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SUMMARY OF THE SEVEN SEALS
It will be remembered that the seven trumpets were within the seventh seal. When the seventh seal was opened, seven angels appeared, having seven trumpets; in the hand of each angel, a trumpet. The significance of the sounding of the trumpets was to signal the commencement of the impending events which had been revealed by the opening of the seals.
(1) The first trumpet --chapter 8:7--was the signal of devastation, signified by the smitten earth, indicating divine judgments on the land of the Jewish powers.
(2) The second trumpet- -chapter 8:8-9--was the signal of the smitten sea. Casting the burning mountain into the sea signified the divine judgments on the sea power, the Roman monarchy, burning with the lust of war; the destruction of the power of the sea beast persecutors to make war against Christ.
(3) The third trumpet --chapter 8:10-11--was the signal of smitten rivers, which signified by the great burning star the fall of the rulers, as spent meteors, from their former dominion; and the dissipation of the source of their power was symbolized by the drying of the fountain which supplied the river which flows through its channel.
(4) The fourth trumpet --chapter 8:12-13--was the signal of the smitten sun, signifying the darkness that would settle over the Jewish state in the divine judgments to descend on Jerusalem, bringing an end to Judaism.
(5) The fifth trumpet --chapter 9:1-12-was the signal of the fallen star, personified in a degenerate leader of impious forces, designated as an army of locusts from the smoke of the pit, and symbolizing the invasion of Judea by terrifying armies led by Satan personified in the persecuting emperor--the resulting calamities of which brought to pass the first of the three woes enumerated by John.
(6) The sixth trumpet- -chapter 9:13-21--was the signal of loosing the four angels, the imperial agents which had been restrained from hindering the messengers of Christ until the true Israel of God was sealed " of all the tribes of the children of Israel.” The spiritual Israel was symbolized by the hundred forty-four thousand--the holy seed. With the completion of this mission of “sealing the servants of God,” the suspension period was declared ended, and the four angels of destruction were loosed to proceed with the encompassing desolation of Jerusalem.
(7) The seventh trumpet --chapters 10-11--was the signal of the finale, “in the days of the voice of the seventh angel”--the last days of the political Jewish state and the dispensation of Judaism--accompanied by the testimony of the two witnesses as necessary to establish testimony. It symbolized the two-fold mission and work of the prophets and apostles in the unfolding of the scheme of redemption, begun by Old Testament prophets, but completed by New Testament apostles, and fulfilled in the church. The tragic calamities surrounding these representatives of the church marked the passing of the second woe and the immediate pronouncement of the third woe in the sounding of the seventh trumpet, ending in the conquest of the kingdoms of the world by Christ the conqueror.
A RECAPITULATION OF THE FIRST APOCALYPSE
The apocalypse known by all as the Book Of Revelation is comprised of two parts--two series of visions--therefore, essentially two apocalypses, but consisting in a repetition of import under a second set of symbols. The first series surrounded the conquering Christ; the second series surrounded the victorious church.
The object of the visions of the first part, beginning with chapter four and ending with chapter eleven, was mainly the end of both spiritual and political Judaism, resulting in the expansion of the new “kingdom of God and Christ” over the whole Roman world.
In harmony with this objective the first century persecutions, with that generation of martyrs, were represented by a system of signs and symbols, consisting in the opening of seven seals and the sounding of seven trumpets. The seven seals contained the successive events of divine judgment in the symbols of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the temple of the Jews. The opening of the seals represented the making known, or the revelation, of these judgments; and the sounding of the trumpets signaled that the time to commence had come. This first series of apocalypses include chapters 4-11 of Revelation.
The Revelation began and proceeded from the Throne in heaven, with Him who sat on it; Christ in the midst of it, surrounded by twenty-four elders, symbolic of the complete New Testament church-the totality of spiritual Israel, based on the twelve patriarchs and apostles of the old and the new dispensations.
The book with the seven seals could be opened only by Christ the slain Lamb, who had risen to prevail and who had become the Lion of the tribe of Judah, able to defeat and conquer all the forces set in opposition to his Cause. The seven seals portended the overthrow of the persecuting powers both Jewish and Roman.
The four seals were in the order portrayed by the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
The white horse and its Rider of the first seal symbolized Christ, the Conqueror, the leading figure of the imagery, who appeared again at the end of the visions as the Rider of the white horse in the procession of victory in chapter 19.
The red horse and rider of the second seal signified the persecutor waging war against the Cause of Christ. The black horse and rider of the third seal, represented distress, calamity and deadly famine, indicated by the symbols of the balances and scales for the weighing and measuring of all food allowances.
The pale horse and rider of the fourth seal were designated as death and hades, and signified death, not death by martyrdom, but by pestilence and scourge.
The fifth seal was the martyr scene of souls “under the altar” asking for avenging judgment, which, though delayed in a waiting period until the procession of events “should be fulfilled,” was in due time and order received; and John saw them receiving this judgment in chapter 20:4, for which he had heard them asking in chapter 6:1O--thus signifying the resurrection of the Cause for which they had been slain.
