Notes on the Revelation

J. N. Darby.

{"Notes on the Book of Revelation; to assist Inquirers in searching into that Book." London, 1839.}

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The following pages pretend to be nothing more whatsoever than what is presented in the title. There is no attempt at a general exposition of this most instructive and important book: and those who seek for an exciting application to surrounding and past events will not find it here. The writer had noted down, in reading, what struck him in the text (often, he believes, overlooked in the framing of some general theory), and he has published what has struck his own mind for the purpose of drawing attention to the book itself. He has added some notes containing more the expression of the light thus elicited from the text; and in these and in the commencement, as he was writing really for the use of Christian brethren, he has not been afraid to communicate freely what thus struck him, desiring it to be as freely weighed, by this and other scriptures, before the Lord. In teaching, he would feel it wrong to teach anything which (however still fallible) he could not affirm was the Lord's mind, without doubt in his own. Here, he has not exactly restricted himself to this, because he does not present himself as a teacher, but merely as seeking to help on others, who are enquiring with him. At the same time he has stated nothing he believes unweighed; nor, when a difficulty presented itself connected with any statement, has he allowed the statement to stand without the difficulty being solved. Many very simple statements have, in this way, been connected with much enquiry throughout Scripture; though neither the difficulty nor the solution appear, perhaps, in what follows. But he has found abundant instruction and enlargement of judgment in Scripture in the research occasioned by it. He believes that the book, in the body of it, views the church as either mystically, according to Ephesians 2, or really, according to 1 Thessalonians 4:17, in heavenly places; and that the want of observing this has much obscured the study of it. He conceives that the scriptural estimate of Ephesians 2 has justified an application of it to past events (though on ground of which those who so applied the prophecy were, in the wisdom of God, scarcely conscious), and application which had its force in a period now nearly, though not quite, passed away; while the application of it, consequent on 1 Thessalonians 4:17, clearly has, as to the substance of it, to begin. I say, the substance of it, because, in tracing the evils to their sources, and developing the various subjects, there are many connecting links, with antecedent facts and events; and this not only in the more hidden sources, but, while the dispensation of judgment is quite distinct from the dispensation of patience, the tares which are judged in the one are often to be spiritually discerned in the other. And hence it is that the book is given to the church. The judgment of God in power supplies force to the conduct and judgment of the church in patience. It seems to me, then, that they are both alike practically wrong who have slightingly rejected the one or the other, and thus respectively deprived the church of each.

166 A difficulty may perhaps present itself to some. It will be found that many points familiar to modern students of the prophetic words are taken for granted; as, for example, the idea of a personal Antichrist is assumed to be just.* The answer to such an objection, if these papers should be subjected to such, is, that they are not written to demonstrate truths already elementary to those to whom they could be interesting. The writer is presenting what has occupied his own mind to those who, with him, stand on such points as admitted, and seek to make progress. It is possible some inconsistencies may be found. The writer has found his own mind grow clearer, and make progress in the research occasioned by the study of the book; and it is possible that some immature idea, assumed unconsciously, but not stated in the word, may be found. He is not aware, however, of any. He has found disencumbering himself of his own or others' assumptions a main point of progress. Finally, he would say, that there are certain great outlines and truths of a definite character in the word of prophecy - safeguards in every research. If in any details he has erred against these, he trusts any such idea may be at once rejected. He commends what he has written to the blessing of God, whose the church is, and who loves it; and to the thoughts and enquiries of those brethren who are led by the Spirit of God, to search into and be instructed in these things.

{*See Note page 52.}

167 We cannot, I think, interpret the divine word in the book of the Revelation with the same confined sense that the ancient prophecies carry; because the church has the mind of Christ, and is supposed not merely to have particular facts communicated to it, but to understand the thoughts of God about, or as manifested in, those facts.

To take an example: I read in Isaiah, "Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered nor brought to mind. But rejoice ye for ever in that which I create; for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy." Now here, I find this vast and blessed expectation of the new heavens and the new earth brought down to a definite joy connected with earthly associations, and resulting from known though new enjoyments and blessings; coming indeed fresh from the hand of God, and, therefore, real and divine blessings, but restricted to a given and earthly sphere, and to definite facts.

Could the church confine itself to this sphere? or are such its apprehensions created by the testimony of a new heavens and a new earth? Clearly not. The mind of God - the glory of Christ - the deliverance of the whole groaning creation of which (in the marvellous love of God, and the power of that worthiness which makes it due to Christ, according to the counsel of grace and glory which unites them to Him) the church is a fellow-heir with Christ - the being like Him, and seeing Him as He is, displayed in the same love of the Father in which He is, that the world may know it - the savour of that love which can delight not only in its own blessing, but by its divine nature, in the blessing of others - and the filling of all things with the divine glory, first mediatorially, and then directly - these are the thoughts (with the blessing of banished sin, perfected holiness, and the restoration of all things) which would occupy the mind of the church as having the Spirit.

Whoever, then, would set about to present the contents of the Revelation with the same confinedness of interpretation as Old Testament prophecy at once puts the church out of her place as the full confidante of God and the wonderful counsellor, as having the mind of Christ, and narrows the glory and the counsel to the feebleness of that state with which the church's position is expressly contrasted (1 Cor. 2:9, 10; see that whole passage). We may indeed know in part and prophesy in part, and so learn from time to time; but, in another sense, we have an unction from the Holy One, and we know all things, because we have the Spirit of God who formed, ordered and reveals them. We are of one counsel with Him, have the mind of Christ, and are not merely the objects of that counsel, as they of old. Being children, the family interests are ours as well as His, though we may be but feeble in the detailed apprehension of them. Now the Revelation has particularly this character, because it was left for the church (not a communication between living apostles and living men, but left for the church), as having the Spirit and dependent on the Spirit, and so, as having that Spirit, to use it in time to come; and so only.

168 Consistently herewith, the address is not an address of personal relationship, but the presenting of that which is the subject of knowledge. The most blessed truths of redemption may shine forth throughout it, yet it is not the address simply of the Father, by the Spirit, to the family, as to the things which concern them within the family. The Father* is not spoken of in it, save in one place, as the Lamb's Father or we, save as kings and priests to His Father); never as in intercourse with the children as His children. This difference, and the corresponding characters of the operation of the Spirit, I find constantly maintained in the Scriptures.

{*This is true also of the Hebrews, where sacrifice and priesthood are spoken of, which constitute relationship with God. Here it is supremacy (whatever be the circumstances), which is His character, not with the children, but over all things, over all creation, and ever the throne of Him that was and is and is to come.}

Accordingly we find (with much additional light, indeed, for the sphere is much wider, and the foundation of divine conduct on a much fuller and more widely extended base) that the position and imagery of the Revelation are all Jewish in character, though not Jewish in place. Neglect of this last point has misled many whose views have been contracted, and who have not in this, I believe, been led by the Spirit of God.

It is not the Father we have here (at least not in that character), but the temple and temple circumstances - He that was, and that is, and that comes. It is a throne and not a family: but it is not, on the other hand, the temple on earth at all, but the mind of God acting there on the throne, but in the perfection of that provident wisdom, in which the seven spirits are before the throne. He that sat on the throne* is the character and leading title of the Almighty in the Revelation; but that throne is not at Jerusalem, and has nothing to do with it immediately as the place of its establishment.

{*See also (that is, as soon as we come to the prophecy) Rev. 4:2, 10; Rev. 5:1, 7, 13; Rev. 6:16. Note also Rev. 7:10 (observe there is no allusion to this from Rev. 8 until Rev. 19:4) and Rev. 21:5. Rev. 20:11 comes in specially intermediately. As to the city, see Rev. 22:1.}

169 It is, in this sense, the book of the throne when the King had been rejected upon earth.

We have, in conformity to this idea, not the Son in the bosom of the Father, but a revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him; and He sent and signified it by an angel to His servant John. All this is Jewish in its character. It is not the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost testifying, but God, Jesus Christ, and the ministration of angels to a servant: none of the other things, of course, ceased to be true; but it was not the character here developed. It is therefore the word of God, the testimony of Jesus Christ, and visions; and there is blessing on the reader. It is addressed to the church in its full privilege; but the subject presented is governance, and order and control, not sonship with the Father. God would instruct His servants.

The blessings to the churches are conformable to this: from One who bears the character of Ancient of Days, who shall come - who was, and is, and is to come; and we see the Spirit, not as on earth, the Comforter (come down here, and in the sons, looking up there), but in His various and manifold sufficiency and perfection, in the presence of the throne, and as afterwards sent in power into the earth (providential protection and power) and from the Lord, not as the Son, one with His Father (see John 14:20), so that we are with Him there through the union of the Spirit, but seen as in human character, as a faithful Witness the First-begotten from the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth - glorious in all this, but human.

Still the church is put in full confidence here, for the praise to this blessed One is praise in which this word of the Spirit "Us" is ever found; and, seeing Him in the glory, she breaks out, by the Spirit in the apostle, into thanksgiving, for His praise cannot be passed by; for she is loved, washed, and will reign in nearness to God and His Father.*

{*The instant answer of the church on the announcement of Christ in His titles as to His Person, is exceedingly beautiful here. And, on the announcement of His coming glory (Rev. 22:16), the instant response of the church, led by the Spirit, is equally lovely: "The Spirit and the bride say, Come"; and the church then takes its full place, while waiting.

Christ's relative character is fully shewn and responded to - a faithful witness for God to man, the perfect representative and Head of the church, as the perfect new risen Man before God, and the head of power to the world; and the church sees Him, and then says what He is to herself.}

170 To the world and to the Jews, His coming will be sorrow. Here, then, we find the place of all these parties at the outset. This is its form, then, "He that is, and was, and is to come"* - the perfection or fulness of the Spirit before the throne: Jesus known as faithful, risen, to reign - all on earth.** The church, meanwhile, knowing its own position in this, therefore says, not Our Father, but His - His God and Father: for so it is. The announcement of what the purport of Jesus' coming is to the world follows thereon, completing what He is and was on earth, the church's portion thereby, and the world's at His coming. In verse 8 we have the announcement of His titles and character here, by "the Lord." Upon His name, thus developed, all the stability of purpose and government hung; and the church had need to know this in all the circumstances which followed. Her place follows - as to the present, in the place of the instrument of this word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ (the word is God's, the testimony Jesus's - in hearing Him we "set to our seal that God is true"); "your brother and fellow-partaker in the tribulation, and kingdom and patience in Jesus." This is the church's place through the recognition of sonship, while the throne is above. But it is not in union and headship, but kingdom and patience. Still, in whatever form, the word she ministers is the word of God or the testimony of Jesus Christ.

{*Note here, not was and is, but is and was, the One who is, and thus, in relation to time, was and is coming.}

{**i.e. The witness of God, as He was the conqueror of death, and the governor of the world in power.}

Lordship in itself is not the highest title of Christ: "God hath made him both Lord and Christ." To us there is but one God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ. But in this word the herald of God announces all the style of His ancient and future glory; for Lord here, doubtless, answers to Jehovah. Further, this book does not present to us the Holy Ghost received of the Father, sent down to produce a public testimony to the world. Nor is it a gift received as needful for the maintenance of the church, and communicated "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come," etc. But it is a revelation given to Christ, and communicated when the church had begun to decay (instead of growing), and had need, in its severed compartments, at very best to be reproved or encouraged, as so looked at apart - as these several candlesticks - the Son of man interfering as the High Priest, but judicially: a revelation given (not the Spirit communicated) when all this darkness and (in principle) apostasy had come in. Each one of these seems another thing, and less immediate than the promise in John already referred to (John 14:20), "In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you."

