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their authority. And in so doing he finally takes refuge in asseverations and attestations, whereby his fiction loses its harmlessness. It is therefore often a hard matter to take pleasure in much that is undoubtedly magnificent in his work.
As the prophet that he claims to be, the author of the Apocalypse has above all to foretell the future. Indeed, his whole book consists of such prediction. The vast agglomeration of his promises admit, after all, of a very simple division into three parts: (1) The Christian hope in the parousia ; (2) political prophecy; (3) conceptions borrowed from the storehouseof Jewish apocalyptical tradition.
The coming of Jesus, the Son of man, down from heaven, stands in the front of the prophecy, that is its Christian element. The old expectation of the earliest Church continues in undiminished strength. The nearness of His coming is, as before, the chief point in connection with it. As the book begins, “For the time is at hand; behold He cometh ”—so it ends: “ Yea, I come quickly. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus !” He will come suddenly as a thief, as a judge, as a Saviour of them that are His. The last great tribulation precedes His coming. There will be a sifting of the saints, then it will be decided who shall stand and who shall fall. Such had ever been the
hopes of the early Christians, and lapse of time has not effected any change in them. Even the language is almost that of the earliest Church. Since Jesus' departure His second advent has come to be the main factor in the kingdom of God, to such an extent that it has usurped its place in ordinary conversation.
And yet this hope has experienced a great transformation through the changes wrought by the course of contemporary history. It comes to be political, because the Roman State has assumed an attitude of hostility to the Christians. One persecution has already taken place in which the blood of martyrs has been shed, and now the last great persecution is close at hand. The thirteenth and seventeenth to nineteenth chapters deal with this especially. The enemy is Rome, the great city Babylon, which has the dominion over the kings of the earth. Already it is drunken with the blood of the saints, and of the witnesses of Jesus. It is the great harlot, the mother of the harlots and of the abominations of the earth. The demoniac
power appears in chap. xiii. under the picture of the two beasts, who come up, the first out of the sea, and the second out of the earth. The dragon has equipped the first with his own authority, so that he wars against the saints, and is able to vanquish them: that is the Roman Empire. The second beast is subject to the first. It is the false prophet who deceives men so that they worship the image of the first beast and bear its mark: that is, the priesthood of the Roman emperor-worship.
The demand that was made to worship the emperor, and the persecution of those who refused to obey, is the occasion for the publication of our apocalypse. It was the measures taken by Domitian and Trajan which compelled the Christian eschatology to take this political turn. The same position had occurred long ago for the Jews, when Caligula ordered his image to be erected in the temple. The author of our apocalypse takes over these old Jewish feelings of irritability and resentment against the imperial cultus into the Christian Church, and builds up his eschatology on this basis. For him the mark of the times is the struggle between God and the Cæsar whom Satan has set upon the throne.
Now it is just this struggle which at present ends in the defeat of the Christians that the future is to decide by bringing about the defeat of Rome. And this decision - the victory of the Christians in the contest which is at once political and demoniac — is brought about by the coming of the Messiah. It is here treated as an entirely political occurrence. The Messiah descends from heaven upon a white horse, in the full equipment of battle, surrounded by the heavenly hosts. The beast, the kings of the earth, and their enemies are gathered together to make war against Him. The result is, of course, their entire annihilation. The beast and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire, whilst their followers perish by the sword. Hereupon begins the reign of Messiah and of His martyrs, the heroes that fell in battle. This future victory of Christ over Rome is the core and centre of the promise of our book.
In the midst of the political chaos which the prophet predicts, the Emperor Nero appears upon the
The belief in Nero's return from the grave
had already assumed different shapes. An older form, that he would wage war against Rome in league with the Parthian kings, has now been susperseded. by a later, that he was to fight against the Lamb, and be overcome by Him. The celebrated number 666 is supposed to refer to the Emperor Nero. One can scarcely conceive of anything more fantastic than these politics which deal with men and spirits, with devils and angels.
No small danger arose for Christianity from this political coloring of its hope. St Paul had declared that every power in the State, even the Emperor Nero, had been appointed by God and was to be regarded as the servant of God. And now in consequence of the entirely new position of affairs the emperor has come to be for the Christians the servant of Satan, and it is from him that he draws all
Is the Christian, then, bound to render him obedience any longer? Is rebellion not his duty ? But nothing lies further from our author's intentions than any
idea of rebellion. His one demand is patience. He would never allow any other form of resistance but that of passive endurance. God alone brings us the victory, not men. On the other hand, the prophet's visions in chaps. xviii. xix. are nothing less than orgies of vengeance. To revel in these
· affords some little comfort for the misery of the present. The malignant joy, the song of triumph, at the fall of the great harlot, and the description of the destruction of the enemy: “Gather together, ye birds, and come to the great feast of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of commanders, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders,