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Church-State Relations and the Book of Revelation
An Introduction to The Parousia: A Careful Look at the New Testament Doctrine of the Lord's Second Coming
by James Stuart Russell (1878) // Written by
Todd Dennis, Curator

Russell's Parousia

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The Parousia

By James Stuart Russell

The Parousia in the Apocalypse.

The Third Vision



 We have now reached the close of the second vision, and it might be supposed that the catastrophe by which it was concluded is so complete and exhaustive that there could be no room for any further development. But it is not so. And here we have again to call attention to one of the leading features in the structure of the Apocalypse. It is not a continuous and progressive sequence of events, but a continually recurring representation of substantially the same tragic history in fresh forms and new phases. Dr. Wordsworth, almost alone among the interpreters of this book, has comprehended this characteristic of its structure. At the same time every new vision enlarges the sphere of our observation and heightens the interest by the introduction of new incidents and actors.



CHAP. viii. 1.---‘And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.’

The seventh seal, strictly speaking, belongs to the former vision; but it will be observed that the catastrophe of that vision occurs under the sixth seal, and that the seventh becomes simply the connecting link between the second vision and the third,---between the seals and the trumpets. This no doubt intimates the close relation susisting between them. We cannot conceive of the events denoted by the seven trumpets as subsequent in point of time to the events represented as taking place at the opening of the sixth seal, for that would involve inextricable confusion and incongruity. It appears the most reasonable supposition that we have here, in the vision of the seven trumpets, a fresh unfolding of the desolating judgments which were about to overwhelm the doomed land of Judea. Dr. Wordsworth observes: ‘The seven trumpets do not differ in time from the seven seals, but rather synchronise with them.’ We doubt whether this is the correct way of stating the synchronism. We think the whole vision of the trumpets forms part of the catastrophe under the sixth seal.



CHAP. viii. 7-12.---‘The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth’ [land], etc.

The vision opens with a proem, or introduction, according to the usual structure of the apocalyptic visions. The standpoint of the Seer is still heaven, though the scene on which the main action of the piece is take to place is the earth, or rather the land. It cannot be too carefully borne in mind that it is Israel,---Judea, Jerusalem,---on which the prophet is gazing. To roam over the breadth of the whole earth, and to bring into the question all time and all nations, is not only to bewilder the reader in a labyrinth of perplexities, but wholly to miss the point and purport of the book. ‘The Doom of Israel; or, the Last Days of Jerusalem,’ would be no unsuitable title for the Apocalypse. The action of the piece, also, is comprised within a very brief space of time,---for these things were ‘shortly to come to pass.’

To return to the vision. After an awful pause on the opening of the seventh seal, significant of the solemn and mournful character of the events which are about to take place, seven angels, or rather the seven angels who stand before God, receive seven trumpets, which they are commissioned successively to sound. Before they begin, however, an angel presents to God the prayers of the saints, along with the smoke of much incense from a golden censer, at the golden altar which was before the throne. This is usually regarded as symbolical of the acceptableness of Christian worship through the intercession and advocacy of the Mediator. But observe the effects of the prayers. The angel takes the censer which had perfumed the prayers of the saints, fills it with fire from the altar, and hurls it upon the land: and immediately voices, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake follow. Strange answers to prayer. But if we regard these prayers of the saints as the appeals of the suffering and persecuted people of God, whom we have seen represented in the former visions as crying aloud, ‘How long, O Lord, how long?’ all becomes clear. The Lord will avenge the blood of His servants; His wrath is kindled; swift retribution is at hand. The censer which censed the prayers becomes the vehicle of judgment, and is cast upon the land, filled with the fury of the Lord,---the fire from the altar before the throne.

Now, the seven angels prepared to sound, and each blast is the signal for an act of judgment. It will be observed that the first four trumpets, like the first four seals, differ from the remaining three. They have a certain indefiniteness, and the symbols, though sublime and terrible, do not seem susceptible of a particular historical verification. Probably they correspond with those phenomenal perturbations of nature to which our Lord alludes in His prophecy on the Mount of Olives as preceding the Parousia: ‘There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth [land] distress of nations, with perplexity: the sea and the waves roaring’ (Luke xxi. 25). These are the very objects affected by the first four trumpets, viz. the earth, the sea, the sun, the moon, the stars. Without endeavouring, then, to find a specific explanation of these portents, it is enough to regard them as the outward and visible signs of the divine displeasure manifested towards the impenitent and unbelieving; symptoms that the natural world was agitated and convulsed on account of the wickedness of the time; emblems of the general dislocation and disorganisation of society which preceded and portended the final catastrophe of the Jewish people.

The last three trumpets, however, are of a very different character from the first four. They are indeed symbolical, like the others, but the symbols are less indefinite and seem more capable of a historical interpretation. The judgments under the first four trumpets are marked by what we may call an artificial character; they affect the third part of every thing,---the third part of the trees, the third part of the grass, the third part of the sea, the third part of the fish, the third part of the ships, the third part of the rivers, the third part of sun, the third part of the moon, the third part of the stars, the third part of the day, the third part of the night. It would be preposterous to require a historical verification of such symbols. But the remaining trumpets appear to enter more into the domain of reality and of history; and accordingly we shall find great light thrown upon them by the Scriptures and by the contemporaneous history. That a special importance is attached to these last trumpets is evident from the fact that they are introduced by a note of warning:---

CHAP. viii. 13.---‘And I beheld, and heard an eagle flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the land by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound.’

This introductory note to the three woe-trumpets requires some observations.

First, the reader will perceive that the true reading of the text is eagle, not angel. ‘I heard an eagle flying through the midst of heaven.’ This is the symbol of war and rapine. There is a striking parallel to this representation in Hosea viii. 1: ‘Set the trumpet to thy mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of the Lord, because they have transgressed my covenant.’ In the Apocalypse the eagle comes on the same mission, announcing woe, war, and judgment.

Secondly, the reader will observe the persons on whom the predicted woes are to fall,---‘the inhabiters of the land.’ As in chap. vi. 10, so here, gh must be taken in a restricted sense, as referring to the land of Israel. The rendering of gh by earth, instead of land, and of aiwn by world, instead of age, have been most fruitful sources of mistake and confusion in the interpretation of the New Testament. With singular inconsistency our translators have rendered gh sometimes earth, sometimes land, in almost consecutive verses, greatly obscuring the sense. Thus in Luke xxi. 23, they render gh by land: ‘there shall be great distress in the land’ [epi thzghz], being compelled to restrict the meaning by the next clause,---‘And wrath upon this people.’ But in the next verse but one, where the very same phrase recurs,---‘distress epi thz ghz,’---they render it ‘upon the earth.’ In the passage now before us the woes are to be understood as denounced, not upon the inhabitants of the globe, but of the land, that is, of Judea.



CHAP. ix. 1-12.---‘And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fallen from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the pit of the abyss. And he opened the pit of the abyss; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit . . . And unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power . . . And they have a king over them which is the angel of the abyss, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, and in the Greek tongue he hath his name Apollyon. One woe is past; behold there come two woes more after this.’

On this symbolical representation Alford well observes,---‘There is an endless Babel of allegorical and historical interpretation of these locusts from the pit; ‘but while clearing the ground of the heap of romantic speculation by which it has been encumbered, he abstains from putting anything better in its place.

Without assuming to have more insight than other expositors, we cannot but feel that the principle of interpretation on which we proceed, and which is so obviously laid down by the Apocalypse itself, gives a great advantage in the search and discovery of the true meaning. With our attention fixed on a single spot of earth, and absolutely shut up to a very brief space of time, it is comparatively easy to read the symbols, and still more satisfactory to mark their perfect correspondence with facts.

Whatever obscurity there may be in this extraordinary representation, it seems quite clear that it cannot refer to any human army. On the contrary everything points to what is infernal and demoniac. Considering the origin, the nature, and the leader of this mysterious host, it is impossible to regard it in any other light than as a symbol of the irruption of a baleful demon power. It is exactly as it is represented to be, the host of hell swarming out upon the curse-stricken land of Israel. We have before us a hideous picture of a historic reality, the utterly demoralised and, so to speak, demon-possessed condition of the Jewish nation towards the tragic close of its eventful history. Have we any ground for believing that the last generation of the Jewish people was really worse than any of its predecessors? Is it reasonable to suppose that this degeneracy had any connection with Satanic influence? To both these questions we answer, Yes. We have a very remarkable declaration of our Lord on these two points, which, we venture to affirm, gives the key to the true interpretation of the symbols before us. In the twelfth chapter of St. Matthew He compares the nation, or rather the generation then existing, to a demoniac out of whom an unclean spirit had been expelled. There had been a temporary moral reformation wrought in the nation by the preaching of the second Elias, and by our Lord’s own labours. But the old inveterate unbelief and impenitence soon returned, and returned in sevenfold force:---

‘When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return unto my house from whence I came out; and when he is come he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and then enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be unto this wicked generation’ (Matt. xii. 43-45).

The closing sentence is full of significance. The guilty and rebellious nation, which had rejected and crucified its King, was, in its last stage of impenitence and obduracy, to be given over to the unrestrained dominion of evil. The exorcised demon was at the last to return reinforced by a legion.

We have abundant evidence in the pages of Josephus of the truth of this representation. Again and again he declares that the nation had become utterly corrupt and debased. ‘No generation,’ says he, ‘ever existed more prolific in crime.’

‘I am of opinion,’ he says again, ‘that had the Romans deferred the punishment of these wretches, either the earth would have opened, and swallowed up the city, or it would have been swept away by a deluge, or have shared the thunderbolts of the land of Sodom. For it produced a race far more ungodly than those who were thus visited.’---Josephus, bk. v. chap. xiii.

Let us now look at the symbols of the fifth trumpet in the light of these observations. There can be no question as to the identity of the ‘star fallen from heaven, to whom the key of the abyss is given.’ It can only refer to Satan, whom our Lord beheld ‘as lightning fall from heaven’ (Luke x. 18); ‘How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!’ (Isa. xiv. 12.) The cloud of locusts issuing from the pit of the abyss---locusts commissioned not to destroy vegetation, but to torment men---points not obscurely to malignant spirits, the emissaries of Satan. The place from which they proceed, the abyss, is distinctly spoken of in the gospels as the abode of the demons. The legion cast out of the demoniac of Gadara besought our Lord ‘that he would not command them to go out into the abyss’ (Luke viii. 31). The locusts in the vision are represented as inflicting grievous torments on the bodies of men; and this is in accordance with the statements of the New Testament respecting the physical effect of demoniac possession---‘grievously vexed with a devil’ (Matt. xv. 22). It need cause no difficulty that unclean spirits should be symbolised by locusts, seeing they are also compared to frogs, Rev. xvi. 13. As to the extraordinary appearance of the locusts, and their power limited to five months’ duration, the best critics seem agreed that these features are borrowed from the habits and appearance of the natural locust, whose ravages, it is said, are confined to five months of the year, and whose appearance in some degree resembles horses. (See Alford, Stuart, De Wette, Ewald, etc.) It is enough, however, to regard such minutiae rather as poetical imagery than symbolical traits. Finally, their king, ‘the angel of the abyss,’ whose name is Abaddon, and Apollyon, the Destroyer, can be no other than ‘the ruler of the darkness of this world;’ ‘the prince of the power of the air;’ ‘the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience.’ The malignant and infernal dominion of Satan over the doomed nation was now established. Yet his time was short, for ‘the prince of this world’ was soon to be ‘cast out.’ Meanwhile his emissaries had no power to injure the true servants of God, ‘but only those men which had not the seal of God in their foreheads.’

Such is the invasion of this infernal host; all hell, as it were, let loose upon the devoted land, turning Jerusalem into a pandemonium, a habitation of devils, the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. (Rev. xviii. 2).



CHAP. ix. 13-21.---‘And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound on the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed, which had been prepared for the hour, and day, and month, and year, for to slay the third part of men. And the number of the army of the horsemen was two myriads of myriads: and I heard the number of them,’ etc.

The sixth trumpet is introduced by the announcement,---‘The first woe is past, behold, there are coming two woes still after these things;’---indicating that their arrival is near: they are on the way---‘they are coming’ [ercetai].

There is a certain resemblance between the vision here depicted and the preceding. Both refer to a great and multitudinous host let loose to punish men; in both the host is unlike any actual beings in rerum natura, and yet both seem in some points to come within the region of reality, and to be susceptible, in part at least, of a historical verification. The first incident which follows the sounding of the sixth trumpet is the command to ‘loose the four angels which are bound on the great river Euphrates.’ Of this passage Alford says: ‘The whole imagery here has been a crux interpretum as to who these angels are, and what is indicated by the locality here described.’ It is in these crucial instances, which defy the dexterity of the most cunning hand to pick the lock, that we prove the power of our master-key. Let us fix first upon that which seems most literal in the vision,---‘the great river Euphrates.’ That, at least, can scarcely be symbolical. There are said to be four angels bound, not in the river, but at, or on, the river [epi tw potamw]. The loosing of these four angels sets free a vast horde of armed horsemen, with the strange and unnatural characteristics described in the vision. What is the real and actual that we may gather out of this highly wrought imagery? How is it that these horsemen come from the region of the Euphrates? How is it that four angels are bound on that river? Now it will be remembered that the locust invasion came from the abyss of hell; this invading army comes from the Euphrates. This fact serves to unriddle the mystery. The invading army that followed Titus to the siege and capture of Jerusalem was actually drawn in very great measure from the region of the Euphrates. That river formed the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire, and we know as a matter of fact that it was kept by four legions, which were regularly stationed there. These four legions we conceive to be symbolised by the four angels bound at, or on, the river. The ‘loosing of the angels’ is equivalent to the mobilising of the legions, and we cannot but think the symbol as poetical, as it is historically truthful. But, it will be said, Roman legions did not consist of cavalry. True; but we know that along with the legionaries from the Euphrates there came to the Jewish war auxiliary forces drawn from the very same region. Antiochus of Commagene, who, as Tacitus tells us, was the richest of all the kings who submitted to the authority of Rome, sent a contingent to the war. His dominions were on the Euphrates. Sohemus, also, another powerful king, whose territories were in the same region, sent a force to co-operate with the Roman army under Titus. Now the troops of these Oriental kings were, like their Parthian neighbours, mostly cavalry; and it is altogether consistent with the nature of allegorical or symbolical representation that in such a book as the Apocalypse these fierce foreign hordes of barbarian horsemen should assume the appearance presented in the vision. They are multitudinous, monstrous, fire-breathing, deadly; and so, no doubt, they seemed to the wretched ‘inhabiters of the land’ which they were commissioned to destroy. The invasion may be fitly described in the analogous language of the prophet Isaiah: ‘The Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the battle. They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the Lord, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land’ (Isa. xiii. 4. 5).

