Section 2 — "Things that shall be."

An Exposition of Revelation 4 — 22.

Part 1


(1) Prophecies Leading Up to These

Our title to the following pages indicates our adherence in some sense to the interpretation of the book of Revelation which makes the body of it — the nineteen chapters upon which we are entering — apply to what is still for us future. Those who so apply it, whatever differences in detail there may be among them, are on this account called "futurists," in contrast with the large school of "Presentists" or "Historicalists," who find in it a progressive history of the Church from the beginning, and interpret it naturally by that history.

They are usually and strongly opposed to one another, as might be expected, although there is no necessary opposition in the views themselves. Both may be held, and have been held together, by some who hold that there is an incipient, real, though incomplete fulfillment of divine prophecy, as well as a final exhaustive one; the first being often an assurance and help to the meaning of the latter. And this I accept for myself as at least generally true, and true in the case before us, and that (to use the words of another) "they are both alike practically wrong who have slightingly rejected the one or the other [application], and thus respectively deprived the Church of each."

But while I thus would keep in mind and seek to profit by this double interpretation, the latter is what I desire, as God may enable me, to develop and insist upon, and this for more reasons than one, but especially just because it is that which is alone complete and final, and still lying in the future for us; whereas the historical interpretation occupies us largely with the past, — a past still fruitful for us assuredly, but less full of personal appeal. This will indeed be questioned, and it is not yet the time to answer the question.

Clearly the first point now is to prove, if it can be proved, the futurity of the fulfillment of the prophecies which we are to examine, — that such fulfillment is required by the inspired language of the book itself, and by a comparison with other Scripture. This ascertained, we can look better at objections which have been made to it, and realize also the profit of what is to engage us.

The first principle to be got hold of is that given us by the apostle Peter, that "no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation" (2 Peter 1:20). It is prophecy that is in question here, not, all Scripture, as the Romanists would apply it. But also "private interpretation" is literally "its own interpretation." No single prophecy must be read alone, — as if it stood apart from the rest; but in connection with the whole plan of it in the Word. "For prophecy came not in old time by the will of man," — is not therefore the expression of the many minds of men; "but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost:" — there is One perfect mind throughout it.

Now the violation of this will be found to be largely the cause of the failure of expositors. They neglect a rule which the apostle emphasizes as of first importance — "knowing this first." It is comparatively easy to find some plausible application of a single passage; it is quite another thing to make this fit with a general prophetic testimony. Comparison of passage with passage on this subject is what we are invited and compelled to therefore, if we would have truth instead of theory, realized certainty rather than conjecture. What we hold must be tested and retested by the application of similar scripture, so that at least "in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word" may "be established."

Moreover, it will be plainly of importance to find some comprehensive prophecy connecting itself with some fixed point, or points, on Scripture, with which others may be then securely connected. Such prophecies we may find again and again in the book of Daniel, a book in the closest relation also to the book of Revelation, as all expositors of whatever school are agreed absolutely. Turn we, then, in the first place, to the second of Daniel.

We have here Nebuchadnezzar's vision of the four Gentile empires under the symbol of a great image, which is brought to an end by the sudden descent of a stone cut without hands out of a mountain; the stone becoming then a great mountain which fills the whole earth. This stone is interpreted for us as the kingdom of God, which is seen thus in victorious opposition to the kingdoms of the world, suddenly and totally destroying them. It is after this only that it grows and fills the earth. The world-kingdoms are not pervaded or "leavened" by the kingdom of God, but run their course first, and are then at once destroyed by it. This fall of the stone is one of those fixed points for which we are looking, and it is future without doubt.

In the seventh chapter the prophet has a vision of these same four empires, now seen very differently as four wild beasts, while the kingdom of God is introduced by the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven. And here it is, if possible, still more plain that this kingdom only commences with the destruction of the former ones. There is no possibility of any side by side development. Of the "little horn" of the last beast it is said: "And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws, and they shall be given unto his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time; but the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it to the end. And the kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions should serve and obey Him."

Thus it is evident that the kingdom of God here is that which will be set up only when the Lord returns in the clouds of heaven; that till then the kingdoms of the Gentiles continue, and then they are once for all broken and set aside. In connection with the last beast, moreover, we have just before the end the rise of a power which shows itself a blasphemous and persecuting one, and which by this brings judgment down upon itself and the beast, or empire, with which it is connected. This horn lasts, moreover, (in this character) just three and a half prophetic times, and then the judgment sits, and his dominion is taken away.

Carrying, then, these things with us, let us now go on to the ninth chapter, a prophecy which, for intelligence in the general plan of divine wisdom, is central in importance, and, interpreting as little as we can help, let us put this in connection with what we have already seen.

It is the well-known prophecy of the seventy weeks. In it we have an answer to Daniel's confession of his sin, and the sin of his people Israel, and his supplication for the holy mountain of his God; and he is told —

"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy."

The meaning should be plain, that at the end of seventy determined weeks, Jerusalem's transgression would be finished, and her sins would be at an end, her iniquity being purged,* and everlasting righteousness brought in for her; and her holy place, now desecrated, be once more anointed. At the same time vision and prophecy would be sealed up** by a fulfillment in which it would reach its end and disappear. This last statement alone is enough to show that we have to do with what is future still.

{* Kapper, with the simple objective, speaks of atonement taking effect upon the object.}

{**"The figure of sealing is regarded by many interpreters in the sense of confirming, and that by filling up, with reference to the custom of impressing a seal on writing for the confirmation of its contents; and in illustration these references are given: 1 Kings 21:8, and Jer. 32:10-11, 44. But for this figurative use of the word to seal, no proof-passages are adduced from the Old Testament. Add to this that the word cannot be used here in a different sense from that in which it is used in the second passage. The sealing of the prophecy corresponds to the sealing of the transgression, and must be similarly understood." (Keil.) To "make an end of sins" is literally to "seal up sins."

The words "vision" and "prophecy" (literally "prophet") Keil says, "are used in comprehensive generality for all existing prophecies and prophets. Not only the prophecies, but the prophet who gives it, i.e. not merely the prophet but the calling of the prophet must be sealed. Prophecies, and prophets are sealed when, by the full realization of all prophecies prophecy ceases, no prophets any more appear." (Keil on Daniel.)}

The angel goes on to give Daniel more in detail the events of these seventy weeks. "Know, therefore, and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall even in troublous times."

There is no need for our purpose to inquire for the exact beginning of this time. We are not tracing exactly its fulfillment. It is enough for us that the prophecy itself assures us that at the end of sixty-nine weeks, Messiah shall come. The weeks must be weeks of years, therefore, as almost all orthodox commentators agree, — all, in fact, who recognize in them any real specification of time at all.* And with year-weeks the Jews were, as we know, perfectly familiar. The whole period is thus ten jubilees.

{* Keil regards the numbers as to be symbolically interpreted, which I do not doubt, while this does not in the least affect their chronological character.}

Four hundred and eighty-three years, then, from the commencement of this period Messiah comes, and but seven years remain in which the full blessing should come in. It is this which has doubtless stumbled many as to the fulfillment to Israel and Jerusalem which the first words of the angel yet so clearly promise. Startling it is to have to recognize a break of over eighteen centuries in a period of time which seems so strictly defined. The next verse, however, prepares us for this, and accounts for it. Messiah comes to His own, and His own receive Him not. Thus the blessing is delayed, although, of course, the purposes of God are unrepenting.

"And after the threescore and two weeks" — as the Hebrew reads, — "shall Messiah be cut off, and shall have nothing:" so rightly the margin and the R.V. give. Instead of reception by a willing people, He finds rejection and a cross, does not therefore yet receive the promises. The city is not restored, but desolated: "And the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." All agree here that there is the destruction of the city by the Romans; most, therefore, assume that Titus is the "prince that shall come," but against this there are many reasons. For why in this case should the people be mentioned at all? Would it not be enough to say that the prince shall destroy — it being a matter of course that it would be through his people? Is it not plain that while the people and the prince are both emphasized for us, it is the people alone that are said to do this, only they are the people of the prince that shall come?

What importance attaches to Titus that he should be given this prominence, and in so concise a prophecy, in which every word seems measured out with greatest economy? Certainly no where else does he appear at all. Why, too, the "prince that shall come"? against the city? but this would be strange tautology for the word of God! Of course if he were a leader of the host he would come against the city. But the expression is the very one which would be used to point out some great person predicted to arise, of whom Daniel had heard before.

But there is another mark attached to this person: "And his end shall be in the flood." Here our common version has indeed "the end thereof." But the end of what then? Not of the destruction of the city? Not of the city, for this is feminine in Hebrew, and would not agree with the pronoun. Not of the sanctuary, which could not be detached from the city in this way. Moreover, the article with flood — "the flood," as it should bespeaks again of some definite and known catastrophe. The whole passage is to be regarded as some relative clause, and connected with "shall come:" "the people of the prince that shall come and find his destruction in the flood." (Keil. )

This, of course, it is impossible to apply to Titus. Let us see how it does, in fact, apply.

The "people of the prince that shall come" we know historically as the Romans; the fourth beast or empire of the seventh chapter, it is conceded by the mass of interpreters, and susceptible of the most abundant proof, was also Roman. And now, looking at the prophetic history of the empire, surely it is not difficult to recognize in the little horn, whose actions bring judgment upon the beast, the prince that shall come whose end is in the flood. The closing statements in the chapter seem as if they should make doubt as to this really impossible.

We return for a moment, however, to what characterizes the rest of the period. The R.V. renders it well: "And even unto the end shall be war; desolations shall be determined."

The last verse of the prophecy now gives us, in connection with the doings of this little horn, the last of the seventy weeks: "And he shall confirm a covenant with the many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease; and on account of the wing of abominations there shall be a desolator; even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate."

I have made in the translation some small and yet important alterations, which will be justified as we proceed. The first point to notice is that the last week is here divided in half, and that a half week of years — three and a half years — gives us another link which seems decisive with the history of the little horn. For "a time, times, and the dividing of a time" are times and laws given into the hands of this blasphemous and persecuting power, and here he causes sacrifice and oblation to cease for what is evidently this very period. This surely is a striking example of how times and laws have been given into his hands. And as the whole seventy weeks are determined upon Israel and Jerusalem, we see that the sacrifices must have been restored there. This naturally carries us back to the previous clause: "He shall confirm a covenant with the many for one week." It is not the covenant but a covenant: the definite article, misplaced here, has made people think of God's covenant with His people, and thus given aid to a false conception of its being Messiah that confirms it. But the antecedent to the pronoun "he" is certainly "the prince that shall come" as every other mark points in the same direction. On the other hand the article does stand before "many," making it the many," — i.e., the mass of the Jewish people. The covenant becomes thus a political agreement with the mass of the Jewish nation for seven years; but in the week he breaks it, changes times and laws, and his tyranny begins.

Why he makes sacrifices and oblation to cease is easily seen from the seventh chapter. Every detail fits in the most exact way possible. The little horn speaks great words against the Most High, and wears out the saints of the Most High. It is as sacrifice to God that he stops the Jewish service. And in perfect agreement we read here: "And on account of the wing of abominations there shall be a desolator." This is quite literal, as our common version is not. The R.V. differs from it by translating "upon the wing," which is the more usual rendering of the pronoun, my own being simply the equivalent of "for" in that with which we are familiar, "For the protection of idols" is, I do not doubt, the sense sufficiently. A desolator comes in consequence of idolatry introduced, and this lasts until the decreed time expires — until the full end of the seventy weeks.

Notice another point where the seventh chapter not only confirms but explains the ninth. We have seen that the latter declares that at the end of the determined time the blessing comes for Israel. But the details of the seventy weeks show nothing but disaster and evil, right down to their expiration. How the blessing comes it does not show; but this the seventh chapter already supplies. The horn prevails against the saints for the three and a half times or years of either prophecy; but this is "till the Ancient of Days" comes (v. 22), which in a moment changes all. Let the reader only turn to Zech. 14, and see how, in the very midst of Israel's distress, the Lord appears: "For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city." And why? "Then shall the Lord go forth and fight against those nations as when He fought in the day of battle. And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, … and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with Thee."

We see, then, how, as in a moment, the desolation ends. There is entire harmony thus far, and this in itself is one of the most convincing arguments for the truth of that which unites and harmonizes these different statements. But we have not yet completed the review of Daniel's testimony, for in the final prophecy (Dan. 10 – 12) we have what again in the clearest way supplements and confirms what has been gathered from the previous ones. We take it indeed from the long prophetic history with which it is connected, as yet not able even to glance at this, but trusting to the clearness of its own evidence for the relation it bears to what we have just been looking at: —

"And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate" (Dan. 11:31).

"And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and swore by Him that liveth forever that it shall be for a time, times, and a half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.

"And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand, two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth and cometh to the thousand, three hundred and five and thirty days. But go thou thy way until the end be, for thou shalt rest and stand in thy lot at the end of the days" (Dan. 12:7, 11-13).

Here it is clear that we have an equal period to the time, times, and a half, if taken as three and a half years, as we have already taken them;* that first thirty and then forty-five days more are added successively to this period; the twelve hundred and ninety days date from the setting up of the abomination, and therefore we may conclude that the twelve hundred and sixty also do this; and that at the end of the longest period Daniel stands in his lot, implying surely that the resurrection of the saints has taken place. Thus all of these dates are connected with the end as were the former ones — with the coming of the Lord, and the setting up of His kingdom.

{*The year, of course, is to be calculated according to the Jewish reckoning, at 360 days.}

And the taking away the daily sacrifice and setting up the abomination of desolation which is connected with these dates, interprets clearly the causing sacrifice and oblation to cease, and the desolation on account of the wing of abomination, of the ninth chapter. It is a confirmation of what has already been our conclusion from the previous prophecy alone, which one may well believe irresistible to any unprejudiced mind. And yet it is far from all that Scripture has to give us with regard to a period to which evidently it attaches the very greatest importance.

(2) Prophecies of the New Testament.

What we have gathered, then, from these different prophecies is this: —

1. That the times of the Gentiles — of the Gentile empires — are closed in sudden overthrow by the kingdom of God established in the hands of One who, as Son of Man, comes in the clouds of heaven.

2. That the last form of Gentile power, — the Roman, — ends in blasphemous opposition to God and to His saints — opposition which brings the judgment down.

3. That this opposition displays itself in a special way in connection with the Jews, who, in the security of a covenant with the last head, have re-established their temple-worship at Jerusalem. Three and a half years from the end — a half-week of years — he breaks this covenant, causes the worship of Jehovah to cease, and replaces it by an idolatry which brings in desolation, a scourge from God, lasting until this period expires. Deliverance for the saints, and the end of Gentile dominion, come together with the sudden appearance of the Lord from heaven.

