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And there was given me a reed like unto a rod. We are not told by whom the reed is given, but in Revelation 21:1-27. the angel has the reed, and so also in Ezekiel 40:1-49., upon which the incident seems founded (see Ezekiel 40:1-49.; and cf. the reference to the outer court in Ezekiel 40:17). The reed is "like a rod;" that is, like to a staff. It is for a measuring line, as in Zechariah 2:1. And the angel stood, saying. Omit all except "saying,'' as in the Revised Version. Λέγων is used absolutely, not as qualifying κάλαμος, "reed," as Andreas (cf. Revelation 4:1; Revelation 14:7; Revelation 19:6). Rise, and measure the temple of God; rather, rouse and measure, etc. The imperative verb does not imply anything as to the previous position of St. John. "The temple" is ναός, the shrine or dwelling place of God (as in verse 19; also Revelation 3:12; Revelation 7:15), the inner temple, as distinguished from the outer court next mentioned. It scarcely seems possible to doubt that the temple is here figuratively used of the faithful portion of the Church of Christ. The word is plainly thus used in Revelation 3:12 and Revelation 7:15; and is frequently found with this signification in St. Paul's writings, which were probably known to St. John. Dusterdieck and others think that St. John refers literally to the temple at Jerusalem, and to the earthly Jerusalem. But, if so, this portion of the Apocalypse stands self condemned as a prediction which was falsified within a year or two of its enunciation; for in verse 13 it is expressly stated that the tenth part of the city fell. And nowhere else in the book do Jerusalem and the temple signify the earthly places. The object of the measurement is generally thought to be to set apart or mark off that which is measured from that which is felt without; but opinions vary as to why the temple is thus set apart, some thinking that it is the literal temple which is given over to destruction, others believing that the measuring is a token of the preservation of the Church of God. But may not the command have been given to St. John in order to direct his attention to the size of the Church of God? This is the common meaning of the expression throughout the Bible; it is so in Zechariah 2:1-5, a passage upon which this is possibly founded; and it is so in Revelation 21:15. Moreover, there seems a good explanation of the reason why such an incident, thus explained, should occur here. The six trumpets have spoken of the large portions of mankind against whom they were directed; the sixth has declared that men did nevertheless not repent. The seventh trumpet is about to announce yet more terrible woe for the worldly; and, previous to this, a brief but vivid description is given of the oppression to be suffered by the Church—a description inserted here in order to lead up to, and demonstrate the absolute necessity for, the terrible final judgment. Among the ungodly are even some who are nominally members of the Church, who are typified by the outer court. No one could be more conscious that only a portion of the Church—"the elect"—was to be saved than the writer of the Epistles to the seven Churches (Revelation 1-3.). Might not the seer and his hearers be inclined to ask, "Who, then, can be saved? Are there any who escape when so much is said about the punishment in store for men?" In answer to such questions, the seer is bidden to remember, what is apt to be forgotten in the dejection caused by the contemplation of the huge amount of wickedness which undoubtedly exists in the world, viz. the large number of good men who form God's staple. It is to be noticed, also, that no mention is made of the command being actually carried out. It is as if the uttering of the command were sufficient to direct the attention of St. John to the fact which was to be conveyed to him, and that, therefore, the necessity for carrying out the injunction existed no longer. It therefore seems probable that "the temple" must be interpreted symbolically. It is the dwelling place of God, the place in which he is worshipped; that is, the multitude of true believers, or the faithful Church. St. John is bidden to measure it, in order to sustain the faith and hope of himself and his hearers. It is placed in antithesis to the outer court, the faithless portion of the visible Church of God, which is given over to the Gentiles—the type of all that is worldly. And the altar, and them that worship therein. The altar of incense alone stood within the ναός; but this may be only an accessory detail in the general description, and not to be pressed to a particular interpretation. "Them that worship therein" directs our thoughts to the individual members of the one body which collectively is "the temple."
But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles; it hath been given (Revised Version). Not merely "leave out," but "cast out." The "court which is without the temple" was entered only by Jews. It seems, therefore, here to signify part of the Church, but that part which is separated from the inner circle of true believers, and given over to the world, which is here symbolized by "the Gentiles." The Gentiles, the nations, throughout the Apocalypse, signifies either
(1) all mankind whatsoever; or
(2) that portion of mankind which is left when the true Church of God is withdrawn, and therefore which embraces the unrighteous part of mankind in contrast to the godly (cf. Revelation 2:26; Revelation 14:8; Revelation 16:19; Revelation 18:23; Rev 22:1-21 :22). The latter is the signification here. And the holy city shall they tread underfoot. The holy city—Jerusalem—always in the Apocalypse the type of the Church. "They shall tread" need not necessarily refer to "the nations," though the context naturally leads to this signification; but it may be impersonal, amounting to no more than "the holy city shall be trodden underfoot." St. John seems to apply the words of our Lord concerning the literal Jerusalem to the description of the fate in store for the typical Jerusalem (cf. Luke 21:24). "The nations" are the instrument by which the Church is trodden underfoot, and the mention of the Gentiles in connection with the apostate portion of the Church leads to the description of the oppression of the faithful by the world. The seer is bidden to take courage by a contemplation of the numbers of those preserved by God, but is warned, nevertheless, not to expect from that fact immunity for the Church from the persecution of the world. Forty and two months. Καί, "and," is inserted contrary to the common practice when the larger number precedes (so also in John 2:20; John 5:5). This period of three years and a half is certainly symbolical. It is the half of seven years—a perfect number. It therefore denotes a broken, uncertain period; a space of time which is certainly finite, but the end of which is uncertain. This seems to point necessarily to the period of the world's existence during which the Church is to suffer oppression. This period is mentioned
(1) in verse 3 under the form of twelve hundred and sixty days, where it denotes the same period that is referred to here;
(2) in Revelation 12:6 as twelve hundred and sixty days, and in Revelation 12:14 as "a time, and times, and half a time," in both of which passages the signification is the same as that given above;
(3) in Revelation 13:5 it is called, as here, forty-two months, and describes the same period. The expression is founded on Daniel 7:25 and Daniel 12:7. In the latter place the time signified is certainly the period of the world's existence.
We therefore see
(1) that its natural meaning, in connection with the number seven,
(2) its signification in Daniel, and
(3) its apparent use in all passages in the Apocalypse, tend to cause us to interpret the symbol as above.
And I will give power unto my two witnesses. Omit "power." What is given follows, viz. "they shall prophesy," etc. The voice, speaking in the name of Christ, says, "My: The two witnesses of me;" τοῖς, "the," as though they were well known. There is much diversity of interpretation in regard to "the two witnesses." It seems reasonable to understand the two witnesses as representative of the elect Church of God (embracing both Jewish and Christian) and of the witness which she bears concerning God, especially in the Old and New Testaments. The following considerations seem to support this interpretation:
(1) The vision is evidently founded on that in Zechariah 4:1-14., where it is emblematical of the restored temple, which only in the preceding verse (Revelation 11:2) is a type of the elect of God's Church (vide supra).
(2) The Apocalypse continually represents the Church of God, after the pattern of the life of Christ, in three aspects—that of conflict and degradation; that of preservation; that of triumph (see Professor Milligan's Baird Lectures, 'The Revelation of St. John,' lect. 2 and 5.). This is a summary of the vision here.
(3) Much of the Apocalypse follows our Lord's description in Matthew 24:1-51. In that chapter (Matthew 24:13, Matthew 24:14) we have, "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." Again, a brief description of this vision.
(4) It is not probable that two individuals are meant; for
(a) as we have shown throughout the Apocalypse, the application is invariably to principles and societies, though this may include particular applications in certain cases;
(b) it is inconceivable that Moses and Elias, or any other of the saints of God, should return from Paradise to suffer as these two witnesses;
(c) our Lord expressly explained the reference to the coming of Elias, and declared that he had already come; and
(d) there seems no more reason for interpreting these two witnesses literally of two men, than for interpreting Sodom and Egypt in their ordinary geographical signification in Matthew 24:8.
(5) The details of the fate of the two witnesses agree with the interpretation given—the whole vision being understood as symbolical. Thus
(a) the picture of the two witnesses is evidently formed after the pattern of Moses and Elias, on account of the conspicuous witness they bore and the hardship they suffered, as well as their preservation and final vindication. Moreover, Moses and Elias are typical of the Law and the prophets, or the Scriptures—the means (as stated above) by which the Church chiefly bears witness of God.
(b) The time during which they prophesy;
(c) the clothing in sackcloth;
(d) the appellation of candlesticks and olive trees;
(e) their power to hurt;
(f) their apparent death;
(g) the torment they cause;
(h) their resuscitation;
(i) their vindication;
(k) the immediate advent of the final judgment;—all agree (as shown below) with the interpretation given.
(6) Witness is constantly connected in the Apocalypse and elsewhere with the Church, and generally with suffering, sometimes with triumph (cf. Revelation 1:2, Revelation 1:5, Revelation 1:9; Revelation 6:9; Revelation 12:11, Revelation 12:17; Revelation 20:4).
(7) In Revelation 19:10 we are told, "The testimony [witness] of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy," exactly the quality with which the two witnesses are credited (Revelation 19:3), and which is the work of the Church. And they shall prophesy; that is, "prophesy" in its literal meaning of forthtelling God's will and his judgments on the wicked, and so of preaching repentance. This is emphatically the work of the Church, and is accomplished chiefly through the Scriptures. It is this prophesying that torments (see Revelation 19:5, Revelation 19:10). A thousand two hundred and three score days. Or, forty and two months (Revelation 19:2). During the period of the world's existence (see on Revelation 19:2) the Church, although "trodden underfoot," will not cease to "prophesy." Clothed in sackcloth. Thus, symbolically, is expressed the same fact as in Revelation 19:2. The Church there is "trodden underfoot" during the period of the world; here it is said that she is to perform her office during this time "clothed in sackcloth." The treatment by the world of both the Church of God and the Word of God is represented by the apparel of mourning and woe, which is the lot of the Church on earth.
