Some, who know that my volume of Lectures on the Revelation is still in demand and in print, may wonder that I should write another and a smaller book on the same subject. But the aim now in hand is to provide a compact help for those who dislike anything like controversy or even lengthy discussion on questions raised by men of learning. Not a line is taken from the larger book, of which I have not read a word while writing the present little volume, which will be found to furnish views not a little clearer, more accurate, and more mature.
The reader may be assured that the amended text here translated rests on the best authority of ancient date, using internal evidence to decide where the oldest MSS. and Versions differ. Let one instance show how human frailty may mislead: the Received Text, Elzevirs’ second edition of 1633, like the first, had
λαῳ (people) for
ναῳ (temple) in Revelation 3:12. The Dutch printers who claimed an exorbitant value for their Greek
Testament had not a single manuscript or ancient version to support their preposterous reading. They had probably adopted it from R. Stephens’ fourth edition of 1561; for he had given the right word —
ναῳ — in his three previous issues of 1546, 1549, and 1550. Who had misled Stephens at last? Not Beza, as far as I know; for after giving
ναῳ rightly in his first edition of 1559, he printed
λαῳ in 1565 and in 1582, but corrected himself in 1588 and in 1598. It was probably a misprint, but it influenced not a few because of his reputation as a scholar and a divine. He makes no comment either when he went wrong or when he got right. But the misreading spread beyond Stephens, Beza, or the Elzevirs.
As to the application of the prophecy, it may be well to say here that I do not doubt God intended to help His children by what is generally called the Protestant interpretation, but taking the Trumpets as following the Seals, not as concurrent which appears to me nothing but confusion. Yet the scheme fails when it is made complete and exclusive. I cannot but admire the wisdom and goodness of God in granting a vague reference to that protracted history from the prophet’s day (nowhere clearer than in foreshadowing the Saracenic and the Turkish Woes of Revelation 9); while the full and minute bearing awaits the crisis at the consummation of the age. It is no real objection that this attributes a twofold force to the bulk of the Apocalypse. Why not, if its internal contents point to this conclusion? That the book has a depth beyond all other prophecies is apparent to such as have adequately studied it. But does not such a prophecy as the Lord’s in the earlier verses of Matthew 24 present a similar instance? For they assuredly did apply to the Christian disciples in the land and elsewhere, as they will again to the godly Jewish remnant before this age ends.
The all-important points for intelligence of the Revelation, though ordinarily overlooked, are the continuous sense of “the things which are,” as distinguished from those “which are about to be after these”; the real meaning of the vision in Revelation 4, 5, before the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls; and the right understanding of the heavens opened in Revelation 19:11, etc., after the marriage of the bride above, and before the Lord appears with His saints for the judgment of the quick. To these keynotes may be added the deep supplement beginning with Revelation 12.
I can only pray for His blessing, already promised to him that reads, and to those that hear the words of the prophecy and keep the things written in it; for the time is near. Apart from Christ we can do nothing acceptable to God, any more than enter into His mind; for the Holy Spirit works to glorify the Lord, not the first man.
London, April 25th, 1901.