In all this the simple comparison of scripture with scripture has set aside the need of any labored interpretation. The time, times, and dividing of a time of the little horn's prevalence in Daniel 7 correspond so in every feature with the last half week of the seventy in Daniel 9, and the time, times, and a half of Daniel 12, that to force them asunder would seem almost manifest perversion. The successive prophecies agree with the preceding ones in the most perfect way, while adding each something of its own. The one mind of the Spirit runs evidently through them all.

We are now going to add in the same manner some New Testament prophecies to the Old, and see if still Scripture will not speak for itself, and become its own interpreter, — if as definite certainty cannot be reached as to the main features of unfulfilled prophecy as with regard to any other part of inspired testimony.

And the first passage we naturally take up proclaims its own connection with what we have been looking at in Daniel. I refer, of course, to the great prophecy of Matt. 24. Read in the light of the prophecies to which it refers, it becomes as clear and intelligible as can be.

The Lord has announced to His disciples the impending overthrow of the temple. They thereupon put two questions to Him, which in their minds were no doubt more closely connected than they would be in ours: "Tell us when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age?"

As to the first question, which of course refers to the destruction of the temple, we have little to do with it just now. The answer will be found more fully given in Luke 21, in which the destruction of Jerusalem, which took place more than thirty-five years afterward, is explicitly announced. In Matthew it will be found that the Lord deals rather with the second, double question, where they seem evidently to identify the coming of the Lord with "the end of the age" — for "world" it is not, either here or in the thirteenth chapter, where the same expression is to be found. Literally, it is the "consummation of the age."

Now, remembering Daniel, and that these were Jewish questioners, with at present none but Jewish hopes, but owning Jesus as their Messiah, — with no thought of the long interval which was in fact to elapse before His still future coming, it is plain that the age of which they spoke was the age of law — of Judaism as it then was. Of a Christian dispensation they could have no thought. The "coming" of which they spoke was doubtless connected with, if not derived from, the coming of the Son of Man of which Daniel had spoken. The "end of the age" we have found portrayed there in fact, in terms to which the Lord refers; but while they would necessarily think of it as the end of a Jewish age, most Christians would as naturally from their stand-point think of it as Christian.

For us, Judaism is gone forever, and it is a strange thing to speak of its revival; yet we have seen that Daniel shows us a week of special divine dealings with Judah and Jerusalem, cut off from the sixty-nine preceding by an unknown interval in which plainly Christianity has prevailed. And in this last week we find the temple-services again going on until their interruption by the head of Gentile power.

It is to this interruption the Lord refers, directly citing Daniel: "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand;) then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains; let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house; neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes."

In Luke, where the taking of Jerusalem by the Romans eighteen centuries ago, is prophesied, while the same injunction to flee to the mountains is given, the sign is different — "Jerusalem compassed with armies;" and these latter directions are omitted, — they would be plainly out of place. No such rapid and instant flight as is here spoken of was needed to escape the desolating hosts. It is merely therefore said, "Let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let them which are in the midst of it depart out, and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto."

But here, the enemy is in the midst, the saints are the objects of special enmity, and there must be no delay: "And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days; but pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day." Here it is plain that Jews under the full rigor of Jewish law are contemplated.

And now comes another reference to Daniel. In his last prophecy we find that "at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince that standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." (Dan. 12:1.)

Thus it is the great day of Jewish deliverance which is at hand, and they are delivered out of a time of unequaled trouble. The Lord's words echo and emphasize the words of Daniel: "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, — nor ever shall be. And except those days shall be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened."

The precise time of the tribulation is given by the Old Testament prophet — three years and a half; and we see by the Lord's words that it is impossible to apply here the year-day theory, which would extend it to twelve hundred and sixty years. This certainly would not be shortening the days in any sense.

He follows with the announcement of false Christs and false prophets as characterizing this period, — an addition to the Old Testament of the greatest significance, and which we shall find developed in succeeding prophecies: "Then, if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe him not. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, He is in the desert! go not forth; Behold, He is in the secret chambers! believe it not. For, as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together."

As in Daniel also, it is by this coming that the time of trouble is closed: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken; and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."

For our purpose, it is not necessary to go further. The agreement with former prophecies is clear and conclusive. A latter-day remnant is seen in Jerusalem, distinctly Jewish in character, yet listening to Christ's words, and owned of God; and the end of the age of which the disciples inquire is identified with the broken-off last week of Daniel's seventy. The temple is again owned as "the holy place," though in the meanwhile defiled with idolatry, and this before the Lord's coming in the clouds of heaven. We necessarily ask ourselves, Where, then, is Christianity? and what does this presence once more of a Jewish "age" imply as to the present Christian dispensation?

To this, Scripture gives no undecided answer. It shows us that the Christian dispensation (properly so called,) is over then; that the Church, Christ's body, is complete; that all true Christians have been caught up to Christ, and are with Him; that the rest of the professing church has been spewed out of His mouth, according to His threatening to Laodicea; that the Lord is now taking up again for blessing His people Israel and the earth, and we are again in the line of Old Testament prophecy, and going on to the fulfillment of Old Testament promises.

That these promises belong to Israel, literally, — His kinsmen according to the flesh, — we have the unexceptionable witness of the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 9:4), who also warns the Gentile professing body, that they stand only by faith, and if they abide not in the goodness of God which He has shown them, shall be cut off; and Israel, abiding not in unbelief, should be graffed back again into her own olive-tree. He tells us also that this receiving of them back shall be "life from the dead" to the nations of the world; that blindness in part is happened unto Israel, only till the fullness of the Gentiles is come in; and then all Israel — the nation as a whole — shall be saved. And he adds that while, as regards the gospel, they are [treated by God as] enemies for our sakes, as touching the election they are yet beloved for the father's sakes; because the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. (Rom. 11:13-29.)

Thus the wonderful change which Matt. 24 exhibits is fully accounted for. The Jews and Judaism once more owned, shows that the Christian "gospel," having completed its full gathering of Gentiles as designed by God, is going out no longer. Heaven (though we must make a certain exception which we shall by and by consider,) — heaven is full. The gathering for earth and blessing there is now commencing.

The Lord has spoken of false Christs and false prophets in connection with that time. Let us turn now to the apostle John's description of Antichrist. He warns us indeed that already in his time there were many; already there was the character of the "last time." He speaks of them as apostates, issuing from the professing church itself, never really Christians, though among them. (1 John 2:18-19.) But he goes on to describe one special form, "the liar," "the antichrist," as his words really are. "Who is the liar," he asks, "but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?" And then he adds, "He is the antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son." (1 John 2:22.)

It will be found that there are here two forms of unbelief, which in this wicked one unite in one. The first is the Jewish one that denies that Jesus is the Christ. They do not deny that there is a Christ, but they deny Jesus to be this. The full Christian belief is not only that Jesus is the Christ, but that He is also the Son of the Father. "Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father," there are many of these now, as the Unitarians so called; but they deny the Son to make much of the Father: the full climax of unbelief in this great head of it is here, that he denieth both the Father and the Son.

Thus the antichrist denies Christianity altogether; but he owns Judaism, for the very denial that Jesus is the Christ implies, however, that there is Christ. And this is the complete antichrist, who is not only against Christ, but takes His place. And so the Lord speaks of "false Christs." These are, by profession, then, Jews, and the antichrist is a Jew.

How naturally the antichrist belongs, then, to a time when Christianity is gone from the earth, and a revived Judaism is in its old seat, and they are in expectation (as almost necessarily they would be,) of the speedy fulfillment now of the promise of Messiah. When the Lord came in the flesh, there was just such an expectation, and just such fruit of it in the appearance of false Christs. And the words in Matthew show that such a time there will be again; only now with a peculiar power of deception which only the elect escape. Among these blasphemous pretenders is the full prophetic antichrist.

Let us turn to another picture, which the apostle puts before the Thessalonians. (2 Thess. 2:1-12.) Here we shall find what unites John and Matthew, connecting the developed evil of apostate Christendom with the revival of Judaism which the Lord's own words foreshow. And I quote from the Revised Version, which is in many respects an improvement upon the common one: —

"Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him, to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is now present: let no man beguile you in any wise; for it will not be except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshiped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God. … For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work, only there is one that restraineth now until he be taken out of the way. And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of His mouth, and bring to naught by the manifestation of His coming: even he whose coming is according to the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and all deceit of unrighteousness for them that are perishing; because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

Thus the solemn end of Christendom is revealed. And already in the apostle's days the leaven of evil was at work, which but for a divine restraint upon it would before this have permeated the whole mass of profession. But the apostasy will come, if even now rather it is not begun, of which the issue and final head will be this lawless one, who will sweep away with him to common ruin all that receive not the love of the truth. They will believe a lie — literally, it is "the lie," — and "who is the liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?" He opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or worshiped: certainly therefore "denieth the Father and the Son." But not only so: he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God." How can we forbear to think of that abomination of desolation standing in the holy place, which the Lord has called our attention to from Daniel?

But here is a notable instance of the need we have of the apostle's warning that "no prophecy of the Scripture is to be interpreted by itself." To those rooted in the idea that Judaism is gone forever, and that the Christian Church is now the only "temple of God," what more natural and necessary than to interpret this of the pope? Nor do I for a moment say that he is not in the direct line of development; prophecy has oftentimes these incomplete anticipative fulfillments, which answer for the full and exhaustive one which is to come. But in the light of all that has preceded, we may be quite sure that any application to the head of Catholicism is only partial and anticipative. Popery has existed for too many centuries to be a sign of the coming day of the Lord; and one sitting as God in the temple of God is too simply explicative of the abomination of desolation in the holy place to make the application difficult or doubtful.

This wicked one, like the little horn of the fourth beast, finds his end also at the coming of the Lord. I do not mean by this that they are the same person, for they are not; but they belong to the same time, and are closely connected.

Thus, then, the New Testament agrees perfectly with the Old in its representation of the end of the age. But we have not examined yet its fullest and most decisive testimony, which we find, just where we would expect to find it, in the book of Revelation. But of this we propose a more extended examination; and we have been gathering together the Scripture-testimony elsewhere only as introductory to this which lies before us. May the Lord Himself direct our inquiries and govern our hearts by the truth of His Word. It is not a mere intellectual study that we propose. We seek to have for our souls the spiritual power of what is unseen, — the future as light for the present, — the judgment of the Lord in the day of the Lord, in order to self-judgment now, — the joy of heaven for present communion. May He who alone can purge from our sight the dullness and drowsiness that so cling to us, our eyes anointed with His eye-salve, that we may see!

The Throne in Heaven (Rev. 4:1-3.)

We come, then, to our theme, the book of Revelation. Our glance at prophecy has been for the purpose of putting this last and fullest of all in connection with the earlier ones, that we might not make it of "private interpretation." And when we come so to connect it, we find unmistakable evidence that a large part of the book is occupied with that predicted last week of Daniel, the events of which we have been considering. That the last "beast" of Daniel appears again in Rev. 13 and 17 is acknowledged, and must be, by all. But there is noticed as to it here, what history has made plain to us, that it was not to continue without interruption from its first commencement to its overthrow. It was to have its period of non-existence, and then come up again in greatly altered character as "from the bottomless pit." 'This is the blasphemous form in which we have seen it to end at the coming of the Lord; and the exact time of its prevalence in this way is given us as in Daniel — "forty and two months," or three years and a half (Rev. 13:5).

And again and again this period confronts us. In the eleventh chapter, we find it as the time of sackcloth testimony of the two witnesses; in the twelfth chapter, stated as in Daniel, as "time, times, and a half," and again as "a thousand, two hundred, and threescore days," as that of the woman's nourishment in the wilderness from the face of the serpent. Much before this also we hear of an immense company of Gentiles as "come out of the great tribulation" (Rev. 7:14, R.V.) — quite evidently that spoken of in Daniel and in Matthew, the only one that could be, in view of what is said there, announced as "the great" one. Thus from the seventh to the seventeenth chapters the last of the seventy weeks is clearly before us. But this implies, as we have seen, much. It shows that when this large portion of Revelation shall be fulfilled, the Christian dispensation will have passed away, Christians will be forever with the Lord, and the earthly people will be again those owned of Him, whatever the sorrows they may have yet to pass through, before their full blessing comes.

The appearing of the Lord in the clouds of heaven we find only in the nineteenth chapter, but then (as the apostle says,) "we shall appear with Him in glory" (Col. 3:4). Our removal from the earth will therefore necessarily have taken place before: and thus he writes to the Thessalonians, that "the Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we be ever with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:16-17).

Here it is plain how "those that sleep in Jesus God will bring with Him." There is no promiscuous resurrection of the dead; there is no picking out by judgment of sheep from goats, such as the twenty-fifth of Matthew very plainly teaches will take place when the Son of Man comes in His glory and be sitting on the throne of His glory. Here, on the contrary, we find but one company of raised and glorified saints caught up to meet and be with Him. Scripture is clear as to this blessed fact, which in itself affirms and emphasizes the gospel assurance that those who have Christ's word, and believe on Him who sent Him, shall not come into judgment. (John 5:24, R.V.) This is, by such a text, made clear and certain enough.

But from this no one would understand that between this gathering up of the saints to meet the Lord and His appearing in glory with them there should be an interval of months and years of earthly history. Nor can one be blamed, therefore, for being slow to assent to such a statement as this. Yet it is the truth; and one which can be perfectly well established from Scripture, although there is no single text which states it. And here is the place to give this some final consideration.

We have seen elsewhere that as the Old Testament ends with the promise of the "Sun of Righteousness," so the New Testament ends with that of the "Morning Star." Christ Himself is both, and in both His coming is intimated, but, as is plain, in very different connections. The sun brings the day, flooding the earth with light, and this is in suited connection with the blessing of an earthly people, whose the Old Testament promises are (Rom.9:4). The morning-star heralds the day, but does not bring it: it rises when the earth is still dark, shining as it were for heaven alone. And this to us speaks of our being with Christ before the blessing for the earth comes.

In the promise to Philadelphia also we find the assurance, "Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I will also keep thee out of the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." Here, out of a universal hour of trial some saints at least are to be kept. How simply explicable this in their being taken out of the world to be with their Lord before the hour commences! how difficult to understand in any other way!

Accordingly, in those pictures of the world's trial which we have had before us, we have had no trace of the presence of Christians. All, as we have seen, speaks of Jews and Judaism as once more recognized, — a thing inconsistent with the existence of Christians and Christianity at the same time. As long as the present gospel goes out, "they are enemies for your sakes." (Rom. 11:28.)

