Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
Re 11:1-19. Measurement of the Temple. The Two Witnesses' Testimony: Their Death, Resurrection, and Ascension: The Earthquake: The Third Woe: The Seventh Trumpet Ushers in Christ's Kingdom. Thanksgiving of the Twenty-four Elders.
This eleventh chapter is a compendious summary of, and introduction to, the more detailed prophecies of the same events to come in the twelfth through twentieth chapters. Hence we find anticipatory allusions to the subsequent prophecies; compare Re 11:7, "the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit" (not mentioned before), with the detailed accounts, Re 13:1, 11; 17:8; also Re 11:8, "the great city," with Re 14:8; 17:1, 5; 18:10.
1. and the angel stood—omitted in A, Vulgate, and Coptic. Supported by B and Syriac. If it be omitted, the "reed" will, in construction, agree with "saying." So Wordsworth takes it. The reed, the canon of Scripture, the measuring reed of the Church, our rule of faith, speaks. So in Re 16:7 the altar is personified as speaking (compare Note, see on Re 16:7). The Spirit speaks in the canon of Scripture (the word canon is derived from Hebrew, "kaneh," "a reed," the word here used; and John it was who completed the canon). So Victorinus, Aquinas, and Vitringa. "Like a rod," namely, straight: like a rod of iron (Re 2:27), unbending, destroying all error, and that "cannot be broken." Re 2:27; Heb 1:8, Greek, "a rod of straightness," English Version, "a scepter of righteousness"; this is added to guard against it being thought that the reed was one "shaken by the wind" In the abrupt style of the Apocalypse, "saying" is possibly indefinite, put for "one said." Still Wordsworth's view agrees best with Greek. So the ancient commentator, Andreas of Cæsarea, in the end of the fifth century (compare Notes, see on Re 11:3, 4).
the temple—Greek, "naon" (as distinguished from the Greek, "hieron," or temple in general), the Holy Place, "the sanctuary."
the altar—of incense; for it alone was in "the sanctuary." (Greek, "naos"). The measurement of the Holy place seems to me to stand parallel to the sealing of the elect of Israel under the sixth seal. God's elect are symbolized by the sanctuary at Jerusalem (1Co 3:16, 17, where the same Greek word, "naos," occurs for "temple," as here). Literal Israel in Jerusalem, and with the temple restored (Eze 40:3, 5, where also the temple is measured with the measuring reed, the forty-first, forty-second, forty-third, and forty-fourth chapters), shall stand at the head of the elect Church. The measuring implies at once the exactness of the proportions of the temple to be restored, and the definite completeness (not one being wanting) of the numbers of the Israelite and of the Gentile elections. The literal temple at Jerusalem shall be the typical forerunner of the heavenly Jerusalem, in which there shall be all temple, and no portion exclusively set apart as temple. John's accurately drawing the distinction in subsequent chapters between God's servants and those who bear the mark of the beast, is the way whereby he fulfils the direction here given him to measure the temple. The fact that the temple is distinguished from them that worship therein, favors the view that the spiritual temple, the Jewish and Christian Church, is not exclusively meant, but that the literal temple must also be meant. It shall be rebuilt on the return of the Jews to their land. Antichrist shall there put forward his blasphemous claims. The sealed elect of Israel, the head of the elect Church, alone shall refuse his claims. These shall constitute the true sanctuary which is here measured, that is, accurately marked and kept by God, whereas the rest shall yield to his pretensions. Wordsworth objects that, in the twenty-five passages of the Acts, wherein the Jewish temple is mentioned, it is called hieron, not naos, and so in the apostolic Epistles; but this is simply because no occasion for mentioning the literal Holy Place (Greek, "naos") occurs in Acts and the Epistles; indeed, in Ac 7:48, though not directly, there does occur the term, naos, indirectly referring to the Jerusalem temple Holy Place. In addressing Gentile Christians, to whom the literal Jerusalem temple was not familiar, it was to be expected the term, naos, should not be found in the literal, but in the spiritual sense. In Re 11:19 naos is used in a local sense; compare also Re 14:15, 17; 15:5, 8.
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.
2. But—Greek, "And."
the court … without—all outside the Holy Place (Re 11:1).
leave out—of thy measurement, literally, "cast out"; reckon as unhallowed.
it—emphatic. It is not to be measured; whereas the Holy Place is.
given—by God's appointment.
unto the Gentiles—In the wider sense, there are meant here "the times of the Gentiles," wherein Jerusalem is "trodden down of the Gentiles," as the parallel, Lu 21:24, proves; for the same word is used here [Greek, "patein"], "tread under foot." Compare also Ps 79:1; Isa 63:18.
forty … two months—(Re 13:5). The same period as Daniel's "time, times, and half" (Re 12:14); and Re 11:3, and Re 12:6, the woman a fugitive in the wilderness "a thousand two hundred and threescore days." In the wider sense, we may either adopt the year-day theory of 1260 years (on which, and the papal rule of 1260 years, see on Da 7:25; Da 8:14; Da 12:11), or rather, regard the 2300 days (Da 8:14), 1335 days (Da 12:11, 12). 1290 days, and 1260 days, as symbolical of the long period of the Gentile times, whether dating from the subversion of the Jewish theocracy at the Babylonian captivity (the kingdom having been never since restored to Israel), or from the last destruction of Jerusalem under Titus, and extending to the restoration of the theocracy at the coming of Him "whose right it is"; the different epochs marked by the 2300, 1335, 1290, and 1260 days, will not be fully cleared up till the grand consummation; but, meanwhile, our duty and privilege urge us to investigate them. Some one of the epochs assigned by many may be right but as yet it is uncertain. The times of the Gentile monarchies during Israel's seven times punishment, will probably, in the narrower sense (Re 11:2), be succeeded by the much more restricted times of the personal Antichrist's tyranny in the Holy Land. The long years of papal misrule may be followed by the short time of the man of sin who shall concentrate in himself all the apostasy, persecution, and evil of the various forerunning Antichrists, Antiochus, Popery, just before Christ's advent. His time shall be THE RECAPITULATION and open consummation of the "mystery of iniquity" so long leavening the world. Witnessing churches may be followed by witnessing individuals, the former occupying the longer, the latter, the shorter period. The three and a half (1260 days being three and a half years of three hundred sixty days each, during which the two witnesses prophesy in sackcloth) is the sacred number seven halved, implying the Antichristian world-power's time is broken at best; it answers to the three and a half years' period in which Christ witnessed for the truth, and the Jews, His own people, disowned Him, and the God-opposed world power crucified Him (compare Note, see on Da 9:27). The three and a half, in a word, marks the time in which the earthly rules over the heavenly kingdom. It was the duration of Antiochus' treading down of the temple and persecution of faithful Israelites. The resurrection of the witnesses after three and a half days, answers to Christ's resurrection after three days. The world power's times never reach the sacred fulness of seven times three hundred sixty, that is, 2520, though they approach to it in 2300 (Da 8:14). The forty-two months answer to Israel's forty-two sojournings (Nu 33:1-50) in the wilderness, as contrasted with the sabbatic rest in Canaan: reminding the Church that here, in the world wilderness, she cannot look for her sabbatic rest. Also, three and a half years was the period of the heaven being shut up, and of consequent famine, in Elias' time. Thus, three and a half represented to the Church the idea of toil, pilgrimage, and persecution.
And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
3. I will give power—There is no "power" in the Greek, so that "give" must mean "give commission," or some such word.
my two witnesses—Greek, "the two witnesses of me." The article implies that the two were well known at least to John.
