Revelation 10

Some will remember a resemblance already pointed out between the two orders of seals and trumpets. When we come to the sixth in each series, there is an interruption of a most interesting kind. We saw that after the sixth seal there was such an episode, not of judgment but of mercy — God interfering on behalf of man, after the most signal convulsion among men and things on the earth; and not only so, but the powers of the heavens also shaken. Then we found God showing us that in the midst of judgment He remembers mercy. For there was the sealing of a full complement out of the twelve tribes of Israel, and besides clear and affecting proof was furnished that the poor Gentiles were not forgotten. Thus, when the prophet looks, he sees a countless multitude out of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues. These were evidently delivered by the great goodness of God, and come out of that terrible tribulation that is yet to be. Now in Rev. 9 we have had the sixth trumpet; and, answering to what we have seen in the seals, there is an interruption between it and the seventh trumpet, which is only announced in Rev. 11:15. There is a vision described of a very marked, and, considering the visions that accompanied all the trumpets, of an extraordinary character. A mighty angel comes down from heaven, who appears to be the Lord Himself So we saw in a previous chapter the angel-priest at the golden altar, putting incense to the prayers of the saints which He offered up to God. And I suppose few would imagine that God could commit this service of the heavenly sanctuary to any mere created being. In the Old Testament Jehovah had occasionally assumed an angelic form; and as this book brings us back to a great deal which is akin to the Jewish Scriptures, herein may be one reason why we have Christ thus taking the form of an angel. As before the trumpets were blown, the angel who gave the signal for all was seen in a priestly point of view, here he is in power preparing the way of the kingdom. Accordingly there is every circumstance of majesty surrounding him.

“And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud.” The cloud, as any one will recollect who is conversant with scripture idea and phrase, was the well-known badge of Jehovah’s presence. When the Lamb’s blood was shed and Israel were being led out of the land of their bondage, God Himself went before them as the angel of the covenant, and the cloud was the visible form or token of it. (Ex. 13:21; Ex. 23:20, 23; Ex. 40:36, 38; Num. 9:15-23.) In the angel that we have here there is much that seems to indicate the presence of the Lord Himself, laying claim to the possession of the world at large. One remarkable sample may be remembered even in the New Testament, at the time when there was a little foreshadowing given of the coming kingdom. Now what was it that testified to the immediate presence of God? and what made Peter and John tremble, accustomed though they were to the company of Jesus and to the most marvellous effects of His power? “They feared as they entered into the cloud,” because the cloud was the known and peculiar mark of Jehovah’s presence.

Here then, I think, it was no mere creature, but the Creator Himself, who took the form of an angel. It may be too the Lord retreating, if one may so say, from all that would have linked Him manifestly and directly with His people, and this for a very solemn reason. His people during the trumpets are supposed to have, only not wholly, lost their distinctive separation and to be sunk down into the world, so that God morally could not own in a public way His connection with them. In Hebrews 11 it is said of certain believers that God was not ashamed to be called their God. Alas! there are saints of whom God would be ashamed to be called their God. It was not so with the early patriarchs, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: God was their God. But He never calls Himself the God of Lot. This is a serious matter for thought, and our hearts ought to watch against anything that could make Him ashamed to be called our God. It has been alluded to before, when we noticed that the Lord is never spoken of in this series as the Lamb, because the people of God will have got so much mixed up with unbelievers. When these judgments fall, the saints will be painfully merged in the world, so that much of the chastisement will come upon both. Remember also that the Lord tells us the slips of His people that we may be warned by them. How sad to use the prophecy of unfaithfulness in order to justify it, and to attribute the effects of our unbelief to the providence of God!

At the time of the trumpets there is an ominous silence as to the people of God. There is just an allusion to their exemption from the torment of the apostates in Revelation 9:4; but this is the only distinct reference till the parenthesis of Revelation 10 and 11 if you apply the seals and trumpets to the past history of the world, the meaning is so plain that most thoughtful Christians have agreed in the main. Constantine brought in Christianity by force of arms. The consequence of this was the great downfall of Paganism, with intimations of mercy by the by, and the seventh seal was followed by silence in heaven for about half an hour. No false expectation could be there. God knew that, so far from the world being made really better by that astonishing change, all would end in the frightful consequences of grace abused, corrupted, and despised. The vast body which had given up idolatry for the profession of Christianity would ripen for judgment. The immediate result here is the coming in of these trumpets. And what then? God was ashamed of Christendom; heaven was silent now, and yet we know joy is felt there over one sinner that repents. It was, externally at least, a swamp of forms; and where was the Rock of salvation? Alas! He is once more lightly esteemed.