So also the antichristian snare, in the form it assumes, shows the same thing. Christ is looked for in the desert, or in the secret chambers, as appearing not from heaven, but in the midst of the people; and the false Christ, when he comes, sits with divine honors in the temple of God.

Explicitly is it stated also in Isaiah 60, that when the Lord arises upon Israel, and His glory is seen upon them, "darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples," a thing impossible if Christianity existed at the same time, yet perfectly plain in what we have been looking at. Indeed, the difficulty with these passages has been to realize the fact of such darkness as succeeding the present day of gospel light.

Again, the important scene in Matt. 25, so misconceived by most interpreters even now, and for centuries taken as a picture of the general judgment, becomes thus perfectly intelligible, as it is only consistent with this view. It is the judgment of the living upon earth, after the Lord has come and set up His throne here; and the passage in Thessalonians, cited but a while ago, makes it absolutely certain that Christians will not be among the nations upon earth then. The dead are not in question either. There is no hint of resurrection, and they have their separate judgment, at the end of the thousand years of blessing, when the earth and the heavens flee away from before the face of Him that sits upon the throne (Rev. 20:12).

But if the Lord called up the saints to meet Him in the air, and then immediately came on to the judgment of the earth, there could be no "sheep" to put upon His right hand. Universal judgment alone could follow. The fact of an interval between these two, such as we have been considering, at once clears the whole difficulty.

But the most convincing proofs of such an interval we find in the chapters that are now to engage our attention. Coming as they do between the history of the dispensation with which the addresses to the churches have already made us familiar, and the prophecies of the last week of Daniel, which follow so promptly and occupy so much space in the latter portion of the book. All through the later addresses the announcement of the Lord's coming sounds with more and more urgency. In Thyatira, for the first time, they are exhorted, "Hold fast till I come." In Sardis, He is coming upon them as a thief, and they shall not know what hour He comes upon them. In Philadelphia, it is now, "I come quickly." And finally, Laodicea is ready to be spued out of His mouth, the last individual appeal being given, when the church as a whole has now rejected Him. In the fourth chapter, the "things that shall be after these" begin, and the apostle is at once caught up to heaven.

But we are now to proceed more leisurely. In so precious and wonderful a communication of divine grace we would gladly ponder every word, and allow nothing to escape us. But we are absolutely dependent upon the Spirit of God for aid, lest, after all, the very essence of them be lost. The various and contradictory interpretations that they have received may well teach us self-distrust, but not shake our confidence, that in proportion to our real simplicity and real desire to be taught of God, His truth will be discovered to us. He that seeks shall find. He will not for bread give us a stone, nor for a fish a serpent.

The "things that are" have come to an end. The voice that spake on earth is silent, but presently resumes from heaven. "After these things, I saw, and, behold, a door opened in heaven, and the first voice which I heard, as of a trumpet speaking with me, saying, 'Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must come to pass after these.'"

Both the Common and the Revised Version have "hereafter." But this is vague. It would allow the prophecy that follows to be, after all, contemporaneous in its fulfillment with that of the addresses just completed. But the words are definite, and allow of no such idea. In the first chapter, the apostle had been bidden to "write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which shall be after these" and now he is reminded that he is come to this distinct division of his prophecy — "the things which must come to pass after these." The prophecy is orderly and successive, at least thus far.

Looking at the addresses to the churches, therefore, as depicting the phases of the professing church during the present dispensation, the meaning of the words would be, "The things which must come to pass after the history of the Church is ended." If, then, such an interpretation of the two previous chapters is correct, the time we have reached is clearly enough defined. And how significant, at this point, the translation of the seer from earth to heaven! The voice with its trumpet-call is the first voice which he had heard — the voice of Jesus. No longer occupied with His lamps of testimony upon earth, He calls His servant up to Himself above.

And "immediately," he says, "I became in the Spirit." The distinctness of the new beginning is evident. Just so had he been, rapt in this ecstatic state, when he had had the former vision. It had not continued throughout, but now began afresh, his whole being absorbed in that which the Spirit of God communicated. He is, as it were, not in the body, as another apostle says of visions that he had received, that whether he was in the body or out of the body, he could not tell. (2 Cor. 12:2): the Spirit of God was, so to speak, eyes and ears and all else to him.

And now by the Spirit he is rapt into heaven, — a new thing for a prophet, and as such, exceptional to John alone. Doubtless the heavens had opened before, even in Old Testament times, though with reserve, and never to invite an entrance. Enoch, and afterward Elijah, had been taken there indeed, and comfort and blessing it was to know this. Still this was not an opening of it to men on earth. Heavenly visitants had appeared too among men, but they had no disclosures to make of the unseen sanctuary from which they came. Even in Job one might read also how the "sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them." And Micaiah at a much later day could say, "I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him, on His right hand and on His left." Ezekiel, moreover, after this, that "the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God." All this betokened, indeed, heaven's interest in earth, but it only serves to make evident the contrast with what we find here — a witness taken into heaven to bear testimony of what he found there.

The opening of the heavens is characteristic of New Testament times. At the outset, the heavens are indeed, in the truest sense, opened when the Son of God lies in the manger of Bethlehem. And as He who reveals the Father is revealed, we are brought into communion with what spiritually constitutes heaven — with the Father and the Son. At the Lord's death, the vail of the sanctuary is rent asunder for us, and when He has ascended up, our Representative and Forerunner, the Holy Ghost sent down becomes in us the witness and earnest of heavenly things.

But the earnest shows that we have not yet possession, which John anticipatively brings us into. Paul also had been caught up into the third heaven — into paradise — and heard unspeakable things, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (2 Cor. 12:4.) But John finds utterance: he carries his writer's inkhorn into heaven, and reports what it was he saw there. He is bidden "Write," lest in his entrancement he should forget it. And how has the power of these communications been felt by those who have become heirs since to what has been thus written! Even those that have known least, have they not felt much? And how much more, then, should flow from deeper knowledge!

But then the character of this prophecy before us, in the very charm of its face-to-face vision, may assure us of what it speaks of and anticipates. It is our own call home this call of the prophet up to heaven, and how well it may thrill our hearts and gladden them as we listen to it!

Enter, then! Heaven is before us. Enter! It is the sanctuary. Not speculation do we seek, but enjoyment — holy and hallowing enjoyment. Not a thing here forbidden to us, and not a thing upon which the lusts of the flesh can fasten! To breathe this pure air, is to live indeed. To abide here is to make all the world can proffer an unmeaning emptiness, to brighten the dullest heart into glory, and make the tongue of the dumb to sing for joy.

Heaven! And the first thing the apostle sees is "a throne," and "One sitting on the throne."

It is the first necessity for all blessing, for, all stability, for all rest of heart. It is the assurance of order, of peace, of concord, of congruity: over all, a real, personal, living, and sovereign God. Not a democracy, but an absolutism; not laws which execute themselves, but the will of the All-wise, All-holy: fixed rule in free hands. It is this that sin would have overturned, and which has proved itself impossible to be overturned; whose eternity alone insures the absolute security of all else. Well may all crowns be cast before this throne, by which all are sustained and served. The sovereignty of God is surely the joy and triumph of every redeemed soul.

He who sits upon the throne is not and cannot be pictured, and the jasper and sardine stone to which He is compared have as yet yielded but little to the interpreter. As jewels, like those of the high-priest's breastplate, they represent, no doubt, the "Lights and Perfections" (Urim and Thummim) of God, unchanging, but seen, not in the inapproachable light itself, but in manifestations such as can be given to His creatures, and which display to them a various beauty they could not otherwise enjoy. "God is light," and the "Father of lights." The one colorless beam, broken up into the various colored prismatic rays, clothes the whole earth with its beauty. And the precious stones enshrine and crystallize these various rays.

If the "jasper" here be rather the diamond, as many believe, then there does seem to be in it a most appropriate thought, and one it is hard to give up after having received it. The diamond is the brightest of gems, the nearest to the pure ray of light in its lustre, the most indestructible in character, — eminently fitted (as one might think) to be a symbol of the glory of Deity. But these are not its chief points of significance after all. The diamond is, as every one knows, but crystallized carbon, which we find in a pure form as graphite, the black-lead of our pencils. Carbon exists in these so opposite conditions, the symbol of divine glory (as it might be) on the one hand might on the other be that of evil and ruin and sin. And has not divine grace wrought in the transformation of our ruined humanity into the brightest display of divine glory? And could there be any thing of which we could be more fitly reminded here?*

{*Carbon is also the element characteristic of all organic products; so that organic chemistry has been called "the chemistry of the carbon compounds." It is thus connected with living forms, whether vegetable or animal. And I add, though this be a distinct thought, that crystallization is, as it were, the organization of the mineral.}

God has forever displayed Himself in Christ, His perfect and glorious manifestation. He is "the effulgence of His glory, the express image of His substance." (Heb. 1:3.) It is not meant by that, what some have argued from it, that we shall see the Father only in Him. Scripture speaks of those who "in heaven always behold the face of the Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 18:10.) But the cross will not on that account lose its significance, nor the glory of the incarnate Son be the less needful for us.

And when we look on to the end of the book, and see the "city which hath foundations" in her eternal beauty, not only do we find the jasper as the first of these foundations, but the light — the lustre — of the city also is "like unto a stone most precious, as it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal." (Rev. 21:11.)

This is at least all perfectly consistent. Its consistency and beauty may well plead for its acceptance by us, until, at least, something that more commends itself can be produced.

The "sardine stone," or rather "sardius," is our carnelian, a stone much prized by the lapidary, and especially in the east, its most valued form being an unmixed bright red. The association with the jasper or diamond would suggest an association of thought; the diamond flashing with the red hues of the carnelian would necessitate almost the idea of the cross. Incarnation and redemption unite to make known the sovereign God.

It is not an objection, I believe, that in the next chapter we find explicitly the Lamb slain. The connection there is different, and God is never weary of Christ. Here it is the One upon the throne who is declared; and apart from Christ He could not be declared to us. The full radiance of divine glory are thus in the jasper and the sardine stone, or, as we have taken them to be, the diamond and the carnelian. The connection of the two throws light upon each, and the truth of its interpretation must rest on its verisimilitude.

Thus the One who sits upon the throne is declared to us. It is the "God of our Lord Jesus Christ," perfectly known and alone revealed in Him. The throne is His throne; the supreme will and power are His: and this is what makes us delight in that supremacy. Absolute in power and control, there is no mere arbitrary will in Him. Omnipotence never acts but with omniscient wisdom, perfect righteousness, holiness, and love. His pleasure is good pleasure: "Worthy art Thou, O Lord," is the adoring cry of the hosts of heaven.

The One who sits upon the throne is disclosed and characterized for our hearts before the throne is. And when we come now to the throne itself, we find as the first thing, what is addressed to our hearts no less, "a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald." The natural and historical associations here are full of precious suggestions.

The bow we all know as the token of God's covenant with the earth, and with every creature in it. The flood had just passed over the earth and desolated it, and now the sun was shining out in the retreating storm of judgment. God declares He will no more destroy, as He had destroyed. If He bring a cloud, it shall be for purification and blessing, not any more "a flood to destroy all flesh."

Where we see it now, the bow is used symbolically, of course, and therefore with a wider, deeper meaning. It is still of the earth it speaks, where alone storms are purificatory and for blessing; but these are no longer merely natural. It is not limited to this or that divine act, but characterizes the throne in its general action. Blessing for men, and rest of which the emerald speaks, with the suggestion of the springing grass after the rain, are to be accomplished; even the judgment may be the necessary means of their accomplishment. And in this, too, God will manifest Himself in the glory of the light which He is, as the prismatic colors of the bow symbolically display it.

To those who realize the character of the period which follows the present one, nothing could be plainer than the language of this bow-encircled throne. God is now calling out for heaven the objects of His grace. And while He is doing this, the fulfillment of His promises as to the earth is suspended; the earthly people are set aside: it might seem as if He had forgotten that which fills the pages of the Old Testament prophets. So much so, that as if in despair of their accomplishment, men would turn them all into figures of other things. The knowledge of dispensational truth, so little regarded even yet by most Christians, relieves the whole difficulty, and puts every thing into its own place. Ours is a heavenly calling; ours are "all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (Eph. 1:3.) When we are, according to His promise, gathered up to Him, then the Old Testament promises will be fulfilled to Israel, to whom they belong (Rom. 9:4), and the predicted time will come when the "earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (Heb. 2:14.)

For this the "sons of God," now in suffering and sorrow, must be revealed in glory when Christ our life shall appear, and we shall appear with Him in glory. "The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation should itself also be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God." (Rom. 8:19-21, R.V.)

The bow of promise for creation, girdling the throne of God in heaven, speaks, then, of God's covenant with the earth remembered in a way which goes far beyond the letter of it. He is going now to bring it into perpetuity of blessing through another judgment, in which His glory will be displayed in a peculiar way. It will soon be said among the nations that the Lord reigneth, and the world be established that it cannot be moved. "Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof. Let the field exult, and all that is therein; then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy before the Lord: for He cometh, for He cometh to judge the earth; He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with His truth." (Ps. 96:10-13.)

Thrones Around the Throne. (Rev. 4:4.)

This rainbow-girdled throne is a throne of judgment: "Out of the throne proceeded lightnings and voices and thunders." Mercy may and does restrain judgment within fixed limits, or use it sovereignly to fulfill purposes of widest, deepest blessing. None the less is it plain that the "throne of grace," to which it is the part of faith now to "come boldly, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need," is not here before us. Even the bow of promise itself speaks of a "cloud over the earth," which might seem to threaten ruin as by another deluge. The promise to Philadelphia warned of an "hour of trial" which was to "come upon the whole world, to try them that dwell upon the earth," while it assured the overcomers there that the Lord would keep them out of this. And now before the lightnings are seen to issue from the throne, before the peal of judgment startles the world from its security, we find "round about the throne four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment, and on their heads crowns of gold." The promise has been fulfilled, and the "kings and priests" of God are around the throne of God.

That these are "thrones," not seats merely as in the common version, is not contested, so far as I know, by any one. That they are men, not angels,* who sit upon them, should be plain by many considerations. Their very title of "elders" speaks for it, and in Israel these were the representatives and rulers of the people. Their number, twenty-four, if to be illustrated by any thing in Scripture, can only be referred to the twenty-four courses into which David divided the priesthood. And this reference is confirmed by the priestly actions of these elders in the next chapter (Rev. 5:8). They are crowned priests, — "kings and priests," — the "royal priesthood" of which Peter speaks Peter 2:9). And when they act in that capacity, the angels stand in a separate company outside of them (Rev. 5:11).

