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.
And there was given me - He does not say by whom, but the connection would seem to imply that it was by the angel. All this is of course to be regarded as symbolical. The representation undoubtedly pertains to a future age, but the language is such as would be properly addressed to one who had been a Jew, and the imagery employed is such as he would be more likely to understand than any other. The language and the imagery are, therefore, taken from the temple, but there is no reason to suppose that it had any literal reference to the temple, or even that John would so understand it. Nor does the language used here prove that the temple was standing at the time when the book was written; for, as it is symbolical, it is what would be employed whether the temple were standing or not, and would be as likely to be used in the one case as in the other. It is such language as John, educated as a Jew, and familiar with the temple worship, would be likely to employ if he designed to make a representation pertaining to the church.
A reed - κάλαμος kalamos. This word properly denotes a plant with a jointed hollow stalk, growing in wet grounds. Then it refers to the stalk as cut for use - as a measuring-stick, as in this place; or a mock scepter, Matthew 27:29-30; or a pen for writing, 3 John 1:13. Here it means merely a stick that could be used for measuring.
Like unto a rod - This word - ῥάβδος rabdos - means properly a "rod, wand, staff," used either for scourging, 1 Corinthians 4:21; or for leaning upon in walking, Matthew 10:10; or for a scepter, Hebrews 1:8. Here the meaning is, that the reed that was put into his hands was like such a rod or staff in respect to size, and was therefore convenient for handling. The word "rod" also is used to denote a measuring-pole, Psalm 74:2; Jeremiah 10:16; Jeremiah 51:19.
And the angel stood, saying - The phrase, "the angel stood," is missing in many mss. and editions of the New Testament, and is rejected by Prof. Stuart as spurious. It is also rejected in the critical editions of Griesbach and Hahn, and marked as doubtful by Tittmann. The best critical authority is against it, and it appears to have been introduced from Zechariah 3:5. The connection does not demand it, and we may, therefore, regard the meaning to be, that the one who gave him the reed, whoever he was, at the same time addressed him, and commanded him to take a measure of the temple and the altar.
Rise, and measure the temple of God - That is, ascertain its true dimensions with the reed in your hand. Of course, this could not be understood of the literal temple - whether standing or not - for the exact measure of that was sufficiently well known. The word, then, must be used of something which the temple would denote or represent, and this would properly be the church, considered as the abode of God on the earth. Under the old dispensation, the temple at Jerusalem was that abode; under the new, that special residence was transferred to the church, and God is represented as dwelling in it. See the notes on 1 Corinthians 3:16. Thus, the word is undoubtedly used here, and the simple meaning is, that he who is thus addressed is directed to take an accurate estimate of the true church of God; as accurate as if he were to apply a measuring-reed to ascertain the dimensions of the temple at Jerusalem. In doing that, if the direction had been literally to measure the temple at Jerusalem, he would ascertain its length, and breadth, and height; he would measure its rooms, its doorways, its porticoes; he would take such a measurement of it that, in a description or drawing, it could be distinguished from other edifices, or that one could be constructed like it, or that a just idea could be obtained of it if it should be destroyed.
If the direction be understood figuratively, as applicable to the Christian church, the work to be done would be to obtain an exact estimate or measurement of what the true church was - as distinguished from all other bodies of people, and as constituted and appointed by the direction of God; such a measurement that its characteristics could be made known; that a church could be organized according to this, and that the accurate description could be transmitted to future times. John has not, indeed, preserved the measurement; for the main idea here is not that he was to preserve such a model, but that, in the circumstances, and at the time referred to, the proper business would be to engage in such a measurement of the church that its true dimensions or character might be known. There would be, therefore, a fulfillment of this, if at the time here referred to there should be occasions, from any cause, to inquire what constituted the true church; if it was necessary to separate and distinguish it from all other bodies; and if there should be any such prevailing uncertainty as to make an accurate investigation necessary.
And the altar - On the form, situation, and uses of the altar, see the Matthew 5:23-24; Matthew 21:12. The altar here referred to was, undoubtedly, the altar situated in front of the temple, where the daily sacrifice was offered. To measure that literally, would be to take its dimensions of length, breadth, and height; but it is plain that that cannot be intended here, for there was no such altar where John was, and, if the reference were to the altar at Jerusalem, its dimensions were sufficiently known. This language, then, like the former, must be understood metaphorically, and then it must mean - as the altar was the place of sacrifice - to take an estimate of the church considered with reference to its notions of sacrifice, or of the prevailing views respecting the sacrifice to be made for sin, and the method of reconciliation with God. It is by sacrifice that a method is provided for reconciliation with God; by sacrifice that sin is pardoned; by sacrifice that man is justified; and the direction here is equivalent, therefore, to a command to make an investigation on these subjects, and all that is implied would be fulfilled if a state of things should exist where it would be necessary to institute an examination into the prevailing views in the church on the subject of the atonement, and the true method of justification before God.
And them that worship therein - In the temple, or, as the temple is the representation here of the church, of those who are in the church as professed worshippers of God. There is some apparent incongruity in directing him to "measure" those who were engaged in worship; but the obvious meaning is, that he was to take a correct estimate of their character; of what they professed; of the reality of their piety; of their lives, and of the general state of the church considered as professedly worshipping God. This would receive its fulfillment if a state of things should arise in the church which would make it necessary to go into a close and searching examination on all these points, in order to ascertain what was the true church, and what was necessary to constitute true membership in it. There were, therefore, three things, as indicated by this verse, which John was directed to do, so far as the use of the measuring-rod was concerned:
(a) to take a just estimate of what constitutes the true church, as distinguished from all other associations of people;
(b) to institute a careful examination into the opinions in the church on the subject of sacrifice or atonement - involving the whole question about the method of justification before God; and,
(c) to take a correct estimate of what constitutes true membership in the church; or to investigate with care the prevailing opinions about the qualifications for membership.
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.
But the court which is without the temple - Which is outside of the temple proper, and, therefore, which does not strictly pertain to it. There is undoubtedly reference here to the "court of the Gentiles," as it was called among the Jews - the outer court of the temple to which the Gentiles had access, and within which they were not permitted to go. For a description of this, see the notes on Matthew 21:12. To an observer this would seem to be a part of the temple, and the persons there assembled a portion of the true worshippers of God; but it was necessarily neither the one nor the other. In forming an estimate of those who, according to the Hebrew notions, were true worshippers of God, only those would be regarded as such who had the privilege of access to the inner court, and to the altar. In making such an estimate, therefore, those who had no nearer access than that court, would be omitted; that is, they would not be reckoned as necessarily any part of those who were regarded as the people of God.
Leave out, and measure it not - Margin, "cast out." So the Greek. The meaning is, that he was not to reckon it as pertaining to the true temple of worshippers. There is, indeed, a degree of force in the words rendered "leave out," or, in the margin, "cast out" - ἔκβαλε ἔξω ekbale exō - which implies more than a mere passing by, or omission. The word (ἐκβάλλω ekballō) usually has the idea of "force" or "impluse" (Matthew 8:12; Matthew 15:17; Matthew 25:30; Mark 16:9; Acts 27:38, et al.); and the word here would denote some decisive or positive act by which it would be indicated that this was not any part of the true temple, but was to be regarded as pertaining to something else. He was not merely not to mention it, or not to include it in the measurement, but he was to do this by some act which would indicate that it was the result of design in the case, and not by accidentally passing it by.
For it is given unto the Gentiles - It properly pertains to them as their own. Though near the temple, and included in the general range of building, yet it does not pertain to those who worship there, but to those who are regarded as pagan and strangers. It is not said that it was then given to the Gentiles; nor is it said that it was given to them to be overrun and trodden down by them, but that it pertained to them, and was to be regarded as belonging to them. They occupied it, not as the people of God, but as those who were without the true church, and who did not pertain to its real communion. This would find a fulfillment if there should arise a state of things in the church in which it would be necessary to draw a line between those who properly constituted the church and those who did not; if there should be such a condition of things that any considerable portion of those who professedly pertained to the church ought to be divided off as not belonging to it, or would have such characteristic marks that it could be seen that they were strangers and aliens. The interpretation would demand that they should sustain some relation to the church, or that they would seem to belong to it - as the court did to the temple; but still that this was in appearance only, and that in estimating the true church it was necessary to leave them out altogether. Of course this would not imply that there might not be some sincere worshippers among them as individuals - as there would be found usually, in the court of the Gentiles in the literal temple, some who were proselytes and devout worshippers, but what is here said relates to them as a mass or body that they did not belong to the true church, but to the Gentiles.
And the holy city - The whole holy city - not merely the outer court of the Gentiles, which it is said was given to them, nor the temple as such, but the entire holy city. There is no doubt that the words "the holy city" literally refer to Jerusalem - a city so called because it was the special place of the worship of God. See the notes on Matthew 4:5; compare Nehemiah 11:1, Nehemiah 11:18; Isaiah 52:1; Daniel 9:24; Matthew 27:53. But it is not necessary to suppose that this is its meaning here. The "holy city," Jerusalem, was regarded as sacred to God - as his dwelling-place on earth, and as the abode of his people, and nothing was more natural than to use the term as representing the church. Compare the Galatians 4:26 note; Hebrews 12:22 note. In this sense it is undoubtedly used here as the whole representation is emblematical. John, if he were about to speak of anything that was to occur to the church, would, as a native Jew, be likely to employ such language as this to denote it.
