude. They worship again when the seventh trumpet sounds. In their presence the new song is sung which the 144,000 alone can learn; and when Babylon the Great is judged, they fall down once more before the Throne, saying, "Amen, Halleluia." It is not till after this that the Lord appears. Thus the elders are an abiding reality all through this long reach of prophecy. We must accept the fact of glorified saints enthroned around the throne of God from the commencement of the "things which shall be." With this many other things are implied of necessity — the descent of the Lord into the air; the resurrection of the dead and change of the living saints; the rejection of the rest of the professing Church, now merely professing, soon to cast off the profession; the close of the Christian dispensation. All this we have already found in Scripture to take place before "the end of the [Jewish] age" — the last week of Daniel's seventy. The internal evidence harmonizes completely with what is derived from the general consent of prophecy in proving to what point in the dispensations we have here arrived.
There is another noteworthy change which we find has taken place. If "the Lamb" takes the book to open the seals of it, "the Lamb" is yet "the Lion of the tribe of Judah," and in that character comes forward to do so. It should be plain what "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" means — that it is the King of the Jews, in fact, that is before us. Christ is taking up the earth now, and therefore Israel. This answers to what we find as to the character of the throne itself as seen here. It is a throne of judgment from which thunders and lightnings break out, but these are encircled by the brightness of the bow of promise, the clear light shining through and in the darkness of the storm, and which is the token of God's covenant with the earth, as He declares to Noah. It is Israel and the earth, therefore, that are to be before us in that which follows, and the tokens of this that we find actually have been already before us. The 144,000 sealed out of all the tribes of Israel, distinguished from the multitude out of all nations who stand before the throne with their palms of victory as having come out of the great tribulation — these show us where we have arrived. It is no more the Church on earth, that Church which is neither Jew nor Gentile, but consisting of both brought together into a new relationship as the body of Christ. The old distinction, on the other hand, now prevails again and in the fourteenth chapter we see these 144,000 upon Mount Zion, the seat of Jewish royalty, with the Lamb. The last week of Daniel in one or other or both its halves is brought before us again and again, until at last the marriage of the Lamb is seen in heaven, and then from these opened heavens the armies of the saints, clad in the robes of righteousness which belong to such, follow the white-horsed Rider out of heaven, to the judgment of the beast and false prophet upon the earth.
There are details here and there which may naturally still raise questions, but the general import of all this is surely not to be mistaken. Let us notice only, in conclusion, that when the saints of the first resurrection are seen to live and reign with Christ the 1000 years, these are really two companies, not one, as so commonly thought. There are those who are seen, first of all, sitting upon thrones, and judgment given to them. To these a special company is added who are distinctly martyrs under the beast. These together complete this resurrection-company. Thus we can understand how it is that we find glorified saints in heaven in the fourth and fifth chapters, and the marriage of the Lamb taking place in heaven before the Lord appears, while it is only in connection with this that we find the martyrs under the beast now taking their place with those raised and glorified before them. All is absolutely self-consistent, a consistency which belongs only to the truth.
This, then, in the briefest outline, is the character of the book of Revelation. We find in it the present Church-period, and the future also after the Church is removed to heaven, — when Israel becomes the special object of divine interest, the blessing of the earth being at hand in her blessing. This is not a fulfilment of the prophecies before us, but the fulfilment, while it leaves ample room to allow of anticipative, partial fulfilments also. Nero Cesar himself, and still more the papacy, may have their place in such, and we may gather instruction from all these, but the first necessity is evidently that we should know what that fulfilment is which is alone complete, and which it is evident will test all other applications. They must be in harmony with this, or be set aside.
