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$ 354. • And one of the four living creatures,' &c.—The apostle now goes back to relate how the seven plagues were obtained by the angels. They were first described to be seen having the plagues ; next, seen coming out of the temple having the plagues ; and lastly, seen coming out of the temple after having received from one of the four beasts the vials containing the plagues. The order of development is thus an inversion of the natural order of narrative; for in the natural order the apostle would have commenced by stating in the first place that he saw the plagues given to the angels prior to their coming out, or at the time of their coming out of the temple. This inversed order, however, may be termed the natural order of revelation, because in the revelation of a mystery the most minute particulars are the last to be given.
The numeral one, (*v,) as we have before had occasion to remark, ($ 145,) is sometimes employed in the Greek for an ordinal.* So applying it here, the rendering would be, “ And the first of the four living creatures gave,' &c. This we think the correct reading, as the action corresponds with the lion-like attribute of the first living creature, (Rev. iv. 7,)—the attribute, as we have supposed, of divine justice ; the seven exhibitions of wrath now about to be made being the last illustrations of the action of divine justice upon the elements of the system of self-righteousness: for we suppose the action of the last or seventh vial to cover the subsequent revelation as far as the close of the twentieth chapter, if not as far as the eighth verse of the twenty-first chapter inclusive.
Seven golden vials,' &c.—The word properly signifies a vessel with a broad bottom, or bowl, (Donnegan)—a drinking cup. These seven cups probably constituting seven illustrations of the cup (goblet) of indignation, spoken of Rev. xiv. 9, 10, to be participated in by the worshippers of the beast.
These cups or bowls are golden, being developments of truth—their composition, their material, is truth ;—the pouring out of these golden vessels representing the action of certain portions of revealed truth upon certain erroneous principles, elements of a system of error; the wrath, fury, or vehemence (Ivós) in contemplation, being a fury against principles opposed in effect to the salvation of man, and not against men themselves.
Such at least we suppose to be the apocalyptic meaning of this wrath.
$ 355. “And the temple was filled with smoke,' &c.—Smoke is of course an indication of fire. Fire we take to be uniformly the figure of the revealed word of God, as the instrument of testing and trying the character of all doctrines and principles—truth, like pure gold, being alone
* Ας Gen. i. 5, και εγένετο εσπέρα και εγένετο πρωί ημέρα μία, (Sept..) And the morning and the evening became the first day.
capable of abiding such a test. The idea to be associated with this smoke seems to be that of the operation of something like a great process by fire, the result of which is to be the detection and destruction of error, and the development of truth.
• From [out of, xx] the glory of God, and from sout of] his power,' or strength.—The glory and power of God are the two elements by which the instrument of trial is put into operation : two final causes, from which the revealed word draws, as by inference, the truth of salvation by grace; these two final causes evolving this truth, through the instrumentality of the revealed word;—showing that, without a salvation of this kind, God cannot be glorified, nor his redeeming power manifested ;—the glory of God requiring the salvation of the sinner to be a matter of sovereign grace, as distinguished from a matter of human works or merits; and the manifestation of God's strength, as a Saviour, requiring an exhibition of the same truth.
. And no man [no one) was able to enter the temple,' &c.—The development of these two elements may be said to be in operation in that arrangement of principles which enables the worshipper to come to God, giving him access in Christ to the throne of grace. At the same time we may consider the deductions from these two elements as constituting the ingredients of the cup of wrath ; that is, constituting the means by which the erroneous principles, the objects of this wrath, are to be destroyed. This operation is gradual; the eradication of errors and the development of truths, are gradually effected. During the process, the disciple sees through a glass darkly; he is unable to discern his true position in the temple. The smoke of Sinai occupies the attention of those who are yet under the influence of the beast and false prophet, and on account of this smoke they are unable to discern the light of the blessed gospel of peace. The combustion in the temple, which causes the smoke, is the necessary process for filling the vials or golden vessels ; and it is not till this work is accomplished that the temple position can be discerned.
The whole figure is apparently taken from the operations of alchemists in ancient times, whose great object was to search for gold, and if possible, as they supposed it to be possible, by a transmutation of metals, to make it. The Greek term xanvós, (smoke,) is said (Jones's Lex.) to be compounded of the words zaio nvon, signifying the breath of fire, reminding us of what is said of the destruction of the man of sin, 2 Thes. ii. 8, “ whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth ;" indicating a parity of action between these seven vials and of that power of truth described by Paul ; the destruction of the man of sin, and the victory over the beast being, as we apprehend, equivalent figures.
This chapter is introductory to the narrative of the subsequent chapter. Exclusive of the action of the chorus, which looks even beyond the next chapter, the purport of what we have gone over is to inform us whence the seven angels came, viz., from the temple ; how they obtain their seven vials from the first living creature ; with what these seven vials are filled—the wrath of God; and from what elements the contents of these vials have originated, or from what elements this wrath is a necessary result-viz., from the glory of God and from his power.
With this prefatory information we shall be enabled to appreciate, and in some degree to understand, the narrative about to be given us of the pouring out of these seven vials. It is to be regretted that there is
any division of the chapters here, for there is no pause supposed, or to be supposed, between the conclusion of this and the commencement of the next chapter.
V. 1. And I heard a great voice out of Και ήκουσα μεγάλης φωνής έκ τού ναού the temple, saying to the seven angels, λεγούσης τους επτά αγγέλοις· υπάγετε και Go your ways, and pour out the vials of
εκχέατε τας επτά φιάλας του θυμού του the wrath of God upon the earth.
θεού εις την γην. .
$ 356. “And I heard a great voice,' &c.—The seven angels, having the seven vials of wrath, were seen coming out of the temple ; the wrath itself appears to have been prepared in the temple, and now the command to pour out this wrath comes as by a great voice from the temple. The temple cannot be entered, as we are informed at the close of the last chapter, till these seven plagues are fulfilled, or till the pouring out of these vials is accomplished. This command we may presume therefore to be given for the ultimate purpose that the temple may be entered ; that every obstacle (error) being removed, the access to God, by faith in Christ, may be fully laid open.
There is virtually a loud call from the temple arrangement for this effusion of wrath, in order that the worshipper may be enabled to avail himself of the privileges of the temple. The object of wrath, of course, is not the worshipper, but it is that accumulation of errors in matters of faith which renders the purification of the temple service indispensable.
Saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out,' &c.-It could hardly be supposed that the temple of God called in a literal sense for the destruction of the earth, but we may easily conceive of the case in which a system of divine worship, represented by the temple, calls for the destruction of an erroneous opposite system, inconsistent with such worship; and this we suppose to be what is represented in the vision.
FIRST VIAL. V.2. And the first went, and poured Και απήλθεν ο πρώτος, και εξέχεε την out his vial upon the earth [land]; and φιάλην αυτού εις την γήν· και εγένετο έλκος there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the κακών και πονηρόν επί τους ανθρώπους τους beast, and (upon) them which worshipped έχοντας το χάραγμα του θηρίου και τους his image.
προσκυνούντας τη εικόνα αυτού. .
· And the first poured out,' &c.—The term earth (ń yn) is used in two senses, in judging of which we must be regulated by the context. Go pour your vials upon the earth, is equivalent to an instruction to pour upon the whole sphere of earth, land and water ; while the action of the first angel, in pouring out his vial upon the earth, is evidently restricted to pouring it upon the land, in contradistinction to the sea, or other watery elements, upon which the two next vials are effused.
This first vial is poured upon the land, the element whence the twohorned beast was seen to rise, (Rev. xiii. 11 ;) the system, as we have supposed of self-dependence, originating a certain misinterpretation of revealed truth-a system which, in a spiritual sense, yields only thorns and thistles, as the result of man's works ; or will be proved so to do when the truth is manifested.
And there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men,' &c.These men are inhabiters of the earth—those subject to the woes denounced Rev. viii. 13; the pouring out of these vials being a part of the third wo. From what was said of the power of the beast and of the false prophet in the thirteenth chapter, all the inhabiters of the earth, except the one hundred and forty-four thousand, may be supposed to have received the mark of the beast, and to have worshipped his image ; and, consequently, to have become infected with this pestilential ulcer. Ulcers or sores in the natural body are indications of the bad state of the system ; what is commonly called a bad habit, (nozešía, cachexy.) This bad habit may exist before the ulcer makes its appearance: some exciting cause brings out the sore, and thus serves as a test, showing the real condition of the patient; the eruption on the surface of the body being an effect of the inward disease. Sores too having their varieties, the character of the irruption corresponds with that of the disease. The test accordingly, whatever it may be, becomes the means of indicating the latent ailment.
$ 357. The pouring out of these vials may be viewed as the application of
so many tests. The effusion of this first vial upon the earth or land is not the cause of the ulcer, for the cause is in the bad habit—the constitution of the men ; but it is the means of betraying and manifesting their real condition-showing their real character; the condition of man by nature (his earthly position) corresponding with the description of the prophet, Is. i. 5, 6 : “ The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores : they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.” So David, under a conviction of his “iniquities,” exclaims, “My wounds stink and are corrupt, because of my foolishness,” Ps. xxxviii. 5.