A certain connection of the trumpets among themselves, however, we have been able to trace, and this we should expect still to discover, every fresh step in this confirming the past and gaining for itself thus greater assurance. Moreover, the general teaching of prophecy will assist and control our thoughts, although we may be unable to show the relation to each other of single predictions, such as we find for instance in comparing the fourth beast of Daniel with the first of Revelation.
A voice from the horns of the golden altar brings on the second woe. It is natural at first sight to connect this with the opening of the eighth chapter, and to see in it an answer to the prayers of the saints with which the incense of the altar is offered up. But this view becomes less satisfactory as we consider it, if only for the reason that the whole of the seven trumpets are in answer to the prayers of the saints, as we have seen, and to make the sixth trumpet specifically this would seem in contradiction. Besides, a voice from the horns of the altar, or even from the altar, would scarcely convey the thought of an answer to the prayers that came up from the altar. The horns too were not in any special relation to the offering of incense, but were for the blood of atonement, which was put upon them either to make atonement for the altar itself, or for the sin of the high-priest or of the congregation of Israel. A voice of judgment from these horns, - still more emphatic if we read, as it seems we should do, "one voice from the four horns," - so different from the usual pleading in behalf of the sinner, speaks of profanation of the altar, or of guilt for which no atonement could be found; and, one would say, of such guilt resting upon the professed people of God, whether this were Israel or that Christendom which Israel often pictures.
If with this thought in our mind we look back to what has taken place under the last trumpet, there seems at once a very distinct connection. If the rise of Antichrist be indeed what is represented there, then we can see how the horns of the altar, from which he has caused sacrifice and oblation to cease (Dan. ix. 27), should call for judgment upon himself and those who have followed him, whether Jews or Gentiles. In the passage just quoted from Daniel it is added, "And because of the wing of abominations there shall be a desolator." In the sixth trumpet we have just such a desolator.
The Euphrates was the boundary of the old Roman empire, and there the four angels are "bound " - "restrained," it may be, by the power of the empire itself, until, having risen up against God, their own hands have thrown down the barrier, and the hordes from without enter upon their mission to "slay the third part of men," a term which we have seen as probably indicating the revived Roman empire. Here, too, is the seat of the beast’s supremacy and of the power of Antichrist. Thus there seems real accordance in these several particulars; and in this way the trumpet judgments give us a glance over the prophetic field, if brief, yet complete, as otherwise they would not appear to be. Moreover, when we turn to the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth chapters of Ezekiel to find the (desolator of the last days (chap. XXXVIII. 17), we find in fact the full array of nations from the other side of the Euphrates pouring in upon the land of Israel, while the connection of that land with Antichrist and with the Roman empire is plainly shown us in Daniel and in Revelation alike. If the Euphrates be the boundary of the empire, it is also Israel’s as declared by God, and the two are already thus far identified their connection spiritually and politically we shall have fully before us in the more detailed prophecy to come.
But why four angels and what do they symbolise? The restraint under which they were marks them sufficiently as opposing powers, and would exclude the thought of holy angels nor is it probable that they are literal angels at all. They would seem representative powers, and in the historical application have been taken to refer to the fourfold division of the old Turkish empire into four kingdoms prior to the attack upon the empire of the East. If such an interpretation is to be made in reference to the final fulfillment, then it is noteworthy that Gog, of the land of Magog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and ‘Tubal," - as the R.V., with most commentators, reads it now, - gives (under one head, indeed,) four separate powers as principal associates in this latter-day irruption. Others there are, but coming behind and apart, as in their train. I mention this for what it may be worth. It is at least a possible application, and therefore not unworthy of serious consideration, while it (does not exclude a deeper and more penetrative meaning.
