THE SECOND PART OF THE INTERPOSED VISION. THE MEASURING OF THE TEMPLE; THE TWO WITNESSES; THE EARTHQUAKE.
THE MEASURING OF THE TEMPLE.—We enter upon the second part of the interposed vision. The Temple proper is secured. The measuring signifies its protection from profanation; the outer court given to the Gentiles indicates that practical heathenism and corruption have invaded the Church; against corruptions and profanities, witnesses, who draw their strength from divine help, are raised up to protest. Their power is great, though their witness is disregarded; for their influence outlasts their life, and their words avenge themselves on their adversaries; rejected reformation re-appears as revolution. The vision therefore declares that, whatever corruptions invade the Church, the kernel of the Church will never be destroyed, but out of it will arise those who will be true to the Master’s commission, and whose words will never be void of power.
Such seems to be the general drift of this chapter. It is stated thus briefly and simply that it may be kept in mind as a leading idea in the comments which follow, and because the chapter is generally regarded as one of the most difficult in the book. On the relation between the allusions to the Temple in this chapter and the date of the book, see Introduction. It is perhaps well to remember that, as we have taken Jerusalem and Babylon as symbolical names, and not necessarily the literal Jerusalem and the literal Babylon, so the Temple and the court of the Temple are to be understood as symbols. The gospel has elevated the history and places of the past into a grand allegory, and breathed into their dead names the life of an ever- applicable symbolism. (See Introduction, On the General Meaning and Practical Value of the Book.)
(3) And I will give . . .—Translate, And I will give (omit “power”) to my two witnesses, and they shall . . . These are the words of God Himself; the omission of the words “and the angel stood” from Revelation 11:1 prevents any confusion of thought on this point. Two witnesses were required for competent evidence (Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15, et al.), and there has constantly been a sending forth of God’s chosen messengers in pairs— Moses and Aaron, Elijah and Elisha, besides Joshua and Zerubbabel, alluded to by Zechariah; and in New Testament times our Lord sent forth His disciples “two and two,” as afterwards Paul and Barnabas, or Paul and Silas, went forth to preach. There is, besides the mere mutual support which two can give, a need for the association of two different characters in the same sort of work: the energy and the sympathy, the elucidator of doctrines and the messenger to the conscience, the apologist and the evangelist, the man of thought and the man of action, the Son of Thunder and the Son of Consolation; it is well that in a world-wide work this duality of power should be brought into play. The witnesses prophesy: the word prophesy must surely be allowed a much wider meaning than merely to predict or foretell future events. The compass of their work, as described afterwards, embraces much more than this (see Revelation 11:5-7): they work wonders, showing tokens that remind us of the days of Moses and Aaron; their words are mighty; their life is a testimony.
Their prophesying, or witnessing, extends over forty and two months: a symbolical period, as we have seen, but a period corresponding to that during which other witnesses had witnessed for God. Thus long did Elijah bear witness, under rainless heavens, against the idolatries of Israel; thus long did a greater than Elijah offer the water of life to the Jews, and witness against the hard, unspiritual, worldly religionism of the Pharisee and Sadducee; thus, too, must the witnesses, for God bear testimony during the period that the world- power seems dominant. They are clad in sackcloth— the emblem of mourning (2 Kings 6:30; Jonah 3:4) adopted by the prophets, whose God-taught hearts saw reasons for mourning where shallower minds saw none (Isaiah 20:2, and Zechariah 13:2). Compare the garb of Elijah and John the Baptist (2 Kings 1:8, and Matthew 3:4), whose very apparel and appearance were designed to testify against the evils they saw. “The special witnesses of God, in a luxurious and self-pleasing age, are often marked out from the world by signs of self-denial, of austerity, and even of isolation” (Dr. Vaughan).
“Persecution dragged them into fame,
And chased them up to heaven.”
They went up in the cloud: There is here, perhaps, a touch of recollection. St. John remembers the cloud which received his Lord out of sight. Since then the cloud mingles with his every thought of ascension or descending from heaven. (Comp. Revelation 1:7; Acts 1:9.) The witnesses, like their Master, disappeared in the cloud.
(15) And the seventh angel . . .—Better, And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in the heaven (persons) saying, The kingdom of the world is become (the possession) of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign to the ages of ages. The literal translation is, The kingdom of the world is become our Lord’s, and of His Christ. As far as the expression “our Lord’s” is concerned, there is no need that any word, such as kingdom or possession, should be supplied, but the additional phrase “of His Christ” creates an awkwardness, and the word “possession,” or inheritance, may not inappropriately be used from the Psalm which foretells this final establishment of the kingdom of the anointed Messiah, the Christ of God. “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psalm 2:8). It is the kingdom—not, as in the English version, “the kingdoms”—of the world which has become Christ’s possession. The contest is not for the kingdoms, the separate nationalities: the varying political systems might exist, as far as mere organisation is concerned, under the rule of Christ; the contest is for the kingdom of the world. Satan was willing to surrender the kingdoms of the world to our Lord on condition of a homage which would have left him still in possession of the kingdom of the world. But now the close of the contest is the overthrow of the kingdom of evil, the establishment of the kingdom of good: that is, of God; and He shall reign for ever and ever. Dean Alford pointed out that our familiarity with the “Hallelujah Chorus” tempted us to put an emphasis on the word He which is not sanctioned by the Greek; it is the reign of the Lord which is the prominent thought. The reign is unto the ages of ages. Surely this means always. We are not told whose voices sing this chorus; it is just the tumultuous sound of heavenly voices, growing into natural and irresistible chorus as the trumpet heralds the approach of the glorious end.
(17) Saying, We give thee thanks . . .—Better,
“We thank Thee, O Lord,
The God, the Almighty,
He that is, and He that was,
Because Thou hast taken Thy great power and didst reign.
And the nations were angry,
And then came Thine anger And the season of the dead to be judged,
And to give their rewards to Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints,
And to them that fear Thy name, the small and the great,
And to destroy them that destroy the earth.”
On the expression “He that is and He that was,” comp, Revelation 1:8 and the Note there. We can catch the echo of the Second Psalm throughout this chorus of grateful praise. The prayers of the groaning Church (Revelation 5:10, and Luke 18:7-8) and the cries of travailing creation (Romans 8:19) have been heard; though the heathen raged and the people imagined a vain thing, their counsel against the Lord and His anointed, His Christ (compare Revelation 11:16), came to nought; the joy of their triumph was short-lived; the kingdom of evil was but for a moment; the kings were assembled, they passed by, they saw, they were troubled, they hasted away (Psalm 48:4-5); never did the real sovereignty of the Lord cease (Psalm 2:6); but the nations would not believe in His rule; they were not wise; they turned from the kiss of reconciliation, which was life (Psalm 2:10-12); then came His anger, and the season of judgment and the season of reward. The prophets, the saints, and those that fear God’s name, the small and the great— every class and rank of the true servants of the King are included here; none are forgotten; not a cup of cold water, given in His name, shall miss its reward; for not alone the pre-eminent in Christian power and in Christian holiness, but the weak, the struggling, the obscure, the small as well as the great, are remembered: “Unto the God of gods appeareth every one of them in Zion” (Psalm 84:7; Prayer Book version). Nor is the gladness only for this blessing; there is a joy at the overthrow of those who destroy the earth. The reign of evil is the destruction of the earth. The judgments of God are in mercy to stay the spread of destructive powers and principles. The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel; the very judgments of God are merciful. (See Note on Revelation 8:2.)
But where, we may be disposed to ask, is the “woe” in all this? We are led to expect that the seventh trumpet as a woe trumpet will bring in some period of pain and trouble, as the others have done; but all we hear is the chorus of glad voices uttering praise: we see no token of woe. The answer is that we must not overlook all that this song of rejoicing implies. The chorus we hear is the thanksgiving to God that the hour has come for the overthrow of the kingdom of evil, the manifestation of the sons of God, and the acknowledgment throughout the world of the sovereignty of the Lord and of His Christ. The overthrow of that evil kingdom, which is now to take place, brings with it woo to those who have supported it; for the time of the judgment of the dead, and of those whose lives have marred God’s world, has come. It is, then, woe on all those who have misused God’s gifts and those beautiful things which He gave us liberally to enjoy. It is a woe on those who have defiled those bodies, which are the temples of the Holy Ghost, profaned the earth, which is God’s footstool, or darkened by their evil deeds the heaven, which is His throne. Those who thus defile (or, destroy: the word is so in the margin, and is the same as that which follows) God’s temple anywhere, God will destroy (1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Corinthians 3:17).