« VorigeDoorgaan »
“ In your
223 to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved 4.” patience possess ye your souls 5.” Such were the trials which our Blessed Lord had led His followers to expect; and the scenes unfolded in the vision before us closely correspond with the course of His Divine prophecy. Whether or not we trace in the imagery of the fourth seal a reference to the sundry kinds of death by which the early disciples were condemned to die, we have, at all events, in the fifth seal, to which we are now to proceed, the description of days of persecution as having already come upon the Christian Church. “ And when he had opened the fifth seal,” says St. John, “I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain,”—or rather, “ that had been slain ,—for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held : and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled ?.” The description of this their earnest expostulation, if so it may be called,—their eager looking for the day of triumph,—agrees well with the thoughts and hopes that would be awakened by the prospect which their Lord's prediction had opened, of an "end,” then shortly to come, when these signs were fulfilled upon them. And, in the vision before us, the sixth seal, which 4 Mark xiii. 9-13.
6 των εσφαγμένων. 5 Luke xxi. 19.
? Rev. vi. 9-11.
[LECT. immediately follows, seems to describe a great and general consummation. “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scrowl when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand ?"
The language here employed might seem, at first sight, such as could hardly be applied to any thing short of the awful scenes of the final day of doom. But, in the interpretation of Scripture language, we need to be continually reminded of those words of the Almighty by His prophet,—“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts o.” If, in our human estimate of things, we are sometimes in danger, on the one hand, of giving an exaggerated importance to what may seem to us striking events and critical periods in the world's annals, as though
s Vv. 12–17.
9 Isa. lv. 8, 9.
VIII.] Later Vision of the Judgment. 225 they must needs occupy a prominent place in the sacred roll of prophecy, we shall too probably, on the other hand, in many instances, fail to discover, for lack of spiritual discernment, those turning points in the evolving history of God's spiritual kingdom upon earth, which are there described in words “not which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth,” and which can be interpreted only by “ comparing spiritual things with spiritual!."
But, before we proceed to examine the language of the passage before us by the light of other parts of prophetic Scripture, I would point out the striking difference between the description here given us and that which we find in a later part of the Apocalypse, and which undoubtedly refers to the scenes of the last Judgment. “I saw,” says St. John, in the twentieth chapter of the Revelation, “a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened : and another book was opened, which was the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire ?" There is something in this description,-a dimness and vastness of outline, an absence of all the objects
1 Cor. ii. 13.
2 Rev. xx. 11-15.
The two Visions distinct. [LECT. which had filled the scene in the former vision,—the earth and the heaven now fled away, the throne of God and of the Lamb seen no more in His temple, amid the assembly of His worshippers, but, in its stead, the throne of the Eternal Judge, now revealed in the midst of the universe, His dispensations of grace ended, and the time of judgment come—there is something here which cannot fail to strike us as altogether different from the imagery in the earlier vision. The one scene is distinguished from the other, not less in regard to this difference of character and colouring, than with respect to the place which they respectively occupy in the volume of the Revelation; the one appearing almost at the very opening of the Apocalyptic vision, the other very near its close.
It has, indeed, been supposed, that the first six seals “ contain a short, rapid, and general sketch of the progress of Christianity from its first establishment in the world, to that time, yet future, when the enemies of Christ shall be separated for punishment, and his faithful servants for heavenly favour and rewards;" the seventh seal, on this hypothesis,
retracing the history of the Christian Church,” and supplying “ many events which were reserved for a more particular notice and display.” And it is observed that we have elsewhere,-as, for instance, in the book of Daniel, as well as in the Revelation, instances of “this method of divine prediction, presenting at first a general sketch and outline, and afterward a more complete and finished picture of events 3.”
The observation is undoubtedly correct, so far as
3 Woodhouse, Annot. p. 165.
VIII.] Vision of the Seals continuous. 227 distinct visions are concerned; as, for instance, Nebuchadnezzar's vision of the image, and Daniel's of the four beasts “. But the case, it will be admitted, is widely different where the same vision is carried on. In the instance before us, where the seven seals of the book in the right hand of the Lamb are opened in succession, we should expect to find the events contained under the seventh seal consequent upon those of the six preceding, rather than synchronizing with them. And this, I think, on more minute examination, will be found to be the case.
We saw under the fifth seal the souls of the martyrs calling for vengeance upon them that dwelt on the earth ; and they were bidden to rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. In a subsequent part of the vision (in the eleventh chapter), at the sounding of the seventh trumpet,—the seven trumpets making up the seventh seal,—we read, “there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give thee thanks, Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that
sup. Lect. iii. pp. 60, chap. xii. of the Revelation 61. It will appear, I think, (vid. inf. Lect. xi.), and also, that we have a similar instance I am strongly inclined to think, of the opening of a distinct in chap. xx.; which latter porvision, and consequently this tion, however, does not come retracing of earlier events, in into our immediate view.