prophesy—preach under the inspiration of the Spirit, denouncing judgments against the apostate. They are described by symbol as "the two olive trees" and "the two candlesticks," or lamp-stands, "standing before the God of the earth." The reference is to Zec 4:3, 12, where two individuals are meant, Joshua and Zerubbabel, who ministered to the Jewish Church, just as the two olive trees emptied the oil out of themselves into the bowl of the candlestick. So in the final apostasy God will raise up two inspired witnesses to minister encouragement to the afflicted, though sealed, remnant. As two candlesticks are mentioned in Re 11:4, but only one in Zec 4:2, I think the twofold Church, Jewish and Gentile, may be meant by the two candlesticks represented by the two witnesses: just as in Re 7:1-8 there are described first the sealed of Israel, then those of all nations. But see on Re 11:4. The actions of the two witnesses are just those of Moses when witnessing for God against Pharaoh (the type of Antichrist, the last and greatest foe of Israel), turning the waters into blood, and smiting with plagues; and of Elijah (the witness for God in an almost universal apostasy of Israel, a remnant of seven thousand, however, being left, as the 144,000 sealed, Re 7:1-8) causing fire by his word to devour the enemy, and shutting heaven, so that it rained not for three years and six months, the very time (1260 days) during which the two witnesses prophesy. Moreover, the words "witness" and "prophesy" are usually applied to individuals, not to abstractions (compare Ps 52:8). De Burgh thinks Elijah and Moses will again appear, as Mal 4:5, 6 seems to imply (compare Mt 17:11; Ac 3:21). Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ at the Transfiguration, which foreshadowed His coming millennial kingdom. As to Moses, compare De 34:5, 6; Jude 9. Elias' genius and mode of procedure bears the same relation to the "second" coming of Christ, that John the Baptist's did to the first coming [Bengel]. Many of the early Church thought the two witnesses to be Enoch and Elijah. This would avoid the difficulty of the dying a second time, for these have never yet died; but, perhaps, shall be the witnesses slain. Still, the turning the water to blood, and the plagues (Re 11:6), apply best to "Moses (compare Re 15:3, the song of Moses"). The transfiguration glory of Moses and Elias was not their permanent resurrection-state, which shall not be till Christ shall come to glorify His saints, for He has precedence before all in rising. An objection to this interpretation is that those blessed departed servants of God would have to submit to death (Re 11:7, 8), and this in Moses' case a second time, which Heb 9:27 denies. See on Zec 4:11, 12, on the two witnesses as answering to "the two olive trees." The two olive trees are channels of the oil feeding the Church, and symbols of peace. The Holy Spirit is the oil in them. Christ's witnesses, in remarkable times of the Church's history, have generally appeared in pairs: as Moses and Aaron, the inspired civil and religious authorities; Caleb and Joshua; Ezekiel the priest and Daniel the prophet; Zerubbabel and Joshua.
in sackcloth—the garment of prophets, especially when calling people to mortification of their sins, and to repentance. Their very exterior aspect accorded with their teachings: so Elijah, and John who came in His spirit and power. The sackcloth of the witnesses is a catch word linking this episode under the sixth trumpet, with the sun black as sackcloth (in righteous retribution on the apostates who rejected God's witnesses) under the sixth seal (Re 6:12).
These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
4. standing before the God of the earth—A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and Andreas read "Lord" for "God": so Zec 4:14. Ministering to (Lu 1:19), and as in the sight of Him, who, though now so widely disowned on "earth," is its rightful King, and shall at last be openly recognized as such (Re 11:15). The phrase alludes to Zec 4:10, 14, "the two anointed ones that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." The article "the" marks this allusion. They are "the two candlesticks," not that they are the Church, the one candlestick, but as its representative light-bearers (Greek, "phosteres," Php 2:15), and ministering for its encouragement in a time of apostasy. Wordsworth's view is worth consideration, whether it may not constitute a secondary sense: the two witnesses, the olive trees, are THE TWO Testaments ministering their testimony to the Church of the old dispensation, as well as to that of the new, which explains the two witnesses being called also the two candlesticks (the Old and New Testament churches; the candlestick in Zec 4:2 is but one as there was then but one Testament, and one Church, the Jewish). The Church in both dispensations has no light in herself, but derives it from the Spirit through the witness of the twofold word, the two olive trees: compare Note, see on Re 11:1, which is connected with this, the reed, the Scripture canon, being the measure of the Church: so Primasius [X, p. 314]: the two witnesses preach in sackcloth, marking the ignominious treatment which the word, like Christ Himself, receives from the world. So the twenty-four elders represent the ministers of the two dispensations by the double twelve. But Re 11:7 proves that primarily the two Testaments cannot be meant; for these shall never be "killed," and never "shall have finished their testimony" till the world is finished.
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.
