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Title: Notes on the New Testament Explanatory and Practical
Author: Barnes, Albert
Language: English
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    Drawn by S. Bough                     Engraved by T. Flemming


                  THE PORT OF SCALA & TOWN OF PATINO

  {i}                            NOTES
                                ON THE
                             NEW TESTAMENT

                       EXPLANATORY AND PRACTICAL

                             ALBERT BARNES

                         ENLARGED TYPE EDITION

                               EDITED BY
                           ROBERT FREW, D.D.

                        A SERIES OF ENGRAVINGS


                           BAKER BOOK HOUSE
                       GRAND RAPIDS 6, MICHIGAN

  {ii}               Photo-Lithoprint Reproduction
                        EDWARDS BROTHERS, INC.
                      ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN, U.S.A.

  {iii}                        CONTENTS.

  AUTHOR’S PREFACE                                                 v‒x



  Author’s qualifications for Apocalyptic
    exposition――Author’s plan in preparing his Commentary,
    affords assurance of his sobriety as an interpreter,
    and rebukes the scorn of hostile critics――Peculiarities
    of this edition,                                           xi‒xiii

                          YEAR-DAY PRINCIPLE.

  Importance of the question regarding――Protestant theory
    of Apocalyptic interpretation stands or falls with
    it――Rival schemes, nature and origin of――Advocates on
    both sides――Views of Dr. Davidson and Professor Stuart,   xiii‒xiv


  1. _Concurrent Testimony of Protestant
    Interpreters_――Objection of Dr. Davidson――Reply――Use
    which the Reformers made of the Apocalypse――Views of
    Walter Brute――Views of Luther,                             xiv‒xvi

  2. _Symbolical Character of the Predictions in Daniel
    and the Apocalypse_――Laws of symbolic propriety――Dr.
    Maitland’s famous objection, that a day is no symbol
    for a year――General principles on which Year-day view
    rests――Ground occupied by Mede――Principle of Bush and
    Faber――True basis――View of Birks and Elliott,               xvi‒xx

  3. _Indications of the Year-day Principle in
    Scripture_――The case of the spies in the book of
    Numbers――Ezekiel’s typical siege――Objection of Professor
    Stuart――Professor Bush’s reply――Objection of Bishop
    Horsley――Objections from Isaiah, ch. xx. 2, 3――Daniel’s
    seventy weeks――Diverse views of opponents――Outlines of
    Discussion,                                                xx‒xxiv

  4. _Exigency of Passages in which Prophetic Times
    occur_――Saracenic woe in Rev. ix. 5‒10――Turkish woe
    in Rev. ix. 15――The forty-two months of the Gentiles
    in ch. xi. 2――The times of the two witnesses in ch.
    xi. 3‒11――The times of the woman in the wilderness,
    in ch. xii. 6‒14――Forty-two months of the Beast, in
    ch. xiii. 5――Danielic periods――Objections alleged,
    novelty of the Year-day principle,                     xxiv‒xxviii

  AUTHOR’S INTRODUCTION:――SECT. I. The Writer of the
    Book of Revelation.――SECT. II. The Time of Writing
    the Apocalypse.――SECT. III. The Place where the Book
    was written.――SECT. IV. The Nature and Design of the
    Book.――SECT. V. The Plan of the Apocalypse,                xxix‒lv

  ANALYSIS,                                                   lvi‒lxii

  THE BOOK OF REVELATION,                                       31‒464

  {iv}                    LIST OF ENGRAVINGS.


  The Site of Ephesus, from the Theatre,                            60

  The Castle and Port of Smyrna,                                    70

  Ruins of the Church of St. John, Pergamos,                        74

  Thyatira――General View,                                           81

  Sardis――Remains of Ancient Temple, &c.,                           88

  Philadelphia――General View,                                       92

  Petrified Cascades at Hierapolis,                         Colos. 285

  The Ruins of Laodicea,                                            97

  Map of N. Italy, 4to――Scene of the Third Trumpet and
    Third Vial,                                               203, 361

                   _Engravings Printed in the Text._

  Egyptian Calf-idol,                                         Rev. 115

  Human-headed Winged Lion; from the Nineveh Sculptures,      Rev. 116

  Eagle-headed Winged Lion; from the Nineveh Sculptures,      Rev. 117

  Medal of the Emperor Nerva wearing Crown,                   Rev. 145

  Medal of the Emperor Valentinian wearing Diadem,            Rev. 145

  Symbolic Bas-reliefs from a Roman Triumphal Arch,           Rev. 146

  Emblem of a Roman Procurator,                               Rev. 154

  Symbolical Locust, according to Elliott,                    Rev. 218

  Standard-bearer of a Turkish Pasha,                         Rev. 237

  Roman Standard, from Montfauçon,                            Rev. 305

  Medal of Pope Leo XII.,                                     Rev. 384

  {v}                          PREFACE.

When I began the preparation of these “Notes” on the New Testament,
now more than twenty years ago, I did not design to extend the work
beyond the Gospels, and contemplated only simple and brief explanations
of that portion of the New Testament, for the use of Sunday-school
teachers and Bible classes. The work originated in the belief that
Notes of that character were greatly needed, and that the older
commentaries, having been written for a different purpose, and being,
on account of their size and expense, beyond the reach of most
teachers of Sunday-schools, did not meet the demand which had grown
up from the establishment of such schools. These Notes, contrary to my
original plan and expectation, have been extended to eleven volumes,
and embrace the whole of the New Testament.

Having, at the time when these Notes were commenced, as I have ever
had since, the charge of a large congregation, I had no leisure that
I could properly devote to these studies, except the early hours of
the morning; and I adopted the resolution――a resolution which has since
been invariably adhered to――to cease writing precisely at nine o’clock
in the morning. The habit of writing in this manner, once formed, was
easily continued; and having been thus continued, I find myself at
the end of the New Testament. Perhaps this personal allusion would not
be proper, except to show that I have not intended, in these literary
labours, to infringe on the proper duties of the pastoral office, or
to take time for these pursuits on which there was a claim for other
purposes. This allusion may perhaps also be of use to my younger
brethren in the ministry, by showing them that much may be accomplished
by the habit of early rising, and by a diligent use of the early
morning hours. In my own case, these Notes on the New Testament, and
also the Notes on the books of Isaiah, Job, and Daniel, extending in
all to sixteen volumes, have all been written before nine o’clock in
the morning, and are the fruit of the habit of rising between four
and five o’clock. I do not know that by this practice I have neglected
any duty which I should otherwise have performed; and on the score of
health, and, I may add, of profit in the contemplation of a portion
of divine truth at the beginning of each day, the habit has been of
inestimable advantage to me.

It was not my original intention to prepare Notes on the book of
Revelation, nor did I entertain the design of doing it until I _came
up_ to it in the regular course of my studies. Having written on all
the other portions of the New Testament, there remained only this book
to {vi} complete an entire commentary on this part of the Bible. That
I have endeavoured to explain the book at all is to be traced to the
habit which I had formed of spending the early hours of the day in the
study of the sacred Scriptures. That habit, continued, has carried me
forward until I have reached the end of the New Testament.

It may be of some use to those who peruse this volume, and it is proper
in itself, that I should make a brief statement of the manner in which
I have prepared these Notes, and of the method of interpretation on
which I have proceeded; for the result which has been reached has not
been the effect of any preconceived theory or plan, and if in the
result I coincide in any degree with the common method of interpreting
the volume, the fact may be regarded as the testimony of another
witness――however unimportant the testimony may be in itself――to the
correctness of that method of interpretation.

Up to the time of commencing the exposition of this book, I had no
theory in my own mind as to its meaning. I may add, that I had a
prevailing belief that it could _not_ be explained, and that all
attempts to explain it must be visionary and futile. With the exception
of the work of the Rev. George Croly,[1] which I read more than twenty
years ago, and which I had never desired to read again, I had perused
no commentary on this book until that of Professor Stuart was published,
in 1845. In my regular reading of the Bible in the family and in
private, I had perused the book often. I read it, as I suppose most
others do, from a sense of duty, yet admiring the beauty of its imagery,
the sublimity of its descriptions, and its high poetic character;
and though to me wholly unintelligible in the main, finding so many
striking detached passages that were intelligible and practical in
their nature, as to make it on the whole attractive and profitable,
but with no definitely formed idea as to its meaning as a whole, and
with a vague general feeling that all the interpretations which had
been proposed were wild, fanciful, and visionary.

In this state of things, the utmost that I contemplated when I began
to write on it, was to explain, as well as I could, the meaning of the
language and the symbols, without attempting to apply the explanation
to the events of past history, or to inquire what is to occur hereafter.
I supposed that I might venture to do this without encountering the
danger of adding another vain attempt to explain a book so full of
mysteries, or of propounding a theory of interpretation to be set aside,
perhaps, by the next person that should prepare a commentary on the

{vii} Beginning with this aim, I found myself soon insensibly inquiring
whether, in the events which succeeded the time when the book was
written, there were not historical facts of which the emblems employed
would be natural and proper symbols, on the supposition that it was the
divine intention, in disclosing these visions, to refer to them; and
whether, therefore, there might not be a natural and proper application
of the symbols to these events. In this way I examined the language
used in reference to the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and
sixth seals, with no anticipation or plan in examining one as to what
would be disclosed under the next seal, and in this way also I examined
ultimately the whole book: proceeding step by step in ascertaining the
meaning of each word and symbol as it occurred, but with no theoretic
anticipation as to what was to follow. To my own surprise I found,
chiefly in Gibbon’s _Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_, a series
of events recorded, such as seemed to me to correspond, to a great
extent, with the series of symbols found in the Apocalypse. The symbols
were such as it might be supposed _would be used_, on the supposition
that they were intended to refer to these events; and the language of
Mr. Gibbon was often such as _he would have used_, on the supposition
that he had designed to prepare a commentary on the symbols employed
by John. It was such, in fact, that if it had been found in a Christian
writer, professedly writing a commentary on the book of Revelation,
it would have been regarded by infidels as a designed attempt to force
history to utter a language that should conform to a predetermined
theory in expounding a book full of symbols. So remarkable have these
coincidences appeared to me in the course of this exposition, that it
has almost seemed as if he had designed to write a commentary on some
portions of this book; and I have found it difficult to doubt that that
distinguished historian was raised up by an overruling Providence to
make a record of those events which would ever afterwards be regarded
as an impartial and unprejudiced statement of the evidences of the
fulfilment of prophecy. The historian of the _Decline and Fall of
the Roman Empire_ had no belief in the divine origin of Christianity,
but he brought to the performance of his work learning and talent
such as few Christian scholars have possessed. He is always patient
in his investigations; learned and scholar-like in his references;
comprehensive in his groupings, and sufficiently minute in his details;
unbiassed in his statements of facts, and usually cool and candid
in his estimates of the causes of the events which he records; and,
excepting his philosophical speculations, and his sneers at everything,
he has probably written the most candid and impartial history of the
times that succeeded the introduction of Christianity that the world
possesses; and even after all that has been written since his time,
his work contains the best ecclesiastical history that is to be found.
Whatever use of it can be made in {viii} explaining and confirming the
prophecies, will be regarded by the world as impartial and fair; for it
was a result which he least of all contemplated, that he would ever be
regarded as an expounder of the prophecies in the Bible, or be referred
to as vindicating their truth.

It was in this manner that these Notes on the Book of Revelation
assumed the form in which they are now given to the world; and it
surprises me――and, under this view of the matter, may occasion some
surprise to my readers――to find how nearly the views coincide with
those taken by the great body of Protestant interpreters. And perhaps
this fact may be regarded as furnishing some evidence that, after
all the obscurity attending it, there is a natural and obvious
interpretation of which the book is susceptible. Whatever may be the
value or the correctness of the views expressed in this volume, the
work is the result of no previously-formed theory. That it will be
satisfactory to all, I have no reason to expect; that it may be useful
to some, I would hope; that it may be regarded by many as only adding
another vain and futile effort to explain a book which defies all
attempts to elucidate its meaning, I have too much reason, judging from
the labours of those who have gone before me, to fear. But as it is,
I commit it to the judgment of a candid Christian public, and to the
blessing of Him who alone can make any attempt to explain his Word a
means of diffusing the knowledge of truth.

I cannot conceal the fact that I dismiss it, and send it forth to
the world, as the last volume on the New Testament, with deep emotion.
After more than twenty years of study on the New Testament, I am
reminded that I am no longer a young man; and that, as I close this
work, so all my work on earth must at no distant period be ended. I
am sensible that he incurs no slight responsibility who publishes a
commentary on the Bible; and I especially feel this now in view of the
fact――so unexpected to me when I began these labours――that I have been
permitted in our own country to send forth more than two hundred and
fifty thousand volumes of commentary on the New Testament, and that
probably a greater number has been published abroad. That there are
many imperfections in these Notes no one can feel more sensibly than I
do; but the views which I have expressed are those which seem to me to
be in accordance with the Bible, and I send the last volume forth with
the deep conviction that these volumes contain the truth as God has
revealed it, and as he will bless it to the extension of his church
in the world. I have no apprehension that the sentiments which I have
expressed will corrupt the morals, or destroy the peace, or ruin the
souls of those who may read these volumes; and I trust that they may do
something to diffuse abroad a correct knowledge of that blessed gospel
on which the interests of the church, the welfare of our country,
and the happiness of the world {ix} depend. In language which I
substantially used in publishing the revised edition of the volumes of
the Gospels (Preface to the Seventeenth Edition, 1840), I can now say,
“I cannot be insensible to the fact that, in the form in which these
volumes now go forth to the public, I may continue, though dead, to
speak to the living; and that the work may be exerting an influence
on immortal minds when I am in the eternal world. I need not say that,
while I am sensitive to this consideration, I earnestly desire it.
There are no sentiments in these volumes which I wish to alter; none
that I do not believe to be truths that will abide the investigations
of the great day; none of which I am ashamed. That I may be in error,
I know; that a better work than this might be prepared by a more gifted
mind, and a purer heart, I know. But the truths here set forth are, I
am persuaded, those which are destined to abide, and to be the means of
saving millions of souls, and ultimately of converting this whole world
to God. That these volumes may have a part in this great work is my
earnest prayer; and with many thanks to the public for their favours,
and to God, the great source of all blessing, I send them forth,
committing them to His care, and leaving them to live or die, to be
remembered or forgotten, to be used by the present generation and the
next, or to be superseded by other works, as shall be in accordance
with his will, and as he shall see to be for his glory.”

                                                      ALBERT BARNES.

          _March 26, 1851_.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The works which I have had most constantly before me, and from which
I have derived most aid in the preparation of these Notes, are the
following. They are enumerated here, as some of them are frequently
quoted, to save the necessity of a frequent reference to the _Editions_
in the Notes:――

  A Commentary on the Apocalypse. By Moses Stuart, Professor of
  Sacred Literature in the Theological Seminary at Andover, Mass.
  Andover, 1845.

  Horæ Apocalypticæ; or, a Commentary on the Apocalypse, Critical
  and Historical. By the Rev. E. B. Elliott, A.M., late Vicar of
  Tuxford, and Fellow of Trinity College. Third Edition. London,

  The Works of Nathaniel Lardner, D.D. In ten volumes. London, 1829.

  The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. By
  Edward Gibbon, Esq. Fifth American, from the last London edition.
  Complete in four volumes. New York, J. and J. Harper, 1829.

  History of Europe. By Archibald Alison, F.R.S.E. New York, Harper
  Brothers, 1843.

  An Exposition of the Apocalypse. By David N. Lord. Harpers, 1847.

  {x} Hyponoia; or, Thoughts on a Spiritual Understanding of the
  Apocalypse, a Book of Revelation. New York, Leavitt, Trow, and
  Co., 1844.

  The Family Expositor. By Philip Doddridge, D.D. London, 1831.

  Ἀνάκρισις Apocalypsios Joannis Apostoli, etc. Auctore Campegio
  Vitringa, Theol. et Hist. Professore. Amsterdam, 1629.

  Kurtzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuch zum Neuen Testament. Von
  Dr. W. M. L. De Wette. Leipzig, 1847.

  Rosenmüller, Scholia in Novum Testamentum.

  Dissertations on the Opening of the Sealed Book. Montreal, 1848.

  Two New Arguments in Vindication of the Genuineness and
  Authenticity of the Revelation of St. John. By John Collyer
  Knight. London, 1842.

  The Seventh Vial: being an Exposition of the Apocalypse, and in
  particular of the pouring out of the Seventh Vial, with special
  reference to the present Revolution in Europe. London, 1848.

  Die Offenbarung des Heiligen Joannes. Von G. W. Hengstenberg.
  Berlin, 1850.

  The Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller. Newhaven, 1825.

  Novum Testamentum. Editio Koppiana, 1821.

  Dissertation on the Prophecies. By Thomas Newton, D.D.
  London, 1832.

  The Apocalypse of St. John. By the Rev. George Croly, A.M.
  Philadelphia, 1827.

  The Signs of the Times, as denoted by the fulfilment of Historical
  Predictions, from the Babylonian Captivity to the present time. By
  Alexander Keith, D.D. Eighth Edition. Edinburgh, 1847.

  Christ’s Second Coming: will it be Pre-millennial? By the
  Rev. David Brown, A.M., St. James’s Free Church, Glasgow. New
  York, 1851.

  Apocalyptical Key. An extraordinary Discourse on the Rise and
  Fall of the Papacy. By Robert Fleming, V.D.M. New York, American
  Protestant Society.

  A Treatise on the Millennium. By George Bush, A.M. New York, 1832.

  A Key to the Book of Revelation. By James M’Donald, minister
  of the Presbyterian Church, Jamaica, L. I. Second Edition. New
  London, 1848.

  Das Alte und Neue Morgenland. Rosenmüller. Leipzig, 1820.

  The Season and Time; or, an Exposition of the Prophecies which
  relate to the two periods subsequent to the 1200 years now
  recently expired, being the time of the Seventh Trumpet, &c. By
  W. Ettrick, A.M. London, 1816.

  Einleitung in das Neue Testament. Von Johann Gottfried Eichhorn.
  Leipzig, 1811.

  For a very full view of the history of the interpretation of
  the Apocalypse, and of the works that have been written on it,
  the reader is referred to Elliott’s Horæ Apocalypticæ, vol. iv.
  pp. 307‒487, and Prof. Stuart, vol. i. pp. 450‒475. See, for a
  condensed view, Editor’s Preface.

  {xi}                     EDITOR’S PREFACE.

                          YEAR-DAY PRINCIPLE.

Professor Bush, in the _Hierophant_ for January, 1845, at the close
of a review of Barnes on the Hebrews, thus wrote:――“We sincerely hope
Mr. Barnes may be enabled to accomplish his plan to its very ultimatum,
and furnish a commentary of equal merit on the remaining books of
the New Testament; with the exception, however, of the Apocalypse, to
which, we think, his rigid Calvinian austerity of reason is not so well
adapted; and which, we presume to think, would fare better under our
own reputed fanciful and allegorical pen.”[2] The indefatigable author
_has_ lived to accomplish his plan, and has ventured to include within
it the mysterious prophecy, for the elucidation of which the reviewer
imagined the severe character of his mind disqualified him. Many
will think the supposed disqualification a foremost requisite in an
Apocalyptic commentator, inasmuch as the Apocalypse has been too long
interpreted on fanciful and allegorical principles; and it is now “high
time for principle to take the place of fancy, for exegetical proof
to thrust out assumption.”[3] The advocates of what has been called
the Protestant Historic Scheme of Interpretation, have been supposed
peculiarly liable to delusions of this nature. It is, therefore,
gratifying to find that this new defender of that scheme has been
distinguished by a “Calvinian austerity of reason,” which may help to
preserve both him and his readers from being in like manner led astray,
and at the same time secure a more respectful tone from critics who
have espoused opposite views. Bush, who has himself so ably defended
the Protestant scheme on the other side of the Atlantic, now that he
finds Barnes on the same ground, will think that the spirit of severe
logic and searching inquiry which he has brought with him to the
contest, render him all the more valuable an associate. In examining
the former volumes of Mr. Barnes, we found it was no part of his
system of interpretation to admit typical and mystical senses where
the literal one could at all be adopted. We had to complain that his
tendency was too strong in the opposite direction.[4]

The plan which the author tells us he adopted in preparing his
commentary, is a singular illustration of his judgment and caution; and
therefore affords another assurance of his sobriety as an interpreter
of the symbols of John. Up to the time of commencing the exposition
of this book, he tells us he had no theory in his mind as to its
meaning. The utmost he contemplated, when he began, was to explain the
meaning of its language and symbols, without attempting to apply that
explanation to historical events. But, to his own surprise, he found
a series of events, recorded chiefly in Gibbon, such as seemed to
correspond, to a great extent, with the series of symbols found in the
Apocalypse. Farther examination exhibited this correspondence still
{xii} more strikingly; and the result was, that his views ultimately
took the shape of those given by the great body of Protestant
interpreters. He therefore justly claims to be another and independent
witness in favour of the common interpretation.[5] These statements,
while they cannot but increase the reader’s confidence in the guide who
now offers to lead him through the mazes of the Apocalypse, ought also
to mitigate the scorn with which some have affected to regard _all_
expositions of this school――speaking of them as “hariolations” and
“surmises,” which set the reader “afloat upon a boundless ocean of
conjecture and fancy, without rudder or compass.”[6] It is easy to say
such things, and they are therefore too often said by the followers
of Eichhorn and Stuart; but accurate inquiry into the non-Protestant
scheme will speedily convince anyone that the hariolations do by no
means all belong to one side. We venture to say, that nothing so much
deserving the name occurs in the whole series of Protestant expositions,
as the absurd and unfounded guesses of the last-named writer regarding
the witnesses in chap. xi., and the explanation of chap. xvii. 8, by an
unfounded heathen rumour regarding the reappearance of Nero after he
had been slain.[7]

With this edition of the Notes on the Book of Revelation we have not
found it expedient to present any accompanying or supplementary notes.
The author’s text has been carefully revised, and many errors which had
crept both into the American and English editions have been corrected.
On certain points we could have wished a little more fulness. The
important question of the date of the book; the history of apocalyptic
interpretation; and the principles of prophetic interpretation,
particularly as regards designations of time, are matters lying at the
very foundation of just views of the Apocalypse. The first of these
points has, indeed, a page or two allotted to it in the “Introduction,”
and is also incidentally noticed in the commentary; the second is
less or more touched on in the exposition of difficult passages; but
the last is almost entirely overlooked, on the ground that the author
intends a full discussion of the subject in his forthcoming volume
on Daniel. We somewhat regret this, because of the importance of the
Year-day principle itself, and because every reader of the Notes on the
Book of Revelation may not possess, or have immediately at hand, those
on Daniel. We have no doubt that the author’s defence of this part of
the Protestant citadel will prove one of the most able that has yet
been given. It will, beyond a doubt, avoid the errors of those who
have weakened the argument by insisting on points which, at best, are
uncertain; and place the theory on a basis sufficiently broad to admit
of rational and hopeful maintaining of it, in spite of numerous learned
and able assaults. In the meantime, that our edition may not be without
something, however brief and imperfect, on a point which on {xiii} all
hands is allowed to be fundamental, we purpose to devote the following
pages to an examination of the Year-day principle.

The importance of the question on which we now enter can scarcely be
overestimated. If the prophetic periods of Daniel and John; if the
famous 1260 days, the time, times, and the dividing of time, are to be
understood literally, and explained of the limited term of three and
a half years, during the days of Nero and Antiochus Epiphanes, or days
yet to come, towards the consummation and era of the second advent,[8]
then clearly the ideas that have been long current among Protestants
are untenable. There is no figuration of Papal Rome, in the Apocalypse
or in Daniel, existing through long and dreary ages, wearing out the
saints of the Most High. There are no witnesses during that period
of gloom ever and anon lifting up their testimony against the grand
apostasy. There is no cheering assurance, derived from an infallible
oracle, that the Papal system is doomed, that its days are numbered,
and must now be drawing to a close. All the arguments against this
“mystery of iniquity,” derived from Daniel and John, must be abandoned;
and Protestants must, with shame, retire from a field so long and so
successfully occupied by them, whilst the Romanists triumph in their
overthrow. “If,” says Bush in his animadversions on Stuart, “your
hypothesis be correct, not only has nearly the whole Christian world
been led astray for ages by a mere _ignis fatuus_ of false hermeneutics,
but the church is at once cut loose from every chronological mooring,
and set adrift in the open sea, without the vestige of a beacon,
lighthouse, or star, by which to determine her bearings or distances
from the desired millennial haven to which she was tending. She is
deprived of the means of taking a single celestial observation, and
has no possible data for ascertaining, in the remotest degree, how
far she is yet floating from the Ararat of promise. Upon your theory
the Christian world has no distinct intimation given it as to the date
of the downfall of the Roman despotism, civil or ecclesiastical, of
Mahometanism, or of Paganism; no clue to the time of the conversion of
the Jews or of the introduction of the millennium. On all these points
the church is shut up to a blank and dreary uncertainty, which, though
it may not extinguish, will tend greatly to diminish the ardour of her
present zeal in the conversion of the world.”[9] Strange, indeed, it
must be regarded, that while the Old Testament church was cheered by
her chronological promises or predictions, marking her progress as
she floated down the stream of time, and indicating, at any stage of
it, how far she was yet distant from the happy times of deliverance
that awaited her, everything of this kind should be systematically
excluded from the sublime predictions of the New Dispensation. Strange,
too, that the grand symbols of Daniel and John――that their glorious
predictions, confessedly allowed to reach onwards to the consummation
of all things, should embrace a brief chapter in the lives of such men
as Nero or Antiochus, and give no notice of that gigantic apostasy
which for ages has cast its dark {xiv} shadow over Christendom, and
no comfort to a sorrowing church walking amid the gloom. Yet if the
Protestant exposition of Daniel and the Apocalypse has proceeded on
false principles, the sooner a return is made to the right path the
better, however humbling may be the confession of error, and grieving
the loss of imagined advantage in our controversy with Rome. Truth is
great, and must prevail. None of her friends would assail even the
worst cause with weapons she did not approve.

On both sides of this question, the importance of which has been set
forth in the preceding paragraph, we find men of the very highest
character for learning and skill in biblical science. “On one side
Maitland and Burgh are the most able; on the other Faber, Elliott, and
Birks. In America the indefatigable Stuart has taken up the same ground
as the former, and has met with a formidable antagonist in Bush.” To
the first class――the literal day class, namely――must now be added the
name of the author who has thus specified the chief combatants――Dr.
Davidson of the Lancashire Independent College. He has taken up the
subject in the third volume of his _Introduction to the New Testament_,
and discussed it with all the learning and ability which his high
position among English critics might have led us to anticipate. “_Si
Pergama dextra defendi possent, etiam hoc defensa fuissent._” We think
we can discern in his able defence some symptoms of progress in the
controversy. The line which Dr. Davidson pursues is essentially
different in many respects from that of Professor Stuart. The American
professor insists on many points which the English divine seems to have

Everything like dogmatism in the discussion of a question so
circumstanced is of course to be carefully avoided. There are
difficulties on both sides, of which no satisfactory solution has
as yet been given. Our aim shall be to ascertain, if possible, on
which side the greater amount of truth lies. While avowing a decided
leaning to the Year-day theory, we shall endeavour to do justice to
the arguments of its opponents, and shall frankly allow it whenever
the arguments of its supporters seem to us weak or dubious.

First, then, it must be allowed that the concurrent testimony of the
great mass of Protestant interpreters, the nearly unanimous voice of
the Protestant church, furnishes a _prestige_ in favour of the Year-day
principle. If it do not supply an argument it creates a favourable
feeling, which is worthy of a better name than “prejudice.” It is a
prepossession, but a prepossession founded on perfectly just ground,
namely, that wherever men of learning and research, as well as
Christian people at large, have long and tenaciously held any
particular view, there must be something in that view that has a better
foundation than its assailants are willing to allow. This is certainly
very different from “calling up the names of illustrious dead, as the
infallible expounders of the Bible;” and from “giving our language the
semblance of {xv} assuming that, to differ from current opinions, is to
disown Protestantism and favour Romanism.” That there is something in
this presumptive argument, which we seek to build on Protestant opinion,
is obvious from the anxiety that is manifested to make out that the
principle or theory in question has, in reality, no connection with
the reformers and the Protestant cause. “The statement,” it is said,
“that certain applications of the Apocalypse caused or promoted the
Reformation is wholly incorrect. It is absolutely false. _A spiritual
apprehension of the simple gospel_, accompanied with the power of the
Spirit, led these illustrious men to separate from the Romish church.
And then it should be remembered, by those who write like Bush of
the reformers and the ‘Protestant’ interpretation, that not one of
the reformers understood a _day_ in prophecy to mean a _year_. To
talk of the reformers, therefore, in connection with this so-called
‘Protestant’ notion, is worse than trifling. It conveys a false
impression.”[11] Two questions are involved here:――How far the
reformers made use of the Apocalypse in their controversy with Papists?
and whether the Year-day principle may be regarded as a “Protestant”
notion? The fact is, in regard to the first question, that the
Waldenses and Wickliffites, previous to the Reformation, drew their
weapons from the Apocalypse; and if we do not present references or
quotations to prove it, it is just because the matter seems too plain
to admit of any doubt. One testimony shall suffice, namely, that of
Walter Brute, A.D. 1391. According to Foxe, the martyrologist, he was
“a layman, and learned and brought up in the University of Oxford,
being there a graduate.” He was accused of saying, among sundry
other things, that the _Pope_ is Antichrist, and a seducer of the
people. Being called to answer, he put in, first, certain more brief
“exhibits;” then another declaration, more ample, explaining and
setting forth the grounds of his opinion. _His defence was grounded
very mainly on the Apocalyptic prophecy._ For he at once bases his
justification on the fact, as demonstrable, of the _pope_ answering
alike to _the chief of the false Christs_, prophesied of by Christ as
to come in his name; to the _man of sin_, prophesied of by St. Paul;
and to both the _first beast_ and _beast with the two lamb-like horns_,
in the Apocalypse; _the city of Papal Rome_, also answering similarly
to the Apocalyptic _Babylon_.[12] Indeed, we may learn much as to how
far the Apocalypse had, even in these times, come to be used against
the Church of Rome, from the fears of the Papists themselves, which
prompted the fifth council of Lateran authoritatively to prohibit all
writing or preaching on the subject of Antichrist, and all speculation
regarding the time of the expected evils――“_Tempus quoque prefixum
futurorum malorum vel Antichristi adventum, aut certum diem judicii
predicare vel asserere nequaquan presumant._”[13] As to the reformers,
properly so called, they appear in the field next, using the same
weapons with increasing skill and energy, as the two great prophecies
whence they were drawn came to be better understood. The pages of
Milner, D’Aubigné, or other historians of the period, abound with
evidence; and Mr. Barnes has collected part of it under chap. x. 6,
to which the reader is referred. Luther and his German associates seem
to have drawn more upon Daniel, while in Switzerland and England the
Apocalypse, for the most part, was appealed to. We might multiply
proofs, were it necessary, from the writings of _Leo Juda_, {xvi}
_Bullinger_, _Latimer_, _Bale_, _Foxe_, &c. It is enough to refer
to the very copious extracts given in the last volume of the
_Horæ Apocalypticæ_.[14] As to the other question, namely, whether
the Year-day principle can be regarded as a “Protestant” notion,
opportunity will be found for the consideration of it when we come to
consider the objection against that principle, drawn from its alleged
novelty. Meantime we shall only remark, that while Luther certainly
had arrived at no definite conclusions regarding the Apocalyptic
designations of time, his mind nevertheless was in search of some
principle by which he should be enabled to extend the times beyond the
literal sense. Nor need it in any way surprise us, that definite ideas
on this subject should only have been obtained when the notion became
settled and prevalent that the Popedom was the Apocalyptic Antichrist,
and the interpretation of the times on a scale suited to the duration
of that system became, in consequence, imperative.

2. The next consideration we advance is, the _symbolical character_
of most of the predictions in which the disputed designations of time
occur. In Daniel and the Apocalypse, things pictured to the eye are the
signs or representations of a hidden sense intended to be conveyed by
them. Now, it seems reasonable to conclude, that in this symbolic or
picture writing the times should be hidden under some veil, as well as
the associated events. Nay, one would imagine that these were just the
very things that specially required concealment, in accordance with
the design of the predictions, especially such as relate to the future
deliverance and glory of the church; which is, that the saints should
understand as much as may sustain their hope, yet in a way of diligence,
watchfulness, and prayer. It is said, indeed, that symbolical times are
not essential to this partial concealment. It may be so, yet they are
doubtless fitted to serve this purpose; and there cannot but appear
a manifest impropriety in associating symbolical events with literal
or natural times. Why the veil in the one case and not in the other?
Is not this system of mixing the symbolic and the literal fitted to
mislead? and, according to the theory of Maitland and others, has it
not, in point of fact, led astray the greater part of the Protestant
world? Is it wonderful, that when times are found “imbedded in symbols,”
a symbolical character should have been attached to them too. Let it
be observed also, that in cases of what has been called _miniature
symbolization_, as where an empire is represented by a man or a beast,
long periods, such as might very well be attributed to an empire, or to
any great political or ecclesiastical system, could not, in consistency
with symbolical propriety, have been expressed otherwise than we
find them. On the supposition that long periods were designed to be
expressed, they must necessarily have been symbolized by shorter ones.
“Nothing is more obvious than that the prophets have frequently, under
divine prompting, adopted the system of hieroglyphic representation, in
which a single man represents a community, or a wild beast an extended
empire. Consequently, since the mystic exhibition of the community
or empire is in miniature, symbolical propriety requires that the
associated chronological periods should be exhibited in miniature also.
The intrinsic fitness of such a mode of presentation is self-evident.
In predicating of a nation a long term of 400 or even 4000 years, there
is nothing revolting to verisimilitude or decorum; but to assign such
a period to the actings of a {xvii} symbolical man or animal would be
a grievous outrage on all the proprieties of the prophetic style. The
character of the adjuncts should evidently correspond with those of the
principal, or the whole picture is at once marred by the most palpable
incongruity.”[15] It appears, then, in regard to dates occurring in
passages where this principle of _miniature symbolization_ is adopted,
there is a strong presumption in favour of the Year-day theory, or some
theory suitably extending the times.

Dr. Maitland has attempted to dislodge his antagonists from this
intrenchment. His argument is subtle, and must have been deemed
triumphant, for it is repeated and praised as a master-stroke by almost
every subsequent writer on the same side. Allowing even that symbols of
time might be expected in symbolic predictions, along with symbols of
events, he denies that a day can in any way be regarded as the symbol
of a year. It is not, he argues, a symbol at all. We give the argument
in his own words, premising only that the advocates of the Year-day
principle, as we shall by and by see, appeal to Ezek. iv. 4‒9 in proof
of it:――“When you speak of the beasts I know what you mean, for you
admit that Daniel saw certain beasts; but when you speak of ‘the days,’
I know not what days you refer to, for your system admits of _no days_:
you take, if I may so speak, the _word_ ‘goat’ to mean the _thing_
‘goat,’ and the _thing_ goat to represent the _thing_ ‘king;’ but you
take the _word_ ‘day’ not to represent the _thing_ ‘day,’ but at once
to represent the _thing_ year. And this is precisely the point which
distinguishes this case from that of Ezekiel’s, which has been so
often brought forward as parallel to it. The whole matter lies in this,
that the one is a case of _representing_, the other of _interpreting_.
A _goat_, not the _word_ goat, _represented_ a king; a day, that is
the _word_ day, is _interpreted_ to mean a year.”[16] The pith of the
argument seems to lie in this, that while, in Daniel, kingdoms are
represented by certain _visible_ symbols――beasts, namely――there is no
_visible_ symbol of a year. We may _interpret_ a day of a year, but we
cannot say a day _symbolizes_ a year. The objector appears to have been
met, in the first instance, by the alleged difficulty of symbolizing
times in a visible way; but the case of Pharaoh and his officers was at
once appealed to, in whose dreams three years are represented by three
branches and three baskets; and seven years by seven kine, and seven
ears of corn.[17] A writer in the _Investigator_ rejoined, that _large_
numbers, such as the 1260 or 2300, could not easily be represented
in the same way; a statement which seems so very simple and obvious,
that we cannot but wonder it should have elicited such a burst of
indignation as this: “What! shall it be affirmed that he who called up
a vision in which seven kine symbolized seven years, could not employ
visible and equally intelligible representations of 1260 years? This
were to limit the power of the Almighty, by arrogantly assuming, that
though he presented a _few years_ by outward pictures to the eye, He
could not, with equal facility, and like intelligibleness to men, have
painted _a much larger number_ by external emblems. We refer the writer
in the _Investigator_ to Rev. xiv. 1, and ask him how the apostle John
knew there were exactly 144,000. On his principle that large number
could not have been presented to the eye. How then did he know that
there were 144,000?”[18] Does the critic mean that John must have come
to the knowledge of it by picture representation? {xviii} Is he sure of
this? The number is the same, and the company is the same as in chap.
vii. 4, and there we read, “And I _heard_ the number of them which were
sealed, and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of
all the tribes of the children of Israel.” The question is by no means
one regarding what God _could_ do, but one regarding merely the powers
and capabilities of symbolic language; and we do not feel ourselves
at all guilty of any unwarrantable “daring,” when we aver that large
numbers could not be visibly represented like small ones. The real
solution of the difficulty which the objection presents, seems to us
to have been given by Birks, in his _First Elements of Prophecy_. “The
beasts were conceptions visually suggested to the eye of the prophet,
and nothing more; and the days, in like manner, were conceptions
suggested by the words of the vision to his ear. _The only difference
is in the sense by which the mental image is conveyed_; for it is plain
that a day, when used as a symbol, must be mentioned, and could not
appear visibly to the eye.”[19] But whatever may be thought of this,
and of the preceding observations, we have still our appeal to the
matter of fact. If it be the fact, that in Scripture a day _does_
represent a year, we have no concern about speculations regarding
_modes_ of representing. The only question is, What is the Bible mode?
and to that question we shall very shortly apply ourselves.

Meanwhile, we would remark, ere leaving this part of the subject, that
although we affirm that wherever we find the principle of miniature
symbolization of events, there we have a strong presumption in favour
of the times, if such there be, being also expressed on a miniature
scale, yet we do not exalt this into a principle embracing the entire
case. We shall endeavour to ascertain here, what such general principle
is. It need not be disguised that the ground of it has been shifted
more than once during the progress of discussion. Mede himself seems
to have occupied ground by far too wide; and few or none now choose
to defend the Year-day principle on the platform chosen by him who has
been erroneously regarded as its originator. He maintained that, “alike
in Daniel, and, for aught he knew, in all the other prophets, times of
things prophesied, expressed by days, are to be understood of years.”
But prophecies can be quoted almost without number in which the
predicted times must be understood literally; and against this position,
somewhat doubtingly and casually assumed by an illustrious interpreter,
the artillery of Stuart and Maitland would be most successful, if any
were found so foolish as to intrench themselves within it. Professor
Stuart, however, chooses to write as if it were an essential part of
the Year-day theory. He fights with a man of straw, and expends his
logic and his ridicule alike in vain. He asks in triumph, If the 120
years, predicted as the period that should elapse before the flood,
must be extended into a respite for the ante-diluvians of 43,200 years?
and if the predicted bondage of Abraham’s posterity in Egypt, for
400 years, must be extended into 144,000 years? if the seven years of
plenty, and seven of famine to Egypt, must mean 2520 years of each?
if Israel’s forty years’ wilderness-wanderings are to last 14,400
years?[20] No, truly! and yet the times in Daniel and John may
be symbolical {xix} times notwithstanding. By Bush and Faber, the
principle is much narrowed. The ground assumed is that of miniature
symbolization. This covers a large part of the field within which the
Year-day theory is applied; still, it must be allowed, that both in
Daniel and the Apocalypse, there are passages where the times are
construed symbolically, or according to the longer reckoning, without
being associated with symbols of events. Of this kind is Daniel’s
famous prophecy of the seventy weeks. What, then, is the true principle
or basis of the Year-day theory? We are disposed to reply, as we
find Mr. Barnes in one place has done, that it is the manner of the
symbolical books of Daniel and John, to express times on the scale of
a day for a year; and that in regard to those places, if such there be,
where the times are literal, the circumstances of the case, or some
expressions in the text, prevent the possibility of mistake, and leave
the principle untouched. The _circumstances of the case_, for example,
forbid us to explain Dan. iv. 32 in accordance with the principle of a
day for a year. “According to this, Nebuchadnezzar must have been mad
and eat grass 2520 years.”[21] The limited life of man renders any such
extension of times here positively absurd. So also with the other case,
so much insisted on by the Day-day theorists, of Daniel fasting three
weeks.[22] “Surely no one will contend that Daniel fasted twenty-one
years.” No, but not to mention that this is not a prophecy at all,
the circumstances of the case forbid it; and besides, in this place,
we have the addition of יָמִים (weeks of _days_), “inserted expressly to
bar any such interpretation as would assign to it, as its first sense,
the meaning of years.”[23] It would, therefore, be most unwise[24] to
argue from these exceptive passages, where there can be no danger of
mistakes, against the application of the Year-day principle to the
great leading prophecies in Daniel and John, regarding the glorious
epochs of the church, and the times especially of the consummation.
Nor can anyone rationally contend, that because these prophets have
adopted this style of a day for a year, in predictions of the character
above specified――predictions which form the chief part of their
writings――that they are in no single instance to depart from that
style――that they are never to lay aside {xx} the symbolic and assume
the natural. Birks and Elliott, it may be noticed finally, find, in
those passages where the Year-day theory is applicable, a purpose of
_temporary concealment_; it being “the express design of God, that the
church should be kept in the constant expectation of Christ’s advent,”
and that, “yet as the time of the consummation drew near, there should
be evidence of it sufficiently clear to each faithful inquirer.”
“This,” adds the latter writer, “sets aside, from its very nature, the
objections that have been drawn from sundry prophetic periods, known
to be literally expressed, in prophecies where no such temporary
concealment was intended.”[25]

3. Having seen that the symbolical character of the predictions in
which the disputed times for the most part occur, affords a strong
presumption, amounting as nearly as possible to proof, in favour of
some such principle as that involved in the Year-day theory, we inquire
next _whether there be any indications of such principle in Scripture_?

The case of the spies in the book of Numbers[26] has been appealed to
by nearly all writers on the Year-day side, and by some of them with no
little confidence. “They returned from searching the land after forty
days.... After the number of the days in which ye searched the land,
even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities,
even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.” We confess,
however, that if this passage were the only one of its kind, we should
not be disposed to build much on it. It has been too much pressed;
and many will find it difficult to see anything typical or mystical in
it. It cannot be proved that the spies were types of the whole nation,
or that the days were meant to represent years. Dr. Davidson seems
to give the true account of the passage when he says, “It is a simple
historical prophecy, in which God ordained that _as_ the spies had
wandered forty days, _so_ the Israelites should wander forty years in
the wilderness because of their sins.”[27] Taken in connection with
other passages, however, it may serve to show that the “Year-day scale”
readily occurs in Scripture, when another might as easily have been
adopted. The very fact of the punishment of Israel in this case being
on the precise scale of a year for a day, seems to indicate something
of this kind.

Ezekiel’s typical siege presents a much stronger case. We give
the passage at length. Ezekiel having been commanded to portray the
city of Jerusalem on a tile, and conduct a symbolic siege against it,
is further enjoined――“Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the
iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of the
days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity. For
I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the
number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear
the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished
them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of
the house of Judah forty days: _I have appointed thee each day for a
year_.”[28] Ezekiel was ordered to assume this painful position that
he might be a sign or symbol of the sufferings of the Jewish nation;
and the number of days during which he lay prostrate was declared to
symbolize the years of their punishment. Here, then, we have a plain
precedent showing that in symbolical representations days stand for
years. The argument is equally valid whether we suppose the symbolical
{xxi} actions represented things past or things future. The principle
is the same. The probability is, that at the time of the representation
a few years of the 390 had yet to run; and the design was to show that
Jerusalem should be destroyed, and the inhabitants led away captive
into Babylon. It is not our province, however, to enter into any
exposition of the prophecy. The grand objection made to the argument
from this passage is, that in it the symbolic significancy of the days
“is expressly stated at the outset.”[29] “It is expressly stated that
God had appointed a day for a year, whereas in Daniel and John no
such information is given.”[30] But what if there had _not_ been an
“express statement” of the principle? That omission, we imagine, would
have been eagerly laid hold on as an evidence that no such principle
was contained in it. The “express statement,” then, so far from
being an argument against using this passage as a precedent, is in
reality a strong argument in favour of so doing. Can anything be more
unreasonable than to object to the passages furnishing a clue or key
for certain difficulties elsewhere, that they are plain and express?
Nothing, we apprehend, unless to object next that the passages _for_
which a key is sought are _not_ plain and express. We had thought that
it belonged to the very nature of key-passages that they should be
plain, and to the very nature of the passages for which the key was
needed, that they should not be plain. The demand that there shall
be the express statement in these latter which belongs to the former,
is just to demand that there shall be no mystery about the times at
all,――that they shall be revealed with perfect clearness, and that no
wisdom and diligence be called for in evolving a principle and applying
it to special cases. Bush’s reply to Stuart on this point is, we
think, triumphant. “The obvious reply to all this (the want of express
statement in Daniel and the Apocalypse) is, that the instances now
adduced are to be considered as merely giving us a clue to a general
principle of interpretation. Here are two or three striking examples
of predictions constructed on the plan of _miniature symbolic
representation_ in which the involved periods of time are reduced to a
scale proportioned to that of the events themselves. What, then, more
natural or legitimate, than that, when we meet with other prophecies
constructed on precisely the same principle, we should interpret their
chronological periods by the same rule? Instead of yielding to a demand
to adduce authority for this mode of interpretation, I feel at liberty
to demand the authority for departing from it. _Manente ratione manet
lex_ is an apothegm which is surely applicable here if anywhere. You
repeatedly, in the course of your pages, appeal to the oracles of
_common sense_, as the grand arbiter in deciding upon the principles
of hermeneutics. I make my appeal to the same authority in the
present case. I demand, in the name of common sense, a reason why the
symbolical prophecies of Daniel and John should not be interpreted on
the same principle with other prophecies of the same class. But however
loud and urgent my demand on this head, I expect nothing else than that
hill and dale will re-echo it, even to the ‘crack of doom,’ before a
satisfactory response from your pages falls on my ear. All the answer
I obtain is the following:――‘Instead of being aided by an appeal to
Ezekiel iv. 5, 6, we find that a principle is recognized there which
makes directly against the interpretation we are calling in question.
The _express exception_ as to the usual modes of reckoning goes
directly to show, that the {xxii} _general rule_ would necessitate
a different interpretation.’ I may possibly be over sanguine, but
I cannot well resist the belief, that the reader will perceive that
that which you regard as _the exception_, is in fact _the rule_.”[31]

Dr. Maitland’s famous objection, that in Ezekiel the case is one of
_representing_, whereas in Daniel and the Apocalypse it is one of
_interpreting_, has already been met in a previous part of this Preface.
The objection of Bishop Horsley is not very grave――namely, that because
the _day_ of temptation in the wilderness was _forty years_, and one
_day_ is with the Lord as a _thousand years_, and a thousand years
as one day, we might as well conclude that a day is forty years or
a thousand years, as that it represents but one year. So might we,
indeed, _if_ a number of passages could be produced in which a day
has such significancy, and another set of passages could be produced
to which the first set furnish a key that seems exactly to answer. In
the meantime, we must recognize the difference between what is merely
figurative language, and therefore loose and shifting, and the language
of symbol.

But the case of Isaiah[32] has been supposed to neutralize any argument
built upon that of Ezekiel: “The Lord spake by Isaiah, go and loose the
sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And
he did so, walking naked and barefoot. And the Lord said, Like as my
servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot _three years_, for a sign
and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia, so shall the king of Assyria
lead away the Egyptians prisoners.” Now, it is argued that here “three
_years_ correspond to three _years_, not three _days_ to three years.
It is arbitrary to suppose with Lowth that the original reading was
_three days_, or to supply _three days_, with Vitringa. The text must
stand as it is.”[33] But the interpretation of Lowth and Vitringa
is not the only mode in which we may escape from the difficulty, as
this learned writer seems to hint. We are not shut up to conjectural
emendations. The “three years” in the third verse may be connected
with what follows, as well as with what goes before; then the verse
will run, “Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot;
_a three years’ sign and wonder_,” which relieves us entirely from
the supposition that Isaiah walked three years barefoot, and, by
consequence, from the objection that is founded on it. All that is
intimated is, that in some way or other (the passage does not say how)
the prophet was a three years’ sign――a sign, that is, of a calamity
that would last during that time, or commence from that time. In
proof of the justice of this arrangement, it may be noticed that
the Masoretic interpunction throws the _three years_ into the second
clause; that the Septuagint gives both solutions, by repeating τρία
ἔτη;[34] and that in a period of such alarm, when Ashdod was taken
and the Assyrian pressing on them, it is not likely the symbolical
representation would be continued so long. Indeed, this opinion
seems to meet with little or no countenance.[35] The opinion that
seems generally to prevail is, that Isaiah indicated the three years’
captivity either by exhibiting himself in the manner described in the
text for three days, which would intimate three years, or by appearing
in this manner once only, and at the same time verbally _declaring_ his
design in so doing.

We come next to what is confessedly a main pillar of the Year-day
theory, _the prophecy of the seventy weeks in Daniel_.[36] “Seventy
weeks are determined {xxiii} upon thy people, and upon thy holy city,
to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make
reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness,
and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy.
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the
commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto Messiah the
prince, &c.” Now, the all but universal agreement that this prophecy
was fulfilled in a period of 490 years, usually reckoned from the 7th
of Artaxerxes, and extending to A.D. 33, the year in which Christ died,
seems at once to settle the question regarding the mode of computation.
There are, indeed, those[37] who maintain that this prediction has yet
to be fulfilled, and they profess to look for its fulfilment in seventy
weeks of days; but the number holding this opinion is exceedingly
small. The great mass of writers, even of those who contend for literal
times, reject it as quite untenable. This mode of cutting the knot,
however, indicates the difficulty that is felt by some “Day-dayists”
in reconciling the passage with their theory, and their dissatisfaction
with the more usual method of reconciliation. That method adopts a
new rendering. The words, it is said, ought to be translated seventy
_sevens_; and these are assumed to be sevens of _years_, because in
the early part of the chapter Daniel had been meditating on Jeremiah’s
prophecy regarding the seventy years’ captivity. By thus understanding
the sevens at once of years, without the intervention of symbolic days
or weeks, the argument for the Year-day principle, it will be seen, is
entirely destroyed.

It would be difficult and tedious to trace the course of discussion
fully to which the passage has given rise. A very general outline
must suffice. It had been maintained by some who contended for “sevens
of years,” that the word translated weeks (שָׁבֻעִים _shabuim_) was the
regular masculine plural of שֶׁבַע (_sheba_), seven, and ought, therefore,
to be translated sevens.[38] But שָׁבֻעִים (_shabuim_), as was alleged in
reply, “is not the normal plural of the Hebrew term for seven.” The
normal plural is שִׁבְעִים (_shibim_); but that is the term for _seventy_,
and cannot mean sevens.[39] It seems now admitted on all hands, that
both שָׁבֻעִים (_shabuim_) and the feminine form שָׁבֻעוֹת (_shabpuoth_) are
plural forms of שָׁבוּעַ (_shabua_), which, according to the etymology
of the word, signifies a hebdomad or septemized period.[40] The only
question that remains, therefore, regards the use of the word. _What is
its use?_ So that after much controversy, the matter stands very much
as Mede left it. “The question,” says he, “lies not in the etymology,
but in the use, wherein שָׁבוּעַ (_shabua_) always signifies _sevens of
days_, and never _sevens of years_. Wheresoever it is _absolutely_ put,
it means of days; it is nowhere thus used of years.”[41] Besides the
places in Daniel, the word occurs absolutely elsewhere, in some one or
other of its forms, _eleven_ times, and _in every one of these cases
with the sense of weeks of days_.[42] It is true that if we except the
places in Daniel, there is no instance in Scripture where the masculine
plural שָׁבֻעִים (_shabuim_) is used to denote weeks. The word elsewhere
used for that purpose is uniformly שָׁבֻעוֹת (_shabpuoth_) in the feminine.
But we confess ourselves at a loss to understand {xxiv} why so much
should be made of this. The word which Daniel uses is confessedly
the masculine plural[43] of the same word, which in the singular is
translated “week,” and in the feminine plural “weeks;” and although
there are instances in various languages of the masculine and feminine
plurals having different significations, yet, in the absence of
anything like proof that such is the case here, we must be guided by
the use of the word in its other forms throughout the Scripture, when
we come to interpret the peculiar form that occurs in Daniel. What good
reason can be given for departing from the analogy of the other forms?
This, it must be confessed, is entirely on the side of the Year-day
principle; and the objection resolves itself into nothing more than
this, that it is a peculiar form of the word which Daniel uses.

As to what is said of the qualifying word יָמִים, _yamim_ (days), twice
occurring in chap. x. 2, 3,[44] in connection with שָׁבֻעִים (_shabuim_),
giving the literal sense _three weeks_, _days_, or _three weeks as
to days_, we cannot see that it furnishes any grave objection to our
argument. It seems rather to strengthen it. For here we have two places
in which the word in question, and the form of it in question, are
declared to mean weeks of days. Does not this intimate that such is the
ordinary and primary sense? Are we not as much entitled to draw this
conclusion, as other parties to conclude that the qualifying word is
added because the usual sense is sevens of years? Let us only suppose
that the qualifying word had been years instead of days (sevens as to
years), would it not very readily have been said in that case, Here
is a plain declaration that sevens of _years_ are to be understood;
and certainly the places where no qualifying word occurs must be
ruled by this? Gesenius supposes the addition of יָמִים (days) is merely
_pleonastic_; but if any other reason must be found for it, that of
Bush seems as satisfactory as any, which regards it as an intimation
that the primary sense is the only admissible one in the circumstances.

4. We entitle our next head of evidence, _Exigency of the passages in
which the prophetic times occur_. The very best plan of arriving at the
truth in the question, whether the shorter or longer reckoning be the
right one, is to test both by application to the disputed passages.
Try the two keys, and see which best suits the lock. One section
of the literal dayists have here, however, a great advantage over
their opponents, inasmuch as their plan of placing the Apocalyptic
fulfilments entirely in the future (with the exception, on the part
of some of them, of the epistles to the seven churches), relieves them
from every embarrassment that might arise from any specific historical
application. Of course it is impossible to argue with men of this
school, that their literal times do not answer to their historical
events, for historical events they have none, and we cannot prove that
their ideal fulfilments may not be realized.

To discuss fully this part of our subject, however, would require
a volume embracing an exposition of nearly all the more important
passages in Daniel and the Apocalypse. We intend only to offer a few
passing remarks on one or two of these, referring such as wish to
prosecute the subject, to the “Notes” in this volume.

Let us take first the _Saracenic woe_.[45] We say not, in the
meantime, that the interpretation which has given rise to this name
is necessarily the right one. We merely wish to institute a comparison
between it and another interpretation, {xxv} which proceeds on the
principle of the shorter dates. If the reader will turn to our author’s
exposition, and attentively study it, he will, we think, be disposed
to acquiesce in the justice of his closing remark, that, on the
supposition that it was the design of John to symbolize these events
(the Arabian conquests), the symbol has been chosen which of all others
is best adapted to the end. Moreover, it will be seen that the Arabian
history, according to the requirements of the passage, on the Year-day
principle, furnishes a period of five months, or 150 years of intense
stinging oppression, and immediately thereafter exhibits a gradual
decline in power, along with a disinclination to persecute. Now what
have we to oppose to this view on the part of those who advocate
literal times? We turn to Professor Stuart. He tells us he can find
no event in history that, with any good degree of probability, will
correspond to a period of 150 years. “And,” adds he, “if we count five
literal months, we are still involved in the same difficulty. Hence the
tropical use of the expression five months, seems to be most probable
and facile.” His conclusion is that “the meaning must be a short
period.” We cannot think that this “tropical use” is very “probable;”
it is however abundantly “facile;” and we know not how to argue with
those who, when events will not correspond with their literal times,
immediately take refuge in tropes. When Professor Stuart can find
events that suit, his times are literal, as we shall immediately
see; when he cannot find such events, his times are tropical. But a
principle so “facile,” however it may suit his convenience, is not
fitted to guide us in an inquiry into the prophetic periods. “The
proper laws of interpretation,” our author has justly observed in his
exposition of the place, “demand that one or the other of these periods
should be found, either that of five months literally, or that of a
hundred and fifty years.”

Take next the _Turkish woe_.[46] We refer the reader again to the
author’s exposition, that he may see how “the hour, day, month, and
year” of this prediction――that is, the 391 years, and a 12th or 24th
of a year――find their fulfilment in the history of the Turkish empire.
But on the supposition that the times are literal, what events can be
fixed on as occupying this period of little more than a year? or how,
in transactions so great, should a single hour be mentioned? These
questions are evaded by assigning a new sense to the clause εἰς τὴν
ὥραν καὶ ἡμέραν, &c. It is said to mean only, “that at the destined
hour, and destined day, and destined month, and destined year,” the
calamity should happen; that is to say, it should occur simply _at the
appointed time_. We venture to say that such a periphrasis for an idea
so simple has no parallel elsewhere. For the criticism of the passage,
we refer to Barnes and Elliott, who have successfully contended that
the words completely reject this sense. The latter appeals also to the
parallel passage in Dan. xii. 7, where “for a time, times, and half a
time” is universally understood of the _aggregate_ period of three
years and a half.[47]

_The forty-two months of the Gentiles_ is another and remarkable
Apocalyptic period.[48] If we do not, with our author, apply the
passage in which this notation of time occurs, to the trampling down
of the church by the Papacy during her long and oppressive reign of
1260 years, but seek an explanation from those who deny the Year-day
principle, shall we find events that will better answer on the
principle of literal times? Let us try. Professor Stuart, in this place,
abandons the idea he sometimes resorts to, of supposing the periods
{xxvi} “figurative modes of expressing a short time.” He thinks a
“literal and definite period” is here meant; and he even condescends,
in spite of all his hatred of historical comments, on historical events
answering to this definite period. “It is certain,” says he, “that the
invasion of the Romans lasted just about the length of the period named
until Jerusalem was taken.” And again, in his _Excursus on Designations
of Time_, he says that in the spring of A.D. 67, Vespasian was sent
by Nero to subdue Palestine; and that on the 10th of August, A.D. 70,
Jerusalem was taken and destroyed by Titus. Thus he makes out the
literal period of forty-two months or three and a half years. He is,
however, compelled to admit that the war actually began some time
before Vespasian’s mission. But allowing all this to be correct, there
was, as Mr. Barnes remarks, “no precise period of three years and a
half, in respect to which the language here used would be applicable
to the literal Jerusalem. Judea was held in subjection, and trodden
down by the Romans for centuries, and never, in fact, gained its
independence.” It is trodden down still. And yet we are told, in a
laboured article written on purpose to set aside the Year-day principle,
that _there can scarcely be a doubt_ that the period in question
(the forty-two months) is designed to mark the time during which
the conquest of Palestine and of the Holy City was going on.

In close connection with this prediction, we have _the times of the
two witnesses_.[49] They were to “prophesy a thousand two hundred and
threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.” Again, we think the longer
reckoning meets the requirements of the passage, and is consistent
with the historical events offered in explanation. During all the dark
period of Papal rule, there has been a competent number of witnesses
testifying in favour of the truth. The reader will find ample details
in the exposition within. Let us turn now to the exposition offered by
the great chief of the Literal-day theorists. His theory requires him
to find the witnesses in Jerusalem immediately previous to its fall.
But where the witnesses in Jerusalem prophesying during three and a
half literal years? History is quite silent in regard to any such
parties; nay more, the accounts which we have of the period render
it exceedingly improbable that any such parties could have existed
in Jerusalem at that time. The Christians, warned by their Master,
had fled to Pella, and thereby escaped the calamity in which their
unbelieving countrymen were overwhelmed. Yet, in the absence of
history, and in spite of history, suppositions are made to stand in its
place. We are told that some of the faithful and zealous teachers of
Christianity would certainly remain in spite of their Lord’s warning.
These, it is supposed next, would be slain by the Zealots, who would,
notwithstanding, be unable to destroy Christianity. The truth should
ever have a resurrection. We offer no further remark on this, than that
if pure imaginations are to be alleged, where history fails, there can
be no difficulty in meeting the requirements of any theory, inasmuch
as inventions are much more “facile” than facts. But the exposure of
the dead bodies of the witnesses is supposed to be perfectly fatal to
the Year-day principle in this passage. “What now,” it is asked, “if
we should insist on interpreting this (the three days and a half of
exposure) as meaning three and a half years? It would bring out an
absurdity; for a single month in the climate of Palestine would in
one way or another destroy any dead body, not to speak of its being
devoured.” Doubtless this is an absurdity; but it is an absurdity
obtained {xxvii} by subjecting a symbolical passage to a very singular
process, in which one part of the symbol is explained, and then read
along with the _unexplained_ part. But explain both parts of the
passage, the _lying exposed_, as well as the _days_, and then we have
no incongruous sense, but an intimation, that for three and a half
years the witnesses should be silenced, and be treated with great
indignity, as if unworthy of Christian burial. Or if the question
be regarding symbolical propriety, let the symbolical representation
stand as it is――both parts unexplained; and what inconsistency is there
in supposing dead bodies exposed for three and a half _days_ in the
climate of Palestine? If we choose to proceed on a principle like this,
we may make as many absurdities as there are passages in the Apocalypse.

Next in order, we have the _times of the woman in the wilderness_,[50]
the thousand two hundred and threescore days, or time, times, and half
a time, during which she was protected and nourished by God. Once more
we refer to the author’s exposition of this passage for a defence of
the Protestant interpretation, which explains it of the preservation of
the church in a state of comparative obscurity during the long period
of Papal oppression. But on the principle of literal days, that is, “if
the period of the woman’s sojourn be only three years and six months,
the preparation must be either quite disproportionate to the event,
or the steps of the preparation will be crowded into the narrowest
compass. The spiritual deliverance, the dejection of Satan, the
renewed persecution, the protection, the flood, its absorption by the
friendly earth, and the persevering rage of the dragon, will all be
crushed into the space of two or three years. Surely nothing but the
most distinct revelation could make us receive such an exposition of
the true reference of so glorious a prophecy.”[51] It is difficult,
indeed, to conceive that a prophecy of this nature should find its
fulfilment in any three and a half years of the church’s history; and
our difficulties certainly are not diminished, when we come to consider
the special interpretations that are constructed on this principle.
We are told that the woman is the Jewish Theocratic church. But that
church never dwelt 1260 days in the wilderness, nor can any historical
event be alleged in illustration of such a view that does not bear its
refutation on the face of it. The Christians who fled to Pella, will
the reader believe it, are, for the sake of a theory, made to stand
for the church, symbolized by the woman; and their protection, during
the continuance of the Jewish war, is the woman’s wilderness sojourn.
The flight is the flight of the woman, or Jewish Theocratic church, in
the first instance. But the Jewish church, to answer the necessities
of the case, is at once transformed into the Christian; and finally,
a comparatively small body of Christians in the neighbourhood of
Jerusalem is elevated into the dignity of _the church_, to the
exclusion of the numerous societies of Christians existing elsewhere.
These are the assumptions set forth in antagonism to the Protestant
view; set forth, too, not as modest guesses, but as certain verities,
to reject which, brings down on us the charge of ignorance of history,
and of exegetical science.

Our limits forbid us to speak of the forty-two months of the beast,[52]
or of the periods in Daniel. Of the beast, it is manifest, that it is
a power of no brief duration; but one which, existing through a long
previous period, appears again at the great final battle immediately
previous to the millennium, and is then destroyed. Great care is taken,
in the chapter which describes {xxviii} the closing struggle, to
identify the beast which was then slain with that which had previously
appeared on the stage.[53] As to the view which explains the beast of
Nero, and the times of the three and a half years of his persecution,
it is certainly enough to observe, that it requires the aid of a
heathen hariolation to make it out, and may, therefore, be dismissed
without argument. Of the periods in Daniel, particularly those in
the seventh and twelfth chapters,[54] we can only say that the mode
of authoritatively asserting that the reference is to Antiochus
Epiphanes, and then ridiculing the idea of any one man living through
1260 years,[55] is a mode which must be abandoned by such as would
secure a favourable reception for their views. We believe the
sublime predictions of Daniel and John are occupied with far higher
subjects――subjects of infinitely more concern to the church and the
world than the history of the two tyrants, Antiochus and Nero.

  [We had intended to consider some of the current objections
  against the Year-day theory, particularly that founded on its
  alleged novelty――“The spiritual common sense of the church,”
  according to Dr. Maitland, “being set in array against it,
  from the days of Daniel to those of Wickliffe.” Mr. Elliott has
  thoroughly examined this position; and the conclusion to which
  he comes, after a most painstaking inquiry, is――“That from the
  time of Cyprian, near the middle of the 3d century, even to the
  time of Joachim and the Waldenses, in the 12th century, there
  was kept up, by a succession of expositors, a recognition of the
  precise _Year-day_ principle.” We have carefully examined the
  grounds of this opinion, and compared them with certain recent
  and able adverse criticisms, without having had our conviction
  shaken that, _in the main_, it is correct.]

  Illustration:   THE SITE OF EPHESUS,
                  From the Theatre.



  Illustration:   THYATIRA.

  Illustration:   PHILADELPHIA.

  Illustration:   SARDIS.


  Illustration:   THE RUINS OF LAODICEA.

  {xxix}                     INTRODUCTION

                                TO THE

                    BOOK OF REVELATION OF ST. JOHN.

             § I.――_The Writer of the Book of Revelation._

Much has been written on the question who was the author of this book.
To enter into an extended investigation of this would greatly exceed
the limits which I have, and would not comport with my design in these
Notes. For a full examination of the question I must refer to others,
and would mention particularly, Prof. Stuart, _Com._ i. 283‒427;
Lardner, _Works_, vi. 318‒327; Hug, _Intro. to the New Testament_,
pp. 650‒673, Andover, 1836; Michaelis, _Intro. to the New Testament_,
iv. 457‒544; and the article “Revelation,” in Kitto’s _Cyclopædia of
Biblical Literature_. I propose to exhibit, briefly, the evidence that
the apostle John was the author, according to the opinion which has
been commonly entertained in the church; the proof of which seems to me
to be satisfactory. This may be considered under these divisions: the
direct historical evidence, and the insufficiency of the reason for
doubting it.

I. The direct historical evidence. The sum of all that is to be
said on this point is, that to the latter half of the third century it
was not doubted that the apostle John was the author. Why it was ever
afterwards doubted, and what is the force and value of the doubt, will
be considered in another part of this Introduction.

There may be some convenience in dividing the early historical
testimony into three periods of half a century each, extending from
the death of John, about A.D. 98, to the middle of the third century.

1. From the death of John, about A.D. 98 to A.D. 150. This period
embraces the last of those men who conversed, or who might have
conversed, with the apostles; that is, who were, for a part of their
lives, the contemporaries of John. The testimony of the writers who
lived then would, of course, be very important. Those embraced in this
period are Hermas, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Papias. The evidence of
this period is not indeed very _direct_, but it is such as it would
be on the supposition that John was the author, and there is nothing
contradictory to that supposition.

HERMAS, about A.D. 100.――In the _Shepherd_ or _Pastor_, ascribed to
this writer, there are several allusions which are supposed to refer
to this book, and which resemble it so much as to make it probable
that the author was acquainted with it. Dr. Lardner thus expresses the
result of his examination of this point: “_It is probable_ that Hermas
had read the book of Revelation, and imitated it. He has many things
resembling it” (vol. ii. pp. 69‒72). There is no _direct_ testimony,
however, in this writer that is of importance.

IGNATIUS.――He was bishop of Antioch, and flourished A.D. 70‒107. In
the latter year he suffered martyrdom, in the time of Trajan. Little,
however, can {xxx} be derived from him in regard to the Apocalypse.
He was a contemporary of John, and it is not a little remarkable that
he has not more directly alluded to him. In the course of a forced
and hurried journey to Rome, the scene of his martyrdom, he wrote
several epistles to the Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans,
Philadelphians, Smyrneans, and to Polycarp. There has been much
controversy respecting the authenticity of these epistles, and it is
generally admitted that those which we now possess have been greatly
corrupted. There is no direct mention of the Apocalypse in these
epistles, and Michaelis makes this one of the strong grounds of his
disbelief of its genuineness. His argument is, that the silence of
Ignatius shows, either that he did not know of the existence of this
book, or did not recognize it as a part of the sacred Scriptures.
Little, however, can be ever inferred from the mere _silence_ of an
author; for there may have been many reasons why, though the book may
have been in existence, and recognized as the writing of John, Ignatius
did not refer to it. The whole matter of the residence of John at
Ephesus, of his banishment to Patmos, and of his death, is unnoticed
by him. There are, however, two or three _allusions_ in the epistles
of Ignatius which have been supposed to refer to the Apocalypse, or to
prove that he was familiar with that work――though it must be admitted
that the language is so general, that it furnishes no certain proof
that he designed to quote it. They are these: Epis. to the Romans――“In
the patience of Jesus Christ,” comp. Rev. i. 9; and Epis. to the
Ephesians――“Stones of the temple of the Father prepared for the
building of God,” comp. Rev. xxi. 2‒19. To these Mr. John Collyer
Knight, of the British Museum, in a recent publication (_Two New
Arguments in Vindication of the Genuineness and Authenticity of the
Revelation of St. John_, London, 1842), has added a third: Epis. to
the Philadelphians――“If they do not speak concerning Jesus Christ,
they are but _sepulchral pillars_, and _upon them are written only the
names of men_.” Comp. Rev. iii. 12, “Him that overcometh will I make
a pillar in the temple of my God; and he shall go no more out: and I
will write upon him the name of my God.” It must be admitted, however,
that this coincidence of language does not furnish any certain proof
that Ignatius had seen the Apocalypse, though this is such language as
he _might_ have used if he had seen it. There was no known necessity,
however, for his referring to this book if he was acquainted with it,
and nothing can be inferred from his silence.

POLYCARP.――He was bishop of Smyrna, and suffered martyrdom, though
at what time is not certain. The _Chronicon Paschale_ names A.D. 163;
Eusebius, 167; Usher, 169; and Pearson, 148. He died at the age of
eighty-six, and consequently was contemporary with John, who died about
A.D. 98. There is but one relic of his writings extant――his epistle
to the Philippians. There is in Eusebius (iv. 15), an epistle from the
church in Smyrna to the churches in Pontus, giving an account of the
martyrdom of Polycarp. It is admitted that in neither of these is there
any express mention, or any certain allusion, to the book of Revelation.
But from this circumstance nothing can be inferred respecting the
Apocalypse, either for or against it, since there may have been no
occasion for Polycarp or his friends, in the writings now extant,
to speak of this book; and from their silence nothing more should be
inferred against this book than against the epistles of Paul, or the
Gospel by John. There is, however, what may, without impropriety, be
regarded as an important testimony of Polycarp in regard to this book.
Polycarp was, as there is every reason to {xxxi} suppose, the personal
friend of John, and Irenæus was the personal friend of Polycarp
(Lardner, ii. 94‒96). Now Irenæus, as we shall see, on all occasions,
and in the most positive manner, gives his clear testimony that the
Apocalypse was written by the apostle John. It is impossible to suppose
that he would do this if Polycarp had not believed it to be true; and
certainly he would not have been likely to hold this opinion if one who
was his own friend, and the friend of John, had doubted or denied it.
This is not indeed absolute proof, but it furnishes strong presumptive
evidence in favour of the opinion that the book of Revelation was
written by the apostle John. The whole history of Polycarp, and his
testimony to the books of the New Testament, may be seen in Lardner,
ii. 94‒114.

PAPIAS.――Papias was bishop of Hierapolis, near Colosse, and flourished,
according to Cave, about A.D. 110; according to others, about the year
115 or 116. How long he lived is uncertain. Irenæus asserts that he was
the intimate friend――ἑταῖρος――of Polycarp, and this is also admitted by
Eusebius (_Ecc. Hist._ iii. 39). He was the contemporary of John, and
was probably acquainted with him. Eusebius expressly says that he was
“a hearer of John” (Lardner, ii. 117). Of his writings there remain
only a few fragments preserved by Eusebius, by Jerome, and in the
_Commentary_ of Andrew, bishop of Cæsarea, in Cappadocia. He was a
warm defender of the Millennarian doctrines. In his writings preserved
to us (see Lardner, ii. 120‒125), there is no express mention of the
Apocalypse, or direct reference to it; but the commentator Andrew of
Cæsarea reckons him among the explicit witnesses in its favour. In
the Preface to his _Commentary on the Apocalypse_, Andrew says, “In
regard now to the inspiration of the book, we think it superfluous to
extend our discourse, inasmuch as the blessed Gregory, and Cyril, and
moreover the ancient [writers] _Papias_, _Irenæus_, _Methodius_, and
_Hippolytus_ bear testimony to its credibility.” See the passage in
Hug, _Intro._ p. 652; and Prof. Stuart, i. 305. And in nearly the same
words does Arethas, the successor of Andrew, bear the like testimony.
The evidence, therefore, in this case is the same as in the case of
Polycarp, and it cannot be supposed that Papias would have been thus
referred to unless it was uniformly understood that he regarded the
book as the production of the apostle John.

These are all the testimonies that properly belong to the first half
century after the death of John, and though not absolutely _positive_
and _conclusive_ in themselves, yet the following points may be
regarded as established:――(a) The book was known; (b) so far as the
testimony goes, it is in favour of its having been composed by John;
(c) the fact that he was the author is not called in question or
doubted; (d) it was generally ascribed to him; (e) it was _probably_
the foundation of the Millennarian views entertained by Papias――that
is, it is easier to account for his holding these views by supposing
that the book was known, and that he founded them on this book, than
in any other way. See Prof. Stuart, i. 304.

2. The second half century after the death of John, from A.D. 150 to
A.D. 200. This will include the names of Justin Martyr, the Narrator of
the Martyrs of Lyons, Irenæus, Melito, Theophilus, Apollonius, Clement
of Alexandria and Tertullian.

JUSTIN MARTYR.――He was a Christian philosopher, born at Flavia
Neapolis, anciently called Sichem, a city of Samaria, it is supposed
about A.D. 103; was converted to Christianity about A.D. 133, and
suffered martyrdom about {xxxii} A.D. 165 (Lardner, ii. 125‒140). He
was partly contemporary with Polycarp and Papias. He travelled in Egypt,
Italy, and Asia Minor, and resided some time at Ephesus. He was endowed
with a bold and inquiring mind, and was a man eminent for integrity
and virtue. Tatian calls him an “admirable man.” Methodius says,
that he was a man “not far removed from the apostles in time or in
virtue.” Photius says, that he was “well acquainted with the Christian
philosophy, and especially with the heathen; rich in the knowledge of
history, and all other parts of learning” (Lardner). He was, therefore,
well qualified to ascertain the truth about the origin of the book
of Revelation, and his testimony must be of great value. He was an
advocate of the doctrine of _Chiliasm_――or, the doctrine that Christ
would reign a thousand years on the earth――and in defence of this
he uses the following language: “And a man from among us, by name
John, one of the Apostles of Christ, in a Revelation made to him――ἐν
Ἀποκαλύψει γενομένῃ αὐτᾷ――has prophesied that the believers in one
Christ shall live a thousand years in Jerusalem; and after that shall
be the general, and, in a word, the eternal resurrection and judgment
of all men together.” There can be no doubt whatever that there
is an allusion here to the book of Revelation――for the very name
_Revelation_――Ἀποκάλυψις――is used; that Justin believed that it was
written by the apostle John; and that there is express reference
to what is now chap. xx. of that book. The book was, therefore, in
existence in the time of Justin――that is, in about fifty years after
the death of John; was believed to be the work of the apostle John; was
quoted as such, and by one who had lived in the very region where John
lived, and by a man whose character is unimpeached, and who, in a point
like this, could not have been mistaken. The testimony of Justin Martyr,
therefore, is very important. It is positive; it is given where there
was every opportunity for knowing the truth, and where there was no
motive for a false testimony; and it is the testimony of one whose
character for truthfulness is unimpeached.

ii. 160‒165. In the reign of Marcus Antoninus, Christians suffered much
from persecution. This persecution was particularly violent at Lyons,
and the country round about. The churches of Lyons and Vienne sent an
account of their sufferings, in an epistle, to the churches of Asia and
Phrygia. This, according to Lardner, was about A.D. 177. The epistle
has been preserved by Eusebius. In this epistle, among other undoubted
allusions to the New Testament, the following occurs. Speaking of
Vettius Epigathus, they say――“For he was indeed a genuine disciple of
Christ, _following the Lamb whithersoever he goes_.” Comp. Rev. xiv. 2:
“These are they which _follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth_.” There
can be no doubt that this passage in Revelation was referred to; and
it proves that the book was then known, and that the writers were
accustomed to regard it as on a level with the other sacred writings.

IRENÆUS.――The testimony of this father has already been referred to
when speaking of Polycarp. He was bishop of Lyons, in Gaul. His country
is not certainly known, but Lardner supposes that he was a Greek, and,
from his early acquaintance with Polycarp, that he was from Asia. When
a youth, he was a hearer of Polycarp, and also a disciple of Papias. He
was born about the beginning of the second century, and it is commonly
supposed that he suffered martyrdom in extreme old age. He became
bishop of Lyons after {xxxiii} he was seventy years of age, and wrote
his principal work, _Contra Hæreses_, after this. His testimony is
particularly valuable, as he was in early life acquainted with Polycarp,
who was a contemporary and friend of the apostle John (Lardner,
ii. 165‒192). Of his reference to the book of Revelation, Lardner
says: “The Apocalypse, or Revelation, is often quoted by him as the
Revelation of John, the disciple of the Lord.” In one place he says:
“It was seen no long time ago, but almost in our age, at the end of the
reign of Domitian.” And again, he spoke of the exact and ancient copies
of the book, as if it was important to ascertain the true reading, and
as if it were then possible to do this. Thus Eusebius (Lardner, ii. 167)
says of him: “In his fifth book he thus discourses of the Revelation
of John, and the computation of the name of Antichrist: ‘These things
being thus, _and this number being in all the exact and ancient
copies, and they who saw John attesting to the same things_, and reason
teaching us that the number of the name of the beast, according to
the acceptation of the Greeks, is expressed by the letters contained
in it.’” Here is an undoubted reference to Revelation xiii. 18. This
evidence is clear and positive. Its value consists in these things:
(a) That he was familiar with one who was the friend of John; (b) that
he must have known his views on the subject; (c) that he must have been
intimately acquainted with the common opinion on the subject of the
authorship of the book; (d) that a spurious work could not have been
palmed upon the world as the production of John; (e) that he bears
unequivocal testimony to the fact that it was written by John; (f) and
that he speaks of the “most exact” copies being then in existence, and
testified to by those who had seen John himself.

MELITO.――Lardner, ii. 157‒160. He was bishop of Sardis, one of the
churches to which the book of Revelation was directed. He is supposed
to have flourished about A.D. 170. He was a man greatly distinguished
for learning and piety, and Jerome says that Christians were accustomed
to name him a _prophet_. He was, moreover, remarkably inquisitive
respecting the sacred books; and, at the request of Onesimus, he made
extracts from the Scriptures respecting the Messianic prophecies, and
also a complete list of the books of the Old Testament, which is still
extant in Eusebius, _Ecc. Hist._ iv. 26. He wrote a _Treatise_ or
_Commentary on the Book of Revelation_. Dr. Lardner says of this, “What
it contained we are not informed. I will say it was a commentary on
that book. It is plain he ascribed that book to John, and very likely
to John the apostle. I think it very probable he esteemed it a book of
canonical authority.” Hug says (p. 653), “Melito himself calls it the
Apocalypse of John.” Even Michaelis (_Intro. to the New Testament_,
iv. 466) reckons Melito among the witnesses in favour of the book.
The _value_ of this testimony is this: (a) Melito was bishop of one of
the churches to which the Apocalypse was directed; (b) he lived near
the time of John; (c) he was a diligent student on this very subject;
(d) he had every opportunity of ascertaining the truth on the subject;
(e) he regarded it as the work of the apostle John; (f) and he wrote
a treatise or commentary on it as an inspired book. It is not easy to
conceive of stronger testimony in favour of the book.

THEOPHILUS.――Lardner, ii. 203‒215. He was bishop of Antioch, and
flourished about A.D. 169‒180. He wrote a work against the “heresy” of
Hermogenes, referred to by Eusebius, _Ecc. Hist._ iv. 24. In that work
he expressly speaks of the Apocalypse as the production of John; and
Lardner {xxxiv} says of his testimony, “That the book of Revelation was
owned by him is undoubted from Eusebius. Eusebius has assured us that
Theophilus, in his book against Hermogenes, brought testimonies from
the Apocalypse of John,” pp. 214, 215. The value of this testimony is,
that Theophilus doubtless expressed the current opinion of his time,
and that he had ample opportunity for ascertaining the truth. There
is also a passage in the writings of Theophilus which _seems_ to be a
direct allusion to the book of Revelation: “This Eve, because she was
deceived by the serpent――the evil demon, who is also called Satan, who
thus spoke to her by the serpent――does not cease to accuse; this demon
is also called the dragon.” Comp. Rev. xii. 9.

APOLLONIUS.――Lardner, ii. 391‒393. He flourished about A.D. 192.
Eusebius says of him, “He makes use of testimonies out of the
Revelation of John.” The value of this testimony is, (a) that he
quotes the book as of authority; and (b) that he ascribes it to John,
evidently meaning the apostle John.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA.――Lardner, ii. 222‒259. He flourished about
A.D. 192‒220. Many of his writings are extant. Lardner (p. 245) says of
him, “The book of Revelation is several times quoted by him, and once
in this manner: ‘Such an one, though here on earth he be not honoured
with the first seat, shall sit upon the four and twenty thrones judging
the people, as John says in the Revelation.’” Comp. Rev. iv. 4; xi. 16.
Lardner adds, “And that he supposed this writer to be John the apostle
appears from another place, where he refers to Rev. xxi. 21, as the
words of the apostle.” Professor Stuart says (i. 317), “There is no
good ground for doubt, from anything which is found in the work, that
he received and admitted the Apocalypse as a work of John the apostle.”
The known character of Clement makes this testimony of great value.

TERTULLIAN.――He was the contemporary of Clement, and was the most
ancient, and one of the most learned, of the Latin fathers (Lardner,
ii. 267‒306). He was born at Carthage about the middle of the second
century, and died about A.D. 220. He was reared in the study of
the Greek and Latin languages, of philosophy and the Roman law, and
possessed extensive information. “His testimony to the Apocalypse is
most full and ample. He quotes, or refers to it in more than seventy
passages in his writings, appealing to it expressly as the work of the
apostle John” (Elliott, i. 27). “The declarations of Tertullian are so
frequent and plain, that no doubt can possibly remain as to his belief”
(Prof. Stuart, i. 318). “The Revelation of John is often quoted. I put
together two or three passages, which show his full persuasion that
it was written by the apostle and evangelist of that name” (Lardner,
ii. 295). One of the passages referred to by Lardner is the following:
“The apostle John, in the Apocalypse, describes a sharp two-edged sword
coming out of the mouth of God.” Another is, “Though Marcion rejects
his revelation, the succession of bishops traced to the original will
assure us that John is the author.” There can be no doubt, therefore,
that Tertullian regarded the apostle John as the author of the book of
Revelation; and his confident assertion may be considered as expressive
of the prevailing opinion of his time.

Thus far, to the end of the second century, the testimony of the
fathers of the church, as far as we now have it, was uniform and
unbroken; and so far as historical testimony is concerned, this should
be permitted to decide the {xxxv} question. Marcion, indeed, who lived
in the time of Polycarp, and whom Polycarp called “the first-born of
Satan” (Lardner, ii. 95), rejected the book of Revelation (see the
declaration of Tertullian in Lardner, ii. 275); but it is also to be
remembered that he rejected the whole of the Old Testament, the account
of the genealogy and baptism of the Saviour, the Acts of the Apostles,
the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, the Hebrews, and the Catholic Epistles
(Lardner, vi. 142‒151, 347‒350; viii. 489‒513). Besides the opinion of
Marcion, the testimony was uniform, with the exception of the heretical
sect of the _Alogi_, if there was any such sect, which is generally
supposed to have arisen in the latter half of this century, who derived
their name from their antipathy to the name of _Logos_, and who on this
account denied both the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation. See
Lardner, iv. 190, 191; viii. 627, 628. Lardner, however, maintains that
there never was any such sect (viii. 628).

3. The third half century after the death of John, A.D. 200‒250.
Among the names embraced in this period are those of Hippolytus, who
flourished about A.D. 220; Nepos, an Egyptian bishop; the well-known
Origen, the most acute critic of all the early fathers, and who devoted
his life to the study of the Scriptures; Cyprian, bishop of Carthage,
who flourished about A.D. 246; and Methodius, bishop of Olympia in
Lycia. All these, without exception, have left a clear and decided
expression of their belief that the apostle John was the author of the
Apocalypse. See that testimony at length in Prof. Stuart, i. 321‒326.

It is unnecessary to pursue the historical evidence further. If the
testimony in favour of the work is unbroken and clear for an hundred
and fifty years, the testimony of those who lived subsequent to that
period would add little to its strength. To the names already mentioned,
however, there might be added those of Epiphanius, Basil, Cyril of
Alexandria, Ephrem the Syrian, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Hilary of
Poictiers, Gregory Nazianzen, Chrysostom, and many others.

Such is the external positive testimony in favour of the opinion that
the book of Revelation was written by the apostle John.

To this might be added certain internal marks, or certain facts in the
life of John which accord with this supposition, and seem to confirm
it. They are such that if they did _not_ exist there might be some room
for plausible doubt, though it must be admitted that, in themselves,
they do not amount to positive proof of any considerable strength that
he _was_ the author. There is not room to dwell upon them, and they
can only be briefly referred to. They are such as these:――(1) That the
author calls himself _John_, evidently with the design of representing
himself as the _apostle_ of that name; for (a) his supposed relation to
the churches of Asia Minor is such as the relation of the apostle John
was, and (b) the name _John_, unless there was something to qualify it,
would be naturally understood as referring to the apostle of that name.
(2) The fact that John lived at Ephesus, and was well known to the
seven churches of Asia Minor. (3) The fact that he lived to extreme old
age――to the time when the book was supposed to have been written. See
§ II. (4) The fact that there was a persecution in the time of Domitian,
when this book is supposed to have been written; and (5) what might be
derived from a comparison of this book with the acknowledged writings
of John.

II. To confirm the argument, it is necessary to show the insufficiency
of the reasons for doubting that John was the author. This point may be
considered {xxxvi} under two heads――the alleged grounds for doubting
that it was written by John by the ancients; and the reasons alleged by
the moderns.

(1) The ancients.

(a) It has been maintained that it was rejected by Caius, a presbyter
at Rome. He flourished, according to Cave, about A.D. 210. See Lardner,
ii. 394‒410. There is a single passage in his writings, from which it
has been inferred that he designed to reject the Apocalypse. This is
in the following words――“And Cerinthus also, who by his revelations, as
if written by some great apostle, imposes upon us monstrous relations
of things of his own invention, as shown him by an angel, says, ‘that
after the resurrection there shall be a terrestrial kingdom of Christ,
and that men shall live again in Jerusalem, subject to sensual desires
and pleasures. And being an enemy to the divine Scriptures, and
desirous to seduce mankind, he says there will be a term of a thousand
years spent in nuptial entertainments’” (Lardner, ii. 400, 401).

The whole force of this depends on the supposition that Caius meant to
refer to Rev. xx. 4‒6.

But in regard to this the following remarks may be made:――(a) Caius was
strongly opposed to Cerinthus, and to his views; (b) he was opposed to
the prevailing doctrine of Chiliasm, or the doctrine of the millennium,
as then extensively held――that Christ would reign personally on the
earth with his saints for a thousand years; (c) it may be _possible_
that Cerinthus may have forged a work pretending to be of apostolic
origin, in which these doctrines were affirmed; (d) it is possible that
the book of Revelation, as left by John, may have been interpolated
and corrupted by Caius thus. Some one of these suppositions is more
probable than the supposition that Caius meant to reject the book of
Revelation; for,

1. The views referred to by Caius, as held by Cerinthus, are _not_
the views which are found in Rev. xx. He spoke of a “terrestrial
kingdom of Christ;” says that “men would again live in Jerusalem;” that
they “would be subject to sensual pleasures;” and that the “term of a
thousand years would be spent in nuptial entertainments.” None of these
opinions are found in the book of Revelation as we now have it.

2. The _title_ given by Caius to the book――_Revelations_ instead of
_Revelation_――Ἀποκάλυψις――as we find it in the book itself, chap. i. 1,
would seem to indicate a different work from that of John. Eusebius
always refers to the Apocalypse by the noun singular (Prof. Stuart,
i. 341), and this is the general manner in which the work has been
designated. If Caius had designed to refer to this, it is probable that
he would have used the common term to designate it.

3. These views receive some confirmation from a passage in Theodoret,
“who spoke of Cerinthus in such a way as seems to imply that he had
forged an Apocalypse for the promotion of his designs.” That passage
is, “Cerinthus forged certain revelations _as if he himself had seen
them_, and added descriptions of certain terrible things, and declares
that the kingdom of the Lord will be established on the earth,” &c. See
Prof. Stuart, i. 342. On the whole, nothing of material importance can
be derived from the testimony of Caius in proof that the Apocalypse was
not believed to have been written by John.

(b) Dionysius of Alexandria doubted the genuineness of the Apocalypse
as {xxxvii} being the production of John, though he did not deny its
inspiration. He was made bishop of the see of Alexandria A.D. 247 or
248, and died about A.D. 264 or 265. See Lardner, ii. 643‒722. He was
a pupil of Origen, and enjoyed a high reputation. The full testimony of
Dionysius in regard to this book may be seen in Lardner, ii. 693‒697.
I will copy all that is material to show his opinion. He says, “Some
who were before us have utterly rejected and confuted this book,
criticising every chapter; showing it throughout unintelligible
and inconsistent; adding, moreover, that the inspiration is false,
forasmuch as it is not John’s; nor is a revelation which is hidden
under so obscure and thick a veil of ignorance.” [Prof. Stuart (i. 346)
translates this, “It contains, moreover, no revelation; for it is
covered with a strong and thick veil of ignorance.”] “And this not
only no apostle, but not so much as any holy or ecclesiastical man was
the author of this writing, but that Cerinthus, founder of the heresy
called after him the Cerinthian, the better to recommend his own
forgery, prefixed to it an honourable name. For this, they say, was one
of his particular notions, that the kingdom of Christ should be earthly;
consisting of those things which he himself, a carnal and sensual man,
most admired, the pleasures of the belly and its concupiscence; that is,
eating, and drinking, and marriage; and for the more decent procurement
of these, feastings, and sacrifices, and slaughters of victims. But,
for my part, I dare not reject the book, since many of the brethren
have it in high esteem; but allowing it to be above my understanding, I
suppose it to contain throughout some latent and wonderful meaning; for
though I do not understand it, I suspect there must be some profound
sense in the words; not measuring and judging these things by my own
reason, but ascribing more to faith, I esteem them too sublime to be
comprehended by me.” Then, having quoted some passages from the book,
he adds, speaking of the author, “I do not deny, then, that his name is
John, and that this is John’s book; for I believe it to be the work of
some holy and inspired person. Nevertheless, I cannot easily grant him
to be the apostle, the son of Zebedee, brother of James, whose is the
Gospel ascribed to John, and the Catholic Epistle; for I conclude from
the manner of each, and the term of expression, and the conduct of the
book, as we call it, that he is not the same person; for the Evangelist
nowhere puts down his name, nor does he speak of himself either in
the Gospel or the Epistle. I think, therefore, that he [the author] is
another, one of them that dwelleth in Asia; forasmuch as it is said,
that there are two tombs at Ephesus, each of them called John’s tomb.
And from the sentiment, and words, and disposition of them, it is
likely that he differed from him [who wrote the Gospel and Epistle].”

This is the sum of all that Dionysius says in regard to the genuineness
of the book.

Respecting this the following remarks may be made:――

1. Dionysius, though he did not regard the work as the work of John
the apostle, yet received it as an inspired book, though far above his

2. He does not agree with those who altogether rejected it, as if it
were no revelation, and contained no inspired truth.

3. He did not ascribe it, as it has been supposed by some that Caius
did, to Cerinthus.

4. _All_ the objections that he urges to its being the work of the
apostle {xxxviii} John are derived from the book itself, and from the
difficulty of supposing that the Gospel of John, and the First Epistle
of John, should have been written by the same author. He refers to
no _historical_ proof on that point; and does not even intimate that
its genuineness had been called in question by the early writers. It
is clear, therefore, that the objections of Dionysius should not be
allowed to set aside the strong and clear proofs of a historical nature
already adduced from the early Christian writers. See the opinion of
Dionysius examined more at length in Prof. Stuart, i. 344‒354. Comp.
Hug, _Intro._ pp. 654‒656.

(c) It may be added, in regard to the historical testimony from the
ancients, that the book is not found in many of the early catalogues
of the books of the New Testament, and that this has been made an
objection to its authenticity. Thus Gregory of Nazianzen, in a piece
composed in verse, containing a catalogue of the canonical Scriptures,
omits the book of Revelation; in the catalogue of sacred writings
annexed to the canons of the council of Laodicea, A.D. 363, it is also
omitted; in the so-called Canons of the Apostles, a supposititious
work of the latter part of the fourth century, it is also omitted;
it is also omitted in a catalogue of sacred books published by Cyril
of Jerusalem, A.D. 360; and it is mentioned by Amphilocus, bishop
of Iconium, A.D. 380, as among the books that were doubtful. “Some,”
says he, “admit the Apocalypse of John, but most persons say it is
spurious.” See Michaelis, _Intro. New Test._ iv. 489; Prof. Stuart,
i. 357, seq.

In regard to these omissions, and the doubts entertained by later
writers on the subject, it may be remarked in general, (1) That it is
well known that in the latter part of the fourth century and onward
many doubts were entertained as to the canonical authority of the
Apocalypse, and that, together with the Epistle to the Hebrews, the
Second Epistle of Peter, and the Second and Third Epistles of John,
it was reckoned among the books called _Antilegomena_; that is, _books
spoken against_, or books whose canonical authority was not admitted
by all. (2) This fact shows, as has been often remarked, the great
vigilance of the church in the early ages, in settling the canon of
Scripture, and in determining what books were to be admitted, and what
were to be rejected. (3) These doubts, entertained in a later age,
cannot affect the clear historical testimony of the early writers, as
we now have it; for the question of the origin of the Apocalypse, so
far as the historical testimony is concerned, must be determined by the
testimony of the writers who lived near the time when it is alleged to
have been written. (4) The objections alleged against the Apocalypse
in later times were wholly on _internal_ grounds, and were mainly
derived from the fact that it was supposed to countenance the doctrine
of Chiliasm, or the doctrine of the personal reign of Christ and the
saints, for a thousand years, in Jerusalem; and from the fact that
the followers of Cerinthus appealed to this book in support of their
pernicious errors. The book _seemed_ (see chap. xx.) to countenance
the views early entertained by many on the subject of the millennium,
and, in accordance with a common method of controversy, its canonical
authority was therefore called in question. Thus Hug (_Intro._ p. 654)
says, “It was amidst the disputes concerning the millennium that
the first explicit and well-authenticated denial of the Apocalypse
occurred.” Nepos, bishop of the Arsinoitic præfecture in Egypt, had
maintained that the doctrine of the millennium could be defended from
the book of Revelation by a literal exposition. {xxxix} Dionysius
opposed this view, and, in the violence of the dispute on the subject,
the authority of the Apocalypse itself was called in question by
Dionysius, on the grounds referred to above. “He did this, however,”
says Hug, “with such moderation, that he might not offend those who had
so readily agreed to a compromise;” that is, a compromise by which, as
bishop, he had endeavoured to reconcile the contending parties. Hug has
shown conclusively (pp. 654‒656) that this constitutes no objection to
the genuineness of the book. It was on such internal grounds entirely
that the authenticity of the book was called in question, and that
it was ever placed among the disputed books. That objection is, of
course, of no importance now. (5) It is well known that, mainly by the
influence of Jerome and Augustine (see Prof. Stuart, i. 334), all these
doubts were removed, and that the Apocalypse after their time was all
but universally received, until Luther, for reasons derived from the
book itself, in the early part of his life, again called it in question.

Such is a summary of the historical argument in favour of the
genuineness of the book of Revelation; and such is the nature of the
evidence which has satisfied the Christian world at large that it is
the work of the apostle John, and is, therefore, entitled to a place as
an inspired book in the canon of Scripture. In ancient times there were
no objections to it on historical grounds, and it is unnecessary to say
that there can be none on these grounds now.

(2) The objections to its genuineness and authenticity in modern
times are wholly derived from the contents of the book itself. These
objections, as stated by De Wette, and as expressing the substance
of all that is urged by Ewald, Lücke, Credner, and others, are the

1. That the Apocalyptical writer calls himself John, which the
evangelist never does. It is added, also, by Ewald, Credner, and Hitzig,
that in chap. xviii. 20 and xxi. 14 the writer expressly excludes
himself from the number of the apostles.

2. That the language of the book is entirely different from that of
the fourth Gospel, and the three Epistles of John the apostle. It is
said to be characterized by strong Hebraisms, and by ruggedness; by
negligence of expression, and by grammatical inaccuracies; and that
it exhibits the absence of pure Greek words, and of the apostle’s
favourite expressions.

3. That the style is unlike that which appears in the Gospel and the
Epistles. In the latter it is said there is calm, deep feeling; in the
Apocalypse a lively creative power of fancy.

4. That the doctrinal aspect of the book is different from that of
the apostle’s acknowledged writings. It is said that we find in the
latter nothing of the “sensuous expectations of the Messiah and of
his kingdom,” which are prominent in the Apocalypse; that the views
inculcated respecting spirits, demons, and angels are foreign to John;
and that there is a certain spirit of revenge flowing throughout the
Apocalypse quite inconsistent with the mild and amiable disposition of
the beloved disciple.

For a full consideration of these points, and a complete answer
to these objections, the reader is referred to the _Commentary_ of
Prof. Stuart, vol. i. pp. 371‒422. A more condensed reply is found
in Kitto’s _Cyclopædia of Biblical Literature_, in an article by the
Rev. S. Davidson, LL.D., Professor of Biblical Literature and Oriental
Languages in the Lancashire Independent College, vol. ii. pp. 614‒618.

{xl} The objections do not seem to me to have the importance which
has been attached to them by many persons, but it may be satisfactory
to see the manner in which they are disposed of by Dr. Davidson; I
therefore copy his answer to them.

“Let us now consider the internal evidence in favour of John the
Apostle, beginning with an examination of the arguments adduced on the
other side by De Wette. These do not possess all the weight that many
assign to them. We shall follow the order in which they have been
already stated.

