Last Updated on : Thursday, November 20, 2014
|Thirteen Lectures On The Apocalypse|
Revelation Chapters 9 and 10
The woe trumpets -- the vastness of the changes involved -- the fifth trumpet, or first woe -- the opening of the abyss -- the issue of the locust-cloud -- its relation to the appearance of Mahomet -- his prophetic pretensions and military measures -- over-running of European countries by his Saracenic hordes -- their special animosity toward the Catholic idolaters -- the scorpions they used in war -- their mission to torment but not to kill for five months twice told -- the chronology of their mission -- Dr. Thomas's historical paraphrase of the fifth trumpet -- The sixth trumpet, or second woe -- the four angels -- their Euphratean boundary -- The Turkish inroads in four great movements -- the length of time appointed -- an hour, a day, a month, and a year, or 391 years -- the secondary application of that period -- the enormous time occupied by the fifth and sixth as compared with the preceding trumpets -- the description of the horsemen -- their enormous number -- The fire, smoke, and brimstone surrounding them -- the introduction of gunpowder by the Turks -- the desolations of the East under Turkish rule -- the termination of these by the advent of the mighty rainbowed angel of chapter 10:1 -- The seventh trumpet, or third woe, not so protracted as the other two -- the seven thunders -- why John was not allowed to record them -- the open book and the eating thereof -- the interesting work to be done by the saints at the coming of Christ.
IT will be recollected that the consideration of the eighth chapter of Revelation on Thursday evening last, brought under our review those terrible visitations upon the western Roman habitable, which are associated with the names of Goths and Huns, Vandals and Visigoths and Ostrogoths, and so on. At the close of that series of judgments (represented by the first four trumpets, and culminating in the extinction of the Roman Empire in the west), we enter upon another phase of events -- a more terrible phase -- one affecting the eastern section of the empire more particularly, though in truth bearing vitally on all parts of the civilized world. It is a phase so well marked in history as to constitute an epoch, and the starting point of a new order of things in many countries. It was to Europe in a measure what the arrival of Israel under Joshua was to the Canaanites. The Roman world was about to be visited by a scourge far transcending the inroads of the northern barbarians, who at least professed the same religion and assimilated with the populations of the countries they overthrew. Because of the appalling nature of this visitation, attention was called in a special manner to the trumpets heralding its approach: "Woe, woe, woe to the inhabiters of the earth, by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound."
John hears the first of these three trumpets. Let us imagine ourselves by his side. We hear the loud clarion blast. Then there is a pause. We wait to see the effect. First a star shoots from its place in the sky, and falls upon the earth. Having landed there, it appears as a man, and receives a key with which the star-man proceeds to a certain part of the earth styled the bottomless pit, or, more properly speaking, the abyss. This he opens, and thereupon there issues from the abyss so opened, columns of dense smoke, out of which come locust clouds of horse-like form, having bearded riders wearing yellow crowns, and marshalled in military array -- cavalry ready for the charge. John's description is as follows:-- "And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they, should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads: And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months. And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon."
Let us consider this striking symbolism seriatim. First the star that fell from heaven. This is self-evidently a personage or power: for the star is given a key. You could not give a key to a literal star. A key being representative of opening power, the star to whom the power was given must be the man or organization that would have power to perform the opening. You re-
collect the seven stars are declared to represent seven angelisms (or men sent) in the midst of seven churches, or organizations of men. These were stationary stars in the hand of Christ, because the spiritually-endowed men sent and sustained by him, peacefully ruled in the midst of the ecclesias. But here is a star descending to the earth, symbolizing a very different function. Such a star under the third trumpet symbolized the destructive descent of Attila from the country where he ruled upon the Roman earth, as will be recollected. What is meant by the key-using star of the fourth trumpet? We discover the answer in the contemplation of what he did. He opened a pit -- not a bottomless pit, for there could not be such a thing as a pit without a bottom -- but an abyss -- a deep place of the earth, whence there emerged upon the countries of the Roman habitable swarms of yellow-crowned or turbaned cavalry. This at once fixes our attention upon the Arabian Peninsula, where at this very time Mahomet appeared, and whence the Saracenic hordes poured forth under his inspiration to offer the affrighted nations of Europe the Koran or the sword.