The sixth seal was the earthquake, which signified the shaking of the existing powers of government by revolutions, upheavals and wars; and the various divine visitations on the persecuting authorities. This was symbolized by the darkened sun, the falling stars and the scrolled heaven, all of which meant the folding up of the powers of persecution and the fall of Judaism. The events of this seal ended in the scene of the great day of wrath, where these portents of judgment descended on the great and mighty men of the earth, who are envisioned as calling upon the mountains for a hiding place from the face of God on the Throne, and from the wrath of Christ, whose Cause they had persecuted.
The seventh seal, the last in the book of seals, displayed seven angels standing before God, to whom seven trumpets were given; and they “prepared themselves” to sound the seven trumpets as signals that the time had come to accomplish the seals, and that they were ready to proceed.
In the sounding of the seven trumpets seven angels proclaimed the judgments which were attended by the woes which John periodically announced in the progressive vision of the seventh seal, which have been summarized in the preceding section of these comments.
Lastly, the culmination of all the events of the first apocalypse was depicted when the seventh angel sounded the seventh trumpet, and the great voices in heaven in grand unison proclaimed: “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.” The Rider of the white horse had conquered. Judaism, the arch enemy of Christ had fallen; the stars of Jewish rulership had been plucked from their orbits of dominion; the Jewish state was ended; the temple was no longer standing. The New Jerusalem and the spiritual temple of New Israel had prevailed. From the apocalypse of the Conquering Christ, the visions turned in chapter 12, to his tortured but triumphant church.
The measuring of the temple--11:1-2.
The contents of the eleventh chapter are a continuation of the scenes of the interlude, or intermediate visions, between the sixth and seventh trumpet announcements. The things narrated belong to the days of the voice of the seventh angel --the end of the Jewish state or political dispensation. The siege and fall of Jerusalem was at hand.
The pronouncement of chapter 10 that there should be time no longer had been made. The eleventh chapter presents intervening scenes of measuring the temple, for the preservation of the “holy seed,” the “true Israel,” the “one hundred forty-four thousand,” the “innumerable host,” the “remnant according to the election of grace,” and the “sealed number”--representative of all spiritual Israel, the whole faithful church, and the true spiritual temple in contrast with the old temple which though still standing, was measured for destruction. The old Jerusalem, the apostate city, was marked for its downfall.
1. A reed like a rod : The indication is that this reed was given to John in the same manner and, hence, by the same One by whom the book was given to him in chapter 10:9. And the angel that commanded him to measure the temple is the same angel that commanded him to eat the book. The use of the article the angel, rather than an angel, or another angel, designates the angel as Christ himself, as shown in the notes on the preceding chapter.
The reed was like a rod. The measuring reed was six cubits, about three yards in length. This measuring reed was like a rod, signifying the authority of its giver, the angel. In the psalm-prophecy of Christ, David said: “I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion . . . I will declare the decree . . . thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee . . . I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron.” ( Psa_2:6-9 ) Again the psalmist said: “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion.” ( Psa_110:1-2 ) Both of these psalms are applied in the New Testament to the rule and authority of Christ. In that same sense it is used in chapter 2:27, “He shall rule them with a rod of iron"-- the rule of irresistible authority.
The rod was also the symbol of affliction, as signified in the phrase “passing under the rod” of Eze_20:37 , and “take his rod away from me,” of Job_9:34 .
This measuring reed given to John symbolized the authority of this “mighty angel” (10:1), and his power to protect and preserve the true believers.
2 . Measure, temple, altar, worship : At the start of the interval between the sixth and seventh seals, the angel announced the purpose of the interlude (chapter 7:3) as time to seal the servants of God; and in verse 4 he described and defined the number of them which were sealed as being symbolically of all the tribes of the children of Israel. In the same imagery here, in the interval between the sixth and seventh trumpets, the command of the angel to measure the temple, the altar and them that worship is symbolic of the true Israel of God. They were measured for preservation, the holy seed of Israel, spiritual Israel, that should not perish. The measured number here in chapter 11 is the same company of believers as the sealed number of chapter 7. They are the symbolic one hundred forty-four thousand of all the tribes of Israel--of chapter 7:4--computed on the basis of twelve times twelve for the twelve tribes, and in the numeral thousand for a symbol of the aggregated whole, complete, total body of true believers, of the spiritual tribes of Israel. ( Act_26:7 )
The symbolism of the measuring of the temple is exactly the same, the sealed servants of chapter 7 and the measured worshipers of chapter 11 are the same company, symbolic of the same thing, sealed and measured for the same purpose.
3. The court which is without the temple--measure it not : As the measured portion of the temple symbolized the true Israel, the court without, outside the measured part, signified unbelieving Israel. “The court without--leave out” --it was not to be measured for preservation. They were not the sealed servants of God- -they were not included in the twelve times twelve thousand of the spiritual tribes. They were given unto the Gentiles , and along with the old temple and Jewish state they were destined for destruction. As unbelieving Israel they should be cut off ( Rom_11:22 ). Paul said cut off; John said leave out. The whole symbol is that the measured portion was the preserved spiritual Israel, and the unmeasured part was the unbelieving fleshly Jewish nation “given to the Gentiles” to be destroyed by the Romans, which was done in the siege of Jerusalem, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the end of the Jewish world.
4. The holy city shall they tread under foot . Jerusalem was the once holy city: but was no longer that. It was here called holy because of its past association with the covenanted and the sainted ancestors. “How is the faithful city become harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.” ( Isa_1:21 ) “0 Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee . . . Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” ( Mat_23:37-38 ) By divine decree Jerusalem was to be desolated and “trodden down of the Gentiles.” ( Luk_21:24 ) The judgment had already been passed, and John was commanded to leave Jerusalem out, and “measure it not,” as that which had been cast away.
5. A thousand two hundred and threescore days . The mathematical calculation of this figure was twelve hundred and sixty days, the same period of time assigned for the flight of the woman into the wilderness. (Chapter 12:6) The interpretation of scriptural numerals in relation to days and months should not be made on the basis of the literal number unless an over-riding reason for the exact mathematical application exists. Such a reason does exist in this calculation of the forty and two months, or the twelve hundred and sixty days of Revelation, mentioned in 11:2-3, 12:6 and 13:5. From the imperial order and the beginning of the siege to its end and completion it was forty-two months, or a thousand two hundred and threescore days, or the oft-mentioned twelve hundred and sixty days --that was the exact period of time, as a matter of historical record, which covered the events of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.
An example of such necessary mathematical application is in the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the end of the ten tribes, chapter 7:1-9. Because of the importance of this Isaiahan prophecy, and its bearing on the exact mathematical application of the forty-two months period of Revelation, the entire section of the Old Testament prophecy is here inserted:
“1. And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jothan, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it. 2. And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind. 3. Then said the Lord unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field; 4. And say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and of the son of Remaliah. 5. Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying, 6. Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal: 7. Thus saith the Lord God, it shall not stand neither shall it come to pass. 8. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people. 9. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.”
This prophecy of Isaiah was to the effect that the conspiracy against Judah could not be executed, and that in threescore and five years the ten tribes (Ephraim) would cease to be a people, and it is the history of it that in exactly sixty-five years, from the date of Isaiah’s prophecy, the ten tribes came to end--and that prophecy was literally fulfilled. And it was the history of it, in connection with the point of discussion, that it was exactly forty-two months (twelve hundred and sixty days, or a thousand two hundred and threescore days) from the imperial command to besiege and destroy Jerusalem to the accomplishment of the commission-- and this apocalypse was thus literally fulfilled also.
For the historical evidence, Vespasian received his commission from Nero, and declared war on Jerusalem February, A.D. 67. The siege ended with the fall of Jerusalem, the burning of the city and temple, in August, A.D. 70. This computation of dates yields the forty-two months for Jerusalem to be “trodden under foot” as in the vision of Rev_11:2 . The historical authority for these dates is Lardner’s Jewish Testimonies, Vol. 8, and Josephus, in Wars Of The Jews, Vol. 7. The continuous historical theory of the dark ages period and to the end of time lacks historical evidence and factual support and must be rejected.
In chapter 13:5 the same exact number was used to designate the period of the beast’s authority, and for the two witnesses to testify, as mentioned in verse 3, here in chapter 11. It was the same period as the “times of the Gentiles” in Luk_21:24 , and it meant the time of judgment on Jerusalem by the Romans--therefore, the city was trodden down until the times connected with these events were fulfilled; that is, the period in which the Gentiles were engaged in the treading down of Jerusalem was thus designated, and only that period was envisioned in the mathematical phrases of the forty and two months and the thousand two hundred and threescore days.
The period designated as “the times of the Gentiles” in the Lord’s discourse on Olivet, as recorded by Luke, (21:24) does not refer to the time of salvation for the Gentiles, but to the period for the infliction of judgment on Jerusalem which was accomplished by the Gentiles (the Romans). The preposition until connected with the phrase the times of the Gentiles carries no indication of anything after the times mentioned. In Gal_3:19 the apostle declared that the law was added until Christ should come-- and that was its point of termination. In Heb_10:9 the apostle further said that the Mosaic ordinances were imposed until the time of the new covenant--and there the old ordinances ended. So the declaration that Jerusalem was trodden down until the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled had reference to the siege and destruction of the city--that was the point of termination, and Jerusalem and all for which it had stood in the system of Judaism, theocratically and politically, according to all prophecies and apocalypses concerning it, came to its inglorious end.
The testimony of the two witnesses--11:3-14.
