Sackcloth, is a symbol of humiliation and sorrow; and the witnesses being thus clothed, indicates that during the time specified, they should be in a despised and oppressed condition.
The one thousand two hundred and sixty days, symbolize years. God said to Israel, after the evil report of the twelve spies: "Your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years ... after the number of the days which ye searched the land," Num. 14:33, 34. And to Ezekiel, "This shall be a sign to the house of Israel: Lie thou upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it, ... for I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days.... 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," Ezek. 4:3-6.
This period of one thousand two hundred and sixty years, is not the whole time in which the witnesses prophesy, but marks the duration of their prophesying in sackcloth. It commenced when the light of the Bible began to be obscured by the secondary place which was accorded to it in the estimation of the Papal church, and the living witnesses were no longer permitted to preach the gospel in its purity.
In A. D. 533, the Emperor Justinian, wrote a letter to the Pope declaring him to be "the head of all the holy churches," and subjecting to his control "all the priests of the whole East." By the edicts and mandates of Justinian, who was master of the Roman world, the supremacy of the Pope received the fullest sanction; and the highest authorities among the civilians and annalists of Rome, refer to these as evidence of the right of the Pope to the title of "Universal Bishop," and date it from A. D. 533. p. 200.
With this supremacy, the power of the Papacy commenced. The Bible was permitted only in a dead language, and the faithful Christian was obliged to seek refuge in the wilderness. False doctrines obscuring the Bible, and persecuting enactments oppressing the church, clothed the witnesses in sackcloth; and thus only did they testify, till the power of the papacy was broken.
Fire proceeded out of their mouth, when they made known the fiery judgments predicted in the Scriptures against all their enemies. And they shut heaven, smite with plagues, turn water to blood, &c., when, in accordance with the inspired record, are fulfilled the predictions which, in various places, are thus symbolized.—See Rev. 15:6; 16:4, &c.
The finishing of their testimony, refers to the termination of the sackcloth period,—twelve hundred and sixty years from A. D. 533; i.e. in 1793,—if the former date is correct.
The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit, is that on which, in a subsequent vision, the woman is seated, 17:7, 8. John saw this beast arise out of the sea, (13:1); and the subsequent exposition given of it, will show that it symbolized the civil power of the Roman empire in its divided form.—See p. 169. As the ten kingdoms constitute the beast, what is done by any of these kingdoms, is done by the beast. France was one of the more prominent of these kingdoms, and at one period, under Napoleon, controlled the greater portion of the whole.
To war against the witnesses, is to oppose, resist, and endeavor to crush them; and to overcome them, is to be successful in such efforts.
To kill, when used symbolically and applied to Christians, is to cause them to apostatize—producing spiritual death, 9:5. When applied to the Scriptures, it can only denote their prohibition.
The great city, as shown in connection with Rev. 16:19, p. 290, is the Roman hierarchy:—symbolized by Babylon, and "spiritually called Sodom and Egypt." By being thus "spiritually called Sodom," some understand that it is a "spiritual Sodom," &c., which would be a contradiction of terms; others understand that it is called figuratively by those names, and deduce from it an argument for spiritualizing the Scriptures; but the use of the word "spiritually," it is believed, will not sanction any such meaning. It occurs only in two other passages:—in Rom. 8:7, to be "spiritually minded," is to have a mind in accordance with the will of the Spirit; and in 1 Cor. 2:14, things "spiritually discerned," signifies that they are discerned by the aid of the Spirit. The great city, then, is called by the Spirit, "Sodom and Egypt;" and is so called because of her licentiousness and idolatries, and her subjecting the saints to bondage. To crucify the Lord afresh, is to apostatize from his teachings, Heb. 6:6.
In 1793, twelve hundred and sixty years from the date of the Papal supremacy, the Bible was abolished in France, by the solemn decree of the government, which declared that the nation acknowledged no God. A copy of the Bible could not be found in a single bookstore in Paris. Inquiry also was made for it in Rome, in all the book establishments of that city, and the invariable reply was, that it was prohibited. All the churches of Paris were shut, and the church plate was declared the property of the nation. Professors of religion, at the same time, in large numbers openly apostatized and embraced infidelity. Says Dr. Croley:—
"On the 1st of November, 1793, Gobet, with the republican priests of Paris, had thrown off the gown and abjured religion. On the 11th, a 'grand festival,' dedicated to 'Reason and Truth,' was celebrated instead of divine service in the ancient cathedral of Notre Dame, which had been desecrated, and been named, 'the Temple of Reason;' a pyramid was erected in the centre of the church, surmounted by a temple, inscribed, 'To Philosophy.' The torch of 'Truth' was on the altar of 'Reason,' spreading light, &c. The National Convention, and all the authorities, attended at this burlesque and insulting ceremony. In February, 1794, a grand fete was ordered by the convention, in which hymns to Liberty were chanted, and a pageant in honor of the abolition of slavery in the colonies, was displayed in the 'Temple of Reason.' In June another festival was ordered—to the Supreme Being: the God of Philosophy. But the most superb exhibition was the 'general festival,' in honor of the republic. It was distinguished by a more audacious spirit of scoffing and profanation than the former. Robespierre acted the 'high-priest of Reason' on the day, and made himself conspicuous in blasphemy. He was then at the summit of power,—actual sovereign of France."
The dead bodies of the witnesses, would be their existence in that prohibited condition, when, in France, neither the Scriptures, nor the church showed any symptoms of life. In the street, would be the conspicuous and public manner in which indignities should be heaped on them. France had been one of the principal states yielding homage to the Roman church. Surrounding nations beheld, but would not permit the extermination of the Bible and Christianity.
The French made merry over their blasphemous work. Says Dr. Croley:—
"A very remarkable and prophetic distinction of this period, was the spirit of frenzied festivity which seized upon France. The capital, and all the republican towns, were the scene of civic feasts, processions, and shows of the most extravagant kind. The most festive times of peace under the most expensive kings were thrown into the shade by the frequency, variety, and extent of the republican exhibitions. Yet this was a time of perpetual miseries throughout France. The guillotine was bloody from morn till night. In the single month of July, 1794, nearly eight hundred persons, the majority, principal individuals of the state, and all possessing some respectability of situation, were guillotined in Paris alone. In the midst of this horror, there were twenty-six theatres open, filled with the most profane and profligate displays in honor of the 'triumph of reason.' "
In Lyons a Bible was tied to the tail of an ass and dragged in a procession through the streets of that city. Thus they rejoiced over the supposed end of religion in France; and congratulated themselves that the terrors of God's word, and the church would no more torment them.
"After three days and a half," would be that number of years from the suppression of Christianity in November, 1793. On the 17th day of June, 1797, three and a half years from the abolition of the Bible and religious worship, CAMILLE JOURDAN, in the Council of Five Hundred, brought up the memorable report on the Revision of the Laws Relative to Religious Worship, by which France gave permission to all citizens to buy or hire edifices for the free exercise of it; repealing all opposing laws, and subjecting those to a heavy fine who should in any way impede or interrupt any religious service. The Bible and the church again stood erect, to the dismay of all who had rejoiced over their overthrow. Those two witnesses were again in a position to resume their testimony.
They were not only to be thus restored, but were to be elevated far above their former position. Since that epoch, have been made all those great efforts to evangelize the world, by means of missionary, tract, Bible, and other benevolent societies, which have caused the Scriptures to be translated into nearly all known languages, and carried by the living preacher to the ends of the earth. The very room in which Voltaire uttered his famous prediction—that "the time would arrive when the Bible would be regarded only in the light of an old curiosity,"—is now used for a Bible depository, and is "piled to the ceiling with that rare old book." Copies of the Bible have been multiplied a million fold, and scattered broadcast over the earth. The other witness,—the church, has since then, also, been greatly magnified. In this age of missions and Bibles, the number of believers has been greatly multiplied; and missionaries have penetrated all lands. The last half-century has been distinguished for its wonderful revivals; and the servants of the cross have "prophesied [or testified] again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings," 10:11.
The same hour, is the time of the slaughter of the witnesses. Its epoch was to be marked by a great political revolution, which, in the Apocalypse, is symbolized by an earthquake. In the year in which Christianity was suppressed by France, they beheaded their king, abolished the monarchy, and entirely revolutionized the government. In the reign of terror following, the best blood of the nation was shed like water, and no man of influence could consider his life secure. Men, women and children were dragged before the revolutionary tribunals, had their accusations read to them, and were immediately condemned, and hurried off in crowds without a trial, to be shot, drowned or beheaded. At Lyons thirty-one thousand persons were thus slain; at Nantes thirty-two thousand,—and throughout France in proportion. The number thus slain, has been estimated at over one million,—a number hardly credible, and which might well be symbolized by seven thousand—a perfect number. Well might the remnant be affrighted, and hasten to give glory to the GOD of heaven, by the restoration of that book, the setting aside of which had involved them in such dire calamities.
The tenth of the city which fell, must be the tenth of the Roman hierarchy, which is symbolized by the city. With the suppression of religion, the Catholic church was prohibited, with all others. France was one of the ten kingdoms, and the overthrow of the church in France, would be the fall of one-tenth of that city.
Thus passed the second woe—the prelude to the third woe, which cometh quickly.
The Seventh Trumpet.
"And the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, The kingdom of the world hath become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Anointed; and he will reign for ever and ever. And the twenty-four elders, who sat before God on their thrones, fell on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We thank thee, O Lord God Almighty, who art, and who wast, because thou hast taken to thyself thy great power, and reigned. And the nations were enraged, and thy wrath is come, and the season of the dead, when they should be judged, and a reward should be given to thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to those who fear thy name, small and great; and when thou shouldest destroy those, who destroy the earth. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of his covenant in his temple appeared, and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunders, and an earthquake, and great hail."—Rev. 11:15-19.
The seventh, like the preceding trumpets, marks an epoch from which an era dates. "The days of the voice of the seventh angel" (10:7), are indicative of a period of time to follow its sounding, in which will be fulfilled the events predicted of that era.
The voices in heaven, which immediately follow its sounding, are prophetic utterances of events then to transpire; and are distinct from the response of the elders. When Christ "shall be revealed from heaven," he will be accompanied "with his mighty angels," 2 Thess. 1:7. He will descend "with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God," (1 Thess. 4:16); and the shout is evidently that of the attending angels, symbolized by those voices, which will announce the revolution which is to be made in the empire of the earth, and of the substitution of the kingdom of God in the place of human governments.
The kingdom here established, is the long promised consummation, foretold by prophets, and anticipated by saints of every age. It is that predicted by Daniel, when he says: "In the days of these kings shall the GOD of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever." Dan. 2:44. He also "saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.... And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him." Ib. 7:13, 14, 27. It is that referred to in the simple petition, "Thy kingdom come" (Matt. 6:10), which was to be the great object of our prayer till the final consummation; which the disciples thought was to appear immediately, when they journeyed towards, and were nigh to, Jerusalem, and which misapprehension the Saviour corrected by the parable of a nobleman going into a far country to receive for himself kingly authority, and to return, Luke 20:12. It is that respecting which they inquired, as the SAVIOUR was about to be taken from them, if he would at that time restore it to Israel, (Acts 1:6); and to which the apostle refers, when he declares to TIMOTHY that the Lord JESUS CHRIST will judge the living and the dead at his appearing and kingdom, 2 Tim. 4:1.
"Thy kingdom come! Thus, day by day We lift our hands to God and pray; But who has ever duly weighed The meaning of the words he said?"
This kingdom is to be an eternal kingdom: "He will reign for ever and ever." This is in accordance with the declaration in Daniel, that "the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even for ever and ever," Dan. 7:18. To its eternity Nathan testifies when he says to David, "Thy house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever," 2 Sam. 7:16. Though this was spoken to David, it was to be fulfilled in Christ; for we read in Luke (1:32, 33), "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." It is predicted in Isaiah, that "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end; upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth, even forever," Isa. 9:6, 7. To the Son the Father saith, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever," (Heb. 1:8); and the blood-washed throng ascribe to him "glory and dominion for ever and ever," 1:5, 6.
"Thy kingdom come! O day of joy, When praise shall every tongue employ; When hate and strife and war shall cease, And man with man shall be at peace. Jesus shall reign on Zion's hill, And all the earth with glory fill; His word shall Paradise restore, And sin and death afflict no more. God's holy will shall then be done By all who live beneath the sun; For saints shall then as angels be, All changed to immortality."
The four-and-twenty elders,—symbolizing those who are redeemed "out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation," 5:8, 9,—at the establishment of the kingdom, are to be made "kings and priests," and are to "reign on the earth," 5:10. They are "saints of the Most High," who are to "take the kingdom," and possess it "forever." With the announcement of its establishment, they immediately respond with glad hosannas, which spontaneously and unitedly burst forth from the enraptured hosts of the ransomed ones, as they find themselves clothed upon with immortality, and in the joyful presence of their Lord. They are raised from the dead at this epoch; or are among the living who will then be translated, as says the apostle:
"Behold I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump,"—the last of the seven;—"for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
The nations who are angry, will be the nations out from whom the righteous are taken, and who are left to the recompense of their reward;—"when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe," 2 Thess. 1:7-10.
The heathen had raged, and the people imagined a vain thing. The kings of the earth had set themselves, and the rulers taken counsel against the Lord, and against his anointed. Now the time of their anger is to end: the time for the exercise of the wrath of Jehovah upon them, has arrived, and they are filled with fear, consternation, and shame. The time has come when the dead are to be avenged,—when those who had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held, whose souls under the altar during the fifth seal, cried with a loud voice, saying,
"How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" (6:10) find their expectations answered, and the destroyers, or perverters of the earth, in like manner perverted and destroyed. This winds up the kingdom of Satan on earth; his reign terminates, and his subjects are banished. The absence of all the wicked, with the transfiguration of all the righteous living and resurrection of the just, leave for subjects only those who have passed the period of their probation, and are introduced into the everlasting kingdom of God.
The opening of the temple in heaven, and the presentation of the Ark of the Covenant, symbolize the unfolding of the mystery, in which the administration of God may have been shrouded, making apparent all which may have been inexplicable in his dealings with men; and rendering evident the verity of his promises to his chosen ones.
The voices, lightnings, thunders, earthquake, and hail, are appropriate symbols of the plagues which will fall upon the wicked. These are fearfully depicted in the Scriptures. God says to Job, "Hast thou seen the treasures of hail which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war," 38:22, 23. Judgment then will be laid "to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies. The Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall show the lighting down of his arm with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones," Isa. 28:17.
This prepares the way for the purification of the earth as foretold by Peter (2 Pet. 3:12, 13), the restitution of all things (3:21), the new heavens and new earth (21:1), the descent of the saints (21:2), and the kingdom of God on the earth, 21:3. Assuming the correctness of the view here given, how near to the time now present does it seem to fix the consummation!
"So shall the world go on, To good malignant, to bad men benign, Under her own weight groaning: till the day Appear, of respiration to the just, And vengeance to the wicked; at return Of him—thy Saviour and thy Lord: Last in the clouds from heaven, to be revealed In glory of the Father, to dissolve Satan, with his perverted world; then raise From the conflagrant mass, purged and refined, New heavens, new earth, ages of endless date, Founded in righteousness, and peace, and love, To bring forth fruits, joy, and eternal bliss."—Milton.
"The world shall burn, and from her ashes spring New heavens and earth, wherein the just shall dwell, And after all their tribulations long, See golden days, fruitful of golden deeds, With joy and love triumphing, and fair truth."—Ib.
The Woman and Dragon.
"And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon was under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she, being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. And his tail dragged the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman, who was about to be delivered, to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a male child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was snatched up to God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the desert, where she hath a place there prepared of God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days."—Rev. 12:1-6.
With this chapter commences a new series of events, extending through the entire gospel dispensation; the former series being terminated by the events of the last trumpet.
The heaven, where these great "wonders" are exhibited, must symbolize the theatre of their fulfilment—the station to be occupied by the agents symbolized, which must be as conspicuous as heaven is relatively high above the earth.
The woman, according to the use of the symbol in other places, must be a representative of the church. As the harlot on a scarlet-colored beast (17:3), is a symbol of a corrupt and apostate church, so a virtuous woman is a chosen symbol of the true church.
The "Jerusalem which is above is the mother" of all true Christians (Gal. 4:26); she is also "the bride, the Lamb's wife" (21:9); and "the remnant of her seed," are those "which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ," v. 17. Her robe of light, her position above the moon, and her crown of stars, indicate her greatness and glory.
The epoch symbolized, as appears from the relative position of the woman and dragon, is evidently just prior to the first advent of the Messiah, when his coming was eagerly anticipated and ardently desired by the church, and the Roman power had thereby been excited to jealousy.
