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since the sackcloth-prophesying of the two witnesses. terminates with the latter 1260 years: it is manifest, that the testimony and the sackcloth-prophe→ sying, inasmuch as their respective terminations are chronologically different, cannot themselves be identical.
On the strength of this clear demonstration, I maintain, that the testimony of the two witnesses is not the same as their prophesying in sackcloth. If, then, the testimony and the sackcloth-prophesying be not the same; it will naturally and properly be asked, Wherein, do they differ from each other?
To this question I reply, that the two expressions convey two ideas, homogeneous indeed, but of very different degrees of intensity.
My view of the difference between them may be exhibited in manner following.
To prophesy in sackcloth denotes to preach the Gospel in a despised and depressed condition. But to bear testimony to the blessed truths of the Gospel denotes to suffer martyrdom for them, tỏ resist even unto blood in behalf of them, to teach them in the face of absolute and proper and murderous persecution'.
As prophesying in sackcloth, the two Churches are called two prophets: as bearing their blood
Gr. paprvpíav, martyrdom. Comp. Rev. ii. 13. Thus Origen informs us, that, in the ecclesiastical sense of the word, none were styled paprúpes, save those only who had sealed the truth with their blood. Comment. in Johan. Oper. vol. ii. p. 81.
stained testimony, they are called two witnesses or two martyrs. They prophesy in sackcloth, during the whole term of the latter 1260 years which expire not until the effusion of the seventh vial of the seventh trumpet: but they finish their testimony or their period of sanguinary martyrdom, before the expiration of the sixth trumpet and before the passing away of the second woe'. When their testimony, not their sackcloth-prophesying, is finished; they are figuratively slain, they figuratively revive, and they figuratively ascend to heaven: but, as the allotted period of 1260 years still remains unexpired; they still, even in their figurative heaven, or, in ordinary language, in their state of political recognition and establishment, continue to prophesy in sackcloth. The purport of such a declaration may easily be understood. From the commencement of the latter 1260 years to the time of their figurative death, the two Churches, with such intervals of rest as they may occasionally enjoy, preach the Gospel in the midst of persecutions which involve the bloody martyrdom of many of their members: but, after they have ascended to heaven shortly before the expiration of the second woe, though they still continue to prophesy in sack→
Rev. xi. 3-14. The two Churches are prophets during the whole period of their sackcloth-prophesying; which period is commensurate with the whole period of the 1260 years: but they are martyrs only during the time that they bear their testimony unto blood; which time expires before the passing away of the second woe.
cloth, they are no longer exposed to the miseries of a persecution unto blood by the agency of fire and of sword'.
According, then, to this view of St. John's phraseology, the second chronological notation teaches us, that the two witnesses should be politically slain, when the appointed term of their bloodstained martyrdom should have expired: so that, although, after their figurative resurrection and ascension to heaven, they should still prophesy in sackcloth even to the very end of the latter 1260 years; yet they should henceforth no longer be subjected to that form of absolute and direct persecution, which, under the unhallowed pretext of purging out heresy, inflicts the punishment of death upon the persecuted.
On these principles, I conclude, that the two witnesses must have been slain and have lain dead and have revived very shortly before the year 1697.
(2.) The next point to be determined is THE NATURE OF THE DEATH, which the two witnesses are represented as undergoing.
Here we must recollect, that the two witnesses are no two individual men, but that they are two Churches. Whence, in the very nature of things,
The only commentator, so far as I know, who has preserved this distinction between the testimony and the sackcloth-prophesying, is Mr. Fleming. See his Apoc. Key, p 44, 45. I marvel, that it should not have been more generally observed and acknowledged. It is, in truth, the very key to the chronological arrangement of the vision.
it will follow, that they can be subject to no death except such as a Church may be subject to. Now the death, to which a Church is subject, may be either moral or political: for, on the one hand, a Church may, by apostasy, cease to be a candlestick or a faithful dispenser of the light of divine truth; and, on the other hand, a Church may, by the violence of persecution, be exterminated and blotted out, so that it shall cease to be visible upon the face of the earth. To such an ambiguity as this, the prophetic phraseology of death and revival is inherently liable: nor can the ambiguity be ever removed, save by the actual occurrence of the matter predicted 1.
All, therefore, which can be determined in the abstract and without a recurrence to history, is this: that the two Churches, designated by the two witnesses, shall experience a death either moral or political, when they shall have finished their testimony, and when the Turkish woe is on the eve of passing away.
(3.) The third point to be determined is THE FOE, by whom the two witnesses are slain.
This hostile Power is simply styled the wildbeast from the abyss: but, upon examination, the wild-beast so described will prove to be the first wild-beast of the Apocalypse, or the wild-beast with seven heads and ten horns. For, in one place, we read, that the seven-headed and ten-horned
'See above book i. chap. 1. § I,, 5, 6, 7. II. 2. (1.)
wild-beast rose up from the sea: and, in another place, we read, that the seven-headed and ten-horned wild-beast ascended from the abyss'. Hence it is evident, that the wild-beast from the abyss, who slays the two witnesses, is the same Power, as the seven-headed and ten-horned wild-beast who rises up from the sea. But this ten-horned beast from the sea, as all commentators agree, is substantially the same as Daniel's fourth beast which similarly rises from the sea: and Daniel's fourth beast, as we have already seen, is the Roman Empire. Consequently, the two witnesses are to be slain by the Roman Empire, as existing in its apostatic state during the period of the latter 1260 years.
Such, as to the slayer of the two witnesses, is the whole that we specifically learn from the present oracle. But, since we know, that during the latter 1260 years the Roman Empire is in its divided condition, or (in the symbolical language of prophecy) that it exists under some one particular head and ten horns: we further know, from the very decorum of the hieroglyphic, that it must needs slay the witnesses through the instrumentality of some one or other of its various dominant members. This we clearly know: but the prediction now under consideration leaves us wholly in the dark as to the particular member, by the agency of which the wild-beast will slay the two witnesses. In the abstract, the member in question may be, either his
1 Compare Rev. xi. 7. xiii. 1. and xvii. 7, 8.