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And I stood upon the sand of the sea. The Revised Version, agreeing with א, A, C, Vulgate, Syriac, AEthiopic, Armenian, Victorinus, reads ἐστάθη, "he stood." The Authorized Version follows the reading ἐστάθην, "I stood," which is found in B, P, Coptic, Andreas, Arethas. Fortunately, the point is not important. Whether St. John or the dragon stood on the edge of the sea is not material, since we are distinctly told that the ten-horned beast rose from the sea. Wordsworth aptly contrasts this station on the unstable sand in proximity to the sea, the clement of commotion, with the vision of the Lamb on Mount Zion (Revelation 14:1-66.14.5). The imagery which follows is founded upon the vision of Daniel 7:1-27.7.28. The phrase should probably be joined on to the preceding passage, as in the Revised Version. The new vision then opens in the customary manner with εἷδον, "I saw," as in Revelation 4:1-66.4.11., Revelation 4:5., Revelation 4:6., Revelation 4:7., etc. And saw a beast rise up out of the sea. Supply "I," and make this the beginning of the fresh paragraph (see above). The one beast here takes the place of the four beasts of Daniel 7:1-27.7.28., and is distinguished by the characteristics of the first three (see on Daniel 7:2). This beast arises from the sea, the second beast from the earth (see Daniel 7:11). They are the instruments of the woe which is denounced against the earth and the sea in Revelation 12:12. The sea, again, is the type of instability, confusion, and commotion, frequently signifying the ungovernable nations of the earth in opposition to the Church of God (cf. Revelation 17:15; Revelation 21:1). Probably this is the beast referred to in Revelation 11:7, and (more fully) in Revelation 17:1-66.17.18. It is the power of the world which is directed towards the persecution of Christians. Having seven heads and ten horns. Nearly every manuscript has, having ten horns and seven heads. The order is reversed in Revelation 12:3 and Revelation 17:3; possibly the horns are mentioned first in this passage, because they are first seen as the beast rises from the sea. The essential identity of this beast with the dragon of Revelation 12:3 is plainly shown. There Satan is described in his personal character; here he is described under the aspect of the persecuting power of the world. The symbolism is analogous to that found in Daniel 7:1-27.7.28., where we may find the key to the interpretation. First, the heads signify dominion. The head is naturally looked upon as the chief, the controlling and guiding part of the body; that part to which all the members of the body are subject. This is the idea conveyed in Daniel 7:6. The third beast there is distinguished by the possession of four heads, and (we are immediately told) "dominion was given to it." Seven, as we have repeatedly seen, is the number typical of universality (cf. Revelation 1:4; Revelation 5:1, etc.). The seven, heads, therefore, are symbolical of universal dominion. In the second place, horns are the type of power. Thus, in Daniel 7:7, the beast which is distinguished by the possession of the horns is described as being "diverse from all the beasts that were before it." It was "dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it" (cf. Deuteronomy 33:17; Psalms 132:17; Jeremiah 48:25, etc.). The number ten is the sign of completeness; not of universality or totality, but of sufficiency and abundancy for the purpose in view (cf. Genesis 18:32, the ten righteous wanting at Sodom; Exodus 27:12, the ten pillars of the tabernacle; the ten commandments; the tithe; Psalms 33:2, etc.). The ten horns, therefore, denote plenitude of power. The words of this passage thus signify that the beast should possess worldwide dominion and ample power. These are the qualities ascribed to the power which Satan now directs against the "seed of the woman." At the time of the writing of the Apocalypse, this power was evidently heathen Rome; but the meaning may be extended to embrace all the forms which this world opposition has assumed, whether Roman, Mohammedan, or Gothic, etc. It is consequently unnecessary, as it certainly seems fruitless, to attempt to interpret the heads and horns of individual nations and kings. In endeavouring to do so, many writers have imported into the description here given other details from Daniel, or deduced by themselves, for which there is no warrant in the narrative here supplied. For the same reason, it is useless to inquire into the disposition of the ten horns and seven heads; since the whole is a figure intended to convey certain ideas, and is not a description of an actual bodily form. And upon his horns ten crowns. "Ten crowns;" διαδήματα, crowns denoting sovereignty; not στέφανος, the victor's wreath. The crowns upon the horns denote the sovereign nature of the power with which the beast is invested. The nations of the world who have persecuted the Church of God have the chief rule in this world. And upon his heads the name of blasphemy. The plural ὀνόματα, "names," adopted by the Revised Version, is found in A, B, Vulgate, Coptic, Andreas, Primasius. Alford reads the singular ὄνομα, with א, C, P, Coptic, Andreas, Primasius. There is no article. Possibly each head bore a name, which was the same in each ease, and which might therefore with equal propriety be described as name or names. "Upon his heads" (ἐπὶ κεφαλάς); the accusative being used (as Afford suggests) because the action of inscription carries with it a tinge of motion. In the preceding clause we have the genitive Or; ἐπὶ κεράτων, where the preposition denotes rest. We have no hint given as to what the name was; the nature only is indicated. St. John very possibly had in his mind the mitre of the high priest, upon the plate of which was inscribed, "Holiness to the Lord" (Exodus 28:36). It is a "name of blasphemy;" that is, the worldly power, typified by this beast, denies the Divinity and might of the true God, and exalts itself above him. Bede, Hengstenberg, etc., see the fulfilment in the assumption by the Roman emperors of titles which belong rightly only to Christ—King of kings, Divus, etc. But the application is wider. As partial fulfilments of that which will never be completely fulfilled until the end of the world, we may mention Pharaoh, when he said, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?" (Exodus 5:2); Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:1-12.18.37.); Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:22); as well as those since St. John's time who have blasphemed by denying the existence or omnipotence of Christ.
And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion. The similarity to the vision of Daniel 7:1-27.7.28. is very evident; the resemblance extending even to the language, which is here very like the LXX. version of Daniel. Cf. especially the form ἄρκος (found in all the best manuscripts) with that of the LXX. of Daniel 7:5. In the vision of Daniel four beasts are seen rising from the sea. The first was like a lion, the second like a bear, the third like a leopard, the fourth was distinguished by the ten horns. Here the four are combined in the one appearance of the beast. The qualities which are indicated by the animals named are very generally agreed upon. The lion denotes lordly dominion and rule; the bear suggests crushing force and tenacity of purpose; the leopard is distinguished for its swiftness and cruel blood thirstiness. These characteristics marked the Roman empire at the time of this vision, and this probably was the first fulfilment of the vision. The same qualities have, however, been exhibited at all times by the persecutors of the Church of God, and thus the application may be extended, and the vision represents (as Alford says) "not the Roman empire merely, but the aggregate of the empires of this world as opposed to Christ and his kingdom." And the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority; and his throne. The dragon and this beast are essentially one, since the latter wields all the influence of the former. The devil lost his throne in heaven; through the power of the world he temporarily regains a throne as the "prince of this world." Christ, by his incarnation, destroyed much of the personal nature of the devil's influence over men. By that the devil was completely bound as regards the righteous (cf. the interpretation of Revelation 20:2); but his power to work mischief he transfers to the nations of the world, who become his instrument for that purpose.
And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed; and one of his heads as though it had been slain unto death; and his death stroke was healed. The writer wishes to express the coexistence of two mutually antagonistic qualities. The head had received a fatal wound, and yet the beast continued to exist and exert his power. There may be a contrast and a comparison intended between the Lamb, as it had been slain, worshipped by his adoring followers, and the beast, usurping the honour due to Christ, imitating him even in the respect of having been slain, and exacting homage from those who "wondered after the beast." But the "head smitten unto death" must still possess some special significance of its own. What that is we are not plainly told; but it seems reasonable to refer it to the blow dealt to the power of Satan by the death and resurrection of Christ. It almost seemed at first as though the power of the world must succumb to the influence of the life and death of our Lord, and for a time great progress was made in the increase of the number of believers (cf. Acts 2:41, Acts 2:47). But the power of the world was not yet destroyed; it continued to exist in spite of the seemingly fatal wound. Some see in this account a reference to the destruction of the Roman pagan empire, and the establishment of the Christian empire. Others believe the blow to be that administered by Michael, when Satan was ejected from heaven. Others refer the wounded head to different individuals; e.g. Nero. That one head is wounded out of the seven probably denotes the partial nature of the wound as visible to an observer. And all the world wondered after the beast; the whole earth wondered after the beast. The pregnant construction. That earth, for which the advent of the dragon meant woe (Revelation 12:12), wondered at, and followed after the beast. The sense of earth must here be restricted to the followers of the world, as opposed to the followers of God.