“1. We attach no importance to this circumstance. Why should not
a writer be at liberty to name himself or not as he pleases? above
all, why should not a writer, under the immediate inspiration of the
Almighty, omit the particulars which he was not prompted to record? How
could he refrain from doing so? The Holy Spirit must have had some good
reason for leading the writer to set forth his name, although curiosity
is not gratified by assigning the reason. The Old Testament prophets
usually prefixed their names to the visions and predictions which they
were prompted to record; and John does the same. But instead of styling
himself an apostle, which carries with it an idea of dignity and
official authority, he modestly takes to himself the appellation of
_a servant of Christ, the brother and companion of the faithful in
tribulation_. This corresponds with the relation which he sustained to
Christ in the receiving of such visions, as also with the condition of
the Redeemer himself. In the Gospel John is mentioned as _the disciple
whom Jesus loved_, for then he stood in an intimate relation to Christ,
as the _Son of man_ appearing in the form of a servant; but in the
book before us Christ is announced as the glorified Redeemer who should
quickly come to judgment, and John is _his servant_, intrusted with the
secrets of his house. Well did it become the apostle to forget all the
honour of his apostolic office, and to be abased before the Lord of
glory. The resplendent vision of the Saviour had such an effect upon
the seer that he fell at his feet as dead; and therefore it was quite
natural for him to be clothed with profound humility, to designate
himself the servant of Jesus Christ, the brother and companion of
the faithful in tribulation. Again, in chap. xviii. 20 the prophets
are said to be represented as already in heaven in their glorified
condition, and therefore the writer could not have belonged to their
number. But this passage neither affirms, nor necessarily implies,
that the saints and apostles and prophets were at that time in heaven.
Neither is it stated that _all_ the apostles had then been glorified.
Chap. xxi. 14 is alleged to be inconsistent with the modesty and
humility of John. This is a questionable assumption. The official
honour inseparable from the person of an apostle was surely compatible
with profound humility. It was so with Paul; and we may safely draw the
same conclusion in regard to John. In describing the heavenly Jerusalem
it was necessary to introduce the twelve apostles. The writer could not
exclude himself (see Lücke, p. 389; and Guerike’s _Beiträge_, p. 37,

“2. To enter fully into this argument would require a lengthened
treatise. Let us briefly notice the particular words, phrases, and
expressions to which Ewald, Lücke, De Wette, and Credner specially
allude. Much has been written by Ewald concerning the Hebraistic
character of the language. The writer, it is alleged, strongly imbued
with Hebrew modes of thought, frequently inserts Hebrew words, as in
chap. iii. 14; ix. 11; xii. 9, 10; xix. 1, 3, 4, 6; xx. 2; xxii. 20;
while the influence of _cabbalistic artificiality_ is obvious {xli}
throughout the entire book, and particularly in chap. i. 4, 5; iv. 2;
xiii. 18; xvi. 14. The mode of employing the tenses is foreign to the
Greek language, and moulded after the Hebrew (chap. i. 7; ii. 5, 16,
22, 23, 27; iii. 9; iv. 9‒11; xii. 2‒4; xvi. 15, 21; xvii. 13, 14;
xviii. 11, 15; xxii. 7, 12). So also the use of the participle (chap.
i. 16; iv. 1, 5, 8; v. 6, 13; vi. 2, 5; vii. 9, 10; ix. 11; x. 2;
xiv. 1, 14; xix. 12, 13; xxi. 14); and of the infinitive (chap. xii. 7).
The awkward disposition of words is also said to be Hebraistic; such
as a genitive appended like the construct state; the stringing together
of several genitives (chap. xiv. 8, 10, 19; xvi. 19; xviii. 3, 14;
xix. 15; xxi. 6; xxii. 18, 19); and the use of the Greek cases, which
are frequently changed for prepositions (chap. ii. 10; iii. 9;
vi. 1, 8; viii. 7; ix. 19; xi. 6, 9; xii. 5; xiv. 2, 7); incorrectness
in appositions (chap. i. 5; ii. 20; iii. 12; iv. 2‒4; vi. 1; vii. 9;
viii. 9; ix. 14; xiii. 1‒3; xiv. 2, 12, 14, 20, &c.); a construction
formed of an αὐτός put after the relative pronoun (chap. iii. 8;
vii. 2, 9; xiii. 12; xx. 8); frequent anomalies in regard to number and
gender (chap. ii. 27; iii. 4, 5; iv. 8; vi. 9, 10; ix. 13, 14; xi. 15;
xiv. 1, 3; xvii. 16; xix. 14; and viii. 11; xi. 18; xv. 4; xvii. 12, 15;
xviii. 14; xix. 21; xx. 12; xxi. 4, 24; also chap. xvi. 10; xix. 1,
8, 9). In addition to this, it is alleged by Credner, that the use made
of the Old Testament betrays an acquaintance on the part of the writer
with the Hebrew text (comp. chap. vi. 13, 14, with Isa. xxxiv. 4;
chap. xviii. 2, with Isa. xiii. 21, xxi. 9, xxxiv. 14, Jer. l. 39;
chap. xviii. 4, 5, with Jer. li. 6, 9, 45; chap. xviii. 7, with Isa.
xlvii. 7, 8; chap. xviii. 21‒23, with Jer. xxv. 10, li. 63, 64). In
contrast with all this, we are reminded of the fact that, according to
Acts iv. 13, John was an unlearned and ignorant man.

“The book is deficient in words and turns of expression purely Greek,
such as πάντοτε, πώποτε, οὐδέποτε; compound verbs, as ἀναγγέλλειν,
παραλαμβάνειν, ἐπιβάλλειν; the double negation; the genitive absolute;
the attraction of the relative pronoun; the regular construction of
the neuter plural with the verb singular (except chap. viii. 3; ix. 20;
xiv. 13; xviii. 24; xix. 14; xxi. 12); ἀκούειν with the genitive.
Favourite expressions, such as occur in the Gospel and Epistles, are
seldom found, as θεάομαι, θεωρέω, ἐργάζομαι, ῥήματα, πάλιν, φωνεῖν,
μένειν, καθώς, ὡς (an adverb of time), οὖν, μέν, μέντοι, κόσμος, φῶς,
σκοτία, δοξάζεσθαι, ὑψοῦσθαι, ζωὴ αἰώνιος, ἀπόλλυσθαι, οὗτος (τοῦτο)
ἵνα; the historic present. There are also favourite expressions of the
writer of the book, such as do not occur in John’s authentic writings:
οἰκουμένη, ὑπομονή, κρατεῖν τὸ ὄνομα, τὴν διδαχήν, παντοκράτωρ, θεὸς
καὶ πατήρ, δύναμις, κράτος, ἰσχύς, τιμή, πρωτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν, ἡ ἀρχή
τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ θεοῦ, ὁ ἄρχων τῶν βασιλέων τῆς γῆς, ὧδε in the beginning
of a sentence. The conjunction εἰ, so common in the Gospel, does not
occur in the Apocalypse; but only εἰ μή, εἰ δὲ μή, and εἴ τις. The
frequent joining of a substantive with μέγας, as φωνὴ μεγάλη, θλίψις
μεγάλη, φόβος μέγας, σεισμὸς μέγας, rather reminds one of Luke than
John; μείζων, so frequent in the Gospel, is not found in the Revelation;
and, on the contrary, ἰσχυρός, which occurs seven times in the
Apocalypse, is foreign to the Gospel.

“The following discrepancies between the language of the Gospel and
that of the Epistles have been noticed: ἀληθινός is used of God both
in the Gospel and the Apocalypse, but in different senses; so also
κύριος, and ἐργάζομαι; instead of ἴδε the Apocalypse has only ἰδού;
instead of Ἱεροσόλυμα only Ἱερουσαλήμ; instead of ἐάν τις, as in the
Gospel, εἴ τις; περί, so often used by John, occurs only once in the
Apocalypse, and that too in relation to place; ὄχλος is {xlii} used in
the plural. Words denoting _seeing_ are differently used in the Gospel
and Apocalypse; thus, for the present we find in the latter βλέπειν,
θεωρεῖν, ὁρᾶν; for the aorist of the active εἶδον, βλέπειν, and
θεωρεῖν; for the future ὄπτεσθαι, and for the aorist of the passive
also ὄπτεσθαι; μένειν has a different meaning from that which it bears
in the Gospel; instead of ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου, and ὁ πονηρός, we find
ὁ σατανᾶς, ὁ διάβολος, ὁ δράκων ὁ μέγας.

“Such is a summary statement of an argument drawn out at great length
by Lücke, De Wette, Ewald, and Credner.

“Some have attempted to turn aside its force by resorting to the
hypothesis that the book was originally written in Hebrew and then
translated into Greek. This, however, is contradicted by the most
decisive internal evidence, and is in itself highly improbable. The
Apocalypse was written in the Greek language, as all antiquity attests.
How, then, are we to account for its Hebraistic idioms and solecisms of
language, its negligences of diction, and ungrammatical constructions?
One circumstance to be taken into account is, that the nature of the
Gospel is widely different from that of the Apocalypse. The latter is
a prophetic book――a poetical composition; while the former is a simple
record in prose, of the discourses of Jesus in the days of his flesh.
It is apparent, too, that John in the Apocalypse imitates the manner of
Ezekiel and Daniel. The New Testament prophet conforms to the diction
and symbolic features of the former seers. ‘If the question should
be urged why John chose these models, the obvious answer is, that he
conformed to the taste of the times in which he lived. The numerous
apocryphal works of an Apocalyptical nature, which were composed nearly
at the same time with the Apocalypse――such as the book of Enoch, the
Ascension of Isaiah, the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, many of
the Sibylline Oracles, the fourth book of Ezra, the Pastor of Hermas,
and many others which are lost――all testify to the taste and feelings
of the times when, or near which, the Apocalypse was written. If this
method of writing was more grateful to the time in which John lived,
it is a good reason for his preferring it.’[56] In consequence of such
imitation, the diction has an Oriental character; and the figures are
in the highest style of imagery peculiar to the East. But it is said
that John was an illiterate man. Illiterate, doubtless, he was as
compared with Paul, who was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel; yet he
may have been capable of reading the Old Testament books; and he was
certainly inspired. Wrapt in ecstasy, he saw wondrous visions. He was
_in the Spirit_. And when writing the things he beheld, his language
was to be conformed to the nature of such marvellous revelations. It
was to be adapted to the mysterious disclosures, the vivid pictures,
the moving scenes, the celestial beings and scenery of which he Was
privileged to tell. Hence it was to be lifted up far above the level
of simple prose or biographic history, so as to correspond with the
sublime visions of the seer. Nor should it be forgotten that he was
not in the circumstances of an ordinary writer. He was _inspired_.
How often is this fact lost sight of by the German critics! It is,
therefore, needless to inquire into his education in the Hebrew
language, or his mental culture while residing in Asia Minor, or the
smoothness of the Greek language as current in the place where he lived,
before and after he wrote the Apocalypse. The Holy Spirit qualified
him beyond and irrespective of ordinary means for the work of writing.
However elevated the theme he undertook, he was assisted in {xliii}
employing diction as elevated as the nature of the subject demanded. We
place, therefore, little reliance upon the argument derived from _the
time of life_ at which the Apocalypse was composed, though Olshausen
and Guerike insist upon it. Written, as they think, twenty years before
the Gospel or Epistles, the Apocalypse exhibits marks of inexperience
in writing, of youthful fire, and of an ardent temperament. It exhibits
the first essays of one expressing his ideas in a language to which he
was unaccustomed. This may be true; but we lay far less stress upon it
than these authors seem inclined to do. The strong Hebraized diction of
the book we account for on the ground that the writer was a Jew; and,
as such, expressed his Jewish conceptions in Greek; that he imitated
the later Old Testament prophets, especially the manner of Daniel;
and that the only prophetic writing in the New Testament naturally
approaches nearer the Old Testament, if not in subject, at least in
colouring and linguistic features.

“These considerations may serve to throw light upon the language
of the book, after all the extravagancies of assertion in regard to
anomalies, solecisms, and ruggednesses, have been fairly estimated. For
it cannot be denied that many rash and unwarrantable assumptions have
been made by De Wette and others relative to the impure Greek said
to be contained in the Apocalypse. Winer has done much to check such
bold assertions, but with little success in the case of those who are
resolved to abide by a strong and prevalent current of opinion. We
venture to affirm, without fear of contradiction, that there are
books in the New Testament almost as Hebraizing as the Apocalypse;
and that the anomalies charged to the account of the Hebrew language
may be paralleled in other parts of the New Testament, or in classical
Greek. What shall be said, for instance, to the attempt of Hitzig to
demonstrate from the language of Mark’s Gospel, as compared with that
of the Apocalypse, that both proceeded from one author, viz. John Mark?
This author has conducted a lengthened investigation with the view of
showing that all the peculiarities of language found in the Apocalypse
are equally presented in the second Gospel, particularly that the
Hebraisms of the one correspond with those of the other. Surely
this must lead to new investigations of the Apocalyptic diction, and
possibly to a renunciation of those extravagant assertions so often
made in regard to the harsh, rugged, Hebraized Greek of the Apocalypse.
Who ever dreamed before of the numerous solecisms of Mark’s language?
and yet Hitzig has demonstrated its similarity to the Apocalyptic
as plausibly as Ewald, Lücke, and others have proved the total
dissimilarity between the diction of the Apocalypse and that of John’s

“The length allotted to this article will not allow the writer to
notice every term and phrase supposed to be peculiar. This can only be
done with success by him who takes a concordance to the Greek Testament
in his hand, with the determination to test each example; along with
a good syntax of classical Greek, such as Bernhardy’s. In this way
he may see whether the alleged Hebraisms and anomalies have not their
parallels in classical Greek. Some of the allegations already quoted
are manifestly incorrect, _e.g._, that ἀκούω with the genitive is not
found in the Apocalypse. On the contrary, it occurs eight times with
the genitive. Other words are adduced on the principle of their not
occurring so frequently in the book before us as in the Gospel and
Epistles. But by this mode of reasoning it might be shown, that the
other acknowledged writings of the apostle John, for instance his
First Epistle, are not {xliv} authentic. Thus ῥήματα, one of the words
quoted, though frequently found in the Gospel, is not in any of the
three Epistles; therefore, these Epistles were not written by John.
It is found _once_ in the Apocalypse. Again, ἐργάζομαι, which is found
seven times in the Gospel, and once in the Apocalypse, as also once
in each of the Second and Third Epistles, is not in the First Epistle;
therefore the First Epistle proceeded from another writer than the
author of the Second and Third. The same reasoning may be applied to
θεωρέω. Again, it is alleged that the regular construction of neuters
plural with singular verbs is not found, with the exception of six
instances. To say nothing of the large list of exceptions, let it be
considered, that the plural verb is joined with plural nouns where
animate beings, especially persons, are designated. Apply now this
principle, which regularly holds good in classical Greek, to the
Apocalypse, and nothing peculiar will appear in the latter. Should
there still remain examples of neuters plural designating things
without life, we shall find similar ones in the Greek writers. Another
mode in which the reasoning founded upon the use of peculiar terms
and expressions may be tested is the following. It is admitted that
there are words which occur in the Gospel and Epistles, but not in the
Apocalypse. The adverb πάντοτε is an example. On the same principle,
and by virtue of the same reasoning, it may be denied, _as far as
language is concerned_, that 1 Timothy was written by Paul, because
πάντοτε, which is found in his other epistles, does not occur in
it. In this manner we might individually take up each word and every
syntactical peculiarity on which the charge of harshness, or solecism,
or Hebraizing has been fastened. It is sufficient to state, that there
are very few _real_ solecisms in the Apocalypse. _Almost all_ that
have been adduced may be paralleled in Greek writers, or in those of
the New Testament. The words of Winer, a master in this department,
are worthy of attention: ‘The solecisms that appear in the Apocalypse
give the diction the impress of great harshness, but they are _capable
of explanation_, partly from anacoluthon and the mingling of two
constructions, partly in another manner. Such explanation should have
been always adopted, instead of ascribing these irregularities to the
ignorance of the author, who, in other constructions of a much more
difficult nature in this very book, shows that he was exceedingly well
acquainted with the rules of grammar. For most of these anomalies,
too, analogous examples in the Greek writers may be found, with this
difference alone, that they do hot follow one another so frequently as
in the Apocalypse,’ (_Grammatik, fünfte Auflage_, pp. 273, 274). Should
the reader not be satisfied with this brief statement of Winer, he is
referred to his _Exeget. Studien_, i. 154, seq., where the professor
enters into details with great ability.

“The following linguistic similarities between John’s Gospel and
the Apocalypse deserve to be cited: μετὰ ταῦτα, Apoc. i. 19; iv. 1;
vii. 1, 9; ix. 12; xv. 5; xviii. 1; xix. 1; xx. 3;――Gosp. iii. 22;
v. 1, 14; vi. 1; vii. 1; xix. 38; xxi. 1. μαρτυρία, Apoc. i. 2, 9;
vi. 9; xi. 7; xii. 11, 17; xix. 10; xx. 4;――Gosp. (μαρτυρέω or
μαρτυρία) i. 7, 8, 15, 19, 32, 34; ii. 25; iii. 11, 26, 28, 32, 33;
iv. 3, 9, 44; v. 31‒34, 36, 37, 39;――1 Epist. i. 2; iv. 14; v. 6‒11.
ἵνα, Apoc. ii. 10, 21; iii. 9, 11, 18; vi. 2, 4, 11; vii. 1, &c.;――Gosp.
vi. 5, 7, 12, 15, 28‒30, 38‒40, 50; xi. 4, 11, 15, 16, 19, 31, 37, 42,
50, 52, 53, 55, 57; xii. 9, 10, 20, 23, 35, &c.;――1 Epist. of John
i. 3, 4, 9; ii. 1, 19, 27, 28. ὄψις, Gosp. vii. 24; xi. 44;――Apoc.
i. 16. πιάζειν, Apoc. xix. 20;――Gosp. vii. 30, 32, 44; viii. 20; x. 39;
xi. 57; xxi. 3, 10. τηρεῖν τὸν λόγον, τὰς ἐντολάς, or some similar
expression, Apoc. iii. 8, 10; xii. 17; xiv. 12; xxii. 7, 9;――Gosp.
viii. 51, 55; {xlv} xiv. 15; xxiii. 24, &c. ὁ νικῶν, Apoc. ii. 7, 11,
17, 26; iii. 5, 12, 21; xv. 2; xxi. 7. This verb is quite common in
the First Epistle, chap. ii. 13, 14; iv. 4; v. 4, 5;――Gosp. xvi. 33.
ὕδωρ ζωῆς, Apoc. xxi. 6; xxii. 17; comp. Gosp. vii. 38. Compare also
the joining together of the present and the future in Apoc. ii. 5, and
Gosp. xiv. 3. The assertion of the same thing positively and negatively,
Apoc. ii. 2, 6, 8, 13; iii. 8, 17, 21; Gosp. i. 3, 6, 7, 20, 48;
iii. 15, 17, 20; iv. 42; v. 19, 24; viii. 35, 45; x. 28; xv. 5‒7;
1 Epist. ii. 27, &c. In several places in the Apocalypse Christ is
called the Lamb; so also in the Gospel, chap. i. 29, 36. Christ is
called ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ, Apoc. xix. 13, and in the Gospel of John only
has he the same epithet. τηρεῖν ἔκ τινος, Apoc. iii. 10; Gosp. xvii. 15.
σφάττειν, Apoc. v. 6, 9, 12; vi. 4, 9; xiii. 3, 8; xviii. 24; only in
the 1st Epistle of John, chap. iii. 12. ἔχειν μέρος, Apoc. xx. 6; Gosp.
xiii. 8. περιπατεῖν μετά τινος, Apoc. iii. 4; Gosp. vi. 66. σκηνόω,
Apoc. vii. 15; xii. 12; xiii. 6; xxi. 3; Gosp. i. 14. The expulsion
of Satan from heaven is expressed thus in the Apoc. xii. 9: ἐβλήθη
εἰς τὴν γῆν; in the Gosp. it is said, νῦν ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου
ἐκβληθήσεται ἔξω, chap. xii. 31. (See Scholz, _Die Apokalypse
des heilig. Johannes übersetzt, erklärt_, u. s. w. Frankfurt
am Main, 1828, 8vo; Schulz, _Ueber den Schriftsteller, Character und
Werth des Johannes_, Leipzig, 1803, 8vo; Donker Curtius, _Specimen
hermeneuticotheologicum de Apocalypsi ab indole, doctrina, et scribendi
genere Johannis Apostoli non abhorrente_, Trajecti Batav. 1799, 8vo;
Kolthoff, _Apocalypsis Joanni Apostolo vindicata_, Hafniæ, 1834, 8vo;
Stein, in Winer and Engelhardt’s _Kritisch. Journal_, v. i.; and the
_Jena Literatur-Zeitung_ for April, 1833, No. 61.) It is true that
some of these expressions are said, by Lücke, De Wette, and Credner,
to be used in a different sense in the Apocalypse; others not to
be _characteristic_, but rather accidental and casual; others not
_original_, but borrowed. Such assertions, however, proceed more from
_à priori_ assumption than from any inherent truth they possess. In
regard to the charge of _cabbalism_, especially in the use of numbers,
it is easily disposed of. The cabbala of the Jews was widely different
from the instances in the Apocalypse that have been quoted. Perhaps
John’s use of the number 666 comes the nearest to one kind of the
cabbala; but still it is so unlike as to warrant the conclusion
that the apostle did not employ the cabbalistic art. His mysterious
indications of certain facts, and the reasons of their being in some
measure involved in darkness, are explicable on other than Jewish
grounds. There is no real cause for believing that the apostle had
recourse to the artificial and trifling conceits of the Rabbins. In
short, this argument is by no means conclusive. As far as the language
is concerned, nothing militates against the opinion that the Apocalypse
proceeded from John, who wrote the Gospel. The contrary evidence is not
of such a nature as to demand assent. When rigidly scrutinized, it does
not sustain the conclusion so confidently built upon it.

“But it is also affirmed, that the doctrinal views and sentiments
inculcated in the Apocalypse are quite different from those found in
the Gospel. This may be freely allowed without any detriment to their
identity of authorship. How slow the Germans are in learning that a
difference in the exhibition of truths substantially the same is far
from being a contradiction! A difference of subject in connection with
a different plan, demands correspondent dissimilarity of treatment.
Besides, there must be a gradual development of the things pertaining
to the kingdom of God on earth. Sensuous expectations of the Messiah,
such as are alleged to abound in the Apocalypse, may be perfectly
{xlvi} consistent with the spirituality of his reign, though it appears
to us that the representations so designated are figurative, shadowing
forth spiritual realities by means of outward objects.

“But what is to be said of the pneumatological, demonological, and
angelogical doctrines of the book? The object for which John’s Gospel
was primarily written did not lead the apostle to introduce so many
particulars regarding angels and evil spirits. The intervention of good
and the malignant influence of evil spirits are clearly implied in the
Old Testament prophets, particularly in Zechariah and Daniel. It is
therefore quite accordant with the prophetic Hebraistic character of
the Apocalypse, to make angelic agency a prominent feature in the book.
And that such agency is recognized in the Gospels, is apparent to the
most cursory reader. The special object with which the fourth Gospel
was written was different from that which prompted the composition of
the Apocalypse, and therefore the subject-matter of both is exceedingly
diverse. But still there is no opposition in doctrine. The same
doctrinal views lie at the foundation of all the representations
contained in them. In the one, the Redeemer is depicted in his humble
career on earth; in the other, in his triumphs as a king――or rather,
in the victorious progress of his truth in the world, notwithstanding
all the efforts of Satan and wicked men to suppress it. As to a spirit
of revenge in the Apocalyptic writer, it is not found. The inspired
prophet was commissioned to pronounce woes and judgments as soon to
befall the enemies of Christ, in consequence of their persevering,
malignant efforts. As well might an evil disposition be attributed to
the blessed Saviour himself, in consequence of his denunciation of the
Scribes and Pharisees. The same John who wrote the Apocalypse says, in
the Second Epistle, ver. 10, ‘If there come any unto you and bring not
this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God
speed.’ It must ever strike the simple reader of the Apocalypse as a
positive ground for attributing the authorship to John the apostle,
that he styles himself THE _servant_ of God by way of eminence, which
none other at that time would have ventured to do; and that he employs
the expression, _I John_, after the manner of Daniel, as if he were the
only prophet and person of the name. Nor can it be well believed that a
disciple of the apostle, or any other individual, should have presumed
to introduce John as the speaker, thus deceiving the readers. The
apostle was well known to the Christians of his time, and especially
to the Asiatic churches. He did not therefore think it necessary to say
John the Apostle for the sake of distinguishing himself from any other.
See Züllig’s _Die Offenbarung Johannis_, Stuttgart, 1834, 8vo, p. 136.”

             § II.――_The Time of Writing the Apocalypse._

The evidence as to the date of the Apocalypse may be considered as
external or historical, and internal.

1. External or historical. On this point the testimony of the early
Christian fathers is almost or quite uniform, that it was in the latter
part of the life of the apostle John, and towards the end of the reign
of Domitian; that is, about A.D. 95 or 96.

The principal testimony to this fact is that of Irenæus. It will be
recollected that he was a disciple of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who
was himself the disciple of the apostle John. See § I. (b). He had,
therefore, every opportunity of obtaining correct information, and
doubtless expresses the common {xlvii} sentiment of his age on the
subject. His character is unexceptionable, and he had no inducement
to bear any false or perverted testimony in the case. His testimony
is plain and positive that the book was written near the close of the
reign of Domitian, and the testimony should be regarded as decisive
unless it can be set aside. His language in regard to the book of
Revelation is: “It was seen _no long time ago, but almost in our age,
at the end of the reign of Domitian_” (Lardner, ii. 181). Or, as the
passage is translated by Prof. Stuart: “The Apocalypse was seen not
long ago, but almost in our generation, near the end of Domitian’s
reign.” There can be no doubt, therefore, as to the meaning of the
passage, or as to the time when Irenæus believed the book to have been
written. Domitian was put to death A.D. 96, and consequently, according
to Irenæus, the Apocalypse must have been written not far from this

This testimony of Irenæus is confirmed by that of Clement of Alexandria.
Relating the well-known story of John and the robber, he speaks of the
event as having occurred on his return from exile in Patmos “_after the
death of the tyrant_,” and represents him as _then an infirm old man_.
The testimony in the book itself (chap. i. 9) is clear, that John was
on the island of Patmos when these visions were seen. The “_tyrant_”
whose death is here referred to must necessarily be either _Nero_ or
_Domitian_, as these were, up to the end of the first century, the only
imperial persecutors of the Christians. It cannot be supposed to be
Nero, since at the time of his persecution (A.D. 64) John could not
be supposed to be an “infirm old man;” being probably not much above,
if indeed so much as sixty years of age. See Eusebius, _Ecc. Hist._,
b. iii. chap. 23. Of this testimony Prof. Stuart, who himself supposes
that the Apocalypse was written before the death of Nero, says (i. 264),
“The tyrant here meant is probably Domitian; at least, although he is
not named by Clement, it is clear that Eusebius so understands the

Victorinus, bishop of Pettaw and martyr in Diocletian’s persecution,
in his _Commentary on the Apocalypse_, written towards the close of the
third century, says twice expressly that the Apocalypse was seen by the
apostle John in the isle of Patmos, when banished thither by the Roman
emperor Domitian. See the passages quoted in Elliott, i. 39, and in
Prof. Stuart, i. 264. The testimony is unequivocal.

To these testimonies from the early fathers may be added that of Jerome,
who says that “John saw the Apocalypse on the island of Patmos, to
which he was sent by Domitian,” and in another place he says that this
occurred in the fourteenth year of the reign of Domitian (Adv. Jovin.
lib. i., Lardner, iv. 446, 447).

And to these plain testimonies may be added those of Sulpicius
Severus and Orosius, contemporaries of Augustine; Gregory Turonensis
(cent. vi.), Isidorus Hispalensis (cent. vii.), Marianus Scotus,
Primasius, and others. See Prof. Stuart, i. 264, 265, and Elliott,
i. 38, 39.

Such is the _positive_ testimony that the book was written near
the end of the reign of Domitian and about A.D. 96. It is true, that
notwithstanding this positive testimony, there were some writers who
assigned it to an earlier date. Thus Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis in
Cyprus, in the latter half of the fourth century, speaks of John as
having prophesied in the isle of Patmos in the days of the emperor
_Claudius_ (A.D. 41‒54); a time when, as Michaelis observes, it does
not appear from history that there was any imperial persecution of
Christians {xlviii} whatever, and when, moreover, the probability is
that, of the seven Apocalyptic churches, scarcely one was in existence,
and the apostle John was in no way associated with them. Lardner
(iv. 190) seems to suspect that, in the passage referred to, the
name _Claudius_ was a fault of the transcriber. Epiphanius, however,
received the Apocalypse as the work of John and as an inspired book
(Lardner, iv. 190). Others have ascribed the date of the book of
Revelation to the time of Nero. Thus, in the later Syriac version, the
title-page declares that it was written in Patmos, _whither John was
sent by Nero Cæsar_. This version, however, was made in the beginning
of the sixth century, and can have little authority in determining
the question. It is not known by whom the version was made, or on what
authority the author relied, when he said that John was banished to
Patmos in the time of Nero. So also Andreas and Arethas, commentators
on the book of Revelation, one of them in the beginning of the
sixth century and the other in the middle of the sixth century, make
quotations from the book in such a manner as to show that they supposed
that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. They, however,
made no express declaration on that point, and their testimony at
anyrate, at that late period, is of little value. A few other later
writers also supposed that the book was written at an earlier period
than the reign of Domitian. See Prof. Stuart, i. 268, 269.

Such is the sum of the historical testimony as to the time when the
Apocalypse was written; and that testimony, it seems to me, is so clear
as to settle the point so far as the historical evidence is concerned,
that the book was written near the end of the reign of Domitian, that
is, about A.D. 95 or 96. My exposition of the book proceeds on the
supposition that it was written at that time.

2. There is another inquiry, however, as to the _internal_ evidence,
for on this ground it has been maintained that it must have been
written before the destruction of Jerusalem and in the time of Nero.
See the argument in Prof. Stuart, i. 270‒282.

Now, in regard to this it may be remarked in general, that on the
supposition that it was written near the close of the life of John,
and in the time of Domitian, it can be shown that there is no internal
improbability or inconsistency; that is, in other words, all the known
circumstances in regard to John, and to the condition of the church at
that time, would accord with that supposition. For,

(a) It is known that John spent many of the later years of his life
at Ephesus, in the midst of the seven churches to which the book was
addressed, and the epistles in the book are such as they would be on
that supposition.

(b) It is admitted that there was a persecution of Christians in
the time of Domitian; and of the persecution which he excited against
Christians, Mosheim remarks that “he was an emperor little inferior to
Nero in baseness of character and conduct. This persecution undoubtedly
was severe; but it was of short continuance, as the emperor was soon
murdered” (Mosheim, i. 69). It commenced about A.D. 93 or 94. It is
not certainly known how far it extended, but as the _ground_ of the
persecution was a fear of Domitian that he would lose his empire
from some person among the relatives of _Christ_ who would attempt
a revolution (Mosheim, i. 69; Milman, _Hist. of Christianity_, 193),
ere is every probability that it would be directed particularly to the
East and the countries near where the Saviour lived and died.

{xlix} (c) It is not improbable that John would be _banished_ in
this persecution. He was a man of great influence among Christians,
and it is to be presumed that he would not escape the notice of those
who were actively engaged in carrying on the persecution. Moreover, it
is _as_ probable that he would be _banished_ as that he would be put to
death; for, though we have few facts respecting this persecution, and
few names are mentioned, yet we have one recorded instance in which
banishment on account of professing the Christian religion took place.
Thus Milman (_Hist. of Christianity_, p. 193), speaking of two of the
cousin-germans of Domitian, says, “The one fell an early victim to his
jealous apprehensions. The other, Flavius Clemens, is described as
a man of the most contemptible indolence of character. His powerful
kinsman, instead of exciting the fears, enjoyed for some time the
favour of Domitian. He received in marriage Domitilla, the niece of
the emperor; his children were adopted as heirs to his throne; Clemens
himself obtained the consulship. On a sudden these harmless kinsmen
became dangerous conspirators; they were arraigned on the unprecedented
charge of Atheism and Jewish manners; the husband Clemens was put to
death; _the wife Domitilla banished to the desert island of either
Pontia or Pandataria_.” Nothing is more probable, therefore, than that
John the apostle should be also _banished to a desert island_――and
Patmos was admirably adapted to such a purpose. See Notes on chap.
i. 9. There is, therefore, everything in the circumstances to make
it _probable_ that the book was written at the time in which it is so
uniformly said by the early historians to have been. Those things seem
to me to make it proper to acquiesce in the general opinion so long
entertained in regard to the date of the Apocalypse, for there is,
perhaps, no book of the New Testament whose date is better determined
on historical grounds than this. These considerations also make it
unnecessary to examine the alleged internal evidence from the book
that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, especially
as it will be shown in the Notes that the passages usually relied on
(chap. vi. 9, 10; vii.; xi. 3, 8; xvii. 8, 11; and chap. i. 1, 3;
xxii. 7, 20) are susceptible of an easy and satisfactory explanation
on the supposition that the book was written in the time of Domitian,
or _after_ the destruction of Jerusalem. See also Editor’s Preface.

            § III.――_The Place where the Book was Written._

The book itself purports (chap. i. 9) to have been written in the
island of Patmos, where the writer says he was “for the word of God,
and for the testimony of Jesus Christ;” that is, clearly, where he had
been banished for his attachment to the Saviour. For an account of this
island, see Notes on chap. i. 9. The only question that has ever been
raised on this point is, whether this was a _reality_, or a _poetical
fiction_――that is, whether the writer in his visions merely _seemed_
to have been transferred to the place, and this was made the imaginary
scene of the vision. The latter supposition has been entertained by
Eichhorn in his _Introduction to the New Testament_ (1810), and by some
other writers.

In favour, however, of understanding this as a literal fact, the
following considerations may be suggested:――

1. The clear statement of the writer himself (chap. i. 9)――a statement
that should be received as literally true, unless there is something
in the character of the composition, or some intrinsic improbability
in the case, to set it aside. {l} If the composition were avowedly
fictitious or poetical, then it would be understood that such a
statement was not to be received literally. And thus, in a prophetic
record, it _might_ be clear that it was a mere visionary representation,
in which the prophet _seemed_ to be transported to some place where
there would be no danger of misunderstanding it. Undoubtedly, on this
principle, some of the visions of Ezekiel and Jeremiah are to be
regarded as located at some place remote from that where the prophet
was; and thus many of the visions in this book are located in heaven or
elsewhere. But these cases are wholly different from the statement in
chap. i. 9. Patmos is not represented as the mere scene of a vision.
The statement occurs in a plain prose narrative, and there is no
intrinsic improbability that it is true.

2. This accords with the representation of history, and with the
probabilities of the case, that John was actually banished to Patmos in
a time of persecution. See § II. On this point the representations of
history are uniform, and they are such, that if a writer had _designed_
to forge a book in the name of John, he would, in all probability, have
fixed on Patmos as the scene of the vision, from the fact that he was
actually banished there.

3. If Patmos was merely a fictitious place, why should John select it?
What was there in _that_ island that would have occurred to him as a
proper place to be the scene of such visions? It was little known; it
had no sacred associations; it had never been represented as a place
visited by the Most High, and it had no particular relation to the
scenes which are referred to. One born in Judea, and trained under the
influence of the Hebrew religion; one who was a disciple of Christ, and
who had witnessed the scene of the transfiguration or the ascension,
would have been much more likely to select Sinai, Carmel, Hermon, Tabor,
or Olivet, as the scene where the visions were to be laid. These were
consecrated spots. On these God had manifested himself in a peculiar
manner; had conversed with men, and had given glorious exhibitions of
his character and plans. Why should not one of these spots――any one
of them in itself is as well adapted to be the scene of such visions
as the lonely isle of Patmos――have been selected? Why was a _Grecian_
island chosen――a place not once named in all the sacred writings, and
so small and so desolate as to have been almost entirely, before this,
unknown even in the heathen world?

4. All the circumstances have the aspect of _reality_. It was a _real_
persecution to which the writer refers, and it was a _real_ affliction
which he was experiencing, and the concinnity of the passage requires
us to understand this as a _real_ transfer to a lonely island. If that
were a mere vision, then we should be required also to understand the
statement that he was “a companion of others in _tribulation_” as a
vision also, and his affliction as an account of an _ideal_ transfer to
that island. But this is contrary to the spirit of the passage in chap.
i. 9; and the whole, therefore, should be understood as the statement
of a literal fact.

These considerations are sufficient to show, that the common
opinion, that the visions were seen in the island of Patmos, has every
probability in its favour, and should be received as correct. Whether
the _record_ was actually made on that island, or was made afterwards,
is a point on which no light can be observed, and which is of no
importance. From such passages, however, as those in chap. x. 4;
xiv. 13; xix. 9; and xxi. 5, it would seem probable {li} that the
record was made as soon as the visions were seen, and that the book was
actually _written_ in Patmos.

              § IV.――_The Nature and Design of the Book._

This must be learned from an examination of the book itself, and
the views entertained on this point will be determined, in a great
measure, by the principles which are adopted in interpreting it. From
the examination which I have given of the book, and the methods of
interpretation which I have adopted, it seems to me that the matter and
design of the book may be expressed in the following specifications:――

1. It was composed in a time of persecution, and in view of the
persecutions and hostilities, external and internal, to which the
church was then, and would be exposed. Christianity was then in its
infancy. It was comparatively feeble. It encountered the opposition of
the world. The arm of the civil power was raised to crush it. It was
also exposed to the attacks of internal foes, and persecutions would
arise from its own bosom, and formidable enemies in future times would
seem to endanger its very existence. Heresies, and divisions, and
corruptions of doctrine and of practice, might be expected to exist
in its own bosom; times of conflict and darkness would come; changes
would occur in governments that would deeply affect the welfare of the
church; and there might be periods when it would seem to be doubtful
whether the true church would not become wholly extinct. The faith
of Christians was, doubtless, sorely tried in the persecution which
existed when the book was written, and would be in like manner often
sorely tried in the corruptions and persecutions of future ages.

2. The Apocalypse is designed to meet this state of feeling by
furnishing the assurance that the gospel would ultimately prevail;
that all its enemies would be subdued, and the kingdom of the Messiah
set up over all the world. It was intended to impart consolation to the
people of God in all ages, and in all forms of persecution and trial,
by the assurance that the true religion would be at last triumphant,
thus furnishing an illustration of the truth of the declarations of
the Saviour respecting the church, that the “gates of hell should not
prevail against it,” Mat. xvi. 18. Hence everything in the book tends
to the final triumph of the gospel; and hence at the close (chap. xx.),
we have the assurance of its far-spread diffusion over the earth, for
a period of a thousand years, and (chap. xxi., xxii.) a graphic view of
the state of the redeemed when they shall be delivered from sin and woe,
and when all tears shall be wiped away from their eyes.

3. The method of doing this is by giving a rapid glance at the great
events of history, bearing on the church in all coming times, till it
should be triumphant; or by sketching a bold _outline_ of the principal
things that would serve to endanger the church, and the principal
divine interpositions in behalf of the church, until its triumph
should be secured upon the earth. This _might_ have been done by direct
statement, or by plain and positive assertion, as it was by many of
the prophets; but the end, in this case, would be better secured by a
glance at future history, in such a way, that while the great fact of
the final triumph of the gospel would be kept before the church, there
might be furnished a clear demonstration, in the end, of the divine
origin and inspiration of the book itself. This latter object, indeed,
would have been _in fact_ accomplished by a plain declaration, but it
would be _best_ {lii} accomplished by such _details_ as would show that
the whole course of events was comprehended by the Holy Spirit――the
real author of the whole. A general view of these details may be seen,
according to the principles which I have adopted in the interpretation
of the work, in the Analysis at the close of the Introduction, § V.

4. The method in which this is mainly done in this book is by
_pictures_ or _symbols_; for, above all the other books in the Bible,
the Apocalypse is characterized by this method of representation, and
it may eminently be called a book of symbols. It is this which has
made it appear to be so obscure; and this particularly which has given
occasion for so great a variety in the methods of interpreting it――for
there is no kind of representation that furnishes occasion for so
much fanciful interpretation as that of symbolical writing. The true
principle of interpreting symbolical language has been hitherto little
understood, and consequently every writer has indulged his own fancy in
affixing such a meaning to the symbol as he chose. The result has been,
that there has been no generally admitted principle of interpretation
respecting this book, and that the variety of conjectures indulged, and
the wild and vain theories advanced, have produced the impression that
the book is not susceptible of a plain and sensible exposition. A very
common belief is, that symbolical language must, from the nature of the
case, be obscure and unintelligible, and that a book, written in the
manner of the Apocalypse, must always be liable to the wild vagaries
of imagination which have been so commonly exhibited in the attempts
to explain this book. These considerations make it proper to offer
a few remarks here about the nature of symbolical language, and on
the question whether a book written in that language is necessarily
unintelligible, or incapable of a plausible interpretation.

A symbol is properly a representation of any moral thing by the images
or properties of natural things. Thus a circle is a symbol of eternity,
as having neither beginning nor end; an eye is a symbol of wisdom; a
lion, of courage; a lamb, of meekness and gentleness. This general idea
of symbols is found in types, enigmas, parables, fables, allegories,
emblems, hieroglyphics, &c. The symbols mostly used in the book of
Revelation are _pictures_, and could be painted――and, indeed, a great
part of the book could be represented in a _panorama_, and would
constitute a series of the most splendid drawings that the world can
conceive. The following remarks may throw some light on the reason why
this mode of representation was adopted, and on the question whether a
book written in this manner is necessarily unintelligible.

(a) This method of representation is not uncommon in the ancient
prophecies. A considerable portion of Daniel and Ezekiel is written in
this way; and it is often resorted to by Isaiah and the other prophets.
It was a method of representation which accorded well with the warm
and glowing imagination of the Orientals, and with the character
of mind in the early periods of the world. It was _supposed_ to
be capable of conveying ideas of important events, although it was
doubtless understood that there might be some degree of obscurity in
the representation, and that study and ingenuity might be requisite
in understanding it――as is always the case with parables and enigmas.
We have frequent instances in the Bible of a certain kind of trial
of skill in expounding dark sayings and riddles, when the sense was
intentionally so conveyed as to demand acuteness of thought in the
explanation. The {liii} utterance of truths in symbolic language
accorded much with this prevailing bent of mind in the ancient and the
oriental world――as we see in the symbolical representations in Egypt.
If the use of symbols, therefore, in the Apocalypse be urged as an
objection to the book, the objection would lie with equal force against
no small part of the writings of the ancient Hebrew prophets, and
against a method of writing which was actually in extensive use in the
early ages of the world. To object to it, must be to object that our
own methods and views were not the views and methods of all past ages;
that the improved modes of communication in existence now were not in
existence always.

(b) Such a method of representation may be, however, clear and
intelligible. The purpose of prophecy does not require that there
should be in all cases an explicit statement of what will occur, or
a particular detail of names, dates, and circumstances――for if such
a statement were made, it is plain that it would be possible, on the
one hand, for an impostor so to shape his conduct as to seem to fulfil
the prophecy, and, on the other, for wicked men, knowing exactly what
was predicted, to prevent its fulfilment. All that is demanded in
such predictions is, (1) such a statement as undoubtedly _refers_ to
the future event; (2) such a statement as, when fairly interpreted,
_describes_ such an event; and (3) such a statement as that, when
the event occurs, it shall be clear that this was the event referred
to, or that the prediction cannot properly be referred to any other
event; that is, so that they shall compare with each other as the
two parts of a tally do. Now, that symbolical language may have these
characteristics, and may be in these respects sufficiently clear and
plain, is evident from the following considerations:――

1. A picture may be a correct representation of an event. It was thus
among the Mexicans, who, by means of pictures, were enabled to give a
correct representation of the landing of the Spaniards, and to convey
to their monarch a correct idea of the number and character of the
Spanish forces.

The following extract from Dr. Robertson’s _History of America_,
book v., § xii., referring to the landing of the Spaniards in Mexico,
will illustrate this:――“During this interview [an interview between
Cortes and the ambassadors of Montezuma], some painters in the train
of the Mexican chiefs had been diligently employed in delineating, upon
white cotton cloths, figures of the ships, the horses, the artillery,
the soldiers, and whatever else attracted their eyes as singular. When
Cortes observed this, and was informed that these _pictures_ were to
be sent to Montezuma, in order to convey to him a more lively idea of
the strange and wonderful objects now presented to their view _than
any words could communicate_, he resolved to render the representation
still more animated and interesting, by exhibiting such a spectacle
as might give both them and their monarch an awful impression of the
extraordinary prowess of his followers, and the irresistible force of
their arms.”

2. A symbol may be as definite in its signification as the arbitrary
character which constitutes a letter with us, or the arbitrary
character which denotes a syllable or a word with the Chinese. There
is some reason to believe that the letters in most languages were at
first pictures or symbols; but whether this is true or not, it is easy
to conceive that such _might_ have been the case, and that as definite
ideas might have been attached to the symbols employed as to the
arbitrary marks or signs. Thus, it is easy to suppose that a circle, a
lion, an eagle, a horse, a banner, an axe, a lamb, might have been so
employed {liv} as always to denote the same thing, in the same way as
the letters of the alphabet do, and thus, consequently, the number of
symbols employed might have been very numerous, though still retaining
their definite character.

3. The truth of these remarks has been illustrated by the recent
investigations of the symbolical language or hieroglyphical signs in
Egypt. On the celebrated Rosetta stone, an inscription was found in
three compartments of the stone, in three different languages――the
first in hieroglyphical or symbolical language, the language used by
the priests; the second in _enchorical_ or _demotic_ language――the
language in common use among the Egyptian people; and the third in
Greek. It was conjectured that the inscription in each language was
the same, and that consequently there might be a key for explaining
the symbols or the hieroglyphics so common in Egypt. Acting on this
suggestion, Champollion was enabled to read the inscription in the
Egyptian language, and to determine the meaning of the symbols in so
common use in the ancient inscriptions, and the symbolical language of
Egypt became as intelligible as other ancient forms of record――as it
was undoubtedly when it was at first employed. Each of the symbols had
a well-known signification, and was adapted to convey a definite idea.
An account of this stone, and of the symbols of Egypt generally, may be
seen in Gliddon’s _Ancient Egypt_, chap. i. The symbols employed by the
Hebrew prophets may have had, as used by them, as definite a meaning,
and may be as susceptible of as clear an interpretation now, as the
symbols employed in Egypt, or as any other language. The only real
difficulty in interpreting them may have arisen from the fact that they
referred to future events (see Notes on Rev. xvi. 12); the employment
of such methods of writing was in accordance with the genius of the
Orientals, and gave great poetic beauty to their compositions.

4. It should be added, however, that peculiar care is necessary in
the interpretation of writings of this character. There is much room
for the indulgence of the imagination, and facts have shown that in
almost nothing has so much indulgence been given to the fancy as in the
interpretation of such books as Daniel and the Apocalypse. Indeed, the
explanations of these books have been so loose and wild, as, with many,
to bring the whole science of interpretation of the prophecies into
contempt, and to produce the very common impression that a rational
and consistent exposition of such books as Daniel and the Apocalypse is
impossible. A better mode of interpretation, it is hoped, however, is
to prevail――a mode in which there will be more careful attention to the
true meaning of symbols and to the proper laws of symbolic language.
The true method may not have been reached, and many errors may occur
before it shall be reached. For many ages the meaning of the Egyptian
hieroglyphics was entirely unknown. Thousands of conjectures had been
made as to the method of reading those symbols; vast ingenuity had been
exhausted; the hope was sometimes entertained that the clue had been
discovered, but it was at last felt that all those proposed methods
were fanciful, and the world had settled down in despair as to the
possibility of deciphering their meaning. The accidental discovery of
the Rosetta stone, and the patient labours of De Sacy, Akerblad,
Tychsen, and especially of Champollion, have changed the views of the
world on that subject, and the hieroglyphics of Egypt have become as
intelligible as any other language. It is possible that the same may
be true in regard to the meaning of the symbols of the sacred prophets;
and that although those of Daniel and John may {lv} have seemed
to be as obscure as those of Egypt, and although the most wild and
extravagant opinions may have been entertained in regard to their
meaning, yet the time may come when those books shall take their
place among the well-understood portions of the Bible, and when the
correspondence of the predictions couched under these symbols with the
events shall be so clear, that there shall be no lingering doubt on
any mind that they are a part of the divine communications to mankind.
Whether this attempt to explain one of those books will contribute
anything to a better understanding of the true meaning of the
symbolical language employed by the prophets, must be submitted to the
judgment of the reader.

                  § V.――_The Plan of the Apocalypse._

The book of Revelation may be regarded as divided into seven portions,
embracing the following general points:――The introduction, chap. i.;
the epistles to the seven churches, chap. ii., iii.; the preparatory
vision, chap. iv.; the relation of the church to the external world,
embracing the outward or secular aspect of things as bearing on the
church, chap. v.‒xi. 1‒18; the internal state of the church, embracing
the rise and destiny of Antichrist――or, the internal history of the
church until the overthrow of that formidable power and the permanent
and triumphant establishment of the kingdom of Christ, the last
temporary apostasy, and the general judgment, chap. xi. 19; xii.‒xx.;
the final condition of the righteous in their state of triumph and
glory, chap. xxi., xxii. 1‒5; and the epilogue or conclusion, chap.
xxii. 6‒21. This plan, as pursued in this attempt to explain the book,
may be seen more in detail in the ANALYSIS on the following pages.

  {lvi}                        ANALYSIS
                                OF THE
                    BOOK OF REVELATION OF ST. JOHN.


  I. GENERAL      │ I. The title and design of the book, chap. i. 1‒3.
    CHAP. I.      │ II. Dedication to the seven churches of Asia,
                  │     chap. i. 4‒8.
                  │ III. Vision of the Redeemer, chap. i. 9‒18.
                  │ IV. Commission to write to the seven churches,
                  │     chap. i. 19, 20.
  II. EPISTLES TO │ I. Epistle to the church at Ephesus, chap.
    THE SEVEN     │     ii. 1‒7.
    ASIA, CHAP.   │ II. Epistle to the church at Smyrna, chap.
    ASIA, CHAP.   │     ii. 8‒11.
    II. III.      │
                  │ III. Epistle to the church at Pergamos, chap.
                  │     ii. 12‒17.
                  │ IV. Epistle to the church at Thyatira, chap.
                  │     ii. 18‒29.
                  │ V. Epistle to the church at Sardis, chap.
                  │     iii. 1‒6.
                  │ VI. Epistle to the church at Philadelphia,
                  │     chap. iii. 7‒13.
                  │ VII. Epistle to the church at Laodicea, chap.
                  │     iii. 14‒22.
  III. PREPARATORY│ I. The scene laid in heaven, chap. iv. 1, 2.
    VISION,       │
    CHAP. IV.     │ II. The vision of God, of the elders, and of the
                  │     living creatures, ch. iv. 3‒8.
                  │ III. The worship rendered to God, chap. iv. 9‒11.
  IV. THE EXTERNAL│ I. The Sealed book, containing the record of
    RELATIONS OF  │     these events, in the hand of him that sat on
    THE CHURCH――  │     the throne. The Lamb of God only could open
    THE RELATION  │     it. The joy in heaven that one was found who
    TO SECULAR    │     could open the seals, chap. v.
    AFFAIRS――     │                 ┌
    POLITICAL     │ II. The opening │ 1. The opening of the first seal,
    CHANGES AND   │   of the  seals │     chap. vi. 1, 2.
    REVOLUTIONS,  │                 │    _The white horse._――Peace,
    AS BEARING    │                 │     prosperity, and triumph,
    ON THE        │                 │     fulfilled in the state of
    CHURCH, CHAP. │                 │     the Roman empire from the
    V.‒XI. 1‒18.  │                 │     death of Domitian, A.D. 96,
                  │                 │     to the accession of Commodus,
                  │                 │     A.D. 180.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 2. The opening of the second seal,
                  │                 │     chap. vi. 3, 4.
                  │                 │    _The red horse._――Bloodshed,
                  │                 │     discord, civil strife;
                  │                 │     fulfilled in the state of the
                  │                 │     Roman empire from the death
                  │                 │     of Commodus, A.D. 193, and
                  │                 │     onward.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 3. The opening of the third seal,
                  │                 │     chap. vi. 5, 6.
                  │                 │    _The black horse._――Calamity,
                  │                 │     distress, want, trouble;
                  │                 │     fulfilled in the Roman empire,
                  │                 │     in the scarcity of food that
                  │                 │     prevailed; the excessive
                  │                 │     taxation; the special order
                  │                 │     not to destroy the olive-yards
                  │                 │     and vineyards; the sources
                  │                 │     of revenue, in the time of
                  │                 │     Caracalla, A.D. 211, and
                  │                 │     onward.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 4. The opening of the fourth seal,
                  │                 │     chap. vi. 7, 8.
                  │                 │    _The pale horse._――The reign
                  │                 │     of death, in the form of
                  │                 │     famine, pestilence, disease;
                  │                 │     fulfilled in the Roman empire
                  │                 │     in the bloodshed, famine, and
                  │                 │     pestilence that prevailed in
                  │                 │     the time of Decius, Gallus,
                  │                 │     Æmilianus, Valerian, and
                  │                 │     Gallianus, A.D. 243‒268.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 5. The opening of the fifth seal,
                  │                 │     chap. vi. 9‒11.
                  │                 │    _The martyrs._――Fulfilled in
                  │                 │     the Roman empire in the
                  │                 │     persecutions, particularly
                  │                 │     in the time of Diocletian,
                  │                 │     A.D. 284‒304; the last of the
                  │                 │     efforts in the Pagan world to
                  │                 │     extinguish the Christian name.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 6. The opening of the sixth seal,
                  │                 │     chap. vi. 12‒17.
                  │                 │    _Consternation and alarm as if
                  │                 │     the world was coming to an
                  │                 │     end_; fulfilled in the Roman
                  │                 │     empire in the threatening
                  │                 │     invasions of the Goths in the
                  │                 │     neighbourhood of the Danube,
                  │                 │     pressed on by the Huns, and
                  │                 │     producing universal alarm and
                  │                 │     consternation, A.D. 365, and
                  │                 │     onwards.
                  │                 │
  {lvii}          │                 │    Intermediate vision between
                  │                 │     the opening of the sixth and
                  │                 │     seventh seals. A view of the
                  │                 │     persecution of the church,
                  │                 │     and the glory of the saints
                  │                 │     in heaven, designed to sustain
                  │                 │     the mind in the midst of so
                  │                 │     much gloom, and to furnish
                  │                 │     the assurance that innumerable
                  │                 │     multitudes of men would be
                  │                 │     brought to glory, chap. vii.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │    (a) The impending storm of
                  │                 │     wrath that seemed to threaten
                  │                 │     universal destruction is
                  │                 │     suspended in order that the
                  │                 │     servants of God might be
                  │                 │     sealed, chap. vii. 1‒3.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │    (b) The sealing process,
                  │                 │     indicating the preservation
                  │                 │     of the church in these times
                  │                 │     of danger, and the influences
                  │                 │     that would designate and save
                  │                 │     the true people of God in all
                  │                 │     time to come, chap. vii. 4‒8.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │    (c) A vision of an immense
                  │                 │     host before the throne,
                  │                 │     gathered out of all people and
                  │                 │     all lands, chap. vii. 9‒12.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │    (d) A view of the martyrs who
                  │                 │     would be saved; a view
                  │                 │     designed to give comfort in
                  │                 │     the trials that would come
                  │                 │     upon the people of God in this
                  │                 │     world, chap. vii. 13, 14.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │    (e) A view of the happiness of
                  │                 │     heaven, where all suffering
                  │                 │     will cease, and all tears be
                  │                 │     wiped away, chap. vii. 15‒17.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 7. The opening of the seventh
                  │                 │     seal, chap, viii.‒xi. 1‒18.
                  │                 │    Seven trumpets given to seven
                  │                 │     angels to sound, and the
                  │                 │     preparatory arrangements for
                  │                 │     sounding, chap. viii. 1‒6.
                  │                 │       Two series of events
                  │                 │        referring to the West and
                  │                 │        the East in the downfall of
                  │                 │        the Roman empire:――
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ A. THE WEST――to the fall of the
                  │                 │     Western empire――four trumpets.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (1) The first trumpet sounded,
                  │                 │       chap. viii. 7.
                  │                 │      The invasion of the Roman
                  │                 │       empire by Alaric, king of
                  │                 │       the Goths, A.D. 395‒410.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (2) The second trumpet sounded,
                  │                 │       chap. viii. 8, 9.
                  │                 │      The invasion of the Roman
                  │                 │       empire by Genseric, king of
                  │                 │       the Vandals, A.D. 428‒468.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (3) The third trumpet sounded,
                  │                 │       chap. viii. 10, 11.
                  │                 │      The invasion of the Roman
                  │                 │       empire by Attila, king of
                  │                 │       the Huns, the “Scourge of
                  │                 │       God,” A.D. 433‒453.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (4) The fourth trumpet sounded,
                  │                 │       chap. viii. 12, 13.
                  │                 │      The final conquest of Rome
                  │                 │       and the Western empire by
                  │                 │       Odoacer, king of the Heruli,
                  │                 │       A.D. 476‒490.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ B. THE EAST――to the fall of the
                  │                 │     Eastern empire――two trumpets,
                  │                 │     chap. ix.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (5) The fifth trumpet sounded,
                  │                 │       chap. ix. 1‒12.
                  │                 │      The Mahometans, or Saracens.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (6) The sixth trumpet sounded,
                  │                 │       chap. ix. 13‒19.
                  │                 │      The Turkish power.
                  │                 │       The interval between the
                  │                 │        fall of the Eastern empire
                  │                 │        and the sounding of the
                  │                 │        seventh trumpet, chap.
                  │                 │        ix. 20; xi. 13:――
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (a) The result of these
                  │                 │       judgments, chap. ix. 20, 21.
                  │                 │      They produce no change in
                  │                 │       the moral condition of the
                  │                 │       world; fulfilled in the
                  │                 │       state of the Papal world
                  │                 │       after the conquest of
                  │                 │       Constantinople, and before
                  │                 │       the Reformation.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (b) An angel is seen descending
                  │                 │       from heaven with emblems
                  │                 │       of majesty, joy, and peace,
                  │                 │       chap. x.; fulfilled in the
                  │                 │       Reformation:――
                  │                 │
                  │                 │     (α) The angel with the rainbow
                  │                 │       on his head, and his face
                  │                 │       like the sun, a proper
                  │                 │       symbol of the Reformation
                  │                 │       as a work of peace, and
                  │                 │       accompanied with light and
                  │                 │       knowledge, chap. x. 1.
                  │                 │
  {lviii}         │                 │     (β) The little book in his
                  │                 │       hand, a symbol of the
                  │                 │       principal agent in the
                  │                 │       Reformation――_a book_――the
                  │                 │       Bible, chap. x. 2.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │     (γ) His crying with a loud
                  │                 │       voice, symbolical of the
                  │                 │       Reformation as arresting
                  │                 │       the attention of the
                  │                 │       nations, chap. x. 3.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │     (δ) The seven thunders――the
                  │                 │       anathemas of Papal Rome――the
                  │                 │       thunder of the seven-hilled
                  │                 │       city, chap. x. 3.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │     (ε) The purpose of John
                  │                 │       to record what the seven
                  │                 │       thunders had uttered, and
                  │                 │       the command not to write;
                  │                 │       the mistake which the
                  │                 │       Reformers were in danger
                  │                 │       of making, by regarding
                  │                 │       the doctrine of the Papacy
                  │                 │       as the truth of God, chap.
                  │                 │       x. 4.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │     (ζ) The solemn oath of the
                  │                 │       angel that the time
                  │                 │       predicted would not then
                  │                 │       occur, but would occur in
                  │                 │       the time when the seventh
                  │                 │       angel should sound, chap.
                  │                 │       x. 5‒7; fulfilled in the
                  │                 │       anticipations of the
                  │                 │       Reformers that the world
                  │                 │       was about to come to an
                  │                 │       end, and the reign of Christ
                  │                 │       about to commence, and
                  │                 │       the assurance of the angel
                  │                 │       that this would not _then_
                  │                 │       occur, but that a long and
                  │                 │       important interval must take
                  │                 │       place.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │     (η) The command given to John
                  │                 │       to go and take the little
                  │                 │       book from the hand of the
                  │                 │       angel, chap. x. 8; fulfilled
                  │                 │       in the delivery of the Bible
                  │                 │       again to the church.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │     (θ) The command to eat it, and
                  │                 │       the consequences――sweet in
                  │                 │       the mouth, and bitter to the
                  │                 │       belly, chap. x. 9, 10; the
                  │                 │       effect of the pure word of
                  │                 │       God on the soul indicated
                  │                 │       by the one; the bitter
                  │                 │       consequences, in persecution
                  │                 │       and opposition, that would
                  │                 │       result from the attempt
                  │                 │       to make the truth known to
                  │                 │       the world, indicated by the
                  │                 │       other.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │     (ι) The assurance that he
                  │                 │       would yet prophesy before
                  │                 │       many people, and nations,
                  │                 │       and tongues, and kings,
                  │                 │       chap. x. 10; fulfilled
                  │                 │       in the restoration of
                  │                 │       _preaching_ in the church,
                  │                 │       founded on the Bible, and in
                  │                 │       the immediate and ultimate
                  │                 │       influence of the Bible in
                  │                 │       making the gospel known to
                  │                 │       the world.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (c) The measuring of the holy
                  │                 │       city, chap. xi. 1, 2;
                  │                 │       the determining of what
                  │                 │       constituted the true
                  │                 │       church at the time of the
                  │                 │       Reformation.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (d) The two witnesses, chap.
                  │                 │       xi. 3‒13. Those who bore
                  │                 │       faithful testimony to the
                  │                 │       truth in all the corruptions
                  │                 │       of the church; their trials
                  │                 │       and their triumph; fulfilled
                  │                 │       in the succession of true
                  │                 │       and sincere Christians
                  │                 │       whom God raised up from
                  │                 │       time to time to testify to
                  │                 │       the truth. They would be
                  │                 │       persecuted, and many of
                  │                 │       them would be put to death;
                  │                 │       they would seem to be
                  │                 │       finally silenced, and
                  │                 │       would be treated with great
                  │                 │       indignity, as if their
                  │                 │       dead bodies should remain
                  │                 │       unburied; they would,
                  │                 │       however, come to life again,
                  │                 │       that is, at the time of the
                  │                 │       Reformation they would rise
                  │                 │       and testify against the
                  │                 │       corruptions of the Papacy,
                  │                 │       and would triumph _as if_
                  │                 │       they ascended visibly and
                  │                 │       gloriously to heaven.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (7) The sounding of the seventh
                  │                 │       trumpet. The final triumph
                  │                 │       of the church, and the
                  │                 │       establishment of the kingdom
                  │                 │       of God in the overthrow
                  │                 │       of all its enemies, chap.
                  │                 │       xi. 14‒18. This ends the
                  │                 │       first series of visions; and
                  │                 │       this expresses in general
                  │                 │       terms what is drawn out
                  │                 │       more in detail in the next
                  │                 │       series of visions, Part V.,
                  │                 │       embracing more particularly
                  │                 │       the rise and progress of
                  │                 │       Antichrist.
                  │                 └
  {lix}           ┌
  V. THE CHURCH   │                 ┌
    INTERNALLY――  │ I. General      │ 1. A new vision of the temple
    THE RISE OF   │   Introduction  │   of God opened in heaven, chap.
    ANTICHRIST,   │   to this       │   xi. 19.
    AND THE       │   series  of    │
    EFFECT        │   visions,      │ 2. A representation of the church,
    OF THAT       │   Chap.         │   under the image of a beautiful
    FORMIDABLE    │   xi. 19;       │   woman, chap. xii. 1.
    POWER ON      │   xii.          │
    THE INTERNAL  │                 │ 3. The particular thing designed
    HISTORY OF    │                 │   to be represented――the church
    THE CHURCH,   │                 │   about to increase and to fill
    TO THE        │                 │   the world, chap. xii. 2.
    TIME OF THE   │                 │
    OVERTHROW     │                 │ 4. The deadly hostility of Satan
    OF THAT       │                 │   to the church, and his purpose
    GREAT POWER,  │                 │   to destroy it, represented by
    AND THE       │                 │   a great red dragon waiting to
    TRIUMPHANT    │                 │   destroy the man-child, chap.
    ESTABLISHMENT │                 │   xii. 3, 4.
    OF THE        │                 │
    KINGDOM OF    │                 │ 5. The ultimate safety of the
    GOD, CHAP.    │                 │   church, represented by the
    XI. 19;       │                 │   child caught up to heaven,
    XII.‒XX.      │                 │   chap. xii. 5.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 6. The fact that the church would
                  │                 │   be a long time obscure and
                  │                 │   hidden――represented by the woman
                  │                 │   fleeing into the wilderness,
                  │                 │   chap. xii. 6.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 7. A scenic representation of
                  │                 │   the great contest going on
                  │                 │   in the universe about the
                  │                 │   church――represented by a
                  │                 │   conflict in heaven between
                  │                 │   Michael, the protector of the
                  │                 │   church, with his angels, and
                  │                 │   Satan, the great enemy of the
                  │                 │   church, with his angels, chap.
                  │                 │   xii. 7.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 8. The ultimate discomfiture of
                  │                 │   Satan, represented by his being
                  │                 │   overcome and cast out of heaven,
                  │                 │   chap. xii. 8, 9.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 9. A song of victory in view of
                  │                 │   this triumph, chap. xii. 10, 11.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 10. The fact that Satan would be
                  │                 │   allowed, for a limited time,
                  │                 │   to persecute the church, chap.
                  │                 │   xii. 12, 13.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 11. The church in the wilderness,
                  │                 │   chap. xii. 14‒17.
                  │                 │   (a) The church would be
                  │                 │     driven into obscurity,
                  │                 │     like a woman fleeing into
                  │                 │     a desert――representing the
                  │                 │     condition of the church while
                  │                 │     the Papacy should have the
                  │                 │     ascendency, ver. 14.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (b) The church would still
                  │                 │     be preserved, though in
                  │                 │     obscurity――represented by the
                  │                 │     woman nourished by some unseen
                  │                 │     power, ver. 14.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (c) Satan would still rage
                  │                 │     against the church――represented
                  │                 │     by the dragon pouring forth a
                  │                 │     flood of waters to overwhelm
                  │                 │     the woman, ver. 15.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (d) The church would be
                  │                 │     protected, as if the
                  │                 │     earth should open its
                  │                 │     mouth to swallow up the
                  │                 │     water――representing the
                  │                 │     interpositions from an
                  │                 │     unexpected quarter in
                  │                 │     delivering the church from
                  │                 │     its perils, ver. 16.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (e) The wrath of Satan against
                  │                 │     the remnant――representing
                  │                 │     the attempts of the Papacy
                  │                 │     to cut off individuals when
                  │                 │     open and general persecution
                  │                 │     no longer raged, ver. 17.
                  │                 └
                  │                 ┌
                  │ II. The two     │ 1. The first beast, representing
                  │   beasts,       │   the Roman _civil_ or _secular_
                  │   representing  │   power that sustained the Papacy
                  │   the great     │   in its career of persecution,
                  │   persecuting   │   chap. xiii. 1‒10.
                  │   power in      │
                  │   the church,   │ 2. The second beast, representing
                  │   Chap. xiii.   │   the Papal _ecclesiastical_
                  │                 │   power, giving life to the
                  │                 │   former, and perpetuating its
                  │                 │   influence on the earth, chap.
                  │                 │   xiii. 11‒18.
                  │                 └
                  │                 ┌
                  │ III. A          │ 1. A vision of the redeemed in
                  │   representation│   heaven, triumphant and
                  │   designed,     │   rejoicing, ver. 1‒5.
                  │   under a       │
                  │   gospel        │ 2. The ultimate spread of
                  │   succession    │   the through all the world,
                  │   of symbols,   │   ver. 6, 7.
                  │   to cheer      │
                  │   and sustain   │ 3. The fall of Babylon, the great
                  │   the church    │   Antichristian power, ver. 8.
                  │   in its        │
                  │   present and   │ 4. The final overthrow of
                  │   prospective   │   all the _upholders_ of
                  │   trials, with  │   that Antichristian power,
                  │   the assurance │   ver. 9‒12.
                  │   of its final  │
                  │   triumph, and  │ 5. The blessed state of those who
                  │   the ultimate  │   should die in the Lord in any
                  │   destruction   │   time, whether of persecution
                  │   of all its    │   or peace, ver. 13.
                  │   foes, Chap.   │
                  │   xiv.          │ 6. The consummation of all
 {lx}             │                 │   things――the final triumph of
                  │                 │   the church, and the overthrow
                  │                 │   of the wicked, ver. 14‒20:――
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (a) The great harvest of the
                  │                 │     world by the Son of God――the
                  │                 │     gathering in of the righteous,
                  │                 │     ver. 14‒16.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (b) The final overthrow and
                  │                 │     destruction of the wicked,
                  │                 │     ver. 17‒20.
                  │                 └
                  │                 ┌
                  │ IV. Preparation │ 1. A new wonder is seen in heaven;
                  │   for the final │   seven angels appear, having the
                  │   judgment on   │   seven last plagues, to fill up
                  │   the beast and │   or complete the wrath of God,
                  │   his image,    │   ver. 1.
                  │   Chap. xv.     │
                  │                 │ 2. Those who in former times had
                  │                 │   suffered from persecution by the
                  │                 │   power represented by the beast,
                  │                 │   but who, in the midst of trial
                  │                 │   and temptation, had maintained
                  │                 │   their faith steadfast, now
                  │                 │   appear to celebrate with a
                  │                 │   song of victory the prospective
                  │                 │   downfall of the great foe,
                  │                 │   ver. 2‒4.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 3. Arrangements made for executing
                  │                 │   the wrath of God. The temple
                  │                 │   is open in heaven; seven angels
                  │                 │   come out having the seven last
                  │                 │   plagues; one of the four living
                  │                 │   creatures gives command to them
                  │                 │   to go and execute the divine
                  │                 │   purpose, presenting seven golden
                  │                 │   bowls full of the wrath of God;
                  │                 │   the temple is forthwith filled
                  │                 │   with smoke, preventing all
                  │                 │   access to the mercy-seat, and
                  │                 │   indicating that the divine
                  │                 │   purpose was inexorable,
                  │                 │   ver. 5‒8.
                  │                 └
                  │                 ┌
                  │ V. The          │ 1. The first vial, ver. 1, 2. The
                  │   execution of  │   first blow struck on the Papacy
                  │   the purpose,  │   in the French Revolution.
                  │   Chap. xvi.    │
                  │                 │ 2. The second vial, ver. 3. The
                  │                 │   scenes of blood and carnage in
                  │                 │   that Revolution.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 3. The third vial, ver. 4‒7.
                  │                 │   The calamities brought by
                  │                 │   the French invasions upon the
                  │                 │   countries where the most bloody
                  │                 │   persecutions had been waged――the
                  │                 │   north of Italy.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 4. The fourth vial, ver. 8, 9. The
                  │                 │   overturning of the governments
                  │                 │   that sustained the Papal power,
                  │                 │   in the wars consequent on the
                  │                 │   French Revolution.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 5. The fifth vial, ver. 10, 11.
                  │                 │   The direct assault on the Papal
                  │                 │   power; the capture of the pope
                  │                 │   himself, and the temporary
                  │                 │   entire subjugation of Rome by
                  │                 │   the French arms.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 6. The sixth vial, ver. 12‒16.
                  │                 │   The decline of the Turkish
                  │                 │   power; the rapid extension of
                  │                 │   the gospel in the East; the
                  │                 │   rallying of the strength of
                  │                 │   Paganism, Mahometanism, and
                  │                 │   Romanism――represented by the
                  │                 │   three frogs that came out of the
                  │                 │   mouth of the dragon, the beast,
                  │                 │   and the false prophet: the
                  │                 │   preparation of those powers as
                  │                 │   if for some great conflict, and
                  │                 │   the decisive struggle between
                  │                 │   the church and its foes, _as
                  │                 │   if_ the issue were staked on a
                  │                 │   single battle――in Armageddon.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 7. The seventh vial, ver. 17‒21.
                  │                 │   The complete and final overthrow
                  │                 │   of the Papal power, _as if_ in
                  │                 │   a tremendous storm of hail,
                  │                 │   lightning, and thunder,
                  │                 │   accompanied with an earthquake.
                  │                 └
                  │                 ┌
                  │ VI. A           │ 1. Introduction to the Episode;
                  │   particular    │   the vision of the woman sitting
                  │   description   │   on many waters, ver. 1‒3.
                  │   of the        │
                  │   judgment      │ 2. A particular description of the
                  │   on this       │   Antichristian power referred to,
                  │   formidable    │   under the image of an abandoned
                  │   Antichristian │   and gaily-attired woman,
                  │   power, under  │   ver. 3‒6.
                  │   a new image   │
                  │   of a harlot   │ 3. A particular explanation
                  │   (Chap. xvii.) │   of what is designed to be
                  │   in the form   │   represented by the image of
                  │   of an         │   the scarlet-coloured woman,
                  │   _explanatory  │   ver. 7‒18:――
                  │   Episode_.     │
                  │                 │   (a) The angel promises to
                  │                 │     explain it, ver. 7.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (b) A symbolical representation
                  │                 │     of the design of the vision,
                  │                 │     ver. 8‒14.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (c) A more literal statement of
                  │                 │     what is meant, ver. 15‒18. The
                  │                 │     whole designed to characterize
                  │                 │     Papal Rome, and to describe
                  │                 │     the manner of its rise and
                  │                 │     the means of its ultimate
                  │                 │     destruction.
                  │                 └
                  │                 ┌
 {lxi}            │ VII. A          │ 1. A vision of an angel coming
                  │   description   │   from heaven, ver. 1‒3.
                  │   of the        │
                  │   _effect_ of   │ 2. A warning voice calling on
                  │   that judgment │   the people of God to come out
                  │   in pouring    │   of the mystical Babylon, and
                  │   out the       │   not to partake of her sin and
                  │   seventh vial  │   her doom, ver. 4‒8.
                  │   on that       │
                  │   formidable    │ 3. Lamentation over her fate:――
                  │   Antichristian │
                  │   power, under  │   (a) By kings, that had
                  │   the image of  │     lived delicately with her,
                  │   a rich and    │     ver. 9, 10.
                  │   luxurious     │
                  │   city; a       │   (b) By merchants that had been
                  │   further       │     enriched by her, ver. 11‒17.
                  │   _explanatory  │
                  │   Episode_,     │   (c) By mariners that had
                  │   Ch. xviii.    │     trafficked with her,
                  │                 │     ver. 17‒19.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 4. Rejoicing over her fate,
                  │                 │   ver. 20.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 5. The final destruction of
                  │                 │   the mystical Babylon――the
                  │                 │   Papal power――represented by a
                  │                 │   millstone cast by an angel into
                  │                 │   the sea, ver. 21‒24.
                  │                 └
                  │                 ┌
                  │ VIII. A further │ 1. A hymn of the heavenly hosts
                  │   _episodical   │   in view of the destruction of
                  │representatation_│   the mystical Babylon,
                  │   of the        │   ver. 1‒7:――
                  │   effects that  │
                  │   would result  │   (a) A voice of many people in
                  │   from the fall │     heaven, shouting Hallelujah,
                  │   of the powers │     ver. 1, 2.
                  │   that opposed  │
                  │   the reign of  │   (b) The sound echoed and
                  │   the Son of    │     repeated as the smoke of her
                  │   God and the   │     torment ascends, ver. 3.
                  │   introduction  │
                  │   of the        │   (c) The four and twenty elders,
                  │   Millennium,   │     and the four living creatures
                  │   with an       │     unite in the song, ver. 4.
                  │   account of    │
                  │   the final     │   (d) A voice heard commanding
                  │   destruction   │     them to praise God, ver. 5.
                  │   of these      │
                  │   powers,       │   (e) The mighty shout of
                  │   Chap. xix.    │     Hallelujah echoed and
                  │                 │     repeated from unnumbered
                  │                 │     hosts, ver. 6, 7.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 2. The marriage of the Lamb as
                  │                 │   the reason of this increased
                  │                 │   joy, ver. 8, 9.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 3. John, overcome with this scene,
                  │                 │   and filled with rapturous joy
                  │                 │   in view of the final triumphs of
                  │                 │   the church, prostrates himself
                  │                 │   before the angel to worship him,
                  │                 │   ver. 10.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 4. The final conquest over the
                  │                 │   beast and the false prophet,
                  │                 │   ver. 11‒21:――
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (a) A description of the
                  │                 │     conqueror――the Son of God――as
                  │                 │     he goes forth to victory,
                  │                 │     attended by the armies of
                  │                 │     heaven, ver. 11‒16.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (b) An angel is seen standing
                  │                 │     in the sun, calling on all the
                  │                 │     fowls of heaven to come to the
                  │                 │     great feast prepared for them
                  │                 │     in the destruction of the
                  │                 │     enemies of God, ver. 17, 18.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │   (c) The final war, ver. 19‒21.
                  │                 │     The beast and the kings of the
                  │                 │     earth and their armies gather
                  │                 │     together for the battle; the
                  │                 │     beast and the false prophet
                  │                 │     taken, and cast into the
                  │                 │     lake that burns with fire
                  │                 │     and brimstone; the remainder
                  │                 │     of the enemies of the church
                  │                 │     slain. The last enemy of the
                  │                 │     church on earth is destroyed,
                  │                 │     and the way is prepared for
                  │                 │     its universal triumph.
                  │                 └
                  │                 ┌
                  │ IX. The         │ 1. The binding of Satan, ver. 1‒3.
                  │   Millennial    │
                  │   period and    │ 2. The Millennium, ver. 4‒6.
                  │   the final     │   Thrones are placed _as if_
                  │   judgment,     │   there were to be a judgment;
                  │   Ch. xx.       │   the spirit of the martyrs and
                  │                 │   saints is revived again _as if_
                  │                 │   they were raised from the dead,
                  │                 │   and _lived_ again on the earth;
                  │                 │   Satan is confined, and the
                  │                 │   church enjoys a state of repose
                  │                 │   and prosperity, for the period
                  │                 │   of a thousand years.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 3. The release of Satan for a
                  │                 │   little time. ver. 7, 8. After
                  │                 │   the thousand years are expired,
                  │                 │   he is permitted to go forth
                  │                 │   again among the nations, and to
                  │                 │   awaken a new form of hostility
                  │                 │   to Christ and the church.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 4. The final overthrow,
                  │                 │   subjugation, and punishment
                  │                 │   of Satan and those opposing
                  │                 │   hosts, and the final triumph,
                  │                 │   therefore, of the church,
                  │                 │   ver. 9, 10.
                  │                 │
                  │                 │ 5. The final judgment on all
                  │                 │   mankind, ver. 11‒15. All the
                  │                 │   dead are raised; the sea gives
                  │                 │   up its dead; Death and Hades
                  │                 │   give up their dead, and a solemn
                  │                 │   and just judgment is pronounced
                  │                 │   on all mankind, and the wicked
                  │                 │   are consigned to the lake of
                  │                 │   fire.
                  │                 └
  {lxii}          ┌
  VI. THE FINAL   │ I. A vision of the new heavens and new earth, as the
    CONDITION     │   final abode of the righteous, chap. xxi. 1.
    OF THE        │
   RIGHTEOUS――THE │ II. That blessed future abode represented under the
    STATE OF      │   image of a beautiful city descending from heaven,
    FUTURE        │   chap. xxi. 2‒4.
    CHAP. XXI.;   │ III. A particular description of the city, as
    XXII. 1‒5.    │   the final abode of the righteous; its general
                  │   appearance, its walls, its gates, its foundations,
                  │   its size, its light, its inmates, &c., chap.
                  │   xxi. 9‒27; xxii. 1‒5
  VII. THE        │ I. A solemn declaration that the things revealed in
    EPILOGUE, OR  │   this book are true, ver. 6, 7.
    CHAP.         │ II. The effect of those revelations on John,
    XXII. 6‒20.   │   ver. 8, 9.
                  │ III. A command not to seal up what had been
                  │   revealed, ver. 10.
                  │ IV. The unchangeable condition of the righteous and
                  │   the wicked in the future state, ver. 14, 15.
                  │ V. The blessedness of those who have a right to
                  │   enter into the Holy City, ver. 15.
                  │ VI. Jesus declares himself to be the author of all
                  │   these revelations, ver. 16.
                  │ VII. The free invitations of the gospel to all men,
                  │   ver. 17.
                  │ VIII. A solemn injunction not to change anything
                  │   that had been written in this book, ver. 18, 19.
                  │ IX. The assurance of the Saviour that he would come
                  │   quickly, and the joyous assent of John to this,
                  │   and prayer that it might occur, ver. 20.
                  │ X. The benediction, ver. 21.

  {31}                            THE

                              CHAPTER I.
                       ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER.

This chapter contains a general introduction to the whole book, and
comprises the following parts:――

I. The announcement that the object of the book is to record a
revelation which the Lord Jesus Christ had made of important events
which were shortly to occur, and which were signified by an angel to
the author, John, ver. 1‒3. A blessing is pronounced on him who should
read and understand the book, and special attention is directed to it
because the time was at hand when the predicted events would occur.

II. Salutation to the seven churches of Asia, ver. 4‒8. To those
churches, it would seem from this, the book was originally dedicated
or addressed, and two of the chapters (ii. and iii.) refer exclusively
to them. Among them evidently the author had resided (ver. 9), and the
whole book was doubtless sent to them, and committed to their keeping.
In this salutation, the author wishes for them grace, mercy, and peace
from “him which is, and which was, and which is to come”――the original
fountain of all light and truth――referring to the Father; “from the
seven Spirits which are before the throne”――referring to the Holy
Spirit (see Note on ver. 4), by whom all grace is communicated to men;
and from the Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the revelation is imparted.
As it is _his_ revelation, as it is designed peculiarly to glorify
him, and as it predicts the final triumph of his religion, the author
appends to this reference to him a special ascription of praise,
ver. 5‒8. He refers to the great work which he had done for his
people in redeeming them, and making them kings and priests to God; he
assures those to whom he wrote that he would come in glory to the world
again, and that all eyes would see him; and he represents the Redeemer
himself as applying to his own person a title――“Alpha and Omega,” “the
beginning and the ending”――which indicates his exalted nature, and his
supreme authority.

III. The commission of the writer, or his authority for thus addressing
the churches of Asia, ver. 9‒20. His authority to do this is derived
from the fact that the Lord Jesus had appeared to him personally in
his exile, and had directed him to reveal what he saw in vision, and to
send it to those churches. The statement of this commission is made as
impressive as it well could be. (a) The writer was an exile――banished to
a lonely island on account of the common faith, ver. 9. (b) On the day
of Christian rest――the day set apart to the memory of the Saviour, and
which he sacredly observed in his solitude as holy time――when in the
spirit of calm contemplation on the truths appropriate to this day, he
suddenly heard the voice of his Redeemer, like a trumpet, commanding
him to record what he saw, and to send it to the seven churches of Asia,
ver. 10, 11. (c) Then follows (ver. 12‒18) a magnificent description of
the appearance of the Saviour, as he appeared in his glory. He is seen
standing in the midst of seven golden candlesticks, clothed in a long
white robe, girded with a girdle of gold, his hair white, his eyes like
a flame of fire, his feet like brass, and his voice like the roaring
of mighty waters. In his hand are seven stars, and from his mouth
goes a sharp sword, and his countenance is like the sun in the full
splendour of its shining. John falls at his feet as if he were dead;
and the Saviour lays his right hand upon him, and animates him with
the assurance that though he had himself been dead he is now alive,
and would for ever live, and that he has the keys of hell and death.
(d) Then follows the commission itself, ver. 19, 20. He was to make
a record of the things which he saw. He was especially to unfold
the meaning of the seven stars which he saw in the right hand of the
Saviour, and of the seven golden candlesticks, as referring to the
seven churches of Asia Minor; and was then to describe {32} the series
of visions which pertained to the future history and destiny of the
church at large.

In the scene represented in this chapter, there is some imagery which
would be suggested by the arrangements in the temple at Jerusalem,
and it has been supposed (Elliott, i. 72, 73) that the vision was laid
there, and that Christ is represented as walking among the seven lamps
“habited as the ancient high-priest.” But the vision is not such an one
as would have been presented in the holy place in the temple. In that
place there was but one lamp-stand, with seven sconces; here, there
were seven separate lamp-stands; there were there no “stars,” and the
vestments of the Jewish high-priest were not those in which the Saviour
is represented as appearing. He had no mitre, no ephod, no breastplate,
and no censer. The object was not to represent Christ as a priest,
or as superseding the Jewish high-priest, but to represent him with
costume appropriate to the Son of God――as having been raised from the
dead, and received to the glory of heaven. His vestments are neither
those of a prophet, a king, nor a priest; not with such garments as
the ancient prophets wore, nor with crown and sceptre such as monarchs
bear, nor yet with the usual habiliments of a priest. He appears as
the Son of God, irrespective of the offices that he bears, and comes as
the glorified Head of the Church to declare his will in regard to the
seven churches of Asia, and to disclose the future for the guidance and
comfort of his church at large. The scene appears to be laid at Patmos,
and the apostle in the vision of the Saviour does not appear to have
regarded himself as transferred to any other place. The view which
is to be kept before the mind in the description of “the things that
are” (ch. ii., iii.), is that of seven burning lamps, and the Son
of God standing among them. Thus, amidst these lamps, representing
the churches, he dictates to the apostle what he shall write to
the churches; thus, with seven stars in his hand, representing the
angels of the churches, he dictates what shall be said to them. Is it
unnatural to suppose that the position of those lamps might have been
arranged in the vision in a manner resembling the geographical position
of the churches themselves? If so, the scene would be more significant,
and more sublime.

                              CHAPTER I.

    THE Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to
    show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass;
    and he sent and signified _it_ by his angel unto his servant

1. _The Revelation of Jesus Christ._ This is evidently a title or
caption of the whole book, and is designed to comprise the substance
of the whole; for all that the book contains would be embraced in the
general declaration that it is a revelation of Jesus Christ. The word
rendered _Revelation_――Ἀποκάλυψις, whence we have derived our word
_Apocalypse_――means properly _an uncovering_; that is, _nakedness_;
from ἀποκαλύπτω, to uncover. It would apply to anything which had been
covered up so as to be hidden from the view, as by a veil, a darkness,
in an ark or chest, and then made manifest by removing the covering.
It comes then to be used in the sense of disclosing or revealing, by
removing the veil of darkness or ignorance. “There is nothing covered
that shall not be revealed.” It may be applied to the disclosing or
manifesting of anything which was before obscure or unknown. This may
be done――(a) By instruction in regard to that which was before obscure;
that is, by statements of what was unknown before the statements were
made; as in Lu. ii. 32, where it is said that Christ would be “a light
to lighten the Gentiles”――φῶς εἰς ἀποκάλυψις ἐθνῶν; or when it is
applied to the divine mysteries, purposes, or doctrines, before obscure
or unknown, but made clear by light revealed in the gospel, Ro. xvi. 25;
1 Co. ii. 10; xiv. 6; Ep. iii. 5. (b) By the event itself; as the
manifestation of the wrath of God at the day of judgment will disclose
the true nature of his wrath. “After thy hardness and impenitent
heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and
_revelation_ of the righteous judgment of God,” Ro. ii. 5. “For the
earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the _manifestation_ (Gr.
_revelation_) of the sons of God,” Ro. viii. 19; that is, till it shall
be manifest by the event what they who are the children of God are to
be. In this sense the word is frequently applied to the second advent
or appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, as disclosing him in his {33}
glory, or showing what he truly is; “When the Lord Jesus shall be
revealed,” 2 Th. i. 7――ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλύψει――_in the revelation_ of Jesus
Christ; “Waiting for the coming (the revelation――τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν) of our
Lord Jesus Christ,” 1 Co. i. 7; “At the _appearing_ (Gr. _revelation_)
of Jesus Christ,” 1 Pe. i. 7; “When his glory shall be _revealed_,”
1 Pe. iv. 13. (c) It is used in the sense of making known _what is to
come_, whether by words, signs, or symbols, as if a veil were lifted
from that which is hidden from human vision, or which is covered by the
darkness of the unknown future. This is called a revelation, because
the knowledge of the event is in fact made known to the world by Him
who alone can see it, and in such a manner as he pleases to employ;
though many of the terms or the symbols may be, from the necessity of
the case, obscure, and though their full meaning may be disclosed only
by the event. It is in this sense, evidently, that the word is used
here; and in this sense that it is more commonly employed when we
speak of a revelation. Thus the word גָּלָה (_gâlâ_) is used in Am. iii. 7,
“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto
his servants.” So Job xxxiii. 16, “Then he openeth (marg. _revealeth_
or _uncovereth_; Heb. יִגְלֶה) the ears of men;” that is, in a dream, he
discloses to their ears his truth before concealed or unknown. Comp. Da.
ii. 22, 28, 29; x. 1; De. xxix. 29. These ideas enter into the word as
used in the passage before us. The idea is that of a disclosure of an
extraordinary character, beyond the mere ability of man, by a special
communication from heaven. This is manifest, not only from the usual
meaning of this word, but by the word _prophecy_, in ver. 3, and by all
the arrangements by which these things were made known. The ideas which
would be naturally conveyed by the use of this word in this connection
are two: (1), that there was something which was before hidden,
obscure, or unknown; and, (2), that this was so disclosed by these
communications as to be seen or known. The things hidden or unknown
were those which pertained to the future; the method of disclosing them
was mainly by symbols. In the Greek, in this passage, the article is
wanting――ἀποκάλυψις――_a_ Revelation, not ἡ, _the_ Revelation. This is
omitted because it is the title of a book, and because the use of the
article might imply that this was the only revelation, excluding other
books claiming to be a revelation; or it might imply some previous
mention of the book, or knowledge of it in the reader. The simple
meaning is, that this was “_a_ Revelation;” it was only a part of
_the_ revelation which God has given to mankind.

The phrase, “the Revelation of Jesus Christ,” might, so far as the
construction of the language is concerned, refer either to Christ as
the _subject_ or _object_. It might either mean that Christ is the
_object_ revealed in this book, and that its great purpose is to make
him known, and so the phrase is understood in the commentary called
_Hyponoia_ (New York, 1844); or it may mean that this is a revelation
which Christ _makes_ to mankind, that is, it is his in the sense that
he communicates it to the world. That this latter is the meaning here
is clear, (1), because it is expressly said in this verse that it was
a revelation which God gave to him; (2), because it is said that it
pertains to things which must shortly come to pass; and, (3), because,
in fact, the revelation is a disclosure of _events_ which were to
happen, and not of the person or work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
¶ _Which God gave unto him._ Which God imparted or communicated to
Jesus Christ. This is in accordance with the representations everywhere
made in the Scriptures, that God is the original fountain of truth
and knowledge, and that, whatever was the original dignity of the
Son of God, there was a mediatorial dependence on the Father. See Jn.
v. 19, 20, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of
himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for whatsoever he doeth,
these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and
_showeth him_ (δείκνυσιν αὐτῷ) all things that himself doeth.” “My
doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me,” Jn. vii. 16. “As my Father
hath _taught me_ (ἐδίδαξε με), I speak these things,” Jn. viii. 28.
“For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave
me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak,” Jn.
xii. 49. See also Jn. xiv. 10; xvii. 7, 8; Mat. xi. 27; Mar. xiii. 32.
The same mediatorial dependence the apostle teaches us still subsists
in heaven in his glorified state, and will continue until he has
subdued all things (1 Co. xv. 24‒28); and hence, even in that state,
he is represented {34} as receiving the Revelation from the Father to
communicate it to men. ¶ _To show unto his servants._ That is, to his
people, to Christians, often represented as the servants of God or of
Christ, 1 Pe. ii. 16; Re. ii. 20; vii. 3; xix. 2; xxii. 3. It is true
that the word is sometimes applied, by way of eminence, to the prophets
(1 Ch. vi. 49; Da. vi. 20), and to the apostles (Ro. i. 1; Ga. i. 10;
Phi. i. 1; Tit. i. 1; Ja. i. 1); but it is also applied to the mass of
Christians, and there is no reason why it should not be so understood
here. The book was sent to the churches of Asia, and was clearly
designed for general use; and the contents of the book were evidently
intended for the churches of the Redeemer in all ages and lands. Comp.
ver. 3. The word rendered _to show_ (δεῖξαι) commonly denotes to point
out, to cause to see, to present to the sight, and is a word eminently
appropriate here, as what was to be revealed was, in general, to be
presented to the _sight_ by sensible tokens or symbols. ¶ _Things
which must shortly come to pass._ Not _all_ the things that will occur,
but such as it was deemed of importance for his people to be made
acquainted with. Nor is it certainly implied that all the things that
_are_ communicated would shortly come to pass, or would soon occur.
Some of them might perhaps lie in the distant future, and still it
might be true that there were those which were revealed in connection
with them, which soon would occur. The word rendered “_things_” (ἅ)
is a pronoun, and might be rendered _what_; “he showed to his servants
_what things_ were about to occur,” not implying that he showed _all_
the things that would happen, but such as he judged to be needful that
his people should know. The word would naturally embrace those things
which, in the circumstances, were most desirable to be known. The
phrase rendered “must come to pass” (δεῖ γενέσθαι), would imply more
than mere futurity. The word used (δεῖ) means _it needs_, _there is
need of_, and implies that there is some kind of _necessity_ that
the event should occur. That necessity may either arise from the felt
_want_ of anything, as where it is absent or wanting, Xen. _Cyr._
iv. 10; ib. vii. 5, 9; or from the nature of the case, or from a sense
of duty, as Mat. xvi. 21, “Jesus began to show to his disciples that
he _must go_ (δεῖ ἀπελθεῖν) to Jerusalem” (comp. Mat. xxvi. 35; Mar.
xiv. 31; Lu. ii. 49); or the necessity may exist, because a thing is
right and just, meaning that it _ought_ to be done, as Lu. xiii. 14,
“There are six days in which men _ought_ to work” (δεῖ ἐργάζεσθαι).
“And _ought not_ this woman (οὐκ ἴδει), whom Satan hath bound, &c., be
loosed from this bond,” Lu. xiii. 16 (comp. Mar. xiii. 14; Jn. iv. 20;
Ac. v. 11, 29; 2 Ti. ii. 6; Mat. xviii. 33; xxv. 27); or the necessity
may be that it is conformable to the divine arrangement, or is made
necessary by divine appointment, as in Jn. iii. 14, “As Moses lifted up
the serpent in the wilderness, even so _must_ (δεῖ) the Son of man be
lifted up.” “For as yet they knew not the Scriptures, that he _must_
(δεῖ) rise again from the dead,” Jn. xx. 9; comp. Ac. iv. 12; xiv. 22,
_et al._ In the passage before us, it is implied that there was some
_necessity_ that the things referred to should occur. They were not the
result of chance, they were not fortuitous. It is not, however, stated
what was the ground of the necessity; whether because there was a want
of something to complete a great arrangement, or because it was right
and proper in existing circumstances, or because such was the divine
appointment. They were events which, on some account, _must_ certainly
occur, and which, therefore, it was important should be made known.
The real ground of the necessity, probably, was founded in the design
of God in redemption. He intended to carry out his great plans in
reference to his church, and the things revealed here must necessarily
occur in the completion of that design. The phrase rendered _shortly_
(ἐν τάχει) is one whose meaning has been much controverted, and on
which much has been made to depend in the interpretation of the whole
book. The question has been whether the phrase necessarily implies that
the events referred to were _soon_ to occur, or whether it may have
such an extent of meaning as to admit the supposition that the events
referred to, though beginning soon, would embrace in their development
far distant years, and would reach the end of all things. Those
who maintain, as Professor Stuart, that the book was written before
the destruction of Jerusalem, and that the portion in ch. iv.‒xi.
has special reference to Jerusalem and Judea, and the portion in
ch. xii.‒xix. to persecuting and heathen Rome, maintain the former
opinion; {35} those who suppose that ch. iv.‒xi. refers to the
irruption of Northern barbarians in the Roman empire, and ch. xii.,
seq., to the rise and the persecutions of the Papal power, embrace
the latter opinion. All that is proper in this place is, without
reference to any theory of interpretation, to inquire into the proper
meaning of the language, or to ascertain what idea it would naturally
convey. (a) The phrase properly and literally means, _with quickness_,
_swiftness_, _speed_; that is, _speedily_, _quickly_, _shortly_ (Rob.
_Lex._; Stuart, _in loco_). It is the same in meaning as ταχέως. Comp.
1 Co. iv. 19, “But I will come to you _shortly_, if the Lord will.”
“Go out _quickly_ into the streets,” Lu. xiv. 21. “Sit down _quickly_,
and write fifty,” Lu. xvi. 6. “She rose up hastily (ταχέως) and went
out,” Jn. xi. 31. “That ye are so _soon_ removed (ταχέως) from him
that called you,” Ga. i. 6. “Lay hands _suddenly_ on no man,” 1 Ti.
v. 22. See also Phi. ii. 19, 24; 2 Th. ii. 2; 2 Ti. iv. 9. The phrase
used here (ἐν τάχει) occurs in Lu. xviii. 8, “He will avenge them
_speedily_” (lit. _with speed_). “Arise up _quickly_,” Ac. xii. 7.
“Get thee _quickly_ out of Jerusalem,” Ac. xxii. 18. “Would depart
_shortly_,” Ac. xxv. 4. “Bruise Satan under your feet _shortly_,” Ro.
xvi. 20; and Re. i. 1; xxii. 6. The essential idea is, that the thing
which is spoken of was _soon_ to occur, or it was not a remote and
distant event. There is the notion of rapidity, of haste, of suddenness.
It is such a phrase as is used when the thing is on the point of
happening, and could not be applied to an event which was in the remote
future, considered as an independent event standing by itself. The same
idea is expressed, in regard to the same thing, in ver. 3, “The time
is _at hand_”――ὁ γὰρ καιρὸς ἐγγύς; that is, it is near, it is soon to
occur. Yet (b) it is not necessary to suppose that the meaning is that
_all_ that there is in the book was soon to happen. It may mean that
the _series_ of events which were to follow on in their proper order
was soon to commence, though it might be that the sequel would be
remote. The first in the series of events was soon to begin, and the
others would follow on in their train, though a portion of them, in
the regular order, might be in a remote futurity. If we _suppose_ that
there was such an order, that a series of transactions was about to
commence, involving a long train of momentous developments, and that
the beginning of this was to occur soon, the language used by John
would be that which would be naturally employed to express it. Thus,
in case of a revolution in a government, when a reigning prince should
be driven from his kingdom, to be succeeded by a new dynasty, which
would long occupy the throne, and involving, as the consequence of the
revolution, important events extending far into the future, we would
naturally say that these things were shortly to occur, or that the time
was near. It is customary to speak of a succession of events or periods
as near, however vast or interminable the series may be, when the
commencement is at hand. Thus, we say that the great events of the
eternal world are near; that is, the beginning of them is soon to occur.
So Christians now speak often of the millennium as near, or as about
to occur, though it is the belief of many that it will be protracted
for many ages. (c) That this is the true idea here is clear, whatever
general view of interpretation in regard to the book is adopted. Even
Professor Stuart, who contends that the greater portion of the book
refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the persecutions of heathen
Rome, admits that “the closing part of the Revelation relates beyond
all doubt to a distant period, and some of it to a future eternity”
(ii. p. 5); and, if this be so, then there is no impropriety in
supposing that a part of the series of predictions preceding this may
lie also in a somewhat remote futurity. The true idea seems to be that
the writer contemplated a _series_ of events that were to occur, and
that this series was about to commence. How far into the future it
was to extend, is to be learned by the proper interpretation of all
the parts of the series. ¶ _And he sent._ Gr., “Sending by his angel,
signified it to his servant John.” The idea is not precisely that he
sent his angel to communicate the message, but that he sent _by_ him,
or employed him as an agent in doing it. The thing sent was rather the
message than the angel. ¶ _And signified _ it. Ἐσήμανεν He indicated it
by signs and symbols. The word occurs in the New Testament only in Jn.
xii. 33; xviii. 32; xxi. 19; Ac. xi. 28; xxv. 27, and in the passage
before us, in all which places it is rendered _signify_, _signifying_,
or _signified_. It properly refers to some sign, signal, or token by
which anything is made known {36} (comp. Mat. xxvi. 28; Ro. iv. 11;
Ge. ix. 12, 13; xvii. 11; Lu. ii. 12; 2 Co. xii. 12; 1 Co. xiv. 22),
and is a word most happily chosen to denote the manner in which the
events referred to were to be communicated to John, for nearly the
whole book is made up of signs and symbols. If it be asked _what_ was
signified to John, it may be replied that either the word “_it_” may
be understood, as in our translation, to refer to the Apocalypse or
Revelation, or what he saw (ὅσα εἶδε), as Professor Stuart supposes;
or it may be absolute, without any object following, as Professor
Robinson (_Lex._ supposes. The general sense is, that, sending by his
angel, he made to John a communication by expressive signs or symbols.
¶ _By his angel._ That is, an angel was employed to cause these
scenic representations to pass before the mind of the apostle. The
communication was not made directly to him, but was through the medium
of a heavenly messenger employed for this purpose. Thus, in Re. xxii. 6,
it is said, “And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to
show unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.” Comp.
ver. 8, 9 of that chapter. There is frequent allusion in the Scriptures
to the fact that _angels_ have been employed as agents in making
known the divine will, or in the revelations which have been made
to men. Thus, in Ac. vii. 53, it is said, “Who have received the law
by the disposition of angels.” “For if the word spoken by angels was
stedfast,” &c., He. ii. 2; “And it was ordained by angels in the hand
of a mediator,” Ga. iii. 19. Comp. Notes on Ac. vii. 38, 53. There is
almost no further reference to the agency of the angel employed for
this service in the book, and there is no distinct specification of
what he did, or of his great agency in the case. John is everywhere
represented as seeing the symbols himself, and it would seem that the
agency of the angel was, either to cause those symbols to pass before
the apostle, or to convey their meaning to his mind. How far John
himself understood the meaning of these symbols, we have not the means
of knowing with certainty. The most probable supposition is, that the
angel was employed to cause these visions or symbols to pass before
his mind, rather than to interpret them. If an interpretation had
been given, it is inconceivable that it should not have been recorded,
and there is no more probability that their meaning should have been
disclosed to John himself, for his private use, than that it should
have been disclosed and recorded for the use of others. It would seem
probable, therefore, that John had only that view of the meaning of
what he saw which anyone else might obtain from the record of the
visions. Comp. Notes on 1 Pe. i. 10‒12. ¶ _Unto his servant John. _
Nothing could be learned from this expression as to _what_ John was
the author of the book, whether the apostle of that name or some
other. Comp. Intro. § 1. It cannot be inferred from the use of the
word _servant_, rather than _apostle_, that the apostle John was _not_
the author, for it was not uncommon for the apostles to designate
themselves merely by the words _servants_, or _servants of God_. Comp.
Notes on Ro. i. 1.

    2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of
    Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

2. _Who bare record of the word of God._ Who bore witness to, or
testified of (ἐμαρτύρησε) the word of God. He regarded himself merely
as a _witness_ of what he had seen, and claimed only to make a fair
and faithful _record_ of it. “This is the disciple which _testifieth_
(ὁ μαρτυρῶν) of these things, and wrote these things,” Jn. xxi. 24.
“And he that saw it _bare record_”――μεμαρτύρηκε, Jn. xix. 35. Compare
also the following places, where the apostle uses the same word
of himself: 1 Jn. i. 2; iv. 14. The expression here, “_the word of
God_,” is one the meaning of which has been much controverted, and is
important in its bearing on the question who was the author of the book
of Revelation. The main inquiry is, whether the writer refers to the
“testimony” which he bears in this book respecting the “word of God;”
or whether he refers to some testimony on that subject in some other
book with which those to whom he wrote were so familiar that they would
at once recognize him as the author; or whether he refers to the fact
that he had borne his testimony to the great truths of religion, and
especially respecting Jesus Christ, as a preacher who was well known,
and who would be characterized by this expression. The phrase “the word
of God”――τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ――occurs frequently in the New Testament
(comp. Jn. x. 35; {37} Ac. iv. 31; vi. 2, 7; xi. 1; xii. 24); and may
either mean the word or doctrine _respecting_ God――that which teaches
what God is――or that which he speaks or teaches. It is more commonly
used in the latter sense (comp. the passages referred to above), and
especially refers to what God speaks or commands in the gospel. The
fair meaning of this expression would be, that John had borne faithful
witness to, or testimony of, the truth which God had spoken to man in
the gospel of Christ. So far as the _language_ here used is concerned,
this might apply either to a written or an oral testimony; either
to a treatise like that of his gospel, to his preaching, or to the
record which he was then making. Vitringa and others suppose that the
reference here is to the gospel which he had published, and which now
bears his name; Lücke and others, to the revelation made to him in
Patmos, the record of which he now makes in this book; Professor
Stuart and others, to the fact that he was a teacher or preacher of
the gospel, and that (comp. ver. 9) the allusion is to the testimony
which he had borne to the gospel, and for which he was an exile in
Patmos. Is it not possible that these conflicting opinions may be to
some extent harmonized, by supposing that in the use of the aorist
tense――ἐμαρτύρησε――the writer meant to refer to a characteristic of
himself, to wit, that he was a faithful _witness_ of the word of God
and of Jesus Christ, whenever and however made known to him? With an
eye, perhaps, to the record which he was about to make in this book,
and intending to include that, may he not also refer to what had
been and was his well-known character as a _witness_ of what God
communicated to him? He had always borne this testimony. He always
regarded himself as such a witness. He had been an eyewitness of
what had occurred in the life and at the death of the Saviour (see
Notes on 2 Pe. i. 17, 18), and had, in all his writings and public
administrations, borne witness to what he had seen and heard; for that
(ver. 9) he had been banished to Patmos: and he was now about to carry
out the same characteristic of himself by bearing witness to what he
saw in these new revelations. This would be much in the manner of John,
who often refers to this characteristic of himself (comp. Jn. xix. 35;
xxi. 24; 1 Jn. i. 2), as well as harmonize the different opinions. The
meaning, then, of the expression, “who bare record of the word of God,”
as I understand it, is, that it was a characteristic of the writer to
bear simple but faithful testimony to the truth which God communicated
to men in the gospel. If this be the correct interpretation, it may be
remarked, (a) that this is such language as John the apostle would be
_likely_ to use, and yet (b) that it is not such language as an author
would be likely to adopt if there was an attempt to forge a book in his
name. The artifice would be too refined to occur probably to anyone,
for although perfectly natural for John, it would not be so natural
for a forger of a book to select this circumstance and weave it thus
unostentatiously into his narrative. ¶ _And of the testimony of Jesus
Christ._ That is, in accordance with the interpretation above, of the
testimony _which Jesus Christ bore for the truth_; not of a testimony
_respecting_ Jesus Christ. The idea is, that Jesus Christ was himself
_a witness_ to the truth, and that the writer of this book was a
witness merely of the testimony which Christ had borne. Whether the
testimony of Jesus Christ was borne in his preaching when in the flesh,
or whether made known to the writer by him at any subsequent period,
it was _his_ office to make a faithful record of that testimony. As
he had always before done that, so he was about to do it now in the
new revelation made to him in Patmos, which he regarded as a new
testimony of Jesus Christ to the truth, ver. 1. It is remarkable that,
in confirmation of this view, John so often describes the Lord Jesus
as _a witness_, or represents him as having come to bear his faithful
_testimony_ to the truth. Thus in ver. 5: “And from Jesus Christ,
who is the faithful and true witness.” “I am one that bear witness――ὁ
μαρτυρήσω――of myself,” Jn. viii. 18. “To this end was I born, and
for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness――ἵνα
μαρτυρήσω――to the truth,” Jn. xviii. 37. “These things saith the Amen,
the faithful and true witness”――ὁ μάρτυς ὁ πιστὸς, κ.τ.λ., Re. iii. 14.
Of this testimony which the Lord Jesus came to bring to man respecting
eternal realities, the writer of this book says that he regarded
_himself_ as a witness. To the office of bearing such testimony he had
been dedicated; that testimony he was now to bear, as he had always
done. ¶ _And of all things that he saw._ Ὅσα τε εἶδε. This {38} is the
common reading in the Greek, and according to this reading it would
properly mean, “_and_ whatsoever he saw;” that is, it would imply that
he bore witness to “the word of God,” _and_ to “the testimony of Jesus
Christ,” _and_ to “whatever he saw”――meaning that the things which he
saw, and to which he refers, were things _additional_ to those to which
he had referred by “the word of God,” and the “testimony of Christ.”
From this it has been supposed that in the former part of the verse he
refers to some testimony which he had formerly borne, as in his gospel
or in his preaching, and that here he refers to what he “saw” in the
visions of the Revelation as something _additional_ to the former. But
it should be remembered that the word rendered _and_――τε――is wanting
in a large number of manuscripts (see Wetstein), and that it is now
omitted in the best editions of the Greek Testament――as by Griesbach,
Tittmann and Hahn. The evidence is clear that it should be omitted; and
if so omitted, the reference is to whatever he had at any time borne
his testimony to, and not particularly to what passed before him in the
visions of this book. It is a general affirmation that he had always
borne a faithful testimony to whatever he had seen respecting the word
of God and the testimony of Christ. The correct rendering of the whole
passage then would be, “And sending by his angel, he signifies it
to his servant John, who bare record of” [_i.e._ whose character and
office it was to bear his testimony to] “the word of God” [the message
which God has sent to me], “and the testimony of Jesus Christ” [the
testimony which Christ bore to the truth], “whatsoever he saw.” He
concealed nothing; he held nothing back; he made it known precisely as
it was seen by him. Thus interpreted, the passage refers to what was
a general characteristic of the writer, and is designed to embrace
_all_ that was made known to him, and to affirm that he was a faithful
witness to it. There were doubtless special _reasons_ why John was
employed as the medium through which this communication was to be made
to the church and the world. Among these reasons may have been the
following: (a) That he was the “beloved disciple.” (b) That he was
the only surviving apostle. (c) That his character was such that his
statements would be readily received. Comp. Jn. xix. 35; xxi. 24; 3 Jn.
12. (d) It _may be_ that his mind was better fitted to be the medium
of these communications than that of any other of the apostles――even
if they had been then alive. There is almost no one whose mental
characteristics are less correctly understood than those of the apostle
John. Among the most gentle and amiable of men; with a heart so fitted
for _love_ as to be known as “the beloved disciple”――he yet had mental
characteristics which made it proper that he should be called “a son
of thunder” (Mar. iii. 17); a mind fitted to preserve and record the
profound thoughts in his gospel; a mind of high poetic order, fitted
for the magnificent conceptions in this book.

    3 Blessed[57] _is_ he that readeth, and they that hear the
    words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are
    written therein: [58]for the time _is_ at hand.

3. _Blessed |is| he that readeth._ That is, it is to be regarded
as a privilege attended with many blessings, to be permitted to mark
the disclosures to be made in this book; the important revelations
respecting future times. Professor Stuart supposes that this refers to
a public reading, and that the phrase “those who hear the words of this
prophecy,” refers to those who listened to the public reader, and that
both the reader and hearer should regard themselves as highly favoured.
It is, however, more in accordance with the usual meaning of the word
rendered “read,” to suppose that it refers to the act of one’s reading
for himself; to learn by reading. So Robinson (_Lex._) understands it.
The Greek word, indeed, would bear the other interpretation (see Lu.
iv. 16; Ac. xiii. 27; xv. 21; 2 Co. iii. 15); but as this book was
sent abroad to be read by Christians, and not merely to be in the hands
of the ministers of religion to be read by them to others, it is more
natural to interpret the word in the usual sense. ¶ _And hear the words
of this prophecy._ As they shall be declared or repeated by others;
or perhaps the word _hear_ is used in a sense that is not uncommon,
that of giving attention to; taking heed to. The general sense is,
that they were to be regarded as highly favoured who became {39}
acquainted in any way with what is here communicated. The writer does
not _say_ that they were blessed who _understood_ it, or that they
who read or heard it _would_ fully understand it; but it is clearly
implied, that there would be so far an understanding of its meaning
as to make it a felicitous condition to have been made acquainted with
it. An author could not be supposed to say that one should regard his
condition as a favoured one who merely heard words that he could not
understand, or who had placed before him magnificent symbols that had
to him no meaning. The word _prophecy_ is used here in its more strict
sense as denoting the disclosure of future events――a large portion of
the book being of this nature. It is here synonymous with _Revelation_
in ver. 1. ¶ _And keep those things which are written therein._ Keep
in mind those things which relate to the future; and obey those things
which are required as truth and duty. The blessing which results from
having in possession the revealed truth of God is not merely in reading
it, or in hearing it: it results from the fact that the truth is
properly regarded, and exerts a suitable influence over our lives. Comp.
Ps. xix. 11: “And in keeping of them there is great reward.” ¶ _For the
time is at hand._ See ver. 1. The word here used――ἐγγύς――has the same
signification substantially as the word “_shortly_” in ver. 1. It would
apply to any event whose beginning was soon to occur, though the end
might be remote, for the series of events might stretch far into the
future. It cannot be doubted, however, that the writer meant to press
upon them the importance of attending to these things, from the fact
that either entirely or in part these things were soon to happen. It
may be inferred from this verse, that it is possible so to _understand_
this book, as that it may convey useful instruction. This is the only
book in the Bible of which a special blessing is pronounced on him
who reads it; but assuredly a blessing would not be pronounced on the
perusal of a book which is entirely unintelligible. While, therefore,
there may be many obscurities in this book, it is also to be assumed
that it may be so far understood as to be useful to Christians, in
supporting their faith, and giving them elevated views of the final
triumph of religion, and of the glory of the world to come. Anything
is a blessing which enables us with well-founded hope and joy to look
forward to the heavenly world.

    4 JOHN to the [59]seven churches which are in Asia: Grace _be_
    unto you, and peace, [60]from him which is, and which was, and
    which is to come; and from the [61]seven Spirits which are
    before his throne;

4. _John to the seven churches which are in Asia._ The word _Asia_
is used in quite different senses by different writers. It is used
(1) as referring to the whole eastern continent now known by that name;
(2) either Asia or Asia Minor; (3) that part of Asia which Attalus III.,
king of Pergamos, gave to the Romans, viz. Mysia, Phrygia, Lycaonia,
Lydia, Caria, Pisidia, and the southern coast――that is, all in the
western, south-western, and southern parts of Asia Minor; and (4), in
the New Testament, usually the south-western part of Asia Minor, of
which Ephesus was the capital. See Notes, Ac. ii. 9. The word _Asia_
is not found in the Hebrew Scriptures, but it occurs often in the books
of Maccabees, and in the New Testament. In the New Testament it is not
used in the large sense in which it is now, as applied to the whole
continent, but in its largest signification it would include only Asia
Minor. It is also used, especially by Luke, as denoting the country
that was called _Ionia_, or that which embraced the provinces of Caria
and Lydia. Of this region Ephesus was the principal city, and it was
in this region that the “seven churches” were situated. Whether there
were more than seven churches in this region is not intimated by the
writer of this book, and on that point we have no certain knowledge.
It is evident that these seven were the principal churches, even if
there were more, and that there was some reason why they should be
particularly addressed. There is mention of some other churches in
the neighbourhood of these. Colosse was near to Laodicea; and from Col.
iv. 13, it would seem not improbable that there was a church also at
Hierapolis. But there may have been nothing in their circumstances that
demanded particular instruction or admonition, and they may have been
on that account omitted. There is also some reason to suppose {40} that,
though there had been other churches in that vicinity besides the seven
mentioned by John, they had become extinct at the time when he wrote
the book of Revelation. It appears from Tacitus (_Annal._ xiv. 27; comp.
also Pliny, _N. H._ v. 29), that in the time of Nero, A.D. 61, the
city of Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake, in which earthquake,
according to Eusebius, the adjacent cities of Colosse and Hierapolis
were involved. Laodicea was, indeed, immediately rebuilt, but there is
no evidence of the re-establishment of the church there before the time
when John wrote this book. The earliest mention we have of a church
there, after the one referred to in the New Testament by Paul (Col.
ii. 1; iv. 13, 15, 16), is in the time of Trajan, when Papias was
bishop there, sometime between A.D. 98 and 117. It would appear, then,
to be not improbable that at the time when the Apocalypse was written,
there were in fact but seven churches in the vicinity. Professor
Stuart (i. 219) supposes that “seven, and only so many, may have been
named, because the sevenfold divisions and groups of various objects
constitute a conspicuous feature in the Apocalypse throughout.” But
this reason seems too artificial; and it can hardly be supposed that it
would influence the mind of John, in the specification _by name_ of the
churches to which the book was sent. If no _names_ had been mentioned,
and if the statement had occurred in glowing poetic description, it
is not inconceivable that the number _seven_ might have been selected
for some such purpose. ¶ _Grace be unto you and peace._ The usual form
of salutation in addressing a church. See Notes on Rom. i. 7. ¶ _From
him which is, and which was, and which is to come._ From him who is
everlasting――embracing all duration, past, present, and to come. No
expression could more strikingly denote eternity than this. He now
exists; he has existed in the past; he will exist in the future. There
is an evident allusion here to the name JEHOVAH, the name by which
the true God is appropriately designated in the Scriptures. That name
יְהֹוָה, from הָיָה, _to be_, _to exist_, seems to have been adopted because
it denotes _existence_, or _being_, and as denoting simply one who
_exists_; and has reference merely to the _fact_ of existence. The
word has no variation of form, and has no reference to time, and would
embrace all time: that is, it is as true at one time as another that
he exists. Such a word would not be inappropriately paraphrased by the
phrase “who is, and who was, and who is to come,” or who is to be; and
there can be no doubt that John referred to him here as being himself
the eternal and uncreated _existence_, and as the great and original
fountain of all being. They who desire to find a full discussion in
regard to the origin of the name JEHOVAH, may consult an article by
Prof. Tholuck, in the _Biblical Repository_, vol. iv. pp. 89‒108. It
is remarkable that there are some passages in heathen inscriptions
and writings which bear a very strong resemblance to the language here
used by John respecting God. Thus Plutarch (_De Is. et Osir._, p. 354),
speaking of a temple of Isis, at Sais, in Egypt, says, “It bore this
inscription――‘I am all that was, and is, and shall be, and my vail no
mortal can remove.’”――Ἐγώ εἰμι πᾶν τὸ γεγονός, καὶ ὄν, καὶ ἐσόμενον·
καὶ τὸν ἐμὸν πέπλον οὐδείς πω θνητὸς ἀνεκάλυψεν. So Orpheus (in _Auctor.
Lib. de Mundo_), “Jupiter is the head, Jupiter is the middle, and all
things are made by Jupiter.” So in Pausanias (_Phocic._ 12), “Jupiter
was; Jupiter is; Jupiter shall be.” The reference in the phrase before
us is to God as such, or to God considered as the Father. ¶ _And from
the seven Spirits which are before his throne._ After all that has been
written on this very difficult expression, it is still impossible to
determine with certainty its meaning. The principal opinions which have
been held in regard to it are the following:――I. That it refers to God,
as such. This opinion is held by Eichhorn, and is favoured by Ewald. No
arguments derived from any parallel passages are urged for this opinion,
nor can any such be found, where God is himself spoken of under the
representation of a sevenfold Spirit. But the objections to this view
are so obvious as to be insuperable. (1) If it refers to God as such,
then it would be mere tautology, for the writer had just referred
to him in the phrase “from him who was,” &c. (2) It is difficult to
perceive in what sense “seven spirits” could be ascribed to God, or how
he could be described _as_ a being of “Seven Spirits.” At least, if he
could be spoken of as such, there would be no objection to applying the
phrase to the Holy {41} Spirit. (3) How could it be said of God himself
that he was “before the throne?” He is everywhere represented as
sitting _on_ the throne, not as _before_ it. It is easy to conceive
of angels as standing before the throne; and of the Holy Spirit it is
_more_ easy to conceive as being represented thus as ready to go forth
and convey a heavenly influence from that throne, but it is impossible
to conceive in what sense this could be applied to God as such. II. The
opinion held by Grotius, and by John Henry Heinrichs, that it refers
to “the multiform providence of God,” or to God considered as operating
in seven or many different ways. In support of this Grotius appeals
to ch. v. 12; vii. 12. But this opinion is so far-fetched, and it is
so destitute of support, as to have found, it is believed, no other
advocates, and to need no further notice. It cannot be supposed that
John meant to personify the attributes of the Deity, and then to unite
them with God himself, and with the Lord Jesus Christ, and to represent
them as real subsistences from which important blessings descend to men.
It is clear that as by the phrase, “who is, and who was, and who is to
come,” and by “Jesus Christ, the faithful and true witness,” he refers
to real subsistences, so he must here. Besides, if the attributes
of God, or the modes of divine operation, are denoted, why is the
number _seven_ chosen? And why are they represented as standing before
the throne? III. A third opinion is, that the reference is to seven
attending and ministering presence-angels――angels represented as
standing before the throne of God, or in his presence. This opinion was
adopted among the ancients by Clemens of Alexandria; Andreas of Cesarea,
and others; among the moderns by Beza, Drusius, Hammond, Wetstein,
Rosenmüller, Clarke, Professor Stuart, and others. This opinion,
however, has been held in somewhat different forms; some maintaining
that the seven angels are referred to because it was a received opinion
among the Hebrews that there were seven angels standing in the presence
of God, as seven princes stood in the Persian court before the king;
others, that the angels of the seven churches are particularly referred
to, represented now as standing in the presence of God; others, that
seven angels, represented as the principal angels employed in the
government of the world, are referred to; and others, that seven
archangels are particularly designated. Compare Poole, _Synop. in
loco_. The _arguments_ which are relied on by those who suppose that
seven angels are here referred to are briefly these: (1) The nature of
the expression here used. The expression, it is said, is such as would
naturally denote beings who were before his throne――beings who were
different from him who was _on_ the throne――and beings more than one in
number. That it could not refer to one _on_ the throne, but must mean
those distinct and separate from one on the throne, is argued from the
use of the phrases “before the throne,” and “before God,” in Re. iv. 5;
vii. 9, 15; viii. 2; xi. 4, 16; xii. 10; xiv. 3; xx. 12; in all which
places the representation denotes those who were in the presence of God,
and standing before him. (2) It is argued from other passages in the
book of Revelation which, it is said (Professor Stuart), go directly to
confirm this opinion. Thus in Re. viii. 2: “And I saw the seven angels
which stood before God.” So Re. iv. 5: the seven lamps of fire burning
before the throne, are said to be “the seven Spirits of God.” In
these passages, it is alleged that the article “_the_” designates the
_well-known_ angels; or those which had been before specified, and that
this is the first mention of any such angels after the designation in
the passage before us. (3) It is said that this is in accordance with
what was usual among the Hebrews, who were accustomed to speak of seven
presence-angels, or angels standing in the presence of Jehovah. Thus
in the book of Tobit (xii. 15), Raphael is introduced as using this
language: “I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present
the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory
of the Holy One.” The apocryphal book of Enoch (chap. xx.) gives the
names of the seven angels who _watch_; that is, of the watchers (comp.
Notes on Da. iv. 13, 17) who stand in the presence of God waiting
for the divine commands, or who watch over the affairs of men. So in
the Zendavesta of Zoroaster, seven amshaspends, or archangels, are
mentioned. See Professor Stuart, _in loco_.

To these views, however, there are objections of great weight, if
they are not in fact quite insuperable. They are such as the following:
(1) That the same rank should be given to them {42} as to God, as
the source of blessings. According to the view which represents this
expression as referring to angels, they are placed on the same level,
so far as the matter before us is concerned, with “him who was, and is,
and is to come,” and with the Lord Jesus Christ――a doctrine which does
not elsewhere occur in the Scriptures, and which we cannot suppose the
writer designed to teach. (2) That blessings should be _invoked_ from
angels――as if they could impart “grace and peace.” It is evident that,
whoever is referred to here by the phrase “the seven Spirits,” he is
placed on the same level with the others mentioned as the source of
“grace and peace.” But it cannot be supposed that an inspired writer
would invoke that grace and peace from any but a divine being. (3) That
as two persons of the Trinity are here mentioned, it is to be presumed
that the third would not be omitted; or to put this argument in a
stronger form, it cannot be supposed that an inspired writer would
mention two of the persons of the Trinity in this connection, and
then not only _not_ mention the third, but refer to _angels_――to
creatures――as bestowing that which would be appropriately sought from
the Holy Spirit. The incongruity would be not merely in omitting all
reference to the Spirit――which might indeed occur, as it often does
in the Scriptures――but in putting in the place which that Spirit
would naturally occupy an allusion to _angels_ as conferring blessings.
(4) If this refer to angels, it is impossible to avoid the inference
that angel-worship, or invocation of angels, is proper. To all intents
and purposes, this is an act of worship; for it is an act of solemn
invocation. It is an acknowledgment of the “seven Spirits,” as the
source of “grace and peace.” It would be impossible to resist this
impression on the popular mind; it would not be possible to meet it if
urged as an argument in favour of the propriety of angel-invocation, or
angel-worship. And yet, if there is anything clear in the Scriptures,
it is that God alone is to be worshipped. For these reasons, it seems
to me that this interpretation cannot be well founded.

IV. There remains a fourth opinion, that it refers to the Holy Spirit,
and in favour of that opinion it may be urged, (1) That it is most
natural to suppose that the Holy Spirit _would_ be invoked on such an
occasion, in connection with him “who was, and is, and is to come,”
and with “Jesus Christ.” If two of the persons of the Trinity were
addressed on such an occasion, it would be properly supposed that the
Holy Spirit would not be omitted, as one of the persons from whom the
blessing was to descend. Comp. 2 Co. xiii. 14: “The grace of the Lord
Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost,
be with you all.” (2) It would be unnatural and improper, in such an
invocation, to unite angels with God as imparting blessings, or as
participating with God and with Christ in communicating blessings to
man. An invocation to God to _send_ his angels, or to impart grace and
favour _through_ angelic help, would be in entire accordance with the
usage in Scripture, but it is not in accordance with such usage to
invoke such blessings _from_ angels. (3) It cannot be denied that an
invocation of grace from “him who is, and was, and is to come,” is of
the nature of worship. The address to him is _as God_, and the attitude
of the mind in such an address is that of one who is engaged in an act
of devotion. The effect of uniting any other being with him in such a
case, would be to lead to the worship of one thus associated with him.
In regard to the Lord Jesus, “the faithful and true witness,” it is
from such expressions as these that we are led to the belief that he is
divine, and that it is proper to worship him as such. The same effect
must be produced in reference to what is here called “the seven Spirits
before the throne.” We cannot well resist the impression that someone
with divine attributes is intended; or, if it refer to angels, we
cannot easily show that it is not proper to render divine worship to
them. If they were thus invoked by an apostle, can it be improper to
worship them now? (4) The word used here is not _angels_, but _spirits_;
and though it is true that angels are spirits, and that the word spirit
is applied to them (He. i. 7), yet it is also true that that is not
a word which would be understood to refer to them without designating
that angels were meant. If angels had been intended here, that word
would naturally have been used, as is the case elsewhere in this
book. (5) In Re. iv. 5, where there is a reference to “the seven lamps
before the throne,” it is said of them that they “are,” that is, they
represent “the seven Spirits of God.” This passage may be understood
as referring to {43} the same thing as that before us, but it cannot
be well understood of angels; for, (a) if it did, it would have been
natural to use that language for the reason above mentioned; (b) the
angels are nowhere called “the spirits _of God_,” nor would such
language be proper. The phrase, “Spirit of God” naturally implies
divinity, and could not be applied to a creature. For these reasons
it seems to me that the interpretation which applies the phrase to the
Holy Spirit is to be preferred; and though that interpretation is not
free from difficulties, yet there are _fewer_ difficulties in that than
in either of the others proposed. Though it may not be possible wholly
to remove the difficulties involved in that interpretation, yet perhaps
something may be done to diminish their force. (1) First, as to the
reason why the number _seven_ should be applied to the Holy Spirit.
(a) There would be as much propriety certainly in applying it to
the Holy Spirit as to God as such. And yet Grotius, Eichhorn, Ewald,
and others saw no difficulty in such an application considered as
representing a sevenfold mode of operation of God, or a manifold divine
agency. (b) The word _seven_ often denotes a full or complete number,
and may be used to denote that which is full, complete, or manifold;
and might thus be used in reference to an all-perfect Spirit, or to a
spirit which was manifold in its operations. (c) The number seven is
evidently a favourite number in the book of Revelation, and it might be
used by the author in places, and in a sense, such as it would not be
likely to be used by another writer. Thus there are seven epistles to
the seven churches; there are seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials
of the wrath of God, seven last plagues; there are seven lamps, and
seven Spirits of God; the Lamb has seven horns and seven eyes. In ch.
i. 16, seven stars are mentioned; in ch. v. 12, seven attributes of
God; ch. xii. 3, the dragon has seven heads; ch. xiii. 1, the beast has
seven heads. (d) The number seven, therefore, _may_ have been given to
the Holy Spirit with reference to the _diversity_ or the _fulness_ of
his operations on the souls of men, and to his _manifold_ agency on the
affairs of the world, as further developed in this book. (2) As to his
being represented as “_before_ the throne,” this may be intended to
designate the fact that the Divine Spirit was, as it were, prepared
to go forth, or to be _sent_ forth, in accordance with a common
representation in the Scriptures, to accomplish important purposes on
human affairs. The posture does not necessarily imply inferiority of
nature, any more than the language does respecting the Son of God,
when he is represented as being _sent_ into the world to execute an
important commission from the Father.

    5 And from Jesus Christ, _who is_ the [62]faithful witness,
    _and_ the [63]first-begotten of the dead, and the prince
    of the kings of the earth. Unto [64]him that loved us, and
    [65]washed us from our sins in his own blood,

5. _And from Jesus Christ, |who is| the faithful witness._ See Notes on
ver. 2. He is faithful in the sense that he is one on whose testimony
there may be entire reliance, or who is entirely worthy to be believed.
From him “grace and peace” are appropriately sought, as one who bears
such a testimony, and as the first-begotten from the dead, and as
reigning over the kings of the earth. Thus grace and peace are invoked
from the infinite God in all his relations and operations:――as the
Father, the Source of all existence; as the Sacred Spirit, going forth
in manifold operations upon the hearts of men; and as the Son of God,
the one appointed to bear faithful testimony to the truth respecting
God and future events. ¶ _|And| the first-begotten of the dead._
The same Greek expression――πρωτότοκος――occurs in Col. i. 18. See it
explained in the Notes on that passage. Comp. Notes, 1 Co. xv. 20.
¶ _And the prince of the kings of the earth._ Who has over all the
kings of the earth the pre-eminence which kings have over their
subjects. He is the Ruler _of_ rulers; King _of_ kings. In ch. xvii. 14,
xix. 16, the same thought is expressed by saying that he is the
“King of kings.” No language could more sublimely denote his exalted
character, or his supremacy. Kings and princes sway a sceptre over
the millions of the earth, and the exaltation of the Saviour is here
expressed by supposing that all those kings and princes constitute a
community over which he is the head. The exaltation of the Redeemer is
elsewhere expressed in different language, but the idea is one that
everywhere prevails in regard to him in the Scriptures. Comp. Mat. {44}
xxviii. 18; xi. 27; Jn. xvii. 2; Ep. i. 20‒22; Phi. ii. 9‒11; Col.
i. 15‒18. The word _prince_――ὁ ἄρχων――means properly, _ruler_, _leader_,
_the first in rank_. We often apply the word _prince_ to an heir to a
throne who is not invested with absolute sovereignty. The word here,
however, denotes that he actually exercises dominion over the rulers of
the earth. As this is an authority which is claimed by God (comp. Is.
x. 5, seq.; xlv. 1, seq.; Ps. xlvii. 2; xcix. 1; ciii. 19; Da. iv. 34),
and which can only appertain to God, it is clear that in ascribing
this to the Lord Jesus it is implied that he is possessed of divine
attributes. As much of the revelations of this book pertained to the
assertion of power over the princes and rulers of this world, there
was a propriety that, in the commencement, it should be asserted
that he who was to exert that power was invested with the prerogative
of a ruler of the nations, and that he had this right of control.
¶ _Unto him that loved us._ This refers undoubtedly to the Lord Jesus,
whose _love_ for men was so strong that nothing more was necessary to
characterize him than to speak of him as the one “who loved us.” It
is manifest that the division in the verses should have been made here,
for this commences a new subject, not having any special connection
with that which precedes. In ver. 4, and the first part of this
verse, the writer had invoked grace from the Father, the Spirit, and
the Saviour. In the latter clause of the verse there commences an
ascription of praise to the Redeemer; an ascription to him particularly,
because the whole book is regarded as a revelation from him (ver. 1);
because he was the one who especially appeared to John in the visions
of Patmos; and because he was to be the great agent in carrying into
execution the purposes revealed in this book. ¶ _And washed us from our
sins in his own blood._ He has removed the pollution of sin from our
souls by his blood; that is, his blood has been applied to cleanse us
from sin. Blood can be represented as having a cleansing power _only_
as it makes an expiation for sin, for considered literally its effect
would be the reverse. The language is such as would be used only on the
supposition that he had made an atonement, and that it was _by_ the
atonement that we are cleansed; for in what sense could it be said of
a martyr that he “had washed us from our sins in his blood?” How could
this language be used of Paul or Polycarp; of Ridley or Cranmer? The
doctrine that the blood of Christ _cleanses_ us from sin, or _purifies_
us, is one that is common in the Scriptures. Comp. 1 Jn. i. 7; He.
ix. 14. The specific idea of _washing_, however――representing that
blood as _washing_ sin away――is one which does not elsewhere occur. It
is evidently used in the sense of _cleansing_ or _purifying_, as we do
this by _washing_, and as the blood of Christ accomplishes in respect
to our souls, what washing with water does in respect to the body.

    6 And hath made us [66]kings and priests unto God and his
    Father; [67]to him _be_ glory and dominion for ever and ever.

6. _And hath made us kings and priests unto God._ In 1 Pe. ii. 9 the
same idea is expressed by saying of Christians that they are “_a royal
priesthood_.” See Notes on that verse. The quotation in both places is
from Ex. xix. 6: “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests.” This
idea is expressed here by saying that Christ had made us in fact kings
_and_ priests; that is, Christians are exalted to the dignity and are
invested with the office, implied in these words. The word _kings_, as
applied to them, refers to the exalted rank and dignity which they will
have; to the fact that they, in common with their Saviour, will reign
triumphant over all enemies; and that, having gained a victory over sin
and death and hell, they may be represented as reigning together. The
word _priests_ refers to the fact that they are engaged in the holy
service of God, or that they offer to him acceptable worship. See
Notes on 1 Pe. ii. 5. ¶ _And his Father._ Even his Father; that is,
the Saviour has redeemed them, and elevated them to this exalted rank,
in order that they may thus be engaged in the service of his Father.
¶ _To him |be| glory._ To the Redeemer; for so the construction (ver. 5)
demands. The word {45} “glory” here means praise, or honour, implying
a wish that all honour should be shown him. ¶ _And dominion._ This word
means literally _strength_――κράτος; but it here means the strength,
power, or authority which is exercised over others, and the expression
is equivalent to a wish that he may _reign_.

    7 Behold, he [68]cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see
    him, and [69]they _also_ which pierced him: and all kindreds
    of the earth [70]shall wail because of him. [71]Even so, Amen.

7. _Behold he cometh with clouds._ That is, the Lord Jesus, when he
returns, will come accompanied with clouds. This is in accordance with
the uniform representation respecting the return of the Saviour. See
Notes on Mat. xxiv. 30. Comp. Mat. xxvi. 64; Mar. xiii. 26; xiv. 62;
Ac. i. 9, 11. Clouds are appropriate symbols of majesty, and God is
often represented as appearing in that manner. See Ex. xix. 18; Ps.
xviii. 11, seq.; Is. xix. 1. So, among the heathen, it was common to
represent their divinities as appearing clothed with a cloud:

                        “tandem venias, precamur,
                   Nube candentes humeros amictus
                                   Augur Apollo.”

The _design_ of introducing this representation of the Saviour, and of
the manner in which he would appear, seems to be to impress the mind
with a sense of the majesty and glory of that being from whom John
received his revelations. His rank, his character, his glory were such
as to demand respect; all should reverence him, and all should feel
that his communications about the future were important to them, for
they must soon appear before him. ¶ _And every eye shall see him._ He
will be made visible in his glory to all that dwell upon the earth; to
all the children of men. Everyone, therefore, has an interest in what
he says; everyone has this in certain prospect, that he shall see the
Son of God coming as a Judge. ¶ _And they |also| which pierced him._
When he died; that is, they who pierced his hands, his feet, and
his side. There is probably an allusion here to Zec. xii. 10: “They
shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn.” The
language here is so general that it may refer to _any_ act of looking
upon the pierced Saviour, and might be applied to those who would see
him on the cross and to their compunctious visitings then; or to their
subsequent reflections, as they might look by faith on him whom they
had crucified; or to the feeling of any sinners who should reflect
that their sins had been the cause of the death of the Lord Jesus; or
it might be applied, as it is here, more specifically to the feelings
which his murderers will have when they shall see him coming in his
glory. All sinners who have pierced his heart by their crimes will
then behold him and will mourn over their treatment of him; they, in a
special manner, who imbrued their hands in his blood will then remember
their crime and be overwhelmed with alarm. The _design_ of what is here
said seems to be, to show that the coming of the Saviour will be an
event of great interest to all mankind. None can be indifferent to it,
for all will see him. His friends will hail his advent (comp. ch. xxii.
20), but all who were engaged in putting him to death, and all who in
any manner have pierced his heart by sin and ingratitude, unless they
shall have repented, will have occasion of bitter lamentation when he
shall come. There are none who have a more fearful doom to anticipate
than the murderers of the Son of God, including those who actually put
him to death, and those who would have engaged in such an act had they
been present, and those who, by their conduct, have done all they could
to pierce and wound him by their ingratitude. ¶ _And all kindreds of
the earth._ Gr., “All the tribes――φυλαὶ――of the earth.” This language
is the same which the Saviour uses in Mat. xxiv. 30. See Notes on
that passage. The word _tribes_ is that which is commonly applied
to the twelve tribes of Israel, and thus used, it would describe the
inhabitants of the Holy Land; but it may be used to denote nations
and people in general, as descended from a common ancestor, and the
connection requires that it should be understood in this sense here,
since it is said that “every eye shall see him;” that is, all that
dwell on the face of the earth. ¶ _Shall wail because of him._ On
account of him; on account of their treatment of him. The word rendered
_wail_――κόπτω――means properly to beat, to cut; then {46} to beat or cut
one’s self in the breast as an expression of sorrow; and then to lament,
to cry aloud in intense grief. The coming of the Saviour will be an
occasion of this, (a) because it will be an event which will call the
sins of men to remembrance, and (b) because they will be overwhelmed
with the apprehension of the wrath to come. Nothing would fill the
earth with greater consternation than the coming of the Son of God in
the clouds of heaven; nothing could produce so deep and universal alarm.
This fact, which no one can doubt, is proof that men _feel_ that they
are guilty, since, if they were innocent, they would have nothing to
dread by his appearing. It is also a proof that they believe in the
doctrine of future punishment, since, if they do not, there is no
reason why they should be alarmed at his coming. Surely men would not
dread his appearing if they really believed that all will be saved. Who
dreads the coming of a benefactor to bestow favours on him? Who dreads
the appearing of a jailer to deliver him from prison; of a physician
to raise him up from a bed of pain; of a deliverer to knock off the
fetters of slavery? And how _can_ it be that men should be alarmed at
the coming of the Saviour, unless their consciences tell them that they
have much to fear in the future? The presence of the Redeemer in the
clouds of heaven would destroy all the hopes of those who believe in
the doctrine of universal salvation――as the approach of death now often
does. Men _believe_ that there is much to be dreaded in the future
world, or they would not fear the coming of Him who shall wind up
the affairs of the human race. ¶ _Even so, Amen_――ναὶ, ἁμήν. “A double
expression of _so be it_, _assuredly_, _certainly_, one in Greek and
the other in Hebrew” (Professor Stuart). Comp. Ro. viii. 16, “Abba,
Father”――ἀββᾶ, ὁ πατήρ. The idea which John seems to intend to convey
is, that the coming of the Lord Jesus, and the consequences which
he says will follow, are events which are altogether _certain_. This
is not the expression of a wish that it _may_ be so, as our common
translation would seem to imply, but a strong affirmation that it
_will_ be so. In some passages, however, the word (ναὶ) expresses
_assent_ to what is said, implying approbation of it as true, or as
desirable. “_Even so_, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight,”
Mat. xi. 26; Lu. x. 21. So in Re. xvi. 7, “_Even so_ (ναὶ), Lord God
Almighty.” So in Re. xxii. 20, “_Even so_ (ναὶ), come, Lord Jesus.” The
word _Amen_ here seems to determine the meaning of the phrase, and to
make it the affirmation of a _certainty_, rather than the expression of
a _wish_.

    8 I [72]am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending,
    saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come,
    [73]the Almighty.

8. _I am Alpha and Omega._ These are the first and the last letters
of the Greek alphabet, and denote properly the first and the last. So
in Re. xxii. 13, where the two expressions are united, “I am Alpha and
Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” So in ch. i.
17, the speaker says of himself, “I am the first and the last.” Among
the Jewish Rabbins it was common to use the first and the last letters
of the Hebrew alphabet to denote the whole of anything, from beginning
to end. Thus it is said, “Adam transgressed the whole law, from א to
תּ”――from Aleph to Tâv. “Abraham kept the whole law, from א to תּ.” The
language here is that which would properly denote _eternity_ in the
being to whom it is applied, and could be used in reference to no one
but the true God. It means that he is the beginning and the end of all
things; that he was at the commencement, and will be at the close; and
it is thus equivalent to saying that he has always existed, and that he
will always exist. Comp. Is. xli. 4, “I the Lord, the first, and with
the last;”――xliv. 6, “I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me
there is no God;”――xlviii. 12, “I am he; I am the first, I also am the
last.” There can be no doubt that the language here would be naturally
understood as implying divinity, and it could be properly applied to
no one but the true God. The obvious interpretation here would be to
apply this to the Lord Jesus; for (a) it is he who is spoken of in the
verses preceding, and (b) there can be no doubt that the same language
is applied to him in ver. 11. As there is, however, a difference of
reading in this place in the Greek text, and as it cannot be absolutely
certain that the writer meant to refer to the Lord Jesus specifically
{47} here, this cannot be adduced with propriety as a proof-text to
demonstrate his divinity. Many MSS., instead of “_Lord_,” κύριος, read
“_God_,” θεὸς; and this reading is adopted by Griesbach, Tittman, and
Hahn, and is now regarded as the correct reading. There is no real
incongruity in supposing, also, that the writer here meant to refer
to God as such, since the introduction of a reference to him would
not be inappropriate to his manifest design. Besides, a portion of the
language here used, “which is, and was, and is to come,” is that which
would more naturally suggest a reference to God as such, than to the
Lord Jesus Christ. See ver. 4. The _object_ for which this passage
referring to the “first and the last――to him who was, and is, and is to
come,” is introduced here evidently is, to show that as he was clothed
with omnipotence, and would continue to exist through all ages to come
as he had existed in all ages past, there could be no doubt about his
ability to execute all which it is said he would execute. ¶ _Saith the
Lord._ Or, saith God, according to what is now regarded as the correct
reading. ¶ _Which is, and which was_, &c. See Notes on ver. 4. ¶ _The
Almighty._ An appellation often applied to God, meaning that he has all
power, and used here to denote that he is able to accomplish what is
disclosed in this book.

    9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in
    tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ,
    was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God,
    and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

9. _I John, who also am your brother._ Your Christian brother; who
am a fellow-Christian with you. The reference here is doubtless to
the members of the seven churches in Asia, to whom the epistles in the
following chapters were addressed, and to whom the whole book seems
to have been sent. In the previous verse, the writer had closed the
salutation, and he here commences a description of the circumstances
under which the vision appeared to him. He was in a lonely island, to
which he had been banished on account of his attachment to religion;
he was in a state of high spiritual enjoyment on the day devoted to the
sacred remembrance of the Redeemer; he suddenly heard a voice behind
him, and turning saw the Son of man himself, in glorious form, in
the midst of seven golden lamps, and fell at his feet as dead. ¶ _And
companion in tribulation._ Your partner in affliction. That is, he and
they were suffering substantially the same kind of trials on account of
their religion. It is evident from this that some form of persecution
was then raging, in which they were also sufferers, though in their
case it did not lead to banishment. The leader, the apostle, the aged
and influential preacher, was banished; but there were many other
forms of trial which they might be called to endure who remained at
home. What they were we have not the means of knowing with certainty.
¶ _And in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ._ The meaning of
this passage is, that he, and those whom he addressed, were not only
companions in affliction, but were fellow-partners in the kingdom of
the Redeemer; that is, they shared the honour and the privileges
pertaining to that kingdom; and that they were fellow-partners in the
_patience_ of Jesus Christ, that is, in enduring with patience whatever
might follow from their being his friends and followers. The general
idea is, that alike in privileges and sufferings they were united.
They shared alike in the results of their attachment to the Saviour.
¶ _Was in the isle that is called Patmos._ Patmos is one of the cluster
of islands in the Ægean Sea anciently called the _Sporades_. It lies
between the island of Icaria and the promontory of Miletus. It is
merely mentioned by the ancient geographers (Plin. _Hist. Nat._ iv. 23;
Strabo, x. 488). It is now called Patino or Patmoso. It is some six
or eight miles in length, and not more than a mile in breadth, being
about fifteen miles in circumference. It has neither trees nor rivers,
nor has it any land for cultivation, except some little nooks among
the ledges of rocks. On approaching the island, the coast is high,
and consists of a succession of capes, which form so many ports,
some of which are excellent. The only one in use, however, is a deep
bay, sheltered by high mountains on every side but one, where it is
protected by a projecting cape. The town attached to this port is
situated upon a high rocky mountain, rising immediately from the sea,
and this, with the Scala below upon the shore, consisting of some ships
and houses, forms the only inhabited site of the island. Though Patmos
is deficient in trees, it abounds in flowery plants {48} and shrubs.
Walnuts and other fruit trees are raised in the orchards, and the wine
of Patmos is the strongest and the best flavoured in the Greek islands.
Maize and barley are cultivated, but not in a quantity sufficient
for the use of the inhabitants and for a supply of their own vessels,
and others which often put into their good harbour for provisions.
The inhabitants now do not exceed four or five thousand; many of whom
are emigrants from the neighbouring continent. About half-way up the
mountain there is shown a natural grotto in a rock, where John is
_said_ to have seen his visions and to have written this book. Near
this is a small church, connected with which is a school or college,
where the Greek language is taught; and on the top of the hill, and in
the centre of the island, is a monastery, which, from its situation,
has a very majestic appearance (Kitto’s _Cyclopædia of Bib. Lit._).
The annexed engraving is supposed to give a good representation of
the appearance of the island. It is commonly supposed that John was
banished to this island by Domitian, about A.D. 94. No place could
have been selected for banishment which would accord better with
such a design than this. Lonely, desolate, barren, uninhabited, seldom
visited, it had all the requisites which could be desired for a place
of punishment; and banishment to that place would accomplish all that
a persecutor could wish in silencing an apostle, without putting him to
death. It was no uncommon thing, in ancient times, to banish men from
their country; either sending them forth at large, or specifying some
particular place to which they were to go. The whole narrative leads us
to suppose that this place was _designated_ as that to which John was
to be sent. Banishment to an island was a common mode of punishment;
and there was a distinction made by this act in favour of those
who were thus banished. The more base, low, and vile of criminals
were commonly condemned to work in the mines; the more decent and
respectable were _banished_ to some lonely island. See the authorities
quoted in Wetstein, _in loco_. ¶ _For the word of God._ On account of
the word of God; that is, for holding and preaching the gospel. See
Notes on ver. 2. It cannot mean that he was sent there with a view
to his _preaching_ the word of God; for it is inconceivable that he
should have been sent from Ephesus to preach in such a little, lonely,
desolate place, where indeed there is no evidence that there were any
inhabitants; nor can it mean that he was sent there by the Spirit of
God to receive and record this revelation, for it is clear that the
revelation could have been made elsewhere, and such a place afforded no
peculiar advantages for this. The fair interpretation is, in accordance
with all the testimony of antiquity, that he was sent there in a time
of persecution, as a punishment for preaching the gospel. ¶ _And for
the testimony of Jesus Christ._ See Notes on ver. 2. He did not go
there to bear testimony to Jesus Christ on that island, either by
preaching or recording the visions in this book, but he went because
he _had_ preached the doctrines which testified of Christ.

    10 I was [74]in the Spirit on the [75]Lord’s day, and heard
    behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,

10. _I was in the Spirit._ This cannot refer to his own spirit, for
such an expression would be unintelligible. The language then must
refer to some unusual state, or to some influence that had been brought
to bear upon him from without, that was appropriate to such a day. The
word _Spirit_ may refer either to the Holy Spirit, or to some state of
mind such as the Holy Spirit produces――a spirit of elevated devotion,
a state of high and uncommon religious enjoyment. It is clear that John
does not mean here to say that he was under the influence of the Holy
Spirit in such a sense as that he was _inspired_, for the command to
make a record, as well as the visions, came subsequently to the time
referred to. The fair meaning of the passage is, that he was at that
time favoured, in a large measure, with the influences of the Holy
Spirit――the spirit of true devotion; that he had a high state of
religious enjoyment, and was in a condition not inappropriate to the
remarkable communications which were made to him on that day. The
state of mind in which he was at the time here referred to, is not such
as the prophets are often represented to have been in when under the
prophetic inspiration (comp. Eze. i. 1; viii. 3; xl. 2; Je. xxiv. 1),
and which was often accompanied {49} with an entire prostration of
bodily strength (comp. Nu. xxiv. 4; 1 Sa. xix. 24; Eze. i. 28; Da.
x. 8‒10; Re. i. 17), but such as any Christian may experience when in a
high state of religious enjoyment. He was not _yet_ under the prophetic
ecstasy (comp. Ac. x. 10; xi. 5; xxii. 17), but was, though in a lonely
and barren island, and far away from the privileges of the sanctuary,
permitted to enjoy, in a high degree, the consolations of religion――an
illustration of the great truth that God can meet his people anywhere;
that, when in solitude and in circumstances of outward affliction, when
persecuted and cast out, when deprived of the public means of grace and
the society of religious friends, He can meet them with the abundant
consolations of His grace, and pour joy and peace into their souls.
This state was not inappropriate to the revelations which were about
to be made to John, but this itself was not that state. It was a state
which seems to have resulted from the fact, that on that desert island
he devoted the day to the worship of God, and, by honouring the day
dedicated to the memory of the risen Saviour, found, what all will find,
that it was attended with rich spiritual influences on his soul. ¶ _On
the Lord’s day._ The word here rendered _Lord’s_ (κυριακῇ), occurs only
in this place and in 1 Co. xi. 20, where it is applied to the Lord’s
supper. It properly means _pertaining to the Lord_; and, so far as this
_word_ is concerned, it might mean a day pertaining to the Lord, in
any sense, or for any reason; either because he claimed it as his own,
and had set it apart for his own service, or because it was designed to
commemorate some important event pertaining to him, or because it was
observed in honour of him. It is clear, (1) That this refers to some
day which was distinguished from all other days of the week, and which
would be sufficiently designated by the use of this term. (2) That it
was a day which was for some reason regarded as peculiarly a day of the
Lord, or peculiarly devoted to him. (3) It would further appear that
this was a day particularly devoted to the Lord Jesus; for, (a) that
is the natural meaning of the word _Lord_ as used in the New Testament
(comp. Notes on Ac. i. 24); and (b) if the Jewish Sabbath were intended
to be designated, the word _Sabbath_ would have been used. The term
was used generally by the early Christians to denote the first day of
the week. It occurs twice in the Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians
(about A.D. 101), who calls the Lord’s day “the queen and prince of all
days.” Chrysostom (on Ps. cxix.) says, “It was called the Lord’s day
because the Lord rose from the dead on that day.” Later fathers make a
marked distinction between the _Sabbath_ and the _Lord’s day_; meaning
by the former the Jewish Sabbath, or the seventh day of the week,
and by the latter the first day of the week, kept holy by Christians.
So Theodoret (_Fab. Haeret._ ii. 1), speaking of the Ebionites, says,
“They keep the _Sabbath_ according to the Jewish law, and sanctify the
_Lord’s day_ in like manner as we do” (Professor Stuart). The strong
probability is, that the name was given to this day in honour of the
Lord Jesus, and because he rose on that day from the dead. No one can
doubt that it was an appellation given to the first day of the week;
and the passage, therefore, proves (1) that that day was thus early
distinguished in some peculiar manner, so that the mere mention of it
would be sufficient to identify it in the minds of those to whom the
apostle wrote; (2) that it was in some sense regarded as devoted to
the Lord Jesus, or was designed in some way to commemorate what he had
done; and (3) that if this book were written by the apostle John, the
observance of that day has the apostolic sanction. He had manifestly,
in accordance with a prevailing custom, set apart this day in honour
of the Lord Jesus. Though alone, he was engaged on that day in acts
of devotion. Though far away from the sanctuary, he enjoyed what all
Christians _hope_ to enjoy on such a day of rest, and what not a few
_do_ in fact enjoy in its observance. We may remark, in view of this
statement, (a) that when away from the sanctuary, and deprived of its
privileges, we should nevertheless not fail to observe the Christian
Sabbath. If on a bed of sickness, if in a land of strangers, if on the
deep, if in a foreign clime, if on a lonely island, as John was, where
we have none of the advantages of public worship, we should yet honour
the Sabbath. We should worship God alone, if we have none to unite
with us; we should show to those around us, if we are with strangers,
by our dress and our conversation, by a serious and devout manner, by
abstinence from labour, {50} and by a resting from travel, that we
devoutly regard this day as set apart for God. (b) We may expect, in
such circumstances, and with such a devout observance of the day, that
God will meet with us and bless us. It was on a lonely island, far away
from the sanctuary and from the society of Christian friends, that the
Saviour met “the beloved disciple,” and we may trust it will be so with
us. For on such a desert island, in a lonely forest, on the deep, or
amid strangers in a foreign land, he can as easily meet us as in the
sanctuary where we have been accustomed to worship, and when surrounded
by all the privileges of a Christian land. No man, at home or abroad,
among friends or strangers, enjoying the privileges of the sanctuary,
or deprived of those privileges, ever kept the Christian Sabbath in
a devout manner without profit to his own soul; and, when deprived of
the privileges of public worship, the visitations of the Saviour to
the soul may be more than a compensation for all our privations. Who
would not be willing to be banished to a lonely island like Patmos,
if he might enjoy such a glorious vision of the Redeemer as John was
favoured with there? ¶ _And heard behind me a great voice._ A loud
voice. This was of course sudden, and took him by surprise. ¶ _As of
a trumpet._ Loud as a trumpet. This is evidently the only point in the
comparison. It does not mean that the tones of the voice resembled a
trumpet, but only that it was clear, loud, and distinct like a trumpet.
A trumpet is a well-known wind-instrument, distinguished for the
clearness of its sounds, and was used for calling assemblies together,
for marshalling hosts for battle, &c. The Hebrew word employed commonly
to denote a trumpet (שׁוֹפָר――_shophar_) means _bright_ and _clear_, and
is supposed to have been given to the instrument on account of its
clear and shrill sound, as we now give the name “clarion” to a certain
wind-instrument. The Hebrew trumpet is often referred to as employed,
on account of its clearness, to summon people together, Ex. xix. 13;
Nu. x. 10; Ju. vii. 18, &c.; 1 Sa. xiii. 3; 2 Sa. xv. 10.

    11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last:
    and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send _it_ unto the
    seven churches which are in Asia; unto [76]Ephesus, and unto
    [77]Smyrna, and unto [78]Pergamos, and unto [79]Thyatira,
    and unto [80]Sardis, and unto [81]Philadelphia, and unto

11. _Saying._ That is, literally, “the trumpet saying.” It was,
however, manifestly the _voice_ that addressed these words to John,
though they _seemed_ to come through a trumpet, and hence the trumpet
is represented as uttering them. ¶ _I am Alpha and Omega._ Ver. 8.
¶ _The first and the last._ An explanation of the terms Alpha and Omega.
See Notes on ver. 8. ¶ _And, What thou seest._ The voice, in addition
to the declaration, “I am Alpha and Omega,” gave this direction that
he should record what he saw. The phrase, “what thou seest,” refers to
what would pass before him in vision, what he there saw, and what he
would see in the extraordinary manifestations which were to be made
to him. ¶ _Write in a book._ Make a fair record of it all; evidently
meaning that he should describe things as they occurred, and implying
that the vision would be held so long before the eye of his mind that
he would be able to transfer it to the “book.” The fair and obvious
interpretation of this is, that he was to make the record in the island
of Patmos, and then send it to the churches. Though Patmos was a lonely
and barren place, and though probably there were few or no inhabitants
there, yet there is no improbability in supposing that John could have
found writing materials there, nor even that he may have been permitted
to take such materials with him. He seems to have been banished for
_preaching_, not for _writing_; and there is no evidence that the
materials for writing would be withheld from him. John Bunyan, in
Bedford jail, found materials for writing the _Pilgrim’s Progress_,
and there is no evidence that the apostle John was denied the means
of recording his thoughts when in the island of Patmos. The word _book_
here (βιβλίον), would more properly mean _a roll_ or _scroll_, that
being the form in which books were anciently made. See Notes on Lu.
iv. 17. ¶ _And send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia._ {51}
The churches which are immediately designated, not implying that there
were no other churches in Asia, but that there were particular reasons
for sending it to these. He was to send _all_ that he should “see;”
to wit, all that is recorded in this volume or book of “Revelation.”
Part of this (ch. ii., iii.) would appertain particularly to them;
the remainder (ch. iv.‒xxii.) would appertain to them no more than to
others, but still they would have the common interest in it which all
the church would have, and, in their circumstances of trial, there
might be important reasons why _they_ should see the assurance that
the church would ultimately triumph over all its enemies. They were to
derive from it themselves the consolation which it was fitted to impart
in time of trial, and to transmit it to future times, for the welfare
of the church at large. ¶ _Unto Ephesus._ Perhaps mentioned first as
being the capital of that portion of Asia Minor; the most important
city of the seven; the place where John had preached, and whence he had
been banished. For a particular description of these seven churches,
see the Notes on the epistles addressed to them in ch. ii., iii.

    12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being
    turned, I saw [83]seven golden candlesticks;

12. _And I turned to see the voice that spake with me._ He naturally
turned round to see who it was that spake to him in this solitary and
desolate place, where he thought himself to be alone. To see _the
voice_ here means to see _the person_ who spake. ¶ _And being turned, I
saw seven golden candlesticks._ These were the _first_ things that met
his eye. This must have been in _vision_, of course, and the meaning
is, that there _seemed_ to be there seven such lamps or candelabras.
The word rendered _candlesticks_ (λυχνία) means properly a light-stand,
lamp-stand――something to bear up a light. It would be applied to
anything that was used for this purpose; and nothing is intimated,
in the use of the word, in regard to the form or dimensions of
the light-bearers. Lamps were more commonly used at that time than
candles, and it is rather to be supposed that these were designed to
be lamp-bearers, or lamp-sustainers, than _candlesticks_. They were
seven in number; not one branching into seven, but seven standing apart,
and so far from each other that he who appeared to John could stand
among them. The lamp-bearers evidently sustained each a light, and
these gave a peculiar brilliancy to the scene. It is not improbable
that, as they were designed to represent the seven churches of Asia,
they were arranged in an order resembling these churches. The scene
is not laid in the temple, as many suppose, for there is nothing that
resembles the arrangements in the temple except the mere fact of the
_lights_. The scene as yet is in Patmos, and there is no evidence that
John did not regard himself as there, or that he fancied for a moment
that he was translated to the temple in Jerusalem. There can be no
doubt as to the _design_ of this representation, for it is expressly
declared (ver. 20) that the seven lamp-bearers were intended to
represent the seven churches. Light is often used in the Scriptures as
an emblem of true religion; Christians are represented as “the light
of the world” (Mat. v. 14; comp. Phi. ii. 15; Jn. viii. 12), and a
Christian church may be represented as a light standing in the midst
of surrounding darkness.

    13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks [84]_one_ like
    unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot,
    and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

13. _And in the midst of the seven candlesticks._ Standing among them,
so as to be encircled with them. This shows that the representation
could not have been like that of the vision of Zechariah (Zec. iv. 2),
where the prophet sees “a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon
the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon.” In the vision as it
appeared to John, there was not _one_ lamp-bearer, with seven lamps
or branches, but there were _seven_ lamp-bearers, so arranged that one
in the likeness of the Son of man could stand in the midst of them.
¶ _|One| like unto the Son of man._ This was evidently the Lord Jesus
Christ himself, elsewhere so often called “the Son of man.” That it was
the Saviour himself is apparent from ver. 18. The expression rendered
“like unto _the_ Son of man,” should have been “like unto {52} _a_ son
of man;” that is, like a man, a human being, or in a human form. The
reasons for so interpreting it are, (a) that the Greek is without the
article, and (b) that, as it is rendered in our version, it seems to
make the writer say that he was _like himself_, since the expression
“_the_ Son of man” is in the New Testament but another name for the
Lord Jesus. The phrase is often applied to him in the New Testament,
and always, except in three instances (Ac. vii. 56; Re. i. 13; xiv. 14),
by the Saviour himself, evidently to denote his warm interest _in_ man,
or his relationship to man; to signify that he was a man, and wished
to designate himself eminently as such. See Notes on Mat. viii. 20.
In the use of this phrase in the New Testament, there is probably an
allusion to Da. vii. 13. The idea would seem to be, that he whom he saw
resembled “the Son of man”――the Lord Jesus, as he had seen him in the
days of his flesh――though it would appear that he did not _know_ that
it was he until he was informed of it, ver. 18. Indeed, the costume in
which he appeared was so unlike that in which John had been accustomed
to see the Lord Jesus in the days of his flesh, that it cannot be well
supposed that he would at once recognize him as the same. ¶ _Clothed
with a garment down to the foot._ A robe reaching down to the feet,
or to the ankles, yet so as to leave the feet themselves visible. The
allusion here, doubtless, is to a long, loose, flowing robe, such as
was worn by kings. Comp. Notes on Is. vi. 1. ¶ _And girt about the
paps._ About the breast. It was common, and is still, in the East,
to wear a girdle to confine the robe, as well as to form a beautiful
ornament. This was commonly worn about the middle of the person, or
“the loins,” but it would seem also that it was sometimes worn around
the breast. See Notes on Mat. v. 38‒41. ¶ _With a golden girdle._
Either wholly made of gold, or, more probably, richly ornamented with
gold. This would naturally suggest the idea of one of rank, probably
one of princely rank. The raiment here assumed was not that of a
_priest_, but that of a _king_. It was very far from being that in
which the Redeemer appeared when he dwelt upon the earth, and was
rather designed to denote his royal state as he is exalted in heaven.
He is not indeed represented with a crown and sceptre here, and perhaps
the leading idea is that of one of exalted rank, of unusual dignity, of
one fitted to inspire awe and respect. In other circumstances, in this
book, this same Redeemer is represented as wearing a crown, and going
forth to conquest. See ch. xix. 12‒16. Here the representation seems to
have been designed to impress the mind with a sense of the greatness
and glory of the personage who thus suddenly made his appearance.

    14 His head and _his_ hairs _were_ white like wool, as white
    as snow; and [85]his eyes _were_ as a flame of fire;

14. _His head and |his| hairs |were| white like wool, as white as snow._
Exceedingly or perfectly white――the first suggestion to the mind of
the apostle being that of wool, and then the thought occurring of its
_extreme_ whiteness resembling snow――the purest white of which the
mind conceives. The comparison with wool and snow to denote anything
peculiarly _white_ is not uncommon. See Is. i. 18. Professor Stuart
supposes that this means, not that his hairs were literally white,
as if with age, which he says would be incongruous to one just risen
from the dead, clothed with immortal youth and vigour, but that it
means radiant, bright, resplendent――similar to what occurred on the
transfiguration of the Saviour, Mat. xvii. 2. But to this it may be
replied, (a) That this would not accord well with that with which
his hair is compared――_snow_ and _wool_, particularly the latter.
(b) The usual meaning of the word is more obvious here, and not at all
inappropriate. The representation was fitted to signify majesty and
authority; and this would be best accomplished by the image of one who
was venerable in years. Thus, in the vision that appeared to Daniel (ch.
vii. 9), it is said of him who is there called the “Ancient of Days,”
that “his garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like
the pure wool.” It is not improbable that John had that representation
in his eye, and that therefore he would be impressed with the
conviction that this was a manifestation of a divine person. We are
not necessarily to suppose that this is the form in which the Saviour
always appears now in heaven, any more than we are to suppose that God
appears always in the form in which he was manifested {53} to Isaiah
(ch. vi. 1), to Daniel (ch. vii. 9), or to Moses and Aaron, Nadab and
Abihu in the mount, Ex. xxiv. 10, 11. The representation is, that this
form was assumed for the purpose of impressing the mind of the apostle
with a sense of his majesty and glory. ¶ _And his eyes |were| as a
flame of fire._ Bright, sharp, penetrating; as if everything was light
before them, or they would penetrate into the thoughts of men. Such
a representation is not uncommon. We speak of a lightning glance, a
fiery look, &c. In Da. x. 6, it is said of the man who appeared to
the prophet on the banks of the river Hiddekel, that his eyes were “as
lamps of fire.” Numerous instances of this comparison from the Greek
and Latin classics may be seen in Wetstein, _in loco_.

    15 And [86]his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in
    a furnace; and [87]his voice as the sound of many waters.

15. _And his feet like unto fine brass._ Comp. Da. x. 6, “And his
arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass.” See also Eze.
i. 7, “and they” [the feet of the living creatures] “sparkled like the
colour of burnished brass.” The word here used――χαλκολιβάνῳ――occurs in
the New Testament only here and in ch. ii. 18. It is not found in the
Septuagint. The word properly means _white brass_ (probably compounded
of χαλκός, _brass_, and λιβανός, _whiteness_, from the Hebrew לָבָן,
_white_). Others regard it as from χαλκός, _brass_, and λιπαρόν,
_clear_. The _metal_ referred to was undoubtedly a species of brass
distinguished for its clearness or whiteness. Brass is a compound metal,
composed of copper and zinc. The colour varies much according to the
different proportions of the various ingredients. The Vulgate here
renders the word _aurichalcum_, a mixture of gold and of brass――perhaps
the same as the ἤλεκτρον――the _electrum_ of the ancients, composed of
gold and of silver, usually in the proportion of four parts gold and
one part silver, and distinguished for its brilliancy. See Robinson,
_Lex._, and Wetstein, _in loco_. The kind of metal here referred to,
however, would seem to be some compound of brass――of a whitish and
brilliant colour. The exact proportion of the ingredients in the metal
here referred to cannot now be determined. ¶ _As if they burned in a
furnace._ That is, his feet were so bright that they seemed to be like
a beautiful metal glowing intensely in the midst of a furnace. Anyone
who has looked upon the dazzling and almost insupportable brilliancy
of metal in a furnace, can form an idea of the image here presented.
¶ _And his voice as the sound of many waters._ As the roar of the
ocean, or of a cataract. Nothing could be a more sublime description of
majesty and authority than to compare the voice of a speaker with the
roar of the ocean. This comparison often occurs in the Scriptures. See
Eze. xliii. 2, “And behold the glory of the God of Israel came from
the east: and his voice was like the sound of many waters: and the
earth shined with his glory.” So Re. xiv. 2; xix. 6. Comp. Eze. i. 24;
Da. x. 6.

    16 And he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his
    mouth went [88]a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance
    _was_ as [89]the sun shineth in his strength.

16. _And he had in his right hand seven stars._ Emblematic of the
angels of the seven churches. _How_ he held them is not said. It may be
that they seemed to rest on his open palm; or it may be that he seemed
to hold them as if they were arranged in a certain order, and with some
sort of attachment, so that they could be grasped. It is not improbable
that, as in the case of the seven lamp-bearers (Notes, ver. 13), they
were so arranged as to represent the relative position of the seven
churches. ¶ _And out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword._ On
the form of the ancient two-edged sword, see Notes on Ep. vi. 17.
The two edges were designed to cut both ways; and such a sword is a
striking emblem of the penetrating power of _truth_, or of words that
proceed from the mouth; and this is designed undoubtedly to be the
representation here――that there was some symbol which showed that his
words, or his truth, had the power of cutting deep, or penetrating the
soul. So in Is. xlix. 2, it is said of the same personage, “And he hath
made my mouth like a sharp sword.” {54} See Notes on that verse. So in
He. iv. 12, “The word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any
two-edged sword,” &c. So it is said of Pericles by Aristophanes:

                          “His powerful speech
              Pierced the hearer’s soul, and left behind
              Deep in his bosom its keen point infixt.”

A similar figure often occurs in Arabic poetry. “As arrows his
words enter into the heart.” See Gesenius, _Comm. zu_, Is. xlix. 2.
The only difficulty here is in regard to the apparently incongruous
representation of a _sword_ seeming to proceed from the mouth; but
it is not perhaps necessary to suppose that John means to say that he
_saw_ such an image. He heard him speak; he felt the penetrating power
of his words; and they were _as if_ a sharp sword proceeded from his
mouth. They penetrated deep into the soul, and as he looked on him it
seemed as if a sword came from his mouth. Perhaps it is not necessary
to suppose that there was even _any_ visible representation of
this――either of a sword or of the breath proceeding from his mouth
appearing to take this form, as Professor Stuart supposes. It may be
wholly a figurative representation, as Heinrichs and Ewald suppose.
Though there were visible and impressive symbols of his majesty and
glory presented to the eyes, it is not necessary to suppose that there
were visible symbols of his _words_. ¶ _And his countenance._ His face.
There had been before particular descriptions of some parts of his
face――as of his eyes――but this is a representation of his whole aspect;
of the general splendour and brightness of his countenance. ¶ _|Was| as
the sun shineth in his strength._ In his full splendour when unobscured
by clouds; where his rays are in no way intercepted. Comp. Ju. v. 31:
“But let them that love him [the Lord] be as the sun when he goeth
forth in his might;” 2 Sa. xxiii. 4, “And he shall be as the light of
the morning, when the sun ariseth, even a morning without clouds;” Ps.
xix. 5, “Which [the sun] is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.” There could be no more
striking description of the majesty and glory of the countenance than
to compare it with the over-powering splendour of the sun.――This closes
the description of the personage that appeared to John. The design was
evidently to impress him with a sense of his majesty and glory, and
to prepare the way for the authoritative nature of the communications
which he was to make. It is obvious that this appearance must have been
_assumed_. The representation is not that of the Redeemer as he rose
from the dead――a middle-aged man; nor is it clear that it was the same
as on the mount of transfiguration――where, for anything that appears,
he retained his usual aspect and form though temporarily invested with
extraordinary brilliancy; nor is it the form in which we may suppose
he ascended to heaven――for there is no evidence that he was thus
transformed when he ascended; nor is it that of a priest――for all the
peculiar habiliments of a Jewish priest are wanting in this description.
The appearance assumed is, evidently, in accordance with various
representations of God as he appeared to Ezekiel, to Isaiah, and to
Daniel――that which was a _suitable_ manifestation of a divine being――of
one clothed in the majesty and power of God. We are not to infer from
this, that this is in fact the appearance of the Redeemer now in heaven,
or that this is the form in which he will appear when he comes to
judge the world. Of his appearance in heaven we have no knowledge;
of the aspect which he will assume when he comes to judge men we have
no certain information. We are necessarily quite as ignorant of this
as we are of what will be _our own_ form and appearance after the
resurrection from the dead.

    17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he
    laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am
    the first and the last:

17. _And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead._ As if I were
dead; deprived of sense and consciousness. He was overwhelmed with the
suddenness of the vision; he saw that this was a divine being; but he
did not as yet know that it was the Saviour. It is not probable that in
this vision he would immediately recognize any of the familiar features
of the Lord Jesus as he had been accustomed to see him some sixty
years before; and if he _did_, the effect would have been quite as
over-powering as is here described. But the subsequent revelations of
this divine {55} personage would rather seem to imply that John did
not at once recognize him as the Lord Jesus. The effect here described
is one that often occurred to those who had a vision of God. See Da.
viii. 18, “Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my
face toward the ground; but he touched me, and set me upright;” ver. 27,
“And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterwards I rose up,
and did the king’s business.” Comp. Ex. xxxiii. 20; Is. vi. 5; Eze. i.
28; xliii. 3; Da. x. 7‒9, 17. ¶ _And he laid his right hand upon me._
For the purpose of raising him up. Comp. Da. viii. 18, “He touched me
and set me upright.” We usually stretch out the _right_ hand to raise
up one who has fallen. ¶ _Saying unto me, Fear not._ Comp. Mat. xiv. 27,
“It is I; be not afraid.” The fact that it was the Saviour, though
he appeared in this form of overpowering majesty, was a reason why
John should not be afraid. _Why_ that was a reason, he immediately
adds――that he was the first and the last; that though he had been dead
he was now alive, and would continue ever to live, and that he had
the keys of hell and of death. It is evident that John was overpowered
with that awful emotion which the human mind must feel at the evidence
of the presence of God. Thus men feel when God seems to come near
them by the impressive symbols of his majesty――as in the thunder,
the earthquake, and the tempest. Comp. Hab. iii. 16; Lu. ix. 34.
Yet, amidst the most awful manifestations of divine power, the simple
assurance that our Redeemer is near us is enough to allay our fears,
and diffuse calmness through the soul. ¶ _I am the first and the last._
Notes, ver. 8. This is stated to be one of the reasons why he should
not fear――that he was _eternal_: “I always live――have lived through
all the past, and will live through all which is to come――and therefore
I can accomplish all my promises, and execute all my purposes.”

    18 _I am_ [90]he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am
    alive for evermore, Amen; and have [91]the keys of hell and of

18. _|I am| he that liveth, and was dead._ I was indeed once dead, but
now I live, and shall continue to live for ever. This would at once
identify him who thus appeared as the Lord Jesus Christ, for to no one
else could this apply. He had been put to death; but he had risen from
the grave. This also is given as a reason why John should not fear;
and nothing would allay his fears more than this. He now saw that
he was in the presence of that Saviour whom more than half a century
before he had so tenderly loved when in the flesh, and whom, though
now long absent, he had faithfully served, and for whose cause he was
now in this lonely island. His faith in his resurrection had not been a
delusion; he saw the very Redeemer before him who had once been laid in
the tomb. ¶ _Behold, I am alive for evermore._ I am to live for ever.
Death is no more to cut me down, and I am never again to slumber in the
grave. As he was always to live, he could accomplish all his promises,
and fulfil all his purposes. The Saviour is never to die again. He
can, therefore, always sustain us in our troubles; he can be with us
in our death. Whoever of our friends die, he will not die; when we
die, he will still be on the throne. ¶ _Amen._ A word here of strong
affirmation――as if he had said, it is _truly_, or _certainly so_. See
Notes on ver. 7. This expression is one that the Saviour often used
when he wished to give emphasis, or to express anything strongly. Comp.
Jn. iii. 3; v. 25. ¶ _And have the keys of hell and of death._ The word
rendered _hell_――ᾅδης, _hades_――refers properly to the underworld; the
abode of departed spirits; the region of the dead. This was represented
as dull and gloomy; as inclosed with walls; as entered through gates
which were fastened with bolts and bars. For a description of the views
which prevailed among the ancients on the subject, see Notes on Lu. xvi.
23, and Job x. 21, 22. To hold the _key_ of this, was to hold the power
over the invisible world. It was the more appropriate that the Saviour
should represent himself as having this authority, as he had himself
been raised from the dead by his own power (comp. Jn. x. 18), thus
showing that the dominion over this dark world was intrusted to him.
¶ _And of death._ A personification. Death reigns in that world. But to
his wide-extended realms the Saviour holds the key, and can have access
to his empire when he pleases, releasing all whom he chooses, and
confining there still {56} such as he shall please. It is probably in
part from such hints as these that Milton drew his sublime description
of the gates of hell in the _Paradise Lost_. As Christ always lives;
as he always retains this power over the regions of the dead, and
the whole world of spirits, it may be further remarked that _we_ have
nothing to dread if we put our trust in him. We need not fear to enter
a world which he has entered, and from which he has emerged, achieving
a glorious triumph; we need not fear what the dread king that reigns
there can do to us, for his power extends not beyond the permission of
the Saviour, and in his own time that Saviour will call us forth to
life, to die no more.

    19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which
    are, and the things which shall be hereafter;

19. _Write the things which thou hast seen._ An account of the vision
which thou hast had, ver. 10‒18. ¶ _And the things which are._ Give an
account of those things which thou hast seen as designed to represent
the condition of the seven churches. He had seen not only the Saviour,
but he had seen seven lamp-stands, and seven stars in the hand of the
Saviour, and he is now commanded to record the meaning of these symbols
as referring to things then actually existing in the seven churches.
This interpretation is demanded by ver. 20. ¶ _And the things which
shall be hereafter._ The Greek phrase rendered _hereafter_――μετὰ
ταῦτα――means “_after these things_;” that is, he was to make a correct
representation of the things which then were, and then to record what
would occur “_after_ these things:” to wit, of the images, symbols, and
truths, which would be disclosed to him after what he had already seen.
The expression refers to future times. He does not say for _how long_
a time; but the revelations which were to be made referred to events
which were to occur beyond those which were then taking place. Nothing
can be argued from the use of this language in regard to the length
of time embraced in the revelation――whether it extended only for a
few years or whether it embraced all coming time. The more natural
interpretation, however, would seem to be, that it would stretch
far into future years, and that it was designed to give at least _an
outline_ of what would be the character of the future in general.

    20 The mystery of [92]the seven stars which thou sawest in
    my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven
    stars are the angels of the seven churches: and [93]the seven
    candlesticks which thou sawest, are the seven churches.

20. _The mystery of the seven stars._ On the word _mystery_, see Notes
on Ep. i. 9. The word means, properly, that which is hidden, obscure,
unknown――until it is disclosed by one having the ability to do it,
or by the course of events. _When_ disclosed, it may be as clear, and
as capable of comprehension, as any other truth. The meaning here, as
applied to the seven stars, is, that they were symbols, and that their
meaning as symbols, without a suitable explanation, would remain hidden
or unknown. They were designed to represent important truths, and John
was directed to write down what they were intended in the circumstances
to signify, and to send the explanation to the churches. It is
evidently implied that the meaning of these symbols would be beyond
the ordinary powers of the human mind to arrive at with certainty, and
hence John was directed to explain the symbol. The general and obvious
truths which they would serve to convey would be that the ministers of
the churches, and the churches themselves, were designed to be lights
in the world, and should burn clearly and steadily. Much important
truth would be couched under these symbols, indeed, if nothing had been
added in regard to their signification as employed here by the Saviour;
but there were particular truths of great importance in reference to
each of these “stars” and “lamp-bearers,” which John was more fully to
explain. ¶ _Which thou sawest in my right hand._ Gr., “_upon_ my right
hand”――ἐπὶ τῆς δεξιᾶς μου: giving some support to the opinion that the
stars, as they were seen, appeared to be placed _on_ his hand――that is,
on the _palm_ of his hand as he stretched it out. The expression in
ver. 16 is, that they were “_in_ (ἐν) his right hand;” but the language
here used is not decisive as to the position of the stars. They _may_
have been held in some way _by_ the hand, or {57} represented as
scattered on the open hand. ¶ _The seven golden candlesticks._ The
truth which these emblematic representations are designed to convey.
¶ _The seven stars are._ That is, they represent, or they denote――in
accordance with a common usage in the Scriptures. See Notes on Mat.
xxvi. 26. ¶ _The angels of the seven churches._ Gr., “Angels of the
seven churches:” the article being wanting. This does not refer to
them as a collective or associated body, for the addresses are made to
them as individuals――an epistle being directed to “the angel” of each
particular church, ch. ii. 1, 12, &c. The evident meaning, however, is,
that what was recorded should be directed to them, not as pertaining to
them exclusively as individuals, but as presiding over or representing
the churches, for what is recorded pertains _to_ the churches, and was
evidently designed to be laid before them. It was _for_ the churches,
but was committed to the “angel” as representing the church, and to
be communicated to the church under his care. There has been much
diversity of opinion in regard to the meaning of the word _angels_ here.
By the advocates of Episcopacy, it has been argued that the use of this
term proves that there was a presiding bishop over a circle or group
of churches in Ephesus, in Smyrna, &c., since it is said that it cannot
be supposed that there was but a single church in a city so large as
Ephesus, or in the other cities mentioned. A full examination of this
argument may be seen in my work on the _Apostolic Church_ [pp. 191‒199,
London ed.]. The word _angel_ properly means a messenger, and is thus
applied to celestial beings _as_ messengers sent forth from God to
convey or to do his will. This being the common meaning of the word,
it may be employed to denote anyone who is a messenger, and hence, with
propriety, anyone who is employed to communicate the will of another;
to transact his business, or, more remotely, to act in his place――to be
a representative. In order to ascertain the meaning of the word as used
in this place, and in reference to these churches, it may be remarked,
(1) That it cannot mean literally an _angel_, as referring to a
heavenly being, for no one can suppose that such a being presided over
these churches. (2) It cannot be shown to mean, as Lord (_in loco_)
supposes, messengers that the churches had sent to John, and that these
letters were given to them to be returned by them to the churches;
for, (a) there is no evidence that any such messenger had been sent to
John; (b) there is no probability that while he was a banished exile
in Patmos such a thing would be permitted; (c) the message was not
sent _by_ them, it was sent _to_ them――“_Unto_ the angel of the church
in Ephesus _write_,” &c. (3) It cannot be proved that the reference is
to a prelatical bishop presiding over a group or circle of churches,
called a _diocese_; for, (a) There is nothing in the word _angel_, as
used in this connection, which would be peculiarly applicable to such
a personage――it being _as_ applicable to a pastor of a single church,
as to a bishop of many churches. (b) There is no evidence that there
_were_ any such groups of churches then as constitute an episcopal
diocese. (c) The use of the word “_church_” in the singular, as applied
to Ephesus, Smyrna, &c., rather implies that there was but a single
church in each of those cities. Comp. ch. ii. 1, 8, 12, 18; see also
similar language in regard to the _church_ in Corinth, 1 Co. i. 2; in
Antioch, Ac. xiii. 1; at Laodicea, Col. iv. 16; and at Ephesus, Ac.
xx. 28. (d) There is no evidence, as Episcopalians must suppose, that
a successor to John had been appointed at Ephesus, if, as they suppose,
he was “bishop” of Ephesus; and there is no probability that they would
_so soon_ after his banishment show him such a want of respect as to
regard the see as vacant, and appoint a successor. (e) There is no
improbability in supposing that there was a _single_ church in each
of these cities――as at Antioch, Corinth, Rome. (f) If John was a
prelatical “bishop,” it is probable that he was “bishop” of the whole
group of churches embracing the seven: yet here, if the word “angel”
means “bishop,” we have no less than seven such bishops immediately
appointed to succeed him. And (g) the supposition that this refers to
prelatical bishops is so forced and unnatural that many Episcopalians
are compelled to abandon it. Thus Stillingfleet――than whom an abler man,
or one whose praise is higher in Episcopal churches, as an advocate
of prelacy, is not to be found――says of these angels: “If many things
in the epistles be directed to the angels, but yet so as to concern
the whole body, then, of necessity, the angel must be taken as a
_representative_ of the whole body; and then {58} why may not the angel
be taken by way of representation of the body itself, either of the
whole church, or, _which is far more probable_, of the _concessors_,
or order of _presbyters_ in this church?” (4) If the word does not mean
literally an angel; if it does not refer to messengers sent to John in
Patmos by the churches; and if it does not refer to a prelatical bishop,
then it follows that it must refer to some one who presided over the
church as its pastor, and through whom a message might be properly
sent to the church. Thus understood, the pastor or “angel” would be
regarded as the representative of the church; that is, as delegated by
the church to manage its affairs, and as the authorized person to whom
communications should be made in matters pertaining to it――as pastors
are now. A few considerations will further confirm this interpretation,
and throw additional light on the meaning of the word. (a) The word
_angel_ is employed in the Old Testament to denote a _prophet_; that is,
a minister of religion as sent by God to communicate his will. Thus in
Haggai (i. 13) it is said, “Then spake Haggai, the Lord’s _messenger_
[Heb. _angel_, מַלְאַךְ יְהֹוָה――Sept. ἄγγελος κυρίου], in the Lord’s message
unto the people,” &c. (b) It is applied to a _priest_, as one sent by
God to execute the functions of that office, or to act in the name of
the Lord. Mal. ii. 7, “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge,
for he is the _messenger of the Lord of hosts_”――מַלְאַךְ יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת――that is,
“_angel_ of the Lord of hosts.” (c) The name _prophet_ is often given
in the New Testament to the ministers of religion, as being appointed
by God to proclaim or communicate his will to his people, and as
occupying a place resembling, in some respects, that of the prophets
in the Old Testament. (d) There was no reason why the word might not be
thus employed to designate a pastor of a Christian church, as well as
to designate a prophet or a priest under the Old Testament dispensation.
(e) The supposition that a pastor of a church is intended will meet
all the circumstances of the case: for, (1) it is an appropriate
appellation; (2) there is no reason to suppose that there was more than
one church in each of the cities referred to; (3) it is a term which
would designate the respect in which the office was held; (4) it would
impress upon those to whom it was applied a solemn sense of their
responsibility. Further, it would be more _appropriately_ applied to
a pastor of a single church than to a prelatical bishop; to the tender,
intimate, and endearing relation sustained by a pastor to his people,
to the blending of sympathy, interest, and affection, where he is with
them continually, meets them frequently in the sanctuary, administers
to them the bread of life, goes into their abodes when they are
afflicted, and attends their kindred to the grave, than to the
union subsisting between the people of an extended _diocese_ and a
_prelate_――the formal, unfrequent, and, in many instances, stately
and pompous visitations of a diocesan bishop――to the unsympathizing
relation between him and a people scattered in many churches, who
are visited at distant intervals by one claiming a “superiority in
ministerial rights and powers,” and who must be a stranger to the
ten thousand ties of endearment which bind the hearts of a pastor and
people together. The conclusion, then, to which we have come is, that
the “angel of the church” was the pastor, or the presiding presbyter
in the church; the minister who had the pastoral charge of it, and who
was therefore a proper representative of it. He was a man who, in some
respects, performed the functions which the angels of God do; that is,
who was appointed to execute his will, to communicate his message, and
to convey important intimations of his purposes to his people. To no
one could the communications in this book, intended for the churches,
be more properly intrusted than to such an one; for to no one now would
a communication be more properly intrusted than to a pastor.

Such is the sublime vision under which this book opens; such the solemn
commission which the penman of the book received. No more appropriate
introduction to what is contained in the book could be imagined; no
more appropriate circumstances for making such a sublime revelation
could have existed. To the most beloved of the apostles, now the only
surviving one of the number; to him who had been a faithful labourer
for a period not far from sixty years after the death of the Lord Jesus,
who had been the bosom friend of the Saviour when in the flesh, who had
seen him in the mount of transfiguration, who had seen him die, and who
had seen him ascend into heaven; to him {59} who had lived while the
church was founded, and while it had spread into all lands; and to him
who was now suffering persecution on account of the Saviour and his
cause, it was appropriate that such communications should be made.
In a lonely island; far away from the abodes of men; surrounded by the
ocean, and amid barren rocks; on the day consecrated to the purposes
of sacred repose and the holy duties of religion――the day observed in
commemoration of the resurrection of his Lord, it was most fit that the
Redeemer should appear to the “beloved disciple” in the last Revelation
which he was ever to make to mankind. No more appropriate time or
circumstance could be conceived for disclosing, by a series of sublime
visions, what would occur in future times; for sketching out the
history of the church or the consummation of all things.

                              CHAPTER II.

                       ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER.

This chapter comprises four of the seven epistles addressed to the
seven churches; those addressed to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, and
Thyatira. A particular view of the contents of the epistles will be
more appropriate as they come separately to be considered, than in this
place. There are some general remarks in regard to their structure,
however, which may be properly made here.

(1) They all begin with a reference to some of the attributes of the
Saviour, in general some attribute that had been noted in the first
chapter; and while they are all adapted to make a deep impression on
the mind, perhaps each one was selected in such a way as to have a
special propriety in reference to each particular church. Thus in the
address to the church at Ephesus (ch. ii. 1), the allusion is to the
fact that he who speaks to them “holds the seven stars in his right
hand, and walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;” in the
epistle to the church at Smyrna (ch. ii. 8), it is he who “is the first
and the last, who was dead and is alive;” in the epistle to the church
at Pergamos (ch. ii. 12), it is he “which hath the sharp sword with the
two edges;” in the epistle to the church at Thyatira (ch. ii. 18), it
is “the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and
his feet like fine brass;” in the epistle to the church at Sardis (ch.
iii. 1), it is he who “hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven
stars;” in the epistle to the church at Philadelphia (ch. iii. 7), it
is “he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David,
he that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth;”
in the epistle to the church at Laodicea (ch. iii. 14), it is he who is
the “Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation
of God.”

(2) These introductions are followed with the formula, “I know
thy works.” The peculiar characteristics, then, of each church
are referred to, with a sentiment of approbation or disapprobation
expressed in regard to their conduct. Of two of the churches, that at
Smyrna (ii. 9), and that at Philadelphia (iii. 10), he expresses his
entire approbation; to the churches of Sardis (iii. 3), and Laodicea
(iii. 15‒18), he administers a decided rebuke; to the churches of
Ephesus (ii. 3‒6), Pergamos (ii. 13‒16), and Thyatira (iii. 19, 20,
24, 25), he intermingles praise and rebuke, for he saw much to commend,
but, at the same time, not a little that was reprehensible. In all
cases, however, the approbation precedes the blame; showing that he was
more disposed to find that which was good than that which was evil.

(3) After the statement of their characteristics, there follows in
each case counsel, advice, admonition, or promises, such as their
circumstances demanded――encouragement in trial, and injunctions to put
away their sins. The admonitions are addressed to the churches as if
Christ were at hand, and would ere long come and sit in judgment on
them and their deeds.

(4) There is a solemn admonition to hear what the Spirit has to say to
the churches. This is in each case expressed in the same manner, “He
that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches”
(ch. ii. 7, 11, 17, 29; iii. 6, 13, 22). These admonitions were
designed to call the attention of the churches to these things, and,
at the same time, they seemed designed to show that they were not
intended for them alone. They are addressed to anyone who “has an ear,”
and therefore had some principles of general application to others,
and to which all should attend who were disposed to learn the will of
the Redeemer. What was addressed to one church, at any time, would be
equally applicable to all {60} churches in the same circumstances; what
was adapted to rebuke, elevate, or comfort Christians in any one age or
land, would be adapted to be useful to Christians of all ages and lands.

(5) There then is, either following or preceding that call on all the
churches to hear, some promise or assurance designed to encourage the
church, and urge it forward in the discharge of duty, or in enduring
trial. This is found in each one of the epistles, though not always in
the same relative position.


The contents of the epistle to the church at Ephesus――the first
addressed――are these: (1) The attribute of the Saviour referred to is,
that he “holds the stars in his right hand, and walks in the midst of
the golden candlesticks,” ch. ii. 1. (2) He commends them for their
patience, and for their opposition to those who are evil, and for their
zeal and fidelity in carefully examining into the character of some
who claimed to be apostles, but who were, in fact, impostors; for their
perseverance in bearing up under trial, and not fainting in his cause,
and for their opposition to the Nicolaitanes, whom, he says, he hates,
ver. 2, 3, 6. (3) He reproves them for having left their first love to
him, ver. 4. (4) He admonishes them to remember whence they had fallen,
to repent, and to do their first works, ver. 5. (5) He threatens them
that, if they do not repent, he will come and remove the candlestick
out of its place, ver. 5; and (6) he assures them, and all others,
that whosoever overcomes, he will “give him to eat of the tree of life,
which is in the midst of the paradise of God,” ver. 7.

                              CHAPTER II.

    UNTO the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things
    saith [94]he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand,
    who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;

1. _Unto the angel._ The minister; the presiding presbyter; the
bishop――in the primitive sense of the word bishop――denoting one who
had the spiritual charge of a congregation. See Notes on ch. i. 20.
¶ _Of the church._ Not of the _churches_ of Ephesus, but of the _one
church_ of that city. There is no evidence that the word is used in
a collective sense to denote a group of churches, like a diocese; nor
is there any evidence that there _was_ such a group of churches in
Ephesus, or that there was more than one church in that city. It is
probable that all who were Christians there were regarded as members
of one church――though for convenience they may have met for worship
in different places. Thus there was one church in Corinth (1 Co. i. 1);
one church in Thessalonica (1 Th. i. 1), &c. ¶ _Of Ephesus._ On the
situation of Ephesus, see Notes on Ac. xviii. 19, and the Intro. to the
Notes on the Epistle to the Ephesians, § 1, and the engraving there. It
was the capital of Ionia; was one of the twelve Ionian cities of Asia
Minor in the Mythic times, and was _said_ to have been founded by the
Amazons. It was situated on the river Cayster, not far from the Icarian
Sea, between Smyrna and Miletus. It was one of the most considerable
cities of Asia Minor, and while, about the epoch when Christianity was
introduced, other cities declined, Ephesus rose more and more. It owed
its prosperity, in part, to the favour of its governors; for Lysimachus
named the city Arsinöe, in honour of his second wife, and Attalus
Philadelphus furnished it with splendid wharves and docks. Under the
Romans it was the capital not only of Ionia, but of the entire province
of Asia, and bore the honourable title of _the first and greatest
metropolis of Asia_. John is supposed to have resided in this city, and
to have preached the gospel there for many years; and on this account,
perhaps, it was, as well as on account of the relative importance of
the city, that the first epistle of the seven was addressed to that
church. On the present condition of the ruins of Ephesus, see Notes
on ver. 5. We have no means whatever of ascertaining the size of the
church when John wrote the book of Revelation. From the fact, however,
that Paul, as is supposed (see Intro. to the Epistle to the Ephesians,
§ 2), laboured there for about three years; that there was a body of
“elders” who presided over the church there (Ac. xx. 17); and that the
apostle John seems to have spent a considerable part of his life there
in preaching the gospel, it may be presumed that there was a large and
flourishing church in that city. The epistle before us shows also that
it was characterized {61} by distinguished piety. ¶ _These things saith
he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand._ See Notes on ch. i.
16. The object here seems to be to turn the attention of the church in
Ephesus to some attribute of the Saviour which deserved their special
regard, or which constituted a special reason for attending to what
he said. To do this, the attention is directed, in this case, to the
fact that he held the seven stars――emblematic of the ministers of
the churches――in his hand, and that he walked in the midst of the
lamp-bearers――representing the churches themselves; intimating that
they were dependent on him, that he had power to continue or remove the
ministry, and that it was by his presence only that those lamp-bearers
would continue to give light. The absolute control over the ministry,
and the fact that he walked amidst the churches, and that his presence
was necessary to their perpetuity and their welfare, seem to be the
principal ideas implied in this representation. These truths he would
impress on their minds, in order that they might feel how easy it would
be for him to punish any disobedience, and in order that they might
do what was necessary to secure his continual presence among them.
These views seem to be sanctioned by the character of the punishment
threatened (ver. 5), “that he would remove the candlestick representing
_their_ church out of its place.” See Notes on ver. 5. ¶ _Who walketh
in the midst_, &c. In ch. i. 13 he is represented simply as _being
seen_ amidst the golden candlesticks. See Notes on that place. Here
there is the additional idea of his “_walking_” in the midst of them,
implying perhaps constant and vigilant supervision. He went from one
to another, as one who inspects and surveys what is under his care;
perhaps also with the idea that he went among them as a friend to bless

    2 I[95] know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and
    how thou canst not bear them which are evil; and [96]thou hast
    tried them which say they are apostles, [97]and are not, and
    hast found them liars:

2. _I know thy works._ The common formula with which all the epistles
to the seven churches are introduced. It is designed to impress upon
them deeply the conviction that he was intimately acquainted with
all that they did, good and bad, and that therefore he was abundantly
qualified to dispense rewards or administer punishments according
to truth and justice. It may be observed that, as many of the things
referred to in these epistles were things pertaining to the heart――the
feelings, the state of the mind――it is implied that he who speaks here
has an intimate acquaintance with the heart of man, a prerogative which
is always attributed to the Saviour. See Jn. ii. 25. But no one can
do this who is not divine; and this declaration, therefore, furnishes
a strong proof of the divinity of Christ. See Ps. vii. 9; Je. xi. 20;
xvii. 10; 1 Sa. xvi. 7; 1 Ki. viii. 39. ¶ _And thy labour._ The word
here used (κόπος) means properly a _beating_, hence wailing, grief,
with beating the breast; and then it means excessive labour or toil
adapted to produce grief or sadness, and is commonly employed in the
New Testament in the latter sense. It is used in the sense of _trouble_
in Mat. xxvi. 10, “Why _trouble_ ye [literally, why give ye _trouble_
to] the woman?” (comp. also Mar. xiv. 6; Lu. xi. 7; xviii. 5; Ga. vi.
17); and in the sense of _labour_, or wearisome toil, in Jn. iv. 38;
1 Co. iii. 8; xv. 58; 2 Co. vi. 5; x. 15; xi. 23, 27, _et al._ The
connection here would admit of either sense. It is commonly understood,
as in our translation, in the sense of _labour_, though it would
seem that the other signification, that of _trouble_, would not be
inappropriate. If it means _labour_, it refers to their faithful
service in his cause, and especially in opposing error. It seems to
me, however, that the word _trouble_ would better suit the connection.
¶ _And thy patience._ Under these trials; to wit, in relation to the
efforts which had been made by the advocates of error to corrupt them,
and to turn them away from the truth. They had patiently borne the
opposition made to the truth, they had manifested a spirit of firm
endurance amidst many arts of those opposed to them to draw them
off from simple faith in Christ. ¶ _And how thou canst not bear them
which are evil._ Canst not _endure_ or _tolerate_ them. Comp. Notes
on 2 Jn. 10, 11. That is, they had no sympathy with their doctrines
or their practices, they were utterly opposed to them. They had lent
them no countenance, but had in every way shown that they {62} had no
fellowship with them. The evil persons here referred to were, doubtless,
those mentioned in this verse as claiming that “they were apostles,”
and those mentioned in ver. 6 as the Nicolaitanes. ¶ _And thou hast
tried them which say they are apostles._ Thou hast thoroughly examined
their claims. It is not said in what way they had done this, but it was
probably by considering attentively and candidly the evidence on which
they relied, whatever that may have been. Nor is it certainly known who
these persons were, or on what grounds they advanced their pretensions
to the apostolic office. It cannot be supposed that they claimed to
have been of the number of apostles selected by the Saviour, for that
would have been too absurd; and the only solution would seem to be
that they claimed either (1) that they had been called to that office
after the Saviour ascended, as Paul was; or (2) that they claimed the
honour due to this name or office, in virtue of some election to it;
or (3) that they claimed to be the _successors_ of the apostles, and to
possess and transmit their authority. If the first of these, it would
seem that the only ground of claim would be that they had been called
in some miraculous way to the rank of apostles, and, of course, an
examination of their claims would be an examination of the alleged
miraculous call, and of the evidence on which they would rely that
they had such a call. If the second, then the claim must have been
founded on some such plea as that the apostolic office was designed to
be elective, as in the case of Matthias (Ac. i. 23‒26), and that they
maintained that this arrangement was to be continued in the church; and
then an examination of their claims would involve an investigation of
the question, whether it was contemplated that the apostolic office
was designed to be perpetuated in that manner, or whether the election
of Matthias was only a temporary arrangement, designed to answer a
particular purpose. If the third, then the claim must have been founded
on the plea that the apostolic office was designed to be perpetuated
by a regular succession, and that they, by ordination, were in a line
of that succession; and then the examination and refutation of the
claim must have consisted in showing, from the nature of the office,
and the necessary qualifications for the office of apostle, that it
was designed to be temporary, and that there could be properly no
successors of the apostles, as such. On either of these suppositions,
such a line of argument would be fatal to all claims to any succession
in the apostolic office now. If each of these points should fail, of
course their claims to the rank of apostles would cease; just as all
claims to the dignity and rank of the apostles must fail now. The
passage becomes thus a strong argument against the claims of _any_
persons to be “apostles,” or to be the “successors” of the apostles,
in the peculiarity of their office. ¶ _And are not._ There were never
any _apostles_ of Jesus Christ but the original twelve whom he chose,
Matthias, who was chosen in the place of Judas (Ac. i. 26), and Paul,
who was specially called to the office by the Saviour after his
resurrection. On this point, see my work on the _Apostolic Church_
[pp. 49‒57, London ed.]. ¶ _And hast found them liars._ Hast discovered
their pretensions to be unfounded and false. In 2 Co. xi. 13, “false
apostles” are mentioned; and, in an office of so much honour as this,
it is probable that there would be not a few claimants to it in the
world. To set up a claim to what they _knew_ they were not entitled to
would be a falsehood, and as this seems to have been the character of
these men, the Saviour, in the passage before us, does not hesitate to
designate them by an appropriate term, and to call them _liars_. The
point here commended in the Ephesian church is, that they had sought to
have a _pure ministry_, a ministry whose claims were well founded. They
had felt the importance of this, had carefully examined the claims of
pretenders, and had refused to recognize those who could not show, in a
proper manner, that they had been designated to their work by the Lord
Jesus. The same zeal, in the same cause, would be commended by the
Saviour now.

    3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake
    hast laboured, and [98]hast not fainted.

3. _And hast borne._ Hast borne up under trials; or hast borne with
the evils with which you have been assailed. That is, you have not
given way to murmuring or complaints in trial, you have not abandoned
the principles of truth and yielded to the prevalence of error. ¶ _And
hast patience._ That is, {63} in this connection, hast shown that thou
canst bear up under these things with patience. This is a repetition of
what is said in ver. 2, but in a somewhat different connection. There
it rather refers to the trouble which they had experienced on account
of the pretensions of false apostles, and the patient, persevering,
and enduring spirit which they had shown in that form of trial; here
the expression is more general, denoting a patient spirit in regard
to _all_ forms of trial. ¶ _And for my name’s sake hast laboured._ On
account of me, and in my cause. That is, the _labour_ here referred to,
whatever it was, was to advance the cause of the Redeemer. In the word
rendered “_hast laboured_” (κεκοπίακας) there is a reference to the
word used in the previous verse――“thy labour” (κόπον σου); and the
design is to show that the “labour,” or trouble there referred to, was
on account of him. ¶ _And hast not fainted._ Hast not become exhausted,
or wearied out, so as to give over. The word here used (κάμνω) occurs
in only three places in the New Testament: “Lest ye be _wearied_, and
faint,” He. xii. 3; “The prayer of faith shall save the _sick_,” Ja. v.
15; and in the passage before us. It means properly to become weary and
faint from toil, &c.; and the idea here is, that they had not become
so wearied out as to give over from exhaustion. The sense of the whole
passage is thus rendered by Professor Stuart:――“Thou canst not bear
with false teachers, but thou canst bear with troubles and perplexities
on account of me; thou hast undergone wearisome toil, but thou art not
wearied out thereby.” The state of mind, considered as the state of
mind appropriate to a Christian, here represented, is, that we should
not tolerate error and sin, but that we should bear up under the trials
which they may incidentally occasion us; that we should have such
a repugnance to evil that we cannot endure it, as evil, but that we
should have such love to the Saviour and his cause as to be willing to
bear anything, even in relation to that, or springing from that, that
we may be called to suffer _in_ that cause; that while we may be weary
_in_ his work, for our bodily strength may become exhausted (comp. Mat.
xxvi. 41), we should not be weary _of_ it; and that though we may have
many perplexities, and may meet with much opposition, yet we should not
relax our zeal, but should persevere with an ardour that never faints,
until our Saviour calls us to our reward.

    4 Nevertheless I have _somewhat_ against thee, because thou
    hast left thy first love.

4. _Nevertheless I have |somewhat| against thee._ Notwithstanding
this general commendation, there are things which I cannot approve.
¶ _Because thou hast left thy first love._ Thou hast _remitted_
(ἀφῆκας) or let down thy early love; that is, it is less glowing and
ardent than it was at first. The love here referred to is evidently
love to the Saviour; and the idea is, that, as a church, they had less
of this than formerly characterized them. In this respect they were in
a state of declension; and, though they still maintained the doctrines
of his religion, and opposed the advocates of error, they showed less
ardour of affection towards him directly than they had formerly done.
In regard to this we may remark, (1) That what is here stated of the
church at Ephesus is not uncommon, (a) Individual Christians often lose
much of their first love. It is true, indeed, that there is often an
_appearance_ of this which does not exist in reality. Not a little of
the ardour of young converts is often nothing more than the excitement
of animal feeling, which will soon die away of course, though their
_real_ love may not be diminished, or may be constantly growing
stronger. When a son returns home after a long absence, and meets his
parents and brothers and sisters, there is a glow, a warmth of feeling,
a joyousness of emotion, which cannot be expected to continue always,
and which he may never be able to recall again, though he may be
ever growing in _real_ attachment to his friends and to his home.
(b) Churches remit the ardour of their first love. They are often
formed under the reviving influences of the Holy Spirit when many are
converted, and are warm-hearted and zealous young converts. Or they are
formed from other churches that have become cold and dead, from which
the new organization, embodying the life of the church, was constrained
to separate. Or they are formed under the influence of some strong and
mighty truth that has taken possession of the mind, and that gives a
peculiar character to the church {64} at first. Or they are formed with
a distinct reference to promoting some one great object in the cause
of the Redeemer. So the early Christian churches were formed. So the
church in Germany, France, Switzerland, and England came out from the
Roman communion under the influence of the doctrine of justification
by faith. So the Nestorians in former ages, and the Moravians in modern
times, were characterized by warm zeal in the cause of missions. So
the Puritans came out from the established church of England at one
time, and the Methodists at another, warmed with a holier love to the
cause of evangelical religion than existed in the body from which they
separated. So many a church is formed now amidst the exciting scenes
of a revival of religion, and in the early days of its history puts to
shame the older and the slumbering churches around them. But it need
scarcely be said that this early zeal may die away, and that the church,
once so full of life and love, may become as cold as those that went
before it, or as those from which it separated, and that there may be
a necessity for the formation of new organizations that shall be fired
with ardour and zeal. One has only to look at Germany, at Switzerland,
at various portions of the reformed churches elsewhere; at the
Nestorians, whose zeal for missions long since departed; or even at
the Moravians, among whom it has so much declined; at various portions
of the Puritan churches, and at many an individual church formed under
the warm and exciting feelings of a revival of religion, to see that
what occurred at Ephesus may occur elsewhere. (2) The same thing that
occurred there may be expected to follow in all similar cases. The
Saviour governs the church always on essentially the same principles;
and it is no uncommon thing that, when a church has lost the ardour
of its first love, it is suffered more and more to decline, until
“the candlestick is removed”――until either the church becomes wholly
extinct, or until vital piety is wholly gone, and all that remains is
the religion of forms.

    5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen; and repent,
    and [99]do the first works; or else I will come unto thee
    quickly, and will [100]remove thy candlestick out of his place,
    except thou repent.

5. _Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen._ The eminence which
you once occupied. Call to remembrance the state in which you once were.
The duty here enjoined is, when religion has declined in our hearts, or
in the church, to call to distinct recollection the former state――the
ardour, the zeal, the warmth of love which once characterized us. The
_reason_ for this is, that such a recalling of the former state will
be likely to produce a happy influence on the heart. Nothing is better
adapted to affect a backsliding Christian, or a backsliding church,
than to call to distinct recollection the former condition――the happier
days of piety. The joy then experienced, the good done, the honour
reflected on the cause of religion, the peace of mind of that period,
will contrast strongly with the present, and nothing will be better
fitted to recall an erring church, or an erring individual, from their
wanderings than such a reminiscence of the past. The _advantages_ of
thus “remembering” their former condition would be many; for some of
the most valuable impressions which are made on the mind, and some of
the most important lessons learned, are from the recollections of a
former state. Among those advantages, in this case, would be such as
the following:――(a) It would show how much they might have _enjoyed_
if they had continued as they began, how much more real happiness they
would have had than they actually have enjoyed. (b) How much _good_
they might have done, if they had only persevered in the zeal with
which they commenced the Christian life. How much more good might most
Christians do than they actually accomplish, if they would barely, even
without increasing it, _continue_ with the degree of zeal with which
they begin their course. (c) How much greater _attainments_ they might
have made in the divine life, and in the knowledge of religion, than
they have made; that is, how much more elevated and enlarged might have
been their views of religion, and their knowledge of the Word of God.
And (d) such a recollection of their past state as, contrasted with
what they now are, would exert a powerful influence in producing true
repentance; for there is nothing better adapted to do this than a just
view of what we might have been, as compared with what we now are. If
a man has become cold towards his wife, nothing is better fitted to
reclaim him {65} than to recall to his recollection the time when he
led her to the altar, the solemn vow then made, and the rapture of his
heart when he pressed her to his bosom and called her his own. ¶ _And
repent._ The word here used means to change one’s mind and purposes,
and, along with that, the conduct or demeanour. The _duty_ of
repentance here urged would extend to all the points in which they had
erred. ¶ _And do the first works._ The works which were done when the
church was first established. That is, manifest the zeal and love which
were formerly evinced in opposing error, and in doing good. This is the
true counsel to be given to those who have backslidden, and have “left
their first love,” now. Often such persons, sensible that they have
erred, and that they have not the enjoyment in religion which they
once had, profess to be willing and desirous to return, but they know
not how to do it――how to revive their ardour, how to rekindle in their
bosom the flame of extinguished love. They suppose it must be by silent
meditation, or by some supernatural influence, and they wait for some
visitation from above to call them back, and to restore to them their
former joy. The counsel of the Saviour to all such, however, is to
_do their first works_. It is to engage at once in _doing_ what they
did in the first and best days of their piety, the days of their
“espousals” (Je. ii. 2) to God. Let them read the Bible as they did
then; let them pray as they did then; let them go forth in the duties
of active benevolence as they did then; let them engage in teaching
a Sabbath-school as they did then; let them relieve the distressed,
instruct the ignorant, raise up the fallen, as they did then; let them
open their heart, their purse, and their hand, to bless a dying world.
As it was in this way that they manifested their love then, so this
would be better fitted than all other things to rekindle the flame
of love when it is almost extinguished. The weapon that is used keeps
bright; that which has become rusty will become bright again if it is
used. ¶ _Or else I will come unto thee quickly._ On the word rendered
_quickly_ (τάχει), see Notes on ch. i. 1. The meaning is, that he would
come as a Judge, at no distant period, to inflict punishment in the
manner specified――by removing the candlestick out of its place. He does
not say in what way it would be done; whether by some sudden judgment,
by a direct act of power, or by a gradual process that would certainly
lead to that result. ¶ _And will remove thy candlestick out of his
place, except thou repent._ On the meaning of the word _candlestick_
see Notes on ch. i. 12. The meaning is, that the church gave light in
Ephesus; and that what he would do in regard to that place would be
like removing a lamp, and leaving a place in darkness. The expression
is equivalent to saying that the church there would cease to exist. The
proper idea of the passage is, that the church would be wholly extinct;
and it is observable that this is a judgment more distinctly disclosed
in reference to this church than to any other of the seven churches.
There is not the least evidence that the church at Ephesus did repent,
and the threatening has been most signally fulfilled. Long since the
church has become utterly extinct, and for ages there was not a single
professing Christian there. Every memorial of there having been a
church there has departed, and there are nowhere, not even in Nineveh,
Babylon, or Tyre, more affecting demonstrations of the fulfilment of
ancient prophecy than in the present state of the ruins of Ephesus. A
remark of Mr. Gibbon (_Decline and Fall_, iv. 260) will show with what
exactness the prediction in regard to this church has been accomplished.
He is speaking of the conquests of the Turks. “In the loss of Ephesus
the Christians deplored the fall of the first angel, the extinction of
the first candlestick of the Revelations; the desolation is complete;
and the temple of Diana, or the Church of Mary will equally elude the
search of the curious traveller.” Thus the city, with the splendid
temple of Diana, and the church that existed there in the time of John,
has disappeared, and nothing remains but unsightly ruins. These ruins
lie about ten days’ journey from Smyrna, and consist of shattered walls,
and remains of columns and temples. The soil on which a large part of
the city is supposed to have stood, naturally rich, is covered with
a rank, burnt-up vegetation, and is everywhere deserted and solitary,
though bordered by picturesque mountains. A few cornfields are
scattered along the site of the ancient city. Towards the sea extends
the ancient port, a pestilential marsh. Along the slope of the mountain,
and over the plain, are scattered fragments of masonry and detached
ruins, but nothing {66} can now be fixed on as the great temple of
Diana. There are ruins of a theatre; there is a circus, or stadium,
nearly entire; there are fragments of temples and palaces scattered
around; but there is nothing that marks the site of a church in the
time of John; there is nothing to indicate even that such a church
then existed there. About a mile and a half from the principal ruins of
Ephesus there is indeed now a small village called _Asalook_, a Turkish
word, which is associated with the same idea as Ephesus, meaning, The
City of the Moon. A church, dedicated to John, is supposed to have
stood near, if not on the site of the present mosque. Dr. Chandler
(p. 150, 4to) gives us a striking description of Ephesus as he found
it in 1764:――“Its population consisted of a few Greek peasants,
living in extreme wretchedness, dependence, and insensibility, the
representatives of an illustrious people, and inhabiting the wreck
of their greatness. Some reside in the substructure of the glorious
edifices which they raised; some beneath the vaults of the stadium,
and the crowded scenes of these diversions; and some in the abrupt
precipice, in the sepulchres which received their ashes. Its streets
are obscured and overgrown. A herd of goats was driven to it for
shelter from the sun at noon, and a noisy flight of crows from the
quarries seemed to insult its silence. We heard the partridge call
in the area of the theatre and of the stadium.... Its fate is that
of the entire country; a garden has become a desert. Busy centres
of civilization, spots where the refinements and delights of the age
were collected, are now a prey to silence, destruction, and death.
Consecrated first of all to the purposes of idolatry, Ephesus next
had Christian temples almost rivalling the Pagan in splendour, wherein
the image of the great Diana lay prostrate before the cross; after the
lapse of some centuries Jesus gives way to Mahomet, and the crescent
glittered on the dome of the recently Christian church. A few more
scores of years, and Ephesus has neither temple, cross, crescent, nor
city, but is desolation, a dry land, and a wilderness.” See the article
“Ephesus” in Kitto’s _Cyclopedia_, and the authorities there referred
to. What is affirmed here of Ephesus has often been illustrated in the
history of the world, that when a church has declined in piety and love,
and has been called by faithful ministers to repent, and has not done
it, it has been abandoned more and more, until the last appearance of
truth and piety has departed, and it has been given up to error and to
ruin. And the same principle is as applicable to individuals, for they
have as much reason to dread the frowns of the Saviour as churches have.
If they who have “left their first love” will not repent at the call of
the Saviour, they have every reason to apprehend some fearful judgment,
some awful visitation of his Providence that shall overwhelm them in
sorrow, as a proof of his displeasure. Even though they should finally
be saved, their days may be without comfort, and perhaps their last
moments without a ray of conscious hope. The accompanying engraving,
representing the present situation of Ephesus, will bring before the
eye a striking illustration of the fulfilment of this prophecy, that
the candlestick of Ephesus would be removed from its place. See also
the engravings prefixed to the Notes on the Epistle to the Ephesians.

    6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the
    [101]Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.

6. _But this thou hast._ This thou hast that I approve of, or that
I can commend. ¶ _That thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes._
Gr., _works_ (τὰ ἔργα). The word _Nicolaitanes_ occurs only in this
place, and in the 15th verse of this chapter. From the reference in the
latter place it is clear that the doctrines which they held prevailed
at Pergamos as well as at Ephesus; but from neither place can anything
now be inferred in regard to the nature of their doctrines or their
practices, unless it be supposed that they held the same doctrine
that was taught by Balaam. See Notes on ver. 15. From the two passages,
compared with each other, it would seem that they were alike corrupt
in doctrine and in practice, for in the passage before us their _deeds_
are mentioned, and in ver. 15 their _doctrine_. Various conjectures,
however, have been formed respecting this class of people, and the
reasons why the name was given to them. I. In regard to the origin
of the _name_, there have been three opinions. (1) That mentioned by
Irenæus, and by some of the other fathers, that the name was derived
from Nicolas, one {67} of the deacons ordained at Antioch, Ac.
vi. 5. Of those who have held this opinion, some have supposed that
it was given to them because he became apostate and was the founder of
the sect, and others because they _assumed_ his name, in order to give
the greater credit to their doctrine. But neither of these suppositions
rests on any certain evidence, and both are destitute of probability.
There is no proof whatever that Nicolas the deacon ever apostatized
from the faith, and became the founder of a sect; and if a name had
been _assumed_, in order to give credit to a sect and extend its
influence, it is much more probable that the name of an apostle would
have been chosen, or of some other prominent man, than the name of an
obscure deacon of Antioch. (2) Vitringa, and most commentators since
his time, have supposed that the name Nicolaitanes was intended to be
symbolical, and was not designed to designate any sect of people, but
to denote those who resembled Balaam, and that this word is used in the
same manner as the word _Jezebel_ in ch. ii. 20, which is supposed to
be symbolical there. Vitringa supposes that the word is derived from
νῖκος, _victory_, and λαός, _people_, and that thus it corresponds
with the name Balaam, as meaning either בַּעַל עָם, _lord of the people_,
or בִּלַע עָם, _he destroyed the people_; and that, as the same effect was
produced by their doctrines as by those of Balaam, that the people were
led to commit fornication and to join in idolatrous worship, they might
be called _Balaamites_ or _Nicolaitanes_, that is, corrupters of the
people. But to this it may be replied, (a) that it is far-fetched, and
is adopted only to remove a difficulty; (b) that there is every reason
to suppose that the word here used refers to a class of people who
bore that name, and who were well known in the two churches specified;
(c) that in ch. ii. 15 they are expressly distinguished from those who
held the doctrine of Balaam, ver. 14, “So hast thou _also_ (καὶ) those
that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes.” (3) It has been supposed
that some person now unknown, probably of the name _Nicolas_, or
_Nicolaus_, was their leader, and laid the foundation of the sect.
This is by far the most probable opinion, and to this there can be no
objection. It is in accordance with what usually occurs in regard to
sects, orthodox or heretical, that they derive their origin from some
person whose name they continue to bear; and as there is no evidence
that this sect prevailed extensively, or was indeed known beyond the
limits of these churches, and as it soon disappeared, it is easily
accounted for that the character and history of the founder were so
soon forgotten. II. In regard to the _opinions_ which they held, there
is as little certainty. Irenæus (_Adv. Hæres._ i. 26) says that their
characteristic tenets were the lawfulness of promiscuous intercourse
with women, and of eating things offered to idols. Eusebius (_Hist.
Eccl._ iii. 29) states substantially the same thing, and refers
to a tradition respecting Nicolaus, that he had a beautiful wife,
and was jealous of her, and being reproached with this, renounced
all intercourse with her, and made use of an expression which was
misunderstood, as implying that illicit pleasure was proper. Tertullian
speaks of the Nicolaitanes as a branch of the Gnostic family, and as,
in his time, extinct. Mosheim (_De Rebus Christian Ante. Con._ § 69)
says that “the questions about the Nicolaitanes have difficulties which
cannot be solved.” Neander (_History of the Christian Religion_, as
translated by Torrey, i. pp. 452, 453) numbers them with Antinomians;
though he expresses some doubt whether the actual existence of such
a sect can be proved, and rather inclines to an opinion noticed above,
that the name is symbolical, and that it is used in a mystical sense,
according to the usual style of the book of Revelation, to denote
corrupters or seducers of the people, like Balaam. He supposes that the
passage relates simply to a class of persons who were in the practice
of seducing Christians to participate in the sacrificial feasts of the
heathens, and in the excesses which attended them――just as the Jews
were led astray of old by the Moabites, Nu. xxv. What was the origin
of the name, however, Neander does not profess to be able to determine,
but suggests that it was the custom of such sects to attach themselves
to some celebrated name of antiquity, in the choice of which they were
often determined by circumstances quite accidental. He supposes also
that the sect may have possessed a life of Nicolas of Antioch, drawn up
by themselves or others from fabulous accounts and traditions, in which
what had been imputed to Nicolas was embodied. Everything, {68} however,
in regard to the origin of this sect, and the reason of the name given
to it, and the opinions which they held, is involved in great obscurity,
and there is no hope of throwing light on the subject. It is generally
agreed, among the writers of antiquity who have mentioned them, that
they were distinguished for holding opinions which countenanced gross
social indulgences. This is all that is really necessary to be known
in regard to the passage before us, for this will explain the strong
language of aversion and condemnation used by the Saviour respecting
the sect in the epistles to the churches of Ephesus and Pergamos.
¶ _Which I also hate._ If the view above taken of the opinions and
practices of this people is correct, the reasons why he hated them are
obvious. Nothing can be more opposed to the personal character of the
Saviour, or to his religion, than such doctrines and deeds.

    7 He[102] that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit
    saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give
    to eat of the [103]tree of life, which is in the midst of the
    paradise of God.

7. _He that hath an ear, let him hear_, &c. This expression occurs at
the close of each of the epistles addressed to the seven churches, and
is substantially a mode of address often employed by the Saviour in his
personal ministry, and quite characteristic of him. See Mat. xi. 15;
Mar. iv. 23; vii. 16. It is a form of expression designed to arrest the
attention, and to denote that what was said was of special importance.
¶ _What the Spirit saith unto the churches._ Evidently what the Holy
Spirit says――for he is regarded in the Scriptures as the Source of
inspiration, and as appointed to disclose truth to man. The “Spirit”
may be regarded either as speaking through the Saviour (comp. Jn. iii.
34), or as imparted to John, through whom he addressed the churches.
In either case it is the same Spirit of inspiration, and in either case
there would be a claim that his voice should be heard. The language
here used is of a general character――“He that hath an ear;” that is,
what was spoken was worthy of the attention not only of the members
of these churches, but of all others. The truths were of so general
a character as to deserve the attention of mankind at large. ¶ _To
him that overcometh._ Gr., “To him that gains the victory, or is
a conqueror”――τῷ νικῶντι. This may refer to _any_ victory of a
moral character, and the expression used would be applicable to
one who should triumph in any of these respects:――(a) over his own
easily-besetting sins; (b) over the world and its temptations; (c) over
prevalent error; (d) over the ills and trials of life, so as, in all
these respects, to show that his Christian principles are firm and
unshaken. Life, and the Christian life especially, may be regarded
as a warfare. Thousands fall in the conflict with evil; but they who
maintain a steady warfare, and who achieve a victory, shall be received
as conquerors in the end. ¶ _Will I give to eat of the tree of life._
As the reward of his victory. The meaning is, that he would admit
him to heaven, represented as paradise, and permit him to enjoy its
pleasures――represented by being permitted to partake of its fruits.
The phrase “the tree of life” refers undoubtedly to the language used
respecting the Garden of Eden, Ge. ii. 9; iii. 22――where the “tree of
life” is spoken of as that which was adapted to make the life of man
perpetual. Of the nature of that tree nothing is known, though it would
seem probable that, like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,
it was a mere emblem of life――or a tree that was set before man in
connection with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that
his destiny turned on the question whether he partook of the one or
the other. That God should make the question of life or death depend
on that, is no more absurd or improbable than that he should make it
depend on what man does now――it being a matter of fact that life and
death, happiness and misery, joy and sorrow, _are_ often made to depend
on things quite as arbitrary apparently, and quite as unimportant as
an act of obedience or disobedience in partaking of the fruit of a
designated tree. Does it not appear probable that in Eden there were
two trees designated to be of an emblematic character, of life and
death, and that as man partook of the one or the other he would live or
die? Of all the others he might freely partake without their affecting
his condition; of one of these――the tree of life――he might have
partaken before the fall, and lived for ever. One was forbidden on pain
of death. When the {69} law forbidding that was violated, it was still
_possible_ that he might partake of the other; but, since the sentence
of death had been passed upon him, that would not now be proper, and
he was driven from the garden, and the way was guarded by the flaming
sword of the cherubim. The reference in the passage before us is to the
_celestial_ paradise――to heaven――spoken of under the beautiful image
of a garden; meaning that the condition of man, in regard to life, will
still be the same _as if_ he had partaken of the tree of life in Eden.
Comp. Notes on ch. xxii. 2. ¶ _Which is in the midst of the paradise of
God._ Heaven, represented as paradise. To be permitted to eat of that
tree, that is, of the fruit of that tree, is but another expression
implying the promise of eternal life, and of being happy for ever.
The word _paradise_ is of Oriental derivation, and is found in several
of the Eastern languages. In the Sanskrit the word _paradésha_ and
_paradisha_ is used to denote a land elevated and cultivated; in the
Armenian the word _pardes_ denotes a garden around the house planted
with grass, herbs, trees for use and ornament; and in the Hebrew form
פַּרְדֵּס, and Greek παράδεισος, it is applied to the pleasure gardens and
parks, with wild animals, around the country residences of the Persian
monarchs and princes, Ne. ii. 8. Comp. Ec. ii. 5; Ca. iv. 13; Xen.
_Cyro._ i. 3, 14 (Rob. _Lex._). Here it is used to denote heaven――a
world compared in beauty with a richly cultivated park or garden. Comp.
2 Co. xii. 4. The meaning of the Saviour is, that he would receive
him that overcame to a world of happiness; that he would permit him to
taste of the fruit that grows there, imparting immortal life, and to
rest in an abode fitted up in a manner that would contribute in every
way to enjoyment. Man, when he fell, was not permitted to reach forth
his hand and pluck of the fruit of the tree of life in the first Eden,
as he might have done if he had not fallen; but he is now permitted to
reach forth his hand and partake of the tree of life in the paradise
above. He is thus restored to what he might have been if he had not
transgressed by eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil; and in the Paradise Regained, the blessings of the
Paradise Lost will be more than recovered――for man may now live for
ever in a far higher and more blessed state than his would have been
in Eden.


The contents of the epistle to the church at Smyrna are these: (1) A
statement, as in the address to the church at Ephesus, of some of the
attributes of the Saviour, ver. 8. The attributes here referred to are,
that he was “the first and the last,” that “he had been dead, but was
alive”――attributes fitted to impress the mind deeply with reverence for
him who addressed them, and to comfort them in the trials which they
endured. (2) A statement (ver. 9), as in the former epistle, that he
well knew their works and all that pertained to them――their tribulation,
their poverty, and the opposition which they met with from wicked men.
(3) An exhortation not to be afraid of any of those things that were
to come upon them, for, although they were to be persecuted, and some
of them were to be imprisoned, yet, if they were faithful, they should
have a crown of life, ver. 10. (4) A command to hear what the Spirit
said to the churches, as containing matter of interest to all persons,
with an assurance that any who would “overcome” in these trials would
not be hurt by the second death, ver. 11. The language addressed to the
church of Smyrna is throughout that of commiseration and comfort. There
is no intimation that the Saviour disapproved of what they had done;
there is no threat that he would remove the candlestick out of its
place. _Smyrna_ was a celebrated commercial town of Ionia (Ptolem.
v. 2), situated near the bottom of that gulf of the Ægean Sea which
received its name from it (Mela, i. 17, 3), at the mouth of the small
river Meles, 320 stadia, or about forty miles north of Ephesus (Strabo,
xv. p. 632). It was a very ancient city; but having been destroyed by
the Lydians, it lay waste four hundred years to the time of Alexander
the Great, or, according to Strabo, to that of Antigonus. It was
rebuilt at the distance of twenty stadia from the ancient city, and in
the time of the first Roman emperor it was one of the most flourishing
cities of Asia. It was destroyed by an earthquake, A.D. 177, but
the emperor Marcus Aurelius caused it to be rebuilt with more than
its former splendour. It afterwards, however, suffered greatly from
earthquakes and conflagrations, and has {70} declined from these causes,
though, from its commercial advantages, it has always been a city of
importance as the central emporium of the Levantine trade, and its
relative rank among the cities of Asia Minor is probably greater than
it formerly bore. The engraving in this vol. will give a representation
of Smyrna. The Turks now call it Izmir. It is better built than
Constantinople, and its population is computed at about 130,000, of
which the Franks compose a greater proportion than in any other town
in Turkey, and they are generally in good circumstances. Next to the
Turks, the Greeks form the most numerous portion of the inhabitants,
and they have a bishop and two churches. The unusually large portion
of Christians in the city renders it peculiarly unclean in the eyes of
strict Moslems, and they call it Giaour Izmir, or the Infidel Smyrna.
There are in it about 20, 000 Greeks, 8000 Armenians, 1000 Europeans,
and 9000 Jews. It is now the seat of important missionary operations in
the East, and much has been done there to spread the gospel in modern
times. Its history during the long tract of time since John wrote is
not indeed minutely known, but there is no reason to suppose that the
light of Christianity there has ever been wholly extinct. Polycarp
suffered martyrdom there, and the place where he is supposed to have
died is still shown. The Christians of Smyrna hold his memory in great
veneration, and go annually on a visit to his supposed tomb, which is
at a short distance from the place of his martyrdom. See the article
“Smyrna” in Kitto’s _Cyclopedia_, and the authorities referred to there.

    8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These
    things saith [104]the first and the last, which was dead, and
    is alive;

8. _And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write._ On the meaning
of the word _angel_, see Notes on ch. i. 20. ¶ _These things saith the
first and the last._ See Notes on ch. i. 8, 17. ¶ _Which was dead, and
is alive._ See Notes on ch. i. 18. The idea is, that he is a _living_
Saviour; and there was a propriety in referring to that fact here from
the nature of the promise which he was about to make to the church at
Smyrna: “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death,”
ver. 11. As he had himself triumphed over death in all its forms, and
was now alive for ever, it was appropriate that he should promise to
his true friends the same protection from the second death. He who was
wholly beyond the reach of death could give the assurance that they who
put their trust in him should come off victorious.

    9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but
    [105]thou art rich,) and _I know_ the blasphemy of [106]them
    which say they are Jews, and are not, but _are_ the
    [107]synagogue of Satan.

9. _I know thy works._ The uniform method of introducing these epistles,
implying a most intimate acquaintance with all that pertained to the
church. See Notes on ver. 2. ¶ _And tribulation._ This word is of a
general signification, and probably includes all that they suffered
in any form, whether from persecution, poverty, or the blasphemy of
opposers. ¶ _And poverty._ It would seem that this church, at that time,
was eminently poor, for this is not specified in regard to any one of
the others. No reason is suggested why _they_ were particularly poor.
It was not, indeed, an uncommon characteristic of early Christians
(comp. 1 Cor. i. 26‒28), but there might have been some special reasons
why that church was eminently so. It is, however, the only church of
the seven which has survived, and perhaps in the end its poverty was no
disadvantage. ¶ _But thou art rich._ Not in this world’s goods, but in
a more important respect――in the grace and favour of God. These things
are not unfrequently united. Poverty is no hindrance to the favour of
God, and there are some things in it favourable to the promotion of a
right spirit towards God which are not found where there is abundant
wealth. The Saviour was eminently poor, and not a few of his most
devoted and useful followers have had as little of this world’s goods
as he had. The poor should always be cheerful and happy, if they
can hear their Saviour saying unto them, “I know thy poverty――but
thou art rich.” However keen the feeling arising from the reflection
“I am a poor man,” the edge of the sorrow is taken off if the mind
can be turned to a brighter image――“_but_ thou art rich.” {71} ¶ _And
|I know| the blasphemy._ The reproaches; the harsh and bitter revilings.
On the word _blasphemy_, see Notes on Mat. ix. 3; xxvi. 65. The word
here does not seem to refer to blasphemy _against God_, but to bitter
reproaches against themselves. The reason of these reproaches is not
stated, but it was doubtless on account of their religion. ¶ _Of them
which say they are Jews._ Who profess to be Jews. The idea seems to be
that though they were of Jewish extraction, and professed to be Jews,
they were not _true Jews_; they indulged in a bitterness of reproach,
and a severity of language, which showed that they had not the spirit
of the Jewish religion; they had nothing which became those who were
under the guidance of the spirit of their own Scriptures. That would
have inculcated and fostered a milder temper; and the meaning here is,
that although they were of Jewish origin, they were not worthy of the
name. That spirit of bitter opposition was indeed often manifested in
their treatment of Christians, as it had been of the Saviour, but still
it was foreign to the true nature of their religion. There were Jews
in all parts of Asia Minor, and the apostles often encountered them in
their journeyings, but it would seem that there was something which had
particularly embittered those of Smyrna against Christianity. What this
was is now unknown. It may throw some light on the passage, however, to
remark that at a somewhat later period――in the time of the martyrdom of
Polycarp――the Jews of Smyrna were among the most bitter of the enemies
of Christians, and among the most violent in demanding the death of
Polycarp. Eusebius (_Eccl. Hist._ iv. 15) says, that when Polycarp
was apprehended, and brought before the proconsul at Smyrna, the Jews
were the most furious of all in demanding his condemnation. When the
mob, after his condemnation to death, set about gathering fuel to
burn him, “the Jews,” says he, “being especially zealous, as was their
custom――μάλιστα προθύμως, ὡς ἔθος αὐτοῖς――ran to procure fuel.” And
when, as the burning failed, the martyr was transfixed with weapons,
the Jews urged and besought the magistrate that his body might not
be given up to Christians. Possibly at the time when this epistle was
directed to be sent to Smyrna, there were Jews there who manifested the
same spirit which those of their countrymen did afterwards, who urged
on the death of Polycarp. ¶ _But are the synagogue of Satan._ Deserve
rather to be called the synagogue of Satan. The _synagogue_ was a
Jewish place of worship (comp. Notes on Mat. iv. 23), but the word
originally denoted the _assembly_ or _congregation_. The meaning here
is plain, that though they worshipped in a synagogue, and professed to
be the worshippers of God, yet they were not worthy of the name, and
deserved rather to be regarded as in the service of Satan. _Satan_ is
the word that is properly applied to the great evil spirit, elsewhere
called the devil. See Notes on Lu. xxii. 3, and Job i.

    10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold,
    the devil shall cast _some_ of you into prison, that ye may
    be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou
    [108]faithful unto death, and I will give thee a [109]crown of

10. _Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer._ He did not
promise them exemption from suffering. He saw that they were about
to suffer, and he specifies the manner in which their affliction
would occur. But he entreats and commands them not to be afraid. They
were to look to the “crown of life,” and to be comforted with the
assurance that if they were faithful unto death, that would be theirs.
We need not dread suffering if we can hear the voice of the Redeemer
encouraging us, and if he assures us that in a little while we shall
have the crown of life. ¶ _Behold, the devil shall cast |some| of
you into prison._ Or, shall cause some of you to be cast into prison.
He had just said that their persecutors were of the “synagogue of
Satan.” He here represents Satan, or the devil――another name of the
same being――as about to throw them into prison. This would be done
undoubtedly by the hands of men, but still Satan was the prime mover,
or the instigator in doing it. It was common to cast those who were
persecuted into prison. See Ac. xii. 3, 4; xvi. 23. It is not said on
what pretence, or by what authority, this would be done; but, as John
had been banished to Patmos from Ephesus, it is probable {72} that
this persecution was raging in the adjacent places, and there is no
improbability in supposing that many might be thrown into prison.
¶ _That ye may be tried._ That the reality of your faith may be
subjected to a test to show whether it is genuine. The _design_ in
the case is that of the Saviour, though Satan is allowed to do it. It
was common in the early periods of the church to suffer religion to be
subjected to trial amidst persecutions, in order to show that it was
of heavenly origin, and to demonstrate its value in view of the world.
This is, indeed, one of the designs of trial at all times, but this
seemed eminently desirable when a new system of religion was about to
be given to mankind. Comp. Notes on 1 Pe. i. 6, 7. ¶ _And ye shall have
tribulation ten days._ A short time; a brief period; a few days. It is
_possible_, indeed, that this might have been literally ten days, but
it is much more in accordance with the general character of this book,
in regard to numbers, to suppose that the word _ten_ here is used
to denote _a few_. Comp. Ge. xxiv. 55; 1 Sa. xxv. 38; Da. i. 12, 14.
We are wholly ignorant how long the trial actually lasted; but the
assurance was that it would not be long, and they were to allow this
thought to cheer and sustain them in their sorrows. Why should not the
same thought encourage us now? Affliction in this life, however severe,
can be but brief; and in the hope that it will soon end, why should
we not bear it without murmuring or repining? ¶ _Be thou faithful unto
death._ Implying, perhaps, that though, in regard to the church, the
affliction would be brief, yet that it might be fatal to some of them,
and they who were thus about to die should remain faithful to their
Saviour until the hour of death. In relation to all, whether they were
to suffer a violent death or not, the same injunction and the same
promise was applicable. It is true of everyone who is a Christian,
in whatever manner he is to die, that if he is faithful unto death,
a crown of life awaits him. Comp. Notes on 2 Ti. iv. 8. ¶ _And I will
give thee a crown of life._ See Notes on Ja. i. 12. Comp. 1 Pe. v. 4;
1 Co. ix. 24‒27. The promise here is somewhat different from that
which was made to the faithful in Ephesus (ver. 7), but the same thing
substantially is promised them――happiness hereafter, or an admission
into heaven. In the former case it is the peaceful image of those
admitted into the scenes of paradise; here it is the triumph of the
crowned martyr.

    11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith
    unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the
    [110]second death.

11. _He that hath an ear_, &c. See Notes on ver. 7. ¶ _He that
overcometh._ See Notes on ver. 7. The particular promise here is made
to him that should “overcome;” that is, that would gain the victory in
the persecutions which were to come upon them. The reference is to him
who would show the sustaining power of religion in times of persecution;
who would not yield his principles when opposed and persecuted; who
would be triumphant when so many efforts were made to induce him to
apostatize and abandon the cause. ¶ _Shall not be hurt of the second
death._ _By_ a second death. That is, he will have nothing to fear
in the future world. The punishment of hell is often called _death_,
not in the sense that the soul will cease to exist, but (a) because
death is the most fearful thing of which we have any knowledge, and
(b) because there is a striking similarity, in many respects, between
death and future punishment. Death cuts off from life――and so the
second death cuts off from eternal life; death puts an end to all our
hopes here, and the second death to all our hopes for ever; death is
attended with terrors and alarms――the faint and feeble emblem of the
terrors and alarms in the world of woe. The phrase, “the second death,”
is three times used elsewhere by John in this book (ch. xx. 6, 14;
xxi. 8), but does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The words
_death_ and _to die_, however, are not unfrequently used to denote the
future punishment of the wicked.

The promise here made would be all that was necessary to sustain them
in their trials. Nothing more is requisite to make the burdens of life
tolerable than an assurance that, when we reach the end of our earthly
journey, we have arrived at the close of suffering, and that beyond the
grave there is no power that can harm us. Religion, indeed, does not
promise to its friends exemption from death in one form. To none of
the race has such a promise ever been made, and to but two has the {73}
favour been granted to pass to heaven without tasting death. It could
have been granted to all the redeemed, but there were good reasons why
it should not be; that is, why it would be better that even they who
are to dwell in heaven should return to the dust, and sleep in the tomb,
than that they should be removed by perpetual miracle, translating them
to heaven. Religion, therefore, does not come to us with any promise
that we shall not die. But it comes with the assurance that we shall
be sustained in the dying hour; that the Redeemer will accompany us
through the dark valley; that death to us will be a calm and quiet
slumber, in the hope of awakening in the morning of the resurrection;
that we shall be raised up again with bodies incorruptible and
undecaying; and that beyond the grave we shall never fear death in
any form. What more is needful to enable us to bear with patience the
trials of this life, and to look upon death when it does come, disarmed
as it is of its sting (1 Co. xv. 55‒57), with calmness and peace?


The contents of this epistle (ver. 12‒17) are as follows: (1) A
reference, as is usual in these epistles, to some attribute of Him
who addressed them, fitted to inspire respect, and adapted to a state
of things existing in the church, ver. 12. That to which the Saviour
here directs their attention is, that he has “the sharp sword with two
edges”――implying (ver. 16) that he had the power of punishing. (2) A
statement, in the usual form, that he was thoroughly acquainted with
the state of the church; that he saw all their difficulties; all that
there was to commend, and all that there was to reprove, ver. 13.
(3) A commendation to the church for its fidelity, especially in a
time of severe persecution, when one of her faithful friends was slain,
ver. 13. (4) A reproof of the church for tolerating some who held false
and pernicious doctrines――doctrines such as were taught by Balaam, and
the doctrines of the Nicolaitanes, ver. 14, 15. (5) A solemn threat
that, unless they repented, he would come against them, and inflict
summary punishment on them, ver. 16. (6) The usual call upon all to
hear what the Spirit says to the churches, and a promise to those who
should overcome, ver. 17.

Pergamos was a city in the southern part of Mysia, the capital of a
kingdom of that name, and afterwards of the Roman province of Asia
Propria. It was on the bank of the river Caicus, which is formed by the
union of two branches meeting thirty or forty miles above its mouth,
and watering a valley not exceeded in beauty and fertility by any
in the world. The city of Pergamos stood about twenty miles from the
sea. It was on the northern bank of the river, at the base and on the
declivity of two high and steep mountains. About two centuries before
the Christian era, Pergamos became the residence of the celebrated
kings of the family of Attalus, and a seat of literature and the arts.
King Eumenes, the second of the name, greatly beautified the town, and
so increased the number of volumes in the library that they amounted
to 200,000. This library remained at Pergamos after the kingdom of the
Attali had lost its independence, until Antony removed it to Egypt, and
presented it to Queen Cleopatra (Pliny, _Hist. Nat._ iii. 2). It is an
old tradition, that, as the papyrus plant had not begun to be exported
from Egypt (Kitto), or as Ptolemy refused to sell it to Eumenes
(Professor Stuart), sheep and goat skins, prepared for the purpose,
were used for manuscripts; and as the art of preparing them was brought
to perfection at Pergamos, they, from that circumstance, obtained
the name of _pergamena_ (περγαμηνή) or _parchment_. The last king of
Pergamos bequeathed his treasures to the Romans, who took possession
of the kingdom also, and created it into a province by the name of
Asia Propria. Under the Romans, it retained that authority over the
cities of Asia which it had acquired under the successors of Attalus.
The present name of the place is Bergamos, and it is of considerable
importance, containing a population of about 14,000, of whom about 3000
are Greeks, 300 Armenians, and the rest Turks. Macfarlane describes the
approach to the town as very beautiful: “The approach to this ancient
and decayed city was as impressive as well might be. After crossing the
Caicus, I saw, looking over three vast tumuli, or sepulchral barrows,
similar to those on the plains of Troy, the Turkish city of Pergamos,
with its tall minarets, and its taller cypresses, situated on the lower
declivities and at the foot of the Acropolis, whose bold gray brow was
crowned by the rugged {74} walls of a barbarous castle, the usurper
of the site of a magnificent Greek temple. The town consists, for the
most part, of small and mean wooden houses, among which appear the
remains of early Christian churches. None of these churches have any
scriptural or apocalyptic interest connected with them, having been
erected several centuries after the ministry of the apostles, and when
Christianity was not an humble and despised creed, but the adopted
religion of a vast empire. The Pagan temples have fared worse than
these Christian churches. The fanes of Jupiter and Diana, of Æsculapius
and Venus, are prostrate in the dust; and where they have not been
carried away by the Turks, to be cut up into tombstones or to pound
into mortar, the Corinthian and Ionic columns, the splendid capitals,
the cornices and the pediments, all in the highest ornament, are thrown
into unsightly heaps” (_Visit to the Seven Apocalyptic Churches_, 1832.
Comp. _Missionary Herald_ for 1839, pp. 228‒230). The engraving
represents the ruins of one of the ancient churches in Pergamos.

    12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These
    things saith he which hath the [111]sharp sword with two edges;

12. _And to the angel of the church in Pergamos._ See Notes on
ch. i. 20. ¶ _These things saith he which hath the sharp sword_, &c.
See Notes on ch. i. 16. Comp. He. iv. 12; Ec. xii. 11; Is. xlix. 2.
Professor Stuart suggests that when the Saviour, as represented in the
vision, “uttered words, as they proceeded from his mouth, the halitus
which accompanied them assumed, in the view of John, the form of an
igneous two-edged sword.” It is more probable, however, that the words
which proceeded from his mouth did not assume anything like a form or
substance, but John means to represent them _as if_ they were a sharp
sword. His words cut and penetrate deep, and it was easy to picture him
as having a sword proceeding from his mouth; that is, his words were
as piercing as a sharp sword. As he was about to reprove the church
at Pergamos, there was a propriety in referring to this power of the
Saviour. Reproof cuts deep; and this is the idea represented here.

    13 I[112] know thy works, and where thou dwellest, _even_
    where Satan’s seat _is_: and thou holdest fast my name, and
    [113]hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein
    Antipas _was_ my faithful martyr, who was slain among you,
    where Satan dwelleth.

13. _I know thy works._ The uniform mode of addressing the seven
churches in these epistles. See Notes on ch. ii. 2. ¶ _And where
thou dwellest._ That is, I know all the temptations to which you are
exposed; all the allurements to sin by which you are surrounded; all
the apologies which might be made for what has occurred arising from
those circumstances; and all that could be said in commendation of you
for having been as faithful as you have been. The sense of the passage
is, that it does much to enable us to judge of character to know
where men live. It is much more easy to be virtuous and pious in some
circumstances than in others; and in order to determine how much credit
is due to a man for his virtues, it is necessary to understand how much
he has been called to resist, how many temptations he has encountered,
what easily-besetting sins he may have, or what allurements may have
been presented to his mind to draw him from the path of virtue and
religion. In like manner, in order to judge correctly of those who
have embraced error, or have been led into sin, it is necessary to
understand what there may have been in their circumstances that gave
to error what was plausible, and to sin what was attractive; what there
was in their situation in life that exposed them to these influences,
and what arguments may have been employed by the learned, the talented,
and the plausible advocates of error, to lead them astray. We often
judge harshly where the Saviour would be far less severe in his
judgments; we often commend much where in fact there has been little
to commend. It is possible to conceive that in the strugglings against
evil of those who have ultimately fallen, there may be more to commend
than in cases where the path of virtue has been pursued as the mere
result of circumstances, and where there never has been a conflict
with temptation. The adjudications of the great day will do much to
reverse {75} the judgments of mankind. ¶ _|Even| where Satan’s seat
|is|._ A place of peculiar wickedness, as if Satan dwelt there. Satan
is, as it were, enthroned there. The influence of Satan in producing
persecution is that which is _particularly_ alluded to, as is apparent
from the reference which is immediately made to the case of Antipas,
the “faithful martyr.” ¶ _And thou holdest fast my name._ They had
professed the name of Christ; that is, they had professed to be his
followers, and they had steadfastly adhered to him and his cause in
all the opposition made to him. The name _Christian_, given in honour
of Christ, and indicating that they were his disciples, they had not
been ashamed of or denied. It was this _name_ that subjected the early
Christians to reproach. See 1 Pe. iv. 14. ¶ _And hast not denied my
faith._ That is, hast not denied my religion. The great essential
element in the Christian religion is _faith_, and this, since it
is so important, is often put for the whole of religion. ¶ _Even in
those days wherein Antipas |was| my faithful martyr._ Of Antipas we
know nothing more than is here stated. “In the _Acta Sanctorum_ (ii.
pp. 3, 4) is a martyrology of Antipas from a Greek MS.; but it is
full of fable and fiction, which a later age had added to the original
story” (Professor Stuart, _in loco_). ¶ _Who was slain among you._ It
would seem from this, that, though the persecution had raged there,
but one person had been put to death. It would appear also that the
persecution was of a local character, since Pergamos is described as
“Satan’s seat; ” and the death of Antipas is mentioned in immediate
connection with that fact. All the circumstances referred to would lead
us to suppose that this was a popular outbreak, and not a persecution
carried on under the authority of government, and that Antipas was
put to death in a popular excitement. So Stephen (Ac. vii.) was put to
death, and so Paul at Lystra was stoned until it was supposed he was
dead, Ac. xiv. 19. ¶ _Where Satan dwelleth._ The repetition of this
idea――very much in the manner of John――showed how intensely the mind
was fixed on the thought, and how much alive the feelings were to the
malice of Satan as exhibited at Pergamos.

    14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast
    there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, [114]who taught
    Balac to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel,
    to [115]eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to [116]commit

14. _But I have a few things against thee._ As against the church
at Ephesus, ch. ii. 4. The charge against this church, however, is
somewhat different from that against the church at Ephesus. The charge
there was, that they had “left their first love;” but it is spoken in
commendation of them that they “hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes,”
ch. ii. 6. Here the charge is, that they tolerated that sect among
them, and that they had among them also those who held the doctrine
of Balaam. Their general course had been such that the Saviour could
approve it; he did not approve, however, of their tolerating those
who held to pernicious practical error――error that tended to sap the
very foundation of morals. ¶ _Because thou hast there them that hold
the doctrine of Balaam._ It is not necessary to suppose that they
professedly held to the same opinion as Balaam, or openly taught the
same doctrines. The meaning is, that they taught substantially the same
doctrine which Balaam did, and deserved to be classed with him. What
that doctrine was is stated in the subsequent part of the verse. ¶ _Who
taught Balac to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel._
The word _stumbling-block_ properly means anything over which one falls
or stumbles, and then anything over which anyone may fall into sin, or
which becomes the occasion of one’s falling into sin. The meaning here
is, that it was through the instructions of Balaam that Balak learned
the way by which the Israelites might be led into sin, and might thus
bring upon themselves the Divine malediction. The main circumstances
in the case were these: (1) Balak, king of Moab, when the children
of Israel approached his borders, felt that he could not contend
successfully against so great a host, for his people were dispirited
and disheartened at their numbers, Nu. xxii. 3, 4. (2) In these
circumstances he resolved to send for one who had a {76} distinguished
reputation as a prophet, that he might “curse” that people, or might
utter a malediction over them, in order, at the same time, to ensure
their destruction, and to inspirit his own people in making war on them:
in accordance with a prevalent opinion of ancient times, that prophets
had the power of blighting anything by their curse. Comp. Notes on Job
iii. 8. For this purpose he sent messengers to Balaam to invite him to
come and perform this service, Nu. xxii. 5, 6. (3) Balaam professed to
be a prophet of the Lord, and it was obviously proper that he should
inquire of the Lord whether he should comply with this request. He
did so, and was positively forbidden to go, Nu. xxii. 12. (4) When
the answer of Balaam was reported to Balak, he supposed that he
might be prevailed to come by the offer of rewards, and he sent more
distinguished messengers with an offer of ample honour if he would come,
Nu. xxii. 15‒17. (5) Balaam was evidently strongly inclined to go, but,
in accordance with his character as a prophet, he said that if Balak
would give him his house full of silver and gold he could do no more,
and say no more, than the Lord permitted, and he proposed again to
consult the Lord, to see if he could obtain permission to go with
the messengers of Balak. He obtained permission, but with the express
injunction that he was only to utter what God should say; and when he
came to Balak, notwithstanding his own manifest desire to comply with
the wish of Balak, and notwithstanding all the offers which Balak made
to him to induce him to do the contrary, he only continued to bless the
Hebrew people, until, in disgust and indignation, Balak sent him away
again to his own land, Nu. xxii., xxiii., xxiv. 10, seq. (6) Balaam
returned to his own house, but evidently with a desire still to gratify
Balak. Being forbidden to curse the people of Israel; having been
overruled in all his purposes to do it; having been, contrary to his
own desires, constrained to bless them when he was himself more than
willing to curse them; and having still a desire to comply with the
wishes of the King of Moab, he cast about for some way in which the
object might yet be accomplished――that is, in which the curse of God
might _in fact_ rest upon the Hebrew people, and they might become
exposed to the divine displeasure. To do this, no way occurred so
plausible, and that had such probability of success, as to lead them
into idolatry, and into the sinful and corrupt practices connected
with idolatry. It was, therefore, resolved to make use of the charms of
the females of Moab, that through their influence the Hebrews might be
drawn into licentiousness. This was done. The abominations of idolatry
spread through the camp of Israel; licentiousness everywhere prevailed,
and God sent a plague upon them to punish them, Nu. xxv. 1, seq. That
also this was planned and instigated by Balaam is apparent from Nu.
xxxi. 16: “Behold these [women] caused the children of Israel, through
the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord, in the
matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of
the Lord.” The _attitude_ of Balaam’s mind in the matter was this:
I. He had a strong desire to do that which he knew was wrong, and
which was forbidden expressly by God. II. He was restrained by
internal checks and remonstrances, and prevented from doing what he
wished to do. III. He cast about for some way in which he might do it,
notwithstanding these internal checks and remonstrances, and finally
accomplished the same thing in fact, though in form different from that
which he had first prepared. This is not an unfair description of what
often occurs in the plans and purposes of a wicked man. The meaning
in the passage before us is, that in the church at Pergamos there
were those who taught, substantially, the same thing that Balaam did;
that is, the tendency of whose teaching was to lead men into idolatry,
and the ordinary accompaniment of idolatry――licentiousness. ¶ _To
eat things sacrificed unto idols._ Balaam taught the Hebrews to do
this――perhaps in some way securing their attendance on the riotous and
gluttonous feasts of idolatry celebrated among the people among whom
they sojourned. Such feasts were commonly held in idol temples, and
they usually led to scenes of dissipation and corruption. By plausibly
teaching that there could be no harm in eating what had been offered in
sacrifice――since an idol was nothing, and the flesh of animals offered
in sacrifice was the same as if slaughtered for some other purpose,
it would seem that these teachers at Pergamos had induced professing
Christians {77} to attend on those feasts――thus lending their
countenance to idolatry, and exposing themselves to all the corruption
and licentiousness that commonly attended such celebrations. See the
banefulness of thus eating the meat offered in sacrifice to idols
considered in the Notes on 1 Co. viii. ¶ _And to commit fornication._
Balaam taught this; and that was the tendency of the doctrines
inculcated at Pergamos. On what pretence this was done is not said;
but it is clear that the church had regarded this in a lenient manner.
So accustomed had the heathen world been to this vice, that many who
had been converted from idolatry might be disposed to look on it with
less severity than we do now, and there was a necessity of incessant
watchfulness lest the members of the church should fall into it. Comp.
Notes on Ac. xv. 20.

    15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the
    Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.

15. _So hast thou also them_, &c. That is, there are those among
you who hold those doctrines. The meaning here may be, either that,
in addition to those who held the doctrine of Balaam, they had also
another class who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes; or that
the Nicolaitanes held the same doctrine, and taught the same thing
as Balaam. If but one class is referred to, and it is meant that
the Nicolaitanes held the doctrines of Balaam, then we know what
constituted their teaching; if two classes of false teachers are
referred to, then we have no means of knowing what was the peculiarity
of the teaching of the Nicolaitanes. The more natural and obvious
construction, it seems to me, is to suppose that the speaker means to
say that the Nicolaitanes taught the same things which Balaam did――to
wit, that they led the people into corrupt and licentious practices.
This interpretation seems to be demanded by the proper use of the
word “so”――οὕτως――meaning, _in this manner_, _on this wise_, _thus_;
and usually referring to what precedes. If this be the correct
interpretation, then we have, in fact, a description of what the
Nicolaitanes held, agreeing with all the accounts given of them by the
ancient fathers. See Notes on ver. 6. If this is so, also, then it is
clear that the same kind of doctrines was held at Smyrna, at Pergamos,
and at Thyatira (ver. 20), though mentioned in somewhat different
forms. It is not quite certain, however, that this is the correct
interpretation, or that the writer does not mean to say that, _in
addition_ to those who held the doctrine of Balaam, they had also
another class of errorists who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes.
¶ _Which thing I hate._ So the common Greek text――ὃ μισῶ. But the
best-supported reading, and the one adopted by Griesbach, Tittmann,
and Hahn, is ὁμοίως――_in like manner_; that is, “as Balak retained a
false prophet who misled the Hebrews, so thou retainest those who teach
things like to those which Balaam taught.”

    16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and
    [117]will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

16. _Repent._ See ver. 5. ¶ _Or else I will come unto thee quickly._
On the word _quickly_, see Notes on ch. i. 1. The meaning here is, that
he would come against them in judgment, or to punish them. ¶ _And will
fight against them._ Against the Nicolaitanes. He would come against
the church for tolerating them, but his opposition would be principally
directed against the Nicolaitanes themselves. The church would excite
his displeasure by retaining them in its bosom, but it was in its power
to save them from destruction. If the church would repent, or if it
would separate itself from the evil, then the Saviour would not come
against them. If this were _not_ done, they would feel the vengeance
of his sword, and be subjected to punishment. The church always suffers
when it has offenders in its bosom; it has the power of saving them
if it will repent of its own unfaithfulness, and will strive for their
conversion. ¶ _With the sword of my mouth._ Notes on ch. i. 16; ii. 12.
That is, he would give the order, and they would be cut as if by a
sword. Precisely in what way it would be done he does not say; but
it might be by persecution, or by heavy judgments. To see the force
of this, we are to remember the power which Christ has to punish the
wicked by a word of his mouth. By a word in the last day he will turn
all the wicked into hell.

    17 He[118] that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit
    saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to
    eat of the [119]hidden manna, and will give him a white stone,
    and in the stone a [120]new name written,[121]which no man
    knoweth saving he that receiveth _it_.

17. _He that hath an ear_, &c. Notes on ver. 7. ¶ _To him that
overcometh._ {78} Notes on ver. 7. ¶ _Will I give to eat of the hidden
manna._ The true spiritual food; the food that nourishes the soul.
The idea is, that the souls of those who “overcame,” or who gained
the victory in their conflict with sin, and in the persecutions and
trials of the world, would be permitted to partake of that spiritual
food which is laid up for the people of God, and by which they will be
nourished for ever. The Hebrews were supported by manna in the desert
(Ex. xvi. 16‒35); a pot of that manna was laid up in the most holy
place, to be preserved as a memorial (Ex. xvi. 32‒34); it is called
“angels’ food” (Ps. lxxviii. 25), and “corn of heaven” (Ps. lxxviii.
24); and it would seem to have been emblematical of that spiritual food
by which the people of God are to be fed from heaven, in their journey
through this world. By the word “_hidden_,” there would seem to be
an allusion to that which was laid up in the pot before the ark of
the testimony, and the blessing which is promised here is that they
would be nourished _as if_ they were sustained by that manna thus laid
up before the ark: by food from the immediate presence of God. The
language thus explained would mean that they who overcome will be
nourished through this life _as if_ by that “hidden manna;” that is,
that they will be supplied all along through the “wilderness of this
world” by that food from the immediate presence of God which their
souls require. As the parallel places in the epistles to the churches,
however, refer rather to the heavenly world, and to the rewards which
they who are victors shall have there, it seems probable that this has
immediate reference to that world also, and that the meaning is, that,
as the most holy place was a type of heaven, they will be admitted into
the immediate presence of God, and nourished for ever by the food of
heaven――that which the angels have; that which the soul will need to
sustain it there. Even in this world their souls may be nourished with
this “hidden manna;” in heaven it will be their constant food for ever.
¶ _And will give him a white stone._ There has been a great variety of
opinion in regard to the meaning of this expression, and almost no two
expositors agree. Illustrations of its meaning have been sought from
Grecian, Hebrew, and Roman customs, but none of these have removed all
difficulty from the expression. The general sense of the language seems
plain, even though the allusion on which it is founded is obscure, or
even unknown. It is, that the Saviour would give him who overcame a
token of his favour which would have some word or name inscribed on it,
and which would be of use to him alone, or intelligible to him only:
that is, some secret token which would make him sure of the favour of
his Redeemer, and which would be unknown to other men. The idea here
would find a correspondence in the evidences of his favour granted
to the soul of the Christian himself; in the pledge of heaven thus
made to him, and which he would understand, but which no one else
would understand. The _things_, then, which we are to look for in the
explanation of the emblem are two――that which would thus be a token
of his favour, and that which would explain the fact that it would
be intelligible to no one else. The question is, whether there is any
known thing pertaining to ancient customs which would convey these
ideas. The word rendered _stone_――ψῆφον――means, properly, a small stone,
as worn smooth by water――a gravel-stone, a pebble; then any polished
stone, the stone of a gem, or ring (Rob. _Lex._). Such a stone was
used among the Greeks for various purposes, and the word came to have
a signification corresponding to these uses. The following uses are
enumerated by Dr. Robinson, _Lex._:――the _stones_ or _counters_ for
reckoning; _dice_, _lots_, used in a kind of magic; a _vote_, spoken
of the black and white stones or pebbles anciently used in voting――that
is, the white for approval, and the black for condemning. In regard to
the use of the word here, some have supposed that the reference is to
a custom of the Roman emperors, who, in the games {79} and spectacles
which they gave to the people in imitation of the Greeks, are said to
have thrown among the populace _dice_ or _tokens_ inscribed with the
words, “Frumentum, vestes,” &c.; that is, “Corn, clothing,” &c.; and
whosoever obtained one of these received from the emperor whatever was
marked upon it. Others suppose that allusion is made to the mode of
casting lots, in which sometimes dice or tokens were used with names
inscribed on them, and the lot fell to him whose name first came out.
The “_white_ stone” was a symbol of good fortune and prosperity; and
it is a remarkable circumstance that, among the Greeks, persons of
distinguished virtue were said to receive a ψῆφον, _stone_, from
the gods, _i.e._, as an approving testimonial of their virtue. See
Robinson’s _Lex._, and the authorities there referred to; Wetstein,
N. T., _in loco_, and Stuart, _in loco_. Professor Stuart supposes
that the allusion is to the fact that Christians are said to be kings
and priests to God, and that as the Jewish high-priest had a mitre or
turban, on the front of which was a plate of gold inscribed “Holiness
to the Lord,” so they who were kings and priests under the Christian
dispensation would have that by which they would be known, but that,
instead of a plate of gold, they would have a pellucid stone, on which
the _name_ of the Saviour would be engraved as a token of his favour.
It is _possible_, in regard to the explanation of this phrase, that
there has been too much effort to find _all_ the circumstances alluded
to in some ancient custom. Some well-understood fact or custom may have
suggested the general thought, and then the filling up may have been
applicable to this case alone. It is quite clear, I think, that none of
the customs to which it has been supposed there is reference correspond
fully with what is stated here, and that though there may have been
a general allusion of that kind, yet something of the particularity
in the circumstances may be regarded as peculiar to this alone. In
accordance with this view, perhaps the following points will embody all
that need be said: (1) A white stone was regarded as a token of favour,
prosperity, or success everywhere――whether considered as a vote, or as
given to a victor, &c. As such, it would denote that the Christian to
whom it is said to be given would meet with the favour of the Redeemer,
and would have a token of his approval. (2) The name written on this
stone would be designed also as a token or pledge of his favour――as a
name engraved on a signet or seal would be a pledge to him who received
it of friendship. It would be not merely a _white_ stone――emblematic
of favour and approval――but it would be so _marked_ as to indicate
its origin, with the name of the giver on it. This would appropriately
denote, when explained, that the victor Christian would receive a token
of the Redeemer’s favour, as if his name were engraven on a stone,
and given to him as a pledge of his friendship; that is, that he would
be as _certain_ of his favour _as if_ he had such a stone. In other
words, the victor would be assured from the Redeemer, who distributes
rewards, that his welfare would be secure. (3) This would be to him
_as if_ he should receive a stone so marked that its letters were
invisible to all others, but apparent to him who received it. It is
not needful to suppose that in the Olympic games, or in the prizes
distributed by Roman emperors, or in any other custom, such a case
had actually occurred, but it is conceivable that a name _might_ be
so engraved――with characters so small, or in letters so unknown to all
others, or with marks so unintelligible to others――that no other one
into whose hands it might fall would understand it. The meaning then
probably is, that to the true Christian――the victor over sin――there
is given some pledge of the divine favour which has to him all the
effect of assurance, and which others do not perceive or understand.
This consists of favours shown directly to the soul――the evidence of
pardoned sin; joy in the Holy Ghost; peace with God; clear views of
the Saviour; the possession of a spirit which is properly that of
Christ, and which is the gift of God to the soul. The true Christian
understands this; the world perceives it not. The Christian receives
it as a pledge of the divine favour, and as an evidence that he will
be saved; to the world, that on which he relies seems to be enthusiasm,
fanaticism, or delusion. The Christian bears it about with him as he
would a precious stone given to him by his Redeemer, and on which the
name of his Redeemer is engraved, as a pledge that he is accepted of
God, and that the rewards of heaven shall be his; the world does not
understand it, or {80} attaches no value to it. ¶ _And in the stone
a new name written._ A name indicating a _new_ relation, new hopes
and triumphs. Probably the _name_ here referred to is the name of the
Redeemer, or the name Christian, or some such appellation. It would be
some name which he would understand and appreciate, and which would be
a pledge of acceptance. ¶ _Which no man knoweth_, &c. That is, no one
would understand its import, as no one but the Christian estimates the
value of that on which he relies as the pledge of his Redeemer’s love.


The contents of this epistle (ver. 18‒29) are as follows: (1) A
reference, as is usual in these epistles, to some attribute of the
Saviour which demanded their particular attention, or which was
especially appropriate to the nature of the message which he was about
to send to them, ver. 18. The attributes which he fixes on here are,
that his eyes are like a flame of fire――as if they would pierce and
penetrate to the recesses of the heart; and that his feet are like fine
brass――perhaps indicative of majesty as he moved among the churches.
(2) A statement, in the usual form, that he was entirely acquainted
with the church, and that therefore the judgment which he was about
to pronounce was founded on a thorough knowledge of what the church
was; and a general commendation of them for their charity, service,
faith, and patience, ver. 19. (3) A sever reproof of the church,
notwithstanding, for their tolerating a teacher of dangerous doctrine,
whom he calls Jezebel, with the assurance that she and her children
should not go unpunished, ver. 20‒23. (4) An assurance to all the rest
in Thyatira that no other calamity or burden would come upon the church
than what was inevitable in delivering it from the dangerous influence
of these doctrines, and a solemn charge to them to hold fast all the
truth which they had until he should come, ver. 24, 25. (5) A promise,
as usual, to those who should overcome, or who should be victorious,
ver. 26‒29. They would have power over the nations; they would be
associated with the Redeemer in ruling them; they would have the
morning star. (6) A call, as usual, on all who had ears to hear, to
attend to what the Spirit said to the churches.

Thyatira was a city of Asia Minor, on the northern border of Lydia,
and commonly reckoned as belonging to Lydia. It was about twenty-seven
miles from Sardis; about a day’s journey from Pergamos, and about the
same distance from the sea-coast. Its modern name is Ak-hissar, or _the
white castle_. According to Pliny, it was known in earlier times by the
name of Pelopia (_Hist. Nat._ v. 29). Strabo (xiii. p. 928) says that
it was a Macedonian colony. The Roman road from Pergamos to Sardis
passed through it. It was noted for the art of dyeing (Ac. xvi. 14),
and Luke’s account in the Acts has been confirmed by the discovery of
an inscription in honour of Antonius Claudius Alphenus, which concludes
with the words οἱ βαφεῖς――_the dyers_.

The Rev. Pliny Fisk, the American missionary, who visited the city,
thus describes it: “Thyatira is situated near a small river, a branch
of the Caicus, in the centre of an extensive plain. At the distance of
three or four miles it is almost completely surrounded by mountains.
The houses are low; many of them of mud or earth. Excepting the
motsellim’s palace, there is scarcely a decent house in the place.
The streets are narrow and dirty, and everything indicates poverty and
degradation. We had a letter of introduction to Economo, the bishop’s
procurator, and a principal man among the Greeks of this town.... He
says the Turks have destroyed all remnants of the ancient church; and
even the place where it stood is now unknown. At present there are
in the town one thousand houses, for which taxes are paid to the
government” (_Memoir of the Rev. P. Fisk_; Boston, Mass., 1828).

The following description, by the Rev. Mr. Schneider, missionary of the
American Board, will give a correct view of Thyatira, as it existed in
1848: “From Magnesia we proceeded to Thyatira, the site of one of the
Apocalyptic churches, now called Ak-hissar. The population consists of
about seven hundred Mussulman houses, two hundred and fifty Greek, and
fifty Armenian. The town is located in a plain of considerable size,
and is hardly visible on being approached, by reason of the profusion
of foliage. The plain itself is bounded on all sides by mountains,
and {81} cotton and a kind of reddish root [madder], used for dyeing
red, are raised abundantly. I observed that this root is extensively
cultivated in all that region, and forms an important article of export
to England, where it is used for dyeing purposes. In Ac. xvi. 14 we
read of Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira. May not
this root be the very article with which her purple was coloured, which
she was selling at Philippi, when the Lord opened her heart to attend
to the things spoken by Paul? It seems to me probable. But, if it was
so, this art of colouring appears to have been lost, for I could not
find that it is now at all practised in that place or that region.

“The Christian traveller and missionary naturally looks for something
interesting in a place where once existed a true church of Christ. But,
alas! how sadly is he disappointed! The place presents an appearance
in nothing different from other Turkish towns. Everything wears a
Mussulman aspect. The houses, streets, dress, occupation, and language
of the inhabitants all indicate a predominating Turkish influence.
Christianity exists there in name, but it is the bare name. Its spirit
has long since fled. The Greeks, especially, seem to be peculiarly
superstitious. I visited their church, and found it full of pictures
and other marks of degenerate Christianity. A long string of these
images, extending from one side of the church to the other, was
suspended so low as to permit the worshipper to approach and kiss
them; and so frequently had this adoration been bestowed on them,
that all appeared soiled from the frequent contact of the lips. Over
the entrance of the church I observed a representation of a grave old
man, with a silvery beard, surrounded by angels. Suspecting the object
designed to be shadowed forth, I inquired of a lad standing by what
that figure meant. He instantly replied, ‘It is God.’ I observed two
similar representations of the Deity in the interior of the church.
The churchyard is used as a burying-place; but only those whose friends
are able to pay for the privilege of entombing their dead can enjoy
it. Candles are lighted at the heads of the graves in the night, and
incense is often burned. When the process of decay has proceeded so
far as to leave nothing but the bones, these are taken up and thrown
into a sealed vault, over which a chapel is fitted up, in which mass
is said over these relics of the dead for the benefit of their souls!
A feeling of abhorrence came over me as I stood in the place where such
abominations are committed.

“The Armenians are far less superstitious. Comparatively only a few
pictures are to be seen in their church, and three or four individuals
are more or less enlightened, and in an inquiring state of mind. We
had a long interview with one of them, the teacher, and left some books
with him. I am not without hopes that a little gospel leaven has been
deposited here, the effects of which will appear at some future day”
(_Miss. Herald_, Feb. 1848). The engraving in this volume will give a
representation of this city as it now exists.

    18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These
    things saith the Son of God, who hath [122]his eyes like unto
    a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;

18. _And unto the angel of the church._ See Notes on ch. i. 20.
¶ _These things saith the Son of God._ This is the first time, in these
epistles, that the _name_ of the speaker is referred to. In each other
instance there is merely some _attribute_ of the Saviour mentioned.
Perhaps the severity of the rebuke contemplated here made it proper
that there should be a more impressive reference to the authority of
the speaker; and hence he is introduced as the “Son of God.” It is not
a reference to him as the “Son of man”――the common appellation which
he gave to himself when on earth――for that might have suggested his
humanity only, and would not have conveyed the same impression in
regard to his authority; but it is to himself as sustaining the rank,
and having the authority, of the Son of God――one who, therefore, has a
right to speak, and a right to demand that what he says shall be heard.
¶ _Who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire._ Comp. Notes on ch.
i. 14. Before the glance of his eye all is light, and nothing can be
concealed from his view. Nothing would be better fitted to inspire awe
then, as nothing should be now, than such a reference to the Son of
God as being able to penetrate the secret recesses {82} of the heart.
¶ _And his feet are like fine brass._ See Notes on ch. i. 15. Perhaps
indicative of majesty and glory as he walked in the midst of the

    19 I[123] know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith,
    and thy patience, and thy works; and the last _to be_ more
    than the first.

19. _I know thy works._ See Notes on ch. ii. 2. He knew all they had
done, good and bad. ¶ _And charity._ Love; love to God, and love to man.
There is no reason for restricting this word here to the comparatively
narrow sense which it now bears. Comp. Notes on 1 Co. xiii. 1. ¶ _And
service._ Gr., _ministry_――διακονίαν. The word would seem to include
all the service which the church had rendered in the cause of religion;
all which was the proper fruit of love, or which would be a carrying
out of the principles of love to God and man. ¶ _And faith._ Or,
fidelity in the cause of the Redeemer. The word here would include not
only trust in Christ for salvation, but that which is the proper result
of such trust――fidelity in his service. ¶ _And thy patience._ Patient
endurance of the sorrows of life――of all that God brought upon them
in any way, to test the reality of their religion. ¶ _And thy works._
Thy works as the fruit of the virtues just mentioned. The word is
repeated here, from the first part of the verse, perhaps to specify
more particularly that their works had been recently more numerous and
praiseworthy even than they had formerly been. In the beginning of the
verse, as in the commencement of each of the epistles, the word is used,
in the most general sense, to denote _all_ that they had done; meaning
that he had so thorough an acquaintance with them in all respects that
he could judge of their character. In the latter part of the verse the
word seems to be used in a more specific sense, as referring to _good_
works, and with a view to say that they had latterly abounded in these
more than they had formerly. ¶ _And the last |to be| more than the
first._ Those which had been recently performed were more numerous,
and more commendable, than those which had been rendered formerly. That
is, they were making progress; they had been acting more and more in
accordance with the nature and claims of the Christian profession. This
is a most honourable commendation, and one which every Christian, and
every church, should seek. Religion in the soul, and in a community,
is designed to be progressive; and while we should seek to live in
such a manner always that we may have the commendation of the Saviour,
we should regard it as a thing to be greatly desired that we may be
approved as making _advances_ in knowledge and holiness; that as we
grow in years we may grow alike in the disposition to do good, and in
the ability to do it; that as we gain in experience, we may also gain
in a readiness to apply the results of our experience in promoting the
cause of religion. He would deserve little commendation in religion who
should be merely stationary; he alone properly develops the nature of
true piety, and shows that it has set up its reign in the soul, who is
constantly making advances.

    20 Notwithstanding, I have a few things against thee, because
    thou sufferest that woman [124]Jezebel, which calleth herself
    a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit
    fornication, and to [125]eat things sacrificed unto idols.

20. _Notwithstanding, I have a few things against thee._ Comp.
Notes on ver. 4. ¶ _Because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel._ Thou
dost tolerate, or countenance her. Comp. Notes on ver. 14. Who the
individual here referred to by the name _Jezebel_ was, is not known. It
is by no means probable that this was her real name, but seems to have
been given to her as expressive of her character and influence. Jezebel
was the wife of Ahab; a woman of vast influence over her husband――an
influence which was uniformly exerted for evil. She was a daughter
of Ethbaal, king of Tyre and Sidon, and lived about 918 years before
Christ. She was an idolater, and induced her weak husband not only
to connive at her introducing the worship of her native idols, but
to become an idolater himself, and to use all the means in his power
to establish the worship of idols instead of the worship of the true
God. She was highly gifted, persuasive, and artful; was resolute
in the accomplishment of {83} her purposes; ambitious of extending
and perpetuating her power, and unscrupulous in the means which she
employed to execute her designs. See 1 Ki. xvi. 31, seq. The kind of
_character_, therefore, which would be designated by the term as used
here, would be that of a woman who was artful and persuasive in her
manner; who was capable of exerting a wide influence over others; who
had talents of a high order; who was a thorough advocate of error; who
was unscrupulous in the means which she employed for accomplishing her
ends; and the tendency of whose influence was to lead the people into
the abominable practices of idolatry. The opinions which she held,
and the practices into which she led others, appear to have been the
same which are referred to in ver. 6 and ver. 14, 15 of this chapter.
The difference was, that the teacher in this case was a _woman_――a
circumstance which by no means lessened the enormity of the offence;
for, besides the fact that it was contrary to the whole genius of
Christianity that a woman should be a public teacher, there was a
special incongruity that she should be an advocate of such abominable
opinions and practices. Every sentiment of our nature makes us feel
that it is right to expect that if a woman teaches at all in a public
manner, she should inculcate only that which is true and holy――she
should be an advocate of a pure life. We are shocked; we feel that
there is a violation of every principle of our nature, and an insult
done to our common humanity, if it is otherwise. We have in a manner
become accustomed to the fact that _man_ should be a teacher of
pollution and error, so that we do not shrink from it with horror; we
never can be reconciled to the fact that a _woman_ should. ¶ _Which
calleth herself a prophetess._ Many persons set up the claim to be
prophets in the times when the gospel was first preached, and it is
not improbable that many females would lay claim to such a character,
after the example of Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, &c. ¶ _To teach and to
seduce my servants to commit fornication._ Comp. ver. 14. Whether she
herself practised what she taught is not expressly affirmed, but seems
to be implied in ver. 22. It is not often that persons _teach_ these
doctrines without practising what they teach; and the fact that they
_desire_ and _design_ to live in this manner will commonly account
for the fact that they inculcate such views. ¶ _And to eat things
sacrificed unto idols._ See Notes on ver. 14. The custom of attending
on the festivals of idols led commonly to licentiousness, and they
who were gross and sensual in their lives were fit subjects to be
persuaded to attend on idol feasts――for nowhere else would they find
more unlimited toleration for the indulgence of their passions.

    21 And I gave her [126]space to repent of her fornication; and
    [127]she repented not.

21. _And I gave her space to repent of her fornication._ Probably after
some direct and solemn warning of the evil of her course. The error and
sin had been of long standing, but he now resolved to bear with it no
longer. It is true of almost every great sinner, that sufficient time
is given for repentance, and that vengeance is delayed after crime is
committed. But it cannot always be deferred, for the period must arrive
when no reason shall exist for longer delay, and when punishment must
come upon the offender. ¶ _And she repented not._ As she did not do
it; as she showed no disposition to abandon her course; as all plea
of having had no time to repent would now be taken away, it was proper
that he should rise in his anger and cut her down.

    22 Behold, [128]I will cast her into a bed, and them that
    commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they
    repent of their deeds.

22. _Behold, I will cast her into a bed._ Not into a bed of ease,
but a bed of pain. There is evidently a purpose to contrast this
with her former condition. The harlot’s bed and a sick-bed are thus
brought together, as they are often, in fact, in the dispensations of
Providence and the righteous judgments of God. One cannot be indulged
without leading on, sooner or later, to the horrid sufferings of the
other: and how soon no one knows. ¶ _And them that commit adultery
with her._ Those who are seduced by her doctrines into this sin; either
they who commit it with her literally, or who are led into the same
kind of life. ¶ _Into great tribulation._ Great suffering; disease of
body or tortures of the soul. How often――how {84} almost uniformly is
this the case with those who thus live! Sooner or later, sorrow always
comes upon the licentious; and God has evinced by some of his severest
judgments, in forms of frightful disease, his displeasure at the
violation of the laws of purity. There is no sin that produces a more
withering and desolating effect upon the soul than that which is here
referred to; none which is more certain to be followed with sorrow.
¶ _Except they repent of their deeds._ It is only by repentance that
we can avoid the consequences of sin. The word _repent_ here evidently
includes both sorrow for the past, and abandonment of the evil course
of life.

    23 And I will [129]kill her children with death; and [130]all
    the churches shall know that [131]I am he which searcheth the
    reins and hearts; and [132]I will give unto every one of you
    according to your works.

23. _And I will kill her children with death._ A strong Hebraistic
mode of expression, meaning that he would certainly destroy them. It
has been made a question whether the word _children_ here is to be
taken literally or figuratively. The word itself would admit of either
interpretation; and there is nothing in the connection by which its
meaning here can be determined. If it is to be taken literally, it is
in accordance with what is often threatened in the Scriptures, that
children shall be visited with calamity for the sins of parents, and
with what often occurs in fact, that they _do_ thus suffer. For it
is no uncommon thing that whole families are made desolate on account
of the sin and folly of the parent. See Notes on Ro. v. 19. If it is
to be taken figuratively, then it refers to those who had imbibed her
doctrines, and who, of course, would suffer in the punishment which
would follow from the propagation of such doctrines. The reference
in the word _death_ here would seem to be to some heavy judgment, by
plague, famine, or sword, by which they would be cut off. ¶ _And all
the churches shall know_, &c. That is, the design of this judgment will
be so apparent that it will convince all that I know what is in the
hearts of men, even the secret acts of wickedness that are concealed
from human view. ¶ _I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts._
This is clearly a claim to omniscience; and as it is the Lord Jesus who
speaks in all these epistles, it is a full proof that he claims this
for himself. There is nothing which more clearly appertains to God than
the power of searching the heart, and nothing that is more constantly
claimed by him as his peculiar prerogative, 1 Ch. xxviii. 9; Ps. vii. 9;
xi. 4; xliv. 21; cxxxix. 2; Pr. xv. 3; Je. xi. 20; xvii. 10; xx. 12;
xxxii. 19; He. iv. 13. The word _reins_――νεφροὺς――means, literally,
_the kidney_, and is commonly used in the plural to denote the kidneys,
or the loins. In the Scriptures it is used to denote the inmost mind,
the secrets of the soul; probably because the parts referred to by the
word are as _hidden_ as any other part of the frame, and would seem
to be the repository of the more secret affections of the mind. It is
not to be supposed that it is taught in the Scriptures that the reins
are the real seat of any of the affections or passions; but there
is no more impropriety in using the term in a popular signification
than there is in using the word _heart_, which all continue to use,
to denote the seat of love. ¶ _And I will give unto every one of
you according to your works._ To every one of you; not only to those
who have embraced these opinions, but to all the church. This is the
uniform rule laid down in the Bible by which God will judge men.

    24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as
    many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the
    [133]depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none
    other burden.

24. _But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira._ The
word――“_and_”――καὶ――is omitted in many MSS. and versions, and in the
critical editions of Griesbach, Tittmann, and Hahn, and the connection
demands that it should be omitted. As it stands in the received text,
it would seem that what he here says was addressed to those who _had_
received that doctrine, and to all others as well as to them; whereas
the declaration here made pertains manifestly to those who had _not_
received the doctrine. With that particle omitted the passage will
read, as {85} rendered by Professor Stuart, “But I say unto you, the
remainder in Thyatira, so many as hold not this doctrine,” &c. That is,
he addresses now all the members of the church who were not involved
in the charges already made. He does not say how large a portion of
the church had escaped the contaminating influence of those opinions,
but to that portion, whether great or small, he addresses only words
of exhortation and comfort. ¶ _As many as have not this doctrine._ To
all who have not embraced it, or been contaminated with it. It may be
presumed that there was a considerable portion of the church which had
not. ¶ _And which have not known the depths of Satan._ The deep art and
designs of Satan. Deep things are those which are hidden from view――as
of things which are far underground; and hence the word is used to
denote mysteries, or profound designs and purposes. The allusion here
is not to any _trials_ or _sufferings_ that Satan might bring upon
anyone, or to any temptations of which he might be the author, but to
his profound art in inculcating error and leading men astray. There
_are_ doctrines of error, and arguments for sin, to originate which
seems to lie beyond the power of men, and which would appear almost to
have exhausted the talent of Satan himself. They evince such a profound
knowledge of man; of the divine government; of the course of events on
earth; and of what our race needs; and they are defended with so much
eloquence, skill, learning, and subtlety of argumentation, that they
appear to lie beyond the compass of the human powers. ¶ _As they speak._
This cannot mean that the defenders of these errors themselves called
their doctrines “the depths of Satan,” for no teachers would choose
so to designate their opinions; but it must mean, either that they
who were opposed to those errors characterized them as “the depths of
Satan,” or that they who opposed them said that _they_ had not known
“the depths of Satan.” Professor Stuart understands it in the latter
sense. A somewhat more natural interpretation, it seems to me, however,
is to refer it to what the opposers of these heretics said of these
errors. They called them “the depths of Satan,” and they professed
not to have known anything of them. The meaning, perhaps, would be
expressed by the familiar words, “as they say,” or “as they call them,”
in the following manner: “As many as have not known the depths of Satan,
as they say,” or, “to use their own language.” Doddridge paraphrases
it, “as they proverbially speak.” Tyndale incloses it in a parenthesis.
¶ _I will put upon you none other burden._ That is, no other than that
which you now experience from having these persons with you, and that
which must attend the effort to purify the church. He had not approved
their conduct for suffering these persons to remain in the church,
and he threatens to punish all those who had become contaminated with
these pernicious doctrines. He evidently designed to say that there
was _some_ token of his displeasure proper in the case, but he was not
disposed to bring upon them any _other_ expression of his displeasure
than that which grew naturally and necessarily out of the fact that
they had been tolerated among them, and those troubles and toils which
must attend the effort to deliver the church from these errors. Under
any circumstances the church must suffer. It would suffer in reputation.
It would suffer in respect to its internal tranquillity. Perhaps, also,
there were those who were implicated in these errors, and who would be
implicated in the punishment, who had friends and kindred in the church;
and the judgments which were to come upon the advocates of these errors
must, therefore, come in a measure upon the church. A kind Saviour says,
that he would bring upon them no other and no weightier burden, than
_must_ arise from his purpose to inflict appropriate vengeance on the
guilty themselves. The trouble which would grow out of that would be a
sufficient expression of his displeasure. This is, in fact, often now
all that is necessary as a punishment on a church for harbouring the
advocates of error and of sin. The church has trouble enough ultimately
in getting rid of them; and the injury which such persons do to its
piety, peace, and reputation, and the disorders of which they are the
cause, constitute a sufficient punishment for having tolerated them
in its bosom. Often the most severe punishment that God can bring
upon men is to “lay upon them no other burden” than to leave them to
the inevitable consequences of their own folly, or to the trouble and
vexation incident to the effort to free themselves {86} from what they
had for a long time tolerated or practised.

    25 But [134]that which ye have _already_ hold fast till I come.

25. _But that which ye have_, &c. All that there is of truth and
purity remaining among you, retain faithfully. Comp. ch. iii. 11.
¶ _Till I come._ To receive you to myself, Jn. xiv. 3.

    26 And [135]he that overcometh, and keepeth[136] my works unto
    the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

26. _And he that overcometh._ Notes on ch. ii. 7. ¶ _And keepeth my
works unto the end._ The works that I command and that I require, to
the end of his life. Comp. Jn. xiii. 1. ¶ _To him will I give power
over the nations._ The evident meaning of what is said here, and in the
next verse, is, that in accordance with the uniform promise made to the
redeemed in the New Testament, they would partake of the final triumph
and glory of the Saviour, and be associated with him. It is not said
that they would have exclusive power over the nations, or that they
would hold offices of trust under him during a personal reign on the
earth; but the meaning is, that they would be associated with him in
his future glory. Comp. Notes on Ro. viii. 17; 1 Co. vi. 2, 3.

    27 And[137] he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the
    vessels of a potter shall they be [138]broken to shivers: even
    as I received of my Father.

27. _And he shall rule them with a rod of iron._ There is an
allusion here to Ps. ii. 9: “Thou shalt break them with a rod of
iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” There
is a slight change in the passage, “he shall _rule_,” instead of “thou
shalt _break_,” in order to adapt the language to the purpose of the
speaker here. The allusion in the Psalm is to the Messiah as reigning
triumphant over the nations, or subduing them under him; and the idea
here, as in the previous verse, is, that his redeemed people will be
associated with him in this dominion. To rule with a sceptre of iron,
is not to rule with a harsh and tyrannical sway, but with power that
is firm and invincible. It denotes a government of strength, or one
that cannot be successfully opposed; one in which the subjects are
effectually subdued. ¶ _As the vessels of a potter shall they be
broken to shivers._ The image here is that of the vessel of a potter――a
fragile vessel of clay――struck with a rod of iron and broken into
fragments. That is, as applied to the nations, there would be no power
to oppose his rule; the enemies of his government would be destroyed.
Instead of remaining firm and compacted together, they would be broken
like the clay vessel of a potter when struck with a rod of iron. The
speaker does not intimate _when_ this would be; but all that is said
here would be applicable to that time when the Son of God will come
to judge the world, and when his saints will be associated with him in
his triumphs. As, in respect to all the others of the seven epistles
to the churches, the rewards promised refer to heaven, and to the happy
state of that blessed world, it would seem also that this should have a
similar reference, for there is no reason why “to him that overcame” in
Thyatira a temporal reward and triumph should be promised more than in
the cases of the others. If so, then this passage should not be adduced
as having any reference to an imaginary personal reign of the Saviour
and of the saints on the earth. ¶ _Even as I received of my Father._
As he has appointed me, Ps. ii. 6‒9.

    28 And I will give him [139]the morning star.

28. _And I will give him the morning star._ The “morning star” is
that bright planet――Venus――which at some seasons of the year appears
so beautifully in the east, leading on the morning――the harbinger of
the day. It is one of the most beautiful objects in nature, and is
susceptible of a great variety of uses for illustration. It appears as
the darkness passes away; it is an indication that the morning comes;
it is intermingled with the first rays of the light of the sun; it
seems to be a herald to announce the coming of that glorious luminary;
it is a pledge of the faithfulness of God. In which of these senses,
if any, it is referred to here, is not stated; nor is it said what is
implied by its being _given_ to him that {87} overcomes. It would seem
to be used here to denote a bright and brilliant ornament; something
with which he who “overcame” would be adorned, resembling the bright
star of the morning. It is observable that it is not said that he would
_make_ him _like_ the morning star, as in Da. xii. 3; nor that he would
be compared with the morning star, like the king of Babylon, Is. xiv.
12; nor that he would resemble a star which Balaam says he saw in the
distant future, Nu. xxiv. 17. The idea seems to be, that the Saviour
would give him something that would resemble that morning planet in
beauty and splendour――perhaps meaning that it would be placed as a
gem in his diadem, and would sparkle on his brow――bearing some such
relation to him who is called “the Sun of Righteousness,” as the
morning star does to the glorious sun on his rising. If so, the meaning
would be that he would receive a beautiful ornament, bearing a near
relation to the Redeemer himself as a bright sun――a pledge that the
darkness was past――but one whose beams would melt away into the
superior light of the Redeemer himself, as the beams of the morning
star are lost in the superior glory of the sun.

    29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith
    unto the churches.

29. _He that hath an ear_, &c. See Notes on ver. 7.

                             CHAPTER III.


The contents of the epistle to the church at Sardis (ver. 1‒6) are:
(1) The usual salutation to the angel of the church, ver. 1. (2) The
usual reference to the attributes of the Saviour――those referred to
here being that he had the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars,
ver. 1. (3) The assurance that he knew their works, ver. 1. (4) The
statement of the peculiarity of the church, or what he saw in it――that
it had a name to live and was dead, ver. 1. (5) A solemn direction
to the members of the church, arising from their character and
circumstances, to be watchful, and to strengthen the things which
remained, but which were ready to die; to remember what they had
received, and to hold fast that which had been communicated to them,
and to repent of all their sins, ver. 2, 3. (6) A threat that if they
did not do this, he would come suddenly upon them, at an hour which
they could not anticipate, ver. 3. (7) A commendation of the church as
far as it could be done, for there were still a few among them who had
not defiled their garments, and a promise that they should walk before
him in white, ver. 4. (8) A promise, as usual, to him that should be
victorious. The promise here is, that he should walk before him in
white; that his name should not be blotted out of the book of life;
that he should be acknowledged before the Father, and before the angels,
ver. 5. (9) The usual call on all persons to hear what the Spirit said
to the churches.

Sardis was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, one of the
provinces of Asia Minor, and was situated at the foot of Mount Tmolus,
in a fine plain watered by the river Pactolus, famous for its golden
sands. It was the capital where the celebrated Crœsus, proverbial for
his wealth, reigned. It was taken by Cyrus (B.C. 548), when Crœsus was
king, and was at that time one of the most splendid and opulent cities
of the East. It subsequently passed into the hands of the Romans,
and under them sank rapidly in wealth and importance. In the time of
Tiberius it was destroyed by an earthquake, but was rebuilt by order
of the emperor. The inhabitants of Sardis bore an ill repute among the
ancients for their voluptuous modes of life. _Perhaps_ there may be an
allusion to this fact in the words which are used in the address to the
church there: “Thou hast a few names _even in Sardis_ which have not
defiled their garments.” Successive earthquakes, and the ravages of
the Saracens and the Turks, have reduced this once-celebrated city to a
heap of ruins, though exhibiting still many remains of former splendour.
The name of the village which now occupies the place of this ancient
capital is Sart. It is a miserable village, comprising only a few
wretched cottages, occupied by Turks and Greeks. There are ruins of the
theatre, the stadium, and of some ancient churches. The most remarkable
of the ruins are two pillars supposed to have belonged to the temple
of Cybele; and if so, they are among the most ancient in the world,
the temple of Cybele having been built only three hundred years after
that of Solomon. The Acropolis serves well to define the site of the
city. Several travellers have recently visited the remains of Sardis,
and its appearance will be indicated by a few extracts from their
writings. Arundell, in his _Discoveries in Asia Minor_, {88} says:
“If I were asked what impresses the mind most strongly in beholding
Sardis, I should say its indescribable _solitude_, like the darkness
of Egypt――darkness that could be _felt_. So the deep solitude of the
spot, once the ‘lady of kingdoms,’ produces a corresponding feeling of
_desolate abandonment_ in the mind, which can never be forgotten.”

The Rev. J. Hartley, in regard to these ruins, remarks: “The ruins are,
with one exception, more entirely gone to decay than those of most of
the ancient cities which we have visited. No Christians reside on the
spot: two Greeks only work in a mill here, and a few wretched Turkish
huts are scattered among the ruins. We saw the churches of St. John and
the Virgin, the theatre, and the building styled the Palace of Crœsus;
but the most striking object at Sardis is the temple of Cybele. I was
filled with wonder and awe at beholding the two stupendous columns of
this edifice, which are still remaining: they are silent but impressive
witnesses of the power and splendour of antiquity.”

The impression produced on the mind is vividly described in the
following language of a recent traveller, who lodged there for a
night: “Every object was as distinct as in a northern twilight; the
snowy summit of the mountain [Tmolus], the long sweep of the valley,
and the flashing current of the river [Pactolus]. I strolled along
towards the banks of the Pactolus, and seated myself by the side of
the half-exhausted stream.

“There are few individuals who cannot trace on the map of their memory
some moments of overpowering emotion, and some scene, which, once dwelt
upon, has become its own painter, and left behind it a memorial that
time could not efface. I can readily sympathize with the feelings of
him who wept at the base of the pyramids; nor were my own less powerful,
on that night when I sat beneath the sky of Asia to gaze upon _the
ruins of Sardis_, from the banks of the golden-sanded Pactolus. Beside
me were the cliffs of the Acropolis, which, centuries before, the hardy
Median scaled, while leading on the conquering Persians, whose tents
had covered the very spot on which I was reclining. Before me were the
vestiges of what had been the palace of the gorgeous Crœsus; within its
walls were once congregated the wisest of mankind, Thales, Cleobulus,
and Solon. It was here that the wretched father mourned alone the
mangled corse of his beloved Atys; it was here that the same humiliated
monarch wept at the feet of the Persian boy who wrung from him his
kingdom. Far in the distance were the gigantic _tumuli_ of the Lydian
monarchs, Candaules, Halyattys, and Gyges; and around them were spread
those very plains once trodden by the countless hosts of Xerxes, when
hurrying on to find a sepulchre at Marathon.

“There were more varied and more vivid remembrances associated
with the sight of Sardis than could possibly be attached to any other
spot of earth; but all were mingled with a feeling of disgust at the
littleness of human glory. All――all had passed away! There were before
me the fanes of a dead religion, the tombs of forgotten monarchs,
and the palm-tree that waved in the banquet-hall of kings; while the
feeling of desolation was doubly heightened by the calm sweet sky above
me, which, in its unfading brightness, shone as purely now as when it
beamed upon the golden dreams of Crœsus” (Emerson’s _Letters from the
Ægean_, p. 113, seq.). The present appearance of the ruins is shown by
the engraving in this volume.

                             CHAPTER III.

    AND unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These
    things saith he that hath the [140]seven Spirits of God, and
    the seven stars; [141]I know thy works, that thou hast [142]a
    name that thou livest, and art dead.

1. _And unto the angel of the church in Sardis._ Notes on ch. i. 20.
¶ _These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God._ See
Notes on ch. i. 4. If the phrase, “the seven Spirits of God,” as there
supposed, refers to the Holy Spirit, there is great propriety in saying
of the Saviour, that he has that Spirit, inasmuch as the Holy Spirit is
represented as sent forth by him into the world, Jn. xv. 26, 27; xvi. 7,
13, 14. It was one of the highest characteristics that could be given
of the Saviour to say, that the Holy Ghost was his to send forth into
the world, and that that great Agent, on whose gracious influences all
were dependent for the possession of true religion, could {89} be given
or withheld by him at his pleasure. ¶ _And the seven stars._ See Notes
on ch. i. 16. These represented the angels of the seven churches (Notes
on ch. i. 20); and the idea which the Saviour would seem to intend to
convey here is, that he had entire control over the ministers of the
churches, and could keep or remove them at pleasure. ¶ _I know thy
works._ See Notes on ch. ii. 2. ¶ _That thou hast a name that thou
livest._ Thou dost profess attachment to me and my cause. The word
_life_ is a word that is commonly employed, in the New Testament, to
denote religion, in contradistinction from the natural state of man,
which is described as _death_ in sin. By the profession of religion
they expressed the purpose to live unto God, and for another world;
they professed to have true, spiritual life. ¶ _And art dead._ That
is, spiritually. This is equivalent to saying that their profession was
merely _in name_; and yet this must be understood comparatively, for
there were some even in Sardis who truly lived unto God, ver. 4. The
meaning is, that in general, the profession of religion among them was
a mere name. The Saviour does not, as in the case of the churches of
Ephesus and Thyatira, specify any prevailing form of error or false
doctrine; but it would seem that here it was a simple _want_ of

    2 Be watchful and [143]strengthen the things which remain,
    that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works
    [144]perfect before God.

2. _Be watchful._ Be wakeful; be attentive and earnest――in
contradistinction from the drowsy condition of the church.
¶ _Strengthen the things which remain._ The true piety that still lives
and lingers among you. Whatever there was of religion among them, it
was of importance to strengthen it, that the love of the Saviour might
not become wholly extinct. An important duty in a low and languishing
state of religion is, to “strengthen the things that still survive.”
It is to cultivate all the graces which do exist; to nourish all the
love of truth which may linger in the church; and to confirm, by warm
exhortation, and by a reference to the gracious promises of God’s
word, the few who may be endeavouring to do their duty, and who, amidst
many discouragements, are aiming to be faithful to the Saviour. In the
lowest state of religion in a church there may be a few, perhaps quite
obscure and of humble rank, who are mourning over the desolations of
Zion, and who are sighing for better times. All such it is the duty
of the ministers of religion to comfort and encourage; for it is in
their hearts that piety may be kept alive in the church――it is through
them that it may be hoped religion may yet be revived. In the apparent
hopelessness of doing much good to others, good may always be done to
the cause itself by preserving and strengthening what there may be of
life among those few, amidst the general desolation and death. It is
much to preserve life in grain sown in a field through the long and
dreary winter, when all seems to be dead――for it will burst forth, with
new life and beauty, in the spring. When the body is prostrate with
disease, and life just lingers, and death seems to be coming on, it
is much to preserve the little strength that remains; much to keep
the healthful parts from being invaded, that there may be strength yet
to recover. ¶ _That are ready to die._ That seem just ready to become
extinct. So, sometimes, in a plant, there seems to be but the least
conceivable life remaining, and it appears that it must die. So, when
we are sick, there seems to be but the feeblest glimmering of life, and
it is apparently just ready to go out. So, when a fire dies away, there
seems but a spark remaining, and it is just ready to become extinct.
And thus, in religion in the soul――religion in a church――religion in a
community――it often seems as if it were just about to go out for ever.
¶ _For I have not found thy works perfect before God._ I have not found
them _complete_ or _full_. They come short of that which is required.
Of what church, of what individual Christian, is not this true? Whom
might not the Saviour approach with the same language? It was true,
however, in a marked and eminent sense, of the church at Sardis.

    3 Remember[145] therefore how thou hast received and heard;
    and hold fast, and [146]repent. If therefore thou shalt not
    watch, I will come on thee [147]as a thief, and thou shalt not
    know what hour I will come upon thee.

3. _Remember therefore how thou hast received._ This may refer either
to some peculiarity in the manner in which the gospel was conveyed to
them――as, by the labours of the apostles, and by {90} the remarkable
effusions of the Holy Spirit; or to the ardour and love with which
they embraced it; or to the greatness of the favours and privileges
conferred on them; or to their own understanding of what the gospel
required, when they were converted. It is not possible to determine in
which sense the language is used; but the general idea is plain, that
there was something marked and unusual in the way in which they had
been led to embrace the gospel, and that it was highly proper in these
circumstances to look back to the days when they gave themselves to
Christ. It is always well for Christians to call to remembrance the
“day of their espousals,” and their views and feelings when they gave
their hearts to the Saviour, and to compare those views with their
present condition, especially if their conversion was marked by
anything unusual. ¶ _And heard._ How thou didst hear the gospel in
former times; that is, with what earnestness and attention thou didst
embrace it. This would rather seem to imply that the reference in the
whole passage is to the fact that they embraced the gospel with great
ardour and zeal. ¶ _And hold fast._ (1) Hold fast the truths which thou
didst then receive; (2) hold fast what remains of true religion among
you. ¶ _And repent._ Repent in regard to all that in which you have
departed from your views and feelings when you embraced the gospel.
¶ _If therefore thou shalt not watch._ The speaker evidently supposed
that it was possible that they would not regard the warning; that they
would presume that they would be safe if they refused to give heed to
it, or that by mere inattention and indifference they might suffer the
warning to pass by unheeded. Similar results have been so common in
the world as to make such a supposition not improbable, and to make
proper, in other cases as well as that, the solemn threatening that
he would come suddenly upon them. ¶ _I will come on thee as a thief._
In a sudden and unexpected manner. See Notes on 1 Th. v. 2. ¶ _And ye
shall not know what hour I will come upon thee._ You shall not know
beforehand; you shall have no warning of my immediate approach. This
is often the way in which God comes to men in his heavy judgments. Long
beforehand, he admonishes us, indeed, of what must be the consequences
of a course of sin, and warns us to turn from it; but when sinners
refuse to attend to his warning, and still walk in the way of evil, he
comes suddenly, and cuts them down. Every man who is warned of the evil
of his course, and who refuses or neglects to repent, has reason to
believe that God will come suddenly in his wrath, and call him to his
bar, Pr. xxix. 1. No such man can presume on impunity; no one who is
warned of his guilt and danger can feel that he is for one moment safe.
No one can have any basis of calculation that he will be spared; no one
can flatter himself with any probable anticipation that he will have
time to repent when God comes to take him away. Benevolence has done
its appropriate work in warning him――how can the Great Judge of all be
to blame, if he comes then, and suddenly cuts the sinner off?

    4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled
    their garments; and they shall walk with me [148]in white: for
    they are worthy.

4. _Thou hast a few names even in Sardis._ See the analysis of the
chapter. The word _names_ here is equivalent to _persons_; and the idea
is, that even in a place so depraved, and where religion had so much
declined, there were a few persons who had kept themselves free from
the general contamination. In most cases, when error and sin prevail,
there may be found a few who are worthy of the divine commendation; a
few who show that true religion may exist even when the mass are evil.
Comp. Notes on Ro. xi. 4. ¶ _Which have not defiled their garments._
Comp. Notes on Jude 23. The meaning is, that they had not defiled
themselves by coming in contact with the profane and the polluted;
or, in other words, they had kept themselves free from the prevailing
corruption. They were like persons clothed in white walking in the
midst of the defiled, yet keeping their raiment from being soiled.
¶ _And they shall walk with me in white._ White is the emblem of
innocence, and is hence {91} appropriately represented as the colour
of the raiment of the heavenly inhabitants. The persons here referred
to had kept their garments uncontaminated on the earth, and as an
appropriate reward it is said that they would appear in white raiment
in heaven. Comp. ch. vii. 9; xix. 8. ¶ _For they are worthy._ They have
shown themselves worthy to be regarded as followers of the Lamb; or,
they have a character that is fitted for heaven. The declaration is
not that they have any _claim_ to heaven on the ground of their own
merit, or that it will be in virtue of their own works that they will
be received there; but that there is a _fitness_ or _propriety_ that
they should thus appear in heaven. We are all personally unworthy to be
admitted to heaven, but we may evince such a character as to show that,
according to the arrangements of grace, it is _fit_ and _proper_ that
we should be received there. We have the character to which God has
promised eternal life.

    5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white
    raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the [149]book
    of life, but I will [150]confess his name before my Father,
    and before his angels.

5. _He that overcometh._ See Notes on ch. ii. 7. ¶ _The same shall be
clothed in white raiment._ Whosoever he may be that shall overcome sin
and the temptations of this world, shall be admitted to this glorious
reward. The promise is made not only to those in Sardis who should be
victorious, but to all in every age and every land. The hope that is
thus held out before us, is that of appearing with the Redeemer in his
kingdom, clad in robes expressive of holiness and joy. ¶ _And I will
not blot out his name out of the book of life._ The book which contains
the names of those who are to live with him for ever. The names of his
people are thus represented as enrolled in a book which he keeps――a
register of those who are to live for ever. The phrase “book of life”
frequently occurs in the Bible, representing this idea. See Notes
on Phi. iv. 3. Comp. Re. xv. 3; xx. 12, 15; xxi. 27; xxii. 19. The
expression “I will not blot out” means, that the names would be found
there on the great day of final account, and would be found there for
ever. It may be remarked, that as no one can have access to that book
but he who keeps it, there is the most positive assurance that it will
never be done, and the salvation of the redeemed will be, therefore,
secure. And let it be remembered that the period is coming when it
will be felt to be a higher honour to have the name enrolled in that
book than in the books of heraldry――in the most splendid catalogue
of princes, poets, warriors, nobles, or statesmen that the world has
produced. ¶ _But I will confess his name_, &c. I will acknowledge him
to be my follower. See Notes on Mat. x. 32.

    6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto
    the churches.

6. _He that hath an ear_, &c. See Notes on ch. ii. 7.


This epistle (ver. 7‒13) comprises the following subjects: (1) The
usual address to the angel of the church, ver. 7. (2) The reference
to some attribute or characteristic of the speaker, ver. 7. He here
addresses the church as one who is holy and true; as he who has the key
of David, and who can shut and no one can open, and open and no one can
shut. The representation is that of one who occupies a royal palace,
and who can admit or exclude anyone whom he pleases. The reference
to such a palace is continued through the epistle. (3) The usual
declaration that he knows their works, and that he has found that
they had strength, though but a little, and had kept his word, ver. 8.
(4) A declaration that he would constrain some who professed that they
were Jews, but who were of the synagogue of Satan, to come and humble
themselves before them, ver. 9. (5) The particular promise to that
church. He would keep them in the hour of temptation that was coming to
try all that dwelt upon the earth, ver. 10. (6) The command addressed
to them as to the other churches. He solemnly enjoins it on them to
see that no one should take their crown, or deprive them of the reward
which he would give to his faithful followers, {92} ver. 11. (7) A
general promise, in view of the circumstances in Philadelphia, to _all_
who should overcome, ver. 12. They would be made a pillar in the temple
of God, and go no more out. They would have written on themselves the
name of his God, and the name of the holy city――showing that they were
inhabitants of the heavenly world. (8) The usual call on all to attend
to what was said to the churches, ver. 13.

Philadelphia stood about twenty-five miles south-east from Sardis, in
the plain of Hermus, and about midway between the river of that name
and the termination of Mount Tmolus. It was the second city in Lydia,
and was built by King Attalus Philadelphus, from whom it received its
name. In the year 133 B.C. the place passed, with the country in the
vicinity, under the dominion of the Romans. The site is reported by
Strabo to be liable to earthquakes, but it continued to be a place of
importance down to the Byzantine age; and, of all the towns in Asia
Minor, it withstood the Turks the longest. It was taken by Bajazat,
A.D. 1392. “It still exists as a Turkish town, under the name of Allah
Shehr, ‘City of God,’ _i.e._ the ‘High Town.’ It covers a considerable
extent of ground, running up the slopes of four hills, or rather of
one hill with four flat summits. The country, as viewed from these
hills, is extremely magnificent――gardens and vineyards lying at the
back and sides of the town, and before it one of the most beautiful
and extensive plains of Asia. The missionaries Fisk and Parsons were
informed by the Greek bishop that the town contained 3000 houses, of
which he assigned 250 to the Greeks, and the rest to the Turks. On the
same authority it is stated that there are five churches in the town,
besides twenty others which were too old or too small for use. Six
minarets, indicating as many mosques, are seen in the town, and one
of these mosques is believed by the native Christians to have been
the church in which assembled the primitive Christians addressed in
the Apocalypse. There are few ruins; but in one part are four pillars,
which are supposed to have been columns of a church. One solitary
pillar has been often noticed, as reminding beholders of the remarkable
words in the Apocalypse――‘Him that overcometh I will make _a pillar_
in the temple of my God’” (Kitto’s _Encyclo._ See also the _Missionary
Herald_ for 1821, p. 253; 1839, pp. 210‒212). The town is the seat of
a Greek archbishop, with about twenty inferior clergy. The streets are
narrow, and are described as remarkably filthy. The engraving in this
volume will give a representation of the town as it now appears.

    7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write;
    These things saith [151]he that is holy, [152]he that is true,
    [153]he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no
    man shutteth; and [154]shutteth, and no man openeth;

7. _And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia._ See Notes
on ch. i. 20. ¶ _These things saith he that is holy._ This refers
undoubtedly to the Lord Jesus. The appellation _holy_, or _the holy
one_, is one that befits him, and is not unfrequently given to him in
the New Testament, Lu. i. 35; Ac. ii. 27; iii. 14. It is not only an
appellation appropriate to the Saviour, but well adapted to be employed
when he is addressing the churches. Our impression of what is said
to us will often depend much on our idea of the character of him who
addresses us, and solemnity and thoughtfulness always become us when
we are addressed by a holy Redeemer. ¶ _He that is true._ Another
characteristic of the Saviour well fitted to be referred to when he
addresses men. It is a characteristic often ascribed to him in the New
Testament (Jn. i. 9, 14, 17; viii. 40, 45; xiv. 6; xviii. 37; 1 Jn.
v. 20), and one which is eminently adapted to impress the mind with
solemn thought in view of the fact that he is to pronounce on our
character, and to determine our destiny. ¶ _He that hath the key of
David._ This expression is manifestly taken from Is. xxii. 22, “And
the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder.” See the
passage explained in the Notes on that place. As used by Isaiah, the
phrase is applied to Eliakim; and it is not to be inferred, because
the language here is applied to the Lord Jesus, that originally it had
any such reference. “The application of the same terms,” says Professor
Alexander on Is. xxii. 22, “to Peter (Mat. xvi. 19), and to Christ
himself (Re. iii. 7), does not {93} prove that they here refer to
either, or that Eliakim was a type of Christ, but merely that the same
words admit of different applications.” The language is that which
properly denotes authority or control――as when one has the key of a
house, and has unlimited access to it; and the meaning here is, that
as David is represented as the king of Israel residing in a palace,
so he who had the key to that palace had _regal authority_. ¶ _He that
openeth, and no man shutteth_, &c. He has free and unrestrained access
to the house; the power of admitting anyone, or of excluding anyone.
Applied here to the Saviour, as king in Zion, this means that in his
kingdom he has the absolute control in regard to the admission or
exclusion of anyone. He can prescribe the terms; he can invite whom
he chooses; he can exclude those whom he judges should not be admitted.
A reference to this absolute control was every way proper when he was
addressing a church, and is every way proper for us to reflect on when
we think of the subject of our personal salvation.

    8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an
    [155]open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little
    strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

8. _I know thy works._ See Notes on ch. ii. 2. ¶ _Behold, I have set
before thee an open door._ Referring to his authority as stated in
ver. 7. The “open door” here evidently refers to the enjoyment of some
privilege or honour; and, so far as the _language_ is concerned, it may
refer to any one of the following things: either, (1) the ability to
do good――represented as the “opening of the door.” Comp. Ac. xiv. 27;
1 Co. xvi. 9; 2 Co. ii. 12; Col. iv. 3. (2) The privilege of access to
the heavenly palace; that is, that they had an abundant opportunity of
securing their salvation, the door being never closed against them by
day or by night. Comp. Re. xxi. 25. Or (3) it may mean that they had
before them an open way of egress from danger and persecution. This
latter Professor Stuart supposes to be the true meaning; and argues
this because it is immediately specified that those Jewish persecutors
would be made to humble themselves, and that the church would but
lightly experience the troubles which were coming upon the world
around them. But the more natural interpretation of the phrase “an
open door” is that it refers to access _to_ a thing rather than egress
_from_ a thing; that we may come to that which we desire to approach,
rather than escape from that which we dread. There is no objection,
it seems to me, to the supposition that the language may be used
here in the largest sense――as denoting that, in regard to the church
at Philadelphia, there was no restraint. He had given them the most
unlimited privileges. The temple of salvation was thrown open to them;
the celestial city was accessible; the whole world was before them as a
field of usefulness, and anywhere, and everywhere, they might do good,
and at all times they might have access to the kingdom of God. ¶ _And
no man can shut it._ No one has the power of preventing this, for he
who has control over all things concedes these privileges to you.
¶ _For thou hast a little strength._ This would imply that they had
not _great_ vigour, but still that, notwithstanding there were so many
obstacles to their doing good, and so many temptations to evil, there
still remained with them some degree of energy. They were not wholly
dead; and as long as that was the case, the door was still open for
them to do good. The words “little strength” may refer either to the
smallness of the _number_――meaning that they were few; or it may refer
to the spiritual life and energy of the church――meaning that, though
feeble, their vital energy was not wholly gone. The more natural
interpretation seems to be to refer it to the latter; and the sense is,
that although they had not the highest degree of energy, or had not all
that the Saviour desired they should have, they were not _wholly_ dead.
The Saviour saw among them the evidences of spiritual life; and in
view of that he says he had set before them an open door, and there
was abundant opportunity to employ all the energy and zeal which
they had. It may be remarked that the same thing is true now; that
wherever there is _any_ vitality in a church, the Saviour will furnish
ample opportunity that it maybe employed in his service. ¶ _And hast
not denied my name._ When Christians were brought before heathen
magistrates in times of persecution, they were required to renounce
{94} the name of Christ, and to disown him in a public manner. It is
possible that, amidst the persecutions that raged in the early times,
the members of the church at Philadelphia had been summoned to such
a trial, and they had stood the trial firmly. It would seem from the
following verse, that the efforts which had been made to induce them to
renounce the name of Christ had been made by those who professed to be
Jews, though they evinced the spirit of Satan. If so, then the attempt
was probably to convince them that Jesus was not the Christ. This
attempt would be made in all places where there were Jews.

    9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which
    [156]say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I
    will make them to [157]come and worship before thy feet, and
    to know that I have loved thee.

9. _Behold, I will make._ Greek, “I give”――δίδωμι; that is, I will
arrange matters so that this shall occur. The word implies that he had
power to do this, and consequently proves that he has power over the
heart of man, and can secure such a result as he chooses. ¶ _Them of
the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews._ Who profess to be
Jews, but are really of the synagogue of Satan. See Notes on ch. ii. 9.
The meaning is, that, though they were of Jewish extraction, and
boasted much of being Jews, yet they were really under the influence
of Satan, and their assemblages deserved to be called his “synagogue.”
¶ _And are not, but do lie._ It is a false profession altogether. Comp.
Notes on 1 Jn. i. 6. ¶ _Behold, I will make them to come and worship
before thy feet._ The word rendered _worship_ here, means, properly,
_to fall prostrate_; and then to do homage, or to worship in the proper
sense, as this was commonly done by falling prostrate. See Notes on
Mat. ii. 2. So far as the _word_ is concerned, it may refer either to
spiritual homage, that is, the worship of God; or it may mean respect
as shown to superiors. If it is used here in the sense of divine
worship properly so called, it means that they would be constrained to
come and worship “_before_ them,” or in their very presence; if it is
used in the more general signification, it means that they would be
constrained to show them honour and respect. The latter is the probable
meaning; that is, that they would be constrained to acknowledge that
they were the children of God, or that God regarded them with his
favour. It does not mean necessarily that they would themselves be
converted to Christ, but that, as they had been accustomed to revile
and oppose those who were true Christians, they would be constrained
to come and render them the respect due to those who were sincerely
endeavouring to serve their Maker. The _truth_ taught here is, that
it is in the power of the Lord Jesus so to turn the hearts of all the
enemies of religion that they shall be brought to show respect to it;
so to incline the minds of all people that they shall honour the church,
or be at least outwardly its friends. Such homage the world shall yet
be constrained to pay to it. ¶ _And to know that I have loved thee._
This explains what he had just said, and shows that he means that the
enemies of his church will yet be constrained to acknowledge that it
enjoys the smiles of God, and that instead of being persecuted and
reviled, it should be respected and loved.

    10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, [158]I also
    will keep thee from the hour of tempta tion, which shall come
    upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

10. _Because thou hast kept the word of my patience._ My word
commanding or enjoining patience; that is, thou hast manifested the
patience which I require. They had shown this in the trials which they
had experienced; he promises now, that in return he will keep them in
the future trials that shall come upon the world. One of the highest
rewards of patience in one trial is the grace that God gives us to bear
another. The fact that we _have been_ patient and submissive may be
regarded as proof that he will give us grace that we _may be_ patient
and submissive in the trials that are to come. God does not leave those
who have shown that they will not leave him. ¶ _I also will keep thee._
That is, I will so keep you that you shall not sink under the trials
which will prove a severe temptation to many. This does not mean that
they would be actually kept from calamity of all kinds, but that they
would be kept from the _temptation of apostasy_ in calamity. He {95}
would give them grace to bear up under trials with a Christian spirit,
and in such a manner that their salvation should not be endangered.
¶ _From the hour of temptation._ The season; the time; the period
of temptation. You shall be so kept that that which will prove to be
a time of temptation to so many, shall not endanger your salvation.
Though others fall, you shall not; though you may be afflicted with
others, yet you shall have grace to sustain you. ¶ _Which shall come
upon all the world._ The phrase here used――“_all the world_”――may
either denote the whole world; or the whole Roman empire; or a large
district of country; or the land of Judæa. See Notes on Lu. ii. 1.
Here, perhaps, all that is implied is, that the trial would be very
_extensive_ or _general_――so much so as to embrace the _world_, as the
word was understood by those to whom the epistle was addressed. It need
not be supposed that the whole world literally was included in it, or
even all the Roman empire, but what was the world to them――the region
which they would embrace in that term. If there were some far-spreading
calamity in the country where they resided, it would probably be all
that would be fairly embraced in the meaning of the word. It is not
known to what trial the speaker refers. It may have been some form of
persecution, or it may have been some calamity by disease, earthquake,
or famine that was to occur. Tacitus (see Wetstein, _in loco_) mentions
an earthquake that sank twelve cities in Asia Minor, in one night,
by which, among others, Philadelphia was deeply affected; and it is
_possible_ that there may have been reference here to that overwhelming
calamity. But nothing can be determined with certainty in regard
to this. ¶ _To try them that dwell upon the earth._ To test their
character. It would rather seem from this that the affliction was some
form of persecution as adapted to test the fidelity of those who were
affected by it. The persecutions in the Roman empire would furnish
abundant occasions for such a trial.

    11 Behold, [159]I come [160]quickly: hold that fast which thou
    hast, that no man take thy crown.

11. _Behold, I come quickly._ That is, in the trials referred to.
Comp. Notes on ch. i. 1, 11, 16. ¶ _Hold that fast which thou hast._
That is, whatever of truth and piety you now possess. See Notes on
ver. 3. ¶ _That no man take thy crown._ The crown of life appointed for
all who are true believers. See Notes on 2 Ti. iv. 8. The truth which
is taught here is, that by negligence or unfaithfulness in duty we may
be deprived of the glory which we might have obtained if we had been
faithful to our God and Saviour. We need to be on our constant guard,
that, in a world of temptation, where the enemies of truth abound, we
may not be robbed of the crown that we might have worn for ever. Comp.
Notes on 2 Jn. 8.

    12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of
    my God; and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him
    the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, _which
    is_ [161]New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from
    my God: and _I will write upon him_ my new name.

12. _Him that overcometh._ See Notes on ch. ii. 7. ¶ _Will I make a
pillar in the temple of my God._ See the introductory remarks to this
epistle. The promised reward of faithfulness here is, that he who was
victorious would be honoured as if he were a pillar or column in the
temple of God. Such a pillar or column was partly for ornament, and
partly for support; and the idea here is, that in that temple he would
contribute to its beauty and the justness of its proportions, and would
at the same time be honoured as if he were a pillar which was necessary
for the support of the temple. It is not uncommon in the New Testament
to represent the church as a temple, and Christians as parts of it. See
1 Co. iii. 16, 17; vi. 19; 2 Co. vi. 16; 1 Pe. ii. 5. ¶ _And he shall
go no more out._ He shall be permanent as a part of that spiritual
temple. The idea of “going out” does not properly belong to a _pillar_;
but the speaker here has in his mind the _man_, though represented as a
column. The description of some parts would be applicable more directly
to a pillar; in others more properly to a man. Comp. Jn. vi. 37; x. 28,
29; 1 Jn. ii. 19, for an illustration of the sentiment here. The main
truth here is, that if we reach {96} heaven, our happiness will be
secure for ever. We shall have the most absolute certainty that the
welfare of the soul will no more be perilled; that we shall never be in
danger of falling into temptation; that no artful foe shall ever have
power to alienate our affections from God; that we shall never die.
Though we may change our place, and may roam from world to world till
we shall have surveyed all the wonders of creation, yet we shall never
“go out of the temple of God.” Comp. Notes on Jn. xiv. 2. When we reach
the heavenly world our conflicts will be over, our doubts at an end. As
soon as we cross the threshold we shall be greeted with the assurance,
“he shall go no more out for ever.” That is to be our eternal abode,
and whatever of joy, or felicity, or glory, that bright world can
furnish, is to be ours. Happy moment when, emerging from a world of
danger and of doubt, the soul shall settle down into the calmness and
peace of that state where there is the assurance of God himself that
that world of bliss is to be its eternal abode! ¶ _And I will write
upon him the name of my God._ Considered as a pillar or column in the
temple. The name of God would be conspicuously recorded on it to show
that he belonged to God. The allusion is to a public edifice, on the
columns of which the names of distinguished and honoured persons were
recorded; that is, where there is a public testimonial of the respect
in which one whose name was thus recorded was held. The honour thus
conferred on him “who should overcome” would be as great _as if_
the name of that God whom he served, and whose favour and friendship
he enjoyed, were inscribed on him in some conspicuous manner. The
_meaning_ is, that he would be known and recognized as belonging to God;
the God of the Redeemer himself――indicated by the phrase, “the name of
_my_ God.” ¶ _And the name of the city of my God._ That is, indicating
that he belongs to that city, or that the New Jerusalem is the city
of his habitation. The idea would seem to be, that in this world,
and in all worlds wherever he goes and wherever he abides, he will be
recognized as belonging to that holy city; as enjoying the rights and
immunities of such a citizen. ¶ Which is _New Jerusalem._ Jerusalem
was the place where the temple was reared, and where the worship of
God was celebrated. It thus came to be synonymous with the church――the
dwelling-place of God on earth. ¶ _Which cometh down out of heaven from
my God._ See this explained in the Notes on ch. xxi. 2, seq. Of course
this must be a figurative representation, but the idea is plain. It is,
(1) that the church is, in accordance with settled Scripture language,
represented as a city――the abode of God on earth. (2) That is, instead
of being built here, or having an earthly origin, it has its origin
in heaven. It is _as if_ it had been constructed there, and then sent
down to earth ready formed. The type, the form, the whole structure is
heavenly. It is a departure from all proper laws of interpretation to
explain this _literally_, as if a city should be actually let down from
heaven; and equally so to infer from this passage, and the others of
similar import in this book, that a city will be literally _reared_ for
the residence of the saints. If the passage proves anything on either
of these points, it is, that a great and splendid city, such as that
described in ch. xxi., will _literally come down from heaven_. But
who can believe that? Such an interpretation, however, is by no means
necessary. The comparison of the church with a beautiful city, and the
fact that it has its origin in heaven, is all that is fairly implied
in the passage. ¶ _And_ I will write upon him _my new name_. See Notes
on ch. ii. 17. The _reward_, therefore, promised here is, that he
who, by persevering fidelity, showed that he was a real friend of the
Saviour, would be honoured with a permanent abode in the holy city of
his habitation. In the church redeemed and triumphant he would have a
perpetual dwelling; and wherever he should be, there would be given him
sure pledges that he belonged to him, and was recognized as a citizen
of the heavenly world. To no higher honour could any man aspire; and
yet that is an honour to which the most humble and lowly may attain by
faith in the Son of God.

    13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith
    unto the churches.


The contents of the epistle to the church at Laodicea (ver. 14‒22)
are as follows: (1) The usual salutation to the angel of the church,
ver. 14. (2) The reference to the attributes of the speaker――the
one here referred to being that he was the “Amen,” “the faithful
{97} and true witness,” and “the beginning of the creation of God,”
ver. 14. (3) The claim that he knew all their works, ver. 15. (4) The
characteristic of the church: it was “lukewarm”――neither “cold nor hot,”
ver. 15. (5) The punishment threatened, that he would “spue them out
of his mouth,” ver. 16. (6) A solemn reproof of their self-confidence,
of their ignorance of themselves, and of their pride, when they were in
fact poor, and blind, and naked; and a solemn counsel to them to apply
to him for those things which would make them truly rich――which would
cover up the shame of their nakedness, and which would give them clear
spiritual vision, ver. 17, 18. (7) A command to repent, in view of the
fact that he rebukes and chastens those whom he loves. (8) An assurance
that an opportunity is still offered for repentance, represented by his
standing at the door and praying for admittance, ver. 20. (9) A promise
to him that should be victorious――in this case, that he should sit down
with him on his throne, ver. 21; and (10) the usual call on those who
had ears to hear, to attend to what the Spirit said to the churches.

Laodicea was situated in the southern part of Phrygia, near the
junction of the small rivers Asopus and Carpus, on a plain washed
at its edges by each. It was about forty miles from Ephesus, and not
far from Colosse and Hierapolis. In the time of Strabo it was a large
city; but the frequency of earthquakes, to which this district has
been always liable, demolished, long since, a large part of the city,
and destroyed many of the inhabitants, and the place was abandoned,
and now lies in ruins. It is now a deserted place, called by the
Turks Eski-hissar, or Old Castle. From its ruins, which are numerous,
consisting of the remains of temples, theatres, &c., it seems to have
been situated on six or seven hills, taking up a large space of ground.
The whole rising ground on which the city stood is one vast tumulus
of ruins, abandoned entirely to the owl and the fox. Col. Leake says,
“There are few ancient sites more likely than Laodicea to preserve
many curious remains of antiquity beneath the surface of the soil;
its opulence, and the earthquakes to which it was subject, rendering
it probable that valuable works of art were there buried beneath the
ruins of the public and private edifices.” The neighbouring village
contains some fifty or sixty people, among whom, on a visit of a recent
traveller there, there were but two nominal Christians. “The name
of Christianity,” says Emerson (p. 101), “is forgotten, and the only
sounds that disturb the silence of its desertion are the tones of the
Muezzin, whose voice from the distant village (Eski-hissar) proclaims
the ascendency of Mahomet. Laodicea is even more solitary than Ephesus;
for the latter has the prospect of the rolling sea or of a whitening
sail to enliven its decay; while the former sits in widowed loneliness,
its walls are grass-grown, its temples desolate, its very name has
perished.” A thunderstorm gathered on the mountains at a distance while
this traveller was examining the ruins of Laodicea. He returned to
Eski-hissar, and waited until the fury of the storm had abated, but set
off on his journey again before it had entirely ceased to blow and to
rain. “We preferred,” says he, “hastening on, to a farther delay in
that melancholy spot, where everything whispered desolation, and where
the very wind that swept impetuously through the valley sounded like
the fiendish laugh of time exulting over the destruction of man and his
proudest monuments.” See Professor Stuart, vol. ii. pp. 44, 45; Kitto’s
_Encyclo._; Smith’s _Journey to the Seven Churches_, 1671; Leake,
Arundell, Hartley, MacFarlane, Pococke, &c. The engraving in this vol.
will furnish a representation of the ruins of Laodicea.

    14 And unto the angel of the church [162]of the Laodiceans
    write; These things saith the [163]Amen, the faithful and true
    witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

14. _And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write._ See
Notes on ch. i. 20. ¶ _These things saith the Amen._ Referring, as is
the case in every epistle, to some attribute of the speaker adapted
to impress their minds, or to give peculiar force to what he was
about to say to that particular church. Laodicea was characterized by
lukewarmness, and the reference to the fact that he who was about to
address them was the {98} “Amen”――that is, was characterized by the
simple earnestness and sincerity denoted by that word――was eminently
fitted to make an impression on the minds of such a people. The word
_Amen_ means _true_, _certain_, _faithful_; and, as used here, it means
that he to whom it is applied is eminently true and faithful. What
he affirms is true; what he promises or threatens is certain. Himself
characterized by sincerity and truth (Notes on 2 Co. i. 20), he can
look with approbation only on the same thing in others: and hence he
looks with displeasure on the lukewarmness which, from its very nature,
always approximates insincerity. This was an attribute, therefore,
every way appropriate to be referred to in addressing a lukewarm church.
¶ _The faithful and true witness._ This is presenting the idea implied
in the word _Amen_ in a more complete form, but substantially the same
thing is referred to. He is a witness for God and his truth, and he
can approve of nothing which the God of truth would not approve. See
Notes on ch. i. 5. ¶ _The beginning of the creation of God._ This
expression is a very important one in regard to the rank and dignity
of the Saviour, and, like all similar expressions respecting him,
its meaning has been much controverted. Comp. Notes on Col. i. 15.
The phrase here used is susceptible, properly, of only one of the
following significations, viz.: either (a) that he was the beginning
of the creation in the sense that he caused the universe to begin to
exist――that is, that he was the author of all things; or (b) that he
was the first created being; or (c) that he holds the primacy over all,
and is at the head of the universe. It is not necessary to examine any
other proposed interpretations, for the only other senses supposed to
be conveyed by the words, that he is the beginning of the creation in
the sense that he rose from the dead as the first-fruits of them that
sleep, or that he is the head of the _spiritual_ creation of God, are
so foreign to the natural meaning of the words as to need no special
refutation. As to the three significations suggested above, it may be
observed, that the _first_ one――that he is the _author_ of the creation,
and in that sense the _beginning_――though expressing a scriptural
doctrine (Jn. i. 3; Ep. iii. 9; Col. i. 16), is not in accordance
with the proper meaning of the word here used――ἀρχὴ. The word properly
refers to the _commencement_ of a thing, not its _authorship_, and
denotes properly primacy in time, and primacy in rank, but not primacy
in the sense of causing anything to exist. The two ideas which run
through the word as it is used in the New Testament are those just
suggested. For the former――primacy in regard to time――that is properly
the commencement of a thing, see the following passages where the word
occurs: Mat. xix. 4, 8; xxiv. 8, 21; Mar. i. 1; x. 6; xiii. 8, 19; Lu.
i. 2; Jn. i. 1, 2; ii. 11; vi. 64; viii. 25, 44; xv. 27; xvi. 4; Ac.
xi. 15; 1 Jn. i. 1; ii. 7, 13, 14, 24; iii. 8, 11; 2 Jn. 5, 6. For the
latter signification, primacy of rank or authority, see the following
places: Lu. xii. 11; xx. 20; Ro. viii. 38; 1 Co. xv. 24; Ep. i. 21;
iii. 10; vi. 12; Col. i. 16, 18; ii. 10, 15; Tit. iii. 1. The word is
not, therefore, found in the sense of _authorship_, as denoting that
one is the _beginning_ of anything in the sense that he caused it to
have an existence. As to the _second_ of the significations suggested,
that it means that he was the _first created being_, it may be observed
(a) that this is not a _necessary_ signification of the phrase, since
no one can show that this is the _only_ proper meaning which could
be given to the words, and therefore the phrase cannot be adduced to
prove that he is himself a created being. If it _were_ demonstrated
from other sources that Christ was, in fact, a created being, and the
first that God had made, it cannot be denied that this language would
appropriately _express_ that fact. But it cannot be made out from the
mere use of the language here; and as the language is susceptible of
other interpretations, it cannot be employed to prove that Christ is
a created being. (b) Such an interpretation would be at variance with
all those passages which speak of him as uncreated and eternal; which
ascribe Divine attributes to him; which speak of him as himself the
Creator of all things. Comp. Jn. i. 1‒3; Col. i. 16; He. i. 2, 6, 8,
10‒12. The _third_ signification, therefore, remains, that he is “the
beginning of the creation of God,” in the sense that he is the head
or prince of the creation; that is, that he presides over it so far
as the purposes of redemption are to be accomplished, and so far as
is necessary for those purposes. This is (1) in accordance with the
meaning of the word, Lu. xii. 11; xx. 20, _et al. ut supra_; and (2) in
accordance with the uniform {99} statements respecting the Redeemer,
that “all power is given unto him in heaven and in earth” (Mat. xxviii.
18); that God has “given him power over all flesh” (Jn. xvii. 2); that
all things are “put under his feet” (He. ii. 8; 1 Co. xv. 27); that he
is exalted over all things, Ep. i. 20‒22. Having this rank, it was
proper that he should speak with authority to the church at Laodicea.

    15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot:
    [164]I would thou wert cold or hot.

15. _I know thy works._ Notes on ch. ii. 2. ¶ _That thou art neither
cold nor hot._ The word _cold_ here would seem to denote the state
where there was no pretension to religion; where everything was utterly
lifeless and dead. The language is obviously figurative, but it is
such as is often employed, when we speak of one as being _cold_ towards
another, as having a cold or icy heart, &c. The word _hot_ would denote,
of course, the opposite――warm and zealous in their love and service.
The very words that we are constrained to use when speaking on this
subject――such words as _ardent_ (i.e. _hot_ or _burning_); _fervid_
(i.e. _very hot_, _burning_, _boiling_)――show how necessary it is
to use such words, and how common it is. The state indicated here,
therefore, would be that in which there was a profession of religion,
but no warm-hearted piety; in which there was not, on the one hand,
open and honest opposition to him, and, on the other, such warm-hearted
and honest love as he had a right to look for among his professed
friends; in which there was a profession of that religion which _ought_
to warm the heart with love, and fill the soul with zeal in the cause
of the Redeemer; but where the only result, in fact, was deadness and
indifference to him and his cause. Among those who made no profession
he had reason to expect nothing but coldness; among those who made a
profession he had a right to expect the glow of a warm affection; but
he found nothing but indifference. ¶ _I would thou wert cold or hot._
That is, I would prefer _either_ of those states to that which now
exists. Anything better than this condition, where love is professed,
but where it does not exist; where vows have been assumed which are
not fulfilled. _Why_ he would prefer that they should be “hot” is
clear enough; but why would he prefer a state of utter coldness――a
state where there was no profession of real love? To this question the
following answers may be given: (1) Such a state of open and professed
coldness or indifference is more _honest_. There is no disguise; no
concealment; no pretence. We know where one in this state “may be
found;” we know with whom we are dealing; we know what to expect. Sad
as the state is, it is at least honest; and we are so made that we all
prefer such a character to one where professions are made which are
never to be realized――to a state of insincerity and hypocrisy. (2) Such
a state is more _honourable_. It is a more elevated condition of mind,
and marks a higher character. Of a man who is false to his engagements,
who makes professions and promises never to be realized, we can make
nothing. There is essential meanness in such a character, and there is
nothing in it which we can respect. But in the character of the man who
is openly and avowedly opposed to anything; who takes his stand, and is
earnest and zealous in his course, though it be wrong, there are traits
which may be, under a better direction, elements of true greatness and
magnanimity. In the character of Saul of Tarsus there were always the
elements of true greatness; in that of Judas Iscariot there were never.
The one was capable of becoming one of the noblest men that has ever
lived on the earth; the other, even under the personal teaching of
the Redeemer for years, was nothing but a traitor――a man of essential
meanness. (3) There is more hope of conversion and salvation in such
a case. There could always have been a ground of hope that Saul would
be converted and saved, even when “breathing out threatening and
slaughter;” of Judas, when numbered among the professed disciples of
the Saviour, there was no hope. The most hopeless of all persons, in
regard to salvation, are those who are members of the church without
any true religion; who have made a profession without any evidence
of personal piety; who are content with a name to live. This is so,
because (a) the essential character of {100} anyone who will allow
himself to _do this_ is eminently unfavourable to true religion. There
is a lack of that thorough honesty and sincerity which is so necessary
for true conversion to God. He who is content to profess to be what
he really is not, is not a man on whom the truths of Christianity are
likely to make an impression. (b) Such a man never applies the truth
to himself. Truth that is addressed to impenitent sinners he does
not apply to himself, of course; for he does not rank himself in that
class of persons. Truth addressed to hypocrites he _will_ not apply to
himself; for no one, however insincere and hollow he may be, chooses
to act on the presumption that he is himself a hypocrite, or so as
to leave others to suppose that he regards himself as such. The means
of grace adapted to save a _sinner_, as such, he will not use; for
he is in the church, and chooses to regard himself as safe. Efforts
made to reclaim him he will resist; for he will regard it as proof of
a meddlesome spirit, and an uncharitable judging in others, if they
consider him to be anything different from what he professes to be.
What right have they to go _back_ of his profession, and assume that he
is insincere? As a consequence, there are probably fewer persons by far
converted of those who come into the church without any religion, than
of any other class of persons of similar number; and the most hopeless
of all conditions, in respect to conversion and salvation, is when
one enters the church deceived. (c) It may be presumed that, for these
reasons, God himself will make less direct effort to convert and save
such persons. As there are fewer appeals that can be brought to bear
on them; as there is less in their character that is noble, and that
can be depended on in promoting the salvation of a soul; and as there
is special guilt in hypocrisy, it may be presumed that God will more
frequently leave such persons to their chosen course, than he will
those who make no professions of religion. Comp. Ps. cix. 17, 18;
Je. vii. 16; xi. 14; xiv. 11; Is. i. 15; Ho. iv. 17.

    16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,
    I will spue thee out of my mouth.

16. _So then because thou art lukewarm――I will spue thee out of my
mouth._ Referring, perhaps, to the well-known fact that tepid water
tends to produce sickness at the stomach, and an inclination to
vomit. The image is intensely strong, and denotes deep disgust and
loathing at the indifference which prevailed in the church at Laodicea.
The idea is, that they would be utterly rejected and cast off as a
church――a threatening of which there has been an abundant fulfilment
in subsequent times. It may be remarked, also, that what was threatened
to that church may be expected to occur to all churches, if they are in
the same condition; and that all professing Christians, and Christian
churches, that are lukewarm, have special reason to dread the
indignation of the Saviour.

    17 Because thou sayest, [165]I am rich, and increased with
    goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art
    wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

17. _Because thou sayest, I am rich._ So far as the _language_ here is
concerned, this may refer either to riches literally, or to spiritual
riches; that is, to a boast of having religion enough. Professor Stuart
supposes that it refers to the former, and so do Wetstein, Vitringa,
and others. Doddridge, Rosenmüller, and others, understand it in the
latter sense. There is no doubt that there was much wealth in Laodicea,
and that, as a people, they prided themselves on their riches. See the
authorities in Wetstein on Col. ii. 1, and Vitringa, p. 160. It is not
easy to determine _which_ is the true sense; but may it not have been
that there was an allusion to _both_, and that, _in every respect_,
they boasted that they had enough? May it not have been so much the
characteristic of that people to boast of their wealth, that they
carried the spirit into everything, and manifested it even in regard to
religion? Is it not true that they who have much of this world’s goods,
when they make a profession of religion, are very apt to suppose that
they are well off in everything, and to feel self-complacent and happy?
And is not the possession of much wealth by an individual Christian, or
a Christian church, likely to produce just the lukewarmness which it is
said existed in the church at Laodicea? If we thus understand it, {101}
there will be an accordance with the well-known fact that Laodicea
was distinguished for its riches, and, at the same time, with another
fact, so common as to be almost universal, that the possession of
great wealth tends to make a professed Christian self-complacent and
satisfied in every respect; to make him feel that, although he may not
have much _religion_, yet he is on the whole well off; and to produce,
in religion, a state of just such lukewarmness as the Saviour here says
was loathsome and odious. ¶ _And increased with goods._ πεπλούτηκα――“I
am enriched.” This is only a more emphatic and intensive way of saying
the same thing. It has no reference to the _kind_ of riches referred
to, but merely denotes the confident manner in which they affirmed
that they were rich. ¶ _And have need of nothing._ Still an emphatic
and intensive way of saying that they were rich. In all respects
their wants were satisfied; they had enough of everything. They
felt, therefore, no stimulus to effort; they sat down in contentment,
self-complacency, and indifference. It is almost unavoidable that those
who are rich in this world’s goods should feel that they have need of
_nothing_. There is no more common illusion among men than the feeling
that if one has wealth he has everything; that there is no want of his
nature which cannot be satisfied with that; and that he may now sit
down in contentment and ease. Hence the almost universal desire _to be_
rich; hence the common feeling among those who _are_ rich that there is
no occasion for solicitude or care for anything else. Comp. Lu. xii. 19.
¶ _And knowest not._ There is no just impression in regard to the real
poverty and wretchedness of your condition. ¶ _That thou art wretched._
The word _wretched_ we now use to denote the actual consciousness of
being miserable, as applicable to one who is sunk into deep distress
or affliction. The word here, however, refers rather to the condition
itself than to the consciousness of that condition, for it is said
that they did not _know_ it. Their state was, in fact, a miserable
state, and was fitted to produce actual distress if they had had any
just sense of it, though they thought that it was otherwise. ¶ _And
miserable._ This word has, with us now, a similar signification; but
the term here used――ἐλεεινὸς――rather means a _pitiable_ state than
one actually _felt_ to be so. The meaning is, that their condition was
one that was fitted to excite _pity_ or _compassion_; not that they
were actually miserable. Comp. Notes on 1 Co. xv. 19. ¶ _And poor._
Notwithstanding all their boast of having enough. They really had not
that which was necessary to meet the actual wants of their nature, and,
therefore, they were poor. Their worldly property could not meet the
wants of their souls; and, with all their pretensions to piety, they
had not religion enough to meet the necessities of their nature when
calamities should come, or when death should approach; and they were,
therefore, in the strictest sense of the term, _poor_. ¶ _And blind._
That is, in a spiritual respect. They did not see the reality of their
condition; they had no just views of themselves, of the character
of God, of the way of salvation. This seems to be said in connection
with the boast which they made in their own minds――that they had
_everything_; that they wanted nothing. One of the great blessings of
life is clearness of vision, and their boast that they had everything
must have included that; but the speaker here says that they lacked
that indispensable thing to completeness of character and to full
enjoyment. With all their boasting, they were actually _blind_,――and
how could one who was in that state say that he “had need of nothing?”
¶ _And naked._ Of course, _spiritually_. Salvation is often represented
as a garment (Mat. xxii. 11, 12; Re. vi. 11; vii. 9, 13, 14); and the
declaration here is equivalent to saying that they had no religion.
They had nothing to cover the nakedness of the soul, and in respect to
the real wants of their nature they were like one who had no clothing
in reference to cold, and heat, and storms, and to the shame of
nakedness. How could such an one be regarded as rich? We may learn from
this instructive verse, (1) That men may think themselves to be rich,
and yet, in fact, be miserably poor. They may have the wealth of this
world in abundance, and yet have nothing that really will meet their
wants in disappointment, bereavement, sickness, death; the wants of
their never-dying soul; their wants in eternity. What had the “rich
fool,” as he is commonly termed, in the parable, when he came to die?
Lu. xii. 16, {102} seq. What had “Dives,” as he is commonly termed, to
meet the wants of his nature when he went down to hell? Lu. xvi. 19,
seq. (2) Men may have much property, and think that they have all they
want, and yet be _wretched_. In the sense that their _condition_ is a
wretched condition, this is always true; and in the sense that they are
consciously wretched, this may be, and often is, true also. (3) Men may
have great property, and yet be _miserable_. This is true in the sense
that their condition is a _pitiable_ one, and in the sense that they
are actually _unhappy_. There is no more pitiable _condition_ than that
where one has great property, and is self-complacent and proud, and who
has nevertheless no God, no Saviour, no hope of heaven, and who perhaps
that very day may “lift up his eyes in hell, being in torments;” and
it need not be added that there is no greater actual _misery_ in this
world than that which sometimes finds its way into the palaces of
the rich. He greatly errs who thinks that misery is confined to the
cottages of the poor. (4) Men may be rich, and think they have all
that they want, and yet be _blind_ to their condition. They really
have no distinct vision of anything. They have no just views of God,
of themselves, of their duty, of this world, or of the next. In most
important respects they are in a worse condition than the inmates
of an asylum for the blind, for they may have clear views of God and
of heaven. Mental darkness is a greater calamity than the loss of
natural vision; and there is many an one who is surrounded by all
that affluence can give, who never yet had one correct view of his own
character, of his God, or of the reality of his condition, and whose
condition might have been far better if he had actually been born blind.
(5) There may be gorgeous robes of adorning, and yet real nakedness.
With all the decorations that wealth can impart, there may be a
nakedness of the soul as real as that of the body would be if, without
a rag to cover it, it were exposed to cold, and storm, and shame. The
soul destitute of the robes of salvation, is in a worse condition than
the body without raiment; for how can it bear the storms of wrath that
shall beat upon it for ever, and the shame of its exposure in the last
dread day?

    18 I counsel thee to [166]buy of me gold tried in the fire,
    that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest
    be clothed, and _that_ [167]the shame of thy nakedness do not
    appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest

18. _I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire._ Pure gold;
such as has been subjected to the action of heat to purify it from
dross. See Notes on 1 Pe. i. 7. Gold here is emblematic of religion――as
being the most precious of the metals, and the most valued by men.
They professed to be rich, but were not; and he counsels them to obtain
from him that which would make them truly rich. ¶ _That thou mayest be
rich._ In the true and proper sense of the word. With true religion;
with the favour and friendship of the Redeemer, they would have all
that they really needed, and would never be in want. ¶ _And white
raiment._ The emblem of purity and salvation. See Notes on ver. 4. This
is said in reference to the fact (ver. 17) that they were then _naked_.
¶ _That thou mayest be clothed._ With the garments of salvation. This
refers, also, to true religion, meaning that that which the Redeemer
furnishes will answer the same purpose in respect to the soul which
clothing does in reference to the body. Of course it cannot be
understood literally, nor should the language be pressed too closely,
as if there was too strict a resemblance. ¶ _And that the shame of thy
nakedness do not appear._ We clothe the body as well for decency as for
protection against cold, and storm, and heat. The soul is to be clothed
that the “shame” of its sinfulness may not be exhibited, and that it
may not be offensive and repellant in the sight. ¶ _And anoint thine
eyes with eye- salve._ In allusion to the fact that they were _blind_,
ver. 17. The word _eye-salve_――κολλούριον――occurs nowhere else in
the New Testament. It is a diminutive from κολλύρα――_collyra_――a
coarse bread or cake, and means properly a small cake or cracknel.
It is applied to eye-salve as resembling such a cake, and refers to a
medicament prepared for sore or weak eyes. It was compounded of various
substances supposed to have a healing {103} quality. See Wetstein, _in
loco_. The reference here is to a spiritual healing――meaning that, in
respect to their spiritual vision, what he would furnish would produce
the same effect as the collyrium or eye-salve would in diseased eyes.
The idea is, that the grace of the gospel enables men who were before
blind to see clearly the character of God, the beauty of the way of
salvation, the loveliness of the person and work of Christ, &c. See
Notes on Ep. i. 18.

    19 As[168] many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous
    therefore, and repent.

19. _As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten._ Of course, only on the
supposition that they deserve it. The meaning is, that it is a proof
of love on his part, if his professed friends go astray, to recall them
by admonitions and by trials. So a father calls back his children who
are disobedient; and there is no higher proof of his love than when,
with great pain to himself, he administers such chastisement as shall
save his child. See the sentiment here expressed fully explained in
the Notes on He. xii. 6, seq. The language is taken from Pr. iii. 12.
¶ _Be zealous, therefore, and repent._ Be earnest, strenuous, ardent
in your purpose to exercise true repentance, and to turn from the error
of your ways. Lose no time; spare no labour, that you may obtain such
a state of mind that it shall not be necessary to bring upon you the
severe discipline which always comes on those who continue lukewarm in
religion. The _truth_ taught here is, that when the professed followers
of Christ have become lukewarm in his service, they should lose no time
in returning to him, and seeking his favour again. As sure as he has
any true love for them, if this is not done he will bring upon them
some heavy calamity, alike to rebuke them for their errors, and to
recover them to himself.

    20 Behold, I stand at the door, and [169]knock: [170]if any
    man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him,
    and will sup with him, and he with me.

20. _Behold, I stand at the door, and knock._ Intimating that, though
they had erred, the way of repentance and hope was not closed against
them. He was still willing to be gracious, though their conduct had
been such as to be loathsome, ver. 16. To see the real force of this
language, we must remember how disgusting and offensive their conduct
had been to him. And yet he was willing, notwithstanding this, to
receive them to his favour; nay more, he stood and pled with them
that he might be received with the hospitality that would be shown to
a friend or stranger. The _language_ here is so plain that it scarcely
needs explanation. It is taken from an act when we approach a dwelling,
and, by a well-understood sign――_knocking_――announce our presence, and
ask for admission. The act of _knocking_ implies two things: (a) that
we desire admittance; and (b) that we recognize the right of him who
dwells in the house to open the door to us or not, as he shall please.
We would not obtrude upon him; we would not force his door; and if,
after we are sure that we are heard, we are not admitted, we turn
quietly away. Both of these things are implied here by the language
used by the Saviour when he approaches man as represented under the
image of knocking at the door: that he _desires_ to be admitted to our
friendship; and that he recognizes our _freedom_ in the matter. He does
not obtrude himself upon us, nor does he employ force to find admission
to the heart. If admitted, he comes and dwells with us; if rejected,
he turns quietly away――perhaps to return and knock again, perhaps
never to come back. The language here used, also, may be understood as
applicable to all persons, and to all the methods by which the Saviour
seeks to come into the heart of a sinner. It would properly refer to
anything which would announce his presence:――his word; his Spirit;
the solemn events of his providence; the invitations of his gospel.
In these and in other methods he comes to man; and the manner in which
these invitations ought to be estimated would be seen by supposing that
he came to us personally and solicited our friendship, and proposed
to be our Redeemer. It may be added here, that this expression proves
that the attempt at reconciliation begins with the Saviour. It is not
that the sinner goes out to meet him, or to seek for him; it is that
the Saviour _presents himself_ at the door of the heart, as if he were
desirous {104} to enjoy the friendship of man. This is in accordance
with the uniform language of the New Testament, that “God so loved the
world as to _give_ his only-begotten Son;” that “Christ came to _seek_
and to save the lost;” that the Saviour says, “Come unto me, all ye
that labour and are heavy laden,” &c. Salvation, in the Scriptures, is
never represented as originated by man. ¶ _If any man hear my voice._
Perhaps referring to a custom then prevailing, that he who knocked
spake, in order to let it be known who it was. This might be demanded
in the night (Lu. xi. 5), or when there was apprehension of danger,
and it may have been the custom when John wrote. The language here,
in accordance with the uniform usage in the Scriptures (comp. Is.
lv. 1; Jn. vii. 37; Re. xxii. 17), is universal, and proves that the
invitations of the gospel are made, and are _to be_ made, not to a part
only, but fully and freely to all men; for, although this originally
had reference to the members of the church in Laodicea, yet the
language chosen seems to have been of design so universal (ἐάν τις) as
to be applicable to every human being; and anyone, of any age and in
any land, would be authorized to apply this to himself, and, under the
protection of this invitation, to come to the Saviour, and to plead
this promise as one that fairly included himself. It may be observed
farther, that this also recognizes the freedom of man. It is submitted
to him whether he will hear the voice of the Redeemer or not; and
whether he will open the door and admit him or not. He speaks loud
enough, and distinctly enough, to be heard, but he does not force the
door if it is not voluntarily opened. ¶ _And open the door._ As one
would when a stranger or friend stood and knocked. The meaning here is
simply, if anyone will _admit_ me; that is, receive me as a friend. The
act of receiving him is as voluntary on our part as it is when we rise
and open the door to one who knocks. It may be added, (1) that this is
an _easy_ thing. Nothing is more easy than to open the door when one
knocks; and so everywhere in the Scriptures it is represented as an
easy thing, if the heart is willing, to secure the salvation of the
soul. (2) This is a _reasonable_ thing. We invite him who knocks at the
door to come in. We always assume, unless there is reason to suspect
the contrary, that he applies for peaceful and friendly purposes. We
deem it the height of rudeness to let one stand and knock long; or
to let him go away with no friendly invitation to enter our dwelling.
Yet how different does the sinner treat the Saviour! How long does he
suffer him to knock at the door of his heart, with no invitation to
enter――no act of common civility such as that with which he would greet
even a stranger! And with how much coolness and indifference does he
see him turn away――perhaps to come back no more, and with no desire
that he ever should return! ¶ _I will come in to him, and will sup with
him, and he with me._ This is an image denoting intimacy and friendship.
Supper, with the ancients, was the principal social meal; and the idea
here is, that between the Saviour and those who would receive him there
would be the intimacy which subsists between those who sit down to a
friendly meal together. In all countries and times, to eat together,
to break bread together, has been the symbol of friendship, and this
the Saviour promises here. The _truths_, then, which are taught in this
verse, are, (1) that the invitation of the gospel is made to all――“if
_any_ man hear my voice;” (2) that the movement towards reconciliation
and friendship is originated by the Saviour――“behold, I stand at
the door and knock;” (3) that there is a recognition of our own free
agency in religion――“if any man will hear my voice, and open the door;”
(4) the _ease_ of the terms of salvation, represented by “hearing
his voice,” and “opening the door;” and (5) the blessedness of thus
admitting him, arising from his friendship――“I will sup with him, and
he with me.” What friend can man have who would confer so many benefits
on him as the Lord Jesus Christ? Who is there that he should so gladly
welcome to his bosom?

    21 To him that [171]overcometh will I grant to [172]sit with
    me in my throne, even as [173]I also overcame, and am set down
    with my Father in his throne.

21. _To him that overcometh._ See Notes on ch. ii. 7. ¶ _Will I grant
to sit with me in my throne._ That is, {105} they will share his
honours and his triumphs. See Notes on ch. ii. 26, 27; comp. Notes on
Ro. viii. 17. ¶ _Even as I also overcame._ As I gained a victory over
the world, and over the power of the tempter. As the reward of this, he
is exalted to the throne of the universe (Phi. ii. 6‒11), and in these
honours, achieved by their great and glorious Head, all the redeemed
will share. ¶ _And am set down with my Father in his throne._ Comp.
Notes on Phi. ii. 6‒11. That is, he has dominion over the universe.
All things are put under his feet, and in the strictest unison and
with perfect harmony he is united with the Father in administering
the affairs of all worlds. The dominion of the Father is that of the
Son――that of the Son is that of the Father; for they are one. See Notes
on Jn. v. 19; comp. Notes on Ep. i. 20‒22; 1 Co. xv. 24‒28.

    22 He[174] that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit
    saith unto the churches.

22. _He that hath an ear_, &c. See Notes on ch. ii. 7.

This closes the epistolary part of this book, and the “visions”
properly commence with the next chapter. Two remarks may be made
in the conclusion of this exposition. (1) The first relates to the
truthfulness of the predictions in these epistles. As an illustration
of that truthfulness, and of the present correspondence of the
condition of those churches with what the Saviour said to John they
would be, the following striking passage may be introduced from
Mr. Gibbon. It occurs in his description of the conquests of the Turks
(_Decline and Fall_, iv. 260, 261). “Two Turkish chieftains, Sarukhan
and Aidin left their names to their conquests, and their conquests
to their posterity. The captivity or ruin of the _seven_ churches
of Asia was consummated; and the barbarous lords of Ionia and Lydia
still trample on the monuments of classic and Christian antiquity.
In the loss of Ephesus, the Christians deplored the fall of the first
angel, the extinction of the first candlestick of the Revelations: the
desolation is complete; and the temple of Diana, or the church of Mary,
will equally elude the search of the curious traveller. The circus
and three stately theatres of Laodicea are now peopled with wolves and
foxes; Sardis is reduced to a miserable village; the God of Mahomet,
without a rival or a son, is invoked in the mosques of Thyatira and
Pergamos; and the populousness of Smyrna is supported by the foreign
trade of Franks and Armenians. Philadelphia alone has been saved by
prophecy or courage. At a distance from the sea, forgotten by the
emperors, encompassed on all sides by the Turks, her valiant citizens
defended their religion and freedom above fourscore years, and at
length capitulated with the proudest of the Ottomans. Among the Greek
colonies and churches of Asia, Philadelphia is still erect, a column
in a scene of ruins; a pleasing example that the paths of honour and
safety may sometimes be the same.”

(2) The second remark relates to the applicability of these important
truths to us. There is perhaps no part of the New Testament more
searching than these brief epistles to the seven churches; and though
those to whom they were addressed have long since passed away, and the
churches have long since become extinct; though darkness, error, and
desolation have come over the places where these churches once stood,
yet the principles laid down in these epistles still live, and they
are full of admonition to Christians in all ages and all lands. It is
a consideration of as much importance to us as it was to these churches,
that the Saviour now knows our works; that he sees in the church, and
in any individual, all that there is to commend and all that there is
to reprove; that he has power to reward or punish now as he had then;
that the same rules in apportioning rewards and punishments will still
be acted on; that he who overcomes the temptations of the world will
find an appropriate reward; that those who live in sin must meet with
the proper recompense, and that those who are lukewarm in his service
will be spurned with unutterable loathing. His rebukes are awful;
but his promises are full of tenderness and kindness. While they who
have embraced error, and they who are living in sin, have occasion to
tremble before him, they who are endeavouring to perform their duty
may find in these epistles enough to cheer their hearts, and to animate
them with the hope of final victory, and of the most ample and glorious

  {106}                       CHAPTER IV.

                       ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER.

This chapter properly commences the series of visions respecting
future events, and introduces those remarkable symbolical descriptions
which were designed to cheer the hearts of those to whom the book was
first sent, in their trials, and the hearts of all believers in all
ages, with the assurance of the final triumph of the gospel. See the

In regard to the _nature_ of these visions, or the state of mind of
the writer, there have been different opinions. Some have supposed that
all that is described was made only to pass before the mind, with no
visible representation; others, that there were visible representations
so made to him that he could copy them; others, that all that is said
or seen was only the production of the author’s imagination. The latter
is the view principally entertained by German writers on the book.
All that would seem to be apparent on the face of the book――and that
is all that we can judge by――is, that the following things occurred:
(1) The writer was in a devout frame of mind――a state of holy
contemplation――when the scenes were represented to him, ch. i. 10.

(2) The representations were supernatural; that is, they were something
which was disclosed to him, in that state of mind, beyond any natural
reach of his faculties. (3) These things were so made to pass before
him that they had the aspect of reality, and he could copy and describe
them as real. It is not necessary to suppose that there was any
representation to the bodily eye; but they had, to his mind, such a
reality that he could describe them as pictures or symbols――and his
office was limited to that. He does not attempt to _explain_ them, nor
does he intimate that he understood them; but his office pertains to
an accurate _record_――a fair transcript――of what passed before his
mind. For anything that appears, he may have been as ignorant of their
signification as any of his readers, and may have subsequently studied
them with the same kind of attention which we now give to them (comp.
Notes on 1 Pe. i. 11, 12), and may have, perhaps, remained ignorant of
their signification to the day of his death. It is no more necessary to
suppose that he understood all that was implied in these symbols, than
it is that one who can describe a beautiful landscape understands all
the laws of the plants and flowers in the landscape; or, that one who
copies all the designs and devices of armorial bearings in heraldry,
should understand all that is meant by the symbols that are used; or,
that one who should copy the cuneiform inscriptions of Persepolis,
or the hieroglyphics of Thebes, should understand the meaning of the
symbols. All that is demanded or expected, in such a case, is, that the
_copy_ should be accurately made; and, _when_ made, this copy may be as
much an object of study to him who made it as to anyone else. (4) Yet
there was a sense in which these symbols were _real_; that is, they
were a real and proper delineation of future events. They were not
the mere workings of the imagination. He who saw them in vision though
there may have been no representation to the eye, had before him what
was a real and appropriate representation of coming events. If not, the
visions are as worthless as dreams are.

The visions open (ch. iv.) with a _Theophany_, or a representation of
God. John is permitted to look into heaven, and to have a view of the
throne of God, and of the worship celebrated there. A _door_ (θύρα) or
opening is made into heaven, so that he, as it were, looks _through_
the concave above, and sees what is beyond. He sees the throne of God,
and him who sits on the throne, and the worshippers there; he sees the
lightnings play around the throne, and hears the thunder’s roar; he
sees the rainbow that encompasses the throne, and hears the songs of
the worshippers. In reference to this vision, at the commencement of
the series of symbols which he was about to describe, and the _reason_
why this was vouchsafed to him, the following remarks may be suggested:
(1) There is, in some respects, a striking resemblance between this and
the visions of Isaiah (ch. vi.) and Ezekiel (ch. i.). As those prophets,
when about to enter on their office, were solemnly inaugurated by being
permitted to have a vision of the Almighty, so John was inaugurated
to the office of making known future things――the last prophet of
the world――by a similar vision. We shall see, indeed, that the
representation made to John was not precisely the same as that which
was made to Isaiah or that which was {107} made to Ezekiel; but the
most striking symbols are retained, and that of John is as much adapted
to impress the mind as either of the others. Each of them describes the
throne, and the attending circumstances of sublimity and majesty; each
of them speaks of one on the throne, but neither of them has attempted
any description of the Almighty. There is no delineation of an image,
or a figure representing God, but everything respecting him is veiled
in such obscurity as to fill the mind with awe. (2) The representation
is such as to produce deep solemnity on the mind of the writer and
the reader. Nothing could have been better adapted to prepare the mind
of John for the important communications which he was about to make
than to be permitted to look, as it were, directly into heaven, and
to see the throne of God. And nothing is better fitted to impress the
mind of the reader than the view which is furnished, in the opening
vision, of the majesty and glory of God. Brought, as it were, into his
very presence; permitted to look upon his burning throne; seeing the
reverent and profound worship of the inhabitants of heaven, we feel
our minds awed, and our souls subdued, as we hear the God of heaven
speak, and as we see seal after seal opened, and hear trumpet after
trumpet utter its voice. (3) The form of the manifestation――the opening
vision――is eminently fitted to show us that the communications in this
book proceed from heaven. Looking into heaven, and seeing the vision
of the Almighty, we are prepared to feel that what follows has a higher
than any human origin; that it has come direct from the throne of
God. And (4) there was a propriety that the visions should open with
a manifestation of the throne of God in heaven, or with a vision of
heaven, because that, also, is the _termination_ of the whole; it is
that to which all the visions in the book tend. It begins in heaven, as
seen by the exile in Patmos; it terminates in heaven, when all enemies
of the church are subdued, and the redeemed reign triumphant in glory.

The substance of the introductory vision in this chapter can be stated
in few words: (a) A door is opened, and John is permitted to look into
heaven, and to see what is passing there, ver. 1, 2. (b) The first
thing that strikes him is a throne, with one sitting on the throne,
ver. 2. (c) The appearance of him who sits upon the throne is described,
ver. 3. He is “like a jasper and a sardine stone.” There is no attempt
to portray his form; there is no description from which an image could
be formed that could become an object of idolatrous worship――for who
would undertake to chisel anything so indefinite as that which is
merely “_like_ a jasper or a sardine stone?” And yet the description
is distinct enough to fill the mind with emotions of awe and sublimity,
and to leave the impression that he who sat on the throne was a pure
and holy God. (d) Round about the throne there was a bright rainbow: a
symbol of peace, ver. 3. (e) Around the throne are gathered the elders
of the church, having on their heads crowns of gold: symbols of the
ultimate triumph of the church, ver. 4. (f) Thunder and lightning, as
at Sinai, announce the presence of God, and seven burning lamps before
the throne represent the Spirit of God, in his diversified operations,
as going forth through the world to enlighten, sanctify, and save,
ver. 5. (g) Before the throne there is a pellucid pavement, as of
crystal, spread out like a sea: emblem of calmness, majesty, peace,
and wide dominion, ver. 6. (h) The throne is supported by four living
creatures, full of eyes: emblems of the all-seeing power of him that
sits upon the throne, and of his ever-watchful providence, ver. 6.
(i) To each one of these living creatures there is a peculiar symbolic
face: respectively emblematic of the authority, the power, the wisdom
of God, and of the rapidity with which the purposes of Providence are
executed, ver. 7. All are furnished with wings: emblematic of their
readiness to do the will of God (ver. 8), but each one individually
with a peculiar form. (j) All these creatures pay ceaseless homage
to God, whose throne they are represented as supporting: emblematic
of the fact that all the operations of the divine government do, in
fact, promote his glory, and, as it were, render him praise, ver. 8, 9.
(k) To this the elders, the representatives of the church, respond:
representing the fact that the church acquiesces in all the
arrangements of Providence, and in the execution of all the divine
purposes, and finds in them all ground for adoration and thanksgiving,
ver. 10, 11.

                              CHAPTER IV.

    AFTER this I looked, and, behold, a door _was_ opened in
    heaven; and the first [175]voice which I heard _was_ as it
    were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, [176]Come up
    hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter.

1. _After this._ Gr., “After these things;” that is, after what he
had seen, {108} and after what he had been directed to record in the
preceding chapters. How long after these things this occurred, he
does not say――whether on the same day, or at some subsequent time;
and conjecture would be useless. The _scene_, however, is changed.
Instead of seeing the Saviour standing before him (ch. i.), the scene
is transferred to heaven, and he is permitted to look in upon the
throne of God, and upon the worshippers there. ¶ _I looked._ Gr.,
_I saw_――εἶδον. Our word _look_ would rather indicate _purpose_ or
_intention_, as if he had _designedly_ directed his attention to
heaven, to see what could be discovered there. The meaning, however,
is simply that he saw a new vision, without intimating whether there
was any _design_ on his part, and without saying how his thoughts came
to be directed to heaven. ¶ _A door |was| opened._ That is, there was
apparently an opening in the sky like a door, so that he could look
into heaven. ¶ _In heaven._ Or, rather, in the expanse above――in the
visible heavens as they appear to spread out over the earth. So Eze.
i. 1, “The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.” The Hebrews
spoke of the sky above as a solid expanse; or as a curtain stretched
out; or as an extended arch above the earth――describing it as it
_appears_ to the eye. In that expanse, or arch, the stars are set as
gems (comp. Notes on Is. xxxiv. 4); through apertures or windows in
that expanse the rain comes down, Ge. vii. 11; and that is opened when
a heavenly messenger comes down to the earth, Mat. iii. 16. Comp. Lu.
iii. 21; Ac. vii. 56; x. 11. Of course, all this is figurative, but it
is such language as all men naturally use. The simple meaning here is,
that John had a vision of what is in heaven _as if_ there had been such
an opening made through the sky, and he had been permitted to look into
the world above. ¶ _And the first voice which I heard._ That is, the
first sound which he heard was a command to come up and see the glories
of that world. He afterwards heard other sounds――the sounds of praise;
but the first notes that fell on his ear were a direction to come up
there and receive a revelation respecting future things. This does not
seem to me to mean, as Professor Stuart, Lord, and others suppose, that
he now recognized the voice which had _first_, or formerly spoken to
him (ch. i. 10), but that this was the _first_ in contradistinction
from other voices which he afterwards heard. It resembled the former
“voice” in this, that it was “like the sound of a trumpet,” but besides
that there does not seem to have been anything that would suggest to
him that it came from the same source. It is certainly possible that
the Greek would admit of that interpretation, but it is not the most
obvious or probable. ¶ _|Was| as it were of a trumpet._ It resembled
the sound of a trumpet, ch. i. 10. ¶ _Talking with me._ As of a trumpet
that seemed to speak directly to me. ¶ _Which said._ That is, the
voice said. ¶ _Come up hither._ To the place whence the voice seemed
to proceed――heaven. ¶ _And I will show thee things which must be
hereafter._ Gr., “after these things.” The reference is to future
events; and the meaning is, that there would be disclosed to him
events that were to occur at some future period. There is no intimation
here _when_ they would occur, or what would be embraced in the period
referred to. All that the words would properly convey would be, that
there would be a disclosure of things that were to occur in some future

    2 And immediately I was [177]in the Spirit: and, behold, a
    [178]throne was set in heaven, and [179]_one_ sat on the

2. _And immediately I was in the Spirit._ See Notes on ch. i. 10.
He does not affirm that he was caught up into heaven, nor does he say
what impression was on his own mind, if any, as to the place where he
was; but he was at once absorbed in the contemplation of the visions
before him. He was doubtless still in Patmos, and these things were
made to pass before his mind as a reality; that is, they appeared as
real to him as if he saw them, and they were in fact a real symbolical
representation {109} of things occurring in heaven. ¶ _And, behold,
a throne was set in heaven._ That is, a throne was _placed_ there.
The first thing that arrested his attention was a throne. This was
“in heaven”――an expression which proves that the scene of the vision
was not the temple in Jerusalem, as some have supposed. There is no
allusion to the temple, and no imagery drawn from the temple. Isaiah
had his vision (Is. vi.) in the holy of holies of the temple; Ezekiel
(ch. i. 1), by the river Chebar; but John looked directly into heaven,
and saw the throne of God, and the encircling worshippers there.
¶ _And |one| sat on the throne._ It is remarkable that John gives
no description of him who sat on the throne, nor does he indicate
who he was by name. Neither do Isaiah or Ezekiel attempt to describe
the appearance of the Deity, nor are there any intimations of that
appearance given from which a picture or an image could be formed. So
much do their representations accord with what is demanded by correct
taste; and so sedulously have they guarded against any encouragement of

    3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine
    stone: and _there was_ a rainbow round about the throne, in
    sight like unto an emerald.

3. _And he that sat was to look upon._ Was in appearance; or, as I
looked upon him, this seemed to be his appearance. He does not describe
his form, but his splendour. ¶ _Like a jasper_――ἰάσπιδι. The jasper,
properly, is “an opaque, impure variety of quartz, of red, yellow, and
also of some dull colours, breaking with a smooth surface. It admits
of a high polish, and is used for vases, seals, snuff-boxes, &c. When
the colours are in stripes or bands, it is called _striped jasper_”
(Dana, in Webster’s _Dictionary_). The _colour_ here is not designated,
whether red or yellow. As the red was, however, the common colour worn
by princes, it is probable that that was the colour that appeared,
and that John means to say that he appeared like a prince in his royal
robes. Comp. Is. vi. 1. ¶ _And a sardine stone_――σαρδίῳ. This denotes
a precious stone of a blood-red, or sometimes of a flesh-colour,
more commonly known by the name of _carnelian_ (Rob. _Lex._). Thus
it corresponds with the jasper, and this is only an additional
circumstance to convey the exact idea in the mind of John, that the
appearance of him who sat on the throne was that of a prince in his
scarlet robes. This is all the description which he gives of his
appearance; and this is (a) entirely appropriate, as it suggests the
idea of a prince or a monarch; and (b) it is well adapted to impress
the mind with a sense of the majesty of Him who cannot be described,
and of whom no image should be attempted. Comp. De. iv. 12: “Ye heard
the voice of the words, but saw no similitude.” ¶ _And |there was| a
rainbow round about the throne._ This is a beautiful image, and was
probably designed to be emblematical as well as beautiful. The previous
representation is that of majesty and splendour; this is adapted to
temper the majesty of the representation. The rainbow has always, from
its own nature, and from its associations, been an emblem of peace. It
appears on the cloud as the storm passes away. It contrasts beautifully
with the tempest that has just been raging. It is seen as the rays
of the sun again appear clothing all things with beauty――the more
beautiful from the fact that the storm has come, and that the rain has
fallen. If the rain has been gentle, nature smiles serenely, and the
leaves and flowers refreshed appear clothed with new beauty: if the
storm has raged violently, the appearance of the rainbow is a pledge
that the war of the elements has ceased, and that God smiles again upon
the earth. It reminds us, too, of the “covenant” when God did “set his
bow in the cloud,” and solemnly promised that the earth should no more
be destroyed by a flood, Ge. ix. 9‒16. The appearance of the rainbow,
therefore, around the throne, was a beautiful emblem of the mercy of
God, and of the peace that was to pervade the world as the result of
the events that were to be disclosed to the vision of John. True, there
were lightnings and thunderings and voices, but there the bow abode
calmly above them all, assuring him that there was to be mercy and
peace. ¶ _In sight like unto an emerald._ The emerald is green, and
this colour so predominated in the bow that it seemed to be made of
this species of precious stone. The modified and mild colour of green
appears to everyone to predominate in the rainbow. Ezekiel (i. 28) has
introduced the image of the rainbow, also, in his description of the
vision that appeared to {110} him, though not as calmly encircling the
throne, but as descriptive of the general appearance of the scene. “As
is the appearance of the bow that is on the cloud in the day of rain,
so was the appearance of the brightness round about.” Milton, also,
has introduced it, but it is also as a part of the colouring of the

             “Over their heads a crystal firmament,
              Whereon a sapphire throne, inlaid with pure
              Amber, and colours of the showery arch.”
                                      _Par. Lost_, b. vii.

    4 And round about the throne _were_ [180]four and twenty
    seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting,
    [181]clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads
    [182]crowns of gold.

4. _And round about the throne |were| four and twenty seats._ Or rather
_thrones_――θρόνοι――the same word being used as that which is rendered
_throne_――θρόνος. The word, indeed, properly denotes _a seat_, but it
came to be employed to denote particularly the seat on which a monarch
sat, and is properly translated thus in ver. 2, 3. So it is rendered
in Mat. v. 34; xix. 28; xxiii. 22; xxv. 31; Lu. i. 32; and uniformly
elsewhere in the New Testament (fifty-three places in all), except in
Lu. i. 52; Re. ii. 13; iv. 4; xi. 16; xvi. 10, where it is rendered
_seat_ and _seats_. It should have been rendered _thrones_ here, and
is so translated by Professor Stuart. Coverdale and Tyndale render the
word _seat_ in each place in ver. 2‒5. It was undoubtedly the design of
the writer to represent those who sat on those seats as, in some sense,
_kings_――for they have on their heads crowns of gold――and that idea
should have been retained in the translation of this word. ¶ _And upon
the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting._ Very various opinions
have been entertained in respect to those who thus appeared sitting
around the throne, and to the question why the number twenty-four is
mentioned. Instead of examining those opinions at length, it will be
better to present, in a summary manner, what seems to be probable in
regard to the intended reference. The following points, then, would
appear to embrace all that can be known on this subject. (1) These
elders have a regal character, or are of a kingly order. This is
apparent, (a) because they are represented as sitting on “thrones,”
and (b) because they have on their heads “crowns of gold.” (2) They are
emblematic. They are designed to symbolize or represent some class of
persons. This is clear, (a) because it cannot be supposed that so small
a number would compose the whole of those who are in fact around the
throne of God, and (b) because there are _other_ symbols there designed
to represent something pertaining to the homage rendered to God, as the
four living creatures and the angels, and this supposition is necessary
in order to complete the symmetry and harmony of the representation.
(3) They are human beings, and are designed to have some relation to
the race of man, and somehow to connect the human race with the worship
of heaven. The four living creatures have another design; the angels
(ch. v.) have another; but these are manifestly of our race――persons
from this world before the throne. (4) They are designed in some way
to be symbolic of the church as redeemed. Thus they say (ch. v. 9),
“Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.” (5) They are designed to
represent the _whole_ church in every land and every age of the world.
Thus they say (ch. v. 9), “Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood,
_out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation_.” This shows,
further, that the whole representation is emblematic; for otherwise in
so small a number――twenty-four――there could not be a representation out
of every nation. (6) They represent the church triumphant――the church
victorious. Thus they have crowns on their heads; they have harps in
their hands (ch. v. 8); they say that they are “kings and priests,”
and that they will “reign on the earth,” ch. v. 10. (7) The design,
therefore, is to represent the church triumphant――redeemed――saved――as
rendering praise and honour to God; as uniting with the hosts of heaven
in adoring him for his perfections and for the wonders of his grace.
As representatives of the church, they are admitted near to him; they
encircle his throne; they appear victorious over every foe; and they
come, in unison with the living creatures, and the angels, and the
whole universe (ch. v. 13), to ascribe power and dominion to God.
(8) As to the reason why the {111} number “twenty-four” is mentioned,
perhaps nothing certain can be determined. Ezekiel, in his vision
(Eze. viii. 16; xi. 1), saw twenty-five men between the porch and the
altar, with their backs toward the temple, and their faces toward the
earth――supposed to be representations of the twenty-four “courses”
into which the body of priests was divided (1 Ch. xxiv. 3‒19), with
the high-priest among them, making up the number twenty-five. It is
_possible_ that John in this vision may have designed to refer to
the church considered _as_ a priesthood (comp. Notes on 1 Pe. ii. 9),
and to have alluded to the fact that the priesthood under the Jewish
economy was divided into twenty-four courses, each with a presiding
officer, and who was a representative of that portion of the priesthood
over which he presided. If so, then the ideas which enter into the
representation are these: (a) That the whole church may be represented
as a priesthood, or a community of priests――an idea which frequently
occurs in the New Testament. (b) That the church, as such a community
of priests, is employed in the praise and worship of God――an idea, also,
which finds abundant countenance in the New Testament. (c) That, in
a series of visions having a designed reference to the church, it was
natural to introduce some symbol or emblem representing the church,
and representing the fact that this is its office and employment. And
(d) that this would be well expressed by an allusion derived from the
ancient dispensation――the division of the priesthood into classes, over
each one of which there presided an individual who might be considered
as the representative of his class. It is to be observed, indeed, that
in _one_ respect they are represented as “kings,” but still this does
not forbid the supposition that there might have been intermingled also
_another_ idea, that they were also “priests.” Thus the two ideas are
blended by these same elders in ch. v. 10: “And hath made us unto our
God _kings_ and _priests_.” Thus understood, the vision is designed to
denote the fact that the representatives of the church, ultimately to
be triumphant, are properly engaged in ascribing praise to God. The
word _elders_ here seems to be used in the sense of aged and venerable
men, rather than as denoting office. They were such as by their _age_
were qualified to preside over the different divisions of the
priesthood. ¶ _Clothed in white raiment._ Emblem of purity, and
appropriate, therefore, to the representatives of the sanctified church.
Comp. ch. iii. 4; vi. 11; vii. 9. ¶ _And they had on their heads crowns
of gold._ Emblematic of the fact that they sustained a kingly office.
There was blended in the representation the idea that they were both
“kings and priests.” Thus the idea is expressed by Peter (1 Pe. ii. 9),
“_a royal priesthood_”――βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα.

    5 And out of the throne proceeded [183]lightnings and
    thunderings and voices: and _there were_ seven [184]lamps of
    fire burning before the throne, which are the [185]seven
    Spirits of God.

5. _And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and
voices._ Expressive of the majesty and glory of Him that sat upon it.
We are at once reminded by this representation of the sublime scene
that occurred at Sinai (Ex. xix. 16), where “there were thunders and
lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the
trumpet exceeding loud.” Comp. Eze. i. 13, 24. So Milton:

              “Forth rushed with whirlwind sound
          The chariot of Paternal Deity,
          Flashing thick flames.”

         “And from about him fierce effusion rolled
          Of smoke, and lightning flame, and sparkles dire.”
                                        _Par. Lost_, b. vi.

The word “_voices_” here connected with “_thunders_” perhaps means
“voices even thunders”――referring to the sound made by the thunder.
The meaning is, that these were echoing and re-echoing sounds, as it
were a multitude of voices that seemed to speak on every side. ¶ _And
|there were| seven lamps of fire burning before the throne._ Seven
burning lamps that constantly shone there, illuminating the whole
scene. These steadily burning lamps would add much to the beauty of
the vision. ¶ _Which are the seven Spirits of God._ Which represent,
or are emblematic of, the seven Spirits of God. On the meaning of the
phrase, “the seven Spirits of God,” see Notes on chap. i. 4. If these
lamps are designed to be symbols of the Holy Spirit, according to the
interpretation proposed in chap. i. 4, it may {112} be perhaps in the
following respects: (1) They may represent the manifold influences
of that Spirit in the world――as imparting light; giving consolation;
creating the heart anew; sanctifying the soul, &c. (2) They may
denote that all the operations of that Spirit are of the nature
of _light_, dissipating darkness, and vivifying and animating all
things. (3) _Perhaps_ their being placed here before the throne, in
the midst of thunder and lightning, may be designed to represent the
idea that――amidst all the scenes of magnificence and grandeur; all
the storms, agitations, and tempests on the earth; all the political
changes; all the convulsions of empire under the providence of God; and
all the commotions in the soul of man, produced by the thunders of the
law――the Spirit of God beams calmly and serenely, shedding a steady
influence over all, like lamps burning in the very midst of lightnings,
and thunderings, and voices. In all the scenes of majesty and commotion
that occur on the earth, the Spirit of God is present, shedding a
constant light, and undisturbed in his influence by all the agitations
that are abroad.

    6 And before the throne _there was_ a [186]sea of glass like
    unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about
    the throne, _were_ [187]four beasts, full of eyes before and

6. _And before the throne |there was| a sea of glass._ An expanse
spread out like a sea composed of glass: that is, that was pellucid
and transparent like glass. It is not uncommon to compare the sea
with glass. See numerous examples in Wetstein, _in loco_. The point
of the comparison here seems to be its transparent appearance. It was
perfectly clear――apparently stretching out in a wide expanse, as if it
were a _sea_. ¶ _Like unto crystal._ The word _crystal_ means properly
anything congealed and pellucid, as ice; then anything resembling
that, particularly a certain species of stone distinguished for its
clearness――as the transparent crystals of quartz; limpid and colourless
quartz; rock or mountain quartz. The word _crystal_ now, in mineralogy,
means an inorganic body which, by the operation of affinity, has
assumed the form of a regular solid, by a certain number of plane and
smooth faces. It is here used manifestly in its popular sense to denote
anything that is perfectly clear like ice. The comparison, in the
representation of the expanse spread around the throne, turns on these
points: (1) It appeared like a sea――stretching afar. (2) It resembled,
in its general appearance, glass; and this idea is strengthened by the
addition of another image of the same character――that it was like an
expanse of crystal, perfectly clear and pellucid. This would seem to be
designed to represent the floor or pavement on which the throne stood.
If _this_ is intended to be emblematical, it _may_ denote (a) that the
empire of God is vast――as if it were spread out like the sea; or (b) it
may be emblematic of the _calmness_, the _placidity_ of the divine
administration――like an undisturbed and unruffled ocean of glass.
Perhaps, however, we should not press such circumstances too far to
find a symbolical meaning. ¶ _And in the midst of the throne._ ἐν μέσῳ
τοῦ θρόνου. Not occupying the throne, but so as to appear to be
intermingled with the throne, or “in the midst” of it, in the sense
that it was beneath the centre of it. The meaning would seem to be,
that the four living creatures referred to occupied such a position
collectively that they at the same time appeared to be _under_ the
throne, so that it rested on them, and _around_ it, so that they
could be seen from any quarter. This would occur if their bodies were
under the throne, and if they stood so that they faced outward. To
one approaching the throne they would seem to be _around_ it, though
their bodies were _under_, or “in the midst” of it as a support. The
form of their bodies is not specified, but it is not improbable that
though their _heads_ were different, their _bodies_, that were under
the throne, and that sustained it, were of the same form. ¶ _And
round about the throne._ In the sense above explained――that, as they
stood, they would be seen on every side of the throne. ¶ _|Were|
four beasts._ This is a very unhappy translation, as the word _beasts_
by no means conveys a correct idea of the original word. The Greek
word――ζῶον――means properly _a living thing_; and it is thus indeed
applied to animals, or to the living creation, but the notion of their
being _living things_, or _living creatures_, should be retained in the
translation. Professor Stuart renders it, “living creatures.” Isaiah
(vi.), in his vision of Jehovah, {113} saw two seraphim; Ezekiel,
whom John more nearly resembles in his description, saw four “living
creatures”――חַיּוֹת (ch. i. 5)――that is, living, animated, moving beings.
The words “living beings” would better convey the idea than any other
which could be employed. They are evidently, like those which Ezekiel
saw, symbolical beings; but the nature and purpose of the symbol is not
perfectly apparent. The “four and twenty elders” are evidently human
beings, and are representatives, as above explained, of the church. In
ch. v. 11, _angels_ are themselves introduced as taking an important
part in the worship of heaven: and these living beings, therefore,
cannot be designed to represent either angels or men. In Ezekiel they
are either designed as poetic representations of the majesty of God,
or of his providential government, showing what _sustains_ his throne;
symbols denoting intelligence, vigilance, the rapidity and directness
with which the divine commands are executed, and the energy and
firmness with which the government of God is administered. The nature
of the case, and the similarity to the representation in Ezekiel, would
lead us to suppose that the same idea is to be found substantially
in John; and there would be no difficulty in such an interpretation
were it not that these “living creatures” are apparently represented
in ch. v. 8, 9, as uniting with the redeemed from the earth in such
a manner as to imply that they were themselves redeemed. But perhaps
the language in ch. v. 9, “And _they_ sung a new song,” &c., though
apparently connected with the “four beasts” in ver. 8, is not designed
to be so connected. John may intend there merely to advert to the fact
that a new song was sung, without meaning to say that the “four living
beings” _united_ in that song. For, if he designed merely to say that
the “four living beings” and the “four and twenty elders” fell down to
worship, and then that a song was heard, though in fact sung only by
the four and twenty elders, he might have employed the language which
he actually has done. If this interpretation be admitted, then the
most natural explanation to be given of the “four living beings” is
to suppose that they are symbolical beings designed to furnish some
representation of the government of God――to illustrate, as it were,
that on which the divine government _rests_, or which constitutes its
support――to wit, power, intelligence, vigilance, energy. This is
apparent, (a) because it was not unusual for the thrones of monarchs
to be supported by carved animals of various forms, which were designed
undoubtedly to be somehow emblematic of government――either of its
stability, vigilance, boldness, or firmness. Thus Solomon had twelve
lions carved on each side of his throne――no improper emblems of
government――1 Ki. x. 10, 20. (b) These living beings are described as
the _supports_ of the throne of God, or as that on which it rests, and
would be, therefore, no improper symbols of the great principles or
truths which give support or stability to the divine administration.
(c) They are, in themselves, well adapted to be representatives
of the great principles of the divine government, or of the divine
providential dealings, as we shall see in the more particular
explanation of the symbol, (d) Perhaps it might be added, that, so
understood, there would be _completeness_ in the vision. The “elders”
appear there as representatives of the church redeemed; the angels
in their own proper persons render praise to God. To this it was not
improper to add, and the completeness of the representation seems to
make it necessary to add, that all the doings of the Almighty unite
in his praise; his various acts in the government of the universe
harmonize with redeemed and unfallen intelligences in proclaiming
his glory. The vision of the “living beings,” therefore, is not, as
I suppose, a representation of the _attributes_ of God as such, but
an emblematic representation of the divine government――of the throne
of Deity resting upon, or sustained by, those things of which these
living beings are emblems――intelligence, firmness, energy, &c. This
supposition seems to combine more probabilities than any other which
has been proposed; for, according to this supposition, all the acts,
and ways, and creatures of God unite in his praise. It is proper to
add, however, that expositors are by no means agreed as to the design
of this representation. Professor Stuart supposes that the attributes
of God are referred to; Mr. Elliott (i. 93), that the “twenty-four
elders and the four living creatures symbolize the church, or the
collective body of the saints of God; and that as there are two grand
{114} divisions of the church, the larger one that _of the departed
in Paradise_, and the other that _militant on earth_, the former
is depicted by the twenty-four elders, and the latter by the living
creatures;” Mr. Lord (pp. 53, 54), that the living creatures and the
elders are both of one race; the former perhaps denoting those like
Enoch and Elijah, who were translated, and those who were raised by
the Saviour after his resurrection, or those who have been raised to
special eminence――the latter the mass of the redeemed; Mr. Mede, that
the living creatures are symbols of the church worshipping on earth;
Mr. Daubuz, that they are symbols of the ministers of the church
on earth; Vitringa, that they are symbols of eminent ministers and
teachers in every age; Dr. Hammond regards him who sits on the throne
as the metropolitan bishop of Judea, the representative of God, the
elders as diocesan bishops of Judea, and the living creatures as four
apostles, symbols of the saints who are to attend the Almighty as
assessors in judgment! See Lord on the Apocalypse, pp. 58, 59. ¶ _Full
of eyes._ Denoting omniscience. The ancients fabled Argus as having one
hundred eyes, or as having the power of seeing in any direction. The
emblem here would denote an ever-watchful and observing Providence; and,
in accordance with the explanation proposed above, it means that, in
the administration of the divine government, everything is distinctly
contemplated; nothing escapes observation; nothing can be concealed. It
is obvious that the divine government could not be administered unless
this were so; and it is the perfection of the government of God that
all things are seen just as they are. In the vision seen by Ezekiel
(ch. i. 18), the “rings” of the wheels on which the living creatures
moved are represented as “full of eyes round about them,” emblematic of
the same thing. So Milton――

                  “As with stars their bodies all,
          And wings were set with eyes; with eyes the wheels
          Of beryl, and careening fires between.”

¶ _Before._ In front. As one looked on their faces, from whatever
quarter the throne was approached, he could see a multitude of
eyes looking upon him. ¶ _And behind._ On the parts of their bodies
which were under the throne. The meaning is, that there is universal
vigilance in the government of God. Whatever is the form of the
divine administration; whatever part is contemplated; however it is
manifested――whether as activity, energy, power, or intelligence――it
is based on the fact that _all things are seen from every direction_.
There is nothing that is the result of blind fate or of chance.

    7 And the first beast _was_ like a lion, and the second beast
    like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the
    fourth beast _was_ like a flying eagle.

7. _And the first beast |was| like a lion._ A _general_ description
has been given, applicable to all, denoting that in whatever form the
divine government is administered, _these things_ will be found; a
particular description now follows, contemplating that government under
particular aspects, as symbolized by the living beings on which the
throne rests. The first is that of a lion. The lion is the monarch
of the woods, the king of beasts, and he becomes thus the emblem of
dominion, of authority, of government in general. Comp. Ge. xlix. 9;
Am. iii. 8; Joel iii. 16; Da. vii. 4. As emblematic of the divine
administration, this would signify that He who sits on the throne is
the ruler over all, and that his dominion is absolute and entire. It
has been made a question whether the _whole_ body had the form of a
lion, or whether it had the appearance of a lion only as to its face
or front part. It would seem probable that the latter only is intended,
for it is expressly said of the “third beast” that it had “the _face_
of a man,” implying that it did not resemble a man in other respects,
and it is probable that, as these living creatures were the supports of
the throne, they had the same form in all other particulars except the
front part. The writer has not informed us what was the appearance of
these living creatures in other respects, but it is most natural to
suppose that it was in the form of an ox, as being adapted to sustain
a burden. It is hardly necessary to say that the _thing_ supposed to be
symbolical here in the government of God――his absolute rule――actually
exists, or that it is important that this should be fairly exhibited to
men. ¶ _And the second beast like a calf._ Or, more properly, a young
bullock, {115} for so the word――μόσχος――means. The term is given by
Herodotus (ii. 41; iii. 28) to the Egyptian god Apis, that is, a young
bullock. Such an emblem, standing under a throne as one of its supports,
would symbolize firmness, endurance, strength (comp. Pr. xiv. 4); and,
as used to represent qualities pertaining to him who sat on the throne,
would denote stability, firmness, perseverance: qualities that are
found abundantly in the divine administration. There was clearly, in
the apprehension of the ancients, some natural fitness or propriety
in such an emblem. A young bullock was worshipped in Egypt as a god.
Jeroboam set up two idols in the form of a calf, the one in Dan and
the other in Bethel, 1 Ki. xii. 28, 29. A similar object of worship was
found in the Indian, Greek, and Scandinavian mythologies, and the image
appears to have been adopted early and extensively to represent the

  Illustration:   Egyptian Calf-idol.

The above figure is a representation of a calf-idol, copied from the
collection made by the artists of the French Institute at Cairo. It
is recumbent, with human eyes, the skin flesh-coloured, and the whole
after-parts covered with a white and sky-blue drapery: the horns not on
the head, but above it, and containing within them the symbolical globe
surmounted by two feathers. The meaning of the emblems on the back
is not known. It is copied here merely to show that, for some cause,
the calf was regarded as an emblem of the Divinity. It may illustrate
this, also, to remark that among the sculptures found by Mr. Layard,
in the ruins of Nineveh, were not a few winged bulls, some of them of
large structure, and probably all of them emblematic. One of these was
removed with great difficulty, to be deposited in the British Museum.
See Mr. Layard’s _Nineveh and its Remains_, vol. ii. pp. 64‒75. Such
emblems were common in the East; and, being thus common, they would be
readily understood in the time of John. ¶ _And the third beast had a
face as a man._ There is no intimation as to what was the form of the
remaining portion of this living creature; but as the beasts were “in
the midst of the throne,” that is, under it as a support, it may be
presumed that they had such a form as was adapted to that purpose――as
supposed above, perhaps the form of an ox. To this living creature
there was attached the head of a man, and _that_ would be what would
be particularly visible to one looking on the throne. The aspect
of a _man_ here would denote intelligence――for it is this which
distinguishes man from the creation beneath him; and if the explanation
of the symbol above given be correct, then the meaning of this emblem
is, that the operations of the government of God are conducted with
intelligence and wisdom. That is, the divine administration is not the
result of blind fate or chance; it is founded on a clear knowledge of
things, on what is best to be done, on what will most conduce to the
common good. Of the _truth_ of this there can be no doubt; and there
was a propriety that, in a vision designed to give to man a view of the
government of the Almighty, this should be appropriately symbolized.
It may illustrate this to observe, that in ancient sculptures it was
common to unite the head of a man with the figure of an animal, as
_combining_ symbols. Among the most remarkable figures discovered by
Mr. Layard, in the ruins of Nineveh, were winged, human-headed lions.
These lions are thus described by Mr. Layard:――“They were about twelve
feet in height, and the same number in length. The body and limbs were
admirably portrayed; the muscles and bones, although strongly developed,
to display the strength of the animal, showed, at the same time, a
correct knowledge of its anatomy and form. Expanded wings sprung from
the shoulder and spread over the back; a knotted girdle, ending in
tassels, encircled the loins. These sculptures, forming an entrance,
were partly in full, and partly in relief. The head and forepart,
facing the chambers, were in full; but only one {116} side of the rest
of the slab was sculptured, the back being placed against the wall
of sun-dried bricks” (_Nineveh and its Remains_, vol. i. p. 75). The
following engraving will give an idea of one of these human-headed
animals, and will serve to illustrate the passage before us――alike
in reference to the _head_, indicating intelligence, and the _wings_,
denoting rapidity.

  Illustration:   Human-headed Winged Lion.

On the use of these figures, found in the ruins of Nineveh, Mr. Layard
makes the following sensible remarks――remarks admirably illustrating
the view which I take of the symbols before us:――“I used to contemplate
for hours these mysterious emblems, and muse over their intent and
history. What more noble forms could have ushered the people into
the temple of their gods? What more subblime images could have been
borrowed from nature by men who sought, unaided by the light of
revealed religion, to embody their conceptions of the wisdom, power,
and ubiquity of a Supreme Being? They could find no better type of
intellect and knowledge than the head of a man; of strength, than the
body of the lion; of rapidity of motion, than the wings of a bird.
These winged, human-headed lions were not idle creations, the offspring
of mere fancy; their meaning was written upon them. They had awed and
instructed races which flourished 3000 years ago. Through the portals
which they guarded, kings, priests, and warriors had borne sacrifices
to their altars, long before the wisdom of the East had penetrated into
Greece, and had furnished its mythology with symbols long recognized by
the Assyrian votaries” (_Nineveh and its Remains_, vol. i. p. 75, 76).
¶ _And the fourth beast |was| like a flying eagle._ All birds, indeed,
fly; but the epithet _flying_ is here employed to add intensity to
the description. The eagle is distinguished, among the feathered race,
for the rapidity, the power, and the elevation of its flight. No other
bird is supposed to fly so high; none ascends with so much power;
none is so majestic and grand in his ascent towards the sun. That
which would be properly symbolized by this would be the rapidity with
which the commands of God are executed; or this characteristic of the
divine government, that the purposes of God are carried into prompt
execution. There is, as it were, a vigorous, powerful, and rapid flight
towards the accomplishment of the designs of God――as the eagle ascends
unmolested towards the sun. Or, it _may_ be that this symbolizes
protecting care, or is an emblem of that protection which God, by his
providence, extends over those who put their trust in him. Thus in Ex.
xix. 4, “Ye have seen how I bare you on eagles’ wings.” “Hide me under
the shadow of thy wings,” Ps. xvii. 8. “In the shadow of thy wings will
I rejoice,” Ps. lxiii. 7. “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth
over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them
on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him,” De. xxxii. 11, 12, &c.
As in the case of the other living beings, so it is to be remarked of
the fourth living creature also, that the form of the _body_ is unknown.
There is no impropriety in supposing that it is only its front aspect
that John here speaks of, for that was sufficient for the symbol. The
remaining portion “in the midst of the throne” may have corresponded
with that of the other living beings, as being adapted to a support. In
further illustration of this it may be remarked, that symbols of this
description were common in the Oriental world. Figures in the human
form, or in the form of animals, with the head of an eagle or a vulture,
are found in the ruins of Nineveh, and were undoubtedly designed to
be symbolic. “On the earliest Assyrian monuments,” says Mr. Layard
(_Nineveh and its Remains_, vol. ii. p. 348, 349), “one of the most
prominent sacred types is the eagle-headed, or the vulture-headed,
human figure. Not only is it found in colossal proportions on the walls,
or guarding the portals of the chambers, but it is also constantly
represented in the groups on the embroidered {117} robes. When
thus introduced, it is generally seen contending with other mythic
animals――such as the human-headed lion or bull; and in these contests
it is always the conqueror. It may hence be inferred that it was a type
of the Supreme Deity, or of one of his principal attributes. A fragment
of the Zoroastrian oracles, preserved by Eusebius, declares that ‘God
is he that has _the head of a hawk_. He is the first, indestructible,
eternal, unbegotten, indivisible, dissimilar; the dispenser of all good;
incorruptible; the best of the good, the wisest of the wise; he is the
father of equity and justice, self-taught, physical and perfect, and
wise, and the only inventor of the sacred philosophy.’ Sometimes the
head of this bird is added to the body of a lion. Under this form of
the Egyptian hieraco-sphinx it is the conqueror in combats with other
symbolical figures, and is frequently represented as striking down
a gazelle or wild goat. It also clearly resembles the gryphon of the
Greek mythology, avowedly an Eastern symbol, and connected with Apollo,
or with the sun, of which the Assyrian form was probably an emblem.”
The following figure found in Nimroud, or ancient Nineveh, may furnish
an illustration of one of the usual forms.

  Illustration:   Eagle-headed Winged Lion.

If these views of the meaning of these symbols are correct, then
the idea which would be conveyed to the mind of John, and the idea,
therefore, which should be conveyed to our minds, is, that the
government of God is energetic, firm, intelligent, and that in
the execution of its purposes it is _rapid_ like the unobstructed
flight of an eagle, or _protective_ like the care of the eagle for
its young. When, in the subsequent parts of the vision, these living
creatures are represented as offering praise and adoration to Him
that sits on the throne (ver. 8; ch. v. 8, 14), the meaning would be,
in accordance with this representation, that all the acts of divine
government do, as if they were personified, unite in the praise which
the redeemed and the angels ascribe to God. All living things, and all
acts of the Almighty, conspire to proclaim his glory. The church, by
her representatives, the “four and twenty elders,” honours God; the
angels, without number, unite in the praise; all creatures in heaven,
in earth, under the earth, and in the sea (ch. v. 13), join in the song;
and all the acts and ways of God declare also his majesty and glory:
for around his throne, and beneath his throne, are expressive symbols
of the firmness, energy, intelligence, and power with which his
government is administered.

    8 And the four beasts had each of them [188]six wings about
    _him_; and _they were_ full of eyes within: and they [189]rest
    not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,
    which was, and is, and is to come.

8. _And the four beasts had each of them six wings about |him|_. An
emblem common to them all, denoting that, in reference to each and all
the things here symbolized, there was one common characteristic――that
in heaven there is the utmost promptness in executing the divine
commands. Comp. Is. vi. 2; Ps. xviii. 10; civ. 3; Je. xlviii. 40.
No mention is made of the manner in which these wings were arranged,
and conjecture in regard to that is vain. The seraphim, as seen by
Isaiah, had each one six wings, with two of which the face was
covered, to denote profound reverence; with two the feet, or lower
parts――emblematic of modesty; and with two they flew――emblematic of
their celerity in executing the commands of God, Is. vi. 2. Perhaps
without impropriety we may suppose that, in regard to these living
beings seen by John, two of the wings of each were employed, as in
Isaiah, to cover the face――token of profound reverence; and that the
remainder were employed in flight――denoting the rapidity with which
the divine commands are executed. Mercury, the messenger of Jupiter
among the heathen, was represented with wings, and nothing is {118}
more common in the paintings and _bas-reliefs_ of antiquity than such
representations. ¶ _And |they were| full of eyes within._ Professor
Stuart more correctly renders this, “around and within are full of
eyes;” connecting the word “around” [“about”], not with the _wings_, as
in our version, but with the _eyes_. The meaning is, that the portions
of the beasts that were visible from the outside of the throne, and
the portions under or within the throne, were covered with eyes. The
obvious design of this is to mark the universal vigilance of divine
providence. ¶ _And they rest not._ Marg., _have no rest_. That is,
they are constantly employed; there is no intermission. The meaning,
as above explained, is, that the works and ways of God are constantly
bringing praise to him. ¶ _Day and night._ Continually. They who
are employed day and night fill up the whole time――for this is all.
¶ _Saying, Holy, holy, holy._ For the meaning of this, see Notes on
Is. vi. 3. ¶ _Lord God Almighty._ Isaiah (vi. 3) expresses it, “Jehovah
of hosts.” The reference is to the true God, and the epithet _Almighty_
is one that is often given him. It is peculiarly appropriate here,
as there were to be, as the sequel shows, remarkable exhibitions of
_power_ in executing the purposes described in this book. ¶ _Which was,
and is, and is to come._ Who is eternal――existing in all past time;
existing now; and to continue to exist for ever. See Notes on ch. i. 4.

    9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to
    him that sat on the throne, [190]who liveth for ever and ever,

9. _And when those beasts give glory_, &c. As often as those living
beings ascribe glory to God. They did this continually (ver. 8); and,
if the above explanation be correct, then the idea is that the ways and
acts of God in his providential government are continually of such a
nature as to honour him.

    10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on
    the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and
    cast their [191]crowns before the throne, saying,

10. _The four and twenty elders fall down before him_, &c. The
representatives of the redeemed church in heaven (Notes, ver. 4) also
unite in the praise. The meaning, if the explanation of the symbol
be correct, is, that the church universal unites in praise to God for
all that characterizes his administration. In the connection in which
this stands here, the sense would be, that as often as there is any
_new_ manifestation of the principles of the divine government, the
church ascribes _new_ praise to God. Whatever may be thought of this
explanation of the meaning of the symbols, of the _fact_ here stated
there can be no doubt. The church of God always rejoices when there is
any new manifestation of the principles of the divine administration.
As all these acts, in reality, bring glory and honour to God, the
church, _as often_ as there is any new manifestation of the divine
character and purposes, renders praise anew. Nor can it be doubted that
the view here taken is one that is every way appropriate to the general
character of this book. The great design was to disclose what God was
to do in future times, in the various revolutions that were to take
place on the earth, until his government should be firmly established,
and the principles of his administration should everywhere prevail;
and there was a propriety, therefore, in describing the representatives
of the church as taking part in this universal praise, and as casting
every crown at the feet of Him who sits upon the throne. ¶ _And cast
their crowns before the throne._ They are described as “crowned”
(ver. 4), that is, as triumphant, and as kings (comp. ch. v. 10), and
they are here represented as casting their crowns at his feet, in token
that they owe their triumph to Him. To his providential dealings, to
his wise and merciful government, they owe it that they are crowned at
all; and there is, therefore, a propriety that they should acknowledge
this in a proper manner by placing their crowns at his feet.

    11 Thou art [192]worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour
    and power; [193]for thou hast created all things, and for thy
    pleasure they are and were created.

11. _Thou art worthy, O Lord._ In thy character, perfections, and
government, there is that which makes it {119} proper that universal
praise should be rendered. The feeling of all true worshippers is, that
God is _worthy_ of the praise that is ascribed to him. No man worships
him aright who does not feel that there is that in his nature and
his doings which makes it _proper_ that he should receive universal
adoration. ¶ _To receive glory._ To have praise or glory ascribed to
thee. ¶ _And honour._ To be honoured; that is, to be approached and
adored as worthy of honour. ¶ _And power._ To have power ascribed to
thee, or to be regarded as having infinite power. Man can _confer_ no
power on God, but he may acknowledge that which he has, and adore him
for its exertion in his behalf and in the government of the world.
¶ _For thou hast created all things._ Thus laying the foundation for
praise. No one can contemplate this vast and wonderful universe without
seeing that He who has made it is _worthy_ to “receive glory, and
honour, and power.” Comp. Notes on Job xxxviii. 7. ¶ _And for thy
pleasure they are._ They exist by thy will――διὰ τὸ θέλημά. The meaning
is, that they owe their existence to the _will_ of God, and therefore
their creation lays the foundation for praise. He “spake, and it was
done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” He said, “Let there be light;
and there was light.” There is no other reason why the universe exists
at all than that such was the will of God; there is nothing else
that is to be adduced as explaining the fact that anything has now a
being. The putting forth of that will explains all; and, consequently,
whatever wisdom, power, goodness, is manifested in the universe, is
to be traced to God, and is the expression of what was in him from
eternity. It is proper, then, to “look up through nature to nature’s
God,” and wherever we see greatness or goodness in the works of
creation, to regard them as the faint expression of what exists
essentially in the Creator. ¶ _And were created._ Bringing more
distinctly into notice the fact that they owe their existence to his
will. They are not eternal; they are not self-existent; they were
formed from nothing.

This concludes the magnificent introduction to the principal visions
in this book. It is beautifully appropriate to the solemn disclosures
which are to be made in the following portions of the book, and, as
in the case of Isaiah and Ezekiel, was eminently adapted to impress
the mind of the holy seer with awe. Heaven is opened to his view;
the throne of God is seen; there is a vision of Him who sits upon
that throne; thunders and voices are heard around the throne; the
lightnings play; and a rainbow, symbol of peace, encircles all; the
representatives of the redeemed church, occupying subordinate thrones,
and in robes of victory, and with crowns on their heads, are there; a
vast smooth expanse like the sea is spread out before the throne; and
the emblems of the wisdom, the power, the vigilance, the energy, the
strength of the divine administration are there, represented as in the
act of bringing honour to God, and proclaiming his praise. The mind of
John was doubtless prepared by these august visions for the disclosures
which follow; and the mind of the reader should in like manner be
deeply and solemnly impressed when he contemplates them, as if _he_
looked into heaven, and saw the impressive grandeur of the worship
there. Let us fancy ourselves, therefore, with the holy seer looking
into heaven, and listen with reverence to what the great God discloses
respecting the various changes that are to occur until every foe of the
church shall be subdued, and the earth shall acknowledge his sway, and
the whole scene shall close in the triumphs and joys of heaven.

                              CHAPTER V.

                       ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER.

This chapter introduces the disclosure of future events. It is done
in a manner eminently fitted to impress the mind with a sense of the
importance of the revelations about to be made. The proper state of
mind for appreciating this chapter is that when we look on the future,
and are sensible that important events are about to occur; when we feel
that that future is wholly impenetrable to us; and when the efforts of
the highest created minds fail to lift the mysterious veil which hides
those events from our view; it is in accordance with our nature that
the mind should be impressed with solemn awe under such circumstances;
it is not a violation of the laws of our nature that one who had
an earnest desire to penetrate that future, and who saw the volume
before him which contained the mysterious revelation, and who yet felt
that there was no one in heaven or earth who could break the seals,
and disclose what was to come, should weep. Comp. {120} ver. 4. The
_design_ of the whole chapter is evidently to honour the Lamb of God,
by showing that the power was intrusted to him which was confided to
no one else in heaven or earth, of disclosing what is to come. Nothing
else would better illustrate this than the fact that he alone could
break the mysterious seals which barred out the knowledge of the
future from all created eyes; and nothing would be better adapted to
impress this on the mind than the representation in this chapter――the
exhibition of a mysterious book in the hand of God; the proclamation
of the angel, calling on any who could do it to open the book; the
fact that no one in heaven or earth could do it; the tears shed by John
when it was found that no one could do it; the assurance of one of the
elders that the Lion of the tribe of Judah had power to do it; and the
profound adoration of all in heaven, and in earth, and under the earth
in view of the power intrusted to him of breaking these mysterious

The main points in the chapter are these: (1) Having in ch. iv.
described God as sitting on a throne, John here (ver. 1) represents
himself as seeing in his right hand a mysterious volume; written all
over on the inside and the outside, yet sealed with seven seals; a
volume manifestly referring to the future, and containing important
disclosures respecting coming events. (2) A mighty angel is introduced
making a proclamation, and asking who is worthy to open that book, and
to break those seals; evidently implying that none unless of exalted
rank could do it, ver. 2. (3) There is a pause: no one in heaven, or
in earth, or under the earth, approaches to do it, or claims the right
to do it, ver. 3. (4) John, giving way to the expressions of natural
emotion――indicative of the longing and intense desire in the human soul
to be made acquainted with the secrets of the future――pours forth a
flood of tears because no one is found who is worthy to open the seals
of this mysterious book, or to read what was recorded there, ver. 4.
(5) In his state of suspense and of grief, one of the elders――the
representatives of that church for whose benefit these revelations of
the future were to be made (Note on ch. iv. 4)――approaches him and says
that there _is_ one who is able to open the book; one who has the power
to loose its seals, ver. 5. This is the Messiah――the Lion of the tribe
of Judah, the Root of David――coming now to make the disclosure for
which the whole book was given, ch. i. 1. (6) Immediately the attention
of John is attracted by the Messiah, appearing as a Lamb in the midst
of the throne; with horns, the symbols of strength; and eyes, the
symbols of all-pervading intelligence. He approaches and takes the book
from the hand of Him that sits on the throne; symbolical of the fact
that it is the province of the Messiah to make known to the church and
the world the events which are to occur, ver. 6, 7. He appears here in
a different form from that in which he manifested himself in ch. i.,
for the purpose is different. There he appears clothed in majesty, to
impress the mind with a sense of his essential glory. Here he appears
in a form that recalls the memory of his sacrifice; to denote, perhaps,
that it is in virtue of his atonement that the future is to be
disclosed; and that therefore there is a special propriety that _he_
should appear and do what no other one in heaven or earth could do.
(7) The approach of the Messiah to unfold the mysteries in the book,
the fact that he had “prevailed” to accomplish what there was so strong
a desire should be accomplished, furnishes an occasion for exalted
thanksgiving and praise, ver. 8‒10. (8) This ascription of praise in
heaven is instantly responded to, and echoed back, from all parts of
the universe――all joining in acknowledging the Lamb as worthy of the
exalted office to which he was raised, ver. 11‒13. The angels around
the throne――amounting to thousands of myriads――unite with the living
creatures and the elders; and to these are joined the voices of every
creature in heaven, on the earth, under the earth, and in the sea,
ascribing to Him that sits upon the throne and the Lamb universal
praise. (9) To this loud ascription of praise from far-distant worlds
the living creatures respond a hearty _Amen_, and the elders fall down
and worship him that lives for ever and ever, ver. 14. The universe is
held in wondering expectation of the disclosures which are to be made,
and from all parts of the universe there is an acknowledgment that the
Lamb of God alone has the right to break the mysterious seals. The
_importance_ of the developments justifies the magnificence of {121}
this representation; and it would not be possible to imagine a more
sublime introduction to these great events.

                              CHAPTER V.

    AND I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a
    [194]book written within and on the back side, [195]sealed
    with seven seals.

1. _And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne._ Of
God, ch. iv. 3, 4. His _form_ is not described there, nor is there
any intimation of it here except the mention of his “right hand.” The
book or roll seems to have been so held in his hand that John could
see its shape, and see distinctly how it was written and sealed. ¶ _A
book_――βιβλίον. This word is properly a diminutive of the word commonly
rendered book (βίβλος), and would strictly mean a small book, or a book
of diminutive size――a tablet, or a letter (Liddell and Scott, _Lex._).
It is used, however, to denote a book of any size――a roll, scroll, or
volume; and is thus used (a) to denote the Pentateuch, or the Mosaic
law, He. ix. 19; x. 7; (b) the book of life, Re. xvii. 8; xx. 12; xxi.
27; (c) epistles which were also rolled up, Re. i. 11; (d) documents,
as a bill of divorce, Mat. xix. 7; Mar. x. 4. When it is the express
design to speak of a small book, another word is used (βιβλαρίδιον),
Re. x. 2, 8, 9, 10. The book or roll referred to here was that which
contained the revelation in the subsequent chapters, to the end of the
description of the opening of the seventh seal――for the communication
that was to be made was all included in the seven seals; and to
conceive of the _size_ of the book, therefore, we are only to reflect
on the amount of parchment that would naturally be written over by the
communications here made. The _form_ of the book was undoubtedly that
of a scroll or roll; for that was the usual form of books among the
ancients, and such a volume could be more easily sealed with a number
of seals, in the manner here described, than a volume in the form in
which books are made now. On the ancient form of books, see Notes on
Lu. iv. 17. The engraving in Job, ch. xix., will furnish an additional
illustration of their form. ¶ _Written within and on the back side._
Gr., “within and behind.” It was customary to write only on one side of
the paper or vellum, for the sake of convenience in reading the volume
as it was unrolled. If, as sometimes was the case, the book was in the
same form as books are now――of _leaves_ bound together――then it was
usual to write on both sides of the leaf, as both sides of a page are
printed now. But in the other form it was a very uncommon thing to
write on both sides of the parchment, and was never done unless there
was a scarcity of writing material; or unless there was an amount
of matter beyond what was anticipated; or unless something had been
omitted. It is not necessary to suppose that John saw both sides of
the parchment as it was held in the hand of him that sat on the throne.
That it was written on the _back_ side he would naturally see, and, as
the book was sealed, he would infer that it was written in the usual
manner on the inside. ¶ _Sealed with seven seals._ On the ancient
manner of sealing, see Notes on Mat. xxvii. 66; comp. Notes on Job
xxxviii. 14. The fact that there were _seven_ seals――an unusual number
in fastening a volume――would naturally attract the attention of John,
though it might not occur to him at once that there was anything
significant in the number. It is not stated in what manner the seals
were attached to the volume, but it is clear that they were so attached
that each seal closed one part of the volume, and that when one was
broken and the portion which that was designed to fasten was unrolled,
a second would be come to, which it would be necessary to break in
order to read the next portion. The outer seal would indeed bind
the whole; but when that was broken it would not give access to the
whole volume unless each successive seal were broken. May it not have
been intended by this arrangement to suggest the idea that the whole
future is unknown to us, and that the disclosure of any one portion,
though necessary if the whole would be known, does not disclose all,
but leaves seal after seal still unbroken, and that they are all to
be broken one after another if we would know all? _How_ these were
arranged, John does not say. All that is necessary to be supposed is,
that the seven seals were put successively upon the _margin_ of the
volume as it was rolled up, so that each opening would extend only as
far as the next seal, when the unrolling would be arrested. Anyone,
by rolling up a sheet of paper, could {122} so fasten it with pins,
or with a succession of seals, as to represent this with sufficient

    2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who
    is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?

2. _And I saw a strong angel._ An angel endowed with great strength, as
if such strength was necessary to enable him to give utterance to the
loud voice of the inquiry. “Homer represents his heralds as powerful,
robust men, in order consistently to attribute to them deep-toned and
powerful voices” (Prof. Stuart). The inquiry to be made was one of vast
importance; it was to be made of all in heaven, all on the earth, and
all under the earth, and hence an angel is introduced so mighty that
his voice could be heard in all those distant worlds. ¶ _Proclaiming
with a loud voice._ That is, as a herald or crier. He is rather
introduced here as _appointed_ to this office than as _self-moved_.
The _design_ undoubtedly is to impress the mind with a sense of the
importance of the disclosures about to be made, and at the same time
with a sense of the impossibility of penetrating the future by any
created power. That one of the highest angels should make such a
proclamation would sufficiently show its importance; that such an
one, by the mere act of making such a proclamation, should practically
confess his own inability, and consequently the inability of all of
similar rank, to make the disclosures, would show that the revelations
of the future were beyond mere created power. ¶ _Who is worthy to open
the book_, &c. That is, who is “worthy” in the sense of having a rank
so exalted, and attributes so comprehensive, as to authorize and enable
him to do it. In other words, who has the requisite endowments of all
kinds to enable him to do it? It would require moral qualities of an
exalted character to justify him in approaching the seat of the holy
God, to take the book from his hands; it would require an ability
beyond that of any created being to penetrate the future, and disclose
the meaning of the symbols which were employed. The fact that the book
was held in the hand of him that was on the throne, and sealed in this
manner, was in itself a sufficient proof that it was not his purpose
to make the disclosure directly, and the natural inquiry arose whether
there was anyone in the wide universe who, by rank, or character, or
office, would be empowered to open the mysterious volume.

    3 And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth,
    was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.

3. _And no man in heaven._ No one――οὐδεὶς. There is no limitation
in the original to _man_. The idea is, that there was no one in
heaven――evidently alluding to the created beings there――who could
open the volume. Is it not taught here that _angels_ cannot penetrate
the future, and disclose what is to come? Are not their faculties
limited in this respect like those of man? ¶ _Nor in earth._ Among all
classes of men――sages, divines, prophets, philosophers――who among those
have ever been able to penetrate the future, and disclose what is to
come? ¶ _Neither under the earth._ These divisions compose, in common
language, the universe: what is in heaven above; what is on the earth;
and whatever there is under the earth――the abodes of the dead. May
there not be an allusion here to the supposed science of _necromancy_,
and an assertion that even the dead cannot penetrate the future, and
disclose what is to come? Comp. Notes on Is. viii. 19. In all these
great realms no one advanced who was qualified to undertake the office
of making a disclosure of what the mysterious scroll might contain.
¶ _Was able to open the book._ Had ability――ἠδύνατο――to do it. It was
a task beyond their power. Even if anyone had been found who had a rank
and a moral character which might have seemed to justify the effort,
there was no one who had the power of reading what was recorded
respecting coming events. ¶ _Neither to look thereon._ That is, so to
open the seals as to have a _view_ of what was written therein. That
it was not beyond their power merely to _see_ the book is apparent from
the fact that John himself saw it in the hand of him that sat on the
throne; and it is evident also (ver. 5) that in that sense the elders
saw it. But no one could prevail to inspect the contents, or so have
access to the interior of the volume as to be able to see what was
written there. It could be seen, indeed (ver. 1), that it was written
on {123} both sides of the parchment, but _what_ the writing was no one
could know.

    4 And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and
    to read the book, neither to look thereon.

4. _And I wept much, because no man was found worthy_, &c. Gr., as in
ver. 3, _no one_. It would seem as if there was a pause to see if there
were any response to the proclamation of the angel. There being none,
John gave way to his deep emotions in a flood of tears. The tears of
the apostle here may be regarded as an illustration of two things which
are occurring constantly in the minds of men: (1) The strong desire to
penetrate the future; to lift the mysterious veil which shrouds that
which is to come; to find some way to pierce the dark wall which seems
to stand up before us, and which shuts from our view that which is to
be hereafter. There have been no more earnest efforts made by men than
those which have been made to read the sealed volume which contains
the record of what is yet to come. By dreams, and omens, and auguries,
and astrology, and the flight of birds, and necromancy, men have
sought anxiously to ascertain what is to be hereafter. Compare, for an
expression of that intense desire, Foster’s _Life and Correspondence_,
vol. i. p. 111, and vol. ii. pp. 237, 238. (2) The weeping of the
apostle may be regarded as an instance of the deep grief which men
often experience when all efforts to penetrate the future fail, and
they feel that after all they are left completely in the dark. Often
is the soul overpowered with grief, and often are the eyes filled with
sadness at the reflection that there is an absolute limit to the human
powers; that all that man can arrive at by his own efforts is uncertain
conjecture, and that there is no way possible by which he can make
nature speak out and disclose what is to come. Nowhere does man find
himself more fettered and limited in his powers than here; nowhere
does he feel that there is such an intense disproportion between his
desires and his attainments. In nothing do _we_ feel that we are more
absolutely in need of divine help than in our attempts to unveil the
future; and were it not for revelation man might weep in despair.

    5 And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the
    [196]Lion of the tribe of Judah, the [197]Root of David, hath
    prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals

5. _And one of the elders saith unto me._ See Notes on ch. iv. 4. No
particular reason is assigned why this message was delivered by one
of the _elders_ rather than by an angel. If the elders were, however
(see Notes on ch. iv. 4), the representatives of the church, there was
a propriety that they should address John in his trouble. Though they
were in heaven, they were deeply interested in all that pertained to
the welfare of the church, and they had been permitted to understand
what as yet was unknown to him, that the power of opening the
mysterious volume which contained the revelation of the future was
intrusted particularly to the Messiah. Having this knowledge, they were
prepared to comfort him with the hope that what was so mysterious would
be made known. ¶ _Weep not._ That is, there is no occasion for tears.
The object which you so much desire can be obtained. There is one who
can break those seals, and who can unroll that volume and read what
is recorded there. ¶ _Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah._ This
undoubtedly refers to the Lord Jesus; and the points needful to be
explained are, why he is called a _Lion_, and why he is spoken of as
the Lion _of the tribe of Judah_. (a) As to the first: This appellation
is not elsewhere given to the Messiah, but it is not difficult to see
its propriety as used in this place. The lion is the king of beasts,
the monarch of the forest, and thus becomes an emblem of one of kingly
authority and of power (see Notes on ch. iv. 7), and as such the
appellation is used in this place. It is because Christ has _power_ to
open the seals――as if he ruled over the universe, and all events were
under his control, as the lion rules in the forest――that the name is
here given to him. (b) As to the other point: He is called the “Lion
_of the tribe of Judah_,” doubtless, with reference to the prophecy in
Ge. xlix. 9――“Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art
gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion;”
and from the fact that the Messiah was of the tribe of Judah. Comp.
Ge. xlix. 10. This use of the term would connect {124} him in the
apprehension of John with the prophecy, and would suggest to him the
idea of his being a ruler, or having dominion. As such, therefore, it
would be appropriate that the power of breaking these seals should be
committed to him. ¶ _The Root of David._ Not the Root of David in the
sense that David sprung from him as a tree does from a root, but in the
sense that _he himself_ was a “root-shoot” or sprout _from_ David, and
had sprung from him as a shoot or sprout springs up from a decayed and
fallen tree. See Notes on Is. xi. 1. This expression would connect him
directly with David, the great and glorious monarch of Israel, and as
having a right to occupy his throne. As one thus ruling over the people
of God, there was a propriety that to him should be intrusted the task
of opening these seals. ¶ _Hath prevailed._ That is, he has acquired
this power as the result of a conflict or struggle. The word used
here――ἐνίκησεν――refers to such a conflict or struggle, properly meaning
to come off victor, to overcome, to conquer, to subdue; and the idea
here is, that his power to do this, or the reason why he does this,
is the result of a conflict in which he was a victor. As the series
of events to be disclosed, resulting in the final triumph of religion,
was the effect of his conflicts with the powers of evil, there was
a special propriety that the disclosure should be made by him. The
_truths_ taught in this verse are, (1) that the power of making
disclosures, in regard to the future, is intrusted to the Messiah; and
(2) that this, so far as he is concerned, is the result of a conflict
or struggle on his part.

    6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the
    four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a [198]Lamb,
    as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven[199]eyes,
    which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the

6. _And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne._ We are not
to suppose that he was in the centre of the throne itself, but he was
a conspicuous object when the throne and the elders and the living
beings were seen. He was so placed as to seem to be in the midst of
the _group_ made up of the throne, the living beings, and the elders.
¶ _And of the four beasts._ See Notes, ch. iv. 6. ¶ _Stood a Lamb._ An
appellation often given to the Messiah, for two reasons: (1) because
the lamb was an emblem of innocence; and (2) because a lamb was offered
commonly in sacrifice. Comp. Notes on Jn. i. 29. ¶ _As it had been
slain._ That is, in some way having the appearance of having been
slain; having some marks or indications about it that it had been
slain. What those were the writer does not specify. If it were covered
with blood, or there were marks of mortal wounds, it would be all
that the representation demands. The great work which the Redeemer
performed――that of making an atonement for sin――was thus represented to
John in such a way that he at once recognized him, and saw the reason
why the office of breaking the seals was intrusted to him. It should
be remarked that this representation is merely _symbolic_, and we are
not to suppose that the Redeemer really _assumed_ this form, or that
he appears in this form in heaven. We should no more suppose that the
Redeemer appears literally as a lamb in heaven with numerous eyes and
horns, than that there is a literal throne and a sea of glass there;
that there are “seats” there, and “elders,” and “crowns of gold.”
¶ _Having seven horns._ Emblems of authority and power――for the _horn_
is a symbol of power and dominion. Comp. De. xxxiii. 17; 1 Ki. xxii. 11;
Je. xlviii. 25; Zec. i. 18; Da. vii. 24. The propriety of this symbol
is laid in the fact that the strength of an animal is in the horn,
and that it is by this that he obtains a victory over other animals.
The number _seven_ here seems to be designed, as in other places, to
denote _completeness_. See Notes on ch. i. 4. The meaning is, that
he had so large a number as to denote complete dominion. ¶ _And seven
eyes._ Symbols of intelligence. The number _seven_ here also denotes
_completeness_; and the idea is, that he is able to survey all things.
John does not say anything as to the relative arrangement of the horns
and eyes on the “Lamb,” and it is vain to attempt to conjecture how it
was. The whole representation is symbolical, and we may understand the
meaning of the symbol without being able to form an exact conception
of the figure as it appeared to him, ¶ _Which are the seven Spirits
of God sent forth into all the earth._ See Notes on ch. i. 4. That
is, which _represent_ the seven Spirits of God; or the manifold
operations of the one Divine Spirit. As the eye is {125} the symbol of
intelligence――outward objects being made visible to us by that――so it
may well represent an all-pervading spirit that surveys and sees all
things. The eye, in this view, among the Egyptians was an emblem of the
Deity. By the “seven Spirits” here the same thing is doubtless intended
as in ch. i. 4; and if, as there supposed, the reference is to the Holy
Spirit considered with respect to his manifold operations, the meaning
here is, that the operations of that Spirit are to be regarded as
connected with the work of the Redeemer. Thus, all the operations
of the Spirit are connected with, and are a part of, the work of
redemption. The expression “sent forth into all the earth,” refers to
the fact that that Spirit prevades all things. The Spirit of God is
often represented as sent or poured out; and the meaning here is, that
his operations are _as if_ he was sent out to survey all things and to
operate everywhere. Comp. 1 Co. xii. 6‒11.

    7 And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him
    that sat upon the throne.

7. _And he came and took the book out of the right hand_, &c. As if
it pertained to him by virtue of rank or office. There is a difficulty
here, arising from the incongruity of what is said of a _lamb_, which
it is not easy to solve. The difficulty is in conceiving how a _lamb_
could take the book from the hand of Him who held it. To meet this
several solutions have been proposed. (1) Vitringa supposes that the
Messiah appeared as a lamb only in some such sense as the four living
beings (ch. iv. 7) resembled a lion, a calf, and an eagle; that is,
that they bore this resemblance only in respect to the head, while the
body was that of a man. He thus supposes, that though in respect to the
upper part the Saviour resembled a lamb, yet that to the front part of
the body hands were attached by which he could take the book. But there
are great difficulties in this supposition. Besides that nothing of
this kind is intimated by John, it is contrary to every appearance of
probability that the Redeemer would be represented as a monster. In his
being represented as a lamb there is nothing that strikes the mind as
inappropriate or unpleasant, for he is often spoken of in this manner,
and the image is one that is agreeable to the mind. But all this beauty
and fitness of representation is destroyed, if we think of him as
having human hands proceeding from his breast or sides, or as blending
the form of a man and an animal together. The representation of having
an unusual number of horns and eyes does not strike us as being
incongruous in the same sense; for though the _number_ is increased,
they are such as pertain properly to the animal to which they are
attached. (2) Another supposition is that suggested by Professor Stuart,
that the form was changed, and a human form resumed when the Saviour
advanced to take the book and open it. This would relieve the whole
difficulty, and the only objection to it is, that John has not given
any express notice of such a change in the form; and the only question
can be whether it is right to _suppose_ it in order to meet the
difficulty in the case. In support of this it is said that all is
symbol; that the Saviour is represented in the book in various forms;
that as his appearing as a lamb was designed to represent in a striking
manner the fact that he was slain, and that all that he did was based
on the atonement, so there would be no impropriety in supposing that
when an action was attributed to him he assumed the form in which that
act would be naturally or is usually done. And as in taking a book from
the hand of another it is wholly incongruous to think of its being done
by a _lamb_, is it not most natural to suppose that the usual form in
which the Saviour is represented as appearing would be resumed, and
that he would appear again as a man?――But is it absolutely certain that
he appeared in the form of a lamb at all? May not all that is meant
be, that John saw him near the throne, and among the elders, and was
struck at once with his appearance of meekness and innocence, and with
the marks of his having been slain as a sacrifice, and spoke of him
in strong figurative language as a lamb? And where his “seven horns”
and “seven eyes” are spoken of, is it necessary to suppose that there
was any real assumption of such horns and eyes? {126} May not all
that is meant be that John was struck with that in the appearance of
the Redeemer of which these _would be_ the appropriate symbols, and
described him _as if_ these had been visible? When John the Baptist saw
the Lord Jesus on the banks of the Jordan, and said, “Behold the Lamb
of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn. i. 29), is it
necessary to suppose that he actually appeared in the form of a
lamb? Do not all at once understand him as referring to traits in
his character, and to the work which he was to accomplish, which made
it proper to speak of him as a lamb? And why, therefore, may we not
suppose that John in the Apocalypse designed to use language in the
same way, and that he did not intend to present so incongruous a
description as that of a _lamb_ approaching a throne and taking a book
from the hand of Him that sat on it, and a lamb, too, with many horns
and eyes? If this supposition is correct, then all that is meant in
this passage would be expressed in some such language as the following:
“And I looked, and lo there was one in the midst of the space occupied
by the throne, by the living creatures, and by the elders, who, in
aspect, and in the emblems that represented his work on the earth, was
spotless, meek, and innocent as a lamb; one with marks on his person
which brought to remembrance the fact that he had been slain for the
sins of the world, and yet one who had most striking symbols of power
and intelligence, and who was therefore worthy to approach and take the
book from the hand of Him that sat on the throne.” It may do something
to confirm this view to recollect that when we use the term “Lamb
of God” now, as is often done in preaching and in prayer, it never
suggests to the mind the idea of a _lamb_. We think of the Redeemer
as resembling a lamb in his moral attributes and in his sacrifice, but
never as to form. This supposition relieves the passage of all that is
incongruous and unpleasant, and may be all that John meant.

        8 And when he had taken the book, the [200]four beasts and
        four _and_ twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having
        every one of them [201]harps, and golden vials full of
        [202]odours, which are the [203]prayers of saints.

8. _And when he had taken the book, the four beasts_, &c. The acts
of adoration here described as rendered by the four living creatures
and the elders are, according to the explanation given in ch. iv. 4‒7,
emblematic of the honour done to the Redeemer by the church, and by the
course of providential events in the government of the world. ¶ _Fell
down before the Lamb._ The usual posture of profound worship. Usually
in such worship there was entire prostration on the earth. See Notes on
Mat. ii. 2; 1 Co. xiv. 25. ¶ _Having every one of them harps._ That is,
as the construction, and the propriety of the case would seem to demand,
the _elders_ had each of them harps. The whole prostrated themselves
with profound reverence; the elders had harps and censers, and broke
out into a song of praise for redemption. This construction is demanded,
because (a) the Greek word――ἔχοντες――more properly agrees with the word
_elders_――πρεσβύτεροι――and not with the word _beasts_――ζῶα; (b) there
is an incongruity in the representation that the living creatures, in
the form of a lion, a calf, an eagle, should have harps and censers;
and (c) the song of praise that is sung (ver. 9) is one that properly
applies to the elders as the representatives of the church, and not to
the living creatures――“Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.” The
_harp_ was a well-known instrument used in the service of God. Josephus
describes it as having ten strings, and as struck with a key (_Ant._
vii. 12, 3). See Notes on Is. v. 12. ¶ _And golden vials._ The word
_vial_ with us, denoting a small slender bottle with a narrow neck,
evidently does not express the idea here. The article here referred to
was used for offering incense, and must have been a vessel with a large
open mouth. The word _bowl_ or _goblet_ would better express the idea,
and it is so explained by Professor Robinson, _Lex._, and by Professor
Stuart, _in loco_. The Greek word――φιάλη――occurs in the New Testament
only in Revelation (v. 8; xv. 7; xvi. 1‒4, 8, 10, 12, 17; xvii. 1;
xxi. 9), and is uniformly rendered _vial_ and _vials_, though the idea
is always that of a bowl or goblet. ¶ _Full of odours._ Or rather, as
in the margin, full of _incense_――θυμιαμάτων. See Notes on Lu. i. 9.
¶ _Which are the prayers of saints._ {127} Which represent or denote
the prayers of saints. Comp. Ps. cxli. 2, “Let my prayer be set forth
before thee as incense.” The meaning is, that incense was a proper
emblem of prayer. This seems to have been in two respects: (a) as being
acceptable to God――as incense produced an agreeable fragrance; and
(b) in its being wafted towards heaven――ascending towards the eternal
throne. In ch. viii. 3, an angel is represented as having a golden
censer: “And there was given unto him much incense, that he should
offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was
before the throne.” The representation there undoubtedly is, that the
angel is employed in _presenting_ the prayers of the saints which were
offered on earth before the throne. See Notes on that passage. It is
most natural to interpret the passage before us in the same way. The
allusion is clearly to the temple service, and to the fact that incense
was offered by the priest in the temple itself at the time that prayer
was offered by the people in the courts of the temple. See Lu. i. 9, 10.
The idea here is, therefore, that the representatives of the church in
heaven――the elders――spoken of as “priests” (ver. 10), are described as
officiating in the temple above in behalf of the church still below,
and as offering incense while the church is engaged in prayer. It is
not said that _they_ offer the prayers themselves, but that they offer
_incense_ as representing the prayers of the saints. If this be the
correct interpretation, as it seems to be the obvious one, then the
passage lays no foundation for the opinion expressed by Professor
Stuart, as derived from this passage (_in loco_), that prayer is
offered by the redeemed in heaven. Whatever may be the truth on that
point――on which the Bible seems to be silent――it will find no support
from the passage before us. Adoration, praise, thanksgiving, are
represented as the employment of the saints in heaven: the only
representation respecting _prayer_ as pertaining to that world is, that
there are emblems there which symbolize its ascent before the throne,
and which show that it is acceptable to God. It is an interesting and
beautiful representation that there _are_ in heaven appropriate symbols
of ascending prayer, and that while in the outer courts here below _we_
offer prayer, incense, emblematic of it, ascends in the holy of holies
above. The _impression_ which this should leave on our minds ought to
be, that our prayers are wafted before the throne, and are acceptable
to God.

    9 And they sung a [204]new song, saying, Thou art worthy to
    take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast
    slain, and hast redeemed us to God [205]by thy blood, out of
    [206]every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

9. _And they sung a new song._ Comp. ch. xiv. 3. _New_ in the sense
that it is a song consequent on redemption, and distinguished therefore
from the songs sung in heaven before the work of redemption was
consummated. We may suppose that songs of adoration have always been
sung in heaven; we know that the praises of God were celebrated by the
angelic choirs when the foundations of the earth were laid (Job xxxviii.
7); but the song of redemption was a different song, and is one that
would never have been sung there if man had not fallen, and if the
Redeemer had not died. This song strikes notes which the other songs
do not strike, and refers to glories of the divine character which, but
for the work of redemption, would not have been brought into view. In
this sense the song was new; it will continue to be new in the sense
that it will be sung afresh as redeemed millions continue to ascend to
heaven. Comp. Ps. xl. 3; xcvi. 1; cxliv. 9; Is. xlii. 10. ¶ _Thou art
worthy to take the book_, &c. This was the occasion or ground of the
“new song,” that by his coming and death he had acquired a right to
approach where no other one could approach, and to do what no other one
could do. ¶ _For thou wast slain._ The _language_ here is such as would
be appropriate to a lamb slain as a sacrifice. The idea is, that the
fact that he was thus slain constituted the ground of his worthiness to
open the book. It could not be meant that there was in him no _other_
ground of worthiness, but that this was that which was most conspicuous.
It is just the outburst of the grateful feeling resulting from
redemption, that he who has died to save the soul is worthy {128} of
_all_ honour, and is fitted to accomplish what no other being in the
universe _can_ do. However this may appear to the inhabitants of other
worlds, or however it may appear to the dwellers on the earth who have
no interest in the work of redemption, yet all who are redeemed will
agree in the sentiment that He who has ransomed them with his blood
has performed a work to do which every other being was incompetent,
and that now all honour in heaven and on earth may appropriately
be conferred on him. ¶ _And hast redeemed us._ The word here
used――ἀγοράζω――means properly to purchase, to buy; and is thus
employed to denote redemption, because redemption was accomplished by
the payment of a price. On the meaning of the word, see Notes on 2 Pe.
ii. 1. ¶ _To God._ That is, so that we become _his_, and are to be
henceforward regarded as such; or so that he might possess us as his
own. See Notes on 2 Co. v. 15. This is the true nature of redemption,
that by the price paid we are rescued from the servitude of Satan, and
are henceforth to regard ourselves as belonging unto God. ¶ _By thy
blood._ See Notes on Ac. xx. 28. This is such language as they use
who believe in the doctrine of the atonement, and is such as would be
used by them alone. It would not be employed by those who believe that
Christ was a mere martyr, or that he lived and died merely as a teacher
of morality. If he was truly an atoning sacrifice, the language is full
of meaning; if not, it has no significance, and could not be understood.
¶ _Out of every kindred._ Literally, “of every tribe”――φυλῆς. The
word _tribe_ means properly a comparatively small division or class of
people associated together (Professor Stuart). It refers to a family,
or race, having a common ancestor, and usually associated or banded
together――as one of the tribes of Israel; a tribe of Indians; a tribe
of plants; a tribe of animals, &c. This is such language as a Jew
would use, denoting one of the smaller divisions that made up a nation
of people; and the meaning would seem to be, that it will be found
ultimately to be true that the redeemed will have been taken from all
such minor divisions of the human family――not only from the different
_nations_, but from the smaller _divisions_ of those nations. This can
only be true from the fact that the knowledge of the true religion will
yet be diffused among all those smaller portions of the human race;
that is, that its diffusion will be universal. ¶ _And tongue._ People
speaking all languages. The word here used would seem to denote a
division of the human family larger than a tribe, but smaller than a
nation. It was formerly a fact that a nation might be made up of those
who spoke many different languages――as, for example, the Assyrian,
the Babylonian, or the Roman nations. Comp. Da. iii. 29; iv. 1. The
meaning here is, that no matter what language the component parts of
the nations speak, the gospel will be conveyed to them, and in their
own tongue they will learn the wonderful works of God. Comp. Ac.
ii. 8‒11. ¶ _And people._ The word here used――λαός――properly denotes
a people considered as _a mass_, made up of smaller divisions――as an
association of smaller bodies――or as a multitude of such bodies united
together. It is distinguished from another word commonly applied to
a people――δῆμος――for that is applied to a community of free citizens,
considered as on a level, or without reference to any minor divisions
or distinctions. The words here used would apply to an army, considered
as made up of regiments, battalions, or tribes; to a mass-meeting, made
up of societies of different trades or professions; to a nation, made
up of different associated communities, &c. It denotes a _larger_ body
of people than the previous words; and the idea is, that no matter
of what _people_ or _nation_, considered as made up of such separate
portions, one may be, he will not be excluded from the blessings of
redemption. The sense would be well expressed, by saying, for instance,
that there will be found there those of the Gaelic race, the Celtic,
the Anglo-Saxon, the Mongolian, the African, &c. ¶ _And nation._ ἔθνους.
A word of still larger signification; the people in a still wider sense;
a people or nation considered as distinct from all others. The word
would embrace all who come under one sovereignty or rule; as, for
example, the British nation, however many minor _tribes_ there may
be; however many different _languages_ may be spoken; and however many
separate _people_ there may be――as the Anglo-Saxon, the Scottish, the
Irish, the people of Hindoostan, of Labrador, of New South Wales, &c.
The words here used by John would together denote nations of every kind,
great and {129} small; and the sense is, that the blessings of
redemption will be extended to all parts of the earth.

        10 And hast made us unto our God [207]kings and priests: and
        we shall [208]reign on the earth.

10. _And hast made us unto our God kings and priests._ See Notes on ch.
i. 6. ¶ _And we shall reign on the earth._ The redeemed, of whom we are
the representatives. The idea clearly is, in accordance with what is so
frequently said in the Scriptures, that the dominion on the earth will
be given to the saints; that is, that there will be such a prevalence
of true religion, and the redeemed will be so much in the ascendency,
that the affairs of the nations will be in their hands. Righteous men
will hold the offices; will fill places of trust and responsibility;
will have a controlling voice in all that pertains to human affairs.
See Notes on Da. vii. 27, and Re. xx. 1‒6. To such a prevalence of
religion all things are tending; and to this, in all the disorder and
sin which now exist, are we permitted to look forward. It is not said
that this will be a reign under the Saviour in a literal kingdom on
the earth; nor is it said that the saints will descend from heaven,
and occupy thrones of power under Christ as a visible king. The simple
affirmation is, that they will _reign_ on the earth; and as this seems
to be spoken in the name of the redeemed, all that is necessary to be
understood is, that there will be such a prevalence of true religion
on the earth that it will become a vast kingdom of holiness, and that,
instead of being in the minority, the saints will everywhere have the

    11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round
    about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the
    [209]number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and
    thousands of thousands;

11. _And I beheld._ And I looked again. ¶ _And I heard the
voice of many angels._ The inhabitants of heaven uniting with the
representatives of the redeemed church in ascribing honour to the Lamb
of God. The design is to show that there is universal sympathy and
harmony in heaven, and that all worlds will unite in ascribing honour
to the Lamb of God. ¶ _Round about the throne and the beasts and
the elders._ In a circle or area _beyond_ that which was occupied
by the throne, the living creatures, and the elders. They occupied
the centre, as it appeared to John, and this innumerable company of
angels surrounded them. The angels are represented here, as they are
everywhere in the Scriptures, as taking a deep interest in all that
pertains to the redemption of men, and it is not surprising that they
are here described as uniting with the representatives of the church in
rendering honour to the Lamb of God. Comp. Notes on 1 Pe. i. 12. ¶ _And
the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand._ One hundred
millions――a general term to denote either a countless number, or an
exceedingly great number. We are not to suppose that it is to be taken
literally. ¶ _And thousands of thousands._ Implying that the number
before specified was not large enough to comprehend all. Besides the
“ten thousand times ten thousand,” there was a vast uncounted host
which one could not attempt to enumerate. The language here would
seem to be taken from Da. vii. 10: “Thousand thousands ministered unto
him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.” Comp. Ps.
lxviii. 17: “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands
of angels. ” See also De. xxxiii. 2; 1 Ki. xxii. 19.

    12 Saying with a loud voice, [210]Worthy is the Lamb that was
    slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength,
    and honour, and glory, and blessing.

12. _Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain._ See
Notes on ver. 2, 9. The idea here is, that the fact that he was slain,
or was made a sacrifice for sin, was the ground or reason for what
is here ascribed to him. Comp. Notes on ver. 5. ¶ _To receive power._
Power or authority to rule over all things. Comp. Notes on Mat. xxviii.
18. The meaning here is, that he was worthy that these things should
be ascribed to him, or to be addressed and acknowledged as possessing
them. A part of these things were his in virtue of his very nature――as
wisdom, glory, riches; a part were conferred on him as the result of
his work――as the mediatorial dominion over the universe, the honour
resulting from his work, &c. In view of all that he was, and of all
that he has done, he is here spoken {130} of as “_worthy_” of all these
things. ¶ _And riches._ Abundance. That is, he is worthy that whatever
contributes to honour, and glory, and happiness, should be conferred on
him _in abundance_. Himself the original proprietor of all things, it
is fit that he should be recognized as such; and having performed the
work which he has, it is proper that whatever may be made to contribute
to his honour should be regarded as his. ¶ _And wisdom._ That he should
be esteemed as eminently wise; that is, that as the result of the work
which he has accomplished, he should be regarded as having ability to
choose the best ends and the best means to accomplish them. The feeling
here referred to is that which arises from the contemplation of the
work of salvation by the Redeemer, as a work eminently characterized
by _wisdom_――wisdom manifested in meeting the evils of the fall; in
honouring the law; in showing that mercy is consistent with justice;
and in adapting the whole plan to the character and wants of man. If
wisdom was anywhere demanded, it was in reconciling a lost world to
God; if it has been anywhere displayed, it has been in the arrangements
for that work, and in its execution by the Redeemer. See Notes on 1 Co.
i. 24; comp. Mat. xiii. 54; Lu. ii. 40, 52; 1 Co. i. 20, 21, 30; Ep.
i. 8; iii. 10. ¶ _And strength._ Ability to accomplish his purposes.
That is, it is meet that he should be regarded as having such ability.
This _strength_ or _power_ was manifested in overcoming the great enemy
of man; in his control of winds, and storms, and diseases, and devils;
in triumphing over death; in saving his people. ¶ _And honour._ He
should be esteemed and treated with honour for what he has done. ¶ _And
glory. _ This word refers to a _higher_ ascription of praise than the
word _honour_. Perhaps that might refer to the honour which we feel in
our hearts; this to the expression of that by the language of praise.
¶ _And blessing._ Everything which would express the desire that he
might be happy, honoured, and adored. To bless one is to desire that he
may have happiness and prosperity; that he may be successful, respected,
and honoured. To bless God, or to ascribe blessing to him, is that
state where the heart is full of love and gratitude, and where it
desires that he may be everywhere honoured, loved, and obeyed as he
should be. The words here express the wish that the universe would
ascribe to the Redeemer all honour, and that he might be everywhere
loved and adored.

    13 And [211]every creature which is in heaven, and on the
    earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and
    all that are in them, heard I saying, [212]Blessing, and
    honour, and glory, and power, _be_ unto him that sitteth upon
    the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

13. _And every creature which is in heaven._ The meaning of this verse
is, that all created things seemed to unite in rendering honour to Him
who sat on the throne, and to the Lamb. In the previous verse a certain
number――a vast host――of angels are designated as rendering praise as
they stood round the area occupied by the throne, the elders, and the
living creatures; here it is added that _all_ who were in heaven united
in this ascription of praise. ¶ _And on the earth._ All the universe
was heard by John ascribing praise to God. A voice was heard from
the heavens, from all parts of the earth, from under the earth, and
from the depths of the sea, _as if_ the entire universe joined in
the adoration. It is not necessary to press the language literally,
and still less is it necessary to understand by it, as Professor
Stuart does, that _the angels_ who presided over the earth, over the
under-world, and over the sea, are intended. It is evidently _popular_
language; and the sense is, that John heard a universal ascription of
praise. All worlds seemed to join in it; all the dwellers on the earth,
and under the earth, and in the sea, partook of the spirit of heaven in
rendering honour to the Redeemer. ¶ _Under the earth._ Supposed to be
inhabited by the shades of the dead. See Notes on Job x. 21, 22; Is.
xiv. 9. ¶ _And such as are in the sea._ All that dwell in the ocean.
In Ps. cxlviii. 7‒10, “dragons, and all deeps; beasts, and all cattle;
creeping things, and flying fowl,” are called on to praise the
{131} Lord; and there is no more incongruity or impropriety in one
description than in the other. In the Psalm, the universe is called on
to render praise; in the passage before us it is described as actually
doing it. The hills, the streams, the floods; the fowls of the air,
the dwellers in the deep, and the beasts that roam over the earth;
the songsters in the grove, and the insects that play in the sunbeam,
in fact, declare the glory of their Creator; and it requires no very
strong effort of the fancy to imagine the universe as sending up a
constant voice of thanksgiving. ¶ _Blessing, and honour_, &c. There
is a slight change here from ver. 12, but it is the same thing
substantially. It is an ascription of all glory to God and to the Lamb.

    14 And the [213]four beasts said, Amen. And the four _and_
    twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for
    ever and ever.

14. _And the four beasts said, Amen._ The voice of universal praise
came to them from abroad, and they accorded with it, and ascribed
honour to God. ¶ _And the four and twenty elders fell down_, &c. The
living creatures and the elders _began_ the work of praise (ver. 8),
and it was proper that it should conclude with them; that is, they give
the last and final response (Professor Stuart). The whole universe,
therefore, is sublimely represented as in a state of profound adoration,
waiting for the developments to follow on the opening of the mysterious
volume. All feel an interest in it; all feel that the secret is with
God; all feel that there is but One who _can_ open this volume; and all
gather around, in the most reverential posture, awaiting the disclosure
of the great mystery.

The truths taught in this chapter are the following: (1) The knowledge
of the future is with God, ver. 1. It is as in a book held in his hand,
fully written over, yet sealed with seven seals. (2) It is impossible
for man or angel to penetrate the future, ver. 2, 3. It seems to be a
law of created being, that the ability to penetrate the future is
placed beyond the reach of any of the faculties by which a creature is
endowed. Of the past we have a record, and we can remember it; but no
created being seems to have been formed with a power in reference to
the future corresponding with that in reference to the past――with no
faculty of _foresight_ corresponding to _memory_. (3) It is natural
that the mind should be deeply affected by the fact that we _cannot_
penetrate the future, ver. 4. John _wept_ in view of this; and how
often is the mind borne down with heaviness in view of that fact! What
things there are, there must be, in that future of interest to us! What
changes there may be for us to experience; what trials to pass through;
what happiness to enjoy; what scenes of glory to witness! What progress
may we make in knowledge; what new friendships may we form; what
new displays of the divine perfections may we witness! All our great
interests are in the future――in that which is to us now unknown. There
is to be all the happiness which we are to enjoy, all the pain that
we are to suffer; all that we hope, all that we fear. All the friends
that we are to have are to be there; all the sorrows that we are to
experience are to be there. Yet an impenetrable veil is set up to hide
all that from our view. We cannot remove it; we cannot penetrate it.
There it stands to mock all our efforts, and in all our attempts to
look into the future we soon come to the barrier, and are repelled and
driven back. Who has not felt his heart sad that he cannot look into
that which is to come? (4) The power of laying open the future to
mortals has been intrusted to the Redeemer, ver. 5‒7. It is a part of
the work which was committed to him to make known to men _as much_ as
it was proper to be known. Hence he is at once a prophet, and is the
inspirer of the prophets. Hence he came to teach men what is to be in
the future pertaining to them, and hence he has caused to be recorded
by the sacred writers all that _is_ to be known of what is to come
until it is slowly unfolded as events develop themselves. The Saviour
alone takes the mysterious book and opens the seals; he only unrolls
the volume and discloses to man what is to come. (5) The fact that
he does this is the foundation of joy and gratitude for the church,
ver. 8‒10. It is impossible that the church should contemplate what
the Saviour has revealed of the future without gratitude and joy; and
how often, in times of persecution and trouble, has the church joyfully
turned to the developments made by the {132} Saviour of what is to
be when the gospel shall spread over the world, and when truth and
righteousness shall be triumphant. (6) This fact is of interest to
the angelic beings, and for them also it lays the foundation of praise,
ver. 11, 12. This may arise from these causes: (a) from the interest
which they take in the church, and the happiness which they have from
anything that increases its numbers or augments its joy; (b) from
the fact that in the disclosures of the future made by the Redeemer,
there may be much that is new and of interest to them (comp. Notes
on 1 Pe. i. 12); and (c) from the fact that they cannot but rejoice
in the revelations which are made of the final triumphs of truth
in the universe. (7) The universe at large has an interest in these
disclosures, and the fact that they are to be made by the Redeemer lays
the foundation for universal joy, ver. 13, 14. These events pertain to
all worlds, and it is proper that all the inhabitants of the universe
should join in the expressions of adoration and thanksgiving. The
universe is one; and what affects one portion of it really pertains to
every part of it. Angels and men have one and the same God and Father,
and may unite in the same expressions of praise.

                              CHAPTER VI.

                       ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER.

This chapter contains an account of the opening of six of the seven
seals. It need hardly be said to anyone who is at all familiar with the
numerous――not to say numberless――expositions of the Apocalypse, that
it is at this point that interpreters begin to differ, and that here
commences the divergence towards those various, discordant, and many
of them wild and fantastic theories, which have been proposed in the
exposition of this wonderful book. Up to this point, though there may
be unimportant diversities in the exposition of words and phrases,
there is no material difference of opinion as to the general meaning
of the writer. In the epistles to the seven churches, and in the
introductory scenes to the main visions, there can be no doubt, in the
main, as to what the writer had in view, and what he meant to describe.
He addressed churches then existing (ch. i.‒iii.), and set before them
their sins and their duties; and he described scenes passing before
his eyes as then present (ch. iv. v.), which were merely designed to
impress his own mind with the importance of what was to be disclosed,
and to bring the great actors on the stage, and in reference to which
there could be little ground for diversity in the interpretation. Here,
however, the scene opens into the future, comprehending all the unknown
period until there shall be a final triumph of Christianity, and all
its foes shall be prostrate. The actors are the Son of God, angels,
men, Satan, storms, tempests, earthquakes, the pestilence and fire;
the scene is heaven, earth, hell. There is no certain designation of
places; there is no mention of names――as there is in Isaiah (xlv. 1)
of Cyrus, or as there is in Daniel (viii. 21; x. 20; xi. 2) of the
“king of Grecia;” there is no designation of time that is necessarily
unambiguous; and there are no characteristics of the symbols used that
make it antecedently certain that they could be applied only to one
class of events. In the boundless future that was to succeed the times
of John, there would be, of necessity, many events to which these
symbols might be applied, and the result has shown that it has required
but a moderate share of pious ingenuity to apply them, by different
expositors, to events differing widely from each other in their
character, and in the times when they would occur. It would be too long
to glance even at the various theories which have been proposed and
maintained in regard to the interpretation of the subsequent portions
of the Apocalypse, and wholly impossible to attempt to examine those
theories. Time, in its developments, has already exploded many of them;
and time, in its future developments, will doubtless explode many more,
and each one must stand or fall as, in the disclosures of the future,
it shall be found to be true or false. It would be folly to add another
to those numerous theories, even if I had any such theory (see the
Preface), and perhaps equal folly to pronounce with certainty on
any one of those which have been advanced. Yet this seems to be
an appropriate place to state, in few words, what principles it is
designed to pursue in the interpretation of the remainder of the book.

(1) It may be assumed that large portions of the book relate to _the
future_; that is, to that which was future when John wrote. In this
all expositors are agreed, and this is manifest indeed on the very
face of the representation. It would be impossible to attempt an
interpretation {133} on any other supposition, and somewhere _in_ that
vast future the events are to be found to which the symbols here used
had reference. This is assumed, indeed, on the supposition that the book
is _inspired_――a fact which is assumed all along in this exposition,
and which should be allowed to control our interpretation. But assuming
that the book relates to the future, though that supposition will do
something to determine the true method of interpretation, yet it leaves
many questions still unsolved. Whether it refers to the destruction of
Jerusalem, on the supposition that the work was written before that
event, or to the history of the church subsequent to that; whether it
is designed to describe events minutely, or only in the most general
manner; whether it is intended to furnish a _syllabus_ of civil and
ecclesiastical history, or only a very general outline of future events;
whether the _times_ are so designated that we can fix them with entire
certainty; or whether it was intended to furnish any certain indication
of the periods of the world when these things should occur;――all these
are still open questions, and it need not be said that on these the
opinions of expositors have been greatly divided.

(2) It may be assumed that there _is_ meaning in these symbols, and
that they were not used without an intention to convey some important
ideas to the mind of John and to the minds of his readers――to the
church then, and to the church in future times. Comp. Notes on ch.
i. 3. The book is indeed surpassingly sublime. It abounds with the
highest flights of poetic language. It is Oriental in its character,
and exhibits everywhere the proofs of a most glowing imagination in
the writer. But it is also to be borne in mind that it is an _inspired_
book, and this fact is to determine the character of the exposition.
_If_ inspired, it is to be assumed that there is a _meaning_ in
these symbols; an idea in each one of them, and in all combined, of
importance to the church and the world. Whether we can ascertain the
meaning is another question; but it is never to be doubted by an
expositor of the Bible that there _is_ a meaning in the words and
images employed, and that to find out that meaning is worthy of earnest
study and prayer.

(3) Predictions respecting the future are often necessarily obscure
to man. It cannot be doubted, indeed, that God _could_ have foretold
future events in the most clear and unambiguous language. He who knows
all that is to come as intimately as he does all the past, could have
caused a record to have been made, disclosing names, and dates, and
places, so that the most minute statements of what is to occur might
have been in the possession of man as clearly as the records of the
past now are. But there were obvious reasons why this should not occur,
and in the prophecies it is rare that there is any such specification.
To have done this might have been to defeat the very end in view; for
it would have given to man, a free agent, the power of embarrassing or
frustrating the divine plans. But if this course is _not_ adopted, then
prophecy must, from the nature of the case, be obscure. The knowledge
of any one particular fact in the future is so connected with many
other facts, and often implies so much knowledge of other things, that
without that other knowledge it could not be understood. Suppose that
it had been predicted, in the time of John, that at some future period
some contrivance should be found out by which what was doing in one
part of the world could be instantaneously known in another remote part
of the world, and spread abroad by thousands of copies in an hour, to
be read by a nation. Suppose, for instance, that there had been some
symbol or emblem representing what actually occurs now, when in a
morning newspaper we read what occurred last evening at St. Louis,
Dubuque, Galena, Chicago, Cincinnati, Charleston, New Orleans; it is
clear that at a time when the magnetic telegraph and the printing-press
were unknown, any symbol or language describing it that could be
employed must be obscure, and the impression must have been that this
could be accomplished only by miracle――and it would not be difficult
for one who was disposed to scepticism to make out an argument to prove
that this could _not_ occur. It would be impossible to explain any
symbol that could be employed to represent this until these wonderful
descriptions should become reality, and in the meantime the book in
which the symbols were found might be regarded as made up of mere
riddles and enigmas; but when these inventions should be actually found
out, however much ridicule or contempt had been poured on the book
before, it {134} might be perfectly evident that the symbol was the
most appropriate that could be used, and no one could doubt that it was
a divine communication of what was to be in the future. Something of
the same kind _may_ have occurred in the symbols used by the writer of
the book before us.

(4) It is not necessary to suppose that a prophecy will be understood
in all its details until the prediction is accomplished. In the case
just referred to, though the _fact_ of the rapid spread of intelligence
might be clear, yet nothing would convey any idea of the _mode_, or of
the actual meaning of the _symbols_ used, unless the inventions were
themselves anticipated by a direct revelation. The trial of _faith_
in the case would be the belief that _the fact would occur_, but would
not relate to the _mode_ in which it was to be accomplished, or the
_language_ employed to describe it. There might be great obscurity in
regard to the symbols and language, and yet the knowledge of the fact
be perfectly plain. When, however, the fact should occur as predicted,
all would be clear. So it is in respect to prophecy. Many recorded
predictions that are now clear as noon-day, were once as ambiguous and
uncertain in respect to their meaning as in the supposed case of the
press and the telegraph. Time has made them plain; for the event to
which they referred has so entirely corresponded with the symbol as to
leave no doubt in regard to the meaning. Thus many of the prophecies
relating to the Messiah were obscure at the time when they were uttered;
were apparently so contradictory that they could not be reconciled;
were so unlike anything that then existed, that the fulfilment seemed
to be impossible; and were so enigmatical in the symbols employed, that
it seemed in vain to attempt to disclose their meaning. The advent of
the long-promised Messiah, however, removed the obscurity; and now they
are read with no uncertainty as to their meaning, and with no doubt
that those predictions, once so obscure, had a divine origin.

The view just suggested may lead us to some just conceptions of
what is necessary to be done in attempting to explain the prophecies.
Suppose, then, _first_, that there had been, say in the dark ages, some
predictions that claimed to be of divine origin, of the invention of
the art of printing and of the magnetic telegraph. The proper business
of an interpreter, if he regarded this as a divine communication, would
have consisted in four things: (a) to explain, as well as he could,
the fair meaning of the symbols employed, and the language used; (b) to
admit the _fact_ referred to, and implied in the fair interpretation
of the language employed, of the rapid spread of intelligence in that
future period, though he could not explain _how_ it was to be done;
(c) in the meantime it would be a perfectly legitimate object for him
to inquire whether there were any events occurring in the world, or
whether there had been any, to which these symbols were applicable, or
which would meet all the circumstances involved in them; (d) if there
were, then his duty would be ended; if there were not, then the symbols,
with such explanation as could be furnished of their meaning, should
be handed on to future times, _to be_ applied when the predicted events
should actually occur. Suppose, then, _secondly_, the case of the
predictions respecting the Messiah, scattered along through many books,
and given in various forms, and by various symbols. The proper business
of an interpreter would have been, as in the other case, (a) to explain
the fair meaning of the language used, and to bring together all
the circumstances in one connected whole, that a distinct conception
of the predicted Messiah might be before the mind; (b) to admit the
_facts_ referred to, and thus predicted, however incomprehensible
and apparently contradictory they might appear to be; (c) to inquire
whether anyone had appeared who combined within himself all the
characteristics of the description; and (d) if no one had thus appeared,
to send on the prophecies, with such explanations of words and symbols
as could be ascertained to be correct, to future times, to have their
full meaning developed when the object of all the predictions should
be accomplished, and the Messiah should appear. Then the meaning of all
would be plain; and then the argument from prophecy would be complete.
This is obviously now the proper state of the mind in regard to the
predictions in the Bible, and these are the principles which should be
applied in examining the book of Revelation.

(5) It may be assumed that new light _will_ be thrown upon the
prophecies by time, and by the progress of events. It cannot be
supposed that {135} the investigations of the meaning of the prophetic
symbols will all be in vain. Difficulties, it is reasonable to hope,
may be cleared up; errors may be detected in regard to the application
of the prophecies to particular events; and juster views on the
prophecies, as on all other subjects, will prevail as the world grows
older. We become wiser by seeing the errors of those who have gone
before us, and an examination of the causes which led them astray may
enable us to avoid such errors in the future. Especially may it be
supposed that light will be thrown on the prophecies as they shall be
in part or wholly fulfilled. The prophecies respecting the destruction
of Babylon, of Petra, of Tyre, of Jerusalem, are now fully understood;
the prophecies respecting the advent of the Messiah, and his character
and work, once so obscure, are now perfectly clear. So, we have reason
to suppose, it will be with _all_ prophecy in the progress of events,
and sooner or later the world will settle down into some uniform belief
in regard to the design and meaning of these portions of the sacred
writings. Whether the time has yet come for this, or whether numerous
other failures are to be added to the melancholy catalogue of past
failures on this subject, is another question; but ultimately all the
now unfulfilled prophecies will be as clear as to their meaning as are
those which have been already fulfilled.

(6) The plan, therefore, which I propose in the examination of
the remaining portion of the Apocalypse is the following: (a) To
explain the meaning of the symbols; that is, to show, as clearly as
possible, what those symbols properly express, independently of any
attempt to apply them. This opens, of itself, an interesting field of
investigation, and one where essential service may be done, even if
nothing further is intended. Without any reference to the _application_
of those symbols, this, of itself, is an important work of criticism,
and, if successfully done, would be rendering a valuable service to
the readers of the sacred volume. (b) To state, as briefly as possible,
what others who have written on this book, and who have brought eminent
learning and talent to bear on its interpretation, have supposed to be
the true interpretation of the symbols employed by John, and in regard
to the times in which the events referred to would occur. It is in this
way only that we can be made acquainted with the real progress made
in interpreting this book, and it will be useful at least to know how
the subject has struck other minds, and how and why they have failed
to perceive the truth. I propose, therefore, to state, as I go along,
some of the theories which have been held as to the meaning of the
Apocalypse, and as to the events which have been supposed by others to
be referred to. My limits require, however, that this should be briefly
done, and forbid my attempting to examine those opinions at length.
(c) To state, in as brief and clear a manner as possible, the view
which I have been led to entertain as to the proper application of the
symbols employed in the book, with such historical references as shall
seem to me to confirm the interpretation proposed. (d) Where I cannot
form an opinion as to the meaning, to confess my ignorance. He does no
service in a professed interpretation of the Bible who passes over a
difficulty without _attempting_ to remove it, or who, to save his own
reputation, conceals the fact that there is a real difficulty; and he
does as little service who is unwilling to confess his ignorance on
many points, or who attempts an explanation where he has no clear and
settled views. As his opinion can be of no value to anyone else unless
it is based on reasons in his own mind that will bear examination, so
it can usually be of little value unless those reasons are stated. It
is as important for his readers to have those reasons before their own
minds as it is for him; and unless he has it in his power to _state_
reasons for what he advances, his opinions can be worth nothing to the
world. He who lays down this rule of interpretation may expect to have
ample opportunity, in interpreting such a book as the Apocalypse, to
confess his ignorance; but he who interprets a book which he believes
to be inspired, may console himself with the thought that what is now
obscure will be clear hereafter, and that he performs the best service
which he can if he endeavours to explain the book _up to_ the time in
which he lives. There will be developments hereafter which will make
that clear which is now obscure; developments which will make this
book, in all past ages apparently so enigmatical, as clear as any other
portion of the inspired volume, as it is now, even with {136} imperfect
view which we may have of its meaning, beyond all question one of the
most sublime books that has ever been written.

This chapter describes the opening of the first six seals. (1) The
first discloses a white horse, with a rider armed with a bow. A crown
is given to him, symbolical of triumph and prosperity, and he goes
forth to conquer, ver. 1, 2. (2) The second discloses a red-coloured
horse, with a rider. The emblem is that of blood――of sanguinary war.
Power is given him to take peace from the earth, and a sword is given
him――emblem of war, but not of certain victory. Triumph and prosperity
are denoted by the former symbol; war, discord, bloodshed, by this,
ver. 3, 4. (3) The third discloses a black horse, with a rider. He
has a pair of balances in his hand, as if there were _scarcity_ in
the earth, and he announces the price of grain in the times of this
calamity, and a command is given not to hurt the oil and the wine,
ver. 5, 6. The emblem is that of scarcity――as if there were oppression,
or as a consequence of war or discord, while at the same time there is
care bestowed to preserve certain portions of the produce of the earth
from injury. (4) The fourth discloses a pale horse, with a rider. The
name of this rider is Death, and Hell (or Hades) follows him――as if the
hosts of the dead came again on the earth. Power is given to the rider
over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger,
with death, and with wild beasts. This emblem would seem to denote war,
wide-wasting pestilence, famine, and desolation――as if wild beasts were
suffered to roam over lands that had been inhabited; something of which
_paleness_ would be an emblem. Here ends the array of _horses_; and
it is evidently intended by these four symbols to refer to a series of
events that have a general resemblance――something that could be made to
stand by themselves, and that could be grouped together. (5) The fifth
seal opens a new scene. The horse and the rider no longer appear. It
is not a scene of war, and of the consequences of war, but a scene of
persecution. The souls of those who were slain for the word of God and
the testimony which they held are seen under the altar, praying to God
that he would avenge their blood. White robes are given them――tokens of
the divine favour, and emblems of their ultimate triumph; and they are
commanded to “rest for a little season, till their fellow-servants and
their brethren that should be killed as they were should be fulfilled;”
that is, that they should be _patient_ until the number of the martyrs
was filled up. In other words, there was (a) the assurance of the
divine favour towards them; (b) vengeance, or the punishment of those
who had persecuted them, would not be _immediate_; but (c) there was
the implied assurance that just punishment would be inflicted on their
persecutors, and that the cause for which they had suffered would
ultimately triumph, ver. 9‒11. (6) The opening of the sixth seal, ver.
12‒17. There was an earthquake, and the sun became dark, and the moon
was turned to blood, and the stars fell, and all kings and people were
filled with consternation. This symbol properly denotes the time of
public commotion, of revolution, of calamity; and it was evidently to
be fulfilled by some great changes on the earth, or by the overturning
of the seats of power, and by such sudden revolutions as would fill the
nations with alarm.

                              CHAPTER VI.

    AND I saw when [214]the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I
    heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts
    saying, Come and see.

1. _And I saw._ Or, I looked. He fixed his eye attentively on what was
passing, as promising important disclosures. No one had been found in
the universe who could open the seals but the Lamb of God (ch. v. 2‒4);
and it was natural for John, therefore, to look upon the transaction
with profound interest. ¶ _When the Lamb opened one of the seals._
See Notes on ch. v. 1, 5. This was the first or outermost of the seals,
and its being broken would permit a certain portion of the volume to
be unrolled and read. See Notes on ch. v. 1. The representation in this
place is, therefore, that of a volume with a small portion unrolled,
and written on both sides of the parchment. ¶ _And I heard, as it
were the noise of thunder._ One of the four living creatures speaking
as with a voice of thunder, or with a loud voice. ¶ _One of the
four beasts._ Notes on ch. iv. 6, 7. {137} The particular one is not
mentioned, though what is said in the subsequent verses leaves no doubt
that it was the first in order as seen by John――the one like a lion,
ch. iv. 7. In the opening of the three following seals, it is expressly
said that it was the second, the third, and the fourth of the living
creatures that drew near, and hence the conclusion is certain that the
one here referred to was the first. If the four living creatures be
understood to be emblematic of the divine providential administration,
then there was a propriety that they should be represented as summoning
John to witness what was to be disclosed. These events pertained to
the developments of the divine purposes, and these emblematic beings
would therefore be interested in what was occurring. ¶ _Come and see._
Addressed evidently to John. He was requested to approach and _see_
with his own eyes what was disclosed in the portion of the volume now
unrolled. He had wept much (ch. v. 4) that no one was found who was
worthy to open that book, but he was now called on to approach and see
for himself. Some have supposed (Lord, _in loco_) that the address here
was not to John, but to the horse and his rider, and that the command
to them was not to “come and see,” but to _come forth_, and appear on
the stage, and that the act of the Redeemer in breaking the seal, and
unrolling the scroll, was nothing more than an emblem signifying that
it was by his act that the divine purposes were to be unfolded. But,
in order to this interpretation, it would be necessary to omit from the
received text the words καὶ βλέπε――“_and see_.” This is done, indeed,
by Hahn and Tittmann, and this reading is followed by Professor Stuart,
though he says that the received text has “probability” in its favour,
and is followed by some of the critical editions. The most natural
interpretation, however, is that the words were addressed to John.
John saw the Lamb open the seal; he heard the loud voice; he looked and
beheld a white horse――that is, evidently, he looked on the unfolding
volume, and saw the representation of a horse and his rider. That the
voice was addressed to John is the common interpretation, is the most
natural, and is liable to no real objection.

    2 And I saw, and behold [215]a white horse: and he that sat on
    him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went
    forth [216]conquering, and to conquer.

2. _And I saw, and behold._ A question has arisen as to the mode of
representation here: whether what John saw in these visions was a
series of _pictures_, drawn on successive portions of the volume as one
seal was broken after another; or whether the description of the horses
and of the events was _written_ on the volume, so that John read it
himself, or heard it read by another; or whether the opening of the
seal was merely the _occasion_ of a scenic representation, in which a
succession of horses was introduced, with a written statement of the
events which are referred to. Nothing is indeed said by which this
can be determined with certainty; but the most probable supposition
would seem to be that there was some pictorial representation in
form and appearance, such as he describes in the opening of the six
seals. In favour of this it may be observed, (1) that, according
to the interpretation of ver. 1, it was something _in_ or _on_ the
volume――since he was invited to draw nearer, in order that he might
contemplate it. (2) Each one of the things under the first five seals,
where John uses the word “saw,” is capable of being represented by a
picture or painting. (3) The language used is not such as would have
been employed if he had merely _read_ the description, or had _heard_
it read. (4) The supposition that the pictorial representation was
not _in_ the volume, but that the opening of the seal was the occasion
merely of causing a scenic representation to pass before his mind, is
unnatural and forced. What would be the use of a sealed _volume_ in
that case? What the use of the _writing_ within and without? On this
supposition the representation would be that, as the successive seals
were broken, nothing was disclosed in the volume but a succession
of blank portions, and that the mystery or the difficulty was not
in anything in the volume, but in the want of ability to summon
forth these successive scenic representations. The most obvious
interpretation is, undoubtedly, that what John proceeds to describe
was in some way represented in the volume; and {138} the idea of
a succession of pictures or drawings better accords with the whole
representation, than the idea that it was a mere written description.
In fact, these successive scenes could be well represented now in a
pictorial form on a scroll. ¶ _And behold a white horse._ In order to
any definite understanding of what was denoted by these symbols, it
is proper to form in our minds, in the first place, a clear conception
of what the symbol properly represents, or an idea of what it would
naturally convey. It may be assumed that the symbol was significant,
and that there was some reason why that was used rather than another;
why, for instance, a _horse_ was employed rather than an eagle or
a lion; why a _white_ horse was employed in one case, and a red one,
a black one, a pale one in the others; why in this case a bow was in
the hand of the rider, and a crown was placed on his head. Each one
of these particulars enters into the constitution of the symbol; and
we must find something in the event which _fairly_ corresponds with
each――for the symbol is made up of all these things grouped together.
It may be farther observed, that where the general symbol is the
same――as in the opening of the first four seals――it may be assumed
that the same object or class of objects is referred to; and the
_particular_ things denoted, or the diversity in the general
application, is to be found in the _variety_ in the representation――the
colour, &c., of the horse, and the arms, apparel, &c., of the rider.
The specifications under the first seal are four: (1) the general
symbol of the horse――common to the first four seals; (2) the colour
of the horse; (3) the fact that he that sat on him had a bow; and
(4) that a crown was given him by some one, as indicative of victory.
The question now is, what these symbols would naturally denote.

(1) The horse. The meaning of this symbol must be drawn from the
natural use to which the symbol is applied, or the characteristics
which it is known to have; and it may be added, that there might have
been something for which that was best known in the time of the writer
who uses it, which would not be so prominent at another period of
the world, or in another country, and that it is necessary to have
that before the mind in order to obtain a correct understanding of
the symbol. The use of the horse, for instance, may have varied at
different times to some degree; at one time the prevailing use of the
horse may have been for battle; at another for rapid marches――as of
cavalry; at another for draught; at another for races; at another for
conveying messages by the establishment of posts or the appointment of
couriers. To an ancient Roman the horse might suggest prominently one
idea; to a modern Arab another; to a teamster in Holland another. The
things which would be most naturally suggested by the horse as a symbol,
as distinguished, for instance, from an eagle, a lion, a serpent, &c.,
would be the following: (a) War, as this was probably one of the first
uses to which the horse was applied. So, in the magnificent description
of the horse in Job xxxix. 19‒25, no notice is taken of any of his
qualities but those which pertain to war. See, for a full illustration
of this passage, and of the frequent reference in the classic writers
to the horse as connected with war, Bochart, _Hieroz._ lib. ii.
c. viii., particularly p. 149. Comp. Virg. _Geor._ iii. 83, 84:

         “Si qua sonum procul arma dedêre,
          Stare loco nescit, micat auribus, et tremit artus.”

Ovid, _Metam._ iii.:

           “Ut fremit acer equus, cam bellicus, aere canoro
            Signa dedit tubicen, pugnæque assumit amorem.”

_Silius_, lib. xiii.:

            “Is trepido alituum tinnitu, et stare neganti,
             Imperitans violenter equo.”

So Solomon says (Pr. xxi. 31), “The horse is prepared against the day
of battle.” So in Zec. x. 3, the prophet says, God had made the house
of Judah “as his goodly horse in the battle;” that is, he had made
them like the victorious war-horse. (b) As a consequence of this, and
of the conquests achieved by the horse in war, he became the symbol
of conquest――of a people that could not be overcome. Comp. the above
reference in Zec. Thus in Carthage the horse was an image of victorious
war, in contradistinction to the _ox_, which was an emblem of the arts
of peaceful agriculture. This was based on a tradition respecting the
foundation of the city, referred to by Virgil, _Æn._ i. 442‒445:

         “Quo primum jactati undis et turbine Poeni
          Effodêre loco signum, quod regia Juno
          Monstrârat, _caput acris equi_: sic nam fore bello
          Egregiam, et facilem victu per Secula gentem.”

{139} In reference to this circumstance Justin (lib. xviii. 5)
remarks, that “in laying the foundations of the city the head of an ox
was found, which was regarded as an emblem of a fruitful land, but of
the necessity of labour and of dependence; on which account the city
was transferred to another place. Then the head of a horse was found,
and this was regarded as a happy omen that the city would be warlike
and prosperous.” Comp. Creuzer, _Symbolik_, vol. ii. p. 456. (c) The
horse was an emblem of _fleetness_, and, consequently, of the rapidity
of conquest. Comp. Joel ii. 4: “The appearance of them is as the
appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.” Je. iv. 13:
“Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as the
whirlwind; his horses are swifter than eagles.” Compare Job xxxix. 18.
(d) The horse is an emblem of strength, and consequently of safety.
Ps. cxlvii. 10: “He delighteth not in the strength of the horse.” In
general, then, the horse would properly symbolize war, conquest, or
the rapidity with which a message is conveyed. The particular character
or complexion of the event――as peaceful or warlike, prosperous or
adverse――is denoted by the colour of the horse, and by the character
of the rider.

(2) The colour of the horse: _a white horse_. It is evident that this
is designed to be significant, because it is distinguished from the red,
the black, and the pale horse, referred to in the following verses. In
general, it may be observed that _white_ is the emblem of innocence,
purity, prosperity――as the opposite is of sickness, sin, calamity. If
the significance of the emblem turned alone on the _colour_, we should
look to something cheerful, prosperous, happy as the thing that was
symbolized. But the significance in the case is to be found not only in
the colour――_white_――but in the horse that was white; and the inquiry
is, what would _a horse of that colour_ properly denote; that is,
on what occasions, and with reference to what ends, was such a horse
used? Now, the general notion attached to the mention of a white horse,
according to ancient usage, would be that of state and triumph, derived
from the fact that white horses were rode by conquerors on the days of
their triumph; that they were used in the marriage cavalcade; that they
were employed on coronation occasions, &c. In the triumphs granted by
the Romans to their victorious generals, after a procession composed of
musicians, captured princes, spoils of battle, &c., came the conqueror
himself, seated on a high chariot drawn by four white horses, robed
in purple, and wearing a wreath of laurel (Eschenburg, _Man. of Class.
Literature_, p. 283. Comp. Ovid _de Arte Amandi_, lib. v. 214). The
name of λεύκιππος――_leucippos_――was given to Proserpine, because she
was borne from Hades to Olympus in a chariot drawn by white horses
(_Scol. Pind. Ol._ vi. 161. See Creuzer’s _Symbol._ iv. 253). White
horses are supposed, also, to excel others in fleetness. So Horace,
_Sat._ lib. i. vii. 8:

           “Sisennas, Barrosque ut equis præcurreret albis.”

So Plaut. _Asin._ ii. 2, 12. So Homer, _Il._ K. 437:

            Λευκότεροι χιόνος, θείειν δʹ ἀνέμοισιν ὁμοῖοι.

――“Whiter than the snow, and swifter than the winds.” And in the
_Æneid_, where Turnus was about to contend with Æneas, he demanded

             “Qui candore nives anteirent cursibus auras.”

――“Which would surpass the snow in whiteness, and the wind in
fleetness” (_Æn._ xii. 84). So the poets everywhere describe the
chariot of the sun as drawn by white horses (Bochart, _ut supra_).
So conquerors and princes are everywhere represented as borne on white
horses. Thus Propertius, lib. iv. eleg. i.:

               “Quatuor huic albos Romulus egit equos.”

So Claudian, lib. ii., _de Laudibus Stilichonis_:

               “Deposito mitis clypeo, candentibus urbem
                Ingreditur trabeatus equis.”

And thus Ovid (lib. i. _de Arte_) addresses Augustus, auguring that he
would return a victor:

           “Ergo erit illa dies, quâ tu, Pulcherrime rerum,
            Quatuor in niveis aureus ibis equis.”

The preference of _white_ to denote triumph or victory was early
referred to among the Hebrews. Thus, Ju. v. 10, in the Song of Deborah:

                 “Speak, ye that ride on white asses,
                  Ye that sit in judgment,
                  And walk by the way.”

The expression, then, in the passage before us, would properly refer
to some kind of _triumph_; to some joyous occasion; {140} to something
where there was success or victory; and, so far as _this_ expression is
concerned, would refer to _any kind_ of triumph, whether of the gospel
or of victory in war.

(3) The bow: and _he that sat on him had a bow_. The bow would be
a natural emblem of war――as it was used in war; or of hunting――as it
was used for that purpose. It was a common instrument of attack or
defence, and seems to have been early invented, for it is found in all
rude nations. Comp. Ge. xxvii. 3; xlviii. 22; xlix. 24; Jos. xxiv. 12;
1 Sa. xviii. 4; Ps. xxxvii. 15; Is. vii. 24. The bow would be naturally
emblematic of the following things: (a) _War._ See the passages above.
(b) _Hunting._ Thus it was one of the emblems of Apollo as the god of
hunting. (c) _The effect of truth_――as that which secured conquest, or
overcame opposition in the heart. So far as _this_ emblem is concerned,
it might denote a warrior, a hunter, a preacher, a ruler――anyone who
exerted power over others, or who achieved any kind of conquest over

(4) The crown: _and a crown was given unto him_. The word here
used――στέφανος――means a circlet, chaplet, or crown――usually such as
was given to a victor, 1 Co. ix. 25. It would properly be emblematic
of victory or conquest――as it was given to victors in war, or to the
victors at the Grecian games, and as it is given to the saints in
heaven regarded as victors, Re. iv. 4, 10; 2 Ti. iv. 8. The crown or
chaplet here was “given” to the rider as significant that he _would
be_ victorious, not that he _had been_; and the proper reference of
the emblem was to some conquest yet to be made, not to any which had
been made. It is not said _by whom_ this was given to the rider; the
material fact being only that such a diadem _was_ conferred on him.

(5) The going forth to conquest: _and he went forth, conquering and
to conquer_. He went forth _as a conqueror, and that he might conquer_.
That is, he went forth with the spirit, life, energy, determined
purpose of one who was confident that he would conquer, and who had the
port and bearing of a conqueror. John saw in him two things: one, that
he had the aspect or port of a conqueror――that is, of one who had been
accustomed to conquest, and who was confident that he could conquer;
the other was, that this was clearly the design for which he went
forth, and this would be the result of his going forth.

Having thus inquired into the natural meaning of the emblems used,
perhaps the proper work of an expositor is done, and the subject might
be left here. But the mind naturally asks what was this designed to
signify, and to what events are these things to be applied? On this
point it is scarcely necessary to say, that the opinions of expositors
have been almost as numerous as the expositors themselves, and that
it would be a hopeless task, and as useless as hopeless, to attempt
to enumerate all the opinions entertained. They who are desirous
of examining those opinions must be referred to the various books
on the Apocalypse where they may be found. Perhaps all the opinions
entertained, though presented by their authors under a great variety
of forms, might be referred to three: (1) That the whole passage in
ch. vi.‒xi. refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and the wasting
of Judæa, principally by the Romans――and particularly the humiliation
and prostration of the Jewish persecuting enemies of the church: on
the supposition that the book was written before the destruction of
Jerusalem. This is the opinion of Professor Stuart, and of those
generally who hold that the book was written at that time. (2) The
opinion of those who suppose that the book was written in the time of
Domitian, about A.D. 95 or 96, and that the symbols refer to the Roman
affairs subsequent to that time. This is the opinion of Mede, Elliott,
and others. (3) The opinions of those who suppose that the different
horses and horsemen refer to the Saviour, to ministers of the gospel,
and to the various results of the ministry. This is the opinion
of Mr. David C. Lord and others. My purpose does not require me to
examine these opinions in detail. Justice could not be done to them
in the limited compass which I have; and it is better to institute
a direct inquiry whether any events are known which can be regarded as
corresponding with the symbols here employed. In regard to this, then,
the following things may be referred to:――

(a) It will be assumed here, as elsewhere in these Notes, that the
Apocalypse was written in the time of Domitian, about A.D. 95 or 96.
For the reasons for this opinion, see Intro. § 2. Comp. an article by
Dr. Geo. Duffield in the _Biblical Repository_, July, 1847, pp. 385‒411.
It will also be assumed that the book is inspired, and {141} that
it is not to be regarded and treated as a work of mere human origin.
These suppositions will preclude the necessity of any reference in the
opening of the seals to the time of Nero, or to the events pertaining
to the destruction of Jerusalem and the overthrow of the Jewish
persecuting enemies of the church――for the opinion that those events
are referred to can be held only on one of two suppositions: either
that the work was written in the time of Nero, and before the Jewish
wars, as held by Professor Stuart and others; or that it was penned
_after_ the events referred to had occurred, and is such a description
of the past as could have been made by one who was uninspired.

(b) It is to be presumed that the events referred to, in the opening
of the first seal, would occur _soon_ after the time when the vision
appeared to John in Patmos. This is clear, not only because that would
be the most natural supposition, but because it is fairly implied in ch.
i. 1: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him to show
unto his servants things which must _shortly_ come to pass.” See Notes
on that verse. Whatever may be said of _some_ of those events――those
lying most remotely in the series――it would not accord with the fair
interpretation of the language to suppose that the _beginning_ of the
series would be far distant, and we therefore naturally look for that
beginning in the age succeeding the time of the apostle, or the reign
of Domitian.

(c) The inquiry then occurs whether there _were_ any such events in
that age as would properly be symbolized by the circumstances before
us――the horse; the colour of the horse; the bow in the hand of the
rider; the crown given him; the state and bearing of the conqueror.

(d) Before proceeding to notice what seems to me to be the
interpretation which best accords with all the circumstances of the
symbol, it may be proper to refer to the only other one which has
any plausibility, and which is adopted by Grotius, by the author of
_Hyponoia_, by Dr. Keith (_Signs of the Times_, i. 181, seq.), by
Mr. Lord, and others, that this refers to Christ and his church――to
Christ and his ministers in spreading the gospel. The objections to
this class of interpretations seem to me to be insuperable: (1) The
whole description, so far as it is a representation of triumph, is a
representation of the triumph of war, not of the gospel of peace. All
the symbols in the opening of the first four seals are warlike; all
the consequences in the opening of each of the seals where the horseman
appears, are such as are usually connected with war. It is the march
of empire, the movement of military power. (2) A horseman thus armed
is not the usual representation of Christ, much less of his ministers
or of his church. Once indeed (ch. xix. 14‒16) Christ himself is thus
represented; but the ordinary representation of the Saviour in this
book is either that of a man――majestic and glorious, holding the stars
in his right hand――or of a lamb. Besides, if it _were_ the design of
the emblem to refer to Christ, it must be a representation of him
_personally_ and _literally_ going forth in this manner; for it would
be incongruous to suppose that this relates to him, and then to give
it a metaphorical application, referring it not to himself, but to his
truth, his gospel, his ministers. (3) If there is little probability
that this refers to Christ, there is still less that it refers to
ministers of the gospel――as held by Lord and others――for such a symbol
is employed nowhere else to represent an order of ministers, nor do
the circumstances find a fulfilment in them. The minister of the gospel
is a herald of peace, and is employed in the service of the Prince of
Peace. He cannot well be represented by a warrior, nor is he in the
Scriptures. In itself considered, there is nothing more unlike or
incongruous than a warrior going forth to conquest with hostile arms,
and a minister of Christ. (4) Besides, this representation of a horse
and his rider, when applied in the following verses, on this principle
becomes most forced and unnatural. If the warrior on the white horse
denotes the ministry, then the warrior on the red horse, the black
horse, the pale horse, must denote the ministry also, and nothing is
more fanciful and arbitrary than to attempt to apply these to teachers
of various kinds of error――error denoted by the red, black, and pale
colour――as must be done on that supposition. It seems plain, therefore,
to me, that the representation was not designed to symbolize the
ministry, or the state of the church considered with reference to its
extension, or the various forms of belief which prevailed. But if so,
it only remains to inquire whether a state of things existed in the
Roman world of which these would be appropriate {142} symbols. We have,
then, the following facts, which are of such a nature as would properly
be symbolized by the horse of the first seal; that is, they are such
facts that if one were to undertake to devise an appropriate symbol of
them _since_ they occurred, they would be well represented by the image
here employed.

(1) It was in general a period of prosperity, of triumph, of
conquest――well represented by the horseman on the white horse going
forth to conquest. I refer now to the period immediately succeeding the
time of John’s banishment, embracing some ninety years, and extending
through the successive reigns of Nerva, Trajan, Adrian, and the two
Antonines, from the death of Domitian, A.D. 96, to the accession of
Commodus, and the peace made by him with the Germans, A.D. 180. As an
_illustration_ of this period, and of the pertinency of the symbol,
I will first copy from an historical chart drawn up with no reference
to the symbol here, and in the mind of whose author the application to
this symbol never occurred. The chart, distinguished for accuracy, is
that of A. S. Lyman, published A.D. 1845. The following is the account
of this period, beginning at the death of Domitian:――“Domitian, a cruel
tyrant, the last of the twelve Cæsars.” (His death, therefore, was an
important epoch.) “A.D. 96: Nerva, noted for his virtues, but enfeebled
by age.” “A.D. 98: Trajan, _a great general, and popular emperor; under
him the empire attains its greatest extent_.” “A.D. 117: Adrian, an
able sovereign; spends thirteen years travelling through the empire,
reforming abuses and rebuilding cities.” “A.D. 138: Antoninus Pius,
celebrated for his wisdom, virtue, and humanity.” “A.D. 161: Marcus
Aurelius Antoninus, the Stoic Philosopher, noted for his virtues.” Then
begins a new era――a series of wicked princes and of great calamities.
The _next_ entry in the series is, “A.D. 180: Commodus, profligate
and cruel.” Then follows a succession of princes of the same general
description. Their character will be appropriately considered under
the succeeding seals. But in regard to the period now supposed to
be represented by the opening of the first seal, and the general
applicability of the description here to that period, we have the
fullest testimony in Mr. Gibbon, in his _Decline and Fall of the Roman
Empire_; a writer who, sceptic as he was, seems to have been raised
up by Divine Providence to search deeply into historic records, and
to furnish an inexhaustible supply of materials in confirmation of
the fulfilment of the prophecies, and of the truth of revelation. For
(1) he was eminently endowed by talent, and learning, and patience, and
general candour, and accuracy, to prepare a history of that period of
the world, and to place his name in the very first rank of historians.
(2) His history commences at about the period supposed in this
interpretation to be referred to by these symbols, and extends over
a very considerable portion of the time embraced in the book of
Revelation. (3) It cannot be alleged that he was biassed in his
statements of facts by a desire to favour revelation; nor can it be
charged on him that he perverted _facts_ with a view to overthrow the
authority of the volume of inspired truth. He was, indeed, thoroughly
sceptical as to the truth of Christianity, and he lost no opportunity
to express his feelings towards it by a sneer――for it seems to
have been an unfortunate characteristic of his mind to sneer at
everything――but there is no evidence that he ever designedly perverted
a _fact_ in history to press it into the service of infidelity, or that
he designedly falsified a statement for the purpose of making it bear
against Christianity. It cannot be suspected that he had any _design_,
by the statements which he makes, to confirm the truth of Scripture
prophecies. Infidels, at least, are bound to admit his testimony as
impartial. (4) Not a few of the most clear and decisive proofs of
the fulfilment of prophecies are to be found in his history. They
are frequently such statements as would be expected to occur in the
writings of a partial friend of Christianity who was endeavouring to
make the records of history speak out in favour of his religion; and
if they had been found in such a writer, they would be suspected of
having been shaped with a view to the confirmation of the prophecies,
and it may be added also with an intention to defend some favourite
interpretation of the Apocalypse. In regard to the passage before
us――the opening of the first seal and the general explanation of the
meaning of that seal, above given, there is a striking resemblance
between that representation and the state of the Roman empire as given
by Mr. Gibbon at the period {143} under consideration――from the end
of the reign of Domitian to the accession of Commodus. By a singular
coincidence Mr. Gibbon _begins_ his history at about the period
supposed to be referred to by the opening of the seal――the period
following the death of Domitian, A.D. 96. Thus in the opening sentences
of his work he says: “In the second century of the Christian era the
empire of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and the
most civilized portion of mankind. During a happy period of more than
fourscore years the public administration was conducted by the virtue
and abilities of Nerva, Trajan, Adrian, and the two Antonines. It is
the design of this and the two succeeding chapters to describe the
prosperous condition of their empire; and afterwards, from the death
of Marcus Antoninus, to deduce the most important circumstances of its
decline and fall; a revolution which will ever be remembered, and is
still felt by the nations of the earth,” vol. i. 1. Before Mr. Gibbon
proceeds to give the history of the fall of the empire, he pauses to
describe the happy condition of the Roman world during the period now
referred to――for this is substantially his object in the first three
chapters of his history. The _titles_ of these chapters will show their
object. They are respectively the following:――Ch. i., “The Extent and
Military Force of the Empire, _in the Age of the Antonines_;” ch. ii.,
“Of the Union and Internal Prosperity of the Roman Empire, _in the Age
of the Antonines_;” ch. iii., “Of the Constitution of the Roman Empire,
_in the Age of the Antonines_.” In the language of another, this is
“the bright ground of his historic picture, from which afterwards more
effectively to throw out in deep colouring the successive traits of the
empire’s corruption and decline” (Elliott). The introductory remarks
of Mr. Gibbon, indeed, professedly refer to “the age of the Antonines”
(A.D. 138‒180); but that he designed to describe, under this general
title, the actual condition of the Roman world during the period which
I suppose to be embraced under the first seal, as a time of prosperity,
triumph, and happiness――from Domitian to Commodus――is apparent (a) from
a remarkable statement which there will be occasion again to quote,
in which he expressly designates this period in these words: “If a man
were called to fix the period in the history of the world during which
the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would,
without hesitation, name that which elapsed _from the death of Domitian
to the accession of Commodus_,” i. 47. The same thing is apparent also
from a remark of Mr. Gibbon in the general summary which he makes of
the Roman affairs, showing that this period constituted, in his view,
properly an _era_ in the condition of the world. Thus he says (i. 4):
“Such was the state of the Roman frontiers, and such the maxims of
imperial policy, from the death of Augustus _to the accession of
Trajan_.” This was A.D. 98. The question now is, whether, during
this period, the events in the Roman empire were such as accord with
the representation in the first seal. There was nothing in the first
century that could accord with this; and if John wrote the Apocalypse
at the time supposed (A.D. 95 or 96), of course it does not refer to
that. Respecting that century Mr. Gibbon remarks: “The only accession
which the Roman empire received, during the first century of the
Christian era, was the province of Britain. In this single instance the
successors of Cæsar and Augustus were persuaded to follow the example
of the former rather than the precept of the latter. After a war of
about forty years, undertaken by the most stupid, maintained by the
most dissolute, and terminated by the most timid of all the emperors,
the far greater part of the island submitted to the Roman yoke,”
i. 2, 3. Of course the representation in the first seal _could not_
be applied to such a period as this. In the second century, however,
and especially in the early part of it――the beginning of the period
supposed to be embraced in the opening of the first seal――a different
policy began to prevail, and though the main characteristic of the
period, as a whole, was comparatively peaceful, yet it began with a
career of conquests, and its general state might be characterized as
triumph and prosperity. Thus Mr. Gibbon speaks of Trajan on his
accession after the death of Nerva: “That virtuous and active prince
had received the education of a soldier, and possessed the talents of
a general. The peaceful system of his predecessors _was interrupted by
scenes of war and conquest_; and the legions, after a long interval,
beheld a military emperor at their head. The first exploits of Trajan
were against the {144} Dacians, the most warlike of men, who dwelt
beyond the Danube, and who, during the reign of Domitian, had insulted
the majesty of Rome. This memorable war, with a very short suspension
of hostilities, lasted live years; and as the emperor could exert,
without control, the whole force of the state, it was terminated by
an absolute submission of the barbarians. The new province of Dacia,
which formed a second exception to the precept of Augustus, was about
thirteen hundred miles in circumference,” i. 4. Speaking of Trajan
(p. 4), he says farther: “The praises of Alexander, transmitted by a
succession of poets and historians, had kindled a dangerous emulation
in the mind of Trajan. Like him, the Roman emperor undertook an
expedition against the nations of the East; but he lamented with a
sigh that his advanced age scarcely left him any hopes of equalling
the renown of the son of Philip. Yet the success of Trajan, however
transient, was rapid and specious. The degenerate Parthians, broken by
intestine discord, fled before his arms. He descended the river Tigris,
_in triumph_, from the mountains of Armenia to the Persian Gulf. He
enjoyed the honour of being the first, as he was the last, of the
Roman generals who ever navigated that remote sea. His fleets ravaged
the coasts of Arabia; and Trajan vainly flattered himself that he was
approaching towards the confines of India. Every day the astonished
senate received the intelligence _of new names and new nations_ that
acknowledged his sway. They were informed that the kings of Bosphorus,
Colchis, Iberia, Albania, Osrhoene, and even the Parthian monarch
himself, had accepted their diadems from the hand of the emperor; that
the independent tribes of the Median and Carduchian hills had implored
his protection; and that the rich countries of Armenia, Mesopotamia,
and Assyria were reduced into the state of provinces.” Of such a reign
what more appropriate symbol could there be than the horse and the
rider of the first seal? If Mr. Gibbon had been writing a designed
commentary on this, what more appropriate language could he have used
in illustration of it? The reign of Hadrian, the successor of Trajan
(A.D. 117‒138), was comparatively a reign of peace――though one of
his first acts was to lead an expedition into Britain: but though
comparatively a time of peace, it was a reign of prosperity and triumph.
Mr. Gibbon, in the following language, gives a general characteristic
of that reign:――“The life of [Hadrian] was almost a perpetual journey;
and as he possessed the various talents of the soldier, the statesman,
and the scholar, he gratified his curiosity in the discharge of his
duty. Careless of the difference of seasons and of climates, he marched
on foot, and bareheaded, over the snows of Caledonia and the sultry
plains of Upper Egypt; nor was there a province of the empire which,
in the course of his reign, was not honoured with the presence of the
monarch,” p. 5. On p. 6 Mr. Gibbon remarks of this period: “The Roman
name was revered amongst the remote nations of the earth. The fiercest
barbarians frequently submitted their differences to the arbitration
of the emperor; and we are informed by a contemporary historian that
he had seen ambassadors who were refused the honour which they came
to solicit, of being admitted into the rank of subjects.” And again,
speaking of the reign of Hadrian, Mr. Gibbon remarks (i. 45): “Under
his reign, as has been already mentioned, the empire flourished in
peace and prosperity. He encouraged the arts, reformed the laws,
asserted military discipline, and visited all the provinces in person.”
Hadrian was succeeded by the Antonines, Antoninus Pius and Marcus
Aurelius (the former from A.D. 138 to 161; the latter from A.D. 161
to the accession of Commodus, A.D. 180). The general character of
their reigns is well known. It is thus stated by Mr. Gibbon: “The two
Antonines governed the world forty-two years with the same invariable
spirit of wisdom and virtue. Their united reigns are possibly the only
period of history in which the happiness of a great people was the sole
object of government,” i. 46. And after describing the state of the
empire in respect to its military and naval character, its roads, and
architecture, and constitution, and laws, Mr. Gibbon sums up the whole
description of this period in the following remarkable words (vol. i.
p. 47):――“_If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the
world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and
prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from
the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent
of the Roman empire was governed by absolute {145} power, under the
guidance of virtue and wisdom. The armies were restrained by the
firm but gentle hands of four successive emperors, whose characters
and authority commanded involuntary respect. The forms of the civil
administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and
the Antonines, who delighted in the image of liberty, and were pleased
with considering themselves as the accountable ministers of the laws.
Such princes deserved the honour of restoring the republic, had the
Romans of their days been capable of enjoying a rational freedom._” If
it be supposed now that John _designed_ to represent this period of the
world, could he have chosen a more expressive and significant emblem
of it than occurs in the horseman of the first seal? If Mr. Gibbon had
intended to prepare a commentary on it, could he have shaped the facts
of history so as better to furnish an illustration?

(2) The particular things represented in the symbol. (a) The bow――a
symbol of war. Mr. Elliott has endeavoured to show that the _bow_
at that period was _peculiarly_ the badge of the Cretians, and that
Nerva, who succeeded Domitian, was a Cretian by birth. The argument
is too long to be abridged here, but, if well founded, the fulfilment
is remarkable; for although the sword or the javelin was usually the
badge of the Roman emperor, if this were so there would be a peculiar
propriety in making the _bow_ the badge during this period. See Elliott,
vol. i. pp. 133‒140. But whatever may be said of this, the _bow_ was
so generally the badge of a warrior, that there would be no impropriety
in using it as a symbol of Roman victory. (b) The crown――στέφανος――was,
up to the time of Aurelian, A.D. 270 (see Spanheim, p. 60), the
distinguishing badge of the Roman emperor; after that, the _diadem_,
set with pearls and other jewels, was adopted and worn. The crown,
composed usually of laurel, was properly the badge of the emperor
considered as a military leader or commander. See Elliott, i. 130.
At the period now under consideration the proper badge of the Roman
emperor would be the _crown_; after the time of Aurelian, it would have
been the _diadem_. In illustration of this, two engravings have been
introduced, the first representing the emperor Nerva with the _crown_,
or στέφανος, the second the emperor Valentinian, with the _diadem_.

  Illustration:   Medal of the Emperor Nerva wearing Crown.

  Illustration:   Medal of the Emperor Valentinian wearing Diadem.

(c) The fact that the crown was _given_ to the rider. It was common
among the Romans to represent an emperor in this manner; either on
medals, bas-reliefs, or triumphal arches. The emperor appears going
forth on horseback, and with Victory represented as either crowning him,
or as preceding him with a crown in her hand to present to him. The
engraving on p. 146, copied from one of the bas-reliefs on a triumphal
arch erected to Claudius Drusus on occasion of his victories over the
Germans, will furnish a good illustration of this, and, indeed, is so
similar to the symbol described by John, that the one seems almost a
copy of the other.

  Illustration:   Symbolic Bas-reliefs from a Roman Triumphal Arch.

Except that the bow is wanting, nothing could have a closer
resemblance; and the fact that such symbols were employed, and were
well understood by the Romans, may be admitted to be a confirmation of
the view above taken of the meaning of the first seal. Indeed, so many
things combine to confirm this, that it seems impossible {146} to be
mistaken in regard to it: for if it should be supposed that John lived
_after_ this time, and that he _meant_ to furnish a striking emblem
of this period of Roman history, he could not have employed a more
significant and appropriate symbol than he has done.

    3 And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second
    beast say, Come and see.

3. _And when he had opened the second seal._ So as to disclose another
portion of the volume. Notes, ch. v. 1. ¶ _I heard the second beast
say._ The second beast was like a calf or an ox. Notes, ch. iv. 7.
It cannot be supposed that there is any special significancy in the
fact that the _second_ beast addressed the seer on the opening of the
_second_ seal, or that, so far as the symbol was concerned, there was
any reason why this living creature should approach on the opening of
this seal rather than on either of the others. All that seems to be
designed is, that as the living creatures are intended to be emblems
of the providential government of God, it was proper to represent that
government as concerned in the opening of each of these four seals,
indicating important events among the nations. ¶ _Come and see._ See
Notes on ver. 1.

    4 And there went out another horse _that was_ red: and _power_
    was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth,
    and that they should kill one another: and there was given
    unto him a great sword.

4. _And there went out another horse._ In this symbol there were, as
in the others, several particulars which it is proper to explain in
order that we may be able to understand its application. The particular
things in the symbol are the following: (a) The horse. See this
explained in the Notes on ver. 2. (b) The colour of the horse: _another
horse |that was| red_. This symbol cannot be mistaken. As the white
horse denoted prosperity, triumph, and happiness, so this would denote
carnage, discord, bloodshed. This is clear, not only from the nature
of the emblem, but from the explanation immediately added: “And power
was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and
that they should kill one another.” On the _colour_, compare Bochart,
_Hieroz._ P. i. lib. ii. c. vii. p. 104. See also Zec. i. 8. There is
no possibility of mistaking this, that a time of _slaughter_ is denoted
by this emblem. (c) The power given to him that sat on the horse:
_and |power| was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from
the earth, and that they should kill one another_. This would seem
to indicate that the condition immediately preceding this was a
condition of tranquillity, and that this was now disturbed by some
cause producing discord and bloodshed. This idea is confirmed by the
original words――τὴν εἰρήνην――“_the_ peace;” that is, the previously
existing peace. When peace in general is referred to, the word is used
without the article: Mat. x. 34, “Think not that I am come to send
peace――βαλεῖν εἰρήνην――upon the earth.” Comp. Lu. i. 79; ii. 14; xix.
38; Mar. v. 34; Jn. xiv. 27; xvi. 33; Ac. vii. 26; ix. 31, _et al._ in
the Greek. In these cases the word peace is without the article. The
characteristics of the period referred to by this are: (a) that peace
and tranquillity existed before; (b) that such peace and tranquillity
were now taken away, and were succeeded by confusion and bloodshed;
and (c) that the particular form of that confusion was civil discord,
producing mutual slaughter: “that they should kill one another.”
(d) The presentation of a sword: _and there was given unto him a great
sword_. As an emblem of what he was to do, or of the period that was
referred to by the opening of the {147} seal. The sword is an emblem
of war, of slaughter, of authority (Ro. xiii. 4), and is here used as
signifying that that period would be characterized by carnage. Comp.
Is. xxxiv. 5; Re. xix. 17, 18; Le. xxvi. 25; Ge. xxvii. 40; Mat. x. 34;
xxvi. 52. It is not said _by whom_ the sword was presented, but _the
fact_ is merely referred to, that the rider _was_ presented with a
sword as a symbol of what would occur.

In inquiring now into the period referred to by this symbol, we
naturally look to that which immediately succeeded the one which was
represented by the opening of the first seal; that is, the period
which followed the accession of Commodus, A.D. 180. We shall find,
in the events which succeeded his accession to the empire, a state
of things which remarkably accords with the account given by John in
this emblem――so much so, that if it were supposed that the book was
written _after_ these events had occurred, and that John had _designed_
to represent them by this symbol, he could not have selected a more
appropriate emblem. The only authority which it is necessary to refer
to here is Mr. Gibbon; who, as before remarked, seems to have been
raised up by a special Providence to make a record of those events
which were referred to by some of the most remarkable prophecies in
the Bible. As he had the highest qualifications for an historian, his
statements may be relied on as accurate; and as he had no belief in the
inspiration of the prophetic records, his testimony will not be charged
with partiality in their favour. The following particulars, therefore,
will furnish a full illustration of the opening of the second seal:
(a) The previous state of peace. This is implied in the expression,
“and power was given to him to _take peace_ from the earth.” Of this
we have had a full confirmation in the peaceful reign of Hadrian and
the Antonines. See the Notes on the exposition of the first seal.
Mr. Gibbon, speaking of the accession of Commodus to the imperial
throne, says that he “had nothing to wish, and everything to enjoy.
The beloved son of Marcus [Commodus] succeeded his father amidst the
acclamations of the senate and armies; and when he ascended the throne,
the happy youth saw around him neither competitor to remove, nor
enemies to punish. In this calm elevated station, it was surely natural
that he should prefer the love of mankind to their detestation; the
mild glories of his five predecessors to the ignominious fate of Nero
and Domitian,” i. 51. So again, on the same page, he says of Commodus,
“His graceful person, popular address, and imagined virtues attracted
the public favour; the honourable peace which he had recently granted
to the barbarians diffused an universal joy.” No one can doubt that the
accession of Commodus was preceded by a remarkable prevalence of peace
and prosperity. (b) Civil war and bloodshed: _to take peace from the
earth, and that they should kill one another_. Of the applicability of
this to the time supposed to be represented by this seal, we have the
fullest confirmation in the series of civil wars commencing with the
assassination of the emperor Commodus, A.D. 193, and continued, with
scarcely any intervals of intermission, for eighty or ninety years.
So Sismondi, on the fall of the Roman empire (i. 36), says, “With
Commodus’ death commenced the third and most calamitous period. It
lasted ninety-two years, from 193 to 284. During that time, thirty-two
emperors, and twenty-seven pretenders to the empire, alternately
hurried each other from the throne, by incessant civil warfare.
Ninety-two years of almost incessant civil warfare taught the world
_on what a frail foundation the virtue of the Antonines had reared the
felicity of the empire_.” The full history of this period may be seen
in Gibbon, i. pp. 50‒197. Of course it is impossible in these Notes
to present anything like a complete account of the characteristics
of those times. Yet the briefest summary may well show the general
condition of the Roman empire then, and the propriety of representing
it by the symbol of a red horse, as a period when peace would be taken
from the earth, and when men would kill one another. Commodus himself
is represented by Mr. Gibbon in the following words:――“Commodus was not,
as he has been represented, a tiger, born with an insatiate thirst of
human blood, and capable, from his infancy, of the most inhuman actions.
Nature had formed him of a weak, rather than a wicked disposition. His
simplicity and timidity rendered him the slave of his attendants, who
gradually corrupted his mind. His cruelty, which at first obeyed the
dictates of others, degenerated into habit, and at length became the
ruling passion of his soul,” i. 51. During the first {148} three years
of his reign “his hands were yet unstained with blood” (_Ibid._), but
he soon degenerated into a most severe and bloody tyrant, and “when
Commodus had once tasted human blood, he was incapable of pity or
remorse,” i. 52. “The tyrant’s rage,” says Mr. Gibbon (i. 52), “after
having shed the noblest blood of the senate, at length recoiled on
the principal instrument of his cruelty. While Commodus _was immersed
in blood and luxury_ he devolved the detail of public business on
Perennis, a servile and ambitious minister, who had obtained his post
by the murder of his predecessor,” &c. “Every sentiment of virtue and
humanity was extinct in the mind of Commodus,” i. 55. After detailing
the history of his crimes, his follies, and his cruelties, Mr. Gibbon
remarks of him: “His cruelty proved at last fatal to himself. He had
shed with impunity the best blood of Rome: he perished as soon as he
was dreaded by his own domestics. Marcia, his favourite concubine,
Eclectus, his chamberlain, and Lætus, his pretorian prefect, alarmed by
the fate of their companions and predecessors, resolved to prevent the
destruction which every hour hung over their heads, either from the mad
caprice of the tyrant, or the sudden indignation of the people. Marcia
seized the occasion of presenting a draught of wine to her lover, after
he had fatigued himself with hunting some wild beasts. Commodus retired
to sleep; but while he was labouring with the effects of poison and
drunkenness, a robust youth, by profession a wrestler, entered his
chamber, and strangled him without resistance,” i. 57. The immediate
consequence of the assassination of Commodus was the elevation of
Pertinax to the throne, and his murder eighty-six days after (_Decline
and Fall_, i. 60). Then followed the public setting-up of the empire
to sale by the pretorian guards, and its purchase by a wealthy Roman
senator, Didius Julianus, or Julian, who, “on the throne of the
world, found himself without a friend and without an adherent,” i. 63.
“The streets and public places in Rome resounded with clamours and
imprecations.” “The public discontent was soon diffused from the centre
to the frontiers of the empire,” i. 63. In the midst of this universal
indignation Septimius Severus, who then commanded the army in the
neighbourhood of the Danube, resolved to avenge the death of Pertinax,
and to seize upon the imperial crown. He marched to Rome, overcame the
feeble Julian, and placed himself on the throne. Julian, after having
reigned sixty-six days, was beheaded in a private apartment of the
baths of the palace, i. 67. “In less than four years Severus subdued
the riches of the East, and the valour of the West. He vanquished
two competitors of reputation and ability, and defeated numerous
armies provided with weapons and discipline equal to his own,” i. 68.
Mr. Gibbon then enters into a detail of “the two _civil wars_ against
Niger and Albinus”――rival competitors for the empire (i. 68‒70), both
of whom were vanquished, and both of whom were put to death “in their
flight from the field of battle.” Yet he says, “Although the wounds
of civil war were apparently healed, its mortal poison still lurked
in the vitals of the constitution,” i. 71. After the death of Severus,
then follows an account of the contentions between his sons, Geta and
Caracalla, and of the death of the former by the instigation of the
latter (i. 77); then of the remorse of Caracalla, in which it is said
that “his disordered fancy often beheld the angry forms of his father
and his brother rising into life to threaten and upbraid him” (i. 77);
then of the cruelties which Caracalla inflicted on the friends of Geta,
in which “it was computed that, under the vague appellation of the
friends of Geta, above twenty thousand persons of both sexes suffered
death” (i. 78); then of the departure of Caracalla from the capital,
and his cruelties in other parts of the empire, concerning which
Mr. Gibbon remarks (i. 78, 79), that “Caracalla was the common enemy
of mankind. Every province was by turns the scene of his rapine
and cruelty. In the midst of peace and repose, upon the slightest
provocation, he issued his commands at Alexandria in Egypt for a
general massacre. From a secure post in the temple of Serapis he
viewed and directed the slaughter of many thousand citizens, as well
as strangers, without distinguishing either the number or the crime of
the sufferers,” &c. Then follows the account of the assassination of
Caracalla (i. 80); then, and in consequence of that, of the civil war
which crushed Macrinus, and raised Elagabalus to the throne (i. 83);
then of the life and follies of that wretched voluptuary, and of his
massacre by the pretorian guards {149} (i. 86); then, after an interval
of thirteen years, of the murder of his successor, the second Severus,
on the Rhine; then of the civil wars excited against his murderer and
successor, Maximin, in which the two emperors of a day――the Gordians,
father and son――perished in Africa, and Maximin himself, and his son,
in the siege of Aquileia; then of the murder at Rome of the two joint
emperors, Maximus and Balbinus; and quickly after that an account of
the murder of their successor in the empire, the third and youngest
Gordian, on the banks of the river Aboras; then of the slaughter of
the next emperor Philip, together with his son and associate in the
empire, in the battle near Verona:――and this state of things may be
said to have continued until the accession of Diocletian to the empire,
A.D. 284. See _Decline and Fall_, i. 110‒197. Does any portion of the
history of the world present a similar period of connected history that
would be so striking a fulfilment of the symbols used here of “peace
being taken from the earth,” and “men killing one another?” In regard
to this whole period it is sufficient, after reading Mr. Gibbon’s
account, to ask two questions: (1) If it were supposed that John lived
_after_ this period, and designed to represent this by an expressive
symbol, could he have found one that would have characterized it
better than this does? (2) And if it should be supposed that Mr. Gibbon
_designed_ to write a commentary on this “seal,” and to show the exact
fulfilment of the symbol, could he have selected a better portion of
history to do it, or could he have better described facts that would
be a complete fulfilment? It is only necessary to observe further,
(c) that this is a _marked_ and _definite_ period. It has such a
beginning, and such a continuance and ending, as to show that this
symbol was applicable to this _as_ a period of the world. For it was
not only preceded by a state of peace, as is supposed in the symbol,
but no one can deny that the condition of things in the empire, from
Commodus onward through many years, was such as to be appropriately
designated by the symbol here used.

    5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third
    beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo, a black horse;
    and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.

    6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say,
    [217]A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of
    barley for a penny; and _see_ thou [218]hurt not the oil and
    the wine.

5, 6. _And when he had opened the third seal._. Unfolding another
portion of the volume. See Notes on ch. v. 1. ¶ _I heard the third
beast say, Come and see._ See Notes on ch. iv. 7. It is not apparent
why the _third_ beast is represented as taking a particular interest
in the opening of _this_ seal (comp. Notes on ver. 3), nor is it
necessary to show why it was so. The general design seems to have been,
to represent each one of the four living creatures as interested in
the opening of the seals, but the _order_ in which they did this does
not seem to be a matter of importance. ¶ _And I beheld, and lo, a
black horse._ The specifications of the symbol here are the following:
(a) As before, the horse. See Notes on ver. 2. (b) The _colour_ of the
horse: _lo, a black horse_. This would properly denote distress and
calamity――for _black_ has been regarded always as such a symbol. So
Virgil speaks of _fear_ as black: “atrumque timorem” (_Æn._ ix. 619).
So again, _Georg._ iv. 468:

                  “Caligantem nigra formidine lucum.”

So, as applied to the dying Acca, _Æn._ xi. 825:

                  “Tenebris nigrescunt omnia circum.”

Black, in the Scriptures, is the image of fear, of famine, of death.
La. v. 10: “Our skin was black like an oven, because of the terrible
famine.” Je. xiv. 2: “Because of the drought Judah mourneth, and the
gates thereof languish; they are in deep mourning [literally, _black_]
for the land.” Joel ii. 6: “All faces shall gather blackness.” Na.
ii. 10: “The knees smite together, and there is great pain in all
loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness.” Comp. Re. vi. 12;
Eze. xxxii. 7. See also Bochart, _Hieroz._ P. i. lib. ii. c. vii.
pp. 106, 107. From the _colour_ of the horse here introduced we should
naturally look for some dire calamity, though the _nature_ of the
calamity would not be designated by the mere use of the word _black_.
What the calamity was to be must be determined by what follows in
the symbol. Famine, pestilence, oppression, heavy taxation, tyranny,
invasion――any of these might be denoted by the colour of the horse.
(c) The balances: _and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his
hand_. The original word here rendered _a pair {150} of balances_, is
ζυγὸν. This word properly means _a yoke_, serving to couple anything
together, as a yoke for cattle. Hence it is used to denote the _beam_
of a balance, or of a pair of scales――and is evidently so used here.
The idea is, that something was to be _weighed_, in order to ascertain
either its _quantity_ or its _value_. Scales or balances are the
emblems of justice or equity (comp. Job xxxi. 6; Ps. lxii. 9; Pr.
xi. 1; xvi. 11); and when joined with symbols that denote the sale of
corn and fruit by weight, become the symbol of scarcity. Thus “bread by
weight” (Le. xxvi. 26) denotes scarcity. So in Eze. iv. 16, “And they
shall eat bread by weight.” The use of balances here as a symbol would
signify that something was to be accurately and carefully weighed out.
The connection leads us to suppose that this would appertain to the
necessaries of life, and that it would occur either in consequence of
scarcity, or because there would be an accurate or severe exaction, as
in collecting a revenue on these articles. The balance was commonly the
symbol of equity and justice; but it was also, sometimes, the symbol
of exaction and oppression, as in Ho. xii. 7: “The balance of deceit
is in his hands; he loveth to oppress.” If the balances stood alone,
and there were no proclamation as to what was to occur, we should look,
under this seal, to a time of the exact administration of justice, as
scales or balances are now used as emblems of the rigid application
of the laws and of the principles of justice in courts, or in public
affairs. If _this_ representation stood alone, or if the black horse
and the scales constituted the whole of the symbol, we should look
for some severe administration, or perhaps some heavy calamity under a
rigorous administration of laws. The reference, however, to the “wheat
and barley,” and to the price for which they were to be weighed out,
serves still further to limit and define the meaning of the symbol
as having reference to the necessaries of life――to the productions of
the land――to the actual capital of the country. Whether this refers
to scarcity, or to taxation, or both, must be determined by the other
parts of the symbol. (d) The proclamation: _And I heard a voice in the
midst of the four beasts say_. That is, from the throne, ch. iv. 6.
The voice was not that of one of the four beasts, but it seemed to come
from among them. As the rider went forth, this was the proclamation
that was made in regard to him; or this is that which is symbolized
in his going forth, to wit, that there would be such a state of things
that a measure of wheat would be sold for a penny, &c. The proclamation
consists essentially of two things――that which refers to the price
or value of wheat and barley, and that which requires that care shall
be taken not to injure the oil and the wine. Each of these demands
explanation. ¶ _A measure of wheat for a penny._ See the margin. The
word rendered _measure_――χοῖνιξ, _chœnix_――denotes an Attic measure
for grain and things dry, equal to the forty-eighth part of the Attic
medimnus, or the eighth part of the Roman modius, and consequently was
nearly equivalent to one quart English (Rob. _Lex._). The word rendered
_penny_, δηνάριον――Lat. _denarius_――was of the same value as the
Greek δραχμή, _drachmē_, and was equivalent to about fourteen cents or
sevenpence. This was the usual price of a day’s labour, Mat. xx. 2, 9.
The chœnix, or measure of grain here referred to, was the ordinary
daily allowance for one man [_Odyss._, xix. 27, 28). See Stuart, _in
loco_. The common price of the Attic medimnus of wheat was five or six
denarii; but here, as that contained forty-eight chœnixes or quarts,
the price would be augmented to forty-eight denarii――or it would
be about eight times as dear as ordinary; that is, there would be a
scarcity or famine. The price of a _bushel_ of wheat at this rate would
be about four dollars and a half or 18 shillings――a price which would
indicate great scarcity, and which would give rise to much distress.
¶ _And three measures of barley for a penny._ It would seem from this
that barley usually bore about one-third the price of wheat. It was
a less valuable grain, and perhaps was produced in greater abundance.
This is not far from the proportion which the price of this grain
usually {151} bears to that of wheat, and here, as in the case of
the wheat, the thing which would be indicated would be scarcity. This
proclamation of “a measure of wheat for a penny” was heard either
as addressed _to_ the horseman, as a rule of action for him, or as
addressed _by_ the horseman as he went forth. If the former is the
meaning, it would be an appropriate address to one who was going forth
to collect tribute――with reference to the _exact_ manner in which this
tribute was to be collected, implying some sort of severity of exaction;
or to one who should distribute wheat and barley out of the public
granaries at an advanced price, indicating scarcity. Thus it would
mean that a severe and heavy tax――represented by the scales and the
scarcity――or a tax so severe as to _make_ grain dear, was referred
to. If the latter is the meaning, then the idea is that there would be
a scarcity, and that grain would be dealt out by the government at a
high and oppressive price. The latter idea would be as consonant with
the symbol of the scales and the price mentioned as the other, if it
were not for the _additional_ injunction not to “hurt the oil and the
wine”――which cannot be well applied to the idea of dealing out grain at
a high price. It can, however, be connected, by a fair interpretation
of that passage, with such a severity of taxation that there would
be a propriety in such a command――for, as we shall see, under the
explanation of that phrase, such a law was actually promulgated
as resulting from severity of taxation. The idea, then, in
the passage before us, would seem to be, (a) that there would
be a rigid administration of the law in regard to the matter
under consideration――that pertaining to the productions of the
earth――represented by the balances; and (b) that that would be
connected with general scarcity, or such an exercise of this power as
to determine the price of grain, so that the price would be some three
times greater than ordinary. ¶ _And see thou hurt not the oil and the
wine._ There has been a great variety of interpretations proposed of
this passage, and it is by no means easy to determine the true sense.
The first inquiry in regard to it is, to whom is it addressed? Perhaps
the most common impression on reading it would be, that it is addressed
to the horseman with the balances, commanding _him_ not to injure the
oliveyards and the vineyards. But this is not probably the correct view.
It does not appear that the horseman goes forth to destroy anything, or
that the effect of his going forth is directly to injure anything. This,
therefore, should not be understood as addressed to the horseman, but
should be regarded as a general command to any and all _not_ to injure
the oliveyards and vineyards; that is, an order that nothing should
be done essentially to injure them. If thus regarded as addressed to
others, a fair and congruous meaning would be furnished by either of
the following interpretations: either (a) considered as addressed to
those who were disposed to be prodigal in their manner of living, or
careless as to the destruction of the crop of the oil and wine, as
they would now be needed; or (b) as addressed to those who raised such
productions, on the supposition that they would be _taxed_ heavily,
or that large quantities of these productions would be extorted for
revenue, that they should not mutilate their fruit-trees in order to
evade the taxes imposed by the government. In regard to the things
specified here――oil and wine――it may be remarked, that they were
hardly considered as articles of luxury in ancient times. They were
almost as _necessary_ articles as wheat and barley. They constituted
a considerable part of the food and drink of the people, as well as
furnished a large portion of the revenue, and it would seem to be with
reference to that fact that the command here is given that they should
not be injured; that is, that nothing should be done to diminish
the quantity of oil and wine, or to impair the productive power of
oliveyards and vineyards. The state of things thus described by this
seal, as thus interpreted, would be, (a) a rigid administration of the
laws of the empire, particularly in reference to taxation, producing a
scarcity among the necessary articles of living; (b) a strong tendency,
_from_ the severity of the taxation, to mutilate such kinds of property,
with a view either of concealing the real amount of property, or of
diminishing the amount of taxes; and (c) a solemn command from some
authoritative quarter _not_ to do this. A command from the ruling
power _not_ to do this would meet all that would be fairly demanded
in the _interpretation_ of the passage; and what is necessary in
its _application_, is to find such a state of things as would {152}
correspond with these predictions; that is, such as a writer _would
have_ described _by_ such symbols on the supposition that they were
referred to.

Now it so happens that there _were_ important events which occurred
in the Roman empire, and connected with its decline and fall, of
sufficient importance to be noticed in a series of calamitous events,
which corresponded with the symbol here, as above explained. They
were such as these: (a) The _general_ severity of taxation, or the
oppressive burdens laid on the people by the emperors. In the account
which Mr. Gibbon gives of the operation of the _Indictions_, and
_Superindictions_, though the specific laws on this subject pertained
to a subsequent period, the general nature of the taxation of the
empire and its oppressive character may be seen (_Decline and Fall_,
i. 357‒359). A general estimate of the amount of revenue to be exacted
was made out, and the collecting of this was committed to the pretorian
prefects, and to a great number of subordinate officers. “The lands
were measured by surveyors who were sent into the provinces; their
nature, whether arable, or pasture, or woods, was distinctly reported;
and an estimate made of their common value, from the average produce of
five years. The number of slaves and of cattle constituted an essential
part of the report; an oath was administered to the proprietors, which
bound them to disclose the true state of their affairs; and their
attempts to prevaricate or elude the intention of the legislature were
severely watched, and punished as a capital crime, which included the
double guilt of treason and of sacrilege. According to the different
nature of lands, their real produce in the various articles of _wine or
oil, corn or barley_, wood or iron, was transported by the labour or at
the expense of the provincials to the imperial magazines, from whence
they were occasionally distributed for the use of the court or of the
army, and of the two capitals, Rome and Constantinople,” i. p. 358.
Comp. Lactant. _de Mort. Persecut._, c. 23. (b) The particular order,
under this oppressive system of taxation, respecting the preservation
of vineyards and oliveyards, may be referred to, also, as corresponding
to the command sent forth under this rider, not to “hurt the oil and
the wine.” That order was in the following words:――“If any one shall
sacrilegiously cut a vine, or stint the fruit of prolific boughs,
and craftily feign poverty in order to avoid a fair assessment,
he shall, immediately on detection, suffer death, and his property
be confiscated” (_Cod. Theod._ l. xiii. lib. xi. seq.; Gibbon,
i. 358, note). Mr. Gibbon remarks: “Although this law is not without
its studied obscurity, it is, however, clear enough to prove the
minuteness of the inquisition, and the disproportion of the penalty.”
(c) Under this general subject of the severity of taxation――as a fact
far-spreading and oppressive, and as so important as to hasten the
downfall of the empire, may be noticed a distinct edict of Caracalla
as occurring more directly in the period in which the rider with
the balances may be supposed to have gone forth. This is stated by Mr.
Gibbon (i. 91) as one of the important causes which contributed to the
downfall of the empire. “The personal characters of the emperors, their
victories, laws, and fortunes,” says he, “can interest us no farther
than they are connected with the general history of the decline and
fall of the monarchy. Our constant attention to that object will not
suffer us to overlook a most important edict of Antoninus Caracalla,
which communicated to all the free inhabitants of the empire the name
and privileges of Roman citizens. His unbounded liberality, however,
flowed not from the sentiments of a generous mind; it was the sordid
result of avarice,” &c. He then proceeds at length to state the nature
and operations of that law, by which a heavy tax, under the pretence
of liberality, was in fact imposed on all the citizens of the empire――a
fact which, in its ultimate results, the historian of the _Decline and
Fall_ regards as so closely connected with the termination of the
empire. See Gibbon, i. pp. 91‒95. After noticing the laws of Augustus,
Nero, and the Antonines, and the real privileges conferred by them on
those who became entitled to the rank of Roman citizens――privileges
which were a compensation in the honour, dignity, and offices of that
rank for the measure of taxation which it involved――he proceeds to
notice the fact that the _title_ of “Roman citizen” was conferred
by Caracalla on all the free citizens of the empire, involving
the subjection to all the heavy taxes usually imposed on those who
sustained the rank expressed by the title, but with nothing of the
compensation connected {153} with the title when it was confined to
the inhabitants of Italy. “But the favour,” says he, “which implied
a distinction, was lost in the prodigality of Caracalla, and the
reluctant provincials were compelled to assume _the vain title_, and
the real _obligations_, of Roman citizens. Nor was the rapacious son
of Severus [Caracalla] contented with such a measure of taxation as
had appeared sufficient to his moderate predecessors. Instead of a
twentieth, he exacted a tenth of all legacies and inheritances; and
during his reign he crushed alike every part of the empire under the
weight of his iron sceptre,” i. 95. So again (_Ibid._), speaking of
the taxes which had been lightened somewhat by Alexander, Mr. Gibbon
remarks: “It is impossible to conjecture the motive that engaged him
to spare so trifling a remnant of the evil; but the noxious weed,
which had not been totally eradicated, again sprung up with the most
luxuriant growth, and in the succeeding age darkened the Roman world
with its deadly shade. In the course of this history we shall be too
often summoned to explain the land-tax, the capitation, and the heavy
contributions of _corn_, _wine_, _oil_, and meat, which were exacted
from the provinces for the use of the court, the army, and the capital.”
In reference to this whole matter of _taxation_ as being one of the
things which contributed to the downfall of the empire, and which
spread woe through the falling empire――a woe worthy to be illustrated
by one of the seals――a confirmation may be derived from the reign of
Galerius, who, as Cæsar, acted under the authority of Diocletian; who
excited Diocletian to the work of persecution (_Decline and Fall_,
i. 317, 318); and who, on the abdication of Diocletian, assumed the
title of Augustus (_Decline and Fall_, i. 222). Of his administration
in general Mr. Gibbon (i. 226) remarks: “About that time the avarice
of Galerius, or perhaps the exigencies of the state, had induced him
to make a very strict and rigorous inquisition into the property of
his subjects for the purpose of a general taxation, both on their
lands and on their persons. A very minute survey appears to have been
taken of their real estates; and wherever there was the slightest
suspicion of concealment, torture was very freely employed to obtain
a sincere declaration of their personal wealth.” Of the nature of this
exaction under Galerius; of the cruelty with which the measure was
prosecuted――particularly in its bearing on Christians, towards whom
Galerius cherished a mortal enmity (_Decline and Fall_, i. 317);
and of the extent and severity of the suffering among Christians and
others, caused by it――the following account of Lactantius (_De Mort.
Persecut._, c. 23) will furnish a painful but most appropriate
illustration:――“Swarms of exactors sent into the provinces and cities
filled them with agitation and terror, as though a conquering enemy
were leading them into captivity. The fields were separately measured,
the trees and vines, the flocks and herds numbered, and an examination
made of the men. In the cities the cultivated and rude were united as
of the same rank. The streets were crowded with groups of families,
and every one required to appear with his children and slaves. Tortures
and lashes resounded on every side. Sons were gibbeted in the presence
of their parents, and the most confidential servants harassed that
they might make disclosures against their masters, and wives that
they might testify unfavourably of their husbands. If there were
a total destitution of property, they were still tortured to make
acknowledgments against themselves, and, when overcome by pain,
inscribed for what they did not possess. Neither age nor ill-health was
admitted as an excuse for not appearing. The sick and weak were borne
to the place of inscription, a reckoning made of the age of each, and
years added to the young and deducted from the old, in order to subject
them to a higher taxation than the law imposed. The whole scene was
filled with wailing and sadness. In the meantime individuals died,
and the herds and the flocks diminished, yet tribute was none the less
required to be paid for the dead, so that it was no longer allowed
either to live or die without a tax. Mendicants alone escaped, where
nothing could be wrenched, and whom misfortune and misery had made
incapable of farther oppression. These the impious wretch affecting to
pity, that they might not suffer want, ordered to be assembled, borne
off in vessels, and plunged into the sea.” See Lord on the Apoc., pp.
128, 129. These facts in regard to the severity of taxation, and the
rigid nature of the law enforcing it; to the sources of the révenue
exacted in the provinces, and to the care that none {154} of those
sources should be diminished; and to the actual and undoubted bearing
of all this on the decline and fall of the empire, are so strikingly
applicable to the symbol here employed, that if it be supposed that it
was _intended_ to refer to them, no more natural or expressive symbol
could have been used; if it were supposed that the historian _meant_ to
make a record of the fulfilment, he could not well have made a search
which would more strikingly accord with the symbol. Were we _now_ to
represent these things by a symbol, we could scarcely find one that
would be more expressive than that of a rider on a black horse with
a pair of scales, sent forth under a proclamation which indicated
that there would be a most rigid and exact administration of severe
and oppressive laws, and with a special command, addressed to the
people, not for the purposes of concealment, or from opposition to the
government, to injure the sources of revenue. It may serve further to
illustrate this, to copy one of the usual emblems of a Roman procurator
or questor. It is taken from Spanheim, _De Usu Num. Diss._, vi. 545.
See Elliott, i. 169. It has a balance as a symbol of exactness or
justice, and an ear of grain as a symbol employed with reference to
procuring or exacting grain from the provinces.

  Illustration:   Emblem of a Roman Procurator.

    7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of
    the fourth beast say, Come and see.

7. _And when he had opened the fourth seal._ See Notes, ch. v. 1.
¶ _I heard the voice of the fourth beast say._ The flying eagle. Notes,
ch. iv. 7. As in the other cases, there does not appear to have been
any particular reason why the _fourth_ of the living creatures should
have made this proclamation rather than either of the others. It was
poetic and appropriate to represent each one in his turn as making
proclamation. ¶ _Come and see._ See Notes, ver. 1.

    8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse; and his name that
    sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power
    was given [219]unto them over the fourth part of the earth,
    to kill [220]with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and
    with the beasts of the earth.

8. _And I looked, and behold a pale horse_――ἵππος χλωρὸς. On the
_horse_, as an emblem, see Notes on ver. 2. The _peculiarity_ of
this emblem consists in the _colour_ of the horse, the rider, and the
power that was given unto him. In these there is entire harmony, and
there can be comparatively little difficulty in the explanation and
application. The _colour_ of the horse was _pale_――χλωρὸς. This word
properly means _pale-green_, _yellowish-green_, like the colour of the
first shoots of grass and herbage; then _green_, _verdant_, like young
herbage, Mar. vi. 39; Re. viii. 7; ix. 4; and then _pale yellowish_
(Rob. _Lex._). The colour here would be an appropriate one to denote
the reign of death――as one of the most striking effects of death is
_paleness_――and, of course, of death produced by any cause, famine,
pestilence, or the sword. From this portion of the symbol, if it stood
with nothing to limit and define it, we should naturally look for some
condition of things in which death would prevail in a remarkable manner,
or in which multitudes of human beings would be swept away. And yet,
perhaps, from the very nature of _this_ part of the symbol, we should
look for the prevalence of death in some such peaceful manner as by
famine or disease. The _red_ colour would more naturally denote the
ravages of death in war; the black, the ravages of death by sudden
calamity; the pale would more obviously suggest famine or wasting
disease. ¶ _And his name that sat on him was Death._ No description is
given of his aspect; nor does he appear with any emblem――as sword, or
spear, {155} or bow. There is evident scope for the fancy to picture
to itself the form of the destroyer; and there is just that kind of
obscurity about it which contributes to sublimity. Accordingly, there
has been ample room for the exercise of the imagination in the attempts
to paint “Death on the pale horse,” and the opening of this seal has
furnished occasion for some of the greatest triumphs of the pencil. The
simple _idea_ in this portion of the symbol is, that death would reign
or prevail under the opening of this seal――whether by sword, by famine,
or by pestilence, is to be determined by other descriptions in the
symbol. ¶ _And Hell followed with him._ Attended him as he went forth.
On the meaning of the word here rendered _hell_――ᾅδης, _hades_――see
Notes on Lu. xvi. 23, comp. Notes on Job x. 21, 22; Is. xiv. 9. It is
here used to denote the abode of the dead, considered as a place where
they dwell, and not in the more restricted sense in which the word is
now commonly used as a place of punishment. The idea is, that the dead
would be so numerous at the going forth of this horseman, that it would
seem as if the pale nations of the dead had come again upon the earth.
A vast retinue of the dead would accompany him; that is, it would be
a time when death would prevail on the earth, or when multitudes would
die. ¶ _And power was given unto them._ Marg., _to him_. The common
Greek text is αὐτοῖς――_to them_. There are many MSS., however, which
read αὐτῷ――_to him_. So Professor Stuart reads it. The authority,
however, is in favour of _them_ as the reading; and according to this,
death and his train are regarded as grouped together, and the power is
considered as given to them collectively. The sense is not materially
varied. ¶ _Over the fourth part of the earth._ That is, of the Roman
world. It is not absolutely necessary to understand this as extending
over _precisely_ a fourth part of the world. Comp. Re. viii. 7‒10, 12;
ix. 15, _et al._ Undoubtedly we are to look in the fulfilment of this
to some far-spread calamity; to some severe visitations which would
sweep off great multitudes of men. The _nature_ of that visitation
is designated in the following specifications. ¶ _To kill with sword_.
In war and discord――and we are, therefore, to look to a period of
war. ¶ _And with hunger._ With famine――one of the accompaniments of
war――where armies ravage a nation, trampling down the crops of grain;
consuming the provisions laid up; employing in war, or cutting off,
the men who would be occupied in cultivating the ground; making it
necessary that they should take the field at a time when the grain
should be sown or the harvest collected; and shutting up the people in
besieged cities to perish by hunger. Famine has been not an unfrequent
accompaniment of war; and we are to look for the fulfilment of this
in its extensive prevalence. ¶ _And with death._ Each of the other
forms――“with the sword and with hunger”――imply that _death_ would reign;
for it is said that “power was given to _kill_ with sword and with
hunger.” This word, then, must refer to death in some other form――to
death that seemed to reign without any such _visible_ cause as the
“sword” and “hunger.” This would well denote the pestilence――not
an unfrequent accompaniment of war. For nothing is better fitted
to produce this than the unburied bodies of the slain; the filth of
a camp; the want of food; and the crowding together of multitudes
in a besieged city; and, accordingly, the pestilence, especially in
Oriental countries, has been often closely connected with war. That the
_pestilence_ is referred to here is rendered more certain by the fact
that the Hebrew word דֶּבֶר, _pestilence_, which occurs about fifty times
in the Old Testament, is rendered θάνατος, _death_, more than thirty
times in the Septuagint. ¶ _And with the beasts of the earth_. With
wild beasts. This, too, would be one of the consequences of war, famine,
and pestilence. Lands would be depopulated, and wild beasts would be
multiplied. Nothing more is necessary to make them formidable than a
prevalence of these things; and nothing, in the early stages of society,
or in countries ravaged by war, famine, and the pestilence, is more
formidable. Homer, at the very beginning of his _Iliad_, presents us
with a representation similar to this. Comp. Eze. xiv. 21: “I send my
four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the
noisome beast, and the pestilence,” דֶבֶר――Sept., as here, θάνατον. See
also 2 Ki. xvii. 26.

In regard to the fulfilment of this there can be little difficulty, if
the principles adopted in the interpretation of the first three seals
are correct. We {156} may turn to Gibbon, and, as in the other cases,
we shall find that he has been an unconscious witness of the fidelity
of the representation in this seal. Two _general_ remarks may be made
before there is an attempt to illustrate the particular things in the
symbol. (a) The first relates to _the place_ in the order of time, or
in history, which this seal occupies. If the three former seals have
been located with any degree of accuracy, we should expect that this
would follow, not very remotely, the severe laws pertaining to taxation,
which, according to Mr. Gibbon, contributed so essentially to the
downfall of the empire. And if it be admitted to be probable that the
fifth seal refers to a time of persecution, it would be most natural to
fix this period between those times and the times of Diocletian, when
the persecution ceased. I may be permitted to say, that I was led to
fix on this period without having any definite view beforehand of what
occurred _in_ it, and was surprised to find in Mr. Gibbon what _seems_
to be so accurate a correspondence with the symbol. (b) The second
remark is, that the _general_ characteristics of this period, as
stated by Mr. Gibbon, agree remarkably with what we should expect
of the period from the symbol. Thus speaking of this whole period
(A.D. 248‒268), embracing the reigns of Decius, Gallus, Æmilianus,
Valerian, and Gallienus, he says, “From the great secular games
celebrated by Philip to the death of the emperor Gallienus, there
elapsed twenty years of shame and misfortune. During this calamitous
period every instant of time was marked, every province of the Roman
world was afflicted by barbarous invaders and military tyrants, and
the ruined empire seemed to approach the last and fatal moment of its
dissolution,” i. 135.

In regard to the _particular_ things referred to in the symbol, the
following specifications may furnish a sufficient confirmation and
illustration: (a) The killing with the sword. A fulfilment of this,
so far as the _words_ are concerned, might be found indeed in many
portions of Roman history, but no one can doubt that it was eminently
true of this period. It was the period of the _first_ Gothic invasion
of the Roman empire; the period when those vast hordes, having
gradually come down from the regions of Scandinavia, and having moved
along the Danube towards the Ukraine and the countries bordering on the
Borysthenes, invaded the Roman territories from the East, passed over
Greece, and made their appearance almost, as Mr. Gibbon says, within
sight of Rome. Of this invasion Mr. Gibbon says, “This is the first
considerable occasion [the fact that the emperor Decius was summoned
to the banks of the Danube, A.D. 250, by the invasion of the Goths]
in which history mentions that great people, who afterwards broke the
Roman power, sacked the Capitol, and reigned in Gaul, Spain, and Italy.
So memorable was the part which they acted in the subversion of the
Western empire, that the name of GOTHS is frequently, but improperly,
used as a general appellation of rude and warlike barbarism,” i. p. 136.
As one of the illustrations that the “sword” would be used by “Death”
in this period, we may refer to the siege and capture of Philippolis.
“A hundred thousand persons are reported to have been massacred in the
sack of that great city” (_Dec. and Fall_, i. 140). “The whole period,”
says Mr. Gibbon, speaking of the reigns of Valerian and Gallienus, “was
one uninterrupted series of confusion and calamity. The Roman empire
was, at the same time, and on every side, attacked by the blind fury
of foreign invaders, and the wild ambition of domestic usurpers,”
i. 144. “Such were the barbarians,” says Mr. Gibbon in the close of
his description of the Goths at this period, and of the tyrants that
reigned, “and such the tyrants, who, under the reigns of Valerian and
Gallienus, dismembered the provinces, and reduced the empire to the
lowest pitch of disgrace and ruin, from whence it seemed impossible
that it should ever emerge,” i. 158. (b) Famine: “Shall kill with
hunger.” This would naturally be the consequence of long-continued
wars, and of such invasions as those of the Goths. Mr. Gibbon says
of this period: “Our habits of thinking so fondly connect the order
of the universe with the fate of man, that this gloomy period of
history has been decorated with inundations, earthquakes, uncommon
meteors, preternatural darkness, and a crowd of prodigies, fictitious
or exaggerated. But _a long and general famine_ was a calamity of a
more serious kind. It was the inevitable consequence of rapine and
oppression, which extirpated the produce of the present, and the hope
of future harvests,” i. p. 159. Prodigies, and preternatural {157}
darkness, and earthquakes, were _not_ seen in the vision of the opening
of the _seal_――but _war_ and _famine_ were; and the facts stated by
Mr. Gibbon are such as would be now appropriately symbolized by Death
on the pale horse. (c) Pestilence: “And shall kill with death.” Of the
pestilence which raged in this period Mr. Gibbon makes the following
remarkable statement, in immediate connection with what he says of
the famine:――“Famine is almost always followed by epidemical diseases,
the effect of scanty and unwholesome food. Other causes must, however,
have contributed to the furious plague, which, from the year 250 to
the year 265, _raged without interruption in every province, every
city, and almost every family of the Roman empire_. During some time
five thousand persons died daily at Rome; and many towns that had
escaped the hands of the barbarians were entirely depopulated,” i. 159.
(d) Wild beasts: “And shall kill with the beasts of the earth.” As
already remarked, these are formidable enemies in the early stages of
society, and when a country becomes, from any cause, depopulated. They
are not mentioned by Mr. Gibbon as contributing to the decline and fall
of the empire, or as connected with the calamities that came upon the
world at that period. But no one can doubt that in such circumstances
they would be likely to abound, especially if the estimate of
Mr. Gibbon be correct (i. 159), when speaking of these times, and
making an estimate of the proportion of the inhabitants of Alexandria
that had perished――which he says was more than one-half――he adds,
“Could we venture to extend the analogy to the other provinces, we
might suspect that _war_, _pestilence_, and _famine_ had consumed in
a few years the moiety of the human species.” Yet, though not adverted
to by Mr. Gibbon, there _is_ a record pertaining to this very period,
which shows that this was one of the calamities with which the world
was then afflicted. It occurs in Arnobius, _Adv. Gentes_, lib. i.
p. 5. Within a few years after the death of Gallienus (about A.D. 300)
he speaks of wild beasts in such a manner as to show that they were
regarded as a sore calamity. The public peril and suffering on this
account were so great, that in common with other evils this was charged
on Christians as one of the judgments of heaven which they brought
upon the world. In defending Christians against the general charge that
these judgments were sent from heaven on their account, he adverts to
the prevalence of wild beasts, and shows that they could not have been
sent as a judgment on account of the existence of Christianity, by
the fact that they had prevailed also in the times of heathenism,
long before Christianity was introduced into the empire. “Quando cum
feris bella, et proelia cum leonibus gesta sunt? Non ante nos? Quando
pernicies populis venenatis ab anguibus data est? Non ante nos?” “When
were wars waged with wild beasts, and contests with lions? Was it not
before our times? When did a plague come upon men poisoned by serpents?
Was it not before our times?” In regard to the _extent_ of the
destruction which these causes would bring upon the world, there is a
remarkable confirmation in Gibbon. To say, as is said in the account
of the seal, that “a _fourth_ part of the earth” would be subjected to
the reign of death by the sword, by famine, by pestilence, and by wild
beasts, may seem to many to be an improbable statement――a statement
for the fulfilment of which we should look in vain to any historical
records. Yet Mr. Gibbon, without expressly mentioning the plague of
wild beasts, but referring to the three others――“war, pestilence, and
famine”――goes into a calculation, in a passage already referred to, by
which he shows that it is probable that from these causes _half_ the
human race was destroyed. The following is his estimate:――“We have the
knowledge of a very curious circumstance, of some use perhaps in the
melancholy calculation of human calamities. An exact register was kept
at Alexandria of all the citizens entitled to receive the distribution
of corn. It was found that the ancient number of those comprised
between the ages of forty and seventy had been equal to the whole sum
of claimants, from fourteen to fourscore years of age, who remained
alive after the reign of Gallienus. Applying this authentic fact to
the most correct tables of mortality, it evidently proves that above
half the people of Alexandria had perished; and could we venture to
extend the analogy to the other provinces, _we might suspect that
war, pestilence, and famine had consumed in a few years the moiety
of the human species_, ” i. 159. The historian says that it might be
“_suspected_ ” from these data that one-half of the {158} human race
had been cut off in a few years, from these causes; in the Apocalyptic
vision it is said that power was given over one “_fourth_” of the earth.
We may remark, (a) that the description in the symbol is as _likely_
to be correct as the “suspicion” of the historian; and (b) that his
statement that in this period “a moiety of the race,” or one-half of
the race, perished, takes away all improbability from the prediction,
and gives a most graphic confirmation of the symbol of _Death on
the pale horse_. If such a desolation in fact occurred, there is no
improbability in the supposition that it might have been prefigured by
the opening of a prophetic seal. Such a wide-spread desolation would
be _likely_ to be referred to in a series of symbols that were designed
to represent the downfall of the Roman power, and the great changes in
human affairs that would affect the welfare of the church.

    9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under
    the [221]altar the [222]souls of them that were slain for
    [223]the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:

    10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, [224]How long,
    O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and [225]avenge
    our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

    11 And [226]white robes were given unto every one of them;
    and it was said unto them, that they should [227]rest yet
    for a little season, until[228] their fellow-servants also
    and their brethren, that should be killed as they _were_,
    should be fulfilled.

9‒11. _And when he had opened the fifth seal._ Notes, ch. v. 1; vi. 1.
¶ _I saw under the altar._ The four living creatures are no longer
heard as in the opening of the first four seals. No reason is given
for the change in the manner of the representation; and none can be
assigned, unless it be, that having represented each one of the four
living creatures in their turn as calling attention to the remarkable
events about to occur, there seemed to be no necessity or propriety
in introducing them again. In itself considered, it cannot be supposed
that they would be any less interested in the events about to be
disclosed than they were in those which preceded. This seal pertains
to _martyrs_――as the former successively did to a time of prosperity
and triumph; to discord and bloodshed; to oppressive taxation; to war,
famine, and pestilence. In the series of woes, it was natural and
proper that there should be a vision of martyrs, if it was intended
that the successive seals should refer to coming and important periods
of the world; and accordingly we have here a striking representation
of the martyrs crying to God to interpose in their behalf and to
avenge their blood. The points which require elucidation are: (a) their
position――under the altar; (b) their invocation――or their prayer that
they might be avenged; (c) the clothing of them with robes; and (d) the
command to wait patiently a little time. (1) The position of the
martyrs――_under the altar_. There were in the temple at Jerusalem two
altars――the altar of burnt sacrifices, and the altar of incense. The
altar here referred to was probably the former. This stood in front
of the temple, and it was on this that the daily sacrifice was made.
Comp. Notes on Mat. v. 23, 24. We are to remember, however, that the
temple and the altar were both destroyed before the time when this
book was written, and this should, therefore, be regarded merely as
a vision. John saw these souls _as if_ they were collected under the
altar――the place where the sacrifice for sin was made――offering their
supplications. _Why_ they are represented as being there is not so
apparent; but probably two suggestions will explain this: (a) The altar
was the place where sin was expiated, and it was natural to represent
these redeemed martyrs as seeking refuge there; and (b) it was usual to
offer prayers and supplications _at_ the altar, in connection with the
sacrifice made for sin, and on the ground of that sacrifice. The idea
is, that they who were suffering persecution would naturally seek a
refuge in the place where expiation was made for sin, and where prayer
was appropriately offered. The _language_ here is such as a Hebrew
would naturally use; the _idea_ is appropriate to anyone who believes
in the atonement, and who supposes that that is the appropriate refuge
for those who are in trouble. But while the language here is such as
a Hebrew would use, and while the reference in the language is to the
altar of burnt sacrifice, the scene should be regarded as undoubtedly
laid in heaven――the temple where God resides. The whole representation
is that of fleeing to the atonement, and pleading with {159} God in
connection with the sacrifice for sin. ¶ _The souls of them that were
slain._ That had been put to death by persecution. This is one of the
incidental proofs in the Bible that the soul does not cease to exist
at death, and also that it does not cease to be conscious, or does not
sleep till the resurrection. These souls of the martyrs are represented
as still in existence; as remembering what had occurred on the earth;
as interested in what was now taking place; as engaged in prayer; and
as manifesting earnest desires for the divine interposition to avenge
the wrongs which they had suffered. ¶ _For the word of God._ On account
of the word or truth of God. See Notes on ch. i. 9. ¶ _And for the
testimony which they held._ On account of their testimony to the truth,
or being faithful witnesses of the truth of Jesus Christ. See Notes on
ch. i. 9. (2) The invocation of the martyrs, ver. 10: _And they cried
with a loud voice._ That is, they pleaded that their blood might be
avenged. ¶ _Saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true._ They did not
doubt that God _would_ avenge them, but they inquired _how long_ the
vengeance would be delayed. It seemed to them that God was slow to
interpose, and to check the persecuting power. They appeal therefore to
him as a God of holiness and truth; that is, as one who could not look
with approval on sin, and in whose sight the wrongs inflicted by the
persecuting power must be infinitely offensive; as one who was true
to his promises, and faithful to his people. On the ground of his own
hatred of wrong, and of his plighted faithfulness to his church, they
pleaded that he would interpose. ¶ _Dost thou not judge and avenge our
blood._ That is, dost thou _forbear_ to judge and avenge us; or dost
thou delay to punish those who have persecuted and slain us. They do
not speak as if they had any doubt that it would be done, nor as if
they were actuated by a spirit of _revenge_; but as if it would be
_proper_ that there should be an expression of the divine sense of the
wrongs that had been done them. It is not right to desire vengeance
or revenge; it is to desire that justice should be done, and that
the government of God should be vindicated. The word “_judge_” here
may either mean “judge _us_,” in the sense of “vindicate _us_,” or
it may refer to their persecutors, meaning “judge _them_.” The more
probable sense is the latter: “How long dost thou forbear to execute
judgment on our account on those that dwell on the earth?” The word
_avenge_――ἐκδικέω――means to do justice; to execute punishment. ¶ _On
them that dwell on the earth._ Those who are still on the earth. This
shows that the scene here is laid in heaven, and that the souls of
the martyrs are represented as there. We are not to suppose that this
_literally_ occurred, and that John actually saw the souls of the
martyrs beneath the altars――for the whole representation is symbolical;
nor are we to suppose that the injured and the wronged in heaven
actually pray for vengeance on those who wronged them, or that the
redeemed in heaven will continue to pray with reference to things on
the earth; but it may be fairly inferred from this that there will be
_as real_ a remembrance of the wrongs of the persecuted, the injured,
and the oppressed, _as if_ such prayer were offered there; and that the
oppressor has as much to dread from the divine vengeance _as if_ those
whom he has injured should cry in heaven to the God who hears prayer,
and who takes vengeance. The wrongs done to the children of God; to the
orphan, the widow, the down-trodden; to the slave and the outcast, will
be as certainly remembered in heaven as if they who are wronged should
plead for vengeance there, for every act of injustice and oppression
goes to heaven and pleads for vengeance. Every persecutor should dread
the death of the persecuted _as if_ he went to heaven to plead against
him; every cruel master should dread the death of his slave that is
crushed by wrongs; every seducer should dread the death and the cries
of his victim; every one who does wrong in any way should remember that
the sufferings of the injured cry to heaven with a martyr’s pleadings,
saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and
avenge our blood?” (3) The robes that were given to the martyrs: _And
white {160} robes were given unto every one of them._ Emblems of purity
or innocence. See Notes on ch. iii. 5. Here the robes would be an
emblem of their innocence as martyrs; of the divine approval of their
testimony and lives, and a pledge of their future blessedness. (4) The
command to wait: _And it was said unto them, that they should rest yet
for a little season._ That is, that they must wait for a little season
before they could be avenged as they desired, ver. 10. They had pleaded
that their cause might be at once vindicated, and had asked how long
it would be before it should be done. The reply is, that the desired
vindication would not at once occur, but that they must wait until
other events were accomplished. Nothing definite is determined by the
phrase “a little season,” or a short time. It is simply an intimation
that this would not _immediately_ occur, or was not soon to take place.
Whether it refers to an existing persecution, and to the fact that
they were to wait for the divine interposition until that was over, and
those who were then suffering persecution should be put to death and
join them; or whether to a series of persecutions stretching along in
the history of the world, in such a sense that the promised vengeance
would take place only when all those persecutions were passed, and the
number of the martyrs completed, cannot be determined from the meaning
of their words. Either of these suppositions would accord well with
what the language naturally expresses. ¶ _Until their fellow-servants
also._ Those who were then suffering persecution, or those who should
afterwards suffer persecution, grouping all together. ¶ _And their
brethren._ Their brethren as Christians, and their brethren in
trial: those then living, or those who would live afterwards and pass
through similar scenes. ¶ _Should be fulfilled._ That is, till these
persecutions were passed through, and the number of the martyrs was
complete. The state of things represented here would seem to be, that
there was then a persecution raging on the earth. Many had been put
to death, and their souls had fled to heaven, where they pleaded
that their cause might be vindicated, and that their oppressors and
persecutors might be punished. To this the answer was, that _they_ were
now safe and happy――that God approved their course, and that in token
of his approbation they should be clothed in white raiment; but that
the invoked vindication could not at once occur. There were others who
would yet be called to suffer as they had done, and they must wait
until all that number was completed. _Then_, it is implied, God would
interpose, and vindicate his name. The scene, therefore, is laid in a
time of persecution, when many had already died, and when there were
many more that were exposed to death; and a sufficient fulfilment of
the passage, so far as the _words_ are concerned, would be found in
_any_ persecution, where many might be represented as having already
gone to heaven, and where there was a certainty that many more would
follow. We naturally, however, look for the fulfilment of it in some
period succeeding those designated by the preceding symbols. There
would be no difficulty, in the early history of the church, in finding
events that would correspond with all that is represented by the
symbol; but it is natural to look for it in a period succeeding that
represented, under the fourth seal, by Death on the pale horse. If the
previous seals have been correctly interpreted we shall not be much in
danger of erring in supposing that this refers to the persecution under
Diocletian; and perhaps we may find in one who never intended to write
a word that could be construed as furnishing a proof of the fulfilment
of the prophecies of the New Testament, what should be regarded as a
complete verification of all that is represented here. The following
particulars may justify this application: (a) The _place_ of that
persecution in history, or the time when it occurred. As already
remarked, if the previous seals have been rightly explained, and the
fourth seal denotes the wars, the famine, and the pestilence, under
the invasion of the Goths, and in the time of Valerian and Gallienus,
then the last great persecution of the church under Diocletian would
well accord with the period in history referred to. Valerian died in
A.D. 260, being flayed alive by Sapor, king of Persia; Gallienus died
in A.D. 268, being killed at Milan. Diocletian ascended the throne
A.D. 284, and resigned the purple A.D. 304. It was during this period,
and chiefly at the instigation of Galerius, that the tenth persecution
of the Christians occurred――the last under the Roman power; for in
A.D. 306 Constantine ascended the throne, and ultimately became {161}
the protector of the church. (b) The _magnitude_ of this persecution
under Diocletian is as consonant to the representation here as its
place in history. So important was it, that, in a general chapter
on the persecutions of the Christians, Mr. Gibbon has seen fit,
in his remarks on the nature, causes, extent, and character of the
persecutions, to give a prominence to this which he has not assigned
to any others, and to attach an importance to it which he has not to
any other. See vol. i. pp. 317‒322. The _design_ of this persecution,
as Mr. Gibbon expresses it (i. 318), was “to set bounds to the progress
of Christianity;” or, as he elsewhere expresses it (on the same page),
“the destruction of Christianity.” Diocletian, himself naturally averse
from persecution, was excited to this by Galerius, who urged upon the
emperor every argument by which he could persuade him to engage in
it. Mr. Gibbon says in regard to this, “Galerius at length extorted
from him [Diocletian] the permission of summoning a council, composed
of a few persons, the most distinguished in the civil and military
departments of the state. It may be presumed that they insisted on
every topic which might interest the pride, the piety, the fears
of their sovereign _in the destruction of Christianity_,” i. 318.
The _purpose_ evidently in the persecution, was, to make a last and
desperate effort, through the whole Roman empire, for the destruction
of the Christian religion; for Mr. Gibbon (i. 320) says that “the
edict against the Christians was designed for a general law _of the
whole empire_.” Other efforts had failed. The religion still spread,
notwithstanding the rage and fury of nine previous persecutions. It was
resolved to make one more effort. This was designed by the persecutors
to be the last, in the hope that then the Christian name would cease
to be: in the providence of God it _was_ the last――for then even
these opposing powers became convinced that the religion could not be
destroyed in this manner――and as this persecution was to establish this
fact, it was an event of sufficient magnitude to be symbolized by the
opening of one of the seals. (c) The _severity_ of this persecution
accorded with the description here, and was such as to deserve a place
in the series of important events which were to occur in the world. We
have seen above, from the statement of Mr. Gibbon, that it was designed
for the “whole empire,” and it in fact raged with fury throughout the
empire. After detailing some of the events of local persecutions under
Diocletian, Mr. Gibbon says, “The resentment or the fears of Diocletian
at length transported him beyond the bounds of moderation, which he
had hitherto preserved, and he declared, in a series of edicts, his
intention of abolishing the Christian name. By the first of these
edicts the governors of the provinces were directed to apprehend all
persons of the ecclesiastical order; and the prisons destined for
the vilest criminals were soon filled with a multitude of bishops,
presbyters, deacons, and exorcists. By a second edict the magistrates
were commanded to employ every method of severity which might reclaim
them from their odious superstition, and oblige them to return to the
established worship of the gods. This rigorous order was extended, by a
subsequent edict, to the whole body of Christians, who were exposed to
a violent and general persecution. Instead of those salutary restraints
which had required the direct and solemn testimony of an accuser,
it became the duty as well as the interest of the imperial officers
to discover, to pursue, and to torment the most obnoxious among the
faithful. Heavy penalties were denounced against all who should presume
to save a proscribed sectary from the just indignation of the gods,
and of the emperors,” i. 322. The first decree against the Christians,
at the instigation of Galerius, will show the general nature of this
fiery trial of the church. That decree was to the following effect:
“All assembling of the Christians for the purposes of religious worship
was forbidden; the Christian churches were to be demolished to their
foundations; all manuscripts of the Bible should be burned; those who
held places of honour or rank must either renounce their faith or be
degraded; in judicial proceedings the torture might be used against
all Christians, of whatever rank; those belonging to the lower walks
of private life were to be divested of their rights as citizens and
as freemen; Christian slaves were to be incapable of receiving their
freedom, so long as they remained Christians” (Neander, _Hist. of the
Church_, Torrey’s Trans. i. 148). This persecution was the last against
the Christians by the Roman emperors; the {162} last that was waged by
that mighty Pagan power. Diocletian soon resigned the purple, and after
the persecution had continued to rage, with more or less severity,
under his successors, for ten years, the peace of the church was
established. “Diocletian,” says Mr. Gibbon (i. 322), “had no sooner
published his edicts against the Christians, than, as if he had been
committing to other hands his work of persecution, he divested himself
of the imperial purple. The character and situation of his colleagues
and successors sometimes urged them to enforce, and sometimes to
suspend, the execution of these rigorous laws; nor can we acquire
a just and distinct idea of this important period of ecclesiastical
history, unless we separately consider the state of Christianity in
the different parts of the empire, during the space of ten years which
elapsed between the first edicts of Diocletian _and the final peace
of the church_.” For this detail consult Gibbon, i. 322‒329, and the
authorities there referred to; and Neander, _Hist. of the Church_,
i. 147‒156. Respecting the details of the persecution, Mr. Gibbon
remarks (i. 326), “It would have been an easy task, from the history
of Eusebius, from the declamations of Lactantius, and from the most
ancient acts, to collect a long series of horrid and disgustful
pictures, and to fill many pages with racks and scourges, with
iron-hooks, and red-hot beds, and with the variety of tortures which
fire and steel, savage beasts, and more savage executioners, could
inflict on the human body.” It is true that Mr. Gibbon professes to
doubt the truth of these records, and attempts to show that the account
of the number of the martyrs has been greatly exaggerated; yet no one,
in reading his own account of this persecution, can doubt that it was
the result of a determined effort to blot out the Christian religion,
and that the whole of the imperial power was exerted to accomplish
this end. At length the last of the imperial persecutions ceased,
and the great truth was demonstrated that Christianity could not be
extinguished by power, and that “the gates of hell could not prevail
against it.” “In the year 311,” says Neander (i. 156), “the remarkable
edict appeared which put an end to the last sanguinary conflict of
the Christian church and the Roman empire.” This decree was issued by
the author and instigator of the persecution, Galerius, who, “softened
by a severe and painful disease, the consequence of his excesses, had
been led to think that the God of the Christians might, after all, be
a powerful being, whose anger punished him, and whose favour he must
endeavour to conciliate.” This man suspended the persecution, and gave
the Christians permission “once more to hold their assemblies, provided
they did nothing contrary to the good order of the Roman state.” “Ita
ut ne quid contra disciplinam agant” (Neander, _ibid._).

    12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo,
    there was a great [229]earthquake; and the sun[230] became
    black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

    13 And the [231]stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a
    fig-tree casteth her [232]untimely figs, when she is shaken of
    a mighty wind.

    14 And the [233]heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled
    together; and [234]every mountain and island were moved out of
    their places.

    15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the
    rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every
    bondman, and every freeman, [235]hid themselves in the dens
    and in the rocks of the mountains;

    16 And [236]said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and
    hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and
    from the wrath of the Lamb:

    17 For the [237]great day of his wrath is come; and [238]who
    shall be able to stand?

12‒17. _And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal._ See Notes,
ch. v. 1; vi. 1. ¶ _And, lo, there was a great earthquake._ Before
endeavouring to ascertain to what the sixth seal was designed to
refer, it is proper, as in the previous cases, to furnish a particular
explanation of the meaning of the symbols. All the symbols represented
in the opening of this seal denote consternation, commotion, changes;
but still they are all significant, and we are to suppose that
something would occur corresponding with each one of them. It cannot
be supposed that the things here described were represented on the
part of the roll or volume that was now unfolded in any other way than
that they were pictures, or that the whole was a species of panoramic
representation made to pass before the eyes. Thus understood, it would
not be difficult to represent each one of these things in a painting:
as the heaving ground――the agitated forests――the trembling hills――the
falling cities and houses――the sun blackened, and the moon turned to

(a) The earthquake, ver. 12: _There was a great earthquake._ The word
here used denotes a shaking or agitation of the earth. The effect, when
violent, is to produce important changes――opening chasms in the earth;
throwing down houses and temples; sinking hills, and elevating plains;
causing ponds and lakes to dry up, or forming them where none existed;
elevating the ocean from its bed, rending rocks, &c. As all that occurs
in the opening of the other seals is symbolical, it is to be presumed
that this is also, and that for the fulfilment {163} of this we are not
to look for a literal earthquake, but for such agitations and changes
in the world as would be properly symbolized by this. The earthquake,
as a symbol, would merely denote great agitations or overturnings on
the earth. The particular character of those changes must be determined
by other circumstances in the symbol that would limit and explain it.
There are, it is said, but three literal earthquakes referred to in the
Scripture: that mentioned in 1 Ki. xix. 11; that in Uzziah’s time, Am.
i. 1; Zec. xiv. 5; and that which took place at the Saviour’s death.
All the rest are emblematical or symbolical――referring mostly to civil
commotions and changes. Then in Hag. ii. 6, 7: “Yet once, it is a
little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth, and the sea,
and the dry land, and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all
nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory, saith the
Lord of hosts.” That is, there would be great agitations in the world
before he came. See Notes on He. xii. 26‒28. So also great changes
and commotions are referred to in Is. xxiv. 19, 20: “The earth is
utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved
exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall
be removed like a cottage.” An _earthquake_, if there were no other
circumstances limiting and explaining the symbol, would merely denote
great agitation and commotion――_as if_ states and empires were tumbling
to ruin. As this is here a mere _symbol_, it is not necessary to
look for a literal fulfilment, or to expect to find in history actual
earthquakes to which this had reference, any more than when it is said
that “the heavens departed as a scroll” we are to expect that they will
be literally rolled up; but if, in the course of history, earthquakes
preceded remarkable political convulsions and revolutions, it would be
proper to represent such events in this way.

(b) The darkening of the sun: _And the sun became black as sackcloth of
hair._ Sackcloth was a coarse black cloth, commonly, though not always,
made of hair. It was used for sacks, for strainers, and for mourning
garments; and as thus worn it was not an improper emblem of sadness and
distress. The idea here is, that the sun put on a dark, dingy, doleful
appearance, _as if_ it were in mourning. The general image, then, in
this emblem, is that of calamity――_as if_ the very sun should put on
the robes of mourning. We are by no means to suppose that this was
_literally_ to occur, but that _some_ great calamity would happen, of
which this would be an appropriate emblem. See Notes on Is. xiii. 10;
Mat. xxiv. 29. Comp. Is. xxiv. 23; xxxiv. 4; l. 3; lx. 19, 20; Eze.
xxxii. 7, 8; Joel ii. 10; iii. 15, 16; Am. viii. 9. What is the
particular nature of the calamity is to be learned from other parts
of the symbol.

(c) The discoloration of the moon: _And the moon became as blood._
Red like blood――either from the smoke and vapour that usually precedes
an earthquake, or as a mere emblem. This also would betoken calamity,
and _perhaps_ the symbol may be so far limited and modified by this
as to denote _war_, for that would be most naturally suggested by the
colour――_red_. Comp. Notes on ver. 4 of this chapter. But _any_ great
calamity would be appropriately represented by this――as the change of
the moon to such a colour would be a natural emblem of distress.

(d) The falling of the stars, ver. 13: _And the stars of heaven fell
unto the earth._ This _language_ is derived from the poetic idea that
the sky seems to be a solid concave, in which the stars are _set_,
and that when any convulsion takes place, that concave will be shaken,
and the stars will be loosened and fall from their places. See this
language explained in the Notes on Is. xxxiv. 4. Sometimes the expanse
above us is spoken of as a curtain that is spread out, and that may
be rolled up; sometimes as a solid crystalline expanse in which the
stars are fixed. According to either representation the stars are
described as falling to the earth. If the expanse is _rolled up_, the
stars, having nothing to support them, fall; if violent tempests or
concussions shake the heavens, the stars, loosened from their fixtures,
fall to the earth. Stars, in the Scriptures, are symbols of princes
and rulers (see Da. viii. 10; Re. viii. 10, 11; ix. 1); and the natural
meaning of this symbol is, that there would be commotions which would
{164} unsettle princes, and bring them down from their thrones――like
stars falling from the sky. ¶ _Even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely
figs._ Marg., _green_; Gr., ὀλύνθους. This word properly denotes
_winter-figs_, or such as grow under the leaves, and do not ripen at
the proper season, but hang upon the trees during the winter (Rob.
_Lex._). This fruit seldom matures, and easily falls off in the spring
of the year (Stuart, _in loco_). A violent wind shaking a plantation of
fig-trees would of course cast many such figs to the ground. The point
of the comparison is, the ease with which the stars would seem to be
shaken from their places, and hence the ease with which, in these
commotions, princes would be dethroned.

(e) The departing of the heavens, ver. 14: _And the heaven departed
as a scroll._ That is, as a book or volume――βιβλίον――rolled up. The
heavens are here described as spread out, and their passing away
is represented by the idea that they might be rolled up, and thus
disappear. See Notes on Is. xxxiv. 4. This, too, is a symbol, and we
are not to suppose that it will literally occur. Indeed it never _can_
literally occur; and we are not, therefore, to look for the fulfilment
of this in any physical fact that would correspond with what is here
said. The plain meaning is, that there would be changes _as if_ such
an event would happen; that is, that revolutions would occur in the
high places of the earth, and among those in power, _as if_ the stars
should fall, and the very heavens were swept away. This is the natural
meaning of the symbol, and this accords with the usage of the language

(f) The removal of mountains and islands, ver. 14: _And every
mountain and island were moved out of their places._ This would denote
convulsions in the political or moral world, as great as would occur in
the physical world if the very mountains were removed and the islands
should change their places. We are not to suppose that this would
literally occur; but we should be authorized from this to expect that,
in regard to those things which seemed to be permanent and fixed on
an immovable basis, like mountains and islands, there would be violent
and important changes. If thrones and dynasties long established were
overthrown; if institutions that seemed to be fixed and permanent were
abolished; if a new order of things should rise in the political world,
the meaning of the symbol, so far as the language is concerned, would
be fulfilled.

(g) The universal consternation, ver. 15‒17: _And the kings of the
earth_, &c. The design of these verses (15‒17), in the varied language
used, is evidently to denote universal consternation and alarm――_as
if_ the earth should be convulsed, and the stars should fall, and
the heavens should pass away. This consternation would extend to all
classes of men, and fill the world with alarm, _as if_ the end of
all things were coming. ¶ _The kings of the earth._ Rulers――all who
occupied thrones. ¶ _The great men._ High officers of state. ¶ _And
the rich men._ Their wealth would not secure them from destruction,
and they would be alarmed like others. ¶ _And the chief captains._ The
commanders of armies, who tremble like other men when God appears in
judgment. ¶ _And the mighty men._ Men of great prowess in battle, but
who feel now that they have no power to withstand God. ¶ _And every
bondman._ Servant――δοῦλος. This word does not necessarily denote a
_slave_ (comp. Notes on Ep. vi. 5; 1 Ti. vi. 1; Phile. 16), but here
the connection seems to demand it, for it stands in contrast with
_freeman_. There were, in fact, slaves in the Roman empire, and there
is no objection in supposing that they are here referred to. There
is no reason why they should not be filled with consternation as well
as others; and as this does not refer to the end of the world, or the
day of judgment, the word here determines nothing as to the question
whether slavery is to continue on the earth. ¶ _And every freeman._
Whether the master of slaves or not. The idea is, {165} that all
classes of men, high and low, would be filled with alarm. ¶ _Hid
themselves in the dens._ Among the caves or caverns in the mountains.
See Notes on Is. ii. 19. These places were resorted to for safety in
times of danger. Comp. 1 Sa. xiii. 6; xxiv.; Ju. vi. 2; Je. xli. 9; Jos.
_Ant._ book xiv. ch. xv.; _Jewish Wars_, book i. ch. xvi. ¶ _And in
the rocks of the mountains._ Among the crags or the fastnesses of the
mountains――also natural places of refuge in times of hostile invasion
or danger. See Notes on Is. ii. 21. ¶ _And said to the mountains and
rocks, Fall on us_, &c., ver. 16. This language is found substantially
in Ho. x. 8: “And they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to
the hills, Fall on us.” It is also used by the Saviour as denoting the
consternation which would occur at his coming: “Then shall they begin
to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us,”
Lu. xxiii. 30. It is language denoting consternation, and an awful
fear of impending wrath. The state of mind is that where there is
an apprehension that God himself is coming forth with the direct
instruments of his vengeance, and where there is a desire rather to
be crushed by falling rocks and hills than by the vengeance of his
uplifted arm. ¶ _From the face of him that sitteth on the throne._
The face of God――for he seems to be coming forth with the displays of
his vengeance. It is not said that God would actually come forth in a
visible form, but their consternation would be as great as if he were
to do this; the state of mind indicated by this was an apprehension
that it would be so. ¶ _And from the wrath of the Lamb._ The Lamb
of God; the Lord Jesus. See Notes on ch. v. 6. There seems to be an
incongruity between the words _wrath_ and _Lamb_; but the word _Lamb_
here is so far a proper name as to be used only to designate the
Redeemer. He comes forth to execute wrath, not as a Lamb, but as the
Son of God, who bore that name. It would seem from this that they who
thus dreaded the impending terrors were aware of their source, or had
knowledge enough to understand by whom they were to be inflicted. They
would see that these were _divine_ judgments, and would apprehend that
the end of the world drew near. ¶ _For the great day of his wrath is
come_, ver. 17. The threatening judgments would be so severe and awful
that they would suppose that the end of the world was coming. ¶ _And
who shall be able to stand?_ To stand before him, or to withstand his

It is unnecessary to say that there has been, in this case, as in
reference to every other part of the book of Revelation, a great
diversity of opinion respecting the events symbolized by this seal.
Grotius applied it to the wars between the Jews and Romans under Nero
and Vespasian; Dr. Hammond supposed that the defeat of the Jewish
leaders in those wars was particularly symbolized; Mr. Brightman
referred these symbols to the persecution under Diocletian; Mr. Mede,
Dr. Cressner, Dr. More, Mr. Whiston, Mr. Jurien, Mr. Daubuz, Mr. Lowman,
Bishop Newton, Mr. Elliott, and others, refer it to the defeat of the
Pagan powers, and the final suppression of those powers as opposed to
Christianity; Vitringa regarded it as foreshadowing the overthrow of
the antichristian powers of the western Roman empire; Cocceius explains
it of the wars of the Emperor Frederick against the German princes in
the sixteenth century; Dean Woodhouse, of the day of vengeance at the
end of the world; Mr. Cunninghame, of the same period as the seventh
trumpet, commencing with the French revolution, and to be consummated
by the visible advent of the Son of God; Professor Stuart, of the
destruction of Jerusalem; and Mr. Lord, of a series of events, part of
which are fulfilled, three of them corresponding with the first three
vials――the first expressive of the revolution of France, the second
of a despotism extending through several years, and the third of the
overthrow of that violent dynasty, at the fall of {166} Bonaparte, in
1815. It is not my purpose to examine these views; but, amidst this
great variety of opinion, it seems to me that the obvious and natural
application of the opening of the seal has not been adverted to. I
shall suggest it because it _is_ the most natural and obvious, and
seems to be demanded by the explanations given of the previous seals.
It is, in one word, the impending judgments from the invasions of the
northern hordes of Goths and Vandals, threatening the breaking up of
the Roman empire――the gathering of the storm, and the hovering of those
barbarians on the borders of the empire; the approaches which they made
from time to time towards the capital, though restrained as yet from
taking it; the tempest of wrath that was, as it were, _suspended_ yet
on the frontiers, until the events recorded in the next chapter should
occur, then bursting forth in wrath in successive blasts, as denoted
by the first four trumpets of the seventh seal (ch. viii.), when the
empire was entirely overthrown by the Goths and Vandals. The precise
point of time which I suppose this seal occupies is that _succeeding_
the last persecution. It embraces the preparatory arrangements of
these hordes of invaders――their gathering on the frontiers of the
empire――their threatened approaches toward the capital――and the
formation of such vast armies as would produce universal consternation.
A brief notice of these preparatory scenes, as adapted to produce the
alarm referred to in the opening of the sixth seal, is all that will
be necessary here; the more complete detail must be reserved for the
explanation of the four trumpets of the seventh seal, when the work
of destruction was consummated. These preparations and threatened
invasions were events sufficiently important in their relation to the
church, to what preceded, and to the future history of the world, to
be symbolized here; and they are events in which all the particulars of
the symbol may find a fulfilment. Anyone has only to look on a chart of
history to see how appropriately this application of the symbol follows,
if the previous explanations have been correct. In the illustration of
this, in order to show the probability that these events are referred
to by the symbols of the sixth seal, I would submit the following

(1) The _time_ is that which would be naturally suggested by this
seal in its relation to the others. If the fifth referred to the
persecutions under Diocletian――the last great persecution of the Pagan
powers in attempting to extinguish the Christian name――then we should
naturally look for the fulfilment of the opening of the next in some
event, or series of events, which would succeed that at no very distant
interval, and that pertained to the empire or power that had been the
prominent subject of the predictions in the previous seals. It would
also be natural to look for some events that might be regarded as
conveying an expression of the divine feeling in regard to that power,
or that would present it in such an aspect that it would be seen that
its power to persecute was at an end. This natural _expectation_ would
be answered either by some symbol that would refer to the complete
triumph of the Christian system, or by such a series of judgments as
would break the persecuting power itself in pieces. Now the threatened
irruption of the northern barbarians followed the series of events
already described with sufficient _nearness_ to make it proper to
regard that series of events as referred to.

(2) The events were of sufficient _importance_ in the history of
the empire to deserve this notice in the foreshadowing of what would
occur. They were connected with the breaking up of that mighty power,
and the complete change of the aspect of the world, in a political and
religious point of view. A new order of things arose in the world’s
history. A new religion became established. New kingdoms from the
fragments of the once-mighty Roman empire were founded, and the affairs
of the world were put on a new footing. These mighty northern hordes
not only spread consternation and alarm, as if the world were coming
to an end, but they laid the foundations of kingdoms which continue to
this day. In fact, few more important events have occurred in history.

(3) This series of events was _introduced_ in the manner described
in the opening of the sixth seal. I have already said that it is not
_necessary_ to suppose, in the fulfilment of the symbol, that there
would be a literal earthquake; but nothing in the symbol forbids us
to suppose that there might be, and if there were we could not but
consider it as remarkable. Now it so happens that the series of events
pertaining {167} to the Gothic invasions is introduced by Mr. Gibbon
in the following language: “A.D. 365. In the second year of the reign
of Valentinian and Valens, on the morning of the twenty-first day of
July, the greatest part of the Roman world was shaken by a violent and
destructive earthquake. The impression was communicated to the waters;
the shores of the Mediterranean were left dry by the sudden retreat
of the sea; great quantities of fish were caught with the hand; large
vessels were stranded on the mud; and a curious spectator amused his
eye, or rather his fancy, by contemplating the various appearances of
valleys and mountains which had never before, since the formation of
the globe, been exposed to the sun. But the tide soon returned, with
the weight of an immense and irresistible deluge, which was severely
felt on the coasts of Sicily, of Dalmatia, of Greece, and of Egypt;
large boats were transported, and lodged on the roofs of houses, or
at the distance of two miles from the shore; the people, with their
habitations, were swept away by the waters; and the city of Alexandria
annually commemorated the day on which fifty thousand persons had
lost their lives in the inundation. This calamity, the report of which
was magnified from one province to another, _astonished and terrified
the subjects of Rome_; and their affrighted imagination enlarged the
real extent of the momentary evil. They recollected the preceding
earthquakes which had subverted the cities of Palestine and Bithynia;
they considered these alarming strokes as the prelude only of still
more dreadful calamities, and their fearful vanity was disposed to
confound _the symptoms of a declining empire and a sinking world_,”
vol. ii. pp. 115, 116. Mr. Gibbon then proceeds to detail the evils
of war, as greatly surpassing the calamities produced by any natural
causes, and adds (p. 116), “In the disastrous period of the fall of the
Roman empire, which may be justly dated from the reign of Valens, the
happiness and security of each individual was personally attacked; and
the arts and labours of ages were rudely defaced by the barbarians of
Scythia and Germany.” He then proceeds with an exceedingly interesting
description of the origin, the habits, and the movements of the
Tartar nations, particularly the Huns, as they moved to the West, and
precipitated the Gothic nations on the provinces of the Roman empire,
until Rome itself was thrice besieged, was taken, and was sacked
(ii. 116‒266). The earthquake referred to occurred in A.D. 365. The
movements of the Huns from their territories in the neighbourhood of
China had commenced about A.D. 100, and in A.D. 375 they overcame the
Goths lying along the Danube. The Goths, pressed and overcome by these
savage invaders, asked permission of the Romans to cross the Danube, to
find protection in the Roman empire, and to cultivate the waste lands
of Thrace (Gibbon, ii. 129, 130). In the year 376 they were transported
over the Danube, by the permission of the Roman emperor Valens; an
event which, according to Mr. Gibbon, in its ultimate result, was
the cause of the downfall of the empire; for they learned their own
strength; they were attracted by the riches of the capital and the
hope of reward, until they finally drew the Western emperor to Ravenna,
sacked Rome, and took possession of Italy.

(4) A slight reference to the _series_ of events in these periods
of consternation and conquest may show more closely the nature of
the alarms which would be caused by the prospect of these dreadful
invasions, and may prepare us for a better understanding of the
successive calamities which occurred under these invaders, when the
empire fell, as described by the four first trumpets of the seventh
seal. I shall copy from the tables of contents of Mr. Gibbon’s history,
under the twenty-sixth, thirtieth, and thirty-first chapters:――

            365.  Earthquakes.
            376.  The Huns and Goths.
            100.  The emigration of the Huns.
            375.  Their victories over the Goths.
            376.  The Goths implore the protection of Valens.
             ”    They are transported over the Danube into the
                    Roman empire.
             ”    They penetrate into Thrace.
            377.  Union of the Goths with Huns, Alani, &c.
            378.  Battle of Hadrianople.
             ”    The defeat of the Romans.
        383‒395.  The settlement of the Goths in Thrace and Asia.
            395.  Revolt of the Goths.
            396.  Alaric marches into Greece.
            398.  Is proclaimed king of the Visigoths.
        400‒403.  He invades Italy.
            406.  Radagaisus invades Italy.
             ”    Besieges Florence.
             ”    Threatens Rome.
             ”    The remainder of the Germans invade Gaul.
            407.  Desolation of Gaul.
            408.  Alaric marches to Rome.
             ”    First siege of Rome by the Goths.
  {168}     408.  Famine, plague, superstition.
            409.  Alaric accepts a ransom and raises the siege.
             ”    Fruitless negotiations for peace.
             ”    Second siege of Rome by the Goths.
            410.  Third siege and sack of Rome by the Goths.
             ”    Respect of the Goths for the Christian religion.
             ”    Pillage and fire of Rome.
             ”    Captives and fugitives.
        411‒416.  Fall of the usurpers Jovinus, Sebastian, and
            409.  Invasion of Spain by the Suevi, Vandals, Alani, &c.
        415‒418.  The Goths conquer and restore Spain.”

(5) This would coincide, in the _effects_ produced on the empire, with
the consternation and alarm described in the passage before us. The
symbols are such as _would be_ employed on the supposition that these
are the events referred to; they are such as the events are fitted to
suggest. The mighty preparations in the East and North――the report of
which could not but spread through the empire――would be appropriately
symbolized by the earthquake, the darkened sun, the moon becoming like
blood, the stars falling, the departing heavens, and the kings and
great men of the earth fleeing in alarm to find a place of safety, as
if the end of the world were drawing near. Nothing could have been so
well adapted to produce the consternation described in the opening of
the sixth seal, as the dreaded approach of vast hosts of barbarians
from the regions of the North. This alarm would be increased by the
fact that their numbers were unknown; that their origin was hidden;
and that the advancing multitudes would sweep everything before them.
As in other cases, also, rumour would increase their numbers and
augment their ferocity. The sudden shock of an earthquake, the falling
stars, the departing heavens, the removal of mountains and islands,
and the consternation of kings and all classes of people, would be
the appropriate emblems to represent these impending calamities. In
confirmation of this, and as showing the _effect_ produced by the
approach of the Goths, and the dread of the Gothic arms, in causing
universal consternation, the following extracts may be adduced from Mr.
Gibbon, when describing the threatened invasion of Alaric, king of the
Visigoths. He quotes from Claudian. “‘Fame,’ says the poet, ‘encircling
with terror her gloomy wings, proclaimed the march of the barbarian
army, and filled Italy with consternation.’” Mr. Gibbon adds, “the
apprehensions of each individual were increased in just proportion
to the measure of his fortune; and the most timid, who had already
embarked their valuable effects, meditated their escape to the island
of Sicily, or to the African coast. The public distress was aggravated
by the fears and reproaches of superstition. Every hour produced some
horrid tale of strange and portentous accidents; the Pagans deplored
the neglect of omens and the interruption of sacrifices; but the
Christians still derived some comfort from the powerful intercession of
the saints and martyrs,” ii. 218, 219. See further illustrations in the
Notes on ch. viii. 7‒13.

                             CHAPTER VII.

                       ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER.

The state of things represented in this chapter is, that where there
had been awful consternation and alarm, as if the end of the world
were coming, and where the signs of the approaching consummation of all
things are, as it were, held back until there should be an opportunity
of sealing the number that was to be saved. This is symbolized by
four angels standing in the four quarters of the earth, and holding
the winds and the storms that they should not blow on the earth until
the servants of God should be sealed in their foreheads. The idea
is that of sudden destruction about to burst on the world, which, if
unrestrained, would apparently bring on the consummation of all things,
but which is held back until the purposes of God in regard to his
people shall be accomplished――that is, until those who are the true
servants of God shall be designated by some appropriate mark. This
furnishes an opportunity of disclosing a glorious vision of those who
will be saved, alike among the Jews and the Gentiles. The _fact_, as
seen in the symbol, is, that the end of the world does _not_ come at
the opening of the sixth seal, as it seemed as if it would, and as
it was anticipated in the time of the consternation. The number of
the chosen was not complete, and the impending wrath was therefore
suspended. God interposes in favour of his people, and discloses in
vision a vast number from all lands who will yet be saved, and the
winds and storms are held back as if by angels.

The _points_, then, that are apparent in this chapter, without
any reference {169} now to the question of the application, are the
following: (1) The impending ruin that seemed about to spread over
the earth, apparently bringing on the consummation of all things,
restrained or suspended, ver. 1. This impending ruin is symbolized by
the four winds of heaven that seemed about to sweep over the world;
the interposition of God is represented by the four angels who have
power over those winds to hold them back, as if it depended on their
will to let them loose and to spread ruin over the earth or not. (2) A
suspension of these desolating influences and agents until another
important purpose could be accomplished――that is, until the servants
of God could be sealed in their foreheads, ver. 2, 3. Another angel,
acting independently of the four first seen, and having power to
command, appears in the east, having the seal of the living God; and
he directs the four angels having the four winds not to let them loose
upon the earth until the servants of God should be sealed in their
foreheads. This obviously denotes some suspension of the impending
wrath, and for a specific purpose, that something might be done by
which the true servants of God would be so marked as to be publicly
known――_as if_ they had a mark or brand to that effect imprinted on
their foreheads. Whatever would serve to designate them, to determine
who they were, to ascertain their number, would be a fulfilment of this
act of the sealing angel. The length of _time_ during which it would
be done is not designated; the essential thing is, that there would
be a suspension of impending judgments, _in order_ that it might be
done. Whether this was to occupy a longer or a shorter period is not
determined by the symbol; nor is it determined _when_ the winds thus
held back would be suffered to blow. (3) The number of the sealed,
ver. 4‒8. The seer does not represent himself as actually beholding
the process of sealing, but he says that he heard the number of those
who were sealed. That number was an hundred and forty-four thousand,
and they were selected from the twelve tribes of the children of
Israel――Levi being reckoned, who was not usually numbered with the
tribes, and the tribe of Dan being omitted. The number from each tribe,
large or small, was the same; the entire portion selected being but
a very small part of the whole. The general idea here, whatever may
be the particular application, is, that there would be a _selection_,
and that the whole number of the tribe would not be embraced; that
the selection would be made from _each_ tribe, and that all would
have the same mark, and be saved by the same means. It would not be
in accordance with the nature of symbolic representation to suppose
that the saved would be the precise number here referred to; but _some_
great truth is designed to be represented by this fact. We should look,
in the fulfilment, to some process by which the true servants of God
would be designated; we should expect that a portion of them would be
found in each one of the classes here denoted by a tribe; we should
suppose that the true servants of God thus referred to would be _as
safe_ in the times of peril as if they were designated by a visible
mark. (4) After this, another vision presents itself to the seer. It
is that of a countless multitude before the throne, redeemed out of all
nations, with palms in their hands, ver. 9‒17. The scene is transferred
to heaven, and there is a vision of _all_ the redeemed――not only of the
hundred and forty-four thousand, but of all who would be rescued and
saved from a lost world. The _design_ is doubtless to cheer the hearts
of the true friends of God in times of gloom and despondency, by a
view of the great numbers that will be saved, and the glorious triumph
that awaits the redeemed in heaven. This portion of the vision embraces
the following particulars:――(a) A vast multitude, which no man can
number, is seen before the throne in heaven. They are clad in white
robes――emblems of purity; they have palms in their hands――emblems
of victory, ver. 9. (b) They are engaged in ascribing praise to God,
ver. 10. (c) The angels, the elders, and the four living creatures,
fall down before the throne, and unite with the redeemed in ascriptions
of praise, ver. 11, 12. (d) A particular inquiry is made of the
seer――evidently to call his attention to it――respecting those who
appear there in white robes, ver. 13. (e) To this inquiry it is
answered, that they were those who had come up out of great tribulation,
and who had washed their robes, and had made them pure in the blood of
the Lamb, ver. 14. (f) Then follows a description of their condition
and employment in heaven, ver. 15‒17. They are {170} constantly
before the throne; they serve God continually; they neither hunger nor
thirst; they are not subjected to the burning heat of the sun; they are
provided for by the Lamb in the midst of the throne; and all tears are
forever wiped away from their eyes. This must be regarded, I think,
as an episode, having no _immediate_ connection with what precedes or
with what follows. It seems to be thrown in here――while the impending
judgments of the sixth seal are suspended, and before the seventh is
opened――to furnish a _relief_ in the contemplation of so many scenes
of woe, and to cheer the soul with inspiring hopes from the view of
the great number that would ultimately be saved. While these judgments,
therefore, are suspended, the mind is directed on to the world of
triumph, as a view fitted to sustain and comfort those who would be
partakers in the scenes of woe. At the same time it is one of the most
touching and beautiful of all the representations of heaven ever penned,
and is eminently adapted to comfort those, in all ages, who are in a
vale of tears.

In the exposition it will be proper (ver. 1‒8) to inquire into the
fair meaning of the _language_ employed in the symbols; and then to
inquire whether there are any known facts to which the description is
applicable. The first inquiry may and should be pursued independently
of the other; and it may be added, that the explanation offered on this
may be correct, even if the other should be erroneous. The same remark,
also, is applicable to the remainder of the chapter (ver. 9‒17), and
indeed is of general applicability in the exposition of this book.

                             CHAPTER VII.

    AND after these things I saw four angels standing on the four
    corners of the earth, holding the [239]four winds of the earth,
    that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea,
    nor on any tree.

1. _And after these things._ After the vision of the things referred
to in the opening of the sixth seal. The natural interpretation
would be, that what is here said of the angels and the winds occurred
_after_ those things which are described in the previous chapter.
The exact chronology may not be always observed in these symbolical
representations, but doubtless there is a general order which is
observed. ¶ _I saw four angels._ He does not describe their forms,
but merely mentions their agency. This is, of course, a symbolical
representation. We are not to suppose that it would be _literally_
fulfilled, or that, at the time referred to by the vision, four
celestial beings would be stationed in the four quarters of the world
for the purpose of checking and restraining the winds that blow from
the four points of the compass. The meaning is, that events would
occur which would be properly _represented_ by four angels standing
in the four quarters of the world, and having power over the winds.
¶ _Standing on the four corners of the earth._ This language is, of
course, accommodated to the prevailing mode of speaking of the earth
among the Hebrews. It was a common method among them to describe it as
a vast plain, having four corners, those corners being the prominent
points――north, south, east, and west. So we speak now of the four winds,
the four quarters of the world, &c. The Hebrews spoke of the earth,
as we do of the rising and setting of the sun and of the motions of
the heavenly bodies, according to appearances, and without aiming at
philosophical exactness. Comp. Notes on Job xxvi. 7. With this view
they spoke of the earth as an extended plain, and as having boundaries
or corners, as a plain or field naturally has. Perhaps, also, they used
this language with some allusion to an edifice, as having four corners;
for they speak also of the earth as having _foundations_. The language
which the Hebrews used was in accordance with the prevailing ideas
and language of the ancients on the subject. ¶ _Holding the four winds
of the earth._ The winds blow in fact from every quarter, but it is
convenient to speak of them as coming from the four principal points
of the compass, and this method is adopted probably in every language.
So among the Greeks and Latins, the winds were arranged under four
classes――Zephyrus, Boreas, Notus, and Eurus――considered as under
the control of a king, Æolus. See Eschenburg, _Man. Class. Lit._
§ 78, comp. § 108. The angels here are represented as “_holding_” the
winds――κρατοῦντας. That is, they held them back when about to sweep
over {171} the earth, and to produce far-spread desolation. This is an
allusion to a popular belief among the Hebrews, that the agency of the
angels was employed everywhere. It is not suggested that the angels
had _raised_ the tempest here, but only that they now restrained and
controlled it. The essential idea is, that they had _power_ over those
winds, and that they were now exercising that power by keeping them
back when they were about to spread desolation over the earth. ¶ _That
the wind should not blow on the earth._ That there should be a calm,
_as if_ the winds were held back. ¶ _Nor on the sea._ Nowhere――neither
on sea nor land. The sea and the land constitute the surface of the
globe, and the language here, therefore, denotes that there would be a
universal calm. ¶ _Nor on any tree._ To injure it. The _language_ here
used is such as would denote a state of profound quiet; as when we say
that it is so still that not a leaf of the trees moves.

In regard to the literal meaning of the symbol here employed there can
be no great difficulty; as to its application there may be more. The
winds are the proper symbols of wars and commotions. Comp. Da. vii. 2.
In Je. xlix. 36, 37 the symbol is both used and explained: “And upon
Elam will I bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and
will scatter them toward all those winds; and there shall be no nation
whither the outcasts of Elam shall not come. For I will cause Elam to
be dismayed before their enemies, and before them that seek their life.”
So in Je. li. 1, 2, a destroying wind is an emblem of destructive war:
“I will raise up against Babylon a destroying wind, and will send unto
Babylon fanners, that shall fan her, and shall empty her land.” Comp.
Horace, _Odes_, b. i. 14. The essential ideas, therefore, in this
portion of the symbol, cannot be mistaken. They are two: (1) that at
the period of time here referred to――after the opening of the sixth
seal and before the opening of the seventh――there would be a state of
things which would be well represented by rising tempests and storms,
which if unrestrained would spread desolation afar; and (2) that this
impending ruin was held back as if by angels having control of those
winds; that is, those tempests were not suffered to go forth to spread
desolation over the world. A suspended tempest; calamity held in check;
armies hovering on the borders of a kingdom, but not allowed to proceed
for a time; hordes of invaders detained, or stayed in their march, as
if by some restraining power not their own, and from causes not within
themselves――any of these things would be an obvious fulfilling of the
meaning of the symbol.

    2 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the
    [240]seal of the living God; and he cried with a loud voice
    to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and
    the sea,

2. _And I saw another angel._ Evidently having no connection with the
four, and employed for another purpose. _This_ angel, also, must have
been symbolic; and all that is implied is, that something would be done
_as if_ an angel had done it. ¶ _Ascending from the east._ He appeared
in the east, and seemed to rise like the sun. It is not easy to
determine what is the special significancy, if any, of the _east_ here,
or why this quarter of the heavens is designated rather than the north,
the south, or the west. It may be that as light begins in the east,
this would be properly symbolic of something that could be compared
with the light of the morning; or that some influence in “sealing”
the servants of God would in fact go out from the east; or perhaps no
special significance is to be attached to the quarter from which the
angel is seen to come. It is not necessary to suppose that every minute
thing in a symbol is to receive a complete fulfilment, or that there
will be some particular thing to correspond with it. Perhaps all that
is meant here is, that as the sun comes forth with splendour from the
east, so the angel came with magnificence to perform a task――that of
sealing the servants of God――cheerful and joyous like that which the
sun performs. It is certain that from no other quarter of the heavens
would it be so appropriate to represent an angel as coming forth to
perform a purpose of light, and mercy, and salvation. It does not
seem to me, therefore, that we are to look, in the fulfilment of this,
for any special influence setting in _from the east_ as that which
is symbolized here. ¶ _Having the seal of the living God._ Bearing
it in his hands. In regard to this seal the following remarks may be
made:――(a) {172} The phrase “seal _of the living God_” doubtless means
that which God had appointed, or which he would use; that is, if God
himself came forth in this manner, he would use this seal for these
purposes. Men often have a seal of their own, with some name, symbol,
or device, which designates it as theirs, and which no other one has a
right to use. A seal is sometimes used by the person himself; sometimes
intrusted to a high officer of state; sometimes to the secretary of a
corporation; and sometimes, as a mark of special favour, to a friend.
In this case it was intrusted to an angel, who was authorized to use it,
and whose use of it would be sanctioned, of course, wherever he applied
it, by the living God, as if he had employed it himself. (b) As to the
_form_ of the seal, we have no information. It would be most natural to
suppose that the _name_ “of the living God” would be engraven on it, so
that that name would appear on anyone to whom it might be affixed. Comp.
Notes on 2 Ti. ii. 19. It was customary in the East to brand the name
of the master on the forehead of a slave (Grotius, _in loco_); and such
an idea would meet all that is implied in the _language_ here, though
there is no certain evidence that there is an allusion to that custom.
In subsequent times, in the church, it was common for Christians
to impress the sign of the cross on their foreheads (Tertullian
_de Corona_; Cyrill. lib. vi. See Grotius). As nothing is said here,
however, about any mark or device on the seal, conjecture is useless
as to what it was. (c) As to what was to be designated by the seal,
the main idea is clear, that it was to place some such mark upon his
friends that they would be known to be his, and that they would be safe
in the impending calamities. There is perhaps allusion here to Eze. ix.
4‒6, where the following direction to the prophet occurs:――“Go through
the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark
upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and that cry, for all the
abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he
said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite; let
not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: slay utterly old and young,
both maids and little children, and women; but come not near any man
upon whom is the mark.” The essential ideas in the _sealing_, in the
passage before us, would therefore seem to be, (1) that there would
be some mark, sign, or token, by which they who were the people of God
would be known; that is, there would be _something_ which would answer,
in this respect, the same purpose _as if_ a seal had been impressed
upon their foreheads. Whether this was an outward badge, or a religious
rite, or the doctrines which they would hold and by which they would be
known, or something in their spirit and manner which would characterize
his true disciples, may be a fair subject of inquiry. It is not
specifically designated by the use of the word. (2) It would be
something that would be conspicuous or prominent, _as if_ it were
impressed on the forehead. It would not be merely some _internal_
sealing, or some designation by which they would be known to themselves
and to God, but it would be something _apparent_, as if engraved on
the forehead. What this would be, whether a profession, or a form of
religion, or the holding of some doctrine, or the manifestation of a
particular spirit, is not here designated. (3) This would be something
appointed by God himself. It would not be of human origin, but would
be _as if_ an angel sent from heaven should impress it on the forehead.
If it refers to the doctrines which they would hold, they could not be
doctrines of human origin; if to the spirit which they would manifest,
it would be a spirit of heavenly origin; if to some outward protection,
it would be manifest that it was from God. (4) This would be a pledge
of safety. The design of sealing the persons referred to seems to have
been to secure their safety in the impending calamities. Thus the winds
were held back until those who were to be sealed could be designated,
and then they were to be allowed to sweep over the earth. These things,
therefore, we are to look for in the fulfilment of the symbol. ¶ _And
he cried with a loud voice._ As if he had authority to command, and as
if the four winds were about to be let forth upon the world. ¶ _To whom
it was given to hurt the earth and the sea._ Who had power committed
{173} to them to do this by means of the four winds.

    3 Saying, [241]Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the
    trees, till we have [242]sealed the servants of our God
    [243]in their foreheads.

3. _Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea_, &c. Let the winds
be restrained until what is here designated shall be done. These
destroying angels were commanded to suspend the work of destruction
until the servants of God could be rendered secure. The division here,
as in ver. 1, of the “earth, the sea, and the trees,” seems to include
everything――water, land, and the productions of the earth. Nothing was
to be injured until the angel should designate the true servants of God.
¶ _Till we have sealed the servants of our God._ The use of the plural
“_we_” seems to denote that he did not expect to do it alone. Who were
to be associated with him, whether angels or men, he does not intimate;
but the work was evidently such that it demanded the agency of more
than one. ¶ _In their foreheads._ See Notes on ver. 2; comp. Eze. ix. 4,
5. A mark thus placed on the forehead would be conspicuous, and would
be something which could at once be recognized if destruction should
spread over the world. The fulfilment of this is to be found in two
things: (a) in something which would be conspicuous or prominent――so
that it could be seen; and (b) in the mark being of such a nature or
character that it would be a proper designation of the fact that they
were the true servants of God.

    4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: _and there
    were_ sealed [244]an hundred _and_ forty _and_ four thousand
    of all the tribes of the children of Israel.

4. _And I heard the number of them which were sealed._ He does not
say _where_ he heard that, or _by whom_ it was communicated to him, or
_when_ it was done. The material point is, that he _heard_ it; he did
not _see_ it done. Either by the angel, or by some direct communication
from God, he was _told_ of the number that would be sealed, and of the
distribution of the whole number into twelve equal parts, represented
by the tribes of the children of Israel. ¶ _|And there were| sealed
an hundred |and| forty |and| four thousand of all the tribes of the
children of Israel._ In regard to this number, the first and the main
question is, whether it is meant that this was to be the _literal_
number, or whether it was _symbolical_; and, if the latter, of what
it is a symbol. I. As to the first of these inquiries, there does not
appear to be any good reason for doubt. The fair interpretation seems
to require that it should be understood as symbolical, or as designed
not to be literally taken; for (a) the whole scene is symbolical――the
winds, the angels, the sealing. (b) It cannot be supposed that this
number will include _all_ who will be sealed and saved. In whatever
way this is interpreted, and whatever we may suppose it to refer
to, we cannot but suppose that more than this number will be saved.
(c) The number is too exact and artificial to suppose that it is
literal. It is inconceivable that exactly the same number――precisely
twelve thousand――should be selected from each tribe of the children of
Israel. (d) If literal, it is necessary to suppose that this refers to
the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. But on every supposition
this is absurd. Ten of their tribes had been long before carried away,
and the distinction of the tribes was lost, no more to be recovered,
and the Hebrew people never have been, since the time of John, in
circumstances to which the description here could be applicable. These
considerations make it clear that the description here is symbolical.
But, II. Of _what_ is it symbolical? Is it of a large number, or of a
small number? Is it of those who would be saved from among the Jews, or
of all who would be saved in the Christian church――represented as the
“tribes of the children of Israel?” To these inquiries we may answer,
(1) that the representation seems to be rather that of a comparatively
_small_ number than a _large_ one, for these reasons: (a) The number
_of itself_ is not large. (b) The number is not large as _compared_
with those who must have constituted the tribes here referred to――the
number twelve thousand, for example, as compared with the whole number
of the tribe of Judah, of the tribe of Reuben, &c. (c) It would seem
from the language that there would be some _selection_ from a much
greater number. Thus, not _all_ in the tribes were sealed, but those
who were sealed were “of all the tribes”――ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς; that is,
_out of_ these tribes. So in the specification in each tribe――ἐκ φυλῆς
Ἰούδα, Ρουβὴν, &c. Some _out of_ the tribe, to wit, twelve thousand,
were sealed. It is not said of the {174} twelve thousand of the tribes
of Judah, Reuben, &c., that they _constituted_ the tribe, but that they
were sealed _out of_ the tribe, as a part of it preserved and saved.
“When the preposition ἐκ, or _out of_, stands after any such verb as
_sealed_, between a definite numeral and a noun of multitude in the
genitive, sound criticism requires, doubtless, that the numeral should
be thus construed as signifying, not the whole, but a part taken out”
(Elliott, i. 237). Comp. Ex. xxxii. 28; Nu. i. 21; 1 Sa. iv. 10. The
phrase, then, would properly denote those taken _out of_ some other and
greater number――as a portion of a tribe, and not the whole tribe. If
the reference here is to the church, it would seem to denote that a
portion only of that church would be sealed. (d) For the same reason
the idea would seem to be, that comparatively a _small_ portion is
referred to――as twelve thousand would be comparatively a small part
of one of the tribes of Israel; and if this refers to the church, we
should expect to find its fulfilment in a state of things in which the
largest proportion would _not_ be sealed; that is, in a corrupt state
of the church in which there would be many professors of religion, but
comparatively few who had real piety. (2) To the other inquiry――whether
this refers to those who would be sealed and saved among the Jews, or
to those in the Christian church――we may answer, (a) that there are
strong reasons for supposing the latter to be the correct opinion. Long
before the time of John all these distinctions of tribe were abolished.
The ten tribes had been carried away and scattered in distant lands,
never more to be restored; and it cannot be supposed that there was
any such _literal_ selection from the twelve tribes as is here spoken
of, or any such designation of twelve thousand from each. There was no
occasion――either when Jerusalem was destroyed, or at any other time――on
which there were such transactions as are here referred to occurring
in reference to the children of Israel. (b) The language is such as
a Christian, who had been by birth and education a Hebrew, would
naturally use if he wished to designate the church. Comp. Notes on Ja.
i. 1. Accustomed to speak of the people of God as “the twelve tribes
of Israel,” nothing was more natural than to transfer this language
to the church of the Redeemer, and to speak of it in that figurative
manner. Accordingly, from the necessity of the case, the language is
universally understood to have reference to the Christian church. Even
Professor Stuart, who supposes that the reference is to the siege and
destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, interprets it of the
preservation of Christians, and their flight to Pella, beyond Jordan.
Thus interpreted, moreover, it accords with the entire symbolical
character of the representation. (c) The reference to the particular
_tribes_ may be a designed allusion to the Christian church as it would
be divided into denominations, or known by different names; and the
fact that a certain portion would be sealed from every tribe would
not be an unfit representation of the fact that a portion of all the
various churches or denominations would be sealed and saved. That
is, salvation would be confined to no one church or denomination, but
among them all there would be found true servants of God. It would be
improper to suppose that the division into tribes among the children
of Israel was designed to be a _type_ of the sects and denominations
in the Christian church, and yet the fact of such a division may not
improperly be employed as an _illustration_ of that; for the whole
church is made up not of any one denomination alone, but of all
who hold the truth combined, as the people of God in ancient times
consisted not solely of any one tribe, however large and powerful,
but of all combined. Thus understood, the symbol would point to a
time when there would be various denominations in the church, and
yet with the idea that true friends of God would be found among them
all. (d) Perhaps nothing can be argued from the fact that exactly
twelve thousand were selected from each of the tribes. In language
so figurative and symbolical as this, it could not be maintained that
this proves that the same definite number would be taken from each
denomination of Christians. Perhaps all that _can be_ fairly inferred
is, that there would be no partiality or preference for one more than
another; that there would be no favouritism on account of the tribe
or denomination to which any one belonged; but that the seal would
be impressed on all, of any denomination, who had the true spirit of
religion. No one would receive the token of the divine favour _because_
he was of the tribe {175} of Judah or Reuben; no one _because_ he
belonged to any particular denomination of Christians. Large numbers
from every branch of the church would be sealed; none would be sealed
because he belonged to one form of external organization rather than to
another; none would be excluded because he belonged to any one tribe,
if he had the spirit and held the sentiments which made it proper to
recognize him as a servant of God. These views seem to me to express
the true sense of this passage. No one can seriously maintain that
the writer meant to refer literally to the Jewish people; and if he
referred to the Christian church, it seems to be to some selection
that would be made out of the whole church, in which there would
be no favouritism or partiality, and to the fact that, in regard to
them, there would be some something which, in the midst of abounding
corruption or impending danger, would designate them as the chosen
people of God, and would furnish evidence that they would be safe.

    5 Of the tribe of Juda _were_ sealed twelve thousand. Of the
    tribe of Reuben _were_ sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of
    Gad _were_ sealed twelve thousand.

    6 Of the tribe of Aser _were_ sealed twelve thousand. Of the
    tribe of Nepthalim _were_ sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe
    of Manasses _were_ sealed twelve thousand.

    7 Of the tribe of Simeon _were_ sealed twelve thousand. Of the
    tribe of Levi _were_ sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of
    Issachar _were_ sealed twelve thousand.

    8 Of the tribe of Zabulon _were_ sealed twelve thousand. Of
    the tribe of Joseph _were_ sealed twelve thousand. Of the
    tribe of Benjamin _were_ sealed twelve thousand.

5‒8. _Of the tribe of Juda |were| sealed twelve thousand._ That is, a
selection was made, or a number sealed, _as if_ it had been made from
one of the tribes of the children of Israel――the tribe of Judah. If the
remarks above made are correct, this refers to the Christian church,
and means, in connection with what follows, that each portion of the
church would furnish a definite part of the whole number sealed and
saved. We are not required to understand this of the exact number of
twelve thousand, but that the designation would be made from all parts
and branches of the church _as if_ a selection of the true servants
of God were made from the whole number of the tribes of Israel.――There
seems to be no particular reason why the tribe of Judah was mentioned
first. Judah was not the oldest of the sons of Jacob, and there was
no settled order in which the tribes were usually mentioned. The order
of their birth, as mentioned in Ge. xxix. xxx., is as follows: Reuben,
Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun,
Joseph, Benjamin. In the blessing of Jacob, Ge. xlix., this order is
changed, and is as follows:――Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun,
Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, Benjamin. In the blessing
of Moses, De. xxxiii., a different order still is observed: Reuben,
Judah, Levi, Benjamin, Joseph, Zebulun, Issachar, Gad, Dan, Naphtali,
Asher; and in this last, moreover, Simeon is omitted. So, again,
in Eze. xlviii., there are two enumerations of the twelve tribes,
differing from each other, and both differing from the arrangements
above referred to: viz., in ver. 31‒34, where Levi is reckoned as one,
and Joseph as only one; and in ver. 1‒27, referring to the division of
the country, where Levi, who had no heritage in land, is omitted, and
Ephraim and Manasseh are counted as two tribes (Professor Stuart, ii.
172, 173). From facts like these it is clear that there was no certain
and settled order in which the tribes were mentioned by the sacred
writers. The same thing seems to have occurred in the enumeration of
the tribes, which would occur, for example, in the enumeration of the
several States of the American Union. There is indeed an order which is
usually observed, beginning with Maine, &c., but almost no two writers
would observe throughout the same order; nor should we deem it strange
if the order should be materially varied by even the same writer in
enumerating them at different times. Thus, at one time it might be
convenient to enumerate them according to their geographical position;
at another, in the order of their settlement; at another, in the order
of their admission into the Union; at another, in the order of their
size and importance; {176} at another, in the order in which they are
arranged in reference to political parties, &c. Something of the same
kind may have occurred in the order in which the tribes were mentioned
among the Jews. _Perhaps_ this may have occurred also of design, in
order that no one tribe might claim the precedence or the pre-eminence
by being always placed at the head of the list. If, as is supposed
above, the allusion in this enumeration of the tribes was to the
various portions of the Christian church, then perhaps the idea
intended to be conveyed is, that no one division of that church is to
have any preference on account of its locality, or its occupying any
particular country, or because it has more wealth, learning, or numbers
than others; but that all are to be regarded, where there is the true
spirit of religion, as on a level.

There are, however, three peculiarities in this enumeration of the
tribes which demand a more particular explanation. The number indeed is
twelve, but that number is made up in a peculiar manner. (1) _Joseph_
is mentioned, and also _Manasseh_. The matter of fact was, that Joseph
had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh (Ge. xlviii. 1), and that these two
sons gave name to two of the tribes, the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.
There was, properly speaking, no tribe of the name of _Joseph_. In Nu.
xiii. the name Levi is omitted, as it usually is, because that tribe
had no inheritance in the division of the land; and in order that the
number twelve might be complete, Ephraim _and_ Joseph are mentioned
as two tribes, ver. 8, 11. In ver. 11 the writer states expressly
that by the tribe Joseph he meant Manasseh――“Of the tribe of Joseph,
_namely_, of the tribe of Manasseh,” &c. From this it would seem that,
as Manasseh was the oldest (Ge. xlviii. 14), the name _Joseph_ was
sometimes given to that tribe. As Ephraim, however, became the largest
tribe, and as Jacob in blessing the two sons of Joseph (Ge. xlviii. 14)
laid his right hand on Ephraim, and pronounced a special blessing
on him (ver. 19, 20), it would seem not improbable that, when not
particularly designated, the name _Joseph_ was given to that tribe,
as it is evidently in this place. Possibly the name _Joseph_ may have
been a general name which was occasionally applied to _either_ of these
tribes. In the long account of the original division of Canaan in Jos.
xiii.‒xix., Levi is omitted, because he had no heritage, and Ephraim
and Manasseh are mentioned as two tribes. The name Joseph in the
passage before us (ver. 8) is doubtless designed, as remarked above,
to refer to Ephraim. (2) In this list (ver. 7) the name of _Levi_
is inserted among the tribes. As already remarked, this name is not
commonly inserted among the tribes of the children of Israel, because
that tribe, being devoted to the sacerdotal office, had no inheritance
in the division of the country, but was scattered among the other
tribes. See Jos. xiv. 3, 4; xviii. 7. It may have been inserted here,
if this refers to the Christian church, to denote that the ministers of
the gospel, as well as other members of the church, would share in the
protection implied by the sealing; that is, to denote that no class in
the church would be excluded from the blessings of salvation. (3) The
name of one of the tribes――_Dan_――is omitted; so that by this omission,
and the insertion of the tribe of Levi, the original number of twelve
is preserved. There have been numerous conjectures as to the reason why
the tribe of _Dan_ is omitted here, but none of the solutions proposed
are without difficulty. All that can be known, or regarded as probable,
on the subject, seems to be this:――(a) As the tribe of Levi was usually
omitted in an enumeration of the tribes, because that tribe had no part
in the inheritance of the Hebrew people in the division of the land
of Canaan, so there appear to have been instances in which the names
of some of the other tribes were omitted, the reason for which is not
given. Thus, in De. xxxiii., in the blessing pronounced by Moses on
the tribes just before his death, the name Simeon is omitted. In 1 Ch.
iv.‒viii. the names of Zebulun and Dan are both omitted. It would seem,
therefore, that the name of a tribe might be sometimes omitted without
any particular reason being specified. (b) It has been supposed by some
that the name _Dan_ was omitted because that tribe was early devoted
to idolatry, and continued idolatrous to the time of the captivity.
Of that _fact_ there can be no doubt, for it is expressly affirmed in
Ju. xviii. 30; and that fact seems to be a sufficient reason for the
omission of the name. As being thus idolatrous, it was in a measure
separated {177} from the people of God, and deserved not to be reckoned
among them; and in enumerating those who were the servants of God,
there seemed to be a propriety that a tribe devoted to idolatry should
not be reckoned among the number. This will account for the omission,
without resorting to the supposition of Grotius, that the tribe of Dan
was extinct at the time when the Apocalypse was written――a fact which
also existed in regard to all the ten tribes; or to the supposition
of Andreas and others, that Dan is omitted because Antichrist was to
spring from that tribe――a supposition which is alike without proof and
without probability. The fact that Dan was omitted cannot be supposed
to have any special significancy in the case before us. Such an
omission is what, as we have seen, might have occurred at any time in
the enumeration of the tribes.

In reference to the application of this portion of the book (ver. 1‒8),
or of what is designed to be here represented, there has been, as might
be expected, a great variety of opinions. From the exposition of the
words and phrases which has been given, it is manifest that we are to
look for a series of events like the following:――(1) Some impending
danger, or something that threatened to sweep everything away――like
winds that were ready to blow on the earth. (2) That tempest restrained
or held back, as if the winds were held in check by an angel, and were
not suffered to sweep over the world. (3) Some new influence or power,
represented by an angel coming from the east――the great source of
light――that should designate the true church of God――the servants of
the Most High. (4) Some mark or note by which the true people of God
could be designated, or by which they could be known――_as if_ some name
were impressed on their foreheads. (5) A selection or election of the
number from a much greater number who were the professed, but were not
the true servants of God. (6) A definite, though comparatively a small
number thus designated out of the whole mass. (7) This number taken
from all the divisions of the professed people of God, in such numbers
and in such a manner, that it would be apparent that there would be no
partiality or favouritism; that is, that wherever the true servants of
God were found, they would be sealed and saved. These are things which
lie on the face of the passage, if the interpretation above given is
correct, and in its application it is necessary to find some facts that
will properly correspond with these things.

If the interpretation of the sixth seal proposed above is correct,
then we are to look for the fulfilment of this in events that soon
succeeded those which are there referred to, or at least which
had their commencement at about that time; and the inquiry now is,
whether there _were_ any events that would accord properly with the
interpretation here proposed: that is, any impending and spreading
danger; any restraining of that danger; any process of designating the
servants of God so as to preserve them; anything like a designation or
selection of them from among the masses of the professed people of God?
Now, in respect to this, the following facts accord so well with what
is demanded in the interpretation that it may be regarded as morally
certain that they were the things which were thus made to pass in
vision before the mind of John. They have at least this degree of
probability, that if it were admitted that he intended to describe
them, the symbols which are actually employed are those which it would
have been proper to select to represent them.

I. The impending danger, like winds restrained, that threatened
to sweep everything away, and to hasten on the end of the world.
In reference to this, there may have been two classes of impending
danger――that from the invasion of the northern hordes, referred to
in the sixth seal (ch. vi.), and that from the influx of error, that
threatened the ruin of the church. (a) As to the former, the language
used by John will accurately express the state of things as it existed
at the period supposed at the time of the sixth seal――the series of
events introduced, now suspended, like the opening of the seventh
seal. The idea is that of nations pressing on to conquest; heaving like
tempests on the borders of the empire; overturning everything in their
way; spreading desolation by fire and sword, _as if_ the world were
about to come to an end. The language used by Mr. Gibbon in describing
the times here referred to is so applicable, that it would seem almost
as if he had the symbols used by John in his eye. Speaking of the time
of Constantine, he says, “The _threatening {178} tempest_ of barbarians,
which so soon subverted the foundations of Roman greatness, was still
repelled, _or suspended on the frontiers_” (i. 362). This language
accurately expresses the condition of the Roman world at the period
succeeding the opening of the sixth seal; the period of suspended
judgments, in order that the servants of God might be sealed. See the
Notes on ch. vi. 12‒17. The nations which ultimately spread desolation
through the empire hovered around its borders, making occasional
incursions into its territory; even carrying their arms, as we have
seen in some instances, as far as Rome itself, but still restrained
from accomplishing the final purpose of overthrowing the city and the
empire. The church and the state alike were threatened with destruction,
and the impending wrath seemed only to be held back _as if_ to give
time to accomplish some other purpose. (b) At the same time there was
another class of evils which threatened to sweep like a tempest over
the church――the evils of error in doctrine that sprang up on the
establishment of Christianity by Constantine. That fact was followed
with a great increase of professors of religion, who, for various
purposes, crowded into a church patronized by the state――a condition of
things which tended to do more to destroy the church than all that had
been done by persecution had accomplished. This effect was natural;
and the church became filled with those who had yielded themselves to
the Christian faith from motives of policy, and who, having no true
spiritual piety, were ready to embrace the most lax views of religion,
and to yield themselves to any form of error. Of this period, and of
the effect of the conversion of Constantine in this respect, Mr. Gibbon
makes the following remarks, strikingly illustrative of the view now
taken of the meaning of this passage:――“The hopes of wealth and honours,
the example of an emperor, his exhortations, his irresistible smiles,
diffused conviction among the venal and obsequious crowds which usually
fill the apartments of a palace. The cities which signalized a forward
zeal, by the voluntary destruction of their temples, were distinguished
by municipal privileges, and rewarded with popular donatives; and
the new capital of the East gloried in the singular advantage, that
Constantinople was never profaned by the worship of idols. As the lower
ranks of society are governed by imitation, the conversion of those
who possessed any eminence of birth, of power, or of riches, was soon
followed by dependent multitudes. The salvation of the common people
was purchased at an easy rate, if it be true that, in one year, twelve
thousand men were baptized at Rome, besides a proportionable number
of women and children, and that a white garment, with twenty pieces
of gold, had been promised by the emperor to every convert” (i. 425).
At a time, therefore, when it might have been supposed that, under the
patronage of a Christian emperor, the truth would have spread around
the world, the church was exposed to one of its greatest dangers――that
arising from the fact that it had become united with the state. About
the same time, also, there sprang up many of those forms of error
which have spread farthest over the Christian world, and which then
threatened to become the universal form of belief in the church.
Of this class of doctrine were the views of Arius, and the views of
Pelagius――forms of opinion which, there were strong reasons to fear,
might become the prevailing belief of the church, and essentially
change its character. About this time, also, the church was passing
into the state in which the Papacy would arise――that dark and gloomy
period in which error would spread over the Christian world, and the
true servants of God would retire for a long period into obscurity.
“We are now but a little way off from the commencement of that
noted period――obscurely hinted at by Daniel, plainly announced by
John――the twelve hundred and sixty prophetic days or years, for which
preparations of a very unusual kind, but requisite, doubtless, are
made. This period was to form the gloomiest, without exception, in
the annals of the world――the period of Satan’s highest success, and of
the church’s greatest depression; and lest she should become during it
utterly extinct, her members, never so few as then, were all specially
sealed. The long night passes on, darkening as it advances; but the
sealed company are not visible; they disappear from the Apocalyptic
stage, just as they then disappeared from the observation of the
world; for they fled away to escape the fire and the dungeons of their
persecutors, to hide in the hoary caves of the earth, or to inhabit
the {179} untrodden regions of the wilderness, or to dwell beneath the
shadow of the Alps, or to enjoy fellowship with God, emancipated and
unknown, in the deep seclusion and gloom of some convent” (_The Seventh
Vial_, London, 1848, pp. 27, 28). These facts seem to me to show,
with a considerable degree of probability, what was designated by the
_suspense_ which occurred after the opening of the sixth seal――when
the affairs of the world _seemed_ to be hastening on to the great
catastrophe. At that period the prophetic eye sees the tendency of
things suddenly arrested; the winds held back, the church preserved,
and a series of events introduced, intended to designate and to save
from the great mass of those who professedly constituted the “tribes of
Israel,” a definite number who should be in fact the true church of God.

II. The facts, then, to which there is reference in checking the
tendency of things, and sealing the servants of God, may have been the
following:――(a) The preservation of the church from extinction during
those calamitous periods when ruin seemed about to sweep over the Roman
world. Not only as a matter of fact was there a suspension of those
impending judgments that seemed to threaten the very extinction of the
empire by the invasion of the northern hordes (see Notes on ch. vi.),
but there were _special_ acts in favour of the church, by which these
fierce barbarians appeared not only to be restrained from destroying
the church, but to be influenced by tenderness and sympathy for it, as
if they were raised up to preserve it when Rome had done all it could
to destroy it. It would seem _as if_ God restrained the rage of these
hordes for the sake of preserving his church; _as if_ he had touched
their hearts that they might give to Christians an opportunity to
escape in the impending storm. We may refer here particularly to the
conduct of Alaric, king of the Goths, in the attack on Rome already
referred to; and, as usual, we may quote from Mr. Gibbon, who will not
be suspected of a design to contribute anything to the illustration of
the Apocalypse. “At the hour of midnight,” says he (vol. ii. pp. 260,
261), “the Salarian Gate was silently opened, and the inhabitants were
awakened by the tremendous sound of the Gothic trumpet. Eleven hundred
and sixty-three years after the foundation of Rome, the imperial city,
which had subdued and civilized so considerable a part of mankind,
was delivered to the licentious fury of the tribes of Germany and
Scythia. The proclamation of Alaric, when he forced his entrance into
the vanquished city, discovered, however, some regard for the laws
of humanity and religion. He encouraged his troops boldly to seize
the rewards of valour, and to enrich themselves with the spoils of a
wealthy and effeminate people; but he exhorted them at the same time
to spare the lives of the unresisting citizens, _and to respect the
churches of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul as holy and inviolable
sanctuaries_. While the barbarians roamed through the city in quest of
prey, the humble dwelling of an aged virgin, who had devoted her life
to the service of the altar, was forced open by one of the powerful
Goths. He immediately demanded, though in civil language, all the
gold and silver in her possession; and was astonished at the readiness
with which she conducted him to a splendid hoard of massy plate, of
the richest materials and the most curious workmanship. The barbarian
viewed with wonder and delight this valuable acquisition, till he was
interrupted by a serious admonition, addressed to him in the following
words: ‘These,’ said she, ‘are the consecrated vessels belonging to St.
Peter; if you presume to touch them, the sacrilegious deed will remain
on your conscience: for my part, I dare not keep what I am unable to
defend.’ The Gothic captain, struck with reverential awe, despatched a
messenger to inform the king of the treasure which he had discovered;
and received a peremptory order from Alaric, that all the consecrated
plate and ornaments should be transported, without damage or delay, to
the church of the apostle. From the extremity, perhaps, of the Quirinal
hill, to the distant quarter of the Vatican, a numerous detachment of
the Goths, marching in order of battle through the principal streets,
protected, with glittering arms, the long train of their devout
companions, who bore aloft on their heads the sacred vessels of gold
and silver; and the martial shouts of the barbarians were mingled
with the sound of religious psalmody. From all the adjacent houses
a crowd of Christians hastened to join this edifying procession; and a
multitude of fugitives, without distinction of age or rank, or even of
sect, had {180} the good fortune to escape to the secure and hospitable
sanctuary of the Vatican.” In a note Mr. Gibbon adds: “According
to Isidore, Alaric himself was heard to say, that he waged war with
the Romans, and not with the apostles.” He adds also (p. 261), “The
learned work concerning the _City of God_ was professedly composed by
St. Augustine to justify the ways of Providence in the destruction
of the Roman greatness. He celebrates with peculiar satisfaction this
memorable triumph of Christ; and insults his adversaries by challenging
them to produce some similar example of a town taken by storm, in
which the fabulous gods of antiquity had been able to protect either
themselves or their deluded votaries.” We may refer here, also, to that
work of Augustine as illustrating the passage before us. In book i.
ch. 2, he defends this position, that “there never was war in which
the conquerors would spare them whom they conquered for the gods they
worshipped”――referring particularly to the sacking of Troy; in ch. 3
he appeals to the example of Troy; in ch. 4 he appeals to the sanctuary
of Juno, in Troy; in ch. 5 he shows that the Romans never spared the
temples of those cities which they destroyed; and in ch. 6 he maintains
that the fact that mercy was shown by the barbarians in the sacking
of Rome, was “through the power of the name of Jesus Christ.” In
illustration of this he says, “Therefore, all the spoil, murder,
violence, and affliction, that in this fresh calamity came upon Rome,
were nothing but the ordinary effects following the custom of war.
But that which was so unaccustomed, that the savage nature of the
barbarians should put on a new shape, and appear so merciful that it
would make choice of great and spacious churches to fill with such as
it meant to show pity on, from which none should be haled to slaughter
or slavery, in which none should be hurt, to which many by their
courteous foes should be conducted, and out of which none should be
led into bondage; this is due to the name of Christ, this is due to
the Christian profession; he that seeth not is blind; he that seeth
and praiseth it not is unthankful; he that hinders him that praiseth
it is mad” (_City of God_, p. 11; London, 1620). Such a preservation of
Christians; such a suspension of judgments, when all things seemed to
be on the verge of ruin, would not be _inappropriately_ represented by
winds that threatened to sweep over the world; by the staying of those
winds by some remarkable power, as by an angel; and by the special
interposition which spared the church in the tumults and terrors
of a siege, and of the sacking of a city. (b) There _may_ have been
a reference to another class of Divine interpositions at about the
same time, to designate the true servants of God. It has been already
remarked, that from the time when Constantine took the church under
his patronage, and it became connected with the state, there was a
large accession of nominal professors in the church, producing a great
corruption in regard to spiritual religion, and an extended prevalence
of error. Now the delay here referred to, between the opening of the
sixth and seventh seals, _may_ have referred to the fact, that during
this period the true doctrines of Christianity would be vindicated
and established in such a way that the servants of God would be
“sealed” and designated in contradistinction from the great mass
of the professed followers of Christ, and from the numerous advocates
of error. _From_ that mass a certain and definite number was to be
sealed――implying, as we have seen, that there would be a _selection_,
or that there would be something which would _discriminate_ them from
the multitudes as the true servants of God. This is represented by an
angel coming from the east: the angel representing the new heavenly
influence coming upon the church; and the coming from the east――as the
east is the quarter where the sun rises――denoting that it came from the
source and fountain of light――that is, God. The “sealing” would denote
anything in this new influence or manifestation which would mark the
true children of God, and would be appropriately employed to designate
any doctrines which would keep up true religion in the world; which
would preserve correct views about God, the way of salvation, and
the nature of true religion, and which would thus determine where the
church of God really was. If there should he a tendency in the church
to degenerate into formality; if the rules of discipline should be
relaxed; if error should prevail as to what constitutes spiritual
religion; and if there should be a new influence at that time which
would distinguish those who were the children {181} of God from those
who were not, _this_ would be appropriately represented by the angel
from the east, and by the sealing of the servants of God. Now it
requires but a slight knowledge of the history of the Roman empire,
and of the church at the period supposed here to be referred to, to
perceive that all this occurred. There was a large influx of professed
converts. There was a vast increase of worldliness. There was a wide
diffusion of error. Religion was fast becoming mere formalism. The true
church was apparently fast verging to ruin. At this period God raised
up distinguished men――as if they had been angels ascending from the
east――who came as with the “seal of the living God”――the doctrines of
grace, and just views of spiritual religion――to designate who were,
and who were not, the “true servants of God” among the multitudes who
professed to be his followers. Such were the doctrines of Athanasius
and Augustine――those great doctrines on which the very existence of the
true church has in all ages depended. The doctrines thus illustrated
and defended were fitted to make a broad line of distinction between
the true church and the world, and this would be well represented by
the symbol employed here――for it is by these doctrines that the true
people of God are sealed and confirmed. On this subject comp. Elliott,
i. 279‒292. The general sense here intended to be expressed is,
that there was at the period referred to, after the conversion of
Constantine, a decided tendency to a worldly, formal, lax kind of
religion in the church; a very prevalent denial of the doctrine of
the Trinity and of the doctrines of grace; a lax mode of admitting
members to the church, with little or no evidence of true conversion;
a disposition to attribute saving grace to the ordinances of religion,
and especially to baptism; a disposition to rely on the outward
ceremonies of religion, with little acquaintance with its spiritual
power; and a general breaking down of the barriers between the church
and the world, as there is usually in a time of outward prosperity,
and especially when the church is connected with the state. At
this time there arose another set of influences well represented
by the angel coming from the east, and sealing the true servants
of God, in illustration and confirmation of the true doctrines of
Christianity――doctrines on which the spirituality of the church has
always depended: the doctrines of the Trinity, the atonement, the
depravity of man, regeneration by the agency of the Holy Spirit,
justification by faith, the sovereignty of God, and kindred doctrines.
Such doctrines have in all ages served to determine where the true
church is, and to designate and “seal” the servants of the Most High.
(c) This process of “sealing” may be regarded as continued during the
long night of Papal darkness that was coming upon the church, when
error would abound, and the religion of forms would be triumphant.
Even then, in places obscure and unknown, the work of sealing the true
servants of God might be going forward――for even in those times of
gloomy night there _were_ those, though comparatively few in number,
who loved the truth, and who were the real servants of God. The number
of the elect was filling up, for even in the darkest times there were
those who loved the cause of spiritual religion, and who bore upon them
the impress of the “seal of the living God.” Such appears to have been
the intent of this sealing vision: a staying of the desolation that,
in various forms, was sweeping over the world, in order that the true
church might be safe, and that a large number, from all parts of the
church, might be sealed and designated as the true servants of God. The
winds that blowed from all quarters were stayed as if by mighty angels.
A new influence, from the great source of light, came in to designate
those who were the true servants of the Most High, as if an angel had
come from the rising sun with the seal of the living God, to impress
it on their foreheads. A selection was made out of a church filling up
with formalists, and in which the true doctrines of spiritual religion
were fast fading away, of those who could be designated as the true
servants of God. By their creed, and their lives, and their spirit, and
their profession, they could be designated as the true servants of God,
as if a visible mark were impressed on their foreheads. This selection
was confined to no place, no class, no tribe, no denomination. It
was taken from the whole of Israel, in such numbers that it could be
seen that none of the tribes were excluded from the honour, but that,
wherever the true spirit of religion was, God was acknowledging these
tribes――or churches――as his, and there he was gathering a people {182}
to himself. This would be long continued, until new scenes would open,
and the eye would rest on other developments in the series of symbols,
revealing the glorious host of the redeemed emerging from darkness, and
in countless numbers triumphing before the throne.

    9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no
    man could number, [245]of all nations, and kindreds, and
    people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the
    Lamb, [246]clothed with white robes, and [247]palms in their

9. _After this._ Gr., “After these things”――Μετὰ ταῦτα: that is, after
I saw these things thus represented I had another vision. This would
undoubtedly imply, not only that he _saw_ these things after he had
seen the sealing of the hundred and forty-four thousand, but that they
would _occur_ subsequently to that. But he does not state whether they
would immediately occur, or whether other things might not intervene.
As a matter of fact, the vision seems to be transferred from earth to
heaven――for the multitudes which he saw appeared “before the throne”
(ver. 9); that is, before the throne of God in heaven. The design seems
to be to carry the mind forward quite beyond the storms and tempests
of earth――the scenes of woe and sorrow――the days of error, darkness,
declension, and persecution――to that period when the church should be
triumphant in heaven. Instead, therefore, of leaving the impression
that the hundred and forty-four thousand would be _all_ that would be
saved, the eye is directed to an innumerable host, gathered from all
ages, all climes, and all people, triumphant in glory. The multitude
that John thus saw was not, therefore, I apprehend, the same as the
hundred and forty-four thousand, but a far greater number――the whole
assembled host of the redeemed in heaven, gathered there as _victors_,
with palm-branches, the symbols of triumph, in their hands. The
_object_ of the vision is to cheer those who are desponding in times
of religious declension and in seasons of persecution, and when the
number of true Christians seems to be small, with the assurance that
an immense host shall be redeemed from our world, and be gathered
triumphant before the throne. ¶ _I beheld._ That is, he saw them
before the throne. The vision is transferred from earth to heaven; from
the contemplation of the scene when desolation seemed to impend over
the world, and when comparatively few in number were “sealed” as the
servants of God, to the time when the redeemed would be triumphant,
and when a host which no man can number would stand before God. ¶ _And,
lo._ Indicating surprise. A vast host burst upon the view. Instead
of the comparatively few who were sealed, an innumerable company were
presented to his vision, and surprise was the natural effect. ¶ _A
great multitude._ Instead of the comparatively small number on which
the attention had been fixed. ¶ _Which no man could number._ The number
was so great that no one could count them, and John, therefore, did
not attempt to do it. This is such a statement as one would make who
should have a view of all the redeemed in heaven. It would appear to
be a number beyond all power of computation. This representation is
in strong contrast with a very common opinion that only a few will be
saved. The representation in the Bible is, that immense hosts of the
human race will be saved; and though vast numbers will be lost, and
though at any particular period of the world hitherto it may seem that
few have been in the path to life, yet we have every reason to believe
that, taking the race at large, and estimating it as a whole, a vast
majority of the whole will be brought to heaven. For the true religion
is yet to spread all over the world, and perhaps for many, many
thousands of years, piety is to be as prevalent as sin has been; and
in that long and happy time of the world’s history we may hope that the
numbers of the saved may surpass all who have been lost in past periods,
beyond any power of computation. See Notes on ch. xx. 3‒6. ¶ _Of all
nations._ Not only of Jews; not only of the nations which, in the time
of the sealing vision, had embraced the gospel, but of all the nations
of the earth. This implies two things: (a) that the gospel would be
preached among all nations; and (b) that even when it was thus preached
to them they would keep up their national characteristics. There can
be no hope of blending all the nations of the earth under one visible
sovereignty. They may all be subjected to the spiritual reign of the
Redeemer, but still there is no reason to suppose that they will not
have their distinct organizations and laws. ¶ _And kindreds_――φυλῶν.
This word properly refers to those who are {183} descended from a
common ancestry, and hence denotes a race, lineage, kindred. It was
applied to the tribes of Israel, as derived from the same ancestor,
and for the same reason might be applied to a _clan_, and thence to
any division in a nation, or to a nation itself――properly retaining the
notion that it was descended from a common ancestor. Here it would seem
to refer to a smaller class than a nation――the different clans of which
a nation might be composed. ¶ _And people_――λαῶν. This word refers
properly to a people or community as a _mass_, without reference to
its origin or any of its divisions. The former word would be used by
one who should look upon a nation as made up of portions of distinct
languages, clans, or families; this word would be used by one who
should look on such an assembled people as a mere mass of human
beings, with no reference to their difference of clanship, origin, or
language. ¶ _And tongues._ Languages. This word would refer also to
the inhabitants of the earth, considered with respect to the fact that
they speak different languages. The use of particular languages does
not designate the precise boundaries of nations――for often many people
speaking different languages are united as one nation, and often those
who speak the same language constitute distinct nations. The view,
therefore, with which one would look upon the dwellers on the earth, in
the use of the word _tongues_ or _languages_, would be, not as divided
into nations; not with reference to their lineage or clanship; and not
as a mere mass without reference to any distinction, but as divided
by _speech_. The meaning of the whole is, that persons from all parts
of the earth, as contemplated in these points of view, would be among
the redeemed. Comp. Notes on Da. iii. 4; iv. 1. ¶ _Stood before the
throne._ The throne of God. See Notes on ch. iv. 2. The throne is there
represented as set up in heaven, and the vision here is a vision of
what will occur in heaven. It is designed to carry the thoughts beyond
_all_ the scenes of conflict, strife, and persecution on earth, to
the time when the church shall be triumphant in glory――when all storms
shall have passed by; when all persecutions shall have ceased; when
all revolutions shall have occurred; when all the elect――not only the
hundred and forty-four thousand of the sealed, but of all nations and
times――shall have been gathered in. There was a beautiful propriety
in this vision. John saw the tempests stayed, as by the might of
angels. He saw a new influence and power that would seal the true
servants of God. But those tempests were stayed only for a time,
and there were more awful visions in reserve than any which had been
exhibited――visions of woe and sorrow, of persecution and of death. It
was appropriate, therefore, just at this moment of calm suspense――of
delayed judgments――to suffer the mind to rest on the triumphant close
of the whole in heaven, when a countless host would be gathered there
with palms in their hands, uniting with angels in the worship of God.
The mind, by the contemplation of this beautiful vision, would be
refreshed and strengthened for the disclosure of the awful scenes
which were to occur on the sounding of the trumpets under the seventh
seal. The simple idea is, that, amidst the storms and tempests of
life――scenes of existing or impending trouble and wrath――it is well to
let the eye rest on the scene of the final triumph, when innumerable
hosts of the redeemed shall stand before God, and when sorrow shall be
known no more. ¶ _And before the Lamb._ In the midst of the throne――in
heaven. See Notes on ch. v. 6. ¶ _Clothed with white robes._ The
emblems of innocence or righteousness, uniformly represented as the
raiment of the inhabitants of heaven. See Notes on ch. iii. 4; vi. 11.
¶ _And palms in their hands._ Emblems of victory. Branches of the
palm-tree were carried by the victors in the athletic contests of
Greece and Rome, and in triumphal processions. See Notes on Mat. xxi. 8.
The palm-tree――straight, elevated, majestic――was an appropriate emblem
of triumph. The portion of it which was borne in victory was the long
_leaf_ which shoots out from the top of the tree. Comp. Notes on Is.
iii. 26. See Eschenberg, _Manual of Class. Lit._ p. 243, and Le. xxiii.
40: “And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees,
_branches of palm-trees_,” &c. So in the Saviour’s triumphal entry into
Jerusalem (Jn. xii. 12, 13)――“On the next day much people took branches
of {184} palm-trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna.”

    10 And [248]cried with a loud voice, saying, [249]Salvation to
    our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.

10. _And cried with a loud voice._ Comp. Zec. iv. 7. This is
expressive of the greatness of their joy; the ardour and earnestness
of their praise. ¶ _Salvation to our God._ The word rendered
_salvation_――σωτηρία――means properly safety, deliverance, preservation;
then welfare or prosperity; then victory; then, in a Christian sense,
deliverance from punishment and admission to eternal life. Here the
idea seems to be that their deliverance from sin, danger, persecution,
and death, was to be ascribed solely to God. It cannot be meant,
as the words would seem to imply, that they desired that God might
have salvation; but the sense is, that _their_ salvation was to be
attributed entirely to him. This will undoubtedly be the song of the
released for ever, and all who reach the heavenly world will feel that
they owe their deliverance from eternal death, and their admission
to glory, wholly to him. Professor Robinson (_Lex._) renders the word
here _victory_. The fair meaning is, that _whatever_ is included in the
word _salvation_ will be due to God alone――the deliverance from sin,
danger, and death; the triumph over every foe; the resurrection from
the grave; the rescue from eternal burnings; the admission to a holy
heaven――_victory_ in all that that word implies will be due to God.
¶ _Which sitteth upon the throne._ Notes on ch. iv. 2. ¶ _And unto the
Lamb._ Notes on ch. v. 6. God the Father, and He who is the Lamb of
God, alike claim the honour of salvation. It is observable here that
the redeemed ascribe their salvation to the Lamb as well as to Him who
is on the throne. Could they do this if he who is referred to as the
“Lamb” were a mere man? Could they if he were an angel? Could they if
he were not equal with the Father? Do those who are in heaven worship a
creature? Will they unite a created being with the Anointed One in acts
of solemn adoration and praise?

    11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and
    _about_ the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the
    throne on their faces, and worshipped God,

11. _And all the angels stood round about the throne._ Notes on ch.
v. 11. ¶ _And |about| the elders._ Notes on ch. iv. 4. ¶ _And the four
beasts._ Notes on ch. iv. 6. The meaning is, that the angels stood
in the _outer_ circle, or _outside_ of the elders and the four living
creatures. The redeemed, it is manifest, occupied the inner circle, and
were near the throne, though their precise location is not mentioned.
The angels sympathize with the church redeemed and triumphant, as
they did with the church in its conflicts and trials, and they now
appropriately unite with that church in adoring and praising God. They
see in that redemption new displays of the character of God, and they
rejoice that that church is rescued from its troubles, and is now
brought triumphant to heaven. ¶ _And fell before the throne on their
faces._ The usual position of profound adoration, ch. iv. 10; v. 8.
¶ _And worshipped God._ Notes on ch. v. 11, 12.

    12 Saying, [250]Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and
    thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, _be_ unto our
    God for ever and ever. Amen.

12. _Saying, Amen._ See Notes on ch. i. 7. The word _Amen_ here is
a word strongly affirming the truth of what is said, or expressing
hearty assent to it. It may be uttered, as expressing this, either
in the beginning or end of a sentence. Thus _wills_ are commonly
commenced, “In the name of God, _Amen_.” ¶ _Blessing, and glory_, &c.
Substantially the same ascription of praise occurs in ch. v. 12. See
Notes on that verse. The general idea is, that the highest kind of
praise is to be ascribed to God; everything excellent in character
is to be attributed to him; every blessing which is received is to be
traced to him. The _order_ of the words indeed is changed, but the
sense is substantially the same. In the former case (ch. v. 12) the
ascription of praise is to the Lamb――the Son of God; here it is to God.
In both instances the worship is described as rendered in heaven; and
the use of the language shows that God and the Lamb are regarded in
heaven as entitled to equal praise. The only words found here which do
not occur in {185} ch. v. 12 are _thanksgiving_ and _might_――words
which require no particular explanation.

    13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are
    these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?

13. _And one of the elders._ See Notes on ch. iv. 4. That is, as
there understood, one of the representatives of the church before the
throne. ¶ _Answered._ The word _answer_, with us, means to reply to
something which has been said. In the Bible, however, the word is not
unfrequently used in the _beginning_ of a speech, where nothing has
been said――as if it were a reply to something that _might_ be said
on the subject; or to something that is passing through the mind of
another; or to something in the case under consideration which suggests
an inquiry. Comp. Is. lxv. 24; Da. ii. 26; Ac. v. 8. Thus it is used
here. John was looking on the host, and reflecting on the state of
things; and to the train of thought passing through his mind the angel
_answered_ by an inquiry as to a part of that host. Professor Stuart
renders it _accosted me_. ¶ _What are these which are arrayed in white
robes?_ _Who_ are these? The object evidently is to bring the case of
these persons more particularly into view. The vast host with branches
of palm had attracted the attention of John, but it was the object of
the speaker to turn his thoughts to a particular part of the host――the
martyrs who stood among them. He would seem, therefore, to have turned
to a particular portion of the immense multitude of the redeemed,
and by an emphasis on the word _these_――“Who are _these_”――to have
fixed the eye upon them. _All_ those who are before the throne are
represented as clothed in white robes (ver. 9), but the eye might
be directed to a particular part of them as grouped together, and
as having something peculiar in their position or appearance. There
was a _propriety_ in thus directing the mind of John to the martyrs
as triumphing in heaven in a time when the churches were suffering
persecution, and in view of the vision which he had had of times of
darkness and calamity coming upon the world at the opening of the sixth
seal. Beyond all the scenes of sorrow and grief, he was permitted to
see the martyrs triumphing in heaven. ¶ _Arrayed in white robes._ Notes
on ver. 9. ¶ _And whence came they?_ The object is to fix the attention
more distinctly on what is said of them, that they came up out of great

    14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me.
    These are they which [251]came out of great tribulation, and
    have [252]washed their robes, and made them white [253]in the
    blood of the Lamb.

14. _And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest._ The word _sir_ in this
place――κύριε, _lord_――is a form of respectful address, such as would
be used when speaking to a superior, Ge. xliii. 20; Mat. xiii. 27;
xxi. 30; xxvii. 63; Jn. iv. 11, 15, 19, 49; v. 7; xii. 21; xx. 15. The
simple meaning of the phrase “thou knowest” is, that he who had asked
the question must be better informed than he to whom he had proposed
it. It is, on the part of John, a modest confession that he did not
know, or could not be presumed to know, and at the same time the
respectful utterance of an opinion that he who addressed this question
to him must be in possession of this knowledge. ¶ _And he said unto
me._ Not offended with the reply, and ready, as he had evidently
intended to do, to give him the information which he needed. ¶ _These
are they which came out of great tribulation._ The word rendered
_tribulation_――θλίψις――is a word of general character, meaning
_affliction_, though perhaps there is here an allusion to persecution.
The sense, however, would be better expressed by the phrase _great
trials_. The object seems to have been to set before the mind of
the apostle a view of those who had suffered much, and who by their
sufferings had been sanctified and prepared for heaven, in order to
encourage those who might be yet called to suffer. ¶ _And have washed
their robes._ To wit, in the blood of the Lamb. ¶ _And made them white
in the blood of the Lamb._ There is some incongruity in saying that
they had made them _white_ in the _blood_ of the Lamb; and the meaning
therefore must be, that they had _cleansed_ or _purified_ them in that
blood. Under the ancient ritual, various things about the sanctuary
were _cleansed_ from ceremonial defilement by the sprinkling of blood
on them――the {186} blood of sacrifice. In accordance with that usage,
the blood of the Lamb――of the Lord Jesus――is said to cleanse and purify.
John sees a great company with white robes. The means by which it is
said they became white or pure is the blood of the Lamb. It is not said
that they were made white as the result of their sufferings or their
afflictions, but by the blood of the Lamb. The course of thought here
is such that it would be natural to suppose that, if at any time the
great deeds or the sufferings of the saints could contribute to the
fact that they will wear white robes in heaven, this is an occasion on
which there might be such a reference. But there is no allusion to that.
It is not by their own sufferings and trials, their persecutions and
sorrows, that they are made holy, but by the blood of the Lamb that had
been shed for sinners. This reference to the blood of the Lamb is one
of the incidental proofs that occur so frequently in the Scriptures
of the reality of the atonement. It could be only in allusion to that,
and with an implied belief in that, that the blood of the Lamb could be
referred to as cleansing the robes of the saints in heaven. If he shed
his blood merely as other men have done; if he died only as a martyr,
what propriety would there have been in referring to his blood more
than to the blood of any other martyr? And what influence could the
blood of _any_ martyr have in cleansing the robes of the saints in
heaven? The fact is, that if that were all, such language would be
unmeaning. It is never used except in connection with the blood of
Christ; and the language of the Bible everywhere is such as would be
employed on the supposition that he shed his blood to make expiation
for sin, and on no other supposition. On the general meaning of the
language used here, and the sentiment expressed, see Notes on He. ix.
14 and 1 Jn. i. 7.

    15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him
    day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne
    [254]shall dwell among them.

15. _Therefore are they before the throne of God._ The reason why they
are there is to be traced to the fact that the Lamb shed his blood to
make expiation for sin. No other reason can be given why any one of
the human race is in heaven; and that is reason enough why any of that
race are there. ¶ _And serve him day and night in his temple._ That is,
continually or constantly. Day and night constitute the whole of time,
and this expression, therefore, denotes constant and uninterrupted
service. On earth, toil is suspended by the return of night, and the
service of God is intermitted by the necessity of rest; in heaven,
as there will be no weariness, there will be no need of intermission,
and the service of God, varied doubtless to meet the state of the
mind, will be continued for ever. The phrase, “to serve him in his
temple,” refers undoubtedly to heaven, regarded as the temple or
holy dwelling-place of God. See Notes on ch. i. 6. ¶ _And he that
sitteth on the throne._ God. Notes, ch. iv. 2. ¶ _Shall dwell among
them_――σκηνώσει. This word properly means, _to tent_, _to pitch a
tent_; and, in the New Testament, to dwell as in tents. The meaning
here is, that God would dwell among them as in a tent, or would have
his abode with them. Perhaps the allusion is to the tabernacle in the
wilderness. That was regarded as the peculiar dwelling-place of God,
and that always occupied a central place among the tribes of Israel. So
in heaven there will be the consciousness always that God dwells there
among his people, and that the redeemed are gathered around him in his
own house. Professor Stuart renders this, it seems to me, with less
beauty and propriety, “will spread his tent over them,” as meaning that
he would receive them into intimate connection and union with him, and
offer them his protection. Comp. ch. xxi. 3.

    16 They shall [255]hunger no more, neither thirst any more;
    neither shall the sun light on them, [256]nor any heat.

16. _They shall hunger no more._ A considerable portion of the
redeemed who will be there, were, when on earth, subjected to the
evils of famine; many who perished with hunger. In heaven they will be
subjected to that evil no more, for there will be no want that will not
be supplied. The bodies which the redeemed will have――spiritual bodies
(1 Co. xv. 44)――will doubtless be such as will be nourished in some
other way than by food, if they require any nourishment; and whatever
that nourishment may be, it will be fully supplied. The passage here
is taken from Is. xlix. 10: {187} “They shall not hunger nor thirst;
neither shall the heat nor sun smite them.” See Notes on that passage.
¶ _Neither thirst any more._ As multitudes of the redeemed have
been subjected to the evils of hunger, so have multitudes also been
subjected to the pains of thirst. In prison; in pathless deserts; in
times of drought, when wells and fountains were dried up, they have
suffered from this cause――a cause producing as intense suffering
perhaps as any that man endures. Comp. Ex. xvii. 3; Ps. lxiii. 1;
La. iv. 4; 2 Co. xi. 27. It is easy to conceive of persons suffering so
intensely from thirst that the highest vision of felicity would be such
a promise as that in the words before us――“neither thirst any more.”
¶ _Neither shall the sun light on them._ It is hardly necessary,
perhaps, to say that the word _light_ here does not mean to enlighten,
to give light to, to shine on. The Greek is πέσῃ――_fall on_――and the
reference, probably, is to the intense and burning heat of the sun,
commonly called a _sunstroke_. Excessive heat of the sun, causing great
pain or sudden death, is not a very uncommon thing among us, and must
have been more common in the warm climates and burning sands of the
countries in the vicinity of Palestine. The meaning here is, that in
heaven they would be free from this calamity. ¶ _Nor any heat._ In
Is. xlix. 10, from which place this is quoted, the expression is שָׁרָב,
_sharab_, properly denoting heat or burning, and particularly the
_mirage_, the excessive heat of a sandy desert producing a vapour
which has a striking resemblance to water, and which often misleads the
unwary traveller by its deceptive appearance. See Notes on Is. xxxv. 7.
The expression here is equivalent to intense heat; and the meaning is,
that in heaven the redeemed will not be subjected to any such suffering
as the traveller often experiences in the burning sands of the desert.
The language would convey a most grateful idea to those who had been
subjected to these sufferings, and is one form of saying that, in
heaven, the redeemed will be delivered from the ills which they suffer
in this life. Perhaps the whole image here is that of travellers who
have been on a long journey, exposed to hunger and thirst, wandering in
the burning sands of the desert, and exposed to the fiery rays of the
sun, at length reaching their quiet and peaceful home, where they would
find safety and abundance. The believer’s journey from earth to heaven
is such a _pilgrimage_.

    17 For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall
    [257]feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of
    waters: and God shall [258]wipe away all tears from their eyes.

17. _For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne._ Notes on
ch. v. 6. He is still the great agent in promoting the happiness of the
redeemed in heaven. ¶ _Shall feed them._ Rather, shall exercise over
them the office of a shepherd――ποιμανεῖ. This includes much more than
mere _feeding_. It embraces all the care which a shepherd takes of his
flock――watching them, providing for them, guarding them from danger.
Comp. Ps. xxiii. 1, 2, 5; xxxvi. 8. See this fully illustrated in the
Notes on Is. xl. 11. ¶ _And shall lead them unto living fountains of
waters._ _Living_ fountains refer to running streams, as contrasted
with standing water and stagnant pools. See Notes on Jn. iv. 10.
The allusion is undoubtedly to the happiness of heaven, represented
as fresh and everflowing, like streams in the desert. No image of
happiness, perhaps, is more vivid, or would be more striking to an
Oriental, than that of such fountains flowing in sandy and burning
wastes. The word _living_ here must refer to the fact that that
happiness will be perennial. These fountains will always bubble; these
streams will never dry up. The thirst for salvation will always be
gratified; the soul will always be made happy. ¶ _And God shall wipe
away all tears from their eyes._ This is a new image of happiness taken
from another place in Isaiah (ch. xxv. 8), “The Lord God will wipe
away tears from off all faces.” The expression is one of exquisite
tenderness and beauty. The poet Burns said that he could never
read this without being affected to weeping. Of all the _negative_
descriptions of heaven, there is no one perhaps that would be better
adapted to produce consolation than this. This is a world of weeping――a
{188} vale of tears. Philosophers have sought a brief definition of man,
and have sought in vain. Would there be any better description of him,
as representing the reality of his condition here, than to say that he
is _one who weeps_? Who is there of the human family that has not shed
a tear? Who that has not wept over the grave of a friend; over his own
losses and cares; over his disappointments; over the treatment he has
received from others; over his sins; over the follies, vices, and woes
of his fellow-men? And what a change would it make in our world if
it could be said that henceforward not another tear would be shed;
not a head would ever be bowed again in grief! Yet this is to be
the condition of heaven. In that world there is to be no pain, no
disappointment, no bereavement. No friend is to lie in dreadful agony
on a sick-bed; no grave is to be opened to receive a parent, a wife, a
child; no gloomy prospect of death is to draw tears of sorrow from the
eyes. To that blessed world, when our eyes run down with tears, are
we permitted to look forward; and the prospect of such a world should
contribute to wipe away our tears here――for all our sorrows will soon
be over. As already remarked, there was a beautiful propriety, at a
time when such calamities impended over the church and the world――when
there was such a certainty of persecution and sorrow――in permitting
the mind to rest on the contemplation of these happy scenes in heaven,
where all the redeemed, in white robes, and with palms of victory
in their hands, would be gathered before the throne. To us also
now, amidst the trials of the present life――when friends leave us;
when sickness comes; when our hopes are blasted; when calumnies and
reproaches come upon us; when, standing on the verge of the grave,
and looking down into the cold tomb, the eyes pour forth floods of
tears――it is a blessed privilege to be permitted to look forward to
that brighter scene in heaven, where not a pang shall ever be felt,
and not a tear shall ever be shed.

                             CHAPTER VIII.

                       ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER.

One seal of the mysterious roll (ch. v. 1) remains to be broken――six
having already disclosed the contents of the volume relating to the
future. It was natural that the opening of the seventh, and the last,
should be attended with circumstances of peculiar solemnity, as being
all that remained in this volume to be unfolded, and as the events thus
far had been evidently preparatory to some great catastrophe. It would
have been natural to expect that, like the six former, this seal would
have been opened at once, and would have disclosed all that was to
happen at one view. But, instead of that, the opening of this seal is
followed by a series of events, seven also in number, which succeed
each other, represented by new symbols――the blowing of as many
successive trumpets. These circumstances retard the course of the
action, and fix the mind on a new order of events――events which could
be appropriately grouped together, and which, for some reason, might
be thus more appropriately represented than they could be in so many
successive seals. What was the reason of this arrangement will be more
readily seen on an examination of the particular events referred to in
the successive trumpet-blasts.

The points in the chapter are the following:――(1) The opening of
the seventh seal, ver. 1. This is attended, not with an immediate
exhibition of the events which are to occur, as in the case of the
former seals, but with a solemn silence in heaven for the space of
half an hour. The _reason_ of this silence, apparently, is found in the
solemn nature of the events which are anticipated. At the opening of
the sixth seal (ch. vi. 12, seq.) the grand catastrophe of the world’s
history seemed about to occur. This had been suspended for a time, as
if by the power of angels holding the winds and the storm (ch. vii.),
and now it was natural to expect that there would be a series of
overwhelming calamities. In view of these apprehended terrors, the
inhabitants of heaven are represented as standing in awful silence, as
if anticipating and apprehending what was to occur. This circumstance
adds much to the interest of the scene, and is a forcible illustration
of the position which the mind naturally assumes in the anticipation
of dreaded events. Silence――solemn and awful silence――is the natural
state of the mind under such circumstances. In accordance with this
expectation of what was to come, a series of new representations is
introduced, adapted to prepare the mind for the fearful disclosures
which are yet to be made. (2) Seven angels appear, on the opening
of {189} the seal, to whom are given seven trumpets, as if they were
appointed to perform an important part in introducing the series of
events which was to follow, ver. 2. (3) As a still farther preparation,
another angel is introduced, standing at the altar with a golden censer,
ver. 3‒5. He is represented as engaged in a solemn act of worship,
offering incense and the prayers of the saints before the throne.
This unusual representation seems to be designed to denote that some
extraordinary events were to occur, making it proper that incense
should ascend, and prayer be offered to deprecate the wrath of God.
After the offering of the incense, and the prayers, the angel takes
the censer and casts it to the earth; and the effect is, that there are
voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. All these
would seem to be symbolical of the fearful events which are to follow.
The silence; the incense-offering; the prayers; the fearful agitations
produced by the casting of the censer upon the earth, as if the prayer
was not heard, and as if the offering of the incense did not avail
to turn away the impending wrath,――all are appropriate symbols to
introduce the series of fearful calamities which were coming upon
the world on the sounding of the trumpets. (4) The first angel sounds,
ver. 7. Hail and fire follow, mingled with blood. The third part of
the trees and of the green grass――that is, of the vegetable world――is
consumed. (5) The second angel sounds, ver. 8, 9. A great burning
mountain is cast into the sea, and the third part of the sea becomes
blood, and a third part of all that is in the sea――fishes and ships――is
destroyed. (6) The third angel sounds, ver. 10, 11. A great star,
burning like a lamp, falls from heaven upon a third part of the rivers,
and upon the fountains of waters, and the waters become bitter, and
multitudes of people die from drinking the waters. (7) The fourth
angel sounds, ver. 12. The calamity falls on the sources of light――the
sun, the moon, and the stars――and the third part of the light is
extinguished, and for the third part of the day there is no light, and
for the third part of the night also there is no light. (8) At this
stage of things, after the sounding of the four trumpets, there is a
pause, and an angel flies through the midst of heaven, thrice crying
_woe_, by reason of the remaining trumpets which are to sound, ver. 13.
Here would seem to be some natural interval, or something which
would separate the events which had occurred from those which were
to follow. These four, from some cause, are grouped together, and
are distinguished from those which are to follow――as if the latter
appertained to a new class of events, though under the same general
_group_ introduced by the opening of the seventh seal.

A few _general_ remarks are naturally suggested by the analysis of the
chapter, which may aid us in its exposition and application. (a) These
events, in their order, undoubtedly _succeed_ those which are referred
to under the opening of the first six seals. They are a continuation of
the _series_ which is to occur in the history of the world. It has been
supposed by some that the events here symbolized are substantially the
same as those already referred to under the first six seals, or that,
at the opening of the sixth seal, there is a catastrophe; and, one
series being there concluded, the writer, by a new set of symbols, goes
back to the same point of time, and passes over the same period by a
new and parallel set of symbols. But this is manifestly contrary to the
whole design. At the first (ch. v. 1) a volume was exhibited, sealed
with seven seals, the unrolling of which would manifestly develop
_successive_ events, and the whole of which would embrace _all_ the
events which were to be disclosed. When _all_ these seven seals were
broken, and the contents of _that_ volume were disclosed, there might
indeed be _another_ set of symbols going over the same ground with
another design, or giving a representation of future events in some
other point of view; but clearly the series should not be broken
until the whole seven seals are opened, nor should it be supposed
that there is, in the opening of the same volume, an arresting of the
course of events, in order to go back again to the same beginning.
The representation in this series of symbols is like drawing out a
telescope. A telescope might be divided into seven parts, as well as
into the usual number, and the drawing out of the seventh part, for
example, might be regarded as a representation of the opening of the
seventh seal. But the seventh part, instead of being one unbroken piece
like the other six, might be so constructed as to be subdivided {190}
into seven minor parts, each representing a smaller portion of the
seventh part. In such a case, the drawing out of the seventh division
would _succeed_ that of the others, and would be designed to represent
a subsequent order of events. (b) There was some reason, manifestly,
why these seven last events, or the series represented by the seven
trumpets, should be grouped together, as coming under the same general
classification. They were sufficiently distinct to make it proper to
represent them by different symbols, and yet they had so much of the
same general character as to make it proper to group them together. If
this had not been so, it would have been proper to represent them by
a succession of _seals_ extending to thirteen in number, instead of
representing six seals in succession, and then, under the seventh, a
new series extending also to the number seven. In the fulfilment, it
will be proper to look for some events which have some such natural
connection and bearing that, for some reason, they can be classed
together, and yet so distinct that, under the same general symbol of
the _seal_, they can be represented under the particular symbol of the
_trumpets_. (c) For some reason there was a further distinction between
the events represented by the first four trumpets and those which were
to follow. There was some reason why _they_ should be more particularly
grouped together, and placed in close connection, and why there should
be an interval (ch. viii. 13) before the other trumpet should sound.
In the fulfilment of this we should naturally look for such an order
of events as would be designated by four successive symbols, and then
for such a change, in some respects, as to make an interval proper,
and a proclamation of _woe_, before the soundings of the other three,
ch. viii. 13. Then it would be natural to look for such events as
could properly be grouped under the three remaining symbols――the
three succeeding trumpets. (d) It is natural, as already intimated,
to suppose that the _entire_ group would extend, in some general
manner at least, to the consummation of all things; or that there
would be, _under_ the last one, a reference to the consummation of all
things――the end of the world. The _reason_ for this has already been
given, that the apostle saw a volume (ch. v. 1), which contained a
sealed account of the future, and it is natural to suppose that there
would be a reference to the great leading events which were to occur in
the history of the church and of the world. This _natural_ anticipation
is confirmed by the events disclosed under the sounding of the seventh
trumpet (ch. xi. 15, seq.): “And the seventh angel sounded; and there
were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are
become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign
for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God
on their seats, 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,” &c.
At all events, this would lead us on to the final triumph of
Christianity――to the introduction of the millennium of glory――to the
period when the Son of God should reign on the earth. After that (ch.
xi. 19, seq.) a new series of visions commences, disclosing, through
the same periods of history, a new view of the church to the time also
of its final triumph:――the church internally; the rise of Antichrist,
and the effect of the rise of this formidable power. See the Analysis
of the Book, part fifth.

                             CHAPTER VIII.

    AND when he had opened the [259]seventh seal, there was
    silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

1. _And when he had opened the seventh seal._ See Notes on ch. v. 1.
¶ _There was silence in heaven._ The whole scene of the vision is laid
in heaven (ch. iv.), and John represents things as they seem to be
passing there. The meaning here is, that on the opening of this seal,
instead of voices, thunderings, tempests, as perhaps was expected from
the character of the sixth seal (ch. vi. 12, seq.), and which seemed
only to have been suspended for a time (ch. vii.), there was an awful
stillness, as if all heaven was reverently waiting for the development.
Of course this is a symbolical representation, and is designed not to
represent a pause in the events themselves, but only the impressive and
fearful nature of the events which are now to be disclosed. ¶ _About
the space of half an hour._ He did not profess to {191} designate
the time exactly. It was a brief period――yet a period which in such
circumstances would appear to be long――_about_ half an hour. The word
here used――ἡμιώριον――does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament.
It is correctly rendered _half an hour_; and as the day was divided
into twelve parts from the rising to the setting of the sun, the
time designated would not vary much from half an hour with us. Of
course, therefore, this denotes a brief period. In a state, however,
of anxious suspense, the moments would seem to move slowly; and
to see the exact force of this, we are to reflect on the scenes
represented――the successive opening of seals disclosing most important
events――increasing in interest as each new one was opened; the course
of events which seemed to be leading to the consummation of all things,
arrested after the opening of the sixth seal; and now the last in the
series to be opened, disclosing what the affairs of the world would
be at the consummation of all things. John looks on this; and in this
state of suspense the half hour may have seemed an age. We are not,
of course, to suppose that the silence in heaven is produced by the
_character_ of the events which are now to follow――for they are as
yet unknown. It is caused by what, from the nature of the previous
disclosures, was naturally apprehended, and by the fact that this is
the last of the series――the finishing of the mysterious volume. This
seems to me to be the obvious interpretation of this passage, though
there has been here, as in other parts of the book of Revelation, a
great variety of opinion as to the meaning. Those who suppose that
the whole book consists of a _triple series_ of visions designed to
prefigure future events, parallel with each other, and each leading
to the consummation of all things――the series embracing the seals,
the trumpets, and the vials, each seven in number――regard this as the
proper ending of the first of this series, and suppose that we have
on the opening of the seventh seal the beginning of a new symbolical
representation, going over the same ground, under the representations
of the trumpets, in a new aspect or point of view. Eichhorn and
Rosenmüller suppose that the silence introduced by the apostle is
merely for effect, and that, therefore, it is without any special
signification. Grotius applies the whole representation to the
destruction of Jerusalem, and supposes that the silence in heaven
refers to the restraining of the winds referred to in ch. vii. 1――the
wrath in respect to the city, which was now suspended for a short time.
Professor Stuart also refers it to the destruction of Jerusalem, and
supposes that the seven trumpets refer to seven gradations in the
series of judgments that were coming upon the persecutors of the church.
Mr. Daubuz regards the silence here referred to as a symbol of the
liberty granted to the church in the time of Constantine; Vitringa
interprets it of the peace of the millennium which is to succeed the
overthrow of the beast and the false prophet; Dean Woodhouse and
Mr. Cunninghame regard it as the termination of the series of events
which the former seals denote, and the commencement of a new train of
revelations; Mr. Elliott, as the suspension of the winds during the
sealing of the servants of God; Mr. Lord, as the period of repose
which intervened between the close of the persecution by Diocletian
and Galerius, in 311, and the commencement, near the close of that
year, of the civil wars by which Constantine the Great was elevated
to the imperial throne. It will be seen at once how arbitrary and
unsatisfactory most of those interpretations are, and how far from
harmony expositors have been as to the meaning of this symbol. The most
simple and obvious interpretation is likely to be the true one; and
that is, as above suggested, that it refers to silence in heaven as
expressive of the fearful anticipation felt on opening the last seal
that was to close the series, and to wind up the affairs of the church
and the world. Nothing would be more natural than such a state of
solemn awe on such an occasion; nothing would introduce the opening
of the seal in a more impressive manner; nothing would more naturally
express the anxiety of the church, the probable feelings of the pious
on the opening of these successive seals, than the representation that
incense, accompanied with their prayers, was continually offered in

    {192} 2 And I saw the seven angels which [260]stood before God;
    and to them were given seven [261]trumpets.

2. _And I saw the seven angels which stood before God._ Professor
Stuart supposes that by these angels are meant the “presence-angels”
which he understands to be referred to, in ch. i. 4, by the “seven
spirits which are before the throne.” If, however, the interpretation
of that passage above proposed, that it refers to the Holy Spirit,
with reference to his multiplied agency and operations, be correct,
then we must seek for another application of the phrase here. The only
difficulty in applying it arises from the use of the article――“_the_
seven angels”――τοὺς――as if they were angels already referred to; and
as there has been no previous mention of “_seven_ angels,” unless
it be in the phrase “the seven spirits which are before the throne,”
in ch. i. 4, it is argued that this must have been such a reference.
But this interpretation is not absolutely necessary. John might use
this language either because the angels had been spoken of before;
or because it would be sufficiently understood, from the common use
of language, who would be referred to――as we now might speak of
“_the seven_ members of the cabinet of the United States,” or “_the_
thirty-one governors of the states of the Union,” though they had not
been particularly mentioned; or he might speak of them as just then
disclosed to his view, and because his meaning would be sufficiently
definite by the circumstances which were to follow――their agency in
blowing the trumpets. It would be entirely in accordance with the
usage of the article for one to say that he saw an army, and _the_
commander-in-chief, and _the_ four staff-officers, and _the_ five bands
of music, and _the_ six companies of sappers and miners, &c. It is not
absolutely necessary, therefore, to suppose that these angels had been
before referred to. There is, indeed, in the use of the phrase “which
stood before God,” the idea that they are to be regarded as permanently
standing there, or that that is their proper place――as if they were
angels who were particularly designated to this high service. Comp. Lu.
i. 19: “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God.” If this idea
is involved in the phrase, then there is a sufficient reason why the
article is used, though they had not before been mentioned. ¶ _And to
them were given seven trumpets._ One to each. By whom the trumpets were
given is not said. It may be supposed to have been done by Him who sat
on the throne. Trumpets were used then, as now, for various purposes;
to summon an assembly; to muster the hosts of battle; to inspirit and
animate troops in conflict. Here they are given to announce a series
of important events producing great changes in the world――as if God
summoned and led on his hosts to accomplish his designs.

    3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a
    golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that
    he should [262]offer _it_ with the [263]prayers of all saints
    upon the [264]golden altar which was before the throne.

3. _And another angel came._ Who this angel was is not mentioned, nor
have we any means of determining. Of course a great variety of opinion
has been entertained on the subject (see Poole’s _Synopsis_)――some
referring it to angels in general; others to the ministry of the church;
others to Constantine; others to Michael; and many others to the Lord
Jesus. All that we know is, that it was an _angel_ who thus appeared,
and there is nothing inconsistent in the supposition that anyone of
the angels in heaven may have been appointed to perform what is here
represented. The design seems to be, to represent the prayers of the
saints as ascending in the anticipation of the approaching series
of wonders in the world――and there would be a beautiful propriety in
representing them as offered by an angel, feeling a deep interest in
the church, and ministering in behalf of the saints. ¶ _And stood at
the altar._ In heaven――represented as a temple, with an altar, and with
the usual array of things employed in the worship of God. The altar was
the appropriate place for him to stand when about to offer the prayers
of the saints――for that is the place where the worshipper stood under
the ancient dispensation. Comp. Notes on Mat. v. 23, 24; Lu. i. 11. In
the latter place an angel is represented as appearing to Zacharias “on
the right side of the altar of incense.” ¶ _Having a golden censer._
The _fire-pan_, made for the purpose of carrying fire, on which to
burn incense in time of worship. See it described and illustrated
in the Notes on He. ix. 4. There {193} seems reason to suppose that
the incense that was offered in the ancient worship was designed to
be emblematic of the prayers of saints, for it was the custom for
worshippers to be engaged in prayer at the time the incense was offered
by the priest. See Lu. i. 10. ¶ _And there was given unto him much
incense._ See Notes on Lu. i. 9. A large quantity was here given to him,
because the occasion was one on which many prayers might be expected
to be offered. ¶ _That he should offer |it| with the prayers._ Marg.,
“_add |it| to_.” Gr., “that he should _give_ it with”――δώσῃ. The idea
is plain, that, when the prayers of the saints ascended, he would
also burn the incense, that it might go up at the same moment, and be
emblematic of them. Comp. Notes on ch. v. 8. ¶ _Of all saints._ Of all
who are holy; of all who are the children of God. The idea seems to be,
that, at this time, all the saints would unite in calling on God, and
in deprecating his wrath. As the events which were about to occur were
a matter of common interest to the people of God, it was to be supposed
that they would unite in common supplication. ¶ _Upon the golden
altar._ The altar of incense. This in the tabernacle and in the
temple was overlaid with gold. ¶ _Which was before the throne._
This is represented as a temple-service, and the altar of incense is,
with propriety, placed before his seat or throne, as it was in the
tabernacle and temple. In the temple, God is represented as occupying
the mercy-seat in the holy of holies, and the altar of incense is in
the holy place before that. See the description of the temple in the
Notes on Mat. xxi. 12.

    4 And the smoke of the [265]incense, _which came_ with the
    prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the
    angel’s hand.

4. _And the smoke of the incense_, &c. The smoke caused by the burning
incense. John, as he saw this, naturally interpreted it of the prayers
of the saints. The meaning of the whole symbol, thus explained, is
that, at the time referred to, the anxiety of the church in regard
to the events which were about to occur would naturally lead to much
prayer. It is not necessary to attempt to verify this by any distinct
historical facts, for no one can doubt that, in a time of such
impending calamities, the church would be earnestly engaged in devotion.
Such has always been the case in times of danger; and it may always be
assumed to be true, that when danger threatens, whether it be to the
church at large or to an individual Christian, there will be a resort
to the throne of grace.

    5 And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire
    of the altar, and cast _it_ [266]into the earth: and there
    were [267]voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an

5. _And the angel took the censer._ Ver. 3. This is a new symbol,
designed to furnish a new representation of future events. By the
former it had been shown that there would be much prayer offered; by
this it is designed to show that, notwithstanding the prayer that would
be offered, great and fearful calamities would come upon the earth.
This is symbolized by casting the censer upon the earth, _as if_ the
prayers were not heard any longer, or as if prayer were now in vain.
¶ _And filled it with fire of the altar._ An image similar to this
occurs in Eze. x. 2, where the man clothed in linen is commanded to go
between the wheels under the cherub, and fill his hands with coals of
fire from between the cherubims, and to scatter them over the city as
a symbol of its destruction. Here the coals are taken, evidently, from
the altar of sacrifice. Comp. Notes on Is. vi. 1. On these coals no
incense was placed, but they were thrown at once to the earth. The new
emblem, therefore, is the taking of coals, and scattering them abroad
as a symbol of the destruction that was about to ensue. ¶ _And cast
it into the earth._ Marg., _upon_. The margin expresses undoubtedly
the meaning. The symbol, therefore, properly denoted that fearful
calamities were about to come upon the earth. Even the prayers of
saints did not prevail to turn them away, and now the symbol of the
scattered coals indicated that terrible judgments were about to come
upon the world. ¶ _And there were voices._ Sounds, noises. See Notes on
ch. iv. 5. The _order_ is not the same here as there, but lightnings,
thunderings, and voices are mentioned in both. {194} ¶ _And an
earthquake._ Ch. vi. 12. This is a symbol of commotion. It is not
necessary to look for a literal fulfilment of it, any more than it is
for literal “voices,” “lightnings,” or “thunderings.”

    6 And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared
    themselves to sound.

6. _And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared
themselves to sound._ Ver. 7. Evidently in succession, perhaps by
arranging themselves in the order in which they were to sound. The way
is now prepared for the sounding of the trumpets, and for the fearful
commotions and changes which would be indicated by that. The last seal
is opened; heaven stands in suspense to know what is to be disclosed;
the saints, filled with solicitude, have offered their prayers; the
censer of coals has been cast to the earth, as if these judgments could
be no longer stayed by prayer; and the angels prepare to sound the
trumpets indicative of what is to occur.

    7 The first angel sounded, and [269]there followed hail and
    fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth:
    and the third part of [270]trees was burnt up, and all green
    grass was burnt up.

7. _The first angel sounded._ The first in order, and indicating
the first in the series of events that were to follow. ¶ _And there
followed hail._ Hail is usually a symbol of the divine vengeance,
as it has often been employed to accomplish the divine purposes of
punishment. Thus in Ex. ix. 23, “And the Lord sent thunder and hail,
and the fire ran along the ground; and the Lord rained hail upon the
land of Egypt.” So in Ps. cv. 32, referring to the plagues upon Egypt,
it is said, “He gave them hail for rain, and flaming fire in their
land.” So again, Ps. lxxviii. 48, “He gave up their cattle also to the
hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts.” As early as the time of
Job hail was understood to be an emblem of the divine displeasure, and
an instrument in inflicting punishment:

        “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow,
         Or hast thou seen the treasure of the hail?
         Which I have reserved against _the time of trouble_,
         Against _the day of battle and war_?”
                                        Job xxxviii. 22, 23.

So also, the same image is used in Ps. xviii. 13;

               “The Lord also thundered in the heaven,
                And the Most High gave forth his voice,
                Hailstones and coals of fire.”

Comp. Hag., ch. ii. 17. The destruction of the Assyrian army, it
is said, would be accomplished in the same way, Is. xxx. 30. Comp.
Eze. xiii. 11; xxxviii. 22. ¶ _And fire._ Lightning. This also is an
instrument and an emblem of destruction. ¶ _Mingled with blood._ By
_blood_ “we must naturally understand,” says Professor Stuart, “in this
case, a shower of coloured rain; that is, rain of a rubidinous aspect,
an occurrence which is known sometimes to take place, and which, like
falling stars; eclipses, &c., was viewed with terror by the ancients,
because it was supposed to be indicative of blood that was to be shed.”
The appearance, doubtless, was that of a red shower, apparently of
_hail_, or snow――for _rain_ is not mentioned. It is not a _rain_-storm,
it is a _hail_-storm that is the image here; and the image is that of a
driving hail-storm, where the lightnings flashed, and where there was
the intermingling of a reddish substance that resembled blood, and that
was an undoubted symbol of blood that was to be shed. I do not know
that there is red _rain_, or red _hail_, but red _snow_ is not very
uncommon; and the image here would be complete if we suppose that there
was an intermingling of red snow in the driving tempest. This species
of snow was found by Captain Ross at Baffin’s Bay on the 17th of August,
1819. The mountains that were dyed with the snow were about eight miles
long, and six hundred feet high. The red colour reached to the ground
in many places ten or twelve feet deep, and continued for a great
length of time. Although red snow had not until this attracted much
notice, yet it had been long before observed in Alpine countries.
Saussure discovered it on Mount St. Bernard in 1778. Ramond found it
on the Pyrenees; and Summerfield discovered it in Norway. “In 1818
red snow fell on the Italian Alps and Apennines. In March, 1808, the
whole country about Cadore, Belluno, and Feltri was covered with a
red-coloured snow to the depth of six and a half feet; but a white snow
had fallen both before and after it, the red formed a stratum in the
middle of the white. At the same time a similar fall took place in
the mountains of the Valteline, Brescia, Carinthia, and Tyrol” (_Edin.
Encyclo._ art. “Snow”). These facts show that {195} what is referred
to here in the symbol might possibly occur. Such a symbol would be
properly expressive of blood and carnage. ¶ _And they were cast upon
the earth._ The hail, the fire, and the blood――denoting that the
fulfilment of this was to be _on the earth_. ¶ _And the third part of
trees was burnt up._ By the fire that came down with the hail and the
blood. ¶ _And all green grass was burnt up._ Wherever this lighted on
the earth. The meaning would seem to be, that wherever this tempest
beat the effect was to destroy a third part――that is, a large portion
of the _trees_, and to consume _all_ the grass. A portion of the
trees――strong and mighty――would stand against it; but that which was
so tender as grass is, would be consumed. The sense does not seem to
be that the tempest would be confined to a third part of the world,
and destroy _all_ the trees and the grass _there_; but that it would
be a sweeping and general tempest, and that wherever it spread it would
prostrate a third part of the trees and consume all the grass. Thus
understood, it would seem to mean, that in reference to those things
in the world which were firm and established like _trees_, it would not
sweep them _wholly_ away, though it would make great desolation; but
in reference to those which were delicate and feeble――like grass――it
would sweep them wholly away.――This would not be an inapt description
of the ordinary effects of invasion in time of war. A few of those
things which seem most firm and established in society――like trees in
a forest――weather out the storm; while the gentle virtues, the domestic
enjoyments, the arts of peace, like tender grass, are wholly destroyed.
The fulfilment of this we are undoubtedly to expect to find in the
terrors of invasion; the evils of war; the effusion of blood; the
march of armies. So far as the language is concerned, the symbol would
apply to _any_ hostile invasion; but in pursuing the exposition on the
principles on which we have thus far conducted it, we are to look for
the fulfilment in one or more of those invasions of the northern hordes
that preceded the downfall of the Roman empire and that contributed
to it.――In the “Analysis” of the chapter, some reasons were given why
these four trumpet signals were placed together, as pertaining to a
series of events of the same general character, and as distinguished
from those which were to follow. The natural place which they occupy,
or the events which we should suppose, from the views taken above of
the first six seals, would be represented, would be the successive
invasions of the northern hordes which ultimately accomplished the
overthrow of the Roman empire. There are _four_ of these “trumpets,”
and it would be a matter of inquiry whether there were _four_ events of
sufficient distinctness that would mark these invasions, or that would
constitute _periods_ or _epochs_ in the destruction of the Roman power.
At this point in writing, I looked on a chart of history, composed
with no reference to this prophecy, and found a singular and unexpected
prominence given to _four_ such events extending from the first
invasion of the Goths and Vandals at the beginning of the fifth century,
to the fall of the Western empire, A.D. 476. The first was the invasion
of Alaric, king of the Goths, A.D. 410; the second was the invasion
of Attila, king of the Huns, “scourge of God,” A.D. 447; a third was
the sack of Rome by Genseric, king of the Vandals, A.D. 455; and the
fourth, resulting in the final conquest of Rome, was that of Odoacer,
king of the Heruli, who assumed the title of King of Italy, A.D. 476.
We shall see, however, on a closer examination, that although two
of these――Attila and Genseric――were, during a part of their career,
contemporary, yet the most prominent place is due to Genseric in the
events that attended the downfall of the empire, and that the second
trumpet probably related to him; the third to Attila. These were,
beyond doubt, four great periods or events attending the fall of
the Roman empire, which synchronize with the period before us. If,
therefore, we regard the opening of the sixth seal as denoting the
threatening aspect of these invading powers――the gathering of the
dark cloud that hovered over the borders of the empire, and the
consternation produced by that approaching storm; and if we regard the
transactions in the seventh chapter――the holding of the winds in check,
and the sealing of the chosen of God――as denoting the _suspension_ of
the impending {196} judgments in order that a work might be done to
save the church, and as referring to the divine interposition in behalf
of the church; then the appropriate place of these four trumpets, under
the seventh seal, will be when that delayed and restrained storm burst
in successive blasts upon different parts of the empire――the successive
invasions which were so prominent in the overthrow of that vast power.
History marks four of these events――four heavy blows――four sweepings of
the tempest and the storm――under Alaric, Genseric, Attila, and Odoacer,
whose movements could not be better symbolized than by these successive
blasts of the trumpet.

The first of these is the invasion of Alaric; and the inquiry now is,
whether his invasion is such as would be properly symbolized by the
first trumpet. In illustrating this, it will be proper to notice some
of the movements of Alaric, and the alarm consequent on his invasion
of the empire; and then to inquire how far this corresponds with the
images employed in the description of the first trumpet. For these
illustrations I shall be indebted mainly to Mr. Gibbon. Alaric, the
Goth, was at first employed in the service of the emperor Theodosius,
in his attempt to oppose the usurper Arbogastes, after the murder
of Valentinian, emperor of the West. Theodosius, in order to oppose
the usurper, employed, among others, numerous barbarians――Iberians,
Arabs, and Goths. One of them was Alaric, who, to use the language
of Mr. Gibbon (ii. 179), “acquired in the school of Theodosius the
knowledge of the art of war, which he afterwards so fatally exerted for
the destruction of Rome,” A.D. 392‒394. After the death of Theodosius
(A.D. 395) the Goths revolted from the Roman power, and Alaric, who had
been disappointed in his expectations of being raised to the command
of the Roman armies, became their leader (_Decline and Fall_, ii. 213).
“That renowned leader was descended from the noble race of the Balti;
which yielded only to the royal dignity of the Amali; he had solicited
the command of the Roman armies; and the imperial court provoked him
to demonstrate the folly of their refusal, and the importance of their
loss. In the midst of a divided court and a discontented people the
emperor Arcadius was terrified by the aspect of the Gothic arms,” &c.
Alaric then invaded and conquered Greece, laying it waste in his
progress, until he reached Athens, ii. 214, 215. “The fertile fields of
Phocis and Bœotia were instantly covered by a deluge of barbarians, who
massacred the males of age to bear arms, and drove away the beautiful
females, with the spoil and cattle of the flaming villages.” Alaric
then concluded a treaty with Theodosius, the emperor of the East
(ii. 216); was made master-general of Eastern Illyricum, and created
a magistrate (ii. 217); soon united under his command the barbarous
nations that had made the invasion, and was solemnly declared to be the
king of the Visigoths, ii. 217. “Armed with this double power, seated
on the verge of two empires, he alternately sold his deceitful promises
to the courts of Arcadius and Honorius, till he declared and executed
his purpose of invading the dominions of the West. The provinces of
Europe which belonged to the Eastern empire were already exhausted;
those of Asia were inaccessible; and the strength of Constantinople had
resisted his attack. But he was tempted by the beauty, the wealth, and
the fame of Italy, which he had twice visited; and he secretly aspired
to plant the Gothic standard on the walls of Rome; and to enrich his
army with the accumulated spoils of three hundred triumphs,” ii. 217,
218. In describing his march to the Danube, and his progress towards
Italy, having increased his army with a large number of barbarians,
Mr. Gibbon uses the remarkable language expressive of the general
consternation, already quoted in the description of the sixth seal.
Alaric approached rapidly towards the imperial city, resolved to
“conquer or die before the gates of Rome.” But he was checked by
Stilicho, and compelled to make peace, and retired (_Decline and Fall_,
ii. 222), and the threatening storm was for a time suspended. See Notes
on ch. vii. 1, seq. So great was the consternation, however, that the
Roman court, which then had its seat at Milan, thought it necessary
to remove to a safer place, and became fixed at Ravenna, ii. 224.
This calm, secured by the retreat of Alaric, was, however, of short
continuance. In A.D. 408 he again invaded Italy in a more successful
manner, attacked the capital, and more than once pillaged Rome. The
following facts, for which I am indebted to Mr. Gibbon, will illustrate
the progress {197} of the events, and the effects of this blast of the
“first trumpet” in the series that announced the destruction of the
Western empire:――

(a) The effect, on the destiny of the empire, of removing the Roman
court to Ravenna from the dread of the Goths. As early as A.D. 303 the
court of the emperor of the West was, for the most part, established
at Milan. For some time before, the “sovereignty of the capital was
gradually annihilated by the extent of conquest,” and the emperors
were required to be long absent from Rome on the frontiers, until in
the time of Diocletian and Maximian the seat of government was fixed
at Milan, “whose situation at the foot of the Alps appeared far more
convenient than that of Rome for the important purpose of watching
the motions of the barbarians of Germany” (Gibbon, i. 213). “The life
of Diocletian and Maximian was a life of action, and a considerable
portion of it was spent in camps, or in their long and frequent marches;
but whenever the public business allowed them any relaxation, they
seem to have retired with pleasure to their favourite residences of
Nicomedia and Milan. Till Diocletian, in the twentieth year of his
reign, celebrated his Roman triumph, it is extremely doubtful whether
he ever visited the ancient capital of the empire” (Gibbon, i. 214).
From this place the court was driven away, by the dread of the northern
barbarians, to Ravenna, a safer place, which thenceforward became the
seat of government, while Italy was ravaged by the northern hordes,
and while Rome was besieged and pillaged. Mr. Gibbon, under date of
A.D. 404, says, “The recent danger to which the person of the emperor
had been exposed in the defenceless palace of Milan [from Alaric and
the Goths] urged him to seek a retreat in some inaccessible fortress
in Italy, where he might securely remain, while the open country was
covered by a deluge of barbarians” (vol. ii. p. 224). He then proceeds
to describe the situation of Ravenna, and the removal of the court
thither, and then adds (p. 225), “The fears of Honorius were not
without foundation, nor were his precautions without effect. While
Italy rejoiced in her deliverance from the Goths, a furious tempest was
excited among the nations of Germany, who yielded to the irresistible
impulse that appears to have been gradually communicated from the
eastern extremity of the continent of Asia.” That mighty movement of
the Huns is then described, as the storm was preparing to burst upon
the Roman empire, ii. 225. The agitation and the removal of the Roman
government were events not inappropriate to be described by symbols
relating to the fall of that mighty power.

(b) The particulars of that invasion, the consternation, the siege of
Rome, and the capture and pillage of the imperial city, would confirm
the propriety of this application to the symbol of the first trumpet.
It would be too long to copy the account――for it extends through many
pages of the _History of the Decline and Fall of the Empire_; but a few
selected sentences may show the general character of the events, and
the propriety of the symbols, on the supposition that they referred to
these things. Thus Mr. Gibbon (ii. 226, 227) says, “The correspondence
of nations was, in that age, so imperfect and precarious, that the
revolutions of the North might escape the knowledge of the court of
Ravenna, till the dark cloud which was collected along the coast of the
Baltic burst in thunder upon the banks of the Upper Danube. The king
of the confederate Germans passed, without resistance, the Alps, the
Po, and the Apennines; leaving on the one hand the inaccessible palace
of Honorius securely buried among the marshes of Ravenna; and on the
other the camp of Stilicho, who had fixed his head-quarters at Ticinum,
or Pavia, but who seems to have avoided a decisive battle till he had
assembled his distant forces. Many cities of Italy were pillaged or
destroyed. The senate and people trembled at their approach within a
hundred and eighty miles of Rome; and anxiously compared the danger
which they had escaped with the new perils to which they were exposed,”
&c. Rome was besieged for the first time by the Goths A.D. 408. Of this
siege Mr. Gibbon (ii. 252‒254) has given a graphic description. Among
other things, he says, “That unfortunate city gradually experienced the
distress of scarcity, and at length the horrid calamities of famine.”
“A dark suspicion was entertained, that some desperate wretches fed on
the bodies of their fellow-creatures whom they had secretly murdered;
and even mothers――such were the horrid conflicts of the {198} two
most powerful instincts implanted by nature in the human breast――even
mothers are said to have tasted the flesh of their slaughtered infants.
Many thousands of the inhabitants of Rome expired in their houses, or
in the streets, for want of sustenance; and as the public sepulchres
without the walls were in the power of the enemy, the stench which
arose from so many putrid and unburied carcasses infected the air; and
the miseries of famine were succeeded and aggravated by a pestilential
disease.” The first siege was raised by the payment of an enormous
ransom (Gibbon, ii. 254). The second siege of Rome by the Goths
occurred A.D. 409. _This_ siege was carried on by preventing the supply
of provisions, Alaric having seized upon _Ostia_, the Roman port,
where the provisions for the capital were deposited. The Romans finally
consented to receive a new emperor at the hand of Alaric, and Attalus
was appointed in the place of the feeble Honorius, who was then at
Ravenna, and who had abandoned the capital. Attalus, an inefficient
prince, was soon publicly stripped of the robes of office, and Alaric,
enraged at the conduct of the court at Ravenna towards him, turned his
wrath a third time on Rome, and laid siege to the city. This occurred
A.D. 410. “The king of the Goths, who no longer dissembled his appetite
for plunder and revenge, appeared in arms under the walls of the
capital; and the trembling senate, without any hope of relief, prepared,
by a desperate effort, to delay the ruin of their country. But they
were unable to guard against the conspiracy of their slaves and
domestics, who, either from birth or interest, were attached to the
cause of the enemy. At the hour of midnight the Salarian Gate was
silently opened, and the inhabitants were awakened by the tremendous
sound of the Gothic trumpet. Eleven hundred and sixty-three years
after the foundation of Rome, the imperial city, which had subdued
and civilized so considerable a part of mankind, was delivered to the
licentious fury of the tribes of Germany and Scythia” (Gibbon, ii. 260).

(c) It is, perhaps, only necessary to add that the invasion of Alaric
was in fact but _one_ of the great events that led to the fall of the
empire, and that, in announcing that fall, where a succession of events
was to occur, it would properly be represented by the blast of one of
the trumpets. The expressions employed in the symbol are, indeed, such
as might be applied to _any_ invasion of hostile armies, but they are
such as _would_ be used if the design were admitted to be to describe
the invasion of the Gothic conqueror. For (1) that invasion, as we
have seen, would be well represented by the storm of hail and lightning
that was seen in vision; (2) by the _red_ colour mingled in that
storm――indicative of blood; (3) by the fact that it consumed the trees
and the grass. This, as we saw in the exposition, would properly denote
the desolation produced by war――applicable, indeed, to _all_ war,
but _as_ applicable to the invasion of Alaric as _any_ war that
has occurred, and it is such an emblem as would be used if it were
admitted that it was the design to represent his invasion. The sweeping
storm, prostrating the trees of the forest, is an apt emblem of the
evils of war, and, as was remarked in the exposition, no more striking
illustration of the consequences of a hostile invasion could be
employed than the destruction of the “green grass.” What is here
represented in the symbol cannot, perhaps, be better expressed than in
the language of Mr. Gibbon, when describing the invasion of the Roman
empire under Alaric. Speaking of that invasion, he says――“While the
peace of Germany was secured by the attachment of the Franks and the
neutrality of the Alemanni, the subjects of Rome, unconscious of their
approaching calamities, enjoyed the state of quiet and prosperity which
had seldom blessed the frontiers of Gaul. Their flocks and herds were
permitted to graze in the pastures of the barbarians; their huntsmen
penetrated, without fear or danger, into the darkest recesses of the
Hercynian wood. The banks of the Rhine were crowned, like those of
the Tiber, with elegant houses and well-cultivated farms; and if a
poet descended the river, he might express his doubt on which side
was situated the territory of the Romans. This scene of peace and
plenty was suddenly changed into a desert; and the prospect of the
smoking ruins could alone distinguish the solitude of nature from the
desolation of man. The flourishing city of Mentz was surprised and
destroyed; and many thousand Christians were inhumanly massacred in
the church. Worms perished after a long and obstinate siege; Strasburg,
Spires, Rheims, {199} Tournay, Arras, Amiens, experienced the cruel
oppression of the German yoke; and the consuming flames of war spread
from the banks of the Rhine over the greatest part of the seventeen
provinces of Gaul. That rich and extensive country, as far as the ocean,
the Alps, and the Pyrenees, was delivered to the barbarians, who drove
before them, in a promiscuous crowd, the bishop, the senator, and the
virgin, laden with the spoils of their houses and altars,” ii. 230. In
reference, also, to the invasion of Alaric, and the particular nature
of the desolation depicted under the first trumpet, a remarkable
passage which Mr. Gibbon has quoted from Claudian, as describing the
effects of the invasion of Alaric, may be here introduced. “The _old_
man,” says he, speaking of Claudian, “who had passed his simple and
innocent life in the neighbourhood of Verona, was a stranger to the
quarrels both of kings and of bishops; _his_ pleasures, his desires,
his knowledge, were confined within the little circle of his paternal
farm; and a staff supported his aged steps on the same ground where
he had sported in infancy. Yet even this humble and rustic felicity
(which Claudian describes with so much truth and feeling) was still
exposed to the undistinguishing rage of war. His trees, his old
_contemporary_[271] trees, must blaze in the conflagration of the whole
country; a detachment of Gothic cavalry must sweep away his cottage and
his family; and the power of Alaric could destroy this happiness which
he was not able either to taste or to bestow. ‘Fame,’ says the poet,
‘encircling with terror or gloomy wings, proclaimed the march of the
barbarian army, and filled Italy with consternation,’” ii. 218. And
(4) as to the _extent_ of the calamity, there is also a striking
propriety in the language of the symbol as applicable to the invasion
of Alaric. I do not suppose, indeed, that it is necessary, in order to
find a proper fulfilment of the symbol, to be able to show that exactly
one-third part of the empire was made desolate in this way; but it is a
sufficient fulfilment if desolation spread over a considerable portion
of the Roman world――_as if_ a third part had been destroyed. No one who
reads the account of the invasion of Alaric can doubt that it would be
an apt description of the ravages of his arms to say that a third part
was laid waste. That the desolations produced by Alaric were such as
would be _properly_ represented by this symbol may be fully seen by
consulting the whole account of that invasion in Gibbon, ii. 213‒266.

    8 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great
    [272]mountain burning with fire was [273]cast into the sea:
    and the third part of the sea [274]became blood;

8. _And the second angel sounded._ Comp. Notes on ver. 2‒7. This,
according to the interpretation proposed above, refers to the second
of the four great events which contributed to the downfall of the Roman
empire. It will be proper in this case, as in the former, to inquire
into the literal meaning of the symbol, and then whether there was any
event that corresponded with it. ¶ _And as it were a great mountain._ A
_mountain_ is a natural symbol of strength, and hence becomes a symbol
of a strong and powerful kingdom; for mountains are not only places
of strength in themselves, but they anciently answered the purposes of
fortified places, and were the seats of power. Hence they are properly
symbols of strong nations. “The stone that smote the image became _a
great mountain_, and filled the whole earth,” Da. ii. 35. Comp. Zec.
iv. 7; Je. li. 25. We naturally, then, apply this part of the symbol to
some strong and mighty nation――not a nation, necessarily, that issued
_from_ a mountainous region, but a nation that in strength _resembled_
a mountain. ¶ _Burning with fire._ A mountain in a blaze; that is, with
all its woods on fire, or, more probably, a _volcanic_ mountain. There
would perhaps be no more sublime image than such a mountain lifted
suddenly from its base and thrown into the sea. One of the sublimest
parts of the _Paradise Lost_ is that where the poet represents the
angels in the great battle in heaven as lifting the mountains――tearing
them from their base――and hurling them on the foe:――

“From their foundations heaving to and fro, They plucked the seated
hills, with all their load, Rocks, waters, woods, and by the shaggy
tops Uplifting, bore them in their hands,” &c. Book vi. {200} The
poet, however, has not, as John has, represented a volcano borne
along and cast into the sea. The symbol employed here would denote
some fiery, impetuous, destructive power. If used to denote a nation,
it would be a nation that was, as it were, burning with the desire
of conquest――impetuous, and fierce, and fiery in its assaults――and
consuming all in its way. ¶ _Cast into the sea._ The image is very
sublime; the scene, should such an event occur, would be awfully grand.
As to the fulfilment of this, or the thing that was intended to be
represented by it, there cannot be any material doubt. It is not to
be understood literally, of course; and the natural application is to
some _nation_, or _army_, that has a resemblance in some respects to
such a blazing mountain, and the effect of whose march would be like
casting such a mountain into the ocean. We naturally look for agitation
and commotion, and particularly in reference to the sea, or to some
maritime coasts. It is undoubtedly required in the application of this,
that we should find its fulfilment in some country lying beyond the sea,
or in some sea-coast or maritime country, or in reference to commerce.
¶ _And the third part of the sea became blood._ Resembled blood; became
_as red as blood_. The figure here is, that as such a blazing mountain
cast into the sea would, by its reflection on the waters, seem to tinge
them with red, so there would be something corresponding with this in
what was referred to by the symbol. It would be fulfilled if there was
a fierce maritime warfare, and if in some desperate naval engagement
the sea should be tinged with blood.

    9 And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea,
    and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were

9. _And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had
life, died._ The effect was _as if_ one-third of all the fish in the
sea were cut off. Of course this is not to be taken literally. It is
designed to describe an effect, pertaining to the maritime portion of
the world, _as if_ a third portion of all that was in the sea should
perish. The _natural_ interpretation would be to apply it to some
invasion or calamity pertaining to the sea――to the islands, to the
maritime regions, or to commerce. If the whole description pertains
to the Roman empire, then this might be supposed to have particular
reference to something that would have a bearing on the maritime parts
of that empire. ¶ _And the thi