These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks. The "two olive trees" and the "two candlesticks" are here identical. Thus, while St. John uses the figure of Zechariah, he does not apply it in every detail. In the prophet, but one candlestick is mentioned. "The two olive trees," which supply the material for the candlesticks, are fit emblems of the Old and New Testaments; the candlesticks typify the Jewish and Christian Churches. These are identical so far as being God's witnesses; the Church derives her stores from the Word of God, the light of the Word of God is manifested through the Church. Standing before the God of the earth; the Lord of the earth (Revised Version). The participle is masculine, though the preceding article and nouns are feminine, probably as being more in keeping with the masculine character under which the two witnesses are depicted. Perhaps he is described as the "Lord of the earth," since the witnesses are to prophesy before all the earth (cf. verse 9 and Matthew 24:14).
And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies; if any one willeth to hurt them, etc. Most probably a reference to the act of Elijah (2 Kings 1:10). Perhaps there is a double reference in the fire proceeding out of their mouth; it is the fire of their witness, which refines and purifies and convinces some; it is also the fire of condemnation, which follows those who reject the testimony. The figure is found in Jeremiah 5:14, "I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them" (see also Hosea 6:5; Ecclesiasticus 48:1). And if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed; any one shall will (future) is read in the Revised Version, and is supported by א, A, 38; θέλει, (present) is found in B, C, P, Andreas, Arethas. "In this manner;" that is, by fire. Such, throughout the Scriptures, is the form under which the final judgment of those who reject God's message is shadowed forth. The description is not more opposed to a general interpretation than it is to an individual interpretation of the two witnesses.
These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will; the power … the heaven … the waters … every plague (Revised Version). The whole verse is descriptive of the powers entrusted to Moses and Elijah, and is intended to convey the idea that the power which supported them would likewise support the two witnesses. It is doubtful whether the meaning should be pressed further than this. If we do so, it may, perhaps, be said that (in the words of Wordsworth) "if any one despises God's witnesses, they have the power, like Elias, to shut heaven, and exclude all who reject them. The dews of Divine grace are withheld from all who scorn them." It is thus a fulfilment of our Lord's words, "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath" (Matthew 13:12). And again, besides the punishments which are finally to fall on the ungodly, it is the case that the rejection of God's will is followed on this earth by troubles which would be avoided were men to listen to the witness borne of him.
And when they shall have finished their testimony. This is a difficult passage. How can the Church's testimony be said to be finished while the earth still exists? The explanation seems to lie in the words of our Lord, "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). Christians are forewarned that, as the ages roll on, faith will wane. Though the Church be apparently destroyed, she is not really dead, but will rise again. As our Lord, after finishing his testimony, completed his work by his death and subsequent ascension, so the time will come when the Church shall have Completed all that is necessary, by offering to the world her testimony, and shall then be so completely rejected as to appear dead. Her enemies will rejoice, but their time of rejoicing is cut short (see below). After three and a half days comes her vindication, and her enemies are struck with consternation; for it is the end, and they have no further opportunities for repentance. Thus Heugstenberg says, "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." The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them; the beast that cometh up out of the abyss. The article points to the beast which is described elsewhere in the Apocalypse (Revelation 13:1; Revelation 17:8), and which is mentioned here by proleipsis. "The fourth beast," which is read in A, may have been suggested by Daniel 7:7. א has "the beast which then cometh up." The beast is Satan, perhaps manifested in the form of the persecuting world power (see on Revelation 13:1). His nature is indicated by the use of the noun θηρίον, "a wild beast," the opposite, as Wordsworth says, of Ἀρνίον, the Lamb. The beast ascends out of the abyss for a brief reign upon the earth, and is "drunken with the blood of the saints," as described in Revelation 17:1-18., but he ascends only to go into perdition (Revelation 17:8). It is well to remember that the whole vision is symbolical. The intention is to convey the idea that the Church, in her witness for God, will experience opposition from the power of Satan, which will wax more and more formidable as time goes on, and result in the apparent triumph of the forces of evil. But the triumph will be brief; it will but usher in the end and the final subjugation of the devil.
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; their dead body (in the singular), according to A, B, C, Arethas, and others. The plural is read in N, P, Andreas, Primasius, and others. Omit "lie upon the highway … their Lord." "The great city" is referred to in Revelation 16:19; Revelation 17:18; Revelation 18:10-19. Its signification is always the same, viz. the type of what is ungodly and of the world, and it is always consigned to punishment. Jerusalem, the type of what is holy, is never thus designated. Here we are plainly told the spiritual, that is, the symbolical nature of the designation. Sodom and Egypt are chosen as the type of what is evil (cf. Deuteronomy 32:32; Isaiah 1:10; Ezekiel 16:46; Ezekiel 20:7, etc.). It was in this city, that is, by the influence of this world power, that the Lord was crucified. In describing the fate of the Church, St. John seems to have in mind the life of Christ. His witness, the opposition he encountered, his death for a brief time at the completion of his work, his resurrection and ascension, and triumph over the devil, are all here reproduced. "The bodies lie in the street" symbolizes, according to Jewish custom, the most intense scorn and hatred.
And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves; and from among the peoples and tribes, etc., do [men] look upon, etc., and suffer not, etc., in a tomb (Revised Version). The fourfold enumeration points to the wide distribution of the state of things symbolized (cf. Revelation 4:6; Revelation 5:9, etc.), and seems of itself almost sufficient to demonstrate that the two witnesses are not two individual persons who are hereafter to appear. The period is but three days and a half; again, as in Revelation 11:2, Revelation 11:3, a broken, that is, a finite but uncertain period; but, as compared with the three years and a half—the period of the world's existence—very short. (On the signification of the last clause, see on Revelation 11:8.) It is the usual Eastern mark of contempt and degradation. The whole verse, together with the preceding and succeeding verses, describes symbolically, but graphically, the scorn and contempt to which the Church and God's Word will be subjected by men.
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; rejoice and make merry, that dwell (present, though future in meaning; the present tense rendering the description more graphic). Those dwelling on the earth are the ungodly, the worldly. "They send gifts," in accordance with Oriental custom on joyful occasions (cf. Revelation 11:9). "The prophets, the witnesses, tormented;" probably rather by the delivery of their message, which would affect the conscience of men, than by the plagues referred to in Revelation 11:6, though both may be meant. Alford, Bengel, and Dusterdieck favour the latter view of the two; Hengstenberg takes the former.
And after three days and a half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet. "The three days and an half," viz. these mentioned in Revelation 11:9, which see. Not merely "life from God," but the "Spirit from God" (cf. the vision in Ezekiel 37:1-28., especially Ezekiel 37:9, Ezekiel 37:10). "The Spirit of life" has been in the Church of God previously, but she has become "dry bones;" "the Spirit" is now breathed anew into her, and she is restored and magnified before the world. And great fear fell upon them which saw them. "Beheld" (θεωρέω) occurs in the Apocalypse only here and in the next verse. Fear, on account of the vindication of those whom they had treated with contumely, and on account of the judgment, to follow, which was even now shadowed forth.
And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. The reading ἤκουσα, "I heard," for ἤκουσαν, "they heard," in a correction of א, and in B, Coptic, Armenian, Andreas, may have arisen from the similarity of the passage to Revelation 6:6; Revelation 9:13. Dusterdieck, who reads, "I heard," points out that in Revelation 6:11; Revelation 9:4, the phrase used in addressing others is, "It was said unto them." Thus the fate of the Church is that of her Lord, and it is the fate of each individual who may witness of God. Suffering, apparent extinction, perhaps, but ultimate triumph and ascension into the presence of God is their common inheritance. If so be that they suffer with him, they are also glorified with him (Romans 8:17). Alford remarks that "no attempt has been made to explain this ascension by those who interpret the witnesses figuratively of the Old and New Testaments, or the like." Is it not the resurrection of the just, of the witnesses of God, and their exaltation at the beginning of the last judgment? Thus St. Paul says, "But each in his own order: Christ the Firstfruits; then they that are Christ's, at his coming. Then cometh the end" (1 Corinthians 15:13). This "end" is immediately referred to by the seer. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them; in the cloud. The parallelism with Elijah and Christ (see Revelation 9:5, Revelation 9:6, Revelation 9:8) is carried still further. The Church is triumphantly vindicated and glorified as they were; the only difference is that now all men behold it. The cloud is not that which hides them from view, but rather, like that in Revelation 14:14, something which exalts and enhances the glory of the witnesses. The effect upon the worldly is told in Revelation 14:11, Revelation 14:13.
And the same hour was there a great earthquake. In the visions of the seals it is set forth, under the sixth seal, how the destruction of the world is accompanied by earthquakes, etc.; the fear of the wicked is portrayed, and the preservation of the just takes place at the same time. Here, under the sixth trumpet, we have the same events shown forth, the triumph of the godly being mentioned first, though the rest happens "in that same hour." This is the conclusion of the sixth judgment, the consequence of the non repentance mentioned in Revelation 9:21. The intervening narrative (Revelation 10:1-11:12) serves to show that opportunities of knowing God's will are given to men, as well as warnings of judgment in ease of disobedience. Revelation 9:13 of Revelation 11:1-19. might follow Revelation 9:21, but for the desire of the seer to demonstrate the long suffering goodness and mercy of God. And the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand. Both the Authorized Version and the Revised Version have in the margin, "names of men, seven thousand," and some writers make much of the expression. Thus Alford says, "As if the name of each were recounted;" and Wordsworth, "Persons known and distinguished.'' But, in truth, the phrase is a Hebraism, to which we can attach no special significance (cf. Acts 1:15; Revelation 3:4). Whatever may he the system of interpretation adopted, this passage presents many difficulties. The whole account appears to relate to the judgment day, and it is therefore more peculiarly prophetic than many parts of the Apocalypse, and for that reason its meaning must needs be more or less obscure. The account in this verse informs us that a part (a tenth) of the city (that is, of the wicked) suffers destruction; that the number so destroyed is described as seven thousand; that the rest (nine tenths), in fear, recognize the power of God, to which they had hitherto refused attention. What is the final fate awarded to the nine tenths we are not told. We have, therefore, to inquire the meaning of the numbers given. Now, it seems inherently impossible to interpret these numbers literally, and, moreover, as we have repeatedly seen, it is not the habit of the writer of the Apocalypse to indicate exact numbers. We must, therefore, try to discover the symbolical meaning which St. John attached to these expressions, the qualities rather than the quantities which he intended to signify. In the Bible the tenth part invariably signifies the tithe—the portion due from the community to God or to the ruler (cf. Genesis 28:22; Le Genesis 27:32; Numbers 18:21; 1 Samuel 8:15, 1 Samuel 8:17). it seems probable that this was the idea intended to be conveyed, viz. that God was now exacting his due, that men who had refused to recognize what was due from them to God were now forced to recognize his sovereignty by the exaction for punishment of a tithe, and as an evidence that all are under his sway. But, it may be objected, are not all the wicked punished at the judgment? This verse really seems to hint at a possibility of some course by which, even at the last moment, a chance of escape may be presented to men. But it does not distinctly state this; it seems, indeed, purposely to leave the fate of the rest of the ungodly untold. All it does assert is that God comes to the wicked as a Conqueror or a King, and exacts what is due to himself. But, further, why are seven thousand men slain? Again interpreting symbolically, seven involves the idea of completeness (see on Revelation 1:4; Revelation 5:1, etc.). A thousand signifies a large number, though not an infinitely large number, for which we have "thousands of thousands," etc. This number, therefore, informs us that God's vengeance overtakes a large number, and that that number is complete, none escaping who deserve to be included. Perhaps this is mentioned as a precaution against any possibility of mistake in the interpretation of the "tenth part." It is as though St. John would say, "In that hour God exacted vengeance, demanding what was due to his justice; but do not imagine that that vengeance reached only a small part of mankind. It was far extending and complete, though I do not attempt to define its exact limits, which cannot be known until the judgment day itself shall reveal everything." And the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. The rest gave glory, being, perhaps (though not necessarily), repentant (cf. Joshua 7:19; John 9:24; Revelation 4:9; Revelation 14:7; Revelation 16:9). Possibly we have here a hint of God's uncovenanted mercies (vide supra), though there is nothing sufficiently definite to encourage men to postpone the day of repentance. No mention is made of the ultimate fate of "the remnant." "The God of heaven," in contrast to things of the world, upon which their affections had been hitherto set (cf. Revelation 16:11). In these two places alone of the New Testament is this expression found; but it is not uncommon in the Old Testament (cf. Ezra 1:2; Nehemiah 1:4; Daniel 2:18).