Connected with this, I think, the Lord Jesus is no longer spoken of as the Son of man, much less as the Lamb, if seen here, He is in angelic guise. And as before (in order to distinguish Him particularly from all others) He was engaged with the incense at the golden altar; so here we find He was “clothed with a cloud” — the badge of Jehovah’s glory; “and the rainbow [was] over his head,” that is, the pledge of God’s unchanging covenant with creation. “His face [was] as it were the sun.” The sun is ever the symbol of supreme glory in rule, and the face of this angel is said to be like the sun. So it was on the holy mount (Matt. 17:2), and when John saw his Lord again at Patmos. (Rev. 1:16.) “His feet as pillars of fire” united, it would seem, the solidity of the “pillar” and the thorough final judgment that is so constantly conveyed by “fire.” He plants the left on the sea, meaning the unformed masses of the outside world, and the right on the earth, i.e., that part of the world which is favoured with divine testimony and government. In other words, it is the Lord’s universal claim over men, over the world. It is a public declaration of His right, not in respect of the church, but of the earth: not yet His actual investiture as Son of man, but a dealing of providential character, which involves a recommencing of testimony preparatory to His speedy assumption of universal dominion.

But a further step has to be taken now. It is not, as in Revelation 5, God seated upon His throne with the sealed book in His right hand, and then the Lamb opening the book as the One who had prevailed to do so. And how prevailed? Through death. It is not by creature-strength that the man of God conquers. The victories that will shine most and brightest are always those cast, so to speak, in the mould of the death of the Lord Jesus. In poor man’s case it is life first and then death, because we are by nature dead in trespasses and sins; but in that of the Lord Jesus it is death first and then resurrection-life; and such is the pattern for the Christian’s faith to realize. Our whole life, as believers, should flow according to the same cross that has wrought our salvation; for the cross is God’s power for us all the way through. (Gal. 6.) It is God who has given us to suffer, and then comes power practically; but this is, perhaps always, after there has been more or less a realization of weakness and suffering. (2 Cor. 12; 2 Cor. 13:4.) A man cannot win Christian victories until he is ban and low before God. He must be broken down in one way or another. And blessed it is if we are broken down in the presence of Christ; for if it be not there, we must be broken down, if one may say so, in our own presence, and haply too in that of others. In Revelation 5, however, Christ opens the book that was unintelligible to all the mind of man, and He shows, us from the seals certain judgments of God, so little removed from ordinary events in providence that we should scarce have known them to be judgments, save by that divine unveiling. But the Lamb unfolds all, and we find that God is at work to introduce the kingdom of the First-begotten, to put the Heir in actual possession of the inheritance.

In the chapter before us there is a difference. It is not a sealed book that we have, but an open one: and it is also emphatically a little book. There is nothing mysterious about the matter. We come here to a notable change in the Revelation. Instead of its being as hitherto, events that were the secret effects of God’s unseen hand, there is a manifestation of His power and purpose with regard to His people. All becomes quite plain. We have no longer symbolical locusts, having a king (cf. Prov. 30:27), or strange and strangely numerous horses and horsemen, etc. It is now God’s open, brief, and decisive actings. This I apprehend to be the difference between the two books. The first was in the hand of God and sealed, so that none could open it, save the blessed One who suffered all for the glory of God. Here it is an open book, which the prophet takes from the angel’s hand; and immediately we have no longer the more secret or enigmatical appearances of earlier visions, but the temple, the holy city, the Gentiles treading it under foot — all an obvious manifestation that God is acting on the Jews. We have before had the sealing a certain number out of the tribes of Israel, scattered, as I suppose, throughout the whole world. But here (Rev. 11) we come to a smaller scale, where God’s dealings are concentrated on Jerusalem, the sanctuary. altar, worshippers, two witnesses, etc., and where they are also brought out so plainly that there need be no mistake as to what God means thereby. The beast as such also appears here in undisguised and tremendous opposition against God and His servants. And evidently the lord Jesus is showing that the time approaches when He must take all into His own hands. This then is an open book, because all that it Contains is perfectly plain; and it is a very little book, because but a short time and a narrow compass are contemplated in it.

“And he cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth, and when he had cried, the seven thunders uttered their own voices. And when the seven thunders had uttered [them], I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying, Seal the things which the seven thunders uttered and write them not”61 (ver. 3, 4). “Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing? . . . shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. The lion hath roared, who will not fear? The Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3.) I cannot but regard this passage of the Jewish prophet as in various elements illustrative of the vision we are examining. Again, thunder in the Old Testament was constantly the expression of God’s authority in the way of judgment. We are summoned to hear this awful announcement of God’s judgments. John was about to write, but a voice from heaven forbids it. He was not to communicate the details of what God was going to do now. But the angel “lifted up his right hand to heaven and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven . . . . that there should be no more space [or delay], but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he should be about to sound, the mystery of God also should be finished, as he announced to his servants the prophets”62 (verses 5-7).

I apprehend that people often gather a vague if not wrong notion from those words, “there shall be time no longer.” Many imagine that it means there was then to be an end of time, and eternity was to begin. But this is not at all the sense, and the case shows the importance of seeking light from God. The meaning is, that God would no longer allow time to run on before He interfered with the course of this world. It is not that eternity was at once to begin, but that there should be no longer any lapse of time before His last summons to the world and the introduction of a new dispensation, in which He will deal in an open manner with men on the earth. Since the rejection and ascension of the Lord Jesus, men — “His citizens” have sent a message after Him, saying (at least in their hearts), “We will not have this man to reign over us.” Such has been the voice of the world ever since He went into the far country. The real desire of man is to be rid of Christ; and in general he thinks he is. And no wonder he dislikes to hear of His return in power and glory; for the scriptures declare expressly that Christ is to judge man, and man does not like to stand before his judge. Hence he puts off as long as possible the warning of Christ’s advent to judge sin and sinners. The Lord intimates here that there is to be ere long a close put to the present delay. All the time that Christ is away at the right hand of God there is a suspense of judgment. But God feels deeply for His people, suffering as they must during the interval of Christ’s rejection; and now He is not going to allow such a state of things to continue any longer, for there are the evident signs and tokens of the Lord’s coming to deal with His enemies.

The mighty angel swears that there should be no further delay (not before eternity, but) before the day of the Lord. The space or day spoken of here is man’s day, and when this ends, the day of the Lord begins, which latter in scripture is never confounded with eternity, because that day has an end; whereas of course eternity never can terminate. Viewed from every side, the real force then is “that there should be no longer delay.” And remark the words in the following verse: “But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he should be about to sound, the mystery of God should be finished,” etc. These words at once contradict the thought that eternity was to follow immediately. On the contrary, after this the whole of the millennium comes in; after it a little season, and then eternity. Souls are sometimes hindered from entering into the truth of God by one little word, and so I believe it has been with this passage. Often when a slight obscurity is cleared up, heaps of difficulties disappear.

God will put a stop to the present delay: “the mystery of God” will then be finished. This I take to mean the secret of His allowing Satan to have his own way, and man too (that is to say, the wonder of evil prospering and of good being trodden under foot) God cheeks, no doubt, the evil in a measure, partly through human government and partly through His own providential dealings. And indeed it is an immense mercy that there are such restraints upon the evil of this world. For what would it be without them, when, even in the midst of God’s providential cheeks, wickedness is often so triumphant, and godliness thrown to the ground? Still there is an influence for evil that no government can root out, and good that is belied and so has comparatively little influence. That is what seems so mysterious a thing to us, when we know God and how He hates evil. But it is soon coming to an end. God is about to touch all that is contrary to Himself, to bring all that has been promised from of old, and to give credit for all that has been done according to Himself And He is going to do this by His Son. The One whom man despised and rejected is the very person whom God will send to reduce all into holy order and beauty out of the existing mass of confusion.

“The mystery of God” must not be confounded with the mystery of His will in Eph. 1:9. This last is what has been always near to His heart, for it involves the glory not of the church only but of Christ. It is “according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself.” There was no one that suggested it. It was His own will. And what is the mystery of His will? “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in Him.” All these things that Satan has scattered now will be reunited in one under Christ. Mercy and truth will then meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other. This is true even now for the believer, as far as his own reconciliation to God is concerned. Satan may challenge you. — How can it be had in the presence of so much evil within? No wonder that this cuts right into the conscience of the man that doubts God, and even of the one that believes Him, if he is looking at himself. When occupied with myself these doubts may well arise, but not if I am looking only to Christ. He alone is entitled to give me rest before God. It is Christ alone who can dissipate the waves and the winds. Satan has set man against God in every way, even against goodness coming down from Him; but God is not going to allow evil to pass a certain limit. Though Satan’s opposition is allowed to frustrate God’s plans for the present, yet every one of the ways in which He has been at work in the earth from the first is destined to triumph and to triumph together in the end. (Hosea 2:21, 23.) There was a man set up in Adam; there was government put into the hands of Noah; there was God’s calling given to Abraham; there was the long and patient test of the law; finally, there was the mission of His Son and of His Spirit. All these things, so to speak, have been streams from God flowing through this earth. They have been refused or corrupted by man from the first, and through the enemy’s power men will abuse these very dealings of God to bring in the most daring and deadly conspiracy that the world has ever seen — Satan and man combined against God, who will allow all this evil to come out, and will then put an end to it by judgment. This is the finishing of the mystery.

But that which is called “the mystery of His will” is not the subject of prophecy. Christ will be the Head of all blessing and He will gather all things in united blessing under His own headship — all that Satan had contrived to spoil. What God made originally was merely in a condition of innocence. but what the Lord Jesus will accomplish in the end, the reconciliation of all things, will be beyond Satan’s power to touch. All will be gathered together in one, even in Christ their chief. And another thing it is well to state. In this mystery of God’s will we are not merely to be blessed under Christ, but in order to get the full character of the blessing, we are blessed with Him. And this is what we have here in Ephesians: not that we will be a sort of inheritance for Christ, but we are joint-heirs with Him. In that great mystery of God in Christ, there are two thoughts — Christ’s universal headship, and the church’s union to Him. There is no such thing as our being united under Christ’s power; but all things that ever have been made are to he united under His headship; and, wonderful thought! the church is to share all that glory along with Him. it is not what belongs to Christ as a divine person, but what He takes as the reward of redemption. And this very work gives Him a title to bestow it on whom God will. The church is united as the body and bride of Him who is the Lord of all. She is the Eve of the Second Adam. In Ephesians 5 St. Paul takes up more particularly the latter part of the subject. Christ is to present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. The great mystery brought out there is the nearness, the love, the intimacy of bridal relationship between Christ and the church.

In the Epistle to the Colossians you have the same thing referred to (Col. 2:2): “To the acknowledgement of the mystery of God [and of the Father, and of Christ].” These last words seem inserted without adequate authority, and when persons try to mend scripture, they only damage it. There is a certain great mystery spoken of in Colossians 1 (Col. 1:26.) The meaning of the word mystery is a secret. It may not be a secret now, but it means a thing that was a secret. Where there is anything that people cannot understand, they are apt to designate it a mystery. But in scripture it means a truth that God kept hid, but that is so no longer — something which they did not know as men or Jews, but that Christ was to teach them as Christians. There is another statement about it in the next verse: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

As to the predictions of Christ in the Old Testament, it is a mistake to call this or the fact itself a mystery: enough was quite plain. What the Jewish prophets proclaimed was a Messiah coming who would reign over them, and who would unite salvation with being “the great King.” What they did not understand, though revealed, was His humiliation and death. They stumbled over Him. Again “the mystery” is a term never applied to Christ’s death and resurrection. This was not a secret at all, but on the contrary is very plainly predicted in Isaiah 53, Psalms 16, 22, 69, 106, and many other passages.

But it was a mystery that, when Christ was rejected by His people, and during the time of His exaltation in heaven, God would make Him to be the Head of a heavenly body, chosen by His grace out of all — Jews or Gentiles. This was not treated of in the Old Testament. There were certain things that we can now show to be types of it, but they never would have yielded the least light upon it, if the mystery had not been brought out. There was no such thing then, nor even any such predicted, as Jew and Gentile being blessed together in one body; and this is the reason why it is called “the mystery hidden from ages and from generations.” It was a secret hid in God that the prophets did not touch upon. When the Jews have. their Messiah, it will not be as the hope of glory, but as the One who Himself brings in the glory. When the time comes for the blessing they are looking for, there will be no doubt about it, for all will be manifested, whether for friends or foes; neither will it be a hope, but the actual accomplishment of glory in their midst. But now there is an extraordinary state of things that God is effecting among the Gentiles while the Jews are cast off. The Gentiles have Christ now, not as bringing in glory visibly on the earth, as it will be among the Jews by and by, but they have Him in them the hope of glory by and by, and in heaven.

The term “mystery of God” may be used in our chapter, because it was specially during the time of God’s non-intervention with the world that He had been working out the wonderful secret of Christ and the church. Now this was done with. Still the mystery of evil being permitted to prosper goes on for a time longer — that passiveness of God, whereby He does not hinder evil from having the upper hand, and good from being trampled down. It should soon close, as He declared the glad tidings to His servants the prophets. The voice speaks again and says, “Go take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel,” etc. (verse 8.) Accordingly John takes the book, and finds it, when he has eaten, in his mouth sweet as honey; but when he ponders its contents, and digests its results, how bitter within So it is and will be. When we see how God will accomplish all, it must be pain to think what is reserved for man, as indeed it is to know how perseveringly he rebels against God, and forsakes his own mercies.

The Lord grant that what has been of God for the clearing of our standing from earthly principles, and awakening a just feeling of the exceeding dignity of the place in which God has put us, may be impressed upon our hearts. None are in so responsible a place as those who are occupied with heavenly things. And let us not suppose that position, or even truth, will of itself keep a soul: nothing but the spirit of God can; and He never will, where there is not dependence and self-judgment. He is come to glorify Christ. The Lord grant that we may watch and pray! For while the truth is calculated to separate from the world, yet where it is abused and degenerates into that knowledge which pulls up, one is prepared for the worst results.

It remains to add a few words as usual on the past measure of accomplishment which this parenthetical vision has received. I am not disposed to question its general application to that wonderful divine intervention, the Reformation. The Eastern empire had for some time succumbed to the furious onset of the Turks; the West was not a whit less steeped and impenitent than before in abominable idolatry and imposture, when that sudden light from on high shone upon astonished Europe. Not that the grace of Christ was deeply realized, or reflected in the Reformation. The testimony of its leading spirit, Luther, expressed itself in a way more akin to the lightnings and thunders of Sinai, and savoured too often of earth rather than of heaven. In fact it is this comparative earthliness of character, which enables the Historicalists to find so many apparent coincidences between that great work and the vision before us. It is just because Luther so much approximated, not to St. Paul’s line of ministry, but to the prophetic testimony of Jesus which is yet to be borne by the latter-day witnesses, that there seems so much in common between the tenor of his life and the tendency of his labours, and the predictions of what they are to teach and do and suffer by and by. The idea of comparing it with the original sending out of the gospel and formation of the church at Pentecost is, I cannot but feel, a gross misconception.

Besides, is it true that there is not a particular in the vision to which the Reformation does not exactly answer? Does the blaze of the Sun of righteousness intimate the republication of His gospel? I do not doubt that the full meaning of the vision involves a public testimony to the coming of “the day;” but for this reason the gospel is excluded, as any spiritual person may see who dispassionately weighs Mal. 4. For the essence of the gospel is that therein God justifies the ungodly and saves the lost; whereas it is “unto you [the godly remnant of the Jews] that the Sun of righteousness arises with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith Jehovah of hosts. Remember ye the law of Moses my servant.” There may be a measure of resemblance between this and the aims and course (though not the issue) of the more warlike Reformers; but in that very proportion it is the reverse of the gospel, or of the practical conduct which flows from and is suitable to it.

Again the cloud recalls the deliverance of Israel, as the rainbow does the covenant with the earth, when government was instituted; the pillars of fire represent judicial firmness, and the loud lion-like voice is the terror-striking assertion of His rights, preceded by the significant claim laid to the whole world, and followed by the complete utterance of God’s power. These with the little open book (which appears to mean known prophecy relative to the city and temple) are all of them features entirely agreeing with the approaching resumption of the Lord’s relations with Jerusalem and the Jews, and the world in general, but not one of them, as it seems to me, in its full import like the gospel of God’s grace. Heaven and the church are entirely unseen: it is a question of an earthly people, and hence of kings and nations; it is the recommencement, not of evangelising, much less of edifying the body of Christ, but of the prophetic testimony here below. The decree is declared. Jehovah’s anointed King is about to take Zion, His hill of holiness, nay, the nations for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. He is no longer to ask the Father for the heavenly sons, but for the, world itself — no longer to set apart by the truth for association with Himself above, but to reduce people with a rod of iron, and to dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. “Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.” Such is the obvious connection of the scene before us. In view of this, it is a preliminary interference. Had the Reformers understood the high calling of the saints, or the nature, character, and consequences of our union with Christ in heavenly places, there would have been a contrast, not an analogy. In truth it was (I repeat) the effect of their lack of spiritual intelligence as Christians, and their approximation to godly Jews, which imprinted on their movement whatever assimilation there is to the scene we are reviewing.

Further, the attempt to make it the complete answer involves at least the ordinary amount of strain, and I might almost add of the absurd. For, in his haste to apply the principle of allusive reference, as it has been called, the author of the Horae Apoc. does not even glance at the connection of the seven thunders with Christ. It was too good an opportunity to lose for an allusion to the thunders of the Vatican. But here, strange to say, and in opposition as it appears to me to the very principle invoked, Mr. Elliott wrests these thunders from Him who is the primary figure in the vision, and applies them exclusively to the Pope! The reasoning that is offered in support of the proposition, so monstrous to any mind not under the overwhelming bias of a system, appears to me wholly groundless, though not unworthy of Mr. E.’s well-known ingenuity. 1. The vocality of the thunders is not altogether unprecedented in this book (Rev. 6:1), and besides, the trumpets are said to have the same (Rev. 8:13). Compare also Rev. 16:7 for the altar. The supposed parallel in John 12:28 is certainly not in favour of papal oracles. 2. The reflective pronoun no doubt implies that the voices were their own, the sounds proper to the thunders spoken of; but that they were in opposition to the angel’s crying as with lion’s roar is the most unnatural of inferences. Whatever may be thought of the theory of an allusion to Leo X., even so the analogy of every other vision is in favour of the thought that the direct reference is the full expression of divine power, as God’s seal upon the angel’s assertion of title. 3. It seems to me almost awful to lay it down that the proposition, “write them not,” implies that the voices were “not the true sayings of God, but instead thereof false, and an imposture.” (H. A., vol. ii. p. 105.) The real reason is very simple. The general fact, that “the voice of Jehovah” echoes the claims of Christ to the possession of the world is given; the details are not to be written. The apostle Paul was caught up into paradise and heard secrets ( ἄρρητα ῥήματα) which it is not allowed for man to utter. The prophet John was about to write what the thunders divulged, but the voice from heaven commands the things to be sealed, not written — a mode of dealing most extraordinary, if the utterances are supposed to be the false decrees of Rome, but well harmonizing with the conclusion that other things were yet to be revealed, before the power of God was enforced and the earthly rights of Christ are made good by judgment. 4. Hence, I utterly reject, as a mere corollary of the last error, the idea of reference here to the seven hills of Rome. Hitherto the septenary usage of the Revelation has been entirely independent of that local sign, which occurs only in Rev. 17, where the context proves that Rome is in question. Here, for the same reason of the connection, the Roman hills are an intrusion, while the idea of completeness is the natural sense. 5. This also accounts for the prefixed article, as in the case of the seven angels (Rev. 8), who, I presume, have no special connection with that city. As to the opinion that there is nothing but the Papal bulls to which the seven Apocalyptic thunders have been made to answer, it is natural in the quarter whence it flows; but when the writer adds “or can be,” he passes, I humbly think, beyond the bounds of wisdom or modesty. None of us is the measure of divine knowledge nor of what the Lord may bestow. Further, I for one confess my inability to discern, even with the special pleading of the Horae, the peculiar suitability of the angel’s oath to the prevalent convictions of the Reforming fathers or their Protestant children. Savonarola and others before him seem to have been rather more full of the nearness of Christ’s kingdom than Luther and his coadjutors. What the great German expected was rather the destruction of the Pope’s kingdom by the word alone, and this founded on his construction of Daniel quite as much as St. Paul; i.e. it seems to me, in contrast with the open book and the angel’s most solemn announcement. Nor did Melancthon improve on Luther, when he assigned Dan. 7 to Mohammedanism and Dan. 8 to the Papacy. Neither can I admit that prophesying, as addressed to John, and predicated of the two witnesses, or indeed ever, is the mere function of expounding the scriptures and exhorting from them, as fulfilled in every faithful gospel minister. The notion, too, that in the words, “Go take the little book,” and “thou must prophesy again,” we are to read (not now of course, an allusive reference, but) a sort of prefiguration of the deacon’s ordination to preach the gospel or Christian ministry, and of the taking in hand the New Testament to translate it into the vernacular tongue; and yet more, that St. John’s being made representative of the faithful ministers of the Reformation at this epoch intimates that they were all in the line of evangelical succession, is to me more like playing with feelings than a grave exposition of this chapter. It is the attempt to apply the details to the past, which betrays the unsatisfactoriness of the exclusive Protestant scheme: a bearing on it, definite enough to show that such a work as the Reformation was not overlooked of God, in the protracted application of the book, I have already admitted. The full literal carrying out of every word awaits the end of the age.

61 In the first clause of v. 4, the uncial MSS. A B C P, the majority of cursives, and almost all the ancient versions, besides Greek and Latin fathers, omit τὰς φωνὰς ἑαυτῶν, and the rendering would then be, “And when the seven thunders had spoken,” for English hardly admits of the absolute “had uttered.” I suppose that the phrase was assimilated to the close of verse 3, whereas the true form is corroborated by the latter clauses of verse 4. The difference in sense would be that these thunders not only emitted their own proper sounds, but conveyed something intelligible to the prophet. At the end of verse 4, μὴ αὐτὰ γράφῃς is supported by the overwhelming preponderance of manuscripts. The common text has ταῦτα with a few cursives, most of which, with the old Cappadocian commentator Andreas, read μετά for μή. This last, I presume, was the mere blunder of a scribe, who probably confounded a contraction of the former with the latter, and this might be the more readily, inasmuch as μετὰ ταῦτα (“after these things”) is a frequent formula in Revelation. It is curious that this obvious mistake, yielding a sense totally different from, and nearly opposite to, the one intended, has been followed in more than one of the old foreign editions, beginning, if I mistake not, with the Complutensian, though the fact is not stated by Tregelles, etc. There are also discrepancies as to the form of the last word, but there is the less reason to record them, as that which some authorities give is not even sense.

62 †The right readings here, I believe, are χρόνος οὐκἐτι ἔσται . . . . καὶ ἐτελέσθη. The former confirms the sense given in the text and evidently means that there shall be no longer space or delay, but in the days, etc. “The time shall not be yet” would require ὁ καιρός instead of χρόνος, and οὔπω rather than οὐκέτι, which, in constructions like the present, means “no more.” Others take it as “a [mystical] time;” but this also in scripture is always καιρός. The meaning which results from the latter very accurately falls in with the sentiment, for ὅταν μέλλῃ σαλπίζειν avoids the indefiniteness of the mere future, and intimates that, when the seventh angel should just sound, the mystery of God should also be finished, or literally “was finished,” the Greek aorist being employed to express the summariness of its completion — its coincidence, as it were, with that seventh blast. Bp. Middleton (and before him, it seems, Piscator and Vitringa) suggested a Hebraism as the source of this peculiar use of the aorist; for the Hebrew preterite very frequently stands for the future when that tense goes before and is joined by the conjunction. Indeed, as Gesenius remarks (Rödiger’s ed., § 124, 6), the Pret. with Vau conversive relates to futurity, Also when it is not preceded by a future tense, but by some other indication of futurity, and even where none such appears. This solution, if it be true here, confirms καὶ ἐτελέσθη. Here, again, τελεσθήσεται would leave a vague future open, and another form is employed, which may appear harsh at first, but the propriety of which becomes apparent, the more the requirements of the passage are understood. Τελεσθῃ is good in sense, and fairly supported; but it is easier than ἐτελέσθη and may have been the correction of a copyist. The converse appears to me improbable.