RPM, Volume 19, Number 16, April 16 to April 22, 2017

Barnes' New Testament Notes

Notes on the New Testament Explanatory and Practical
Part 102

By Albert Barnes




THIS chapter contains the record of a sublime vision of an angel which, at this juncture, John saw descending from heaven, disclosing new scenes in what was yet to occur. The vision is interposed between the sounding of the sixth, or second woe-trumpet, and the sounding of the seventh, or third woe-trumpet, under which is to be the final consummation, Re 11:15, seq. It occupies an important interval between the events which were to occur under the sixth trumpet, and the last scene—the final overthrow of the formidable power which had opposed the reign of God on the earth, and the reign of righteousness, when the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdom of God, Re 11:15. It is, in many respects, an unhappy circumstance that this chapter has been separated from the following. They constitute one continued vision, at least to Re 11:15, where the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet occurs.

The tenth chapter contains the following things:

(1.) An angel descends from heaven, and the attention of the seer is for a time turned from the contemplation of what was passing in heaven to this new vision that appeared on the earth. This angel is clothed with a cloud; he is encircled by a rainbow; his face is as the sun, am/his feet like pillars of fire:—all indicating his exalted rank, and all such accompaniments as became a heavenly messenger.

(2.) The angel appears with a small volume in his hand, Re 10:2. This book is not closed and sealed, like the one in chapter 5, but was "open"—so that it could be read. Such a book would indicate some new message or revelation from heaven; and the book would be, properly, a symbol of something that was to be accomplished by such an open volume.

(3.) The angel sets his feet upon the sea and the land, Re 10:2: indicating by this, apparently, that what he was to communicate upperrained alike to the ocean and the land—to all the world.

(4.) The angel makes a proclamation—the nature of which is not here stated—with a loud voice, like the roaring of a lion, as if the nations were called to hear, Re 10:3.

(5.) This cry or roar is responded to by heavy thunders, Re 10:3. What those thunders uttered is not stated, but it was evidently so distinct that John heard it, for he says (Re 10:4) that he was about to make a record of what was said.

(6.) John, about to make this record, is forbidden to do so by a voice from heaven, Re 10:4. For some reason, not here stated, he was commanded not to disclose what was said, but so to seal it up that it should not be known, The reason for this silence is nowhere intimated in the chapter.

(7.) The angel lifts his hand to heaven in a most solemn manner, and swears by the Great Creator of all things that the time should not be yet—in our common version, "that there should be time no longer," Re 10:5-7. It would seem that just at this period there would be an expectation that the reign of God was to begin upon the earth; but the angel, in the most solemn manner, declares that this was not yet to be, but that it would occur when the seventh angel should begin to sound. Then the great "mystery" would be complete, as it had been declared to the prophets.

(8.) John is then commanded, by the same voice which he heard from heaven, to go to the angel and take the little book from him which he held in his hand, and eat it—with the assurance that it would be found to be sweet to the taste, but would be bitter afterwards, Re 10:8-10.

(9.) The chapter concludes with a declaration that he must yet prophecy before many people and nations, (Re 10:11,) and then follows (Rev 11.) the commission to measure the temple; the command to separate the pure from the profane; the account of the prophesying, the death, and the resurrection to life of the two witnesses—all preliminary to the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and the introduction of the universal reign of righteousness.

The question to what doer the chapter refer, is one which it is proper to notice before we proceed to the exposition. It is unnecessary to say, that on this question very various opinions have been entertained, and that very different expositions have been given of the chapter. Without going into an examination of these different opinions—which would be a task alike unprofitable and endless—it will be better to state what seems to be the fair interpretation and application of the symbol, in its connexion with what precedes. A few remarks here, preliminary to the exposition and application of the chapter, may help us in determining the place which the vision is designed to occupy.

(a) In the previous Apocalyptic revelations, if the interpretation proposed is correct, the history had been brought down, in the regular course of events, to the capture of Constantinople by the Turks, and the complete overthrow of the Roman empire by that event, A.D. 1453, Re 9:13-19. This was an important era in the history of the world; and if the exposition which has been proposed is correct, then the sketches of history pertaining to the Roman empire in the book of Revelation have been made with surprising accuracy.

(b) A statement had been made, (Re 9:20,21,) to the effect that the same state of things continued subsequent to the plagues brought on by those invasions, which had existed before, or that the effect had not been to produce any general repentance and reformation. God had scourged the nations; he had cut off multitudes of men; he had overthrown the mighty empire that had so long ruled over the world; but the same sins of superstition, idolatry, sorcery, murder, fornication, and theft prevailed afterwards that had prevailed before. Instead of working a change in the minds of men, the world seemed to be confirmed in these abominations more and more. In the exposition of that passage (Re 9:20,21) it was shown that those things prevailed in the Roman church—which then embraced the whole Christian world—before the invasion of the Eastern empire by the Turks, and that they continued to prevail afterwards: that, in fact, the moral character of the world was not affected by those "plagues."

(c) The next event, in the order of time, was the Reformation, and the circumstances in the case are such as to lead us to suppose that this chapter refers to that. For

(1) the order of time demands this. This was the next important event in the history of the church and the world after the conquest of Constantinople producing the entire downfall of the Roman empire; and if, as is supposed in the previous exposition, it was the design of the Spirit of inspiration to touch on the great and material events in the history of the church and the world, then it would be natural to suppose that the Reformation would come next into view, for no previous event had more deeply or permanently affected the condition of mankind.

(2.) The state of the world, as described in Re 9:20,21, was such as to demand a reformation, or something that should be more effectual in purifying the church than the calamities described in the previous verse had been. The representation is, that God had brought great judgments upon the world, but that they had been ineffectual in reforming mankind. The same kind of superstition, idolatry, and corruption remained after those judgments which had existed before, and they were of such a nature as to make it every way desirable that a new influence should be brought to bear upon the world to purify it from these abominations. Some such work as the Reformation is, therefore, what we should naturally look for as the next in order; or, at least, such a work is one that well fits in with the description of the previous state of things.

(d) It will be found, I apprehend, in the exposition of the chapter, that the symbols are such as accord well with the great leading events of the Protestant Reformation; or, in other words, that they are such that, on the supposition that it was intended to refer to the Reformation, these are the symbols which would have been appropriately employed. Of course, it is not necessary to suppose that John understood distinctly all that was meant by these symbols, nor is it necessary to suppose that those who lived before the Reformation would be able to comprehend them perfectly, and to apply them with accuracy. All that is necessary to be supposed in the interpretation is

(1) that the symbol was designed to be of such a character as to give some general idea of what was to occur; and

(2) that we should be able, now that the event has occurred, to show that it is fairly applicable to the event; that is, that on the supposition that this was designed to be referred to, the symbols are such as would properly be employed. This, however, will be seen more clearly after the exposition shall have been gone through.

With this general view of what we should naturally anticipate in this chapter, from the course of exposition in the preceding chapters, we are prepared for a more particular exposition and application of the symbols in this new vision. It will be the most convenient course, keeping in mind the general views presented here, to explain the symbols, and to consider their application as we go along.

Verse 1. And I saw. I had a vision of. The meaning is, that he saw this subsequently to the vision in the previous chapter. The attention is now arrested by a new vision—as if some new dispensation or economy was about to occur in the world.

Another mighty angel. He had before seen the seven angels who were to blow the seven trumpets, (Re 8:2) he had seen six of them successively blow the trumpet; he now sees another angel, different from them, and apparently having no connexion with them, coming from heaven to accomplish some important purpose before the seventh angel should give the final blast. The angel is here characterized as a "mighty" angel—iscuron—one of strength and power; implying that the work to be accomplished by his mission demanded the interposition of one of the higher orders of the heavenly inhabitants. The coming of an angel at all was indicative of some Divine interposition in human affairs; the fact that he was one of exalted rank, or endowed with vast power, indicated the nature of the work to be done—that it was a work to the execution of which great obstacles existed, and where great power would be needed.

Clothed with a cloud. Encompassed with a cloud, or enveloped in a cloud. This was a symbol of majesty and glory, and is often represented as accompanying the Divine presence, Ex 16:9-10; 24:16; 34:5; Nu 11:25; 1 Ki 8:10; Ps 97:2.

The Saviour also ascended in a cloud, Ac 1:9; and he will again descend in clouds to judge the world, Mt 24:30; 26:64; Mr 13:26; Re 1:7.

Nothing can be argued here as to the purpose for which the angel appeared, from his being encompassed with a cloud; nor can anything be argued from it in respect to the question who this angel was. The fair interpretation is, that this was one of the angels now represented as sent forth on an errand of mercy to man, and coming with appropriate majesty, as the messenger of God.

And a rainbow was upon his head. In Re 4:3, the throne in heaven is represented as encircled by a rainbow. See Barnes on "Re 4:3".

The rainbow is properly an emblem of peace. Here the symbol would mean that the angel came not for wrath, but for purposes of peace; that he looked with a benign aspect on men, and that the effect of his coming would be like that of sunshine after a storm.

And his face was as it were the sun. Bright like the sun, (Barnes on "Re 1:16") that is, he looked upon men with

(a) an intelligent aspect—as the sun is the source of light; and

(b) with benignity—not covered with clouds, or darkened by wrath. The brightness is probably the main idea, but the appearance of the angel would as here represented, naturally suggest the ideas just referred to. As an emblem or symbol, we should regard his appearing as that which was to be followed by knowledge and by prosperity.

And his feet as pillars of fire. See Barnes on "Re 1:15".

In this symbol, then, we have the following things:

(a) An angel—as the messenger of God, indicating that some new communication was to be brought to mankind, or that there would be some interposition in human affairs which might be well represented by the coming of an angel;

(b) the fact that he was "mighty"—indicating that the work to be done required power beyond human strength;

(c) the fact that he came in a cloud— an embassage so grand and magnificent as to make this symbol of majesty proper;

(d) the fact that he was encircled by a rainbow—that the visitation was to be one of peace to mankind; and

(e) the fact that his coming was like the sun—or would diffuse light and peace.

Now, in regard to the application of this, without adverting to any other theory, no one can fail to see that, on the supposition that it was designed to refer to the Reformation, this would be the most striking and appropriate symbol that could have been chosen. For,

(a) as we have seen above, this is the place which the vision naturally occupies in the series of historical representations.

(b) It was at a period of the world, and the world was in such a state, that an intervention of this kind would be properly represented by the coming of an angel from heaven. God had visited the nations with terrible judgments, but the effect had not been to produce reformation, for the same forms of wickedness continued to prevail which had existed before. Barnes on "Re 9:20".

In this state of things, any new interposition of God for reforming the world would be properly represented by the coming of an angel from heaven as a messenger of light and peace.

(c) The great and leading events of the Reformation were well represented by the power of this angel. It was not, indeed, physical power; but the work to be done in the Reformation was a great work, and was such as would be well symbolized by the intervention of a mighty angel from heaven. The task of reforming the church, and of correcting the abuses which had prevailed, was wholly beyond any ability which man possessed, and was well represented, therefore, by the descent of this messenger from the skies.

(d) The same thing may be said of the rainbow that was upon his head. Nothing would better symbolize the general aspect of the Reformation, as fitted to produce peace, tranquillity, and joy upon the earth. And

(e) the same thing was indicated by the splendour—the light and glory— that attended the angel. The symbol would denote that the new order of things would be attended with light; with knowledge; with that which would be benign in its influence on human affairs. And it need not be said, to any one acquainted with the history of those times, that the Reformation was preceded and accompanied with a great increase of light; that at just about that period of the world the study of the Greek language began to be common in Europe; that the sciences had made remarkable progress; that schools and colleges had begun to flourish; and that, to a degree which had not existed for ages before, the public mind had become awakened to the importance of truth and knowledge. For a full illustration of this, from the close of the eleventh century and onward, see Hallam's Middle Ages, vol. ii. pp. 265-292, chap. ix. part ii. To go into any satisfactory detail on this point would be wholly beyond the proper limits of these Notes, and the reader must be referred to the histories of those times, and especially to Hallam, who has recorded all that is necessary to be known on the subject. Suffice it to say that, on the supposition that it was the intention to symbolize those times, no more appropriate emblem could have been found than that of an angel whose face shone like the sun, and who was covered with light and splendour. These remarks will show that, if it be supposed it was intended to symbolize the Reformation, no more appropriate emblem could have been selected than that of such an angel coming down from heaven. If, after the events have occurred, we should desire to represent the same things by a striking and expressive symbol, we could find none that would better represent those times.

{a} "rainbow" Eze 1:28

{b} "face" Re 1:15,16; Mt 17:2


Verse 2. And he had in his hand a little book open. This is the first thing that indicated the purpose of his appearing, or that would give any distinct indication of the design of his coming from heaven. The general aspect of the angel, indeed, as represented in the former verse, was that of benignity, and his purpose, as there indicated, was light and peace. But still, there was nothing which would denote the particular design for which he came, or which would designate the particular means which he would employ, here we have, however, an emblem which will furnish an indication of what was to occur as the result of his appearing. To be able to apply this, it will be necessary, as in all similar cases, to explain the natural significancy of the emblem.

(1.) The little book. The word used here—biblaridion—occurs nowhere else in the New Testament except in Re 10:8-10. The word biblion—book—occurs frequently: Mt 19:7; Mr 10:4— applied to a bill of divorcement; Lu 4:17,20; Joh 20:30; 21:25; Ga 3:10; 2 Ti 4:13; Heb 9:19; 10:7.

In the Apocalypse this word is of common occurrence: Re 1:11; 5:1-5,7-9; 6:14, rendered scroll; Re 17:8; 20:12; 21:27; 22:7,9-10,18-19.

The word was evidently chosen here to denote something that was peculiar in the size or form of the book, or to distinguish it from that which would be designated by the ordinary word employed to denote a book. The word properly denotes a small roll or volume; a little scroll.—Rob. Lex, Pollux. Onomast. 7, 210. It is evident that something was intended by the diminutive size of the book, or that it was designed to make a distinction between this and that which is indicated by the use of the word book in the other parts of the Apocalypse. It was, at least, indicated by this that it was something different from what was seen in the hand of him that sat on the throne in Re 5:1. That was clearly a large volume; this was so small that it could be taken in the hand, and could be represented as eaten, Re 10:9-10. But, of what is a book an emblem? To this question there can be little difficulty in furnishing an answer. A book seen in a dream, according to Artemidorus, signifies the life, or the acts of him that sees it.—Wemyss. According to the Indian interpreters, a book is the symbol of power and dignity. The Jewish kings, when they were crowned, had the book of the law of God put into their hands, (2 Ki 11:12; 2 Ch 23:11) denoting that they were to observe the law, and that their administration was to be one of intelligence and uprightness. The gift of a Bible now to a monarch when he is crowned, or to the officer of a corporation or society, denotes the same thing. A book, as such, thus borne in the hand of an angel coming down to the world, would be an indication that something of importance was to be communicated to men, or that something was to be accomplished by the agency of a book. It was not, as in Re 6:2, a bow—emblem of conquest; Re 10:4, a sword—emblem of battle; or Re 10:5, a pair of scales— emblem of the exactness with which things were to be determined: but it was a book—a speechless, silent thing, yet mighty; not designed to carry desolation through the earth, but to diffuse light and truth. The natural interpretation then would be, that something was to be accomplished by the agency of a book, or that a book was to be the prominent characteristic of the times—as the bow, the sword, and the balances had been of the previous periods. As to the size of the book, perhaps all that can be inferred is, that this was to be brought about, not by extended tomes, but by a comparatively small volume—so that it could be taken in the hand; so that it could, without impropriety, be represented as eaten by an individual.

(2.) The fact that it was open: "a little book open"— anewgmenon. The word here used means, properly, to open or unclose in respect to that which was before fastened or sealed, as that which is covered by a door, Mt 2:11; tombs, which were closed by large stones, Mt 27:60, 66; a gate, Ac 5:23; 12:10; the abyss, Re 9:2—"since in the East pits or wells are closed with large stones, compare Ge 29:2."—Rob. Lex. The meaning of this word, as applied to a book, would be, that it was now opened so that its contents could be read. The word would not necessarily imply that it had been sealed or closed, though that would be the most natural impression from the use of the word. Compare for the use of the word rendered open, Re 3:8,20; 4:1; 5:2-5,9; 6:1,3,5,7,9,12; 8:1; 9:2; 10:8

Re 11:19; 20:12. This would find a fulfilment if some such facts as the following should occur:

(a) if there had been any custom or arrangement by which knowledge was kept from men, or access was forbidden to books or to some one book in particular; and

(b) if something should occur by which that which had before been kept hidden or concealed, or that to which access had been denied, should be made accessible. In other words, this is the proper symbol of a diffusion of knowledge, or of the influence of A BOOK on mankind.

(3.) The fact that it was in the hand of the angel. All that seems to be implied in this is, that it was now offered, or was ready to be put in possession of John—or of the church—or of mankind. It was open, and was held out, as it were, for perusal.

In regard to the application of this, it is plain that, if it be admitted that it was the design of the author of the vision to refer to the Reformation, no more appropriate emblem could have been chosen. If we were now to endeavour to devise an emblem of the Reformation that would be striking and expressive, we could not well select one which would better represent the great work than that which is here presented. This will appear plain from a few considerations:

(1.) The great agent in the Reformation, the moving cause of it, its suggestor and supporter, was a book—the Bible. Wycliffe had translated the New Testament into the English language, and though this was suppressed, yet it had done much to prepare the people for the Reformation; and all that Luther did can be traced to the discovery of the Bible, and to the use which was made of it. Luther had grown up into manhood; had passed from the schools to the university of Erfurt, and there, having during the usual four years' course of study displayed intellectual powers and an extent of learning that excited the admiration of the university, and that seemed to open to his attainment both the honour and emolument of the world, he appeared to have been prepared to play an important part on the great drama of human affairs. Suddenly, however, to the astonishment and dismay of his friends, he betook himself to the solitude and gloom of an Augustinian monastery. He had found a Bible—a copy of the Vulgate—hid in the shelves of the university library. Till then he had supposed that there existed no other Gospels or Epistles than what were given in the Breviary, or quoted by the Preachers. (For the proof of this, see Elliott, ii. 92.) To the study of that book he now gave himself with untiring diligence and steady prayer; and the effect was to show to him the way of salvation by faith, and ultimately to produce the Reformation. No one acquainted with the history of the Reformation can doubt that it is to be traced to the influence of the Bible; that the moving cause, the spring of all that occurred in the Reformation, was the impulse given to the mind of Luther and his fellow-labourers by the study of that one book. It is this well-known fact that gives so much truth to the celebrated declaration of Chillingworth, that "the Bible is the religion of Protestants." If a symbol of this had been designed before it occurred, or if one should be sought for now that would designate the actual nature and influence of the Reformation, nothing better could be selected than that of an angel descending from heaven, with benignant aspect, with a rainbow around his head, and with light beaming all around him, holding forth to mankind a book.

(2.) This book had before been hidden, or closed; that is, it could not till then be regarded as an open volume.

(a) It was in fact known by few even of the clergy, and it was not in the hands of the mass of the people at all. There is every reason to believe that the great body of the Romish clergy, in the time that preceded the Reformation, were even more ignorant of the Bible than Luther himself was. Many of them were unable to read; few had access to the Bible; and those who had, drew their doctrines rather from the Fathers of the church than from the word of God. Hallam (Middle Ages, ii. 241) says, "Of this prevailing ignorance [in the tenth century, and onward] it is easy to produce abundant testimony. In almost every council the ignorance of the clergy forms a subject for reproach. It is asserted by one held in 992, that scarcely a single person could be found in Rome itself who knew the first elements of letters. Not one priest of a thousand in Spain, about the age of Charlemagne, could address a letter of common salutation to another. In England, Alfred declares that he could not recollect a single priest south of the Thames, (the best part of England,) at the time of his accession, who understood the ordinary prayers, or who could translate the Latin into the mother tongue."

There were few books of any kind in circulation, and, even if there had been an ability to read, the cost of books was so great as to exclude the great mass of the people from all access to the sacred Scriptures. "Many of the clergy," says Dr. Robertson, (Hist. of Charles V., p. 14. Harper's Ed.,) "did not understand the Breviary which they were obliged daily to recite; some of them could scarcely read it." "Persons of the highest rank, and in the most eminent stations, could neither read nor write." One of the questions appointed by the canons to be put to persons who were candidates for orders was this, "Whether they could read the Gospels and Epistles, and explain the sense of them at least literally?" For the causes of this ignorance, see Robertsoh's Hist. of Charles V., p. 515. One of those causes was the cost of books. "Private persons seldom possessed any books whatever. Even monasteries of considerable note had only one Missal. The price of books became so high that persons of a moderate fortune could not afford to purchase them. The Countess of Anjou paid for a copy of the Homilies of Haimon, bishop of Alberstadt, two hundred sheep, five quarters of wheat, and the same quantity of rye and millet," etc. Such was the cost of books that few persons could afford to own a copy of the sacred Scriptures; and the consequence was, there were almost none in the hands of the people. The few copies that were in existence were mostly in the libraries of monasteries and universities, or in the hands of some of the higher clergy.

(b) But there was another reason that was still more efficacious, perhaps, in keeping the people at large from the knowledge of the Scriptures. It was found in the prevailing views in the Roman Catholic communion respecting the private use and interpretation of the sacred volume. Whatever theory may now be advocated in the Roman Catholic communion on this point, as a matter of fact, the influence of that denomination has been to withhold the Bible from a free circulation among the common people. No one can deny that, in the times just preceding the Reformation, the whole influence of the Papal denomination was opposed to a free circulation of the Bible, and that one of the great and characteristic features of the Reformation was the fact that the doctrine was promulgated that the Bible was to be freely distributed, and that the people everywhere were to have access to it, and were to form their own opinions of the doctrines which it reveals.

(3.) The Bible became, at the Reformation, in fact an "open" book. It was made accessible. It became the popular book of the world; the book that did more than all other things to change the aspect of affairs, and to give character to subsequent times. This occurred because

(a) the art of printing was discovered, just before the Reformation, as if, in the providence of God, it was designed then to give this precious volume to the world; and the Bible was, in fact, the first book printed, and has been since printed more frequently than any other book whatever, and will continue to be to the end of the world. It would be difficult to imagine now a more striking symbol of the art of printing, or to suggest a better device for it, than to represent an angel giving an open volume to mankind.

(b) The leading doctrine of the Reformers was, that the Bible is the source of all authority in matters of religion, and, consequently, is to be accessible to all the people. And

(c) the Bible was the authority appealed to by the Reformers. It became the subject of profound study; was diffused abroad; and gave form to all the doctrines that sprang out of the times of the Reformation. These remarks, which might be greatly expanded, will show with what propriety, on the supposition that the chapter here refers to the Reformation, the symbol of a book was selected. Obviously, no other symbol would have been so appropriate; nothing else would have given so just a view of the leading characteristics of that period of the world.

And he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot upon the earth. This is the third characteristic in the symbol. As a mere description this is eminently sublime. I was once (at Cape May, 1849) impressively reminded of this passage. My window was in such a position that it commanded a fine view at the same time of the ocean and the land. A storm arose such as I had never witnessed— the clouds from the different points of the compass seeming to come together over the place, and producing incessant lightning and thunder. As the storm cleared away, the most magnificent rainbow that I ever saw appeared, arching the heavens, one foot of it far off in the sea, and the other on the land—an emblem of peace to both—and most strikingly suggesting to me the angel in the Apocalypse. The natural meaning of such a symbol as that represented here would be, that something was to occur which would pertain to the whole world, as the earth is made up of land and water. It is hardly necessary to say, that, on the supposition that this refers to the Reformation, there is no difficulty in finding an ample fulfilment of the symbol. That great work was designed manifestly by Providence to affect all the world—the sea and the land—the dwellers in the islands and in the continents—those who "go down to the sea in ships, and do business in the great waters," and those who have a permanent dwelling on shore. It may be admitted indeed, that, in itself, this one thing—the angel standing on the sea and the land, if it occurred alone, could not suggest the Reformation; and, if there were nothing else, such an application might seem fanciful and unnatural; but taken in connexion with the other things in the symbol, and assuming that the whole vision was designed to symbolize the Reformation, it will not be regarded as unnatural that there should be some symbol which would intimate that the blessings of a reformed religion—a pure gospel—would be ultimately spread over land and ocean—over the continents and islands of the globe; in all the fixed habitations of men, and in their floating habitations on the deep. The symbol of a rainbow, bending over the sea and land, would have expressed this: the same thing would be expressed by an angel whose head was encircled by a rainbow, and whose face beamed with light, with one foot on the ocean and the other on the land.


Verse 3. And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth. The lion is the monarch of the woods, and his roar is an image of terror. The point of the comparison here seems to be the loudness with which the angel cried, and the power of what he said to awe the world—as the roar of the lion keeps the dwellers in the forest in awe. What he said is not stated; nor did John attempt to record it. Professor Stuart supposes that it was "a loud note of woe, some interjection uttered which would serve to call attention, and at the same time be indicative of the judgments which were to follow." But it is not necessary to suppose that this particular thing was intended. Any loud utterance—any solemn command—any prediction of judgment—any declaration of truth that would arrest the attention of mankind, would be in accordance with all that is said here. As there is no application of what is said, and no explanation made by John, it is impossible to determine with any certainty what is referred to. But, supposing that the whole refers to the Reformation, would not the loud and commanding voice of the angel properly represent the proclamation of the gospel as it began to be preached in such a manner as to command the attention of the world, and the reproof of the prevailing sins in such a manner as to keep the World in awe? The voice that sounded forth at the Reformation among the nations of Europe, breaking the slumbers of the Christian world, awaking the church to the evil of the existing corruptions and abominations, and summoning princes to the defence of the truth, might well be symbolized by the voice of an angel that was heard afar. In regard to the effect of the "theses" of Luther, in which he attacked the main doctrines of the Papacy, a contemporary writer says, "In the space of a fortnight they spread over Germany, and within a month they had run through all Christendom, as if angels themselves had been the bearers of them to all men." To John it might not be known beforehand—as it probably would not be—what this symbolized; but could we now find a more appropriate symbol to denote the Reformation than the appearance of such an angel; or better describe the impression made by the first announcement of the great doctrines of the Reformation, than by the loud voice of such an angel?

And when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. Professor Stuart renders this, "the seven thunders uttered their voices," and insists that the article should be retained, which it has not been in our common version. So Elliott, Bishop Middleton, and others. Bishop Middleton says, "Why the article is inserted here I am unable to discover. It is somewhat remarkable that a few manuscripts and editions omit it in both places, [Re 10:3-4] Were the seven thunders anything well known and pre-eminent? If not, the omission must be right in the former instance, but wrong in the latter: if they were pre-eminent, then is it wrong in both. Bengel omits the article in Re 10:3, but has it in Re 10:4." He regards the insertion of the article as the true reading in both places, and supposes that there may have been a reference to some Jewish opinion, but says that he had not been able to find a vestige of it in Lightfoot, Schoettgen, or Meusehen. Storr supposes that we are not to seek here for any Jewish notion, and that nothing is to be inferred from the article.—Middleton, on the Gr. Article, p. 358. The best editions of the New Testament retain the article in both places, and indeed there is no authority for omitting it. The use of the article here naturally implies either that these seven thunders were something which had been before referred to, either expressly or impliedly; or that there was something about them which was so well known that it would be at once understood what was referred to; or that there was something in the connexion which would determine the meaning. Compare Barnes on "Re 8:2".

It is plain, however, that there had been no mention of "seven thunders" before, nor had anything been referred to which would at once suggest them. The reason for the insertion of the article here must, therefore, be found in some pre-eminence which these seven thunders had; in some well-known facts about them; in something which would at once suggest them when they were mentioned—as when we mention the sun, the moon, the stars, though they might not have been distinctly referred to before. The number "seven" is used here either

(a) as a general or perfect number, as it is frequently in this book, where we have it so often repeated—seven spirits; seven angels; seven seals; seven trumpets; or

(b) with some specific reference to the matter in hand—the case actually in view of the writer. It cannot be doubted that it might be used in the former sense here, and that no law of language would be violated if it were so understood, as denoting many thunders; but still it is equally true that it may be used in a specific sense as denoting something that would be well understood by applying the number seven to it. Now let it be supposed, in regard to the application of this symbol, that the reference is to Rome, the seven-hilled city, and to the thunders of excommunication, anathema, and wrath that were uttered from that city against the Reformers; and would there not be all that is fairly implied in this language, and is not this such a symbol as would be appropriately used on such a supposition? The following circumstances may be referred to as worthy of notice on this point:

(a) the place which this occupies in the series of symbols—being just after the angel had uttered his voice as symbolical of the proclamation of the great truths of the gospel in the Reformation, if the interpretation above given is correct. The next event, in the order of nature and of fact, was the voice of excommunication uttered at Rome.

