Revelation 11
Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
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.
Ch. 11:1-14.] The measurement of the temple of God. The two witnesses: their testimony, death, resurrection, and assumption into heaven: the earthquake, and its consequences.

This passage may well be called, even more than that previous one, ch. 10:1 ff., the crux interpretum; as it is undoubtedly one of the most difficult in the whole Apocalypse. Referring to the histories of apocalyptic exegesis for an account of the various interpretations, I will, as I have done in similar cases, endeavour to lay down a few landmarks, which may serve for guidance at least to avoid inconsistency, if we cannot do more. And I will remark, 1) that we are not bound to the hard “wooden” literal sense so insisted on in our day by some of the modern German Expositors. I would strongly recommend any one who takes that view, who will have Jerusalem = nothing but Jerusalem, and confine the two witnesses to two persons bodily appearing there, to read through the very unsatisfactory and shuffling comment of Düsterdieck here: the result of which is, that finding, as he of course does, many discrepancies between this and our Lord’s prophecy of the same destruction of Jerusalem, he is driven to the refuge that while our Lord describes matters of fact, St. John idealizes the catastrophe, setting it forth not as it really took place, but according to its inner connexion with the final accomplishment of the mystery of God, and correspondently to the hope which God’s Old Testament people possessed as contrasted with the heathen power of this world, which abides in “Babylon.” But really, if we have come thus far by fighting for the literal interpretation, why not a little further? Or rather why so far? If “Babylon” is the abode of the world, why not “Jerusalem” of the church? If our interpreter, maintaining the literal sense, is allowed so far to “idealize,” as to exempt the temple of God itself (ver. 1) from a destruction which we know overtook it, and nine-tenths of the city (ver. 13) from an overthrow which destroyed it all, surely there is an end to the meaning of words. If Jerusalem here is simply Jerusalem, and the prophecy regards her overthrow by the Romans, and especially if this passage is to be made such use of as to set aside the testimony of Irenæus as to the date of the Apocalypse by the stronger testimony of the Apocalypse itself (so Düsterd. from Lücke), then must every particular be shewn to tally with known history; or if this cannot be done, at least it must be shewn that none contradicts it. If this cannot be done, then we may fairly infer that the prophecy has no such reference, or only remotely, here and there, and not as its principal subject. 2) Into whatever difficulty we may be led by the remark, it is no less true, that the πόλις ἡ ἁγία of ver. 2 cannot be the same as the πόλις ἡ μεγάλη of ver. 8. This has been felt by the literal interpreters, and they have devised ingenious reasons why the holy city should afterwards be called the great city: so De Wette, “he named Jerusalem the great city, because he can no more call her holy after her desecration” (but he need not therefore call her great, by which epithet she is never called)—Düsterd., “because it is impossible in one breath to call a city ‘holy,’ and ‘Sodom and Egypt’ ” (most true: then must we not look for some other city than one which this very prophecy has called holy?). So far Joachim says well, “Veruntamen quod ait in plateis civitatis magnæ, non satis videtur facere pro eodem intellectu (the literal). Nunquam enim magna civitas forte legitur, sed magis Nineve et Babylon magnæ civitates dictæ sunt: nimirum quia multi sunt vocati, pauci vero electi.” His other reason see in the interpretation below. 3) We are compelled, if I am not mistaken, to carry the above considerations somewhat further, by the very conditions of the prophecy itself. For it is manifestly and undeniably of an anticipatory character. It is not, and cannot be, complete in itself. The words of ver. 7, τὸ θηρίον τὸ ἀναβαῖνον ἐκ τῆς ἀβύσσου, bear no meaning where they stand, but require, in order to be understood at all, to be carried on into the succeeding visions of ch. 13 ff. And if into those visions, then into a period when this wild-beast has received power from the dragon,—when, as in ch. 13:7, he makes war with the saints and conquers them, and all on earth except the elect are worshipping him. 4) Let us observe the result as affecting our interpretation. We are necessarily carried on by the very terms of our present compendious prophecy, into the midst of another prophecy, far more detailed and full of persons and incidents: of one which has its μεγάλη πόλις, its ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, its προσκυνοῦντες ἐν αὐτῷ, its μαρτυρία Ἰησοῦ, and other coincident particulars. What inference does a sound principle of interpretation force upon us? What, if not this—that our present compendious prophecy, as in the particular of the beast that comes out of the abyss, so in its other features, must be understood as giving in summary, and introducing, that larger one? and consequently, that its terms are to be understood by those of that larger one, not servilely and literally where they stand? And observe, this is deduced from the very necessity of the case itself, as shewn in ver. 7, not from any system throwing its attraction forward and biassing our views. We cannot understand this prophecy at all, except in the light of those that follow: for it introduces by anticipation their dramatis personæ. 5) If I mistake not, we thus gain much light on the difficulties of this prophecy. If it is a compendium of the more detailed prophecies which follow, opening the great series regarding God’s church, and reaching forward to the time of the seventh trumpet, then its separate parts, so hard to assign on any other view, at once fall into their places. Then, e. g. we at once know what is meant by the temple and its worshippers, viz. that these expressions are identical in reference with those others in the subsequent prophecy which point out an elect remnant, a Goshen in Egypt, a Zoar from Sodom, a number who do not worship the wild-beast and his image, who are not defiled with women, &c. And so of the rest. 6) It will then be on this principle that I shall attempt the exposition of this difficult prophecy. Regarding it as a summary of the more detailed one which follows, I shall endeavour to make the two cast light on one another: searching for the meaning of the symbols here used in their fuller explanation there, and gaining perhaps some further insight into meanings there from expressions occurring here.

1, 2.] Command to measure the temple, but not the outer court, which is given to the Gentiles. And there was given to me (by whom, is not said, but it is left indefinite, as at ch. 6:11, 8:2) a reed like to a staff (see reff.) saying (λέγων is out of the construction, and indefinite: as in ch. 4:1. , in Catena, imagines that it is the reed that speaks, and builds an allegorical interpretation on the idea: πῶς γὰρ ὁ κάλαμος ἄψυχος ὢν ἔλεγεν Ἔγειραι κ.τ.λ.; ἐκ τούτου οὖν δείκνυται, ἀγγελικῇ συνέσει μετρεῖσαι τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ. And so in our own time, remarkably enough, Bp. Wordsworth: “The Reed speaks: it is inspired: the Spirit is in it: it is the Word of God. And it measures the Church: that is, the Canon of Scripture is the rule of faith.” (Thus in his Lectures on the Apocalypse. In his notes ad loc., he treats λέγων as absolute.)), Arise (ἔγειρε does not necessarily imply that the Apostle was kneeling before: see reff.) and measure the temple of God and the altar (apparently, the altar of incense: as that alone stood in the ναός. But perhaps we must not be too minute in particularizing), and them that worship in it (see the previous remarks on this prophecy. The measuring here is evidently for the purpose of taking account of, understanding the bearing and dimensions of, that which is to be measured; see ch. 21:15, where the heavenly Jerusalem is measured by the angel. But here two questions arise: 1) What is that which is measured? and 2) when does the measuring take place? 1) I have no doubt that, as above hinted, the ναὸς τ. θεοῦ and its θυσιαστήριον are to be here taken symbolically, as the other principal features of the prophecy: and to one believing this, there can be but little further doubt as to what meaning he shall assign to the terms. Thus understood, they can only bear one meaning: viz., that of the Church of the elect servants of God, every where in this book symbolized by Jews in deed and truth. The society of these, as a whole, is the ναός, agreeably to Scripture symbolism elsewhere, e. g. 1Corinthians 3:16, 1Corinthians 3:17, and is symbolized by the inner or holy place of the Jerusalem temple, in and among which they as true Israelites and priests unto God, have a right to worship and minister. These are they who, properly speaking, alone are measured: estimated again and again in this book by tale and number—partakers in the first resurrection,—the Church of the first-born. Then as to our question 2), it is one which, so far as I know, has not engaged the attention of expositors. When a command is elsewhere in this book given to the Seer, we may observe that his fulfilment of it is commonly indicated. He is commanded to write, and the writing before us proves his obedience. He is ordered to take the little book, καὶ ἀπῆλθον κ.τ.λ. But of the fulfilment by him of this command, ἔγειρε καὶ μέτρησον, no hint appears to be given. The voice goes on continuously, until it melts imperceptibly into the narrative of the vision. After this, we hear no more of the measuring, till another and more glorious building is measured in ch. 21. This being so, either 1) which is inconceivable, the measurement does not take place at all, or, 2) which is hardly probable, it takes place and no result is communicated to us, or 3) the result of it is found in the subsequent prophecies: in the minute and careful distinctions between the servants of God and those who receive the mark of the wild-beast—in all those indications which point out to us the length and breadth and depth and height, both of faith, and of unfaithfulness). And the court which is outside the temple (i. e. apparently, every thing except the ναός itself: not merely the outer court or court of the Gentiles. That only the ναός itself, in the strictest sense, is to be measured, is significant for the meaning above maintained) cast out (of thy measurement. But these strong words, conveying so slight a meaning, doubtless bear in them a tinge also of the stronger meaning, “reckon as profane,” “account not as included in the sacred precinct”), and measure not it (αὐτήν has a slight emphasis: otherwise it need not have been expressed), because it was given (viz. at the time when the state of things subsisting in the vision came in: or, in God’s apportionment) to the Gentiles (if the ναός and the προσκυνοῦντες represent the elect church of the first-born, the ἔθνη will correspond to those who are outside this sacred enclosure: those over whom eventually the millennial reign of ch. 20 shall be exercised: those from among whom shall spring the enmity against God’s church, but among whom also shall be many who shall fear, and give God glory, cf. ver. 13. Of these is formed the outward seeming church, mixed up with the world; in them, though not in each case commensurate with them, is Babylon, is the reign of the wild-beast, the agency of the false prophet: they are the κατοικοῦντες τὴν γῆν or ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, the material on which judgment and mercy are severally exercised in the rest of this book (cf. especially ver. 18), as contrasted with God’s own people, gathered and to be gathered out from among them), and they shall tread down (i. e. trample as conquerors, the outer church being in subjection to them: see reff. The other meaning, shall tread, merely, is of course included; but must not be made the prevalent one. The period named shall be one during which ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν βιάζεται, καὶ βιασταὶ ἁρπάζουσιν αὐτήν, Matthew 11:12) the holy city (Jerusalem, in the literal sense of the prophecy: the whole temple except the ναός itself being counted with the city outside) forty and two months (this period occurs in three forms in this book: 1) as forty-two months; see ch. 13:5: 2) as 1260 days = 42 months × 30, see ver. 3, ch. 12:6: 3) as time, times, and half a time = 3½ years, 3 × 360 + 180 = 1260 days, see ch.12:14. This latter designation is also found in Daniel 7:25, Daniel 12:7. With respect to these periods, I may say that, equal as they certainly seem to be, we have no right to suppose them, in any two given Cases, to be identical, unless the context requires such a supposition. For instance, in these two verses, 2 and 3, there is strong temptation to regard the two equal periods as coincident and identical: but it is plain that such a view is not required by the context; the prophecy contains no note of such coincidence, but may be very simply read without it, on the view that the two periods are equal in duration, but independent of one another: and the rather, that this prophecy, as has been already shewn, is of a compendious character, hereafter to be stated at large. I will further remark, and the reader will find this abundantly borne out by research into histories of apocalyptic exegesis, that no solution at all approaching to a satisfactory one has ever yet been given of any one of these periods. This being so, my principle is to regard them as being still among the things unknown to the Church, and awaiting their elucidation by the event. It is our duty to feel our way by all the indications which Scripture furnishes, and by the light which history, in its main and obvious salient events, has thrown on Scripture: and, when those fail us, to be content to confess our ignorance. An apocalyptic commentary which explains every thing, is self-convicted of error).

3-13.] The two witnesses: their testimony, death, resurrection, ascension: consequences on the beholders. The remarks just made are here especially applicable. No solution has ever been given of this portion of the prophecy. Either the two witnesses are literal,—two individual men,—or they are symbolical,—two individuals taken as the concentration of principles and characteristics, and this either in themselves, or as representing men who embodied those principles and characteristics. In the following notes I shall point out how far one, how far another of these views, is favoured by the text, and leave the reader to judge. And I will give to my two witnesses (the heavenly voice is still speaking in the name of Christ. That we must not press the μον to the inference that Christ himself speaks, is plain by ὅπου καὶ ὁ κύριος αὐτῶν ἐσταυρώθη below. The art. τοῖς seems as if the two witnesses were well known, and distinct in their individuality. The δυσίν is essential to the prophecy, and is not to be explained away. No interpretation can be right which does not, either in individuals, or in characteristic lines of testimony, retain and bring out this dualism. See further below. As regards the construction, δώσω is followed, not by an infin., but by the less usual apodosis, καὶ προφητεύσουσιν κ.τ.λ. Nothing need be supplied after δώσω, as is done by Lyra and Corn.-a-lap. (“constantiam et sapientiam”) and Beza (“sanctam civitatem,” which is decidedly wrong, seeing it is given to the Gentiles)), and they shall prophesy (προφητεύσουσιν here has generally been taken to mean, shall preach repentance. It may be so: but in ch. 10:11, the verb is used in its later and stricter sense of foretelling events, as in 1Peter 1:10; Jude 1:14. If their testimony consisted in denouncing judgment, the other would necessarily be combined with it) a thousand two hundred and sixty days (Düsterd. remarks that the fact of a period of the same length as the forty-two months being now expressed in days, implies that they will prophesy day by day throughout it. The reader will of course see, that the two questions, of these days being days or years, and of the individuality or the symbolical character of the witnesses, are mutually connected together. He will also bear in mind that it is a pure assumption that the two periods, the forty-two months and the 1260 days, coincide over the same space of time. The duration of time is that during which the power of Elijah’s prophecy shut up the heaven: viz. three years and six months: see Luke 4:25, and more on ver. 6 below) clothed in sackcloth (in token of need of repentance and of approaching judgment: see Isaiah 22:12; Jeremiah 4:8, Jeremiah 4:6:26; Jonah 3:5. Certainly this portion of the prophetic description strongly favours the individual interpretation. For first, it is hard to conceive how whole bodies of men and churches could be thus described: and secondly, the principal symbolical interpreters have left out, or passed very slightly, this important particular. One does not see how bodies of men who lived like other men (their being the victims of persecution is another matter), can be said to have prophesied clothed in sackcloth. It is to be observed that such was the garment of Elijah; see 2Kings 1:8, and cf. Matthew 3:4). These are the two olive trees and the two candlesticks which stand before the Lord of the earth (the whole from ref. Zech., to which the art. αἱ refers. But it is to be observed that while in Zech. we have the two ἐλαῖαι, and spoken of in the same terms as here, there is but one λυχνία, with its seven lights, which very seven lights, as there interpreted in ver. 10, are referred to in our ch. 4:5, 5:6. So that it is somewhat difficult to say, whence αἱ δύο λυχνίαι has come. The most probable view is that St. John has taken up and amplified the prophetic symbolism of Zechariah, carrying it on by the well-known figure of lights, as representing God’s testifying servants. Who the two “sons of oil” in the prophet were, whether Zerubbabel and Joshua, or the prophets Zechariah and Haggai, is of no import to our text here): and if any one be minded to harm them, fire goeth forth (the pres., of that which is habitual and settled, though yet future: see also on ver. 7 below) out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies (so Elijah, 2Kings 1:10 ff.; and so ran the word of promise to Jeremiah (ref.), ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ δέδωκα τοὺς λόγους μου εἰς τὸ στόμα σου πῦρ, καὶ τὸν λαὸν τοῦτον ξύλα, καὶ καταφάγεται αὐτούς: the two being here combined together. Cf. also Sir. 48:1, ἀνέστη Ἠλίας προφήτης ὡς πῦρ, καὶ ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ ὡς λαμπὰς ἐκαίετο); and if any one be minded to harm them, after this manner (see Sir. 48:3) he must be killed (this whole description is most difficult to apply, on the allegorical interpretation; as is that which follows. And as might have been expected, the allegorists halt and are perplexed exceedingly. The double announcement here seems to stamp the literal sense, and the εἴ τις and δεῖ αὐτὸν ἀποκτανθῆναι are decisive against any mere national application of the words (as Elliott). Individuality could not be more strongly indicated). These have (see on the pres. above) [the] power to shut the heaven, that the rain may not rain during the days of their prophecy (as did Elijah: the duration of the time also corresponding: see reff.): and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood (as had Moses, ref.), and to smite the earth with (the ἐν of investiture. See ref. 1 Kings, from which, applying to the plagues in Egypt, the expression is taken) every plague as often as they shall be minded (all this points out the spirit and power of Moses, combined with that of Elias. And undoubtedly, it is in these two directions that we must look for the two witnesses, or lines of witnesses. The one impersonates the law, the other the prophets. The one reminds us of the prophet whom God should raise up like unto Moses; the other of Elias the prophet, who should come before the great and terrible day of the Lord; ὁ καταγραφεὶς ἐν ἐλεγμοῖς εἰς καιρούς, κοπάσαι ὀργὴν πρὸ θυμοῦ, Sir, 48:10. But whether we are to regard these prophecies as to be fulfilled by individuals, or by lines of testimony, must depend entirely on the indications here given). And when they had finished (τελέσωσιν is a futurus exactus, implying, as plainly as words can imply it, that the whole period of their testimony will be at an end when that which is next said shall happen. All attempts of the allegorical expositors to escape this plain meaning of the words are in vain. Such is that of Mede, “when they shall be about finishing:” of Daubuz, “whilst they shall perform:” of Elliott, “when they shall have completed their testimony,” meaning thereby not the whole course of it, but any one complete delivery of it which others might have followed) their testimony, the wild-beast that cometh up out of the abyss (this is the first mention of the wild-beast; and the whole description, as remarked above, is anticipatory. The pres. part. ἀναβαῖνον gives simply designation, as so often: and is not to be interpreted future, as Elliott, “that is to ascend.” The character of the beast is that he ascendeth out of the abyss; just as the tempter of our Lord is called ὁ πειράζων, Matthew 4:3, though the narrative is in the past tense.

This wild-beast is evidently identical with that mentioned in ch. 17:8, of which the same term is used, ὃ μέλλει ἀναβαίνειν ἐκ τῆς ἀβύσσου: and if so, with that also which is introduced ch. 13:1 ff., as ἐκ τῆς θαλάσσης θηρίον ἀναβαῖνον, seeing that the same details, of the seven heads and ten horns, are ascribed to the two. But, though the appellation is anticipatory as far as this book is concerned, the beast spoken of was already familiar to its readers from Dan. 7.: see below) shall make war with them (see ref. Dan.), and shall conquer them and kill them. And their corpse (πτῶμα, das Gesaullene derselben, as Düsterd. gives it: “their wreck.” The singular is used, not for any mystical reason, as Wordsw. imagines (who interprets the two witnesses of the Old and New Testaments, and says, “The two witnesses have but one body. They twain are one flesh. The two Testaments are one”), but simply as above, because πτῶμα does not properly signify a dead body, but that which has fallen, be it of one, or of many. Below, where the context requires the separate corpses to be specified, the less proper meaning of πτῶμα is adopted, and we have the plural) (is) (the present is best to supply, on account of the verbs following, which are in the present, until we come to πέμψουσιν: and with which the portion relating to the corpses is bound up) upon the street (reff.) of the great city (not Jerusalem (see above), which is never called by this name: but the ἡ πόλις ἡ μεγάλη of the succeeding visions, of which this is anticipatory and compendious), namely, that which (ἥτις, not = ἡ, but specifying and particularizing) is called spiritually (i. e. allegorically; in a sense higher than the literal and obvious one. The only other place in which we find this usage of the word is in ref. 1 Cor., which see, and notes there) Sodom and Egypt (those Commentators who maintain that the literal Jerusalem is here meant, allege Isaiah 1:9 ff., and Ezekiel 16:48, as places where she is called Sodom. But the latter place is no example: for there Jerusalem is compared, in point of sinfulness, with her sisters, Samaria and Sodom, and is not called Sodom at all. And in Isaiah 1:9 ff., Isaiah 1:1) it is not Jerusalem, but the Jewish people in general (see also Isaiah 3:9) that are called by this name: and that 2) not so much in respect of depravity, as of the desolation of Judæa, which (vv. 7-9) almost equalled that of the devoted cities. And even supposing this to be a case in point, no instance can be alleged of Jerusalem being called Egypt, or any thing bearing such an interpretation. Whereas in the subsequent prophecy both these comparisons are naturally suggested with regard to the great city there mentioned: viz. that of Sodom by ch. 19:3, ὁ καπνὸς αὐτῆς ἀναβαίνει εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, compared with Genesis 19:28, and that of Egypt, and indeed Sodom also, by ch. 18:4 ff., ἐξέλθατε ἐξ αὐτῆς ὁ λαός μου, κ.τ.λ.), where their Lord also (as well as they: not the specific term ἐσταυρώθη, but the general fact of death by persecution, underlying it, being in the Writer’s mind) was crucified (these words have principally led those who hold the literal Jerusalem to be meant. But if, as I believe I have shewn, such an interpretation is forbidden by the previous words, then we must not fall back on an erroneous view on account of the apparent requirements of these words, but enquire whether by the light of the subsequent prophecy, which is an expansion of this, we may find some meaning for them in accordance with the preceding conditions. And this is surely not difficult to discover. If we compare ch. 18:24, καὶ ἐν αὐτῇ αἷμα προφητῶν κ. ἁγίων εὑρέθη κ. πάντων τῶν ἐσφαγμένων ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, with Matthew 23:35, ὅπως ἔλθῃ ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς πᾶν αἷμα δίκαιον ἐκχυννόμενον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, we shall find a wider ground than the mere literal Jerusalem on which to place the Lord’s own martyrdom and that of His saints. It is true, He was crucified at Jerusalem: but it is also true that He was crucified not in, but outside the city, and by the hands, not of Jews, but of Romans. The fact is that the literal Jerusalem, in whom was found the blood of all the saints who had been slain on earth, has been superseded by that wider and greater city, of which this prophecy speaks: and as the temple, in prophetic language, has become the church of God, so the outer city, in the same language, has become the great city which will be the subject of God’s final judgments. For those who consider this, there can be no hesitation in interpreting even this local designation also of this great city). And some from among (construction, see reff.) the peoples and tribes and languages and nations look upon (the prophetic history is carried on in the present, as in ch. 18:11 compared with ib. ver. 9, and elsewhere) their corpse (see above) three days and a half (on this period we may remark, that these 3½ days are connected by analogy with the periods previously mentioned: with the 1260 days and 42 months = 3½ years: and that in each case the half of the mystic number 7 enters. Also, that Elliott’s calculation of this period as 3½ years, by which he makes out that that period elapsed, “precisely, to a day,” between the ninth session of the Lateran council, and the posting up of the theses by Luther at Wittenberg,—and on the accuracy of which he exclaims, “O wonderful prophecy! O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the foreknowledge of God!”—labours under this fatal defect:—that whereas his 3 years, from May 5, 1514, to May 5, 1517, are years of 365 days, his half-year, from May 5, 1517, to Oct. 31, of the same year, is “180, or half 360 days:” i. e. wanting 2½ days of the time required according to that reckoning. I may observe, that in his Apocalypsis Alfordiana, p. 128, he has repeated this inconsistency), and do not permit (ἀφίουσιν, as ἤφιεν in Mark 1:34, Mark 11:16, is from the form ἀφίω. The same form occurs in Ecclesiastes 2:18; Philo, Leg. ad Cai. § 30, vol. ii., p. 576. See Winer, edn. 6, § 14. 3 [and Moulton’s note, p. 97. 2]) their corpses to be put into a tomb (the following exposition will hardly be credited: but is useful, as shewing how far away men can be led in forcing the sense in favour of a particular view. Wordsw. regards the two witnesses as the Old and New Testaments, and the beast that makes war with them as Papal Rome. On this clause, he says, “the original word here is μνήματα, not τάφους, and is to be rendered not graves, but monuments: i. e. she has laboured that the Two Witnesses may not be committed to the immortal monuments of Editions, Translations, and Expositions.” It will be hardly necessary to remind any N. T. student that μνῆμα never occurs in it in any sense but in the concrete one of a grave or tomb: see reff. The same is true of the LXX, where it occurs fifteen times. And again it is fatal to this strange exposition, that it is not the beast, but ἐκ τῶν λαῶν κ. φυλ. κ. γλ., who will not permit their bodies to be put into a tomb. It may also be remarked, that it is now to a Roman printing press that we owe our only edition of the oldest published codex of the Greek Old and New Testaments). And they that dwell upon the earth (see reff.: the godless world) rejoice over them (at their fall: ἐπί with dat., of the close juxtaposition which connects a mental affection with its object) and are glad and shall send gifts to one another (as on a day of festival, see reff.; and Winer, Realw. i. 411, art. Geschenke), because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt upon the earth (viz. by the plagues above mentioned, vv. 5, 6). And after the three days and half, the Spirit of life (not, a spirit: the whole diction is closely imitated from that used of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37:10, where A reads εἰσῆλθεν εἰς αὐτοὺς νεῦμα ζωῆς: and no inference as to indefiniteness can be drawn from the absence of the art. from such a word as πνεῦμα) from God (may belong to ζωῆς only; but much better to πνεῦμα ζωῆς taken as one word. The art. τό would strictly be required, but may well be wanting in later Greek) entered into them (the ἐν would be a pregnant construction: entered into, so as to be in), and they stood upon their feet (the very words of Ezek. l. c., but with one difference, the accus. πόδας, which, as remarked on ch. 4:2, is characteristic of our Writer at the first mention of a superimposition), and great fear fell upon those who beheld them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying to them, Come up hither. And they went up to heaven in the cloud (or, as we more commonly say in English, the clouds: viz. the cloud which ordinarily floats in the air; the mist: see ref.: not, as Wordsw., “the cloud of Christ’s glory:” nor needing, as Elliott, identification with any cloud previously mentioned in this book. But the ascension of the witnesses partakes of the character of His ascension. No attempt has been made to explain this ascension by those who interpret the witnesses figuratively of the Old and New Testaments or the like. The modern historical system, which can interpret such a Scripture phrase of “calling up to political ascendancy and power,” surely needs no refutation from me), and their enemies beheld them. And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city (the great city, as above) fell, and there were slain in the earthquake names of men (i. e. men themselves, the ὀνόματα shewing that the number is carefully and precisely stated, as if the name of each were recounted: see reff.: and more below) seven thousands (i. e. the number 7000. In every place of the 23 where χιλιάς occurs in the N. T., it signifies simply the numeral 1000, and never a chiliad, or a province, as Elliott, forcing the expression to mean, in his historical interpretation, the seven Dutch united provinces (so also Cocceius), which were lost to the Papacy at the Reformation. He also forces ὀνόματα ἀνθρώπων out of its idiomatic sense to import “titles of dignity and command,” Duchies, Marquislates, Lordships), and the rest (of the inhabitants of the city) became terrified, and gave glory (it would be entirely needsess to contend that ἔδωκαν belongs to the name subject as ἐγένοντο, viz. οἱ λοιποί, had not an attempt been made (Ell. ii. 466) to supply “the ascended witnesses” as a new subject. To say nothing of the inapplicability of the instances cited to justify such a view, our ch. 14:7 is decisive against it, where men are exhorted φοβήθητε τὸν θεὸν καὶ δότε αὐτῷ δόξαν: as also ch. 16:9, where the men tormented οὐ μετενόησαν δοῦναι αὐτῷ δόξαν. In fact, the giving glory to God is not equivalent in the Scriptures to thanking God, but is as Bengel notices, “character conversionis,” or at all events, the recognition of God. The exceptions to this are more apparent than real, e. g. Luke 17:18, where recognition is the main feature: ch. 4:9, where δόξαν does not stand alone. See also LXX, 1Kings 6:5.Jos 7:19Jos 7:19 is a remarkable example of the ordinary meaning of the phrase) to the God of heaven (an expression, see reff., confined to the later books of the O. T.).

14.] Transitional. The second woe is past (see on ch. 9:12): behold, the third woe cometh quickly (the episodical visions of ch. 10:1-11, 11:1-13, are finished: and the prophecy recurs to the plagues of the sixth trumpet, ch. 9:13-21. These formed the second woe: and upon these the third is to follow. But in actual relation, and in detail, it does not immediately follow. Instead of it, we have voices of thanksgiving in heaven, for that the hour of God’s kingdom and vengeance is come. The Seer is not yet prepared to set forth the nature of this taking of the kingdom, this reward to God’s servants, this destruction of the destroyers of the earth. Before he does so, another series of prophetic visions must be given, regarding not merely the dwellers on the earth, but the Church herself, her glory and her shame, her faithfulness and her apostasy. When this series has been given, then shall be declared in its fulness the manner and the process of the time of the end. And consequently as at the end of the vision of the seals, so here also. The sixth seal gave the immediately preceding signs of the great day—we were shewn in anticipatory episodes, the gathering of the elect and the multitude before the throne, and then the veil was dropt upon that series of visions and another began. And now God’s avenging judgments on the earth, in answer to the prayers of His saints, having reached their final point of accomplishment, and the armies of heaven having given solemn thanks for the hour being come, again the veil is dropt, and again a new procession of visions begins from the beginning. The third woe, so soon to come, is in narration deferred until all the various underplots, so to speak, of God’s Providence have been brought onward to a point ready for the great and final dénouement).

15-19.] The seventh trumpet. And the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were great voices in heaven (notice, a) that the seventh seal, the seventh trumpet, and the seventh vial, are all differently accompanied from any of the preceding series in each case. b) At each seventh member of the series we hear what is done, not on earth, but in heaven,—the half-hour’s silence, the song of thanksgiving, the voice from the temple and the throne, saying, “It is done.” c) At each seventh member likewise we have it related in the form of a solemn conclusion, 1) ἐγένοντο βρονταὶ καὶ φωναὶ καὶ ἀστραπαὶ καὶ σεισμός, ch. 8:5,—2) ἐγένοντο ἀστραπαὶ καὶ φωναὶ καὶ βρονταὶ καὶ σεισμὸς καὶ χάλαζα μεγάλη, ch. 11:19,—3) ἐγένοντο ἀστραπαὶ καὶ φωναὶ καὶ βρονταὶ, καὶ σεισμὸς ἐγένετο μέγας κ.τ.λ., ch. 16:18 ff. d) At each seventh member we have plain indication in the imagery or by direct expression, that the end is come, or close at hand: 1) by the imagery of the sixth seal, and the two episodes, preceding the seventh seal: 2) by the declaration here, ἦλθεν ὁ καιρὸς τῶν νεκρῶν κριθῆναι: 3) by the Γέγονεν sounding from the temple and the throne on the pouring out of the seventh vial. e) All this forms strong ground for inference, that the three series of visions are not continuous, but resumptive: not indeed going over the same ground with one another, either of time or of occurrence, but each evolving something which was not in the former, and putting the course of God’s Providence in a different light. It is true, that the seals involve the trumpets, the trumpets the vials: but it is not in mere temporal succession: the involution and inclusion are far deeper: the world-wide vision of the seals containing the cry for vengeance, out of which is evolved the series of the trumpets: and this again containing the episodical visions of the little book and the witnesses, out of which are evolved the visions of ecclesiastical faithfulness and apostasy which follow), saying (whose these voices were, is not specified: but we may fairly assume them to have been those of the armies of heaven and the four living-beings, as distinguished from the twenty-four elders which follow.

For the masc. part., see ref.), The Kingdom of the world (i. e. over this world: ἡ βασιλεία abstract. In the received text, reading αἱ βασιλείαι, it is the kingdoms, concrete, of the world) is become (aor., but alluding to the result of the whole series of events past, and not to be expressed in English except by a perfect) our Lord’s and of His Christ (no supply, such as “the Kingdom,” is required: nor is this the case even in the rec. text. The gen. in both cases is one merely of possession), and He (no emphasis on He, as we are almost sure to lay on it, perhaps from the accent unavoidable in the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel) shall reign to the ages of the ages (this announcement necessarily belongs to the time close on the millennial reign: and this is no more than we might expect from the declaration of the strong angel in ch. 10:7). And the twenty-four elders (representing the church in glory) which before God sat upon their thrones (or, omitting the οἱ, sitting upon their thrones before God), fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give thanks to Thee, O Lord God the Almighty (this ascription of thanks is the return for the answer to the prayers of the saints furnished by the judgments of the trumpets), who art and wast (for construction, see reff.), because Thou hast taken Thy great might and hast reigned (on the aor., see above). And the nations were angry (see ref. Ps.), and Thine anger came, and the time of the dead to be judged (another indication that the end is at hand when these words are spoken), and (the time) to give their reward to Thy servants the prophets (see reff. and especially Matthew 10:41, to which reference seems to be made), and to the saints, and to them that fear Thy name, the small and the great (the three terms together include the whole church), and to destroy the destroyers of (so is the pres. part. best rendered) the earth (all this looks onward to judgments and acts of God yet to come when the words are spoken. The thanksgiving is not that God hath done all this, but that the hour is come for it all to take place. Before it does, another important series of visions has to be unfolded).

19.] Concluding, and transitional. And the temple of God was opened in the heaven (or, according to the apparently grammatical correction of , “the temple of God which was in the heaven was opened”), and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple (the episode of ch. 11:1 ff. began with measuring the temple of God, the shadow of things in the heavens: and now, when the time is come for the judgments there indicated to be fulfilled, that temple itself in the heavens is laid open. The ark of the Covenant is seen, the symbol of God’s faithfulness in bestowing grace on His people, and inflicting vengeance on His people’s enemies. This is evidently a solemn and befitting inauguration of God’s final judgments, as it is a conclusion of the series pointed out by the trumpets, which have been inflicted in answer to the prayers of His saints. It is from this temple that the judgments proceed forth (cf. ch. 14:15, 17, 15:5 ff., 16:17); from His inmost and holiest place that those acts of vengeance are wrought which the great multitude in heaven recognize as faithful and true, ch. 19:2. The symbolism of this verse, the opening for the first time of the heavenly temple, also indicates of what nature the succeeding visions are to be: that they will relate to God’s covenant people and His dealings with them): and there were lightnings and voices and thunderings and an earthquake and a great hail (the solemn salvos, so to speak, of the artillery of heaven, with which each series of visions is concluded: see this commented on above at the beginning of this section).

Henry Alford - Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

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