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It is not necessary to suppose this killing or devouring to be instantaneous. It may be something gradually and continually in operation—as the breath of the Lord is said, Is. xxx. 33, to be “like a stream of brimstone;" brimstone or sulphur, as the fuel of subterranean fire, being a figure of perpetuity. The action of divine revelation in the destruction of false doctrines is thus represented as something perpetually in operation, overwhelming and devouring until every opposing principle has yielded to its power. “Behold the name of the Lord cometh from far, burning with his anger, and the burden thereof is heavy: his lips are full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire : and his breath, as an overflowing stream,” Is. xxx. 27, 28.
V. 6. These have power to shut heaven, Ούτοι έχουσι την εξουσίαν κλείσαι τον that it rain not in the days of their pro- ουρανόν, ίνα μή υετός βρέχη τας ημέρας της phecy: and have power over waters to turn ihern to blood, and to Smile the earth προφητείας αυτών και εξουσίαν έχουσιν with all plagues, as often as they will.
επί των υδάτων, στρέφειν αυτά εις αίμα, και πατάξαι την γήν εν πάση πληγή, οσάκις
εάν θελήσωσι. . $ 246. “These bave power,' &c. That is, such is their commission ; the gift of power being equivalent to an injunction to perform that for the accomplishment of which the power of ability is given. Although these two witnesses are instruments of revealing the mystery of salvation, they are charged with doing this in such a manner as that it should be only partially understood for a certain season. And this probably for the same reason that this mystery itself has been first announced through the medium of the types and symbols of the Old Testament revelation; and for the same reason that our Saviour explained himself in parables to the multitude generally, and even to his own disciples only so far as they were able to receive it.
• To shut heaven.'— To shut or lock up; the word in the original implying the use of a key. Heaven we suppose to be a display of the economy of redemption by symbolical representation, which, when spiritually understood, may be said to be opened or unlocked; when not so understood —when only the symbols and figurative language are apparent—it is locked or shut,
The old and new covenants, as revealed in the Scriptures, being the instruments of revealing the mysteries of redemption, have the power of shutting heaven, by so clothing their revelation in symbolical and figurative language as to require a key for interpreting, developing, unlocking, the true meaning. This power is virtually theirs ; it is given or committed to them, in the nature of the case. So, to the apostles of our Lord, the keys of the kingdom of heaven were given, that, instrumentally, they might open its mysteries to some, and conceal them from others, Matt. xviii. 18; speaking some truths plainly, and clothing others in language not so easily understood -acting indeed entirely under divine guidance, influence, and control, although apparently possessed of a discretionary power.
“That it rain not—or, word for word, that the rain moisten not, (Rob. Lex. 113 ;) depriving the heavenly showers of their beneficent quality The atonement of Christ we suppose to be represented by the element of water, in the gentle action of rain or of showers, as well as in fountains and rivers. The old and new dispensations, as revealed in the Scriptures, exhibit this atonement; but it depends instrumentally upon the exhibition, or mode of exhibition, whether this provision of divine mercy appear to be one of propitiation or not. To those who understand the language of revelation in its literal sense only, the heavens may be said to be as brass, (Deut. xxviii. 13.) To them it affords no refreshing element. In all the types and symbols of the Old Testament, they perceive only certain curious particulars of the history of a singular people or nation ; and in the New Testament, they see in the person of Jesus only a teacher of morality: in what he taught only so many moral precepts, and in his life and sufferings only an example of patience and forbearance worthy of imitation. To them heaven is shut; the rain descends not; or if it descend it moistens not. To their apprehension the atonement of Christ affords no vivifying influence.
In the days of their prophecy;'—that is, in the days of their prophesying in sackcloth. So long as they prophesy in sackcloth, it rains not, or the rain affords no moisture. The purport of the clause we take to be this: that while the interpretation of the purpose of redeeming mercy is shrouded by a legal and literal construction of revelation, there will not be that exhibition of the atonement of Christ which corresponds with the gentle and refreshing influence of rain or showers. In conformity however with our previous remarks, we do not suppose these days of their prophecy to refer literally to a period of time.
In the sense in which we have before spoken of the fasting of the children of the bride-chamber, ($ 243,) we may easily suppose two disciples in the immediate vicinity of each other, even in the same family ; one of whom may be said to enjoy the presence of the bridegroom. He leans with full confidence upon the redeeming power of his Saviour. With him the days of fasting and mourning are ended; but the other has not yet reached this happy position of faith : the bridegroom is taken from him ; he mourns over the conviction of his sins, and of his destitution of merit; but he discerns not the provision intended for his consolation. Corresponding with this, we suppose the two witnesses may be prophesying to some in sackcloth, while with others this season of mourning has passed away. To the first class the heavens appear shut, and even the rain affords no moisture ; while to individuals of the latter class, the spiritual phenomena they contemplate are like the approaching summer—the singing of birds and the
voice of the turtle is heard in their land. All this may be readily imagined without reference to any chronological period, in a literal sense.
$ 247. “And have power over waters to turn them to blood.'-Our views of this bloody transmutation of the element of purification, have been already anticipated in treating of the second and third trumpets, ($ 190.) The waters (plural) we suppose to be waters of the earth, opposites of the rain from heaven. They represent all means of propitiation of man's device. The prophesying of the witnesses, although in sackcloth, has the effect of demonstrating that all these proposed human means of atonement must necessarily be means of blood. They must cost the eternal life of the sinner; as man cannot atone for himself without paying the penalty of his transgressions by eternal suffering. The old and new dispensations, as revealed in the Scriptures, even when clothed in figurative language, and understood in a literal sense, have the power of showing the fallacy of all human attempts at self-justification.
"And to smite the earth with all plagues as often as they will.? — The earth we have supposed to be a system of salvation, or the position of such a system ($ 162) founded upon a literal construction of revelation, and the opposite of the display of the economy of grace represented by heaven, ($ 167.) The term rendered plague may be as correctly translated strokes, equivalent we may presume to any appliances of a standard of truth, by which the errors of a false doctrinal system may be detected. These plagues remind us, however, of the accounts given in Exodus of the plagues of Egypt, which suggest also the probability of an analogy between the earthly system, and that represented by the Egyptian state of bondage. The plagues of Egypt were designed to bring about the deliverance of the children of Israel ; so the plagues to be administered by the two witnesses may be designed to bring to a termination the subjecting of elements of truth to the literal or legal system represented by the earth. The two dispensations, as revealed, have the power to test the earthly system, and to expose its errors as often as their elements of truth are applied to it, as a standard or criterion of judgment; which uniform capability is figuratively spoken of as the power of smiting as often as they will.
The earthly system may be said to furnish a dwelling, (“our earthly house of this tabernacle,"') the opposite of the position in Christ, denominated (2 Cor. v. 1) a building of God house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. In allusion to which it is said, Ps. xci. 9, 10, “Because thou hast made the Lord (which is) my refuge, (even) the Most High, thy habitation, there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.” Those on the contrary who are out of Christ must be continually exposed to the powers of legal accusation—the plagues or strokes of just condemnation.
Vs. 7, 8. And when they shall have fin- Και όταν τελέσωσι την μαρτυρίαν αυτών, , ished their testimony, the beast that as- το θηρίον το αναβαινον εκ της αβύσσου cendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall over
ποιήσει μετ' αυτών πόλεμον και νικήσει come them, and kill them. And their dead αυτούς και αποκτενεί αυτούς. Και το πτώbodies (shall lie) in the street of the great μα αυτών επί της πλατείας πόλεως της μεcity, which spiritually is called Sodom and γάλης, ήτις καλείται πνευματικώς Σόδομα Egypt, where also our Lord was cruci- και Αίγυπτος, όπου και ο κύριος αυτών εσfied.
$ 248. “And when they shall have finished their testimony.'—Here we are again to dismiss the idea of time altogether, and to consider this finishing of the testimony of the witnesses as the end, or utmost to be accomplished by them in their garb of sackcloth. Even in this garb they had power to overcome all enemies, till the finishing of their testimony; when this was completed their power in sackcloth ceased.