(b) The word thunder would appropriately denote the bulls of excommunication uttered at Rome, for the name most frequently given to the decrees of the Papacy, when condemnatory, was that of Papal thunders. So Le Bas, in his life of Wycliffe, p. 198, says, "The thunders which shook the world when they issued from the seven hills sent forth an uncertain sound, comparatively faint and powerless, when launched from a region of less devoted sanctity."

(c) The number seven would, on such a supposition, be used here with equal propriety. Rome was built on seven hills; was known as the "seven-hilled" city, and the thunders from that city would seem to echo and re-echo from those hills. Compare Re 17:9.

(d) This supposition, also, will accord with the use of the article here, as if those thunders were something well known "the seven thunders;" that is, the thunders which the nations were accustomed to hear.

(e) This will also accord with the passage before us, inasmuch as the thunders would seem to have been of the nature of a response to what the angel said, or to have been sent forth because he had uttered his loud cry. In like manner, the anathemas were hurled from Rome because the nations had been aroused by the loud cry for Reformation, as if an angel had uttered that cry. For these reasons, there is a propriety in applying this language to the thunders which issued from Rome condemning the doctrines of the Reformation, and in defence of the ancient faith, and excommunicating those who embraced the doctrines of the Reformers. If we were now to attempt to devise a symbol which would be appropriate to express what actually occurred in the Reformation, we could not think of one which would be better fitted to that purpose than to speak of seven thunders bellowing forth from the seven-hilled city.

{a} "thunders" Re 8:5; 14:2


Verse 4. And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices. After he had listened to those thunders; or when they had passed by.

I was about to write. That is, he was about to record what was uttered, supposing that that was the design for which he had been made to hear them. From this it would seem that it was not mere thunder— brutum fulmen—but that the utterance had a distinct and intelligible enunciation, or that words were employed that could be recorded. It may be observed, by the way, as Professor Stuart has remarked, that this proves that John wrote down what he saw and heard as soon as practicable, and in the place where he was; and that the supposition of many modern critics, that the Apocalyptic visions were written at Ephesus a considerable time after the visions took place, has no good foundation.

And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me. Evidently the voice of God: at all events it came with the clear force of command.

Seal up those things. On the word seal, See Barnes on "Re 5:1".

The meaning here is, that he was not to record those things, but what he heard he was to keep to himself as if it was placed under a seal which was not to be broken.

And write them not. Make no record of them. No reason is mentioned why this was not to be done, and none can now be given that can be proved to be the true reason. Vitringa, who regards the seven thunders as referring to the Crusades, supposes the reason to have been that a more full statement would have diverted the mind from the course of the prophetic narrative, and from more important events which pertained to the church, and that nothing occurred in the Crusades which was worthy to be recorded at length: Nec dignae erant quae prolixius exponerentur— "for," he adds, "these expeditions were undertaken with a foolish purpose, and resulted in real detriment to the church," pp. 431, 432. Professor Stuart, vol. ii. pp. 204-206, supposes that these "thunders" refer to the destruction of the city and temple of God, and that they were a sublime introduction to the last catastrophe, and that the meaning is not that he should keep "entire silence," but only that he should state the circumstances in a general manner without going into detail. Mede supposes that John was commanded to keep silence because it was designed that the meaning should not then be known, but should be disclosed in future times; Forerius, because it was the design that the wise should be able to understand them, but that they were not to be disclosed to the wicked and profane. Without attempting to examine these and other solutions which have been proposed, the question which, from the course of the exposition, is properly before us is, whether, on the supposition that the voice of the seven thunders referred to the Papal anathemas, a rational and satisfactory solution of the reasons of this silence can be given. Without pretending to know the reasons which existed, the following may be referred to as not improbable, and as those which would meet the case:

(1.) In these Papal anathemas there was nothing that was worthy of record; there was nothing that was important as history; there was nothing that communicated truth; there was nothing that really indicated progress in human affairs. In themselves there was nothing more that deserved record than the acts and doings of wicked men at any time; nothing that fell in with the main design of this book.

(2.) Such a record would have retarded the progress of the main statements of what was to occur, and would have turned off the attention from these to less important matters.

(3.) All that was necessary in the case was simply to state that such thunders were heard: that is, on the supposition that this refers to the Reformation, that that great change in human affairs would not be permitted to occur without opposition and noise—as if the thunders of wrath should follow those who were engaged in it.

(4.) John evidently mistook this for a real revelation, or for something that was to be recorded as connected with the Divine will in reference to the progress of human affairs. He was naturally about to record this as he did what was uttered by the other voices which he heard; and if he had made the record, it would have been with this mistaken view. There was nothing in the voices, or in what was uttered, that would manifestly mark it as distinct from what had been uttered as coming from God, and he was about to record it under this impression. If this was a mistake, and if the record would do anything, as it clearly would, to perpetuate the error, it is easy to see a sufficient reason why the record should not be made.

(5.) It is remarkable that there was an entire correspondence with this in what occurred in the Reformation; in the fact that Luther and his fellow-labourers were, at first, and for a long time—such was the force of education, and of the habits of reverence for the Papal authority in which they had been reared—disposed to receive the announcements of the Papacy as the oracles of God, and to show to them the deference which was due to Divine communications. The language of Luther himself, if the general view here taken is correct, will be the best commentary on the expressions here used. "When I began the affairs of the Indulgences," says he, "I was a monk, and a most mad Papist. So intoxicated was I, and drenched in Papal dogmas, that I would have been most ready to murder, or assist others in murdering, any person who should have uttered a syllable against the duty of obedience to the Pope." And again: "Certainly at that time I adored him in earnest." He adds, "How distressed my heart was in that year 1517-how submissive to the hierarchy, not feignedly but really—those little know who at this day insult the majesty or the Pope with so much pride and arrogance. I was ignorant of many things which now, by the grace of God, I understand. I disputed; I was open to conviction; not finding satisfaction in the works of theologians, I wished to consult the living members of the church itself. There were some godly souls that entirely approved my propositions. But I did not consider their authority of weight with me in spiritual concerns. The popes, bishops, cardinals, monks, priests, were the objects of my confidence. After being enabled to answer every objection that could be brought against me from sacred Scripture, one difficulty alone remained, that the Church ought to be obeyed. If I had then braved the Pope as I now do, I should have expected every hour that the earth would have opened to swallow me up alive, like Korah and Abiram." It was in this frame of mind that, in the summer of 1518, a few months after the affair with Tetzel, he wrote that memorable letter to the Pope, the tenor of which can be judged of by the following sentences: and what could more admirably illustrate the passage before us, on the interpretation suggested, than this language? "Most blessed Father! Prostrate at the feet of thy blessedness I offer, myself to thee, with all that I am, and that I have. Kill me, or make me live; call, or recall; approve, or reprove, as shall please thee. I will acknowledge thy voice as the voice of Christ presiding and speaking in thee." See the authorities for these quotations in Elliott, ii. pp. 116, 117.

(6.) The command not to record what the seven thunders uttered was of the nature of a caution not to regard what was said in this manner; that is, not to be deceived by these utterances as if they were the voice of God. Thus understood, if this is the proper explanation and application of the passage, it should be regarded as an injunction not to regard the decrees and decisions of the Papacy as containing any intimation of the Divine will, or as of authority in the church. That this is to be so regarded is the opinion of all Protestants; and if this is so, it is not a forced supposition that this might have been intimated by such a symbol as that before us.

{a} "Seal" Da 8:26; 12:4,9


Verse 5. And the angel which I saw stand, etc. Re 10:2. That is, John saw him standing in this posture when he made the oath which he proceeds to record.

Lifted up his hand to heaven. The usual attitude in taking an oath, as if one called heaven to witness. See Ge 14:22; De 32:40 Eze 20:5-6. Compare Barnes on "Da 12:7".

{b} "earth" Ex 6:8; This is part 3 of 4 parts of Notes for Revelation 9:20

Part 1 See Barnes "Re 9:20"
Part 2 See Barnes "Re 9:21"
Part 4 See Barnes "Re 10:10"

Happily we have also the means of fixing the exact date of this event, so as to make it accord with singular accuracy with the period supposed to be referred to. The general time specified by Mr. Gibbon is A.D. 1055. This, according to the two methods referred to of determining the period embraced in the "hour, and day, and month, and year," would reach, if the period were 391 years, to A. D. 1446; if the other method were referred to, making it 396 years and 106 days to A.D. 1451, with 106 days added, within less than two years of the actual taking of Constantinople. But there is a more accurate calculation as to the time than the general one thus made. In vol. iv. 93, Mr. Gibbon makes this remark: "Twenty-five years after the death of Basil, his successors were suddenly attacked by an unknown race of barbarians, who united the Scythian valour with the fanaticism of new proselytes, and the art and riches of a powerful monarchy." He then proceeds (p. 94, seq.) with an account of the invasions of the Turks. In vol. iii. 307, we have an account of the death of Basil. "In the sixty-eighth year of his age, his martial spirit urged him to embark in person for a holy war against the Saracens of Sicily; he was prevented by death, and Basil, surnamed the slayer of the Bulgarians, was dismissed from the world, with the blessings of the clergy and the curses of the people." This occurred A.D. 1025. "Twenty-five years" after this would make A.D. 1050. To this add the period here referred to, and we have respectively, as above, the years A.D. 1446, or A.D. 1451, and 106 days. Both periods are near the time of the taking of Constantinople and the downfall of the Eastern empire, (A.D. 1453,) and the latter strikingly so; and, considering the general nature of the statement of Mr. Gibbon, and the great indefiniteness of the dates in chronology, may be considered as remarkable.—But we have the means of a still more accurate calculation. It is by determining the exact period of the investiture of Togrul with the authority of caliph, or as the "temporal lieutenant of the vicar of the prophet." The time of this investiture, or coronation, is mentioned by Abulfeda as occurring on the 25th of Dzoulcad, in the year of the Hegira 449; and the date of Elmakin's narrative, who has given an account of this, perfectly agrees with this. Of this transaction, Elmakin makes the following remark: "There was now none left in Irak or Chorasmia who could stand before him." The importance of this investiture will be seen from the charge which the caliph is reported by Abulfeda to have given to Togrul on this occasion: "The caliph commits to your care all that part of the world which God has committed to his care and dominion; and entrusts to thee, under the name of vicegerent, the guardianship of the pious, faithful, and God-serving citizens." (Mandat Chalifa tuae curae omne id terraium quod Deus ejns curae et imperio commisit; tibique civium piorum, fidelium, Deum colentium, tutelam sublocatorio nomine demandat.) The exact time of this investiture is stated by Abulfeda, as above, to be the 25th of Dzoulcad, A. H. 449. Now, reckoning this as the time, and we have the following result: The 25th of Dzoulcad, A. H. 449, would answer to February 2, A. D. 1058. From this to May 29, 1453, the time when Constantinople was taken, would be 395 years and 116 days. The prophetic period, as above, is 396 years and 106 days—making a difference only of 1 year and 10 days—a result that cannot but be considered as remarkable, considering the difficulty of fixing ancient dates. Or if, with Mr. Elliott, (i. 495-499,) we suppose that the time is to be reckoned from the period when the Turkman power went forth from Bagdad on a career of conquest, the reckoning should be from the year of the Hegira, 448, the year before the formal investiture, then this would make a difference of only 24 days. The date of that event was the tenth of Dzoulcad, A. H. 448. That was the day on which Togrul with his Turkroans, now the representative and head of the power of Islamism, quitted Bagdad to enter on a long career of war and conquest. "The part allotted to Togrul himself in the fearful drama soon to open against the Greeks was to extend and establish the Turkman dominion over the frontier countries of Irak and Mesopotamia, that so the requisite strength might be attained for the attack ordained of. God's counsels against the Greek empire. The first step to this was the siege and capture of Moussul; his next of Singara. Nisibis, too, was visited by him; that frontier fortress that had in other days been so long a bulwark to the Greeks. Everywhere victory attended his banner—a presage of what was to follow." Reckoning from that time, the coincidence between the period that elapsed from that, and the conquest of Constantinople, would be 396 years and 130 days—a period that corresponds, with only a difference of 24 days, with that specified in the prophecy according to the explanation given above. It could not be expected that a coincidence more accurate than this could be made out on the supposition that the prophecy was designed to refer to these events; and if it did refer to them, the coincidence could have occurred only as a prediction by Him who sees with perfect accuracy all the future.

(13.) The effect. This is stated, in Re 9:20-21, to be that those who survived these plagues did not repent of their wickedness, but that the abominations which existed before still remained. In endeavouring to determine the meaning of this, it will be proper, first, to ascertain the exact sense of the words used, and then to inquire whether a state of things existed subsequent to the invasions of the Turks which corresponded with the description here.

(a) The explanation of the language used in Re 9:20-21.

The rest of the men. That portion of the world on which these plagues did not come. One third of the race, it is said, would fall under these calamities, and the writer now proceeds to state what would be the effect on the remainder. The language used—"the rest of the men"— is not such as to designate with certainty any particular portion of the world, but it is implied that the things mentioned were of the general prevalence.

Which were not killed by these plagues. The two thirds of the race which were spared. The language here is such as would be used on the supposition that the crimes here referred to abounded in all those regions which came within the range of the vision of the apostle.

Yet repented not of the works of their hands. To wit, of those things which are immediately specified.

That they should not worship devils. Implying that they practised this before. The word used here—daimonion—means properly a god, deity; spoken of the heathen gods, Ac 17:18; then a genius, or tutelary demon, e.g. that of Socrates; and, in the New Testament, a demon in the sense of an evil spirit. See the word fully explained in See Barnes on "1 Co 10:20".

The meaning of the passage here, as in 1 Co 10:20, "they sacrifice to devils," is not that they literally worshipped devils in the usual sense of that term, though it is true that such worship does exist in the world, as among the Yezidis, (see Layard, Nineveh and its Remains, vol. i. pp. 225-254, and Rosenmuller, Morgenland, iii. 212-216;) but that they worshipped beings which were inferior to the Supreme God; created spirits of a rank superior to men, or the spirits of men that had been enrolled among the gods. This last was a common form of worship among the heathen, for a large portion of the gods whom they adored were heroes and benefactors who had been enrolled among the gods—as Hercules, Bacchus, etc. All that is necessarily implied in this word is, that there prevailed in the time referred to the worship of spirits inferior to God, or the worship of the spirits of departed men. This idea would be more naturally suggested to the mind of a Greek by the use of the word than the worship of evil spirits as such—if indeed it would have conveyed that idea at all; and this word would be properly employed in the representation if there was any homage rendered to departed human spirits which came in the place of the worship of the true God. Compare a dissertation on the meaning of the word used here, in Elliott on the Apocalypse, Appendix I. vol. ii.

And idols of gold, and silver, etc. Idols were formerly, as they are now in heathen lands, made of all these materials. The most costly would, of course, denote a higher degree of veneration for the god, or greater wealth in the worshipper, and all would be employed as symbols or representatives of the gods whom they adored. The meaning of this passage is, that there would prevail, at that time, what would be properly called idolatry, and that this would be represented by the worship paid to these images or idols. It is not necessary to the proper understanding of this, to suppose that the images or idols worshipped were acknowledged heathen idols, or were erected in honour of heathen gods, as such. All that is implied is, that there would be such images—eidwla—and that a degree of homage would be paid to them which would be in fact idolatry. The word here used—eidwlon, eidwla—properly means an image, spectre, shade; then an idol-image, or that which was a representative of a heathen god; and then the idol-god itself—a heathen deity. So far as the word is concerned, it may be applied to any kind of image worship.

Which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk. The common representation of idol-worship in the Scriptures, to denote its folly and stupidity. See Ps 115 compare Isa 44:9-19.

Neither repented they of their murders. This implies that, at the time referred to, murders would abound; or that the times would be characterized by that which deserved to be called murder.

Nor of their sorceries. The word rendered sorceries—farmakeia —whence our word pharmacy, means properly the preparing and giving of medicine, Eng. pharmacy.—Rob. Lex. Then, as the art of medicine was supposed to have magical power, or as the persons who practised medicine, in order to give themselves and their art greater importance, practised various arts of incantation, the word came to be connected with the idea of magic, sorcery, or enchantment. See Schleusner, Lex. In the New Testament the word is never used in a good sense, as denoting the preparation of medicine, but always in this secondary sense, as denoting sorcery, magic, etc. Thus in Ga 5:20, "the works of the flesh— idolatry, witchcraft, etc." Re 9:21, "Of their sorceries." Re 18:23, "For by thy sorceries were all nations deceived." Re 21:8, "Whoremongers, and sorcerers." The word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament; and the meaning of the word would be fulfilled in anything that purposed to accomplish an object by sorcery, by magical arts, by trick, by cunning, by sleight of hand, or by deceiving the senses in any way. Thus it would be applicable to all jugglery, and to all pretended miracles.

Nor of their fornication. Implying that this would be a prevalent sin in the times referred to, and that the dreadful plagues which are here predicted would make no essential change in reference to its prevalence.

And of their thefts. Implying that this, too, would be a common form of iniquity. The word used here—klemma—is the common word to denote theft. The true idea in the word is that of privately, unlawfully, and feloniously taking the goods or movables of another person. In a larger and in the popular sense, however, this word might embrace all acts of taking the property of another by dishonest arts, or on false pretence, or without an equivalent.

(b) The next point then is, the inquiry whether there was any such state of things as is specified here existing in the time of the rise of the Turkish power, and in the time of the calamities which that formidable power brought upon the world. There are two things implied in the statement here:

(1) that these things had an existence before the invasion and destruction of the Eastern empire by the Turkish power; and

(2) that they continued to exist after that, or were not removed by these fearful calamities. The supposition all along in this interpretation is, that the eye of the prophet was on the Roman world, and that the design was to mark the various events which would characterize its future history. We look, then, in the application of this, to the state of things existing in connexion with the Roman power, or that portion of the world which was then pervaded by the Roman religion. This will make it necessary to institute an inquiry whether the things here specified prevailed in that part of the world before the invasions of the Turks, and the-conquest of Constantinople, and whether the judgments inflicted by that formidable Turkish invasion made any essential change in this respect.

(1.) The statement that they worshipped devils; that is, as explained, demons, or the deified souls of men. Homage rendered to the spirits of departed men, and substituted in the place of the worship of the true God, would meet all that is properly implied here. We may refer, then, to the worship of saints in the Romish communion as a complete fulfilment of what is here implied in the language used by John. The fact cannot be disputed that the invocation of saints took the place, in the Roman Catholic communion, of the worship of sages and heroes in heathen Rome, and that the canonization of saints took the place of the ancient deification of heroes and public benefactors. The same kind of homage was rendered to them; their aid was invoked in a similar manner, and on similar occasions; the effect on the popular mind was substantially the same; and the one interfered as really as the other with the worship of the true God. The decrees of the seventh general council, known as the second council of Nice, A.D. 787, authorized and established the worshipping (proskunew)—same word used here—(proskunhswsi ta daimonia) of the saints and their images. This occurred after the exciting scenes, the debates, and the disorders produced by the Iconoclasts, or image-breakers, and after the most careful deliberation on the subject. In that celebrated council, it was decreed, according to Mr. Gibbon, (iii. 341,) "unanimously," "that the worship of images is agreeable to Scripture and reason, to the fathers and councils of the church; but they hesitate whether that worship be relative or direct; whether the Godhead and the figure of Christ be entitled to the same mode of adoration." This worship of the "saints," or prayer to the saints, asking for their intercession, it is well known has from that time everywhere prevailed in the Papal communion. Indeed, a large part of the actual prayers offered in their services is addressed to the Virgin Mary. Mr. Maitland, "the able and learned advocate of the Dark Ages," says, "The superstition of the age supposed the glorified saint to know what was going on in the world; and to feel a deep interest, and to possess a considerable power, in the church militant on earth. I believe that they who thought so are altogether mistaken; and I lament, abhor, and am amazed at the superstition, blasphemies, and idolatries, which have grown out of that opinion."—Elliott, ii. p. 10. As to the question whether this continued after the judgments brought upon the world by the hordes "loosed on the Euphrates," or whether they repented and reformed on account of the judgments, we have only to look into the Roman Catholic religion everywhere. Not only did the old practice of "daemonolatry," or the worship of departed saints, continue, but new "saints" have been added to the number, and the list of those who are to receive this homage has been continually increasing. Thus in the year 1460, Catharine of Sienna was canonized by Pope Plus II.; in 1482, Bonaventura, the blasphemer, (In the Hereford Discussion, between the Rev. J. Venn and Rev. James Waterworth, it was admitted by the latter, all able and learned Romish priest, that Bonaventura's Psalter to the Virgin Mary, turning the addresses to God into addresses to the Virgin, was blasphemy.—Elliott, ii. 25.) by Sixtus IV.; in 1494, Anselm by Alexander VI. Alexander's bull, in language more heathen than Christian, avows it to be the Pope's duty thus to choose out, and to hold up the illustrious dead, as their merits claim, for adoration and worship. (Romanas Pontifex viros claros, et qui sanctimonia floruerunt, et eorum exigentibus clarissimis meritis aliorum sanctorum numero aggregari merentur-inter sanctos praedictos debit collocare, et ut sanctos ab omnibus Christi fidelibus coli, venerari, et ADORARI mandare.)

(2.) The statement that idolatry was practised, and continued to be practised, after this invasion: "Repented not that they should not worship idols of gold, silver, and brass." On this point, perhaps it would be sufficient to refer to what has been already noticed in regard to the homage paid to the souls of the departed; but it may be farther and more clearly illustrated by a reference to the worship of images in the Romish communion. Any one familiar with church history will recollect the long conflicts which prevailed respecting the worship of images; the establishment of images in the churches; the destruction of images by the "Iconoclasts;" and the debates on the subject by the council at Hiera; and the final decision in the second council of Nice, in which the propriety of image-worship was affirmed and established. See, on this subject, Bowers' History of the Popes, ii. 98, seq., 144, seq.; Gibbon, vol. iii. pp. 322-341. The importance of the question respecting image-worship may be seen from the remarks of Mr. Gibbon, iii. 322. He speaks of it as "a question of popular superstition which produced the revolt of Italy, the temporal power of the Popes, and the restoration of the Roman empire in the West." A few extracts from Mr. Gibbon—who may be regarded as an impartial witness on this subject—will show what was the popular belief, and will confirm what is said in the passage before us in reference to the prevalence of idolatry. "The first introduction of a symbolic worship was in the veneration of the cross, and of relics. The saints and martyrs, when intercession was implored, were seated on the right hand of God; but the gracious, and often supernatural favours, which, in the popular belief, were showered round their tombs, conveyed an unquestionable sanction of the devout pilgrims who visited, and touched, and kissed these lifeless remains, the memorials of their merits and suffering. But a memorial, more interesting than the skull or the sandals of a departed worthy, is a faithful copy of his person and features delineated by the arts of painting or sculpture. In every age, such copies, so congenial to human feelings, have been cherished by the zeal of private friendship or public esteem; the images of the Roman emperors were adorned with civil and almost religious honours; a reverence, less ostentatious, but more sincere, was applied to the statues of sages and patriots; and these profane virtues, these splendid sins, disappeared in the presence of the holy men, who had died for their celestial and everlasting country. At first the experiment was made with caution and scruple, and the venerable pictures were discreetly allowed to instruct the ignorant, to awaken the cold, and to gratify the prejudices of the heathen proselytes. By a slow, though inevitable progression, the honours of the original were transferred to the copy; the devout Christian prayed before the image of a saint; and the Pagan rites of genuflexion, luminaries, and incense, again stole into the Catholic church. The scruples of reason or piety were silenced by the strong evidence of visions and miracles; and the pictures which speak, and move, and bleed, must be endowed with a Divine energy, and may be considered as the proper objects of religious adoration. The most audacious pencil might tremble in the rash attempt of defining, by forms and colours, the infinite Spirit, the devout Father, who pervades and sustains the universe. But the superstitious mind was more easily reconciled to paint and worship the angels, and above all, the Son of God, under the human shape, which on earth they have condescended to assume. The Second Person of the Trinity had been clothed with a real and mortal body; but that body had ascended into heaven; and had not some similitude been presented to the eyes of his disciples, the spiritual worship of Christ might have been obliterated by the visible relics and representatives of the saints. A similar indulgence was requisite, and propitious, for the Virgin Mary; the place of her burial was unknown; and the assumption of her soul and body into heaven was adopted by the credulity of the Greeks and Latins. The use, and even the worship of images was firmly established before the end of the sixth century; they were fondly cherished by the warm imagination of the Greeks and Asiatics; the Pantheon and the Vatican were adorned with the emblems of a new superstition; but this semblance of idolatry was more coldly entertained by the rude barbarians and the Arian clergy of the West," vol. iii. p. 323. Again: "Before the end of the sixth century, these images, made without hands, (in Greek it is a single word—aceiropoihtov) were propagated in the camps and cities of the Eastern empire; they were the objects of worship, and the instruments of miracles; and in the hour of danger or tumult their venerable presence could revive the hope, rekindle the courage, or repress the fury of the Roman legions," vol. iii. pp. 324, 325. So again, (vol. iii. p. 340, seq.:) "While the Popes established in Italy their freedom and dominion, the images, the first cause of their revolt, were restored in the Eastern empire. Under the reign of Constantine the Fifth, the union of civil and ecclesiastical power had overthrown the tree, without extirpating the root, of superstition. The idols, for such they were now held, were secretly cherished by the order and the sect most prone to devotion; and the fond alliance of the monks and females obtained a final victory over the name and the authority of man." Under Irene a council was convened—the second council of Nice, or the seventh general council, in which, according to Mr. Gibbon, (iii. 341,) it was "unanimously pronounced that the worship of images is agreeable to Scripture and reason, to the fathers and councils of the church." The arguments which were urged in favour of the worship of images, in the council above referred to, may be seen in Bowers' Lives of the Popes, vol. ii. pp. 152-158, Dr. Cox's edition. The answer of the bishops in the council to the question of the empress Irene, whether they agreed to the decision which had been adopted in the council, was in these words: "We all agree to it; we have all freely signed it; this is the faith of the apostles, of the fathers, and of the Catholic church; we all salute, honour, worship, and adore the holy and venerable images; be they accursed who do not honour, worship, and adore the adorable images."—Bowers' Lives of the Popes, ii. 159. As a matter of fact, therefore, no one can doubt that these images were worshipped with the honour that was due to God alone— or that the sin of idolatry prevailed; and no one can doubt that that has been continued, and is still, in the Papal communion.


Verse 6. And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever. By the everliving God: a form of an oath in extensive use now. The essential idea in such an oath is an appeal to God; a solemn reference to Him as a witness; an utterance in the presence of Him who is acquainted with the truth or falsehood of what is said, and who will punish him who appeals to Him falsely. It is usual, in such an oath, in order to give to it greater solemnity, to refer to some attribute of God, or something in the Divine character on which the mind would rest at the time, as tending to make it more impressive. Thus, in the passage before us, the reference is to God as "ever-living;" that is, he is now a witness, and he ever will be; he has now the power to detect and punish, and he ever will have the same power.

Who created heaven, and the things that therein are, etc. Who is the Maker of all things in heaven, on the earth, and in the sea; that is, throughout the universe. The design of referring to these things here is that which is just specified—to give increased solemnity to the oath by a particular reference to some one of the attributes of God. With this view nothing could be more appropriate than to refer to him as the Creator of the universe—denoting his infinite power, his right to rule and control all things.

That there should be time no longer. This is a very important expression, as it is the substance of what the angel affirmed in so solemn a manner; and as the interpretation of the whole passage depends on it. It seems now to be generally agreed among critics that our translation does not give the true sense, inasmuch

(a) as that was not the close of human affairs, and

(b) as he proceeds to state what would occur after that. Accordingly, different versions of the passage have been proposed. Professor Stuart renders it, "that delay shall be no longer." Mr. Elliott, "that the time shall not yet be; but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, whensoever he may be about to sound, then the mystery of God shall be finished." Mr. Lord, "that the time shall not be yet, but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel," etc. Andrew Fuller, (Works, vol. vi. 113,) "there should be no delay." So Dr. Gill. Mr. Daubuz, "the time shall not be yet." Vitringa, (p. 432,) tempus non fore amplius, "time shall be no more." He explains it (p. 433) as meaning, "not that this is to be taken absolutely, as if at the sounding of the seventh trumpet all things were then to terminate, and the glorious epiphany—epifaneia (or manifestation of Jesus Christ)—was then to occur who would put an end to all the afflictions of his church; but in a limited sense—restricte—as meaning that there would be no delay between the sounding of the seventh trumpet and tile fulfilment of the prophecies." The sense of this passage is to be determined by the meaning of the words and the connexion.

(a) The word time—cronov—is the common Greek word to denote time, and may be applied to time in general, or to any specified time or period. See Robinson, Lex. s. voce (a, b.) In the word itself there is nothing to determine its particular signification here. It might refer either to time in general, or to the time under consideration; and which was the subject of the prophecy. Which of these is the true idea is to be ascertained by the other circumstances referred to. It should be added, however, that the word does not of itself denote delay, and is never used to denote that directly. It can only denote that because delay occupies or consumes time, but this sense of the noun is not found in the New Testament. It is found, however, in the verb cronizw, to linger, to delay, to be long in coming, Mt 25:5 Lu 1:21.

(b) The absence of the article "time," not "the time"— would naturally give it a general signification, unless there was something in the connexion to limit it to some well-known period under consideration. See Barnes on "Re 8:2; Re 10:3 ".

In this latter view, if the time referred to would be sufficiently definite without the article, the article need not be inserted. This is such a case, and comes under the rule for the omission of the article as laid down by Bishop Middleton, part i. chap. iii. The principle is, that when the copula, or verb connecting the subject and predicate, is the verb substantive, then the article is omitted. "To affirm the existence," says he, "of that of which the existence is already assumed, would be superfluous; to deny it, would be contradictory and absurd." As applicable to the case before us, the meaning of this rule would be, that the nature of the time here referred to is implied in the use of the substantive verb, (estai) and that consequently it is not necessary to specify it. All that needs to be said on this point is, that, on the supposition that John, referred to a specified time, instead of time in general, it would not be necessary, under this rule, to insert the article. The reference would be understood without it, and the insertion would be unnecessary. This is, substantially, the reasoning of Mr. Elliott, (ii. 123,) and it is submitted for what it is worth. My own knowledge of the usages of the Greek article is too limited to justify me in pronouncing an opinion on the subject, but the authorities are such as to authorize the assertion that, on the supposition that a particular well-known period were here referred to, the insertion of the article would not be necessary.

(c) The particle rendered "longer"—eti—"time shall be no longer" —means properly, according to Robinson, (Lex.,) yet, still; implying

(1) duration—as spoken of the present time; of the present in allusion to the past, and, with a negative, no more, no longer,

(2) implying accession, addition, yet, more, farther, besides. According to Buttmann, Gram. % 149, i. p. 430, it means, when alone, "yet still, yet farther; and with a negative, no more, no farther." The particle occurs often in the New Testament, as may be seen in the Concordance. It is more frequently rendered "yet" than by any other word, (compare Mt 12:46; 17:5; 19:20; 26:47; 27:63; Mr 5:35; 8:17; 12:6) Mr 14:43—and so in the other Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles; in all, fifty times. In the book of Revelation it is only once rendered "yet," Re 6:11, but is rendered "more" in Re 3:12; 7:16 Re 9:12; 12:8; 18:21-22, (three times,) Re 18:23, (twice;) Re 20:3; 21:1,4, (twice;) "longer" in Re 10:6; "still" in Re 22:11, (four times.) The usage, therefore, will justify the rendering of the word by "yet," and in connexion with the negative, "not yet"—meaning that the thing referred to would not occur immediately, but would be hereafter. In regard to the general meaning, then, of this passage in its connexion, we may remark

(a) that it cannot mean, literally, that there would be time no longer, or that the world would then come to an end absolutely, for the speaker proceeds to disclose events that would occur after that, extending far into the future, (Re 10:11) and the detail that follows (Revelation 11) before the sounding of the seventh trumpet is such as to occupy a considerable period, and the seventh trumpet is also yet to sound. No fair construction of the language, therefore, would require us to understand this as meaning that the affairs of the world were then to terminate.

(b) The connexion, then, apart from the question of grammatical usage, will require some such construction as that above suggested—"that the time," to wit, some certain, known, or designated time, "would not be yet," but would be in some future period; that is, as specified Re 10:7, "in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound."

Then "the mystery of God would be finished," and the affairs of the world would be put on their permanent footing.

(c) This would imply that, at the time when the angel appeared, or in the time to which he refers, there would be some expectation or general belief that the "mystery was then to be finished, and that the affairs of the world were to come to an end. The proper interpretation would lead us to suppose that there would be so general an expectation of this, as to make the solemn affirmation of the angel proper to correct a prevailing opinion, and to show that the right interpretation was not put on what seemed to be the tendency of things.

(d) As a matter of fact, we find that this expectation did actually exist at the time of the Reformation; that such an interpretation was put on the prophecies, and on the events that occurred; and that the impression that the Messiah was about to come, and the reign of saints about to commence, was so strong as to justify some interference, like the solemn oath of the angel, to correct the misapprehension. It is true that this impression had existed in former times, and even in the early ages of the church; but, as a matter of fact, it was true, and eminently true, in the time of the Reformation, and there was, on many accounts, a strong tendency to that form of belief. The Reformers, in interpreting the prophecies, learned to connect the downfall of the Papacy with the coming of Christ, and with his universal reign upon the earth; and as they saw the evidences of the approach of the former, they naturally anticipated the latter as about to occur. Compare Da 12:11 2 Th 2:3; Da 2:34; 2 Th 2:8.

The anticipation that the Lord Jesus was about to come; that the affairs of the world, in the present form, were to be wound up; that the reign of the saints would soon commence; and that the permanent kingdom of righteousness would be established, became almost the current belief of the Reformers, and was frequently expressed in their writings. Thus Luther, in the year 1520, in his answer to the Pope's bull of excommunication, expresses his anticipations: "Our Lord Jesus Christ yet liveth and reigneth; who, I firmly trust, will shortly come, and slay with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy with the brightness of his coming, that Man of sin."—Merle D'Aubig. ii. 166. After being summoned before the Diet at Worms, and after condemnation had been pronounced on him by the Emperor, he fell back for comfort on the same joyous expectation. "For this once," he said, "the Jews, as on the crucifixion-day, may sing their Paean; but Easter will come for us, and then we shall sing Hallelujah."—D'Aubig. ii. 276. The next year, writing to Staupitz, he made a solemn appeal against his abandoning the Reformation, by reference to the sure and advancing fulfilment of Daniel's prophecy. "My father," said he, "the abominations of the pope, with his whole kingdom, must be destroyed; and the Lord does this without hand, by the word alone. The subject exceeds all human comprehension. I cherish the best hopes."— Milner, p. 692. In 1523 he thus, in a similar strain, expresses his hopes: "The kingdom of Antichrist, according to the prophet Daniel, must be broken without hands; that is, the Scriptures will be understood by and by; and every one will preach against Papal tyranny, from the word of God, until the Man of sin is deserted of all, and dies of himself."—Milner, p. 796. The same sentiments respecting the approach of the end of the world were entertained by melancthon. In commenting on the passage in Daniel relating to the "little horn," he thus refers to an argument which has been prevalent: "The words of the prophet Elias should be marked by every one, and inscribed upon our walls, and on the entrances of our houses. Six thousand years shall the world stand, and after that be destroyed; two thousand years without the law; two thousand years under the law of Moses; two thousand years under the Messiah; and if any of these years are not fulfilled, they will be shortened, (a shortening intimated by Christ also, on account of our sins.") The following manuscript addition to this argument has been found in melancthon's hand, in Luther's own copy of the German Bible:—"Written A.D. 1557, and from the creation of the world, 5519; from which number we may see that this aged world is not far front its end." So also the British Reformers believed. Thus Bishop Latimer: "Let us cry to God day and night—Most merciful Father, let thy kingdom come! St. Paul saith, The Lord will not come till the swerving from the faith cometh, (2 Th 2:3) which thing is already done and past. Antichrist is already known throughout all the world. Wherefore the day is not far off." Then, reverting to the consideration of the age of the world, as Melancthon had done, he says, "The world was ordained to endure, as all learned ones affirm, 6000 years. Now of that number there be past 6552 years, so that there is no more left but 448 years. Furthermore, those days shall be shortened for the elect's sage. Therefore, all those excellent and learned men, whom without doubt God hath sent into the world in these last days to give the world warning, do gather out of sacred Scripture that the last day cannot be far off." So again, in a sermon on the nearness of the Second Advent, he says, "So that peradventure it may come in my days, old as I am, or in my children's days." Indeed, it is well known that this was a prevalent opinion among the Reformers; and this fact will show with what propriety, if the passage before us was designed to refer to the Reformation, this Solemn declaration of the angel was made, that the "time would not be yet"—that those anticipations which would spring up from the nature of the case, and from the interpretations which would be put on what seemed to be the obvious sense of the prophecies, were unfounded, and that a considerable time must yet intervene before the events would be consummated.

(e) The proper sense of this passage, then, according to the above interpretation, would be—"And the angel lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever. That the time should not yet be; but, in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God shall be finished." Appearances, indeed, would then indicate that the affairs of the world were to be wound up, and that the prophecies respecting the end of the world were about to be fulfilled; but the angel solemnly swears "by Him who lives for ever and ever," and whose reign therefore extends through all the changes on the earth; "by Him who is the Creator of all things," and whose purpose alone can determine when the end shall be, that the time would not be yet. Those cherished expectations would not yet be realized, but there was a series of important events to intervene before the end would come. Then—at the time when the seventh angel should sound—would be the consummation of all things.

{c} "him" Re 14:7; Ne 9:6

{d} "therein" Da 12:7


Verse 7. But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel. The days in the period of time embraced by the sounding of the seventh trumpet. That is, the affairs of this world would not be consummated in that period embraced in the sounding of the sixth trumpet, but in that embraced in the sounding of the seventh and last of the trumpets. Compare Re 11:15-19.

When he shall begin to sound. That is, the events referred to will commence at the period when the angel shall begin to sound. It will not be merely during or in that period, but the sounding of the trumpet, and the beginning of those events, will be contemporaneous. In other words, then would commence the reign of righteousness—the kingdom of the Messiah—the dominion of the saints on the earth.

The mystery of God should be finished. On the meaning of the word mystery, see Barnes "Eph 1:9".

It means here, as elsewhere in the New Testament, the purpose or truth of God which had been concealed, and which had not before been communicated to man. Here the particular reference is to the Divine purpose which had been long concealed respecting the destiny of the world, or respecting the setting up of his kingdom, but which had been progressively unfolded by the prophets. That purpose would be "finished," or consummated, in the time when the seventh angel should begin to sound. Then all the "mystery" would be revealed; the plan would be unfolded; the Divine purpose, so long concealed, would be manifested, and the kingdom of the Messiah and of the saints would be set up on the earth. Under that period, the affairs of the world would be ultimately wound up, and the whole work of redemption completed. As he hath declared to his servants the prophets. As he has from time to time disclosed his purposes to mankind through the prophets. The reference here is, doubtless, to the prophets of the Old Testament, though the language would include all who at any time had uttered any predictions respecting the final condition of the world. These prophecies had been scattered along through many ages; but the angel says that at that time all that had been said respecting the setting up of the kingdom of God, the reign of the saints, and the dominion of the Redeemer on the earth, would be accomplished. See Barnes "Re 11:15".

From the passage thus explained, if the interpretation is correct, it will follow that the sounding of the seventh trumpet (Re 11:15-18) is properly the conclusion of this series of visions, and denotes a "catastrophe" in the action, and that what follows is the commencement of a new series of visions. This is clear, because

(a) the whole seven seals, comprising the seven trumpets of the seventh seal, must embrace one view of all coming events—since this embraced all that there was in the volume seen in the hand of him that sat on the throne;

(b) this is properly implied in the word here rendered "should be finished"—telesyh—the fair meaning of which is, that the "mystery" here referred to—the hitherto unrevealed purpose or plan of God—would, under that trumpet, be consummated or complete, (see the conclusive reasoning of Professor Stuart on the meaning of the word, vol. ii. p. 210, foot-note;) and

(c) it will be found in the course of the exposition that, at Re 11:19, there commences a new series of visions, embracing a view of the world in its religious aspect, or ecclesiastical characteristics, reaching down to the same consummation, and stating at the close of that (Revelation 20) more fully what is here (Re 1:15-18) designated in a more summary way—the final triumph of religion, and the establishment of the kingdom of the saints. The present series of visions (Re 5:1-11:18) relates rather to the outward or secular changes which would occur on the earth, which were to affect the welfare of the church, to the final consummation; the next series (Re 11:19 and chapters 12-20) relates to the church internally, the rise of Antichrist, and the effect of the rise of that formidable power on the internal history of the church, to the time of the overthrow of that power, and the triumphant establishment of the kingdom of God. In other words, this series of visions, terminating at Re 11:18, refers, as the leading thing, to what would occur in relation to the Roman empire considered as a secular power, in which the church would be interested; that which follows Re 11:19; 12:1-10. to the Roman power considered as a great apostasy, and setting up a mighty and most oppressive domination over the true church, manifested in deep corruption and bloody persecutions, running on in its disastrous influence on the world, until that power should be destroyed—Babylon fall—and the reign of the saints be introduced.

{a} "seventh" Re 11:15

{b} "mystery" Ro 11:25; Eph 3:5-9


Verse 8. And the voice which I heard from heaven. Re 10:4. This is not the voice of the angel, but a direct Divine command.

Said, Go and take the little book that is open, etc. That is, take it out of his hand, and do with it as you shall be commanded. There is a very strong resemblance between this passage and the account contained in Eze 2:9-10; 3:1-3. Ezekiel was directed to go to the house of Israel and deliver a Divine message, whether they would hear or forbear; and in order that he might understand what message to deliver, there was shown to him a roll of a book, written within and without. That roll he was commanded to eat, and he found it to be "in his mouth as honey for sweetness." John has added to this the circumstance that, though "sweet in the mouth," it made "the belly bitter." The additional command, (Re 10:11) that he must yet "prophesy before many people," leads us to suppose that he had the narrative in Ezekiel in his eye, for, as the result of his eating the roll, he was commanded to go and prophesy to the people of Israel. The passage here (Re 10:8) introduces a new symbol, that of "eating the book," and evidently refers to something that was to occur before the "mystery should be finished;" that is, before the seventh trumpet should sound.

Which is open in the hand, etc. On the symbolical meaning of the word "open," as applied to the book, see Barnes "Re 10:2".

{c} "voice" Re 10:4


Verse 9. And I went unto the angel. This is symbolic action, and is not to be understood literally. As it is not necessary to suppose that an angel literally descended, and stood upon the sea and the land, so it is not necessary to suppose that there was a literal act of going to him, and taking the book from his hand, and eating it.

Give me the little book. In accordance with the command in Re 10:8. We may suppose, in regard to this,

(a) that the symbol was designed to represent that the book was to be used in the purpose here referred to, or was to be an important agent or instrumentality in accomplishing the purpose. The book is held forth in the hand of the angel as a striking emblem. There is a command to go and take it from his hand for some purpose not yet disclosed. All this seems to imply that the book—or that which is represented by it—would be an important instrument in accomplishing the purpose here referred to.

(b) The application for the book might intimate that, on the part of him who made it, there would be some strong desire to possess it. He goes, indeed, in obedience to the command; but, at the same time, there would naturally be a desire to be in possession of the volume, or to know the contents, (compare Re 5:4) and his approach to the angel for the book would be most naturally interpreted as expressive of such a wish.

And he said unto me, take it. As if he had expected this application; or had come down to furnish him with this little volume, and had anticipated that the request would be made. There was no reluctance in giving it up; there was no attempt to withhold it; there was no prohibition of its use. The angel had no commission, and no desire to retain it for himself, and no hesitation in placing it in the hands of the seer on the first application. Would not the readiness with which God gives his Bible into the hands of men, in contradistinction from all human efforts to restrain its use and to prevent its free circulation, be well symbolized by this act?

And eat it up. There is a similar command in Eze 3:1. Of course, this is to be understood figuratively, for no one would interpret literally a command to eat a manuscript or volume. We have in common use a somewhat similar phrase, when we speak of devouring a book, which may illustrate this, and which is not liable to be misunderstood. In Jer 15:16, we have similar language: "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." Thus in Latin, the words propinare, imbibere, devorare, deglutire, etc., are used to denote the greediness with which knowledge is acquired. Compare in the Apocrypha, 2 Esdras xiv. 88-40. The meaning here, then, is plain. He was to possess himself of the contents of the book; to receive it into his mind; to apply it, as we do food, for spiritual nourishment—truth having, in this respect, the same relation to the mind which food has to the body. If the little book was a symbol of the Bible, it would refer to the fact that the truths of that book became the nourisher and supporter of the public mind.

And it shall make thy belly bitter. This is a circumstance which does not occur in the corresponding place in Eze 3:1-3. The expression here must refer to something that would occur after the symbolical action of "eating" the little book, or to some consequence of eating it—for the act of eating it is represented as pleasant: "in thy mouth sweet as honey." The meaning here is, that the effect which followed from eating the book was painful or disagreeable—as food would be that was pleasant to the taste, but that produced bitter pain when eaten. The fulfilment of this would be found in one of two things.

(a) It might mean that the message to be delivered in consequence of devouring the book, or the message which it contained, would be of a painful or distressing character: that with whatever pleasure the book might be received and devoured, it would be found to contain a communication that would be indicative of woe or sorrow. This was the case with the little book that Ezekiel was commanded to eat up. Thus, in speaking of this book, it is said, "And it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe," Eze 2:10. Compare Re 3:4-9, where the contents of the book, and the effect of proclaiming the message which it contained, are more fully stated. So here the meaning may be, that, however gladly John may have taken the book, and with whatever pleasure he may have devoured its contents, yet that it would be found to be charged with the threatening of wrath, and with denunciations of a judgment to come, the delivery of which would be well represented by the "bitterness" which is said to have followed from "eating" the volume. Or

(b) it may mean, that the consequence of devouring the book, that is, of embracing its doctrines, would be persecutions and trouble—well represented by the "bitterness" that followed the "eating" of the volume. Either of these ideas would be a fulfilment of the proper meaning of the symbol; for, on the supposition that either of these occurred in fact, it would properly be symbolized by the eating of a volume that was sweet to the taste, but that made the belly bitter.

But it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. So in Eze 3:3. The proper fulfilment of this it is not difficult to understand. It would well represent the pleasure derived from Divine truth—the sweetness of the word of God—the relish with which it is embraced by those that love it. On the supposition that the "little book" here refers to the Bible, and to the use which would be made of it in the times referred to, it would properly denote the relish which would exist for the sacred volume, and the happiness which would be found in its perusal: for this very image is frequently employed to denote this. Thus in Ps 19:10: "More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." Ps 119:103: "How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth." We are then to look for the fulfilment of this in some prevailing delight or satisfaction, in the times referred to, in the word of the Lord, or in the truths of revelation.

{a} "it" Eze 3:1-3,14


Verse 10. And as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. The effect immediately followed: that is, as soon as he was made acquainted with the contents of the book, either, as above explained, requiring him to deliver some message of woe and wrath which it would be painful to deliver; or, that the consequence of receiving it was to bring on bitter persecutions and trials.

This is part 4 of 4 parts of the Note for Revelation 9:20

Part 1 See Barnes "Re 9:20"
Part 2 See Barnes "Re 9:21"
Part 3 See Barnes "Re 10:5"

(3.) The next point specified is murders, (Re 9:21) "Neither repented they of their murders." It can hardly be necessary to dwell on this to show that this was strictly applicable to the Roman power, and extensively prevailed, both before and after the Turkish invasion, and that that invasion had no tendency to produce repentance. Indeed, in nothing has the Papacy been more remarkably characterized than in the number of murders perpetrated on the innocent in persecution. In reference to the fulfilment of this, we may refer to the following things:

(a) Persecution. This has been particularly the characteristic of the Roman communion, it need not be said, in all ages. The persecutions of the Waldenses, if there were nothing else, show that the spirit here referred to prevailed in the Roman communion, or that the times preceding the Turkish conquest were characterized by what is here specified. In the third Lateran council, A.D. 1179, an anathema was declared against certain dissentients and heretics, and then against the Waldenses themselves in Papal bulls of the years 1183, 1207, 1208. Again, in a decree of the fourth Lateran council, A. D. 1215, a crusade, as it was called, was proclaimed against them, and "plenary absolution promised to such as should perish in the holy war, from the day of their birth to the day of their death." "And never," says Sismondi, "had the cross been taken up with more unanimous consent." It is supposed that in this crusade against the Waldenses a million of men perished.

(b) That this continued to be the characteristic of the Papacy after the judgments brought upon the Roman world by the Turkish invasion, or that those judgments had no tendency to produce repentance and reformation, is well known, and is manifest from the following things:

(1.) The continuance of the spirit of persecution.

(2.) The establishment of the Inquisition. One hundred and fifty thousand persons perished by the Inquisition in thirty years; and from the beginning of the order of the Jesuits in 1540 to 1580, it is supposed that nine hundred thousand persons were destroyed by persecution.

(3.) The same spirit was manifested in the attempts to suppress the true religion in England, in Bohemia, and in the Low Countries. Fifty thousand persons were hanged, burned, beheaded, or buried alive, for the crime of heresy, in the Low Countries, chiefly under the duke of Alva, from the edict of Charles V. against the Protestants, to the peace of Chateau Cambrisis in 1559. Compare Barnes on "Da 7:24-28".

To these are to be added all that fell in France on the revocation of the edict of Nantz; all that perished by persecution in England in the days of Mary; and all that have fallen in the bloody wars that have been waged in the propagation of the Papal religion. The number is, of course, unknown to mortals, though efforts have been made by historians to form some estimate of the amount. It is supposed that fifty millions of Christians have perished in these persecutions of the Waldenses, Albigenses, Bohemian Brethren, Wycliffites, and Protestants; that some fifteen millions of Indians perished in Cuba, Mexico, and South America, in the wars of the Spaniards, professedly to propagate the Catholic faith; that three millions and a half of Moors and Jews perished, by Catholic persecution and arms, in Spain; and that thus, probably, no less than sixty-eight millions and five hundred thousand human beings have been put to death by this one persecuting power. See Dr. Berg's Lectures on Romanism, pp. 6, 7. Assuredly, if this be true, it would be proper to characterize the times here referred to, both before and after the Turkish invasion, as a time when murders would prevail.

(4.) The fourth point specified is sorceries. It can hardly be necessary to go into detail to prove that this also abounded, and that delusive appeals to the senses; false and pretended miracles; arts adapted to deceive through the imagination; the supposed virtue and efficacy of relics; and frauds calculated to impose on mankind, have characterized those portions of the world where the Roman religion has prevailed, and been one of the principal means of its advancement. No Protestant surely would deny this, no intelligent Catholic can doubt it himself. All that is necessary to be said in regard to this is, that in this, as in other respects, the Turkish invasion, and the judgments that came upon the world, made no change. The very recent imposture of the "holy coat of Treves" is a full proof that the disposition to practise such arts still exists, and that the power to impose on a large portion of the world in that denomination has not died away.

(5.) The fifth thing specified is fornication. This has abounded everywhere in the world; but the use of the term in this connexion implies that there would be something peculiar here, and perhaps that it would be associated with the other things referred to. It is as unnecessary as it would be improper to go into any detail on this point. Any one who is acquainted with the history of the Middle Ages—the period here supposed to be referred to—must be aware of the widespread licentiousness which then prevailed, especially among the clergy. Historians and poets, ballads and acts of councils, alike testify to this fact. ("If you wish to see the horrors of these ages," (the Middle Ages,) says Chateaubriand. Diet. Hist. tom. iii. 420, "read the Councils.") It is to be remarked also, as illustrating the subject, that the dissoluteness of the Middle Ages was closely, and almost necessarily, connected with the worship of the images and the saints above referred to. The character of many of those who were worshipped as saints, like the character of many of the gods of the Pagan Romans, was just such as to be an incentive to every species of licentiousness and impurity. On this point, Mr. Hallam makes the following remarks: "That the exclusive worship of saints, under the guidance of an artful though illiterate priesthood, degraded the understanding, and begat a stupid credulity and fanaticism, is sufficiently evident. But it was also so managed as to loosen the bonds of religion, and pervert the standard of morality."—Middle Ages, vol. ii. pp. 249, 260; Edit. Phil. 1824. He then, in a note, refers to the legends of the saints as abundantly confirming his statements. See particularly the stories in the "Golden Legend." So, in speaking of the monastic orders, Mr. Hallam (Middle Ages, vol. ii. 253) says, "In vain new rules of discipline were devised, or the old corrected by reforms. Many of their worst vices grew so naturally out of their mode of life that a stricter discipline would have no tendency to extirpate them. Their extreme licentiousness was sometimes hardly concealed by the cowl of sanctity." In illustration of this we may, introduce here a remark of Mr. Gibbon, made in immediate connexion with his statement about the decrees respecting the worship of images. "I shall only notice," says he, "the judgment of the bishops on the comparative merit of image-worship and morality. A monk had concluded a truce with the demon of fornication, on condition of interrupting her daily prayers to a picture that hung in his cell. His scruples prompted him to consult the abbot. 'Rather than abstain from adoring Christ and his mother in their holy images, it would be better for you,' replied the casuist, 'to enter any brothel, and visit every prostitute in the city,'" iii. 341. So again, Mr. Gibbon, speaking of the pope, John XII., says, "His open simony might be the consequence of distress; and his blasphemous invocation of Jupiter and Venus, if it be true, could not possibly be serious. But we read with some surprise that the worthy grandson of Marozia lived in public adultery with the matrons of Rome; that the Lateran palace was turned into a place of prostitution, and that his rapes of virgins and of widows had deterred the female pilgrims from visiting the tomb of St. Peter, lest, in the devout act, they should be violated by his successor," iii. 353. Again, the system of indulgences led directly to licentiousness. In the pontificate of John XXII., about A. D. 1320, there was invented the celebrated Tax of Indulgences, of which more than forty editions are extant. According to this, incest was to cost, if not detected, five groschen; if known and flagrant, six. A certain price was affixed in a similar way to adultery, infanticide, etc. See Merle D'Aubigne's Reformation, vol. i. p. 41. And farther, the very pilgrimages to the shrines of the saints, which were enjoined as a penance for sin, and which were regarded as a ground of merit, were occasions of the grossest licentiousness. So Hallam, Middle Ages, says, "This licensed vagrancy was naturally productive of dissoluteness, especially among the women. Our English ladies, in their zeal to obtain the spiritual treasuries of Rome, are said to have relaxed the necessary caution about one that was in their own custody," vol. ii. 256. The celibacy of the clergy, also, tended to licentiousness, and is known to have been everywhere productive of the very sin which is here mentioned. The state of the nunneries in the middle ages is well known. In the 15th century, Gerson, the French orator so celebrated at the council of Constance, called them Prostibula meretricum. Clemangis, a French theologian, also contemporary, and a man of great eminence, thus speaks of them: Quid aliud sunt hoc tempore puellarum monasteria, nisi quaedam non dico Dei sanctuaria, sed veneris execranda prostibula; ut idem sit hodie puellam velare, quod et publici ad scortandum exponere.—Hallam, Middle Ages, ii. 253. To this we may add the fact that it was a habit, not unfrequent, to license the clergy to live in concubinage, (see the proof in Elliott, i, 447, note,) and that the practice of auricular confession necessarily made "the tainting of the female mind an integral part of Roman priestcraft, and gave consecration to the communings of impurity." It hardly needs any proof that these practices continued after the invasions of the Turkish hordes, or that those invasions made no changes in the condition of the world in this respect. In proof of this, we need refer only to Pope Innocent VIII., elected in 1484 to the Papacy; (His character is told in the well-known epigram—Octo nocens pueros genuit, totidemque puellas: Hunc merito potuit dicere Roma patrem.) to Alexander VI., his successor, who at the close of the fifteenth century stood before the world a monster, notorious to all, of impurity and vice; and to the general well-known character of the Romish clergy. "Most of the ecclesiastics," says the historian Infessura, "had their mistresses; and all the convents of the capital were houses of ill-fame."

(6.) The sixth thing specified, (Re 9:21,) is thefts; that is, as explained, the taking of the property of others by dishonest arts, on false pretences, or without any proper equivalent. In the inquiry as to the applicability of this to the times supposed to be here referred to, we may notice the following things, as instances in which money was extorted from the people:

(a) The value fraudulently assigned to relics. Mosheim, in his historical sketch of the twelfth century, observes, "The abbots and monks carried about the country the carcases and relics of saints, in solemn procession; and permitted the multitude to behold, touch, and embrace the sacred remains, at fixed prices."

