WHOLE WORKS - CHAPTER
AN EXPOSITION OF THE REVELATION.
The scheme and division of the whole prophecy, from the
beginning of the 6th chapter.
The stage being set, chap. iv., and the prologue acted, chap. v., the prophecy itself begins, in several scenes and visions, chap. vi. But ere I can proceed to tell you what the six first seals of the 6th chapter, or any vision else, doth concern, I must necessarily give you the argument and the division of the whole book; which will afford a better prospect, and a more delectable view, than that of the glory of all the kingdoms of this world, although that was made once in the twinkling of an eye; for what can be more pleasant than to have an insight, though but a general one, into what is God's design and project upon the world, in which the church is seated, and the condition of the church itself, in the world, since Christ's ascension? Now this you have as artificially, and in as many scenes in this book presented, as ever was story in any poem.
Now for a general insight into this prophecy, which may serve both as a compass and a chart to us, in sailing over this sea, that we may know still where we are, I premise these general propositions or assertions concerning the whole prophecy; Prop. 1. - That this ensuing prophecy, from the beginning of chap. vi. to the end of the book, contains two prophecies, distinct each from other. That book mentioned chap. v. is brought in to represent this prophecy of the Revelation, as was shewed, to be given to the church, and executed by Christ, the Lamb and Lion of Judah. Now in that book two things are distinctly to be considered, as given with that book
1. The seals on the back-side of the book.
2. The contents of the book itself. Now -
1. As the book contains matter of prophecy, so do the very seals also. And accordingly the visions of those seals do take up the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th chapters. Both books and seals are mysterious, and do contain matter of prophecy. The very back-side and cover of this book of God is prophetical. This book is all composed of prophecies; and the use of the seals is not simply to shew that the matter of this book was difficult to be known, as in Scripture phrase a sealed book imports; but, besides, they serve to contain a matter of vision to be delivered.
2. Add to this, that answerably, ver. 2. of chap. v., in revealing and delivering this prophecy, two difficulties are distinctly mentioned
(1.) The loosing of the seals. (2.) The opening of the book.
Now if the seals only did import the difficulty of this book, it would not have been made a new difficulty to open the book. But it is expressly made a distinct difficulty to open the book after the seals are loosened. This therefore was, because to loosen the seals, was to deliver one prophecy; and to open the book when these seals were loosened, was to deliver another.
3. Accordingly, in the 6th chapter, when the Lamb opens the first seal, a vision is seen, and therein a prophecy delivered; so when the second is opened, there is mentioned another; and when the third, a third vision; and so on in that chapter. And the seventh seal produceth seven angels with seven trumpets; six of which are recounted from chap. viii. to chap. x., and the seventh trumpet is in the end of the 11th chapter.
In the second place, when these seals are, the one of them after the other, taken off, and the prophecy and visions of those seals seen and ended, then an angel comes with a 'little book' - alone, without seals -' 'open,' chap. x. 2, as containing a new prophecy for John. Now when that this first of the seals was past, then accordingly John was bidden to eat it, ver. 9, 10, to be enabled for a new prophecy. So, ver. 11, it is expressly said, 'Thou must prophesy again before many tongues and kings.' And because a new prophecy was upon the eating of that book to begin, hence, ver. 8, it is said, 'The same voice which he had heard before did speak from heaven again.' Now that voice, or speech, he had heard but twice before, and it was both times whenas a new prophecy was given; once when the Revelation first began, and the epistles to the seven churches, chap. i. 10. And then another time, when this general prophecy begins, chap. iv. 1, which is distinct from that prophecy of the seven epistles in the three first chapters, which is peculiar to the seven churches. And now again, chap. x. 8, as beginning a new and third prophecy.
Obs. - In that the seals themselves do thus contain a prophecy, observe, That in God's book nothing is without a meaning. Christ said,'Not a tittle of it shall pass;' let it not therefore pass us. The very cover here is prophetical; much more does every word written in it contain matter of instruction. Search the Scriptures narrowly, and slight not a tittle of them, though you understand them not. There is enough in what you understand, to admire; and in what you understand not, to adore; as judging it the word of the great God, every syllable of which has its weight and value.
Prop. 11. - That both these prophecies, both seal and book-prophecy, do run over the same whole course of times, from Christ's ascension unto his kingdom; containing in them several events and occurrences successively, from that time to this of his kingdom, with which this book ends: namely, the seal-prophecy, from chap. vi. to chap. xii., doth act over one story of all times, to the end of time; and then the book-prophecy, from chap. xii., beginning at the same time again, doth act over another story of all the same times, unto the end. So that the same whole race of time is run over in both, but with several and distinct occurrences; even as the two books of the Kings and Chronicles do contain the stories of the same course of time from David unto the captivity. But the book of the Kings handles most the affairs of the kings of Israel; and that of the Chronicles more eminently holds forth the story of the kings of Judah. Now to demonstrate this apart; first of the seal-prophecy, and then of the book-prophecy : -
1. For the seal-prophecy; lay but these three things together, (whereof the two first were never denied by any,) and the point in hand will necessarily follow : - (1.) That in the 6th chapter the six seals do begin; with a prophecy, either from John's time or from Christ's. To prove this, besides those evidences which, when we come to interpret them, will more evidently appear, as that the first seal begins with Christ's going forth in preaching the gospel, so to lay the first foundation of his kingdom; which going forth refers to those primitive times. As also that in the fifth seal, you have the first mention of the bloody persecution of the saints, professing the gospel, in the same primitive times; which appears by this, that they are told that when the rest of their brethren, by the succeeding persecutions, should be killed, they then should have vengeance upon their enemies for their blood spilt; which argues these in the 6th chapter to be those first persecutions. Besides these evidences, I say, it appears more generally, because the prophecy itself does but here begin, all in the former chapters being but a prologue and a preparation. And it begins with John's time at least; for, chap. i. 1, he says, he was to shew to Christ's servants things which should shortly come to pass: the things contained in this prophecy entering into an accomplishment presently upon John's writing them, and divulging them to the churches.
(2.) The second thing, which also none ever denied, is, that these seals and trumpets, which do in order succeed one another, do contain a continued prophecy of events following one another in a succession of ages downward. To this purpose you may observe the phrase used, chap. x. 7, 'In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound,' which imports that these several trumpets do, as scenes in a comedy, share among them the several ages and times succeeding one another. And in like manner the seals have their days, even as the rest of the trumpets have their days proper, and peculiarly given to them. And look how in order they are placed, one before the other, as first, second, and third, &c., so do the several times or ages precede or succeed one the other: so as the days of the first seal are the first age, and things done in that age after John, and so on the second seal, &c.
(3.) Add to the two former this consideration, that the seventh trumpet, in the 11th chapter, doth end all time, and so becomes a period to one distinct prophecy of all time. This appears from chap. x. After the seals were passed over and seen with their effects, and the six trumpets had sounded in the 8th and 9th chapters foregoing, the angel swears, ver. 6, 7 of that 10th chapter, that 'time should be no longer;' but 'in the days of the seventh trumpet,' all should be finished. And therefore, chap. xi., from ver. 15, - where the seventh trumpet is brought in sounding in its order, when his day and turn comes to sound, - must needs be esteemed the end of that pro phecy: for it brings you to the end of all times; that is, of the times which God thought fit to allot this world, and his enemies in the world, to rule and reign.
First, the monarchs and great men of the world are to have their time here, and then Christ's time, and the time of his saints, is to begin; as, ver. 15, 'The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ,' &c.; and, yer. 18, 'The time of the dead is come, that they should be judged.' When this world's hour-glass is run out, then that of another world is to be turned up to run, when there shall be a new heaven and a new earth. So that, from the first seal to the seventh trumpet, is run over all the time that the monarchies and kingdoms of this world, whilst they should be in the hands of Christ's enemies, should continue and last. For that is the time which, towards the end, under the sixth trumpet, the angel that came down under that sixth trumpet aware 'should be no longer.' I shall set down the words of his oath: in the 6th and 7th verses of that 10th chapter, he 'sweareth by him that liveth for ever and ever,' - that is, by God, -'who created the heaven, the earth, and the sea,' and the things that are in all these his three domimsions,'that there should be time no longer: but in the days of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.