The second woe is past. The full description of this woe occupies Revelation 9:13-11:14. The account describes the natural spiritual punishment which is inflicted upon men in consequence of their sins (Revelation 9:13-21). This is insufficient to lead men to avert the final judgment by timely repentance. We have then a further description of God's long suffering, and the rejection of his mercy, accompanied by an assurance of the safety of the faithful (Revelation 10:1-11:10). This brings us to the end of the world (Revelation 11:11-14), just as the sixth seal led to the same termination (Revelation 7:12-17), and both are followed by the seventh, which gives a reference to the eternal peace of heaven. And, behold, the third woe cometh quickly. Omit "and." It is not said, in the case of the other "woes," that they come quickly. In his description of the preservation and glorification of the Church under the form of the "witnesses," the writer had been led to anticipate in some degree what follows under the seventh trumpet. Thus the seventh comes quickly. When events have progressed so far that the faithful Church is ascended to heaven with her Lord, then immediate]y follows the eternal rest set forth under the seventh trumpet. But this period is described as "the third woe," because it is the period of time final punishment of the wicked; and it is the judgment of the ungodly which is the theme of the trumpet visions, although mention is incidentally made of the preservation and reward of the just. This is the time foretold in Revelation 10:7. Just as in the case of the seals, the period of the seventh seal is recorded but not described, so here, in the case of the seventh trumpet, its advent is recorded, and its nature is indicated in verse 18, but no further description is given of the woe; only a slight reference to the bliss of those who are secure in heaven. Thus St. John does not attempt a complete picture of either the blessings of heaven or the woes of hell.
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying. The participle "saying" is masculine, λέγοντες, in A, B; the feminine, λέγουσαι, is read in א, C, P. Though the latter would be more correct, grammatically, yet irregular construction in such cases is not uncommon in the Apocalypse. The voices were possibly those of the angels rejoicing in the triumph of the kingdom of God. Or perhaps they proceeded from the four living beings, since the elders are next mentioned (Revelation 11:17) as offering the praises of the redeemed Church which they represent. At the opening of the seventh seal there was silence in heaven; here, at the sound of the seventh angel's trumpet, voices are heard "in heaven," but there is silence as to the fate of the wicked, with whom the trumpet visions have been chiefly concerned. In the revelation of the fate in store for the Church, as well as in that of the doom awarded to the ungodly, the visions stop short of describing circumstances connected with the life after the judgment day. The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever. Ἐγένετο ἡ βασιλαία, in the singular, is found in א, A, B, C, P, and versions, and is adopted by the Revised Version. Ἐγένοντο αἱ βασιλεῖαι, the plural, is read in two cursives. We can understand the first part of this verse by referring to Revelation 12:10. God's power and authority is established by the final overthrow of Satan. It naturally follows the account, in Revelation 12:12, Revelation 12:13, of the vindication of God's witnesses, and of the glory rendered by the rest of mankind. With God the Father is associated Christ, by whose means the overthrow of the devil is effected, and by whom his servants overcome (cf. Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:14; Revelation 12:11). This is the final victory; henceforth "he shall reign forever and ever."
And the four and twenty elders. "The elders" represent the Church (see on Revelation 4:4); they are those who were made "a kingdom" (Revelation 1:6); they therefore fitly take up the burden of praise to him who has now established his universal and everlasting kingdom. Which sat before God on their seats; which sit before God on their thrones (Revised Version). Thus they are described in Revelation 4:4. Fell upon their faces, and worshipped God. (So also in Revelation 4:10; Revelation 5:14; Revelation 19:4.)
Saying, We give thee thanks. The only instance in the Apocalypse of the use of this verb. It is found in John 6:11, John 6:23, and John 11:41, but in none of the ether Gospels, though frequently in the Epistles. "The elders" are peculiarly indebted to God, since the establishment of his kingdom is the victory of the Church. O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; the Almighty. Omit "and art to come" (Revised Version), with א, A, B, C, P, Andreas, Arethas, Primasius, Syriac, Armenian, etc. (cf. Revelation 1:4; Revelation 4:8). Perhaps the future is purposely omitted, since God's "coming" is now an accomplished fact (cf. also Revelation 16:5). Because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned; because thou hast taken thy great power, and didst reign (Revised Version). God never ceased to reign, though for a time he abrogated his power. This power he has now reassumed, and the elders thank him for it, for it is the assurance of the end of the suffering of the Church of God. So in Revelation 4:11 the elders declare that he is worthy to receive the power which he now visibly exercises. It has, indeed, been exercised before. The preservation of the Church set forth in the visions of the seals, and the punishment of the ungodly shown under the trumpet visions, are effected by means of this power; but now that power is visibly exercised.
And the nations were angry (cf. Psalms 2:1, which appears to be in the mind of the seer, for Psalms 2:9 of the same psalm is referred to in Revelation 12:5). "The nations" raged in the period of their persecution of the Church, as set forth under the visions of the seals. They were angry, says Hengstenberg, at the progress of the kingdom of God, after the Word was made flesh. And thy wrath is come; thy wrath came. This verse points conclusively to the judgment day, the events of which, however, as before remarked (see on Revelation 11:15), are merely indicated, not fully described. This is the last final infliction upon the wicked, the seventh of the trumpet plagues. And the time of the dead, that they should be judged; to be judged. Vitringa and others understand this judgment to refer to the dead martyrs who are now vindicated; but the meaning probably extends to all the dead, both classes of whom are referred to in the following part of the verse. 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; and to give their reward … and to destroy, etc. Though μικροὺς καὶ τοὺς μεγάλος, "the small and the great," is in the accusative ease, it is in apposition with the preceding datives, προφήταις ἁγίοις, φοβουμένοις, "prophets, saints, those that fear." The wicked are those who "destroy the earth," since it is on their account that the world is destroyed; they "destroy the earth" also by corrupting it, which is the force of διαφθεῖραι. In what way this destruction of the wicked is accomplished we are not told.
And the temple of God was opened in heaven; and there was opened the temple of God that is in heaven (Revised Version). "The temple" (ναός), the dwelling place of God (cf. Revelation 11:1; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 7:15). Again, but a glimpse is afforded; and yet more is revealed than at the conclusion of the former series of visions; while the chief description is reserved to a later part of the Revelation. And there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament; or, ark of his covenant. This seems to be introduced in order to render more emphatic the steadfastness and unchangeableness of God. As in the case of the witnesses, the figure is taken from the Old Testament, and the symbol would be pregnant with meaning to Jewish Christians and ethers who had learnt to think of the ark as the sacrament of God's abiding presence and continual help. He who now promises aid to his people, and threatens judgment upon the wicked, is the same God who formerly had displayed his power on behalf of his people Israel. And there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail; there followed (Revised Version). The usual token of any special manifestation of God's presence, or direct dealing with men (see on Revelation 6:1).
This, then, forms the conclusion to the series of trumpet visions. These visions, evoked by the cry for vengeance in Revelation 6:10, have demonstrated the need for patience and endurance on the part of Christians, by indicating the punishments meted out to the wicked on this earth and at the final judgment, together with the final triumph of the faithful. The seer next proceeds to elaborate a fact alluded to in the measuring of the temple in Revelation 10:2, and to point the moral that it is possible for Christians within the Church to lose their final reward by their apostasy.
"My two witnesses."
Following on the reception of the little book from the angel's hand, the seer is directed to measure the temple of God, the altar, and the worshippers. The outer court is not to be measured; for it, with the holy city, is to be trampled underfoot forty-two months. During this period (or a like period) there are to be two witnesses for God, clothed in sackcloth, who, though they have power with God, are slighted by men; against them a great onrush is to be made. They are silenced, and that effectually, by being put to death. The honour of burial is not to be theirs. This the world refuses. Rejoicing that it has stilled their disturbing voices, their bodies are to lie exposed, and the helplessness of their cause is to be the subject of merriment and ridicule. But lo! after a period of three days and a half, they again come to life, to the terror of their persecutors. Their ascension follows on their resurrection. As they have been made partakers of the sufferings of Christ, so also are they of the glory that should follow. What does all this signify? Dean Alford declares that no solution has as yet been given of it. The late Bishop of Manchester (Dr. Fraser) says, "I have no interpretation of this vision, nor any but the most vague and general key to its meaning." £ Those who regard the tenth chapter as indicative of the Reformation look at this one as pointing out the main features of the epoch which should follow it. We readily, as we have often done in previous homilies, recognize the correspondence between prophecy and event. This is what we might expect. But the correspondence is not such as to warrant us in saying that this or that event is the fulfilment of the Word, although it may be a partial one. Nor is it in any one's power to decide when the twelve hundred and sixty days begin. If they represent as many years, and are, according to the prophecy, to follow on from the events in the preceding chapter, and if those events signify the Reformation, then there are twelve hundred and sixty years to follow on the Reformation. In other words, we are at least seven hundred or nine hundred years from the end. But we have long ago given up this sort of attempt to assign dates, as at once impracticable and unprofitable. We see in the chapter before us a symbolic setting forth of that which is ever, ever fulfilling itself again and again before our eye. £ It is a stay to our faith to study the principles here disclosed.