171 There is the sonship of Christ with the Father, in respect of which the Holy Ghost dwells in us (the Spirit of adoption and union, the Comforter) and looks up and places us before the Father even as He the Son is.

There is Christ, the Head of the body, the exalted Man (the first-born among many brethren), in which character He receives the promise of the Father, and imparts it, as power for testimony. And there is the Lordship of Christ over the world, which is communicated subordinately to the church, who reign with Him, are kings and priests to His God and Father, by virtue of the previous parts of blessing. This last, after the judgment of the churches in their present state, is the subject of the book of Revelation. This state of the churches becomes thus very important and appropriately introductory.

After the heading, and four subsequent verses of introduction, including His work, our position (i.e. as kings and priests), and His coming again, we find the announcement, that, come what would, the Lord was the beginning and ending, the Almighty.

Then we have the revelation to one cast out into the wilderness, the depository of the sorrows of the church, and so of the providence of God, but in the Spirit, on the day typical of the rest of glory which remains. He sees Christ in the midst of the seven candlesticks (not as a servant with His loins girt, but) in holy execution of judgment as priest, the symbols of the Ancient of Days being withal upon Him. It is not Christ on high. It is not Christ the Head of one body.* It is not Christ in heaven. But he turns and sees Him governing, judging, and holding in His hand the destinies of the several churches; but while, with the symbols of the Ancient of Days upon Him, yet revealing Himself for the church to the faithful disciple, as One that lived, was dead, and is alive for evermore,** having power over the gates of His enemies, the keys of hell and of death. This the apostle saw: such was the place Christ took now - a different place from being the communicating Head of the body, however, that might also be. The seer was to write these things, and the things which are, and what should be after these things. In a word, we have the Almighty continuance, which comprehends all things, of the Lord, and the present position of the Son of man in the churches, yet He that lived, was dead, and was alive, and had power over the power of death. The churches are the things that are. There is a close connection between the things that are and those that were seen; for, turning to see the voice that spake with him, he sees the golden candlesticks. So, often, as in the judgment of "the woman," the chief part of the description is of "the beast," Rev. 17.

{*It has therefore passed beyond the condition of the apostolic epistles, but not entered on the relation in which Christ stands to the world in government and lordship.}

{**The first and the last. Christ as continuous, as Jehovah in power and nature, yet One that had passed through the vicissitudes of the church's necessity, so that in all circumstantial changes it might know what and where its security was: so that it was security, not terror, to the individual. So, come what would, the church would not be prevailed over by her enemies.}

172 The addresses to the churches are not part of the things that are, properly; they come in by the by, and designedly so: "Unto the angel, etc., write," and "he that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches." Yet the existence of the churches themselves and the stars constitute the things that are, and are of all importance, as shewing the transition from the state in which Christ, according to Ephesians 4 was the Head of the one body, making it grow by that which every joint supplied (in which its original state was connected with, and presented in, its abstract and mystic perfectness - the results of which shall be manifested in that day when it shall be manifested as one with Him), to the state of ruin and apostasy into which it actually fell, so as to be cut off and spued out of His mouth: as a dispensation - a state of transition - in which He was not filling the one body with gifts, but judging details in the several corporate bodies, in different places, and judging the evil inconsistent with the moral design of the church, maintaining a character absolutely necessary to their recognition as His - as churches at all. Hence, they are moral addresses of the Spirit with promises and threatenings.

173 From this last recognised state, this place of transition, in which Christ can deal upon earth (but in a spiritual sense) judicially, we are necessarily caught up to the throne, on which all hangs subsisting always, but now the only resource; because the manifestation of acceptable grace, with which the Lord can manifestatively dwell in spiritual presence upon earth, had ceased. Hence this part is not properly prophetic, but connected with things that are; and the prophetic character that it has is entirely by the moral designation of the testimony of the Spirit; and we come back to the throne, after these things.* If John was to describe the government of the world on the throne, the church being lost, he must first trace the church as subjected to this moral judgment. The picture of the word would not be complete, had we not, after the epistles which regulated the church, as subsisting among the Gentiles, not only the practical account of the apostasy, as in Jude, 2 Peter, 2 Timothy, 2 Thessalonians, etc., but the moral judgment of the church, as passing from the state noticed in the epistles - evidences that Christ never lost sight of it, and that when it ceased to be a manifestative place of His presence - His epistle - He takes His place and title in the throne whence all things are governed - "the same yesterday, today and for ever"; "Him who was, and is, and is to come"; "the First and the Last," comprehending and ruling all things. The things that are, then, are the seven candlesticks and the seven stars - mystic perfection and actual imperfection; the church never losing its mystic perfection in the mind of God, but when it has to be addressed on earth - to be addressed as figured in so many separate bodies then actually existing, and often with reproofs and threatenings.

{*[Note the wisdom of this. No delay was thus revealed; before the Lord came, the things were; but that was given which, as I doubt not, gives a full consecutive history of the church till He comes.]}

174 The things that are, then, involve both these points.

The things that shall be hereafter, or after these things, begin when He that sits on the throne begins to act in providence, not when Jesus is in recognised church relationship, or even in judicial testimony to the church when the world (creation) is brought into view. It does not follow from this, that there may be no saints, or that they may not be faithful and give a testimony, but that the Lord does not stand towards them in this particular character of relationship

The things which are, and the addresses to the seven churches, have (connected with this, to my mind) a double character; i.e., accordingly as we look at actually existing facts, or facts dispensationally existing: an observation which has strictly the same application to the expression of the Lord to the Jewish economy: "This generation shall not pass away till all these things be fulfilled" - the connection of which, indeed, with this subject is more strong than is at first sight apparent (for the fortunes* of the church and the Jews are more coincident than we suppose as to dispensation, though for the same reason opposite in principle. The root bears us, though the branches may be broken off that we may be graffed in), and has its light increased by, while it casts light on, the passage at the end of John's gospel, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" This was taken as if he in person would not die. But, says the inspired writer, that was not said by the Lord, but "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" The Lord, then, in that expression, left something for the church's wisdom and spirituality to discover. He did not say he should not die, but "If I will," etc.

{*That is, the church dispensation on earth, taking, as to time, the place of the broken-off Jewish branches, and therefore, in many respects, connected in dates, though the church itself be just opposite in principle; for it is another and a heavenly thing instead of a failed earthly thing.}

Now it appears to me that we have very distinctly, in Peter Paul, and John, the three representatives of, first, the Jewish church, as planted, its tabernacle shortly to be put off; then, the Gentile church in its energy, as planted, and ministerially sustained of the apostle (i.e., Paul), but, after his decease, the flock unspared, and perverse men arising, and so that departing too - Ichabod on that; lastly, John on the contrary is placed in contrast with the cutting off of the Jewish body likened in the person of Peter to the Lord, and made to represent the extended protracted existence of the church as one hanging on the will of the Lord, having lost and forfeited its real character, to which faithfulness attached blessing and sustaining power, as due to the character of God, and just hanging now on His secret counsel. And accordingly we have John here, who was in the bosom of Jesus and received the communication of His mind and secret knowledge, hanging over the fallen and falling fortunes of the church - already fallen, if we compare them with their estate as planted, not now sustained by Paul's apostolic care and energy, but beset by wolves and perverse men, and falling, yet sustained by this word, "If I will that he tarry till I come." Now I take it that this suspended place had its form actually and externally at the destruction of Jerusalem. Then also "this generation" took its place externally: the earthly local centralisation of the church was externally set aside (it was really from the time of Stephen's death, when the first martyr left the world to go, as to his spirit, on high), and, the Lord's hand having set aside the earth as His place, all was in abeyance till He personally took up the matter again - coming again in connection with a similar overturning: the fitting of which two events together is what constitutes the force of Matthew 24:1-43. In the meanwhile the throne was really set up in heaven, giving the evidence that everything had failed on earth, but that nothing could fail in the purpose and throne of God. With this the book commences; and the protracted condition of the churches is brought in after the throne is set up, as incidental before the unfolding of the actings, in the world, of the throne so set up in faithfulness.

175 I hold therefore that the things that are, and this address to the churches, give this double character, as to period, to the Revelation. If we take the things that are, as that which actually existed in the time of John, then it closes with the actual existence and state of those churches, as addressed by John, or rather with the life of John himself, who addresses them under the warning of removal for their failure. The throne at Jerusalem being gone, there was still, by him who had been there with the Lord, a recognition of the churches as something upon earth. There was nothing sealed in this. But if we take the apostle as the mystic representative of the dispensation in its condition after the departure of Peter and Paul,* then it is the protraction of that state of things, till the church, as a dispensation, is spued out of Christ's mouth; and the things that shall be hereafter are the actual intervention of the throne of God afresh in the government of the world.

{*If we trace the actual order of church history in the Acts, we shall find the breaking up and scattering of the central and only church of Jerusalem by the death of Stephen, gone to Jesus - and then the church on earth scattered; thereon Saul called for, an entirely new instrument to Gentiles, rulers, and the people of Israel; and thereon the union of the church with Jesus in heaven for the first time mentioned, "Why persecutest thou me?" but after this (though the principle of Paul's mission and the union of the church with Jesus was established), the patience of God continuing to work by the ministration of Peter. Aeneas and Tabitha are the witnesses of his power; and the calling of the Gentiles is by his mouth, that the witness of the Jewish stock might still be preserved in grace, whatever the righteous justice of the dispensation might do in judgment (and so in dispensation the faithful partake of the ruin of the unfaithful, as Caleb and Joshua must wander in the wilderness), and thereon extraordinary intervention might effect besides in one born out of due time, the witness of prerogative grace in the disorder of the dispensation as to man. We find the lingering traces of habitual evil in the saints, for they objected to Peter his having gone to the Gentiles; yet this was the final sin of the Jews. Such was the patience of God, that they were not, historically, then shut up, till Paul's intercourse with them at Rome (Acts 28); and even so, it was blindness in part, not stumbling to fall, and there was a remnant according to the election of grace.}

176 I believe the Holy Ghost has ordered it so as to leave ground for both these applications; as the church knows the throne mystically now in the exaltation of her Head, and actually in its future judicial and open intervention in the affairs of the world.

Accordingly, Revelation 2 and 3 are addresses to the churches, but, on moral principles, extended to every one that had ears to hear; connecting the actually existing bodies with the condition in which the church might find itself in after ages. "The things that are" are, more properly, what then was; the addresses to the churches, the exhibition of the protracted prolongation of the dispensation of the church, mystically perfect, yet ruined (the throne being set up already, but its full manifestation, as for the world, not yet brought out). Within this scene, the yet remaining attention of Christ to the churches, as to the formal manifestation in the body on earth, was in warning and judgment, not headship. This being their state on earth, in heaven they were only expecting with Him a glory which could not fail.

177 It is not my object here to enter into the detail of instruction given to the churches, though it be most personally precious; turning attention here rather to the structure and prophetic character of the Apocalypse. And, as briefly as I may, I add, therefore, here merely the order of the statements made to these churches, and their condition, that they may stand together before the mind of the reader of the Apocalypse.