(b) The exaltation of the miracle-working merit of particular saints, and the consecration of new saints, and dedication of new images, when the popularity of the former died away. Thus Mr. Hallam says, "Every cathedral or monastery had its tutelar saint, and every saint his legend; fabricated in order to enrich the churches under his protection; by exaggerating his virtues and his miracles, and consequently his power of serving those who paid liberally for his patronage."

(c) The invention and sale of indulgences—well known to have been a vast source of revenue to the church. Wycliffe declared that indulgences were mere forgeries whereby the priesthood "rob men of their money; a subtle merchandize of Antitichrist's clerks, whereby they magnify their own fictitious power, and instead of causing men to dread sin, encourage men to wallow therein as hogs."

(d) The prescription of pilgrimages as penances was another prolific source of gain to the church that deserves to be classed under the name of thefts. Those who made such pilgrimage were expected and required to make an offering at the shrine of the saint; and as multitudes went on such pilgrimages, especially on the Jubilee at Rome, the income from this source was enormous. An instance of what was offered at the shrine of Thomas a Becket will illustrate this. Through his reputation, Canterbury became the Rome of England. A Jubilee was celebrated every fiftieth year to his honour, with plenary indulgence to all such as visited his tomb; of whom one hundred thousand were registered at one time. Two large volumes were filled with accounts of the miracles wrought at his tomb. The following list of the value of offerings made in two successive years to his shrine, the Virgin Mary's, and Christ's, in the cathedral at Canterbury, will illustrate at the same time the gain from these sources, and the relative respect shown to Becket, Mary, and the Saviour :—

First Year. L s d Next Year. L s d

Christ's Altar........... 3 2 6 Christ's Altar...........
Virgin Mary..............63 5 6 Virgin Mary.............. 4 1 8
Becket's ...............832 12 9 Becket's ...............954 6 3

Of the Jubilee of A.D. 1300, Muratori relates the result as follows: "Papa innumerabilem pecuniam ab iisdem recepit; quia die et nocte duo clerici stabant ad altare Sancti Pauli, tenentes in eorum manibus rastellos, rastellantes pecuniam infinitam." "The Pope received from them a countless amount of money; for two clerks stood at the altar of St. Paul night and day, holding in their hands little rakes, collecting an infinite amount of money."—Hallam,

(e) Another source of gain of this kind was the numerous testamentary bequests with which the church was enriched—obtained by the arts and influence of the clergy. In Wycliffe's time there were in England 53,215 foeda militum, of which the religious had 28,000—more than one half. Blackstone says that, but for the intervention of the legislature, and the statute of mortmain, the church would have appropriated in this manner the whole of the land of England, vol. iv. p. 107.

(f) The money left by the dying to pay for masses, and that paid by survivors for masses to release the souls of their friends from purgatory— all of which deserve to be classed under the word thefts as above explained—-was another source of vast wealth to the church; and the practice was systematized on a large scale, and, with the other things mentioned, deserves to be noticed as a characteristic of the times. It is scarcely necessary to add, that the judgments which were brought upon the world by the Turkish invasions made no essential change, and wrought no repentance or reformation, and hence that the language here is strictly applicable to these things: "Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts."


Verse 11. And he said unto me. The angel then said.

Thou must prophesy. The word "prophesy" here is evidently used in the large sense of making known Divine truth in general; not in the comparatively narrow and limited sense in which it is commonly used, as referring merely to the foretelling of future events. See the word explained in See Barnes "Ro 12:6; 1 Co 14:1".

The meaning is, that, as a consequence of becoming possessed of the little volume and its contents, he would be called to proclaim Divine truth, or to make the message of God known to mankind. The direct address is to John himself; but it is evidently not to be understood of him personally. He is represented as seeing the angel; as hearkening to his voice; as listening to the solemn oath which he took; as receiving and eating the volume; and then as prophesying to many people: but the reference is undoubtedly to the far-distant future. If the allusion is to the times of the Reformation, the meaning is, that the end of the world was not, as would be expected, about to occur, but that there was to be an interval long enough to permit the gospel to be proclaimed before "nations, and tongues, and kings;" that in consequence of coming into possession of the "little book," the word of God, the truth was yet to be proclaimed far and wide on the earth.

Again—palin. This had been done before. That is, supposing this to refer to the time of the Reformation, it could be said

(a) that this had been done before—that the gospel had been in former times proclaimed in its purity before "many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings," and

(b) that it would be done "again:" that is, though the word of God had been hidden, and a mass of corrupt traditions had taken its place, yet the time would come when those pure truths would be made known again to all lands. This will explain the word "again" in this place— not meaning that John would do this personally, but that this would be in fact the result of the restoration of the Bible to the church.

Before many peoples. This word denotes people considered as masses, or as grouped together in masses, without reference to the manner in which it is done. It is used when we look on a mass of men, without taking into account the question whether they are of the same nation, or language, or rank. See Barnes "Re 8:9".

The plural is used here—"peoples"—perhaps to denote that those to whom the truth would be made known would be very numerous. They would not only be numerous in regard to the individuals to whom it would be communicated, but numerous considered as communities or nations.

And nations. The word nations here denotes people considered as separated by national boundaries, constitutions, laws, customs. See Barnes on "Re 7:9".

And tongues. People considered as divided by languages: a division not always, or necessarily, the same as that denoted by the word "people" or "nations" as used in this passage.

And kings. Rulers of the people. The meaning is, that the gospel would not only be borne before the masses of mankind, but in a special manner before kings and rulers. The effect of thus possessing the "little volume"—or of the "open book" of revealed truth would ultimately be that the message of life would be carried with power before princes and rulers, and would influence them as well as the common people.

In inquiring now for the proper application of this symbol as thus explained, we naturally turn to the Reformation, and ask whether there was anything in that of which this would be the proper emblem. The following things, then, are found in fact as occurring at that time, of which the symbol before us may be regarded as the proper representation:—

(1.) The reception of the Bible as from the hand of an angel—or its recovery from obscurity and forgetfulness, as if it were now restored to the church by a heavenly interposition. The influence of the Bible on the Reformation; the fact that it was now recovered from its obscurity, and that it was made the grand instrument in the Reformation, has already been illustrated. See Barnes "Re 10:2".

The symbolical action of taking it from the hand of an angel was not an improper representation of its reception again by the church, and of its restoration to its true place in the church. It became, as it is proper that it should always be, the grand means of the defence of the faith, and of the propagation of truth in the world.

(2.) The statement that the little book when eaten was "in the mouth sweet as honey," is a striking and proper representation of the relish felt for the sacred Scriptures by those who love the truth, (compare See Barnes "Re 10:9") and is especially appropriate to describe the interest which was felt in the volume of revealed truth in the time of the Reformation. For the Bible was to the reformers emphatically a new book. It had been driven from common use to make way for the legends of the saints and the traditions of the church. It had, therefore, when translated into the vernacular tongue, and when circulated and read, the freshness of novelty—the interest which a volume of revealed truth would have if just given from heaven. Accordingly it is well known with what avidity and relish the sacred volume was studied by Luther and his fellow-labourers in the Reformation; how they devoured its doctrines; how they looked to it for comfort in their times of trial; how sweet and sustaining were its promises in the troubles that came upon them, and in the labours which they were called to perform.

(3.) The representation that, after it was eaten, it was "bitter," would not improperly describe the effect, in some respects, of thus receiving the Bible, and making it the groundwork of faith. It brought the Reformers at once into conflict with all the power of the Papacy and the priesthood; exposed them to persecution; aroused against them a host of enemies among the princes and rulers of the earth; and was the cause for which many of them were put to death. Such effects followed substantially when Wycliffe translated the Bible; when John Huss and Jerome of Prague published the pure doctrines of the New Testament; and when Luther gave to the people the word of God in their own language. To a great extent this is always so—that, however sweet and precious the truths of the Bible may be to the preacher himself, one of the effects of his attempting to preach those truths may be such opposition on the part of men, such cold indifference, or such fierce persecution, that it would be well illustrated by what is said here, "it shall make thy belly bitter."

(4.) The representation that, as a consequence of receiving that book, he would prophesy again before many people, is a fit representation of the effect of the reception of the Bible again by the church, and of allowing it its proper place there. For

(a) it led to preaching, or, in the language of this passage, "prophesying" a thing comparatively little known before for many ages. The grand business in the Papal communion was not, and is not, preaching, but the performance of rites and ceremonies. Genuflexions, crossings, burning of incense, processions, music, constitute the characteristic features of all Papal churches; the grand thing that distinguishes the Protestant churches all over the world, just in proportion as they are Protestant, is preaching. The Protestant religion—the pure form of religion as it is revealed in the New Testament—has few ceremonies; its rites are simple; it depends for success on the promulgation and defence of the truth, with the attending influence of the Holy Ghost; and for this view of the nature and degree of religion the world is indebted to the fact that the Bible was again restored to its true place in the church.

(b) The Bible is the basis of all genuine preaching. Preaching will not be kept up in its purity, except in the places where the Bible is freely circulated, and where it is studied; and where it is studied, there will be, in the proper sense of the term, preachers. Just in proportion as the Bible is studied in the world, we may expect that preaching will be better understood, and that the number of preachers will be increased.

(c) The study of the Bible is the foundation of all the efforts to spread the knowledge of the truth to "peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings," in our own times. All these efforts have been originated by the restoration of the Bible to its proper place in the church, and to its more profound and accurate study in this age; for these efforts are but carrying out the injunction of the Saviour as recorded in this book—to "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."

(d) The same thing will be true to the end of the world: or, in the language of the portion of the book of Revelation before us, til the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever," Re 11:15. The fact of the restoration of the Bible to its proper place in the church will, therefore, ultimately be the means of the conversion of the whole world to God; and this fact, so momentous in its nature and its consequences, was worthy to be symbolized by the appearance of the "angel descending from heaven clothed with a cloud;" was properly represented by the manner in which he appeared—"his face radiant as the sun, and his feet pillars of fire;" was worthy to be expressed by the position which he assumed, as "standing on the sea and the earth" —as if all the world were interested in the purpose of his mission; and was worthy of the loud proclamation which he made—as if a new order of things were to commence. Beautiful and sublime, then, as this chapter is and always has been esteemed as a composition, it becomes still more beautiful and sublime if it be regarded as a symbol of the Reformation—an event the most glorious, and the most important in its issues, of any that has occurred since the Saviour appeared on the earth.




THIS chapter, which is very improperly separated from the preceding, and improperly ended—for it should have been closed at ver. 18— consists (excluding the last verse, which properly belongs to the succeeding chapter) essentially of three parts:—

I. The measuring of the temple, Re 11:1,2. A reed, or measuring- stick, is given to John, and he is directed to arise and measure the temple. This direction embraces two parts:

(a) he was to measure, that is, to take an exact estimate of the temple, of the altar, and of the true worshippers;

(b) he was carefully to separate this, in his estimate, from the outward court, which was to be left out and to be given to the Gentiles, to be trodden under foot forty-two months; that is, three years and a half, or twelve hundred and sixty days—a period celebrated in the book of Daniel as well as in this book.

II. The two witnesses, Re 11:3-13. This is, in some respects, the most difficult portion of the book of Revelation, and its meaning can be stated only after a careful examination of the signification of the words and phrases used. The general statement in regard to these witnesses is, that they should have power, and should prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days; that if any one should attempt to injure them, they had power, by fire that proceeded out of their mouths, to devour and kill their enemies; that they had power to shut heaven so that it should not rain, and power to turn the waters of the earth into blood, and power to smite the earth with plagues as often as they chose; that when they had completed their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit would make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them; that their dead bodies would lie unburied in that great city where the Lord was crucified three days and a half; that they that dwelt upon the earth would exult in their death, and send gifts to one another in token of their joy; that after the three days and a half the spirit of life from God would enter into them again, and they would stand up on their feet; that they would then be taken up into heaven, in the sight of their enemies; and that, at the time of their ascension, there would be a great earthquake, and a tenth part of the city would fall, and many (seven thousand) would be killed, and that the remainder would be affrighted, and would give glory to the God of heaven.

III. The sounding of the seventh trumpet, Re 11:14-18. This is the grand consummation of the whole; the end of this series of visions; the end of the world. A rapid glance only is given of it here, for under another series of visions a more detailed account of the state of the world is given under the final triumph of truth. Here, as a proper close of the first series of visions, the result is merely glanced at or adverted to—that then the period would have arrived when the kingdoms of the world were to become the kingdoms of the Lord, and of his Christ, and when he should commence that reign which was to continue for ever. Then universal peace and happiness would reign, and the long-promised and expected kingdom of God on the earth would be established. The "nations" had been "angry," but the time had now come when a judgment was to be pronounced on the dead, and when the due reward was to be given to the servants of God—the prophets, and the saints, and those who feared his name, small and great, in the establishment of a permanent kingdom, and the complete triumph of the true religion in the world.

I regard this chapter, therefore, to Re 11:18, as extending down to the consummation of all things, and as disclosing the last of the visions seen in the scroll or volume "sealed with the seven seals," Re 5:1. For a reason above suggested, and which will appear more fully hereafter, the detail is here much less minute than in the earlier portions of the historic visions, but still it embraces the whole period, and states in few words what will be the condition of things in the end. This was all that was necessary; this was, in fact, the leading design of the whole book. The end towards which all tended —that which John needed most to know—and which the church needed most to know, was, that religion would ultimately triumph, and that the period would arrive when it could be announced that the kingdoms of this world had become the kingdoms of God, and of his Christ. That is here announced; and that is properly the close of one of the divisions of the whole book.

Verse 1. And there was given me. He does not say by whom, but the connexion would seem to imply that it was by the angel. All this is of course to be regarded as symbolical. The representation undoubtedly pertains to a future age, but the language is such as would be properly addressed to one who had been a Jew, and the imagery employed is such as he would be more likely to understand than any other. The language and the imagery are, therefore, taken from the temple, but there is no reason to suppose that it had any literal reference to the temple, or even that John would so understand it. Nor does the language here used prove that the temple was standing at the time when the book was written; for as it is symbolical, it is what would be employed whether the temple were standing or not, and would be as likely to be used in the one case as in the other. It is such language as John, educated as a Jew, and familiar with the temple worship, would be likely to employ if he designed to make a representation pertaining to the church.

A reed—kalamov. This word properly denotes a plant with a jointed hollow stalk, growing in wet grounds. Then it refers to the stalk as cut for use, as a measuring-stick, as in this place; or a mock sceptre, Mt 27:29-30; or a pen for writing, 3 Jo 1:13. Here it means merely a stick that could be used for measuring.

Like unto a rod. This word—rabdov—means properly a rod, wand, staff, used either for scourging, 1 Co 4:21; or for leaning upon in walking, Mt 10:10; or for a sceptre, Heb 1:8. Here the meaning is, that the reed that was put into his hands was like such a rod or staff in respect to size, and was therefore convenient for handling. The word rod also is used to denote a measuring-pole, Ps 74:2; Jer 10:16; 51:19.

And the angel stood, saying. The phrase, "the angel stood," is wanting in many MSS. and editions of the New Testament, and is rejected by Professor Stuart as spurious. It is also rejected in the critical editions of Griesbach and Hahn, and marked as doubtful by Tittmann. The best critical authority is against it, and it appears to have been introduced from Zec 3:5. The connexion does not demand it, and we may, therefore, regard the meaning to be, that the one who gave him the reed, whoever he was, at the same time addressed him, and commanded him to take a measure of the temple and the altar.

Rise, and measure the temple of God. That is, ascertain its true dimensions with the reed in your hand. Of course, this could not be understood of the literal temple—whether standing or not—for the exact measure of that was sufficiently well known. The word, then, must be used of something which the temple would denote or represent, and this would properly be the church, considered as the abode of God on the earth. Under the old dispensation, the temple at Jerusalem was that abode; under the new, that peculiar residence was transferred to the church, and God is represented as dwelling in it. See Barnes "1 Co 3:16".

Thus the word is undoubtedly used here, and the simple meaning is, that he who is thus addressed is directed to take an accurate estimate of the true church of God; as accurate as if he were to apply a measuring-reed to ascertain the dimensions of the temple at Jerusalem. In doing that, if the direction had been literally to measure the temple at Jerusalem, he would ascertain its length, and breadth, and height; he would measure its rooms, its doorways, its porticoes; he would take such a measurement of it that, in a description or drawing, it could be distinguished from other edifices, or that one could be constructed like it, or that a just idea could be obtained of it if it should be destroyed. If the direction be understood figuratively, as applicable to the Christian church, the work to be done would be to obtain an exact estimate or measurement of what the true church was—as distinguished from all other bodies of men, and as constituted and appointed by the direction of God; such a measurement that its characteristics could be made known; that a church could be organized according to this, and that the accurate description could be transmitted to future times. John has not, indeed, preserved the measurement; for the main idea here is not that he was to preserve such a model, but that, in the circumstances, and at the time referred to, the proper business would be to engage in such a measurement of the church that its true dimensions or character might be known. There would be, therefore, a fulfilment of this, if at the time here referred to there should be occasion, from any cause, to inquire what constituted the true church; if it was necessary to separate and distinguish it from all other bodies; and if there should be any such prevailing uncertainty as to make an accurate investigation necessary.

And the altar. On the form, situation, and uses of the altar, see Barnes "Mt 5:23-24; Mt 21:12 ".

The altar here referred to was, undoubtedly, the altar situated in front of the temple, where the daily sacrifice was offered. To measure that literally, would be to take its dimensions of length, breadth, and height; but it is plain that that cannot be intended here, for there was no such altar where John was, and, if the reference were to the altar at Jerusalem, its dimensions were sufficiently known. This language, then, like the former, must be understood metaphorically, and then it must mean—as the altar was the place of sacrifice—to take an estimate of the church considered with reference to its notions of sacrifice, or of the prevailing views respecting the sacrifice to be made for sin, and the method of reconciliation with God. It is by sacrifice that a method is provided for reconciliation with God; by sacrifice that sin is pardoned; by sacrifice that man is justified; and the direction here is equivalent, therefore, to a command to make an investigation on these subjects, and all that is implied would be fulfilled if a state of things should exist where it would be necessary to institute an examination into the prevailing views in the church on the subject of the atonement, and the true method of justification before God.

And them that worship therein. In the temple; or, as the temple is the representation here of the church, of those who are in the church as professed worshippers of God. There is some apparent incongruity in directing him to "measure" those who were engaged in worship; but the obvious meaning is, that he was to take a correct estimate of their character; of what they professed; of the reality of their piety; of their lives, and of the general state of the church considered as professedly worshipping God. This would receive its fulfilment, if a state of things should arise in the church which would make it necessary to go into a close and searching examination on all these points, in order to ascertain what was the true church, and what was necessary to constitute true membership in it. There were, therefore, three things, as indicated by this verse, which John was directed to do, so far as the use of the measuring-rod was concerned:

(a) to take a just estimate of what constitutes the true church, as distinguished from all other associations of men;

(b) to institute a careful examination into the opinions in the church on the subject of sacrifice or atonement—involving the whole question about the method of justification before God; and

(c) to take a correct estimate of what constitutes true membership in the church; or to investigate with care the prevailing opinions about the qualifications for membership.

{a} "reed" Re 21:15; Zec 2:1

{b} "measure" Eze 40:1-48:35


Verse 2. But the court which is without the temple. Which is outside of the temple proper, and, therefore, which does not strictly appertain to it. There is undoubtedly reference here to the "court of the Gentiles," as it was called among the Jews—the outer court of the temple to which the Gentiles had access, and within which they were not permitted to go. For a description of this, see Barnes "Mt 21:12".

To an observer, this would seem to be a part of the temple, and the persons there assembled a portion of the true worshippers of God; but it was necessarily neither the one nor the other. In forming an estimate of those who, according to the Hebrew notions, were true worshippers of God, only those would be regarded as such who had the privilege of access to the inner court, and to the altar. In making such an estimate, therefore, those who had no nearer access than that court, would be omitted; that is, they would not be reckoned as necessarily any part of those who were regarded as the people of God. Leave out and measure it not. Marg., cast out. So the Greek. The meaning is, that he was not to reckon it as appertaining to the true temple of worshippers. There is, indeed, a degree of force in the words rendered "leave out," or, in the margin, "cast out"— ekballe exw—which implies more than a mere passing by, or omission. The word (ekballw) usually has the idea of force or impulse, (Mt 8:12; 15:17; 25:30; Mr 16:9; Ac 27:38, et al.;) and the word here would denote some decisive or positive act by which it would be indicated that this was not any part of the true temple, but was to be regarded as appertaining to something else. He was not merely not to mention it, or not to include it in the measurement, but he was to do this by some act which would indicate that it was the result of design in the case, and not by accidentally passing it by.

For it is given unto the Gentiles. It properly appertains to them as their own. Though near the temple, and included in the general range of building, yet it does not pertain to those who worship there, but to those who are regarded as heathen and strangers. It is not said that it was then given to the Gentiles; nor is it said that it was given to them to be overrun and trodden down by them, but that it appertained to them, and was to be regarded as belonging to them. They occupied it, not as the people of God, but as those who were without the true church, and who did not appertain to its real communion. This would find a fulfilment if there should arise a state of things in the church in which it would be necessary to draw a line between those who properly constituted the church and those who did not; if there should be such a condition of things that any considerable portion of those who professedly appertained to the church ought to be divided off as not belonging to it, or would have such characteristic marks that it could be seen that they were strangers and aliens. The interpretation would demand that they should sustain some relation to the church, or that they would seem to belong to it—as the court did to the temple; but still that this was in appearance only, and that in estimating the true church it was necessary to leave them out altogether. Of course this would not imply that there might not be some sincere worshippers among them as individuals—as there would be found usually, in the court of the Gentiles in the literal temple, some who were proselytes and devout worshippers, but what is here said relates to them as a mass or body—that they did not belong to the true church but to the Gentiles.

And the holy city. The whole holy city—not merely the outer court of the Gentiles which it is said was given to them, nor the temple as such, but the entire holy city. There is no doubt that the words "the holy city" literally refer to Jerusalem—a city so called because it was the peculiar place of the worship of God. See Barnes "Mt 4:5" compare Ne 11:1,18; Isa 52:1 Da 9:24

Mt 27:53. But it is not necessary to suppose that this is its meaning here. The "holy city" Jerusalem was regarded as sacred to God; as his dwelling-place on earth, and as the abode of his people, and nothing was more natural than to use the term as representing the church. Compare See Barnes "Ga 4:26" and See Barnes "Heb 12:22".

In this sense it is undoubtedly used here, as the whole representation is emblematical. John, if he were about to speak of anything that was to occur to the church, would, as a native Jew, be likely to employ such language as this to denote it.

Shall they tread underfoot. That is, the Gentiles above referred to; or those who, in the measurement of the city, were set off as Gentiles, and regarded as not belonging to the people of God. This is not spoken of the Gentiles in general, but only of that portion of the multitudes that seemed to constitute the worshippers of God, who, in measuring the temple, were set off or separated as not properly belonging to the true church. The phrase "should tread under foot" is derived from warriors and conquerors who tread down their enemies, or trample on the fields of grain. It is rendered in this passage by Dr. Robinson, (Lex.,) "to profane and lay waste." As applied literally to a city, this would be the true idea; as applied to the church, it would mean that they would have it under their control or in subjection for the specified time, and that the practical effect of that would be to corrupt and prostrate it.

Forty and two months. Literally this would be three years and a half; but if the time here is prophetic time—a day for a year—then the period would be twelve hundred and sixty years—reckoning the year at 360 days. For a full illustration of this usage, and for the reasons for supposing that this is prophetic time, see Barnes "Da 7:25".

In addition to what is there said, it may be remarked in reference to this passage, that it is impossible to show, with any degree of probability, that the city of Jerusalem was "trampled under foot" by the Romans for the exact space of three years and a half. Professor Stuart, who adopts the opinion that it refers to the conquest of Jerusalem by the Romans, says, indeed, "It is certain that the invasion of the Romans lasted just about the length of the period named, until Jerusalem was taken. And although the city itself was not besieged so long, yet the metropolis in this case, as in innumerable others in both Testaments, appears to stand for the country of Judaea." But, it is to be remembered that the affirmation here is that "the holy city" was thus to be trodden under foot; and even taking the former supposition, in what sense is it true that the "whole country" was "trodden under foot" by the Romans only three years and a half? Even the wars of the Romans were not of that exact duration, and, besides, the fact was that Judaea was held in subjection, and trodden down by the Romans, for centuries, and never, in fact, regained its independence. If this is to be literally applied to Jerusalem, it has been "trodden down by the Gentiles," with brief intervals, since the conquest by the Romans, to the present time. There has been no precise period of three years and a half, in respect to which the language here used would be applicable to the literal city of Jerusalem.

In regard, then, to the proper application of the language which has thus been explained, (Re 11:1-2) it may be remarked, in general, that, for the reasons just stated, it is not to be taken literally. John could not have been directed literally to measure the temple at Jerusalem, and the altar, and the worshippers; nor could he have been requested literally to leave out, or "cast out" the court that was without; nor could it be meant that the holy city literally was to be trodden under foot for three years and a half. The language clearly is symbolical, and the reference must have been to something pertaining to the church. And, if the preceding exposition of the tenth chapter is correct, then it may be presumed that this would refer to something that was to occur at about the period there referred to. Regarding it, then, as applicable to the time of the Reformation, and as being a continuation of the vision in chapter 10, we shall find, in the events of that period, what would be properly symbolized by the language here used. This will appear by reviewing the particulars which have been explained in these verses

(1.) The command to "measure the temple of God," Re 11:1. This, we have seen, was a direction to take an estimate of what constituted the true church; the very work which it was necessary to do in the Reformation, for this was the first point which was to be settled, whether the Papacy was the true church or was the Antichrist. This involved, of course, the whole inquiry as to what constitutes the church, alike in reference to its organization, its ministry, its sacraments, and its membership. It was long before the Reformers made up their minds that the Papacy was not the true church; for the veneration which they had been taught to cherish for that lingered long in their bosoms, And even when they were constrained to admit that that corrupt communion was the predicted form of the great apostasy—Antichrist—and had acquired boldness enough to break away from it for ever, it was long before they settled down in a uniform belief as to what was essential to the true church. Indeed, the differences of opinion which prevailed; the warm discussions which ensued, and the diversities of sect which sprang up in the Protestant world, showed with what intense interest the mind was fixed on this question, and how important it was to take an exact measurement of the real church of God.

(2.) The direction to "measure the altar." This, as we have seen, would relate to the prevailing opinions on the subject of sacrifice and atonement; on the true method of a sinner's acceptance with God; and, consequently, on the whole subject of justification. As a matter of fact, it need not be said that this was one of the first questions which came before the Reformers, and was one which it was indispensable to settle, in order to a just notion of the church and of the way of salvation. The Papacy had exalted the Lord's Supper into a real sacrifice; had made it a grand and essential point that the bread and wine were changed into the real body and blood of the Lord, and that a real offering of that sacrifice was made every time that ordinance was celebrated; had changed the office of the ministers of the New Testament from preachers to that of priests; had become familiar with the terms altar, and sacrifice, and priesthood, as founded on the notion that a real sacrifice was made in the "mass;" and had fundamentally changed the whole doctrine respecting the justification of a sinner before God. The altar in the Romish communion had almost displaced the pulpit; and the doctrine of justification by the merits of the great sacrifice made by the death of our Lord, had been superseded by the doctrine of justification by good works, and by the merits of the saints. It became necessary, therefore, to restore the true doctrine respecting sacrifice for sin, and the Way of justification before God; and this would be appropriately represented by a direction to "measure the altar."

(3.) The direction to take an estimate of those "who worshipped in the temple. This, as we have seen, would properly mean that there was to be a true estimate taken of what constituted membership in the church, or of the qualifications of those who should be regarded as true worshippers of God. This, also, was one of the first works necessary to be done in the Reformation. Before that, for ages, the doctrine of baptismal regeneration had been the established doctrine of the church; the opinion that all that was necessary to membership was baptism and confirmation, was the common opinion; the necessity of regeneration by the influences of the Holy Spirit, as a condition of church membership, was little understood, if not almost wholly unknown; and the grand requisition in membership was not holy living, but the observance of the rites and ceremonies of the church. One of the first things necessary in the Reformation was to restore to its true place the doctrine laid down by the Saviour, that a change of heart—that regeneration by the Holy Ghost—was necessary to membership in the church, and that the true church was composed of those who had been thus renewed in the spirit of their mind. This great work would be appropriately symbolized by a direction to take an estimate of those who "worshipped in the temple of God;" that is, to settle the question who should be regarded as true worshippers of God, and what should be required of those who professed to be such worshippers. No more important point was settled in the Reformation than this.

(4.) The direction to leave out, or to "cast out" the court without the temple. This, as we have seen, would properly mean that a separation was to be made between that which was the true church, and that which was not, though it might seem to belong to it. The one was to be measured or estimated; the other was to be left out, as not appertaining to that, or as belonging to the Gentiles, or to heathenism. The idea would be, that though it professedly appertained to the true church, and to the worship of God, yet that it deserved to be characterized as heathenism. Now this will apply with great propriety, according to all Protestant notions, to the manner in which the Papacy was regarded by the Reformers, and should be regarded at all times. It claimed to be the true church, and to the eye of an observer would seem to belong to it, as much as the outer court seemed to pertain to the temple. But it had the essential characteristics of heathenism, and was, therefore, properly to be left out, or cast out, as not pertaining to the true church. Can any one doubt the truth of this representation as applicable to the Papacy? Almost everything that was peculiar in the ancient heathen systems of religion had been introduced into the Roman communion; and a stranger at Rome would see more that would lead him to feel that he was in a heathen land, than he would that he was in a land where the pure doctrines of Christianity prevailed, and where the worship was celebrated which the Redeemer had designed to set up on the earth. This was true not only in the pomp and splendour of worship, and in the processions and imposing ceremonials; but in the worship of images, in the homage rendered to the dead, in the number of festival-days, in the fact that the statues reared in heathen Rome to the honour of the gods had been re-consecrated in the service of Christian devotion to the apostles, saints, and martyrs; and in the robes of the Christian priesthood, derived from those in use in the ancient heathen worship. The direction was, that, in estimating the true church, this was to be "left out" or "cast out;" and, if this interpretation is correct, the meaning is, that the Roman Catholic communion, as an organized body, is to be regarded as no part of the true church: a conclusion which is inevitable, if the passages of Scripture which are commonly supposed by Protestants to apply to it are correctly applied. To determine this, and to separate the true church from it, was no small part of the work of the Reformation.

(5.) The statement that the holy city was to be trodden under foot, Re 11:2. This, as we have seen, must mean that the true church would thus be trodden down by those who are described as "Gentiles." So far as pure religion was concerned; so far as appertained to the real condition of the church and the pure worship of God, it would be as if the whole holy city where God was worshipped were given into the hands of the Gentiles, and they should tread it down, and desecrate all that was sacred for the time here referred to. Everything in Rome at the time of the Reformation would sustain this description. "It is incredible," says Luther, on his visit to Rome, "what sins and atrocities are committed in Rome; they must be seen and heard to be believed. So that it is usual to say, 'If there be a hell, Rome is built above it; it is an abyss from which all sins proceed.'" So again he says: "It is commonly observed that he who goes to Rome for the first time, goes to seek a knave there; the second time he finds him; and the third time he brings him away with him under his cloak. But now, people are become so clever, that they make the three journeys in one." So Machiavelli, one of the most profound geniuses in Italy, and himself a Roman Catholic, said, "The greatest symptom of the approaching ruin of Christianity is, that the nearer we approach the capital of Christendom, the less do we find of the Christian spirit of the people. The scandalous example and crimes of the court of Rome have caused Italy to lode every principle of piety and every religious sentiment. We Italians are principally indebted to the church and to the priests for having become impious and profane." See D'Aubigne's History of the Reformation, p. 54, Ed. Phila. 1843. In full illustration of the sentiment that the church seemed to be trodden down and polluted by heathenism, or by abominations and practices that came out of heathenism, we may refer to the general history of the Romish communion from the rise of the Papacy to the Reformation. For a sufficient illustration to justify the application of the passage before us which I am now making, the reader may be referred to See Barnes "Re 9:20" See Barnes "Re 9:21".

Nothing would better describe the condition of Rome previous to, and at the time of the Reformation—and the remark may be applied to subsequent periods also—than to say that it was a city which once seemed to be a Christian city, and was not improperly regarded as the centre of the Christian world and the seat of the church, and that it had been, as it were, overrun and trodden down by heathen rites, and customs, and ceremonies, so that, to a stranger looking on it, it would seem to be in the possession of the "Gentiles" or the heathens.

(6.) The time during which this was to continue—"forty-two months;" that is, according to the explanation above given, twelve hundred and sixty years. This would embrace the whole period of the ascendency and prevalence of the Papacy; or the whole time of the continuance of that corrupt domination in which Christendom was to be trodden down and corrupted by it. The prophet of Patmos saw it in vision thus extending its dreary and corrupting reign, and during that time the proper influence of Christianity was trampled down, and the domination of practical heathenism was set up where the church should have reigned in its purity. Thus regarded, this would properly express the time of the ascendency of the Papal power, and the end of the "forty-two months," or twelve hundred and sixty years, would denote the time when the influence of that power would cease. If, therefore, the time of the rise of the Papacy can be determined, it will not be difficult to determine the time when it will come to an end. But, for a full consideration of these points, the reader is referred to the extended discussion on Da 7:25. As the point is there fully examined, it is unnecessary to go in to an investigation of it here.

The general remark, therefore, in regard to this passage, (Re 11:1-2,) is, that it refers to what would be necessary to be done at the Reformation in order to determine what is the true church, and what are the doctrines on which it is based; and to the fact that the Romish communion to which the church had been given over for a definite time, was to be set aside as not being the true church of Christ.

{a} "court" Eze 40:17-20

{b} "it" Lu 21:24

{1} "leave out" "cast out"

{c} "tread under foot" Da 7:25


Verse 3. And I will give power unto my two witnesses. In respect to this important passage, (Re 11:3-13,) I propose to pursue the same method which I have pursued all along in this exposition: first, to examine the meaning of the words and phrases in the symbol with a purpose to ascertain the full signification of the symbols; and, secondly, to inquire into the application—that is, to inquire whether any events have occurred which, in respect to their character and to the time of their occurrence, can be shown to be a fair fulfilment of the language.

And I will give power. The word "power" is not in the original. The Greek is simply, "I will give;" that is, I will grant to my two witnesses the right, or the power, of prophesying, during the time specified—correctly expressed in the margin, "give unto my two witnesses that they may prophesy." The meaning is not that he would send two witnesses to prophesy, but rather that these were in fact such "witnesses," and that he would during that time permit them to exercise their prophetic gifts, or give them the privilege and the strength to enunciate the truth which they were commissioned to communicate as his "witnesses" to mankind. Some word, then, like power, privilege, opportunity, or boldness, it is necessary to supply in order to complete the sense.

Unto my two witnesses. The word "two" evidently denotes that the number would be small; and yet it is not necessary to confine it literally to two persons, or to two societies or communities. Perhaps the meaning is, that as, under the law, two witnesses were required, and were enough, to establish any fact, (Barnes on "Joh 8:17") such a number would, during those times, be preserved from apostasy, as would be sufficient to keep up the evidence of truth; to testify against the prevailing abominations, errors, and corruptions; to show what was the real church, and to bear a faithful witness against the wickedness of the world. The law of Moses required that there should be two witnesses on a trial, and this, under that law, was deemed a competent number. See Nu 35:30; De 17:6; De 19:15; Mt 18:16; Joh 5:30-33.

The essential meaning of this passage then is, that there would be a competent number of witnesses in the case; that is, as many as would be regarded as sufficient to establish the points concerning which they would testify, with perhaps the additional idea that the number would be small. There is no reason for limiting it strictly to two persons, or for supposing that they would appear in pairs, two and two; nor is it necessary to suppose that it refers particularly to two people or nations. The word rendered witnesses—martuv that from which we have derived the word martyr. It means properly one who bears testimony, either in a judicial sense, (Mt 18:16; 26:65) or one who can in any way testify to the truth of what he has seen and known, Lu 24:48; Ro 1:9; Php 1:8; 1 Th 2:10; 1 Ti 6:12.

Then it came to be employed in the sense in which the word martyr is now—to denote one who, amidst great sufferings, or by his death, bears witness to the truth; that is, one who is so confident of the truth, and so upright, that he will rather lay down his life than deny the truth of what he has seen and known, Ac 22:20; Re 2:13. In a similar sense it comes to denote one who is so thoroughly convinced on a subject that is not susceptible of being seen and heard, or who is so attached to one, that he is willing to lay down his life as the evidence of his conviction and attachment. The word, as used here, refers to those who, during this period of "forty and two months," would thus be witnesses for Christ in the world: that is, who would bear their testimony to the truth of his religion; to the doctrines which he had revealed; and to what was required of man—who would do this amidst surrounding error and corruption, and when exposed to persecutions and trials on account of their belief. It is not uncommon in the Scriptures to represent the righteous as witnesses for God. See Barnes on "Isa 43:10, See Barnes "Isa 43:12" See Barnes "Isa 44:8".

And they shall prophesy. The word prophesy does not necessarily mean that they would predict future events; but the sense is, that they would give utterance to the truth as God had revealed it. See Barnes "Re 10:11".

The sense here is, that they would in some public manner hold up or maintain the truth before the world.

A thousand two hundred and three score days. The same period as the forty and two months, (Re 11:2,) though expressed in a different form. Reckoning a day for a year, this period would be twelve hundred and sixty years, or the same as the "time and times and the dividing of time" in Da 7:25. See Barnes on "Da 7:25".

The meaning of this would be, therefore, that during that long period in which it is said that "the holy city would be trodden under foot," there would be those who might be properly called "witnesses" for God, and who would be engaged in holding up his truth before the world; that is, there would be no part of that period in which there would not be found some to whom this appellation could with propriety be given. Though the "holy city"—the church—would seem to be wholly trodden down, yet there would be a few at least who would assert the great doctrines of true godliness.

Clothed in sackcloth. Sackcloth—sakkouv—was properly a coarse black cloth commonly made of hair, used for sacks, for straining, and for mourning garments. See Barnes "Re 6:12; Isa 3:24; Mt 11:21".

Here it is an emblem of mourning; and the idea is, that they would prophesy in the midst of grief. This would indicate that the time would be one of calamity, or that, in doing this, there would be occasion for their appearing in the emblems of grief, rather than in robes expressive of joy. The most natural interpretation of this is, that there would be but few who could be regarded as true witnesses for God in the world, and that they would be exposed to persecution.

{1} "give power" "give unto my two witnesses that they may prophecy"

{a} "my two witnesses" Mt 18:16

{b} "witnesses" Re 20:4

{c} "sackcloth" Isa 22:12


Verse 4. These are the two olive-trees. These are represented by the two olive-trees, or these are what are symbolized by the two olive-trees. There can be little doubt that there is an allusion here to Zec 4:3,11,14, though the imagery is in some respects changed. The prophet (Zec 4:2-3) saw in vision "a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which were upon the top thereof; and two olive- trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof." These two "olive branches" were subsequently declared (Zec 4:14) to be "the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." The olive-trees, or olive branches, (Zec 4:12,) appear in the vision of the prophet to have been connected With the ever-burning lamp, by golden pipes; and as the olive-tree produced the oil used by the ancients in their lamps, these trees are represented as furnishing a constant supply of oil through the golden pipes to the candlestick, and thus they become emblematic of the supply of grace to the church. John uses this emblem, not in the sense exactly in which it was employed by the prophet, but to denote that these two "witnesses," which might be compared with the two olive-trees, would be the means of supplying grace to the church. As the olive- tree furnished oil for the lamps, the two trees here would seem properly to denote ministers of religion; and as there can be no doubt that the candlesticks, or lamp-bearers, denote churches, the sense would appear to be that it was through the pastors of the churches that the oil of grace which maintained the brightness of those mystic candlesticks, or the churches, was conveyed. The image is a beautiful one, and expresses a truth of great importance to the world; for God has designed that the lamp of piety shall be kept burning in the churches by truth supplied through ministers and pastors.

And the two candlesticks. The prophet Zechariah saw but one such candlestick or lamp-bearer; John here saw two—as there are two "witnesses" referred to. In the vision described in Re 1:12, he saw seven—representing the seven churches of Asia. For an explanation of the meaning of the symbol, see Barnes "Re 1:12".

Standing before the God of the earth. So Zec 4:14, "These be the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." The meaning is, that they stood, as it were, in the very presence of God—as in the tabernacle and temple, the golden candlestick stood "before" the ark on which was the symbol of the Divine presence, though separated from it by a veil. Compare See Barnes "Re 9:13".

This representation that the ministers of religion "stand before the Lord" is one that is not uncommon in the Bible. Thus it is said of the priests and Levites,(De 10:8) "The Lord separated the tribe of Levi, to stand before the Lord, to minister unto him, and to bless his name," Compare De 18:7. The same thing is said of the prophets, as in the cases of Elijah and Elisha: "As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand," 1 Ki 17:1; 18:15; 2 Ki 3:14; 5:16; compare Jer 15:19. The representation is, that they ministered, as it were, constantly in his presence, and under his eye.

{a} "two olive trees" Jer 11:16; Zec 4:3,11,14

{b} "candlesticks" Re 1:20


Verse 5. And if any man will hurt them. This implies that there would be those who would be disposed to injure or wrong them; that is, that they would be liable to persecution. The word "will" is here more than the mere sign of the future; it denotes intention, purpose, design—yelei—"if any man wills or purposes to injure them." See a similar use of the word in 1 Ti 6:9. The word hurt here means to do injury or injustice—adikhsai—and may refer to wrong in any form —whether in respect to their character, opinions, persons, or property. The general sense is, that there would be those who would be disposed to do them harm, and we should naturally look for the fulfilment of this in some form of persecution.

Fire proceedeth out of their mouth. It is, of course, not necessary that this should be taken literally. The meaning is, that they would have the power of destroying their enemies as if fire should proceed out of their mouth; that is, their words would be like burning coals or flames. There may possibly be an allusion here to 2 Ki 1:10-14, where it is said that Elijah commanded the fire to descend from heaven to consume those who were sent to take him, (compare Lu 9:54) but in that case Elijah commanded the fire to come "from heaven;" here it proceeded "out of the mouth." The allusion here, therefore, is to the denunciations which they would utter, or the doctrines which they would preach, and which would have the same effect on their enemies as if they breathed forth fire and flame. So Jer 5:14, "Because ye speak this word, Behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them."

And devoureth their enemies. The word devour is often used with reference to fire, which seems to eat up or consume what is in its way, or to feed on that which it destroys. This is the sense of the word here—katesyiei—"to eat down, to swallow down, to devour." Compare Re 20:9; Septuagint Isa 29:6; Joe 2:6; Le 10:2.

As there is no reason to believe that there would be literal fire, so it is not necessary to suppose that their enemies would be literally devoured or consumed. The meaning is fulfilled if their words should in any way produce an effect on their enemies similar to what is produced by fire: that is, if it should destroy their influence; if it should overcome and subdue them; if it should annihilate their domination in the world.

And if any man will hurt them. This is repeated in order to make the declaration more intensive, and also to add another thought about the effect of persecuting and injuring them.

He must in this manner be killed; That is, in the manner specified— by fire. It does not mean that he would be killed in the same manner in which the "witnesses" were killed, but in the method specified before— by the fire that should proceed out of their mouth. The meaning is, undoubtedly, that they would have power to bring down on them Divine vengeance or punishment, so that there would be a just retaliation for the wrongs done them.

{c} "fire" Ps 18:8

{d} "killed" Nu 16:35; Hos 6:5


Verse 6. These have power to shut heaven. That is, so far as rain is concerned-for this is immediately specified. There is probably a reference here to an ancient opinion that the rain was kept in the clouds of heaven as in reservoirs or bottles, and that when they were opened it rained; when they were closed it ceased to rain. So Job 26:8, "He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not rent under them." Job 36:28, "Which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly." Job 38:37, "Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven?" Compare Ge 1:7-12; Ge 8:2; 2 Ki 7:2.

To shut or close up the heavens, therefore, is to restrain the rain from descending, or to produce a drought. Compare See Barnes "Jas 5:17".

That it rain not in the days of their prophecy. In the time when they prophesy. Probably the allusion here is to what is said of Elijah, 1 Ki 17:1. This would properly refer to some miraculous power; but still it may be used to denote merely that they would be clothed with the power of causing blessings to be withheld from men, as if rain were withheld; that is, that in consequence of the calamities that would be brought upon them, and the persecutions which they would endure, God would bring judgments upon men as if they were clothed with this power. The language, therefore, it seems to me, does not necessarily imply that they would have the power of working miracles.

And have power over waters to turn them to blood. The allusion here is doubtless to what occurred in Egypt, Ex 7:17. Compare Barnes on "Re 8:8".

This, too, would literally denote the power of working a miracle; but still it is not absolutely necessary to suppose that this is intended. Anything that would be represented by turning waters into blood, would correspond with all that is necessarily implied in the language. If any great calamity should occur in consequence of what was done to them that would be properly represented by turning the waters into blood so that they could not be used, and that was so connected with the treatment which they received as to appear to be a judgment of heaven on that account, or that would appear to have come upon the world in consequence of their imprecations, it would be all that is necessarily implied in this language.

And to smite the earth with all plagues. All kinds of plague or calamity; disease, pestilence, famine, flood, etc. The word plague— plhgh—which means, properly, stroke, stripe, blow, would include any or all of these. The meaning here is, that great calamities would follow the manner in which they were treated, as if the power were lodged in their hands.

As often as they will. So that it would seem that they could exercise this power as they pleased.

{e} "These have power" 1 Ki 17:1

{f} "waters" Ex 7:19


Verse 7. And when they shall have finished their testimony. Professor Stuart renders this, "And whenever they shall have finished their testimony." The reference is undoubtedly to a period when they should have faithfully borne the testimony which they were appointed to bear. The word here rendered "shall have finished"— teleswsi, from telew—means properly to end, to finish, to complete, to accomplish. It is used, in this respect, in two senses— either in regard totime, or in regard to the end or object in view, in the sense of perfecting it, or accomplishing it. In the former sense it is employed in such passages as the following: Re 20:3, "Till the thousand years should be fulfilled;" Mt 10:23 "Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel [Gr., ye shall not have finished the cities of Israel] till the Son of man be come"—that is, ye shall not have finished passing through them; Mt 11:1, "When Jesus had made an end [Gr.,finished] of commanding his twelve disciples;" 2 Ti 4:7, "I have finished my course." In these passages it clearly refers to time. In the other sense it is used in such places as the following: Ro 2:27, "And shall not the uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law;" that is, if it accomplish, or come up to the demands of the law; Jas 2:8, "If ye fulfil the royal law according to the Scriptures." The word, then, may here refer not to time, meaning that these events would occur at the end of the "thousand two hundred and threescore days," but to the fact that what is here stated would occur when they had completed their testimony in the sense of having testified all that they were appointed to testify; that is, when they had borne full witness for God, and fully uttered his truth. Thus understood, the meaning here may be that the event here referred to would take place, not at the end of the 1260 years, but at that period during the 1260 years when it could be said with propriety that they had accomplished their testimony in the world, or that they had borne full and ample witness on the points entrusted to them.

The beast. This is the first time in the book of Revelation in which what is here called "the beast" is mentioned, and which has so important an agency in the events which it is said would occur. It is repeatedly mentioned in the course of the book, and always with similar characteristics, and as referring to the same object. Here it is mentioned as "ascending out of the bottomless pit;" in Re 13:1, as "rising up out of the sea;" in Re 13:11, as "coming up out of the earth." It is also mentioned with characteristics appropriate to such an origin, in Re 13:2-4, (twice,) Re 13:11-12, (twice,) Re 13:14, (twice,) Re 13:15, (twice,) Re 13:17-18; 14:9,11

Re 15:2; 16:2,10,13; 17:3,7-8, (twice,) Re 17:11-13,16-17; Re 19:19-20, (twice;) Re 20:4,10. The word here used—yhrion—means properly a beast, a wild beast, Mr 1:13; Ac 10:12; 11:6; 28:4-5; Heb 12:20; Jas 3:7; Re 6:8.

It is once used topically of brutal or savage men, Tit 1:12. Elsewhere, in the passages above referred to in the Apocalypse, it is used symbolically. As employed in the book of Revelation, the characteristics of the "beast" are strongly marked.

(a) It has its origin from beneath—in the bottomless pit; the sea; the earth, Re 11:7; 13:1,11.

(b) It has great power, Re 13:4,12; 17:12-13.

(c) It claims and receives worship, Re 13:3,12,14-15; 14:9,11.

(d) It has a certain "seat" or throne from whence its power proceeds, Re 16:10.

(e) It is of scarlet colour, Re 17:3.

(f) It receives power conferred upon it by the kings of the earth, Re 17:13.

(g) It has a mark by which it is known, Re 13:17; 19:20.

(h) It has a certain "number;" that is, there are certain mystical letters or figures which so express its name that it may be known, Re 13:17-18. These things serve to characterize the "beast" as distinguished from all other things, and they are so numerous and definite, that it would seem to have been intended to make it easy to understand what was meant when the power referred to should appear. In regard to the origin of the imagery here, there can be no reasonable doubt that it is to be traced to Daniel, and that the writer here means to describe the same "beast" which Daniel refers to in Da 7:7. The evidence of this must be clear to any one who will compare the description in Daniel, (chapter 8) with the minute details in the book of Revelation. No one, I think, can doubt that John means to carry forward the description in Daniel, and to apply it to new manifestations of the same great and terrific power—the power of the fourth monarchy—on the earth. For full evidence that the representation in Daniel refers to the Roman power prolonged and perpetuated in the Papal dominion, I must refer the reader to Barnes on "Da 7:25".

It may be assumed here that the opinion there defended is correct, and consequently it may be assumed that the "beast" of this book refers to the Papal power.

That ascendeth out of the bottomless pit. See Barnes "Re 9:1".

This would properly mean that its origin is the nether world; or that it will have characteristics which will show that it was from beneath. The meaning clearly is, that what was symbolized by the beast would have such characteristics as to show that it was not of Divine origin, but had its source in the world of darkness, sin, and death. This, of course, could not represent the true church, or any civil government that is founded on principles which God approves. But if it represent a community pretending to be a church, it is an apostate church; if a civil community, it is a community the characteristics of which are that it is controlled by the Spirit that rules over the world beneath. For reasons which we shall see in abundance in applying the descriptions which occur of the "beast," I regard this as referring to that great apostate power which occupies so much of the prophetic descriptions—the Papacy.

Shall make war against them. Will endeavour to exterminate them by force. This clearly is not intended to be a general statement that they would be persecuted, but to refer to the particular manner in which the opposition would be conducted. It would be in the form of "war;" that is, there would be an effort to destroy them by arms.

And shall overcome them. Shall gain the victory over them; conquer them—nikhsei autouv. That is, there will be some signal victory in which those represented by the two witnesses will be subdued.

And kill them. That is, an effect would be produced as if they were put to death. They would be overcome; would be silenced; would be apparently dead. Any event that would cause them to cease to bear testimony, as if they were dead, would, be properly represented by this. It would not be necessary to suppose that there would be literally death in the case, but that there would be some event which would be well represented by death—such as an entire suspension of their prophesying in consequence of force.

{a} "beast" Re 17:8

{b} "make war" Da 7:21; Zec 14:2


Verse 8. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street. Professor Stuart, "Shall be in the street." The words "shall lie" are supplied by the translators, but not improperly. The literal rendering would be, "and their corpses upon the street of the great city;" and the meaning is, that there would be a state of things in regard to them which would be well represented by supposing them to lie unburied. To leave a body unburied is to treat it with contempt, and among the ancients nothing was regarded as more dishonourable than such treatment. See the Ajax of Sophocles. Among the Jews also it was regarded as a special indignity to leave the dead unburied, and hence they are always represented as deeply solicitous to secure the interment of their dead. See Ge 23:4. Compare 2 Sa 21:9-13; Ec 6:3 Isa 14:18-20; 22:16; 53:9.

The meaning here is, that, for the time specified, those who are here referred to would be treated with indignity and contempt. In the fulfilment of this, we are not, of course, to look for any literal accomplishment of what is here said, but for some treatment of the "witnesses" which would be well represented by this; that is, which would show that they were treated, after they were silenced, like unburied corpses putrefying in the sun.

Of the great city. Where these transactions would occur. As a great city would be the agent in putting them to death, so the result would be as if they were publicly exposed in its streets. The word "great" here supposes that the city referred to would be distinguished for its size—a circumstance of some importance in determining the place referred to.

Which spiritually is called—pneumatikwv. This word occurs only in one other place in the New Testament, 1 Co 2:14—"because they are spiritually discerned"—where it means, "in accordance with the Holy Spirit," or "through the aid of the Holy Spirit." Here it seems to be used in the sense of metaphorically, or allegorically, in contradistinction from the literal and real name. There may possibly be an intimation here that the city is so called by the Holy Spirit to designate its real character; but still the essential meaning is, that that was not its literal name. For some reason, the real name is not given to it; but such descriptions are applied as are designed to leave no doubt as to what is intended.

Sodom. Sodom was distinguished for its wickedness, and especially for that vice to which its abominations have given name. For the character of Sodom, see Genesis 18-19. Compare 2 Pe 2:6. In inquiring what "city" is here referred to, it would be necessary to find in it such abominations as characterized Sodom, or so much wickedness that it would be proper to call it Sodom. If it shall be found that this was designed to refer to Papal Rome, no one can doubt that the abominations which prevailed there would justify such an appellation.

See Barnes "Re 9:20".
See Barnes "Re 9:21".

And Egypt. That is, it would have such a character that the name Egypt might be properly given to it. Egypt is known, in the Scriptures, as the land of oppression—the land where the Israelites, the people of God, were held in cruel bondage. Compare Exodus 1-15. See also Eze 23:8. The particular idea, then, which seems to be conveyed here is, that the "city" referred to would be characterized by acts of oppression and wrong towards the people of God. So far as the language is concerned, it might apply either to Jerusalem or to Rome—for both were eminently characterized by such acts of oppression toward the true children of God as to make it proper to compare their cruelties with those which were inflicted on the Israelites by the Egyptians. Of whichever of these places the course of the exposition may require us to understand this, it will be seen at once that the language is such as is strictly applicable to either; though, as the reference is rather to Christians than to the ancient people of God, it must be admitted that it would be most natural to refer it to Rome. More acts authorizing persecution, and designed to crush the true people of God, have gone forth from Rome than from any other city on the face of the earth; and taking the history of the church together, there is no place that would be so properly designated by the term here employed.

Where also our Lord was crucified. If this refers to Jerusalem, it is to be taken literally; if to another, city, it is to be understood as meaning that he was practically crucified there: that is, that the treatment of his friends—his church—was such that it might be said that he was "crucified afresh" there; for what is done to his church may be said to be done to him. Either of these interpretations would be justified by the use of the language. Thus in Heb 6:6, it is said of apostates from the true faith, (compare Barnes on "Heb 6:6") that "they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh." If the passage before us is to be taken figuratively, the meaning is, that acts would be performed which might properly be represented as crucifying the Son of God; that, as he lives in his church, the acts of perverting his doctrines, and persecuting his people, would be, in fact, an act of crucifying the Lord again. Thus understood, the language is strictly applicable to Rome; that is, if it is admitted that John meant to characterize that city, he has employed such language as a Jewish Christian would naturally use. While, therefore, it must be admitted that the language is such as could be literally applied only to Jerusalem, it is still true that it is such language as might be figuratively applied to any other city strongly resembling that, and that in this sense it would characterize Rome above all other cities of the world. The common reading of the text here is "our Lord"—hmwn; the text now regarded as correct, however, (Griesbach, Tittmann, Hahn,) is "their Lord"— autwn. This makes no essential difference in the sense, except that it directs the attention more particularly to the fact that they were treated like their own Master.

{c} "street" Heb 13:12

{d} "Sodom" Isa 1:10

{e} "Egypt" Ex 20:2


Verse 9. And they of the people. Some of the people; a part of the people —ek twn lawn. The language is such as would be employed to describe a scene where a considerable portion of a company of people should be referred to, without intending to include all. The essential idea is, that there would be an assemblage of different classes of people to whom their carcases would be exposed, and that they would come and look upon them. We should expect to find the fulfilment of this in some place where, from any cause, a variety of people should be assembled—as in some capital, or some commercial city, to which they would be naturally attracted.

Shall see their dead bodies. That is, a state of things will occur as if these witnesses were put to death, and their carcases were publicly exposed.

Three days and an half. This might be either literally three days and a half, or, more in accordance with the usual style of this book, these would be prophetic days; that is, three years and a half. Compare Barnes on "Re 9:5,15,

And shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. That is, there would be a course of conduct in regard to these witnesses such as would be shown to the dead if they were not suffered to be decently interred. The language used here—"shall not suffer"— seems to imply that there would be those who might be disposed to show them the respect evinced by interring the dead, but that this would not be permitted. This would find a fulfilment, if, in a time of persecution, those who had borne faithful testimony were silenced and treated with dishonour, and if there should be those who were disposed to show them respect, but who would be prevented by positive acts on the part of their persecutors. This has often been the case in persecution, and there could be no difficulty in finding numerous instances in the history of the church, to which this language would be applicable.

{a} "graves" Ps 79:3


Verse 10. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them. Those dwelling in the land would rejoice over their fall and ruin. This cannot, of course, mean all who inhabit the globe; but, according to the usage in Scripture, those who dwell in the country where this would occur. Compare See Barnes "Lu 2:1".

We now affix to the word "earth" an idea which was not necessarily implied in the Hebrew word (Heb?) eretz, (compare Ex 3:8; 13:5; De 19:2,10; De 28:12; Ne 9:22; Ps 37:9,11,22,29; 66:4; Pr 2:21; 10:30; Joe 1:2) or the Greek word gh—ge, (compare Mt 2:6,20-21; 14:15

Ac 7:7,11; 7:36,40; 13:17) Our word land, as now commonly understood, would better express the idea intended to be conveyed here; and thus understood, the meaning is, that the dwellers in the country where these things would happen would thus rejoice. The meaning is, that while alive they would, by their faithful testimony against existing errors, excite so much hatred against themselves, and would be so great an annoyance to the governing powers, that there would be general exultation when the voice of their testimony should be silenced. This, too, has been so common in the world that there would be no difficulty in applying the language here used, or in finding events which it would appropriately describe.

And make merry. Be glad. See Barnes on "Lu 12:19; Lu 15:23 ".

The Greek word does not necessarily denote the light-hearted mirth expressed by our word merriment, but rather joy or happiness in general. The meaning is, that they would be filled with joy at such an event.

And shall send gifts one to another. As expressive of their joy. To send presents is a natural expression of our own happiness, and our desire for the happiness of others—as is indicated now by "Christmas" and "New Year's gifts." Compare also Ne 8:10-12: "Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength," etc. See also Es 9:19-22.

Because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. They "tormented" them, or were a source of annoyance to them, by bearing testimony to the truth; by opposing the prevailing errors; and by rebuking the vices of the age: perhaps by demanding reformation, and by denouncing the judgment of heaven on the guilty. There is no intimation that they tormented them in any other way than by the truths which they held forth. See the word explained in See Barnes "2 Pe 2:8".


Verse 11. And after three days and an half. See Barnes "Re 11:9".

The Spirit of life from God. The living, or life-giving Spirit that proceeds from God entered into them. Compare See Barnes on "Job 3:4".

There is evidently allusion here to Ge 2:7, where God is spoken of as the Author of life. The meaning is, that they would seem to come to life again, or that effects would follow as if the dead were restored to life. If, when they had been-compelled to cease from prophesying, they should, after the interval here denoted by three days and a half, again prophesy, or their testimony should be again borne to the truth as it had been before, this would evidently be all that would be implied in the language here employed.

Entered into them. Seemed to animate them again.

And they stood upon their feet. As if they had come to life again.

And great fear fell upon them which saw them. This would be true if those who were dead should be literally restored to life; and this would be the effect if those who had given great annoyance by their doctrines, and who had been silenced, and who seemed to be dead, should again, as if animated anew by a Divine power, begin to prophesy, or to proclaim their doctrines to the world. The statement in the symbol is, that those who had put them to death had been greatly troubled by these "witnesses;" that they had sought to silence them, and in order to this had put them to death; that they then greatly rejoiced, as if they would no more be annoyed by them. The fact that they seemed to come to life again would, therefore, fill them with consternation, for they would anticipate a renewal of their troubles, and they would see in this fact evidence of the Divine favour towards those whom they persecuted, and reason to apprehend Divine vengeance on themselves.

{b} "Spirit" Eze 37:5-14


Verse 12. And they heard a great voice from heaven. Some manuscripts read, "I heard"—hkousa but the more approved reading is that of the common text. John says that a voice was addressed to them calling them to ascend to heaven.

Come up hither. To heaven.

And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud. So the Saviour ascended, Ac 1:9, and so probably Elijah, 2 Ki 2:11.

And their enemies beheld them. That is, it was done openly, so that their enemies, who had put them to death, saw that they were approved of God, as if they had been publicly taken up to heaven. It is not necessary to suppose that this would literally occur. All this is, manifestly, mere symbol. The meaning is, that they would triumph as if they should ascend to heaven, and be received into the presence of God. The sense of the whole is, that these witnesses, after bearing a faithful testimony against prevailing errors and sins, would be persecuted and silenced; that for a considerable period their voice of faithful testimony would be hushed as if they were dead; that during that period they would be treated with contempt and scorn, as if their unburied bodies should be exposed to the public gaze; that there would be general exultation and joy that they were thus silenced; that they would again revive, as if the dead were restored to life, and bear a faithful testimony to the truth again, and that they would have the Divine attestation in their favour, as if they were raised up visibly and publicly to heaven.

{a} "cloud" 1 Th 4:17

{b} "enemies" Mal 3:18


Verse 13. And the same hour. In immediate connexion with their triumph.

Was there a great earthquake. An earthquake is a symbol of commotion, agitation, change; of great political revolutions, etc. See Barnes "Re 6:12".

The meaning here is, that the triumph of the witnesses, represented by their ascending to heaven, would be followed by such revolutions as would be properly symbolized by an earthquake.

And the tenth part of the city fell. That is, the tenth part of that which is represented by the "city"—the persecuting power. A city would be the seat and centre of the power, and the acts of persecution would seem to proceed from it; but the destruction, we may suppose, would extend to all that was represented by the persecuting power. The word "tenth" is probably used in a general sense to denote that a considerable portion of the persecuting power would be thus involved in ruin; that is, that in respect to that power there would be such a revolution, such a convulsion or commotion, such a loss, that it would be proper to represent it by an earthquake.

And in the earthquake. In the convulsions consequent on what would occur to the witnesses.

Were slain of men seven thousand. Marg., as in the Greek, "names of men"—the name being used to denote the men themselves. The number here mentioned—seven thousand—seems to have been suggested because it would bear some proportion to the tenth part of the city which fell. It is not necessary to suppose, in seeking for the fulfilment of this, that just seven thousand would be killed; but the idea clearly is, that there would be such a diminution of numbers as would be well represented by a calamity that would overwhelm a tenth part of the city, such as the apostle had in his eye, and a proportional number of the inhabitants. The number that would be slain, therefore, in the convulsions and changes consequent on the treatment of the witnesses, might be numerically much larger than seven thousand, and might be as great as if a tenth part of all that were represented by the "city" should be swept away.

And the remnant were affrighted. Fear and alarm came on them in consequence of these calamities. The "remnant" here refers to those who still remained in the "city;" that is, to those who belonged to the community or people designed to be represented here by the city.

And gave glory to the God of heaven. Compare Lu 5:26: "And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to-day." All that seems to be meant by this is, that they stood in awe at what God was doing, and acknowledged his power in the changes that occurred. It does not mean, necessarily, that they would repent and become truly his friends, but that there would be a prevailing impression that these changes were produced by his power, and that his hand was in these things. This would be fulfilled if there should be a general willingness among mankind to acknowledge God, or to recognise his hand in the events referred to; if there should be a disposition extensively prevailing to regard the "witnesses" as on the side of God, and to favour their cause as one of truth and righteousness; and if these convulsions should so far change public sentiment as to produce an impression that theirs was the cause of God.

{c} "city" Re 16:19

{1} "slain of men" "names of men"

{d} "gave glory" Re 14:7; Isa 26:15,16


Verse 14. The second woe is past. That is, the second of the three that were announced as yet to come, Re 8:13; compare Re 9:12.

And, behold, the third woe cometh quickly. The last of the series. The meaning is, that that which was signified by the third "woe" would be the next, and final event, in order. On the meaning of the word "quickly," see Barnes "Re 1:1" compare Re 2:5,16; 3:11; Re 22:7,12,20.

In reference now to the important question about the application of this portion of the book of Revelation, it need hardly be said that the greatest variety of opinion has prevailed among expositors. It would be equally unprofitable, humiliating, and discouraging, to attempt to enumerate all the opinions which have been held; and I must refer the reader who has any desire to become acquainted with them, to Poole's Synopsis, in loc., and to the copious statement of Professor Stuart, Com., vol. it. pp. 219—227. Professor Stuart himself supposes that the meaning is, that "a competent number of divinely-commissioned and faithful Christian witnesses, endowed with miraculous powers, should bear testimony against the corrupt Jews, during the last days of their commonwealth, respecting their sins; that they should proclaim the truths of the gospel; and that the Jews, by destroying them, would bring upon themselves an aggravated and an awful doom," ii. 226. Instead of attempting to examine in detail the opinions which have been held, I shall rather state what seems to me to be the fair application of the language used, in accordance with the principles pursued thus far in the exposition. The inquiry is, whether there have been any events to which this language is applicable, or in reference to which, if it be admitted that it was the design of the Spirit of inspiration to describe them, it may be supposed that such language would be employed as we find here.

In this inquiry, it may be assumed that the preceding exposition is correct, and the application now to be made must accord with that; that is, it must be found that events occurred in such times and circumstances as would be consistent with the supposition that that exposition is correct. It is to be assumed, therefore, that Re 9:20-21 refers to the state of the ecclesiastical world after the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks, and previous to the Reformation; that chapter 10 refers to the Reformation itself; that Re 11:1-2 refers to the necessity, at the time of the Reformation, of ascertaining what was the true church, of reviving the Scripture doctrine respecting the atonement and justification, and of drawing correct lines as to membership in the church. All this has reference, according to this interpretation, to the state of the church while the Papacy would have the ascendency, or during the twelve hundred and sixty years in which it would trample down the church as if the holy city were in the hands of the Gentiles. Assuming this to be the correct exposition, then what is here said (Re 11:3-13) must relate to that period, for it is with reference to that same time—the period of "a thousand two hundred and threescore days," or twelve hundred and sixty years—that it is said (Re 11:3) the witnesses would "prophesy," "clothed in sackcloth." If this be so, then what is here stated (Re 11:3-13) must be supposed to occur during the ascendency of the Papacy, and must mean, in general, that during that long period of apostasy, darkness, corruption, and sin, there would be faithful witnesses for the truth, who, though they were few in number, would be sufficient to keep up the knowledge of the truth on the earth, and to bear testimony against the prevailing errors and abominations. The object of this portion of the book, therefore, is to describe the character of the faithful witnesses for the truth during this long period of darkness; to state their influence; to record their trials; and to show what would be the ultimate result in regard to them, when their "testimony" should become triumphant. This general view will be seen to accord with the exposition of the previous portion of the book, and will be sustained, I trust, by the more particular inquiry into the application of the passage to which I now proceed. The essential points in the passage (Re 11:3-13) respecting the "witnesses" are six:

(1) who are meant by the witnesses;

(2) the war made on them;

(3) their death;

(4) their resurrection;

(5) their reception into heaven; and

(6) the consequences of their triumph in the calamity that came upon the city.

{e} "second woe" Re 8:13


Verse 15. And the seventh angel sounded. See Barnes "Re 8:2," See Barnes "Re 8:6, See Barnes "Re 8:7".

This is the last of the trumpets, implying, of course, that under this the series of visions was to end, and that this was to introduce the state of things under which the affairs of the world were to be wound up. The place which this occupies in the order of time, is when the events pertaining to the colossal Roman power—the fourth kingdom of Daniel (Daniel chapters 2-7)—should have been completed, and when the reign of the saints (Da 7:9-14,27-28) should have been introduced. This, both in Daniel and in John, is to occur when the mighty power of the Papacy shall have been overthrown, at the termination of the twelve hundred and sixty years of its duration. See Barnes on "Da 7:25".

In both Daniel and John the termination of that persecuting power is the commencement of the reign of the saints; the downfall of the Papacy, the introduction of the kingdom of God, and its establishment on the earth.

And there were great voices in heaven. As of exultation and praise. The grand consummation had come, the period so long anticipated and desired when God should reign on the earth had arrived, and this lays the foundation for joy and thanksgiving in heaven.

The kingdoms of this world. The modern editions of the New Testament (see Tittmann and Hahn) read this in the singular number—"The kingdom of this world has become," etc. According to this reading, the meaning would be, either that the sole reign over this world had become that of the Lord Jesus; or, more probably, that the dominion over the earth had been regarded as one in the sense that Satan had reigned over it, but had now become the kingdom of God; that is, that "the kingdoms of this world are many, considered in themselves; but in reference to the sway of Satan, there is only one kingdom ruled over by the 'god of this world.' "—Professor Stuart. The sense is not materially different whichever reading is adopted; though the authority is in favour of the latter.—Wetstein. According to the common reading, the sense is, that all the kingdoms of the earth, being many in themselves, had been now brought under the one sceptre of Christ; according to the other, the whole world was regarded as in fact one kingdom—that of Satan—and the sceptre had now passed from his hands into those of the Saviour.

The kingdoms of our Lord. Or, the kingdom of our Lord, according to the reading adopted in the previous part of the verse. The word Lord here evidently has reference to God as such —represented as the original source of authority, and as giving the kingdom to his Son. See Barnes "Da 7:13-14" compare Ps 2:8. The word Lord—kuriov—implies the notion of possessor, owner, sovereign, supreme ruler—and is thus properly given to God. See Mt 1:22; 5:33; Mr 5:19; Lu 1:6,28; Ac 7:33; Heb 8:2,10; Jas 4:15, al saep.

And of his Christ. Of his anointed; of him who is set apart as the Messiah, and consecrated to this high office. See Barnes on "Mt 1:1".

He is called "his Christ," because he is set apart by him, or appointed by him to perform the work appropriate to that office on earth. Such language as that which occurs here is often employed, in which God and Christ are spoken of as, in some respects, distinct—as sustaining different offices, and performing different works. The essential meaning here is, that the kingdom of this world had now become the kingdom of God under Christ; that is, that that kingdom is administered by the Son of God.

And he shall reign for ever and ever. A kingdom is commenced which shall never terminate. It is not said that this would be on the earth; but the essential idea is, that the sceptre of the world had now, after so long a time, come into his hands never more to pass away. The fuller characteristics of this reign are stated in a subsequent part of this book, (chapters 20-22) What is here stated is in accordance with all the predictions in the Bible. A time is to come when, in the proper sense of the term, God is to reign on the earth; when his kingdom is to be universal; when his laws shall be everywhere recognised as binding; when all idolatry shall come to an end; and when the understandings and the hearts of men everywhere shall bow to his authority. Compare Ps 2:8; Isa 9:7; 11:9; 45:22

Psalms 60 Da 2:35,44,45; 7:13-14,27-28; 14:9; Mal 1:11; Lu 1:33.

On. this whole subject, see the very ample illustrations and proofs in Barnes on "Da 2:44-45; Da 7:13-14,27,28" and Barnes on chapters 20-22.


Verse 16. And the four and twenty elders, which sat, etc. See Barnes "Re 4:4".

Fell upon their faces, and worshipped God. Prostrated themselves before him—the usual form of profound adoration. See Barnes "Re 5:8, seq.

{a} "four and twenty elders" Re 4:4


Verse 17. Saying, We give thee thanks. We, as the representatives of the church, and as identified in our feelings with it, (see Barnes "Re 4:4") acknowledge thy goodness in thus delivering the church from all its troubles, and, having conducted it through the times of fiery persecution, thus establishing it upon the earth. The language here used is an expression of their deep interest in the church, and of the fact that they felt themselves identified with it. They, as representatives of the church, would of course rejoice in its prosperity and final triumph.

O Lord God Almighty. Referring to God as all-powerful, because it was by his omnipotent arm alone that this great work had been accomplished. Nothing else could have defended the church in its many trials; nothing else could have established it upon the earth.

Which art, and wast, and art to come. The eternal One, always the same. See Barnes on "Re 1:8".

The reference here is to the fact that God, who had thus established his church on the earth, is unchanging. In all the revolutions which occur on the earth, he always remains the same. What he was in past times he is now; what he is now he always will be. The particular idea suggested here seems to be, that he had now shown this by having caused his church to triumph; that is, he had shown that he was the same God who had early promised that it should ultimately triumph; he had carried forward his glorious purposes without modifying or abandoning them amidst all the changes that had occurred in the world; and he had thus given the assurance that he would now remain the same, and that all his purposes in regard to his church would be accomplished. The fact that God remains always unchangeably the same is the sole reason why his church is safe, or why any individual member of it is kept and saved. Compare Mal 3:6.

Because thou hast taken to thee thy great power. To wit, by setting up thy kingdom over all the earth. Before that, it seemed as if he had relaxed that power, or had given the power to others. Satan had reigned on the earth. Disorder, anarchy, sin, rebellion, had prevailed. It seemed as if God had let the reins of government fall from his hand. Now, he came forth as if to resume the dominion over the world, and to take the sceptre into his own hand, and to exert his great power in keeping the nations in subjection. The setting up of his kingdom all over the world, and causing his laws everywhere to be obeyed, will be among the highest demonstrations of Divine power. Nothing can accomplish this but the power of God; when that power is exerted nothing can prevent its accomplishment.

And hast reigned. Professor Stuart, "and shown thyself as king;" that is, "hast become king, or acted as a king." The idea is, that he had now vindicated his regal power, (Rob. Lex.;) that is, he had now set up his kingdom on the earth, and had truly begun to reign. One of the characteristics of the millennium—and indeed the main characteristic—will be, that God will be everywhere obeyed; for when that occurs, all will be consummated that properly enters into the idea of the millennial kingdom.

{b} "which art" Re 16:5

{c} "hast reigned" Re 19:6


Verse 18. And the nations were angry. Were enraged against thee. This they had shown by their opposition to his laws; by persecuting his people; by slaying his witnesses; by all the attempts which they had made to destroy his authority on the earth. The reference here seems to be to the whole series of events preceding the final establishment of his kingdom on the earth; to all the efforts which had been made to throw off his government and to crush his church. At this period of glorious triumph it was natural to look back to those dark times when the "nations raged," (compare Ps 2:1-3,) and when the very existence of the church was in jeopardy.

And thy wrath is come. That is, the time when thou wilt punish them for all that they have done in opposition to thee, and when the wicked shall be cut off. There will be, in the setting up of the kingdom of God, some manifestation of his wrath against the powers that opposed it; or something that will show his purpose to destroy his enemies, and to judge the wicked. The representations in this book lead us to suppose that the final establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth will be introduced or accompanied by commotions and wars which will end in the overthrow of the great powers that have opposed his reign, and by such awful calamities in those portions of the world as shall show that God has arisen in his strength to cut off his enemies, and to appear as the vindicator of his people. Compare See Barnes "Re 16:12, seq. See Barnes "Re 19:11, seq.

And the time of the dead, that they should be judged. According to the view which the course of the exposition thus far pursued leads us to entertain of this book, there is reference here, in few words, to the same thing which is more fully stated in chapter 20, and the meaning of the sacred writer will, therefore, come up for a more distinct and full examination when we consider that chapter. See Barnes "Re 20:4, seq. See Barnes "Re 20:12, seq. The purpose of the writer does not require that a detailed statement of the order of the events referred to should be made here, for it would be better made, when, after another line of illustration and of symbol, (Re 11:19 and chapters 12-19) he should have reached the same catastrophe, and when, in view of both, the mind would be prepared for the fuller description with which the book closes, Revelation 20-22. All that occurs here, therefore, is a very general statement of the final consummation of all things.

And that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants. The righteous. Compare Mt 25:34-40 and Re 21-22. That is, in the final winding up of human affairs, God will bestow the long-promised reward on those who have been his true friends. The wicked that annoyed and persecuted them, will annoy and persecute them no more; and the righteous will be publicly acknowledged as the friends of God. For the manner in which this will be done, see the details in Revelation 20-22.

The prophets. All who, in every age, have faithfully proclaimed the truth. On the meaning of the word, see Barnes "Re 10:11".

And to the saints. To all who are holy—under whatever dispensation, and in whatever land, and at whatever time, they may have lived. Then will be the time when, in a public manner, they will be recognised as belonging to the kingdom of God, and as being his true friends.

And them that fear thy name. Another way of designating his people, since religion consists in a profound veneration for God, Mal 3:16; Job 1:1; Ps 15:4; 22:23; 115:11; Pr 1:7; 3:13; 9:10; Isa 11:2; Ac 10:22,35.

Small and great. Young and old; low and high; poor and rich. The language is designed to comprehend all, of every class, who have a claim to be numbered among the friends of God, and it furnishes a plain intimation that men of all classes will be found at last among his true people. One of the glories of the true religion is, that, in bestowing its layouts, it disregards all the artificial distinctions of society, and addresses man as man, welcoming all who are human beings to the blessings of life and salvation. This will be illustriously shown in the last period of the world's history, when the distinctions of wealth, and rank, and blood shall lose the importance which has been attributed to them, and when the honour of being a child of God shall have its true place. Compare Ga 3:28.

And shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. That is, all who have, in their conquests, spread desolation over the earth; and who have persecuted the righteous, and all who have done injustice and wrong to any class of men. Compare See Barnes "Re 20:13, seq.

Here ends, as I suppose, the first series of visions referred to in the volume sealed with the seven seals, Re 5:1. At this point, where the division of the chapter should have been made, and which is properly marked in our common Bibles by the sign of the paragraph, (¶,) there commences a new series of visions, intended also, but in a different line, to extend down to the consummation of all things. The former series traces the history down mainly through the series of civil changes in the world, or the outward affairs which affect the destiny of the church; the latter—the portion still before us—embraces the same period with a more direct reference to the rise of Antichrist, and the influence of that power in affecting the destiny of the church. When that is completed, (Re 11:19 and Revelation 12-19) the way is prepared (Revelation 20-22) for the more full statement of the final triumph of the gospel, and the universal prevalence of religion, with which the book so appropriately closes. That portion of the book, therefore, refers to the same period as the one which has just been considered under the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and the description of the final state of things would have immediately succeeded if it had not been necessary, by another series of visions, to trace more particularly the history of Antichrist on the destiny of the church, and the way in which that great and fearful power would be finally overcome. The way is then prepared for the description of the state of things which will exist when all the enemies of the church shall be subdued; when Christianity shall triumph; and when the predicted reign of God shall be set up on the earth, Revelation 20-22.

{d} "angry" Re 11:9

{e} "time" Heb 9:27

{f} "reward" Re 22:12

{g} "small" re 19:5

{1} "destroy" "corrupt"


Verse 19. And the temple of God was opened in heaven. The temple of God at Jerusalem was a pattern of the heavenly one, or of heaven, Heb 8:1-5. In that temple God was supposed to reside by the visible symbol of his presence—the Shekinah—in the holy of holies. See Barnes on "Heb 9:7".

Thus God dwells in heaven, as in a holy temple, of which that on earth was the emblem. When it is said that that was "opened in heaven," the meaning is, that John was permitted, as it were, to look into heaven, the abode of God, and to see him in his glory.

And there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament. See Barnes on "Heb 9:4".

That is, the very interior of heaven was laid open, and John was permitted to witness what was transacted in its obscurest recesses, and what were its most hidden mysteries. It will be remembered, as an illustration of the correctness of this view of the meaning of the verse, and of its proper place in the divisions of the book—assigning it as the opening verse of a new series of visions—that in the first series of visions we have a statement remarkably similar to this, Re 4:1: "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven;" that is, there was, as it were, an opening made into heaven, so that John was permitted to look in and see what was occurring there. The same idea is expressed substantially here, by saying that the very interior of the sacred temple where God resides was "opened in heaven," so that John was permitted to look in and see what was transacted in his very presence. This may confirm the idea that this portion of the Apocalypse refers rather to the internal affairs of the church, or the church itself—for of this the temple was the proper emblem. Then appropriately follows the series of visions describing, as in the former case, what was to occur in future times: this series referring to the internal affairs of the church, as the former did mainly to what would outwardly affect its form and condition. And there were lightnings, etc. Symbolic of the awful presence of God, and of his majesty and glory, as in the commencement of the first series-of visions. See Barnes "Re 4:5".

The similarity of the symbols of the Divine Majesty in the two cases may also serve to confirm the supposition that this is the beginning of a new series of visions.

And an earthquake. Also a symbol of the Divine Majesty, and perhaps of the great convulsions that were to occur under this series of visions. Compare See Barnes on "Re 6:12".

Thus, in the sublime description of God in Ps 18:7, "Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth." So in Ex 19:18, "And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke—and the whole mount quaked greatly." Compare Am 8:8-9; Joe 2:10.

And great hail. Also an emblem of the presence and majesty of God, perhaps with the accompanying idea that he would overwhelm and punish his enemies. So in Ps 18:13, "The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice: hailstones and coals of fire." So also Job 38:22-23:—

"Hast thou entered into the treasures of snow?
Or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail?
Which I have reserved against the time of trouble.
Against the day of battle and war?"

So in Ps 105:32:

"He gave them hail for rain.
And flaming fire in their land."

Compare Ps 78:48; Isa 30:30; Eze 38:22.

{a} "temple" Re 15:5,8

{b} "lightnings" Re 8:5

{c} "earthquake" Re 16:18,21




THIS portion of the book commences, according to the view presented in the closing remarks on the last chapter, a new series of visions, designed more particularly to represent the internal condition of the church; the rise of Antichrist, and the effect of the rise of that formidable power on the internal history of the church to the time of the overthrow of that power, and the triumphant establishment of the kingdom of God. See the Analysis of the Book, part fifth. The portion before us embraces the following particulars:—

(1.) A new vision of the temple of God as opened in heaven, disclosing the ark of the testimony, and attended with lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail, Re 11:19. The view of the "temple," and the "ark," would naturally suggest a reference to the church, and would be an appropriate representation on the supposition that this vision related to the church. The attending circumstances of the lightnings, etc., were well fitted to impress the mind with awe, and to leave the conviction that great and momentous events were about to be disclosed. I regard this verse, therefore, which should have been separated from the eleventh chapter and attached to the twelfth, as the introduction to a new series of visions, similar to what we have in the introduction of the previous series, Re 4:1. The vision was of the temple—the symbol of the church—and it was "opened" so that John could see into its inmost part—even within the veil where the ark was—and could have a view of what most intimately pertained to it.

(2.) A representation of the church, under the image of a woman about to give birth to a child, Re 12:1,2. A woman is seen, clothed, as it were, with the sun—emblem of majesty, truth, intelligence, and glory; she has the moon under her feet, as if she walked the heavens; she has on her head a glittering diadem of stars; she is about to become a mother. This seems to have been designed to represent the church as about to be increased, and as in that condition watched by a dragon—a mighty foe—ready to destroy its offspring, and thus compelled to flee into the wilderness for safety. Thus understood, the point of time referred to would be when the church was in a prosperous condition, and when it would be encountered by Antichrist, represented here by the dragon, and compelled to flee into the wilderness; that is, the church for a time would be driven into obscurity, and be almost unknown. It is no uncommon thing, in the Scriptures, to compare the church with a beautiful woman. See Barnes "Isa 1:8".

The following remarks of Prof. Stuart, (vol. ii. 252,) though he applies the subject in a manner very different from what I shall, seem to me accurately to express the general design of the symbol: "The daughter of Zion is a common personification of the church in the Old Testament; and in the writings of Paul, the same image is exhibited by the phrase, Jerusalem which is the mother of us all; i. e. of all Christians, Ga 4:26. The main point before us is the illustration of that church, ancient or later, under the image of a woman. If the Canticles are to have a spiritual sense given to them, it is plain enough, of course, how familiar such an idea was to the Jews. Whether the woman thus exhibited as a symbol be represented as bride or mother depends of course on the nature of the case, and the relations and exigencies of any particular passage."

(3.) The dragon that stood ready to devour the child, Re 12:3,4. This represents some formidable enemy of the church, that was ready to persecute and destroy it. The real enemy here referred to is, undoubtedly, Satan, the great enemy of God and the church, but here it is Satan in the form of some fearful opponent of the church that would arise at a period when the church was prosperous, and when it was about to be enlarged. We are to look, therefore, for some fearful manifestation of this formidable power, having the characteristics here referred to, or some opposition to the church such as we may suppose Satan would originate, and by which the existence of the church might seem to be endangered.

(4.) The fact that the child which the woman brought forth was caught up to heaven—symbolical of its real safety, and of its having the favour of God—a pledge that the ultimate prosperity of the church was certain, and that it was safe from real danger, Re 12:5.

(5.) The fleeing of the woman into the wilderness, for the space of a thousand two hundred and threescore days, or 1260 years, Re 12:6. This act denotes the persecuted and obscure condition of the church during that time, and the period which would elapse before it would be delivered from this persecution, and restored to the place in the earth which it was designed to have.

(6.) The war in heaven; a struggle between the mighty powers of heaven and the dragon, Re 12:7-9. Michael and his angels contend against the dragon, in behalf of the church, and finally prevail. The dragon is overcome, and is cast out, and all his angels with him; in other words, the great enemy of God and his church is overcome and subdued. This is evidently designed to be symbolical, and the meaning is, that a state of things would exist in regard to the church, which would be well represented by supposing that such a scene should occur in heaven; that is, as if a war should exist there between the great enemy of God and the angels of light, and as if, being there vanquished, Satan should be cast down to the earth, and should there exert his malignant power in a warfare against the church. The general idea is, that his warfare would be primarily against heaven, as if he fought with the angels in the very presence of God, but that the form in which he would seem to prevail would be against the church, as if, being unsuccessful in his direct warfare against the angels of God, he was permitted, for a time, to enjoy the appearance of triumph in contending with the church.

(7.) The shout of victory in view of the conquest over the dragon, Re 12:10-12. A loud voice is heard in heaven, saying that now the kingdom of God is come, and that the reign of God would be set up, for the dragon is cast down and overcome. The grand instrumentality in overcoming this foe was "the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony;" that is, the great doctrines of truth pertaining to the work of the Redeemer would be employed for this purpose, and it is proclaimed that the heavens and all that dwell therein had occasion to rejoice at the certainty that a victory would be ultimately obtained over this great enemy of God. Still, however, his influence was not wholly at an end, for he would yet rage for a brief period on the earth.

(8.) The persecution of the woman, Re 12:13-15. She is constrained to fly, as on wings given her for that purpose, into the wilderness, where she is nourished for the time that the dragon is to exert his power—a "time, times, and half a time"—or for 1260 years. The dragon in rage pours out a flood of water, that he may cause her to be swept away by the flood: referring to the persecutions that would exist while the church was in the wilderness, and the efforts that would be made to destroy it entirely.

(9.) The earth helps the woman, Re 12:16. That is, a state of things would exist as if, in such a case, the earth should open and swallow up the flood. The meaning is, that the church would not be swept away, but that there would be an interposition in its behalf, as if the earth should, in the case supposed, open its bosom, and swallow up the swelling waters.

(10.) The dragon, still enraged, makes war with all that pertains to the woman, Re 12:17. Here we are told literally who are referred to by the "seed" of the woman. They are those who "keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ," (Re 12:11;) that is, the true church. The chapter, therefore, may be regarded as a general vision of the persecutions that would rage against the church. It seemed to be about to increase and to spread over the world. Satan, always opposed to it, strives to prevent its extension. The conflict is represented as if in heaven, where war is waged between the celestial beings and Satan, and where, being overcome, Satan is cast down to the earth, and permitted to wage the war there. The church is persecuted; becomes obscure and almost unknown, but still is mysteriously sustained; and when most in danger of being wholly swallowed up, is kept as if a miracle were wrought in its defence. The detail—the particular form in which the war would be waged—is drawn out in the following chapters.

Re 11:19. And the temple of God was opened in heaven. The temple of God at Jerusalem was a pattern of the heavenly one, or of heaven, Heb 8:1-6. In that temple God was supposed to reside by the visible symbol of his presence—the Shekinah—in the holy of holies. See Barnes "Heb 9:7".

Thus God dwells in heaven, as in a holy temple, of which that on earth was the emblem. When it is said that that was "opened in heaven," the meaning is, that John was permitted, as it were, to look into heaven, the abode of God, and to see him in his glory.

And there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament. See Barnes "Heb 9:4".

That is, the very interior of heaven was laid open, and John was permitted to witness what was transacted in its obscurest recesses, and what were its most hidden mysteries. It will be remembered, as an illustration of the correctness of this view of the meaning of the verse, and of its proper place in the divisions of the book—assigning it as the opening verse of a new series of visions—that in the first series of visions we have a statement remarkably similar to this, Re 4:1: "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven;" that is, there was, as it were, an opening made into heaven, so that John was permitted to look in and see what was occurring there. The same idea is expressed substantially here, by saying that the very interior of the sacred temple where God resides was "opened in heaven," so that John was permitted to look in and see what was transacted in his very presence. This, too, may go to confirm the idea suggested in the Analysis of the Book, part fifth, that this portion of the Apocalypse refers rather to the internal affairs of the church, or the church itself—for of this the temple was the proper emblem. Then appropriately follows the series of visions describing, as in the former case, what was to occur in future times: this series referring to the internal affairs of the church, as the former did mainly to what would outwardly affect its form and condition.

And there were lightnings, etc. Symbolic of the awful presence of God, and of his majesty and glory, as in the commencement of the first series-of visions. See Barnes "Re 4:6".

The similarity of the symbols of the Divine Majesty in the two cases may also serve to confirm the supposition that this is the beginning of a new series of visions.

And an earthquake. Also a symbol of the Divine Majesty, and perhaps of the great convulsions that were to occur under this series of visions. See Barnes "Re 6:12".

Thus, in the sublime description of God in Ps 18:7, "Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth." So in Ex 19:18, "And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke—and the whole mount quaked greatly." Comp. Am 8:8,9; Joe 2:10.

And great hail. Also an emblem of the presence and majesty of God, perhaps with the accompanying idea that he would overwhelm and punish his enemies. So in Ps 18:13, "The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice: hailstones and coals of fire." So also Job 38:22,23:—

"Hast thou entered into the treasures of snow?
Or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail?
Which I have reserved against the time of trouble.
Against the day of battle and war?"

So in Ps 105:32:

"He gave them hail for rain.
And flaming fire in their land."

Comp. Ps 78:48; Isa 30:30; Eze 38:22.

Verse 1. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven. In that heavenly world thus disclosed, in the very presence of God, he saw the impressive and remarkable symbol which he proceeds to describe. The word wonder—shmeion—properly means something extraordinary, or miraculous, and is commonly rendered sign. See Mt 12:38-39 Mt 16:1,3-4; 24:3,24,30; 26:48; r 8:11-12; 13:4,22; 16:17,20; —in all which, and in numerous other places in the New Testament, it is rendered sign, and mostly in the sense of miracle. When used in the sense of a miracle, it refers to the fact that the miracle is a sign or token by which the Divine power or purpose is made known. Sometimes the word is used to denote a sign of future things—a portent or presage of coming events; that is, some remarkable appearances which foreshadow the future. Thus in Mt 16:3: "signs of the times;" that is, the miraculous events which foreshadow the coming of the Messiah in his kingdom. So also in Mt 24:3,30; Mr 13:4; Lu 21:7,11.

This seems to be the meaning here, that the woman who appeared in this remarkable manner was a portent or token of what was to occur.

A woman clothed with the sun. Bright, splendid, glorious, as if the sunbeams were her raiment. Compare Re 1:16; 10:1; see also So 6:10—a passage which, very possibly, was in the mind of the writer when he penned this description: "Who is she that looked forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?"

And the moon under her feet. The moon seemed to be under her feet. She seemed as if she stood on the moon, its pale light contrasted with the burning splendour of the sun, heightening the beauty of the whole picture. The woman, beyond all question, represents the church. See Barnes on "Re 12:2".

Is the splendour of the sun-light designed to denote the brightness of the gospel? Is the moon designed to represent the comparatively feeble light of the Jewish dispensation? Is the fact that she stood upon the moon, or that it was under her feet, designed to denote the superiority of the gospel to the Jewish dispensation? Such a supposition gives much beauty to the symbol, and is not foreign to the nature of symbolic language.

And upon her head a crown of twelve stars. A diadem in which there were placed twelve stars. That is, there were twelve sparkling gems in the crown which she wore. This would, of course, greatly increase the beauty of the vision; and there can be no doubt that the number twelve here is significant. If the woman here is designed to symbolize the church, then the number twelve has, in all probability, some allusion either to the twelve tribes of Israel—as being a number which one who was born and educated as a Jew would be likely to use, (compare Jas 1:1) or, to the twelve apostles—an allusion which it may be supposed an apostle would be more likely to make. Compare Mt 19:28; Re 21:14.

{1} "great wonder" "sign"

{d} "clothed" Isa 54:6

{e} "sun" Ps 84:11; Mal 4:2


Verse 2. And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, etc. That is, there would be something which would be properly represented by a woman in such circumstances.

The question now is, what is referred to by this woman? And here it need hardly be said that there has been, as in regard to almost every other part of the book of Revelation, a great variety of interpretations. It would be endless to undertake to examine them, and would not be profitable if it could be done; and it is better, therefore, and more in accordance with the design of these Notes, to state briefly what seems to me to be the true interpretation.

(1.) The woman is evidently designed to symbolize the church; and in this there is a pretty general agreement among interpreters. The image, which is a beautiful one, was very familiar to the Jewish prophets. Compare Eze 16. See Barnes on "Isa 1:8; Isa 47:1 ".

Compare Ezekiel 16.

(2.) But still the question arises, to what time this representation refers: whether to the church before the birth of the Saviour, or after? According to the former of these opinions, it is supposed to refer to the church as giving birth to the Saviour, and the "man- child" that is born (Re 12:5) is supposed to refer to Christ, who "sprang from the church"—kata sarka—according to the flesh.—Professor Stuart, ii. 252. The church, according to this view, is not simply regarded as Jewish, but, in a more general and theocratic sense, as the people of God. "From the Christian church, considered as Christian, he could not spring; for this took its rise only after the time of his public ministry. But from the bosom of the people of God the Saviour came. This church, Judaical indeed (at the time of his birth) in respect to rites and forms, but to become a Christian after he had exercised his ministry in the midst of it, might well be represented here by the woman which is described in chapter 12."—Professor Stuart. But to this view there are some, as it seems to me, unanswerable objections. For

(a) there seems to be a harshness and incongruity in representing the Saviour as the Son of the church, or, representing the church as giving birth to him. Such imagery is not found elsewhere in the Bible, and is not in accordance with the language which is employed, where Christ is rather represented as the Husband of the church than the Son. See Re 21:2, "Prepared as a bride adorned for her husband;" verse 9, "I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife." Compare Isa 54:5; 61:10; 62:5.

(b) If this interpretation be adopted, then this must refer to the Jewish church, and thus the woman will personify the Jewish community before the birth of Christ. But this seems contrary to the whole design of the Apocalypse, which has reference to the Christian church, and not to the ancient dispensation.

(c) If this interpretation be adopted, then the statement about the dwelling in the wilderness for a period of 1260 days or years (Re 12:14) must be assigned to the Jewish community—a supposition every way improbable and untenable. In what sense could this be true? When did anything happen to the Jewish people that could, with any show of probability, be regarded as the fulfilment of this.

(d) It may be added, that the statement about the "man-child" (Re 12:5) is one that can with difficulty be reconciled to this supposition. In what sense was this true that the "man-child" was "caught up unto God, and to his throne?" The Saviour, indeed, ascended to heaven, but it was not, as here represented, that he might be protected from the danger of being destroyed; and when he did ascend, it was not as a helpless and unprotected babe, but as a man in the full maturity of his powers.

The other opinion is, that the woman here refers to the Christian church, and that the object is to represent that church as about to be enlarged— represented by the condition of the woman, Re 12:2. A beautiful woman appears, clothed with light—emblematic of the brightness and purity of the church; with the moon under her feet—the ancient and comparatively obscure dispensation now made subordinate and humble; with a glittering diadem of twelve stars on her head—the stars representing the usual well-known division of the people of God into twelve parts—as the stars in the American flag denote the original states of the Union; and in a condition (Re 12:2) which showed that the church was to be increased. The time there referred to is at the early period of the history of the church, when, as it were, it first appears on the theatre of things, and going forth in its beauty and majesty over the earth. John sees this church as it was about to spread in the world, exposed to a mighty and formidable enemy—a hateful dragon—stationing itself to prevent its increase, and to accomplish its destruction. From that impending danger it is protected in a manner that would be well represented by the saving of the child of the woman, and bearing it up to heaven, to a place of safety—an act implying that, notwithstanding all dangers, the progress and enlargement of the church was ultimately certain. In the mean time, the woman herself flees into the wilderness—an act representing the obscure and humble and persecuted state of the church—till the great controversy is determined which is to have the ascendency—God or the Dragon. In favour of this interpretation, the following considerations may be suggested:

(a) It is the natural and obvious interpretation.

(b) If it be admitted that John meant to describe what occurred in the world at the time when the true church seemed to be about to extend itself over the earth, and when that prosperity was checked by the rise of the Papal power, the symbol employed would be strikingly expressive and appropriate.

(c) It accords with the language elsewhere used in the Scriptures when referring to the increase of the church. Isa 66:7-8: "Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man-child. Who hath heard such a thing?—As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children." Isa 54:1: "Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord." Isa 49:20: "The children which thou shalt have, after thou shalt have lost the other, shall say again in thy ears, The place is too strait for me; give place to me that I may dwell." The comparison of the church to a woman as the mother of children, is one that is very common in the Scriptures.

(d) The future destiny of the child and of the woman agrees with this supposition. The child is caught up to heaven, Re 12:5—emblematic of the fact that God will protect the church, and not suffer its increase to be cut off and destroyed; and the woman is driven for 1260 years into the wilderness and nourished there, Re 12:14—emblematic of the long period of obscurity and persecution in the true church, and yet of the fact that it would be protected and nourished. The design of the whole, therefore, I apprehend, is to represent the peril of the church at the time when it was about to be greatly enlarged, or in a season of prosperity, from the rise of a formidable enemy that would stand ready to destroy it. I regard this, therefore, as referring to the time of the rise of the Papacy, when, but for that formidable, corrupting, and destructive power, it might have been hoped that the church would have spread all over the world. In regard to the rise of that power, see all that I have to say, or can say, in See Barnes on "Da 7:24, seq.


Verse 3. And there appeared another wonder in heaven. Represented as in heaven. Barnes on "Re 12:1".

That is, he saw this as occurring at the time when the church was thus about to increase.

And behold a great red dragon. The word rendered dragon —drakwn— occurs, in the New Testament, only in the book of Revelation, where it is uniformly rendered as here—dragon: Re 12:3-4,7,9,13,16-17; 13:2,4,11; Re 16:13; 20:2.

In all these places there is reference to the same thing. The word properly means a large serpent; and the allusion in the word commonly is to some serpent, perhaps such as the anaconda, that resides in a desert or wilderness. See a full account of the ideas that prevailed in ancient times respecting the dragon, in Bochart, Hieroz. lib. iii. cap. xiv., vol. ii. pp. 428-440. There was much that was fabulous respecting this monster, and many notions were attached to the dragon which did not exist in reality, and which were ascribed to it by the imagination at a time when natural history was little understood. The characteristics ascribed to the dragon, according to Bochart, are, that it was distinguished

(a) for its vast size;
(b) that it had something like a beard or dew-lap;
(c) that it had three rows of teeth;
(d) that its colour was black, red, yellow, or ashy;
(e) that it had a wide mouth;
(f) that in its breathing it not only drew in the air, but also birds that were flying over it; and
(g) that its hiss was terrible. Occasionally, also, feet and wings were attributed to the dragon, and sometimes a lofty crest. The dragon, according to Bochart, was supposed to inhabit waste places and solitudes, (compare Barnes on "Isa 13:22") and it became, therefore, an object of great terror. It is probable that the original of this was a huge serpent, and that all the other circumstances were added by the imagination. The prevailing ideas in regard to it, however, should be borne in mind, in order to see the force and propriety of the use of the word by John. Two special characteristics are stated by John in the general description of the dragon: one is, its red colour; the other, that it was great. In regard to the former, as above mentioned, the dragon was supposed to be black, red, yellow, or ashy. See the authorities referred to in Bochart, ut sup., pp. 435, 436. There was doubtless a reason why the one seen by John should be represented as red. As to the other characteristic—great—the idea is, that it was a huge monster, and this would properly refer to some mighty, terrible power which would be properly symbolized by such a monster.

Having seven heads. It was not unusual to attribute many heads to monsters, especially to fabulous monsters, and these greatly increased the terror of the animal. "Thus Cerberus usually has three heads assigned to him; but Hesiod (Theog. 312) assigns him fifty, and Horace (Ode II. 13, 34) one hundred. So the Hydra of the Lake Lerna, killed by Hercules, had fifty heads, (Virg. AEn. vi 576;) and in Kiddushim, fol. 29, 2, Rabbi Achse is said to have seen a demon like a dragon with seven heads."—Professor Stuart, in loc, The seven heads would somehow denote power, or seats of power. Such a number of heads increase the terribleness, and, as it were, the vitality of the monster. What is here represented would be as terrible and formidable as such a monster; or such a monster would appropriately represent what was designed to be symbolized here. The number seven may be used here "as a perfect number," or merely to heighten the terror of the image; but it is more natural to suppose that there would be something in what is here represented which would lay the foundation for the use of this number. There would be something either in the origin of the power; or in the union of various powers now combined in the one represented by the dragon; or in the seat of the power, which this would properly symbolize, Compare Barnes on "Da 7:6".

And ten horns. Emblems of power, denoting that, in some respects, there were ten powers combined in this one. See Barnes "Da 7:7" See Barnes "Da 7:8"

See Barnes "Da 7:20, See Barnes "Da 7:24".

There can be little doubt that John had those passages of Daniel (Da 7:7-8,20,24) in his eye, and perhaps as little that the reference is to the same thing. The meaning is, that, in some respects, there would be a tenfold origin or division of the power represented by the dragon.

And seven crowns upon his heads. Gr., diadems. See Barnes on "Re 9:7".

There is a reference here to some kingly power, and doubtless John had some kingdom or sovereignty in his eye that would be properly symbolized in this manner. The method in which these heads and horns were arranged on the dragon is not stated, and is not material. All that is necessary in the explanation is, that there was something in the power referred to that would be properly represented by the seven heads, and something by the ten horns.

In the application of this, it will be necessary to inquire what was properly symbolized by these representations, and to refer again to these particulars with this view.

(a) The dragon. This is explained in Barnes on "Re 12:9"

"And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world." So again, Re 20:2, "And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil." Compare Bochart, Hieroz. ii. pp. 439, 440. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the reference here is to Satan, considered as the enemy of God, and the enemy of the peace of man, and especially as giving origin and form to some mighty power that would threaten the existence of the church.

(b) Great. This will well describe the power of Satan as originating the organizations that were engaged for so long a time in persecuting the church, and endeavouring to destroy it. It was a work of vast power, controlling kings and princes and nations for ages, and could have been accomplished only by one to whom the appellation here used could be given.

(c) Red. This, too, is an appellation properly applied here to the the dragon, or Satan, considered as the enemy of the church, and as originating this persecuting power, either (1) because it well represents the bloody persecutions that would ensue, or (2) because this would be the favourite colour by which this power would be manifest. Compare Re 17:3-4; 18:12,16.

(d) The seven heads. There was, doubtless, as above remarked, something significant in these heads, as referring to the power designed to be represented. On the supposition that this refers to Rome, or to the power of Satan as manifested by Roman persecution, there can be no difficulty in the application; and, indeed, it is such an image as the writer would naturally use on the supposition that it had such a designed reference. Rome was built, as is well known, on seven hills, (compare Barnes on "Re 10:3,) and was called the seven-hilled city, (Septicolis,) from having been originally built on seven hills, though subsequently three hills were added, making the whole number ten. See Eschenburg, Manual of Classical Literature, p. 1, % 53. Thus Ovid: \-

"Sed quae de septem totum circumspicit orbem
Montibus, imperii RomAE Deumque locus." \- Horace:
"Dis quibus septem placuere colles."

"Septem urbs alta jugis, toti quae praesidet orbi."

Tertullian: "I appeal to the citizens of Rome, the populace that dwell on the seven hills."—Apol. 35. And again, Jerome to Marcella, when urging her to quit Rome for Bethlehem: "Read what is said in the Apocalypse of the seven hills," etc. The situation of the city, if that was designed to be represented by the dragon, would naturally suggest the idea of the seven-headed monster. Compare Barnes on "Re 18:1"

and to end of chapter. The explanation which is here given of the meaning of the "seven heads" is, in fact, one that is given in the book of Revelation itself, and there can be no danger of error in this part of the interpretation. See Re 17:9: "The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth." Compare Re 12:8.

(e) The ten horns. These were emblems of power, denoting that in reference to that power there were, in some respects, ten sources. The same thing is referred to here which is in Da 7:7-8,20,24.

See Barnes on "Da 7:24".

The creature that John saw was indeed a monster, and we are not to expect entire congruity in the details. It is sufficient that the main idea is preserved, and that would be, if the reference was to Rome considered as the place where the energy of Satan, as opposed to God and the church, was centered.

(f) The seven crowns. This would merely denote that kingly or royal authority was claimed.

The general interpretation which refers this vision to Rome may receive confirmation from the fact that the dragon was at one time the Roman standard, as is represented by the following engraving from Montfaucon. Ammianus Marcellius (xvi. 10) thus describes this standard: "The dragon was covered with purple cloth, and fastened to the end of a pike gilt and adorned with precious stones. It opened its wide throat, and the wind blew through it; and it hissed as if in a rage, with its tail floating in several folds through the air." He elsewhere often gives it the epithet of purpureus—purple-red: purpureum signum draconis, etc. With this the description of Claudian well agrees also:— \-

"Hi volueres tollent aquilas; hi picta draconum
Colla levant: multumque tumet per nubila serpens,
Iratus stimulante noto, vivitque receptis
Flatibus, et vario mentitur sibila fiatu."

The dragon was first used as an ensign near the close of the second century of the Christian era, and it was not until the third century that its use had become common; and the reference here, according to this fact, would be to that period of the Roman power when this had become a common standard, and when the applicability of this image would be readily understood. It is simply Rome that is referred to—Rome, the great agent of accomplishing the purposes of Satan towards the church The eagle was the common Roman ensign in the time of the Republic and in the earlier periods of the empire, but in later periods the dragon became also a standard as common and as well known as the eagle. "In the third century it had become almost as notorious among Roman ensigns as the eagle itself; and is in the fourth century noted by Prudentius, Vegetius, Chrysostom, Ammianus, etc.; in the fifth, by Claudian and others."—.Elliott, ii. 14,

{1} "wonder" "sign"

{a} "dragon" Re 12:9


Verse 4. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven. The word rendered drew—surw—means to draw, drag, haul. Professor Stuart renders it "drew along;" and explains it as meaning that "the danger is represented as being in the upper region of the air, so that his tail may be supposed to interfere with and sweep down the stars, which, as viewed by the ancients, were all set in the visible expanse or welkin." So Daniel, (Da 8:10) speaking of the little horn, says that "it waxed great, even to the host of heaven, and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground." See Barnes "Da 8:10".

The main idea here undoubtedly is that of power, and the object of John is to show that the power of the dragon was as if it extended to the stars, and as if it dragged down a third part of them to the earth, or swept them away with its tail, leaving two-thirds unaffected. A power that would sweep them all away would be universal; a power that would sweep away one-third only would represent a dominion of that extent only. The dragon is represented as floating in the air—a monster extended along the sky—and one- third of the whole expanse was subject to his control. Suppose, then, that the dragon here was designed to represent the Roman Pagan power; suppose that it referred to that power about to engage in the work of persecution, and at a time when the church was about to be greatly enlarged, and to fill the world; suppose that it referred to a time when but one-third part of the Roman world was subject to Pagan influence, and the remaining two-thirds were, for some cause, safe from this influence,—all the conditions here referred to would be fulfilled. Now it so happens that at a time when the "dragon" had become a common standard in the Roman armies, and had in some measure superseded the eagle, a state of things did exist which well corresponds with this representation. There were times under the emperors when, in a considerable part of the empire, after the establishment of Christianity, the church enjoyed protection, and the Christian religion was tolerated, while in other parts Paganism still prevailed, and waged a bitter warfare with the church. "Twice, at least, before the Roman empire became divided permanently into the two parts, the Eastern and the Western, there was a tripartite division of the empire. The first occurred A.D. 311, when it was divided between Constantine, Licinius, and Maximin; the other A.D. 337, on the death of Constantine, when it was divided between his three sons, Constantine, Constans, and Constantius. "In two- thirds of the empire, embracing its whole European and African territory, Christians enjoyed toleration; in the other, or Asiatic portion, they were still, after a brief and uncertain respite, exposed to persecution, in all its bitterness and cruelty as before."—Elliott, ii. 17. I do not deem it absolutely essential, however, in order to a fair exposition of this passage, that we should be able to refer to minute historical facts with names and dates. A sufficient fulfilment is found if there was a period when the church, bright, glorious, and prosperous, was apparently about to become greatly enlarged, but when the monstrous Pagan power still held its sway over a considerable part of the world, exposing the church to persecution. Even after the establishment of the church in the empire, and the favour shown to it by the Roman government, it was long before the Pagan power ceased to rage, and before the church could be regarded as safe.

And the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child. To prevent the increase and spread of the church in the world.

{a} "tail" Isa 9:15


Verse 5. And she brought forth a man child. Representing, according to the view above taken, the church in its increase and prosperity—as if a child were born that was to rule over all nations. See Barnes on "Re 12:2".

Who was to rule all nations. That is, according to this view, the church thus represented was destined to reign in all the earth, or all the earth was to become subject to its laws. Compare Barnes on "Da 7:13-14".

With a rod of iron. The language here used is derived from Ps 2:9: "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron." The form of the expression here used "who was to rule"—ov mellei poimainein is derived from the Septuagint translation of the Psalm—poimaineiv— "thou shalt rule them;" to wit, as a shepherd does his flock. The reference is to such control as a shepherd employs in relation to his flock—protecting, guarding, and defending them, with the idea that the flock is under his care; and, on the supposition that this refers to the church, it means that it would yet have the ascendency or the dominion over the earth. The meaning in the phrase, "with a rod of iron," is, that the dominion would be strong or irresistible—as an iron sceptre is one that cannot be broken or resisted. The thoughts here expressed, therefore, are

(a) that the church would become universal—or that the principles of truth and righteousness would prevail everywhere on the earth;

(b) that the ascendency of religion over the understandings and consciences of men would be irresistible—as firm as a government administered under a sceptre of iron; yet

(c) that it would be rather of a character of protection than of force or violence, like the sway which a shepherd wields over his flock. I understand the "man child" here, therefore, to refer to the church in its increase under the Messiah, and the idea to be, that church was, at the time referred to, about to be enlarged, and that, though its increase was opposed, yet it was destined ultimately to assert a mild sway over all the world. The time here referred to would seem to be some period in the early history of the church when religion was likely to be rapidly propagated, and when it was opposed and retarded by violent persecution—perhaps the last of the persecutions under the Pagan Roman empire.

And her child was caught up unto God. This is evidently a symbolical representation. Some event was to occur, or some Divine interposition was to take place, as if the child thus born were caught up from the earth to save it from death, and was rendered secure by being in the presence of God, and near his throne. It cannot be supposed that anything like this would literally occur. Any Divine interposition to protect the church in its increase, or to save it from being destroyed by the dragon—the fierce Pagan power—would be properly represented by this. Why may we not suppose the reference to be to the time of Constantine, when the church came under his protection; when it was effectually and finally saved from Pagan persecution; when it was rendered safe from the enemy that waited to destroy it? On the supposition that this refers to an increasing but endangered church, in whose defence a civil power was raised up, exalting Christianity to the throne, and protecting it from danger, this would be well represented by the child caught up to heaven. This view may derive confirmation from some well-known facts in history. The old Pagan power was concentrated in Maximin, who was emperor from the Nile to the Bosphorus, and who raged against the gospel and the church "with Satanic enmity." "Infuriate at the now imminent prospect of the Christian body attaining establishment in the empire, Maximin renewed the persecution against Christians within the limits of his own dominion; prohibiting their assemblies, and degrading and even killing their bishops." Compare Gibbon, i. 325, 326. The last struggle of Pagan Rome to destroy the church by persecution, before the triumph of Constantine, and the public establishment of the Christian religion, might be well represented by the attempt of the dragon to destroy the child; and the safety of the church, and its complete deliverance from Pagan persecution, by the symbol of a child caught up to heaven, and placed near the throne of God. The persecution under Maximin was the last struggle of Paganism to retain the supremacy, and to crash Christianity in the empire. "Before the decisive battle," says Milner, "Maximin vowed to Jupiter that, if victorious, he would abolish the Christian name. The contest between Jehovah and Jupiter was now at its height, and drawing to a crisis:" The result was the defeat and death of Maximin, and the termination of the efforts of Paganism to destroy Christianity by force. Respecting this event, Mr. Gibbon remarks, "The defeat and death of Maximin soon delivered the church from the last and most implacable of her enemies," i. 326. Christianity was, after that, rendered safe from Pagan persecution. Mr. Gibbon says, "The gratitude of the church has exalted the virtues of the generous patron who seated Christianity on the throne of the Roman world." If, however, it should be regarded as a forced and fanciful interpretation to suppose that the passage before us refers to this specific event, yet the general circumstances of the times would furnish a fulfilment of what is here said.

(a) The church would be well represented by the beautiful woman.

(b) The prospect of its increase and universal dominion would be well represented by the birth of the child.

(c) The furious opposing Pagan power would be well represented by the dragon in its attempts to destroy the child.

(d) The safety of the church would be well represented by the symbol of the child caught up to God, and placed near his throne.

{a} "she" Isa 7:14

{b} "who" Ps 2:9


Verse 6. And the woman. The woman representing the church. See Barnes on "Re 12:1".

Fled. That is, she fled in the manner, and at the time, stated in Re 12:14. John here evidently anticipates, by a summary statement, what he relates more in detail in Re 12:14-17. He had referred (Re 12:2-5) to what occurred to the child in its persecutions, and he here alludes, in general, to what befell the true church as compelled to flee into obscurity and safety. Having briefly referred to this, the writer (Re 12:7-13) gives an account of the efforts of Satan consequent on the removal of the child to heaven.

Into the wilderness. On the meaning of the word wilderness in the New Testament, see Barnes "Mt 3:1".

It means a desert place, a place where there are few or no inhabitants; a place, therefore, where one might be concealed and unknown—remote from the habitations and the observation of men. This would well represent the fact that the true church became for a time obscure and unknown—as if it had fled away from the habitations of men, and had retired to the solitude and loneliness of a desert. Yet even there (Re 12:14,16) it would be mysteriously nourished, though seemingly driven out into wastes and solitudes, and having its abode among the rocks and sands of a desert.

Where she hath a place prepared of God. A place where she might be safe, and might be kept alive. The meaning is, that during that time, the true church, though obscure and almost unknown, would be the object of the Divine protection and care—a beautiful representation of the church during the corruptions of the Papacy and the darkness of the middle ages.

That they should feed her. That they should nourish or sustain her—trefwsin—to wit, as specified in Re 12:14,16. Those who were to do this, represented by the word "they," are not particularly mentioned, and the simple idea is that she would be nourished during that time. That is, stripped of the figure, the church during that time would find true friends, and would be kept alive. It is hardly necessary to say that this has, in fact, occurred in the darkest periods of the history of the church.

A thousand two hundred and threescore days. That is, regarding these as prophetic days, in which a day denotes a year, twelve hundred and sixty years. The same period evidently is referred to in Re 12:14, in the words "for a time, and times, and half a time." And the same period is undoubtedly referred to in Da 7:25: "And they shall be given into his hand until a time, and times, and the dividing of time." For a full consideration of the meaning of this language, and its application to the Papacy, see Barnes "Da 7:25".

The full investigation there made of the meaning and application of the language renders its consideration here unnecessary. I regard it here, as I do there, as referring to the proper continuance of the Papal power, during which the true church would remain in comparative obscurity, as if driven into a desert. Compare Barnes on "Re 11:2".

The meaning here is, that during that period the true church would not become wholly extinct. It would have an existence upon the earth, but its final triumph would be reserved for the time when this great enemy should be finally overthrown. Compare Barnes on "Re 12:14-17".

{c} "feed her there" Re 11:3


Verse 7. And there was war in heaven. There was a state of things existing in regard to the woman and the child—the church in the condition in which it would then be—which would be well represented by a war in heaven; that is, by a conflict between the powers of good and evil, of light and darkness. Of course, it is not necessary to under stand this literally, any more than the other symbolical representations in the book. All that is meant is, that a vision passed before the mind of John as if there was a conflict, in regard to the church, between the angels in heaven and Satan. There is a vision of the persecuted church—of the woman fleeing into the desert— and the course of the narrative is here interrupted by going back (Re 12:7-13) to describe the conflict which led to this result, and the fact that Satan, as it were cast out of heaven, and unable to achieve a victory there, was suffered to vent his malice against the church on earth. The seat of this warfare is said to be heaven. This language sometimes refers to heaven as it appears to us—the sky—the upper regions of the atmosphere, and some have supposed that was the place of the contest. But the language in Re 11:19; 12:1, see Barnes "Re 11:19" See Barnes "Re 12:1, would rather lead us to refer it to heaven considered as lying beyond the sky. This accords, too, with other representations in the Bible, where Satan is described as appearing before God, and among the sons of God. Of course, this is not to be understood as a real transaction, but as a symbolical representation of the contest between good and evil—as if there was a war waged in heaven between Satan and the leader of the heavenly hosts.

Michael. There have been very various opinions as to who Michael is. Many Protestant interpreters have supposed that Christ is meant. The reasons usually alleged for this opinion, many of which are very fanciful, may be seen in Hengstenberg, (Die Offenbarung des heiliges Johannes,) i. 611-622. The reference to Michael here is probably derived from Da 10:13; 12:1. In those places he is represented as the guardian angel of the people of God, and it is in this sense, I apprehend, that the passage is to be understood here. There is no evidence in the name itself, or in the circumstances referred to, that Christ is intended; and if he had been, it is inconceivable why he was not referred to by his own name, of by some of the usual appellations which John gives him. Michael, the archangel, is here represented as the guardian of the church, and as contending against Satan for its protection. Compare See Barnes "Da 10:13".

This representation accords with the usual statements in the Bible respecting the interposition of the angels in behalf of the church, (see Barnes "Heb 1:14") and is one which cannot be proved to be unfounded. All the analogies which throw any light on the subject, as well as the uniform statements of the Bible, lead us to suppose that good beings of other worlds feel an interest in the welfare of the redeemed church below.

And his angels. The angels under him. Michael is represented as the archangel, and all the statements in the Bible suppose that the heavenly hosts are distributed into different ranks and orders. See Barnes on "Jude 1:9; Eph 1:21".

If Satan is permitted to make war against the church, there is no improbability in supposing that, in those higher regions where the war is carried on, and in those aspects of it which lie beyond the power and the knowledge of man, good angels should be employed to defeat his plans.

Fought. See Barnes "Jude 1:9".

Against the dragon. Against Satan. See Barnes "Re 12:3".

And the dragon fought and his angels. That is, the master-spirit— Satan, and those under him. See Barnes on "Mt 4:1".

Of the nature of this warfare, nothing is definitely stated. Its whole sphere lies beyond mortal vision, and is carried on in a manner of which we can have little conception. What weapons Satan may use to destroy the church, and in what way his efforts may be counteracted by holy angels, are points on which we can have little knowledge. It is sufficient to know that the fact of such a struggle is not improbable, and that Satan is successfully resisted by the leader of the heavenly host.


Verse 8. And prevailed not. Satan and his angels failed in their purpose.

Neither was their place found any more in heaven. They were cast out, and were seen there no more. The idea is, that they were defeated and driven away, though for a time they were suffered to carry on the warfare elsewhere.


Verse 9. And the great dragon was cast out. See Barnes on "Re 12:3".

That there may be an allusion in the language here to what actually occurred in some far-distant period of the past, when Satan was ejected from heaven, there can be no reason to doubt. Our Saviour seems to refer to such an event in the language which he uses when he says, (Lu 10:18,) "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven;" and Jude, perhaps, (Jude 6) may refer to the same event. All that we know on the subject leads us to suppose that at some time there was a revolt among the angels, and that the rebellious part were cast out of heaven, for an allusion to this is not unfrequent in the Scriptures. Still the event here referred to is a symbolical representation of what would occur at a later period, when the church would be about to spread and be triumphant, and when Satan would wage a deadly war against it. That opposition would be as if he made war on Michael the archangel, and the heavenly hosts, and his failure would be as great as if he were vanquished and cast out of heaven.

That old serpent. This doubtless refers to the serpent that deceived Eve, (Ge 3:1-11; Re 20:2; compare Barnes on "2 Co 11:3") and this passage may be adduced as a proof that the real tempter of Eve was the devil, who assumed the form of a serpent. The word old here refers to the fact that his appearance on earth was at an early stage of the world's history, and that he had long been employed in the work which is here attributed to him—that of opposing the church.

Called the Devil. To whom the name Devil is given. That is, this is the same being that is elsewhere and commonly known by that name. See Barnes on "Mt 4:1".

And Satan. Another name given to the same being; a name, like the other, designed to refer to something in his character. See it explained in Barnes on "Job 1:6".

Which deceiveth the whole world. Whose character is that of a deceiver; whose agency extends over all the earth. See Barnes on "Joh 8:44; 1 Jo 5:19".

He was cast out into the earth. That is, he was not suffered to pursue his designs in heaven, but was cast down to the earth, where he is permitted for a time to carry on his warfare against the church. According to the interpretation proposed above, this refers to the period when there were indications that God was about to set up his kingdom on the earth. The language, however, is such as would be used on the supposition that there had been, at some period, a rebellion in heaven, and that Satan and his followers had been cast out to return there no more. It is difficult to explain this language except on that supposition; and such a supposition is, in itself, no more improbable than the apostasy and rebellion of man.

And his angels were cast out with him. They shared the lot of their leader. As applicable to the state of things to which this refers, the meaning is, that all were overthrown; that no enemy of the church would remain unsubdued; that the victory would be final and complete. As applicable to the event from which the language is supposed to have been derived—the revolt in heaven—the meaning is, that the followers in the revolt shared the lot of the leader, and that all who rebelled were ejected from heaven. The first and the only revolt in heaven was quelled; and the result furnished to the universe an impressive proof that none who rebelled there would be forgiven—that apostasy so near the throne could not be pardoned.

{a} "serpent" Ge 3:1,4

{b} "Devil" Joh 8:44

{c} "Satan" Zec 3:1


Verse 10. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven. The great enemy was expelled; the cause of God and truth was triumphant; and the conquering hosts united in celebrating the victor. This representation of a song, consequent on victory, is in accordance with the visual representations in the Bible. See the song of Moses at the Red Sea, Ex 15:1; the song of Deborah, Jud 5:1; the song of David when the Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, 2 Sa 22:1; and Isaiah 12-25. On no occasion could such a song be more appropriate than on the complete routing and discomfiture of Satan and his rebellious hosts. Viewed in reference to the time here symbolized, this would relate to the certain triumph of the church and of truth on the earth; in reference to the language, there is an allusion to the joy and triumph of the heavenly hosts when Satan and his apostate legions were expelled.

Now is come salvation. That is, complete deliverance from the power of Satan.

And strength. That is, now is the mighty power of God manifested in casting down and subduing the great enemy of the church.

And the kingdom of our God. The reign of our God. See Barnes "Mt 3:2".

That is now established among men, and God will henceforward rule. This refers to the certain ultimate triumph of his cause in the world.

And the power of his Christ. His anointed; that is, the kingdom of Christ as the Messiah, or as anointed and set apart to rule over the world. See Barnes "Mt 1:1".

For the accuser of our brethren is cast down. The phrase "our brethren" shows by whom this song is celebrated. It is sung in heaven; but it is by those who belonged to the redeemed church, and whose brethren were still suffering persecution and trial on the earth. It shows the tenderness of the tie which unites all the redeemed as brethren, whether on earth or in heaven; and it shows the interest which they "who have passed the flood" have in the trials, the sorrows, and the triumphs of those who are still upon the earth. We have here another appellation given to the great enemy —"accuser of the brethren." The word here used—kathgorov, in later editions of the New Testament kathgwr—means properly an accuser; one who blames another, or charges another with crime. The word occurs in Joh 8:10; Ac 23:30,35

Ac 24:8; 25:16,18; Re 12:10, in all which places it is rendered accuser or accusers, though only in the latter place applied to Satan. The verb frequently occurs, Mt 12:10; 27:12; Mr 3:2; 15:3, et al. The description of Satan as an accuser accords with the opinion of the ancient Hebrews in regard to his character. Thus he is represented in Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5; Zec 3:1-2; 1 Ch 21:1.

The phrase "of the brethren" refers to Christians, or to the people of God; and the meaning here is, that one of the characteristics of Satan—a characteristic so well-known as to make it proper to designate him by it—is that he is an accuser of the righteous; that he is employed in bringing against them charges affecting their character and destroying their influence. The propriety of this appellation cannot be doubted. It is, as it has always been, one of the characteristics of Satan—one of the means by which he keeps up his influence in the world—to bring accusations against the people of God. Thus, under his suggestions, and by his agents, they are charged with hypocrisy; with insincerity; with being influenced by bad motives; with pursuing sinister designs under the cloak of religion; with secret vices and crimes. Thus it was that the martyrs were accused; thus it is that unfounded accusations are often brought against ministers of the gospel, palsying their power and diminishing their influence, or that when a professed Christian falls the church is made to suffer by an effort to cast suspicion on all who bear the Christian name. Perhaps the most skilful thing that Satan does, and the thing by which he most contributes to diminish the influence of the church, is in thus causing "accusations" to be brought against the people of God.

Is cast down. The period here referred to was, doubtless, the time when the church was about to be established and to flourish in the world, and when accusations would be brought against Christians by various classes of calumniators and informers. It is well known that in the early ages of Christianity crimes of the most horrid nature were charged on Christians, and that it was by these slanders that the effort was made to prevent the extension of the Christian church.

Which accused them before our God. See Barnes "Job 1:9-10".

The meaning is, that he accused them, as it were, in the very presence of God. Day and night. He never ceased bringing these accusations, and sought by the perseverance and constancy with which they were urged, to convince the world that there was no sincerity in the church, and no reality in religion.

{d} "Now" Re 11:15


Verse 11. And they overcame him. That is, he was foiled in his attempt thus to destroy the church. The reference here, undoubtedly, is primarily to the martyr age, and to the martyr spirit; and the meaning is, that religion had not become extinct by these accusations, as Satan hoped it would be, but lived and triumphed. By their holy lives; by their faithful testimony; by their patient sufferings, they showed that all these accusations were false, and that the religion which they professed was from God, and thus in fact gained a victory over their accuser. Instead of being themselves subdued, Satan himself was vanquished, and the world was constrained to acknowledge that the persecuted religion had a heavenly origin. No design was ever more ineffectual than that of crushing the church by persecution; no victory was ever more signal than that which was gained when it could be said that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."

By the blood of the Lamb. The Lord Jesus—the Lamb of God. See Barnes "Re 5:6" compare See Barnes "Joh 1:29".

The blood of Christ was that by which they were redeemed, and it was in virtue of the efficacy of the atonement that they were enabled to achieve the victory. Compare See Barnes "Php 4:13".

Christ himself achieved a victory over Satan by his death, (See Barnes "Col 2:15" See Barnes "Heb 2:15,) and it is in virtue of the victory which he thus achieved that we are now able to triumph over our great foe.

"I ask them whence their victory came;
They, with united breath,
Ascribe their conquest to the Lamb,
Their triumph to his death."

And by the word of their testimony. The faithful testimony which they bore to the truth. That is, they adhered to the truth in their sufferings; they declared their belief in it, even in the pains of martyrdom, and it was by this that they overcame the great enemy; that is, by this that the belief in the gospel was established and maintained in the world. The reference here is to the effects of persecution, and to the efforts of Satan to drive religion from the world by persecution. John says that the result, as he saw it in vision, was that the persecuted church bore a faithfull testimony to the truth, and that the great enemy was overcome.

And they loved not their lives unto the death. They did not so love their lives that they were unwilling to die as martyrs. They did not shrink back when threatened with death, but remained firm in their attachment to their Saviour, and left their dying testimony to the truth and power of religion. It was by these means that Christianity was established in the world, and John, in the scene before us, saw it thus triumphant, and saw the angels and the redeemed in heaven celebrating the triumph. The result of the attempts to destroy the Christian religion by persecution demonstrated that it was to triumph. No more mighty power could be employed to crush it than was employed by the Roman emperors; and when it was seen that Christianity could survive those efforts to crush it, it was certain that it was destined to live for ever.

{a} "overcame him" Ro 8:33,37

{b} "lives" Lu 14:26


Verse 12. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens. It is not unusual in the Scriptures to call on the heavens and the earth to sympathize with the events that occur. Compare See Barnes "Isa 1:2".

Here the heavens are called on to rejoice because of the signal victory which it was seen would be achieved over the great enemy. Heaven itself was secure from any further rebellion or invasion, and the foundation was laid for a final victory over Satan everywhere.

And ye that dwell in them. The angels and the redeemed. This is an instance of the sympathy of the heavenly inhabitants—the unfallen and holy beings before the throne—with the church on earth, and with all that may affect its welfare. Compare See Barnes "1 Pe 1:12".

Woe to the inhabiters of the earth. This is not an imprecation, or a wish that woe might come upon them, but a prediction that it would. The meaning is this: Satan would ultimately be entirely overcome—a fact that was symbolized by his being cast out of heaven; but there would be still temporary war upon the earth, as if he were permitted to roam over the world for a time, and to spread woe and sorrow there.

And of the sea. Those who inhabit the islands of the sea, and those who are engaged in commerce. The meaning is, that the world as such would have occasion to mourn—the dwellers both on the land and on the sea.

For the devil is come down unto you. As if cast out of heaven.

Having great wrath. Wrath shown by the symbolical war with Michael and his angels, (Re 12:7;) wrath increased and inflamed because he has been discomfited; wrath the more concentrated because he knows that his time is limited.

Because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. That is, he knows that the time is limited in which he will be permitted to wage war with the saints on the earth. There is allusion elsewhere to the fact that the time of Satan is limited, and that he is apprised of that. Thus in Mt 8:29, "Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" See Barnes on "Mt 8:29".

Within that limited space, Satan knows that he must do all that he ever can do to destroy souls, and to spread woe through the earth, and hence it is not unnatural that he should be represented as excited to deeper wrath, and as rousing all his energy to destroy the church.

{c} "Therefore rejoice" Ps 96:11; Isa 49:13

{d} "Woe" Re 8:13

{e} "because he knoweth" Re 10:6


Verse 13. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth. That is, when Satan saw that he was doomed to discomfiture and overthrow, as if he had been cast out of heaven; when he saw that his efforts must be confined to the earth, and that only for a limited time, he "persecuted the woman," and was more violently enraged against the church on earth.

He persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. See Barnes on "Re 12:5".

The child is represented as safe; that is, the ultimate progress and extension of the church was certain, But Satan was permitted still to wage a warfare against the church— represented here by his wrath against the woman, and by her being constrained to flee into the wilderness. It is unnecessary to say that, after the Pagan persecutions ceased, and Christianity was firmly established in the empire; after Satan saw that all hope of destroying the church in that manner was at an end, his enmity was vented in another form—in the rise of the Papacy, and in the persecutions under that—in opposition to spiritual religion no less determined and deadly than that which had been waged by Paganism.


Verse 14. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle. The most powerful of birds, and among the most rapid in flight. See Barnes on "Re 4:7".

The meaning here is, that the woman is represented as prepared for a rapid flight; so prepared as to be able to outstrip her pursuer, and to reach a place of safety. Divested of the figure, the sense is, that the church, when exposed to this form of persecution, would be protected as if miraculously supplied with wings.

That she might fly into the wilderness. There is here a more full description of what is briefly stated in Re 12:6. A wilderness or desert is often represented as a place of safety from pursuers. Thus David (1 Sa 23:14-15) is represented as fleeing into the wilderness from the persecutions of Saul. So Elijah (1 Ki 19:4) fled into the wilderness from the persecutions of Jezebel. The simple idea here is, that the church, in the opposition which would come upon it, would find a refuge.

Into her place. A place appointed for her; that is, a place where she could be safe.

Where she is nourished. The word here rendered nourished is the same—trefw—which occurs in Re 12:6, and which is there rendered feed. It means to feed, nurse, or nourish, as the young of animals, (Mt 6:26; 25:37; Lu 12:24; Ac 12:20; ) that is, to sustain by proper food. The meaning here is, that the church would be kept alive. It is not indeed mentioned by whom this would be done, but it is evidently implied that it would be by God. During this long period in which the church would be in obscurity, it would not be suffered to become extinct. Compare 1 Ki 17:3-6.

For a time, and times, and half a time. A year, two years, and half a year; that is, forty-two months, (See Barnes on "Re 11:2") or, reckoning the month at thirty days, twelve hundred and sixty days; and regarding these as prophetic days, in which a day stands for a year, twelve hundred and sixty years. For a full discussion of the meaning of this language, see Barnes "Da 7:25".

It is manifest that there is an allusion here to the passage in Da 7:25 that the twelve hundred and sixty days refer to the same thing; and that the true explanation must be made in the same way. The meaning of the passage before us is, that during all the time of the continuance of that formidable, persecuting power, (the papacy) the true church would not in fact become extinct. It would be obscure and comparatively unknown, but it would still live. The fulfilment of this is found in the fact that during all the time here referred to, there has been a true church on the earth. Pure, spiritual religion—the religion of the New Testament—has never been wholly extinct. In the history of the Waldenses, and Albigenses, the Bohemian brethren, and kindred people; in deserts and places of obscurity; among individuals and among small and persecuted sects; here and there in the cases of individuals in monasteries, (All affecting instance of this kind—perhaps one of many cases that existed—is mentioned by D'Aubigne.) (B. 1. p. 79, Eng. Trans.,) which came to light on the pulling down, in the year 1776, of an old building that had formed a part of the Carthusian convent at Basle. A poor Carthusian brother, by the name of Martin, had written the following confession, which he had placed in a wooden box, and enclosed in a hole which he had made in the wall of his cell, where it was found:—"O most merciful God, I know that I can only be saved, and satisfy thy righteousness by the merit, the innocent suffering and death of thy well-beloved Son. Holy Jesus! my salvation is in thy hands. Thou canst not withdraw the hands of thy love from me: for they have created and redeemed me. Thou hast inscribed my name with a pen of iron in rich mercy, and so as nothing can efface it, on thy side, thy hands, and thy feet," etc. the true religion has been kept up in the world, as in the days of Elijah God reserved seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal: and it is possible now for us, with a good degree of certainty, to show, even during the darkest ages, and when Rome seemed to have entirely the ascendency, where the true church was. To find out this, was the great design of the Ecclesiastical History of Milner; it has been done, also, with great learning and skill, by Neander. From the face of the serpent. The dragon—or Satan represented by the dragon. See Barnes on "Re 12:3".

The reference here is to the opposition which Satan makes to the true church under the persecutions and corruptions of the Papacy.

{f} "two wings" Isa 40:31


Verse 15. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood. This is peculiar and uncommon imagery, and it is not necessary to suppose that anything like this literally occurs in nature. Some serpents are indeed said to eject from their mouths poisonous bile when they are enraged, in order to annoy their pursuers; and some sea-monsters, it is known, spout forth large quantities of water; but the representation here does not seem to be taken from either of those cases. It is the mere product of the imagination, but the sense is clear. The woman is represented as having wings, and as being able thus to escape from the serpent. But, as an expression of his wrath, and as if with the hope of destroying her in her flight by a deluge of water, he is represented as pouring a flood from his mouth, that he might, if possible, sweep her away. The figure here would well represent the continued malice of the Papal body against the true church, in those dark ages when it was sunk in obscurity, and, as it were, driven out into the desert. That malice never slumbered, but was continually manifesting itself in some new form, as if it were the purpose of Papal Rome to sweep it entirely away.

That he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. Might cause the church wholly to be destroyed. The truth taught is, that Satan leaves no effort untried to destroy the church.

{a} "flood" Isa 59:19


Verse 16. And the earth helped the woman. The earth seemed to sympathize with the woman in her persecutions, and to interpose to save her. The meaning is, that a state of things would exist in regard to the church thus driven into obscurity, which would be well represented by what is here said to occur. It was cut off from human aid. It was still in danger; still persecuted. In this state, it was nourished from some unseen source. It was enabled to avoid the direct attacks of the enemy, and when he attacked it in a new form, a new mode of intervention in its behalf was granted, as if the earth should open and swallow up a flood of water. We are not, therefore, to look for any literal fulfilment of this, as if the earth interposed in some marvellous way to aid the church. The sense is, that, in that state of obscurity and solitude, the Divine interposition was manifested, in an unexpected manner, as if when an impetuous stream was rolling along that threatened to sweep everything away, a chasm should suddenly open in the earth and absorb it. During the dark ages, many such interventions occurred, saving the church from utter destruction. Over-flowing waters are often in the Scriptures an emblem of mighty enemies. Ps 124:2-5, "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us; then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul: then the proud waters had gone over our soul." Ps 18:16, "He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters." Jer 47:2, "Behold, waters rise up out of the north, and shall be an overflowing flood, and shall overflow the land," etc. Compare Jer 46:7-8. See Barnes on "Isa 8:7-8".

And the earth opened her mouth. A chasm was made sufficient to absorb the waters. That is, John saw that the church was safe from this attack, and that, in order to preserve it, there was an interposition as marked and wonderful as if the earth should suddenly open and swallow up a mighty flood.


Verse 17. And the dragon was wroth with the woman. This wrath had been vented by his persecuting her, (Re 12:13;) by his pursuing her; and by his pouring out the flood of water to sweep her away, (Re 12:15,) and the same wrath was now vented against her children. As he could not reach and destroy the woman herself, he turned his indignation against all who were allied to her. Stripped of the imagery, the meaning is, that as he could not destroy the church as such, he vented his malice against all who were the friends of the church, and endeavoured to destroy them. "The church, as such, he could not destroy; therefore he turned his wrath against individual Christians, to bring as many of them as possible to death."-De Wette. And went to make war with the remnant of her seed. No mention is made before of his persecuting the children of the woman except his opposition to the "man child," which she bore, Re 12:1-4. The "woman" represents the church, and the phrase "the remnant of her seed" must refer to her scattered children, that is, to the scattered members of the church, wherever they could be found. The reference here is to persecutions against individuals, rather than a general persecution against the church itself, and all that is here said would find an ample fulfilment in the vexations and troubles of individuals in the Roman communion in the dark ages, when they evinced the spirit of pure, evangelical piety; in the cruelties practised in the Inquisition on individual Christians under the plea that they were heretics; and in the persecutions of such men as Wycliffe, John Huss, and Jerome of Prague. This warfare against individual Christians was continued long in the Papal church, and tens of thousands of true friends of the Saviour suffered every form of cruelty and wrong as the result.

Which keep the commandments of God. Who were true Christians. This phrase characterizes correctly those who, in the dark ages, were the friends of God, in the midst of abounding corruption.

And have the testimony of Jesus Christ. That is, they bore a faithful testimony to his truth, or were real martyrs. See Re 2:13.

The scene, then, in this chapter is this: John saw a most beautiful woman, suitably adorned, representing the church as about to be enlarged, and to become triumphant in the earth. Then he saw a great red monster, representing Satan, about to destroy the church: the Pagan power, infuriated, and putting forth its utmost energy for its destruction. He then saw the child caught up into heaven, denoting that the church would be ultimately safe, and would reign over all the world. Another vision appears. It is that of a contest between Michael, the protecting angel of the people of God, and the great foe, in which victory declares in favour of the former, and Satan suffers a discomfiture, as if he were cast from heaven to earth. Still, however, he is permitted for a time to carry on a warfare against the church, though certain that he would be ultimately defeated. He puts forth his power, and manifests his hostility, in another form— that of the Papacy—and commences a new opposition against the spiritual church of Christ. The church is, however, safe from that attempt to destroy it, for the woman is represented as fleeing to the wilderness beyond the power of the enemy, and is there kept alive. Still filled with rage, though incapable of destroying the true church itself, he turns his wrath, under the form of Papal persecutions against individual Christians, and endeavours to cut them off in detail.

This is the general representation in this chapter, and on the supposition that it was designed to represent the various forms of opposition which Satan would make to the church of Christ, under Paganism and the Papacy, it must be admitted, I think, that no more expressive or appropriate symbols could have been chosen. This fact should be allowed to have due influence in confirming the interpretation suggested above; and if it be admitted to be a correct interpretation, it is conclusive evidence of the inspiration of the book. Further details of this opposition of Satan to the church under the Papal form of persecution are made in the subsequent chapters.

{b} "woman" Ge 3:15

Subscribe to RPM
RPM subscribers receive an email notification each time a new issue is published. Notifications include the title, author, and description of each article in the issue, as well as links directly to the articles. Like RPM itself, subscriptions are free. Click here to subscribe.