« PreviousContinue »
count of in the latter part of chap. xvi. So that the earth quake mentioned in the last verse of chap. xi. is that great earthquake that attends the last great conflict of the church and her enemies; and not that mentioned ver. 13.
The three woes are the woes of God on Antichrist and his subjects ; and the third and last of them evidently signifies the terrible judgigents of God on Antichrist, by wbich God's wrath upon him shall be fulfilled in his utter destruction : But the calamities on Antichrist spoken of as attending the rising and ascending of the witnesses, such as the falling of the tenth part of the city, and slaying seven thousand men, do not be long to this last woe, and therefore do not signify the final de. struction of Antichrist : For the words of ver. 14, will by no means allow of such a supposition ; for there, immediately after giving an account of these calamities, it is added, “ The second woe is past ; and behold the third woe cometh quick. ly:" Making a most plain and express distinction between these calamities that had already been mentioned, and especially these that were just then mentioned in the very last words, and the calamities that belong to the third woe, that yet remain to be mentioned : For by being passed, the prophet is to be understood no otherwise than passed in the declaration and representation ; it was not past in any other respect : It is as much as to say, Thus an account has been given of the calamities upon Antichrist that belong to the second woe ; now I proceed to give an account of those dispensatians of Providence that belong to the third and last woe, which shall prove Antichrist's final destruction, and end in the kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.
What was fulfilled in the reformation, well answers the representation made concerning the witnesses, Rev. xi. 11, 12. Of “the Spirit of Life from God entering into them, and their standing on their feet, and ascending up to heaven, in the sight of their enemies. A little before the reformation, the state of the church of God, and of true religion was lowest of all, and nearest to utter extinction.' Antichrist had, after great and long struggles, prevailed against the Waldenses, Albigenses and Bohemians. The war with the Albigenses seems especially to be intended by the war of the beast with the witnesses spoken of, ver. 7. These were witnesses to the truth, that were the most numerous and considerable, and those that most tormented the church of Rome. And the war that was maintained against them, was by far the greatest that ever Antichrist had against any of the professors of the truth, before the reformation ; and was properly the war of the beast ; it was the Pope that proclaimed the war, and that raised the soldiers by his emissaries and priests, preaching the cross, gathering innumerable multitudes of pilgrims from all parts of Christendom, and raising one crusade after another, which were conducted and managed by the Pope's legates; and it was the Pope that paid the soldiers with pardons, indul, gences, promises of paradise, and such like trumpery. When Antichrist had gradually prevailed against these witnesses, with much difficulty, and long continued violent struggling, and after innumerable vexatious disasters and disappointments ; the church of God, in the time of Luther and other reformers, on a sudden, in a wonderful manner revives, when such an event was least expected, (to the surprise and amazement of their Antichristian enemies) and appears in such strength, that the reformed are able to stand on their own legs, and to withstand all the power and rage of the church of Rome. Presently after this revival, the people of God are set on high, having the civil magistrate in many countries on their side, and henceforward have the power of many potent princes engaged for their protection : And this, in sight of their enemies, and greatly to their grief and vexation ; who, though they from time to time exert their utmost, never are able to prevail against them, to bring them under any more, as they had done in former wars. Oftentimes in scripture, God's church's dwelling in safety, out of the reach of their enemies, is represented by their dwelling on high, or being set on high ; as Psal. lix. 1, lxix. 29, xci. 14, cvii. 41. Prov. xxix. 25. Isa. xxxiii. 16. The children of Israel, in their deliverance out of Egypt, from their cruel task masters, that would fain have brought them into bondage again, were said to be carried on eagle's wings, that is lofty in its flight, flies away towards heaven ; so that the Egyptians could not come at them : And they were protected by the cloud that went with them; as the witnesses are said to be caught up to heaven in a cloud. Compare this with Isa. iv. 5. “ And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for upon all the glory shall be a defence.
I shall not pretend to explain the mystery of the three days and half of the witnesses lying dead, or to determine the precise duration signified by that mystical representation. Possibly no particular measure of time may be intended by it; and yet it not be without significancy.* As no particular number of persons is intended by the two witnesses ; but in general, it intends a small number, and yet a sufficient number ; and as small as might be, and yet be sufficient ; as, less than two witnesses was not sufficient : So perhaps no particular duration of that low state that the church was in before the reformation, may be intended by three days and half; but in general it may be hereby signified, that this time of the triumphing of the wicked, and extremity of God's church, should be but short. And possibly three days and half may be mentioned, because that is the utmost space of time that a dead body can be ordinarily supposed to lie without putrefaction ; signifying that at this time the church should be brought to the very brink of utter ruin, and yet should be preserved and revive again. And half a day may be mentioned to signify the particular care of Providence in exactly determining this time of
Mr. Lowman, in the preface to his Paraphrase on the Revelation, page 8, pbserves as follows : " Prophetic numbers do not always express a determinate duration or space of time, any more than they always express a certain number. Prophecy, I acknowledge, uses numbers sometimes as other expressions, in a figurative meaning, as symbols and hieroglyphics. Thus the number seven, sometimes does not denote the precise number seven : But figuratively denotes perfection, or a full and complete number: And the nota, ber ten, sometimes does not mean precisely ten in number, but many in gen ual, or a considerable number,"
the church's extremity. And probably there may be some reference to the three times (or three years) and an half of the witnesses prophecying in sackcloth ; the more apparently to shew the disproportion between the time of the church's welfare, and the time of her enemies victory and triumph : The time of the church's affliction and conflict may be lorg; and in the issue she may be overcome ; but the time of this victory shall be but short ; in comparison with the other, but as a day to a year : She may as it were be killed, and lie dead, until she comes to the very brink of utter and hopeless ruiny but yet God will not suffer her to see corruption ; but at that very time, when her enemies expected that she should putrify, she shall rise ; and be set on high, out of their reach, greatly to their astonishment.
The grand objection against all this, is, that it is said, that the witnesses should prophesy twelve hundred and sixty days clothed in sackcloth ; and when they have finished their testimoRy, the beast should make war against them and kill them, &c. and that it seems manifest, that after this, they are no longer in sack cloth, for henceforward they are in an exalted state in heaven: And that therefore, seeing the time of their wearing sackcloth, is twelve hundred and sixty days, which is the time of the continuance of Antichrist ; hence their being slain and rising again, must be at the conclusion of this period, and so at the end of Antichrist's reign..
In answer to which I would say, that we can justly infer no more from this prophecy than this, viz. that the twelve hundred and sixty days is the proper time of the church's trouble and bondage, or being clothed in sackcloth ; because it is the appointed time of the reign of Antichrist. But this does not hinder but that God, out of his great compassion to his church, should, in some respect, shorten the days, and grant that she should, in some measure, anticipate the appointed great delivcrance that should be at the end of those days. As he has in fact done in the reformation ; whereby the church has had a great degree of restoration granted, from the darkness and power of Antichrist, before her proper time of restoration, which is at the end of the twelve hundred and sixty days...... Thus the church of Christ, through the tender mercies of her Father and Redeemer, in some respects, anticipates her de. liverance from her sorrows and sackcloth : As many parts of the church are hereby brought from under the dominion of the Antichristian powers, into a state of power and liberty ; ihough in other respects, the church may be said to continue in sackcloth, and in the wilderness, until the end of days; many parts of it still remaining under grievous persecution.
What we render, when they shall have finished their testimony, Mr. Lowman, from Mr. Daubuz, renders, while they shall perform their testimony; and observes, that the original may mean the lime of their testimony, as well as the end of it.
I might here observe that we have other instances of God's shortening the days of his church's captivity and bondage, either at the beginning or end, very parallel with what has been now supposed in the case of the witnesses. Thus the proper time of the bondage of the posterity of Abraham in Egypt, was four hundred years ; Gen. xv. 13. But yet God in mercy deferred the beginning of their bondage ; whereby the time was much shortened at the beginning. Sa the time wherein it was foretold that the whole lond of Israel should be e desolation and an astonishment, and the land should enjoy her sabbaths, by the Babylonish captivity, was seventy years ; Jer. xxv. 11, 12, and these seventy years are dated in 2. Chron. xxxvi. 20, 21, from Zedekiah's captivity; and yet, from that captivity to Cyrus's decree, was but fiftytwo years; though it was indeed seventy years before the more full restoration of the Jewish church and state by Darius's decree, Ezra vi. So the proper time of the oppression and bondage of the Jewish church under Antiochus Epiphanes, wherein both the sanctuary and host should be trodden under foot by him, was two thousand three hundred days ; Dan. viii. 13, 14. The time from Antiochus's taking Jerusalem and polluting the sanctuary, to Antiochus's death, seems to have been about so long : But God shortened the days, by granting remarkable help to his people by means of the Maccabees, before that time : Yea the temple and sanctuary were restored, and the altar rebuilc and dedicated before that time.