Which whole voice, or words, of the sixth angel do import,
(1.) That much of that whole time had now been passed and run out already in the former visions of the seals and trumpets, from the first until now. And, That now the time allotted by God was brought well-nigh to the very last sands of it. And that the church might have some warning, and be able to make some guess, and compute when this time of the world's monarchy, or kingdoms of the world, should have an end; and so, when the time of the Gentiles should be fulfilled and be no longer; this angel doth, towards the expiration of that whole time, give us, in the 11th chapter, the true computation of that time, during which the last monarchy - you know there are four - on earth should endure, as that which might serve us to compute the period of the whole, and the beginning of Christ's visible kingdom, even the days of the beast, or Pope, who is the last part, with his ten kingdoms of Europe, treading down the church, or holy city; which beast, and his kingdoms supporting him as their head, and whose time, from his first beginning to the near approach of that seventh trumpet, which shall begin to sound not long after, or but a little before his very end, is forty and two months, or, which is all one, one thousand two hundred and threescore days; that is, so many years. And with him all other rule and dominion on earth shall end; and Christ shall take the kingdom, when he shall have destroyed Antichrist through the brightness of his coming, which will grow brighter as his coming is nearer. And withal, this angel gives a signal of occurrences which should immediately forerun the period of this time of his ruin, whereby the church might with some nearness discern his approaching ruin; which he does, in that 11th chapter, by presenting the face of that church, which shall be before the downfall of that kingdom, and the last persecution of the church by the beast, foregoing his ruin, that so the church might have both warning, and not think it strange at the fiery trial which at last was to come upon them; as also to be comforted, for it should be the last; and soon after it, the ending of all time, together with that of the world's kingdoms.
2. The second part of the foresaid general proposition, viz., That there is a new prophecy that runs over the same whole race of time, from the beginning to the end of the world's monarchies, unto Christ's kingdom, beginning at chap. xii., and so on to the end of the book. Now then, the prophecy of the seals, which runs over the whole time of the world's monarchies, being thus ended, chap. xi., there begins another prophecy at chap. xii., which runs over the same whole race and period of times, though with other occurrences. And this is the other part of this general proposition, which I demonstrate thus, as I did the former
First, The 12th chapter begins a new prophecy, not only because that the other having ended all time, this must needs begin again anew; but further, the vision of the woman and the dragon in the 12th chapter must needs be of things foregoing the rise of Antichrist, - the beast in chap. xiii. , - and therefore concerneth the primitive times, which were the times before Antichrist. This is proved thus. The dragon mentioned chap. xii., endeavouring to devour the woman, is cast down from heaven; after which, striving to drown her with a flood, he is prevented; and then John, standing, as the best copies read it, upon the sand of the sea, spies this new beast arising, and the dragon gives his throne and power unto him, chap. xiii. All this, therefore, which is in the 12th chapter, must necessarily contain a story of things done before the rising of Antichrist, and so by consequence must belong to the primitive times, as the particular interpretation will make more clear.
Secondly, Add to this, that unto this beast, from his first rising in the 13th chapter, there is allowed him to continue forty-two months, or 1260 years, which is the very same period of time upon the expiring of which the seventh trumpet begins, which, as you heard, had ended all time before, chap. xi. 15; and then the 14th chapter, which follows, contains the state of the church during the times of the beast, in their separation from him and opposition of him. And then, chap. xv. and chap. xvi. contain seven vials to ruin this beast; whereof the last doth end all time again, even as the seventh trumpet had done. And this is proved -
1. In that, as when the seventh trumpet should sound, the angel sware that 'time should be no longer:' so when the seventh vial is poured out, chap. xvi. 17, a voice says, 'It is done;' that is, time is at an end, all is finished.
2. It is said, chap. xv. 1, that these vials contain the last plagues, in which the wrath of God is fulfilled, and therefore must necessarily make an end of all Christ's enemies, and so of their rule; and together with them, of all their time. And -
3. The same things are said to be done in the pouring out the seventh vial, which is the last of plagues, that are presented to be done at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, which is the last of woes. Thus at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, chap. xi. 10, there are said to be'lightnings, voices, thunderings, earthquakes, and a great hail;' and so likewise upon the pouring forth of the last vial, chap. xvi. 18, there were 'voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake, such as never were on earth before; and so great a hail, that every stone weighed a talent.'
0bj. - But you will say, If there be an end of all when Christ's kingdom comes, then what do the 17th, 18th, and 19th chapters contain, and to what time will you refer them, seeing the description of the kingdom of Christ begins but at the 20th chapter, and so on?
Ans. - The answer, in general, is, that they contain a larger explication or vision of some eminent things that fall out under the time of some of these vials. And therefore the 17th chapter begins thus: 'One of the seven angels which had the seven vials talked with me, and shewed me,' &c., as implying that what follows belonged to their times. But more particularly -
1. The 17th chapter contains an interpretation of what was spoken concerning the beast in chap. xiii., and shews who that beast is. And as in the prophecy of Daniel the manner of the Holy Ghost was to interpret the Visions there made, so here. And of the whore carried by the beast, he says plainly, by way of explication, ver. 18, it is 'that great city that reigneth over the kings of the earth,' namely, Rome. And it was necessary that the Holy Ghost should give an interpretation of some things in this book; and of this especially, as being that which gives light to all the rest, which therefore fitly comes in after all.
