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Verse 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.
We here have a continuation of the instruction which the angel began giving to John in the preceding chapter; hence these verses properly belong to that chapter, and should not be separated by the present division. In the last verse of Revelation 10, the angel gave a new commission to John as a representative of the church. In other words, as already shown, we have in that verse a prophecy of the third angel's message. The message is connected with the temple of God in heaven, and is designed to fit a class of people as worshipers.
The Measuring Rod.--The temple here cannot mean the church, for the church is brought to view in connection with this temple as "them that worship therein." The temple is therefore the literal temple in heaven, and the worshipers are not to be measured in the sense of ascertaining the height and girth of each one in feet and inches. They are to be measured as worshipers, and character can be measured only be some standard of right, a law or principle or action. We are thus brought to the conclusion that the ten commandments, the standard which God has given by which to measure "the whole duty of man," are a part of the measuring rod put by the angel into the hands of John. In the fulfillment of this prophecy under the third angel's message, this very law has been put in a special way into the hands of the church. This is the standard by which the worshipers of the true God are now to be tested.
Seeing now what it is to measure those who worship in the temple, we inquire, What is meant by measuring the temple? To measure any object requires that special attention be given to that object. The call to rise and measure the temple of God is a prophetic command to the church to give the subject of the temple, or sanctuary, a special examination. But how is this to be done with a measuring rod given to the church? With the ten commandments alone we could not do it. When we take the entire message, however, we find ourselves let by it to an examination of the sanctuary on high, with the commandments of God and the ministration of Christ. Hence we conclude that the measuring rod, taken as a whole, is the special message now given to the church, which embraces the great truths peculiar to this time, including the ten commandments.
By this message, our attention has been called to the temple above, and through it the light and truth on this subject has come out. Thus we measure the temple and the altar, or the ministration connected with the temple, the work and the position of our great High Priest; and we measure the worshipers with that part of the rod which relates to character, the ten commandments.
"The court which is without the temple leave out." This must be interpreted to mean that the attention of the church is now directed to the inner temple and the service there. Matters pertaining to the court are of less consequence now. It is given to the Gentiles. That the court refers to this earth is proved thus: The court is the place where the victims were slain whose blood was to be ministered in the sanctuary. The antitypical victim must die in the antitypical court, and He died on Calvary in Judea. The Gentiles being thus introduced, the attention of the prophet is directed to the great feature of Gentile apostasy, the treading down of the holy city forty and two months during that time. Thus we are carried back into the past by an easy and natural transition, and our attention is called to a new series of events.
Verse 3 And I will give power unto My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
The period of "a thousand two hundred and three score days" is variously referred to in the Scriptures. It appears in three forms:
As 1260 days in this verse and Revelation 12: 6.
As 42 months in Revelation 11: 2 and 13: 5.
As 3 1/2 times in Daniel 7: 25 and 12: 7, and Revelation 12: 14.
These all refer to the same period and can be easily be calculated. A time is a year, as is evident from Daniel 11:13, marginal reading. A year has twelve months, and a Biblical month contains thirty days. Thus we have the following:
1 year of 12 months at 30 days - - - - 360 days
3 1/2 years, or times, of 360 days - - - - 1260 days
42 months of 30 days - - - - - - - - 1260 days
A year made up of 12 months will be readily conceded, but that the month has 30 days needs perhaps to be demonstrated. This can readily be seen by referring to the record of the flood in Genesis 7 and 8. There we learn the following:
1. That the flood came on the seventeenth day of the second month. (Genesis 7: 11.)
2. That the waters subsided on the seventeenth day of the seventh month. (Genesis 8: 4.)
3. That the flood continued for five months--form the second to the seventh month.
Reference to Genesis 7: 24 reveals the fact that "the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days." Our calculation showed five months. This text mentions 150 days; hence we have five months equaling 150 days, or 30 days to a month.
Thus we have a definite measure for calculating the prophetic periods, bearing in mind that in prophecy a day is equal to a year of ordinary time.
The Two Witnesses.--During this time of 1260 years the witnesses are in a state of sackcloth, or obscurity, and God gives them power to endure and maintain their testimony through that dark and dismal period. But who or what are these witnesses?
Verse 4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
Evident allusion is here made to Zechariah 4: 11-14, where it is implied that the two olive trees are taken to represent the word of God. David testifies, "The entrance of Thy words giveth light;" and, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psalm 119: 130, 105. Written testimony is stronger than oral. Jesus declared of the Old Testament Scriptures, "They are they which testify of Me." John 5: 39.
