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The“ mighty angel" appears by bis description to be the Son of God himself, and this may indicate the importance of the vision. His being “ clothed with a cloud” may express the concealment of his designs, and the hiding of his power. He could have crushed this great conspiracy at the outset, but he did not. The “rainbow on his head" is the sign of peace, or of covenant mercy, and may here denote that whatever evils might be permitted in order to try the church, yet there should not be such a delage as to destroy it. His countenance being compared to “ the sun," and his feet to “ pillars of fire,” may intimate, that neither is his glory tarnished, nor his majesty diminished, by all the corruptions which are introduced under his name. Finally, His “ coming down from heaven" seems to denote a change of scene. The Lamb's company stand upon Mount Sion ; but the harlot sitteth upon the waters, and the beast riseth out of the sea. Thus as the subject respects the same apostate community, the scene is the earth, and the angel descends from heaven to disclose it.
The « little book” which the angel held open in his band relates doubtless to the western apostasy. It has been thought to be a kind of Appendix, or Codicil to the sealed book, and a part of what follows to be chapters of it. But this seems too much :. for if so, it would not properly belong to the sealed book, whereas all that pertains to the apostasy, and to the state of the church to the end of the world, belongs to the trumpets, which trumpets are a subdivision of the seventh seal.
It is not therefore, any thing added to the sealed book but a marked division of it, a book as it were within a book. --The Angel's setting “ his right foot upon the sea, and bis left foot on the earth," would express bis absolute dominion over both. His " crying with a loud voice as when a lion roaretb," was awfully preparatory to the seven thubders which immediately uttered their voices. On hearing them, John was about to write, but is told by a voice from heaven to "geal up the things which the thunders uttered, and write them not." The thunders then were not mère sounds but certain “things," which though they were not at present to be disclosed, yet in due time should be fulfilled. Their fulfilment too, was an object of such importance, and lay so near the angel's heart, that
with the utmost indignation he sware by Him that liveth for ever and ever, that there should be no delay; but that in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he should begin to sound, they should be accomplished.*
From these considerations it appears plain that the seven thua, ders relate to the same "things” as those which are afterwards disclosed under the seven vials. They both express the wrath of God against the papal antichrist ; the one describes it only in general, and that in the form of threatenings, the other descends to particulars, and describes it as actually executing. The thun. ders being introduced before the prophetic account of the apostasy, may denote the displeasure of God against it from its very beginning, and tend to support the faith and patience of the church under it.
The forbidding the apostle to write, and commanding him to eat the book seems like saying, The apostasy is not yet ripe. The wrath of God against it will be deferred for the present. Under the sounding of the seventh angel he will pour fourth the vials of
Whether orl XPOVOS OUX este si be rendered, as in our version, that there should be time no longer ; or more literally, as by Mr. DAUB0% and others, that the time shall not be yet; or, as Dr. GILL says the words will bear to be rendered, that there should be delay no longer; the meaning cannot be that time itself should then be at an end. Nor does it seem to be an object of sufficient importance for an oath, that the time for the seren thunders to be executed should not be yet. It is not their not being yet, but their being at the appainted time : not the protraction, but the accomplishment notwithstanding the protraction, to which the angel swears. There is a manifest reference in the passage to Dan. xii. 7. " And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and swear by him that liveth for ever, that it shall be for a time, times, and a half, and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.” It was of the papal antichrist, of whom Antiochus Epiphanes was a type, that the man clothed in linen spake, and of him speaks the angel to John. As the former predicts his fall, so dges the latter; and as Antiochus bad been permit. ted to scatter the power of the holy people for a time, times, and half a time, sp should antichrist be permitted to scatter the church of Christ for the same prophetic period, reckoning a year for a day; that is, for the space of 1860 years. Sce Prideaux's Connepign, Part II. Book III, at the close,
bis indignation upon it. At present, therefore, write it not; but receive a general impression of things by eating the book !' The allusion doubtless is to Ezek. iji. 12-3, and denotes that he must understand and digest its contents. The book, he was told, would be sweet in his mouth, but bitter in his belly. The same desire of understanding the future state of the church which made him weep when no one was found worthy to open the sealed book, must make him rejoice when an open book was put into his band, with a direction to eat it: but when he came to digest it, and to perceive the corruptions and persecutions that should prevail, and for so long a period retard the progress of the gospel, it would be grievous to him.
To teach him that what he had now seen and done was designed only as a general impression, preparatory to what should follow, he is given to understand that he must go over the ground " again," writing prophecies which respect to many “peoplee, and nations, and tongues, and kings."
THE FIRST GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE PAPAL APOSTASY, AND OF
THE STATE OF THE CHURCH UNDER IT.
Chap. xi c.
I Conceive with Mr. LOWMAN, that the following chapters contain three general descriptions of the papal antichrist, and of the state of the church under it; only he confines them to the with, xiith, and xiiith Chapters, whereas it appears to me that the xiiith and xivth should not be divided, but considered as containing between them the third general description. The reasons for con. sidering these four chapters not as one continued prophecy, but as general representations of the events of the same period, are the following:
First, The events foretold by the slaughter and resurrection of the witnesses in Chap. xi. ; by the flight of the woman into the wilderness, and the victory over the dragon in Chap. xii. ; with the ravages of the beasts, and the triumph of the Lamb's company in Chapters xiii. and xiv. are the same.-Secondly, These representations are not confined to one or two trumpets, but comprehend the times of the greater part of them. Some of the things represented, particularly those at the beginning of Chap. xii. in which the origin of the apostasy is traced, appear to go back to the times of the first four trumpets, namely, to the fourth and fifth" centuries : others, particularly those at the close of Chapters xi.
and xiv., which describe the overthrow of the apostate church, go forward to the times of the last trumpet, and even of the last vials,into which that trumpet is subdivided. This will be evident by comparing Chapter xi. 19. with Chap. xvi. 18. In both mention is made of " lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail;" both therefore manifestly refer to the same events.--Thirdly, In each of these descriptions there is a reference to the 1260 years, the period which in prophecy marks the duration of the antichristian power. So long were the witnesses to prophecy in sackloth, so long the woman to be in the wil. derness, and so long the beast to make war with the saints. It is therefore to the events of this period that these chapters relate; containing an account of the rise, the reign, and the overthrow of the papal antichrist.
It could hardly be expected that so long a period, embracing sach multifarious characters and events, events too which so deeply interest the church of God, should be passed over without particular notice. The sacred writer is as it were made to pause, and to give us several distinct views of the subject according to the different lights in which he beheld it. I only add, if these chapters do really comprehend the events of the 1260 years, we might almost presume, in going over them, to meet with something under each description relating to so distinguished an event as the Reformation, and must certainly have thrice to cross the meridian of our own times.
The first of these general descriptions, which we now enter upon, does not appear to trace the origin of the apostasy, but to take it from the time in which things were so matured, that is taking the measurement of God's temple, the papal community was ordered to be left out, as not belonging to it.
1 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod. and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. 2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not: for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.