The Seven Thunders, or Seven Sealed Divine Voices; the mystery of mysteries, as mediatory of the end of the world
Rev_10:1 to Rev_11:14
(Transition to Part Second)
A.—VEILED HEAVEN-PICTURE OF THE SEVEN THUNDERS
a. The Angel of the Time of the End
1And I saw another1 mighty [strong] angel come down [descending] from [out of] heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a [the2] rainbow was [om. was] upon his head, and his face was [om. was] as it were [om. it were] the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: 2and he had [having3] in his hand a little book [scroll] open [opened]: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his [the] left foot [om. foot] on [upon] the earth, 3and cried with a loud [great] voice, as when [om. when] a lion roareth: and when he had [om. had] cried, [ins. the] seven thunders uttered [spake] their voices.
b. The seven Thunders as mysterious Mediations of the Time of the End
4And when4 the seven thunders had [om. had] uttered [spake] their voices [om. their voices],5 I was about to write: and I heard a voice from [out of—ins. the] heaven saying unto me [om. unto me],6 Seal up [om. up] those [the] things which the seven thunders uttered [spake], and write them not. 5And the angel which [that] I saw stand [standing] upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his [ins. right7] hand to [ins. the] heaven, 6And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever [into the ages of the ages], who created [ins. the] heaven, and the things [ins. in it] that therein are [om. that therein are], and the earth, and the things [ins. in it] that therein are [om. that therein are], and the sea,8 and the things [ins. in it] which are therein [om. which are therein], that there should be [om. there should be] time 7[
] [ins. shall be] no longer [or not yet (
)]: But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin [should be about] to sound [trumpet], [ins. is also finished] the mystery of God should be finished [om. should fee finished], as he hath [om. hath] declared [ins. the glad tidings (
)] to his servants the prophets.
c. Second, new Calling of the Seer, in order to the symbolical Preparation and symbolical Annunciation of the Time of the End
8And the voice which I heard from [ins. the] heaven [ins. I heard] spake [speaking9] unto [with] me again, and said [saying9], Go and [om. and] take the little book [scroll] which is open [opened (
)] in the hand of the angel which [that] standeth upon the sea and upon the earth. 9And I went [ins. away] unto the angel, and [om. and] said unto [saying to or telling] him, [om.—ins. to] give10 me the little book [scroll]. And he said [saith] unto me, Take it, [om. it,] and eat it up; and it shall make [om. make—ins. embitter] thy belly bitter [om. bitter], but [ins.in thy mouth] it shall be in thy mouth [om. in thy mouth] sweet as honey. 10And I took the little book [scroll] out of the angel’s [om. angel’s ] hand [ins. of the angel], and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet [om. sweet] as honey [ins. sweet]: and as soon as [when] I had eaten it, my belly was bitter [embittered11]. 11And he said [they say]12 unto me, Thou must prophesy again before [or concerning13] many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The picture of the prevailing impenitence of the generality of men, or of the ruling world as a whole, leads (as in Mat_24:37) to the announcement of the end of the world itself. The end of the world is brought on, however, not simply by the development of human corruption into a readiness for judgment, but, rather, by the development of the Kingdom of God over against man’s corruption, and, most of all, by the development of the conflict between the two.
It was to be expected that the Apocalypse would contain a revelation of the history of the Kingdom of God, its development, advances and reforms. And this revelation Was made to the Seer in the voices of the seven Thunders. But the Prophet was commanded to seal those voices; he was forbidden to write them. This trait is, unmistakably, a special sign of the Divine origin of our Book; no imitator, no apocryphal apocalyptist would have thought, of this holy silence, and still less would he have consented to observe it.
The fact that the Thunder-voices betoken a new revelation, an advance of the Kingdom of God, and, relatively, a reform, is proved by the thunders of Sinai; by the thunder which heralded God’s answer to Job (Job_37:2); the description of Israel’s redemption amid thunder and lightning in the prophecy of Zechariah (Rev_9:14); the voice of thunder over Christ as He prayed in the Temple (Joh_12:28)—the voice which said: I have glorified My name, and will glorify it. A reference to the charismatical element, in the name of the Sons of Thunder, is also appropriate here. [See foot-note ‡, p. 52.—E. R. C.]
Now why was the unfolding of this bright side of the Kingdom of God, the succession of seven holy reforms, not written? Schleiermacher regrets the omission of a revelation of this-sort. The Spirit of revelation wisely withheld it. The Seer might hear the seven Thunders; but the writing of them might have been prejudicial to the free development of New Testament times. The example of the gross misinterpretations of Old Testament prophecy lay at the door. Moreover, this was not to be a section of prophecies, in the more general sense of the term, but a closed [geschlossen] Apocalypse. Yet the Seer was permitted to communicate a few features, in exoteric form, which fill up this space.
The Heaven-picture of this cosmical and ecclesiastic history of the seven Thunders is opened by the appearance of a strong Angel, Who descends from Heaven clothed with a cloud—the rainbow above His head. These attributes strongly resemble the picture of Christ at His coming, as elsewhere portrayed (Rev_1:15; Dan_10:6); the last terms—His face as the sun, and His feet as pillars of fire—being particularly suggestive of the appearance of Christ in the first chapter. We may, therefore, say that the same relation which is sustained by the Angel of the Lord, in the Old Testament, to the first Parousia of Christ, is borne by this Angel to His second Parousia. It is the manifestation of the New Testament figure of Christ in the foretokens of His power. This Angel, in the might and victorious confidence of His appearance, reminds us of the Archangel Michael; as the author of the seven Thunders or reformations, He suggests the dispensation of the Holy Ghost. There is also a close connection between the seven Spirit-forms of the Holy Ghost (Isaiah 11.; Revelation 1.), and the seven revelation-forms of Christ in archangelic shapes (1Th_4:16). Christ’s reformatory breaches through the old form of the world are, in their personal features, conflicts and victories of the Archangel Michael (Rev_12:7); in respect of their ideal effects of Divine origin, they are Pentecostal seasons of the diffusion of the Holy Ghost.
But as this strong Angel is related to the approaching end of the world, so also is the little book in His hand thereunto related. Three books are associated in the Apocalypse. The first is the book of the course of the world, in its relation to the end of the world (Rev_5:1). The last is the book of life, as the book of God’s Church which is to be perfected at the end of the world (Rev_20:15; Rev_21:27). Between these two, comes the book of the world’s end, the revelation of the events of the approaching end of the world. The first book was closed with seven Seals; this book, on the other hand—a little book, because the last things shall come in the quick succession of a catastrophe and epoch—is unrolled, opened. Relatively it is reflected in the everlasting Gospel (Rev_14:6), the Gospel as the glad tidings of the final
with which a blissful eternity begins—in contradistinction to the Gospel of Salvation in the midst of time. For the tidings of the last day are to believers a Gospel themselves; not, indeed, really another one (
, Gal_1:6), but the final metamorphosis and glorification or spiritualization of the first Gospel, Luk_21:28.
The Angel sets his right foot upon the sea, and his left upon the land. The right one on the sea, for it is from the sea, from surging, popular life, that the last and mightiest crises arise, Revelation 13. That Antichristianity which is from the earth will be a secondary affair.
The setting of His feet on the sea and on the land denotes, not simply and in general His power over the whole earth, but also, particularly, His power over the two opposite fundamental forms of its spiritual life—earth and sea; theocracy and world.
His cry is a great one; His voice as that of a lion. The lion, from of old, is significant of the warlike and victorious epochs or transruptions of the Kingdom of God in the history of the world, Gen_49:9. When Satan goes about as a roaring lion, he does but imitate the voice of the true Lion. He gives utterance to a lie as to his power and as to his courage. The lion-voice of the triumphant Christ then seems immediately to branch out into the seven Thunders of His reformatory witnesses. The fact that these Thunders are, in the most special degree, mediatory of the end of the world, is evident from all that follows; why their voices, their ideal revelations were not written, we have seen above. Here a very special sealing takes place, for reformers must walk by faith, not by sight. The result, however, is summed up by the Angel in His dread oath concerning the imminent end of the world. A more powerful expression of the assurance of the Divine Spirit, the confidence of prophetic faith, in regard to the approaching end, could, we venture to assert, scarcely be conceived of. The right hand of the Angel is lifted toward Heaven. The oath is an oath by Him Who liveth from eternity to eternity, and Who, as the Creator of all things, defines the measure and limit of all creaturely vital movements toward the end. Mar_13:32. There shall be no more time (
[Zeitfrist=respite]); from the term defined by the Angel, i. e., from the opening of the seventh Trumpet, the
, the catastrophe of the end of the world shall begin. They are days, numbered days—the times of the voice of the seventh trumpet. In those days, the mystery of God, the specific mystery of the Father (Mark 13), shall be fully accomplished.
