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John, at the Command of the Angel, measureth the Temple. The Lord speaks of his two Witnesses: their Power. Their Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. The seventh Angel soundeth his Trumpet. The great Events which follow.
(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. (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.
The beloved Apostle is here employed by the Lord, to measure the temple of God, and the Altar, and them that worship therein. This latter clause of the people, throws a light upon the former, and seems to explain, that, by the whole is meant the Church, the true Church of regenerated believers. The word of God, in a great variety of places, speaks of God's people as a Church founded on Christ. God the Father, ages before Christ's incarnation, called upon the Church to behold that he laid in Zion, for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation, Isaiah 28:16 . And God the HOLT Ghost by Peter declares, that this was Christ, to whom the Church, coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, became as lively stones, and were built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 2:8; 1 Peter 2:8 ; Psalms 118:22 ; Acts 4:11-12 ; Ephesians 2:19-22 ; Revelation 21:23 .
The allusion which is here made, to the original temple at Jerusalem, of the Altar and Court without, seems also to have been intended, as typical of Christ and his Church. The Lord makes the bodies of his people, his temple. He calls Zion his rest, and declares that he will dwell in it, for he hath a delight in it, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 ; Psalms 132:13-14 ; 2 Corinthians 6:16 . By the Altar may be intended, Christ, our New Testament Altar, High Priest, and Sacrifice. And by John's measuring of it, may be implied seeking from the Lord grace, to contemplate the infinite dimensions of his boundless love, in the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of it, in that love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, Ephesians 3:16 . And by the worshippers are meant, the true faithful followers of the Lord; who worship God in spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, Philippians 3:3 .
I do not conceive, that this measurement of the Church, was intended to imply anything in this place, similar to what was done under the former visions, when the Lord himself sealed his people before the four Angels, which held the winds, were to execute their orders. But it should seem rather to have been at this time, graciously intended by our Lord, to let John understand by his own measurement of it, that Jesus had his Church still, in all its dimensions, that he knew all his members, and watched over them. This, as it strikes me, was the gracious design in our most gracious Lord. The time was now hastening towards the close of the sixth trumpet. And the total overthrow of both the impostures, in the East and in the West, was coming on. But before these things, the Lord's two faithful witnesses were to prophecy in sackcloth. And when they had fulfilled their ministry, they should he slain, and all the other events follow, introductory to the sounding of the seventh trumpet. Hence, therefore, the Lord Jesus commands John, first to measure the Church and people. Reader! it is a sweet thought, and everlastingly to be cherished with the utmost affection in the mind, that Christ hath a Church in the worst of times. There is even now, a remnant, according to the election of grace. Graciously he watches over it. Sweetly Jesus sings to it, which he calls his vineyard of red wine, for even in bloody times, the song must go on. I the Lord do keep it, Jesus saith. I will water it every moment: Lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day, Isaiah 27:2-3 .
(3) And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. (4) These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. (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. (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.
We here enter upon one of the most interesting parts of this whole book of prophecy. I venture to call it so, as it concerns the church in the present hour. For upon the presumption that it could be ascertained, respecting those two witnesses of the Lord, and the accomplishment of the events here spoken of in this Chapter, a key would be given with it, to unlock the greater part, if not the whole cabinet of this portion of God's most holy word. I do not mean, however, from what I have now said, to intimate as though any such discoveries will be made to any man, or to any set of men, as shall lead to the accomplishment of such purposes. Indeed, I have already observed in the preface to this very Book, that it appears to me, to be the general will of God, none of his prophecies (except in special cases) shall be so known, before the predictions come to be fulfilled. Nevertheless, I am inclined to believe, that though this be the will and pleasure of God, on the general subject of prophecy, yet, be hath as graciously been pleased, while keeping from his people the knowledge of the precise time, for the accomplishment of his purposes, to give them certain insights, for marking the progress as they go. And under this view I venture to repeat, that the clearer apprehension we can make, in relation to those two witnesses of the Lord through his teaching, the greater apprehension we shall have of those great events, connected with them.
