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1 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
Ver. 1. A reed ] That is, the word of God, that little book that he had newly eaten. This is the only rule of faith and discipline whereby all in the Church must be made and meted.
Like unto a rod ] Or, sceptre. The word is that rod of Christ’s strength, whereby he rules in the midst of his enemies, Psalms 110:2 . It is that right sceptre, Psalms 45:6 , which he sways and whereby he sovereigns. The Proverbs of Solomon are called in Hebrew Mishle, or mastersentences,Proverbs 1:1; Proverbs 1:1 ; (from Mashal, dominari to be mastered). And the Scriptures bear the title of Chieftains, Proverbs 8:6 , and of lords of collections, as some render it,Ecclesiastes 12:11; Ecclesiastes 12:11 .
Measure the temple of God ] The Church, that had been so woefully wasted and oppressed by Antichrist, that it stood in need of new measuring and repairing.
That worship therein ] In the temple, as being all spiritual priests; and in the altar, as placing all their confidence in Christ’s death alone.
2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
Ver. 2. But the court ] The antichristian rout, cast out as reprobate silver, as refuse stuff, not worth the measuring.
Given unto the Gentiles ] Antichrist and his adherents. Pa-pagans are no better than Pagans. "Are ye not the children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the Lord,"Amos 9:7; Amos 9:7 .
The holy city ] The true Church. See Daniel 7:21 ; Ephesians 2:19 .
Forty and two months ] This number is one and the same with 1260 days. The allusion is unto Daniel 7:25 .
3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
Ver. 3. And I will give unto my two, &c. ] sc. Power to purge the Church, and to stand for the truth, all the while it was trodden under foot. Videsis Catalogum Testium veritatis ab Illyrico editum. Zuinglius recordeth that Luther and he (both at one time, the one not knowing nor hearing of the other) began to write against the pope’s indulgences. And of Luther and Melancthon one writes thus,
" Divisae his operae, sed mens fuit unica; pavit
Ore Lutherus oves, flore Melanethon apes. "
"This separate works, but the intent was the same, by the mouth Luther feeds the sheep, by the flowers Melanethon feeds the bees."
Unto my two witnesses ] The whole succession of faithful preachers, under the tyranny and rage of Antichrist. These are said to be two, that is, few; or two, that is, enough, Deuteronomy 17:6 ; or two, in reference to those noble twos, Moses and Aaron, Elijah and Elisha, Zerubbabel and Joshua, in allusion to whom these witnesses are here described.
Clothed in sackcloth ] As calling men to repentance; or as bewailing their blindness; or as lacking better clothing.
4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
Ver. 4. These are the two olive trees ] SeeZechariah 4:3; Zechariah 4:3 ; Zechariah 4:11 ; Zechariah 4:14 . in this book of the Revelation the Holy Ghost borrows all the elegancies and flowers in the story of the Old Testament, thereby to set out the story of the New in succeeding ages.
5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
Ver. 5. Fire proceedeth out of their mouths ] So that a man were better anger all the witches in the world than God’s faithful witnesses; for they have ever vengeance in a readiness for the disobedient,2 Corinthians 10:6; 2 Corinthians 10:6 . God inflicting what they either denounce or desire of him against their adversaries.
6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
Ver. 6. That it rain not ] That the influence of divine grace be withheld from those that despise the gospel; so that they become as those mountains of Gilboa, 2 Samuel 1:21 , or that accursed earth,Hebrews 6:8; Hebrews 6:8 .
7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
Ver. 7. And when they shall have finished ] Like as Christ, that faithful and true witness (as he is called, Rev 3:14 ), when he had preached much about the same time as here, was slain by a Roman governor, raised with an earthquake, and received up into heaven in a cloud; so these. And, ουκ αγαπας μετα φωκιωνος αποθανουμενος . (Plut.) Art thou not glad to fare as Phocion? said he to one that was to suffer with him. These two witnesses could not be killed while they were doing, but when they had done their work. No malice of man can antedate my end a minute (saith one hereupon) while my Master hath work for me to do.
Shall overcome them ] By arms, not by arguments.
And kill them ] This killing, whether it be already past, or yet to come, it is hard to say. But if to come, some think it shall be but a civil death, that is, of them as witnesses only, not a natural death as men; and so the same persons shall rise again, and enjoy the fruits of their former labours and ascend into a greater glory. (Mr Thos. Goodwin.)
8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
Ver. 8. And their dead bodies ] This shows it cannot be meant as a natural death; for how should their bodies lie dead (in that sense) for three years and a half, or (say as it were) for a shorter time?
Of the great city ] Rome, of whose greatness Lipsius and Stapleton have written. See Revelation 17:18 ; Revelation 18:2-6 . Hence she is called the great whore, and great Babylon, not without reference unto the old Babylon; which was so great a city, that when it was taken by Cyrus, some part of it knew not what condition they were in till three days after. (Herodot. Arist. Pol.)
Where also our Lord was crucified ] For he was put to death by a Roman judge, by a Roman authority, by a kind of death proper to the Romans, &c. He is also crucified in Rome in his members, word, spirit, and worship.
9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.
Ver. 9. Three days and a half ] i.e. For a short time, till out of their ashes others should arise to stickle for Christ. The pope never rested, but had one or other faithful witness to oppose him; either to his face (as Joannes Sarisburiensis, Qui praesens praesentem Pontificem redarguit; and Mancinellus, who reproved Alexander VI in a sermon at Rome, and had therefore his hands cut off, and his tongue cut out, whereof he died), or else in some more remote part of his dominion, as Savonarola (whom Guicciardin and Mirandula highly commend), Petrarch, who writeth thus, Babylon altera, nempe propinquior, atque recentior, adhuc stat, cito itidem casura, si essetis viri; Babylon would soon down, would you but play the men; besides a cloud of other witnesses, that might here be called in. (Jac. Rev.)
Not suffer their dead bodies ] So fulfilling that, Psalms 79:2 . Some they would not suffer to be buried; others they dug up again after burial, as (besides many of our martyrs) they unburied and burned the bones of Hermannus Ferrariensis after they had sainted him, because he was said to have followed the doctrine of the Waldenses, those ancient Protestants. (Jac. Rev.) Cardinal Pole had a purpose, if he had lived, to have taken up King Henry VIII’s body, and to have burned it. It was generally observed, that as Winchester and Bonner did always thirst after the blood of the living, so was Cardinal Pole’s lightning (for the most part) kindled against the dead; and he reserved this charge only to himself.
10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
Ver. 10. Shall rejoice over them ] As they did at the Council of Constance, when they had burnt John Huss and Jerome of Prague. So upon the news of the bishops burnt at Oxford, Gardiner came out rejoicing to the Duke of Norfolk; Now, said he, let us be merry and go to dinner. But it was the last he did eat, and he went to hell to digest it too. a So upon the news of the French massacre, a jubilee was proclaimed at Rome; the Cardinal of Lorrain gave a thousand crowns to the messenger; the pope caused the massacre to be painted in his palace. Those of Ireland he will surely portray in his chapel or oratory. (Thuanus.)
These two prophets tormented them ] As Elias did Ahab, Jeremiah and Amos their flagitious countrymen, and as the martyrs here did their persecutors. Dr Fuller came to William Woolsey his prisoner, and said, Thou dost much trouble my conscience; wherefore I pray thee depart and rule thy tongue, so that I hear no more complaint of thee, and come to church when thou wilt, &c. The end of carnal joy is sorrow (saith Mr Bradford, martyr, in a certain letter). Now let the whoremonger joy with the drunkard, swearer, covetous, malicious, blind buzzard, St John. For the mass will not bite them, nor make them to blush as preaching will. Now may they do what they will; come devils to the church, and go devils home; for no man must find fault; and they are glad of this. Now have they their heart’s desire, as the Sodomites had when Lot was gone, &c.
a In terris manducant quod apud inferos degerunt.
11 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.