I. THE EXTENT AND LIMIT OF THE TRUE CHURCH OF GOD ARE CLEARLY DEFINED. (Revelation 11:1, Revelation 11:2.) At the time of this prophecy the literal temple was no more. The once holy city was defiled by the "abomination of desolation." Then the true temple, the true holy city, existed in "the Church of the living God." The outer enclosure is not to be reckoned as a part of the temple in this divinely appointed remeasurement. All this most impressively sets forth the fact that Zion's external buildings cover a much wider space than the real heart worshippers whom God will own. There may be, and there are, large masses of people at the outer fringe of our Christian services. But if now a heavenly messenger were to come among us who was appointed to measure the real living temple of God, would it not turn out that, of a very large part of our surroundings, the order would be, "Measure it not"? This measurement from on high is ever going on. And if the great Lord of the Church saw fit to show us in a vision who are in his Church and who are not, many would be without whom we thought were in, and many within whom we thought were out. But not by any human hands can the true temple of God be built; nor yet by any human eye can its limits be discerned.
II. THE SPACE WITHOUT THE TEMPLE AND CITY OF GOD IS LEFT FOR A WHILE IN HOSTILE HANDS. "It hath been given unto the nations: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months." We know not what period of time is thus indicated; nor from what moment it begins. We know only three things concerning this matter:
1. That the worldly power will act in opposition to and preponderate over the Church.
2. That this will be for a limited time.
3. That this permissive limit is fixed by our God. £
Thus far all is clear. The world in its facts answers to the Word in its statements. If we attempt to go beyond this, we shall be in confusion.
III. DURING THE WHOLE OF THIS PERIOD OUR LORD WILL PRESERVE HIS FAITHFUL WITNESSES. "My two witnesses." Why two? "Is it not written in your Law that the testimony of two men is true?" Although the number should be small, there should always be enough to preserve in the world a testimony for God. Further, the symbolism is based on the vision of Zechariah (4). Therein we have two olive trees conveying oil, and two lamp stands holding light. Just as in the times following the Captivity there were anointed ones to stand by the Lord of the whole earth, so throughout the times of the Christian Church there will be men anointed by him to maintain on his behalf a faithful testimony; whose witness bearing would be at once "means of grace and centres of light" (Vaughan). We have several details here given respecting them.
1. They are to prophesy in sackcloth. So much of their witness has to be a protest against sin in the world and against corruption in the nominal Church, that their work often bears upon it an impress of sadness which cannot be removed till the corruption ceases.
2. They are to have Tower with God and for him. As Moses and Elijah had power to smite the earth or to shut up heaven, so with those who should come "in the spirit and power of Elias." They would make men feel that God is among them still.
3. Their work is also to give out a testimony to man. Even under the Old Testament, when a priestly order was in accordance with Divine appointment, God set it aside because of its corruption and inutility, and brought on the scene prophets to declare his will. Much more now, under the New Testament economy, where every human priesthood is but a pretence and a sham, will he carry on his work by the voice of the prophet, that men may learn through the ear that which they will fail to see by a histrionic parade.
4. Around these witnesses there should be a special guard. (Verse 5.) No one can willingly wound or plot against any witness for God without suffering for it, either in his reputation or in his peace, Nor can any one seek to injure a Church that is true to its Lord, without bringing on himself, sooner or later, the judgments of God. God surrounds his witnesses as with a wall of fire.
5. This guard will be around them till they have finished their testimony. (Verse 7.) "Man is immoral till his work is done." There are forces of ill, concealed, pent up, restrained, which, if they were but let loose, would soon make havoc of the Church; but an all controlling Power keeps them in check, and as long as God has anything for a witness to say, that witness will be spared and empowered to say it.
6. At some time or other there will be such an onrush of the great world power as to seem, for a while, to silence this witness bearing. Just as our Lord was hedged round with an impenetrable guard until his hour was come, so shall it be with his witnesses. Just as there came a time when his voice was stilled in death and the enemy triumphed, so shall it be with them. There is yet to be permitted such an onrush of the powers of darkness as shall seem for a while to carry all before it, and the voices of the witnesses shall be stilled.
7. The silencing of the witnesses will cause their foes to triumph. (Verses 8-10.) These prophets were the torment of the ungodly (verse 10). Hence the world's hatred. In proportion to its hatred of the message and the messengers will be its gladness when the messengers can trouble it no more. Ill will run riot. The wickedness of a Sodom will be renewed. The Holy Ghost has forewarned us what to expect. Tares will ripen; evil men will grow worse and worse. Perilous times will come. "When the Son of man cometh, will he find the faith on the earth?"
8. The triumph of the foe is but for a season. (Verses 11, 12.) Just as the Master put to shame all his foes by rising again on the third day, and afterwards ascending to heaven, so, after a like period, will that power, which the enemy thought was at an end, revive again. The world shall yet see that those whom it vilified are those whom God has glorified.
9. The Divine glorification of his witnesses will be accompanied with a mighty visitation of judgment on the world. (Verse 13.) They who think to stop the mouths of God's witnesses will have to meet a Power before which they will melt away in terror, and the very earth on which they were committing these crimes will be made to reel beneath their feet. Providence will affright these who sneered at the voice of the prophet. "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, and the Lord shall have them in derision" (Psalms 2:1-12.). "And the rest were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven." In all these nine points of detail the chapter gives us not only that which is true now and then, but that which is continuously true in one part or other throughout the Christian age; and instead of the chapter seeming to be shrouded in unintelligible mystery, it is actually radiant with a light that makes all things clear. For note, in conclusion:
(1) It behoves us to ask the question—Are we in the real Church of God as well as in the nominal one of Christendom?
(2) Should we not be ambitious to join the band of holy witnesses for God?
(3) If we are testifying for God, let us not expect all ease or comfort. Every part of our message runs counter to the prepossessions of the ungodly. If we do not meet, again and again, with direct opposition, we have reason to suspect that we do not with sufficient clearness and boldness testify against sin.
(4) Let us take comfort from the thought that not one of God's witnesses can possibly be swept away until his testimony is finished.
(5) Let none be deterred from loyalty to the Lord Jesus because Of the repeated onsets which may be made upon them, nor on account of the scorn which will ever and anon be cast upon the witness bearers. For furious as the wrath of the enemy may be, it is curbed.
The seventh trumpet and the song which is to follow.
Although we have found manifold reasons why we cannot fix dates in interpreting the Apocalypse, we find equally manifest reasons for doing that which is of far more importance—even for indicating the principles which it discloses. The previous section taught us that the extent and limit of the Church of God are perfectly measured; that God will preserve for himself a succession of witnesses during the mysterious and protracted period of the Church's witness bearing; that at some time or other there would be such an onrush of evil as if a beast were let loose from the deep abyss; that, for a while, the witnesses would be silenced; but that God would interpose, and cause providence to work where prophecy had failed, until the last obstruction to the final triumph of the Church should be taken out of the way. Then the seventh trumpet shall sound; under that seventh trumpet the end should come; and following on the end there shall be heard heaven's triumphant song. We therefore regard the words from the fifteenth to the eighteenth verses inclusive as overleaping the rest of the book; as, in fact, retrospective, giving us a hint of the sublime satisfaction which all holy souls will feel, in the review of God's dealings, when all those events are accomplished which the remaining chapters are about to specify. Here we propose to indicate these only in briefest outline, as the several details will be hereafter dealt with one by one.
I. HOWEVER GLOOMY AND PROTRACTED THE PERIOD MAY BE THROUGH WHICH GOD'S WITNESSES MAY HAVE TO PROPHESY, LIGHT WILL BREAK AT LAST. From Revelation 6:9, Revelation 6:10, and Revelation 8:3, Revelation 8:4, we see that a great burden of prayer has been for long, long years spread out before God, the cry of which is, "Thy kingdom come." In the verses before us we catch a glimpse of the time when this prayer shall have been fulfilled, and when the fulfilment will call forth a shout of praise (verses 15-18). And in the words of this song, which is sent up in praise to God on account of the conflict being at an end, we get an indication of what had happened ere the strife ceased, as they look upon the struggle from its further side; cf. verse 18, "The nations were angry"—the spirit of revolt against God rose to its height (Psalm it.)—"and thy wrath came;" i.e. its manifestation. In the kingdoms of olden time, when the cup of iniquity was full, the judgments of God came and swept them away. So it will be again. We nowhere get any warrant from Scripture for supposing that God will govern in a future age on any different principles from those on which he has governed in the past, or on which he governs now. But those principles will be manifested more dearly than they have been. "And the time of the dead, that they should be judged." This is spoken of as belonging to a bygone time. So that the passage brings us, by anticipation, to the other side of the judgment of the dead, actually past the dread scene in Revelation 20:11-13. "And to give their reward to thy servants the prophets"—those who bore faithful testimony for God for the twelve hundred and sixty years, dad in sackcloth—"and to the saints"—to the holy ones who were in covenant relation to God by sacrifice—"and them that fear thy Name," "in every nation under heaven" (cf. Acts 10:35), "both small and great." All life's "poor distinctions" will vanish most utterly away in the light of the great white throne. "And to destroy them that destroy the earth." Those who destroy the earth by corrupting it with their sin, God will destroy by desolating with his judgments. This expression again overleaps the scenes of Rev 12:1-17 :22, and includes all those wild and weird forms of ill which are referred to in the remaining eleven chapters of this book. These are:
(1) The dragon (Revelation 12:3, Revelation 12:9).
(2) The first beast (Revelation 13:1).