It is in favour of this interpretation that there is a manifest congruity in the invasion of the devoted land, first by a malignant demon-host, and then by a mighty earthly army. Each fact is vouched for by decisive historical evidence. Strip the vision of its drapery, and there is a solid kernel of substantial fact. The dramatic unities of time, place, and action are also preserved, and we are gradually conducted nearer and nearer to the catastrophe under the seventh trumpet. But this is to anticipate.

An objection may be taken to this explanation of the vision of the sixth trumpet, on account of the Euphratean hordes being commissioned to destroy idolaters. Undoubtedly, the gross idolatry described in the twentieth verse was not the national sin of Israel at that period, though it had been in former ages. But there is too much reason for believing that very many Jews did conform to heathenish practices both in the days of Herod the Great and his descendents. We think, however, that in the sequel it will be satisfactorily proved that in the Apocalypse the sin of idolatry is imputed to those who, though not guilty of the literal worship of idols, were the obstinate and impenitent enemies of Christ. (See exposition of chap. xvii.)

Finally, the true rendering of ver. 15 removes an obscurity which has been the occasion of much perplexity and misconception. The four angels bound at the Euphrates, and loosed by the angel of the sixth trumpet, are declared to have been prepared,---not for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, but for the hour, and day, and month, and year: that is to say, destined by the will of God for a special work, at a particular juncture; and at the appointed time they were let loose to fulfil their providential mission. ‘The third part of men’ does not mean that the third part of the human race, but the third part of ‘inhabitants of the land’ (chap. viii. 13), on whom the woes are about to fall.


Episode of the Angel and the Open Book.


I. We might have expected that now the seventh trumpet would have sounded; but as in the vision of the seven seals, so here, the action is interrupted for the introduction of episodes which afford space for fresh matter which does not come strictly into the main current of the narrative.

CHAP. x. 1-11.---‘And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire; and he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices,’ etc.

1. It is natural that we should be disposed at first to regard this mighty angel, who appears as the interlocutor in this and the following episode, as one of the ‘ministering spirits’ that do the bidding of the Most High. But a fuller consideration precludes this supposition. The attributes with which this angel is invested so closely resemble those ascribed to our Lord in the first chapter, that the majority of interpreters agree in the opinion that it is no other than the Saviour Himself who is here intended. The glory-cloud with which he is clothed is a customary symbol of the divine presence; the ‘rainbow about his head’ corresponding with the rainbow round about the throne (chap. iv. 3); ‘his face as it were the sun;’ ‘his feet as pillars of fire;’ his ‘voice as when a lion-roareth;’ all these so exatly resemble the description in chap. i. 10-16 that it is scarcely possible to come to any other conclusion than that this is a manifestation of the Lord Himself.

2. But here is a further remarkable correspondence between the appearance and action of this ‘might angel’ and St. Paul’s description of the archangel in 1 Thess. iv. 16: ‘For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.’ There is certainly here a very singular coincidence. 1. The glorious angel of the Apocalypse seems undoubtedly to be ‘the Lord himself.’ 2. Both are said to ‘descend from heaven.’ 3. In each case he is represented as descending with a ‘shout’. 4. In each case it is the voice of ‘the archangel.’ 5. In each case the appearance of the angel, or Saviour, is associated with a trumpet. 6. The time also of this appearing appears to be the same: in the Apocalypse it is on the eve of the sounding of the last trumpet, when ‘the mystery of God shall be finished;’ while in the epistle it is on the eve of the ‘great consummation,’ or ‘the day of the Lord’ (1 Thess. v. 2).

3. It may be objected that the title ‘angel’ or even ‘archangel,’ is incompatible with the supreme dignity of the Son of God. But there can be no question that the name angel is given in the Old Testament to the Messiah, Isa. lxiii. 9; Mal. iii. 1. The name archangel is equivalent to ‘prince of the angels,’ the very phrase by which the Syriac version renders the word in 1 Thess. iv. 16; in fact it would be more reasonable to object to the title ‘archangel’ being given to any other than a divine person. It is in harmony with other names confessedly belonging to Christ, as Arch, Arcwn, Archgoz, Arciereuz, Arcipoimhn, so that there is a strong presumption that the title Arcaggeloz also belongs to Christ.

4. Hengstenberg maintains, and with much probability, that there is only one archangel, and that he is possessed of a divine nature. This archangel is named ‘Michael’ in St. Jude, ver. 9; but in the Book of Daniel Michael is expressly identified with the Messiah (Dan. xii. 1). Therefore archangel is a proper title of Christ.

5. It deserves notice that St. Paul speaks, not of the voice of an archangel, but of the archangel, as if he were referring to that which was well known and familiar to the persons to whom he was writing. But where in the Scriptures do we find any allusion to ‘the voice of the archangel and the trump of God’? Nowhere except in this very passage in the Apocalypse. We infer that the Apocalypse was known to the Thessalonians, and that St. Paul alluded to this very description.

6. Again, in the Epistles to the Thessalonians the voice of the archangel is represented as awakening the sleeping saints. But whose voice is that which calls the dead out of their graves? The voice of the Son of God. ‘The hour is coming in the which they that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth’ (John v. 25-29). The voice of the archangel, therefore, is the voice of the Son of God. It will be observed, also, that the sounding of the seventh trumpet is said to be ‘the time of the dead, that they should be judged’ (Rev. xi. 18).

7. Lastly, that the mighty angel of Rev. x. 1 is a divine person, and no other than the Lord Jesus Christ, seems decisively proved by chap. xi. 3: ‘I will give power to my two witnesses,’ etc., where the speaker is evidently a divine person, yet the same ‘mighty angel’ whom the prophet beheld descend from heaven.

We therefore conclude that the ‘mighty angel’ of the Apocalypse is identical with ‘the archangel’ of 1 Thessalonians, and is no other than ‘the Lord himself.’

II. We come next to consider the utterance of the mighty angel.

At first we might suppose that what the angel uttered was kept a secret. We are told that at his shout seven thunders uttered their voices; but when the Seer was proceeding to write their purport he was forbidden so to do: ‘Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not’ (ver. 5).

The prophet, however, goes on to record what the angel did and said. Standing with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, he lifts up his hand to heaven, and swears by Him that liveth for ever and ever that there shall be no more time or respite. That is to say, ‘The end is come; the long-suffering of God can no longer wit; the day of grace is about to close; and no longer respite will be given.’

That this is the meaning of the declaration is evident from what follows, ver. 7:---

‘But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is accomplished, according to his comforting announcement to his servants the prophets.’

In other words, the seventh and last trumpet, which is just about to sound, will bring the great predicted consummation. This intimate connection between the appearing of the archangel and the sounding of the seventh trumpet (which ushers in the consummation) is most suggestive, and gives strong confirmation to all that has been advanced respecting the correspondence of the scene before us with the description in 1 Thess. iv. 16.

But this seventh verse supplies also a singular and most satisfactory confirmation of the views which have been already expressed with regard to what is erroneously called ‘the preaching of the gospel to the dead’ (1 Pet. iv. 6). The reader will remember that in the passage referred to the expression employed is ‘nekroiz euhggelisqh’ (literally, it was evangelised to the dead, i.e. comforting announcement was made to the dead).

In the passage now before us (chap. x. 7) we discover the original source of this peculiar expression ‘evangelised’ [enhggelisen], and on more minute consideration we find an allusion, clear and distinct, to the very same communication made to the dead which is referred to by St. Peter. The angel in the vision swears---

‘that there shall be no longer delay or respite . . . but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is completed, as he evangelised his servants the prophets.’

In other words, ‘as he declared by a comforting announcement to his servants the prophets.’