Ver. 11. And they stood upon their feet ] That is, they set themselves stoutly and vigorously to fight against Antichrist. As William Ockam, who being excommunicated by the pope for writing some things against him, fled to Ludovicus the emperor, who was likewise excommunicated, and said unto him, Tu me gladio defende a Papae iniuriis, et ego te verbis ae scriptis defendam, Defend thou me with arms, and I will defend thee with arguments. The bishops also of those times that sided with the emperor, though they were none of the best, yet they resolved and avowed never to yield to the pope, Sed si excommanicaturus veniret, excommunicaturus abiret, cum aliter se habeat antiquorum canonum authoritas
12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
Ver. 12. To heaven in a cloud ] As Christ did. See Trapp on " Rev 11:7 "
And their enemies beheld ] Not without rage and regret to see how they were crossed, and the truth more and more propagated. Trucidabantur et multiplicabantur, saith one. The Church as the lily is increased by its own juice; Totum mundum sanguine et oratione convertit, saith Luther; She converts all the world by her sufferings and supplications.
13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
Ver. 13. A great earthquake ] Since the Reformation, what stirs and broils have there been all over Christendom! God’s sword hath ridden circuit, Ezekiel 14:17 , and is not yet sheathed, nor can it, Jeremiah 47:6-7 , as being still in commission.
And the tenth part, &c. ] Ruit alto a culmine Roma. Louis XII, king of France, threatened that he would destroy Rome, and coined money with an inscription to that purpose, Se perditurum Babylonem cui cum hac inscriptione monetae, minatus est. George Fransperg (a general under Charles Bourbon) that sacked the city of Rome, caused a halter to be carried near his colours, saying that with that he would hang the pope; encouraging his soldiers (who were most of them Lutherans) with the great opportunity they had to get spoils. (Hist. of the Council of Trent.) But the sins of that city are not yet full.
Gave glory to the God of heaven ] Confessed their sins, as Achan, and changed their minds, as thoseMalachi 3:18; Malachi 3:18 . It is said of the Burgundians, that being afflicted and oppressed by the Huns, they applied themselves to Christ the God of the Christians, whom, after a long debate, they concluded to be the Almighty God. (Alsted. Chron.)
14 The second woe is past; and , behold, the third woe cometh quickly.
Ver. 14. The second woe is past ] Visionally past, not eventually.
The third woe ] Woe to the wicked, but joy to the saints. At once the sun rises upon Zoar, and the fire falls down upon Sodom. Abraham stands upon the hill, and sees the cities burning.
15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
Ver. 15. Great voices in heaven ] i.e. Great joy and triumph in the Church militant.
Are become the kingdoms ] They have renounced Popery, given up their names to the gospel, and received the Reformation.
For ever and ever ] Not for a thousand years only, as the millenaries hold.
16 And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
Ver. 16. And the four and twenty elders ] See Trapp on " Rev 4:9 "
17 Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.
Ver. 17. Because thou hast taken ] Thou hast slain and subdued those thine enemies, that sent messengers after thee, saying, "We will not have this man to rule over us."
18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
Ver. 18. Were angry ] Sed vanae sine viribus irae; the wrath of these men turned to the glory of God.
That they should be judged ] According to their prayer, and thy promise, Revelation 6:10-11 .
And shouldest destroy them ] God usually retaliates and proportions jealousy to jealousy, provocation to provocation, Deuteronomy 32:21 ; frowardness to frowardness, Psalms 18:26 ; contrariety to contrariety, Leviticus 26:18 ; Leviticus 26:21 ; destruction to destruction, as here. He pays them home in their own coin.
19 And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
Ver. 19. And the temple of God ] Abundance of light shall be diffused in the Church, and heavenly mysteries more clearly revealed and more commonly understood.
The ark of his testament ] That is, the secret mysteries of God. The ark was in a secret place; and seen by none but the high priest once a year.
And there were lightnings ] Utter destruction to the wicked, as there was to Jericho, at the sound of the seventh trumpet,Joshua 6:16; Joshua 6:16 .
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 11". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29