Revelation 8

To me it is manifest that the seventh seal is followed by a short but solemn pause, which again is introductory to a new course of divine inflictions.49 “And when he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.” Now these judgments that come before us under the trumpets are of a somewhat different character from what we have seen in the seals. In the first place, the seals in general appear to have a larger extent, but the blows were not so severe. It is true we had in Rev. 6:8 a certain limitation (viz. the fourth part), used with regard to the extent of the blow then to be struck. But in the other instances there was no such restraint; whereas in most of the trumpets it is the third part, with some slight exceptions. The trumpets, then, may be less extensive in their range, but it will by and by appear that they are more intensely judicial than the seals.

Further, we find that the very name indicates a difference. The trumpet sets forth a loud and solemn call of God. It is God summoning men; for if they have rejected His grace, they must hear, even if they forget, these sharp warnings of His judgment. The seals might not so readily have been regarded as divine interferences, unless God had beforehand told us that such they were, with their nature and their order. In themselves, and especially in the first four, they ushered in disastrous but not unprecedented occurrences. But when we come to the trumpets it is not so requisite to announce that they are heaven-sent judgments. Their sound or summons is quite plain and urgent. They appeal far more unmistakably to men.

But there is another remarkable difference and of a more spiritual nature. The Lamb disappears under these new scenes. The Lord Jesus is not spoken of in that point of view while these destructive judgments run their course. This supposes and marks a great change, and we have to enquire what God would have us to gather from it. If the Lord Jesus is introduced at all, it is in another guise or aspect, and not as the Lamb. It is not the Lamb that takes the golden censer, but an angel. I do not deny that Christ is referred to, but it. is in His angelic connection or at least in an angelic form. He is presented in a more distant way than ever the church or the Christian, as such, knows Him in. In Heb. 2 we find that the Holy Ghost reasons upon the fact of Christ’s having taken the place of man. “For verily he took not on him [the nature of] angels,” etc. In our version the expression is too strong and the italics a mistake. The meaning is that He did not take up the angels: they were not the object of God’s calling nor of His redemption. Jesus took hold of the seed of Abraham (as it is given correctly in the margin), and because of this, “Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.” He did not undertake the cause of angels. He stands in no such relationship towards them. Still there is nothing, as it seems to me, to contradict the idea that the Lord Jesus may be and is intended in Revelation 8 as the officiating angel at the altar; for indeed He is the Head of everything, the head of all principality and power. Why, then, might He not be viewed here in exalted, angelic glory? The personage spoken of acts as the angel-priest. Undoubtedly it is not thus that He has to do with the heavenly saints, and that He ministers before God for us. But then the Lord at the point of time to which we are come in the prophecy, has entirely done with His ministration for the partakers of the heavenly calling, at least so far as provision for their failure is concerned; but we learn His interest in another class of saints — in “all the saints” of course — who will be upon the earth when the church has been taken up to heaven.

There is less introduction here of the suffering saints of God than anywhere else. The judgments fall almost entirely upon the world, upon men in their circumstances and persons, and finally upon men in their responsible relationship to God. Outwardly the saints would seem to be mixed up with them. This accounts for the absence of the Lamb; for wherever He appears as such in the book of the Revelation, it is Christ in His character of the holy and earth-rejected sufferer. Accordingly, the Lamb is peculiarly brought out where there are sufferers mentioned. For that word remains always true, that “when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them.” He never puts them in a path of which He has not tasted the bitterest sorrow before them. Here He retires, as it were, and is only seen in comparatively distant, angelic glory.

Remark also how full of symbols the chapter is, and, from the first trumpet, of how external a kind. Everywhere mysteriousness prevails. It is not God opening out His heart of complacency in those He loves. Whenever this is the subject. He speaks as it were face to face. He is simple and explicit. Without leaving this book, take for instance Rev. 14. There He is going to speak of persons who were, or were to be, exposed to all sorts of trials, because of association with Jesus; and the first thing that we see on the mount Sion is the Lamb, and the portion of the wicked follows in the most distinct manner. So again in Rev. 12 “they overcame him [the dragon-accuser] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death.” But here we have God’s dealings with the world, and the scantiest notice of His own people as separate class; and as the world has no claim on God, whatever His mercy to it, as the world has no tie with Him and only despises His love, so God speaks but of His earthly judgments in forms more and more awful. He does not bring persons so distinctly forward as in other scenes; and thus, as I conceive, even the person of the Lord Jesus is therefore not set forth evidently. For here, as elsewhere, we find that there is the most surprising harmony governing all scripture, when once the key to it. is seen.