• The beast that ascendeth,' &c.—The beast ascending from the abyss, not from the pit of the abyss mentioned Rev. ix. 2; nor was there any beast (angiov) said to come from that pit, unless we suppose the king of the locusts, Apollyon, to be so designated; we are obliged therefore to look further for a knowledge of this beast; and we find, Rev. xvii. 8, the beast, upon which the mother of harlots was seen to ride, to be spoken of as one to rise out of the abyss, αναβαίνειν εκ της αβύσσου ; which beast, from the description given of it, must be that seen Rev. xiii. 1, rising out of the sea, èx rīs Jahcoons. A supposition confirmed by reference to Luke viji. 31, where we find this term abyss, üprogos, rendered in our common version, the deep, as it is also Rom. x. 7; and as we sometimes speak of the sea, or ocean, as the abyss. The terms Jóhorn and übvaros; are thus apparently in the Apocalypse interchangeable terms, in respect at least to the two passages quoted ; we hence conclude that the beast making war upon and overcoming the two witnesses, is the ten-horned and seven-headed monster described in the 13th chapter of the Apocalypse.
And shall overcome them, and kill them.'—The witnesses in sackcloth are overcome and killed; but the two olive-trees and the two candlesticks we may presume continue to stand before the God of the earth.
It is only their prophesying or interpreting under what we suppose to be the literal construction of revelation that is finished. The beast does not make war upon the witnesses because they have finished their testimony; but his making war upon and overcoming and killing them, is the ordained instrumentality by which the finishing of their testimony in sackcloth is concluded. The words shall lie are not in the original ; the carcases are supposed to be already in the street. The witnesses are killed, their bodies only remain ; and as the body without the spirit is dead, so here the literal sense remains ineffective from the absence of its spiritual meaning.
"And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city.'-Death is but a separation of the spirit from the body—it is not annihilation. The beast could only bring about this temporary separation ;-an entire separation, however, of the spiritual sense from the literal for the time being. The dead bodies of the witnesses (the revelation of the two dispensations in its literal sense) still remain amongst their opposers. The street we suppose to be the broad street, the main street, (natia,) and as such put for the area of the whole city. The two dispensations or covenants, entirely divested of their spiritual sense, remain in the midst of the doctrinal system, figuratively spoken of as the great city. The system subsequently represented by Babylon the great. So, those who reject entirely any evangelical or spiritual construction of Scripture language, still retain the Scriptures both of the Old and of the New Testaments, in the literal sense only, as a portion of their theories.
$ 249. Which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.' Our Lord was crucified at Jerusalem—the literal city of that name—in bondage in the times of the apostles to the Romans. Here, therefore, we have three distinct designations of this great city—Sodom, Egypt, and Jerusalem (in bondage,)—so called in a spiritual sense. The two first names being those of countries and not of cities, we may suppose the last Jerusalem to be put for the whole land of Judea. The identity, however, does not consist in any resemblance between the three countries in a natural or literal sense, but in some analogy capable of being drawn between each of them respectively and the figurative city, or doctrinal system or covenant, Aathun, represented by them.
The cities of Sodom were cities of the plain ; they had no rock or mountain on which to rest. They were exposed to inundation, and when submerged they sank as buildings without foundations. Besides this, the peculiar sin of Sodom, as set forth by the apostle Jude, was literally that which serves as a type or figure of a dependence upon other means of eternal happiness than those to be found in the union with Christ, illustrated by the marriage relation. In both these respects, therefore, the land of Sodom is an illustration of a false system of salvation—a system of self-dependence, of self-righteousness-a reliance upon other merits than those of Christ, figuratively spoken of by Jude as a “ going after strange flesh;” and by another apostle, (2 Peter ii. 10,) as a “walking after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness,”—“ despising government, not afraid to speak evil of dignities,” opposed to the principles of divine sovereignty—“presumptuous,” confiding in one's own merits, like those who justify themselves, (Luke xvi. 15;) selfwilled, acting from a motive of self-gratification and of self-interest.
The cities of Egypt were also cities of the plain, and the country a land proverbially subject to inundation, and as proverbially, perhaps, trust