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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, indulgences, promises of paradise, and such like trumpery. When Antichrist had gradually prevailed against these witnesses, with much difficulty, and long-continued viosent 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, nerer are able to prevail against them, to bring them under any more, as they had done in former wars. Oftentimes in Scripture, God's churches 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 taskmasters, 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 withont putrefaction; signifying that at this tiine 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 the church's extremity. And probably there may be some reference to the three times (or three years) and a half of the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth; the more apparently to show 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 long; 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 ruin, but yet God will not suffer her to see corruption ; but at that very time, when her enemies expected that she should putrefy, she shall rise; and be set on high, out of their reach, greatly to their astonishment.
* Mr. Lowman, in the preface to his Paraphrase on the Revelation, page 8, observes as follows: "Propbetic 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 number ten, sometimes does not mean precisely ten in number, but many in general, or a con siderable number."
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 testimony, the beast should make war against them and kill them, &c., and that it seems manifest, that after this, they are no longer in sackcloth, 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 i 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 deliverance 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 deliverance 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; though 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 time 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 capthrity 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. So the time wherein it was foretold that the whole land of Israel should be a desolation and an astonishment, and the land should eujoy 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 fifty-two years; though it was indeed serenty 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 hin, 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 rebuilt and dedicated before that time.
Upon the whole, I think there appears to be no reason from the prophecy concerning the two witnesses, Rev. xi., to expect any such general and terrible destruction of the church of Christ, before the utter downfall of Antichrist, as some have supposed; but good reason to determine the contrary. It is true, there is abundant evidence in Scripture, that there is yet remaining a mighty conflict between the church and her enemies, the most violent struggle of Satan and his adherents, in opposition to true religion, and the most general commotion that ever was in the world, since the foundation of it to that time; and many particular Christians, and some parts of the church of Christ, may suffer bard things in this conflict : but in the general, Satan and Antichrist shall not get the victory, nor greatly prevail ; but on the contrary be entirely conquered, and utterly overthrown, in this great battle. So that I hope this prophecy of the slaying of the witnesses, will not stand in the way of a compliance with the proposal made to us in the memorial, as a prevalent objection and discouragement.
OBJECT. 5. A late very learned and ingenious expositor of the Revelation, viz., Mr. Lowman, sets the fall of Antichrist, and consequently the coming of Christ's kingdom at a great distance; supposing that the twelve hundred and sixty years of Antichrist's reign did not begin until the year seven hundred and fifty-six; and consequently that it will not end until after the year two thousand, more than two hundred and fifty years hence; and this opinion he confirms by a great variety of arguments.
Ans. 1. If this objection be allowed to be valid, and that which ought to determine persons in an affair of this nature, and those things concerning God's people praying for this glorious event, be also allowed to be true, which before were shown to be the will of God abundantly revealed in his word, then the following things must be supposed; viz., that it is the will of God that his people be much in prayer for this event, and particularly that it is God's revealed will and purpose, that, a little before the accomplishment of it, bis people be earnestly seeking and waiting, and importunately and incessantly crying to God for it; but yet that it was God's design, that before this time comes of extraordinary prayer and importunity of his church, for the bringing on this glorious event, his church should have it given them to understand precisely when the appointed time should be; and that accordingly hê has now actually brought the fixed time to light, by means of Mr. Lowman. But it is reasonable to suppose, that this should be God's manner of dealing with his church, first to make known to them the precise time which he has unalterably fixed for the showing this mercy to Zion, and then make it the duty of his church, in an extraordinary manner, to be by prayer inquiring of him concerning it, and saying, How long, Lord ! And waiting for it
, day and night crying to him with exceeding importunity that he would bring it on, that he would come quickly, that he would hide himself
no longer, but would arise and have mercy upon Zion, and awake as one out of sleep, openly manifest himself, and make bare his holy arm for the salvation of his people! That they that make mention of the Lord, should not keep silence, nor give him any rest, until he establish, and make Jerusalem a praise in the eurth! And that the church should then say to Christ, Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart on the mountains of spices !
It may be
many ways for the comfort and benefit of God's church in her afflicted state, to know that the reign of Antichrist is to be no more than 1260 years : and some things in general may be argued concerning the approach of it, when it is near : as the Jews could argue the approach of Christ's first coming from Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks, though they knew not precisely when that seventy weeks would end. But it is not reasonable to expect that God should make known to us beforehand, the precise time of Christ's coming in his kingdom. The disciples desired to know this, and manifested their desire to their Lord; but he told them plainly that it was not for them to know the times and seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power, Acts i. 6,7; and there is no reason to think that it is any more for us than for them ; or for Christ's disciples in these days any more than for his apostles in those days. God makes it the duty of his church to be importunately praying for it, that it may come speedily; and not only to be praying for it, but to be seeking of it, in the use of proper means; endeavoring that religion may now revive everywhere, and Satan's kingdom be overthrown; and always to be waiting for it, being in a constant preparation for it, as servants that wait for the coming of their Lord, or virgins for the coming of the bridegroom, not knowing at what hour he will come. But God's making known beforehand the precise time of his coming, does not well consist with these things.
It is the revealed will of God, that he should be inquired of by his people, by extraordinary prayer, concerning this great mercy, to do it for them, before it be fulfilled. And if any suppose, that it is now found out precisely when the time is to be, and (the time being at a considerable distance) that now is not a proper season to begin this extraordinary prayer, I would, on this supposition, ask when we shall begin? How long before the fixed and known time of the bestowment of this mercy comes, shall we begin to cry earnestly to God that this mercy may come, and that Christ would make haste and be like a roe, &c. ? For us to delay, supposing that we know the time to be far off, is not agreeable to the language of God's people in my text, Come, let us go speedily, and pray before the Lord, and seek the Lord of hosts.
Ans. 2. I acknowledge that Mr. Lowman's exposition of the Revelation is, on many accounts, excellently written, giving great light into some parts of that prophecy, and an instance of the fulfilment of that prediction, Dan. xii. 4,“ Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased :” and especially in his interpretation of the five first vials (which he supposes already poured out), exceeding satisfying. But yet the opinion of Mr. Lowman, with regard to the particular time of the beginning and end of the time, times and a
half of Antichrist's reign, and of all others that pretend to fix the time, is the less to be regarded, because it is clearly revealed, and expressly declared by God, that that matter should be sealed up and hid, and not known until the time of the end of this time, times and a half. Daniel, in the last chapter of his prophecy, gives us an acconnt, how the angel told him of a future time of great trouble and affliction to the church of God, and then said to him, ver. 4, “ But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end." And then the prophet proceeds to give an account of a vision that he had of one earnestly inquiring of the angel of the Lord, how long it would be to the end of this remarkable and wonderful time of the church's trouble, say. ing, How long shall it be to the end of these wonders ? ver. 5. 6. The answer was, that it should be for a time, times and a half; and that when so long a time was past, then this wonderful affliction and scattering of the holy people should be finished, ver. 7. But then Daniel tells us, in the next verse, that he heard, but he understood not, and said, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? He did not understand that general and mystical answer, that those things should have an end at the end of a time, times and a half; he did not know by it, when this period would have an end: and therefore he inquires more particularly what the time of the end was. But the angel replies, ver. 9, “Go thy way, Daniel, the words are closed and sealed up, until the time of the end." I do not know what could have been more express. The angel gently rebukes this over inquisitiveness of Daniel, very much as Christ did a like inquisitive ness of the disciples concerning the same matter, when he said to them, It is not
for you to know the times and seasons, that the Father hath put in his own power. I think there can be no doubt but that this space, of a time, times and half, of the church's great trouble, about the end of which Daniel inquires, is the same with that time, times and half, that is spoken of chap. vii. 25, and Rev. xii. 14, as the time of Antichrist's reign, and the church's being in the wilderness; and not merely the time of the church's troubles by Antiochus Epiphanes. But we see, when Daniel has a mind to know particularly when this time would come to an end, he is bid to go away, and rest contented in ignorance of this matter : for, says the man clothed in linen, the words are closed up, and sealed, until the time of the end. That is, very plainly, the matter that you inquire about, when the end of this time, and times and half shall come, shall not be known, but kept a great secret, until the time of the end actually comes, and all attempts to find it out before that shall be in vain. And therefore when a particular divine appears, that thinks he has found it out, and has unsealed this matter, and made it manifest with very manifold and abundant evidence, we may well think he is mistaken, and doubt whether those supposed evidences are truly solid ones, and such as are indeed sufficient to make that matter manifest, which God has declared should be kept hid, and not made manifest before it is accomplished
Mr. Lowman's own words in his preface, pages 24, 25, are here worthy to be repeated : " It will (says he) ever be a point of wisdom, not to be over busy, or over confident in any thing, especially in fixing periods of time, or determining seasons; which it may be are not to be determined, it may be are not fit to be known. It is a maxim of greater wisdom than is usually thought, Seek not to know what should not be revealed. Such are many future events. The precise time of our Saviour's coming to judgment, was not revealed, because not fit to be revealed. The uncertainty of his appearance was of greater service to preserve a care of religion, than the revelation of it would have been: for the uncertainty itself gives many useful exhortations; Watch, for ye know