The angels are prepared for the hour and day and month and year, that they might slav the third part of men. The immense hosts, two hundred millions in number, are perfectly in the hand of a Master, - time, work, and limit carefully apportioned by eternal Wisdom, the evil in its fullest development servant to the good. The horses seem to he of chief importance and must dwelt upon. Their their riders arc first described, but only as to their "breast-plates of fire and hyacinth and brimstone." These answer to the "fire and smoke and brimstone" out of the horses’ mouths: divine judgment of which they are the instruments making them thus invincible while their work is being done. The horses have heads like lions ; destruction comes with an open front - the judgment of God: so that the human hands that direct it are of the less consequence, - divine wrath is sure to find its executioners.
God’s judgment is foremost in this infliction, but there is also Satan’s power in it: the horses’ tails are like serpents, and have heads, and with these they do hurt. Poisonous falsehood characterizes this time when men are given up to believe a lie. Death, physical and spiritual, are in league together, and the destruction is terrible ; but those that escape are not delivered from their sins, which, as we see, are, in the main, idolatrous worship, with things that naturally issue out of this. The genealogy of evil is as recorded in the first of Romans: the forsaking of God leads to all other wickedness ; but here it is where His full truth has been rejected, and the consequences are so much the more terrible and disastrous.
THE LITTLE OPEN BOOK.
We have already seen that in the trumpets, as in the seals, there is a gap, filled up with a vision, between the sixth and seventh, so as to make the seventh structurally an eighth section. This corresponds, moreover, to the meaning; for the seventh trumpet introduces the kingdom of Christ on earth, which, although the third and final woe upon the dwellers on the earth, is on the other hand the beginning of a new condition, and an eternal one. With this octave a chord is struck which vibrates through the universe.
The interposed vision is in both series, therefore, a seventh, with a meaning corresponding to the number of perfection. At least, so it is in the series of the seals, and we may be sure we shall find no failure in this case: failure in the book of God, even in the minutest point, - our Lord’s "jot or tittle," - is an impossibility. Nothing is more beautiful of its kind than the way in which all this prophetic history yields itself to the hand that works in all and controls all: thank God, we know whose hand.
But the vision of the trumpet series is very unlike that of the seals, and its burden of sorrow different indeed from that sweet inlet into beatific rest. We shall find, however, that it vindicates its position none the less. As in the work, so in the word of God, with a substantial unity, there is yet a wonderful variety, never a mere repetition, which would imply that God had exhausted Himself. As you cannot find two leaves in a forest just alike, so you cannot find two passages of Scripture that are just alike, when they are carefully and intelligently considered. The right use of parallel passages must take in the consideration of the diversity and unity alike.
In the vision before us there is first of all seen the descent of a strong angel from heaven. As yet, no descent of this kind has been seen. In the corresponding vision in the seal series, an angel ascends from the east, but here he descends, and from heaven. A more positive direct action of heaven upon the earth is implied, power acting, though not yet the great power under the seventh trumpet when the kingdom of Christ is come. This being, apparently angelic, is "clothed with a cloud," - a vail about him, which would seem to indicate a mystery either as to his person or his ways. It does not say "the cloud," - what Israel saw as the sign of the presence of the Lord, - otherwise there could be no doubt as to who was here : yet in His actions presently He is revealed to faith as truly what the cloud intimates. It is Christ acting as Jehovah, though yet personally hidden, and in behalf of Israel, among whom the angel of Jehovah walked thus appareled. It is only the cloud; the brightness which is yet there has not shone forth: faith has to penetrate the cloud to enter the Presence chamber: yet is He there, and in a form that intimates His remembrance of the covenant of old, and on His own part some correspondent action.
So also the rainbow (which we last saw round the throne of God) encircles His head. Joy is coming after sorrow, refreshing after storm, the display of God’s blessed attributes at last, though in that which passes, a glory that endureth. And this is coming nearer now, in Him who descends to earth. But His face is as the sun there indeed we see Him; who else has such a face? In our sky there are not two suns: our orbit is a circle, not an ellipse. His face is above the cloud with which He is encircled: heaven knows Him for what He is; the earth not yet; though on the earth may be those who are in heaven’s secret. But His feet are like pillars of fire, and these are what are first in contact with the earth, the indication of ways which are in divine holiness, necessarily, therefore, in judgment, while the earth mutters and grows dark with rebellion.
