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The Interlude in Ch. Revelation 10:1 to Revelation 11:13
The seven angels with the seven trumpets form a prophetic picture in itself complete, bringing matters fully to an end, as was the case also with the preceding group of the six seals; and after it an entirely new beginning follows, the vision of the three enemies of the kingdom of God. In this section Revelation 10:1 to Revelation 11:13 forms a sort of episode; and ch. Revelation 11:14 connects itself with Revelation 9:21.
The prophet sees a strong angel descending from heaven, Revelation 10:1. First by a symbolical action—namely, having his right foot planted on the sea, the left on the earth—and then by an express word, coupled with an oath, this angel announces, that under the trumpet of the seventh angel the full and perfect realization of all the promises made to the church concerning her final victory over the world and the kingdom of glory should be accomplished, Revelation 10:2-7. Then he gives to the prophet a little book of painful contents, which should enable him and the church to bear that first business with a courageous spirit. [Note: The correct view of this connection between the first business of the angel and the second is found in Vitringa: “This vision is of a consolatory kind, as in it the Holy Spirit sought to fit and prepare John, and in him the church, for the new revelation, contained in the little book, concerning some new and very severe calamity that was to befal the church, and of which much is said in the subsequent part of this prophecy; so that what was to come might be borne with a patient and composed mind, and with the experience of much consolation.”] He swallows the little book, and is thereby put in a capacity for uttering the prophecy which follows in ch. Revelation 11:1-13, and by which the contents of the little book are made known. The church—alas! that it should be so—has become subject to the power of the world, not only externally, but partly also internally, connected with it and leagued together for the persecution of the true confessors of the faith. The kernel, however, remains unhurt, and the elect abide stedfast under the trial. Those only who stand in a loose relation to the church shall fall under it. Whoever in the church has, to him it shall then be given, and only from him who has not shall be taken away what he has. Through the whole course of the external and internal pressure of the world on the church, the work of witnessing proceeds by the operation of the grace of God. And the reformation of the church, prepared by this, has been ever and anon brought about by means of God’s visitations of judgment. By these it is effected, that the blessed seed scattered by the faithful germinates, and grows and brings forth fruit.
The interlude here between the sixth and seventh trumpets has its correspondence in the vision of the seven seals, which is united with this into a pair, and in common with it is of a preparatory and introductory character, in the episode between the sixth and seventh seals, ch. 7. There, too, the look is turned from the world, with the fates of which, according to the historical starting-point of the book, its chief scenes have alone to do, to the church; as is the case also here. How does it go with the church of God during the frightful judgments which come upon the world? This question is answered in the whole of the seventh chapter. But, while there the discourse is of the state of the church under the plagues which desolate the world, the question that is answered here, having immediate reference to the two last verses of ch. 9, is: How does the church stand related to the corruption of the world that lies in wickedness, and which proves itself to be irremediable even under the severest judgments of God? To this question the answer is of a less joyful kind than to the first. There the bright side of the church’s future is presented to our view; but here it is the dark side; though still even in the night the stars appear shining. It goes otherwise in the church of the Lord, in consequence of the strong pressure of the world on it, than could well have been imagined by those who have not known from their own experience the weakness of the flesh as to its dread of suffering, and the deceitfulness of the heart; who have not obtained any deep insight into the mystery of sin. For, even in the church much apostacy and corruption discover themselves, and there too is the agency of God to be displayed in executing judgment. But the pain this was fitted to occasion is softened, a balsam is prepared for the wound at the very first by the appearance of the rainbow around the strong angel’s head in ch. Revelation 10:1; and not only so, but against the apostacy a reaction takes place in the midst of the church, which is strengthened by God, and brought to glory, though not without and reverses; so that the judgment is not a consuming one, but only prepares the way for the operations of grace. When this manifests itself, then the distinction between the world and the church properly appears. The powers that lay bound in the latter are by the judgment of God set free. Of the world it is said in ch. Revelation 9:20-21, the two verses that form the transition to this interlude, “And the rest of the men that were not killed by these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons,” etc. Here, on the other hand, it is said with manifest reference to that starting-point of the whole, “And the rest were frightened, and gave glory to the God of heaven.” Thus we obtain a firm foundation for the consolatory announcement of the strong angel, that the completion of the mystery of God infallibly approaches, and which was fitly made to precede the representation of the facts, that were so much fitted to beget despair in respect to that completion. For how could a church that had become so much identified with the world, obtain a final victory over the world! It is announced in reply, first, that the worldly admixture is not a total one, reaching to the innermost source of life, and then, that the judgment of God shall purge it out.
Revelation 11:1. And there was given to me a reed like a slick, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. Revelation 11:2. But the court, which is without the temple, throw out and measure it not, for it is given to the heathen, and the holy city shall they tread down forty and two months. In the words of our Lord, as recorded in Matthew 24:9-13, we are presented with the naked thoughts of this passage, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another, and many false prophets shall arise and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” The fundamental truth also is found in the parable of the sower, where the outer court here had its correspondence in him who “heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while, for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and bye he is offended.” Now, this thought has here, agreeably to the nature of vision, which lends form to what is spiritual, flesh and blood imparted to it. The church appears under the symbol of the temple, which for so many centuries was the seat and external representation of the kingdom of God, and hence occurs, otherwise than in vision, in a series of passages in the New Testament as the designation of the church, John 2:19; Mark 14:58; Ephesians 2:21-22; Tim. Revelation 3:15; 2 Corinthians 6:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Hebrews 3:6. The temple proper denotes those, who are deeply filled and penetrated by the spirit of the church, the outer court those, who are only superficially affected. The rising up forms the contrast to the sitting. But both the sitting and the rising belong only to the vision. In the reality, it is the transition from rest to activity, which is denoted by the rising. The import of the measuring is determined by the opposite throwing out. It is measured as far as the preservation is to go. Where the measuring ceases, there the line of abandoning begins. The figurative representation here rests upon Ezekiel, by whom in Ezekiel 40 the restored temple was measured. The symbolical action here has respect to the preserving of the object represented. Beside the temple proper, which in the material building at Jerusalem consisted of the Most Holy Place, the residence of God, and the sanctuary, as the ideal abode of believers, the altar also is measured or preserved; and by this we can only understand the altar of burnt-offering—comp. on ch. Revelation 6:9. It is here transferred to the temple itself, for the therein can only refer to the temple: measure the temple of God, and the altar (in it), and them that worship in it. This shows that we are here entirely on an ideal territory. In the temple of Jerusalem the altar of burnt-offering stood in the real place of resort to the people, in the outer court; but here it is transferred to their ideal dwelling-place, to the temple itself. The meaning of the altar we learn from ch. Revelation 6:9-11: under the constraining power of love believers present themselves there as a free-will sacrifice to him who has redeemed them with his blood. Therefore, however hard the world may press, how great soever may be the desolations which it effects in the outworks, still the church remains in existence; the spirit of joyful sacrifice is preserved; true believers continually abide. The court in Revelation 11:2, as contrasted with the temple proper, must not be limited to the outer court, but denotes whatever belonged to the sanctuary beside the temple proper: the without the temple forms a manifest contrast to the within. To designate by the court without those who have not in their souls been penetrated by the spirit of the church, was the more natural, since, according to the phraseology even of the Old Testament, true believers dwell in the house of God, and come into his sanctuary, while the multitude, who are but externally related to the church, only tread the courts—see Isaiah 1:12. That the court should be thrown away, and given up to the heathen, stands related to the treading down of the city, as an effect to its cause. The overflowing of the church by the world brings it to pass, that from many, who have not, shall be taken away even that which they have. Nothing but the strong mound of a firm faith can resist their powerful billows.
The two and forty months contain only an apparent determination of time; as, indeed, all numbers in the Apocalypse have only an ideal signification; they belong not so properly to the chronological, as to the symbolical forum. The common signature of the dominion of the world over the church in the Revelation, resting on the prophecies of Daniel, (comp. at Revelation 12:6; Revelation 13:5), is the three and a half, in which we have only to think of the broken seven, the signature of the church. So that the meaning is here conveyed, that however the world may lift itself up, however it may proudly triumph, it can never attain to anything complete and lasting. These three and a half years return again in different forms: a time, two times, and an half time, ch. Revelation 12:14, forty and two months, here and in ch. Revelation 13:5, 1260 days in ch. Revelation 12:6. In the number of the beast also in ch. Revelation 13:18, the same thing substantially holds as in these numbers. We have here before us a representation, which does not bring into view some particular period of time in the world’s history, but the whole course of it, only that towards the end every thing realizes itself in a more perfect manner. Wherever the world is found overflowing the church, from that of which John himself saw the commencement, to the last in ch. Revelation 20:7-9, of which we have now the beginning before our eyes, there the substance of the prophecy always verifies itself anew, there the obligation still remains to those who are affected by the evil, to take it as the ground of consolation and warning to their hearts. At the same time, it is interesting and rich in consolation and warning to trace in history the particular exemplifications of our prophecy. Let any one read, for example, what Eusebius has written at the beginning of his eight book on the Diocletian persecution. A great degeneracy in the Christian church preceded it, many were shaken by it, many more made entire shipwreck; yet true believers remained stedfast, and the church was built up, through the noble constancy of the martyrs. [Note: Vitringa: “Doubtless with grief and sorrow of mind did true Christians see great numbers among those who bad professed faith in Christ suffering themselves, through fear of infamy and torture, to be prevailed upon to blaspheme the name of Christ and do homage to idols. God at that time measured the church by the plumb line of judgment, as it is in the vision of Amos, and publicly detected many hypocrites and others watering in the faith.”] The thought in this prophecy was in other respects quite correctly apprehended by the older expositors. Thus on the expression, “the holy city shall be trodden down,” Bossuet remarks, “Christians shall be under the sway of the unbelievers; but though the weak shall fall, the church shall continue in strength. This is the first point which St John apprehends in the persecutions: the church continually abiding.”
In the second part of the section, Revelation 11:3-13, the church obtains the consolatory assurance, that even in the times of the most profound darkness and of the greatest worldly intermixture, the witnessing office and the possession of the gifts of the Spirit shall be perpetuated in her.
THE SEVEN TRUMPETS (Ch. Revelation 8:2 to Revelation 11:19 )
The distribution of this group is as follows.
Revelation 8:2, “And I saw the seven angels, who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets,” supplies, as it were, the place of a superscription. It presents immediately before our eyes, those from whom all action proceeds in the great drama that follows. Next comes in the vision of the incense-offering angel, a kind of prelude Revelation 8:3-5. Then begins the work of the seven angels. The plagues of the four first, Revelation 8:6-12, alight upon the earth, the sea, the rivers, the heavens, and thus compose together one whole, inasmuch as they embrace the entire territory of creation. The three last trumpets are likewise bound up together. After the four first have been brought to a close, they are announced in ch. Revelation 8:13 by an eagle, which proclaims a threefold woe on the inhabitants of the earth. The fifth trumpet and the first woe is contained in ch. Revelation 9:1-12; the sixth trumpet and the second woe in Revelation 8:13-13, on which follows an episode in Revelation 10:1 to Revelation 11:13, so that the concluding formula is only given in ch. Revelation 11:14. Then comes at the close of the whole the seventh trumpet and the third woe, in ch. Revelation 11:15-19.
The three last trumpets, by being designated as the three last woes, are represented relatively to the four first, as greatly the more important and frightful; and in accordance with this is the much more lengthened description that is given of them. The fifth trumpet, or the first woe, takes up almost twice as much space as is devoted to the whole of the first four together. Only in the third woe, the seventh trumpet, do we find a less extended description than might have been expected; the reason of which shall afterwards be considered.
Again, on the first six trumpets in relation to the seventh—leaving out of view the point of some of them belonging to the woes—there is impressed the character of the half and incomplete. In the first four trumpets the third part of the sphere on which the injury alight is uniformly mentioned. The locusts under the fifth trumpet torment, according to ch. Revelation 9:5; Revelation 9:10, five months, the five being the signature of the half and incomplete, in contrast to the last trumpet and the last woe, when the mystery of God is finished, which he has revealed to his servants, the prophets, ch. Revelation 10:7. In the sixth trumpet the third part of men is again killed.
The following remarks may serve for defining the circle within which the seven trumpets move. The historical starting-point of the whole book comes first into consideration. The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which John imparts, was occasioned by a severe oppression of the Christian church through the heathen world-power. Accordingly, we expect such a revelation as will bring destruction to this hostile power, but salvation to the church. Then, the introductory vision of the angel with frankincense, in ch. Revelation 8:3-5, is to be taken into account. The fundamental thought here is, that God will hear the fervent prayers of his struggling and afflicted church, and cause his judgments to go forth against the world. Hence, only such things can be suitable here as are salutary to the church, destructive to the world; and the expositions, which discover in the group persecutions of Christians, heresies (that of Arius, for example, whom many understand most strangely under the falling star in ch. Revelation 8:10), mendicant friars, etc., are at the outset excluded. Finally, the whole in the seven trumpets runs out into the fact, that the kingdom of the world has become the Lord’s and his anointed, ch. Revelation 11:15. But the six first trumpets are already even outwardly marked as preparatory to the seventh. They could, therefore, only indicate approaches of the dominion of the Lord and his anointed, precursory manifestations of power on their part in respect to it—as Bengel justly remarks, though unfortunately, without afterwards abiding by the right view: “Beforehand, however, there falls on the kingdom of the world one stroke and calamity after another.” Vitringa, also, had a correct apprehension of the general import, and only departed from this in his interpretation of the particular parts; for he says, “The plagues were designed to punish and extirpate the enemies of God’s people, so that that large and glorious kingdom might be prepared for Christ and his saints.”
There can be no doubt that this group bears an independent character, that it stands by itself separate and complete. This is manifest especially from a comparison of ch. Revelation 8:5 with ch. Revelation 11:19. In the former passage we have the prophecy, in the latter the complete fulfilment. Further, at the close of the vision we stand at the last end (see Introd. to ch. 12), so that the scene cannot be prolonged farther in this line. At the beginning, again, of the vision, we stand at the first commencement, and it cannot possibly be imagined that we have here a description of the things that were to follow immediately on what is announced in ch. Revelation 8:1. (See, in regard to the notion of every thing to the end of ch. 11 still belonging to the territory of the seven seals, the Introd. to ch. 12.) In ch. Revelation 8:1, at the opening of the seventh seal, we see the world-power lying shattered and prostrate on the ground. Here, on the other hand, we have another series of catastrophes, which bear the signature of the half and incomplete, and only when we reach the seventh trumpet do we find ourselves again at the same point at which we were when the seventh seal was disclosed. In the sixth seal even, where every thing appeared already in dreadful convulsion and immediately approaching its end, it was impossible that such catastrophes should follow, as are indicated here in the first four trumpets. The result is, that the world-catastrophes represented here could only run parallel to those described in the earlier group. But the independence maintained by us is that only of but one group, not that of a separate writing, which has been only accidentally and externally united into one whole with another. There exists, first, a near connection between this group and the preceding one. If we had here an independent writing before us, the beginning: And I saw the seven angels, would be unsuitable. The introductory vision of the angel with incense would then also have formally stood at the head, without being connected by any sort of bridge with what goes before. But now, since the seven angels with the trumpets are formally linked together with the seven angels, they must also be materially associated with them. In an independent writing also the theatre would have required to be more particularly described. Here, it is presupposed as a thing known from the preceding context (ch. Revelation 4:1): John still finds himself in heaven. But this group likewise points forward to what is to follow; as appears in a double respect. First, the final catastrophe, to which all the others are preparatory, the object of all the fervent longings of the people of God, is delineated here with greater brevity than the other preliminary ones. The description of it is properly confined to ch. Revelation 11:19. This can only be explained on the ground, that the more extended representation of the final catastrophe was reserved for a later opportunity. The supposition is the more probable, as the brevity is an enigmatical one, pointing to a commentary afterwards to be given. Further, the Revelation was seen in the midst of the Roman persecution. According to the analogy of the earlier prophets, that, for example, of Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 13, we expect on the general ground of the representation of judgments to be inflicted on the world, a special disclosure of the fate of this ungodly world-power in particular. But this is as little found here as in the group of the seven seals. All the judgments befal the inhabitants of the earth, under whom the Romans are certainly comprehended, but never solely intended. Vitringa, who remarks, “The seven trumpet-blasts indicate the evils which are decreed against the Roman kingdom on account of its hostility to the church of Christ, and which shall end with the entire subjection of this kingdom,” resorts to an arbitrary limitation of the sphere of the divine judgments. But this group, like the preceding one, for the most part retains a kind of general character, which was admirably in place in the introduction to the closing prophetical book of Scripture, though it could not possibly continue to stand at that. We should have laid down the book with an unsatisfactory feeling, if it had merely been distinguished by the vividness with which it represented the avenging righteousness and redeeming love of God, and had not presented the leading features of the later development of things in the history of the church and the world, more especially in that direction, which accords with the historical starting-point of the Revelation. We could not otherwise have been able to get rid of the thought, that the introduction in ch. Revelation 1:1-3 makes too high pretensions. None of the great prophets of the Old Testament, though they still had the mission first of all of instilling general truths into the minds of the people, while John found this already done to his hand, remained thus at mere general enunciations, such as, that sin is the destruction of a people, that God punishes all the enemies of his church, etc. With all of them, indeed, the special rests on the general as its foundation; only it does not stand there. There is, besides, in Revelation a twofold special reference to the contents of the later groups. The voices of the seven thunders in ch. Revelation 10:4, which John (in the meantime) was not to write, but to seal up, point to a later group, in which it is going to be reported concerning the time of the mystery of God, as he has announced it to his servants the prophets. And the beast which ascends from the abyss, which suddenly meets us in ch. Revelation 11:7, is a riddle that finds no solution within this group, though it is impossible but that a solution should be given. These indications pointing forwards to the following groups correspond to the not less intended allusion to the group of the seven seals in ch. Revelation 9:4.
We may endeavour to determine more exactly the relation of this group to the preceding one. The commonest and most frightful scourge through which the vengeance of heaven discharges itself on the apostate earth is war. The other plagues, such as hunger and pestilence, commonly appear only in its train. In the preceding group also war has broken out. But it appears there only as on a like footing with the other plagues. This second introductory group, however, is entirely devoted to it. To the last trumpet, that of the final victory, all here is only an expansion of the words of our Lord, “Nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,” Matthew 24:7.
We have now only further to endeavour to explain the symbol of the trumpets. In Scripture trumpets are always employed on account of their piercing, loud sound. What may be more exactly meant, must in each case be determined by the connection. The sound of the trumpet has no intrinsic worth in itself.
That the loud stirring noise of the trumpet is the essential characteristic is evident from the circumstance that the sound of the trumpet is itself described as a cry, תרועה , or sample in Leviticus 25:9, and that the loud cry goes along with it as a fitting accompaniment; comp. Joshua 6:5, where the people were to raise a great shout at the blowing of the trumpets, Zephaniah 1:16. Then it appears from such passages as Isaiah 58:1, “Raise thy voice like a trumpet,” Hosea 8:1, “Put the trumpet to thy mouth and say, He comes upon the house of the Lord like an eagle,” where the loud tone is plainly indicated by that of the trumpet. Finally, it appears from the use of trumpets in the sacred music. In my Commentary on the Psalms, it was remarked in reference to this: “Other instruments (besides harps and psalteries) are mentioned only in festival and national songs of praise; as trumpets at the thanksgiving for Jehoshaphat’s victory, Psalms 47:5, at the paschal feast in Psalms 81:3, at the consecration of the walls of the city in Nehemiah’s time, in Psalms 150. In the historical books trumpets are mentioned at the bringing in of the ark of the covenant, 1 Chronicles 15:24, “And the priests trumpeted with trumpets before the ark of the Lord” (comp. 2 Samuel 6:15, “And David and all Israel brought up the ark with a shout and the sound of trumpets”)—at the consecration of the temple, 2 Chronicles 5:12-13—at the solemn restoration of the worship under Hezekiah, 2 Chronicles 29:26-27; finally, in Ezra 3:10, Nehemiah 12:35. They are always mentioned in connection with other very noisy instruments. In 2 Chronicles 30:21 it is said of the passover under Hezekiah, that “they praised the Lord with instruments of strength, which were to Jehovah,” Michaelis: musical instruments being employed of such a kind as gave forth a strong sound; Jarchi: with trumpets, having respect to 2 Chronicles 29:26-27. (Psalms, vol. III. p. xvi., Eng. Trans.) Accordingly, the loud stirring voice was the characteristic. This use of the trumpets in sacred music entirely accords with Numbers 10:10, “And on your feast-days, and on your high festivals, and on your new moons, ye shall blow with trumpets.” Hence, festivals and trumpets were inseparably connected together. As the festival-day was related to other days, so the sound of the trumpet to other sounds.
Bähr in his Symbolik (Th. II., p. 594), has laboured in vain to give to the sound of the trumpet a definite meaning, especially to bring it into connection with the Sabbath-idea. But it is against this, that in the Sabbatical year there was no sounding of trumpets, nor at the Sabbath of weeks. Then, it must be altogether denied that on the first day of the seventh month pre-eminently the trumpets were blown, so as that it should be known by this, and in this alone should be found the peculiarity of the festival. The day is called in Leviticus 23:24, Numbers 29:1, not the day, but a day of blowing of trumpets, not less than the great festivals, at which this was to be understood, as a matter of course, to be done. The sound of the trumpet was not more peculiar to it than the cessation from work, the calling of a sacred convocation, the presentation of sacrifices. Still less indeed, for it was common to this feast not merely with the great feasts, but even with all the new moons, according to Numbers 10:10. We must not separate the blowing of the trumpets on the first day of the seventh month, as to its meaning, from that on the other new moons, and generally on the public festivals. As the sacrifices on this day possessed no partial character, but represented all spheres of the religious life, so we must not give to the sound of the trumpets a partial meaning. It points to the more excited character of the religious feeling, which is peculiar to festive occasions generally, of the “Lord, have mercy on us,” not less than of the “Lord, we give thee thanks,” and in particular to those feasts which marked the commencement of a new period of time. Besides, the sound of the trumpet being put for the mark or signal in Leviticus 23:24, shows that the blowing of the trumpets on that day had only a subjective character, that it merely served to bring the Lord to the remembrance of the congregation, comp. Numbers 10:9, “And ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets, and it shall be remembered to you before the Lord your God, Numbers 10:10, and it shall serve to you for a remembrance before your God.” Bähr’s supposition, of its being indicated by the sound of the trumpet, that Israel was brought into remembrance before Jehovah, is against this passage. According to it the blowing with trumpets is a call of the congregation, and not an announcement on the part of God. Else, the blowing with trumpets must have been committed to the priests, and not to the people. Nor in Numbers 29:1, could it have appeared among the obligations of the church at large, along with the calling of sacred convocations, and the cessation from all work. Finally, the hypothesis of Bähr finds no support in the circumstance, that by the prescription of the law the trumpets must be sounded throughout the land in the year of jubilee on the day of atonement. By this it was merely intimated, through the strong, far-resounding sound of the trumpet, that an important time for the land had come in. The 50th year was thereby consecrated, Leviticus 25:10, set apart from the number of the rest. The more definite purpose is intimated in the proclamation of liberty throughout the whole land for all its inhabitants, mentioned in that passage. Only in this connection did the loud sound become at the same time a joyful one.
We must distinguish, whether the trumpets must denote what God has to say to the church or the world, or what the church has to Say to God. This distinction was already made in the Mosaic law. Of the use of the trumpets for what the Lord has to say to the church, it is treated in the classic passage on the trumpets, Numbers 10:2-8; where, however, only two occasions are mentioned, the assembling of the congregation and decamping. And of their use in what the church had to say to God, in times of distress or on festival days, it is treated in Numbers 10:9-10. In the former case, the sound of the trumpet might with perfect indifference be employed to announce a joyful subject, a great salvation; as, for example, the falling of the walls of Jericho; or to give notice of great tribulation, as in Joel 2:1, where the day of judgment is announced by trumpets, “Blow with trumpets on Zion, and sound upon my holy mount, let all inhabitants of the earth tremble, for the day of the Lord comes, and is near.” But it can only be in respect to important transactions, such as were of general significance, of deep pervasive power, that they are used; either great catastrophes are announced by trumpets, or important tidings, which the Lord has to communicate to his people. As the Lord will never summon his people for trifling matters to his throne, the sound of the trumpet might certainly be taken for the common note of a summoning before the Lord.
In the latter case the blowing of the trumpets might serve equally well to denote an animated “Lord, in distress to thee we call,” and an animated and solemn, Te Deum laudamus. The characteristic is merely the rising of the state of feeling above the common measure.
The question: Why should the blowing of trumpets have been a matter properly belonging to the priests by the law of Moses? is simply to be answered thus: because the trumpets “had of all instruments the loudest, strongest, most powerful tone,” and on this account were used, where the Lord had to say something of importance to his church, or where the church came before him in a particularly lively and excited state of feeling. The trumpets stand related to the other instruments, as the Lord’s servants to the ordinary members of the church, as the feast-day to the other days.
Let us turn now more especially to the section before us. The more immediate import of the trumpet-sound is determined by the starting-point of the hook. The occasion of this was the oppression of the church by the heathen world-power. Accordingly by the trumpets only great catastrophes can be denoted, through which destruction should be brought to the world, and salvation be first prepared for the church, and then actually brought in. The trumpets here are exciting for all— joyfully exciting for the church, frightfully exciting for the world.
Such generally is the signification of the trumpets here. With a certain degree of truth, however, three special references may still be supposed.
By combining the seven number with the trumpets we are not unnaturally reminded of the conquest of Jericho. For seven days must Israel, according to Joshua 6, march round the city at the Lord’s command in solemn procession, with the ark of the covenant and seven priests blowing with trumpets—each day once—but on the seventh day, seven times. And at the last round the walls fell down. In the book of Joshua Jericho has a kind of symbolical meaning. What was done at the fortress, which guarded the entrance into the territory of the Canaanites, presented an image of what should be done in general respecting the Canaanitish power. Faith saw in the last trumpet-blast at the walls of Jericho, along with these, the whole state of the Canaanites, apparently so strong and invincible, falling to the ground. If Jericho, then, in the book of Joshua forms an image of the Canaanitish power, it is admirably fitted to stand as a type of the world-power generally, the overthrow of which ensues on the blowing of the seventh trumpet, in which all the preceding ones culminate.
The Old Testament presents a second case of the combination of trumpets with the seven, and one that stands in an easy and natural connection with the subject before us. After seven times seven years it was ordained in the Mosaic law, that the year of jubilee should be proclaimed by trumpets—the year, when the Lord announced himself as proprietor—the year, when every one returned to his possession ( Leviticus 25:13)—the year of freedom and of restoration for all the distressed, who looked for it with anxious longing. This year appears even in the Old Testament, in Isaiah 61:1-2, as a type of the redemption from the slavery of the world, the year of the Lord’s grace and the day of the vengeance of our God, to comfort all that mourn. Such consolation breaks in here at the sounding of the seventh trumpet. Finally, the trumpet stands in a close relation to the excited character of war, and is peculiarly the warlike instrument—comp. Zephaniah 1:16; Jeremiah 4:19, Jeremiah 42:14; Ezekiel 7:14. Hence also, among the catastrophes to be inflicted by the Lord, which were denoted in general by the blowing of the trumpets, it was especially suited for announcing the tribulations of war that were impending from the Lord. Bengel: “In the prophecy is described God’s war against the enemies of his kingdom, on account of which the trumpets are here peculiarly appropriate.”
Revelation 11:3. And I will give to my two witnesses, and they shall prophecy a thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. Revelation 11:4. These are the two olive-trees and the two lamps, which stand before the Lord of the earth. For all who feel that they are in themselves impotent, and that nothing is done by their own strength, there is much consolation in the word, “I will give to my two witnesses.” But, at the same time, it points to the heavy responsibility which they draw upon themselves, who will not let it be given, who by their softness and indolence close up the way to the grace for witnessing, so that they cannot attain to it. The declaration, I will give to my witnesses, cuts off all excuse. The object of the giving is simply to be supplied from the following words: And they shall prophecy—comp. on ch. Revelation 2:20. The speaker is the strong angel, who gives to John the little book, Christ. The two witnesses are ideal persons, who appear in a multitude of real ones—personifications of the work of witnessing. The two number was primarily chosen on account of the pattern given in Moses (comp. with Revelation 11:6, Exodus 7:15-25 and Revelation 8-11; it was Moses who in ancient times changed the water into blood and smote the earth with many plagues), and Elias (who in the days of his prophecy shut up heaven, that it should not rain, and whose enemies were consumed by fire, comp. with Revelation 11:5-6, 1 Kings 19:17, 1 Kings 17:1). It was precisely these two persons, also, who appeared on the mount of transfiguration, where John was present, as representatives of the witnessing that belonged to the Old Testament. As such they were types of that of the New Testament. The number two also is of consolatory import. It indicates that the true witness never stands isolated, that he always finds some with whom he can join hand to hand and heart to heart, in whose strength he can invigorate his weakness, and whose weakness he can again change through his own strength into power, and so derive fresh encouragement to himself. “In the midst of all tribulation,” says a true witness, “it is an encouraging thing if one has at least one help, who stands side by side with him. Our Lord always sent forth his disciples by two together; and in earlier times there were Moses and Aaron, Joshua and Caleb, Zerubbabel and Joshua, Haggai and Zechariah, as on the opposite side Jannes and Jambres. One servant of Christ is able to support another, they mutually invigorate and strengthen each other; if they make a firm stand, they shall have both a common struggle, and a common victory and reward.”
The two witnesses prophesy clothed in sackcloth; that is, they wore mourning garments of hair-cloth, after the example of Elias and John the Baptist, Matthew 3:4. Mourning over the lamentable state of the holy city, pain at the desolation of the church, the earnest severity of repentance and of the call to repentance—these have in all times been, and still are, the marks of the Lord’s true servants, and by the degree of this pain is recognised the degree of the spiritual demand made, and the amount of spiritual energy to be brought into action. They who have no eye and no heart for the backsliding of the church, will never be able to promote its revival and edification. Nature much dislikes being clothed with sackcloth; they who follow it are not grieved at the affliction of Joseph, but play on the psaltery, and compose songs, and drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with balsam; it constantly strives to substitute in the room of the reality as it is a dream of its own; and while it often makes a very promising beginning, knows at least how to veil itself in a spiritual appearance, yet they who surrender themselves to it, shall one day be obliged to put on the garments of mourning, when the true witnesses put on their festive attire.