Firstly, declension from first love, and the Lord taking the place of examination and judgment.

Secondly, persecution: Christ the overcomer of death, a giver of the crown of life.

Thirdly, dwelling in the world, to wit, where Satan's throne is (the prince of this world), yet Christ's witness amongst them where Satan dwelleth, suffering faithfully: with this, the beginning of teaching error for reward, and allowance of evil and low practice. Christ would fight against them (to wit, as an adversary) if they did not repent.

Fourthly, a state of increased devotedness in patience, charity, and works; but Jezebel, teaching communion with an evil and idolatrous world; and suffered. Space had been given for her repentance, but she did not (note here, it is a woman, not some of them). Judgment would fall on her followers, but discriminating - to every one according to his works, and no further burden laid on the faithful.

Here begins another distinction, that, whereas the reward promised was, previously, after the warning to hear, from this point it comes regularly before. On this fearful judgments, and the Lord's coming first introduced and the morning star, and the kingdom on the earth substituted for the professing church.

Fifthly, a name to live, but no reality; profession of being alive as something distinctive: but there were, however, things remaining and a few names. The Lord, if they did not repent, would come on them like a thief: here the church, in this state, judged like the world.

Sixthly, weakness, but an open door, marked, not by detailed works, but keeping the word of Christ, of His patience, and not denying His name. They would be kept from an hour of temptation, which was coming on all the world to try the dwellers upon earth. Compare Isaiah 24.

178 Seventhly, the church to be spued out of His mouth without proposal of repentance, because of what they had become, yet counsel given; and if any one who has remained within and heard when Christ knocked still at the door, that one would be with Him.

Such is the course presented by these churches in their moral character and condition.

These addresses, however, as we have remarked, come in incidentally. John was to write the things he saw. But this was not properly his vision, but came in afterwards, generally under the things that are, and that only as a consequence.

In the fourth chapter we come to the next branch of the subject - the things after these, or (as it is here translated) which must be hereafter, taking up chapter 1:19.

If we take the former part as the protracted condition of the church dispensation, then this will be the power of the throne of Him who was, and is, and is to come,* (the Lamb being still, however, there), exercised over the world, after the close of this dispensation, yet properly before the beginning of the next. If we take the former part as the things which actually then were (and, doubtless, such actually existed), then it is the governance of the world, when the church had no formal recognised existence on earth which could be called the habitation of God in any full sense, though just as dear to Him individually as regards salvation. I believe both these thoughts are intended for the church. In the former case we have literal fulfilment of the prophecy which follows; in the latter, analogies in a protracted period.

{*In the next, He is Son of man and Son of David seated on His throne.}

The apostle now is translated (in spirit) into heaven. Before, he had seen Christ, on turning round: a newly revealed state of things, but on earth, and he there still. But the churches now were no longer so recognised; and the voice, which he had heard at the first behind him on earth, now calls him up to heaven.

Here, accordingly, for the first time, he saw the throne, for it is set in heaven (the earth, as addressing the church, he had left), and there was One sitting on it

Heretofore, it has been the Son of man judging upon earth: according to His various glory, in address; but in vision, the Son of man. We have not the Son of man again, till the judgment in chapter 14:14. The Lamb only is concerned in the seals. The angelic power is connected with the trumpets. We shall see this more particularly; but I remark only, the Lamb is always in a higher or lower place (this latter, by grace), not exercising intermediate providences; in the throne, suffering, or judging.

179 It was in heaven the apostle must learn the things which were to be hereafter. There only they can be learned;* and, by the habituation of the mind there, seen, as they are important to God, to Christ, and, therefore, to the church, and to the Spirit for the church. No one having the Spirit, so as to be interested in God's mind about the church loved of Christ, could be indifferent to them.

{*History was not written in heaven. I believe that the attempt to interpret prophecy by history has been most injurious to the ascertaining of its real meaning. When we have ascertained, by the aid of the Spirit of Christ, the mind of God, we have, as far as it be history, God's estimate of events, and their explanation. But history is man's estimate of events, and he has no right to assume that these are in prophecy at all, and it is clear that he must understand prophecy before he can apply it to any: when he understands it, he has what God meant to give him, without going farther. I do not admit history to be, in any sense, necessary to the understanding of prophecy. I get present facts, and God's moral account of what led to them, and thereby His moral estimate of them: I do not want history to tell me Nineveh or Babylon is ruined, or Jerusalem in the hands of the Gentiles. Of course, where any prophecy does apply to facts, it is a true history of those facts; but it is much more. It is the connection of those facts with the purposes of God in Christ, and whenever any isolated fact, however important in the eyes of man, is taken as the fulfilment of a prophecy, that prophecy is made of private interpretation; and this I believe to be the meaning of that passage. Of course, when any prophecy is fulfilled, the fulfilment is evidence of its truth, but the Christian does not need this; and evidence of truth and interpretation are two very different things.}

But to follow closely the chapters. Revelation 4 sets up the throne in heaven, and One is sitting on it. The sign of the covenant with creation was around the throne. There is no statement of a veil, intercession, incense, or priesthood. It is government - elders on thrones. There were the seven spirits, the Holy Ghost in His energy and perfectness, the fixed moral purity which belonged to the place, the approach to the throne, and, lastly (that of which most was said), four beasts,* which were the heads of the genera of creation, and filled with the intelligence and activity of providence, celebrating Jehovah Elohim Shaddai, the covenant and dispensational names of God, not the relationship name of the church, thus representing the throne of providence and creation, controlling all the springs of the state of things in nature; of which throne these living attributes of God formed the pillars and support; they were around the throne. It was the temple; but the temple was the accompaniment of the throne, without veil or priest. The twenty-four elders may be taken as the representatives of the redeemed of the two dispensations; but it was not the essential character. They were on thrones. But I doubt they went beyond creature instrumentality, however sustained by divine power. The beasts or living creatures are more particularly noticed as connected with the living creatures of Ezekiel - the living supports of the throne of God, leaving (judging rather) Jerusalem, now found as parts of the circle of the throne in heaven.**

{*Lit. 'living creatures.' It will be found that they are intelligent worshippers - give a reason for their source; the angels never do.}

{**The four characters of beasts are the heads of the four genera stated in Genesis. Birds of the air, cattle, beasts of the field, and man; doubtless, they had specific characters as to attribute too. [The beasts will be found to unite seraphic qualities with the cherubic. Cherubic is earthly government. The seraph introduces the proper holiness of God and so brings in a principle of final judgment. In adding this note, I will add another recent impression, that up to the next chapter (where the Lamb first appears) angels had been the instrument; with the Lamb men take this place, though the result be not brought out.]}

180 We may remark, that all dispensation, and that which is the source of it, is noticed (save the church properly, i.e., sons with the Father) - God, Shaddai (i.e., God as with Abraham, the Almighty), and Jehovah, the Governor, who is, and was, and is to come. A part of these living creatures, the eyes, are found elsewhere: first, in 2 Chronicles 16:9 - there service generally; in Ezekiel their connection is with the place of the throne which had been in Jerusalem, but a throne of God over all, the Spirit leading; graven on the stone laid, in Zechariah 3:9, and again, in Zechariah 4:10, resuming their course through the earth, and, as we shall soon see, as the eyes of the Lamb (as possessing all power in heaven and earth), the seven Spirits so sent forth.

This, then, established the throne, the church not being (properly speaking as such) in the scene at all, save representatively in the enthroned elders. It was another subject. The throne of Him that liveth for ever and ever was the subject here. In chapter 5 the book is introduced to us. The throne first established, whatever happened now was what hung on the throne. In the right hand of His power who sat on the throne was a book.

181 There may be some allusion in this, and the little open book, to Jeremiah 32; but it is (to say the least) very faint. A title to open a book is a distinct thing from a book containing a title, the evidences of a title. Besides, it was a book to be read, to be opened and read, as containing communications of the mind of God. But the death of Christ doubtless gave Him the title to the inheritance morally, and to open the book, and purchased and redeemed the joint-heirs.

It is not, moreover, here the kingdom merely of the Son of man, as given to Him, nor the title of the Offspring of David (that is not brought in until the end), but the Root of David, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, David's Lord, not his son - He hath prevailed. The redemption, or purchase, here, is of the church* - a new song, not a Jewish one. It was a book in the hand of God, of Him that sat on the throne, not antecedently revealed, nor the subject of ordered prophecy before, and founded, not on promise which man could have had on uprightness, as the Jewish promises, but solely on the exaltation of the Lamb that was slain; and His being on the throne who was rejected on earth, and specially in the character of the head of these promises to the Jews; and none, therefore, but He, could open it or look on it. The title, too, is one higher than the official or given inheritance of the Son of man, deeper in its ground, and much more exalted. It is a place and a title, held in the throne - the Lamb slain there. This was not a title properly given to a mediatorial person in peace; but a title, due, perhaps, as to person, but acquired by excellency, and humiliation, and perfectness. In this place, the communication is with the elder, as representing, I apprehend, the church cognisant ("for you hath he reconciled") of the title and glory of the Lamb.

{*The difference of reading throws doubt on this: at any rate, it was a new song in heaven, not a Jewish one.}

We are then shewn the Lamb slain - He who did not resist evil, but gave Himself even unto death, and was led to the slaughter, "as he had been slain"; the full power actually, the seven horns, and full knowledge, seven eyes, being in Him, and thus universal permeation of knowledge. His eyes were the seven spirits sent forth into all the earth. Those spirits, the light and power of the holiness of God before the throne, thus characterising His presence, were now the agents of the active discernment and power of Him who was justly exalted. It was not then the Son of man, in His titles of inheritance, but the Lamb who opened the book. To Him and to the church, in measure, as one with Him, as suffering, rejected, and exalted in her Head, the opening of the book appertains. We have the mind of Christ - to us by the word.

