And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
Verse 1. - And there was given me a reed like unto a rod. We are not told by whom the reed is given, but in Revelation 21. the angel has the reed, and so also in Ezekiel 40, upon which the incident seems founded (see Ezekiel 40; and cf. the reference to the outer court in ver. 17). The reed is "like a rod;" that is, like to a staff. It is for a measuring line, as in Zechariah 2:1. And the angel stood, saying. Omit all except "saying," as in the Revised Version. Λέγων is used absolutely, not as qualifying κάλαμος, "reed," as Andreas (cf. Revelation 4:1; Revelation 14:7; Revelation 19:6). Rise, and measure the temple of God; rather, rouse and measure, etc. The imperative verb does not imply anything as to the previous position of St. John. "The temple" is ναός, the shrine or dwelling place of God (as in ver. 19; also Revelation 3:12; Revelation 7:15), the inner temple, as distinguished from the outer court next mentioned. It scarcely seems possible to doubt that the temple is here figuratively used of the faithful portion of the Church of Christ. The word is plainly thus used in Revelation 3:12 and Revelation 7:15; and is frequently found with this signification in St. Paul's writings, which were probably known to St. John. Dusterdieck and others think that St. John refers literally to the temple at Jerusalem, and to the earthly Jerusalem. But, if so, this portion of the Apocalypse stands self condemned as a prediction which was falsified within a year or two of its enunciation; for in ver. 13 it is expressly stated that the tenth part of the city fell. And nowhere else in the book do Jerusalem and the temple signify the earthly places. The object of the measurement is generally thought to be to set apart or mark off that which is measured from that which is felt without; but opinions vary as to why the temple is thus set apart, some thinking that it is the literal temple which is given over to destruction, others believing that the measuring is a token of the preservation of the Church of God. But may not the command have been given to St. John in order to direct his attention to the size of the Church of God? This is the common meaning of the expression throughout the Bible; it is so in Zechariah 2:1-5, a passage upon which this is possibly founded; and it is so in Revelation 21:15. Moreover, there seems a good explanation of the reason why such an incident, thus explained, should occur here. The six trumpets have spoken of the large portions of mankind against whom they were directed; the sixth has declared that men did nevertheless not repent. The seventh trumpet is about to announce yet more terrible woe for the worldly; and, previous to this, a brief but vivid description is given of the oppression to be suffered by the Church - a description inserted here in order to lead up to, and demonstrate the absolute necessity for, the terrible final judgment. Among the ungodly are even some who are nominally members of the Church, who are typified by the outer court. No one could be more conscious that only a portion of the Church - "the elect" - was to be saved than the writer of the Epistles to the seven Churches (Revelation 1-3.). Might not the seer and his hearers be inclined to ask, "Who, then, can be saved? Are there any who escape when so much is said about the punishment in store for men?" In answer to such questions, the seer is bidden to remember, what is apt to be forgotten in the dejection caused by the contemplation of the huge amount of wickedness which undoubtedly exists in the world, viz. the large number of good men who form God's staple. It is to be noticed, also, that no mention is made of the command being actually carried out. It is as if the uttering of the command were sufficient to direct the attention of St. John to the fact which was to be conveyed to him, and that, therefore, the necessity for carrying out the injunction existed no longer. It therefore seems probable that "the temple" must be interpreted symbolically. It is the dwelling place of God, the place in which he is worshipped; that is, the multitude of true believers, or the faithful Church. St. John is bidden to measure it, in order to sustain the faith and hope of himself and his hearers. It is placed in antithesis to the outer court, the faithless portion of the visible Church of God, which is given over to the Gentiles - the type of all that is worldly. And the altar, and them that worship therein. The altar of incense alone stood within the ναός; but this may be only an accessory detail in the general description, and not to be pressed to a particular interpretation. "Them that worship therein" directs our thoughts to the individual members of the one body which collectively is "the temple."
