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by Robert Hawker
THE REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DEVINE
I PRAY for grace, to enter upon this sublime and mysterious Book of God, while proposing my humble observations upon it, with the most profound reverence and godly fear: And as I approach the mercy-seat, to bend the knee of my soul, before the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that in meditating on this blessed portion of his holy word, which relates so immediately to the Person of Christ and his kingdom, the Lord may give unto me, the spirit of wisdom, and revelation in the knowledge of Him.
Indeed, when first I ventured on this Poor Man's Commentary of the Bible, I fully intended, if it should please the Lord to guide me through it, and bring me to this Book of the Revelation, to have passed over those sacred Chapters, without presuming to offer any observations of mine. I had seen so many erroneous opinions, from great and good men on this part of the word of God, and especially in their calculations of the times, when the several Prophecies, yet remaining to be fulfilled, would be accomplished, that I judged it rather presumptuous than wise, to touch this part of the inspired records. And I still think, that as those great and good men, (for great and good men they certainly were, in their day and generation,) have all been found in error, in limiting the period when those prophecies would certainly be fulfilled, it can neither be decent nor proper in men taught of God to presume to be wise, above what is written, and to offer their conjectures concerning what God hath not been pleased to discover. The words of Jesus to his disciples after he arose from the dead, in answer to the anxious enquiry they put to him, concerning the time of the Lord's restoring the kingdom of Israel, appears decided on this point; It is not for you to know the times, or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power, Acts 1:6-7 . But when I read again and again, what is said in the opening of this precious Book of God; Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the Words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein; I dared not be wholly silent. And I thought moreover, that if God the Holy Ghost (whose guidings in this work I had all along implored, and whose grace in instruction in it I hope I can now, with truth, say I have found,) would still graciously condescend to go before, and follow me, the Lord would keep me from treading in, to that part of the sacred ground, which relates to prophecies yet unfulfilled, by attempting to calculate any time, when I might presume on their accomplishment, but leave it wholly to the Lord; while; under his teaching, I might humbly offer my observations, on such only, as we have seen come to pass. With these limitations I felt encouraged to prosecute my Poor Man's Commentary on this part also of the divine word, deriving advantage, even from the mistakes of those great servants of the Lord, which have gone before, and which in those points act as light-houses at sea, purposely placed there to keep off the mariner, from approaching too near the rocks, and quicksands around them.
And I confess, that under these later views I have taken of the subject, I have felt additional encouragement, to prosecute my feeble labors for the Poor Man's Commentary, on this part of the word of God, from the recollection, that now in the present hour, time hath brought forward many things to view in this scripture, and, through the Lord's teaching, more light hath been thrown upon the predictions here given, than in the day when those great and good men lived, whom I allude to, who for years past have been gathered to their fathers, and have seen corruption. Many of the prophecies have since been accomplished, and more seem to be now accomplishing in the earth. And, indeed, on the supposition that we, who are now entered some years into the nineteenth Century, are they upon whom the ends of the world are come, it must behove the people of God to be on the look-out, like the Prophet on the watch-tower, and in prayer and humble waitings on the Lord, expect those manifestations predicted to be accomplished, concerning his Church. That the interests of Zion, are at the bottom of all God's designs in the earth, and that the putting down of one kingdom, and raising up of another, have no ultimate object, but of bringing on the Lord's purposes, concerning Christ and his Church; is too clear a truth to need the being insisted upon. And fully assured we are, that when all the prophecies which are in this Holy Scripture, yet remaining to be fulfilled, are accomplished, the last sand, in the hour-glass of time, will have run out; and the whole purposes of the Lord concerning this earth, will be completed. And then, that event takes place, which John heard proclaimed by the Angel, he lifted up his hand to heaven, and swore by him that liveth forever and ever, that there should be time no longer. Then, the mystery of God shall be finished. Then, the seventh Angel shall sound, and great voices will be heard 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, Revelation 10:5-7 and Revelation 11:15 .
The great point of error, into which all my predecessors of Commentators, on this blessed Book of God, more or less, have fallen, I shall, through grace, wholly avoid. I shall not knowingly, offer a single attempt, in a way of calculation as to the time many have supposed, in which the prophecies herein contained, yet remaining to be fulfilled, will be accomplished. Here I desire to remain, as much as ever, wholly silent. Indeed, it hath always appeared unto me, to have been along the Lord's design, in relation to the prophecies in general, to throw a veil over them, until they are fulfilled. And then, when they have been brought to pass, so complete an agreement hath discovered itself, between the prediction and the event, that the Lord's people have found cause to stand the more amazed, at their dullness of perception and the Lord's glory. But there is a manifest wisdom of God in the obscurity. It tends to the promotion of greater faith. It calls forth greater dependence upon the Lord. And God speaks in his word, and by his word to his people, during the suspense of accomplishment, as he did to the Prophet of old; Go thy way, Daniel, for the words are closed up, and sealed the time of the end. Thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot, at the end of the days, Daniel 12:13; Daniel 12:13 .
I must not indulge myself with any longer Preface, in an humble work like this, on general points. But I must beg to extend these observations a little further, by way of introduction to the sacred Book of the Revelation, which we are going to enter upon. It will be proper at the threshold, to pause a moment and consider, both the Lord's gracious design, in his gift of it to the Church, and also to pray over it, as we enter upon it, that this blessing of a Covenant God in Christ may be made profitable to our souls.
That John, the beloved Apostle was the Writer of it under God, and that the place where those revelations were made to him, was Patmos in the Mediterranean Sea, and where he was banished for the testimony of Jesus Christ, about the year of our Lord God ninety-four; these are truths, so generally allowed and confirmed, as can need nothing additional, by way of proof, to be observed. And the gracious design of God the Holy Ghost, in sealing up the sacred Canon of Scripture, with so divine a portion of his holy word, hardly requires to be remarked to any gracious Reader. This is a subject which God the Holy Ghost hath had the unwearied thanksgivings of the Church for, in every age, from John's days to ours; neither will this precious portion of divine truth ever cease to call forth the continued praises of the Lord's people, till time shall be no more.
I shall request permission in this place, to give the Reader a brief statement, according to my view of the whole subject, of this Book of God, that he may have a general idea of the whole contents. Such a plan will serve, under the Holy Ghost's teaching, to guide both the Writer and Reader of this Poor Man s Commentary, through the several Chapters; and enable him to discover, that there is a beautiful uniformity of order in the whole design, comprehending the several periods of the Church's history, from Christ's appearing to John at Patmos, until his second coming at judgment. From such a view, we shall proceed through the several Chapters, with a greater clearness of apprehension, of the whole subject; and, through grace, have our minds better prepared, to hear what the Spirit saith to the Churches!
For the better understanding this sublime Book of God, let the Reader recollect, that when the Son of God appeared to John, as the opening of the first Chapter declares, the Seven Churches to whom he sent the messages, contained in the second and third Chapters, were then in being. Of these the Lord speaks, he calls them the things which are, Revelation 1:19 , and all is contained in those two Chapters, refer to them. But the prophetical part of the Revelation, which begins at the fourth Chapter, comes under, what Christ calls the things which shall be hereafter, Revelation 1:19 . Hence from the fourth Chapter is commenced, the prophecies of events, which the Lord, foretold his servant John should be accomplished in his Church. And in the fifth Chapter, we have what may be called the installment of Christ into his High Offices, as the Prophet, Priest, and King of his people. With these preliminary views, if we prosecute the Book, through the several Chapters, we shall discover the beautiful order, connection, and harmony of one great whole, from beginning to end.
And let the Reader recollect no less, that at the time when the Lord Jesus manifested himself to his Apostle John, to give to him these revelations, to show unto his Churches, the Roman Empire, which was mistress of the world, was then heathen. Satan had universal sway, and excepting that handful of the Lord's people, formed here and there into Churches, the earth was full of idols. The Jews nationally considered, for their rejection of the Lord of life and glory, had lost their temple, their government, their beloved Jerusalem, and were now scattered over various parts of the globe. This was the state of things respecting religion, when the Son of God appeared to his servant John as here stated; and delivered to him these predictions, which were from age to age, to be progressively accomplished in the Church, from that period to the final consummation of all things. The sum and substance of the whole, is set forth, though in mysterious terms, to intimate that the Church of Christ should be opposed by the powers of darkness; during which, seals were to be opened, trumpets sounded, and vials poured out; but, at length, order should arise out of confusion, and light from darkness. The Church of God should triumph over all, and the throne of God and the Lamb, be discovered as established forever.
Such was the state of things, when the subject of prophecy begins at the sixth Chapter, with the opening of the seals. The ministry of the seals, appears to be principally, if not wholly directed, in the preaching of the Gospel against heathenism. And we find from history, that from about three hundred years from the period at the opening of the first seal, the Roman Empire became Christian; that is, made a national profession of christianity. This event took place in the government of the Emperor Constantine.
To the ministry of the seals, when finished, succeeded that of the Trumpets. The time to the Trumpet ministry takes in a much larger compass than that of the Seals; yea, it should seem is not yet finished. For the sounding of the seventh Trumpet is, when the mystery of God shall be finished, Revelation 10:7 . And it should appear very plainly, that the opening of the twelfth Chapter, begins with a new subject of prophecy; I say a new subject of prophecy, because the former terminates in the preceding Chapter, with the relation of the day of the Lord being come, and the temple of God being opened in heaven. Revelation 11:18-19 . But though a new subject of prophecy, yet not a new subject, as it concerns Christ and his kingdom, for this is but one and the same, through the whole book of Revelation from the first opening of the seals at the sixth Chapter, to the account of the paradise of God, in the twenty-second. All, and every part under the different predictions, is in relation to Christ and his Church.
The twelfth Chapter, as it appears to me, opens with the state of the Roman Empire, when it became (nationally considered) no longer heathen, but professing christianity. And now, according to this Chapter, persecution began, from the heresies springing up in the Empire, among the Christians themselves, And this subject occupies the following Chapters to the eighteenth, where the final destruction of Antichrist is shown, in the total overthrow of the two great branches of those powers, subverting the truths of God in the Eastern and Western world. And these events, evidently remain, at present, unfulfilled.
During this period, the ministry of the Vials is said to exercised. These will all be noted in their proper place. In the Mean time, it will be sufficient here to observe, that with the pouring out of the last Vial upon the air, which figuratively should seem to intimate the whole kingdom of Satan, (who in this sense is called the Prince of the power of the air, Ephesians 2:2 ) the opposition to Christ's kingdom ceaseth forever. Hence the nineteenth Chapter opens with the accounts of the triumphs in heaven, over all the enemies of Christ and his salvation. The chaining of Satan in the bottomless pit follows in the twentieth; and the Church of Christ coming down from heaven, as a bride adorned for her husband, is related in the twenty-first Chapter. And the whole subject is closed up in the twenty-second, with the description of the glory of God and of the Lamb, in the salvation of the Church, and the destruction of the wicked. These are the general outlines of this most blessed and precious Book of God. I will detain the Reader no longer from entering upon it, than only once again to look up for grace, and the light of the Holy Ghost, to guide both at the entrance and through all the departments of it to the end. May that Almighty and Infallible Teacher, direct both heart and pen, that nothing of error may be found in those pages, but all be so graciously dictated by Him, that the Lord's glory, and the Church's happiness, may be ministered unto in these feeble services, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
the Fifth Week after Easter