Shall they tread under foot - That is, the Gentiles above referred to; or those who, in the measurement of the city, were set off as Gentiles, and regarded as not belonging to the people of God. This is not spoken of the Gentiles in general, but only of that portion of the multitudes that seemed to constitute the worshippers of God, who, in measuring the temple, were set off or separated as not properly belonging to the true church. The phrase "should tread under foot" is derived from warriors and conquerors, who tread down their enemies, or trample on the fields of grain. It is rendered in this passage by Dr. Robinson (Lexicon), "to profane and lay waste." As applied literally to a city, this would be the true idea; as applied to the church, it would mean that they would have it under their control or in subjection for the specified time, and that the practical effect of that would be to corrupt and prostrate it.
Forty and two months - Literally, this would be three years and a half; but if the time here is prophetic time - a day for a year - then the period would be twelve hundred and sixty years - reckoning the year at 360 days. For a full illustration of this usage, and for the reasons for supposing that this is prophetic time, see the notes on Daniel 7:25. See also Editor's Preface, p. 25: In addition to what is there said, it may be remarked, in reference to this passage, that it is impossible to show, with any degree of probability, that the city of Jerusalem was "trampled under foot" by the Romans for the exact space of three years and a half. Prof. Stuart, who adopts the opinion that it refers to the conquest of Jerusalem by the Romans, says, indeed, "It is certain that the invasion of the Romans lasted just about the length of the period named, until Jerusalem was taken. And although the city itself was not besieged so long, yet the metropolis in this case, as in innumerable others in both Testaments, appears to stand for the country of Judaea." But it is to be remembered that the affirmation here is, that "the holy city" was thus to be trodden under foot; and even taking the former supposition, in what sense is it true that the "whole country" was "trodden under foot" by the Romans only three years and a half?
Even the wars of the Romans were not of that exact duration; and, besides, the fact was that Judaea was held in subjection, and trodden down by the Romans for centuries, and never, in fact, regained its independence. If this is to be literally applied to Jerusalem, it has been "trodden down by the Gentiles," with brief intervals, since the conquest by the Romans, to the present time. There has been no precise period of three years and a half, in respect to which the language used here would be applicable to the literal city of Jerusalem. In regard, then, to the proper application of the language which has thus been explained Revelation 11:1-2, it may be remarked, in general, that, for the reasons just stated, it is not to be taken literally. John could not have been directed literally to measure the temple at Jerusalem, and the altar, and the worshippers; nor could he have been requested literally to leave out, or "cast out" the court that was without; nor could it be meant that the holy city literally was to be trodden under foot for three years and a half. The language clearly is symbolical, and the reference must have been to something pertaining to the church. And, if the preceding exposition of the tenth chapter is correct, then it may be presumed that this would refer to something that was to occur at about the period there referred to. Regarding it, then, as applicable to the time of the Reformation, and as being a continuation of the vision in Revelation 10:1-11, we shall find, in the events of that period, what would be properly symbolized by the language used here. This will appear by reviewing the particulars which have been explained in these verses:
(1) The command to "measure the temple of God," Revelation 11:1. This, we have seen, was a direction to take an estimate of what constituted the true church; the very work which it was necessary to do in the Reformation, for this was the first point which was to be settled, whether the papacy was the true church or was the antichrist. This involved, of course, the whole inquiry as to what constitutes the church, alike in reference to its organization, its ministry, its sacraments, and its membership. It was long before the Reformers made up their minds that the papacy was not the true church; for the veneration which they had been taught to cherish for that lingered long in their bosoms. And even when they were constrained to admit that that corrupt communion was the predicted form of the great apostasy - antichrist - and had acquired boldness enough to break away from it forever, it was long before they settled down in a uniform belief as to what was essential to the true church. Indeed, the differences of opinion which prevailed, the warm discussions which ensued, and the diversities of sect which sprang up in the Protestant world, showed with what intense interest the mind was fixed on this question, and how important it was to take an exact measurement of the real church of God.
(2) the direction to "measure the altar." This, as we have seen, would relate to the prevailing opinions on the subject of sacrifice and atonement; on the true method of a sinner's acceptance with God; and, consequently, on the whole subject of justification. As a matter of fact, it need not be said that this was one of the first questions which came before the Reformers, and was one which it was indispensable to settle, in order to a just notion of the church and of the way of salvation. The papacy had exalted the Lord's supper into a real sacrifice; had made it a grand and essential point that the bread and wine were changed into the real body and blood of the Lord, and that a real offering of that sacrifice was made every time that ordinance was celebrated; had changed the office of the ministers of the New Testament from preachers to that of priests; had become familiar with the terms altar, and sacrifice, and priest hood, as founded on the notion that a real sacrifice was made in the "mass"; and had fundamentally changed the whole doctrine respecting the justification of a sinner before God. The altar in the Roman Catholic communion had almost displaced the pulpit; and the doctrine of justification by the merits of the great sacrifice made by the death of our Lord, had been superseded by the doctrine of justification by good works, and by the merits of the saints. It became necessary, therefore, to restore the true doctrine respecting sacrifice for sin, and the way of justification before God; and this would be appropriately represented by a direction to "measure the altar."
(3) the direction to take an estimate of those "who worshipped in the temple." This, as we have seen, would properly mean that there was to be a true estimate taken of what constituted membership in the church, or of the qualifications of those who should be regarded as true worshippers of God. This, also, was one of the first works necessary to be done in the Reformation. Before that, for ages, the doctrine of baptismal regeneration had been the established doctrine of the church; that all that was necessary to membership was baptism and confirmation, was the common opinion; the necessity of regeneration by the influences of the Holy Spirit, as a condition of church membership, was little understood, if not almost wholly unknown; and the grand requisition in membership was not holy living, but the observance of the rites and ceremonies of the church. One of the first things necessary in the Reformation was to restore to its true place the doctrine laid down by the Saviour, that a change of heart that regeneration by the Holy Spirit - was necessary to membership in the church, and that the true church was composed of those who had been thus renewed in the spirit of their mind. This great work would be appropriately symbolized by a direction to take an estimate of those who "worshipped in the temple of God"; that is, to settle the question who should be regarded as true worshippers of God, and what should be required of those who professed to be such worshippers. No more important point was settled in the Reformation than this.
(4) the direction to leave out, or to "cast out" the court without the temple. This, as we have seen, would properly mean that a separation was to be made between what was the true church and what was not, though it might seem to belong to it. The one was to be measured or estimated; the other was to be left out, as not pertaining to that, or as belonging to the Gentiles, or to paganism. The idea would be, that though it; professedly pertained to the true church, and to the worship of God, yet that it deserved to be characterized as paganism. Now this will apply with great propriety, according to all Protestant notions, to the manner in which the papacy was regarded by the Reformers, and should be regarded at all times. It claimed to be the true church, and to the eye of an observer would seem to belong to it, as much as the outer court seemed to pertain to the temple. But it had the essential characteristics of paganism, and was, therefore, properly to be left out, or, cast out, as not pertaining to the true church.
Can anyone doubt the truth of this representation as applicable to the papacy? Almost everything that was unique in the ancient pagan systems of religion had been introduced into the Roman communion; and a stranger at Rome would see more that would lead him to feel that he was in a pagan land, than he would that he was in a land where the pure doctrines of Christianity prevailed, and where the worship was celebrated which the Redeemer hack designed to set up on the earth. This was true not only in the pomp and splendor of worship, and in the processions and imposing ceremonials; but in the worship of images, in the homage rendered to the dead, in the number of festival days, in the fact that the statues reared in pagan Rome to the honor of the gods had been reconsecrated in the service of Christian devotion to the apostles, saints, and martyrs; and in the robes of the Christian priesthood, derived from those in use in the ancient pagan worship. The direction was, that, in estimating the true church, this was to be "left out," or "cast out"; and, if this interpretation is correct, the meaning is, that the Roman Catholic communion, as an organized body, is to be regarded as no part of the true church - a conclusion which is inevitable, if the passages of Scripture which are commonly supposed by Protestants to apply to it are correctly applied. To determine this, and to separate the true church from it, was no small part of the work of the Reformation.
(5) the statement that the holy city was to be trodden under foot, Revelation 11:2. This, as we have seen, must mean that the true church would thus be trodden down by those who are described as "Gentiles." So far as pure religion was concerned; so far as pertained to the real condition of the church, and the pure worship of God, it would be as if the whole holy city where God was worshipped were given into the hands of the Gentiles, and they should tread it down, and desecrate all that was sacred for the time here referred to. Everything in Rome at the time of the Reformation would sustain this description. "It is incredible," says Luther, on his visit to Rome, "what sins and atrocities are committed in Rome; they must be seen and heard to be believed. So that it is usual to say: 'If there be a hell, Rome is built above it; it is an abyss from which all sins proceed.'" So again he says: "It is commonly observed that he who goes to Rome for the first time, goes to seek a knave there; the second time he finds him; and the third time he brings him away with him under his cloak. But now, people are become so clever, that they make the three journeys in one."
So Machiavelli, one of the most profound geniuses in Italy, and himself a Roman Catholic, said, "The greatest symptom of the approaching ruin of Christianity is, that the nearer we approach the capital of Christendom, the less do we find of the Christian spirit of the people. The scandalous example and crimes of the court of Rome have caused Italy to lose every principle of piety and every religious sentiment. We Italians are principally indebted to the church and to the priests for having become impious and profane." See D'Aubigne's "History of the Reformation," p. 54, ed. Phila. 1843. In full illustration of the sentiment that the church seemed to be trodden down and polluted by paganism, or by abominations and practices that came out of paganism, we may refer to the general history of the Roman Catholic communion from the rise of the papacy to the Reformation. For a sufficient illustration to justify the application of the passage before us which I am now making, the reader may be referred to the notes on Revelation 9:20-21. Nothing would better describe the condition of Rome previous to and at the time of the Reformation - and the remark may be applied to subsequent periods also - than to say that it was a city which once seemed to be a Christian city, and was not improperly regarded as the center of the Christian world and the seat of the church, and that it had been, as it were, overrun and trodden down by pagan rites and customs and ceremonies, so that, to a stranger looking on it, it would seem to be in the possession of the "Gentiles" or the pagans.
And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
And I will give power unto my two witnesses - In respect to this important passage Revelation 11:3-13 I propose to pursue the same method which I have pursued all along in this exposition: first, to examine the meaning of the words and phrases in the symbol, with a purpose to ascertain the fair signification of the symbols; and, secondly, to inquire into the application - that is, to inquire whether any events have occurred which, in respect to their character and to the time of their occurrence, can be shown to be a fair fulfillment of the language.
And I will give power - The word "power" is not in the original. The Greek is simply, "I will give" - that is, I will grant to my two witnesses the right or the power of prophesying during the time specified - correctly expressed in the margin, "give unto my two witnesses that they may prophesy." The meaning is not that he would send two witnesses to prophesy, but rather that these were in fact such "witnesses," and that he would during that time permit them to exercise their prophetic gifts, or give them the privilege and the strength to enunciate the truth which they were commissioned to communicate as his "witnesses" to mankind. Some word, then, like "power, privilege, opportunity, or boldness," it is necessary to supply in order to complete the sense.
Unto my two witnesses - The word "two" evidently denotes that the number would be small; and yet it is not necessary to confine it literally to two persons, or to two societies or communities. Perhaps the meaning is, that as, under the law, two witnesses were required, and were enough, to establish any fact (notes on John 8:17), such a number would during those times be preserved from apostasy as would be sufficient to keep up the evidence of truth; to testify against the prevailing abominations, errors, and corruptions; to show what was the real church, and to bear a faithful witness against the wickedness of the world. The law of Moses required that there should be two witnesses on a trial, and this, under that law, was deemed a competent number. See Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; John 5:30-33. The essential meaning of this passage then is, that there would be "a competent number" of witnesses in the case; that is, as many as would be regarded as sufficent to establish the points concerning which they would testify, with perhaps the additional idea that the number would be small.
There is no reason for limiting it strictly to two persons, or for supposing that they would appear in pairs, two and two; nor is it necessary to suppose that it refers particularly to two people or nations. The word rendered "witnesses" - μάρτυρί marturi - is that from which we have derived the word "martyr." It means properly one who bears testimony, either in a judicial sense Matthew 18:16; Matthew 26:65, or one who can in any way testify to the truth of what he has seen and known, Luke 24:48; Romans 1:9; Philippians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:10; 1 Timothy 6:12. Then it came to be employed in the sense in which the word "martyr" is now - to denote one who, amidst great sufferings or by his death, bears witness to the truth; that is, one who is so confident of the truth, and so upright, that he will rather lay down his life than deny the truth of what he has seen and known, Acts 22:20; Revelation 2:13. In a similar sense it comes to denote one who is so thoroughly convinced on a subject that it is not susceptible of being seen and heard, or who is so attached to one that he is willing to lay down his life as the evidence of his conviction and attachment. The word, as used here, refers to those who, during this period of "forty and two months," would thus be witnesses for Christ in the world; that is, who would bear their testimony to the truth of his religion, to the doctrines which he had revealed, and to what was required of man - who would do this amidst surrounding error and corruption, and when exposed to persecutions and trials on account of their belief. It is not uncommon in the Scriptures to represent the righteous as witnesses for God. See the notes on Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 43:12; Isaiah 44:8.
And they shall prophesy - The word "prophesy" does not necessarily mean that they would predict future events; but the sense is, that they would give utterance to the truth as God had revealed it. See the notes on Revelation 10:11. The sense here is, that they would in some public manner hold up or maintain the truth before the world.
A thousand two hundred and threescore days - The same period as the forty and two months Revelation 11:2, though expressed in a different form. Reckoning a day for a year, this period would be twelve hundred and sixty years, or the same as the "time and times and the dividing of time" in Daniel 7:25. See the notes on that place; also Editor's Preface. The meaning of this would be, therefore, that during that long period, in which it is said that "the holy city would be trodden under foot," there would be those who might be properly called "witnesses" for God, and who would be engaged in holding up his truth before the world; that is, there would be no part of that period in which there would not be found some to whom this appellation could with propriety be given. Though the "holy city" - the church - would seem, to be wholly trodden down, yet there would be a few at least who would assert the great doctrines of true godliness.
Clothed in sackcloth - Sackcloth - σάκκους sakkous - was properly a coarse black cloth commonly made of hair, used for sacks, for straining, and for mourning garments. See the Revelation 6:12 note; Isaiah 3:24 note; and Matthew 11:21 note. Here it is an emblem of mourning; and the idea is, that they would prophesy in the midst of grief. This would indicate that the time would be one of calamity, or that, in doing this, there would be occasion for their appearing in the emblems of grief, rather than in robes expressive of joy. The most natural interpretation of this is, that there would be but few who could be regarded as true witnesses for God in the world, and that they would be exposed to persecution.
These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
These are the two olive-trees - These are represented by the two olive-trees, or these are what are symbolized by the two olive-trees. There can be little doubt that there is an allusion here to Zechariah 4:3, Zechariah 4:11, Zechariah 4:14, though the imagery is in some respects changed. The prophet Zechariah 4:2-3 saw in vision "a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which were upon the top thereof; and two olive-trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof." These two "olive branches" were subsequently declared Revelation 11:14 to be "the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." The olive-trees, or olive-branches Revelation 11:12, appear in the vision of the prophet to have been connected with the ever-burning lamp by golden pipes; and as the olive-tree produced the oil used by the ancients in their lamps, these trees are represented as furnishing a constant supply of oil through the golden pipes to the candlestick, and thus they become emblematic of the supply of grace to the church. John uses this emblem, not in the sense exactly in which it was employed by the prophet, but to denote that these two "witnesses," which might be compared with the two olivetrees, would be the means of supplying grace to the church. As the olive-tree furnished oil for the lamps, the two trees here would seem properly to denote ministers of religion; and as there can be no doubt that the candlesticks, or lamp-bearers, denote churches, the sense would appear to be that it was through the pastors of the churches that the oil of grace which maintained the brightness of those mystic candlesticks, or the churches, was conveyed. The image is a beautiful one, and expresses a truth of great importance to the world; for God has designed that the lamp of piety shall be kept burning in the churches by truth supplied through ministers and pastors.
And the two candlesticks - The prophet Zechariah saw but one such candlestick or lamp-bearer; John here saw two - as there are two "witnesses" referred to. In the vision described in Revelation 1:12, he saw seven - representing the seven churches of Asia. For an explanation of the meaning of the symbol, see the notes on that verse.
Standing before the God of the earth - So Zechariah 4:14, "These be the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." The meaning is, that they stood, as it were, in the very presence of God - as, in the tabernacle and temple, the golden candlestick stood "before" the ark on which was the symbol of the divine presence, though separated from it by a veil. Compare the notes on Revelation 9:13. This representation, that the ministers of religion "stand before the Lord," is one that is not uncommon in the Bible. Thus it is said of the priests and Levites: "The Lord separated the tribe of Levi, to staled before the Lord, to minister unto him, and to bless his name," Deuteronomy 10:8; compare Deuteronomy 18:7. The same thing is said of the prophets, as in the cases of Elijah and Elisha: "As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand," 1 Kings 17:1; also, 1 Kings 18:15; 2 Kings 3:14; 2 Kings 5:16; compare Jeremiah 15:19. The representation is, that they ministered, as it were, constantly in his presence, and under his eye.
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.
And if any man will hurt them - This implies that there would be those who would be disposed to injure or wrong them; that is, that they would be liable to persecution. The word "will" is here more than the mere sign of the future; it denotes "intention, purpose, design," θέλεὶ thelei - "if any man wills or purposes to injure them." See a similar use of the word in 1 Timothy 6:9. The word "hurt" here means to do "injury" or "injustice" - ἀδικῆσαι adikēsai - and may refer to wrong in any form - whether in respect to their character, opinions, persons, or property. The general sense is, that there would be those who would be disposed to do them harm, and we should naturally look for the fulfillment of this in some form of persecution.