Says George Croly: "The 'Two Witnesses' are the Old and New Testaments. . . . The essential purpose of the Scriptures is to give witness to the mercy and verity of God. Our Lord commands, 'Search the Scriptures, . . . they are they which testify bear witness of Me.' This was addressed to the Jews, and described the character and office of the Old Testament. The New Testament is similarly pronounced the giver of testimony. 'This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations.' (Matthew 24: 14.)" 1
These declarations and considerations are sufficient to sustain the conclusion that the Old and New Testaments are Christ's two witnesses.
Verse 5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
To hurt the word of God is to oppose, corrupt, or pervert its testimony, and turn people away from it. Against those who do this work, fire proceedeth out of their mouth to devour them, that is, judgment of fire is pronounced in that word against such. It declares that they will have their punishment in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. (Malachi 4: 1; Revelation 20: 15; 22: 18, 19.)
Verse 6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
In what sense have these witnesses power to shut heaven, turn waters to blood, and bring plagues on the earth? Elijah shut heaven so that it did not rain for three years and a half, but he did by the word of the Lord. Moses by the word of the Lord turned the waters of Egypt to blood. Just as these judgments, recorded in their testimony, have been fulfilled, so will every threatening and judgment pronounced by them against any people surely be accomplished.
"As often as they will" means that as often as judgments are recorded on their pages to take place, so often they will come to pass. An instance of this the world is yet to experience in the infliction of the seven last plagues.
Verse 7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
"When they shall have finished their testimony," that is, "in sackcloth." the sackcloth state ended, or as elsewhere expressed the days of persecution were shortened (Matthew 24: 22), before the period itself expired. "A 'beast' in prophecy, denotes a kingdom, or power. (See Daniel 7: 17, 23.) The question now arises, When did the sackcloth state of the witnesses close? And did such a kingdom as described make war on them at the time spoken of? If we are correct in fixing upon A.D. 583 as the time of the commencement of the sackcloth state, forty-two months being the 1260 prophetic days, or years, would bring us down to A.D. 1798. About this time, then, did such a kingdom as described appear, and make war on them, etc.? Mark! this beast, or kingdom, is out of the bottomless pit--no foundation--an atheistical power--'spiritually Egypt.' (See Exodus 5: 2: 'Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.') Here is atheism. Did any kingdom, about 1798 manifest the same spirit?--Yes, France; she denied the being of God in her national capacity, and made war on the 'Monarchy of heaven.' " 2
"In the year 1793, . . . the gospel was, by a solemn act of the Legislature and the people abolished in France. The indignities offered to the actual copies of the Bible were unimportant after this; their life in their doctrines, and the extinction of the doctrines is the extinction of the Bible. By the decree of the French Government, declaring that the nation acknowledged no God, the Old and New Testaments were slain throughout the limits of Republican France. But contumelies to the Sacred Books could not have been wanting, in the general plunder of every place of worship. In Lyons they were dragged at the tail of an ass in a procession through the streets. . . .
"On the 1st of November, 1793, Gobet, with the Republican priests of Paris, had thrown off the gown, and abjured Religion. On the 11th, a 'Grand Festival,' dedicated to 'Reason and Truth,' was celebrated in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which had been desecrated, and been named 'the Temple of Reason;' a pyramid was erected in the center of the Church, surmounted by a temple, inscribed 'To philosophy.' The torch of 'Truth' was on the altar of 'Reason' spreading light, etc. The National Convention and all the authorities attended at this burlesque and insulting ceremony." 3
Spiritual Sodom.--" 'Spiritually' this power 'is called Sodom.' What was the characteristic sin of Sodom? Licentiousness. Did France have this character? She did; fornication was established by law during the period spoken of. 'Spiritually' the place was 'where our Lord was crucified.' Was this true in France? It was, in more senses than one. First, in 1572 a plot was laid in France to destroy all the pious Huguenots; and in one night, fifty thousand of them were murdered in cold blood, and the streets of Paris literally ran with blood. Thus our Lord was 'spiritually crucified' in His members. Again, the watch-word and motto of the French Infidels was, 'CRUSH THE WRETCH,' meaning Christ. Thus it may be truly said, 'where our Lord was crucified.' The very spirit of the bottomless pit' was poured out in that wicked nation.