1. Power unto my two witnesses : The statement I will give in reference to my two witnesses reveals that the speaker here is Christ, the angel of verse 1, the only One who could assume such rank and authority. The assurance I will give power is based on a promise of the Lord to the apostles in Mat_10:18-20 , that when they should be arraigned “for testimony” they should “take no thought how or what” to speak; and as in Mar_13:11 , “take no thought beforehand, neither do ye premeditate”; and as in Luk_12:12 , “the Holy Spirit shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” This is the power here given to the witnesses.
The two witnesses are representative of the prophets and apostles whose testimony was “this gospel of the kingdom” which should be “preached in all the world for a witness” before the end should come-- Mat_24:14 . The dual testimony is based on the requirement of the law in Deu_19:15 that “at the mouth of two witnesses shall the matter be established,” and repeated by Jesus in Joh_8:17 , “it is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true”; the allusion to which is made also in Heb_10:28 , “he that despised Moses’ law died . . . under two or three witnesses.”
These are the witnesses of Mat_23:31-37 , of whom the Lord said: “Ye are the children of them which killed the prophets . . . behold I send unto you prophets . . . and some of them ye shall kill . . . crucify . . . scourge . . . and persecute . . . 0 Jerusalem . . . that killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee.” They are representative of those mentioned further by Stephen in Act_7:52 , “which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?’ By the prophets of the old dispensation and the apostles of the new covenant, the testimony, divine revelation, was completed and by “the two witnesses” thereby established.
2. Prophesy . . . clothed in sackcloth : The word sackcloth was of Hebrew origin and was interfused into every language as a symbol of ill-fortune. It was the suit of mourning in death, the garb of humility and penitence under judgment, and the clothing of suffering in calamities and persecutions-as so mentioned in Job_16:15 ; Psa_30:11 ; Jer_4:8 ; Isa_29:2 ; and Zec_13:4 .
The speaker in this vision told John that his two witnesses should prophesy clothed in sackcloth, as a sign of great affliction and as a token of the extreme suffering that their testimony should cause to come upon them, portraying retrospectively the altar scenes of chapter 6:9-11, and prospectively all of the tribulations yet to be unfolded, of which the two witnesses were representatives.
3. A thousand two hundred three-score : The forty-two months equal twelve hundred sixty days, computed mathematically (42 x 30 ==1260), which is in the text declared to be "a thousand two hundred and three score days.” The reader is requested to turn back to the comments on verse 2 and compare again the parallel between Isa_7:1-25 : l-9 and the forty-two months of Revelation for an example of exact mathematical application.
It designated the period of time for the Gentiles to tread Jerusalem, the holy city, under foot, which was accomplished and fulfilled in the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans. It is also the appointed time for the two witnesses “clothed in sackcloth” to prophesy, in the appropriate garb of the prophets during the time of these woes. That is what the angel told John these representative witnesses should do, and it agrees with what the Lord also said should be done in the parallel passages previously cited in Mat_24:14 ; Mar_13:10 ; Luke 21:12-15-24 . It is evident that the period of the treading down of Jerusalem was the time of the testimony of the witnesses also.
The two olive trees and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth : Here the two witnesses are said to be two candlesticks and two olive trees. As already noted the number two stood for the established testimony of a complete revelation, being the number of witnesses required for testimony to be legally established.
The candlesticks signified light, the dispensing of light, which was its general significance always. The olive tree was then the source of the oil for the lamps, the light the two olive trees, standing in relation to two candlesticks, should dispense. Actually, our word candlestick is not exact, a sort of misnomer, since that light-dispenser held lamps only, supplied with the purest olive oil when used in the tabernacle or temple service of God. In chapters 1:20; 2:1 the candlestick was made an emblem of the church, which is not itself the light, but holds forth the light from Christ, who is Himself the light. The two witnesses were thus given an extended significance as representative of the prophets and the apostles, holding the lamp of light, burning the oil of the divine testimony of the two covenants, the Old and New Testaments. As Zerubbabel and Joshua in the same symbolism of Zec_4:1-14 , were said to be “the two anointed ones, that stand before the Lord of the whole earth,” so were the two witnesses of this vision standing before the God of the earth as the representatives of the whole body of believers, the collective “witness of Jesus” and “the word of God” by “the testimony which they held.” (Chapter 2:9; 20:4)
In verses 5-6 the two witnesses were set forth in this temple vision as both the light of the world and the protectors of the temple. “ If any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth . . . he must in this manner be killed .” No power would be able to prevail against the two witnesses until their work was done. “These 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.”
The figurative phrase to shut heaven that it rain not signifies the restraining of the civil powers to prevent and destroy the work of the witnesses. The power of the witnesses over the waters to turn them to blood and to smite the earth with all plagues were figurative descriptions of the calamities that would follow the testimony of the witnesses to the ultimate destruction of their persecutors. The days of the prophesying of the two witnesses defined the same period as the days of the voice of the seventh angel. (Chapter 10:7) In one the mystery should be finished, in the other they finished their testimony. During this period no power could prevail over them. It was that interval in which the angel of chapter 7 gave command to “hurt not . . . till we have sealed the servants of God.” If any man willed to hurt them, initiated action against them, he must in this manner be killed --he would be destroyed in the manner that verse 5 describes, by the “fire” proceeding “out of their mouths” which “devoureth their enemies.” These were the symbols of divine judgment against the persecutors of witnesses and the opponents of their testimony (verse 7), and it followed the same figures of speech of the threatened judgments of Christ to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3.
In verses 7-8, when the two witnesses had “finished their testimony,” and the “days” of their prophesying were completed, the “beast” from abyss would “make war against them” and “overcome them” and “kill them.” This agrees with the description of the “end” after the “gospel of the kingdom” had been preached “in all the world for a witness unto all nations.” Neither earthly nor hadean power could prevail against them until their testimony was finished, but when this was accomplished, the beast of the abyss would overcome them. This introduces the beast which will be described in the following chapters, personified ‘in the persecuting emperor, or power, which though as yet had not appeared in the form of the beast, was symbolized in “the angel” of the abyss of chapter 9:11. The “king” leader of chapter 9:11 was “the angel of the bottomless pit,” and from that the bottomless pit this beast ascended also. He was the “Destroyer,” the persecutor, they were identical.
The beast should overcome and kill the two witnesses. He was where they were, and where they became representatives of the persecuted church, and the martyrs, described in the following chapters. The beast could have been no other than the Roman power, for even when the Jews by their own law demanded capital punishment, it was necessarily executed by Roman authority. The unbelieving Jews were themselves the instigators of these persecutions but the Roman emperor was the executing power, and was the beast which made war, overcame, and killed the witnesses-- the cause they represented. But it was for a time only, for the witnesses should rise up and live again.
In verse 8, the specter of their dead bodies was seen lying in the street of the great city ; it was an open spectacle of shame upon “the faithful city become an harlot.” ( Isa_1:21 ) The once glorious city was figuratively called “Sodom and Egypt,” a designation known to the Jews as symbols of wickedness. Jerusalem had become a spiritual Sodom and Egypt. ( Jer_23:14 ; Eze_16:46-52 ; Isa_1:10 )
The great city is identified in the text as Jerusalem by the description where also our Lord was crucified, of which, and in reference to himself, Jesus said, “for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.” ( Luk_13:33 ; Mat_23:34-37 )
It was consistent with all aspects of the scene to designate Jerusalem as Sodom and Egypt. The two names in biblical history were synonymous with abominable wickedness, oppression and persecution. Both designations--the holy city, and Sodom and Egypt--were adaptable to the checkered history of Jerusalem.
In verse 9, it is stated that the people and kindred and tongues and nations , such as were represented in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, should see the dead bodies of the two witnesses. The word see indicated that the people would come to know the testimony of the witnesses, and would not allow them to be put in the grave--that is, the cause of the two witnesses survived.
5. The three and one-half days here were one-half of the symbolic seven, a shortened period of calamity, corresponding to the Lord’s description of these tribulations in Mat_24:22 and Mar_13:20 : “And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days”- - t he cause only shortly defeated.
A comparison of this application of the phrase three and one-half days is found also in the message that Jesus sent to Herod, recorded in Luk_13:31-33 : “The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee. And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk today, and tomorrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.” This was an effort of the Pharisees to scare Jesus; he was lingering too long in Galilee to please his adversaries; and he was adding followers and new adherents to his teaching, as his reputation increased. The province of Galilee was a safe retreat from the dangers that would surround Jesus in Jerusalem, and the Pharisees knowingly attempted to reverse the Lord’s favorable surroundings. It was an alleged Herodian threat, which if true, and Jesus had yielded to the intimidation, it would have involved him in an ignoble flight from the scene of his ministry; and if not true, it was the strategy of the Pharisees under friendly mien and confidential guise to divert his course from Galilee into the more perilous regions of Jerusalem.
The pretension was that despite their differences the Pharisees were concerned with the Lord’s safety; but there was no evidence that Herod Antipas had any designs of killing Jesus, as ascribed by these Pharisees. He had already enough blood on his hands by the execution of John in which he had been entangled and entrapped unawares ( Mat_14:2 ); and thinking that Jesus was John raised to life ( Luk_9:7-9 ), he would not have been so foolish as to kill him again; beside this, is the fact that Herod did not want to kill Jesus, as shown by his sending him back to Pilate rather than to sentence Jesus in his own court. ( Luk_23:6-11 )
The Herodian report was a Pharisaical invention, a fiction of their own to rid Galilee of Jesus, rather than a collusion with or an actual threat from Herod. And in the spirit of irony, not at all alien to his teaching, Jesus fell in with the report, knowing that the fox, whom he called that fox, was none other than the Pharisees themselves.
The Lord answered the Pharisees: Behold, I cast out devils, and do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. It would be equivalent to convicting the Lord of cowardice to construe his statement to mean that he would tarry in Galilee two days more and on the third day he would quit! The proper analysis of the passage is: As in the past, so in the present (today); I shall continue without interruption (tomorrow); and in the future also (third day), I shall pursue this course until my ministry shall have reached completion in the finished work (perfected).
There had been a predetermined time for the Lord’s earthly ministry; instead of fleeing he would accomplish his work this day and tomorrow, and when the third or last day came, he should then have been perfected-his ministry fulfilled and his work finished. In the meanwhile there would be no abrupt or premature ending of his course by threats to intimidate or attempts to scare. Nevertheless I must walk today, and tomorrow, and the day following. The great Master had just stated that his divine ministry would continue to completion l now he refers to the day following as a day of walking, or the day of finished work. Henceforth, to the day of his passion, his resurrection and his ascension, until the purpose of his incarnation shall have been fully performed and accomplished, and his vicarious work crowned by his return to heaven from whence he came --until then, he would walk and work unlet and unharmed in Galilee, “for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.” His destination was Jerusalem, the evil murderess of the prophets and the deadly enemy of the kingdom of Christ--and Jerusalem would crucify him. The Lord’s words to the Pharisees, paraphrased, were these: My danger is not Galilee, nor Herod, but Jerusalem; your seat and headquarters, where you reign; and when the day of my death shall come, you the Jews, not Herod the king, will be the author of the murderous deed.
On another occasion ( Joh_11:9 ) when the disciples warned Jesus that the Jews had plotted to stone him, Jesus answered: “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” Here again a figurative expression was employed to indicate a fixed and appointed time for the ministry of Christ to be accomplished.
In the same figure of speech employed by Jesus on the two occasions mentioned, John represents the two witnesses as having been dead in the street the three and one-half days. Here it denoted that fixed and appointed time for the people to see their testimony, as a result of martyrdom, during the period of suffering. But the fixed time was designated as three and one-half days because that figure is one-half the seven days period--as the number seven represented the full time; and one-half of seven, the three and one-half days, represented the shortening of the period of tribulation through which they were passing. This application of the time figure blends into a complete harmony with the Lord’s own predictive narrations of the tribulation period, as though woven by one hand into one apocalyptic garment: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” ( Mat_24:21-22 ) The three and one-half days of the two witnesses were the pictorial fulfillment of the Lord’s own prophetic descriptions.
The pronouncement of verse 9 that they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations . . . shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves indicated that the defeat of their cause was of short duration--it would survive death, as life returning before decomposition. All of the combined powers of persecution could not prevent the survival of the testimony of the two witnesses. But-- they that dwell on earth rejoiced- -the enemies of the cause showed great jubilation over the death and public exposure of the witnesses, rejoicing in the victory they thought was gained-but their celebrations were premature. In their exchanges of praise and self-congratulation they would send gifts one to another with mutual admiration in the part each of them played in the prosecution of the cause of the two witnesses gloating in victory because the two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth . The earth signified the place of the powers, the sphere of authority. They were tormented by the presence and testimony of the two witnesses as the gospel torments the disobedient. ( Act_7:54 ); and as the effect of truth on evil spirits ( 1Jn_4:18 ; Mat_8:29 ; Mar_5:7 ; Luk_8:28 ).
The finale to the scene of the two witnesses was signified in verse 11: After three days and a half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet: The resurrection of the cause for which the two witnesses died was here envisioned. It compares with Isaiah’s vision of the figurative resurrection of Israel from Babylonian exile ( Isa_26:13-19 ); and with Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones ( Eze_37:1-14 ), in which the prophets described the resurrection of Israel from the grave of their captivity. The Ezekiel and Revelation passages contain several parallel expressions--the first, bearing on the return of the captive people of Israel from exile, and the latter applying to the overcoming of the heathen persecutions; the victory of the church over the persecutors; and the emergence from that period of tribulation and trial. Concerning Israel in captivity, Ezekiel said: “Come from the four winds, 0 breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live . . . and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet.” After the same manner of language in Rev_11:1-19 , John said: “The Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet.” The Ezekiel passage was a prophetic picture of the return of Israel from captivity; and the Revelation passage was an apocalyptic portrayal of the emergence of the church from the period of persecution.
The effect of seeing the two witnesses stand upon their feet was described in these words: Great fear upon them which saw them : Reverence came over the by-standers-- not the enemies themselves as yet-but the resuscitation of the witnesses, as of life out of death, brought reverence for the testimony of the witnesses.
Having been revived the two witnesses heard a voice saying: Come up hither (verse 12), and they ascended in a cloud. The triumph of the cause of the apostles and prophets over all foes was thus signified, and they were glorified for their testimony. It is on this principle that the souls of the slain lived and reigned with Christ in Rev_20:4 ; and that true Christians now reign with Him, as affirmed by the apostle in Rom_8:17 , 1Co_4:8 and 2Ti_2:11 . In the vision their enemies beheld them ascend up to heaven. The witnesses heard the voice, and the enemies be held them ascend--it is the scene of victory; it is the apocalyptic picture of the triumph of the cause of the apostles and prophets--the two-fold source of inspired testimony.
The awesome aftermath of these fearful occurrences was described in verse 13: In the same hour there was a great earthquake. The “same hour” evidently meant in the midst of these events--the period of the triumph of the cause and the testimony of the two witnesses--in the hour of the interlude between sixth and seventh trumpets. The earthquake signified the revolutionary storms, uprisings and upheavals in human affairs, in governments, and among both Jewish and Roman authorities, as it became evident to all, even the most desperate that the Jewish state and Jerusalem, their city, were doomed.
The statement that a tenth part of the city fell may seem obscure in meaning and application, but it has both religious and historical significance.
In the previous chapters the like figurative phrases were used in the pronouncements of woes, saying that a third part of the earth was smitten. The division of parts was descriptive of the devastations accompanying the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and the blight of the whole land of Palestine that resulted. The woes symbolized this devastation as a series of occurrences, executed in succession. Each calamity was therefore symbolized as a fractional but a component part, in the order of the woes that were being pronounced.
After the same apocalyptic manner, the saying that there was a great earthquake and the tenth part of the city fell, meant that the city and state and commonwealth of the Jews had come to an end. There were ten provinces of the Roman empire, and in this apocalypse the commonwealth of Palestine was represented as a tenth part. The fall of Jerusalem, the capital city, brought the same disaster upon the entire Jewish commonwealth and, as a synecdoche, the part was put for the whole--Jerusalem representing Palestine, the tenth part of the empire, and when as a tenth part, the city fell, so a tenth part of Rome fell.
It was as a result of the great earthquake that the tenth part fell, and the earthquake was symbolic of the great political upheavals that took place all over the Roman empire in connection with these catastrophes. The siege and destruction of Jerusalem had become the signal for revolutions in various other Roman provinces, the historical fact and details of which Josephus and Pliny relate, corroborate and verify. It was therefore reasonable and appropriate apocalyptically to put Jerusalem for the whole commonwealth, and with the downfall of the city, the tenth part fell. This view is further supported by the fact that there is no historical record of such a mathematically fractional part of Jerusalem falling during the siege. The contextual surroundings of the phrase were descriptions of the universal impact of the downfall of the Jewish state and theocracy on the whole empire, a tenth part of which fell with the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and the demolition of the temple which symbolized the theocratic state; and the downfall of the perverted system of Judaism; and the end of the existence of the whole Jewish state. It is no marvel that these catastrophic events should be envisioned as a great earthquake, shaking the whole empire; and it is no wonder that the city was envisioned as a tenth part in the great downfall.
In further emphasis upon the colossal effect of such a stupendous event upon the whole Roman world, the huge imagery continues with the following declaration: And in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand. From the beginning of time seven was the number of days in a week, and the number seven has been used in scripture, prophecy and apocalypse as a symbol of the perfect and complete. The employment of this symbolic number in that statement, “in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand,” denoted that the destruction of the Jewish commonwealth was complete in the judgment that was passed on Jerusalem.
Then, in contrast with the downfall of the enemies of the cause represented by the two witnesses it was said that the remnant were affrighted --that is, the calamities were so great the rest of the populace, those not waging the persecutions, abandoned their leaders and rulers in the midst of the awe of the fearful occurrences. As the Roman centurion executioner stood in awe at the crucifixon of Christ ( Mat_27:54 ), saying, “truly this was the Son of God,” so beholding the things transpiring “the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.” This was the apocalyptic gleam of light piercing the gathering clouds of darkness--the omen of the success of the gospel and of the ultimate deliverance from persecution awaiting all who would be true to the faith. With this assurance, verse 14 declared that the second woe is past; and, behold, the third cometh quickly. The preceding scenes of the two witnesses had predicted the second woe; now, the final blow was at hand--the end. The sounding of the seventh trumpet was immediate--cometh quickly--and that was the last woe.
The seventh trumpet--11:15.
1. The seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven. The interlude was over. The seventh trumpet sounded the finish --the end of the tribulation period. It was the completion of the “mystery of God” which was “according to the good tidings” of the prophets, fulfilled in the fall of Judaism, the triumph of Christianity, the success of gospel, the victory of the church, and the expansion of the kingdom of Christ. The “great voices in heaven” were the combined voices of the vision united as one to proclaim the announcement of the seventh trumpet.
Before this it had been an angel or a voice but now it was all of the voices together in one great voice to announce the end of all events of the vision. The work, which had begun with the prophets ( 1 Peter_1:1-25 :1 O-12) and completed by the apostles, had triumphed over the powers of men, and the kingdoms of this world had become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. The dominion of earthly rule in the kingdoms of men could no longer overpower Christianity-- through their citizens they had become the kingdoms of our Lord (God), and of his Christ. This declaration depicted the conversion of the empire’s citizens--the worldwide expansion of Christianity. It was the fulfillment of the words of Christ in Mat_24:31 to send his angels with a great sound of trumpet, after the destruction of Jerusalem to gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heaven to the other. With the fall of Jerusalem came the shaking down of all Jewish opposition to gospel.