2. The 18th chapter, and the 19th, to the 11th verse, doth contain a more poetical description of the ruining of that city, the seat of this last monarchy; and therefore is but a more copious explication of the fifth vial, which, chap. xvi. 10, is said to be poured out upon the seat of the beast; together with a triumphing song of the church's concerning those times, sung at the whore's funeral, and for the approaching marriage of the Lamb. And this, chap. xix. to ver. 11.
From thence to the 20th chapter, is a more full description of that last war of the beast, and all the kings of the earth, and their overthrow by Christ : which is therefore all one with the last vial, and the preparation thereunto, as none that shall read from the 13th verse of the 16th chapter unto the end, and compare it with chap. xix. from ver. 11 to the end, will be able to deny. For so it pleased the Holy Ghost, towards the latter end of this prophecy, to give a more full explanation of the two more eminent vials, and the times of them, after he had first, for method's sake, briefly set them together, with the rest, in their order: as in like manner, after he had compendiously set together in one chapter, chap. xx., the reign of Christ during a thousand years, and the universal judgment that follows, he yet spends the 21st chapter in a more copious and magnificent description of the state of the new Jerusalem, and that kingdom of Christ during those thousand years.
0bj. - But then you will say, Unto what will you refer the 11th chapter, from ver. 1 to ver. 15, which is placed, as it were, between both prophecies?
Ans. - I answer, as before, all that discourse delivered by word of Christ's mouth, between the seal and the book-prophecy, doth belong unto both; as containing an exact chronology of that last period of the time of the world's monarchies. By means of which we may easily compute how much that whole time is that both the prophecies do run over, as shall be shewed in the interpretation of that chapter. And withal, there is a signal given of such eminent occurrences befalling the church, as should be most proper and suitable signs of the dawning of Christ's kingdom shortly after to follow; and so of the ending of the time of both prophecies. That as the old Jerusalem, before it was destroyed, had signs given of its destruction imminent; so hath the new Jerusalem also, before it is reared.
Now that these passages in the 11th chapter do belong thus unto both prophecies, appears -
1. In that he speaks of matters contained, and afterwards mentioned in the book-prophecy, chap. xiii., xvi. : as likewise of matters mentioned in the seal-prophecy; namely, of the ending of the sound of the sixth trumpet; which is declared in chap. xi. 14, and called 'the passing away of the second woe.' And -
2. The angel therein mentions how and when the expirations of the times of both prophecies do meet in the sixth trumpet of the seal-prophecy, ending about the time of the date of the beast in the book-prophecy. And thus to insert a chronological table, as it were, between both prophecies, serving them both, and knitting together the times of both in one period; how agreeable is it to the way of historians, who when they run over much time and several matters, use to affix a table of times unto that their history; and so doth our historical prophet John in that 11th chapter.
Prop. III. - The third general proposition, or head, shall be an inquiry into what is the matter or argument prophesied of in this whole book; as also, more particularly, what are the differing subjects of these two several prophecies, the Seal and Book-Prophecy. I shall unfold and clear this by several steps and degrees in these propositions following : -
1. It is certain that time subject of both prophecies is the fates and destinies of the kingdoms of the world which should be after Christ's ascension, until he take the kingdom to himself. Therefore at the end or conclusion of the seal and trumpet-prophecy, there is an acclamation that the kingdoms of the world were .then become Jesus Christ's, chap. xi. 15, as having all that while before been under other monarchs' hands, and of which the former part of the prophecy had spoken all along. And therefore he says,'Time shall be no longer;' that is, for the kingdoms of the world, (that is, not for their worldly kingdoms,) unto which he opposeth that of Christ's. And therefore the book-prophecy also, which begins chap. xii., when it came to be first given, chap. x. 11, hath this prologue or preface unto it, 'Thou must prophesy again before kings and nations,' etc.: before kings, that is, about kings, as the style of the prophet is; and that word again implies his having prophesied about them before, in the seal-prophecy, although other occurrences in them, and also his being to do it again in this other prophecy following, in new occurrences that concerned the church.
2. The second proposition is, That the whole prophecy concerns only such kingdoms or monarchies of the Gentiles as had to do with the church of Christ. For -
(1.) At the beginning of both prophecies, the church is made the stage or scene upon which all is acted; and so the prophecies extend to no other kingdoms than where the church hath been. And this you may observe throughout both of them; as in the fifth seal, chap. vi., you have blessed martyrs then calling for vengeance for their blood; and under the trumpets, which are miseries upon kingdoms, there are men sealed, as being servants of God, scattered and mingled amongst those nations upon whom those trumpets blow. And the like may be observed in the following chapter. So that they extend but to such kingdoms or monarchies in the world where the church in all ages still was; therefore, not to the West Indians, nor Tartarians, nor Chinese, nor East Indians, etc., where the church hath not been, or not to any considerable purpose; not any of these kingdoms doth this prophecy concern. This likewise agrees with God's manner in the prophets, who prophesied of such kingdoms only as had to deal with his church, thereby to shew Christ's power in ruling kingdoms for his church's good.
(2.) This book being written for the comfort of his church, and all the judgments therein mentioned coming out of the throne of the temple, which is the church, and likewise upon the prayers of the church; it contains therefore the fates of such kingdoms as the church should have to do withal. Now, if so, then -
3. The third step, or proposition, is this, That the Roman monarchy, or empire, with the territories both in the east and west sea, which were under its jurisdiction, (which empire when John wrote was in its height and flourish, and with which the church had most to do, and in the jurisdiction of which the church had always been chiefly, and in a manner only seated,) must needs be, in the several revolutions and changes of it, the main subject of this book of the Revelations, together with the state of the church under it. Now this empire, and the dominions of it, was extended well-nigh as far for circuit as the dominions under the Turk in the east, and the ten European kingdoms in the west. All which, in John's time, were wholly and solely under the emperor of Rome. And in this empire, and throughout all the territories of it, did God place his church and gospel; and throughout all which time Christian profession doth remain unto this day, even in the east as well as in the west, though darkly and corruptly, and in a manner here only. This empire therefore, with its dominions, is in the New Testament called the world, even all the world, for the greatness of it; and because indeed this was the world which God had set up to act his great works upon. Thus, Luke ii. 1, 2, the whole world is said to have been taxed by Augustus; and, Acts xi. 28, there is foretold a famine that should rage throughout all the world, in the time of Claudins Caesar. And this world was the line, as the Apostle's phrase is, beyond whose reach the apostles' preaching never stretched to any considerable purpose This was their chief auditory, as appears by Matt. xxiv. 14, where, before the destruction of Jerusalem, foretold ver. 15, 16, as a sign forerunning it, it is said the 'gospel should be preached to all the world;' that is, over all the dominions of the Roman empire, as it was by the apostles before the ruining of it. Now that this empire, and the territories under it, together with the church in it, should be the main subject of this book, there are these reasons for it
(1.) Because, as hath been said, it is the chief; and in a manner only seat of the church; which was, and still is, extended so far, and no further. And by the power of this empire, and the several successions of it, hath the church been mainly oppressed in all ages. If therefore this book-prophecy be of the church, then surely of the church under this empire; and if of the judgments upon any kingdoms for their oppression of the church, then surely upon this, for the church's sake. And if the judgments which are in this book, set out under seals, and trumpets, and vials, do come for the church's sake, and be made to fall upon her chief enemies, then they must eminently light upon this grand enemy, for such it hath been; and so, this prophecy must note out the judgments and wars that ruined the empire for its persecuting the saints, who, chap. vi. 10, do cry out for vengeance; and the trumpets are the hearing of their prayers, chap. viii. 3.
(2.) The Roman empire, and the successions of it east and west, was that fourth and great monarchy that should oppress the earth, now only left, when Christ ascended. Now, in the prophecies of the Old Testament, their main subject was the great monarchy then in being, or presently to come. So in Daniel, two or three chapters are chiefly taken up with the successions of the Grecian monarchy, and then of the Roman. And Daniel foretold that this Roman should be the most terrible of all the rest. And therefore surely God, in this prophecy of the New Testament, doth, according to his manner in the Old, lay out the fates of that fourth monarchy now only left; as lie had done of those others that were gone and past ere Christ ascended.
(3.)This must needs be so, especially seeing the scope of this book is the instalment of Christ into his kingdom, and so to shew how, in the meantime, he puts down all rule that keeps it from him, and takes it to himself; so erecting a fifth monarchy, succeeding the other four. Now then, this Roman monarchy, in the several successions of it in the east and west, being the chiefest rule and power that was left on earth for Christ to put down, and which his own kingdom was immediately to succeed, it is therefore fitly made the subject of this book, to shew how he puts down the rule of it, and preserves his church under it. And so it answers yet more fully unto the like scope of Daniel's prophecy; who being to prophesy of the kingdom of Christ, chap. vii. 9, God doth first, on purpose, give him a vision of the four monarchies that were to precede that of Christ; and especially insist on the fourth, namely this of Rome, ver. 7, as being that which Christ, after his ascension, was to encounter with and put down, ere himself take the kingdom. And then he shews Daniel how Christ will ruin it, ver. 11, and then take the kingdom to himself. So that this Revelation, which is the prophecy of the New Testament, doth more largely and particularly set forth that which Daniel in the Old Testament, according to the dispensation then, saw more generally; even the ruin of the fourth monarchy, which Christ's monarchy succeeds.