And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast; because be gave his authority (Revised Version) is found in all the best manuscripts. The devil had sought to beguile Christ by offering to him all the kingdoms of the world. His efforts with men are more successful. They worship him on account of the worldly wealth and influence which he bestows. And they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? Insert "and" with Revised Version: and who is able, etc.? The beast usurps the homage due to God alone (cf. the song of those who had triumphed in Revelation 15:4, "Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy Name?" cf. also Exodus 15:11; Micah 7:18, etc.). The adherents of the beast thus intimate their belief in his superior prowess and his ability to succeed in his war against those who "keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus."
And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies. So the horn which sprang from the fourth beast of Daniel 7:8 had given to it "a mouth speaking great things." The power of the beast is, after all, only held by the consent of God, who for his own good purpose permits him to exercise it for a time. The "great things" are the promises of superior power and good, with which the devil seeks to allure men, as he did Adam and Eve at the first. All attempts to decry God's omnipotence and the power of Christ are blasphemies. And power was given unto him to continue forty and two months; or, to work forty and two months. Again note the power is given to him; that is, he holds it only subject to the will of God. The "forty and two months," or three years and a half, signify the period of the world's existence. (For a full discussion of the subject, see on Revelation 11:2.) It is the "little time" of Revelation 6:10, Revelation 6:11, during which will be fulfilled the number of the saints. It is the "little season" of Revelation 20:3, during which Satan is "loosed," that is, during which he has this power to work given to him (cf. Revelation 11:2, Revelation 11:3; Revelation 12:14). The different readings in this passage, though resting on insufficient authority, serve to amplify the meaning. א reads πουιῆσαι ὅ θέλει, "to do what he willeth." Ποιῆσαι with πόλεμον, "to wage war," is found in 13 and others, and is the marginal reading of the Authorized Version, but is rightly omitted in the Revised Version.
And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his Name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven; for blasphemies against God. The balance of authority is in favour of omitting "and" (before "them"), thus making (as in the Revised Version) the last clause in apposition with the preceding: his Name and his tabernacle, those tabernacled in heaven. The punishment for this sin among the Jews was death by stoning (see Leviticus 24:16). God's servants fear his Name (Revelation 11:18). God's tabernacle, or temple, is the Church, in the midst of which he dwells (cf. Revelation 11:2), and which exists in the wilderness of the world for the forty and two months, and which yet exists also in heaven, honored of God (cf. Philippians 3:20, "For our citizenship is in heaven," Revised Version).
And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them. This clause is omitted in A, C, P, and some others. So in Daniel 7:21, "The same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High." And in Revelation 11:7, "The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them [the two witnesses], and shall overcome them, and kill them." Overcome; that is, apparently; so far as is seen by the world. In the same way the world overcame Christ; but by his death came victory. So in Revelation 2:10 the Church at Smyrna is encouraged by the words, "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer … be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." And power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations; over every tribe, and people, and tongue, and nation. Λαόν "people," is inserted in every manuscript except a few cursives. The fourfold enumeration, applied to the earth, denotes the universal character of the description (cf. the four living beings, Revelation 4:6. Also Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:9; Revelation 11:9; Revelation 14:6). The same classification is adopted in the song of the redeemed (Revelation 5:9), which may be contrasted with this passage. Although the power of Satan extends to every section of the nations of the earth, yet men are not irrevocably delivered into his hand. From every part of mankind men are also redeemed.
And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb; [every one] whose name hath not been written, as in the Revised Version. "Him," αὐτόν, masculine, although referring to the neuter, θηρίον, because the personality of Satan under the figure of the beast is borne in mind. "Whose name," singular, referring to the individuals of whom the πάντες, "all," are composed. This verse states in another form what has been related in the latter part of the preceding verse. Those over whom the beast has authority are those who worship him, and whose names have not "been written in the book of life." The expression, "book of life," is found only in this book and Philippians 4:3. In all the places where it occurs it seems to refer primarily to Christians (cf. Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 20:12, Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:19). At baptism the Christian's name is written in the "book of life," from which there is always a possibility of it being blotted out (Revelation 3:5). Those who are not Christians have not their name in the "book of life," but worship the beast, that is, pay allegiance to him. It is "the book of life of the Lamb," because it is through "the Lamb" that there exists a "book of life" for men. Slain from the foundation of the world; or, that hath been slain. It is natural to connect the words, "from the foundation of the world," with "slain," and not with "written." The latter course has been followed by Bengel, Dusterdieck, De Wette, Ewald, Hengstenberg, and others, and in the margin of the Revised Version, and is in accordance with Revelation 17:8, "Whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world" (see also Matthew 25:34; Ephesians 1:4). "The Lamb hath been slain from the foundation of the world," because from "the foundation of the world" (cf. Hebrews 9:26) his death has been efficacious for the salvation of men; and because his death "was foreordained before the foundation of the world," although manifest only in the last times (1 Peter 1:20). What was foreknown to and ordained by God is spoken of as having taken place. This latter sense must be the meaning if we adopt the alternative reading.
If any man have an ear, let him hear. This verse draws attention to the solemn declaration which follows in the succeeding verse (cf. Revelation 2:7; Revelation 3:6; also Matthew 11:15, etc.).
He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. There is a twofold difficulty in this verse: first, as to the correct text; secondly, as to the meaning. There are two chief readings. Codex: A has Εἴ τις εἰς αἰχμαλωσίαν εἰς αἰχμαλωσίον ὑπάγει; literally, if any one late captivity, into captivity he goeth; which probably means, "If any one is ordained unto captivity, into captivity he goeth." The reading of the Textus Receptus looks like an attempt to amplify and make clear the above reading: Εἴ τις αἰχμαλωσίαν συνάγει εἰς αἰχμαλωσίαν ὑπάγει. Rev, B, C, have the reading of A, omitting the repetition of αἰχμαλωσίαν. This omission is easily explained by homoeoteleuton, and accordingly the majority of critical editors follow Codex A. There are two passages in Jeremiah which are suggested by these words. Jeremiah 15:2 reads, "Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity;" Jeremiah 43:11, "And deliver such as are for death, to death; and such as are for captivity, to captivity; and such as are for the sword, to the sword." Matthew 26:52 may also be referred to: "All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." The verse in the text appears to contain both the meanings of the passages referred to. The first half seems to point out that there are woes foreordained for Christians which they must undergo: "He for whom captivity is appointed must be content to suffer captivity." The next part extends the meaning, adding a warning: "You Christians must suffer these things; not only not relinquishing your faith, but also not meeting three with force; remembering always your Master's saying, 'They that take the sword shall perish with the sword.'" Then the verse concludes, "Here is [the proof of] the patience and the faith of the saints." St. John has just described to his hearers the extensive nature of the power of the world (verses 3, 7, 8); the obvious conclusion was that captivity, etc., was the lot appointed for some of them. He has also told them of the war waged by the world against Christians, and now he adds the necessary caution against any attempt to defend themselves by the use of the sword. And thus not only their patience but their faith was to be tested. They were not only to bear patiently evils which they could not avoid, but they must have sufficient faith to enable them voluntarily to forego any opportunities which might occur to prevent their sufferings by force of arms.
And I beheld another beast. Compare the wording of this introduction with that of Revelation 13:1. We shall find reason to interpret this beast as self deceit—that form of plausibility by which men persuaded themselves into a belief that they might without harm worship the former beast. (see on following verses). It has been remarked that mention is often made of the first beast without the second (cf. Revelation 11:7; Revelation 13:1; Revelation 17:3, etc.), but never of the second without the first. This fact supports the interpretation given above. Coming up out of the earth. Perhaps in contrast with the former beast, which arose from the sea (Revelation 13:1). In the vision of Daniel 7:1-27.7.28. the four beasts, which rise from the sea (Daniel 7:3), are declared in Daniel 7:17 to typify four kings which arise from the earth. It is doubtful, therefore, whether we are justified in attaching special significance to this phrase. Some writers understand thereby, "rising up from amongst settled, ordered society of men." More likely, the writer wishes to show the universal character of the temptations with which Christians are assailed; and thus one beast seems to pertain to the sea, and the other to the earth, thus dividing the whole world between them. And he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. That is, while simulating an appearance of Christ, his words betrayed his devilish nature. The aim of this beast throughout is to assume a plausible exterior, that men may be beguiled by him (cf. Daniel 7:13-27.7.17). Such is the nature of that self deceit which we believe this beast to typify. Many men, who were not to be tempted into a renunciation of Christ by the bitter persecution of the first beast, because coming in such a form they recognized easily its true nature, were nevertheless beguiled into such acts by specious reasoning and the deceit of their own hearts. Christians at all times are only too ready to be deceived by those who "by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (Romans 16:18). Whether as in ancient times it he merely to throw a few grains of incense upon the altar of some heathen deity, or as in modern times to conform to some common but unworthy requirement of society, men are apt to be led astray by arguments which look fair, but which as surely accomplish the devil's object as if it had been attained by direct persecution. (On the form of the word "lamb," ἀρνίον, see on Revelation 5:6.)
And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him; all the authority.., in his sight (Revised Version). That is, his influence over men, though less directly asserted, is equal to that of the first beast. And he exercises this influence "in his sight," that is, by his permission and contemporaneously with the exercise of power by the first beast. So Christians both of St. John's and of our own time seek to escape direct persecution by justifying to themselves their unworthy compliance with the unrighteous requirements of the world. And causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. Here we have an explanation of the two preceding clauses. Though like a lamb in appearance, his words denote his deadly nature, which is shown by causing men to worship the first beast; and thus he exercises the authority of the first beast, and accomplishes his work. Those who dwell in the earth are the worldly, not faithful Christians, but those "whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb" (see on verse 8). This beast causes men to worship the first beast by persuading them into a compliance with his will, and making them pay homage to him. For this reason he is called in Revelation 16:13 the "false prophet.'' (For "whose deadly wound was healed," see on Revelation 16:3.)
And he doeth great wonders. Men are apt to deceive themselves by attributing to other agencies the power to work wonders which belongs only to God himself. In St. John's time the arts of magic were used; in modern times the marvels of science often lead men to a disbelief in God. Archdeacon Lee, in his commentary, says, "We cannot doubt that there is also a reference to the wonderful power over nature which the spirit of man has attained to, and which has too often been abused to the deification of Nature and her laws, and to the disparagement of the Divine action which is ever present in creation." So that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men; that he should even make fire, etc.. as in the Revised Version. We are not to understand this literally. It is given as a kind of sample of the power possessed by the beast, being a form of miracle which would be well known to St. John's readers (cf. Elijah on Carmel, 1 Kings 18:1-11.18.46.; Korah's company, Numbers 16:35, etc.; also the request of SS. James and John, Luke 9:54). The descent of fire is also frequently a sign of God's approval (cf. Genesis 15:17; Le Genesis 9:24; Judges 13:19, Judges 13:20; 2 Chronicles 7:1). The two witnesses possessed the power of sending forth fire (see Revelation 11:5). In this respect, therefore—in the very nature of his signs—the beast still seems to counterfeit the power of God.
And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast, he deceives by employing false signs, and he deceives by inducing men to believe that the worship of the first beast is allowable. Those "that dwell on the earth" are the worldly minded, as in Revelation 13:12. "Which he had power to do" should rather be "which it was given him to do," as in the Revised Version. The power possessed by the beast does not originate with himself; he possesses it only subject to the will of God (cf. Revelation 13:5 and Revelation 13:7). Thus the second beast—self deceit—beguiles men. They accept exhibitions of power external to God as evidences of an independence and self sufficiency which do not exist apart from God, forgetful of the fact that this power is derived from God: it is given by him. (For "in the sight of the beast," see on Revelation 13:12.) Saying to them that dwell on the earth. Λέγων, "saying," masculine, agrees with the neuter θηρίον. The writer uses the masculine, as in Revelation 13:8, because of the personified nature of the beast. It is not fair to press the word (as some writers do) into the signification that a man must be intended. "Them that dwell on the earth"—the worldly minded (vide supra). That they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live; who hath the stroke of a sword, and lived, as in the Revised Version. The masculine as before (vide supra). This beast suggested that men should set up an image of the first beast, not in order to pay greater honour to the first beast, but that an apparent alternative might be offered to men, so that those who hesitated to pay direct allegiance to the first beast might overcome their scruples and worship something which resembled him, while allowing them to, as it were, cheat their own consciences by persuading themselves that they were not worshipping the beast himself. These two classes of men are, of course, essentially one; they are, in reality, all followers of the beast; but still there is a difference in the manner in which they become worshippers of the beast. The distinction of the two classes seems to be kept in mind in Revelation 19:20 and Revelation 20:4, where, however, all are included in the same condemnation. Thus the apostle teaches us that those who, by specious and plausible reasoning, who, in short, by self deceit, allow themselves to east in their lot with the worldly—the avowed followers of the first beast—are equally guilty with those who openly proclaim themselves followers of the world. (On the last part of the verse, the nature of the sword stroke, see on Revelation 20:3.)
And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed; and it was given to him to give breath, etc. א and a number of cursives lead the indicative future, ποιήσει, that is," he [the beast] shall cause," etc. The symbolism is most probably derived from the heathen oracles. This beast is permitted to give life, to impart spirit to the image; that is, he gives it an appearance of reality which a mere image could not possess. This is the dangerous power of self deceit. If men would face the naked truth, stripped of plausible arguments and specious resemblances, they would see that there was no reality in the ideal which they place before their minds, and their worship of which is prompted by love of the world, and the denial of God's power. Together with the attempt to deceive men into worshipping the image, is offered the alternative of death, or, should we not say, apparent death? It is only self deceit which makes men imagine that the alternative to an acceptance of the sovereignty of Satan and the world; is death. No doubt many Christians in St. John's time were thus beguiled. They deceived themselves by imagining that they must either conform to the heathen practices required of them, or suffer death; those with clearer mental vision saw that the threatened death was in reality life.
And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads; that there be given them a mark on their right hand, or upon their forehead. Δώσῃ, "he may give," found in the Textus Receptus, is unsupported by any uncial; δῶσιν, "they may give," is read in א, A, B, C, P; and most cursives have either δῶσιν or δώσωσιν. Wordsworth translates, "give to themselves," and adds, "a remarkable sentence, intimating compulsion under the semblance of choice." But it does not seem fair to press the meaning so far. The third plural is often used in a perfectly general way in the Apocalypse, and the Revised Version is probably correct in translating by the passive (vide supra). Certainly the other passages in the Apocalypse, where the mark is mentioned, seem to show that men have absolute freedom of choice (see especially Revelation 14:9 and Revelation 20:4). Again the beast seeks to imitate God (cf. Revelation 3:12, "I will write upon him my new name;" Revelation 22:4, "His name shall be in their foreheads;" Revelation 7:3; Revelation 9:4; Revelation 14:1). The idea is taken kern the Mosaic customs (cf. Deuteronomy 6:8, "And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontiers between thine eyes") Some writers see also an allusion to the heathen custom of branding slaves and others who were devoted to the service of temples; and recall the fact that χαράγματα, or "cuttings," such as are here mentioned, were forbidden to the Jews (Leviticus 19:28).
And that no man might bay or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. "And" is omitted in א, C, some cursives and versions and Fathers: no man should be able to buy, etc. A, B, C, P, and most cursives also omit ἤ, "or," before "the name," thus reading, as in the Revised Version: save he that hath the mark, even the name of the beast, or the number of his name. This expressly asserts what we might have gathered from the analogy of the mark of the true Christian (see on Revelation 13:16), viz. that "the mark" was "the name" or "the number of his name." The manner in which this was fulfilled in the early ages of the Church is sufficiently notorious. Then faithfulness to the cause of Christ frequently meant banishment from friends, kindred, and home. St. John himself was feeling the effect of this at the time when he wrote these words in exile at Patmos. So, at the present day, the Jews regard as an utter alien any one of their number who embraces Christianity. So also, at the present day, the faithful Christian is often interdicted the society of the world, is declared a social nuisance, and is shunned by the worldly minded, who pay allegiance to the beast. (On the "number," see on verse 18.)
Here is wisdom, Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man. The last clause has no article, ἀριθμὸς γὰρ ἀνθρώπου ἐστί. Compare the expression, "Here is the patience," etc. in Revelation 13:10, where it relates to what precedes. Here it evidently refers to what follows. The form of expression is frequent in St. John's writings (cf. 1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:16, 1Jn 3:19; 1 John 4:10, etc.). The plain meaning seems to be that men may display their wisdom and understanding in discovering the meaning of the number of the beast. But the interpretation which Auberlen gives may be correct; viz. that as the first beast is met and vanquished by patience and faith, so this second beast is to be met by wisdom. This agrees with our interpretation of this second beast as symbolizing self deceit. St. John evidently intends that the meaning of the number should be known: "Let him that hath understanding count the number;" that is, "Let him that hath understanding discern in what sense the symbol is used." It is the "number of man;" that is, it describes symbolically something which is peculiarly a characteristic of mankind. Some writers have understood the words to mean, "the number refers to an individual man;" but the absence of the article militates against this view. Others explain, "It is a number which is to be reckoned according to man's mode of reckoning," just as in Revelation 21:17, "a measure of a man." If this be the meaning, it leaves open the question as to what St. John meant by "the usual mode of man's reckoning." His own use of numerals throughout the Apocalypse is, as we have repeatedly seen, symbolical of general qualities, and does not indicate either individuals or exact numbers. We are justified, therefore, according to this view, in interpreting the number symbolically (vide supra). And his number is Six hundred three score and six. The Revised Version is better, Six hundred and sixty and six; it preserves the similarity of form which is found in the Greek words, ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ, as found in A. In א we have ἑξακόσιαι, etc.; in P, Andreas, ἑξακόσια. The shortened form χξς' is found in B and most cursives. C, 11, and some manuscripts known to Irenaeus and Tichonius differ by reading ἑξακόσιαι δέκα ἕξ, "six hundred and sixteen," but this is probably incorrect. Commentators have universally attempted to discover the name denoted by this number, by attaching to each letter of the name (generally the Greek letters) its numerical value, the total of which should equal the number 666. To this method there are several objections. In the first place, St. John nowhere else makes such use of a number, though numbers form a prominent feature of the book. In the second place, the adoption of this method seems to have been a consequence upon the interpretation of the words, "number of a man," as meaning "a number to be calculated according to man's methods." But this may not be the meaning at all (vide supra); and, if it is, "man's method" would surely signify the symbolical method which St. John adopts all through the rest of the book, as being a language perfectly well understood by himself and his readers. And thirdly, this numerical method has proved entirely unsatisfactory in the hands of those who have hitherto adopted it. For a complete expose of the fallaciousness of such attempts, we may refer the reader to Dr. Salmon's 'Introduction to the New Testament,' p. 291, et seq. A commonly received interpretation makes the name of the beast to be Nero Caesar, written in the Hebrew characters רסק נורן; and as the name may be written Neron or Nero, the difference of the final n (= 50) is thought to account for the discrepancy in the manuscript authorities. Dr. Salmon shows that Nero could not have been intended, because (1)the prophecy in that ease would have been immediately falsified;
(2) the solution would have been known to the early Christians; but it was not known, according to Irenaeus. Dr. Salmon then adds, "Pages might be filled with a list of persons whose names have been proposed as solutions of the problem. Among the persons supposed to be indicated are the emperors Caligula, Trajan, and Julian the Apostate, Genseric the Vandal, Popes Benedict IX. and Paul V., Mahomet, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Beza, and Napoleon Bonaparte. There are three rules by the help of which I believe an ingenious man could find the required sum in any given name. £ First, if the proper name by itself will not yield it, add a title; secondly, if the sum cannot be found in Greek, try Hebrew, or even Latin; thirdly, do not be too particular about the spelling." The above objections also hold good very generally with regard to the suggestion of λατεινος, by which may be indicated the Roman or Latin power, either pagan or papal. But if we attempt to interpret this number in the same way as we have dealt with all other numbers in the Apocalypse, viz. by regarding them as symbolical of qualities, we shall be on surer ground. In the first place, the number six is typical of what is earthly as opposed to what is heavenly. As seven is the number of perfection, and is descriptive of universality, and is therefore the symbol pertaining to God, so six is a type of what falls short of the heavenly ideal. Cf. the six days of the creation; the six years of servitude (Exodus 21:2, etc.) and of work (Exodus 23:1-2.23.33. Exodus 23:10). Again, the threefold employment of the number six, while emphasizing the fact of the number referring to what is essentially earthly, has a fulness, importance, and seeming completeness which makes it a type of that which appears to be perfect, but in reality falls short of perfection. It is, in short, symbolical of a deceit, a sham. It is therefore descriptive of the nature of the second beast; of that self deceit which causes men to accept the world as a substitute for God, or, at least, as not antagonistic to him; which enables men to thus quiet their consciences, while in reality becoming followers of the worldly power and subjects of Satan. That this is the meaning of the number six is recognized by some writers, though they do not here so apply it. In the 'Speaker's Commentary,' Introduction, § 11 (a), we find, "Six is the 'signature' of non-perfection;" and, "This number is also a symbol of human rule and power." Wordsworth says, "The numerical symbol of the beast, 666, indicates that he aims at and aspires to the attributes of Christ, and puts forth a semblance of Christian truth, but falls away from it in a triple decline and degeneracy."
The foes of God and of his Church: the two beasts.
