Revelation 14

This chapter is the concluding one of the episode that separates the trumpets from the vials. We heard the events under the last trumpet announced; but the details and the means of their actual accomplishment were not revealed to us. There were songs in heaven celebrating its results; but the immediate effect of the last trumpet on earth was only spoken of in a general way; and this going down to the end of all, including even the final judgment of the dead.89

Then the Holy Ghost, as we have seen, in Revelation 12, 13, turns aside to show us the source, character, and leading instruments of the last outbreak of evil, on which the vials were to be poured out, after which the Lord is to act in personal vengeance. We are come, let us suppose, in some comprehensive history, to an account of a battle which decides the fate of the world at any time. The author stops to describe the previous state of the parties and the causes that led to the crisis. Exactly so with what we have here the earnest of retribution, as it were, is given us under the vials. Thus, Revelation 12 and 13, not to speak of Revelation 14, show us what it was that led to such a dreadful out-pouring of God’s wrath. So that, though they may appear to be an interruption, it was necessary for impressing on us adequately the horribleness of the evil the Lord was dealing with. We saw in Revelation 12 that Satan was the mighty and subtle spring behind the scene, hating and opposing Christ and His people from the very beginning. Then there was the war in heaven between Michael and the dragon, with their respective angels; and finally the conduct of Satan, when cast down unto the earth, was traced and explained. Again, Revelation 13 shows us that, just as God revealed Himself to man, not only in tables of stone, but in the person of His Son, in order that men might see divine grace so as no tables of stone could display it (but rather the reverse), and that they might hear it in their own familiar tones; so Satan finds a policy suited to his ends, in taking up men on earth and making them the instruments and expression of his will. Accordingly he acts by the two beasts which represent two great systems or their leaders that will be at work during the short season of our adversary’s great wrath on earth. The violence of the world and its pride and blasphemy are set forth by the beast that rises out of the sea. The beast from the earth is as much suited to ensnare men who desire a religion which excludes God and panders to man and the world, as the other intimidated them by its power, or enticed them by its appeals to their ambition and love of outward show.

But then the question arises, If Satan is so busy himself and his instruments, what is God doing? Is He inactive — indifferent He could not be — all this time? Revelation 14 seems to be the answer to that question. The perversion of everything God has given to man, and of all Satan can devise, will come to a fearful issue then in a few short months and years. Dreadful as it all is, and though God will have seemingly given up the world, just to see what Satan and men together will make of it, yet none the less God even then and there will be at work. And first, it is not now the heavens, nor the earth, nor the sea: none of these is the ground or scene of what is brought before us in the early verses of this chapter. There is a new spot introduced-one not mentioned before, yet a most important one and full of significance. “And I looked, and, lo! the Lamb stood on the mount Sion.” Now let us just pause for a moment and enquire what are the ideas that the Holy Ghost conveys by or connects with the hill of Zion. The Apocalypse everywhere supposes an acquaintance with the other parts of the word of God, from Genesis even to the close of the New Testament. It would be difficult to find any part of scripture that is not required in order to come to a full understanding of this wonderful prophecy.

Let us take the present allusion to Zion as an instance. If I do not know what God teaches elsewhere by mount Zion, how shall I understand what is meant by this opening vision of Rev. 14? The first occasion where Zion comes into view is in the history of David, when he became king over all Israel. (2 Sam. 5) And what was the state of the people then? Israel had previously chosen a king after their own heart; one that reflected them, that could go at their head and fight their battles. “We will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations.” Saul was their choice, David the elect of God. Not that David did not need the mercy and forgiveness of God; for indeed after God’s favour to him he fell grievously. Beyond question, however, David entered into and responded to the thoughts of God in a most remarkable way. He sinned, it is true, but who felt and owned his sin more thoroughly? Who more than he vindicated God against himself? Neither, on the other hand, did God make light of his sin because he delighted in David. The deed was secret, but it was published upon the housetop. He had dealt treacherously with his faithful servant, and had defiled his servant’s house. And what a tale of sorrow did his own house show for many a long year afterwards! (2 Sam. 12.) It was then under David, when Israel had been in confusion, when the priests had corrupted them and the king had wrought no deliverance, when all were in rebellion against God and constantly exposed to the razzias and tyranny of their Philistine neighbours. All was in ruin; the sanctuary, in what a state was it! The very tabernacle and the ark of God were severed. Thus, in all respects, sacred and political, great and small, public and private, the picture was most dismal. And it was then that God began to work energetically by His Spirit in the people. Justly were they suffering under the law which they had undertaken at Sinai. True, there was mercy and faithfulness too, in the midst of all, on God’s part; but still evil was fast increasing, and in Israel there was no hope and no resource. And what then? God calls David out step by step, and Zion acquires a most marked place in his history. It was there David’s city was built, the seat of his royalty. It may not be thought much of now in the world, but in one sense all the blessing of this world as such is suspended over that little spot; and never will there be rest or glory for the earth until the city, which was a stay in the downward progress of Israel, and was meant to be a resting-place for faith, shall by and by be taken up by God. In the Psalms and the Prophets it constantly reappears, the Spirit of Christ ever leading on the hearts, of the saints to anticipate the full result which the early type promised as it were in the germ.

In Hebrews 12 the Holy Ghost refers to it, though perhaps in a different way. Still the great thought is the intervention of God’s race. The passage contrasts the position of Israel with that of the Christian; and, after having described the vision of Sinai, with its blackness, and darkness, and tempest — all most terrible even to the mediator, it proceeds: — “But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,” etc. Now there we see just the same great and precious principle. Israel had come to Sinai, and that was the mountain that characterised their whole course from beginning to end. And what was the result of it? As it began with darkness and distance, so it ended with misery and death. As they were and Sinai was, they could not but shrink back from God; for there God was in His majesty of judgment — not in the love that comes down and puts itself under the burden, in order to take it away. That could not be at Sinai; for there it was a just God in the presence of sinners only; and therefore He could but overawe and fill all with terror and the forebodings of judgment. Bounds must be set round the mountain. If even an unconscious beast touched it, death was the penalty; and this was Sinai. “But ye are come,” says the Spirit, “unto mount Sion,” the mount” of God’s intervention in grace, as Sinai was of man’s responsibility; and with Sinai, what could be the effect for the sinner? Only to press his conscience with the terror of death. The Israelite was as good as a dead man, when he stood there, being already a sinner; and death would be as surely executed, after he left the burning mount. The Apostle shows the Christian ground of grace, the exact opposite of man trembling before a God who righteously demanded what the flesh could not do. Now, it is God who has come down — it is God who has accomplished His work of love. When Zion first appeared by name, it was when Israel-people, priests, king — had utterly failed. Then God entered unsought, established the king of his own choice in Zion, and raised him and his son to such a pitch of glory as never was or will be in Israel again, till the true David comes and plants His royal glory on Zion, never more to be moved.

The principle involved in Zion, then, is God’s activity for His people in the way of grace, when all was lost under the law. This gives the mountain of Zion its true force in Rev. 14. It is the gracious interference of God on behalf of those who sit with the holy sufferer — the Lamb. God acts for His Son, securing His glory on earth and gathering round Him in heart a remnant, not merely sealed as the servants of God (like a similar band out of the twelve tribes of Israel in Revelation 7), but brought into association with the Lamb in Zion, that is, with God’s royal purposes in grace. These seem to me sufferers of Judah, who pass through the unequalled tribulation, which it is not said that the other remnant do. This is what is meant by their standing with the Lamb on the mount Zion. There St. John saw them. Of course, I do not mean that in fact they will be on Zion, or that they will necessarily understand what this symbol sets forth. The question is, what God was conveying to John’s mind or to any who desire to understand the sayings of this book. It was, I believe, God’s special interference on behalf of His people in the last days. He will associate with the Lord Jesus Christ, as the suffering Messiah, a full, numbered, godly remnant, who will be brought into fellowship with Him. There stand in the vision the hundred and forty-four thousand, having the Lamb’s name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads. It is not said that they know God as their Father. The Revelation never contemplates us in the position of children, much less does it so present the Jewish remnant. Thus, even when speaking of the church, we are said to be made kings and priests unto God and His Father, rather than ours. And this is the more remarkable in John, because no other evangelist takes so much pains to show the relationship of children in which God has put us before Himself now. Thus, in John 20, directly the Lord is risen from the dead, the message to His disciples is, “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.” Nothing of this appears here, because the Revelation is not so much intended to open our nearness of relationship to God as our Father, but rather His judgment and glory, though with mercy for a remnant. I speak of the prophetic and earthly portion — not, of course, of that which gives us a glimpse of things above. Thus, the name of the Lamb and the name of His Father (for so it ought to be read) written on their foreheads is in contrast with the name of the beast in Revelation 13. The beast’s name or mark was put on the right hand or forehead of his followers. The Lamb’s name and His Fathers these hundred and forty-four thousand have on their foreheads — not in their hearts only, if we may so speak; they were evidently and openly the Lamb’s.

“And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of loud thunder:90 and the voice which I heard [was] as it were of harpers, harping with their harps. And they sing [as it were] a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders; and none could learn that song but the hundred forty [and] four thousand that were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are they that follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, first-fruits to God and to the Lamb” (ver. 2-4). Thus they are characterized, besides learning the new song of heaven, negatively by their holy separateness from all the various kinds of idolatry which will then prevail on earth, and positively by their faithful allegiance to the Lamb, whatever the fiery trial. Instead of becoming the slaves of the beast, they were redeemed for the earth’s first-fruits to God and the Lamb. They are a very peculiar class, a sort of link between heaven and the earth from which they were redeemed. They were untainted by the corrupt influences of that evil day, and especially are they free from the idolatries that will be one of its most grievous marks. I do not mean idolatry in a. vague or virtual sense (as we are warned against covetousness, which is such morally), but positive, literal idolatry. Many may think it absurd to talk about the worship of idols reappearing in lands neither popish nor pagan; but this would only show how little man’s heart is known and the power of Satan. The word of God is perfectly explicit that the last days will be characterized by the grossest spirit of idolatry, and this in the most enlightened parts of Christendom, yea, in Jerusalem itself, which will then put forth once more the highest pretensions. It is an apostacy that the heart of man is quite capable of, and to which Christendom will be given up by God, as a just retribution for refusing the love of the truth that they might be saved. “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” if He will give them up to their own natural lusts; and the heart prefers any and every thing to God.

The saints, associated to the prophet’s eye with the Iamb on Zion, are said not to be defiled with women; i.e., they were preserved from the corruptions that surrounded them. They walked in virgin purity. Neither do they wonder after the beast. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersover he goeth. “They were redeemed from among men, first-fruits to God and to the Lamb.” They were first-fruits: the harvest would follow in due course. (See verses 14, 16.) “And in their mouth was found no guile [or rather no lie, ψεῦδος], for they are without fault.” It is added in our common Bible, “before the throne of God” (verse 5);91 but these last words ought not to be there. The best authorities leave them out: and a slight consideration will show how wrongly inserted they seem to be. “They are without fault,” or blameless, it is true; but “blameless” here refers, I think, to their practical conduct. If compared with men from whom they were redeemed, such they were. In their presence they were without fault. But suppose God puts them before His throne to search into what they have been here, measured by His holiness — this is another thing. There I need forgiveness; there I need to stand, not in my own blamelessness, but made the righteousness of God in Christ. If I stand as an individual, viewed not in Christ but according to my actual ways, shall I say that I am blameless here? It may make this a little clearer, if we remember 1 John 1, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us;” we do not know the truth about ourselves, and we have no fellowship with Christ in discerning the evil that is there. But “if we say that we have not sinned,” we make God a liar, which is far worse than deceiving ourselves. We make Him a liar, and His word is not in us; for He has declared the contrary over and over. But in 1 John 3 what a change! “He that committeth sin is of the devil;” and “whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil.” How can we reconcile these two things? How account for the immense difference of the language in Revelation 1 and Revelation 3? Most simply. In chapter 1 the Holy Ghost is leading the Christian to view himself in the light of God’s presence: he is before the Father and the Son. He stands before God, if I may so say — not exactly before the throne — but before the Father and the Son. And what will a man say when he stands there? Will he say, I have no sin; I have not sinned? None there will say it. Whoever says so here proves that the truth is not in him — that the word has never searched him. But when God compares His child with those who do not know Himself after a divine sort, He says, “he doth not commit sin,” and “he cannot sin.”

See Numbers. There we perceive Israel in a state of great disorder and failure, every form of unbelief and unfaithfulness in their journeying. But the moment an enemy comes forward, and comes to curse the people of God — that same Israel which had tempted and provoked Him ten times and more, what does He say then? Why, that He has not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither has He seen perverseness in Israel! “Jehovah his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.” In the very persons with whom He had found fault so often, when speaking to themselves, He can see none now. Let Satan and the world take in hand to damage His people, and all His heart is in movement on their behalf.

As this verse stands now in the common text, with the words “before the throne of God” added to it, we could only understand it as being true in Christ; but here the sense requires, if I mistake not, that it be practical conduct. God looks at them as undefiled and truthful, because they have been kept by grace from all the idols of Babylon and the delusive power of the beast; and thus they are blameless. I only notice this to show that many of these little changes add to the great sum of Christian truth. Every blot or error which creeps into the word of God will be found to impair its accuracy and to detract from its perfect beauty.

