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Sixth Edition, 1915
By Dr. John Thomas (first edition written 1861)



Chapter 13

Section 2 Subsection 29

Fire Descending from the Heaven



Verse 13

The wonder-worker is the Beast of the Earth, or New Power; hence the semeia wrought must have been such "wonders" as military and ecclesiastical human powers have the ability and are known to work. In other words, they were wonderful, or remarkable, events, brought to pass by fraud and battle, "in the presence of the men" of the tribes, tongues, and nations of the European "Wilderness" (ch. 17:3). The thirty-three campaigns of Charlemagne in the woods and forests of Germany, in which he subjugated the pagan aborigines of that country, and imposed upon them the superstition of the Roman Priesthood, were among the wonders whereby fire was caused to descend upon them out of the heaven. The wars of Otho the First, by which the limits of his kingdom, which his father, Henry the Fowler, had transferred from the French to the Germans, were enlarged on every side; and by which the Ten-Horned Superstition was propagated northward, and forced upon the Sciavonian nations of the Elbe and Older; the marches of Brandenburg and Sleswig, Poland and Bohemia - were also "great wonders, causing fire to descend out of the heaven," in which the Two-Horned Beast of the Earth was enthroned. The "fire" which descended was the consuming wrath of the Little Horn, ministered by this military apostle of the Dragon-speaking Beast of the Earth, Otho the First. "Fire," says Daubuz, "with such adjuncts as betoken that it is not put for light, denotes destruction, or torment, great sickness, war and its dismal effects; and is thus used in Isa. 42.25, 66.15, Ezek .22.20 22, Zech .13.9. So Persecution is represented by fire, 1 Peter 1:7; 4:12; 1 Cor. 3:13,15. So in the Andromache of Euripides, ver. 147, dia puros, through fire, signifies through murder. And thus Sophocles calls the mischief done by the Sphinx to Thebes, 'a foreign flame of mischief'." Fire from heaven signifies the combination of persons in authority - their denunciations of vengeance and punishment, as well as their wrath and fury in actual manifestation.

Fire proceeded out of the mouth of the Deity's two prophets, symbolized by the two olive trees and two candlesticks (Apoc. 11:5). The reader will note the different sources of the Beast's fire, and the fire of the Two Witnesses. The fire of the Beast comes from "the heaven" in which the Beast reigns; but the fire of the Two Prophets proceeds out of their mouth. They devoured their enemies with this fire; in other words, they killed them. Their enemies are Apocalyptically symbolized by the Beast of the Sea and the Beast of the Earth, and the Image of the Sixth Head of the Beast, which is the False Prophet that worketh wonders in the presence of the Ten Horns, by which he deceiveth them that had received the mark of the Beast, and them that worshipped his Image (ch. 19:20). These made war upon all the inhabitants of the European Wilderness who did not worship them, whether they were Slavic pagans, the Two Witnesses, or the Saints. The Slavonians and the Witnesses fought the fire of the Beast's heaven with the fire of their own power, though in the end they had to succumb; the fire of their mouth was extinguished by the prevailing of the Beast against them.

But the fire of the Two Horned Beast's heaven, which the authorities of that aerial were able to cause to flame forth with scorching and destructive effect, did not consist solely in war and its calamities. Had the Beast consisted solely and simply of a secular military power, its fire would have been restricted to its warlike operations; but it did not. It is also an ecclesiastical power; therefore its fire must be more or less of an episcopal character. Ecclesiastical fire is the flashing and forked lightnings of episcopal wrath, thundered against kings, nations, and peoples obnoxious to its displeasure. This fire used to be consuming and terrible, and was ministered by the Two Horns like a Lamb, or the Romish Episcopacy, whose judicial fire is its anathemas, or curses, and excommunications, executed by the secular authorities in all the Horn-Kingdoms of the European Commonwealth. These are sometimes called "the Thunders of the Vatican," whence they rolled forth, echoing through the heaven by the cooperation of the clergy. These lightnings and thunderbolts, as the Romanists themselves style them, were hurled by Pope Innocent, the Roman Jupiter Tonans, in the Council at Lyons against the emperor Frederick, A.D. 1245, to the great terror of the bystanders. "These words," says the record, "uttered in the midst of the Council struck the hearers with terror as might the flashing thunder-bolts. When, with candles lighted and flung down, the Lord Pope and his assistant prelates flashed their lightning fire terribly against the emperor Frederick, now no longer to be called emperor, his procurators and friends burst into bitter wailing, and struck the thigh or breast. 'That day,' said one of them, 'that day of wrath, of calamity, and of woe!"' The flinging down of lighted candles from an elevated position by the excommunicators, a mimic representation of fire from heaven, was the usual accompaniment of the solemn and great excommunication pronounced annually at the feast Cana Domini by the Pope in person, his Cardinals and his Priesthood, against all heretics from the elevated Vestibule of the Lateran Temple at Rome; and was directed to be practised by the Romish Bishops elsewhere also on certain solemn occasions.

In the nineteenth century and in Protestant countries we have no experience of the effects of this ecclesiastical fire from heaven. It is now as harmless as the faintest sheet lightning. Even in Italy the papal bolts are ineffective and despised. Not so, however, in centuries past. The estate or person of the excommunicated might be attached by the magistrate; and marks of abhorrence and ignominy attended these penalties. They were to be shunned, like men infected with leprosy, by their friends, their families, and servants. Two attendants only remained with Robert, king of France, who on account of an irregular marriage, was put to this ban by Gregory V., and a Roman Council, A.D. 997. The Beautes de 1' Histoire de France, p.104, thus describes the result: "Excommunication was at this epoch a terrible weapon in the hands of the sovereign Pontiff. Every one fled with horror from him who had been struck by it. The lords broke off all commerce with the king. There hardly remained any attendants with him to serve him. And these threw all the fragments of his table into the fire rather than eat them." The mere intercourse with a proscribed person incurred the "lesser excommunication," or privation of the sacraments, and required penitence and absolution. In some places, a bier was set before the door of an excommunicated individual, and stones thrown at his windows. Every where the excommunicated were debarred of a regular burial. Their carcasses were supposed to be incapable of corruption, which was thought a privilege unfit for those who had died in so irregular a manner.

But as excommunication, which descended from the heaven only upon one and perhaps an obdurate sinner, was not always efficacious, the Lamb-Horned constituent of the Beast had recourse to a more scorching and comprehensive punishment. For the offense of a noble-man, the ecclesiastical power put a county, for that of a prince, his entire kingdom, under an interdict, or suspension of religious offices. No stretch of tyranny was more fiery than this. During an interdict, the Saints' Bazaars, in which the clergy "who have the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name" trade their wares, were closed, the bells silent, the dead unburied, no rite but those of sprinkling and extreme unction performed. This fiery wrath descended upon those who had neither partaken of, nor could have prevented the offense, which was often but a private dispute, in which the pride of a pope or bishop had been wounded.

This fire issuing from the Beast's heaven and descending episcopally "in the presence of the men," or "of the beast," ver. 14, was the motive power of the machinery worked by the clergy, the lever by which they moved. "From the moment," says Hallam, "that these interdicts and excommunication’s had been tried, (and they originated subsequently to the ascent of the Beast out of the earth,) the powers of the earth might be said to have existed only by sufferance." The party scathed by this episcopal lightning had no remedy but submission. He who disregards such a sentence, says Beaumanoir, renders his good cause bad. "One is rather surprised," continues Hallam, "at the instances of failure, than of success, in the employment of these spiritual weapons against sovereigns, or the laity in general. It was perhaps a fortunate circumstance for Europe, that they were not introduced, upon a large scale, during the darkest ages of superstition. In the eighth or ninth centuries they would probably have met with a more implicit obedience. But after Gregory the Seventh (the notorious Hildebrand, elected pope A.D. 1073) as the spirit of ecclesiastical usurpation grew more violent, there grew up by slow degrees an opposite feeling in the laity, which ripened into an alienation of sentiment from the church, and a conviction of that sacred truth, which superstition and sophistry have endeavored to eradicate from the heart of man, that no tyrannical government can be founded on a divine commission." I shall close this section with the remark, that Hallam's so-called "sacred truth," is in direct Opposition to Paul's declaration in Rom. 13:1, that "there is no power but from Deity; and that existing powers have been put under Deity." The tyrannical governments of "the Earth" and "the Sea," are ordained of Him as his sword, to punish with war and other tormenting oppressions, the evil doers of the Apostasy for their abominations, and blasphemies uttered against Him "to blaspheme his name, his tabernacle, and the dwellers in the heaven;" until the time shall come to give judgment to the saints, whose mission it will then be "to execute vengeance upon the nations and punishment upon the people; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron: to execute upon them the judgment written: this honor have all the Saints" (Psa. 149:7-9). This will be "fire descending from the Deity out of heaven, and devouring them," at whatever epoch it may flame.




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