The Fifth Seal.
"And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those slain on account of the word of God, and on account of the testimony, which they held: and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on those, who dwell on the earth? And a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them, that they should rest yet for a short time, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that were to be slain as they were, should be filled up."—Rev. 6:9-11.
This symbolized a period intervening between the time of the martyrdom, of those whose souls are seen in vision, and another time of persecution to follow. Consequently, the symbol represents the disembodied spirits of those who had already been slain. They symbolize the souls of martyrs who counted not their lives dear unto themselves for the sake of Christ; and being faithful unto death, were in expectation of a crown of life. Says Mr. Lord: "The term τα πτωματα is used in the prophecy to denote the dead bodies of the martyrs (chap. 11:9), and αι ψυψαι (20:4) to denote their disembodied spirits. They are represented as having been slain, and as uttering their appeal to God because of their blood having been shed." Also: "The martyr souls are exhibited in their own persons; and obviously because no others could serve as their symbol,—there being no others that have undergone a change from a bodied to a disembodied life, nor that sustain such relations to God, of forgiveness, acceptance, and assurance of a resurrection from death, and a priesthood with Christ during his victorious reign on the earth," Ex. Apoc. p. 155.
The altar, symbolizes the atonement made by Christ for sin; and, consequently, the position of the souls of the martyrs under it, indicates their reliance on him for an inheritance in his everlasting kingdom,—when "he shall come to be glorified in his saints," and to "take vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel," 2 Thess. 1:8, 10.
The presentation of white robes to them, symbolizes their acceptance and justification.
The declaration that they must rest till their fellow-servants are killed, as they have been, implies another persecution, to be subsequent to the period symbolized by the opening of this seal. The persecutions which followed the Reformation, in which the fires of Smithfield were lighted in England, the Huguenots were driven from France, and thousands suffered martyrdom, probably fulfilled this.
The interest taken by the souls of the martyrs in the avenging of their blood on the earth, shows that the spirits of departed saints look forward with intense interest to the time of their glorification. And although the dead who die in the Lord are blessed, the glories of the resurrection morn are not less desired by those who are absent from the body and present with the Lord, than by humble, devoted, waiting Christians here.
The opening of this seal evidently synchronizes with the commencement of the reformation, when they might have supposed the kingdom of God would immediately appear.
The Sixth Seal.
"And I beheld when he opened the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black like sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood: and the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig-tree casteth its unripe figs, when shaken by a mighty wind. And the heaven departed like a scroll rolled together; and every mountain and island were removed from their places. And the kings of the earth, and the nobles, and the rich, and the commanders, and the strong men, and every bond-man, and every freeman, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who can stand?"—Rev. 6:12-17.
The laws of symbolization require that symbols should not be representatives of their own order when there is any analogous order to be representatives of. In other places in the Apocalypse, these symbols are used, under circumstances where it is impossible to regard them as symbols of their own order. And here, as the kings of the earth call on the rocks and mountains to fall on them after the heaven has departed as a scroll and every mountain and island is moved out of its place, it is necessary to regard them as symbols of objects of analogous orders.
The earthquake, then, as in corresponding Scriptures, symbolizes a political revolution. The darkening of the sun and moon, would represent a change in the character of the rulers and legislators of the world, so that instead of extending a genial influence over their subjects, they should exert a deleterious one; and the fall of the stars, their ejection from their stations—synchronizing with the first five vials (16:1-11), and fulfilled in the political revolutions of Europe during the past century.
By the passing away of the heavens and the removal of mountains and islands from their places, is symbolized the total dissolution of all human governments—corresponding to the seventh vial (16:20).
On the occurrence of this unprecedented state of anarchy, the inhabitants of earth will be aware of the proximity of the Advent. They flee from the face of the Lamb, which indicates his appearance in the clouds of heaven at his personal advent. The great day of wrath will have come; but before the infliction of merited punishment on his enemies, the servants of God are to be designated, the righteous dead are to be raised, and they with the righteous living are to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, 1 Thess. 4:17. The living righteous are designated by:
The Sealing of the Servants of God.
"And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding fast the four winds of the earth, that a wind might not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having a seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to injure the earth and the sea, saying, Injure not the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads! And I heard the number of those sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand were sealed out of all the tribes of the children of Israel. Of the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed. Of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed. Of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed. Of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed. Of the tribe of Naphtali, twelve thousand were sealed. Of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed. Of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed. Of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed. Of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed. Of the tribe of Zebulon twelve thousand were sealed. Of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed. Of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed."—Rev. 7:1-8.
The symbols here presented, were seen immediately subsequent to the exhibition of the preceding ones. This alone would not prove that the events symbolized follow in order, but it is indicated by their being a continuation of the symbolization under the sixth seal, and before the opening of the seventh.
In the sixth chapter, the great men and rich men, as well as bond-men, are aware of the proximity of the day of the Lord, and seek for a refuge from the face of the Lamb. The next events in consecutive order, would be the resurrection of the righteous dead, the change of the living, their ascension to meet the Lord in the air, and the infliction of the wrath of God on the wicked.
After the wicked seek to escape from God's presence, the righteous are still unchanged upon the earth. But before the wrath of God is poured upon his enemies, the winds of heaven are to be holden while the angel of the living God seals his servants in their foreheads. The holding of the winds and the sealing are, consequently, subsequent to the terror of the wicked, at the appearance of the Saviour.
The four winds are the winds coming from all directions; and symbolize strife, war, and commotion among men, analogous to the violent action of the winds of heaven.
In Dan. 7:2, the striving of the four winds upon the great sea preceded the rising of the four beasts: in other words, the various contests and strifes among the different people and tongues of earth resulted in the establishment of the successive empires which have arisen to universal dominion. The blowing of the wind seems to be any influence exerted upon men. In Ezek. 37:9 the breathing of the wind revives the dead; and in Zech. 5:9 it symbolizes the removal of the wickedness of the Jews.
The angels holding the winds, consequently, must symbolize the agencies which have the power to excite or quell these disturbing influences. They do the bidding of the Lord in restraining or exerting the influences which should produce the effect symbolized. The holding of them indicates the proximity and certainty of their blowing unless they are restrained. The earth, sea, and trees, which would be hurt by the blowing of the wind, evidently symbolize the different classes of inhabitants of the earth, on whom an effect would be produced by the blowing of the winds, analogous to the effect produced on those elements by a violent tempest, or hurricane. The storm here symbolized is evidently that of which the Scriptures speak. "On the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest," Psa. 11:6. "Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire," Isa. 29:6. "The Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail, and a destroying storm, as flood of waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand," Ib. 28:2.
The sealing of the servants of God in their foreheads, designates them, but does not constitute them such; for none are sealed, only those who are previously his. This is in allusion to the ancient custom of stamping with a hot iron the name of the owner on the forehead or shoulder of his slave. Before the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, Ezekiel saw in vision a man clothed in linen, with a writer's ink-horn by his side, who was commissioned to go through the midst of Jerusalem and set a mark on the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And the destroying angels who were commanded to slay all, both old and young, to spare not, nor to have pity, were expressly told to "come not near any man upon whom is the mark," Ezek. 9:2-6. When the destroying angel passed through Egypt, on the night of the Passover, "to slay all the first-born of that nation, the houses of the Israelites were indicated by the blood of the Paschal Lamb sprinkled on their lintels and door-posts; and by these the angels passed," Ex. 12:23. Thus in the present instance, before the descent of the impending storm, the servants of the Lord are to be indicated by the seal of the living God in their foreheads, and will be spared the horrible tempest which will "hurt" all those on whom it shall fall.
The 144,000,—the whole number sealed, is a perfect number,—an appropriate symbol of all the living righteous on the earth. The twelve tribes, then, would symbolize all the branches of Christ's mystical body in which the servants of God are found. The pious dead would need no mark indicative of their acceptance, having previously, in the white robes given them, received the symbols of their justification, 6:11. That their resurrection and the changing of the living, immediately succeeded, is evident from:
The Palm-bearing Multitude.
"After these things I looked, and lo, a great crowd, which no one could number, out of all nations, and tribes, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palm-branches in their hands; and they cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God seated on the throne, and to the Lamb! And all the angels stood around the throne, and the elders and the four living beings, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, Amen: blessing and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be to our God for ever and ever. Amen! And one of the elders answered, saying to me, Who are these arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said to him, My Lord, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they who came out of great affliction, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this, they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and He, who sitteth on the throne, will dwell among them. They will hunger no more, and will thirst no more; nor will the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, will tend them, and lead them to fountains of living waters: and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."—Rev. 7:9-17.
This great multitude of white-robed palm-bearers, must include those who, under the preceding seal, anxiously inquired how long was to be deferred the avenging of their blood on those who dwell on the earth. That epoch had now arrived; and they come forth arrayed in the white robes then given them. The palm-branches in their hands, are emblems of victory. They symbolize the subjects of the first resurrection, caught up to meet the Lord in the air. That they are gathered from every land and every age, is asserted when it is said they are from every kindred, tongue, and people; and that they triumph over death and the grave, is evident from the answer of one of the elders to the questions: "What are these?" and "Whence came they?"
The epoch, is a point of time intervening between the first resurrection, and the descent of the new Jerusalem, 21:2. The loud and united voice, with which the redeemed multitude cry "Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb,"—synchronizes with that of the "great multitude," which, like the voice of many waters, and of "mighty thunderings," shouted "Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth" (19:6), immediately preceding the marriage-supper of the Lamb (19:6-9). They are removed above the troubles of earth, which are impending upon the wicked, under:
The Seventh Seal.
"And when he opened the seventh seal, silence took place in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels, who stood before God; and seven trumpets were given to them. And another angel came and stood by the altar, having a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with the fire of the altar, and out it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings, and an earthquake."—Rev. 8:1-5.
The epoch of this seal, is sometimes regarded as anterior to that of the trumpets; and those are often supposed to be included in the events of this seal; but no conclusive reason has ever been given for removing it from its obvious position as the closing one, of a series of successive periods, commencing with the gospel, and extending to the end of the world. If the first six are successive in their respective order, analogy would require that the seventh be thus considered.
Under the sixth seal, the great men and rich, are seen fleeing to the rocks for refuge from the wrath of the Lamb; and the risen saints symbolized, are in the Saviour's presence; but the infliction of the wrath of God on the wicked is not there symbolized. The events of that seal come down as far as those in the 19th chapter, which precede the marriage of the Lamb, 19:7.
The half-hour's silence, is the first thing indicated under the seventh seal. Being so expressly noticed, it would seem to be of some significance. As a period of symbolic time, on the scale of a day for a year, "about half an hour," would equal a week's duration—corresponding to the time which intervened between the entrance of Noah into the ark, and the commencement of the deluge, Gen. 7:1-4. As the period evidently synchronizes with the parable of the Saviour, when "the Bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut" (Matt. 25:10),—the others being still without,—it would seem to symbolize the time, between the entrance to the marriage of the Lamb (19:7), and the going forth of the Word of God with his armies, to judge, make war, and to slay the remnant with the sword, 19:11-21. It would be a period of holy joy to the righteous in the Saviour's presence, and of awful suspense to the wicked.
The seven angels, to whom were given seven trumpets, being introduced here, have doubtless caused the events of this seal to be regarded as anterior to the first trumpet. As those immediately following, evidently synchronize with occurrences of the closing epoch, the angels can only be introduced here in anticipation of the symbolization which they are to unfold under the sounding of the successive trumpets—the same as the seven angels with the last plagues are introduced, before the epoch of the commencement of their allotted work, 15:1.
The golden censer was the instrument in which incense was burned in the Jewish worship. Incense symbolizes prayers (5:8). The offering of much incense with the prayers of all saints and the smoke of the incense ascending up before God, indicates the acceptance of their offerings in heaven—the act being before the throne, and not on the earth. The acceptance of their prayers, also implies their own acceptance, when presented "faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy," Jude 24.
The fire from the altar, symbolizes the instruments of divine justice; and the filling the censer with coals after the acceptance of the saints, and the casting of both the censer and fire to the earth, indicate that thenceforth there would be no more acceptance of prayer from those left on the earth, but the speedy infliction of impending judgments.
The "voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake," which followed, evidently synchronize with the same events which follow the seventh trumpet: when the "wrath of God" has come, with "the time of the dead that they should be judged;" and when those are to be destroyed who have destroyed the earth, 11:19. They are the same, also, as those under the seventh vial, (16:18); and symbolize the final overturn and commotion, previous to the cleansing of the earth and the ushering in of a better day: Then will the
"fire purge all things new, Both Heaven and Earth, wherein the just shall dwell."—MILTON, BOOK XI.
The Seven Trumpets.
"And the seven angels having seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound."—Rev. 8:6.
The sounding of each successive trumpet marks the commencement of an era, of a longer or shorter duration, as the striking of a clock does the succession of hours. During each era, were to be fulfilled the events symbolized in connection with its respective trumpet. Those under the trumpets are more of a political character than those presented in connection with the seals.
The First Trumpet.
"And the first angel sounded, and there was hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast into the earth; and the third part of the earth was burnt up, and the third part of the trees was burnt up, and every green herb was burnt up."—Rev. 8:7.
The earth of the Apocalypse is regarded by most expositors as the Roman empire, in a state of comparative quiet. As no tornado like this described has ever happened, its correspondence must be sought for in the political relations of the empire. There is great unanimity among commentators respecting the period and the agents here symbolized,—that it refers to the invasions of the Goths and other barbarians, from A. D. 363 to 410. After 395, their incursions were more severe than during the earlier portion of that period. The third part of the earth, would be the third part of the Roman empire, in distinction from the other two-thirds.
The green grass of the earth, the trees, &c., are distinguished from "those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads" (9:4), and must therefore symbolize the people of God in the third part of the empire. As all the green grass is burnt up, while only one-third of the trees suffer, the latter cannot include one-third of all the trees in the empire, but only one-third in the parts affected,—the grass indicating the more weakly, and the trees the more hardy classes of Christians.
The infidel historian, Gibbon, has given the events which fitly correspond with the symbolization of these trumpets. After the death of Theodosius, in January, A. D. 395, Alaric, the bold leader of the Gothic nation, took arms against the empire. The terrible effects of this invasion, are thus described:—
"The barbarian auxiliaries erected their independent standard; and boldly avowed hostile designs, which they had long cherished in their ferocious minds. Their countrymen, who had been condemned, by the conditions of the last treaty, to a life of tranquillity and labor, deserted their farms at the first sound of the trumpet, and eagerly assumed the weapons which they had reluctantly laid down. The barriers of the Danube were thrown open; the savage warriors of Scythia issued from their forest; and the uncommon severity of the winter, allowed the poet to remark, that 'they rolled their ponderous wagons over the broad and icy back of the indignant river.' The unhappy nations of the provinces to the south of the Danube, submitted to the calamities, which, in the course of twenty years, were almost grown familiar to their imagination; and the various troops of barbarians, who gloried in the Gothic name, were irregularly spread from the woody shores of Dalmatia, to the walls of Constantinople. The Goths were directed by the bold and artful genius of Alaric. In the midst of a divided court, and a discontented people, the emperor, Arcadius, was terrified by the aspect of the Gothic arms. Alaric disdained to trample any longer on the prostrate and ruined countries of Thrace and Dacia, and he resolved to seek a plentiful harvest of fame and riches in a province which had hitherto escaped the ravages of war.