182 He came and took the book. The moment He had done this, the beasts and elders (i.e., in principle and title, creation, providence, and redemption) all own His headship, the headship of this humbled but exalted One; for, though the Lion of the tribe of Judah had undertaken it, yet the church knew His titles as Root of David, and yet the Lamb slain but now exalted to the throne as such. The book unfolded what under His hand concerned them; all of it was the counsel of God to bring all out into the place they had in His mind and purpose. Verse 9 should be, "they sing," not "they sung." This is what they do in heaven, as under the Lamb. This being so, "us" would be no difficulty. Perhaps we are bound to take the correction of Griesbach, which would remove even its appearance to the eye, the sense remaining the same. It is remarkable, that while the same confidence and title is expressed by John writing to the saints on earth in the first chapter, and here by those around the Lamb on the throne, they add here, to shew their state of expectancy,* "We shall reign." That was needless to say, though true, to the saints on earth: it was pretty plain to sufferers that they were not reigning. We might have thought that these were. They are therefore shewn to us in this state of expectancy.**

{*Many MSS read 'they shall reign'; but then I doubt as to 'redeemed [us].'}

{**This sets the saints in heaven but awaiting their inheritance - of the earth - the place, in principle, of Christ now.}

The four beasts are ever mentioned first, as connected with divine power, and entirely distinct from the angels.* I see not exactly, how one searching Ezekiel, and their places here, can doubt their general force. They are more intimately connected with redemption, because all that displays creation and providence being connected with, and come under, the power of evil subjectively, they are especially interested in it. The angels merely celebrate the Person of Him that was slain, and His excellent dignity. And, after them, all the actual creation (of which as creatures they are head, they having owned the Lamb as worthy) celebrate Him that sitteth on the throne and the Lamb together. And the four beasts, who sum up all its moral import, say, Amen. And the elders, the intelligent redeemed, fall down and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever. This is His highest and essential character; and in this they close the doxology. First, redemption; then, the angels own the Lamb; then, every creature Him that sits upon the throne and the Lamb; the living beasts saying, Amen: and then the elders Him that liveth for ever and ever, filled with all the fulness of God. This is particularly the portion of the elders, though it is the same blessed One that is honoured by the beasts; but their word is continuance, rather Jehovah-continuance - was, and is, and is to come - relative continuance, not intrinsic life; for, though the throne is the great head and source of all, yet redemption leads us more deeply into the knowledge of Him that sits upon it, and puts all things in their place.**

{*In the fourth chapter we have no angels, and the beasts are apart from the elders; here the beasts and the elders are associated, and we have angels.}

{**This is true even if these honours of the beasts be transferred to the elders, as we know those of the angels certainly will to men in the world to come. For the elders always represent the place of intelligent faith.}

183 This, then, is a position which bears upon the whole to the end, though much intermediate important matter may come in under different heads; but the position of this bears upon all the intrinsic exaltation of the Lamb to the throne. Many dispensatory arrangements and providences may come in subordinately, but this is the key to the result. Further, this is connected with the immediate relationship of the church with Christ. The church knows Him as the Lamb, and should be the follower of Him, and representative of Him as such here. The Lord may act on the dispensation by many external circumstances and orderings; He does not act in it but in this character. As such, He is primarily glorified; as such, the world is against Him, and Satan's rage in its deepest and intrinsic character. The church is seen in its dispensed perfectness as kings and priests (seven is the number for its abstract mystic perfection); because, though all through this period, viewed in its protracted character of years for days, it was yet imperfect, yet here the government of the world is viewed,* not the dealing with the church; and therefore, in placing the parties (if I may so speak, the dramatis personae), the church is viewed as a complete distinct whole. Although it is the supreme throne which is above all, and the source of all (it is He that sits on the throne that makes all things new, and is here the object of supreme worship), yet, relatively it is not the throne of God at Jerusalem. It is not the filial relation of the church, nor the ordered throne of the Son of man, but the throne in heaven;** and there the Lamb in the throne, with the power, knowledge, and holiness belonging to it in exercise, and that over the earth.

{*Viewed, that is, in its protracted character on earth.}

{**This can clearly apply but to two periods properly: the protracted period subsequent to owning the churches upon earth; and the preparatory scene of judicial and providential governance, subsequent to the taking up of the church, and previous to the reign of the Son of man.}

184 There is a very distinct break, in the course of the book, at the close of the eleventh chapter, which, in the sum of its contents, closes the whole book. The time was come that those that destroyed or corrupted the earth should be destroyed. But in Revelation 12 it resumes from the origin, to bring in the radical character and development of the last form of evil; and, as this will be manifested in fact at the end, as to the facts, it may be taken as a continuance of the previous visions. But there is another important division within the first eleven chapters. At the beginning of the eighth chapter, the last seal is opened by the Lamb. Now of course this closes the book; and though that which follows may come under it, yet is it a distinct course and character of events. The Lamb is not spoken of during the course of the trumpets; all is angelic. After chapter 12 we have the Lamb again: of that we can speak there. The Lamb is in opposition to man and the world; that is, they have rejected Him. And the suffering church, at least, is rejected by the world; and what concerns it is what answers to Christ in that character. This, then, is what we have under the seals. In a certain sense, this is always true: for "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution"; but it is not dispensatorily true (i.e., as to the condition of the church). We have then, looking at it as progressive history, three great divisions: the church under the Lamb; the church under the ministration of angelic providences; and the church under and during the last great apostasy, traced from Satan's power at the outset. The world meanwhile, not the church, is the subject of the statements contained in these portions.*

{*As regards the crisis at the close, this would develop itself in, first, the period of trials and persecution of the saints (compare Matt. 24); secondly, the preparatory or providential judgments on the despisers of the Lord (the wrath being simply announced, and not described, in the seventh trumpet); and lastly, a full account of the character, doings, and rise of the beast, with the final judgment of all that belongs to him.}

185 Upon this earthquake great terror manifests itself; but it is not the expression of God's revealed judgment, but of their terror. I do not say this may not have an application afterwards, and that the kings of the earth may have terror then; but this is not the kings joined to the beast, making war with the Lamb, and slain with the sword of Him that sat on the horse. It is terror on an earthquake, which they ascribe to the wrath of the Lamb, as if His day were come. It is after this all the trumpets sound. On the ground on which I am at present interpreting (that is, that of the protracted period), it would be the upsetting of that heathen empire, with its rulers, which had hitherto been in existence, with the consequent terror and dismay of the Lamb's enemies. The idea of an application to such a period is often unjustly combated, and the name of Constantine introduced to shew that what he did in the church was of no consequence, or evil instead of good. But this anxiety proceeds on a false supposition that this is the history of the church; whereas it is the history of the Lamb's government of the world in providence. And in this respect we should remember there never was such an event since Babel, and its consummation in the image at Babylon, as the setting aside the direct worship of Satan in the imperial nation. And this is what took place then.

The recognition of the church, in spite of all, then, comes in by and by: first, the full complement of the elect Jews; and, then, the multitude of the Gentiles with their portion. Nothing was allowed to be done till these were reckoned up or owned in their place.

The first tumult and storm of nations was arrested till this was distinctly done. Such had been the power of God in the Spirit during this period, in spite of all the persecutions and oppositions of ungodly men. The fifth and sixth seals shew the different result of the actually persecuted or rather killed, and the powers that had persecuted them;* the seventh, the great result, in spite of the persecution - the word of God had not been bound.

{*It would seem, from the fifth seal, just when the heavens are going to be changed, that, after the church who have suffered are publicly owned and put in white robes, they are to rest a little season, because there are brethren and fellow-servants to be killed yet. Though thus owned, therefore, vengeance could not be taken for this little space, till this was done. But then the heavens were changed to prepare for this vengeance. In the trumpets, note that there is no evil on the saints, or any saints, but judgment on the earth or its inhabiters. The last suffering (i.e., as to death) of these "brethren" seems a transition point, the act of the beast in its last state, as coming out of the bottomless pit, getting rid of them in that power, to the comfort of the inhabiters of the earth whom they tormented. They stood before the God of the earth.

Some would account this the time of the catching up of the church; but this appears to me a mistake. It is the time, rather, of their public owning before the throne, consequent upon the change in the heavens previously spoken of, and previous to the commencement of the judgments. The hundred and forty-four thousand are, in that case, the Jewish remnant, then owned upon earth. Looked at as the church, in its own portion, it is looked at, I apprehend, as in the heavens from the end of chapter 3. It is quite done with on earth there.}

186 The four winds, blowing on the earth and sea, shew the disorder and tumult of the spirit of nations. Here, not merely on the sea, wherefrom, consequent on it, Daniel saw the four great beasts or kingdoms emerge; but on the earth, here, because there was already a settled and ordered system which was effected by them as well as the mass of unformed nations - the sea. This was arrested till it was shewn how effectual the word of God had been in spite of opposition.

The seals, as well as the trumpets, and perhaps, I might add, the vials, are divided into four and three. The four beasts call to see the consequences of opening the first four seals. The last three have their own special character. The division of the trumpets is well known; the last three being woe-trumpets. The seven churches are divided into four and three, by the different position of the promise and warning to all that have ears to hear. I think, it will be found that no repentance is proposed to the church after the first three.* Looked at in the light of the sustaining power and attributes of providential rule, the call of the four living creatures is very intelligible.

{*This is true in the main of the ecclesiastical body. It is said to Thyatira, "I gave her space to repent and she repented not," and the coming of Christ is then announced. But the call is renewed to Sardis (as I believe, Protestantism) in its turn, but, unless for individuals, in vain. It ends in Laodicea.}

187 Taking the interpretation now according to the protracted course of divine government, the first four seals would be the history of the empire. I hold a horse to be the symbol of imperial or royal power in exercise. And such would be God's account of the course of the empire then existing. If it be asked, What avails this to the saint? I answer, Everything: - to know that all passes under the eye and knowledge of God. This lion, in whose mouth they were, had his days and ways all numbered and ordered of the Lord; and they were, indeed, in union with Him who governed, though they might suffer with Him. The understanding of this place of patience was, and to us is, of the very last importance.

In the fifth seal we have the estimate of those who had suffered during this period graciously taken notice of, although it had been enough to have shewn all was ordered. But it comes out here that many had been killed. Their place is ordered. This was not the last persecution.

The sixth seal has occasioned great difficulty. I admit the application of all this to an ulterior period, if "the things that are" be taken as the whole dispensation, which I recognise. There was a great earthquake,* and the ruling powers shaken, convulsions of the prophetic earth, and dislocations of its governing powers;** and, to strengthen the saints, the consequence is shewn.

{*In the crisis, I do not believe it to be the judgment of Antichrist at all, but that subversion of Satan's power in the heavens, and consequent complete subversion and revolution of all the foundation and elements of all political arrangement and power, which are spoken of as preceding the day of the Lord. For the sources of power in the heavens must be changed before the day of the Lord come, though Satan may be raging upon earth; against whose earthly doings, and upon them, the day may come. See Joel 2; Mark 13:24, 25. The extent and importance of this revolution in the heavens I believe not to be sufficiently attended to ordinarily. The earth may have been often shaken, and have reverted to its course, because the heavens are not. But when the heavens are, the sources of power are changed, and the enemy cast out; and he never regains that place, though, when loose, he may still act in opposition - fruitless opposition - on earth; for then the judgment is come, the heavens being so established and ruling.}

{**The application of symbols literally seems to me to be very false in principle and a very unsuitable mode of interpretation. It is the denial that they are symbols. I believe the language of symbols as definite as any other, and always used in the same sense, as much as language is.}

188 The seventh seal gave occasion to the definite results of the state of things introduced by the fifth. There were those who had come out of great tribulation, and were fully owned - their robes were "white in the blood of the Lamb." The seventh seal once opened, we hear no more of the Lamb. The church, as a dispensation, had ceased to be in a suffering state.* Of the seventh seal nothing could be directly said: heaven could say nothing, man perhaps much; but his thoughts are not as God's thoughts. The owning** of Christianity could not be condemned; the putting the church into the world, its real effect, could not be celebrated. There was silence in heaven. But on this state of things, which heaven could not own at all, secret providence soon began to act. The angels began sounding. It was an action, then, from without in the providential state of things by angelic ministrations of providence, not in the known relationship of a suffering church, and the world opposed, as it had crucified the Head. The growth of apostasy is traced, not in this second part, but in the third, as having its own importance.

{*Or an expectant state as to themselves. Looking at the close, they had no longer to say "How long?" though the judgment might not yet be actually come.}

{** So as regards the crisis, the heavens, as now filled by the saints, had no part in the Son of man's judgment. Their armies which are in heaven will follow Him; but these were the preparatory judgments of God's supreme providential power, in which the saints have no part at all. They could not open the bottomless pit to let the locusts out and Apollyon loose. They have the mind of Christ, and thus the character and ways of God in the Son of man, not His supreme government, though that ministers to them. It is entirely beyond them; and of that the trumpets are a part - the announcement of God's sovereign dealings and government, not His ways and purposes with them.}

But there was a feature in this not yet noticed. Mixed, as they might be (in a certain sense in spite of themselves) with the world, the prayers of the saints had not ceased, and much incense was given to the angel of the altar to add to them, or give them savour and efficacy with God.* The High Priest Himself wears the angelic character here: the nearness of relationship, and completeness of all in heaven as governing on known principles (known by man in the church as his own to go upon), were gone.