First of all there are the angels standing before God, and they take their trumpets, the seventh seal being a sort of preparation, or a signal, for a renewed course and another class of judgment. But before this begins we have an angel-priest. There are those to whom God is faithful, for His eyes are over the righteous, and His ears open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. Though there may be but a passing glimpse at the saints, yet God would never have us to forget that even at this time there are objects of His care on the earth.

“And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given him much incense.” Wherever the altar occurs without qualification, it invariably means, I believe, the brazen altar — the first means or point of contact between God and men on earth. There the holocaust was burnt, and the other offerings of sweet savour; thence was the fire taken, in order to cause the incense to ascend from its appropriate altar in the holy place. And this, as it flows from or agrees with the rest of scripture, so it is in perfect accord with its uses in the Revelation (Rev. 6:9; Rev. 11:1; Rev. 14:18; Rev. 16:7). Where the altar of incense is in question, it is characterized as “the golden altar” before the throne, or before God (Rev. 8:3; Rev. 9:13). Both are referred to here. Had the same altar been intended in the beginning as in the end of verse 3, the full description would surely have been furnished at the first mention rather than at the second. Nor is there more difficulty as to seeing the great altar in the heavenly vision here, than the sea or laver in Rev. 4; for according to the Jewish type they were equally in the court. At this altar then which connected the fire with the offering and acceptance of Christ, the angel stood with the golden censer pertaining to the holy of holies. The very phrase conveys to my mind that it was not his usual place: he came and stood there. In the authorised version it is said of the incense “that he should offer it with the prayers,” etc. But if we take the phrase as it is given in Rev. 11, the sense becomes plainer and more just. There we read (ver. 3), “I will give power unto my two witnesses.” Now it is exactly the same form of expression here, and means that He should give power to the prayers or render them efficacious. “And the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of the saints ascended up before God,” etc. (verse 4.) What is the effect of the prayers and the incense? All would feel that the Holy Ghost does not lead persons to pray for what is contrary to the mind of God, though when a mistaken prayer is offered, He will listen in His long-suffering, and knows how to teach His children the foolishness of such requests. But none can say that the Holy Ghost ever suggested or sustained a prayer which was not according to God’s purpose. Observe also that incense out of the angel’s hand accompanies these prayers of the saints, and they are offered up to God.

But the fifth verse records a new action: “And the angel took the censer and filled it with fire of the altar.” Surely this is the brazen altar, where not the incense but the fire was burning. The result is, not the efficacy of Christ’s work comes up before God in more and more sweetness (as we see in the case of the offerings put on the brazen altar in Leviticus), but that here the fire was cast into the earth, and immediately followed “thunderings, and lightnings, and voices, and an earthquake.” So that thus we find evidently prayer of another character and with a different effect produced — nay, the very priest himself viewed in another manner, as compared with what is going on now. For us Jesus the Son of God has passed through the heavens, a High Priest who was in all points tempted like us, apart from sin. He died for our sins, He can sympathize with our infirmities, having suffered to the utmost both in temptation and atonement. Our God also is on a throne of grace, whence mercy and grace come forth to help in time of need. (Heb. 4.) Again, our attitude towards those without is akin; and hence supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, are and ought to be made for all men.

But here is not mercy but judgment; for though there may be the incense and the prayers of saints, the immediate issue is that the symbols of God’s judgments are seen taking effect through the earth. There is perfect congruity in all the scenes that are portrayed here. Although a priest, and saints, and an altar (both altars, as it seems to me), and incense, and the censer, and the fire are all found in due order, yet it is in communion with God chastising the earth: hence too the place of comparative distance already noticed. If the Lord is brought out at all, it is as an angel and not in His full dignity as the Son of God consecrated for evermore. Of course He is always the Son of God, but He has other dignities beside, and here the prophetic vision presents Him in a totally different title and glory.

Again does it not seem an unintelligent inference, be it made by Historicalist or by Futurist, that “all the saints” is a phrase which necessarily involves the conclusion that the church of God is meant? The question must be judged by the convictions we have as to the bearing of all this part of the book. And it has been abundantly shown that, ever since Revelation 4 began, the church is viewed as already and wholly glorified in heaven. Hence the church is really out of the question here, and these are all the saints on earth subsequently for whom deliverance is prepared. The angel offers their prayers, and judgment on earth for their deliverance is the reply. The ordinary reasoning is therefore beside the mark. All the saints are of course the Lord’s people — a converted class, Jewish or Gentile. That this is what scripture calls christians or the church is another matter, which the objectors would do well to inquire into.

“And the seven angels that had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. And the first sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood,” etc. The general bearing of this is apparent. These things are not to be taken in their mere obvious or physical drift. Supposing one looks at such a thing literally as a mountain falling into the sea (verse 8), would it ever turn the water into blood? Nothing of the sort. The fact is that these were pictures that passed before the eyes of the prophet. What the figures meant we have to gather from the general tenor of the word, by the teaching of the Spirit, I presume that even the prophet himself had to learn their meaning from the scriptures. For here we have St. John, not in the place of one before whom all was naked and open and at once understood, but rather simply as a Seer. He is not necessarily able, as a matter of course, to enter fully into all that is passing before him, but has need to mark, learn, and inwardly digest. We come in the Apocalypse to the ground of prophecy, and this is a different region from that in which the Holy Ghost opens out to us the things of Christ in the way of communion. Indeed what is told us of the prophet John himself throughout the book shows that he did not always nor of necessity appreciate the meaning of that which he beheld in the Spirit. In other words he saw a sort of panorama, and recorded the visions just as they appeared to himself; and we have to use the word of God by the Spirit to know what the symbols imply. We are not to suppose that the event itself will be a mere formal repetition of what the prefiguration was, but a reality answering to the foreseen shadow.50

Thus, when the first blast is sounded, there comes a violent tempest of hail and fire mingled with blood — the blood distinguishing it from all previous storms, as being beyond nature. This betokened or ushered in a furious, sanguinary, and destructive outburst that would agitate and rage over its sphere. “And the third51 of the earth was burnt up, and the third of the trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up” (verse 7). This evidently does not refer to the literal earth, trees, or herbage. In scripture grass is the symbol commonly used to denote man in his weakness, his very glory being like the flower of grass. Human prosperity then would be set forth by green grass. Here we have a judgment of God upon it. Not a certain part only, however large, but the whole of it is destroyed. The trees represent such as are high and exalted among men. It is a very common symbol in the word of God to express those that are deeply rooted, with a lofty bearing and extensive influence here below. (Look for instance at Ezek. 31:3; Dan. 4, etc.) Thus, then, a blow is struck at a defined part of the scene of God’s moral dealings; and both the low universally, and the higher classes to a large extent, feel the ruinous effects.

The second blow supposes a great change; it falls on the sea, and so refers not to that sphere which is under special and settled government, but to what is or will then be in a state of confusion and anarchy. The nations which are in this condition do not remain scatheless. “And the second angel sounded: and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea; and the third of the sea became blood; and the third of the creatures which were in the sea, that had life, died; and the third of the ships were destroyed.” If Jeremiah be consulted, it will be seen that these things are not explained arbitrarily or out of mere imagination. As this is not so common a judgment, it would seem that God deigns to furnish us with another example; for just where we should be likely to make mistakes, there God comes in with light and instruction. The “mountain burning with fire” represents a system of power, itself under the judgment of God and the occasion of judgment to others. In Jer. 51:25 it is said, “Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, saith the Lord, which destroyest all the earth; and I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain.” There we have what answers, in some measure, to what we have here. Babylon, in Jeremiah, was to be “a burnt mountain,” hurled down from its place of eminence. Here the mountain is said to be “burning.” Babylon was itself to be as a consumed or destroyed mountain. Here the mountain is the means of destroying others, as in the Jewish prophet: “O destroying mountain, saith the Lord, which destroyest all the earth.”