The two witnesses are designated in Revelation 11:4 as the two olive-trees and the two lamps, which stand before the Lord of the whole earth, alluding to Zechariah 4, according to which they bear the name of lamps and of olive-trees, as the concentration of the light, which belongs to the church of God, and an instrument of divine grace for her. What the two witnesses accomplish in behalf of the faithful, we learn partly from this, and partly from Revelation 11:1. For, manifestly it is owing pre-eminently to their services, that the temple of God, with those who worship in it, are preserved in being. But what is said of these should serve not merely for our consolation, but also for our admonition. Especially for all the ministering servants of the church it should act like a burning fire in their bones. Woe to them, if they do not perform what is here ascribed to the two witnesses—if either no application, or a very poor one, can be made to them of the word, “These are the two olive trees and the two lights”—if they are not channels of grace to the church, and give forth to her no light.” Ye are the light of the world. A city which is set on a hill, cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father that is in heaven.” “Teachers,” says Bengel, “must not be cold and dry, but filled with oil; and the church, through all her members, must appropriate the oil, so as to exhibit in their walk a lovely brightness and an attractive beauty.” The face of the witnesses turned upon the wicked, flashes on us in Revelation 11:5-6.
Revelation 11:5. And if any one will hurt them, fire goes out of their mouth and devours their enemies; and if any one will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. Revelation 11:6. These have power to shut up heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy, and have power over water, to turn it into blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will. The form in which the wrath and power of the witnesses here shews itself, as already remarked, is derived from the past. Bengel: “What Moses and what Elias had done separately, that is said to be done by the two witnesses at once. It reaches to all visible nature, heaven or the firmament, the waters and the earth.” It is the method of prophecy, to represent what is like in nature and in origin under like forms of manifestation, while still these are not specially meant, nor is anything more than the nature indicated. That is here, that the Lord gloriously arms his servants against their and his enemies. As the Lamb that was slain is at the same time the lion of the tribe of Judah, so also are those, whom he sends forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, at the same time lions, who have an invincible strength and power residing in them. Where the oil is, there also is fire. It is the strength of one and the same spirit, which manifests itself in the witnesses for the salvation of the good, and for vengeance on the wicked. The Lord has put his word in their month, which resembles a hammer, that breaks the rock in pieces; which is living and powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword, and pierces to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Whoever, taking to his aid the powers of darkness, steels and hardens his heart against this internally judging power of the witnesses of God, he still cannot escape the external judgments, which they threaten and pronounce upon him in the name of the Lord and in their own name (for God’s will is also theirs; what by the eternal laws of the divine nature is necessary is at the same time written on the tablets of their hearts). He must feel, both in time and in eternity, that he has had to do with God’s witness-bearers on earth. At the word of Elias fire came down from heaven and consumed his adversaries; and the mockery with which the infatuated people heard the word of Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 5:14, “Behold I make my word in thy mouth for fire and this people for wood, and thou devourest them”) changed into bitter lamentations, when these words assumed flesh and blood in the Chaldeans, and besieged the city, and distressed it till they left not one stone upon another. The word, “Be not deceived, God is not mocked,” holds above all in respect to God as manifesting himself in his servants, and the testimony he puts into their month. “God,” says Bengel, “is pure love; and his love has a holy order. He is good above all; therefore does he love himself above all with the holiest love, and then those creatures who stand in his love. Whatever, therefore, strikes against him (and his witnesses) in a hostile manner, shall be destroyed by him in vengeance as by a consuming fire.” To know this, is most consolatory for those, whom the Lord has called to the office of bearing witness, especially in a time like the present, which so confidently imagines that in them it has to do only with feeble men. At the same time, it is well fitted to humble them in the dust, and to fill them with holy zeal for their divine calling. Who are they! and how does it become them to feel and act, in whose hands God has placed such power!
He must in this manner be killed, in the same manner as he has hurt them, and in righteous judgment because of it—comp. ch. Revelation 18:6.
Revelation 11:7. And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the abyss shall make war with them, and shall overcome them, and shall kill them. The indifference is remarkable, with which the words, “and shall overcome them,” are here uttered. But it is explained by what precedes and what follows. They shall only be overcome when they have finished their testimony, when God has no further need for their service, when their death can produce more fruit than their life. And on their overthrow and their death follows their glorification, and springs out of it. They die only to rise again and go to heaven. Their overthrow is but a concealed victory, like the corn of wheat, which dies in the earth in order to bring forth much fruit. If this were considered aright, how would it banish the fear, which makes so many in our day inclined to timid concessions, which smites the shepherds, and causes the sheep to be scattered! To escape imaginary dangers, these persons fall into real ones. For, only one danger is really to be feared, namely, that our heart be overcome, that faith, which is the innermost life of our souls, should be slain. What is said here of the witnesses of Christ, was exemplified in Christ himself. The world hated him, and yet the enemies could accomplish nothing against him, till their hour came and the power of darkness. Then only did the darkness receive power, when he had finished his testimony, and when it was good for the church that he should go away; and his death was followed by his resurrection and ascension to heaven, as is represented here in Revelation 11:11-12, in respect to the true witnesses.” In all circumstances God still has his glory; and if it should appear that the evil gains the mastery over the good, the evil is still very limited; it cannot break forth sooner than its time, nor rise higher and last longer than God permits it. Begin but rightly with God, and the result shall not fail.” The beast that ascends out of the abyss (comp. on ch. Revelation 9:1), is mentioned here incidentally and by anticipation. The more extended description is given us by the Seer in the fourth group: the three enemies of God’s kingdom, Revelation 12-14; and in the sixth, the judgment on the three enemies, Revelation 17-20. That it should be brought into notice here plainly shews that we have not in the Revelation, as Bengel thought, a regularly progressive anticipatory history. The beast denotes the ungodly heathen state. By it here is meant the reviving of the ungodly heathen power at the close of the thousand years’ reign, or, the whole of the ungodly power is here denoted by the most prominent part, which the Seer had already before him in his own day. The brutal character of the ungodly power, which he denotes by this expression, discovers itself more and more manifestly in the present age.
Bengel says, “These are two excellent instruments, and when they shall have accomplished their task so stedfastly, such is the recompense they are to receive for it from the world; they are to find tribulation, pain, mockery, and death; so that these are not bad marks.” No, assuredly not, in a church whose Lord has been crucified, and who has said, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of the household! They shall cast yon out of the synagogue. Nay, the time shall come when he that killeth you shall think that he doeth God service.”
Revelation 11:8. And their corpse shall lie upon the street of the great city, which is called spiritually Sodom and Egypt, where also their [Note: Luther has: Our Lord, from the reading ἡ?μῶ?ν .]  Lord was crucified. Revelation 11:9. And they of the peoples, and kindreds, and tongues, and nations, shall see their dead corpse three days and an half, and shall not suffer their corpses to be laid in the grave. Revelation 11:10. And they that dwell on the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and send gifts one to another, because these two prophets tormented them that dwell on the earth. The great city is Jerusalem. But the honourable name is purposely not used. It is reserved for a better occasion. So we also, in our times of apostacy, can only speak with trembling lips of a church. We are here, however, not to think of the literal Jerusalem; but Jerusalem denotes the church as degenerate on account of the ascendancy of the world, and filled with offences, as the new Jerusalem is the purified and glorified church. The spiritually is also to be supplied to the expression: where our Lord was crucified. Outwardly the Lord was crucified in the city called Jerusalem, but spiritually in the degenerate church. The spiritual Jerusalem is compared to Egypt on account of the religious corruption with which it infected Israel in the early period of Israelitish history—comp. Ezekiel 23:3, Ezekiel 23:8, Ezekiel 23:27, “Thou shalt not remember Egypt any more;” and Ezekiel 23:19, “She called to remembrance the days of her youth, when she played the harlot in the land of Egypt.” that is, embraced her idolatry. By Sodom, on the other hand, in the original passages of the Old Testament, the morals are constantly referred to—comp. Deuteronomy 32:32; Isaiah 1:10; Ezekiel 16:46, Ezekiel 16:48; Jeremiah 23:14. [Note: Vitringa incorrectly by the fundamental passages: “Egypt, on account of the oppression, which it exercised ou the people of God, but Sodom on account of the universal corruption that prevailed in it.] The great city itself, the degenerate church, has its share in the guilt of killing the witnesses, as formerly it had a part in the death of our Lord, whose treatment is only repeated over again in the history of his servants; according to the word: the servant is not greater than his master. When the church is overrun by the world, then seeming faith, half faith, and false faith, play the part of giving up the true witnesses of the Lord to unbelief for crucifixion. By its faithlessness the world is rendered bold. Then it imagines it has done a good work, when it has persecuted the true servants of God, and abandons itself to extravagant joy, when it has got their fearless mouth shut from uttering any more its testimony. But the judgment of this world when clothed as the church, of the world in the church, shall be frightful, far more frightful than the judgment on the world, that appears simply as the world. We perceive this in the fate of the literal Jerusalem.
The three days and an half are in one respect an imitation of the history of the Lord, whom his servants must follow, and in another they point, like the three and an half years, to the seven as the signature of the kingdom of God, on which account the half day is added. The victory of the world is always but a transitory one.
Very characteristic is the expression that these prophets tormented those that dwell upon the earth. The members and servants of Christ are but a little flock, they stand in a small minority in respect to the world and the half-faith party. They have no other weapons than the word. Why, then, should men not leave them in silent contempt to pursue their course? why hate and persecute them? For no other reason, than because their word, so weak and contemptible in itself, has an ally in the hearts and consciences of those against whom it is directed. It is this that makes their word, and their whole existence, indeed, a source of torment to those who dwell upon the earth. However freely they may laugh and mock, they must still gnash their teeth. Their very hatred gives evidence against them. If the witnesses had not these allies in the hearts of the world and of the false seed in the church, it would be a piece of great folly for them to open their mouth any more. But the declaration: These two prophets tormented, is a touch-stone, by which every one may learn, whether he fulfils his office in the right spirit and with proper zeal. So long as all speak well of us, or even let us go on unmolested, we may be perfectly certain, that we are still not in the right state, and consequently can look for no proper fruits from our operations. For he who torments not, also blesses not. The ground must first be pierced by the plough before the seed can be sown in it. But those only can rejoice in the tormenting power of the prophets, and console themselves under the pain, who are prepared with a feeling heart to be the object of hatred, who find it a torment to themselves that they must torment, and can apply to themselves what has been said of Christ, “He burns and cuts, but not as a tyrant; he does it as a true, and wise, and tender physician.”
Revelation 11:11. And after the three days and an half the Spirit of life entered Into them from God, and they stood upon their feet, and a great fear fell upon those who saw them. Revelation 11:12. And they heard [Note: The reading ἠ?́?κουσα , I heard, is less supported, and against John 5:28. The sudden introduction of the Seer also has something strange in it.] a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw it. The form in which the triumph of the witnesses is here described after their apparent defeat, is taken from the history of Christ, whose ascension to heaven, though not related by John in his Gospel, yet attested here, [Note: Comp. here Revelation 11:8, Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9, Mark 16:9; also on the words: and a great fear fell on those who saw, Matthew 27:54; and on: at the same hour there was a great earthquake, Matthew 27:51; Matthew 27:54; Matthew 28:2.] prefigured the destiny of his people, and possesses for them the character of a matter-of-fact prophecy. The ascent to heaven following on the crucifixion realizes itself in the true witnesses in various ways. First, in the perpetually recurring victory of the cause for which they sacrificed their lives, and which seemed to go down with their overthrow. Nothing can be more uureasonable than to faint, if this cause appears once more to be on the decline. For six thousand years a reviving has constantly succeeded to the death, so that we may well say, in spite of the laughter of the Jews, “Weep not, it is not dead, but sleepeth”—and, “Its spirit will come again, and it will presently stand on its feet.” It appears also in the reviving of their memory on the earth. Is it not remarkable, that the names of all those who in their lifetime have borne reproach, that an Athanasius, a Spener, a Franke, a Zinzendorf, bear even in the world a good report, while the names of its own prophets are covered with contempt? Finally, it is again realized in the heavenly glory, which they are given to inherit. “The teachers, “says Scripture, “shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” The enemies of the true witnesses cannot but see how they are raised to heaven. “Though wickedness may rage and carry itself insolently for a time, it must still be frightened and give way. What escapes from the enemies and rises to heaven, can no longer be touched by it, though it should put all its artillery in motion.”
Revelation 11:13. And at the same hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell; and in the earthquake seven thousand names of men [Note: See in regard to the ὀ?νά?ματα on ch. 3:4.] were killed; and the rest were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. It is the great privilege of the church, that while the Lord may indeed chastise her, he does not give her over to death; that his judgments, besides their destroying, have always at the same time a healing character. Hence she can be joyful in the prospect of them, or even when she actually experiences them. For, however frightful they may look, and may even really be, the result still is, that her true members give glory to the God of heaven; and from their own experience are ever ready to repeat the song,” Praise the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever.” But this also lies clearly before us here, that the matter does not pass off without heavy judgments, not in the world merely, but also in the church. So great is the depth of human corruption. The simple preaching of repentance and faith will not do it; but to bring things into a right state, God must first tear up the field by the plough of his visitations. “Now,” says Bengel, “we are in a low state. But if the still advancing and horrible wickedness of men shall lead us astray, we must consider that the time is always coming nearer for God the Almighty putting every thing in order. What an astounding change will that make! How shall men then give up their boldness, impiety, and confidence!” If we lay it properly to heart, that the spirit of repentance can only he produced by divine judgments on the church, we shall feel that there is no longer any reason for crying peace, peace, with such as prophecy out of their own hearts, where no peace is in order to make the day of wrath and of the righteous judgment of God appear as a phantom, when we may see the signs of it already gathering in the heavens. We shall rather take the prophet Habakkuk for our pattern, who begins his prophecy with a prayer to the God of the degenerate church, that he would appear for judgment against it—that he would again revive in it the dead spirit of righteousness and holiness—and shall only pray with him, “In wrath remember mercy.”
The witnesses stand before the Lord of the earth, and he to whom the glory is given is called the God of heaven. This is the foundation of all witnessing for the truth, all joy in one’s calling, all hope of a blessed result, that the Lord of the church is the Lord of heaven and of earth. He is at once the Alpha and the Omega, at once the beginning and the end, he who comes, as well as he who was. In firm faith should we commend the cause of the church to him, before whom all enemies upon earth are too feeble to render any effectual opposition.
Review of Opposite Opinions Regarding the Temple etc., in the Interlude
We shall now take a glance at the views which have been adopted of the preceding section, different from ours. According to some the temple and the holy city must not be the symbol of the church; but the vision must refer to the external temple, and the literal Jerusalem; and, indeed, to the fates of the restored temple and the Jerusalem of the last times. But no trace whatever is to be found here of Jerusalem and the temple being in ruins at the time of the vision; [Note: Dr Hofmann, in his Weissagung und ibre Erfüllung, Th. II, p. 802, discovers in Revelation 11:8 a reference to the prostrate state of Jerusalem: “Jerusalem is so called, because it has experienced an overthrow like Sodom, and a judgment like Egypt.” But that the designations Sodom and Egypt refer to the sunk religious and moral condition, and not to the outward state, appears from the following considerations. 1. The expression, “where also their Lord was crucified,” implies a participation on the part of the great city in the guilt of slaying the two witnesses, as previously in that of Christ’s death, who was surrendered by a degenerate church to the world. 2. The words “which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt,” indicates that the point of comparison belongs to the spiritual territory, that the comparison goes upon the analogous state of the spiritual life. Vitringa: “But the spiritual import is what we call the intellectual, which is derived from a more inward, profound and intellectual view of the things under consideration; it is what the Hebrews are wont to call allegorical, inward, intellectual, occult, secret and hidden.” When the point of comparison lies merely in externals, there no place exists for the activity of the πνεῦ?μα , there the comparison does not belong to the territory of the spirit. 3. Egypt does not elsewhere occur as a distinguished example of the punitive righteousness of God, so that it might be sufficient to name it, in order immediately to suggest that, nor could it be so used. But in regard to the state of complete spiritual corruption and profligacy, both Egypt and Sodom had become alike proverbial; and a comparison of the degenerate church of God with them was the more natural, as Egypt had in ancient times infected it with its pollution (comp. Ezekiel 23:3; Ezekiel 23:8; Ezekiel 23:27), and Sodom stood for centuries as a frightful example before the eyes of the covenant people. 4. That the great city is not without a share in the guilt of killing the two witnesses, that the dead bodies of these lay on its street, that they also cried to God against it for vengeance, and not merely against the heathen who trod upon the holy city; this is clear from the judgment which, according to Revelation 11:13, fell upon the city in consequence of the death of the witnesses, and was only what might be expected from Revelation 11:2, according to which the court of the temple was to be thrown out and given to the heathen. Apostates, too, are always the bitterest enemies and persecutors of the true witnesses and faithful confessors of Jesus Christ. For all these reasons, Sodom and Egypt are quite in their place as designations of a spiritual state, and as such are also strongly confirmed by the passages of Old Testament Scripture formerly quoted.] nor any trace of a rebuilding to take place in the future, either here or in any other part of the book. But prophecy can never so entirely separate itself from the ground of the present, to influence which is always its more immediate object, and to which, therefore, it must constantly raise a bridge. On this also rests all certainty of exposition as to the future. And that the means should be provided for such certainty is a necessary consequence of the divine nature of prophecy. A truly divine prophecy cannot possibly swim in the air; nor can the church be left to mere guesswork in the exposition of Scripture, which has been given to her amidst the darkness. Then, this literal method of exposition belongs to an entire chain of representations in regard to the kingdom of God, which has recently indeed, and especially in England, obtained extensive support, where in particular the society for the conversion of the Jews is pervaded by it. We cannot, however, regard it as agreeable to Scripture. It is a kind of revival of the Jewish-Christian tendency in the ancient church—the idea that the converted Jews in it are to form a sort of spiritual nobility in the church, and that for them as a separate, distinguished, and most illustrious part of it, there are destined quite peculiar honours and wonderful performances. We may almost say that this view is the worm in the noble fruit of the Jewish mission, the success of which is now rather poor. It nourishes in the converted the natural pride, the extirpation of which should be one of the first objects of a true spiritual activity. It misleads the converted to form a sort of peculiar brotherhood among themselves, and prevents them from properly incorporating themselves with the general society of the Christian church, in which alone the means of recovery can be found for so many wounds as they have necessarily brought along with them from the corrupt social life of their nation. Let us here also look back to the soundness of the older church, not out of reverence to it, but because it has Scripture rightly understood on its side, and cease to change Jewish Christiana into Christian Jews. The result of a free and enlightened investigation of Scripture in reference to this point is expressed by the excellent Vitringa in these words: “This distinction is entirely taken away under the new economy. For, as the heathen, who were converted to Christ, were graffed in to the Jewish olive-tree, and have taken on them, as it were, the person and form of the Jews; so shall the Jews, who in the latter days shall be converted to Christ, be graffed into that church of the heathen, or rather become incorporated with the mystical and spiritual Jews, and without any difference possess along with them the same condition in the kingdom of Christ. All are one in Christ.” He remarks also specially in respect to the Revelation, “I would particularly draw attention to this, that throughout the whole of this book no separate mention is made of the Jewish as distinguished from the Gentile Christians, and this on the clear and obvious ground, that under the new (economy all distinction of races in matters of religion is taken away. Never in any part of the Apocalypse do prophecies occur in respect to the Jews, in so far as these are opposed in matters of religion to the heathen.” Since one cannot forbear to assent to what Vitringa says in regard to the Revelation, the view sustains on this ground alone a heavy blow. For, we are thus driven generally out of the territory of the New Testament, there being scarcely any passages elsewhere which one could even attempt to bring in support of the view in question. The declarations in the epistle to the Romans are rather unfavourable to this view. They speak much of the blessing, which the conversion of the Jews shall bring to the church of the future, but nothing whatever of a new church from the Jews, of the restoration of Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the temple, nor generally of a return of the old beggarly elements, which have been completely swept away by Christ and his blood, placing all nations on a footing. The question is thus thrown entirely back upon the Old Testament, and so, the position maintained on the other side becomes a very difficult, or rather a quite hopeless one. We must leave it to the Jews, to draw from the Old Testament alone articles of faith and expectations of the future. We Christians apply in the first instance to the New Testament, and if we find anything in the Old Testament, which seems to oppose it, or to go beyond it, this only serves to indicate our want of a proper understanding. What appears there to favour the modern Judaistic view, rests merely on this want as to its foundation. If any one is ready to conclude, that wherever Israel is spoken of, the Jews are meant, he can certainly prove much; but little good will be done by such a light and superficial mode of expounding the Old Testament Scriptures. What the Spirit has spoken must be spiritually understood, as the sayings everywhere apply: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear; he that reads, let him understand; here is the mind that hath wisdom. Even the promises given to the patriarchs do not respect the children of Israel as opposed to believers from among the heathen; but comprehend along with them such as might be ingrafted into the olive tree, Romans 11:17, Romans 11:24. (See the investigations on the promises made to the patriarchs in the Christol. III. p. 50, ss.) An olive tree, a people of God stands from first to last—an Israel out of which the false seed is excluded, and into which believers from among the heathen were adopted.
According to another view, which we may call the nationalistic, although unfortunately it is not supported merely by nationalists, the temple is the second temple of the Jews, the holy city, the Jerusalem still not laid in desolation by the Romans. In this prophecy they find the most undoubted proofs that the Revelation was composed before the taking of Jerusalem, and therefore not, according to the ecclesiastical tradition, under Domitian. The patriotism of the author of the book could not embrace the idea of a complete destruction of the temple and city, though he descries an approaching judgment, but he lightens the matter as much as possible; of the temple he gives up only the outer court, and of the holy city and its inhabitants only the tenth part. [Note: These expositors, in opposition to their own canon, that it is against the custom of the prophets to give definite predictions, hold that here there is really a very exact and precise announcement of what was to come: the court shall be taken possession of, but the holy city not. That Ewald was not without a sense of this difficulty, is evident from the words he has shoved in: Sin forte exterius timplum hostium lubido invadet. This also shews the inadmissibility of the literal view, Unit in the actual temple, in the temple proper, in which were here placed, there were no worshippers.]
This view must be regarded as one of the most singular proofs of the modern subjective tendency, which judges of every thing by itself. On the territory of sacred Scripture that pseudo-patriotism, that blind partiality for one’s own people, is never in place. Our Seer would stand quite alone with it. As the prophets, before the Chaldean desolation, with one voice predicted this, as it was then held to be a mark of a deceiver, of a prophet speaking out of his own heart, when any one denied, that the full measure of sin was to be followed by the full measure of punishment; so precisely in our day do those brand themselves in the eyes of believers with the stamp of false teachers, who say peace, peace, where there is no peace, who on the very eve of judgment are doting about a glorious era for Germany. The prophets after the Babylonish captivity likewise announced with one voice, a coming second total desolation, which was to break in as soon as the sin, which had begun again in their day to germinate, should have reached its maturity and brought forth fruit—that, namely, which was to be effected by the Romans, and whose internal connection with the Chaldean was made palpable by divine providence ordering it to take place on the very same day that the other had done. Our Lord rests on these prophecies of the Old Testament, when he says in Luke, Luke 21:22, “For these are the days of vengeance, when all that is written shall be fulfilled;” and in Matthew 24:15, where he distinctly alludes to the properly classical prophecy, that in Daniel 9:24-27, which was usually referred by the Jews, before the catastrophe by the Romans, to a future destruction of the city and temple. (See the proofs in my Beitr. I. p. 265, Christol. II. p. 576.) If the abomination of desolation on the holy city announced by Daniel stands; that is, if the abomination, which, according to the eternal law of recompense, according to the principle, “I will sanctify myself on them that draw near to me,” has desolation for its inseparable consequence, then deliverance is only to be found in the curse; because by the faithful word of God, uttered by Daniel, all was to go to ruin. What Daniel declared, when the city and temple still lay in ashes, pointing to a second desolation lying on the farther side of the approaching restoration announced by him, was also intimated by Zechariah shortly after the return of the people, and the city and temple had begun to be rebuilt. God’s righteousness is not less energetic than men’s sinfulness; a new, severe, and destructive judgment shall break in, according to Zechariah 5:1-4, a new captivity, a long exile, Zechariah 5:5-11, another entire desolation of the land by an enemy coming out of the north. The prophecy of the last among the prophets, Malachi, is entirely of a threatening character.”Behold,” it said in Malachi 4, “the day comes burning like an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that comes shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, who shall not leave them root or branch.” His prophecy, and with that the whole volume of Old Testament prophecy, runs out into the threatening, that the Lord will come and smite the land with a curse. First—such is the conclusion of Malachi’s prophecy
Elias the prophet comes and endeavours to restore all (Reformation), then the Lord himself appears, and smites the land with a curse. The messenger makes a last attempt to sanctify the Lord in his people. Then the Lord sanctifies himself upon those, with whom this attempt has proved fruitless. The Old Testament prophecy revives once more in John the Baptist. He threatens with the baptism of fire, declares that the axe is laid to the root of the trees, and points to a day of coming wrath. Christ, our Lord, was certainly a patriot; he wept over Jerusalem; but the approaching destruction of the city and temple stands as clearly before his soul as if it were actually present—a pattern to us, whose eyes are so much rivetted to the visible, whose knowledge and hatred of sin are so dull, whose apprehension of the avenging righteousness of God is so languid, and who are so apt to think that the storm, which appears in the far distance, shall somehow blow past. He says of Jerusalem in Luke 19:43-44, “The days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side. And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another, because thou knowest not the time of thy visitation.” He says of the temple in Matthew, Matthew 24:2, “See ye not all these things? There shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.” [Note: Comp. Mark 13:2, Luke 21:5, and in regard to the city still farther, Luke 21:10, ss.; in regard to the temple, John 2:19, and Mutt, 23:38, “Behold your house is left unto you desolate”—a passage which also indirectly refers to the city. The temple comes into notice as the seat of the whole nation. If its former inhabitants were thrown out, they must lose their right to the holy city, which is to be regarded as an appendage of the temple, and this must be devoted to destruction.] As by the word of his mouth our Lord thus announced the approaching destruction, so did he also by the symbolical actions of the cursing of the fig-tree, and the purification of the temple.
Now, it seems quite incredible that a Seer, who was educated with such pains, who, as his visions shew, had received into his soul the prophecies of the Old Testament, should altogether renounce the earnest spirit of prophecy, should know his people after the flesh, and in a foolish patriotism conjure up illusions respecting the future;—incredible, that one, who everywhere makes himself known as a decided follower of Christ, who was filled with such profound reverence toward him, that when he saw him he fell down before him as one dead, who regarded it as the most honourable title to be called Christ’s servant, should yet have acted contrary to him in a point so important, so variously treated, and so distinctly and prominently brought forward. An exposition, which yields such a result, bears on its front the stamp of reprobation.
The force of this argument, in so far as it respects the contrast presented to the declarations of Christ, has been felt by the defenders of this exposition themselves. But the diversified attempts which they have made to justify themselves, only serve to discover more clearly with what weight it presses upon them. Ewald thinks that, when one looks into the matter more closely, Christ never speaks of the desolation of the city, but always only of the desolation of the temple. Were it so, the difficulty would only be lessened, not removed; for, the prophecy announces not merely the preservation of the city, but also of the temple, with the exception only of the court. But the assertion itself, as a single glance shews, is a mere fancy; the desolation of the city was foretold by our Lord as distinctly and repeatedly as that of the temple; and. according to the whole style of scriptural representation, the fates of both are inseparably bound up together; the temple could not fall without the city. For, the desolation of the temple is the sign of reprobation and rejection; and this must also disclose itself in the overthrow of the city.
Lücke hesitates about ranking John in the number of patriotic dreamers. “The prophet,” he says in his Apocalyptic Studies, “as a truly inspired Christian, could not less hate an antichristian, persecuting Judaism, than an antichristian, persecuting heathenism.” He seeks to get rid of the opposition to the declarations of Christ by making the apostle prophesy, not of the preservation, but of the desolation of the city and temple. He says, “The temple of Jerusalem, as the centre of Judaism, was to be desolated, only the Most Holy Place preserved. But the destruction of the earthly temple encloses the destruction of the holy city as such in itself.” The truth, however, is, that the temple is preserved, and only the court given up, and consequently Lücke’s own words respecting the inseparable connection between the city and the temple turn against himself: the non-desolation of the temple includes in itself the non-desolation of the city. That this is to be thought of as not destroyed, is evident besides from Revelation 11:13, according to which only the tenth part of the city falls, only seven thousand men, who are hence to be understood to be the tenth part of the inhabitants of the city, are killed; the rest give God the glory, and consequently are preserved—a proportion perfectly analogous to that between the temple and its court—while the prophet, in ch. 18, cannot find words enough to describe the full and entire overthrow of Babylon.
Finally Baur, on the Kanon. Evangelien, p. 605, would in his usual way cut the knot, which Ewald and Lücke have tried in vain to loose. He remarks, “How could the Apocalyptist have overlooked the destruction of Jerusalem—how must he not rather have taken it for a main point of his Apocalyptic representations, if Jesus had really prophesied concerning it, as he is reported to have done in the Gospel of Matthew? In Rev. ch. 11 the Apocalyptist only prophesies, that the holy city should be trodden down by the heathen for three years and an half; yet the temple, along with the inner court (?) was to be preserved.” Baur is here, as very commonly, in the right as regards those with whom he has immediately to do; it is more scientific to get rid with violence of the contrariety between the disciple and the master, than innocently to ignore it, or by an arbitrary exposition conceal it; but the method is still too heroic to be generally followed. That our Lord announced the destruction of the city and the temple is unanimously testified by all the Evangelists. The declarations are so often repeated, so extended, so entwined with the history, that to give them up would be virtually to surrender the historical character of all the Gospels. They have an important foundation in the prophecies of the Old Testament, on which they lean. That they had also made their way to those without, appears from Mark, Mark 14:58. They formed a leading point in the charges brought against the Lord.
But now let it be farther observed, that in the prophet the ground shews itself to have absolutely no existence, in which such a vicious Jewish patriotism could take root, as is here supposed to have wrought with the frightful energy of leading the Seer to contradict his Master to his face. He who is truly in Christ can no longer know any one after the flesh; he to whom Christ is what he was to the author of this book, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the Prince of the kings of the earth, who has loved us and washed us from our sins in his blood, and has made us kings and priests to God and his Father—such a person is raised entirely above the territory of mere Jewish sympathies. These are to be found out of Judaism only among half Christians, with those who, in their meagre acquaintance with the glory of Christ, have never attained to the full knowledge of the difference between Judaism and Christianity.
Not merely, however, from the Apocalyptic Seer’s relation to Christ, but also from his express and pointed polemical declarations against Judaism, we could shew how very far such a vicious Jewish patriotism lay from him. In the epistle to the angel of the church of Smyrna the Lord says, “I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan.” In the epistle to the angel of the church of Philadelphia it is said, “Behold I will give out of Satan’s synagogue of those who say they are Jews and are not, but do lie. Behold, I will cause them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.” The position which the Seer in these declarations takes up toward the unbelieving Jews, is as strong and offensive as it could well be. They are plainly characterized as persons unworthy of the name of Jews, and belonging to the community of Satan. That it is not single individuals of improper character that are discoursed of, but the whole fraternity as such, is evident from the expression: Satan’s synagogue, “a parody of the title, Jehovah’s congregation ( Numbers 16:3, &c.,) with which they flattered their vanity” (Züllig). These declarations coincide with the peculiarly strong things that are recorded in the Gospel of John against the Jews, John 8:44, “Ye are of your father the devil,” spoken in reply to the pretension of the Jews in John 8:41, “We have one father, God.” [Note: Dr Bleek would conclude from these declarations, that the position of the Apocalypse against Judaism is a different one from that of the gospel:”While the gospel uses the designation the Jots as alone indicating the higher class among the Jewish people in their character of opposition to the truth, and decided hostility to the Redeemer, this name is a very honourable one with the Apocalyptist; insomuch that he calls the Jews, who obstinately opposed the gospel, or wickedly persecuted it, not properly Jews, but regards them as falsely taking to themselves that name.” In reality the representation is the same in both, differing only in the form, according to the different kinds of writing in the two cases. The historian employs the usual name; the prophet, on the other hand, who rises above the common reality and its empty names, denies to those Jews, who wanted the substance, also the name. How little such diversities infer a difference in the authorship, is plain from the fact of our Lord, in John 8:37; John 8:39 (“I know that ye are the seed of Abraham,” and again.” If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the deeds of Abraham”), employing almost in one breath both the real and the ideal manner of designation.] On the other hand, there was always a bridge between Judaizing Christians and unconverted Jews. Whoever has broken with these as completely as our Seer has done, to him the temple at Jerusalem can be nothing else than a den of robbers, [Note: And at what period did the temple more deserve this name than shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem, to which the composition of the Apocalypse is transferred by those who understand by the temple in ch. 11 the temple at Jerusalem: Even Josephus describes that temple quite similarly, as a place in which latterly all manner of abominations became concentrated. And this sink of abominations must the author of the Apocalypse, less enlightened than Josephus, have taken for the true sanctuary of the Lord, and sought to preserve from destruction? The untenableness of the position, which the modern theology ascribes to the Apocalypse, discovers itself also here. Any one that regarded the temple at Jerusalem so, could have obtained neither a canonical nor a deuterocanical place for his book. Hofmann has justly said in his Weiss, und Erf. II. p. 301, “When Galba was emperor, Eleazar’s zealots had possession of the temple, from whence they robbed and murdered in the city: in the temple itself they dispatched the blameless Zecharias, and practised horrors which the, tongue trembles to utter. Must the author of the Apocalypse have been so very Jewishly inclined, that he should have wished to preserve the theatre of these barbarities? Are those zealots to be now regarded as the worshipping company of the Apocalypse”! or shall the two witnesses be discovered in Eleazar and John of Gishala?”] as our Lord himself called it in Matthew 21:13. He must therefore have denied it the name of the temple. As he recognises none to be Jews but the Christians, so he can own no other temple but the Christian church. When Bleek understands by those who, in ch. 11, worship in the temple, “the pious servants of God among the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” “together with the Christians such also as, without belonging to the Christian church, worshipped their God in purity of conscience,” he speaks, indeed, good Schleiermacheran, but bad Apocalyptic doctrine. The crisis by that time was quite past; the nobler elements had long ago been absorbed by the Christian church; the synagogue of Satan retained only the scum. Such illusions of a superficial fleshly benevolence, are quite remote from the author of the Apocalypse, against whom Baur, and with some right from his point of view, brings the charge, on account of the epistle to the Laodiceans, of being a gross fanatic: “who would allow nothing lukewarm, hence also nothing of an ordinary and middle character; he has always in his eye sharp contrasts.” Whoever regards Judaism as the author of the Apocalypse did, he could the less mean by the temple that at Jerusalem, as here the discourse is simply of the temple, not of a place of worship to the Lord, but, without any qualifying term, of his sanctuary on earth, while yet of this our Lord said to the woman of Samaria, “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, and now is, when neither in Jerusalem nor in this mountain shall men worship the Father.” No one viewing Judaism as our author did, could possibly think of it as having such noble powers of life slumbering in it, as that so comparatively mild a judgment should have sufficed to set them free—that the fall of the tenth part of the city and the death of the tenth part of the inhabitants should have had the effect of” terrifying the rest, and leading them to give glory to the God of heaven.” Such powers of life, according to the view taken in the Apocalypse, grow only out of Christ’s blood and redemption. For Satan’s synagogue tribulation is as fruitless as for the heathen, and even more so. It can only produce rage in such characters, the dark zealot-spirit.
If we allow to these cardinal passages on the relation of the Apocalypse to Judaism their full weight, we shall have no hesitation from the outset what to make of the proofs for the Judaising spirit of the author, which some have been at pains to bring forward. We may, however, look at them somewhat closely. After the example of Lücke, Baur presses the fact of the author speaking only of twelve apostles at ch. Revelation 21:14, as having their names on the foundations of the new Jerusalem; so that he must have excluded the apostle Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles. Bleek has justly remarked in opposition to this, that the Jews were wont to speak of their twelve tribes, without thereby excluding any portion of the people from their community. The same thing is done also here, immediately before, in Revelation 11:12; and if the apostle would not depart from what had been so long consecrated as a symbol of the church, the number twelve, he must likewise adhere to it in the corresponding number of the apostles. The twelve number of the apostles, which certainly had no accidental origin, was regarded as so inviolable, that even Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:5, says that Christ was seen of the twelve, after Judas had been parted from them. How much less could it be imagined, that the author of the Apocalypse was to speak of thirteen apostles—he who throughout lays such great stress upon the numbers? Only if one were to understand really what was meant ideally, could one have desired him in such a way to do violence to the consecrated signature of the church, and render it unintelligible. And we can the less think of any intentional exclusion of Paul, as that very passage alludes to a declaration of his in Ephesians 2:20, and the more to be regarded as there are also in other parts of the Apocalypse a great number of allusions to the epistles of Paul. [Note: Especially remarkable and undeniable are the references to Colossians 1:16-18. On the πρωτότοκος ἐ?κ τῶ?ν νεκρῶ?ν in Revelation 11:18, Comp. in Revelation 1:5, πρωτότοκος τῶ?ν νεκρῶ?ν . This peculiar expression occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and was manifestly framed by Paul, as may be seen from the relation to Revelation 11:15. The ἀ?ρχή in Revelation 11:18 of Col. is found also in Revelation 22:13; Revelation 3:14. The ἀ?ρχὴ? τῆ?ς κτίσεως there points to the πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως in Revelation 11:15. A word is substituted for πρωτότοκος in Revelation 11:18, by which it is explained. It is to be observed that this reference occurs in the epistle to the Laodiceans, for whom, according to Colossians 4:16, the epistle to the Ephesians was also intended. Comp. besides Revelation 1:4, with Paul’s form of salutation, 1:9, with 2 Timothy 2:2; 2 Timothy 2:12; 2 Timothy 2:10 with Philippians 2:8; 19:8 with 2 Corinthians 11:2, &c.]
Baur remarks farther, “What a great contrast exists between the stand-point of the Apocalypse, by which the kingdom of God has its genuine, its truly believing and blessed members only out of Judaism, and that of the gospel, which sees in Judaism only the kingdom of unbelief.” On the contrary, we maintain that the Revelation knows of no prerogatives belonging peculiarly to the Jews in the kingdom of God; Gentile Christians have perfectly equal rights imputed to them with the Jewish brethren; so much so, that the Seer makes no account of any distinction between Jewish and Gentile believers, he knows only of one holy Catholic church. And from this fact we draw the conclusion that the exposition of this section, which regards it as containing Jewish patriotic phantasies, cannot possibly be right. Which of the two opposite views is the correct one, must be determined by an examination of the particular passages.
The first passage that demands attention is ch. Revelation 5:8; Revelation 5:10. “Then the four beasts and the four and twenty elders fell down before the lamb, having every one of them harps and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, thou art worthy to take the book and to open its seals, for thou wert slain and hast redeemed us [Note: Ewald and Block would expunge ἡ?μᾶ?ς , “as it cannot be thought that the author of the Apocalypse would have it to be understood that not merely the four and twenty elders in heaven, but also the Cherubim, represent themselves as those who have been redeemed out of all nations by the blood of the Lamb, and who shall again reign on the earth.” But to the four beasts, the ideal representatives of the living earthly creation, belongs, as was shown in our exposition, only the falling down; the ἐ?́?χοντας has immediate respect only to the four and twenty elders, and of these only docs the nature of things permit us to think: the Cherubim cannot be conceived as doing the part of harpers. But the elders do not act in their own name; they do so as representatives of the saints: they have vials full of incense, which are the prayers of saints—comp, also ch. 14:2, 15:2, where the saints themselves have harps.] to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. [Note: Isaiah had already said, in ch. 66:18, “And I—their works and thoughts. A time comes for gathering all heathen and tongues”—the Jewish people are rejected, the heathen world called.] And hast made them (the persons so redeemed) kings and priests to our God, and they shall reign upon the earth.” This passage is quite plain and clear: in the kingdom of God there is neither Jew nor Greek, it brings its members out of all peoples of the earth to the possession of the same rights, to be kings and priests, which is the highest dignity that can be conceived in the kingdom of God. And this enlarged œcumenical mode of representation is not like a thing that swims in the air, so that it might be regarded as a kind of isolated ray of light; it has its foundation in the worth that is here ascribed to Christ’s blood—comp. on ch. Revelation 12:11, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.” All Judaism has its root in defective views of the great work of redemption. He who perceives in Christ the Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, is thereby raised quite above the contracted and partial Jewish spirit.
The second passage is ch. Revelation 7:1-8. Here we have represented, in an episode between the sixth and seventh seals, the safe preservation of the members of the church amid the great plagues which befal the unbelieving and apostate world. The grace of God manifested toward them and protecting them, appears under the image of a seal, which is imprinted on them, before the wind blows upon the earth; that is, before the storm of tribulations breaks in upon the world with its desolating and destructive fury. To a superficial view the precedence of the Jews has here certainly some appearance of support. It is not only the children of Israel in general that are spoken of, but particular Jewish tribes also are singled out from the rest, as those to whom the sealed belong. But no one that is a little advanced in the investigation of Scripture will allow himself to be at once carried away by appearances of this sort. By a mode of contemplation in Scripture deeply rooted and widely diffused, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the fathers of all believers; from the very beginning of the arrangements respecting salvation to the end of the world, there is but one people of God, the sons of Abraham and of Israel, from the number of whom they are excluded, who give way to a spirit of unbelief and backsliding, even though they have been born among them, according to the oft-repeated expression, “that soul is cut off from among his people;” while, on the other hand, those who have faith, wherever they may have been born, attain to equal rights with the native members. It is from this point of view that our Lord, for example, speaks to his disciples in Matthew 19:28, “Verily I say to you, that ye who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of his glory, shall also sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” That the twelve tribes of Israel are here used not in the ordinary Jewish sense, that they rather denote the whole church of God, is as certain as the calling of the apostles had respect, not to Israel in the narrower sense, but to all nations, Matthew 28:19. Indeed, in the calling of the apostles themselves our Lord was guided by this mode of viewing things—as certainly as the twelve number of the apostles has respect to the twelve tribes of Israel. The same mode is followed also by James, when he addresses his epistle to the “twelve tribes scattered abroad,” to the Israel out of Palestine, in the dispersion; and by Peter, when he writes to the “elect strangers scattered abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” Both of them certainly did not wish to exclude the Gentile Christians, who, as appears from the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles of Paul, were then united with Jewish Christians in those regions into one Christian body; nor did they mean to include the unchristian Jews. They addressed both the genuine original sons, and the sons by adoption. This manner of contemplation is followed also by the author of the Apocalypse himself, in ch. Revelation 21:12, according to which the city, that symbolizes the church in the kingdom of glory, the city in whose light the Gentiles walk, ch. Revelation 21:24, into which all without distinction of nation are received, who have overcome, ch. Revelation 21:7, and from which all are excluded without distinction of nation, who have done abomination and lies, Revelation 21:27, has names written on its gates which are the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. The question, therefore, arises, Does the Seer here speak of Israel and its tribes in this sense, or in the ordinary Jewish one? If in the former, there is nothing to imply an undue ascendancy of the Jews over others. For, the honour of being the kernel and trunk of the people of God, even under the New Testament, is accorded to them in all Scripture, and nowhere more decidedly than in the writings of the apostle Paul (Romans 9 and Romans 11); nor can it be denied them, without falling out with history, which declares the communication of the gospel to the heathen to have been made by means of believing Jews; without finding the conduct of Christ incomprehensible in confining the preaching of salvation primarily to the Jews; and without destroying the continuity of the kingdom of God, which unfortunately is very much lost sight of by the style of thought now prevalent, as also by orthodox theologians, to the great detriment not only of theology, but also of a living faith. For, if we tear asunder the two testaments, we leave the Old to be regarded as primarily destined for the Jews, and retain only the New for Christians; and thus rob the first of a great part of its edifying character for the Christian church, and receive only some disjecta membra of the writings of Scripture, as fitted now to exercise a direct and proper influence. Those who have not the Old Testament, possess the New also in a very imperfect manner.
If we turn now to answer the proposed question, there can be no doubt that the prophet speaks here of Israel and his tribes in the spiritual or Christian sense. We could prove this without calling to our aid ch. 14, where the 144,000 again appear, and where they quite undeniably represent the whole company of Christians. In the chapter before us itself, those, whose preservation from the plagues that were to alight on the wicked is depicted in Revelation 11:1-8, for their consolation in the time of trial, are presented to our view in the possession of that final glory which awaited them. They are spoken of there as being taken out of all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues, and hence from these also must the 144,000 have been formed. [Note: The supposition of Hofmann is quite inadmissible, that the numberless multitude out of all kindreds and nations, in Revelation 11:9, is placed over against the 144.000 out of Judaism. There would then have been promised to the Jewish believers only preservation upon earth, and to those from among the Gentiles only heavenly felicity.
The objections which Bleek has raised against the identification of the 144,000 with the numberless multitude can very easily be disposed of. He says, first, it is not probable that, if the entire number was given at 144.000, they should immediately after be described as a multitude which no one could number. But in ch. 14:1, 2, the voices of the 144,000 are also compared with the noise of many waters, and of loud thunder. Numerable usually stands in Hebrew for what can easily be numbered; compare, for example, Isaiah 10:19. Any one looking at a multitude of 144,000 would at once lose all thought of numbering. Balaam says, in Numbers 23:10, “Who can determine the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel?” already, therefore, the fourth part of Israel was held to be innumerable, and yet the whole was twice numbered during the march, and in that very book, in which such an explanation is given of Israel’s being innumerable, the precise numbers are recorded; whereas here only a round number, of a thoroughly ideal import, is given, and such as only expresses in another form the idea of an innumerable multitude. For that the number has no real signification is manifest alone from its relation to the twelve as the signature of the covenant-people. Again, it is objected by Bleek that the 144,000 are in Revelation 11:4 expressly described as sealed out of ail the tribes of Israel—an expression that could scarcely have been chosen if it was meant as the entire sum of the members of these tribes, and not as an announcement of believers sealed out of the entire number of members in these tribes. But this reason can only tell against Bleek’s earlier hypothesis, according to which the twelve tribes must be divisions in the New Testament kingdom of God itself. The twelve tribes are the twelve Jewish tribes (for in the whole of Scripture there is but one Israel, and the distinction made in the older theology of a corporeal and a spiritual Israel, the Christian church, has no foundation), but the false seed are excluded, and the sons of adoption are brought in. As. therefore, a sediment, a sentina remains behind, the expression, “out of all the tribes of Israel,” is quite suitable.] That we must not stick to the letter, is clear also from the omission of the tribe of Dan, for a purely theological reason, in order not to exceed the number twelve; [Note: Hofmann improperly refers to the omission of Simeon in the blessing of Moses. The reason for that omission was, that Simeon received no separate territory, but dwelt under Judah, hence was blessed along with him, and obtained no peculiar blessing of his own. But in respect to the Messianic blessing, Dan had not an independent existence, and must not have failed, if the whole enumeration was to be taken in a realistic sense. The reason for the exclusion alone of Dan out of the number twelve, is, as already shewn, that the only narrative of the Old Testament, in which Dan played a part, is that respecting the worship of idols among the Danites, in the book of Judges. So that the sentiment “without are the idolatrous,” in ch. 22:15, is here symbolically represented by the omission of Dan.] from the number being the same in the small and the large tribes; and from the fact that the tribal distinctions were then lost.
The third passage is ch. Revelation 14:1-5. Here it is a piece of palpable caprice in Credner, Züllig, Baur, to understand by the 144,000 who stand around the Lamb on Mount Zion, Jewish Christians, and nothing but the most imperative necessity, or the giving up also of the preceding passages, could warrant us in adopting such a view. It has, however, nothing to support it; and there are the following reasons against it:—1. All the marks throughout the passage point to Christians in general: they have the name of Christ and the name of his Father written on their foreheads; they have been redeemed from the earth, from among men, they sing a new song before the throne and the four beasts, who represent the living creatures over all the earth; they have not defiled themselves with women, i.e., sins (comp. Genesis 4:7, where sin appears under the image of a woman, with Genesis 3:16; Zechariah 5:7-8; Revelation 2:20; Revelation 2:22), they follow the Lamb wherever he goes, in their mouth was found no guile, for they are without blame. These are all clear marks for distinguishing a true Christian in any age. With Jewish Christians, on the other hand, the first distinguishing mark was circumcision, which would have made an anomalous appearance in such a society. 2. Identical beyond doubt with the 144,000, who here stand on Mount Zion and sing the new song, are those who, in ch. Revelation 15:2-4, stand on the sea of glass, and sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb. These are described as the persons who have gotten the victory over the beast and his image. But according to ch. Revelation 13:7, the beast has power given to it over every tribe, and people, and tongue, and nation, that is, over the believers from among them. These, too, are the persons who here sing the song of the Lamb, and in ch. 14, the new Song of Solomon 3. The whole fourteenth chapter, the conclusion of the group, which treats of the three enemies of the kingdom of God, and their formidable war against it, Revelation 12-14, forms the antidote to the pain, which might be occasioned by the contents of ch. 13, the representation of the great oppression caused by the beast. A glance is here first given, in ch. Revelation 14:1-5, into the heavenly blessedness of the elect. Now, if the song is of an oecumenical character, if it concerns the saints of all tongues and nations, then the field embraced in the consolation can be no straitened one, it cannot possibly be limited to the Jewish territory. Thus we have arrived at the result, that the Rationalistic exposition of our section is altogether untenable, because the supposition on which it rests, that the author of the Revelation had only one foot in Christianity, and another still in Judaism, is an utterly groundless one On the contrary, it everywhere appears that he had taken for his motto, “Christ alone and all,” and in the blood of the Lamb had been washed, as well from his Jewish sympathies, as from the other stains and imperfections of his old man.
But there is also another line of argument by which we can gain the same result. We perceive that everywhere else the things of Judaism serve only as the forms and symbols under which he represents the Christian; and all these analogies lead to the conclusion that he cannot possibly mean by the temple here the temple at Jerusalem—that he must intend by it what corresponds to it on the Christian territory, the Christian church. That by Israel the author does not denote those whom he thought worthy of the name on account of their corporeal descent from Jacob, but the entire body of true Christians, we have already seen. In like manner he holds no other to be Jews but true Christians (Vitringa on ch. Revelation 2:9, “Jew in this book denotes one who is a Jew in secret, circumcised in heart, a true confessor of the faith.”) Bold as it may seem, he must also deny to the temple at Jerusalem the name of the temple. The priests of the Revelation, who must of course have a temple corresponding to them, are not the Levitical, but all Christ’s faithful people, who have been made priests to God, and his Father,” Revelation 1:6, Revelation 5:10, Revelation 20:6. Nay, the temple itself also occurs elsewhere in the Revelation in a spiritual sense, as a designation of the church of Christ. And this is the more decisive, as in each place alike the discourse is not of a temple, but precisely of the temple of God. Even in the first group, that of the epistles, it is said, ch. Revelation 3:12, “He that overcomes, him will I make a pillar in the temple of our God, and he shall go no more out.” On that passage it is well remarked by Vitringa, “That their position may be firm and immoveable in the heavenly temple, which is the symbol as well of believers upon earth, as of the saints made perfect in glory. For under the new dispensation there is a house of God, to which all the saints have access, Hebrews 12:22.” The going no more out here, forms the contrast to the throwing out in ch. Revelation 11:2. Vitringa, “It must he understood passively, as if it had been written, He shall not be cast out. The Lord by his grace and providence would take care, that those among the Philadelphians, who, with a sincere spirit and a pure affection, had confessed the truth, should never be deprived of their state and dignity.” In ch. Revelation 13:6, the tabernacle of God is a designation of his church, in connection with those, who dwell in heaven, believers in heaven and on earth, for the citizenship of the latter also is in heaven ( Php_3:20 ), the saints, as they are presently after named by way of explanation. [Note: Besides these parallel passages, it is in favour of the temple being regarded as the symbol of the church, that the prophecy of Ezekiel, ch. 11-48, to which an allusion in Revelation 11:1 undoubtedly is made, unquestionably refers not to an external building, but to the spiritual temple of God’s kingdom, as is evident in particular from ch. 47:1. As Ezekiel beheld the restoration of the church under the image of the temple given to be measured, so John beheld its preservation.] Further, the temple of the Lord in heaven, with the ark of the covenant, Revelation 7:15, Revelation 11:19, Revelation 14:15; Revelation 14:17, Revelation 15:5, as the heavenly symbol of the church, implies, that the church upon earth also presented itself to the prophet under the same symbol. As it stands in regard to the temple, so does it also in regard to Jerusalem. Whenever it occurs besides in the Revelation, it never denotes the city so named in the vulgar sense, but always the church ; and we should, therefore, need to isolate the section before us from all the rest of the book, were we to think here of the literal Jerusalem and the temple of Herod. By the “beloved city,” which, according to ch. Revelation 20:9, is to be encompassed and besieged by a revived heathenism at the close of the thousand years, Lücke himself understands “the society of believers upon earth,” in other words, the Christian church; and yet there can be no doubt, that this beloved city is Jerusalem, so that Ewald is perfectly right in identifying the city here (in ch. 11) and there. Vitringa remarks, “Allusion is made as well to Psalms 87:2, ‘The Lord loves the gates of Zion,’ as to the vision in the next prophecy, Revelation 21:1-10, which represents the church under the image of Jerusalem, the holy city, beloved of God.” How also could the prophet, in ch. Revelation 3:12, Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:10, represent the church of the future world under the name of the new Jerusalem, unless he had already recognised the true Jerusalem in the church of the present? It was the new Jerusalem in contrast, not to that old material one, but to the spiritual beloved city in its imperfect condition here, from which this section itself tells us, how much it needs a renewal, with how many deficiencies and evils it is still beset. Finally, the heavenly Zion, with its 144,000 perfected saints, who sing there the new song before the throne, ch. Revelation 14:1-5, presupposes the existence of an earthly Zion, in which believers have been prepared for it by much tribulation. Those who stick to the letter, ought, as a necessary consequence, to abide here also by the literal Zion. If the triumphant church takes the name of Zion, the name must also be proper for the church militant. For, it cannot be applied to the church as triumphing, but only in so far as it is a church. [Note: Polycrates of Ephesus says, in his third epistle to the Roman bishop Victor, in Euseb. 11:24, of St John, “Ος ἐ?γενή?θη ἱ?ερεὺ?ς τὸ? πέ?ταλν πεφορηκώ?ς , certainly in the manner of John himself. In a spiritual understanding of the high-priesthood, he makes its nature to consist in the closest relationship to the Lord.]
With these facts before us, to attempt to interpret the section under consideration, according to the letter, would be a mere act of caprice; the more so, as the spiritual use of the language is very extensively employed also in the other books of the New Testament, even in some where it could far less be expected than in the Revelation. The passages in which the temple occurs as a designation of the Christian church, have already been adduced; in regard to Jerusalem; Galatians 4:26, Hebrews 12:22, are especially to be compared. There are besides, however, many other reasons against the reference to the Jewish temple and the literal Jerusalem, and for the reference to the temple and the Jerusalem of the Christian church.
According to the seven epistles, which everywhere contain only individual applications of what is exhibited as a general delineation in the prophetical part, we could not but expect that the Seer, in the main delineation, would direct his eye upon the internal state of the church of the future. The preserving and rejecting agency of God in regard to the church, is the point that comes most prominently out in the epistles. The command, for example, “Measure the temple of God and the altar, and them that worship therein,” connects itself closely with, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life,” ch. Revelation 2:10, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I will also keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon the whole earth,” ch. Revelation 3:10. In like manner, the throwing out of the temple-court and not measuring it, is very nearly allied to such passages as the following, “If not, I will come to thee, and will remove thy candlestick out of its place,” and, “I will spue thee out of my mouth,” etc. That the church in the future was to undergo a great sifting, that it was never wholly to perish, but that many branches of the vine should become withered and useless, is a subject frequently unfolded in the epistles. But this agreement between our section and the epistles is destroyed, whenever we refer the former to Judaism, instead of to the Christian church. In its place, indeed, there comes a palpable discord. For the Judaism, whose preservation should in that case be announced here, is what is called the synagogue of Satan in the epistles.
One does not see, how a prediction respecting the future fates of the literal Jerusalem and the Jewish temple should have been introduced exactly here, pressed in between the sixth and seventh trumpets, the second and third woe, which have to do only with the world-power. On the other hand, by the spiritual interpretation, which refers it to the Christian church, the prophetical announcement is quite in its place. The judgments alight upon the world-power on account of the hostile attitude it has assumed against the church, and for the salvation of the latter. And it is well, in the meantime to see, what effect has been wrought in the church itself by the very dangerous encroachment upon it through the world-power—whether it has not been internally reduced to a level with the world; the more so, since if such were the case, the whole of the treatment to be inflicted on the world-power would lose its propriety. It has the preservation of the temple of God, and of those who worship in it, for its foundation.
The appearance of the angel of the Lord, which is described in the episode, Revelation 10:1 to Revelation 11:13, has the double aim of first solemnly announcing, that the completion of the judgment upon the world, and the glorifying of the church therewith connected, should certainly take place, and then of declaring how dreadfully the temple and Jerusalem would be imperilled by the encroachments of the world, though they should still be preserved. The two parts of the mission of the angel lose all internal connection, whenever by the temple we understand the Jewish one. But adopt the spiritual meaning, and that immediately becomes manifest. The danger brought to the temple and the city by the worldly intermixture in the church could not but awaken a doubt as to the final victory of the church, and her glorification, which was met by the solemn assurance given respecting the consummation. The final glorification of the church has for its basis the preservation of the church amid the temptations threatening it; without the patience of Christ, no participation in his kingdom.
The position of the two witnesses becomes incomprehensible, if Revelation 11:1-2 are not referred to the Christian church. They are equally hated by the world-power—the beast which rises out of the abyss—and by the degenerate holy city, “which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified;” they were brought to death through the persecuting hatred of the degenerate community. On the degenerate holy city, according to Revelation 11:13, the judgment alights, and that because of the despite it had done to their testimony. Between the world-power and the Jews, however, there existed no internal connection. But there did between the world-power and the Christian church, which through the encroaching pressure of the former was to become to a large extent leavened with the spirit of the world.
The beast, from which, according to Revelation 11:7, proceeds the persecution of the two witnesses, has to do, according to ch. Revelation 13:7-8, not with the literal Jerusalem, but with the saints, whose name is written in the book of the Lamb that had been slain. The whole war of the Dragon, which the beast serves (comp. Revelation 13:2) is waged against those, who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; comp. Revelation 12:11.
The literal Jerusalem, at the time the Apocalypse was written, even taking the earliest date to which that has been ascribed, was no longer the theatre for the two witnesses. That Jerusalem had then ceased to be the seat and centre of the church—a dignity it lost at the moment of Christ’s death, Matthew 23:38—is manifest alone from the seven epistles, which proclaim the complete separation of the church from Jerusalem and its temple. But the witnessing generally has its proper territory only in the church of God, though possibly degenerate, and that here also this is to be regarded as the sphere of action, is evident from the prototypes Moses and Elias, who came forth in the midst of God’s church, and from the designation of the witnesses as the two olive-trees and the two lamps, which determine the region of their agency to be that of the Spirit and grace of God.
The result we have obtained is of importance in more than one point of view. First, the rejection of the ecclesiastical tradition respecting the composition of the Apocalypse under Domitian is thus deprived of one of its chief supports, and thereby an important vantage-ground is won for the correct exposition of the Apocalypse. But we have gained more than a mere fence. If here no judicial punishment is announced upon the Jews, in the only passage of the whole book where with some appearance of truth it might have been sought, that punishment must then be regarded as past, and the Revelation must consequently have been composed, not under Galba, but under Domitian. For, it is clear, that if Judaism had been already overthrown, the author could not have failed to announce its overthrow; he could not have occupied himself exclusively with the fall of heathenism, the less so as he had before his eyes the example of the Lord, from whom the overthrow of Jerusalem received so prominent a place.
Farther, it has now again been shewn how, what from the first is felt by a simple faith in the written word, that we have here holy ground, on which no patriotic imaginations and no products of common and impure human feeling are to be found, is fully confirmed by a careful and thorough investigation.
Finally, which is the point of greatest moment, it has become certain to us from the whole contents of the section, that the comforting assurance is there given us of the preservation of the church amid all temptations, the comforting assurance of our own preservation, if only we do not loiter about the court, but with the zeal which docs violence to the kingdom, press into the temple itself.
Ch. Revelation 11:14. The second woe is past; behold, the third woe comes quickly.
We have now in chap. Revelation 11:15-19 the seventh trumpet, the third woe. The trumpet of the seventh angel sounds, and the blessed in heaven triumph, that now the universal dominion of their God and his Christ appears immediately in prospect, Revelation 11:15. The heavenly representatives of the church, the four and twenty elders, give thanks to the Lord, that he now comes in his kingdom to execute judgment on the ungodly world, as also on the dead (raised to life again), and to reward the righteous, Revelation 11:16-18. The catastrophe follows; the confidence of the blessed and of the elders is not put to shame; the strong angel, who in ch. Revelation 10:6-7, had declared, that at the sounding of the seventh trumpet the completion of the mystery of God should take place without delay, keeps his word, Revelation 11:19.
The conclusion of the vision of the seven trumpets points back to its beginning. In ch. Revelation 8:3-4, the prayers of the saints call for the judgment of God on the world; here the saints give thanks that the wrath of the Lord has come. In ch. Revelation 8:5 voices, and lightnings, and thunders, and earthquakes, come forth as a symbolical announcement, that the world’s judgment is approaching; in Revelation 11:19 this symbolical announcement goes into complete fulfilment: amid lightnings, and voices, and thunders, and earthquakes, and great hail, the ungodly world is brought to ruin.
Revelation 11:15. And the seventh trumpet sounded. And there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdom of the world has become our Lord’s and his anointed’s, and he will reign for ever and ever. That we are to regard the great voices in heaven as chiefly at least proceeding from the great multitude, which no man could number, clothed with white robes and with palms in their hands, the saints made perfect, arises from the nature of things. For these are that portion of the heavenly inhabitants who are specially interested in this event; they are railed to reign with their Lord and his anointed, ch. Revelation 5:10; his entrance on the government is also theirs; they, the servants, now receive from their Lord the reward, Revelation 11:18. It is evident also from the correspondence, in which the expression, “to his servants” there, stands to “our Lord” here. It farther appears from a comparison of the parallel passages. Those that have the closest connection with the one before us—much more close than ch. Revelation 5:11-12, to which alone reference is commonly made—are ch. Revelation 12:10, where “the great voice” in heaven, which celebrates the completed redemption of Christ and his right to rule over the world, springing out of that, is the voice of the church; and ch. Revelation 19:1-8, where the great multitude in heaven, that proclaims with a loud voice on the fall of Rome, “Hallelujah, for the Lord our God, the Almighty reigns,” consists of saints, and apostles, and prophets—comp. ch. Revelation 18:20—those who fear God, great and small. The agreement with ch. Revelation 8:3 also serves to determine “the great voices.” If there the prayers of the saints cause the appearance of the angels with the seven trumpets, it can be no other than the saints who here triumph and give thanks, when the work of the seven angels was completed. Hence, though we may regard the angels generally as interested, as is shewn by ch. Revelation 7:11, we should conceive of them as being so only in a subordinate manner, and by way of concurrence. First, the whole host of the saints made perfect step forth, and celebrate in a short speech the victory of their Lord and his anointed. Then, the heavenly representatives of the church, its elite as it were, take up the discourse, and bring fully out what the others only indicate; precisely as in ch. 19, first the multitude of believers step forth, and then the elders. Accordingly, the bearers of the great voices mentioned at the beginning, are given at the close. They are no others than the servants of God, and the saints, and those who fear his name, the small and the great, Revelation 11:18. They are those, who also in ch. Revelation 15:2-4, before the entering of the seven last plagues of God, celebrate his glorious deeds and his approaching final victory over the world, and who sing in ch. Revelation 14:3 the new song before the throne.
The kingdom, βασιλεί?α , signifies here the kingdom, not in the passive, but in the active sense—the dominion; comp. on ch. Revelation 1:6. In ch. Revelation 12:6, Revelation 17:18, also, the kingdom occurs so. It is from not apprehending this import, that the explanatory reading followed by Luther, ἑ?γενοντο αἱ? βασιλεῖ?αι , has arisen: the kingdoms of the world have become. Therefore, by the kingdom having become, etc., is meant: The government is (now) possessed by our Lord and his anointed; and so it suits excellently with what follows: And he shall reign for ever and ever. He has now come to the government, and shall continue to exercise it for ever. The time of the world’s supremacy, of the oppression of the church, has at length come to a final end.
The kingdom has become. The result is first actually attained in Revelation 11:19. But since the angel has already sounded, and it is fixed, that the world’s catastrophe follows immediately on the trumpet, the consequence is anticipated. Such a rejoicing in prospect of the immediately approaching victory presents itself also under the old covenant. Thus Psalms 75 is a song of triumph before the victory. Here, as there, the confidence with which the coming deliverance is anticipated, rests upon the divine promise. It was guaranteed to the church by the oath of the strong angel in ch. Revelation 10:6-7, that under the trumpet of the seventh angel the mystery of God should be finished without delay, and the object of this was the dominion of the Lord and his anointed over the world.
The fact, which is here celebrated, has its proper root in the redemption accomplished by Christ—comp. Revelation 12:10; but here for the first time does the necessary consequence of that work come fully into reality. To the thanksgiving of the saints for their heavenly felicity, in ch. Revelation 7:10, corresponds here the expression of their joy on account of the final victory over the world. Bengel remarks: “As soon as the seventh angel sounds, the kingdom of the world becomes the Lord’s and his Christ’s, for ever. It is only in heaven, however, that this takes place so immediately, and in heaven alone is it celebrated with joy; for dreadful things still intervene on earth.” But this view is only a result of the embarrassment in which they are involved, who, instead of perceiving that the seventh trumpet is comprised in ch. Revelation 11:15-19, bring within its compass all that follows to the end of the book. The scene cannot, from the very nature of things, belong to heaven; and it makes nothing for this, that it is spoken of heaven. Decisive against such a view, is ch. Revelation 10:6-7, according to which the sound of the seventh trumpet and the finishing of God’s mystery, which can find its completion nowhere but on earth, for it concerns the dominion of Christ over the earth, are immediately united together.
Revelation 11:19 also decides against it, if only it is rightly interpreted. But with perfect truth Bengel remarks on the expression: it has become, “Everything, and consequently also the kingdom of the world, is God’s at all times. But in things visible and invisible, Satan and the world have set up their kings and lords against the Lord and his anointed. Such an impious rebellion is brought to an end by God, and he maintains his right.
That royal word of the suffering Jesus, ‘My kingdom is not of this world,’ has been greatly abused. His kingdom is not worldly, but the kingdom of the world is holy and Christian. This province, which has been long enough in the enemy’s hands, has at last been finally recovered; it is possessed by the Lord and his anointed.” The kingdom of the world is the Lord’s and his anointed’s—the Son’s, into whose hands all things have been committed by the Father, John 3:35, and in particular all judgment, John 5:22. There is the same connection here between the Lord and his anointed, as in Acts 4:26, in both places from Psalms 2:2, “The kings of the earth rise up, and the princes sit in counsel against the Lord and his anointed.” The conflict depicted there finds here at last an end. From the allusion to that fundamental passage it is clear, that anointed here is equivalent to king. The anointing, as was remarked in my commentary on the second Psalm, whether viewed as a real symbolical action, or spoken of in a merely figurative manner, is constantly regarded in the Old Testament as denoting the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as they were imparted to all the servants of God in his kingdom, which is characteristically distinguished from the kingdoms of this world by the very possession of these gifts. This signification comes very plainly out in the account given of the anointing of Saul, 1 Samuel 10:1, and of David, 1 Samuel 16:13-14. Kings were called by way of distinction the anointed, because they received a singularly rich supply of divine grace for their important office. The expression was on this account peculiarly appropriated to the king; he was the individual in whom the idea of the kingdom must be fully realized. [Note: Bengel: “Elisha the prophet was anointed, 1 Kings 12:16; priests were anointed, Exodus 28:41; but most of all kings; and therefore the term anointed, when used absolutely, denotes only the king. He was wont to be called the Lord’s anointed, not the anointed king. In the whole gospel history the name of Christ is never explained by the word priest, but very often by the name of king. And so, as often as Messiah is spoken of in Scripture, respect is had to his kingdom.”]
The future dominion of the Lord over the world, resting on the solid foundation, that he is still Lord in the midst of the world’s revolt ( Psalms 22:28, Psalms 24:1), was predicted in a long series of passages of Old Testament Scripture. It was the strong consolation solution which bore up the church of the Lord for many centuries, during which the world made her afraid. The most exact agreement is with Obadiah, Obadiah 1:21, “And the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” Comp. Zechariah 14:9, “And the Lord will be king over the whole earth,” Daniel 2:44. The world-supremacy of Christ, beside that of the Lord, is announced in Daniel 7:13-14, as well as in Psalms 2, “And behold there came one with the clouds of heaven like a Son of man, and came to the Ancient of days, and he was brought before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, and all peoples, nations, and tongues, serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which does not pass away, and his kingdom has no end.” Comp. Daniel 7:18, Daniel 7:27, where the dominion of the Lord and of his anointed appears at the same time as the dominion of the people of the saints of the Most High, precisely as in the passage before us.
Our Lord, so the saints say with tender affection, instead of simply, the Lord, as used in the original passage; indicating also, that with his dominion theirs was inseparably connected; for the glory of the Lord passes over also upon the servants, comp. at ch. Revelation 9:7. Bengel would delete the our, on very slender external authority, because he does not perceive its true import. A glance at Revelation 11:18 shews, that it was necessary here. What the elders there fully express must here be indicated, at least, in the utterance of the saints. It is a mournful retrogression to seek, as many now do, to have states emancipated from the dominion of Christ. If they are severed from the end, which they are bound perpetually to promote, there will only be substituted for the dominion of grace, the dominion of judgment. But those who contend for a Christian state in opposition to wanton despisers, have here a rich consolation, and may quietly laugh at the world, while it deems their cause to be lost. The more decided the unchristianity of a state, the nearer is its absolute Christianity.
Revelation 11:16. And the four and twenty elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell upon their faces and worshipped God. Revelation 11:17. Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who art and wast; because thou hast taken thy great power and dost reign. Revelation 11:18. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead to be judged, and to give reward to thy servants, the prophets, and the saints, and to those that fear thy name, small and great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth. The four and twenty elders who sit before God on their thrones (they constantly sit there during the whole assembly of counsel and judgment that was held to decide upon the fates of the church and the world, ch. Revelation 4:2), have respect to ch. Revelation 4:4. Their worship to ch. Revelation 4:10. There they adore and praise him, who prepares himself to judge the world. Here they celebrate the judgment as executed, the final victory over the world. According to ch. Revelation 5:10, they are the representatives of those, who shall reign upon the earth. In the assumption of dominion over the world by the Lord and his anointed, this dignity has now come to be fully enjoyed, and consequently it calls forth their thanksgivings. Bengel: “What the voices in heaven generally have spoken, is now more circumstantially unfolded in the thanksgiving of the elders. At other times they sit before the throne of God, but here they fall down, and that, not only upon their knees, but even upon their faces, and give to God the most profound worship. This worship consists in the fullest thanksgiving. Often as the elders are mentioned, they are never represented, as here, to have fallen prostrate on their faces. The greater the revelation is of divine grace and glory, the deeper always is the humiliation of the creatures, especially of those, who are the nearest to him.”
In Revelation 11:17, the address is directed to God in the unity of his being, without respect to difference of persons—comp. on ch. Revelation 1:8. There should be a point after God; “the Almighty” unfolds what is contained in “God;” the, “who is and was,” explains the import of “Lord,” equal to Jehovah—comp. on ch. Revelation 1:8. There it is said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord God who is, and who was, and who comes, the Almighty.” The designations of God here agree exactly with those there; excepting that “who comes” is awanting. The designations there serve to carry up the declaration that God will preserve his supremacy as at the beginning, so also at the end, to its necessity in the divine nature. Here, in view of the perfect keeping of the assurance there given, they point to the source, out of which it flows. The same designations of God occur also in ch. Revelation 4:8. The clause added by Luther: and is to come, is to be deleted. It is one of the most important deviations in the translation of Luther from the correct text of the Revelation. Externally, it has a very meagre support; the best authorities all speak for its omission; it has originated with those who thought they must supply from ch. Revelation 1:4-5, Revelation 4:8; and so thought, because they did not perceive that the subject has here reached another stage than at those parallel passages. Here the discourse can no longer be of a coming of the Lord, because he has already come. Bengel: “When it is said, We thank thee that thou hast taken thy great power, it is as much as to say, We thank thee that thou hast come. And when the wrath of God has come, as the elders say, in Revelation 11:18, then God himself has also come.” The ungenuineness of the words: and art to come, is clear also from this, that the simple “thou art and wast,” in ch. Revelation 16:5, the only passage where it occurs besides this, can only be explained if it has been preceded by ours—see on the passage. The elders not merely praise the Lord, they give him thanks, because they are partakers of the great power which God takes, and of the dominion which he enters on. The power is the means by which the kingdom has been won. And great must be the power which can subdue an ungodly world, Ephesians 6:12. The taking forms the contrast to the leaving alone. He always possessed the power, but hitherto he had not exercised it. To reign is here, as much as to enter on the government. This is shewn here, and in ch. Revelation 19:6, by the tense; properly: thou hast reigned, thou hast entered on the government. The original passage for the words, “Thou hast taken thy great power and reignest,” is Psalms 93:1, “The Lord reigns, he is clothed with majesty, the Lord clothes and girds himself about with power.” The world-power there threatens to shake the earth, and with it the kingdom of God. But the Psalmist sets against its revolt the Lord, whom he sees coming in his kingdom, clothed with majesty, and girt about with power. It was remarked there in my commentary that the expression: the Lord reigns, “alludes to the form used at the proclamation of earthly kings”—comp. 2 Samuel 15:10; 1 Kings 1:11, 1 Kings 1:13; 2 Kings 9:13 Kings Revelation 9:13. This allusion itself shews that it is not the existing government of the Lord which is here spoken of, but a new and glorious revelation of his supremacy, as it were a new ascension of the throne. We are led to the same result also by the parallel passages, Psalms 96:10, Psalms 97:1, Psalms 99:1, where the same form of expression occurs. In all of them it is, the coming of the Lord in his kingdom that is referred to. In the face of the high-sounding pretensions of the world-power, asserting its dominion over the earth, that it has now gained the ascendancy over the kingdom of God; in the face of the proclamation: Assyria or Babylon reigns, the Psalmist exclaims: The Lord reigns; he announces that the dominion of the Lord, far from being destroyed by such feeble assaults, is now going to manifest itself in its full glory.” What faith had there anticipated, that is now without delay to be brought to its full realization. The verbal allusion to the Psalms implies, that what the church now has immediately in prospect is the same that had long ago been prophesied; the hopes and expectations of the fathers were now to be gloriously realized. Along with the passages referred to in the Psalms, the three first petitions in the Lord’s Prayer also, which, from their indications of the Lord’s will, may likewise be regarded as prophecies, receive their complete fulfilment. (Vitringa: “This is that kingdom, whose coming Jesus Christ has taught us to expect and ask in prayer from God; it was then, indeed, begun, but now it reaches its consummation.”) The Lord’s taking his great power here, has its prefiguration in the overthrow of particular phases of the ungodly power, in a manifold series of provisional judgments on it; comp. ch. Revelation 19:6, where the “Hallelujah, for the Lord our God, the Almighty reigns,” is uttered on the occasion of the overthrow of Rome. But these preliminary fulfilments point forward to the final one, to the time when not merely a particular phase of the ungodly power, but this power itself, lies stricken under the judgments of God.
In Revelation 11:18, words are put into the mouth of the elders, which serve more definitely to characterize the seventh trumpet, in the proper description of which the prophet expresses himself with enigmatical brevity, to indicate, that a more lengthened delineation of the matter is to be given afterwards. [Note: Vitringa: “The things are spoken here indirectly, which would have been spoken directly and explicitly, if it had not been in the mind of the Spirit to disclose more fully in the subsequent parts of this prophecy the evils of the seventh trumpet.”] The wrath of the heathen is the time of provocation for the wrath of God. It pervades the whole of history, and then at the end of history it finds its full recompense, after many a prelude of the final issue has been given during the course of God’s providential dealings. The wrath of the heathen is called forth by the advancement of the hated kingdom of God and Christ, as it began to take place after the Word was made flesh. Such wrath, says Bengel, “continues still to shew itself. When God with his kingdom, when Christ with his truth, comes near to men, the hatred breaks forth against the light. And it will yet gather still more wind, and burst forth into a violent flame.” In consequence of this wrath of the heathen, rooted in the wrath of Satan (comp. ch. Revelation 12:17), they have shed the blood of saints and prophets; comp. ch. Revelation 16:6, Revelation 18:24. The chief phases of the wrath of the heathen are, according to the subsequent visions, the wrath of Rome, of the ten kings, of Gog and Magog, Revelation 20:7-9. [Note: The allusion is to Psalms 99:1, “The Lord reigns, the peoples tremble.” The words there have a twofold import. רגז signifies, not merely to tremble, but also to be angry, comp. Psalms 4:4, and this signification stands here in the back-ground. This was perceived by the LXX., who translate: Ὁ? κύ?ριος ἐ?βασί?λευσεν , ὀ?ργιζέ?σθωσαν , the Lord has entered on his kingdom, let the peoples be angry. Quite similar is the ποιμανεῖ? in ch. 2:27. There too a concealed hack ground is brought into view. That allusion is made to the passage in the Psalm here can the less be doubted, as ἐ?βασί?λευσας immediately preceded. Besides, also, Psalms 2 treats of the wrath of God and the wrath of the heathen.] The wrath of God is come, because it is already as good as present; it breaks forth immediately in Revelation 11:19, comp. ch. Revelation 6:16-17, where the expression is employed with equal prominence. Till now, the wrath of God has been the coming, or the future—comp. Matthew 3:7, 1 Thessalonians 1:10.