Now we have what reveals to us whereto we have arrived: "And he had in his hand a little book opened." the seventh seal opens a book which had been seen in heaven; the seventh section here shows us another book now open, but a little book. It had not the scope and fullness of the other: we hear nothing of how the writing fills up and overflows the page. It is a little book which has been till now shut up, but is no longer shut up, - a book too whose contents, evidently connected with the action of the angel here, has to do with the earth simply, not with heaven also, as the seven-sealed book has. We have in this what should lead us to what the book is; for the characteristic of Old Testament prophecy is just this, that it opens to us the earthly, not the heavenly things. Its promises are Israel’s, the earthly people (Rom. ix. 4), and it deals fully with the millennial kingdom, and the convulsions which are its birth-throes. Beyond the millennium, except in that brief reference to the new heavens and earth to which Peter refers, it does not go; and the "new heavens" are not our blessed portion, but the earth-heavens, as Peter very distinctly shows. There is no heavenly city there in prospect; there is no rule over the earth on the part of Christ’s co-heirs, such as we have already found in the song of Revelation. All this the Christian revelation adds to the Old Testament; while in Revelation the millennium is passed over with the briefest notice. Here for the first time indeed we get its limits set, and see how short it is, while the main thing dwelt upon as to it is with whom shall be filled those thrones which Daniel sees "placed," but sees not the occupants (chap. vii.). Thus it is plain how the book of Old Testament prophecy is, comparatively with the New, "a little book."
It is fully owned and maintained that when we look, with the aid of the New Testament, beyond the letter, we can find more than this. Types there are and shadows, and that every where, in prophecy as well as history, of greater things. Earth itself and earthly things may be and are symbols of heaven and the heavenly. The summer reviving out of winter speaks of resurrection; the very food we feed on preaches life through death. And so more evidently the Old Testament: for Revelation, completing the cycle of the divine testimony, brings us back to paradise, as type of a better one; and the latest unfolding of what had been for ages hidden, shows us in Adam and his Eve Christ and the Church.
But this manifestly leaves untouched the sense in which Old Testament prophecy may be styled "a little book." The application here is also easy. For in fact the Old Testament prophecy as to the earth has been for long a thing waiting for that fulfillment which shall manifest and illumine it. Israel outcast from her land, upon whom the blessing of the earth waits, all connected with this waits. We may see now, indeed, as in some measure we see their faces set once more toward their land, that other things also are arranging themselves preparatory to the final accomplishment. But yet the proper fulfillment of them is not really begun.
In the meanwhile, though the Lord is fulfilling His purposes of grace, and taking out from among the Gentiles a people for His name, as to the earth, it is "man’s day." (i Cor. iv. 3, marg.) When He shall have completed this, and having gathered the heavenly saints to heaven, shall put to His hand in order to bring in the blessing for the earth, then the day of the Lord will begin in necessary judgment, that the inhabitants of the world may learn righteousness. (Is. xxvi. 9.) This day of the Lord begins, therefore, before the appearing of the Lord, for which it prepares the way: the dawn of day is before the sunrise.
The apostle, in warning the Thessalonians against the error of supposing that the day of the Lord was come (2 Thess. ii. 2, R. V.), gives them what would be a sign immediately preceding it: "For that day," he says, "shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." The manifestation of the man of sin is therefore the bell that tolls in solemnly the day of the Lord.
This would seem to be the opening, then, of the "little book." Thenceforth the prophecies of the latter day become clear and intelligible. Now the apostasy has been shown, as it would seem, in its beginning under the fifth trumpet, and the man of sin may well be the one spoken of there: thus the little book may be fittingly now seen as opened, and in the continuation of the vision here we find for the first time the "beast," the "wild beast" of Daniel, in full activity (chap. xi. 7). All, therefore, seems connected and harmonious; and we are emerging out of the obscure borderland of prophecy into the place where the concentrated rays of its lamp are found.
We see too how rapidly the end draws near: "And he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left upon the earth; and he cried with a great voice, as when a lion roareth." It is the preparatory voice of Judah’s Lion, as "suddenly his anger kindles;" and the seven thunders, - the full divine voice, - the whole government of God in action, - answers it; but what they utter has to find its interpretation at a later time.
Meanwhile, the attitude of the angel is explained: "and the angel which I saw standing upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his right hand to heaven, and sware by Him that liveth forever and ever, who created the heavens, and the things that are therein, and the earth, and the things that are therein, and the sea, and the things that are therein, that there should be delay no longer; but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound " - when he shall sound, as he is about to do, - " then is finished the mystery of God, according to the good tidings which He hath declared to His servants the prophets."
All is of a piece: the prophetic testimony, (the testimony of the little open book,) is now to be suddenly consummated, which ends only with the glories of Christ’s reign over the earth. Amid all the confusion and evil of days so full of tribulation, that except they were mercifully shortened, no flesh should be saved (Matt. xxiv. 22), yet faith will be allowed to reckon the very days of its continuance, which in both Daniel and Revelation are exactly numbered. How great the relief in that day of distress! and how sweet the compassion of God that has provided it after this manner! "He that endureth to the end shall be saved," - shall find deliverance speedy and effectual, and find it in the coming of that Son of Man whose very title is a gospel of Peace, and whose hand will accomplish the deliverance. ‘Here has been an apparent long delay: "There shall be delay no longer." Man’s day has run to its end, and, though in cloud and tempest, the day of the Lord at last is dawning. Then the mystery of God is finished: the mystery of the first prophecy of the woman’s Seed, and in which the whole conflict between good and evil is summarized and foretold. What a mystery it has been! and how unbelief, even in believers, has stumbled over the delay! The heel of the Deliverer bruised: a victory of patient suffering to precede and insure the final victory of power! Meantime, the persistence and apparent triumph of evil, by which are disciplined the heirs of glory! Now, all is indeed at last cleared up; the mystery of God (needful to be a mystery while patience wrought its perfect work,) is forever finished the glory of God shines like the sun; faith is now completely justified! the murmur of doubt forever silenced.
Thus the sea and the land already, even while the days of trouble last, know the step of the divine angel, claiming earth and sea for Christ. And now faith (as in the prophet) is to devour the book of these wondrous communications, sweet in the mouth, yet at present bitter in digestion, for the last throes of the earth’s travail are upon her. By and by this trouble will be no more remembered for the joy that the birth of a new day is come, - a day prophesied of by so many voices without God, but a day which can only come when God shall wipe away the tears from off all faces. And it comes; it comes quickly now: the voice heard by the true Philadelphian is, "I come quickly." Come, Lord, and "destroy the face of the covering that is cast over all peoples, and the vail that is spread over all nations;" come, and swallow up death in victory, and take away the reproach of Thy people from off all the earth; come, that faith may say in triumph, "Lo, this is our God: we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation."
The last words of the preceding chapter receive their explanation from what we have seen to be the character of the little open book. If this be Old Testament prophecy that is now "open," then we can see how John has at this point to "prophesy again," not "before," but "over," - that is, "concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings." He is to take up the strain of the old prophets, not, of course, merely to echo their predictions, but to add to them a complementary and final testimony.
Accordingly we find now what carries us back to those prophecies of Daniel which were briefly reviewed in our introductory chapter. The mention of the "beast," and of the precise period of "forty-two months," or "twelve hundred and sixty days," - that is, the half-week of his last or seventieth week, previous to the coming in of blessing for Israel and the earth, is by itself conclusive. This week we have seen to be, in fact, divided in this way by the taking away of the daily sacrifice in the midst of it (Dan. ix. 27). It is by this direct opposition to God also that the man of sin is revealed. Hence it would seem clear that it is with the last half of the week that we have here to do.
