« PreviousContinue »
There is one difficulty, however, which must be removed before the real force of this argument can be fully seen. The visions of Daniel, it has been shown, commence from the days of the prophet, and continue without break down to the first advent, although their final close is at a much later period. How, then, can so strong a contrast be drawn between their distance and that of the events in Revelation, even if this latter prophecy begins with the apostolic age ?
The answer to this question is to be found by a close attention to those words in Daniel where the distance of the time is affirmed. In the eighth chapter it is "the vision of the evening and the morning" which is ordered to be sealed. The event to which this refers us is “the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot.” It is this event, and the desolation which follows, to which the words of the angel really apply. The earliest historical fact to which the verse can be reasonably applied, is the desolation under Titus; and consequently it falls within the limits of the Christian dispensation.
Again, in the twelfth chapter, the same distinction appears. The celestial speaker puts the inquiry“Until how long shall be the end of the wonders ?" By comparing with the words of the previous chapter, where the same expression occurs, we obtain the following as the probable sense—“How long will that closing period of the prophecy last which is occupied or composed of these wonders?” The answer precisely accords with this view, and so also does the renewed inquiry of the prophet himself—“O my Lord, what means the closing portion of these things ?" The further revelation of the times proves still more clearly that neither the question nor the answer refer to the parts
before v. 31, and which precede the setting up of the
In each case, then, it appears that the events to which
This view is confirmed by the direct authority of St.
The nature of the contrast will now be clear. The
X. THE CHARACTER OF THE OPENING BENEDICTION
translated out of the Hebrew idiom into the language of the Gentile Churches. In this new and glorious form it now recurs throughout the prophecy-_"He which was, and which is, and which is to come." To denote how eminently the visions belong to the dispensation of the Spirit, and the symbolical character which pervades their whole course, the seven spirits, the symbol of the Holy Ghost, are here, and here only, associated with the Father and the Son in the benediction of peace. The continuous nature of the predictions is foreshown in the titles of Christ which immediately follow. These refer us, in succession, to His testimony when on earth; to the time of the resurrection; to that supreme authority which He assumed on His ascension into heaven; to the continual redemption and sanctification of His people till the kingly priesthood are complete; and to His final return in the clouds of heaven. The name Jehovah, which before had been joined with that national title, the God of Abraham, is not only itself translated into the Greek tongue, the language of the Gentiles, but is associated with a name distinctively and entirely of Gentile origin—“I am Alpha and Omega, saith the Lord.” Every indication thus combines in the same lesson, and teaches us that the Gentile, and not the Jewish Church, is the main object of this sacred prophecy.
The words of the seventh verse have sometimes been alleged as a proof that the Jewish nation form one direct and chief subject of the visions. But it seems, on a juster view, to lead us to an opposite conclusion. The expressions, though not a verbal quotation, have a close resemblance to the Greek version of Zech. xii., and hence have been sometimes thought to bear the same meaning with that striking prophecy. But the inference is unsound. The words of St. John cannot be limited and restrained, like those of Zechariah, to the Jewish
nation. The words, “every eye shall see Him," are clearly universal. The following clause, “and whosoever pierced Him,"is equally general. Iftaken in the letter, it would exclude the Jews themselves; and taken in its spiritual sense, it includes all sinners alike, whether Jews or Gentiles; nor is there anything to restrict its meaning. The phrase, “the kindreds of the earth," although the same words in Zechariah would denote "the tribes of the land,” cannot be taken here in this limited sense. For the expression,“ prince of the kings of the earth," which has occurred just before, fixes them clearly to a more extensive application. Let the verses be read in their connexion, and the truth of this assertion will be at once apparent.
The inference to be drawn, then, from this verse, confirms all the previous statements, and throws a fresh light on the visions which succeed. The apostle, guided hy the Divine Spirit, adopts the phrases of a prophecy which eminently refers to the Jews; but he places them in a context, where they lose their original and limited reference, and are fixed decisively to a larger and more comprehensive meaning. There is thus a key, from the very first, put into our hands, by which to interpret the Jewish emblems which occur in the visions. We are taught, by a striking example, that the Holy Spirit borrows the language of the elder dispensation, in order to reveal the analogous, but wider truths, of the spiritual kingdom of God.
XI. THE SPECIAL OCCASION when these visions were revealed is also very significant of their main design. The holy apostle “ was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” It was the season of one of the early persecutions, in the reign of Domitian. The great conflict had now begun between the witnesses of Christ and the idola
trous power of Rome. The exile of St. John was one striking omen of the moral warfare which was to continue through successive ages. The same parties are seen opposed to the last. Rome, the mystic Babylon, is seen, near the close of the prophecy, drunk with the blood of the witnesses. And the issue of the conflict is declared in those words_" These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them-and they that are with him, called, and chosen, and faithful.”
This great moral warfare is, therefore, set before us, both in its historical commencement, in the exile of St. John, when the vision was given, and in its prophetical completion in the last chapters of the book. But there is no appearance of any abrupt transition from the one to the other. On the contrary, the prophecy contains no less than nine or ten distinct passages, which exhibit the same conflict of the witnesses of Christ, and which seem to lead as, by gradual stages, to the final issue (Rev. ii. 10, 13; vi.9; x. 10, 11; xi. 3, 7,:11; xii. 11, 17; xvii. 14, 16 ; xx. 4). The two extremes are fixed, one to the exile of the aged apostle, and the other to the future triumph and reign of the martyrs. And where, besides this, the intermediate links are so many and various, what reasonable doubt can there be, even on this ground only, of the continuity of the whole ?
But the time is equally significant with the locality of the vision. St. John “ was in the Spirit on the Lord's day." There has been of late a very strange attempt, and not less fruitless than strange, to turn these words from their natural meaning, as if the Lord's day here mentioned were no other than the great and final day of the Lord's advent. This is really to pervert a simple text into a gross absurdity; and a bare perusal of the two following verses is a sufficient refutation of the hypothesis. It is clear that the time intended is some particular