Fire proceedeth out of their mouth - It is, of course, not necessary that this should be taken literally. The meaning is, that they would have the power of destroying their enemies as if fire should proceed out of their mouth; that is, their words would be like burning coals or flames. There may possibly be an allusion here to 2 Kings 1:10-14, where it is said that Elijah commanded the fire to descend from heaven to consume those who were sent to take him (compare Luke 9:54); but in that case Elijah commanded the fire to come "from heaven"; here it proceedeth "out of the mouth." The allusion here, therefore, is to the denunciations which they would utter, or the doctrines which they would preach, and which would have the same effect on their enemies as if they breathed forth fire and flame. So Jeremiah 5:14, "Because ye speak this word, Behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire and this people wood, and it shall devour them."
And devoureth their enemies - The word "devour" is often used with reference to fire, which seems to "eat up" or "consume" what is in its way, or to "feed on" what it destroys. This is the sense of the word here - κατεσθίει katesthiei - "to eat down, to swallow down, to devour." Compare Revelation 20:9; Septuagint Isaiah 29:6; Joel 2:5; Leviticus 10:2. As there is no reason to believe that there would be literal fire, so it is not necessary to suppose that their enemies would be literally devoured or consumed. The meaning is fulfilled if their words should in any way produce an effect on their enemies similar to what is produced by fire: that is, if it should destroy their influence; if it should overcome and subdue them; if it should annihilate their domination in the world.
And if any man will hurt them - This is repeated in order to make the declaration more intensive, and also to add another thought about the effect of persecuting and injuring them.
He must in this manner be killed - That is, in the manner specified - by fire. It does not mean that he would be killed in the same manner in which the "witnesses" were killed, but in the method specified before - by the fire that should proceed out of their mouth. The meaning is, undoubtedly, that they would have power to bring down on them divine vengeance or punishment, so that there would be a just retaliation for the wrongs done them.
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.
These have power to shut heaven - That is, so far as rain is concerned - for this is immediately specified. There is probably a reference here to an ancient opinion that the rain was kept in the clouds of heaven as in reservoirs or bottles, and that when they were opened it rained; when they were closed it ceased to rain. So Job, "He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not rent under them," Job 26:8. "Which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly," Job 36:28. "Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven?" Job 38:37; compare Genesis 1:7; Genesis 7:12; Genesis 8:2; 2 Kings 7:2. To shut or close up the heavens, therefore, is to restrain the rain from descending, or to produce a drought. Compare notes on James 5:17.
That it rain not in the days of their prophecy - In the time when they prophesy. Probably the allusion here is to what is said of Elijah, 1 Kings 17:1. This would properly refer to some miraculous power; but still it may be used to denote merely that they would be clothed with the power of causing blessings to be withheld from people, as if rain were withheld; that is, that in consequence of the calamities that would be brought upon them, and the persecutions which they would endure, God would bring judgments upon people as if they were clothed with this power. The language, therefore, it seems to me, does not necessarily imply that they would have the power of working miracles.
And have power over waters to turn them to blood - The allusion here is doubtless to what occurred in Egypt, Exodus 7:17. Compare the notes on Revelation 8:8. This, too, would literally denote the power of working a miracle; but still it is not absolutely necessary to suppose that this is intended. Anything that would be represented by turning waters into blood, would correspond with all that is necessarily implied in the language. If any great calamity should occur in consequence of what was done to them that would be properly represented by turning the waters into blood so that they could not be used, and that was so connected with the treatment which they received as to appear to be a judgment of heaven on that account, or that would appear to have come upon the world in consequence of their imprecations, it would be all that is necessarily implied in this language.
And to smite the earth with all plagues - All kinds of plague or calamity; disease, pestilence, famine, flood, etc. The word "plague" - πληγῇ plēgē - which means, properly, "stroke, stripe, blow," would include any or all of these. The meaning here is, that great calamities would follow the manner in which they were treated, as if the power were lodged in their hands.
As often as they will - So that it would seem that they could exercise this power as they pleased.
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.
And when they shall have finished their testimony - Prof. Stuart renders this, "And whenever they shall have finished their testimony." The reference is undoubtedly to a period when they should have faithfully borne the testimony which they were appointed to bear. The word rendered here "shall have finished" - τελέσωσιν telesōsin, from τελέω teleō means properly to end, to finish, to complete, to accomplish. It is used, in this respect, in two senses - either in regard to time or in regard to the end or object in view, in the sense of "perfecting it," or "accomplishing it." In the former sense it is employed in such passages as the following: "Till the thousand years should be fulfilled," Revelation 20:3. "Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel (Greek, ye shall not have finished the cities of Israel) until the Son of man be come," Matthew 10:23; that is, ye shall not have finished passing through them. "When Jesus had made an end (Greek, finished) of commanding his twelve disciples," Matthew 11:1. "I have "finished" my course," 2 Timothy 4:7.
In these passages it clearly refers to time. In the other sense it is used in such places as the following: "And shall not the uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law," Romans 2:27; that is, if it accomplish or come up to the demands of the law. "If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scriptures," James 2:8. The word, then, may here refer not to "time," meaning that, these events would occur at the end of the "thousand two hundred and threescore days," but to the fact that what is here stated would occur when they had completed their testimony in the sense of having testified all that they were "appointed" to testify; that is, when they had borne full witness for God, and fully uttered his truth. Thus understood, the meaning here may be that the event here referred to would take place, not at the end of the 1260 years, but at that period during the 1260 years when it could be said with propriety that they had accomplished their testimony in the world, or that they had borne full and ample witness on the points entrusted to them.
The beast - This is the first time in the Book of Revelation in which what is here called "the beast" is mentioned, and which has so important an agency in the events which it is said would occur. It is repeatedly mentioned in the course of the book, and always with similar characteristics, and as referring to the same object. Here it is mentioned as "ascending out of the bottomless pit"; in Revelation 13:1, as "rising up out of the sea"; in Revelation 13:11, as "coming up out of the earth." It is also mentioned with characteristics appropriate to such an origin, in Revelation 13:2-4 (twice), Revelation 13:11, Revelation 13:12 (twice), Revelation 13:14 (twice), Revelation 13:15 (twice), 17, 18; Revelation 14:9, Revelation 14:11; Revelation 15:2; Revelation 16:2, Revelation 16:10, Revelation 16:13; Revelation 17:3, Revelation 17:7-8 (twice), 11, 12, 13, 16, 17; Revelation 19:19-20 (twice); Revelation 20:4, Revelation 20:9. The word used here - θηρίον thērion - means properly "a beast, a wild beast," Mark 1:13; Acts 10:12; Acts 11:6; Acts 28:4-5; Hebrews 12:20; James 3:7; Revelation 6:8. It is once used tropically of brutal or savage men, Titus 1:12. Elsewhere, in the passages above referred to in the Apocalypse, it is used symbolically. As employed in the Book of Revelation, the characteristics of the "beast" are strongly marked:
(d) It has a certain "seat" or throne from whence its power proceeds, Revelation 16:10.
(e) It is of scarlet color, Revelation 17:3.
(f) It receives power conferred upon it by the kings of the earth, Revelation 17:13,
(h) It has a certain "number"; that is, there are certain mystical letters or figures which so express its name that it may be known, Revelation 13:17-18.
These things serve to characterize the "beast" as distinguished from all other things, and they are so numerous and definite, that it would seem to have been intended to make it easy to understand what was meant when the power referred to should appear. In regard to the origin of the imagery here, there can be no reasonable doubt that it is to be traced to Daniel, and that the writer here means to describe the same "beast" which Daniel refers to in Revelation 7:7. The evidence of this must be clear to anyone who will compare the description in Daniel Rev. 7 with the minute details in the book of Revelation. No one, I think, can doubt that John means to carry forward the description ill Daniel, and to apply it to new manifestations of the same great and terrific power - the power of the fourth monarchy - on the earth. For full evidence that the representation in Daniel refers to the Roman power prolonged and perpetuated in the papal dominion, I must refer the reader to the notes on Daniel 7:25. It may be assumed here that the opinion there defended is correct, and consequently it may be assumed that the "beast" of this book refers to the papal power.
That ascendeth out of the bottomless pit - See the notes on Revelation 9:1. This would properly mean that its origin is the nether world; or that it will have characteristics which will show that it was from beneath. The meaning clearly is, that what was symbolized by the beast would have such characteristics as to show that it was not of divine origin, but had its source in the world of darkness, sin, and death. This, of course, could not represent the true church, or any civil government that is founded on principles which God approves. But if it represent a community pretending to be a church, it is an apostate church; if a civil community, it is a community the characteristics of which are that it is controlled by the spirit that rules over the world beneath. For reasons which we shall see in abundance in applying the descriptions which occur of the "beast," I regard this as referring to that great apostate power which occupies so much of the prophetic descriptions - the papacy.
Shall make war against them - Will endeavor to exterminate them by force. This clearly is not intended to be a general statement that they would be persecuted, but to refer to the particular manner in which the opposition would be conducted. It would be in the form of "war"; that is, there would be an effort to destroy them by arms.
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.
And their dead bodies shall lie in the street - Prof. Stuart, "Shall be in the street." The words "shall lie" are supplied by the translators, but not improperly. The literal rendering would be, "and their corpses upon the street of the great city"; and the meaning is, that there would be a state of things in regard to them which would be well represented by supposing them to lie unburied. To leave a body unburied is to treat it with contempt, and among the ancients nothing was regarded as more dishonorable than such treatment. See the Ajax of Sophocles. Among the Jews also it was regarded as a special indignity to leave the dead unburied, and hence they are always represented as deeply solicitous to secure the interment of their dead. See Genesis 23:4. Compare 2 Samuel 21:9-13; Ecclesiastes 6:3; Isaiah 14:18-20; Isaiah 22:16; Isaiah 53:9. The meaning here is, that, for the time specified, those who are here referred to would be treated with indignity and contempt. In the fulfillment of this, we are not, of course, to look for any literal accomplishment of what is here said, but for some treatment of the "witnesses" which would be well represented by this; that is, which would show that they were treated, after they were silenced, like unburied corpses putrefying in the sun.
Of the great city - Where these transactions would occur. As a great city would be the agent in putting them to death, so the result would be as if they were publicly exposed in its streets. The word "great" here supposes that the city referred to would be distinguished for its size - a circumstance of some importance in determining the place referred to.
Which spiritually is called - πνευματικῶς pneumatikōs. This word occurs only in one other place in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 2:14, "because they are spiritually discerned" - where it means, "in accordance with the Holy Spirit," or" through the aid of the Holy Spirit." Here it seems to be used in the sense of metaphorically, or allegorically, in contradistinction from the literal and real name. There may possibly be an intimation here that the city is so called by the Holy Spirit to designate its real character, but still the essential meaning is, that that was not its literal name. For some reason the real name is not given to it; but such descriptions are applied as are designed to leave no doubt as to what is intended.
Sodom - Sodom was distinguished for its wickedness, and especially for that vice to which its abominations have given name. For the character of Sodom, see Genesis 18:19. Compare 2 Peter 2:6. In inquiring what "city" is here referred to, it would be necessary to find in it such abominations as characterized Sodom, or so much wickedness that it would be proper to call it Sodom. If it shall be found that this was designed to refer to papal Rome, no one can doubt that the abominations which prevailed there would justify such an appellation. Compare the notes on Revelation 9:20-21.
And Egypt - That is, it would have such a character that the name Egypt might be properly given to it. Egypt is known in the Scriptures as the land of oppression - the land where the Israelites, the people of God, were held in cruel bondage. Compare Exodus 1-15. See also Ezekiel 23:8. The particular idea, then, which seems to be conveyed here is, that the "city" referred to would be characterized by acts of oppression and wrong toward the people of God. So far as the language is concerned, it might apply either to Jerusalem or to Rome - for both were eminently characterized by such acts of oppression toward the true children of God as to make it proper to I compare their cruelties with those which were inflicted on the Israelites by the Egyptians. Of whichever of these places the course of the exposition may require us to understand this, it will be seen at once that the language is such as is strictly applicable to either; though, as the reference is rather to Christians than to the ancient people of God, it must be admitted that it would be most natural to refer it to Rome. More acts authorizing persecution, and designed to crush the true people of God, have gone forth from Rome than from any other city on the face of the earth; and taking the history of the church together, there is no place that would be so properly designated by the term here employed.
Where also our Lord was crucified - If this refers to Jerusalem, it is to be taken literally; if to another city, it is to be understood as meaning that he was practically crucified there: that is, that the treatment of his friends - his church - was such that it might be said that he was "crucified afresh" there; for what is done to his church may be said to be done to him. Either of these interpretations would be justified by the use of the language. Thus in Hebrews 6:6, it is said of apostates from the true faith (compare the notes on the passage), that "they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh." If the passage before us is to be taken figuratively, the meaning is, that acts would be performed which might properly be represented as crucifying' the Son of God; that, as he lives in his church, the acts of perverting his doctrines, and persecuting his people, would be, in fact, an act of crucifying the Lord again. Thus understood, the language is strictly applicable to Rome; that is, if it is admitted that John meant to characterize that city, he has employed such language as a Jewish Christian would naturally use. While, therefore, it must be admitted that the language is such as could be literally applied only to Jerusalem, it is still true that it is such language as might be figuratively applied to any other city strongly resembling that, and that in this sense it would characterize Rome above all other cities of the world. The common reading of the text here is "our Lord" - ἡμῶν hēmōn; the text now regarded as correct, however (Griesbach, Tittmann, Hahn), is "their Lord" - αὐτῶν autōn. This makes no essential difference in the sense, except that it directs the attention more particularly to the fact that they were treated like their own Master.
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.
And they of the people - Some of the people; a part of the people - ἐκ τῶν λαῶν ek tōn laōn. The language is such as would be employed to describe a scene where a considerable portion of a company of people should be referred to, without intending to include all. The essential idea is, that there would be an assemblage of different classes of people to whom their carcasses would be exposed, and that they would come and look upon them. We should expect to find the fulfillment of this in some place where, from any cause, a variety of people should be assembled - as in some capital, or some commercial city, to which they would be naturally attracted.
Shall see their dead bodies - That is, a state of things will occur as if these witnesses were put to death, and their carcasses were publicly exposed.
Three days and an half - This might be either literally three days and a half, or, more in accordance with the usual style of this book, these would be prophetic days; that is, three years and a half. Compare the notes on Revelation 9:5, Revelation 9:15.
And shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves - That is, there would be a course of conduct in regard to these witnesses such as would be shown to the dead if they were not suffered to be decently interred. The language used here - "shall not suffer" - seems to imply that there would be those who might be disposed to show them the respect evinced by interring the dead, but that this would not be permitted. This would find a fulfillment if, in a time of persecution, those who had borne faithful testimony were silenced and treated with dishonor and if there should be those who were disposed to show them respect, but who would be prevented by positive acts on the part of their persecutors. This has often been the case in persecution, and there could be no difficulty in finding numerous instances in the history of the church to which this language would he applicable.
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.
And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them - Those dwelling in the land would rejoice over their fall and ruin. This cannot, of course, mean all who inhabit the globe; but, according to the usage in Scripture, those who dwell in the country where this would occur. Compare the notes on Luke 2:1. We now affix to the word "earth" an idea which was not necessarily implied in the Hebrew word ארץ ‛erets, (compare Exodus 3:8; Exodus 13:5; Deuteronomy 19:2, Deuteronomy 19:10; Deuteronomy 28:12; Nehemiah 9:22; Psalm 37:9, Psalm 37:11, Psalm 37:22, Psalm 37:29; Psalm 66:4; Proverbs 2:21; Proverbs 10:30; Joel 1:2); or the Greek word γῆ gē, compare Matthew 2:6, Matthew 2:20-21; Matthew 14:15; Acts 7:7, Acts 7:11, Acts 7:36, Acts 7:40; Acts 13:17. Our word "land," as now commonly understood, would better express the idea intended to be conveyed here; and thus understood, the meaning is, that the dwellers in the country where these things would happen would thus rejoice. The meaning is, that while alive they would, by their faithful testimony against existing errors, excite so much hatred against themselves, and would be so great an annoyance to the governing powers, that there would be general exultation when the voice of their testimony should be silenced. This, too, has been so common in the world that there would be no difficulty in applying the language used here, or in finding events which it would appropriately deseribe.
And make merry - Be glad. See the notes on Luke 12:19; Luke 15:23. The Greek word does not necessarily denote the lighthearted mirth expressed by our word merriment, but rather joy or happiness in general. The meaning is, that they would be filled with joy at such an event.
And shall send gifts one to another - As expressive of their joy. To send presents is a natural expression of our own happiness, and our desire for the happiness of others - as is indicated now by "Christmas" and "New Year's gifts." Compare also Nehemiah 8:10-12; "Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength," etc. See also Esther 9:19-22.Because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth - They "tormented" them, or were a source of annoyance to them, by bearing testimony to the truth; by opposing the prevailing errors; and by rebuking the vices of the age: perhaps by demanding reformation, and by denouncing the judgment of heaven on the guilty. There is no intimation that they tormented them in any other way than by the truths which they held forth. See the word explained in the notes on 2 Peter 2:8.
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.
And after three days and an half - See the notes on Revelation 11:9.
The Spirit of life from God - The living, or life-giving Spirit that proceeds from God entered into them. Compare the notes on Job 33:4. There is evidently allusion here to Genesis 2:7, where God is spoken of as the Author of life. The meaning is, that they would seem to come to life again, or that effects would follow as if the dead were restored to life. If, when they had been compelled to cease from prophesying, they should, after the interval here denoted by three days and a half, again prophesy, or their testimony should be again borne to the truth as it had been before, this would evidently be all that would be implied in the language here employed.
Entered into them - Seemed to animate them again.
And they stood upon their feet - As if they had come to life again.
And great fear fell upon them which saw them - This would be true if those who were dead should be literally restored to life; and this would be the effect if those who had given great annoyances by their doctrines, and who had been silenced, and who seemed to be dead, should again, as if animated anew by a divine power, begin to prophesy, or to proclaim their doctrines to the world. The statement in the symbol is, that those who had put them to death had been greatly troubled by these "witnesses"; that they had sought to silence them, and in order to this had put them to death; that they then greatly rejoiced, as if they would no more be annoyed by them. The fact that they seemed to come to life again would, therefore, fill them with consternation, for they would anticipate a renewal of their troubles, and they would see in this fact evidence of the divine favor toward those whom they persecuted, and reason to apprehend divine vengeance on themselves.
