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RESPECTING THE PROPER DIVISION OF THE LITTLE
St. John, having given the prophetic history of the Saracens and the Turks whom he describes as two great successive woes to the Roman Empire, and having brought down the chronology of the larger sealed book to the end of the second woe or to the autumn of the year 1697, now returns to the collateral history of the West during the period allotted to the sounding of the fifth and sixth trumpets, which (as we have seen) introduce the first and second woes.
In other words, he returns to the year 604 or to the commencement of the latter three times and a half: for the trumpet, which called the Saracenic woe into action when the
apostates were now come to the full, introduced, at its earliest blast, the fall of an eminent star from heaven, or in unfigured language) revealed the man of sin in his character of the governing head and patron of the great demonolatrous Apostasy.
Thus returning to the collateral history of the Western Empire from the year 604, the Apostle, by way of avoiding that confusion which could not otherwise have been avoided, throws his whole prophetic account of the Papal Tyranny and Usurpation, during the entire period of the latter 1260 years and under all the three woe-trumpets, into a sort of episode to his general series of predictions : and this episode he terms a little book, appending it as a codicil to his greater book of the Apocalypse.
The little book now before us, the contents of which will be found in the eleventh and twelfth and thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of the Revelation according to the vulgar arrangement, naturally divides itself into five sections: and these five sections, in point of chronology, all run parallel to each other, relating severally, though with some variety of circumstances, to the same period and to the same events ; so as to form jointly a complete history of the Papal Apostasy and of all the principal actors and sufferers in it.
I. The first section of the little book gives an account of the treading down of the holy city, by the Gentiles of the Apostasy, during the space of 42 prophetic months; of the measuring certain faithful worshippers within the temple; of the sackcloth prophesying of the two witnesses, during the same period of 42 months expressed as 1260 days; of the slaughter of those two witnesses by the beast from the abyss ; of their lying dead in the midst of the great city during three prophetic days and a half; of their revival at the end of those three days and a half; of their ascent to heaven in a cloud; and of the earthquake, which overthrows the tenth part of the great Roman city: it then declares, that the second woe has passed away: and it finally announces the sounding of the seventh trumpet, which introduces the third woe, and which brings us down to the end of the latter 1260 years !.
In this section, we may observe, the beast from the abyss is barely mentioned : and no intimation is given, either what this beast is, or by whose instigation he acts, or whose minister he is; the prophet reserving these particulars for the two succeeding sections.
II. The second section of the little book opens to us the whole mystery of iniquity, so far as its original mover is concerned %.
We there learn, that the depression of the true Church of Christ, during a period of 1260 years, is the contrivance of that old serpent the devil ; who is represented under the image of a dragon with seven heads and ten horns, in order to shew us by the instrumentality of what visible earthly agent he was about to slay the two witnesses and to drive the woman into the wilderness.
III. The third section of the little book passes from the master to the servant: for it brings us acquainted with that minister of the dragon, who had already been represented as the murderer of the two witnesses S.
It describes him under the symbol of a wildbeast, emerging from the sea or from the great
abyss, and having seven heads and ten horns; the very heads and horns, which the dragon induces him to use against the woman mentioned in the preceding section.
IV. The fourth section of the little book teaches us, by whose instigation, as a second cause, the minister of the dragon, or the beast from the abyss, is induced to take up arms against the woman and the two witnesses
His instigator is another beast, quite distinct from himself, though very intimately connected with him: a beast, which comes up out of the earth or the geographical platform of the Roman Empire; which has two horns like a lamb; which speaks as a dragon; and which exercises all the power of the first beast before him, not in a hostile but in a friendly manner, for he causes the whole earth to worship his colleague and supporter the first beast.
V. The fifth section of the little book describes
· The sea and the abyss mean the same thing: and the beast from the sea is palpably the same Power as the beast from the abyss. Compare Rev. xiii. 1, with Rev. xvii. 3, 8. The Seventy commonly use the word äßvooog to express the Hebrew Onn, which denotes the mighty abyss of oceanic waters : and the classical writers employ the cognate words βυσσος and βυθός to describe the sea. Hence, as the seven-headed and tenhorned beast is indifferently said to come up from the sea and from the abyss, we may naturally conclude, that St. John uses the latter word in the same sense as the Seventy and the classical writers. See Parkhurst's Gr. Lexic. in voc. "Aßvoooc.
? Rev. xii, 11-18.