The time of the dead to be judged, is as much as the time when the dead shall be judged. That the subject of discourse here is the final judgment on the dead previously raised to life again (in opposition to Vitringa, who understands by the judgment on the dead, God’s espousing the cause of the dead martyrs, and bringing them into honourable remembrance), is manifest especially from ch. Revelation 20:12-13, where what is here indicated finds its fuller expansion: there the dead stand before the throne, the books are opened, and the dead are judged according to what is written in the books, according to their works—comp. John 5:28-29, “The hour cometh, in which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of damnation.” In ch. Revelation 20:12-13, the dead that are judged, are only the bad. The books are only the records of guilt. The book of life is opened merely to shew, that they are not written in it. They are all condemned to the second death. Accordingly, we mast here also understand by the judgment the judgment of condemnation, that which is the product of the wrath of God, in harmony with the resurrection of judgment in John 5:29, and John 5:24, “Verily, verily I say to you, whosoever hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, he has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but is passed from death to life”—comp. John 3:17, where to be judged forms the contrast to be saved, Revelation 18:8; Revelation 19:2; 1 Peter 4:6; 1 Corinthians 11:31-32. Otherwise it might be supposed, that by the time of the dead to be judged was meant the general judgment, and that in what follows the dead would fall into their two divisions. But in opposition to this, it is not said: those who have corrupted, but those who corrupt the earth. Besides the dead the living also are judged. But it was unnecessary to make mention of them expressly, because it was to be understood of itself, that when the dead sinners were judged, the living also should be so; whereas during the six preceding trumpets only the living were judged, and not the dead. Still, the living are not mentioned, even at the close of the verse.
The Lord himself has spoken of the reward to be given to his own, Matthew 5:12, Matthew 5:46; Matthew 10:41-42. We have not here the two things existing alongside of each other, the wrath, judgment, destruction—and the distribution of reward; but the execution of judgment brings redemption along with it. If this is not perceived, the clause: and to destroy, trails in an unseemly manner. The reward of the faithful consists in this, that the earth has been cleared of its persecutors and oppressors, and now the meek possess it, Matthew 5:5. In regard to the persons who receive the reward, Bengel remarks, “There are three kinds of servants of God. There are the prophets, who have brought the will of God to men, and for the most part suffered death. There are the saints, who have given themselves wholly up to obey the will of God, although they may not have been called to deliver any particular oral testimony. These two kinds pre-eminently bear the honourable name of the Servants of God. But there are also those who fear his name, small and great. These are the inferior common class of such as receive a reward from God, and escape destruction. For one who is absolutely godless never properly fears God, Luke 23:40.” But the right view is rather that here two general and comprehensive designations are put, servants of the Lord and those who fear his name, and that each of the two classes comprises two subdivisions under it—the first, prophets and saints; the second, in reverse order, the small and the great. The servants of the Lord here are not the prophets and saints; comp. ch. Revelation 19:5, where to the servants of God correspond those who fear him: Praise our God all his servants and those who fear him, the small and the great. Believers generally are also called God’s servants in ch. Revelation 2:20, Revelation 7:3, Revelation 22:3, see on the title at ch. Revelation 1:1. By the prophets here the teachers, who also in Daniel have attained to a dignity of their own, ch. Revelation 12:3, are represented as by their head; much as in ch. Revelation 11:3 the whole work of witness-bearing is represented by that of prophecying. There is no reason for supposing that the prophets are here to be understood in the larger sense; they represent here, as also in ch. 11, the species, as being the most distinguished part. The saints never mean peculiarly distinguished Christians. By the name of saints all Israelites were designated in the Old Testament, the whole people of the covenant as the set apart, the chosen, those whom God had taken out of the territory of the profane world, behind whose glitter and display, misery and deep degradation ever lie concealed, and had elevated into the condition of his people—see my Commentary on Psalms 16:2. And so in the New Testament, and especially in the Apocalypse, it is a common designation of all Christians—comp. Revelation 13:7; Revelation 13:10, Revelation 14:12, Revelation 17:6, Revelation 18:20, Revelation 20:9. The saints, as distinguished from the prophets here, are the other holy persons, for prophets also were such: as we read of Judah and (the rest of) Israel, Jerusalem and (the rest of) Judah, in ch. Revelation 9:3, the men who bore the seal of God on their foreheads, and the grass and trees of the earth, meaning by these the rest of men. By those that fear the Lord was very commonly denoted in the Old Testament the entire multitude of believers—comp. for example Psalms 112:1, Psalms 22:23, where those that fear God form the parallelism to the seed of Jacob. Here it is not said simply, fear thee, but fear thy name. The name of God is the product of his doings. That he has a name distinguishes the God of Revelation from an anonymous deity, such as Deism and Rationalism would set up for God. By the small and the great only such distinctions can be denoted as are similar to prophets and other saints, distinctions existing within the same territory, hence not such as are formed by riches, worldly position, or relative age. The small occurs thus in Matthew 10:42, Matthew 18:6, Matthew 18:10, Matthew 18:14; comp. Luke 9:46, where the disciples contended among themselves who among them should be the greater, in regard to the place they might occupy in the kingdom of God. The saints and the small are to be regarded as emphatic. The design of giving so extended a description is to meet the misgivings of those, who can scarcely venture to appropriate to themselves any share in the reward, because they feel themselves so little and weak and wretched.
That we have understood correctly who are meant by the receivers of the reward, is clear from the fundamental and parallel passages. In Psalms 115:10-11, we find set over against the house of Aaron, “and (all the rest) who fear the Lord.” In Psalms 115:12-13, of the same Psalm it is said, “He shall bless the house of Israel, bless the house of Aaron. He shall bless those that fear the Lord, the small and the great.” By the great there the priests more especially are understood, though including along with them all who occupy a prominent place in the kingdom of God, as here also the great is not to be absolutely confined to the prophets—comp. chap. Revelation 13:16, Revelation 19:18, Revelation 20:12, from which it is clear, that the distinction is of a wider compass. In Psalms 118:2-4 we find Israel, the house of Aaron, those who fear the Lord—the latter the connecting link between the house of Aaron and (the rest of) Israel. To the distinction of saints and prophets here corresponds in Matthew 10:4, the distinction of prophets and (the rest of) the righteous. Finally, in Revelation 18:20, two divisions are made—saints, and apostles and prophets. The reward of the saints consists in this, that their persecutors are brought to destruction. So that the “and to destroy,” &c., comes in quite naturally. Allusion is made to Genesis 6:11-13, “And the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was full of violence. And God saw the earth and behold it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth. And God said to Noah, the end of all flesh is come before me, for the earth is full of violence by them, and behold I corrupt (destroy) them with the earth.” As the sins of ancient times had revived, so also must their punishment. Those who destroy (corrupt) the earth, not at all mainly by idolatry, but, according to the original passage and ch. Revelation 19:2, mainly by violence, and in particular by persecuting the church—comp. the (heathen) nations were angry, with which the verse begins. As the reward is distributed to the great and the small, so the judgment also falls upon all the destroyers without distinction, the deceivers and the deceived, the ringleaders in mischief, and their instruments. Bengel: “If those who have destroyed the earth, are destroyed, it is then good for the earth, and on account of it thanks are here rendered by those who are now to bear sway on the earth.”
Revelation 11:19. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of his testimony was seen in his temple; and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and a great hail. By ναό?ς here is denoted the whole heavenly temple (comp. Revelation 3:12, Revelation 7:15), in the narrower sense, as consisting of the sanctuary and the Most Holy Place. But the temple is only then opened fully when the veil is quite removed, which separated the sanctuary from the Holiest, in which the ark stood. This ark had a double name. It is called the ark of testimony, as containing the law which testified against sin—comp. Exodus 25:16, Exodus 25:22, Exodus 26:33. But this designation is quite a partial one; it needs the other, the ark of the covenant ( Deuteronomy 10:8, Deuteronomy 31:9, Deuteronomy 31:25-26; Joshua 3:6, Joshua 4:9) for its complement. The ark also had belonging to it as an integral part, the capporeth, the symbol of atonement, on which the covenant was founded; see my Beitr. III. p. 641, ss.: “The indispensable condition of God’s connection with men, the foundation of his dwelling among them, is the atoning divine compassion. This was symbolized by the capporeth. As externally the capporeth covered the ark with its testimony, so spiritually did the divine compassion the sins of the people.” The choice between these two designations is usually to be determined by the respect under which the sacred ark is brought into view. It is called the ark of the covenant, when its property as a symbol and pledge of the covenant is made account of. So, for example, in the narrative of the wonderful passage through the Jordan in the book of Joshua, in which the ark of the covenant formed a wall against the waters. So also in the siege of Jericho, Joshua 6:6. Now here the ark cannot come into consideration in so far as it contained the tables of the law, as Hofmann has explained the reason of its appearance: “The law still retains its power, as well in regard to those who have sinned against it as to those who have fulfilled it. It may therefore be openly exhibited, after having been so long covered, while God was bearing with the wicked and not rewarding his servants.” For, in that case, the ark would rather have been called the ark of testimony—comp. ch. Revelation 15:5, “And afterwards I looked, and behold the temple of the tabernacle of testimony was opened in heaven,” where a real value must be attached to the testimony, in which the world alone participates, for the capporeth avails only for the church. In the representation also of the judgment a point of essential moment would be wanting, the reference to the church, which still, according to ch. Revelation 10:7, must not be wanting. Finally, by this view too much is to be supplied. But when the ark of the covenant is made visible, the meaning can only be that the covenant receives its most signal accomplishment. [Note: “As a testimony, that what God had promised was now to be most perfectly fulfilled, both for the dismay and overthrow of the enemies, and for the support and joy of his own people.”] By the open exhibition of the ark it was intimated that the terrors which according to the following words Were to burst upon the earth, had their foundation in the love of God—comp. the similar representation in ch. Revelation 14:15; Revelation 14:17. The thought is this, that God now, remembering his holy covenant, shall give to his people, that being redeemed from the hand of their enemies, they may serve God without fear, Luke 1:72-74. We must not determine the connection with what follows in some such way as this: there is a blessed reward to the righteous, though the words also represent the frightful punishment of the wicked; but the realization of the covenant, as is indicated by the appearance of the ark of the covenant, consists precisely in the overthrow of the enemies; as likewise in Revelation 11:18, the distribution of reward to the servants consisted in the destroying of those who destroy the earth. The appearance of the ark of the covenant marks the judgment inflicted on the world to be an expression of the love of God to his church.
The bright appearance here forms the contrast to the sad appearance in ch. Revelation 12:3.
According to some expositors mention is made of a heavenly temple in Exodus 25:9, Exodus 25:40, Exodus 26:30, Exodus 27:8; Numbers 8:3. But the subject of discourse there is not of a heavenly temple and its furniture, the prototype of the earthly, but only that God called forth in the spirit of Moses the vision of the sanctuary, which formed the basis of the structure of the tabernacle. These passages, therefore, are not in point here. As little also does the Jewish fable of the concealment of the ark in a secret place before the Babylonish exile come into consideration (Ewald). For, here the discourse is of the heavenly temple, the heavenly ark of the covenant.
Of the throne of God above the ark of the covenant, no account is made here. There is no reference to the representation given of God’s appearance in ch. 4, and the question is out of place, how the ark of the covenant, over which was the throne of God, could here first appear visible, after what had preceded? God was not bound to the ark of the covenant. Even in Ezekiel, Ezekiel 10:4, the glory of the Lord raised itself from the cherub to the threshold of the house; and in Ezek. Ezekiel 1 the Lord appears to the prophet upon the cherubim out of the temple with its ark.
The five number: Lightnings, voices, thunderings, earthquake, hail, is deserving of notice. It denotes, according to the uniform signification of the five in Scripture, and especially in the Apocalypse, as the signature of the half and incomplete, the unfinished character of the representation, and points to the supplement, which it is to receive in the later groups. The same signification belongs to the number five ( which is here as little accidental as that of the three in ch. Revelation 4:6, or of the four, as the signature of the earth, which the threatening respected, in ch. Revelation 8:5) in the passage ch. Revelation 16:18-21, in which there is simply an extension of the one before us.
The comparison between the passage before us and ch. Revelation 8:5, “And there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake,” is instructive. The lightnings, which there occupy the third place, are here placed at the head; and quite naturally. For there, where the voices, etc., have only a threatening character, where they merely foreshadow the future judgments, the thunder is at least as early in its production as the lightning; but here, on the contrary, where all concerns the judgment itself, the thunder can only come into consideration as connected with the lightning, as rendering the scene of destruction more appalling. Hand in hand with this position of the lightning, goes the addition of the hail, which never possesses a merely threatening character, but always appears where judgment has actually entered; comp. ch. Revelation 8:7. Also in ch. Revelation 16:18-21, where likewise the actual entrance of the judgment is represented, the lightnings form the beginning and the hail the conclusion.
The verse before us is related to Revelation 11:15-18 much as in ch. Revelation 16:18, the report that there were voices, thunders, etc., to the anticipative declaration in Revelation 11:17: It is done.
The earthquake marks the shattering of the ungodly world-power—comp. on ch. Revelation 6:12. Ch. Revelation 16:18-20 forms a commentary on it. [Note: The καὶ? σεισμό?ς , which is omitted in some critical helps, cannot be dispensed with were it only on account of the relation to ch. 8:5. Then also the relation to ch. 16:18-20 requires it. The reason for the omission may be gathered from the remark of Züllig: “Others have still earthquake, but this would destroy the round number corresponding to the four quarters of the world.”] Hail appears often in the Old Testament as an image of divine judgment, comp. Isaiah 30:30, Isaiah 32:19; Psalms 18:12-13, “At the brightness before him his clouds passed, hailstones and coals of fire! And the Lord thundered in the heavens, and the Most High gave forth his voice, hailstones and coals of fire.” There too we have a scene of actual destruction. The storm of divine wrath discharges itself. Amid frightful thunder and the sea of fire, by which the Lord in his anger was encompassed, lightnings burst forth, rending the cloud, and hailstones pour down—the weapons with which the Lord assails his own and his people’s enemies; as of old the Egyptians ( Exodus 9:24, comp. Psalms 78:47-48), and the Canaanites at Bethoron ( Joshua 10:11). The repetition there in Joshua 10:13, serves the same design as is done here by the lightning being made to open and the hail to close the series. The repetition, as remarked in my Commentary, is the more in its place as the fiery coals, or lightnings, and the hailstones, were properly the things by which the enemies of the Psalmist were destroyed; the rest were mere accompaniments by which the scene of destruction was rendered more dreadful.
We have here no limitation of the territory, as in the first six trumpets, and even in the great earthquake, which befals Jerusalem in the episode in ch. Revelation 11:13; which is a clear proof that we have here to do with the final judgment.
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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Revelation 11". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany