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into the possession of that which has been promised to her.
During the time that the Apostle saw the vision of the Great Bishop walking in the midst of the churches, he was in the isle of Patmos (i. 9). But now that he is going to see another dramatic representation, he is taken up into heaven. "A door was opened in heaven, and the voice said, Come up hither" (iv. 1). The prophet here sees a throne with some one sitting on it like a jasper and a sardine stone; the one remarkable for its pure transparent whiteness, and the other for its clear redness, like cornelian; the two combined representing the appearance of a glorified body, spiritual, yet fleshly; the Godhead united with humanity. The rainbow, the emblem of unbroken faithfulness, surmounts the throne; before which, four living creatures (imperfectly translated beasts in our version), and four-andtwenty elders, offer adoration.
In the hand of Him that sat on the throne was a book sealed with seven seals, which no one was worthy to open. Upon which, the Apostle wept; and one of the elders consoled him by the information that the Lion of the tribe of Judah had prevailed to open it. Upon this, the Apostle sees "a Lamb, as it had been slain, having seven horns," the emblem of all power; " and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne." Upon this, the four living creatures, and the twenty-four elders sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us kings and priests; and we shall reign upon the earth."
We learn, hence, that the living creatures, and the twenty-four
elders, represent the churches; because they say, that the Lamb has redeemed them by his blood: proving that they are men, and not angels: which is further proved by their declaring that they are an election out of every nation, kindred, people, and tongue. The church, then, being in a state in which she is conscious of what is going on, rejoices on seeing the Lamb take the book, and sings, not that she does reign on the earth, but that she shall reign on the earth. Now the question is, What connection is there between the Lamb taking the book, and the church reigning upon the earth? because the one is the reason assigned for the other; "Thou art worthy, for thou wast slain; and we shall reign on the earth."
This prophecy of the Apocalypse contains two books; the one sealed, in chapter v., and the other open, in x. 8. The meaning of what these two books signify, the former, in the hand of Christ, under the emblem of the Lamb; and the latter, in the hand of the same, under the emblem of the " mighty angel,”— will appear from referring to the Jewish Law concerning the redeemer, and the title-deeds of the estate to be redeemed. In the history of Ruth we read, that the right or power of redemption was only in the nearest of kin; and further, that no one was empowered to take the inheritance, or the wife alone, but that whoever took one was obliged to take the other also. The nearest of kin to Ruth was willing to take Ruth's estate, but not to take herself: "No," said Boaz, "you must take both, or neither." In Jer. xxxii. we read, that, just before the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, the prophet was instructed to predict the future restoration of the Jews to it. Jeremiah's uncle, seeming to think the state of affairs desperate, goes to his nephew and says, "Since you believe that we shall return to this land, although the Chaldeans are
on the point of taking it, will you buy my estate?" evidently with the intention of cheating his nephew by selling him that which was worth nothing. Jeremiah had been previously warned of God that his uncle would come and make him this offer, and was directed to accept it, and buy the estate and from the account of the transaction of the sale and purchase which is there recorded, we know that the title-deeds consisted of two books; the one sealed, and the other open (ver. 11). Whoever, having paid a price for an estate, is in possession of the title-deeds, in all countries is the possessor of the estate.
The Lord Jesus Christ, to fulfil the office of Redeemer, must redeem both his spouse and her inheritance. The inheritance given to Adam and his posterity was the rule, and sovereignty, and dominion over the earth. This inheritance was lost; but the restoration of it was promised to Eve, to Abraham, to David, &c. To redeem his bride he has appeared in the humiliation of her condition; and to redeem her estate he will appear again as the God of war, mighty in battle. For the first, he has become the Lamb slain; for the second, he will be the Lion of the tribe of Judah. The record of his life and death and resurrection, in the Evangelists, shews us what he did to redeem the spouse; the Book of the Revelation shews us the method by which he is redeeming the estate. These methods are described as seven different acts of his providence; one opened to the church after the other, under the figure of loosing a seal of the book which contains the history; and the seventh shews the earth redeemed, and He acknowledged its Possessor and Lord. These methods are further described as seven different acts of judgment upon His and his church's enemies, under the figures of seven blasts of trumpets; an ininstrument often connected with God's manifestations to, and dealings with, His church (see Exod.
xix. xx.; Numb. x.; Judges vii.; Lev. xxiii.; Josh. vi. vii.; and hence repeatedly referred to throughout the Prophets); the seventh of which, like the seventh seal, shews the last of her enemies destroyed, and herself entered on her eternal rest. The various parts of the last acts of providence and judgment, described by the seventh seal and seventh trumpet, are given with more minuteness than the former acts under the figures of seven vials; because it is during the effusion of these, that is, after the sixth and before the seventh, that the Lord "comes as a thief" to take his saints to himself, previous to the final judgment on the apostate nations alive in Christendom, commonly called "the judgment of the quick;" which judgment closes the seventh seal, seventh trumpet, and seventh vial.
The question next arises, What are the seven acts of providence, and the seven acts of judgment, typified by the seven seals and seven trumpets? This question can only be answered by a reference to history, which it is not intended to make. There is one point, however, which is worthy of observation; namely, the date and place which occur in all these visions. It was required by the law, Deut. xviii. 22, that unless a prophecy came to pass, the prophet was not to be believed: hence, whenever the ancient prophets foretold a future distant event, it was always in such language that it should not only include that ultimate event, but also some other nearer event, that the veracity of the prophet might be proved; the attention of the people called thereby to the greater subject not yet unfolded; and God's righteousness, in punishing them for rejecting the warning, cleared. This made the essential difference between a prophet sent by Jehovah, and one of the false prophets; who were always deceiving the people by promising them peace, and not judgment. In like manner it is necessary that these
visions, shewn to the Apostle John, should have a time and a locality affixed to them, in order that they may be distinguished from any idle dreams of a distempered fancy.
Accordingly, the first vision, that of the Bishop, contains the locality of the seven churches of Asia: and the time is marked by the ten days of tribulation; which, all are agreed, took place, and were over, before the conversion of the Emperor Constantine to Christianity, in the year 312. In like manner, the second vision of the opening of the seals contains the words in chap. vi. ver. 8, "the fourth part of the earth;" which furnishes the key by which to interpret both the time and the place of it. The earth, or world, is the word constantly made use of in Scripture for the Roman empire: it is sometimes, also, used for the three great universal empires which preceded it, represented by the parts of the colossal image, and by the beasts of the visions of Daniel. Thus, where it is said, that "a decree went forth that all the world should be taxed" (Luke ii. 1), it is obvious that "all the world" means no more than the Roman empire; to which alone the decree was addressed, or could extend. The question, then, is, "What is meant by the fourth part of it?" Now it is matter of fact, that the Roman. empire was divided into four parts, called Prefectures, in the time of Constantine. This, then, being the time and the place of this vision, and the former vision occupying the period between the calling of the Gentile churches and the conversion of Constantine, it follows, that this vision takes up the history at the reign of that emperor, and continues down till the sovereignty of the world is brought under Christ.
It is comparatively of less importance what particular events of history we ascribe to each of the first six seals. Some, from the symbol of Christ on the white throne, in chap. xix. ver. 11, represent ing the final triumph of Christianity,
think that the first seal signifies Christianity taken into favour under Constantine; the second, the persecutions and wars induced by the Arian heresies; the third, the obscurity of the dark ages; the fourth, the cruelties of the Inquisition and the Papacy; the fifth, the complaint of the true believers; the sixth, the Reformation.
Others think that abstract things, such as the system of Christianity, are not matters of prophecy, which always deals with tangible and visible men and things: that the seals represent the acts by which God cast down the enemies of his church:
that the first seal represents Constantine the Great establishing Christianity on the ruins of Paganism; the second, Theodosius the Great putting down the Paganism which had been revived by Julian ; the third, Honorius the Great, and the famine that raged when Alaric besieged Rome, sparing the Christians and burning the heathen temples; the fourth, Justinian the Great, who finally extirpated the Arians; the fifth, the cry of the saints, who had been martyred by Paganism and Arianism, hoping now that, their ene mies being all destroyed, they should be raised to enter into rest, but are told that there was another crop of martyrs to be taken under the Papacy, which had now risen in power by the edicts of Justinian; the sixth, the punishment of the Papacy, beginning at the French Revolution; and going on to the seventh, when a similar event destroys all Christendom.
Others, again, think that the first four seals are the same as the four metals of the image, and the four beasts of the visions in Daniel, introduced here in order to connect this book with that of Daniel; that the fifth seal relates to the two crops of martyrs gathered under pagan and papal Rome.
The viith chapter shews a body of people sealed and preserved from all, or from some of, these judg
ments of the seals. They cannot be the literal twelve tribes of Israel, because they are described in chap. xiv. as following the Lamb. They cannot be the elect, because there is a countless multitude mentioned besides them as being saved. It necessarily follows, therefore, that the national Israel is put for some nation answering in the Gentile times that purpose in the dispensations of God which the literal Israel did in the former times: and as the sealing is mentioned after the sixth seal is opened, it seems to follow that the preservation should have special reference to that judgment. History tells us, that the armies of infidel France did scourge the Papacy, and march triumphant into the capital city of every Popish state; and that from this visitation the Protestant nation of England was alone preserved. An additional objection to the twelve tribes meaning literally the Jewish nation, arises from the fact, that no name in this book is used in its literal sense; such as Euphrates, Sodom, Egypt, Zion, &c. The principal objection to this opinion is from the language applied to that nation in chap. xiv., seeming to indicate a degree of holiness which those who are taught by the Spirit of God to discern things, not according to outward appearance, but according to the standard of Divine purity, in vain look for in this our highly favoured land. This is, indeed, most true; but if we turn to the Prophets, and read the language in which God writes of the Jews in some places, whilst in others He declares every species of wickedness to abound in them, we shall perceive the great love which He bears to, and the complacency with which He regards, the church of His dear Son, and the land in which she is established and nourished for her sake.
An accurate knowledge of the Jewish feasts shews us, that the conclusion of the viith chapter, that is, from ver. 9, speaks of a period long
The next vision is that of the trumpets (ch. viii); upon the blowing of each of which, a visitation of wrath is seen to be inflicted upon "the third part of the earth," "third part of trees, third part of living creatures in the sea, third part of ships, third part of rivers, third part of sun, third part of moon, third part of stars, &c." This reiteration of the words "third part," shews that it is an expression. of importance; and it indicates the time and place of this vision, as the words "fourth part " indicated the time and place of the vision of the seals. Nearly at the same period that the Roman Empire was divided into four parts, it was divided into three. History informs us, that at the death of Constantine, the empire was divided between his three sons; but one of these was killed in Britain, wherefore half the Empire fell to each of the survivors. These several halves were, as has been observed before, divided into two other halves, called Prefectures, so that the empire again became virtually in four parts. It is further remarkable, that the division in three parts lasted but a very few months, and seems to have been appointed by God specially in order to be a mark or beacon to guide his church through this history of his dealings with the world for her sake.<
Since the trumpet is an instrument appointed by God for the service of his church, it seems that this emblem directs our attention to ecclesiastical, rather than to secular affairs. The fifth and sixth angel are almost unanimously believed to represent the armies of the faith of the Mohammedan im
posture, the Saracens and Turks, who destroyed" the third part" of the Roman Empire, extirpated the name of Christianity, and still hold the "land of Immanuel." To trample down the land of Immanuel is a very serious offence in God's sight, since it was on this account that he punished the Assyrian of old (compare Isa. vii. viii. ix. and xxxvii). The river Euphrates rises in the country from whence the Saracens arose, after the apostate Mohammed had entered upon his pretended mission, the success of which has spread to a far greater extent than that of Christianity. Their power is represented as waning again under the sixth vial of chapter xvi.
The seventh trumpet completes the mysterious proceedings of God; that is, those invisible works which he is now transacting within the vail; for, from that period onwards, there is no more time, consequently no more change; but every thing takes its stand, as it is to remain throughout the countless ages of eternity. The last seven plagues are recorded in chap. xv. xvi., and as "in them is filled up the wrath of God," and as the seventh trumpet concludes the mystery of God, the last seven plagues must be the component parts of the seventh trumpet; just as when Jericho fell, the last sounding of the trumpet had seven blasts. Before reciting the effects of these last seven plagues, or vials of wrath, the Apostle is taken to another place. We have already observed, that he saw the first vision when in Patmos (ch. i); and the second in heaven (ch. iv). He now sees a mighty Angel, which by the description can be none less than the Angel of the Covenant, the Angel of Jehovah's Presence, even the Lord Jesus Christ himself: the Apostle sees him set his right foot on the sea, and his left on the earth, planting himself as Lord of the whole globe, and crying with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth. This Angel had a little book in his hand, not sealed, but open, so as every one CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 339.
might read it; and the Apostle was called to take it out of his hand; and he went to the Angel standing on the sea: he was commanded to eat the book, and told that he must prophecy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.
In order to do this, he is sent to measure the temple of God; wherefore, he moves from his place near the Angel on the sea, making the fourth situation in which he has been. This prophecy of the little open book commences at the period when the holy city began to be trampled under foot of the Gentiles, and goes down like that of the seals, and the trumpets, to the time when the kingdoms of this world were reduced to subjection under Christ (ver. 15-19). This vision evidently relates to the affairs of the church, because all its imagery is taken from the temple service.
Another vision opens at ch. xii., likewise relating to the church, because a woman is used repeatedly for its emblem in various parts of Scripture. In this, the literal history of the virgin mother and her holy child Jesus is made to furnish appropriate language with which to write the history of the church and Christ mystical.
Another vision opens at ch. xiii., which the Apostle is shewn when standing upon the sand of the sea, out of which rises a beast. He afterwards sees a second beast rise out of the earth; and the whole concludes with the information that the subject to which they all relate is contained in some words expressed by the letters which compose the number six hundred and sixty-six.
From the earliest times, down to the present hour, the universal opinion has been, that the solution of this number was to be found in Rome. The word signifying "a Latin man," has been adopted by many: but the spelling is not correct; nor does the interpretation go far enough. This book was written T