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which many will, from time to time, be added to the congregations of the blessed.*
3-5. These, wherever they may be, will be delivered from the curse of the law ; God and the Lamb will be with them: they shall be his ; they shall see him by faith ; they shall bear his name; they shall have the light of life; and they shall also reign with Christ for ever and ever, Here end the symbolical predictions of the character and privileges of the new Church: and strictly are they, as far as I can see, in unison with the predictions both of the Old and the New Testament. Now follow some exhortations addressed particularly to the believers of St. John's times, for the purpose of affording them encouragement, and of confirming their faith.
6. This Revelation may be relied upon; for God, who first spoke of these times and circumstances by his holy prophets, has now sent his Angel to declare among the believers, that their fulfilment is at hand; they shall shortly come to pass, as it is said also in the first vision. 7. Behold,
I come quickly. The period mentioned in Matt. x. 23; xvi. 28; xxiv, 34, &c. must now have nearly past away, and that given for the commencement of these things been at hand. Then follows the exhortation with which this most instructive book commenced (chap. i. 3): “ Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of this book.”
10. Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book; FOR THE TIME IS AT HAND. Then come the usual denunciations of prophecy.
12. Behold, I come QUICKLY, &c.; both to reward and to punish, as the several cases shall require.t
13—16. I am the first and the last ; as in the first vision. 16. I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify, &c. Here Jesus identifies himself as before (chap. i. 7, 8, 11, &c.) with Jehovah of the Hebrews; and then, ver. 14, 15, pronounces blessings on those who keep God's commandments, and are found within his Church, with the curse of exclusion on those who resist.
* Victorinus, after giving a most admirable commentary on the preceding context, concludes by saying: “ Ergo audiendi non sunt, qui mille annorum regnum terrenum esse confirmant, qui cum Cherintho hæretico sentiunt." It is much to be regretted, that the work of this able divine, and truly great luminary, of the primitive Church, has not come down to us in a more perfect form. In its present condition, however, it is highly worthy of the attention of every Theologian.
† So the early Fathers : “ The time is at hand in which all things shall be destroyed, together with the wicked one.” Epist. Barnab. edit. 1710. p. 194, &c. &c., as already referred to.
17. The Spirit or Comforter given to the Church, joins with the Church itself in inviting Christ's speedy appearance, in order that his kingdom might be soon established. All who attend to the words of this book are then invited to join in the prayer. In the next place, all who thirst for these consolations are also invited to join them, with the assurance that they shall be freely and abundantly given ; for many, both Jews and Gentiles, yet remained to be brought in.
18, 19. If, in these early days, the words of this prophecy be misapplied, either wilfully or not, the person so doing shall fail of attaining to the end for which they have been given. Such, if a believer, shall not discover the force of their consolations, on the best possible view of the case ; and may fail during the sifting times now at hand: but, on the worst, he will be found to fight against God, in resisting the united testimony of Scripture as to the revelation of his Son, and of the erection of the new dispensation for the salvation of both Jew and Gentile.
20. SURELY I come QUICKLY. In these explanatory declarations, it should be remembered, we have nothing symbolical ; and, from the repetition of this in particular, we may rest assured, that the intention of the writer was to inculcate the notion, that these things would in a very few years begin, at least, to take place.
“ Even so (i. e. quickly) come, Lord Jesus,” responds the faithful but suffering Church. Let the men of this adulterous generation know, that thou art not slack, as some men count slackness; but that, if thou seem to tarry, it is that the purposes of mercy might be completed, which are indeed now hastening to their fulfilment.*
* See also the Commentary of Arethas on this chapter.
CONCLUDING REMARKS. It has been shewn in the preceding pages, from the constantly concurring testimony of the Prophets and Apostles, that the visions there considered must have related to the end of the Jewish polity, of the dominion of heathenism, and to the erection of the Christian Church, or spiritual kingdom of heaven, throughout the whole earth ; making, nevertheless, a provision for calling in those, to the very end of time, who may not have known, or embraced, the faith necessary to make them a part of this endless and all-glorious kingdom. This view of the case supposes, that all particular prophecy has received its fulfilment; which has already been mentioned. We now proceed to consider those more particular marks given in Holy Writ for the purpose apparently of defining the character of the times, in which these events should take place, and in order to satisfy, as far as may be, the reasonable scruples of believers. I must here premise, that as we now have to do with language purely symbolical, we must not be anxious to take the numbers of persons, months, days, and the like, as if intended to be made out with mathematical precision : on the contrary, if we can find them agreeing with one another, in every case, in a manner suitable to this sort of language, it will be quite unnecessary to seek for any solution still more precise ; because we shall, in such case, be applying a measure to our context which it was not intended to bear.