The second thing that we note in the chapter is an angel flying in the midst of heaven, having everlasting glad tidings to preach unto them that dwell [or, literally, that sit] on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people. I am aware that some have applied this to the great spread of evangelical missions to the heathen in these last days. But is it the way to understand prophecy — ever striving to find some present accomplishment of it? We must look at the context as a whole. If no such thing be admitted as a new group of suffering Jews, connected with Christ in the hope of the kingdom in Israel, it is in vain to look for the angel with the everlasting gospel in the missionary efforts of the last half century. Nor would the message itself in any way suit the present purposes of God. The ground on which the angel appeals to them is that the hour of God’s judgment is come. Is this the case now? Evidently not. Is not the day of grace in full contrast with the hour of judgment? It is still true that “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” As yet the door is open. It is forcing scripture to say “the hour of his judgment is come.” But when the time for the accomplishment of this arrives, it will be the sure warning of the Lord for men. For then the closing judgments are about to be executed, and the outpouring of God’s wrath is just at hand. Now you cannot reconcile all this with the day of blessing and grace, as if they could both run on together. And yet there are those who say we are in the midst of the vials! But this (where it is understood not partially, but in full and finally) indicates the almost total eclipse which befalls the truth in the minds of men, when they can suppose that the day of God’s grace and the hour of His judgment are the same thing, or can be at the same time.

And when we proceed a little closely to examine the message itself, we find that it has altogether another sound from the glad tidings which God is proclaiming now. Does it call souls everywhere to repent., because God has raised up a man from the dead by whom He will judge the world in righteousness? (Acts 17:31.) Thus Paul preached in his day; and thus it is right to preach now a Christ dead, risen, and coming again to judge the world. It speaks of the hour of divine judgment, but there is not a word about a risen man — nothing about a Saviour or His redemption. “Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (verse 7). Now, I ask, is this the kind of message that would suit to go about the country with? Telling persons to worship God that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and fountains of waters? Everlastingly true as it is, is it the special message now? God forbid that the creation-glory of God should be denied! It is exceedingly important; but its proper application is when God has finished the work, now in hand, of saving and calling out the church (Christ’s body) for heavenly glory. When Satan has accomplished his great purpose of making men not only reject the true God when He came as man, but worship a man as God on earth, what will not be the urgent need and value of that message then? It will be the contradiction given to everything the beast and the dragon conspire to bring in. When all this iniquitous false worship is going on, it will require positive faith in the one living and true God not to give way and fall under the power of the delusion. For Satan will have made it to be at the peril of a man’s life and subsistence not to yield.

And so here is this message sent: “Fear God, and give glory to him.” All the world had sunk in idolatry, worshipping the beast and falling down before him. Satan could not prevail on the Son of God to fall down and worship him; but he will have the beast as his tool and all the world is drawn after him. “Worship him that made heaven and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” These are the claims of God to supreme worship at the time when “the earth” will be completely carried away by the anti-christian delusion.

But persons may ask, “Why is it called everlasting glad tidings or gospel?” Perhaps because it is always true. It has been so from the beginning, and up to the close it must be unchanged. “Fear God, and give glory to him.” The peculiar ground on which it is put here (“for the hour of his judgment is come”) could not always apply. But still the word, “Fear God . . . . worship him that made heaven and earth” (that is, the glory of God proved or witnessed in creation), is of course always a standing, fundamental truth. But it will be emphatically regarded and brought out when Satan has gained over the world to deny the true God, and to worship a creature instead of the Creator.

The seventh verse is pretty plain; but I add a few words more with regard to the term “gospel.” It is used in scripture with much more latitude than men are now accustomed to. The glad tidings to Israel in the wilderness held out that they should inherit the land of promise. It was glad tidings to Abraham that in him should all nations be blessed. (Gal. 3:8.) The glad tidings in the time of John the Baptist, and preached by him, meant in substance that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. So also the Lord Himself preached and His disciples during His ministry on earth. But the people would not have Him; and the consequence was that, though the kingdom was set up, it was so in a way that differed emphatically from what the people expected who looked for it. It was set up in the person of the rejected King in heaven, till He comes again in power, when it will be established manifestly over the earth. Thus we have different messages, different glad tidings, according to the various subjects or hopes that God was presenting at different times. But the everlasting gospel necessarily was before Abraham, or any other of these special glad tidings. It has always been, and must be, that God is the only worthy object of worship. “There is none good but one — God.” And when the blessed day does dawn — when the King comes in His glory — when the kingdom prepared before the foundation of the world will be enjoyed — when God will have His blessed ones around Him from the north and south, from the east and from the west (not only the risen ones, but also those in their natural bodies who will be spared and be blessed on the earth, at the same time that the risen saints will enjoy heavenly glory under the headship of the only One who can concentrate all in blessing), what will be the due and needed message previously? Why this: “Fear God, and give glory to him.” Evidently then it is called with perfect reason, “the everlasting gospel.” You will observe that it is sent “to them that dwell on the earth,” as well as “to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people;” thus keeping up the distinction that we have noticed before. They will both hear the testimony; but if those “who dwell on the earth” will not receive it, through the mercy of God the nations, kindreds, tongues, and people will in part receive it. (Compare Psalm 96 and Matt. 24:14 with the results in Matt. 25:31-46.)

After this comes another message — the fall of Babylon. I do not mean to dwell on it just now, as we shall find a great deal about that city in other chapters of this book: for Babylon was so important as to require a special notice to itself. But as it was evidently the active source of corruption, intoxicating men and drawing them away from the living God, so now He sends this, the death-knell of Babylon. The object here, probably, was to give its place in the order of God’s dealings at the close of the dispensation, its relation to what went before and to what follows after (verse 8).

In the next place, we have the solemn warning to those who worshipped the beast and received his mark, the sure and everlasting torment of all who were thus carried away by him. There are many who apply these prophecies about Babylon and the beast in an exclusive way to Rome; but while the seven-hilled city has many of the principles of Babylon and the beast, yet it is impossible to find their complete and united fulfilment in Popery as it now is or has been. Besides, the beast and Babylon are not the same thing; for the beast destroys Babylon. And will Rome destroy itself? Certainly, the elements of Babylon are to be found there; but if the matter be looked at more closely, all cannot be found in Rome. For my own part, I believe that Rome, more than any other system, already is in a very true moral sense Babylon, and that it will yet contain and manifest all the elements of that vile corruptress. But for this very reason it cannot be the beast; for the beast it is which destroys Babylon, and after that the beast, falling into its own worst and open rebellion against God, perishes. The worst state of the beast is after Babylon has been destroyed; for then it exalts itself to heaven, only to be cast down to hell; but we shall have the fall of both fully by and by. “Here is the patience of the saints” (verses 9-12).

The fifth division is the word touching the saints that die in the Lord. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow with them” (verse 13). It does not mean those who die throughout the present dispensation. When Christian people die now, it is blessed; but here the Spirit speaks of a future class, all of whom will die. You must take these things connected together as a whole — not a little bit that suits present circumstances, leaving out the rest which does not. What is the real meaning of the verse? What is God’s mind? It is the saints who die in that day. Many will be killed: the blood of the saints will flow. The everlasting glad tidings had been announced; the hour of judgment was come, as the angel proclaimed; so that it might seem a dreadful thing for persons to be killed just when God is going to introduce His kingdom. But, on the contrary, the voice says, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth.” Do not be alarmed by it. They will only get a better kind of glory. What will be the portion of those that die in the Lord then? They will reign with Christ and His heavenly saints. Revelation 20 proves that those who die under the persecutions of the beast will be raised again to join the heavenly saints that will have been taken away before. “Blessed are the dead,” etc., cannot in strictness apply to the church, because all belonging to the church will not die. Some will be alive and remaining at the coming of the Lord, who are to be changed without passing through death; whereas these are persons who all die, as a class. It refers exclusively to those who die in the Lord at that time; and shows that, instead of losing their place in the kingdom of Christ, they will gain an advanced position of blessing. Their company also is complete, and their full blessedness just coming without further waiting — blessed from henceforth (verse 13).

The spirit of it may be applied now; but the intention of the Holy Ghost seems to have been the comfort of persons who will die before the beast is judged and the heavenly glory appears. It might be thought that they had lost something; but it is not so. The voice from heaven says, “Write, Blessed henceforth the dead that die in the Lord: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” The Holy Ghost adds His “Yea” of sweet sympathy, true to the saints in joy and in sorrow, groaning with their infirmities, and rejoicing with their speedy triumph and reward.

Then follow the two closing scenes of this chapter. The first is the vision of one like the Son of man92 sitting on a white cloud, “having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.” It is a vision grounded upon the idea of a harvest: that is, it is a separating judgment (verses 14-16). There is that which must be cast away, and that which will be gathered in. Perhaps with this we may compare what is said in the Gospels — “one shall be taken and the other left; so shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.” (Luke 17.) In the next judgment, we have a different character of dealing. It is the vintage of the earth, not its harvest. There is no good, and therefore no separation here. In the harvest there was; but when you come to the vintage, a more serious state is found. It is not the genuine vine, but the “vine of the earth.” The Lord Jesus is the only true vine: and if we are fruit-bearing branches, it must be by abiding in Him. But here it is “the vine of the earth.” And what does the Lord do with this vine of the earth and its clusters? There is nothing but unmixed judgment — no mercy whatever to mitigate it. The fruit is gathered and cast into the great winepress of the wrath of God. Then follows the image of unsparing judgment. “The winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.”93 It is an awful figure of carnage — blood flowing in a deep stream for about 200 miles. This is not to be taken in a mere literal way; but the great idea which God presents is that of a judgment where there is nothing but wrath to the very uttermost upon the apostates. Who ever heard of such a thing in any history of human events? It is entirely beyond all that man could execute. When the reality comes, it will be still more terrible than the figure, which has passed as a prophetic picture before the eye of the prophet (verses 17-20). The bloodshed might be of religious apostates from all parts of Christendom; but it appears to be especially Jewish, as the scene is the land. The winepress was trodden without the city — i.e., I suppose, Jerusalem. (Compare Joel 3.)

In Isa. 63 we have the Lord treading the winepress, but it appears to be a more distant scene. There He is coming from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah. Here it is “without the city,” and vengeance on those who had been religiously guilty in connection with it. They had heard of mercy, but it had been despised; and now the judgment is come, and for them there is nothing else. The mercy had been only abused; and what is there that God so feels and judges?

In this chapter, then, we have the full outline of the dealings of God in the latter-day crisis. There are seven divisions of it. First, there is the full remnant of godly Jews associated with the Lamb on mount Sion, in sympathy with His sufferings and waiting for the kingdom. Secondly, a testimony to the Gentile nations scattered all over the world as well as to those seated on the prophetic earth. Thirdly, the fall of Babylon. Fourthly, the fearful doom, both in this world and in the next, of such as should worship the beast and his image, or receive the mark of his name. Fifthly, the blessedness from that time of those that die in the Lord. Sixthly, the discriminating process of the harvest. And seventhly, the awful infliction of vengeance on religious apostacy; the first, at least, of these two last acts of judgment being executed by the Son of man, which necessarily supposes the very close of the age: the wrath, not of God only, but of the Lamb.

Thus the sevenfold series appears in this sketch of the final ways of God, whether of mercy or of judgment. It is thoroughly in accordance with the Revelation. We have had seven seals, seven trumpets, as there are also seven vials. Here too, though not formally numbered, we have the seven dealings of God that make up a complete account; but the details, as they are given afterwards, may come before us another time. Although it is not about us, yet what a mercy it is to feel that we do not always require to think about ourselves when reading the Bible! Many suppose it a very spiritual thing to be always asking, What is there for me? But we ought to desire all the blessing that God can give us. and not merely a little Zoar. “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it,” saith Jehovah. If I desire to have my cup running over, and thus to be strengthened in serving Him, I shall want to know all that God can tell me about Christ. And is it not something, and good for me, to know that Christ is to have His complete remnant, not merely when glory comes, but before it comes, associated in their measure with Him in suffering — like David when he came to mount Zion? Then who were they that shared his honours? Those who had been the companions of his rejection. So here with these 144,000. They will not have the same heavenly glory that is reserved for the church of the first-born; for either we have the very best blessings now, or none. All Christians stand now in the most glorious privileges which it is possible for children of God to enjoy. Whatever its pretensions, it is a time when Christ is thoroughly rejected by the world. God desires that we should find treasure enough in Christ to despise the world — to put its bribes under our feet. The hard thing is to take the place of the rejection of Christ, and to be happy in keeping it.

And now that we have viewed this chapter as the closing scene of the earth, the end of the age, more particularly God’s working therein with reference to the evil of that day, it may be well to glance briefly at the historical application. None could learn the new song, it is allowed, but the 144,000 — none but those converted and illuminated by the Spirit of God, a company elected out of the Protestant nations (as before out of the Christianized nations under Constantine); and yet with singular inconsistency the voice of the waters and great thunders implied “the uniting of both nations and princes in the song.” (Horae Apocalypticae, vol. iii. pp. 288, 289.) Were the Protestant nations ever the election of grace? Mr. Jenour, not unreasonably dissatisfied with the mere repetition of a similar class in Rev. 7 and 14, tries to vary the tune, and suggests that those in the former chapter are a Jewish elect remnant, these in our chapter a Gentile one.94 Now, I would press one question upon those inclined to either of the views mentioned: How could a Christian election (either under Constantine or at the Reformation, whether an election out of Jews or Gentiles) be styled firstfruits to God and to the Lamb? If the church, strictly so called, will he then completed, nothing is more intelligible; but on the scheme which regards the testimony and the body formed thereby as the same continuously, a reasonable explanation does not appear. If it be a special gathering out of Judah, associated with a suffering Messiah, and anticipating the kingdom, what clearer? Hence, there is no room for interpolating the declension of the eighteenth century into the prophecy — no place for such additions to the words of this book as that “the voice of the 144,000 waxed fainter and feebler, and the tokens of their presence more obscure in all the continental Protestant countries and churches,” while the light of England burned brighter!

Of the second division — the angel with everlasting glad tidings — enough has been said already to show why one cannot allow anything save a general reference either to the era of the Reformers, or to that of recent missionary societies. And I take this opportunity of stating my conviction that the Reformation (blessed as it was in breaking the dominion of Popery, in spreading the Bible and Bible-reading far and wide, and in asserting strongly, if not clearly, justification by faith) did not bring out the light of God even as to regeneration, and maintained substantially the same clerical system as before. That is, reformed doctrine and polity fail utterly, as a confession of the truth of the Holy Ghost’s operations, whether in quickening souls or yet more in His sovereign action in the Christian assembly. Justification, as then understood, did not necessarily suppose perception of God’s mind as to the operations of the Spirit. It is to me clear and certain that the reformed national bodies have never been free from confusion and even error on these subjects, which are of capital moment both to individuals and to the church.

One might have expected that, if the proclamation of Babylon’s fall (verse 8) had been fulfilled, those who so think would have tried to make out some show of facts to account for its appearance here, after the epoch of evangelic missions. It may he alleged that it is something yet future. But such does not appear to be Mr. E.’s opinion, because he joins on the message of this angel, with hardly a shred of comment, to that of the angel evangelist; and he distinctly dwells on the third flying angel as yet unfulfilled. May we not then press the query: What has taken place at all adequately answering to the second angel’s mission?

As to the third flying angel, Mr. E. thinks its prefiguration requires, among other things, a sufficiently general agreement among Christ’s faithful Protestant servants, as to what is meant both by the beast and the beast’s image, to give weight to the judgment denounced against their worshippers. That is, if I understand him, there ought to be a general acquiescence in the system of the Horae Apocalypticae, an abandonment of all reference to the secular Roman empire, and an adoption of the discovery that the beast’s image means the general councils of Papal Christendom, especially of Trent. I am assured that the impression on the mind of most intelligent Christians is growingly opposed to such theories, and the absoluteness of the warning as to any individual who worships the beast, etc., cannot (save by a violence which convinces no dispassionate person) be said to be fulfilled in Popery, abominable as the system is. In the crisis of antichrist it will be literally true. (Compare 2 Thess. 2:10-12.)

The harvest and the vintage call for no especial remark, as there is no question of their futurity, and Christ is admitted to be viewed therein as the initiator and completer of these final judgments. Why they should not indicate the time of His great predicted second advent does not clearly appear (H. A., vol. iv. p. 11): in reality there is no ground to doubt it, as far as I see. The fact of a distinct subsequent vision of the conflict with the beast does not hinder this. They may all well be various presentations of judgment when He comes in the clouds of heaven. The error is the reducing as much as possible to events in providence.

89 Hence it is going too far, and indeed not only without proof but inaccurate, to say that the vials are the evolution of the seventh trumpet. It is of no weight to allege that the trumpets are the development of the last seal. This I doubt not, because there is absolutely nothing under that seal, save a half-hour’s silence in heaven, and then the trumpets are given to the seven angels, etc. But there is nothing analogous at the close of Rev. 11. For on the face of the matter, Revelation 12, 13, 14 intervene, the last of which contains the vision of a scene of judgment by the Son of man, which is unquestionably subsequent to the vials. Again, what more fanciful than the opistho-graphic theory (Horae Apocalypticae, vol. i. p. 99; iii. p. 4), that is, the notion that the writing without and within answers to the twofold series of visions, one of which, relating to matter chiefly secular, ends in Revelation 11, and the other of which, chiefly ecclesiastical, begins after that? Certainly, neither Ezekiel 3:9, 10, nor Zechariah 5:1-3 lends the slightest countenance to it, but rather the contrary.

90 “A voice,” says Mr. Elliott (H. A., vol. iii. p. 312), “as of many waters, and of a great thunder, — that is of people and princes, — uniting to swell it. There can be no question, I conceive, as to some happy crisis in the earthly fortunes of Christ’s saints and people being so prefigured; — some crisis during the Papal beast’s reign, or at least before his destruction.” And this he goes on to expound of the Reformation. Let the reader turn to Rev. 1, and ask himself the consistency of such an interpretation of the “voice as the sound of many waters.” What room is there for dragging in “people” here? and what more for “princes” in Revelation 6:1, where the living creature, as with voice of thunder, summons the rider on the white horse? No reason, indeed, is more decisive against so earthly a view, than that which is furnished by the very text which Mr. E. would have us compare (i.e. Rev. 19:6); for surely if ever there can he conceived a moment when princes and people are not in unison with heaven’s new anthem of praise, it is in the crisis which follows the destruction of Babylon and precedes their own still more awful fate in the war with the Lamb.

91 It is curious that Mr. Elliott (H. A., iii. part iv. chapter x.), though he rightly rejects or doubts the clause ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου τοῦ Θεοῦ, nevertheless repeatedly, both in Greek and English, inserts another clause which has absolutely no warrant, as far as I know. He says in the text of p. 311 (and also in p. 323), “they were without fault before God,” and then in the foot-note gives αμωμοι ενωπιον του Θεου. He adds, “Compare my observation on the words ενωπιον του θηριου, said in Apoc. xiii. of the lambskin-covered beast’s responsibility to the beast antichrist as his supervisor, p. 206-208 supra. The words within brackets are implied if not expressed.” Now, while I do not question that politically the second beast subserves the first, I demur to the proof drawn from this phrase. Thus, Rev. 1:4 — the first occurrence of ἐνώπιον in the book — is adverse. Subordination is not the idea. As little does the next occurrence, Rev. 4:14, bear him out: indeed it refutes the inference. Balaam taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel — certainly not under their cognizance and judgment. Compare also Rev. 3:8, 9; Rev. 4:6; Rev. 12:4, 10. Nay, in Revelation 13, the verse which follows the one on which Mr. E. dwells is in my judgment a sufficient answer. For while verse 12, if justly so interpreted, would suit the papal supremacy, how square it with verse 13? For there we have the signs or miracles wrought ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀνθρώπων, before men. If Mr. E.’s theory of what is “presignified by this little word” in verse 12 be applied to verse 13, it would teach the Protestant principle of private judgment, quite as much as the other justifies “Coram Petro.” The truth is that the view has no foundation.

92 Mr. Jenour revives a doubt as to “the Son of man,” and suggests an application, symbolically, to the Jews then to be converted, and the great evangelists of that day! just as Vitringa long ago applied it to those princes, etc., whom God employed at the Reformation in executing his dealings in providence’ But there is no force in the objection that St. John would hardly have said of Christ “one like to the Son of man.” For it is exactly what he does say in Revelation 1, where beyond controversy our Lord alone can be meant. Likeness to a character, rather than to a person, is meant; and hence the phrase is anarthrous, as in Dan. 7:13.

93 Jerome remarked the coincidence of this with the length of Palestine, and Fuller, Faber, etc., apply it literally to that land, as the great future Aceldama. Mede, on the other hand (as we are told in the Horae Apoc.), suggests the fact of a similar length in the States of the Church from Rome to Verona.

94 Dr. M’Causland (Latter Days of Jerusalem and Rome, pp. 154-160, 398-400), falls into a singular cycle of errors: first, that the same company are intended in Rev. 7, 14; secondly, that they are the faithful Jews before Christ’s first advent; thirdly, that the second company in chapter 7 (verses 9-14) are in no way Gentile, but a yet future class of the redeemed of Israel to be taken out of the nations, etc., whither they are now dispersed; fourthly, that these in Revelation 14 have the name of the Father on their foreheads — not the name of Christ, whereas the true text (represented by the uncials, A B C, upwards of forty cursives, nearly all the ancient versions with the Greek and Latin fathers) expressly says “his [the Lamb’s] name and his Father’s name.” Besides, the insertion of ὡς, “as it were,” before “the new song,” is by no means certain. It is omitted by the Vatican and Porphyrian uncials, with nearly forty cursives, most versions, Origen, Methodius, Arethas, etc.