(3) The second beast (Revelation 13:11).
(4) Three unclean spirits (Revelation 16:13).
(5) Babylon the Great (Revelation 17:1-18.).
(6) The ungodly (Revelation 20:12-15).
(7) Death and Hades (Revelation 20:14). (See the homilies under these several passages.)
When the decisive judgment on all these is over, then does Jehovah take to himself his great power, and reign. And then the four and twenty elders, seated on their thrones, as if associated with their Lord in regal state, and sharers in his triumphs, rejoice over the grand issue, when every enemy is still as a stone.
II. THE PARAGRAPH BEFORE US INDICATES NOT ONLY WHAT THE ISSUE WILL BE, BUT ALSO THE MAIN EVENTS WHICH WILL PRECEDE IT. (Verse 18.) (These will be found to be dealt with in the homilies on the passages indicated above. The order of those events will be found to be indicated in the homily on Revelation 22:20.) These verses are, in fact, as stated above, an anticipatory summary of the whole.
III. WHEN THE RIGHTEOUS SEE THE ISSUE OF THE GREAT CONFLICT, THEY WILL BE FILLED WITH JOY, AND WILL GIVE VENT THERETO IN ADORING PRAISE. The results of the resurrection, of the judgment, and of the sentence, will perfectly satisfy all righteous souls (Revelation 12:7). Let us note here that only righteous souls will be satisfied. No unrighteous man ever will be satisfied with what God does. Such will be speechless, because they know that God does only what is right, and the fact that a righteous administration condemns them can never bring them rest. So that it is not the fault of the administration if it brings torment to the ungodly, but of the ungodliness. But as for the righteous, even here they gave thanks at the remembrance of God's holiness; how much more will they do this when it
"... shall break thro' every cloud
That veils and darkens his designs"!
Then, with the clearer vision with which they will be endowed in their glorified natures, with the views of the manifold wisdom of God which the unfoldings of providence shall yield, with the glory of the Son of God unveiled before them without a cloud, when redemption's work is completed, when all the chosen are gathered, when the righteousness and love of God are perfectly vindicated, when all the ransomed ones are found as an unbroken unity at the feet of him who died for them,—then will the hallelujahs of the glorified rise up in holy song! All conflicts will be past, believers will be ushered into that rest which remaineth, and the "joy of their Lord" will be complete.
1. Let us not be astonished at any violent outbreaks of evil which may perplex and bewilder many. The Holy Ghost hath said, "perilous times shall come."
2. Let us not judge of the progress of the work of God by the aspect of the world at any one moment. As reasonably might one think, when he watched the ebbing tide, that the sea was disappearing!
3. Let us not forget, that however dark the avenues through which the Church of God may have to pass, yet
(1) this book has sketched them in all their darkness, and
(2) has shown us also the brightness that lies beyond them.
4. However fierce the conflicts of our age may be, never let us falter in the witness which we bear for God and the right. Ours is a good fight. "In your patience possess ye your souls." The light will break at last.
5. Finally, if we would be kept in perfect peace, let our minds ever be stayed on him who "rides upon the storm." In his own time he will say, "Peace, be still," and the tossing billows shall subside to an eternal calm.
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
Revelation 11:1, Revelation 11:2
The measuring of the temple.
Whether this chapter be the history of events that had already taken place when it was written or were then happening; or whether it consists of predictions inspired of God of events then future, though near at hand in the history of Judaism and of the Church; or of events yet future in the experience of the whole Church, as many affirm; or whether, yet again, the whole chapter be an inspired allegory which, under the likeness of actual historical events, or of incidents recorded in the ancient Scriptures, were intended to convey to us spiritual teachings applicable to all times;—who can positively and certainly say? And like doubt hangs over the interpretation of the forty and two months told of here and elsewhere, whether they are to be taken literally, symbolically, or according to the reckoning of those who count each day to mean a year. We stay not, however, to discuss these questions, but prefer to take these verses which tell of the measuring of the temple as echoes of those earlier teachings of this book, and of many other Scriptures beside, which tell us of the Lord's perpetual presence in his Church, his strict investigation and his perfect knowledge of all who constitute her membership, and of all that occurs therein. "The Lord is in his holy temple; his eyes behold, his eyelids try the children of men:" of such words does this command to "Arise, and measure the temple" remind us, and in the sense they suggest we desire to consider them now. Let us observe, therefore—
1. THE MEASURING. We have a similar command in Ezekiel 40:1-49., when in like inspired vision that prophet beholds the glorious restored temple of God. And so in Revelation 21:1-27. of this book we read of the angel who had the golden reed to measure the holy city. But as in those other representations we cannot think that material earthly buildings are meant, or any literal measurements whether of city or temple, so here we regard the temple as telling of that glorious spiritual fabric of which we so often read under like imagery in the Epistles of St. Paul; and the measuring is a metaphor to signify that careful investigation and scrutiny whereby true knowledge is gained as to the nearness or otherwise of that which is measured to its proper standard and ideal. For it is to be noted:
1. God has an ideal for everything, a standard to which he would have it conform. He had in the creation of the world, and we are told how he saw all that which he had made, and declared that it answered to his ideal, and that it was "very good." And he looks down from heaven—so we are told—to see what is done upon the earth; he taketh account of all that men do. All other creatures fulfil their ideal, there is no need to take account of them; but man, endowed with the terrible power of contradicting and refusing his Maker's will, as well as of assenting to it—and he could not have the one without the other—it is needful that the Lord should "behold" and "try" his actions by an unerring standard in order that he may be the more readily led to try them in like manner himself, and so conform them thereto the more nearly.
2. Christ is the ideal Man, and therefore called "the Son of man." He did in all things so answer to his Father's intent that he was the "beloved Son in whom" God was "well pleased." That is the standard to which we are to look, and by which we are to regulate our lives. Happy they who follow him closely "whithersoever he goeth."
3. And this "measuring" is continually going on. There is an inward monitor as well as an outward one. Conscience affirms, consents to, and confirms what the Word of God declares, and is perpetually holding up both the standard and ourselves, and making us inwardly if not outwardly blush when we see the contrast between the two.
4. How grateful we should be for this! "Lord with what care thou hast begirt us round!" so sings holy George Herbert; and one evidence of this care is in the constant bringing before our consciences the rigid rule of right. But note next—
II. THE MEASURED THAT ARE SPOKEN OF HERE. The temple, the altar, and the people.
1. The temple of God. No doubt St. John, as a devout Jew, and one who had often frequented with joy the courts of the Lord's house at Jerusalem, had that temple—for it was still standing, though soon to fall—before his mind. And it was to him a symbol and type of all Israel, if not of the whole Church of God (cf. St. Paul, "In whom the whole building fitly framed together groweth into a holy temple unto the Lord"). He is telling of the Church of God throughout the whole world and in all ages of time. Therefore we may take "the temple of God" as representing the Church in its outward form. Now, God has his ideal for this. What is it? The Catholic declares the true Church to be the great body of the baptized, organized into one organic whole. The individualist asserts that there is no such body that man can know of, but that the Church consists of "living stones," that is, of individual souls who have been quickened into the life of God by personal faith in Christ. And there are multitudes of subdivisions under each of these two ruling beliefs. But all such outward forms will be measured, tested, tried. And what will the standard be to which conformity will be demanded? Christ's herald said, "Now also the axe is laid at the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire" (Matthew 3:10). By this supreme test will all our Church organizations be tried. What fruit have they borne in that which is the end of all religion—the making of bad men good, and good men better? Have souls in such Churches been quickened, converted, cheered, built up, and helped heavenward? If so, well. If not, then not well. No antiquity, orthodoxy, catholicity, popularity, beauty, wealth, or any other such plea will stand if God's standard be not answered to, and his demand for "good fruit" be not met. The axe will fall, and the tree will go down.
2. The altar. This also was to be measured. We may take "the altar" as the symbol of the worship of the Church. Around it Israel gathered; on it the fire was perpetually burning; from it was taken the fire which enkindled the incense that went up in the immediate presence of God. It was the centre of Israel's worship: there was but one altar for them all. It therefore does set forth the worship of the Church according to the Divine ideal, and the altar was to be measured, that that worship might be compared with that ideal. Is our worship fervent? On that altar was an ever burning fire. Upon the heads of the disciples at Pentecost descended fire, telling that Christ's people were to be known by their ardour. And the altar fire tells that worship is to be fervent. Is it spiritual? Does it ascend up to God as the smoke of the sacrifice mounted up and up into the heavens,—symbol, beautiful, striking, appropriate, of that uplifting of the heart, that real outgoing of the soul after God, which belongs to all true worship? And, above all, is it sacrificial? The altar was for sacrifice. Worship that has not this element in it will be rejected when that measurement of the altar told of here takes place. And let no one think that having correct views as to the atonement of Christ, and making mental reference thereto, or verbal, by adding on, as we should, to all our prayers, "through Jesus Christ our Lord"—let no one think that that fulfils the ideal of altar worship. No; our worship may ring with the mention of that ever blessed Name, and our views may be of the most unexceptional sort, and there be not one atom of "sacrifice" in our worship. And often and often, as in the Lord's prayer, that Name may not be heard at all, and ideas about the atonement may be very crude, and yet the worship be full of sacrifice, and will bear well the measuring which is to be applied to all our worship. Sacrifice means giving up something which we should like to keep. Was not Christ's sacrifice such? Is not all sacrifice such? If, then, worship do not carry with it the giving up of anything, save the little time that it occupies to get through with it; if sin be not given up, nor self, nor that which we have and could spare, and our brother needs;—if there be naught of this, where is the sacrifice? how will our worship bear God's test?
3. The people. "Them that worship therein"—so we read. Now, the Divine ideal for these may be learnt by noting what was not to be measured. And we are told in verse 2 that "the court which is without the temple … measure it not." It was to be cast out, left out of the reckoning altogether. Now, the outer court of the temple was the addition of Herod; he was given to erecting magnificent buildings, and the addition of this outer court did undoubtedly add much to the splendour of the whole fabric. But such court had no place in the tabernacle nor in the temple of Solomon or that of Zerubbabel. But Herod had made this outer court in the temple at Jerusalem. It was thronged by all manner of people. There it was the money changers had their tables, and they who bought and sold doves. The Gentiles might come there, though they might not pass into what was especially the temple, and which was sacred to Israelites only. And so it represented all those outer court worshippers, those mixed multitudes which are found associated with God's true people everywhere of them, but not truly belonging to them. The courts of the temple were separated literally. No Gentile durst pass the boundaries which parted the outer court from the rest of the temple on pain of death. But there is no such visible, material, separation in the throng of worshippers in the professing Church of God. We cannot draw the line nor apply the measure. But all the same there is such a line drawn, and it is clearly visible to the eye of God. He can discriminate, though we cannot, between those who profess and those who possess true religion, and one day he will make this difference plain. Tares get in amongst the wheat, bad fish amid the good, the foolish virgins were associated with the wise; and the worshippers in the true temple of God today are mingled with those whose place is in the outer court. But as in the parables referred to separation did come at last, so will it be for the Church of today, when the Son of man sends forth his angels, and they "gather out of his kingdom all that do offend, and they that work iniquity." The question, therefore, for us all is—Where do we belong! In that outer court were many who were well disposed towards Israel's God, and professed more or less of attachment to his worship; but they were not true Israelites. And the like is true still. "Let a man examine himself, and so let him" take his place in the Church of God.
III. THE MEANING OF ALL THIS. It was because a time of sore trial was imminent, close at hand. For "forty and two months" the court and the city were to be trodden underfoot by the nations. The invasion and overthrow of Jerusalem by the Romans, and the escape of the Christian Church to Pella, supply illustrative historical incidents of the treading underfoot told of here, and of the measuring, like the sealing of Revelation 7:1-17., for the purpose of separating and preserving God's faithful ones. God ever has, even in the worst of times, a remnant of such; like the "seven thousand" who had not bowed the knee to Baal. And he takes notice of them, and will keep them securely, whilst those who are not as they are subjected to his sore judgments. The measuring means preservation for the faithful, judgment for all else. "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people." The measuring is ever going on. Let us each ask—On which side of that unerring line am I?—S.C.
The two witnesses.
In the absolute impossibility of certainly ascertaining what definite historical events were in the mind of St. John when he penned these mysterious chapters of his Apocalypse, we are driven, as perhaps it was designed we should be driven, to take them as an inspired parable or allegory, and so gather from them lessons for our own times. We have done so in regard to the "little book" told of in Revelation 10:1-11.; and in regard to the measuring of temple, altar, and worshippers, told of in the first ten verses of this chapter; and we purpose dealing with this record of the two witnesses in a similar way; for we know of no other in which our consideration of them can be of any service to us. This entire episode, stretching from Revelation 10:1 to Revelation 11:13, has to do with these witnesses; Revelation 10:1-11. showing their preparation by means of the book; Revelation 11:1, Revelation 11:2 showing the people before whom they would witness; and now the Revelation 11:3-13 tell more especially of the witnesses themselves and their witness for God, and then that of God for them. It might seem as if in Revelation 11:4 we had an authoritative explanation of these two witnesses, as it points us back to the prophecy of Zechariah 4:1-3, and tells us that what he saw was now fulfilled. But Zechariah's symbol merely tells of the characteristics of these witnesses; that they were to be as the olive trees were—supporters and sustainers of the life to which they ministered. The olive trees so ministered to the lamps, and these witnesses so ministered to the people of God. They were also to be as lamps, letting their light shine in such wise as should glorify God. St. John's word, "These are," etc., therefore means no more than that these are represented by, and correspond to, the two olive trees, etc. But we may, we believe, find the antitypes of those ancient symbols and types of St. John's allegory in our Lord Jesus Christ and his Church. They are the two witnesses, and are one to the other as the trees and the lamp; but before the world, both witness. Look at the life of our Lord and the history of his Church; all that is told of here may be read therein. Christ himself is called in this book, "The faithful and true Witness;" and he himself said of his Church in her ministry, "This gospel shall be preached for a witness in all nations;" and it is written of old, "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord." Hence in Christ and his Church we may find these witnesses, and in what is here recorded of them we may see the mutual fellowship that exists between them. See this—
I. IN MINISTRY. For both that of Christ and his Church was a ministry:
1. Of prophecy. Not in the sense of predicting the future, but in uttering forth the will of God—preaching and proclaiming God's message to mankind. In both there were works of Divine power, signs and wonders; but these were of but subordinate importance as compared to their ministry of the Word. Our Lord was the great Teacher, and he bade his disciples "preach the gospel."
2. Of brief duration. Who knows what precisely is meant by these mysterious twelve hundred and sixty days? It is the same period of three years and a half whether told of as days here or as months in ver.
2. It is the half of seven, the number denoting completeness and perfection. There may be allusion to the time of our Lord's ministry on earth, or to that of the investment of Jerusalem by the Romans, or, taking the year day theory, to some twelve hundred and sixty years during which this ministry is to be carried on. We prefer to take the numbers as telling of a time limited and brief. Such was our Lord's ministry; such the duration of the Church in Jerusalem ere it fled away to Pella; such, in comparison with the eternal ages in which the blessed results of their ministry shall be realized, is the ministry of the Church of today and all past and future days.
3. Characterized by much of sternness and sorrow. "Clothed in sackcloth"—so is it described. Was it not so with our Lord? He was "the Man of sorrows." And has it not been so with his Church oftentimes, just in proportion as they have been faithful to their Lord? See the life of Paul, of Peter, of the martyr Church in many generations, under both pagan and papal Rome. How can it be otherwise when we think of the ends that are to be secured—so momentous—and of the tremendous hindrances in the way of securing these? Such ministry is no holiday pastime, no decorous profession merely, but one that for our Lord and his apostles, for his martyrs and for all his faithful, seems oftentimes to be "clothed in sackcloth."
4. But it is of resistless force. Like as was the ministry of Elijah and Moses. Elijah literally called down fire from heaven, and Moses did that which is here said of these witnesses. And in a real, though not literal sense, verses 5 and 6 are true. Was not our Lord's word as a fire to his enemies? How it scathed and tormented them! And were not his words fulfilled when Jerusalem was overthrown? And so of the other witness, the Church. What has become of her persecutors—Rome, Spain, and many more? Has it been well with those who have hurt the Church of God? "He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of mine eye"—so hath God said, and historic fact vindicates that word. And so of the withholding of the rain. Elijah did this literally; but was not the righteous and universal judgment on the hardened ones whereby, as our Lord said, "seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand"—was not this a yet more real and terrible withholding of the rain and shutting of heaven against them? Christ was "set for the fall" as well as "the rise" of many in Israel; they would have it so. And the words of the other witness have had like effects. "Whose sins ye retain, they are retained," said the Lord to his Church. "What thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven," he also said. And was not this word fulfilled when such as Paul turned from the Jews who had rejected him and went unto the heathen? What would become of a nation, a community, if the good all went away? What became of Sodom when Lot left it; of Jerusalem, when the Church of Christ left it? Parodies of this power of the Church were seen in the interdicts which proud popes and prelates would at times lay on the lands that believed in them. The threat of such interdict seemed like shutting heaven against them, and they dreaded it with a great dread. And the plagues Moses inflicted on Egypt have their counterpart in the sorrows that have come on men in all ages who have sought to hurt the Lord's anointed ones, and to do his witnesses harm. Yes; this ministry of the witnesses has had resistless force accompanying it, before which its foes have fallen again and again. Let none of us be found fighting against God.
II. IN SUFFERING. We seem in verses 7-13 to have a piece of the gospel history, of the life of our Lord, given to us. For he was met with the hostile rage of hell. The "beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit" did make war against him. And for a time hell seemed to have vanquished the Christ. For he was betrayed, condemned, and crucified. And with contempt like to that of refusing burial was our Lord treated. "He was despised and rejected of men." It was their "hour, and the power of darkness." And the Church, his co-witness, has had fellowship in his sufferings, and been once and again "made conformable unto his death." The same foe, the same rage, the same suffering, the same seeming vanquishment, the same scorn, these have been her lot as well as her Lord's. And over both have been the like short-lived exultation. Herod and Pontius Pilate became friends over the condemned Christ. His enemies breathed more freely when they knew he was dead. How they mocked him as he hung on the cross! Their joy, as well as their hatred and scorn, are clearly audible in those hideous insults which they heaped upon him. And again and again have the persecutors of the Church exulted in imagined success. Pagan and papal, still worse than pagan Rome, have alike flattered themselves, once and again, that heresy—as they deemed it—was completely put down. They have been "drunk with the blood of saints," and in their wild orgies have rejoiced and made merry as the manner of such is to do. Let us, whose lot has fallen in these quiet days, learn lessons of thankfulness that no such suffering as the Church has had to endure falls to our share, and that, when such suffering had to be borne, grace sufficient for the day was given. What an implied promise of ever present help there is in that! And let us be ashamed to shrink from any suffering allotted to us, seeing how incomparably less it is, which, in witnessing for God, we may be called upon to bear. And let us remember, and be comforted by the remembrance, whence and when such sufferings come. Whence? From hell, and such as were the men of Sodom and Egypt, and the murderers of the Lord. If friendship with such would save us from suffering, would we be their friends? God forbid! And when? It was when the evil they could do could do no harm (see verse 7). The witnesses had finished their testimony. What a shutting of the door after the horse has been stolen! God's witnesses had done their work; it did not matter now what their foes might do against or with them. God's servants are immortal, yea more, are left unhindered, until their work is done.
III. IN TRIUMPH. (Verse 11.) Our Lord's resurrection, the fear which fell on his foes, his ascension, Pentecost and its marvels, are all referred to here as patterns of the triumph of the witnesses. In these great events are found the archetype and model, and not merely the mere illustration, of what St. John tells of. It is easy to see what answers in the history of our Lord to what is here said. He was glorified, declared to be the Son of God with power, by means of them. And in his triumph his people share, so that, in a very real sense, what is said of him can be, and is, said of them. Church revivals, of which there have been many, are instances of fellowship in Christ's triumph. Often have hell and Satan, and all that are theirs, thought that Christianity and the Church were crushed. Voltaire vowed that it should be his ecraser l'infame, and he thought that by his writings it should surely be done, and in the awful days of the revolutionary terror it seemed as if his vaunt were not vain, but valid. But revival came. In the blessed Reformation times, what a resurrection unto life for the faith and the Church there was! In the Diocletian persecutions it seemed as if all were lost, but in brief while, Constantine avowed himself a Christian, and the faith which was once persecuted was now praised and preferred everywhere. And today in many quarters, it is feared that faith is dead. Perhaps some fear it for themselves. But behold this parable of the witnesses. Over the grave of all such "Resurgam" may, should be, written. "Failure" is a word unknown in the vocabulary of God, but ultimate and complete triumph is absolutely sure.
CONCLUSION. Witnesses for Christ, does not this bid us be of good cheer? Enemies of Christ, does not the word of his witnesses "torment" you? Does it not rankle within you, driving away your peace, refusing to let you alone in your sins, however much you might wish it would? It scorches and burns inwardly, as if the fire unquenchable were already kindled. Blessed be God that the witness of the Word doth torment, pricking you to the heart, and causing perpetual pain. Yield to it, as did Saul the persecutor, who, by yielding, became Paul the apostle. "The Word is quick and powerful;" it goes straight to the conscience, making many a Felix "tremble" and many an Agrippa resolve "almost to be a Christian." But remember, it may do all this and not save your soul. Oh for that one little step which yet remains to be taken! that actual "arising and going to your Father"! that real coming to Christ that you may have life! If the Word torments, it is only that it may arouse you to listen; it is only that you may take it to you as your guide, your light, and your comforter. Trifle not with that Word which must one day judge you. May Christ give it entrance while it is still light and not fire—"a light to cheer and to enlighten, not a fire to burn and to consume"! (Vaughan).—S.C.
The rent veil.
In the foregoing part of this chapter, which tells of the two witnesses, we have seen how the path along which they were led resembled that of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. They had fellowship with him in ministry, in suffering, and in triumph. It is ever so with the servants of Christ. And now in this verse our thoughts are sent back to those miracles which were attendant upon his death. In Matthew 27:50, Matthew 27:51, etc., we are told of the veil that was rent from the top to the bottom, and of the earthquake, and of the opened graves. And so in this chapter, which tells of the winding up of the Jewish dispensation, we see the innermost recesses of the temple thrown open, and all that it contained laid bare to men's sight and approach, as it had never been before. So was it when on the cross Christ said, "It is finished!" so is it now in this vision in which the end of all that old order of things is portrayed. But what meant that rent veil there, and this opened temple and ark of the covenant disclosed to all eyes? They have a meaning. "To the few eyes that witnessed that rending of the temple veil it must have been a most mysterious spectacle. Our Lord died at the third hour after midday, the very hour when eager crowds of worshippers would be thronging into the courts of the temple, and all would be perparing for the evening sacrifice. Within the holy place, kindling, perhaps, the many lights of the golden candlestick, some priests would be busy before the inner veil which hung between them and the holy of holies—the dark secluded chamber within which once lay the ark of the covenant, with the cherubim above it shadowing the mercy seat, which no mortal footstep was permitted to invade, save that of the high priest once only every year. How strange, how awful, to the ministering priests, standing before that veil, to feel the earth tremble beneath their feet, and to see the strong veil grasped, as if by two unseen hands of superhuman strength, and torn down in its centre from top to bottom; the glaring light of day, that never for long centuries gone by had entered there, flung into that sacred tenement, and all its mysteries laid open to ruler gaze!" Now, that which this disclosure of the most holy place meant when our Lord was crucified, is meant also by what St. John tells us here in his vision. But more than this is meant. For when the veil of the temple was rent no ark of the covenant was seen. That had long ago disappeared, having been either burnt or carried off when Jerusalem and the temple were overthrown by Nebuchadnezzar. Hence neither in the second temple, nor in that of Herod, in the days of our Lord, was there any ark of the covenant. It seems never to have been replaced (cf. Esdras, Josephus, Tacitus). But here, in St. John's vision, the ark of the covenant is seen again. Fuller meaning, therefore, is to be found in the vision than in the rent veil. Much is common to both; something, however, belongs peculiarly to each. Let us, therefore, note—
I. WHAT IS SPECIAL TO EACH. And:
1. As to the veil rent in twain. "It is not fanciful," says one, "to regard it as a solemn act of mourning on the part of the house of the Lord. In the East men express their sorrow by rending their garments, and the temple, when it beheld its Master die, seemed struck with horror, and rent its veil Shocked at the sin of man, indignant at the murder of its Lord, in its sympathy with him who is the true Temple of God, the outward symbol tore its holy vestment from the top to the bottom" (Spurgeon). But, with far more certainty, we may see in it the symbol of our Lord's sacred humanity. The Epistle to the Hebrews expressly tells us this in Hebrews 10:19, Hebrews 10:20, where we read, "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh." "The weak, human, mortal flesh was the state through which he had to pass before he could enter into the holiest in the heavens for us, and when he put off that flesh the actual veil in the temple was rent in twain." That perfect human life, this life in our suffering humanity, opened to our sight and to our feet the way to God. Recall the ancient type. Ere ever the high priest could enter into the holiest of all, he must push aside or lift up the separating veil which hung before it. Now, that veil symbolized Christ's flesh, that is, his life in the flesh—his earthly, human life. And, ere he could enter into the holiest for us, he must live that life, must pass through it as through the veil And this is what he did. And now, relying on that blood of Jesus which atones for us with God, because it evermore makes our flesh, that is, makes our life, pure, trustful, consecrated, as was his life—so, by this "new and living way" we must draw near, keep drawing near, to our Father and our God. His way into the holiest is our way, only the way for him was far more severe than ours. For he had to be perfectly holy, "as a lamb without blemish and without spot," and to suffer as none other ever did or could. But our marred and imperfect holiness is accepted for the sake of his, which was all perfect, and so, even through the coarse and tattered veil of our flesh, we shall enter, by his grace, into the presence of God.
2. The vision of the ark of the covenant. We may take this as telling
(1) of the unchangeableness of God. When St. John wrote, the very foundations of the earth seemed to be shaken and in course of being moved. That Judaism of which the temple was the centre was dying, dying hard. Jerusalem and her people were in the last throes of their national existence, and the old order was changing every hour and, amid sore travail, giving place to new. To many eyes it seemed as if all was lost, and the end of all things was at hand. Now, what a reassuring vision this would be! The ark of the covenant that enshrined God's holy Law; the ark that was covered with the mercy seat, that told of the eternal grace of God; that ark of the covenant, now seen in beatific vision, said to the beholder, "The Lord liveth, the Lord holy and full of compassion, just, yet delighting in mercy, he liveth." Moreover it told
(2) of the certainty of victory over all foes. It was the ark of God's strength, God's resting place, where he dwelt between the cherubim. Under its shadow Israel had dwelt, as under the shadow of the Almighty. At its presence the rushing river rolled back its flowing flood, and piled up its awestruck waters, and held them bound until all the people of God had passed by. At its presence the walls of Jericho had fallen fiat, and under its leadership Israel had gone on from victory unto victory. It had made them invincible a thousand times. And now the persecuted people of God beheld this ark of the covenant once again. "When the enemy came in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord lifted up the standard against him." It was an omen of victory, a prophecy of good, a lifter up of all hearts that were cast down. It meant all that.
II. WHAT IS COMMON TO BOTH—to the veil of the temple rent and this vision of the ark of the covenant. One chief meaning belongs to both—that meaning which our Lord declared when on the cross at the moment of his death he cried, "It is finished!" The veil and the shrine wherein the ark was seen represent the whole of the Mosaic ceremonial, the system of types, the Levitical Law, the whole body of Jewish ordinances. And the rent veil, and the vision of the ark alike show that all that is done with and forever. Freedom of access is given to all, and we are bidden therefore to come boldly to the throne of grace. "The veil is not rolled up, but rent, so that it cannot be put up again;" and in this vision there is no sign of it at all. Now, this means that all that separates the soul of the believer from God is clean gone forever.
1. All legal ordinances. And yet how slow men are to believe this—to believe that the worshippers whom God seeks are those who worship him in spirit and in truth! It is not papists alone, but so-called Protestants also, all too many of them, who have not yet realized what the rent veil, and the ark of the covenant visible to all, mean. Hence the often hurried sending for ministers of religion to pray by the sick and dying. Hence, too, those many evidences which we meet with that men's minds are not yet emancipated from reliance on certain persons, ordinances, and the like; and that they yet know not that none can make them more acceptable to God, or as acceptable, as when they themselves come through the blood of Christ.
2. All guilt. This separates indeed, and would forever do so, had not the veil been rent and the way opened.
3. All depravity. The evil bias of our nature—that in us which makes us do the things we would not, and forbids our doing those we would. And:
4. The flesh itself; for this veil, too, will one day be rent, and then our soul, escaped as a bird out of the hand of the fowler, shall go into the presence of God forever. Conclusion. Then if all that separates, every veil, be done away, let me draw near, as I am bidden to do—in prayer, in praise, in communion; asking or giving thanks for blessings on my soul, in pardon, peace, purity, consolation, strength; blessings on others, those whom I love, those who love me, and for all for whom I am bound to pray. We may, we should, we must.—S.C.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
The continuous witness.
The Lord calls forth his faithful witnesses, and makes promise that their voice and testimony shall not be silenced, even though the holy city be trodden underfoot. Mark—
I. THE UNFAILING TESTIMONY. Throughout the entire period during which the usurping worldly power shall oppress and tread down the adherents to the truth, the voice of testimony is heard. It cannot be silenced. Forty and two months is the holy city trodden underfoot; a thousand two hundred and three score days do the witnesses prophesy. Not any particular two; but the confirmatory two. The number may be minished; but the voice is clear. One herald is sufficient to make a proclamation.
II. THE PAINFULNESS OF WITNESSING AGAINST EVIL AND THREATENING JUDGMENT IS BUT TOO OBVIOUS. The witnesses prophesy, "clothed in sackcloth." So must all who stand in opposition to evil find the painful bitterness of their sad duty.
III. THE DIVINE DEFENCE OF THE WITNESSES. "If any man desireth to hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth." The Lord defends his witnesses; his anointed must not be touched. The word of their mouth is itself a penetrating sword of flame; nor can the adversaries of the truth escape those external judgments which fire always represents, and which the God of truth uses for the punishment of evil doers. This is further seen in—
IV. THEIR PUNITIVE POWER. But it is of a nature correspondent to the entire character of the gospel. "They shut up heaven." Sad indeed is it for them who stay the holy work of the heavenly witnesses. For if their work be hindered, it is as the shutting up of the heavens—no spiritual rain, no teaching. The world is the sufferer. The loss is unspeakable. By the removal of the earth preserving salt—the Word—a plague is brought upon the earth. Alas! though the testimony is continuous through all the time of the worldly oppression, yet the witnesses are finally slain! Here the vision may be for the comfort of the witnessss to the truth themselves. And we reflect—
V. UPON THEIR TEMPORARY DESTRUCTION AND FINAL TRIUMPH. They are slain, and so far the world triumphs. So it did with the one faithful and true Witness. Or we may see here a temporary triumph of the evil worldly spirit, and the final supremacy of the truth. Probably the former. But in either case the faithful witnesses to the truth are assured in this, as in many other ways, of the final reward to their fidelity and the final triumph over them who make them their foes.—R.G.
The final victory.
Again, as frequently in the course of the writing, the assurance of the final triumph of the truth over all opposers is clearly, definitely, and unequivocally given—given to the comfort and joy of the toiling, patient, enduring followers of the Lamb. Great voices in heaven are heard, and they proclaim one all sufficient and grand truth: "The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ." This word runs through the ages. It is the word of prophecy. It has ever and ever will comfort the hearts and stimulate the faith of the Christian warrior. It is the song of assurance with which the hosts of the contending forces of "him that sitteth on the white horse" are cheered and urged to unflagging zeal. Always before the eye of faith this assurance of victory floats. It is the summing up of all the prophetic words in one. It needs no exposition. The figure is too plain. It borders on the realistic.
"Jesus shall reign where'er the sun
Doth his successive journeys run,
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till suns shall rise and set no more."
Universal, complete, and final, shall that conquest of the nations be. It is a complete rout. The long continued struggle is at an end. The truth has triumphed over error; righteousness over sin. The King long "set" upon the "holy hill of Zion" is now acknowledged as the lawful Heir, the rightful Sovereign. The holy oracles themselves define this complete reign over the individual, national, and universal life.
I. THE SUPREMACY OF THE DIVINE RULE SHALL BE UNIVERSALLY ESTABLISHED AND ACKNOWLEDGED. "The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ."
II. THE DIFFUSION OF DIVINE TRUTH SHALL BE UNIVERSAL. "The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea."
III. THE PRINCIPLES OF THAT GOVERNMENT SHALL PERMEATE NATIONAL LIFE, LITERATURE, AND INSTITUTIONS. "The little leaven shall leaven the whole lump."
IV. UNDER THIS GRACIOUS RULE NATIONAL ANIMOSITIES SHALL BE AMELIORATED. "The swords shall be beaten," etc.
V. CONFLICTING AND ANTAGONISTIC FORCES SHALL BE HARMONIZED. "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard lie down with the kid," etc.
VI. HUMAN LIFE SHALL BE BEAUTIFIED, ADORNED, AND BRIGHTENED. "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert blossom as the rose."
VII. TO THE MILD AND BENEFICENT SWAY OF THE REDEEMER SHALL BE HANDED OVER THE OUTLYING AND OUTCAST NATIONS OF THE EARTH. "He shall have the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession."
VIII. THIS REIGN SHALL BE CHARACTERIZED BY THE MOST BLESSED CONDITIONS. "In his day shall righteousness prevail, and abundance of peace, so long." etc.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
The cause of right on earth.
"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. 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 underfoot forty and two months," etc. What does this chapter mean? Has it any intelligible meaning? Is it to be taken literally or ideally? One of our most modern, able, and distinguished biblical critics—Archdeacon Farrar—has said concerning it, "There neither is, nor ever has been, in Christendom, in any age, or among any school of interpreters, the smallest agreement, or even approach to an agreement, as to the events which the seer had in view ... There are no two writers of any importance who even approximately agree in their interpretation." Shrinking, as I do, from contributing anything to the unsightly pile of interpretations which have been given to this chapter, I shall merely use it as the heavenly Teacher used the lilies of the field and the birds of the air—to illustrate truth. The subject which it serves in some extent to set forth is the cause of right on earth. It illustrates the fact—
I. THAT THE CAUSE OF RIGHT ON THIS EARTH HAS ITS MEASURING RULE. "And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying [one said], Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein." Two things are suggested.
1. That in the human world there is right and wrong. There is the temple of God, the altar, and "them that worship therein." At the same time, there is the court that is outside—the "court which is without the temple "—a sphere discarded by the right and trampling on the holy. This, however, is only for a time.
2. That right here has its measuring line. Take the "temple" here as the emblem of right on the earth, and the "reed" as that of the moral Law of God—the Law that measures moral character. Such a Law we have here, here in the conscience, here in the Decalogue, here in the life of Christ. This measuring line concerns qualities rather than quantities; it analyzes all the elements of character and decides their qualities. It is a plummet that sounds the deepest depths of being; it is a moral analyst to test the quality of every thought, affection, and deed; a moral gauge to measure the height, breadth, depth, of all. Supreme sympathy with the supremely good is the Law. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," etc. "Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity [love], it profiteth me nothing." This is the "reed" to measure the moral temple of the soul and all its worshippers. Right here requires testing; so much passes for right that is wrong that a measuring line is necessary for testing.
II. THAT THE CAUSE OF RIGHT ON THIS EARTH HAS ITS MIGHTY DEFENDERS. "I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy." Who are the two witnesses? Moses and Elijah? Caleb and Joshua? John the Baptist and Christ? Enoch and Elijah? Peter and John? No one knows, although hundreds pretend to say. Did I believe that the chapter had a literal or historic meaning, I would accept the theory that they were the collective representatives of the Jewish and Gentile converts in preference to any other. I take them here to illustrate the mighty defenders of the cause of right in this world. The cause of right has ever required defenders, for in every age it has countless hosts of antagonists. It has had its Elijahs, and its Johns, and its Pauls, its Luthers, its Cromwells, its Garibaldis, etc., men who have stood up, spoken in thunder, and shed their blood for the right. The vision here suggests three things concerning these defenders of the right.
1. They do their work in sadness. "Clothed in sackcloth." To fight for the right has never been an easy work, and perhaps never will be. They fight not in radiant robes, but in sackcloth. It is not a light work to stand up against a corrupt world and struggle against an age grinning with selfishness, sensuality, and cupidity.
2. They contribute Divine light. "These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks." Language borrowed from the Book of Ezekiel. The olive trees fed the lamp, and the candlesticks diffused the light. Were it not for the Divine defenders of the right, grand heroes in moral history, all the lamps of truth would go out, and the whole race would be mantled in midnight. They are the lights of the world.
3. They exert tremendous power. "If any man will [desire to] hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt [shall desire to hurt] them, he must in this manner be killed," etc. (see verses 5, 6). The true defenders of the right are invested with a terrible power. Their words flash devouring flames, so shake the corrupt moral firmament under which their contemporaries are living, that the very heavens seem shut up and the rolling streams of life seem turned into blood. It is said that Moses turned the Nile into blood, that Elijah prevented rain descending on the earth for the space of three years. The true defenders of the cause of right are the organs of Omnipotence; their words are mighty through God. To them is committed the work of causing the moral heavens to melt with fervent heat, and spreading out "a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness."
III. THAT THE CAUSE OF RIGHT ON THE EARTH HAS ITS TERRIBLE ANTAGONISTS. "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," etc. (verses 7-10).
1. The antagonists of the right are malignant. They not only murder, but they exult in their cruelty. They are "wild beasts" that fight and kill; they arise from the abyss of depravity. The spirit of persecution is an infernal virus that gallops through the veins of the intolerant persecutor, and physical violence is the weapon. Not only did their malignity destroy, but revelled in the cruelty and destruction: "shall rejoice over them, and make merry." Their feet are "swift to shed blood;" like savage beasts of prey, they revel in the tortures of their victims. Who can study martyrology without being astounded at the ruthless cruelty that runs in the blood of those that hate the right? They rent the heavens with the cry, "Away with him! away with him!"
2. These antagonists of the right are ever frustrated. It is said, "After three days and a half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet," etc. (verse 11). Observe:
(1) Their victims were divinely reanimated. If the bodies of the two which lay crushed upon the "street" were not reanimated, their spirit, which was Divine, appeared in others. The bodies of good men fall to the dust, but the spirit that animated them lives in others. The spirit of Elijah enters John the Baptist in the wilderness. The spirit of truth and goodness is a resurrection spirit; it enters those who are in the graves of sin, and they start to life and stand forth a mighty army to defend the right. Such a resurrection may well alarm the persecutors. "A great fear fell upon them which saw them."
(2) Their victims ascended to heaven. "And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud" (verse 12). Heaven is ever open to welcome and receive the faithful defenders of the right. With their ascension terrible calamities befall the earth. "And the same [that] hour was there a great earthquake" (verse 13). The eternal hour of retribution towards their persecutors moves on; the earth quakes, and thousands are engulfed in ruin. "Be sure your sin will find you out."
IV. THAT THE CAUSE OF RIGHT ON THE EARTH IS DESTINED TO TRIUMPH. After the passing of the first two woes there is yet another to come, and after the close of the sixth trumpet the blast of the seventh is heard. "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were [followed] great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms [kingdom] of this [the] world are [is] become the kingdoms [kingdom] of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever" (verse 15). Two things seem now to occur.
1. The rapture and adoration of the good. Sainted men and angels are represented rising from their seats, falling on their faces and worshipping, and the reason of their worship is that the kingdoms of this world have passed into the actual possession of Christ. "The kingdoms of this world." What have they been? What are they now? Hellish mimicries of eternal right and power. Like muddy bubbles on the great stream of life, they have broken into the clear and fathomless river of rectitude, and will appear no more, and this will continue "forever and ever"—"unto the ages of the ages." Well, then, might the righteous worship and thank God. "We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come," etc. (verse 17).
2. The increased accessibility of heaven. "And the temple of God was opened in heaven" (verse 19). When right shall become universally triumphant, heaven will come near to man. The holy Jerusalem will come down from heaven; heaven and earth will become one.
CONCLUSION. Suspect not the failure of right; have faith in its winning power. It has life in it, indestructible life, life that will germinate in every land, which will multiply and cover all parts of this globe. "The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord." "There shall be a handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall stroke like Lebanon and they of the city shall flourish like gross of the earth."—D. T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Revelation 11". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30