{*Hence I apprehend in the crisis this would be the intercession of the High Priest for those left on the earth - saints after (as we have been before led to see) the rapture of the church - saints then connected with the condition of the earth.}

189 This is the first mention we have of the altar of incense. The souls were under the altar of burnt-offering as whole burnt-offerings. Now, it was the whole resource of the saints to cry to God. The answer was judgments from the holiness of God against evil; and the definite course of disasters prepared to pursue its progress. We have, thus, at the close or at the beginning of the periods, an account of the state of the saints during the period (i.e. as to the principle of the dispensation in the period). The trumpets, then, would be the judgments of God upon the mingled state of things, in which the saints had ceased to suffer* and be identified with the character of the Lamb, in answer to the secret prayers of the remnant offered up as a sweet savour by the secret action of the angel of the covenant; but the known dealings, externally, upon principles which the church could explain on the character of its existence.

{*Their corporate suffering was not characteristic of the contents of the trumpets, which dealt in judgments on those not saints; and there was no recognition of their present union and identification with the Lamb, though individually they might be so.}

There was alarm, the powerful acting of God in men's spirits in terror, and a convulsion in the condition of the earth; then the progressive course of judgments: -

On the grandees, and universal prosperity and glory of man, by heaven-sent judgments;

Then, destruction by judgment, through power, on the mass of external nations;

Then, some apostate power polluting and embittering the very sources of the moral popular condition;*

{*There is no symbol more difficult than the various uses of water. Living water is the Spirit; but, as this acts by the word, water (not exactly living water) is doctrine, and in a good sense the word. But waters are peoples, tongues, nations, and languages, and the sea the unformed mass of them. Hence rivers seem the different compartments of them, as "whose land the rivers have spoiled." But I take it, water is always viewed as under active moral influences of some sort, when living, in power; when the sea, it may be acted on merely; when fountains, it may be the spring of their influences, as the rivers would be their source; and therefore, according to the form of its use, it would be the source, or effects, of these moral influences on the mass of the population (what we call "the people"), and hence, the moral popular condition as a whole, the respective form of water indicating its particular character. The springs of waters, the sources of this influenced condition: "From the fountain of Israel," looked at Israel as the source of the whole nation. Thus he stamped their relative character on all that flowed from him: and hence, it might be applied perhaps directly to a teacher, or rather existing set of teachers - fountains of waters: for where they are, they characterise the people; as men say, "Like people, like priest."}

190 Then, the supreme authority smitten, but this in a confined sphere, with all dependent or subordinate light or authority.

There is then a term introduced, not previously used, save in the address to the church of Philadelphia, "Woe to the inhabiters of earth!" an expression, I apprehend, taken from Isaiah 24, and used in the Apocalypse in contrast with dwellers in heaven (i.e., persons within the range of the prophetic earth, or scene of God's immediate moral dealings, but not a stranger or sojourner there, that is, a spiritual, heavenly-minded man, but dwelling there). In chapter 12, it is contrasted with "Rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea"; (compare Ephesians 1 at the close, and chap. 2). Here, accordingly, we have the last three trumpets announced as woes to these inhabiters of the earth. The rest might be providential judgments on the condition of things. These last took up these earthly-minded people fixed upon earth. Note, when the saints, though in supplication, live, as to their actual condition, not in suffering, but mixed up with the world, they* partake externally, and therefore in spirit sensibly, of the trouble and sorrow of the judgments that come; and come, it may be, just as wholesome chastenings, or at least warnings, in answer** to their prayers; and this in principle may, I believe, quite go on now. But there are judgments afterwards specially on these earthly-minded ones (the form in which they become now characterised, when, after the patient and separating chastenings of God, they are fixed in this character). Then come positive judgments on them specifically.

{*This will have its truth in the land withal in the latter day.}

{**Compare the spiritual process of the prophet Habakkuk, which just illustrates this.}

191 The first comes by apostasy letting loose the influences of what is beneath - what is of the abyss. The effect is to put out or darken the supreme authority and the healthful influences which acted on men's minds.* From this, a swarm of marauders spread themselves upon the earth - the prophetic earth, having a king, the angel of the bottomless pit: for though, having the active energy of imperial power, and towards others in face they were men, yet they had "power on their heads." "When seen behind, they were not in the open dignity of man, as governing in civil power by the image of God; they were subject to something, though they might press forward in prevailing conquest on others; and their sting their tail. It was not their energy that was their poisonous power of mischief, but what they brought in as a consequence. "The prophet and teacher of lies, he is the tail."

{*In the protracted view I see no reason to deviate from the ordinary interpretation of this (that is, the Saracens): in the crisis, it will have its accomplishment in the great last enemy, or Antichrist.}

The next woe was a more open incursion of external enemies, as such - this army of prevailing, imperial, congregated power; and from the mouths of them (they carried it before them) what was judgment came forth: only it was by evil, and what was of the enemy positively.* They had power in their mouths, but in their tails too; for in that, also, was their planned mischief more settled than before, though not the introduction of it; "and with them they hurt." It was like Satan in form. This was more open and warlike in character; but not the original evil.

{*As in the first woe in the long period, I take this as usually, as the Turks. In the crisis, it will be the inroads of the northern and eastern armies, headed up after into the Assyrian, and Gog, the prince of Magog.}

But those, the rest of men, that were not killed by them, did not repent of their idolatries and evil conduct; many would be entirely destroyed from their profession, and their place set aside and filled up by others; but even so the rest repented not. The extent of the power of these was limited. The general objects of all the woes were earthly-minded people in the region of God's dealings. When the originating, darkening, and tormenting evil came in, those only were excepted who were manifestly owned of God as His - manifested to be of Him.

192 The trumpet angel - this announcement of the full time of God's purpose - looses these subordinate instruments of His providence to have power of destruction for the prescribed time.

All these, however, were dealings in which, though a remnant prayed, the church had no natural place.* For the growth of the apostasy is not the subject here. It is all mere angelic providential dealing. It is not the Son of man in judgment. It is not the Lamb in glory on the throne, but in sympathy withal with a suffering people, whom the world is against, and whom He ostensibly recognised. This was quite lost when the world recognised the church: the church wholly lost its place. It had gradually practically approached the world - it was now ostensibly sunk in it; such was its downward course, having lost the spiritual discernment, it was not capable of seeing its position in the outward blessing. So Abraham, when his wife was taken into Pharaoh's court. He had gone down into Egypt first. Then the Lord acts by angelic ministrations on the profession, first in external chastenings, then in direct judgment and woes. Present facts, as we proceed, will lead us to the extent (i.e., geographical extent) of these two woes. I reserve the course of these passages more particularly, according to the protracted sense of "the things that are," as applied to the whole dispensation, for what presents itself farther on.

{*As regards the crisis, it is viewed as actually in heaven (i.e., lost sight of on earth entirely, as it was actually, when it lost its place of testimony here below, as a city set on a hill). For all through, as to time, whatever the particular condition of the saints, from the moment the church ceased to be owned by the Son of man in judgment here, as in the seven churches, it was viewed either mystically (which gives the protracted period), or actually in heaven, when the latter-day trials and judgments, the crisis, as it has been called, takes place. In both cases it is lost sight of on earth.}

But before the third woe, or seventh trumpet, there is a large parenthetic revelation comes in; but it is still further angelic or providential* ministration. Nor is it, though it goes through manifestly the same scene, the account of the apostasy which we have afterwards, but the same scene historically, as coming under the course of events as prophetically declared by God. There was much that announced God's judgment against the state of things here entered into, that was not revealed. But though this was not a sealed book which the Lamb could alone open, but the progress of the course of historic events in Providence, yet was it specially in the hand of that mighty angel, and the dignity of His Person was sustained.

{*The rainbow round the head shewed its connection with the restoration of creation - the covenant with creation at the time government was instituted.}

193 The manifestations of the judgment of God connected with the utterance of His voice, and what followed on it, were not yet revealed. A voice from heaven sealed them up: for though the course of events went on, and was described, yet were there really principles in this of such a character and weight in the eyes of Him who could bring in the name of Him that liveth for ever and ever, that it proved that delay should be no longer. And these things were to precede the accomplishing of the mystery of God, which should be when the seventh angel was about to sound.

In this way the little open book is very simple. It is not the mystery of iniquity, brought all out in its character, but it is the historic course of events - a picture of that scene, by itself, in which the mystery of iniquity, and all its important principles, and God's acting on them, are developed, in order to the filling up of that which is finished at the sounding of the seventh trumpet. It is thus a step lower in its nature than the great sealed book. That was held by Him that sat on the throne; and it was given to the Lamb, who alone could open it. It belonged to Him by a title none else at all had: but this is in the hand of the angel, and it is given to the prophet. It was part of the course of progressive historic events. Its allusions, however, identify it with what comes after, as the beast out of the bottomless pit, etc.

There was a further point. The prophet could look at external events, and describe them; but here, though the taste of the knowledge of this was sweet, yet, when he saw what it really conveyed, when he digested it, when the sympathies of his own soul were concerned in it, painful and trying things concerning the position and ruin-state of the church* were involved in it - disorder and evil, and departure from God, and trial connected with this in the saints. Ah! it was bitter in his belly. This term is ever used for the affections and inward thoughts of the man. Therefore, in the church, the Holy Ghost is said to flow from the belly of the believer, because it is not merely a communication of known events, but the Spirit, as an earnest of what belongs to ourselves, and therefore filling the soul; and, from our own association with the things, the joy and testimony flow forth. There was to be the wide-spread field of this testimony again resumed. This part of the testimony took the subject up afresh, and, though connected in fact, a full subject and scene of itself.

{*In the crisis, rather the apostate results of what was nominally the church. In the seals the Lamb is concerned, and the saints are still liable to persecution. The trumpets are providential judgments on the evil, in which the saints are not found (often by wicked men on one another, as in Jewish history). Then comes the display of the open enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ and their judgment, and in their full character, by the Son of man Himself.}

194 Thus, this little open book gave the historical account (when it assumed its place in external history) of the state of things under the great apostasy, in order to closing the whole scene as a history in the seventh trumpet; while the detail of the apostasy, its origin and source (before it was matter of the church's progressive history at all), the power and intent of Satan as manifested in it, were reserved for a distinct account (that is, all its moral workings and developments).

It is to be remarked, in addition, that the third woe is not given here at all. When the seventh trumpet sounds, there are voices in heaven celebrating the coming of the worldly kingdom of Christ; and the scene is described in very general terms, as embracing its introduction and results; but the woe is not described. In truth, all the detail of circumstances is reserved for the accounts which would follow: but "delay no longer" is the thing here evidenced. I have only to add, that if "the things that are" be taken for the whole dispensation, then the twelfth chapter may be taken continuously* for the acting of the agents there described in their conduct in the crisis; only, that it traces them downwards from the state of things in the heavens - that is, as objects of the judgment referred to in the seventh trumpet. In this case, the first act would be the taking of the saints out of the way; then the casting down of Satan; then, after persecution of the Jews, the last struggle, including the judgment of the beast and the like. Otherwise the twelfth chapter is a tracing of the details of the source, principles, and actings of them, as in God's mind, and that from their nature, object, and outset.

{*But the historical continuance is then not immediate; but from the state of things consequent on the position of the parties, more particularly from the flight of the woman into the wilderness, the previous verses being merely to shew what had brought the parties into this condition, that the strength of the man-child was not at first put forth, but taken out of the way - then there was a process by which the heavens were first cleared; and then that by which, after its full heading up against Christ, apostate power was put down. The thing to be noted here, as to order, is, that the war seems to be before the powers of heaven were changed, with which the fifth, sixth, and seventh seals must be compared. I do not see that the owning of the saints, in the fifth, involves the changing of the heavens. The sixth seems, however, to do so.

The order which these passages would involve, as to the final crisis, would be this: The three seals after the first are the beginning of sorrows; during this period the faithful witnesses on earth were liable to be killed, and the gospel of the kingdom was preached among the Gentiles. At the fifth seal the heavens are changed. The abomination of desolation is set up in the midst of the last week. A time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, the dragon persecuting the woman. The woman flees. Those in Judea flee to the mountains.

The sixth seal is opened: and, before the winds blow, the remnant are sealed, and the palm-bearing multitude seen clothed in white. The cry of the remnant on earth brings judgment down there; as the cry from under the altar in the fifth seal had brought on the sixth. Then come the trumpet-judgments in succession, the last involving the final judgment.

The only point that remains is, when is Satan cast down? The twelfth chapter takes in the whole course of the book, in its sources within, to introduce the last agents as objects of judgment announced in heaven on the seventh trumpet sounding. That chapter shews, as noticed, the first act to be catching clean out of the way Him who is to rule the nations; and the whole question all goes on after that. The next step is, not changing the heavens, but war there; and then the adversary and accuser is cast down. This is clearly before the last three and a half years when there is tribulation, and before the tribulation and fleeing takes place; at least it seems to me so. The changing of the heavens is after that, or rather thereupon. I only state, then, as to this, that upon these passages, the casting down of the dragon, as to the crisis, seems to be some time previous to the setting up of the abomination, after the catching up of the saints, i.e., before or in the period of the first four or five seals. The sixth would be the effect of it.

It is clear that the appearing of the Son of man is subsequent to these changes in the heavens, from Matthew, Mark, Joel; and indeed the whole course and order of these mighty dealings of God's judgment. The appearing of His coming destroys the man of sin. Isaiah 24 may be referred to here.}

195 I apprehend some of them, at any rate, as the two witnesses, partook of the heavenly calling according to Daniel 7, without being the church testimony represented in the holy city. See the analogy of the pentecostal church at first (though that was in fact the church), but its testimony is remarkable as to this.

196 But to return to the details of Revelation 11, what we find is this: all who had the priestly character and what concerned them, preserved - even their worship and the altar (that is, the holy place and the place of the priest's approach). But the outward profession - the holy city - is all given up to be entirely desecrated for the prophetic period of forty-two months. But it is not only the priestly associations which are preserved here, but the witnessing or prophetic character. That is, efficacy was given to their testimony, "given to the prayers of the saints," or given to "my two witnesses," which signifies efficacy to the subject of the gift.*

{*Power was given them that they should prophesy in sackcloth for the period of the treading down of the outside holy place while the inner was preserved. It is given in days here, I apprehend, to shew the continuity and constancy of their testimony, not merely the term. The next point in the testimony was this, that it was without the attainment of order in the ministration of Christ's great offices on earth when He shall come; but it was a witness to them. If we compare Zechariah 4 we shall find, in the restoration of the Jewish economy on earth, the strictest order in all the parts; and in the arrangements of the one candlestick, and its two olive trees and pipes. But here there are two olive trees and two candlesticks. There they stood before the Lord of the whole earth, even as these here, a witness to the truth, but not the accomplishment of it: not its order, beauty, and regularity, but a testimony to God's title to have it so. Such were these witnesses.}

This witness was guarded, not by external worldly preservatives, far from it; during this period "woe" was on what might have been so. What was external was the subject of merely secret angelic interference of God; but judgment corresponded to their testimony. If any would hurt them, out of their mouth went fire. It was not the coming down of judgment by external manifest authority; the pretence, at least, of that was on the side of the false prophet. But they were answered in judgment, to preserve them according to the testimony of their mouth against those that would destroy them. This secret hand of God, according to the word of the faithful witness, when all was gone wrong and desecrated, has, I doubt not, been always in such cases afforded. It was not the time for open appearance in judgment, but always to interfere in watchful vindication of their testimony when needed. If they took the sword in such cases, it was an effort to alter the perfect order* of God's providence which always preserves His principles - they would perish by the sword.

{*It would be, in fact too, acting on the principles God was judging.}

197 What follows seems analogous to the circumstances of Moses and Elias, and the energy of their ministry, not a question of their persons. Moses ministered when the people were under oppression, when the world prevailed; and he had power to plague the earth, to which Pharaoh belonged, and of which he was prince, and which he sought. Elias shut up heaven on the apostate people, who ought to have been in connection and association with it; and the blessing was withheld from a land watered with the rain of heaven. Thus, it was power of calling in judgment suited to the respective position of the two: one, acting on the world out of which God's people were called; the other, judging the people which had become the world, by arresting their enjoyment of blessings from heaven. Both have their application to the state of things alluded to in this short but comprehensive prophecy.

At the close of the three years and a half, their sack-cloth testimony ceased by their death through the hands of the beast of the bottomless pit, when they shall have fulfilled their testimony. The eighth verse seems to me designed to afford the general and specific applications, both of which I have stated my belief to be, in the mind of the Spirit of God; first, the great city of the world, which was where Christ was crucified; and specifically Jerusalem, where religious apostasy, always the leader of the world's evil, locally committed the act.

As regards the interpretation, which would give one thousand two hundred and sixty years to this prophecy, enough has been said by others: a testimony, raised during the protracted moral apostasy, to which I believe the Holy Spirit attaches more importance than many are inclined to do; for God loves His saints. I believe it was of the last possible importance, but not of closing importance - not the great closing scene. I hold that it held, to the manifestation of the personal Antichrist, the same relation as the church, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, does to the personal coming of Christ, the Lord; and that is not unimportant or immaterial, very far otherwise, or a light object of God's guardian and all-thoughtful eye. Slaughtered saints, and worshipped demons, suppression, or at least degradation, of God's ordinance actually in civil authority - these were not light things in God's estimate, though His patience might bear with them in that long-suffering which was salvation. But the subversion of the true glory of the church, in the recognition of the Holy Ghost, was not unimportant, as proving the degeneracy of man, who apostatises in all circumstances, though it were not the open war against the Son.

198 Further, I add, that the apostasy, and the revelation-of the man of sin, are two distinct things. The apostasy is the introduction of the man of sin. Now the apostasy may not be the wicked (lit. lawless) one; but surely it is of some importance. I find much want of attention to the accuracy of Scripture in those who seem most accurate themselves. The mystery of iniquity working, the apostasy, and the wicked one, may all be looked at as distinct things, though intimately connected; nor is the lawless identical with Antichrist, though it may be very likely* they may be the same person.

{*As I suppose they are (see Note re Antichrist, page 52, [Art: On the extended scope of prophecy]).}

With regard to the denial of symbols, and the assertion that it is so literal a book, it seems to me untenable. Thus, when the third part of the sun was smitten, the day shone not for a third part of it; but this was not what would have followed in any literal sense. And a little investigation into detail will shew that much of what has been recently said on the subject will not bear examination.

There is another point which the advocates of literalism* and crisis often insist on, which deserves notice (though I am unwilling to detain myself for questions) - days being put for years. This is denied, notwithstanding the plain suggestion of such an idea both in the passage in Numbers 14:34, and in that in Ezekiel 4:6.

{*The application of Old Testament allusions or prophecies in the sense in which they are used there, seems to me to be equally untenable; they are borrowed thence to be applied to heavenly subjects, just as in the case of Jerusalem; so the analogy holds throughout: the bringing down the Revelation to the same sense seems to me simply depriving us of them, and merely to amount to this, that when the apostle uses prophetic language to carry it up into further scenes, we are arrested where the former prophecy left us: simply, I conceive, darkening, instead of enlightening.}

The seventy weeks, however, stand strongly in the way; and the ingenuity of criticism has been called into service to say that it is simply seventy sevens, not seventy weeks, and may thus literally be years. Now, if the conventional reading* be taken, it is simply weeks; if not, it cannot mean sevens at all, but seventy seventies. I think this criticism, therefore, cannot be maintained. It is either seventy weeks or seventy times seventy, not seventy sevens.

{*i.e., by Hebrew vowel points.}

199 But, as regards the numbers here, there is another important question: it is alleged that, looked at as in crisis and literally, this is not the last half week at all.* In the last half week at Jerusalem, it is said they are not times of testimony, but of vengeance - not of testimony of any one, Christian or Jew. The disciples, who had been giving testimony, and called to possess their souls in patience, are then directed to flee; for these were the days of vengeance. This was at the setting up of the abomination of desolation, the commencement of the last twelve hundred and sixty days, or three years and a half. So in the twelfth chapter, after the casting down of Satan, his great wrath begins upon the earth; then heaven and its inhabiters are free; and the woman, accordingly, flees into the wilderness for the twelve hundred and sixty days, to be nourished from the face of the serpent. Antichrist does not assume his proper distinctive character in Jerusalem till then. He may, as the oppressive apostate head of the Gentiles, at the instigation of Jews, persecute the saints who have the testimony of Jesus - possibly tyrannically oppress even the Jews, as the holy nation, by times; but, strictly, their "covenant is with death, and with hell are they at agreement" (i.e., as to the rulers who represent the nation). This last is true as regards the last half week; its character is a covenant of the beast with the Jews. But the Lord in Matthew 24 distinguishes the general testimony of the kingdom sent out into all the world, and which began immediately after His death, from the last half week only. What He speaks of is not a special testimony in Jerusalem, and we must not confound the peculiar testimony of the two witnesses with the first fourteen verses of Matthew 24. That chapter knows no first half week. There is a general testimony and one half week, beginning with the setting up of the abomination of desolation, and ending with the Lord's coming. Daniel 9 does contemplate a first half week, in which the prince that shall come makes a covenant with the mass of the Jews, which he will break in the middle of the week. But Revelation 11 contemplates, I believe, only the last half week, that of Matthew 24.

{*I have changed this paragraph, as I, at the time of writing these notes, followed the usual division in chapter 11 into two half weeks, applying it as an answer to the writers just alluded to. As I do not now accept this division, I have of course changed the paragraph into short observations on the question; but I have given what is alleged for it.}

200 We have another distinction here, which also runs through what follows, not duly noticed - people, tongues, nations, languages, and they that dwell upon the earth. I say not duly noticed, as the universality of Antichrist's dominion has been argued from the expression, "All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him." But there, as elsewhere, they are in contrast with nations, kindreds, tongues, people. The case of the dwellers upon earth is always, I think, more aggravated.

Thus it is not merely evil conduct towards the witnesses here, but great interested joy at their destruction. There are three parties engaged in the evil: the beast, who kills the witnesses; those of the nations and kindreds, who do not suffer them to be buried, exhibiting the natural hostility of the human heart; and the people dwelling upon earth, whom the testimony of the witnesses had specially tormented. For the testimony of holy consistency and prophetic nearness to God is continual torment to them to whom the testimony comes for their apostasy. The prophet, in this character, is always a witness that, with all their pride and self-satisfaction, they are apostate; and this is torment, for they have really no peace with God, whatever their pretension. Tile return to life of the witnesses was a public thing, in which the judgment and vindication of God was plain to their enemies. They heard the voice from heaven, saying to them, Come up hither. They were first brought to life, and then called up to heaven openly.

These witnesses had stood before the God of the earth, the witnesses of God's title here. The affright which the public manifestation of God in their favour produced did not give efficacy to their testimony; but the affrighted ones glorified the God of heaven. There was the general effect of unrepentant religion - the testimony not received; for that would have broken their will. But their fear acted on externally was to honour God formally, but only as One in heaven. It was that which acted on themselves that did this - the earthquake and slaying of men, names of men, their pride and title put down.* All this took place before the sounding of the last trumpet; but when it closed, the second woe was passed.

{*Babel's word was, "Let us make ourselves a name." God only is entitled to a name, or to give it. Adam had title as regards the beasts, as set over them by God; "and he brought them unto Adam." The enemy may give a name, in derision, to saints, over-ruled of God; but they are gathered only to the name of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and should bear His name, and, in Him, the Father's only.}

201 Although there may be an accomplishment of this more literally in crisis, there is nothing in the revival of the witnesses, which renders it strictly literal; on the contrary, the terms are, for the most part, symbolical. A spirit of life from God, though it may be applied, is not so strictly characteristic of mere quickening.* It was distinct, however, from a mere renewal of prophecy in sackcloth. The testimony now was by their exaltation publicly, not by their faithfulness in trial.

{*Observe, it is neither resurrection nor changing them who are alive, but a special act. Man had killed them; but God quickened and called them up.}

I would remark on verse 8, that it is properly not the street of the great city; but rather the highway or great street of the city, but the antecedent to which seems the whole idea. All this time the last great woe was on the eve of being manifested.

The witnesses then were a testimony - given previous to the last dire expression of the power of evil being let loose - an adequate testimony; and that of God's claim upon the earth, during the time that these dwellers upon earth claimed it as theirs, and therefore were tormented by the testimony. It was not necessarily during the prevalence of the beast out of the bottomless pit; for till the war (v. 7) his existence is not in question. When he makes war on them, he overcomes and kills them; but they have power in testimony till then - till their testimony is fulfilled. Their testimony,* then, was not properly under the oppression of his power; at least that is not the way God distinguishes it. It is carried on in sorrow while the external sacred things are defiled, but the priestly remnant, and what pertained to them, preserved; and this for the forty-two months. And in these circumstances they fulfil their testimony: then the beast out of the bottomless pit makes war upon them and kills them.** When the question as to power comes on, and Antichrist rises up in his full form against the Lamb, he is finally cast down, and put, with the false prophet, in the lake of fire, and his followers killed. It is dealing with the witnesses in its principle, an antecedent act; the Lamb has not yet come upon the scene. For He comes personally victorious: but here, while the beast comes against the witnesses who stand before the God of the earth, they are overcome, because the Lamb has not yet come forth in power, nor the earthly kingdom come. Lucifer shall rise up against the Lord from heaven, and be cast down. When his representative rises against the witnesses and representatives of the Lord - these two anointed ones, they are cast down and killed, and taken to heaven where the glory and the Lamb yet were. It was the last external public act of testimony - whether for the dispensation or the crisis - and therefore had definitely the character attached to it when prophetic witness had place in it - the prevalence of evil externally, and suffering of the witnesses - their rest and refuge being above.

{*I say their testimony, because as to his general character the beast will persecute the saints.}

{**To the joy of the dwellers upon earth; and thus, doubtless, he is their great friend (see Note re Antichrist, page 52).}

202 Thus, the beast out of the bottomless pit does not appear here as the direct agent against the witnesses, till the three years and a half of their testimony are finished, though, as to their condition, they were in sackcloth. When the announcement of the last woe comes, heaven estimates it as the signal for the earthly kingdom coming; and the church, anticipative, as having the mind of Christ, gives thanks to the Lord God Almighty, who, in the continuity of His being and counsel, was now taking His power; and therefore she anticipates all the results. The elders only speak here; for the things were not in the vision in their completeness or principles: but it was the actual anticipation of the facts as now coming in, as having the mind of Christ.

It would seem that the last woe had a wider aspect* than the others - much, though containing the scene and object of them In verse 12 of the succeeding chapter, after Satan is cast down, woe indeed is pronounced on the inhabiters of the earth, who were the former objects of the woes; and also, then, on those of the sea. Now it is true this does not come in, in proper historical continuity, from chapter 12; nor is it the final woe of chapter 11; but it introduces the larger scene which is the subject of the judgment executed in that woe. But the expression of the woe there had been reserved; here, all are concerned in it under heaven.

{*At least is connected with a wider scope of results.}

203 The nineteenth verse of chapter 11 should, I think though a connecting one, more properly begin the twelfth chapter. Looking at the chapters as continuous, it is the direct manifest agency of heaven upon earth, the connection of the two. It is not now a seal opened by one who alone could do it, but the temple opened; "and there was seen," etc.

The first thing seen was the secure and unchanging witness of God's covenant mercy, on which all his thoughts and purposes were bent. After the sounding of the seventh trumpet, all the relationships of things, and their real principles and sources, came out. If we look at the eighteenth verse of chapter 11 as closing generally the whole history as it does, then the twelfth takes back the church to see, abstractedly, the principles and sources of all the events, which, in fact, will be brought out in the last three years and a half manifestly.

These two points of view are in no way inconsistent; for the last crisis is a bringing to a head and manifestation these very sources of action in manifested agents and direct collision of action. On the contrary, none can understand the crisis that takes place, unless they enter into the sources, principles, and moving of (in some sense, we may say, interested) agents, which are here unveiled from the beginning; and, on the other hand, the workings of these agents and principles, and their results, are never clearly seen until brought thus out at the end in their very results, though faith may discern their principles long before. Thus the Lord says in the first displays of His power, "I beheld Satan, like lightning, fall from heaven"; and His great apostle reveals to us, that the mystery of iniquity did already work: only there is He who restrains, till He should be taken out of the way (2 Thess. 2:7); and then the wicked should be revealed, whom the Lord would destroy. The unveiling, then, of these hidden, but real agents, was just the unfolding of what would be brought into crisis: and the crisis is the actual manifestation of these agents in their true character, no longer under the cover of mysteries. Hence the church, as admitted into heaven, knows them, and explains their manifestations when they shew themselves on earth.

204 This forms no part, properly, of the seals, then; but comes in, under the church's proper knowledge, by the Holy Ghost, and His revelations of what passes in heaven; not in mere communion, as taking of the things of Christ, but in revelation, as shewing what is connected with the manifestation of His glory. It is all based (come what will) on the immutability of the ark of the covenant. It was the ark of the covenant of God and the temple of God. The church rests on this sure faithfulness, but its direct application is to Israel, though in peculiarly symbolical images.

This being fixed, the ways and purposes of Providence were then discovered. There appeared a great* sign in heaven. As the woman was for the man, so was the man by the woman; and here things were revealed, not in ultimate results (that is the knowledge of the church always, in communion, whether as to Christ's glory as man or God all in all), but as administered by the way, and, therefore, the man is by the woman here. So in other types of scripture. Hence, though we see her in the glory of God's mind at first, we soon see her in various circumstances and exigencies, to which she was, in His wisdom and righteousness, subjected, even to fleeing away upon earth. Here, however, she is seen in her title of glory in heaven. The purpose of God is in the church; but Christ is its great subject; and, in fact, she may be subject to ten thousand vicissitudes here below, for the world is not regulated otherwise than secretly. God may glorify her, but the woman's place is to be subject; she does not carry on the war, and cannot in this character. I have already mentioned, elsewhere,** that the activity of faith, or its failure, is, in typical scripture, spoken of as the man - the condition of the church or people of God (for in this sense the church is the name for a condition of the people of God, this last being used in a general sense) is represented by the woman.***

{*Another sign begins Revelation 15.}

{**Collected Writings, volume 19, page (194) 129.}

{***But as to direct historic application the woman here is the Jewish people (or Jerusalem) seen in heaven and glory first, then cast out and persecuted by the dragon; that is, in God's mind, and then the object of Satan's enmity.}

We have to look here, at the people of God, as in His own mind or purpose, and therefore glorified in that; yet, as we have said, entering into the detail of consequences, it is in the ministration of it, for it is the man by the woman, not the woman for the man. Both have their importance and their place. Hence the woman is seen clothed with supreme authority - the splendour of supreme authority, and all derivative light under her feet;* and derivative rule, all lesser authority, her crown, and that in perfectness. Thus it is viewed abstractedly, but in purpose with all God attaches to it, and about which all God's mediate purposes or plans roll - His own glory and Jesus ever the end. And thus shall it close, for it is true that, 'What begins with sight, ends in action.'

{*Thus all the previous state of heart in which reflected light was shadowed out for the people is put under their feet.}

205 For we are not speaking here of God's returning into His own infinitude, which can hardly be called purpose:* - Christ, then, the glory of the Son, was the purpose; but here, it being the ministration of it, the woman is presented and the man hidden.

{*Purpose has rather the force of the thing purposed here, than intention. If I am understood, I have no anxiety as to metaphysical precision. The word 'purpose' evidently includes both, but may apply specially to either (i.e., the intention and the thing intended).}

If we descend to detail, we shall find the most marked contrast: the lowest state of the lowest condition of God's people - that under the law broken, and they ruled over by the last form of Gentile evil, as to its personality - that in which Christ was born; and so rightly. For by sin the glory was all reversed; all was reversed: the throne, which ought to be the instrument of God's justice, was the instrument of slaying His Son, at the instance and instigation (intercession, if you please) of His priests, the leaders of His own people! What a picture of things! If we go to the time when the Jews will actually say, "To us a child is born," we shall see it is after the very last and manifested form of the last evil - the evil of the last days. The church knows it now, for it has the mind of Christ; and we are renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created us.

That which we find here, then, is the purpose of God concerning the condition of His people producing One who was to rule all nations; and, instead of His doing so, He is caught up to God and His throne; and the condition of His people is left exposed to trial, misery, and pursuit of the great enemy, who had been waiting and seeking to devour the man-child when born. It, however, entirely escapes from him. Such is the general picture, which throws much light on the whole of the detail. If we apply it to Christ in Person, then its accomplishment as to heavenly purpose, whatever He might suffer here, is sufficiently manifest (the condition of God's people being suffering and trial thereon). If we apply it to the saints, who overcome here (as we read) as He did, and to whom it is given to rule as He has received of His Father, then we find that, though the object of the enemy was to devour them too, they are caught up out of his way to Him who was above his power; and the trial and persecution fall on those who are left here - upon the woman. The details of this are entered into in what follows in the chapter. After the child is caught up, the woman flees. In this there are no details. It is a description of the position of the parties, and that with all possible clearness, as with divine power and precision. There is one of these of which, as yet, I have said but little - this other wonder (who was opposed to the woman, this purpose of God in His people), the great red dragon. His object was to destroy the man-child to be brought forth by the woman whose pains of labour he perceived, and hating all that belonged to it; for the purpose of God and its fruits were his destruction. He failed in this, and turned his anger against that which, in a certain sense, was left in his power.