That this region should be termed the abyss is not inappropriate in view of the topographical configuration of the Holy Land, which is its door of egress in the direction of Europe. You will perceive by a glance at the map that the Holy Land, at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, lies between Europe and the Arabian Peninsula. Now there is a peculiarity about that part of the surface of the earth which is not to be met with anywhere else. You may have seen it noticed in the recent lecture by Canon Tristram, an extract from which appeared in The Christadelphian a month or two ago. The country gradually slopes on the east and north towards the basin of the Dead Sea, with the result of forming a huge depression, which may well be described as an abyss. The Jordan descends along the centre course of its bed from its source in the Lebanon, until it empties itself in the waters of the Dead Sea; and the hill country after leaving Jerusalem to the eastward goes down quite precipitously in the same direction. The depth of the geographical hollow thus formed may be estimated from the fact that the water of the Dead Sea is 1,300 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. The mountains enclose it on the eastern side, and complete a depression which presents the idea of an immense valley without an exit; for the mountains at the lower end of the Dead Sea close it on the south. In this valley -- the valley of the Jordan -- the climate is of a tropical heat in
certain parts. In fact, all the climates are to be found in it -- from the temperate atmosphere of the upper regions to the oppressive heat of the lower valleys. The vegetation gradually changes as the land rises from one point to the other corresponding with the climatic conditions. The products of the whole earth and every order of landscape beauty are to be found gathered into this remarkable depression or abyss.
This abyss was the door through which the Mahometan myriads passed from Arabia to Europe. Consequently, it was appropriate to take it as representing the whole region to which they belonged, of which it formed a part. We have simply to ask if the history of the case corresponds with the symbolical opening of the abyss which John witnessed, and the issue of locust clouds which ensued. The answer of history is very clear and distinct.
The preparation of the abyss for the opening was going on during the closing events of the fourth trumpet. A preparation was needed, for prior to this, the Arabian peninsula was divided up into a large number of petty principalities whose separateness and independence were incompatible with the unity necessary to form the Arabians into a moving cloud of locusts. It was needful to fuse them into one power. This was done by the wars that ensued among them upon the publication of Mahomet's pretensions. These pretensions were at first very obscure and feebly put forth. A dreaming visionary -- (unlike the prophets of God in every particular) -- whose writings in the so-called Koran are the manifest effusions of a weak, egotistic and fanatical mind, biassed with a desire to imitate the Scriptures whose characters he frequently refers to and endorses -- at last gave himself out as a prophet having a divine mission. His pretence was correct in a certain sense. Though by no means sent from God as the prophets of Israel were, he had a work to do and a place in the programme. He was to organize a terrible scourge for the Papal idolaters of Europe. This was the work providentially assigned to him. He was a servant of God as Nebuchadnezzar was -- a servant without knowing or being known of God. His special work probably required his special idosyncrasy. As a result of his craze, he secreted himself for a time in a cave and pretended to receive divine revelations. These revelations are published in his books. They are terrible trash, as anybody taking the trouble to read the Koran will find. He laboured for three years, and by the end of that time had made fourteen converts, family relatives. At last, he succeeded in attracting around him quite a number of adherents.
The attempt of their townsman (at Mecca) to put them down, at first resulting in the flight of Mahomet to Medina, led to strife, in which Mahomet and his friends made free and successful use of the sword. Success enlarged their ideas, and led to demands of allegiance on the surrounding tribes. The resisted demands led to further war, and war working favourably on his side, Mahomet attained a position of power and importance, until finally the whole of the Arabian nation were subdued to his pretensions and lent themselves to his ideas.
During these events, we contemplate the abyss in a state of preparation for the emission of the locusts. Without it, no amount of opening of the abyss would have sufficed for the providential work to be performed. It wanted the fire and the smoke: and these were generated by the internal dissensions of the Arabians, which elevated Mahomet from the position of a private member of a tribe to a leader of a nation, and prepared the whole Arabian people for that wonderful onslaught on the Roman Empire, which is renowned in history as the wars of the Saracens.
The pit, being ready for opening, the occasion for the use of the key duly arose. The Roman emperor Heraclius, on his way from Persia homewards, having heard of the Arabian turmoils and the upshot of them in the elevation of Mahomet, sent to salute Mahomet, as one sovereign does another. Mahomet, who considered the Catholics idolaters, sent back a message, demanding Heraclius to give up the worship of idols and become a worshipper of the true God. Mahomet's messengers, by whom this message was sent, were assassinated -- whether by Heraclius's orders or against his will is not known. The effect on Mahomet was the same as if it had been a deliberate act. He resolved on the invasion of the Roman Empire. With this object, he set his army in motion towards Palestine, at that time subject to Rome, and forming the political abyss (symbolized by the geographical) out of which the locusts were to issue.
Why were the armies of Mahomet symbolized by locusts? This seems to be answered by two facts: first, Arabia is the native country of locusts; armies issuing from which, are fitly represented in symbol as clouds of locusts: secondly, the Hebrew word for locust is the same as that for Arab, as regards its radical elements, locust being arbeh, and arab, arbi. It is a third fact that in some parts of Arabian literature, the locust is introduced as the heraldic symbol of the Saracens. It is a fourth fact -- (not very strong to be sure, but pointing in the same direction) -- that Mahometans say that in the course of his revela-
tions, locusts dropped into the hands of Mahomet, bearing an inscription on their wings, describing them as the army of the Great God.
Palestine, in its eastern borders, fell before the sword of Mahomet, and he died while contemplating further military measures. His death, however, instead of stopping, accelerated the opening of the abyss. His relative, Abu Beker, took the command as his successor, and entered with great ardour on the work that had been begun by Mahomet. His army was principally composed of cavalry: cavalry was not merely an arm of his force, as in the case of the Romans, but cavalry was the army. The result was to give his movements a celerity that baffled Roman calculations. An immense body of horse flew from point to point, and carried all before them like a cloud of locusts.
Their devastations, however, were not general and indiscriminate, but confined to certain objects. You will observe in verse 4, "It was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads". It is interesting to note the feature in the Mahometan enterprise corresponding to this command. The command was a providential command, of course: that is, a commission providentially assigned and not a command oral and express according to the ordinary meaning of the term. We learn this sense of the word "command" when God employs it, from even the un-symbolical part of the Scriptures, such as where God said to Elijah when instructing him to move to Zarephath: "I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee" -- a widow woman who knew nothing about the matter when Elijah arrived (seeWays of Providence).
The command of God to the Mahometan locusts, to confine their depredations within a certain channel, though not direct and express, was well marked in the form it took in the natural course. An address issued to the Saracen troops after Mahomet's death, by Abu Beker, Mahomet's successor, intimating his purpose to prosecute the war against the Romans, whom he styled the infidel, contained the following passage: "Let not your victory be stained with the blood of women or children. Destroy no palm trees nor burn any fields of corn; cut down no fruit trees, nor do any mischief to cattle .... You will find another sort of people that belong to the synagogue of Satan, who have shaven crowns: be sure you cleave their skulls and give them no quarter till they either turn Mahomedans or pay tribute." This was the historic illustration of the command recorded centuries before in the pages of the
Apocalypse, of which, of course, Abu Beker was ignorant. The enmity of the Mahometan squadrons was officially directed against the supporters of Roman Catholicism.
"Their torment was as the torment of a scorpion when he striketh a man." So we read in verse 5. In verse 3, there is an earlier allusion to the same point. "Unto them was given power as the scorpions of the earth have power." Scorpions strike with their stings with tormenting and sometimes with fatal effects; but the scorpion power in this case was not to be unto death (verse 5). "To them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months." What was the scorpion power possessed by the Saracens? We find an answer in the fact that they employed in their military operations formidable missiles which they styled scorpions. These missiles were of a chemical mixture, which was the forerunner of gunpowder. An Arab writer thus speaks of them in 1249: "The scorpions surrounded and ignited by nitrated powder, glide along like serpents with a humming noise, and when exploded, they blaze brightly and burn. Now, to behold the matter expelled was as a cloud extended through the air, which gave forth a dreadful crash like thunder, vomiting fire on every side and breaking down, burning, and reducing all things to ashes." Armed with this power, known as Saracen fire and afterwards as Greek fire, because finally adopted by the Greeks, the Saracens had power to injure with scorpion-power; but their mission did not extend beyond the infliction of torment. They were not to kill the eastern Roman empire in the way the western had been killed by the Goths. They were only to injure. The men of the eastern or Greek third of the Roman empire were to retain political life in the midst of their torment, but against the will of the majority; the bulk of the people were desirous for the sake of peace to submit to political death and accept the Saracen yoke. But death fled from them: because it was not in the divine purpose that the locusts should kill in the symbolic sense of the term, but only injure five months twice over (see verses 5 and 10). Why not ten months instead of twice five? Because locusts only appear five months in the year; and it would not have been in harmony with the natural history of the symbol to express it in any other way. But they could not be literal months as applied to the events of the symbol. Ten months are not one year, and the afflicting career of the Saracens in European countries extended over 300 years. The explanation is found in the fact with which all present are more
or less acquainted, that literal days in symbolic use stand for years.
To the Saracens, then, was assigned the mission of harassing and afflicting the countries of the Catholic apostasy for the long period of three centuries, but not to prevail to the extinction of its political independence. Let anyone read the history of the Saracens from the appearance of aggressive Mahometanism in A.D. 632, and he will recognize the features of this hieroglyph in their historical exemplification.
"They had a king over them." This is not the star of verse 1, which opened the pit, but is rather to be taken as the official or head under which the Saracenic locusts were organized after their issue from the pit. The historic parallel is found in the Caliphs of the Mahometan system. The Caliph was styled the "Commander of the Faithful." In the Papal system, you have the Pope: in the Mahometan, the Caliph. The Caliph was a destroyer: this was his providential function: his name is expressed in Greek and Hebrew (see verse 11) denoting that his destroying operations were principally to bear on the Hebrew and Greek areas of the Roman Empire, which historically was the case.
The following paraphrase by Dr. Thomas of the first twelve verses of the chapter, presents the interpretation in a striking and obvious form:
Here we have a representation of something that came after the Saracenic affliction, but of as terrible a nature. The Saracens overran and subdued the eastern and southern provinces of the Roman Empire in 150 years, which are five months of years, viz., 5 x 30=150. In another period of 150 years, their power had declined to the collapsing point. It took them 150 years to rise and 150 years to fall, which was according to the two periods of five months mentioned in the prophecy of the fifth trumpet. But what further great Oriental military eruption upon Europe is here represented in the sixth. trumpet? The answer will naturally spring to everyone's lips having the least acquaintance with history. It is suggested by the geography of the sixth trumpet just read. The river Euphrates is mentioned. This is the geographical basis of the symbolism, and takes our attention at once to the east. Four angels bound within or on the eastern side of the Euphrates are summoned; not literally four angels of course, but military powers. That is shown by the fact that when they
were "loosed" in compliance with a command ordering them to be loosed, John saw, not four angels, but myriads of horsemen. Our attention (fixed upon the east, when the Saracenic torment had died away) beholds the Turkish hordes in muster, and sees them in four great waves pour into the provinces of the eastern third of the Roman Empire, spread over a period of nearly four hundred years. It is needless to go into the particulars of these four military tornadoes that carried desolation and death into the heart of the eastern Roman empire. They are associated with names famous in history -- Togrul Beg, Alp Arslan, Timour, or Tamerlane, Bajazet, and so on, the leaders of the Ottomans or Turcomans. The particulars may be found in Eureka, at great length and clearness. It is sufficient for our purpose to see the general form of the fulfilment. The four angel powers did not come into operation simultaneously but one after the other. Their mission was to "slay the third part of men". The Saracens were not allowed to kill the eastern empire with political death, but only to subject it to scorpion-torment. But the Turks were to "slay"; they were to prevail over and extinguish the eastern third of the Roman habitable as the western had been by the Goths. To this end, they were employed to deliver four successive assaults, so to speak, the last accomplishing the work for which the way had been paved by the work of the first three. All four were necessary; the work to be done was therefore the mission of all; and for the performance of the work, they were prepared" for an hour, and a day and a month, and a year". This is symbolic time, which, reduced to literal time, gives the following result:--
How do we apply this period to the work performed by the Turks against the Greek Empire -- that is, the eastern third of the Roman Empire? This will be seen readily. As a matter of fact, the Turkish assault on the eastern remnant of the Roman Empire extended over nearly four hundred years. Constantinople, with the capture of which the Roman Empire in the east was extinguished, fell into the hands of the Turks, A.D. 1453. This was the accomplishment of the mission of the four angels; and if we reckon backwards 391 years, the time "for which" they were prepared, we find ourselves at the beginning of the Turkish power when Togrul Beg, their first military leader, being married to the daughter of the Caliph of Bagdad, the head of the Saracenic or Maho-
metan religion, became the head of the Mahometan faith, from whom the Turkish Sultans have to this day inherited the title of Commander of the Faithful. This is a sufficiently satisfactory illustration of the chronology of the otherwise obscure phrase, "an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year". It seems probable, however, that there is a secondary application of the period, according to the analogy of some other scriptural cases; that is, that it not only signified the time that would be occupied from the commencement of the preparation of the four angels to the completion of their work, but also the time during which the work accomplished would last from the date of its accomplishment. It took 391 years from the time the Turkish power was fully organized to the extinction of the eastern Roman third by its means; and it has taken a similar period to fulfil the course of the Turkish power from the time of its establishment to the time appointed for its drying up. If we add 391 years (the hour, day, month and year) to the date of the capture of Constantinople (1453), we are brought to the year 1844, when the Turkish Empire had fully entered on that downward course that at the present moment (1880) threatens its total extinction. This would give twice 391 years for the full work of the four angels -- of the sixth trumpet -- nearly 800 years. This is a long period compared with the time of the preceding trumpets, except the fifth, which occupied twice five months of years, or 300 years. The disparity may strike us at first sight as strange. We must remember, however, that a difference is marked between the first four and the last three trumpets, by the fact that when the first four had been blown, an angel bewailed the fate of mankind in prospect of the remaining three. The protracted duration as well as the severe nature of the woes of the remaining trumpets would seem to be intimated by this preface. However this may be, the fifth and sixth trumpets bring their chronology, with them. They contain specifications of duration for their events. There is no mention of time in any of the other trumpets, while in these two, we have periods defined which harmonize with the historical facts of the case.
The number of the cavalry will strike everyone as enormous -- verse 16, "two hundred thousand thousand" -- two hundred millions! Here there must be some exaggeration, surely, some one may say. Perhaps such an one may think another thought on the subject if he understands that what is meant is, not the number employed at the commencement of the Turkish power, but the number spread over the entire course of the Turkish
career. The number of horsemen used by the Turks (whose soldiers were nearly all horsemen), during four hundred years would not be likely to run far short of the immense figures of the sixth trumpet; and if we add to them the horse men used by them during their ascendancy in a second period of four hundred years, the number ceases to have the impossible aspect it possesses at first sight.
The description of the horsemen may also appear at first sight a difficulty; breastplates of fire, jacinth and brimstone, heads of horses as the heads of lions, with fire, smoke and brimstone issuing from their mouths, by which three things -- the fire, the smoke, and the brimstone -- the mission of the horsemen was accomplished, viz., the third part of men was killed; having also tails with heads in which their power lay, and with which they inflicted injury. All this is very hideous and appalling if taken as a description of literal things. Doubtless the demonology of popular theology borrows some of its conceptions from this description. The pictures of hobgoblins and evil creatures with which the youthful fancies of the present generation were scared into "piety", have doubtless part of their roots in the dreadful imagery of the sixth trumpet and other parts of the Apocalypse. It is only an unenlightened treatment of the Apocalypse, however, that can yield such results. When the great fact is kept sight of -- that the Apocalypse is a condensed and symbolic exhibition of literal things, we escape the difficulties into which a literal reading inevitably leads, and are kept on the look-out for the meaning of the symbol instead of being overpowered and bewildered by gazing on the symbol itself as a literal thing. There is only so much of the literal throughout as serves to give character and clue to the symbolism. Here we have horsemen and the Euphrates as literal elements in the imagery that at once identify the symbol with the Turkish apparition that scared and afflicted Europe over seven centuries ago. The details of the picture exhibit other literal elements hieroglyphically. The whole Turkish career during centuries is condensed into one immense army of cavalry, which John sees and hears enumerated. The means by which this army prevailed to the extinction of eastern Rome, are illustrated--gunpowder. The Turks prevailed over the Romans by the use of gunpowder at a time when it had been recently invented. The Turks were the first to use cannon. It was by this they killed "the third." Had their foes been similarly armed, their success, humanly speaking, would have been doubtful. Now the principal thing
that would strike anyone witnessing an army of cavalry, using field guns, would be the three things mentioned by John, "fire, smoke, and brimstone", and a description of the new weapons dragged after the horses at a time when they had no name, would be a tail with a head to it, in which lay the power to hurt. These same tails would, however, when the artillery came into action, become the mouths of the formidable horsemen of the vision; for of course, when the artillery vomited fire and smoke and brimstone, the horsemen would be in the rear of their pieces, which accounts for "their power" being said to be both "in their mouth and in their tails." The roaring of the guns would also account for their mouths being said to be like lions' mouths, and their breastplates or protection behind which they would fight, being of fire and brimstone. Even apart from these special explanations, which are doubtless the proper ones, the destructive power of the horsemen in relation to "the third" would be a sufficient justification of their highly wrought description, after the analogy of Scripture example (see Hab. 1:8; Joel 2:4-8; Isaiah 5:21-30, etc.).
"The rest of the men", we are told, "that were not killed by these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands" -- a statement illustrated by the fact that notwithstanding the terrible affliction and the overthrow of eastern Rome by the Turks, as the instruments of God's vengeance, the populations of Western Europe continued addicted to the doctrines and practices of Mother Church, which God has stamped with His execration. The eastern section of Christendom was given over to the desolating Turk, because of its long-standing and patiently-borne but increasing abominations; after the example of the seven nations of Canaan which, for a similar reason, were given over to the sword of Joshua.
The eastern section of Christendom comprises all the countries that were anciently the scenes of divine visitation in a special manner -- the Holy Land, where God wrought openly and the prophets delivered their messages; and Asia Minor where the apostles laboured and the Spirit shone in the midst of the ecclesias in the miraculous endowments it conferred on leading brethren. Thus it comes to pass in our day , that all the lands of hallowed memory are blighted and desolate under Turkish rule. The horsemen of the sixth trumpet summoned by the trumpet blast of divine providence, swept over "the third", to its extermination and the consequent desolation of the lands over which they threw the blighting shadow of their subsequently established government.
The seventh trumpet, however, will end this state of things. Though itself a trumpet of woe for mankind, its woes are of a healing order; for John heard an angel proclaim concerning the seventh trumpet, "In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God shall be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets". What this "mystery" (or formerly hidden secret) is, those are aware who are acquainted with those writings of the prophets wherein it is "declared." It is the recovery of His land from desolation (Isaiah 61:4), the establishment therein of a divine government for all the world (Jer. 3:17), and the consequent blessedness of all the nations of the earth walking in the light thereof (Micah 4:14). This glorious mystery (for which there has been a preparation in all past ages) will be finished, accomplished, or established "in the days of the voice of the seventh angel". Its accomplishment will be preceded by woes transcending all former human experiences consequent on the fact that in the course of it "Jehovah [Yahweh] (in the person of Christ) comes forth out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity" (Isa. 26:21). This causes the seventh trumpet to be classed with the woe trumpets; but in its ultimate effects, it is only good. Its general character is proclaimed in the "great voices in heaven" which John heard when the seventh angel sounded (Rev. 11:15): "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." The seventh trumpet changes the face of the world. It puts an end to human rule, and establishes the kingdom of God in all the earth. This is a glorious change, but not to be effected without the putting forth of much destructive power, "dashing the nations in pieces like a potter's vessel" (Psa. 2:8-9; Dan. 2:44-45) and causing a time of trouble such as never has been (Dan. 12:1).
It might be supposed that the fifth and sixth trumpets (the Saracenic and Ottoman) having occupied such a long time, and the seventh being with them one of the three woe trumpets, it must be a long time yet before the saints attain that salvation which is to be brought to them under the seventh trumpet in the establishment of the kingdom of God. Any dreary conclusion of that sort is excluded by the 10th chapter of the Apocalypse, which comes within the lecture of this evening. The ninth chapter covers the entire period occupied by the rise and fall of the Saracens and Turks. The tenth chapter takes up the thread where Turkish history
closes, and exhibits a symbol which shows that at that juncture the promised divine interposition, which overthrows the kingdoms of men, takes place.
John sees (chap. 10:1) a cloud-clothed angel descend from heaven, with face of sun-like brightness and head encircled with rainbow-like beauty and glory. His feet, like pillars of fire, he places one on the sea and one on the land, and utters a shout like a lion's roar. His shout is followed by seven thunder peals, in which intelligent voices are audible, declaring certain matters which John wished to write, but was forbidden. The angel lifts his hand to heaven and "swears by him that liveth for ever and ever . . . that there should be time (delay) no longer: but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God shall be finished". This declaration and the symbol taken together, show that the third woe (or seventh trumpet) is not to be protracted like the first and second (or fifth and sixth trumpet), a conclusion further confirmed by the remark in Rev. 11:14, "The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly." It may be asked, how does the symbol support this conclusion? The answer is, it does so by its manifest identity with Christ and the saints in their corporate relation to the world in the day of their glory. The angel, of course, is a symbol, standing for a class sent, for it is clothed in a cloud -- the symbol of a multitude. It is a class exercising conquering power on sea and land, for the angel places his right foot on the sea and his left on the land. It is destructive power, for his feet are fiery. It is for beneficent purposes, however: for a rainbow encircling his head speaks of sunshine after rain. It is an effective class that can command the world's attention, for he cries with a voice that resembles a lion's roar. It is a voice controlling executive authority; for seven thunders (the symbol of war) are let loose by its utterance. It is not a fallible human community; for the thunders so loosed divulge revelation. It is not an earthly or mortal class, for the face of the angel shines with the lustre of the sun. It does not originate among men, but is of divine origin, for the angel comes down from heaven.
Now, when we ask what class, according to the plainer Scriptures, appears upon the scene at the close of the Turkish desolation, with authority to proclaim the dispensation at an end and the time arrived for the accomplishment of God's prophetically-enunciated purpose in the earth, and to set warlike agencies in motion for the enforcement of their decree, there is but one answer: Jesus comes to be glorified in his saints and admired
in all them that believe (2 Thess. 1:10). What is his promise to them at that time? "To him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father" (Rev. 2:26). He and they, head and body, then form one powerful community of whom it was testified in Daniel concerning this time: "Judgment was given to the saints of the Most High, and the time came that the saints possessed the Kingdom" (Dan. 7:22). Consequently, the mighty angel seen by John to descend from heaven at the close of the Turkish plague, cannot be understood in any other light than as the symbol of the One Body in its manifestation in power and great glory at the advent of Christ.
This view enables us to understand why John was forbidden to record what the symbolic thunders proclaimed. What is recorded is recorded for the guidance of the servants of Christ during his absence. But at the time of the seven thunders he will not be absent. He will be amongst them and they will be gathered around him, and will themselves be the executioners of the seven-thunder or nation-breaking programme. The knowledge of what they will do then, in its details, would be of no special value to them now when they are on probation for a place in the mighty-angel community; while the publication of those details in advance might interfere in some way with the execution of the divine work then as regards the nations of the earth.
As to the little book or scroll, open, in the angel's hand, there cannot be any difficulty in view of the fact that a closed or sealed book or scroll is always in scriptural usage the figure for that which is either not revealed or not understood (Isa. 29:11-12; Dan. 12:4). An open book in the hand of the multitudinous angel manifestly tells us that in that day there will be no more concealing or nonperception of the divine counsel, but such an exhibition of the glory of the Lord that all flesh, even the unwilling (Isa. 26:10-11) shall see it together (Isa.40:5; 66:23), with the result that the veil shall be taken from the eyes of all nations (Isa. 25:7), and they shall confess, coming from the ends of the earth, they have been the victims of darkness and imposture (Jer. 16:19).
The incident of the eating of the book by John (verses 8-11) is confirmatory of this interpretation: John was commanded to go up to the angel holding the open book in his hand, and take it. Having done so, he was commanded to eat
it, which he did -- a symbolic transaction: for men do not eat literal books. Men are said to eat words in the sense of receiving and embracing the instruction they afford (Jer. 15:16; Psa. 119:103). To eat a book is intellectually to appropriate its contents by reading. The eating of the open book in question by John shows that the angel was the symbol of the class to which John belonged: for whereas the book was first in the angel's hand, it was transferred from the angel to John, and thus an identity was established between them. What followed the eating is further instructive in the matter. John relished the act of eating, but the effects produced after the eating were disagreeable. This harmonizes with the fact that every saint even now in measure experiences, viz., that while the reception of Jehovah's [Yahweh's] truth is itself a source of pure sweetness and peace, it makes us the subject of great bitterness afterwards in the feelings with which we view the state of the world and the wickedness of men around us on every hand. John having eaten the book, was told, "Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings" (verse 11). This shows that the book stood for divine knowledge: the eating for the act of acquiring that knowledge: and the purpose of its impartation that it might be communicated to others. We may take this as affording a hint to ourselves even now, for John is our brother if we are brethren of Christ. But there can be no doubt that the ultimate significance of the book-eating is of a future application, both as regards John and those for whom he stood. John was an old man when he was told he would have again to prophesy before nations and kings. He was close on a hundred years of age: and there is no evidence that he ever appeared in public after receiving the Apocalypse. His death occurred shortly afterwards. Consequently, the prophesying in question must refer to what he will have to do after his resurrection at the coming of Christ. This would follow from the conclusion that the angel out of whose hands he received the book was a symbol of the saints in their post-resurrectional relation to the nations. An open book in that angel's hands must stand for the things to be further revealed at the coming of Christ, the time having then arrived for the realization of Paul's words: "Now we look through a glass darkly, but then face to face.... then shall we know even as we are known" (1 Cor. 13:12). How interesting is the reflection that comes out of this interpretation of the case--viz., that John, and therefore his brethren, and therefore we,
if we are acknowledged of the Lord as such in the day of his coming -- will be mediums of communication between the Lord and the nations in the great epoch of the end during the process by which the government of all the earth is transferred from its present holders to the King of kings and Lord of lords, who shall reign for ever. This means much interesting work and many sweet revenges in the day of Christ. The brethren of Christ are now despised with a fervid abhorrence. They are hated of the World because they are not of the world. They are looked upon as utter and irreclaimable rubbish, or as Paul expresses it, "the offscouring of all things", and this is by no means agreeable to them. But how completely will the situation be changed when those brethren appear throughout the earth as the authorized messengers of Jesus returned! Doubtless, at first they will be opposed and slighted as Moses and Aaron were by Pharaoh, but how easily they will bear it with the knowledge that they are immortal, and that they have Christ behind them in an open and visible manner, and that the time has come for the overthrow of the power of the enemy and the triumph of Christ in all the earth.
|All Books/Booklets, Editorials, and Articles are FREE and can be downloaded without permission.|