Here the question presents itself, When was this comforting announcement made? Alford correctly answers this question. In his note upon this verse he says---

that time should no longer be, i.e. should no more intervene; in allusion to the answer given to the cry of the souls of the martyrs, chap. vi. 11, kai erreqh avtoiz ina anapauswntai eti cronon mikron. This whole series of trumpet judgments has been an answer to the prayers of the saints, and now the vengeance is about to receive its entire fulfilment; cronoz ouketi estai: the appointed delay is at an end. That this is the meaning is shown by the all en taiz hmeraiz etc., which follows.’

Next, to whom was this comforting announcement made? The answer is, ‘to his servants the prophets.’ This clearly refers to those who, in chap. vi. 9, are represented as ‘the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they bore.’ For what is the function of a prophet? Is it not to declare the word of the Lord, and to bear testimony for the truth? In chap. vi. they are described as ‘having been slain,’ the fate which Jesus predicted for His servants. ‘Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify’ (Matt. xxiii. 34). Jerusalem was notoriously the murderess of the prophets. ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets’ (Matt. xxiii. 37). ‘It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem’ (Luke xiii. 32). It was the blood of these martyrs that was to be required of ‘that generation,’ and now the time was come.

Lastly, observe the period indicated in this comforting announcement [euaggelion]. It is ‘in the days of the voice of the seventh angel that the mystery of God shall be finished.’ Turn to chap. xi. 18, which describes the result of the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and what do we find? It is declared there, ‘Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets.’ How perfectly this coincides with the statements in 1 Pet. iv. 6, as well as in Rev. vi. 9-11, and how obviously they refer to the same period and the same event, hardly needs to be pointed out. It raises probability to certainty, and demonstrates the truth of the explanation already given, by a subtle and recondite correspondence which will bear the most minute and critical inspection.

III. The open book in the hand of the angel (chap. x. 8-11). The mighty angel is represented as holding in his hand a little book open. Of its contents we are not informed, but we are greatly assisted in the interpretation of the symbol by the manifest correspondence between the scene in the Apocalypse and that described in Ezekiel ii. iii. In fact, they seem counterparts of one another. The roll in Ezekiel corresponds with ‘the little book.’ In the prophecy it is ‘the Lord’ who holds in His hand the roll, and gives it to the prophet; an additional confirmation of the argument that it is the Lord who in the Apocalypse holds the little book in His hand. In both the prophecy and the Apocalypse the roll or book is open. In both, the roll or book is eaten by the prophets; in both it is in the mouth ‘as honey for sweetness.’ The Apocalypse alone states that it was afterwards bitter to the taste; but we may infer that the same characteristic equally applies to Ezekiel’s roll. All these remarkable correspondences sufficiently prove that the scene in the prophecy of Ezekiel is the prototype of the vision in the Apocalypse. But the cief point ot be noticed is the character of the contents of the little book, and this we are enabled to determine by its parallel in the prophecy. The roll which Ezekiel saw ‘was written within and without; and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe’ (Ezek. ii. 10). We infer, therefore, that in both the contents were bitter, for St. John, like Ezekiel, was the messenger of coming woe to Israel, and this very vision belongs to the woe-trumpets which sounded the signal of judgment.


The Measurement of the Temple.

CHAP. xi. 1, 2.---‘And there was given to me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.’

If anything were wanting to prove that in these apocalyptic visions we are dealing with contemporary history, with facts and things extant in the days of St. John, it would be supplied by the passage before us. Here we have distinct and decisive evidence with respect to time and place. The vision speaks of the city and temple of Jerusalem; the literal city and the literal temple. They were therefore in existence when the Apocalypse was written, for the vision before us predicts their destruction.

What can be more forced and unnatural, what more uncritical and groundless than to interpret a statement like this as symbolical of the Protestant Reformation and the Church of Rome? Such interpretations are indeed a humiliating proof of the extravagance and credulity of some good men; but they do incalculable mischief by setting an example of rash handling of the Word of God, and passing off the fantastic speculations of men for the true sayings of God. We have no right whatever to suppose that anything more or anything else is intended here than the literal city of Jerusalem and the literal temple of God.

The interlocutor in this vision is still the same ‘mighty angel’ whose identity with ‘the archangel,’ ‘the Lord himself,’ we have endeavoured to establish. The Seer receives a measuring rod or staff, and is commanded to measure the temple of God, the altar, and the worshippers. We naturally revert to the scene in Ezekiel xl., where the prophet sees an angel with a line of flax and a measuring reed taking the dimensions of the temple that was about to be built. But it is plain that in this apocalyptic vision it is not construction that is intended by the symbol, but demolition and destruction.

It is important always to keep in mind that the whole action of the Apocalypse is hastening on to a great catastrophe, now not far off. Israel and Jerusalem are never for a moment out of sight. Two woe-trumpets have already sounded the doom of the apostate nation, and the final consummation only waits the blast of the third. The archangel has already declared that ‘no more time shall be given,’ and the Seer has tasted the bitterness of the ‘libel,’---the little book which contains the indictment and punishment of that wicked generation.

In such circumstances nothing but coming destruction can be the theme. That the measuring-rod or line is employed in Scripture as an emblem of destruction is indisputable, more frequently indeed than of construction. A few instances must suffice. In Lamentations ii. 7, 8, we find a passage which might well be the interpretation of this apocalyptic vision: ‘The Lord hath cast off his altar; he hath abhorred his sanctuary; he hath given up into the hands of the enemy the walls of her palaces. The Lord hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he hath stretched out a line; he hath not withdrawn his hand from destroying.’ Again, in the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the destruction of Babylon (chap. xxxiv. 11) we read, ‘The cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness.’ The prophet Amos also uses the same emblem (Amos vii. 6-9): ‘Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood by a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand. And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more: and the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,’ etc. Another very suggestive passage occurs in 2 Kings xxi. 12, 13: ‘Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it both his ears shall tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab.’ (See also Psalm lx. 6; Isaiah xxviii. 17.)

But not only is the measuring line or rod used as a symbol of the destruction of places, but, what is more singular, of persons also. There is a curious passage in 2 Samuel viii. 2 illustrative of this fact: And David ‘smote Moab, and measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines measured he to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive.’ There is some obscurity in the passage, but the meaning appears to be that the captives being ordered to lie down, a certain portion was measured off, equal to two-thirds of the whole, who were appointed to death, while the remaining third was spared. This explains, what would otherwise be almost unintelligible, why in the vision the worshippers are measured as well as the temple and the altar. We think it is plain, then, that the command to measure ‘the temple, the altar, and them that worship therein’ is significant of the impending destruction which was about to overwhelm the most sacred places of Judaism and the unhappy people themselves.

It will be remarked that one portion of the temple precincts, ‘the court which is without the temple,’ is excepted from the measurement: and for this a reason is assigned,---‘for it is given unto the Gentiles.’ The passage reads thus: ‘The court which is without the temple cast out, and measure it not,’ etc. There is some obscurity in this statement. We know that there was a portion of the temple precincts called ‘the court of the Gentiles;’ but that can hardly be the place alluded to here, for it would be strange to speak of the court of the Gentiles being given to the Gentiles. It is evident also that this abandonment of the outer court to the Gentiles is referred to as something sacrilegious, being coupled with the statement, ‘And the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.’ The reason, therefore, for the exemption of the outer court from measurement may probably be that the place was already desecrated; it was therefore ‘cast out,’ rejected, as being no longer a holy place; it was profane and unclean, being in the hands, and even under the feet, of the Gentiles.