The fact that the time of the seven Thunders forms the transition to the final period of the world, i. e., also to the Second Part of the Apocalypse, is evident from the circumstance that the section of the seven Thunders can be inserted between the sixth and seventh Trumpets, whilst a complete and minute survey of the section leads to the expectation that the Antichristian time must follow directly upon the seventh Thunder. Another proof that a general turn in affairs now takes place, is involved in the fact that the same voice from Heaven that spoke to the Seer in Rev_10:4, as well as at the beginning (Revelation 1), now commands him to take the little book out of the hand of the Angel. The Angel gives him the book, directing him, at the same time, to eat it (comp. Eze_3:2), and telling him that it will cause him bitter pain in his belly, but will in his mouth be sweet as honey. The Seer forthwith experiences the truth of the Angel’s words.
Apocalyptic things have a wondrous charm. To the honey-like sweetness of the little book in the mouth, that enormous mass of literature testifies, which is engaged in the eating of it. But whoever has, with some degree of understanding, appropriated the little book, is greatly pained within him by its startling perspectives and images. A termination is then put to all idyllic conceptions of the future and the end of the world.
But by the eating of the book the Seer is doubly as much a Prophet as before. As he has prophesied concerning the course of the world, down to its end, so he must now prophesy of the end itself, in the course of the world, in accordance with the words: Thou must prophesy again, concerning many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings. The universal peoples’ life is now to form the foreground of his prophecy. By way of preliminary, however, an Earth-picture is annexed to this commission, in which the general effect of the seven Thunders is reflected. That is, it forms, in its conjunction with the seven Thunders, the transition from the course of the world to the end of the same.
[ABSTRACT OF VIEWS, ETC.]
By the Am. Editor
[Elliott regards the entire section, Rev_9:20—Rev_11:15, as referring to “The Reformation, as occurring under the latter half of the Sixth Trumpet: including the antecedent history, and the death, resurrection, and ascension, of Christ’s two sackcloth clothed Witnesses;” the whole period extending from “A. D. 1453–1789.” He interprets Revelation 10 as indicating the beginning of the Reformation—the strong Angel is Christ, His adornment in antithesis to the antichristian claims of the Popedom; the opened little scroll, the opened Bible; the Seer himself the symbol of Luther and the reformed clergy; the sweetness in the mouth, the delight following the personal reception of the opened Gospel; the embittering, the woes following the promulgation before peoples, etc.; the prophesying again, the resumption of evangelical preaching, which had been almost entirely relinquished; the seven Thunders, the Papal bulls; the sealing, the non recognition, publication, and action upon those bulls as of authority. The Angel’s oath he interprets as follows: “There shall be time no longer extended, viz., to the mysterious dispensation of God which has so far permitted the reign of evil, including the power of Papal Rome’s mock thunders; the seventh Trumpet’s era being its fixed determined limit—“For in the days of the seventh angel, when he shall sound, the mystery of God shall be finished.”
Barnes, as to the general interpretation of Revelation 10, agrees with Elliott, save that in reference to the Angel’s oath he adopts the view put forth by the latter in his earlier editions, viz.: “That the time (of the consummation) should not yet be; but in the days, etc.”
Stuart writes: “The impression made on my own mind by Revelation 10. is, that the design of it is to show in an impressive manner that the vision respecting this book with seven Seals (Revelation 5.) is just now at its close, that nothing more remains but the sounding of the seventh and last Trumpet, and that this shall speedily take place,
ïὐêÝôé ÷ñüíïò ἔóôáé
, Rev_10:6. With this seems also to be joined another object, viz., to introduce this final catastrophe with all the solemnity and demonstration of its importance, which the nature of the case seemed to require. The destruction of the Temple and City of God, and also the destruction of the Jewish nation, were events such as cannot often happen, and when they do, it is intended that they shall make a deep impression. The new commission which John receives (Rev_10:11) seems to be a circumstance which obviously contributes to show, that his former vision of the sealed book was now at its close or completed, and that he needed new directions for the further discharge of prophetic duty. The contents of the book are not sealed. He devours them, i. e., he reads them with avidity, in order that he may know what they contained; and then he is told, that he must prophesy again respecting many nations and people, and tongues and kings. Thus, when the last or seventh trumpet shall have sounded, his task will still proceed; while the scene is entirely changed in respect to those whose destiny is predicted.” Concerning the seven Thunders he remarks, “What was declared in the voice of thunder was ominous of the catastrophe near at hand. Entire silence (represented by the sealing) is neither commanded nor observed. … What the seven Thunders most probably declared fully to John, he is restrained from writing down, etc.”
Wordsworth regards the Angel as representing Christ, the items of description setting forth His excellencies; the seven Thunders, as signs of His power and indignation, representing the consummation of God’s judgments; the little scroll as containing a prophetic episode unrolled by Christ; the eating as indicating, that the Seer made it his own; the oath as implying “that there shall be no longer any delay or respite for repentance to the wicked, or postponement of reward to the righteous, save only in the days of the last Angel;” the act of swearing as indicating that on account of the overflow of iniquity, even in the Christian Church, the world would begin to doubt the truth of Christ’s universal sovereignty, and as designed to put an end to such doubts.
Alford regards Rev_10:1 to Rev_11:14, as “episodical and anticipatory.” This section, which relates to things still future, he represents as consisting of two episodic visions, that of the Little Book, and that of the Two Witnesses. In respect of the former, he regards the Angel as an angelic minister of Christ; the symbols with which he is accompanied (those which surrounded the Throne of God in Rev_4:2 sqq.) as betokening “judgment tempered with mercy, the character of his ministration, which, at the same time that it proclaims the near approach of the completion of God’s judgments, furnishes to the Seer the book (little scroll) of his subsequent prophecy, the following out of God’s purposes of mercy.” In his judgment the meaning of the Thunders, whilst they form a complete portion of the Apocalyptic machinery, is not revealed, and is by us undiscoverable. The
of the oath he regards as that of Rev_6:11; the intent of the oath being to declare that the delay there referred to is at an end.
Lord regards the Angel as representing the Ministers of the Reformation; the seven Thunders as denoting violent expressions of thought and passion by those addressed (“one of the first and most violent of these thunder utterances was a false pretence to inspiration, and expression of the persuasion that the period had arrived for the final overthrow of Antichrist and establishment of the Redeemer’s millennial Kingdom”); the solemn oath of the Angel, as a response to these thunder voices, designed to correct their error, denoting the answer by Luther and the reformers, from Scripture, to errorists, showing that the time of the millennial Kingdom was not yet to be; the Seer as symbolizing the reformed Church, to which the ministry extended the open Gospel symbolized by the little scroll; the prophesying as indicating the fulfilling by the members of the Church “the office of witnesses for God in the presence of Antichristian rulers and nations.”
Glasgow.—The period indicated by the vision of Revelation 10 is the beginning of the Gospel age; the Angel is Christ; the voice as a lion roaring is Christ’s commission to preach; the seven Thunders are the voices of the disciples proclaiming the truth; the direction to seal the Thunders indicates that the proclamations of the Church are not inspired and therefore not to be incorporated in the Canon; the oath implies a term and end of the seven Thunders; the opened scroll is the Bible (the revealed Word of God), the reception of which is sweet to the taste, and yet fills the Christian soul with sadness; the declaration “Thou must prophesy, etc.,” announces the communication of the New Testament prophetic gift, to the ministry symbolized by John, and the extension of the prophetic commission as to all people.—E. R. C.]