The evil one is responsible for much of the mischief in the world, but his responsibility for it is not an unshared one. Two other enemies are here portrayed as the emissaries and agents of the first (Revelation 13:2). The thought underlying the chapter is that of the predominance of brute force over moral power; or, in other words, of might over right. Here are two beasts. The first, described in Revelation 13:1-66.13.10, is seen "coming up from the sea," as if it were the product of the surging restlessness of the troubled sea of godless strife; "having seven heads"—these are so many phases of a corrupt, ungodly world power. The expression cannot refer to any one distinctive power as such, for none has ever yet been seen, nor can be, having power over "all kindreds, and tongues, and nations." As the dragon has seven heads and ten horns, so likewise has this first beast; whatever power the devil wields, he wields through it. And as wide as is the devil's sway, so wide is the sway of this hostile force. Thus, in this symbolic form we get precisely the same truth which meets us elsewhere—that Satan is "the prince of the power of the air," "the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." Again, this beast has "upon his heads the names of blasphemy" (Revelation 13:1). A supremacy is assumed which belongs to God alone. "The beast was like unto a leopard," etc. (Revelation 13:2). All three figures denote the terribly savage and devouring energy put forth by the powers of evil. "The dragon gave him," etc. (Revelation 13:2). The ungodly power of earth is backed up by the evil one. "One of his heads … wounded," etc. (Revelation 13:3). This worldly power was smitten, and yet rose again in all its dominance and pride, so that "all the world wondered after the beast" (Revelation 13:4). "Authority was given to him to continue forty-two months" £ (Revelation 13:5).1 This is the fourth time this mysterious period is named, it is the time during which the witnesses are to prophesy, the time during which the woman is to be hidden in the wilderness, the time for the serpent to rage and wound, and the time for the beast to continue. His sway is to be so great that all, save the very elect, shall go after him. "Here is the patience and the faith of the saints" (Revelation 13:10). The second beast is also from the earth (Revelation 13:11). It is a low, carnal, worldly power. "It has horns like a lamb," etc. (Revelation 13:11). It puts on a pretence of meekness, and seems lamb like in its gentleness, albeit it speaks like a dragon, and is fiendish in its ferocity, he panders, too, to the first beast (Revelation 13:12-66.13.15). He doeth great signs, deceiving men by prodigies of various kinds (Revelation 13:13; cf. Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9). On all he causes a mark to be affixed (Revelation 13:16), and no one who had not that mark might buy or sell or have any social standing. Evidently, here is described some power or other, meek and sleek in appearance, yet fierce in spirit, prompted by the dragon, and doing his work, yet pretending to have a commission from Heaven, doing such wonders as to carry multitudes away, and withal so intolerant that none except its followers should be allowed to take their proper place in the social ranks, while it appeals to the love of thaumaturgy, yet cares not about the true or the right so long as men pay homage to the first beast to whom he yields obedience. Can we mistake the meaning of all this? It is certainly some mighty antichristian force, putting on the pretence of being in communion with Heaven, while it is a sycophant and abject minion of earthly power. Lamb like in its mien, it is intolerant in its speech. This power is not dead yet, any more than the former. On the perplexing verse which concludes the chapter, we have no opinion to offer. The various attempts at explanations may be seen in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' in loc. £ We only quote from thence the opinion of Bellarmine, "Verissima igitur sententia est eorum qui ignorantiam suam confitentur." £ If, however, we set in order the points of similarity and of difference between the two beasts, and their relation to one another, the meaning of the description may be more clearly seen. Seven points of difference: The first beast has his power from the dragon; the second beast has his power from the first. The first daringly blasphemes; the second deceives. The first makes war; the second practises thaumaturgy. The first succeeds by force; the second, by persuasion. The first rules through fear; the second, by craft. The first teaches his followers to worship the dragon; the second persuades his to worship the first. The first openly slays; the second puts men under a social ban. Six points of similarity: They are both opposed, in spirit, to God, to his Church, and to heaven. They are both arrogant, haughty, and imperious. They both involve in much suffering those who will not yield to them. They both try the patience and faith of the saints. They both have a power equally wide. They are both deplorably successful. Six points of relation between them and their workings: The second causes all the earth to worship the first; causes an image of the first to be made; commands men to worship the image of the beast; pretends to make the image speak; causes that as many as would not worship the image should be killed; will allow no one any social status, nor even a stand in the market unless they acknowledge and worship the first. Now, when we thus carefully set in order the two descriptions, who can help seeing symbolic sketches of precisely the two great adverse forces which have been the plague of the world and of the Church—even an ungodly world power, and a false religious teaching in alliance with it, supporting it and supported by it? And who that knows the general history of the world but must be aware that these two forces, leagued together, have been the foes of the Church of God? Not any one power only, nor any one form of false religion only, is indicated here; the description is broad enough to embrace them all, and indeed demands that all be embraced, for their sway is alike over all nations and tongues. Well do we know how exactly the state of things corresponded, at the time of the founding of the Christian faith, to the descriptions in this chapter. Religion had long been regarded as a piece of statecraft. "The rulers took counsel together," etc. (Psalms 2:1-19.2.12.; Acts 4:25, et seq.). During the early struggles of the Christians the force of a false religion in alliance with a heathen state strove to compel men to act in subservience to a heathen emperor, in spite of conscience and of God. Then, disorders, droughts, famines, pestilences, were ascribed to the Christians; men were debarred the ordinary rights of citizens except they acknowledged the supremacy of the state in religious affairs. Far later, in our own land, when the temporal sovereignty of this realm was in alliance with popery, what pains and penalties were endured for conscience' sake! And in many countries, what harrowing tales of worry, persecution, and suffering are left on record; and even at this day there is often furnished a new contingent of those who wilt not worship the beast nor his image, and who will risk their all for the truth and for God! For even now these two beasts are living; the first beast gets wounded now and then, but still survives, having wondrous tenacity of life. At divers times and places, with oft recurring onsets, do these two foes of the Church seek to ravage, to spoil, and to devour. And although at this moment, in our peaceful land, the wild savagery of their coalition is toned down, yet every one knows that the stigma of a social inferiority is still set on many who will not acknowledge state authority in religion. By the social ban referred to in Revelation 13:17 Dean Alford understands "the commercial and spiritual interdicts which have, both by pagan and by papal persecutors, been laid on Nonconformity … down to the last remaining civil disabilities imposed on Nonconformity in modern papal or Protestant countries." £ "Here is the patience and the faith of the saints." This chapter may serve two purposes.
I. IT SHOULD YIELD US UNSPEAKABLE COMFORT. In four respects:
1. Here we find sketched for us beforehand the checkered course of truth and right in the world; sketched, too, in precise accordance with the facts of history. The great Lord has foreseen the struggle.
2. He who foresees, and has thus sketched for us the forms of evil, has also assigned a limit to their duration.
3. In the worst of times, a faithful few shall be preserved.
4. The people of God will overcome at last by the two weapons of faith and patience.
II. IT SUGGESTS MANY A LESSON FOR THE PRACTICAL RULING OF LIFE. It says to us: 1, Do not be caught by appearances. There may be more show in might than in right. God approves only the latter.
2. Do not expect the immediate triumph of God's work. The end is not yet. The twelve hundred and sixty days are not yet closed; perchance they are not even near to their end.
3. Do not let us be in a state of agitation and of perpetual fear, as if something might happen to undo God's work. Never!
4. Do not let us mistake our own proper work. Never let us swerve a hair's breadth from right to gain a momentary end. All the right is essentially—success. All the wrong is essentially—failure.
5. Let us rest in the knowledge that one eye discerns all, and one hand infallibly overrules all, to bring about the right end at the right time.
6. However long the time may be ere the salvation is brought in, it cannot be very long that any of us will have to maintain an attitude of vigilance and of war. A few short years at most, and the struggle between us and this coalition of evil will be over. We are nearing the river. We shall soon cease to hear the clang of arms and the rush of the troops; and shall exchange the noise of a militant for the harmonies of the triumphant Church. Then, brothers, on—even unto death!
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
"I stood upon the sand of the sea."—S. C.
The two wild beasts; or, the world and its wisdom.
There are few chapters in the Bible which have been entirely passed over by. Christian preachers as containing nothing that would edify and instruct men living m circumstances like our own. But this chapter seems to have been so dealt with. We have searched the lists of thousands of printed sermons, and not one, or rather but one, have we found which seeks to show that this portion of God's Word has anything to do with us today. The vast majority of Protestant commentators have rolled it up, as they have the Apocalypse generally, into as hard a missile as they could manufacture, and then have hurled it with all their might against unhappy Romanists and the Church to which they belong. And no doubt there has been reciprocity. But this chapter has a meaning, and a momentous one, for the men of today, although, as we think, for the men of St. John's day it pointed to that awful persecuting power, summed up in the monster Nero, then Emperor of Rome, and who, like the foul, fierce beast that he was, had been making dire havoc in the Church of Christ. This man, or monster rather, was the dragon's, that is the devil's, chief agent, and had to aid and abet him the second beast, lamb like in look, but fierce in heart, of which we read in verse 11. By this second beast was meant, we think, that whole system of heathen imposture and manifold superstition which ever played into the hands of the mere brute force wielded by the state. Simon Magus, and vast numbers more such as he, were its ministers. (For detailed proof, see Farrar, in loc.) And this entire chapter was to the persecuted Church of that day a solemn announcement of suffering appointed for them which they could not hope to escape (verses 9, 10),. which demanded patience and faith, but which, however (Revelation 17:14), should issue in glorious victory through the might of their Lord, whose "called and chosen and faithful" they were. Such then were the preparations for martyrdom with which the Church was supplied in those awful days of testing and of trial. How do the poor petty persecutions—scarce worthy of the name—which now and again some of us have to put up with, dwindle into insignificance by side of the fiery trials appointed for them for whom St. John wrote! And how should we be ashamed to shrink from ours when we know they never shrank from theirs, but endured and overcame, and wore the martyr's crown! But Rome and pagan persecutions have passed away. They answered to these symbols of the beasts then: what answer to them now? And we reply—
I. THE ANTICHRISTIAN WORLD answers to the first of the wild beasts of which we here read. See the resemblance. Rome and Nero's were not more exact.
1. It has assumed successive forms. "Seven heads" we read of, and they denote the multiplication and succession of hostile powers arrayed against the Church of God. Egypt and Assyria, Babylon and Persia, Greece and Rome, and by and by the final antichrist,—these may be the seven heads. But they are all but successive forms of the same God-defying world.
2. And it has ever had immense strength. "Ten horns," and these encircled with diadems, telling how the world spirit has ever made use of the princes and potentates of earth to work its will.
3. And it has ever raged against the Church as a wild beast. Under all its forms it has hated the people of God. From Pharaoh even to the last of the persecutors it has been the same. And in modern days, though in different ways, it has continued unchanged in spirit and aim. Voltaire's wild cry, "Ecrasez l'infame!" and the hatred with which he and his fellow atheists toiled to overthrow the Christian Church, were but modern manifestations of the same mind. And if it be difficult, as it is—and we are thankful that it is—to point in out-day to any one party or person in whom this God-defying antichristian spirit is specially embodied, none the less does it exist. "The prince of this world"—he who inspired the whole succession of these monsters—he still "worketh in the children of disobedience." Experience and observation alike attest this. What relentless opposition to God we often see and feel! How good is crushed and trampled on, and every attempt to assert Christ's wilt is ruthlessly put down!
4. And its deadly wounds heal. (Verse 3.) Whether the death and supposed return of Nero, or the overthrow of paganism by the conversion of Constantine, and the revival of its worst features afterwards, be St. John's meaning, there can be no doubt that the world's seemingly deadly wounds do heal. If its dominion be overthrown in a given locality, or in your heart and mine, do we not know how the evil spirit, who has left for a while, comes back; and unless he be driven forth again, he will come back stronger than before, and the last state of that place, that heart, that character, be worse than the first?
5. It is popular. It has the vox populi "All the world wondered after" and "worshipped." Openly and avowedly in St. John's day, but as really, though more reverently, now.
6. And it blasphemes still. It claims Divine power. "All these things will I give thee, if," etc.—this still it says, and the most of men believe it.
7. And it wages war and wins. (Verse 7.) Let families, Churches, congregations, tell how this war has been waged in their midst, and how some, often many, of their most hopeful members have fallen. What decimating of the ranks of the Church goes on continually through the might of this great adversary!
8. And none but those who are really Christ's withstand. (Verse 6.) Yes, we are sent forth as sheep amid wolves. It seems as strange as it is sad. But so it is. For our comfort remember that it is the sheep who have ever made short work with the wolves. We should surely have thought it would have been the other way. See, literally, in lands where wolves once ran wild, as in our own, the pastures are covered over with flocks; but the wolves, where are they? As the anvil, though smitten hard, and year in and year out, yet it wears out many a hammer (Spurgeon); so the smitten Church wears out the persecutor's hammer. But let us not go ransacking ancient history for the lessons of this chapter; our own times, our own circumstances, and very likely our own hearts' experience, will supply them in plentiful way.
II. THE WISDOM OF THIS WORLD answers to the second "beast." St. James tells us that "this wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish." This monster (verse 11) is seen to ascend from "the earth," as St. James tells. In Revelation 19:20 it is called "the false prophet."
1. It is said to have "deceived." True type of the wisdom of this world, that godless, antichristian wisdom which encounters us today just as it did them of old. It deceives:
(1) By its innocent appearance, its lamb like look. True, it had ten horns, but they meant nothing, so small, so slight, so incapable of injury. So this wisdom. No one would ever suspect it of being a fierce beast. It is known as modern thought, science, philosophy, liberal culture—lamb like words whom none would suspect to harbour ill.
(2) By its words, so subtle and serpentine. "He spake as a dragon," that is, as a serpent, as did the "old serpent," the devil, who over persuaded and beguiled our first mother. So this wisdom of the world is plausible, popular, prevalent. It seems so untrammelled in its researches, so broad in its conclusions, so courageous, so unprejudiced, so candid, so fair. But it further deceives
(3) by its "lying wonders" (Revelation 19:14). The juggleries and tricks of heathenism, its magic and sorcery, explain St. John's words. But for us they point to the glamour and witchery which the wisdom of this world casts over us when it points to the marvellous results it has achieved. Have not most eminent names, most wonderful discoveries, most famous reputations, been amongst the rewards it has given? And thus speculation and scepticism, doubt and denial, the rejection of old faith and the discontinuance of old habit, have been permitted and invited, and we come to believe in nothing but ourselves and this wonderful century in which we live. But:
2. Its falsity may be detected. There is an Ithuriel spear which shall compel it to self-revelation. By its fruits it shall be known. See, then:
(1) It is in alliance with the God-defying world. (Cf. verses 12-15.) Mere brute force could not get on without the tricks and frauds which this lamb like, lying thing concocts and displays. The first beast would be powerless without the cunning of the second. And here is a test for us. Do we find that any set of opinions, any new beliefs and maxims we may have adopted, are such as the godless and the antichristian world choose and cherish as of great advantage to them? Can they claim them as on their side? If so, that is a very suspicious fact.
(2) It transforms you into the world's likeness. (See verse 16.) On the forehead or on the right hand the mark of this beast was to be. That is to say, the stamp of the world was to be visibly and confessedly on us. All the transactions of life would reveal this. We could do nothing that did not betray it. The wisdom of this world will thus claim for the world those whom it has first beguiled. Thus by the effect of it may we know its real character. Does the stamp of the God-despising world become visible in our daily conduct, bearing, and words? Do these things show the "mark of the beast '? If so, what loud call comes to us to have done with all such so called wisdom, and to give heed to our Saviour's words, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly," etc.!—S.C.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
Safety in times of worldly oppression.
The twelfth chapter, with which the thirteenth is to be connected, closes with an assertion of the wrath of "the dragon" towards "the woman." The Church of God is ever the object of Satanic wrath. In these two chapters the enmity that the Church has to contend with is represented by three beasts. Much ingenuity has been expended already on the exposition of these dark words, and much more will be until in the light of history we see clearly what, in the words of prophecy, is but imperfectly seen. The first beast was distinctly declared to be "the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world." The beast now spoken of, the second, receives "his power, and his throne, and great authority" from the dragon. It is a power animated by the one spirit of evil—the adversary, the devil. It is the many powers so animated. It is an active brute force, and may specially refer to the antichristian pagan power (certainly to this as one of many). It arises from "the sea," the invariable symbol of the many peoples of earth—the restless world, the agitated state of human affairs. We cannot limit the application to any one power, or any seven, or any ten. We are dealing with symbol, not realism.
I. HEREIN WE SEE THE BELIEVING CHURCH OPPOSED AND OPPRESSED BY GREAT EXTERNAL POWERS. We must not interpret these of mere kings of the earth, but of those many forms of worldly power which dominate over the life of man. Special prominence is given in this figure to the speaking of blasphemies against God, his Name, his tabernacle, and them that dwell therein. The utmost blasphemy of the Divine Name is in repudiating and opposing it. Every name by which the creature assumes the place of God is a name of blasphemy...Alas! how many such are around the humble believer! And he who stands in opposition to Christ and his faithful ones, usurping power over them by savage, beast-like persecution, surely he is branded with the name "blasphemy."