Is there anything answering to these facts in the history of the last days of Jerusalem? For that is the true problem which we have to solve. Here the Jewish historian throws a vivid light upon the whole scene described in the vision. Josephus tells us how, on the breaking out of the Jewish war, the temple became the citadel and fortress of the insurgents; how the different factions struggled for the possession of this vantage ground; and how John, on of the rebel chiefs, held the temple with his crew of brigands called the Zealots, while Simon, another and rival leader, occupied the city. He tells us also how the Idumean force, which may properly be regarded as belonging to the Gentiles, effected an entrance into the city under cover of night, during the distraction caused by a terrific storm, and were admitted by the Zealots, their confederates, within the sacred precincts of the temple. It would appear that all through the period of the siege the city and temple courts were in the possession of these wild and lawless men of Edom, who carried rapine and bloodshed wherever they came. It was by them, and on this occasion, that Ananus and Joshua, tow of the most eminent and venerable among the high priests, were foully murdered, a crime to which Josephus ascribes the subsequent capture of Jerusalem and the overthrow of the Jewish commonwealth. (See Traill’s Josephus, bk. iv. chap. v. sec. 2.)

Have we not here all the conditions of the problem fully satisfied? The violent and sacrilegious invasion of the temple by the Zealots and Idumeans, and the masterful occupation of the city by these banditti, who trode it down under their feet during the period of the siege, seems to us precisely to meet the requirements of the description. Surely it will not be said that the Idumeans were not Gentiles? It is important to observe that this phrase the Gentiles, or the nations [ta eqnh], so frequently occurring in the New Testament, generally refers to the immediate neighbours of the Jews, many of them dwelling with them, or beside them, in the land of Palestine. Samaria was an eqnoz: so was Idumea, so was Batanaea, so was Galilee, so were the Tyrians and Sidonians; and the phrase ‘all the nations,’ or ‘all the Gentiles,’ is often employed in this limited sense as referring to the Palestinian nationalities. When our Lord sent forth the twelve on their first missionary tour, and charged them not to go into the way of the Gentiles, nor to enter into any city of the Samaritans, but to go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, He did not mean by the Gentiles the Greeks and the Romans, the Egyptians and the Persians, but the home-Gentiles, as we may call them, whom the disciples could find without overpassing the limits of Palestine. We are in danger sometimes of being misled by the application of our modern geographical and ethnological ideas to the thought and speech of our Lord’s time. The ideas of the Jews were rather provincial than ecumenical: their world was Palestine, and to them ‘the nations,’ or ‘the Gentiles,’ often meant no more than their nearest neighbours, dwelling on the borders, and sometimes within the borders, of their own land.

The passage which we are now considering throws light also upon our Lord’s prediction in Luke xxi. 24: ‘And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled.’ Our Lord, it is to be observed, is here speaking of the siege and capture of Jerusalem, the very theme of the apocalyptic vision. It cannot be questioned that our Lord’s reference to Jerusalem being trodden down by the Gentiles is identical in meaning with the language in the vision,---‘The holy city shall they [the Gentiles] tread under foot.’ Both passages must refer to the same act and the same time: whatever is meant by the one is meant by the other. Since, then, the allusion in the Apocalypse is to the violent and sacrilegious occupation of Jerusalem and the temple by the hordes of Zealots and Edomites, we conclude that our Lord, in His prediction, alludes to the same historical fact.

But if so, what are we to understand by ‘the times of the Gentiles’ in our Saviour’s prediction? It has been generally supposed that this expression refers to some mystic period of unknown duration, extending, it may be, over centuries and aeons, and still rolling on its uncompleted course. But if this non-natural interpretation of words is to be applied to Scripture, it is difficult to see what use there is in specifying any periods of time at all. Surely, it is much more respectful to the Word of God to understand its language as having some definite meaning. What, then, if ‘forty and two months’ should really mean forty-two months, and nothing more? The times of the Gentiles can only mean the time during which Jerusalem is in their occupation. That time is distinctly specified in the Apocalypse as forty-two months. Now this is a period repeatedly spoken of in this book under different designations. It is the ‘thousand two hundred and sixty days’ of the next verse, and the ‘time, times and half a time’ of chap. xii. 14, that is to say, three years and a half. Now it is evident that such a space of time in the history of nations would be an insignificant point; but for a tumultuous and lawless rabble to domineer over a great city for such a period would be something portentous and terrible. The occupation of such a city by an armed mob is not likely to continue over ages and centuries: it is an abnormal state of things which must speedily terminate. Now this is exactly what happened in the last days of Jerusalem. During the three years and an half which represent with sufficient accuracy the duration of the Jewish war, Jerusalem was actually in the hands and under the feet of a horde of ruffians, whom their own countryman describes as ‘slaves, and the very dregs of society, the spurious and polluted spawn of the nation.’ The last fatal struggle may be said to have begun when Vespasian was sent by Nero, at the head of sixty thousand men, to put down the rebellion. This was early in the year A.D. 67, and in August A.D.70 the city and the temple were a heap of smoking ashes.

It is scarcely possible to conceive a more complete and striking correspondence between prophecy and history than this, which needs no dexterous manipulation and no non-natural interpretation, but the simple noting of facts registered in the annals of the time.

The following observations of Professor Moses Stuart on this passage are most important:---

‘"Forty and two months." After all the investigation which I have been able to make I feel compelled to believe that the writer refers to a literal and definite period, although not so exact that a single day, or even a few days, of variation from it would interfere with the object he has in view. It is certain that the invasion of the Romans lasted just about the length of the period named, until Jerusalem was taken. And although the city was not besieged so long, yet the metropolis in this case, as in innumerable others in both Testaments, appears to stand for the country of Judea. During the invasion of Judea by the Romans the faithful testimony of the persecuted witnesses for Christianity is continued, while at last they are slain. The patience of God in deferring so long the destruction of the persecutors is displayed by this, and especially His mercy in continuing to warn and reprove them. This is a natural, simple, and easy method of interpretation, to say the least, and one which, although it is not difficult to raise objections against it, I feel constrained to adopt.


Episode of the Two Witnesses.

CHAP. xi. 3-13.-‘And I will give [power] unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the Lord of the earth. And if any man willeth to hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man willeth to hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over the waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth [land] with every plague, as often as they will. And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the abyss shall make war against them, and overcome them, and kill them. And their dead body shall lie in the [broad] street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt upon the earth. And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.’

We now enter upon the investigation of one of the most difficult problems contained in Scripture, and one which has exercised, we may even say baffled, the research and ingenuity of critics and commentators up to the present hour. Who are the two witnesses? Are they mythical or historical persons? Are they symbols or actual realities? Do they represent principles or individuals? The conjectures, for they are nothing more, which have been propounded on this subject form one of the most curious chapters in the history of Biblical interpretation. So complete is the bewilderment, and so unsatisfactory the explanation, that many consider the problem insoluble, or conclude that the witnesses have never yet appeared, but belong to the unknown future.

It is one of the tests of a true theory of interpretation that it should be a good working hypothesis. When the right key to the Apocalypse is found it will open every lock. If this prophetic vision be, as we believe it to be, the reproduction and expansion of the prophecy on the Mount of Olives; and if we are to look for the dramatis personae who appear in its scenes within the limits of the period to which that prophecy extends, then the area of investigation becomes very restricted, and the probabilities of discovery proportionately increased. In the inquiry respecting the identity of the two witnesses we are shut up almost to a point of time. Some of the data are precise enough. It will be seen that the period of their prophesying is antecedent to the sounding of the seventh trumpet, that is, just previous to the catastrophe of Jerusalem. The scene of their prophesying also is not obscurely indicated: it is ‘the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.’ Nothwithstanding Alford’s objections, which appear to have really no weight, there can be no reasonable doubt that Jerusalem is the place intended, according to the general consent of almost all commentators and the obvious requirements of the passage. The question then is, What two persons living in the last days of the Jewish commonwealth and in the city of Jerusalem, can be found to answer the description of the two witnesses as given in the vision? That description is so marked and minute that their identification ought not to be difficult. There are seven lending characteristics:---

  1. They are witnesses of Christ.
  2. They are two in number.
  3. They are endowed with miraculous powers.
  4. They are symbolically represented by the two olive trees and two candlesticks seen in the vision of Zechariah. (Zech. iv.)
  5. They prophesy in sackcloth, i.e. their message is one of woe.
  6. They die a violent death in the city, and their dead bodies are treated with ignominy.
  7. After three days and a half they rise from the dead, and are taken up to heaven.

Before proceeding further in the inquiry it may be well to notice the following remarks of Dr. Alford on the subject, with which we cordially agree:---

‘The two witnesses, etc. No solution has ever been given of this portion of the prophecy. Either the two witnesses are literal,---two individual men,---or they are symbolical,---two individuals taken as the concentration of principles and characteristics, and this either in themselves, or as representing men who embodied those principles and characteristics. . . . The article toiz seems as if the two witnesses were well known, and distinct in their individuality. The dusin is essential to the prophecy, and is not to be explained away. No interpretation can be right which does not, either in individuals, or in characteristic lines of testimony, retain and bring out this dualism.’

On the statement ‘clothed in sackcloth’ (in token of need of repentance and of approaching judgment), Alford says:---

‘Certainly this portion of the prophetic description strongly favours the individual interpretation. For, first, it is hard to conceive how whole bodies of men and churches could be thus described; and, secondly, the principal symbolical interpreters have left out, or passed very slightly, this important particular. One does not see how bodies of men who lived like other men (their being the victims of persecution in another matter) can be said to have prophesied clothed in sackcloth.’

Again, on the fifth verse:---

‘This whole description is most difficult to apply on the allegorical interpretation; as it that which follows, and, as might have been expected, the allegorists halt and are perplexed exceedingly. The double announcement here seems to stamp the literal sense, and the ei tiz and dei autun apoktanqhnai are decisive against any mere national application of the words. Individuality could not be more strongly indicated.’

Again, on the miraculous powers ascribed to the witnesses:---

‘All this points out the spirit and power of Moses, combined with that of Elias. And, undoubtedly, it is in these two directions that we must look for the two witnesses, or lines of witnesses. The one impersonates the law, the other the prophets. The one reminds us of the prophet whom God should raise up like unto Moses; the other of Elias the prophet, who should come before the great and terrible day of the Lord.’

Entirely concurring in these observations, which state the problem fairly, and conclusively set aside any allegorical interpretation as incompatible with the plain requirements of the case, we now proceed to search for the two witnesses of Christ who testified for their Lord and sealed their testimony with their blood, in Jerusalem, in the last days of the Jewish polity, and we have no hesitation in naming St. James and St. Peter as the persons indicated.


1. St. James

We know as a matter of fact and of history that in the last days of Jerusalem there lived in that city a Christian teacher eminent for his sanctity, a faithful witness of Christ, endowed with the gifts of prophecy and miracles, who prophesied in sackcloth, and who sealed his testimony with his blood, being murdered in the streets of Jerusalem towards the closing days of the Jewish commonwealth. This was ‘James, a servant of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ.’

Let us see how this name fulfills the requirements of the problem. It is impossible to conceive a more adequate representation of the old prophets and the law of Moses than the Apostle James. That he was a faithful witness of Christ in Jerusalem is unquestionable. His habitual, if not his fixed, residence was there: his relation to the church of Jerusalem makes this all but certain. No man of that day had a better title to be called an Elijah. No silken courtier, no prophesier of smooth things, but ascetic in his habits, stern and bold in his denunciation of sin,---a man whose knees were callous, like those of a camel, with much prayer; whose unflinching integrity and primitive sanctity won for him even in that wicked city the appellation of the Just: was not this the manner of man to ‘torment them that dwelt in the land,’ and to answer to the description of a witness of Christ? We can still hear the echo of those stern rebukes which galled the proud and covetous men who ‘oppressed the hireling in his wages,’ and which predicted the swiftly-coming wrath which was now so near,---‘Go to, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming on. Ye heaped up treasures in the last days.’ Who can with greater probability be named as one of the two prophet witnesses of the last days than James of Jerusalem, ‘the Lord’s brother’?

Concerning the exact time and manner of the martyrdom of this witness there may be some doubt, but of the fact itself, and of its having taken place in the city of Jerusalem, there can be none. Thus far, at all events, St. James, in the manner of his life and of his death, answers with remarkable fitness to the description of the witnesses given in the Apocalypse.

The following observations by Dr. Schaff place in a striking light the life and work of St. James of Jerusalem, and are eminently appropriate to the subject under discussion:---

‘There was a necessity for the ministry of James. If any could win over the ancient covenant people it was he. It pleased God to set so high an example of the Old Testament piety in its purest form among the Jews, to make conversion to the Gospel, even at the eleventh hour, as easy as possible for them. But when they would not listen to the voice of this last messenger of peace, then was the measure of the divine patience exhausted, and the fearful and long-threatened judgment broke forth. And thus was the mission of James fulfilled. He was not to outlive the destruction of the Holy City and the temple. According to Hegesippus, he was martyred in the year before that event, viz. A.D. 69.’


2. St. Peter.


But who is the other witness? Here we seem to be left wholly in the dark. Stuart indeed suggests that we may regard the number two as merely symbolical; but this seems an unwarrantable supposition. Besides, as the Old Testament prototypes of the witnesses, ‘the two anointed ones’ of Zechariah’s vision, were two persons, Zerubabbel and Joshua, it is only congruous that the witnesses of the Apocalypse should be two persons. Undoubtedly the second witness, like the first, must be sought among the apostles. They were pre-eminently Christ’s witnesses, and possessed in the highest degree the miraculous endowments ascribed to the witnesses in the Apocalypse.

Now, what other apostle besides St. James had a recognised connection with the church of Jerusalem; dwelt statedly in that city; lived up to the eve of the dissolution of the Jewish polity; died a martyr’s death; and suffered in Jerusalem? It may seem to some a wild conjecture to suggest the name of St. Peter, as we venture to do; but it is by no means a random guess, and we solicit a candid consideration of the arguments in favour of the suggestion.

If it should appear that the habitual or fixed residence of St. Peter was in Jerusalem; that there was an intimate, if not an official, connection between him and the church of that city; and that St. Peter was in Jerusalem on the eve of the Jewish revolt: all these circumstances would lend great probability to the supposition that St. Peter was the other witness associated with St. James.

What, then, are the facts of the case as shown in the New Testament?

  1. We find St. Peter the most prominent person at the original founding of the church of Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.
  2. We find St. Peter summoned before the Sanhedrin as the representative of the Christians in Jerusalem (Acts iv. 8; v.29).
  3. When the church of Jerusalem was dispersed after the death of Stephen, St. Peter, with the other apostles, continued in Jerusalem (Acts viii. 1).
  4. St. Peter was delegated, along with St. John, to visit the Samaritans converted by the preaching of Philip. After fulfilling their mission they returned to Jerusalem (Acts viii. 25).
  5. When St. Peter was called by a divine revelation to Caesarea to preach the Gospel to Cornelius we find that he returned from Caesarea to Jerusalem (Acts xi. 2).
  6. It was in Jerusalem that St. Peter was apprehended and imprisoned by Herod Agrippa I. after the martyrdom of St. James ‘the brother of John’ (Acts xii. 3).
  7. On St. Paul’s conversion we are told that ‘he did not go up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before him’ (Gal i. 17): which implies that there were apostles residing in that city.
  8. Three years after his conversion St. Paul goes up to Jerusalem. For what purpose? ‘To see Peter;’ and he adds,---‘I abode with him fifteen days,’ implying that St. Peter’s stated abode was in Jerusalem. On this occasion St. Paul saw only one other apostle, viz. ‘James, the Lord’s brother’ (Gal. i. 18, 19).
  9. Fourteen years afterwards St. Paul again visits Jerusalem. Whom does he find there? ‘James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars’ (Gal. Ii. 1, 9).
  10. When Paul and Barnabas were deputed by the church of Antioch to go to Jerusalem to consult the apostles and elders respecting the imposition of the Jewish ritual upon the Gentile converts, what apostles did they find in Jerusalem on that occasion? St. Peter and St. James. (Acts xv. 2, 7, 13.)
  11. We find St. Peter and St. James taking a leading part in the discussion of the question referred to them by the church of Antioch; no other apostles being named as present. (Acts xv. 6-22.)
  12. That St. Peter and St. James had an official and recognised connection with the church of Jerusalem is presumable from the terms of the letter addressed to the Gentile churches in Antioch, etc. The document is styled ‘the decrees of the apostles and elders which are in Jerusalem’ [twn en Ierosolumoiz], implying their fixed abode there. (See Steiger on 1 Peter v. 31.)
  13. Judas and Silas, having delivered the epistle to the church of Antioch, returned to Jerusalem, ‘unto the apostles’ (Acts xv.33).
  14. We infer that St. Peter was associated with St. James in the church of Jerusalem from the fact that St. Peter, when miraculously brought out of prison, sent a special message to St. James and the brethren,---‘Go, shew these things unto James, and to the brethren’ (Acts xii. 17).
  15. St. Peter (in 1 Peter v. 13) sends a salutation from ‘his son Marcus.’ If this means John surnamed Mark, as is most probable, we know that his home was in Jerusalem, where his mother had a house. (Acts xii. 12.)
  16. If it shall appear (as we hope to show) that the Babylon of 1 Peter v. 13 is really Jerusalem, it will be a decisive proof that St. Peter’s habitual place of residence was in that city. The complete evidence, however, of the identity of Babylon with Jerusalem must be reserved until we come to the consideration of Rev. xvi. xvii.
  17. A comparison of the epistles of St. James and St. Peter shows that both are addressed to the same class of persons, viz. Jewish believers of the dispersion. (James i. 1; 1 Peter i. 1.) It is very suggestive, in connection with this inquiry, to find these two apostles dwelling in the same city, officially connected with the same church, associated in the same work, addressing the believing Jews in foreign lands, and bearing witness to the same great truths in advanced age, almost at the close of their life, and on the eve of that great catastrophe which buried the city, the temple, and the nation in one common ruin.
  18. Finally, it may be affirmed that, whether these probabilities amount to demonstration or not, no man could be named more answerable to the character of a witness for Christ in the last days of Jerusalem than St. Peter. Of course, we reject as unhistorical and incredible the lying legends of tradition which assign to him a bishopric and a martyrdom in Rome. The imposture has received only too respectful treatment at the hands of critics and commentators. It is more than time that it should be relegated to the limbo of fable, with other pious frauds of the same character. That St. Peter’s stated abode was in Jerusalem is, we think, proved. That he lived up to the verge of the Jewish revolt and war is evident from his epistles. That he died a martyr’s death we know from our Lord’s prediction; and in his case we may well say that the proverb would hold good, ‘It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.’ As we read his epistles, and view them as the testimony of one of the two apostolic witnesses of Christ in the doomed city, a new emphasis is imparted to his mysterious utterance which anticipates his own and his country’s fate, ‘The time is come when judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us!’ How appalling the description of the evil times and evil men, as he saw them in the last days, with his own eyes, in Jerusalem! While the last chapter might be the final testimony of the prophet-witness to the guilty land and city; the last warning-cry before the fiery storm of vengeance burst: ‘The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night,’ etc. (2 Pet. iii. 10).

Let us now see how far the requirements of the apocalyptic description are met by this identification of the two witnesses as St. James and St. Peter.

They are two in number: ‘Individual men, well known, and distinct in their individuality,’ as Alford truly says they must be. They are more than this,---they are fellow-servants and brethren in Christ, associated in the same work, the same church, the same city. The dualism, which Alford says is essential to the right interpretation, is perfect. Still more than this,---‘The one impersonates the law, the other the prophets.’ Who could be a better representative of the law than St. James? though he does not the less impersonate the prophets. St. James indeed strongly reminds us of Elias, who might have been his model; the stern ascetic, whose mighty achievements in prayer he commemorates in his epistle. St. Peter also, who may be called the founder of the Jewish Christian church, reminds us of Moses, the founder of the ancient Jewish church. What the old prophets were to Israel, St. James and St. Peter were to their own generation, and especially to Jerusalem, the chief scene of their life and labours. The period of their prophecy is also remarkable; it is for the space of a thousand two hundred and threescore days, or three years and a half, representing the duration of the Jewish war. They prophecy in sackcloth: that is, their message is of coming judgment; the denunciation of the wrath of God. They are likened to the two olive-trees and the two candlesticks seen in the vision of Zechariah: that is, they are ‘the two anointed ones’ on whom the unction of the Spirit has been poured, the feeders and lights of the Christian church, as Zerubbabel and Joshua were the feeders and lights of Israel in their day. They are endowed with miraculous powers, a characteristic which must not be explained away, and which will apply only to apostolic witnesses. They are to seal their testimony with their blood, and thus far we find St. James and St. Peter perfectly fulfil the conditions of the problem. We are sure that they were both martyrs of Christ, and that too in the last days of the Jewish commonwealth. As regards the place where St. James’s blood was shed we have credible historical evidence that it was in Jerusalem. But here the light fails us, and henceforth we are compelled to grope and feel our way. Of the death of St. Peter we possess no record; but the very silence is suggestive. That the two chief persons in the church of Jerusalem should fall victims to a suspicious government, or to popular fury, at the moment when revolution was on the point of breaking out, or had already broken out, is only too probable; that their dead bodies should lie unburied is in accordance with what actually occurred in many instances during that fearful period of lawless barbarity which preceded the fall of Jerusalem: but though we can go thus far we can go no farther. They martyred witnesses are raised again to life after three days and a half; they stand up on their feet, to the consternation of their enemies and murderers; they ascend to heaven in a cloud, in view of those who exulted over their dead bodies. If we are asked, Did this miracle take place with respect to the martyred witnesses of Christ, ST. James and St. Peter? we can only answer, We do not know. There is no evidence one way or another. We only know that it was a distinct promise of Christ that at His coming the living saints should be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. If such a thing might take place on the large scale of tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands, there is no difficulty in supposing that it might take place in the case of two individuals. If the ascension of Christ Himself is a credible fact, it is not easy to see why the ascension of His two witnesses may not also be a literal fact. But we do not dogmatise on the subject: the facts are before us, and must be left to make their own impression on the mind of the reader. It does not seem possible to resolve the whole into allegory. Where we have found so much already of substantial fact and credible history, it seems inconsistent and unreasonable to sublimate the conclusion into mere metaphor and symbol. We therefore quit the subject with this one observation: Four-fifths at least of the description in the Apocalypse suit the known history of St. James and St. Peter, and no one can allege that the remainder may not be equally appropriate.

There remains, however, one circumstance to which we have not adverted, viz. the enemy by whom the witnesses are slain. We read in ver. 7, ‘And when they shall have finished their testimony, the wild beast that cometh up from the abyss shall make war upon them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.’ This is the first mention made of a being that occupies a large space in the subsequent part of the Book of Revelation---‘the wild beast from the abyss.’ Here he is introduced proleptically, that is by anticipation. We shall have much to say respecting this portentous being in the sequel, and only now allude to the subject in order to note the fact that, whatever the symbol may mean, it points to a powerful and deadly antagonist to Christ and His people; and that to the agency of this monster the death of the two witnesses is ascribed.

The ascension of the martyred witnesses to heaven is immediately followed by an act of judgment inflicted on the guilty city in which their blood was shed:---

Chap. xi. 13.---‘And in the same hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and there were slain in the earthquake seven thousand men, and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.’

It is difficult to see how this can be regarded as merely symbolical. It is a remarkable fact that we find in Josephus an account of an incident which occurred during the Jewish war which in many respects bears a striking resemblance to the events described in this passage. On that fatal occasion, when the Idumean force was treacherously admitted into the city by the Zealots, a fearful earthquake took place, and in the same night a great massacre of the inhabitants of the city was perpetrated by these brigands. The statement of Josephus is as follows:---

‘During the night a terrific storm arose; the wind blew with tempestuous violence, and the rain fell in torrents; the lightnings flashed without intermission, accompanied by fearful peals of thunder, and the quaking earth resounded with mighty bellowings. The universe, convulsed to its very base, appeared fraught with the destruction of mankind, and it was easy to conjecture that these were portents of no trivial calamity.’

Taking advantage of the panic caused by the earthquake, the Idumeans, who were in league with the Zealots, who occupied the temple, succeeded in effecting an entrance into the city, when a fearful massacre ensued. ‘The outer court of the temple,’ says Josephus, ‘was inundated with blood, and the day dawned upon eight thousand five hundred dead.’

We do not quote this as the fulfilment of the scene in the vision, although it may be so; but to show how much the symbols resemble actual historical facts.

So ends the vision of the sixth seal with these impressive words, ‘The second woe is past; behold, the third woe cometh quickly.’



Catastrophe of the Trumpet Vision.

Chap. xi. 15-19.---‘And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdom of the world is become our Lord’s and his Christ’s, and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their thrones, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast [and art to come]; because thou hast taken thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thine anger came, and the time of the dead to be judged, and to give their reward to thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear thy name, both small and great; and to destroy the destroyers of the earth [land]. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of his covenant was seen in his temple: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and a great hail.’

We now reach the last of the trumpet visions, and, as in every other instance, we find that the vision culminates in a catastrophe---an act of judgment inflicted on the enemies of God; and, on the other hand, the triumph and felicity of His people. We have great pleasure in quoting here the remarks of Dean Alford, who correctly apprehends the plan and structure of the successive visions:---

‘All this,’ he says, ‘forms strong ground for inference that the three series of visions---the seals, trumpets, and vials---are not continuous, but resumptive; not indeed going over the same ground with one another, either of time or of occurrence, but each evolving something which was not in the former, and putting the course of God’s Providence in a different light. It is true that the seals involve the trumpets, the trumpets the vials; but it is not in mere temporal succession: the involution and inclusion are far deeper,’ etc.

This is an important admission, and had the learned critic carried the same principle of resumption into all the visions, it would have given tenfold value to his apocalyptic exposition. The principle itself is so legibly stamped upon the book that the marvel is how any one can miss it.

As for the symbols in the seventh trumpet-vision they are exceedingly clear, and almost self-evident. Observe, it is ‘the last trumpet’ which now sounds, and the events which follow are such as we might expect at so great a consummation.

The first result is the proclamation of the kingdom of God. This is the grand finale towards which, in one form or another all the action of every vision tends. It is the theme of all prophecy; the terminus ad quem of the gospels, the epistles, and the Apocalypse. The period of the coming of the kingdom is most distinctly marked throughout the New Testament; it is always associated with the ‘end of the age,’ or close of Jewish dispensation [sunteleia tou aiwnoz], the resurrection, and the judgment. The seventh trumpet is the signal that ‘the end’ is come, and that ‘the mystery of God’ is finished; it is therefore the time for the proclamation that the kingdom of God has come. Messiah reigns; ‘He hath put all enemies under his feet.’

We may here remark the singular consistency and harmony between representations so unconnected and widely dissimilar as they may appear, as the teachings of St. Paul and the visions of the Apocalypse. In the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul, speaking of this very period, ‘the end,’ and the sounding of ‘the last trumpet,’ intimates that it is the time when the kingdom of God shall come, and when Christ shall ‘deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father.’ This appears to be the very transaction represented in the scene before us. Messiah has overcome; He has put down all rule, and all authority, and all power, i.e. the hostile and malignant Jewish antagonism which has been the bitter enemy of His cause. But He has conquered the kingdom that His Father may be supreme. Accordingly the chorus of elders before the throne celebrate the resumption of the kingdom by the Father, saying, ‘We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, because thou hast taken thy great might, and hast reigned.’ This is a coincidence so subtle, and, if we may so say, undesigned, as to give the force of demonstration to the views which have been propounded.

The next result of the last trumpet is the declaration that the time of the judgment of the dead is come, bringing recompense to the people of God and retribution to His enemies (ver. 18).

We have here condensed into a few brief sentences the essence of the eschatology of the New Testament. The wrath that so often was declared to be coming is now come. It is the time of judgment for the dead: which supposes their resurrection; it is the time for the vindication of the martyrs of Christ, whose expostulation was heard in Rev. vi. 9, and for the rewarding of all the faithful, both small and great; and it is the time of retribution for the enemies of Christ, the destroyers of the land. In fact, the whole catastrophe represents a time and an act of judgment, and the scene of that judgment is the guilty land of Israel, and the time is ‘the end of the age,’ the termination of the Jewish economy.

The verse which we have just considered is in remarkable correspondence with the second Psalm. ‘The nations were angry’ is an allusion to ‘Why do the nations [eqnh] rage?’ They are represented as in revolt against the King of Zion, and are exhorted to make their submission, lest He be angry, and they perish in His wrath. In the vision His wrath is come, and the destroyers of the land perish in that wrath. How accurately all this represents the judgment on the guilty rulers and people of Israel it would be superfluous to point out. The scene is definitely localised by the expression thn ghn---that is to say, ‘the land of Israel.’

The symbolical representation in the last verse (ver. 19) seems susceptible of a satisfactory explanation. At the very moment of the doom of Jerusalem, when city and temple perish together,---when all the ceremonial and ritual of the earthly and transitory are swept away, the temple of God in heaven is opened, and the ark of His covenant is seen in the temple. That is as much as to say, the local and temporary passes, but is succeeded by the heavenly and eternal; the earthly and figurative is superseded by the spiritual and the true. We have in this representation a fine comment on the words of the Epistle to the Hebrews, ‘The way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing.’ But no sooner is the ‘first tabernacle’ swept away than the temple in heaven is opened, and even the sacred ark of the covenant, the shrine of the divine Presence and Glory, is revealed to the eyes of men. Access into the holiest of all is no longer forbidden, and ‘we have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.’

So, amidst portentous manifestations of wrath and judgment on the wicked,---‘lightnings, and thunders, and earthquake, and hail,’ the recognised concomitants in the Old Testament of the divine presence and power,---the vision of the seven trumpets closes.

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