"Alaric traversed, without resistance, the plains of Macedonia and Thessaly. The troops which had been posted to defend the Straits of Thermopylae, retired, as they were directed, without attempting to disturb the secure and rapid passage of Alaric; and the fertile fields of Phocis and Boeotia were instantly covered with a deluge of barbarians, who massacred the males of an age to bear arms, and drove away the beautiful females, with the spoil and cattle of the flaming villages. The travellers who visited Greece several years afterwards, could easily discover the deep and bloody traces of the march of the Goths. The whole territory of Attica was blasted by his baneful presence; and if we may use the comparison of a cotemporary philosopher, Athens itself resembled the bleeding and empty skin of a slaughtered victim. Corinth, Argos, Sparta, yielded without resistance to the arms of the Goths; and the most fortunate of the inhabitants were saved, by death, from beholding the slavery of their families, and the conflagration of their cities."—Gibbon's Rome, vol. v., p. 177.
Being tempted by the fame of Rome, Alaric hastened to subjugate it. He put to flight the Emperor of the West; but deliverance soon came, and Rome was saved from his hands. Alaric was first conquered in 403. But another cloud was gathering, and is thus described by Gibbon:—
"About four years after the victorious Toulan had assumed the title of Khan of the Geougen, another barbarian, the haughty Rhodogast, or Radagaisus, marched from the northern extremities of Germany almost to the gates of Rome, and left the remains of his army to achieve the destruction of the West. The Vandals, the Suevi, and the Burgundians, formed the strength of this mighty host; but the Alani, who had found a hospitable reception in their new seats, added their active cavalry to the heavy infantry of the Germans; and the Gothic adventurers crowded so eagerly to the standard of Radagaisus, that, by some historians, he has been styled the King of the Goths. Twelve thousand warriors, distinguished above the vulgar by their noble birth, or their valiant deeds, glittered in the van; and the whole multitude, which was not less than two hundred thousand fighting men, might be increased by the accession of women, of children, and of slaves, to the amount of four hundred thousand persons.
"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, &c. Many cities of Italy were pillaged or destroyed; and the siege of Florence by Radagaisus, is one of the earliest events in the history of that celebrated republic, whose firmness checked or delayed the unskilful fury of the barbarians.
"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 the approaching calamities, enjoyed a 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 crowded, like those of the Tiber, with elegant houses and well-cultivated farms; and if the 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, 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."—Ibid., vol. v., p. 224.
After this invasion of the empire by Radagaisus, Alaric again returned, invaded Italy in 408, and in 410 he besieged, took, and sacked Rome, and died the same year. In 412 the Goths voluntarily retired from Italy.
In this last year, "a public conference was held in Carthage, by order of the magistrate;" and it was there agreed to inflict the most severe penalties on those who dissented from the Catholic doctrines, in the African part of the Roman empire. Says Gibbon:—"Three hundred bishops, with many thousands of the inferior clergy, were torn from their churches, stripped of their ecclesiastical possessions, banished to the islands, and proscribed by the laws, if they presumed to conceal themselves in the provinces of Africa. Their numerous congregations, both in the cities and country, were deprived of the rights of citizens, and of the exercise of religious worship."
The Second Trumpet.
"And the second angel sounded, and it was as if a great mountain burning with fire were cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; and the third part of the creatures in the sea, and having life, died; and the third part of the ships was destroyed."—Rev. 8:8, 9.
A mountain differs from a tornado, and must symbolize a compact, organized body of invaders. Its being of a volcanic nature, renders it so much the more terrible and destructive.
As waters symbolize "peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues," the sea into which the mountain is cast, is a people already agitated by previous commotions.
The ships and fish in the sea, must necessarily symbolize agents sustaining a relation to the Roman Sea, analogous to the relation of such to the literal sea. They are those who live upon, and are supported by, the people:—the rulers and the officers of state.
The symbol of a burning mountain fitly represents the armed invaders under Genseric. In the year 429, with fifty thousand effective men he landed on the shores of Africa, established an independent government in that part of the Roman empire, and from thence, harassed the southern shores of Europe and the intermediate islands, by perpetual incursions. Says Gibbon:—"The Vandals, who, in twenty years, had penetrated from the Elbe to Mount Atlas, were united under the command of their warlike king; and he reigned with equal authority over the Alarici, who had passed within the term of human life, from the cold of Scythia, to the excessive heat of an African climate.
"The Vandals and Alarici, who followed the successful standard of Genseric, had acquired a rich and fertile territory, which stretched along the coast from Tangiers to Tripoli; but their narrow limits were pressed and confined on either side by the sandy desert and the Mediterranean. The discovery and conquest of the black nations that might dwell beneath the torrid zone, could not tempt the rational ambition of Genseric; but he cast his eyes towards the sea; he resolved to create a new naval power, and his bold enterprise was executed with steady and active perseverance. The woods of Mount Atlas afforded an inexhaustible nursery of timber; his new subjects were skilled in the art of navigation and ship-building; he animated his daring Vandals to embrace a mode of warfare which would render every maritime country accessible to their arms; the Moors and Africans were allured by the hope of plunder; and, after an interval of six centuries, the fleet that issued from the port of Carthage again claimed the empire of the Mediterranean. The success of the Vandals, the conquest of Sicily, the sack of Palermo, and the frequent descents on the coast of Lucania, awakened and alarmed the mother of Valentinian, and the sister of Theodosius."
"The naval power of Rome was unequal to the task of saving even the imperial city from the ravages of the Vandals. Sailing from Africa, they disembarked at the port of Ostia, and Rome and its inhabitants were delivered to the licentiousness of Vandals and Moors, whose blind passions revenged the injuries of Carthage. The pillage lasted fourteen days and nights; and all that yet remained of public and private wealth, of sacred or profane treasure, was diligently transported to the vessels of Genseric. In the forty-five years that had elapsed since the Gothic invasion, the pomp and luxury of Rome were in some measure restored; and it was difficult either to escape, or to satisfy the avarice of a conqueror, who possessed leisure to collect, and ships to transport, the wealth of the capital."—Gibbon.
The Third Trumpet.
"And the third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on the third part of the rivers, and on the fountains of waters; and the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died by the waters, because they were made bitter."—Rev. 8:10, 11.
The sounding of the third trumpet marks the advent of a third invader of the Roman empire. And such was Attila, the king of the Huns, who invaded Gaul A. D. 451. Gibbon says:—
"The kings and nations of Germany and Scythia, from the Volga perhaps to the Danube, obeyed the warlike summons of Attila. From the royal village in the plains of Hungary, his standard moved towards the west; and, after a march of seven or eight hundred miles, he reached the conflux of the Rhine and the Necker." "The hostile myriads were poured with resistless violence into the Belgic provinces." "The consternation of Gaul was universal." "From the Rhine and the Moselle, Attila advanced into the heart of Gaul, crossed the Seine at Auxerre, and, after a long and laborious march, fixed his camp under the walls of Orleans." "An alliance was formed between the Romans and Visigoths." The hostile armies approached. " 'I myself,' said Attila, 'will throw the first javelin, and the wretch who refuses to imitate the example of his sovereign, is devoted to inevitable death.' The spirit of the barbarians was rekindled by the presence, the voice, and the example, of their intrepid leader; and Attila, yielding to their impatience, immediately formed his order of battle. At the head of his brave and faithful Huns, Attila occupied, in person, the centre of the line." The nations from the Volga to the Atlantic were assembled on the plains of Chalons; and there fought a battle, "fierce, various, obstinate, and bloody, such as could not be paralleled, either in the present, or in past ages! The number of the slain amounted to one hundred and sixty-two thousand, or according to another account, three hundred thousand persons; and these incredible exaggerations suppose a real or effective loss, sufficient to justify the historian's remark, that whole generations may be swept away, by the madness of kings, in the space of a single hour."
Attila was compelled to retreat; but neither his forces nor reputation suffered. He "passed the Alps, invaded Italy, and besieged Aquileia with an innumerable host of barbarians." "The succeeding generation could scarcely discover the ruins of Aquileia. After this dreadful chastisement, Attila pursued his march; and, as he passed, the cities of Altinum, Concordia, and Padua were reduced into heaps of stones and ashes. The inland towns, Vicenza, Verona, and Bergamo, were exposed to the rapacious cruelty of the Huns. Milan and Pavia submitted, without resistance, to the loss of their wealth;" and "applauded the unusual clemency which preserved from the flames the public as well as private buildings, and spared the lives of the captive multitude." "Attila spread his ravages over the rich plains of modern Lombardy; which are divided by the Po, and bounded by the Alps and Apennines." He took possession of the royal palace of Milan. "It is a saying worthy of the ferocious pride of Attila, that the grass never grew on the spot where his horse had trod."
He advanced into Italy, only as far as the plains of Lombardy and the banks of the Po, reducing the cities he passed to stones and ashes; but there his ravages ceased. He concluded a peace with the Romans in the year of his invasion of Italy (451), and the next year he died. Thus he appeared like a fiery meteor, exerted his appointed influence upon the tongues and people, who were tributary to the Romans,—as rivers and fountains of waters are to the sea; and like a burning star, he as suddenly expired. As a specimen of the bitterness which followed his course, it is recorded of the Thuringians who served in his army, and who traversed, both in their march and in their return, the territories of the Franks, "that they massacred their hostages as well as their captives. Two hundred young maidens were tortured with exquisite and unrelenting rage; their bodies were torn asunder by wild horses, or were crushed under the weight of rolling wagons; and their unburied limbs were abandoned on public roads, as a prey to dogs and vultures."
The Fourth Trumpet.
"And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so that the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night in like manner."—Rev. 8:12.
The sun, moon, and stars cannot here, any more than under the sixth seal (6:12,13), symbolize agents of their own order, but must represent the rulers of the Roman empire. Says Dr. Keith:—
"At the voice of the first angel, and the blast of his trumpet, the whole Roman world was in agitation, and 'the storms of war' passed over it all. 'The union of the empire was dissolved;' a third part of it fell; and the 'transalpine provinces were separated from the empire.' Under the second trumpet, the provinces of Africa, another, or the maritime, part, was in like manner reft from Rome, and the Roman ships were destroyed in the sea, and even in their harbors. The empire of Rome, hemmed in on every side, was then limited to the kingdom of Italy. Within its bounds, and along the fountains and rivers of waters, the third trumpet reechoed from the Alps to the Apennines. The last barrier of the empire of Rome was broken. The plains of Lombardy were ravaged by a foreign foe: and from thence new enemies arose to bring to an end the strife of the world with the imperial city.
" 'In the space of twenty years since the death of Valentinian' (two years subsequent to the death of Attila), 'nine emperors had successively disappeared; and the son of Orestes, a youth recommended only by his beauty, would be the least entitled to the notice of posterity, if his reign, which was marked by the extinction of the Roman empire in the west, did not leave a memorable era in the history of mankind.' "
The throne of the Caesars had been for ages the sun of the world; while other kings were designated as stars. The imperial power had first been transferred to Constantinople by Constantine; and it was afterwards divided between the east and the west; but the eastern empire was not yet doomed to destruction. The precise year in which the western empire was extinguished, is not positively ascertained, but it is usually assigned to A. D. 476. Some place it in 479. The imperial Roman power, of which either Rome or Constantinople had been jointly or singly the seat, whether in the West or the East, ceased to be recognized in Italy; and the third part of the sun was smitten, till it emitted no longer the faintest rays. The power of the Caesars became unknown in Italy; and a Gothic king reigned over Rome.
Dr. Keith considers that "the concluding words of the fourth trumpet imply the future restoration of the Western empire: 'The day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.' In respect to civil authority, Rome became subject to Ravenna; and Italy was a conquered province of the Eastern empire. But, as more appropriately pertaining to other prophecies, the defence of the worship of images first brought the spiritual and temporal powers of the Pope and of the emperor into violent collision; and, by conferring on the Pope all authority over the churches, Justinian laid his helping hand to the promotion of the papal supremacy, which afterwards assumed the power of creating monarchs. In the year of our Lord 800, the Pope conferred on Charlemagne the title of Emperor of the Romans. The title was again transferred from the King of France to the Emperor of Germany. By the latter it was formally renounced, within the memory of the existing generation. In our own days the iron crown of Italy was on the head of another 'emperor.' " Then the sun was suddenly darkened, as symbolized under the sixth seal, 6:12. p. 66.
The Woe-denouncing Angel.
"And I beheld, and heard an eagle flying in the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the earth, from the remaining voices of the trumpet of the three angels, who are to sound."—Rev. 8:13.
The word eagle, instead of angel, is in accordance with the more recent revised editions of the Greek. It must symbolize persons peculiarly apprehensive at this crisis, of disasters to follow the extinction of the Roman empire in the west. During the first half of the sixth century, the Sclavonians invaded the east, "spread from the suburbs of Constantinople to the Ionian Gulf, destroyed thirty-two cities or castles, razed Potidaea, which Athens had built, and Philip had besieged, and repassed the Danube, dragging at their horses' heels one hundred and twenty thousand of the subjects of Justinian."—Gibbon. And they continued their inroads, until the citizens became apprehensive that the Empire of the East would be extinguished like that of the West.
This symbol also indicates that the events under the trumpets which were to follow, would be far more dreadful and terrible than those of the preceding ones. For this reason, the last three are sometimes denominated THE WOE TRUMPETS.
The Fifth Trumpet.
"And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star, which had fallen from heaven to the earth: and to him was given the key of the pit of the abyss. And he opened the pit of the abyss: and a smoke arose out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. And locusts came out of the smoke into the earth: and power was given to them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was said to them that they should not injure the herbage of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree; but only those men who have not the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not allowed to kill them, but to torment them five months: and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. And in those days men will seek death, and will not find it; and will desire to die, and death will flee from them. And the shapes of the locusts were like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. And they had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like those of lions. And they had breast-plates, like breast-plates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses rushing into battle. And they had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to injure men five months. They had a king over them, the messenger of the abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue he hath the name Apollyon. One woe is past away; and behold, there come yet two woes hereafter."—Rev. 9:1-12.
The previous trumpets reveal the agencies which effected the dismemberment and overthrow of Western Rome. The fifth and sixth unfold those which terminated that empire in the east, embracing the territory between the Adriatic and Euphrates, the Lybian desert and the Danube.
A star (1:20) symbolizes a messenger, or head of a religious body, p. 31. Mohammed is generally regarded as represented by this symbol. He was, by birth, of the princely house of the Koreish, Governors of Mecca, a family of eminence.
The star had fallen to the earth before opening the pit of the abyss, which illustrates the flight of Mohammed from Mecca, and the seeming termination of all his hopes. To save his life, he took refuge, with one companion, in a cave near Medina, in A. D. 622, which forms the epoch of the Hegira, i.e., of his flight.
The bottomless pit, is where Satan is subsequently cast (20:3); and the key of it being given to this agent, symbolizes his power to open and to cause the smoke to issue from it; the Satanic origin of which is thus indicated:
Smoke is an appropriate representative of error, and symbolizes the Mohammedan doctrines; which, like the smoke of a great furnace, were disseminated far and wide, subverting the religion, and, in time, effecting the overthrow of the remaining portion of the Roman empire—the sun, one-third of which was smitten under the fourth trumpet.
The locusts were generated in the smoke from whence they issued. In a corresponding manner, the spread of Mohammedanism resulted in the organization of hordes of Saracens, who propagated the religion of the false prophet by the sword, and founded the famous Arabian empire, which extended from the Atlantic ocean to the river Euphrates.
The shapes of the locusts were like horses prepared for battle; and the Saracenic hordes, thus symbolized, were mounted horsemen, famous for the swiftness of their flight or pursuit, and ever ready for the contest.
Their crowns, faces, hair, teeth, breast-plates, &c., seem to be indicative of their personal appearance: on their heads they wore yellow turbans, like coronets; their demeanor was grave and firm; their hair, like that of women, was suffered to grow uncut; they were defended by the cuirass or breast-plate; and in rushing to battle, their onset was like that of chariots and many horses.
They had a king over them, named Abaddon in the Hebrew, and Apollyon in the Greek, both of which signified the Destroyer. The Saracens acknowledged the authority of Mohammed during the whole period of their conquests; not only recognizing him as their prophet and king during his lifetime, but his successors, after his death, considered and called themselves Mohammed's Caliphs, or Vicars.
Their mission was not against the grass, green things, and trees, but had express reference to the men who had not the seal of God in their foreheads. The antithesis here expressed, shows that by the former were symbolized the servants of God, and that these locust-warriors were particularly commissioned against infidels and apostates. Christians were not to be molested; and provision was made for their protection, in the circular letter which Abubekir sent to the Arabian tribes, A. D. 633. He said:
" 'Remember, that you are always in the presence of God, on the verge of death, in the assurance of judgment, and the hope of paradise: avoid injustice and oppression; consult with your brethren, and study to preserve the love and confidence of your troops. When you fight the battles of the Lord, acquit yourselves like men, without turning your backs; but let not your victory be stained with the blood of women and children. Destroy no palm-trees, nor burn any fields of corn. Cut down no fruit-trees, nor do any mischief to cattle, only such as you kill to eat. When you make any covenant, or article, stand to it, and be as good as your word. As you go on, you will find some religious persons who live in retired monasteries, and propose to themselves to serve God that way; let them alone, and neither kill them nor destroy their monasteries; and you will find another sort of people that belong to the synagogue of Satan, who have shaven crowns; be sure you cleave their skulls, and give them no quarter till they either turn Mohammedans or pay tribute.' "
At this epoch, the Greek church at Constantinople had been preserved from the reproach of image worship, and still later it made strenuous efforts against it; but the churches of the north of Africa, and the Asiatic portion of the Eastern empire, had become greatly debased, and worshipped saints and images. And while the territories of these were speedily subverted to Mohammedanism, and became a part of the Arabian empire, the east of Europe was wonderfully preserved from their inroads.
Their power was not to kill, but to torment men five months. To kill, symbolically, according to the significance of the second seal, p. 60, is to compel men to apostasize; and they could not be in a condition to force their religion on the men of the eastern empire, without first subjecting it by force of arms.
The time of this torment was limited to five prophetic months. In one hundred and fifty years from the Hegira the Saracen empire had ceased to be aggressive. In 762 Bagdad, the city of peace, was founded on the Tigris, by Al-Mansur, who died in 774. "From this time," says ROTTICK, "the Arabian history assumes an entirely different character." It was no longer progressive; the proud Saracen empire became dismembered, and three independent and hostile Caliphates, and several fragments of kingdoms, were formed from its ruins. In 841, the reigning Caliph at Bagdad, distrusting the spirit of his own troops, hired a body of fifty thousand Turkish soldiers, which he distributed in his dominions. These accelerated the ruin of the Caliphate, and, in time, the whole of the Saracen territory became subject to the Tartar rule, which had become Mohammedan, and also aimed to subject the eastern empire.
The declaration that "one woe is past," v. 12, implies an interval between that and the woe following. In a corresponding manner, the crusaders from Europe, like the successive overflowing of a mighty river, restrained the Tartars from the conquest of Constantinople, which had now consented to image worship, till the sounding of:
The Sixth Trumpet.
"And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice out of the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel having the trumpet, Loose the four messengers bound near the great river Euphrates. And the four messengers were loosed, prepared for an hour, and day, and month, and year, to slay the third part of men. And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: I heard the number of them. And thus I saw on the horses in the vision, and those, who sat on them, having red, blue and yellow breast-plates: and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and fire, and smoke, and brimstone issued from their mouths. By these three plagues the third part of men was killed; by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued from their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails having heads were like serpents, and they injure with them. And the rest of the men, who were not killed by these plagues, yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk; nor did they repent of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts."—Rev. 9:13-21.
The great river, the Euphrates,—waters being a symbol of people, (17:15)—must symbolize those who sustain a relation to the Roman hierarchy, as its defenders and supporters; analogous to that sustained by the river Euphrates to the city of Babylon; which was situated on, and drew its wealth and support from it.
The angels bound near the Euphrates, must then be those powers, which, approaching and attacking the Roman Empire, were restrained from effecting its conquest and enforcing the profession of Mohammedanism. Their being loosed, signifies the removal of those restraints. Mr. Lord suggests that they symbolize leaders of the four armies of the Tartars, which successively overran the surrounding provinces. He says:
"The first horde were the Seljukians, who invaded the Eastern empire about the middle of the eleventh century, under Togrul Beg. He suddenly overran, with myriads of cavalry, the frontier, from Taurus to Arzeroum, and spread it with blood and devastation. Alp Arslan, his successor, soon renewed the invasion, conquered Armenia and Georgia, penetrated into Cappadocia and Phrygia, and scattered detachments over the whole of lesser Asia. His troops being subsequently driven back, he renewed the war, and recovered those provinces. His descendants, and others of the race, soon after extended their conquests, and established the kingdoms in the east of Persia and Syria, and Roum, in lesser Asia, which they maintained through many generations, and made their sway a scorpion scourge to the idolatrous inhabitants. The Christians were allowed the exercise of their religion on the conditions of tribute and servitude, but were compelled to endure the scorn of the victors, to submit to the abuse of their priests and bishops, and to witness the apostasy of their brethren, the compulsory circumcision of many thousands of their children, and the subjection of many thousands to a debasing and hopeless slavery.
"The second army was that of the Moguls, who, in the thirteenth century, after the conquest of Persia, passed the Euphrates, plundered and devastated Syria, subdued Armenia, Iconium, and Anatolia, and extinguished the Seljukian dynasty. Another army advancing to the west, devastated the country on both sides of the Danube, Thrace, Bulgaria, Servia, Bosnia, Hungary, Austria, and spread them with the ruins of their cities and churches, and the bones of their inhabitants. This horde had been prepared for this invasion by vast conquests in the East.
"The third were the Ottomans, who in the beginning of the fourteenth century conquered Bithynia, Lydia, Ionia, Thrace, Bulgaria, Servia, and in the following century Constantinople itself, and have maintained their empire to the present time. They were released from restraint on the one hand by the decay of the Mogul Khans, to whom they had been subject, and on the other by the dissensions and weakness of the Greeks.
"The last was that of the Moguls under Tamerlane, who in the beginning of the fifteenth century overran Georgia, Syria, and Anatolia, and spread them with slaughter and desolation. He also had been prepared for this incursion by his previous victories and conquests."—Ex. Apoc., pp. 225, 226.
These armies, the number of which is literally "myriads of myriads," were not all subsequent to the time when they had power to subject the Eastern Roman empire; but may be the four, from the fact that the Mohammedan power was extended by these armies, which till this time had been restrained from accomplishing the subjugation of Constantinople.
The restraints being removed, they were now to have power to kill, by compelling the third part of men to embrace the doctrines of Mohammed,—evident reference being had to the men of the eastern empire; the conquest of which was now to be effected, the dial of heaven having indicated the arrival of the predicted epoch.
In 1449 Constantine Deacoses, being entitled to the throne of Constantinople by the death of John Paleologus, did not venture to take possession till he had sent ambassadors and gained the consent of Amurath, the Turkish Sultan. From this fact, Ducas, the historian, counts Paleologus as the last Greek emperor—for he did not consider as such, a prince who did not dare to reign without permission of his enemy. Amurath died and was succeeded in the empire, in 1451, by MAHOMET II., who set his heart on Constantinople, and made preparations for besieging the city. The siege commenced on the 6th of April, 1453, and ended in the taking of the city, and death of the last of the Constantines, on the 16th of May following, when the eastern city of the Caesars became the seat of the Ottoman empire; and its "religion was trampled in the dust by the Moslem conquerors." Thus the two-horned beast (13:11), became merged in, and identified with the false prophet, 16:13, and 19:20.
The description of the horses, and those who sat on them (v. 17), is strikingly emblematic of the Turkish warriors who subjugated Constantinople. Says Dr. Keith: "The breast-plates of the horsemen, in reference to the more destructive implements of war, might then, for the first time, be said to be fire, and jacinth, and brimstone. The musket had recently supplied the place of the bow. Fire emanated from their breasts. Brimstone, the flame of which is jacinth, was an ingredient both of the liquid fire and of gunpowder.... A new mode of warfare was at that time introduced, which has changed the nature of war itself, in regard to the form of its instrument of destruction; and sounds and sights unheard of and unknown before, were the death-knell and doom of the Roman empire. Invention outrivalled force, and a new power was introduced, that of musketry as well as of artillery, in the art of war, before which the old Macedonian phalanx would not have remained unbroken, nor the Roman legions stood. That which JOHN saw 'in the vision,' is read in the history of the times."
By these three, the fire, smoke, and brimstone, were the third part of men killed (v. 18), and by these was the conquest of Constantinople effected. Says Gibbon: "At the request of Mahomet II., Urban produced a piece of brass ordnance of stupendous and almost incredible magnitude. A measure of twelve palms was assigned to the bore, and the stone bullet weighed about six hundred pounds. A vacant place before the new palace was chosen for the first experiment; but to prevent the sudden and mischievous effects of astonishment and fear, a proclamation was issued that the cannon would be discharged the ensuing day. The explosion was felt or heard in a circuit of a hundred furlongs; the ball, by the force of the gunpowder, was driven about a mile, and on the spot where it fell, it buried itself a fathom deep in the ground. For the conveyance of this destructive engine, a frame or carriage of thirty wagons was linked together, and drawn along by a train of sixty oxen; two hundred men, on both sides, were stationed to poise or support the rolling weight; two hundred and fifty workmen marched before to smooth the way and repair the bridges, and near two months were employed in a laborious journey of a hundred and fifty miles.
"In the siege, the incessant volleys of lances and arrows were accompanied with the smoke, the sound, and the fire of their musketry and cannon. Their small arms discharged at the same time five or even ten balls of lead of the size of a walnut, and according to the closeness of the ranks, and the force of the powder, several breast-plates and bodies were transpierced by the same shot. But the Turkish approaches were soon sunk into trenches, or covered with ruins. Each day added to the science of the Christians, but their inadequate stock of gunpowder was wasted in the operation of each day. Their ordnance was not powerful either in size or number, and if they possessed some heavy cannon, they feared to plant them on the walls, lest the aged structure should be shaken and overthrown by the explosion. The same destructive secret had been revealed to the Moslems, by whom it was employed with the superior energy of zeal, riches, and despotism. The great cannon of MAHOMET was flanked by two fellows almost of equal magnitude: the long order of the Turkish artillery was pointed against the walls: fourteen batteries thundered at once on the most accessible places, and of one of these it is ambiguously expressed that it was mounted with one hundred and thirty guns, or that it discharged one hundred and thirty bullets."
The conquest of Constantinople being accomplished, they were to have power to kill men during an hour, day, month, and year of prophetic time—i.e. three hundred and ninety-one years, fifteen days. If reckoned from the conquest of the city, this would extend to June 1844. Whether any particular act has transpired to mark the precise point of its termination, may not be important; but it is interesting to consider that within a few years the Mohammedan government has formally granted permission for the full enjoyment of the Protestant religion; and has renounced the right of punishing by death, apostates from Islamism.
In August 1843, an Armenian, who had become a Mussulman and subsequently returned to the religion of his fathers, was beheaded at Constantinople. The Christian powers of Europe immediately remonstrated, and it was hoped that the law against apostates from Mohammedanism would be permitted to become a dead letter. In a few months, however, a firman issued from the government ordering the decapitation of a young man near Brooza, who was put to death for having promised in a passion, but had afterwards refused, to become a Mohammedan. Lord Aberdeen, the British Secretary of Foreign Affairs, then demanded of the Turkish Sultan that the Porte should not insult and trample on Christianity, "by treating as a criminal any person who embraces it;" but should "renounce, absolutely and without equivocation, the barbarous practice which has called forth the remonstrance now addressed to it." To this communication the following answer was made early in 1844: "The Sublime Porte engages to take effectual measures to prevent, henceforward, the execution and putting to death of the Christian who is an apostate." On the 15th of November, 1847, for the first time, a firman was issued recognizing Protestant Christians as a distinct community, forbidding any molestation or interference "in their temporal or spiritual concerns," and permitting them "to exercise the profession of their creed in security." This coming from the Vizier, did not necessarily survive a change of ministry; but in November, 1850, a firman was issued from the Sultan himself, establishing the policy of the empire in respect to Protestants, and confirming them in all needed civil and religious privileges. Thus has the Mohammedan government formally and forever renounced the power it had so long wielded, of causing spiritual death by compelling men to apostatize from Christianity.
The rest of the men not killed, must be those in portions of the Roman territory not included in the eastern third. The Roman Catholics in the western parts, were not reformed by the judgments inflicted on the east. They continued to worship the canonized dead, and to bow down to images of the saints. Under this trumpet, a mighty movement was to be there effected, which was symbolized by the descent of:
The Rainbow Angel.
"And I saw another mighty angel descending from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and the rainbow was over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire; and he had in his hand a little book opened: and he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land. And shouted with a loud voice, as a lion roareth: and when he shouted, seven thunders uttered their voices. And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying, Seal up those things, which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not. And the angel, whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land, raised his hand to heaven, and swore by him who liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things in it, and the earth, and the things in it, and the sea, and the things in it, that the time should not yet be; but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he will sound, the secret of God will be finished, as he hath announced to his servants the prophets. And the voice, which I heard from heaven, spoke with me again, and said, Go, take the little book, which is opened in the hand of the angel, who standeth on the sea and on the land. And I went away to the angel, and said to him, Give me the little book. And he said to me, Take, and eat it up; and it will make thy stomach bitter, but in thy mouth, it will be sweet as honey. And I took the little book from the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and when I had eaten it my stomach was bitter. And he said to me, Thou must prophesy again concerning many people, and nations, and tongues, and kings."—Rev. 10:1-11.
This angel, like those in corresponding passages, must symbolize a body of men, whose importance is indicated by the might and splendor of the symbol.
His descent from heaven, the cloud, the rainbow, the sun-like face, and the fire-like feet of the Mighty Messenger, attest the heaven-inspired origin of his utterances. His "eyes as a flame of fire, and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace," would not be given to one who came to announce other than heaven-inspired truths.
The open book in the hand of the angel, fixes the chronology of the fulfilment of this vision at an epoch when the Scriptures cease to be a closed and sealed book, and the people are permitted to have free access to them.
His position—one foot resting on the sea, and one on the land—attests the universality of the movement which is to date from that epoch.
His lion voice, must symbolize the manner in which would be announced the great truths, at which the whole world would be startled.
The singleness of his cry, is also symbolic of the simplicity of the truth, which is never symbolized by discordant multitudinous sounds.
The responsive thunders, unlike the single voice of the angel, are multitudinous and discordant; and consequently symbolize errors. Their following so immediately on the shout of the angel, shows the proximity of their promulgation to the utterance of the truths to which they are responsive.
JOHN'S readiness to write what the seven thunders uttered, shows that what they uttered was professedly in harmony with the truths previously announced, and that men would be liable to be deceived, by their promulgation.
His being forbidden by the cloud-robed angel, to write what they uttered—while he was commanded to "seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book" (22:10),—shows that their utterances were not heaven-inspired, and constituted no part of "the word of GOD, and of the testimony of JESUS CHRIST," which JOHN bare record of.
The subsequent oath of the angel, by Him who liveth forever, that "the time is not yet," shows that those thunders, however erroneous in their form manner and connection with other errors, had respect to some great event foretold in Scripture; but which the thunders had antedated and presented in an unscriptural form.
His further announcement that it would be fulfilled under the sounding of the "seventh trumpet," and that then the mystery of GOD should be finished in the manner foretold to his servants the prophets, shows that the great event, the time of which was "not yet,"—i.e., under the sixth trumpet, was the coming of the kingdom of GOD—the fifth universal empire; that at a period anterior to the time when it might rationally be expected, it would be proclaimed in a form repugnant to the teachings of the prophets; and that when thus heralded, it would be met by the party uttering the heaven-inspired truths, with the denial that the time had arrived, and by arguments to show its true nature and epoch, under the seventh trumpet.
The command to take and eat the little book, shows that its contents were such as the soul might feed on; which should be sweet to the believer's taste, but would subject him to bitter persecution. And the announcement that they were to prophesy again before many nations and peoples and tongues and kings, marks this as the commencement of an era when the Gospel should again begin to go forth into distant lands.
All of the above particulars harmonize in the time of the reformation of LUTHER in the sixteenth century, and with no other epoch. The great truths then promulgated, of which "justification by faith" was the cardinal one, electrified the whole world, as the loud roaring of a lion would startle the passer-by. These were immediately responded to by the multitudinous errors of the Anabaptists and others, who thought to set up the kingdom of GOD in this world, and before the resurrection, by putting to death the ungodly and sparing only the saints.
As in all efforts for good Satan is careful to attempt a counterfeit, or to mingle impure elements to the injury of the truth, so in the Reformation there were false reformers. THOMAS MUNZER, and others, in 1525, incited vast numbers on the borders of the Danube to make physical war on the Papal ecclesiastics. He denounced LUTHER, also, with the same violence that he did the Pope. In his mad attempt to slay the ungodly, he took possession of Muhlhausen, appointed a new city council, pillaged the houses of the rich, proclaimed a community of goods, and committed various excesses; but they were finally defeated in a pitched battle, with a loss of from five thousand to seven thousand killed. Others succeeded him, teaching that GOD spake to them in person, instructing them how to act. They professed the most extravagant doctrines, setting aside both LUTHER and the Bible. The former did not go near far enough for them; and the latter was in their view insufficient for man's instruction, who could only be taught of God. They taught that the world was to be immediately devastated; and no priest or ungodly person be left alive; and that then the kingdom of GOD would commence, and the saints possess the earth. Those who adhered to LUTHER, united with him in bearing a faithful testimony against such extravagances, adhered to the written word, denounced new revelations, and showed from the Bible that Antichrist was to be overthrown by the personal advent of CHRIST, and not by the sword of man. The following extracts are from MR. LORD:
"The pretences of the Anabaptists to inspiration were in like manner denounced by Melancthon. 'The Anabaptists, infatuated by the devil, have boasted a new species of sanctity, as though they had left the earth, and ascended to the skies; and given out, moreover, that they enjoy extraordinary inspiration. But as the pretence was hypocritical, and designed merely to subserve appetite and ambition, they soon plunged into debauchery, and then excited seditions, and undertook to establish a New Jerusalem, as other enthusiasts have often attempted. A like tragedy was formerly acted at Pepuza in Phrygia, which fanatical prophets denominated the new Jerusalem.'
"He also refuted by the Scriptures, the expectation of the Anabaptists of the immediate establishment of Christ's millennial kingdom. He regarded the term Antichrist as denoting both the Mohammedan empire and the Papacy, and held that they were not to be overthrown till the time of the resurrection of the dead, and that a considerable period was to pass before that event. 'God showed to Daniel a series of monarchies and kingdoms, which it is certain has already run to the end. Four monarchies have passed away. The cruel kingdom of the Turks, which arose out of the fourth, still remains, and as it is not to equal the Roman in power, and has certainly, therefore, already nearly reached its height, must soon decline, and then will dawn the day in which the dead shall be recalled to life.' He then repeats the saying ascribed to Elias, that six thousand years were to pass before the advent of Christ; two thousand before the law, two under the law, and two under the gospel; and proceeds to show that four hundred and fifty-eight years were, therefore, to intervene before the advent of the Redeemer, the destruction of Antichrist, and the establishment of the kingdom of the saints. 'It is known that Christ was born about the end of the fourth millenary,(1) and one thousand five hundred and forty-two years have since revolved. We are not, therefore [in 1542], far from the end.'
"These views corresponding so conspicuously with the symbol, continued to be repeated by a crowd of writers, till at the distance of sixty-seven years from the death of Melancthon, the celebrated Joseph Mede published his 'Clavis Apocalyptica,' in which he showed from the coincidence of the periods of the wild beast and the witnesses, that the advent of the Redeemer, and the destruction of the anti-Christian powers were not to be expected until twelve hundred and sixty years had passed from the rise of the ten kingdoms, and that near one hundred of them, therefore, were still to revolve. As that period expired and the knowledge of the prophecy advanced, the catastrophe of the wild beast was referred to a later time. Many recent expositors regard the twelve hundred and sixty years as having reached their end in 1792; and most refer the fall of the anti-Christian powers to the last half of the present, or the beginning of the next century."—Ex. of Apoc., pp. 238-240.
All the vagaries of the various sects of heretics were connected with an expectation of the immediate establishment of CHRIST'S kingdom. That the seven thunders gave utterance to such an expectation, is evident from the response of the angel, when he lifted up his hand to heaven and with the solemnity of an oath, by Him who liveth forever, affirmed that "the time should not yet be;" but that "in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he delays to sound,(2) the secret of GOD will be finished, as he hath announced to his servants the prophets." Why such an annunciation at this stage of the vision? It must be to correct a misapprehension which would exist at a corresponding time in its fulfilment, respecting the immediate appearance of the kingdom. Thus did PAUL correct the Thessalonian brethren, when he wrote to them in his second epistle not to be shaken in mind, as that the day of the LORD was then impending, 2 Th. 2:2.
The Bible, was, at this epoch, first opened to the common people. Before, it was only found in languages which they were entirely ignorant of. It was translated by LUTHER into their own language, and thus made accessible. The art of printing, discovered at about that time, enabled all who wished, to avail themselves of its unsealed contents. They feasted on the words of inspiration, which were sweeter to them than honey, or the honey-comb. But afterwards, they had to endure bitterness for the sake of the Gospel. Divisions and subdivisions followed, parties multiplied, and heresies abounded, accompanied with bitter and mischievous discussions, and fierce and rancorous contentions. These being based on the understanding which the several parties attached to portions of scripture, were fitly symbolized by the bitterness that followed the eating of the book. At this time, also, was revived a system of religious teachings which has gone forth into many lands.
The reoerganization of the church at this epoch, is next symbolized.
The Measuring Reed, Temple, &c.
"And there was given me a measuring reed like a rod, and it was said, Arise, and measure the temple of God, (and the altar,) and those who worship in it. But the court which is without the temple, leave out, and measure it not; for it is given to the Gentiles: and they will tread the holy city under foot forty-two months."—Rev. 11:1, 2.
These symbols are evidently taken from the temple and altar of Jewish worship, and represent corresponding analogies under the Christian dispensation.
To measure anything, is to examine and take notice of its parts and proportions; and that by which it is measured, is the standard or rule to which it should conform.
The temple, is a proper symbol of the church of God; which is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the Chief Corner Stone, in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord," Eph. 2:20, 21.
At the epoch of the Reformation, the nominal church was subjected to the scrutiny of the word of God; and its pretensions were measured by the scriptural rule. The reformers found the Man of Sin, "as God sitting in the temple of God," (2 Thess. 2:4); and they had to re-model their church relationship, in accordance with the pattern presented in the New Testament. This involved the consideration of what constituted the church,—its organization, its ministry, its sacraments, and its membership,—their mutual relation to God, and to each other.
The altar, must symbolize the sacrifice and atonement of Christ,—the "altar whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle," Heb. 13:10. The great question, of justification by faith in the death of Christ, was the rallying cry of the Reformation. The fundamental principles of Christian truth were then unfolded anew, and the doctrines of the Papacy, including the sacrifice of the mass, were rejected as contrary to Bible teachings.
The worshippers in the temple, who were to be measured by the same rule, are Christians. All who were to be recognized as such, were to give evidence of conformity to the Bible standard. Regeneration by the Holy Ghost, was held by the reformers to be necessary to church membership. The Papists required only baptism and confirmation.
The court without the temple, was that to which the Gentiles had access, and beyond which their entrance was prohibited. Devout foreigners were there permitted to pay their devotions to the God of heaven. As the Gentiles must symbolize those who are not Christians, the occupants of the outer court, must be the congregation—the nominal worshippers who throng the outer courts of the Lord, in distinction from the true worshippers. Such were to have free and unrestricted access to the places of Christian worship.
The holy city is that in which the temple is situated, and must embrace the church as a whole, subjected to Gentile rule. Its being trodden under foot, indicates that the civil polity under which the church would subsist, should, during the period specified, be under the control of those who worship only in the outer court.
The forty and two months, is a period of time, corresponding with the thousand two hundred and three score days of the verse following, the time and times and half a time of Rev. 12:14, and the corresponding periods of Rev. 12:6; 13:5; Dan. 7:25; and 12:7; symbolizing a period of twelve hundred and sixty years, according to the almost unanimous opinion of Protestant writers.
This period does not commence with this epoch, but began with the subjection of Christianity to the power of the civil arm, which was to continue during the time predicted,—notwithstanding the reaedjustment of the temple-worship,—when Christians should cease to be responsible to any human tribunal for the orthodoxy of their faith.
During the same period, also, power to prophesy, though shrouded in sackcloth, was to be given to:
Christ's Two Witnesses.
"And I will give charge to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive-trees, and the two lamp-stands, standing before the Lord of the earth. And if any one wisheth to injure them, fire proceedeth from their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if anyone wisheth to injure them, he must thus be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it may not rain in the days of their prophecy: and they have power over the waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they wish. And when they shall have finished their testimony, the wild beast that ascendeth out of the abyss will make war with them, and will overcome them, and kill them. And their dead body will lie on the wide street of the great city, which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. And those of the people, and tribes, and tongues, and nations, will see their dead body three days and a half, and will not allow their dead body to be put into a tomb. And those, who dwell on the earth, will rejoice over them, and exult, and send gifts to each other; because these two prophets tormented those, who dwell on the earth. And after the three days and a half the Spirit of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell on those, who saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven, saying to them, Ascend here! And they ascended into heaven in a cloud; and their enemies saw them. And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake seven thousand names of men were slain: and the remnant became terrified, and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past away; behold, the third woe cometh quickly."—Rev. 11:3-14.
The two witnesses are not symbolically exhibited, but are referred to by an elliptical metaphor, and are explained to be the "two olive-trees, and the two candlesticks." Therefore, they are not two living men, as some suppose, shown to John in vision, symbolizing analogous agents; but their nature is to be determined by a consideration of the olive-trees and candlesticks which symbolize them.
Candlesticks symbolize churches. Thus the Saviour said to John: "The seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches," 1:20. When "men light a candle," they put "it on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house," Matt. 5:15. The candlestick does not originate, but sustains the light in a position to be seen and exert a beneficial influence. It is thus that the church is said to be "the light of the world," and is required to let her light "shine before men," Ib. vs. 14-16,—i.e. She is to disseminate the light committed to her; and in so doing, she becomes a witness for Jesus.
The church comprises all the holy persons who have lived on earth, and is symbolized by two candlesticks, corresponding to the two dispensations of its existence. Those who lived under the former dispensation, are called "a great cloud of witnesses," Heb. 12:1. Of Christ, "give all the prophets witness," Acts 10:43. They constitute the voice of the church in that age. Under the gospel dispensation, also, Christ had chosen witnesses of himself. He said to his disciples, "Ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth," (Ib. 1:8); and they said, "We are his witnesses," Ib. 5:32. "We are witnesses of all things which he did, ... witnesses chosen before of God," (Ib. 10:39-41);—"his witnesses unto the people," Ib. 13:31. They and their successors have "testified and preached the word of the Lord," (Ib. 8:25), overcoming "by the word of their testimony," (Rev. 12:11),—many of them being "slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held," 6:9. The church, one in all ages, symbolized by the two candlesticks, is thus a witness of Jesus.
The two olive-trees, symbolize the other witness, which must sustain a relation to the church, analogous to that sustained by the olive-trees to the candlesticks. The declaration, that the witnesses are the two olive-trees and candlesticks, implies the existence of some previous symbolization, where those objects and their relation to each other are presented. And the connection shows clearly that reference is made to the vision, wherein Zechariah beheld "a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof; and two olive-trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof," Zech. 4:2, 3. The relation which the olive-trees sustain to the candlestick, is shown by the questions of the prophet: "What are these, my Lord?" (Ib. v. 4); "What are these two olive-trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? What be these two olive-branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?" Ib. vs. 11, 12. The office of the olive-trees, was to supply the candlestick with oil which alone enabled them to give light. The oil of the olive-tree, was burned before the Lord continually. The light committed to the church, is the truth of God's word. And thus the angel explains the meaning of the olive-trees: "This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel," (Ib. v. 6); "These are the two anointed ones [mar, sons of oil], that stand by the Lord of the whole earth," Ib. v. 14. And this expression, corresponding with that in Rev. 11:4, shows that this vision of Zechariah is the one referred to, and that it is explanatory of the witnesses.
The Scriptures, as well as the church, testify of Christ: "Search the Scriptures," said the Saviour, speaking of those then written; "they are they which testify [or bear witness] of me," (John 5:39); and of the New Testament, he said: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations," Matt. 24:4. Like two olive-trees supplying the candlesticks with oil, the Scriptures of the Old, and of the New Testament give light to the church, and testify of Christ. They stand on either side of him,—the one beginning with the creation and pointing to a Messiah to come, testifying of him by types and shadows; and the other looking back to the death and resurrection of Christ, and cheering the heart of the believer by the evidence of his second coming at the end of the world. Thus stood within the oracle of the temple the two cherubim, which Solomon made "of olive-tree," and whose wings met over the ark of the covenant: "He set the cherubim within the inner house, and they stretched forth the wings of the cherubim, so that the wing of the one touched the one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall; and their wings touched one another in the midst of the house," 1 Kings 6, 27. Thus symbolized, the Scriptures and the church are Christ's two witnesses.
To prophesy, is to make known the truths of God. Thus, at the epoch of the Reformation, they were to prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues and kings, 10:11. It was to enable the witnesses to do this, that the necessary power was to be given them.