(4.) That this should be the subject of this prophecy, suits also with the chief prophecies delivered by other of the apostles in the New Testament, which were reduced to three heads
[1.] Foretelling the ruin of the Roman empire, which, 2 Thess. ii, Paul calls a taking out of the way him that lets.
[2.] The discovery of the Pope, (who is the last head of that last fourth monarchy,) and his ruin.
[3.] The kingdom of Christ to succeed. These three things were ordinarily preached by the apostles, as appears plainly by 2 Thess. ii. 2 - 9, where Paul, having spoken of these three things, says, ver. 5,'Remember you not, that, when I was with you, I told you these things! ' So that the apostles did certainly tell the churches of these three things, which surely, therefore, are the main subject of this prophecy also, but they are more largely delivered unto John. Wherefore this Revelation may answerably be divided into these three parts
First, The story of the Roman empire, and the taking of it out of the way, which is the subject of the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th chapters of this book.
Secondly, The discovery of the man of sin, and his ruin, chap. xiii. 14 - 19.
Thirdly, Christ's coming and kingdom, chap. xx., xxi.
4. Now then, the fourth and last consideration shall be spent in an inquiry after the difference of the subjects of these two prophecies, the seal and book-prophecy. For in this Roman empire, and the several successions and revolutions of it, there are these two thinigs to be considered in the story thereof : -
(1.) The empire, or political body, and the state thereof.
(2.) The church under it, and the state and condition thereof. And therefore some writers have written time ecclesiastical story, or story of the church in all ages, apart by itself. Others have writ the story of the empire, and its several revolutions. As among us here in England, (to give you this instance only for an illustration,) the Book of Martyrs is chiefly a story of church affairs, and the conflicts of it with Antichrist, in England; but Speed's Chronicle is chiefly a story of the affairs civil falling out in that kingdom, in the several invasions, wars, conquests, and intestine broils of it. Now the like method hath the Holy Ghost been pleased to observe in this prophetical story of this empire, and the church spread through the territories amid dominions of it. These two prophecies before mentioned, namely the seal and book-prophecy, do share these two between them. The one does apart contain, more particularly, the several wars, events, and revolutions of the empire itself; and that is the seal-prophecy. And the other, which is the book-prophecy, contains the several conditions and states of the church of Christ in all ages. Now this difference of the subjects of those two prophecies doth appear in the several characters, and in the very place and situation of the visions themselves.
First, The differing shows or faces of the visions in these representations do argue this difference : for in the first prophecy, you read of seven seals, and four horses, chap. vi, and then of trumpets, chap. viii. and ix., noting sometimes sealed judgments and devastations by plagues, famines, and wars; of which latter trumpets are in all nations the signal and symbols, and in Scriptures used to signify wars; and so do note out time several judgments by conquests, and devastations by war, brought upon the civil state of the empire. But in the book-prophecy, the chief actors are women; fit emblems of the church. Thus, chap. xii., it speaks of a woman with child, ready to be delivered; and, chap. xiv., of virgins, free from her fornications; then of a whore, representing the false church, chap. xvii. and xviii.; and then, chap. xix., of a bride, preparing and prepared, personating the state of the church, when Christ shall come to fetch her, and bed her everlastingly in his Father's house and kingdom. Thus artificial is the Holy Ghost in handling things of differing nature apart.
Secondly, answerably, the differing situation and place which these two prophecies had do shew this. The seals which contain the prophecies of the empire were on the back-side, as containing matters extra ecclesiam, without the church; but the book itself contains things within, even as the church is said to be within, 1 Cor. v. 12, 'For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?' Whereas those that are not of the church are said to be without -Rev. xxii. 15, 'For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.' And so the prophecy thereof is cast to be, as it were, without the book, even upon the seals of it; as denoting that the seal-prophecy treats of things outward, and of the temporal state of the church whereas the book-prophecy treats of spiritual things within the church.
And as in the general division this appears, so it will appear in the interpretation of all particulars throughout this book; for John puts things of a sort together, as the best historians use to do. Only take this caution along with you : that neither in the one nor the other of these prophecies, the things of the empire or the church are so handled apart as that nothing at all of the church affairs were handled in the seal- prophecy, or that nothing of the affairs of the empire were mentioned in the book-prophecy. But it is so to be understood as that eminently the ecclesiastical story is contained in the one, and the imperial story in the other. For as in the books of Kings and Chronicles, though the first does more eminently and fitly contain the story of the kings of Israel, yet so as matters of Judah are withal intermingled; and again, in the story of Judah, Israel's affairs are interwoven; even so is it here. Some things appertaining to the church are scatteredly mentioned in the prophecy concerning the empire; and some things touching the empire are diffused through the prophecy of the churoh, or the book-prophecy.
Now briefly then to sum up all this book It is a tragi-comical vision of the occurrences of the world, and of the church in the world, through all times and ages; whereof this may truly be the title,'The story of Christ's kingdom, and the removal of the several difficulties of his coming to it.'
Chap. iv. - The stage for this is set up in chap. iv., where there is a representation of the universal church in all ages, set forth according to the exact pattern of a church visible and instituted; into which all saints on earth should be cast.
Chap. v - Then enters the prologue, chap. v., in which is set forth Christ's taking upon him the kingdom and government, by taking the sealed book; as thereby shewing he undertaketh to be God's commissioner, to execute the decrees contained in this book, and to give the vision of it unto John. At which instalment of him into his kingdom, there is a song of praise sung to the Lamb, by the four-and-twenty elders and four beasts, who are the chorus in this show, with a triumphing assurance and expectation of what will be the happy conclusion of all; even our reigning on earth with him, say they there. Now the scene or place where all was to be acted, which these visions here hold forth, is the Roman empire, and the several dominions of it in the east and west, called the whole world.
Then begins the story itself at chap. vi.; the general argument of which is: That whereas Christ's government was to be executed and seen, first, in putting down all opposite rule and power that stand in his way, as St Paul speaks, 1 Cor. xv. 24, 25, 'Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power: for he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet;' and, secondly, in a visible taking the kingdom to himself and his saints, which makes the fifth monarchy: accordingly here the story of this book -
1. Shews how Christ doth put down all the opposite rule, and power, and dominion, whatsoever, in the fourth and last foregoing monarchy of the Romans, in the several successions and revolutions of it, one after another, till that he hath worn them all out that were ordained to stand up in it. And these many difficulties of his coming to and obtaining his kingdom do exceedingly serve to make the story of it appear the more glorious. Then -
2. It closeth and endeth in a glorious visible kingdom which Christ sets up on earth, and peaceably possesseth together with his saints, as the catastrophe of all. More particularly the story is this, according to the several contents of each chapter Christ when he ascended up to heaven, found the Roman monarchy, whose room he was to possess, stretched both over east and west, even over all those parts of the world where he was to seat his church and kingdom; and all this wholly in the hands, and under the dominion and power of one monarch or emperor; under whose government all that were subjected were altogether heathenish and idolatrous, and wholly brought under the power of Satan, who was set up therein as the 'god of this world.' Hereupon, Christ, the designed king, first sets upon the conquest of Satan's dominion and worship in it; and by the preaching of the gospel, overturns that vast empire as heathenish, throws down Satan from his throne and height of glory in it, and brings it into subjection and acknowledgment of himself as king; and turns both it and its emperors to Christianity, within the space of three hundred years. This is the sum and mind of the 6th chapter of the seal-prophecy, and likewise of the 12th chapter of the book-prophecy. But this empire, though wholly turned Christian in outward profession, yet having persecuted his church whilst idolatrous, and also after it was Christian, when Arian, therefore at the prayers of the martyrs slain, mentioned chap. vi. 9, and in vengeance of their blood, he further proceeds to ruin the civil imperial power of the empire itself by the trumpets in the 8th and 9th chapters. And the empire then becoming divided into two parts, the eastern and western empire, as they were commonly called, first he ruins the imperial western state and power in Europe, by the four first trumpets, the wars of the Goths, by four several steps, in the 8th chapter; and then the imperial eastern state, which stood after the other, and this by two degrees - first, by the Saracens, then by the Turks, (and these two are the fifth and sixth trumpets,) which two possess all that eastern part unto this day. And this is the contents of the 9th chapter only. Before these trumpets bring these evils upon the empire, he seals up a company of a hundred and forty-four thousand Christians in the eastern part, as chap. vii. 2, to be preserved and continued in the true profession of his name, under these two sorest and longest (and there called the woe, woe) trumpets, which were to fall upon the eastern part of the empire, in which these servants of his there sealed were to be; as appears by chap. vii. 4. And this their sealing is the sum of the seventh chapter.
Now then, that old Roman empire, as under those emperors, being thus in both parts of it removed; yet still, as that eastern part of it is left possessed by the Turks, chap. ix., so this western part of it, in Europe, being by the Goths broken into ten kingdoms, they all consented to give their power to the beast, the Pope, chap. xiii., who so becomes a successor to the western emperors, and possesseth their seat and power, though under another title, and so heals that wound given to the Roman monarchy, and restores it. And this beast the 13th chapter describes, and gives the vision of his rise, power, and time of his reign, which the 17th chapter doth expound and interpret. Under whose antichristian tyranny, as great as that of the Turks themselves towards Christians, Christ yet preserveth another like company, of one hundred forty and four thousand virgins,' who are in like manner sealed, Christians, in the west, (as, under the tyranny of the Turks and Saracens, he had done the like in the east, chap. vii.,) himself so keeping possession still, by preserving his church under both these parts of the empire, as being his inheritance. And this company of a hundred and forty-four thousand Christians, opposite to the whore, are there called virgins; and their separation from her, and opposition to her, is recorded in chap. xiv.
But now these two, the Pope and Turk, both enemies to Christ, thus succeeding in the enipire and sharing the two parts of it between them, we see that Jesus Christ is still as far off from his kingdom designed him, which is to be set up in these territories, as he was before; for Mohamedanism, under the Turk, tyranniseth in the one, and idolatry, under the Pope, over-spreads the other, even as heathenism had done over the whole empire at first. And so Christ hath a new business of it yet, to come unto his kingdom, and as difficult as ever. Therefore he hath seven vials, which contain the last plagues, (for he means to make this the last act of this long tragi-comedy,) to despatch the Pope and the Turk, and wholly root them out, even as the seals had done heathenism, and the trumpets had done the civil power of the empire; and the plagues of these vials are the contents of the 15th and 16th chapters. The first five vials do dissolve, and by degrees ruin the Pope's power in the west; then the sixth vial breaks the power of the Turk in the east, so making way for the Jews, (whom he means to bring into the fellowship of his kingdom in their own land,) there called 'the kings of the east.' But by these six vials their power and kingdom being not wholly ruined, both the Turkish and Popish party do together join, using their utmost forces (and together with them all opposite kings of the whole world) against the Christians, both of the east and west, who, when the Jews are come in and converted, do make up a mighty party in the world; unto the help of whom, against those and all opposite power whatsoever, Christ Himself comes and makes but one work of it, with his own hand from heaven destroying them. And so it is done, as the voice of the last vial is, in the 16th chapter. The 17th chapter is an interpretation concerning the beast, shewing who he is, and where his seat is. The 18th chapter sings a funeral song of triumph for the whore's ruin, which is the fifth vial; after which comes in Christ's kingdom, the New Jerusalem, and the preparations to it; which new kingdom of his shall be made up -
1. Of eastern Christians, who endured the bondage of the two woe-trumpets, the Saracens and the Turks, yet continuing to profess his name. And therefore unto those hundred and forty-four thousand in the 7th chapter is said to succeed an innumerable company, with 'palms in their hands,' who have the very same promises of the New Jerusalem made to them that are mentioned in the 21st chapter, which shews their interest therein. And -
2. It is made up of western Christians, whose hundred and forty-four thousand, in chap. xiv., do arise to an innumerable company also; who therefore, after the rejection of the whore, chap. xix. 1 - 9, are brought in singing, like triumphant manner, decking themselves for the marriage in fine linen. But -
3, And especially, it is also to be made up of Jews dispersed both east and west, and over all the world; and from them hath this kingdom the name of the New Jerusalem. With whom -
4. Come in, as attendants of their joy, other Gentiles too, who never had received Christ before. The 'glory of the Gentiles' is said to be brought into it. And so both east and west, Jew and Gentile, and the fulness of both, do come in, and become one fold under one shepherd for a thousand years, and one kingdom under this 'Root of David,' their king, King Jesus the conqueror, even as it first was under one heathen idolatrous emperor, when Christ had first set to conquer it. And so that prophecy of this his kingdom, in Isa. lix. 19, is fulfilled, where, after the final destruction of all Christ's enemies, foretold ver. 18, he says,'They shall fear his name, from the east unto the west, and the Redeemer shall come unto Sion;' which words Paul interprets of the Jews' final call, and this restauration of the world with them, Rom. xi. 26. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly!
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