Under these impressions, I request permission from the Reader, to propose an observation or two, before I enter upon the subject, that I may be perfectly understood, while bringing forward what I have to offer oh this point. And I beg to do it in the most humble and unassuming manner. This Poor Man's Commentary is, as the title intimates, for humble Readers. It is intended more for the Poor in spirit, than for the learned in human wisdom. It aims not to impose my opinion, but rather from fair statings, to invite the Reader, under divine teaching, to form his own. Hence it hath been my study all along, in points not immediately connected with vital truths, to propose, rather than to decide. But in the momentous doctrines, in which the very life of the believer depends, I have indeed, and to the latest moment of my being, through grace, I am resolved to do, earnestly contend for the faith, once delivered to the saints.
Here I feel a boldness well warranted of God on those solemn doctrines, such, I mean, as the Godhead of Christ, the Person, Godhead, and Ministry of the Holy Ghost; and the mystery of the Three in One, which bear record in heaven, on those glorious fundamentals of faith, and of all that is dear to the real Christian; here I assume a freedom for an unalterable firmness, which will admit of no accommodation. On this ground I contend, and contend earnestly. In this war, I neither give nor take quarter. With such as deny those doctrines, which are dearer to me than life, will I never knowingly mingle. Very sure I am, notwithstanding the accommodating temper of the present day, in the attempt to amalgamate the different creeds, under the specious pretence of promoting God's glory, his glory cannot be promoted by such dissimulation; neither can persons of such opposite doctrines, be found together, however meeting here, in the world to come. I enter my protest against such things. I should consider it high treason, to the majesty of my God and Savior, to smother my faith in his Godhead; and be found with those who openly deny it. On this ground I compliment no man. Under this banner I take my stand. And here I pray to be found faithful, in life and death: in time and to all eternity.
Having said thus much, I beg permission from the Reader, to offer another observation. I enter with great diffidence on the subject concerning those two witnesses, inasmuch, as some of the greatest men, since the day of our Lord, that ever lived upon the earth, next to the Apostles, have erred, (as is plainly proved, by the event not corresponding to their prediction,) in calculating the time of their slaughter. Those errors of theirs, arose from misdating the period, of the thousand, two hundred, and threescore days. And from hence we learn, that it is impossible to form a clear judgment when it will be, unless the Lord had marked the data from whence the reckoning is to be made. One thing appears certain. Their death is to be under the sixth trumpet. So are the events which are to follow, when the witnesses shall again be re-animated. Hence, therefore, we may safely conclude, that the thousand, two hundred, and threescore days, are not yet run out.
From premising these things, I will now beg the Reader to attend with me to what the Lord hath here said, concerning his two witnesses, to whom he hath given power to prophesy for this long period. And, I enter upon the subject the rather, with some little confidence, inasmuch as the advance the Church hath made into the nineteenth century from the opening of the sixth trumpet, favor our observations for more correctness, in forming conclusions from what is past, in humble waitings for what is to come.
The first point, if it were discoverable, would be to ascertain, who these witnesses are? It would form the subject of no small volume, or perhaps of many volumes, even to enumerate the variety of opinions, which have been given, in alleges of the Church, in relation to this one point. But yet, the subject stands just where it did. No man, as yet, hath been able to ascertain the matter; and perhaps will not, until the Lord himself shall explain it, in the accomplishment. I shall just state before the Reader the mere outlines of the different opinions; and leave it with him, under the Lord's grace, to form his own conclusions.
The great difficulty seems to be, in the very opening of the subject, to discover whether those two witnesses are Persons, or Things. They who favor the idea of Persons, have talked of many public characters, from Enoch, and Elijah, down to the very time of the Reformation from Popery. But a great difficulty lies in the way here, of limiting it to any particular persons; as the time of their prophesying, a thousand two hundred and sixty days, which in prophetical language means years, far surpasseth the boundary of human life, to individuals. And, if this be obviated in the supposition of a succession of persons, there doth not seem a reason for confining the number to two.
They who conceive the two witnesses to mean not persons, but things, have concluded, that the Two Testaments of Scripture are intended. And, very certain it is, that a considerable degree of probability is on this side of the argument. For they are the highest, the best, and most unanswerable witnesses, for Christ Jesus himself appealed to the Old Testament, in proof of his Messiahship, when he said to the Jews: Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me, John 5:39 . And, with respect to those two witnesses being clothed in sackcloth, there is no objection in this, to the scriptures; for when we consider, that the whole of the prophecy is veiled in figure, it is no distortion of the figure to say, the scriptures are mourning in sackcloth, from the little attention the world pays to them, in their testimony to Christ. And there seems a very strong reason to suppose, that the two witnesses are meant for the scriptures, when it is said, that these are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks, standing before the God of the earth. For the Prophet describes the gifts and graces of the Spirit, under the figure of olive trees; Zechariah 4:3 and, in this very scripture, Jesus himself told John, that the candlesticks mean the Churches, Revelation 1:20 . So then, under this view, the scriptures are represented by the figure of olive trees; and the Churches which receive the witness of the scriptures, are as candlesticks.