"But did France 'make war' on the Bible? She did; and in 1793 a decree passed the French Assembly forbidding the Bible, and under that decree the Bibles were gathered and burned, and every possible mark of contempt heaped upon them, and all institutions of the Bible abolished; the Sabbath was blotted out, and every tenth day substituted for mirth and profanity. Baptism and the communion were abolished. The being of God was denied; and death pronounced to be an eternal sleep. The Goddess of Reason was set up, in the person of a vile woman, and publicly worshiped. Surely here is a power that exactly answers the prophecy." 4 This point will be further developed in the comments on the next verse.
Verse 9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.
"The language of this verse denotes the feelings of other nations than the one committing the outrage on the witnesses. They would see what war infidel France had made on the Bible, but would not be led nationally to engage in the wicked work, nor suffer the murdered witnesses to be buried, or put out of sight among themselves, though they lay dead three days and a half, that is, three years and a half, in France. No; this very attempt of France served to arouse Christians everywhere to put forth a new exertion in behalf of the Bible, as we shall presently see." 5
Verse 10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
"This denotes the joy those felt who hated the Bible, or were tormented by it. Great was the joy of infidels everywhere for awhile. But 'the triumphing of the wicked is short;' so was it in France, for their war on the Bible and Christianity had well-nigh swallowed them all up. They set out to destroy Christ's 'two witnesses,' but they filled France with blood and horror, so that they were horror-struck at the result of their wicked deeds, and were glad to remove their impious hands from the Bible." 6
Verse 11 And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them..
Witnesses Restored.--"In 1793, the decree passed the French Assembly suppressing the Bible. Just three years after, a resolution was introduced into the Assembly going to supersede the decree, and giving toleration to the Scriptures. That resolution lay on the table six months, when it was taken up, and passed without a dissenting vote. Thus, in just three years and a half, the witnesses 'stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon them which saw them.' Nothing but the appalling results of the rejection of the Bible could have induced France to take her hands off these witnesses." 7
"On the 17th of June, Camille Jourdan, in the 'Council of Five Hundred,' brought up the memorable report on the 'Revision of the laws relative to religious worship.' It consisted of a number of propositions, abolishing alike the Republican restrictions on Popish worship, and the Popish restrictions on Protestant.
"1. That all citizens might buy or hire edifices for the free exercise of religious worship.
"2. That all congregations might assemble by the sound of bells.
"3. That no test or promise of any sort unrequired from other citizens should be required of the ministers of those congregations.
"4. That any individual attempting to impede, or in any way interrupt the public worship should be fined, up to 500 livres, and not less than 50; and that if the interruption proceeded form the constituted authorities, such authorities should be fined double the sum.
"5. That entrance to assemblies for the purpose of religious worship should be free for all citizens.
"6. That all other laws concerning religious worship should be repealed.
"Those regulations, in comprehending the whole state of worship of France, were, in fact, a peculiar boon to Protestantism. Popery was already in sight of full restoration. But Protestantism, crushed under the burthen of the laws of Louis XIV, and unsupported by the popular belief, required the direct support of the state to 'stand on its feet.' The Report of the Church; the old prohibitions to hold public worship, to possess places of worship, to have ingress, etc.
"From that period the Church has been free in France. . . .
"The Church and the Bible had been slain in France from November, 1793 till June, 1797. The three years and a half were expended, and the Bible, so long and so sternly repressed before, was placed in honor, and was openly the book of free Protestantism!" 8
Verse 12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
" 'Ascended up to heaven.'--To understand this expressions, see Daniel 4: 22: 'Thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven.' Here we see that the expression signifies great exaltation. Have the Scriptures attained to such a state of exaltation as here indicated, since France made war upon them?--They have. Shortly after, the British Bible Society was organized 1804; then followed the American Bible Society 1816; and these, with their almost innumerable auxiliaries, are scattering the Bible everywhere." 9 Before 1804 the Bible had been printed and circulated in fifty languages.
"Up to the end of December, 1942, the Bible in whole or in part has been translated into 1,058 languages and dialects."
No other book approaches the Bible in inexpensiveness and the number of copies circulated. The American bible Society reported having printed and circulated, in whole, or in part, 7,696,739 portions in 1940; 8,096,069, in 1941; and 6,254,642, in 1942. The British and Foreign Bible Society reported for the year ending in the middle of 1941 a circulation of 11,017,334 copies; and in 1942, 7,120,000 copies.
A conservative estimate places the number of Bibles printed annually by commercial houses at six million. Hence the annual output of Bibles and portions has reached the enormous total of from twenty-five to thirty million copies a year.
From its organization up to and including 1942, the American Bible Society had issued 321,951,266 copies; and the British and Foreign Bible Society up to March, 1942, had issued 539,664,024 copies, making a total of 861,600,000 copies put out by these two societies alone. The American Bible Society said in May, 1940: "It is that nine tenths of the 2,000,000,000 people in the world might now, if they turned to the Bible, hear it read in a language they understand." The Bible is exalted as above all price, as, next to His Son, the most invaluable blessing of God to man, and as the glorious testimony concerning that son. Yes; the Scriptures may truly be said to be exalted "to heaven in a cloud," a cloud being an emblem of heavenly elevation.
Verse 13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
"What city? (See Revelation 17: 18: 'The woman which thou sawest is that great city which reigneth over the kings kingdoms of the earth.') That city is the papal Roman power. France is one of the ' ten horns' that gave 'their power and strength unto the papal beast;' or is one of the ten kingdoms that arose out of the Western Empire of Rome, as indicated by the ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar's image, Daniel's ten-horned beast Daniel 7: 24, and John's ten-horned dragon. Revelation 12: 3. France, then, was 'a tenth part of the city,' and was one of the strongest ministers of papal vengeance; but in this revolution it 'fell,' and with it fell the last civil messenger of papal fury. 'And in the earthquake were slain of men margin, names of men seven thousand.' France made war, in here revolution of 1798 1789 and onward, on all titles and nobility. . . . 'And the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.' Their God-dishonoring and Heaven-defying work filled France with such scenes of blood, carnage, and horror, as made even the infidels themselves to tremble, and stand aghast; and the 'remnant' that escaped the horrors of that hour 'gave glory to God--not willingly, but the God of heaven caused this 'wrath of man to praise Him,' by giving all the world to see that those who make war on heaven make graves for themselves; thus glory redounded to God by the very means that wicked men employed to tarnish that glory." 10
Verse 14 The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.
The Trumpets Resumed.--The series of seven trumpets is here again resumed. The second woe ended with the sixth trumpet, August 11, 1840, and the third woe occurs under the sounding of the seventh trumpet, which began in 1844.
Then where are we? "Behold!" that is to say, mark it well, "the third woe cometh quickly." The fearful scenes of the second woe are past, and we are now under the sounding of the trumpet that brings the third and last woe. Shall we now look for peace and safety, a temporal millennium, a thousand years of righteousness and prosperity on earth? Rather let us earnestly pray the Lord to awaken a slumbering world.
Verse 15 And the seventh angel sounded; and 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. 16 And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, 17 saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned.
From the fifteenth verse to the end of the chapter, we seem to be carried over the ground in three distinct times from the sounding of the seventh angel to the end. In the verses here quoted, the prophet glances forward to the full establishment of the kingdom of God. Although the seventh trumpet has begun to sound, it may not yet be a fact that the great voices in heaven have proclaimed that the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, unless it be in anticipation of the speedy accomplishment of this event. But the seventh trumpet, like the preceding six, covers a period of time, and the transfer of the kingdoms from earthly powers to Him whose right it is to reign, is the principal event to occur in the early years of its sounding. Hence this event, to the exclusion of all else, here engages the mind of the prophet. (See remarks on verse 19.) In the next verse John goes back and takes up intervening events.
Verse 18 And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldst give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great; and shouldst destroy them which destroy the earth.
"The Nations Were Angry."--Beginning with the spontaneous outburst of revolutions in Europe in 1848, the anger of nations toward one another has been constantly increasing. Jealousy and hatred among nations has been the rule rather than the exception. Particularly has this been manifested in the two world wars of the twentieth century, when it seemed that men would be willing to annihilate whole nations in the heat of their anger.
Here are the exact words of a Harvard professor:
"The twentieth century, so far, has been the bloodiest period and one of the most turbulent periods--and therefore one of the cruelest and lest humanitarian --in the history of Western civilization and perhaps in the chronicles of mankind in general." 11
"Thy Wrath Is Come."--The wrath of god for the present generation is filled up in the seven last plagues (Revelation 15: 1), which consequently must here be referred to, and which are soon to be poured out upon the earth.