EXPLANATIONS IN DETAIL
Rev_10:1. This is as little the beginning of an inter-scene as Revelation 7. Some confusions resulting from the misapprehension of those who so regard it, see in Düsterdieck, p. 342. Likewise curious discussions concerning the stand-point of the Seer. If he was transported to Heaven in Rev_4:1, how could he see the Angel come down from Heaven? De Wette has rightly limited that more definite transportation to Heaven to the contemplation of the heavenly Throne-scene. Düsterdieck “retains,” with Ewald, “the heavenly stand-point.” According to this, John must finally have come down to earth with the heavenly Jerusalem. Hengstenberg has remarked, with justice, that there is no question of exclusive localities here. [Alford remarks—“The place of the Seer yet continues in Heaven,” calling attention to the fact that, in Rev_10:9, he is represented as going away (
), i. e., from his former place.—E. R. C.]
Another strong angel.—The other Angel is distinguished as the strong one from the foregoing Angels of the Trumpets. It does not follow from the
that he should be specially distinguished from the
of Rev_5:2 (after Bengel and others). We have called this Angel the angelic image of Christ, preceding His speedy Parousia. This, undoubtedly, is not, in the strictest sense, Christ Himself, as Bede and many others maintain; but neither is the conception of a mere Angel that which is presented in the text (in accordance with Düsterdieck and others). Düsterdieck: “The very style of the oath (Rev_10:6) is inappropriate to Christ.” Bengel remarks, on the other hand: “The Apocalypse makes a distinction throughout between the Father and Christ.”
Clothed with a cloud.—“The cloud characterizes the Angel as a messenger of Divine judgment” (comp. Rev_1:7; Hengstenb., Ebrard [so also Alford]). It has, however, a much more general significance, as is evidenced by the cloud at the Transfiguration and the Ascension. It denotes, in general, the mysterious veiling of the Divine and heavenly glory from the human eye on earth.
[And the rainbow upon his head.—“The (
) well known, ordinary, rainbow; indicating, agreeably with its first origin, God’s covenant of mercy.” Alford.—E. R. C.]
[And his face as the sun.—See chs. Rev_1:16; Rev_18:1. Indicative not merely of His manifested glory, but of His light-giving, life-giving power. The sun in the solar system is the noblest and most glorious symbol of Christ in His relations to the Universe.—E. R. C.]
His feet as pillars of fire.—This feature, also, is interpreted as indicative of judgment, as in Rev_1:15. An antithesis to the rainbow is, doubtless, presented. That, however, is not simply a token of covenant grace in general; it is also a sign or guaranty of a continuing existence of the world until the end. Here too, then, it is a sign that the end of the world has not yet arrived. The sun-like radiance of the face denotes, like the revelation of God itself, both grace and judgment. Düsterdieck very correctly observes that the end of the world embraces both judgment and redemption. Aretius applies the cloud to the incarnation of Christ—Christ’s flesh.
Rev_10:2. In his hand a little scroll.—Bengel: In his left hand, see Rev_10:5. Why a little book [scroll]? See above. Three different expositions are cited by Düsterdieck, p. 346. [Alford: “That (the seven sealed scroll) was the great sealed roll of God’s purposes; this but one portion of those purposes.” Glasgow: “This book applies to the whole contents of the Bible, which, though the greatest of books in character, truth, beauty, and importance, is comparatively a small Book in bulk, and thus adapted for use, translation, circulation, and universal perusal.”—E. R. C.]
Opened.—It is open, as the unrolled conclusion of the book opened by the Lamb.
Sea and earth neither denote simply that the tidings brought by the Angel are for the whole earth (De Wette), nor are they significant merely of power over the whole earth (Ewald); the expression likewise embraces the contrast of sea and earth in their symbolical import. Christianity recognizes the truth and the falsehood on both sides of the contrast—ecclesiastical authority and political national life—and rules, without party-spirit, over both parties.
Interpretations of the antithesis: Bengel: Europe and Asia. Hengstenberg: The sea of peoples and the cultivated world, etc.—All of which Düsterdieck denominates allegorizing.
Rev_10:3. With a great voice.—According to Bengel, the purport of the voice is given in Rev_10:6; according to Düsterdieck, its purport cannot be determined. We regard it as the unitous source of the seven Thunders; hence it is as little definitely intimated as the purport of these. The “threatening character” [Ewald, Düsterd.x] of the cry is interpolated in the description.
The seven thunders.—The symbolical idea of the thunder is presupposed by the Son of Thunder. The number of the Thunders is distinctly stated—seven—being the number of a full cycle (designated by us as the cycle of the Reformations). The article accompanies the expression of this definite totality. The Old Testament type of the Divine manifestation is most distinctly contained in the seven Thunders, Psalms 29.
Different interpretations of the seven Thunders and their purport: Seven roaring heavens; seven Spirits of God; identical with the seven Trumpets; the oracles of the Prophets; the blessed mystery of the new world (Hofmann); curses; the seven crusades; seven future acts of God; terrible judgments on the persecutors of the Church. [For other interpretations see Abstract of Views on pp. 218sq.—E. R. C.]
Rev_10:4. And when the seven thunders spake.—They have, therefore, a verbal purport, as distinct and diverse revelations. “In accordance with the command, Rev_1:11, John was about to write what the thunders had spoken.”
I was about to write,—i. e., he entertained this idea in the vision—an idea, however, which would have been the basis of the future act.
A voice from heaven.—From this also it is evident that the Seer is no longer thinking of himself as in Heaven. He was but momentarily in Heaven, by virtue of a special, higher transportation of his spirit. Düsterdieck strangely supposes that he was still in Heaven, but that the voice sounded from the interior [Tiefe, depth] of Heaven. [“From this it does not follow that the Seer is on earth, any more than in Rev_10:1.” Alford. Had the Seer been in Heaven, it is evident that he must thus have spoken to indicate that the voice came not from Earth, but with authority.—E. R. C.]
Seal.—According to Hengstenberg, this has reference merely to this place (in the Book!). For various and, in part, curious explanations of the commandment not to write the voices, see Düsterdieck, p. 350.
Rev_10:5. Lifted up his right hand.—Gen_14:22; Dan_12:7. Symbolism of the sacred, heavenly consciousness and certainty of the oath; see Deu_32:40 and other passages. [“Jesus, the faithful and true Witness, has here left, for the guidance of His people, a pattern according to which they should be adjured when called to give evidence in a court of justice—not by the idolatrous act of kissing a book, but by lifting the right hand in appeal to the living and true God, that what they speak is truth.” Glasgow.—E. R. C.]
Rev_10:6. By him that liveth.—God the Father, by virtue of His economy, alone has knowledge originally of the time and hour of the Parousia (Mat_24:36); this knowledge He has here communicated to the New Testament “Angel of the Lord.” Every
or period closes with a
or epoch; and this is particularly true of the final age.
Interpretations: Simply the cessation of time; cessation of the time of grace; a chiliastic measure of time—a non-chronus (! Bengel: Close of the non-chronus—between 1,000 and 1,100 years—the year 1836); most commentators: the commencement of the fulfillment of the mystery of God; see Düsterdieck, pp. 351 sqq.—“The time of the seventh Trumpet.”
[The view of Alford, viz., that the
is that of Rev_6:11, seems to the Am. Ed. to be the true one. It was there declared to the souls under the altar that they should rest
. The season referred to, manifestly, was that of world domination—to be followed by the avenging of the martyrs. In this passage the Angel declares, ̔́
Ïôé ÷ñüíïò ïὐêÝôé ἔóôáé
. It seems hardly possible to avoid the conclusion that those
are one and the same. And this interpretation is in accordance with truth elsewhere revealed. It would seem as though the judgments under the first six Trumpets, although the beginnings of coming woe, are rather judgments calling to repentance. The avenging, properly speaking, does not take place until the last Trumpet. This the writer supposes to be the period of the great tribulation—a tribulation from which the Saints are to be exempt, a period in the beginning of which their humiliation is to end (comp. Mat_24:21-22; Luk_21:36; Rev_3:10; see also Add. Com. under Rev_7:14). Then is finished the
(see Add. Comm. on Rev_1:20) the glad tidings of which had been declared to the Prophets (Rev_10:7).—E. R. C.]
Rev_10:7. In the days of the voice.—The fact that days are still spoken of, after the cessation of time has been proclaimed, can be explained by the distinction of
, but not, with De Wette, by the remark that the stand-point of the vision is not strictly preserved.
The mystery of God.—The mystery of the last things, announced by the Prophets; in a wider sense the eschatological mystery of the world’s history. According to Düsterdieck and many ancients, only Old Testament Prophets are here intended; we cannot see, however, why the Prophets of the New Testament, and consequently Christ Himself, should be excluded. The grand fulfillment of this prophecy is immeasurably dwarfed by a reference of it to the emancipation of the Christians from the oppression of the Jews (Grotius, Eichhorn). [See under Rev_1:20; and also preceding Foot-note.—E. R. C.]
Rev_10:8. Go.—He is to go to the Angel. Of course this means in idea, in the vision. He is boldly to draw near the opening of the terrible new revelation. As the Angel is standing on earth, so the person commanded to approach him has his station there also. According to Düsterdieck [and Alford], the Seer was still in Heaven.
Rev_10:9-10. And I went, etc.—According to Düsterdieck, the eating of the little book is not allegorically intended. And yet by accepting the interpretation of Beza: insere tuis visceribus et describe in latitudine cordis tui, with reference to Eze_2:8; [Rev_3:1-3;] Jer_15:16, he does admit that the passage has an allegorical sense. [“To eat is, in various Eastern languages, expressive of receiving. (See Jer_15:16; Eze_3:1; Job_23:12; Psa_19:10). The reception of Divine truth is a mental and spiritual exercise, sustaining and developing the higher nature as food does the body.” Glasgow.—E. R. C.]
The Angel says, in accordance with his view of the operation of the little book:
It shall embitter thy belly, but in thy mouth it shall be sweet as honey.
The Seer, on the other hand—from the standpoint of the eater—says:
Rev_10:10. It was in my mouth as honey, sweet: and when I had eaten it, my belly was embittered.—Learned discussions on this antithesis, see in Düsterdieck, p. 355. Bengel has even harmonistically inferred a double sweetness—before and after the bitterness. Besides the false interpretation of Heinrich, the interpretations of Herder, Bede, Vitringa and Hengstenberg come under consideration; with the last of these commentators, Düsterdieck himself agrees. The distinction between the first reception and the subsequent digestion, or investigation, is represented. Düsterdieck pertinently refers to the similar experience of Ezekiel (Rev_3:3; comp. Rev_2:10); the explanation which he accepts is also the best. [“The Angel, dwelling on the most important thing, the working of the contents of the book, puts the bitterness first; the Evangelist in relating what happened, follows the order of time.” Alford.—E. R. C.]
Rev_10:11. And they say [Lange: he said] unto me.—On the plural, see the Textual Notes. The passage Rev_12:6 is no parallel.
Thou must.—It makes a false antithesis to refer the
exclusively either to his internal obligation, caused by his eating of the book, or to the objective command of the Angel, since the two are closely connected.
Prophesy again.—The prophecy of the end of the world, now following, is thus distinguished from the prophecy hitherto given, concerning the course of the world (Grotius, Hengstenberg, Düsterdieck, Ebrard).
Erroneous interpretations: Antithesis to the old Prophets (Bengel). Again, i. e., after returning from exile (Bede, et al.).
[Prophesy again before (or concerning) many peoples, etc.—For the views of the Am. Ed. as to the correct rendering of the preposition, see Text. and Gram. “Prophesying. In the Scriptural sense of the word, a prophet is one who speaks for another, as Aaron is called the prophet or spokesman of Moses. ‘Thou shalt speak unto him, and put words into his mouth, … and he shall be thy spokesman,’ Exo_4:15-16; or, as he is called, Rev_7:1, thy prophet. The prophets of God, therefore, were His spokesmen, into whose mouth the Lord put the words which they were to utter to the people. To prophesy, in Scripture, is accordingly, to speak under Divine inspiration; not merely to predict future events, but to deliver, as the organ of the Holy Ghost, the messages of God to men, whether in the form of doctrine, exhortation, consolation, or prediction.” Hodge, Com. on 1st Corinthians, Rev_11:4. This interpretation of the word is consistent with the idea that the prophesying here referred to was that of the ministry of the Reformation, symbolized by the Seer, before peoples, etc.; or with the cognate and perhaps truer idea that the Apostle was to prophesy again—his ministry being resumed and carried on by them. (See, however, the following Add. Note.)—E. R. C.]
Difficulties of construction, arising from an imperfect distinction between Heaven-pictures and Earth-pictures, see cited by Düsterdieck, p. 357. Also a quantity of abortive applications of the chapter, the fault of which applications, however, does not lie in “the allegorical interpretation” in the abstract—i. e., the correct assumption of the allegorical character of the text. Thus, the strong Angel is declared to be: The Emperor Justin; Justinian; the evangelical preachers; the Pope. The little book [scroll] is called: The Codex Justinianus; the New Testament.
On the relation of the two books (Revelation 5 and the present chapter), we refer to the Synoptical View. Diverging opinions concerning them are that they are: (a) identical; (b) altogether different; (c) that the second is a distinct part of the first book; (d) that it is a repetition of the first.
[ADDITIONAL NOTE ON THE VISION OF THE ANGEL WITH THE LITTLE BOOK]
By the American Editor
[The Am. Ed. inclines to the opinion of Elliott, that the period contemplated by this vision is that of the Reformation. On this hypothesis all the symbols (with one exception subsequently noticed) are beautifully appropriate and significant—the Angel, clothed with symbols indicating excellencies falsely claimed by the antichristian Papacy, representing Christ; the Seer, the ministry of the Reformation proclaiming the truth, as the prophets of Christ, before peoples and nations, and tongues and kings; the open book, the Bible opened by Christ, sweet to the taste of those who receive it by reason of the instruction and assurance of salvation that it affords, and yet producing sorrow both in its study and in the faithful promulgation of its truths. The truth of this hypothesis seems to be confirmed (1) by the position of the vision following the second woe—if that represent the Turkish invasion, then this would aptly indicate the following Reformation; and (2) by the à priori probability that such a glorious event as the Reformation would not be unnoticed in the Apocalyptic visions, and unless this vision indicate it, it is unnoticed.
[The writer must acknowledge, however, that there is much in the vision that seems to demand a still future fulfillment—especially the oath of the Angel (see above) which apparently contemplates a speedy sounding of the seventh Trumpet; and also the declaration to the Apostle that he is to prophesy again. This declaration, which is not satisfied by the fact that he continued his Apocalyptic narration, seems hardly to be satisfied by the hypothesis that he resumed his prophecy (symbolically) in the preaching of the Reformers. May it not be that there is here an indication that the Seer is personally to be one of the two prophesying Witnesses of the succeeding vision (see Rev_11:3-10, especially 3, 9, 10)?—E. R. C.]
is groundlessly omitted by some minuscules. [It is omitted by B*. and P. Critical Editors give it with
. A. C.—E.R.C.]
Rev_10:1. The article is firmly established. [Critical Editors generally give it with
.1 A. B*. C.; Rec. et al. omit with 1.7. P.—E. R. C.]
Rev_10:2. [Crit. Eds. generally give
. A. B*. C. P., etc.—E. R. C.]
]. An exegetical substitution.
Rev_10:4. An addition of the Rec. [Om. by crit. Eds. with
. A. B. C. P., etc.—E. R. C.]
Rev_10:4. [Lach., Alf., Treg., Tisch., with
. A. B*. C P., etc., omit
; Lange retains.—E. R. C.]
Rev_10:5. An omission of the Rec. [Given generally in acc. with
. B*. C. P.; omitted by A.—E. R. C.]
Êáὶ ôὴí èÜëáóóáí
êáὶ ôὰ ἐí áὐôῇ
] is omitted by
*. [and also by A.—E. R. C.]
Rev_10:8. [Critical Editors give
. A. B*. C. P., etc.—E. R. C.]
Rev_10:9. [Critical Editors generally give
. A. B. C.; Rec, with P., gives
.—E. R. C.]
.—E. R. C.]
Rev_10:11. The reading,
, although strongly attested, might have originated in a consideration of the cooperation of the voice and the Angel. [Lach., Alf., Treg., Tisch., with
. A. B., give
is supported by P. The former reading, against Lange, is adopted above.—E. R. C.]
Rev 10:13. [For the force of
with the dative, see Winer, § 48, 100., and the grammars and lexicons generally. The Am. Ed. has inserted the alternative translation in deference to the distinguished authorities by whom it is supported. In his own judgment, the proper translation is before (possibly in a hostile sense), as in his opinion, it should be, Heb_10:28. In confirmation of this opinion in the case in Hebrews, it should be noted that the condemned to death under the Mosaic law, were executed before (in the presence of) the witnesses. (Comp. Deu_17:6-7; Deu_13:6-9; Act_7:58).—E. R. C.]
[The interpretation of the oath above is that given in the 5th edition. In this edition Elliott writes, “Another proposed interpretation, ‘that the time shall yet be,’ which in my earlier editions I adopted from other preceding interpreters, appears to me on reconsideration to be on grammatical grounds inadmissible; since I cannot find authority for
meaning yet, in that sense of our English word yet or as yet.”—E. R. C.
“The presence of John in Heaven must be understood positively—not exclusively.” Hengstenberg.—Tr.
According to Middleton On the Greek ArticleRev_1:3; Rev_1:3 (referred to by Elliott, Vol. II., pp. 125 sq.) the absence of the definite article is supplied by the fact that the copula is the verb substantive (see Act_23:5; Joh_5:9; Joh_19:14 :; Mar_11:13; Joh_5:1).—E. R. C.
It is well worthy of consideration whether there is not a connection between this section of the Apocalypse and 1Co_15:51-52. It is difficult to imagine that in two Books, both written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, the manifest parallelism between the
and the last
and the glad tidings announced in the one, and the
and the last
and the glad tidings referred to in the other, should have been merely fortuitous. Nor is there aught in the events described under these last Trumpets to forbid our regarding them as one and the same. Certainly there is nothing inconceivable in the idea that the period of vengeance upon the persecutors of the saints, should be that in which the heirs of the first resurrection should be raised from the dead, and, together with living saints, be removed to some place of safety (see Excursus on the First Resurrection, Rev_20:5-6). It may also be remarked that this hypothesis does not involve the idea that the Apocalypse was written before the Epistles to the Corinthians. It should be remembered that the Trumpets were introduced into the Apocalyptic vision, in full accordance with the imagery of preceding Scripture, as indicating the going forth of Jehovah for the deliverance of His people, and for the execution of judgment upon their enemies. It should therefore excite no surprise that the Apostle Paul should, under the inspiration of the Spirit, have referred to a period as that of the last Trumpet, which in the more complete revelation to John should be so described.—E. R. C.
SPECIAL DOCTRINO-ETHICAL AND HOMILETICAL NOTES (ADDENDUM)
Veiled Heaven-Picture of the Seven Thunders. (Rev_10:1-11.)
General.—Here the mystery of prophecy is raised to a higher power within the mysterious Apocalypse itself. A contrast even is presented consisting in the fact that the Seven Thunders are to be specially sealed (Rev_10:4), whilst the Revelation in general is not to be sealed (Rev_22:10). We have already endeavored to explain the motive of this special sealing, and have at the same time set forth the hypothesis that the Seer has in a correspondent exoteric form furnished a sketch Of the sealed esoteric contents of the Seven Thunders (Rev_11:1-14). For Christianity can in no point be absolutely esoterical. It may also safely be assumed, that the elements of the Seven Thunders are to be found in the Apostolic Epistles and even in the Gospels. There is, e. g. (if we regard thunder as the symbol of a spiritual purification of the atmosphere and refreshment of life), an oppugnment of orthodoxistic legality in the Epistle of James; a reform of unfree chiliastic externality in the first Epistle of Peter and in both the Epistles to the Thessalonians; libertinism is opposed by the second Epistle of Peter and the Epistle of Jude; the Pauline Epistles reform, in rich gradation, the faith, the Church, Christology, etc.; and beyond them there is yet another Johannean reform of Christian gnosis. John not only knew that the Law, as the first reformation of Israel, was given amid thunder and lightning, that the fiery chariot of Elijah had formed a turning-point between the legal and the Messianico-prophetic period, but he had also himself been present when Christ’s prayer for the glorification of His Father’s name was answered with a word of assent that sounded like thunder. And it was in harmony with the development of revelation that thunder, which in the Old Testament, was a symbol of the Law, should become for the Son of Thunder, under the New Covenant, a symbol of the Gospel and its seven-fold holy evolutions. In respect of the beautiful, elevated and elevating aspect of thunder, even the Scandinavian mythology is in advance of the standpoint of popular terror, so largely occupied in Christendom with regard to this phenomenon (comp. also Sophocles, Œdipus at Colonos).
In referring, at this juncture, to our Exeg. Notes, it will be understood, as a matter of course, that it is the part of Homiletics to treat the present section of the Seven Thunders with especial caution, although, of course, the phenomena accompanying the voices of the Thunders are not sealed. As to the sealing itself, the expression is to be taken in its broader sense. In a literal sense, written matter is sealed; but here the command is: write not.
Special.—a. [Rev_10:2-3.] The Angel of the End-time. A presage and symbol of the Coming of Christ. 1. His appearance; 2. The little book in his hand relating to the end-time; 3. His dominion and power: his feet planted on the land and
the sea; 4. His cry as the roaring of a lion—the awakening call to the awaking seven Thunders. The word of Christ, the eternal source of all spiritual operations in the Church.—b. [Rev_10:3-7.] The Seven Thunders as mysterious mediations of the end-time. As sealed mysteries. The more complete their sealing as canonical and doctrinal certainties of prophecy, the more powerful their operation upon the religious presentiment, the feelings, the spirit of prayer. The Seven Thunders in nature (Psalms 29.), emblems of the Seven Thunders of the Kingdom of God.—The mysteries of Christianity, prefigured by the mysteries of the Theocratic Sanctuary; manifest in the facts and fundamental doctrines of Christianity (1Ti_3:16); mediated by the evangelic form of mystery (Mat_10:27), by mysteries sacramental, Church-historic (disciplina arcani), especially those pertaining to the mediæval period of Church-history, and by eschatogical mysteries.—The sealing of the Thunders, the mystery of mysteries.—The certainty of certainties, or the solemn oath of the Angel concerning the approaching end.—The oaths of God recorded in Holy Writ are Divine assurances which re-echo in the surest certainty of elect human hearts.—How is this to be understood—to wit, that the time of Christ’s coming is unknown, that it may, in a chronological sense, still be distant, and yet that it is emphatically near? 1. We are in the midst of a constant, uncheckable movement toward that goal; 2. The movement is continually increasing in rapidity, and the catastrophe of this periodic course will come, at all events, more suddenly than we think. The motives of this catastrophe are to be found in the depths of the religious and moral world (where the carcase, etc.). Every great event has, from time immemorial, taken men by surprise, like a sort of Last Day.—The time of the Seventh Trumpet, the time of the end.—The blessed secrets intrusted to the servants of God, contrasted with the unblessed secrets of the children of wickedness.—c. [Rev_10:9-11] New and second calling of the Seer.—Command to the Seer to eat the little book. The act itself, and its import. The hearty reception of the prophecy of the last time in its sweet charm and its convulsing and painful effect. (Anguish and terror, especially the terrors of war, not only attack the heart, but are frequently the occasion of cholera-like epidemics.)—The converse orders of the operations of the book, as presented by the Angel and by the Seer. Joy and sorrow, says human feeling; sorrow and joy, says the heavenly Spirit.—Thou must prophesy again, or the commission to publish the tidings of the last time in the midst of the course of the world, as an imminent Divine doom upon the whole world, peoples and kings.
Starke: The Lion roareth—who shall not fear, examine himself, and truly repent (Amo_3:8)? He that dwelleth in Heaven may keep silence for a while, but in His own time He shall speak so that both our ears shall tingle (Psa_2:5; Psa_50:21; 1Sa_3:11).—Some commentators think that they (the Seven Thunders) discovered the saddest fortunes of the true Church.—Here, also, Starke presents the antithetic view of “those who regard this as fulfilled” and “those who deem it to be still future.”—The Prophets and Apostles did not write down all things that they saw and heard, but only so much as was necessary for us and as the Holy Ghost commanded them to write.—Although the prophetic predictions remain for a time sealed, when the time of their fulfillment and dénoument arrives, all becomes intelligible and manifest (Dan_12:9).
Jung Stilling, Die Siegesgeschichte der christl. Religion in einer gemeinnützigen Erklärung der Offenb. Joh. (Sämmtliche Schriften, Vol. III. Stuttgart, 1835. On Rev_10:1): His countenance shineth like the sun, for He dwells in the light and enlightens all things that He looks upon; since His appearance until now it has been growing brighter and brighter. About His head the rainbow gleams; for He is a Messenger of the Covenant,—a Messenger Who is to proclaim the unveiling of the mystery of God, in which mystery God’s covenant with Noah and all His promises are to be fulfilled. He is clothed with a cloud—which is the chariot and travelling apparel of Him Who is to come in the clouds (Rev_1:7; Dan_7:13). And His feet are like pillars of fire; for where He stands, He stands firm; the gates of hell cannot move Him from the spot, and whoso thinks to drive Him away, burns his own fingers. All this is surety to us for the validity of His embassage, for the truth of the little book that He has in His hand, and which John now communicates to us.
Riemann, Die Offenb: St. Joh. (see p. 73): Every word of God, as heavenly food from the tree of life, is sweet when we first receive it in faith, but afterwards, though the sweetness does not cease, it becomes bitter also, as a judge of the thoughts and intents of the heart, when the old Adam must sink in death under the sharpness of this two-edged sword: again, this word is doubly sweet when it proclaims the final triumph of Christ over the kingdom of darkness, and yet at the same time it is bitter, for with this proclamation it conjoins lamentation and mourning and woe that sorely come upon the Messianic Church through the last desperate conflict of the prince of darkness with the Kingdom of God.
[From The Comprehensive Commentary: Rev_10:9-11. It becomes God’s servants to digest in their own souls the messages they bring to others in His name, and to be suitably affected therewith themselves; also, to deliver every message with which they are charged, whether pleasing or unpleasing to men. (M. Henry)]
Exoteric Intimations from the Earth-picture of the Seven Thunders. (Rev_11:1-14)
General.—The remarks made by us in reference to the preceding section, apply with equal force to this. The exegetical foundation is not yet sufficiently sure, clear and firm to warrant the erection of a doctrinal and homiletical superstructure. We must distinguish, here as well as elsewhere, between our own firm conviction and the conventional status of exegesis in the Church, which it is not admissible to leave entirely out of consideration in an official undertaking.
We must, first of all, settle the relation which this section bears to the preceding one. It is not difficult to perceive that the Seven Thunders are recognizable in the procedures of the two Sons of Oil, since fire goes forth from their mouths and they can shut and open Heaven like Elijah.
Another unmistakable fact is that we have here to do with a sketch of those Church-historical circumstances which form a transition to the time of the end.
It is equally certain, furthermore, that in the provision concerning the Temple. Rev_11:1-2, we have a picture of the Christian Church, and not a prophecy relating to the Temple at Jerusalem, to be apprehended literally and, in such case, manifested to be erroneous. In regard to the Temple and the subsequent history of the Two Witnesses, as well as the judgment at the close of the section, we refer to the Exeg. Notes. A cautious treatment of the subject might base itself upon the following fundamental lines: The inner and outer (or invisible and visible) Church (Rev_11:1-2); the New Testament order of God’s Kingdom in the antithesis of Church and State (Rev_11:3-7); the grave prospect that the hemming in of Antichristianity will at some future day be done away with (Rev_11:7-10; 2 Thessalonians 2.); the certainty that the forms of Church and State, though suffering a temporal extinction, will celebrate their resurrection in the consummation of the Kingdom of God (Rev_11:11-12). Finally, the social earthquake connected with the preceding events, which shakes the New Testament City of God of externalized Christian order and, by a precursory judgment, calls many to repentance, whereby such as comply with the call withdraw themselves from the consummate apostasy of the time of the Beast, and are preserved from the final judgment at the Parousia of Christ.
Special.—[Rev_11:1-2.] The Temple arrangements of the Old Covenant, in their symbolic import for the Christian Church. (a) The priestly Sanctuary, which has become one with the Holy of Holies; (b) the Altar; (c) the Worshippers; (d) the outer court of the Gentiles.—Import of the outer court: a figurative testimony (1) against that view which reckons the outer court as forming part of the Sanctuary; (2) against the other idea which denominates the outer court the world, simply.
[Rev_11:3.] The two ground-forms of witness concerning Christ in the Christian age: The Churchly communion, and the Christian and humane social morals and manners which it inculcates.—[Rev_11:4.] The olive trees, by which the life of the sons of oil, Christians, is, not generated, but mediated.—Olive trees and candlesticks [lamp-stands] at once; i.e., on the one hand, gifted with a source of spiritual life (John 4.), and, on the other, elaborated into a form favorable for the mediation of the Spirit to men.—The whole Christian age, a time of the one Spirit of Christ in the change of different temporal forms. In the main, the olive trees are at the same time candlesticks [lamp-stands], and the candlesticks [lamp-stands] olive trees: i.e., spiritual life and formal organization, knowledge and practice, run together, in parallel development, through the ages. In individual cases, however, the candlestick [lamp-stand] that should stand beside the olive tree is occasionally missing, and still more frequently the candlestick [lamp-stand] lacks the accompaniment of the olive tree.—[Rev_11:5-6.] Competition of the mediæval Church and State in the training of Christian humanity. Their union. Their terrible severity. Their strainings of authority and their gradual loss of the sympathy of Christian popular life.—[Rev_11:7.] The Beast out of the abyss as the prelude of Antichristianity or the Beast out of the sea, or how demonic Antichristian dispositions precede the final Antichristian figurations in human characters.—Dying and dead forms of the old order of things (Rev_11:9).—The Antichristian feasts of the future (Rev_11:10).—[Rev_11:11-12.] The time of three days and a half, or the time of the apparent downfall of the Kingdom of God, always, at the same time, the time of a glorious exaltation of it.—Prospect of the final fulfillment of all Churchly and Stately foretokens in the unity of a heavenly Kingdom.—[Rev_11:13.] The Apocalyptic earthquakes in their grand significance: (1) In their spiritual import; (2) In their social import; (3) In their cosmical import.—Fall of the external historic City of God.—Twofold effect of the judgments and terrors of God: Many are killed, the rest are affrighted and give glory to God.
Starke: The true Church should not be judged by its magnitude and visibility, because (just as) the outer court many times surpasses the Temple in length and breadth.—The teachers of the Christian Church must, internally, resemble olive trees, and be filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit, whilst outwardly they must shine as lights, with an irreproachable life—Quesnel: When God has used His servants for the sanctification of others, He uses the wicked to purify those servants themselves by suffering and martyrdom.—The world is to be deplored, in that it celebrates its sins with rejoicings, as a public festival.
Löwe, Weissagung und Geschichte in ihrer Zusammenstimmung (see p. 73): [Rev_11:3 sqq.] This twofold number, doubtless, denotes a twofold, Divinely commissioned ministry, but not an external condition; thus there are always in existence Rome few powerful witnesses—testifying of repentance and faith—of ecclesiastical and secular office and vocation, in order to the support of Christ’s spiritual Kingdom in the world.
Wilhelm Friedrich Rinck, Apokalyptische Forschungen,. Zürich, 1853 (see p. 72): As the Lord sent out His disciples by twos, thus the many witnesses and servants of Christ are here introduced as two messengers (?). Their ministry lasts as long as Jerusalem (the outer court) is trodden down by the Gentiles; the whole time, consequently, from the destruction of Jerusalem to the end of the world.—Two olive trees and two lamp-stands. Oil and lamp-stands belong together.—The city. Neither Jerusalem nor Rome is intended, but an allegorical great city, which lays violent hands on the messengers of God, and even on His own Son, It is impossible that it can be any particular single city when they of the peoples, tribes, tongues and nations are to see the bodies of the slain witnesses. Constance is a part of that great city.*
*[It was at the Council of Constance (A.D. 1414–1418) that Huss and Jerome of Prague, the forerunners of the Reformation, were condemned and martyred.—E. R. C.]
[From M. Henry: Rev_11:1. Observe, 1. The temple was to be measured; the gospel-church in general; whether it be so built, so constituted, as the gospel rule directs. 2. The altar. That which was the place of the most solemn acts of worship may be put for religious worship in general; whether the Church has the true altars, both as to substance and situation: as to substance, whether they take Christ for their Altar, and lay down all their offerings there; and in situation, whether the Altar be in the holiest; that is, whether they worship God in the Spirit and in truth. 3. The worshippers. Whether they make God’s glory their end, and His word their rule, in all their acts of worship; and whether they come to God with suitable affections, and whether their conversation be as becomes the gospel.]
Heaven-picture of the Manifestation of Antichristianity on Earth. [Rev_11:15 to Rev_12:12)
General.—The present section, and also the subsequent chapters, Rev_12:13 to Rev_13:18, are peculiarly adapted to illustrate and confirm the construction of the Apocalypse as presented by us. Our section is not readily intelligible without a definite reference to the subsequent Earth-picture, and the development of Antichristianity brought to view in that picture can be apprehended only as illuminated by our Heaven-picture:—as a judgment foreseen in the counsel of God; as an apparent domination of Antichristianity, completely overruled by the victorious power of Heaven, by the triumph of Christ and the victory of His heroic spirit over Satan in the spirit-sphere.
Here, as elsewhere, the heavenly celebration of victory (Rev_11:15-19) precedes the earthly judgment (Rev_13:1 sqq.). The Woman clothed with the sun, the Divine Congregation of the Kingdom, appears conformably to her heavenly phase, in full splendor (Rev_12:1-6); high above her fugitive phase, menaced with mortal peril, on earth (Rev 15:13–17). The true offspring of her heart (Rev_12:2-5) is a holy counterpart of the wicked False Prophet, who, in the guise of a lamb, comes forth from her terrestrial order, the earth. The great red Dragon who appears in Heaven, the region of spirit, with great seductive power; whose intention it is to destroy the male Son and conquer His spirit-host, but who here makes an utterly fruitless attempt against that Son, Who is caught up to God,—an utterly abortive attack upon Michael and his angels—and is, in consequence, cast down to earth,—subsequently appears on earth as a terrible persecutor of the Woman: he vomits forth his water-floods, i. e., masses of peoples, against her; he wars against her individual children; he incarnates himself, with his seven heads, in the seven-headed Antichrist; he helps the horrid Beast, after it has been wounded to death, to an apparent healing; he institutes, by the semblance of demonic omnipotence, devil worship and blasphemies on earth; he draws the False Prophet, with his delusive works, into his service, and attains, for the time being, to a dominion on earth which is, to all appearance, legally organized through the medium of social symbols.
According to the Heaven-picture, the Woman is sheltered in the wilderness, whither she herself has fled, by a place prepared for her by God (“A stronghold sure”), and there finds food and maintenance through her whole trial-time of a thousand two hundred and sixty days and days’ works. According to the Earth-picture, the two wings of the great Eagle must be given her for her flight; in the place of refuge to which she has fled, she is sustained through the same period that was before indicated, which, however, is here designated by the ominous number a time, (two) times and a half—whereby a great, sore and apparently endless time of temptation [trial] is expressed, a period which seems to continue even to hopelessness; she is, moreover, oppressed in a twofold manner by the Serpent. To save herself from being drowned and carried away by the water-floods, the sun-woman must accept the aid of the earth, by which acceptance her visible existence is itself made dependent upon the earth; and after the abortive attack upon the kernel of her totality, war is waged against her in the remainder of her seed, her individual children.
The high import of the seventh Trumpet, which continues from now to the seven Vials of Anger or to the judgment, is first expressed by a great celebration in Heaven. There is a sublime paradox in the fact that the beginning of Satan’s apparent rule on earth is celebrated in Heaven by great voices saying: The kingdom of the world is become our Lord’s and His Christ’s, and He shall reign from eternity to eternity. This epoch of heavenly victory is so completely decided with the appearance of Antichristianity that the heavenly Elders can make the festival already one of thanksgiving. There is a grandeur in the intuition or deduction by which they recognize in the very wrath of the nations the forth-breaking of the Divine anger (with its Vials of Anger); in the death-time of those who live in and for this world, a new life-time of the [blessed] dead in the world beyond—the beginning epoch of their restoration, which, in accordance with its nature, brings with it destruction for the destroyers of the earth.
Upon this festal antiphony between the heavenly voices and the thanksgiving of the Elders, follow the opening of the heavenly Temple, and the events connected therewith. The full revelation of Satan is anticipated by the perfect revelation of revelation, if we may thus speak. For those who will see with the Seer, the Temple is opened; the idea of the Kingdom of God becomes generally intelligible; the Ark of His Covenant becomes visible: i. e., the profoundly dark mystery of reconciliation and grace is converted into the clear light of knowledge for all those who see; and the effect of this glorious development of the life of the Church of God cannot fail of supervention; viz., lightnings of particulars of revelation, voices of proclamation, thunders of preaching, earthquakes of mental convulsions, and a great hail storm of fanatical sentiments originating in the commingling of sultry heat and icy cold.
Together with the glory of revelation, the glory of the Congregation of the Kingdom becomes manifest,—the Woman clothed with the sun, in the astral adornment of the terrestrial cosmos.
All the pangs [woes] of earth appear, in connection with the Woman’s pangs, as travail-pangs, birth-pangs of the Messiah.
Next appears the enemy, the great red Dragon. He is a union of serpent and swine, “Spottgeburt von Dreck und Feuer,” resplendent in the gloomy radiance of his fiery nature and blood-guiltiness; he has seven mock-holy heads instead of the one holy head, and there attaches to him the contradiction of the ten horns of his authority, expressive of the fact that that authority reposes entirely upon the decenary of the world, whilst the crowns upon his seven heads indicate a legal power falsely gained by the semblance of the sacred seven. Not, however, by the lustre of his crowns, but by the terrible lashings of his tail—apparent power—does he cast the third part, or a spiritual third, of the stars, the geniuses of the spirit-world of Heaven, down to earth, into the earthly service of the ecclesiastico-worldly order of things. The frustration of his plans, however, is expressed in a series of defeats: 1. Christ, in the light of eternity, is caught up as the Male into Heaven, to the Throne of God; 2. The Woman is made secure in her place of refuge, and provided for; 3. The Dragon, with his angels, is, by Michael and his angels, precipitated from Heaven to earth, from the sphere of pure spirit of the inner Church to the external Churchly and Stately ordinances; 4. Even in this world an invisible Church Triumphant has been establishing itself, and is as deep and high, as wide and broad, as the perfect joyousness of faith extends in its two fundamental features; faith-righteousness in the Reconciliation, and martyr-faithfulness unto death.
A transition to the Earth-picture is formed by the following thought: The highest weal of the heavenly-minded becomes a woe upon earth and sea, the Hierarchy and popular life.
Special.—Reciprocal action betwixt the development and consummation of the kingdom of darkness, on the one hand, and the Kingdom of God on the other.
[Rev_11:17-18.] Heavenly rejoicing over earth’s last time of need.—Judgment of the wrath of God in the wrath of the nations.—The end-time, a joyful celebration of the justification of all God’s witnesses.
[Rev_11:19.] Transfiguration of the whole revelation of salvation in knowledge and life: a sure hope of Christendom.—Great effects of this ever more manifest revelation, [ch. 12] Rev_12:10.
[Rev_12:1]. The Woman clothed with the sun, or the glory of the eternal Congregation of God’s Kingdom.
[Rev_12:2.] Birth-pangs of the Church of God: 1. The Martyrs of Israel; 2. Christ, the Great Martyr; 3. The Martyrs of the Christian Church.—Christ, even as the universal, eternal Christ, issues from the travail-pangs of the Church of God in Time.—All the sufferings of this present time are not to be compared with the eternal glory.
[Rev_12:3-4.] The doctrine of Satan, perfected in the Apocalypse. The great red Dragon (1) as a figurative representation of Satan; (2) of Satanic or demonic evil; (3) of evil in general. Unbelief has advanced from a denial of Satan to a denial of Satanic evil; from the denial of the latter to a denial of evil in general. The knowledge of faith must advance through a deeper-going doctrine of evil to an apprehension of Satanic evil, and through the latter to an insight into Divine revelation relative to the existence of Satan and his kingdom.—Evil in the figure of the Dragon: 1. Absolute hideousness, the Dragon, the monstrous shape, in its hypocritical pretension to beauty, in the pomp of fiery red, and with its seven crowns; 2. Absolute falsehood in the contradiction of horns and crowns, with its hypocritical pretension to holy intelligence in its seven heads; 3. Absolute badness in its conduct toward the “stars” or spirits of Heaven, toward God and Christ, toward the Woman and the destiny of humanity, with the hypocritical pretension to the founding of a free spirit-kingdom (of fallen stars).—Satanic evil, or conscious enmity to God and Christ.—Satan and his kingdom. The doctrine respecting these has, by reason of the mediæval classifications of it, which, in manifold ways, continued to obtain even in Protestant orthodoxy after the Reformation, called forth a reaction similar to that induced by the gross enhancement of the doctrine of election, by the fearful exaggeration of the power of excommunication, of Church discipline, clerical authority and letter-faith. This doctrine has hence become a difficult, and, more or less, an esoteric, subject for homiletics. It, nevertheless, must not be dropped, and still less should it be denied; its true treatment, however, is conditioned (1) by a prominent setting forth of that spirit-world which pervades the universe; (2) by the maintenance of the fact that the origin of sin consists not in animal sensuality, but in a spiritual abuse of liberty; that a fall of spirits is assumable neither as having taken place on our earth alone nor throughout the universe; and that from the earthly fall of spirits, we are, according to Scripture, to infer a previous fall of spirits, forming the centre and back-ground of the evil of this world.
The scattered manifestations of evil on earth, notwithstanding their plurality, constitute, in their opposition to the Kingdom of God, a unitous power as the Kingdom of Darkness. A unitous power against the Kingdom of God they are, but not a united power in themselves, as is evident from the monster with the seven heads.—Antitheocratic manifestations in the Old Testament as foreshadowings of Antichristian manifestations in the New Testament and in Church history.—Satan’s work in the invisible world becomes manifest here in Antichristian facts, and must be brought to view by means of these.—The enemy of man, according to Joh_8:44, as a seducer (to spiritual pride, Genesis 3; to fanatical fleshly lust, Numbers 25, etc.); as an accuser (Job).—Types of Antichrist: Balaam; Goliath; Ahithophel; Antiochus Epiphanes; Judas.—[Rev_12:5.] Satan’s plot for the destruction of Christ defeated by Christ’s resurrection and ascension.—[Rev_12:7.] The battle between light and darkness on earth is, in its decisive centre, a conflict of spirits in the spirit-realm (see Comm. on John, Joh_13:31).—[Rev_12:9.] The casting of Satan out of the pure sphere of the Christian spirit into the sphere of earthly ordinances, (a) in the life of Jesus (Matthew 4.; Luk_10:18; John, l. c.); (b) in the sphere of the Church through the medium of the Spirit of Christ.—Song of triumph over the accuser, Rev_12:10 (see Exeg. Notes).
Starke (Lösecken): “It is a noteworthy circumstance that there is here (Rev_11:15-16) no mention of the four Beasts, which elsewhere throughout the Book precede the Elders in praising and thanking God (Rev_5:14; Rev_7:11). The reason of this seems to be that at this time the true public ministry of preaching, represented by the four Beasts (?), will be suppressed to such a degree as to be neither visible nor appreciable any more.” (A little problem lies before us, but the solution offered is a failure. Possibly the four Life-forms [Living-beings] are omitted because they denote the fundamental forms of the Divine Governance in the economy of salvation, whilst here an exercise of Judicial power is celebrated.)
Rev_11:19. And there occurred lightnings and voices and thunders: the promulgation of the Law and the Gospel was set in motion again.—And an earthquake: great commotions arose.—And a great hail: with this, the judgments of God burst upon the Antichristian kingdom. [And the Temple, etc.] The things concerning which there has been so much strife shall be clearly shown and known—to wit, the Person, nature and attributes of Christ, the satisfaction made by Him, the whole nature of the covenant of grace and of Christ’s Kingdom on earth. After the offence has been taken away, God will yet give to all nations on earth free access to His Church and Throne of Grace.—(Rev_12:3. “Dragons are said to be the largest of all serpents and beasts, some of them attaining the length of forty or fifty cubits. Alexander the Great is said to have had one shown him that was five hundred feet long.”)
Rev_12:4. And his tail, wherein were his greatest power and cunning, drew, subdued by cruelty, torture, artifice, flattery, the third part of the stars, a great part of the teachers of mankind.
Rev_12:11. This is the wondrous victory of Christians—to conquer through tribulation and death, to gain in losing (Rom_8:37).—Quesnel: The nearer we come to the end, the more earnestly does the devil strive to ruin us, and the more ought we to watch, pray and work.
N. Von Brunn, Blicke eines alten Knechts, der auf seinen Herrn wartet, in die Offenbarung, etc. (see p. 73): To us mortals, because of the limitations of our vision, much appears as in process of coming to pass, which, by celestial spirits, with sight unhindered by a veil of flesh, is seen to be already accomplished, (The Church-historical system of interpretation is pursued in this work. The practical remarks are significant and edifying.)
Graeber (see above): “The positions of Hengstenberg are as untenable with regard to Rev_11:19 as in relation to Rev_8:1. Suppose, for instance, that the Revelation really definitively closed here, which, according to Hengstenberg, is assumable. What! is the entire development of God’s Kingdom on earth to close with a 'great hail!'—The wilderness (Revelation 12). Thus says Thomas à kempis: ‘If thou wouldest know and learn somewhat that will be useful and profitable to thee, learn what so few know or are able to do—to be willing to be unknown and to be accounted as nought.’ The wilderness, then, is self-renunciation; not simply barrenness, want, poverty, or the concealment of the Kingdom of God in the Middle Ages.) The Lord withdraws His people from the turmoil of the world: a Moses He buries, as it were, for forty years in the wilderness with Jethro; an Elijah He conceals by the brook Cherith, and entombs a Luther in the narrow cell of a cloister, etc.”
[From M. Henry: Rev_12:10. The accuser, etc. Though Satan hates God’s presence, yet he is willing to appear there, to accuse the people of God. Let us therefore take heed that we give him no cause of accusation against us; and that when we have sinned, we presently go in before the Lord, and accuse and condemn ourselves, and commit our cause to Christ as our Advocate.
Rev_12:11. The servants of God overcame Satan, 1. By the blood of the Lamb, as the meritorious cause. Christ by dying destroyed him that hath the power of death, that is, the Devil. 2. By the word of their testimony, as the great instrument of war; the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; by a resolute, powerful preaching of the everlasting gospel, which is mighty, through God, to pull down strongholds; by their courage and patience in sufferings; they loved not their lives unto the death, when the love of life stood in competition with their loyalty to Christ; they loved not their lives so well, but they could give them up to death, could lay them down in Christ’s cause.—From Barnes: Rev_11:15 : 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 recognized 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.—From Vaughan: Rev_12:11. The three weapons by which the Christian victory is won: The atonement made for all sin in the death of Christ; the word or message of God, to which all true Christians bear in act and in endurance a firm and intelligible testimony; and that spirit of entire self-devotion and self-surrender which perseveres even unto death, and stops not short (if God so require) of the sacrifice of life itself for Christ.]