Recent Works on the Revelation and Prophecy.*

{*1. The Book of Revelation. By William Milligan, D.D. Second edition. Hodder and Stoughton, 1891.
2. Revelation of Jesus Christ. By W. R. H. James Carter, 1892.
3. The Scroll of Time. By J. A. Savage, A. S. Rouse, 1893,}

1893 366 Dr. M.'s contribution is the bulkiest contribution of the three vols., and it claims the respect due to one of the Revision Committee on questions of text and translation. But the author belongs to the nebulous school of Apocalyptic interpretation, of whom Dr. Hengstenberg was the most prominent exponent abroad, and perhaps Dr. P. Fairbairn at home. In their hands the prophetic word ceases to be a lamp and is reduced to vapour; and Dr. M. seems to yield to none in excessive allegorising. He allows that the book is not the tangled enigma but its solution; but, when we listen, the oracle is dumb or gives an answer of inanity. The precise aim of every part of the book is lost, from the seven churches of chaps. ii. iii. to the New Jerusalem of chaps. xxi., xxii.

His verbal criticism of chap. i. is precarious. For even if we adopt the dubious "loosed" instead of "washed" in ver. 5, the one yields no more than the other "deliverance from the power of sin." Both readings, whatever the word and figure employed, express rather clearance from our sins, not deliverance from the power of sin, as in Rom. viii. and elsewhere. Nor can one conceive less propriety in this connexion than rendering en by "in," and the very unwarrantable doctrine that "the blood of Christ is living blood," with the wretched confusion betrayed in the words that follow, "and in that life of His we are enfolded and enwrapped, so that it is not we that live, but Christ liveth in us" (p. 7). No doubt he follows in the wake of a more eminent theologian who has slipped by sound and sentiment into error unworthy of any sober Christian. For it is "shed" (not living) blood which avails sacrificially; the life given us is that eternal life which was ever in the Son. "Living blood" to this end is unknown and opposed to scriptural truth.

The next remark on "a kingdom, priests" etc., are equally unfounded. Nowhere in scripture does "kingdom" refer to victory over foes. It is a collective singular, and in apposition, an individualising plural. Indeed Rev. 5:10, Rev. 20:6, should guard from all misunderstanding, though no doubt the abstract, or rather collective, unity has here its proper force, from which "conquering their spiritual enemies" is remote. It is an emphatic expression of royalty, which looks on to reigning with Christ. The attempt to refer it to reigning now falsifies all the truth of our present relations so carefully stated in the N. T.; for undeniably we are called to suffer with Christ, by-and-by to reign with Christ when He sits on His own throne. Of all this Dr. M. seems so profoundly ignorant, that his exposition is worse than worthless.

Hence, almost all laid down throughout as to Christ and the church being opposed to the truth, the character of the book is wholly misapprehended, and its contents are misapplied. Take what is said of Christ's titles in p. 8. His ascension and heavenly glory are not in question, but what He, the Faithful Witness, and Firstborn of the dead, will be and do as the Ruler of the kings of the earth, when the taking of the inheritance becomes the point. At present the heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ are in course of calling. The book is so essentially judicial that the Lord is seen as Son of man judging the churches, preparatory to its main action, "the things which shall be after these," from Rev. iv. to the end.

But Dr. M.'s laxity even in ch. i. is inexcusable. He opens (p. 1) with the just though obvious remark that "The first chapter of the Revelation introduces us to the whole book, and supplies in equal measure the key by which we are to interpret it." How does he use this key? He does not appear to understand the import of or from the excluded re of the Received Text in Rev. i. 2, that "all, (or whatsoever) things he saw" answers to and qualifies "the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ," Certainly he interprets "the Lord's day" (p. 13) in the strangest way of "the whole of that brief season which was to pass before the Church should follow her Lord to glory." No idea is more arbitrary here, no time less congruous with the voice sending messages to the then seven churches in Asia, or even to what they might represent. And what ground has he for speaking of "that brief season" etc., as if this were an admitted fact? Where is "that brief season which was to pass" even once spoken of? Yet more, what authority, what plea ever so feeble, for regarding it as "the Lord's day"? That "the first day of the week," marked as it was by the risen Saviour, distinguished as it is by the Holy Spirit in the Epistles, should be at length stamped by a term used only in the N. T. of the Eucharist (1 Cor. xi. 20), is very intelligible; as it certainly was so understood and is applied as we know almost from that day to this. And this falls in with the usage of prophets to give the date as well as the place of the visions. For surely, with an actual locality stated, an ideal date is unexampled, not to say senseless. And a future "brief season" could not he that on which Saint John saw and wrote as here recorded. Of course it is well known that some such notion has been put forward by two or three individuals before; but so unreasonable an hypothesis should not have been reproduced by a sensible scholar, who had time to weigh all.

Again, the representative view of the seven churches, besides their primary historical bearing, is allowed; but the strikingly peculiar character of each forbids the notion "of the whole christian church in all countries of the world and throughout all time" (p. 14). What thus seeks to comprehend everything ecclesiastical means nothing, like the rest of this vague work. The truth communicated by the apostle is quite lost from first to last. Dr. M. plays a part to the Apocalypse pretty much as Philo's allegories to the Pentateuch.

The landmarks furnished by chap. i. 19 cannot be slighted with impunity: "write therefore the things which thou sawest (the Lord just seen), and the things which are (the seven churches or their angels addressed in chaps. ii., iii.), and the things which shall come to pass (not exactly 'hereafter' which might be indefinite, but) after these things," i.e. after the existing church-state. This line of demarcation is violated by Dr. M.'s, words, and indeed by his exposition as a whole. "They are the things which are, and they are types of the things which shall come to pass hereafter" (i. 36). Not so: the seven churches may be representative of salient phases of the church as long as a church-state subsists here below, but do not typify "the things which shall he after these things," which cannot begin till "the things which are" conclude. That is, Rev. iv. to the end of the visions in xxii. supposes the churches gone. So in these chapters we hear no more of the church in any shape, but of Israel, and of Gentiles, or persons set apart to blessing from their midst, and separate, not merged in one body as the church is characteristically.

As to all this new condition to come, of which the book treats after the early chapters, the exposition is dark as midnight. Hence the transfer of the saints to heaven as seen from chap. iv. and onward is in no way appreciated, any more than God's dealings on earth as in chap. vii. Yet the twenty-four enthroned elders are confessedly viewed as representative of the glorified Church (p. 69). When the vision therefore is accomplished, the church will be glorified on high; and glorification supposes the body raised and changed. Hence from the first mention to the last these elders are no more added to than diminished. They are complete symbolically, before the seals are opened, the trumpets blown, and the vials or bowls poured out; under all which we find quite a new character of dealing on God's part, with Jewish and Gentile saints, distinct one from the other, instead of united in a body which excludes such fleshly differences now.

But the ultra-figurative or mystic system of Dr. M. forbids his learning or teaching aright; and it is hard to conceive, if it were God's purpose, on the removal of the glorified church to heaven, to reveal fresh work with Jews or Gentiles as such, how this could be intimated by the prophet. Pacts are dissipated into mist, and dates are no less indefinite, no matter what God's care to declare their order, or duration. "We are not to imagine (!) that the seals of chap. vi. follow one another in chronological succession, or that each of them belongs to a definite date!" This is to efface the express word of God, first, second, third, fourth, etc. It is due solely to misinterpretation. So too the effort from the Gospel of John to find the "one flock" in the sealed remnant of Israel. If the elders represent the church glorified above, how intelligible it is that God's mercy visits His ancient people, and gathers out from the nations, for His glory on the earth in due time! The assumption that the sealed 144,000 are the universal church is refuted by the vision following of the countless multitude out of the nations, no less confidently predicated of the same church. The truth is that, the elders being seen in the same vision (the acknowledged symbol of the church in heaven), these two companies cannot be so legitimately, but are rather the pledge of future mercy for the earth, and in two plainly contradistinguished forms of Israel and the Gentiles respectively.

This may suffice for the Expositor's Bible as far as the Revelation is concerned. Very different is W. R. H.'s "Revelation of Jesus Christ," which is an animated and interesting unfolding of the book, for the most part correct. The "Scroll of Time" by J. A. S. looks at the dispensations of God with a chart, of which we have had not a few, on lines almost traditional, but with special reference, as his title-page says, to the Book of Revelation and other prophecies. But Mr. S. is not cautious enough. Thus he fancies "the beast" or Western Emperor may have Byzantium or Constantinople; and he confounds the king of the north with Gog, Prince of Rosh, etc. The policy of Gog and of the Assyrian is the same, but they are distinct; as are on the other side "the beast" and the Antichrist. Thus the king of the North shall be "mighty, but not by his own power." This is not said or true of Gog who is his support, as "the beast" is of the false prophet.