{*E. H. Bickersteth, the author of "Yesterday, Today, and Forever," and Dr. Craven, American editor of Lange's Commentary on Revelation, are among those who advocate the angelic interpretation in the present day. The arguments of the latter are based entirely on the confusion of the multitudes of the redeemed in Rev. 7 and Rev. 14 with the heavenly saints of the present and the past dispensations.}

They are therefore saints, not angels, as the general consent of interpreters acknowledges. There are "thrones" indeed among angelic powers, but no priests: for priesthood speaks of mediation and of sin which requires it, and no provision of this kind is needed by the holy or exists in behalf of the fallen angels. No doubt the angel-priest of the eighth chapter will be urged by some, but here it is in behalf of men he offers, and there is but One to whom it belongs to add to the prayers of the saints that which gives them efficacy. Christ, therefore, though presented in a mysterious manner, must be the Priest in this case. No where else in Scripture is there the most distant thought of angelic priesthood.

But if the elders are saints, how are they represented to us in this picture? Not, plainly, as departed spirits, but as glorified beings, raised or changed, and evermore beyond the power of death. Not till Christ gets His human throne do His people get theirs (Rev. 3:21). All rewards proper wait till the day when we shall stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, and receive for the things done in the body (2 Cor. 5:10). Thus it is clear that the scene at which we are looking supposes resurrection come, and the voice of the Lord to have called us to Himself. Thus alone could the thrones around the throne be filled.

For the same reason we cannot conceive of any representation here of the position of Christians as now known to and enjoyed by faith. We are indeed "raised up together, and seated together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6); but this is a question of acceptance, not of reigning. Christ reigns, it is true, but in no wise has He taken that place as our representative. Seated upon the Father's throne, we are not seated in Him, nor ever shall be with Him there. Thus such a thought is absolutely forbidden to us, as that of a positional application of the vision before us.

More plausible would be the thought of anticipation, — a pledge and assurance for our encouragement of what is to be only at the end enjoyed. Such anticipations there are in the book before us. The multitude out of all nations, who are seen in the seventh chapter as already "come out of the great tribulation," present us, in fact, with such an anticipatory vision. The woman of the twelfth, clothed with the glory of the sun, is in some such features similarly anticipative. Thus the principle is one we cannot refuse, and which might apply in this case. We have only to ask, Is there any thing which in fact would prevent our so applying it?

Now, if we look at the white-robed multitude of the seventh chapter, which is the nearest in resemblance to the vision of the elders, if the latter be anticipative, we find one very marked difference between the two. The former is a complete whole, separated from the other visions which surround it, and not an integral part of the prophetic history. It forms no part of the events of the sixth seal, as it plainly forms none of the seventh, but, with its kindred vision of the Jewish remnant sealed, is inserted parenthetically between them. It interprets the course of the history, rather than forms part of it; and here the moral purpose of the interpretation is quite evident.

But suppose we had found, on the contrary, this company associated with the course of the prophecy throughout; present and worshiping when the Lamb takes the book; interpreting some of the after-visions; mentioned as present when other events take place: should we not look at it as strange and incongruous indeed to be told that it had no existence as such during this very time? that it was only anticipatively brought before us, — an encouraging vision, not an actual fact?

Such is the relation of the elders to the prophecy before us until the nineteenth chapter closes with the appearing of the Lord. They sing the song of redemption when the Lamb takes the book; they interpret as to the white-robed multitude; they worship again when the seventh trumpet sounds; in their presence the new song is sung which the one hundred and forty-four thousand alone can learn; and when Babylon the Great is judged, they fall down once more before the throne, saying, "Amen, Hallelujah." It is not till after this that the Lord appears.

Thus the elders in heaven are no transient vision, but an abiding reality all through this long reach of prophecy. We must accept the fact of glorified saints enthroned around the throne of God from the commencement of the "things that shall be." With this, many other things are implied of necessity. The descent of the Lord into the air; the resurrection of the dead; the change of the living saints; the rejection of the rest of the (now merely) professing church; the close of the Christian dispensation. All this we have already found in Scripture to take place before the incoming "end of the [Jewish] age," — the last week of Daniel's seventy. The internal evidence harmonizes completely with what is derived from the general consent of prophecy, in proving to us to what point in the dispensations we have here arrived.

Daniel had long before this spoken of thrones around the throne. "I beheld," he says, "till thrones were placed (R.V.), and One that was Ancient of days did sit" (Dan. 7:9). But he can tell us nothing more as to the occupants of these thrones. The earthly, and not the heavenly side is given to him to unfold. John not only shows us the occupants, but his vision antedates that of Daniel, and raises the thrones themselves to a higher elevation. We must pass on to the twentieth chapter of this book to find the scene which the Old Testament prophet depicts, and there the character of rule is limited every way both as to time and place. "They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." This is earthly rule, and not yet the new earth; but it is just as plainly said of Christ's "servants" in the New Jerusalem, "they shall reign forever and ever." Here the limitation is gone, and the heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ, are fully manifested.

The idea of a millennial reign, true and scriptural as it is, tends to get too large possession of the thoughts of those often styled "millennarians," a word which answers to the early "chiliasts," — both derived from this "thousand years" of rule. And these, as shown in Papias, Justin, and Irenaeus, conceived of it in a Jewish and earthly fashion, seriously conflicting with the Christian's heavenly hope. To this Old Testament expectation many in the present day have swung round again, and we cannot too earnestly protest against it.

The truth is, that to those whose hope is the millennium, it is quite natural and necessary to go to the Old Testament for their views of it. But then they are in the line of Jewish promises, and an appropriation of these to a greater or less extent is to be looked for. This is the mode in which have been produced some of the most heterodox and evil systems of the day.

If we would "rightly divide the Word of God," it can be only by respecting the divisions which the Word itself has established for us. And if we ask ourselves, What has the New Testament to say of the millennium? for how much of our knowledge of it are we indebted to its pages? the answer will be impressive and should be enlightening.

In the New Testament we find, first of all, that it is a millennium, — that is to say, that it is limited as a period. It belongs not to eternity. It precedes the "new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" closes with the judgment of the great white throne, and passing away of present things.

It is not, therefore, as so often represented, Sabbath-rest, but only the last day of man's work-day week, the last of the probationary dispensations. Its true type is the sixth day of the creative week when man and woman are put at the head of earthly government, and not the seventh day, which God hallows because He can rest. The merest glance at Rev. 20, — the merest reference to the Old Testament prophet, ought to make this so plain that there should be no need to spend another word in its defense.

But what, then, must be the effect of substituting for what is everlasting that which is temporal and transient merely? Certainly, it cannot be a light one. With many, it has perverted the whole future before them, and introduced into it elements destructive to Christianity. To any, it must be hurtful, just in proportion to their occupation with it. For the truth it is that sanctifies. Error demoralizes and despiritualizes. How much, if it touch that in which the heart is called to rest, as it were, looking forward and entering into it as that in which God shall rest eternally? What indeed we hope for, we practically reach after, and are controlled and fashioned by it.

The New Testament speaks of the binding of Satan during these thousand years, and of the deliverance of creation from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. It speaks also — and this is the positive feature which it adds to the Old Testament picture, — of the reign of the saints with Christ over the earth. This is expressed in the Lord's promise to the apostles that they should "sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt. 19:28); in the authority given over ten or over five cities (Luke 19:16-19); in the promise of the rod of iron (Rev. 2:26-27); and of sitting with the Son of Man upon His throne (Rev. 3:21). In the twentieth chapter of this book, it is the one thing we find as to the millennium besides the fact of its being such, and the binding of Satan. These things are significant. The New Testament blessings are in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 1:3), and thus the book of Revelation adds but the heavenly side to the earthly picture. It shows us beyond the judgment of the dead the new heavens and earth, and the tabernacle of God with men; and then the prophecy closes with the description of the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city.

The millennial rule, characterized by the rod of iron which dashes in pieces the opposition of the nations, is a special, exceptional kingdom for a great purpose, which being accomplished, it is given up. Christ sits now at the right hand of God until He makes His foes His footstool; and this subjecting of His enemies goes on until death, the last enemy, is subdued. This is preparatory to the judgment of the great white throne, and after this Christ delivers up the kingdom to the Father, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:24-28).

The special kingdom closes, but this does not and cannot touch the blessed truth that the throne in the heavenly city remains, past all changes, the "throne of God and of the Lamb;" nor this, that "His servants shall serve Him … and shall reign forever and ever." The thrones around the throne abide forever. The joint-heirship with Christ — wonder of divine grace as it is — on that very account can be no passing thing. The rod of iron passes away. All that speaks of sin as present passes necessarily. The glory of the grace remains. In the ages to come He will show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7).

The Living Ones. (Rev. 4:5-11.)

As I have said, the character of the throne as a throne of judgment is not seen until the saints are seen upon their thrones around it. In fact, we may say, it does not assume this character until they are there. For the "lightnings and voices and thunders" which now proceed from it are plainly not the announcement of any special judgment, but of the throne as a judgment-throne. This entirely accords with the fact that the dispensation of grace is at an end, the Christian Church complete, and with the saints of past ages glorified.

On the other hand, when the kingdoms of the earth shall have become the kingdom of Christ, the throne will not be characterized as here it is. Righteousness will reign, but the fruit of it will be peace, and the effect, quietness and assurance forever (Isa. 32:17).

Thus we have in the lightnings and thunders proceeding from the throne neither the attributes of the day of grace nor those of the kingdom of glory, but rather of that interval of time which we have been already considering, in which, God's judgments being upon the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness (Isa. 26:9). The bow of promise encircling the throne tells of the storm when it shall have passed — the effect designed from the beginning.

And before the throne, the seven lamps of fire bear witness of its action as suited to the character of Him who sits upon it. They are the sevenfold energy of the Spirit of God, who ever works out the divine purpose in the creature, whether it be in creation as at the beginning — when He brooded over the waters, or in sanctification — when we are new born of the Spirit, or in resurrection — when the work of grace ends in glory. And these seven spirits rest upon the Branch of Jesse when the government of the earth is put into His hand; "the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon Him; the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah; and He shall be of quick understanding in the fear of Jehovah: and He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked one" (Isa. 11:2-4). Here is the same perfect character of government. In both we see "man's day" ended and the "day of the Lord" commencing its course. Nor shall its sun ever go down.

Before the throne, also, is "a sea of glass like unto crystal." Before the typical "heavenly places" among the shadows of the law, there stood in Solomon's day a "sea" of water, at which the priests washed their hands and feet before they went in to minister in the sanctuary. But the priests are now gone in; the defilements of earth are over, and there is no longer need of cleansing. The sea is therefore here a sea of glass. Abiding purity has succeeded to constant purification. No wind can henceforth even ruffle it. The lightnings and thunder cannot disturb its rest, — to it are as if they were not. Thus the elders rest upon their thrones in peace.

Below, we shall find the meaning of the judgment-character assumed by the throne. The conflict between good and evil is nearing its crisis; the power of evil is rearing itself in gigantic forms; open blasphemous defiance of God is succeeding to secret impiety; men are loudly saying, "Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us," and it is time for God to put to His hand, and to meet His adversaries face to face.

As, therefore, the cherubim and the flaming sword united to bar fallen man from paradise, — as, when Israel had reached the limit of divine forbearance, Ezekiel saw the enfolding fire and the cherubic forms of judgment, — so now once more, but without the wheels within wheels of providential use of earthly instruments (God not to speak by a Nebuchadnezzar, but in plain wrath from heaven), the cherubim are seen.

"And in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes before and behind. And the first living creature was like a lion, and the second living creature like a calf, and the third living creature had the face as of a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, having each of them six wings, are full of eyes round about and within; and they have no rest day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."

The living creatures are in the midst of the throne, yet round about it, — identified with it, yet distinct. To picture this, as some have tried to do, may be difficult, and yet the idea involved in it is not difficult at all. The government of God is carried on, as Scripture represents it to us, largely at least, through created instruments. The Old Testament shows us thus angelic ministries in sway over the earth; the New Testament speaks of "thrones and dominions and principalities and powers" (Col. 1:16). They are thus creaturely, yet identified with the divine. Thus were the judges in Israel called "gods," and our Lord says, "He called them gods ' unto whom the word of God came" (John 10:35). Here we have the idea which the words as to the living creatures "in the midst of the throne and round about the throne" seem intended to convey.

The "living creatures" certainly show that they are "creatures;" although no stress can be laid upon this word as used by the R.V. here, in place of the objectionable one, "beasts," in the older translation. The Greek word is, "living ones," though generally used as the equivalent of our word, from the Latin, "animal," which literally means the same thing. But the forms are those of the heads of the animal creation, — the lion, of wild beasts; the calf or ox, of cattle; the eagle, of birds; and man, of all. Such symbols could not be — were forbidden to be — used of God Himself. Their six wings are intended, surely, to lead us back to Isaiah's vision of the seraphim, who cry, "Holy, holy, holy," also, just as these; and here "with twain they covered their face, and with twain they covered their feet," the suited reverence of creatures in the presence of God. They are not, then, direct symbols of God Himself.

That they are the angels as a class is more like the truth, as is plain from what we have already seen; yet in the fifth chapter they are broadly distinguished from the angels, who are seen in a separate company round the throne; while, if the elders represent the redeemed, they are in our present one distinguished from these also. That they are a distinct class among the angels has in itself no scriptural probability, though it is the favorite traditional view. That they are symbols can scarcely be doubted; hardly of a race of beings of whom elsewhere we have no trace. Lastly, that they symbolize the Church, as distinct from other bodies of redeemed, is negatived by all the Old Testament passages.

The view which alone harmonizes all that is conflicting in these is, that they are symbols of that government of God over the earth which may be exercised by angels, will be over the millennial earth by the redeemed associated with Christ Himself. The transition we shall find, in fact, in these very chapters of Revelation; while cherubim were, as we know, upon the tabernacle-vail, which the apostle declares to be the "flesh," or human nature, of Christ (Ex. 26:31; Heb. 10:20).

Hence also — as having reference to the government of the earth — the living creatures are four in number, four being significant of earthly completeness, as in the "four corners of the earth." Their six wings speak of restless activity, — perhaps of restraint upon evil, for six speaks of this limit imposed by God. The eyes within and around show regard to God — for "within" is toward Him that sits upon the throne — and perfect, not partial, knowledge of things on every side. For the simple complete obedience of the creature would keep it free from displaying the short-sightedness of the creature.

Now, if we look at the appearance of the living creatures themselves, we shall find that each one furnishes us with some view of the divine government which supplements and balances the rest, and that the order also is significant, as in Scripture every thing is. What the Lord teaches us as to every jot and tittle of the law is true no less of the whole inspired Word.

How significant that the first form is that of a lion, the symbol of royal and resistless power! This is the first necessity for government, in which feebleness is only another name for failure. Christ's own name in the chapter following is, "Lion of the tribe of Judah," and when He acts in that character, no one will be able for a moment to resist Him. It will be the most absolute sovereignty that the world has ever seen.

But then, by itself, assuredly, this symbol would mislead. When John looks for the Lion of the tribe of Judah, he sees a "Lamb as it had been slain;" and when even wrath is ready to be poured out upon men, it is spoken of as the wrath of the Lamb." Indeed, that is what makes it so terrible. It is the wrath of love itself. It is the judgment of One with whom judgment is a "strange work." It is judgment which is so unsparing because love energizes the arm and guides the blow. It is judgment for which there is no remedy, — which can alone fulfill the counsels of perfect wisdom and goodness; judgment which prayer cannot be offered to avert, but for which prayer is made and accepted by God.

Slow indeed it has been in coming! So the ages of misrule and evil, of oppression and wrong, would say. So murmur the down-trodden; so scoffs the infidel. The prophet cries, "How long?" The wicked, pursuing his successful wickedness, says, "God hath forgotten: He hideth His face; He will never see it." All are expecting from the government of God the rapid and decisive action which they think alone suited to Him in whose hands all power is.

Hence, the slow ox* follows the lion here; with strength equal to his, but used how differently! The ox is the symbol of patient labor, and which has man's good for its end. So the apostle uses it (1 Cor. 9:9-10). It is the mystery of apparent slowness that is here explained. "God is not slack, as some count slackness," but in all His government works out unfailingly counsels of wisdom in which man's blessing will surely at last be found. Not in the lion is the highest type of sovereignty. The lion's is brute force at the bidding of impulse merely. The ox works under the control of mind.

{*"Moschos," translated in our version "calf," is so used in the Septuagint (Ex. 21:33; Ex. 22:1, 9, 10, 30; Lev. 4:10; Lev. 9:4, etc.), which uses it in Ezek. 1:10, the parallel passage to this in Revelation. The idea is of a young, fresh animal, not galled yet with a yoke, nor jaded with over-labor, the fitted type, therefore, of divine working.}

But there is more than this, which the next cherub speaks of: for now a human face greets us — "the third living creature had the face of a man." And what strikes us first in this? Not mind merely, though there is mind, and in it lies the power he has — power which both the ox and lion own. But that only completes the thought which we have had already presented. Surely beyond this, and rather than this, what strikes us in a human face in the midst of such surroundings, is its familiarity. Here we have what we can understand in a way we cannot the lion or the ox; and as a symbol of divine government, it forces upon us irresistibly the conviction that in it God seeks to be known by us. Not only is He working out blessing in the end. He is meeting us also now, and giving us to know Himself. He is cultivating intimacy with us. And this every soul of His own can better understand in His personal dealings with himself, than in His ways at large — His public government of the world.

Here in our little world we can find, at least, if we will, how "tribulation worketh patience; and patience experience, and experience hope." Here the darkness and the sorrow, the night and the storm, yield (at least afterward) their "peaceable fruits." Here, if we "go down to the sea in ships, and have" our "business in the deep waters," we but the more "see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep." And how sweetly assuring is this knowledge of a living God, for whose care we are not too little, and from whom no circumstance of our lives, no need of our souls, is hid. Would that we all knew this better, which the most exercised among us knows best! We shall find in it, what this "face of a man" may well prepare us for, that it is not necessarily in great and out-of-the-way occurrences that God most manifests Himself. He has here as elsewhere a way of taking up and magnifying what is little by putting Himself into connection with it; and thus (as in all His works) the microscope will convey as much to us, it may be more, than the telescope. For He is every where: "One God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all."

Yet because He is God, there will be that every where which will remind us in whose presence we stand. No where can we escape from the mystery which attends His presence. Nor would we if we realize this as its meaning. A God always comprehensible by us would be only such an one as ourselves: but magnify man into God you cannot. Still there will be the "light inaccessible, which no man can approach unto." Yet this is light, not darkness, and it makes nothing really dark, as men profess; rather in this light we see light, — the knowledge of God illuminates all other things.

And this is what is intimated, I believe, by the last of these living ones: "The fourth living creature was like a flying eagle" — an eagle on the wing. For the "way of an eagle in the air" is one of the four things of which the wise man speaks as "too wonderful" for him (Prov. 30:18-19). And this is to be joined with what the eagle in itself conveys to us as a "bird of heaven," — a type of what is heavenly; especially with its bold, soaring flight, for which the ancients assigned it to the apostle John as his emblem.

Thus, then, these cherubic figures speak to us, and in their praise they celebrate the holiness, power, and unchangeableness of the covenant-God. The Old Testament names, as all the way through this part, come up again. It is this God who is our Father, but not as Father do we find Him here. He is our God, if Father: and as such the elders worship Him. For "whenever the living creatures give* glory and honor and thanks to Him that sitteth on the throne, to Him that liveth forever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall* down before Him that sitteth on the throne, and worship* Him that liveth forever and ever, and cast* their crowns before the throne, saying, Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou hast created all things, and because of Thy will they were, and were created."

{*These are all strictly futures, but the force seems better expressed in English by "whenever" with the present.}

How blessed is this worship! The constraint is that of the heart alone: the spirit of praise dictates the praise. They are intelligent, and give the reason of it; not here redemption, but creation. By and by they celebrate redemption also, but one theme does not displace another: all that God is and has done is worthy of Him, and they express their adoration as dependent on the will of Him who, for His glory, had created them. This perpetual worship of heaven is the witness of the perpetual freshness of abiding blessing traced by the happy heart to God as its source. May we learn better on earth this song of praise!


And now, in the right hand of Him that sits upon the throne there is seen a book, or scroll, completely filled* with writing, which is, however, as to decipherment, completely hid from sight. It is the book of the future, already and completely foreknown and settled in the divine counsels: no room for any thing to be afterward supplied. Thank God, no tittle of history that the future holds will put omniscience to shame, or show the book of God's counsels to have escaped out of the hand of enthroned omnipotence.

{*"According to ancient usage, a parchment-roll was first written on the inside, and if the inside was filled with writing, then the outside was used, or back part of the roll; and if that also was covered with writing, and the whole available space was occupied, the book was called opistho-graphos ('written on the back-side,' Lucian Vit. Auct. 9, Plin. Epist. iii. 5.)" (Wordsworth, quoted in Schaff's Lange.)}

Yet if it remain there, who can penetrate it? The seven seals show it to be absolutely hidden from saint or angel. Let it be proclaimed with a voice mighty enough to reach all the inhabitants of heaven, earth, and the underworld, there is no where any answer to the challenge, "Who is worthy to open the book?"

God's counsels imply blessing. It may be indeed through much tribulation — the light checkered with shadows — evening and morning together making up the day. Even so, we name it "day" from the light, not from the darkness. The conflict of good with evil must end in triumph, not in defeat. And who is worthy to proclaim that triumph? Only He who can insure it and carry it out; for this only it is, as we shall see, that opens the book. It is no longer, at the time to which this change brings us, a question of making prophetic announcements, but of manifesting God's purposes by decisive acts of power. True, we are enabled, as having the prophecy, in measure to anticipate what is to come. But that, with all its value for us, is not what we see in this picture. It is not the inditing of a book, nor the uttering of a prophecy, that we have before us, but the opening it by fulfillment.* Here, then, One alone can be found "worthy" to open it. And though we know well who it is, yet we must note the character in which He is introduced to us.

{*We may note here, although it is not necessary to this interpretation, that "and to read" in ver. 4 is omitted by the editors.}

The prophet weeps because no one is "found worthy to open the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, 'Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book and the seven seals thereof.'"

This is in complete and striking accord with what we have already seen as to the change of dispensation which the vision shows to be taking place. The time of gathering from heaven being fulfilled, the body of Christ completed, and the saints of the New Testament period caught up with those of former times to meet the Lord in the air, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, long suspended, begins again, and in the forefront of the world's history Israel find their place as of old. The "Lion of the tribe of Judah" here announces One who is taking up once more their cause, to crown it with speedy and entire victory. Power is soon to manifest itself in that sudden outburst of irresistible righteous anger of which the second psalm warns the kings of the earth: "Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings! be instructed, ye that are judges of the earth! Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with reverence. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath shall suddenly kindle."

In this title, "Lion of the tribe of Judah," the whole significance of Jacob's ancient prophecy flashes out. "Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be upon the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he hath stooped, he hath couched as a lion, and as an old lion, — who shall rouse him up?"

From this we must not disjoin what follows: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and to him shall the gathering of the people be" (Gen. 49:8-10).

Thus it is Christ that Jacob has in spirit before him, when he sees Judah assuming the lion-character. And when in David it actually rose up for a short time in the predicted manner, the brief glory of his kingdom only foretold and heralded the better glory of Christ's enduring one. And in this way the Lion of the tribe of Judah is not only the "Branch of David," springing out of the cut-down tree, but, as here, the Root also of David, from which David himself derives all real significance.

It is plain, then, that now the appeal of the eighty-ninth psalm is to be answered. David's throne is to be lifted up from the dust, and Judah's long-delayed hope is to expand into fruition. Strange is it to think how critics and commentators can, in the Lion of Judah opening the book of God's counsels, see only the general truth of Christ upon the throne of providential government, when it is plain, according to the undoubted reference, that the thought of Judah's Lion is inseparably connected with that of Judah taking the prey, and then couching with a front of power which none will dare to excite: "Judah, thou art a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he hath couched as a lion — who shall rouse him up?"

It is not only ignorance of Scripture, but also of the perfection of Scripture, which operates in these beclouding views of the great prophecy before us, in which every expression, every nicety of utterance, is to be marked and estimated at its worth, because it has worth. If not one jot or one tittle could pass from the law, as the Lord Himself declared, till all were fulfilled, how impossible, then, for prophecy to have an irrelevant jot or tittle which can be safely disregarded! Go on, with this character that Christ has now assumed present in the mind, and is it strange or doubtful what can be meant by the sealing out of the twelve tribes, in the seventh chapter, with the separate gathering of the Gentile multitude afterward, "come out of (not merely great, but specifically) the great tribulation? All is clear and consistent in detail when we have correctly the general thought.

It is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, then, who prevails to open the book. The hindrance to the blessing of Israel and the earth is now removed. Christ has overcome. But how then overcome? What could be the impediment to the execution of divine purposes of goodness toward men, and how alone could evil be met, subdued, — nay, made to minister to higher blessing? This is what is now to be declared.

"And I saw standing in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb, as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth."

The Lamb is not here represented as upon the throne, but in the midst of a circle formed by the throne, the living creatures, and the elders. Lamb as He is (and the word used emphasizes the connected thought of feebleness in some way), the attribute of perfect power is seen in the seven horns as that of omniscience is seen in the seven eyes, with the still more decisive interpretation given them. Still the feebleness is again marked, and to the extreme, in the note appended that it was "as though it had been slain." Weakness, then, we are to mark in the One depicted here as well as power, and the evident tokens of past suffering even to death, although alive out of death.

Evidently this is how He has prevailed. He has conquered death through dying, conquered it in its own domain by going into it, giving Himself a sacrifice, a vicarious offering, for the lamb was well known as that. Sin has been thus met by atonement; evil triumphed over by good, the might of pure love acting according to holiness, where power otherwise there was none, or it was against the Sufferer. This was the victory that opened the book.

But we must not read this as if it was meant to assure us that the Christian view of the Lamb has replaced or set aside or come as in a mystery to explain the Jewish conception of the Lion. This is the thought of many, but it is entirely wrong and hopelessly confusing. The Lion and the Lamb are but one blessed Person; and, moreover, One who remains, through whatever changes of position, wholly unchanging Himself, — "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8). This is true, and necessarily true, and it is our joy and consolation for all time; but it does not turn condemnation into salvation, or make the judgment of wrath a piping instead of mourning.

The Lion of the tribe of Judah is not a mere Jewish notion, but a true and scriptural conception. It is Jewish indeed — not Christian; and for that very reason cannot be the equivalent of the "Lamb as it had been slain." And yet it is in His victory over death that He acquires the power which as the Lion of Judah He displays. This is how the two views, in themselves so manifestly different, find their relation to one another.

Yet it is the Lamb that takes the book, and the Lion of the tribe of Judah who does so. As the first, He is the Interpreter of the counsels of redeeming love, as they embrace the whole circle of its objects. As the second, He takes up Israel specifically to deliver them from surrounding enemies and establish them in peace under the shield of His omnipotence. His title here has plainly to do with power displayed against the foes of His people. And this is what plainly gives the necessary stand-point from which we can see aright the meaning of the chapters which follow for the larger part of the remainder of the book.

Yet it is no wonder that up in heaven, among the redeemed, it is as the Lamb slain that the myriad voices celebrate Him, and the Lion of Judah seems to be forgotten. This is not really so; nor does it show that the one title is not to be distinguished from the other. When He acts according to the latter, we shall find how intense are the sympathies of this heavenly throng. To no act of His can there be indifference. But the praise and homage of heaven are to the Lamb slain. Redemption is what declares Him to the heart, and that a redemption by purchase, though redemption by power be its necessary complement. The Lamb slain gives the one side; the Lion of the tribe of Judah speaks of the other.

When the Lamb takes the book, the redemption-song is heard in heaven. "And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sing a new song, saying, 'Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with Thy blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and madest them unto our God a kingdom and priests, and they shall reign over the earth."

In this "new song," the living creatures and the elders are united. The angels we find in the verses succeeding these, worshiping in a circle outside and in other terms. This surely is another sign of what is taking place, and where the vision brings us. The symbols of administrative government, which the living creatures present to us, are now connected with redeemed men, and no longer with angels. "Unto angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownedst him with glory and honor; Thou didst set him over the works of Thy hands '" (Heb. 2:5-8).

This is, of course, spoken of the Lord Jesus, but in Him man, according to the will of God, comes to the place of authority in the world to come, in which, in the book of Daniel, we find the angels. It is when the Son of Man takes His own throne that the saints reign with Him. Thus, in this song of redemption we have now "they shall reign over the earth." It is plain, then, that the vision here brings us to the eve of the millennial day.

Not only are the heavenly saints seen as about to enter on their reign over the earth; they are already in their character as priests, "having golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." It is not said that they are offering them: they are, in fact, at that moment in another attitude; and this seems pointed out as to them, as if to be another of the marks of the period which is now beginning. Observe, they are never looked at as themselves interceding. They are charged with the prayers of others, but add nothing to them. There are no supererogatory merits that they have acquired, to give efficacy to what they present; and the prayers themselves are the incense, not incense is added to them. Romanism finds here no atom of justification, such as some have alleged; but the statement of the text is plain, and we must abide by it. The risen saints are priests and kings to God. In the former capacity, they have the incense-prayers in their hand; in the latter, they are presently to reign over the earth, so that the cherubic living creatures and the elders are now seen together.