We shall commence our inquiry, then, by a reference to Daniel, ix. 24, 27, where we have a whole period given, and this divided or parcelled out into several smaller divisions, intended to answer, as it should seem, to several distinct epochs. In the first place, we have seventy weeks appointed for the whole period* (ver. 24). I will not here pretend to ascertain
Ephræm Syrus thus speaks, in his Commentary on this passage :“ Ita ut urbs quidem sub initium septuaginta hebdomadum instauranda sit, sub earum vero finem Christus sit venturus; fuent itaque hebdomades septuaginta usque ad adventum Christi. Et domus quidem, seu templum et civitas septenarum hebdomadum spatio instaurabuntur, Christus vero exactis aliis ab instauratione sexaginta hebdomadis, occidetur. Cum scilicet elapsa fuerint tempora urbi et populo concessa" peab osale), &c. tom. ii. Syr. et Lat. p. 222.
urbi et populo concessa" (isi saság iss
what is the length of one of these weeks, as many have done, because I do not think it at all necessary to do so. The circumstances given in this chapter and elsewhere, are quite sufficient to determine the time intended to be notified; and this, I also believe, was all that was intended to be taught by the prophet. Up to our Lord's time, no one could doubt that the Messiah had not yet come; and, when he came, he took special care to limit the fulfilment of this prophecy, well as that of the others connected with it.*
In ver. 25, we have this period divided into two other subordinate ones; one of seven weeks, another of sixty and two weeks. In the following verse, it is said, that after sixty and two weeks, Messiah shall be cut off. This period must, therefore, in all probability, commence at the expiration of the afore-mentioned seven weeks ; and if so, this seven weeks refers to the period commencing with the giving of the edict by Cyrus to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, and ends with the final establishment of the Jews in Palestine, and the rebuilding of the wall under Nehemiah. We are next told (ver. 26), that, after the expiration of these sixty and two weeks, Messiah shall be cut off; and, that consequent upon this generally shall the destruction of the sanctuary be, and the further desolations, which had also been determined and spoken of in the preceding chapters, i. e. relating to the power of heathen Rome, and of heathenism generally as a dominant system. These two periods together will make in the whole sixty-nine weeks. Again (ver. 27) we are told, that He, the Messiah, shall confirm the covenant with many during one
* It is very true, that, taking these seventy weeks as weeks of years, and amounting in the whole to four hundred and ninety years, we come to a period very near, at least, to that in which the Gospel dispensation was set up; but it is equally true, that so many difficulties beset the inquiry, and so much doubt rests upon the conclusions, that very few considerate persons have appeared satisfied with the results obtained. But even here, this method of calculation is set up, in order to meet, if possible, the events of the prediction. The events are allowed, therefore, to be of primary importance. I believe this most cordially, and have no doubt they are quite sufficient, and infinitely more valuable in their own single capacity, than when combined with the extraneous considerations of either solar or lunar chronology. This is true of this whole period : and, if I am not greatly mistaken, will be found to be remarkably so, with regard to its several portions, as we shall presently see.
week,* which completes our number of seventy, or the whole period marked out by our prophet.*
This week is, in the next place, divided into two portions : “in the midst of the week,” it is said, “ he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.”I Desolations are then predicted, “even until the consummation ;” that is, during the remaining half of this week, further desolations, it is determined, shall go on to the very end of the whole period.
This last period then (the foregoing ones having been previously determined), is that which now concerns us; and
Ephræm: “Christus Testamentum suo sanguine sanctum, et firmum efficiet
hebdomadam unam." Com. in loc. This is limited a little lower down, by an appeal to Matt. xxiv. 17.
† Out of this prophetical week of Daniel seems to have grown the Jewish, and indeed early Christian, notion of the world's lasting for seven thousand years, making each day equal to a thousand years: the last day, or one thousand years, was expected by the one to be sabbatical, by the other generally to be the millennium; and then the end of all things was supposed to follow, just as the predictions here made state. Irenæus, lib. v. cap. 33, speaks of this time as being the Sabbath of the just, in which God also shall rest from his labours. At this time it is, according to him, that Christ intie mated his drinking of the fruit of the vine with his disciples, new in his Father's kingdom on earth. It has been supposed that Irenæus here meant the earthly paradise of the heretics ; but there does not appear to be the least reason for supposing this, as I have already remarked. And this, if we apply it to the times of the Apostles, is probably the true intent of our Lord's words. (See Matt. xxvi. 29. Mark, xiv. 25. Luke, xxii. 18.) For He established the rite of the holy communion, and then declared to his disciples, that he would no more drink of the fruit of the vine, until he drank it new, i. e. in the very beginning of the erection of God's spiritual kingdom, which should take place immediately after his own resurrection (see Matt. xxviii. 18): and then he would either actually drink it with them (see Acts, x. 41), or would meet them in the Spirit, wherever two or three of them should be gathered together (Matt. xviii. 20). See also, on these supposed last thousand sabbatical years, Epist. of Barnabas, edit. 1710, p. 187 -189.
Theodoret refers this to the time of our Lord's sacrifice, because the efficacy of sacrifice then ceased, and the veil of the Temple was accordingly rent. (Matt. xxvii. 51.) The middle of this week he then makes equal to three years and a half, during which our Lord's ministry continued. I prefer going to the fact. Sacrifice did not cease to be offered till a considerable time after our Lord's death; and, during that period, the Gentiles were generally called into the Church,--an event which was to take place before this catastrophe.