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The time of the mission was the beginning of the war. The 1,260 days indicate the time of the war. It was a time of great signs and wonders. Our Lord foretold them.
Josephus relates that Jesus, the son of Ananus, a plebeian, during the war and for four years before it, went about the city proclaiming the woes of Jerusalem. He was whipped till his bones were laid bare, but his answer to every stroke of the whip was “ Woe, woe, to Jerusalem.” There were visions of armies in the clouds, voices in the Temple, and "a star resembling a sword that stood over the city” (Joseph., “ Wars,” VI. v. 3); which“ star resembling a sword" is found by calculation to have been Halley's Comet.
There is nothing strange in the presence of two Christian witnesses in Jerusalem, at that time, exercising supernatural powers. On the contrary it would be strange if the Nazarenes all fled away and abandoned their Jewish brethren to their fate. There is no record of these remarkable events anywhere outside the Revelation of S. John. But much the same thing may be said of the miracles of our Lord, performed publicly in times of peace. They are nowhere chronicled outside the pages of the New Testament. There was a conspiracy of silence on the part of heathen and Jewish writers as regards Christian miracles. They noticed Christianity only to revile it.
But there is in Josephus something which looks like a garbled account of the two witnesses. Josephus was a prejudiced witness. Dr. F. W. Farrar, on “ Jesus Christ” in the Encyc. Brit., says of Josephus, “ The passage in which he speaks of the preaching and execution of John the Baptist is not disputed, and is very important as showing that Josephus must have been perfectly well acquainted with the facts of Christ's life, and that he passed them over in his usual unscrupulous way, with a reticence due only to dislike or perplexity."
Josephus makes particular mention of two men, who withstood the wicked zealots and preached to them. The first he calls Ananus, the oldest of the high priests. “He was a very prudent man, and had perhaps saved the city if he could have escaped the hands of those that plotted against him.” Again, he says, “ The best esteemed also of the high priests, Jesus the son of Gamala, and Ananus the son of Ananus, when they were at their assemblies, bitterly reproached the people for their sloth and excited them against the zealots.” “Ananus stood in the midst of them, and casting his eyes frequently at the Temple... he said, Certainly it had been good for me to die before I had seen the house of God full of so many abominations,” etc. (“' Wars," iv. 111). And Jesus spoke thus of the zealots, “They are robbers who by their prodigious wickedness have profaned this most sacred floor, and who are to be seen now drinking themselves drunk in the sanctuary" (“Wars,” iv. 4). When the Idumaeans were let into Jerusalem by the zealots . . . they sought for these two high priests, and the generality went with the greatest zeal against them; but as soon as they caught them they slew them, and then standing upon their dead bodies, in way of jest upbraided Ananus with his kindness to the people and Jesus with his speech.
“Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their bodies without burial, although the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun. I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city. He was on other accounts a venerable and very just man, and besides the grandeur of that nobility, and dignity, and honour of which he was possessed, he had been a lover of a kind of parity, even with regard to the meanest of the people. . . . Jesus was also joined with him, and although he was inferior to him upon the comparison, he was superior to the rest. And I cannot but think that it was because God had doomed this city to destruction as a polluted city, and was resolved to purge His sanctuary by fire, that He cut off these, its great defenders and well-wishers; while those who had a little before worn the sacred garments . . . were cast out naked and seen to be the food of dogs and wild beasts” (“Wars,” iv. 5).
The coincidence with Revelation is remarkable; but that is all we get from Josephus. He records no witness to Christianity, no miracles, and no ascension of the two witnesses. We are entitled to believe from his suppression of all Christian miracles that he would not record such things if he knew them to have happened
But Josephus did not see or hear the two witnesses. Whilst these events were going on in Jerusalem, he was a prisoner in chains in the camp of Vespasian, in another part of Judaea. He had no chance of speech with the inhabitants of Jerusalem till Titus brought him to the city walls, long afterwards, still a prisoner of war, but unchained. Titus used him as an interpreter. “And what information the deserters brought out of the city, I was the only man that understood them" (Joseph. Apion. I.). He put into the mouths of Ananus and Jesus long orations (see “Wars,” iv. 3 and 4), which no one could have reported verbatim. They are obviously Josephian speeches of his own invention. If we add invention to suppression, what residuum of fact remains supports the conclusion that the two witnesses are historic characters, great Hebrew Christian prophets slain, like “their Lord,” by the Jews.
13. Και εν εκείνη τη ώρα εγένετο σεισμός μέγας, και το δέκατον της πόλεως έπεσεν, και απεκτάνθησαν εν τω σεισμό ονόματα ανθρώπων χιλιάδες επτά και οι λοιποί έμφοβοι εγένοντο και έδωκαν δόξαν τω θεώ του ουρανού.
13. And at that bour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell ; and there were slain in the earthquake names of men seven thousand ; and the rest were cast into a fear, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
“Hour" is not to be taken literally. “But the hour cometh and now is when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth” (Jhn. iv. 23). We have had an earthquake before at R. vi. 12 (where see notes). An earthquake is put for a great political upheaval in this book as in Ezechiel xxxviii. 19, and the fall of Rome (R. xvi. 18). The tenth part of the city fell. The Temple of Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, but only a part of the city was thrown down. Jerusalem was not long afterwards reinhabited by the Jews. “Names of men " is put for men. See R. iii. 4, notes. “Seven thousand" slain is put for many thousand. The significance of seven is amplitude. Josephus says that Cestius had a census of the population of Jerusalem taken on the feast of the Passover, at the beginning of the war, which showed 2,750,000 inhabitants, exclusive of foreigners, lepers, and others. As the result of the war 1,100,000, were slain by war, famine and pestilence (“ Wars," vi. 9, 3). “The rest ” doubtless includes the Nazarenes and thousands of others who escaped from the city. These with the captives taken to Rome, or sold into slavery, were struck with the fear of God, and gave glory to him. Oi noutrol, “ the rest,” must be put in this case at a million or more. See R. ii. 24, notes.
14. Η ουαι η δευτέρα απήλθεν. ιδού η ουαι η τρίτη έρχεται ταχύ.
14. The second woe is past; and behold the third woe will come quickly.
At R. ix. 12, after the scorpion visitation on Jerusalem, we were told, “One woe is past, and behold there come two more woes hereafter.” Now, after the siege and fall of the Temple, we are told, “The second woe is past, and behold the third woe will come quickly.” It comes in the next sentence.
15. Και ο έβδομος άγγελος εσάλπισεν· και εγένοντο φωναι μεγάλαι εν τω ουρανώ, λέγοντες, Εγένετο η βασιλεία του κόσμου του κυρίου ημών και του χριστου αυτού, και βασιλεύσει εις τους αιώνας των αιώνων.
15. And the seventh angel sounded the trumpet, and there were great voices in heaven, saying. The Kingdom of this world is become our Lord's and his Christ's, and he shall reign for ever and ever ; Amen.
Note“ Amen" is not in Greek, above.
The first woe was the invasion of Judæa, and civil war in Jerusalem. The second the fall of the Temple and sack of the city. The third woe we take to be the dispersal of the Jews, as God declared to the Prophet Daniel. “And when the scattering of the band of the holy people shall be accomplished all these things shall be finished” (Dan. xii. 7). “In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound the trumpet, the mystery of God shall be finished, as he has declared by his servants the prophets" (R. x. 7). From Amos to Jeremias the prophets had one main purpose, and that was to warn the Hebrew nation that it had incurred the wrath of God and must suffer unless it repented.' They were prophets of woe who foretold the end of the Jewish dispensation, and the coming of the kingdom of Christ. The last woe trumpet sounded the death knell of the Jewish Kingdom and heralded the coming of age of the Kingdom of Christ. And great voices in the court of heaven were heard saying, “The kingdom of this world is become our Lord's and his Christ's, and he shall reign for ever and ever." The fall of the Temple marked the complete detachment of the Kingdom of Christ from the things of the Old Law. At the death of Christ the veil of the Temple was rent in two, from the top even to the bottom, showing that the covenant was torn up (Matt. xxvii. 51).
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16. Και οι είκοσι τέσσαρες πρεσβύτεροι, οι ενώπιον του Θεού καθήμενοι επί τους θρόνους αυτών, έπεσαν επί τα πρόσωπα αυτών και προσεκύνησαν τω Θεώ.
16. And the four and twenty ancients, who sit on their seats in the sight of God, fell on their faces and adored God.
The whole court of heaven, watching over the progress of events, acclaimed the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ on the ruins of the Temple, and the four and twenty ancients who were all Hebrews, fell upon their faces and adored God.
17. Λέγοντες, Ευχαριστουμέν σοι Κύριε ο Θεός και παντοκράτωρ, ο ών και ο ήν, ότι είληφας την δύναμιν σου την μεγάλην και εβασίλευσας.
17. Saying, We give thee thanks O Lord God, Almighty, who art and who wast, and who art to come, because thou hast taken thy great power, and thou hast reigned.
Note, “ and who art to come” is not in the Greek, above. Vg. et qui venturus es.
The ancients give thanks to God because He has assumed His great power and has become King. Έβασίλευσας, "hast reigned as a King” – βασιλεύς-refers to the Kingdom. The prophets of the Old Law and the Apostles of the New thank God for establishing the spiritual Kingdom of Christ upon earth. They concur in the justice of God's judgment on the Jews.
18. Και τα έθνη ώργίσθησαν, και ήλθεν η οργή σου και ο καιρός των νεκρών κριθήναι και δούναι τον μισθόν τοις δούλοις σου τους προφήταις και τοις αγίοις και τους φοβουμένοις το όνομά σου, τους μικρούς και τους μεγάλους, και διαφθείραι τους διαφθείροντας την γην.
18. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead to be judged and to render a reward to thy servants, the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear thy name, little and great, and to destroy them who have corrupted the earth.
(S. = τους μικρούς και τους μεγάλους.)
The four and twenty ancients apparently continue to speak. This verse is not separated from the preceding context by μετά ταύτα or any other sign of a breach of continuity, hence it belongs to the Jewish theme and has a purely Jewish significance.
" And the nations were angry," with the remnant of the Jews, understood, as they are and have been for centuries, because God's “ wrath is come.”
“And the time of the dead to be judged "; that is the dead slain in the Jewish drama. The Seer follows the custom of Greek tragedy in pointing out the end of his dramatis persona. Especial regard is given to the reward of the Messianic Jews, for ο καιρός–the due season-has come to give them " τονμισθόν ” -“ the reward” promised to the just at the end of the Book. « My reward (ο μισθός μου) is with me to render to