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.
And they heard a great voice from heaven - Some manuscripts read, "I heard" - ἤκουσα ēkousa - but the more approved reading is that of the common text. John says that a voice was addressed to them calling them to ascend to heaven.
Come up hither - To heaven.
And their enemies beheld them - That is, it was done openly, so that their enemies, who had put them to death, saw that they were approved of God, as if they had been publicly taken up to heaven. It is not necessary to suppose that this would literally occur. All this is, manifestly, mere symbol. The meaning is, that they would triumph as if they should ascend to heaven, and he received into the presence of God. The sense of the whole is, that these witnesses, after bearing a faithful testimony against prevailing errors and sins, would be persecuted and silenced; that for a considerable period their voice of faithful testimony would be hushed as if they were dead; that during that period they would be treated with contempt and scorn, as if their unburied bodies should be exposed to the public gaze; that there would be general exultation and joy that they were thus silenced; that they would again revive, as if the dead were restored to life, and bear a faithful testimony to the truth again; and that they would have the divine attestation in their favor, its if they were raised up visibly and publicly to heaven.
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.
And the same hour - In immediate connection with their triumph.
Was there a great earthquake - "An earthquake is a symbol of commotion, agitation, change; of great political revolutions, etc. See the notes on Revelation 6:12. The meaning here is, that the triumph of the witnesses, represented by their ascending to heaven, would be followed by such revolutions as would be properly symbolized by an earthquake.
And the tenth part of the city fell - That is, the tenth part of that which is represented by the "city" - the persecuting power. A city would be the seat and center of the power, and the acts of persecution would seem to proceed from it; but the destruction, we may suppose, would extend to all that was represented by the persecuting power. The word "tenth" is probably used in a general sense to denote that a considerable portion of the persecuting power would be thus involved in ruin; that is, that in respect to that power there would be such a revolution, such a convulsion or commotion, such a loss, that it would be proper to represent it by an earthquake.
And in the earthquake - In the convulsions consequent on what would occur to the witnesses.
Were slain of men seven thousand - Mart., as in the Greek, "names of men" - the name being used to denote the people themselves. The number here mentioned - seven thousand - seems to have been suggested because it would bear some proportion to the tenth part of the city which fell. It is not necessary to suppose, in seeking for the fulfillment of this, that just seven thousand would be killed; but the idea clearly is, that there would be such a diminution of numbers as would be well represented by a calamity that would overwhelm a tenth part of the city, such as the apostle had in his eye, and a proportional number of the inhabitants. The number that would be slain, therefore, in the convulsions and changes consequent on the treatment of the witnesses, might be numerically much larger than seven thousand, and might be as great as if a tenth part of all that were represented by the "city" should be swept away.
And the remnant were affrighted - Fear and alarm came on them in consequence of these calamities. The "remnant" here refers to those who still remained in the "city" - that is, to those who belonged to the community or people designed to be represented here by the city.
And gave glory to the God of heaven - Compare Luke 5:26; "And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things today." All that seems to be meant by this is, that they stood in awe at what God was doing, and acknowledged his power in the changes that occurred. It does not mean, necessarily, that they would repent and become truly his friends, but that there would be a prevailing impression that these changes were produced by his power, and that his hand was in these things. This would be fulfilled if there should be a general willingness among mankind to acknowledge God, or to recognize his hand in the events referred to; if there should be a disposition extensively prevailing to regard the "witnesses" as on the side of God, and to favor their cause as one of truth and righteousness; and if these convulsions should so far change public sentiment as to produce an impression that theirs was the cause of God.
The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.
The second woe is past - That is, the second of the three that were announced as yet to come, Revelation 8:13; compare Revelation 9:12.
And, behold, the third woe cometh quickly - The last of the series. The meaning is, that what was signified by the third "woe" would be the next, and final event, in order. On the meaning of the word "quickly," see the notes on Revelation 1:1; compare Revelation 2:5, Revelation 2:16; Revelation 3:11; Revelation 22:7, Revelation 22:12, Revelation 22:20.
In reference now to the important question about the application of this portion of the Book of Revelation, it need hardly be said that the greatest variety of opinion has prevailed among expositors. It would be equally unprofitable, humiliating, and discouraging to attempt to enumerate all the opinions which have been held; and I must refer the reader who has any desire to become acquainted with them to Poole's Synopsis, in loco, and to the copious statement of Prof. Stuart, Cove. vol. 2, pp. 219-227. Prof. Stuart himself supposes that the meaning is, that "a competent number of divinely-commissioned and faithful Christian witnesses, endowed with miraculous powers, should bear testimony against the corrupt Jews, during the last days of their commonwealth, respecting their sins; that they should proclaim the truths of the gospel; and that the Jews by destroying them, would bring upon themselves an aggravated and an awful doom," 2:226. Instead of attempting to examine in detail the opinions which have been held, I shall rather state what seems to me to be the fair application of the language used, in accordance with the principles pursued thus far in the exposition. The inquiry is, whether there have been any events to which this language is applicable, or in reference to which, if it be admitted that it was the design of the Spirit of inspiration to describe them, it may be supposed that such language would be employed as we find here.
In this inquiry it may be assumed that the preceding exposition is correct, and the application now to be made must accord with that - that is, it must be found that events occurred in such times and circumstances as would be consistent with the supposition that that exposition is correct. It is to be assumed, therefore, that Revelation 9:20-21, refers to the state of the ecclesiastical world after the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks, and previous to the Reformation; that Revelation 10:1-11 refers to the Reformation itself; that Revelation 11:1-2, refers to the necessity, at the time of the Reformation, of ascertaining what was the true church, of reviving the Scripture doctrine respecting the atonement and justification, and of drawing correct lines as to membership in the church. All this has reference, according to this interpretation, to the state of the church while the papacy would have the ascendency, or during the twelve hundred and sixty years in which it would trample down the church as if the holy city were in the hands of the Gentiles. Assuming this to be the correct exposition, their what is here said Revelation 11:3-13 must relate to that period, for it is with reference to that same time - the period of "a thousand two hundred and threescore days," or twelve hundred and sixty years - that it is said Revelation 11:3 the witnesses would "prophesy," "clothed in sackcloth."
If this be so, then what is here stated Revelation 11:3-13 must be supposed to occur during the ascendency of the papacy, and must mean, in general, that during that long period of apostasy, darkness, corruption, and sin, there would be faithful witnesses for the truth, who, though they were few in number, would be sufficient to keep up the knowledge of the truth on the earth, and to bear testimony against the prevailing errors and abominations. The object of this portion of the book, therefore, is to describe the character of the faithful witnesses for the truth during this long period of darkness; to state their influence; to record their trials; and to show what would he the ultimate result in regard to them, when their "testimony" should become triumphant. This general view will be seen to accord with the exposition of the previous portion of the book, and will be sustained, I trust, by the more particular inquiry into the application of the passage to which I now proceed. The essential points in the passage Revelation 11:3-13 respecting the "witnesses" are six:
(1) who are meant by the witnesses;
(2) the war made on them;
(3) their death;
(4) their resurrection;
(5) their reception into heaven; and,
(6) the consequences of their triumph in the calamity that came upon the city.
I. Who are meant by the witnesses, Revelation 11:3-6. There are several specifications in regard to this point which it is necessary to notice:
(a) The fact that, during this long period of error, corruption, and sin, there were those who were faithful witnesses for the truth - people who opposed the prevailing errors; who maintained the great doctrines of the Christian faith; and who were ready to lay down their lives in defense of the truth. For a full confirmation of this it would be necessary to trace the history of the church down from the rise of the papal power through the long lapse of the subsequent ages; but such an examination would be far too extensive for the purpose contemplated in these notes, and, indeed, would require a volume by itself. Happily, this has already been done; and all that is necessary now is to refer to the works where the fact here affirmed has been abundantly established. In many of the histories of the church - Mosheim, Neander, Milner, Milman, Gieseler - most ample proof may be found, that amidst the general darkness and corruption there were those who faithfully adhered to the truth as it is in Jesus, end who, amidst many sufferings, bore their testimony against prevailing errors. The investigation has been made, also, with special reference to an illustration of this passage, by Mr. Elliott, Hover Apoca. vol. 2, pp. 193-406; and although it must be admitted that some of the details are of doubtful applicability, yet the main fact is abundantly established, that during that long period there were "witnesses" for the pure truths of the gospel, and a faithful testimony borne against the abominations and errors of the papacy. These "witnesses" are divided by Mr. Elliott into:
(1) the earlier Western witnesses - embracing such men, and their followers, as Serenus, bishop of Marseilles; the Anglo-Saxon church in England ; Agobard, Archbishop of Lyons from 810 to 841 a.d., on the one side of the Alps, and Claude of Turin on the other; Gotteschalcus, 884 a.d.; Berenger, Arnold of Brescia, Peter de Bruys, and his disciple Henry, and then the Waldenses.
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.
And the seventh angel sounded - See the notes on Revelation 8:2, Revelation 8:6-7. This is the last of the trumpets, implying, of course, that under this the series of visions was to end, and that this was to introduce the state of things under which the affairs of the world were to be wound up. The place which this occupies in the order of time, is when the events pertaining to the colossal Roman power - the fourth kingdom of Daniel Dan. 2-7 - should have been completed, and when the reign of the saints Daniel 7:9-14, Daniel 7:27-28 should have been introduced. This, both in Daniel and in John, is to occur when the mighty power of the papacy shall have been overthrown at the termination of the twelve hundred and sixty years of its duration. See the notes on Daniel 7:25. In both Daniel and John the termination of that persecuting power is the commencement of the reign of the saints; the downfall of the papacy, the introduction of the kingdom of God, and its establishment on the earth.
And there were great voices in heaven - As of exultation and praise. The grand consummation had come, the period so long anticipated and desired when God should reign on the earth had arrived, and this lays the foundation for joy and thanksgiving in heaven.
The kingdoms of this world - The modern editions of the New Testament (see Tittmann and Hahn) read this in the singular number - "The kingdom of this world has become," etc. According to this reading, the meaning would be, either that the sole reign over this world had become that of the Lord Jesus; or, more probably, that the dominion over the earth had been regarded as one in the sense that Satan had reigned over it, but had now become the kingdom of God; that is, that "the kingdoms of this world are many considered in themselves; but in reference to the sway of Satan, there is only one kingdom ruled over by the 'god of this world'" (Prof. Stuart). The sense is not materially different whichever reading is adopted; though the authority is in favor of the latter (Wetstein). According to the common reading, the sense is, that all the kingdoms of the earth, being many in themselves, had been now brought under the one scepter of Christ; according to the other, the whole world was regarded as in fact one kingdom - that of Satan - and the scepter had now passed from his hands into those of the Saviour.
The kingdoms of our Lord - Or, the kingdom of our Lord, according to the reading adopted in the previous part of the verse. The word "Lord" here evidently has reference to God as such - represented as the original source of authority, and as giving the kingdom to his Son. See the notes on Daniel 7:13-14; compare Psalm 2:8. The word "Lord" - Κυριος Kurios - implies the notion of possessor, owner, sovereign, supreme ruler - and is thus properly given to God. See Matthew 1:22; Matthew 5:33; Mark 5:19; Luke 1:6, Luke 1:28; Acts 7:33; Hebrews 8:2, Hebrews 8:10; James 4:15, al. saepe.
And of his Christ - Of his anointed; of him who is set apart as the Messiah, and consecrated to this high office. See the notes on Matthew 1:1. He is called "his Christ," because he is set apart by him, or appointed by him to perform the work appropriate to that office on earth. Such language as what occurs here is often employed, in which God and Christ are spoken of as, in some respects, distinct - as sustaining different offices, and performing different works. The essential meaning here is, that the kingdom of this world had now become the kingdom of God under Christ; that is, that that kingdom is administered by the Son of God.
And he shall reign forever and ever - A kingdom is commenced which shall never terminate. It is not said that this would be on the earth; but the essential idea is, that the scepter of the world had now, after so long a time, come into his hands never more to pass away. The fuller characteristics of this reign are stated in a subsequent part of this book Revelation 20-22. What is here stated is in accordance with all the predictions in the Bible. A time is to come when, in the proper sense of the term, God is to reign on the earth; when his kingdom is to be universal; when his laws shall be everywhere recognized as binding; when all idolatry shall come to an end; and when the understandings and the hearts of people everywhere shall bow to his authority. Compare Psalm 2:8; Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 45:22; 60; Daniel 2:35, Daniel 2:44-45; Daniel 7:13-14, Daniel 7:27-28; Zechariah 14:9; Malachi 1:11; Luke 1:33. On this whole subject, see the very ample illustrations and proofs in the notes on Daniel 2:44-45; Daniel 7:13-14, Daniel 7:27-28; compare the notes on Revelation 20-22.
And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
And the four and twenty elders which sat ... - See the notes on Revelation 4:4.
Fell upon their faces, and worshipped God - Prostrated themselves before him - the usual form of profound adoration. See the notes on Revelation 5:8-14.
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.
Saying, We give thee thanks - We, as the representatives of the church, and as identified in our feelings with it (see the notes on Revelation 4:4), acknowledge thy goodness in tires delivering the church from all its troubles, and having conducted it through the times of fiery persecution, thus establishing it upon the earth. The language here used is an expression of their deep interest in the church, and of the fact that they felt themselves identified with it. They, as representatives of the church, would of course rejoice in its prosperity and final triumph.
O Lord God Almighty - Referring to God all-powerful, because it was by his omnipotent arm alone that this great work had been I accomplished. Nothing else could have I defended the church in its many trials; nothing else could have established it upon the earth.
Which art, and wast, and art to come - The Eternal One, always the same. See the notes on Revelation 1:8. The reference here is to the fact that God, who had thus established his church on the earth, is unchanging. In all the revolutions which occur on the earth, he always remains the same. What he was in past times he is now; what he is now he always will be. The particular idea suggested here seems to be, that he had now shown this by having caused his church to triumph; that is, he had shown that he was the same God who had early promised that it should ultimately triumph; he had carried forward his glorious purposes without modifying or abandoning them amidst all the changes that had occurred in the world; and he had thus given the assurance that he would now remain the same, and that all his purposes in regard to his church would be accomplished. The fact that God remains always unchangeably the same is the sole reason why his church is safe, or why any individual member of it is kept and saved. Compare Malachi 3:6.
Because thou hast taken to thee thy great power - To wit, by setting up thy kingdom over all the earth. Before that it seemed as if he had relaxed that power, or had given the power to others. Satan had reigned on the earth. Disorder, anarchy, sin, rebellion, had prevailed. It seemed as if God had let the reins of government fall from his hand. Now he came forth as if to resume the dominion over the world, and to take the scepter into his own hand, and to exert his great power in keeping the nations in subjection. The setting up of his kingdom all over the world, and causing his laws everywhere to be obeyed, will be among the highest demonstrations of divine power. Nothing can accomplish this but the power of God; when that power is exerted nothing can prevent its accomplishment.
And hast reigned - Prof. Stuart, "and shown thyself as king" - that is, "hast become king, or acted as a king." The idea is, that he had now vindicated his regal power (Robinson, Lexicon) - that is, he had now set up his kingdom on the earth, and had truly begun to reign. One of the characteristics of the millennium - and indeed the main characteristic will be that God will be everywhere obeyed; for when that occurs all will be consummated that properly enters into the idea of the millennial kingdom.
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.
And the nations were angry - Were enraged against thee. This they had shown by their opposition to his laws; by persecuting his people; by slaying his witnesses; by all the attempts which they had made to destroy his authority on the earth. The reference here seems to be to the whole series of events preceding the final establishment of his kingdom on the earth; to all the efforts which had been made to throw off his government and to crush his church. At this period of glorious triumph it was natural to look back to those dark times when the "nations raged" (compare Psalm 2:1-3), and when the very existence of the church was in jeopardy.
And thy wrath is come - That is, the time when thou wilt punish them for all that they have done in opposition to thee, and when the wicked shall be cut off. There will be, in the setting up of the kingdom of God, some manifestation of his wrath against the powers that opposed it; or something that will show his purpose to destroy his enemies, and to judge the wicked. The representations in this book lead us to suppose that the final establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth will be introduced or accompanied by commotions and wars which will end in the overthrow of the great powers that have opposed his reign, and by such awful calamities in those portions of the world as shall show that God has arisen in his strength to cut off his enemies, and to appear as the vindicator of his people. Compare the notes on Revelation 16:12-16; Revelation 19:11-26.
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged - According to the view which the course of the exposition thus far pursued leads us to entertain of this book, there is reference here, in few words, to the same thing which is more fully stated in Revelation 20:1-15, and the meaning of the sacred writer will, therefore, come up for a more distinct and full examination when we consider that chapter. See the notes on Revelation 20:4-6, Revelation 20:12-15. The purpose of the writer does not require that a detailed statement of the order of the events referred to should be made here, for it would be better made when, after another line of illustration and of symbol Revelation 11:19; Revelation 12-19, he should have reached the same catastrophe, and when, in view of both the mind would be prepared for the fuller description with which the book closes, Revelation 20-22. All that occurs here, therefore, is a very general statement of the final consumation of all things.
And that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants - The righteous. Compare Matthew 25:34-40; Revelation 21:22. That is, in the final winding-up of human affairs, God will bestow the long-promised reward on those who have been his true friends. The wicked that annoyed and persecuted them will annoy and persecute them no more; and the righteous will be publicly acknowledged as the friends of God. For the manner in which this will be done, see the details in Revelation 20-22.
The prophets - All who, in every age, have faithfully proclaimed the truth. On the meaning of the word, see the notes on Revelation 10:11.
And to the saints - To all who are holy - under whatever dispensation, and in whatever land, and at whatever time, they may have lived. Then will be the time when, in a public manner, they will be recognized as belonging to the kingdom of God, and as being his true friends.
And them that fear thy name - Another way of designating his people, since religion consists in a profound veneration for God, Malachi 3:16; Job 1:1; Psalm 15:4; Psalm 22:23; Psalm 115:11; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 3:13; Proverbs 9:10; Isaiah 11:2; Acts 10:22, Acts 10:35.
Small and great - Young and old; low and high; poor and rich. The language is designed to comprehend all, of every class, who have a claim to be numbered among the friends of God, and it furnishes a plain intimation that people of all classes will be found at last among his true people. One of the glories of the true religion is, that, in bestowing its favors, it disregards all the artificial distinctions of society, and addresses man as man, welcoming all who are human beings to the blessings of life and salvation. This will be illustriously shown in the last period of the world's history, when the distinctions of wealth, and rank, and blood shall lose the importance which has been attributed to them, and when the honor of being a child of God shall have its true place. Compare Galatians 3:28.
And shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth - That is, all who have, in their conquests, spread desolation over the earth and who have persecuted the righteous, and all who have done injustice and wrong to any class of people. Compare the notes on Revelation 20:13-15.
Here ends, as I suppose, the first series of visions referred to in the volume sealed with the seven seals, Revelation 5:1. At this point, where the division of the chapter should have been made, and which is properly marked in our common Bibles by the sign of the paragraph (),there commences a new series of visions, intended also, but in a different line, to extend down to the consummation of all things. The former series traces the history down mainly through the series of civil changes in the world, or the outward affairs which affect the destiny of the church; the latter - the portion still before us - embraces the same period with a more direct reference to the rise of antichrist, and the influence of that power in affecting the destiny of the Church. When that is completed Revelation 11:19; Revelation 12-19, the way is prepared Revelation 20-22 for the more full statement of the final triumph of the gospel, and the universal prevalence of religion, with which the book so appropriately closes. That portion of the book, therefore, refers to the same period as the one which has just been considered under the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and the description of the final state of things would have immediately succeeded if it had not been necessary, by another series of visions, to trace more particularly the history of antichrist on the destiny of the church, and the way in which that great and fearful power would be finally overcome. See the Analysis of the Book, part 5. The way is then prepared for the description of the state of things which will exist when all the enemies of the church shall be subdued; when Christianity shall triumph; and when the predicted reign of God shall be set up on the earth, Revelation 20-22.
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.
Analysis of the Chapter 11:19-12
This portion of the book commences, according to the view presented in the closing remarks on the last chapter, a new series of visions, designed more particularly to represent the internal condition of the church; the rise of antichrist, and the effect of the rise of that formidable power on the internal history of the church to the time of the overthrow of that power, and the triumphant establishment of the kingdom of God. See the Analysis of the Book, part 5. The portion before us embraces the following particulars:
(1) A new vision of the temple of God as opened in heaven, disclosing the ark of the testimony, and attended with lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail, Revelation 11:19. The view of the "temple," and the "ark," would naturally suggest a reference to the church, and would be an appropriate representation on the supposition that this vision related to the church. The attending circumstances of the lightnings, etc., were well suited to impress the mind with awe, and to leave the conviction that great and momentous events were about to be disclosed. I regard this verse, therefore, which should have been separated from the eleventh chapter and attached to the twelfth, as the introduction to a new series of visions, similar to what we have in the introduction of the previous series, Revelation 4:1. The vision was of the temple the symbol of the church - and it was "opened" so that John could see into its inmost part - even within the veil where the ark was - and could have a view of what most intimately pertained to it.
(2) a representation of the church, under the image of a woman about to give birth to a child, Revelation 12:1-2. A woman is seen, clothed, as it were, with the sun - emblem of majesty, truth, intelligence, and glory; she has the moon under her feet, as if she walked the heavens; she has on her head a glittering diadem of stars; she is about to become a mother. This seems to have been designed to represent the church as about to be increased, and as in that condition watched by a dragon - a mighty foe - ready to destroy its offspring, and thus compelled to flee into the wilderness for safety. Thus understood, the point of time referred to would be when the church was in a prosperous condition, and when it would be encountered by antichrist, represented here by the dragon, and compelled to flee into the wilderness; that is, the church for a time would be driven into obscurity, and be almost unknown. It is no uncommon thing, in the Scriptures, to compare the church with a beautiful woman. See the notes on Isaiah 1:8. The following remarks of Prof. Stuart (vol. 2:252), though he applies the subject in a manner very different from what I shall, seem to me accurately to express the general design of the symbol: "The daughter of Zion is a common personification of the church in the Old Testament; and in the writings of Paul, the same image is exhibited by the phrase, Jerusalem, which is the mother of us all; that is, of all Christians, Galatians 4:26. The main point before us is the illustration of that church, ancient or later, under the image of a woman. If the Canticles are to have a spiritual sense given to them, it is plain enough, of course, how familiar such an idea was to the Jews. Whether the woman thus exhibited as a symbol be represented as bride or mother depends, of course, on the nature of the case, and the relations and exigencies of any particular passage."
(3) the dragon that stood ready to devour the child, Revelation 12:3-4. This represents some formidable enemy of the church, that was ready to persecute and destroy it. The real enemy here referred to is, undoubtedly, Satan, the great enemy of God and the church, but here it is Satan in the form of some fearful opponent of the church that would arise at a period when the church was prosperous, and when it was about to be enlarged. We are to look, therefore, for some fearful manifestation of this formidable power, having the characteristics here referred to, or some opposition to the church such as we may suppose Satan would originate, and by which the existence of the church might seem to be endangered.
(4) the fact that the child which the woman brought forth was caught up to heaven - symbolical of its real safety, and of its having the favor of God - a pledge that the ultimate prosperity of the church was certain, and that it was safe from real danger, Revelation 12:5.
(5) the fleeing of the woman into the wilderness, for the space of a thousand two hundred and threescore days, or 1260 years, Revelation 12:6. This act denotes the persecuted and obscure condition of the church during that time, and the period which would elapse before it would be delivered from this persecution, and restored to the place in the earth which it was designed to have.
(6) the war in heaven; a struggle between the mighty powers of heaven and the dragon, Revelation 12:7-9. Michael and his angels contend against the dragon, in behalf of the church, and finally prevail. The dragon is overcome, and is cast out, and all his angels with him; in other words, the great enemy of God and his church is overcome and subdued. This is evidently designed to be symbolical, and the meaning is, that a state of things would exist in regard to the church, which would be well represented by supposing that such a scene should occur in heaven; that is, as if a war should exist there between the great enemy of God and the angels of light, and as if, being there vanquished, Satan should be cast down to the earth, and should there exert his malignant power in a warfare against the church. The general idea is, that his warfare would be primarily against heaven, as if he fought with the angels in the very presence of God, but that the form in which he would seem to prevail would be against the church, as if, being unsuccessful in his direct warfare against the angels of God, he was permitted, for a time, to enjoy the appearance of triumph in contending with the church.
(7) the shout of victory in view of the conquest, over the dragon, Revelation 12:10-12. A loud voice is heard in heaven, saying, that now the kingdom of God is come, and that the reign of God would be set up, for the dragon is cast down and overcome. The grand instrumentality in overcoming this foe was "the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony"; that is, the great doctrines of truth pertaining to the work of the Redeemer would be employed for this purpose, and it is proclaimed that the heavens and all that dwell therein had occasion to rejoice at the certainty that a victory would be ultimately obtained over this great enemy of God. Still, however, his influence was not wholly at an end, for he would yet rage for a brief period on the earth.
(8) the persecution of the woman, Revelation 12:13-15. She is constrained to fly, as on wings given her for that purpose, into the wilderness, where she is nourished for the time that the dragon is to exert his power - a "time, times, and half a time" - or for 1260 years. The dragon in rage pours out a flood of water, that he may cause her to be swept away by the flood: referring to the persecutions that would exist while the church was in the wilderness, and the efforts that would be made to destroy it entirely.
(9) the earth helps the woman, Revelation 12:16. That is, a state of things would exist as if, in such a case, the earth should open and swallow up the flood. The meaning is, that the church would not be swept away, but that there would be an interposition in its behalf, as if the earth should, in the case supposed, open its bosom, and swallow up the swelling waters.
(10) the dragon, still enraged, makes war with all that pertains to the woman, Revelation 12:17. Here we are told literally who are referred to by the "seed" of the woman. They are those who "keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" Revelation 12:17; that is, the true church.
The chapter, therefore, may be regarded as a general vision of the persecutions that would rage against the church. It seemed to be about to increase and to spread over the world. Satan, always opposed to it, strives to prevent its extension. The conflict is represented as if in heaven, where war is waged between the celestial beings and Satan, and where, being overcome, Satan is cast down to the earth, and permitted to wage the war there. The church is persecuted; becomes obscure and almost unknown, but still is mysteriously sustained; and when most in danger of being wholly swallowed up, is kept as if a miracle were performed in its defense. The detail - the particular form in which the war would be waged - is drawn out in the following chapters.
And the temple of God was opened in heaven - The temple of God at Jerusalem was a pattern of the heavenly one, or of heaven, Hebrews 8:1-5. In that temple God was supposed to reside by the visible symbol of his presence - the Shekinah - in the holy of holies. See the notes on Hebrews 9:7. Thus God dwells in heaven, as in a holy temple, of which that on earth was the emblem. When it is said that that was "opened in heaven," the meaning is, that John was permitted, as it were, to look into heaven, the abode of God, and to see him in his glory.