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R E V E L A TION
ST. JOHN, THE DIVINE.
Apocalypse, - the most consistent and valuable, we think, of any we have ever seen, - yet he was manifestly troubled and warped in his judgment in interpreting certain parts by his theological system, or creed, especially his belief in endless misery, and the popular notions of a future judgment. The devotion to creeds has done more to prevent the Apocalypse from being fitly interpreted than any other cause. It has produced the most extravagant and perverted views of it; and the variety and enormity of these views have led thousands to conclude that the work is altogether inscrutable to human wisdom.
But is this book absolutely dark, so that it is impossible for us to get at the meaning at all? Is it impossible to do anything to throw light on the chaos? We think not. If anything can be done, ought we not to do it? Those preachers who seek to create excitement and alarm who operate upon the fears of the weak and uninstructed - do not fail to resort to this book. Its sublime metaphors and allegories, when misapplied, furnish them with rich subjects. Why should not a counter effort be made to explain it ? Let us apply the principles of sound criticism to the interpretation, and we may do something towards bringing out the true sense of the book. Let us gain what light we can now, . and wait for the advancing day to bring us more. With these feelings we have entered upon the effort before us.
It is proper here to state, that the first form in which this commentary appeared was in detached articles in a weekly religious paper, conducted by the author. For many years after entering the ministry, we paid little or no attention to the
Apocalypse. When we glanced at it, as we occasionally did, it seemed an utter confusion of metaphors — Alps rising on Alps without order, without design, and defying the power of man to interpret it. Whether divine or not, we were persuaded nobody could understand it. But as our attention was drawn more and more to it, in consequence of its repeated use by those who opposed the doctrine of the restitution of all things, we began to see here and there (as we thought) glimpses of its meaning. The first true thought that struck us, and that was many years ago,
– that the account of the judgment of the “dead small and great,” in the conclusion of the 20th chapter, must have its reference to things that transpired before the kingdom of God came with power, because the immediately succeeding passage described the descent of the New Jerusalem, and the establishment of the Messiah's kingdom in the world ; - this fact gained, formed a basis for others. The next point was brought to our attention by reading an English publication, viz., that the scene described in the 20th chapter is laid on the earth; for the angel mentioned in the first verse came down from heaven to earth, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand, and therefore the bottomless pit was painted in the scene as being on the earth, or why should the angel have brought the key? He laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent which is the devil and Satan, (the four terms evidently signifying the same thing,) whom he seems to have found on the earth, and bound him, and, without carrying him away anywhere else, cast him into the bottomless pit. It was the power with which these facts