Christianity was liberated from the fetters of Judaism and entered upon a worldwide career of leavening the civilizations of world by bringing them under the influence of Christ. Thus the kingdoms or dominions of men became the kingdoms of our Lord (God) and of his Christ . In Eph_5:5 the apostle designated it the kingdom of God and Christ, and declared in Col_1:13-14 that it was then present. But in the apocalypse, the trumpets, thunders and earthquakes were envisioned as shaking down opposition of all human dominion to give way to the “kingdom which cannot be shaken.” ( Heb_12:18-28 ) From the apostle’s vantage point could be viewed the sites of Babylonia, Persia, Grecia and Rome, all of which were shaken, upon the ruins of which was to be firmly planted and forever established the kingdom that remains.
2. “And he shall reign forever and ever.”
The seventh trumpet sounded the full sway of kingdom of Christ over all opposing forces--Jewish and Roman. From henceforth his elect were to be gathered “from the four winds, from one end of the heaven to the other” ( Mat_24:31 ) and the earth made full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. ( Isa_11:9 ; Hab_2:14 ) It was the joining of prophecy and apocalypse in the delineation of the sway of the kingdom of Christ, fulfilled in the universal sweep of the gospel. And he shall reign forever and ever. In the “kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” God shall reign forever--his dominion over all earthly kingdoms was established in the events resulting in triumph of the cause of his Christ. This reign refers to the everlasting dominion of God, which no human authority, governments or powers can ever dethrone.
The song of triumph--11:16-19.
Verse 16 reverts to the worship of the twenty-four elders of chapter 4, in the beginning of vision. They were the enthroned representatives of the Old Testament and the New Testament--of Israel and the church. The visions began and end with them, in the symbols of the complete church of God, which was here seen rejoicing in victory.
Verse 17 proclaims the success of the kingdom in a singing throng, opposite to the mourning tribes of chapter 1:7 and Mat_24:30 . It was the answer to the souls under the altar of chapter 6:9-11. God had taken to thee thy great power, exercised in the events of the visions- -and hast reigned. He had ruled and overruled, as absolute monarch of the world, governing and disposing of all things in heaven and in earth, as affirmed by prophets of, old. ( 2Sa_5:4-5 ; Psa_93:1 )
Verse 18 declares that the nations were angry in fulfillment of Psa_2:2 ; Psa_2:5 and Act_4:24-30 . It represented the attitude of the heathen world toward the gospel of Christ. The day of God’s wrath had come on the persecuting powers, as depicted in chapter 6:17. The time of the dead that they should be judged had come--they were dead as persecutors and as lord’s of dominion over the servants of Christ, as in Isa_26:13 ; Isa_26:19 in reference to Israel. The time of avenging judgment had come, for the witnesses of chapter 11:7-8; and for the martyrs of chapter 6:9-11; and for “all righteous blood shed upon the earth” of Mat_23:35 . The time had come to give victory’s reward unto his servants the prophets; and to the saints; and them that fear thy name. The imagery delineates the ruin of the enemies and the reward of the servants and saints of God and Christ--summed up in the phrase small and great, the full aggregation of them that fear thy name. These all, in the aggregate, were included in song of glorified elders. The Jewish rulers, aided by Roman rulers, who together contrived to destroy the earth in their opposition to the kingdom of God, by the persecutions waged were themselves destroyed. In Mat_21:33-46 , Jesus specifically pictured this end of the Jewish rulers and their state.
Verse 19 presents the closing scene-- the temple of God opened in heaven. It was the new temple, the vision of that which was measured for preservation in chapter 11:1. It was the “true tabernacle” of Heb_8:2 ; Heb_9:13 ; Heb_10:9 . It was only re-introduced here, without further description, to become a part of second series of visions.
In this new temple was disclosed the ark of his testament. In the Jewish temple of John’s time, yet standing, there was no ark of covenant “within the veil.” It had long been lost. But in the vision of the restored temple--the true spiritual temple ( Heb_8:2 ), which supersedes the temple made with hands, there reappears the holiest and most sacred of all the treasures of the old tabernacle--the ark of the covenant. It symbolized that what was lost in the old is restored in the new--and the apostate Jewish state yielded its place to the complete restoration and perfection in the New Testament church of Christ.
The curtains fall in the last words of this first vision: And there were lightnings, voices, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.
These things followed all that had gone before in the vision. When the seventh trumpet sounded, the vision ended with lightnings, voices, thunders, an earthquake, and hail, which all at once came, as the sign to John that the revelation had not ended with the first vision. The great crisis just passed was to be followed by more of the same symbolism-- and the heaven of this vision was therefore still open with the close of chapter 11. But the beast that was, and was not, of chapter 13:8, yet is --he would again be active. Thus chapter 11 ends the first sequence of events. T h e second begins with chapter 12, and repeats the imagery in another but similar set of symbols, extending the same events and experiences.
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Wallace, Foy E. "Commentary on Revelation 11". "Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany