But to return to the details of the eleventh chapter, what we find is this: all who had the priestly character and what concerned them, preserved--even their worship and the altar (that is, the holy place and the place of the priest's approach). But the outward profession--the holy city--is all given up to be entirely desecrated for the prophetic period of forty-two months. But it is not only the priestly associations which are preserved here, but the witnessing or prophetic character. That is, efficacy was given to their testimony, "given to the prayers of the saints," or given to "my two witnesses," which signifies efficacy to the subject of the gift 1
This witness was guarded, not by external worldly preservatives--far from it; during this period "woe" was on what might have been so. What was external was the subject of merely secret angelic interference of God; but judgment corresponded to their testimony. If any would hurt them, out of their mouth went fire. It was not the coming down of judgment by external manifest authority; the pretence, at least, of that was on the side of the false prophet. But they were answered in judgment, to preserve them according to the testimony of their mouth against those that would destroy them. This secret hand of God, according to the word of the faithful witness, when all was gone wrong and desecrated, has, I doubt not, been always in such cases afforded. It was not the time for open appearance in judgment, but always to interfere in watchful vindication of their testimony when needed. If they took the sword in such cases, it was an effort to alter the perfect order 1 of God's providence which always preserves His principles--they would perish by the sword.
What follows seems analogous to the circumstances of Moses and Elias, and the energy of their ministry, not a question of their persons. Moses ministered when the people were under oppression, when the world prevailed; and he had power to plague the earth, to which Pharaoh belonged, and of which he was prince, and which he sought. Elias shut up heaven on the apostate people, who ought to have been in connection and association with it;
and the blessing was withheld from a land watered with the rain of heaven. Thus, it was power of calling in judgment suited to the respective position of the two: one, acting on the world out of which God's people were called; the other, judging the people which had become the world by arresting their enjoyment of blessings from heaven. Both have their application to the state of things alluded to in. this short but comprehensive prophecy.
At the close of the three years and a half, their sackcloth testimony ceased by their death through the hands of the beast of the bottomless pit, when they shall have fulfilled their testimony. The eighth verse seems to me designed to afford the general and specific applications, both of which I have stated my belief to be, in the mind of the Spirit of God; first, the great city of the world, which was where Christ was crucified; and specifically Jerusalem, where religious apostasy, always the leader of the world's evil, locally committed the act.
As regards the interpretation, which would give one thousand two hundred and sixty years to this prophecy, enough has been said by others: a testimony, raised during the protracted moral apostasy, to which I believe the Holy Spirit attaches more importance than many are inclined to do; for God loves His saints. I believe it was of the last possible importance, but not of closing importance--not the great closing scene. I hold that it held, to the manifestation of the personal Antichrist, the same relation as the Church, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, does to the personal coming of Christ, the Lord; and that is not unimportant or immaterial, very far otherwise, or a light object of God's guardian and all-thoughtful eye. Slaughtered Saints, and worshipped demons, suppression, or at least degradation, of God's ordinance de facto in civil authority--these were not light things in God's
estimate, though His patience might bear with them in that long-suffering which was salvation. But the sub-version of the true glory of the Church in the recognition of the Holy Ghost, was not unimportant, as proving the degeneracy of man, who apostatizes in all circumstances, though it were not the open war against the Son.
Further, I add, that the apostasy, and the revelation of the man of sin, are two distinct things. The apostasy is the introduction of the man of sin. Now the apostasy may not be ὁ ἄνομος, the wicked one; but surely it is of some importance. I find much want of attention to the accuracy of scripture in those who seem most accurate themselves. The mystery of iniquity working, the apostasy, and the wicked one, may all be looked at as distinct things, though intimately connected; nor is ἄνομος identical with Antichrist, though it may be very likely 1 they may be the same person. 2
With regard to the denial of symbols, and the assertion that it is so literal a book, it seems to me untenable. Thus, when the third part of the sun was smitten, the day shone not for a third part of it; but this was not what would have followed in any literal sense. And a little investigation into detail will shew that much of what has been recently said on the subject will not bear examination.
There is another point which the advocates of literalism 3 and crisis often insist on, which deserves notice (though I am unwilling to detain myself for questions)--days being
put for years. This is denied, notwithstanding the plain suggestion of such an idea both in the passage in Numbers and in that in Ezekiel.
The seventy weeks, however, stand strongly in the way; and the ingenuity of criticism has been called into service to say that it is simply seventy sevens, not seventy weeks, and may thus literally be years. Now, if the conventional reading 1 be taken, it is simply weeks; if not, it cannot mean sevens at all, but seventy seventies. I think this criticism, therefore, cannot be maintained. It is either seventy weeks or seventy times seventy, not seventy sevens.
But, as regards the numbers here, there is another important question: it is alleged that, looked at as in crisis and literally, this is not the last half week at all. 2 In the last half week at Jerusalem, it is said they are not times of testimony, but of vengeance--not of testimony of any one, Christian or Jew. The disciples, who had been giving testimony, and called to possess their souls in patience, are then directed to flee; for these were the days of vengeance. This was at the setting up of the abomination of
desolation, the commencement of the last twelve hundred and sixty days, or three years and a half. So in the twelfth chapter, after the casting down of Satan, his great wrath begins upon the earth; then heaven and its inhabiters are free; and the woman, accordingly, flees into the wilderness for the twelve hundred and sixty days, to be nourished from the face of the serpent. Antichrist does not assume his proper distinctive character in Jerusalem till then. He may, as the oppressive apostate head of the Gentiles, at the instigation of Jews, persecute the saints who have the testimony of Jesus--possibly tyrannically oppress even the Jews, as the holy nation, by times; but, strictly, their "covenant is with death, and with hell are they at agreement" (i.e., as to the rulers who represent the nation). This last is true as regards the last half week; its character is a covenant of the beast with the Jews. But the Lord in Matthew xxiv. distinguishes the general testimony of the kingdom sent out into all the world, and which began immediately after His death, from the last half week only. What He speaks of is not a special testimony in Jerusalem, and we must not con-found the peculiar testimony of the two witnesses with the first fourteen verses of Matthew xxiv. That chapter knows no first half week. There is a general testimony and one half week, beginning with the setting up of the abomination of desolation, and ending with the Lord's coming. Daniel ix. does contemplate a first half week, in which the prince that shall come makes a covenant with the mass of the Jews, which he will break in the middle of the week. But Revelation xi. contemplates, I believe, only the last half week, that of Matthew xxiv.
We have another distinction here, which also runs through what follows, not duly noticed--people, tongues, nations, languages, and they that dwell upon the earth.
[paragraph continues] I say not duly noticed, as the universality of Antichrist's dominion has been argued from the expression, "All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him." But there, as elsewhere, they are in contrast with nations, kindreds, tongues, people. The case of the dwellers upon earth is always, I think, more aggravated.
Thus it is not merely evil conduct towards the witnesses here, but great interested joy at their destruction There are three parties engaged in the evil: the beast, who kills the witnesses; those of the nations and kindreds, who do not suffer them to be buried, exhibiting the natural hostility of the human heart; and the people dwelling upon earth, whom the testimony of the witnesses had specially tormented. For the testimony of holy consistency and prophetic nearness to God is continual torment to them to whom the testimony comes for their apostasy. The prophet, in this character, is always a witness that, with all their pride and self-satisfaction, they are apostate; and this is torment, for they have really no peace with God, whatever their pretension. The return to life of the witnesses was a public thing, in which the judgment and vindication of God was plain to their enemies. They heard the voice from heaven, saying to them, Come up hither. They were first brought to life, and then called up to heaven openly.
These witnesses had stood before the God of the earth, the witnesses of God's title here. The affright which the public manifestation of God in their favour produced did not give efficacy to their testimony; but the affrighted ones glorified the God of heaven. There was the general effect of unrepentant religion--the testimony not received; for that would have broken their will. But their fear acted on externally was to honour God formally, but only as One in heaven. It was that which acted on themselves
that did this--the earthquake and slaying of men, names of men, their pride and title put down. 1
All this took place before the sounding of the last trumpet; but when it closed, the sixth woe was passed.
Although there may be an accomplishment of this more literally in crisis, there is nothing in the revival of the witnesses, which renders it strictly literal; on the contrary, the terms are, for the most part, symbolical. A spirit of life from God, though it may be applied, is not so strictly characteristic of mere quickening. 2 It was distinct, however, from a mere renewal of prophecy in sackcloth. The testimony now was by their exaltation publicly, not by their faithfulness in trial.
I would remark on verse 8, that it is properly not the street of the great city; but rather the highway or great street of the city, but the antecedent to which seems the whole idea. All this time the last great woe was on the eve of being manifested.
The witnesses then were a testimony--given previous to the last dire expression of the power of evil being let loose--an adequate testimony; and that of God's claim upon the earth, during the time that these dwellers upon earth claimed it as theirs, and therefore were tormented by the testimony. It was not necessarily during the prevalence
of the beast out of the bottomless pit; for till the war (ver. 7) his existence is not in question. When he makes war on them, he overcomes and kills them; but they have power in testimony till then--till their testimony is fulfilled. Their testimony, 1 then, was not properly under the oppression of his power; at least that is not the way God distinguishes it. It is carried on in sorrow while the external sacred things are defiled, but the priestly remnant, and what pertained to them, preserved; and this for the forty-two months. And in these circumstances they fulfil their testimony: then the beast out of the bottomless pit makes war upon them and kills them. 2 When the question as to power comes on, and Antichrist rises up in his full form against the Lamb, he is finally cast down, and put, with the false prophet, in the lake of fire, and his followers killed. It is dealing with the witnesses in its principle, an antecedent act; the Lamb has not yet come upon the scene. For He comes personally victorious: but here, while the beast comes against the witnesses who stand before the God of the earth, they are overcome, because the Lamb has not yet come forth in power, nor the earthly kingdom come. Lucifer shall rise up against the Lord from heaven, and be east down. When his representative rises against the witnesses and representatives of the Lord--these two anointed ones, they are cast down and killed, and taken to heaven where the glory and the Lamb yet were. It was the last external public act of testimony--whether for the dispensation or the crisis,--and therefore had definitely the character attached to it when prophetic
witness had place in it--the prevalence of evil externally, and suffering of the witnesses--their rest and refuge being above.
Thus, the beast out of the bottomless pit does not appear here as the direct agent against the witnesses, till the three years and a half of their testimony are finished, though, as to their condition, they were in sackcloth. When the announcement of the last woe comes, heaven estimates it as the signal for the earthly kingdom coming; and the Church, anticipative, as having the mind of Christ, gives thanks to the Lord God Almighty, who, in the continuity of His being and counsel, was now taking His power; and therefore she anticipates all the results. The elders only speak here; for the things were not in the vision in their completeness or principles: but it was the actual anticipation of the facts as now coming in,--as having the mind of Christ.
It would seem that the last woe had a wider aspect 1 than the others--much, though containing the scene and object of them. In verse 12 of the succeeding chapter, after Satan is cast down, woe indeed is pronounced on the inhabiters of the earth, who were the former objects of the woes; and also, then, on those of the sea. Now it is true this does not come in, in proper historical continuity, from chapter xii.; nor is it the final woe of chapter xi.; but it introduces the larger scene which is the subject of the judgment executed in that woe. But the expression of the woe there had been reserved; here, all are concerned in it under heaven.
45:1 Power was given them that they should prophesy in sack-cloth for the period of the treading down of the outside holy place while the inner was preserved. It is given in days here, I apprehend, to shew the continuity and constancy of their testimony, not merely the term. The next point in the testimony was this, that it was without the attainment of order in the ministration of Christ's great offices on earth when He shall come; but it was a witness to them. If we compare Zechariah iv. we shall find, in the restoration of the Jewish economy on earth, the strictest order in all the parts; and in the arrangements of the one candlestick, and its two olive trees and pipes. But here there are two olive trees and two candlesticks. There they stood before the Lord of p. 46 the whole earth; here they stand before the God of the earth--a witness to the truth, but not the accomplishment of it: not its order, beauty, and regularity, but a testimony to God's title to have it so. Such were these witnesses.
46:1 It would be, in fact too, acting on the principles God was judging.
48:1 As I suppose they are.
48:2 [I have left out a passage here, referring to a work, containing the year-day views, which I cannot with any certainty point out.]
48:3 The application of Old Testament allusions or prophecies in the sense in which they are used there, seems to me to be equally p. 49 untenable; they are borrowed thence to be applied to heavenly subjects, just as in the case of Jerusalem; so the analogy holds throughout: the bringing down the Revelation to the same sense seems to me simply depriving us of them, and merely to amount to this, that when the apostle uses prophetic language to carry it up into further scenes, we are arrested where the former prophecy left us: simply, I conceive, darkening, instead of enlightening.
49:1 i.e., by points.
49:2 [I have changed this paragraph, as I, at the time of writing these notes, followed the usual division in chapter xi. into two half weeks, applying it as an answer to the writers just alluded to. As I do not now accept this division, I have of course changed the paragraph into short observations on the question; but I hare given what is alleged for it.]
52:1 Babel's word was, "Let us make ourselves a name." God only is entitled to a name, or to give it. Adam had title as regards the beasts, as set over them by God; "and he brought them unto Adam." The enemy may give a name, in derision, to saints, over-ruled of God; but they are gathered only to the name of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and should bear His name, and, in Him, the Father's only.
52:2 Observe, it is neither resurrection nor changing them who are alive, but a special act. Man had killed them; but God quickened and called them up.
53:1 [I say their testimony, because as to his general character the beast will persecute the saints.]
53:2 To the joy of the dwellers upon earth; and thus, doubtless, he is their great friend.