The church is the same in all ages, comprising only the true people of God; all of whom will have part in the first resurrection, 20:6. The Jewish church was continued by the breaking off of unbelieving branches, and the grafting in of believing Gentiles with believing Jews, who alike partake of the root and fatness of the same olive-tree, Rom. 11:17.
Previous to the first advent, the Jewish church occupied a high political position, above that of the inferior officers of state, and was in the enjoyment of imperial favor. Patriarchs and prophets—the messengers of the church—were stars in her crown of rejoicing, 1:20. From the utterance of the prediction that the woman's seed should bruise the serpent's head (Gen. 3:15), the coming of the promised deliverer was the great desire of the church. Even Eve exclaimed, at the birth of her first-born (literally), "I have gotten the man from the Lord," Gen. 4:1. For his coming,
"Kings and prophets waited long But died without the sight."
They "inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow," 1 Pet. 1:10, 11. "Many righteous men desired" to see his day (Matt. 13:17); Abraham rejoiced and was made glad at its prospect, when in the distant future (John, 8:56); and Hezekiah lamented that because of death he should not see "the Lord in the land of the living," Isa. 38:11.
The seventy weeks indicated to the Jews the time of "the Messiah, the Prince," Dan. 9:26-27. When these were near their termination, to the pious and devout Simeon who was "waiting for the consolation of Israel," it "was revealed by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ," Luke 2:25, 26. And the opinion was so general, that when the Baptist preceded him, "the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ or no," Luke 3:15. This expectation is testified to by the Jewish historians Philo and Josephus; and it was that which so troubled Herod, when wise men came, saying, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" Matt. 2:1-3.
The belief that some remarkable personage was about to appear in Judea, was not confined to Palestine, but extended to Egypt, Rome, Greece, and wherever the Jews were scattered abroad. Says Suetonius, a Roman historian: "An ancient and settled persuasion prevailed throughout the East, that the Fates had decreed some one to proceed from Judea, who should attain universal empire." And Tacitus, another Roman historian, says: "Many were persuaded that it was contained in the ancient books of their priests, that at that very time the East should prevail, and that some one should proceed from Judea, and possess the dominion."
The great red dragon sustains a relation to the woman, analogous to that sustained by the nondescript beast (of Dan. 7:7), to the saints of the Most High; and his position respecting the man-child is like that of the exceeding great horn (Dan. 8:9), to the Prince of princes, Dan. 8:25. Like the beast referred to, the dragon has ten horns; and its characteristics indicate that it also symbolizes the Roman empire,—"the fourth kingdom upon earth," Dan. 7:23. The dragon is a monster serpent. "That old serpent" who seduced Eve (Gen. 3:5), "called the devil" (Matt. 4:1-12), and "Satan" (2 Cor. 2:11), "who deceiveth the whole world," is an appropriate representative of Rome.
The "head" of a beast, sustains a relation to the beast analogous to that of the government to the people of an empire. It is that by which the beast is directed and governed. When distinguished from the body of the beast (Dan. 7:11), according to the analogy, it must be understood as a symbol of the directing and controlling power, in the kingdom indicated by the beast. Several heads on the same beast, on this principle, must indicate the several forms of government to which the nation is subject. As these cannot be contemporary, like the divisions of a kingdom represented by the horns, they must be successive. To suppose they represent different governments, destroys the analogy, and makes them separate beasts, instead of heads of the same beast; and no government can be subject to more than one head at the same time.
The "seven heads" of the dragon, then, symbolize the directing and controlling powers which ruled the Roman empire,—the seven successive forms of government under which it existed. Rome was founded about B. C. 753, from small beginnings, on the summit of Mount Palatine, and gradually increased in extent, till it spread over seven hills: the Palatine, Capitoline, Aventine, Esquiline, Coelius, and Quirinalia; and its population of about three thousand in the time of Romulus, increased to about two millions in the time of Augustus Caesar.
Previous to the subversion of the empire, Rome existed under different forms of government, as follows:—
1. Kingly.—The first government established was a monarchy, and lasted two hundred and forty-four years, under seven kings, viz., Romulus, Numa, Tullus Hostilius, Ancus Martius, Tarquin Priscus, Servius Tullius, and Tarquin the Proud, who was afterwards expelled from the throne. This was denominated the infancy of the Roman empire.
2. Consular.—In B. C. 509, the constitution of Rome was remodelled, and the executive power committed to two consuls, to be elected annually. This commenced the "Commonwealth of Rome."
3. Dictatorial.—The office of dictator was the highest known in Rome, and was only resorted to in cases of emergency. He was elected for six months only, and usually resigned his authority, which, for the time, was nearly absolute, as soon as he had effected the object for which he was chosen.
4. Decemviral.—In B. C. 451, the government was so changed, that, instead of the two consuls, the government was committed to ten men, to be chosen annually, and jointly exercise the sovereign power. After two years the decemvirs were banished, and the consular government was restored.
5. Tribunitial.—In B. C. 426, Rome having become a military state, military tribunes were substituted for the consular power, till B. C. 366, when the latter was again restored.
6. Pagan Imperial.—With the battle of Actium, B. C. 31, the Roman Commonwealth terminated; and Augustus Caesar united in his own person not only the offices of Consul, Tribune, &c., but also that of Supreme Pontiff,—the head of the pagan hierarchy. This last office, says Gibbon, "was constantly exercised by the emperors." Thus were united the highest civil and ecclesiastical powers of the state.
7. Christian Imperial.—In A. D. 312, the government was revolutionized, by the accession of Constantine to the throne. He effected important changes in the relations of the people to the monarch, opposed idolatry, and by the introduction of Christianity, effected a political change in the laws and administration of the empire. This continued, with a slight interruption under Julian the Apostate, till the subversion of the Western empire, A. D. 476.
Mr. Elliott, in explanation of the first five heads, says: "I adopt, with the most entire satisfaction, that generally-received Protestant interpretation, which, following the authoritative statement of Livy and Tacitus (the latter great historian, St. John's own contemporary), enumerates kings, consuls, dictators, decemvirs, and military tribunes, as the first five constitutional heads of the Roman city and commonwealth; then as the sixth, the Imperial head, commencing with Octavian."—Horae Apoca., vol. III., p. 106, 4th ed.
Those heads are shown to symbolize seven forms of government, by the explanation that "they are seven mountains where the woman sits on them [mountains also symbolizing governments], and are seven kings," 17:9, 10. And they are shown to be successive, by the fact that, when John wrote, the first five had passed away, one only then existed,—the Pagan Imperial,—and the other head was then in the future, 17:10.
The "ten horns" also symbolize kings, or dynasties; but, unlike the heads, instead of being successive, they are contemporaneous. According to the explanation, they had received no kingdom when John wrote, and were all to exercise power at the same time: "The ten horns which thou didst see, are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom; but they receive power as kings, one hour with the wild beast," 17:12. These will be more particularly noticed in connection with the thirteenth chapter, and there shown to be the ten contemporaneous governments which succeeded to the dominion, on the subversion of the Western Empire. See p. 169.
The "seven crowns" on the heads of the dragon, indicate that the acts here symbolized, would be fulfilled during the period when the sovereignty of Rome should be vested in the forms of government symbolized by the heads, and not during that symbolized by the horns.
The woman appeared in the symbolic heavens anterior to the dragon. Prior to the birth of Christ, the church was conspicuous and honored. The sacrifices which smoked on Jewish altars, were offered to Jehovah. The subjects of the divine government conducted their service with all the splendor imparted by the Jewish ritual. Royalty was an appendage of the nation: the sceptre did not depart from Judah, nor a law-giver from between his feet, till Shiloh came, Gen. 49:10. By an alliance with the Romans, B. C. 135, Rome took its position in the presence of the woman.
The first act of the dragon was by a sweep of its tail to draw down one-third of the stars, and to cast them to the earth. This was before the birth of the man-child. After Rome attained the supremacy, Judea proportionably suffered. Her glory was measurably dimmed by many indignities before her subjugation to Rome was consummated. Jerusalem was repeatedly besieged. At one time (B. C. 94) Alexander Jannaeus slew six thousand persons on account of their meeting in the temple at the feast of tabernacles. In B. C. 63, Judea was conquered by Pompey, the Roman general. In B. C. 54, Crassus plundered the temple of Jerusalem. In B. C. 37, Jerusalem was taken, after a siege of six months. Various other difficulties occurred between Judea and Rome, previous to the Saviour's advent, on account of which she was greatly depressed and humbled, so that it might with propriety be said that one-third of her stars were cast to the ground. This depression was one great reason why the church within her borders looked so earnestly for a Deliverer.
The Man-child is the one "who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron," according to the prediction of Christ in the second Psalm; which proves its reference to the Saviour.
The purpose of the dragon to destroy the child of the woman as soon as it should be born, in accordance with the view here taken, would symbolize the purpose of the Roman power, by the agency of Herod the Roman governor in Judea, to destroy the infant Saviour. "When he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem, in Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet." And Herod "sent forth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men," Matt. 2:1-16. Thus Rome sought to slay the Saviour as soon as he was born; but Joseph took the child and fled into Egypt. Afterwards Christ was crucified by Roman soldiers, and deposited in the tomb, arising again the third day.
His being caught up to God and to his throne, symbolizes his resurrection from the dead, and ascension from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:9), to the right hand of the Majesty on high; "whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things," Ib. 3:21.
The flight of the woman into the wilderness, denotes her descent from the conspicuous position she had occupied, and the dispersion of the church. With the crucifixion of Christ, Judaism was no longer the casket in which the church was enshrined. It left its place in the moral heavens, and the followers of Christ were scattered abroad, Acts 8:1-4. Thus she virtually fled into the wilderness—into the condition, where, subsequently, she was to be nourished for 1260 prophetic days.
It is objected to the application of the man-child to the Saviour, that it should be prophetic, and not retrospective. This objection would be equally valid to the application of the symbolic heads, against which it is never urged. That which is retrospective, to be appropriately symbolized, must be in harmony with, and explanatory of other parts. Thus, by the man-child and previous travail of the woman, she is identified, and her relation to the dragon established. No other subject could fulfil the conditions of the symbol, for of no other was it predicted: "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.—Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.—Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel," Psa. 2:8-10.
The War in Heaven.
"And a war took place in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon;, and the dragon fought and his angels, and he prevailed not; nor was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, the old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."—Rev. 12:7-9.
The churches,—which on the persecution subsequent to the Pentecostal season were scattered abroad, and went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4),—afterwards had rest, and were multiplied, Ib. 9:31. They were thus enabled again to act a conspicuous part, as symbolized by the contest between Michael and the dragon.
The contest symbolized, is a religious one; for the dragon is overcome "by the word of their testimony," v. 11.
Michael and his angels, then, must symbolize the body of Christ,—the apostles, and their successor, under the guidance of the Lord,—who constituted an army of religious teachers. With the arrows of truth they assailed the idolatrous combinations of their opponents. Under the first seal, they are represented by a mounted warrior, with bow and crown, going forth conquering and to conquer, 6:2. See p. 58.
The dragon, with the appendages of heads, horns, and diadems, was seen to be a symbol of the Roman government. Divested of those, it would simply represent the Pagan hierarchy with which the contest was waged. The heathen priests and their adherents, thus warred with the preachers of Christianity.
Its prevailing not, shows the relative success of the two parties. The struggle continued from the day of Pentecost till the accession of Constantine. The church waded through bloody scenes of bitter persecution, which, instead of diminishing, greatly added to her numbers—"the blood of the martyrs" proving "the seed of the church."
The heathen priests were not deficient in logic, philosophy, and artful sophistry, by which to defend their mythology. They exhausted these, and then resorted to persecution, torture, and death; yet they prevailed not. With the weapons of truth, the teachers of Christianity successfully assailed those antiquated forms of error,—overcoming "by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony." "They loved not their lives unto the death," but freely gave themselves for Christ, till, in time, the current of popular favor ceased to flow in the direction of paganism. The accession of Constantine to the throne, put an end to the dragonic period of Rome; the Pagan service gave place to the worship of Jehovah. The rites of heathenism were no longer the religion of the state, and its ministers were displaced from the exalted position they had so long occupied. Their place was no longer in the symbolic heavens, but in a less conspicuous station.
The casting out of the dragon, would then be this expulsion of the pagan hierarchy from its national importance, and the dejection of the priesthood and their adherents to the earth,—below their former high station,—and to the sea, among the unsettled tribes and nations outside of Rome. This being a religious and not a political event, it does not immediately affect Rome's nationality. That it is not the overthrow of a kingdom, but of religious rites, is shown by the rejoicings which followed.
Rejoicings of the Victors.
"And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, Now is come the salvation and the strength, and the Kingdom of or God, and the power of his Anointed: for the accuser of our brethren it cast out, who accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives to death. On this account, rejoice, ye heavens, and ye who dwell in them."—Rev. 12:10-12.
The loud voice is heard in the symbolic heaven from which the Dragon had been cast. By the displacement of the Pagan hierarchy, and the substitution of Christianity under Constantine, the adherents of the latter succeeded to the place of the former, and rejoiced over them.
A loud voice symbolizes the utterance of the thoughts and feelings of an interested multitude. The nature of the voice indicates the nature of the utterance—whether it be one of expectation, fear, warning, or instruction. This voice is expressive of the then prevalent expectation, that, with the displacement of Paganism commenced the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. This belief was not necessarily well founded;—its existence only being symbolized.
On the triumph of Constantine over Licinius, Eusebius says:—"There were illuminations everywhere. They who were before dejected looked on one another with joyful aspects and smiles, and with choirs and hymns through the cities and country, gave honor first to God, the Supreme Ruler of all, as they were taught, and then to the pious emperor and his children." Says Mr Lord:
"Eusebius represents the victors at the precipitation of Maxentius and his attendants into the Tiber, as saying, like Moses at the overthrow of the Egyptians in the Red Sea: 'Let us sing to the Lord, for he is signally glorified. Horse and rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord my helper and defender was with me unto salvation. Who, O Lord, is like to thee among gods? Who is like to thee, glorified by the holy, admirable in praise, doing wonders? Constantine entered Rome in triumph, hymning these and similar passages to God, the author of the victory.' And on the fall of Licinius he represents the church as uniting in thanksgiving for the deliverance, and congratulations at the overthrow of idolatry, and establishment of Christ's kingdom; and devotes the tenth book of his history to the edicts of the emperor by which the church was nationalized and endowed, and to the restoration of the temples, and the public rejoicings at their dedication. 'Let thanks be given by all to the Almighty Ruler of the universe, and to Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Redeemer, through whom we pray that peace from external foes may be uninterruptedly preserved to us, and tranquillity of mind.'
" 'Let us sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done wonderful things. His right hand has saved him and his holy arm. The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the presence of the nations. We may now appropriately respond to the inspired command to sing a new song, inasmuch as after such direful spectacles and narrations we now have the happiness to see and celebrate what many holy men before us and the martyrs for God desired to see on earth, and did not see, and to hear, and have not heard. But advancing more rapidly they attained far superior gifts in heaven, being caught up to the paradise of celestial joy; while we acknowledge the gifts we enjoy are greater than we deserve, and contemplate with wonder the largeness of the divine bounty. Admiring and adoring with all our souls, we testify to the truth of the prophet's words, "Come and see the works of the Lord, what wonders he has wrought in the earth, abolishing wars to the ends of the world. The bow he has broken, he has dashed the arms, the shield he has burned in the fire." Rejoicing at the manifest fulfilment of these predictions to us, we go on with our history.' He goes on accordingly to represent the whole population, freed from the domination of the tyrants, and relieved from oppression, as acknowledging the only true God and protector of the pious, and these especially who had placed their hope in Christ, as filled with inexpressible joy; the ministers everywhere delivering commemorative addresses, and the whole multitude offering praises and thanksgiving to God.
"Lactantius also: 'Let us celebrate the triumph of God with gladness; let us commemorate his victory with praise; let us make mention in our prayers day and night of the peace which, after ten years of persecution, he has conferred on his people.' "—Ex. of Apoc., pp. 343-4.
Multitudes actually supposed the long-predicted kingdom of God was now being established. Says Mr. Elliott:
"Can we wonder, then, at the exultation that was felt at this time by many, perhaps by most, that bore the Christian name: or at their high-raised expectations as to the future happy destiny of the Roman, now that it had been changed into the Christian, nation? It seemed to them as if it had become God's covenanted people, like Israel of old: and the expectation was not unnatural,—an expectation strengthened by the remarkable tranquillity which, throughout the extent of the now reuenited empire, followed almost immediately on Constantine's establishment of Christianity,—that not only the temporal blessings of the ancient Jewish covenant would thenceforth in no small measure attach to them, but even those prophesied of as appertaining to the latter day. Hence on the medals of that era the emblem of the phoenix, all radiant with the rising sunbeams, to represent the empire as now risen into new life and hope, and its legend which spoke of the happy restoration of the times. Hence, in forgetfulness of all former prognostications of Antichrist and fearful coming evils, the reference by some of the most eminent of their bishops to the latter-day blessedness, as even then about fulfilling. The state of things was such, Eusebius tells us, that it looked like 'the very image of the kingdom of Christ.' The city built by the emperor at Jerusalem, beside the new and magnificent Church of the Holy Sepulchre,—the sacred capital, as it were, to the new empire,—might be, perhaps, he suggested, the New Jerusalem, the theme of so many prophecies. Yet again, on occasion of the opening of the new church at Tyre, he expressed in the following glowing language, not his own feelings only, but those, we may be sure, of not a few of the congregated Christian ministers and people that heard him: 'What so many of the Lord's saints and confessors before our time desired to see, and saw not, and to hear, and heard not, that behold now before our eyes! It was of us the prophet spake when he told how the wildernesses and solitary places should be glad, and the desert rejoice and blossom as the lily. Whereas the church was widowed and desolate, her children have now to exclaim to her, Make room, enlarge thy borders! the place is too strait for us. The promise is fulfilling to her, In righteousness shalt thou be established: all thy children shall be taught of God: and great shall be the peace of thy children.' "—Horae Apoc., v. i., pp. 230-1.
They rejoiced over the downfall of the dragon as over "the Accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night." The phrase "our brethren," proves that those who unite in this song are the living saints on the earth. The reference to Satan as an Accuser bears a close resemblance to Zech. 3:1, where Joshua, as a symbol of the people of Israel, is represented as standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.—"שטן Satan signifies an adversary. רשטנו lesiteno, to be his adversary or accuser."—Dr. Clark.
Satan's most common work is to invent false accusations against those whose efforts tend to frustrate his designs. The Christians had endured false accusations and bitter persecutions, and therefore rejoiced the more over the defeat of the Pagans.
The Flight of the Woman.
"Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, and of the sea! for the devil is come to you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short season."
"And when the dragon saw that he was cast out into the earth, he persecuted the woman, who brought forth the male child. And two wings of a great eagle were given to the woman, that she might fly into the desert, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water like a river, after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the river. And the earth helped the woman; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river, which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was enraged against the woman, and went away to make war with the remnant of her seed, that keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus."—Rev. 12:12-17.
The rejoicing of Christians, according to this symbolization, is afterwards followed by renewed triumphs of the Pagans over them. The hatred of the Pagan worshippers to Christianity, is strikingly evinced; but it is manifested in a manner different from the former contest.
When the church sought only to overcome by "the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony," it was owned of Christ; but as it became proud and worldly, and cared more for popular favor than for purity of faith and practice, the true church which the woman symbolized, was represented only by those who continued faithful to their profession. Historians inform us that with the success of Constantine, the visible church became speedily corrupt. As it became popular, unconverted men sought to be enrolled as members. The Pagans, instead of approaching as enemies, came as professed friends. As a profession of Christianity was alone necessary for admission to the church, multitudes sought connection with it. This caused a condition of things, of which Dr. Milner thus speaks:—"In the general appearance of the church, we cannot see much of the spirit of godliness. External piety flourished. But faith, love, heavenly-mindedness appear very rare. The doctrine of real conversion was very much lost, and external baptism placed in its stead: and the true doctrine of justification by faith, and true practical use of a crucified Saviour for troubled consciences were scarcely to be seen at this time. Superstition and self-righteousness were making vigorous shoots; and the real gospel of Christ was hidden from the men that professed it."
To the same effect is the report of Mosheim:—Of the life and morals of the professing Christians of the fourth century, he says: "Good men were, as before, mixed with bad; but the bad were by degrees so multiplied, that men truly holy and devoted to God appeared more rarely; and the pious few were almost oppressed by the vicious multitude." Of their doctrines he says: "Fictions, of early origin" (about saint veneration and relics, a purifying fire, celibacy, &c., &c.), "now so prevailed as in course of time almost to thrust true religion aside, or at least to exceedingly obscure and tarnish it."
Says Mr Lord:—"Constantine and his successors introduced a flood of false doctrines, superstitions and idolatries, into the church, which were incompatible with a pure worship, and swept all who yielded to their impulse to the gulf of apostasy. Such were the veneration of the cross, and ascription to it of miraculous powers, the homage of relics, the invocation of saints, the conversion of religion into gorgeous ceremonies, the encouragement of celibacy, and the arrogation of the throne and prerogatives of God by civil and ecclesiastical rulers. These falsehoods, follies, and impieties, introduced or adopted by the emperors, encouraged by their example, sanctioned by their laws, and enforced by the penalties of excommunication, imprisonment, the forfeiture of civil rights, banishment, and death, came armed with an overpowering force to all who were not fortified against them by the special aids of the divine spirit, and like a resistless torrent bore away the great mass of the church."—Exp. of Apoc., p. 350.
With the accession of multitudes of unworthy members, and the prevalence of false doctrines, the true church would have been speedily overwhelmed had not the people of God been sustained from such deleterious influences. To the woman, therefore, were given two wings of a great eagle that she might escape. Wings are symbolic of power of flight—for succor, or escape. The four-winged leopard of Daniel used his speed to approach and demolish the enemy; the woman, to escape hers. The church of old was sustained in like manner. Thus God said to Israel, "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you to myself."—Ex. 19:4.
On the introduction of new rites and doctrines into the church, multitudes withdrew from the public assemblies, and worshipped apart. They retired from the observation of their rulers and lived secluded for a long period.
Some may inquire for the historical evidence of the time when such a body withdrew. This, from the nature of the case, it may be difficult to give. If the withdrawal of the true worshippers had been an occurrence of so much notoriety as to be prominently historically noticed, it might have defeated their withdrawal. It is sufficient that the prophecy makes such a withdrawal necessary; and that at a later period such a body was found existing as predicted. See p. 198. Says Mr. Lord:
"Her retreat into her place from the face of the serpent, denotes that the scene of her residence was unknown to the rulers. The anger of the serpent indicates their continued disposition to destroy her, if in their power; while its going on to make war with such of her seed as had not retreated to the desert, denotes that they continued, after her disappearance, to persecute the isolated individuals that from time to time dissented from the corrupt church, and professed the pure faith.
"As it was by spiritual aids that the true worshippers were enabled to resist the temptations and force by which the rulers endeavored to constrain them to apostasy, and to fly to the desert, no specific record of those aids is to be sought on the page of history. The only evidence that we can ask or possess, that they were conferred, is presented in the fact that a body of dissentients from the corrupt church were in a latter age found in a secluded scene, who had survived the endeavors of the rulers of the fourth, fifth, sixth, and following centuries, to compel all their subjects to conformity, and who have continued to maintain a separate existence, and offer an unidolatrous worship to the present time.
"And such a body were the Waldenses, inhabiting the eastern valleys of the Cottian Alps. They are known, from the testimony of cotemporary Catholics and their own authors, to have existed there as early as the eleventh century. It was then, and is now, claimed by themselves, and admitted by their enemies, that they had subsisted there from a much earlier age. These were a Christian church, having the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, regarding them as a revelation from God, and making them the rule of their faith; having a ministry of their own, holding religious assemblies, professing and teaching the doctrines of the gospel, and celebrating the sacraments.
"They were distinguished for the simplicity and purity of their lives. It was asserted by them, and repeated by the Catholics, that they were induced to retreat to the secluded valleys which they inhabit, to escape the despotism of the rulers and the corruptions and tyranny of the church, soon after its nationalization by Constantine. They have continued to subsist there to the present time, as a separate and evangelical church."—Exp. Apoc., pp. 348, 349, 359.
Says Mr. Elliott:—"I must not pass on without pressing on the reader's notice this notable pre-figuration of the seclusion of Christ's church in the wilderness, as the true and fittest answer to the Romish anti-Protestant taunt, 'Where was your religion before Luther?' Protestants have not duly, as it seems to me, applied the answer here given. For the wilderness-life necessarily, as I must repeat,—and that on Bossuet's own showing,—implies the invisibility of her who lives in it. And consequently, instead of the long previous invisibility of a church like the Lutheran, or Anglican Reformed, of the sixteenth century, in respect of doctrine and worship, being an argument against, it is an argument for it. The Romish church, which never knew the predicted wilderness-life, could not, for this very reason, be the woman of the 12th Apocalyptic chapter; that is, could not be the true church of Christ.
"For 1260 prophetic days, then, or years, she was to disappear from men's view in the Roman world. Is it asked how her vitality was preserved? Doubtless in her children, known to God, though for the most part unknown to men; just like the 7000 that Elijah knew not of, who had not bowed the knee to Baal; some, it might be, in monasteries, some in the secular walks of life; but all alike insulated in spirit from those around them, and as regards the usual means of grace, spiritually destitute and desolate; even as in a barren and dry land, where no water is.—Besides whom, some few there were of her children,—some very few,—prepared, like Elijah of old, to act a bolder part, and stand forth, under special commission from God, as Christ's witnesses before Christendom."—Horae Apoc., pp. 55-57.
The flood of water cast out after the woman, is an appropriate symbol of the various tribes which subsequently overran the Western empire. Waters symbolize peoples, 17:15; and by hordes of barbarian Huns, Goths, and Vandals, Rome was inundated as by a flood, in the 5th century; and in A. D. 476 its government was entirely subverted.
Such an irruption of barbarians might be expected to extirpate Christianity from the earth; but help came from an unexpected quarter. The woman had retired to her secure retreat, and the earth swallowed up the flood. Those barbarous tribes were absorbed by, and mixed with, the previous population of the empire, and constituted the clay ingredient with the iron, in the feet of the metallic image.—Dan. 2:41. They rapidly assimilated to the character and habits of the previous inhabitants; and ultimately adopted the forms of government and religion which for a time they subverted; and within the limits of the Western empire, in the place of the Imperial head, constituted ten contemporary kingdoms. These were a continuation of the former government, and were symbolized by:
The Ten-Horned Beast.
"And I was standing on the sand of the sea, and saw a wild beast ascending out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns ten diadems, and on his heads names of reviling. And the wild beast, which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world admired and followed the beast. And they worshipped the dragon, for he gave power to the wild beast: and they worshipped the wild beast, saying, Who is like the wild beast, and who is able to make war with him?"—Rev. 18:1-4.
The sea, from which this beast emerged, is evidently the turbulent state of anarchy, to which the people of the fourth kingdom had been reduced, on its subversion. And the beast which came up out of the sea, represents the forms of government which then arose.
Its heads and horns synchronize with those of the dragonic monster, which had preceded it, and disappeared from the view of the revelator. And they doubtless symbolize the same forms of government. See pp. 145-148.
The ten crowns encircling its horns, indicate that an era is foreshadowed, when the sovereignty of the kingdom shall have been transferred from the forms of government symbolized by the heads,—which had before been encircled by the crowns,—to that represented by the horns. There is great unanimity among Protestant writers, in regarding these as the first ten kingdoms which existed in the western empire arising during the period of its decline, viz:
1. The Huns in Hungary, from A. D. 356.
2. The Ostrogoths in Mysia, from A. D. 377. They invaded Italy, and conquered the Heruli in 493; and were defeated in 538 by Justinian, when the Pope was placed in quiet possession of the capital of Rome.
3. The Visigoths in Pannonia, from A. D. 378 to 408, when they removed to the south of France till 585. They then removed to, and subjugated Spain.
4. The Franks in France, from A. D. 407.
5. The Vandals in Spain, from A. D. 407 till 427, when they removed to Africa, and continued an independent kingdom till subjugated by Justinian in 533.
6. The Suevi and Alans in Gascoigne and Spain, from 407 till 585.
7. The Burgundians in Burgundy, from A. D. 407 till 524, when they became subject for a time to the Franks; but afterwards they arose again to an independent kingdom.
8. The Heruli, who advanced into Italy under Attila, and in 476 terminated the imperial rule by the dethronement of Agustulus. They were in turn conquered by the Ostrogoths in A. D. 493.
9. The Saxons and Angles in Britain from about A. D. 450. And,
10. The Lombards in Germany, from A. D. 483.
The name of blasphemy, on the heads of this beast, identifies it as the successor and representative of the persecuting power which sought the life of the Man-child, (12:4), and caused the woman to flee to the wilderness, 12:14.
Its characteristics resemble those of the lion, bear, and leopard, of Daniel's vision (Dan. 7:4-6), which respectively symbolized the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Grecian kingdoms. These mark it as their successor—synchronizing with Daniel's ten-horned nondescript beast, (Dan. 7:7); which was the fourth kingdom that should exist on the earth, and the ten horns of which, symbolized the same ten-fold partition of the Roman empire.
His power, seat, and great authority being given by the dragon, is another evidence that it is a continuation of that fourth kingdom succeeding to its sovereignty. The laws of the ancient empire were generally adopted by the ten kingdoms, which assumed and exercised the prerogatives of ancient Rome. Says Bossuet: "Whoever carefully examines the laws of the Theodosian and Justinian codes against heretics, will see that they are the source of the decrees against them, that the church, aided by the edicts of princes, enacted in the third and fourth Lateran councils."
The head, which was as it were wounded to death, would indicate that under the government symbolized by that head, the life of the beast had become apparently extinct. This was the case when the empire was subverted. In the succession of the previous forms of government, the empire itself was not in any particular peril. They gave place, each to its successor, without any subversion of the government. But when the seventh head ceased to exercise sovereignty, the beast itself was apparently dead. The wound, however, did not prove mortal. The beast still lived. Its sovereignty was perpetuated by the decemregal governments; which constituted the eighth form of government—symbolized by the beast that was, is not, and yet is again in existence and will continue till the day of perdition, 17:11; 19:20.
They worshipped the dragon and beast, by regarding the latter as a continuation of the former power, and regarding the sovereign power of Rome as unparalleled and invincible—as is shown by the questions: "Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" Those combined governments were regarded by their subjects with wonder and veneration. Says Mr. Lord: "The serfs and common people, sunk for ages to the most degraded vassalage, revered the monarchs, the various ranks of nobles, and their armed followers, as a superior race, while poets and historians celebrated their warlike exploits, and philosophers and priests justified their usurpations, and eulogized the wisdom and benignity of their rule."
The Mouth of the Beast.
"And there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and revilings; and power was given to him to make war forty-two months. And he opened his mouth in reviling against God, to revile his name, and his tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. And it was given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over every tribe, and people, and tongue, and nation. And all, who dwell on the earth, will worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the slain Lamb, from the foundation of the world. If any one hath an ear, let him hear. If any one leadeth into captivity, he will go into captivity: if any one killeth by the sword, he must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints."—Rev. 13:5-10.
The mouth of the beast, must symbolize the agency by which utterance is given to the great things and blasphemies which are spoken by it. Its likeness to the mouth of the lion, shows its resemblance to the Babylonian worship of the dead. Moses was "not eloquent,"—he was "slow of speech and of a slow tongue," and the Lord said to him, Aaron "shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth," Ex. 4:10, 16. As Aaron was a mouth to Moses, so did the Papacy become a mouth-piece for the Roman kingdoms. It was the agency by which the people were taught; and through which utterance was given to the blasphemies of the beast. It fills a place analogous to that of the image afterwards symbolized, which also had like power to speak blasphemies. See p. 188.
The beast had power to continue to utter blasphemies by the mouth given to it, forty-two months. This identifies the mouth with that of the "little horn" (Dan. 7:25), of which it was said, "He shall speak great words against the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time"—i.e. 1260 prophetic days.
1. This mouth uttered blasphemy against God by claiming to be Christ's vicegerent—usurping the prerogatives of the Almighty. The Pope claimed that he was "Judge, as God's Vicar, and could himself be judged by none." In A. D. 799, a Roman council declined to hear accusations against the Pope, declaring that "he who was Judge of all men, was above being judged by any other than himself." Febroni wrote of the Pope: "He is the Prince of princes and Lord of lords. He is, as it were, a God on earth. He is above right, superior to law, superior to the canons. He can do all things against right, and without right. He is able to free from obligation in matters of positive right, without any cause, and they who are so released are safe in respect to God." Assuming such prerogatives, and the power to forgive sins, the Holy name of God was blasphemed.
2. He blasphemed the tabernacle of God by "exalting himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God," 2 Thess. 2:2. The Pope claimed to be the head of the church and that from himself was derived the authority of all bishops and other clergy. He usurped the powers in the church, which only Christ, its Supreme Head and Lawgiver can exercise.
3. Those in heaven were blasphemed, by the ascription to them of the attributes and prerogatives of God; and by representing them as being well pleased with the bestowal on them of divine honors. Saint-worship by the Papists and demon-worship by the Pagans are alike. They both ascribe the same attributes to the spirits of the departed,—all the gods of the heathen being the ghosts of their departed heroes. A revival of this blasphemy, is subsequently symbolized by the frog-like spirits which emerge from the mouths of the beast, the dragon, and false prophet, 16:13,—see p. 255.
In connection with and in obedience to this mouth, the beast warred with the saints, and overcame them. Dissenters from the Papacy were subjected to unheard of cruelties and persecutions. And they whose names were not written in the book of life, sustained their rulers in these oppressive acts. In paying more deference to the edicts of government than to the requirements of Jehovah, they blasphemously bestowed on the beast an homage which was due only to God.
The revelator being shown what was to be endured by the saints during a long period of oppression, now receives an annunciation to which all were to listen,—all who had ears to hear. It was the announcement, that "if any one leadeth into captivity, he will go into captivity: if any one killeth with the sword, he must be killed with the sword." Most commentators have considered this as applicable to the fate of the wild beast,—that its end was to be effected by the sword and captivity, as it had in the same way tyrannized over the saints. Mr. Lord offers some reasons for supposing that it was a caution to the saints not to resist with the sword the attacks of enemies, nor to retaliate by making captives of the subjects of the beast who should fall into their power. He says:
"The prediction that he who led into captivity should himself become a captive, and he that slew with the sword be himself slain, had a signal fulfilment in the slaughter and vassalage of all those who attempted to deliver themselves by force from the religious tyranny of the European monarchs.
"The Albigenses were nearly exterminated by the cruel armies against which they attempted to defend themselves, and the small number that remained after the devastation of their fields, the conflagration of their cities, and the promiscuous slaughters to which they were subjected, were either forced to conform to the Catholic church, or driven into other lands. The Waldenses perished in far greater numbers by the sword, in their struggles for preservation and freedom, than by the fires of martyrdom; and sunk, after their contests, to a still more hopeless vassalage to their persecutors. The resort to the sword by the Bohemians and the Huguenots of France, to defend their religious freedom, resulted, after vast slaughters, in their defeat and helpless subjection to the tyranny from which they endeavored to extricate themselves. And the Protestants of Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, and Great Britain, who succeeded in delivering themselves from the dominion of their ancient tyrants, instead of securing thereby their religious liberty, only placed themselves, by the nationalization of their churches, under the tyranny of Protestant rulers in place of Catholics."—Exp. of Apoc. p. 384.
In this was to be exhibited the patience and faith of the saints, who, amid all their persecutions, made a wonderful manifestation of these. Of the many thousands put to death, or subjected to satanic cruelties for their faith, only a very few apostatized. Says Mr. Lord:
"Of those who, under the insupportable agonies and distraction of the scourge and the rack, recanted, or promised a recantation, a large proportion immediately on being released from the sufferings which had overcome them, abjured their retractions, re-professed with redoubled energy the faith of Christ, and met without faltering the hideous death to which they were immediately hurried. Such is their uniform history in whatever age they fell, or to whatever nation or rank they belonged."—Exp. of Apoc., p. 385.
If there was no other evidence of their constancy, faith, and patience, the horrid instruments of torture which were resorted to to terrify them, testify to their adherence to their principles, which required such engines for their subversion.
The end of this beast, will be effected by his being cast alive into the lake of fire and brimstone, when the Lord shall make war with him, 19:20. This is also the end of Daniel's fourth beast, whose body is to be given to the burning flame (Dan. 7:11), and of the scarlet-colored beast on which the woman was seated, which is to go into perdition, 17:8.
The Two-Horned Beast.
"And I saw another wild beast ascending out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke like a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first wild beast, in his sight, and causeth the earth and those, who dwell in it, to worship the first wild beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he performeth great signs, so that he causeth fire to come down from heaven into the earth in the sight of men. And he deceiveth those, who dwell on the earth, by means of the signs which it was given him to perform in the sight of the wild beast; saying to those, who dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the wild beast, that had the wound by a sword, and did live."—Rev. 13:11-14.
The coming up of another beast must symbolize the rise of another government. As the two-horned beast exercises its power before (ενωπιον) i.e. in the presence, of the first beast, it is a contemporary power, and must necessarily symbolize a kingdom outside of the territory of the ten-horned beast. Within that territory it would be one of the horns of that beast; but a separate beast requires a separate territory. As it arises out of the earth, while it is outside of the territory occupied by the ten kingdoms, it must exist within that occupied by the former Roman empire, and commence its existence during a period of settled government.
All the forms of Roman government symbolized by the dragon, were also symbolized by the wild beast; and as the deadly wound of the former was healed in the latter, the two constitute one beast. As that is called the "first beast," the rise of the kingdom symbolized by the two-horned beast must have been subsequent to the commencement of the Roman empire. And as it caused those who dwell on the earth to worship that beast after its deadly wound was healed, it must have arisen anterior to the healing of that wound; and, consequently, before the succession of the ten kingdoms to the sovereignty of Rome, with which it held an intimate relation.
The only kingdom which has arisen within the geographical locality, and at the epoch required by these conditions of the symbol, is the Eastern Roman empire; which, consequently, is the government represented by the two-horned beast.
The imperial heads of Rome date from the battle of Actium, B. C. 31; but the Eastern empire was not commenced, till A. D. 324, when Constantine removed the seat of empire from Rome to Constantinople. Rome was, previous to that removal, the undisputed queen of nations, and Constantine was without a rival. Why he should abandon Rome, the citadel and throne of the Caesars, for an obscure corner of Thrace, has never been satisfactorily explained. Says Dr. Croly: "The change of government to Constantinople still perplexes the historian. It was an act in direct repugnance to the whole course of the ancient prejudices."
The indifference with which Constantine viewed the country of the Caesars, was regarded by Gibbon as the cause of removal.
He transferred the customs and forms of the Roman government, and there exercised all the powers of the empire,—the Italians still obeying the edicts which he condescended to address from Constantinople to the Senate and people of Rome. The western division continued dependent on the eastern head, till the death of Theodosius, A. D. 395. His two sons, Arcadius and Honorius, "were saluted by the unanimous consent of mankind, as the lawful emperors of the East, and of the West,"—the European boundary being "not very different from that which separates the Germans from the Turks."—Gibbon, v. 2, p. 199. Gibbon calls this "the final and permanent division of the Roman empire." But its existence as a beast more properly dates from the removal of Constantine.
Its two horns like a lamb, must symbolize two divisions of the kingdom. These may be contemporary, like those symbolized by the ten horns (17:12), or successive, like the two horns of the ram, Dan. 8:3, 20. From the history of the Eastern empire, the latter is the more probable; and its historical resemblance to the government symbolized by the ram, may be the reason of the comparison to "horns like a lamb." As Persia was a government outside of Media, and succeeded to its sovereignty, so did the kingdom of the Turks originate outside of the Eastern empire, and at length come in, occupy its territory, and succeed to its sovereignty, A. D. 1253. With this view, the horns would symbolize the kings of Eastern Rome and of Turkey. See pp. 99-104.
Its dragon-like speech shows it to be a blasphemous, persecuting power, like that which persecuted the woman, 12:17. Though the Greek empire claimed to be Christian, a successor of Constantine, Julian the Apostate, renounced Christianity, endeavored to restore the Pagan service in Constantinople, and "declared himself the implacable enemy of Christ." He assumed the character of Supreme Pontiff, and thus placed himself at the head of the Pagan worship. He labored incessantly to restore and propagate those dragonic rites, and even thought to disprove the predictions of Christ by rebuilding the temple of Jerusalem. "He affected to pity the unhappy Christians, as mistaken in the most important object of their lives; but his pity was degraded by contempt, his contempt was embittered by hatred; and the sentiments of Julian were expressed in a style of sarcastic wit which inflicts a deep and deadly wound whenever it issues from the mouth of a sovereign." And he intimated that they might have occasion "to dread, not only confiscation and exile, but fire and the sword."—Gibbon.
The successors of Julian, though Christian in name, issued cruel and tyrannical edicts. Valens embraced Arianism, and bitterly persecuted the Orthodox party. Justinian established Catholicism by arms. Theodosius proscribed Paganism by the infliction of severe penalties. Marcian and Leo "enforced, with arms and edicts, the symbols of their faith," and it was declared that "the decrees of the synod of Chalcedon might be lawfully supported, even with blood." And after the accession of the Mohammedan power, religious intolerance towards dissenting creeds was still more rigidly enforced.
The Eastern empire exercised all the power of the Western. The original organization of its government was the same, and it had the same titles and prerogatives. Gibbon says of Julian: "The spirit of his administration, and his regard for the place of his nativity, induced him to confer on the senate of Constantinople the same honors, privileges, and authority which were still enjoyed by the senate of ancient Rome."
It caused worship to be bestowed on the first beast, by extending to the Latin rulers that aid which enabled them to perpetuate their system of tyranny, to legislate over the laws and subjects of Jehovah, and to claim the obedience which only God can demand. The arms of Justinian, both in the East and West, caused the Roman name to be respected, and its favor sought for.
The wonders to be performed by it, may be as yet involved in some obscurity. But by these it is identified as the power which afterwards became the seat of the False Prophet. When the "beast" is taken, "the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image," is cast with him "into a lake of fire burning with brimstone," 19:20. This identifies the two-horned beast as the Mohammedan kingdom. It also proves that the Romanic Turkish government will continue till the Second Advent.
Among the wonders it would perform, making fire come down from heaven is specified. John does not intimate that he saw, in vision, fire thus descend. The fact is spoken of; and therefore it is not necessarily symbolic, but may refer to literal fire. Gibbon, in speaking of "the novelty, the terrors, and the real efficacy of the Greek fire," for which the Eastern empire was so famous, says:
"The important secret of compounding and directing this artificial flame was imparted by Callinicus, a native of Heliopolis, in Syria, who deserted from the service of the caliph to that of the emperor. The skill of a chemist and engineer was equivalent to the succor of fleets and armies; and this discovery or improvement of the military art was fortunately reserved for the distressful period, when the degenerate Romans of the East were incapable of contending with the warlike enthusiasm and youthful vigor of the Saracens. The historian who presumes to analyze this extraordinary composition, should suspect his own ignorance and that of his Byzantine guides, so prone to the marvellous, so careless, and, in this instance, so jealous of the truth. From their obscure, and perhaps fallacious hints, it should seem that the principal ingredient of the Greek fire was the naphtha, or liquid bitumen, a light, tenacious, and inflammable oil, which springs from the earth, and catches fire as soon as it comes in contact with the air. The naphtha was mingled, I know not by what methods, or in what proportions, with sulphur, and with the pitch that is extracted from evergreen firs. From this mixture, which produced a thick smoke and a loud explosion, proceeded a fierce and obstinate flame, which not only rose in perpendicular ascent, but likewise burned with equal vehemence in descent or lateral progress; instead of being extinguished, it was nourished and quickened by the element of water; and sand, urine, or vinegar, were the only remedies that could damp the fury of this powerful agent, which was justly denominated by the Greeks, the liquid, or maritime fire. For the annoyance of the enemy, it was employed with equal effect by sea and land, in battles or in sieges. It was either poured from the rampart in large boilers, or launched in red-hot balls of stone and iron, or darted in arrows and javelins, twisted round with flax and tow, which had deeply imbibed the inflammable oil; sometimes it was deposited in fire-ships, the victims and instruments of a more ample revenge, and was most commonly blown through long tubes of copper, which were planted on the prow of a galley, and fancifully shaped into the mouths of savage monsters, that seemed to vomit a stream of liquid and consuming fire. This important art was preserved at Constantinople, as the palladium of the state; the galleys and artillery might occasionally be lent to the allies of Rome; but the composition on the Greek fire was concealed with the most jealous scruple, and the terror of the enemies was increased and prolonged by their ignorance and surprise. In the treatise of the administration of the empire, the royal author suggests the answers and excuses that might best elude the indiscreet curiosity and importunate demands of the barbarians. They should be told that the mystery of the Greek fire had been revealed by an angel to the first and greatest of the Constantines, with a sacred injunction, that this gift of heaven, this peculiar blessing of the Romans should never be communicated to any foreign nation; that the prince and subject were alike bound to religious silence under the temporal and spiritual penalties of treason and sacrilege; and that the impious attempt would provoke the sudden and supernatural vengeance of the God of the Christians. By these precautions the secret was confined, above four hundred years, to the Romans of the East; and at the end of the eleventh century, the Pisans, to whom every sea and every art were familiar, suffered the effects, without understanding the composition, of the Greek fire. It was at length either discovered or stolen by the Mohammedans; and, in the holy wars of Syria and Egypt, they retorted an invention, contrived against themselves, on the heads of the Christians. A knight, who despised the swords and lances of the Saracens, relates, with heartfelt sincerity, his own fears and those of his companions, at the sight and sound of the mischievous engine that discharged a torrent of the Greek fire, the feu Gregeois, as it is styled by the more early of the French writers. It came flying through the air, says Joinville, like a winged long-tailed dragon, about the thickness of a hogshead, with the report of thunder, and the velocity of lightning; and the darkness of night was dispelled by this deadly illumination."—Hist. Rome, vol. III., pp. 465-467.
Its use is thus described by the same author, when the Greeks turned its power against the Saracens, at the siege of Constantinople, A. D. 718:
"The Greeks would gladly have ransomed their religion and empire, by a fine or assessment of a piece of gold on the head of each inhabitant of the city; but the liberal offer was rejected with disdain, and the presumption of Moslemah was exalted by the speedy approach and invincible force of the natives of Egypt and Syria. They are said to have amounted to eighteen hundred ships: the number betrays their inconsiderable size; and of the twenty stout and capacious vessels, whose magnitude impeded their progress, each was manned with no more than one hundred heavy-armed soldiers. This huge armada proceeded on a smooth sea and with a gentle gale, towards the mouth of the Bosphorus; the surface of the strait was over-shadowed, in the language of the Greeks, with a moving forest, and the same fatal night had been fixed by the Saracen chief for a general assault by sea and land. To allure the confidence of the enemy, the emperor had thrown aside the chain that usually guarded the entrance of the harbor: but while they hesitated whether they should seize the opportunity or apprehend the snare, the ministers of destruction were at hand. The fireships of the Greeks were launched against them: the Arabs, their arms and vessels, were involved in the same flames, the disorderly fugitives were dashed against each other, or overwhelmed in the waves; and I no longer find a vestige of the fleet, that had threatened to extirpate the Roman name."—Ib., p. 464.
It deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by its miracles. This deception resulted in the creation of:
The Image of the Beast.
"And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the wild beast, that the image of the wild beast should even speak, and to cause, that as many as would not worship the image of the wild beast, should be killed. And he causeth all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free and the bond, to receive a mark on their right hand, or on their forehead. And that no one might buy or sell, but he, who had the mark, the name of the wild beast, or the number of his name."—Rev. 13:15-18.
This new creation is not another beast, but the image of one. An image is only the likeness of something. As the beast symbolizes a political power, its image must symbolize some analogous power of a different nature; and this likeness can only be found in a religious government.
1. The beast which received its death-wound (v. 14), was the form of government to which the image was made, i.e., the imperial. Of this the Roman hierarchy was a perfect counterpart. It was an ecclesiastical government, coextensive in its authority with the political power of the empire. And, like the officers of the civil, there was a regular gradation of rank in the subordinates of the religious government. The head of the former was an emperor, chosen by an electoral college,—the senators of Rome.(3) The head of the latter was a Pope, chosen in a similar manner by the college of Cardinals,—the ecclesiastical senators of the religious empire. Each of those bodies constituted the highest deliberative and legislative body in its respective government. The empire had its governors of provinces, appointed by the imperial head; and the spiritual rule of the church was, in like manner, sustained by diocesan bishops who, in their respective provinces, were governors in spiritual matters and creatures of the Pope. Subordinate offices in the state and church, also, singularly corresponded.
2. The religious customs of the empire, as well as its political, were likewise imitated by the papacy. Rome deified her heroes; the papacy canonized her saints. The ghosts of the departed were the gods of the heathen; and the papists supplicate the dead. The Pagans burned incense to their gods; the Papists burn incense in their religious ceremonies. The ancient heathen sprinkled themselves with "holy water;" the Papists use the same material in a similar manner. Lactantius says of the Pagans, they "light up candles to God as if he lived in the dark; and do they not deserve to pass for madmen who offer lamps to the author and giver of light?" This custom is imitated by the Papists in the use of wax candles on their altars.