5. will hurt—Greek, "wishes," or "desires to hurt them."
fire … devoureth—(Compare Jer 5:14; 23:29).
out of their mouth—not literally, but God makes their inspired denunciations of judgment to come to pass and devour their enemies.
if any man will hurt them—twice repeated, to mark the immediate certainty of the accomplishment.
in this manner—so in like manner as he tries to hurt them (compare Re 13:10). Retribution in kind.
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.
6. These … power—Greek, "authorized power."
it rain not—Greek, "huetos brechee," "rain shower not," literally, "moisten" not (the earth).
smite … with all plagues—Greek, "with (literally, 'in') every plague."
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.
7. finished their testimony—The same verb is used of Paul's ending his ministry by a violent death.
the beast that ascended out of the bottomless pit—Greek, "the wild beast … the abyss." This beast was not mentioned before, yet he is introduced as "the beast," because he had already been described by Daniel (Da 7:3, 11), and he is fully so in the subsequent part of the Apocalypse, namely, Re 13:1; 17:8. Thus, John at once appropriates the Old Testament prophecies; and also, viewing his whole subject at a glance, mentions as familiar things (though not yet so to the reader) objects to be described hereafter by himself. It is a proof of the unity that pervades all Scripture.
make war against them—alluding to Da 7:21, where the same is said of the little horn that sprang up among the ten horns on the fourth beast.
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.
8. dead bodies—So Vulgate, Syriac, and Andreas. But A, B, C, the oldest manuscripts, and Coptic read the singular, "dead body." The two fallen in one cause are considered as one.
the great city—eight times in the Revelation elsewhere used of BABYLON (Re 14:8; 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21). In Re 21:10 (English Version as to the new Jerusalem), the oldest manuscripts omit "the great" before city, so that it forms no exception. It must, therefore, have an anticipatory reference to the mystical Babylon.
which—Greek, "the which," namely, "the city which."
spiritually—in a spiritual sense.
Sodom—The very term applied by Isa 1:10 to apostate Jerusalem (compare Eze 16:48).
Egypt—the nation which the Jews' besetting sin was to lean upon.
where … Lord was crucified—This identifies the city as Jerusalem, though the Lord was crucified outside of the city. Eusebius mentions that the scene of Christ's crucifixion was enclosed within the city by Constantine; so it will be probably at the time of the slaying of the witnesses. "The beast [for example, Napoleon and France's efforts] has been long struggling for a footing in Palestine; after his ascent from the bottomless pit he struggles much more" [Bengel]. Some one of the Napoleonic dynasty may obtain that footing, and even be regarded as Messiah by the Jews, in virtue of his restoring them to their own land; and so may prove to be the last Antichrist. The difficulty is, how can Jerusalem be called "the great city," that is, Babylon? By her becoming the world's capital of idolatrous apostasy, such as Babylon originally was, and then Rome has been; just as she is here called also "Sodom and Egypt."
also our—A, B, C, Origen, Andreas, and others read, "also their." Where their Lord, also, as well as they, was slain. Compare Re 18:24, where the blood of ALL slain on earth is said to be found IN Babylon, just as in Mt 23:35, Jesus saith that, "upon the Jews and Jerusalem" (Compare Mt 23:37, 38) shall "come ALL the righteous blood shed upon earth"; whence it follows Jerusalem shall be the last capital of the world apostasy, and so receive the last and worst visitation of all the judgments ever inflicted on the apostate world, the earnest of which was given in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. In the wider sense, in the Church-historical period, the Church being the sanctuary, all outside of it is the world, the great city, wherein all the martyrdoms of saints have taken place. Babylon marks its idolatry, Egypt its tyranny, Sodom its desperate corruption, Jerusalem its pretensions to sanctity on the ground of spiritual privileges, while all the while it is the murderer of Christ in the person of His members. All which is true of Rome. So Vitringa. But in the more definite sense, Jerusalem is regarded, even in Hebrews (Heb 13:12-14), as the world city which believers were then to go forth from, in order to "seek one to come."
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.