There is one point here, however, which deserves to be noted before we go on to consider the book in detail. The question may be asked how we can account for the great proportionate space occupied by what represents so little time in actual occurrence. Seven years, at the most, seem to elapse between the taking up of the saints of the present and the past, and the coming of the Lord to the judgment of the earth. Yet these seven years in this way are made to fill thirteen chapters out of twenty-two. Does this seem a proportion such as we could expect? or what can be the reason of it? Reason it must have if it be of God, and a reason which is moral and spiritual also. Why, then, should these seven years fill so large a place in what is distinctly the Christian book of prophecy? Now a question may be made on the other side which in part will help to answer this. Why is it that those seven years actually fill so many, many pages of Old Testament prophecy? It is plain that every part of this, almost without exception, looks on to the end that we have here, to the great judgment of the earth and of man by God, which must of necessity precede the blessing for, as Isaiah says, "Let favor (that is, grace) be shown to the wicked, yet will he not learn uprightness," a thing, alas, how solemnly proved during all these centuries of gospel witness upon the earth! On the other hand, "When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." Thus judgment, now perverted from it, must return to righteousness. The shepherd's rod must become a rod of iron, shattering the nations as a potter's vessel. The true Melchisedec must be first of all, — as the apostle has pointed out to us, — according to His name, the King of Righteousness, and after that, according to His title, King of Salem, that is, King of Peace. But this judgment of the earth and man, of which, indeed, we may have made very little, how much is there for us implied in it! It is the Day of the Lord upon all the pride and all the evil of man. It is the day which will bring down into the dust all man's pretension, and which will exalt the Lord alone. And we who are waiting to be with Christ in that day, we are those who are in a special manner being exercised in conscience, amid the strife of good and evil everywhere going on, that we may have "by reason of use our senses exercised to discern both good and evil." We are those who are to be assessors with the Judge — who are to reign with Him over this very scene. We are training for it in this very strife through which we pass, and the echo of which we find within ourselves also — a struggle between the flesh, the evil principle which still remains even in the Christian, and that which is in him as begotten of God. We are learning, in this, how to be with God in His judgment of evil. We are learning the awful reality of evil in itself, in having personally to do with it after this manner. And all around us there is that which testifies as to the significance of sin a scene which will find its perfect revelation, however, only when the Lord Himself is revealed, and when everything is brought into judgment. Is it not clear, in this way, what the meaning is of just those last seven years in which evil is permitted at last to display itself (the restraint upon it being removed) as it has never displayed itself before — the answer of man to God, alas, after all that God in His grace has done for him, and when the corruption of the best thing has indeed issued in the worst corruption! How important for ourselves now, that we should see what, in measure hidden for the present, is thus revealed in the event — that we should be able to see the true character of things upon which the judgment of God is coming, and thus be prepared also to be associates in the Day of His appearing with Him who comes to judge! We may grant that all this is little thought of, and that here again, as in so many cases, the wonderful provision that God has made for us has been lightly esteemed. Our own distinctive blessing, what grace has done for us (which we cannot, indeed, prize too highly), has, nevertheless, been made to take more than its due place with us; for God plainly has purposes beyond the Church itself — purposes which, in their fulfilment, will be seen to glorify Him: that is, to be needed for the full revelation of His own character. He would have us witnesses of His righteousness, as well as witnesses of His grace. He would have us enter into His counsels as to man in their widest reach; for we are those of whom the Lord Himself has said, "I call you not servants, but I have called you friends for whatsoever I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you" (John 15:15). It is astonishing, if anything in ourselves can yet astonish us, how little we have learnt to value this inestimable blessedness; and how, in making self, or let us say even Christianity, the whole thing everywhere, and seeking to see nothing else, we have missed, and been content to miss, the largeness of the Lord's mind. Nevertheless, "we have the mind of Christ." We are the very members of His body, those in whom the expression of that mind is to be seen, not only here, but much more in the wondrous days to come and if we realize at all the fellowship into which we have been thus called, we shall find, the more we consider it, the less difficulty in the largeness of revelation here, — a largeness which leads us on into the fulfilment of God's thoughts and purposes, the objects of adoring contemplation by the principalities and powers in heavenly places, to whom also the Church is to exhibit the various wisdom of God. "To Him," would the apostle say, "be glory in the Church, throughout all ages" or, according to the fulness of his more pregnant speech, "throughout all the generations of the age of ages."
The divisions of Revelation are two only, as fitting in God's great witness book. They are:
1. (Rev. 1 — 3.) "The things that are," and
2. (Rev. 4 — 22.) "The things that shall be after these."