But others have thought, that the two witnesses more probably intend, the two Churches of Christ, the Jew and Gentile; both which are witnesses in themselves, of the power of his salvation; and against whom, both the Impostures of the East and West, are alike inveterate.
I am free to confess, that I am wholly uninformed, with which to say the truth is, or whether either. The Lord, in his own time, which is always the best time will show. In the mean season, it will be well for the Lord's people to be always on the watch-tower, and to be attentive to the Lord's testimonies concerning himself. If it be the scriptures of God which are meant, certain it is, that, as this scripture saith, if any hurt them by blaspheming their testimony, denying their witness, fire doth proceed from their mouth for their destruction: for the word of God is as a fire, and as an hammer, that breaketh the rock in pieces, Jeremiah 23:29 . And Jesus saith, the word which I have spoken, the same shall judge him at the last day, John 12:48 . And, in relation to what is said of shutting heaven, and having power over the waters; we only know what we do know of these things, by the word of God.
We shall have occasion hereafter, when we meet with the subject again to consider it somewhat more particularly. In the mean time I shall leave the Reader to his own reflections.
(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. (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. (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. (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. (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. (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. (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. (14) The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.
A vast subject of divine truths is included within the compass of these verses. But I must use shortness. And indeed, the subject itself is so enveloped in mystery, that our greatest searches go but a little way, in the unfolding. When the witnesses shall have finished their testimony, probably meaning, when the elect Church of God shall have been fully instructed in the truth as it is in Jesus, and all that are to be gathered from the varieties of the earth, shall have been brought home; those witnesses, whether persons, or things, shall have the last, and most violent persecution raised against them; from the Beast, whose doctrine first came from hell; for it is after the working of Satan: 2 Thessalonians 2:9 , and shall make such open attack upon them, as to overcome them, and slay them. And, such shall be manifested the bitterness against them by their enemies, that their bodies shall lay unburied, in the street of the great city Rome; called Sodom, from its filth and uncleanness, and Egypt, from its tyranny and oppression.
We learn here, that the truth as it is in Jesus, is to undergo a most violent attack, towards the close of all things. The last bite of the Beast, will be the most dreadful. The laying unburied in the street of the city, cannot mean literally, for the city itself is spiritually considered. So that this is no objection to the two witnesses being the two Testaments, on account of their being said to be killed. For the totally suppressing their truths, is virtually silencing them; and therefore may be said to be killing them. And, their being publicly exposed as dead, may well apply to the publicity through the earth that the Beast had put them to silence, and to contempt.
The triumph of the ungodly, and their sending gifts to one another upon the occasion of the death of the witnesses, are finely expressed, to show the bitterness of the heart against the ways of God, Oh! what delight is it now, with bad men, to behold anything of supposed evil happening to the godly A ha! say they, so would we have it! And with what joy do the graceless behold the afflictions of the Lord's Israel!
The resurrection of the witnesses, is the opening of the subject, to the final overthrow of both the Beast and the False Prophet. Their ascension to heaven in a cloud, is not literally to be accepted in this sense, but rather of their being publicly owned, in the more glorious state of the Church, now hastening to be established, in the thousand years reign of Christ upon earth. And the wonderful change, wrought the same hour upon mystical Babylon, by the fall of a third part, and the slaughter of seven thousand, are intended to convey, the beginning of the ruin of both antichristian powers, which are now falling, to rise no more. And hence, the subject is brought to the end of the sixth trumpet's dispensation: the second woe is past, and behold the third woe cometh quickly!
But while we pause over the relation, what are the particular improvements we gather from it? No man alive can venture to describe the nature of the calamities the Church will then sustain, just at the close of this sixth trumpet. Nay, the very method of the Lord's dealing is hid in mystery; and the death and resurrection of the witnesses, more than of the facts themselves, the Lord hath not revealed. That the time is hastening. That the present state of the Church, and of the world, is under the sixth trumpet. That in some recent events, we have seen, and do see, a ripening. These are tokens, in a certain measure and degree, that things are hastening towards the accomplishment. But further we cannot advance. Everything speaks to the Church of God now, as the Angel did to Daniel of old: But go thy way, till the end be, for thou shalt rest; and stand in thy lot at the end of thy days, Daniel 12:13 .
(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 forever and ever. (16) And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, (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. (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. (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.
We are now arrived under this seventh trumpet, at that great period all along intended, when all the antichristian powers shall be totally subdued, and the reign of Christ shall take place in the earth. The expectation of this great day of God, is in itself enough, properly considered, to bear up the minds of the faithful through all the events yet to be experienced by the Church, under the sixth trumpet, which most evidently is not yet finished. The outward court is not yet given to the Gentiles. The two witnesses have not yet finished their testimony. And, from the low estate of the Gospel in the present hour, in relation to vital godliness; very clear it is, that they are still prophesying in sackcloth. Hence, their death hath not taken place. And hence also, their public exposure in the street of the great city, remains to be fulfilled. And from the joy and mirth, all the enemies of vital godliness shall take, in the death of these witnesses, and their gifts they shall send one to another, it is most sure, some great change will take place, before that the sixth trumpet shall have consumed all the purport of his sounding; and the seventh Angel shall usher in his trumpet with joy, to the people of God.
Indeed, the overthrow of those antichristian powers, both East and West, which are at present in a flourishing state; and especially the late revival of the western heresy, which for several years past seemed to have been palsied to a great degree; these are no small symptoms, that the slaughter of the witnesses, which evidently must precede the overthrow both of the Mahometan and Papal powers, may be near at hand. The Lord will prepare his people for all events! But it must be a dream indeed, and of the weakest kind, and formed on a baseless fabric, for any man to suppose, that the seventh trumpet is coming on, before that the second woe is past.
I shall only detain the Reader in this Chapter just to remark, that the whole contents of it, from beginning to end, is to give a brief statement of what may be looked for, under the sixth (which is the second woe,) trumpet; and that the seventh merely introduceth the time, but doth not enlarge on the blessed events, which will take place under that happy era. These are brought forward in the after parts of this blessed book of God. So vastly important to the Mind and pleasure of our adorable Lord Jesus was the object, that his Church should be taught, from age to age, what would arise in the subsequent days, from his return to glory until his coming again to judgment; that he was graciously pleased to shadow forth the outlines of the subject, under a double series of prophecy. Hence the ministry of seals and trumpets, which we have gone through to the close of this Chapter, have taught the Church the wonderful subject, from the first commencement of the history from Christ's Ascension; until his Descension. And in the next Chapter, the Lord begins the subject again, in another series of prophecy, under the Ministry of Vials; until the Lord sums up all, in his everlasting kingdom of glory. May the Lord bless to his people, the several Chapters we have gone over, and open to us the several yet remaining to be read; that both may minister to his glory, and our furtherance in grace, by Jesus Christ!
BLESSED Lord Jesus! thy Church finds cause to praise thee, for by gracious watching over thy people, and regarding their interests as thine own. Very sweetly didst thou manifest this love of thine, when commending John to measure the temple, and the altar, and them that worship therein. Surely, Lord, if John was thus taught to know the dimensions of thy Church and people; Jesus meant to say; that he himself, knows all that concerns them, the thought of this is; enough, in the worst of times, to comfort thy chosen. True, Lord, thy witnesses are in sackcloth in the present hour. The waters of the sanctuary run low. But the Lord knoweth them that are his. In the darkest seasons, Jesus hath a seed to serve him, a generation to call him blessed.
Lord! prepare thy Church for the awful time, when thy witnesses shall be slain. Oh! keep thy Church, in every individual instance of her true members, from the accommodating spirit of the present day. Oh! for grace from thee, thou glorious Lord, to bear up against the torrent running through this land, of mingling with the heathen, and learning their works. Carry on thy chosen, through all that remains to be accomplished, under the second woe trumpet of thy counsels. And hasten, in thine own time, that blessed soul-reviving sound, which shall call forth great voices in heaven, and the shouts of thy redeemed upon earth. Though both the Writer, and present Reader of this feeble labor, may not be alive to hail thy coming; yet all thy faithful now in grace, do by faith take part in that glory, which shall then be revealed, when thou shalt come to be glorified in thy saints, and admired in all them that believe. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Revelation 11". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany