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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
Revelation 11

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

REVELATION CHAPTER 11

Revelation 11:1,2 John is commanded to measure the temple, all but the

outer court.

Revelation 11:3,4 The two witnesses that shall prophesy,

Revelation 11:5,6 their power,

Revelation 11:7 the beast shall fight against them, and kill them,

Revelation 11:8-10 they shall lie unburied three days and a half,

Revelation 11:11,12 and then rise again, and ascend into heaven.

Revelation 11:13 A great earthquake.

Revelation 11:14 The second woe past.

Revelation 11:15-19 The seventh trumpet sounded: the heavenly choir

celebrate the glories of God’s kingdom.

And there was given me a reed like a rod; the next words tell us the use of this reed. It was a measuring reed, such a one as Ezekiel in his vision {Ezekiel 40:3} saw in the man’s hand. There, the measuring was in order to a rebuilding; here, in order to preserving.

And the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God: we cannot well understand what followeth, without understanding the structure of the temple. The Jews, for the place of their worship, had first a tabernacle, then a temple. The tabernacle was a movable house, which they took down and carried about with them in their journeyings, and pitched down when in any place they pitched their tents. We read of it, Exodus 40:1-38. We read but of one court in that, into which only the priests and Levites entered; the people were without it, pitching their tents round about it. It had in it an altar of gold for incense, Exodus 40:5, which stood before the ark, Exodus 40:26,27; and an altar for burnt-offering, which stood by the door of the tabernacle, Exodus 40:29. The temple was built by Solomon, 1 Kings 6:1-38, and afterwards rebuilt by Zerubbabel, upon their return out of captivity. That was built with two courts; an inner court, 1 Kings 6:36, in which was the altar; and an outward court, which is called the great court, 2 Chronicles 4:9, and in Ezekiel, many times, the outward court. This is called the house, in 1 Kings 6:17. It was in length forty cubits; the oracle was within it, 1 Kings 6:19, where stood the ark covered with the cherubims. Into the inward court the priests and Levites only came; into the outward court came any of the Israelites. Herod, upon the additional building to the temple, added another large court, called the court of the Gentiles; but that not being of God’s direction, nor in Solomon’s temple, or Zerubbabel’s, is not here mentioned. This temple was a type of the church under the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 3:17 2 Corinthians 6:16, and is so to be interpreted generally in this book: for the material temple at Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans more than twenty years before this prophecy, never to be built more; not one stone was left upon another; so that John here was bid to measure the church.

And the altar, and them that worship therein; yet not the whole church, but that part of it which the inner court typified; the altar, and those that worshipped within that space where that was, which of old were only the priests and Levites; and under the New Testament signified those who were to be a holy priesthood, a spiritual house, those that should offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 2:5, who could endure a measuring by God’s reed, the word of God.


Verse 2

There is no great doubt, but the same persons are here to be understood by

the court which is without the temple, ( that is, without the inward court),

and the holy city; and by them, both the generality of those people who come under the name of the Christian church, who are all of them, in some sense, a holy people, 1 Corinthians 7:14, as all the Jews were; yet, for the greatest part of them, John is commanded to omit, or neglect them, as those who would not endure a measure by the reed, and of whose preservation God would take no such care, but give them up to the Gentiles, to be trodden under foot; by which many learned and good men understand God’s suffering antichrist to have a power over and against them. I find some understanding by the altar, and them that worship therein, the primitive church, that for some hundreds of years after Christ kept close to the Divine rule, whom God preserved, though in the midst of the ten first persecutions: and by the outward court, the church after that time, which God suffered to fall under the power of the beast, and antichrist, that is, the papacy; which are well enough called

the Gentiles, as bringing in Gentilism again into the church, and hardly differing in any thing, saving that the old heathens owned many supreme gods, and these new Gentiles but one. God showeth John here, that he would give up the outward court, or this holy city, the generality of Christians, to these Gentiles, that they should rule and domineer over them for

forty and two months, the meaning of which we shall by and by show. A late pious and learned writer differs a little in his sense, as thinking that God here showeth John something further, viz. that under the sixth trumpet he would give the generality of those called Christians, that will not endure the measure of the reed, so over to antichrist, that they shall turn papists, and help to kill the Lord’s witnesses; of which we shall speak, Revelation 11:3. So as this is not a new prophecy, but a continuation of what shall happen after the sounding of the sixth, and before the sounding of the seventh trumpet: if so, I conceive that those words,

shall they tread under foot forty and two months, must be understood, until the end of the forty-two months; for the forty-two months being the whole time of antichrist, or the beast, must be in a great measure spent before the sounding of the sixth angel. But it seems to be the opinion of this learned man, that a very great part of those who pretend to constitute the Reformed protestant church at this day, but are but as the outward court, not such as worship within the oracle, shall, before the sounding of the seventh trumpet, apostatize, and fall off to popery, until antichrist’s one thousand two hundred and sixty days shall expire, and join with papists in the killing of the witnesses. The truth of which we must leave to the providence of God in time to discover; although whoso considereth the face of things this day in Europe, (within which the greatest part of the Christian church is), will judge there is too great a probability of what this learned man saith; but I dare determine nothing in it.


Verse 3

And I will give power unto my two witnesses: there hath been a great dispute amongst godly and learned men, who these two witnesses should be: some have thought them to be Enoch and Elijah, who, though long since glorified, they have thought (with no great probability, as I suppose any indifferent person will judge) shall come again, and be killed on the earth; yet this is the general notion of the popish writers. Others would have them the two sorts of gospel churches, one of which was made up of native Gentiles, the other of Jews proselyted to the Christian faith. Others have interpreted it of the Old Testament and the New: others, of some two eminent divines; and as to them there have been various guesses: others, of the ministers whom God employed upon the Reformation: others, of a Christian magistracy and ministry. For my own part, the name of witnesses is so often applied to the first ministers of the gospel, Acts 1:22 2:32 3:15 4:33 5:32 10:41 22:15 26:16 1 Peter 5:1; that I cannot but understand it of that faithful part of the ministry, who preach the gospel faithfully during the whole reign of antichrist. Neither do I think that the number two at all relates to their number, but to their witness bearing; two being the number which God ordained as sufficient to establish all civil things, Deuteronomy 17:6 Deuteronomy 19:15 Matthew 18:16 Hebrews 10:28; unless there be a regard had to those pairs, which all along the Old Testament bare testimony for God; Moses and Aaron, Caleb and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha; and after the captivity, Zerubbabel and Joshua, and the two olive trees, mentioned Zechariah 4:11,14, to which plainly this text hath relation, Revelation 11:4. To which some also add Abraham and Lot, Ezra and Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah, Paul and Barnabas, Peter and John; and note, that when Christ first sent out his apostles, Matthew 10:1-42, he sent them out two by two.

And they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth: we read before, that the holy city, that is, the true church, should be trodden under foot by the Gentiles forty and two months; we read here, that the witnesses should

prophesy in sackcloth a thousand two hundred and threescore days. It is apparent, that in the prophetical style a day signifies a year, Numbers 14:34, Forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years. So Ezekiel 4:6, I have appointed thee each day for a year. So Daniel 9:24, the seventy weeks must signify four hundred and ninety years, (for in seventy weeks there are four hundred and ninety days), or else the promise as to the coming of the Messiah failed. So the prophetical year contains three hundred and sixty years, and the prophetical month thirty years (for they did count thirty days to each month); so forty-two months are just one thousand two hundred and sixty days, that is, one thousand two hundred and sixty years. We shall find, Revelation 12:6, that the woman (that is, the church) was in the wilderness just this time, one thousand two hundred and sixty days; and in Revelation 13:5, this was also the time of the beast that rose up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns: by which it appeareth, that these four things ran all parallel at the same time; the beast arising, and exercising his power; the new Gentiles trampling upon the church, the holy city; the woman’s abiding in the wilderness; and the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth. If we could find out where any one of these began, we should find out the time of all the rest. Those who fix the rise of the beast in or about the year 400, must add to this 1260. Then in 1660 antichrist’s reign should have determined, and also the time of the church’s persecution, and the time when faithful ministers should prophesy in sackcloth: but if the rise of the beast were in the year 500, the expiration must be in 1760; if it be fixed in 600, all these things will determine in 1860; for the same number of days being assigned to all the four, it is manifest that all four began together, and shall end together, and that at the end of a thousand two hundred and sixty years after the beginning of them. For my own part, I look upon it as very hard to determine: but the difficulty lies in finding out the time when the beast first arose; for that being once found out, it is easy to conclude from Scripture, when both the popedom shall have an end, and the calamitous time for the church, especially the ministry of it, shall cease. That which God showeth John in this verse, is only, that his faithful ministers that should truly reveal his will, (which is here called prophesying), should have a mournful time for a thousand two hundred and threescore years.


Verse 4

Here is a manifest allusion to Zechariah’s vision, Zechariah 4:2,3,11-14, though with some little difference. He saw a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which were upon the top thereof: and two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. The angel tells him, that these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes did empty the golden oil out of themselves, were the two anointed ones, or the two sons of oil, that stood by the Lord of the whole earth. By which some understand Zerubbabel and Joshua; some, those godly magistrates and priests, which after the captivity the Jewish church should have, and prefigured a gospel ministry, who being filled with knowledge and grace, should feed the Lord’s church (as pastors after his own heart) with wisdom and understanding, from the gifts and graces of God’s Holy Spirit, which they should receive; which further confirmeth me, that by the two witnesses, Revelation 11:3, we are to understand a godly magistracy and ministry, or rather the latter only, to whom prophesying most strictly agreeth, and who have a more special relation to the candlesticks here mentioned, by which churches are meant, Revelation 1:20.

And the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth: in Zechariah’s vision was but one candlestick, how comes here a mention to be made of two? Mr. Mede confesseth himself at a loss here, unless here another candlestick be added to signify the Gentiles’ conversion to Christ. Others think that it denoteth the small number of gospel churches that should be left; they were reckoned seven, Revelation 1:20; here they are reduced to two. Possibly it may denote the different state of God’s church. In the Old Testament God had but one church, viz. that of the Jews; but now he hath many churches, and they are all fed from faithful ministers, as olive branches pouring out their oil of grace and knowledge upon them.


Verse 5

And if any man will hurt them; that is, my faithful ministers, the two olive branches before mentioned, which fill the candlesticks with oil.

Fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: here is a plain allusion to the stories of Moses and Elijah, calling for fire from heaven; but God showeth, that the victory of his ministers under the gospel shall not be by a miraculous fire called for down from heaven, (as Elijah hurt the captains and their bands sent to apprehend him), but by fire out of their mouths; according to that, Jeremiah 5:14, Behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them: see also Jeremiah 1:9,10. This also is according to Zechariah’s vision before mentioned, and the revelation of the will of God in it, Revelation 11:6: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. The meaning is, that they shall be too hard for them, either by their faithful, lively, and powerful preaching, or by their fervent prayers.


Verse 6

It is plain that here is an allusion to Elijah, who prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months, James 5:17; see the story, 1 Kings 17:1: and to Moses, who turned the waters into blood in Egypt; and after was an instrument to smite the land of Egypt with plagues. But what power analogous to this the ministers of the gospel have had, or have, is not easy to determine. It is certain, the apostles had a miraculous power, but they rarely used it, but in doing good to men; Ananias and Sapphira indeed were struck dead upon their word, Acts 5:1-11; and Elymas the sorcerer was struck blind by them; but this power is long since ceased. Mr. Mede understands this power of the keys of doctrine and church censures the ministers of the gospel should be intrusted with; so as they should not preach the gospel unto such as contemned their ministry; by the withholding of which means of grace, also, they would be deprived of the dew of heavenly grace. And, indeed, this seemeth more proper than to understand it of the keys of discipline; for what power of this nature have ministers over those who are without? I take a general explication to be the best. If any hurt them, God shall revenge their cause, not only by spiritual, but by temporal judgments, bringing all manner of evils upon their adversaries. They are said to have power to do it, because God will do it in the revenge of the injuries done unto them.


Verse 7

And when they shall have finished their testimony; otan teleswsoi Mr. Mede notes, that this is ill translated by the preterperfect tense; the true English of it is, when they shall be about to finish their testimony: when they have prophesied in sackcloth the most of their twelve hundred and sixty years, they shall meet with ultimum conatum antichristi, the last struggle of the beast for life.

The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit, that is, the beast mentioned Revelation 13:1,4, (by which the papacy is meant, whom they have plagued all the time of their prophecy, though continual sufferers from it),

shall make war against them; shall get life again, and make one push more, possibly the sharpest yet made;

and shall overcome them, and kill them; and be too hard for them, and kill them. It is a great question, whether this be to be understood of taking away their natural lives, or of a civil death relating to them as witnesses, making them as if they were naturally dead. The latter of these seemeth to me much the more probable, for these reasons:

1. Supposing the godly magistracy, or ministry, or the latter alone, to be the two witnesses, it doth not seem probable that ever the papacy shall so far prevail, as to kill all such over the face of the whole church.

2. Neither is the Holy Ghost here speaking of them as men, but as witnesses.

3. Nor would either friends or enemies suffer dead bodies to be unburied three days and a half, in the street of a great city, as Revelation 11:8,9.

4. Neither is their resurrection, mentioned Revelation 11:11, to be understood of a corporal resurrection. I take therefore the killing here mentioned, to be understood of a destroying them as witnesses, turning magistrates out of their places, and ministers out of their places; though it be not probable that such a malice and hatred as should cause this, should terminate without the blood of some of them; but that surely is not the thing principally here intended.


Verse 8

Their bodies dead, in the sense before mentioned, shall continue so for three days and a half, of which we shall speak, Revelation 11:11. But what is here meant:

1. By the great city?

2. By the street of the great city?

Some, by the great city, would have Jerusalem understood; but that was now far from a great city, nor do the addition of those words in the latter end of the verse prove it; for Christ was not crucified in that city, but without the gates. Most judicious interpreters, by the great city here, understand Rome, which is seven or eight times (under the name of Babylon) so called in this hook, Revelation 14:8 Revelation 16:19 18:10,16,18,19,21; nor is any other city but that so called. This great city is here said, in a spiritual sense, to be Sodom and Egypt; Sodom, for whoredom and filthiness; Egypt, for oppression of the Lord’s Israel. As to the second question, what is here meant by the street of the great city? Mr. Mede hath irrefragably proved, that it cannot be meant of any parish, or such place in this city, as we call a street:

1. Because our Lord was crucified neither in any street, or parish, or any other place within the walls of Jerusalem.

2. Both Jerusalem and Rome had many more than one street.

3. Because the bodies being dead, doubtless lay in the place where they were slain; but men do not use to fight in the streets of cities.

4. Nor was that a place for all people, kindred, tongues, and nations, to see them in.

He therefore rightly judgeth, that the Greek word which we translate street, signifies the territories and jurisdiction of this city. See what he says to justify this in his Clavis Apocal. 40. p. 138. And this makes the last clause plain; for though our Lord was not crucified within any city, or in the street of any city, yet he was crucified in a place belonging to the jurisdiction of the Roman emperor; and it is very likely that it is in Europe that the witnesses shall be slain, which, in this sense, was all of it a street belonging to the city of Rome.


Verse 9

And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations; that is, a multitude of people of all sorts shall take notice of this suppression of these two witnesses in their bearing witness for God, and all the cruel dealings with them.

Shall see their dead bodies three days and an half: there are great disputes what time these three days and an half denote: it cannot be understood of three natural, or artificial days; for (as it is noted by the most judicious interpreters) this is much too short a time for all people to

see their dead bodies, to

rejoice over them, and to

make merry, and to

send gifts one to another in testification of the satisfaction of their lusts, upon the victory got over them. I find some understand these three days and an half of the one thousand two hundred and sixty years, wherein they prophesied in sackcloth, Revelation 11:3, which they thus make out; they first conclude, that these are prophetical days, and so signify three years and a half; then they resolve each of those years into days, and count three times three hundred and sixty days (for in those countries they say the year was counted to contain but three hundred and sixty days); to which they add one hundred and eighty, the half of three hundred and sixty, for the half day, which make up one thousand two hundred and sixty days, or forty-two mouths; which is the just time both of the beast’s reign, and of the woman’s abode in the wilderness, and of the witnesses’ prophesying in sackcloth, and of the Gentiles’ treading down the outward court.

1. But it seems very hard, thus first to make the three days three years in a prophetical sense, and then again to resolve those years, into days, and make those days so many more years; this looks as much like oppression to the text, as the counting interest upon interest to a debtor.

2. It plainly confounds the time of the prophesying of the witnesses in sackcloth, with the time of their lying dead.

Now although the time of their lying dead must be within the one thousand two hundred and sixty days, in the latter end thereof, (for it must be within the beast’s forty-two months, mentioned Revelation 13:5), yet it seems hard to make it as long as the beast’s reign. It certainly signifies a time toward the end of the beast’s reign, when there shall be a more eminent and universal suppression of the faithful witnesses of Christ than ever was before: it seemeth therefore rather to be understood more generally for a short time, as much such a phrase or way of speaking is used, Hosea 6:2, or else for a determinate time of such three years and a half as we ordinarily count. I must confess the half day being added, makes me more incline to the latter; for though it be usual with us to express a short time by, two or three days, and this seems by that text of Hosea to have been an ancient way of speaking, yet we do not use to put in half days when we so speak. I do therefore agree with those who think the time here specified is to be understood of three ordinary years and a half; and the rather, because this is the very time that Christ was under the power of the Pharisees. As three days (that is, part of them) was the time of his being under the power of death, so three years and a half was the just time of all the indignity that he suffered from his manifestation to the world, to his death: and (as we read in 1 Macc.) it was the just time of Antiochus’s oppressing of the Jews, whom divines judge that Daniel, in his 11th chapter, {Daniel 11:1-45} makes a type of antichrist.

And shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves: divines are divided whether these words be to be understood of enemies or friends. If it be to be understood of friends, the death being a civil death principally that was spoken of, it signifieth the providence of God so working for his witnesses, by the adherence of a party to them, that their adversaries the popish party should not wholly extinguish them; which hath been seen all along the story of the church: though their adversaries have been warring against them, overcome and killed them, yet they have not been able to bury them; nor shall they be able to do it at this last pinch, when they shall have a greater victory over them than ever before, and kill them to a further degree. But methinks the phrase rather signifies this an act of enemies, who, to show their further malice to them, and contempt and scorn of them are said to be so inhuman, as not to suffer their dead bodies to be buried.


Verse 10

It is plain by the repeating of the same words in the close of the verse, that by those that

dwell upon the earth are meant earthly, carnal men, whether papists or atheists; men that are mad upon their lusts; for these are those in whose consciences faithful and powerful preaching breeds a torment and uneasiness, so as they always count godly ministers their enemies, (as Ahab told Elijah), and are not able to bear their words (as the Israelites could not bear the words of Amos).

Shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; these therefore shall keep holiday, when they see these their enemies conquered, and show all signs and expressions of joy. These preachers were they that hindered them from a quiet sleep in their beds of lust.

Because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth; and though they fought against them only with a fire going out of their mouths, as prophets declaring the will of God to be contrary to their lewd practices, and denouncing God’s wrath against those that did such things; yet their preaching made their heads ache, partly by alarming their consciences, so as they often flew in their faces; and by it they were exposed to the reproach of people, as living directly contrary to the Divine rule, and in defiance of his law: thus they torment wicked men, who therefore always did, and always will, triumph in their suppression, or in any evil that shall betide them. And as they see their suppression greater than ever before, (as it will be undoubtedly during these three years and a half), so the triumph of lewd and wicked men will be proportionably more, though it will be but like a widow’s joy, for a short time, for it will appear that their dead bodies were not put into the grave.


Verse 11

And after three days and an half; after that short time which God had determined for antichrist, (just before his time should be expired), or after the precise time of forty-two months, or three years and a half, was expired, when the Gentiles thought they had fully prevailed, and should be no more troubled with Christ’s witnesses.

The Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; God, who alone can quicken the dead, reviveth them, and restoreth them again to their employment as his prophets; for it is plain this cannot be understood of a corporal resurrection: for:

1. Their death was not of that nature; nor:

2. Doth the Scripture give us any hints of any such resurrection before the coming of Christ to the last judgment.

And great fear fell upon them which saw them; this strikes a great fear into all their enemies amazed to think what God was about to do, and rightly presaging this would be their ruin.

It is a great question now, whether the time here spoken of for slaying the witnesses, and their rising again, be past, or yet to come. I must confess, the papacy had got such a victory over the faithful witnesses of Christ for some ages before the Reformation began in Germany, about the year 1517, and there was so sudden a resurrection of them in the first Reformers, brought to pass and carried on by such a stupendous series of providences, that I cannot wonder that some did think the time past: but we who have outlived that time more than one hundred and fifty years, seeing the Turks (whom all judicious interpreters make the four angels, bound by the river Euphrates, loosed) still so rampant, and the papacy still so predominant, and daily treading down the outward court, have no reason to judge the slaying of the witnesses yet over, at least that they are yet risen, and standing upon their feet; or that the seventh angel hath yet sounded; but that we are as yet under the period of time signified by the sounding of the sixth trumpet; and to expect a further degree of this evening before it will be light over the universal church (for we must not think any particular church intended here): and this appears most probable also from what followeth before the sounding of the seventh angel, Revelation 11:15.


Verse 12

And they, that is, the two witnesses, so often before spoken of,

heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither; heard God by a singular providence calling them again to their former work and station in his church; or (as some) to a higher and more famous place in his church than they formerly enjoyed; for by heaven the most and best interpreters understand the church, as it often signifies in this book.

And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them; and this was done in the face of their enemies. In this sense of this verse I find the generality of judicious interpreters agreed.


Verse 13

And the same hour; that is, about the same time, when the Spirit of life from God entered into the witnesses, and they were again restored.

Was there a great earthquake; by earthquake doubtless is here meant a great confusion in the world, and shaking of nations by differences one with another, and wars: See Poole on "Revelation 6:12".

And the tenth part of the city fell; by the city is doubtless meant the great city before named, spiritually called Sodom and Egypt; elsewhere, Babylon; by which Rome is to be understood. What is meant by the tenth part of it falling, is not so well agreed; some by it understanding many kingdoms falling off from its jurisdiction; others, a great part of its tribute or dominion.

And in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: these words seem to intimate that the restoration of the witnesses shall not be without opposition, and that the opposition shall not be great; seven thousand is a small number to fall in such a quarrel: but the papal party shall appear to have cheated the world so with their impostures, and so to have imposed upon them, that the world shall grow sick of them, and when the time comes for God to put a final period to them, the number shall be but few that adventure for them.

And the remnant were affrighted; others shall be affrighted, either from their own consciences, or from the stupendous dispensations of Divine Providence in the fall of the great city.

And gave glory to the God of heaven; and give glory to God, by confessing their errors, and turning to an ingenuous and sincere acknowledgment of the truth. Instead of worshipping saints, and angels, and images, worshipping the true and living God of heaven and earth only.


Verse 14

The second woe is past; that is, here endeth the misery that is like to come upon the world in that period of time which shall follow the sounding of the sixth trumpet.

And, behold, the third woe cometh quickly: the third woe signifies those calamities which should come in that period of time prophesied of by the sounding of the seventh trumpet; this makes a late learned author think that all that which went before, viz. the Gentiles treading down the outward court, the slaying of the witnesses, and their resuscitation, must be under the sixth trumpet; which period endeth not until the church’s enemies be ready to be destroyed; whose destruction is afterwards opened to us in the angels pouring out their vials.


Verse 15

And the seventh angel sounded; the last of those angels mentioned Revelation 8:2.

And there were great voices in heaven, saying; St. John in his vision heard great acclamations and shoutings for the victory which Christ and his gospel had got over the beast.

The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever; so that a great part of the world, casting off the papacy, that new Gentilism, together with all their abominable idolatries and superstitions, embraced the truth of the gospel. Here ariseth a great question, whether the seven vials, of which we shall find the 16th chapter treating, {Revelation 16:1-21} do belong all to the seventh trumpet, or some of them belong to the sixth trumpet, of which mention hath been before made. Great divines are on both sides as to this question. Mr. Pool, in his Latin Synopsis, hath collected together their reasons, of which I shall give a short account, leaving my reader for a fuller satisfaction to the Latin Synopsis.

Those who think that the seven vials do all relate to the seventh trumpet, and contemporize with it, in defence of their opinion say:

1. That the seven seals, and the seven trumpets, and the seven vials, are all mentioned in the same form of speech; and therefore the seven vials are not to be divided, some to one trumpet, some to another.

2. Because the seventh trumpet and the seven vials are one and the same thing, nothing being revealed under the seven vials which doth not belong to the seventh trumpet; they agree in their titles of woes, in the nature of the revelations, in their objects, both the one and the other declaring the ruin of antichrist; both of them are mentioned as the last plagues to come upon the world before the last day.

3. All the vials are of the same nature, declaring but the judgments by which God, setting up the kingdom of Christ, would ruin antichrist; they only differ in the degrees of the plagues, each one rising higher than the other.

4. The seventh trumpet cannot declare the ruin of antichrist, unless the seven vials be poured out under it, for they show the means by which he must be destroyed.

5. The seventh trumpet soundeth immediately upon the slaying of the witnesses, and contemporizeth with the whole course of their renewed liberty, and therefore the period signified by it must be before the fall of antichrist, declared by the sixth vial.

6. The seventh trumpet soundeth immediately after the expiration of the twelve hundred and sixty days; before the end of which none of the vials were poured out.

Those who think that divers of the vials were poured out, or shall be poured out, before the sounding of this seventh trumpet, say, that the beast’s kingdom beginning to fall under the sixth trumpet, several of the vials, declaring the degrees of his falling, must belong to that. It appeareth by all we have in this chapter Revelation 11:7-15, that antichrist’s kingdom was in a great measure weakened under the sixth trumpet, particularly from Revelation 11:11-13. To which those who think that all the vials related to the seventh trumpet say, that they grant that there were some preparations to the final ruin of antichrist, during the period of the sixth trumpet, but the seven vials signify the further progress and perfection of his ruin, which falls under the period signified by the seventh trumpet. This being premised, I proceed with the text.

It is doubted here whether those words, are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, be to be understood as being actually so, or now beginning to be so. Those who make the sense that they now actually were so, must understand the time to be the day of judgment, or some time next to it, and consequently must think that five at least of the seven vials, mentioned Revelation 16:1-21, belonged to the sixth trumpet. Those who make the sense, are beginning to become the kingdoms of the Lord, or shall shortly be so, may make all the seven vials to belong to the seventh trumpet. By becoming the kingdoms of the Lord Christ, he means in outward profession; so as antichrist shall reign no more, but they shall be ruled by the officers of the Lord Christ, until they be taken up to reign with him in glory.


Verse 16

I take this to signify no more than the triumph of the saints and angels in heaven upon this victory of the Lord over antichrist, and the promoting of Christ’s kingdom; and certainly if there be joy in heaven upon the conversion of one sinner, as we are told, Luke 15:7, we must imagine a much greater joy upon the conversion of nations and kingdams unto Christ.


