« PreviousContinue »
The six first seals thus related to judgments on the pagan Roman empire. "The sixth seal abolished paganism and planted Christianity as the nominal religion of the empire."
Viewing the event described under the sixth seal, as a type of the battle of the great day of God, now not far distant; its language is of the deepest interest to us.
The language of the fifth seal too, being a note preparatory to divine inquisitions for blood, is of interest to this generation. The earth is now deeply defiled with blood. And even our land is not free from it. And blood, wantonly shed, has a voice calling for vengeance, which God will not fail to hear, and answer. The kind and solemn warning then, applies to this very period," Come my people, enter into thy chambers." [See Isai. xxvi. 20, 21.] Christians, awake, and obey. And, O sinner, awake! fly from the wrath to come. Escape for thy life." It is
no time to sleep, nor linger, at such a day as the present!
Six of the seals having been opened, and paganism in the Roman empire having been subverted, a new era opens upon the church. But the empire, though now under a government nominally Christian, had resting upon it the enormous guilt of ten bloody persecutions of the followers of Christ; and God had vengeance yet to take upon it. A series of judgments was now about to commence upon the empire, predicted under the figures of trumpets, as trumpets of old were used to sound alarms. Seven trumpets of judgments were to be blown by seven angels; inasmuch as angels are ministers of Providence, to fulfil divine judgments on the enemies of God.
But some important representations were first to be
given of the sealing grace of the Spirit,-of the prevalence of Christian prayer in numerous conversions, and of a deferring of pending judgments for this great object.
Ver. 1. And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
The commencement of the judgments of the trumpets is here denoted by winds that were about to sweep the Roman earth, by invasions of hordes of barbarians from the north. Winds are a noted emblem of such judgments; as Jer. xlix. 36, "And upon Elam will I bring the four winds from the four quarters of Heaven; and will scatter them towards all those winds; and I will send my sword after them." The holding of such winds then, implies both that the judgments were coming, and that they were to be deferred for a time. To give a lively view of this, four angels were represented as standing at the four cardinal points of the compass, holding those pending winds, till the chosen of God in the empire should be brought in, and sealed for Christ.
Ver. 2. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
3. Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
4. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
This angel of mercy must have been Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, coming like the natural sun from the east. He had the seal of the living God, the power of grace and of life, which is but the impression of the moral image of God upon the soul. Their being said to be sealed in their
foreheads, seems in allusion to a custom of ancient times, in which masters affixed some mark upon their servants, to note them as their property;—also from the custom of labelling articles, to show to whom they belonged. The chosen of God were to be set apart for him, by a mark said to be upon their foreheads, but really affixed to their hearts; impressing there the image of God; bringing them into the visible kingdom of God, under the seals of his covenant.
This blessed operation must be accommodated with a season of peace; as was in fact the case in the empire for fifteen years after the judgment of the preceding seal; and, to a considerable degree, for forty years. In this season
144,000 were there converted to Christ; probably a certain number put for an uncertain ;—said to be of the tribes of Israel.
Ver. 5. Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.
6. Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nephthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.
7. Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.
8. Of the tribe of Zebulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
The number is the square of the number of the twelve patriarchs, and of the twelve apostles, carried out in thousands, to indicate the greatness of the number of the converts of that time. And these converted gentiles are noted as being of the tribes of Israel, from the fact, that the gentile church succeeded the Jewish church, and are called children of Abraham.
Ver. 9. After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.
10. And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
After this, or presented in vision as a subsequent event, John beheld multitudes innumerable in glory, having come from every region of the earth, and now standing before the throne of glory in sinless perfection; and holding in their hands each a branch from the palm-tree, as an emblem of victory over all their enemies, of sin, Satan, and the world. These we must view as a prophetic exhibition of the amazing multitudes who should, in times then future, and to the end of the world, be in like manner sealed, and should be brought to glory by gospel grace.
What follows, to the close of the chapter, confirms the idea, that this is a description of the state and glory of the spirits of the just made perfect in heaven. Such a view of that state is most delightful to the church in all ages; but especially to the saints just entering the scenes of tribulation then about to be inflicted on the Roman earth, in which good people would not fail of having some painful participation. This vast company of glorified saints in Heaven are presented as saying, with loud voices, "Salvation to our God, and to the Lamb." All the glory of their salvation they ascribe alike to the Father, and to the Son whom they worship as God.
Ver. 11. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
12. Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
The angels are here noted, distinctly, from the saints in
glory, as standing round the throne, and round the elders, and the four living creatures, and prostrating themselves before God in the most profound adoration and worship. They are the guardian spirits of the saints: as says Inspiration, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them that shall be heirs of salvation."
Ver. 13. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
14. And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
16. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more: neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
17. For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
One of the elders calls the attention of John to this heavenly company; asking who, and whence they were? that their character and state might be thus drawn out, and exhibited. John refers the question to the interrogator, who himself gives the reply. And the remark, "These are they that came out of great tribulation," may have an emphatic allusion to the martyrs, who had suffered in the ten pagan persecutions. But it must be viewed as including all martyrs in every age; with all the glorified saints in heaven, from first to last; especially before the Millennium. The description substantially applies to all in the world of glory, inasmuch as it is a general fact, that "through many tribulations the people of Christ enter into the kingdom of heaven." The veil of heaven seems to be drawn aside, not to exhibit here things done on earth, as in most of this prophecy, but to exhibit the glorious state of the saints above. Angels are dis