9. they—rather, "(some) of the peoples."
kindreds—Greek, "tribes"; all save the elect (whence it is not said, The peoples … but [some] of the peoples … , or, some of the peoples … may refer to those of the nations …, who at the time shall hold possession of Palestine and Jerusalem).
shall see—So Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic. But A, B, C, and Andreas, the present, "see," or rather (Greek, "blepousin"), "look upon." The prophetic present.
dead bodies—So Vulgate, Syriac, and Andreas. But A, B, C, and Coptic, singular, as in Re 11:8, "dead body." Three and a half days answer to the three and a half years (see on Re 11:2, 3), the half of seven, the full and perfect number.
shall not suffer—so B, Syriac, Coptic, and Andreas. But A, C, and Vulgate read, "do not suffer."
in graves—so Vulgate and Primasius. But B, C, Syriac, Coptic, and Andreas, singular; translate, "into a sepulchre," literally, "a monument." Accordingly, in righteous retribution in kind, the flesh of the Antichristian hosts is not buried, but given to all the fowls in mid-heaven to eat (Re 19:17, 18, 21).
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.
10. they that dwell upon … earth—those who belong to the earth, as its citizens, not to heaven (Re 3:10; 8:13; 12:12; 13:8).
shall—so Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic. But A, B, and C read the present tense; compare Note, see on Re 11:9, on "shall not suffer."
rejoice over them—The Antichristianity of the last days shall probably be under the name of philosophical enlightenment and civilization, but really man's deification of himself. Fanaticism shall lead Antichrist's followers to exult in having at last seemingly silenced in death their Christian rebukers. Like her Lord, the Church will have her dark passion week followed by the bright resurrection morn. It is a curious historical coincidence that, at the fifth Lateran Council, May 5, 1514, no witness (not even the Moravians who were summoned) testified for the truth, as Huss and Jerome did at Constance; an orator ascended the tribunal before the representatives of papal Christendom, and said, "There is no reclaimant, no opponent." Luther, on October 31, 1517, exactly three and a half years afterwards, posted up his famous theses on the church at Wittenberg. The objection is, the years are years of three hundred sixty-five, not three hundred sixty, days, and so two and a half days are deficient; but still the coincidence is curious; and if this prophecy be allowed other fulfilments, besides the final and literal one under the last Antichrist, this may reasonably be regarded as one.
send gifts one to another—as was usual at a joyous festival.
tormented them—namely, with the plagues which they had power to inflict (Re 11:5, 6); also, by their testimony against the earthly.
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.
11. Translate as Greek, "After the three days and an half."
the Spirit of life—the same which breathed life into Israel's dry bones, Eze 37:10, 11 (see on Eze 37:10, 11), "Breath came into them." The passage here, as there, is closely connected with Israel's restoration as a nation to political and religious life. Compare also concerning the same, Ho 6:2, where Ephraim says, "After two days will He revive us; in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight."
into—so B and Vulgate. But A reads (Greek, "en autois"), "(so as to be) IN them."
stood upon their feet—the very words in Eze 37:10, which proves the allusion to be to Israel's resurrection, in contrast to "the times of the Gentiles" wherein these "tread under foot the holy city."
great fear—such as fell on the soldiers guarding Christ's tomb at His resurrection (Mt 28:4), when also there was a great earthquake (Re 11:2).
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.
12. they—so A, C, and Vulgate. But B, Coptic, Syriac, and Andreas read, "I heard."
a cloud—Greek, "the cloud"; which may be merely the generic expression for what we are familiar with, as we say "the clouds." But I prefer taking the article as definitely alluding to THE cloud which received Jesus at His ascension, Ac 1:9 (where there is no article, as there is no allusion to a previous cloud, such as there is here). As they resembled Him in their three and a half years' witnessing, their three and a half days lying in death (though not for exactly the same time, nor put in a tomb as He was), so also in their ascension is the translation and transfiguration of the sealed of Israel (Re 7:1-8), and the elect of all nations, caught up out of the reach of the Antichristian foe. In Re 14:14-16, He is represented as sitting on a white cloud.
their enemies beheld them—and were thus openly convicted by God for their unbelief and persecution of His servants; unlike Elijah's ascension formerly, in the sight of friends only. The Church caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and transfigured in body, is justified by her Lord before the world, even as the man-child (Jesus) was "caught up unto God and His throne" from before the dragon standing ready to devour the woman's child as soon as born.
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.
13. "In that same hour"; literally, "the hour."
great earthquake—answering to the "great earthquake" under the sixth seal, just at the approach of the Lord (Re 6:12). Christ was delivered unto His enemies on the fifth day of the week, and on the sixth was crucified, and on the sabbath rested; so it is under the sixth seal and sixth trumpet that the last suffering of the Church, begun under the fifth seal and trumpet, is to be consummated, before she enters on her seventh day of eternal sabbath. Six is the number of the world power's greatest triumph, but at the same time verges on seven, the divine number, when its utter destruction takes place. Compare "666" in Re 13:18, "the number of the beast."
tenth part of the city fell—that is, of "the great city" (Re 16:19; Zec 14:2). Ten is the number of the world kingdoms (Re 17:10-12), and the beast's horns (Re 13:1), and the dragon's (Re 12:3). Thus, in the Church-historical view, it is hereby implied that one of the ten apostate world kingdoms fall. But in the narrower view a tenth of Jerusalem under Antichrist falls. The nine-tenths remain and become when purified the center of Christ's earthly kingdom.
of men—Greek, "names of men." The men are as accurately enumerated as if their names were given.
seven thousand—Elliott interprets seven chiliads or provinces, that is, the seven Dutch United Provinces lost to the papacy; and "names of men," titles of dignity, duchies, lordships, &c. Rather, seven thousand combine the two mystical perfect and comprehensive numbers seven and thousand, implying the full and complete destruction of the impenitent.
the remnant—consisting of the Israelite inhabitants not slain. Their conversion forms a blessed contrast to Re 16:9; and above, Re 9:20, 21. These repenting (Zec 12:10-14; 13:1), become in the flesh the loyal subjects of Christ reigning over the earth with His transfigured saints.
gave glory to the God of heaven—which while apostates, and worshipping the beast's image, they had not done.
God of heaven—The apostates of the last days, in pretended scientific enlightenment, recognize no heavenly power, but only the natural forces in the earth which come under their observation. His receiving up into heaven the two witnesses who had power during their time on earth to shut heaven from raining (Re 11:6), constrained His and their enemies who witnessed it, to acknowledge the God of heaven, to be God of the earth (Re 11:4). As in Re 11:4 He declared Himself to be God of the earth by His two witnesses, so now He proves Himself to be God of heaven also.
The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.
14. The second woe—that under the sixth trumpet (Re 9:12-21), including also the prophecy, Re 11:1-13: Woe to the world, joy to the faithful, as their redemption draweth nigh.
the third woe cometh quickly—It is not mentioned in detail for the present, until first there is given a sketch of the history of the origination, suffering, and faithfulness of the Church in a time of apostasy and persecution. Instead of the third woe being detailed, the grand consummation is summarily noticed, the thanksgiving of the twenty-four elders in heaven for the establishment of Christ's kingdom on earth, attended with the destruction of the destroyers of the earth.
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.
15. sounded—with his trumpet. Evidently "the LAST trumpet." Six is close to seven, but does not reach it. The world judgments are complete in six, but by the fulfilment of seven the world kingdoms become Christ's. Six is the number of the world given over to judgment. It is half of twelve, the Church's number, as three and a half is half of seven, the divine number for completeness. Bengel thinks the angel here to have been Gabriel, which name is compounded of El, God, and Geber, MIGHTY MAN (Re 10:1). Gabriel therefore appropriately announced to Mary the advent of the mighty God-man: compare the account of the man-child's birth which follows (Re 12:1-6), to which this forms the transition though the seventh trumpet in time is subsequent, being the consummation of the historical episode, the twelfth and thirteen chapters. The seventh trumpet, like the seventh seal and seventh vial, being the consummation, is accompanied differently from the preceding six: not the consequences which follow on earth, but those IN HEAVEN, are set before us, the great voices and thanksgiving of the twenty-four elders in heaven, as the half-hour's silence in heaven at the seventh seal, and the voice out of the temple in heaven, "It is done," at the seventh vial. This is parallel to Da 2:44, "The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break to pieces all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever." It is the setting up of Heaven's sovereignty over the earth visibly, which, when invisibly exercised, was rejected by the earthly rulers heretofore. The distinction of worldly and spiritual shall then cease. There will be no beast in opposition to the woman. Poetry, art, science, and social life will be at once worldly and Christian.
kingdoms—A, B, C, and Vulgate read the singular, "The kingdom (sovereignty) of (over) the world is our Lord's and His Christ's." There is no good authority for English Version reading. The kingdoms of the world give way to the kingdom of (over) the world exercised by Christ. The earth-kingdoms are many: His shall be one. The appellation "Christ," the Anointed, is here, where His kingdom is mentioned appropriately for the first time used in Revelation. For it is equivalent to King. Though priests and prophets also were anointed, yet this term is peculiarly applied to Him as King, insomuch that "the Lord's anointed" is His title as King, in places where He is distinguished from the priests. The glorified Son of man shall rule mankind by His transfigured Church in heaven, and by His people Israel on earth: Israel shall be the priestly mediator of blessings to the whole world, realizing them first.
he—not emphatic in the Greek.
shall reign for ever and ever—Greek, "unto the ages of the ages." Here begins the millennial reign, the consummation of "the mystery of God" (Re 10:7).
And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
16. before God—B and Syriac read, "before the throne of God." But A, C, Vulgate, and Coptic read as English Version.
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.
17. thanks—for the answer to our prayers (Re 6:10, 11) in destroying them which destroy the earth (Re 11:18), thereby preparing the way for setting up the kingdom of Thyself and Thy saints.
and art to come—omitted in A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, Cyprian, and Andreas. The consummation having actually come, they do not address Him as they did when it was still future, "Thou that art to come." Compare Re 11:18, "is come." From the sounding of the seventh trumpet He is to His people Jah, the ever present Lord, WHO IS, more peculiarly than Jehovah "who is, was, and is to come."
taken to thee thy great power—"to Thee" is not in the Greek. Christ takes to Him the kingdom as His own of right.
And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
18. the nations were angry—alluding to Ps 99:1, Septuagint, "The Lord is become King: let the peoples become angry." Their anger is combined with alarm (Ex 15:14; 2Ki 19:28, "thy rage against Me is come up into Mine ears, I will put My hook in thy nose," &c.). Translate, as the Greek is the same. "The nations were angered, and Thy anger is come." How petty man's impotent anger, standing here side by side with that of the omnipotent God!
dead … be judged—proving that this seventh trumpet is at the end of all things, when the judgment on Christ's foes and the reward of His saints, long prayed for by His saints, shall take place.
the prophets—as, for instance, the two prophesying witnesses (Re 11:3), and those who have showed them kindness for Christ's sake. Jesus shall come to effect by His presence that which we have looked for long, but vainly, in His absence, and by other means.
destroy them which destroy the earth—Retribution in kind (compare Re 16:6; Lu 19:27). See on Da 7:14-18.
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.
19. A similar solemn conclusion to that of the seventh seal, Re 8:5, and to that of the seventh vial, Re 16:18. Thus, it appears, the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven vials, are not consecutive, but parallel, and ending in the same consummation. They present the unfolding of God's plans for bringing about the grand end under three different aspects, mutually complementing each other.
the temple—the sanctuary or Holy place (Greek, "naos"), not the whole temple (Greek, "hieron").
opened in heaven—A and C read the article, "the temple of God "which is" in heaven, was opened."
the ark of his testament—or "… His covenant." As in the first verse the earthly sanctuary was measured, so here its heavenly antitype is laid open, and the antitype above to the ark of the covenant in the Holiest Place below is seen, the pledge of God's faithfulness to His covenant in saving His people and punishing their and His enemies. Thus this forms a fit close to the series of trumpet judgments and an introduction to the episode (the twelfth and thirteen chapters) as to His faithfulness to His Church. Here first His secret place, the heavenly sanctuary, is opened for the assurance of His people; and thence proceed His judgments in their behalf (Re 14:15, 17; 15:5; 16:17), which the great company in heaven laud as "true and righteous." This then is parallel to the scene at the heavenly altar, at the close of the seals and opening of the trumpets (Re 8:3), and at the close of the episode (the twelfth through fifteenth chapters) and opening of the vials (Re 15:7, 8). See on Re 12:1, note at the opening of the chapter.