A mountain is regularly the symbol of settled and exalted power; but here it is cast into the sea, because it is made the means of judgment to others, and not merely the object of judgment itself. The Lord Jesus Himself uses a part of the figure with regard to Israel. Seeing a fig-tree with nothing but leaves, He pronounced that no fruit should grow, nor man eat of it henceforward for ever. He had come and found no fruit upon it, only abundance of leaves. And presently the fig-tree withered away. Now almost every person who has read the word of God with care has viewed that fig-tree as the symbol of Israel, responsible to bear fruit unto God, but completely failing to do so. The fig-tree was figurative of “that generation,” and in connection with this the Lord says to His disciples, “ye shall not only do this . . . . but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, it shall be done.” And so it was done; for no sooner had the apostles’ testimony gone out to Israel, and Israel had utterly rejected what the Holy Ghost preached to them therein, than judgment came upon them. It was not merely that they bore no fruit, but there was a positive judgment and an uprooting from where they were. The mountain was cast into the sea; the place and nation of Israel completely disappeared in the mass of the Gentiles. This was much more than their merely ceasing to produce fruit. Their polity was broken up and completely vanished, just as much as a mountain would be that was torn up from its base and cast into the sea.

So here a great power, that seemed to be settled, is removed from its place, and that power is not so much shattered itself as it is made the means of suffering to others. It is burning with fire, and the consequence is destruction to the third of living creatures and ships in the sea, the whole being a figure taken from what would be the effect of a volcano cast into the sea. It is thus that the Lord fills up the picture of destruction by a great consuming power that falls upon confused masses of people, with human carnage and political anarchy as the result. There may be some more precise meaning, but I am only presenting what little I see of the symbols, independent of their application to a particular time, place, or people.

The third judgment in the series of the trumpets is of another kind. “The third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a torch, and it fell upon the third of the rivers, and upon the fountains of the waters; and the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third of the waters became wormwood; and many of the men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.” Now a star, as we have seen in an earlier chapter, though in another connection (Rev. 1:20), is the figure of one who holds a place of subordinate authority — one who may give light to others — subject himself to another, but still ruling. Here it is a degraded ruler, a dignitary fallen from his place of authority. Waters are the symbol of people unformed, fountains are the sources of their refreshment, and a river that which characterises their course. A certain proportion is tainted by the fall of the star or ruler, which embitters whatever it touches, and many die because of the waters being made bitter. Here the infliction seems not so much of a political kind as the previous judgment; it is rather the poisoning of all that ought to be the means of blessing to man and that concerns his ordinary life.

Under the fourth trumpet there is something higher. The waters are poisoned before; but now we find that the highest authorities are touched. It is not a star that falls from heaven, but the third of the sun, and the third of the moon, and the third of the stars are smitten; “that the third of them might be darkened, and the day should not shine for the third thereof, and the night likewise.” I apprehend that this is a judgment of God on the supreme as well as the inferior authorities of the world within the given range, which are all to a certain extent extinguished, or at least eclipsed.

An important question now arises — the proper fulfilment of these trumpet judgments. It is evident, however, that the answer must depend on the still larger issue of the time and condition to which the prophetic vision in general applies. For this is no matter of detail, but of broad principle, and it is not for me to deny the immense practical consequences of the true application on the one hand, or of views which mislead on the other. Believing that the seven epistles had an immediate literal bearing on the actual Asiatic assemblies of St. John’s day, I for one cannot doubt that the seals prefigured the course of the Roman Empire from that epoch onward, and that they have thus had an application by no means immaterial (substantially as the ordinary historical system insists) down to the overthrow of paganism and the nominal supremacy of Christianity, with the natural results of vast accessions of souls from Israel in a measure, but far more from the Gentiles in that sphere and day. According to this idea, the early trumpets appear to me almost of necessity to refer: first, to the Gothic invasions of Alaric, Rhadagaisus, etc.; secondly, to the depredations of Genseric and his Vandals; thirdly, to the “scourge of God,” as Attila the Hun was pleased to entitle himself; and fourthly, to the memorable era signalised by the extinction of the Roman empire in the west.

But fully allowing these intimations to be contained within the scope of the visions thus far, it is to my own mind manifest that the seven epistles are stamped with the most comprehensive aims, and from strong internal marks imply the varying phases which the house of God in its protracted existence here below would assume, till the Lord removes the faithful to heaven, keeping them out of the hour of temptation which awaits the earthly-minded, and spueing out of His mouth the self-complacent mass of Christendom. In harmony with this continuous and successive view of the churches, which in one shape or another has commended itself to godly and discerning enquirers of different ages, the most simple interpretation of Revelation 4 and 5 is, that they suppose the rapture and glorification of the church of the firstborn to have taken place, and that Revelation 6 et seqq. begin to receive their grand fulfilment subsequent to that event. It is easy for an ingenious mind to conjure up difficulties and to muster objections in formidable array: no part of scripture, nor truth revealed in it, is exempt from exposure to attacks exactly similar. But nobody can deny that, going by the sacred text itself, this is the most natural way of taking Rev. 4, 5, or that the common theory leaves these admirable scriptures without adequate adaptation to the then circumstances, whether we look at the scene as a whole or at the particular figures therein exhibited. Their occurrence here, on the ordinary view, is an enormous, unexplained and perhaps, it may be added, inexplicable difficulty; but with the rapture of the saints, then an accomplished fact as the key, they are a beautiful and needed preface to all that follows.

Nor this only; for Rev. 6 and the chapters that succeed raise the fundamental question, whether churches or Christians, in the proper sense of the terms, are any longer involved in the scenes they depict on earth, when their full, and not merely their inchoate, accomplishment is in progress. Why should writers on prophecy, without anything like reasonable show of evidence, assume the affirmative? Why not prove it, if they can? The more indispensable the point may be to the popular system, the less satisfactory to unbiassed persons it seems to find its advocates preserving a silence so absolute, not indeed as regards reiterating, and reasoning from that assumption, but as to attempting a demonstration. Who can allege that the proposition is self-evident? Who does not know that there are many intelligent students of the prophetic word who believe that not the church but a godly Jewish remnant, with Gentiles converted but separate, are the parties contemplated and directly concerned in the struggles of the latter day? Is it not worth discussing? What prophetic question more vital or more comprehensive? It would not be charitable to impute this singular reticence to a feeling of contempt for their brethren, neither would it be fair to insinuate that they are conscious of their own inability to give some appearance of scriptural proof in favour of their sentiments.

We deny that these prophecies, precious as they are for our profit, are fully, much less exclusively, about the church: if any assert that such is the case, on them lies the burden of proving it. It is simply taken for granted. Would it not be better to gather up and present, as forcibly as may be, the evidence which strikes their own minds? We appeal to the very scriptures in debate, some as clearly evincing a glorified condition of the Christian body in heaven, before the earthly judicial events transpire, others as clear that Jews and Gentiles, distinct from each other and not associated in one body like the church, are after this seen on earth, and that they are the real objects in the crisis of the close. If we are right, a vast amount of the differences among those who study the subject would be decided without further contest. Why then waste time in the shallow fields of Germanising Praeterists or of Romanising Futurists? Why not grapple with the evidence produced by Christians who are, through God’s mercy, at least as far removed from Babylon as the most zealous of Protestants can pretend to be? If this, as I am sure, be the sound and satisfactory interpretation, we are not compelled to bend the past into a reluctant and far-fetched accomplishment, nor are we at liberty to explain away the frequent and obvious indices of the future. It satisfies all just requirement that there be an unforced and general resemblance, sufficient to show the direct finger of God, yet not such as to exhaust the prediction, but rather to leave room for a still closer final application when the saints, body and soul, are above.

“And I beheld and heard an eagle52 flying through mid-heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the dwellers on the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels which are yet to sound” (verse 13). It was an eagle, I believe, which John saw here, an angel in Rev. 14:6, to which our verse may have been assimilated, if the two words were not confounded by mere carelessness. The eagle’s flight in mid-heaven was the dark and most suited harbinger of coming woe. Nor is there any real difficulty in its loud utterance; for the altar itself is, in the true text, made to speak in Revelation 16:7.

We have had the preliminary judgments ushered in by the first four trumpets. They dealt, to a certain extent, with man’s prosperity high or low — first, in the settled ordered system, and next in a state of confusion; then the blow fell on the means of human enjoyment, turned into bitterness and destruction; and lastly, the whole fabric of political rule, supreme and subordinate, has to suffer a notable eclipse.53 Thus, it was a judgment of circumstances, rather than a personal visitation. But we also see a closing intimation of still deeper inflictions, marked off in the most definite way from the series that preceded: “Woe, woe, woe, to those that dwell on the earth,” etc. The unsealed do not escape in the first; the third of men are killed in the second. Under the last we come, in a general way, to the end of all.

“The dwellers on earth” may have a local significance, especially during the great final crisis. But it appears to me that a survey of the various occurrences of the phrase warrants the conclusion that a moral force is the chief and most prominent intention of the Spirit. Twice has it been seen in the Apocalypse before this, and it plays an increasingly grave part as we draw near the close. First it is found in the epistle to the angel of the church in Philadelphia, where the Lord promises to keep those who kept the word of His patience, from the hour of temptation, which is to come upon all the habitable world, to try them that dwell on the earth. (Rev. 3:10.) The reason, I suppose, why the earthly-minded are brought out so distinctly there is, because the church in question supposes an unusual apprehension of Christ, and this in a heavenly way, both as to present enjoyment of Him, and as to the hope of His return. Hence the contrast of the portion of those whose hearts were here below. They shall eat the bitter fruit of their choice when the great tribulation comes, as those whose affections are set on heavenly things will then actually be where they dwell now in spirit. Next under the fifth seal (Rev. 6:10) the souls of the early Apocalyptic sufferers are represented as calling upon the Sovereign Lord to judge and avenge their blood on “them that dwell on the earth.” These will then have broken out into relentless, deadly persecution against the witnesses, whom God will have on earth when the seals are being fulfilled. Now under the woe-trumpets, we find them to be the special objects. Further details we must defer till we come to the chapters that treat of them more particularly.

49 Strange as it may seem that so simple a matter should give rise to long doubt and interminable discussion, such is the fact. Perhaps the earliest interpretation on record, that of Victorinus (a martyr in Diocletian’s persecution) applies the half-hour’s silence to the beginning of eternal rest. And this remains the resource still of most who understand the seven seals to embrace the outline of events in providence, down to the second advent of the Lord, save that some would rather style the seventh seal a pause at His return. It is plain that the view rests mainly upon the assumption that the sixth seal introduced the day of the Lord, with its dependent sealing and palm-bearing visions representing the consummated glory of the blessed. Nobody can conceive that silence in heaven for half-an-hour would have been so viewed, unless the seal before had necessitated to their minds some such reference. And yet it is evidently unnatural; for if we had the rest, be it millennial or eternal, described fully in the close of Revelation 7, why did it need a fresh seal to inaugurate or continue it in the commencement of Revelation 8? And with what propriety, either as to time or character, is it conveyed in the seventh seal? This has led others to adopt the still stranger idea that the sixth seal closes the sequence of events, the seventh being merely indicative of a separation between this series and the parallel one of the trumpets. And the very curious circumstance is, that some who receive this anomalous arrangement have persuaded themselves that theirs is the only perfect clue to the order of the book, whereas it is nothing but hopeless confusion. That I may not be charged with injustice, let me give the following statement from Three Letters on the Prophecies, pp. 2, 3, by J. H. Frere, reprinted in 1859. “Every commentator who has hitherto written on the Apocalypse, by erroneously understanding the mention of the seventh seal having been opened, which occurs at Revelation 8:1, to be an introduction of the events of that seal, has committed the greatest possible chronological error: embracing in the midst of the seals, and therefore amidst the events of time, the eternal state of the glorified church, represented by the vision of the palm-bearing multitude before the throne, of the preceding chapter (Rev. 7:9-17): so that no chronological arrangement of the Apocalypse has as yet even been proposed, seeing that eternity has thus been universally introduced between the sixth and seventh seals. The Apocalypse, however, will be found really to consist of these chronological histories, viz., the seven seals, contained in Revelation 6 and 7, concluding with the vision of the eternal state; the seven trumpets, consisting of Revelation 8 to 10:7, concluding (like the prophecy of Daniel, Revelation 12:7) with the vision of Christ assuring His church, by the solemnity of an oath, that he regards their sufferings and sets bounds to their duration; and the little opened book (Rev. 10:8 to 14.) concluding with the great judgment of the treading of the wine-press of Armageddon.” It is manifest that this unheard of and systematic disorder is due to the great primary error that Rev. 6:17 is a prophecy of the wrath of the Lamb, instead of being the predicted expression of men’s apprehension at that early epoch of judgment. The seventh seal is rendered meaningless, the sixth seal being virtually made the seventh, and the contents of it and of the parenthetical Revelation 7 entirely misunderstood. Equally are the trumpets mistaken. They do not conclude with Christ’s oath, any more than the preceding series concluded with the vision of the eternal state. Neither does the little open book conclude with Armageddon. Like the sealing and palm-bearing visions, it is a parenthesis revealed within the limits of the sixth trumpet, instead of following the seventh trumpet. The reader will, therefore, see the immense importance of steadily resisting the too common error as to the sixth seal, and will understand why I have rum the risk of repeating its confutation too frequently.

50 The excessive fancifulness and uncertainty of the schemes of interpreting the trumpets, especially of those who deny that they follow the seals and attempt to deduce a stream parallel to them, may be gleaned from the subjoined sketch drawn up by one of the ablest of themselves. “It will be enough to select nine or ten commentators, of considerable eminence and reputation, that the diversity of their views, in detail, may be seen; while there is uniform agreement in the main idea, that these trumpets denote political judgments which fell in the early ages on the Roman empire. Let us compare Mede, Cressener, Sir Isaac Newton, Whiston, and Lowman; and of living authors, Mr. Faber, Mr. Cuninghame, Mr. Frere, and Dr. Keith, with the last of whom Mr. Elliott nearly agrees in the arrangement of this part of the prophecy. The first trumpet begins, according to Lowman, in the time of Constantine; according to Mr. Cuninghame and Mr. Frere, with the death of Valentinian, A.D. 376, and ends with the death of Theodosius, A.D. 395. But Mede, Newton, Dr. Keith, and Mr. Elliott, make it begin with the death of Theodosius, and reach to the death of Alaric, A.D. 410. Cressener and Whiston include in it both periods. Mr. Faber agrees with Mode and Newton in its commencement, but continues it forty years after Alaric’s death, A.D. 395-450. The second, according to Lowman, Mr. Cuninghame, and Mr. Frere, reaches from Theodosius to Alaric, the exact interval which Mede, Newton, Dr. Keith, and Mr. Elliott assign to the first. Mede refers it to the fall of the Roman sovereignty, A.D. 410-455; Cressener, to the Transalpine invasions, A.D. 410-448; Sir Isaac Newton, to the Visigoths and Vandals, 407-427; Whiston, Mr. Faber, and Dr. Keith, to the Vandals only, but within different limits, A.D. 407-460, 439-417, and 429-477 respectively. The third trumpet by Sir Isaac Newton is applied to the Vandals, A.D. 427-430; by Whiston, Mr. Cuninghame, and Dr. Keith, to Attila and the Huns, A.D. 441-452; by Mede, Cressener, and Lowman, to the troubles of Italy, or setting of the Western Caesar, A.D. 450-476; by Mr. Faber, to the same, within narrow limits, A.D. 462-476; and by Mr. Frere, to the Nestorian heresy. Lastly, the fourth is referred by Mr. Cuninghame to the fall of the empire, A.D. 455-476; by Whiston, to the extinction itself, A.D. 476; by Mede, Cressener, Lowman, and Dr. Keith, to the subsequent eclipse of Rome, A.D. 476-540; by Sir Isaac Newton, to the wars of Beliarius, A.D. 535-552; by Mr. Faber and Mr. Frere, to the reign of Phocas and the Persian invasion of the East, A.D. 602-610. The remark of Mr. Faber on these differences, in earlier writers, is very natural and just. ‘While they agree that the downfall of the Roman power in the West is at least the most prominent object of the prophecy, scarcely any two expositors concur as to the division of that subject among the several trumpets, that are supposed to relate to it. The general result brought out is the subversion of the Western empire, but the particular steps are as multifarious and discordant as can well be imagined. So curious a circumstance may well be deemed the opprobrium of Apocalyptic interpretation, and may naturally lead us to suspect that the true key to the distinct application of the four first trumpets has never yet been found, or, if found, has never yet been satisfactorily used.’ The natural inference from this strange variety of opinion among the best expositors is, that the historical divisions they have adopted or assumed are dim and vague, when compared with the distinctness of the emblems in the four trumpets.’ — Birks’ Mystery of Providence, pp. 103, 104. I must add, however, that few have exceeded Mr. B. in the loose rein he has allowed himself in applying this chapter. Verses 2-4 are called the season of intercession, and are applied to the time from Nerva till after Aurelius (A.D. 86-180) — why then, more than at any other epoch, does not clearly appear. Then verses 5, 6, are the warning and preparation (A.D. 181-248); next, verse 7, the first trumpet (A.D. 250-268), with an imaginary pause of judgment (A.D. 270-365); verses 8, 9, the second (A.D. 365-476); verses 10, 11, the third (A.D. 431-565); verse 12, the fourth (A.D. 540-622). Verse 13 might be thought to denote at least as much as the invisible pause of judgment between verses 7 and 8, but it is passed by without any chronological notice. Indeed, the first woe is made to trench even upon the fourth trumpet, being dated A.D. 609-1063, as the second A.D. 1037-1453. But I have reason to believe the author has abandoned it, and now in the main coalesces with Mr. Elliott.

51 “The third” is an expression often occurring in the first four trumpets. It refers, as I conceive, to the Western part of the Roman empire. In Revelation 9 we find it again in a different connection where it must be modified in meaning; for there can be no doubt, I think, that the first two woe-trumpets (whatever may be thought of the last) find their local application in the East. In fact, this is so clear that one writer of our day would rule the use of the phrase in Revelation 8 by its undoubted oriental (or, as he perhaps would can it, Greek) reference in the following chapter. But this is obviously illegitimate, and the ordinal allusion to the third emblem of Daniel is an error. In itself “the third” defines nothing, save that there is a tri-partite division. It is equally applicable to any of the three parts: to ascertain which particularly is meant we must take the context into account.

52 Mr. E. refers after Zullig to the “learned critic” Wolf’s preference of the common text. I doubt that he would have cited such an auxiliary, if he had been aware that the main object of the Curae Philol. seems to be the maintenance of the received readings against the best authorities, and especially in opposition to Bengel. Besides, he is far from positive in this, though greatly suspecting αἐτοῦ. “Quod si tamen aquilae mentio facta censeri debeat, malim omnino cum Seideliano codice et Primasio legere ἀγγέλου ὡς αἐτοῦ πετωμένου. “ — (C. P., vol. v. p. 514.)

53 I know but must demur to the reasoning of Mr. E. in behalf of the supposition that the literal and the symbolical are mingled in these trumpets. The general examples of figure and fact from Ps. 22 prove nothing for such a book as the Apocalypse. The real question, as he feels himself, is one of admitting literal geography into obviously symbolical prophecies. So, again, an incidental allusion (as in Ezek. 27:26; Ezek. 32:6, 7; Ps. 80:8, 11; Jer. 3:6,) is not fairly to be compared with an elaborate orderly series of symbolical images, as in our prophecy, where earth and sea have a definite meaning, quite independent of literal locality; the former referring to the scene of settled government, and the latter to a state of anarchy (cf. Rev. 12:12; Rev. 13:2, 11). Indeed, the instances of Rev. 13: are admitted on all hands. It is most natural, therefore, to adhere to the same sense of the prophetic language in our chapter. The meaning afforded also seems simple and excellent, without the incongruous mixture contended for. And as we saw under the seals, so here in the trumpet series, the fourth, not to speak of the third, presents an insuperable barrier. For surely, we must take the heavenly luminaries in a homogeneous sense; and how then can these be understood literally? The occurrence of the figure in the woe-trumpets would not have been so conclusive; for a difference there is, when we enter on the fifth trumpet. But it is in the fourth that we have sun, moon, and stars smitten. If these, then, are confessedly symbolical, why cut the thread of consistency? why not interpret the three preceding trumpets, as to land, sea, river, and fountains, in a kindred spirit? The sole reason I can conceive for the opposite course is the difficulty that is found in adapting the successive inroads of the barbarians, in a sufficiently definite form, to the various trumpet-blasts. But even so, what ineffectual effort and uncertainty after all! If I understand the Horae A., i. in loco, “the burning of trees and herbage” is viewed physically by one who is generally the intrepid antagonist of literalism in the mouths of his Futurist friends. Why not expound the burning of the third of the earth, which critics admit must be received into the text? Taken figuratively, all is easy and plain, as well as harmonious. Again, if the thunders, lightnings, voices, and earthquake in Revelation 8:5 are answered by the primary insurrection of the Goths under Alaric, immediately after the death of Theodosius the Great, what is the analogous reference of the lightnings, voices, and thunders of Revelation 4:5? Mr. Birks has urged repeated instances where the prefiguration ill accords with Mr. E.’s alleged fulfilment in history; but I am not careful to insist on such points.