206 That the dragon is the hostile power of the adversary there is no question. We have the authority of this book (Rev. 20), I suppose no one will deny, for saying that.

If we look to the source of power, it is there; only without the description which gives it its formal character. It was here seen in heaven (i.e., not in its providential forms and consequences by the will of man, but as the Lord viewed it in its will or power of evil), as a whole, identified in form with the beast (to which it gave its power, it is true), yet not the beast, and not identified with it in the specialities of its latter-day character; but the whole generic form of Satan's power, in that which took, at a given period, that character. It had the seven heads and ten horns, but the heads were crowned, not the horns. It was Satan, acting in the form of power, in which he countervailed - not simply the earthly purpose* amongst the Jews, or in which he attacks Jerusalem by an earthly instrument, but - the whole heavenly** purposes and the glory of God by Christ in His people. Hence, too, the death of Christ, which closed His Jewish and earthly career, is not noticed here; because the Jewish associations of Christ are not the question when things are seen in the heavens. The child was caught up to God and His throne. The tail of the serpent, his moral influence - evil moral influence - characterised by the form of the Roman empire, the effects of his power, and the dominant religion of the state, put down a third of the rulers of God, and made them subordinate. The effect on the woman was her retreat into solitude and sorrow, for so she is seen in actual effect.

{*The Son born was caught up, but was to rule all nations: the heavenly condition is here the answer and remedy for an effort directed against one who was to rule over the earthly. His rule and power is the matter in question.}

{**This is true, even in Antichrist; for that is association with the Jews and possession of Jerusalem, to hold it as the centre of earthly power against the Lord, as coming from heaven. The "scornful men" that dwell at Jerusalem "have made a covenant with death and are at agreement with hell." [I have not altered the abstract applications: it would be changing the book (and they afford a kind of dictionary to the symbols), but I add here and there the particular prophetic events in which they are fulfilled - as I believe, that to which they apply.]}

207 Here are the parties: the seventh verse begins a new topic. There was war in heaven. This was not the war of the church, but of divine power; not yet, however, in the manifested energy of the Son of man, the mighty man, the man-child; but in the more secret agencies of His will, angelic ministrations. The church's war, carried on in the flesh, is carried on in suffering, and waged against the accuser by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; he being always there, and yet they above him, as an overcome enemy in Christ, in their flesh wretched, and as to that in its will, when it worked, under his power. But here it was power to expel in service to God - the question settled whether the dragon and his angels should continue there: "And the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."* Then came the celebration; and in the thirteenth verse, what followed on the earth: and the change in all this is very important. The church's estimate of it in heaven, too, is - " the accuser of our brethren";** the consequence of whose accusations and power was trial*** and persecution upon earth. They loved not their lives unto death, overcoming him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony - a time then of saints' suffering, and Satan having his place in heaven, in authority and power, and deceiving the whole world. From this the victory of Michael and his angels cast him down.

{*But they are not as yet replaced by the saints there.}

{**Note here, the victory is celebrated; they overcame, they are not therefore in this conflict any more.}

{***I suspect it will be found that, while the suffering may be most blessed and glorious for righteousness', or Christ's sake, it is, nevertheless, always used by the Lord for the correction of some secret or manifest evil in the individual or in the church.}

208 I apply here the same principle of providential working and manifestation in crisis as throughout; and I mention it here only particularly, and its application to the fall of idolatry, because by modern interpreters, entirely rejected. It is not his influence in the church that is here in question,* but his power in the rule of the world, however that might act on the church. The argument, then, that mischief might accrue to the church by the ceasing of Satan's open power in the world, because the church thereby sunk in the world, is nothing to the purpose: for my own part, I admit it in the fullest manner possible, though I am sure all was wisely ordered. But as the setting up the supreme power in Nebuchadnezzar, and his speedy connection of it with enforced idolatry, was very important in the divine government in the world, that power coming from God (though Israel was, or might not be, in question in this last act), so the entire relinquishment of idolatry by the governing power (for whatever man does, God looks to the conduct of the governing power) was a fact of great importance in the history of God's government of the world. It was a setting aside Satan's direct throne in the world; for the existence of power in the Gentiles is not Satan's direct throne (it was transferred to them by God); it is its use and character in sinful man that makes it Satan's. This may be merely by passions, or it may be by the direct worship of Satan and his angels, or by open blasphemy against God. The second of these is the open heavenly rule of Satan, looked at in providence: and this went on in Gentile idolatry. He may recover it secretly by what is called the church:** but the thing itself was never restored. This appears to me a very plain and important distinction in the exercise of Satan's power, which we cannot pass by without leaving a blank in our knowledge of God's mind, and consequently its train lost and the church misled. Taking this event in this point of view, it would connect itself with the providential course of things which the church understands in heaven, though not yet outwardly manifested; and the consequent period would be a period of years, the period being the period of her nourishing there, not the date of her flight for this providential purpose. These things are given generally in their characters, not dates, because it was a course of progressively developed principles, although sometimes facts may have given particular dates. As regards that which takes place actually in the crisis, the facts are simple and plain.***

{*i.e., even referring the passage to the protracted period.}

{**In saint-worship, which is really demon-worship.}

{***Satan is cast down from heaven to earth, where he yet is in great wrath for Daniel's last half week, and persecutes the Jews owned of God, saved providentially as a body, whereon the enemy seizes all he can. The woman is, as I have said, the Jews owned of God, or Jerusalem.}

209 There was war in heaven. Michael, the archangel, and his angels fought, and the dragon; and the dragon was cast out of heaven, entirely and finally out of that place of authority and power which he had held, as ruling the world: "the rulers of the darkness of this world." As to who Michael is, we have mention of this exalted name in Jude, as contending with the devil; and in Daniel, as that great prince who stands up as the ruler of providential power, in favour of the Jewish people, who are the central object of providence in the arrangement of nations. I do not see that it is revealed that it is Christ* under a mystical name, but it is certainly the direct superior agent of God's providential purposes, and thus the immediate instrument of favour to His people in that character. The notion of archangels is not sustained in Scripture.** There are seven angels, who stand in the presence of God, spoken of. But Satan was cast out, finally out of heaven; and the announcement given, that salvation, strength, and the kingdom of our God and the power of His Christ was come; and the reason - that the accuser of the brethren was cast down. Satan, in his character of anti-priest, had been unceasing in his accusations against the brethren; though, in the course of God's dealings with the saints, during this time of trial, He had suffered their being even put to death here below; yet they had overcome their enemy there really as to all the questions which Satan could raise before God. The accusations were of no avail, through the blood of the Lamb. Satan could not overthrow their conscience; and by the word of their testimony they maintained the truth and righteousness against him as the father of lies. So that while the great High Priest secured their cause above, Satan as a liar and accuser, seeking to deceive, was baffled and overcome; as a murderer, was submitted to, till Christ took the power, and he was turned out. The manner in which accusations and persecutions are connected, in principle, may be seen in the history of the book of Job. Thereon the dwellers in heaven - for this was the ground and place of the enmity and conflict (see Eph. 1, 2 and 6) - are called on to rejoice, for this conflict is ended. Christ, as the great High Priest, might have sustained them in the conflict with the accuser: but now the conflict*** was ended. This is clearly what concerned the church, in this matter, as identified with Christ in His priestly exaltation. Woe then comes upon the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea; for the devil, not yet shut up, but cast from heaven, is come down in great wrath, knowing he has but a short time. Here the second paragraph of this chapter ends: the first at verse 8, where the parties are stated, as we have seen, in the original idea and purpose; here the actings of heaven's deliverance from his power and the consequence of this to the church, which properly sits in heavenly places (and indeed all heavenly saints); then, verse 13, what the devil did when cast down to earth, after he was cast out of heaven.

{*I see a great deal to lead to the conviction that it is Christ as the head of angelic power, but not certainly, and therefore say no more than I do here. Fuller enquiry would lead me to a different conclusion.}

{**i.e., in the plural number. Superiorities (as principalities, powers, thrones, dominions) are spoken of, but not directly archangels.}

{***Conflict with Satan, and trial, though used, perhaps for chastening judgment, are very different from judgment in war, where Satan has power according to the fall of the first Adam, and a will to walk with him.}

210 The dragon has now lost his place in heaven. He cannot rule the world, as thence, as the prince and god of it: but he comes as a woe and judgment from God upon those who dwelt on earth, had not followed the heavenly calling, where it was then; and he is in great wrath, because he has now but a short time. His enmity against Him* who has thus sentenced him, is exercised against that which has any connection with Him in the new sphere of his malice. He can no longer accuse the brethren; he persecutes the woman. And at this period, upon earth, the woman is the Jewish people owned of God, the woman that brought forth the man (for that was true of the Jewish economy as to Christ, looked at in His title of power upon earth: "To us a son is born"). But here, to the woman is given force and speed from God; but only to flee into the wilderness, where she is nourished for the allotted period, which, speaking as to the closing crisis, is three years and a half; for during this period the opportunity of her return was not afforded by the cessation of the dragon's power.

{*It is the angelic head of the Jewish people who was the power that overcame him above.}

211 The dragon here takes the name of serpent, as having the form of subtlety, deceit, and malice, "that old serpent which is the devil and Satan." It is the enmity, we are to remark, of the dragon and serpent, not the woe on the earth which is described: that is reserved for more detailed account in what follows, at least as to the part material for the church's instruction in its passage towards it. And here I must remark the extreme importance to us of connecting the events and agents in the crisis, in principle, character, and progress with what is passing and the agents we see around us, or it loses its main moral effect and its whole use for the church. The church is not under this woe, I believe, at all, in the final crisis. It is on earth, to the Jewish people, this Son is born: we belong to the heavens, whence Satan is cast out. But, by the ripened fruit in that day, as more fully displayed in subsequent chapters, we learn the present nature and character of the tree that bears it, as God describes man by his fruits in Romans 3, though all men have not borne such. And thus I can judge my own heart, and know what man is. And if the last apostate be not yet revealed, he is but the head of a system of which God's revelation of him, as the full fruit, makes me know the sap and character. Though the serpent could not overcome the woman in war (for God preserved her, not by the mighty man, but by flight; and there his direct power was stopped; for heavenly power was in aid for her), yet the resources he had he uses, and pours forth these waters, animated by his energy, as a flood. I should suppose, from the explanation given in this book of waters looked at as on earth, these were armies of people directly under Satan's moral influence, flowing from his mouth, the expression of his mind and will.

212 But the earth - the scene of God's providential and prophetic agency - helped the woman by whatever providence (for God teaches here the facts of Satan's agency, not the historical providences) and swallowed up and brought to nought this agency of Satan: it was frustrated. And he went to make war with the remnant of her seed, the godly Jews who might remain within his reach, who obeyed God's commandments and had received the testimony of Jesus Christ - for so (for I am now speaking of the final crisis) I believe the Jews, i.e., the remnant, will. But I do not say further than a prophetic testimony; "for the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus." The dragon (for he is not now spoken of in his subtle actings, but identified again in his character and acting in the sphere and character of power) was wroth with the woman whom he could not touch, and went to make war with, to use violence towards, the remnant of the seed.