Verse 17

Which art, and wast, and art to come; it is a phrase denoting God’s eternity and immutability; we met with it before, Revelation 4:8.

Because thou hast taken to the thy great power, and hast reigned; those celestial beings bless God for exerting his power, and recovering the kingdom of Christ out of the hands of antichrist, and setting his King upon his holy hill of Zion.


Verse 18

And the nations were angry; those who have not been of thy true Israel, but old or modern Gentiles, they have been angry long enough.

And thy wrath is come; now it is time for thee to show thyself angry, and thou hast begun to do it.

And the time of the dead, that they should be judged; the time is come for thee to judge the cause of thy faithtful witnesses, and all those who have died in testimony to thy truth.

And that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets; and for thee to reward such as have faithfully revealed thy will.

And to the saints; and not only them, but all thy holy ones.

And them that fear thy name, small and great; without respect to their quality in the world, be they little or great.

And shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth; the time also is come, when thou hast destroyed, or wilt destroy, that antichristian brood, which so long hath plagued the earth, and destroyed thy people in it.


Verse 19

And the temple of God: some here, by the temple of God, understand the representation of the temple in Jerusalem; others understand the church triumphant; others, the church of Christ militant here upon earth.

Was opened in heaven: accordingly, by heaven they understand either the natural heavens, or the Christian church: it seemeth to be a plain allusion to the Jewish church, whose temple was ordinarily shut up in the time of wicked and idolatrous princes, who regarded not the true worship of God; so as all the time of Saul’s reign the ark abode in the private house of Obed-edom; and when Josiah came to reign, he found the temple neglected all the days of his father Amon and grandfather Manasseh, and the book of the law in the rubbish. But when good princes came to the throne, such as Hezekiah and Josiah, they opened the temple, restoring the true worship of God. So under the New Testament, during the whole reign of antichrist, where he prevails, idolatry and superstition obtain, and the true worship of God is suppressed; but his time being now expiring, God showeth John that there shall be a restoring of the true worship of God, and a liberty both to ministers and people to worship God according to his will. For though antichrist was not yet wholly destroyed, nor his party extinguished, yet he had lost his power and dominion, and God was now beginning to reckon with him for the blood of his saints; which was all to be done before all the kingdoms of the world should become the kingdoms of the Lord Christ.

And there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: in the temple of old, the ark of the covenant was the great symbol of God’s presence; hence God is said to have dwelt between the cherubims. In the ark were the two tables of the law; so as this phrase may either note the pure, free, and ordinary expounding of the law of God, which should be upon the downfal of antichrist; or the presence of God with his church in that more pure and reformed state. But such a work of providence being not like to be effected without the ruin of antichrist,

God showeth it shall be ushered in with

lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail; by terrible things in righteousness, as the psalmist speaketh. The consequents of which were the seven vials, of which we shall read, Revelation 16:1-21, pouring out plagues upon the antichristian party, until they should be wholly rooted out and Christ alone should be exalted in his church, and rule as King upon his holy hill of Zion.

From this mysterious portion of holy writ thus opened, it appeareth that God, in these foregoing chapters, hath (though more summarily) instructed his prophet in what should come to pass to the final ruin of the Roman empire, (considered as pagan, that is, till Constantine’s time), and also of the reign of antichrist. From whence it must needs follow, that whatsoever followeth this chapter, and cannot be applied to the time of Christ’s kingdom, must contemporize with something which went before, and belong to some period comprehended under the vision of the seals, or of the trumpets. The next three chapters are judged to relate wholly to things past, God therein representing to his prophet the state of his church (as some think) from the nativity of Christ; however, from his time, during the whole time that Rome continued pagan, or should continue antichristian; the following chapters showing the gradual destruction of antichrist by the seven last plagues.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Revelation 11:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/revelation-11.html. 1685.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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