|<< Revelation 11 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Analysis Of The Chapter
This chapter Revelation 11 which is very improperly separated from the preceding, and improperly ended - for it should have been closed at Revelation 11:18 - consists (excluding the last verse, which properly belongs to the succeeding chapter) essentially of three parts:
I. The measuring of the temple, Revelation 11:1-2. A reed, or measuring-stick, is given to John, and he is directed to arise and measure the temple. This direction embraces two parts:
(a) he was to measure, that; is, to take an exact estimate of the temple, of the altar, and of the true worshippers;
(b) he was carefully to separate this, in his estimate, from the outward court, which was to be left out and to be given to the Gentiles, to be trodden under foot forty-two months; that is, three years and a half, or twelve hundred and sixty days - a period celebrated in the book of Daniel as well as in this book.
II. The two witnesses, Revelation 11:3-13. This is, in some respects, the most difficult portion of the Book of Revelation, and its meaning can be stated only after a careful examination of the signification of the words and phrases used. The general statement in regard to these witnesses is, that they should have power, and should prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days; that if anyone should attempt to injure them, they had power, by fire that proceeded out of their mouths, to devour and kill their enemies; that they had power to shut heaven so that it should not rain, and power to turn the waters of the earth into blood, and power to smite the earth with plagues as often as they chose; that when they had completed their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit would make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them; that their dead bodies would lie unburied in that great city where the Lord was crucified three days and a half; that they that dwelt upon the earth would exult in their death, and send gifts to one another in token of their joy; that after the three days and a half the spirit of life from God would enter into them again, and they would stand up on their feet; that they would then be taken up into heaven, in the sight of their enemies; and that, at the time of their ascension, there would be a great earthquake, and a tenth part of the city would fall, and many (seven thousand) would be killed, and that the remainder would be affrighted, and would give glory to the God of heaven.
III. The sounding of the seventh trumpet, Revelation 11:14-18. This is the grand consummation of the whole; the end of this series of visions; the end of the world. A rapid glance only is given of it here, for under another series of visions a more detailed account of the state of the world is given under the final triumph of truth. Here, as a proper close of the first series of visions, the result is merely glanced at or adverted to - that then the period would have arrived when the kingdoms of the world were to become the kingdoms of the Lord, and of his Christ, and when he should commence that reign which was to continue forever. Then universal peace and happiness would reign, and the long-promised and expected kingdom of God on the earth would be established. The "nations" had been "angry," but the time had now come when a judgment was to be pronounced on the dead, and when the due reward was to be given to the servants of God - the prophets, and the saints, and those who feared his name, small and great - in the establishment of a permanent kingdom, and the complete triumph of the true religion in the world.
I regard this chapter, therefore, to Revelation 11:13, as extending down to the consummation of all things, and as disclosing the last of the visions seen in the scroll or volume "sealed with the seven seals," Revelation 5:1. For a reason above suggested, and which will appear more fully hereafter, the detail is here much less minute than in the earlier portions of the historic visions, but still it embraces the whole period, and states in few words what will be the condition of things in the end. This was all that wes necessary; this was, in fact, the leading design of the whole book. The end toward which all tended - what John needed most to know and which the church needed most to know, was that religion would ultimately triumph, and that the period would arrive when it could be announced that the kingdoms of this world had become the kingdoms of God and of his Christ. That is here announced; and that is properly the close of one of the divisions of the whole book.
1And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
And there was given me - He does not say by whom, but the connection would seem to imply that it was by the angel. All this is of course to be regarded as symbolical. The representation undoubtedly pertains to a future age, but the language is such as would be properly addressed to one who had been a Jew, and the imagery employed is such as he would be more likely to understand than any other. The language and the imagery are, therefore, taken from the temple, but there is no reason to suppose that it had any literal reference to the temple, or even that John would so understand it. Nor does the language used here prove that the temple was standing at the time when the book was written; for, as it is symbolical, it is what would be employed whether the temple were standing or not, and would be as likely to be used in the one case as in the other. It is such language as John, educated as a Jew, and familiar with the temple worship, would be likely to employ if he designed to make a representation pertaining to the church.
A reed - κάλαμος kalamos. This word properly denotes a plant with a jointed hollow stalk, growing in wet grounds. Then it refers to the stalk as cut for use - as a measuring-stick, as in this place; or a mock scepter, Matthew 27:29-30; or a pen for writing, 3 John 1:13. Here it means merely a stick that could be used for measuring.
Like unto a rod - This word - ῥάβδος rabdos - means properly a "rod, wand, staff," used either for scourging, 1 Corinthians 4:21; or for leaning upon in walking, Matthew 10:10; or for a scepter, Hebrews 1:8. Here the meaning is, that the reed that was put into his hands was like such a rod or staff in respect to size, and was therefore convenient for handling. The word "rod" also is used to denote a measuring-pole, Psalm 74:2; Jeremiah 10:16; Jeremiah 51:19.
And the angel stood, saying - The phrase, "the angel stood," is missing in many mss. and editions of the New Testament, and is rejected by Prof. Stuart as spurious. It is also rejected in the critical editions of Griesbach and Hahn, and marked as doubtful by Tittmann. The best critical authority is against it, and it appears to have been introduced from Zechariah 3:5. The connection does not demand it, and we may, therefore, regard the meaning to be, that the one who gave him the reed, whoever he was, at the same time addressed him, and commanded him to take a measure of the temple and the altar.
Rise, and measure the temple of God - That is, ascertain its true dimensions with the reed in your hand. Of course, this could not be understood of the literal temple - whether standing or not - for the exact measure of that was sufficiently well known. The word, then, must be used of something which the temple would denote or represent, and this would properly be the church, considered as the abode of God on the earth. Under the old dispensation, the temple at Jerusalem was that abode; under the new, that special residence was transferred to the church, and God is represented as dwelling in it. See the notes on 1 Corinthians 3:16. Thus, the word is undoubtedly used here, and the simple meaning is, that he who is thus addressed is directed to take an accurate estimate of the true church of God; as accurate as if he were to apply a measuring-reed to ascertain the dimensions of the temple at Jerusalem. In doing that, if the direction had been literally to measure the temple at Jerusalem, he would ascertain its length, and breadth, and height; he would measure its rooms, its doorways, its porticoes; he would take such a measurement of it that, in a description or drawing, it could be distinguished from other edifices, or that one could be constructed like it, or that a just idea could be obtained of it if it should be destroyed.
If the direction be understood figuratively, as applicable to the Christian church, the work to be done would be to obtain an exact estimate or measurement of what the true church was - as distinguished from all other bodies of people, and as constituted and appointed by the direction of God; such a measurement that its characteristics could be made known; that a church could be organized according to this, and that the accurate description could be transmitted to future times. John has not, indeed, preserved the measurement; for the main idea here is not that he was to preserve such a model, but that, in the circumstances, and at the time referred to, the proper business would be to engage in such a measurement of the church that its true dimensions or character might be known. There would be, therefore, a fulfillment of this, if at the time here referred to there should be occasions, from any cause, to inquire what constituted the true church; if it was necessary to separate and distinguish it from all other bodies; and if there should be any such prevailing uncertainty as to make an accurate investigation necessary.
And the altar - On the form, situation, and uses of the altar, see the Matthew 5:23-24; Matthew 21:12. The altar here referred to was, undoubtedly, the altar situated in front of the temple, where the daily sacrifice was offered. To measure that literally, would be to take its dimensions of length, breadth, and height; but it is plain that that cannot be intended here, for there was no such altar where John was, and, if the reference were to the altar at Jerusalem, its dimensions were sufficiently known. This language, then, like the former, must be understood metaphorically, and then it must mean - as the altar was the place of sacrifice - to take an estimate of the church considered with reference to its notions of sacrifice, or of the prevailing views respecting the sacrifice to be made for sin, and the method of reconciliation with God. It is by sacrifice that a method is provided for reconciliation with God; by sacrifice that sin is pardoned; by sacrifice that man is justified; and the direction here is equivalent, therefore, to a command to make an investigation on these subjects, and all that is implied would be fulfilled if a state of things should exist where it would be necessary to institute an examination into the prevailing views in the church on the subject of the atonement, and the true method of justification before God.
And them that worship therein - In the temple, or, as the temple is the representation here of the church, of those who are in the church as professed worshippers of God. There is some apparent incongruity in directing him to "measure" those who were engaged in worship; but the obvious meaning is, that he was to take a correct estimate of their character; of what they professed; of the reality of their piety; of their lives, and of the general state of the church considered as professedly worshipping God. This would receive its fulfillment if a state of things should arise in the church which would make it necessary to go into a close and searching examination on all these points, in order to ascertain what was the true church, and what was necessary to constitute true membership in it. There were, therefore, three things, as indicated by this verse, which John was directed to do, so far as the use of the measuring-rod was concerned:
(a) to take a just estimate of what constitutes the true church, as distinguished from all other associations of people;
(b) to institute a careful examination into the opinions in the church on the subject of sacrifice or atonement - involving the whole question about the method of justification before God; and,
(c) to take a correct estimate of what constitutes true membership in the church; or to investigate with care the prevailing opinions about the qualifications for membership.
2But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
But the court which is without the temple - Which is outside of the temple proper, and, therefore, which does not strictly pertain to it. There is undoubtedly reference here to the "court of the Gentiles," as it was called among the Jews - the outer court of the temple to which the Gentiles had access, and within which they were not permitted to go. For a description of this, see the notes on Matthew 21:12. To an observer this would seem to be a part of the temple, and the persons there assembled a portion of the true worshippers of God; but it was necessarily neither the one nor the other. In forming an estimate of those who, according to the Hebrew notions, were true worshippers of God, only those would be regarded as such who had the privilege of access to the inner court, and to the altar. In making such an estimate, therefore, those who had no nearer access than that court, would be omitted; that is, they would not be reckoned as necessarily any part of those who were regarded as the people of God.
Leave out, and measure it not - Margin, "cast out." So the Greek. The meaning is, that he was not to reckon it as pertaining to the true temple of worshippers. There is, indeed, a degree of force in the words rendered "leave out," or, in the margin, "cast out" - ἔκβαλε ἔξω ekbale exō - which implies more than a mere passing by, or omission. The word (ἐκβάλλω ekballō) usually has the idea of "force" or "impluse" (Matthew 8:12; Matthew 15:17; Matthew 25:30; Mark 16:9; Acts 27:38, et al.); and the word here would denote some decisive or positive act by which it would be indicated that this was not any part of the true temple, but was to be regarded as pertaining to something else. He was not merely not to mention it, or not to include it in the measurement, but he was to do this by some act which would indicate that it was the result of design in the case, and not by accidentally passing it by.
For it is given unto the Gentiles - It properly pertains to them as their own. Though near the temple, and included in the general range of building, yet it does not pertain to those who worship there, but to those who are regarded as pagan and strangers. It is not said that it was then given to the Gentiles; nor is it said that it was given to them to be overrun and trodden down by them, but that it pertained to them, and was to be regarded as belonging to them. They occupied it, not as the people of God, but as those who were without the true church, and who did not pertain to its real communion. This would find a fulfillment if there should arise a state of things in the church in which it would be necessary to draw a line between those who properly constituted the church and those who did not; if there should be such a condition of things that any considerable portion of those who professedly pertained to the church ought to be divided off as not belonging to it, or would have such characteristic marks that it could be seen that they were strangers and aliens. The interpretation would demand that they should sustain some relation to the church, or that they would seem to belong to it - as the court did to the temple; but still that this was in appearance only, and that in estimating the true church it was necessary to leave them out altogether. Of course this would not imply that there might not be some sincere worshippers among them as individuals - as there would be found usually, in the court of the Gentiles in the literal temple, some who were proselytes and devout worshippers, but what is here said relates to them as a mass or body that they did not belong to the true church, but to the Gentiles.
And the holy city - The whole holy city - not merely the outer court of the Gentiles, which it is said was given to them, nor the temple as such, but the entire holy city. There is no doubt that the words "the holy city" literally refer to Jerusalem - a city so called because it was the special place of the worship of God. See the notes on Matthew 4:5; compare Nehemiah 11:1, Nehemiah 11:18; Isaiah 52:1; Daniel 9:24; Matthew 27:53. But it is not necessary to suppose that this is its meaning here. The "holy city," Jerusalem, was regarded as sacred to God - as his dwelling-place on earth, and as the abode of his people, and nothing was more natural than to use the term as representing the church. Compare the Galatians 4:26 note; Hebrews 12:22 note. In this sense it is undoubtedly used here as the whole representation is emblematical. John, if he were about to speak of anything that was to occur to the church, would, as a native Jew, be likely to employ such language as this to denote it.
Shall they tread under foot - That is, the Gentiles above referred to; or those who, in the measurement of the city, were set off as Gentiles, and regarded as not belonging to the people of God. This is not spoken of the Gentiles in general, but only of that portion of the multitudes that seemed to constitute the worshippers of God, who, in measuring the temple, were set off or separated as not properly belonging to the true church. The phrase "should tread under foot" is derived from warriors and conquerors, who tread down their enemies, or trample on the fields of grain. It is rendered in this passage by Dr. Robinson (Lexicon), "to profane and lay waste." As applied literally to a city, this would be the true idea; as applied to the church, it would mean that they would have it under their control or in subjection for the specified time, and that the practical effect of that would be to corrupt and prostrate it.
Forty and two months - Literally, this would be three years and a half; but if the time here is prophetic time - a day for a year - then the period would be twelve hundred and sixty years - reckoning the year at 360 days. For a full illustration of this usage, and for the reasons for supposing that this is prophetic time, see the notes on Daniel 7:25. See also Editor's Preface, p. 25: In addition to what is there said, it may be remarked, in reference to this passage, that it is impossible to show, with any degree of probability, that the city of Jerusalem was "trampled under foot" by the Romans for the exact space of three years and a half. Prof. Stuart, who adopts the opinion that it refers to the conquest of Jerusalem by the Romans, says, indeed, "It is certain that the invasion of the Romans lasted just about the length of the period named, until Jerusalem was taken. And although the city itself was not besieged so long, yet the metropolis in this case, as in innumerable others in both Testaments, appears to stand for the country of Judaea." But it is to be remembered that the affirmation here is, that "the holy city" was thus to be trodden under foot; and even taking the former supposition, in what sense is it true that the "whole country" was "trodden under foot" by the Romans only three years and a half?
Even the wars of the Romans were not of that exact duration; and, besides, the fact was that Judaea was held in subjection, and trodden down by the Romans for centuries, and never, in fact, regained its independence. If this is to be literally applied to Jerusalem, it has been "trodden down by the Gentiles," with brief intervals, since the conquest by the Romans, to the present time. There has been no precise period of three years and a half, in respect to which the language used here would be applicable to the literal city of Jerusalem. In regard, then, to the proper application of the language which has thus been explained Revelation 11:1-2, it may be remarked, in general, that, for the reasons just stated, it is not to be taken literally. John could not have been directed literally to measure the temple at Jerusalem, and the altar, and the worshippers; nor could he have been requested literally to leave out, or "cast out" the court that was without; nor could it be meant that the holy city literally was to be trodden under foot for three years and a half. The language clearly is symbolical, and the reference must have been to something pertaining to the church. And, if the preceding exposition of the tenth chapter is correct, then it may be presumed that this would refer to something that was to occur at about the period there referred to. Regarding it, then, as applicable to the time of the Reformation, and as being a continuation of the vision in Revelation 10:1-11, we shall find, in the events of that period, what would be properly symbolized by the language used here. This will appear by reviewing the particulars which have been explained in these verses:
(1) The command to "measure the temple of God," Revelation 11:1. This, we have seen, was a direction to take an estimate of what constituted the true church; the very work which it was necessary to do in the Reformation, for this was the first point which was to be settled, whether the papacy was the true church or was the antichrist. This involved, of course, the whole inquiry as to what constitutes the church, alike in reference to its organization, its ministry, its sacraments, and its membership. It was long before the Reformers made up their minds that the papacy was not the true church; for the veneration which they had been taught to cherish for that lingered long in their bosoms. And even when they were constrained to admit that that corrupt communion was the predicted form of the great apostasy - antichrist - and had acquired boldness enough to break away from it forever, it was long before they settled down in a uniform belief as to what was essential to the true church. Indeed, the differences of opinion which prevailed, the warm discussions which ensued, and the diversities of sect which sprang up in the Protestant world, showed with what intense interest the mind was fixed on this question, and how important it was to take an exact measurement of the real church of God.
(2) the direction to "measure the altar." This, as we have seen, would relate to the prevailing opinions on the subject of sacrifice and atonement; on the true method of a sinner's acceptance with God; and, consequently, on the whole subject of justification. As a matter of fact, it need not be said that this was one of the first questions which came before the Reformers, and was one which it was indispensable to settle, in order to a just notion of the church and of the way of salvation. The papacy had exalted the Lord's supper into a real sacrifice; had made it a grand and essential point that the bread and wine were changed into the real body and blood of the Lord, and that a real offering of that sacrifice was made every time that ordinance was celebrated; had changed the office of the ministers of the New Testament from preachers to that of priests; had become familiar with the terms altar, and sacrifice, and priest hood, as founded on the notion that a real sacrifice was made in the "mass"; and had fundamentally changed the whole doctrine respecting the justification of a sinner before God. The altar in the Roman Catholic communion had almost displaced the pulpit; and the doctrine of justification by the merits of the great sacrifice made by the death of our Lord, had been superseded by the doctrine of justification by good works, and by the merits of the saints. It became necessary, therefore, to restore the true doctrine respecting sacrifice for sin, and the way of justification before God; and this would be appropriately represented by a direction to "measure the altar."
(3) the direction to take an estimate of those "who worshipped in the temple." This, as we have seen, would properly mean that there was to be a true estimate taken of what constituted membership in the church, or of the qualifications of those who should be regarded as true worshippers of God. This, also, was one of the first works necessary to be done in the Reformation. Before that, for ages, the doctrine of baptismal regeneration had been the established doctrine of the church; that all that was necessary to membership was baptism and confirmation, was the common opinion; the necessity of regeneration by the influences of the Holy Spirit, as a condition of church membership, was little understood, if not almost wholly unknown; and the grand requisition in membership was not holy living, but the observance of the rites and ceremonies of the church. One of the first things necessary in the Reformation was to restore to its true place the doctrine laid down by the Saviour, that a change of heart that regeneration by the Holy Spirit - was necessary to membership in the church, and that the true church was composed of those who had been thus renewed in the spirit of their mind. This great work would be appropriately symbolized by a direction to take an estimate of those who "worshipped in the temple of God"; that is, to settle the question who should be regarded as true worshippers of God, and what should be required of those who professed to be such worshippers. No more important point was settled in the Reformation than this.
(4) the direction to leave out, or to "cast out" the court without the temple. This, as we have seen, would properly mean that a separation was to be made between what was the true church and what was not, though it might seem to belong to it. The one was to be measured or estimated; the other was to be left out, as not pertaining to that, or as belonging to the Gentiles, or to paganism. The idea would be, that though it; professedly pertained to the true church, and to the worship of God, yet that it deserved to be characterized as paganism. Now this will apply with great propriety, according to all Protestant notions, to the manner in which the papacy was regarded by the Reformers, and should be regarded at all times. It claimed to be the true church, and to the eye of an observer would seem to belong to it, as much as the outer court seemed to pertain to the temple. But it had the essential characteristics of paganism, and was, therefore, properly to be left out, or, cast out, as not pertaining to the true church.
Can anyone doubt the truth of this representation as applicable to the papacy? Almost everything that was unique in the ancient pagan systems of religion had been introduced into the Roman communion; and a stranger at Rome would see more that would lead him to feel that he was in a pagan land, than he would that he was in a land where the pure doctrines of Christianity prevailed, and where the worship was celebrated which the Redeemer hack designed to set up on the earth. This was true not only in the pomp and splendor of worship, and in the processions and imposing ceremonials; but in the worship of images, in the homage rendered to the dead, in the number of festival days, in the fact that the statues reared in pagan Rome to the honor of the gods had been reconsecrated in the service of Christian devotion to the apostles, saints, and martyrs; and in the robes of the Christian priesthood, derived from those in use in the ancient pagan worship. The direction was, that, in estimating the true church, this was to be "left out," or "cast out"; and, if this interpretation is correct, the meaning is, that the Roman Catholic communion, as an organized body, is to be regarded as no part of the true church - a conclusion which is inevitable, if the passages of Scripture which are commonly supposed by Protestants to apply to it are correctly applied. To determine this, and to separate the true church from it, was no small part of the work of the Reformation.
(5) the statement that the holy city was to be trodden under foot, Revelation 11:2. This, as we have seen, must mean that the true church would thus be trodden down by those who are described as "Gentiles." So far as pure religion was concerned; so far as pertained to the real condition of the church, and the pure worship of God, it would be as if the whole holy city where God was worshipped were given into the hands of the Gentiles, and they should tread it down, and desecrate all that was sacred for the time here referred to. Everything in Rome at the time of the Reformation would sustain this description. "It is incredible," says Luther, on his visit to Rome, "what sins and atrocities are committed in Rome; they must be seen and heard to be believed. So that it is usual to say: 'If there be a hell, Rome is built above it; it is an abyss from which all sins proceed.'" So again he says: "It is commonly observed that he who goes to Rome for the first time, goes to seek a knave there; the second time he finds him; and the third time he brings him away with him under his cloak. But now, people are become so clever, that they make the three journeys in one."
So Machiavelli, one of the most profound geniuses in Italy, and himself a Roman Catholic, said, "The greatest symptom of the approaching ruin of Christianity is, that the nearer we approach the capital of Christendom, the less do we find of the Christian spirit of the people. The scandalous example and crimes of the court of Rome have caused Italy to lose every principle of piety and every religious sentiment. We Italians are principally indebted to the church and to the priests for having become impious and profane." See D'Aubigne's "History of the Reformation," p. 54, ed. Phila. 1843. In full illustration of the sentiment that the church seemed to be trodden down and polluted by paganism, or by abominations and practices that came out of paganism, we may refer to the general history of the Roman Catholic communion from the rise of the papacy to the Reformation. For a sufficient illustration to justify the application of the passage before us which I am now making, the reader may be referred to the notes on Revelation 9:20-21. Nothing would better describe the condition of Rome previous to and at the time of the Reformation - and the remark may be applied to subsequent periods also - than to say that it was a city which once seemed to be a Christian city, and was not improperly regarded as the center of the Christian world and the seat of the church, and that it had been, as it were, overrun and trodden down by pagan rites and customs and ceremonies, so that, to a stranger looking on it, it would seem to be in the possession of the "Gentiles" or the pagans.
(6) the time during which this was to continue - "forty-two months"; that is, according to the explanation above given, twelve hundred and sixty years. This would embrace the whole period of the ascendency and prevalence of the papacy, or the whole time of the continuance of that corrupt domination in which Christendom was to be trodden down and corrupted by it. The prophet of Patmos saw it in vision thus extending its dreary and corrupting reign, and during that time the proper influence of Christianity was trampled down, and the domination of practical paganism was set up where the church should have reigned in its purity. Thus regarded, this would properly express the time of the ascendency of the papal power, and the end of the "forty-two months," or twelve hundred and sixty years, would denote the time when the influence of that power would cease. If, therefore, the time of the rise of the papacy can be determined, it will not be difficult to determine the time when it will come to an end. But for a full consideration of these points the reader is referred to the extended discussion on Daniel 7:25. See also Editor's Preface, p. 25. As the point is there fully examined it is unnecessary to go into an investigation of it here.
The general remark, therefore, in regard to this passage Revelation 11:1-2 is, that it refers to what would be necessary to be done at the Reformation in order to determine what is the true church and what are the doctrines on which it is based; and to the fact that the Roman Catholic communion, to which the church had been given over for a definite time, was to be set aside as not being the true church of Christ.
3And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
And I will give power unto my two witnesses - In respect to this important passage Revelation 11:3-13 I propose to pursue the same method which I have pursued all along in this exposition: first, to examine the meaning of the words and phrases in the symbol, with a purpose to ascertain the fair signification of the symbols; and, secondly, to inquire into the application - that is, to inquire whether any events have occurred which, in respect to their character and to the time of their occurrence, can be shown to be a fair fulfillment of the language.
And I will give power - The word "power" is not in the original. The Greek is simply, "I will give" - that is, I will grant to my two witnesses the right or the power of prophesying during the time specified - correctly expressed in the margin, "give unto my two witnesses that they may prophesy." The meaning is not that he would send two witnesses to prophesy, but rather that these were in fact such "witnesses," and that he would during that time permit them to exercise their prophetic gifts, or give them the privilege and the strength to enunciate the truth which they were commissioned to communicate as his "witnesses" to mankind. Some word, then, like "power, privilege, opportunity, or boldness," it is necessary to supply in order to complete the sense.
Unto my two witnesses - The word "two" evidently denotes that the number would be small; and yet it is not necessary to confine it literally to two persons, or to two societies or communities. Perhaps the meaning is, that as, under the law, two witnesses were required, and were enough, to establish any fact (notes on John 8:17), such a number would during those times be preserved from apostasy as would be sufficient to keep up the evidence of truth; to testify against the prevailing abominations, errors, and corruptions; to show what was the real church, and to bear a faithful witness against the wickedness of the world. The law of Moses required that there should be two witnesses on a trial, and this, under that law, was deemed a competent number. See Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; John 5:30-33. The essential meaning of this passage then is, that there would be "a competent number" of witnesses in the case; that is, as many as would be regarded as sufficent to establish the points concerning which they would testify, with perhaps the additional idea that the number would be small.
There is no reason for limiting it strictly to two persons, or for supposing that they would appear in pairs, two and two; nor is it necessary to suppose that it refers particularly to two people or nations. The word rendered "witnesses" - μάρτυρί marturi - is that from which we have derived the word "martyr." It means properly one who bears testimony, either in a judicial sense Matthew 18:16; Matthew 26:65, or one who can in any way testify to the truth of what he has seen and known, Luke 24:48; Romans 1:9; Philippians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:10; 1 Timothy 6:12. Then it came to be employed in the sense in which the word "martyr" is now - to denote one who, amidst great sufferings or by his death, bears witness to the truth; that is, one who is so confident of the truth, and so upright, that he will rather lay down his life than deny the truth of what he has seen and known, Acts 22:20; Revelation 2:13. In a similar sense it comes to denote one who is so thoroughly convinced on a subject that it is not susceptible of being seen and heard, or who is so attached to one that he is willing to lay down his life as the evidence of his conviction and attachment. The word, as used here, refers to those who, during this period of "forty and two months," would thus be witnesses for Christ in the world; that is, who would bear their testimony to the truth of his religion, to the doctrines which he had revealed, and to what was required of man - who would do this amidst surrounding error and corruption, and when exposed to persecutions and trials on account of their belief. It is not uncommon in the Scriptures to represent the righteous as witnesses for God. See the notes on Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 43:12; Isaiah 44:8.
And they shall prophesy - The word "prophesy" does not necessarily mean that they would predict future events; but the sense is, that they would give utterance to the truth as God had revealed it. See the notes on Revelation 10:11. The sense here is, that they would in some public manner hold up or maintain the truth before the world.
A thousand two hundred and threescore days - The same period as the forty and two months Revelation 11:2, though expressed in a different form. Reckoning a day for a year, this period would be twelve hundred and sixty years, or the same as the "time and times and the dividing of time" in Daniel 7:25. See the notes on that place; also Editor's Preface. The meaning of this would be, therefore, that during that long period, in which it is said that "the holy city would be trodden under foot," there would be those who might be properly called "witnesses" for God, and who would be engaged in holding up his truth before the world; that is, there would be no part of that period in which there would not be found some to whom this appellation could with propriety be given. Though the "holy city" - the church - would seem, to be wholly trodden down, yet there would be a few at least who would assert the great doctrines of true godliness.
Clothed in sackcloth - Sackcloth - σάκκους sakkous - was properly a coarse black cloth commonly made of hair, used for sacks, for straining, and for mourning garments. See the Revelation 6:12 note; Isaiah 3:24 note; and Matthew 11:21 note. Here it is an emblem of mourning; and the idea is, that they would prophesy in the midst of grief. This would indicate that the time would be one of calamity, or that, in doing this, there would be occasion for their appearing in the emblems of grief, rather than in robes expressive of joy. The most natural interpretation of this is, that there would be but few who could be regarded as true witnesses for God in the world, and that they would be exposed to persecution.
4These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
These are the two olive-trees - These are represented by the two olive-trees, or these are what are symbolized by the two olive-trees. There can be little doubt that there is an allusion here to Zechariah 4:3, Zechariah 4:11, Zechariah 4:14, though the imagery is in some respects changed. The prophet Zechariah 4:2-3 saw in vision "a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which were upon the top thereof; and two olive-trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof." These two "olive branches" were subsequently declared Revelation 11:14 to be "the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." The olive-trees, or olive-branches Revelation 11:12, appear in the vision of the prophet to have been connected with the ever-burning lamp by golden pipes; and as the olive-tree produced the oil used by the ancients in their lamps, these trees are represented as furnishing a constant supply of oil through the golden pipes to the candlestick, and thus they become emblematic of the supply of grace to the church. John uses this emblem, not in the sense exactly in which it was employed by the prophet, but to denote that these two "witnesses," which might be compared with the two olivetrees, would be the means of supplying grace to the church. As the olive-tree furnished oil for the lamps, the two trees here would seem properly to denote ministers of religion; and as there can be no doubt that the candlesticks, or lamp-bearers, denote churches, the sense would appear to be that it was through the pastors of the churches that the oil of grace which maintained the brightness of those mystic candlesticks, or the churches, was conveyed. The image is a beautiful one, and expresses a truth of great importance to the world; for God has designed that the lamp of piety shall be kept burning in the churches by truth supplied through ministers and pastors.
And the two candlesticks - The prophet Zechariah saw but one such candlestick or lamp-bearer; John here saw two - as there are two "witnesses" referred to. In the vision described in Revelation 1:12, he saw seven - representing the seven churches of Asia. For an explanation of the meaning of the symbol, see the notes on that verse.
Standing before the God of the earth - So Zechariah 4:14, "These be the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." The meaning is, that they stood, as it were, in the very presence of God - as, in the tabernacle and temple, the golden candlestick stood "before" the ark on which was the symbol of the divine presence, though separated from it by a veil. Compare the notes on Revelation 9:13. This representation, that the ministers of religion "stand before the Lord," is one that is not uncommon in the Bible. Thus it is said of the priests and Levites: "The Lord separated the tribe of Levi, to staled before the Lord, to minister unto him, and to bless his name," Deuteronomy 10:8; compare Deuteronomy 18:7. The same thing is said of the prophets, as in the cases of Elijah and Elisha: "As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand," 1 Kings 17:1; also, 1 Kings 18:15; 2 Kings 3:14; 2 Kings 5:16; compare Jeremiah 15:19. The representation is, that they ministered, as it were, constantly in his presence, and under his eye.
5And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
And if any man will hurt them - This implies that there would be those who would be disposed to injure or wrong them; that is, that they would be liable to persecution. The word "will" is here more than the mere sign of the future; it denotes "intention, purpose, design," θέλεὶ thelei - "if any man wills or purposes to injure them." See a similar use of the word in 1 Timothy 6:9. The word "hurt" here means to do "injury" or "injustice" - ἀδικῆσαι adikēsai - and may refer to wrong in any form - whether in respect to their character, opinions, persons, or property. The general sense is, that there would be those who would be disposed to do them harm, and we should naturally look for the fulfillment of this in some form of persecution.
Fire proceedeth out of their mouth - It is, of course, not necessary that this should be taken literally. The meaning is, that they would have the power of destroying their enemies as if fire should proceed out of their mouth; that is, their words would be like burning coals or flames. There may possibly be an allusion here to 2 Kings 1:10-14, where it is said that Elijah commanded the fire to descend from heaven to consume those who were sent to take him (compare Luke 9:54); but in that case Elijah commanded the fire to come "from heaven"; here it proceedeth "out of the mouth." The allusion here, therefore, is to the denunciations which they would utter, or the doctrines which they would preach, and which would have the same effect on their enemies as if they breathed forth fire and flame. So Jeremiah 5:14, "Because ye speak this word, Behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire and this people wood, and it shall devour them."
And devoureth their enemies - The word "devour" is often used with reference to fire, which seems to "eat up" or "consume" what is in its way, or to "feed on" what it destroys. This is the sense of the word here - κατεσθίει katesthiei - "to eat down, to swallow down, to devour." Compare Revelation 20:9; Septuagint Isaiah 29:6; Joel 2:5; Leviticus 10:2. As there is no reason to believe that there would be literal fire, so it is not necessary to suppose that their enemies would be literally devoured or consumed. The meaning is fulfilled if their words should in any way produce an effect on their enemies similar to what is produced by fire: that is, if it should destroy their influence; if it should overcome and subdue them; if it should annihilate their domination in the world.
And if any man will hurt them - This is repeated in order to make the declaration more intensive, and also to add another thought about the effect of persecuting and injuring them.
He must in this manner be killed - That is, in the manner specified - by fire. It does not mean that he would be killed in the same manner in which the "witnesses" were killed, but in the method specified before - by the fire that should proceed out of their mouth. The meaning is, undoubtedly, that they would have power to bring down on them divine vengeance or punishment, so that there would be a just retaliation for the wrongs done them.
6These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
These have power to shut heaven - That is, so far as rain is concerned - for this is immediately specified. There is probably a reference here to an ancient opinion that the rain was kept in the clouds of heaven as in reservoirs or bottles, and that when they were opened it rained; when they were closed it ceased to rain. So Job, "He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not rent under them," Job 26:8. "Which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly," Job 36:28. "Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven?" Job 38:37; compare Genesis 1:7; Genesis 7:12; Genesis 8:2; 2 Kings 7:2. To shut or close up the heavens, therefore, is to restrain the rain from descending, or to produce a drought. Compare notes on James 5:17.
That it rain not in the days of their prophecy - In the time when they prophesy. Probably the allusion here is to what is said of Elijah, 1 Kings 17:1. This would properly refer to some miraculous power; but still it may be used to denote merely that they would be clothed with the power of causing blessings to be withheld from people, as if rain were withheld; that is, that in consequence of the calamities that would be brought upon them, and the persecutions which they would endure, God would bring judgments upon people as if they were clothed with this power. The language, therefore, it seems to me, does not necessarily imply that they would have the power of working miracles.
And have power over waters to turn them to blood - The allusion here is doubtless to what occurred in Egypt, Exodus 7:17. Compare the notes on Revelation 8:8. This, too, would literally denote the power of working a miracle; but still it is not absolutely necessary to suppose that this is intended. Anything that would be represented by turning waters into blood, would correspond with all that is necessarily implied in the language. If any great calamity should occur in consequence of what was done to them that would be properly represented by turning the waters into blood so that they could not be used, and that was so connected with the treatment which they received as to appear to be a judgment of heaven on that account, or that would appear to have come upon the world in consequence of their imprecations, it would be all that is necessarily implied in this language.
And to smite the earth with all plagues - All kinds of plague or calamity; disease, pestilence, famine, flood, etc. The word "plague" - πληγῇ plēgē - which means, properly, "stroke, stripe, blow," would include any or all of these. The meaning here is, that great calamities would follow the manner in which they were treated, as if the power were lodged in their hands.
As often as they will - So that it would seem that they could exercise this power as they pleased.
7And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
And when they shall have finished their testimony - Prof. Stuart renders this, "And whenever they shall have finished their testimony." The reference is undoubtedly to a period when they should have faithfully borne the testimony which they were appointed to bear. The word rendered here "shall have finished" - τελέσωσιν telesōsin, from τελέω teleō means properly to end, to finish, to complete, to accomplish. It is used, in this respect, in two senses - either in regard to time or in regard to the end or object in view, in the sense of "perfecting it," or "accomplishing it." In the former sense it is employed in such passages as the following: "Till the thousand years should be fulfilled," Revelation 20:3. "Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel (Greek, ye shall not have finished the cities of Israel) until the Son of man be come," Matthew 10:23; that is, ye shall not have finished passing through them. "When Jesus had made an end (Greek, finished) of commanding his twelve disciples," Matthew 11:1. "I have "finished" my course," 2 Timothy 4:7.
In these passages it clearly refers to time. In the other sense it is used in such places as the following: "And shall not the uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law," Romans 2:27; that is, if it accomplish or come up to the demands of the law. "If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scriptures," James 2:8. The word, then, may here refer not to "time," meaning that, these events would occur at the end of the "thousand two hundred and threescore days," but to the fact that what is here stated would occur when they had completed their testimony in the sense of having testified all that they were "appointed" to testify; that is, when they had borne full witness for God, and fully uttered his truth. Thus understood, the meaning here may be that the event here referred to would take place, not at the end of the 1260 years, but at that period during the 1260 years when it could be said with propriety that they had accomplished their testimony in the world, or that they had borne full and ample witness on the points entrusted to them.
The beast - This is the first time in the Book of Revelation in which what is here called "the beast" is mentioned, and which has so important an agency in the events which it is said would occur. It is repeatedly mentioned in the course of the book, and always with similar characteristics, and as referring to the same object. Here it is mentioned as "ascending out of the bottomless pit"; in Revelation 13:1, as "rising up out of the sea"; in Revelation 13:11, as "coming up out of the earth." It is also mentioned with characteristics appropriate to such an origin, in Revelation 13:2-4 (twice), Revelation 13:11, Revelation 13:12 (twice), Revelation 13:14 (twice), Revelation 13:15 (twice), 17, 18; Revelation 14:9, Revelation 14:11; Revelation 15:2; Revelation 16:2, Revelation 16:10, Revelation 16:13; Revelation 17:3, Revelation 17:7-8 (twice), 11, 12, 13, 16, 17; Revelation 19:19-20 (twice); Revelation 20:4, Revelation 20:9. The word used here - θηρίον thērion - means properly "a beast, a wild beast," Mark 1:13; Acts 10:12; Acts 11:6; Acts 28:4-5; Hebrews 12:20; James 3:7; Revelation 6:8. It is once used tropically of brutal or savage men, Titus 1:12. Elsewhere, in the passages above referred to in the Apocalypse, it is used symbolically. As employed in the Book of Revelation, the characteristics of the "beast" are strongly marked:
(a) It has its origin from beneath - in the bottomless pit; the sea; the earth, Revelation 11:7; Revelation 13:1, Revelation 13:11.
(b) It has great power, Revelation 13:4, Revelation 13:12; Revelation 17:12-13.
(c) It claims and receives worship, Revelation 13:3, Revelation 13:12, Revelation 13:14-15; Revelation 14:9, Revelation 14:11.
(d) It has a certain "seat" or throne from whence its power proceeds, Revelation 16:10.
(e) It is of scarlet color, Revelation 17:3.
(f) It receives power conferred upon it by the kings of the earth, Revelation 17:13,
(g) It has a mark by which it is known, Revelation 13:17; Revelation 19:20.
(h) It has a certain "number"; that is, there are certain mystical letters or figures which so express its name that it may be known, Revelation 13:17-18.
These things serve to characterize the "beast" as distinguished from all other things, and they are so numerous and definite, that it would seem to have been intended to make it easy to understand what was meant when the power referred to should appear. In regard to the origin of the imagery here, there can be no reasonable doubt that it is to be traced to Daniel, and that the writer here means to describe the same "beast" which Daniel refers to in Revelation 7:7. The evidence of this must be clear to anyone who will compare the description in Daniel Rev. 7 with the minute details in the book of Revelation. No one, I think, can doubt that John means to carry forward the description ill Daniel, and to apply it to new manifestations of the same great and terrific power - the power of the fourth monarchy - on the earth. For full evidence that the representation in Daniel refers to the Roman power prolonged and perpetuated in the papal dominion, I must refer the reader to the notes on Daniel 7:25. It may be assumed here that the opinion there defended is correct, and consequently it may be assumed that the "beast" of this book refers to the papal power.
That ascendeth out of the bottomless pit - See the notes on Revelation 9:1. This would properly mean that its origin is the nether world; or that it will have characteristics which will show that it was from beneath. The meaning clearly is, that what was symbolized by the beast would have such characteristics as to show that it was not of divine origin, but had its source in the world of darkness, sin, and death. This, of course, could not represent the true church, or any civil government that is founded on principles which God approves. But if it represent a community pretending to be a church, it is an apostate church; if a civil community, it is a community the characteristics of which are that it is controlled by the spirit that rules over the world beneath. For reasons which we shall see in abundance in applying the descriptions which occur of the "beast," I regard this as referring to that great apostate power which occupies so much of the prophetic descriptions - the papacy.
Shall make war against them - Will endeavor to exterminate them by force. This clearly is not intended to be a general statement that they would be persecuted, but to refer to the particular manner in which the opposition would be conducted. It would be in the form of "war"; that is, there would be an effort to destroy them by arms.
And shall overcome them - Shall gain the victory over them; conquer them - νικήσει αὐτοὺς nikēsei autous. That is, there will be some signal victory in which those represented by the two witnesses will he subdued.
And kill them - That is, an effect would be produced as if they were put to death. They would be overcome; would be silenced; would be apparently dead. Any event that would cause them to cease to bear testimony, as if they were dead, would be properly represented by this. It would not be necessary to suppose that there would be literally death in the ease, but that there would be some event which would be well represented by death - such as an entire suspension of their prophesying in consequence of force.
8And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
And their dead bodies shall lie in the street - Prof. Stuart, "Shall be in the street." The words "shall lie" are supplied by the translators, but not improperly. The literal rendering would be, "and their corpses upon the street of the great city"; and the meaning is, that there would be a state of things in regard to them which would be well represented by supposing them to lie unburied. To leave a body unburied is to treat it with contempt, and among the ancients nothing was regarded as more dishonorable than such treatment. See the Ajax of Sophocles. Among the Jews also it was regarded as a special indignity to leave the dead unburied, and hence they are always represented as deeply solicitous to secure the interment of their dead. See Genesis 23:4. Compare 2 Samuel 21:9-13; Ecclesiastes 6:3; Isaiah 14:18-20; Isaiah 22:16; Isaiah 53:9. The meaning here is, that, for the time specified, those who are here referred to would be treated with indignity and contempt. In the fulfillment of this, we are not, of course, to look for any literal accomplishment of what is here said, but for some treatment of the "witnesses" which would be well represented by this; that is, which would show that they were treated, after they were silenced, like unburied corpses putrefying in the sun.
Of the great city - Where these transactions would occur. As a great city would be the agent in putting them to death, so the result would be as if they were publicly exposed in its streets. The word "great" here supposes that the city referred to would be distinguished for its size - a circumstance of some importance in determining the place referred to.
Which spiritually is called - πνευματικῶς pneumatikōs. This word occurs only in one other place in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 2:14, "because they are spiritually discerned" - where it means, "in accordance with the Holy Spirit," or" through the aid of the Holy Spirit." Here it seems to be used in the sense of metaphorically, or allegorically, in contradistinction from the literal and real name. There may possibly be an intimation here that the city is so called by the Holy Spirit to designate its real character, but still the essential meaning is, that that was not its literal name. For some reason the real name is not given to it; but such descriptions are applied as are designed to leave no doubt as to what is intended.
Sodom - Sodom was distinguished for its wickedness, and especially for that vice to which its abominations have given name. For the character of Sodom, see Genesis 18:19. Compare 2 Peter 2:6. In inquiring what "city" is here referred to, it would be necessary to find in it such abominations as characterized Sodom, or so much wickedness that it would be proper to call it Sodom. If it shall be found that this was designed to refer to papal Rome, no one can doubt that the abominations which prevailed there would justify such an appellation. Compare the notes on Revelation 9:20-21.
And Egypt - That is, it would have such a character that the name Egypt might be properly given to it. Egypt is known in the Scriptures as the land of oppression - the land where the Israelites, the people of God, were held in cruel bondage. Compare Exodus 1-15. See also Ezekiel 23:8. The particular idea, then, which seems to be conveyed here is, that the "city" referred to would be characterized by acts of oppression and wrong toward the people of God. So far as the language is concerned, it might apply either to Jerusalem or to Rome - for both were eminently characterized by such acts of oppression toward the true children of God as to make it proper to I compare their cruelties with those which were inflicted on the Israelites by the Egyptians. Of whichever of these places the course of the exposition may require us to understand this, it will be seen at once that the language is such as is strictly applicable to either; though, as the reference is rather to Christians than to the ancient people of God, it must be admitted that it would be most natural to refer it to Rome. More acts authorizing persecution, and designed to crush the true people of God, have gone forth from Rome than from any other city on the face of the earth; and taking the history of the church together, there is no place that would be so properly designated by the term here employed.
Where also our Lord was crucified - If this refers to Jerusalem, it is to be taken literally; if to another city, it is to be understood as meaning that he was practically crucified there: that is, that the treatment of his friends - his church - was such that it might be said that he was "crucified afresh" there; for what is done to his church may be said to be done to him. Either of these interpretations would be justified by the use of the language. Thus in Hebrews 6:6, it is said of apostates from the true faith (compare the notes on the passage), that "they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh." If the passage before us is to be taken figuratively, the meaning is, that acts would be performed which might properly be represented as crucifying' the Son of God; that, as he lives in his church, the acts of perverting his doctrines, and persecuting his people, would be, in fact, an act of crucifying the Lord again. Thus understood, the language is strictly applicable to Rome; that is, if it is admitted that John meant to characterize that city, he has employed such language as a Jewish Christian would naturally use. While, therefore, it must be admitted that the language is such as could be literally applied only to Jerusalem, it is still true that it is such language as might be figuratively applied to any other city strongly resembling that, and that in this sense it would characterize Rome above all other cities of the world. The common reading of the text here is "our Lord" - ἡμῶν hēmōn; the text now regarded as correct, however (Griesbach, Tittmann, Hahn), is "their Lord" - αὐτῶν autōn. This makes no essential difference in the sense, except that it directs the attention more particularly to the fact that they were treated like their own Master.
9And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.
And they of the people - Some of the people; a part of the people - ἐκ τῶν λαῶν ek tōn laōn. The language is such as would be employed to describe a scene where a considerable portion of a company of people should be referred to, without intending to include all. The essential idea is, that there would be an assemblage of different classes of people to whom their carcasses would be exposed, and that they would come and look upon them. We should expect to find the fulfillment of this in some place where, from any cause, a variety of people should be assembled - as in some capital, or some commercial city, to which they would be naturally attracted.
Shall see their dead bodies - That is, a state of things will occur as if these witnesses were put to death, and their carcasses were publicly exposed.
Three days and an half - This might be either literally three days and a half, or, more in accordance with the usual style of this book, these would be prophetic days; that is, three years and a half. Compare the notes on Revelation 9:5, Revelation 9:15.
And shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves - That is, there would be a course of conduct in regard to these witnesses such as would be shown to the dead if they were not suffered to be decently interred. The language used here - "shall not suffer" - seems to imply that there would be those who might be disposed to show them the respect evinced by interring the dead, but that this would not be permitted. This would find a fulfillment if, in a time of persecution, those who had borne faithful testimony were silenced and treated with dishonor and if there should be those who were disposed to show them respect, but who would be prevented by positive acts on the part of their persecutors. This has often been the case in persecution, and there could be no difficulty in finding numerous instances in the history of the church to which this language would he applicable.
10And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them - Those dwelling in the land would rejoice over their fall and ruin. This cannot, of course, mean all who inhabit the globe; but, according to the usage in Scripture, those who dwell in the country where this would occur. Compare the notes on Luke 2:1. We now affix to the word "earth" an idea which was not necessarily implied in the Hebrew word ארץ ‛erets, (compare Exodus 3:8; Exodus 13:5; Deuteronomy 19:2, Deuteronomy 19:10; Deuteronomy 28:12; Nehemiah 9:22; Psalm 37:9, Psalm 37:11, Psalm 37:22, Psalm 37:29; Psalm 66:4; Proverbs 2:21; Proverbs 10:30; Joel 1:2); or the Greek word γῆ gē, compare Matthew 2:6, Matthew 2:20-21; Matthew 14:15; Acts 7:7, Acts 7:11, Acts 7:36, Acts 7:40; Acts 13:17. Our word "land," as now commonly understood, would better express the idea intended to be conveyed here; and thus understood, the meaning is, that the dwellers in the country where these things would happen would thus rejoice. The meaning is, that while alive they would, by their faithful testimony against existing errors, excite so much hatred against themselves, and would be so great an annoyance to the governing powers, that there would be general exultation when the voice of their testimony should be silenced. This, too, has been so common in the world that there would be no difficulty in applying the language used here, or in finding events which it would appropriately deseribe.
And make merry - Be glad. See the notes on Luke 12:19; Luke 15:23. The Greek word does not necessarily denote the lighthearted mirth expressed by our word merriment, but rather joy or happiness in general. The meaning is, that they would be filled with joy at such an event.
And shall send gifts one to another - As expressive of their joy. To send presents is a natural expression of our own happiness, and our desire for the happiness of others - as is indicated now by "Christmas" and "New Year's gifts." Compare also Nehemiah 8:10-12; "Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength," etc. See also Esther 9:19-22.Because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth - They "tormented" them, or were a source of annoyance to them, by bearing testimony to the truth; by opposing the prevailing errors; and by rebuking the vices of the age: perhaps by demanding reformation, and by denouncing the judgment of heaven on the guilty. There is no intimation that they tormented them in any other way than by the truths which they held forth. See the word explained in the notes on 2 Peter 2:8.
11And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.
And after three days and an half - See the notes on Revelation 11:9.
The Spirit of life from God - The living, or life-giving Spirit that proceeds from God entered into them. Compare the notes on Job 33:4. There is evidently allusion here to Genesis 2:7, where God is spoken of as the Author of life. The meaning is, that they would seem to come to life again, or that effects would follow as if the dead were restored to life. If, when they had been compelled to cease from prophesying, they should, after the interval here denoted by three days and a half, again prophesy, or their testimony should be again borne to the truth as it had been before, this would evidently be all that would be implied in the language here employed.
Entered into them - Seemed to animate them again.
And they stood upon their feet - As if they had come to life again.
And great fear fell upon them which saw them - This would be true if those who were dead should be literally restored to life; and this would be the effect if those who had given great annoyances by their doctrines, and who had been silenced, and who seemed to be dead, should again, as if animated anew by a divine power, begin to prophesy, or to proclaim their doctrines to the world. The statement in the symbol is, that those who had put them to death had been greatly troubled by these "witnesses"; that they had sought to silence them, and in order to this had put them to death; that they then greatly rejoiced, as if they would no more be annoyed by them. The fact that they seemed to come to life again would, therefore, fill them with consternation, for they would anticipate a renewal of their troubles, and they would see in this fact evidence of the divine favor toward those whom they persecuted, and reason to apprehend divine vengeance on themselves.
12And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
And they heard a great voice from heaven - Some manuscripts read, "I heard" - ἤκουσα ēkousa - but the more approved reading is that of the common text. John says that a voice was addressed to them calling them to ascend to heaven.
Come up hither - To heaven.
And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud - So the Saviour ascended, Acts 1:9; and so probably Elijah, 2 Kings 2:11.
And their enemies beheld them - That is, it was done openly, so that their enemies, who had put them to death, saw that they were approved of God, as if they had been publicly taken up to heaven. It is not necessary to suppose that this would literally occur. All this is, manifestly, mere symbol. The meaning is, that they would triumph as if they should ascend to heaven, and he received into the presence of God. The sense of the whole is, that these witnesses, after bearing a faithful testimony against prevailing errors and sins, would be persecuted and silenced; that for a considerable period their voice of faithful testimony would be hushed as if they were dead; that during that period they would be treated with contempt and scorn, as if their unburied bodies should be exposed to the public gaze; that there would be general exultation and joy that they were thus silenced; that they would again revive, as if the dead were restored to life, and bear a faithful testimony to the truth again; and that they would have the divine attestation in their favor, its if they were raised up visibly and publicly to heaven.
13And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
And the same hour - In immediate connection with their triumph.
Was there a great earthquake - "An earthquake is a symbol of commotion, agitation, change; of great political revolutions, etc. See the notes on Revelation 6:12. The meaning here is, that the triumph of the witnesses, represented by their ascending to heaven, would be followed by such revolutions as would be properly symbolized by an earthquake.
And the tenth part of the city fell - That is, the tenth part of that which is represented by the "city" - the persecuting power. A city would be the seat and center of the power, and the acts of persecution would seem to proceed from it; but the destruction, we may suppose, would extend to all that was represented by the persecuting power. The word "tenth" is probably used in a general sense to denote that a considerable portion of the persecuting power would be thus involved in ruin; that is, that in respect to that power there would be such a revolution, such a convulsion or commotion, such a loss, that it would be proper to represent it by an earthquake.
And in the earthquake - In the convulsions consequent on what would occur to the witnesses.
Were slain of men seven thousand - Mart., as in the Greek, "names of men" - the name being used to denote the people themselves. The number here mentioned - seven thousand - seems to have been suggested because it would bear some proportion to the tenth part of the city which fell. It is not necessary to suppose, in seeking for the fulfillment of this, that just seven thousand would be killed; but the idea clearly is, that there would be such a diminution of numbers as would be well represented by a calamity that would overwhelm a tenth part of the city, such as the apostle had in his eye, and a proportional number of the inhabitants. The number that would be slain, therefore, in the convulsions and changes consequent on the treatment of the witnesses, might be numerically much larger than seven thousand, and might be as great as if a tenth part of all that were represented by the "city" should be swept away.
And the remnant were affrighted - Fear and alarm came on them in consequence of these calamities. The "remnant" here refers to those who still remained in the "city" - that is, to those who belonged to the community or people designed to be represented here by the city.
And gave glory to the God of heaven - Compare Luke 5:26; "And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things today." All that seems to be meant by this is, that they stood in awe at what God was doing, and acknowledged his power in the changes that occurred. It does not mean, necessarily, that they would repent and become truly his friends, but that there would be a prevailing impression that these changes were produced by his power, and that his hand was in these things. This would be fulfilled if there should be a general willingness among mankind to acknowledge God, or to recognize his hand in the events referred to; if there should be a disposition extensively prevailing to regard the "witnesses" as on the side of God, and to favor their cause as one of truth and righteousness; and if these convulsions should so far change public sentiment as to produce an impression that theirs was the cause of God.
14The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.
The second woe is past - That is, the second of the three that were announced as yet to come, Revelation 8:13; compare Revelation 9:12.
And, behold, the third woe cometh quickly - The last of the series. The meaning is, that what was signified by the third "woe" would be the next, and final event, in order. On the meaning of the word "quickly," see the notes on Revelation 1:1; compare Revelation 2:5, Revelation 2:16; Revelation 3:11; Revelation 22:7, Revelation 22:12, Revelation 22:20.
In reference now to the important question about the application of this portion of the Book of Revelation, it need hardly be said that the greatest variety of opinion has prevailed among expositors. It would be equally unprofitable, humiliating, and discouraging to attempt to enumerate all the opinions which have been held; and I must refer the reader who has any desire to become acquainted with them to Poole's Synopsis, in loco, and to the copious statement of Prof. Stuart, Cove. vol. 2, pp. 219-227. Prof. Stuart himself supposes that the meaning is, that "a competent number of divinely-commissioned and faithful Christian witnesses, endowed with miraculous powers, should bear testimony against the corrupt Jews, during the last days of their commonwealth, respecting their sins; that they should proclaim the truths of the gospel; and that the Jews by destroying them, would bring upon themselves an aggravated and an awful doom," 2:226. Instead of attempting to examine in detail the opinions which have been held, I shall rather state what seems to me to be the fair application of the language used, in accordance with the principles pursued thus far in the exposition. The inquiry is, whether there have been any events to which this language is applicable, or in reference to which, if it be admitted that it was the design of the Spirit of inspiration to describe them, it may be supposed that such language would be employed as we find here.
In this inquiry it may be assumed that the preceding exposition is correct, and the application now to be made must accord with that - that is, it must be found that events occurred in such times and circumstances as would be consistent with the supposition that that exposition is correct. It is to be assumed, therefore, that Revelation 9:20-21, refers to the state of the ecclesiastical world after the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks, and previous to the Reformation; that Revelation 10:1-11 refers to the Reformation itself; that Revelation 11:1-2, refers to the necessity, at the time of the Reformation, of ascertaining what was the true church, of reviving the Scripture doctrine respecting the atonement and justification, and of drawing correct lines as to membership in the church. All this has reference, according to this interpretation, to the state of the church while the papacy would have the ascendency, or during the twelve hundred and sixty years in which it would trample down the church as if the holy city were in the hands of the Gentiles. Assuming this to be the correct exposition, their what is here said Revelation 11:3-13 must relate to that period, for it is with reference to that same time - the period of "a thousand two hundred and threescore days," or twelve hundred and sixty years - that it is said Revelation 11:3 the witnesses would "prophesy," "clothed in sackcloth."
If this be so, then what is here stated Revelation 11:3-13 must be supposed to occur during the ascendency of the papacy, and must mean, in general, that during that long period of apostasy, darkness, corruption, and sin, there would be faithful witnesses for the truth, who, though they were few in number, would be sufficient to keep up the knowledge of the truth on the earth, and to bear testimony against the prevailing errors and abominations. The object of this portion of the book, therefore, is to describe the character of the faithful witnesses for the truth during this long period of darkness; to state their influence; to record their trials; and to show what would he the ultimate result in regard to them, when their "testimony" should become triumphant. This general view will be seen to accord with the exposition of the previous portion of the book, and will be sustained, I trust, by the more particular inquiry into the application of the passage to which I now proceed. The essential points in the passage Revelation 11:3-13 respecting the "witnesses" are six:
(1) who are meant by the witnesses;
(2) the war made on them;
(3) their death;
(4) their resurrection;
(5) their reception into heaven; and,
(6) the consequences of their triumph in the calamity that came upon the city.
I. Who are meant by the witnesses, Revelation 11:3-6. There are several specifications in regard to this point which it is necessary to notice:
(a) The fact that, during this long period of error, corruption, and sin, there were those who were faithful witnesses for the truth - people who opposed the prevailing errors; who maintained the great doctrines of the Christian faith; and who were ready to lay down their lives in defense of the truth. For a full confirmation of this it would be necessary to trace the history of the church down from the rise of the papal power through the long lapse of the subsequent ages; but such an examination would be far too extensive for the purpose contemplated in these notes, and, indeed, would require a volume by itself. Happily, this has already been done; and all that is necessary now is to refer to the works where the fact here affirmed has been abundantly established. In many of the histories of the church - Mosheim, Neander, Milner, Milman, Gieseler - most ample proof may be found, that amidst the general darkness and corruption there were those who faithfully adhered to the truth as it is in Jesus, end who, amidst many sufferings, bore their testimony against prevailing errors. The investigation has been made, also, with special reference to an illustration of this passage, by Mr. Elliott, Hover Apoca. vol. 2, pp. 193-406; and although it must be admitted that some of the details are of doubtful applicability, yet the main fact is abundantly established, that during that long period there were "witnesses" for the pure truths of the gospel, and a faithful testimony borne against the abominations and errors of the papacy. These "witnesses" are divided by Mr. Elliott into:
(1) the earlier Western witnesses - embracing such men, and their followers, as Serenus, bishop of Marseilles; the Anglo-Saxon church in England ; Agobard, Archbishop of Lyons from 810 to 841 a.d., on the one side of the Alps, and Claude of Turin on the other; Gotteschalcus, 884 a.d.; Berenger, Arnold of Brescia, Peter de Bruys, and his disciple Henry, and then the Waldenses.
(2) the Eastern, or Paulikian line of witnesses, a sect deriving their origin, about 653 a.d., from an Armenian by the name of Constantine, who received from a deacon, by whom he was hospitably entertained, a present of two volumes, very rare, one containing the Gospels, and the other the Epistles of Paul, and who applied himself to the formation of a new sect or church, distinct from the Manicheans, and from the Greek Church. In token of the nature of their profession, they adopted the name by which they were ever after distinguished, Paulikiani, Paulicians, or "disciples of the disciple of Paul." This sect continued to bear "testimony" in the East from the time of its rise until the eleventh or twelfth centuries, when it commenced a migration to the West, where it bore the same honorable character for its attachment to the truth. See Elliott, 2:233-246, 275-315.
(3) Witnesses during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, up to the time of Peter Waldo. Among these are to be noticed those who were arraigned for heresy before the councils of Orleans, Arras, Thoulouse, Oxford, and Lombers, in the years 1022, 1025, 1119, 1160, 1165, respectively, and who were condemned by those councils for their departure from the doctrines held by the papacy. For a full illustration of the doctrines held by those who were thus condemned, and of the fact that they were "witnesses" for the truth, see Elliott, it. 247-275.
(4) The Waldenses and Albigenses. The nature of the testimony borne by these persecuted people is so well known that it is not necessary to dwell on the subject; and a full statement of their testimony would require the entire transcription of their history. No Protestant will doubt that they were "witnesses" for the truth, or that from the time of their rise, through all the periods of their persecution, they bore full and honorable testimony to the truth as it is in Jesus. The general ground of this claim to be regarded as Apocalyptic witnesses, will be seen from the following summary statements of their doctrines. Those statements are found in a work called The Noble Lesson, written within some twenty years of 1170. The treatise begins in this manner: "O brethren, hear a Noble Lesson. We ought always to watch and pray," etc. In this treatise the following doctrines are drawn out, says Mr. Elliott, "with much simplicity and beauty: the origin of sin in the fall of Adam; its transmission to all people, and the offered redemption from it through the death of Jesus Christ; the union and cooperation of the three persons of the blessed Trinity in man's salvation; the obligation and spirituality. of the moral law under the gospel; the duties of prayer, watchfulness, self-denial, unworldliness, humility, love, as 'the way of Jesus Christ;' their enforcement by the prospect of death and judgment, and the world's near ending; by the narrowness, too, of the way of life, and the fewness of those who find it; as also by the hope of coming glory at the judgment and revelation of Jesus Christ. Besides which we find in it a protest against the Roman Catholic system generally, as one of soul-destroying idolatry; against masses for the dead, and therein against the whole doctrine of purgatory; against the system of the confessional, and asserted power of the priesthood to absolve from sin; this last point being insisted on as the most deadly point of heresy, and its origin referred to the mercenariness of the priesthood, and their love of money; the iniquity further noticed of the Roman Catholic persecutions of good people and teachers that wished to teach the way of Jesus Christ; and the suspicion half-hinted, and apparently half-formed, that, though a personal antichrist might be expected, yet Popery itself might be one form of antichrist."
In another work, the Treatise of Antichrist, there is a strong and decided identification of the anti-Christian system and the papacy. This was written probably in the last quarter of the fourteenth century. "From this," says Mr. Elliott (ii. 355), "the following will appear to have been the Waldensian views: that the papal or Roman Catholic system was that of antichrist; which, from infancy in apostolic times, had grown gradually by the increase of its constituent parts to the stature of a full-grown man; that its prominent characteristics were - to defraud God of the worship due to Him, rendering it to creatures, whether departed saints, relics, images, or antichrist; - to defraud Christ, by attributing justification and forgiveness to antichrist's authority and words, to saints' intercession, to the merits of people's own performances, and to the fire of purgatory; to defraud the Holy Spirit, by attributing regeneration and sanctification to the opus operation of the two sacraments; that the origin of this anti-Christian religion was the covetousness of the priesthood; its tendency, to lead people away from Christ; its essence, a ceremonial; its foundation, the false notion of grace and forgiveness." This work is so important as a "testimony" against antichrist, and for the truth, and is so clear as showing that the papacy was regarded as antichrist, that I will copy, from the work itself, the portion containing these sentiments - sentiments which may be regarded as expressing the uniform testimony of the Waldenses on the subject:
"Antichrist is the falsehood of eternal damnation, covered with the appearance of the truth and righteousness of Christ and his spouse. The iniquity of such a system is with all his ministers, great and small: and inasmuch as they follow the law of an evil and blinded heart, such a congregation, taken together, is called antichrist, or Babylon, or the Fourth beast, or the Harlot, or the Man of Sin, who is the son of perdition.
"His first work is, that the service of "latria," properly due to God alone, he perverts unto antichrist himself and to his doings; to the poor creature, rational or irrational, sensible or insensible; as, for instance, to male or female saints departed this life, and to their images, or carcasses, or relics. His doings are the sacraments, especially that of the eucharist, which he worships equally with God and Christ, prohibiting the adoration of God alone.
"His second work is, that he robs and deprives Christ of the merits of Christ, with the whole sufficiency of grace, and justification, and regeneration, and remission of sins, and sanctification, and confirmation, and spiritual nourishment; and imputes and attributes them to his own authority, or to a form of words, or to his own performances, or to the saints and their intercession, or to the fire of purgatory. Thus he divides the people from Christ, and leads them away to the things already mentioned; that so they may seek not the things of Christ, nor through Christ, but only the work of their own hands; not through a living faith in God, and Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit; but through the will and the work of antichrist, agreeably to the preaching that man's salvation depends on his own deeds.
"His third work is, that he attributes the regeneration of the Holy Spirit to a dead outward faith; baptizing children in that faith, and teaching that by the mere outward consecration of baptism regeneration may be procured.
"His fourth work is, that he rests the whole religion of the people upon his Mass; for leading them to hear it, he deprives them of spiritual and sacramental manducation.
"His fifth work is, that he does everything to be seen, and to glut his insatiable avarice.
"His sixth work is, that he allows manifest sins without ecclesiastical censure.
"His seventh work is, that he defends his unity, not by the Holy Spirit, but by the secular power.
"His eighth work is, that he hates, and persecutes, and searches after, and robs and destroys the members of Christ.
"These things, and many others, are the cloak and vestment of antichrist; by which he covers his lying wickedness, lest he should be rejected as a pagan. But there is no other cause of idolatry than a false opinion of grace, and truth, and authority, and invocation, and intercession; which this antichrist has taken away from God, and which he has ascribed to ceremonies, and authorities, and a man's own works, and to saints, and to purgatory" (Elliott, it. 354, 355).
It is impossible not to be struck with the application of this to the papacy, and no one can doubt that the papacy was intended to be referred to. And, if this be so, this was a bold and decided" testimony "against the abominations of that system, and they who bore this testimony deserved to be regarded as "witnesses" for Christ and his truth.
If to the "testimony" thus briefly referred to, we add that of such men as Wycliffe, John Huss, and Jerome of Prague, and then that of the Reformers, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Melancthon, and their fellow-laborers, we can see with what propriety it was predicted that even during the prevalence of the great apostasy there would be a competent number of "witnesses" to keep up the knowledge of the truth in the world. And supposing that this is what was designed to be represented, it is easy to perceive that the symbol which is employed is admirably appropriate. The design of what is here said is merely to show that during the whole of the period of the papal apostasy whenever it may be supposed to have begun, and whenever it shall cease, it is and will he true that the Savior has had true "witnesses" on the earth - that there have been those who have "testified" against these abominations, and who, often at great personal peril and sacrifice, have borne a faithful testimony for the truth.
(b) The number of the witnesses. In Revelation 11:3, this is said to be "two," and this has been shown to mean that there would be a competent number, yet probably with the implied idea that the number would not be large. The only question then is, whether, in looking through this long period, it would be found that, according to the established laws of testimony under the divine code, there was a competent number to bear witness to the truth. And of this no one can doubt, for, in respect to each and every part of the period of the great apostasy, it is possible now to show that there was a sufficient number of the true friends of the Redeemer to testify against all the great and cardinal errors of the papacy. This simple and obvious interpretation of the language, it may be added, also, makes wholly unnecessary and inappropriate all the efforts which have been made by expositors to find precisely two such witnesses, or two churches or people with whom the line of the faithful testimony was preserved: all such interpretations as that the Old and New Testaments are referred to, as Melchior, Affelman, and Croly suppose; or that preachers are referred to who are instructed by the law and the Gospel, as Pannonins and Thomas Aquinas, supposed; or that Christ and John the Baptist are referred to, as Ubertinus supposed; or that Pope Sylvester and Mena, who wrote against the Eutychians, are meant, as Lyranus and Ederus supposed; or that Francis and Dominic, the respective heads of two orders of monks, are intended, as Cornelius k Lapidc supposed; or that the great wisdom and sanctity of the primitive preachers are meant, as Alcassar maintained; or that John Huss and Luther, or John Huss and Jerome of Prague, or the Waldenses and Albigeuses, or the Jewish and Gentile Christians in Aelia, are intended, as others have supposed.
According to the obvious and fair meaning of the language, all this is mere fancy, and can illustrate nothing but the fertility of invention of those who have written on the Apocalypse. All that is necessarily implied is, that the number of true and uncorrupted followers of the Saviour has been at all times sufficiently large to bear a competent testimony to the world, or to keep up the remembrance of the truth upon the earth - and the reality of this no one acquainted with the history of the church will doubt.
(c) The condition of the "witnesses" as "clothed in sackcloth," Revelation 11:3. This has been shown to mean that they would be in a state of sadness and grief; and they would be exposed to trouble and persecution. It is unnecessary to prove that all this was abundantly fulfilled. The long history of those times was a history of persecutions; and if it be admitted that the passage before us was designed to refer to those above mentioned as "witnesses," no more correct description could be given of them than to say that they were "clothed in sackcloth."
(d) The power of the witnesses, Revelation 11:5-6. Of this there are several specifications:
(1) They had power over those who should injure or hurt them, Revelation 11:5. This is represented by "fire proceeding out of their mouth, and devouring their enemies." This has been shown to refer to the doctrines which they would proclaim, and the denunciations which they would utter, and which would resemble consuming fire. This would be accomplished or fulfilled if their solemn testimony - their proclamations of truth - and their denunciations of the wrath of God should have the effect ultimately to bring down the divine vengeance on their persecutors. And no one can doubt that this has had an ample fulfillment. That is, the effect of the testimony borne; of the solemn appeals made; of the deuunciations of the judgment of heaven, has been to show that that great persecuting power that oppressed them is arrayed against God, and must be finally overthrown. In order to see the complete fulfillment of this, it would be necessary to trace all the effect of the testimony of the witnesses for the truth from age to age on that power, and to see how far it has been among the causes of the ultimate and final overthrow of the papacy.
Of course, it may be said that in an important sense it is all to be traced to that, since if they had forborne to bear that testimony, and to protest against those corruptions and abominations, that colossal power would have stood unshaken. But the solemn appeals made from age to age by the friends of truth, amidst much persecution, have contributed to weaken that power, and to prepare the world for its ultimate fall as if fire from heaven fell upon it. The causes of the decline of the papal power were, therefore, laid far back in the solemn truths urged by those persecuted "witnesses"; and the calamities which have ravaged Europe for these three hundred years, and the changes now occurring which make it so certain that this mighty power hastens to its fall, may all be the regular results of the "testimony" for the truths of a pure gospel borne long ago by the people that dwelt amidst the Alps, and their fellow-sufferers in persecution.
(2) they "have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy," Revelation 11:6. This has been shown to mean that they would have power to cause blessings to be withheld from people as if the rain were withheld. The reference here is probably to the spiritual heavens, and to that of which rain is the natural emblem the influences of truth, and the influences of the Divine Spirit on the world. So Moses says, in Deuteronomy 32:2, "My doctrine shall drop as the rain, and my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass." So the psalmist Psalm 72:6, "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth." So Isaiah Isa 55:10-11, "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, so shall my word be," etc. Compare Micah 5:7. The meaning here, then, must be, that spiritual influences would seem to be under their control; or that they would be imparted at their bidding, and withheld at their will. This found an ample fulfillment in the history of the church in those dark periods, in the fact that it was in connection with these "witnesses," and in answer to their prayers, that the influences of the Holy Spirit were imparted to the world, and that the true religion was kept up on the earth. "It is an historical fact," says the author of The Seventh Vial (p. 130), "that during the ages of their ministry, there was neither dew nor rain of a spiritual kind upon the earth, but at the word of the witnesses. There was no knowledge of salvation but by their preaching - no descent of the Spirit but in answer to their prayers; and, as the witnesses were shut out from Christendom generally, a universal famine ensued."
(3) they had power over the waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, Revelation 11:6. That is, as explained above, calamities would come upon the earth as if the waters were turned into blood, and this would be so connected with them, and with the treatment which they would receive, that these calamities would seem to have been called down from heaven in answer to their prayers, and in order to avenge their wrongs. And can anyone be ignorant that wars, commotions, troubles, disasters have followed the attempts to destroy those who have borne a faithful testimony for Christ in the dark period of the world here referred to? The calamities that have befallen the papal communion from time to time may have been, and seem to have been, to a great degree, the consequence of its persecuting spirit, and of its attempts to quench the light of truth. When the oppressed and persecuted nations of Europe had borne it long, and when attempts had long been made to extinguish every spark of true liberty, the spirit of freedom and revenge was roused. The yoke was broken; and in the wars that ensued rivers of blood flowed upon the earth, as if these "witnesses" or martyrs had, by their own power and prayers, brought these calamities upon their oppressors. A philosophic historian carefully studying human nature, and the essential spirit of Christianity, might find in these facts a sufficient explanation of all the calamities that have come upon that once colossal power - the papacy - and a full demonstration that, under the operation of these causes, that power must ultimately fall - as if in revenge called down from heaven by the martyrs for the wrongs done to them who had borne a faithful testimony to the truth.
II. The war against the witnesses, Revelation 11:7. There are several circumstances stated in regard to this which demand explanation in order to a full understanding of the prophecy. Those circumstances relate to the time when this would occur; to the government by which this war would be waged; and to the victory:
(a) The time when the war referred to would be waged. The whole narrative (compare Revelation 11:3, Revelation 11:5) supposes that opposition would be made to them at all times, and that their condition would be such that they could properly be represented as always clothed in sackcloth; but it is evident that a particular period is here referred to, when there would be such a war waged with them that they would be for a time overcome, and would seem to be dead. This time is referred to by the phrase "when they shall have finished their testimony" Revelation 11:7; and it is to the period when this could be properly said of them that we are to look for the fulfillment of what is here predicted. This must mean, when they should have borne full or ample testimony; that is, when they had borne their testimony on all the great points on which they were appointed to bear witness. See the notes on Revelation 11:7. This, then, must not be understood as referring to the time of the completion of the twelve hundred and sixty years, but to any time during that period when it could be said that they had borne a full and ample testimony for the truths of the gospel, and against the abominations and errors that prevailed.
In this general expression there is not, indeed, anything that would accurately designate the time, but no one can doubt that this herd been done at the time of the Reformation. In the preceding remarks it has been shown that there was a succession of faithful witnesses for the truth in the darkest periods of the church, and that to all the great points pertaining to the system of religion revealed in the gospel, as well as against the errors that prevailed, they had borne an unambiguous testimony. There is no impropriety, therefore, in fixing this period at about the time of the Reformation, for all that is necessarily implied in the language is fulfilled on such a supposition. Faithful testimony had been borne during the long period of the papal corruptions, until it could be said that their special work had been accomplished. The earlier witnesses for the truth - the Paulicians, the Waldenses, the Vaudois, and other bodies of true Christians - had borne an open testimony, from the beginning, against the various corruptions of Rome - her errors in doctrine, her idolatries in worship, and her immoralities, until in the end of the twelfth century - the same century in which, according to Mr. Gibbon, the meridian of papal greatness was attained - they proclaimed her, as we have seen, to be the antichrist of Scripture, the Harlot of the Apocalypse. Thus did they fulfil their testimony; and then was the war waged against them, with all the power of apostate Rome, to silence and to destroy them.
This war was commenced in the edicts of councils, which stigmatized the pure doctrines of the Bible, and branded those who held them as heretics. The next step was to pronounce the most dreadful anathemas on those who were regarded as heretics, which were executed in the same remorseless and exterminating manner in which they were conceived. The confessors of the truth were denied both their natural and their civil rights. They were forbidden all participation in dignities and offices; their goods were confiscated; their houses were to be razed and never more to be rebuilt; and their lands were given to those who were able to seize them. They were shut out from the solace of human converse; no one might give them shelter while living, or Christian burial when dead. At length a crusade was proclaimed against them. Preachers were sent abroad through Europe to sound the trumpet of vengeance, and to assemble the nations.
The pope wrote to all Christian princes, exhorting them to earn their pardon and win heaven rather by bearing the cross against heretics than by marching against the Saracens. The war, in particular, which was waged against the Waldenses, is well known, and the horror of its details is among the darkest pages of history. The peaceful and fertile valleys of the Vaudois were invaded, and speedily devastated with fire and sword; their towns and villages were burnt; while not one individual, in many cases, escaped to carry the tidings to the next valley. To all the cruelties of these wars, and to all the open persecutions Which were waged, are to be added the horrors of the Inquisition, as an illustration of the fact that "wars" would be made against the true witnesses for Christ. Calculations, more or less accurate, have been made of the numbers that Popery has slain; and the lowest of those calculations would confirm what is said here, on the supposition that the reference is to the papal power.
From the year 1540 to the year 1570, comprehending a space of only thirty years, no fewer than nine hundred thousand Protestants were put to death by the papists, in different countries of Europe. During the short pontificate of Paul the Fourth, which lasted only four years (1555-1559 a.d.), the Inquisition alone, on the testimony of Vergerius, destroyed a hundred and fifty thousand! When he died, the indignant populace of Rome crowded to the prison of the Inquisition, broke open the doors, and released seventeen hundred prisoners, and then set fire to the building (Bowers' History of the Popes, 3:319, edit. 1845). Those who perished in Germany during the wars of Charles the Fifth, and in Flanders, under the infamous Duke of Alva, are reckoned by hundreds of thousands. In France several million were destroyed in the innumerable massacres that took place in that kingdom. It has been computed that since the rise of the papacy, not fewer than fifty million of persons have been put to death on account of religion! Of this vast number the greater part have been cut off during the last six hundred years; for the papacy persecuted very little during the first half of its existence, and it was in this way that it was not until the witnesses had "completed" their testimony, or had borne full and ample testimony, that it made war against them. Compare The Seventh Vial, pp. 149-157. For a full illustration of the facts here referred to, see the notes on Daniel 7:21. There can be no reasonable doubt that Daniel and John refer to the same thing.
(b) By whom this was to be done. In Revelation 11:7, it is said that it would be by "the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit." This is undoubtedly the same as the fourth beast of Daniel (Daniel 7), and for a full illustration I must refer to the notes on that chapter. It is necessary only to add here, if the above representation is correct, that it is easy to see the propriety of this application of the symbol to the papacy. Nothing would better represent that cruel persecuting power "making war with the witnesses," than a fierce and cruel monster that seemed to ascend from the bottomless pit.
(c) The victory of the persecutors, and the death of the witnesses: "and shall overcome them, and kill them," Revelation 11:7. That is, they would gain a temporary victory over them, and the witnesses would seem for a time to be dead. The subsequent statement shows, however, that they would revive again, and would again resume their prophesying. Compare the notes on Revelation 9:20. The victory over them would appear to be complete, and the great object of the persecuting power would seem to have been gained. A few facts on this subject will show the propriety of the statement that "when they had finished," or had fully borate their testimony, a victory was obtained over them, and that they were so silenced that it might be said they were killed. The first will be in the words of Milner, in his account of the opening of the sixteenth century (History of the Church, p. 660, ed. Edin. 1835): "The sixteenth century opened with a prospect of all others the most gloomy, in the eyes of every true Christian. Corruption both in doctrine and in practice had exceeded all bounds; and the general face of Europe, though the name of Christ was everywhere professed, presented nothing that was properly evangelical. The Waldenses were too feeble to molest the popedom; and the Hussites, divided among themselves, and worn out by a long series of contentions, were reduced to silence. Among both were found persons of undoubted godliness, but they appeared incapable of making effectual impressions on the kingdom of antichrist. The Roman pontiffs were still the uncontrolled patrons of impiety; neither the scandalous crimes of Alexander VI., nor the military ferocity of Julius II., seemed to have lessened the dominion of the court of Rome, or to have opened the eyes of people so as to induce them to make a sober investigation of the nature of true religion."
The language of Mr Cunninghame may here be adopted as describing the state of things at the beginning of the sixteenth century: "At the commencement of the sixteenth century, Europe reposed in the deep sleep of spiritual death, under the iron yoke of the papacy. That haughty power, like the Assyrian of the prophet, said in the plenitude of his insolence, 'My hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people; and as one gathereth eggs, I have gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped.'" And in a similar manner, the writer of the article on the Reformation, in the Encyclopaedia Britannica - in a statement made, of course, with no reference to the fulfillment of this passage - thus speaks of that period: "Everything was quiet; every heretic was exterminated, and the whole Christian world supinely acquiesced in the enormous absurdities inculcated by the Roman Catholic church." These quotations will show the propriety of the language used here by John, on the supposition that it was intended to refer to this period. No symbol would be more striking, or more appropriate to that state of things, than to represent the witnesses for the truth as overcome and slain, so that, for a time at least, they would cease to bear their testimony against the prevailing errors and corruptions. It will be remembered, also, that this occurred at a time when it might be said that they had "fulfilled" their testimony, or when, in a most solemn manner, they had protested against the existing idolatries and abominations.
III. The witnesses dead, Revelation 11:8-10. The preceding verse contains the statement that they would be overcome and killed; these verses describe their treatment when they would be dead; that is, when they would be silenced. There are several circumstances referred to here which demand notice:
(a) The "place" where it is said that this would occur - that "great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified," Revelation 11:8. In the explanation of this verse, it has been shown that the language used here is such as would be properly employed, on the supposition that the intention was to refer to Rome, or the Roman Catholic communion. A few testimonies may serve to confirm the interpretation proposed in the notes on Revelation 11:8, and to show further the propriety of applying the appellation "Sodom" and "Egypt" to Rome. Thus among the Reformers, "Grosteste perceived that the whole scheme of the papal government was enmity with God, and exclaimed that nothing but the sword could deliver the church from the Egyptian bondage" (D'Aubigne). Wycliffe compared the Roman Catholic priest-craft to "the accursed sorceries with which the sages of Pharaoh presumed to emulate the works of Yahweh" (LeBas' Wycliffe, pp. 68, 147).
Luther, in a letter to Melancthon, says, "Italy is plunged, as in ancient times in Egypt, in darkness that may be felt." And of Zuingle in Switzerland, they who longed for the light of salvation said of him, "He will be our Moses, to deliver us out of the darkness of Egypt." Any number of passages could be found in the writings of the Reformers, and even some in the writings of Romanists themselves, in which the abominations that prevailed in Rome are compared with those in Sodom. Compare Elliott, ii. pp. 386, 387, notes. Assuming this to be the correct interpretation, the meaning is, that a state of things would exist after the silencing of the witnesses which would be well represented by supposing that their dead bodies would lie unburied; that is, that there would be dishonor and indignity heaped upon them, such as is shown to the dead when they are suffered to lie unburied. No one needs to be informed that this accurately represents the state of things throughout the Roman world. To the "witnesses" thus persecuted, downtrodden, and silenced, there was the same kind of indignity shown which there is when the dead are left unburied.
(b) The exposure of their bodies, Revelation 11:8. That is, as we have seen, they would be treated with indignity, as if they were not worthy of Christian burial. Now this not only expresses what was in fact the general feeling among the papists in respect to those whom they regarded as heretics, but it had a literal fulfillment in numerous cases where the rites of Christian burial were denied them. One of the punishments most constantly decreed and constantly enforced in reference to those who were called "heretics," was their exclusion from burial as persons excommunicated and without the pale of the church. Thus, in the third council of Lateran (1179 a.d.), Christian burial was denied to heretics; the same in the Lateran council 1215 a.d., and the papal decree of Gregory IX, 1227 a.d.; the same again in that of Pope Martin, 1422 a.d.; and the same thing was determined in the council of Constance, 1422 a.d., which ordered that the body of Wycliffe should be exhumed, and that the ashes of John Huss, instead of being buried, should be collected and thrown into the lake of Constance. It may be added that Savonarola's ashes were in a similar manner east into the Arno, 1498 a.d.; and that in the first bull entrusted to the cardinal Cajetan against Luther, this was one of the declared penalties, that both Luther and his partisans should be deprived of ecclesiastical burial. See Waddington, p. 717; D'Aubigne, 1:355; Foxe, v. 677.
(c) The mutual congratulations of those who had put them to death; their exultation over them; and the expression of their joy by the interchange of presents: "And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them," etc., Revelation 11:10. The language used here is expressive of general joy and rejoicing, and there can be no doubt that such joy and rejoicing occurred at Rome whenever a new victory was obtained over those who were regarded as heretics. Patens remarks on the passage in Luke 15:32, "It was meet that we should make merry," etc., that "when heretics are burnt, papists play at frolicsome games, celebrate feasts and banquets, sing Te Deum laudamus, and wish one another joy." And so too Bullinger, in loco. But there was special rejoicing, which accorded entirely with the prediction here, at the close of the sessions of the Lateran council 1517 a.d., in the splendor of the dinners and fates given by the cardinals. The scene on the closing of the council is thus described by Dr. Waddington: "The pillars of the papal strength seemed visible and palpable; and Rome surveyed them with exultation from her golden palaces. The assembled princes and prelates separated from the council with complacency, confidence, and mutual congratulations on the peace, unity, and purity of the church." Still, while this was true of that particular council, it should be added that the language used here is general, and may be regarded as descriptive of the usual joy which would be felt, and which was felt at Rome, in view of the efforts made to suppress heresy in the church.
(d) The "time" during which the witnesses would remain "dead." This, it is said Revelation 11:9, would be for "three days and an half," during which time they would "not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves"; that is, there would be a course of conduct, and a state of things, as if the dead were left unburied. This time, as we have seen (notes on Revelation 11:9), means probably three years and a half; and in the application of this we are to look for some striking event relating to the "witnesses," when they should have "finished their testimony," or when they had fully borne their testimony, that would fully correspond with this. Now it happens that there was a point of time, just previous to the Reformation, when it was supposed that a complete victory was gained for over over those who were regarded as "heretics," but who were in fact the true witnesses for Christ. That point of time was during the session of the council of Lateran, which was assembled 1513 a.d., and which continued its sessions to May 16, 1517.
In the ninth session of this council a remarkable proclamation was made, indicating that all opposition to the papal power had now ceased. The scene is thus described by Mr. Elliott (ii. 396, 397): "The orator of the session ascended the pulpit; and, amidst the applause of the assembled council, uttered that memorable exclamation of triumph - an exclamation which, notwithstanding the long multiplied anti-heretical decrees of popes and councils, notwithstanding the yet more multiplied anti-heretical crusades and inquisitorial fires, was never, I believe, pronounced before, and certainly never since - 'Jam nemo reclamat, nullus obsistit' - 'There is an end of resistance to the papal rule and religion; opposers there exist no more:' and again, 'The whole body of Christendom is now seen to be subjected to its Head, that is, to Thee.'" This occurred May 5, 1514. It is, probably, from this "time" that the three days and a half, or the three years and a half, during which the "dead bodies of the witnesses remained unburied," and were exposed to public gaze and derision, are to be reckoned.
But it was with remarkable accuracy that a period of three years and a half occurred from the time when this proclamation was made, and when it was supposed that these "witnesses" were "dead," to the time when the voice of living witnesses for the truth was heard again, as if those witnesses that had been silenced had come to life again; and "not in the compass of the whole ecclesiastical history of Christendom, except in the case of the death and resurrection of Christ himself, is there any such example of the sudden, mighty, and triumphant resuscitation of his church from a state of deep depression, as was, just after the separation of the Lateran council, exhibited in the protesting voice of Luther, and the glorious Reformation." All accounts agree in placing the beginning of the Reformation in 1517 ad. See Bowers' History of the Popes, iii. 295; Murdock's Mosheim, iii. 11, note. The effect of this, as compared with the supposed suppression of heresy, or the death of the witnesses, and as an illustration of the passage before us, will be seen from the following language of a writer in the Encyclopaedia Britannica: "Everything was quiet; every heretic exterminated; and the whole Christian world supinely acquiescing in the enormous absurdities inculcated in the Roman Catholic church, when, in 1517, the empire of superstition received its first attack from Luther." Or, in the language of Mr. Cunninghame, "At the commencement of the sixteenth century, Europe reposed in the deep sleep of spiritual death, under the iron yoke of the papacy. There was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped: when suddenly in one of the universities of Germany the voice of an obscure monk was heard, the sound of which rapidly filled Saxony, Germany, and Europe itself, shaking the very foundations of the papal power, and arousing people from the lethargy of ages."
The remarkable coincidence in regard to time - supposing that three years and a half are intended - will be seen from the following statement. The day of the ninth session of the Lateran council, when the proclamation above referred to was made, was, as we have seen, May 5, 1514; the day of Luther's posting up his theses at Wittemberg (the well-known epoch of the beginning of the Reformation), was October 31, 1517. "Now, from May 5, 1514, to May 5, 1517, are three years; and from May 5, 1517, to October 31 of the same year, 1517, the reckoning in days is as follows:
May 5-31 - 27 August 31 - 31 June 30 - 30 September 30 - 30 July 31 - 31 October 31 - 31
In all - 180, or half of 360 days, that is, half a year; so that the whole interval is precisely, to a day, three and a half years" (Elliott, 2:402, 403). But, without insisting on this very minute accuracy, anyone can see, and all must be prepared to admit, that, on the supposition that it was intended by the Spirit of God to refer to these events, this is the language which would be used; or, in other words, nothing would better represent this state of things than the declaration that the witnesses would be "slain," and would be suffered to "remain unburied" during this period of time, and that at the end of this period, a public testimony would be borne again for the truth, and against the abominations of the papacy, as if "the Spirit of life from God should again enter into them, and they should stand upon their feet," Revelation 11:11.
IV. The resurrection of the witnesses, Revelation 11:11. Little need be added on this point, after what has Been said on the previous portions of the chapter. We have seen (notes on Revelation 11:11) that this must mean that a state of things would occur which would be well represented by their being restored to life again; and if the previous illustrations are correct, there will be little difficulty in admitting that this had its fulfillment in the commencement of the Reformation. As to the time when they would revive, we have seen above how remarkably this accords with the commencement of the Reformation in 1517; and as to the correspondence of this with what is here symbolized, nothing would better represent this than to describe the witnesses as coming to life again. It was as if "the Spirit of life from God entered into" those who had been slain, and "they stood upon their feet" again, and again bore their solemn testimony to the truth as it is in Jesus. For:
(a) it was the same kind of testimony - testimony to the same truths, and against the same evils - which had been borne by the long array of the confessors and martyrs that had been put to death. The truths proclaimed by the Reformers on the great doctrines of grace were the same which had been professed by the Waldenses, by Wycliffe, by John Huss, and others; and the abominations of image-worship, of the invocations of the saints, of the arrogant claims of the pope, of the doctrine of human merit in justification, of the corruptions of the monastic systems, of the celibacy of the clergy, of the doctrine of purgatory, against which they testified, were the same.
(b) That testimony was borne by people of the same spirit and character. In what would now be called personal religious experience there was the closest resemblance between the Waldenses and the other "witnesses" before the Reformation, and the Reformers themselves - between the piety of Huss, Jerome of Prague, Wycliffe, and Peter Waldo; and Luther, Melancthon, Zwingli, Calvin, Bucer, Latimer, Ridley, and Knox. They were men who belonged to the same spiritual communion, and who had been moulded and fashioned in their spiritual character by the same power from on high.
(c) The testimony was borne with the same fearlessness, and in the midst of the same kind of persecution and opposition. All that occurred was as if the same "witnesses" had been restored to life and again lifted up their voice in the cause for which they had been persecuted and slain. The propriety of this language, as applied to these events, may be further seen from expressions used by the "witnesses" themselves, or by the persecuted friends of the truth. "And I," said John Huss, speaking of the gospel-preachers who should appear after he had suffered at the stake, "and I, awaking as it were from the dead, and rising from the grave, shall rejoice with exceeding great joy." Again, in 1523, after the Reformation had broken out, we find Pope Hadrian saying, in a missive addressed to the Diet at Nuremberg, "The heretics Huss and Jerome are now alive again in the person of Martin Luther" (The Seventh Vial, p. 190).
V. The ascension of the witnesses, Revelation 11:12; "And they ascended to heaven in a cloud." We have seen (notes on this verse) that this means that events would take place as if they should ascend in triumph to heaven, or which should be properly symbolized by such an ascent to heaven. All that is here represented would be fulfilled by a triumph of the truth under the testimony of the witnesses, or by its becoming gloriously established in view of the nations of the earth, as if the witnesses ascended publicly and were received to the presence of God in heaven. All this was fulfilled in the various influences that served to establish and confirm the Reformation, and to introduce the great principles of religious freedom, giving to that work ultimate triumph, and showing that it had the favor of God. This would embrace the whole series of events after the Reformation was begun, by which its triumph was secure, or by which that state of things was gradually introduced which now exists, in which the true religion is free from persecution, in which it is advancing into so many parts of the world where the papacy once had the control, and in which, with so little molestation, and with such an onward march toward ultimate victory, it is extending its conquests over the earth. The triumphant ascent of the witnesses to heaven, and the public proof of the divine favor thus shown to them, would be an appropriate symbol of this.
VI. The consequences of the resurrection, ascension, and triumph of the witnesses, Revelation 11:13. These are said to be, that there would be "in the same hour a great earthquake; that a tenth part of the city would fall; that seven thousand would be slain, and that the remainder would be affrighted and would give glory to the God of heaven."
(a) The earthquake. This, as we have seen (notes on Revelation 11:13), denotes that there would be a shock or a convulsion in the world, so that the powers of the earth would be shaken, as cities, trees, and hills are in the shocks of an earthquake. There can be little difficulty in applying this to the shock produced throughout Europe by the boldness of Luther and his fellow-laborers in the Reformation. No events have ever taken place in history that would be better compared with the shock of an earthquake than those which occurred when the long-established governments of Europe, and especially the domination of the papacy, so long consolidated and confirmed, were shaken by the Reformation. In the suddenness of the attack made on the existing state of things, in the commotions which were produced, in the overthrow of so many governments, there was a striking resemblance to the convulsions caused by an earthquake. So Dr. Lingard speaks of the Reformation: "That religious revolution which astonished and convulsed the nations of Europe." Nothing would better represent the convulsions caused in Germany, Switzerland, Prussia, Saxony, Sweden, Denmark, and England by the Reformation than an earthquake.
(b) The fate of a part of the city: "And the tenth part of the city fell." That is, as we have seen (notes on Revelation 11:13), of what is represented by the city, to wit, the Roman power. The fall of a "tenth part" would denote the fall of a considerable portion of that power; as if, in an earthquake, a tenth part of a city should be demolished. This would well represent what occurred in the Reformation, when so considerable a portion of the colossal papal power suddenly fell away, and the immediate effect on the portions of Europe where the Reformation prevailed, as compared with the whole of that power, might well be represented by the fall of the length part of a city. It is true that a much larger proportion ultimately fell off from Rome, so that now the number of Romanists and Protestants is not far from being equal; but in the first convulsion - in what passed before the eye in vision as represented by the earthquake - that proportion would not be improperly represented by the tenth part of a city. The idea is, that the sudden destruction of a tenth part of a great city by an earthquake would well represent the convulsion at the breaking out of the Reformation, by which a considerable portion of the papal power would fall.
(c) Those who were slain, Revelation 11:13; "And in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand." That is, as we have seen (notes on Revelation 11:13), a calamity would occur to this vast papal power, as if this number should be killed in the earthquake, or which would be well represented by that. In other words, a portion of those who were represented by the city would be slain, which, compared with the whole number, would bear about the saint proportion which seven thousand would to the usual dwellers in such a city. As the numbers in the city are not mentioned, it is impossible to form any exact estimate of the numbers that would be slain on this supposition. But if we suppose that the city contained a hundred thousand, then the proportion would be something like a fourteenth part; but if it were half a million, then it would be about a seventieth part; if it were a million, then it would be about a hundred and forty-fifth part; and, as we may suppose that John, in these visions, had his eye on Rome as it was in the age in which he lived, we may, if we can ascertain what the size of Rome was at that period, take that estimate as the basis of the interpretation.
Mr. Gibbon (2:251, 252) has endeavored to form an estimate of the probable number of the inhabitants of ancient Rome; and, after enumerating all the circumstances which throw any light on the subject, says: "If we adopt the same average which, under similar circumstances, has been found applicable to Paris, and indifferently allow about twenty-five persons for each house, of every degree, we may fairly estimate the inhabitants of Rome at twelve hundred thousand." Allowing this to be the number of the inhabitants of the city, then the number here specified that was slain - seven thousand - would be about the one hundred and seventieth part, or one in one hundred and seventy. This would, according to the purport of the vision here, represent the number that would perish in the convulsion denoted by the earthquake - a number which, though it would be large in the aggregate, is not probably too large in fact as referring to the number of persons that perished in papal Europe in the wars that were consequent on the Reformation.
(d) The only other circumstance in this representation is, that "the remnant were affrighted and gave glory to the God of heaven," Revelation 11:13. That is, as we have soon (notes on Revelation 11:13), fear and consternation came upon them, and they stood in awe at what was occurring, and acknowledged the power of God in the changes that took place. How well this was fulfilled in what occurred in the Reformation, it is hardly necessary to state. The events which then took place had every mark of being under the divine hand, and were such as to fill the minds of people with awe and to teach them to recognize the hand of God. The power which tore asunder that immense ecclesiastical establishment, that had so long held the whole of Europe in servitude; which dissolved the charm which had so long held kings, and princes, and people spell-bound; which rent away forever so large a portion of the papal dominions; which led kings to separate themselves from the control to which they had been so long subjected, and which emancipated the human mind, and diffused abroad the great principles of civil and religious liberty, was well adapted to fill the mind with awe, and to lead people to recognize the hand and the agency of God; and if it be admitted that the Holy Spirit in this passage meant to refer to these events, it cannot be doubted that the language used here is such as is well adapted to describe the effects produced on the minds of people at large.
15And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
And the seventh angel sounded - See the notes on Revelation 8:2, Revelation 8:6-7. This is the last of the trumpets, implying, of course, that under this the series of visions was to end, and that this was to introduce the state of things under which the affairs of the world were to be wound up. The place which this occupies in the order of time, is when the events pertaining to the colossal Roman power - the fourth kingdom of Daniel Dan. 2-7 - should have been completed, and when the reign of the saints Daniel 7:9-14, Daniel 7:27-28 should have been introduced. This, both in Daniel and in John, is to occur when the mighty power of the papacy shall have been overthrown at the termination of the twelve hundred and sixty years of its duration. See the notes on Daniel 7:25. In both Daniel and John the termination of that persecuting power is the commencement of the reign of the saints; the downfall of the papacy, the introduction of the kingdom of God, and its establishment on the earth.
And there were great voices in heaven - As of exultation and praise. The grand consummation had come, the period so long anticipated and desired when God should reign on the earth had arrived, and this lays the foundation for joy and thanksgiving in heaven.
The kingdoms of this world - The modern editions of the New Testament (see Tittmann and Hahn) read this in the singular number - "The kingdom of this world has become," etc. According to this reading, the meaning would be, either that the sole reign over this world had become that of the Lord Jesus; or, more probably, that the dominion over the earth had been regarded as one in the sense that Satan had reigned over it, but had now become the kingdom of God; that is, that "the kingdoms of this world are many considered in themselves; but in reference to the sway of Satan, there is only one kingdom ruled over by the 'god of this world'" (Prof. Stuart). The sense is not materially different whichever reading is adopted; though the authority is in favor of the latter (Wetstein). According to the common reading, the sense is, that all the kingdoms of the earth, being many in themselves, had been now brought under the one scepter of Christ; according to the other, the whole world was regarded as in fact one kingdom - that of Satan - and the scepter had now passed from his hands into those of the Saviour.
The kingdoms of our Lord - Or, the kingdom of our Lord, according to the reading adopted in the previous part of the verse. The word "Lord" here evidently has reference to God as such - represented as the original source of authority, and as giving the kingdom to his Son. See the notes on Daniel 7:13-14; compare Psalm 2:8. The word "Lord" - Κυριος Kurios - implies the notion of possessor, owner, sovereign, supreme ruler - and is thus properly given to God. See Matthew 1:22; Matthew 5:33; Mark 5:19; Luke 1:6, Luke 1:28; Acts 7:33; Hebrews 8:2, Hebrews 8:10; James 4:15, al. saepe.
And of his Christ - Of his anointed; of him who is set apart as the Messiah, and consecrated to this high office. See the notes on Matthew 1:1. He is called "his Christ," because he is set apart by him, or appointed by him to perform the work appropriate to that office on earth. Such language as what occurs here is often employed, in which God and Christ are spoken of as, in some respects, distinct - as sustaining different offices, and performing different works. The essential meaning here is, that the kingdom of this world had now become the kingdom of God under Christ; that is, that that kingdom is administered by the Son of God.
And he shall reign forever and ever - A kingdom is commenced which shall never terminate. It is not said that this would be on the earth; but the essential idea is, that the scepter of the world had now, after so long a time, come into his hands never more to pass away. The fuller characteristics of this reign are stated in a subsequent part of this book Revelation 20-22. What is here stated is in accordance with all the predictions in the Bible. A time is to come when, in the proper sense of the term, God is to reign on the earth; when his kingdom is to be universal; when his laws shall be everywhere recognized as binding; when all idolatry shall come to an end; and when the understandings and the hearts of people everywhere shall bow to his authority. Compare Psalm 2:8; Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 45:22; 60; Daniel 2:35, Daniel 2:44-45; Daniel 7:13-14, Daniel 7:27-28; Zechariah 14:9; Malachi 1:11; Luke 1:33. On this whole subject, see the very ample illustrations and proofs in the notes on Daniel 2:44-45; Daniel 7:13-14, Daniel 7:27-28; compare the notes on Revelation 20-22.
16And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
And the four and twenty elders which sat ... - See the notes on Revelation 4:4.
Fell upon their faces, and worshipped God - Prostrated themselves before him - the usual form of profound adoration. See the notes on Revelation 5:8-14.
17Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.
Saying, We give thee thanks - We, as the representatives of the church, and as identified in our feelings with it (see the notes on Revelation 4:4), acknowledge thy goodness in tires delivering the church from all its troubles, and having conducted it through the times of fiery persecution, thus establishing it upon the earth. The language here used is an expression of their deep interest in the church, and of the fact that they felt themselves identified with it. They, as representatives of the church, would of course rejoice in its prosperity and final triumph.
O Lord God Almighty - Referring to God all-powerful, because it was by his omnipotent arm alone that this great work had been I accomplished. Nothing else could have I defended the church in its many trials; nothing else could have established it upon the earth.
Which art, and wast, and art to come - The Eternal One, always the same. See the notes on Revelation 1:8. The reference here is to the fact that God, who had thus established his church on the earth, is unchanging. In all the revolutions which occur on the earth, he always remains the same. What he was in past times he is now; what he is now he always will be. The particular idea suggested here seems to be, that he had now shown this by having caused his church to triumph; that is, he had shown that he was the same God who had early promised that it should ultimately triumph; he had carried forward his glorious purposes without modifying or abandoning them amidst all the changes that had occurred in the world; and he had thus given the assurance that he would now remain the same, and that all his purposes in regard to his church would be accomplished. The fact that God remains always unchangeably the same is the sole reason why his church is safe, or why any individual member of it is kept and saved. Compare Malachi 3:6.
Because thou hast taken to thee thy great power - To wit, by setting up thy kingdom over all the earth. Before that it seemed as if he had relaxed that power, or had given the power to others. Satan had reigned on the earth. Disorder, anarchy, sin, rebellion, had prevailed. It seemed as if God had let the reins of government fall from his hand. Now he came forth as if to resume the dominion over the world, and to take the scepter into his own hand, and to exert his great power in keeping the nations in subjection. The setting up of his kingdom all over the world, and causing his laws everywhere to be obeyed, will be among the highest demonstrations of divine power. Nothing can accomplish this but the power of God; when that power is exerted nothing can prevent its accomplishment.
And hast reigned - Prof. Stuart, "and shown thyself as king" - that is, "hast become king, or acted as a king." The idea is, that he had now vindicated his regal power (Robinson, Lexicon) - that is, he had now set up his kingdom on the earth, and had truly begun to reign. One of the characteristics of the millennium - and indeed the main characteristic will be that God will be everywhere obeyed; for when that occurs all will be consummated that properly enters into the idea of the millennial kingdom.
18And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
And the nations were angry - Were enraged against thee. This they had shown by their opposition to his laws; by persecuting his people; by slaying his witnesses; by all the attempts which they had made to destroy his authority on the earth. The reference here seems to be to the whole series of events preceding the final establishment of his kingdom on the earth; to all the efforts which had been made to throw off his government and to crush his church. At this period of glorious triumph it was natural to look back to those dark times when the "nations raged" (compare Psalm 2:1-3), and when the very existence of the church was in jeopardy.
And thy wrath is come - That is, the time when thou wilt punish them for all that they have done in opposition to thee, and when the wicked shall be cut off. There will be, in the setting up of the kingdom of God, some manifestation of his wrath against the powers that opposed it; or something that will show his purpose to destroy his enemies, and to judge the wicked. The representations in this book lead us to suppose that the final establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth will be introduced or accompanied by commotions and wars which will end in the overthrow of the great powers that have opposed his reign, and by such awful calamities in those portions of the world as shall show that God has arisen in his strength to cut off his enemies, and to appear as the vindicator of his people. Compare the notes on Revelation 16:12-16; Revelation 19:11-26.
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged - According to the view which the course of the exposition thus far pursued leads us to entertain of this book, there is reference here, in few words, to the same thing which is more fully stated in Revelation 20:1-15, and the meaning of the sacred writer will, therefore, come up for a more distinct and full examination when we consider that chapter. See the notes on Revelation 20:4-6, Revelation 20:12-15. The purpose of the writer does not require that a detailed statement of the order of the events referred to should be made here, for it would be better made when, after another line of illustration and of symbol Revelation 11:19; Revelation 12-19, he should have reached the same catastrophe, and when, in view of both the mind would be prepared for the fuller description with which the book closes, Revelation 20-22. All that occurs here, therefore, is a very general statement of the final consumation of all things.
And that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants - The righteous. Compare Matthew 25:34-40; Revelation 21:22. That is, in the final winding-up of human affairs, God will bestow the long-promised reward on those who have been his true friends. The wicked that annoyed and persecuted them will annoy and persecute them no more; and the righteous will be publicly acknowledged as the friends of God. For the manner in which this will be done, see the details in Revelation 20-22.
The prophets - All who, in every age, have faithfully proclaimed the truth. On the meaning of the word, see the notes on Revelation 10:11.
And to the saints - To all who are holy - under whatever dispensation, and in whatever land, and at whatever time, they may have lived. Then will be the time when, in a public manner, they will be recognized as belonging to the kingdom of God, and as being his true friends.
And them that fear thy name - Another way of designating his people, since religion consists in a profound veneration for God, Malachi 3:16; Job 1:1; Psalm 15:4; Psalm 22:23; Psalm 115:11; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 3:13; Proverbs 9:10; Isaiah 11:2; Acts 10:22, Acts 10:35.
Small and great - Young and old; low and high; poor and rich. The language is designed to comprehend all, of every class, who have a claim to be numbered among the friends of God, and it furnishes a plain intimation that people of all classes will be found at last among his true people. One of the glories of the true religion is, that, in bestowing its favors, it disregards all the artificial distinctions of society, and addresses man as man, welcoming all who are human beings to the blessings of life and salvation. This will be illustriously shown in the last period of the world's history, when the distinctions of wealth, and rank, and blood shall lose the importance which has been attributed to them, and when the honor of being a child of God shall have its true place. Compare Galatians 3:28.
And shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth - That is, all who have, in their conquests, spread desolation over the earth and who have persecuted the righteous, and all who have done injustice and wrong to any class of people. Compare the notes on Revelation 20:13-15.
Here ends, as I suppose, the first series of visions referred to in the volume sealed with the seven seals, Revelation 5:1. At this point, where the division of the chapter should have been made, and which is properly marked in our common Bibles by the sign of the paragraph (),there commences a new series of visions, intended also, but in a different line, to extend down to the consummation of all things. The former series traces the history down mainly through the series of civil changes in the world, or the outward affairs which affect the destiny of the church; the latter - the portion still before us - embraces the same period with a more direct reference to the rise of antichrist, and the influence of that power in affecting the destiny of the Church. When that is completed Revelation 11:19; Revelation 12-19, the way is prepared Revelation 20-22 for the more full statement of the final triumph of the gospel, and the universal prevalence of religion, with which the book so appropriately closes. That portion of the book, therefore, refers to the same period as the one which has just been considered under the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and the description of the final state of things would have immediately succeeded if it had not been necessary, by another series of visions, to trace more particularly the history of antichrist on the destiny of the church, and the way in which that great and fearful power would be finally overcome. See the Analysis of the Book, part 5. The way is then prepared for the description of the state of things which will exist when all the enemies of the church shall be subdued; when Christianity shall triumph; and when the predicted reign of God shall be set up on the earth, Revelation 20-22.
19And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
Analysis of the Chapter 11:19-12
This portion of the book commences, according to the view presented in the closing remarks on the last chapter, a new series of visions, designed more particularly to represent the internal condition of the church; the rise of antichrist, and the effect of the rise of that formidable power on the internal history of the church to the time of the overthrow of that power, and the triumphant establishment of the kingdom of God. See the Analysis of the Book, part 5. The portion before us embraces the following particulars:
(1) A new vision of the temple of God as opened in heaven, disclosing the ark of the testimony, and attended with lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail, Revelation 11:19. The view of the "temple," and the "ark," would naturally suggest a reference to the church, and would be an appropriate representation on the supposition that this vision related to the church. The attending circumstances of the lightnings, etc., were well suited to impress the mind with awe, and to leave the conviction that great and momentous events were about to be disclosed. I regard this verse, therefore, which should have been separated from the eleventh chapter and attached to the twelfth, as the introduction to a new series of visions, similar to what we have in the introduction of the previous series, Revelation 4:1. The vision was of the temple the symbol of the church - and it was "opened" so that John could see into its inmost part - even within the veil where the ark was - and could have a view of what most intimately pertained to it.
(2) a representation of the church, under the image of a woman about to give birth to a child, Revelation 12:1-2. A woman is seen, clothed, as it were, with the sun - emblem of majesty, truth, intelligence, and glory; she has the moon under her feet, as if she walked the heavens; she has on her head a glittering diadem of stars; she is about to become a mother. This seems to have been designed to represent the church as about to be increased, and as in that condition watched by a dragon - a mighty foe - ready to destroy its offspring, and thus compelled to flee into the wilderness for safety. Thus understood, the point of time referred to would be when the church was in a prosperous condition, and when it would be encountered by antichrist, represented here by the dragon, and compelled to flee into the wilderness; that is, the church for a time would be driven into obscurity, and be almost unknown. It is no uncommon thing, in the Scriptures, to compare the church with a beautiful woman. See the notes on Isaiah 1:8. The following remarks of Prof. Stuart (vol. 2:252), though he applies the subject in a manner very different from what I shall, seem to me accurately to express the general design of the symbol: "The daughter of Zion is a common personification of the church in the Old Testament; and in the writings of Paul, the same image is exhibited by the phrase, Jerusalem, which is the mother of us all; that is, of all Christians, Galatians 4:26. The main point before us is the illustration of that church, ancient or later, under the image of a woman. If the Canticles are to have a spiritual sense given to them, it is plain enough, of course, how familiar such an idea was to the Jews. Whether the woman thus exhibited as a symbol be represented as bride or mother depends, of course, on the nature of the case, and the relations and exigencies of any particular passage."
(3) the dragon that stood ready to devour the child, Revelation 12:3-4. This represents some formidable enemy of the church, that was ready to persecute and destroy it. The real enemy here referred to is, undoubtedly, Satan, the great enemy of God and the church, but here it is Satan in the form of some fearful opponent of the church that would arise at a period when the church was prosperous, and when it was about to be enlarged. We are to look, therefore, for some fearful manifestation of this formidable power, having the characteristics here referred to, or some opposition to the church such as we may suppose Satan would originate, and by which the existence of the church might seem to be endangered.
(4) the fact that the child which the woman brought forth was caught up to heaven - symbolical of its real safety, and of its having the favor of God - a pledge that the ultimate prosperity of the church was certain, and that it was safe from real danger, Revelation 12:5.
(5) the fleeing of the woman into the wilderness, for the space of a thousand two hundred and threescore days, or 1260 years, Revelation 12:6. This act denotes the persecuted and obscure condition of the church during that time, and the period which would elapse before it would be delivered from this persecution, and restored to the place in the earth which it was designed to have.
(6) the war in heaven; a struggle between the mighty powers of heaven and the dragon, Revelation 12:7-9. Michael and his angels contend against the dragon, in behalf of the church, and finally prevail. The dragon is overcome, and is cast out, and all his angels with him; in other words, the great enemy of God and his church is overcome and subdued. This is evidently designed to be symbolical, and the meaning is, that a state of things would exist in regard to the church, which would be well represented by supposing that such a scene should occur in heaven; that is, as if a war should exist there between the great enemy of God and the angels of light, and as if, being there vanquished, Satan should be cast down to the earth, and should there exert his malignant power in a warfare against the church. The general idea is, that his warfare would be primarily against heaven, as if he fought with the angels in the very presence of God, but that the form in which he would seem to prevail would be against the church, as if, being unsuccessful in his direct warfare against the angels of God, he was permitted, for a time, to enjoy the appearance of triumph in contending with the church.
(7) the shout of victory in view of the conquest, over the dragon, Revelation 12:10-12. A loud voice is heard in heaven, saying, that now the kingdom of God is come, and that the reign of God would be set up, for the dragon is cast down and overcome. The grand instrumentality in overcoming this foe was "the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony"; that is, the great doctrines of truth pertaining to the work of the Redeemer would be employed for this purpose, and it is proclaimed that the heavens and all that dwell therein had occasion to rejoice at the certainty that a victory would be ultimately obtained over this great enemy of God. Still, however, his influence was not wholly at an end, for he would yet rage for a brief period on the earth.
(8) the persecution of the woman, Revelation 12:13-15. She is constrained to fly, as on wings given her for that purpose, into the wilderness, where she is nourished for the time that the dragon is to exert his power - a "time, times, and half a time" - or for 1260 years. The dragon in rage pours out a flood of water, that he may cause her to be swept away by the flood: referring to the persecutions that would exist while the church was in the wilderness, and the efforts that would be made to destroy it entirely.
(9) the earth helps the woman, Revelation 12:16. That is, a state of things would exist as if, in such a case, the earth should open and swallow up the flood. The meaning is, that the church would not be swept away, but that there would be an interposition in its behalf, as if the earth should, in the case supposed, open its bosom, and swallow up the swelling waters.
(10) the dragon, still enraged, makes war with all that pertains to the woman, Revelation 12:17. Here we are told literally who are referred to by the "seed" of the woman. They are those who "keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" Revelation 12:17; that is, the true church.
The chapter, therefore, may be regarded as a general vision of the persecutions that would rage against the church. It seemed to be about to increase and to spread over the world. Satan, always opposed to it, strives to prevent its extension. The conflict is represented as if in heaven, where war is waged between the celestial beings and Satan, and where, being overcome, Satan is cast down to the earth, and permitted to wage the war there. The church is persecuted; becomes obscure and almost unknown, but still is mysteriously sustained; and when most in danger of being wholly swallowed up, is kept as if a miracle were performed in its defense. The detail - the particular form in which the war would be waged - is drawn out in the following chapters.
And the temple of God was opened in heaven - The temple of God at Jerusalem was a pattern of the heavenly one, or of heaven, Hebrews 8:1-5. In that temple God was supposed to reside by the visible symbol of his presence - the Shekinah - in the holy of holies. See the notes on Hebrews 9:7. Thus God dwells in heaven, as in a holy temple, of which that on earth was the emblem. When it is said that that was "opened in heaven," the meaning is, that John was permitted, as it were, to look into heaven, the abode of God, and to see him in his glory.
And there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament - See the notes on Hebrews 9:4. That is, the very interior of heaven was laid open, and John was permitted to witness what was transacted in its obscurest recesses, and what were its most hidden mysteries. It will be remembered, as an illustration of the correctness of this view of the meaning of the verse, and of its proper place in the divisions of the book - assigning it as the opening verse of a new series of visions that in the first series of visions we have a statement remarkably similar to this, Revelation 4:1; "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven"; that is, there was, as it were, an opening made into heaven, so that John was permitted to look in and see what was occurring there. The same idea is expressed substantially here, by saying that the very interior of the sacred temple where God resides was "opened in heaven," so that John was permitted to look in and see what was transacted in his very presence. This, too, may go to confirm the idea suggested in the Analysis of the Book, part 5, that this portion of the Apocalypse refers rather to the internal affairs of the church, or the church itself - for of this the temple was the proper emblem. Then appropriately follows the series of visions describing, as in the former case, what was to occur in future times: this series referring to the internal affairs of the church, as the former did mainly to what would outwardly affect its form and condition.
And there were lightnings, ... - Symbolic of the awful presence of God, and of his majesty and glory, as in the commencement of the first series of visions. See the notes on Revelation 4:5. The similarity of the symbols of the divine majesty in the two cases may also serve to confirm the supposition that this is the beginning of a new series of visions.
And an earthquake - Also a symbol of the divine majesty, and perhaps of the great convulsions that were to occur under this series of visions. Compare the notes on Revelation 6:12. Thus, in the sublime description of God in Psalm 18:7, "Then the earth shook and trembled, the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth." So in Exodus 19:18, "And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke - and the whole mount quaked greatly." Compare Amos 8:8-9; Joel 2:10.
And great hail - Also an emblem of the presence and majesty of God, perhaps with the accompanying idea that he would overwhelm and punish his enemies. So in Psalm 18:13, "The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice: hailstones and coals of fire." So also Job 38:22-23;
"Hast thou entered into the treasures of snow?
Or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail?
Which I have reserved against the time of trouble.
Against the day of battle and war?"
So in Psalm 105:32;
"He gave them hail for rain,
And flaming fire in their land."
Compare Psalm 78:48; Isaiah 30:30; Ezekiel 38:22.