Thus the period of the vision is made as plain as possible, and the song of the redeemed is thus a "new" song, not because redemption itself was yet a new thing, but because it was now, as far as heaven itself was concerned, accomplished. Resurrection, the redemption of the body, was now accomplished, and the Lamb about to commence what He alone could undertake — the redemption by power of the earth also. At this point, the song of praise celebrates the completion of all as to the singers save the reign over the earth involved in what He is now taking in hand to do. Thus the song is new.

But is it their own redemption they are celebrating? The text as it used to be read made no doubt of this; but it is abandoned by the general consent of the editors, who accept substantially what the R.V. gives, except that, as to the last clause, there is still dispute whether it should be "they reign" or "they shall reign." I prefer the latter, as most according to the fact, authorities being divided. The result as to the whole is that the elders do not say, "Thou hast redeemed us, and we shall reign," but "Thou hast redeemed a people, and they shall reign." Instead of being specific, it is general, as to who the people are, although the last clause limits it to the heavenly family of the redeemed. The millennial saints do not reign over the earth. They inherit it in peace and blessing, but it is they who suffer with Christ who shall reign with Him (2 Tim. 2:12).

The change puts emphasis upon the redemption, rather than upon the persons who are partakers of it; and this commends itself Lo spiritual apprehension. The Lamb and His wondrous work fill the souls of His own with rapture as they fall before His feet: "THOU wast slain, and hast redeemed to God." But there seems to me no ground for what some allege from this change of text, that the heavenly saints here are celebrating the redemption of others and not their own! Why should this be? The language does not necessitate it; for if we say, "Thou hast redeemed a people," even though we are speaking of ourselves, it is quite in order to say, keeping up the third person all through, "and they shall reign." I agree with those who hold the view with which I cannot agree, that there is a company of martyrs after this who are, as such, to be joined to this heavenly company, and who are seen in this way as added to them in Rev. 20:4-6. But to think that in the vision before us the saints are praising Christ solely for the redemption of another class than themselves, is, I venture to say, extreme and incongruous. Surely we should not think, in praising Christ for redemption, of wholly omitting the thought that we ourselves are among the subjects of it! Every consideration here, moreover, would forbid the supposition.

Outside the circle of the redeemed, the angels have now their place and their praise. It has been often and justly remarked that they do not "sing." Their peaceful lives, not subject to vicissitude, nor touched by sin, furnish no various tones for melody. The harps which we have above are tuned down here, where the Davids, signalized by their afflictions, are the sweet singers of Israel. Wondrous and eternal fruit of earth's sorrow, though by divine grace only, the redeemed among men will be the choir of heaven! Blessed be God!

"And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying as with a great voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb that has been slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.'"

Redemption has thus added to the angels' praise. It is not to the Creator only. And in this new praise, a new element of blessing, a new apprehension of God, has entered into their hearts. They are nearer, though in this outside circle, than they ever were before. In truth, though in some sense outside, our earthly idea of distance fails to convey the thought. Larger and smaller measures of apprehension there may be and will be, but true distance of the creature from the Creator is in heaven the one impossibility, where of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ every family is named. "Whither shall I go from Thy presence?" is never whispered; and the whisper of it, even in heaven, would make it hell.

And now, in a wider sweep again, —

"Every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, even all that are in them, heard I saying, 'Blessing and honor and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.' And the four living creatures said, 'Amen,' and the elders fell down and worshiped."

This is the voice of the lower creation in echo to the praise of heaven. It is such a response as many of the psalms call for in view of the coming of the Lord; and is another mark of the time of the vision. The earth under the desolation of the fall has for the time lost its place, as it might seem, and wandered as a planet from its orbit into the starless silence around. Christ, as her central Sun, has come back to her after the long polar darkness, and her voices wake up as the spring returns. Blessed it is to realize (so simple and natural as it is) the response to this response on the part of the human elders, as this sound is heard. The governmental powers of earth — the living creatures — utter their glad "Amen" to it. Earth is to repay the long labor and service of rule at last. And the elders, with their own memories of sin and darkness (now forever but memories, though undying), hear it in a thrill of sympathetic joy that (as all the joy of heaven) melts into adoration: "The elders fell down and worshiped."

The Opening of the Seals: the First Four Seals. (Rev. 6:1-2.)

The Lamb having taken the book, the opening of the seals at once follows. When they are all loosed, — and not before, — then the book is fully opened. The seals then give us the introduction to the book, rather than (as many have imagined,) the complete contents. Beyond the seals lie the trumpets, contrasted with the seals in their nature: the latter are divine secrets opened to faith; the trumpets, loud-voiced calls to the whole earth. These go on to the setting up of the kingdom in the seventh trumpet; and after that, we have only separate visions giving the details of special parts, until in the nineteenth chapter we reach again a connected series of events, stretching from the marriage of the Lamb through the millennium to the great white throne.

The opening of the seals, then, gives us events introductory, as regards both time and character, to what follows, and which have their importance largely in this very fact. The opening of them is the key to the book; for when they are opened, the book is. Yet they only set us upon the threshold of the great events which precede the setting up of the kingdom of Christ, the time of the trumpets; while on the other hand they contain the germ and prophecy of theses which spring out of them as it were necessarily.

In the Lord's great prophecy of Matt. 24, which similarly sets before us the time of the end, we have, before the period of special tribulation connected with the abomination of desolation in the holy place, an order of things which has often been compared with what we find under the seals. Nor can we compare them without being struck with the resemblance. The Lord specifies here, as warning-signs of His coming, false Christs, wars, and rumors of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, and persecution of His people. In the first and second seals we have correspondingly war — that of conquest and civil war; in the third, famine; in the fourth, pestilence; in the fifth, the cry of the martyrs; and in the sixth, a great earthquake, though perhaps only as a symbol of national convulsion. Only the false Christs seem to be entirely omitted, and some have therefore imagined that the rider on the white horse in the first seal — coming, it must be admitted, in the right place to preserve the harmony with the gospel, — might fill the gap. But this we must look at later on. The correspondence is sufficiently striking to confirm strongly the thought that the seals refer to the same period as does the passage in the gospel, the time preceding and introducing the great tribulation of the end.

Looking again at the seals, we find they are divided, like most other septenary series, into four and three; the first four being marked from the rest by the horse and rider which is in each, and by the call of the living beings by which each is introduced. Their relation to each other is plainer (or more outward) than in the case of the last three, as may be observed also in such series generally. And how beautiful and reassuring is this rhythm of prophecy! The power of God every-where controlling with perfect ease the winds and waves in their wildest uproar, so as for faith to produce harmony where the natural ear finds only discord. Significant is it that in no other book of Scripture have we so much of these numberings and divisions and proportionate series as we have in the book of Revelation.

The call of the cherubim at the opening of the first four seals is also significant. It is to be noted that it is not addressed, as in our common version, to John, but to the riders upon the horses, who then come forth. It is not "Come and see," but "Come," as the R.V., with the editors in general, now gives it. The living beings utter their call also in the order in which they have been seen in the vision: for although in the first instance it is said, "one of the four living beings," not "the first," yet in the case of the other seals they are named in order — second, third, and fourth. And we shall find a correspondence in each case between the living being and the one who comes forth at his call.

We have seen that the cherubic figures speak of the government of God, in the hands of those who are commissioned of Him to exercise it. And thus the vail of the holiest, the type of the Lord in manhood — "the vail, that is to say, His flesh" (Heb. 10:20) — was embroidered with cherubim. To Him they have peculiar reference as the King of God's appointment; and the four gospels, as has been seen by many, give in their central features these cherubic characters in the Lord, and again in the order in which the book of Revelation exhibits them. The Lion of Judah we find in Matthew's gospel, where Christ is looked at as Son of David. Mark gives us, on the other hand, the young bullock — the Servant's form. Luke meets us with the dear and familiar features of manhood, — the "face of a man;" while in John we have the bird of heaven — the vision of incarnate Godhead. These aspects of the Gospels I may assume to be familiar to my readers, here is not the place to consider them.

Now Christ has been seen in heaven in a double character: — the Lion of the tribe of Judah is the Lamb that was slain. It is the title under which He takes every thing, for it is that which shows Him as the One who has bought every thing by His surrender of Himself unto death. He is the "man" who, according to His own parable, having found in a field hidden treasure, went and sold all that he had, and bought that field. "The field," He says again Himself, "is the world."

But the Lord's death had also another side to it. It was man's emphatic rejection of God in His dearest gift to him, — just in his sweetest and most wonderful grace. While every gospel has a different tale to tell of what Christ is, every gospel has also, as an essential feature, the story of His rejection in that character. As Son of David, as the gracious Minister to man's need, as God's true Man, or as the only begotten Son from heaven, He is still the crucified One. Man has cast out with insult the divine Saviour, — has refused utterly God's help and His salvation. What must be the result? He must — if in spite of long-suffering mercy he persist in this, — remain unhelped and unsaved. He has cast out the Son of God; and why? Because he was His. essential opposite: "the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me." The world which rejects Christ as finding nothing in Him naturally is the world which owns Satan as its prince. He who rejects Christ is ready for Antichrist; and so He says to the Jews, "I am come in My Father's name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive."

Thus man's sin foreshadows the judgment which must come upon him. This is no arbitrary thing. The law is the same physically and morally, — "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." In the true sense here, man is the maker of his own destiny.

And this will prepare us to understand the cherubim-call for judgment. If the living beings represent characters of God's government, and characters also which are found in Christ, we can find here a double reason why, Christ being rejected, the judgments come forth at the cherubim's call. A rejected Saviour calls forth a destroyer. The voice of the lion summons to his career the white-horsed conqueror.

This shows us, then, that it is not Christ who is thus represented. Many have supposed so, naturally comparing with it the vision of the nineteenth chapter, where Christ comes forth upon a white horse to the judgment of the earth. But the comparison really proves the opposite. We have not, certainly, under the first seal, already reached the time of Christ's appearing. And the symbol of judgment is unsuited for the going forth of the blessed gospel of peace. The gospel-dispensation is over now, and the sheaves of its golden harvest are gathered into the barn. Not peace is it now, but war. Peace they would not have at His hands: its alternative they have no choice as to receiving. Christ received would have been an enemy only to man's enemies. Power would have been used on his behalf, and not against him: that rejected, the foes that would have been put down rise up, and hold him captive.

This, then, is the key to what we have under the first seal: a few words must suffice for the present as to the other details.

The horse is noted in Scripture for its strength, and as the instrument of war: other thoughts believed to be associated with it seem scarcely to be sustained. It indicates, therefore, aggressive power, and a white horse is well known as the symbol of victory. In the rider, who of course governs the horse, there seems generally indicated an agent of divine providence, though it may be not merely unintentionally so, but even in spirit hostile. The rider here is not characterized save by his acts. His bow is his weapon of offense, which speaks not of hand-to-hand conflict, but of wounds inflicted at a distance. The crown given him seems certainly to imply, as another has said, that he obtains royal or imperial dignity as the fruit of his success, though by whom the crown is given does not appear. Altogether we have but a slight sketch of the one presented to us here, and one which might fit many of whom history speaks; but this is divine history,and the person before us must have an important connection with the purposes of God, to earn for him the leading place which he fills in the beginning of these visions of earthly doom.

We naturally ask, Can we find no intimations elsewhere of this conqueror? It appears to me we may; and I hope to give further on what I think Scripture teaches as to it, not as pretending to dogmatize as to what is obscure, but presenting simply the grounds of my own judgment for the consideration of others. If it be not the exact truth, it may yet lead in the direction of the truth.

Some preliminary points have, however, first to be settled; and for the present it will be better to content ourselves with noting the detail as to this first rider, and to pass on.

The second living creature is the patient ox. True figure of God's laborer, strength only used in lowly toil for man, it speaks to us of Him who on God's part labored to bring man back to Him, and plow again the channels back to the forsaken source, so that the perennial streams might fill them, and bring again to earth the old fertility. Yet here the ox calls forth one to whom it is "given to take peace from the earth, and that they should slay one another." Civil war is bidden forth by that which is the type of love's patient ministry. Yes, and how fitly! For just as if received, God having His place, all else would have its own; so, rejected, all must be out of joint and in disorder. Man in rebellion against God, the very beasts of the earth rebel in turn. Having cast off affection where most natural, all natural affection withers. Man has initiated a disorder which he cannot stop where he desires, but which will spread until all sweet and holy ties are sundered, and love is turned (as it may be turned) to deadliest opposition.

In the third seal the third living creature calls: the one with the face of a man. At his call, famine comes. We see a black horse, and he that sits on him has a pair of balances in his hand; and there is heard in the midst of the living beings a voice which cries, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine." A denarius, which was the ordinary day's earnings of a laboring man, would usually buy eight quarts of wheat, one of which would scarcely suffice for daily bread. It is evident, therefore, that this implies great scarcity.

The congruity of this judgment with the call of the living being is not so easy to be understood as in the former cases. Were we permitted to spiritualize it, and think of what Amos proclaims, "Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but of hearing the words of the Lord, such a famine would, on the other hand, suit well: for "the face of a man" reminds us how God has met us in His love, and revealed Himself to us, inviting our confidence, speaking in our familiar mother-tongue, studying to be understood and appreciated by us; and assuredly this familiar intercourse with Him is what we want for heart-satisfaction. "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us," was not an unintelligent request so far as man's need is itself concerned. The unintelligence was in what the Lord points out, "Have I been so long time with you, and hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father."

Here, then, man's need is fully met. The hunger of his soul is satisfied. The bread from heaven is what the Son of Man alone gives, and it is meat that "endures to everlasting life." And this rejected, — the true manna loathed and turned from, — what remains but a wilderness indeed, a barren soil without a harvest?

But this gives only a hint of the real connection: for this seal following the other two, seems evidently to give a result of these. What more simple and natural than that after conquest and civil war, — above all, the latter, — the untilled soil should leave men destitute? Still more, that the oil and the wine, which do not need in the same way man's continual care. remain on the whole uninjured? An ordinary famine seems to be intended, therefore; yet the connection has been hinted as already said: for the natural is every where a type of the spiritual, and depends on it, as the lesser upon the greater. Our common mercies are thus ours through Christ alone. Take away the one, the other goes. A natural famine is the due result of the rejection of the spiritual food. With the substance goes the shadow also.

That the third living creature calls for famine, then, may in this way be understood, and it shows how the greater the blessing lost, the deeper the curse retained. Christ rejected strikes every natural good.

And when we come to the fourth seal, and the flying eagle summons forth the pale horse with its rider Death, Hades following with him to engulf the souls of the slain, the same lesson is to be read, becoming only plainer. John's is the gospel to which this flying eagle corresponds, — the gospel of love and life and light, each fathomless, each a mystery, each divine. Blot this out — reject, refuse it, what remains? What but the awful eternal opposite, which the death here as from the wrath of God introduces to?

These initial judgments, then, are seen to speak of that which brings the judgment. The day of harvest is beginning, and man is being called to reap what he has sown. The darkness which begins to shut all in is the darkness not merely of absent, but rejected light.

This, in its full dread reality, no one that is Christ's can ever know. Yet before we leave it, it is well for us to realize how far for us also rejected light may be, and must be, darkness. We are in the kingdom of Christ, children of the light, delivered from the authority of darkness. Around us are poured the blessed beams of gladdening and enfranchising day. And yet this renders any real darkness in which we may be practically the more solemn. It too is not a mere negative, not a mere absence of light, but light shut out. And darkness itself is a kingdom, rebellious indeed, yet subject to the god of this world. To shut out the light — any light — is to shut in the darkness, and thus far to join the revolt against God and good.

And the necessary judgment follows, — for us, a Father's discipline, that we may learn, in our self-chosen way, what evil is, but learn it, that at last we may be what we must be, if we are to dwell with Him, "partakers of His holiness." But will it not be loss, — aye, even eternal loss, to have had to learn it so?

Who would force the love that yearns over us to chasten, instead of comforting, — to minister sorrow, when it should and would bring gladness only? THERE IS NO MERE NEGATIVE. In that in which we are not for Christ, we are against Him. To shut Him out is a wrong and insult to Him. And these quick-eyed cherubim, careful for the "holy, holy, holy God" they celebrate, will they not, must they not, call forth the judgment answering to the sin?

The Last Three Seals. (Rev. 6:9-17; Rev. 8:1.)

The first four seals have thus shown to us judgments poured out upon the earth, — judgments which are the necessary result of the rejection of Christ, now completed by the refusal of the gospel for so many centuries of divine long-suffering. The fifth opens to us a very different scene: here are beheld "under the altar, the souls of them that were beheaded for the word of God and for the testimony which they held." Persecution has broken out against the people of God for such there are still upon the earth, though the saints of the present time are with the Lord in glory. Heaven being filled, the Spirit of God has been at work to fill the earth with blessing and here, as we know, God's ancient people are the first subjects of His converting grace. The remnant of that time could be fitly represented by those disciples of the Lord to whom He addressed the great prophecy of His coming, Jewish as they were still in conceptions and in heart; and to these, after such warnings as had been fulfilled in the former seals, He says, "Then shall they deliver you up to tribulation, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all the nations (the Gentiles) for My name's sake." The two passages agree with one another and with nature.

Woe unto those who in a day of wrath upon the world for the rejection of Christ go into it to insist upon His claim! And that is what is meant by "the gospel of the kingdom" which the Lord tells us "shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all the nations, and then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:14). "Glad tidings" though it may be that the kingdom of righteousness at last is to be set up, and the King Himself is at hand, — to those who reject Him, it is the announcement of their doom. And we see under this fifth seal what will be the result. The Word of God will again have its martyrs, but whose cry will not be with Stephen, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge!" but with the martyrs of the Old Testament, "The Lord look upon it, and require it!" "And they cried with a loud voice, 'How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge, and avenge our blood on them that dwell upon the earth?'"

The cry is now in place, as is the pleading for grace in a day of grace. Judgment is indeed to come, and the time when God "maketh inquisition for blood" (Ps. 9:12); but though at hand, there is yet a certain delay, for, alas! even yet, the measure of man's iniquity is not reached. "And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants and their brethren, who should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled."

Two seasons of persecution seem to be marked here, though with no necessary interval between them; though the crash that follows under the sixth seal, with the terror thus (if but for awhile) produced, might well cause such a cessation of persecution for the time being. Whether this be so or not, the two periods are surely here distinguished. A much later passage (Rev. 20:4) similarly distinguishes them, while it enables us to recognize the latter of these periods as that of the beast under his last head: "And I saw thrones, and they sat on them "those already enthroned in Rev. 4 and 5, — "and the souls of those that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God," — those seen under the fifth seal, — "and such as had not worshiped the beast, nor his image, and had not received his mark upon their foreheads or in their hands" — here are their "brethren that were to be slain as they were," — "and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."

The distinction between these two periods proves the introductory character of the seals, at least as far as we have gone. The time of the great tribulation is not come; just as, in Matt. 24:9, the persecution prophesied of precedes it. Thus the martyrs here, while owned and approved, have yet to wait for the answer to their prayer. Some answer, it need not be doubted, the next seal gives; but plainly, it cannot be the full one: there are decisive reasons for refusing the thought entertained by many, that it is really the "great day of the Lamb's wrath" which is come. Men's guilty consciences make them judge it to be this; but that is only their interpretation, not the divine one.

A terrible break-up of the existing state of things it is: "And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great convulsion; and the sun became as sackcloth of hair, and the whole moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, as a fig-tree casteth her unripe figs when she is shaken of a great wind. And the heaven was removed as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the princes, and the chief captains, and the rich, and the strong, and every bondman and freeman, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains; and they say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand? "

Well may it seem to be so; and just such physical signs are announced in Joel (Joel 2:31 and Joel 3:15) before "the great and terrible day of the Lord shall come." Just so also the Lord speaks of what shall take place after the tribulation: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken; and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then shall the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matt. 24:29-30).

The sixth seal precedes the tribulation, however, as we have seen; except this could occur between the fifth and sixth, and were passed silently over. This would be a very violent supposition in view of what we have already seen, and of what follows the sixth seal itself, as we may see presently. The rolling up the heavens as a scroll, moreover, goes beyond the language of Joel or of the Lord, carrying us on, indeed, to the passing away of the heaven and earth which precedes the coming in of that "new heavens and earth in which dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13). But this is impossible to be thought of as occurring in this place. The only other practicable interpretation, therefore, must be the true one, — the language is figurative, and the signs are not physical, though designedly given in terms which remind us of what indeed is swiftly approaching, though not yet actually come.

And in this way the general significance is not difficult to apprehend. The heavens in this way represent the seat of authority. Nebuchadnezzar had to learn that the "heavens rule" (Dan. 4:26). And they represent figuratively rule also on the part of man. In the Old Testament prophets, we have similar pictures to that before us here (Isa. 13:10; Isa. 34:4), where the context shows that national convulsions are prophesied of. Here, it is evidently the collapse of governments, the shaking of all that seemed most settled and secure. All classes of men, — high and low, rich and poor, are involved in the effect of it, and their stricken consciences ascribe it as judgment to the wrath of God and the Lamb. In their alarm, they imagine He is just about to appear; but He does not, and the panic passes away. A new state of things is introduced, of which the features unfold themselves.

When we might now expect the opening of the seventh seal, we find instead the parenthetic visions of the seventh chapter; and there is a similar interruption in exactly the same place in the trumpet-series: the vision of the little book and the two witnesses comes in between the sixth and seventh trumpets. This exact correspondence claims our attention. One result of it is, to make the septenary series an octave, and to give, therefore, to the last seal and the last trumpet alike the character of a seventh and yet of an eighth division. Let us inquire for a moment into the significance of these numbers in this connection.

The numbers are, in their scriptural meaning, in some sense opposite to one another. "Seven" speaks of completion, perfection, and so cessation. Seven notes give the whole compass in music. On the seventh day God ended all His work which He had made, and rested. The eighth day is the first of a new week, — a new beginning. The eighth note is similarly a new beginning. The essential idea attaching to the number in its symbolic use in Scripture is that of what is new, in contrast with the old which is passed away, — as the new covenant, the new creation. As outside the perfect seven, it adds no other thought.

Now if we will remember the character of these seals, that they keep the book closed, it follows of course that the seventh seal opened opens for the first time really the book itself. This in fact introduces us therefore to what is a new thing. We were up to this time in the porch or vestibule merely. Immediately the last door is opened we are in the building itself.

Does not this account for the fact that on its opening there is simply a brief pause — "silence in heaven for the space of half an hour," — and then come the trumpets? This is exactly according to the seven-eight character of the closing seal. One period is over, and with this we begin another. The last seal is open, and this discloses, not a bit more introduction, but the book itself.

The seventh trumpet will be found in these respects very like the seventh seal. It too is brief and while closing the trumpet-series of judgment — in fact the three special woes, — opens into another condition of things, not woe at all, but the time long looked for, when "the kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever" (Rev. 11:15). Thus the seven-eight structure justifies itself in both series, of seals and trumpets.

But before the seventh seal comes a parenthetic vision, which is not a part of the seals really, but a disclosure of what is in the mind of the Lord, His purpose of grace fulfilling steadfastly amid all the strife and sorrow and sin which might seem to prevail every where. Let us now give it our careful attention.

The Parenthetic Visions: the Sealed of Israel. (Rev. 7:1-8.)

An objection may be taken to our interpretation of the convulsion under the sixth seal, — that it is not in harmony with that which we have given of the earlier ones. In these, the "earth," for instance, was assumed to be literally that in the latter, it is taken in a figurative sense and it may be urged that this want of uniformity in interpretation allows us to make of these visions very much what we will, — in fact makes their alleged meaning altogether inconsistent and unreliable.

This is a mistake, though a very natural one, and it needs to be examined and shown to be such, or else a serious difficulty will remain in the way of further progress, if such indeed be possible. For the same inconsistency, if it be really that, will appear again and again as we proceed with our study of the book before us we shall be using the same terms now in a literal and again in a figurative sense, as it may appear, arbitrarily, but in fact as compelled by necessity to do so, or according to the law of the highest reason.

Figures pervade our common speech, even the most literal and prosaic, — disguised for us often by the mere fact that they are used so commonly. We employ them, too, with a latitude of meaning which in no wise affects their intelligibility to us. They are used with a certain freedom in which there is nothing arbitrary, but the reverse. They are used rather in the interests of clearness and intelligibility, the main end sought, which governs indeed their use. It is simple enough to say that the whole art of language is in clearness of expression, and that the right use of figures is therefore for this end.

Now, in visions, such as we have in Revelation, figures, it is true, have a much larger place: the meaning of the vision as a whole is symbolic — figurative. Yet this does not at all suppose that every feature in it is so, and in no case perhaps is this really true.

Take the fifth seal as a sufficient example, — where the altar is figurative, and so are the white robes, but the killing of their brethren is real and literal. This mingling of the literal and symbolic in one vision makes it plain that they may be and will be found mingled through the whole series of visions. And if it be asked, How, then are we to discern the one from the other? the answer will be, that each case must be judged separately, — the sense that is simplest, most self-consistent, and agreeable to the context being surely the right one. God writes, as man does, to be understood, and intelligibility gives the law, therefore, to all the rest. It is reassuring indeed to remember this: plenty of deep things there are in the Word of God, and more perhaps than any where else are they to be found in the book of Revelation, but the mystery in them is never from mere verbal concealments or misty speech, but from defect in us, — spiritual dullness and incapacity. This most difficult of all Scripture-books God has stamped with the name of "REVELATION."

These thoughts are not an unnecessary introduction to the parenthetic visions between the sixth and the seventh seals, where just such questions have been asked as to the sealing of a hundred and forty-four thousand out of every tribe of the children of Israel. Is it in fact Israel literally, or a typical, spiritual Israel that we are to think of? The latter is the thought of expositors generally, though by no means all; and we are told (as by Lange, for instance,) that if we take Israel literally to be meant, then we must take all the other details, — the exact number sealed, etc., — literally also: to do which would not involve any absurdity, but which we have seen to be not in the least necessitated. We are free, as to all matters of the kind, to ask, What is the most suitable meaning? and to find in this suitability, the justification of one view or the other.

The context argues for the literal sense. The innumerable multitude seen afterward before the throne, "out of all nations and kindreds and peoples and tongues," shows us plainly a characteristically Gentile gathering, and that they are in some sense in contrast with the Israelitish one seems clear. Taken together, they throw light upon one another, and display the divine mercy both to Jews and Gentiles in the latter days. While the separateness of these companies, and the priority given to Israel, agree with the character of a time when the Christian Church being removed to heaven, the old distinctions are again in force. We are again in the line of Old Testament prophecy, and of Jewish "promises" (Rom. 9:4); "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" has taken the book.

Even apart from the context, (decisive as this is), the enumeration of the tribes would seem to make the description literal enough, even although Dan be at present missing from among them, and supposing no reason could be assigned for this.* Judah too is in her place as the royal tribe: not the natural birthright, but divine favor, controls the order here. Every thing assures us that it is indeed Israel, and as a nation, that is now in the scene.

{* Dan and Zebulon are both omitted in the genealogical lists of 1 Chronicles.}

Let us turn back now to see how she is introduced to us,

"After this, I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that no wind should blow on the earth, or on the sea, or upon any tree. And I saw another angel ascend from the sunrising, having the seal of the living God; and he cried with a great voice to the four angels to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, 'Hurt not the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, till we shall have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.'"

Here it is manifest that, terrible as have been the judgments already, far worse are at hand. The four winds — expressive of all the agencies of natural evil — are about to blow together upon the earth, under the control of spiritual powers (the angels) which guide them according to the supreme will of God. It is the "day of the Lord of Hosts upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low" (Isa. 2:12). And as nothing lifts itself up as the tree does, so the "tree" is specially marked out here: the axe is laid at the root of it. The passage in Isaiah goes on quite similarly: "And upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan" (v. 13).

But this becomes, as in the Baptist's lips, a general sentence upon man as man, from which none may escape but as in the Lord's grace counted worthy. Thus the sealing becomes quite evidently the counterpart of what we find in the ninth of Ezekiel, though there the range of judgment is more limited. "And He called to the man clothed in linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side; and the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.' And to the others He said in mine hearing, 'Go ye after him through the city, and smite; let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity; slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children and women, but come not near any man upon whom is the mark.'"

The sealing is as evidently preservative as the "mark" is. They are both upon the forehead, — open and manifest. If we look on to the fourteenth chapter here, we shall find upon the hundred and forty-four thousand there (a company as to the identity of which with the present one it is not yet time to ask the question,) the name of the Lamb's Father written, and the seal marks thus undoubtedly to whom they belong.

Let us notice also that we are just approaching the time here in which the beast also will have his mark, if not always on the forehead, at least in the hands (Rev. 13:16). The time of unreserved confession of one master or the other will then have come; and no divided service will be any longer possible. The beast "boycotts" (they have already invented both the thing and the expression for him,) those who do not receive his mark: those who do receive it are cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 13:17; Rev. 14:9-10).

The sealing is angelic, — a very different thing therefore from present sealing with the Holy Ghost, and from any power or gift of the Spirit. No angel could confer this, and the creaturehood of the angel here is manifest from his words, "Till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads." The "we" shows that more than one execute the ministry, and they that do this speak of God as "our God." This is decisive, apart from all dispensational considerations. But in what the sealing consists it seems scarcely possible to say: the effect is, that the people of God are manifested as His, and preserved thus from the judgments which are ready to be sent upon it.

"The seal of the living God" seems along with this to imply their preservation as living men against all the power of their adversaries — His, and therefore theirs. True, that the power of the living God is shown more victoriously in resurrection than in preservation merely; true also that to the souls under the altar it has been foretold of others of their brethren to be slain as they were, and who are no less marked as His by the deaths they die for Him than any others can be: yet the "seal of the living God" may clearly manifest its power in securing preservation of natural life, and the connection seems to imply this here; while thus alone do the two companies of this parenthetic vision, — the Jewish and the Gentile, — supplement each other, as is their evident design. This also to some will not be apparent, for the Gentile multitude are commonly taken to be risen saints in heaven. But the consideration of this must be reserved for the present.

Certainly the enumeration of the tribes speaks for their connection with God's purposes for Israel nationally upon the earth, where her future is. In heaven, as a nation, she has no place, but on earth ever preserves it (Isa. 66:22). And here the connection of both these companies with a series of events on earth is evident. It may be said that the souls under the altar find similarly their place in connection with the seals, and yet are passed, from earth: but these are introduced to show the prevalence of persecution, the unchanged enmity to God manifesting itself thus after the first periods of judgment have run their course; while they bring on, as it would seem by their prayers, the crash which follows under the sixth seal.

No such connection can be seen here, but the saints here are to be sheltered from the judgments coming on the earth — being themselves on it, an Israelitish company, inferring national revival, significant enough for earth, but not at all for heaven.

Leaving this for the present, we must give our attention to the number so definitely stated, and so earnestly repeated, of this sealed company. The enumeration, so held up before us, and emphasized by repetition, cannot be a point of little consequence. Of each tribe distinctly it is stated that there are twelve thousand sealed. What, then, is the meaning of this number? It is evidently made up of 12 and 10, the latter raised to its third power, the number of government and of responsibility. But we must look at these a little further.

Ten is the measure of responsibility, as in the ten commandments of the law; raised to the third power, it seems to me to be responsibility met in grace with glory; while the number 12 speaks, as I have elsewhere sought to show, of manifest government. If I read the meaning right, the two together speak of special place conferred upon this company in connection with the Lamb's government of the earth; and this, it seems to me, is confirmed by other considerations.

That they are not the whole remnant of Israel preserved to be the stock of the millennial nation is evident from the one fact before mentioned, that the tribe of Dan has no place among them, and yet certainly has its place in the restored nation. In Ezekiel 48:1, Dan has his portion in the extreme north of the land. Thus the hundred and forty-four thousand here are clearly a special company, and not the whole of the saved people.

But the case of Dan has further instruction for us in this connection; and we shall find it, if we turn back to the blessing of the tribes by Jacob in the end of the book of Genesis. Jacob himself tells us here that he is speaking of what should befall them in the "last days;" and it is to these last clays plainly that Revelation brings us: so that the propriety of the application cannot be doubted. Let us listen, then, to what the dying patriarch has to say of Dan.

"Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse-heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord."

Abrupt, fragmentary, enigmatic, as the words are, with just this passage of Revelation before us, they startle us by the way in which they seem to meet the questionings which have been awakened by it. We are looking upon a sealed company, "a hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel." But Dan is not found among them! Can this tribe, we ask, have been suffered to drop out of God's chosen earthly family, so as to have no part in the final blessing? The voice from of old answers the question decisively: "Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel." No! the Lord's grace prevails over all failure: Dan does not lose his place. It cannot be that a tribe should perish out of the chosen people.

But more, — the company before us, if we have read its numerical stamp aright, is a company having a place of rule under the Lamb in the day of millennial blessing; and among these, assuredly, Dan is not found. How the old prophecy comes in here once more with its assurance, "Dan shall judge his people"! The staff of judicial authority is not wholly departed; but simply as what is necessary to tribal place he retains it, "as one of the tribes of Israel," — nothing more.

The patriarch's first words as to Dan imply, then, a low place — if not the lowest place — for Dan, even as his portion in Ezekiel is on the extreme northern border of the land. He retains his place as part of the nation, that is all. And if we naturally ask, Why? the answer is given in what follows: —

"Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse-heels, so that his rider falleth backward."

Plainly these are characters which associate him in some way with the power of the enemy; for the "serpent," the "adder," speak of this. Jacob's words would show that in the apostasy of the mass of the nation under Antichrist, in the days to which we are here carried, Dan has a more than ordinary place. If the antichrist be, as every thing assures us, a Jew himself, what would be more in accordance with all this than the ancient thought that he will be of Dan?

And here how natural the groan, yet of faith, on the part of the remnant which breaks out in the next words of the prophecy, "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord"!

In Gad, therefore, the conflict finds its termination: "A troop shall overcome him, but he shall overcome at the last." Then in Asher and Naphtali the blessing follows, and Joseph and Benjamin show us in whom the blessing is. Upon all this, of course, it would be impossible to dilate now.

But all is confirmatory of the thought of this hundred and forty-four thousand being a special Israelitish company, destined of God to fill a place (but an earthly one,) in connection with the Lord's government of the world in millennial days. We have now to look at the Gentile company in the next vision.

The Palm-bearing Multitude. (Rev. 7:7-17.)
The hundred and forty-four thousand have been sealed before the winds of heaven have been let
loose upon the earth. Before the next vision they have spent their violence, the great tribulation is passed, and an innumerable company of people are seen as come out of it. This expression, "the great-tribulation," is one that rules in the interpretation of this scene as should be evident. When people simply read, "out of great tribulation," it was natural to think of all the redeemed of all generations as being included here, and the multitude and universality of the throng thus gathered would confirm the idea; but now it ought to be no longer possible. That it is "the great tribulation" is even emphasized in the original — "the tribulation, the great one," — to forbid all generalizing in this way. We are reminded of one specific one, which as thus named we are expected to know; and he who will take Scripture simply will surely find without difficulty the one intended. We have already gone over this ground, and there is scarcely need to remind our readers that the "great tribulation" of which our Lord spoke to His disciples, "such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be," which is shortened by divine grace, for otherwise "no flesh should be saved," and at the close of which "they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven," must needs be that out of which the multitude before us come.

That the tribulation is thus immediately followed by the coming of the Lord from heaven makes it easier to understand another thing, that their standing before the throne, as the prophet sees them, does not necessitate the thought of their being in heaven. There is no hint of their being raised from the dead, or having died at all. Simply they are "before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple." Here again it is natural to the common habits of thought to suppose that the temple of God must be in heaven, and passages from this very book would doubtless be cited in support of this (Rev. 11:19; Rev. 15:5): these will come naturally before us for consideration in their own place; but here it is sufficient to say that it is not said "in heaven," and that on earth there is yet to be a temple, as Ezekiel shows. Isaiah also declares that also of the Gentiles the Lord will "take for priests and Levites" (Isa. 66:21).

With this view at least let us look at the scene before us, and see what we can gather more. That they have "white robes" shows simply their acceptance; the palms in their hands speak of rest in victory; their words ascribe their salvation to God and to the Lamb, but they "cry," — it does not say "sing." The angels and the elders stand "around" the throne; they simply stand "before" it.

One of the elders now raises the question with John, "Who are these?" He, unable to say who they can be, refers back the question to the speaker, and he answers it. But note the strangeness of such a question upon the ordinary view, and the greater strangeness of John's inability to answer. Plainly they were a company of saved ones giving praise for their salvation, and if it were the whole company, the very naturalness of the thought as accepted by so many would make us wonder at the question about it, still more at the apostle's speechlessness. But he had seen another company in heaven, who still kept their place before his eyes, and who had sung the new song, and at least with fuller praise. As to these, no question had been raised at all. It would seem, he might be trusted to make out who these were; and one of these elders was now accosting him! How could he miss the thought that here was a separate class of redeemed ones, and certainly upon a lower footing than those whose rapturous thanksgiving he had heard before?

Accordingly he hears that such is the fact. He is told they are those who come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Not their sufferings have washed their robes white, but the Lamb's blood: and here again, though the expression is peculiar, they are on common ground with saints at all times.

And on this account they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple; (but in the new Jerusalem there is no temple: the "Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the Temple of it;") and "He that sitteth on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them." So rightly now the R. V., and not, "shall dwell among them." It is like Isaiah (Isa. 4:6), who similarly describes the condition of Jerusalem in the time to which this refers: "And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the day-time from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain." How plain that it is as protection and defense, from the words that follow here in Revelation: "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun strike upon them, nor any heat"! How suited to men still in the world is this assurance!

But it goes on: "For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall be their Shepherd, and shall guide them to fountains of waters of life, and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Blessed as all this description is, it seems to fall short of the full eternal blessing, and certainly short of what is heavenly. The impression given is of the earth's warfare not yet over, sin and evil not completely banished, but Themselves indeed effectually sheltered. The thought of shepherd-care suits this as well as does the tabernacle stretched over them. The thanksgiving expressed also is that of those emerging out of a trial great as that out of which it is said they come, and for whom the joy of deliverance as yet allows little else to be thought of. There is not even a song — and Scripture can be trusted to its least tittle of expression — they "cry with a great voice," but do not "sing."

We may well believe, then, that these are the priestly class taken from among the nations of which Isaiah speaks (Isa. 66:21). I am aware that it is a matter of dispute whether "I will take of them for priests and Levites" is to be referred to the Israelites whom the Gentiles bring back or to the Gentiles who bring them back; but, as Delitzsch well says, "God is here certainly not announcing so simple a thing as that the priests among the returned people should be still priests." He has just declared that the Gentiles "shall bring all your brethren out of all the nations for an offering unto the Lord … as the children of Israel bring their offering in a clean vessel unto the house of the Lord." The Gentiles are here, therefore, this "clean vessel;" and being thus cleansed, He further promises as to them, "And of them also will I take for priests and Levites, saith the Lord."

The passages in Isaiah and Revelation mutually confirm each other in this application, and we see who are those honored to serve in the temple of the Lord, as we see also what temple it is in which they serve. All is in perfect harmony, and the multitude of Gentiles stands here in plain analogy with Israel's hundred and forty-four thousand, and upon a similar footing to them. The two together complete the picture of blessing for both Israel and the Gentiles, through the storm which is about to burst upon the earth. Neither group is heavenly; neither is the full number to be saved and enjoy the summer sunshine of millennial days; but they are the sheaf of first-fruits of the harvest beyond, in each case dedicated, therefore, in a peculiar manner to the Lord.

Let us pause here to notice the thought so characteristic of the book of Revelation, book as it is of the throne and of governmental recompense, — of "robes washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb." The figures of Scripture are perfectly definite and absolutely appropriate, never needing apology. Of them, as of all else in it, the words of the Lord are true: "Scripture cannot be broken." On the other hand, they are various, and with meaning in their variations, so that if we are not careful, we may easily force them into contradiction with each other and with the truth.

What, for instance, is the "robe" in which the saint appears before God? It is easy to answer, and absolutely scriptural to quote, "He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness" (Isa. 61:10). And how beautifully does the "robe" speak of that, by which the shame of our nakedness, which came in through sin, is put away!

But what is our righteousness? Here again we have most familiar texts, "This is the name whereby He shall be called, 'The Lord our righteousness'" (Jer. 23:6); "Christ, who is made of God unto us … righteousness." And the prodigal's "best robe" reminds us here how the beauty of Christ upon us must transcend far the lustre of angelic garments.

Nevertheless, if we think we have got the one idea of Scripture in this matter, we shall be sorely perplexed when we come to this text in Revelation. Could we wash this robe, and make it white in the blood of the Lamb? Assuredly not: it would be impossible to apply this expression, in any way that can be imagined, to this robe, which is Christ.

The Revelation has its own distinct phraseology here, in perfect harmony with the line of truth which it takes up. The robe is still the symbol of righteousness, but in view of the recompense that awaits us, "the fine linen" with which the bride is clothed, "is the righteousnesses — the righteous deeds — of the saints" (Rev. 19:8). It is practical righteousness that is in question, — not something wrought by another for us, but wrought by our own hands. It is a completely different thought from that in the Lord's parable, and in no wise contradictory because so different. Assuredly "we shall all be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive for the things done in the body, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10).

For the saint, indeed, this is not to come personally into judgment. That, the Lord has assured us, personally we cannot do (John 5:24, R.V.). God can raise no question as to a soul whom He has received, whether He has received him. The matter of reward is entirely distinct from that of personal acceptance; but it has its place. And here comes in this solemn and precious reminder of how the robe needs washing in the blood of the Lamb in order to be white. How else could any thing of ours find approval and recompense? Thus as the apostle tells us in his prayer for Onesiphorus (2 Tim. 1:18), that reward itself is "mercy:" "the Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day!"

These saints out of the great tribulation know at least that not by tribulation, but by the work of Another, can that which is best and holiest in their lives be accepted of God. "They have washed their robes." They have renounced the thought of any proper whiteness in their robes save that produced by the blood of the Lamb. On this ground they are as we, and we are as they.

Looking back at these visions now, and their connection with the seals, we see more fully than ever the introductory character the latter have, and how at the same time the seventh seal introduces to the open book itself. The sixth seal is not final judgment, prophetic of it as it may be. It is but as a zephyr compared with the storm-blast, for the winds have not yet been allowed to burst forth as they will. So too the brethren of the fifth-seal martyrs, which are to be slain as they were, have yet to give up their lives. But because the seventh seal, in opening the whole book, brings us face to face with this last and most awful period of the world's history ever to be known, therefore before it is opened, we are summoned apart for the succession of events, to see the gracious purposes which are hidden behind the coming judgments, — to see beyond it, in fact, to the clear blue sky beyond. And we see why these are not seals nor trumpets, but an interruption — a parenthetic instruction, which, coming in the place it does, pushes as it were the seventh seal on to be an eighth section, itself filling the seventh place. If numbers have at all significance, we may surely read them here. The seeming disorder becomes beauteous order: the seventh seal fills the eighth place, as introducing to the new condition of things, the earth's last crisis; the seventh place is filled by that which gives rest to the heart in God's work accomplished, a sabbatism which no restlessness of man can disturb! Let us too rest in thanksgiving, for these are the ways of God.