A reed like a staff is now given to the prophet that he may measure with it the temple of God. If a reed might suggest weakness, as in fact all that is of God lies at the time contemplated under such a reproach, the words, "like a staff" suggest the opposite thought. God’s care for his people implied in this measurement is to unbelief indeed a mystery, for they seem exposed to the vicissitudes of other men, yet is it a staff upon which one may lean with fullest confidence. This measurement of things abides, perfect righteousness and absolute truth, abiding necessarily as such.
The temple of God is, of course, the Jewish temple, and though not to be taken literally, still, as all its connections here assure us, stands for Jewish worship, and not Christian, though a certain application, as in the historical interpretaion, need not be denied. The altar, as distinct from the temple proper, is, I believe, the altar of burnt-offering, upon which, indeed, for Israel, all depended. It was there God met with the people (Ex. xxix. 43), although, as we contemplate things here, the mass of the nation was in rejection, the court given up to the Gentiles, the holy city to be trodden under foot by them, only a remnant of true worshipers acknowledged. It may be said that the altar of burnt-offering stood in the court; but the idea connected with each is different. The court, however, being given up, the worshippers recognized must have the sanctuary opened for them: in the rejection of the mass, God brings the faithful few nearer to Himself. This is His constant grace.
"And the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months." The " holy city" can speak but of one city on earth; nor can there be justifiable doubts as to the place in prophecy of this half-week of desolation. The mixture of literal and figurative language will be no cause of stumbling to any one who has carefully considered the style of all these apocalyptic visions, which are evidently not intended to carry their significance upon their face. All must be fully weighed, must be self.consistent, and fitting into its place in connection with the whole prophetic plan. Thus alone can we have clearness and certainty as to interpretation.
As a man, then, who has been sunk in a long dream of sorrow, but to whom is now brought inspiriting news of a joy in which he is called to have an active part, - as an Elijah at another Horeb after the wind and the earthquake and the fire have passed and He whom he had sought - the Lord - is not in these, but who is aroused at once by the utterance of the "still, small voice," - so the prophet here is bidden to rise and measure the temple of God. Not so unlike, either, to the measure given to the elder prophet, of seven thousand men that had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. How speedy and thorough a relief when God is brought into the scene! and from what scene is He really absent? How animating, how courageous a thing, then, is faith that recognizes Him!
And where He is there must be a testimony to Him. We find it, therefore, immediately in this case: "And I will give power unto My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand, two hundred, and threescore days clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive-trees, and the two candlesticks which stand before the Lord of the earth."
The reference is plain to Zechariah (chap. iv.), but there are also differences which are plain. There it is the thing itself accomplished, to which here there is but testimony, and in humiliation, though there is power to maintain it, spite of all opposition, till the time appointed. The witnesses are identified with their testimony - that to which they bear witness. Hence the resemblance. They stand before the Lord of the earth, - the One to whom the earth belongs, to maintain His claim upon it: in sackcloth, because their claim is resisted; a sufficient testimony in the power of the Spirit, a spiritual light amidst the darkness, but which does not banish darkness.
"And if any man desireth to hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies; and if any man shall desire to hurt them, in this manner must be be killed. These have power to shut the heaven that it rain not during the days of their prophecy; and they have power over the waters, to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague as often as they shall desire."
Here is not the grace of Christianity, but the ministry of power after the manner of Elijah and of Moses: judgment which must come because grace has been ineffectual, and of which the issue shall be in blessing, for "when Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world shall learn righteousness." (Isa. xxvi. 9.)
The association of Elijah with Moses, which is evident here, of necessity reminds us of their association also on the mount of transfiguration, wherein, as a picture, was presented "the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Pet. i. i6 18.) They are here in the same place of attendance upon their coming Lord. It does not follow, however, that they are personally present, as some have thought, and that the one has had preserved to him, the other will have restored to him, his mortal body for that purpose.
The preservation to Elijah of a mortal body in heaven seems a thought weird and unscriptural enough, with all its necessary suggestions also. But the closing prophecy of the Old Testament does announce the sending of Elijah the prophet before the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Is not this proof that so he must come?
Naturally, one would say so; but our Lord’s words as to John the Baptist, on the other hand, - " If ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come," - raise question. It has been answered that his own words deny that he was really Elias, and that Israel did not receive him, and so John could not be Elias to them. Both things are true, and yet do not seem satisfactory as argument. That he was not Elias literally, only shows, or seems to show, that one who was not Elias could, under certain conditions, have fulfilled the prediction. While other words of the Lord - " I say unto you that Elias is come already, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed " - show even more strongly that for that day and generation he was Elias. Why, then, could not another, coming in his spirit and power, fulfill the prophecy in the future day?
This Revelation seems to confirm, inasmuch as it speaks of two witnesses who are both marked as possessing the spirit and power of Elias, and who stand on an equal footing as witnesses for God. Had it been one figure before the eyes here, it would have been more natural to say it is Elias himself; but here are two doing his work, nor can we think of a possible third behind and unnoticed and yet the real instrument of God in this crisis. The two form this Elias ministry, which is to recall the hearts of the fathers to the children, and of the children to the fathers, and who both lay down their lives as the seal of their testimony. Put all this together, and does it not seem as if Elias appeared in others raised up of God and indued with His Spirit, to complete the work for which he was raised up in Israel?
Much more would all this hinder the reception of the thought of any personal appearance of Moses, while there is no prediction at all of any such thing. Jude’s words (which have been adduced) as to the contention of Michael with Satan about the body of the lawgiver may well refer to the fact that the Lord had buried him, and no man knew of his sepulcre. Satan may well, for his own purposes, have desired to make known his grave, just as God in His wisdom chose to hide it.
Yet the appearance of Moses and Elias in connection with the appearing of the Lord, as seen on the mount of transfiguration, seems none the less to connect itself with these two witnesses and their work, - both caught away in like manner into the "cloud," as the twelfth verse ought to read. And Malachi, just before the declaration of the THE Witnesses 119 mission of Elias, bids them, on God’s part, "remember the law of Moses My servant." Moses must do his work as well as Elias; for it is upon their turning in heart to the law of Moses that their blessing in the last days depends; and thus we find the power of God acting in their behalf in the likeness of what He wrought upon Egypt: the witnesses "have power over waters, to turn them to blood." It is not that Moses is personally among them, but that Moses is in this way witnessing for them; and so the vials after this emphatically declare.
God thus, during the whole time of trouble and apostasy, preserves a testimony for Himself, until at the close the final outrage is permitted which brings down speedy judgment. For "when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that cometh up out of the abyss shall make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called ‘Sodom’ and ‘Egypt,’ where also their Lord was crucified. And from among the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations do men look upon their dead bodies three days and a half, and suffer not their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. And they that dwell upon the earth rejoice over, them and make merry; and they shall send gifts to one another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwell on the earth. And after the three days and a half, the breath of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which beheld them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, ‘Come up hither.’ And they went up into heaven in the cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell ; and there were killed in the earthquake seven thousand persons: and the rest were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven."
If the twelve hundred and sixty days of the prophetic testimony agree with the last half of the closing week of Daniel, they coincide with the time of the beast’s permitted power, and the death of the witnesses is his last political act. That a certain interval of time should follow before his judgment, which takes place under the third and not the second woe, does not seem to conflict with chap. xiii. 5, where it should read, "power was given unto him to practice " - not "continue," - " forty and two months." The last act of tyranny may have been perpetrated in the slaying of the witnesses; and indeed it seems a thing fitted to be the close of power of this kind permitted him. With this the storm-cloud of judgment arises, which smites him down shortly after.
If, however, the duration of the testimony be for the first half of the week, then the power of the beast begins with the slaughter of the witnesses, and the three and a half years’ tribulation follows, which does not seem to consist with the judgment and its effects three and a half days afterward. Then, too, "the second woe is past" and the third announces the kingdom of Christ as having come. But we shall yet consider this more closely when we come, if the Lord will, to the interpretation of the vials.
Here, then, for the first time, the beast out of the abyss comes plainly into the scene. In Daniel, and in Rev. xiii., he does not come out of the abyss, but out of the sea; but in the seventeenth chapter he is spoken of as "about to come up out of the abyss," showing undeniably that it is the same "beast" as Daniel’s fourth one, - the Roman empire. In the first case, as coming out of the sea, it has a common origin with the other three empires - the Babylonian, Persian, and Grecian - out of the heaving deep of Gentile nations. Then we find in Revelation what from Daniel we should never have expected, but what in fact has certainly taken place, - that the empire which is to meet its judgment at the coming of the Lord does not continue uninterruptedly in power till then. There is a time in which it ceases to be, - and we can measure this time of non-existence already by centuries, - and then it comes back again in a peculiar form, as from the dead: "the beast that was and is not, and shall be present." (Chap. xvii. 8.) This rising again into existence we would naturally take as its coming up out of the abyss, - out of the death state, - and think that we were at the bottom of the whole matter. The truth seems to be not quite so simple, but here is not the place to go into it further.
For the present, it is enough to say that the coming up out of the abyss is in fact a revival out of the death state, but, as a comparison with the fifth trumpet may suggest, revival by the dark and demon influences which are there represented as in attendance upon the angel of the abyss. It is the one in whom is vested the power of the revived empire who concentrates the energy of his hatred against God in the slaying of the witnesses.
The place of their death is clearly Jerusalem: "Their dead bodies lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called ‘Sodom ‘ and ‘Egypt,’ where also their Lord was crucified." Certainly no other place could be so defined: and thus defined and characterized for its lusts as Sodom, for its cruelty to the people of God as Egypt, it is not now called the "holy," but the "great" city, - great even in its crimes. In its street their bodies lie, exposed by the malice of their foes which denies them burial, but allowed by God as the open indictment of those who have thus definitively rejected His righteous rule. The race of the prophets is at an end, which has tormented them with their claim of the world for God; and the men of the earth rejoice, and send gifts to one another. Little do they understand that when His testimony is at an end, there is nothing left but for God Himself to come in and to manifest a power before which mans power shall be extinguished as flax before the flame.
And the presage of this quickly follows. "And after the three days and a half, the breath of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which beheld them., And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, ‘Come up hither.’ And they went up into heaven in the cloud; and their enemies beheld them."
If this is the time of the addition of the saints martyred under the beast’s persecution to the first resurrection, of which the vision in the twentieth chapter speaks, then it is plain that we are arrived at the end of the beast’s power against the saints, and of the last week of Daniel. "Two" is the number of valid testimony (Jno. viii. 17), and these two witnesses may, in a vision like that before us, stand for many more, - nay, for this whole martyred remnant in Israel. We cannot say it is so, but we can as little say it is not so; and even the suggestion has its interest: for thus this appendix to the sixth trumpet seems designed to put in place the various features of Daniel’s last week, the details of which are opened out to us in the seven chapters following, with many additions. And this we might expect in a connected chain of prophecy which stretches on to the end; for under the seventh trumpet the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of the Lord, and of His Christ, and the "time of the dead to be judged" is at least contemplated.
The resurrection of the witnesses is not all: a great earthquake follows, "and the tenth part of the city fell; and there were killed in the earthquake seven thousand persons; and the rest were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven."
Thus the sixth trumpet ends in a convulsion in which judgment takes, as it were, the refused tithe from a rebellious people. There is a marked similarity here between the trumpets and the vials, which end also in an earthquake and judgment of the great city: as to which we may see further in its place. The rest that are not slain give glory to the God of heaven. It is the unacceptable product of mere human fear, which has no practical result; for God is claiming the earth, not simply heaven, and for the affirmation of this claim His witnesses have died. They can allow Him heaven who deny Him earth. And judgment takes its course.
The second woe ends with this, and the third comes quickly after it.