II. THE EXTENT OF THE POWERFUL WORKING OF THESE EVILS is
(1) very great: "over every tribe, and people, and tongue, and nation;" but
(2) it is limited in time: "forty and two months." It is not "forever."
III. SAFETY IS ASSURED TO HIM ONLY WHOSE NAME IS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF LIFE OF THE LAMB. The Lord defends his own even here. "What shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." Thus is the Church to gather comfort in all times of exposure, temptation, persecution, or suffering from mighty worldly powers. Here is—here must be—the call for "the patience and the faith of the saints."—R. G.
The Book of Revelation presents us with a view of the conflict between the varied kingdoms of this world and the undivided kingdom of our God and of his Christ, and it uniformly declares to us this one consolatory truth, that these kingdoms shall become submissive to his kingdom. These kingdoms present themselves in the great world drama as various powers standing more or less in active opposition to the dominion of Christ over the life of men—in opposition to truth, to righteousness, and to God. "Another beast" arises, not from the sea, but "coming up out of the earth;" not from the world, in its heaving, disordered, tumultuous state, but from the solid earth—from the world in its settled order. It is not the power of rude violence, but as it were of meekness. "He had two horns like unto a lamb"—a smaller measure of power than pertains to the true Lamb, and smaller than is found on the seven-headed beast. But the character is complex. The speech is "as a dragon." It is foul, hellish, Satanic. He doeth great signs. "He deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by reason of the signs." The beast is distinguished by speech. This may indicate a connection with the intellectual and moral, not the physical or even the political, world. Is it a representation of the vast intellectual powers of the world if, and when, inspired by the evil spirit? Is it "wisdom"—the wisdom of this world in its opposition to the wisdom that cometh down from above? It has elements of the world, for it is of the beast; it has elements of the fiend, for it partakes of the quality of the dragon; it is a spirit of error, for it is a false prophet. But it is not merely error, for it is animated by an evil spirit. It is worldly wisdom, the tongue set on fire of hell—the human mind in its opposition to God. "Intellectual weapons which have united with external violence to attack the new principle which had begun to manifest itself in the life of mankind" (Neander). "He doeth great wonders" (see Matthew 24:24). Here are all "signs and Dying wonders," by which men are deceived who cleave not to the truth. Perhaps visible signs, prestiges, prodigies, wonders, soothsayers, witchcraft, and fraud of a barbarous age; and then, as times change, the pretended wonders of the intellect. "It would seem like a new heathendom sinking down again to the deification of nature and humanity." It maketh an image. Often in heathen Roman times was the image of the beast set up, and the alternative lay between martyrdom and apostasy. But not only in imperial Roman times, or papal or Protestant persecuting times, but in times of proud philosophical, materialistic, atheistic, earthly wisdom that stands in opposition to God; and that is none the less exclusive towards men that accept it not. Proud, anti-Godlike, anti-Christlike wisdom persecutes to the death. The profession of the simple Christian faith is a sign for exclusion and proscription. Intellectual pride laughs in its sleeve at the simplicity of Christ. Here the Church is to learn—
I. THE EXCEEDINGLY VARIED CHARACTER OF THE ENEMIES OF THE TRUTH. Every spirit not of God will oppose the true.
II. THE NECESSITY FOR WATCHFULNESS AGAINST THE MOST SPECIOUS OPPONENTS.
III. THE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS CHARACTER OF EVERY SPIRIT THAT IS OF THE EARTH, OR THAT PARTAKES OF THE NATURE OF THE BEAST.
IV. THE NECESSITY FOR PURITY, FIDELITY, AND PATIENCE. Purity
(1) of doctrine, and
(2) of life.
(1) to the Word, and
(2) to convictions, and
(3) to the indications of Divine providence.
(1) in maintaining the reproach and profession of Christ, and
(2) in enduring the severities of rude persecution or the proud rejection of a self-wise world.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
The domain of antichrist.
"And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy," etc. £ Fanciful interpretations of this chapter, as well as other portions of this book, are abundant. The last seems to us not less unfounded and absurd than those that have gone before. Most of such interpretations assume that the comparatively few people who lived in Rome centuries ago were of such immense importance as to absorb the mind of the Infinite; that "papal Rome," as it is called, was the one great moral fee of creation, unmatched and matchless. But our method of treating this Book of Revelation, whether right or wrong, philosophic or foolish, ignores all fanciful interpretations, and seeks to turn even the dreams of old dreamers, like the prisoner on Patmos, and the prisoner in Bedford Gaol, to such a practical account as to serve the ethical interests of the men that are, and the men that are yet to be. Hence we use this chapter to throw light upon the domain of antichrist. But what do we mean by "antichrist"? Not an institution, ecclesiastical, political, or social, connected with any geographical spot or chronological period, but a moral state of mind pervading all places, and running through all times. Whatever state of mind is opposed to that moral state of mind which Christ incarnated, exemplified, and inculcated, I call antichrist. His state of mind was one of truth, reality; hence all falsehoods, shams, hypocrisies, are antichrist. His state of mind was one of supreme worship. He realized and reverenced the Eternal Father in all; hence all irreverence and idolatries are antichrist. His state of mind was a state of self-sacrificing philanthropy. He loved men, and gave himself for their benefit. He did not please himself. Hence all selfishness, worldliness, self seeking, is antichrist. St. John says, "Even now are there many antichrists." There are antichrists in Protestant churches and chapels, and in thousands of those who call themselves Christians. Some of the fiercest denouncers of popery as antichrist are those who have the most of popery and antichrist in their hearts. This chapter serves to illustrate some facts in connection with the domain of antichrist on this earth.
I. IT HAS A MANIFOLD DEVELOPMENT. The huge and monstrous forms that seem to pass before the imagination of the lonely prisoner on Patmos, as here recorded, are full of forms, grotesque, huge, and hideous. Here is a huge beast rising out of the sea, the scene of tumults. His power is great—he has "ten horns;" his intelligence is great—he has "seven heads;" his influence is great—he has "ten crowns [diadems]." In form "he was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion" (verse 2). Then there is another beast "coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon" (verse 11). He, like the former, is endowed with tremendous power, invested with extraordinary attributes, and is one in spirit and aim with the former, the beast that rises out of the realm of tumult, the sea. So that from the sea and from the land, the whole terraqueous globe, monstrous forms of evil appear in the domain of antichrist. What imagination can depict and what arithmetic could compute the hideous and monstrous forms in which antichrist appears in the world today? In the commerce of the world, in the governments of the world, in the campaigns of the world, in the literature of the world, in the religions of the world, in fact, in the social, industrial, and professional life of the world, antichrist appears in aspects as hideous and in a spirit as savage and blasphemous as the monsters depicted in this vision. Where in any part of the world do we not find antichrist in some form or another? Whatever the form it assumes, it is hideous and monstrous. What can be more monstrous than to find a human being rising and acting in opposition to him who is the all loving and all blessed, the Christ of God and the Saviour of the world? Concerning this domain of antichrist it is suggested that—
II. IT HAS ONE MASTER SPIRIT. The dragon is here represented as the presiding genius over all. "The dragon gave him his power, and his seat [throne], and great authority" (verse 2). The presiding genius in this chapter and in the preceding one is called the dragon. Reason and analogy concur with the Bible in teaching that there is on this earth a great master spirit of evil, one that leads the world "captive at his will." He is, in spirit, character, and aim, against Christ. He is, in a pre-eminent sense, antichrist. There is nothing Christly about him, but otherwise. Satan is the enemy of Christ, the old serpent, the "prince of the power of the air," that "worketh in the children of disobedience." The record of this vision serves to illustrate several things concerning this master spirit of evil.
1. He is endowed with tremendous power. It is said of this dragon that "he doeth great wonders [signs], so that he maketh [should even make] fire come down from [out of] heaven;" that he works "by the means of miracles [signs]" (verses 13, 14). The Jewish Scriptures speak of him as a being of tremendous energy, leading the world captive at his will, and even Christ who knew him seems to speak with deference concerning his extraordinary power.