But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
Verse 2. - But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles; it hath been given (Revised Version). Not merely "leave out," but "cast out." The "court which is without the temple" was entered only by Jews. It seems, therefore, here to signify part of the Church, but that part which is separated from the inner circle of true believers, and given over to the world, which is here symbolized by "the Gentiles." The Gentiles, the nations, throughout the Apocalypse, signifies either
(1) all mankind whatsoever; or
(2) that portion of mankind which is left when the true Church of God is withdrawn, and therefore which embraces the unrighteous part of mankind in contrast to the godly (cf. Revelation 2:26; Revelation 14:8; Revelation 16:19; Revelation 18:23; 22:22). The latter is the signification here. And the holy city shall they tread underfoot. The holy city - Jerusalem - always in the Apocalypse the type of the Church. "They shall tread" need not necessarily refer to "the nations," though the context naturally leads to this signification; but it may be impersonal, amounting to no more than "the holy city shall be trodden underfoot." St. John seems to apply the words of our Lord concerning the literal Jerusalem to the description of the fate in store for the typical Jerusalem (cf. Luke 21:24). "The nations" are the instrument by which the Church is trodden underfoot, and the mention of the Gentiles in connection with the apostate portion of the Church leads to the description of the oppression of the faithful by the world. The seer is bidden to take courage by a contemplation of the numbers of those preserved by God, but is warned, nevertheless, not to expect from that fact immunity for the Church from the persecution of the world. Forty and two months. Καί, "and," is inserted contrary to the common practice when the larger number precedes (so also in John 2:20; John 5:5). This period of three years and a half is certainly symbolical. It is the half of seven years - a perfect number. It therefore denotes a broken, uncertain period; a space of time which is certainly finite, but the end of which is uncertain. This seems to point necessarily to the period of the world's existence during which the Church is to suffer oppression. This period is mentioned
(1) in ver. 3 under the form of twelve hundred and sixty days, where it denotes the same period that is referred to here;
(2) in Revelation 12:6 as twelve hundred and sixty days, and in Revelation 12:14 as "a time, and times, and half a time," in both of which passages the signification is the same as that given above;
(3) in Revelation 13:5 it is called, as here, forty-two months, and describes the same period. The expression is founded on Daniel 7:25 and Daniel 12:7. In the latter place the time signified is certainly the period of the world's existence. We therefore see
(1) that its natural meaning, in connection with the number seven,
(2) its signification in Daniel, and
(3) its apparent use in all passages in the Apocalypse, tend to cause us to interpret the symbol as above.
And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
Verse 3. - And I will give power unto my two witnesses. Omit "power." What is given follows, viz. "they shall prophesy," etc. The voice, speaking in the name of Christ, says, "My: The two witnesses of me;" τοῖς, "the," as though they were well known. There is much diversity of interpretation in regard to "the two witnesses." It seems reasonable to understand the two witnesses as representative of the elect Church of God (embracing both Jewish and Christian) and of the witness which she bears concerning God, especially in the Old and New Testaments. The following considerations seem to support this interpretation:
(1) The vision is evidently founded on that in Zechariah 4, where it is emblematical of the restored temple, which only in the preceding verse (Revelation 11:2) is a type of the elect of God's Church (vide supra).
(2) The Apocalypse continually represents the Church of God, after the pattern of the life of Christ, in three aspects - that of conflict and degradation; that of preservation; that of triumph (see Professor Milligan's Baird Lectures, 'The Revelation of St. John,' lect. 2 and 5.). This is a summary of the vision here.
(3) Much of the Apocalypse follows our Lord's description in Matthew 24. In that chapter (vers. 13, 14) we have, "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." Again, a brief description of this vision.
(4) It is not probable that two individuals are meant; for
(a) as we have shown throughout the Apocalypse, the application is invariably to principles and societies, though this may include particular applications in certain cases;
(b) it is inconceivable that Moses and Elias, or any other of the saints of God, should return from Paradise to suffer as these two witnesses;
(c) our Lord expressly explained the reference to the coming of Elias, and declared that he had already come; and
(d) there seems no more reason for interpreting these two witnesses literally of two men, than for interpreting Sodom and Egypt in their ordinary geographical signification in ver. 8.
(5) The details of the fate of the two witnesses agree with the interpretation given - the whole vision being understood as symbolical. Thus
(a) the picture of the two witnesses is evidently formed after the pattern of Moses and Elias, on account of the conspicuous witness they bore and the hardship they suffered, as well as their preservation and final vindication. Moreover, Moses and Elias are typical of the Law and the prophets, or the Scriptures - the means (as stated above) by which the Church chiefly bears witness of God.
(b) The time during which they prophesy;
(c) the clothing in sackcloth;
(d) the appellation of candlesticks and olive trees;
(e) their power to hurt;
(f) their apparent death;
(g) the torment they cause;
(h) their resuscitation;
(i) their vindication;
(k) the immediate advent of the final judgment; - all agree (as shown below) with the interpretation given.
(6) Witness is constantly connected in the Apocalypse and elsewhere with the Church, and generally with suffering, sometimes with triumph (cf. Revelation 1:2, 5, 9; Revelation 6:9; Revelation 12:11, 17; Revelation 20:4).
(7) In Revelation 19:10 we are told, "The testimony [witness] of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy," exactly the quality with which the two witnesses are credited (ver. 3), and which is the work of the Church. And they shall prophesy; that is, "prophesy" in its literal meaning of forthtelling God's will and his judgments on the wicked, and so of preaching repentance. This is emphatically the work of the Church, and is accomplished chiefly through the Scriptures. It is this prophesying that torments (see vers. 5, 10). A thousand two hundred and three score days. Or, forty and two months (ver. 2). During the period of the world's existence (see on ver. 2) the Church, although "trodden underfoot," will not cease to "prophesy." Clothed in sackcloth. Thus, symbolically, is expressed the same fact as in ver. 2. The Church there is "trodden underfoot" during the period of the world; here it is said that she is to perform her office during this time "clothed in sackcloth." The treatment by the world of both the Church of God and the Word of God is represented by the apparel of mourning and woe, which is the lot of the Church on earth.
These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
Verse 4. - These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks. The "two olive trees" and the "two candlesticks" are here identical. Thus, while St. John uses the figure of Zechariah, he does not apply it in every detail. In the prophet, but one candlestick is mentioned. "The two olive trees," which supply the material for the candlesticks, are fit emblems of the Old and New Testaments; the candlesticks typify the Jewish and Christian Churches. These are identical so far as being God's witnesses; the Church derives her stores from the Word of God, the light of the Word of God is manifested through the Church. Standing before the God of the earth; the Lord of the earth (Revised Version). The participle is masculine, though the preceding article and nouns are feminine, probably as being more in keeping with the masculine character under which the two witnesses are depicted. Perhaps he is described as the "Lord of the earth," since the witnesses are to prophesy before all the earth (cf. ver. 9 and Matthew 24:14).
And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
Verse 5. - And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies; if any one willeth to hurt them, etc. Most probably a reference to the act of Elijah (2 Kings 1:10). Perhaps there is a double reference in the fire proceeding out of their mouth; it is the fire of their witness, which refines and purifies and convinces some; it is also the fire of condemnation, which follows those who reject the testimony. The figure is found in Jeremiah 5:14, "I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them" (see also Hosea 6:5; Ecclus. 48:1). And if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed; any one shall will (future) is read in the Revised Version, and is supported by א, A, 38; θέλει, (present) is found in B, C, P, Andreas, Arethas. "In this manner;" that is, by fire. Such, throughout the Scriptures, is the form under which the final judgment of those who reject God's message is shadowed forth. The description is not more opposed to a general interpretation than it is to an individual interpretation of the two witnesses.
These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
Verse 6. - These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will; the power... the heaven... the waters... every plague (Revised Version). The whole verse is descriptive of the powers entrusted to Moses and Elijah, and is intended to convey the idea that the power which supported them would likewise support the two witnesses. It is doubtful whether the meaning should be pressed further than this. If we do so, it may, perhaps, be said that (in the words of Wordsworth) "if any one despises God's witnesses, they have the power, like Elias, to shut heaven, and exclude all who reject them. The dews of Divine grace are withheld from all who scorn them." It is thus a fulfilment of our Lord's words, "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath" (Matthew 13:12). And again, besides the punishments which are finally to fall on the ungodly, it is the case that the rejection of God's will is followed on this earth by troubles which would be avoided were men to listen to the witness borne of him.
And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
Verse 7. - And when they shall have finished their testimony. This is a difficult passage. How can the Church's testimony be said to be finished while the earth still exists? The explanation seems to lie in the words of our Lord, "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). Christians are forewarned that, as the ages roll on, faith will wane. Though the Church be apparently destroyed, she is not really dead, but will rise again. As our Lord, after finishing his testimony, completed his work by his death and subsequent ascension, so the time will come when the Church shall have Completed all that is necessary, by offering to the world her testimony, and shall then be so completely rejected as to appear dead. Her enemies will rejoice, but their time of rejoicing is cut short (see below). After three and a half days comes her vindication, and her enemies are struck with consternation; for it is the end, and they have no further opportunities for repentance. Thus Heugstenberg says, "They shall only be overcome when they have finished their testimony, when God has no further need for their service, when their death can produce more fruit than their life." The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them; the beast that cometh up out of the abyss. The article points to the beast which is described elsewhere in the Apocalypse (Revelation 13:1; Revelation 17:8), and which is mentioned here by proleipsis. "The fourth beast," which is read in A, may have been suggested by Daniel 7:7. א has "the beast which then cometh up." The beast is Satan, perhaps manifested in the form of the persecuting world power (see on Revelation 13:1). His nature is indicated by the use of the noun θηρίον, "a wild beast," the opposite, as Wordsworth says, of Ἀρνίον, the Lamb. The beast ascends out of the abyss for a brief reign upon the earth, and is "drunken with the blood of the saints," as described in Revelation 17, but he ascends only to go into perdition (Revelation 17:8). It is well to remember that the whole vision is symbolical. The intention is to convey the idea that the Church, in her witness for God, will experience opposition from the power of Satan, which will wax more and more formidable as time goes on, and result in the apparent triumph of the forces of evil. But the triumph will be brief; it will but usher in the end and the final subjugation of the devil.
And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
Verse 8. - And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified; their dead body (in the singular), according to A, B, C, Arethas, and others. The plural is read in N, P, Andreas, Primasius, and others. Omit "lie upon the highway... their Lord." "The great city" is referred to in Revelation 16:19; Revelation 17:18; Revelation 18:10-19. Its signification is always the same, viz. the type of what is ungodly and of the world, and it is always consigned to punishment. Jerusalem, the type of what is holy, is never thus designated. Here we are plainly told the spiritual, that is, the symbolical nature of the designation. Sodom and Egypt are chosen as the type of what is evil (cf. Deuteronomy 32:32; Isaiah 1:10; Ezekiel 16:46; Ezekiel 20:7, etc.). It was in this city, that is, by the influence of this world power, that the Lord was crucified. In describing the fate of the Church, St. John seems to have in mind the life of Christ. His witness, the opposition he encountered, his death for a brief time at the completion of his work, his resurrection and ascension, and triumph over the devil, are all here reproduced. "The bodies lie in the street" symbolizes, according to Jewish custom, the most intense scorn and hatred.
And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.
Verse 9. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves; and from among the peoples and tribes, etc., do [men] look upon, etc., and suffer not, etc., in a tomb (Revised Version). The fourfold enumeration points to the wide distribution of the state of things symbolized (cf. Revelation 4:6; Revelation 5:9, etc.), and seems of itself almost sufficient to demonstrate that the two witnesses are not two individual persons who are hereafter to appear. The period is but three days and a half; again, as in vers. 2, 3, a broken, that is, a finite but uncertain period; but, as compared with the three years and a half - the period of the world's existence - very short. (On the signification of the last clause, see on ver. 8.) It is the usual Eastern mark of contempt and degradation. The whole verse, together with the preceding and succeeding verses, describes symbolically, but graphically, the scorn and contempt to which the Church and God's Word will be subjected by men.
And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
Verse 10. - And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth; rejoice and make merry, that dwell (present, though future in meaning; the present tense rendering the description more graphic). Those dwelling on the earth are the ungodly, the worldly. "They send gifts," in accordance with Oriental custom on joyful occasions (cf. ver. 9). "The prophets, the witnesses, tormented;" probably rather by the delivery of their message, which would affect the conscience of men, than by the plagues referred to in ver. 6, though both may be meant. Alford, Bengel, and Dusterdieck favour the latter view of the two; Hengstenberg takes the former.
And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.
Verse 11. - And after three days and a half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet. "The three days and an half," viz. these mentioned in ver. 9, which see. Not merely "life from God," but the "Spirit from God" (cf. the vision in Ezekiel 37, especially vers. 9, 10). "The Spirit of life" has been in the Church of God previously, but she has become "dry bones;" "the Spirit" is now breathed anew into her, and she is restored and magnified before the world. And great fear fell upon them which saw them. "Beheld" (θεωρέω) occurs in the Apocalypse only here and in the next verse. Fear, on account of the vindication of those whom they had treated with contumely, and on account of the judgment, to follow, which was even now shadowed forth.
And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
Verse 12. - And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. The reading ἤκουσα, "I heard," for ἤκουσαν, "they heard," in a correction of א, and in B, Coptic, Armenian, Andreas, may have arisen from the similarity of the passage to Revelation 6:6; Revelation 9:13. Dusterdieck, who reads, "I heard," points out that in Revelation 6:11; Revelation 9:4, the phrase used in addressing others is, "It was said unto them." Thus the fate of the Church is that of her Lord, and it is the fate of each individual who may witness of God. Suffering, apparent extinction, perhaps, but ultimate triumph and ascension into the presence of God is their common inheritance. If so be that they suffer with him, they are also glorified with him (Romans 8:17). Alford remarks that "no attempt has been made to explain this ascension by those who interpret the witnesses figuratively of the Old and New Testaments, or the like." Is it not the resurrection of the just, of the witnesses of God, and their exaltation at the beginning of the last judgment? Thus St. Paul says, "But each in his own order: Christ the Firstfruits; then they that are Christ's, at his coming. Then cometh the end" (1 Corinthians 15:13). This "end" is immediately referred to by the seer. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them; in the cloud. The parallelism with Elijah and Christ (see vers. 5, 6, 8) is carried still further. The Church is triumphantly vindicated and glorified as they were; the only difference is that now all men behold it. The cloud is not that which hides them from view, but rather, like that in Revelation 14:14, something which exalts and enhances the glory of the witnesses. The effect upon the worldly is told in vers. 11, 13.
And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
Verse 13. - And the same hour was there a great earthquake. In the visions of the seals it is set forth, under the sixth seal, how the destruction of the world is accompanied by earthquakes, etc.; the fear of the wicked is portrayed, and the preservation of the just takes place at the same time. Here, under the sixth trumpet, we have the same events shown forth, the triumph of the godly being mentioned first, though the rest happens "in that same hour." This is the conclusion of the sixth judgment, the consequence of the non repentance mentioned in Revelation 9:21. The intervening narrative (Revelation 10:1-11:12) serves to show that opportunities of knowing God's will are given to men, as well as warnings of judgment in ease of disobedience. Vers. 13 of Revelation 11. might follow Revelation 9:21, but for the desire of the seer to demonstrate the long suffering goodness and mercy of God. And the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand. Both the Authorized Version and the Revised Version have in the margin, "names of men, seven thousand," and some writers make much of the expression. Thus Alford says, "As if the name of each were recounted;" and Wordsworth, "Persons known and distinguished." But, in truth, the phrase is a Hebraism, to which we can attach no special significance (cf. Acts 1:15; Revelation 3:4). Whatever may he the system of interpretation adopted, this passage presents many difficulties. The whole account appears to relate to the judgment day, and it is therefore more peculiarly prophetic than many parts of the Apocalypse, and for that reason its meaning must needs be more or less obscure. The account in this verse informs us that a part (a tenth) of the city (that is, of the wicked) suffers destruction; that the number so destroyed is described as seven thousand; that the rest (nine tenths), in fear, recognize the power of God, to which they had hitherto refused attention. What is the final fate awarded to the nine tenths we are not told. We have, therefore, to inquire the meaning of the numbers given. Now, it seems inherently impossible to interpret these numbers literally, and, moreover, as we have repeatedly seen, it is not the habit of the writer of the Apocalypse to indicate exact numbers. We must, therefore, try to discover the symbolical meaning which St. John attached to these expressions, the qualities rather than the quantities which he intended to signify. In the Bible the tenth part invariably signifies the tithe - the portion due from the community to God or to the ruler (cf. Genesis 28:22; Leviticus 27:32; Numbers 18:21; 1 Samuel 8:15, 17). it seems probable that this was the idea intended to be conveyed, viz. that God was now exacting his due, that men who had refused to recognize what was due from them to God were now forced to recognize his sovereignty by the exaction for punishment of a tithe, and as an evidence that all are under his sway. But, it may be objected, are not all the wicked punished at the judgment? This verse really seems to hint at a possibility of some course by which, even at the last moment, a chance of escape may be presented to men. But it does not distinctly state this; it seems, indeed, purposely to leave the fate of the rest of the ungodly untold. All it does assert is that God comes to the wicked as a Conqueror or a King, and exacts what is due to himself. But, further, why are seven thousand men slain? Again interpreting symbolically, seven involves the idea of completeness (see on Revelation 1:4; 5:1, etc.). A thousand signifies a large number, though not an infinitely large number, for which we have "thousands of thousands," etc. This number, therefore, informs us that God's vengeance overtakes a large number, and that that number is complete, none escaping who deserve to be included. Perhaps this is mentioned as a precaution against any possibility of mistake in the interpretation of the "tenth part." It is as though St. John would say, "In that hour God exacted vengeance, demanding what was due to his justice; but do not imagine that that vengeance reached only a small part of mankind. It was far extending and complete, though I do not attempt to define its exact limits, which cannot be known until the judgment day itself shall reveal everything." And the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. The rest gave glory, being, perhaps (though not necessarily), repentant (cf. Joshua 7:19; John 9:24; Revelation 4:9; Revelation 14:7; Revelation 16:9). Possibly we have here a hint of God's uncovenanted mercies (vide supra), though there is nothing sufficiently definite to encourage men to postpone the day of repentance. No mention is made of the ultimate fate of "the remnant." "The God of heaven," in contrast to things of the world, upon which their affections had been hitherto set (cf. Revelation 16:11). In these two places alone of the New Testament is this expression found; but it is not uncommon in the Old Testament (cf. Ezra 1:2; Nehemiah 1:4; Daniel 2:18).
The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.
Verse 14. - The second woe is past. The full description of this woe occupies Revelation 9:13-11:14. The account describes the natural spiritual punishment which is inflicted upon men in consequence of their sins (Revelation 9:13-21). This is insufficient to lead men to avert the final judgment by timely repentance. We have then a further description of God's long suffering, and the rejection of his mercy, accompanied by an assurance of the safety of the faithful (Revelation 10:1-11:10). This brings us to the end of the world (Revelation 11:11-14), just as the sixth seal led to the same termination (Revelation 7:12-17), and both are followed by the seventh, which gives a reference to the eternal peace of heaven. And, behold, the third woe cometh quickly. Omit "and." It is not said, in the case of the other "woes," that they come quickly. In his description of the preservation and glorification of the Church under the form of the "witnesses," the writer had been led to anticipate in some degree what follows under the seventh trumpet. Thus the seventh comes quickly. When events have progressed so far that the faithful Church is ascended to heaven with her Lord, then immediate]y follows the eternal rest set forth under the seventh trumpet. But this period is described as "the third woe," because it is the period of time final punishment of the wicked; and it is the judgment of the ungodly which is the theme of the trumpet visions, although mention is incidentally made of the preservation and reward of the just. This is the time foretold in Revelation 10:7. Just as in the case of the seals, the period of the seventh seal is recorded but not described, so here, in the case of the seventh trumpet, its advent is recorded, and its nature is indicated in ver. 18, but no further description is given of the woe; only a slight reference to the bliss of those who are secure in heaven. Thus St. John does not attempt a complete picture of either the blessings of heaven or the woes of hell.
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
Verse 15. - And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying. The participle "saying" is masculine, λέγοντες, in A, B; the feminine, λέγουσαι, is read in א, C, P. Though the latter would be more correct, grammatically, yet irregular construction in such cases is not uncommon in the Apocalypse. The voices were possibly those of the angels rejoicing in the triumph of the kingdom of God. Or perhaps they proceeded from the four living beings, since the elders are next mentioned (ver. 17) as offering the praises of the redeemed Church which they represent. At the opening of the seventh seal there was silence in heaven; here, at the sound of the seventh angel's trumpet, voices are heard "in heaven," but there is silence as to the fate of the wicked, with whom the trumpet visions have been chiefly concerned. In the revelation of the fate in store for the Church, as well as in that of the doom awarded to the ungodly, the visions stop short of describing circumstances connected with the life after the judgment day. The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever. Ἐγένετο ἡ βασιλαία, in the singular, is found in א, A, B, C, P, and versions, and is adopted by the Revised Version. Ἐγένοντο αἱ βασιλεῖαι, the plural, is read in two cursives. We can understand the first part of this verse by referring to Revelation 12:10. God's power and authority is established by the final overthrow of Satan. It naturally follows the account, in vers. 12, 13, of the vindication of God's witnesses, and of the glory rendered by the rest of mankind. With God the Father is associated Christ, by whose means the overthrow of the devil is effected, and by whom his servants overcome (cf. Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:14; Revelation 12:11). This is the final victory; henceforth "he shall reign forever and ever."
And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
Verse 16. - And the four and twenty elders. "The elders" represent the Church (see on Revelation 4:4); they are those who were made "a kingdom" (Revelation 1:6); they therefore fitly take up the burden of praise to him who has now established his universal and everlasting kingdom. Which sat before God on their seats; which sit before God on their thrones (Revised Version). Thus they are described in Revelation 4:4. Fell upon their faces, and worshipped God. (So also in Revelation 4:10; Revelation 5:14; Revelation 19:4.)
Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.
Verse 17. - Saying, We give thee thanks. The only instance in the Apocalypse of the use of this verb. It is found in John 6:11, 23, and John 11:41, but in none of the ether Gospels, though frequently in the Epistles. "The elders" are peculiarly indebted to God, since the establishment of his kingdom is the victory of the Church. O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; the Almighty. Omit "and art to come" (Revised Version), with א, A, B, C, P, Andreas, Arethas, Primasius, Syriac, Armenian, etc. (cf. Revelation 1:4; Revelation 4:8). Perhaps the future is purposely omitted, since God's "coming" is now an accomplished fact (cf. also Revelation 16:5). Because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned; because thou hast taken thy great power, and didst reign (Revised Version). God never ceased to reign, though for a time he abrogated his power. This power he has now reassumed, and the elders thank him for it, for it is the assurance of the end of the suffering of the Church of God. So in Revelation 4:11 the elders declare that he is worthy to receive the power which he now visibly exercises. It has, indeed, been exercised before. The preservation of the Church set forth in the visions of the seals, and the punishment of the ungodly shown under the trumpet visions, are effected by means of this power; but now that power is visibly exercised.
And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
Verse 18. - And the nations were angry (cf. Psalm 2:1, which appears to be in the mind of the seer, for ver. 9 of the same psalm is referred to in Revelation 12:5). "The nations" raged in the period of their persecution of the Church, as set forth under the visions of the seals. They were angry, says Hengstenberg, at the progress of the kingdom of God, after the Word was made flesh. And thy wrath is come; thy wrath came. This verse points conclusively to the judgment day, the events of which, however, as before remarked (see on ver. 15), are merely indicated, not fully described. This is the last final infliction upon the wicked, the seventh of the trumpet plagues. And the time of the dead, that they should be judged; to be judged. Vitringa and others understand this judgment to refer to the dead martyrs who are now vindicated; but the meaning probably extends to all the dead, both classes of whom are referred to in the following part of the verse. And that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy Name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth; and to give their reward... and to destroy, etc. Though μικροὺς καὶ τοὺς μεγάλος, "the small and the great," is in the accusative ease, it is in apposition with the preceding datives, προφήταις ἁγίοις, φοβουμένοις, "prophets, saints, those that fear." The wicked are those who "destroy the earth," since it is on their account that the world is destroyed; they "destroy the earth" also by corrupting it, which is the force of διαφθεῖραι. In what way this destruction of the wicked is accomplished we are not told.
And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
Verse 19. - And the temple of God was opened in heaven; and there was opened the temple of God that is in heaven (Revised Version). "The temple" (ναός), the dwelling place of God (cf. ver. 1; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 7:15). Again, but a glimpse is afforded; and yet more is revealed than at the conclusion of the former series of visions; while the chief description is reserved to a later part of the Revelation. And there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament; or, ark of his covenant. This seems to be introduced in order to render more emphatic the steadfastness and unchangeableness of God. As in the case of the witnesses, the figure is taken from the Old Testament, and the symbol would be pregnant with meaning to Jewish Christians and ethers who had learnt to think of the ark as the sacrament of God's abiding presence and continual help. He who now promises aid to his people, and threatens judgment upon the wicked, is the same God who formerly had displayed his power on behalf of his people Israel. And there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail; there followed (Revised Version). The usual token of any special manifestation of God's presence, or direct dealing with men (see on Revelation 6:1). This, then, forms the conclusion to the series of trumpet visions. These visions, evoked by the cry for vengeance in Revelation 6:10, have demonstrated the need for patience and endurance on the part of Christians, by indicating the punishments meted out to the wicked on this earth and at the final judgment, together with the final triumph of the faithful. The seer next proceeds to elaborate a fact alluded to in the measuring of the temple in Revelation 10:2, and to point the moral that it is possible for Christians within the Church to lose their final reward by their apostasy.
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