"The Time of the Dead, That They Should Be Judged."--The great majority of the dead, that is, the wicked, are still in their graves after the visitation of the plagues, and the close of the gospel age. A work of judgment, of allotting to each one the punishment due because of his sins, is carried on by the saints in conjunction with Christ during the one thousand years following the first resurrection. (1 Corinthians 6: 2; Revelation 20: 4.) Inasmuch as this judgment of the dead follows the wrath of God, or the seven last plagues, it would seem necessary to refer it to the one thousand years of judgment upon the wicked, above mentioned; for the investigative judgement takes place before the plagues are poured out.
"Thou Shouldst Give Reward Unto Thy Servants the Prophets."--These will enter upon their reward at the second coming of Christ, for He brings their reward with Him. (Matthew 16: 27; Revelation 22: 12.) The full reward of the saints, however, is not reached until they enter upon the possession of the new earth. (Matthew 25: 34.)
Punishment of the Wicked.--"Shouldst destroy them which destroy the earth," refers to the time when all the wicked, who have literally devastated vast regions and wantonly destroyed human life, will be forever devoured by those purifying fires from God out of heaven. (2 Peter 3: 7; Revelation 20: 9.) Thus the seventh trumpet reaches to the end of the one thousand years. Momentous, startling, yet joyous thought! The trumpet now sounding sees the final destruction of the wicked, and the saints clothed in a glorious immortality, safely located on the earth made new.
Verse 19 And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
The Temple Opened.--Once more the prophet carries us back to the beginning of the trumpet. After the introduction of the seventh trumpet in verse 15, the first great event that comes to mind of the seer is the transfer of the kingdom from earthly to heavenly rule. God takes to Him His great power, and forever crushes the rebellion of this revolted earth, establishes Christ upon His own throne, and remains Himself supreme over all. We are next referred back to the state of the nations, the judgment to fall upon them, and the final destiny of both saints and sinners. (Verse 18.) After this field of vision has been scanned, our attention is called back once more in the verse now under notice, to the close of the priesthood of Christ, the last scene in the work of mercy for a guilty world.
The temple is opened, and the second apartment of the sanctuary is entered. We know it is the holy of holies that is here opened, for the ark is seen; and in that apartment alone the ark was deposited. This took place at the end of the 2300 days, when the sanctuary was to be cleansed. (Daniel 8: 14.) At that time the prophetic periods ended and the seventh angel began to sound. Since 1844, the people of God have seen by faith the open door in heaven, and the ark of God's testament within. They are endeavoring to keep every precept of the holy law written upon the tables deposited there. That the tables of the law are there, just as they were in the ark in the sanctuary erected by Moses, is evident from the terms which John uses in describing the ark. He calls it the "ark of His testament."
The ark was called the ark of the covenant, or testament, because it was made for the express purpose of containing the tables of the testimony, or ten commandments. (Exodus 25: 16, 31: 18; Deuteronomy 10: 2, 5.) It was put to no other use, and owed its name solely to the fact that it contained the tables of the law. If it did not contain the tables, it would not be the ark of God's testament, and could not truthfully be so called. Yet John, beholding the ark in heaven under the sounding of the seventh trumpet, still calls it the "ark of His testament," affording unanswerable proof that the law is still there, unaltered in one jot of tittle from the copy which for a time was committed to the care of men in the typical ark of the tabernacle during the time of Moses.
The followers of the prophetic word have also received the reed, and are measuring the temple, the altar, and those that worship therein. (Revelation 11: 1.) They are uttering their last prophecy before nations, peoples, and tongues. (Revelation 10: 11.) The drama will soon close with the lightnings, thunderings, voices, the earthquake, and great hail, which will constitute nature's last convulsion before all things are made new at the close of the thousand years. (Revelation 21: 5.) (See comments on Revelation 16: 17-21.)
1 George Croly, The Apocalypse of St. John, p. 164.
2 George Storrs, Midnight Cry, May 4, 1843, Vol. IV, Nos. 5, 6, p. 47.
3 George Croly, The Apocalypse of St. John, pp. 175-177.
4 George Storrs, Midnight Cry, May 4, 1843, Vol. IV, Nos. 5, 6, p. 47.
8 George Croly, The Apocalypse of St. John, pp. 181-183.
9 George Storrs, Midnight Cry, May 4, 1843, Vol. IV, Nos. 5, 6, p. 47.
10 Ibid., p. 48.
11 Pitirim A. Sorokin, Social and Cultural Dynamics, Vol. III, p. 487.