2. His grand pursuit is moral mischief.
(1) He promotes blasphemy. "He opened his mouth in [for] blasphemy [blasphemies] against God, to blaspheme his Name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwelt in heaven" (verse 6). His grand aim seems to be to bring the Infinite himself into contempt.
(2) He promotes deception. "And deceived them that dwell on the earth" (verse 14). He is a liar and the father of lies. The first stone of his empire in the world was a lie, and by lies he has built it up and supports it. A life of wickedness is a life of delusion. All his followers walk in "a vain show."
(3) He promotes destruction. "It was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them" (verse 7). Malignity is his inspiration. His battle is with the saints. He works to destroy goodness, and to destroy goodness is to destroy souls. He has no fight with fiends, but with saints.
3. His sphere is coextensive with the world. "He causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor," etc. (verses 15-17). One of his prime ministers, or rather chief generals, came out of "the sea," and the other came up from "the earth." The whole terraqueous globe is the arena of this arch enemy of souls. He is the god of this world. Wherever falsehood, dishonesty, impurity, revenge are, there he is. And where are they not?
4. However great his influence, he is under a restraining law. An old writer has said, "He is limited in point of time; his reign is to continue forty and two months. He is also limited as to the persons and people that he shall entirely subject to his will and power; it will be only those whose 'names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.' Though the devil and antichrist might overcome their bodily strength and take away their natural life, they could never conquer their souls, nor prevail with them to forsake their Saviour and revolt to his enemies."
5. His mission will ultimately prove self ruinous. "He that leadeth into [if any man is for] captivity shall go into captivity [into captivity he goeth]" (verse 10). Here is the principle of retribution attested by all human experience and philosophy, and felt to be just. "He that killeth [if any man shall kill] with the sword must be killed" (verse 10). This applies to Satan; he brings men into captivity, and into captivity shall he one day go. Sin is suicide, wrong is self destructive. In every act the devil performs, he is forming a link in that adamantine chain that shall bind him, not merely for a thousand years, but forever.—D.T.
Christ sacrificed in eternity.
"The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." From this wonderful declaration we conclude—
I. THAT THE THINGS THAT ARE TO HAPPEN IN THE UNIVERSE IN THE MOST DISTANT FUTURE ARE TO GOD AS FACTS ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED. As a fact in this world's history the crucifixion of Christ was enacted about eighteen centuries ago, and yet here it is declared to have occurred before all time, before any creature existed, when he lived alone in the solitudes of eternity. Two things are here disclosed:
1. That God's intelligence is infinite. He knows not only all that has been, and all that is, but all that ever will be. All the generations that are yet to appear on this earth, with their commerce, politics, literature, religions, are facts to him. All the worlds and systems which are yet to be launched into immensity are to him realities. The slaying of Christ on Calvary was a fact to him ages before his purpose became realized to men.
"Eternity, with all its years,
Stands open to thy view:
To thee, great God, there's nothing old appears;
To thee there's nothing new."
2. That God's purposes are unfrustratable. Christ's death was according to God's eternal decree. It was his "determinate counsel," and after millions of ages it was accomplished. What God has purposed must come to pass—the conversion of the world, the resurrection of the dead, the transactions of the judgment day, etc., all are inevitable things. "Heaven and earth shall pass away."
II. THAT SELF-SACRIFICING LOVE IS AN ETERNAL PRINCIPLE IN THE CREATION. Here it is in the mind of God before all worlds. Christ was slain before the "foundation of the world." Self-sacrificing love is a new and a rare thing to us, the men of this little planet, because we have fallen from the eternal order of things; but it is an old and common principle in God's creation.
1. It is the root of the universe. What is the creation but love going forth in infinite gifts? Every life that breathes, every plant that blooms, every star that shines, is a gift of love.
2. It is typified in all material existences. Where is there a thing to be found throughout the vast domain of nature that is made for itself? All existences work, live, and die for the good of others. "The several kingdoms of nature depend on and, therefore, help each other. The mineral is the solid basis on which is spread out the vegetable—the body that its vesture clothes. The vegetable directly nourishes the animal. The tree does not grow for itself; it cradles the birds, and feeds animated races, and shades the traveller until he blesses it. Of all the thousand and ninety species of plants that botany has classified, not one, from the vast oak to the weed that springs out of its mould, and the moss that clings to its bark, but takes its appointed place in a related family. The atmosphere would lose its salubrity but for the salt and bitter sea. The ground would catch no fertilizing streams if the clouds did not kindly drop them from the sky. The flowers wait for the falling light before they unveil their beauty. All growing things are buttressed up by the vast ribs of everlasting granite that sleep in sunless caverns. Heat, electricity, magnetism, attraction, send their subtle powers through nature, and play through all its works, as unseen and silent as the Eternal Spirit they bear witness of. Everything helps, and everything is helped."
3. It agrees with the moral constitution of the soul. The soul is so formed:
(1) That it can recognize nothing morally praiseworthy that does not spring from it. Disinterestedness must be the soul of any conduct it can heartily commend.
(2) Its conscience can approve of no act of its own that is not inspired by it. Our consciences have not a single smile for the avaricious and self seeking.
(3) Its happiness can only be realized as it is controlled by it. "He that seeketh his life shall lose it, and he that loseth it shall find it." Self-oblivious benevolence is the fountain of human joy. This eternal principle of self-sacrificing love we must have in us before we can be saved; it is, in fact, salvation. "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of God and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." The flesh and the blood here stand for the vitality of Christ. And what was this moral life, the moral essence of Christ, the soul of his soul, the moral blood? Self-sacrificing love. And this we must get into us or die.
III. THAT REDEMPTION IS NO AFTER THOUGHT IN THE ARRANGEMENTS OF THE UNIVERSE. It is true that the slain Lamb of Calvary came to meet and master an evil—the world's depravity. He came to "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." But it was all according to the eternal order of things. Miserably narrow and God-degrading ideas of Christ's work are popular in the pulpits of some of the sects. Sometimes it is spoken of as an expedient which the Almighty took a long time to contrive in order to overcome a state of things that had sprung up in his kingdom. Like some human king, he had a great deal to do in order to hit upon the best plan to harmonize his attributes, to reconcile mercy to justice, to maintain the order of his government, and, at the same time, save and forgive repentant rebels. And sometimes it is so spoken of as if the original system which God established with humanity was defective, did not work well, broke down, and thus not only disappointed the Creator, but taxed his wisdom greatly in order to invent an expedient that should meet the difficulty. Away with such notions! They are repugnant to reason, they are an insult to Omniscience, they are a libel on the gospel, they are obstructive to Christianity.
1. God foresaw the fall from eternity. This is an undeniable fact. Why did he not prevent it? Ah! why?
2. God ordained the remedy from eternity. Redemption was no after thought; it is an essential part, and, perhaps, a primary part of the original scheme of the universe. All that are redeemed to moral order, rectitude, and peace by Christ, are so redeemed "according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began."
IV. THAT OUR PLANET WAS PROBABLY FORMED FOR THE SPECIAL PURPOSE OF BECOMING THE THEATRE OF GOD'S REDEMPTIVE LOVE TO MAN, This is saying more than that Christ came into the world. There are men who argue from the littleness of this planet the absurdity of this. But material magnitude is nothing to God; spiritual existences and moral facts are vitally interesting to him. But the text leads us beyond—leads us to believe that this world was made for the express purpose. As God had the idea of redemption before the "foundation of the world," and as the idea is being worked out here, is it not probable that this idea guided him in its formation? Small in bulk as our planet is when compared with that of other orbs that roll in splendour under the eye of God, it has a grand moral distinction. Its dust formed the fruits that fed the body of the Son of God. Here he lived, laboured, suffered, and was buried, and here his grand work is being carried on. If it be moral facts that give importance to places, is there a more important spot than this earth?—D.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Revelation 13". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent